Antonioni and P. T. Anderson are the chief subjects of the new Senses of Cinema. No need here to choose age before beauty: Hamish Ford argues the early-60s quartet blend modernism and realism in a way that makes writing their subject off as “ambiguity” far too simplistic a reading (“Once more, any distinction between modernist tendency to abstraction and realist interest in a particular environment and temporal moment emerge as entirely artificial, their fusion now absolutely seamless.”) Similarly, Dan Edwards finds Chung Kuo, Cina more subversive a portrait than has generally been acknowledged by everyone but the regime that denounced it; and Antony Sellers traces the long history of one of Antonioni’s most tantalizing unrealized projects, The Crew. Moving on, Daniel Fairfax thinks Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in The Master isn’t so much brutish as literally canine (“under the firm command of his master, he alternatingly plays the role of faithful companion, submissive pet and vicious attack dog”); while the journal’s Cinémathèque Annotations section runs through about a half-dozen apiece of the two directors’ films. Much, much more besides, including the rectification of an oversight so surprising I wouldn’t have thought it to be true as Jeremy Carr does the honors placing Roman Polanski in Senses’s Great Directors pantheon.
Also out with a new issue, desistfilm, whose articles, one contributor notes, tend more to sketches than fully argued theses. Brief, maybe unformed, but intriguing, in other words; such as Jaime Grijalba suggesting Scottie has doubles of his own in Vertigo; Claudia Siefen on how Psycho has characters mirror the audience’s gaze right back at us; Victor Bruno on the symmetrical representations of order, deception, and truth in a pair of De Palmas; and Adrian Martin unearthing some secret history (“the only kind of history worth a damn”) by going to bat for Isidore Isou’s mostly forgotten 1951 manifesto, “Aesthetic of Cinema.”
“The upshot is that an arsenal of top-notch talent was poured into this picture, creating the kind of anomaly that knocks the auteur theory a bit sideways: the lowly B movie that unexpectedly lifts and soars like a kite in high wind.” Though you might expect him to be naturally biased towards auteurism, Michael Almereyda praises Ride the Pink Horse less as a triumph for Robert Montgomery—while deservedly applauding his accomplishments as director and actor—than as the marvelous result of a rare gathering of collaborators.
Fleshing out the snarky comment every wiseass made (Your Humble Collator included), Kristin Thompson shows that, while deserving praise for some other narrative gambits, Boyhood’s following a child as he ages had precedents; most notably the Harry Potter series, which Thompson finds phenomenally successful (and lucky) in discovering adolescents who grew into the adults the books demanded.
“The faith-film category has come to mean agenda-driven, fear-driven, low-quality, low-budget, on-the-nose, teaching, industrial films that willingly overlook excellence and story because they know they can…. They have trained an audience to expect trite, theologically thin, bumper-sticker movies, designed for church outings.” Alissa Wilkinson looks at how, with faith-based films having proven their financial viability, the reformation is on, courtesy of independent filmmakers (including producer Erik Lokkesmoe, quoted above) creating Christian stories that aim to challenge their audience’s faith rather than just flatter it with the sound of trumpets in the synagogues and streets. Via Rachel Handler.
Jared Cowan gets a glimpse of the holdings at the NBCUniversal Archives & Collections warehouse, where everything from Apollo 13 spacesuits to Psycho’s stuffed birds sit patiently, waiting to be loaned out for exhibits. Via Movie City News.
“After a while you learn different techniques of making yourself relax and a lot of people have different techniques. Sometimes people will sit and concentrate in the corner. I used to go talk to the camera. I’d sit… I’d go up and stand in front of the camera and I’d call it all kinds of names and say…. I just kind of go up when nobody else was looking I’d go up, ah you dirty son of a bitch.” Clint Eastwood went over his career, from the shrugged-off hard times preceding Revenge of the Creature to the ambiguities (no, he’s right) of American Sniper, in a talk to students at Loyola Marymount, fully transcribed by the interviewer, Stephen Galloway.
“And I thought about life. That’s how it is. You receive an email and the people you love—your brother, your sister, your lover, your wife—they’re just not here anymore. I didn’t want to write anything about it but then I started thinking about [murdered film critic Nika Bohnic’s] father, going to the Philippines to collect her body. I think that’s the whole plot of the movie, even if I’ve sort of been talking about this sort of plot since I started making movies.” Lisandro Alonso explains to Adam Nayman the ways (personally as well as professionally) Jauja marks a break from his previous films. Via David Hudson.
