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Name: Dan Sallitt
Location: New York, New York, United States

Friday, December 28, 2007

Otto Preminger: Film Forum, January 2-17, 2007

Film Forum is kicking off 2008 with a far-from-complete but nonetheless welcome retrospective of the formidable Otto Preminger, one of the most distinctive sensibiities in the history of American cinema. Just in case anyone out there is looking for guidance, here are my two cents about which titles in the series are required viewing.

Preminger's career breaks down roughly into five parts.
  • Pre-Auteur, 1931-1944. Preminger's work before Laura has traditionally been ignored by film scholarship. Film Forum is showing three of the early films, all on January 14. In the Meantime, Darling is by far the best of the bunch - but if you're hardcore you're probably seeing the whole triple bill, and if you're not you can probably skip the early work altogether.
  • Fox Film Noir, 1944-1951. Laura made Preminger a name and ushered in his first major period, dominated by atmospheric chamber melodramas. If you see only one of these, make it the superb Daisy Kenyon, as good a film as Preminger or anyone else ever made. It screens with Laura (which never meant that much to me, for some reason) on January 2 and 3. My second choice would be the strikingly abstract Fallen Angel, screening on January 6.
  • Adjusting to Independence, 1952-1957. This grab-bag period sees Preminger experimenting with different genres, exploring widescreen, and generally taking the measure of the shifts in style that were occasioned by the advent of television and the adoption of new codes of realism. The must-see here is Angel Face, screening with Fallen Angel on January 6, and probably the best textbook from which to study the essentials of Premingerian style.
  • Big Subjects, 1958-1967. Preminger grabbed the public's attention, as producer and director, with a series of well-publicized, large-scale projects, often literary adaptations, often pegged to important social issues. I most recommend Anatomy of a Murder, the archetype for Preminger's Big Subject films, screening on January 4 and 5; and the Beltway epic Advise and Consent, screening on January 12.
  • Coping with New Hollywood, 1968-1979. Most people think that Preminger's last decade of work isn't his best - and Film Forum isn't showing any of these movies anyway.

I like other films in the series, but let's leave it at that for the sake of brevity. The Daisy link above contains some of my thoughts about Preminger, and here's a little something I wrote on a_film_by about Preminger's attitude toward characters.



Blogger Jason said...

Hey Dan,
Any chance you will write a few words on There Will Be Blood, I am very interested to hear why you didn't like it much. Thanks, I love your blog.

December 31, 2007 8:35 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Thanks, Jason. I was thinking about trying to say something about Anderson - maybe I'll go for it later this week.

January 1, 2008 8:16 PM  

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