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“China Through the Looking Glass” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

26 Jul

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The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan is currently showing an exhibit called “China Through the Looking Glass,” which runs until September 7, 2015. It takes up space on three floors (including the Anna Wintour Costume Center) and offers dozens of outfits and costumes by famous designers based on Chinese motifs and inspirations, along with other art objects (vases, sculptures, installations) and other commercial objects (e.g., perfumes).

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What grabbed my attention most were the various screens in the galleries on which were projected film clips from famous Chinese, Hong Kong and Hollywood films. I counted a total of 24 films represented, most of them well-known, with only one completely new to me. They were grouped by eight chosen themes. Six of the themes ran montages of three to five films each on continuous loops, while two themes stuck to one film each. The screens showing these film clips accompanied display cases featuring costumes or art objects related to the theme.

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Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon: PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1948)

16 May

This post is my contribution to the My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon in support of the first National Classic Movie DayThe home page for the blogathon can be found here:

http://www.classicfilmtvcafe.com/2015/03/a-blogathon-in-celebration-of-inaugural.html

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Since a couple of the favorites I would have picked were already taken by other bloggers (e.g. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and CASABLANCA), I opted for PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1948), which I saw for the first time as an adult and quickly became a favorite after a TV viewing and a big-screen viewing. I wrote a piece about it after the big-screen showing, which took place 24 years ago yesterday, and, since the piece has never been published, I decided to use it as my entry in this Blogathon. The emphasis is on the film’s use of New York City locations and how they contribute to the romantic and otherworldly aura of the film. Without further ado, here is the original essay:

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Hollywood Looks at China: Two Films from 1955

26 Sep

SOLDIER OF FORTUNE and BLOOD ALLEY are two Hollywood films made in 1955 with contemporary Chinese settings. SOLDIER OF FORTUNE starts out in Hong Kong and moves to Mainland China late in its narrative before coming back to Hong Kong. BLOOD ALLEY takes place almost entirely in Mainland China before ending up in Hong Kong. Both are in color and Cinemascope. Both are based on best-selling novels and both were adapted for the screen by their authors, Ernest K. Gann and A.S. Fleischman, respectively, a practice that was not very common in Hollywood. Both had top movie star pairs at the head of their casts, Clark Gable and Susan Hayward in SOLDIER and John Wayne and Lauren Bacall in BLOOD, all American and all playing Americans. Both films had large supporting casts of Asian-American performers. The lead male characters in both films speak Chinese, Cantonese in SOLDIER and, I’m assuming, Mandarin in BLOOD, although I’m not sure, given how awkward the actors are with their phonetically spoken lines. The lead female character in BLOOD speaks it also. Chinese-American actors Victor Sen Yung and James Hong are in both films. Hong plays a Communist soldier in both. (SOLDIER was Hong’s film debut.) Both were produced by major studios: SOLDIER by 20th Century Fox and BLOOD by Warner Bros. and both are out on DVD from their respective studios, which is how I watched both films. I’d seen parts of each film before, on television, but these DVD viewings marked the first time I’ve seen each of them in its entirety.

 

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Songs in Movies: 1967-73

2 Apr

Recently, a song was played on the radio entitled “Merry Go ’Round,” by up-and-coming country singer Kacey Musgraves, and it reminded me of the kinds of songs that used to be featured on movie soundtracks in my youth. In these films, there was usually a sequence where the song played over a piece of action as a character is traveling or making stops or having a lovers’ rendezvous and the lyrics usually commented on the action, either directly or obliquely. The songs that came to mind right away were the following: “Everybody’s Talkin’” performed by Nilsson in MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969), “Come Saturday Morning,” performed by the Sandpipers in THE STERILE CUCKOO (1969), and “I Got a Name,” performed by Jim Croce in THE LAST AMERICAN HERO (1973).

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