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Bruce Reid

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

After a hiatus so long I thought the series over, Kent Jones returns with part six of his and B. Kite’s back-and-forths on Bresson, a quite lovely consideration of how one of his detractor’s recurring complaints, the way the director’s use and control of “models” damages the films’ senses of realism and community, is a fair cop but also inextricably linked to the marvel that is “the bracing nature of Bresson’s cinema, which posits existence as inherently wondrous and revelatory.” By happily timed coincidence David Bordwell has some informative thoughts to share on Bresson as well, in a video about the use of constructive editing—i.e., editing with more on its mind than seamlessly propelling the narrative—in Pickpocket.

Two more fine pushbacks to the latest round of “Death of Cinema” laments: Jim Emerson fears nostalgia for previous modes of consumption is blinding some to the opportunities (and movies) all around them; while in a brief, thought-provoking rant Peter Lenihan thinks we’ve been seduced into false dichotomies about what is and isn’t cinema because of…well, Godard, in his formulation, but he admits it’s bigger than that.

Since Halloween candy only tastes sweeter in the days after (till that horrible tipping point when it becomes inedible), some bits left over from last week’s good haul. Carson Lund takes stock of the fractured visuals and unnerving soundscape of Skolimowski’s underrated The ShoutArt of the Title interviews John Wash about his credit sequence for Halloween III, and his other efforts for John Carpenter in the early days of computer graphics. And while I’ve only sampled a little of the Val Lewton Blogathon co-hosted by the Speakeasy and Classic Movie Man blogs, Jo Gabriel’s marvelous, richly illustrated two part analysis of Curse of the Cat People is a clear standout (Part II here).

“Have your never wanted to look beyond the clouds and the stars, or to know what causes the trees to bud? And what changes the darkness into light?” Meanwhile Will McKinley attended a digital screening of Whale’s two Frankenstein pictures, and feels it was a little unkind to present these pictures without just a word of friendly warning that their presentation, beamed from satellite rather than screened at the theater on hard drive, would suck beyond the telling.

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

“Horror simply wouldn’t exist without the possibilities for poor choices and wrong avenues. Horror leads you down a path that’s been less taken for a good reason.” ‘Tis the season. Reverse Shot kicks off its annual suggestion of horror movie viewing with Michael Koresky’s fine appreciation (and source for the quote) of Lewin’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Kevin J. Olson’s Italian Horror Blog-a-thon is underway till Halloween; so far from his contributors some jokey plot summaries, some nice appreciations (like Neil Fulwood on Lenzi’s Jonestown-exploiting Eaten Alive!), and no dearth of NSFW film stills. Dennis Harvey recommends Jess Franco even while correctly cautioning his readers they’re facing a success rate of about 1 in 12. And in the overgenerous spirit typical of the holidays, the Movie Morlocks’ HorrorDads zoom past the traditional double-feature to each offer a triple-length screening selection: one for the kids, one classic, one “pitched at the horror lifers…. No punches pulled, no quarter given, fangs bared.”

“There was one of the first warnings about the generation of young directors who had been to film school, or only to the movies all their life—was it possible they knew too little to deal with human realities? If so, there was an available answer poised: delete the complexity of the realities.” In an excerpt from his latest book The Big Screen, David Thomson is still, 37 years after Jaws, trying to figure out Steven Spielberg, and whether he can transcend the liabilities of his “determined youthfulness.”

“The earliest group of underground directors—which included Zhang Yuan, Wang Xiaoshuai, Lou Ye and Jia Zhangke, and emerged between the late 1980s and 2000—was dubbed the “Sixth Generation” by western film critics. It no longer exists. Most of the directors now submit to the system or have lost their creative power.” Film producer and festival programmer Zhu Rikun on the crippling obstructions and government interference that have pretty much silenced independent Chinese film, in an issue of New Statesman guest-edited by Ai Weiwei.

“A writer who’d dreamed him up wouldn’t be standing in line for any Oscar, no sir. This character breaks all the rules of drama. For a start, he has no arc. Stick with me, this is gold dust, I learned it in Hollywood.” Bill Forsyth notes the similarities between his own Local Hero and You’ve Been Trumped, Anthony Baxter’s documentary on Donald Trump’s maneuvers to open a Highlands golf course; and also the differences, beginning with the unrealistically callous, colorless villain in Baxter’s movie.

The Awl’s Carrie Frye reexamines Tippi Hedren’s animal activism and self-financed predator movie Roar as response to being the prey in and on the set of two of Hitch’s most troubling films. Via David Hudson.

