“That tree drove the decision to shoot at that house…. We went driving across Louisiana trying to find it, and it was really, the combination of that tree and that house. Then, with Steve and Sean, we thought, ‘Now, how do we create the rest of this environment, so that this scene will work and everything else will make sense?’” In his latest fine report on a film’s making Bilge Ebiri speaks with the creative team of 12 Years a Slave to learn how meticulous preparation and honed craft blended with McQueen’s preference for surprise and improvisation.
“Les amants du Pont-Neuf does not ask whether it is possible for love to occur between Alex and Michèle; the whole film is the celebration, the irrefutable confirmation of this as a fact. The real question at the beating heart of the film is: can this romance survive? Can it be prolonged through time?” Cristina Álvarez López writes beautifully on stone, water, and “the violent clash of different elements” in Carax’s grandest l’amour fou. Also at Transit, Adrian Martin delivers a close reading of a brief scene from Pedro Costa’s debut Blood, whose “mere eight shots, running fifty-two seconds” receive (and earn) comparisons to Dreyer, Bresson, and Scorsese.
At Fandor, meanwhile, Martin places Brando’s acting closer to the Hollywood style of performance he’s often credited with upending, and praises the highlights of his undeniably uneven later years for “[offering] up his masculinity, the treasured masculinity of his time, as pure masquerade.”
Max Nelson’s history of Film Comment’s 50 years charts the magazine’s shifts away and towards ideology, political activism, and populist filmmaking (though never towards popular success, unfortunately) as the decades and editors rolled along. Parts two and three here. UPDATE: Part four, on the Richard T. Jameson years, went up today.
“The subtitle is also significant: A Comedy Romance in Pantomime. Here Chaplin is squarely in the American literary tradition, using romance as Hawthorne intended, as a license to blend the real and the marvelous, expanding the writer’s scope of imagination.” Gary Giddins is as fine as you’d expect (including, of course, on the score) writing on City Lights.
Far from the mismatch of adapter and source novel many have claimed, Andrew Grossman finds Welles’s The Trial a perceptive view of sociological forces spiraling down upon a hero whose entitlement and class snobbery reveal he’d been bound by them all along; making Welles “one of the few filmmakers—perhaps the only one—who actually got Kafka right.” Via David Hudson.
“My reasons satisfy me, Susan!” More briefly, Michael Atkinson points to a possible cause for Charles Kane’s increasing bitterness and fearsome isolation as he enters middle age often overlooked in the film’s looping, overlapping chronology.
Returning to L.A. for an exhibition in her honor, Agnès Varda shares with Reed Johnson some memories of her first sojourn there, and a brief, poignant flare of grief when she thinks of Demy.
“You get a feeling this is how it was meant to be. Like you are Troiano’s fate. Like you’re God.” Allen Baron recounts the making of Blast of Silence, an underfunded, shoot-and-move-on effort that still required resources (and thus the kind acts of strangers) that positively dwarf what’s required to make an independent film today.
That the clothes make the man is true most of all in gangster movies, as Christopher Laverty demonstrates considering Fred Williamson’s aspirational sartorial choices in Cohen’s Black Caesar.
With tool-making long ceded and language up for debate, those desiring some clear demarcation between man and animals may now be able to fall back on our ability to search for narrative, based on the results of showing movie clips (including, small world, City Lights) to monkeys, as Virginia Hughes relates. Via Andrew Sullivan.
On the one hand it seems odd anyone would actually be fighting for credit for coming up with the now-infamous brassy blares that thunder through the Inception trailer; on the other, composer and sound designer Mike Zarin’s account, relayed to Kevin Jagernauth, interestingly reveals how slippery assigning credit for anything can be in a system so collaborative as Hollywood.
“I’m sitting with Elie Wiesel, and the Chinese ambassadors walked out, and the Russian ambassadors walked out, because they don’t want to let an actor speak. And the Qatar ambassador starts off by going, ‘I have to post my protest that we would allow a very fine actor in here to speak.’ […] And believe me, I was very nervous doing this, but I just went, ‘You know, my translation cut out after I heard “very fine actor,” if you’d like to repeat it.’” Tom Junod’s profile of George Clooney is overwritten and weirdly backhanded, even snippy, in its praise; but like those early TV jobs and failed movies he managed to stride away from unharmed, Clooney rises above. And for those who love evocative lists, the contents of one of Clooney’s treasured artifacts, a wallet once owned by JFK, make a fascinating catalogue.
“With me, I think I’m just trying to increase the sum total of mystery in the world, trying to hit the viewer with some fact that conveys forcibly how little access we have to people’s inner lives. In my case the mystery is probably an end and not a means.” Interviewed by Christopher Small, Dan Sallitt proves as articulate and intellectually engaged as you’d expect from his movies and his writing, whether the topic is his relationship to the great directors or who’s the emotional core of Beavis and Butt-head. Via Movie City News.
“You can create a good movie with no money. The problem is the mentality of the filmmakers. The themes of Czech films are so stupid, so completely uninteresting. […] But let’s say the feeling of Forman or Chytilová, we had the feedback from society, we really wanted to be the best in Europe. Or for Forman, the best in the world! But I think nobody really has any interest in art.” Jan Nemec recalls the heady days of making movies under Communism, and contrasts the freer but also less committed film community today, in an interview with Steve Macfarlane. Via Criterion.
Going through the catalogue of “What Dreams Are Made Of: A Century of Movie Magic,” Kimberly Lindbergs highlights some of her favorite items to be auctioned off by Bonhams in a few weeks, including ragged shorts worn by Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk, Mildred Pierce’s apron, and the auction’s very own namesake, the Maltese Falcon itself. I can’t be the only one disappointed that the statue’s provenance as the one from the movie is airtight; the bird looks so much better under a haze of mystery and elusiveness./ (online catalogue for the auction)
Adrian Curry presents a gallery of the magnificently surreal posters of Eva Švankmajerová; not just the ones for her husband Jan Švankmajer’s films, but four others as well, no less captivating.
Actor Paul Mantee, best known as the shipwrecked astronaut in Robinsons Crusoe on Mars (1964), passed away at age 82. He appeared in over 100 movies and TV shows in his career, including the leading role in the 1968 spy film A Man Called Dagger (1968) and a supporting role in the TV series Cagney and Lacey as Detective Al Corassa. Mike Barnes at The Hollywood Reporter.
Iranian musicians Ali Eskandarian, Arash Farazmand, and Soroush Farazmand, members of the Iranian punk band The Yellow Dogs, were shot and killed by Ali Akbar Mohammadi Rafie, a fellow Iranian musician. The band was featured in No One Knows About Persian Cats, a documentary about the underground music scene in Iran, and had moved to New York City, where they were living at the time of the assault. More details at The New York Times.
Framing Pictures, a free discussion of the movies playing in and coming to Seattle, is back for another round at NWFF at 5pm on Friday, November 15. Topics this week include (but are not limited to) Blue is the Warmest Color, Nebraska, and The Counselor. The panel includes Parallax View regulars Robert Horton, Richard T. Jameson, and Kathleen Murphy. Details at the website.
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.