Posted in: by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Links

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of May 3

“That’s why I’m spending so much time talking to you about the business and the money, because this is the force that is pushing cinema out of mainstream movies. I’ve been in meetings where I can feel it slipping away, where I can feel that the ideas I’m tossing out, they’re too scary or too weird, and I can feel the thing—I can tell; it’s not going to happen….” Proving again the futility of resistance when the internet rises as one to whine, Steven Soderbergh changed his mind and allowed the San Francisco Film Society permission to post his State of Cinema address. It is a pretty engrossing speech, with Soderbergh conscious of the potential to seem an old fogy even as he lays out the numbers to prove Hollywood has no idea what it’s doing. And what’s the director been up to in the week since? You know, posting a surreal, Robbe-Grillet-flavored spy story to Twitter, as one does.

Surf’s up

Some interesting reading in the new Bright Lights, including John Engle’s fine, poetically inclined survey of the surfing movie from Gidget’s safe but still open-hearted testing of countercultural waters to the genre’s current obsession with mythic coming-of-age stories steeped in Zen bliss (why yes, Milius’s Big Wednesday is considered a key transitional film); Roger Leatherwood’s look at what Ari Kahan’s exhaustive Phantom of the Paradise website has to tell us about archiving in these amateur-friendly internet days; and Angela Aleiss’s uncovering the fascinating history of James Young Deer, actor and technical advisor for D. W. Griffith, director for Pathè, who adopted one ethnic identity (falsely claiming membership in the Winnebago tribe) to obscure another less amenable to the times.

“This is not Italy!” For Sight and Sound, Pasquale Iannone rounds up a dozen crucial precursors to the post-war Neorealists, from Pudovkin and People on Sunday to the 1942 feature debut of Manoel de Oliviera. The BFI appends his excellent overview with a gallery of posters for the films.

Another combo KO from two of The Chiseler’s heavy hitters. First, Dan Callahan treasures the perseverance of Sylvia Sidney in so many masochistic parts: “She has the sort of face that looks like it knows the worst before it happens, and so when the worst does happen, it just confirms the anxiety in her eyes.” Then Imogen Smith nails the sincerity of Joan Blondell’s con artists, with particular focus on Nightmare Alley. (“What she brought to all these movies about rackets, about schemers and saps, was the ability to put over a con and let us enjoy her triumph, yet also to express, without sanctimony, the melancholy weight of too much knowledge.”)

“This is why they don’t make movies called Night Raid to Boise, Idaho or Firemen Strike at Dawn.” David Davidson translates Positif’s Pierre Berthomieu’s comments on Spielberg for a Cinémathèque française video series. After the obligatory anti-American sideswipe, Berthomieu has some good insights, and a particularly intriguing reading of Always. Via David Hudson.

‘Lost in America’

“If I were a liar, I could tell you that we chose one over the other for complicated psychological reasons. But I’m a comedian, not a liar. I can afford the luxury of honesty.” In an unpublished 1999 article, Jonathan Rosenbaum offers due praise to the first five films of Albert Brooks, “the best comic writer-director-actor working in America at present—certainly the most thoughtful and original, and the one who has the most to say about who we are.”

After his annual sojourn to the FOCAL International conference, where he is one of the judges for the organization’s Film Restoration awards, Luke McKernan offers some highlights and some questions raised on the subject.

David Bordwell has posted another video adapted from one of his retired lectures, defending CinemaScope from several auteurs’ neglect and Fritz Lang’s famous joke. He’s also made available a relevant chapter from his book Poetics of Cinema as a .pdf.

With the aid of crowdsourcing and a dip into Salka Viertel’s (wife of Berthold) memoirs, The Siren provides an interesting follow-up to her recent post on screenwriter Samuel Hoffenstein.

“And that, brother, is when it all goes to hell.” Kyle Buchanan presents some favorites from the jokey asides—each pitched halfway between chipper and cynical—that peppered Shane Black’s scripts and made them such favorites for readers.

Marc Schiller provides your doomsaying for the week, warning fellow independent filmmakers that one of their key promotional strategies, the per-screen average, could be the death of them yet. Via Movie City News.

His recent screening experience at the Jeonju film festival restored Jon Jost’s creative energies, but was pretty much the last straw when it comes to his dealings with festivals.

On the occasion of the publication of his latest book, Lisa Nesselson has lunch with Cannes President Gilles Jacob and gets his thoughts on Twitter, von Trier, and Truffaut’s handwriting. (Pro, con, “lovely to behold.”)

“I have a very dry sense of humor.” And it’s on full display in Michael Shannon’s brief interview with Andrew Goldman, even when he’s complaining the late night talk shows won’t have him on.

“Obviously luck plays into it, but I just wouldn’t be denied. I never even thought about the possibility of it not working, you know?” Meanwhile Shannon’s greatest collaborator, Jeff Nichols, assesses his own career status in thoroughly pragmatic fashion talking with Filmmaker’s Nick Dawson.

On the set of ‘Raging Bull’

Brian Hamill’s onset photography, from Annie Hall, Raging Bull, and A Woman Under the Influence, has a breathy, unforced intimacy. At everyday_i_show.

10 ways of looking at a donkey skin, courtesy of Adrian Curry’s collection of international posters for Demy’s Peau d’Âne.

Video: The long productivity of de Oliviera, referenced above, was cited as inspiration by Clint Eastwood (about the only American director who seems capable of matching it) in a casual but wide-ranging conversation with Darren Aronofsky for the Tribeca Film Festival.

Deanna Durbin


Deanna Durbin, the bright, energetic ingénue and chipper soprano and the top female star at Universal studios for over a decade, made her screen debut opposite Judy Garland in the musical short Every Sunday (1936) and her final appearance in the 1948 feature For the Love of Mary. She retired from the screen and remained happily out of the public eye for the next sixty years. She passed away this week at age 91. Farran Smith Nehme, aka The Self-Styled Siren, celebrates her life and career: “Like many child stars she developed a highly technical mode of acting; Jean Renoir, when he walked off the Durbin vehicle The Amazing Mrs Holliday, said she ‘was unable to escape from the style that made her famous.’ That style, however, included excellent comic timing, an ability to seem fresh no matter how contrived the plot, and striking charisma.”

Jack Shea, busy TV director and three-time president of the Directors Guild of America, died at the age of 84 earlier this week, of complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. More from The Los Angeles Times.

Seattle Screens

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for this week’s theatrical 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.