The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of June 24

Viggo Mortensen

“At times, he spontaneously pulls over to the side of the road for a good five or ten minutes to finish a train of thought—about life or death or demons or fears or his favorite soccer team in Argentina, San Lorenzo. About the time in the wilds of New Zealand when he skinned, cooked, and ate his own roadkill. (“It was there.”) […] We could’ve gone straight to Watertown and stayed there, and we could’ve gotten there a hell of a lot faster, but Mortensen, his two hands resting gently on the bottom of the steering wheel, doesn’t like to drive too fast. He doesn’t want to miss a thing.” Viggo Mortensen does everything his own way, even the celebrity profile, which has him picking up writer Lisa DePaulo at the airport near the small town where he’s sitting deathwatch over his ailing father.

The journal Awotele, which profiles underseen African cinema from the perspective of underheard African critics, has a new issue on the challenges and rewards of multi-lingual cinema and new filmmaking technologies. Among the highlights (check the issue’s table of contents to learn what page to flip to), Martial E. Nguea considers “the reality of a certain conflict between the popular appreciation of  filmmaker and professional distinctions awarded in different countries by different juries”; Michel Amarger recounts the multifaceted career (fictions, documentaries, gallery installations) of the “ambitious utopian” Jean-Pierre Bekolo Obama (“It is easy to believe him shen, from behind his round glasses, he defies his critics saying: ‘if it’s not mission impossible, I’m not interested.”); Claire Diao explores the hazards of a distribution system so indebted to French culture (“How can anyone fall so quickly from the spotlight and into the shadows…. It doubtless has much to do with the Francophone system of promoting African filmmakers.); Oumy Régina Sambou takes a more critical looks at the promise of new technologies than some of her fellow writers (“the new modes of distribution have led to changes in filmmaking and film distribution, but not to the point of democratizing their fabrication, and especially not their quality”); and Domoina Ratsara offers a specific cautionary tale looking at how the rise of distribution of Madagascar television has led to the proliferation of ads interrupting even cinematic endeavors. Via Tambay Obenson, himself via David Hudson.

Some Call It Loving

“Pretentiousness is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but there’s nothing “mere” about Harris’ adaptation of John Collier’s short story “The Sleeping Beauty,” about a man who purchases a mysteriously slumbering woman from a traveling carnival and brings her home to be his companion. On the contrary, Some Call it Loving is fully, aggressively pretentious, wearing both its fable-like aspirations and caustic cultural critique on its impeccably tailored sleeves.” In a way that makes its critique strike home all the harder, Adam Nayman argues, who goes on to praise one of its few descendants, Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty, as an ingenious effort to wrest the metaphor back into female hands and desires.

“A while back I distinguished between “stubborn stylists” like Bresson and Tati, who cling to their preferred techniques through thick and thin, and adaptable ones who modify their approach as broader norms change. The early films of Bergman and Fellini and Antonioni were indebted to a deep-focus style, but late in their careers they began to rely on the pan-and-zoom techniques that became widespread in the 1960s and 1970s. There’s another possibility, though. You the filmmaker can try out your rival’s methods, but then push them in directions that extend your own inclinations.” Which is precisely what David Bordwell discerns Edward Yang was up to in A Brighter Summer Day, adapting some of the long-take aesthetic of Hou Hsiao-hsien and Taiwanese New Cinema in general even as it marked his definitive forging of his own path.

Madam Satan

“And perhaps the zero-to-90mph structure is meant to offer a provocative metaphor for life. Yes, life. For aren’t we all, in some sense, just waiting to party on a zeppelin? No? OK, maybe it’s just the Siren.” Watching DeMille’s Madame Satan means suffering through an hour of clichéd setup and “sexless” leads (though Other Woman Lilian Roth proves a happy exception) for the delirium of musical extravaganzas set in a costume ball aboard the flying ship. By the Self-Styled Siren’s reckoning, it’s worth it.

“As with my previous articles, I should note that there are spoilers aplenty throughout the next 5,000 words. If you don’t want to know when Blade Runner’s sole appearance of Eurostile Bold Extended occurs, look away now.” Dave Addey takes an exhaustive survey of the fonts used in Blade Runner’s signage, computer displays, and papers; a riot of diverse typographies that reinforce the polyglottal bustle of the city’s Los Angeles even with the many economical reuses of props Addey’s diligence uncovers. And if you must know, you can spot Eurostile Bold on Deckard’s Spinner. Via Movie City News.

Blade Runner

“There’s incredible effect in being either loved or hated, but knowing that, either way, you have penetrated the mind and have altered it; that is a very pleasurable feeling. Because in the end, self-indulgence is very much about your ego and your vanity and your own id. The more you can indulge in it, the more pleasurable it becomes. And then when it feeds out, it’s able to penetrate the mind and create a reaction. There is a sense of my own—it becomes very sexualized. At the same time, I also believe on a practical level, if you’re taking time away from people, besides entertaining them, I think it’s important that there’s something to react to. Because reaction is what changes your understanding of the world. Good and bad, I don’t really care. I don’t even understand it.” Interviewed by Alex McCown, Nicolas Winding Refn proves his contrarianism by endorsing narcissism and self-indulgence, attitudes he points out that are actually so taboo they’re rarely even acknowledged as such.

A pair of legendary cinematographers give interesting interviews this week. Mark Lee Ping-Bing talks with Daniel Eagan about working on such films as Tran Anh Hung’s The Vertical Ray of the Sun and Hou’s Flowers of Shanghai. (“I tried to follow those who are listening rather than those who are talking. These gradual and unnoticeable movements aimed to capture actors’ performance and expressions. You can tell the movements by looking at the oil lamp shades on the table and the frame’s left and right shifts.”) And Willy Kurant is interviewed by Duncan Gray and Quentin Carbonell about shooting Masculin Féminin. (“So I’m coming back to Godard on the set—‘I’m going to give you something very simple’—and we did not rehearse. I was sitting on an Elemac, an Italian dolly, my assistant by my side. And I realize that what Godard wanted me to do was the most complicated thing because it was one shot lasting something like 10 minutes, where I was moving from one person to the other person. And the problem is: rehearsals. I never had one. And the legend from people who had been around me was: ‘Oh, he needs a rehearsal because he’s coming from the classic cinema.’ Come on!”)

(Mubi, which is trumpeting their streaming of Masculin Féminin, also has an interesting article by Clare Nina Norelli on Godard’s use of music, and especially the pop strains of yé-yé, in the film:  “Paul likes classical music, Madeline likes pop songs. Past and present. Marx and Coca-Cola. Masculin Féminin.”)

“But still, this is France, and that means there is only the will of the State. The will of public authorities. That means literally that at the beginning of the 80s people making cinema were forced to move to video—I mean, forced. We got the money, we got everything, we got even more money than before, but we had to make it in video.” Jonathan Rosenbaum has posted an excellent 2002 interview he conducted with Raúl Ruiz that digs deep on a few subjects that seem natural topics to discuss with the director but came up less than you’d think: financing, and working under such varied conditions.aum/

Obituary

Anton Yelchin

Anton Yelchin was a young actor with a great string of performances and a solid future when was killed in a freak car accident at the age of 27. Best known for playing Chekov in the new series of Star Trek features, the Russian-born Yelchin began as a child actor, making his name starring opposite Anthony Hopkins in Hearts in Atlantis (2001) and going on to star in the indie features Alpha Dog (2006), Charlie Bartlett (2007) Middle of Nowhere (2008), Like Crazy (2011), The Beaver (2011), Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), 5 to 7 (2014), Experimenter (2015), and Green Room (2015), which is still in theaters. Star Trek Beyond opens in July. Dave Itzkoff for The New York Times, and more tributes and remembrances are collected by David Hudson at Keyframe Daily.

Australian filmmaker Paul Cox made his name in the eighties with a series of idiosyncratic films with an offbeat, sometimes dark sense of humor, beginning with the sweet romantic comedy Lonely Hearts (1982) and getting international attention with Man of Flowers (1938) (reviewed on Parallax View here), My First Wife (1984), Cactus (1986), and Innocence (2000) (reviewed on Parallax View here). He passed away at the age of 76 following a long battle with cancer. Karl Quinn for The Sydney Morning Herald.

You can read the Seattle Screens highlights on Parallax View 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.