Sunday, May 31, 2020

PEEPING TOM 1960

I Am a Camera...and, apparently, so are you

If Rocky Balboa and Martha Stewart have taught us anything, it’s that everybody loves a good underdog story. In fact, when it comes to pop culture consumption, the American public has something of a God Complex: we enjoy resuscitating failed TV shows, put-out-to-pasture celebrities, and critically-lambasted movies far more than we do investing in the minimally open-minded effort it would have taken to appreciate these things during their first go-round.

The late director Michael Powell (1905–1990) was one of Britain’s more prolific—if uneven—wartime filmmakers before overwhelmingly negative critical response to his film Peeping Tom brought his career to an abrupt and grinding halt in 1960. Powell, in collaboration with longtime screenwriting/producing partner Emeric Pressburger, was responsible for many enduring and well-regarded works of British cinema—The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), Black Narcissus (1947), and The Red Shoes (1948). But when the pair dissolved their partnership in 1957 and Powell ventured out on his own, no one expected the director of such colorfully humanistic fare to return with such a dark and morbid deviation from type.
Peeping Tom, a lurid horror-thriller about a voyeuristically-inclined serial killer obsessed with filming his victims in the final throes of death, was deemed so offensive, the film was promptly pulled from theaters, its distribution rights sold off, and Powell’s reputation went from paragon to pariah virtually overnight. Peeping Tom didn’t fare much better on this side of the pond, either, flopping at the boxoffice and disappearing quickly after a meager initial release.
Powell, self-exiled to Australia where he went on to make a handful of movies and TV shows, saw his name fall to the forgotten fringes of film history. Meanwhile, Peeping Tom, MIA from movie screens since its release, had begun to develop a mystique as the must-see film no one had ever actually seen.
Ad appearing in a 1981 college newspaper. By this time Peeping Tom
had become the darling of the college/midnight-movie circuit 

Jump to 1978. Enter director Martin Scorsese, the New Hollywood hotshot of Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore whose own string-of-hits ascendance had taken a recent brickbat hit with the expensive flop of New York, NewYork (1977). A devoted cineaste and lifelong fan of Powell’s work, Scorsese’s high-profile interest in Peeping Tom was instrumental in retrieving the film from obscurity and getting it screened at the 1979 New York Film Festival. With the subsequent theatrical release of the now 20-year-old film, the once-reviled Peeping Tom was introduced to a new generation quick to reevaluate, revere, and hail the film as a lost masterpiece and Michael Powell an underappreciated genius. (The “Martin Scorsese and Corinth films present” credit served double-duty as a marketing device and a kind of film geek Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.)
Carl Boehm / Karlheinz Bohm as Mark Lewis
Anna Massey as Helen Stephens
Moira Shearer as Vivian
Maxine Audley as Mrs. Stephens
Mark (Carl Boehm) is an assistant cameraman at a London movie studio and a part-time photographer of cheesecake models for racy magazines (“Those with girls on the front covers and no front covers on the girls”). As a child, Mark’s psychologist father used him as a guinea pig in filmed, highly sadistic experiments exploring the effects of fear on the nervous system. The trauma of having spent an entire childhood under the unblinking scrutiny of a camera lens has left Mark with a severely damaged psyche plagued by homicidal compulsions. Withdrawn and socially awkward, Mark’s only way of connecting emotionally to the world is from a distance…through the viewfinder of his own ever-present movie camera.
"But you walk about as if you haven't paid the rent!"
Helen discovers that the shy fellow tiptoeing about and
peeking through windows is actually her landlord 

Helen (Anna Massey) and her blind mother (Maxine Audley) are roomers in the house Mark inherited from his father. Helen is a librarian and budding author who has written a children's book about a magic camera that photographs adults as they were as children. Visiting Mark on the occasion of her 21st birthday, she finds herself attracted to his timid, gentle, nature. A constrained demeanor owing as much to his warped upbringing as it is indicative of the effort Mark must exert over himself to suppress and conceal his madness from others.
The victimized object of his father's relentless gaze as a child, the adult Mark seeks to reclaim himself by asserting the dominance of his own gaze. Rarely taken notice of and never photographed, Mark is unsettled by Helen's blind mother "seeing" his face.

