David Cairns, co-director of a new film on Bernard Natan, relates the tragic story of the pioneering film producer who oversaw Pathé’s transition to the sound era and the development of what would become CinemaScope, among other accomplishments, but whose reputation since has been sullied by accusations of his creating and starring in pornographic films; near- (but not entirely) baseless claims whipped to a lethal fury in the ‘30s by France’s rising anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant forces. (Part 2 here.)
The 20 years since Derek Jarman died have seen enough change that we’re living in a different world. But, as Neil Bartlett relates in his memories of working with the filmmaker (and describing what sounds a lovely installation he’s overseen for King’s College London’s anniversary tribute to their celebrated alumnus), acknowledging it’s gotten better doesn’t mean the passionate, angry humanity of his films should be complacently written off as outdated.
The latest iteration of Eddie Muller’s traveling program Noir City is the first to prominently feature several films made outside of America. Which makes perfect sense, Imogen Sara Smith notes in her overview of the program, since “a lesson of film noir is that everyone, in some sense, is an exile and a fugitive.”
Peter Cowie recalls his encounters with Satyajit Ray, including part of a letter from the director and a wonderful photo of Ray, Kurosawa, and Antonioni touring the Taj Mahal.
“Wish I knew if he knew/what I’m dreamin’ of.” Also at Criterion: without denying the pain and despair it chronicles, Michael Koresky finds in Terence Davies’s The Long Day Closes “a cinematic lushness—of cinematography, set and sound design, music—that constitutes a sort of constant ecstasy.” In a related interview, Koresky, who has a book forthcoming on Davies, discusses with David Ehrlich the director’s autobiographical manipulations and regrettably troubled relationship with queer cinema at Film.com. (A site probably about to become much less interesting with Ehrlich’s ouster.)
The new Interiors interviews production designer Alex McDowell about maintaining the balance between reality and fantasy in his sets and locations for Fight Club, and the opportunity the film offered him to “explore banality and vacuity as a legitimate artistic exercise.”
“Neither highbrow nor lowbrow (nor middlebrow), neither pure journalists nor Algonquin intellectuals, they created a daredevil criticism that remains audacious and dazzling. We have here three guys who smuggled themselves into the literati without becoming pale versions of Edmund Wilson.” David Bordwell praises three film critics—James Agee, Manny Farber, and Parker Tyler—who thought about film profoundly and wrote about it with a satisfying, revelatory snap.
The time another great critic found himself “ashamed to belong to something idiotic” is related at Serge Daney in English, which has put up the relevant documents from the “Berri affair,” wherein the director sued and was awarded the right to reply to a negative review of Uranus. (Parts 2 and 3 here.) Via Adam Cook.
Continuing to make available fantastic resources for the historically-minded cinephile, the Media History Digital Library has just added scans of the complete run of Close Up, a short-lived (1927-33) but lively journal. Founded and co-edited by the Pool Group, the outlook is high modernist (Gertrude Stein is an early contributor; the collection of stills—a highlight of each issue—draws heavily on Russians and Man Ray) and political, the tone contrarian but playful. Passed along by Luke McKernan along with a fine example of Dorothy Richardson’s column for the magazine, where she learns acceptance for the boys who rowdily fill up the theater’s front row, “their time to reverse engines and go full steam backwards into savagery.”
Brian Koppelman, who once sat next to Quentin Tarantino on a flight and listened to him act out the opening scenes of his then-upcoming Kill Bill, has a better take on Tarantino’s reaction to the whole Hateful Eight fracas than most.
Most critics are content to prove their against-the-current bona fides singling out a movie for unique praise or condemnation. No such half-measure for Bilge Ebiri, who stands alone in the spotlight calling out for movie trailers to be longer.
“But if you have to defend something that you like, it makes you to like it even more. And what I like most is that all these interests were really mine. My parents hated the comic strips, they hated rock ‘n’ roll, and when they found out what movies I was going to they also were against that. So everything I loved I had to defend.” At The Talks, Wim Wenders discusses the lure of road movies and the strong, early influence of all things American.
“Because, when you’re Oscar nominated like I was for Children of Nature, all the agencies are after you. But I was not interested in working in a hamburger joint, making fast food. Because they are so good at it, also. I am not good at it. I know my skills.” On the other hand, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, who grew up with a NATO base as his only source for TV and radio, clearly takes real if humorously downplayed pride in his origins and identity as an Icelandic filmmaker, based on his interview with Michael Glover Smith. Via Movie City News.
“What we call the middle movement is mostly people, images of people, large groups of people and so forth. That music, if you listen to it, is the most abstract. Then we go to the swamp, and that music is the most romantic. That seems backward, doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t you put the romantic music with the people, and the abstract music with the swamp? But no.” Philip Glass talks to Sam Adams about working with Godfrey Reggio and Errol Morris—two friends whose intellect Glass clearly admires, though he seems uninterested in film per se given he forgets Orson Welles’s name.
“Toscanini once recorded a piece 65 times. You know what he said when he finished? ‘It could be better.’ Think about it.” Hard as it was for most to describe Tree of Life, imagine trying to distill the image into a movie poster. On their site, design firm Prologue offers 90 rejected images each striving to capture one fragment of the whole. (If you’re as poor at sussing out interfaces as I, I’ll save you a few minutes of frustration: navigate via the dots below the images, not the arrows at the side.) Via Cinephilia & Beyond.
Miklós Jancsó, the acclaimed Hungarian filmmaker who turned the long take into his defining aesthetic, passed away at the age of 92, reports Pablo Gorondo for the AP. He first won international acclaim for The Round-up (1965) and The Red and the White (1967) and won the Best Director prize at Cannes for Red Psalm (1971). They remain his most well-known films but his career spanned six decades, from his first short film made in 1950 to a segment he directed for the anthology film Hungary 2011 (2012). More from the AP report and a collection of essays on the director are collected by David Hudson at Keyframe.
British director Alan Bridges won the Grand Prix at Cannes for The Hireling (1973), sharing the top prize with Jerry Schatzberg’s Scarecrow, and made the acclaimed The Shooting Party (1985), which Peter Bradshaw argues was an important and unheralded influence on Robert Altman’s Gosford Park. He passed away at age 86. More from Bradshaw at The Guardian.
Italian director Carlo Mazzacurati made his first feature, the comic noir Notte Italiana, in 1987 and won the Silver Lion for Best Director at Venice in 1994 for The Bull. He died at the age of 57 after premiering his last film, La sedia della felicita (aka The Chair of Happiness), at the Turin Film Festival. More from Variety.
Pete Seeger’s legacy isn’t in the world of cinema per se but his music, his activism, and his cultural presence are integral to the fabric of American culture. Time Magazine film critic Richard Corliss remembers the man and the artist.
Martin Scorsese on Miklós Jancsó
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.