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Bruce Reid

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of November 8

Interviewing visual effects supervisor Tim Webber and others, fxguide’s Mike Seymour provides the best look yet at the myriad of effects work that had to be developed, perfected, and integrated to make Gravity. As with all the best special effects, some details are dazzling feats of engineering (that famous light box in which the actors hung contains almost 2 million individual LEDs), some still proudly human (Bullock’s zero-g movement was puppeteered by veterans of the War Horse stage production). Via David Hudson.

Creating ‘Gravity’

“Moral seriousness has always been film noir’s dirty little secret.” Imogen Sarah Smith argues the applicability of her memorable opening line to three lesser-known noirs recently screened at MOMA: a moral seriousness revealed in outrage at the “vulgarity and callousness” of the consumerist society in Try and Get Me!; horror at the atavistic brutality of the “modern cave men” squabbling over the cash in Crashout, and by letting the devil himself come in and spell it out in the genre-bending Alias Nick Beal.

Tom Charity provides the great good service of a catalogue of Cassavetes’s stock acting troupe. While I’d hope Timothy Carey needs no introduction, fellow nonspecialists will probably appreciate learning which of Cassavetes’s regulars were old friends or acting classmates. By far the biggest connection? Bit parts on Johnny Staccato.

Also at Criterion, Peter Cowie recalls three encounters with Otto Preminger where the notorious director in fact proved solicitous, but never without his demanding, even sinister side; and the site reprints a 1961 article by Antonioni on how long he struggled with the script of La Notte, till his realization that the female lead could be beautiful (thus allowing him the brave artistic choice of hiring Jeanne Moreau).

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of November 1

The more you know about Orson Welles the clearer it is how delighted he was that the mild overreaction to his War of the Worlds broadcast was blown up in the telling, allowing him to play the contrite, humbled instigator of a national panic. But the legend persists—inspiring a recent PBS special—so Jefferson Pooley and Michael Socolow attempt to set the record straight. From myths overturned to origins uncovered: David Cairns, having caught the premiere of Too Much Johnson, argues the found reels contain out-takes rather than the advertised “unfinished edit,” but remain a rollicking good time and a presciently ambitious thing to behold nonetheless.

“‘There are others who relish [B-movies] for their kinks and obsessions as a radicalizing force,’ Allen writes, ‘Personally, I usually junk the script and savor the grace moments.’” Tom Allen, the film critic and Catholic monk who turned down the role of Friar Tuck in Knightriders only to join Romero’s “workshop-collective model” as a script consultant for the Tales from the Darkside TV series, has been forgotten by most; but not by the many friends and co-workers who warmly remember him for Nick Pinkerton’s profile.

“There are these big wooden stairs on which—even when I last visited the place—students still sit on those, as we would sit and talk. We would discuss, fight a lot, sometimes literally, physically; and we all remember, all students, those wooden stairs.” As Ginanne Brownell reports, the Lodz Film School continues to expand upon its distinguished history—including such alumni as Roman Polanski, quoted above—not least because it is one of the few to draw students with the promise of working with actual 16MM and 35MM film.

Wheeler Winston Dixon’s history of spectatorship and the cinema makes some fascinating (and some questionable) comparisons between viewing movies and viewing paintings before reaching its interesting conclusion that because de Oliveira is “perhaps the last film director who has an authentic memory of what the world was like before electricity,” his films “[evoke] a world in which spectatorship was very much a personal pursuit, and not one mass produced for audience consumption.” Also at Film International, Oswald Morris shares with David E. Ellis some brief memories of working with Huston on Moulin Rouge.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of October 25

“Dad was six feet two and long-legged, taller and stronger and with a more beautiful voice than anybody. His hair was salt-and-pepper; he had the broken nose of a boxer and a dramatic air about him. I don’t remember ever seeing him run; rather, he ambled, or took long, fast strides. He walked loose-limbed and swaybacked, like an American, but dressed like an English gentleman….” In an excerpt from her new memoir, Anjelica Huston vividly recalls a childhood as heady and eventful—not always in a pleasant way—as you’d expect, including youthful attempts to mimic Morticia Addams in the mirror, learning of dalliances by both her parents, and a letter sent from the set of The Bible so loving it almost justifies that movie’s existence.

