I wish to alert Tativille's loyal readership to two new pieces that I have in Issue 52 of the newly (and beautifully) re-designed Senses of Cinema: "Hatari! and the Hollywood Safari Picture" and "The Mortal Storm: 1940 and After". The first places Howard Hawks's late-period masterpiece within the cycle of safari "A"-pictures that seems to have fed off the success of Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton's 1950 remake of King Solomon's Mines, while using a footnote in André Bazin's "The Virtues and Limitations of Montage" as an interpretative key for the mini-corpus. For those who are interested additionally in the subject of Bazin and wildlife, see the highly perceptive Seung-hoon Jeong's "André Bazin's Ontological Other: The Animal in Adventure Films". Likewise, for further reading on the safari film from yours truly, see my Tativille entry on Cornel Wilde's The Naked Prey (1966).
The second (playfully, in my own dry prosaic way, I hope) considers Frank Borzage's fine feature within the context of its very strong year of release - a year that I suggest was better than the more widely esteemed 1939, as a stylistic apogee for the decade it followed and as a bellwether of the ten years to come.
While I am writing in abbreviated form, let me also offer my recommendations for three new films that I will not be writing about on this site in detail (because of both time constraints and the lack of inspiring or inventive things to say for each): Jane Campion's Bright Star (2009, Australia), Manoel de Oliveira's Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl (2009, Portugal) and Zhao Dayong's Ghost Town (2008, China). Campion's imagistic return to form once again reverses the object of desire in old-school Mulveyan terms, producing a work that (refreshingly) would have been much more at home in the 1990s, for which Campion was one of the key figures, than it is in our current decade. Maybe not so much new to say, but it says it very beautifully.
The 100 year-old, and still active Oliveira's film is relatively standard for the director's ultra-late period (meaning quite good, if not at the peak level of I'm Going Home  or the valley of The Fifth Empire, 2004), replete with its emphasis on diegesis over mimesis, telling over showing. In other words, it would be more of the same were I to write on this film, as I have with so many Oliveira films in the past. (My wife Lisa has some great ideas on the film that I hope she will share with the blogosphere before the end of the festival.)
Lastly, the nearly three-hour, non-fiction Ghost Town paints a picture - on its often choppy, low-grade DV - of a rural, remote China for which the past sixty years seems to have made little perceptible impact. Rather, the film's location bears a distinctive similarity to much of the rural United States (though not materially) thanks to the central place that the film's evangelical church plays in the lives of a seemingly large segment of townspeople - while its absence elsewhere is equally felt. Both lightly comic in parts and harrowing especially in a third and final act where we have a teenager living very primitively on his own after being abandoned by his parents, Zhao courageously concludes with a highly damning reference to Mao Zedong and implicitly, to a faith in the PRC's material beneficence. Ghost Town is an especially important rejoinder to the "Seventeen Years" cinema being celebrated at this year's New York Film Festival.