In the new Alphaville (spotted by Film Studies for Free), Gwenda Young recounts the making and reception of Intruder in the Dust, and Clarence Brown’s ambivalent racial attitudes (for all practical matters a Southerner, he’d been shocked into consciousness as a witness of the 1906 Atlanta race riots; yet maintained to the end of his days horror at the thought of miscegenation, and assured nervous audiences that those elements in the novel had been removed from the film), which may have led to the movie’s “dispassionate, somewhat detached style.” History weighs less bloodily elsewhere in the journal, with Pierluigi Ercole looking at the London reception to the Fascist propaganda film Camicia Nera, and Peter Krämer celebrating Jane Fonda’s combination of political commitment and showbiz savvy as the behind-the-scenes mover and shaker on The China Syndrome.
The new Senses of Cinema has also arrived, with (among much else) filmmaker John Dentino working out his own ethical obligations in crafting documentaries about people on the fringes; Stephen Barber on the social protests in late-60s Japan and how they (and the then-inescapable influence of Genet) influenced Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses and Oshima’s Diary of a Shinjuku Thief; and Albert Serra, interviewed by Daniel Fairfax, displaying such a surfeit of immodest inventiveness to suggest he’ll always be worth listening to, if not necessarily watching. (“My films will never be perfect because it’s not possible: the energy that allows me to make things that nobody else can make is precisely what prevents me from making a perfect film.”)
The Lincoln Center’s Cukor retrospective has Melissa Anderson agreeing that while the “women’s director” compliment was both backhanded and a veiled sneer at Cukor’s open secret, time and again the director performed miracles with his actors of either gender. While Richard Brody sees throughout the career a preoccupation with performance, and the terrible costs of secrecy.
“Now weren’t you afraid, little lambs? Down there in all that dark?” Even in a film embarrassingly stuffed with riches, Stanley Cortez’s photography makes an invaluable contribution to The Night of the Hunter. Fernado Croce praises his expressionistic vision.
Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan launches a new series, The Toughest Scene I Wrote, discussing precisely that with the writers of some of 2013’s notable screenplays. Intentionally or not, the first two installments demonstrate how differently the notion of a tough nut to crack can be between independent productions and franchise work, as Richard Linklater strives to make Before Midnight’s hotel argument fit with the characters’ established history and still bear witness to their romance (“People have called this the fight scene, but my constant direction to Ethan and Julie while we were making it was, ‘This is a love scene.’”), while Iron Man 3’s Drew Pearce frets whether the studio will let him get away with the Mandarin’s reveal.
Looking at three films from the year, Michael Koresky finds 1935, if not the best of times, did especially well in adapting Charles Dickens to the screen.
“What’d the doctor say?” “Well, she said that I should probably come five times a week.” The new issue of Interiors discusses and diagrams the split-screen therapists’ offices from Annie Hall.
Tony Rayns offers the fullest account yet (one he admits upfront can’t go into every detail now that the lawyers are involved) of Bong Joon-ho’s standoff with Harvey Weinstein over the proposed edits to Snowpiercer.
When The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen dueled for ticket sales supremacy, that was the first time two films with female protagonists have topped the American box office since 2009. Carrie Rickey looks back and reminds us it wasn’t always thus.
“FELON: We are what we are. (looking out the window, admiringly) Machete kills like someone in love. MACHETE: (yelling from outside) NOW you see me!” Eric D. Snider strings together two playlets—an atheist and Christian discussing global warming and a prison meeting between attorney and client—composed entirely of 2013 movie titles. Some parts flow surprisingly well, but the joke’s actually funnier when the results are a cracked near-gibberish.
No surprise that a director as musical and attuned to the shifting chords of relationships as Patrice Chéreau excelled at directing opera. Alex Ross speaks with the conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen about Chéreau’s legendary work in the medium.
“I don’t want to talk about “duty,” because what duty do I have? But I do feel some kind of urge to talk about this. And by this I mean the viruses of Communism and Nazism, the totalitarian viruses within the system of Europe and the world. Because I think they are still present. They are not out of the blood system.” Agnieszka Holland discusses politics, and her new HBO film Burning Bush, with Brooklyn Rail’s Joshua Sperling.
“You look at a country by how they treat the poor…. I didn’t say that I did it really well, but I was aware of them—they call it ‘homeless’ now, but these guys were drunk, crazy, crazy, drunk guys, and women too—I was with them, I know them. But now it’s almost like it’s blanked out completely from the minds of the young people in the country. It’s really scary.” As an American artist, not European, Martin Scorsese maybe doesn’t have the same sweep of history or license to define the big picture as Holland. But his interview with Kaleem Aftab shows his own strong political streak; one driven, no surprise, largely by Catholic guilt.
“I thought, really interesting, this is how detailed they are, that they would take a quote from Dr. Strangelove—you know, ‘Purity of Essence and Peace On Earth’—and put it backwards in a mirror in spraypaint on the back of a door in Arizona with these guys combing their hair. They just didn’t want to leave any space un-meaningful.” T-Bone Burnett talks with Michael Read about the scene in Raising Arizona that had him track down the Coen Brothers, and their musical collaborations since. If you’re unaware, discussing the music of Inside Llewyn Davis inevitably leads to a major spoiler.
When Shia LaBeouf lifted much of his short film Howard Cantour from Daniel Clowes’s 2006 comic Justin M. Damiano, it was an amusing example of celebrity entitlement; that LaBeouf followed up by plagiarizing his apology, and after that turned out to have swiped his own comics from Bukowski and even ripped off the text for the “About” page on his website, just for starters, scraped too close to pathological for easy chuckles. But I’m grateful nonetheless for the introduction to Clowes’s acidic but dead right in the details portrait of freelance film critics on the junket trail. You’ll probably want to zoom in to read.
Adrian Curry picks his favorite posters of the year; an eclectic, colorful batch headed by a striking silhouette in black and white.
Video: It’s Nice That shares a terrific 2008 commercial made by Channel 4 for their Kubrick series, in homage to The Shining—one take, naturally.
Two greats of the big screen died over the weekend within a day of one another.
Hollywood legend Joan Fontaine, who shot to stardom in Rebecca and won an Oscar for another Hitchcock film, Suspicion, passed away at the age of 96 in her home in Carmel, California. The web is filled with notices. I like these two: Dan Callahan offers a tour through her life and career at RogerEbert.com and Sheila O’Malley pays tribute at The Sheila Variations.
Peter O’Toole, who was nominated eight times for acting Oscars (the first time for his breakthrough role in Lawrence of Arabia) and turned down an honorary Oscar because he still hoped to win one the old-fashioned way, died at age of 81 after battling a long illness. David Thomson remembers his legacy for The Guardian.
Audrey Totter, famed for playing tough dames in the film noir era, passed away at the age of 95. After a supporting turn in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), she took leading roles in the first-person mystery The Lady in the Lake, The Unsuspected, The High Wall (all 1947), The Set-Up (1949), and the 3D noir Man in the Dark (1953) among other films. More from Ronald Bergan at The Guardian.
Tom Laughlin created the first counterculture action hero of the American cinema as well as one of the most successful independent films of all time with Billy Jack (1971), which he directed, wrote, and produced as well as starred in. More from Steve Chawkins as the Los Angeles Times and Aljean Harmetz at Indiewire.
TCM has produced their annual remembrance of those who passed in the last year. As usual, it is superior to the Academy Awards tribute.
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.