Darrell Hartman

  • Nicholas Ray, Bigger than Life, 1956, still from a color film in 35 mm. Ed Avery (James Mason) and Richie Avery (Christopher Olsen).
    film January 01, 2009

    Ray Vision

    JUST AS THE WHEELERS fetishize Paris in Revolutionary Road (2008), posters depicting France and Italy fill the Averys’ suburban home in Nicholas Ray’s Bigger than Life (1956). The decor announces, and perhaps also sublimates, the desire of Ed Avery (James Mason) to broaden his life. Households are torn apart in both films, and no one makes it to Europe. Controversial in its time as an apologue on drug addiction, Nicholas Ray’s midcentury melodrama actually speaks more to the hidden manias of its staid decade than to the dangers of pharmaceuticals.

    Ed, a small-town teacher, complains to his wife,

  • Federico Fellini, Amarcord, 1973, stills from a black-and-white and color film in 35 mm, 123 minutes. Left: Titta Biondi (Bruno Zanin) and Gradisca  (Magali Noël).
    film December 01, 2008

    Home Movie

    FEDERICO FELLINI HAD A TOUGH TIME choosing a title for Amarcord, his splendid satire of provincial Italy in the 1930s. He considered a sarcastic one, Viva l’Italia!, and nearly went with Il borgo (The Village), which, as he later explained, would have captured the sense of “medieval enclosure” in the town depicted in the film, his native Rimini—and suggested that the country was full of equally unevolved burgs. The neologism he eventually settled on (a play on “I remember” in Romagnese dialect) carries an appropriate perfume of the unfamiliar and the untranslatable. But it also brings problems—mainly,

  • Left: John Cassavetes, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, 1976, still from a color film in 35 mm, 135 minutes. Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara). Right: John Cassavetes, A Woman Under the Influence, 1974, still from a color film in 35 mm, 147 minutes. Mabel Longhetti (Gena Rowlands).
    film November 05, 2008

    What's Your Take on Cassavetes?

    COSMO VITELLI’S (Ben Gazzara) final advice to his team of strippers in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) is “Be comfortable.” Near the end of A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Nick Longhetti (Peter Falk) begs his wife, Mabel (Gena Rowlands): “Just be yourself!” Rough-edged studies in jostling forces, these two midcareer John Cassavetes films explore why neither is an easy task.

    Cassavetes, who died in 1989, has come to be recognized as a pioneer of outsider American cinema. Known for his detail-oriented household dramas, his petri-dish sets—on which lines were often improvised and amateur

  • Carl Theodor Dreyer, Day of Wrath, 1943, stills from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 97 minutes.
    film August 27, 2008

    Burning Desire

    GIVEN ALL THE EXECUTION by burning in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Day of Wrath (1943), it seems only natural to open a discussion of the film by asking what’s at stake. It’s not just witches. The Danish director’s 1943 tale of forbidden love during Europe’s seventeenth-century inquisition puts many things into the, er, crucible: the soul’s fate, the consequences of extreme repression, even narrative coherence. Dreyer unifies them so masterfully in pursuit of higher truth that Day of Wrath is often classified as his best work.

    A reclusive type and a solitary figure in film history—no lofty predecessors

  • Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, La Promesse, 1996, still from a color film in 35 mm, 90 minutes. Igor (Jérémie Renier).
    film August 04, 2008

    Simple Life

    “ONE THING IS CERTAIN: small budget and simplicity everywhere.” When Luc Dardenne articulated these twin principles—curiously, as though they were one—in his diary in 1992, did he have any idea they would guide him and his brother, Jean-Pierre, so surely into the upper realms of cinematic achievement? Several Cannes victories later, the Belgian duo—the subject of a mini-retrospective that begins at New York’s Anthology Film Archives on Thursday—are responsible for some of the screen’s most disarmingly resonant portraits of modern Europe. And they haven’t availed themselves of much more than a

  • Left: The cover of the Criterion Collection DVD of Trafic. Right: Jacques Tati, Trafic, 1971, still from a color film in 35 mm, 96 minutes. From left: Mr. Hulot (Jacques Tati) and Maria (Maria Kimberly).
    film July 17, 2008

    Auto Focus

    THE MOST CELEBRATED MOMENT in Jacques Tati’s 1971 film Trafic is a wonderfully choreographed multivehicle highway accident. It’s a madcap ballet of scraping bumpers, caroming wheels, and gasping engines that ends with a bunch of dazed motorists emerging in sync from their cars and walking it off. The sequence may be more interesting, though, for what it isn’t: the even more famous pileup from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 film Week End. With that apocalyptic wreck, revealed over the course of a nearly ten-minute tracking shot, Godard seemed to be saying that civilization had hit a terminal point—and