“‘We’re going to shoot it without a script,’ he said, his face lighting up with excitement. ‘I know the whole story…. But what I’m going to do is get the actors in every situation, tell them what has happened up to this moment … and I believe they will find what is true and inevitable.’ ‘Have you done that kind of thing before with other films?’ one man asked. ‘Nobody’s ever done it,’ Welles replied.” Josh Karp pieces together excerpts from his forthcoming book on the making of The Other Side of the Wind to give a snapshot of three years from one of cinema’s most protracted film shoots—and frustrating behind-the-scenes dramas.
An oft-used comparison that deserves trotting out once more: Welles’s searching, improvisatory method bears comparison to Chaplin’s, minus the guaranteed financial rewards that allowed the office men to excuse the indulgence. With the Tramp just turned 100, Dan Callahan does typically lovely justice to Chaplin’s evolving understanding of the comic miracle he’d created. (“There are mistakes in the Keystone films, like when Chaplin kicks a harmless old guy for no reason in The Property Man or kicks a little boy in The Fatal Mallet, but these misjudgments were swiftly rectified. Chaplin understood as he went along that there needed to be a reason to kick someone….”)
The Guardian offers unintentional counterpoint with a pair of articles about film movements aimed at black audiences created under very different circumstances. Ashley Clark talks to Julie Dash about the LA Rebellion, that remarkable explosion of independent voices in the 1970s and 80s that included her and Charles Burnett. (“We weren’t making films to be paid, or to satisfy someone else’s needs. We were making films because they were an expression of ourselves: what we were challenged by, what we wanted to change or redefine, or just dive into and explore.”) Near simultaneously in South Africa, Tonie van der Merwe, the owner of a construction firm, was exploiting government subsidies to finance a series of violent crowd-pleasers that sound as charmingly raffish but glibly apolitical as their maker, as Gavin Haynes recounts.
“Odd Man Out, Carol Reed’s first masterpiece, introduced the theme that would shape all of his best films: a stranger’s groping quest through the labyrinth of a great city… lost in a deceptive, tilting world. In Odd Man Out (1947), the dying Irish rebel is not in a foreign land, he is an outsider in his own hometown. He wanders among housewives and bartenders, soldiers and urchins, priests and drunken painters, but his progress through a single winter night has mythic resonance—an odyssey through the borderland between life and death.” Imogen Sara Smith does the honors for Criterion introducing Odd Man Out.
David Cairns’s account of John Brahm’s London-set, German-inflected remake of Broken Blossoms is bookended with the delightful tale of the two screenwriters—Rodney Ackland and Emlyn Williams—who were vying for both the writing job and the lead role. (“Clearly, nobody expected an actual Chinese actor to take the part….”)
“Do you believe that stuff the old man was saying the other night at the Oso Negro about gold changin’ a man’s soul so’s he ain’t the same sort of man as he was before findin’ it?” Tasha Robinson celebrates The Treasure of the Sierra Madre for Huston’s subversive tweaking of conventional expectations of both genre and masculinity.
“But… flight 808, the watchful cops, that woman and her wittle poodle who hasn’t seen daddy in such a wong, wong time. Checking in the luggage. Oh God, checking in the luggage and trusting it to baggage handlers and the driver and that obnoxious yapping poodle as nightmarish as the parrot squawking next to Elijah Cook, Jr.’s dead, bloodied face. When the cheap suitcase falls off the luggage truck on the tarmac, Hayden watches, money swirling like some sick green smoke. It’s almost beautiful.” Kim Morgan’s as fun a tour guide as you’d expect, walking us through The Killing from the opening narration “so dead serious it’s actually a bit perverse” to all the fatalist traps snapping shut (and that suitcase popping open) by the end.
“You could call what we witness in Edvard Munch a record—or a product—of a different sort of seduction from the kind to which Munch claimed to have fallen victim with Mille Thaulow. The movie is visibly intoxicated by the persona Munch gave himself, often to the exclusion of recognizing that persona as the construction of, in Munch’s words, ‘the distraught [painter’s] friend the poet.’” Max Nelson charts the limits of Peter Watkins’s identification with his subject in Edvard Munch even while acknowledging the director brings the past to life in a way most biopics can’t begin to approach.
Brian Keith might have ended his career with a string of lovably gruff television roles, but Jim Knipfel would rather remember “that brief stretch between 1954 and 1961 [when] his true greatness became apparent, his subtlety and range, as he played equal number complex heroes and villains, lawyers and thugs and nutjobs, fishermen and cowboys and cops.”
Falling on the heels of a recent article on casting director Allison Jones, we now have a subgenre emerging of profiles of offscreen talents that contribute invaluably to the Apatow-Feig comedy axis, as Jonah Weiner explains the working methods—some of which he had to pioneer to keep up with the slew of improvised one-liners—of editor Brent White.
“Making these films depends on a lot of things that are not the usual spices of filmmaking. Of course it’s money, machines, camera, energy, desire. But then it’s also a lot of different things that I wouldn’t like to tell you about, because it seems very abstract and sentimental. You don’t have to know about that.” Pedro Costa is always remarkably lucid—here, in a post-screening Q&A with Stoffel Debuysere—about the motives and methods of his uniquely cloistered, collaborative filmmaking. Via David Hudson.
The death of Phyllis R. Klotman, film archivist and founder of Indiana University’s Black Film Center/Archive, occasions one of the more artless but compelling galleries I’ve posted, her colleagues’ collection of photographs with the ever-smiling Klotman in such company as Marlon Riggs, Julie Dash, and Ousmane Sembene.
Director Richard Bare made his big screen debut with the comic short So You Want to Give Up Smoking (1942), which launched a long-running series of short subjects starring George O’Hanlon as Joe McDoakes, all of them directed and produced by Bare. He also directed the feature films Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend (1957) with Randolph Scott, Girl on the Run (1958), which launched the TV series 77 Sunset Strip, I Sailed to Tahiti with an All Girl Crew (1968), and the split-screen horror spoof Wicked, Wicked (1973), but he was much more prolific on the small screen. For television, he directed episodes of The Twilight Zone (including the classic “To Serve Man”), Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, The Virginian, Broken Arrow, Cheyenne, and almost every episode of the long-running sitcom Green Acres. He retired in the mid-seventies, after writing the influential book “The Film Director.” He passed away on March 28 at the age of 101. Daniel E. Slotnik at The New York Times.
Günther Grass, one of the most controversial of the literary lions of post-war Germany, never wrote for the cinema but his novel “The Tin Drum” was adapted into a 1979 film by Volker Schlöndorff, which won the Palm d’Or at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Richard Lea in The Guardian.
The opening night film for 41st Seattle International Film Festival, which opens on Thursday, May 14, was announced this week. It’s Paul Feig’s comedy Spy with Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, and Jason Statham, which premiered at SXSW earlier this year. Director Feig is slated to attend the McCaw Hall gala event. Opening Night tickets are now on sale, along with festival passes and ticket packages. Visit the SIFF box office online for more information. The full line-up will be announced on April 30.
SIFF’s Cinema Dissection returns this weekend with Warren Etheredge taking the audience through Tootsie. The six-hour event begins at 11am on Saturday, April 18. Details and tickets here.
The newly-restored The Sound of Music is following its TCM Film Festival screening with two special Fathom Events screenings in theaters across the country on Sunday, April 19 and Wednesday, April 22.
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.