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Re: [a_film_by] J.H. Lewis

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  • Fred Camper
    I agree with JPC about Lewis and The Big Combo (while disagreeing about Chabrol), except that I don t think it s incredibly greater than some of his other
    Message 1 of 5 , Apr 25, 2004
      I agree with JPC about Lewis and "The Big Combo" (while disagreeing
      about Chabrol), except that I don't think it's incredibly greater than
      some of his other bests, just the best, though one shouldn't mention its
      two gay characters without mentioning the cunnilingus scene, which
      presumably got by everyone at the time. Its greatest scene, though, the
      final scene in the fogged-in airport. is an equivalent to the archetypal
      Lewis scene that appears in at least three other films and one TV show,
      characters lost in a swamp, and is a great use of John Alton's
      considerable and distinct talents as a cinematographer: very little
      light, space rendered as mystery. Lewis's theme, indeed, or one of them,
      is spatial dislocation or "lost-ness."

      About obscure Lewises, his first, "Courage of the West," is pretty good,
      with a self-cosnciously virtuoso camera. It's very much a first film in
      the sense you get of a young director luxuriating in his discovery of
      cinema, if not exactly on the "Citizen Kane" level, to put it mildly.
      Some of the later early westerns are not as good. More early
      obscurities: Joseph H. Lewis directed at least three Bowery Boys
      pictures, which I've seen only on TV; I remember them mostly as not very
      good (and one has a pretty stupid racist moment involving a black boy
      who "sure do love" watermelon), but at least two have terrific boxing
      scenes, with characteristically intense Lewis close ups.

      A great later one that no one has mentioned yet is "Cry of the Hunted,"
      one of the lost in the swamp films.

      - Fred C.
    • filipefurtado
      I agree about The Big Combo being Lewis best(as for Chabrol, the man is great if uneven), but I also want to mention Terror in Texas Town which is truly great.
      Message 2 of 5 , Apr 25, 2004
        I agree about The Big Combo being
        Lewis best(as for Chabrol, the man is
        great if uneven), but I also want to
        mention Terror in Texas Town which is
        truly great.


        ---
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        http://antipopup.uol.com.br
      • Jaime N. Christley
        ... I like that one a lot, boy it s strange! THE HALLIDAY BRAND is another late-model Lewis, it s not great but it s fascinating and has many great moments,
        Message 3 of 5 , Apr 26, 2004
          --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "filipefurtado" <filipefurtado@u...>
          wrote:
          > I agree about The Big Combo being
          > Lewis best(as for Chabrol, the man is
          > great if uneven), but I also want to
          > mention Terror in Texas Town which is
          > truly great.

          I like that one a lot, boy it's strange! THE HALLIDAY BRAND is
          another late-model Lewis, it's not great but it's fascinating and has
          many great moments, and Joseph Cotten and Ward Bond are excellent.

          Here are some things I wrote about Lewis in an e-mail conversation
          some months back:

          "My third Joseph H. Lewis movie is {...} TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN...
          It's a really unusual version of a banal western plot, it may even be
          more abstract than THE BIG COMBO. Lewis has a really oddball way of
          defining a scene's physical space, it's hard to describe from just one
          viewing but it has a lot to do with his use of unusually long takes
          (sometimes for a minute or more; a take in a classical Hollywood movie
          is usually considered "long" when it lasts for 10-20 seconds or more),
          and his unique framing. Often he'll set one or two actors, or groups
          of actors, in different parts of the frame (say, one upstage and one
          downstage), and the scene will play like that, without resorting to
          cutting back and forth. This creates a terrific sense of unease,
          because sometimes the actor in the background will come forward and
          he'll have a really threatening presence.

          "There are other things, too - Dave Kehr described TERROR as an
          example of 'an auteur at the end of his tether,' and there's certainly
          a pervasive feeling of something, maybe desparation, in the movie.
          There also happens to be a carefree, experimental quality to it, as if
          Lewis has taken a box of parts marked 'basic film grammar,' shook it
          up, and poured it into the well-worn mold of Western Plot #3B: Evil
          Hired Gun Versus Noble Outsider. But this haphazard experimentation
          produces wonderful things that can't all be written off as 'accidental.'

          {...}

          "De Toth's compositions always seem both planned but effortlessly
          precise. JH Lewis compositions may seem "arty" at times - you'll see
          a bit of this in TERROR and THE HALLIDAY BRAND - but in addition to
          their theatricality (even I spoke of "upstage" and "downstage" in his
          films; these elements aren't emphasized in AdT's work, that I could
          perceive) there's a restlessness, a filmmaker's agitation behind the
          camera and in the cutting room, that's tough to place. But this
          restlessness results in occasional magnificence. Lewis' instincts
          must have been such that whatever 'end of his tether' stuff was
          affecting him at the time, he could not 'fuck up' un-beautifully.

          {...}

          -Jaime
        • Dan Sallitt
          ... One of those Bowery Boys films is more ambitious than the others - I m pretty sure it s THAT GANG OF MINE. Lewis puts the camera on a dolly about two feet
          Message 4 of 5 , Apr 26, 2004
            > More early
            > obscurities: Joseph H. Lewis directed at least three Bowery Boys
            > pictures, which I've seen only on TV; I remember them mostly as not very
            > good (and one has a pretty stupid racist moment involving a black boy
            > who "sure do love" watermelon), but at least two have terrific boxing
            > scenes, with characteristically intense Lewis close ups.

            One of those Bowery Boys films is more ambitious than the others - I'm
            pretty sure it's THAT GANG OF MINE. Lewis puts the camera on a dolly
            about two feet off the ground and tracks around the Bowery Boys as if
            they were Shakespearian figures - and this was a year before CITIZEN
            KANE. The story was taken pretty seriously, as I recall. - Dan
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