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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.


“These heads and faces, offering such unequivocal, complete statements, are already disquieting in the isolation of the screen. What they offer is a seduction (even if that’s for an eight-month course of chemotherapy), an offer to unfold a whole world that’s a cure for the ills of this one. Although in the end there may be nothing beyond the unfolding process. Vivian Bearing suffers chemotherapy, and brings her own academic specialty, study of the Holy Sonnets of John Donne, to bear on her condition, but neither proves a cure. Jake Terrell tries to make the dolphins’ world his own, but at the end is left on the edge of his island paradise while the image burns out to white—another favorite Nichols device, exiting the stage by dissolving the film.” Richard Combs traces intimations of death and its vivid if ultimately powerless counterforce through the films of Mike Nichols; and wins Auteurist of The Week for building his argument primarily on Catch-22 and The Day of the Dolphin.

“The movie’s ravishing design is like a 3-D puzzle, and some pieces are deliberately out of place. Barry’s show seems only slightly smaller than the Folies Bergère, with about a hundred showgirls in lavish costumes, a full orchestra, even clowns for the act intervals, and yet the stars are living and traveling quite modestly…. The film is a maze of narrow stairways and walkways, people popping in and out of doors and glimpsed through windows—we are eavesdropping, looking through a keyhole, getting only part of the picture at any one time.” Staying at Film Comment, Farran Smith Nehme praises the effervescence and the mystery that Cukor and his collaborators pack into Les Girls.

“I went over to Oscar to make my pitch. ‘You may be right. I may not need it,’ I argued, ‘but [this action] affronts an audience as few other things do. How are they going to be reconciled to the character’s choice if we aren’t explicit enough?’ Oscar showed real irritation with me for the first and only time in the long weeks of filming: ‘How?’ he said. ‘Acting.’” David Simon shares an argument with Oscar Isaac—with Winona Ryder and director Paul Haggis as wary go-betweens—from the set of Show Me a Hero that proves, hard as Simon finds to admit it, sometimes writers need to defer to the story sense of actors. The dialogue in question hinges on a major spoiler for the miniseries; one reason Simon waited till the DVD release to share it.

Jesse Jackson leads the protest

From the More Things Change… Department, Esther Breger looks back at the outrage, sparked by People Magazine of all places, that surrounded the lack of diversity at the 1996 Oscars, which featured only one black contender out of 166 nominees. Leading to a protest by Jesse Jackson met with derision (from the Some Things Change Ironically Department) by Will Smith, among others. Via Joe Blevins.

“It was supposed to be the Los Angeles mob, and I was the Al Pacino character, and Ted Danson, who was in it, was the Sonny, the James Caan character. He was the bad, bad boy, and I was the good boy, and Sam Wanamaker was our father. And it was… [Snorts.] Well, thank God nobody saw it. And thank God it didn’t become a series, because Ted went on to do Cheers, and I went on to do St. Elsewhere.” David Morse recollects the byways of his career—with sharp portraits of collaborators both pleasant (Donner, Hackman) and otherwise (Cimino)—with Will Harris. (If you’re familiar with the format for Harris’s Random Roles feature, this is actually Morse’s second round—the first was back in 2008—so only passing mention of such key works as The Indian Runner and St. Elsewhere, and much attention paid to the likes of Extreme Measures, Prototype, and (as quoted above) the TV pilot Our Family Business.)

“He was only fifty years old when he died. In his last days he began to talk about Mexico again. The resentment and the hurt were still there—he never seemed to have accepted his part of the blame for what happened. But there was also a wistful nostalgia, and a recognition that Mexico had changed his life as an artist for the better, despite all the dire consequences for his career. And to the end, he drew sketches of things he had seen in Mexico. For Eisenstein, Mexico never ended.” Peter Greenaway talks with David Ehrenstein about the inspiration behind his latest feature, Eisenstein in Guanajuato, and the future installments he has planned in this multi-part biopic (none of which, Ehrenstein notes, should please the homophobic conservatives currently setting the tone for Russia’s cultural climate).

