Thursday, December 18, 2008
I've been watching the black-and-white, late 1930s film-version of A Christmas Carol today, off and on. I love the pace of such British movies. The scenes really move along. I'd forgotten about the scene in which Cratchett knocks Scrooge's hat off with a snowball and is fired. I don't think that's in the tale. The snow actually looks almost convincing in the film.
Probably my favorite snow-scene in cinema is in Dr. Zhivago, when Zhivago and his love hide out in the winter home, but the film also begins with some great exterior cinematography featuring a bleak wintry landscape. There's also the ill-fated protest, cut down by Cossacks on snowy streets.
For some reason, scenes from McCabe and Mrs. Miller also stick in my mind. Much of the film seem to have been shot on location, and the denouement takes place in the snow. Indeed, McCabe (Warren Beatty) is able to get the drop on a bad-guy by playing dead in the snow. That's before McCabe himself perishes in the snow. The film features some of the intentionally bad recording of sound and mumbling that Altman liked for some reason--his version of cinema verite, I guess. Otherwise, it's one of my favorites.
Beatty himself made a pretty good film involving a lot of snow, Reds.
I'm sure I'm not alone in being partial to some of the snow-scenes in Ingmar Bergman's films, including Fanny and Alexander.
Hollywood snow is usually pretty bad. It doesn't look like snow, so that's kind of a problem. Hollywood rain may be even worse, however, because there's almost always too much of it. All right, already, it's raining, we get it; now stop wasting water.
What's the film in which the character played by Richard Harris is attacked by a bear and then left for dead--and then left to try to survive in the snow? I think his antagonist is played by John Huston. Is it Man in the Wilderness? It's certainly a lot better than Mamet's strained, predictable move with Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins, and a bear. Oy. That was a stinker, in my opinion.
Oddly enough, I think I first learned from a movie that people usually fall asleep before they freeze to death in snow. A young lad, I was watching a Western on TV. It was about buffalo hunters, and I think Robert Mitchum was in it, and I think he freezes to death--but nods off first. However, Mitchum may have just been nodding off in the middle of a scene. He didn't exactly take himself too seriously as an actor. He even turned down the lead in Patton, allegedly, because he said he'd just say the lines while somebody drove tanks back and forth in the background, whereas someone like George C. Scott would really tear into the role. And Patton includes a few interesting winter-battle scenes.
Mitchum strikes me as having been the type to like a good snow-ball fight, rather like one of my brothers. Sometimes we could get enough kids together in town to have a wee snowball battle between "teams." Forts of snow were built, and snowballs got stockpiled. My brother slipped some rocks in a few of the snowballs he made. That sort of thing tends to kick a snowball fight up to another level.