“It is also a landmark in the ongoing soap opera in which a man uses film to show what he feels for a glorious woman: it is of the same family as D. W. Griffith and Lillian Gish, Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich, Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina, Michelangelo Antonioni and Monica Vitti, and so on.” Since it’s precisely in his wheelhouse of sexual obsession and the lust for control leading not to self-destruction so much as haunted, gimlet-eyed confessionals, it’s odd David Thomson’s taken so long to get around to celebrating both Criterion’s box set of Rossellini-Bergman features and the scandalous affair that was their genesis. But it’s here now, so enjoy.
From looking back at past glories to surveying the fallow present: If as has often been stated (most recently by Geoff Dyer) Thomson’s Biographical Dictionary of Film is in fact an ongoing, covert autobiography, excerpts from the new edition, covering Bryan Cranston, Tina Fey, and John Hamm among others, suggest the latest installment covers the years the Movie Man realized his lifelong passion had been surpassed by achievements on the television screen.
“Of course, one can take the traditionalist interpretation of Mizoguchi’s style too far. I once asked his favorite cameraman, Kazuo Miyagawa, whether his characteristic depth of focus—in Ugetsu, for example—had anything to do with Japanese art. He smiled. ‘Not at all,’ he said. ‘My main influence was the camera work of Gregg Toland in Citizen Kane.’” Ian Buruma peels some other easy labels off of Mizoguchi (“political,” “feminist”) to leave behind a unique master, and some of the most shattering achievements of the cinema.
“If The Devils is a major film, it is Redgrave who makes it so. No other actress of her time could have given such an extreme and dirty and comic performance while still remaining somehow immaculately pure and so sad at the core.” In an excerpt from his new book on Vanessa Redgrave, Dan Callahan explains her invaluable contribution to Russell’s best film, and the frustrations of her follow-up, Mary, Queen of Scots.
“I go my way, and ye shall seek me. Whither I go, ye cannot come.” For Jonathan Rosenbaum, Dreyer’s Ordet stands (with Tati’s PlayTime) as one of the “summits of mise en scène,” a paradoxical masterpiece whose meticulously worked-out camera work “gulls us into accepting one kind of miracle as a way of preparing us to accept another kind somewhat later.”
Kristin Thompson relates the highlights of Alexander Payne’s visit to Madison—both Film Festival and campus—and provides a brief demonstration of how well-designed and pictorial his films can be, however much the director’s visuals get written off as his secondary concern.
“…” Moustapha Akkad might be best known to American cinephiles as producer of the Halloween films, but Joumane Chahine argues for the rehabilitation of his two movies as director: The Message, which got around religious prohibitions against representing Mohammed by keeping its hero offscreen and silent; and Lion of the Desert, a portrait of Libya’s rebel hero Omar Mukhtar, and “a film of much acumen and depth.”
Also at Film Comment, the new generation of Hong Kong filmmakers is celebrated with an A to Z (well, Fruit Chan to Wilson Yip) of the industry’s leading directors—which includes some old familiars alongside the up-and-comers.
The Strange Woman might have been one of Edgar Ulmer’s rare forays into big-budget (any-budget, really) moviemaking, but that doesn’t mean he had an easy time of it, what with having to literally whip Hedy Lamarr into giving her fearsomely sensual performance, as R. Emmett Sweeney relates.
“He knew we were already believers; where once he was Hollywood’s enfant terrible, he has assumed, somewhat uneasily, the role of éminence grise. He didn’t have to talk seriously about his art. He just had to be kind of faintly… you know… Lynchian. He had to build his brand.” After attending David Lynch’s appearance at BAMcinématek, Dan Piepenbring still loves the movies (and the photos and the music and the coffee), but has had enough of the man’s wide-eyed gnomic utterances.
Anne Helen Petersen considers the celebrity profile, which for nearly a hundred years now has offered bland portraits of famous people who turn out to be just like us. A situation so favorable for stars and the money men behind them that when its shallow placidity was briefly disrupted by mid-century scandal sheets and the confrontational proponents of New Journalism, both were quickly brought to heel.
She’s blessed with a pair of the most watchful eyes in movies, so Lili Taylor as a birdwatcher? Makes perfect sense.
“Someone asked me about that at the press conference, and as is always the case, I thought of the correct answer two hours later: that movie’s already been made by Kazan, the exact movie.” Prime topics of conversation in Margaret Barton-Fumo’s interview with James Gray: Hitchcock, Ringo Starr, and an amusing bit where Gray credits Barton-Fumo for being the first person to ask a question just half-a-dozen sentences after the one quoted above.
Related: John Jurgensen has a brief but engagingly frank interview with Gray’s star Marion Cotillard. (“One day on set I felt something was wrong with James, and he said, ‘I won’t be able to make this scene in my mind a reality because I don’t have time to shoot it the right way.’ I didn’t like that. On the last movie I did, Macbeth, the first question I asked the director was, ‘How will you shoot a period movie, with battles, in eight weeks?’ This is insane. He had to cut scenes out.”)
“So the world laughed… but not a lot of American movie critics did! But I was Prince Barin, the sort of wooden… oh, I’m trying to think of a word. Pompous? Self-important? Arrogant? Narcissistic? [Laughs.] Really, it was a lovely role to play!” If you’d asked me ahead of time what interview I read this week would be the most charming, kind-words-for-everybody delight, no, I wouldn’t have guessed Timothy Dalton.
Rob Alderson culls some of his favorite images of theaters in the English movie chain Odeon Cinemas from the English Heritage Archive’s tumblr. More here starting on page 5, past the windmills, gravestones, and signal boxes.
Introducing Steven Jacobs and Lisa Colpaert’s marvelous sounding book The Dark Galleries, Ali Pechman presents a gallery of paintings that hung in the movies, from the dreamily realistic portrait of Jeannie Appleton to Mother Antony’s dementedly expressionistic image of her husband.
Tatiana Samoilova was celebrated as one of the greatest actresses in Soviet film history. She starred in Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying (1957) and Letter Never Sent (1959) and Aleksandr Zarkhi’s Anna Karenina (1967) but was forbidden from working in the west and was largely forgotten as roles became scarce in the 1980s. She fell ill on her 80th birthday and died the next morning. More from Sophia Kishkovsky at The New York Times.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. was a leading man on ABC TV for more than 15 straight years, first as private detective Stuart Bailey on six seasons of 77 Sunset Strip and then as Inspector Lewis Erskine on nine season of The F.B.I.. The father of Stephanie Zimbalist, he had a recurring role on her series Remington Steele, and to younger generations he’s a familiar voice actor on animated TV superhero shows, notably as Alfred Pennyworth on numerous incarnations of Batman. In the movies he made his debut in House of Strangers (1949) and co-starred in Home Before Dark (1958) with Jean Simmons and Wait Until Dark (1967) with Audrey Hepburn. He passed away at age 95. More from Mike Barnes and Duane Byrge at The Hollywood Reporter.
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.