Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Literary Remakes: Pinocchio, All Quiet on the Western Front and Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Federico Ielapi as Pinocchio and Marine Vacth as The Blue Fairy in Matteo Garrone's Pinocchio (2019).

Those with fond memories of the 1940 Walt Disney Pinocchio are likely to respond to last year’s two screen incarnations of Carlo Collodi’s story – published in serial form in 1881 and 1882, and as a novel in 1883 – with some combination of bafflement and irritation. The Disney crew softened the original and bled out the folk-fable elements, but it’s gorgeous to behold, and the writers (seven credited, two uncredited) and supervising and sequence directors (seven, including one who signs himself “T. Hee”) and animators (too many to count) modeled the humor on a combination of vaudeville and silent-film comedy. (I chuckle whenever I think about the scene in the ocean where a school of fish swarm Jiminy Cricket and try to eat his umbrella.) And the Pleasure Island sequence, where Pinocchio, led astray by a cadre of schoolboys lured by the promise of an endless holiday, turn into donkeys fated to be put on the market is one of those genuinely terrifying set piece sequences that dot the early full-length animated Disney features. I tend to be wary of Disney cartoons, but this is one of the few I genuinely like.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You: An Interview with Charles Taylor

Author and film critic Charles Taylor. (Photo: Lelia McCabe)

I've long been a fan of 1970s American movies, a time when American cinema mattered and when it was a far cry from the mostly bland, pallid fare on tap in America today. Films from that era – The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Nashville, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Conversation, Carrie, The Sugarland Express, Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, The Last Picture Show, Blue Collar, The Landlord and many more – were nuanced, complex, often morally ambiguous, and reflected the breadth and depth of American society and the issues of the day that mattered. And the many talented filmmakers making those movies, including Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, Hal Ashby, Arthur Penn, Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Mazursky, strived both for relevance and for impact but also displayed a sheer excitement in making movies that translated to the screen and the audience's enjoyment of what they were seeing.  For that reason, that thrilling era of moviemaking has also been the subject of a favourite course, American Cinema of the '70s: The Last Golden Age, that I have taught over the years and that I'm constantly tweaking – and, hopefully, improving – with each iteration. When Charles Taylor's superb book Opening Wednesday at a Theater Or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American '70s (Bloomsbury USA) came out in 2017, I was so impressed that I switched things up and made it the subject of one of my classes.