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Days of Purgatory (1978)

[Originally published in Movietone News 60-61, February 1979]

You know and I know, and each knows that the other knows, that 1978 was the worst year for movies since sound came in, so let’s not belabor the subject. Living through it was labor enough.

Apart from the superfluousness of such a gesture, one reason I don’t choose to mount a blistering that-was-the-year-that-wasn’t retrospective is that I was less than diligent about keeping up with the films passing through the Jet City and environs. I missed a few here-and-gone pictures I particularly wanted to see, such as Robert Mulligan’s Bloodbrothers (which lasted less than a week and reportedly has been pulled from distribution), James Bridges’ 9/30/55 (shown as a first-run second feature in very farflung nabes), Ted Post’s Go Tell the Spartans (a short-term top feature in the same farflung nabes), Paul Schrader’s Blue Collar, Sidney J. Furie’s The Boys in Company C, and Jack Gold’s The Medusa Touch. Nothing but sloth, an aversion to hype, a low sense of priority, and a careless susceptibility to predisposition—in various combinations—can account for missing longer-run items like Interiors, House Calls, Paradise Alley, FIST, Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?, Grease, The Wiz and Midnight Express,not to mention Lord of the Rings and Watership Down (I have never been able to get excited about feature-length animation). I intend to catch up with all of them eventually, but if anyone chooses to see my Besting and Worsting of 1978 compromised by any of these oversights, I can hardly protest. The one film I feel seriously delinquent in having missed was Kenji Mizoguchi’s A Geisha; it was shown one time only in Dana Benelli’s ASUW Major Films Series, and I was on my way to see it until a Seattle Film Society emergency obliged the then-President to change his plans.

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

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

David O. Selznick dictating a memo in 1941.

“After getting Selznick’s dense, eight-page telegram explaining why Since You Went Away’s nearly three hours could not be reduced, a colleague replied: IF I WERE YOU I WOULD MAKE NO FURTHER CUTS IN SYWA. YOU MIGHT TAKE ABOUT TEN MINUTES OUT OF YOUR TELEGRAM.” David Bordwell sifts through the most logorrheic resource available to film scholars, the David O. Selznick papers held at the University of Texas, for clues to how consciously the studio system achieved its effects.

Of course you can only search through an archive if one exists, and Hollywood studios, in their eternal chasing after the new and the profitable, have been criminally lax on that score. Film historian Wheeler Winston Dixon explains some of the obstacles members of his profession must surmount (and passes along, sub rosa, an encouraging word about the ongoing digital encroachment) in an interview with Moving Image Archive News.

Yes, “if I’m not grounded pretty soon, I’m gonna go into orbit” has finally been enshrined within the National Film Registry; but then so has “there’s no crying in baseball.” The complete list here.

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

Errol Flynn and the sea

I came across the new Senses of Cinema too recently to have sampled much beyond their “Special Dossier” on the cinematic history of Tasmania, but even that’s provided several articles of interest, including Jeannette Delamoir’s history of the now mostly-lost silent Jewelled Nights (whose star and chief creative force, Louise Lovely, claimed she here innovated the shortcut of using shots of ship’s funnels and locomotive wheels to stand in for long voyages); director John Honey on the making of the state’s first self-produced feature, 1980’s Manganinnie; and two looks at the island’s most famous son: Robert de Young on how Tasmania’s wildlife and raging seas formed Errol Flynn, and Adrian Danks on the star’s superb collaboration with Raoul Walsh. Elsewhere in the issue, Shirley Clarke is added to the site’s Great Directors ranks, Angelos Koutsourakis capably handling the honors.

Mark Harris describes the rapid rethink and restructuring Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal had to do when their planned Hunt-for-bin-Laden movie rushed up against his real-life assassination. And while we’re on the subject, Dexter Filkins’s short New Yorker profile reminds you that our best action director used to hang out with Susan Sontag and Philip Glass and has no problem dropping “Lacanian” into a conversation.

