The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of September 8

“While the personal plotline is often seen as quintessentially Epsteinian, the lighthouse story tends to be regarded as the product of contractual obligation. In fact, one recurrent criticism made of the film concerns the use of a voice-over that guides us through this larger narrative. This voice is, indeed, very prominent, but it’s also suffused with the self-enjoyment and sense of adventure of a storyteller. If, as many commentators seem to assume, Epstein felt constrained by external impositions, he managed nonetheless to make a film that lovingly embraces both its educational character and its global spirit. If there was a burden attached to the institutional demands of the project, he subverted it, creating new possibilities for his cinema.” While many have dismissed Epstein’s UN-commissioned Les feux de la mer as fatally compromised by its government sourcing and pedagogical slant, Cristina Álvarez López finds the director thrilled to discover a new strain or two of storytelling to fold in with his more explicitly poetic mode.

“Hitchcock had never gone so far inside his characters before. And that would prove to be his creative destiny. But he was not happy on Rebecca. He and Selznick fought most of the time, and neither felt satisfied, although the film would carry off the best picture Oscar. Still, something had given Hitchcock access to his fascination with the emotional alarm preying on individuals in regular melodramas. You can tell the story of Rebecca to someone before they see the film, but they’ll still be astonished when they feel the guilt and apprehension Hitchcock has delivered. That comes from the vulnerability of “I,” the malice in Mrs. Danvers, and the uncertain authority of Olivier’s Maxim. He owns Manderley, but he is an insecure master, desperate for the reassurance that a woman may bring him—or ready to be overpowered.” David Thomson flips through the many genres—romance, mystery, ghost story—and many masters—Danvers, Rebecca, and “I” fighting onscreen, Hitchcock and Selznick tussling off—of Rebecca.

Rebecca

“Making The Devil’s Backbone, I finally felt in command of my visual style, my narrative rhythm, and was able to work in a profound manner with my cast and crew to craft a beautiful genre-masher: a Gothic tale set against the backdrop of the greatest ghost engine of all—war. The second greatest ghost engine is, in my opinion, memory. With this in mind I started trying to make a movie that would join these two strands and make one thing clear: The ghost is not the scariest thing in the tale. It is human cruelty.” Guillermo del Toro does the honors of writing the forward to Matt Zoller Seitz and Simon Abrams’s new book about The Devil’s Backbone—including the marvelous tale of Pedro Almodóvar completely failing to understand the necessity for the concept of final cut.

Two lengthy profiles of filmmakers both feature unexpected takes that make perfect sense in hindsight. Abraham Riesman’s following around of Kevin Smith on a typically hyperactive (and weed-fueled) day makes the compelling case for Smith’s increased happiness and relevance even as his career as a filmmaker becomes a secondary or even tertiary concern. (“Kevin Smith has used his second act to craft a new-model utopia of modern fame, one built on niche interests, a direct line to fans, and an unmistakably unique voice. At one time, Smith seemed to represent a new model of filmmaking: cheap, lewd, bracing, and provocative. Now he’s again at the center of a new model: the business of niche audiences and narrowcasting directly to fans. He’s no longer talked about in conversations about the future of filmmaking. But he just might exemplify the future of celebrity.”) While Ian Parker’s flattering profile of Ken Burns simply can’t help but capture the imposing ego you’d need to commit yourself to a series of documentaries each claiming to tell the story of America. (“His default conversational setting is Commencement Address, involving quotation from nineteenth-century heroes and from his own previous commentary, and moments of almost rhapsodic self-appreciation. He is readier than most people to regard his creative decisions as courageous, and he told me that when people make uninvited suggestions about how he might change his working habits he imagines someone saying, ‘Mr. Cézanne, how about some watercolors?’”) Via Longform.

“The Lumières’ Cinématographe wasn’t yet for sale, but the British electrical engineer Robert Paul was selling his Animatograph—except he only had two working machines, and a nightly slot in the programme of one of London’s premier music halls, the Alhambra in Leicester Square. Hertz laid siege to the novice showman, calling on him every night and upping the offer. On the Friday before he was due to sail, Hertz decided on direct action.” Ian Christie recounts the story of the American magician who first brought the “cinematographe” to Australia—and probably had the first movie screening at sea during his whirlwind tour along the way. Via David Hudson.

Gone With the Wind

“So, what are we to make of Gone With the Wind and its blinkered perspective on history? How can we reckon with its failures as a historical document if America has yet to do the same with the poisonous roots that make such films possible in the first place? Some have suggested that Gone With the Wind screenings be accompanied by more evenhanded lectures that take its problems to task, which is a somewhat useful gesture. But these conversations have been happening since the film was released in 1939. It’s also important to not act as if the failings of Gone With the Wind are an outlier from a more racist Hollywood past.” At a time when Confederate memorials are tumbling down, Angelica Jade Bastién argues that similarly removing Gone With the Wind from public view is an oversimplified misstep, not least for the false assurance it lends to the notion that Hollywood—and the rest of us—have progressed very much beyond it.

“Understand that films made in the middle of legal actions don’t do as well as films made with cooperation and harmony, despite what contracts say. Let the film speak for itself.” Francis Coppola tells Anne Thompson about the decisively unharmonious shooting of The Cotton Club, and why he decided to reedit one of his more controversial films almost 35 years after its release.

“Considering how important that idea of “incompleteness” is to your Lobster artwork, have you seen the posters where the distributor has combined both posters onto one sheet?” “I have seen them, and always wonder: if Colin and Rachel are so lonely, why don’t they just hug each other?” Vasilis Markmatakis and Craig Caron discuss the poster designer’s collaborations with Yorgos Lanthimos.

Obituary

Karoly Makk

Hungarian filmmaker Karoly Makk shared the Jury Prize at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival for Love (1971), his film the oppressive culture of 1950s Hungary, and received an Oscar nomination for Cat’s Play (1975). His father owned a cinema and Makk entered the film industry, working his way up from assistant to director when the industry was under Soviet censorship. He made his first feature as co-director in 1951 and his solo directorial debut in 1955 with Liliomfi. It took him six years to get permission to make Love, which brought the filmmaker international attention, and its success gave him the clout to make Cat’s Play. Subsequent films include A Very Moral Night (1977) and Another Way (1982) and the English language films Lily in Love (1984) with Christopher Plummer and Maggie Smith and The Gambler (1997) with Michael Gambon as Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He passed away at the age of 91. Ronald Bergan for The Guardian.

Documentary filmmaker Murray Lerner specialized in music and musicians. He filmed the Newport Folk Festival for four years, which he turned into Festival (1967) and, decades later, The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival (2007), and the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, which resulted in a number of films, including Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight (1991) and Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival (1996). His won an Oscar for From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China (1979) and co-directed Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who (2007), which was released in a four-hour version on DVD. His non-music films include his debut Secrets of the Reef (1956) and the 3-D short Magic Journeys (1982). He died at the age of 90. Neil Ganzlinger 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.


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