Tag Archives: mise-en-scene

FILM CAPSULE: 42nd Street (Bacon, 1933): USA

By Larry Gleeson.

Viewed at the AFI Fest 21012 the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Calif.

42nd Street, a Vitaphone and Warner Bros. picture, directed by Lloyd Bacon, has stood the test of time as the epitome film about those who dream of becoming a star on Broadway. Long-time and highly successful director Julian Marsh, played by Warner Baxter, returns to produce a final Broadway show despite his poor health. The show’s financing comes from a wealthy older man, Abner Dillon, played by Guy Kibbee, who is in love with the leading lady and star of the show, Dorothy Brock, played by Bebe Daniels. But Dorothy’s not interested in his love, because she’s still in love with her previous partner. On the night before the show’s premiere, Dorothy breaks her ankle, and Peggy Sawyer, a novice chorus girl played by Ruby Keeler, tries to fill the role of the fallen star. Several subplots add an extra dimension giving a deeper emotional attachment to the main characters and a breath of originality to the old Cinderella story line.

As a viewer, look forward to lots of singing and dancing, especially toe-tapping, some excellent use of comedic timing and some highly imaginative mise-en-scene. Yet, also be prepared for a taste of the old backstage Broadway magic and excitement that seems to go hand-in-hand with Broadway shows not to mention, the debut of legendary and ground-breaking choreographer Busby Berkeley, and some rather catchy musical numbers like “Shuffle Off To Buffalo”, “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me”, and “42nd Street.” One of the beauties of the film is each musical coincides with an important story event.  “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” coincides with honeymooning in nearby Niagara Falls,  “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me” expresses Dorothy’s feelings for her new lover and the show-stopper “42nd Street,” gives the distinct melding of the elite to the underworld.

Technically, the film is in black and white print and cinematographer Sal Polito provides a very efficient, hard, unglamorous look to the film utilizing for extended dialog a two-person medium full shot extensively, makes good use of tracking shots to guide the viewer’s eyes and uses high overhead shots to showcase the intricacies of choreographer Busby Berkeley introductory work.

I’ve seen the musical “42nd Street” on stage several times and chose to see it on film at the Hollywood Egyptian as I’ve seen Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954); USA and Lolita (Kubrick, 1962): USA on the big Egyptian screen during previous AFI Fests. All I can say is it’s a real treat and if anyone has the opportunity to see any of  the classics at the Egyptian I fully encourage it. Take a minute and check out the trailer. You’ll be happy you did!

FILM REVIEW: Hour of the Wolf (Ingmar Bergman, 1968): Sweden

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed at Grauman Chinese Theater, AFI film festival in Hollywood, CA.

With a very surreal mise-en-scene, The Hour of the Wolf, a horror/drama Swedish film produced by Svensk Film Industries, was directed by Ingmar Bergman. Other notable films by Bergman include The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957) and Fanny and Alexander (1982). The film follows a young couple who live on a desolate island. Johan Borg, an artistic painter, played by Max von Sydow of Minority Report (2002)  The Exorcist (1973) and recently, Shutter Island (2010) fame,  goes mad. Liv Ullman, most known for roles in Persona (1966) , Shame (1968), and Scenes from a Marriage (1973), plays Alma Borg, a very loving, doting wife.Yet, Johan is haunted by nightmares from his past.

The storyline has the artist communicating to his wife his most painful memories during “the hour of the wolf” – between midnight and dawn. In a brief note, Bergman explains: “It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are more real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful. The Hour of the Wolf is also the hour when most children are born.”

Johan stays up night after night speaking to Alma of his horrors as he stares into a candle. He retells an account when he was a young boy and of how his parents locked him in a closet and informed him that there was a man in the closet who was going to eat his toes off. On another night Johan tells the story of a fishing trip where he murders a young boy. Are these imaginations or are they realities? Most likely a little of both. Nevertheless, Bergman marches on toward a rather macabre grotesque dinner party where more bizarre behavior ensues.  All bizarreness aside, the editing, done by Ulla Ryghe, known for Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Persona (1966), and The Silence (1963) makes this film work with the use of stark black and white images coupled with quick cuts, extreme closeups, goth-like makeup, howling wind effects and deafening cries. I asked again and again – Is this real or imagined? I sat riveted. Back and forth. In and out. I let go and just thoroughly enjoyed the film and all its imagery. The cinematography was done by Sven Nykvist known for popular films like Sleepless in Seattle (1993) , Chaplain (1992), and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). Oddly, the theater contained only a splatter of an audience. What a treat to see Ingmar Bergman’s only horror film in a dark sparsely filled theater on a Sunday night near the bewitching hour! Highly recommended.