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Obituary / Remembrance

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of March 23

“The starkness of Varda’s words contrasts greatly with the received wisdom that her films are serene, humanistic, and life-affirming. In an interview with Varda in Sight & Sound, Chris Darke used the word “lightness” to describe her style, but Varda disagreed: in her estimation, “lightness” tends to mean “don’t make things sad.” “Fluidity” is Varda’s own preferred term, the juxtaposition of images, words, and music to produce an emotional affect that flows tenderly and effortlessly, like water, or a gentle breeze. This is one of the reasons that her films so often feel warm and comforting—but while these qualities are certainly present in her work, she has also always strived to capture and reveal the sadness and sorrows of the human condition, the inherent horror of it, through the same subtle, ineffable approach.” Azadeh Jafari reminds us that the magic of Agnès Varda’s cinema isn’t some naïve, gentle optimism, but the way her humanity persists from scenes of gentle kindness to moments presenting the starkest terrors.

“Chytilová, her collaborator Ester Krumbachova (who co-wrote the film with the director and helped conceive its audiovisual design) and Chytilová’s cinematographer (and husband) Jaroslav Ku?era weaponize a battery of effects throughout the film: alternations between colour and black and white, images that move through a succession of colour filters, slow and accelerated motion, animation, found-footage inserts and jarring montage. None of these effects are large-scale or opulent; instead, they are driven by a low-budget, incessantly playful experimentalism. It is not hard to locate an echo of this spirit of creative play in the DIY ethos of Riot Grrrl, which was perfectly embodied in the zines that played such a central role in the movement: turning their backs on the mainstream media and its methods, Riot Grrrl zines were handmade, photocopied, emphatically anti-copyright, and distributed mostly by hand or at music shows.” Staying at TIFF’s Review, Girish Shambu connects Chytilová’s anarchic Daisies to the music and zine centered Riot Grrrl movement of the ‘80s.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of March 9

“Inspired by theoreticians such as the Jamaica-born, UK-based public intellectual Stuart Hall and the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci as much as by avant-garde filmmakers Dziga Vertov and Derek Jarman, BAFC’s work blended cascading montage and complex sonic experimentation with personal reflections on race, memory, post-colony and migration, with the rigorous yet non-didactic interrogation of official, state-sanctioned national histories pertaining to such matters.” Ashley Clark’s 50+ page monograph on the UK’s Black Audio Film Collective, written for the True/False Film Festivals Neither/Nor series, is a fine history of the collective’s official 16 years, plus the influences that fed into it and the ones it left upon others.

Including analyses and directors’ statements for key works such as John Akomfrah’s Testament (“It locates beauty and emotional resonance in its sensitive exploration of what it means to be “home””) and Reece Augiste’s Twilight City (“When I first came upon Calvino’s work, and [Invisible Cities], I was completely blown away. It constructed a gateway through which I could begin to think about London as a historical city, as a metropolitan city, and a city that has meant a lot to the Caribbean subject”); interviews with Akomfrah (“You heard about this figure [“black youth”], but you didn’t think it had anything to do with you, and then—and everyone I’ve spoken to experienced this—there’s a mirror moment when you suddenly realize: fuck, they’re talking about me! At that Fanonian moment, you think, OK, either run further away to escape this doppelganger moment, or do the opposite, which is to head towards it, to claim it, to fuse with it, or essentially to make friends with it.”), Augiste, composer Trevor Mathison (“We didn’t want to rush into a big statement—that was the main thing. In the juxtaposition between the image and the sound, that’s where you get the statement.”), and onetime intern and current BFI Southbank head Gaylene Gould (“And I remember John and the company standing really firm in the face of all that criticism [that BAFC’s output was too experimental and needed a more commercial focus], from both sides. Their attitude was: what we’re doing is bigger than now; you cannot criticize a culture without changing the form. That’s a line they’ve always stayed true to.”) Via Mubi.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of March 2

“What I knew of love had always stemmed from desire, from the wish to be altered or thrown off course by some uncontrollable force. But in my love for Ershadi I nearly didn’t exist beyond that great feeling. To call it compassion makes it sound like a form of divine love, and it wasn’t that; it was terribly human. If anything, it was an animal love, the love of an animal that has been living in an incomprehensible world until one day it encounters another of its kind and realizes that it has been applying its comprehension in the wrong place all along.” One imagines Kiarostami would have loved that one of the finest critical appreciations of his masterpiece A Taste of Cherry wound up taking the form of a fiction, Nicole Krauss’s Seeing Ershadi, about a disillusioned ballerina, a grieving actress, and the way both women are affected not just by the film but by the “gravity and a depth of feeling” displayed in the face of lead actor Homayoun Ershadi, with whom they both have a mysterious quasi-encounter.

The above was spotted by David Hudson, whose idea of pairing it up with Frank Mosley’s account of how he applied some key lessons Kiarostami offered in a workshop (“Do not dictate the story to your environment. Let your environment speak to you. Let it tell you the story. It will be more real, more authentic, more genuine.”) to his own film Casa de Mi Madre is so apt I’m stealing it here myself.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of February 16

“The paradox, of course, was that while ripping itself free from genre conventions, Night of the Living Dead inadvertently established a new genre of its own. While refusing explanations and rationales in the face of real-world horrors, it helped open the way (with the contemporaneous Rosemary’s Baby) for the curious convergence of conspiracy theories and demonism in seventies cinema. But while it marked a breakthrough for independent movies—critics would no longer be so quick to write off filmmakers who worked in the provinces, or to snub pictures that seemed destined for the drive-in—Night of the Living Dead did not immediately elevate the career of the man who was its director, cocinematographer, editor, and cowriter.” Stuart Klawans rates Romero’s Night of the Living Dead sui generis—less distilling the mood of its times that presciently feeding the anarchic years of its rise to prominence, less summation of filmic horror traditions than a strange lope through various genres that finally culminates in a glimpse of terror Klawans can only find precedent for in Goya.

“Cinema hasn’t always been responsive, but it’s left some breadcrumbs; I just need to go back to find the trail. Hence this is the first entry in a new biweekly column in which I return to the hunt, back through the annals of my movie-watching, and try to uncover the queerness in the films of years past. The plan is to delve into one film per year per column, hopscotching through the decades, and hopefully discovering or rediscovering themes, images, and emotional registers in films I may not have previously noticed or fully analyzed or come to terms with. The queer twist could be obvious, right there on the surface, in a character or a plot turn; it could be hidden, barely perceptible in a casual viewing; or it could be completely imagined—but what is cinema if not an art of the imagination?” Michael Koresky launches a new, sure-to-be classic series of inquiries into queer cinema with Fosse’s paradoxically aggressively straight (though, and this is much of Koresky’s point, far from heteronormative) All That Jazz.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of February 9

The new issue of La Furia Umana contains an extensive dossier on Godard. There’s always the hazard of writing on Godard aping the form-breaking style of its subject without his poetry, and this collection is no exception. But there are highlights, including Rick Warner’s analysis of the director’s love of tennis and his rejection of standard narrative editing (“Tennis, as with its use in Pierrot, is a figure that evokes the apprehension of life, but life now is understood within the parameters of a full-on dialectical world outlook. Abstract and bordering on slapstick humor, these tennis scenes [in Vladimir and Rosa] mark a dialogical gap in the middle of an ongoing inquiry, a chaotic space within which new and more just thinking has a chance to arise, thinking inclined toward political action.”) and Michael Witt’s history of Godard and Miéville’s company Sonimage (“It revolved around an attempt to live out a working practice in which the divisions of labour and of the sexes were dissolved in a reflection on the implications of finding pleasure in one’s work whilst collaborating with a partner one loves (to love work, and work at love).”). There’s even visual tributes, two lovely watercolors by Stephanie Wuertz and Sasha Janerus (the second here) inspired by Godard’s films and excerpts from a witty “collage novel” treatment by Lewis Klahr (himself the subject of articles elsewhere in the issue) that recasts Contempt with Clark Kent and Metamorpho.

Another multi-lingual film magazine, The World of Apu, has released its second issue, offering an eclectic collection of works including Irish immigrant Maeve Rafferty’s identification with the movie and novel Brooklyn (“Perhaps all these things for which the film was criticized were what made it so easy for me to enter into on first viewing. I filled all the gaps with my re-lived emotions, memories, and the tucked-away knowledge from the novel that I’d already molded for my own purposes.”), poems inspired by Farewell My Concubine and Vive L’Amour (“Now there’s a close-up of her face. The girl is still in tears. A couple passes by in front of the bench/She is still in tears”), and even Maanasa Visweswaran’s interpretive dance homage to Mehta’s Earth. Via David Hudson.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of February 2

“The fragile nature of the Trucolor takes things even further, with the light subtly shifting from red to blue over single shots, creating a hallucinatory otherworldly effect that deepens every Bill Elliott plea, Bible in hand. The movie often looks more like a watercolor painting than a film, especially as characters move in and out of the moonlight or the fog.” Gina Telaroli’s preview of MoMA’s Scorsese-curated series on Republic Pictures offers short, observant introduction for some excellent B-picture work by the likes of Witney, Auer, and Dwan. But as Telaroli’s focus on each film’s color and appearance hints, the blocked images peppered throughout the article are best seen in her original context, as a trio of her exuberant, dizzying “image essays.”