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

Alan Pakula shoots ‘All the President’s Men’

“Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m going to get mad.” The new issue of the DGA Quarterly perhaps misjudged how election fever would grip this nation, but any excuse for their survey of political films will do. One of their arguments is that such topics are best handled now by television, with interview subjects including The West Wing‘s Thomas Schlamme and Homeland‘s Micheal Cuesta. But there’s also Alan J. Pakula on the making of All the President’s Men (first published in 1976); Oliver Stone recounting the editing trickery that allowed him to pull of the convention scene from Born on the Fourth of July; and a delightful collection of production shots (downloadable as a .pdf) ranging from Rob Reiner in the Oval Office to Otto Preminger the very model of humility standing on the Capitol parking lot. Via David Hudson.

“When he heard the news that James Dean was dead, Jim Mac and his friends, thirsty in a dry county, stole across the county line to Palarm Liquor. They drove back north to Toad Suck Ferry, and on an Arkansas River sandbar, they downed spirits, engaged in a mud fight, and from the dirt, they built Academy Awards for the ghost of Jimmy Dean.” Tyrone Jaeger’s look at the inspiration behind and making of September 30, 1955 is steeped in Southern detail that eludes most articles about James “Jim Mac” Bridges. No surprise, considering Jaeger’s blog is written for the Oxford American.

Following up his recent interview with Side by Side director Chris Kennealy, John Bailey rounds up a baker’s dozen of movie professionals—including Caleb Deschanel, Ken Burns collaborator Buddy Squires, and the charmingly named president of the ASC, Stephen Lighthill—for their thoughts on film, video, and the brave new world we’re entering.

One highlight of the Pordenone festival was the screening of Méliès’s restored Les Aventures de Robinson Crusoé, its narration and vivid colors apparently intact, as Pamela Hutchinson reports.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of October 12

Girish Shambu’s indespensible link round-up spots the second issue of Desistfilm. While the journal has an academic bent, its manner is more light-hearted and free-associative than most, whether in Claudia Siefen’s wondering of which Tom Mix films would have most appealed to acknowledged fan Ludwig Wittgenstein or John A. Riley’s attempt to rehabilitate Frank Zappa’s reputation as an experimental filmmaker (which he mostly pulls off, though the attempt to discern Zappa’s influence shows some strain). There’s also a refreshingly forthright interview with Lav Diaz (“Artists can be demons sometimes. You’re a fraud. You have to accept that you are like that.”), and a collection of Japanese underground and independent films reviewed by the staff.

Also from Shambu comes Adrian Martin’s look at hand-holding in movies, and a great Astaire-Charisse duet from The Bandwagon practically built upon its withholding.

Ever the diligent teacher, David Bordwell uses even his Vancouver Festival write-ups to urge us toward a larger point: whether the way patterns can impose order on seemingly drifting narratives; the use and aesthetics of long takes; or just the underappreciated pleasure of films that introduce us to unfamiliar artists. Kristin Thompson’s bookending dispatches are less pedagogical, but no less enraptured by the views of a world made available on your neighborhood’s multiplex screens.

While most of us greeted Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize by promising ourselves to get around to reading him someday, Richard Brody’s already ferreted out a movie connection beyond Red Sorghum, translating excerpts from a 2005 Le Monde article by the writer on the emotional devastation with which Chinese audiences greeted the North Korean film The Flower Girl (written, of course, by Kim Jong-il), spurred by the national nightmare from which they were still emerging.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of September 28

In his counterpart article to David Denby’s lamenting the death of movies (posted last week), David Thomson rejoins no, not at all. They’re only dying, and have been for decades now.

‘How the West Was Won’

“And in the way Americans have of acting out their dreams, it came to be.” David Bordwell looks back at Cinerama, with an interesting discussion of the limitations three distorting screens forced upon filmmakers and how John Ford managed to effortlessly transcend them.

“I admire your courage, miss, er?” “Trench. Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr…?” “Bond. James Bond.” With the 007 movies now 50 years old, Vanity Fair’s David Kamp recounts the long route Ian Fleming’s novels took to get to that iconic introduction.

“It’s almost as if he has discovered a new part of himself: every good character has an evil double lurking out there, and vice-versa. After years of being corseted as Warner Brothers good lounge lizard…and unthreatening refugee roles, he can finally kick up his heels.” Mark Rappaport, finding more examples of evil twins and duplicitous doppelgangers in his career than you’d think, praises the postwar wildness of Paul Henreid.

An intriguing subject for further research is provided by Pussy Goes Grrr’s Andreas, who makes brief but compelling note of stylistic similarities between Ozu and Edward Hopper. Link via Girish Shambu.

Reviewing Brian Kellow’s Kael autobiography and the Library of America’s collection of her works, Jana Prikyl sticks up for her favorite film critic, and reclaims the feminist origins of Kael’s famous tussles with

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of September 21

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Chantal Akerman (1975)

The new Senses of Cinema features a series of articles on Chris Marker, including Daniel Fairfax on the director’s unique sense of montage, Nick Shimmin on his politics, and, most wide-ranging and cinematically astute of the bunch, Adrian Danks on Marker’s love of cats. Elsewhere in the issue, Zain Jamshaid looks back at Jeanne Dielman and Ju tu il elle and finds a devotion to theory Akerman would grow away from; Lesley Brill offers a religiously-inflected reading of Election; and Rutger H. Cornets de Groot sees an alchemical urge toward transformation informing all of Kubrick’s work.

Jon Jost has a follow-up post on the Mark Rappaport-Ray Carney contretemps, featuring a Q-and-A with Rappaport nailing down the timeline and other details. A further installment is promised (threatened, really) if Carney doesn’t come out of the woodwork soon; no one’s really holding their breath for that.

David Denby puts his inability to string together three sentences without sighing in Olympian disdain to good use for The New Republic, laying the hollow corpse of modern movie making at the feet of a Hollywood indifferent to any considerations beyond profits.

The snarky, superior laughter that marred a recent screening of From Russia with Love led Matt Zoller Seitz to consider the inability of audiences to reach out to movies from the past, and remember a despairing admonition from one of his film professors. The piece generated so much comment Seitz expanded and clarified some of his thoughts in a follow-up post.

From Finis Terrae (1929) on, Epstein returned again and again to the subjects of lighthouses, storms, boats setting out, boats in peril, islanders waiting for boats to return. It’s a matter of life and death, but it’s also a matter of rhythm and composition, of drama that builds like weather or music.” Imogen Smith on two of Jean Epstein’s portraits of the sea.

“Thurber himself seemed a bit puzzled at the conclusion of the prevue. ‘Anybody catch the name of this picture?’ he asked.” With the upcoming Secret Life of Walter Mitty remake sure to get written up in some corners as dishonoring its classic predecessor, Maria Bustillos reminds you how very much Thurber fans, and Thurber himself, hated Danny Kaye’s version.

“We do not know how big the crowd is, and what opposition it is, until we get out of step with it.” Ben Sachs is out of step with most views of Vidor’s The Crowd; Sachs has it as sneeringly misanthropic, the Randian leanings that would culminate in The Fountainhead already in situ. Passed along by Adam Cook.

The Dark Knight Rises

Also via Cook:  Christopher Moloney’s FILMography tumblr, in which movie stills are held up over their shooting locations, is charmingly low-tech yet inspired in its layered now-and-then creations. As a bonus, Moloney’s the first I’ve seen to spot a commonality between The Dark Knight Rises and The 10th Victim.

A father who skidded between absent and demanding; half-siblings introduced out of nowhere; a disturbing propensity for accidents (involving lawn mowers, clothes wringers, automobiles) that maimed and disfigured. Ellen Copperfield recounts the childhood that formed Anjelica Huston.

Reviewing Kevin Hatch’s Looking for Bruce Conner for The Nation, Barry Schwabsky recounts the myriad artistic careers (painter, sculptor, filmmaker) and multiple feints at vanishing acts (one gallery showing was cancelled when he prankishly decided to accredit the work to his friend Dennis Hopper) that Conner pursued.

“The moral is: don’t write a comedy that makes an audience laugh.” At Letters of Note, Groucho apologizes to frequent correspondent Woody Allen for not having written in too long.

“What do you see of your father in you?” “I’m more like my mother. She is the toughest woman. She’s 88.” Denzel Washington’s interview with GQ’s Michael Hainey is a master class in making your opinions clear even as you never let your façade crack. And given the magazine and subject, the accompanying photo shoot is about draping that façade impeccably.

At Indiewire, two auteurs are interviewed about how their most recent films return to obsessions of their youth: Eric Kohn sits down with Olivier Assayas about the early-70s political milieu of Something in the Air; and Rob Zombie tells Nigel M. Smith how he finally got around to making his witchcraft movie, Lords of Salem.

Poem: “I am not too good/For Los Angeles, knowing angels never/Forsook a degenerate.” Maryam Monalisa Gharavi’s brief but vivid “My Years of Militant Surrealism” takes the form of Luis Buñuel’s resignation letter to Paramount. Link via David Hudson.

Adrian Curry recreates the 1963 New York Film Festival, rounding up posters for 19 of the 21 films offered in that inaugural program. As he says, it’s an intriguing mixture of unassailable classics and now-forgotten

“I hope I can live up to your high standards.” The Retronaut presents a photo gallery of the auditions for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; Lazenby and four other ruggedly handsome Englishmen strapping on their PPKs, pinning Bond girls to the wall, and cocking eyebrows toward the camera.

