As Jasper Sharp acknowledges, western knowledge of Japanese films is so auteur-driven that his recounting the story of Nikkatsu Studio is practically an alternate history, wherein a once-defunct brand roared back in the ‘50s and ‘60s on the back of gangster films, an insurgent, disaffected youth movement, and a string of pop stars. Till Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill took all of that so far he was fired by the studio he’d helped grow, and the writing was on the wall.
The new issue of The Cine-Files investigates mise-en-scène. As is typical for the journal, the articles from regular contributors are quite fine (K. Brenna Wardell on the subversive “dining room” scene from The Phantom of Liberty; Jae Matthews on images of the titular prop in The Wolf Knife; Calvin Johnson’s thoughts on what the term can mean now in the age of digital, CGI cinema), but it’s the denser pieces from invited guests you really want to read. Thus V. F. Perkins on the marital miscommunication signaled by a bow tie in Stella Dallas and the aspirational hints of a chandelier in Johnny Guitar; Christian Keathley on Advice & Consent’s shot of the Vice President in the backseat of a car; and Adrian Martin unpacking the character traits displayed in a brief scene of awkward solace from Breaking Bad. Passed along by Kristin Thompson (herself interviewed in the issue), who on her own blog demonstrates the benefits of close analysis of mise-en-scène by posting 13 frame grabs from Late Spring, a dozen featuring a sewing machine, one, heart-breakingly, without.
Wandering through Cinémathèque Française’s exhibit dedicated to Jacques Demy has Tom Paulus thinking of Demy’s editing, the directors who influenced it (Bresson), the ones who didn’t (Pudovkin), and the ones who’ve inherited the style (Soderbergh). Via David Hudson.
“His works, then, are stripped bare almost to the point of abstraction—but it is as if they are made of concrete. The essential. The truth of the dialogue, the truth of the situations, the truth of the subjects, of the milieux, of the characters: a dramaturgy derived from an agglomeration of facts, words, noises, movements, situations, as a motor is assembled.” David Davidson presents a marvelous tribute to Howard Hawks written by Henri Langois on the occasion of viewing some of his early silents, and finding in them “the modern man—that’s Hawks, completely.”
Which brings us to…. Nick Pinkerton’s takedown of Vulgar Auteurism has some bits that regretfully muddy the waters he’s hoping to clean but he’s pretty definitive on just how redundant, and therefore unnecessary, the whole damned thing is.
“The richness of his interests is amazing: ecstatically devout pilgrims; prehistoric cave paintings; fast-talking American auctioneers; ski-jumpers; TV evangelists; Siberian trappers; the blind, deaf and dumb. He has made more than 60 films, both fiction and documentaries, and, in total, they look like the life’s work of several directors, yet all maintain the spirit of one man’s view of this disparate planet.” My apologies for having missed Michael Newton’s quite lovely tribute to Herzog’s 50 years of remarkable filmmaking when it was published a few weeks back. If you haven’t already caught up with it, here, go.
““I couldn’t place my home if I were heartsick for it.” Imogen Smith wraps up her excellent series of articles on Robert Mitchum with a portrait of his wandering soul, both off- and on-screen. Also at The Chiseler, David Cairns praises the ambition and impeccable taste of Clarence Muse, forever rising despite the stereotyped black roles he was saddle with.
Sheila O’Malley salutes the underplayed mix of melancholy and wistfulness that marks Owen Wilson, “he with the tow-colored mop of hair, the crooked nose, and the smile that seems to need so much in return.”
Looking back to 1976, Michael Koresky considers three instances where nightmare visions have been unable to drain the oddness out of some aggressive period signifiers, leaving these “obsessively orchestrated film[s] with a lovable sore thumb”: William Katt’s hair, Isabelle Adjani’s feminist stylings, and the baby face of Andy Kaufman.
A question often asked abstractly is made real in a moving article by film critic Mark Schilling, who endured a brutal assault on the streets and now finds himself in no mood to sit through movie violence.
Jacqueline Ronson tells the story of the Great Dawson Film Find of 1978, when the excavation of an Ottawa ice rink revealed a trove of silent movies that had reached their last stop on the exhibition circuit, and were dumped away as landfill. Via Luke McKernan.
Aggressively restoring the fight for the American Way that Bryan Singer somewhat notoriously elided, Man of Steel contains a record-breaking 100 product placements, thus raking in $160 million before ticket one was sold.
To illustrate the unexpected compromises that might be coming our way as more businesses rely on mathematical formulas to smoothly predict what had seemed charmingly erratic, unpredictable human behavior, Tom Whipple considers the results of Nick Meaney’s analysis of movie star earnings. Via Movie City News.
Cinematographer Shane Hurlburt has been posting some D.P. advice on his blog. Though his two posts to date on the subject—on selecting lenses for a particular mood, and about some of the focal length choices he made on Mr. 3000—are aimed at professionals, both are interesting walkthroughs for laymen. Via John Wyver.
“In the past we would say that we want to make a movie in order to say something. If you tell investors that now then they’ll kill you. ‘What we want to do is make money. How can you say there is something you want to express in your films?’” Whether it’s sincere or a habit bred of decades spent staying on the good side of censors, Chen Kaige manages to declare all the old filmmaking ideals dead and buried while simultaneously putting an optimistic face on the current situation, in this interview with Allan Tong.
“I’m embarrassed to tell you this story, but I’ll tell it anyway. Gene Kelly called me and asked if I needed any help. I said, ‘No, I’m fine, Gene, thanks.'” Peter Bogdanovich talks to RogerEbert.com’s Donald Liebenson about the making of At Long Last Love and his delight at the newly restored edition. Since you asked, why yes, he does bring up Orson Welles; but it’s a perceptive quote from Cary Grant that’s the keeper.
Brandon Schaefer rounds up some of his favorite West German movie posters from the post-war period; that’s a wide swath, no question, and it’s a widely divergent collection in every aspect save quality.
Spanish producer Elías Querejeta was responsible for some of the most important Spanish films of the sixties and seventies, including 13 films by Carlos Saura (beginning with La Caza) and two by Victor Erice (The Spirit of the Beehive and El Sur). He passed away in Madrid at the age of 78. John Hopewell at Variety.
Actor Harry Lewis was a contract player at Warner Bros. in the 1940s and appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, including supporting roles in Key Largo (1948) and Gun Crazy (1950), but he made his fame as a restaurateur with Hamburger Hamlet, the gourmet burger chain he launched in 1950 with his partner and (later) wife Marilyn Friedman. More from Rene Lynch at the Los Angeles Times.
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.