Friday, February 20, 2009

Saboteur - Early Hitchcock and good enough!

The famous tagline for this Hitchcock masterpiece was '3000 miles of terror' hinting at the cross country run by the fugitive from Los Angeles to New York with the climax being shot at the Radio City Music Hall and the Statue of Liberty at Liberty Island. Aircraft factory worker, Barry Kane goes on the run across the United States when he is wrongly accused of starting a fire that killed his best friend. The film is in black and white and runs 108 minutes. Alfred Hitchcock chose to use the word 'finis' (European - French for The End) at the end. Robert Cummings stars as Barry Kane, a patriotic munitions worker who is falsely accused of sabotage in this wartime thriller. This film was made by Hitchcock between 'Suspicion' and 'Shadow of a Doubt'. Hitchcock is feeling his way around America literally. Cummings is lively and engaging. His naivete suits the character he is portraying. Where this film differs from his better known films is that the audience is let in on the game early. The villains become apparent fairly soon. The master's handling is very much there for people to see in pristine black and white. This is one of the first steps we have to take to understand Hitchcock as a master film maker.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Citylights: Enlightening

Released on 6th February 1931, this is yet another masterpiece by Charles Spencer Chaplin. The tramp struggles to help a blind flower girl he has fallen in love with. She and her grandmother are in financial trouble. The tramp develops an on and off relationship with a millionaire whom he saves when he is about to take his life. That wealthy man allows him to be the girl's benefactor and suitor. It is a charmingly simple story. The tramp meets this lovely blind flower girl who is selling flowers on a sidewalk. She mistakes him for a wealthy duke. When he learns that an operation may restore her sight in Vienna, he sets off to earn the money she needs to have for her surgery. In a series of comedy adventures that only Chaplin could pull off, he eventually succeeds even though his efforts land him in jail. While he is in jail (the millionaire charges him for robbing the money that he has always given him in his drunken stupor), the girl gets her eyes restored by the operation and longs to meet her benefactor. The closing scene in which she discovers that he is not a wealthy duke but an inconsequential tramp is one of the highest moments in the movie that made my eyes wet. Virginia Cherrill is the blind girl. She is pretty. Harry Myers puts in a great performance as the eccentric millionaire. The music is by Chaplin himself and the theme he has given for the blind girl is haunting and gracious. In this film, Chaplin is the actor, the director, the musician, the sentimentalist, the knockabout clown( the ring scene and the music are brilliant), the ballet dancer, the athlete, the lover, the tragedian and the fool. What more could I say? There is an inventive use of pantomime through which the tramp relates to the audience. Despite this film being a silent one in 1931, the audiences flocked to City Lights anyway.