The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of May 22

“Considering the very personal tone of Dreams and that Kurosawa was 80 when he finished it, it’s hardly surprising that the film meditates on the balance of life and death. Yet this thematic crux is articulated not as a simple, binary opposition, but as an intricate intertwining: death-in-life and life-in-death.” Godfrey Cheshire has a lovely read on Kurosawa’s Dreams, paying particular attention to the careful balance that structures the individual scenarios. Via Rachel Handler.

Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Dreams’

“The technology was in its infancy, and we had a chance to shape it—but that became fucking Casper the Friendly Ghost.” Alex French and Howie Kahn compile an oral history of Industrial Light and Magic that breaks the news it was hard work, thinking outside the box, and stick-to-it-tiveness that made the special effects company the monster it is today. Also that Lucas, ever the optimist, hopes there’s another Howard the Duck movie: “A digital duck will make that thing work.”

At Film Comment, a pair of articles takes a look at the closest thing peripatetic Orson Welles ever came to calling a home, the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, IL. James Hughes recounts highlights from the town’s centennial celebration of the school’s most famous graduate, and Steven Mears recounts the small but invaluable contribution Welles made to a school project that turned out to be “the first anti-nuke propaganda film on record.”

‘The Descent’

Thomas A. Foster looks at a series of films he sees comprising an “American hubris cycle,” “[reflecting] U.S. culpability in the wake of both the war on terrorism and the Great Recession.” Some interesting readings of not always obvious choices, from neo-westerns to Tom Cruise sci-fi blockbusters, though the justification for including Vicki Christie Barcelona is the kind of thing that makes you want academic writers to step back slowly from the keyboard, keeping their hands where you can see them.

“As a wide-reaching, multiethnic celebrity at a time when audiences crave diversity, and a keen user of social technology amid a fast-changing media industry, he should be the four-quadrant hero of our time, appealing to old and young, male and female alike. Yet he may be the oddest superstar we have, a known quantity whose accomplishments—box-office champ of 2013, four-time host of Saturday Night Live—are a continual surprise.” Melena Ryzik profiles Dwayne Johnson, and captures the refreshing lack of cynicism that makes his pulverizing work ethic and even his most hard-nosed business decisions come off less calculated than they are.

The Self-Styled Siren praises the comic stylings of Norma Talmadge and defends her from attacks—by way of Donen and Wilder—the Siren herself admits are unlikely to even be remembered as such today.

What’s in a name, age, and autobiography? Less reality and more importance than meet the eye, when it comes to Hollywood. Anne Helen Petersen spins off the Rebel Wilson “scandal” to remind us movie stars have always reinvented their backgrounds—how else could the daughter of “middle-class Jewish parents in Cincinnati” become Theda Bara—often with the direct input of their fans.

Chocolat was my start of few words in movies! Maybe what I like about European cinema is the silence. My take on American cinema is that there’s no sense of pacing, that you have to notice and feel all of the silences, all of the gaps…. Depending on the weight of the silences, your own “monologue” can shift and change from one sentence to the next. The wind, the emotion, the space has an impact on you and you cannot ignore it. Therefore you’ve got to be aware of what’s going on. So I like working with few words because words have got to be said only when they’re necessary.” Interviewed by Margaret Barton-Fumo, Isaach de Bankolé describes his unlikely transition from mathematics to acting; tells charming stories of meeting Jarmusch, Wenders, and Michael York; and lays out some intriguing future projects that will have the great actor moving behind the camera.

‘The Thing’

“Even when we weren’t using the frame to imply that something might be about to happen, as you say, we were using it to create a whole world. There are these big wide vistas at the beginning, but with the snow and the mountains and things in the foreground, we still made the frame claustrophobic and used it to confine the characters.” Talking with American Cinematographer Magazine, Dean Cundey describes the technique behind one of the best shot horror films, The Thing. Via Movie City News.

Two cinematographers making a mark with current genre films, courtesy of Filmmaker Magazine. Talking with Trevor Hogg, John Seale deflates some of the “no computers involved” hype around Mad Max: Fury Road while still making clear how visionary and hands-on a director George Miller can be. (“For a while there, George was out on the flying bridge hanging on tight and rocking around at 80 kilometers an hour across the desert. But not too shortly after we started shooting George did find that the monitor in the command vehicle was all set up and he could sit there and watch.”) While Matt Mulcahey talks with Ex Machina’s Rob Hardy, who earns my eternal affection for naming his collection of lenses, mixed and matched together from various sources, his Tuco Set. (“I always come back to The Thing, just simply because of its sense of creeping dread and the fact that you never know who’s who. That was a good thing to have in our back pocket with Ex Machina, because [the audience’s] allegiance changes between the characters.”)

“But the thing I like best is forming a team where we go after high-risk warrants, for people who are armed and dangerous. Murderers, bank robbers, rapists, kidnappers. Those are the guys I like to get.” Steven Seagal, describing his latest movie or his “real” life as a lawman to Ryan Gilbey? Or does he even make the distinction anymore?

Prashant Bhargava

Obituary

Prashant Bhargava, the Chicago-born Indian-American director of Patang (2011), died this week at the age of 42. A former graffiti artist, he designed and directed commercials and music videos before making his feature debut. More from Patrick McDonald at Hollywood Chicago.

Seattle Screens

SIFF enters its second week with ShortsFest, the festival-within-a-festival that presents every program of shorts between Friday and Monday, and an expanded schedule for Memorial Day Weekend. Parallax View’s SIFF 2015 Guide is here.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

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.