“Such was the pace of Pabst’s production that although Westfront 1918 and Kameradschaft were made in adjacent years, they were separated by The Threepenny Opera as well as a picture called Scandalous Eva. You could nevertheless see them as twins; if they were the only two films by Pabst you ever saw, you would have a fairly clear notion of his auteurial stamp: men in groups; societies in stress; tight, enclosed spaces; bitter, foolish, ordinary heroism. That he nevertheless doesn’t seem to have ever made another film quite like them further strengthens the idea that they are paired, one idea in two parts.” Luc Sante finds two of Pabst’s earliest explorations of sound film as arresting as any of his silents:  the WWI-set Westfront 1918 (“[the film] alternates fleeting pleasure with durable horror in a rhythm that gradually abbreviates the former and extends the latter”) and the mining-accident drama Kameradschaft (“When in the morning the French town arises and heads off to work, as one, on foot and bicycle, the parade of faces puts you in mind of any number of photographs by August Sander, Brassaï, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange. They flit by in streams, and yet each is momentarily inscribed on our field of vision; they are what we have come to see as the faces of labor: thin, dignified, guarded, resigned, the impassive playthings of massive forces beyond their ken (as if we weren’t, with our consumer individuality)”).

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of January 26

James Quandt offers an alphabet of Robert Mitchum arcana, from Auteurs to Zanuck, Darryl F., with stops along the way of course for Booze, Eyes, Laughton, and Urine. (“Mitchum pissed not only on script ideas and Kirk Douglas’ reputation, but also on David O. Selznick’s office carpet, a doorway in Paris, the eternal flame in the same city, and in a swimming pool he didn’t intend to enter at the Betty Ford Center, where he had been sent to dry out.”)

“The artistic and popular success of Soviet films during the New Economic Policy (1921-1928) had spurred hopes for a mass-market sound cinema that was also of high quality. What crushed that dream? Masha gives us the hows (the machinations of the studios and government bodies) and the whys (the underlying causes and rationales). “Not According to Plan” is a trailblazing study of what she calls “the institutional study of ideology.” It’s also a quietly witty account of the failures of managed culture. How could artists be engineers of human souls if they couldn’t engineer a movie? But go back to the quality issue. What were those Stalinist films like artistically?” Spurred on by a recent publication from his university—Maria Belodubrovskaya’s “Not According to Plan”—David Bordwell explores some of the hallmarks of Stalinist cinema, finding a lot more experimentation and cunning liftings from the past than the standard reduction of “boy-loves-tractor musicals” can encompass; though any charges of gigantism would be valid.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of January 19

“My appreciation for his inspiring and innovative cinema grows deeper as the years go by. He had a unique vision in his films and in his artwork, that was deceptively simple yet hard to copy, like that of Parajanov. He always stayed true to himself, to his creative impulses, striving to fulfill his own artistic urges and curiosity rather than following certain modernist fashions in filmmaking. In this way, he challenged many stereotypes and clichés of conventional representations of people and their stories on screen.” Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa—who once (with Jonathan Rosenbaum, whose site hosts this essay) wrote the book on Kiarostami—considers some of the tropes of the director’s cinema, and the philosophy (and genuine humility) behind them.

“An unfortunate side effect of these [political] aspirations is that the aesthetics of Loach’s cinema have sometimes been undervalued by critics. “It has been said of Loach,” wrote Peter Bradshaw in his review of I, Daniel Blake, “that he would do without the camera if he could, and that doing-without aesthetic is absolutely right for the unfashionable, uncompromising seriousness of what he has to say.” While meant as a compliment, this sentiment nevertheless sells the director’s cinema short: it obscures the rigorous preparation and carefully worked-out production methods that Loach has gradually refined over decades. The feeling of authenticity that I, Daniel Blake exudes, seemingly without effort, is the result of a myriad of thoughtful decisions made about setting, casting, shooting, and (especially) dialect.” Girish Shambu finds the artistic merit of Loach’s I, Daniel Blake as valuable as the already measurable impact it’s had on the debate over Britain’s benefits system.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of January 12

