The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of June 15

“Snyder and Gray would fold under questioning, ratting on one another, and subsequently go to die in the electric chair at Sing Sing; Tom Howard, a New York Daily News photographer who’d smuggled a camera into the death chamber strapped to his ankle, captured an image of Snyder’s body dancing in the grip of the fatal current. Their trial had been a phenomenon, bringing journalists and rubberneckers from all over to pack the benches in the Long Island City Courthouse. Among the spectators who passed through over the course of the proceedings were D.W. Griffith, Aimee Semple McPherson, Damon Runyon, and a 34-year-old crime reporter with an insurance background that gave him insight into the ins and outs of the case, James M. Cain.” A sensational trial that inspired Cain to write The Postman Always Rings Twice, the many film adaptations of which Nick Pinkerton traces, from Pierre Chenel’s 1939 French film, through Hollywood’s two big, flawed stabs at the material, to, from Hungary, “the bleakest version,” courtesy of director György Fehér and cowriter Bela Tarr.

“Let’s assume that in the ’70s, Ludwig was a film out of its time—sober yet lavishly appointed, forbiddingly old guard to the point of appearing laboriously academic. Today, it is still an anachronism—one can’t imagine a historical art film even again being made on such a lavish scale—and yet the very fact that it now seems so alien to us seems likely to give the film a new lease of life and attract a new audience more eager for this kind of measured pensiveness.” Of course one of the most successful adaptations of Cain’s novel was Visconti’s debut; one of his later films, Ludwig, receives some rehabilitation from Jonathan Romney, who doesn’t deny the film’s sometimes wearying pomp but finds it a striking portrait of history as a series of self-aware theatrical poses.

Corridor of Mirrors

“These spectral love stories [of the late 1940s] fed on the upsurge of interest in spiritualism that typically follows wars, when a critical mass of people yearn to connect with the dead. More and more films in the 1940s became exercises in time travel, especially in Britain, looking back as it faced a postimperial future. In gaslight melodramas, the Victorian and Edwardian eras were cloaked in fog, soot, and the cruel power dynamics of sex and class, while Gainsborough Pictures became synonymous with period dramas that were at once more entertainingly escapist and more daring in their overtones of sadomasochism. The past, in these films, is both dream and nightmare, alluring in its romantic beauty and frightening in its violence and irrationality. This tension between the pull of nostalgia and the suspicion of it is at the heart of Corridor of Mirrors.” Imogen Sara Smith can’t deny the self-limiting eccentricities of Terence Young’s debut—it’s tough, she admits, to see it as “more than a novelty”—but, latching on to its central metaphor of endless hallways and reflections, she finds it a perfect vehicle to discuss movies themselves, and how they mattered to English audiences in the years following WWII.

“Always a broad umbrella of styles and viewpoints, LGBT cinema has branched out to such a degree that it’s increasingly nonsensical to regard it as a genre in itself: a Netflix-distributed youth romp, a broadly celebrated Oscar darling and an embattled African art film cannot be said to share a common creative church or commercial playing field. Yet if one thing does bind these disparate visions, beyond the “alternative” sexualities of their characters, it’s a mutual concern with the past – an urge to process centuries of persecution and internalised prejudice before looking ahead to whatever the future of queer identity might be.” Guy Lodge argues a new sensibility is coming to the fore in Queer Cinema, one that honestly engages the past while open-heartedly “wishing their characters into the more liberated present.”

Gérard Blain in Wim Wenders’ ‘The American Friend’

“What’s so frustrating about Gérard is that every time there is a retrospective of his films, he gets rediscovered, everybody raves about how great a filmmaker he is, and a month later he’s forgotten. For some reason, he just doesn’t fit in the canon.” Olivier Assayas offers a short tribute to his friend and inspiration Gérard Blain, in celebration of the latest retrospective that will fail to make him a celebrated director.

“Frank says, “Candy-colored clown” and puts in the cassette and Dean picks up the light. Patty Norris [the production designer] didn’t put that light there. I didn’t put that light there. Nobody knows where it came from, but Dean thought it was for him. It was a work light, and nothing could be better than that being the microphone. Nothing. I love it. We found a dead snake in the street around the time we shot that scene and Brad Dourif got hold of it, and while Dean was doing “In Dreams,” Brad was standing on the couch in the background working this thing and it was totally fine with me.” Three excerpts from David Lynch and Kristine McKenna’s combined researched biography and autobiographical reminiscence Room to Dream have Lynch in his familiar role of charming storyteller who refuses to answer any of your questions.

It Happened Here

“We had to go to Hollywood to test one or two old-timers to see what they could deliver in an interview. The first was Lefty Hough, who was John Ford’s property man. He had us absolutely in hysterics. The secondary producer, who had come out with me to check on these people, said, “six more of those and you’ve got a series.” We interviewed between 60 and 80. Very lucky. Hollywood—such an unimaginative title for the series, but we just couldn’t come up with another one that fit everything we had.” Kevin Brownlow talks with Michael Sragow about Rex Ingram, Charlie Chaplin, Brownlow’s own fiction films, and how he became one of Stanley Kubrick’s legendary phone friends.

And let’s end with some more Visconti as Adrian Curry picks his favorite posters from a career that spanned hard-hitting melodramatic paintings to some of Poland’s most strikingly surreal images.

Obituary

British actress Eunice Gayson was the original Bond girl. She played Sylvia Trench opposite Sean Connery’s James Bond in Dr. No (1962) and From Russia With Love (193) and is the first woman to appear in a scene with Bond in the big screen series. She made her debut in 1948 and was busy in small and supporting roles in movies and on TV, including a major part in The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), the second film in the Hammer series, and guest roles on Secret Agent, The Saint, and The Avengers, before retiring in the 1970s. She passed away at the age of 90. More from Nadia Khomami for The Guardian.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker.

Eunice Gayson

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