best film:  Modern Times from Chaplin. Modern Times is easily the best film of 1936. It’s a testament to Chaplin that this film, not even his best, hovers so far above the other best films of 1936. It’s a brilliant satire, has some tremendous individual comic sequences and set pieces, and a finale that has to rank among the greatest in film history.

a finale that has to rank among the greatest in film history from Modern Times

Chaplin’s single edit dissolve here blending the factoring workers and sheep — masterful

most underrated:   Osaka Elegy from Mizoguchi can’t be found anywhere on the TSPDT consensus top 2000 and I’m baffled by that as they have plenty of love for the Japanese auteur and his other works. It’s includes Mizoguchi’s content obsession, the plight of women, and also is extremely well visually executed with the deep focus full-frame depth of field work that Wyler was doing in Hollywood (really before him) and years before Welles. This is one of Mizoguchi’s best efforts.

this is a standalone shot that would make De Palma and all the split diopter filmmakers proud— depth of field from Mizoguchi

here Mizoguchi uses color/shadow with the geometry of the two parallel lines on the ground to create depth- sublime

Welles and Kurosawa would envy this one from Osaka Elegy

most overrated:  A Day in the Country from Renoir lands at #131 of all-time on the TSPDT list. I couldn’t find a spot for it in my top 500 of all-time.

  • It’s a truncated film made from a feature project that was turned into a short film because of Renoir’s inability to finish
  • It has just gorgeous photography (Visconti was the dp)—many critics have marked that he mirrored his father’s painting style here for this film
  • There is a wonderful trademark through-the-window Renoir shot here
  • The editing, like the narrative, is light and airy- perfect for the frivolity- plotless with some gorgeous tracking shots along the river
  • The storm montage sequence reflects the loss of innocence during the love-making scene- pretty strong stuff for 1936
  • It’s a film of love and regret and is pretty haunting

gem I want to spotlight:  Intermezzo by Gustaf Molander

  • You’ll leave impressed by the young Ingrid Bergman (age 21 here) as you probably expect to be given the film’s reputation as her start—but the big takeaway from the film is Gustaf Molander’s dedication to the artistry of the frame. Specifically, there are a dozen or more frames loaded with floral arrangements. And not just sitting on a table in the background either (and that does happen)- but in frame in the foreground with the main action going on just beyond it

You’ll leave impressed by the young Ingrid Bergman (age 21 here) as you probably expect to be given the film’s reputation as her start—but the big takeaway from the film is Gustaf Molander’s dedication to the artistry of the frame. Specifically, there are a dozen or more frames loaded with floral arrangements. And not just sitting on a table in the background either (and that does happen)- but in frame in the foreground with the main action going on just beyond it

  • Again, it is the film that brought Bergman to the US—apparently David O. Selznick saw it and signed her immediately. It is not her debut though, she was in 4-5 films in her native Sweden (as this is) prior. Her talent leaps off the screen, but this isn’t one of her best performances
  • Remade in 1939 in Hollywood
  • Iris transitions
  • A morality tale about a restless musician who leaves his family (for a young talented musician herself- Ingrid) and then returns
  • Broad characterizations hurts the film—“I’m a stay at home person”- “I’m a person that must be on the go”
  • Great music (required but still nice—a film about musicians)
  • A strong scene at the bridge at 35 minutes – close-ups of Bergman—this may be the scene where Selznick made his decision
  • Again, flowers perpetually in the décor- wonderful—in his open living room, their dressing room

Again, flowers perpetually in the décor- wonderful—in his open living room, their dressing room

  • An impressive shot at 65 minutes of the two lovers through the window—the window frame in the center splitting the two- this is Renoir or Antonioni – flowers in front of course
  • The “intermezzo” metaphor is a great idea for an affair or midlife crisis—but they actually say it aloud in the film multiple times— unnecessary—hurts the film

 

trends and notables:

