“How did you find America?” “Turned left at Greenland.” We pause our native readers’ patriotic reminiscences of 1776 to consider the British invasion of some 188 years later, when A Hard Day’s Night opened louder and brighter than any firework. Sam Kashner relates the making-of, including excerpts from a rare 2008 interview with Richard Lester (“I suspect that the documentary style was the most logical, because you didn’t particularly want acting classes for the four boys while we were actually filming”). While David Thomson looks back at the movie as only he can. (“The important thing, [screenwriter Alun Owen] felt, was to get their cheeky, snarky talk—the way any gang sounded, with much more familiarity than respect, needling, teasing, wisecracking, inflected with the amazed realization that they were the Beatles and everyone wanted them.”)
If you’ve forgotten (or had never heard), just as his critical reception was tilting towards complaints of megalomania and political naiveté, Emir Kusturica decided to found his own town, Andricgrad, named after Serbia’s Nobel laureate Ivo Andri?. The director gives Peter Aspden a tour, complete with a view of the town’s heroic mural of Gavrilo Princip, firer of the shot heard round the world, and tries to justify his own aggressive pacifism. (“It is war that makes the major turns. It makes Wall Street function, it makes all the bastards in the Balkans function. What would happen if an angel appeared before the American president and told him there was no more need for war? Everything would collapse.”)
“As much as Martin Scorsese, Fassbinder was a maverick in his use of pop music in narrative film.” A point Glenn Kenny demonstrates, efficiently and insightfully, laying out the associations swirling around Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross” that help explain it popping up three times during the course of World on a Wire.
“There’s nobody there except for one bloke in the corner. He looked like an assistant, so I said, ‘Excuse me, my name’s Paul. Somebody’s called me over here to see some guy, you couldn’t get me a cup of coffee, could you?’ And he went and got me a coffee. I said, ‘Thank you very much, do you know this guy called Lucas? George somebody-or-other? He’s the director of this.’ He said, ‘I’m George Lucas.’ So I’d made George Lucas go and get me a coffee.” There’s unlikely any interesting information yet to be mined from the recollections of the principal players of the original Star Wars, so thoroughly has the film been documented by its fans over the years. So Jon Spira’s decision to gather memories from the most peripheral actors on the set—including the guy under the Greedo mask, actors edited out of the film, and Laurie Goode, anonymous yet immortal for playing the Stormtrooper who bashes his head against a door frame—is the closest thing to a fresh take to be offered on the movie in years. And the headless illustrations are cheekily apposite.
“Now it was my turn to smile politely. I was not going to let anyone—not even the British poet from St. Louis—spoil my Literary Evening.” A few years after first writing about the (mostly epistolary) friendship between Groucho Marx and T. S. Eliot, Lee Siegel has decided there’s more than met the eye—and far less mutual respect and enmity—to some of the comedian’s stingers.
As Aaron M. Cohen relates, none of the four films starring Tokuku Nagai Takagi, the first Japanese film actress, have survived. Based on the healthy denunciation of Orientalism she offers in a brief interview she gave the NY World, featured as a sidebar, it’s a great loss.
The admirable range of topics covered at TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog is suggested by the week’s highlights: Susan Doll on fast-talker Glenda Farrell’s energetic star turns as Torchy Blaine, and R. Emmet Sweeney on the precisely observed felicities of Tavernier’s debut The Watchmaker of St. Paul (aka The Clockmaker).
The growing permissiveness of ‘60s culture was of course latched onto first by independent producers, spicing up their B-movie offerings with liberal doses of sex and psychedelia. And the movies’ title sequences broke new ground as well, announcing the previously taboo subjects to follow with low-budget brio. Ben Radatz offers a generous selection of examples, from Corman quickies to a string of Italian westerns ripping off the distinctive style of Iginio Lardani.
“I just want you to put yourself in my shoes as a filmmaker who can’t do anything else but make films, and doesn’t want to do anything else. How much time do I have left? Do I have 20 years left to live? I cannot stay idle.” Jafar Panahi talks with Eric Kohn about Closed Curtain—his latest effort shot and smuggled out of the country while he’s officially banned from filmmaking—and the continuing fount for his unlikely optimism.
“They turned Jafar and me into two people you hang at the entrance of a city… I didn’t like being portrayed as anything but an artist. I couldn’t handle it.” While Panahi has become the face of Iranian film culture under siege, he’s the first to tell you his situation’s hardly unique. For instance, Panahi’s friend and collaborator Mohammad Rasoulof, who explains to Sune Engel Rasmussen why he returned to the country despite the same ban and potential prison sentence hanging over his head. Via Movie City News.
“There is always a kind of identification with the main characters in my movies, and this time I think there was [identification] with both the boy and the girl. It’s ridiculous because I’m 73, and I can show a 14-year-old boy and I can relate to him. [Laughs]” Septuagenarian Bernardo Bertolucci discusses his latest youthful movie, Me and You, with Emma Myers.
Mubi’s tumblr offers a charming gallery of movie stars revisiting their famous roles. Well, charming’s not exactly the word for the opening image of Mel Gibson, face painted blue with tie and blazer to match; but past that disturbingly accurate portrait of mania leaping behind civilization’s thin façade, a golf-shirted Eastwood cocking his shotgun at the camera is downright adorable.
“Twice as much Elvis as Ever! Twice the girls! Twice the fun! Twice the songs!” While at Mubi proper, Adrian Curry presents some terrific examples of movie posters from an abandoned genre: the re-release double-feature.
50 Watts presents some classic Japanese posters, including a pair of Kurosawa’s own designs for Dodes’ka-den.
Paul Mazursky, the actor and writer who caught the zeitgeist of American filmmaking in the seventies as the director of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), Harry and Tonto (1974), and An Unmarried Woman (1978), among other films, passed away this week at the age of 84. Among his other achievements: he co-created the rock TV comedy The Monkees and wrote I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968) with his creative partner Larry Tucker, directed the Cassavetes-esque Tempest (with John Cassavetes as the film’s Prospero), and made memorable appearances as an actor on The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He was nominated four times for his screenplays and directed Art Carney to his first Academy Award. More from Robert D. McFadden at The New York Times.
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.