Anjelica and John Huston, 1968

Ann Hornaday discusses one major, underacknowledged advantage of video over film: the former’s vastly superior ability to capture the range of black skin tones, an overturning of a long-standing institutional bias that had cinematographers using half-measure and workarounds for decades and has begun to bear fruit in such films as 12 Years a Slave and Mother of George. Via John Wyver.

“How thrillingly radical, heartfelt, precarious, and sexy this all is. And the Production Code? You can practically hear it smashing like a mirror dropped on a marble floor.” With just the mix of wit and empathy the films demand, Kim Morgan surveys Lubitsch’s pre-Codes for The Dissolve.

The new La Furia Umana dedicates a dossier to Joseph Losey, including Catherine Grant’s fine, near photo-essay defense of the mirror images in Modesty Blaise as more thematic design than pictorial excess; Sudarshan Ramani praising The Big Night for being “suffused with anger in its unremitting vision of post-war American society, alive to the brutal function of power, money and class in human relationships”; and Christopher Small’s picking out the tragedy of The Go-Between despite the film’s inclination to “[sidestep] conventional empathy.”

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of October 18

The Eyes of Myrna Loy

Video: Matt Zoller Seitz’s 2009 video series on Wes Anderson, The Substance of Style, led to the writing of his acclaimed book A Wes Anderson Collection. In a bit of recursiveness the boxes-within-boxes loving director himself might appreciate, Seitz has decided to update the series in collaboration with editor Steven Santos, incorporating details he’d learned in the interim and of course getting around to the films from the intervening years. Bottle Rocket and Rushmore are up now; the rest will be posted over the next week. Seitz admits the new installments are “more emotional” than analytical, but his sharp observations and enjoyably unpredictable connections remain intact.

“It’s easy to imagine Bette Davis in the role, her eyes popping with restless desire. Whereas Loy had the kind of eyes that always seemed half-closed even when they weren’t.” Dan Callahan savors the judicious underplaying of Myrna Loy.

Kim Morgan recounts the accelerated rise and fall of Wallace Reid, who raced his way into movie stardom even as the position was being created, then crashed out in a literal trainwreck.

“Tell the crew they can sleep in the next world.” Dan Sallitt examines how in Air Force, one of Hawks’s most blatantly propagandistic films, the director’s “streak of dark humor combines with the project’s built-in tone of righteous vengeance” to create something that doesn’t subvert jingoistic trappings so much as open them up to real pain and loss.

Serge Daney in English presents the critic’s playful imagined conversation with Minnelli’s Home from the Hill, stumbled upon one night on television. And amid the jokes notice that in 1988 Daney already diagnosed the problems a TV generation would have with old movies isn’t that they’re too long, but too short: “You tell in two hours the type of story that they are used to follow over two years.”

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of October 11

Harry Belafonte

“Everybody’s in the minstrel show. Behind the mask, you can say and do anything. The Greeks did it. Shakespeare used it when he wrote the jester. Those he could not give the speech to, he created the jester to say it. All of America’s problems are rooted in the fact that we’re all jesters. Not one of us truth tellers. So how do you get to the truth?” Harry Belafonte’s career is so long and fascinating that anecdotes that would anchor anybody else’s life story—drawing inspiration from a black character strangling a Nazi in the World War II pic Sahara; demanding his TV show air without commercials then walking (while still, per the contract he negotiated, getting paid) when he was told his background dancers couldn’t be integrated; flying in with Sidney Poitier to the heart of Mississippi at its bloodiest to fund the Freedom Riders—are just details along the way of the grand, epic flow in Jeff Sharlet’s profile. Via Longform.

In an excerpt from Matt Zoller Seitz’s The Wes Anderson Collection, Anderson talks about the making of The Royal Tenenbaums, digging into matters less aesthetic (other than vague thoughts about his preference for long takes) than practical (such as juggling actors’ schedules or the many meetings and long wait it took until Hackman agreed to lower his price). Anderson’s admittedly spotty recollections are enhanced by a slideshow of set photographs taken and engagingly annotated by Laura Wilson, acclaimed photographer and mother of Owen and Luke. Vulture uses Seitz’s interview to kick of a series of articles on filmmaking. There’s the expected fluff, with installments focusing on superheroes and Diablo Cody; but among the worthwhile efforts Paul Feig talks about the pragmatic ruthlessness it takes to edit comedy; Nicole Holofcener has some interesting observations about the difference between directing for movies and television (including the envy she has for TV’s budgets); and Emmanuel Lubezki walks Kyle Buchanan through five of the most celebrated sequences (two for Malick, three for Cuarón) he’s shot.

Curiously, Vulture’s best, most well-researched behind-the-scenes article of the week isn’t gathered under that umbrella. Mark Harris’s account of the making of Spike Jonze’s Her shows an iconically youthful director entering middle age with perhaps some anxieties (both human and virtual characters of his new film were first conceived as older than they wound up) but his unflagging work ethic and refusal to compromise (even recasting the voice behind the titular computer program) surviving undiminished.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of October 4

“Beat it you little creep—I mean, hurry home, son.” Adrian Schober’s excellent article on how The Trouble with Harry’s young Arnie Rogers simultaneously embodies and differs from Wordsworth’s idealized child of nature displays how Hitchcock was both Romantic and ironist. From death in the countryside, other highlights in the new Senses of Cinema tackle death in the city—Philippe Met’s survey of Abel Ferrara’s New York—and almost literally captured on camera, as Blaine Allan tracks the changes between three versions of Wenders and Ray’s Lightning over Water. Also, Martin Stollery writes up the latest inductee to the journal’s Great Directors series, Nouri Bouzid.

Christopher Walken looks out over Abel Ferrara’s New York

“The real music in the film is not Lupino’s singing but her dialogue. The lines aren’t really so brilliant, as you realize if you try to quote them, but the quick, casual way she tosses them off creates the impression of someone so sharp, so with-it, that she can’t help herself.” Looking back at the three films in which Ida Lupino plays a torch singer—The Man I Love, Road House, and Private Hell 36Imogen Smith finds each having their strengths but ultimately too constricted by commercial considerations to be worthy of the magnificent voice at their center. Also at the Chiseler, Dan Callahan surveys one his most beloved filmographies, the works of Jacques Demy (“miracle drugs that insist on beauty and music and the fun of living by your wits while also hinting at darker rivers of feeling underneath”), with particular attention paid to the late, hard-edged wonder Une chambre en ville.

Lola continues to roll out their content. In this wave, Sam Roggen demonstrates how masters like Preminger, Ray, and Mann rose to the challenge of directing audience attention in the vast expanse of the CinemaScope frame; Burke Hilsabeck finds a scene in Tashlin’s Artists and Models engaged in interesting debate with Clement Greenberg’s notions of kitsch and the avant-garde; and Amelie Hastie sees the rhythms of pain and serenity in The Thin Red Line, Whale Rider, and Winter’s Bone “[enacting] a spectatorship based…on a model of compassion.”

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of September 20

The first wave of the new Lola—each issue being released piecemeal, more is still to come—is devoted to Brian De Palma. Alain Bergala’s semiotic reading of Obsession does well by De Palma’s magpie cinephilia, and Helen Grace reminds you how the director’s always political in her account of feminist protests she supported and (in the case of Dressed to Kill) found misguided. But it’s Adrian Martin’s superb breakdown of the action in Carlito’s Way’s poolhall sequence that you don’t want to miss; Martin never lets the rigor of his analysis muffle the contagious giddiness (count the exclamation marks) De Palma generates when he’s on fire.

‘Carlito’s Way’

“We made trees and shrubs. We helped make all this.” “Whew! That’s not bad.” “Yeah. But did we get a thimbleful of credit for it? No!” An excerpt from Robert Sellers’s new book Very Naughty Boys:  The Amazing Story of HandMade Films details the making of Time Bandits, which like the movie involves petty squabbles, major players in over their head, and Sean Connery saving the day.

“You started out with this artsy-craftsy reality crap and what did you end up with? The news, the goddamned news! People get that for free! You think somebody’s gonna hire a babysitter, take a taxicab, go all the way the hell downtown, walk to the box office, shell out four bucks, and say, ‘Here, here—here’s my four dollars. What time does the news go on?’” The latest movie of the week at The Dissolve is Real Life. The introduction by Nathan Rabin and the roundtable may hit a bit much on the film’s prescience about reality television (like any great comedian, Brooks just imagines the worst that could happen and gets to look a natural-born prophet when it inevitably rolls around), but Scott Tobias has good thoughts on Albert Brooks’s most daring creation, “Albert Brooks.”

