Stalag 17

When Gil Stratton’s character “Cookie” announces in the voiceover that opens Stalag 17 that “it always make me sore when I see those war pictures — all about flying leather-necks and submarine patrols and frogmen and guerillas in the Philippines… what gets me is that there never was a movie about P.O.W.s” he wouldn’t have been accurate, even in 1944 when the film was set; Renoir’s The Grand Illusion was released in 1938, but it’s French. What’s really happening there is Billy Wilder is already winking at the audience to think about what POW films have been made, and I’m guessing he was betting that his audience hadn’t seen The Grand Illusion, or British productions like 1947s The Captive Heart or 1950s The Wooden Horse. Read more of this post


The Films of Stan Brakhage: Volume II

In my review for The Third Man I noted that one fascinating aspect about film, as a medium, is that there is no discrete separation between high and low art, between supreme masterpieces and B-films. More than any other medium, the masterpieces of film have been selected by mass audiences rather than elitists. Maybe there’s more of a split now between academics, critics, and the movie-going public, but it’s hard to deny that so many of the best films are (or, at least, were) extremely popular. This is a blessing and a curse, and the curse side of it seems to manifest in a certain limited approach to what film is, what it should and can do, and what it should and can be. This leaves artists like Stan Brakhage struggling to find an audience because, unlike his abstract expressionist “brothers in spirit,” there really is no significant audience for Brakhage within the community of his own medium.  This is a shame because it could be said that no director was ever more concerned with film’s ability to replicate true vision, a vision unsullied by symbolic, tangible representation, be it in the form of narrative or in the looser form of metaphor (like his avant-garde, experimentalist predecessors). Read more of this post