Retrospective Looks at Filmmaker's Blunt, Original Style
NEW YORK — SAMUEL FULLER, the director of "White Dog," has spent much of his career making "programmers" intended for double bills in drive-ins and other modest theaters, but has filmed them with such style and imagination that entire books have been written about his work.Critics like to use the word "primitive" when describing Mr. Fuller's films - in the sense of "basic" and "not derivative" more than "crude" or "rough," although the latter adjectives aren't entirely out of place. Titles such as "The Crimson Kimono" and "The Naked Kiss" sum up the blunt impact of his style and his stories, which run the gamut from mystery yarn ("Shock Corridor") and war movie ("The Steel Helmet") to cold-war melodrama ("Pickup on South Street") and Freudian western ("Forty Guns)." What c ounts is the way Fuller has turned each of these genres to his own purposes. One commentator has compared his first picture, "I Shot Jesse James," with Carl Dreyer's masterpiece "The Passion of Joan of Arc," in terms of both visual concentration and dramatic intensity. Fuller's budgets have usually been low - his first picture with substantial funding, "The Big Red One," appeared more than 30 years into his career - but their originality has always been high. He writes his own scripts (occasionally with a partner, such as "White Dog" collaborator Curtis Hanson) and bases many of his story ideas on events he witnessed or heard about during earlier careers as a journalist and soldier. He now lives and works in Paris. The engagement of "White Dog" at Film Forum inaugurates a month-long Fuller retrospective including all of his Hollywood films, movies he wrote for other directors, and three films about him and his work. Included on the program is the premiere of his latest film, "Street of No Return," starring Keith Carradine and Bill Duke.