The first wave of the new Lola—each issue being released piecemeal, more is still to come—is devoted to Brian De Palma. Alain Bergala’s semiotic reading of Obsession does well by De Palma’s magpie cinephilia, and Helen Grace reminds you how the director’s always political in her account of feminist protests she supported and (in the case of Dressed to Kill) found misguided. But it’s Adrian Martin’s superb breakdown of the action in Carlito’s Way’s poolhall sequence that you don’t want to miss; Martin never lets the rigor of his analysis muffle the contagious giddiness (count the exclamation marks) De Palma generates when he’s on fire.
“We made trees and shrubs. We helped make all this.” “Whew! That’s not bad.” “Yeah. But did we get a thimbleful of credit for it? No!” An excerpt from Robert Sellers’s new book Very Naughty Boys: The Amazing Story of HandMade Films details the making of Time Bandits, which like the movie involves petty squabbles, major players in over their head, and Sean Connery saving the day.
“You started out with this artsy-craftsy reality crap and what did you end up with? The news, the goddamned news! People get that for free! You think somebody’s gonna hire a babysitter, take a taxicab, go all the way the hell downtown, walk to the box office, shell out four bucks, and say, ‘Here, here—here’s my four dollars. What time does the news go on?’” The latest movie of the week at The Dissolve is Real Life. The introduction by Nathan Rabin and the roundtable may hit a bit much on the film’s prescience about reality television (like any great comedian, Brooks just imagines the worst that could happen and gets to look a natural-born prophet when it inevitably rolls around), but Scott Tobias has good thoughts on Albert Brooks’s most daring creation, “Albert Brooks.”
The Siren does a handy job dismantling the claims of Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hiter; among them, claimed straight-faced, that one of the Hollywood movies “that delivered a National Socialist message” was Vidor’s Our Daily Bread. Related: Thomas Doherty, whose earlier, more measured examination of the same period, Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939, is looking pretty good in comparison, details the premiere broadcast of Talent in Exile, an anti-Nazi program aired over Warner Bros. in-house radio station KFWB.
Elsewhere, Farran Smith Nehme, a siren by any other name, digs into the lacerating family drama of Autumn Sonata, finding several common traits between it and weepy melodramas of the ‘40s and ‘50s, albeit here “concentrated by telescoping events into a couple of days, and deepened by Bergman’s ability to find reasons within reasons for what people do.” Also at Criterion, A. S. Hamrah relates the odd and still only sketchily understood journey of screenwriter Alfred Hayes, who went from collaborating with Rossellini to writing prestige efforts for Zinnemann, TV scripts for Mannix, and a pair of well-regarded Hollywood novels.
The new Interiors interviews art director Ian Phillips on how once the perfect home was found for A Single Man—a 1949 residence designed by John Lautner, whose modernist angles and combination of transparency and hidden recesses mirrored the film’s hero precisely—sets still had to be built to allow for enough room to film.
Steven Shaviro makes available in e-book format two essays he’s written on Jerry Lewis. The older of the two, a marvelous examination of the death-wish in Smorgasbord, originally appeared at La furia umana, but is apparently no longer on the website. The more recent may be too academic for the general reader, but if you’re looking for an examination of how Lewis’s comedy stylings in The Patsy form a Deleuzean assemblage that inverts Bergson’s “famous formulation” on the source of comedy, you won’t find any better than this.
“There is more than a grain of eccentricity in this adventure. The author is a poet.” Dan North begins assembling a collection of Spielberg ephemera with the brief enthusiastic note Jean Renoir sent François Truffaut after seeing the latter’s performance in Close Encounters.
Miss V at Girls Do Film praises William Travilla’s legendary pink strapless dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and offers a look at the first, jewel-encrusted design, rejected as too risqué given Monroe’s recent nude photo scandal. Via Christopher Laverty.
As sometimes happens, two articles that aren’t particularly revelatory on their own ping off each other in fascinating ways, in this case capturing a dichotomy between a pair of legendary Zen-inflected actors. Jeff Bridges comes off the contented, El Lay version of no-stress renunciation in Devin Friedman’s profile, happy to chalk up his current music tour to living a teenage fantasy, blissed out over wheatgrass and breaking waves (“Cooool. Beautiful.”). While Harry Dean Stanton’s terse interview with Graham Fuller shows the weathered yin to Bridge’s sunny yang, his single-sentence responses so unadorned they harden into fatalism, offhand comments about career opportunities happily passed up (including a TV series John Carpenter wanted to make) indistinguishable from his occasional regrets.
“Often I have found that movies are actually disappointingly sterile environments. The more you get away from the studio lot, the better. […] That’s when I really feel like you start getting into some good, nice, dangerous situations. Whether they are dangerous in terms of where you’re going mentally or physically—I do enjoy that.” Christian Bale, interviewed at The Talks, is precisely the driven, self-sufficient loner you’d expect; and reveals that’s precisely why he never plans to direct.
Life reprints the 1951 photos they took of an uprising star they’d helped discover: Fagan, the domesticated lion whose real-life travails after his owner was drafted inspired the MGM movie Fearless Fagan. Excuse enough for Loomis Dean to snap shots of the cat being chauffeured around the studio lot and having sleepy-eyed encounters with cast and crew. None with costar Janet Leigh or director Stanley Donen, alas.
Leanne Shapton’s watercolor series Sunday Night Movies is a collection of “two-shots,” a pair of actors (Hepburn and Tracy; Burton and Bloom; Stan Laurel and a ghost) sizing each other up in profile, captured by Shapton with grand, expressionistic verve. Via David Hudson.
Video: The Seventh Art passes along a terrific YouTube find. As a teacher at the Munich Film School, Douglas Sirk would have his students vote which among a collection of texts they would most like to make into a movie; the end-of-year assignment, of course, would be to film the one that had come in dead last, with Sirk supervising/collaborating with the class. The 1979 selection was Bourbon Street Blues, adapted from a Tennessee Williams one-act and starring Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and I can’t imagine you’d need more encouragement than that. Via Adam Cook.
Richard Sarafian, director of the cult existential car chase film Vanishing Point (1971) and hundreds of hours of American television, passed away at the age of 86. Among his other features are The Man Who Loves Cat Dancing (1973) with Burt Reynolds and Sunburn (1979) with Farrah Fawcett, and TV Movie remake of The African Queen (1977) with Warren Oates and Mariette Hartley. Pat Saperstein at Variety.
Italian novelist, poet, screenwriter, and director Alberto Bevilacqua, who wrote more than 35 books and a dozen screenplays, died this week at the age of 79. His novels tackled the political and social turmoil of Italy since the war and he adapted and directed screen adaptations of two of his most successful books: La califfa (1970) and Questa specia d’amore (1972), the latter winning the Donatello award for Best Picture. Among his earlier screenplays are two for Mario Bava: Black Sabbath (1963) and Planet of the Vampires (1965). John Francis Lane at The Guardian.
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.