Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Arthur Penn 1922 - 2010

Penn was a very good filmmaker who sort of remained in the shadows due to making so few films over the past twenty years. While Bonnie and Clyde was never forgotten [and won't be] many of his other films were. In some cases films like The Left-Handed Gun and The Miracle Worker and The Chase lost to time and critical apathy. While Little Big Man, Night Moves and The Missouri Breaks remembered mainly by film lovers but defended strongly by those who especially like them.

True, he made three westerns but I would argue that he was one of those filmmakers who made a wide variety of films that are tough to label as 'a Penn film' in the same way we could label a Kazan or a Kramer or a Frankenheimer picture. You could watch The Left-Handed Gun [a Paul Newman western with a 50's psychological edge] and then turn and watch Mickey One [an intriguing independent 60's drama] then Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore [a late 60's 'hippie' dramedy] and finally Night Moves [a 70's private detective drama] and you would be hard pressed to know they were all directed by the same director if you didn't know better. In my book that is the quality of not only a talented director but one willing to stretch beyond his stylistic comfort zone.  True, they have a common theme regarding the outsider failing to fit in, the violence of America and the corrupt myths of America. But cinematically along with the tone of their drama they were all different.

We would call such filmmakers journeyman directors. But he was a cut above. I've liked everything of his that I have seen.
[photo from Todd McCarthy's indiewire column]

1 comment:

Allison said...

Thanks for your tribute to Arthur Penn. I hadn't seen many of his films before his death (only about 5). Recently, I was able to watch The Chase. It wasn't my favorite or anything, but the cast was impressive.