Posted in: by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Links

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of March 7

Jean-Luc Godard, Suzanne Schiffman, François Truffaut

“Taken together, the white-hot writings of the Cahiers critics were not so much a peak in the history of criticism as a blazing, spontaneously generated collective artistic mission statement, as stirring as the Surrealist Manifesto or Whitman’s Democratic Vistas.” Acknowledging the great advancements and insights auteurist theory made possible, Kent Jones does his typical magisterial job exploring the limitations brought along with it—separating films from their method of production, and the contemplation of the whole for the fetishizing of isolated bursts of poetry and personality—before making a blazing statement of his own: that the new challenge is the same one it’s always been, to see and describe what’s on screen with fresh, hungrily attentive eyes.

A sense of what such criticism might be like can be gleaned from one of Jones’s employers, Martin Scorsese, whose list of his 10 favorite Criterion titles is denser and less self-consciously eclectic (half the selections are Italian) than most of his predecessors, returning again and again to filmmakers engaging with the flux of history and the rhythm of life, and movies (as Scorsese describes The Leopard) where “time itself is the protagonist.”

Of course engage with history and there’s the danger it will change you forever; Mark Harris’s new book Five Came Back discusses five filmmakers (Ford, Huston, Stevens, Wyler, and Capra) who shot footage for military use in WWII and returned from their assignments, to various degrees, different men. NPR offers a brief excerpt detailing John Ford’s early recognition of what would be needed, signing up in the fall of 1941 to head the Naval Volunteer Photographic Unit, and thereby enjoying a luncheon at the home of Rear Admiral Andrew Pickens when he received the news of December 7th. Harris has been doing the rounds of interviews as well, discussing the project with NPR’s Terry Gross, The Siren, and Lou Lumenick, who focuses on how each of the filmmakers wound up using staged footage for their frontline documentaries.

The Siren also has a kind, empathic post this week on Kim Novak, tracing a possible lineage from her appearance at the Oscars back to the callous treatment she suffered under Harry Cohn. Glenn Kenny expands on The Siren’s thoughts, bringing in Hitchcock and Quine (there’s that auteurism again) and offering a victory to Novak “both glorious and tragic. That Harry Cohn’s best/worst efforts notwithstanding, Kim Novak became a great screen actress, and that at her greatest, the subject of her work was the difficulty of being “Kim Novak.””

Peter Cowie looks back at encounters that revealed Alain Resnais’s sublime “late-flowering whimsy” and evolution on dealing with color film but maintained one constant over four decades: the director’s never-realized intent to bring dime-novel detective Harry Dickson to the screen.

Call it the part mirroring the whole: as action films become ever more anonymous and blandly hypertrophic, Alex French reports, studios are seeking the same from the male leads, increasingly opting for attractive (and attractively low-cost) unknowns who commit to their brutal exercise regimens because they’re fully aware of how hard they have to work to stay just this side of disposable. “If you come in and you’re complaining about having to train or having to eat,” as one trainer puts it, “then nobody has to work with you anymore.”

With his off-kilter humor and dead-center framing, Wes Anderson has always been a perfect match for advertisers. Noel Murray looks back at some of Anderson’s best commercials, and finds the director’s personality (in its sunniest mode, at least) as personal as it’s ever been.

‘Barry Lyndon’

“Come along and sing a song and join the jamboree.” To Be (Cont’d)’s conversation on Stanley Kubrick’s use of music concludes with Matthew Zurcher arguing the anachronistic Romantic music in Barry Lyndon acts as fatalistic trap for the characters, while Glenn Kenny charts the seesawing between pessimism and hope in singalongs from Paths of Glory and Full Metal Jacket.

“I always say to my husband: I make unpopular versions of popular things. I make a horror film and it’s not a horror film. None of my genre movies function as genre movies. When people see the conventions, they think they’re going to get the straightforward genre—I don’t give them that and they get mad. People see that and they think I don’t understand the conventions because I’m not a good filmmaker.” Mary Harron discusses fame, feminism, and the pros and cons of directing for television with The Believer’s Anisse Gross. Via David Hudson.

“I liked having it in my head. Finding the logic, the images. It’s like learning an alphabet, then a language, then writing in it, then trying to write poetry in it…. This is why I don’t like interviews. I sound batty.” Jonathan Glazer explains why it took ten years for him to adapt Under the Skin—and why the movie changed again as he was filming—interviewed by Danny Leigh.

“I do believe that in the course of the movie the dam becomes a symbol of people in power who built it, support it and defend it…. A symbol in form of a big, brick wall, which is also like a prison. I think the physicality of the space does a lot of ‘symbolic’ work, and that’s why finding the right space is so crucial. It can tell a story for you.” Kelly Reichardt talks with Blazej Hrapkowicz about her latest, eco-terrorism themed film Night Moves.

Since London fashion house Kenzo claimed their latest line was inspired by David Lynch, why not have him design the runway set, malformed enormous head and all?

From sounds back to images: Everday_i_show presents a gallery of Kubrick’s photography, featuring shoeshine boys, boxers, and behind the scenes at the circus. While Mike Lynch shares some of his favorites from the day young Stanley spent photographing cartoonist Peter Arno. Another Hudson find.

Video:  The latest director of a Simpsons couch gag, premiering this Sunday, is Triplets of Belleville’s Sylvain Chomet.

Alain Resnais


Alain Resnais, the odd man out of the French New Wave who brought the Left Bank tradition of high culture and modernism to the big screen, passed away this week at the age of 91. He had actually been making short films since the mid-1940s and had been acclaimed for his 1955 Night and Fog before making his feature debut in 1959 with Hiroshima Mon Amour. His latest film, Life of Riley, debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in February. His films explored time and memory and perspective and brought cinematic interpretations of literary and theatrical traditions, but he also brought a warmth and freshness to his modernistic style as time went on. Dave Kehr pens the obituary for The New York Times. Catherine Grant is collecting essays and articles in tribute at Film Studies for Free.

American screenwriter, producer, and TV pioneer Stanley Rubin died this week at the age of 96. He won an Emmy Award the first year they were handed out for an episode of his series Your Show Time, wrote 19 movies (including Macao, directed by Josef von Sternberg and finished by Nicholas Ray), produced dozens of films and TV shows (among them The Narrow Margin, 1952, The River of No Return, 1954, and The President’s Analyst), and returned to UCLA in 2005 to complete the degree he started in 1933. More from Bob Pool at Los Angeles Times.

Seattle Screens

Tickets are now on sale for the Seattle Art Museum’s Spring film series “As You Like It: The Decades of Classic British Films.” It opens on Thursday, March 27 with Storm in a Teacup (1937) starring Rex Harrison and Vivien Leigh and continues for eight subsequent Thursdays. Details at SAM, tickets available from Seattle Art Museum and Scarecrow Video.

Thelma Schoonmaker

Also coming to SAM is Thelma Schoonmaker, Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning film editor, to present two films directed by her late husband, Michael Powell. On Thursday, March 20 is A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven) and on Friday, March 21 is Gone to Earth. More details on showtimes and tickets at SAM.

Ms. Schoonmaker will also appear at Scarecrow Video to sign copies of her films and chat with customers on Friday, March 21 at 2pm.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

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.