October 1, 2016

Alberto Cavalcanti

alberto-cavalcantiThe reputation of Alberto Cavalcanti has suffered on account of the peripatetic nature of his career – films in France, Britain, Brazil, Israel – and due to his restless switching of jobs – set designer viagra canada for Marcel L’Herbier, sound designer for Harry Watt.

Even in a single country, the UK, where his reputation is the highest, Cavalcanti’s work at Ealing dominates the discourse. On the one hand, this is probably justified by the sheer visual excellence, and moral complexity, of his work on Dead of Night and Went the Day Well?

On the other hand, it limits our view of the filmmaker by closing off investigation into the more obscure byways of his work.

them-the-trespass00I was lucky enough to get hold of the rare and underrated For Them That Trespass (1949), Cavalcanti’s last British film until 1961. Despite boasting the credit “Introducing Richard Todd,” the film has been largely neglected, partly, one suspects, because it’s not an Ealing production (it’s made by the Associated British Picture Corporation) and partly because asides from the youthful Todd, it’s lacking in star names.

But it does have an unusual, convoluted plot, from a novel by Ernest Raymond adapted by future director J. Lee Thompson (Ice Cold in Alex) and it seems to touch upon aspects of Cavalcanti’s life not covered by his better-known movies.

It’s only recently that critics have started to speak of Cavalcanti as a gay filmmaker. One might better say, “ a filmmaker who happened to be gay,” for there was no way for “Cav,” as he was known, to openly address his sexuality in his films, had he wished to, due to the prevailing customs and censorship of the era in which he worked. But For Them That Trespass does seem to touch, however lightly, upon the idea of a hidden life, through the character of a respectable man – secretary to a vicar – who starts making forays into the slums to soak up atmosphere and gain “experience” to help him become a writer. Although this protagonist’s adventures, as we see them, are strictly heterosexual, he is played by the remarkably effete Stephen Drew and he takes the pseudonym of Kit Marlowe, which seems pretty suggestive, at least to modern minds.

them-the-trespass01The first underworld character to catch “Kit’s” eye is Richard Todd, playing an Irish burglar, but he is soon smitten with Todd’s easy-going girlfriend Frankie, played by Rosalind Boulter. The choice of a male name does seem intriguing. Unfortunately, Frankie has a jealous live-in lover, who catches her cheating and kills her. Todd gets the blame, while Murray escapes, knowing that an innocent man has been accused, but unwilling to jeopardise his social position by admitting what he knows.

At trial, Todd is helpless to clear his own name. His story that Frankie was seeing someone named Kit Marlowe is mocked by the prosecution: the middle-class establishment figures know that Marlowe was an Elizabethan playwright.

them-the-trespass02So Todd goes to prison – for years. This is a substantial structural problem in the story, amplified by the fact that we have now shifted our interest from Murray to Todd. During this part of the story, which must be elided as quickly as possible, the hero is forcibly inactive in the clink, while Murray, shifting from protagonist to antagonist, is morally inactive in the outside, building a career as author and a life as married man with family.

Cavalcanti picks up the dramatic reins when Todd is released, and tries to find proof of his innocence. He tracks down Murray after hearing a radio play in which his slain girlfriend appears as a character – a nice plot turn. Finding the guilt-ridden writer, he is able to learn the truth about who killed Frankie. But he’s not finished with Murray. He wants his name cleared, and for that he needs Murray to testify.

Murray declines. He’s been morally vacillating all through the story, knowing that to admit his part in the story now would be ruinous for him. We can’t sympathise with him, but we’ve been able to see his point of view. Finally he comes down on the side of evil, categorically refusing to trade his reputation for the man he has allowed to be all but destroyed. But the conversation has been overheard by the man who put Todd away. The truth is out, and Murray is ruined.

