The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of July 22

‘A Touch of Zen’

Among the new Criterion releases, a pair of films that engage history and/or national myth with radical, indelibly modern style. David Bordwell outlines many of the innovations that make King Hu’s A Touch of Zen so different from its supposedly less “classical” contemporaries. (“This long opening not only builds up curiosity but also asks us to enjoy the visual values of Hu’s sumptuous costuming, chiaroscuro sets, and widescreen compositions full of graceful character movement. In one shot, the mysterious stranger dodges out of sight. Why? The monks’ saffron robes ease into the frame as a subdued burst of color in the pale street landscape, setting up a motif that reaches fruition, ninety minutes later, when golden blood streaks down a sash.”) While James Quandt finds Muriel the culmination of Resnais’s denied but obvious fascination with time and memory. (“Like the man who asks where the center of the city is only to be told that he is already in it, Muriel’s viewer may be left grasping for narrative and temporal coordinates. The film’s anxious, shardlike editing—Resnais claimed that the cuts numbered close to a thousand, though others have subtracted a hundred or two from that total—detailed in Cayrol’s script and ostentatiously announced by that initial cubist fusillade, further confounds the sense of duration and chronology, despite the scenario’s linear, symmetrical five-act structure. With its disorienting ellipses, compressions, attenuations, and its obsessive repetitions, Muriel anticipates the “shattered time” of that other Resnais masterpiece 1968’s Je t’aime, je t’aime but, without the latter’s memory machine and use of flashbacks, can be all the more confounding.”)

If any question remained of Leo McCarey’s place in the pantheon, MoMA’s retrospective of the director should finally put paid to any respectful but ultimately dismissive appreciations of him as an impeccable craftsman. The series has Nick Pinkerton considering the contradictions of McCarey’s career, and the beautiful music he could coax, both out of his onset piano, played during down time, and his actors on the screen. (“McCarey was parochial and universal. His approach was, as the saying goes, “revolutionary,” though like more than a few revolutionary artists he found the prospect of actual revolution abhorrent. He was both devout Catholic and a right-winger—and a sharp satirist of the institutions which he held dear.”) For Aaron Cutler, the humanism he showed for all his characters is paramount. (“McCarey was fundamentally a comic filmmaker, and he used comedy to help create sympathy and compassion for basic human efforts. Humor often arises through the beautiful personal recognitions that take place for the characters in his films—the small, wordless instances of revelations in which peoples’ faces show realizations that their entire lives have changed.”) While a 2012 essay on Ruggles of Red Gap has Dan Sallitt tracing McCarey’s character-based, observational humor back to his silent days. (“It’s fascinating that McCarey sweats over a scene like this as if he were still building laughs for Laurel & Hardy, even as he fully exploits the benefits of dialogue to craft detailed and unusual characterisations. One doesn’t feel a clash between particularised observation and the universal language of gags and comic effects – perhaps because McCarey finds ways of placing even individualised traits in a universal context.”)

The Incredible Shrinking Man

“Yet even in this gaudy company, The Incredible Shrinking Man stands out as one of the more ingenious, unsettling, and durable movies of its kind. At once elaborately designed and structurally austere, the movie, as with the greatest in its genre (whether you use Vampyr or Night of the Living Dead as a touchstone), feels like an improbable dream that oozes into your waking consciousness and seems somehow more “real” than any number of grittier, down-to-Earth melodramas.” Gene Seymour praises Jack Arnold’s masterpiece, and the William Matheson novel (and script) it honored by playing straight.

“Rohmer first conceived of The Green Ray after seeing the following classified ad: “I am beautiful. I am from Biarritz. I should please, and men pay no attention to me, why?” He combined this with his childhood memories of reading Jules Verne’s The Green Ray, a romance of the Scottish highlands in which a young girl avoids romance until she can see the titular ray, a flash of light that occurs after the sun sets…. The film takes the lonely yearning of the classified ad and the mystical romance of the Verne novel and combines it into the character of Delphine, created together by Rohmer and actress Marie Rivière.” R. Emmet Sweeney’s summer with Rohmer reaches the triumph of The Green Ray, with an interesting recounting of its unique shooting circumstances.

The Green Ray, aka Summer

The Atlantic offers unironic appreciation for one facet of bad movies, and wholesale condemnation of the entertainment industry-government collaboration that girds some supposedly good ones. For Lenika Cruz, the amateurish, foreign-born creators of The Room, Birdemic, and Samurai Cop all have a better understanding of the importance of American small talk, even its non sequiturs, than more “talented” domestic writers. (“The appeal of these particular B-movies, rather, lies in the filmmakers’ strenuous efforts to overcome not just a linguistic barrier, but also a fundamentally cultural one. In daily American life, small talk is at best a mindless, learned habit; at worst, it’s evidence of a vapid society. But filtered through an outsider perspective, this social nicety—intended to be, well, nice and unobtrusive—becomes something horrible, conspicuous, and often hilarious.”) While Nicholas Schou (who unfortunately is another critic willfully missing the point of Zero Dark Thirty) recounts the history of the CIA focusing on its brand, with Hollywood insiders more than willing to compromise their portraits of the agency in exchange for access. (“[CIA officer John Kiriakou] would regularly bump into a parade of Hollywood types, including Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. He often wondered why these actors were allowed to walk around a top-secret facility. ‘Because he’s going to be playing a CIA guy in a movie? That’s the criteria now? You just have to be a friend of the agency and you can come in and walk around? In the meantime, people who are undercover are having to walk through the halls with their hands over their faces because these people aren’t cleared. It’s insane.’”)

“As a fifteen-year-old Pop Art aficionado wandering through the Whitney Museum’s 1964 Sculpture Annual, I discovered Conner’s work in the form of the assemblage Couch. There was no warning. It was like rounding a corner and bumping into Death or seeing the title Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! on a 42nd Street marquee. I couldn’t believe my eyes.” J. Hoberman visits MoMA’s Bruce Conner retrospective and reencounters a prolific, multifaceted artist who virtually invented the collage film—as well as the modern music video—and captured as well as any artist the fear and anxiety of living under the age of The Bomb.

Ivan Passer’s ‘Intimate Lighting’

“Before the clampdown, Milos and I got together to discuss how in this godforsaken country we could make good movies. We took a piece of paper and we wrote down several points like ‘it should be a comedy,’ because the Communist Party and the censorship were more tolerant with comedies. ‘It should be shot outside of the studio, in the streets,’ because they would not look over our shoulder that much. ‘We will use non actors’ and ‘We will use natural light.’” Ivan Passer talks with Ronald Bergan about the filming of his sole Czech feature, Intimate Lighting, and how the experience prepared him for working with the “little Stalins” of America.

“I thought a campaign was like drifting downriver on a raft, where everything is beautiful: then you begin to hear the roar of the falls up ahead, but it’s too late. You go over the falls, you lose yourself, you become eternally confused by the difference between yourself and who your public thinks you are. And it’s a disarming, dissociative experience. And Redford played that very well: the better McKay gets at campaigning, the more he loses himself.” Steve Macfarlane talks with Jeremy Larner, Oscar-winning scriptwriter for The Candidate, about translating his real life experiences on the McCarthy campaign into fiction, collaborating with Ritchie and Redford, his lack of a subsequent career (he couldn’t play the game as well as his pal Robert Towne, basically), and our current, dismal election season.

Obituary

Garry Marshall

Garry Marshall was a major force in American comedy for over half a century. He began by writing for the sitcoms Make Room for Daddy, The Lucy Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show, developed the TV version of The Odd Couple, and created the hit TV shows Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Mork & Mindy. He made his big screen directorial debut with the Airplane-esque Young Doctors in Love (1982) and went on to direct 18 films in all, including Overboard (1987), Beaches (1988), Pretty Woman (1990), Frankie and Johnny (1991), and The Princess Diaries (2001). And he even made a few appearances as an actor, notably a casino owner in Albert Brooks’ Lost in America (1985). He passed away this week at the age of 81. Bruce Weber at The New York Times and Hector Elizondo, who appeared in every one of Marshall’s feature films, remembers his best friend.

Hector Babenco was born in Argentina and made his home in Brazil, where he directed documentaries and features, including Lucio Flavio (1977), a hit in Brazil, and Pixote (1981), which brought him international attention and awards from the New York, Los Angeles, and Boston film critics. He earned an Oscar nomination and directed William Hurt to an Academy Award for his English-language debut Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), an independent American production based on a novel by Argentinian author Manuel Puig, and directed Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep in Ironweed (1987). After At Play in the Field of the Lord (1991), he took time off to fight lymphatic cancer, then returned to Argentina for Foolish Heart (1998) and Brazil for Caradiru (2003). His final film My Hindu Friend (2015) stars Willem Dafoe as a film director dying of cancer. Babenco died of a heart attack at the age of 70. Ronald Bergan for The Guardian.

V.F. Perkins was an influential film scholar and the author of Film as Film (1972), one of the great books of cinema studies, passed away at the age of 80 last week. Reported by Catherine Grant, who created this tribute at Film Studies for Free.

Seattle Screens is on Parallax View here.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries and Seattle Screens curated by Sean Axmaker

Review: Lights Out

Lights Out

YouTube is bursting at the seams with horror shorts, the vast majority of which traffic in the same old jump scares and photoshopped demon faces. David F. Sandberg’s Lights Out, however, managed to distinguish itself from the lurching masses, brilliantly capitalizing on its limitations to present one indelibly shivery concept: namely, a silhouette that creeps closer whenever the lights go off. The James Wan-produced feature-length expansion can’t match the compressed primal frisson of the original, but it contains more than enough flickeringly lit yelps to justify its existence. How many variations can be successfully run on the same gag? Quite a few, as it turns out.

Continue reading at Portland Mercury

Seattle Screens: Noir City returns, King Hu at the Uptown, and more Seattle film events

Noir City returns to Seattle, after going on the run in 2015, for a week-long program at The Egyptian titled “Film Noir from A to B.” “The satellite festivals were growing around the country at such a rate that I wanted to take a break from Seattle with the expectation that we would return there bigger and better than ever,” explains Film Noir Foundation founder and Noir City MC Eddie Muller. “My idea for coming back and retooling was to—and this is the first place in the country that I’ve done this—do “Film Noir From A to B” matching an “A” film from a particular year with a “B” film from the same year, to try and recreate a microcosm of film noir in one series. Which I have found is a pretty amusing thing to do.” One exception: Tuesday is “the Edith Head show. The wardrobes for both of those films were designed by Edith Head.” Seattle authors (and film noir obsessives) Vince and Rosemary Keenan will cohost the evening and do a book signing for their debut novel Design for Dying, which features Edith Head as a detective.

The program opens in 1940/1941 with I Wake Up Screaming (seriously one of the greatest titles ever for a film noir) and Stranger on the Third Floor, which has been called the first true film noir by many historians, and it ends with a newly-struck print of Southside 1-1000 (1950), directed by Boris Ingster, who began the fest with Stranger. It presents the Seattle premiere of two Film Noir Foundation restorations—The Guilty (1947) and Woman on the Run (1950)—and six films that are unavailable on home video (disc, streaming, or VOD)—Dr. Broadway (1942), Night Editor (1947), The Guilty, Desert Fury (1947), The Reckless Moment (1949), and Southside 1-1000. All films screened on 35mm. I wrote a preview for The Stranger here.

New restorations of Chinese filmmaker King Hu’s influential Dragon Inn (1967) and sublime A Touch of Zen (1970), considered a masterpiece of Chinese cinema, play for three days only this weekend at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

NWFF and Scarecrow Video present selections from Kino’s Pioneers of African-American Cinema, a box set of rare preserved and restored films from African-American filmmakers, most of them produced between 1915 and 1946. This is a members-only event for NWFF and Scarecrow $100+ members on Wednesday, July 27 at Northwest Film Forum.

Filmmaker Bob Hannam will be on hand to show his documentary The Colossus of Destiny: A Melvin’s Tale on Saturday and Sunday at Grand Illusion.

“Cinememory: Negotiating the Past Through Film” is a program of local and international experimental films, presented by Emerald Reels at Grand Illusion on Tuesday, July 26.

Legend (1986), Ridley Scott’s fantasy starring Tom Cruise, plays on Saturday, July 23 at NWFF as part of the Puget Soundtrack series. Screened from Blu-ray with a live score by Lazer Kitty.

And on Thursday, July 28, Puget Soundtrack presents Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) with a live score by Fungal Abyss, also at NWFF. Digital presentation.

Fathom Events presents the original Planet of the Apes (1968) on big screen in select theaters across the country for two nights this week: Sunday, July 24 and Wednesday, July 27. You can find participating theaters in your area here.

The animated feature Batman: The Killing Joke, produced for Warner Home Video, plays one night only before its disc and digital release in numerous theaters in and around Seattle on Monday, July 25.

The Seattle Art Museum summer film series Cary Grant for President continues with Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), directed by Frank Capra. It screens on Thursday, July 28 at 7:30pm at Plestcheeff Auditorium and is shown on 35mm. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis. Details here.

Openings:

César Augusto Acevedo’s Caméra d’Or winning film Land and Shade plays for a week at Grand Illusion.

The documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You and the Israeli psychological drama Tikkun play for a week at SIFF Film Center.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

Review: Café Society

Café Society

In Annie Hall, Los Angeles is “a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.” That was 40 years and 40 Woody Allen movies ago, and the humor that worked back then—L.A.’s mind-set summed up thus: “I’m going to have the alfalfa sprouts and plate of mashed yeast”—has mellowed with time. For Café Society, Allen remains skeptical about La-La Land, but this portrait of a New York lad trying his luck in 1930s Hollywood is sticky with nostalgia: wrapped in lush costuming, honeyed by golden California light, and scored to the vintage toe-tappers that Allen continues to love. Satirical arrows are dutifully aimed, but the overall gorgeousness makes the target a soft one.

The lad is Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), whose Uncle Phil (Steve Carell in a good turn) has become a successful movie agent. Bobby gets stuck with menial jobs, but he’s able to observe chic pool parties and meet movers and shakers.

Continue reading on Seattle Weekly

Noir City 2016: Existential Dread and Urban Corruption

Victor Mature in ‘I Wake Up Screaming’

After going on the lam for a year, Noir City is back in Seattle, and this time it takes up residency at SIFF Cinema Egyptian (is there a movie house better suited to noir atmosphere?) and expands to 18 films in seven days (July 22–28).

Why does noir hold such a fascination in 2016? There’s the style and energy and Damon-Runyon-gone-to-seed repartee of tough guys and brassy dames, of course. There’s something cathartic about wallowing in the bad decisions and bad behavior of bad guys and bad dames scheming and cheating in the dark corners of the urban jungle, too. But pulp-fiction pleasures aside, the films are dangerous and daring and savvy thanks to a combination of desperation and pessimism, and the implied sex and violence that filmmakers snuck past the censors of the time. Even audiences too jaded for the quaint conventions of old Hollywood movies are captivated by noir portraits of existential dread and urban corruption. These disillusioned portraits of the American dream gone sour are, at their best, too jaded to believe their own studio-mandated happy endings. They may look nostalgic, but they sure feel like a reflection of our own anxious times.

Continue reading at The Stranger

Blu-ray: ‘Batman v Superman’ – Dawn of the DCU

BatmanvSuperThe smartest thing about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition (Warner, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, Ultra HD Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, VOD) is its revisionist take on the destruction that concluded Man of Steel, Zach Snyder’s reboot of Superman as a harder, more troubled hero in a darker big screen superhero universe than previous incarnations. After an unnecessary (but at least relatively brief) recap of the origin of Batman laid under the opening credits, we are plunged back into the battle and this time Superman (Henry Cavill) is not the protagonist. This perspective comes from the ground. He’s simply an agent of destruction in the sky as Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck with a hint of stubble and gray in the temples) roars through the street in what is surely, at least under the hood, the civilian answer to the Batmobile. Man of Steel quite rightly was slammed for its insensitive portrait of epic destruction in an urban center without a thought for the victims below and Snyder, in all his heavyhanded Olympian grandeur, seemed just as oblivious as Superman. Both were so caught up in the personal fight with the demons of Krypton that neither could be bothered to notice civilians crushed like ants in a battle of the titans.

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Review: Day for Night

[Originally published in Movietone News 30, March 1974]

Truffaut’s Day for Night is a delight. It’s a film about some people making a film, with Truffaut himself playing the film-within-a-film’s director, but there’s only a little cinematic selfconsciousness in it. Above all, it is a very charming entertainment. Few, if any, of Truffaut’s films have had such a heady feeling of joy and pleasure all the way through. And few, if any, of the various films made about filmmakers and filmmaking have been so self-effacing. Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Jean-Pierre Aumont and Valentina Cortese play the actors in the film of one M. Ferrand (Truffaut) and each to some extent has been given a role (in Day for Night) which evokes his “real-life” image. But while Truffaut gives the Ferrand character three dream sequences in which a small boy—Ferrand and/or Truffaut as child?—steals some Citizen Kane stills from a theater display, the film is not really Truffaut’s 8 1/2.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of July 15