“The characters in Xenogenesis also visit a world called “Techno-Planet.” On this world, our main characters discover an advanced civilization that has collapsed because the people withdraw into highly realistic fantasy worlds generated by computers.” To fight off some seemingly frivolous lawsuits over Avatar, James Cameron has tracked his influences and inspirations (beginning with a sketch doodled in his 11th-grade homeroom) in a 45-page legal document, available at the Hollywood Reporter. It’s as meticulous as you’d expect, and in its endless conflations of technocrat idealism and hippie ethics, probably as close as Cameron will ever get to a Declaration of Principles.

Sadly noting that even its latter-day status as a parking garage has ended with its tearing down, Charles Simic recalls New York’s Comique Film Studio, and the day Buster Keaton showed up to do a bit in one of his pal Fatty Arbuckle’s movies.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of December 7

“Walden” by Jonas Mekas

The new issue of Scope is highlighted by Rachel Lister’s fine article on Nicole Holofcener (.pdf warning), which picks up the common critical assessment that her films work like short stories and runs with it, adducing mission statements from writers such as Raymond Carver, Grace Paley, and (most appositely) Lorrie Moore to show how closely Holofcener adheres to a short-story, as opposed to novelistic, approach. Passed along by Film Studies for Free.

“I was 27 and I had to make up for all the lost time in the displaced persons’ camp, so I started absorbing everything. I went to the cinema every day. I was so hungry for culture, for stimulation. It was all about grabbing the time, doing something after so many years of doing nothing.” Jonas Mekas made up for his lost time with a vengeance, as Sean O’Hagan’s interview/career profile for The Guardian makes clear. Part of the cause for the article is Mekas’s retrospective at London’s Serpentine Gallery, samples of which are viewable at their website.

MUBI’s Tony Scott salute continues, with ten more appreciations of an oeuvre that can’t be faulted for looking and sounding like everybody else.

Appropriately, the New York Times Magazine’s Hollywood issue opens with A. O. Scott sounding the latest death knell to the “death-of-cinema” complaints. Scott’s less persuasive arguing this was the “Year of Heroine Worship,” but Tierney Gearon’s playful, spangling photos of actresses who made a splash in 2012, from Emmanuelle Riva to Rebel Wilson, helps brings the argument home.

It’s not Eric Hynes’s fault if his appreciation of Max von Sydow’s career sticks mostly to the highlights; covering 63 years and nearly as many phases (with only the slightest signs of slowing down), it’s a life’s work hard to imagine any article encompassing.

There are many sights to see in Berlin; David Bordwell covers one of any filmlover’s crucial destinations in a visit to the Babelsberg Studio, former home to Murnau, Lang, and so many, many more.

Speaking of cinematic tourism, Brian Darr of Hell on Frisco Bay notes an unfortunate renovation has occurred at 900 Lombard, obscuring Scottie Ferguson’s apartment. Which opening, in pleasingly associative, Sans Soleil fashion, leads him to a charming anecdote from Tom Luddy about working with Chris Marker.

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

Tony Scott’s critical standing among the MUBI cohorts is so strong that when Gina Telaroli and Daniel Kasman called for a series of essays, each to analyze one scene from any of his films, they were forced to split the results over two weeks time. The first ten are up now, mostly (but not exclusively) rapturous celebrations of light, sound, and restless motion, with enough film stills that this might be the most colorfully expressionistic page in the history of the Internet.

So apparently this time of year academic film journals flower no less than colorful displays and mall-wide sales. I wouldn’t have known had not all these been highlighted by Film Studies for Free. The new issue of the European Journal of Media Studies tackles the subject of “tangibility,” which brings a welcome sensuousness to such engaging but theory-heavy articles as Barbara Flueckiger’s beautifully illustrated disquisition on whether films can any longer be considered historical documents in the pristine digital age or Wanda Strauven’s tracing the early movie trope of the “rube,” tempted to tactile interaction with the movie screen, back to a long, mostly forgotten history of art presentation. In Issue 3 of Screen Machine, James R. Douglas lays out a measured respect for Christopher Nolan’s reassertion of Einsteinian montage over Bazinian imagery, while Robbie Fordyce’s attempt to rehabilitate Southland Tales is less successful. Finally, the latest Frames has Hannah Mowat on the differing juxtapositions of architecture and natural space in L’Année dernière à Marienbad, The Shining, and Hausner’s Hotel; John Trafton showing how Apocalypse Now and The Hurt Locker expand on different 19th-century influences (theatrical phatasmagoria and the battlefield panorama, respectively) to view war through fresh eyes; and Amy Sargeant on Britain’s aviatrix movies from the ’20s and ’30s.

Crispin Glover in ‘River’s Edge’

“In observation, I don’t know where this is headed, but the only one of us with the coordinates for this destination in his hardware is you. Go on whatever vision quest you require.” David Bordwell breaks down the decisions and intelligence behind some scenes directed by Tim Hunter, for large screen (River’s Edge) and small (Twin Peaks, Revenge).

“As she lies dying, the woman asks the cop who has hounded but reluctantly admires her to ‘come down to my level, just once’; then as he finally succumbs and leans in for a kiss, she laughs in his face.” Imogen Smith’s appreciation of Decoy is as brisk and blunt as the Poverty Row noir itself.

“I’m an egghead. I’m not only an egghead, I’m a premeditated egghead. I set out to become an egghead and at this moment I’m in full flower of eggheadedness, and I hope to spread the spores of egghead everywhere I go.” Serge Daney in English posts one of Daney’s first published works: a defense of Advise & Consent, and Preminger, that’s just the blend of striking insights (he’s marvelous on Preminger’s “coldness”) and overreaches you’d expect from a 19-year-old genius.

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

Kirk Douglas

The Hollywood Reporter details the role former publisher Billy Wilkerson played in the blacklist, a mea culpa they admit is painfully overdue even as they kind of fudge it with a series of who-can-say shrugs about the paper’s impact towards the end. Included is a photo gallery of surviving blacklist victims that ends with Kirk Douglas, because white hats and happy endings, you know? Via Movie City News.

“But like any good student of Gurdjieff or Stanislavsky or Freud, Ray had come to his teachers with a question that was all his own, and had come away each time with a better version of his question: how can people—two people, or multitudes—love one another, to quote King of Kings?” Bill Krohn’s magnificent close reading of Ray’s We Can’t Go Home Again may not convince you of the film’s greatness, but he forever places it firmly amid the worried, questioning works the student-turned-teacher had made since the beginning.

In their latest discussion, Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott take heart from a number of recent films that, success or failure, are pushing against formulaic storytelling conventions.

Most of said conventions, of course, are hawked and hammered home in books on screenplay writing, a how-to genre that has exploded in recent years. Jonathan Zimmerman spent some time under their spell, and has returned to tell the tale.

Among other delights, the new issue of Experimental Conversationsspotted by Girish Shambu—has Fergus Daly drawing a dense portrait of film noir’s godless morality (and showing off an encyclopedic affinity for telling bits of dialogue); two articles kicking off a series by David Brancaleone on the underappreciated legacy of neorealist screenwriter Cesare Zavattini (part two here); and part two of Jit Phokaew et al.’s survey of Thailand’s alternative cinema.

At Film Comment, Maggie Hennefeld runs down her highlights of the recent Pordenone Silent Film Festival, which includes the rescue of Anna Sten from her relegation as a Cole Porter punchline.

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

Ingrid Caven watches Fassbinder on television, ‘In a Year With 13 Moons’

“What should be stressed is that Fassbinder’s films are slow, their tempo gentle and carefully measured. There’s no rush, even as everything falls apart. Despite the furious speed with which they were made, they are meditative works of art.” Charlie Fox’s 13-part (one for each moon) essay on Fassbinder is pitched to a mordant excess perfectly appropriate for the subject.

Greil Marcus proves to be the perfect interviewer for David Thomson—able and eager to follow his trains of thought about every movie being part one big river, the way cinema has deadened our empathy, and the hidden links between Un chien andalou and your television’s remote control—in a sparkling sitdown for the L.A. Review of Books.

“It is in control, and if you think you’re in control, then you’re being an idiot! Not a single thing you’ve done has helped, and I’m sorry, I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but the camera hasn’t helped.” David Bordwell salutes how much variety can be found in even the most restrictive premise, by tracing the innovative changes on the “discovered footage” conceit throughout the four Paranormal Activity films.

