The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of July 29

Rio Bravo

“One cannot make films if he does not like life, if he does not believe, above all, that the physical manifestations are privileged. The body does not lie, nor does the human face: this is the strength of the cinema and its health as opposed to literature.” Kino Slang has provided translations of two rapturous appreciations by Alexandre Astruc on Howard Hawks—specifically on Rio Lobo (“Unlike so many young people whom we know only too well, this old, super-silvered fox, Howard Hawks, is not going to permit his action to slow down and spoil our pleasure under the pretext of philosophizing or of making crocodile tears flow by lingering on rows of corpses which are barely cold and which he just lined up”) and Rio Bravo (quoted above). Via Mubi.

“The thing about Brother is that it’s stubbornly linear, but so suggestive that it just begs for inconclusive allegorical readings: a plot as simple and elemental as dirt, seeded with Freudian overtones, unaddressed nationalist subtexts, and black humor. The good stuff, in other words. Everything looks salvaged or secondhand. In most cases, it was.” Ignatiy Vishnevetsky revisits Balabanov’s Brother and finds the film still so spare and ingenious it overcomes its budgetary and thematic limitations—and even its “deranged” sequel, so crude and nationalistic it smashes to rubble the former film’s ambiguities.

Sergei Bodrov Jr. in ‘Brother’

“I must add here, however, that I am not a Buddhist myself, and that I don’t have the least intention of being didactic or evangelical in my approach to this matter. All I am interested in is presenting the flavor of a particular experience.” Criterion posts King Hu’s director’s note for A Touch of Zen as included in the press kit for the film’s 1975 Cannes screening.

“In cinema, I cannot think of any film more effective and sublime about Iran and the entanglements of beauty and agony in its history than these 18 short pieces. This historical evaluation includes all the moving images made about Iran by westerners from Raoul Walsh (Esther and the King) to Agnès Varda (Plaisir d’amour en Iran) and Albert Lamorisse (Le vent des amoureux), whether partially talking about Iran or fully, treating it fictionally or depicting it in a direct realist approach. During the last years of his life, Brakhage found in that land something that truly “prompt[s] a chaotic display of illumination into vision” and he scratched every little bit of it on the celluloid stripe.” Ehsan Khoshbakht traces the illuminating connections between Brakhage’s late abstract series Persians and the history of Iranian art by which it was inspired. Via David Hudson.

Stan Brakhage’s ‘Persians’

Jim Knipfel has a busy week over at The Chiseler, commenting on the cultural forces that have made a familiar trope—the noir film scored by mournful jazz saxophone—out of a pairing that never really existed (“It’s telling that nowadays the producers behind compilations of supposed original noir jazz themes (and these are plentiful), are often forced to plunder ‘60s TV series like 77 Sunset Strip, AIP features like Beat Girl, and even Hollywood comedies like The Apartment to fill out the proceedings. Because simply put, with the exception of the two Preminger films and I Want to Live!, authentic noir jazz never existed”); and offering a tongue-in-cheek salute to William Girdler, who turned some profits on the seamier side of the industry but never had the originality to really inspire a cult (“In extremely low-budget terms, Girdler, it must be said, started out with a good deal of energy and some promise. He was even a little ahead of the curve. Just a smidgen. Problem is, if you’re only ten minutes ahead of your time, you’re pretty well screwed”).

“‘If it’s nothing more than The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welles’ second film that made no money, I’ll be a very happy man,’ Hopper said [in the documentary The American Dreamer]. ‘If the audience doesn’t accept it then it will be a long, long, long time before we can dream about that audience that I thought was there.’ ‘In that scene he’s already telling us that he’s going to fail,’ Schiller said, looking back on it now.” Jason Guerrasio’s recounting of Hopper’s The Last Movie is a once-over-lightly cut-and-paste of familiar stories, but it does add the wrinkle that Jodorowsky now claims, with a modesty to match Hopper’s own, to have edited together a “magnificent version” of the film.

Dennis Hopper shooting ‘The Last Movie’

“After the morning’s shoot, we drove across the lot to film another scene. In the back of the van, Kos-Read scrolled through photos on his phone of some of the roles he has played over the last two years, each with a distinct facial-hair style. They included: an American engineer who worked on the first locomotive in China; Gen. Douglas MacArthur; an “[expletive] lawyer”; a World War II radio announcer; a hip-hop dancer; a wisdom-dispensing alcoholic barfly; a Mafia boss; an antiquities expert; a sleazy Russian lounge lizard; a cowboy; a bisexual fashion designer; and a French detective.” Mitch Moxley offers a unique take on the Chinese movie industry by profiling Jonathan Kos-Read, an actor whose all-American good looks have kept him working there since, as a young expat bumming around Beijing, he auditioned for a movie on a whim. Via Matt Fagerholm.

“You’re going to Discover a Miracle! A Miracle of Laughter! A Miracle of Tenderness! A Miracle of Entertainment!” To celebrate his birthday, David Bordwell looks at what was playing in Madison, WI (his home town for more than 40 of his 69 years) on July 23, 1947, with some interesting digressions on how the theater distribution business has changed since those bad old days. (That the movie industry’s changed can be determined by the wealth of interesting options our theoretical Madisonian had for his evening out—including Stairway to Heaven, Miracle on 34th Street, and Song of the South.)

“I agree with [Zanussi], you know, in the way that I think there are two ways of making a social statement as a director, as an artist—that you can either decide to criticize the system, the regime, and the authorities, or you can decide to criticize society. I don’t want to judge or to say which is best, but I happen to be more in the second category. I think that the awareness or the thinking of a society that can question and can reflect upon its own functioning and its own destiny wouldn’t allow a totalitarian regime to come and rule it. So I prefer to pay attention and question the society itself rather than the rulers. For me, a political film is a film in which politics are not explicitly stated.” Asghar Farhadi discusses with Amir Ganjavie the political dimensions of maintaining an apolitical stance, returning to Iran to shoot his latest movie The Salesman, America, and Arthur Miller.

Obituary

Marni Nixon

Classical and concert singer Marni Nixon provided the singing voices of Hollywood’s biggest stars in some of the most popular musicals of the 1950s and 1960s, all of them without credit at the time. Among the actresses she ghosted in the movies: Margaret O’Brien in The Secret Garden (1949), Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956) and An Affair to Remember (1957), Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961), Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964), and select high notes for Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953), who otherwise did her own singing. Her contracts stipulated that she was not reveal her work but it soon became the worst kept secret in Hollywood and was common knowledge by the 1970s. She also sang on such diverse films as Disney’s animated Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Mulan (1998), played a nun in The Sound of Music (1965), and provided wordless vocals on the eerie low-budget horror Dementia (1955) and the sunny Mediterranean adventure Boy on a Dolphin (1957), among many other vocal performances. She passed away at the age of 86. Margalit Fox for The New York Times.

Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Khan was one of the leading filmmakers during the realist movement of Egyptian cinema in the 1980s. His films The Street Player (1984), The Wife of an Important Man (1987), and Dreams of Hind and Camilia (1988) were named among the “100 Greatest Arab Films of All Time” by the Dubai International Film Festival. His 2013 film Factory Girl was Egypt’s selection for the 2014 Academy Awards and his last film, Before the Summer Crowds (2016) was released just months before his death at the age of 73. Nick Holdsworth for The Hollywood Reporter.

Commercial artist Jack Davis drew some of the most famous horror comics of the 1950 for E.C.’s “Tales from the Crypt” and gained even greater fame working for Mad Magazine in the 1960s and 1970s, illustrating movie parodies among his many contributions. But to movie fans he’s even better known for his memorable movies posters for such films as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966), Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971), American Graffiti (1973), The Long Goodbye (1973), and The Bad News Bears (1976). He also designed the characters in the animated musical horror spoof Mad Monster Party? (1967) and the animated series Jackson 5ive (1971), and of course his caricatures were featured on the covers of Time and TV Guide. He passed away at the age of 91. Bill Chappell for NPR.

Seattle Screens—Parallax View’s weekly listings of cinematic events, revivals, festivals, and select film openings—can be found here.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries and Seattle Screens curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.