“For the first time in 5,000 years the Sphinx opened her mouth, and said, ‘don’t expect too much. Don’t expect too much from a teacher.'” In 1973 Nicolas Ray holed up at the Chateau Marmont, ignoring illnesses and addictions to edit his final feature We Can’t Go Home Again. Ray’s assistant Andy Romanoff presents a series of photographs he’d thought lost, images of a sad, withered, but stubbornly abiding man in a lonely place.

Seattle Screens

By Sean Axmaker

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is the first Hollywood feature shot in 70mm in years. It opens in Seattle this weekend (a weeks after its New York and L.A. debut) in multiple theaters, but only Cinerama is showing the film on an honest-to-God 70mm film print. Making Seattle one of six cities on the country with a 70mm showing.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo famously was stamped with the new “Greatest Movie Ever Made” imprint in the new Sight and Sound critics poll, but in the director’s poll, the top film was Ozu Yasujiro’s Tokyo Story (number three on critic’s poll). Never seen it? Grand Illusion is screening a 35mm print of the film this week.

Seattle Design Festival plays at SIFF Film Center this weekend.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases and see complete Seattle screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with Seattle Screens and obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker, with contributions from friends of Parallax View.

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of September 14

The Kim’s Video Library in Italy

After New York’s legendary Kim’s Video sold their 55,000 titles to the mayor of Salemi, Italy, in a deal meant to keep the collection intact and available to the public, the movies seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth. Trying to hunt them down in a small town that had no idea what she was talking about, Karina Longworth discovered bureaucratic malaise, Mafia connections, and a surprisingly happy ending.

“John Powers spoke about his exhaustion with people coming up to him and asking: ‘Why don’t they make films like Jules and Jim anymore?’ His answer was, ‘They do, they just don’t make them the way they used to make them.'” An erudite and wide-rangingly cinephiliac changing of the guard, as incoming Film Society of Lincoln Center programmer Kent Jones interviews the man he’s partially replacing, Richard Peña, on his years with the New York Film Festival.

Professor Ray Carney’s career hasn’t been without controversy (ask Gena Rowlands), but his conflict with Mark Rappaport has the makings of a full-blown scandal. Briefly, Carney offered several years ago to store the filmmaker’s video masters at BU with “the understanding that he would return them to me upon request”; when Rappaport made that request, hoping to stream the movies, Carney refused to hand them over, ultimately demanding a $27,000 payout for their release. Jon Jost has Rappaport’s open letter, along with a chronicle of his own attempts to contact a now incommunicado Carney, and a pained condemnation of his “unconscionable” behavior.

Catherine Grant and Russell Pearce’s new film journal Sequence aims to grow in a modular style, with contributions designed in response to previous entries. However this turns out, they launch with a marvel: Steven Shaviro’s superb reading of von Trier’s Melancholia. The article is academic, yes (for Shaviro the film’s primary message is “profoundly anti-Nietzschean”), but I’m as anti-theory as it gets and my eyes only glazed over a paragraph or three along the way.

I had less luck with the new issue of Screening the Past (though not with Adrian Martin’s “Skeleton Key to Histoire(s) du cinéma“), but Catherine Russell’s consideration of The Exiles and Alex Ling’s compelling reconfiguration of Last Year at Marienbad‘s time frame are worth sifting through. And if Kay Dickinson doesn’t quite pull off her attempt to highlight the positive lessons of the Syrian film industry despite the country’s less savory aspects, it’s an interesting introduction to a cinema and a studio structure virtually unknown in the west.

“Smart, aren’t you?” “No, not really. I’ve just had time to think things out.” David Bordwell examines Hitchcock’s innovations in Dial M for Murder, which are hardly limited to 3D.

Ruth Donnelly

“If Warner Brothers, where she was under contract in the early 1930s, had paid her by the laugh, she would have been worth half a million a year, easy.” Dan Callahan, on why Ruth Donnelly is the actor he’s happiest to see in any movie. Also at The Chiseler, Imogen Smith discusses the incompatibility of attitude and subject matter that characterized most pre-code rural films. (“Even when someone tried to make a film extolling the virtues of rural life, it seems they just couldn’t stop sneering and shuddering.”)

Michael Sicinski launches a series of articles dedicated to long movies—and how their reception changes now that we most often view them at home rather than rapt in a theater—with a look at Greenaway’s The Falls. Via Criterion.

Delighted by the opportunity to discover an unfamiliar master, Farran Smith Nehme surveys the three Grémillon films released by Criterion on their Eclipse line.

