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Drama Movies

August 18 2017 Drama Movies Newsletter

"The more experience I get the more I see that a problematic or mediocre script in the hands of a brilliant director is still going to have problems. A brilliant script in the hands of an okay director can still be a very good film. I'm coming to have more and more respect for what that script is and whether it can be successfully wrought or not." Cinematographer John Bailey (in 1984), newly elected President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Narrative film is a visual medium, but it is also a storytelling medium. Depending on the director, the balance may be tipped more towards story, or more towards image. The importance a cinematographer such as Bailey places on story is revealing. After photographing a number of important films in the late 70s and 1980s, including "American Gigolo", "Ordinary People", "The Big Chill", and "Swimming to Cambodia", Bailey moved out from behind the camera and into the director's chair.

I watched his debut narrative feature, "China Moon", for the first time since it was originally released. (The film was produced in 1991, but not released until 1994 because Orion Pictures went through bankruptcy proceedings.) I'm not sure what interested Bailey in the story, considering his above comments. Roy Carlson's script isn't particularly original, but the major flaw lies with the female character Rachel Munro. Rachel (played by Madeleine Stowe) is a woman who
has no interests or job and, although her husband beats her, she participates in a murder plot only because he has plans to deny her a $12 million dollar inheritance.

I was focused on her character, in part, because I just read Becky Aikman's new book "Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge". I thought Aikman was overstating the importance of "Thelma & Louise" and how radical the depiction of its two female characters was in comparison to other American films. Then I watched "China Moon" and decided, maybe not. Aikman's book also provides a short but useful summary of female directors in Hollywood throughout the 70s and 80s, and statistics regarding the number of female characters appearing in mainstream American films. Geena Davis, who played Thelma, established the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2004. Her website, seejane.org, is worth a visit.

Here's the latest article from the Drama Movies site at BellaOnline.com.

Raymond Chandler on Hollywood
Novelist Raymond Chandler, the creator of iconic private eye Philip Marlowe, was also the screenwriter of "Double Indemnity" and "The Blue Dahlia". All of Chandler's novels are set in Los Angeles and he is inextricably linked with the city and its most influential export - motion pictures.


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Angela K. Peterson, Drama Movies Editor

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