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of September 6

“They were permitted to drink deep of oblivion of all the trouble of the world”

Only up since July, Luke McKernan’s Picturegoing already boasts enough irresistible content to drain away too many hours of any cinephile’s day. As the title suggests, the site collects accounts of going to the movies, but the joy of McKernan’s archivist inclusiveness is that everything is here: Peter O’Toole encountering fascism for the first time via newsreels; literary critic Edward Wagenknecht suggesting the devil was the first movie star; novelist Dorothy Richardson wishing the audiences of 1928 would learn to keep quiet; an unidentified “Negro male student in High School. Age 17,” quoted in a 1930s sociological study, offering the most evocative description I’ve ever read of trying to live your life by the example set on movie screens. And this isn’t even getting into the poems, the excerpts from diaries and oral histories, the fiction excerpts…. McKernan has provided a wealth of tags to navigate his selections, but I’d follow the example of so many of the earliest movie watchers quoted: go in blind, not knowing what to expect, and a little miracle is bound to pop up before your eyes. Via John Wyver.

The best essays about living up to the example set on movie screens I’ve ever seen, of course, come courtesy of the films of Howard Hawks. Imogen Sara Smith is quite marvelous on Hawks’s always amazing use of performance, and how that feeds into “the strange connection in his films between the most polished artifice and the deepest authenticity,” at Moving Image Source.

“After dinner we’ll see a movie. It’ll give me ideas.” “Use your own ideas instead of stealing them from everyone else.” Also inspired by MOMI’s Hawks retrospective, Richard Brody declares Contempt Godard’s most Hawksian film.

On the set of ‘The Wild Angels’

“He said, ‘What is this?’ And I said, ‘This is a spaceship with tits.’ And he says, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what it is. You build it.’ So suddenly, I was the guy in the model shop that everyone hated.” Two excerpts from Chris Nashawaty’s new book Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses supports my belief that there’s not a dull story to be told about working on a Roger Corman production. At RogerEbert.com Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda, Peter Bogdanovich and others talk about the making of The Wild Angels; while at Grantland John Sayles, James Cameron (quoted above), Gale Ann Hurd, Sybil Danning, and Bill Paxton describe some of the low-rent, hard-work inventiveness behind Battle Beyond the Stars and Galaxy of Terror.

Welles.net offers an excerpt of its own, from this year’s acclaimed book of taped Orson Welles conversations. No, not that one; Todd Tarbox’s Orson Welles and Roger Hill: A Friendship in Three Acts. A lovely ramble between two dear old soulmates about the various stupidities of dancing, New Year’s celebrations (“Too much drunkenness and not enough thought”), and our attitudes toward death.

As film lovers throughout the land lie awake in their beds, fearful tales running through their heads of Harvey Scissorhands once again rampaging the land, David Bordwell reminds us that not every interference is ruinous and even producers can (inadvertently, true) stumble upon a good idea. Specifically he looks at two movies—Sturges’s The Great Moment and Mankiewicz’s All About Eve—where flashback structures meticulously set up by their directors were altered by heavy-handed producers; to simplify things, of course, but each leading to a structure in some ways richer and stranger than originally intended.

‘Killer’s Kiss’

In a previously unpublished 2009 exchange, intended for a book that never materialized, Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore talk over Kubrick’s first four features. The best insights come when each plunks down for their favorite of the quartet, Rosenbaum for Fear and Desire, Naremore for Killer’s Kiss.

“Oh, what do you know? It’s morning already. Come around and tell me the story of your life sometime.” Discovered by Charlie Chaplin; immortalized by Orson Welles; once brutally punished by studio heads during a Three Stooges short by being tossed into a swimming pool for 97 takes; ultimately ruined—possibly even framed for solicitation—by HUAC. Kathleen Sharp relates the story of Dorothy Comingore.

“We rode our bikes around the [hospital] grounds and flew kites on the lawn in front of the canteen. We would sit and wait for a pushcart to buy chewing gum or sail metal boats on the pond in front of the walkway. Another thing we liked to do was sit in front of the morgue to see the corpses when they were wheeled out on gurneys with their feet sticking out from under the white sheets.” Apichatpong Weerasethakul recollects a childhood surrounded by the beauty, hidden desires, and stalking ghosts that would come to populate his films. Also at This Long Century, David Lowery revisits his first feature, finding more to be proud of than he’d feared.