At her own site, the Siren recalls Mabel Normand, and King Vidor’s surprising anecdote concerning her funeral. She also links to David Cairns’s recounting of the story from a few years back, where it’s used to size up, as unflatteringly as he deserves, Irving Thalberg.

Home movies, a macaw, and a goldfish may not make the most riveting subjects, but Britain’s National Media Museum has dated these test rolls by Edward Turner to between 1901 and 1903, making them the first color films ever shot. Link via New Scientist.

While considering the opening credits of Twin Peaks, Art of the Title’s Shaun Mir references an Anglo-Saxon myth to draw an intertextual link between the series and Blue Velvet that I’d never suspected.

Forty years on, Fellini’s Roma remains for Jeremi Szaniawski an underappreciated masterpiece, and the template for the director’s subsequent films.

Watts as Princess Di, Jones and Hopkins as dueling Hitchcocks, Akerman and Seyfried as dueling Lovelaces; Dan North has had enough of “le cinéma du looky-likey.”

“And anybody can tell I didn’t do that to him.” “How?” “‘Cause he looks too damn good, that’s how!” The Retronaut offers a small but charming gallery of Clint Eastwood, all breezy confidence on the Dirty Harry set.

LIFE presents a lovely collection of Grace Kelly portraits, taken in 1953 and ’54 by Loomis Dean.

Video: Anne Billson posts a 1998 TV discussion she participated in with fellow critics Alexander Walker, Jonathan Romney, and “actor and film-maker, sorry, all-round genius and Renaissance Man,” Vincent Gallo, who arrives draped in equally ridiculous sailor suit and attitude. Passed along by Adam Cook.

Seattle Events

“Framing Pictures,” the monthly discussion with film critics Richard T. Jameson, Kathleen Murphy, and Bruce Reid (sitting in for Robert Horton, currently on a fellowship in Europe), takes place next week Friday, September 14, at NWFF. The event begins at 5pm and is free. Jameson suggests some topics for discussion at Straight Shooting.

Grand Illusion is showing Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday as a special gala presentation for their annual fundraiser (they’re currently raising funds to upgrade their sound system) on Saturday, September 15. Shows at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., from what they promise is a beautiful 35mm print. Get your tickets online here.

A new 4K (digital) restoration of Otto Preminger’s Bonjour Tristesse plays for a week at The Uptown.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases and see complete Seattle 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 September 7

Lana and Andy Wachowski

“[The Wachowskis] once built an elevator shaft without any plans or previous experience, having projected unquestionable confidence to the people who’d hired them—not an unuseful talent in the film business.” Aleksandar Hemon’s profile of the siblings finds that courage and mutual respect in both their embrace of Lana’s transgender transition and their tenacity to pull off an adaptation of the seemingly unfilmable Cloud Atlas in the face of tenuous financing.

From the new issue of Scope (spotted by Film Studies for Free), Tricia Jenkins and Matthew Alford chart what can be gleaned of the CIA’s engagement with Hollywood (.pdf warning for this link), from placing “well-dressed [and thus contentedly “free”] negroes” in films like The Caddy to an assassination scenario that seems to have been fed to the TV series The Agency for a dry-run before being played out for real.

Elaine Castillo’s ambitious, searchingly personal conflation of coming through personal grief and her reawakened identity with Filipino cinema stumbles and soars; but she’s ended her thoughts with one of the great recent cinephile texts: the late Alexis Tioseco’s stirring call for a cinema, and a critical outlook, whose “first impulse… must be of love,” originally written for Rogue magazine. Passed along by David Hudson.

“You know what your fucking problem is, you think you’re better than people. Mister fucking clean, mister goddamn high and mighty. That’s what you think, but you grew up right here. Same rules that I did.” Contemplating the macho but decidedly unchiseled frame of Jeremy Renner and Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike (about “a man who yearns to work with his hands [who] is driven to exploit his body as stripper”), Anne Helen Petersen wonders if the working class hunk is making a resurgence. Passed along by The Cinetrix.

The cult Japanese site Midnight Eye returns after prolonged inactivity. Johannes Schönherr’s interview with producer (and Usual Suspects‘ villain namesake) Masao Kobayashi details some of the hurdles (not all one-sided) involved with producing films in North Korea; and in what’s advertised as a first installment, Tom Mes runs down the television incarnations of Lone Wolf and Cub—versions far better known in Japan, he claims, than the film series familiar to western audiences.

Denis Lim examines director Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Sweetgrass, Leviathan) and his colleagues at Harvard’s Sensory Ethnographic Lab, ground zero for a new wave of documentary filmmaking.

