The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of March 16

“Some set-ups and movements of Passeio com Johnny Guitar are built as the reversed mirror reflection of those envisaged by Ray. The more one watches Monteiro’s short, the more one appreciates its evocation of Ray’s mise en scène. But this evocation is not a copy, an imitation, or a reproduction. He follows the pulsations of the scene and, caught in its wavelength, expands its resonances. He responds to those memories triggered by the soundtrack as if executing the steps of a lover’s dance.” The latest short film explored in Cristina Álvarez López’s series is new to me, but not only is Joa?o César Monteiro’s Passeio com Johnny Guitar a welcome discovery, Álvarez López’s elucidation of the film’s three and a half minutes as the quintessence of cinephilia is a stirring read.

“The climactic vanquishing of these grotesque aberrations allows life to proceed (we are freed, the straights can breed). Yet wasn’t it a little more fun with them around? Hence the central paradox of movie monsters: the horror genre implicitly asks us to identify with them, to see the world a tad askew and to want to cause mayhem and destruction to the more financially, physically, or socially privileged among us. This productively discomfiting form of identification is perhaps more acute for the queer viewer. For gays, relegated to the dustbins for most of cinema’s existence, insidious monsters can be figures of empowerment; they are often more decadent (Phantom of the Opera), worldly (Hannibal Lecter), romantic (Dracula), amusingly catty (Freddy), or bullshit-free (Michael Myers) than the supremely dull protagonists struggling to survive.” Michael Koresky’s survey of queerness in cinema hits 1932 and the topic’s most congenial genre, horror, as the unquestionable abhorrent racism of The Mask of Fu Manchu contrasts with the less cut-and-dried homoeroticism of the tortures greeted upon lead hunk Charles Starrett.

Bette Davis in ‘The Corn is Green’

At Criterion, praise for two artists whose projects seemed to strike out in bold new directions, even though one was really just redefining his home turf. Dan Callahan thinks Bette Davis’s quiet, progressively inspirational turn as a teacher in The Corn Is Green is as predictably overlooked as it is, consequently, underrated. (“At times, it feels as if both [director Irving] Rapper and these actors want to grab the attention of the audience through a kind of stylistic bullying, and Davis seeks to contrast that impulse from her first entrance. She doesn’t want to show off here, as she does in many of her 1930s films. What Davis wants to do in The Corn Is Green is draw the audience to her and offer her Miss Moffat up as a role model and alternative for women.”) And Geoffrey O’Brien reminds us The Age of Innocence is thoroughly a Scorsese film not just for the wild-horse energy that kicks just under its deliberately placid surface but its detailed observation of a community busy policing its own. (“Weren’t Henry and Louisa van der Luyden, the exalted aristocratic arbiters called on to resolve sticky questions of social propriety, rather akin to Paul Sorvino’s Mafia boss, adjudicating matters in deceptively soft-spoken sit-downs? Scorsese’s Age of Innocence (1993) builds up a devastating sense of oppressive social power, an atmosphere of underlying dread and suspicion sustained not by physical violence but by rigorously enforced techniques of exclusion and exile.”)

“A hint of Kim’s cleverness could be gleaned from her appearance in the 2009 mockudrama Actresses. The film—in which actresses of varying ages, all playing slight caricatures of their real-life selves, gather for a Vogue pictorial—offers some keen insights on the plight of women in the Korean film industry. (It’s basically like Hollywood, except 50 years ago.) Kim, who was 27 at the time, comes off as strikingly cognizant of how her appearance can hold sway over other people. She’s like a budding superhero who has just grasped the extent of her powers.” As Donnie Kwak’s discussion of Kim Min-hee’s recent career turns makes clear, his estimate of Korean cinema’s modernity is off by a few decades, for this is Bergman and Rossellini all over again, as an acclaimed star at the height of her strengths has been shuffled off the mainstream stage to art-house projects following the revelation of Kim’s ongoing affair with director Hong Sang-soo. Via David Hudson.

Paula Prentiss in ‘What’s New, Pussycat?’

“So her fans are left with two fairly small clusters of movies with almost nothing in common except Paula Prentiss’s presence, making her a weirdly talismanic oddity in Hollywood history. Most of us admire the Seventies edition, but dote on the Sixties one—and yet it’s also possible to see them as looking-glass halves of the same story.” Of course not every star’s disappearance from our screens can be chalked up exclusively to studio indifference; Paula Prentiss’s nervous breakdown and subsequent return to acting primarily in the domestic comfort of her own family as castmates seems a withdrawal much on her own terms. Tom Carson—who also recently interviewed the actor on her 80th birthday—offers a fan’s own appreciation of the many moments her comic timing and emotional truth improved a film, and helped provide the links between, say, Where the Boys Are and The Stepford Wives.

“In the afternoon, reception at the Chilean embassy in honor of Luis Sepúlveda, Chilean writer of a best seller, The Old Man who read love stories. I’ll read it one of these days. The Brazilian ambassador kidnaps me, literally, and I find myself in a Brazilian reception surrounded by Lusophone intellectuals: chaos and good humor. According to what they say, every single one of them has seen every single one of my films (not even I have seen all of them. For example, I’ve never seen What Is to Be Done?).” Jaime Grijalba has been translating the set diary Raúl Ruiz kept during the filming of 1994’s Fado, Major and Minor. There are the expected historical and philosophical digressions, and the proud Chilean heritage of proclaiming intellectualism more than a little of a con game, as well as the joyous recounting of dinners, conversations, and song; as one line sums up an evening: “Laughs, chirigotas and Japanese food.” Via Mubi.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid.


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