Wednesday, June 01, 2011

De Toth in the Landscape of Dreyer

A minor crime film helmed by Andre De Toth (but even those are always worthwhile) from 1957, Hidden Fear is a US-Danish co-production.  Periodically the scenery (urban or natural) shakes up the familiar blackmail/procedural narrative.  The films of De Toth comprise what should be one of the prime exhibits for auteurist cinephile analysis - working mainly in the crime and Western genres, never amassing a great deal of recognizable power, the director seemed to gravitate toward similar premises and plotlines.  This isn't so much a matter of creative authority as it is, more likely, workaday affinities.  It was what he was good at, what he earned a proven track record in.  In the mode of production he was working in, De Toth would not have been able to "birth" a top-down relation to his material, in the same way that (say) Hitchcock was able to establish his presence with the far-reaching authority over his content around the same time period.  Nevertheless, again and again, De Toth's movies feature world-weary characters in a network of distrust, lightning-fast betrayals, and haunted memories.  Important actions happen quickly, startlingly (like when a heavy pulls a gun or the hero pummels a mug), but the narratives themselves never feel rushed: think of the long spaces finely suggested by the waiting in Last of the Comanches and Day of the Outlaw.

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