Playing Fri April 27 thru Fri May 3 at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30, 7:30, 9:30 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
The last day to catch Film Forum’s stunning DCP restoration of Preminger’s scope compositions of Jean Seberg gallivanting in the Riviera, which Nick Pinkerton of The Village Voice considers of the 1950s’ “great underappreciated films.”
Preminger’s caustic melodrama stars Jean Seberg as Cecile, a frivolous, sybaritic French girl of 17 who lives with her wealthy and philandering widowed father in all but incestuous complicity. While simmering with him on the Riviera, she finds her freedom threated by the his sudden plan to marry her late mother’s best friend, a stern, orderly fashion designer, and does her best to break up the couple, wit disastrous results. The spare, cynical drama gives rise to some of Preminger’s most ingenious stylistic flourishes, starting with the flashback structure, Cecile narrates from the standpoint of winder in Paris, a present tense tat unfolds in glossy black-and-white images pierced by her self-accusing stares into the camera. The past is depicted in sumptuous color, which renders the pleasures of sun, sea, and sky heavy with doom. The best is saved for last: at a climactic moment, offscreen voices conjure a staggering coup de théâtre that brings the dénouement to life in a series of indelible images. A brilliant, dialectical filmmaker, Premingers extracts the last ounce of anguish from the anguish of the mute witness.
As most reviews of the book note, Kehr sincerely backed a few oddball choices with great sincerity and articulateness. Preminger’s last film, an adaptation of the Graham Greene novel, is no exception.
Kehr on The Human Factor:
Preminger has achieved a drama of pure surfaces (though it is anything but superficial), devoid of emotional appeals to the audience, free of directorial judgment of the characters, and purged of the seductive highs and lows of narrative texture. The Human Factor plays out in an even, uninflected flow of events and images. No single episode is given a value over any other, as Preminger untwists the contortions of plot into a clean, straight line. The film seems to consist entirely of exposition, of the careful gathering of information, unrelieved by confrontation or climax. And yet, when the climax does come, it cuts deeply and truly. Preminger has violated every commonsense rule of cinematic expressiveness and dramatic construction, and his risk has gained him a uniquely affecting work – unique, because I can’t imagine the style working again for anyone else. Preminger has earned it with his intransigence and experimentation over the last two decades; in the hands of another director, lacking Preminger’s commitment and assurance, it could only lead to debacle.
Playing Fri Sept 2 & Sat Sept 3 at 2:50, 6:20, 9:50 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
*Double Feature w/ Where The Sidewalk Ends
Film Forum’s NYPD series, a 19-film fest celebrating “New York’s Finest — and Not-So-Finest,” kicks off this Friday with back-to-back Gene Tierney vehicles directed by Teutonic import Otto Preminger. Headlining the double bill is the cosmopolitan murder mystery Laura, a film Andrew Sarris famously described as “Preminger’s Citizen Kane.”
Dana Andrews swoons to Gene Tierney’s image and David Raskin‘s famous theme:
Up this week: The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). Sinatra stars as Frankie Machine, a smack-addicted Jazz drummer who commits to kicking his drug habit cold-turkey. Driven by an agonizing hunger for heroin and Elmer Bernstein’s propulsive score, Frankie literally bounces off the walls of his claustrophobically studio-bound Skid-Row universe. But there’s no respite for his suffering from director Otto Preminger, whose coldly gliding camerawork mechanically matches Machine’s every move, unflinchingly observing the aching depths of heroin withdrawl.
The combination of Code-breaking realism and highly stylized cinematography make for a visceral one-two punch. When Sinatra doubles over in pain, you’ll feel it in your gut.
Elmer Bernstein’s main theme for the film, “Clark Street” (just wait for 0:30):