Sunday, February 16, 2014


Continuing my reports on the movies I've watched this month. 

THE DISAPPEARANCE (1977) Director: Stuart Cooper. Writer: Paul Mayersberg. Cast: Donald Sutherland, Francine Racette, David Hemmings, John Hurt, David Warner, Christopher Plummer.

I had never heard of this seventies British/Canadian thriller from the director of OVERLORD. Fantastic cast, interesting director, a genre I love, on paper, it has so much potential. Sadly there’s a reason nobody talks about this one. It’s yet another semi-obtuse existential hitman story with little going on under the surface. But that surface is the best thing about the movie. John Alcott’s (Barry Lyndon, The Shining) photography is stunning. The icy, otherworldly Montreal cityscapes are the only truly memorable thing here.

In fairness, I did not watch the Director’s cut which was included on Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release. The only surviving copy is a low quality full-frame video transfer. It’s possible that there’s more going on in that cut.

SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937) Directors: William Conttrell, David Hand, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Ben Sharpsteen. Producer: Walt Disney

I often say I’m not a fan of animated movies. Despite being an illustrator, animation in and of itself has never been that alluring to me. Also, for the most part I’m not interested in children’s stories which seem to all tell the same repetitive empowerment story. Everybody is a unique snowflake, I get it. But I love a great film, no matter the form.

What interested me in revisiting Disney’s Snow White was the book Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Art and Creation of Walt Disney's Classic Animated Film by J.B. Kaufman. The illustrations were so beautifully rendered that I felt I needed give this film a try. I know I saw it as a child but I had no real memories of the film itself beyond the pop culture highlights.
Formally, Snow White is amazing. It’s such a beautifully crafted piece of work. The background art in particular is often breathtaking. As a story, there’s a lot less going on. The scary sequences in the woods and the finale in the mountains with the witch are excellent. So is most everything involving the cute woodland creatures. Unfortunately Snow White herself just isn’t relatable. She’s a blank slate. The message sent by the ending is also pretty uncomfortable.

All that said, this was a finely crafted movie, well worth revisiting.

SWAMP WATER (1941) Director: Jean Renoir. Writer: Dudley Nichols. Cast: Dana Andrews, Walter Brennon, Anne Baxter, Walter Huston.

Renoir’s first American film has it’s boosters but honestly, this movie is just silly. It’s so totally lacking in authenticity, treating the rural characters living on the edge of the Okefenokee swamp with all the nuance of an Al Capp comic strip.

The upside is you get to see Walter Brennan get bit on the face by a snake.

Disclaimer: I had the flu and a very high fever when watching this.

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