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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of May 6

In the age of video streaming, Ocular Rift, and Sean Parker’s proposed day-and-date VOD service Screening Room, what remains about movies that demands theater attendance? A. O. Scot and Manohla Dargis hash out the latest death notice the movies have received, Scott playing up the cautiously optimistic angle (Without wanting to play the devil’s advocate—or Sean Parker’s—I’m not entirely sure that streaming is necessarily an existential threat to moviegoing…. And also, not to be completely heretical, what’s so sacred about “the darkened cinema” anyway?”), Dargis the, I’m going to say realistic, viewpoint that industries being what they are, little good will come from letting them have their way (“It’s nice that we can pay five bucks to stream a crummy studio movie that looked too awful to leave the house for, I suppose, but I had superior, more interesting choices at my local video stores than I do with Netflix streaming (no Douglas Sirk!) or even Amazon. If you want to stream nonindustrial product, you often need to do time-consuming digging online”).

“Shortly after her death in 1977, Crawford’s adopted daughter Christina published “Mommie Dearest,” a memoir detailing her mother’s alleged abusive nature, alcoholism and neuroses. Katharine Hepburn, Myrna Loy, her first husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr., her two youngest daughters and others close to her denounced the book. But with Frank Perry’s 1981 film adaptation, featuring Faye Dunaway’s shrieking, hollow, larger-than-life performance, the damage was done. In just 129 minutes the film unravels what Crawford had been building for herself since first gracing the screen in the late 1920s. It turned the image of Crawford in the cultural imagination into a monstress, a soulless camp icon to be mocked and reviled but rarely respected, and a cautionary tale of what happens when women put their careers first.” Angelica Jade Bastien sets the record right; whatever the veracity of Christina Crawford’s charges, her mother should be remembered first as a daring, surprisingly mercurial actor who only ever let her staunch professionalism tamp down an energy that could overwhelm any of her co-stars.

Joan Crawford

“Growing up in the Minnelli world is often a harsh state of affairs, just ask Tootie Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Gigi or Sandra Dee in The Reluctant Debutante (1958). Behind the colorful, gorgeous scenery and fantasy of Minnelli’s movies is always the cruel reality of, well, reality. St. Louis isn’t as great as New York. Van Gogh went insane creating his art. Buying a 43 foot trailer probably wasn’t a good investment. Appeasing the desires of a sad teenage boy might not have been the smartest idea in the world. These are all truths that are plain to see while watching the movies, but it all somehow seems gloomier after being wooed and wowed by Minnelli for a couple of hours.” After the death of her beloved Dachshund, Sara Freeman found consolation, and the recognition of how much grief had left her wanting to hold fast to any traces of her lost companion, in the muted efforts at normalcy and eventual stabbing pains of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

“Before Eastwood, the project had passed through the hands of Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, Burt Lancaster, and Paul Newman (the latter two of whom reportedly passed because they found the story’s social message distasteful), and both Terrence Malick and John Milius had taken a crack at the screenplay. But the pairing of Eastwood and Siegel made sense, because they’d already collaborated on a gritty urban thriller: 1968’s Coogan’s Bluff, about a no-nonsense modern Western sheriff working a case in New York City.” Noel Murray rewatches the five Dirty Harry movies, finding a pair of masterpieces (Eastwood’s own Sudden Impact edging out Siegel’s original) and three lesser but still entertaining films that set the template for bruising American policiers, while having a lot to say about Eastwood’s one-for-me-one-for-them dance with Hollywood.

“Even with this hindsight, it’s difficult to defend Sofia Coppola’s performance these days without seeming pointlessly contrarian. I’ll bite. In a cinematic universe obsessed with the furies of manhood, Sofia’s Mary—propelled by nothing but a basic sincerity of feeling and a longing for human connection—acts as an antidote to these big, blustering lumps of testosterone collapsing under the weight of their own egos. The Godfather Part III is a titanic film that lacks humanist granularity. She anchors it in honesty.” Mayukh Sen sticks up for one of the most universally reviled performances in movie history, finding Sofia Coppola’s role in The Godfather Part III charged with the raw, bracing air of a young woman embracing the truth of her emotions even as they cripple her; she does leave open the question of how inadvertent the triumph is on Coppola’s part.

Dirty Harry

““Sometimes when you dream, the images are neutral, but they have a real emotional charge that doesn’t seem to fit… That’s what I’m trying to capture. When I start a film, I never really know what it’s about, and I want to find out—to explore that zone of mystery.” And now, a dozen years after her debut feature, Lucile Hadžihalilovi? has returned to exploring with Evolution. Hadžihalilovi? talks about the different reactions to her portrait of young boys in her latest film from that of young girls in Innocence, and the handful of current directors she considers kindred spirits.

“I think that people expect to be lied to [by movie directors]. I think they’re not put off, but destabilized, by honesty. I think that’s definitely true in the world of mainstream studio movies. I think there’s a lot of power struggle [sic] and I think they’re used to people manipulating to get what they want. And I just don’t. I’m not going to go, ‘I’m just going to tell her this, but the truth is I’m going to do this.’ It’s never going to be my way.” Jodie Foster discusses directing—the preferred arm of her career, despite just four features to date—with Margy Rochlin. Via Movie City News.

“I had a lot of fun doing it, but what I brought away most significantly from doing that was, one day Cheech and I were out just looking up at the sun and enjoying that wonderful weather of Southern California at the time. And I said, ‘What a wonderful way to make a living.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, man, it sure beats roofing for a living.’ So that’s my stock line. ‘It sure beats roofing for a living.’ You see the things you pick up that are really important? This is the stuff that’s really important that you take away from the work.” Tom Skerrit shares some lessons learned working with Altman, Ashby, Redford, and Up in Smoke’s Cheech Marin with Michael Sragow.

Tom Skerrit in ‘A Hologram for the King’

“I was immune, yes I was. You can see I worked right through [the scandal], undiminished. Made films all through those years and at the same rate I was making them. I’m good that way. I am very disciplined and very monomaniacal and compartmentalized.” Talking with Stephen Galloway, Woody Allen discusses LA vs. New York, reading vs. catching up with the Knicks, and ignoring the controversies surrounding him with a dispassion that justifies his fairly chilly self-description above.

“The only thing I can recall being allowed to improvise was the little singsong ‘I don’t know what to do’ chant in Pierrot Le Fou. Which I came up with because I literally did not know what to do!” Anna Karina talks with Glenn Kenny about that remarkable collaboration, professional and personal, between herself and Godard. Karina is in the states to promote and introduce new prints of the series, which has prompted some thoughts from Richard Brody about what the actor-director pair brought, or rather returned, to cinematic acting (“Karina didn’t become the characters she played; they became her. In this regard, her work with Godard (like that of other actors in his films) is close to the achievement of Joan Crawford, John Wayne, or other Hollywood icons whose limitations and artistry are inseparable. The difference is that Crawford and Wayne came to prominence in an era in which their style of performance was at the core of the industry.”) And to take this from words to images, and to remind us her career was vital even after the inevitable parting of the ways, Adrian Curry presents a series of posters featuring Karina, with nary (or, technically, barely) a Godard in the bunch.

Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina

Seattle Screens

SIFF has released the schedule for the 42nd Seattle International Film Festival. Preview here.

Translations: Seattle Transgender Film Festival 2016 opens on Thursday, May 12 with the opening night screening of the documentary Major! at SIFF Egyptian and continues through Sunday, May 15 with screenings and events at NWFF, 12th Ave Arts Building, SIFF Egyptian, and other venues. Schedule and tickets here.

Max et les Ferrailleurs (1970), directed by Claude Sautet and starring Yves Montand and Romy Schneider, plays on Thursday, May 5 at Plestcheeff Auditorium. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis. Details here.

It’s not too early to put “Framing Pictures” on your calendar. The monthly film discussion convenes in the screening room at Scarecrow Video on Friday, May 13, with your hosts Robert Horton, Richard T. Jameson, and Kathleen Murphy.

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

Seattle Screens: Chantal Akerman, Seijun Suzuki, and ‘Purple Rain’

Purple Rain

SIFF announces the line-up for SIFF 2016 on May 3. SIFF members can buy advance tickets beginning May 4, non-members on May 5.

The Chantal Akerman retrospective continues at NWFF with the West Coast premieres of the documentary Chantal Akerman, From Here (2012), featuring a length interview with the director, and Akerman’s final film Down There (2016), plus her 1993 film From the East. Dates and showtimes here.

NFFTY 2016 continues with screenings and events at SIFF Uptown through Sunday, May 1. Complete schedule his here.

SIFF Cinema presents a tribute to Prince with a screening of Purple Rain on Tuesday, May 3 at the Uptown. Admission is $5, free to SIFF members. Tickets here.

The Seijun Suzuki retrospective continues with screenings of Yumeji (1991) at Grand Illusion on Saturday, April 30 and Tokyo Drifter (1966) and Carmen from Kawachi (1966) at NWFF on Wednesday, May 4.

Max et les Ferrailleurs (1970), directed by Claude Sautet and starring Michel Piccoli and Romy Schneider, plays on Thursday, May 5 at Plestcheeff Auditorium. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis. Details 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.

Seattle Screens: Remembering Chantal Akerman

Chantal Akerman

The legacy of filmmaker Chantal Akerman, who took her life in 2015, is celebrated in a brief retrospect co-sponsored by SIFF and NWFF. It begins on Friday, April 22 at SIFF Film Center with screenings of No Home Movie, a personal documentary on her mother, a Holocaust survivor sharing her memories with her daughter, and I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman, a documentary by Marianne Lambert. They play in rotation for a week, and then the series shifts to NWFF for single screenings of three more films.

NFFTY 2016 marks the 10th anniversary for the National Film Festival for Talented Youth. It launches on Thursday, April 28 with an event at the Cinerama, which is already sold out, but the festival continues with screenings and events at SIFF Uptown through Sunday, May 1. Complete schedule his here.

Arnaud Desplechin’s My Golden Days plays for a week at NWFF. Showtimes and tickets here, and read Robert Horton’s review at Seattle Weekly.

As Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some opens wide, Dazed and Confused (1993) comes back for a midnight showing at the Egyptian on Saturday, April 23.

Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (2003) screens on Tuesday, April 26 at NWFF to mark the 17th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre and the 9th anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting with a pre-screening discussion with Professor Frederick P. Rivara, MD.

SIFF Uptown presents encore screenings of four films from the Wim Wenders retrospective—The American Friend (1977), Paris, Texas (1984), Wings of Desire (1988), and Until the End of the World: Director’s Cut (1988)—playing through Wednesday, April 27. Schedule here.

The Seijun Suzuki retrospective continues with screenings of Ziguernerweisen (1980) on Saturday, April 23 and Kagero-Za (1981) on Sunday, April 24 at Grand Illusion and Tattooed Life (1965) on Wednesday, April 27 at NWFF.

Fathom Events presents On the Waterfront (1954) on the big screen in select theaters across the country for two nights this week: Sunday, April 24 and Wednesday, April 27. You can find participating theaters in your area here.

The Things of Life (1969), directed by Claude Sautet and starring Michel Piccoli and Romy Schneider, plays on Thursday, April 28 at SAM’s Plestcheeff Auditorium. It’s the first of five films by Sautet featured in the series. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis.

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.

Seattle Screens: Quentin Tarantino in 70mm at Cinerama

The 70mm roadshow version of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is back for a limited run at the Cinerama starting Friday, April 15. If you’ve been waiting for the ideal conditions for the full experience, you won’t get much better than this. Showtimes and tickets here.

SIFF’s interactive Cinema Dissection event this weekend presents Dog Day Afternoon with the discussion hosted and moderated by Robert Horton, filling in for the previously announced Sandy Ciofi. The discussion begins at 11am at SIFF Film Center on Saturday, April 16. Details here.