From the set of ‘The Revenant,’ photo by Emmanuel Lubezki

“It’s a little bit scary how crazy I am! It could have been terrible. Everything could have gone wrong very easily… There were so many challenges every day. You become a creature of your own work. Sometimes you are God and sometimes you are a creature. And here you are just a creature surviving your own creation.” Features continue to come out burnishing the legend of the making of The Revenant: charmingly self-grandiose in Alejandro Iñárritu’s interview with The Talks; otherworldly beautiful when it comes to Emmanuel Lubezki’s location photography, shared with Sam Adams. (“That afternoon, we started playing with the actors and suddenly I said, ‘Why don’t we use fire?’ So we started playing with fire, me telling them to burn the walls of the dwelling. We asked for a little more, and suddenly the dwelling caught on fire. And the moment that the fire was real, and not organized by the effects people, it started to be more magical and more interesting. Then we got a gust of wind and we couldn’t control the fire anymore. The special effects guy said if we don’t shut it down, it’s going to burn the dwelling, we won’t be able to use it again. It doesn’t matter. Let it burn.”) Via Movie City News.


Jacques Rivette, the least well known of the French Nouvelle Vague founders, was less prolific than his critic-turned-filmmaker colleagues Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and Eric Rohmer but in some ways the most influential. He was the first of the “Cahiers du Cinema” writers to make a short film and the second to embark on a feature film (behind Claude Chabrol). In between he shot the first shorts by fellow critics Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. His debut feature Paris Nous Appartient was finally completed in 1960 but didn’t get distributed for two years, by which time Godard, Truffaut, and Chabrol had all but launched and defined the Nouvelle Vague, and Rivette’s subsequent films rarely received the distribution and attention of his contemporaries. Yet he kept the Nouvelle Vague spirit of invention and creative freedom alive with his youthful explorations and his collaborative methods; more than any other director of his time (including John Cassavetes and Robert Altman) Rivette treated his actors as collaborators, or maybe conspirators, in the mysterious process of filmmaking. That collaborative spirit reaches its zenith in his 13-hour Out 1, which was produced in 1971 but barely seen until 2015, when it was restored and re-released, making its official theatrical debut in a successful two-week run in New York City. It also informs Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974), a mix of fantasy, comedy, and mystery thriller that has great fun deconstructing the nature of storytelling, and Pont du Nord (1981), a film about games and conspiracies played out on the gameboard of Paris. He won the Jury Grand Prize at Cannes for La belle noiseuse (1991), made a variant version called Divertimento (1992), directed Sandrine Bonnaire in the two-part Joan of Arc film Joan the Maid (1994) and the thriller Secret Defense (1998), had his most successful American release with the playful Va Savoir (2001), and retired after Around a Small Mountain (2009). Most of his films are still difficult to see in the U.S. (most have never been released on disc, and many of those are long out of print) but Criterion is finally bringing out their first Rivette film later this year and Kino has released Out 1 and Pont du Nord. He suffered from Alzheimer’s in his final years and passed away at the age of 87 last week.

Though it hasn’t been updated in a while, Order of the Exile is the official home base of all things Jacques Rivette in the U.S., while Catherine Grant provides an essential guide to writings by and about Rivette at Film Studies for Free. And, of course, as mentioned above there is the invaluable round-up from David Hudson at Keyframe.

Jacques Rivette, with Jane Birkin

British actor Frank Finlay earned an Oscar nomination starring as Iago opposite Laurence Olivier in the 1965 Othello, became a sex symbol in Britain for playing Casanova (1971) in the Dennis Potter-scripted mini-series and Peter Manson in the mini-series A Bouquet of Barbed Wire (1976), and became an international star playing Porthos in Richard Lester’s comic swashbucklers The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974). He was a founding member of the National Theater Company and was a busy stage actor from his debut in 1954 to his final stage appearance in 2008. Along with scores of TV roles over the years, he appeared in the films A Study in Terror (1965), playing Lestrade to John Neville’s Sherlock Holmes, The Molly Maguires (1970), Cromwell (1970), Stephen Frears’ debut feature Gumshoe (1971), The Wild Geese (1978), playing Lestrade again in Murder by Decree (1979), Lifeforce (1985), and Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002). His death, at the age of 89, was reported on his official website over the weekend. More from The Telegraph.

Bob Elliot, half of the legendary radio comedy team Bob and Ray, also brought their deadpan comedy to stage, TV, and movies, where the he and partner Ray Goulding did their two-man act for the films Cold Turkey (1971) and Author! Author! (1982). After Goulding’s death in 1990, Elliot appeared solo in the film Quick Change (1990) and played the father of his real-life son Chris Elliot’s character in the sitcom Get a Life (1990-1992). He passed away at the age of 92 from throat cancer. Peter Keepnews and Richard Severo for The New York Times.

Seattle Screens

The Framing Pictures panel of film critics—Robert Horton, Richard T. Jameson, and Kathleen Murphy—reconvenes on Thursday, February 11 at 7pm (rather than the regularly scheduled Friday) in the screening room at Scarecrow Video (5030 Roosevelt Way N.E.). You can keep up with the series through the Framing Pictures Facebook page.

The new season of Silent Movie Mondays begins at the Paramount on Monday, February 8 with Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925). It’s the only presentation in the four-film series screened with a recorded soundtrack, featuring the score composed by Chaplin himself. The rest of the series, titled “Silent Treasures,” includes King Vidor’s The Big Parade (1925) on Monday, February 15; Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913), an unfinished feature with an all-black cast that was recently rediscovered and restored, on February 22; and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925), shown in a version significantly edited down from the original epic presentation with a score composed and performed by Stewart Copeland, accompanied by the Seattle Rock Orchestra.

‘Lime Kiln Club Field Day’

Matthew Barney’s three-part epic screen opera River of Fundament opens on Friday, February 5. Each act is presented as a separate event but series tickets for all three films are also available. Schedule of screenings and more information at SIFF here.

Iraqi Odyssey, Switzerland’s official submission for the 88th Academy Awards, plays four days only at NWFF beginning Friday, February 5. Showtimes and more details here.

The Automatic Hate, an independent feature by Justin Lerner, plays Friday through Sunday at NWFF. Screenings include a Q&A with producer Lacey Leavitt, moderated by Seattle filmmaker Megan Griffiths. More here.

Next week, SIFF Cinema begins the series “Witches Brew,” presenting four features on the theme of witchcraft and the supernatural followed by a sneak preview of The Witch with filmmaker Robert Eggers in attendance. The screenings are free for SIFF members. 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 weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.

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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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of December11

Charlotte Rampling

“I sat down and said something sincere and clumsy about how I knew she was going through a hard time and that I was concerned about blundering into things I shouldn’t touch. ‘If you do that, I will stop you,’ she replied. ‘If you ask anything I don’t like, I’ll step around it and go on. I can take care of myself.’” Mary Gaitskill ably defends Charlotte Rampling’s notorious privacy as her right even in a profession synonymous with tell-all confessionals; then rather less convincingly argues that the actor’s unique appeal owes mostly to her skill at portraying “the natural representation of real people.” Possibly NSFW due to a Helmut Newton portrait (hey, it was the ‘70s).

“In conversation with his high-school mentor Roger Hill, he declared that opera directors should be unobtrusive presences, serving the conductor, the performers, and, above all, the composer. The man who helped to originate conceptual staging, with his historically displaced productions of Macbeth and Julius Caesar, felt that such radical transpositions had no place in opera. In a sense, he may have been captive to his early operatic memories, to the lingering Gilded Age milieu in which he got to know the art. On his home turf, however, Welles handled music with freewheeling brilliance.” The only strange thing about last week’s excellent Orson Welles piece by Alex Ross is that one of our best music critics had no comments to make about Welles’s use of music or even his films’ inherent musicality. Turns out that discussion had merely been carved out for a separate, equally fine article.

“Still, this judgment [that Harold Lloyd is the most complacently ordinary of the early comedians] needs to be complicated, because only a profoundly and uniquely imaginative artist—by definition, an outsider—can take on his shoulders the burden of synthesizing the entire society around him and fashioning an archetype from it that will play in Peoria.” Phillip Lopate finds the virtues of Speedy precisely in the everyday-man archetype that Lloyd’s detractors find so off-putting—and in the matchless string of terrific gags, of course.

Dan Callahan takes stock of William Dieterle’s career, and finds a talent probably too eager to fall into the boring solemnities of big studio biopics, but one who managed more to achieve more than a few delights along the way; and, in The Last Flight, at least one “triumphant” masterpiece.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of December 4

