At TIFF’s blog, a paean to the iconic crafter of movie gimmicks and a look at how little a master filmmaker can get away with showing you. Craig Caron, like most writers on the subject, can’t conceal his giddiness recounting the career of William Castle, whose mix of shameless stunts and B-movie energy maintain a sense of fun none of his current inheritors can claim. (“Named by Castle’s long-time co-producer Dona Hollaway and inspired by a faulty bedside lamp, “Percepto” was succinctly summarized by Castle as follows: ‘I’m going to buzz the asses of everyone in America by installing little motors under the seats of every theatre in the country.’”) And an excerpt from David Bordwell’s Planet Hong Kong breaks down the mechanics of Johnnie To’s “tell-it-once rule” of filmmaking in The Mission. (“I know of no previous Hong Kong crime film with such suppressive and elliptical narration. To uses his multiple protagonists not only to pursue different strands of action but to switch points of view in ways that hold back information from us. This is somewhat like Wong Kar-wai’s withholding of information about the affair at the heart of In the Mood for Love. But whereas Wong flaunts the fact that he’s hiding things, To is more covert. We don’t expect that a film that can dwell on men kicking around a ball of paper will be so reluctant to divulge an extramarital affair or a fake murder scheme.”)
“Existential meaninglessness, the pointlessness of moral causes, the uselessness of idealism: these were the fates they truly feared. And for Aldrich, these were the just rewards for those who sought to ignore the savagery of the world for hopes and dreams. Survival by any means was the only virtue worth espousing. But what do you do when the mission is over? Where do you go when your worldview has been shattered? These are the questions we find in Autumn Leaves, a film almost totally unique, both as part of Aldrich’s extensive oeuvre and as a product of the classical Hollywood studio system.” Nathanael Hood considers Autumn Leaves as both a daring extension of his portraits of broken men and an intriguing compromise with melodrama—right down to the rare (for the director) happy ending.
“They even refuse to be serious in their ultimate intent. Surrealism often works on dissonance, its ability to shock you out of the stupor of narrative and jar you into a renewed engagement with the world. But the Pythons do something, well, completely different—plunging us into a wild, free-flowing, and unsettling dream where we lose our bearings entirely. (That’s also why their regular gag of running the end credits at weird points is so effective—it actually reflects our utter temporal dislocation.) You’re never jarred awake by the Pythons; you’re simply tossed further into their madness.” Bilge Ebiri praises the clarion calls to silliness, and concomitant anti-authoritarianism, of the films of the Monty Python troupe, both together and individually.
“But William had a new plan, as he explained to Alma: the newspapers were full of reports about someone who had tried to heist the Lorain Avenue branch of the Cleveland Trust Company bank. William would do one better. ‘He said if I would help him he could do it successfully, but if anything did go wrong, we could die,’ Alma later told reporters. ‘I kept stalling the job. I suppose I wanted to live, even though I didn’t have much to live for.’” Sarah Weinman reports on the crimes and sad life of Alma Malone, inspiration for Barbara Loden’s Wanda. Via Longform.
“I had a couple of really shitty experiences and I thought, you know what? I love writing and directing… it makes me extremely happy. I’ve never been ambitious as an actor—I like it every now and then, but it’s never been my main passion. So, what’s the point of this? I’ll put myself in this position again when I’m 60. Although… I’ll have to write a part for myself.” Anna Silman’s portrait of Sarah Polley reveals the same resilient mix of progressive feminism and unapologetic indifference to her acting career (as opposed to her writer/director one) that made her account of tiptoeing through a Harvey Weinstein encounter one of the most thought-provoking of that sadly expanding genre.
“I actually think people don’t know how to talk about this film. I don’t even know if there’s a right way. And I can see that there’s this problem. I’ve tried throughout my career, for better or for worse, maybe for worse, to do things differently. Gates of Heaven was a contrarian movie, to be sure. I was aware of all these documentary rules I was supposed to follow and I systematically broke all of them. And I got into trouble with the reenactments in The Thin Blue Line. And this is different, this is not the The Thin Blue Line. Because you’re stepping out of a documentary world altogether. If I’d had my way, had my druthers—whatever druthers are—there would have been even more drama. It’s expensive, particularly period drama where you’re re-creating the 1950s.” Errol Morris talks with Nicolas Rapold about his Netflix series Wormwood, and about the slippery line between reality and memory that has long been his obsession.
“There was a moment with Federico when we were preparing Cronos that I’ll never forget. He said, ‘What do I do in this scene?’ And I said, ‘Do whatever you want. I wrote it for you; I’m playing to your strengths.’ And he said, ‘No, if you want me to be free, you gotta give me limits. If you give me a corral, a big corral, I still can run freely within my paces. If you tell me ‘The world’s your oyster,’ I don’t know where to run.’” Matt Zoller Seitz and Simon Abrams share some kind words—from Guillermo del Toro, his co-screenwriter Antonio Trashorras, and the actor himself—from their forthcoming book on The Devil’s Backbone about the recently deceased Argentinian actor Frederico Luppi.
“I couldn’t not speak up. Some of my friends were communists. It was not against the law. But I cannot be too bitter about this, because it gave me free time to live my life. I had been making movies since I was 17 and suddenly I discovered the world. I became a spokesperson for internationalism.” J. E. Smyth talks with new centenarian Marsha Hunt about a promising career that got derailed by the HUAC witch hunts.
For a certain generation, Robert Guillaume was Benson DuBois, the sardonic straight man butler on Soap and Benson (in the latter he went into politics himself) and a role that earned him two Emmy Awards (playing the same character in two different shows). For another, he’s the voice of Rafiki in The Lion King (1994) and various sequels and spin-offs. Before either, he was a busy stage actor on Broadway and beyond, appearing in the 1966 revival of Porgy and Bess and earning a Tony nomination for the 1977 revival of Guys and Dolls, and he later took over the lead in the long-running hit musical The Phantom of the Opera. He’s appeared on the big screen in Super Fly T.N.T. (1973), Seems Like Old Times (1980), as Martin Luther King in Prince Jack (1984), Lean On Me (1989), Spy Hard (1996), and Big Fish (2003), but he was busier on TV and stage. He passed away this week at the age of 89. More from Daniel E. Slotnik for The New York Times.
In the debate over who launched rock and roll, Fats Domino is on the shortlist. Born Antoine “Fats” Domino, he was one of the pioneering stars of the genre, transforming R&B into rock and roll with hits that crossed over into the pop charts for years, and he appeared in the early rock and roll films Shake, Rattle & Rock! (1956) and Jamboree! (1957) as himself. He died this week at age 89. More from David Browne for Rolling Stone.
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.