Elvis, Evergreens, and Umbrellas: 50 Years of Seattle on the Big Screen is a three-hour tour of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest on film hosted by location scout Dave Drummond at SIFF Film Center on Sunday, April 17. Details here.

The Seijun Suzuki retrospective continues with screenings of Gate of Flesh (Saturday, April 16) and Fighting Elegy (Sunday, April 17) at Grand Illusion.

ByDesign 2016 film series continues at NWFF through Sunday. Schedule here.

François Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses (1968), starring Jean-Pierre Leaud as Antoine Doinel, plays on Thursday, April 21 at Plestcheeff Auditorium. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis. Details 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.

Seattle Screens: Seijun Suzuki, ByDesign, Beckett and Keaton, and a new Framing Pictures

Seijun Suzuki’s ‘Youth of the Beast’

Robert Horton, Bruce Reid, and Richard T. Jameson are your hosts for the monthly film discussion Framing Pictures at the screening room at Scarecrow Video. This month the talk revolves around Howard Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings (1939) and Ivan Passer’s Cutter and Bone (1981), both arriving on new Blu-ray editions, plus the new films Midnight Special, Everybody Wants Some, and My Golden Days. This free event begins at 7pm on Friday, April 8. More at the Framing Pictures Facebook page.

NWFF and Grand Illusion join forces to present the “Seijun Suzuki Retrospective,” a collection of 11 films screening over the course of the next four weeks, many of them on 35mm film prints. It begins this week with Passport to Darkness (1959), which screens at Grand Illusion on Saturday, April 9, and Youth of the Beast (1963) on Wednesday, April 13 at NWFF. The complete series schedule is here, and series tickets are available.

ByDesign 2016, the annual series spotlighting works that explore visual culture, opens on Thursday, April 14 with the Tom Sachs’ A Space Program, which then moves to SIFF Film Center for a week-long run starting April 15. Complete series schedule here.

Ross Lipman’s documentary NotFilm explores the often contentious collaboration between Samuel Beckett and Buster Keaton and the making of Beckett’s avant-garde 1965 short film called Film. The short ran 20 minutes, the documentary over two hours. Plays through the week at NWFF. Details here.

Arturo Ripstein’s Bleak Street plays through Sunday, April 10, also at NWFF. More here.

Also opening on Friday, April 8: Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some, his spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, at Sundance Cinemas; Born to Be Blue, starring Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker, at Sundance; Alexander Sokurov’s Francofonia, set within the Louvre during the Nazi occupation of Paris, at The Uptown; and the French comedy Marguerite at Seven Gables.

SIFF celebrates the grand opening of KEXP’s new Seattle Center studios with a special screening of Storefront Hitchcock, the 1998 Robyn Hitchcock concert film directed by Jonathan Demme, with Robyn Hitchcock introducing the screening in person. Thursday, April 14 at the Uptown. Advance tickets and details here. KEXP and SIFF members get free admission on day of show (while seats last).

The French crime classic Classe Tous Risque (1960), directed by Claude Sautet and starring Lino Ventura and Jean-Paul Belmondo, plays on Thursday, April 14 at Plestcheeff Auditorium. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis. Details 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.

Seattle Screens: The Grand Illusion celebrates 12 years of independence and more

Welcome to The Grand Illusion

The Grand Illusion, the pocket theater that has been running in form or another in the University District since the early 1970s, celebrates its 12th Anniversary of its current non-profit incarnation with a week of the weird and the wonderful. On the latter front, they are screening new 35mm prints of Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (1946) (on Friday, Saturday, and Wednesday) and Max Ophuls’ From Mayerling to Sarajevo (1940) (on Sunday and Monday). Also on Sunday, April 3 is Spencer Williams’ Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946), which screens as part of its “Pioneers of African-American Cinema” series of restored films, and on Tuesday, April 5 is a new 35mm print of Corn’s-a-Poppin’ (1956), an indie comedy from the midwest co-written by Robert Altman. Running all through the week is the new Turkish horror film Baskin. Schedule and showtimes here.

The 21st Seattle Jewish Film Festival opens on Saturday, April 2 with A Tale of Love and Darkness, the directorial debut of Natalie Portman, who also stars in the film, at Pacific Place and continues through the weekend at Pacific Place, moving to SIFF Cinema Uptown on Monday and the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island next weekend, where the closing night film Baba Joon, winner of 5 Ophir Awards (the Israeli equivalent of the Academy Award), screens with actor Navid Negahban in attendance. Filmmaker Aviva Kempner will attend with her new documentary Rosenwald, about Sears owner Julius Rosenwald, and director Jake Witzenfeld brings his documentary Oriented, focused on the lives of three gay Palestinian friends in Tel Aviv (both on Sunday, April 3 at Pacific Place). The complete schedule is here.

The Last Dragon (1985), a Motown martial arts movie seeped in New York urban culture and eighties color and music, stars real-life 19-year-old karate black belt Taimak as an earnest martial arts student nicknamed Bruce Lee-roy by the locals and Prince protégé Vanity as a music club deejay pressured by gangsters to play lousy music videos. Clearly that calls for a hero. Directed by Michael Schultz and produced by Berry Gordy, the film became a cult favorite and it is playing on Friday, April 1 at the Uptown with Taimak appearing in person. Details here.

Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special opens this weekend exclusively at the Egyptian Theater in Capitol Hill. Film critics Robert Horton and Andrew Wright both recommend it.

The documentary Before the Big Bang, directed by Richard Beymer and featuring Beymer and novelist Rudy Wilson, makes its West Coast premiere on Wednesday, April 6 at Seattle Art Museum’s Plestcheeff Auditorium at 7:30pm. Details here.

A Pig Across Paris (1956), directed by Claude Aurtant-Lara and starring Jean Gabin, plays on Thursday, April 7 at Plestcheeff Auditorium at SAM. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis. Details here.

It’s not too late to make your plans for Friday, April 8. Robert Horton and Richard T. Jameson are your hosts for the monthly film discussion Framing Pictures at the screening room at Scarecrow Video. It’s a free event. More at the Framing Pictures Facebook page.

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.

Seattle Screens: ‘I Knew Her Well’ and ‘Ran’ restorations

Stefania Sandrelli in ‘I Knew Her Well’

Antonio Pietrangeli is the greatest Italian filmmaker of the sixties you’ve never heard of and his bittersweet I Knew Her Well (1965), starring Stefania Sandrelli as a country girl in Rome trying to break into show business, is his masterpiece. Young and beautiful, Adriana (Sandrelli) is able to get by on her looks, taking temporary jobs between modeling gigs and screen tests, and she’s savvy enough to understand that sex is a commodity to be traded for favors from press agents, managers, and minor celebrities. But she’s far from cynical, at least at first, as she plays the game and enjoys the nightlife, and she’s even a bit naïve, constantly hooking up with charming, good-looking cads who have a habit of abandoning her. It’s episodic by nature, a series of snapshots from her life, and directed with the light touch of a frothy Italian comedy that belies the mercenary society and cruel behavior of the rich and successful.

Pietrangeli co-wrote the film with Ettore Scola (among others) and they offer a satirical portrait of the shallow celebrity culture and Roman nightlife of La Dolce Vita with both a more vicious edge—the callous treatment of a washed up actor (played by Ugo Tognazzi) is truly painful—and a breezy, easy style. The simple irony of the title isn’t hard to fathom. None of the men ever bothers to get to know Adriana at all, dismissing her as a silly beauty good for a one night stand, and Sandrelli plays her as a seemingly frivolous, capricious young woman with nothing on her mind, kind of Italian Holly Golightly without the cynical calculation. Yet she’s more perceptive than anyone realizes as she navigates the mercenary world with energetic optimism before she grows disillusioned in the final act of the film. Sandrelli has a kind of blank, oblivious beauty that makes her great casting for simple, silly, not-too-bright characters (see The Conformist) in her youth, and Pietrangeli uses that surface frivolity beautifully. She’s simply heartbreaking.

I Knew Her Well plays for four days at NWFF in a newly restored edition. Showtimes and tickets here.

The new 4K restoration of Ran (1985), Akira Kurosawa’s epic re-imagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear in sixteenth-century Japan, runs for a week at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Tatsuya Nakadai plays the aging warlord who divides his empire among his three sons and slips into madness as he is neglected, betrayed, and stripped of his dignity. Kurosawa is not merely true to Shakespeare’s story, he brings scenes alive with a cultural twist and a visual mastery, from the pageantry of warriors filling vast fields of green with red and white flags and uniforms to the howling storm that strikes during the warlord’s spiral into madness. The spectacle is brought home with delicately observed performances and beautifully sculpted relationships, an intimacy that gives the epic its soul. I haven’t seen the restoration but I imagine those colors are more vivid than ever. Chris Marker’s documentary A.K.: The Making of Akira Kurosawa’s Ran (1985), a profile of Kurosawa on the set of the film, also plays at SIFF Film Center.

Richard T. Jameson’s 1985 review is on Parallax View here.

Akira Kurosawa on the set of ‘Ran’

Jacques Becker’s Antoine and Antoinette (1947), the first film in SAM’s “Cinema de Paris” series, plays on Thursday, March 31 at Plestcheeff Auditorium. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis. Details here.

The Wim Wenders retrospective “Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road” this week presents Buena Vista Social Club (1999) at SIFF Film Center and Pina 3D (2011) at SIFF Uptown (both Wednesday, March 30) and Until the End of the World: Director’s Cut (1991) at NWFF (Thursday, March 31).

If you missed Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendor during its weeklong run at NWFF, it will be back for one night at SIFF Film Center on Monday, March 28.

The Cinerama is one of the only ten theaters in the country to show Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in a 70mm film print. It will run for a week on film, and then revert to DCP on Friday, April 1, so celluloid junkies should make a plan for that first week. And remember: the Cinerama sells reserved seating so you may want to purchase in advance. The Cinerama webpage is 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.

Seattle Screens for week of Friday, March 18

Cemetery of Splendor

The 11th Science Fiction+Fantasy Short Film Festival plays on Saturday, March 19 at Cinerama (tickets are sold out with standby seating only) with an encore screening of award winners and audience favorites on Sunday, March 20 at the Uptown.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s new film Cemetery of Splendor opens for a week-long run at NWFF. Kathleen Murphy praises the film in a lovely essay at Parallax View and Robert Horton reviews it at Seattle Weekly. Showtimes and ticket information here.

The Wim Wenders retrospective “Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road” this week presents Kings of the Road (1975) at SIFF Film Center (Wednesday, March 23) and Notebooks on Cities and Clothes (1989) at NWFF (Thursday, March 24).

Fathom Events presents The Ten Commandments (1956) to celebrate its 60th Anniversary on the big screen in select theaters across the country for two nights this week: Sunday, March 20 and Wednesday, March 23. You can find participating theaters in your area here.

Coming up: tickets are now on sale for two film series. “Cinema de Paris,” the Spring film series of the Seattle Art Museum, begins on March 31 and features 9 films playing on successive Thursday, and “Seijun Suzuki Retrospective,” co-presented by NWFF and Grand Illusion, begins on April 9.

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.

Kings of the Road

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of March 11

Un chant d’amour

Between the articles from the new issue available online and the ever-expanding blog, Film Comment offers almost a week’s worth of good reads by itself. Michael Koresky takes in a Lincoln Center festival on early gay films and argues that, along with simplistic views of gender and sexuality, one false binary that needs to go is the notion that cinematic portraits of homosexuality come in two flavors: ashamed and fatalistic pre-Stonewall, liberated afterwards. (“If any single title could stand in for the sublimated yet radical titillation of all pre-Stonewall gay cinema, it’s the 26-minute Un chant d’amour (50), the one and only feature made by Jean Genet, and a complete sensual experience: film as erogenous zone.”) Paul Schrader then sets about constructing a binary of his own, dividing production design into an art cleanly demarcated between films before and after The Conformist. (“So here’s the radical importance of The Conformist: this to my mind is the first film shot entirely on location in which the locations are treated as sets. It has the same freedom with a location that you would have if you had designed your own room.”)

Farran Smith Nehme finds much to admire in Sirk’s Sleep, My Love, even if dampening Claudette Colbert of her usual “canny and commonsensical “ intelligence so she doesn’t spot the conspiracy against her isn’t among them. (“Ameche slithers around in heavy silk dressing gowns, smoking cigarettes and saying soothing things in a low-pitched, doctorly voice. If it weren’t for Brooks’s opiate presence, you could argue that he’s the one with the femme fatale role.”) And on the eve of Jerry Lewis’s 90th birthday, Violet Lucca dismantles the harmful myths about work in America that Lewis’s movies endorsed (“Being the utterly wonderful nouveau riche narcissist he is, Lewis would always portray these man-children while wearing a large gold pinky ring, giant wedding ring, and, sometimes, a gold watch, giving more than a touch of cognitive dissonance to his performances.”); while some highlights from last October’s sitdown at the Museum of the Moving Image between Lewis and Martin Scorsese are offered by an unidentified transcriber/editor. (“Sometime he [“Jerry”] gave me problems. When he got overly anxious, he would screw me up and I would yell to the crew, tea time! Get coffee or do something, cause I’ve got to have a talk with the star of the movie! I looked at the mirror and said, do you want to make this, or what’s your plan? And I would talk back to myself.”)

Keep Reading

Seattle Screens for the week of March 4

The View from Parallax is taking a break this week but we’ve got your screening highlights right here.

Seattle Screens

The documentary series “Art of the Underdog,” playing at NWFF through the month of March, puts unchampioned arts and little-known and forgotten artists in the spotlight. The series opens on Sunday, March 6 with Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015), a portrait of storyboard artist Harold Michelson and film researcher Lillian Michelson, and Love Between the Covers (2015), which investigates the hugely-popular but much maligned literary genre of romance fiction. The complete schedule is at the NWFF website and series tickets are available.

The Wim Wenders retrospective “Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road” this week presents Alice in the Cities (1974) at SIFF Film Center (Wednesday, March 9) and The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1971) at NWFF (Thursday, March 10).

‘Alice in the Cities’

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Arabian Nights (1974) screens on Thursday, March 10 at Seattle Art Museum in a 35mm print as part of the “Magnifico! Cinema Italian Style” series. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door on a first come, first served basis. More here.

Keep Reading

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

Teyonah Parris

“In 1985, I’m sitting in the casting office of a major studio. The head of casting said, ‘I couldn’t put you in a Shakespeare movie, because they didn’t have black people then.’ He literally said that. I told that casting director: ‘You ever heard of Othello? Shakespeare couldn’t just make up black people. He saw them.’” Melena Ryzik gets quotes from 27 minority and women actors, directors, and producers (including Joan Chen, John Ridley, Justin Lim, and Wendell Pierce, quoted above) about working in a Hollywood where diversity remains mostly lip service. And if you think things aren’t as bad as all that, Lori McCreary relates that even the most obvious casting choice of all time—Morgan Freeman as Deep Impact’s president—got pushback from the white guys in suits (“somebody at the studio said, we’re not making a science-fiction movie; you can’t have Morgan Freeman play the president.”).

Movie Morlocks wins the wide-net award of the week with a pair of fine articles on movies that have just about nothing in common. David Kalat savors the timeless satire that unites period trappings with contemporary concerns in Kawashima’s Bakumatsu Taiyo-den. (“In just seven syllables, Bakumatsu Taiyo-den efficiently signals (in Japanese) what you’re about to get: a mash-up of the “Sun-Tribe” genre of youth problem films… and the sword-and-topknot cycle of Samurai films (do you really need me to tell you what a samurai film is like?), specifically drawing the connection between the dawning of modernism at the end of the Samurai era and the uneasy postwar world of 1950s Japan. Oh, and did I mention it was a sex comedy?”) While R. Emmet Sweeney takes the buzz around The Witch to look back at Dreyer’s Day of Wrath. (“[Rembrandt’s] The Anatomy Lesson comes through in Dreyer’s shots of the sober bearded men putting kindly old crone Herlofs Marte (Anna Svierkier) on trial, in which they invoke the light of God while threatening to tear Herlofs limb from limb. Dreyer gets closer with his camera than Rembrandt chooses to on his canvas, and every face that Karl Andersson’s camera glides by in these intricately composed sequences is hiding some secret shame.”)

No Fear, No Die, named after Jocelyn’s prized rooster, replaces the post-war setting of classic noir with a post-colonial one, swapping desperation for dislocation, and money troubles for racial tension. (After all, “noir” means “black.”) Maybe it speaks to the state of this generally screwed-up planet that the movie is just as current today as it was in 1990, when it first hit French theaters.” Ignatiy Vishnevetsky revisits Claire Denis’s “first dive into pulp and genre,” finding it as inimitably hers as ever.

Alex Descas in ‘No Fear, No Die’

“After Noroît, Rivette’s cinema will never again be so experimental, daring or rule-breaking. Did something more than the director’s health crack in that moment of crisis in 1975? Did his artistic resolve also take a battering? And did that particular crack trigger, or come to associate itself, with other cracks in the life and times, even less accessible to us?” In an updating of a 2010 essay, Adrian Martin fruitfully wrestles with auteurism and its consequences to perceive what exactly changed in Rivette’s output after the abandonment of his Les Filles du feu project, and how—even whether—The Story of Marie and Julien can be considered a completion of a trilogy having been picked up nearly three decades after the fact. Via Mubi.

“The ability to figure out a puzzle on the fly is crucial for both gumshoes and directors, certainly one as peripatetic as Huston. By the time he took on The Maltese Falcon in 1941, Huston was ready for the challenge. Under his direction, everyone in front of and behind the camera (in particular, cinematographer Arthur Edeson) performs on en pointe. No word or motion is wasted—even the crawl stating that pirates “seized the galley carrying this priceless token and the fate of the Maltese Falcon remains a mystery to this day” adds a note that reverberates after the climax.” Michael Sragow investigates Huston’s adaptation of Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, proving that the first time being faithful to the novel is why in this case the third time was the charm.

“Lang, perhaps tellingly, seemed most interested in the script after Siegfried was out of it: that is, only when the story turns completely toward emotional chaos, toward division, toward the themes that consumed his later work. After he left Germany in 1934, his films inhabited fully the terrain that Harbou had only skated around: paranoia, cults of personality, distrust of authority figures. The genius of his own work, as well as his work with Von Harbou, is its total subjectivity. By creating a new, visual language of paranoia, he’d also hit upon a way to capture abstraction visually: to film ambiguity.” However absolute the eventual separation between Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou, Die Nibelungenlied, their remarkable fusing of nationalist epic and intimate portrayal of betrayal and revenge, depended upon both partners for its unique power, as Henry Giardina shows.

Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou

After catching de Oliveira’s “tetralogy of frustrated love” at Lincoln Center, Vadim Rizov finds himself completely enraptured by 1978’s Benilde or the Virgin Mother (“Outside [the film’s sole set], there’s howling wind and rain that’s no less convincing for the early exposure of its non-existence; we’re able to better perceive how technical tools create a successfully sustained illusion we might otherwise take for granted.”), rather less taken by its three companions (of 1978’s Doomed Love: “It’s clear that the film can’t end until everyone is dead, which made me eventually root for their sooner-rather-than-later extinction.”)

Nikki Finke’s Hollywood Dementia, which publishes industry-related fiction, let a group of movie critics take a crack this week. None of the stories are any great shakes as literature—pretty flat characters, obvious conflicts, and a curious tendency among all participants to explain their jokes. But as Sam Adams, who spotted the series, notes, there’s a certain fun to be had identifying the à clefs behind these romans. And collectively the stories—Bernard Weinraub’s tale of a disastrous new hire when an older film critic is shuffled offstage; Thelma Adams’s account of searching for a sisterly bond during the “Gotham Film Critics Awards”; Nat Segaloff’s story of a critic picking a bone-headed fight with a film exhibitor; and Daniel M. Kimmel’s story of one critic’s revenge on a vicious internet commentator—capture the unique mix of pride and futility in many critics, born of a job that mixes great responsibility with utter powerlessness. And yes, as just about each story gets around to mentioning, we’re really not morning people at all.

Udo Kier

“That´s how it works. I never wanted to be a vampire. In my last film in Antwerp, I was Adolf Hitler riding on dinosaurs. I never wanted to be that but it is what it is—a film. Film is shadow and light and film is fantasy. And I already played Adolf Hitler several times but always in comedies. There you have it. It´s not me who wants to play that.” In an amusingly temperamental interview (he always seems to infer a nastier subtext to Martin Kudlac’s questions than is intended) Udo Kier recalls collaborating with Fassbinder, von Trier, Maddin, Morrisey, and more. Via David Hudson.

Interview Magazine has apparently decided that its latest pairing of famous interlocutor and subject merits two articles, since Saoirse Ronan interviewing Jodie Foster (“I didn’t grow up really wanting to be an actor. I don’t remember ever not being an actor. I don’t really think I have the personality. I am not very external. I don’t want to dance on the table and do impressions. So I think that the way I approach it is really loving story. That’s my first love—the words.”) is followed immediately by Foster interviewing Ronan (“I remember very vividly how it felt to be a child on a film set, and that is actually really important to hold on to for as long as you continue to make films. You need to be childlike, don’t you?”); though of course there’s more give and take than that schematic implies, with the two sharing delight in their professions, anxieties about striking out on their own, and gratitude for a pair of mothers who instilled in them such conviction and confidence.

Saoirse Ronan

“You’re disappointed when you can’t raise money for something, even if it’s not especially expensive. Especially when you feel like, “There really is an audience for this.” Most of the films that we’re talking about that are going to be in this retrospective were released by companies that no longer exist. In fact, most of them were out of business by the mid-’90s, and that’s because it got so competitive. The few movies that they thought would be commercial, released by the Weinsteins and a couple other companies, the big studios have classics divisions competing with them. They said, “We’ve gotta put up money up front and make our own movies,” and boy, if they’re not successful two or three movies later, you’re out of business.” John Sayles, who’s picked up paychecks for genre work and struggled to gather funds for self-financed indies, talks the fun and frustrations of both with Eric Kohn.

Obituary

Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, an Oscar nominee for Travels With My Aunt (1973), Julia (1978), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982), began his career shooting war footage during World War II. The versatile London-born photographer went on to shoot the British classics Dead of Night (1945) and It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), a handful of Ealing comedies including Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Man in the White Suit (1951), John Huston’s Freud (1962), Joseph Losey’s The Servant (1963), for which he won his first of three BAFTAs, the World War I fighter pilot drama The Blue Max (1966), Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), the original The Italian Job (1969), The Great Gatsby (1974), for which he won another BAFTA, and Rollerball (1975), among his many credits. He shot the first two Indiana Jones sequels and retired after The Last Crusade (1989). He passed away this week at the age of 103. Sheila Whitaker at The Guardian.

Douglas Slocombe (center) with Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg

Less well known but almost as busy, cinematographer Jean Rabier shot most of Claude Chabrol’s movies from Chabrol’s feature debut Le Beau Serge (1958), where he served as camera operator to Henri Dacaë, through Madame Bovary (1991). Before he graduated to director of photographer, he apprenticed under the great Henri Dacaë as assistant cameraman and camera operate on Elevator to the Gallows (1958), The 400 Blows (1959), and Purple Noon (1960), among others. In addition to shooting over 40 Chabrol features and shorts, he shot Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) for Agnes Varda, Bay of Angels (1963) and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) for Jacques Demy, and the English-language TV movie Night of the Fox (1990). He died at age 88. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky for A.V. Club.

Actor George Gaynes was a veteran journeyman when he appeared as a lascivious soap opera actor in Tootsie (1982) and was subsequently cast in Police Academy (1984) and its scads of sequels as the lovable buffoon of a commander. He began his stage career on TV in the 1950s, appeared in the films The Group (1966), The Way We Were (1973), and Nickelodeon (1976), and in the TV mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man – Book II (1976) and Washington: Behind Closed Doors (1977), among his many credits. After establishing his comedy credentials, he appeared in Mel Brooks’s remake To Be or Not to Be (1983), was cast in the sitcoms Punky Brewster (1984-1988), The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd (1989-1991), and Hearts Afire (1992-1993), and was memorable in Louis Malle’s Vanya on 42nd Street (1994). He retired from acting after Just Married in 2003 and passed away at age 98. Ryan Gibney for The Guardian.

Umberto Eco, the Italian scholar and semiotician, found popular success when he applied his interest in signs and symbols to seven novels beginning with “The Name of the Rose,” a medieval murder mystery that draws upon religion, history, symbolism and iconography, and a Sherlock Holmes-like monk. It was turned into a movie in 1986 by filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud with Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, and Christian Slater. He died at age 84. Jonathan Kandell for The New York Times.

Seattle Screens

SIFF Cinema and NWFF unite to co-present “Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road,” a retrospective featuring twelve films spanning his career, from The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1972) to Pina (2012), his 3D celebration of the dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch. Highlights include his “Road Trilogy” (Alice in the Cities, 1974, Wrong Move, 1975, Kings of the Road, 1975), his Zen filmmaking thriller The State of Things (1982), and his full 5 ½ hour version of Until the End of the World (1991), which was never shown theatrically in the U.S. (the last time it played in Seattle was twenty years ago at the last Wim Wenders retrospective in 1996). These five films are not yet on DVD or Blu-ray in the U.S.

Films at SIFF Film Center:
March 2: The American Friend
March 9: Alice in the Cities
March 16: Wrong Move
March 23: Kings of the Road
March 30: Buena Vista Social Club
At SIFF Film Center:
March 30: Pina
Details, showtimes, and ticket information here.

Films at NWFF:
March 3: Paris, Texas
March 10: The State of Things & The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick
March 17: Wings of Desire
March 24: Notebook on Cities and Clothes
March 31: Until the End of the World: The Trilogy (Director’s Cut)
Details, showtimes, and ticket information here.

‘The American Friend’

The final film in the winter “Silent Movie Monday” series at The Paramount is the original Ben-Hur: A Story of the Christ (1925), or rather a version of the original cut down by an hour by percussionist and composer Stewart Copeland. He performs his original score live with the Seattle Rock Orchestra on Monday, February 29 at 7pm. More details and ticket information here.

Actor and storyteller Stephen Tobolowsky comes to Seattle to present his concert film The Primary Instinct, which was shot in front of a live audience at Seattle’s Moore Theater and made its world premiere as SIFF 2015, and the great comedy of rebirth Groundhog Day (1993) in a double feature at the Uptown on Monday, February 29. The event begins at 7pm. Details here.

Only Yesterday, an animated feature from Japan’s Studio Ghibli and filmmaker Isao Takahata, makes it American theatrical debut at the Uptown in two versions: one in English featuring the voices of Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel, and the original Japanese language version with English subtitles. Schedule and ticket information here.

Academy Award nominee Mustang from Turkish director Deniz Gamze Erguven comes back for a return engagement, this time at the Uptown. More 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 obituaries and Seattle Screens curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.

Seattle Screens: Unearthing the ‘Lime Kiln Club’ and more

‘ Lime Kiln Club Field Day’

Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913) is not quite a movie—it’s a reconstruction of an unfinished film undertaken without complete materials or documentation—and at the same time it is much, much more. Starring Bert Williams, a major singer and stage star of the era, and Odessa Warren Grey, it’s not just one of the rare black cast films of the silent era. This is a portrait of urban black society that defies the stereotypes that became standard in American films just a few years later, featuring a wide array of classes and character types. Apart from its entertainment value (and even unfinished it is fun), it is a significant piece of cinematic, cultural, and social archaeology.

It plays on Monday, February 22 at the Paramount in the “Silent Movie Mondays” series with a filmed introduction by Rob Magliozza from the Museum of Modern Art (which undertook the restoration of the discovery), the Bert Williams short film A Natural Born Gambler (1916), and a post-screening discussion. Showtime and programming details here and for more background on the film, read Nsenga Burton’s essay here.

Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights Trilogy, adapted from “One Thousand and One Nights” and updated to contemporary Portugal, plays at SIFF Film Center this week. Each film—The Restless One, The Desolate One, and The Enchanted One—is a separate admission and plays multiple times throughout the week. Details and showtimes at SIFF.net.

John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon turns 75 this year and Fathom Events brings it back to the big screen in select theaters across the country for two nights this week: Sunday, February 21 and Wednesday, February 24. You can find participating theaters in your area here.

Theeb, the Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film from Jordan, is back to play for one show only on Monday, February 22 at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Details 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 View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of February 12

‘Blackhat’

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is unrolling a Michael Mann retrospective, which, as such unapologetically visual filmmaking will, has resulted in some good reads. Isaac Butler looks back at Thief and finds Mann’s status as America’s action auteur already in full bloom, even as the director making his feature debut wanted to emphasize his writing. (“Thief introduces us to Mann’s fixation on stopwatches, water, love at first sight, prison, postcards where his protagonists store their dreams, tough guys, big scores, cars gliding at night, beginnings in medias res, and synthesizers. It also introduces the hallmarks of Mann’s writing: a heightened hardscrabble lyricism, often devoid of contractions and rooted equally in classic gangster cinema and real life vernacular; episodic plot structures made out of sequences that feel like the chapters of a novel; and storytelling through implication instead of exposition.”)

