The new issue of Comparative Cinema explores the engagement of cinematic auteurs with television, wondering whether the results work as cinema, TV, or some new beast. A selection of historical documents and interview excerpts sets the scene, with figures such as Rossellini plugging for the pedagogical advantages of the younger medium, Chris Marker tracing the spiritual origins of television back to Medvedkin (“shoot during the day, print and edit at night, show it the next day to the people you filmed”), Fassbinder admitting that Berlin Alexanderplatz would have been completely different as a movie, where its audience would be more primed for a challenge, and Peter Watkins complaining the medium’s industrial structure automatically forecloses any dissenting voice.
Past the historical material, Jordi Balló and Xavier Pérez run through ten key artists who tackled serial television production in their varied ways (“The hidden objective is to use the small screen as a platform to radicalize one of the central strategies of Hitchcockian art: the control of the audience”); Surveying the television work of Renoir, Pialat, Lynch, and Welles, Fran Benavente and Glòria Salvadó argue for a serialized utopia that was never realized, where the “filmmaker as a television author sees a possible experimentation space and rehearses a way of adapting his writing on the basis of the specific strengths of the medium”; Carolina Sourdis looks at Godard and Miéville’s Sonimage TV productions, finding in them Godard’s use of the medium as a “vehicle and a base to question aspects of cinema from its margins: of cinema transformed into the audiovisual”; and the unique pop energy of Spanish director Iván Zulueta—perfectly suited to television, exported to cinema when his series were cancelled—are explored by Miguel Fernández Labayen (“Zulueta used television in his films during the 70’s in two main ways: as a social and aesthetic escape mechanism, but also as an object capable of abducting the mind and the boy [sic] of anyone watching in front of the screen”). Then much of the preceding theorizing gets scuttled by the optimistic pragmatism of Lodge Kerrigan, interviewed by Gerard Casau and Manuel Garin on making the transition from film to television directing (“And I think the trick is: can you structure something that works in the thirty-minute or the hour but then can also point to one continuous piece? So I think of it just more like another dimension to the problem or to the puzzle. If you can solve that, which is slightly more complicated than just writing a feature, or just writing a TV show, if you can actually solve that so it can play as an episode but also play all together, then I think it’s completely free”).
Also out with a new issue, the feminist film journal cléo, focusing on the theme of Risk. Mallory Andrews finds the feminist message underlying Sicario’s lead in not taking more risks (“Macer’s refusal to do anything outside the law is an ingrained behaviour that echoes women’s experiences in the workplace, in which a woman’s job-related risk-taking is held under far more scrutiny than that of her male peers”); Catherine Breillat—whose work could fill a journal about cinematic risk-taking all one its own—is praised by Colleen Kelsey for the daringly autobiographical Abuse of Weakness, “a sexual thriller without intercourse, a slow-burning S&M fable about the nature of power”; Kelley Dong sees Jennifer Phang’s science-fiction tale Advantageous as confronting the unquestioned portrait of mothers as “neoliberal superbeings” that so many films push; and Kathleen Kampeas-Rittenhouse links Arnold’s Fish Tank and the Dardenne’s Two Days One Night as films where even their protagonists’ “most dangerous actions reflect their mutual desire to evade the awful injustices of late capitalism and shed their anger.” Moving behind the screens, Michelle Kay salutes the inveterate risk-taker Anna May Wong, and Rooney Hassan interviews documentarian and cinematographer Kirsten Johnson about confronting privilege during her world travels (“Pretty much every day I carry a camera someone accidently calls me a “cameraman.” And I say: “I’m a cameraperson.” I like that it implies that anyone can be a cameraperson, and we are all camera people. It has multiple meanings for me; it’s also a working class term, not like cinematographer. I’m a cameraperson. I do the work.”). The issue ends with a roundtable on the double-edged sword of women revenge films (“Plus, there’s something so limiting about the idea that the only thing a woman would fight back against is rape—like, we have a whole world of shit to revolt against!”)
“Liz Taylor is not his style / And even Lana Turner’s smile / Is somethin’ he can’t see / My baby don’t care who knows / My baby just cares for me.” With Nina predictably flaming out as it opens, Margaret Barton-Fumo traces the use of Nina Simone as signifier, from Ridley Scott’s influential Chanel commercial featuring her take on “My Baby Just Cares for Me” to Lost Highway’s “seven minute… bizarre curtain call/dance party revival” scored by her iconic “Sinnerman.” Staying at Film Comment, Graham Fuller praises the movies’ undisputed voice of trustworthy authority, Morgan Freeman, who “opens cracks of fallibility, vulnerability, or wrong-headedness in his dignitaries and officials, as he does in the socially unrecognized men he plays,” making each role much more than a “soothing baritone” spouting platitudes.
“It started with a very simple urge: to go there.” For Mubi, Atom Egoyan writes an introduction to his 1993 film Calendar, made after a festival award allowed him to film in his ancestral homeland and imbued with a Tarkovskyan spirit of time living “within each separate frame.”
“He liked artificial surfaces, sequins, silk, and elaborate costumings; gossamer curtains, rotating platforms; compositions in which visual planes proliferated like the walls in a hall of mirrors; spotlights, masks, vaulted ceilings, spaces too big or too small for their occupants; glitter, Technicolor, and, in the case of the close-ups of bullfrogs and rabbits that punctuate the eerie riverboat ride midway through The Night of the Hunter, crude special effects.” Max Nelson takes what lessons can be gleaned about Fassbinder from his list of 10 favorite films. Via Movie City News.
“You could only guess at his history because he didn’t talk much even when drinking—and that was most of the time. Tex was rather young and had been through a crash and resultant fire that had burned one side of his face and left rather interesting scars. Because of this he hadn’t much expression, except in his eyes, but that was enough.” Criterion presents Howard Hawks’s four-page treatment for Only Angels Have Wings (or Plane Four from Baranca, as it was called then), which includes not just fascinating sketches of the real-life inspirations for characters eventually played by Cary Grant and Jean Arthur but the details of a wedding night prank Hawks threw in knowing full well he’d never have a shot at filming it.
“Last year, the dogma was ‘You’re not allowed to move the camera at all.’ Well, people have stories that necessitate moving the camera, so they’re figuring out how to do it. We’re basically at the Lumière-brothers stage—little experiments, like pointing the camera at a moving train and seeing what happens.” Andrew Marantz catches us up on the current state of virtual reality filmmaking, as it transitions from a showy novelty to a legitimate medium for storytelling for filmmakers like Janicza Bravo and James Kaelan, quoted above. A transition like any other, awkward and uncertain, but also filled with promise.
Red Granite Pictures, the production company behind The Wolf of Wall Street, is under investigation for having financed the $100 million film with money diverted from a Malaysian state fund designed to spur economic development in that country. Bradley Hope, John R. Emshwiler, and Ben Fritz’s report isn’t just an interesting tale of financial skullduggery, but gives a portrait of what it takes to woo a star on the level of Leonardo DiCaprio—including a chartered jet whisking revelers between New Year’s parties in Australia and Las Vegas and the gift of Marlon Brando’s On the Waterfront Oscar—that suggests why he identified so strongly with Belfort’s tale of excess. Via David Hudson.
Filmmaker, producer, and co-founder of the Seattle International Film Festival, Dan Ireland loved cinema and helped Seattle become a cinephile city. He and Darryl Macdonald opened and ran the original Moore Egyptian and then turned the arthouse into the base for the first Seattle International Film Festival in 1975, which grew far beyond the single screen under their leadership and presented the world premieres of such films as The Stunt Man (1980) and Blood Simple (1984) and the American premieres of The Road Warrior (1981) and Paul Verhoven’s Spetters (1980) and The 4th Man (1983). At Vestron Pictures, he was in part responsible for such films as John Huston’s final film The Dead (1987) and Anna (1987) with Sally Kirkland, and continued as an independent producer after leaving the company. He made his directorial debut with The Whole Wide World (1995), starring Vincent D’Onofrio and Renée Zellweger, giving the young actress her greatest dramatic showcase to date, and he continued to find and showcase young talent, notably Rupert Friend in Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (2005) and Jessica Chastain in Jolene (2008). He also directed The Velocity of Gary (1998) and Passionada (2002) and the short films Hate from a Distance (2014) and A Most Peculiar Man (2015), and was preparing to direct Life Briefly with Ashley Judd and Bill Paxton when he passed away suddenly at the age of 57. More from Mike Barnes at The Hollywood Reporter. John Hartl remembers his legacy for The Seattle Times and Kathleen Murphy’s appreciation of Ireland’s feature debut is on features on Parallax View.
