Fish & Famine

La Terra Trema

After the conclusion of World War II, many folks thought they had seen the war to end all wars.  However, then you had Italian neorealists, like Luchino Visconti, who thought perhaps a little self-reflection was in order.  In La Terra Trema, he explores the war’s hidden costs, in terms of not only the number of lives lost, but also the ways in which it changed the dynamics of family life.
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Delusions & Desire

Sunset Boulevard

Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard” is the portrait of a forgotten silent star, living in exile in her grotesque mansion, screening her old films, dreaming of a comeback.  But it’s also a love story, and the love keeps it from becoming simply a waxworks or a freak show.  Gloria Swanson gives her greatest performance as the silent star Norma Desmond, with her grasping talons, her theatrical mannerisms, her grandiose delusions.  William Holden tactfully inhabits the tricky role of the writer half her age, who allows himself to be kept by her.  But the performance that holds the film together, that gives it emotional resonance and makes it real in spite of its gothic flamboyance, is by Erich von Stroheim, as Norma’s faithful butler Max.
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Greed

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

When John Huston came back from serving in World War II and Humphrey Bogart was a star big enough to choose his next project, the two of them chose to make a film about a seedy loser driven mad by greed.  “Wait till you see me in my next picture,” Bogart shouted to a movie critic outside a New York nightclub.  “I play the worst S.O.B. you ever saw.”  The movie was desolate and despairing, the nicest character in it dies trying to defend the men who were about to kill him, and the ending is not merely unhappy but like a cosmic joke against the hero’s dreams.  Jack L. Warner, the studio boss who sent the crew to Mexican locations and yanked them back when the budget ran out of control, thought it was “definitely the greatest motion picture we have ever made.”
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