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Bruce Reid

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

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

Seattle screenings and cinema events, including the “Best of SIFF” series and other post-SIFF releases, are surveyed at Parallax View here.

Girish Shambu leads off his typically fine collection of links with a welcome announcement: Issue 2 of LOLA, the film journal he edits with Adrian Martin, has arrived. The articles are being released piecemeal over the next few weeks, but already there’s such delights as the transcript of a Raúl Ruiz speech from 2005, an almost discomfitingly intimate recollection of Gilbert Adair by Alexander García Düttmann, and a clutch of articles on Chantal Akerman highlighted by an exhaustive, playful, yet fiercely honest interview with Nicole Brenez.

Also presenting their new issue, Experimental Conversations, which leads off with an excellent resource for further study, a tantalizing survey of Thailand’s up-and-coming arthouse directors conducted by Jit Phokaew and friends.

“Sounds like you had a strict upbringing.” “You might say that.” At Movie Morlocks, the Horror Dads offer a back-handed salute to Father’s Day by discussing some of the genre’s most memorably vile patriarchs.

The Cine-Files, a journal by the grad students of the Savannah College of Art and Design, dedicates its second issue to the French New Wave, and the children of Deleuze and Vitaminwater acquit themselves nicely to the challenge. Several distinguished interviewees (including Louis Menand, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Mary Wiles on meeting Rivette) establish the history, while a trio of student filmmakers confirm the period’s influence extending to the future. Spotted by Film Studies for Free.

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

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

Seattle screenings and cinema events, from the final weekend of SIFF to a revival screening of Pretty Poison to the openings of Prometheus (wide) and Moonrise Kingdom (not so wide), are surveyed at Parallax View here.

One underappreciated aspect of criticism is how it can sometimes spin gold from flax. Case in point, a silly little vidcast dialogue (it never raises to the level of an argument) between A. O. Scott and David Carr on the nature of film critics is eminently skippable; but, in submitting it to one of the epic Fiskings of all time, Jim Emerson carves out one hell of a mission statement for his profession.

“But if you had kept on, if you’d loved it enough to keep on fighting and struggling, why that fight would show in your face today—in your eyes, in your whole being.” David Bordwell’s anatomy of film acting reaches the putative windows to the soul, and proves it’s not the eyes themselves that communicate, but the lids and brows. Which very, very few have wielded so expressively at Bette Davis.

“Where there’s revolution there’s confusion and when there’s confusion a man who knows what he wants stands a good chance of getting it.” Introducing a Film Forum retrospective, J. Hoberman offers a political reading of the Spaghetti Western, a genre inspired by Fanon and Gramsci as much as Ford, and traces its left-leaning sentiments to some key Hollywood westerns of the previous decade. (A brief note in the comments from Dave Kehr intriguingly suggests the lineage stretches back even further, to ’30s Bs.)

At Artforum, photographer Taryn Simon and Brian De Palma talk about their all-consuming passion: the perfect image, the focus necessary to achieve it, and the efforts of governments to censor it once it’s made. Yes, the pair met collaborating on Redacted; but don’t hold that against them, it’s a rather interesting discussion.

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

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

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

“In a zombie apocalypse (Night of the Living Dead) or a secret alien takeover (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), you fall asleep one evening and when you wake up in the morning the world has changed. Your relatives and your friends, your neighbors and the friendly folks who run the dry cleaners reveal themselves as the monsters they’ve always been, beneath the lie of civilization, of affection. They look the same, but now they want to destroy you, to consume you. And you have to keep running.” Colson Whitehead sums up the lessons learned—some silly, some transcendent—from an adolescence steeped in horror and sci-fi flicks.

Erich Von Stroheim and friends in 'The Wedding March' (1928)

“The newspaper mogul and moral crusader Martin Quigley called Greed ‘the filthiest, vilest, most putrid picture in the history of motion pictures.’ Stroheim retorted, ‘You Americans are living on baby-food.'” Prompted by a Film Forum retrospective, Imogen Smith assesses what one can of the mangled filmography of Erich von Stroheim, finding a moral absolutist who knew how to please a crowd, a hyper-realist less interested in realism than in truth, and an actor forced into a series of self-parodying roles who kept finding the dignity buried therein.

