From DENNIS HARTLEY
I’ve sure been hearing the “D” word an awful lot lately. They say that in times of severe economic downturn, people crave pure escapism at the movies. I say, screw that. I wanna revel in economic downturn, ‘cos there’s something else “they” say as well: Misery loves company. So, with that in mind, and in the spirit of a little cinematic aversion therapy, here’s my Top 10 Great Depression Movies. Study them well, because there’s yet one more thing that “they say”: Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.
Berlin Alexanderplatz– When you think of the Great Depression in terms of film and literature, it tends to vibe America-centric in the mind’s eye. In reality, the economic downturn between the great wars was a global phenomenon (not unlike our current situation); things were literally “tough all over”. You could say that Germany had a jumpstart on the depression (economically speaking, everything below the waist was kaput by the mid 1920s). In October of 1929 (interesting historical timing), Alfred Doblin’s epic novel Berlin Alexanderplatz: The Story Of Franz Biberkopf was published, then adapted into a film in 1931 directed by Phil Jutzi. It wasn’t until nearly 50 years later that the ultimate film version would appear as Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 15 hour opus. It’s nearly impossible to encapsulate this spiritually exhausting viewing experience in just a few lines; I’ll just say that it is (by turns) the most outrageous, shocking, transcendent, boring, awe-inspiring, maddening and soul-scorching film I’ve ever hated myself for loving so much.
Bonnie and Clyde– The gangster movie meets the art film in this 1967 groundbreaker from director Arthur Penn. There is much more to this influential masterpiece than just the oft-mentioned operatic crescendo of violent death in the closing frames; particularly of note was the ingenious way that its attractive antiheroes were posited to directly appeal to the rebellious counterculture zeitgeist of the time, even though the film was ostensibly a “nostalgia piece”. Our better instincts may tell us that the real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were nowhere near as charismatic (or physically beautiful) as Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, but we don’t really care, do we? (Is it getting warm in here? Woof!)
Bound for Glory-There’s only one man to whom Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan