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“Edvard Munch,” Warner Bros at the Stanford
A scene from Peter Watkins' "Edvard Munch." Photo: Norsk Film/1974

“Edvard Munch,” Warner Bros at the Stanford

“Edvard Munch” (Peter Watkins, 1974)

SFMOMA’s exhibition of Edvard Munch paintings is set to close on Monday, Oct. 9. Check it out — then check out, as a supplement, Peter Watkins’ astonishing 1974 film portrait of the Norwegian proto-Expressionist artist, “Edvard Munch.” This freeform 211 minute saga comes in two parts, both two hours long. It casts amateur Norwegian non-actors in the roles of Munch, his family, his politically radical colleagues fighting bourgeois mores and the mysterious woman who stokes his passion. It tracks Munch’s progress as an artist: his early sketches, his mid-career breakthrough (a painting of his tuberculosis-ridden sister), “The Scream,” the revulsion of his art by the public, his experiments with wood-block prints and his eventual mental and physical collapse.

The film flows like a slack eavesdropping session, with the camera picking up snatches from major moments in Munch’s life and mixing them, back and forth across time, in quick flashbacks. Like the subjects of his paintings, Munch often uncomfortably stares into the camera, never letting us forget what we are seeing are uncanny recreations.

Watkins, who has made some of the most revolutionary works of “docu-fiction” in the past half-century (“The War Game,” “Punishment Park” and “La Commune [Paris 1871]”), succeeds in totally collapsing categories which are typically set up as polar opposites: the artistic and the political, the private and public spheres of the self, fiction and the uncannily real. It is made with radical human emotion and historical introspection. Watkins is brutally critical yet not wholly dismissive of his subject, a distance not quite objective.

Media and Microtext call number: ZDVD 16186

 

Warner Bros. at the Stanford Theatre

Dorothy Marlone and Humphrey Bogart size each other up in Howard Hawks’ “The Big Sleep” (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment).

The Warner Bros. festival at the Stanford Theatre concluded in violent style on Monday, Oct. 2 with two classics: the Dede Allen-edited gore and Arthur Penn-directed tonal whiplash of “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) and a hysterical, scene-eating Edward G. Robinson performance in “Two Seconds” (1932). This past summer, the Stanford put together one of their best retrospectives yet: 67 films and 32 cartoons, all from the studio that Andrew Sarris once said “walked mostly on the shady side of the street.” Most of us students were off-campus, so we only really got to experience the tail-end (“My Fair Lady,” “Calamity Jane” and “Bonnie and Clyde”) of that amazing retro. But not to fear: Almost every film that was shown is available to watch at Green Library, in the Media and Microtext Center.

I’ll capsule review a couple of the most interesting films I saw this summer. Meanwhile, here’s a list of some of my favorites:

“Gold Diggers of 1933”  (1933)
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, Busby Berkeley (musical numbers)
Starring Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Guy Kibbee, Ned Sparks, Warren William, Aline MacMahon and Ginger Rogers
Dick and Ruby play two young hopefuls struggling to make it on Broadway during the Great Depression. Even falling in love has its hardships, as Powell’s high-brow Eastern family is determined to break them (and the show) up. More complications set in when his brother (William) falls for Keeler’s wise-cracking roommate (Blondell).
Call number: ZDVD 11896

“I am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang” (1932)
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Starring Paul Muni
Wrongly convicted James Allen (Muni) is sent to work under the intolerable conditions of a Southern chain gang. Based on a true story.
Call number: ZDVD 9975

“Other Men’s Women” (1931)
Directed by Wild Bill Wellman
Starring Mary Astor, Grant Withers, Joan Blondell and Jimmy Cagney.
Bill and Jack are best friends. They are railroad men. When Bill comes to stay with Jack and his wife (Astor), they fall in love. Jack confronts Bill about his suspicions. Tragedy strikes.
Call number: ZDVD 20461, Disc 1

“Wild Boys of the Road” (1933)
Directed by Wild Bill Wellman
Starring Frankie Darro, Dorothy Wellman and Sterling Holloway
The brutal tale of a group of young kids struggling to find work on the railroad after their parents have lost their jobs during the Great Depression.
Call number: ZDVD 20461, Disc 3

“Footlight Parade” (1933)
Directed by Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley (musical numbers)
Starring Jimmy Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Guy Kibbee and Frank McHugh.
Stage shows and silent pictures are out; sound movies are in. To keep up with the times, crackerjack director Chester Kent (Cagney) struggles against time, romance (Blondell) and a theatre rival’s spy to produce spectacular live “prologues” for movie houses.
Call number: ZDVD 11895

“Picture Snatcher” (1933)
Directed by Lloyd Bacon
Starring Jimmy Cagney. Ex-convict Danny Kean decides to find honest work as a photographer for a tabloid newspaper.
Call numer: ZDVD 18210

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1935)
Directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle
Starring Jimmy Cagney, Dick Powell and Olivia De Havilland
Warners’ bizarre adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic comedy. A mix-up of romances, fairy-ballets and Jimmy Cagney as Puck. Would make a nice double-bill with Demy’s “Donkey Skin.”
Call number: ZDVD 15004

James Cagney in “Blonde Crazy” (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment).