  • It is a solid year. You have the big capital “M” Masterpiece in Modern Times and you have really strong films like  Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Swing Time and Show Boat that would end up at the back end of the top 10 for many years but can’t find a spot here.
  • We should pause for Chaplin’s big year- I mentioned this with Dreyer about how it became an event whenever Dreyer made films with how rare an occurrence it was- much like contemporary cinema with Kubrick and Tarkovsky and then on into the 21st century with Bela Tarr or Cuaron and others. Chaplin, always the perfectionist, made two films in the 1930’s—that’s the entire decade—and hit them both out of the park as masterpieces. If you are going to have a long gestation period between films—this is the way to do it.
  • Mizoguchi gives us not just one but his first two archiveable films—and both in the top 10
  • George Cukor keeps cranking away—he has two archiveable films in 1936 which gives him 7 since 1932.
  • Renoir is on an even better run- he has three archiveable films in 1936 alone, two in the top 10– remarkable
  • This is Wyler’s first archiveable film—and like Mizoguchi- he delivers two- Dodsworth and These Three
  • Fritz Lang has left Hitler’s Germany behind and makes his first archiveable film in Hollywood- Fury
  • This is really peak Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers—they’ve had four archiveable films in three years, two in this year, and their best films (Top Hat, and Swing Time) in back to back years

This is really peak Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers—they’ve had four archiveable films in three years, two in this year, and their best films (Top Hat, and Swing Time) in back to back years

  • The Petrified Forrest is Bogart’s first archiveable film—and it is a hell of a year for firsts for actors in the archives. Bogart’s future Casablanca co-star Ingrid Bergman has her first archiveable film in Intermezzo as well
  • As if Bogart and Bergman weren’t enough- we have the first archiveable films for Jean Gabin (The Lower Depths) and Jimmy Stewart as well (Wife vs. Secretary). Lastly, let us not forget the great supporting player Thomas Mitchell- he has his first archiveable film in1936 as well with Theodora Goes Wild.

one of 1936’s best single shots- in one of its best films- The Only Son- from Ozu

Ozu had developed a cinematic language- editing rhythm here with the laundry pillow shots

a master of the simple static shot with the object or teapot in the foreground somewhere

depth of field and using the shoji doors from Ozu

best performance male:  Chaplin dominates 1936 both with the best film and the best acting performance of the year. It is a distant second, but Walter Huston gives (along with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) the performance of his career in Dodsworth.

Chaplin dominates 1936 both with the best film and the best acting performance of the year. It is a distant second, but Walter Huston gives (along with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) the performance of his career in Dodsworth.

best performance female:  Isuzu Yamada is in both of Mizoguchi’s 1936 efforts but it is her work in Osaka Elegy that deserves a mention in this category—a powerful performance.

 

top 10

  1. Modern Times
  2. The Crime of Monsieur Lange
  3. Osaka Elegy
  4. The Only Son
  5. A Day in the Country
  6. Dodsworth
  7. Sisters of the Gion
  8. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
  9. Intermezzo
  10. Sabotage

the single best shot from Hitchcock’s Sabotage

Archives, Directors, and Grades

A Day in the Country– Renoir HR/MS
Camille- Cukor R
Ceiling Zero- Hawks
Dodsworth- Wyler HR
Follow the Fleet- Sandrich R
Fury- Lang R
Intermezzo– Molander HR
Libeled Lady- Conway R
Modern Times- Chaplin MP
Mr. Deeds Goes To Town- Capra HR
My Man Godfrey- La Cava R
Osaka Elegy- Mizoguchi MS
Rembrandt– Korda R
Romeo and Juliet- Cukor R
Sabotage– Hitchcock HR
San Francisco- Van Dyke HR
Show Boat- Whale HR
Sisters of the Gion- Mizoguchi HR
Swing Time- Stevens HR
The Crime of Monsieur Lange- Renoir MS
The Devil Doll– Browning R
The Great Ziegfeld- Robert Leonard R
The Last of the Mohicans -Seitz R/HR
The Lower Depths- Renoir
The Milky Way– McCarey R
The Only Son– Ozu MS
The Petrified Forest– Mayo R
The Story of Louis Pastier- Dieterle HR
Theodora Goes Wild- Boleslawski R
These Three- Wyler HR
Three Smart Girls- Koster R
Wife vs. Secretary- C. Brown R

 

 

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-See- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives