“As for compensation—he cut me off: ‘Let us not sully art with talk of money. I count on you to do the right thing. You will do that, won’t you?’” The summer of Welles revelations continue apace at the LA Review of Books, where Steve Wasserman tells the story of getting the great man to write the Los Angeles Times obituary for Jean Renoir.
Programmed by J Hoberman for the Museum of the Moving Image, the film series Fun City: New York in the Movies 1966-1974 shines a light on the productions, ranging from Lumet’s idealistic Serpico to the more pragmatic hero cops of Cotton Comes to Harlem, from Little Murders to The Landlord, made under the aegis of John Lindsay, who loosened up filming regulations even as the city he oversaw slid into some its roughest years. Tough times that Hoberman, in his introductory notes, finds seeping into all these films in a way that distinguishes them from their more brutal successors: “Disillusionment in [the] Koch-era movies is a condition; in the movies that preceded them, made in the High Sixties during the collapse of the Great Society and the period of “telling-it-like-it-is,” when the Knicks were on top and New York’s baseball team was not the Yankees but the Mets, disillusionment was a process.” Hoberman also provides brief but typically perceptive comments on each film in the series; the first two installments of these are up now (here and here), with more to come.
Reverse Shot’s writers are wending their way through the films of Wong Kar-wai. A hit-and-miss series of encounters, of course, but each confirming Michael Koresky’s assertion (while writing of Chungking Express) that a “main reason for the continued freshness of [Wong’s] films is that they never seem entirely settled.” An accidentally complimentary pair of highlights: Aliza Ma on the ‘60s nostalgia underpinning Days of Being Wild and Kristi Mitsuda’s appreciation of the unique “enveloping warmth” of the red tones in 2046, a surprising contrast to the chilly, distancing blue most movies use to envision the future.
“Well, there are more ways than one of getting close to your ancestors. Follow the old road, and as you walk, think of them and of the old England. They climbed Chillingbourne Hill, just as you.” Xan Brooks’s video tour of locations from Powell and Pressburger’s A Canterbury Tale can’t revisit all of them—some are gone, some are now Starbucks—but that’s no matter; as he beautifully writes about the film itself, they’re all reminders “that we live in flux and that’s OK.” Via John Wyver.
Anne Helen Petersen’s compelling as you’d expect writing about Hedy Lamarr, and the contrast between the actor’s brainy candor and the glamour girl MGM’s press department went about selling to the public.
Vadim Rizov does a fine job rounding up the controversies that have surrounded Hayao Miyazaki’s latest: The Wind Rises, an animated biopic of airplane designer Jiro Horikoshi, whose efforts include WWII’s Zero, which has been decried as left-wing defeatism by Japanese blowhards, and (but of course) as hysterically right-wing by some of the South Korean variety.
“We’ve been in worse jams than this, haven’t we, Hildy?” “Nope.” In the new issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room, Sheila O’Malley captures both the comic fizz of His Girl Friday and the desperate, unlovable mania at its core, before bringing in a quote from Stella Adler for the perfect punchline.
One of the web’s best resources for buffs of film and radio history, the 800,000 scanned pages of books and periodicals (fan magazines such as Photoplay and Motion Picture; industry news sources including Variety and Motion Picture Daily; even specialist journals with sexy titles like Projection Engineering and Exhibitors Trade Review) in the Media History Digital Library, has just become far easier to explore thanks to Lantern, a search engine developed by MHDL co-director Eric Hoyt. Happy news Hoyt’s fellow Badger David Bordwell passed along, along with some tips on using the interface from Hoyt himself.
Exhibitor Kyle Westphal explains that an archival print doesn’t mean the pristine condition some audiences have come to believe, but that it still means something in an industry where he’s “personally witnessed film prints being fed through a paper shredder (none too successfully, I might add) and film prints being pierced and maimed with an electric drill.” Via Moving Image Archive News.