Also at the Times, David Carr fills us in on Errol Morris’s recent extracurricular activity, writing a book arguing for the innocence of Jeffrey MacDonald, of Fatal Vision infamy.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of August 31

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here.

David Bordwell employs the opening reel of Rosales’s Sueño y silencio to examine the way films teach you to watch them, and in particular how art films often substitute mood and repetition for commercial cinema’s lockstep causality.

The smoky charm of Warren William

“His pencil mustache, slicked-back hair, and long, elegant nose gave him a distinguished profile not unlike Barrymore’s, and his perfect diction recalled Powell or Menjou. However, William excelled at playing heels whose polished appearance and smooth tones masked a cold heart or ruthless agenda.” The Movie Morlock’s Susan Doll praises Warren William, with emphasis on the pre-codes that let his nastiness rip.

The new issue of Acidemic Journal is out, with a mission statement of roping in discussions of Brecht, Godard, and Ed Wood. None of whom seem to have anything to do with Ethan Spigland’s fine look at Lewton and Robson’s Ghost Ship, and only the former gets namechecked in Peter K. Tyson’s dense consideration of Fassbinder’s view of marriage in the BRD trilogy. At least one of the highlights is all about Wood, though in fairness a reprint from a few years back: Chris Stengl’s dead-on “rediscovery” of Pauline Kael’s Plan 9 from Outer Space review.

“Henry, look at me! Look! You can’t see me or anyone as they are!” 22 years after its creation the X rating was retired and NC-17 took its place, to allow movies tackling adult themes a place in the mainstream without the market-damaging associations of pornography. Another 22 years along, Steven Zeitchik confirms, it hasn’t done a damned bit of good.

As the 40th anniversary of Watkin’s Edvard Munch approaches, Jonty Claypole looks back at the uncompromising career that led the peripatetic director to Norway, and the compromises that make this Watkin’s greatest film. Spotted by Adrian Martin.

“Sometimes you have to lose yourself before you can find anything.” Sheila O’Malley, with her typical transportive empathy, marvels at the terrifying simplicity behind the acting choices of Ned Beatty and (especially) Bill McKinney in Deliverance‘s most notorious scene.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of August 24

The only links page that matters… except for all the others.

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here.

What value a week without news of the Sight & Sound poll? Now up, the Director’s Poll, their individual ballots searchable by filtering the results on this page. A must-bookmark boon for film critics, who can use it to craft dozens of mix-and-match glosses of the surveyed. Cul-de-Sac by way of Los Olvidados? Makes sense. Salo crossed with 2001? Perfect. Avatar meets Biutiful…. Well, every system breaks down eventually.

Tokyo Story

Director’s Poll winner Yasujiro Ozu deserves his spot argues Thom Anderson, who breaks down the radical “denaturalization” roiling beneath Ozu’s deceptively modest formal gestures. Also at the BFI, some designers for the latest round of the organization’s Film Classics book series describe the inspiration and process behind some truly beautiful covers.

Of late I seem to only be hearing about long-term projects when they’ve passed halfway through. In contrast, I learned (from Film Studies for Free’s Catherine Grant) of Keith M. Johnston’s “Great Ealing Film Challenge” only after he’d finished. Finished what? Reviewing every film Ealing released, 95 crisp, perceptive appreciations written over almost exactly a year. Johnston tackled the films in no particular order; if you require one, Grant has arranged her links roughly (year-by-year) by the studio’s chronology.

Reverse Shot’s Take Four series on the use of color adds several fine entries, including Adam Nayman’s appreciation for a sustained bit of desaturation in Twohy’s A Perfect Getaway and Caroline McKenzie tracking Cammell’s ominous use of blue throughout Demon Seed.

“There are fanciers of gold curls everywhere, in the theatre, on the streets and in the home, and one man’s innocence does not rid the world of guilt.” Michael Wood looks past his initial disappointment with Hitchcock’s The Lodger and finds a method and a horrible vision behind the seemingly creaky plot mechanics.

With Ruiz’s final film doing the festival circuit and his final script reaching the screen directed by his widow Valeria Sarmiento, Geoffrey Macnab recalls a director who fit in as comfortably at the University of Aberdeen as he did his every other port of call. Melvil Poupaud’s anecdote about one of Ruiz’s on-set traditions speaks marvelously to his uniqueness, and his sense of humor.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of August 17

The only links page that matters… except for all the others.

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here.

The sickly green nail polish in ‘Cabaret’

The latest Reverse Shot symposium asks their writers to praise a striking instance of color (not the entire film’s palette) from favorite movies. More will be added as they come in, but the first entries (Michael Koresky on sickly green nail polish in Cabaret; Damon Smith on the complexion of Frenzy‘s villain; Genevieve Yue on Safe‘s ponderously black couch) set a high bar for others to follow.

