Birthday Movie: East of Eden
East of Eden has the best hair. Aaron (Smiths album cover boy Richard Davalos) resting with his girlfriend Abra (Tony-winning Julie Harris) after running around a barn, as his good-natured yet impish younger brother Cal (James Dean) watches from behind an ice-cube. Cal perpetually looking like a teenager who just woke up, perpetually watching. Later on, Aaron again lies down on his stomach on his father’s lawn, face up, the picture of pastoral boyhood, weighing in on the Great War and money concerns as if from a distance. Cal lying down on neighbouring farm land, impatiently watching his rows upon rows of bean sprouts grow from up close. Blessed with bounty, the citizens of Monterey establish civilizations under the guise of creation, of failures and successes but are nonetheless wary of the tension that is actually closer than they think.
They are brothers and therefore born rivals, the story marking their competition even through the different personalities of their parents. Aaron taking on his father Adam Trask (Raymond Massey) and Cal with the mysterious Kate (Jo van Fleet) who lives on a suspicious house on a hill. But the lines within the family criss-cross too. Cal’s entrepreneurial skills come from both parents – as much as his business ventures are unethical, he also gets Adam’s wild yet good-intentioned visions of their Californian goods reaching outside the state. The performances also serve as a key to their genetic similarities, Aaron echoing Kate’s tough-love parental instincts towards Cal, in one scene telling him to go watch the rally. Dean, in turn, plays Cal as fidgety as a regular teenager.
The sequence when Cal and Abra go to the circus, one of the most novelistic and symbol-heavy patterns of storytelling in cinema. These friends walk through a hall of mirrors, skewing one of the most handsome faces in film into monsters. They meet one of Cal’s Mexican girlfriends, he kisses Abra on the Ferris wheel, he climbs down and jumps on a mob. All these events awakening innocent Abra’s sexuality, although her reaction towards him is tame by today’s standards. He becomes an imp again, his jealousy and Adamr’s rejection causing him to tell a family secret that would destroy Aaron, proudly telling his father what he has accomplished. He would twice destroy the angelic female that Aaron holds dear. In a movie about beauty and broken purity, Cal redeems himself, fixing things with his broken self and family as he has always intended.
- James Dean’s Brother Love (MNPP)
15 Directors Meme
Ruth from FlixChatter responded to being tagged to do a 15 Directors Meme post she did two-ish weeks ago, and I did some proud begging for her to tag me because I like talking about my favourite directors. Or I think I did – it was hard going past 12. I changed the list compared to my pre-list on her comments section. And it took me a while to respond.
What I look for in a director’s work is beautiful cinematography, theatre-like scripts or energy, decent representation of strong female characters. Lastly, a sense of humour, preferably dark, like coffee I would only drink if I was lazy. List.
- Stanley Kubrick (Full Metal Jacket)
- Charles Laughton (The Night of the Hunter)
- Christopher Nolan (Inception)
- Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill Vol. II)
- Woody Allen (Sleeper, Another Woman)
- Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line ’98)
- Elia Kazan (East of Eden)
- Mike Nichols (The Graduate)
- Michael Haneke (Code Inconnu)
- Jane Campion (Bright Star)
- George Cukor (A Star is Born ’54)
- Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien)
- Sidney Lumet (Serpico)
- Lars von Trier (Dogville)
- Fritz Laing (Fury)
And now I have to tag ETA: six bloggers who have lives.
Jose, who talks about classics with wicked witches and fugly whores.
Simon, who reminds us that David Bowie played Andy Warhol in a movie.
Andy, who’s going to see Ellen Ripley cut a bitch.
Nick and Nathaniel. One’s very chipper and the other’s a quipper. Both are getting me really excited for the Oscars.
Farran, who reminded me that my birthday was also Constance Bennett Day.
For some reason, I think I know who they’re gonna pick, but I know they have the ability to surprise me and their own readers. 🙂
Ready For My Best Shot
As part of Nathaniel R’s Hit Me With Your Best shot series, this week features Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg‘s A Face in the Crowd.
Marcia (Patricia Neal) is all smiles in this dank jailhouse but for some reason, she looks at a drunk prisoner Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith), both moved and saddened. I watched this movie cold and for the first time. This movie begins with bucolic acoustic guitar music, the first scene acted out in this room. Misinterpreting Elia Kazan’s reputation as a theatre director and ‘Budd Schulberg’ meaning this movie was probably based on a play. It would also be a challenge to the filmmakers to create cinema in such theatre-like spaces. Mix those Rube Goldberg tangents with how I liked the way these characters are in this scene, I was assuming that this movie’s gonna stay put in this room and in this small town. But nooooo…..
Kazan was the closest thing North America ever had to a Roberto Rossellini, or is he?
This is what I imagine every pre-1967 B-movie would feel like.
Then he became a sellout douche. The best comparison I can come up with for this director and movie is Richard Brooks’ Elmer Gantry. This movie’s also about the advent of television and celebrity politics, with the TV set within the frame.
But here is my best shot, even if it doesn’t encapsulate the film. None of my best shots yet are like that. It’s probably yours too, which makes it boring, but I hope my write-up seems more ‘original.’
I call this the Reverse Norma Desmond Shot. Marcia reminds me of Norma’s insane, destructive impulses. A member of Rhodes’ sound crew blurted out how he would like America to see what the real Lonesome Rhodes is really like, or more correctly, has become. This little wish turns into a sinister idea that possesses her, thus the obvious but probably one of the most effective noir-like close-ups ever put to film. There’s also a little of Joe Gillis in her in wanting to unmask the truth to and about a delusional person, yet what she does to him is more cruel that what Joe says to Norma in person. She destroys him, and in doing so has to both lament and defend that rash decision.