In response to an industrial bias that has grown from little-remarked upon oversight to universally decried embarrassment in a few short years, the New York Times’s movie section of late has a decidedly female slant, from A. O. Scott and Manohla Dargis’s roundup of the new roles (or at least more complex variations on the old ones) movies are offering women; to Brooks Barnes laying out the reason Hollywood has leapt on the female-centric bandwagon (which, yeah, is exactly the reason you think).
“The fact that [Victim] features a sympathetic homosexual protagonist—the first in British cinema—was no small matter, and the effect it would have had on a boy of 16 struggling with his own homosexual feelings is incalculable. At the same time, its depiction of the gay lifestyle as one of despair and social invisibility could have proven to further frighten him; in fact, it seems to have laid the emotional groundwork for his cinematic intimations of love as tragic and doomed.” In the latest excerpt from his book on Terence Davies, Michael Koresky contextualizes and defends the director’s controversial conflation of shame and sexuality. Via David Hudson.
In an excerpt from his forthcoming book on British silent cinema and the First World War, Lawrence Napper finds Walter Summers’s 1927 The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands both an heir to British Instructional Films’ then-current series of wartime recreations and a movement beyond, “a moment when BIF shifted the aesthetic of its battle reconstruction films towards fiction, possibly in response to the more general popularity of the first world war as a subject for film stories.”
A recent screening of Renoir’s little-seen Simenon adaptation Night at the Crossroads has inspired Richard Brody (“Here’s what Renoir displays in a brisk seventy-five minutes at that unappealing crossroads, home to a gas station, a few houses, and little else, amid the mud and the fog: xenophobia, anti-Semitism, craven penny-pinching, liberal alcohol-slogging, unremitting squalor, sneaky adultery, drug addiction, and a general closed-ranks conspiracy of cold and brazen crime.”) and R. Emmet Sweeney (“It’s a traditional whodunit, except all of the motivations are missing. Instead of attributing the crime to a single perpetrator, the whole town becomes culpable through their xenophobia and greed.”). Sweeney also does a good job dismissing the apocryphal explanation of the film’s fractured narrative to missing reels: “this expository lack fits the whole theme of the film.”
Like too many careers that began in the silent era, the early films of Joan Crawford are lost or difficult to come by. Dan Callahan sifts through her “phantom” career, including a turn as Norma Shearer’s body double in Lady of the Night, and pines for the roles unseen.
John Bailey is so impressed by “the way in which [Ménilmontant] defies but simultaneously embraces both avant-garde and commercial narratives” he offers nearly a scene-by-scene breakdown of Kirsanoff’s famed silent film.
“[T]he power of the ephemeral real can be driven by what we don’t know enough to know—even by what we don’t want to know. Some images of the real defer our recognition.” Drew Johnson considers one of the most disturbing intrusions of reality into fiction film, the notoriously hard-to-source execution footage that makes a grisly appearance in Antonioni’s The Passenger.
At This Long Century, Yto Barrada offers a brief account of her frustrated efforts to track down a bit of family lore: the Ahmed Rachedi film her mother claims to have played a small role in. A quest that may finally get a happy ending now that Barrada’s has founded the Tangier Cinematheque.
Art of the Title offers not just Saul Bass’s title sequence for Attack but his boldly graphic 10-page advertisement for the film from Hollywood Reporter. And an interview with Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s Erin Sarofsky on the film’s vivid title sequence reminds you Bass’s legacy only keeps growing.
“I remember being at rushes and not really getting what I was seeing. It all seemed so blank, the sets were sparse, and everything seemed to be white in the background. Everyone else watching was thrilled with the footage. I said: ‘It looks kinda blank to me,’ and someone replied: ‘That’s David’s style,’ to which I answered—like the bitch I can be sometimes—‘Style? It looks like a fuckin’ dentist’s office!’ Of course, I was later to grow to appreciate such backgrounds and even the occasional nurse’s uniform. That’s progress.” Cronenberg fans can argue about his best film or the general direction of his career but we’ve long been united on the worst lead performance in the oeuvre. Now Scanners’s Stephen Lack gets his own say, interviewed by Emma Myers, and turns out a smart, funny guy with a better-than-halfway-decent explanation for his affectless turn in the movie.
“Of course, Iranian people love cinema. At the beginning, poetry was the voice of Iranian culture; today, cinema has taken over. For my film, Hello Cinema (1994), I announced that I had some roles I wanted to give out to whoever was interested. To my surprise, thousands of people flocked to ask for these few roles. The audience is well aware of the strength of cinema. Banned films [in Iran] are circulated on the black market and millions of copies are sold. Three million copies of one of my banned films have been sold.” The great Mohsen Makhmalbaf talks with Mohammed Rouda about his latest, The Dictator, and the unique concerns—including assassination attempts—of being the head of an Iranian filmmaking family in exile. Via Movie City News.
A pair of video companies are offering packaging sure to delight horror fans both new school and old. For a Halloween-themed release of 13 titles from the MGM/Fox library, design company Skuzzles has come up with some elegantly creepy covers. (Via Keith Phipps.) If, despite the inarguable awesomeness of putative EC fan Ghoulish Gary Pulin’s design for Teen Wolf, the crisp lines and compositions of those turn you off, the vintage era covers for Gorgon Video might be more up your alley, each living up to company rep Nicole Mikuzis’s praise of Evils of the Night as “prime example[s] of going to the video store and realizing the cover doesn’t make sense at all.”
Time Lightbox offers a gallery of behind the scenes material from Gone With the Wind—make-up stills, concept art, but shockingly only two memos—culled from the collection of packrat supreme David O. Selznick, housed at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center.
Richard Kiel is most famous as the villain Jaws opposite Roger Moore’s James Bond in two films, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979), but his career spanned decades. His hulking 7′ 2″ frame made him a go-to guy for such roles as the intimidating alien in the memorable “To Serve Man” episode of the original The Twilight Zone or a comic creature in the episode “I Was a Teenage Monster” for The Monkees, among his many TV appearances. He had a regular role on the short-lived seventies TV series Barbary Coast, had small but memorable roles in The Longest Yard (1974), Silver Streak (1976), and most recently voiced a character in the animated Tangled (2010). He passed away at the age of 74. More from Ryan Gilbey at The Guardian, and an affectionate tribute to the unique evolution of his Bond baddie Jaws by Peter Bradshaw, also for The Guardian.
Denny Miller, a college athlete who made his film debut in an uncredited role in Vincent Minnelli’s Some Came Running (1958) (he joked “I was the only one who came running”), played Tarzan in the 1959 feature Tarzan, the Ape Man and played Duke Shannon on Wagon Train from 1961 to 1964. He spent most of his career doing guest spots on TV shows (including a Tarzan-like character on an episode of Gilligan’s Island) well into the 1990s, but he was notably memorable as “Wyoming Bill” Kelso in Blake Edwards’ The Party (1968). He died this week at the age of 80. Highlight Hollywood pays tribute.
Film historian and movie poster archivist Mark Fertig will be at the Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery on Saturday, September 13, from 6-9pm to discuss and sign copies of his new book, “The 101 Best Film Noir Posters from the 1940s-1950s.” A gallery of featured posters will be on display through November 10. More details here.
Robert Horton hosts another “Magic Lantern” event at the Frye Art Museum this weekend, discussing the films of Zacharias Kunuk, the Inuk director most famous for the 2001 film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. It’s on Sunday at 2pm and it is free. Details at the Frye website.
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.