Guy Hamilton turned the James Bond series into a blockbuster franchise with Goldfinger (1964), the film that brought Bondmania to the world. Before Bond, Hamilton apprenticed as an assistant to Carol Reed on The Fallen Idol (1948) and The Third Man (1949) and an assistant director on The African Queen (1951) and directed (among other films) the prisoner of war escape thriller The Colditz Story (1955), and he went on to direct three additional Bond movies (Diamonds Are Forever, 1971, Live and Let Die, 1973, The Man with the Golden Gun, 1974) as well as the anti-Bond Funeral in Berlin (1966) with Micahel Caine as Harry Palmer, plus the World War II pictures Battle of Britain (1969) and Force 10 From Navarone (1978), the Agatha Christie adaptations The Mirror Crack’d (1980) and Evil Under the Sun (1982), and Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985), which ended the potential franchise before it really began. He died at age 93. Adam Bernstein for The Washington Post.
Israeli actress and filmmaker Ronit Elkabetz won three Ophir Awards, the Israeli equivalent of the Academy Award, in her too brief career. The made her screen debut in The Appointed (1990) and won Best Actress awards for Late Marriage (2001) and The Band’s Visit (2007), and also had a successful career in French cinema, starring in Made in France (2001) and The Girl on the Train (2009) among others. In collaboration with her brother Shlomi Elkabetz, she wrote, directed, and starred in To Take a Wife (2004), Shiva (2008), and Gett (2014), a trilogy inspired by the unhappy marriage of her Moroccan immigrant parents. She passed away at the age of 51 from cancer. Hanna Brown for The Jerusalem Post.
Anne Jackson had a long career on stage and on the screen, co-starring in numerous productions with her husband Eli Wallach, who she on stage when they were both cast in a 1946 production of This Property is Condemned. They became one of the most famous acting couples of their time. She studied under Lee Strasberg at The Actor’s Studio and, like many New York stage actors in the fifties, she made a lot TV (including live TV drama). On the big screen she starred in Tall Story (1960), The Angel Levine (1970), Nasty Habits (1977), The Bell Jar (1979), and had a small role in Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). She died at age 90. Mike Barnes for The Hollywood Reporter.
Doris Roberts had a long career on Broadway and an even longer one on television, where she played mothers and maternal figures on Angie, Remington Steele, and Everybody Loves Raymond, where she won four Emmy Awards during the nine-season run. On the big screen, she appeared in No Way to Treat a Lady (1968), The Honeymoon Killers (1969), A New Leaf (1971), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989), The Grass Harp (1995), and Grandma’s Boy (2006). She passed away at the age of 90. Carmel Dagan for Variety.
Prince Rogers Nelson, better known simply as Prince, died in his recording studio this week. In addition to an unprecedented career as a recording artist, composer, performer, and nurturer of talent, he won an Oscar for his original score for his film debut Purple Rain (1984) and directed the features Under the Cherry Moon (1986) and Graffiti Bridge (1990) and the concert film Sign ‘o’ the Times (1987). He was 57. Jon Pareles for The New York Times.
Russian-born photographer Nicolas Tikhomiroff was acclaimed as an acclaimed war photographer in the 1950s and 1960s, but he also created some of the most iconic images of European cinema greats in the, including shots from the sets of Orson Welles’ The Trial (1962), Chimes at Midnight (1965), and the unfinished Dead Reckoning. He passed away at age 89. More from Tom Seymour at British Journal of Photography, and see highlights from his portfolio at Magnum Photos.