Girish Shambu’s indespensible link round-up spots the second issue of Desistfilm. While the journal has an academic bent, its manner is more light-hearted and free-associative than most, whether in Claudia Siefen’s wondering of which Tom Mix films would have most appealed to acknowledged fan Ludwig Wittgenstein or John A. Riley’s attempt to rehabilitate Frank Zappa’s reputation as an experimental filmmaker (which he mostly pulls off, though the attempt to discern Zappa’s influence shows some strain). There’s also a refreshingly forthright interview with Lav Diaz (“Artists can be demons sometimes. You’re a fraud. You have to accept that you are like that.”), and a collection of Japanese underground and independent films reviewed by the staff.
Also from Shambu comes Adrian Martin’s look at hand-holding in movies, and a great Astaire-Charisse duet from The Bandwagon practically built upon its withholding.
Ever the diligent teacher, David Bordwell uses even his Vancouver Festival write-ups to urge us toward a larger point: whether the way patterns can impose order on seemingly drifting narratives; the use and aesthetics of long takes; or just the underappreciated pleasure of films that introduce us to unfamiliar artists. Kristin Thompson’s bookending dispatches are less pedagogical, but no less enraptured by the views of a world made available on your neighborhood’s multiplex screens.
While most of us greeted Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize by promising ourselves to get around to reading him someday, Richard Brody’s already ferreted out a movie connection beyond Red Sorghum, translating excerpts from a 2005 Le Monde article by the writer on the emotional devastation with which Chinese audiences greeted the North Korean film The Flower Girl (written, of course, by Kim Jong-il), spurred by the national nightmare from which they were still emerging.
Imogen Smith doesn’t so much review or summarize Renoir’s Toni as perfectly capture some half-dozen scenes whose heightened imagery confirms her argument that the film’s influences on neorealism matter less than its “vivid sensuality born from the alchemy of documentary naturalism and unabashed artistry.”
David Kalat concludes his argument for the introduction of sound as a boon to comedy by contrasting the rude-and-crude class transgressions of Making a Living with the more complex ironies dialogue made available to His Girl Friday.
David Davidson translates Serge Daney’s first three articles for Cahiers du Cinéma; his overview of Donsky and review of Tashlin’s Who’s Minding the Store? are well worth reading, but it’s the brief description of Douglas Sirk’s stage direction of Ionesco (“The stage set is fantastique [it reminds us of the house in Written on the Wind] full of unreal purple tints”) that most tantalizes.
At Film Quarterly, Mark Sinker and Rob White discuss Marker’s A Grin Without a Cat, finding it a wilder, stranger film, more comic and tragic both, than ideologues have time
John Anderson’s profile of Ross McElwee emphasizes what he learned from his film program at M.I.T. and instructors Richard Leacock and Ed Pincus—and the unique Southern literary flair he brought to the table himself.
“I never give [actors] any explanations, it doesn’t matters what their specificities are, they are not given any clue in general. I think there is nothing more harmful than [sic] an actor than extra information, unnecessary information.” Abbas Kiarostami on film vs. video, shooting overseas, and more, interviewed by Mubi’s Daniel Kasman. Related: Kiarostami designed (and took the photographs for, if I understand correctly) the current issue of Zoetrope magazine. While the texts aren’t available without purchase (so no link to the play that inspired Beasts of the Southern Wild—though Lucy Alibar’s brief account of how it became a screenplay is here), clicking on the articles will show you the accompanying, serenely beautiful, photos.
“A typical day might have been roller skating, then buck-board driving, then riding and then maybe shooting with blanks and then maybe a band rehearsal.” Bruce Bennett celebrates one aspect of Heaven’s Gate that’s never needed reevaluation: the marvelous score by 24-year-old composer David Mansfield.
“Well I hope that you’re happy with what you’ve made/in the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Leah Churner looks back at David Byrne’s True Stories and judges the film remarkably prescient not just in its boxy, clean-lined, suburban aesthetic but for the specific prediction it made about the impermanence of its locations, now almost all built over and redeveloped out of existence. Noted by Criterion.
Also via Criterion, two playful (no, really) bits of ’80s ephemera by Antonioni: a music video that shuffles through movie genres, and a commercial featuring a Renault driving down a road that could be a sidestreet in Tati’s Playtime.
Life presents a gallery of Allan Grant’s celebrity photographs, which convey a vibrant immediacy whether they’re backstage shots of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly snapped on the fly or as staged as a hundred Shelley Winters smiling at you from mirrored walls.
The Morlocks’s Kimberly Lindberg spotlights one of the House of Horror’s secret weapons: the elegantly lurid poster art of Tom Chantrell, which was sometimes enough to sell Hammer films overseas before the movies themselves had been made. Don’t miss the last image, Chantrell’s posing, teeth bared and fists raised angrily to the heavens, in a reference photo for Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.
Harris Savides, one of the great cinematographers of our day, was equally adept on a small, fast and loose shoot with limited technical resources (Gus Van Sant’s Gerry and Elephant, Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding) as on a technically demanding and exacting production (David Fincher’s Zodiac). He passed away at the far-too-young age of 55. Kevin Jaggernauth remembers the artist and the art for IndieWire, with some favorite clips. More collected by the indispensible David Hudson at Fandor’s Daily.
We just learned that Turhan Bey, former B-movie star nicknamed “The Turkish Delight,” died last week. The Viennese-born son of a Turkish father and a Czech mother had a boyish face and an exotic look that landed him roles as Arabs (Arabian Nights), Asians (Dragon Seed), and all manner of foreign villains, notably in the title role of the cult noir The Amazing Mr. X (aka The Spiritualist). He retired to Vienna and passed away at on September 30 at the age of 90. Ronald Bergan at The Guardian.
Alex Karras, the former Detroit Lion football star turned actor who memorably played Mongo in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles and James Garner’s bodyguard in Victor/Victoria, passed away at the age of 77. Most obituaries focus on his impressive sports career; the A.V. Club recalls the actor.
The 17th Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, which opened Thursday night at the Cinerama, plays through Sunday, October 21 at Northwest Film Forum, The Egyptian Theater, Pacific Place, and Central Cinema. Complete line-up here, and Brian Miller has a preview at Seattle Weekly.
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Three Colors” trilogy plays at The Uptown, beginning Monday, October 15 and playing through Thursday, October 18. Schedule and ticket information here. I wrote up a capsule for Seattle Weekly but also reviewed the films in more depth for Turner Classic Movies last year.
Grand Illusion’s “All Monsters Attack” October series continues with a pair of Roger Corman-produced horror comedies that teams up Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff: The Raven and The Comedy of Terrors.
Opening in theaters this week: Ben Affleck’s superb Argo (which should immediately jump into the lead of the Oscar race) and the overheated The Paperboy with Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey.
The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries and Seattle Screens curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.