The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of August 11

“The distinctive tone of Minnellian melodrama rises out of the protagonist’s frustrated attempt to sublimate desire into art and transform the real with the imaginary. This project is doomed, but it provides the films with an impressive stylistic ‘excess’ or melodramatic delirium. It also makes the artist a lonely figure. We occasionally feel this loneliness in the more optimistic musicals, which transform the world through song and dance, but in the melodramas the characters never fully reconcile life and imagination. Especially in such films as The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Lust for Life (1956), and Two Weeks in Another Town (1962), Minnelli seems to recognize that the utopian force of art can never transcend its social and psychological circumstances. The melodramas are therefore the most revealing examples of his work—the place where the paradoxes and contradictions of his aestheticism become apparent.” James Naremore offers a distillation of his exemplary book The Films of Vincent Minnelli, charting in 4,500 words why, undeniable as the consistency of his themes may be and howsoever strong a lineage he drew from modern art, the director’s oeuvre remains so critically controversial and impossible to pin down as the unalloyed stylings of a master. Via (as so much this week is) David Hudson.

“The woman the clergyman obsesses over, played by Génica Athanasiou, is—Sandy Flitterman-Lewis has argued—less an object of desire than a “force of desire”. She resists consumption by the spectator, and Allin’s clergyman is too weak to compete with her. Whenever he attempts to capture her, the director intervenes to save her from his touch: he grabs at her neck, and the neck becomes a house; he puts her face into a bottle, but when the bottle breaks we find his face inside. With a surrealist disdain for the normal bounds of filmed reality, Dulac uses editing and superimposition to protect Athanasiou’s character.” Chelsea Phillips-Carr shows how prescient Dulac’s The Seashell and the Clergyman truly was, as both surrealist experience and a feminist rejection of male desire—for the audience as much as her eponymous priest.

The Seashell and the Clergyman

“’What is theatre?’ he wonders, ‘A game of masks that bares the condition of the soul… It lets spectators judge one character against another through their own subjectivity.’ The stage itself appears to act on those who act on it, Rivette framing its vast whiteness as a looming, mystical presence. A cast member asks her director if he was happy with the day’s work before a stunning cut to the stage and back—replete with the sound of a slamming door—gives a split-second impression of sentience, of a living organism under their feet.” Now that one of cinema’s holy grails, Rivette’s Out 1, has been restored to audiences, Matt Thrift feels its immediate predecessor L’Amour fou is due its own rediscovery.

“Had The Exterminating Angel opened in New York in 1962, it might well have found a welcoming audience. Moviegoers who were flocking to films like Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly didn’t mind unanswered questions. Alain Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad, which opened that year and was a wild success in art houses, had already limbered up cinephiles for a what-does-it-all-mean exercise in louche, elliptical decadence. And on Broadway, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was making more and more people comfortable with the idea of a party as metaphor, an event at which social graces are no match for the cruelty and bloodlust they’re so often used to disguise.” And speaking of the male surrealists’ gaze that Dulac was thwarting: the vagaries of foreign-film distribution means Buñuel’s movie didn’t make American screens until 1967, which Mark Harris argues partially explains the tepid reception—as does, ironically, the timelessness of film’s brutal indifference to engaging its audience.

The Exterminating Angel

“The non-recorded hiss is a direct result of the technological properties and behavior of the medium and its attendant machines. In this manner, the physicality of the medium is reaffirmed by this mode of sound-making, a process which is usually perceived as largely abstract to the viewer. Sound is understandably much less considered in terms of its filmic materiality than image is, even today. The use of clear leader in this film by Brakhage produces sound that is perceived by the audience as not just white-like noise, or hiss, but as the sound of film going through a projector.” An interesting post by Mark Toscano brings up one of the odder conundrums a film preservationist has faced: how to deal with a rare sound film by Brakhage whose soundtrack was preserved by its director in two different, and conceptually opposed, manners.

Will Perkins’s analysis of the opening titles to Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia gets into another restoration issue—how the credit for screenwriter Michael Wilson didn’t get added till 2002.

