"A special case needs to be made for James Whale," argues Cullen Gallagher in the L Magazine. "Though not exactly forgotten - a pair of genre-defining horror masterpieces (Frankenstein and The Invisible Man) and two satires (The Old Dark House and Bride of Frankenstein) have kept him in circulation - he is certainly misremembered. Instead of the easily definable horror-auteur that history would prefer, Whale was an artist of many mediums (theater, cinema, painting, drawing), genres and sensibilities, but the unavailability of the majority of his body of work, either in theatrical revivals or on home video, has prevented audiences from fully understanding him. Encompassing the full range of Whale's style, from gothic to modern and screwball to macabre, Film Forum's 16-film retrospective [tomorrow through December 10] will do much to restore the director's lopsided legacy."
"Whale never wanted to be Universal's 'monster man,' as he was called, to his chagrin, after his early successes," writes Terrence Rafferty in the New York Times. "It was his misfortune to be very, very good at the disreputable genre that chose him, and his further misfortune that the studio didn't, at the time, have much else going for it. His Frankenstein, with its stark compositions, rambunctious crowd scenes, sneaky humor and unexpected sympathy for the brutish lab-concocted creature played by Boris Karloff, supplied a richer experience of terror than anything that had preceded it in the early era of talkies. Whale was stuck, forever after, with an unwanted specialty, a costume that seemed to hamper him like the too-small clothes his creature wore."
At this point, I should remind you that Frankensteinia has just hosted a very... (don't make me say "monster-sized")... large and eventful Boris Karloff Blog-a-Thon, drawing countless illustrious contributors.
"Whale's one musical, a film of Oscar Hammerstein's operetta Show Boat, is definitive." Nick Pinkerton in the Voice: "The Mississippi River setting is full of American myths, and Whale perfectly connects to the collective nostalgia - and guilt - of his adopted country. One appreciates not only the tragic grandeur Whale gives Paul Robeson's 'Ol' Man River,' but also the director's intelligence - knowing to do nothing that might break the intimate spell of Helen Morgan's tremulous, wrenching rendition of 'Bill,' one of the most perfect movie moments we have."
"'Camera movement' doesn't even begin to describe the orchestral coordination of tracks, pans, tilts, zooms, and compositional dimensionality comprising Miklós Jancsó's boldly vertiginous 10-minute takes," writes Max Goldberg in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "The Pacific Film Archive screens a quartet of the Hungarian director's influential but rarely shown films from the late 1960s and early 70s, each a kinesthetic rumination on the awful coordinates of martial law - and perhaps the closest cinema has ever come to the epic poetry of The Iliad." Four by Hungarian Master Miklós Jancsó runs Saturday through December 18.
"The Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne of Brooklyn-based independent filmmakers, So Yong Kim and Bradley Rust Gray are partners in work and life," writes Melissa Anderson in the Voice. They're also "this generation's most gifted chroniclers of girlhood, creating unforgettable young heroines - all on view in BAMcinématek's showcase." The Next Director: So Yong Kim and Bradley Rust Gray runs Tuesday through December 17.
Divided Cinema: German Cinema at The Wall runs on through December 16 at Seattle's Northwest Film Forum. See Hot Splice for more on the series.
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