Wednesday, March 7, 2012

#420: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Directed by: KAREL REISZ
1960, TSPDT Rank #409

One of the early films of the British New Wave, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning definitely stood out to me as a quintessential film of the movement. Albert Finney perfectly embodies the "angry young man" character that you will see featured in most British New Wave films, giving a fantastic performance that just radiates with discontent and rebellion without a cause. I call it a quintessential British New Wave film because it has all the elements you might find in any given film from the movement - deterioration of society, generation gap, cynicism, sexual promiscuity, rebelling against social mores, etc. It's an energetic, gripping, edgy film, and gives you a great taste of working-class British society in the early 1960s. I highly recommend it to any discerning film buff. But don't take my word for it - it has Robert Osborne's endorsement as being a "dandy film"!

(Rating: 9/10)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

#419: Fantasia

1940, TSPDT Rank #244

Fantasia is one of the few films for which it really cannot be said that one person directed it, although Ben Sharpsteen is widely known as the director (he was credited as "production supervisor" in the credits). So many peoples' ideas and talents went into this film that it has to instead be considered as the work of one incredible group. Sure, Fantasia isn't without its flaws, but to put things into perspective, one needs to remember that this film was made only a few years after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first ever animated feature. The amount of innovation and vision that Fantasia brought to the table was monumental - not a perfect or absolute achievement, but a significant upping of the ante nonetheless. Its initial commercial failure is just further confirmation of how ahead of its time the film was. So overall, I can't critique much about this film, although I feel that the first half is definitely much stronger than the second half, with Bach, Tchaikovsky, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and the film's climax halfway through with the astounding creation and dinosaurs sequence that is paired with Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (which obviously was a strong influence on the creation sequence in Terrence Malick's recent film, The Tree of Life). The second half is too whimsical and fluffy for my tastes, and although the Night on Bald Mountain sequence near the end is terrifying and brilliant, and the Ave Maria images that finish the film have a strong, ethereal quality, the film reaches what I feel to be its nadir with the ridiculous ballet mockery (Dance of the Hours). But in the end, this is merely personal preference, as each sequence brings something worthwhile to the table - and much of the film achieves a sublime synthesis of great classical music and masterful hand-drawn animation, which likely could not be equaled or even approached in today's computer-dominated animation climate. Walt Disney and company took a large risk at the time, and while it may have seemed to be a failure at the time of its original release, time has revealed it to be far the contrary. Fantasia is a landmark film for animation, as well as the general history of cinema - not to be missed.

(Rating: 9/10)