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Criterion Collection Releases "Only Angels Have Wings"

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, April 14, 2016 07:50pm | Post a Comment

Only Angels Have Wings

-- By Brett Stillo

Criterion Collection: Only Angels Have WingsOnly Angels Have Wings once again takes to the skies this week in a comprehensive new video restoration-release from the Criterion Collection (available on Blu-ray & DVD). This is a classic Hollywood romantic drama of the 1930's, accented with bold swaths of adventure and humor, orchestrated by one of the true masters of the craft, director Howard Hawks.

Only Angels Have Wings is the robust tale of a band of bush pilots based in the fictional South American town of Barranca, who risk their necks flying treacherous airmail routes through the Andes. The heat in this Tropic Zone is turned up with the arrival of Bonnie Lee, a down-on-her-luck cabaret singer played by quintessential 1930's heroine Jean Arthur. Bonnie soon encounters the tough, no-nonsense leader of pilots, Geoff “Papa” Carter (Cary Grant). The inevitable sparks begin to fly as these two characters from two very different worlds push and pull at each other's emotions.

The 1930s were the glory days of early aviation, and Hawks subtly isolates the mystique of this era with terse, low-key magnificence. Hawks’ pilots are the new cowboys (Geoff and his fellow pilots all wear gun belts though it’s never explained why, other than it just looks cool), laconic daredevils in leather jackets and wide-brimmed hats (stylistic ancestors of Indiana Jones), who walk and talk with the casual aplomb of men who make a living by risking their lives.

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The Tarantino Solution 3: Inglourious Basterds (2009), A Moral Defense

Posted by Charles Reece, September 27, 2009 11:06pm | Post a Comment
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Aryan Some Differences

While its propaganda might seem dated, Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin presents a critical alternative to heroism as traditionally depicted in most films, collective instead of individualistic. Along with a wishfullfilling counterfactual approach to history and a five act structure, Inglourious Basterds shares a similar approach to the heroic act, closer to the first 20 or so minutes of Saving Private Ryan than its remaining hour and a half. (I note that two early supporters of Eisenstein's film, who helped bring it to world attention, were Goebbels and -- as Tarantino has it -- his Hollywood role model, David O. Selznick.) Eisenstein's two most prominent characters, the sailors Vakulinchuk and Matyshenko, serve more as inspirational catalysts for the inchoate revolutionary spirit than a John Wayne (or even Tom Hanks) type who dominates narrative destiny through his will. As Bill Nichols suggests in his analysis of the film (in the book Film Analysis), the idea of a revolution begins to widen across each act:

One of Eisenstein's great achievements as a filmmaker is that he provided a model for a cinema of groups, crowds, and masses rather than individuals. In Battleship Potemkin he does so by telling the story of three distinct examples of political awakening over the course of five acts. [...] Each awakening broadens the political scope of the film, from the revolt of one ship's crew through the rising up of one town to the rebellion of the entire fleet. -- p. 163-4

Indeed, as he points out, Vakulinchuk dies in the second act and Matyshenko doesn't reappear until the fifth -- hardly the kind of heroism as charismatic leadership favored by a Leni Reifenstahl or George Lucas (the latter's well-known appropriation from the former receives a nice spoof here). No matter how seemingly innocuous the fantasy (from the Golden Age Superman, despite his defense of labor, to Star Wars), there's always a whiff of authoritarianism that accompanies this great man portrayal of heroism -- that a change for the betterment of all comes solely from the determination of a few. That is, follow those so privileged by God, genetics (Aryan, Kryptonian) or midi-chlorians, not morality per se.

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