“To me, Robby Müller is a genius of geniuses. And he really works with actors. It’s not just him whispering in a corner with Jim Jarmusch. They are both very inclusive of the actors, and it’s almost like you’re just all part of the same orchestra playing the same symphony together.” Interviewed by Sam Fragoso, Ellen Barkin delivers the smart, appreciative anecdotes you’d expect from an actor who’s been a favorite for such a diverse list of directors; though apparently not Harold Becker.
“Liking—or not liking—his directors is one of Stamp’s big themes: joining Schlesinger on the naughty step are Ken Loach (“too political”), Joseph Losey (“no sense of humour”) and Pasolini (“didn’t talk to me”). On the plus side, though, are Fellini (“changed my life”), William Wyler (“really bonded with him”) and Burton (“a wonderful movie-maker”). Fraught though his on-set relationships may have been, Stamp says he never let it get to him. ‘I don’t have to get on with a director. What I’m concerned with is what goes into the camera.’” Characteristically forthright talk from Terence Stamp, interviewed by Andrew Pulver.
Isabel Stevens presents a gallery of posters for the films of V?ra Chytilová that show Czech designers could be as beautifully offbeat as their Polish counterparts, and a marvelous fit for the surrealist director.
Godard’s public appearances have been drastically reduced these last few years, the director citing health reasons. Unfortunate circumstances, with at least the happy byproduct that he’s continued to send out short films in his absence. The latest, in response to an award from the Swiss government, at MUBI, along with a translation of the text by Craig Keller.
Ib Melchior wrote and directed The Angry Red Planet (1959) and The Time Travelers (1964), the screenplays of Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and Planet of the Vampires (1965), and the original story of Death Race 2000 (1975). He was born and raised in Denmark, toured Europe as an actor, landed in the U.S. before they entered the war, and ended up working with the O.S.S. in the European theater. He worked in television before moving to low-budget genre films. He passed away on March 13 at the age of 97. Tim Lucas remembers his legacy for his Video WatchBlog.
Italian filmmaker Luciano Ercoli directed the cult giallos Death Stalks on High Heels (1971) and Death Walks at Midnight (1972) but was more prolific as a producer in Italy and France of spy films (O.S.S. 117: Mission for a Killer, 1965), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 1966), spaghetti westerns (A Pistol for Ringo, 1965, The Return of Ringo, 1966), and other genre pictures. He died earlier this week at the age of 85. Reported by the British genre magazine Starburst.
Lou Silverstone never wrote a screenplay but as a writer for “MAD Magazine” he rewrote scores of them over the course of thirty years. He also wrote for “MAD” competitor “Cracked” and wrote scripts for TV and comic books, but his movie and TV satires for “MAD” arguably left a cultural imprint on impressionable minds beyond measure. He passed away earlier this month but the news came my way this week via comic book historian and writer Mark Evanier. You can see a list of his “MAD” contributions here.
“Just Like Life: The Films of Hou-Hsiao Hsien,” a series of five films by the Taiwanese filmmaker, will screen on 35mm at both Northwest Film Forum and Grand Illusion over the course of eight days. It opens on Friday, March 20, with A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1985) at Grand Illusion, followed by Dust in the Wind (1986) at NWFF on Saturday, March 21. Each film in the series (which includes Good Men, Good Women, 1995, Flowers of Shanghai, 1998, and Millenium Mambo, 2001) plays twice, once in each location. The complete schedule is at Northwest Film Forum website.
“Noir de France: Classic French Film Noir” begins on Thursday, March 26 at Seattle Art Museum and continues through May. It opens with Jacques Becker’s Casque D’or (1952), starring Simone Signoret, and features two additional Becker films (Touchez Pas au Grisbi, 1953, and One Deadly Summer, 1983) and four Jean-Pierre Melville films (Bob le Flambeur, 1955, Le Doulos, 1962, Army of Shadows, 1969, and Le Cercle Rouge, 1970) in the nine-film series. All screenings feature 35mm prints and play at 7:30pm on Thursdays at Seattle Art Museum. Series tickets available and single tickets usually be purchased day of show on a first-come, first-served basis. More details here.
The Seattle Art Museum is raising funds to add a digital projector to the theater. It’s an addition, not a replacement for the 35mm, and it’s a necessary purchase as the studios shift from film prints to digital prints for theatrical showings. But SAM film programmer and series curator Greg Olson can explain it much better. Here’s the trailer for their Kickstarter campaign and the link to contribute.
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.