Daniel Kasman finds the cyber-denizens of Blackhat as the ultimate statement on the unnerving freedom enjoyed by Mann protagonists and the intimidations it offers the rest of us (“Theirs is a kind of honed hyper-existence, which, unconventionally, does not recognize what it lacks and instead always tries to peer into the horizon to satisfy the longing and unrest. They peer into and desire to go onward toward that horizon.”); while Kenji Fujishima reports on the director’s cut of the film that premiered at the festival, which replaces the tense scene that opened the theatrical version with (less crowd-pleasing, more thematically relevant) a bit of Wall Street trading as originally intended, and otherwise does what you’ve come to expect of Mann’s re-edits: trims some of the dialogue.

And Bilge Ebiri sits down with Mann for another of his intellectually stimulating interviews. (“When people are bombarded with as much content as we are now, audiences come to impute, fill in blanks, extrapolate, and project. So the requirements for plot specificity, for example, reduce. I mean, if you’re living in the late Middle Ages in a peat bog, and you go on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral in England one time in your life, the religious story told by that piece of architecture, with its towering nave and stained-glass windows, will blow you away. That’s one story in a lifetime. We encounter 20 stories in a day. That’s what I am interested in. How should stories work next?”)

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of February 5

‘Celine and Julie Go Boating’

Rivette tributes arrive at a rapider rate (if not a greater length) then the filmmaker’s own masterpieces. Film Comment reprints a classic 1974 interview with Jonathan Rosenbaum, Lauren Sedofsky, and Gilbert Adair on Celine and Julie Go Boating and Out 1. (“We began by elimination: we didn’t want to make a serious film; we didn’t want to make a film about the theater because we’d done that too often; we didn’t want to make a film about current events or politics. But we did have the desire from the very beginning to do something close to comedy, and even frankly commedia dell’arte.”)

The same year and films feature in Sight & Sound’s reprinting of a magnificent interview with Carlos Clarens and Edgardo Cozarinsky that functions as Rivette’s clearest mission statement (“There is a persistent idea of a cinema partitioned off in tiers: first you look for a subject, then you write as detailed a script as possible, on the basis of which you find someone to put up the money, for which purpose you pencil in the names of certain actors opposite fully defined characters. Once you have got all the elements together, often compromising some of your original ideas in the process, comes another stage: the actual shooting. You shoot little bits here and there, as meticulously as possible, and then you stick them together, and you’re pleased if you end up with something that corresponds to what was described more or less in your two hundred typewritten pages. Personally I find all this a dreadful bore.”); and Rosenbaum, again, reviewing the films (rather Out 1: Spectre, all that was available to view at the time). (“And if the scepticism towards fiction in Spectre leads to transparent actions playing over a void, Céline et Julie is like a game of catch played over the same void, with the ball tossed back and forth remaining solid as long as it is kept in motion.”) While Out 1’s continued relevance, and relative monstrosity, is testified to by David Thomson’s account of introducing the film to a dozen Norwegian spectators (making, plus him, an audience of 13) this past January. (“There is something about Out 1 that admits, or permits, the lifelike habit of missing a few things here and there. After all, we can be making love to someone, or even murdering them, and not quite hear what they say or catch the expression on their face. Movies seem to be arrangements of attention, but Rivette was one of those directors who saw that in passing time some things could pass by, precious in the dark, not so much unnoticed as missed.”)

At MUBI Evelyn Emile considers Love on the Ground’s many teasing references to who, ultimately, is the author (or dreamer) of the play-within-the-film we’re watching. (“Is this love or is it empty intimacy, powerful anxiety, fear of death? These are such violent and terrible things, as we know. But Rivette gives us no consolation. Even if one were to ask, ‘Am I dead or not?’ the verdict is spoken simply and with a smile: ‘That’s for you to decide.’”) While Kino Slang reprints two examples of Rivette’s criticism—on Truffaut at the start of his career and Ivan the Terrible as the “culmination” of Eisenstein’s—that in hindsight say less about the two men than they do about the writer whose work arguably surpassed them both. (“The whole film mounts toward this moment, and little by little sloughs off time in order to rejoin duration….”) And if that isn’t enough—for many of us, of course, it isn’t—the 1977 collection Texts and Interviews turns out to be available online, courtesy (but of course) of Rosenbaum. Many of these via David Hudson.

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

Illustration by Jeremy Sorese

“That an indelible character in a children’s cartoon is a composite of 1980s gay life, bold women with gravelly voices, the AIDS crisis, independent film, Hollywood, Baltimore, and the tragic premature deaths of two exceptionally creative men shouldn’t surprise us. The best characters originate in artists’ complicated lives. And Ursula was surely one of the best.” Nicole Pasulka and Brian Ferree trace the gay, drag, and distinctly Baltimore influences behind The Little Mermaid’s exhilarating villain, her look inspired by Divine, her personality determined by the lyrics and coaching of actors by writer Howard Ashman. Via Longform.

“The Coens’ comedy is apt to swerve or pivot or shade into increasingly darker perplexities, intimations of the uncanny, or sheer bottomless terror in the face of existence, thus temporarily leaving humor in the rear distance. So the comedy of these scenes is counterpointed by the beautifully austere expanses of landscape out the window and the hypnotic rhythm of wheels hitting the seams in the asphalt at fifty miles per hour—da-dum da-dum da-dum. And again, on the drive back, there’s the dissolution of perspective and reason by the oncoming snow in the headlights, an invitation to nothingness.” Writing on Inside Llewyn Davis, Kent Jones magnificently captures the beauty and dreadful meaningless that battle for the heart of every Coen brothers’ film, and how essential music is to replenishing their faith.

“Ashburn’s calm response to yet another below the belt jab from Mullins is one of the funnier moments in The Heat, a modern riff on the 1970s police procedural that destroys all traces of a plausible plot in favor of controlled chaos. It also represents Feig’s ongoing examination of how women’s bodies are compartmentalized and diminished not only by men, but also by each other.” Glenn Heath Jr. does a good job showing how body language is a key element in Paul Feig’s comedies, and the key indicator of his characters’ struggles and ultimate triumphs. Though reference to The Heat as a “sophomore effort” makes me realize that Feig’s first two features are being tossed to Shyamalanesque obscurity.

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