Rene Clair’s Prophetic Fantasy

Film scholars generally agree that the silent era offerings (Entr’acte, Le Voyage Imaginaire) and early sound films of Rene Clair (Under the Roofs of Paris, Le Million) are the French writer-director’s finest work and deserve their exalted position in the history of cinema. But one shouldn’t discount the movies Clair made during his brief tenure in Hollywood from 1941 to 1945 where his subtle wit, sophistication and visual style were second only to the work of Ernst Lubitsch. The Flame of New Orleans (1941) with Marlene Dietrich and I Married a Witch (1942) starring Fredric March and Veronica Lake are delightful romantic comedies while And Then There Were None (1945) is an inventive adaptation of Agatha Christie’s thriller, Ten Little Indians. Much more underrated and lesser known is Clair’s It Happened Tomorrow (1944), which returns to the fantasy realm of earlier work like The Ghost Goes West (1935) and I Married a WitchContinue reading

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Preston Sturges’ Off-Season Yuletide Homage

For many people the Christmas holidays wouldn’t be complete without a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street or some version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol whether it features Reginald Owen, Alastair Sims, Mr. Magoo or Bill Murray. But there’s no reason why Preston Sturges’ Christmas in July (1940) shouldn’t become an annual seasonal favorite as well. Granted, it doesn’t take place in December, contains no wintry, snow-covered landscapes or appearances by Santa Claus but like the Frank Capra and Charles Dickens favorites it conveys the spirit of Christmas, one of selfless giving and generosity to those less fortunate than you. It also reaffirms the importance of family and friends over the materialistic traps of the world but accomplishes it with wit and high style in a breathlessly paced sixty-seven minute rollercoaster ride.  Continue reading