Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lost Horizon

Frank Capra, 1937 (8.2*)
Exotic, unspoiled locales around the world have always appealed to the more daring individuals of more populous regions, such as Europe; just look at the nationalities of all the famous explorers. In 1923, Frenchwoman Alexandra David-Neel was the first known westerner to enter the forbidden Tibetan city of Lhasa. She then published her accounts in her 1932 book Magic and Mystery in Tibet.

Shortly thereafter, novelist James Hilton wrote a short novel about a flight of western travelers that crashes in the Himilayas, and the survivors are rescued and taken to a fictitious hidden city in a mountain valley, called Shangri-La. Basically, this is a story of an exotic utopia untouched by civilization and the ills of modern society. The westerners are treated like welcome guests, and their’s is an adventure of a lifetime.

Frank Capra went out of character for this film of adventure and fantasy, starring Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt, and Edward Everett Horton as the crash survivors, and Sam Jaffe miscast as a Tibetan spiritual master. It's contains none of Capra's homespun humor, nor is it a glimpse at classic Americana. A newer partially restored version has the entire soundtrack, but some scenes are filled in with only still images. It looks like the Hays Commission deleted scenes where people were simply talking, but within their bedrooms - innocent enough unless you're under the cloud of censorship.

The story may also be taken as a metaphor of a spiritual quest to find one’s center within, away from the distractions of the material world. Often we get a peek at this realm, and find it difficult to return due to life circumstances. Like the beautiful Australian film Walkabout, this utopia may exist in one’s past, and you can either remember it nostalgically, or make the physical effort to return to the same location where you once found bliss.

Since the late 1800’s, there have been many accounts by westerners of this little-explored region of earth and it’s philosophies, until during the 60’s it blossumed into an international cultural movement, generally called The New Age. The allure of the Himilayas and it’s mountain people have had a profound effect on western civilization, whether intentional or not. This story was an early entry that added fuel to that fire.

Nominated for 7 Academy Awards for 1937, including picture (a year when there were 10 nominations, the winner being The Life of Emile Zola), it won two, for film editing and art direction.

1 comments:

Restaurant Bruges January 9, 2012 at 12:42 AM  

a very nice and really a fun post such a amazing one i really like it a lot

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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