In honor of Anthony Asquith’s 110th birthday, Bristol Silents reprints a 2004 essay by Kelly Robinson on rediscovering the greatness of his silent films, and British cinema in general.

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

“Final Girl” Jamie Lee Curtis in ‘Halloween’

The new issue of Bright Lights Film Journal has arrived, wherein J. D. Markel provides a 9-circle tour of Hell via cinematic Los Angeleses, our guides including Albert Brooks, Michael Douglas and Keanu Reeves (twice); Graham Daseler, in a piece that ironically could be better organized, salutes the oft-overlooked work of editors; A. Loudermilk explores slasher films to attempt a queer reinterpretation of the Final Girl (naturally Sleepaway Camp is discussed at length; but there’s also the intriguing suggestion that the only gay-positive “sissy” Final Girl the genre has to offer is Halloween‘s astutely paranoid sixth-grader Tommy); and an interview with Todd Haynes (conducted by Julia Leyda) that reminds you he’s as conversant with the theory stuff as the academics who write about him.

“‘I’ll kill him!’ Brando told Logan when The New Yorker profile came out. ‘It’s too late,’ Logan shot back. ‘You should have killed him before you invited him to dinner.’” Douglas McCollam looks back at how Truman Capote, attempting to create something new under the sun from the disreputable genre of celebrity profiles, came up with a notorious, unprecedentedly revealing, and maybe even factual interview with Sayonara star Marlon Brando. And if you’ve never read it, here, engrossing as ever, is the New Yorker article itself. Via Longform.

“You have to set an example even in the face of stupidity. Everybody who reads comic books knows that the Kirby Silver Surfer is the only true Silver Surfer. Now am I right or wrong?” Gavin Smith looks back at the career of Denzel Washington, finding a throughline of moral integrity, unglamorous professionalism, and personal remove—almost withdrawal—pretty much without peer.

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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 October 5

Claire Denis’ ‘Beau Travail’

The new issue of La Furia Umana spotlights three distinctive filmmakers. (Four, actually, but the journal asserts its multilingual nature by presenting all the articles on René Vautier in French; if any of the batch is must-read, let me know.) Julie Grossman does a fine job situating Ida Lupino’s originality within noir and melodrama traditions; while Claire Denis’s freewheeling, allusive method of adaptation in Beau Travail and her drawing us past comfort into the transgressions of Trouble Every Day are explicated by Adelmo Dunghe and Jessica Felrice, respectively. But the bulk of articles are devoted to William Wellman, with fine contributions from Toshi Fujiwara on The Ox-Bow Incident and J. Hoberman on The Next Voice You Hear. (As well as the thoughts of Bertrand Tavernier, again in French.) Capped by a dazzling photo-essay (with poetic interludes) celebrating the special place woman’s work holds in Wellman’s cinema, from Gina Telaroli.

Your latest updates on the death of cinema, 2012 edition: the NY Review of Books excerpts J. Hoberman’s latest, Film After Film, to lay it at the feet of cgi and The Matrix; at Salon, Andrew O’Hehir thinks TV wielded the killing blow; while Vadim Rizov wonders, “what death?” (That last link via Glenn Kenny.)

Peter Bradshaw celebrates Antonioni’s centenary by surveying the serene summits of a master—and the earlier films that, however superficially conventional, display their “own mysterious brilliance [which] has been forgotten.”

“His principal direction of us was the reaped [sic] request, ‘Plus lentement!’ (‘More slowly!’), although at one point he called an extra over and, smiling, said, ‘You like to walk fast. All right, walk fast.'” Jonathan Rosenbaum recalls his two nights as an extra on Bresson’s Four Nights of a Dreamer.

“If you don’t like my stories, you don’t have to listen to my program.” Peter Tonguette praises the character studies at the heart of The King of Marvin Gardens.

David Kalat finds Cary Grant’s debut in This Is the Night only a particularly noticeable exemplar of the new comedic sensibility and sophistication the sound film offered in comparison to its silent predecessors.

Over the next month you can get your political fix from various mushmouthed partisan wonks or from Orson Welles, whose articles for The Free World will be posted by Wellesnet till the election. Up now is his debut column, a 1943 call against the tide of fascism that ends with the kind of wry exhortation to the future they don’t just make anymore, and was a pretty rare bird back then as well: “To the generations sleeping in our loins: Be of good heart! The fight is worth it.”

