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

Robert Mitchum serves a sixty-day sentence in the Los Angeles County jail for marijuana possession, 1949.

The new issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review is dedicated to Classic Hollywood; which topic is interpreted in agreeably diverse fashion to include Anne Helen Petersen on the evolution of the PR game from the fake news reports on Florence Lawrence’s death to the age of Twitter and Tumblr; excerpts from Bret Lott’s biography-in-progress on Columbia’s Frank Price; Nina Revoyr recalling how her fascination with silent movie actors Mary Miles Minter and Sessue Hayakawa led to her novel “Age of Dreaming”; and Chip Hayes’s marvelous recollection of being a teenager on the set of Satan’s School for Girls. Even poetry, such as David Gioia’s “Film Noir,” distilling the genre in a charmingly incongruous sing-song rhythm (“Their eyes meet, and he can tell/It’s gonna be fun, but it won’t end well”). This being a literary journal, no real surprise that the highlights of their cinema issue focus on scriptwriters: an unearthed 1973 interview with Horton Foote, full of insights and anecdotes on his film work to that time; and David Kipen’s salute to Paul Dehn, supreme screenwriter of the Cold War spygame. Much more at the first link. Spotted by Longform.

Also new this week, the latest issue of film journal La Furia Umana, with a focus on Joseph H. Lewis including short pieces by Fredrik Gustafsson on the pain (physical and moral) central to his work; Robert Keser on Lewis’s low-budget inventiveness; and Fergus Daly on his links to Godard (less than you’d think). Among the longer articles, Paul Cuff emphasizes the humane and spiritual concerns that drove Abel Gance’s cinematic experiments, each “influenced as much by ancient mysticism as by modern science”; Will Scheibel looks at Ray’s three “Outlaw Couple” movies, They Live By Night, Johnny Guitar, and Party Girl; and Paul Douglas Grant recounts the national history and state censorship that informed the Filipino filmmaker Lino Brocka. Some flubs in translation (or possibly just poor writing) keep Emmanuel Herbulot’s article on Antonioni’s habit of interviewing artists during his pre-production stage from clicking together satisfactorily, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless.

“Walsh once said that he could never make a woman’s movie (“call up Bette Davis if you want!”). It may be because he was already doing them with men.” Tom Conley’s introduction to Harvard University’s Raoul Walsh retrospective is an excellent survey and defense of a “pantheon” career, only slightly tainted by interpretive overreach. Via Adam Cook.

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

Humphrey Bogart

“Movie has always been a kind of Dorian Gray process. Many of you were not alive when Bogart died, but you can revel in his early middle age (especially when he acquired the 19-year-old Lauren Bacall)—and hardly ever find a picture of him where he looks young.” David Thomson, prompted by the grand turns of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva in Amour, recalls that aging in the movies has always been a different—less fraught, less human—process than in real life.

Film offered us new ways to look at the world; and now computer analysis is offering myriad new ways to look at film, as Lev Manovich magnificently demonstrates by laying out a half-dozen ways of revisualizing the frame-by-frame information in Vertov’s The Eleventh Year and Man with a Movie Camera. Available as a downloadable .pdf with or without hi-res versions of the images. Via John Wyver.

“I like to blow up everything and anything so, before we shot the gunfight scene, I walked around the whole restaurant looking for things to explode. If I saw stacks of papers on a desk we’d use that. Or maybe the tickets waiters used for their food orders. If we were close to the kitchen, I might ask, ‘How about blowing up a gas tank?’” In the new DGA Quarterly, John Woo walks Jeffrey Ressner through Hard Boiled‘s iconic opening shoot-out. Less bloodily (well, what wouldn’t be?), Lynn Shelton describes to Margy Rochlin adapting her improvisatory style to scripted dialogue for Mad Men and her latest feature Touchy Feely; while Milos Forman screens and rhapsodizes over De Sica’s “absolutely unique” Miracle in Milan for Rob Feld.

