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By Anna

Don’t try to understand this film because it’s not to be understood from a realistic point of view.

Just take it as a necessary 1929 gross-out precautionary tale that will make you “cooler” in the intellectual circles you run in because you know Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel created this in order to put on screen the stuff dreams are made of (well what their dreams are made of).

“Dream logic was always likely to interrupt the realism of his (Buñuel) films. That freedom gave them a quality so distinctive that, like those of Hitchcock and Fellini, they could be identified almost immediately,” says Ebert. This signature of being able to identify a film’s director by the first scene is a quality found in only the greatest of filmmakers.

But all I can really say is I hate watching the man slice the woman’s eye out with a razor (though it’s actually a cow eye) and I hate the near rape scene—in fact I find the entire film quite appalling and not great at all, except for its significance in pushing what is done in front of a camera.

“It is disturbing, frustrating, maddening. It seems without purpose (and yet how much purpose, really, is three in seeing most of the movies we attend?),” says Ebert. His point reinforces the significance of the film, especially for surrealist filmmakers.

I still encourage you to see it if you’ve got a spare 20 minutes and want to be in on the film students’ world of trying to understand why we watch films at all. With that I will end this column on a different note:

Avoiding any soundtracks with songs that were inspired or commissioned for a specific movie (i.e. Twilight, Spiderman, etc…); here is an entirely self-indulgent list of songs whose lyrics are based on and inspired by characters or films. And in fashion with my Ebert pick this week the first goes to Dali:

1. “Debaser”—Pixies

A debaser reduces the value of things or people, and just as the male character of Un Chien Andalou attempts to rape and pillage, the Pixies “want to grow up and be a debaser.” The song is based entirely on the film—check it out.

2. “Carlotta”—Harvey Danger

“Carlotta Valdez I will make you her … I’ll follow anywhere that is until you climb too high, cause I get VERTIGO!”  This song is also entirely about Hitchock’s Vertigo. And it’s great, but better if you’ve seen the film—which shame on you if you haven’t.

3. “Buddy Holly”—Weezer

Classic Weezer song that also mentions Mary Tyler Moore.

4. “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad”—Brand  New

Though not really about Jude Law, it’s about his sexiness and about the fear a guy should have if his girlfriend studies abroad in Great Britain.

5. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”—Deep Blue Sea

Oh how a film can make you fall in love—and though the book is a far cry from that sentiment, this song is about how Breakfast at Tiffany’s can be the common bond for love.

6. “Clint Eastwood”—Gorillas

Also a song not really about the man, though I think you could read it that way. “I’m happy, I’m feeling glad, I’ve got sunshine in a bag,” all set to creepy circus type sounds/music, which could represent Eastwood’s persona of happy cowboy hero turned solemn cowboy hero with a conscience around 1992.

7. “Clark Gable”—The Postal Service

To take after this great actor’s suave and debonair personality is to be brilliant, and the perspective of The Postal Service is just that.

8. “Ramble On”—Led Zepplin

I’m not saying they implement Lord of the Rings well into this song, but somehow they do it, and minus the goofy lyrics it’s a great Led song. “T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair. But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her.”

By Anna

Peeping Tom is about Mark Lewis’ search for peace.

Being probed, studied and filmed his entire life, it’s no wonder Lewis just wants to stay behind the camera, using it to search for what or who will fulfill him—but when they fail it means death.

Think of Johnny Depp’s character in Edward Scissorhands. He and Lewis are the same—built by scientists, now living on their own, both driven to kill. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tim Burton is a fan of Peeping Tom.

But Peeping Tom falls in the cracks of great films for the average great film lover because it’s been alluded to and fallen victim to copy-catters following its 1960 British release. Blow Up and The Graduate reflect scenes, editing and pacing of this horrifying murder mystery. The difference between these copy-catters is that their stories are a little less horrifying and have slightly less creepy leads. However, all three male protagonists are searching for something greater in their everyday circumstances—without finding it.

Director Michael Powell isn’t entirely innocent of his own copy-catting.

Watching Lewis strain after women, trying to save them while not understanding his own illness is the same story Alfred Hitchcock gives us in Vertigo (1958). The opening shot of a woman’s eye being metaphysically violated by a camera she’s unaware of reminds us of Un Chien Andelou’s opening shot of a woman’s eye being physically cut out.

These references borrowed from and stolen by Peeping Tom gives it significance in a long line of great films to come before and after it (including Psycho released just a few months after, which also depict a horrifying young man with parent issues). However, what gives Peeping Tom significance apart from its chronological existence is it makes you the voyeur as much as Lewis, as much as Powell and Hitchcock.

“Other movies let us enjoy voyeurism; this one exacts a price,” says Ebert. Hence why no one mentions it as one of the greatest horror films of all time, unlike Psycho, because it makes us uncomfortable for all our voyeurism.

Being unable to find peace, we go into that same dark room Lewis does and watch with anticipation as the horror unfolds—making monsters of us all.

By Anna

My weekly review routine consists of watching a movie, writing my initial thoughts, reading Ebert’s take and writing my end thoughts.

This time, my initial thoughts were: This early film noir lacks feeling. I wasn’t convinced of its characters’ motivations to commit murder, and the femme fatale wasn’t the strong heroine I thought she would be. Though I was convinced that the voice-over flashback storyline pulled me in and that it’s one of the most cleverly dialoged screenplays I’ve ever seen.

For example, when Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) and Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) first meet there’s never a moment without sexual tension—from the minute they see each other. The innuendos of the 1940s don’t get any better than this:

Neff: How fast was I going, officer?

Phyllis: I’d say about ninety.

Neff: Suppose you get down of your motorcycle and give me a ticket.

Phyllis: Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.

Neff: Suppose it doesn’t take.

Phyllis: Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.

Neff: Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.

Phyllis: Suppose you try putting it on my husband’s shoulder.

I also recognized that the relationship to watch wasn’t the one between Neff and Phyllis, as clever as those pulp characters are, it was the one between Neff and his boss Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) that was sagacious and veritable.

Then I read Ebert’s criticism of the film. “They’re (Neff and Phyllis) intoxicated by their personal styles. Styles learned in the movies and from radio and the detective magazines,” writes Ebert.

Ebert also agrees that it’s the father-like relationship with Keyes that acts as Neff’s conscience and perhaps knows Neff is involved, though we’re never quite sure.

And all of the sudden it became one of my favorite films of all time.

There’s deeper psychological amorphism going on with Neff as he continually lights Keyes’ cigarettes with a match throughout the film (just a bad ass flick of his nail on the match, reinforcing the “coolness” that he diffuses, practices). He loves the older man like a father, and in the final scene Keyes lights Neff’s cigarette—he loves him like a son.

Someday I’ll stop reading Ebert and start figuring out why a movie is great all on my own, but for now I’ll leave you with his words on Director Billy Wilder:

Double Indemnity was his third film as a director. That early in his career, he was already cocky enough to begin a thriller with the lines “I killed him for money—and for a woman. I didn’t get the money. And I didn’t get the woman.” And end it with the hero saying, “I love you too” to Edward G. Robinson.

By Anna

“Better run through the jungle,” or ride an Imperial speeder bike through because the chicken walkers are after you and “two hundred million guns are loaded.” Maybe Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) didn’t mean to give the impression that they were on Endor fighting the evil Empire, but that’s what I always think of when I hear that song.

CCR and Star Wars define my youth. A youth not in revolt, just encouraged to be in revolt by my parent’s music and favorite movies. There was never a time in my life that I can’t remember Star Wars. I never had the revelation of its magnificence after seeing it for the first time because there never was a first time—it was just there.

As a young girl my favorite episode was (and still is) “Chapter V: The Empire Strikes Back.” It’s the height of Leia and Han Solo’s flirtatious arguing and eventual statements of love. Leia says, “Han, I love you.” And Han responds, “I know.”

What a man!

It also made me afraid of carbon freeze, of friendship betrayal and losing the one’s I love.

Then, as a college junior I took “Modern Mythmakers.” We watched “Chapter IV: A New Hope” and an interview between Joseph Campbell, leading expert on myth, and George Lucas. Lucas employed every ancient aspect of myth in his story, which hadn’t really been done before on screen: Luke Skywalker as the hero denying his future, angry at his past, learning from a master, going on his quest and eventually defeating the evil empire.

But it’s not really the mythmaking that Lucas and Star Wars are valued for, it’s the special effects.

“All the big studies have been trying to make another Star Wars ever since (pictures like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Independence Day and The Matrix are its heirs)” says Ebert. But if you ask me, no one has yet done it.

Ebert also points out that critic Mark Leeper told us that this “was one of the first films to pan the camera across a star field,” and it was that exact dramatic panning in the opening credits for which Lucas was fined and resigned from the Directors Guild rather than obey their wish for traditional opening credits.

What a badass!

In all its simplicity, cheese-ball lines and loveable sidekicks it bridges the gap between casual moviegoers and film connoisseurs because it captures the fear, love and hope felt by its audience and gives it a name: Star Wars.

What a moniker!

By Anna

Every action, word and motion is intentional in film noir. Though it tends to leave a trail of melodrama in its wake, that is what makes this accidental genre so elite.

As Ebert says, “Noir is the genre of night, guilt, violence and illicit passion.” And that couldn’t be any truer than in Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat.

Young and restless William Hurt and Kathleen Turner, along with Mickey Rourke (like I’ve never seen him before) and flamboyant Ted Danson, Body Heat is casted to perfection. “The film is about a woman who get a man to commit murder for her,” says Ebert. And as Matty (Turner) wears her body too well, she seduces Ned (Hurt) just as she seduces us.

We initially think Ned is the protagonist just as he thinks Matty is his prized lover, but all along Matty is in control—giving Ned looks that he cannot resist.

Lines are delivered like Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in The Empire Strikes Back (which isn’t unusual since Kasdan wrote it), and the editing and style is breathtaking at times (particularly one transition from Ned to Matty as a car window is rolled up).

It is a dramatic and powerfully ‘80s film reflecting the genre of the ‘40s—such as the lust of the lead saxophone in the score, which is hilarious, but necessary.

This film is ideologically feminist. Yes, Matty uses her sexual prowess to seduce Ned, but she also outwits him when it counts. She is strong. He is weak.

Body heat is standard in pornography, when actors complain about how warm they are, and Body Heat falls just shy of porn at times and is just as loveless as porn. And also like porn it is the act of a woman that adds heat to the situation, but this time she will not be objectified; she will conquer all the men surrounding her.

By the final scenes we are uncertain if their love was real or if Matty’s master manipulation was the sole part of the plan. But it doesn’t really matter. The point is: “When it gets hot people try to kill each other.”

What better way to affirm that truth than through film noir?