John Bailey breaks down the aesthetic and philosophic differences between Primary and Chronicle of a Summer as a way to emphasize their similar technical breakthroughs: the employment of groundbreaking lightweight cameras—a modified Auricon for the Americans; “the prototype of the camera that was soon to become the most sought after 16mm camera in the world, the Éclair NPR” for the French—that allowed unprecedented freedom of movement.

‘The Stuntman’

Howard Hampton’s life with his father—a former stuntman dissolutely attempting a comeback in scuzzy late-60s Los Angeles—predetermined many of his reactions to films yet unseen. Thunderball was flat and fake compared to the Caribbean waters Hampton had swum, just as Cassavetes was to the harrowing domestic scenes he’d witnessed. Lynch and Peckinpah, however, felt right at home.

“But this character’s literally in every scene in the movie, so we realized we were going the wrong direction, and we just started seeing actors who could play, as opposed to musicians who could act. And there are more of those, by the way.” “And we’ve been doing this like, 30 years. You’d think we know something as basic as this, that you need an actor.” One defense against the Coens’ detractors, that has been apparent in every interview from their first to this sitdown with Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott, is that however much they laugh at their characters, they’re always willing to turn the joke on themselves.

“Around the age of eight, Danes, exasperated by a boy in her class, was spooked by the pleasure she got from her revenge fantasies about him. ‘Can people read your thoughts?’ she asked her mother. ‘Your imagination is your own. You can do whatever you like with it,’ Carla answered. The knowledge that ‘you could be a good person and host lavishly violent acts in your imagination’ was, Danes said, a kind of liberation. ‘I was so happy,’ she added.” John Lahr’s profile of Claire Danes suggests many possible wellsprings for her mercurial genius—an early love of mimicry; a lifelong (and acclaimed) interest in dance; her confrontational but playful intelligence—but like most lovely things, it’s probably past understanding.

Fiction: Gabriel Blackwell’s An Excerpt from Madeleine E. may tick every box on the promo ledger, including copious quotations and what I take to be autobiographical interpolations which connect in only the most tangential fashion. But its spine is a pretty observant reading of the many layers of performance and artificiality in Vertigo. Via Longform.

Steve Cook presents some snapshots of his visit to the London College of Communication’s Stanley Kubrick Archive, where everything from multilingual versions of Jack Torrance’s single-sentence manuscript to Kubrick’s own Nikon camera are stored in an atmosphere controlled environment designed to echo the space station in 2001. Via Cinephelia & Beyond.

Maggie Cheung, photographed by Richard Schroeder

There’s an unaffected air to Richard Schroeder’s portraits, at everyday_i_show, which helps capture, say, the ethereal quality of Maggie Cheung or John C. Reilly’s surprising courtliness. Quentin Tarantino, of course, holds a blade to the camera.

Video: The Venice Film Festival celebrated its 70th anniversary by commissioning short films (90 seconds was the requested maximum, not always adhered to) from 70 filmmakers, including such luminaries as Bertolucci, Weerasethakul, Hellman, Denis, Kiarostami, Jia, Olmi…. Even the presence of James Franco can’t diminish this bounty. Spotted by Vadim Rizov, who passes along some of his favorites to get you started.

Otto Sander in ‘Wings of Desire’

Obituary

From Berlin-based blogger David Hudson (of Fandor’s Keyframe Daily) came the news that Otto Sander, best known as the angel Cassiel in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987) and Faraway, So Close! (1993), passed away this week at the age of 72. The German actor was a giant in German theater from the late 1960s through the 1990s and appeared in such films Eric Rohmer’s The Marquise of O (1976), Volker Schlöndorff’s The Tin Drum (1979), Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot (1981), and Margarethe von Trotta’s Rosa Luxemburg (1986). More from Hugh Rorrison at The Guardian.

Ray Dolby, the audio engineer who transformed the recording industry and brought a new level of high-fidelity sound into homes and movie theaters with the invention of the Dolby noise-reduction system, died this week at the age of 80. More from Natasha Singer at The New York Times.

José Ramón Larraz, the Spanish horror director of the cult Euro-horror Vampyres (1974) and many other films, passed away last week at the age of 84. Pete Tombs remember his legacy at Fangoria.

Seattle Screens

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

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.

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of August 30

‘Die Nibelungen’

The wealth of good writing on Alan Dwan this year is increased by Imogen Sara Smith’s perceptive reading of the late quartet of Silver Lode, Tennessee’s Partner, Slightly Scarlet, and The River’s Edge. Other highlights of the new Bright Lights Film Journal range from Gordon Thomas’s consideration of Lang’s Die Nibelungen as an epic that gains much of its strangeness and wonder by adapting more than just its nominal source to Michael Betancourt’s good case for considering Eugenio Lardani’s credit in the titles he designed for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as a witty little statement of purpose.

“We can trace a similar theme through the highpoints of most of Ford’s hundred-and-more films: characters staring into space, after people who have gone, or are leaving, or are right in front of them. These are beautiful images, compelling. Always there is alternation of community and privacy, and the intolerance, the racism, the nonrecognition of our neighbor.” One of the best of all articles on John Ford has turned up on the web:  Tag Gallagher’s 1993 “Angels Gambol Where They Will: John Ford’s Indians,” which magisterially explains, without excusing, the director’s racist limitations as part and parcel of his devotion to myth. Via Girish Shambu.

“To regret not seeing a horse break its leg while all the dramatic tension on the verge of breaking a moment later is concentrated right before our eyes between Cotton and Bergman is a very infantile conception of cinema.” Kino Slang hosts Ted Fendt’s translation of a 1950 article about Under Capricorn written by Jacques Rivette. Needless to say, his thoughts on the long, roaming camera takes are of particular interest.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of August 23

Alla Nazimova

In 1927 Alla Nazimova added publicly available apartments to her private estate the Garden of Alla; only a year later, fortunes diminished, the actress sold them to a company that slightly altered the name. For years the Garden of Allah was a favorite site for assignations both sexual (“Photographs of female stars wearing trousers or in athletic poses, or of male stars like Cary Grant and Ronald Coleman in their pyjamas breakfasting together, suggested, to those who were paying attention, that there was more than one way to live, one way to be.”) and political (“here, too, that Frederic March gathered its residents to watch a screening of The Spanish Earth…and solicited $1,000 towards the cost of ambulances in Spain from each of the guests”); making it for Kate Webb the perfect embodiment of the emigrant-driven louche cosmopolitanism of ‘30s and ‘40s Hollywood, till you-know-what came along and shut the whole damned party down. Via Anne Helen Petersen.

Eleven years after what was arguably the first mumblecore film, eight years after the movement was ironically named, and several years after many seemed to stop caring (remember Paul Schrader praising Lena Dunham for the grand innovation of using a tripod?), mumblecore seems to have finally found its breakout moment. At least enough to prompt two attempts to track the connections of a group of filmmakers who actually have far less in common than their many collaborations would indicate. At Grantland Karina Longworth uses Drinking Buddies’s Joe Swanberg as her nexus; while EW’s Clark Collins, inspired by Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, draws his web via mumblecore horror films.

In his usual method of examining three contemporaneous films and then extracting from them the larger picture of the period, Michael Koresky looks back to 2017, and finds a trio of underrated masterpieces—Tarantino’s Stonewalled!, the Wachowski siblings’ Orlando-meets-the-digital-age mashup Big Magenta, and of course James Franco’s shot-for-shot remake of The Sixth Sense—from a year often dismissed as weak for movies.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of August 16

‘The French Connection’

“As for compensation—he cut me off: ‘Let us not sully art with talk of money. I count on you to do the right thing. You will do that, won’t you?’” The summer of Welles revelations continue apace at the LA Review of Books, where Steve Wasserman tells the story of getting the great man to write the Los Angeles Times obituary for Jean Renoir.

Programmed by J Hoberman for the Museum of the Moving Image, the film series Fun City: New York in the Movies 1966-1974 shines a light on the productions, ranging from Lumet’s idealistic Serpico to the more pragmatic hero cops of Cotton Comes to Harlem, from Little Murders to The Landlord, made under the aegis of John Lindsay, who loosened up filming regulations even as the city he oversaw slid into some its roughest years. Tough times that Hoberman, in his introductory notes, finds seeping into all these films in a way that distinguishes them from their more brutal successors:  “Disillusionment in [the] Koch-era movies is a condition; in the movies that preceded them, made in the High Sixties during the collapse of the Great Society and the period of “telling-it-like-it-is,” when the Knicks were on top and New York’s baseball team was not the Yankees but the Mets, disillusionment was a process.” Hoberman also provides brief but typically perceptive comments on each film in the series; the first two installments of these are up now (here and here), with more to come.

Reverse Shot’s writers are wending their way through the films of Wong Kar-wai. A hit-and-miss series of encounters, of course, but each confirming Michael Koresky’s assertion (while writing of Chungking Express) that a “main reason for the continued freshness of [Wong’s] films is that they never seem entirely settled.” An accidentally complimentary pair of highlights: Aliza Ma on the ‘60s nostalgia underpinning Days of Being Wild and Kristi Mitsuda’s appreciation of the unique “enveloping warmth” of the red tones in 2046, a surprising contrast to the chilly, distancing blue most movies use to envision the future.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of August 9

Orson Welles directs ‘Too Much Johnson’

In all the hope springs eternal conversations I’ve had over the years with Welles fans about the possibility of some day finally seeing fill-in-the-blank-here, Too Much Johnson never once came up, so sadly assured everyone was of its destruction. But Providence can be capricious even at her most kind, and that turns out to be the one that’s been rediscovered. (In another of fate’s little amusements, it was found in Pordenone, fostering the beguiling image of years of pilgrims to the city’s Silent Film Festival walking past the warehouse storing the treasure.) World and American premieres will be held in October, with the National Film Registry hoping for an online debut shortly after. Dave Kehr has the story and the best take on what can be gleaned from the available stills; the NFR itself has a fine article by Scott Simmon on the stage production for which the shorts were made (.pdf warning) and a series of images including the greatest photo of Orson Welles directing that you will ever see.

“Made when his acting career was in decline, these are self-lacerating works in which Stevens casts himself as a physically and morally disfigured criminal, as if doing penance for his Hollywood failures.” R. Emmet Sweeney looks back at the two films directed by Mark Stevens; which, as the second article on the subject in about six months, can’t compare to the recent wealth of writing on Dwan, say, but is a positive flood compared to what came before. Also at Movie Morlocks, Kimberly Lindbergs looks back at one of the more obscure entries in Steven Spielberg’s filmography, the TV movie Something Evil.

“I’ve got hormones. And they may make me butt-ugly, but they don’t make me a monster.” “So you got bit by a giant hormone?” Alice Bolin offers a wonderful reading of Ginger Snaps, examining how the film’s successful escape of some patriarchal traps can’t help it from getting snared in others: “The transgression is always shocking, always exactly what we expect.”

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of August 2

Hollywood, a viper’s nest of competitors each hard scrapping for the top of the heap, has nevertheless managed to work in marvelous concert when their interests are mutual. One such extended period of cooperation has come under more scrutiny of late: the deferential attitude shown to Nazi Germany throughout the 1930s, when the country might have been descending into madness but was still first and foremost a market for films. The Hollywood Reporter offers an excerpt from Ben Urwand’s new book on the subject, The Collaboration, describing some of the projects cancelled or bowdlerized by the team of studio heads, Will Hays, and Georg Gyssling, the Los Angeles-based German consul to the United States. The Reporter also provides some dissent from Urwand’s portrait (“slanderous and ahistorical”) from Thomas Doherty, author of this year’s earlier book on the subject, Hollywood and Hitler.

Indian cinema’s been around for longer than 100 years, of course; but as Pamela Hutchinson explains in her look at the nation’s earliest filmmakers, the 1913 premiere of Dadasaheb Phalke’s religious feature Raja Harishchandra has been selected as the industry’s symbolic starting point. Which, officially if however inaccurately, makes this the centennial year for one of the world’s great movie industries. Hutchinson’s is one of a clutch of articles the Guardian has posted to celebrate. Elsewhere, Rachel Dwyer and Rahul Verma offer their top ten lists of Hindi movies and soundtracks, respectively; Nosheen Iqbal interviews the actor Irrfan Kahn (“I always object to the word Bollywood…. Because that industry has its own technique, its own way of making films that has nothing to do with aping Hollywood.”); and novelist Amit Chaudhuri describes how his disdain towards Boll… uh, populist Hindi cinema was eradicated by the discovery (“just as Bollywood seemed to become all gloss and syrup”) of the remarkable films of Vishal Bharadwaj, among others.

