In the new Bright Lights Film Journal, Imogen Sara Smith offers a marvelous analysis of how Powell and Pressburger use narrative ellipses (and Roger Livesey) to very different ends in two different movies. Other highlights include Oren Shai’s tracking the changes of the Women in Prison genre, from silent-era message movies still experimenting with the form to the great ’70s run of knowing, politicized parodies nearly all produced by Roger Corman; and James MacEachern’s salute to Mickey Rooney, which nicely captures the almost incredulous amazement with which some of us apprehend the longest-active star in Hollywood history, and one of the best.
“You know, to a man with a heart as soft as mine, there’s nothing sweeter than a touching scene.” David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s analysis of The Man Who Knew Too Much—included in the first version of their textbook Film Art, dropped from subsequent editions—is presented by Criterion. Stimulated by its reappearance, Bordwell expands upon it at his own blog, touching on Hitchcock’s masterful use of set pieces and the film’s “vigorous reassertion of Englishness.”
Jerry Whyte’s long, circuitous survey of the influences on and critical reactions to Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc pays the best tribute one can to a masterpiece: an attempt to rip down the pre-conceptions that surround it, and marvel anew at the strange, lovely work that remains. Via John Wyver.
Richard Brody notes the horror that Birth of a Nation is so clearly the work of a great artist; with a lamentation towards the end that the same cultural forces behind Griffith’s racist imaginings kept any documentarians from picking up the new sound cameras and recording the testimonies of still-living former slaves.
Amanda Petrusich provides the story behind one of the more obscure recent additions to the National Film Registry: Melton Barker’s The Kidnapper’s Foil, remade in town after town for decades, the locals hit up for cash to include their children in the production. A cynical bit of hustle that’s emerged as an invaluable (and entirely inadvertent) record of forgotten small towns all across America. Several versions of the film can be viewed here.
“To whom does that ringing cellular phone belong? I use “whom” accurately and don’t end sentences on prepositions because I’m an English professor. I’ll just walk toward the sound and eventually locate its source. I can’t imagine it’s that Midwestern freshman, who is currently squirming in her seat with perspiration dotting her brow.” At McSweeney’s, Teddy Wayne transcribes the opening lecture of every English professor in every movie ever made.
“I have had huge problems with the people who played in my previous films…. It is as if I should be in debt to them [the non-actors] forever. That’s why I think by working with professionals I could have had the best of two worlds. Now I wonder why I really did all that. Life could have been easier.” Interviewed by Iranian film critic Nima Hassani-Nasab, Abbas Kiarostami reveals how profoundly his notions of acting were transformed by working on Shirin. Translated by Fandor’s Ehsan Khoshbakht.
“It was kind of love at first sight, really. I mean the fact was, he loved you but the price was that you had to love him. But that wasn’t difficult in my case.” Terence Stamp recalls for Filmmaker’s Lauren Wissot how working with so many great directors at the start of his career—including Fellini, subject of the quote—instilled the confidence that got him through later, rougher patches.
“Madame, I can hold my own in any game of chance, with any amount you can count. I can figure odds and pay-offs before you can blink, and I can tell you how much the bartenders are stealing by looking at the empty bottles. It takes me a little longer to write it down formal.” Aptly titled tumblr Fuck Yeah Robert Altman has made available the script for The Presbyterian Church Wager; later, of course, renamed McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Click through for downloadable .pdf.
Soon to decorate a meeting room in the Swedish Film Institute Library: The wallpaper, recently rediscovered, that provided the working title for Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly.
“I therefore requested that Mr. Murdoch’s gigantic corporation might be so generous (with the money they’ve earned exploiting the pain and suffering of myself and my peers in their tabloids) as to supply me with a private jet to travel to Houston.” At Letters of Note, the response you get when Sean Penn asks for transportation to The Thin Red Line premiere, and you tell Sean Penn no.
Forsaking his usual tour of locations, Roland-François Lack peregrinates through the various permutations of Griffith, Godard, girl, gun.
“For the cover shot I was handed a matching lavendar [sic] umbrella, sweater and gloves—then told to look into the camera and smile. I wanted a reason to smile, and was not yet a good enough actress to invent one.” To celebrate Kim Novak’s 80th birthday, Life not only posted a fine selection of photos taken of the up-and-coming actress in 1956 by Leonard McCombe, but solicited her memories of the shoot.
Sheri Leblanc’s gallery of Hollywood actresses in tutus builds to the punchline you’d expect; I’d have gone with Lucille Ball’s gloriously unfeminine stretch at the barre, myself.
This Must Be The Place presents some beautifully colored storyboards Akira Kurosawa painted for an abandoned segment of Dreams. Spotted by Mubi, who also post on their site a short film made by David Lynch for a Parisian printshop.
The radical films of Japan’s Art Theater Guild were promoted with posters no less beguiling and unorthodox, as Adrian Curry’s gathering confirms.
Video: “There’s a whole lot of things going on in this, and plenty of room to dream.” Paris Photo, hub of an annual photography exhibit, has decided to celebrate each year’s show by publishing a book featuring favorites selected by guest artists. Inaugural duties fell to David Lynch (thus explaining his video short posted above); the LA Review of Books presents a short video of him explaining some of his choices, including a Joel-Peter Witkin praised above.
Alan Sharp, the Scottish-born screenwriter who wrote two of the films that define seventies American filmmaking—Robert Aldrich’s Ulzana’s Raid and Arthur Penn’s Night Moves—passed away at the age of 79. He also wrote The Hired Hand for Peter Fonda, The Osterman Weekend for Sam Peckinpah, and the 1995 Rob Roy. More from Ronald Bergan at The Guardian.
Another round of “Framing Pictures,” a lively conversation about the current cinema with Seattle film critics Robert Horton, Richard Jameson, Kathleen Murphy, and Bruce Reid, takes place at NWFF on Friday, February 15. The event is free and the conversation begins at 5pm.
Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 celebrates its 50th anniversary with a week-long run at Grand Illusion in a 35mm print.
Castles in the Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata and the Masters of Studio Ghibli makes a return engagement to The Uptown with 35mm prints of 10 films from Ghibli, the studio created by animation master Hayao Miyazaki, and a new digital print of Grave of the Fireflies. They play over the next week in both original Japanese language and English dub versions. I profiled the original series for Seattle Weekly last year: “Miyazaki believes that children deserve stories with depth and emotional complexity, as well as imagination and excitement—and that’s what he delivers.” Complete schedule here.
“The Great Cinematic Clown Pierre Étaix” retrospective concludes on Thursday, February 21, with his final feature, the documentary Land of Milk and Honey. At NWFF.
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.