The first time I saw Peeping Tom was as recently as 2010. I’m not sure what took me so long to get with the program (I even missed a 1982 TV broadcast of Peeping Tom on Elvira Mistress of the Dark), but I tend to associate its “Martin Scorsese Presents” 1979 theatrical run with a time when—ironically enough—my life was moving away from observation (three years of film school) to participation (studying dance). After years of being one of those “wonderful people out there in the dark,” movies occupied a less prominent place in my life and Peeping Tom just sort of fell through the cracks and stayed there for a couple of decades. 
When I did finally get around to seeing Peeping Tom, it was on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary, at which time the film had spent more years hailed as a masterpiece than as a career-killing flop. But Peeping Tom is nothing is not one of cinema’s most triumphant underdog stories, so with each rerelease, reissue, or digital restoration, the resurrection of the film’s calamitous past remains a necessary and intractable part of Peeping Tom’s mystique and, more importantly, its marketing.
  
Even Powell appeared to understand this, seeing fit to reference Peeping Tom in his 2nd autobiography Million Dollar Movie (1995) simply by reproducing the very worst of the 1960 reviews, tacitly letting the film's ultimate success do the rest of the talking.
“This is a sick film, sick and nasty.”  The Sunday Express 
“The film is frankly, beastly”            The Financial Times 
“The sickest and filthiest film I remember seeing.” The Spectator 
“It is crude, unhealthy sensation at its worst”  The Sunday Dispatch
Pamela Green as Milly
When cast in Peeping Tom, Green was already a popular '50s nude glamour model with her own pin-up photography studio and publishing company. She is credited with being the first woman to appear nude in a British feature film, its explicitness later reduced after the film's initial screening 


My first time seeing Peeping Tom was largely motivated by a curiosity to find out just what it was about the film that could possibly have gotten so many 1960 British knickers in a knot.  
Like Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) and later, Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)—both being films that dramatize the obsessive gaze—Peeping Tom begins with a shot of an open, startled eye. This is followed by an establishing shot of a stylized recreation of a street in London’s Soho district that looks like a set for a stage production of Threepenny Opera. A bored prostitute in a scorchingly red skirt is staring abstractedly at a store window display of objectified parts of the female anatomy by way of a segmented mannequin. A male figure enters the frame, a swift change of angle revealing that he is concealing a movie camera within his jacket. As he advances, the lens of the camera fills the screen until we, the viewer, have been swallowed up into the darkness of the camera itself. Suddenly our view of events ceases to be objective, we are now privy only to what is visible through the eye of the camera's viewfinder. And it’s horrific. 
Columba Powell as young Mark Lewis
Michael Powell's son portrayed Mark as a psychologically abused child, while Powell himself played the sadistic father. The late Pamela Green tells the tale on her website of how Powell obliged her request for a closed set for her nude scene. Come time for the shoot, she discovers Powell has allowed his two sons (ages 8 and 14) to observe. 

Powell introduced a situation of prurient sexual interest and swiftly subverted my expectations by forcing me to witness an act of violence through the eyes of a killer whose anonymity provoked the disquieting phenomenon of voyeuristic complicity. By effectively peeling away the myth of the objective gaze, Michael Powell fashioned a very dangerous film. And thus, in the space of fewer than 5 minutes, I came to completely understand why Peeping Tom struck such a nerve back in 1960.


WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
When I was a teenager, the movie Jaws sneak-previewed at the theater where I worked as an usher. Making my usual rounds that night, I remember walking up the theater's center aisle sometime during the scene when Amity Beach is reopening following a series of deadly shark attacks. It’s about an hour or so into the film, the audience is completely on edge, and due to it being a sunny exterior shot, a considerable amount of light is coming from the screen behind me, illuminating the entire auditorium.

