“Oh yes, [The Blue Bird] is actually totally crazy if you ask me. In that regard it is Maurice’s most radical film. He even painted the intertitles himself and managed almost every stage of the production. I think this was the closest he came to his idea of creating a complete artwork. Which is also the reason we showed it together with I Walked with a Zombie. In many ways the latter is the most accomplished expression of Jacques’ total art, although I am sure ever-modest Jacques would have abhorred a term like this. In it Jacques goes furthest in liberating himself from narrative shackles. Both films could be seen as showcases on how to create poetry within the Hollywood system.” The Austrian Film Museum’s Christoph Huber has a fascinating conversation with Patrick Holzapfel about a program he curated that paired films of Maurice and Jacques Tourneur, and the commonalities and radical differences it exposed in the father and son auteurs. Via Film Comment.
“It was precisely this history of problematic representation that [producer] Esparza sought to upend with his films, and he and a few fellow filmmakers succeeded.In the early eighties, Mexican Americans were just beginning to fulfill their dream of making their own cinema, and The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez was one of the films that inaugurated the Chicano film movement, along with Young’s ¡Alambrista! and Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit (1981). The next ten or so years saw the full flowering of Chicano cinema with the release of La Bamba (1987), Born in East L.A. (1987), Stand and Deliver (1988),and The Milagro Beanfield War(1988), and culminating with Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi in 1992.” Charles Ramírez Berg traces the history of Young’s The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, from real-life incident to folk song, academic study, and finally a film at the forefront of not only the Latin American wave but the entire independent film movement. Elsewhere, at Filmmaker, star and producer Edward James Olmos talks with Jim Hemphill about the film. (“I gave Bob [Young] the script up at Sundance, and that same year Robert Duvall was there – he gave Bob Tender Mercies to read at the same time. Bob called me up and said, ‘Eddie, I just finished reading your script, and it’s the most horrific and unprofessional script I’ve ever read in my life.’ He couldn’t find one good thing to say about it. And then he said, ‘Tender Mercies is an extraordinary script. Just incredible.’ In my mind I’m thinking, well, he’s gonna do Tender Mercies. I mean, at this point in time I am no Robert Duvall, okay? […] And Bob asks me, ‘Do you have the money for your story?’ I said, ‘I have a million dollars.’ He goes, ‘Oh, that’s more than enough. I want to do your story. Duvall’s script is brilliant, but yours is the story I want to tell.’”)
“Understanding Dulac’s biography—her fierce independence, her feminism, her simultaneous desire for women and her sympathy for fragile men—helps one unlock Princess Mandane, which for most of its running time plays like a standard, if at times innovatively shot and edited, orientalist male fantasy adventure of the era. Yet the complex network of sexual desires that course through the film are pure Dulac, leading to a climactic Sapphic twist that happens so quickly one might miss it, but which nevertheless cleverly overturns the entire film.” Michael Koresky’s survey of Queer cinema opts for one of Germaine Dulac’s other 1928 films to represent that year: the director’s deceptively mainstream exploration of cinematic fantasy, Princess Mandane.
“Acting provokes a gothic anxiety: the terror of the double that mocks and haunts the original. The actor shows us that we could be copied, and also, more alarmingly, that we could be copies: that what we take to be our own feelings and actions could be predetermined and pre-given, belonging to another. After all, the double is never just a duplicate but always a potential usurper. This is the threat implied in the figuration of the actor as a ghost, an enduring association across many cultures, from Hamlet to the ghost plays of Noh. The medium of film adds another layer to the actor’s hauntings: when we watch film, we watch the dead image of the actor bring to life the nonliving character. And when an actor plays a number of different roles in the same film, it enhances this uncanniness. Such films are always, to some extent, about acting.” Back at Criterion, Shonni Enelow discusses the performative uncanniness at the heart of such multiple-role turns as Kazuo Hasegawa in An Actor’s Revenge and Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers.