The Big Mouth

The new Senses of Cinema arrives with dossiers on Twin Peaks, Rivette, and the topic I’m going to start with (so sue me), Jerry Lewis. There are articles on all of the twelve features Lewis directed, as well as pieces on The Day the Clown Cried and Robert Benayoun’s legendary six-hour collage documentary Bonjour Mr. Lewis (“Letting sketches run for four or five minutes at a stretch diffuses Benayoun’s line of reasoning so that what his series eventually proposes is less the illustration of a thesis about Lewis than a blossoming, exploratory drift through his career”). Some of the more interesting articles, as always, concern lesser-discussed films, like Steven Shaviro tracing the Lewisian slippages of identity within the Hitchcockian frame of The Big Mouth (“When Lewis himself plays someone who is boringly normal, his comedic mannerisms are all transmitted to others”) or Daniel Fairfax making the auteurist argument for the most critically ignored of Lewis’s features, One More Time (“If the plot description I gave earlier sounds rather conventional, this does not account for the numerous digressions, non sequiturs and extended gag-sequences that are scattered throughout the film—another aspect that betrays the Lewis touch”). Not that, say, Scott Bukatman on The Nutty Professor (“The surfeit of resolutions of the Kelp/Love dichotomy unsuccessfully masks the fact that there is no resolution at all”) or Murray Pomerance on The Ladies Man (“It is in this set revealed as itself that Herbert finally emerges to head downstairs, with the effect that Lewis’s character inhabits not—or not only—a fictive space but a practical one as well, and both simultaneously”) aren’t terrific reads on their own. And Chris Fujiwara has updated his nonpareil overview of Lewis’s filmography for the journal’s Great Directors section.

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Seattle Screens: NWFF brings the filmmakers

Lewis Klahr’s ‘Sixty-Six’

NWFF is bringing the filmmakers this week. On Friday, July 15, Lewis Klahr presents his feature-length stop motion anthology Sixty-Six (2002-2015), on Saturday, July 16, filmmaker and musicians Rob Beloved & Eleni Binge present their theater/film/comedy/music hybrid #comments along with performances by local bands Black Giraffe and Ichi Bichi, and on Thursday, July 21, Robert Greene accompanies his 2014 fiction/documentary hybrid Actress.

Hong Sang-soo’s Right Now, Wrong Then, winner of the Golden Leopard at Locarno, plays through Sunday at NWFF.

Life, Animated, a documentary about a father using Disney movies to communicate with his autistic son, opens at Uptown and at Seven Gables.

Also at the Uptown is the Israeli comedy The Kind Words, and the documentary NUTS! from filmmaker Penny Lane opens at SIFF Film Center.

The documentary Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt opens for a week at Sundance Cinemas, and the Mexican wresting documentary Lucha Mexico opens for a week at Grand Illusion.

A new restoration of Lucio Fulci’s Lizard in a Woman’s Skin plays at Grand Illusion on Friday and Saturday. Projected from the new Mondo Macabro Blu-ray, and Mondo Macabro will be there on Saturday night.

Also at Grand Illusion this week is Industrial Musicals, a collection of rare musical promotion films produced for corporate retreats and events, curated and presented by Steve Young. One night only on Thursday, July 21.

David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) plays at the Seattle Art Museum in a 35mm print, along with some Lynch shorts, on Wednesday, July 20.

The Seattle Art Museum summer film series Cary Grant for President continues with The Philadelphia Story (1940), co-starring Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart. It screens on Thursday, July 21 at 7:30pm at Plestcheeff Auditorium and is shown on 35mm. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis. Details here.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

Review: Captain Fantastic

Viggo Mortensen and family in ‘Captain Fantastic’

In Captain Fantastic, the winner of this year’s SIFF Golden Space Needle award, Viggo Mortensen has found a role that fits his own reluctant image as a movie star. His character, Ben, withdrew from society years ago to enjoy a communal hippie-hang in the Washington woods. He and wife Leslie (Trin Miller) went off the grid for political and philosophical reasons, and the couple has raised a brood of children whose survivalist expertise outstrips their knowledge of everyday life in the outside world. Ben is skeptical of the System, the Man, and other capitalized sources of authority; he wants to stay out of view and raise the kids as “philosopher-kings.” The favored life skills he has instilled in his family include killing deer with bow and arrow, rigging a water cistern, and playing musical instruments at night instead of gazing at TVs or laptops.

Not every actor could pull off this combination of Thoreau and MacGyver, but Mortensen is utterly credible—in part because the actor himself has so frequently seemed to withdraw from the camera’s gaze, even when he’s at the center of a movie.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: The Infiltrator

Bryan Cranston is… ‘The Infiltrator’!

It may be impossible to completely screw up an undercover cop movie, with the very nature of the premise guaranteeing some vicarious hopscotching over the morality line. Judged on plot alone, The Infiltrator is a solid, mid-level walk on the seedy side, with enough based-on-fact dirty business to hold the interest. When you factor in a terrific-even-for-him lead performance by Bryan Cranston, however, it zooms up the ranks into something well worth leaving the couch for.