The new Alphaville, devoted to the use of sound in film, offers several fine articles that, while academic in bent, avoid abstruseness. Michael D. Dwyer has some interesting thoughts on the use of ’50s rock in Reagan-era teen films (though I had to triple-check before believing he’d skipped Back to the Future‘s loopy Chuck Berry moment); Aaron Hunter analyses Hal Ashby’s skillful use of trans-diegetic music; and Nessa Johnston praises the uniqueness of Primer‘s low-rent sound design among science-fiction movies.

Sight & Sound’s critics poll is now online, with each individual list and title searchable. So you can hunt down who actually voted for, I don’t know, Dolemite, and tip your hat for someone sticking to his guns. One interesting tidbit passed along without comment: neither Bresson’s nor Rivette’s Joan of Arc film got a vote, but every other version seems to have. Yes, every other version.

“Maybe the most bracingly masochistic comedy possible. Take ten parts pure unrequited love, let fester in heart for two decades, then shatter. The laughs may have a strange aftertaste.” The director’s poll will be put up by Sight & Sound next week; Kim Morgan offers a sneak peek, with commentary, at Guy Maddin’s selections. Not all of which are summarized so, let’s say idiosyncratically, as Letter from an Unknown Woman.

For Michael Sragow, part of Jaws‘s “unassuming greatness” is that it plays like Preston Sturges.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of August 10

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here.

“Come on, show me what you’ve got to show.” Since December of last year the Walker Arts Center’s Matt Levine and Jeremy Meckler have been engaging in a fun, fantastic project, analyzing in round-robin fashion The Third Man via frames spaced 62 seconds apart; a method that allows for minute observation and a floating series of associations, both of which Levine and Meckler handle deftly. At least from the bits I’ve sampled; I only caught wind of this when Press Play noted it this week. One upside of jumping on 2/3rds through is entering just when “one of the greatest closeups in the history of the artform” lights up from the shadows.

Harry Lime appears

Levine and Meckler admit right up front their idea is borrowed from Nicolas Rombe’s similar breakdown of Blue Velvet for Filmmaker Magazine. This was mentioned back when the project started and seemed like it could go on forever; but in fact Rombe will be finishing up in just a couple of weeks, so if you’d missed it before, why not catch up before the home stretch?

The Movie Morlocks blog has been devoting the past week to the films of Toshiro Mifune, whose great, long career led to a filmography diverse enough to allow discussions of masterpieces by Kurosawa and Boorman alongside misfires by Frankenheimer and curiosities like Samurai Pirate, opportunistically retitled The Lost World of Sinbad for its American release.

“It’s not paradise all the time.” Not Coming to a Theater Near You has selected the next director for their retrospection:  Andy Sedaris, who in fairness did come up with the cleverly exploitive idea of combining a James Bond backbeat with kinda-sorta feminist riffs. David Carter and Glenn Heath, Jr., team up for the introduction; Heath tackles Hard Ticket to Hawaii; Carter, Picasso Trigger.

Drew McIntosh has been finding much to savor in some late, generally dismissed Walsh. For instance, The King and Four Queens, “a very weird and kind of sad movie masquerading as an extremely jovial one.”

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of August 3

The only links page that matters… except for all the others.

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here.

Kim Novak in the newly anointed Greatest Film of All Time

“Then suddenly, less than one week before election—Defeat! Shameful. Ignominious.” The decadal parlor game that is Sight & Sound’s survey of the 50 Greatest Films of All Time is once again upon us, and as you’ve heard the enfant terrible’s showstopper has finally been taken down by the aging master’s haunting fantasia. Thoughts on the results certainly aren’t hard to find, and while some have merit—Roger Ebert’s assertion that all great movies only grow better with familiarity, Jonathan Rosenbaum’s tracking of cinephile fashion, Scott Tobias’s refutation of claims the list is too stodgy—Jim Emerson’s the only one asking the main question on my mind: Where are the comedies?

“Like other actress who didn’t suggest pampered debutantes, Clarke got hard-luck roles: hoofers, hookers and gang molls. At the lowest point of the Depression, there was a lot of hard luck to go around.” Taking in Mae Clarke’s rush of pre-code films, Imogen Smith marvels at Clarke’s adaptability to the breakneck pace (19 films in three years)—and wonders at how often she’s the vessel for some of the era’s most darkly misogynist impulses.

“In France we visited a location at which they were shooting a scene of a French film. There were at least ten cine-mobiles there, while we don’t even have one of them in Iran and we don’t need them. To make The Mirror, I had a crew of six, and I didn’t need an inefficient seventh one.” For Fandor, Ehsan Khoshbakht translates several excerpts from Jafar Panahi’s Iranian interviews.