As Lola continues to roll out its contents piecemeal, Luc Moullet attempts some small correction of Ulmer’s reputation, acknowledging his frequent dreary efforts surrounding the legitimate masterpieces; Miguel Marias reminds us that decades before Inglourious Basterds Jerry Lewis imagined his way through a deliberately artificial WWII, complete with Hitler murdered ahead of schedule, in Which Way to the Front?; and if Emmanuel Siety doesn’t quite pull off linking Rivette and Carpenter, despite finding some intriguing affinities, it’s still the kind of never-thought-of-that-before thesis you’re glad to encounter.

Film Studies for Free notes that the journal Framework has placed nine of their issues online for all-access. Their most recent features several brief but interesting contributions from architects, asked to comment on a single frame, which leads to thoughts on weightlessness in 2001, cathedrals in Winter Light (here) and Good Morning, Babylon (here), and the thorough finality of Kiss Me Deadly‘s title proclaiming The End. (.pdf warnings)

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

Paul Schrader and Lindsay Lohan on the set of ‘The Canyons’

If Stephen Rodrick’s already notorious fly-on-the-wall article about the making of The Canyons were just stories of Lindsay Lohan flaking and Paul Schrader seething, it’d be a fun, if queasily voyeuristic, bit of nothing. But it’s the not-so-subtextual portrait of movie mavericks flailing now that Hollywood has no place for them that makes it such a wild, tragic read.

Another onset report, from the other side of the world in more ways than one: David Bordwell hands over his blog to James Udden, relaying his set visit to Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Assassin, a wuxia being filmed with the same patient, meticulous attention to mise-en-scène Hou has devoted to his previous, sans-martial-arts films.

“One day, apropos flooded New York, I mused what you might see by way of statues or such from the window of Macy’s. Within moments Tony had the Public Relations Manager of Macy’s on the phone for Stanley. ‘This is Stanley Kubrick. I’d like you to go to the window and tell me what you can see.’ The man’s description wasn’t too good. ‘That’s the trouble with this positive discrimination,’ Stanley grumbled. ‘They employ retards.'” Ian Watson’s account of working on the script of A.I., expanded and with a brief but amusing postscript added from a 2000 Playboy article, features all the eccentricities and paranoia we’ve heard of from other collaborators, but also the invigorating rush of being drawn into the man’s orbit. Via Movie City News. Related: Kubrick’s worried letter to the studio about IBM’s attitude towards a psychotic computer antagonist, and the reassuring reply, at Letters of Note.

It’s only fitting that the AFC’s interview with Holy Motors‘ cinematographer Caroline Champetier is so devoted to technical matters; it’s that formal grounding you need to capture imaginative, surreal leaps like these.

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

On the set of ‘The Innocence of Muslims’

Down-and-out actors lured to the desert for $75 a day and the promise they’d qualify for SAG cards, on a set so chaotic and unorganized they started taking the piss, playing their Arab warrior parts as growling, scimitar-waving pirates. Michael Joseph Gross describes the making of The Innocence of Muslims.

An annual highlight of David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s blog (and that’s saying something for such a consistently rewarding site) is their Best-of lists looking back 90 years. Lest you think nearly a century is enough to set such things in amber, Thompson’s write-ups for the best films of 1922 includes commentary on some surprising omissions as well.

A wealth of links passed along by Film Studies for Free, or a “Stocking Full” as they seasonally put it. All I’ve been able to read (and enjoy) so far are some pieces from the new Alphaville: Melissa DeAnn Seifert’s look at the way homophobia was employed to keep women divided in female-oriented blaxploitation and Dina Mansour charting the anti-colonial sentiments underlying Egypt’s censorship laws. But there’s so many articles something’s bound to catch your interest.

“The frames of Pasolini’s films combine the language of the cinema with the figural traditions of painting; his images are often equal parts Rossellini and Giotto, Mizoguchi and Bosch, Chaplin and Pontormo, Dreyer and Brueghel.” Prompted by MoMA’s retrospective, Patrick Rumble revisits the clashes—of class, religion, sexuality, even language (as Rumble reminds non-Italian speakers, thick dialects rendered his films effectively bilingual)—that comprise Pasolini’s endlessly eclectic cinema.

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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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