Robert Ryan at Film Forum (Aug 12-25)

by on August 12, 2011Posted in: Essay

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Sunday Editor’s Pick: The Naked Spur (1953)

by on August 7, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Sun Aug 14 at 2:50, 6:10, 9:40 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
*Double Feature with Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Don’t miss Imogen Smith’s essay on Robert Ryan for Alt Screen. Of The Naked Spur she writes:

Ryan brought ferocious energy to Mann’s magnificent The Naked Spur, which brought the convoluted interiority of chamber drama into the dwarfing grandeur of the Western wilderness. As a wily outlaw captured by a bounty hunter (Jimmy Stewart), Ryan grins and cackles with delight at his own malicious cunning, reveling in the tortured guilt of Stewart’s ambiguous antihero. With his wrists tied, perched ridiculously on a small donkey, Ryan still finds ways to exert power, because he has X-ray vision for other people’s weaknesses—and is stone-blind to his own failings. Ryan rarely portrayed men who enjoy their villainy, and he was never a heavy you “love to hate.” Some actors have a gift for portraying evil that is pure, elemental, inexplicable, so that there’s a guiltless satisfaction in hating them. Ryan, by contrast, revealed the inner workings of sadists and bigots, the all too recognizable ingredients of self-pity, resentment, rage, and sheer sickness of being inside one’s own skin. There’s a strange, harsh beauty about his willingness to inhabit these ugly souls, condemning himself to a kind of moral quarantine.


For you autuerist types, here’s a long, heady piece on Naked Spur director Anthony Mann, written by Alt Screen Editor, Paul Brunick.


A conflation of Jonathan Rosenbaum remarks from the Chicago Reader and DVD Beaver:

An uncharacteristically nasty James Stewart plays an obsessive bounty hunter with Robert Ryan in tow in one of the very best Anthony Mann westerns, which means one of the very best westerns, period. This 1953 film has Janet Leigh in jeans, beautiful location shooting (and Technicolor cinematography) in the Rockies, and some of the most intense psychological warfare to be found in Mann’s angular and anguished oeuvre.


For natural splendors in color, you couldn’t do better than this gorgeous piece of landscape art, shot almost entirely in exterior locations in the Colorado Rockies. James Stewart plays a rather nasty and troubled bounty hunter—-a character diametrically opposed to his civilized lawyer from the east in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance—-and it’s characteristic of Mann’s best and most elemental western that, along with the four other characters, he never changes his clothes even once.


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