“Before her husband goes to the leaves to the theater, Madame fixes his shirt; afterward, her hand slides, naturally and forcefully, toward the piano. Her reflex gesture will be punished: he locks up the piano case, preventing her from playing. As always, every affirmation of her self is crushed by her husband. The film’s drama starts precisely here: when the door to Madame Beudet’s fantasies is locked up, and when her husband debases and colonizes those fantasies, turning them progressively into her worst nightmare.” Cristina Álvarez López praises Germaine Dulac’s The Smiling Madame Beudet as a film that employs surrealist freedom of imagery to pierce its domestic melodrama with a greater, more terrifying truth than most subsequent “women’s pictures” could allow.

“Here it’s perhaps worth asking why so many artists become a part of our lives and identities, while only a precious few are enlisted to prop up our moral universe. Though he’s never claimed to be a dissident, and has in fact proven allergic to ironclad political positions, Jia still inspires a special kind of hope, particularly among fans in the Chinese world who long to see change in the motherland. His principal genius lies in how he makes that longing palpable, often by interpreting social upheaval through the subtle modulations of sentiment you find in Mando- and Cantopop songs, which he uses liberally and without irony. He does this with the knowledge that, not long ago, those private yearnings were condemned as “decadent.” Indeed, he often recounts a memory of his father implying that, at the height of the Maoist era, a movie like Platform, with its languid evocations of nostalgia and thwarted possibility, would have gotten him labeled as a rightist.” With Jia Zhangke launching a new festival, directing car commercials, and indulging in other moves that seems to ensconce him into the mainstream of the Chinese film industry, Andrew Chan reminds us to consider both Jia’s obstacles and his personal ambitions, which never perfectly aligned with the rebel image many thrust upon him.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of December 22

The new issue of feminist film journal cléo has dropped, built around the theme of “hot”. Among other pleasures, Kathleen Kampeas-Rittenhouse shows the bleak political view that undergirds Ceyda Torun’s Kedi (“And so perhaps the more-or-less explicit themes of interdependence and fragility woven in among Kedi’s lighter-hearted narratives are an attempt to apply a loving lens to a bleak reality—a gentle, wet-nosed nudge reminding audiences of their capacity to nurture“); Elise Moore offers an interesting perspective on the dilemmas presented in The Bigamist and There’s Always Tomorrow (“A comparison of the Lupino and Sirk films highlights what Lupino’s outsider approach added to American cinema’s criticism of postwar conformism”); Kiva Reardon highlights Denis’s Friday Night as an important precursor to her supposedly anomalous latest, Let the Sunshine In (“in Denis’ filmmaking, we locate a cinematic space where the immediacy of women’s wants and needs is foregrounded, indulged and generously examined”); and Sarah Fonseca shows a century’s worth of obsessing about mermaids culminating in Smoczynska’s The Lure (“When the viewer realizes what Smoczynska is cheekily telling us about gender, the question of whether or not the mermaids’ song is manipulating audiences becomes irrelevant”).

“In Arbuckle’s [first] two features, it’s his physical presence that matters, not consistency of character; in one he’s a genial sheriff, in the other a lawyer inclined toward crookedness. Chaplin retained the Tramp persona in The Kid, but the film is a rather episodic affair. Once the main plot is resolved, a reel pads out its length with a dream sequence set in heaven. The Linder films are lively but digressive, with plots propelled by casual pranks and lovers’ misunderstandings. By contrast, Lloyd’s features moved toward tight construction. Despite his claim that his films just grew longer accidentally, they were shaped in ways that make them seem through-composed. His comedy sequences are deftly prolonged, building and topping themselves with great speed. Gags are embedded and interwoven in ways that yield surprises, and motifs set up early in the film pay off later. We may have forgotten about them, but Lloyd hasn’t.” David Bordwell argues that most dismissals of Harold Lloyd are flat-out wrong, shaped by a prescient hold on copyright that restricted our sense of his variety and innovation. Though even he can’t make Lloyd’s meticulous courting of the commercial come off any less depressingly chipper.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of December 15

“Now that professional opportunities have expanded and marriage has lost both its inviolability and its exclusivity, what are we to make of Lisa Berndle and of a love at once heroic and wildly destructive, even delusional? One of the marks of a great film is how it changes over time as social context and you, the viewer, change. Certain themes recede, others emerge, sympathies shift, reappraisals are in order. The lens widens. Is Lisa’s besottedness a mark of daring or sheer masochism? Inspired and slightly idiotic? Is she heroine or anti-heroine? Could it be both?” Ophüls’s Letter from an Unknown Woman remains unmatched in its portrait of l’amour fou, Molly Haskell argues, because however it felt its heroine’s keening, its perception is wide enough to encompass the decency of those left in its wake.

