Mary Pickford: The Muse Of The Movies (2012/Cinema Libre DVD)/To Whom It May Concern: Ku Shen’s Journey (Nancy Kwan
C/C+ Sound: C+ Extras: C+/C- Documentaries: B
recently received to solid biography documentaries on two very key women in the
history of cinema, known for their beauty, star power and whose work and look
changed film forever. International
cinema icons to this day, it is surprising more is not known of them and that
they are not discussed more often, but these documentaries prove and reinforce
that their work is as vital and important as ever.
Eliopoulos’ Mary Pickford: The Muse Of
The Movies (2012) tells us about the woman who became known as “America’s
Sweetheart”, a term still with us today and one that has been used for so many
stars since (including music stars and for actresses as early as Shirley
Temple) as this remarkable 101 minutes piece tells us her life biography and
also how she quickly became involved with the growing, fledgling movie industry
in its shorts, “flickers” and silent days.
about her background which is sometimes sad, we learn about her energy and
intent on being in the business, which was not so respected when it began. We see how she came into contact with just
about every major name and innovator in the beginning, then became one herself,
including becoming one of the founders of United Artists. She also becomes one of the biggest movie
stars ever, the first actress to make a million dollars, one of the first
female producers, directors and writers, plus how she shaped screen acting by
talking a more naturalistic approach.
also turns out she was very clever and even ingenious in her ideas, choices and
though instinct had something to do with it, it was more than that. She was always a realist and also loved
filmmaking, but we also see more about the men she loved, the family she tried
to have and did not have. Ultimately, we
see that she is as important as any of the giants who made films possible and
in an industry with many female executives, but not enough, her work and
achievements are mostly unmatched and rarely surpassed. She is a legend and for good reason.
York narrates this very well and it is impressive throughout. Mary
Pickford: The Muse Of The Movies is a must-see for all serious movie fans
and especially serious filmmakers. Extras
include text Cast Bios, Photo Gallery, an Audio Interview on NPR’s On Film and
an on-camera Filmmaker Q&A at the Toronto Film Festival.
Jamieson’s To Whom It May Concern: Ku
Shen’s Journey (2010) is just as amazing, telling us the story of actress
Nancy Kwan, whose groundbreaking starring roles in The World Of Suzie Wong (1960) and the musical Flower Drum Song (1961) made her an international star and helped
break barriers of race, sexism and artifice in Hollywood filmmaking as she
became a smash success as an Asian woman playing characters of the same
ethnicity, whereas Caucasian women would often have those roles when it was lead
Miss Kwan is interviewed throughout, baring her life story and soul ion telling
us about her family, her ever-changing life, how she came into being a star,
the great people who helped her and how the later 1960s and Hollywood’s own
temporary decline shook her career and life, stopping her from having more
smash hits despite continuously working and doing interesting work. Friends and family are interviewed as well;
we see some great film clips, press & promo stills, rare film & video
footage and new footage from various locations to tell us all about her life.
is the story of her only son and how he had great success, only to have it
changed by twists and turns no one could have expected. I have more than a few times been asked what
happened to Nancy Kwan and explain that she did continue to make films and even
TV (including one of Dean Martin’s four Matt Helm films which also happened to
include Sharon Tate) so she continued in the business for awhile, but like Mary
Pickford, the “Sweetheart” roles were even more quickly replaced by other kinds
acting work definitely brought a new breath of fresh air Hollywood needed at
the time and was ahead of the game in where the industry needed to go to even
survive, so like Pickford, we see her working with giants and innovators in top
rate material, but also doing smaller projects since she did not become a
producer, director, writer or studio owner.
She is an amazing woman, survivor and this documentary is a great testament
to her life and legacy. I also highly
recommend To Whom It May Concern to
anyone serious about filmmaking or film.
is the only extra.
X 1 on Pickford has some great clips
and is nicely edited, but there are many incident of aliasing errors and detail
issues outside of the old film clips that hold back the picture quality, while
the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Concern tends to have some fine film clips and look better overall
despite also having some softness. The lossy
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on both DVDs are simple at best, have their share of
monophonic audio and distorted sound, but that is to be expected from
documentaries of any kind.
philosophies of both women tend to be one of the reasons they became great
successes and by being so independent-minded, were both ahead of their time and
of the feminist movement. We do not see
enough works on actors like this and I hope we see more and as many people as
possible see both of these remarkable programs.
- Nicholas Sheffo