Everybody wants something...

I found this great diagram in the book 'On Film Making' by Alexander Mackendrick. Mackendrick was the writer and director of 'The Man in the White Suit' and 'The Sweet Smell of Success' as well as the director of 'The Lady Killers' (among others). This book is an absolute gem, brimming with great advice.

Through the diagram you can see how intricately Graham Greene had worked out all of his complex relationships. You also see how contradictions stand to create conflict and a help create a richness of character. In feature films it is difficult to create characters with any degree of depth and that is why Greene wrote his first draft as a novella and then transplanted it into a screenplay.

I was talking with a fellow screenwriter the other day and she was mentioning how novices were lacking a counter theme in their stories. That is to say that their antagonists and secondary characters are lacking a clearly defined goal. If you were to suddenly change the point of view to any of the characters you would see that the film would still work. If you made Anna's story in 'The Third Man' the central story (made her the protagonist) the story still works. It may not be the strongest point of view but in the end it is still functioning.


The Lodger

I watched Alfred Hitchcock's "The Lodger" last night and was struck by the sophisticated visual style that he used in the film. Hitchcock borrows heavily from the German expressionists with regards to lighting and composition as well as using a tinting process, colouring the film in sepia and blue (depending on locations). The DVD release is from the newly released "Premiere Collection" and the film is accompanied by two modern scores. One is by Ashley Irwin and the other Paul Zaza. I preferred the Irwin score as it felt like an homage to Bernard Herrman's work with Hitchcock. At a few points I surfed between the scores to find some remarkably different choices and moods.

One of the things that made a huge impression on me was Hitchock's use of E. McKnight Kauffer as the title designer. I am very far from being an expert on silent pictures but I found that his title designs were incredibly evocative, dynamic and unique. Here are some of the images:

It shouldn't have surprised me as Hitchcock was famous for hiring the likes of Saul Bass and Salvador Dali to develop and produce titles or sequences in his films.

I really enjoyed this film although it does suffer from ending that is almost satisfying but ultimately disappointing and tacked on. Apparently Hitchcock would have preferred a much more sinister ending but was handcuffed by the producers to make it more uplifting due to the popularity of Ivor Novello, the actor playing the killer. Regardless I highly recommend this film and the Premiere Collection of discs. So often these old films are given poor releases by companies packaging public domain titles. Using dirty and damaged prints, the VHS tapes were recorded in extra long play modes and on DVD they are highly compressed in order to get two or more films on a single disc. Here they are presented with some love and extra features that make it much more enjoyable and enlightening.

A new version of "The Lodger" is due to arrive next year. The new film is written and directed by David Ondaatje, nephew of famous novelist Michael Ondaatje.


Criterion Online...

Rob sent me this link...

In the early nineties Laserdisc emerged from the ashes and revitalized the hardcore film fans. Using an fm modulated picture (analogue) and a digital soundtrack, Laserdisc was the best image you could find on a home video format. Much superior to VHS. Films were available in letterbox format and in addition to the digital audio track, Laserdisc also contained an analogue track you could switch over to. This is where the 'audio commentary' originated. The film's soundtrack on the dolby digital stereo track, the commentary on right channel of the analogue track and a mono mix of the film on the left channel of the the analogue tracks. The mono channel was to ensure that those who didn't have the new digital systems would still be able to get the soundtrack in mono. Very clever.

On the pioneering edge of all this was the Criterion Collection. They sought out the best prints of films, made deals with the studios and rights holders and tried to bring cinephiles the most comprehensive version of classic and intriguing films of days gone by. They have come a long way.

Technology aside. Criterion has been the ultimate standard for the passionate lover of film. They cost more. What you pay for is the licensing of the films from the rights owners, the cost of finding and scanning the best prints available and the in house production of the special features (docs and commentaries). It seems to me that this business is in it for the love of movies more than the love of money and that is a refreshing change.

I am planning on buying their new release of "The Third Man" on Bluray. I own the Crition Laserdisc and the first release on DVD (I held back from the second release).

Poor Orson... never saw a dime. He took a salary to pay for his own film, "Othello". They offered him profits but he needed the cash... He lost A Lot of money...

Thanks Rob.