My combined interest in Holocaust studies and film noir led to quite a screening expedition this week…
Odd Man Out (1947): I’d been meaning to watch this film about Northern Ireland starring James Mason and directed by Carol Reed for some time. With its combination of brutality and sympathy for its criminal characters, I was not disappointed. RECOMMENDED.
Inglorious Basterds (2009): As one who does not enjoy violence-for-violence’s-sake, I’ve avoided Tarantino for the most part. Still haven’t made it through Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction. But because of my interest in Holocaust Studies, I finally made myself watch, and then truly enjoyed, Inglorious Basterds. My post on the film is here. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Django Unchained (2012): While I was watching Tarantino, I decided to indulge in another of his historically focused revenge fantasies. Although I find Inglorious Basterds is a tighter and more compelling film, Django was effective, too. Christoph Waltz is amazing in both films, and Samuel L. Jackson is a revelation as Stephen, the fiercely loyal head house slave who gives new Dr. Frankenstein-like edge to the Uncle Tom figure. Only Leonardo DiCaprio disappointed me as the villain with too little interest or passion, but that didn’t surprise me. Also, unlike Inglorious Basterds, women’s roles were weak and dull. RECOMMENDED, but not strongly.
From Caligari to Hitler (2014): This documentary about Weimar film offers excellent historical analysis of the relationship of cinema to culture. Between WWI and Hitler’s advancement to chancellor in 1933, much of modern film genre and technique was developed within the brilliantly creative Weimar filmmakers as part of the freedom of the young and ultimately doomed German Republic. Although some moments are more precise and clear in their points than others as the documentary builds to its conclusion, I learned a great deal about Pabst, Murnau, Lang, and others that I didn’t already know. RECOMMENDED.
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933): Metropolis is Fritz Lang’s expressionist masterpiece and M is his superlative poetic realist pre-noir, but The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is his crowning glory as a director, combining both styles with a prescient commentary on fascism and the impending destruction Hitler and his Third Reich would bring to Germany. Hitler had the film banned after pre-screening, and it’s very clear why. I consider this REQUIRED viewing for artistic, historical, and political reasons combined.