Tilda Swinton

The new issue of cléo has arrived, organized around the theme of grace. Which makes a natural fit for Sophie Meyer’s praise of Tilda Swinton’s “unboundaried possibility” (“It’s not that she brooks no contradiction. She embodies contradiction and pushes us to do the same, to be all the clones in one flesh.”) and Colleen Kelsey’s appreciation for Catherine Deneuve’s vampiric turn in The Hunger (“Even when she strikes—well-appointed in jewelry or black leather gloves and without pausing to put out her cigarette—the victim finds herself absorbed not in the killing, but in the shadow show of Miriam’s grace and sexuality.”). Not to mention Julia Pennauer assessing the gender-flipped stoner comedy Smiley Face, and Anna Faris’s remarkable performance therein (“She pays tribute to the stoner comedy’s dissident tradition while problematizing its male-homosocial conduct—and she’s really funny.”). Elsewhere Sarah Gadon—academic buzzword alert!—frets over the agency of female characters in Rome: Open City (“Pina proves to be one of the most contradictory female characters in neorealism, as she is the only woman to achieve hero status.”), and Kiva Reardon interviews Geraldine Chaplin about playing love scenes in her latest film Sand Dollars (“[I]n my house in my village in Switzerland we have a picture of me in the garage all dolled up from years ago—the gown, flowers. The kids from the town come and say: “Let’s see the picture of Geraldine when she was a princess!” That was when I was princess and now I’m the old bag! That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”).

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of November 13

“While Lime’s high ground, as it were, is meant to be ironic (the film hints as much early on when the porter at Martins’s hotel [Paul Hörbiger], with a weak grasp of the English language, gestures towards hell above and heaven below), the manner in which he is brought down to the restricted domain of the camera at eye level, to be trapped and destroyed, doesn’t necessarily suggest a better view.” Martin Zirulnik revisits The Third Man, and finds a movie careful to articulate its horizontal and vertical spaces—and to make clear how little even the purportedly clear-eyed Harry Lime perceives the real, desperate Vienna kept to “the margins of the screen.”

‘The Third Man’

“In its very human focus, the “Rocky” series is, oddly, the closest analogue that American cinema has produced to François Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel cycle. But, whereas Doinel’s fictional life was defined, as any self-mythologizing Frenchman’s would be, in terms of his relationships with a series of stunning women, Rocky must measure himself always in his workplace: the ring. Across four decades, we’ve witnessed a full-blown, epic saga of a man perpetually considering, but never achieving, retirement.” With Creed soon to arrive as a presumed handing over of the reins, Andrew Bujalski looks back over Sylvester Stallone’s career-making creation Rocky Balboa, six movies charting the writer/director/star’s savvy growth of his character from loveable loser to definitive winner to old, alone, and surrounded by death.

Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin’s close reading of a scene from Nuit et jour shows how Chantal Akerman could make even the smallest, most seemingly conventional gestures resonate. Via Mubi.

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

Maurice Pialat on the set of ‘Van Gogh’

The Museum of the Moving Image’s retrospective of Maurice Pialat has been one of the most celebrated of this busy year. Julien Allen finds a director completely unclassifiable and incomparable, beating out his own path (and letting you damned well know how difficult that turned out to be) his entire career. (“His ten features (not counting the dozen or so shorts and one TV miniseries, La maison des bois) constitute from beginning to end a series of autobiographical portraits, throughout which the act of autobiography itself—of laying oneself open to the world—is deconstructed and filleted into its most basic elements.”) Richard Brody, on the other hand, sides with Desplechin that in fact Pialat has had the strongest influence on young French filmmakers, but finds the works no less remarkable. (“But those who want to be influenced also want a ready-made paradigm to adapt to their own uses, and Pialat—whose pugnacious naturalism burns with the flame of modernity—seems to promise them one: a template for non-nostalgic realism.”) And Craig Keller has been providing the invaluable service of transcribing notes originally included with Masters of Cinema’s UK DVD releases, including a series of interviews with Pialat—expectedly outspoken and provocative—that had never previously been translated; no group link, unfortunately, but all of the Pialat articles are clearly identified in his index of posts to the left. Via David Hudson.

That omnipresent, apocalyptic wind in Tarr’s The Turin Horse turns out to be a looped sample of some 19 seconds. Which leads Cristina Álvarez López to wonder, how apocalyptic a force can such a short repetitive drone evoke? And why didn’t anybody notice?

A new edition of the essential cinema studies text, Film Art: An Introduction, is forthcoming (with a perfectly chosen image from Moonrise Kingdom gracing the cover), but in the process of final editing, David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson, and Jeff Smith decided a chapter on the use of sound in Nolan’s The Prestige didn’t really fit in. Rather than waste their efforts, the article has been made available on Bordwell and Thompson’s website; where it’s another fine example of their making cinematic tricks of the trade graspable by the layman, without draining a drop of film’s magic.

