Tag Archives: Taxi Driver

Pauline Kael on New York in the Movies, 1971

21 Apr

Pauline Kael was the chief film critic for The New Yorker for several decades and most of her reviews were collected every few years in published volumes. I pulled the fourth collection, Deeper Into Movies, off the shelf recently and re-read “Urban Gothic,” dated October 30, 1971, Kael’s review of THE FRENCH CONNECTION, the New York City police thriller directed by William Friedkin and starring Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider that went on to win the Best Picture Oscar for that year. Kael’s first two paragraphs of the review, pasted below, offer a spot-on assessment of how New York movies of that time created “a permanent record of the city in breakdown.” As someone who lived through that era and had good times and bad times associated with it, I am always awe-struck at how accurate these films were in capturing the look, feel, mood and sound of New York, or “Horror City,” as she calls it, in those years. However, she goes a little overboard in her paragraph describing the audiences at these films, particularly in Times Square and Greenwich Village, and may be exaggerating the depth and intensity of audience reaction and participation, but at least she was there to observe it. I was, too, and I do remember an occasional fight breaking out, but the audience was generally way more focused on the screen than on each other, although I may not have gone to the same theaters or late-night screenings that Kael did. Still, her vivid portrait of New York moviegoing offers a fitting counterpart to the nervous, jangling energy of the New York movies onscreen.

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June 29: Bernard Herrmann and Ray Harryhausen

29 Jun

Composer Bernard Herrmann and special effects creator Ray Harryhausen shared a birthday–June 29. Herrmann was born in 1911 and died in 1975, while Harryhausen was born in 1920 and died in 2013. (I did a tribute to Harryhausen here.) The two artists collaborated on four films. My first exposure to both men was THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, which I saw in a theater when I was five years old. It took a few years for me to learn their names, but I became a huge fan of both by the time I was an adolescent. Following SINBAD, they collaborated on THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER (1960), MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961) and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963). I saw GULLIVER and JASON in theaters when they came out as well, but I would have to wait till a TV showing on Thanksgiving in 1964 to catch MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, which became my favorite of the four. I would eventually see all of Harryhausen’s films and all but two of those that Herrmann composed the scores for.

Seven years ago, I did a piece on Herrmann’s centennial on the J-pop blog I was doing then. Harryhausen was still alive at the time. I’ve pasted that piece here in its entirety:

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