“Five Star Final” (1931)
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Starring Edward G. Robinson, Aline MacMahon and Boris Karloff
The City Editor (Robinson) of a sleazy tabloid goes against his own journalistic ethics to resurrect a twenty-year-old murder case … with tragic results. One of the most cynical and bleakest newspaper movies in existence.
Call number: ZDVD 24854

“The Flame and the Arrow” (1950)
Directed by Jacques Tourneur.
Starring Burt Lancaster and Virginia Mayo.
Tourneur’s brisk re-imagining of the Robin Hood yarn, transposed to medieval Italy. For my money, it’s better than 1938’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”
Call number: ZDVD 16102

“Hard to Handle” (1933)
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
Starring Jimmy Cagney.
Small time con artist Lefty Merrill (Cagney) has co-organized a crooked dance marathon and set up his girlfriend to win the prize money. When his partner disappears with the money before the contest is over, he’s forced to come up with a series of wacky scams to help pay it back.
Call number: ZDVD 29484

“The Letter” (1940)
Directed by William Wyler
Starring Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall
The wife of a rubber plantation owner shoots a close family-friend six times in the back. What happened and why?
Call number: ZDVD 8977

“One Way Passage” (1932)
Directed by Tay Garnett
Starring William Powell, Kay Francis, Aline MacMahon and Frank McHugh
A man and a woman fall in love aboard a ship. He has no idea she is dying of cancer; she has no idea he is a convicted murderer en route to San Quentin.
Call number: ZDVD 25356

“The Track of the Cat” (1954)
Directed by Wild Bill Wellman
Starring Robert Mitchum, Teresa Wright, Diana Lynn, Beulah Bondi and Tab Hunter
A family in the snowy Northern Californian mountains starts to split apart as the eldest brother (Mitchum) becomes obsessed with the pursuit of a mysterious killer black panther.
Call number: ZDVD 26554

“Gentleman Jim” (1942)
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Starring Errol Flynn and Alexis Smith
The story of James T. Corbett (Flynn), the bank-clerk turned World Champion who elevated boxing from bare-knuckled brawling to the sport of skill it is today.
Call number: ZDVD 14338

“The Big Sleep” (1946)
Directed by Howard Hawks
Starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
Private eye Philip Marlowe (Bogart) is called to investigate the most feverish, complex and confusing detective-case in movie history. Also, he falls in love (Bacall). Maybe.
Call number: ZDVD 12862, ZDVD 38888 Blu-ray

“Black Legion” (1937)
Directed by Archie Mayo and Michael Curtiz
Starring Humphrey Bogart
After a Polish co-worker has been given a promotion over disillusioned white worker Frank Taylor (Bogart), Taylor is seduced into joining a secret society of hood-wearing terrorists who wreak havoc on anyone they deem “alien.” The film’s tagline: “Frank Taylor and people like him have a vision for America. It is a vision shaped by terror and fueled by fear, ignorance and hate — a nation of ‘free, white, 100 percent Americans!'”
Call number: ZDVD 17946

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde” (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment).

“The Roaring Twenties” (1939)
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Starring James Cagney, Gladys George and Frank McHugh
The rise and fall of a disillusioned World War I soldier (Cagney) turned bootlegging king of NYC.
Call number: ZDVD 9002

“Strawberry Blonde” (1941)
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Starring James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland and Rita Hayworth
Quick-tempered but likable Biff Grimes (Cagney) falls for the beautiful Virginia Brush (Hayworth), but he’s not the only young man in the neighborhood who is smitten with her.
Call number: ZDVD 20697

“The Breaking Point” (1950)
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Starring John Garfield, Patricia Neal, Juano Hernandez and Phyllis Thaxter
An otherwise moral captain of a charter boat (Garfield) becomes financially strapped and is drawn into illegal activities in order to keep up payments on his boat. Based on the Hemingway novel “To Have and Have Not.” Be warned: this will crush you.
Call number: ZDVD 41307, ZDVD 41308 Blu-ray

“East of Eden” (1955)
Directed by Elia Kazan
Starring James Dean, Julie Harris, Raymond Massey and Jo Van Fleet
The saga of three generations of the Trask and Hamilton families in the early 1900’s in Northern California.
Call number: ZDVD 10254

“My Fair Lady” (1964)
Directed by George Cukor
Starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison
Outside Covent Garden on a rainy evening in 1912, cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle meets linguistic expert Henry Higgins. Higgins bets with his companion, Colonel Pickering, that within six months he could transform Eliza into a proper lady, simply by teaching her proper English. The next morning, face and hands freshly scrubbed, Eliza presents herself on Higgins’ doorstep, ready and willing to be turned into a lady. But who’s turning whom?
Call number: ZDVD 5888

“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967)
Directed by Arthur Penn
Starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway
Dunaway and Betty star in the story of real-life 1930s bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, mixing romance, adventure, glamour, comedy and violence in a way never seen before. They rob banks.
Call number: ZDVD 16601

Other films that I couldn’t see but which I’m sure are worth checking out: “They Won’t Forget” (1937), “They Drive By Night” (1940), “Baby Face” (1933), “Mildred Pierce” (1945), “Key Largo” (1948), “Four Daughters” (1938), “Beyond the Forest” (1949) and “Young at Heart” (1954).

Contact Carlos Valladares at cvall96 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Carlos Valladares

Carlos Valladares' 18 is double-majoring in Film and American Studies. He loves the Beatles and jazz, dogs and dance. Were he stranded on a desert island, he'd be sure to take some food—and also, copies of "A Hard Day's Night," "The Young Girls of Rochefort," "Nashville," "Killer of Sheep," and anything by Studio Ghibli. You can follow his film writings at http://letterboxd.com/cvall96/. He was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles.