The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, August 26

Kathleen Turner in 'Serial Mom'
Kathleen Turner in ‘Serial Mom’

Academic journals may not seem the most conducive forum for celebrations of comedy, but the new issue of cléo tackles the subject admirably, from Jovana Jankovic’s appreciation for why the compulsions played out by every character in Serial Mom makes its gleefully murderous lead so funny (“As she grins delightedly when surprising a victim in her bedroom closet with a pair of scissors, so do we. As she takes pleasure in doing whatever the hell she wants without concern for repercussions, so do we momentarily escape into a world where doing whatever the hell one wants (and looking good doing it) is a liberating and gratifyingly consequence-free option.”) to Erica Peplin’s song of praise for Jennifer Coolidge (“From which perfect cloud of pink convertibles, lip gloss and acrylic nails did you fall? You’ve been a staple in the film industry for over two decades. You have graced us with your presence in so many films that my finger gets tired scrolling through your IMDb page. In the war of the Jennifers—Lawrence, Aniston, Connelly, ad infinitum—you might be billed number two or three (or, like, six) but you’ve always held first place in my heart.”). Veronica Fitzpatrick’s interesting, and spoiler-filled, look at the destabilizing use of laughter in Mélanie Laurent’s Breathe leans a bit more on the jargon (“Laughter isn’t just decontextualized by the film’s editing; it has an increasingly arbitrary relation to affect, such that Sarah laughing in one moment doesn’t protect Charlie from being slapped across the face by her in the next.”), while Sarah Hagi drops it entirely chronicling her “hate watch” of the anti-feminist DTV religious film Christian Mingle (“At first, I wasn’t sure the first date would lead to anything, only because the two leads have zero chemistry and he’s a pair of khaki pants personified. For one date, they go out for sushi and he can barely eat it because he’s so American he can only eat chili-dogs. This is when Gwyneth starts falling hard…somehow.”).

“Reflecting the developing perception evident in most major cities circa the early 1930s, Henri and the others in Mauvaise Graine have bought into the increasingly fast-paced contemporary notion that personal transportation signifies innovative independence and a get-up-and-go social momentum. With this newfound mobility, however, as with any new technology, comes new professions and new opportunities for crime, and as seen in Mauvaise Graine, new avenues where the two intersect.” For Jeremy Carr, Wilder’s directorial debut, shot in Paris in 1934, has some hints of his future career; but even more, as Wilder himself claimed, can be found the first hints of the location staging and movie-mad self-aware protagonists that would define the New Wave.

Mauvaise Graine

“The only adaptation that Leonard himself expressed any public approval of was Jackie Brown (1997), directed by Quentin Tarantino from the novel Rum Punch. It’s good, all right, but the flashbacks make the scam involved seem more intricate than it is. The tricky timeline in Out of Sight, on the other hand, fits the narrative and the theme. Out of Sight in either form is about time: doing time, aging, seizing the moment.” Roy Blount Jr., declares Soderbergh’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard the only movie equal to the book; in some small details, even better than the master wrote.

“An irate Los Angeles critic complained that Choose Me seemed to take place in a city populated by six people who run into each other constantly; Rudolph anticipated him in Welcome to L.A. when Ann Goode said, “I swear, there must be twelve people in L.A.” Rudolph’s microcosmic tendencies are the more interesting because he does not set out to capture an isolated class or subcategory of society: his small collections of characters always display all the diversity of the society at large, and the vividness and individuality of the smallest supporting parts in his films have the effect of pointing us outward toward the infinite variety of the world beyond the frame.” In 1985 Dan Sallitt was commissioned to write a long essay on Alan Rudolph for a book on emerging filmmakers that never, itself, materialized. He debuts it online, and it remains a fine introduction to a director torn between idiosyncratic indie comedies and more-or-less impersonal studio efforts; at least up to Choose Me and Songwriter, respectively. Via Mubi.

“But (same shot) she’s only climbed one step when her spider sense starts tingling, warning her of danger. Back hair rising. Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread / Because he knows that Peter Lawford doth close behind him tread.” David Cairns’s fine close reading (or, as he puts it, CLOSE ANALYSIS TIME!) of the Good Night scene from It Should Happen to You shows the great variety Cukor and Judy Holliday are able to wring from basically one joke stretched out over several minutes.

“At one point my wife Carolyn, who played the female lead, was frustrated that her lines kept changing. She dramatically held up one of the pages and asked Mamet, ‘David, what is this?!’ Without hesitation, he replied, ‘It’s good writing.’ (No false modesty ever with David Mamet.)” Stuart Gordon recalls his early stage years when he had to coax a marvelous writer of dialogue into actually providing a story for his plays. Via Movie City News.

Margaret Barton-Fumo celebrates the two film scores by Scott Walker, and regrets we haven’t had more.

“As long as I can remember, I have been totally involved with films and the movie industry. My mother used to take me to an old silent movie theater where I became familiar with the performances of many of the silent movie stars. As my acting career progressed, I met some of these silent stars in person and from these associations I became extremely interested in the history of film and stage. I started my film collection during the mid-1960s as a result of my fascination for old movies and my interest in observing the progression of many actors and directors, starting with their first films up to their current work.” An excerpt from Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph’s A Thousand Cuts recalls the FBI’s most notorious assault on private film collectors, the 1974 raid of Roddy McDowell’s home that corralled a thousand pirated videos and 160 16mm prints, ludicrously valued in preening press releases at over $5 million.

Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart

“I do think that’s because of the storms I have weathered. It’s not that they make you stronger or calloused—but they do make you a human. I’m not the typical showman…. But at the same time, I want so badly to expose myself. I want to be understood and I want to be seen, and I want to do that in the rawest, purest, most naked way I can.” Nicholas Haramis finds Kristen Stewart finally at comfort with herself and her fame, down to a bookshelf that holds both a section devoted to Kerouac and four volumes of Twilight, “near the terracotta floor, obscured by a pair of vintage wind-up toys.” Via Criterion.

“Janet Malcolm’s The Journalist and the Murderer is my favorite book for a reason: there is a ravenous, vulturous quality to interviewing anyone and turning them into a character for you. Documentary’s highest nature is still exploitative. You could shade that in one direction or another and say, “Exploitative sounds cynical.” I don’t mean it cynically at all. I mean it like, let’s just lay the cards on the table so that we can actually make interesting, meaningful, powerful films. That’s just the truth.” Robert Greene talks with Alissa Wilkinson about the less-than-bright-shining-line between documentary and fiction films, and the charge he gets from exploring the boundaries.

“Buñuel puts the people into a situation where their personalities as they are when they first encounter one another eventually break down or turn into something else. Buñuel plays with this façade. In the opera, the music supports the private personality behind the façade on the one hand (and lets us feel empathy with the characters), but on the other it also supports the other force which is pulling them into a kind of shared nothingness.” An interesting perspective on the musicality of Buñuel and the necessities of adaptation as composer Thomas Adès and librettist/stage director Tom Cairns discuss their new opera The Exterminating Angel. Via Alex Ross.

Maev Kennedy previews an upcoming auction of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Polaroids whose misty glaze and careful composition of natural and man-made objects mark them unmistakably as their maker’s.

Obituary

Steven Hill was the original leader of the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) on the TV series Mission: Impossible and District Attorney Adam Schiff on the first ten seasons of Law & Order. The Seattle-born actor moved to New York and became a member of the famous Actor’s Studio in the 1940s, made his Broadway debut in 1946, and started working on TV in 1949. He made his film debut in 1950 in A Lady Without Passport, played a psychotic criminal in Storm Fear (1955), and co-starred in The Goddess (1958), Kiss Her Goodbye (1959), A Child is Waiting (1963), and The Slender Thread (1965), but most of his screen work was on television, doing live television plays and guest roles on shows like Route 66, The Untouchables, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He left Mission: Impossible after one season (Peter Graves took over the lead) and left acting for a decade. He was very busy upon his return to the screen in the late 1970s, appearing in such films as Rich and Famous (1981), Yentl (1983), Legal Eagles (1986), Heartburn (1986), Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986), Running on Empty (1988), Billy Bathgate (1991), and The Firm (1993), and retired from the acting for good after his decade-long run on Law & Order in 2000. He died at the age of 94. Anita Gates for The New York Times.

Steven Hill
Steven Hill

Actor Jack Riley is best known for his deadpan portrayal of Mr. Carlin, a misanthropic, terminally depressed patient in the therapy group on The Bob Newhart Show. It’s a character he reprised on ALF and St. Elsewhere and reworked for Newhart. He started on radio and wrote comedy material for Tim Conway before landing guest roles on TV comedies, including Hogan’s Heroes, I Dream of Jeannie, and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. He had small roles in the movies Catch-22 (1970), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), and The Long Goodbye (1973) and became a regular in Mel Brooks’ stock company with supporting roles in Silent Movie (1976), High Anxiety (1977), and The History of the World: Part 1 (1981). He voiced the Stu Pickles on the animated series Rugrats and its spin-off All Grown Up!, appeared in Boogie Nights (1997), and had a supporting role in the USA comedy Son of the Beach, in addition to stage roles and work in commercials. He passed away at the age of 81 after a long illness. Mike Barnes for The Hollywood Reporter.

Seattle Screens previews Elio Petri’s A Quiet Place in the Country (1968) and other new and revival screenings this week at Parallax View here.