“But few, then or now, seem to have noticed that the plot of Hell’s Angels is essentially Wings viewed in a fun-house mirror. Where Wings presents the Great War through the lens of bravery, gallantry, romance, and tragedy, Hell’s Angels unfalteringly inverts those themes: romance morphs into lust, cowardice into realism, and idealism into nihilism. Wings’ Great War is glory tempered by tragedy; Hell’s Angels’ Great War simply wastes the lives of people whom few in the audience feel compelled to mourn.” Adam Simms finds in Hughes’s Hell’s Angels a darker tale than audiences primed by Hollywood war pictures are prepared to accept.
As a filmmaker, Robert Greene has particular understanding of the true villain in Powell’s Peeping Tom: “I urge all who watch, write about or, especially, make movies to try to understand Powell’s dark message: The cinema wants to hurt you.” Via Rachel Handler.
“I had never acted in a film before. Hal just called me and said, ‘I have a part for you in my next movie.’ I remember thinking, ‘I hope I have lines or something.’ Then he sent me this thing. It was like getting a grenade in the mail.” Hal Hartley and his actors recall the making of Henry Fool—and how even then the director was hinting at a larger, longer canvas—to Eric Kohn.
A recent retrospective has Christoph Huber finding more delights in early Siodmak than conventional wisdom has decreed; and more unsolved mysteries, as 1932’s Stürme der Leidenschaft shows up in multiple languages, including a silent version from Italy, that vary depending—perhaps?—on cuts each distributor mandated. Via Mubi.
Calum Marsh recounts the oppression filmmakers faced in post-revolutionary Iran, a cleansing of anti-Islamic influences that manifested in imprisonments, murders, and the burning of nearly 200 movie theaters. A brutal chapter considerably lessened today—the fate of a Panahi, dispiriting as it is, likely would have been much grimmer in the ‘80s—though censorship continues to stifle the nation’s cinema.
“In his writing about photography, Kracauer… was less concerned with the intention of the photographer than with the logic of the medium—a radical view that prized the unforeseen correspondences and inadvertent revelations that may be found in dated news photos or old family portraits, photographs where initial associations fade and vanish so that the image “necessarily disintegrates into its particulars.” Part of the pleasure of this new book is finding these very sorts of revelations in the Kracauers’ generally artless photos.” J. Hoberman praises a new collection of family photographs taken (mostly) by Lili Kracauer, Siegfried the typical subject, though there’s a magnificently smeared, ephemeral shot of the couple being greeted by Maya Deren. Via Matt Fagerholm.
“He’s got a great deal of physical skills, he knows his team and trusts his equipment. That’s extremely important. He knows what a harness can do, he knows what a Spectra Rope or cable can do. There are a lot of actors who would never do anything like this. I’m really surprised his producers let him do it. Of course, he often is one of the producers, so maybe that’s it—there’s nothing the insurance company can say about it. But man, if he ever got really hurt, you’d have a couple-hundred-million-dollar movie going down. The other producers must not go to set and watch this stuff—they’d have a heart attack.” Stuntman Randy Butcher walks Bilge Ebiri through ten of Tom Cruise’s most famous stunts; which are generally not as dangerous as they appear (though plenty dangerous enough), but remarkably well executed nonetheless.
“It wasn’t called Dr. Strangelove at the time, Edge of Doom… something like that. Once I’d arranged the financing for that, I opened an office in California and started to pursue a directing career. It wasn’t long after that Stanley called me and told me he had gotten together with a writer named Terry Southern and they felt that this picture could actually be a better presentation in the form of a satire, and make points even stronger. And I… I mean, I laugh at it now, but I remember at the time, when I hung up the phone with Stanley, I said to myself, ‘I leave him alone for ten minutes and he blows his whole career.’” James B. Harris sits down for a lengthy interview with Nick Pinkerton that covers his career from producing Stanley Kubrick to directing James Woods. With special attention paid to the art of adaptation, whether Nabokov or Ellroy, and two separate anecdotes on the hazards of working with Timothy Carey. (Part II here)
“I love burdens. [Laughs.] They allow you to find the lightness in something. If you don’t have the burden, you don’t have the challenge of transformation. But I loved what Olivier said earlier about emotion because I really feel that’s what an actor has to do: not identify with the emotions, but go through them so that you transform them. And then you have a better knowledge about yourself. That’s what my character is facing, that it’s so hard sometimes to go into the worries of the world that we all have inside of us. What I love in a film is to be able to see the cost of a creation, to see that you’ve gotta face your demons and find a lightness going through the dark stuff inside.” Olivier Assayas and Juliette Binoche (quoted above) discuss courage, language, and Kristen Stewart talking Clouds of Sils Maria with David Ehrlich. Related: an excerpt of a chat with Rodrigo Perez offers what’s likely to be our fullest take from the typically elliptical Assayas on what derailed Idol’s Eye. (“Where I thought there was some kind of common ground, I realized there was zero common ground.”)
