Saturday, August 22, 2015

FOUND — Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’ diner

By Lars Trodson 

For more than 70 years, people have been looking for Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" diner, and the search has been unsuccessful. There is now more or less agreement that it wasn't a real place.  The diner was either a mashup of details from places all over New York, now demolished, or  something wholly from Hopper's imagination. “That diner from Edward Hopper’s 'Nighthawks?'  It never existed,” read one Gawker headline from 2010. Jeremiah Moss, the founder of the blog “Vanishing New York,” also lamented that the diner probably “never existed.” 

Hopper himself was vague, saying that the diner was located in Greenwich Village “where two streets meet.” That hardly pinpoints it. Hemingway’s short story “The Killers,” published in 1927 and a favorite of Hopper’s, was cited by Hopper scholar Gail Levin as an inspiration, who also suggests that van Gogh's "Cafe at Night" is a source image due to its muted color palette. 

There is, however, a place where a fusion of many of the details in Hopper's painting did exist, but it is located in an unexpected and wholly unheralded place. I believe that these humble origins are precisely why Hopper hid the real inspiration for his painting from the leading critics — and the public — at the time. It would have diminished the work in the eyes of many. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Themes and symbolism in Welles's films, plays and radio

Here is my most recent essay on Orson Welles, published at Wellesnet, which challenges Welles's self-imposed myth that he never used symbolism in his work. A close look at everything from his early Broadway plays, to his radio work and in films he wrote and or starred in, shows that there was a dark theme running through almost everything — and a recurring image that he turned to over and over again.

Here's the link and please offer your thoughts, if any. — Lars Trodson

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A theory on the meaning of the title of "The Other Side Of The Wind"

By Lars Trodson

There has been great debate about whether there is any meaning behind the title of Orson Welles’s last film, “The Other Side Of The Wind.” Welles claimed that he didn’t have the “foggiest” idea of what it signified, if anything at all.

I think Welles was being his usual evasive self, but for the first time it was a self-conscious kind of elusiveness. He was, after all, making the film during a period when he was trying to regain a footing in the American film industry, which had also, at the exact same time, taken a hard left toward “youth movies” — movies made by, and about, young people. This was a revolution inspired by the profitable B-movies of the mid- to late-1960s, which then received mainstream blessing by the success of “Easy Rider,” in 1969. Welles, maverick he may have been, was 55 years old when he started "The Other Side Of The Wind" in 1970.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I'm shocked! Shocked! (Not really.)

Gaspar Noé’s new film, “Love,” has attached to it the phrase “taboo-busting” because, one can only presume, it has been shown at the Cannes Film Festival and it has scenes of hardcore, unsimulated sex. (The reviews have not been great.) It’s also shot in 3D.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Orson Welles: Born, May 6, 1915

Orson Welles would have turned 100 years old this week.

An object lesson to anyone who wants to make it in Hollywood is to note that the first three pictures Welles directed, "Citizen Kane," "The Magnificent Amberson's" and "The Stranger" were, combined, nominated for 14 Academy Awards. Fourteen! Including two Best Picture nominations.

Now the point is this, one would be hard pressed to name another writer or director whose first three movies received a total of 14 Oscar nominations and then was effectively thrown out of town. And — "The Stranger" made money. It was a hit! ("Citizen Kane" and "The Magnificent Amberson's" lost a total of $800,000.)

Welles' next-to-last Hollywood picture was "The Lady From Shangai," which was a critical and financial disaster, and then, of course, he was out of Hollywood for the next 12 years. He directed, wrote, and starred in "Touch of Evil," now considered a classic, in 1958.

But Welles wasn't done yet. In 1973, he released the film essay "F For Fake," which (although few will admit it) revolutionized film editing. No one paid attention in 1973; everyone just stole his techniques shamelessly after he died.

On Oct. 9, 1985, Welles appeared on The Merv Griffin Show, and spoke about his life and career, including his regrets. A day later he was dead, slumped over his typewriter. He was 70.

— Lars Trodson

Pick up our celebrated anthology of articles on Orson Welles here:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What the...?

By Lars Trodson

I didn’t expect to hear a little bit of history while watching a restored version of John Ford's “The Grapes of Wrath” on DVD the other night, but I did. Well, maybe history is too strong a word. But it was certainly different, new and in its own way oddly exciting.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Block Island Photo Album

Apropos of nothing, we offer a Block Island photo album that we will update on occasion. — Lars Trodson

Click on the photos to make them full-size.

Thursday, Aug. 6
The weather could not have been more perfect on Block Island. It was hot, but not too humid. I decided to look upward, and saw the cloud formations, which were beautiful in all their different designs. This was taken at the Crescent Beach.

Clouds forming over the bluffs.
An interesting formation:
A squall showed up and left these clouds in its wake:
I thought it was interesting to frame a shot to make the clouds look like they were the land below the horizon.

Sunday, Aug. 2

You never know what kind of beauty you will find on Block Island. A maddening drive down Corn Neck Road (are they actually teaching kids on mopeds to pass on both sides of a moving vehicle?) turned out to be worth it. A vacationer by the name of Mike Paytas, who has been coming to the island for the past 15 years, carves out a little alone time and he goes to the beach to make beautiful sculptures out of balancing stones. They certainly grabbed everyone's attention.