If there is a candidate for the funniest closing line in cinema history, it must surely be Osgood's declaration "Nobody's perfect!" at the end of Billy Wilder's spoof on sexual role playing, Some Like It Hot. Utterly unshakeable in his love for Daphne and trusting of his passionate instincts, Osgood overlooks all, including gender.
Men masquerading as women have been the source of great comic scenes and characters throughout the history of entertainment, whether the sexual identity beneath the garments and makeup was straight or gay. Until recently, men in women's clothes have found acceptance on the screen only when their sexual identity was either ambiguous or categorically heterosexual: dressing up was only an extension of the act of performance. While sexual politics were not the focus of Wilder and Diamond's script, audiences were left with a closing line which was a non-resolution of the issue at hand. Of the two men whose lives were saved by dressing as women, one found love by maintaining that persona: Jerry's acceptance of Osgood's proposal was the best single example of l'amour fou since Buñuel. Many years later Hollywood is still putting straight men in dresses and then confirming their heterosexuality (albeit with a greater understanding of what it means to be a woman, as in Tootsie.)
While many of the comic scenes from Some Like it Hot revolve around a spoof of the gangster era (the film begins in Chicago in 1929 with Joe and Jerry witnessing a Valentine's Day-like massacre) and its screen incarnations (George Raft parodies his coin flip from Scarface), much of the best comedy results from an examination of sexual identity. In the beginning of the film, the all-girl band which Jerry and Joe have joined is bedding down for the night...Read More
There are those for whom Alfred Hitchcock is a "master of suspense" the premier technician of the classical narrative cinema; there are those for whom Hitchcock's mastery of film technique, of "pure cinema" as he liked to call it, amount to a species of pandering, or even of an audience-directed cruelty; there are others for whom Hitchcock's fables of emotions trapped and betrayed are seen as self-reflexive, enticing...Read More
Rio Bravo is one of the supreme achievements (hence justifications) of "classical Hollywood," that complex network of determinants that includes the star system, the studio system, the system of genres and conventions, a highly developed grammar and syntax of shooting and editing, the interaction of which made possible an art at once personal and collaborative, one nourished by a rich and vital tradition: it is an art that...Read More
Le Mépris is the closest Jean-Luc Godard has ever come to making a Hollywood-style film: international stars, relatively big budget, script based upon a "prestige" novel, glamorous locations shot in color and 'scope. Of course, it is subversive toward all of the above, and is, among other things, about the absurdities of making a Hollywood-style film. Received with a good deal of puzzlement during its initial release, it...Read More
The plot of All About Eve is based on a short story and radio play by the actress and writer Mary Orr, who adapted it from a real life incident told to her by actress Elisabeth Bergner. Joseph Mankiewicz recommended that Darryl F. Zanuck buy the film rights to Orr's story in 1949.
Adapting it for screen, the director originally cast Claudette Colbert as Margo Channing,...Read More
Ugetsu monogatari was not the first Kenji Mizoguchi film to be shown in the West, but it was the first to reveal him to the West as a major artist. Swiftly establishing itself (especially in France) on many critics' "Ten Best" lists, the film opened the way for the acclamation of the work of Mizoguchi's final period. For some, he became the supreme filmmaker, the cinematic Shakespeare, realizing...Read More
From the beginning, director John Huston insisted that The African Queen be shot on location. To find a river identical to the one in C. S. Forester's novel, he logged 25,000 flying miles criss-crossing Africa until he settled on the Ruiki in the then Belgian Congo. At a time (1951) when on-location shooting was nowhere near as common as today, traveling 1,100 miles up the Congo to make...Read More
The General is by far the most famous of the comedy features in which Buster Keaton starred, and in several cases directed or co-directed, between 1923 and 1928. It is also one of the finest, and has appeared on many 10-best-films lists. All of his silent features followed a basic story formula (a popular one in silent comedy): a young "failure" finally displays prowess and wins the girl....Read More
In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick further explored his dark vision of man in a materialistic, mechanistic age depicted in Dr. Strangelove four years earlier. In explaining how the original idea for this landmark science-fiction film came to him, he says, "Most astronomers and other scientists interested in the whole question are strongly convinced that the universe is crawling with life; much of it, since the numbers...Read More
The title of Roman Polanski's film Chinatown refers to the state of mind of Jack Nicholson's character, a former cop in L.A.'s Chinatown who left the force and turned private eye after getting in over his head on a case he never fully understood, bringing tragedy to a woman he'd sought to help.
History begins to repeat itself in characteristically bleak Polanskian terms when Nicholson becomes...Read More