“What is right … has nothing to do with politics or nationality.”

“I may not understand much about politics and I have no ambition to do so, but I do have some feeling for what is right and what is wrong. That has nothing to do with politics or nationality.”

—  Sophie Scholl, member of the White Rose resistance movement in Germany, in a letter to Fritz Hartnagel, May 1940

 

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A very short review of “Rebecca” (1940)

Scratch one thing off the bucket list — I finally got around to watching Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca.”  (A cinephilic uncle introduced me to a handful of the director’s better known classics when I was an adolescent — “Rebecca” was one that we never got around to.)  Based on my own enjoyment of it, I’d rate this film an 8 out of 10.

Please bear in mind that this is one of the slower Hitchcock films.  Until its plot accelerates toward its end, it spends much of its running length as a methodically paced, brooding Gothic romance and mystery.  It’s also a psychological thriller, and you can tell that Hitchcock is working to translate onto the screen its character-focused source novel.  (I haven’t read Daphne du Maurier’s eponymous 1938 book.)

“Rebecca’s” final act brings the viewer into familiar Hitchcock territory with some interesting surprises.  What I liked best about seeing the director’s style, however, was his trademark sharp characters and dialogue — with both heroes and villains sparring in a dry-witted and rapid-fire fashion.  It’s something you don’t often see today.   I don’t think all old movies are like this — some of the “classics” I’ve been recommended are absolutely vapid.  But Hitchcock treated his viewer as intelligent adults, and I think it’s part of the reason why people love him.

 

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“Fantasia” double-feature today!

I just finished watching Disney’s “Fantasia” (1940) this snowy afternoon with my girlfriend — she gave me the boxed set with “Fantasia 2000” (1999) this Christmas.  This is the first time I’ve seen the entire film in … 26 years?  If memory serves, I last saw it at Mary Washington College’s Dodd Auditorium when I was a freshman in 1990.

I loved it just now even more than I loved it then.  My favorite segment will always be the final one — Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” with a coda of Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”  (The accompanying animation is Gothic horror; I’ve posted about it here at the blog before.)

I felt for sure that my second favorite would be Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”  Pictures of those animated dinosaurs startled and thrilled me as a tot after Christopher Finch’s “The Art of Walt Disney” (1975) somehow appeared magically among my baby books in Queens, New York.  As an adult, however, I liked the segment mostly because of its cool depiction of lower life-forms.  The dinosaurs were stylized and interesting to see, but I don’t think the quality of the animation has held up very well — especially considering what we know about the dinosaurs has changed so much in 80 years or so.

Instead, my second favorite was Ludwig von Beethoven’s “The Pastoral Symphony,” and its whimsical, beautiful depiction of centaurs, gods, and other figures from Greek mythology.

My girlfriend’s favorite segment was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” with its dancing fairies.  “Fantasia” was actually a favorite movie of hers growing up; she’s seen it several dozen times in her childhood.

There is some bizarre trivia about “Fantasia” from Wikipedia, which has a lengthy entry for the movie: “In the late 1960s, four shots from The Pastoral Symphony were removed that depicted two characters in a racially stereotyped manner. A black centaurette called Sunflower was depicted polishing the hooves of a white centaurette, and a second named Otika appeared briefly during the procession scenes with Bacchus and his followers.”  That’s so nuts.

 

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