Among the highlights of the new Senses of Cinema, an excerpt from the expanded and freshly translated Fare un film (released in English as Fellini on Fellini) has the director explaining how his intimidation at becoming a director, fostered by the sight of Blasetti, imperious on a crane with “shiny leather boots, an Indian silk scarf around his neck, a helmet on his head, and three or four megaphones with twenty or so whistles around his neck,” evaporated once he toured the Italian countryside filming with Rossellini; Susan E. Linville on the complexities of the “squaw man” western, whose ‘50s variations, with their tendency to “counter the dominant image of the Western celluloid hero as a self-reliant, self-sufficient loner with images of cross-racial connection and interdependence, images that nudge legend a bit closer to history,” prove more progressive than their fatalistically anti-establishment descendants in the ‘70s and beyond; and Tom Ryan on three adaptations—from Stahl, Sirk, and Kevin Billington—of Cain’s The Root of His Evil, the looseness of the phrase adaptation in the context of Hollywood suggested by Sirk’s apparent misunderstanding
“The Bowery is a trampling, brawling, insensitive film, but there can never be any doubt that Walsh loves this scene, guys with names like “Googy Cochran from Joisey City” and “Mumbo,” German brewers speaking Katzenjammer Kids patois, and everything else that composes what Bill calls the ‘fine American mess.’” That’d be Gangs of New York’s Bill the Butcher, of course, and Nick Pinkerton, prompted by a BAMcinématek pairing, finds plenty to link the “gleefully offensive” films, with Fuller’s Park Row providing intermediating spackle.
At Fandor, Chris Marker’s legacy is celebrated with Sara Maria Vizcarrando’s career overview and Kevin B. Lee’s video experiment with Marker’s late masterpiece Remembrance of Things to Come. While Design Observer’s Rick Poynor explains how the director dazzled even outside his chosen medium, with an appreciation of the innovative layout of Marker’s script collection Commentaires 1.
Interleaving his long, flowing statements that tick off his arguments—example following example, grievance after grievance—with sharp, quick sentences that drive points home with punchy slang and insistent anaphora, Matt Zoller Seitz makes the case that film criticism will be immeasurably improved if critics start paying more (often, any) attention to form.
Case in point, Manny Farber, who knew from discussions of form (and punchy slang). David Bordwell’s second article on Farber finds some inspiration for his writing style in a bit of macho one-upmanship with Otis Ferguson and James Agee, and makes the interesting case that part of what led to Farber’s sea change on directors like Welles and Huston after the critic’s late-40s break from writing was a general turn in Hollywood of the period towards mannerist framing.
Bordwell, of course, previously examined the criticism of James Agee; at The LA Review, Ted Scheinman gathers a collection of Agee’s lesser-known writing for his twitter account. (“Computer says 1,865 souls now following me. A bitter, ugly number, which still does not include @SigFreud #showmeluv”)
A sense of how much control von Sternberg exerted over his poetic abstractions—remember his dissatisfaction, expressed to Peter Bogdanovich, with the water in The Saga of Anatahan, for being the only thing he didn’t create—can be gleaned from his chart of “emotional modalities” for the film, its thin trembling lines and inky doodles running down the page like an avant-garde musical score.
“Want to fight?” The latest Interiors, uncommonly attractive for even such a generally eye-catching publication, wittily diagrams the climactic combat from Only God Forgives as an overhead view of circles and failure.
“I don’t want to criticize these [Hollywood] action films too much because there’s a choreographer who has worked his ass off to do something really cool and interesting. There’s a guy with the pyrotechnics that has put so much care into thought and consideration into making sure everything goes off without a hitch and safely. These are guys risking their life with this stuff. So when they’re let down by shitty camerawork and an editor that really needs to drink less coffee, it’s annoying and frustrating.” Gareth Evans discusses how he avoided such compromises on The Raid 2: Berandal, and some of his upcoming projects, with Indiewire’s Drew Taylor.
“You are there to serve the film and you are there to serve [the director’s] image of women. Sometimes they just want you to resemble their wife, which is fine if that is their image of women. But sometimes you feel you know more about the character and the director blocks you. And then you become this sort of generic female.” Jacqueline Bisset on dealing with difficult directors and, unrelated, Abel Ferrara—no, really—with Kaleem Aftab.
“So the song [“Call Me”] was absolutely part of the movie, but at the same time it was part of the soundtrack. And my advantage, if you consider more classical composers like John Williams, who I think is the best, but he doesn’t write songs. But I write songs and the scores. So that’s a little bit of an advantage for me.” Giorgio Moroder, who apparently has never seen The Long Goodbye, talks about his film-scoring career with Jordan Cronk. Featuring several synth-drenched audio clips.
The Edit Room Floor presents some unseen photographs of Lee Marvin and John Vernon rehearsing the balcony scene from Point Blank; none, alas, documenting Boorman’s memorable tale of Marvin generating the necessary intimidation he was due from Vernon’s character by walking over and sucker punching the actor. Via Cinephilia & Beyond.
“Baravelli, is this your picture?” “I don’t think so. It no looka like me.” A voluminous collection of art depicting the Marx Brothers—appropriately mishmashed between high and low, encompassing magazine illustrations, posters, cereal box giveaways, album covers, and caricatures by Dali, Benton, Thurber, Friedman, and many, many more—is offered by Stephen Kroninger. Via David Hudson.
Audio: Derek Jarman himself hated his sole published collection of poetry, to the Kubrickian extent of rounding up and destroying all but five copies. But A Finger in the Fishes Mouth has just been reprinted, and the London Review Bookshop celebrated the event with a discussion whose panel includes Jarman’s partner Keith Collins and biographer Tony Peake, novelist Ali Smith, and academic Sophie Meyer, and a reading of the entire work (plus some unrelated, equally obscure verse). Scott Morris offers a review and defense of Jarman’s self-declared “puerile rubbish.” Spotted, like the Marx Brothers above, by David Hudson.
Chinese filmmaker and former studio head Wu Tianming passed away at the age of 74, reports the Chinese news agency Xinhua. He is best known for directing The Old Well (1986) and The King of Masks (1996), but as the chief of the Xian Film Studio in the 1980s, he helped cultivate the next generation of China’s filmmakers. Among the films he shepherded to the screen during his brief tenure as studio head are Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Horse Thief (1986), Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum (1987), and Chen Kaige’s King of the Children (1987). Margalit Fox for The New York Times.
American character actor James Rebhorn, who co-starred in dozens of films and most recently had significant recurring roles in the TV shows Homeland and White Collar, died at the age of 65. He penned his own obituary before he passed, a beautiful and touching tribute to the people who touched his own life. Here’s but one brief excerpt: “His children made him immensely proud. Their dedication to improving our species and making the world a better place gave him hope for the future. They deal with grief differently, and they should each manage it as they see fit. He hopes, however, that they will grieve his passing only as long as necessary. They have much good work to do, and they should get busy doing it.” You can read the entire obituary at Indiewire here.
The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.