“Same with Depardieu. He doesn’t really give a fuck about Strauss-Kahn, because, you know, is Strauss-Kahn a financial genius? Let me know [sic] tell you something. Depardieu has made about eight times as much money as Strauss-Kahn. Strauss-Kahn spends the bank’s money, not his own. Depardieu, a single fucking guy from a poor fucking town in the middle of nowhere, has made about a billion dollars in his life.” If for some strange reason you had any fears that tackling the Dominique Strauss-Kahn story for his new film (and the death of Pasolini for his follow-up) might somehow tamp Abel Ferrara’s fabulously rough edges down, his interview with Indiewire’s Eric Kohn should set you straight.
“The ending of [The Act of Killing] is so extraordinary. [Oppenheimer] told me he wanted to shorten it or even cut it completely, but I said to him: ‘Your life is worth nothing if you cut out that ending.’ So he left it in.” Werner Herzog, as if you didn’t know, offering interviewer Alexandra Zawia his thoughts on political films, being a cinema soldier, and summarizing Los Angeles’s cultural zeitgeist in one marvelous crystalline paragraph.
“I’m curious about that kind of functionality, but of course, it’s a movie. The construct has to be open so people can come crashing into the estate grounds. So my guy at JPL says, ‘It’s open to space?’ I say, ‘It’s a movie!’ Star Trek‘s Enterprise would never work, anyway. It would topple over because the center of gravity is a considerable distance from their thrust vector. [Laughs] It’s a movie.” Syd Mead, interviewed by Vulture’s Matt Patches, discusses the balance between visionary realism and pragmatic filmmaking concerns that has distinguished his decades of design work.
“When I was in design school we were asked, ‘Should formica look like wood just because it can?’ and it’s a difficult, philosophical question. Now all type has moving shadows and three dimensions and sometimes that adds real value and sometimes it doesn’t.” Richard and Robert Greenberg of R/GA walk Ian Albinson through the design considerations and seat-of-their-pants technological breakthroughs that led to some of their marvelous, iconic title sequences.
Adam Frost and Zhenia Vasiliev give Hitchcock the infographic treatment, offering a fun chart of the ways people have died or the journeys they’ve taken in his films. The surprise takeaway: Hitchcock’s treatment of mothers turns out to have been rather even-handed, actually.
Brandon Schaefer’s salute to Saul Bass focuses on posters that failed to meet the clients’ expectations, Bass’s stark, almost confrontationally simple designs rejected for a succession of floating movie star heads and bland, cluttered text.
Video: Those curious about The Day the Clown Cried for the trainwreck factor will likely be disappointed in the seven-minute behind-the-scenes promo filmed in 1972 and recently spotted by Movie City News (though it’d been online almost a year on a Dutch site). This is mostly Lewis in Total Filmmaker mode, working out his performance, fussing over a technical matter with the sound recordist, and yeah, mildly losing his cool at one point.
Haji, the Canadian-born cult star famed for her roles in Russ Meyer’s movies Motorpsycho, Good Morning… and Goodbye!, and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, passed away this week at the age of 67. The news was first reported by her friend and fellow Meyer alumnus Francesca “Kitten” Natividad on her Facebook page. More from CBC.
Artist, photographer, writer, filmmaker, critic, and teacher Allan Sekula passed away at the age of 62. Though his work in film and video, often made in collaboration with theorist Noël Burch, is not well known to the general public, his photography has been exhibited all over the world and as a teacher at CalArts he influenced and inspired hundreds of artists and filmmakers. Via David Hudson at Fandor Daily.
Tim Lucas passes on news of the death of Italian producer Luciano Martino, who died at the age of 80. His filmography includes Mario Bava’s The Whip and the Body, Umberto Lenzi’s notorious Cannibal Ferox, and his brother Sergio Martino’s giallo thriller The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail and The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh. More from Lucas at Video Watchblog.
And from Wellesnet comes the sad news that Valentin de Vargas, most famous for playing the hoodlum Pancho in Touch of Evil, passed away earlier this month at age 70. He also had roles in Hatari!, The Magnificent Seven, To Live and Die in L.A., among others. Mike Barnes remembers his career for The Hollywood Reporter.
The August edition of Framing Pictures begins at 5pm on Friday, August 16 at NWFF. Admission is free and conversation encouraged. Richard T. Jameson tosses out some conversation ideas at Straight Shooting.
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.