As bright light brought the audience’s faces into view, what I recall most vividly that the clearer they got, the more invisible I felt as I looked out at row after row of upturned faces staring beyond me …through me…to the movie screen. Different faces, but all with roughly the same expression: a kind of rapt, hyper-attentive stare that’s equal parts voracious scrutiny and blinkered immersion. 

And there I stood, my face most likely wearing the exact same expression, lost in the process of watching people engaged in the act of watching.

That’s what it felt like seeing Peeping Tom for the first time.

Looking Violence in the Eye
Mark's macabre method of murder is to film his victims and have them witness their deaths in a distortion mirror attached to a spiked tripod. An idea borrowed by director Donald Cammell (Performance) in his thriller White of the Eye (1987).

In my opinion, it's close to impossible to be a true cineaste and film buff without also being a bit of an obsessive and possessed of a slight voyeuristic streak. Perhaps that’s why the film fan set embraced Peeping Tom for its insight into compulsion while the general public took umbrage at being asked to empathize with a necrophilic nosey parker.

The act of watching is what Peeping Tom is all about. Under the guise of making a psychological thriller, Michael Powell and screenwriter Leo Marks (Twisted Nerve -1968) crafted a disturbing film exploring the dark side of the obsessive power of the gaze. A film whose subtext examines the dysfunctional side of the synergistic relationship between filmmaker and the audience. The filmmaker: in attempting to reveal life’s truths, can, in the end, only reveal themselves; what we are shown always reveals more about the individual holding the camera than it does the events recorded. The audience: the presumptive seeker of truth who, should the filmmaker flatter their self-perceptions enough, is usually satisfied just being the person who sees themselves seeing themselves.

Seeking Something Authentic in the Artificial
Film is not fact and images are not truth. But the feelings films can sometimes evoke are genuine and part of one's emotional reality. Which makes looking at films a tempting (and risky) substitute for human experience. 


THE STUFF OF DREAMS
While all these incisive subthemes serve to enrich an already arrestingly provocative film experience, I doubt any of them could have taken root had Michael Powell & Co.—the contributions of cinematographer Otto Heller and composer Brian Easdale are invaluable—had not been so successful in crafting Peeping Tom into such an intoxicatingly creepy, visually breathtaking horror-thriller masterpiece. A Filled with scenes of vivid color and dynamic lighting that overwhelms even while one is made to feel increasingly discomfited, Peeping Tom also boasts a great deal of dark humor and displays an unexpectedly gentle attitude towards its characters. 
Shirley Anne Field (still with us at 83) as Pauline Shields, and, still with us at age 88, an
unbilled Roland Curram (Julie Christie's gay pal in Darling - 1965) as Young Man in Sports Car

Austrian actor Carl Boehm is haunting and heartbreaking as the psychotic Mark; his character depicted in a sympathetic light (a cliché now, but novel then) being one of the more consistent complaints levied at the film at the time. It’s no small benefit to both the film and the character that Boehm so reminds me so much of one of those Von Trapp kids in The Sound of Music. His soft, accented voice underscore Mark’s “otherness” while his indistinct, overgrown-infant features suggest a kind of trauma-based arrested emotional development that has come to settle on the surface.

Anna Massey is essentially the film's heart and hope. She's also its sole tether to normalcy and she has several scenes, largely silent, in which she is remarkably good. One in particular, the camera stays on her face as she watches a film, her expression going from curiosity to disquiet, to fear, to outrage. Brilliant.

When I saw Peeping Tom I hadn't yet seen Moira Shearer in Powell-Pressburger's
classic The Red Shoes: her film debut and legacy. 


It's surprising to think Peeping Tom turns 60 this year. No longer a cause for scandal, it nevertheless remains a magnificent achievement and a very powerful film. Peeping Tom may not be to everyone’s taste as entertainment, but I can’t imagine anyone interested in cinema and film culture not fiding something intriguing and compelling in Peeping Tom’s ideas...if not its execution(s).




BONUS MATERIAL
"The sky is the limit. Art is worth dying for."
In 1986 Michael Powell appeared on an episode of the arts-related Britsh TV program
  The South Bank Show devoted to him and his works with Emeric Pressburger. 

You can't keep this guy away from cameras or London's Soho district.
Carl Boehm played a reporter doing a story on strip clubs in the 1960
Jayne Mansfield film Too Hot to Handle (U.S. title: Playgirl After Dark).


"Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is?"

Copyright © Ken Anderson 2009 - 2020

19 comments:

  1. "Different faces, but all with roughly the same expression: a kind of rapt, hyper-attentive stare that’s equal parts voracious scrutiny and blinkered immersion." Well-written! Well-expressed! And a bit discomfiting! Well-made film can provide insight but it can also blind us to certain truths as well. And we're often prepped for it, particularly as we tend to check our brains at the door when we watch movies (though I've nothing against mindless entertainment). I've heard of but not seen "Peeping Tom." I'm still mulling over whether I want to or not. It sounds pretty disturbing. Thanks for the review though.

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    1. Hi Ron
      The point you make is one I consider to be very true: that a well-made film has the power to be both insightful and blinding. One reason why I always respect directors who seem to have a respect and understanding of just how powerful film can be.
      PEEPING TOM is a good example of a film about an exceedingly disturbing subject manner handled by a director with restraint. I hope no one ever tries to do a remake, this is not a film that cried ut for the dumbing down of explicitness.
      And as much as I love this movie and think it's a genuine masterpiece of filmmaking, I'd say proceed with caution and listen to your instincts. A well-made film has the power to get into your head; we should always be careful of what images we allow in there.
      Thanks for commenting, Ron! (Oh, and for your very kind compliment as well.)

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  2. Oh good, a new post - I was getting concerned.

    I saw this in my early twenties (in the mid '90s) and don't remember much about it other than the premise. My library has the Criterion DVD so as soon as it reopens (July 1 as of right now) I'll have to check it out.

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    1. Kind of you to notice...it's nice to be missed! Didn't plan on such a long hiatus, but for a while there, writing while America turned into the dumbest, most implausible 70s disaster film ever made (Scientist: "Swarms of killer bees are headed to North America!" Villain:"Phooey! They're only doing that to make me look bad!") felt vaguely absurd.
      The Criterion Blu-ray is what I watched, and you'll love how pristine the restoration is, and it has some wonderful extras. Maybe it'll feel like seeing PEEPING TOM for the first time. Hope you enjoy it. And thanks very much for reading and commenting.

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    2. Surely the dumbest 70s disaster movie is When Time Ran Out - so dumb it wasn't released until 1980.

      Anything our President doesn't like is fake - don't you know that?

      The Free Library of Philadelphia is now showing July 31. Sigh. All these books and movies I want to exchange.

      (Yay! You live!)

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    3. Wow...July 31st! That's a long wait for movie/book exchanges. I'm glad they're being safe, but perhaps you'll have to resort to streaming until August. "Peeping Tom" should be all over the internet, maybe even on YouTube.

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    4. YouTube I would have to watch on my desktop - not the greatest way to view a movie. I can wait.

      On the tele I can stream Netflix and Vudu so it'd be swell if this movie showed up on either of these services but I feel free to exhale.

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  3. Dear Ken: Hi!

    I saw "Peeping Tom" back in the mid-1980s when I was in college. The university film society had scheduled it for a screening, which was then protested by a campus feminist group. As a result, the film was shown in a large campus auditorium, with a discussion afterward hosted by members of the feminist group. Their contention was that the film encouraged violence against women.