Will Harris’s exhaustive Random Role interviews—two of which showed up this week—allow by their very breadth a better sense of their subjects’ personalities than most pro forma gabs. Like how John Heard’s grinding bonhomie hints at the barely discussed personal problems that hampered a promising career. (“I found myself standing next to [Scorsese] after one take, and I looked at him, and I said, ‘I don’t know, it’s just…. It just doesn’t feel right. I’m not getting it. I don’t think I’m getting it.’ And he looked over at me, and he said, ‘No. You’re not.’ [Laughs.] And that’s why it wasn’t in the movie. It was cut! He wasn’t a placating director.”) While Frank Whaley’s anecdotes (trying to convince pal Ethan Hawke to star in Swing Kids; a demonstration of how seriously Marlon Brando took his ban of on-set photographs) have the good-natured fatalism of a fine actor who’s never hurt for work, but who will forever only be recognized as the guy Sam Jackson yells at in Pulp Fiction. (“We filmed in Las Vegas, and if you can get through three months in a hotel casino in Vegas with Alex Cox and that cast of characters and come out in one piece, that’s better than the movie.”)
Shadow, light, and some of the most intensely scrutinized faces in movie history, courtesy of Criterion’s gallery of Sven Nykvist screen grabs from films by Bergman and Malle.
A collection of behind-the-scenes photos from Rear Window entertainingly reaffirms what everybody knows: the set was amazing, Kelly was lovely, and Hitchcock looked magisterially bored sitting in the director’s chair. Via Dangerous Minds.
Geoffrey Lewis tends to be remembered as the father of Juliette Lewis and a frequent co-star in Clint Eastwood movies, which is gentle reminder that he was in a lot more than the Every Which Way comedies. He first worked with Eastwood in High Plains Drifter (1973) and returned for Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), Bronco Billy (1980), Pink Cadillac (1989), and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997). He’s in Robert Benton’s Bad Company (1972), John Milius’ Dillinger (1973) and The Wind and the Lion (1975), Heavens’ Gate (1980), Mel Gibson’s remake of Maverick (1994), The Way of the Gun (2000), and The Devil’s Rejects (2005), and on TV he played the gravedigger on Salem’s Lot (1979) and earned an Emmy nomination for the sitcom Flo, the honkytonk spin off of Alice. “He had the most expressive face—which made working with him so fun,” wrote Eastwood in a statement. He passed away this week at the age of 79 from natural causes. George Stark at Daily Mail.
James Best is best known to the generation that tends to land on the obituary beat for his role as the bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on the eighties TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, a role he landed after thirty years of bit parts and supporting roles in the movies and hundreds of hours of TV guest roles. He had a rare lead in Sam Fuller’s Verboten! (1959) and was particularly memorable as Billy John in Budd Boetticher’s Ride Lonesome (1959) and a war vet who thinks he’s a Confederate officer in Fuller’s Shock Corridor (1963). His first Hollywood credit was in the 1950 western Comanche Territory and he had an uncredited but unmistakable appearance in Forbidden Planet (1956) and supporting roles in The Left Handed Gun (1958), Shenandoah (1965), Sounder (1972), Rolling Thunder (1977), and Hooper (1978). He was also an acting teacher; he founded an acting workshop in Los Angeles (where Burt Reynolds was a student) and teaching at the University of Mississippi and University of Central Florida, where he lived after leaving Hollywood in the 1980s. He died this week at the age of 88. More from the Los Angeles Times.
Tom Towles spent a decade working on the Chicago stage, much of it with Stuart Gordon’s Organic Theatre Company, before he appeared in the horror film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) with Michael Rooker. He worked steadily in movie and on TV for the next 20 years, including a six-episode run on NYPD Blue (he was reportedly considered for the role of Sipoweicz), but is best known for his work in genre movies, including Tom Savini’s remake of Night of the Living Dead (19), Stuart Gordon’s The Pit and the Pendulum (1991) and Fortress (1992), and Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses (2003), The Devil’s Rejects (2005), and 2007 remake of Halloween (2007). He passed away at the age of 65. Mike Barnes at The Hollywood reporter.
ByDesign, the Northwest Film Forum’s annual film festival of architecture and design, returns this week with five days of features, shorts, and panels. It opens on Friday, April 10 with the documentary Fresh Dressed, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and runs through April 14. Co-sponsored by the Seattle design firm Civilization. Complete schedule and ticket information 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.