Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
1945: Les dames du Bois de Boulogne (Robert Bresson)
You will all have to excuse me a little with this one. I’m completely writing from memory. I’ve only seen this once, and it was probably ten years ago as part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bresson retrospective.
Here’s what I remember though. I have never seen a film from a director whom I consider a master that felt so unlike the rest of their work. In fact, the film felt more like a long-lost Renoir film or something Cukor would have done. It is verbose, moving, funny (did I really use that adjective with Bresson?) and romantic. I absolutely loved it. If memory serves me right, it felt a bit like an unusual hybrid of Renoir’s The Rules of the Game and Max Ophüls’ Letter from an Unknown Woman.
I’m not sure this one is terribly easy to find, but it’s more than worth a look, especially for those who think of Bresson as simply an austere bore.
What moviemakers can learn: The auteur theory states that the master directors demonstrate a similar style from movie to movie. But is that consistency more important than bringing the correct formal approach to each movie’s respective subject matter? Bresson’s answer here is a resounding no.
Other contenders for 1945: Here’s another year where I still have quite a few things to see. The major films are: Jacques Becker’s Falbalas, Elia Kazan’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Robert Wise’s The Body Snatcher. Since Jean Renoir’s La Chienne (1931) is one of my favorite films of all time, I’ve always struggled a little with the 1945 Fritz Lang remake, Scarlet Street. John Brahm’s Hangover Square, a film I once saw at Eddie Muller’s annual Festival of Film Noir in Los Angeles, has always stayed with me. The film features a haunting performance by Laird Cregar and a wonderful score by Bernard Herrmann. I don’t absolutely love John Stahl’s Leave Her to Heaven, but there are several things about it that I’ll never be able to shake, and I feel similarly about Roberto Rossellini’s important film Open City. The only true runner-up for me this year though would be Jean Renoir’s The Southerner. I wouldn’t argue that it’s top-tier Renoir, but it does have a great deal of heart and definitely works nicely for me.
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work, raising money for his next feature, Peril.