Monthly Archives: June 2015

Jazz Goes to the Movies (at Il Cinema Ritrovato)

Today at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Ehsan Khoshbakht and I launch our “Jazz Goes to the Movies” program, and reproduced below are our catalogue descriptions of what we’ll be showing. — J.R.

Jazz Goes to the Movies

Now that jazz is no longer assumed to be automatically synonymous with decadence and the forces of darkness, it can finally be experienced and evaluated on its own terms, and we can begin to look back on a century-long partnership of jazz and film with a certain objectivity. Both are relatively new arts roughly contemporaneous with the 20th century, having grown out of socially disreputable origins and having fought for serious recognition.

Jammin the Blues Prez
Part of this partnership has yielded the “jazz film,” a subgenre basically devoted to the recording of performances. But there are also successful collaborations between the expressive possibilities of jazz and film. And the ways in which jazz has been used in movies invariably tells us a great deal about the social, ethnic, aesthetic, and cultural biases of diverse societies and periods. The various responses of film producers to integrated jazz groups in the thirties, forties, and fifties, provide a kind of thumbnail social history. Sometimes black musicians were forced to play off-screen while white stand-ins mimed their solos and sometimes white musicians were kept in the shadows to appear black.… Read more »

A Few Further Reflections on GREED (as seen on TCM, 6/14/15–6/15/15)

Greed2

I hadn’t originally intended to watch this film again, for the umpeenth time, when it was shown late last night on Turner Classic Movies, but as soon as I noticed the exquisite tinting and the (uncredited but fabulous) music score on the print they were showing, I couldn’t resist. (Apparently — or at least hopefully — the same print is available for online viewing.)

Greed-Trina asleep

I can’t think of another film in the history of cinema in which hands are more expressive, in a multitude of ways — a motif that may be even more telling than the gradual evolution of Mac and Trina’s wedding photo, half of which eventually becomes the wanted poster for Mac’s arrest.

greed-biting hands

Greed-Xmas

Too much of the writing about Greed (mine included) has been concentrated on the legend of the filming and the subsequent cutting and not enough about what remains, entirely visible and triumphant, in what remains and is fully visible.

A lot has been written about the relationship between the fates of Greed and The Magnificent Ambersons in terms of their eviscerations, and not enough about the major differences between the ways that they’re edited in their surviving forms.(Perhaps the most neglected but significant common point between the films is the unerring sense of camera angles in the staging of both films.)… Read more »