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April 14, 2008

The American Cinema Blog-a-thon


I received my own copy of "The American Cinema" as a high school graduation present in June of 1969. The effect was both liberating and shackling. Liberating in that I felt less guilty about my consistent pursuit of any film that as associated with the name of Roger Corman. Shackling in that, like too many other people, I mis-read what Andrew Sarris was saying, and started to ignore some filmmakers based on where Sarris had placed them. Living in New York City in the early Seventies had its advantage so that I was able to see many older films theatrically and start making up my own mind on filmmakers. One person who remained in lockstep with Sarris well into that decade thought I was heretical for praising Taxi Driver. At the time, Sarris complained about Scorsese's lack of style. Since then, Sarris has named Scorsese as one of a handful of directors he has changed him mind about. For myself, there are a few directors that I value higher than Sarris did at the time his book came out, especially Henry King.

Often overlooked is that Sarris even said that he should not be taken as last or only word on the merits of any director. Like many others, I would like to see a revised "American Cinema" that reflected some of the changes in valuation, especially with filmmakers that had just begun their careers at the time the book came out, such as John Boorman, Francis Ford Coppola and John Cassavetes, as well as Roman Polanski, whose career is primarily of English language films, There are also several directors that Sarris did not include the first time out, with Michael Powell being the most obvious omission. My own entry to this blog-a-thon will be in a style inspired by Sarris, including use of one of the categories. On a more personal note, the most inspiring thing Andrew Sarris did was to marry Molly Haskell, still a hottie among female film critics. For more thoughts on others who may be "Lightly Likable" or "Expressive Esoterica", please go to Film at 11.

Angela Bettis in May

Oddities, One-shots, and Newcomers: Lucky McKee (b. November 1, 1975 as Edward McKee)

The woods are full of horror film directors, but Lucky McKee is one of the few to emerge with a consistent theme that connects him with older directors such as Dario Argento and Jacques Tourneur. Sick Girl could have easily been the title of some of McKee's other films. More graphic than the original Cat People, but more restrained than Suspiria, McKee's films of May, Sick Girl and The Woods make up a trilogy examining young women who are as alienated from themselves physically and psychologically, as they are from the world at large. The three films can also be read as feminist reworkings of classic horror films, Frankenstein, The Fly and Suspiria, respectively. The almost oppressively claustrophobic Roman, written by McKee, and directed by Angela Bettis, also explores the feelings of alienation and dislocation from the point of view of a man emotionally and physically so disconnected that he has trouble when love literally knocks on his door.

At this point, the director has been less than lucky commercially. May received a limited theatrical release, while The Woods got lost in the shuffle of studio politics and buyouts. Sick Girl was part of the cable series "Masters of Horror". McKee was replaced as director on his most recent project. If McKee gets the kind of opportunity to make a high profile project of the kind that studios seem more than willing to hand out to lesser talents, we will all be lucky.

Filmography: All Cheerleaders Die (co-directed with Chris Sivertson - 2001), May (2002), Sick Girl (2006), The Woods (2006), Red (completed by Trygve Allister Diesen - 2008)

Lucky McKee in Roman (Angela Bettis - 2006)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 14, 2008 12:07 AM




Posted by: julia at June 16, 2008 05:16 PM