The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of March 17

“St. Stephen’s is known as the Hill, both for its steep topography and its aspiration to be an enlightened beacon (as in the biblical “city on a hill”), and Malick thrived in a culture that emphasized spirituality, intellectualism, and rugged individualism. ‘When I first got there, it was made known that he was the local genius,’ [longtime friend Jim] Lynch told me. Malick had the highest standing in the class his junior and senior years, served in student leadership positions like dorm council, played forward on the basketball team, and, with Romberg, co-captained the football team, playing both offensive and defensive tackle, an accomplishment of which he’s still proud. (‘He says that in football he was ‘the sixty-minute man,’’ Linklater told me. ‘[Malick’s wife] Ecky says that the only time he boasts is when he talks about his high school athletic prowess.’)” Terrence Malick’s increased presence in the public eye is one of the main themes of Eric Benson’s profile—and even the steps portrayed in the article were outstripped recently by the director’s willingness to participate in a public Q&A at the SXSW festival—but another is how large a presence he’s always had in his favorite city of Austin—a town he loves not least for the boarding school that allowed his voracious intellectual curiosity to flourish without his father’s heavy-handed demands.

“While Stevens may have wanted to assure Paramount a hit, it also seems that he was tugged by some strong, if inchoate, emotional need to reshape the story. His take was starkly Manichean, and he stubbornly resisted objections from cast members and others that he was unbalancing the plot by creating the strongest possible contrast between the story’s two women. Where Sternberg cast a cold eye on Clyde Griffiths, Stevens loaded the dice in favor of the antihero he renamed George Eastman, making him a victim rather than a fumbling, would-be villain. Ultimately, the director’s emotional connection to the romance and the impassioned filmmaking it inspired give A Place in the Sun its power, outweighing the sometimes heavy-handed and over-determined storytelling.” Imogen Sara Smith considers two adaptations of Drier’s An American Tragedy, both of which manage a fidelity to aspects of the novel despite massive changes, Sternberg’s by observing all with an eye even more jaundiced than the writer’s, Stevens’s by surrendering his film to a love powerful enough to lead to murder.

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in ‘A Place in the Sun’

“If Rohmer’s early films seem critical of women, it’s because they are. His male characters dissect the behavior of women with a Freudian know-it-all-ness. They pick and prod at the whims of women who are, at every turn, the faltering Eve to their Adam. But thank Godard it’s not that simple. Bertrand is miserable at the end of Suzanne’s Career. He still can’t charm the girl he likes, but Suzanne has landed a great guy. In Bertrand’s mind, Suzanne has won and if anything qualifies Rohmer’s mistreatment of female characters, it’s this: his willingness to let the women win.” Erica Peplin shows how early Rohmer’s sophisticated, ambiguous portrait of romantic relationships was set by examining Suzanne’s Career and The Bakery Girl of Monceau. Via Matt Fagerholm.

“Over the last half century, critics have occasionally returned to Chaplin’s swan song hoping to discover a maligned masterpiece, only to report back, with various degrees of candor, that Crowther was right: it is indeed awful. But its history can, at least, shed some light on how and why one of the century’s greatest artists took such a tumble.” I’m auteurist enough to think Mark Harris sells A Countess from Hong Kong a little short, but his breakdown of its problems—from a reluctant leading man to a writer/director out of touch with the times—all ring true.

Nia Long and Larenz Tate in ‘Love Jones’

“If you are 22 and you’re black and it’s 1996, you’ve never seen a movie with more than four people of color where somebody doesn’t die in the end or somebody isn’t in prison or somebody isn’t struggling. I told [my agent] that that alone was getting me through the door. I still have the script. It sits on my bookshelf. It’s that special to me.” Tre’vell Anderson compiles an oral history of Love Jones, which may have a larger impact 20 years on than it did at the time.

“After that triumph, MGM gave her a contract, making LeGon the first woman of colour to sign for a major Hollywood studio. She was a pioneer, but also a pariah on the lot. MGM paid LeGon handsomely, but still forbade her from eating with the other actors. ‘Here, they were paying me $1,250 a week and telling me I wasn’t good enough to eat in their dining room,’ she later recalled. ‘But Hollywood was no different to the rest of the country in that respect.’” With the cruelly foreshortened career of Jeni LeGon playing a major role in Zadie Smith’s new novel, Pamela Hutchinson looks back at the marvelous willowy dancer whose professional life was circumscribed entirely by a dismissive white industry, starting with a name change necessitated by Louella Parsons’s misspelling.

Jeni LeGon in ‘Fools for Scandal’

“In 1951, when newsreels were probably at their peak, it was estimated that there were 210 million spectators worldwide attending one of 100,000 cinemas every week, or one tenth of the global population. Almost all of them would have seen a newsreel. But somehow the newsreel, as far as the history of news is concerned, has become the forgotten medium. It is difficult to find any general guide to news or journalism history that mentions it. There is a standard news media history timeline which goes from newspapers, to radio, to television to the Internet, and newsreels—a medium which existed for decades and influenced the worldview of hundreds of millions of people—are not there.” A recent talk by Luke McKernan argues powerfully for the importance of newsreels as a historical reference, “not always to be trusted,” given the commercial impetus under which they were made, “but never to be ignored.” Via Matt Wyver.

“I’m writing another memoir, bringing it up to date. I call it Conclusions. I think it’s the last thing I’ll write. You know, I’m 84—things come to an end. I’ve had a good innings.” John Boorman looks back on moviemaking, family, and his “on the whole, rather positive” dealings with the IRA, interviewed by Jason O’Toole. Via Movie City News.

Walter Hill and Edgar Wright

“You’re a filmmaker. You start out with a big vision, a big appetite, a dream. At the end of the day they all fall short of the dream, in my opinion. But I certainly thought I’d done a good, professional job in the straightforward sense. I knew when I was getting ready to do the movie that I was taking a chance. This was not meant to be an everyday action movie. I was trying to do something a little more, or a little less, but I was trying to do something else.” Walter Hill talks The Driver with fan and acknowledged homage-payer, Baby Driver director Edgar Wright.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with contributions from friends of Parallax View.


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