“And do not, please do not, get him started on the people who approach him after the show with a Sling Blade DVD to sign. You just watched him perform his heart out for you and you are going to present him with a Sling Blade DVD? ‘Sure, I’ll sign your Sling Blade DVD,’ he says now. ‘And you can go home and fuck missionary like a metronome and never have an original creative idea in your life.’” Taffy Brodesser-Akner spends four days on tour with Billy Bob Thornton’s band, and with acidic comic precision captures the pretension and solipsism of the frustrated actor and swears-he’s-never-doing-that-again director, while making clear how under that remains a unique, untamable talent—and right under that, the survivor of horrible abuse trying to make a life for himself that works. Via Longform.
“Though Dreams received some appreciative reviews, many critics knocked it for what they saw as overt didacticism and stasis. They found the main character (played as a child by Toshihiko Nakano and Mitsunori Isaki and as an adult by Akira Terao), to be frustratingly passive, and the director’s themes—his fears about humanity and nature—to be mired in simplistic moralizing. Such criticisms, however, fail to appreciate the layers of meaning in Dreams, not to mention its stylistic strangeness. The film’s surfaces may be gentle; the experience of watching it is anything but.” Bilge Ebiri considers the autobiographical elements and experiments in stylization that make Dreams—not surprisingly—arguably Kurosawa’s most personal film.
“In [A Bloody Spear on Mount Fuji], Kataoka takes on a group of villains in an open space surrounded by sake barrels, which are successively broken open or punctured as the fight rages all over, completely changing the landscape on which the action is taking place. Uchida also often shoots this scene—as with the dynamic set pieces in most of his other films—from above and with a moving camera, altering not only the audience’s moral point of view but also distinguishing his work from that of someone like Kurosawa, who preferred a down-in-the-dirt aesthetic for his action scenes.” Of course the west’s lionization of a handful of directors, including Kurosawa, continues to hamper our understanding of the range and depth of Japanese filmmaking. Marc Walkow makes the case for Tomu Uchida, a hitmaker in Japan yet still grossly underappreciated outside his country.
“But one unspoken question hangs in the air from start to finish: how can it take nearly two and a half hours of screen time to approve Henry Fonda? How can Abe Lincoln, with 25 years’ added experience, possibly “weaken the nation’s moral fiber”?” Staying at Film Comment, Steven Mears looks at how Henry Fonda’s penumbra of moral authority was put to sly, subversive means in two political films from the ‘60s: Advise and Consent and The Best Man.
“‘My pitch was that this was film noir,’ said Hossein Amini of his screenplay for The Wings of the Dove, filmed by director Iain Softley in 1997. ‘The only difference is that they don’t literally kill each other, they just break the other girl’s heart and kill her that way.’ These filmmakers did such a good job of turning one of Henry James’s densest, most difficult late novels into a brisk, satisfying two-hour drama that you must wonder whether such genre miscegenation isn’t the key to adapting the notoriously uncinematic James. His works are labyrinths, their closest cinematic cousins not Masterpiece Theatre or “Merchant-Ivory” but the thriller and horror film, twisty genres that honor James’s penchant for the rustle of veiled apprehension and shimmer of offstage machination….” And thus the success, for Tom Shone, of the 1997 adaptation—that and (most of) the actors, Helena Bonham Carter in particular showing how far afield she’d soon stray from the period literary dramas that had established her, and with which this one only nominally fit.
“Milius’ fascination for barbarism is inextricably connected to a nostalgia for a lost, golden age. He often claimed that “the world I admire was dead before I was born”. In Milius’ films civilization is often a synonym of corruption, weakness and decadence. It is by regressing into savagery that the protagonists recover traditional values of courage, loyalty and heroism. […] Like both Spengler and the work of other U.S. conservative filmmakers such as Clint Eastwood, Milius’ cinematic oeuvre is informed by a pessimism and nostalgia for a lost age of purity. Milius’ stories are often set during a transitional period, the end of an era, the passing of a more innocent time to a more corrupt and complex one.” In a not too aggressively academic piece, Alfio Leotta takes stock of John Milius’s conservatism, how his films have both been informed and challenge some easy presumptions about it, and how the director has smartly exaggerated it in interviews to extend his brand. Via Movie City News.
“Director Kobayashi was quite a severe filmmaker. In the very last scene in Junpei Gomikawa’s source novel, Kaji literally becomes a small mountain of snow. Director Kobayashi, when he took upon that scene, said ‘I literally need Nakadai to become a small mountain of snow.’ So I endured hypothermia on a small Northern island until I literally became a small mountain of snow.” Thanks to some retrospective screenings in New York, 83-year-old Nakadai Tatsuya has been making the interview rounds. With Simon Abrams he talks about Sword of Doom and The Human Condition; Diva Vélez has the more wide-ranging discussion, about his friendship with Mishima, the theater and film culture of post-war Japan that made his career possible, and the resurgence of his aforementioned friend’s nationalism and militarism. (“As you said, I directly experienced the war: I had to suffer through a lot of air raids in Tokyo, and I barely survived. So, in that sense, even though Mishima is my friend, in regards to what eventually happened, I cannot agree. But of course, I loved Mishima’s art.”) Via David Hudson.