Among other fine links, Girish Shambu notes Here & Now, an intriguing new blog project from Michael Koresky. Picking a year, then three representative films, Koresky is attempting to parse out his own understanding of a given era by skidding backwards and forwards in time with the movies. (1948, for instance, offers the “marvelous images of Manhattan” from Portrait of Jennie, the “fixed and inescapable” frozen time of Rope, and the “desperate moment” captured in Germany Year Zero.) A nifty idea for cinema-as-time-machine, and one so far worth riding along with.

As recounted by Ben Slater, there was more interesting drama behind the cameras than made it onscreen for the first American production shot in Singapore, 1969’s Wit’s End, aka Dragon Lady (“packs the punch of the Orient!”), aka The GI Executioner. With a separate collection of screenshots reminding you even the most indifferently made film invaluably documents cities now lost or never seen. Link via David Hudson.

David Cairns uses two 1948 mermaid movies—the British Miranda and America’s Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid—to point out some differences between the two nations. Though it’s hardly fair to praise England for a healthier, more forthright eroticism when their nymph was played by Glynis Johns.

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

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

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

Shirley Clarke directs 'The Connection'

“Right now, I’m revolting against the conventions of movies. Who says a film has to cost a million dollars and be safe and innocuous enough to satisfy every 12-year-old in America?” Fifty years after her debut feature screened, fifteen years—sadly—after her death, Shirley Clarke and The Connection are making headlines again, courtesy of a restoration and return to theaters. Manohla Dargis offers a career retrospective, shot through with disbelief that such a game-changer remains a marginal figure in the histories. At Indiewire, Ann Hornaday and David Sterritt discuss how forward-thinking, and mischievous, the director truly was. Glenn Kenny takes exception to the glibness of that latter description in a fine appreciation. Milestone Films, for whom this is merely the first step in restoring many of Clarke’s films, also deserve a nod for their informative press kit, source of the opening quote and well worth a read. [this last link is a .pdf]

That last link above was spotted by David Hudson, as all of them are eventually. Hudson’s film roundups, which render efforts by others (yes, even Your Humble Aggregator) superfluous, have a new home at Fandor, which partnership is kicked off with a marvelous find:  Trevor Stark’s history, from October Magazine, of Chris Marker and the SLON film cooperative’s partnership with workers from the Rhodiaceta textile factory in France. A revolutionary effort—admirable in its intentions, stymied by fractionalism and mistrust—that Marker, inevitably, viewed through the lens of the cinematic past, in this case Medvedkin’s ciné-trains. [.pdf]

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

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

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

“She knows the score…She’s someone who was abused. I could identify with her. I never could identify with any other white movie star. They were always white people doing white things.” Jacqueline Rose, in a beautifully written article that sniffs out more connections than most books on the subject, finds Marilyn Monroe the perfect embodiment of mid-century America—not the one we dreamt on movie screens, but the sometime cruel, confused one most pretended wasn’t happening.

Director Saba Sahar and crew

Onscreen, Saba Sahar is “a kind of superhero, doing kung fu high-kicks in traditional dress, carrying victims to safety over her shoulder or riding a motorbike with no hands while firing a gun.” Behind the scenes, Afghanistan’s first woman director is far more impressive, as Jenny Kleeman’s profile attests.

“I always presume every movie I make is my last. My career is very smoothly in decline, each movie making half as much as the prior one.” Todd Solondz, interviewed at the Sarasota Film Festival by David Carr, on the business end of things, working with actors, and how he stole a key scene in Welcome to the Dollhouse from North by Northwest. Link via Movie City News.

“Defended by the left-wing press as well as the Surrealists, L’Âge d’or became a cause célèbre, but Buñuel was not there to soak up the attention: he was in Hollywood.” Reviewing Román Gubern and Paul Hammond’s Buñuel biography The Red Years, J. Hoberman tracks the contradictions of the director’s peripatetic pre-war decade. Noted by Mubi.

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

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

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

Who created that greatest of silent icons, The Tramp? Surviving recollections from Chaplin and Sennett mostly stake their claim each against the other, but John Boorstin points out it’s no stretch at all to infer considerable credit should go Mabel Normand’s way.

From the oeuvre of "the elder, least pretentious, and most consistently amusing Anderson of the current director trifecta"

The new issue of Cinema Scope salutes 50 directors under 50 years old; their website is offering a sample of 20 sharp, compact appreciations of filmmakers ranging from Jia Zhangke to Maren Ade to “the elder, least pretentious, and most consistently amusing Anderson of the current director trifecta.”

Time Out didn’t fool around compiling their list of the 100 best horror films, polling a murderer’s row of 126 experts (the Cs alone offer up Roger Corman, Antonio Campos, Alice Cooper and Coffin Joe) and writing up the results with good observations and considerable brio. Which allows for some admirably off kilter selections, though lest you think this lineup differs radically from other such, the accompanying interview is still with William Friedkin. Noted by David Hudson.

The New York Film Academy may be a barely credible institution, but they know an opportunity when they see it. Thus their series of classes in the blossoming film community of Nigeria. Become the Dream, as the bodyguards’ t-shirts urge.

Revisiting The Devil, Probably, Dennis Lim assigns the same uncompromising nihilism that ensured the film’s relative obscurity to the draw it has on its partisans. Link, one of several of interest, via Girish Shambu.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of April 13

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

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

She Who Is Called Feather Meets He Who Is Called Chance

“She Who Is Called Feathers manifests the most dazzling changes in raiment.” David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s mock exegesis on Rio Bravo isn’t just a delightfully sustained gag, but a vessel for several profound interpretations of the film, including a deconstruction of some song lyrics that is, keeping with their conceit, revelatory.

A father’s haunting anecdote about the moral confusions of living in a nation under occupation kicks off what is shaping up to be a lovely project from Vermillion and One Night’s Murderous Ink: a survey of Japanese films from 1949 that the writer digs his way into by scratching at items ostensibly in the margins. Thoughts on the superstitions around Crepe Myrtle and the rareness of tomatoes expand a grief-ridden scene from Kurosawa’s Stray Dog; and Ozu’s Late Spring and Tadashi Imai’s Green Mountains become two more stops in Japan’s ongoing anxieties over women riding bicycles.

Your latest round-up on the hazards and economic hardships of switching to digital projection comes via the L.A. Weekly.

The article above opens with a discussion of Christopher Nolan’s recent screening for fellow filmmakers of a sequence from The Dark Knight Rises, in an attempt to proselytize for the benefits of 35mm over video. Nolan discusses the subject, as well as his directing style (which, surprise, is highly pragmatic and orderly) with the DGA’s Jeffrey Ressner. Link via Movie City News.

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

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

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

Watching Monica watching us

Issue two of the feminist film journal Joan’s Digest has arrived, keeping up the high quality of its debut. Among the highlights, Miriam Bale charts an unacknowledged genre, the “persona-swap” film, named for Bergman of course but ranging from Hawks to Rivette to Schroeder; Camila de Onís poetically recalls being in swoon to Monica Vitti, trying to find a place for her infatuation outside the male gaze; and Abbey Bender cheers the unpretentious but unmistakable feminism of Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan.

“A few years ago, I thought I might open a chain of eulogy stores where you could go in off the street and, for twenty bucks, they’ll tell you all the nice things they’re going to say about you after you croak. But I don’t want people to say wonderful things about me when I can’t hear them. Tell me now, while I’m still here.” The multilingual journal La Furia Umana takes Jerry Lewis at his word, making him the subject of their latest issue. Plenty of good stuff here even for those of you currently rolling your eyes, from Sadarshan Ramani’s tracing Lewis (and Tahslin) as inspiration for King of Comedy‘s Rupert Pupkin; Steven Shaviro’s closely observed defense of Smorgasbord‘s (aka Cracking Up) “therapeutically purging” humor; and if you missed it the first time around (2003, in The Believer), B. Kite’s magisterial The Jerriad: A Clown Painting, one of the finest bits of writing ever done on Lewis, not least for its succinct delineation of an essential opposition: “Buster makes extraordinary feats look incredibly easy. Jerry makes mundane activities seem extremely difficult.”

The timing for such celebration, of course, is that The Kid just celebrated his 86th Birthday. Publicly, in fact, with Richard Belzer as MC and an audience Q&A that went pretty much the way you think it did. J. Hoberman fills in the details.

Related, David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s latest film books roundup and recommendations introduced me to the blog of Tashlin biographer Ethan de Seife, who’s posted a sharp look at the ambiguities—cultural, racial—of the music selections in The Girl Can’t Help It.

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