The new issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review is dedicated to Classic Hollywood; which topic is interpreted in agreeably diverse fashion to include Anne Helen Petersen on the evolution of the PR game from the fake news reports on Florence Lawrence’s death to the age of Twitter and Tumblr; excerpts from Bret Lott’s biography-in-progress on Columbia’s Frank Price; Nina Revoyr recalling how her fascination with silent movie actors Mary Miles Minter and Sessue Hayakawa led to her novel “Age of Dreaming”; and Chip Hayes’s marvelous recollection of being a teenager on the set of Satan’s School for Girls. Even poetry, such as David Gioia’s “Film Noir,” distilling the genre in a charmingly incongruous sing-song rhythm (“Their eyes meet, and he can tell/It’s gonna be fun, but it won’t end well”). This being a literary journal, no real surprise that the highlights of their cinema issue focus on scriptwriters: an unearthed 1973 interview with Horton Foote, full of insights and anecdotes on his film work to that time; and David Kipen’s salute to Paul Dehn, supreme screenwriter of the Cold War spygame. Much more at the first link. Spotted by Longform.
Also new this week, the latest issue of film journal La Furia Umana, with a focus on Joseph H. Lewis including short pieces by Fredrik Gustafsson on the pain (physical and moral) central to his work; Robert Keser on Lewis’s low-budget inventiveness; and Fergus Daly on his links to Godard (less than you’d think). Among the longer articles, Paul Cuff emphasizes the humane and spiritual concerns that drove Abel Gance’s cinematic experiments, each “influenced as much by ancient mysticism as by modern science”; Will Scheibel looks at Ray’s three “Outlaw Couple” movies, They Live By Night, Johnny Guitar, and Party Girl; and Paul Douglas Grant recounts the national history and state censorship that informed the Filipino filmmaker Lino Brocka. Some flubs in translation (or possibly just poor writing) keep Emmanuel Herbulot’s article on Antonioni’s habit of interviewing artists during his pre-production stage from clicking together satisfactorily, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless.
“Walsh once said that he could never make a woman’s movie (“call up Bette Davis if you want!”). It may be because he was already doing them with men.” Tom Conley’s introduction to Harvard University’s Raoul Walsh retrospective is an excellent survey and defense of a “pantheon” career, only slightly tainted by interpretive overreach. Via Adam Cook.
“Sometimes, someday I somehow get the strangest notion they’re trying to break my spirit.” John Wyver reminds us that most works by one of Britain’s best directors, Alan Clarke, are unavailable for viewing, held up in the vaults of the BBC.
Tati’s Playtime is a marvelous auteurist triumph, a profound meditation on the modern world, but most of all, Sheila O’Malley insists, a damned funny film.
Cinema history’s fractal: The more you look the more wonders there are to uncover. As David Bordwell was recently reminded by a pair of shots from 1911’s The Mormon’s Victim that offer a remarkable composition for those paying attention.
“Manoel de Oliveira just reminded me the other day—when he saw this film—about his statue in the film, the statue of our first king, and he said, ‘it’s good to have statues in my film and your film because it’s the only way to talk properly in film about the human condition.’ Very enigmatic, but…. I’m just saying what he told me.” Andy Rector transcribes (with a link to the YouTube video in his comments) Pedro Costa’s remarks at the Tokyo Film Exposition about his upcoming film Historic Centre; the other two segments in this portmanteau film directed by Kaurismaki and Erice.
Miriam Ghani traces the filmed history of jeshn, Afghanistan’s national “independence day” celebrations, an exuberant jubilee in the nation’s first feature Like an Eagle, recast as a more sober affair by successive ruling governments.
Reviewing Marek Krajewski’s historical novel “Death in Breslaw” leads Rodger Jacobs to some thoughts on the intersections of Franz Kafka, film noir, and Orson Welles. Also in the LA Review, perhaps only tangentially related to movies but still an interesting read, Michael Z. Wise visits Curzio Malaparte’s Mediterranean house (immortalized of course in Godard’s Contempt) and relates how Malaparte’s literary reputation is being restored in part thanks to a volume of his works translated and (appropriately) edited by Walter Murch.