“Maddin, who has been friends with Egoyan for over 25 years, opened by joking, ‘I’m really sick and tired of not being Atom Egoyan!’ When the friends were in their twenties, Egoyan was enjoying substantial early success. ‘You seemed to already have seven features when we were in our mid-twenties,’ said Maddin. ‘So annoying!’” At the Woodstock Film Festival, Canadian iconoclasts Guy Maddin and Atom Egoyan talked about resisting the lure of Hollywood to sell out (ok, that’s more Egoyan talking) and learning how not to care when critics drub your film (again, mostly Egoyan). Emily Buder offers the highlights.

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

“He’s a conservative whose gravitas and charm can sway even the archest of liberals, a man who disliked horses but, more than any other figure, came to represent the entirety of Western ideals. Who avoided military service during World War II but became a hawkish supporter of Vietnam, and whose code of integrity was shadowed with racism, sexism, and thinly veiled bigotry, publicly stating his belief “in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to the point of responsibility” and calling the Native Americans “selfish” for refusing to hand their land over to white settlers. And yet:  He’s so difficult to resist.” Anne Helen Petersen, nonpareil at how public fantasies feed into the creation of stars’ images, tackles that great example of Hollywood myth-making, when the third time proved the charm and John Wayne became America’s actor. Via Matt Fagerholm.

“From the seven hundred hours of footage shot in Kharkiv, she said, the editors in London are fashioning a dozen or more movies, a TV series, and a user-directed internet narrative system. I asked her for an example of the kind of scene they had in the can. ‘A man telling his wife how he cheated on her,’ she said. ‘It lasts for five hours.’ It was, she emphasised, the genuine confession of a real transgression.” The filming of Khrzhanovsky’s Dau—from 2009 to 2011 on a massive set where the actors agreed to live, abandoning all modern amenities and be potentially filmed at any moment—is already the stuff of legend (and inevitable Charlie Kaufman comparisons). James Meek reports the postproduction, currently ongoing in a five-story London office building, is every bit as cloistered and lavishly financed, and continues to suggest this may be the rare movie(s) made critic-proof by the extraordinary tale of their making. Via Movie City News.

Matt Zoller Seitz makes a set visit to season two of The Knick, finding Steven Soderbergh completely in his element, literally behind the camera and knocking out ten hours of television drama in the time it can take a feature film to get off the ground. (In case you were wondering about the sincerity of that whole “retirement” thing.)

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of September 18

Gloria Swanson

The new issue of Screening the Past, spotted by David Hudson, dedicates itself to “Women and the Silent Screen.” The excavation of hidden histories predominates, whether Hilary A. Hallett displaying how Hollywood’s early self-mythologizing was shaped by women as much as men, from the plucky-girl-makes-good narratives promoted by Louella Parsons to the cautionary fable that was made of Virginia Rappe; or Diane Pivac presenting the history of New Zealand film producer Hilda Maud Hayward, who assisted her husband on “some twenty-eight films” without receiving a single credit. More about Parsons—and her perennial subject Mary Pickford—comes from Richard Abel’s look at the symbiotic relationship between newspapers and the movies in the early 1910s, and the space it provided for women’s voices; while antipodean filmmakers are the topic again for Ann-Marie Cook, who offers a fresh take on the collapse of McDonagh Productions, Ltd., Australia’s first film production company owned by women. Pam Cook traces the intersection of design and performance in the work of Natacha Rambova, and her great canvas Valentino; and Elena Mosconi and Maddalena Bodini chart the rise and making of a star with the career of forgotten silent diva Mimi Aylmer. And more I haven’t gotten to yet, all presumably up to the journal’s usual standard.

The new Senses of Cinema has also dropped, with a focus on Asian documentary. Bérénice Reynaud offers an overview of underground and experimental Chinese documentary filmmakers, working with cheap, mobile digital cameras to chronicle such formerly taboo subjects as protests against forced dispossession by the state and the lives of gay Chinese; Dan Edwards traces Chai Jing’s remarkably popular (and since banned) exposé on Beijing’s unhealthy atmosphere, Under the Dome, to Western precedents such as An Inconvenient Truth but also homegrown examples such as River Elegy, which is credited with sparking the Tiananmen protests; Ma Ran looks at three film festivals (one of which has been shut down by the government), each small, remote, and far from the madding crowd, dedicated to the genre; and Anne Rutherford and Laleen Jayamanne interview Indian filmmakers Anjali Monteiro and K. P. Jayasankar about their decades of work in the field. (“[We] understand we are working with a medium that most of our subjects are not familiar with. They have their own traditions of storytelling and we are bringing to this encounter another kind of storytelling. So we want to question this premise of documentary film narratives made by us about them for consumption by us. How does one begin to subvert this?”) Outside of that focus, Ned Schantz, haunted by an image of the grim reaper he incorrectly remembered popping up in La Jetée, wonders about the legitimacy of hidden images in movies—and whether they’re worth anything or not even if they are there; and David Melville does the honors writing up Rex Ingram for the journal’s Great Directors portfolio.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of July 24

James Dickey and Burt Reynolds

“Dickey wrote a long speech for himself to give as the sheriff. And Boorman was such a clever man and brilliant filmmaker he told him, ‘When you start this speech, you have to come to the front of the hood of the car and say that paragraph. Then come over to the window and talk to the character of Ed directly.’ So Dickey did it. And then of course what happened was that John simply took out the section where Dickey was standing in front of the hood. He got Dickey’s speech down to a workable size. But Dickey was an actor—he acted in his daily life. He put drama into everything. That’s what I figured out.” Timed to commemorate the publication of the novel, John Meroney’s oral history on the making of Deliverance focuses mostly on John Dickey’s possessive attitude towards the story and characters, and the friction that resulted. Which provides plenty drama enough for a good read. Via Movie City News.

“Now, one of the executive producers at the time was Marty Scorsese. And Marty’s independent film person was his ex-wife, a woman called Barbara De Fina, and there were some disagreements with Barbara…. Well, then Marty’s leaving, she says. And I’m like, oh fuck, Marty’s my idol—he’s leaving? And you know in terms of selling the movie, losing Marty’s name, I mean… there are no stars. So I call Larry and I go listen, if we make this deal, Marty is going to be gone. Do you care? And he goes, ‘Are we going to be able to start this summer? Yes? Then fuck him.’ The next thing I know we’re making a movie.” Another oral history about another film where a band travels through the wilderness, as Eric Hynes gets participants to recount the making of Kids. No real surprises, as the ones you’d expect to be obnoxious prove to be so and the ones who look back graciously have all gone on to better things.

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

“Yes, extras must meet a threshold level of professionalism; they must show up on time and do what they’re told; they must own a variety of clothing items (most bring their own wardrobe). But there are thousands of them, capable of showing up on time and walking when they’re supposed to walk. It’s unskilled labor for skilled people.” Hillel Aron reports on the life of Hollywood’s background actors—extras, as they’ll always be called no matter how much they prefer the former term—and how the many real gains made by unionizing and joining in with SAG have led to a two-tiered system: those who can make a serious living from essentially part-time work, and everybody else, hustling for the leftovers. Via Longform.

UCLA’s Bunche Center for African American Studies has released their second Hollywood Diversity Report, with the far from startling conclusions that a gleamingly homogenous set of people behind the cameras (film studio units overseen by 96% white and 61% male heads; studios themselves headed by a clique 94% white and 100% male) hasn’t led to much breakthrough in diversity filmed by them. Austin Siegemund-Broka offers a rundown; the report itself, by Drs. Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramón, is available as a .pdf.

“Welles wasn’t moved. He told Selsman that ‘[saying the financiers will balk] is like saying the world is round. Of course, backers do not reduce the conditions under which they promise money. You certainly know as well as I do that in these cases—which occur all the time—it is the producer and the packager who must make the sacrifice.’ He characterized Selsman’s response as ‘mistaken tactically and morally.’ He also claimed Selsman was avoiding him. ‘It seems very clear that Oja and I have continued to work hard entirely on a speculative basis… this cooperative spirit has not been met from your end.’” In a two-part article, Matthew Asprey Gear details the behind-the-scenes drama of Sirhan Sirhan, an Executive Action-style political thriller/exposé that was being rushed to production in 1975 when co-star Orson Welles took the reins and revised the script in his own image. Some of the players still insist on laying blame at Welles’s feet, citing his undeserved reputation for scuttling his own projects; but despite the arrogance of some of Welles’s demands, Gear’s firm that responsibility lies with a series of half-honored promises and handshake deals that likely would have collapsed even without the Great Man’s imperious presence. (Part II here.)

