Kehr Capsule of the Week: American Graffiti (1973)

By now, George Lucas‘s film about the summer of ‘62 is almost beyond criticism. A brilliant work of popular art, it redefined nostalgia as a marketable commodity and established a new narrative style, with locale replacing plot, that has since been imitated to the point of ineffectiveness. The various heresies perpetrated in its name (everything from Cooley High to FM) are forgivable, but the truly frightening thing about the film is that it’s almost become nostalgia itself. Where were you in ‘73?

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Kehr Capsule of the Week: Gone with the Wind (1939)

A critic-proof movie if there ever was one: it isn’t all that good, but somehow it’s great. The first part, in which the gracefully moving camera of George Cukor (soon to be replaced) establishes the ordered world of Tara in elegant visual terms, is really very fine. But the last half is all slow, desultory denouement, and the death of the little girl is the dirtiest kind of screenwriter’s trick. No one I know of has yet solved the secret of this 1939 film’s apparently timeless appeal, though I’d guess it has something to do with the elaborate mechanisms of fate, history, and sex brought to bear on Scarlett, whose overweening libido must be punished as magnificently as it has been celebrated. The striking color overlays, which are the film’s sole stylistic eccentricity, were the contribution of that cryptic auteur, production designer William Cameron Menzies. Victor Fleming signed it, though there were many, many fingers in this particular pie. 222 min.