Continue reading at Portland Mercury

Summer of ‘91: Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘Point Break’

Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in ‘Point Break’

In the summer of 1991, the received wisdom on Kathryn Bigelow—especially in the wake of Point Break—was that she was a rising star, making a mark on Hollywood where other women directors had not, by applying her talent to traditional action genres. Here was a woman who made men’s films, not women’s, and was rewarded for it by both critics and the box office.

Those turned out to be half-truths. Today, anyone who’s been paying attention can see that in adopting the male gaze, and in making two films in which women barely mattered and one in which they barely appeared, Bigelow wasn’t selling out, but was illuminating more about women than a dozen “women’s movies” ever could. It wasn’t about making it in a man’s world; it was about confronting and puncturing the eternally adolescent self-importance of “men’s work”—sabotaging not only the buddy action movie, but the whole testosterone-soaked world of moviemaking both on screen and off.

Continue reading at Slant

Review: I.F. Stone’s Weekly

[Originally published in Movietone News 31, April 1974]

After nearly being consigned to oblivion by its would-be distributors, I.F. Stone’s Weekly was withdrawn by its creator, 26-year-old Jerry Bruck, and rereleased for a small engagement in Washington, D.C. Its popularity led to a New York showing, and then a San Francisco run which broke all records for the exhibiting house. Bruck and his modest, 62-minute, black-and-white documentary have unpredictably become the sensation of the year. How to explain the phenomenon? Certainly not in terms of cinematic achievement, for there are no particularly new or inventive techniques employed in the film. In fact, Bruck frequently indulges in some rather worn ones (an Amherst ceremony honoring Stone is intercut with a Marine Corps parade honoring Lyndon Johnson and news footage of napalm bombings in Vietnam, while the Amherst choir sings on), and uses them sometimes unfairly, as when he loads the dice in Stone’s favor with news film of Ron Ziegler and Tom Jarriel playing tennis under the watchful eye of Tricia Nixon Cox while Stone’s voice describes how mainstream journalists play ball with the White House. Not that the device doesn’t work. It’s good for a jolt—which is precisely why it shouldn’t have been used. Jarriel is one of the least collusive of Washington pressmen, and to resort to a misleading visual pun to indict him cheapens an otherwise solid film.

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Review: Joyce at 34

[Originally published in Movietone News 31, April 1974]

Joyce at 34, the half-hour personal film accompanying I.F. Stone’s Weekly at the Movie House, is touted as a feminist film. Believe me, the cause has had better exponents. This little piece of autobiography concerns the 34-year-old filmmaker’s decision to have both a baby and a career, and chronicles the first months of her life as a working mother. The film presents arguments for and against having both job and child in the form of ill-thought-out “soul-searching” and selfrighteous emotionalism insulting to the intelligent viewer. The conclusion is right, but the approach is both shabby and wrong. There is a lot more to feminism than a gaggle of self-serving yentas talking over coffee about raising children and finding jobs during the depression.

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Japanese Gangster Movie Freakout!

Tokyo Drifter

The explosion of Japanese gangster films in the 1960s was the great genre freakout of the era, and the rest of the world missed out on it for decades. While films by Kurosawa andKobayashi and Naruse played film festivals and art cinemas, and those by Oshima andImamura drove the Japanese New Wave, the domestic industry was turning out samurai movies and erotic dramas—which spawned the even more disreputable “pink films”—and colorful, high-energy gangster films. Where the samurai movie as a type had some cachet and international exposure, thanks to a decades-long history and a sense of being “the Japanese western,” the gangster movie was modern, urban, and immediate—a pop-culture response to economic anxiety and youth culture. At first these films failed to break out of the Asian market, either as arthouse curiosities or commercial genre artifacts. They were practically unknown in the west until the stateside “rediscovery” of Seijun Suzuki in the 1990s led fans to further exploration in the genre.

Nikkatsu, Japan’s oldest film studio, was the home of the nation’s wildest crime dramas and gangster thrillers of the sixties. They were shot quickly and cheaply, cast from a stock company of actors who would become genre icons (Jo Shishido, Testsuya Watari, Akira Kobayashi), and driven by the energy and anxiety and nihilism of the “sun tribe” genre of youth-gone-wild movies—Japan’s answer to the teen-rebel drama—that also proliferated in sixties. No one at Nikkatsu topped the insanely prolific Seijun Suzuki.

Continue reading at Keyframe