The Harder They Come’s relationship to reggae, however, goes beyond music. The film is immersed in Jamaica’s everyday life and culture reflected through the creative beauty of reggae’s flesh and blood: Ivan’s struggle for a better life in the face of a rigid class structure; the presence of the Rastafari (in the person of the character Pedro) as righteous beacons of peace, love, and equity; the use of the Jamaican language; the argot of body movement through action and dance; and, of course, the reggae rhythm itself. Deeply and vitally engaged with all aspects of the movement, The Harder They Come is the film component of Jamaica’s reggae-influenced golden age.” Klive Walker recounts the phenomenon that was The Harder They Come, an introduction to movie screens of a country, music (reggae) and spirituality (Rastafari) that was so highly anticipated the audience at its Kingston premiere wouldn’t disperse to let in the Prime Minister.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of December 8

The new issue of The Cine-Files contains a dossier on the rewards, surprises, and occasional hazards of teaching film studies. Among others, Joshua Glick discusses how he makes his students place themselves amidst the masses of Vidor’s The Crowd (“Yes, John and Mary are back together and some form of economic stability might be possible. But can they achieve a heightened status beyond the “crowd?””); Liz Greene offers a nifty bit of pedagogy (with clips), having her students come up with a new sound design for a scene from The Elephant Man in the style of different directors; Christian Keathley uses Rosemary’s Baby to discuss directorial choice and the orchestration of visual themes (“The students’ answers are generally satisfactory, but I want them to see beyond the specifics of any one choice and to consider the ways in which individual choices sometimes fit together with others to form a pattern.”); Maggie Hennefield finds the farcical take of then current events in To Be or Not to Be speaks clearly to young, modern audiences (“There is nothing that remains unsaid in To Be or Not to Be, but everything is said in the form of rapid-fire jokes and thinly veiled sexual or political innuendos. For my students, this film exemplifies the power of comedy to speak truth (or “truthiness”) to the atrocities of state violence and populist dictatorship.”); and Patricia White discusses a lifetime of teaching, loving, and growing with Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman (“Jeanne Dielman can make a formalist out of anyone, and it is a great lesson for would-be filmmakers about how setting limits can inspire one’s best work.”).

“Indeed, the majority of these films adopt stylistic practices which are not susceptible to further development, and can ultimately do nothing except close in on themselves. Most of the previously mentioned titles fit neatly into this category, and thus feel right at home alongside Walter Matthau’s Gangster Story (1959), S. Lee Pogostin’s Hard Contract (1969), Leonard Kastle’s The Honeymoon Killers (1969), Michael Barry’s The Second Coming of Suzanne (1973), Walter Murch’s Return to Oz (1985), Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive (1986) and Ryan Gosling’s Lost River (2013). One-off auteurs generally favour aesthetics which are self-devouring, consuming narrative, film and filmmaker in a single gesture. The defining moment here is the final shot of Electra Glide in Blue, during which the camera pulls back from a dying Robert Blake and spends several minutes moving slowly down an empty highway, as if James William Guercio were watching his new career vanish into the distance.” Brad Stevens finds an interesting pattern of resignation and failure in the works of filmmakers with only one completed feature, and a tragic exception, in its refusal of easy nihilism coupled with a true understanding of how difficult a follow-up would be, in Barbara Loden’s Wanda.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of December 1

“Each in his way, Flaherty and Rouch were devoted to enlarging the cast of filmable humanity by concentrating on non-Western individuals. It might have been more honest for them to present their subjects as actors, which is in a sense what Rouch did. The nonprofessionals in his work give coached performances that effectively reframe the films as narrative fictions. On the other hand, non-actors were among the signifiers of authenticity—along with location photography and open-ended narratives—in the most influential of cinema movements, Italian neo-realism.” Prompted by the Lincoln Center’s series on “The Non-Actor”, J. Hoberman cycles through a list of examples—and remains, as a critic, perverse enough to end with Orson Welles and genius enough to make that work.

