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Posts Tagged ‘Film Forum’

This fall, I was overjoyed to see the news that Frank Borzage’s 1932 film A Farewell to Arms would be released by Kino in a full, restored version on DVD and BluRay.  For me, this release holds special significance because it was during an amazing run of movies shown at the Wadsworth Atheneum in the 1980’s that I discovered the films of Borzage — relatively forgotten to the moviegoing public at that time, even cinephiles — along with so many other classics in programs curated by University of Connecticut lecturer Robert Smith.  Below is a excerpt of the program — Smith’s preface is a perfect introduction to the story of this version of A Farewell to Arms in the context of film preservation. Borzage films are highlighted in figures 4-21 and 4-22 of Moving Images  (“Storytelling with Light”) and I use A Farewell to Arms as an example in Chapter 5: Personal Expression and Studio Production.  Frank Borzage was a member of a large, close-knit Italian immigrant family and his films show consistent dedication to the ties that bind couples together and to roots in family and place. He began working in Hollywood as an actor and throughout his directorial career actors lauded his passionate support of their craft and his attention to their interaction.  Borzage was one of the most highly regarded directors of early Hollywood, and his works offer some of the richest examples of visual storytelling in the period of transition from late silent films to early sound.   While Borzage is certainly known for the deep romanticism of his films, I have found that the weaving of his tales of passionate love through finely detailed places and amidst contexts of everyday life and economic or familial struggles gives his stories more depth and grounding than they are generally given credit for.  In the 1990’s, the discovery and subsequent release of the silent film Lucky Star was a particular revelation (currently available in the beautiful box set Murnau, Borzage, and Fox); I was fortunate enough to see it at the Film Forum with live music and an enthusiastic audience.  Among Borzage’s sound films, I would highly recommend his movies Three ComradesThe Mortal Storm, and Moonriseand Joe McElheney’s article on Borzage is the finest recent scholarship on the director I have read.  Or perhaps some time before or after going to see the new 3-D release of Titanic, it would be a revelation to see Borzage’s History is Made at Night from 1937 — now that’s a movie about the Titanic that really gets the heart stirred! Here are the program notes from 1984, written by Robert Smith, for a double bill with Little Man, What Now? :  History is Made at Night is the Borzage film for everyone, with enough material for three ordinary movies.  Jean Arthur is absolutely radiant, transfigured by Borzage’s genius and his commitment to a redemptive vision of the world.  Mad love, insane jealousy, murder, and a giant ocean liner racing through the ice-bound darkness provide the mortal trial through which Jean and Charles (like all great Borzagian protagonists) demonstrate their spiritual and moral greatness.  Soon after their first meeting, Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer dance the Tango of the Roses in a deserted Parisian nightclub.  Arthur is dressed in a lace nightgown, and the image of Arthur’s exquisite naked feet peeking out from that swirling lace nighty as they tango in the darkness will haunt you the rest of your days – now that’s romance!”  … okay, does this sound familiar to anyone?  James Cameron, eat your heart out!

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