Wednesday night my friends Bill and Patrick came over to watch No Country for Old Men (2007), a film that has affected all three of us in a profound way in the 10 years since its release. Several months ago Bill expressed an interest in watching the movie with me to discuss some of the film’s deeper meanings. I told Bill that we should also invite Patrick, another big fan of the movie.
We decided before we started that anytime someone had something to say, we’d stop the film. We did this very little during the film’s first hour, but probably seven or eight times during its second half. I won’t go into everything we discussed, but I want to cover just the last three minutes of the film in which Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) relates two dreams to his wife Loretta (Tess Harper).
Although we all agreed that the scene (watch clip below) with Bell talking to the retired law man Ellis (Barry Corbin) is probably the key to understanding the film (and we referred back to it frequently), we talked mostly about the ending.
If you missed Part I of my June movies, look no further. Continuing now with some film noir, horror, war, action, you name it:
The Mark Hellinger Story: A Biography of Broadway and Hollywood – Jim Bishop
Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1952
Hardcover, 368 pages (no index)
Besides hardcore film noir fans, most people have probably never heard of Mark Hellinger, yet in the 1930s and 40s, Hellinger’s name was known by millions from coast to coast as the writer of a famous newspaper column covering all the news of Broadway. After reaching the top of his game in the newspaper business, Hellinger made the audacious move to Hollywood where he hoped to become not a writer, but a movie producer.
The first 10 movies I watched in June:
Black & White Cinema: A Short History – Wheeler Winston Dixon
Rutgers University Press, 2015
Paperback, 220 pages plus works cited, index
“To shoot a film is to organize an entire universe.” – Ingmar Bergman
So here’s an entire book about a method of photographing movies that’s been largely unused and ignored for at least 50 years. No one shoots movies in black-and-white anymore and if you say, “Hey, wait a minute! Nebraska and The Artist were filmed in black-and-white,” you’re wrong. (They were filmed in color and desaturated to black-and-white. Read the book to find out more.) Even if you wanted to shoot a film in black-and-white, the film stock is scarce and costly. Color has ruled at the movies for decades. So why should you care about a book on black-and-white cinema?
Because that’s where the magic is.
Junior Bonner (1972)
Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Produced by Joe Wizan
Written by Jeb Rosebrook
Cinematography by Lucien Ballard
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:40)
“If this world’s all about winners, what’s for the losers?”
For someone like me who’s just beginning to explore the films of Sam Peckinpah, Junior Bonner is something of a head-scratcher. In the director’s filmography, it falls between Straw Dogs (1971) and The Getaway (1972), films that contain ruthless characters as well as ruthless violence. It almost seems that with Junior Bonner Peckinpah was taking a nap.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Originally published by J.B. Lippincott & Co. in 1960
Hardcover and paperback, 300 pages (editions vary)
Full disclosure: I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the Guys Book Club, a group I founded and lead at the Severna Park (Maryland) Library where I work. We have a system in the club of alternating who picks the books each month: they pick one, I pick one. I picked this one, but must give credit to one of our members, Paul S., who suggested it. We discussed the book two days ago.
Peeping Tom (1960)
Produced and directed by Michael Powell
Written by Leo Marks
Cinematography by Otto Heller
Edited by Noreen Ackland
Music by Brian Easdale
Studio Canal Vintage Classics/Optimum Home Entertainment 50th Anniversary Blu-ray (1:41)
(For more on the Blind Spot Series, please visit The Matinee.)
For many years, perhaps even as a child, I had heard of Peeping Tom discussed in hushed whispers among a handful of adults, although I’m not sure if any of them had actually seen the film, certainly not in central Mississippi where I grew up. It was never a film I had rigorously sought out, but the title (apart from the cultural phrase itself) drifted through the air from time to time, landing on my adolescent ears. Otherwise I knew little about the film, who starred in it, when it was released, and especially (to my disappointment) at what level of salaciousness it operated.
Underworld, U.S.A. (1961)
Written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller
Based on articles in The Saturday Evening Post 1956 by Joseph F. Dinneen
Cinematography by Hal Mohr
“We’ve got a right to climb out of the sewer and live like other people.”
The filmography of Samuel Fuller isn’t exactly a blind spot for me, but rather a blurry one. I have seen only five of Fuller’s films and although I’ve found them all interesting, I’m not quite sure what it is about his work that makes them so different and compelling. Maybe I’ll discover that as I’m exploring Underworld, U.S.A.
July turns out to be a pretty good month for film noir, especially neo-noir. You’ll find some updates from last month and plenty of new temptations as well. Unless indicated otherwise, all releases are U.S. Region A Blu-ray discs. For the UK Region B discs, you will need a region-free Blu-ray player, which – if you love movies – you should invest in.