“People all week have been asking me: Was I too soon? Did I come before my time? And the answer’s no. I wasn’t before my time, I was before the time they were willing to accept me.” Julie Dash talks with Sam Fragoso about the recent flurry of interest in Daughters of the Dust (including Beyoncé’s Lemonade), how frustrating it was to follow that success with so many meetings that led nowhere, and the advice she’d give to her younger self.
“What’s interesting is that when I am judged, I’m judged against the same criteria as an ordinary director. I’m not a director. I don’t direct scenes. I am a filmmaker, if you like, but I don’t direct actors; I direct myself, and my contact with my models is a telepathic one. It’s a kind of divination. A divination enabled by these two machines: the camera and the audio recorder.” With a new edition out of Notes on Cinematography and a new collection of interviews entitled Bresson on Bresson: Interviews, 1943-1983, why not an excerpt from the latter discussing the former. Talking with François-Régis Bastide, Bresson reminds you that the gnomic, crystalline utterances from his book came also in his speech.
“For me, the memory of The Godfather brings great unhappiness. That movie took 60 days, and it was miserable, not to mention the months after of jockeying over the cut. So my reaction is usually of panic and nausea, but that has nothing to do with how it is for the audience.” Francis Ford Coppola talks with Jacob Bernstein about the film that made him, and the excitement he still gets from new filmmakers.
Raoul Coutard was the eye of the French New Wave and as integral to the style and energy as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. A freelance photographer who learned his craft on the battlefield and on ethnographic expeditions, he made his feature debut shooting the documentary The Devil’s Pass (1958) for his friend Pierre Schoendoerffer and made his reputation with Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960) and François Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player (1960), bringing a scruffy, startling immediacy and energy to the low-budget productions. He made over a dozen films with Godard (including Alphaville and Weekend), four films with Truffaut (including Jules and Jim and The Soft Skin), as well as shooting such films as the cinéma vérité landmark Chronicle of a Summer (1960) from Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, Jacques Demy’s Lola (1961), Costa-Gavras’ Z (1969), and Nagisa Oshima’s Max Mon Amour (1986). And though he had a falling out with Godard after the events of May 1968, they reunited years later for Passion (1982) and First Name: Carmen (1983). He also directed three films, including Hoa Binh (1970), which won the Prix Jean Vigo and Best First Film award at Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar. His final film was Philippe Garrel’s Wild Innocence (2001). He passed away at the age of 92. William Grimes for The New York Times.
Robert Vaughn was the last of the seven. The actor and scholar (he earned a PhD in the seventies and published his dissertation, Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting) got his big break starring opposite Paul Newman in The Young Philadelphians (1959), a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination, and followed it with The Magnificent Seven (1960). To many, however, he will always be the suave secret agent Napoleon Solo in the TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which ran for four seasons in the 1960s. He co-starred in Bullit (1968), The Bridge at Remagen (1969), The Towering Inferno (1974), Bras Target (1978), S.O.B. (1981), and Superman III (1983), and reprised his Magnificent Seven character in the science fiction remake Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). On the small screen he starred in Captains and the Kings (1976), Washington: Behind Closed Doors (1977), Centennial (1978), had a recurring role in The A-Team, and was the veteran con man and father figure on the British series Hustle. He died of acute leukemia at the age of 83. Mike Barnes for The Hollywood Reporter.
Lupita Tovar was a starlet of Mexican cinema who came to Hollywood in the early 1930s, where she acted in Spanish language versions of American films and dubbed English language movies into Spanish as well as appearing in Hollywood films. Her most famous role is in the Spanish version of Dracula (1931), which was shot on the sets of Tod Browning’s production at night with a different cast and crew and considered by many as the superior production, in no small part thanks to Tovar’s provocative performance. Though she retired in the 1940s, her cinematic legacy was carried on by her daughter Susan Kohner, who earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in Imitation of Life, and her grandsons, the filmmakers Chris and Paul Weitz. She passed away at the age of 106. Steve Marble for Los Angeles Times.
The 3rd Romanian Film Festival in Seattle kicks off on Friday, November 18 at SIFF Cinema Uptown with Why Me?, with director Tudo Giurgui and producer Oana Giurgiu in attendance, and plays through the weekend with screenings of seven features. Director Horatiu Malaele will attend the closing screening of his comedy Happy Funerals and Parallax View partner Robert Horton moderates the discussion at Dogs, which screen on both Saturday and Sunday. Complete schedule and other details at the website.
“Dystopia on Our Doorstep”: At NWFF, Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s documentary Homo Sapiens plays on Friday and Saturday, November 18 and 19, Crumbs, from Ethiopia, plays on Friday only, and George Miller’s family comedy Babe: Pig in the City (1998) plays Sunday and Wednesday, November 20 and 23.
Ixcanul, Guatemala’s entry for the Foreign Language Film competition at the Academy Awards, opens this weekend at Grand Illusion.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Creepy plays two shows only at SIFF Cinema Uptown on Saturday and Sunday, November 19 and 20.
Archival and revival screenings:
Blade Runner: The Final Cut, the 2007 version created by director Ridley Scott, returns for two nights at SIFF Cinema Uptown: Monday and Tuesday, November 21 and 22.
Central Cinema presents the quote along edition of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) and Caro and Jeunet’s Delicatessen (1991) through Tuesday.
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.