    At the time, my reaction was that the film was disturbing but extremely well-made. I also thought the student group's protest was misguided; I thought it would have made more sense for them to protest the many trashy and exploitative slasher films that were then so popular.

    That was the reaction of my mid-20s, rather sheltered (and perhaps smug) self. Today, I'm not sure how I feel about "Peeping Tom." I haven't seen it since about 1986 but I remember several scenes quite vividly. I recall that the movie presented well-rounded characters for whom it had great sympathy. And I agree with you that the film suggests a number of thought-provoking themes about the voyeuristic urges that exist within all of us, a worthy subject for exploration.

    Yet I'm still troubled by "Peeping Tom" and similar films, particularly films by Hitchcock such as "Psycho," "Marnie" and "Frenzy." The fact is that in all of them, the existence of human voyeuristic impulses is explored through scenes of violence toward women (rape, murder, and sometimes both). And it's difficult for me to view such scenes as merely artistic expressions or intellectual exercises. Violence toward women is too real a fact in our world for me to view its depiction at an intellectual remove. The shower scene centerpiece of "Psycho," for example, is without doubt a brilliant piece of film-making. But it also depicts the brutal murder of a naked, vulnerable woman.

    Am I advocating that "Peeping Tom" and similar films should be banned and locked away from human view? No, I think that's too simple an answer. But I do know that I find it difficult for me, personally, to stomach such films, no matter whether they are brilliantly made.

    (As a side note, I do agree with you that Michael Powell is a brilliant filmmaker. My favorites of his are "Colonel Blimp" and "The Red Shoes." One I would recommend if you haven't seen it is "Gone to Earth" from 1950. It was re-cut and shortened for its U.S. release and re-titled "The Wild Heart." The recent bluray release of "Wild Heart" contains both versions of the film, and the film itself contains what one critic called "a potent, dexterous performance" by Jennifer Jones.)

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    1. Hi David
      Wow…so you were one of those who saw PEEPING TOM when it made its rounds at colleges and film schools! You bring up an excellent point about this film and about the entire horror genre as it relates to the film’s cultural/artistic vale and its social impact/responsibility.

      I think all the art…because it lives…cannot help itself from being both political and personal. So to look at a film from those perspectives is, as valid as analyzing it from an artistic, cultural, and intellectual viewpoint. Bruce and I have this saying that always comes up often when we are talking about a film we’ve just seen (especially one we feel differently about); “Two things can be true at once.”

      I agree with your observation that PEEPING TOM is an undeniably well-crafted film, one which is somewhat problematic in its depiction of violence directed towards women. As I say in the piece, PEEPING TOM was criticized during its initial release for introducing the idea of the “sympathetic monster.”

      It’s a valid, intriguing narrative option, but problematic. And perhaps in ways even Powell and the screenwriter hadn’t counted on. The more Mark is humanized, the more his victims become objectified. Mark’s murders are never depicted. This could be a choice made for suspense reasons, but it has the side-effect of keeping Mark “clean”: were the audience to see Mark carry out his horrific deeds, we would be seeing the monster, and its unlikely the audience could sustain sympathetic identification.

      As it stands, all the focus remains on Mark, while his victims become little more than the objects and targets of psychosis. That’s how Mark sees them. But should the film encourage us to see them likewise?

      So I think the point you made is extremely well-taken.

      The depiction of women-directed violence in films is a somewhat under-discussed phenomenon. It brings up a lot of interesting culture and gender food for thought. I recently saw a documentary about the sequel to NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET which caught a lot of grief because so much of its violence was male-directed and a male was cast as the screaming lead victim. The film made so many people uncomfortable (principally the made adolescent demographic for horror) that they practically yanked the lead actor out the closet in a subconscious effort to “prove” that a terrorized screaming man HAD to have been gay.