“One day on set [of the first X-Men movie], Shuler Donner and Avi Arad, then head of Marvel Studios, watched as an exasperated stylist, at Feige’s insistence, sprayed and teased actor Hugh Jackman’s hair higher and higher to create the hairstyle that would become the signature look of the character Wolverine. The stylist ‘eventually went ‘Fine!’ and did a ridiculous version,’ Feige recalls. ‘If you go back and look at it,’ he admits, ‘he’s got big-ass hair in that first movie. But that’s Wolverine!’ The experience stuck with Feige. ‘I never liked the idea that people weren’t attempting things because of the potential for them to look silly,’ he says. ‘Anything in a comic book has the potential to look silly. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make it look cool.’” Joanna Robinson can’t quite muster up a profile of Kevin Feige, who seems appositely devoid of personality (“He’s short on kibitz” is—who else?—Robert Downey, Jr.’s take), but she lays out how the Marvel Studios producer had enough faith in Hollywood doing right by comic book tropes to change the movie landscape perhaps forever.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of November 10

“Every genuine act of innovation starts with a bit of destruction. However, it’s not the medium that Lynch blows up, but the rules and conventions associated with it. He has done this many times throughout his career: with the aesthetics of analogue film and low definition cameras, with serialized narratives, and compact (even ultra-short) durations. For Lynch, exploring the possibilities of a given medium often means turning it upside down in order to shake off the expectations attached to it, to unfold it like a glove into which he places his own, particular world, to extract from this medium what seems impossible, even utterly inconceivable.” Cristina Álvarez López explores David Lynch’s radical reinvention of the sequence-shot in his contribution to Lumière and Company, Premonition Following an Evil Deed.

The two latest entries in Reverse Shot’s symposium on time feature two very different instances of the camera delicately approaching a seated man. Imogen Sara Smith highlights Anton Walbrook’s monologue in the refugee office as a distillation of all the gaps and flashbacks that make time the implacable villain in the Archers’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. (“Theo can return to England, but never to the days when his wife was alive. Film, however, can rewind or replay, slow down or speed up time at will, as Colonel Blimp does with its flashbacks, its way of skipping over years as a stone skips over a pond. The challenge then is to make cinematic time feel like real time, to capture the irreversibility of age and loss, the way the past is at once inescapable and unrecoverable.”) While Nadine Zylberberg finds the key to Sofia Coppola’s whole project in Somewhere’s suspended zoom on a face encased in plaster. (“Johnny and the lifeless substance that envelops him come together, he is at once dead and undead. In Coppola’s world of existential boredom, there may as well be no difference between the two.”)

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of October 27

At TIFF’s blog, a paean to the iconic crafter of movie gimmicks and a look at how little a master filmmaker can get away with showing you. Craig Caron, like most writers on the subject, can’t conceal his giddiness recounting the career of William Castle, whose mix of shameless stunts and B-movie energy maintain a sense of fun none of his current inheritors can claim. (“Named by Castle’s long-time co-producer Dona Hollaway and inspired by a faulty bedside lamp, “Percepto” was succinctly summarized by Castle as follows: ‘I’m going to buzz the asses of everyone in America by installing little motors under the seats of every theatre in the country.’”) And an excerpt from David Bordwell’s Planet Hong Kong breaks down the mechanics of Johnnie To’s “tell-it-once rule” of filmmaking in The Mission. (“I know of no previous Hong Kong crime film with such suppressive and elliptical narration. To uses his multiple protagonists not only to pursue different strands of action but to switch points of view in ways that hold back information from us. This is somewhat like Wong Kar-wai’s withholding of information about the affair at the heart of In the Mood for Love. But whereas Wong flaunts the fact that he’s hiding things, To is more covert. We don’t expect that a film that can dwell on men kicking around a ball of paper will be so reluctant to divulge an extramarital affair or a fake murder scheme.”)

“Existential meaninglessness, the pointlessness of moral causes, the uselessness of idealism: these were the fates they truly feared. And for Aldrich, these were the just rewards for those who sought to ignore the savagery of the world for hopes and dreams. Survival by any means was the only virtue worth espousing. But what do you do when the mission is over? Where do you go when your worldview has been shattered? These are the questions we find in Autumn Leaves, a film almost totally unique, both as part of Aldrich’s extensive oeuvre and as a product of the classical Hollywood studio system.” Nathanael Hood considers Autumn Leaves as both a daring extension of his portraits of broken men and an intriguing compromise with melodrama—right down to the rare (for the director) happy ending.

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