In 1970 Atlanta, Georgia was not necessarily the hub it is today. Although the city had risen from the ashes of conflict, something like a century before, it still existed in isolation. But like most American cities at the time the counterculture had infiltrated the soil and rock ‘n’ roll had banged its way into the consciousness of Southern men and women who were as tired of the old ways as anyone.
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There have been a remarkable number of documentaries based on Joe Strummer since his death, and the stories get stranger. Take this one for instance, involving Strummer’s abandonment of a Dodge at a parking garage in Spain before catching a flight to London. It’s a weird time in Strummer’s life, the era of Cut the Crap, the final Clash LP, the one that so many people apparently didn’t like at the time (no matter that there were some favorable reviews), the one that made some wonder if Strummer had really gone around the bend.
As Criterion continues to unleash its Blu-rays of eclectic film classics at a mad pace, we continue trying to keep up with so many riches. Watching important high-calibre movies is a full-time job, but how can we process the experience while still finding time to eat and sleep? The answer: capsules! Here’s a batch of movies dating from the swinging ‘60s to the dawn of the new century. Take 12 and call us next month.
There’s something here to confuse, astound, bore and dazzle any viewer, although it’s impossible to guess which will have what effect on whom. Curator/annotator Bruce Posner and producer David Shepherd have gathered 37 short movies, with new soundtracks for most of the silent films, 10 of which were previously gathered in Unseen Cinema, their essential DVD box of a decade ago. This combo pack, two Blu-rays and two DVD’s, sensibly arranges the films in chronological order and divides them by decade. We’ll divide them into thematic categories for the purposes of cogitation, and the results of our analysis will be that these are arbitrary overlapping categories.
1. Cinema as City Documentary: The city film is a genre invented by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand’s elegant Manhatta (1921), here in stunning 2K digital restoration with two score options (one on each disc). These views of Manhattan, with quotations by Walt Whitman, emphasize the monumental to unite the concepts of “city” and “cinema” in modernity. People are distant masses of rushing ants, a point that marks a tension between celebration and discomfort.
John Garfield’s noir films got darker as he went along. After The Postman Always Rings Twice and Nobody Lives Forever, Garfield formed his own production company with Bob Roberts. They promptly made the classic Body and Soul and then one of the noirest of the noirs, the corrosive Force of Evil. Their final film, He Ran All the Way, made not long before Garfield’s death by heart attack at age 39, isn’t far behind that one. It’s a sad, disturbing look at lonely, frightened, desperate, even vicious humanity.
Nick (Garfield) is a worthless punk living with his slattern mom (Gladys George). While he lies in bed, she comes in harping that if he were a man, he’d be out looking for work. His response is: “If you were a man, I’d kick your teeth in.” Their charming rapport is clearly a long ongoing siege, and thus the movie introduces its major theme: “being a man” vs. what kind of man “ought to be wearing skirts”.