“Even when I had no idea I would go on to become an actor or a director, I spent my childhood thinking, just, “One day someone will know.” “One day I am going to tell this story.” But not as revenge. It’s funny, but I live my life like that. Four of my movies are telling the same story: about my family, my parents, their divorce. And it comes from being very, very unhappy. The reason is because I was born into a lie, about the identity of my real father. After telling that story in For A Woman, it’s obvious that making films is my therapy.” Diane Kurys relates the making—both onset and the autobiographical inspiration—of Peppermint Soda to Steve Macfarlane.
“I quickly realized that there were all of these conventions in German films that take place during World War II that had, over the years, calcified into truth or a set of rules that they had to function by. This started in the ’50s. You always had a good Nazi. If you had a bad Nazi, you had to realize he was being bad by becoming good. There was always a voice of reason, one Nazi who got it. There was also always, what I would consider, an effort to make a finite construct, something that actually severed and separated what you were watching from the present, that distances us from the past. They were not attempts to talk about the past in terms of today; they talked about the past as something that had no more affect on us. “We can’t explain why it happened, but it’s done. That’s not us anymore.” So we decided very early on that we would not adhere to those conventions, that we would make a film that was unabashedly modern and not fall prey to the fetishism of authenticity, that was most definitely all history—a look back in time from a moment with its own biases, problems and issues.” Robert Schwentke talks with Stephen Prokopy about the hurdles he had to overcome to make The Captain, and how his Hollywood stint directing the likes of R.I.P.D. and the Divergent sequels helped him pull it off.
“When I look through the camera, after lighting and framing have been defined, I ask myself only one question: do I believe in what I see to produce the sense and sensation that the narrative requires? My wish is that the camera will be forgotten into the evidence of the image!” Meredith Alloway interviews the participants in a Lincoln Center panel of female cinematographers: Agnes Godard (quoted above), Ashley Connor (The Miseducation of Cameron Post), Joan Churchill (Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer), and Natasha Braier (The Neon Demon). Connor gets a full interview at another site with Jinnie Lee, where the DP goes into more detail about the importance of a filmmaking family, the reason she works so often with women directors, and the importance in her profession of sturdy shoes. (“I’ve been incredibly lucky to find close collaborators early on and people who really understood my work and me as a person. So many women. I fucking love that. Somebody said to me in an interview, ‘You seem to only work with women or queer artists.’ And I’ve done work with men as well, but it’s not what excites me the most. And it’s not that I don’t wanna work with men, it’s just that I’m not the person you come to make a sexy girl walking in a swimsuit.”)
Guy Lodge and The Eyes of Orson Welles director Mark Cousins share a gallery of Welles’s sketches, from a mockingly regal self-portrait to a nearly abstract desert vista, including a charming blue devil and accompanying verse sent to then wife Rita Hayworth. Via Mubi.
Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, passed away this week at the age of 76. While her music is featured in scores of movies and TV shows, her screen career is almost exclusively music videos, concert footage, and live performances, but she did deliver a memorable one-scene performance in The Blues Brothers (1980), where she belted out “Think!” in a magnificent piece of musical theater. More from Jon Pareles for The New York Times.
Israeli director Moshé Mizrahi, who was born to Jewish parents in Egypt and grew up in Egypt and Palestine, made his directorial debut with the Israeli film Ore’ach B’Onah Meta (1970), which was nominated for a Golden Globe, and directed I Love You Rosa (1973) and The House on Chelouche Street (1973), which were both nominated for foreign language film Academy Awards. He won the Oscar for Madame Rosa (1977) with Simone Signoret, which was produced in France, and he directed Signoret again in I Sent a Letter to My Love (1980). Later films include the Holocaust drama War and Love (1985) with Kyra Sedgwick and Every Time We Say Goodbye (1986) with Tom Hanks. He passed away at age 86. David Caspi for The Hollywood Reporter.
Jazz singer Morgana King made her film debut as Mama Corleone in The Godfather (1972) and reprised the role in The Godfather Part II (1974). Her acting was really just a footnote to her long career as a singer and recording artist but it made her a part of movie history. She was 87. Matt Schudel for The Washington Post.
The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker.