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Bruce Reid

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

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

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

Projecting Bresson

B. Kite and Kent Jones continue their discussion on Bresson, still from different viewpoints but enthusiastically agreeing that whatever labels you slap on the director only prevent you from engaging the genuine, irreducible strangeness of his films. Also at Film Comment, the Trivial Top 20 tallies the filmmakers who have most often directed themselves, surely the only category of human behavior in which Woody Allen and Sammo Hung could wind up in a tie.

Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato having wrapped, the festival dedicated to rediscovery is now itself the subject of retrospectives. Girish Shambu (along with his typically fine selection of links) and Sight & Sound’s Geoff Andrew eloquently repeat much of what’s been praised elsewhere—Walsh, Grémillon—while Kristin Thompson charts her own path, hunting down screenings of Ivan Pyr’ev and sketching out some intriguing thematic connections among a disparate collection of post-Wall-Street-crash movies.

Rounding up some recent blog posts and Variety columns, Andrew O’Hehir suggests that the movies’ long adolescent phase may finally be drawing to a close. Which willfully optimistic tea-reading perhaps only shows you how strong the lure of happy endings can be.

Peter Cook’s marvelous selection of cinema’s 50 greatest matte paintings reminds you how many histories there are in an art as collaborative as the movies, and that however many masters’ names you’ve memorized there’s always more—Albert Whitlock, Matthew Yuricich, Walter Percy Day, Emil Kosa—to be learned. First posted in May, but just spotted and passed along by Movie City News.

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

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

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

The new issue of the multilingual journal La Furia Umana has arrived, with sections devoted to Leo McCarey, Paul Vecchiali, Jean-Claude Rousseau, and José Luis Guerín. Those fluent in more tongues than I, or better able to sort out the jumbled babble of computer translations, will likely have their own list of favorites; but among the English highlights are Ted Fendt’s tracing McCarey’s theme of marital deception to his Charley Chase two-reelers (“he had more or less already made The Awful Truth many times by 1937”); Daniel Kasman arguing for Once Upon a Honeymoon, with its daring, incompatible mix of romantic gameplaying and real-world horrors, as “potentially the most uncomfortable film the studio era ever produced”; Dmitry Martov on the auditory wonders of Guerín’s In the City of Sylvia; and Jessica Felrice’s lovely appreciation (“There is struggle that pushes through this otherwise melancholic and pensive film.”) of the director’s Train of Shadows.

Leo McCarey’s ‘Once Upon a Honeymoon’ – “romantic gameplaying and real-world horrors”

“It’s somehow…modest…and personal, intimate…and there’s something that I can’t quite put my finger on…that somehow connects it perfectly to an ineffable component of the Right Stuff.” Philip Kaufman, ever astute in his musical selections, fills in The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen on his use of “The Red River Valley” in his HBO film Hemingway & Gellhorn, and explains how he’d first thought of using the song years earlier to underscore John Glenn.

Gimmick, economic necessity, or aesthetic choice, making a silent film in the sound era is part of a long tradition, as Fandor’s Michael Atkinson demonstrates by offering a dozen films (some in fairness shoehorned in) that predate The Artist in going wordless.

“You Nexus, huh? I design your eyes.” “Chew, if only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes.” In honor of the movie’s 30th anniversary, Tom Shone posts an excerpt from his book Blockbuster on the making and commercial unmaking of Blade Runner.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of June 29

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

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

The Warwick Trading Company’s Joseph Rosenthal, with his Bioscope camera, at the time of the Anglo-Boer War

“A written description is always and forever the point of view, more or less biased, of the correspondent. But the biograph camera does not lie, and we form our own judgment of this and that as we watch the magic screen.” I’ve only read the first quarter or so of Stephen Bottomore’s Filming, faking, and propaganda: The origins of the war film, 1897-1902. But since the document itself (a 2007 thesis, posted online by the author) is over 550 pages, that’s a hefty enough chunk to recommend this as a magnificent read. Tracing his subject from the 1897 Greco-Turkish War—which British correspondent Frederic Villiers rode through on a bicycle, movie camera in tow—to the Boxer uprising, Bottomore establishes his history as a crucial one for the public understanding of cinema. After so many war films turned out staged, censored, reenacted (Villiers returned home to find his footage worthless, already overshadowed by the “artificially arranged scenes” shot in Méliès’s Paris studio), or dishonestly promoted, the early audience’s naive trust of cinema, embodied in the historical quote above, was as shattered as any victim of the battlefield. Recommended, and introduced more informatively than I could ever manage, by The Bioscope.

David Bordwell is such a natural born teacher that he even takes the opportunity to educate while passing along news that his and Kristin Thompson’s seminal textbook Film Art is getting a new edition. And he’s such a perceptive observer that as always his thoughts—about Kubrick’s use of limited POV in a scene from Spartacus, and Vidor’s unconventional sound mix of a phone call in H. M. Pullman, Esq.—smack your brainpan like someone just flipped your Common Sense switch to ON.

Bogart

“I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners, I don’t like them myself. They are pretty bad. I grieve over them on long winter evenings.” Joel Bocko looks at the very different codes of honor that drive Hammett’s cynical Sam Spade and Chandler’s romantic Philip Marlowe—and praises Bogart (and the very different concerns for fidelity driving Huston and Hawks) for subtly capturing the distinctions.

“Douglass had an elongated kind of pretty face and an eager-to-please manner that could make him seem very brittle. Whenever he spoke, it always seemed that he was trying to force his voice down lower than it naturally was.” Dan Callahan on the odd, desperate appeal of Douglass Montgomery, too indecisive to settle on a stage name let alone a persona, but who was captivating nevertheless on more than one occasion.

Photogénie, a new blog sponsored by the Flemish Service for Film Culture, is thus far dedicated to reports from the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna; more specifically, to recounting the series of panel discussions grouped under the heading Cinephilia Rediscovered, which has included such commentators as Hoberman, Girish Shambu, and Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux, with streaming videos presented of each panel. Elsewhere at the site, Tom Paulus declares the early, silent films of Jean Grémillon the “major (re)discovery” of the festival. Passed along by David Hudson.

Jim Emerson recalls the formation of his cinema-love, and how it emerged hand-in-glove with a need to explain and communicate the wonders, as if that would let him possess the ephemeral, in a beautifully illustrated entry at his blog.

“I like that my characters’ heads don’t bump against the top of the frame. I like to show the sky, the trees, the mountains, even the roofs of houses, so much so that I only feel at ease in rooms with high ceilings.” Ted Fendt translates a brief article from a 2001 Cahiers du cinéma wherein Eric Rohmer declares his utter fidelity to 1:33 and lays the “expressive poverty of the image today” at the stretched-out feet of scope.

Stumbling across some Joseph Pevney movies, and half-remembering some others (“Splendidly lurid…. He has a single tone to offer, one that stretches to fit all but is, nonetheless, alluringly negative.”), has Richard Brody contemplating the merits of “good bad directors” over “bad good directors.”

‘The Third Generation is fascinating. It’s also worrying. I keep wondering how long Mr. Fassbinder can continue this remarkable pace.’ Not much longer.” At Moving Image Source J. Hoberman tracks the reception Fassbinder’s films received from the New York critics, managing to eulogize not just the director but also the ’70s as a time when movies mattered.

Ermanno Olmi’s ‘Il Posto’

Admitting he’s only seen four of Olmi’s films, Jonathan Rosenbaum ponders what buried auteurist links (some fine thoughts on Olmi’s distinctive use of sound stand out in particular) might connect the director’s autobiographical, staunchly neorealist films and his conventionally cast literary adaptation Legend of the Holy Drinker.

“Her daydreams are all real…. Each one was dreamt by a woman we spoke to. But the character’s life with her husband–that is artificial. So the reality is unreal. That’s part of the mystery of Belle de Jour. It’s a very strange film.” Jean-Claude Carrière looks back on his collaboration with Buñuel—and others, briefly—with the Guardian’s Ryan Gilbey.

Science and art, ever uneasy bedfellows, meet in eye-pleasingly gradated fashion over at Vijay Pandurangan’s blog, where the engineer hunkered down, scanned the web for data from 1914 to 2012, wrote some computer code, and presents the best proof yet for what many have suspected: Movie posters are getting bluer as the years go by. Link via Mubi.

Fiction: “The surgeon with a cigarette dangling from his lips gives the escaped con a new face, and if there’s a knock on the door, the chances are that a man with a gun will enter the room and shoot first, ask questions later. What do you want me to do, count to three like they do in the movies?” Before settling in to a parody of academic publishing and Oulipian constraints, the first half of David Lehman’s amusing short story “No R” consists of an extended survey of noir, in that breathlessly condensed fashion the genre so often prompts from writers.

Obituary

Nora Ephron – essayist, humorist, novelist, screenwriter, and director – died this week at the age of 71. Tom Hanks, who starred in two of her most successful films, reminds us that “Her writing was always voice and detail” in a personal remembrance at Time Magazine. More tributes and obituaries collected by David Hudson at Fandor’s Daily.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid in collaboration with the editor of and contributors to Parallax View.

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of Friday, June 22

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

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

L’Argent

In what seems to be the start of a series, and an invaluable one at that, B. Kite and Kent Jones have put up a pair of fascinating articles at Film Comment’s blog on Robert Bresson (part one and part two). Each tries to clear away the clutter surrounding the director—Kite by praising his hard-boiled fascination with process; Jones asserting the primacy of his Christianity, however uncomfortable that makes some modern critics—and both are enraptured by the gleaming sensuality that radiates from such purportedly austere films, prompting affinities from Astaire to Huston to Webb.

“My ball-grabbing opening had young Balzac and his mother in a runaway stagecoach, hurtling along a treacherous road next to a cliff, the future novelist struggling with the reins of the startled horses and finally saving the day. Hell, Balzac was going to be a sexy adventure picture with plenty of action!” Also at Film Comment, their recent list of the best movies never made has been expanded to a two-part, still-growing rundown of projects abandoned over the years, not least a literary biopic à la Fuller (a through k here, l through z here).

Movie lists can be an easy, tossed-off way to drive hits to a website; and they can still be a labor of love, as proven by Film Comment above and by Popmatters’s latest addition to their collection of Essential Film Performances, last updated in 2010. Halfway through a promised 50 selections, and several choices already veer admirably from the beaten path: most such lists, arranged alphabetically, would hit the midpoint with Charles Laughton, but how many would be praising his turn in This Land Is Mine?

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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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