Michael Wilson’s amended screen credit

“The very first shot of the film was done once and in one take, and Wilder said, ‘It’s a print. Next.’ I said, ‘What? Just the one take?’ And I went to Mr. Wilder and said, ‘Can we do one more take? I think I can do better.’ And he said, ‘Why didn’t you do it before?’ We didn’t do it again. This was a very good lesson to me. You have to be ready for the first shot, and not the second, or third.” Mario Adorf offers Nick Pinkerton just a few choice tales from his remarkable career and it’s still easily the most wide-ranging interview of the week—including stories of trying to tame a horse called Satan on the Major Dundee set, leaping onto a moving van racing through Milan traffic for Di Leo’s The Italian Connection, or, for a real courting of danger, daring to change a line in Billy Wilder’s script.

“For example, four years ago it was very clear. You see all of these German terrorists, they are 20 years old, and they have really pure ideas. Ideas about whether to accept or reject certain things. You can agree or disagree, but what they say is clear. But today, it’s not that clear. I wanted to show that there is an ambiguity. And the film is quite ambiguous in many ways. The second part, for example, is a contrast to the first part. In the contemporary world, it seems likely that you could meet a young person just as fascinated by terrorism as consumerism. That’s quite new, I think.” Bertrand Bonello talks with Clayton Dillard about the new ideas underlying age-old problems in his acclaimed portrait of modern terrorism Nocturama.

Bertrand Bonello

“I can’t make a profession out of doing better because I learned early on that if you do better, you do well, you don’t get to do better—you just get to do more. You know—’While you’re resting, would you mind carryin’ this anvil upstairs?’ Like that shot. So, for me, it’s no strain—just the course of least resistance. Do it until it poops out, you know, and then maybe wheel in once a year like Lionel Barrymore and play Scrooge—wrap it up and go back to the Bahamas or whatever happens. Cure my arthritis and spike myself out—whatever.” Words of wisdom that should be seared into every film lover’s memory, from Grover Lewis’s classic portrait of Robert Mitchum on the set of The Friends of Eddie Coyle, reprinted in celebration of the actor’s centenary.

Julia Wick compiles a selection of Cuban film posters that display a colorful vitality as distinctive as other hotbeds of great poster design; and talks with Carol Wells, curator of the exhibit from which the images are taken, about the reasons behind some of the design choices—such as the general lack of a focus on stars (with Chaplin the great exception). Via Movie City News.

Obituary

Ty Hardin

Ty Hardin made his fame as wandering cowboy Bronco Layne, who first appeared in the TV western Cheyenne before spinning off into his own hit series Bronco, which lasted four seasons from 1958 to 1962 (he also played the characters in guest spots on Maverick and Bronco). On the big screen he started at Paramount and appeared in the cult movies The Space Children (1958) and I Married a Monster a Monster from Outer Space (1958) before being cast in as Bronco, and later starred opposite Jeff Chandler in Sam Fuller’s Merrill’s Marauders (1962) and appeared in George Cukor’s The Chapman Report (1962), the JFK biopic PT 109 (1963), Palm Springs Weekend (1963), Battle of the Bulge (1965), Custer of the West (1967) and opposite Joan Crawford in Berserk (1967), and in the seventies starred in a number of European productions. He passed away at the age of 87. William Grimes for The New York Times.

Haruo Nakajima tromped into movie history as the man in the 200-pound rubber suit in the original Godzilla (1954) and a dozen sequels. He was a stuntman by profession—he also played a bit role in Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai the same year as Godzilla debut—but his performance in the heavy suit was essential to bringing the special effect to life and he both founded and set the bar for “suitmation” acting. In addition to the Big G series, he suited up for Rodan (1956), Gorath (1963), Attack of the Mushroom People (1963), Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), War of the Gargantuas (1966), and King Kong Escapes (1967) as a shaggy King Kong. He retired in 1973 but went out in the convention circuit beginning in the 1990s. He was 88. Russell Goldman for The New York Times.

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.