For Them That Trespass isn’t a wholly successful work, despite striking chiaroscuro hell-scapes of the British slums, and some dynamic directorial flourishes from the inventive Cav. But the story has too many patches of inertia, shifts of focus and undramatized situations to hold together. Todd is solid in his debut role, and the vicacious Boulter is terrific as Frankie, but she is eliminated from the scene too soon (sadly, she all but disappeared from British screens too, after this movie).

made-me-a-fugitive00Cavalcanti fans will likely prefer the earlier They Made Me a Fugitive, which tackles similar terrain with a tighter, simpler story. Very much in the film noir mould, this, with Trevor Howard terrific as a disillusioned war veteran drifting into a life of crime, before finding his moral footing and taking out crime boss Narcy (Griffith Jones). The narrative line is much cleaner here, if less ambitious. There is a good-bad girl (Sally Gray), and some moral ambiguity, but ultimately Trev will sacrifice self-interest to do what is right.

A violent, scarifying climax in an undertakers, with gangsters hiding in coffins, leads to the kind of rooftop chase so many movies seemed to end in back then, and a subjective camera death-plunge for one character that anticipates Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange. (Bizarrely, an early Cavalcanti short, La P’tite Lille, features a nubile Jean Renoir attired just like a Kubrick droog.) Howard gives the hero a real bitter edge, and Narcy (short for Narcissus) is a psychopathic dandy worthy of an Anthony Mann US noir.

made-me-a-fugitive01Looking at these imaginative crime thrillers, alongside Cavalcanti’s most celebrated works, Dead of Night and Went the Day Well?, both dark and unsettling works with a willingness to shock, it’s tempting to imagine Cavalcanti triumphing as a film noir director in the UK, had he and the British film industry striven in that direction for just online pharmacy no prescription a little longer.

David Cairns – ShadowplayRich Text Area










alberto-cavalcantiThe reputation of Alberto Cavalcanti has suffered on account of the peripatetic nature of his career – films in France, Britain, Brazil, Israel – and due to his restless switching of jobs – set designer for Marcel L’Herbier, sound designer for Harry Watt. Even in a single country, the UK, where his reputation is the highest, Cavalcanti’s work at Ealing dominates the discourse. On the one hand, this is probably justified by the sheer visual excellence, and moral complexity, of his work on Dead of Night and Went the Day Well? On the other hand, it limits our view of the filmmaker by closing off investigation into the more obscure byways of his work.


them-the-trespass00I was lucky enough to get hold of the rare and underrated For Them That Trespass (1949), Cavalcanti’s last British film until 1961. Despite boasting the credit “Introducing Richard Todd,” the film has been largely neglected, partly, one suspects, because it’s not an Ealing production (it’s made by the Associated British Picture Corporation) and partly because asides from the youthful Todd, it’s lacking in star names. But it does have an unusual, convoluted plot, from a novel by Ernest Raymond adapted by future director J. Lee Thompson (Ice Cold in Alex) and it seems to touch upon aspects of Cavalcanti’s life not covered by his better-known movies.


It’s only recently that critics have started to speak of Cavalcanti as a gay filmmaker. One might better say, “ a filmmaker who happened to be gay,” for there was no way for “Cav,” as he was known, to openly address his sexuality in his films, had he wished to, due to the prevailing customs and censorship of the era in which he worked. But For Them That Trespass does seem to touch, however lightly, upon the idea of a hidden life, through the character of a respectable man – secretary to a vicar – who starts making forays into the slums to soak up atmosphere and gain “experience” to help him become a writer. Although this protagonist’s adventures, as we see them, are strictly heterosexual, he is played by the remarkably effete Stephen Drew and he takes the pseudonym of Kit Marlowe, which seems pretty suggestive, at least to modern minds.


them-the-trespass01The first underworld character to catch “Kit’s” eye is Richard Todd, playing an Irish burglar, but he is soon smitten with Todd’s easy-going girlfriend Frankie, played by Rosalind Boulter. The choice of a male name does seem intriguing. Unfortunately, Frankie has a jealous live-in lover, who catches her cheating and kills her. Todd gets the blame, while Murray escapes, knowing that an innocent man has been accused, but unwilling to jeopardise his social position by admitting what he knows.