Roland-François Lack charts the chronology of Le petit soldat; as slippery and uncertain an effort as you’d expect, given Godard’s use of allusions to drag events of the recent past into the then-present day. A present day that wound up delayed for two years by French censors, anyways.

“Hedren isn’t remotely interested in how beautiful Miller is in the film [about the making of The Birds] (which she is). What she cares about is that Sienna plays her ‘strong’. ‘And not shy,’ she says. ‘Because I was not, not at all.'” Nor is she now, as Rosie Millard’s visit to Tippi Hedren’s Shambala proves. Link via Movie City News.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of June 27

The only links page that matters… except for all the others.

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here.

Is it legitimate to theorize that some culpability for the brutal murders in Aurora lie at the feet of the movies themselves? Apparently, after throat-clearing assertions of their civil libertarian backgrounds, many film writers feel in this circumstance it would be irresponsible not to speculate. Some have ratcheted up from the film itself to the industry—recall the violent legacy of Warner Brothers studio—or even exhibitors—perhaps midnight screenings should be suspendedPeter Bogdanovich blames the movies being too violent—actually, he has Orson Welles do it for him, which tells you how long that argument’s been floated. Speechless myself (out of frustration at my own ignorance and disgust at the inadequacy of words to limn the pain and horror and fury of it all), I find that Bill R. and Glenn Kenny are right that, pace Mr. Bogdonavich’s current ambivalence, he said everything I had to on the topic 44 years ago.

Boris Karloff in Peter Bogdanovich’s ‘Targets’

“What did she realize, Kitten?” “That all the songs she’d listened to, all the love songs, that they were only songs.” “What’s wrong with that?” “Nothing, if you don’t believe in them. But she did, you see.” The new Senses of Cinema inducts Neil Jordan into their database of Great Directors; Carole Zucker ably handles the honors, focusing on how Jordan’s understanding of fairy tales informs his sensibilities. Elsewhere in the issue, Murray Pomerance finds even the interior-bound Go Go Tales suffused with Abel Ferrara’s nonpareil sense of New York; and Jacques de Villiers traces Germany’s romantic heritage, including the Nazi’s perversion of it, throughout Herzog’s Aguirre.

David Bordwell reminds you it’s not just red-state schoolboards that plunk down for creationism over evolution despite all evidence to the contrary; it’s also film lovers obsessed with proclaiming what they deem the first instances of a technique while disregarding the context that led to it. Returned from his latest visit to the Royal Film Archives in Brussels, Bordwell provides several lovely examples of deep-focus blocking from mostly forgotten German and Italian silents. In a subsequent post, he rhapsodizes over a magnificent shot of passengers fleeing a sinking ship from the 1918 Italian serial I Topi Grigi, and provides a link to Joseph North’s fine thesis paper on the film’s Fantomasian antihero, the mostly forgotten Za La Mort.

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

The only links page that matters… except for all the others.

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here.

Napoleon

“The broad panorama will now give way to separate action on each of the three screens, making possible extraordinary juxtapositions of images. Every symbol becomes palpable. The cinema enters a new era; from the melodic, it becomes the symphonic.” Jon Boorstin does what he can with those feeble substitutes, words, to capture the sweep of images and “pure emotion” of Abel Gance’s Napoleon. Also at the LA Review of Books, Jacob Mikanowski leaps off from a review of Geoff Dyer’s Zona to marvel at the career of Tarkovsky, an oeuvre “both extremely diverse and radically consistent. His films span a number of genres, and belong to none.”

Filmmaker Magazine has once again done the spadework for you and posted its annual list of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film. Actually 37 this time around, as permanent collaborations and collectives become more a part of the movie-making landscape.

“Meanwhile, Tim took me over to his car, opened the trunk, and pulled out a bottle of vodka and a Styrofoam cup. He poured the vodka to the very top. Keep in mind I was 14 and a total lightweight. I was not a big drinker. I downed the cup, just gulped it right down. Then he poured another cup, a second one, and I gulped that one down. Tim then got me a beer from the crew and said, ‘Drink this as fast as you can.'” “I don’t remember doing that, but it sounds possible.” The great Over the Edge gets the oral history treatment from Vice’s Mike Sacks.

“Stylization suits film noir, is even necessary to it, because noir is about subjective, interior states. Expressionism literally brings the inside to the surface; as in dreams, people in film noir move through worlds distorted by their own fears and desires.” Imogen Sara Smith on how Robert Siodmak found the perfect genre for his unabashed flourishes to become the hallmarks of a master filmmaker.

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