Tag Archives: 1950s


The Lavender Hill Mob
d. Charles Crichton / 1951 / UK / 81 mins

Production Still from The Lavender Hill Mob

There really is nothing like a good Ealing comedy, and whilst The Lavender Hill Mob is essentially a heist drama, it shares those shades of consummate brilliance that typified the best Ealing output in the 1940s and ’50s. Deceptively simple, yet totally clever, it never sacrifices dramatic progression for cheap gags, surely one of the principle pitfalls of so many British comedies of the immediate post-war period.

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M. Hulot’s Holiday / Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot
d. Jacques Tati / 1953 / France / 114 min

Still from M. Hulot's Holiday

Channelling all of the silent comedy tradition’s finest visual gags and pratfalls, this is Tati’s remarkably delightful masterpiece. It has aged somewhat, I suppose – its gentler pleasures now replaced with an often more nuanced style of visual comedy, but it remains charming nonetheless.

Interestingly, of the dialogue that does exist in this largely mute classic, much of it regards politics and there is a question – as exists with all similar narratives – regarding who exactly is the ‘crazy’ one in such situations? Is it Hulot, with his strange mannerisms and odd ways, or is it all the ‘ordinary’ vacationers, who are nevertheless much more neurotic and uptight.

This is a restored version (apparently restored to Tati’s ‘final’ version from the 1970s after twenty-odd years of meddling), but it does beg the question – as did F. W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh – as to what constitutes the ‘authentic’ version of such a film, and does such a concept of ‘authenticity’ ever really exist in the commercial cinema, when the final product has often been diluted by everyone from producers and studio bosses, to censors, distributors and exhibitors.

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Gojira / Godzilla
d. Ishirō Honda / Japan / 1954 / 135 mins
Viewed at: A3.03 @ UEA (Norwich, UK)

The course of film history is constantly being altered by all manner of cycles, trends, movements and ‘new waves’. But every once in a while, a single film will come along and change everything. At first they’re just popular, but before we know it they’ve reached saturation point, forcing their way into the global visual discourse. At this point, a film’s reputation starts threatening to outweigh its intrinsic worth.

Don’t get me wrong, it would be remiss of me to claim that I didn’t enjoy Ishirō Honda’s opening salvo of the ever widening Gojira/Godzilla franchise. In fact I enjoyed it greatly. I merely wish to suggest that Gojira‘s particular notoriety, and that of the sequels it has spawned and the myriad of films it has influenced, has painted a rather distorted picture of this most quintessential emblem of Japanese genre cinema.

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The Hidden Fortress / Kakushi-toride no san-akunin
d. Akira Kurosawa / Japan / 1958 / 139 mins
Viewed at: A3.03 @ UEA (Norwich, UK)

Akira Kurosawa is but one link in the multifarious, omnivorous food chain that is world cinema. Some may bemoan the fact that George Lucas ‘stole’ chunks of The Hidden Fortress in the creation of his Star Wars series, but a cursory glance at Kurosawa’s filmography reveals a director equally ‘guilty’ of participating in the self-perpetuating cycle of influence, from ancient texts, to Shakespeare, to John Ford westerns, and beyond.

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Ugetsu Monogatari
d. Kenji Mizoguchi / Japan / 1953 / 94 mins
Viewed at: A3.03 @ UEA (Norwich, UK)

One of the real pleasures of cinema (and, indeed, any creative medium) is that it provides the viewer/consumer with the constant ability to discover something ‘new’. As a largely collaborative art-form, cinema consistently throws up immediately consumable revelations, from minor details like a unique approach to framing a particular shot, to major upheavals in the stylistic approach to characterisation or narrative construction or visual aesthetic.

There’s nothing particularly new (or revelatory, even) about Kenji Mizoguchi today. He is, after all, a Japanese filmmaker whose career spanned twenty-something years, a contemporary of Ozu and early Kurosawa. He can hardly be described as unheralded and is rightly considered by many to be a master of the cinematic arts. And yet, he too provides unfamiliar audiences with the ability to discover something ‘new’ for themselves.

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