At trial, Todd is helpless to clear his own name. His story that Frankie was seeing someone named Kit Marlowe is mocked by the prosecution: the middle-class establishment figures know that Marlowe was an Elizabethan playwright.


them-the-trespass02So Todd goes to prison – for years. This is a substantial structural problem in the story, amplified by the fact that we have now shifted our interest from Murray to Todd. During this part of the story, which must be elided as quickly as possible, the hero is forcibly inactive in the clink, while Murray, shifting from protagonist to antagonist, is morally inactive in the outside, building a career as author and a life as married man with family.


Cavalcanti picks up the dramatic reins when Todd is released, and tries to find proof of his innocence. He tracks down Murray after hearing a radio play in which his slain girlfriend appears as a character – a nice plot turn. Finding the guilt-ridden writer, he is able to learn the truth about who killed Frankie. But he’s not finished with Murray. He wants his name cleared, and for that he needs Murray to testify.


Murray declines. He’s been morally vacillating all through the story, knowing that to admit his part in the story now would be ruinous for him. We can’t sympathise with him, but we’ve been able to see his point of view. Finally he comes down on the side of evil, categorically refusing to trade his reputation for the man he has allowed to be all but destroyed. But the conversation has been overheard by the man who put Todd away. The truth is out, and Murray is ruined.


For Them That Trespass isn’t a wholly successful work, despite striking chiaroscuro hell-scapes of the British slums, and some dynamic directorial flourishes from the inventive Cav. But the story has too many patches of inertia, shifts of focus and undramatized situations to hold together. Todd is solid in his debut role, and the vicacious Boulter is terrific as Frankie, but she is eliminated from the scene too soon (sadly, she all but disappeared from British screens too, after this movie).


made-me-a-fugitive00Cavalcanti fans will likely prefer the earlier They Made Me a Fugitive, which tackles similar terrain with a tighter, simpler story. Very much in the film noir mould, this, with Trevor Howard terrific as a disillusioned war veteran drifting into a life of crime, before finding his moral footing and taking out crime boss Narcy (Griffith Jones). The narrative line is much cleaner here, if less ambitious. There is a good-bad girl (Sally Gray), and some moral ambiguity, but ultimately Trev will sacrifice self-interest to do what is right.


A violent, scarifying climax in an undertakers, with gangsters hiding in coffins, leads to the kind of rooftop chase so many movies seemed to end in back then, and a subjective camera death-plunge for one character that anticipates Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange. (Bizarrely, an early Cavalcanti short, La P’tite Lille, features a nubile Jean Renoir attired just like a Kubrick droog.) Howard gives the hero a real bitter edge, and Narcy (short for Narcissus) is a psychopathic dandy worthy of an Anthony Mann US noir.


made-me-a-fugitive01Looking at these imaginative crime thrillers, alongside Cavalcanti’s most celebrated works, Dead of Night and Went the Day Well?, both dark and unsettling works with a willingness to shock, it’s tempting to imagine Cavalcanti triumphing as a film noir director in the UK, had he and the British film industry striven in that direction for just a little longer.


David Cairns – Shadowplay




Path:





Word count: 1043 Last edited by Britmovie on November 7, 2009 at 11:53





Genesis Layout Settings














Excerpt



Excerpts are optional hand-crafted summaries of your content that can be used in your theme. Learn more about manual excerpts.





Send Trackbacks




(Separate multiple URLs with spaces)


Trackbacks are a way to notify legacy blog systems that you’ve linked to them. If you link other WordPress sites they’ll be notified automatically using pingbacks, no other action necessary.





Custom Fields













Name Value


Add New Custom Field:












— Select — dsq_thread_id thumb Enter new

Custom fields can be used to add extra metadata to a post that you can use in your theme.





Discussion








Comments





Show comments







Slug








All in One SEO Pack


Upgrade to All in One SEO Pack Pro Version
















Title:
characters. Most search engines use a maximum of 60 chars for the title.
Description:
characters. Most search engines use a maximum of 160 chars for the description.
Keywords (comma separated):
Disable on this page/post:








Reply to Comment