      I too don’t think films like PEEPING TOM need to be censored, but more humanist/feminist commentary like yours needs to meet the principally academic accolades hurled at the film by the largely male critics and film scholars. Of the Hitchcock films you name, I find FRENZY to be the film I cannot watch again. I find it repulsive and very ugly in its misogyny (to which fans inevitably reply “It’s supposed to be!”…but my take is one easily leveled at PEEPING TOM as well …a director needs to be careful: it’s far to easy to make violence appear only as “action,” to minimalize the victim perspective, and to end up glorifying (or at the very least sensationalizing) that which you profess to abhor.

      As you see, your superb comment sparked a lot of food for thought for me, as I’m sure it will with other readers. A marvelous contribution to this PEEPING TOM essay, David. Thank you!
      And I’ve never seen WILD HEART, so I’ll check it out. Much appreciated!

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  4. This film is one of the 5 or 6 contested entries for the first proto slasher, though to me its influence (bold color, underlying fetishistic subtext, a certain essential anger at women) can more easily be seen in the early days of giallo films than in "Black Christmas" or "Halloween".

    Nice to see you writing again(the short form of social media is just not the same), though I can understand why you took some time off.

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    1. Hi, GG!
      Nice to see you here in my wordier section of the internet. Yes, it seems no two people can agree on what film(s) inspired the slasher genre (weird to think there was a time the phrase “serial killer” didn’t even exist…I think old exploitation films always said “thrill killer”). But I agree with you in seeing PEEPING TOM as a film more likely to inspire the giallo genre. Most certainly for the characteristics you accurately pinpointed: bold color, underlying fetishistic subtext, & a certain essential anger at women. (The latter is seriously in need of an overhaul, something I like seeing in work of the new crop of work from horror directors like Jordan Peele, Jennifer Keny, and Ari Aster.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Hope you haven't suffered any waning writing inspiration for your own blog over the last couple of months. Cheers!

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  5. I love this film, too, Ken, so interesting this was made the same year as Psycho directed by another famous misogynistic voyeur. This one has a similar feel to me, but the bright vivid Technicolor and more frank European treatment of the material make it more contemporary and forward looking. Powell was a very interesting character himself, and a real artist. Need to see this one again soon!
    - Chris

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    1. Hello, Chris
      I agree with what you said about PEEPING TOM feeling somehow franker and more contemporary than PSYCHO. Both films are brilliant and have their distinct and separate appeal, but in PSYCHO I find the scenes featuring the conventional heroics of Gavin, Miles, & Balsam work as a bit of a tension-breaker by taking us away from the weirdness that is Norman Bates. I like how PEEPING TOM keeps the lens trained so much on Mark and his skewed vision of the world.
      I don't know that I've ever seen a truly interesting, challenging, and quirky film from a director who wasn't the same. The more I read about Michael Powell, the more I realize that he more than fills the bill in that department. Good to hear from you, Chris! Thanks for commenting.

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  6. Another well deserved nomination... https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/more-2/my-blogging-awards/two-liebster-awards/

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    1. Hi Gill - Thanks very very much for nominating me! I'm going to go with legitimately saying the age-old "It's honor enough to be nominated," but it's so true! Much appreciated!

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  7. Hi Ken-
    I have my next couple of films recently viewed thanks to LCD, first up the one I had seen before.

    Back in the early 2000s I had started collecting all of the Criterion DVDs. I gave up on that idea many years ago (which was good for my bank account), but one of the films I encountered due to that hobby was seeing Peeping Tom for the first time...and last up until now.

    The irony of this situation is that for many years "Psycho" was my all-time favorite film. I saw the latter for the first time at a too young age (around 9 I think) and while it scarred me in both a bad and good way, it had enough elements that hooked me hard: the brilliant score, Perkins' defining role, the fabulously foreboding house and horrifying corpse.

    Peeping Tom didn't have those luxuries at the time of my first viewing. It was a genuinely unsettling film, and not in a "I can't wait to experience that again" way. It's unfortunate that my emotional response at the time overruled what a brilliant piece of filmmaking it is, let alone the links between the two films. (At least I'm not alone in this, seeing as the British critics did the same!)