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of February 20

‘Le Deuxieme Souffle’

Tough loners, intricate plots, and “irresistible” location work: Jonathan Kirshner takes a look at Melville’s Two Men in Manhattan, Le Doulos, and Le Deuxieme Souffle, three films that “can be dubbed [the director’s] “noir improvisations,” a nod to Bertrand Tavernier’s observation that Melville approaches filmmaking like a jazz musician, reinterpreting and experimenting with the standards—in this case, with the classic templates of film noir and the codes and conventions of cinematic gangsters.”

“A guy named Steve Rubell had a dream….” The announcement that the director’s cut of Mark Christopher’s 54 would screen at the Berlin Film Festival was greeted mostly with mild surprise that the 1998 flop had enough of a cult to indulge such rehabilitation. But however the new edit turns out, the story of the film’s making is your classic Hollywood should-have-been-a-success story; Louis Jordan tells this latest variation, with Christopher’s ambitions insufficient to ward off Harvey Weinstein’s anxious interference with a film he feared too gay and too morally ambiguous to show in theaters.

“‘Fundamentally farcical,’ he explained, ‘We didn’t have the spirit of seriousness, but we were serious.’ Later he cued up a still from Laurel and Hardy’s Wrong Again: ‘That’s the Dziga Vertov Group, two guys forced to act as the third leg of a piano with a horse on it.’” Max Goldberg offers highlights of a recent talk by Jean-Pierre Gorin about the goals of his and Godard’s Dziga Vertov Group, which Gorin paints as more playful and formalist than has generally been accredited; though part of that might stem from what Gorin acknowledges as the mission’s failure.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of January 30

Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle

“For more than 30 years, people bought movie tickets to watch Hackman take charge. He was a molder of men: Hackman taught Redford how to ski, DiCaprio how to shoot, and Keanu how to play quarterback. As the culture’s perspective on Great White Males changed, so did cinema’s view of Hackman. If you want to chart how attitudes about power shifted in the late 20th century, Gene Hackman movies are a good place to start. His filmography unfolds as a treatise on how authority is established, then corrupted, then dissolved.” Steven Hyden does a fine job singing the praises of Gene Hackman, and that incomparable mix of gruff professionalism, emotional directness, and curmudgeonly twinkle that’s kept him most people’s default choice for our best actor more than a decade into his retirement. Via Rachel Handler.

“Given the comparable quality and quantity of Mann’s Westerns, and despite these outlying generic visits that bookend his career, to know Anthony Mann the filmmaker is to know the Anthony Mann Western. For without having found the genre within which he could most evidently express his stylistic and thematic concerns, Mann may not have developed into the unique filmic artist he became, and the Western as an ever evolving form would not have entered one of its key transitional phases as it did.” Jeremy Carr examines how Anthony Mann’s sophisticated embrace of Western tropes—landscapes, rifles, revenge, Stewart (by the time he was done with him at any rate)—led to exemplars of their genre that are also works of unmistakable individual authorship.

If one genre has defeated Martin Scorsese time and time again it’s documentary, his efforts in which tend to portraits marked by bland, unruffled admiration, if not outright hagiography. So what kind of control freaks must the Clinton camp be to scuttle his documentary project on Bill?

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

Walter Matthau

“It’s an attitude that hits with the opening notes of David Shire’s score, a rolling atonal jazz-funk cacophany that can legitimately be called brassy because there’s a hell of a lot of brass in it. It’s a warning that this city is an irritable, stressed-out motherfucker, and you better watch yourself. This is a city that enjoys being obnoxious….” Flop House co-host and Daily Show head writer Elliott Kalan scores just the right mix of seen-it-all smartass and third-rail crackle in praising Sargent’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three as the quintessential portrait of ‘70s New York. His well-observed criticisms of Scott’s remake are also the only reason to check out The Dissolve’s roundtable on the movie.

Another year, another issue of Movie, the University of Reading’s fine film journal. Two articles on Lubitsch this time out, with Andrew Klevan breaks down the pattern of linked oppositions that make Trouble in Paradise “a model of economy, crisp, cogent, and condensed,” while Josh Cluderay examines the vagaries of adaptation by praising what Lubitsch and Sam Raphaelson added to the László play that inspired The Shop Around the Corner, and how Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich drained so much from the story by leaving crucial elements out of their musical remake In the Good Old Summertime. Elsewhere pieces on two directors that, no matter how great, could hardly be accused of aping the Lubitsch touch: Katerina Virvidaki shows how the voiceover in Malick’s The Thin Red Line has less to do with philosophical argument than ambiguous, allusive dramatic relevance to the characters; and Julian Hanich explores the riches of Roy Andersson’s deep-focus frames. Also a tribute to and some selections from recently deceased Jim Hillier, a contributor to the journal since 1970. (All .pdfs)

