Wednesday, March 21, 2012


When it comes to special effects today’s Avatar is tomorrow’s Captain EO. That’s why films that age best are those like Tourneur’s Cat People, which leave the magical business to the imagination. On the opposite side of the spectrum is stuff like Lon Chaney's Wolfman which requires Herculean effort in order to suspend disbelief. You can practically see the makeup artists diving out of the frame during the cross-dissolves.

This was running through my thoughts yesterday as I thoroughly enjoyed my first viewing of Richard Donner's Ladyhawke (1985). It being a fantasy about lovers who were cursed to transform into animals I was expecting it to have a healthy amount of cringe-inducing mid-Eighties effects, but Donner wisely avoided such moments by suggesting transformations obliquely as in the graceful shot above.

It also didn’t hurt to have legendary Apocalypse Now cinematographer Vittorio Storaro behind the camera shooting the faces of circa 1985 Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfieffer, but credit to Donner for going for subtlety and resisting the temptation to show everything. History will be kind.

In fact, the fantastical elements of Ladyhawke work so well I couldn’t help but wonder what another brilliant impressionistic director could have done with his lady/bird transformation story if he was forced to go without CGI. I don't know if it would've been an improvement, but I have little doubt it would have been memorable.

(I wish that I could say the film’s score was as timeless as its imagery, but Lord is it horribly Intrusive and dated. It is so bad I suggest eliminating it altogether. Mute the obnoxious soundtrack, turn on the subtitles, play some classical music and enjoy the film’s magnificent visuals and romantic story as a long-lost silent movie)

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