Among the highlights in the new DGA Quarterly are Alfonso Cuarón explaining how, for good or bad, each of his previous films has been a learning experience, including the long period it took him and Emmanuel Lubezki to figure out how to stage the scenes in Gravity that depend upon its absence (“I said to Chivo, ‘We can do this very quickly. There are only two characters, so we’ll finish fast.’ That was four-and-a-half years ago.”); Noah Baumbach explaining his love for Jules and Jim to Rob Feld; John Badham breaking down his best action sequence, the dance contest from Saturday Night Fever; and a gallery of Harold Michelson’s vivid, energetic storyboards for the Red Sea sequence in The Ten Commandments.

Gathering together all previous attempts, supplemented with a new interview with Jan Harlan, Nick Wrigley collates a “master list” of all the films Stanley Kubrick’s on the record as admiring. The composite picture doesn’t really do much to solve the mysteries of Kubrick (though it’s more compelling and idiosyncratic than the list of recommended viewing from Spike Lee); but then neither does the revelation that Woody Allen was the director’s first choice for the role that went to Tom Cruise.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of July 26

‘The Magic Box’

“Over the years, the Lumières and Méliès have been consistently portrayed as opposites—the idea is that one filmed reality and the other created special effects. Of course this kind of distinction is made all the time—it’s a way of simplifying history. But in essence they were both heading in the same direction, just taking different roads—they were taking reality and interpreting it, reshaping it, and trying to find meaning in it.” In The New York Review Martin Scorsese offers a slightly modified version of his marvelous Jefferson Lecture of a few months back, roaming through cinema’s history to make an argument for its centrality in terms both catholic (“We have to look beyond the officially honored, recognized, and enshrined, and preserve everything systematically.”) and Catholic (“First of all, there’s light.”).

Béla Tarr’s Film Factory, the three-year workshop currently running at the Sarajevo Film Academy, was greeted with some confusion when it was announced; was this an academic program, a workshop, the director’s own private folly? After his stint as a guest lecturer, which overlapped with two “remarkable classes” by Tilda Swinton on the Bressonian nature of acting and a four-and-a-half hour “shot by shot and take by take” analysis of Sátántangó by Tarr himself, Jonathan Rosenbaum has another definition: utopian community.

From the study of film to films that study themselves: also at Sight & Sound, Kevin B. Lee examines the essay film, arguing against the limitations some would place on the form in both text and an accompanying video essay. Both are as thought-provoking and wide-ranging as you’d expect from Lee; Indiewire’s Sam Adams can help you out on the latter, rounding up the movies referenced in Lee’s video, a tour of images ranging from Ivens’s Valparaiso to Andersen’s L.A.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of July 19

‘The Blacksmith’

It’s not one of the cinema’s acknowledged holy grails, but let’s call it a miraculous discovery nonetheless:  there’s now five to six minutes of Buster Keaton footage previously unknown. “Discovery” and “unknown” in the technical sense; it was found by historian Fernando Pena on a French print of The Blacksmith intended for home projection, and so Pena admits might have been on all such reels had anyone ever bothered to look, a fatalistic twist to the tale I like to think Keaton would have enjoyed. The story, and a minute-and-a-half of as-yet unrestored footage, courtesy of Variety’s Scott Foundas.

Advance press for what is very much the movie of the moment, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, can’t help but explore the relationship between fact and fiction that drives the film itself, albeit from some widely divergent angles. Thus, in an article for Slate, executive producer Errol Morris examines the contemporary US response to the slaughter of one million in Indonesia—which wasn’t to bury the news, but hold it up as a marvelous example of blocking communist insurgency in Asia. While in an interview with Fandor’s Jonathan Marlow, the name Oppenheimer himself drops most frequently isn’t Morris’s go-to George Kennan but Dušan Makavejev, who taught him to “[use] film as a way of making things that are invisible in the world visible.”

By now I think reappraisals complaining that 1980s cinema was unfairly written off as mere Reaganite flash-and-bang have outnumbered the original dismissals, but it’s still nice to see someone put a good word in for the decade. At Moving Image Source Eric Hynes salutes the ambitious sweep and anti-authoritarianism of Reds, The Right Stuff, and Paris, Texas as epic-scale works of subversive intent. At the other end of the scale, The Dissolve’s first selection for their feature The Movie of the Week is the paradigmatically punk Repo ManScott Tobias has the introduction, Noel Murray considers the soundtrack, and the staff participate in a roundtable.

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