The Crank: ‘The Man on the Eiffel Tower’ Program Notes (4/25/13 Screening)

The Crank is a graduate student organization that runs weekly screenings of the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s extensive holdings. The Crank shows films that either are not widely available on video or are such spectacular specimens of nitrate and celluloid that merely to see them on a television set would be a crime both to the student of film and to the canon of film history.


When Jean Renoir viewed a print of The Man on the Eiffel Tower, he said, “These are pictures of Paris you can never photograph again.” Upon its release, Burgess Meredith’s directorial debut was lauded for its equally unique and unprecedented images of postwar 1940s Paris. Whether exploring the city streets, scrambling upon rooftops, or balancing atop the Eiffel Tower, the cat-and-mouse game between Charles Laughton’s Inspector Maigret and Franchot Tone’s devious Johann Radek provides a thrilling story set against a picturesque background.

While Meredith is credited as the sole director of the film, his role as a knife-grinding murder suspect allowed for others to take the helm. A friend of Meredith, Laughton took up direction when he stepped in front of the camera. Likewise, in the few scenes where both Laughton and Meredith appear, it was Franchot Tone who sat in the director’s chair. While the multiple directors brought the risk of creating a hodgepodge of styles, the common vision of the three friends, along with the always collaborative pre-planning created a consistent, fun, and thrilling picture. Continue reading “The Crank: ‘The Man on the Eiffel Tower’ Program Notes (4/25/13 Screening)” »

The Crank: ‘Crime and Punishment’ Program Notes (4/11/13 Screening)

The Crank is a graduate student organization that runs weekly screenings of the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s extensive holdings. The Crank shows films that either are not widely available on video or are such spectacular specimens of nitrate and celluloid that merely to see them on a television set would be a crime both to the student of film and to the canon of film history.


Following the box office disappointment of The Scarlett Empress (1934) and the political controversy of The Devil is a Woman (1935), director Josef von Sternberg parted ways not only with Paramount but also with his frequent collaborator and muse, Marlene Dietrich. According to von Sternberg, he was “liquidated by Lubitsch,” an ironic musing since the latter did little to interfere as production manager on the film except change the title.

Luckily, Ben Schulberg, who had just signed a production deal with Harry Cohn at Columbia, enlisted von Sternberg after his ousting at Paramount, offering him a two-picture deal and a fresh start. Soon von Sternberg’s fortunes became tied with another European émigré signed with the studio, the Hungarian-born actor Peter Lorre. Known primarily for his theater work in Germany with Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, Lorre had left his mark as the murderer in Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and had just starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1935) in London. Eager to establish himself in Hollywood, Lorre presented Cohn with the idea of adapting Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment as a vehicle for him to star in as its conflicted and murderous criminology student, Roderick Raskolnikov. As Hollywood legend has it, Lorre had his secretary type a monosyllabic synopsis to prove to Cohn that translating Dostoyevsky’s novel from page to screen was possible. Allegedly, Cohn, who was enraptured with the idea, only had one question for Lorre: “Tell me—has this book got a publisher?” Continue reading “The Crank: ‘Crime and Punishment’ Program Notes (4/11/13 Screening)” »

The Crank: ‘Let It Be’ Program Notes (4/4/13 Screening)

The Crank is a graduate student organization that runs weekly screenings of the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s extensive holdings. The Crank shows films that either are not widely available on video or are such spectacular specimens of nitrate and celluloid that merely to see them on a television set would be a crime both to the student of film and to the canon of film history.


When Let It Be finally premiered in 1970, subtle interpersonal tensions on display throughout the film had already burst into public knowledge. The Beatles were over. Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s film captures a month of one of the band’s final recording sessions at Twickenham Film Studios and Apple Studios in London, and culminates in The Beatles’ final public performance in January 1969. Instead of matching the festive tone of earlier Beatles movies, Lindsay-Hogg’s film presents them in a more sobering light, making their eminent dissolution all the more apparent.

Let It Be has a rough, disorganized quality to it that is matched by its production history. Lindsay-Hogg shot on 16mm film for an intended television special to accompany The Beatles’ new album Get Back. Lindsay-Hogg worked in television and had directed TV promotional performances for The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. When he began filming, The Beatles were planning an internationally televised concert that the “behind the scenes” documentary would accompany. George Harrison, however, threatened the leave the band for a variety of reasons, including the concert. As the footage grew and television plans dissipated, the idea for a 35mm theatrical feature began to form. Continue reading “The Crank: ‘Let It Be’ Program Notes (4/4/13 Screening)” »

The Mediascape Roundtable: ‘Cloud Atlas’ and Race

One of the most striking features of Cloud Atlas (2012)—directed by Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, and Andy Wachowski—is how its actors and actresses play across race with the aid of makeup and prosthetics. To discuss the portrayal of race in the movie, the Mediascape Blog convened a roundtable of two film studies graduate students. Their conversation can be read or listened to below, or downloaded in MP3 format.


[audio:http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/TheMediascapeRoundtable_CloudAtlasAndRace.mp3]

Click to download “TheMediascapeRoundtable_CloudAtlasAndRace.mp3” (38 minutes, 34.2 MB)

Moderator: J.M. Olejarz

Mediascape Blog: Hi, and welcome to the Mediascape Roundtable. I’m Josh Olejarz, coeditor of the Mediascape Blog. Today we’re going to be talking about Cloud Atlas and its race issues, or maybe it’s more accurate to say the role and portrayal of race in the movie, and whether that is an issue. Before we begin, why don’t I let our other participants introduce themselves, and then we’ll get started. Continue reading “The Mediascape Roundtable: ‘Cloud Atlas’ and Race” »