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of October 31

‘Mon Oncle’

All due (and seasonally apposite) respect to Clive Barker, the video release of the moment is clearly Criterion’s complete Tati set. At their website the company is offering some fine essays connected to the release. Jonathan Rosenbaum displays how precise Tati’s use of color and sound was to guide the viewer through his open, detailed frames. (“This means that any discussion of Tati’s mise-en-scene has to cope with the reality that he effectively directed each of his films twice—once when he shot them and then once again when he composed and recorded their soundtracks.”) James Quandt outlines the intellectual underpinnings of comedies that, for once, it’s not condescending to say they have more on their mind than making you laugh. (“This contradiction [of using rigidly designed imagery to decry mechanized life] is central to understanding all of his work. His Cartesian comedies inveigh against order and logic but generate beauty and laughter from both.”) And Kristin Ross places these films in context against the hustling economic boom of postwar France’s Thirty Glorious Years. (“Commenting upon the strikingly memorable soundtracks that he designed to accompany all of his important films from Mon oncle (1958) to Parade (1974), Jacques Tati remarked, ‘Well, when people are in strange surroundings, natural sounds always sound louder.’ Each of Tati’s films works to turn the most familiar lived landscapes of postwar French society into strange surroundings.”)

“This is a cinema ruled by the shadow of destiny—a powerful force that casts its spell and grows like a malady, contaminating everything.” Cristina Álvarez López runs through a series of films—from naked kisses to stolen faces, from The Stranger to The Trial—that shut down cinema’s rich tradition of offering second chances, trapping their protagonists in fates by forces external and otherwise.

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Seattle Screens: Brandon Cronenberg goes ‘Antiviral’

Caleb Landry Jones loves his cultures in ‘Antiviral’

Robert Horton, curator of the Museum of History and Industry exhibit “Celluloid Seattle,” and Richard T. Jameson, one-time film critic of Seattle Weekly and editor of both Seattle’s own Movietone News and Film Comment (as well as frequent Parallax View contributor) will discuss Seattle’s lively film culture back through the decades in a free event at the MOHAI Café tonight, Thursday, April 18, at 7 pm. Details here.

Antiviral, the debut feature from Brandon Cronenberg, brings inevitable comparisons to his father, with its story of “biological communion” with cultural superstars via celebrity viruses, black market viral thieves (who use their own bodies to smuggle the cultures), and genetically-modified meat that borders on cannibalism. The rigorously austere, antiseptic look recalls Cronenberg pere’s earliest films and the fascination with disease and deterioration of the human body his later work, while its cultural fascination with celebrity and the physical desire to connect is right out of J.G. Ballard. Which isn’t to call it derivative, mind you, merely to place him in an evolutionary context. His approach is appropriately intimate and sensuous, physical yet disconnected, and there is something fascinating and disturbing in the way our ostensible hero (Caleb Landry Jones, perfectly creepy and almost inhuman) makes himself the viral petrie dish for every heist. He’s as addicted to this culture as any of his customers. At Grand Illusion for a week.

Oblivion, with Tom Cruise as the last man Earth (or so he thinks) patrolling the devastated planet from guerilla attacks by the remnants of an alien invasion, is as derivative a science fiction film as you’ll see. It borrows whole cloth from 2001 to The Matrix to WALL-E to Moon to Independence Day and just about every other alien invasion movie you’ve every seen. But director Joseph Kosinski, adapting his own graphic novel, sure knows how to make it look beautiful and evocative. There are plenty of digital effects but its Kosinski’s superbly-scouted and strikingly-photographed locations that give the fantasy a physical resonance. Cruise does what he does best here, playing the good, loyal soldier whose romantic streak drives him to bend the rules to feed his soul and satisfy his curiosity. The twists aren’t all that surprising, but they are nicely delivered. Multiple theaters


“It is middling praise to declare that The Company You Keep improves on Robert Redford’s previous directorial offerings, The Conspirator and Lions for Lambs, politically minded properties that seemed drained of life by their own unimpeachable good intentions.” Everett Herald film critic Robert Horton is now also in Seattle Weekly, and this is one of his first featured reviews here. Multiple theaters.

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