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

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of October 10

Anna May Wong and Marlene Dietrich

“Wong’s acting was subtle and unmannered; her eyebrow game was on point. She had a piercing stare that made you feel as if she saw the very best and very worst things about you, and her signature blunt-cut bangs made her face seem at once exquisitely, perfectly symmetrical. Given the quilt work of exotic roles she’d played on the silent screen, audiences expected her to speak with a broken, accented, or otherwise un-American English. But her tone was refined, cool, cultured, like a slap in the face to anyone who’d assumed otherwise.” The latest excerpt from Anne Helen Petersen’s Scandals from Classic Hollywood salutes Anna May Wong and condemns the Orientalist prejudices of filmmakers and fans that had her running to Europe once she realized better parts weren’t on offer. Via John Wyver.

The new issue of Senses of Cinema is dominated by an exhaustive dossier on John Flaus. If you’re asking who, you’re apparently not from Australia, where his contributions as “scholar, teacher, poet, cinephile, actor, broadcaster, tireless board member, mentor, script advisor, milkman, receptionist and later script assessor for Patricia Edgar at the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, much in-demand voiceover artist, archivist collector, writer and, always, anarchist” (as Adrian Danks catalogues it) are legion and legendary. Danks, the aforementioned Edgar, Filmnews editor Tina Kaufman, and Bryan Brown, among others, offer the heartfelt tributes and biographical details; and a generous selection of Flaus’s criticism—including pieces on the “visceral rather than cerebral” style of Siegel, the “cognitive dissonance” of Sirk, Lang’s “exceptionally disciplined” mise-en-scène, and the mix of myth and realism (“they have had to travel through the cycle of myth and romance in order to regain the normal plane of action”) in the Boetticher-Scott collaborations—displays an informed, prickly, original voice it’s well worth discovering.

“The light is what brought people here: the good weather and the light. But the light is magical, because for me, it is like a happiness—a light that gives you energy and an indication that anything is possible. It’s, I think, critical for me to feel that light.” While the big news this week is that David Lynch will be returning to Twin Peaks, Michael Nordine praises how well Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire captured the qualities, including the light Lynch praises above, of the world-away-in-every-sense-of-the-word Los Angeles.

“Whenever they’re up to something fiendish, they have their little exchange: Does it matter? It doesn’t matter! Precisely: whatever they do, it doesn’t matter. The fun derived from breaking the rules, from constant line-crossing, lasts perhaps two minutes, only to make room for the usual dullness and boredom (even hopelessness) once again.” In the new Five Dials, Agata Pyzik explores the futile “formless” rebellion in Vera Chytilová’s Daisies and places the film within a history of surrealism’s vulgar treatment of food. Buñuel and Švankmajer, sure, but also such feminist examples as Polish conceptual artist Natalia LL and the Croatian photographer Sanja Ivekovi?. (Click through for .pdf, scroll down to page 25—or start at page four for a colloquy on Marguerite Duras, even if it barely glances at her films.) Via David Hudson.

Updating an article he originally wrote in 1999, Raphael Rubinstein tells a fascinating story about the critic/filmmaker/arguably con artist/possibly gun runner Yves (ne Edouard) de Laurot (ne Lada Lauda?ski), who first fell into Rubinstein’s orbit in 1974 San Francisco, and then reappeared—or maybe not?—as a downstairs neighbor in 1980s New York, confined to a wheelchair and in the company of Ms. 45 star and future Bad Lieutenant screenwriter Zoë Lund. Via Mubi.

In an excerpt from his autobiography, Freddie Francis describes with a technician’s proud but muted glee the pragmatic methods—hand-painted filters that darkened most of the screen; candles with doubled wicks to allow for more light—behind The Innocents’s otherworldly visuals.

Deborah Kerr in ‘The Innocents’

“I would fail if I had to work with stars. And I also can’t afford to work that way. I can’t afford to have special circumstances for rarified individuals. So, I work with actors who have given me a sign that they’re willing to work in these more humble circumstances, in real-life locations. Probably the chemistry is a little bit self-selecting.” Though Debra Granik’s new film Stray Dog is a documentary, the bulk of her talk with Bilge Ebiri is an interesting look at directing actors, including Granik’s own, more empathic spin on the use of Bressonian “Models.”

“Humility is the worst place to come from when you want to remotely succeed in anything. It’s the place you want to go to once you’ve succeeded in something. Then humility is by all means the attitude or behaviour to adopt. But I have dreams, I have ambitions.” As Xavier Dolan talks to Peter Howell about his work ethic, going to Hollywood for his next feature, or his (headline-grabbing, but somewhat justified in context) indifference to Godard, with whom he shared Cannes’s Jury Prize, he needn’t worry about being tagged as humble.

“It’s the same approach you use when you make a movie or a TV show: you’re pleasing yourself first and you’re hoping that other people like what you like.” Steven Soderbergh has proven he can talk at great length and interest on nearly any aspect of filmmaking, from aesthetic decisions to the business nitty-gritty. The same facility’s on display discussing his liquor brand Singani with K&L Wine Merchant’s David Driscoll. (In an amusing example of common terms in one industry being foreign to another, Driscoll mis-transcribes one of Soderbergh’s references as “forewalling.”) Via Movie City News.

“I was such an ‘artiste’ and had to hold out for opportunities. I remember passing on Cold Case, and I remember passing on Quantico, which became Criminal Minds. I should be having this conversation from the back of a 400-foot yacht.” Talking with Matt Patches about his unrealized projects—including Ellroy’s White Jazz and an installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise—Joe Carnahan comes off exactly like you’d expect a guy who promotes his new film with behind-the-scenes footage of a sex scene would: too flinty and idiosyncratic to fit perfectly in the Hollywood mold, ok, but a long way from the paradigm-shattering misfit he seems to think he is.

Martín Rejtman, Argentine filmmaker and apparent yoga enthusiast, “some time ago” filmed a promotional short for a film festival containing shots of his countrymen and fellow filmmakers in a head-standing Sirsasana pose. Which makes for a charmingly inverted gallery, though without identifying text the best I can do is spot Lisandro Alonso in a gray shirt about halfway down.

Adrian Curry rounds up a collection of posters for Joseph Mankiewicz’s films, making the argument he was treated to better graphic design overseas than at home. Perhaps, but the multiple variations on Ava Gardner’s rapturous surrender to a lover’s embrace in The Barefoot Contessa shows people all over know a good thing when they see it.

Geoffrey Holder


Geoffrey Holder—the Trinidad-born dancer, choreographer, actor, composer, designer and painter—is best known to American audiences for bringing Caribbean flair and his own outsized presence to Live and Let Die (1973) and for a series of energetic TV commercials for 7Up. He also co-starred in the original Doctor Dolittle (1967) and the 1982 Annie. He was more prolific on stage, both as performer and as director, and won a pair of Tony Awards in 1975 for directing and designing the costumes for the musical The Wiz. He passed away at the age of 84. More from The New York Times.

Actress Jan Hooks, best known for her five year on Saturday Night Live (where she performed alongside Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Nora Dunn and later Mike Myers), played the tour guide at the Alamo in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) among her big screen appearances. She died this week at 57 of an undisclosed illness. Peter Keepnews at The New York Times.

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.