Steps Scene from The Hidden Fortress (1958)


This brilliant scene showcases the physical vitality of much classic film (especially in the work of director Akira Kurosawa), as opposed to the relatively unrealistic style of film today.

This scene is also an homage to the Odessa Steps scene in the even older Russian classic Battleship Potemkin (1925).

The film itself–particularly the two bumbling low-class men from whose vantage point the story is shown–heavily influenced George Lucas in the making of Star Wars (in which those characters become R2D2 and C-3PO).

Classic Battleship Potemkin Scene

Saw this film recently: provocative propaganda, with this scene as the most moving.  For an 87 year-old movie, it’s remarkably frank in its depiction of violence.  No modern movie would show the baby carriage keeling over like that.

Serendipity Strikes

I’ve been in the mood for some foreign film lately, so I decided that today I would watch a couple.  I picked the Vietnamese film, The Vertical Ray of the Sun (2000), and the American-made but French-language film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007).

Strangely, both movies featured the same American rock song: 1969’s “Pale Blue Eyes,” by the Velvet Underground.

What are the odds of that?  That two non-English movies would use the same old American song in their soundtrack?  That I would pick both of those movies to watch?  That I would watch both of those movies on the same day?  That I would be familiar with the song and recognize it in both films?

And yet, here we are.

Below is the opening scene of Vertical Ray.  YouTube doesn’t have a clip for the Diving Bell scene–that one was just instrumental anyway.  Then here it is with lyrics.





How Modern Russian Cinema Evolved From Orson Welles

Just saw Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil last month.  This impressive opening scene is the best part of the movie.  A lot of technical wizardry must have gone into making this long tracking shot work–not to mention tons of rehearsal.

Even more impressive, though, is the 2002 film Russian Ark, which I also saw last month.  A hypnotic tour of the Hermitage from the point of view of a ghost who slips around in time with no transition other than moving from room to room of the huge art museum / royal residence, the entire film is composed of a single shot.  It’s the only feature film ever done like this, and it’s fascinating.  Especially great for art lovers–hundreds of masterpieces are lovingly showcased throughout. Below is the first 13 minutes, plus part of a “making of” documentary.