When he first suggested I come to Ghana, I was too weak to climb stairs and said, ‘Do you want a corpse on your hands?’ Later I decided I’d be fit to travel, with one proviso: if I brought a wheelchair, someone would push me around. The answer came back: ‘A wheelchair will get you nowhere in terrain where I am shooting. I will give you four hammockeers and a sunshade bearer.’ Now that invitation, even if one had been dying, was irresistible.” Interview reprints one of the best portraits of Werner Herzog ever written, Bruce Chatwin’s visit to the set of Cobra Verde, based on Chatwin’s novel The Viceroy of Ouidah, a murderously hot Ghana shoot beset with rioting Amazons, Klaus Kinski at his most troublesome, and Herzog overseeing and somehow corralling the madness.
“Ecstasy is the sort of movie that you have to give yourself over to wholeheartedly or not at all. You can cut yourself off and laugh at all of its obvious visual symbolism (all those phallic symbols!) or embrace its trailblazing reaching for healing sexual congress. There are many different versions of Ecstasy, which caused a scandal wherever it was shown for many years, usually to men in raincoats who were somewhat disappointed by its earnestness, though surely not by the nude scenes of Lamarr skinny dipping and running bare ass through the woods….” Dan Callahan recounts the career of Gustav Machatý, which was obsessed with the pleasures and unwanted costs of sex before and long after he filmed Hedy Lamarr in writhing, delirious close-up.
“Production manager Dennis Jones filled out a report on each shooting day with codes listed to represent how each actor’s time was spent on that particular day and whether or not he or she was needed back at a subsequent time. On January 10, in the column for Stoltz, Jones wrote the letter F in black ballpoint. In this case, it stood for finished, but a number of other words could certainly have stood in its place, fired among the most gentle.” In an excerpt from his new book on the Back to the Future trilogy, Caseen Gaines details the production meetings that led to the replacement of Eric Stoltz in the film’s lead, and the not exactly displeased reactions of most of the cast.
“I’m not concerned today with revealing what social cinema is, no more than I am in strangling it with a formula. Rather, I’m trying to arouse your latent need to more often see good films—filmmakers, please excuse me for the pleonasm—dealing with society and its relationships with individuals and things. Because, you see, the cinema suffers more from flawed thinking than from a total absence of thought.” A new translation has arrived of a lecture on “social cinema” that Jean Vigo gave in 1930 before the second-ever screening of À propos de Nice, a talk equal parts manifesto and paean to Un chien andalou, which Vigo had wanted to screen but Buñuel wouldn’t allow. Via David Hudson.
Matthew Schimkowitz’s history of movie trailers is too once-over-lightly to earn its admittedly tongue-in-cheek title of “Epic,” but he does a good job connecting the dots between industry shake-ups and the evolving esthetics of movie advertising, and what with Welles introducing the Citizen Kane cast, Hitchcock touring the Bates Motel, and Don LaFontaine declaring (apparently one of the first instances of a legendary run) that The Road Warrior takes place “In a world…,” the clips are great fun. Via Christopher Curley.
“Jack, I may be going out on a limb here, but you don’t seem like a happy camper.” Bilge Ebiri writes on The Fisher King, and how despite some feints to the notion of redemption, Gilliam’s most naturalistic and grounded (and best) movie “isn’t a movie about salvation. It’s a film about kindness, love, and friendship in a world that seems to have no place for them.” Also for Criterion, Michael Koresky offers praise for the small but indelible role played in the film by Michael Jeter. (“…[H]e shimmies across the screen with boundless confidence, turning what might have been a grotesque, or at least merely humorous, part into something noble, even indomitable.”) While over at Creative Screenwriting Richard LaGravenese talks with Christopher McKittrick about the real-world bitterness that led to his writing the fantasy. (“[The ‘80s] felt like a very ugly decade, so I wanted to do something about narcissism and sacrifice, which I felt as a word and a concept was growing fainter and fainter in our culture as we were getting closer and closer to a world that kept telling us “You can have it all,” which I think is a tremendous and destructive lie.”)
“Those are the people I’m comfortable with, people that joined the carnival. There was no discrimination in the carnival, everybody was equal. The bearded lady wasn’t made fun of, the black guy was just as cool as the white guy, the guy with no legs was just as cool as the strong man— that was my dad—I mean we were all equal That’s why I was attracted to that punk movement…. It was okay if they were wearing combat boots and had a shaved head, you know? With “Fuck you” written on their arm. Yeah, I was comfortable with them.” Film Comment is the place to go for interviews this week, starting with Penelope Spheeris and her daughter Anna Fox—who supervised the release of The Decline of Western Civilization on DVD—talking with Nick Pinkerton about filming the seminal documentary on the fly using equipment from her day job shooting music videos, and how some of the participants feel about the provocations expressed by their 40-years-younger selves.
“I understand why people would think this is all in vain and leads to nowhere, but I’m actually very moved by people who make the choice to live for poetry. I don’t know if poetry is the right word in English. You can say that in French: when I say poetry, poetry is a way of living.” More music, more engagement with the past, as Mia Hansen-Løve (revealed as one of those delightful directors unable to go three sentences without mentioning another film) discusses with Nicolas Rapold the poetry of the club scene captured in Eden. In a related interview, Greta Gerwig tells Lauren Duca about why she wanted to work with Hansen- Løve, developing female-centered projects, and the curse of “likability”. (“Eden is about a man, but you rarely see that story told about women. It’s a worthy journey… whether it’s a woman’s journey or a man’s journey. But what I love about Mia is that obviously she’s a female and a filmmaker, and it’s not just, “Make great female characters.” She just makes great characters. Period.”)
“In real life, we do a lot of work to piece together our understanding of a person. We’re doing it all the time. We learn about people out of order. We get slight reflections of things, we get a piece of a story. We’re very good at forming an opinion or an understanding of people based on these little slices. I took advantage of that in the super[imposition]s, and found that we could create a very complex psychological profile of people, in understanding people, and in these more compact spaces of time.” And Patrick Wang talks to Tanner Tafelski about the formal innovations of his In the Family follow-up The Grief of Others.
“But I was mainly interested in that role, because I was trying to break out of that role of the guy in a nice suit. He was still in a suit, but it was a suit from Penney’s, and he had a gun, which I liked.” Vadim Rizov talks with the great Michael Murphy about the hazards of playing a cheating husband, the pleasures of the Canadian film industry, and working with Mazursky, Oliver Stone, and Robert Altman, the latter hesitantly brought up by Rizov from fear of boring the actor.
Frederico Babina’s paintings of houses that could be owned by various movie directors are both comical and moody, and a fun game of spot the reference; though I confess disappointment that Antonioni’s appropriately angular, modernist dwelling doesn’t seem primed to blow up under the Death Valley sun. Via Movie City News.
Adrian Curry highlights the work of Bedrich Dlouhý, a mostly unheralded master of Polish movie poster design (Curry had never heard of him till recently) despite some iconic imagery—and some that is just satisfyingly weird.
Patrick Macnee was a journeyman actor with a number of film credits and stage roles through the 1940s and 1950s, including bits in Olivier’s Hamlet (1948) and the 1951 A Christmas Carol, before he landed the career-making role of John Steed, the witty gentleman spy of the British TV classic The Avengers opposite Honor Blackman, Linda Thorson, and especially Diana Rigg as Mrs. Peel, talented amateur. He was Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes in two TV movies—opposite Roger Moore in the American TV movie Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976) and Christopher Lee in the British telefilms Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991) and Sherlock Holmes and the Incident at Victoria Falls (1982)—and Holmes himself in The Hound of London (1983), played opposite Moore again in The Sea Wolves (1980) and A View to a Kill (1985), and was memorable in key supporting roles Joe Dante’s The Howling (1981) and This is Spinal Tap (1984). He acted in scores of films and hundreds of hours of television in Britain and the U.S. before retiring more than a decade ago. He passed away at the age of 93. Dick Fiddy pays tribute to his John Steed at The Telegraph.
James Horner, the two-time Oscar winning composer of Titanic (his won for score and for original song), began his career scoring Roger Corman films, where his impressive work on Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) created an epic sound on a budget and anticipated the nautical-themed breakthrough score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982). For a few years that made him a genre specialist, scoring Wolfen (1981), Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), Krull (1983), Brainstorm (1983), and Cocoon (1985) and the action films 48 Hrs. (1982) and Commando (1985) before jumping to the first rank of American film composers after earning his first Oscar nomination with James Cameron’s Aliens (1986). He also earned nominations for his scores for Aliens (1986), Field of Dreams (1989), Braveheart (1995), Apollo 13 (1995), A Beautiful Mind (2001), House of Sand and Fog (2003), and Avatar (2009). He was killed in a crash while piloting his single-engine private airplane, at the age of 61. Film music historian Jon Burlingame recalls his legacy for Variety while Peter Bradshaw revisits his art for The Guardian.
Laura Antonelli was one of the faces of the wave of erotic comedies and sexy dramas coming out of Europe in the early seventies. After a series of minor roles in the 1960s, she rose to fame in the hit sex comedy Malicious (1973) and continued in that vein with such films as Till Marriage Do Us Part (1974), The Divine Nymph (1975), Wifemistress (1977). Though she became famous as a sex symbol for her voluptuous figure and frequent nudity, she was a serious actress and starred in Luchino Visconti’s final film L’Innocent (1976), as well as films by Claude Chabrol (Dr. Popaul, 1972) and Ettore Scola (Passion of Love, 1981). She retired in 1991 and spent her last years broke and ill. She passed away at the age of 73. Sam Roberts for The New York Times.
Dick Van Patten starred on stage and in movies but his greatest success was on TV, where he played the father on Eight is Enough for five years, guest starred on scores of other shows, and played Friar Tuck in the short-lived comedy When Things Were Rotten (1975), created by Mel Brooks. Brooks also cast him in High Anxiety (1977) and Spaceballs (1987), and he co-starred in the original Freaky Friday (1976) and The Shaggy D.A. (1976) and the notorious TV movie Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker (1979). He died this week at the age of 86 of complication from diabetes. Lauren Raab at Los Angeles Times.
Child actor George “Foghorn” Winslow earned his nickname for the distinctive rasp of his gravel voice, which he used to comic effect in Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953) as the child millionaire who helps Marilyn Monroe out of a jam because, as he explains to her, “you got a lot of animal magnetism.” The pint-sized performer also appeared in Monkey Business (1952), as Richard Widmark’s son in My Pal Gus (1952), as the title character in The Rocket Man (1954), and as comic book crazy kind in Artists and Models (1955). He retired from acting at age 12 and died this week of a heart attack. He was 69. Mike Barnes at The Hollywood Reporter.
Turkish-born French actress and singer Magali Noël appeared in Jules Dassin’s Rififi (1955), Rene Clair’s Les Grandes Manoevres (1955), Jean Renoir’s Elena and her Men (1956), Costa-Gavras’s Z (1969), Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), Satyricon (1969), and Amarcord (1973). Her recording career began in 1956 with the French rock and roll hit “Fais-moi mal, Johnny” (“Hurt me Johnny”). She passed away this week four days short of her 84th birthday. No English language notices yet so here is the report from Le Monde.
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.