How to Wreck a Hollywood Soiree

You don’t have to go back that many years to compile a long list of Hollywood films in which white actors are cast as Native Americans, Asians, Hispanics, African Americans, Pacific islanders, Arabs, etc. In fact, this controversial practice continues into the 21st century with such conspicuous portrayals like Jake Gyllenhaal as an Afghan orphan in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) and Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger (2013). If you were creating a top ten hall of shame, however, it’s a good bet that Blake Edwards’ The Party (1968) starring Peter Sellers in brownface makeup as Indian film star Hrundi V. Bakshi would be near the top of the list. Yet, the film is considered by many film critics and movie lovers as one of Edwards’ best comedies and has a cult following that has nothing to do with racial stereotypes. It is also considered a radical departure from other comedies of that time for its improvised, almost experimental approach to the genre.  

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In the Land of Mah-Na Mah-Na

Between 1967 and 1974 Sweden emerged as the most progressive and liberal nation in the world due to a government that supported a wide variety of social and political interests such as women’s rights, anti-war advocacy and the environmental movement along with a relaxed attitude about sex. Films like Mac Ahlberg’s I, a Woman (1965), Vilgot Sjoman’s I Am Curious (Yellow) from 1967, and Joseph Sarno’s Inga (1968) also helped confirm Sweden’s image as an epicenter of sexual freedom so it was inevitable that such a situation would inspire a moralistic backlash. What no one expected was that it would come from Italy in the form of a Mondo Cane-like documentary directed by Luigi Scattini entitled Sweden: Heaven and Hell (1968).  Continue reading

A Cowpoke and His Cow

Buster Keaton plays a hapless cowpoke who tries to save a cow named Brown Eyes from the slaughterhouse in Go West (1925).

Peter Bogdanovich’s documentary homage, The Great Buster, is scheduled to open at theaters across the country in October 2018 and perhaps it might introduce a new generation of film-goers to the silent era legend. I would certainly recommend The General, Steamboat Bill, Jr. and The Cameraman to Keaton novices but even his less celebrated efforts are cinematic wonders brimming with visual poetry and imaginative sight gags like Go West (1925). Continue reading

A Lost Version of Buster Keaton’s The Blacksmith is Discovered

Buster Keaton in the two-reeler The Blacksmith (1922)

Buster Keaton in the two-reeler The Blacksmith (1922)

Often ranked by silent film historians as one of Buster Keaton’s lesser efforts when compared to his other two-reel shorts such as One Week (1920) or Cops (1922), The Blacksmith (1922) is now enjoying a major critical reassessment because of a remarkable turn of events. Film collector Fernando Peña who, in 2008, uncovered the original, uncut version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) in the archives of the Museo del Cine in Argentina, discovered a remarkably different version of The Blacksmith that same year through fellow collector Fabio Manes who purchased a 9.5mm print of it online. Released by the Pathé company in France in 1922 with French intertitles, this previously undiscovered version includes missing material totaling more than four minutes of sight gags, settings, and characters not featured in what was considered the original American version of The Blacksmith.     Continue reading