PASSING FANCY (Yasujiro Ozu, 1933)

In the opening scene of Yasujiro Ozu’s first silent about the working poor, Dekigokoro, the camera moves backward across rows of people seated on the floor. The pervasive use of hand fans conveys oppressive airlessness and heat, thus fragmenting with shared discomfort a unifying shot. Someone’s wallet, accidentally misplaced, makes its way through the audience, […]

THE SCARLET LETTER (Wim Wenders, 1973)

As I explain in my essay “Allegory Versus Allegory in Hawthorne” (American Transcendental Quarterly, fall 1976), Nathaniel Hawthorne employs allegory ironically, as a means of contesting reductive U.S. allegorical thinking, one result of the puritanical/biblical confusion of life and art. Wim Wenders’ Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe takes no such tack, nor any other I can discern; […]

ISLAND IN THE SUN (Robert Rossen, 1957)

Wobbling, Robert Rossen’s vaguely liberal adaptation of Alec Waugh’s popular novel is a mix of adultery, murder, miscegenation and local politics on a fictitious West Indies island, a former French, now British colony. It gets into all kinds of lives except those of any of the impoverished, teeming black lives of slave descendants. Two light-skinned […]