“If you fell asleep with a cigarette in bed either it is put out in its own, or your house can catch fire. Doubt is like a cigarette, it either does nothing or destroys everything.” Fandor’s Miriam Bale presents five valuable lessons from Buñuel excerpted from his episode of Cinéma, de notre temps. Related: tumblr This Must Be The Place offers Buñuel’s magnificent review of Keaton’s College, with its compact argument for a less self-consciously expressive cinema and its famous assertion the movie is “as beautiful as a bathroom.”

As you’d expect of one who’s crafted such sensual images, cinematographer Agnès Godard has interesting thoughts on digital photography (which she just employed for the first time), and communicates them to the Times’s Kristin Hohenadel.

“I was interested in Marxism and communism, but I never espoused them. I was anarchistic in my beliefs. I wanted to march against all institutions, from the family to the government.” Marco Bellochio talks about his latest provocation Dormant Beauty—and the rerelease of one decades old, In the Name of the Father—with Nigel Andrews.

Brian De Palma on the set of ‘Passion’

“It was funny seeing Noah [Baumbach]’s movie the other day, about the relationship between the women. Much more nurturing. It’s completely unsexual, while mine is filled with dark desire!” Brian De Palma’s interview with Mubi’s Daniel Kasman has all the wicked humor and cinephile asides you’d expect—as well as spoilers giving pretty much the whole game away on his latest, Passion (as well as the Corneau film it remakes), so, you know, fair warning.

“They called the film Outback. I said, ‘Outback? That makes it sound like a National Geographic documentary about Australia. What’s the matter with Wake in Fright?’ They said, ‘It sounds like a Hitchcock film.’ I said, ‘That’s bad?'” Kevin Canfield interviews Ted Kotcheff about his fourth feature, hailed at Cannes in 1971, dumped unceremoniously by its distributor, and now rediscovered and rereleased.

Daniel Schweiger interviews Nathaniel Méchaly on the mix of adhering to formula and venturing afield it takes to be a house composer for Luc Besson’s production company. Also at Film Music Magazine, the audio from a pair of panels at the Fans of Film Music 3 conference, with participants including Bruce Broughton, Trevor Morris, Marco Beltrami, and Richard Sherman.

“Since you’re trapped here, finish the noodles.” Criterion’s gallery of hallways and alleys from In the Mood for Love reminds you how lovely the movie’s confining corridors are.

“He created “The Maltese Falcon,” “Sam Spade” and “The Thin Man” But he didn’t write this mystery thriller…HE LIVED IT.” Mark Fertig is approaching halfway through another poster countdown at his blog Where Danger Lives, this time tallying the 75 greatest posters from neo-noirs. As always, the graphic designer’s perceptive critiques are worth it just as much as the images. Part 1 (75-61) here and Part 2 (60-46) here.

Seattle Screens

The fourth annual Maelstrom International Fantastic Film Festival opens Friday, October 5 at SIFF Film Center with the black comedy Mon Ami and plays through Sunday, with midnight shows Friday and Saturday at The Uptown. Schedule, tickets, and passes here.

It’s up against another film festival this weekend, the fourth annual Seattle Latino Film Festival, which plays Friday-Sunday at The Uptown. Opening night film is the family drama Meu País/My Country from Brazil. Schedule, tickets, and passes.

Ira Sachs’ Keep the Lights On, which won the Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, opens at The Uptown this weekend and SIFF offer a special Q&A with Sachs, via Skype, after the 7:15pm show on Saturday.

Grand Illusion is dedicated their October calendar to horror and cinema of the fantastic, beginning Friday night with a return engagement of the uncut Possession from Andrzej Zulawski (I reviewed for Seattle Weekly earlier here) and two screenings of the documentary The American Scream on Saturday night in addition to runs of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Greydon Clark’s Without Warning, matinees of Bert I. Gordon’s knights and dragons The Magic Sword and a midnight screening of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. Groovy! All except the documentary are on 35mm. Schedule here.

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 Seattle Screens curated by Sean Axmaker and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.

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

Keep Reading

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.