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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Two number ones (and a number of quick ones)

As mentioned previously in another post, I'm not of the opinion that a position in a list is what makes a film great. Still, since there's people influenced by "umpteen best films" lists, I've got to say that they have its use... For one, they may attract the interest of filmgoers towards "oldies" and, well, help overcome their reluctance to watch films in Black & White, for instance.

In the particular case of Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter", this may also give a measure of the growing reputation of the film which all but seemed doomed to oblivion when it was first released. I'm well aware that high-ranking places also usually draw the attention of Phillistines and Iconoplastas who'll raise hell just for hell-raising's sake (... or because the poor things have nothing better to do, tsk!)

"Ah! Je souris de me voir si haut dans cette liste..."

Anyway, here it goes: the British magazine The Spectator put "The Night of the Hunter" in the number one of their Best Films list. This was brought to my attention by a couple of fellow Laughtonians, who sent me this link by Roger Ebert commenting on the issue (and Ebert is a great appreciator of Laughton's only full opus behind the camera)... Not only this, for Time Out, the British entertainment weekly guide, also lists the film as the number one among first films of a director's career, which is considerable kudos to give, considering that they've listed as remarkable film debuts as "Citizen Kane", "Les Quatre Cents Coups" , "The Great McGinty", "Targets" or "L'Age d'Or" below Laughton's film.

I must say I get an extra kick of this recognition coming from the British press. Over the years, I've got the overall impression that Laughton, while certainly apreciated by the British public, wasn't as recognized by the British powers-that-be. But never mind... Charles may have not got titles nor royal honours, but sure he still gets lots of love... Worldwide!

On the light of this, it might be interesting to watch this little snippet from an American TV program (dated around february 1960):

"Guess who's playing Falstaff"

The host's final comment to Charles about the American public's affection is worth noting: Laughton certainly seems to feel at home, willing to charm and full of energy and projects: it's sad to realize he had barely a couple of years left to live (By the way: It's funny to listen to the blindfolded pannelists assume that any British-born actor has a title). It is intriguing to learn that there was a broadcast of the Stratford 1959 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (with Charles playing Bottom) which was shown in America but not in the United Kingdom (hum... Why?!)

Pierre's Fablet "Night of the Hunter Project" has finally seen the light in a handsome CD distributed by Harmonia Mundi. This is just so you know, for, as you can imagine, the recording is truly worth of a post of his own, which I hope to do as soon as circs allow.

Those of you fortunate Laughtonians living in the vicinity of Chicago, Illinois, will be glad to learn that there's is a Laughton season going on there until December 3rd: here at evanevanevan.com you can read a nifty essay on Charles' career, as well as details about the screenings.

In the film releases front, I'm happy to announce that "The Bribe" is finally going to be on DVD, in the Warner Bros "Archive Collection", which, as some of you may know, is no regular DVD release, but one that works on customer's orders (you order it, and they make a digital copy for you). The bad side is... it's a Zone 1-only release which cannot be purchased by anyone living outside that geographical zone... In short, some genius at the top of the company think that, outside the north of America, nobody is interested in film classics.

(Note: if any kind American Laughtonian is willing to make an order for me, please send a message to this blog so we can make an arrangement, ahem)


Matthew Coniam said...

Darn it - I meant to tell you about Hunter coming out tops in The Spectator poll and forgot - interestingly, the decision did get a certain amount of flak afterwards, though. It was generally perceived as a decidely controversial and off-the-wall choice.

Gloria said...

Matthew, don't worry... In fact, when a kind Laughtonian friend first gave me the news, I was a bit annoyed with myself for not having known about it before (As I should!).

The Spectator's writers admit at the end of their "No. 1" entrythat it's a bold choice to do, but I don't see it as controversial a choice: NOTH's cinematic quality is there to see.

As to whether it's the best film ever, I wouldn't say so, but then: which is the best film ever? Maybe some old film I have not seen yet, or some film which has still to be done... Who knows. Personally, I believe that there are as many "number one" best films as film lovers.

Arts and Crafts said...

Sí, difícil decir cual ha sido la mejor peli... no, más bien imposible.

Hay tanta libertad para los directores a la hora de enfocar su cine que no se pueden comparar ciertas grandes peliculas, porque los estilos son muy distintos, porque no sabes si atenerte a la dirección, a la historia, a los actores o a qué.

En el caso de la de nuestro Laugthon, tiene tantas reminiscencias con lo que sería una obra de teatro y de las primeras películas que, en mi opinión, la hace apartarse bastante de otro tipo de films.

Yo no me atrevería a hacer una lista, lo he intentado con mis actores favoritos y no puedo hacer una clasificación como si se tratara de un podium porque sé que unos no funcionarían en las pelis que hicieron otros, por ejemplo: Guinness está genial como coronel Nicholson, Laughton rechazó ese papel, y creo que hizo bien. Pero nunca me imagino a Guinness u otros haciendo el Rembrant de Korda, imposible.

Puedo hacer una lista de grandes pelis o grandes actores, pero personalmente no puedo enumerarlos como si se tratara de una competición.

P.D.: Los beneficios de los tiempos de vacas gordas, qué se yo chica, supongo que los estarán pponiendo ahora en lo que sube: en interés variable. Nada, a la mayoría nos toca aguantar y con intereses por ahorros misérrimos.

Anonymous said...

Hola Glòria,
Llegeixo que lamentes les edicions de DVD de R1 (regió 1) en els seus llançaments americans. Bé, potser ja ho saps o bé ho has resolt comprant un reproductor DVD multizona (que existeixen), però és cert que gairebé tots els aparells de DVD de casa nostra també poden convertir-se en multizona. Per una qüestió d'aranzels, els aparells venen "capats" d'aquesta funció, però només cal que facis una molt senzilla operació amb el comandament a distancia per fer un "reset" i convertir el teu reproductor en multizona i veure així tots els DVD's que vulguis, siguin de la regió que siguin. Cercava una mil privat on enviar-te l'informació però no el trobo. Si vols, escriu a theboywiththecamerainhisside(AT)yahoo.es
PS: Salutacions i no cal que publiquis aquest post al taulell de comentaris. Gràcies

Gloria said...

Eudora, estupenda reflexión (como de costumbre;) )

Creo que tienes toda la razón en que, dada la diversidad de estilos cinematográficos, intentar clasificar y asignar rango puede ser una tarea imposible: personalmente, soy una gran admiradora de "la Noche del cazador", pero creo que la historia del cine mundial está llena de maravillas, muchas de ellas olvidadas (como en su dia lo estuvo el film de Laughton) y a reivindicar... Y lo mismo vale para directores y actores, como bien señalas ;D

Gloria said...

Julien, moltes gracies pel teu comentari, la teva informació i les dades i enllaços adicionals proporcionats per correu electrònic, que com pots veure, ja he incorporat al post següent (espero que correctament)