At Letters of Note, Sidney Poitier’s short, heartfelt request to President Roosevelt for funds so the busted actor could return home to the Bahamas. Thankfully for all of us, the White House sent no reply.
Jon Jost provides his latest update on the Ray Carney/Mark Rappaport scandal; which, basically, is that nothing has changed, so here’s some emails Carney sent displaying his double-faced underhandedness in all this.
The Walker Art Center’s Matt Levine finds a humane optimism in experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison’s collages of cinematic decay.
“To me, in the context of the movies I’ve been making, I’m far more interested in presenting something violent in a fight as if it is something you want to get out of the way of. To show that when you have two guys and like Andrei Arlovsky and Dolph Lundgren, two 6’5”, 250 lb. guys slugging it out with each other, that’s a really powerful, brutal thing that’s going on there.” Interviewed by Sara Freeman, John Hyams talks movie violence with the pragmatic clarity and moral complexity that have fostered his deserved cult following. Major spoilers for Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (which actually, yeah, is a big deal).
“I broke down and fell to the sidewalk, screaming to my pregnant wife, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing a movie about underground worms!’” With good-humored candor, Kevin Bacon unloads to the Telegraph’s Jane Mulkerrins about the limited cinematic options that led him to starring in television.
Adrian Curry rounds up some of his favorites from Polish poster (later Op Art) artist Wojciech Fangor.
Video: “Oh, how about some coffee? You know, drinks. Dinner! A MOVIE!” Vulture’s Julie Kausner highlights the limits of conventional casting by having Paul Giamatti join her in reading three scenes from romantic comedies.
Michael Winner, the British director who leapt from making energetic and interesting British social satires like The System ( aka The Girl-Getters) and The Jokers to a long relationship making action thrillers with Charles Bronson, passed away at the age of 77, after a long illness. He essentially launched the urban vigilante genre with Death Wish, which spawned a generation of knock-offs, but the flamboyant and outspoken director also made a name for himself as a British personality, and he spent years as a newspaper columnist and restaurant critic for the Sunday Times. More at BBC News.
Michael Haneke’s Amour, winner of the Palm D’or at Cannes and Best Film at the European Film Awards and currently nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director), opens at The Egyptian and Lincoln Square this week. It’s the last of the Best Picture nominees to open in Seattle. Kat Murphy reviews the film for MSN Movies: “A relentless and shattering masterwork, “Amour” breaks heart but satisfies soul.”
NWFF’s annual “Children’s Film Festival Seattle 2013,” which opened on Thursday, January 24, plays through January 31, spotlighting 120 features and shorts from over 35 countries, plus a Pajama Party with Caspar Babypants and a Pancake Breakfast. You can see the entire schedule at the festival’s website here.
SIFF’s Women in Cinema Festival continues through Sunday, January 27 at The Uptown. Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa, starring Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, and Alessandro Nivola, is the closing night film. Complete schedule and ticket information here.
Not officially part of “Women in Cinema” but a perfect bookend to the festival is a special showing of the Mary Pickford silent classic Sparrows. Christel Schmidt, editor of “Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies,” will present the film and sign copies of her book on Monday, January 29 at The Uptown. The restored 35mm print from the Library of Congress will be accompanied live by composer and conductor Dan Redfield.
Wagner & Me, a documentary with Stephen Fry attempting to reconcile his love of Wagner’s music with the racist legacy and Nazi associations of the composer, plays for a week at Grand Illusion.
Also opening this week: Quartet, the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman with Maggie Smith (Harvard Exit and Lincoln Square); My Worst Nightmare with Isabelle Hupper (The Uptown); Parker with Jason Statham taking the role previously played by both Lee Marvin and Mel Gibson (area theaters); and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters with Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton (area theaters).
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.