“The positions they later held as movie moguls were staked out, in rough form, at the opening of their very first theater, the Cascade. Harry ran the operation, doing all the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing; Abe kept the books; Sam ran the projector; and Jack sang in the aisles between screenings.” Graham Daseler presents the story of the brothers Warner, who worked together in marvelous (if hard-nosed) concert till Sam literally worked himself to death on The Jazz Singer and the remaining siblings tore it all apart in greed and vanity. Among much else in the new Bright Lights Film Journal, Paroma Chatterjee is absolutely terrific on the two bookstores in The Big Sleep, finding more tantalizing mystery in Dorothy Malone’s Acme than across the street at Sonia Darrin’s A. G. Geiger’s; and Danny King traces the inspirations for much of Eastwood’s subsequent career as star and director in Siegel’s The Beguiled.
“But the truth is, cinema is a foreign language, a language created for those who need to travel to the other side of life.” Spinning off from Leos Carax’s piquant acceptance speech from the 2013 Los Angeles Film Critics awards, quoted above, Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López find in his cinema cruel paradoxes of flatness and depth, transparency and blindness, and, in Holy Motors, a hero for once that finds himself the driving center of events, only to discover “a sheer, unending Hell.”
David Bordwell’s affection for film critic Otis Ferguson isn’t limited to the polished, unpretentious snap of his sentences that placed him in “the same vein of journalistic demotic [with Agee and Farber] that made the 1940s the first, perhaps the only, great age of American movie criticism.” He admires the man for sharing Bordwell’s own desire to know how the sausage got made, and to demonstrate expands upon a set visit Ferguson made to Wyler’s Little Foxes, revealing the artistic and practical considerations that can make even the simplest scene a multi-layered marvel.
Kurt Andersen spends the day driving around the Nebraska plains with Alexander Payne, a pleasant road trip through the middle of not much that I suspect wouldn’t be taken if their life depended upon it by most of those who condemn the director for his supposed condescension.
“Woodard’s large eyes are so intensely direct when she focuses her attention on something or someone that they might be intimidating if the base of her talent wasn’t so unabashedly warm and tender.” Dan Callahan praises the slyly sideways, often weirder than she’s given a chance to be energy of one of our best actresses, Alfre Woodard.
Nick Roddick’s grand discovery at Mexico’s Morelia Film Festival was the magnetic screen presence of Arturo de Cordóva, remembered by cinephiles for Buñuel’s El but a certified star in his own time, as a retrospective (that leaned heavily upon prints loaned by Quentin Tarantino) handily proved.
“Oh glamour girl, at last there’s some excitement for you. A guy got bumped off right near here.” Wheeler Winston Dixon is underestimating Ophüls’s two noirs, Caught and The Reckless Moment, when he finds their style “at odds with the material,” but he’s right about how the director’s romanticism and discomfort make them something dreamily unique in the genre. Also at Film International, Agnès Varda talks briefly with Gary M. Kramer about the films she selected as the guest director at the AFI Fest, including Pickpocket, After Hours, and Cleo from 5 to 7. Via Criterion.
“He is a humanist but like Mizoguchi, through despair.” Serge Daney in English presents a dense, exemplary 1990 article by the critic on 7 Women, Ford’s use of tragedy and theater, and the eternal gulf between Hawks’s splendid isolationists and Ford’s loners caught up by community.
If you’re wary of the conventional wisdom that film students have universally awful taste in movies, some quantified pushback is offered by Michael Smith, who’s aggregated the grades his students have given the 170 movies he’s shown over the past 4-and-a-half years. Contrary to the dismal impression, Keaton and Welles are regarded highly, the top ten is owned by Hitchcock … Beau Travail a 5.4? Kids today, I swear. Via David Hudson.
“Well, the first drawing I made was the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I drew him, for some reason, eating ice cream. I have no good answer, but they were two things that I thought were very important in my life—the ice cream and the Creature. And it hasn’t changed to this day. Those are still two very important things in my life.” Guillermo del Toro describes some of his first experiences—art and movie related all, raise your mind out of the gutter—with the A.V. Club’s Todd VanDerWerff.
“I won’t think about censorship because I think the worst situation is when the director self censors …. So, every time I shoot a film, I am prepared for it to be my last. If I shoot a film to suit other people’s needs, it’s meaningless for me.” If reports are true that China has ordered a press blackout on Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin, you might think the interview to read with him is the South China Morning Press’s, quoted but uncharitably not linked in the Variety article, which touches on state censorship. But he’s no less radical discussing the film’s classical influences with The Brooklyn Rail’s Zhou Xin: “I’ll say that A Touch of Sin is a film about anti-violence, a reflection of violence, a film that hopes violence will not transpire. But I’ll still encourage a kind of rebellious character.”
“I remember very well my first contact with Rainer. He called two weeks ago before the shoot, and told me: ‘I have a script, based on a real incident, I have 150,000 Deutschmarks, and I want to shoot this film now. We can afford thirteen shooting days and we will have to accept many technical shortcomings. There is no way to get more money, the film must be shot now; otherwise it will never be shot. Do you want to join us under these circumstances?’” Cinematographer Jürgen Jürges talks with Fandor’s Anthony Kaufman about working with Fassbinder, Haneke, and his latest challenge: digital.
In the first of what’s to be a series, John Bailey curates a presentation of still photographs by ASC members, including subway studies from Alex Cox collaborator Steven Fierberg and a striking Ukrainian bride captured by Titanic’s Russell Carpenter.
Lawrence Schiller’s photographs, at everyday_i_show, strike a captivating balance between journalistic spontaneity and glamour shots, whether it’s Bette Davis taking a drag, Clint Eastwood slumped in a chair, or Marilyn Monroe voluptuously nude at poolside.
Video: “Did you get your precious photos?” If you can judge a film by the laborious devotion it inspires in its fans, Blade Runner just got even better now that Anders Ramsell has hand-painted 12,597 (precision matters in such things) watercolors to form a 30-minute “paraphrase” of the movie. Via Matt Singer.
American actor Mickey Knox was one of the usual suspects in a number of Hollywood noirs of the late forties and early fifties before he blacklisted and moved to Italy where, along with the occasional role, he became a dialogue coach and wrote the translations for the English language versions of (among others) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). He returned to acting in the seventies, moving between American and European productions through the nineties, from Bobby Deerfield (1977) to The Godfather Part III (1990) to the unaccountably cheery police detective in Dellamorte Dellamore (aka Cemetery Man) (1994). He passed away at the age of 88. Via Boot Hill.
Al Ruscio, a longtime character actor in movies and TV, died last week at the age of 88. He appeared in over 100 movies and TV shows, including Al Capone (1959), The Godfather Part III (1990) and Showgirls (1995) and the TV show Life Goes On, as well as numerous stage productions, and he taught acting at a handful of colleges in the U.S. and Canada. More from Mike Barnes at The Hollywood Reporter.
Canadian documentary filmmaker Peter Wintonick is best known for the 1992 Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, but it is just one of many politically and socially oriented productions he was involved in over his 35 year career. He passed away at the age of 60 from Cholangio Carcinoma, a rare form of liver cancer. Via David Hudson at Fandor.
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.