    Karl Bohm does such a brilliant job of making the character sympathetic and complex. You really do get a sense of the inner workings of someone who is so closed off, possibly even more than Perkins in Psycho! The scenes with Massey ring so pure and true, offering a great contrast to the horrors at hand. She's wonderful in her reactions as you point out. It's also interesting that you point out that the audience would be much less likely to sympathize with Mark if they saw the brutal crimes themselves. Very true. One for the "less is more" file.

    Special shoutout to Shirley Anne Field, who would at first appear she's going to be exasperating comic relief for just one scene, only to be pivotal in her two other "shopping" scenes! She's great! And Moira is of course fabulous in her extended scene. Time for a viewing of "The Red Shoes"...

    Thanks for another great and insightful post. I doubt it will be another couple of decades before I revisit this film again, thanks to you.
    Pete

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    1. Hi Pete
      Looks like we share a similar too-young-an-age exposure to PSYCHO. Only for me it was Hitchcock’s film I saw just once (only up to the shower scene, then my terrified sisters and I turned the TV off) letting at least 15 years or so go by before trying it again.
      From the way you describe your response to the characterizations and performances in PEEPING TOM, I can well understand how it would prove to be an unsettling film experience. In several ways, I don’t think the artfulness of PEEPING TOM is all that apparent on first viewing. It has the color of a Hammer film, and the sordid subject and setting are so effectively sleazy, I think it’s very easy to get caught up in the lowbrow milieu of the story and wholly overlook how each of those elements are manipulated and employed to such strong ultimate effect.
      Good for you in being up to giving it another look-see!

      I know there must be other films I feel similarly about, but Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” is a film I’ve seen once, I even own it, but I’m in no race to look at again. It’s too disturbing for me, and I don’t associate watching it with a pleasant experience…this despite being aware of how well-made it is.
      I’m glad you gave a shout out to Shirley Anne Field, who indeed is wonderful in all of her scenes.

      You really have been making the rounds in catching up with some of the films I’ve written about here. I always try to make a point that my essays are so strongly a personal journal and not any sort of “recommended” list, but I’m happy to learn you’ve found a new favorite or two, or, as in this case, you were motivated to reopen a closed door. Thanks, Pete!

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    2. Ken, I consider your blog a digital version of finding a film criticism paperback in a favorite used book store, taking it home, and realizing you've found another lover of film who resonates with you and becomes a cherished "voice" and "companion". Not only is your writing excellent, but you add lots of lovely bonus factoids and that sense of humor that is very much your own. I am quite enjoying going back through your blog posts in reverse chronological order, excited to finish one and then see what era or genre you offer next, either an already familiar gem or one ripe for discovery. I can't thank you enough for sharing your insights with us here, considering how much b.s. and negatitity exists on the internet. Hopefully you don't mind me continuing to share my excitement with you as I dig through your archives. Cheers.

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    3. I’m too old for blushing, but your extremely kind and well-expressed words have me doing just that. I think I've said before how it was my love of movies combined with my frustration with the Internet’s propensity for making film appreciation a competitive sport (I never understand the argumentative thing) that led to writing a blog essentially for myself.
      When you write that some of what I express about the films here resonates with you, that you find things to interest you, disagree with, dismiss, or relate to…well, that just makes my day and my entire month.
      All that you expressed is what I used to find when I was a teen and discovered film criticism. I loved movies but had no one to talk to about them in my household. Reading Pauline Kael and Stanley Kauffmann was like sitting across the table from someone as into film as I was.
      With this as my history, your discovery of this blog and expressed enjoyment of it is the nicest compliment you can give.
      But I add that each of you who contribute your memories, thoughts, funny anecdotes, and vast knowledge and love of movies here with so much honesty and heart is what I ALWAYS hear about time after time from other readers. Some even jump to the comments before reading the essay!
      So, with appreciation, I have to say the feelings are mutual.

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