Film Recommendation: “Blues In The Night”
I never wanted to create a website just to highlight the problems in film journalism. I never wanted to be accused of only condemning the movie bloggers and journalist of today. On the contrary, I want to convict them. I want to challenge them to demand more of themselves concerning how they write and respond to the cinematic arts. This is why, along with my articles written in admonishment of modern film blogging, I also offer my trademark articles entitled “The Redeeming Film Journalism Piece For Today”. There I provide links to sources of more enlightened and intelligent film articles for analyzation and discussion. So far, I’ve been very happy with the results of this endeavor, and am glad if I am able to turn even one person away from the well worn path of juvenile film blogging to the less traveled road of mature cinematic thinking. In short, its has been a labor of love.
As we continue in our future efforts we seek new opportunities to reach out to people surfing the net for their film education. Well written informative articles about film have their place in this reeducation, as do video essays, and podcasts. However, none of these things, could ever take the place of the formative education, instruction, and enjoyment offered by simply watching a good movie. Its not a proven science, but you would be surprised how often poor watching habits lead to poor film journalism. Its really common sense; if you put junk in you will get junk out. With this in mind Film-Cycle will now be offering weekly recommendations for movies. We will recommend a wide, diverse, and multi-generational selection of films for you to seek and devour. By subscribing to the recommended Film-Cycle diet of films, you will find yourself a healthier, (more astute, intelligent and fulfilled) cinematic patron.
1# “Blues in the Night” 1941 Dir. Anatole Litvak
Litvak, like a lot of studio system directors, will never be recognized for his work. People will enjoy his films, when they rent them from the library or catch them on TCM, but he will never enjoy any popular recognition as the expressionist director and sneaky auteur that he was. No other filmmaker, besides Wells, was able to work at such an artistically unrestrained level during the era of studio dominance. He directed his films with great intensity and honesty of performance. He had a creative eye for camera and montage, and used extensive in-camera effects to express and enhance narrative and emotion. However, he had great instincts as a storyteller and never let the more ostentatious effects of his own creation overwhelm the already crackling drama unfolding onscreen.
In 1941’s “Blues in the Night” you find him at the apex of his stylistic prowess. This is before he learned to adapt his instincts in a slightly more studio friendly way (1941’s “The Snake Pit”, 1950’s “Sorry Wrong Number”). The story he tells is (when viewed though the span of cinematic history) a well told and simple story. A group of musically inclined friends seek to start their own down-home style jazz collective. The group, comprised of Pianist Jigger Pine (Richard Whorf), drummer Peppi (Billy Halop), clarinet player Nickie Haroyan (Elia Kazan) bass player Pete Bassett (Peter Whitney), trumpeter Leo Powell (Jack Carson), and group vocalist (and Leo’s wife) Character (Priscilla Lane), tour the states and endure many bad breaks. Eventually they run into prison escapee Del Davis (played with fearsome intensity by actor Lloyd Nolan). He is a shady character who runs a nightclub and offer them a temporary job as house band. The bands trials and tribulations may seem typical: inter-band fighting, selling out, drinking problems, affairs and lurid romances (courtesy of hard nose vamp singer Kay Grant, played with great aplomb by Betty Field), but Litvak directs in such a way as to wring every last bit of conviction from his actors. These aren’t stereotypes from the typical “get together a band” picture but living breathing people who just happen to live and breath music. The writing is also sharp as a tack thanks to the pen of Edwin Gilbert, Robert Rossen (of “Roaring Twenties” and “The Hustler”) and Mr. Kazan (who was uncredited). Every line and joke is written with great insight and honesty avoiding the trap of caricaturing . Even though the film does visit a lot of familiar (genre inherent) territories, the characters are so “real”, the writing is so good, and the directing so enthralling that it elevates the material above convention to become an honest cinematic portrayal of personal struggle. You find you are not watching a movie about musicians, but a story of people trying to find their way in the world by clinging onto the only happiness they can find: Music