Posted in: by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Links, Obituary / Remembrance

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of July 17

‘The Quiet Man’

“It’s important to read the first lines of the 1933 Maurice Walsh story on which the movie was based in light of the preceding two decades of revolutionary violence, and the generational curse of silence, disillusion, and suspicion that violence inspired…. The tone of those first lines muffles the triumphant peal of the story’s last lines, in which Kelvin’s new wife sighs with relief over having finally been able to “make a man of him.” It’s in a similar way that Ford’s The Quiet Man acts as a kind of contrast pattern to The Informant and The Plough and the Stars—a splash of color both enlivened and complicated by those films’ darker shades.” Revisiting John Ford’s Irish films, Max Nelson finds a more complex—and, for their times, politically engaged to a level unsettling for audiences—portrait than the blinkered sentimentality The Quiet Man’s ascendancy has made to seem the default.

“Like El Topo or A Clockwork Orange, it’s one of those rare movies that exists so far outside the boundaries of its chosen genre that there’s almost no other film to compare it to. Think Dr. Strangelove, only with more action; think Dirty Harry, except that the bad guy has a homemade nuke instead of a sniper rifle.” Also at Film Comment, Grady Hendrix on a film a world away from any of Ford’s (though he probably would have appreciated the film’s unique, tangled take on the generation gap), Hasegawa’s apocalyptic thriller The Man Who Stole the Sun. And be sure to check out the interview with the director Hendrix links at article’s end.

Mary Pickford in ‘Tess of the Storm Country’ (1922)

“Neither Pickford nor Marion came from privileged backgrounds like Teola Graves. They both knew the real nature of human existence surrounding their audiences once they left the movie theaters. The most interesting Pickford films are those which reveal other forms of less privileged lives.” Examining the films of Mary Pickford, Tony Williams writes of her transcendent acting and ingenious deployment of celebrity with an observant sympathy that almost makes up for his incessant carping that Pickford’s socially aware melodramas never end with a Marxist rally to the barricades. Via David Hudson.

“The movie’s first fifty minutes are mesmerizing cinema about a human-animal friendship forged in a blazing crucible and blossoming in an exotic landscape…. The next fifty minutes return the two heroes to civilization: a middle-class home, a modest downtown, a dusty horse barn, and a couple of racetracks. This stretch boasts a plainer, more modulated poetry. It also completes Ballard’s vision—The Black Stallion is about animal beauty, human audacity, and the need to preserve both, even in domesticated settings.” Michael Sragow writes beautifully on The Black Stallion; not as beautifully as the images Ballard and Deschanel crafted, mind you, but that’s a high bar.

“It’s bad luck just seeing a thing like that!” Odie Henderson salutes the escalating comic misery of Quick Change, and throws in the nice observation that much of the movie’s troubles stem from the characters’ inability to observe the world around them: “But the film offers a credible reason why people are so zoned out: The city has driven them crazy with the demands it puts on the business and the pleasures of daily life.”

“It’s a dead end. Some short cut!” After setting the template—for good and ill—that every nerdgasm blockbuster has followed since, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow crashed bad enough its creators the Conran brothers have barely worked since. Though Olly Richards suggests that has less to do with the studios than a pair of filmmakers who have no sense of the gladhandling and self-promotion that’s an equal part of the Hollywood game.

Loretta Young and her daughter, Judy

“The story was successfully concealed from the public, even as it circulated around Hollywood, at a muted level, for years—Young herself didn’t confirm it until after her death, via her posthumously released memoirs, in 2000. The child wouldn’t learn of her parentage until just before her wedding, and Gable never acknowledged her as his own. Meanwhile, Young attempted to reconcile her image as devout and often openly moralizing Catholic, known for implementing a “swear jar” on set, with the persistent rumors of an extramarital affair. Over the course of her decades-long career, she was called a duplicitous liar, a fraud, a hypocrite.” Anne Helen Petersen’s account of what Loretta Young’s children now call their mother’s rape by Clark Gable is horrifying less for the potential veracity of that charge, than how an array of misogynist forces—Catholic guilt, the publicity machine of ‘30s Hollywood—compelled Young to twist her life into a network of lies in an effort to keep the pregnancy secret. Via Movie City News.

“Words conjured life; previously unimaginable energy became accessible and if an actor had the strength and psychological flexibility necessary to inhabit this brave new world, revelatory action or, as they liked to say in acting school, behavior was inevitable. All manner of stories could be discovered, told and re-told. It was like a book only better; it required flesh and blood.” Marie Chambers’s love of the word is so thorough, when the struggling actress supplemented her income as a dialogue and acting coach to porn stars she found less irony in the situation than most of the snickering confidantes to whom she told the tale.

Riffing off some widely circulated remarks about independent films from a recent Dustin Hoffman interview, Richard Brody reminds us there’s no correlation between a film’s budget and its artistic worth—and that, in fact, the challenges presented to filmmakers working at the low end of the scale are compensated for by greater freedom.

“Did I tell you about what Oliver told me about the explosives in Platoon? […] He detonated them himself. He was dealing with a pyrotechnics guy and he was saying, ‘No, no, no. I need them to be this very particular way because of the way we’re moving the camera.’ And the guy wasn’t understanding, so finally he said, ‘Give me the detonator.’ He did it himself! I said to him, ‘That’s a little dangerous, no?’ And his was response was: ‘Well we didn’t have all day and I used these things before, so I got it done. And nobody was hurt and it was fine.’” Matt Zoller Seitz and director Ramin Bahrani join Zack Sharf for a lively, appreciative discussion of Oliver Stone, both sharing their delight that advance word on Snowden suggests the unrepentant button-pusher—of both hot topics and the editing console—is back.

“I think when you are younger and hit a certain level of success you can lose perspective really quickly. I’ve struggled enough and it’s been a slow enough growth that I’m not going to freak out or anything. Hopefully! We’ll see. Mark my words… “Chris Pratt found naked high on meth on I-405 claiming he was abducted by aliens.” We’ll see when I have my mental breakdown. We’ll come back to this interview.” Chris Pratt charmingly plays up his regular-Joe sticktoitiveness interviewed by The Talks.

Chris Pratt – Photo by Smallz & Raskind/Contour by Getty Images

“Regardless of subject matter, I believe, along with Kracauer, that motion pictures are concerned primarily with physical reality. Of course artists like Cocteau sometimes bend reality, but they do it mostly through manipulation of the physical. My methods in The Shooting aren’t really any different from those in Ride in the Whirlwind, although the latter tells an absolutely realistic story, while the former does not.” Monte Hellman’s interviews by now are distilled to a purity—clean-lined, free of digressive clutter—not unlike his films; Daniel Riccuito is the latest on the receiving end of his just-this-side-of-gnomic utterances.

Manoel de Oliveira’s final film, a documentary on the use of natural resources for power, has made it to YouTube. In 15 wordless minutes, A Century of Energy collapses past and present, engineering and art, so effortlessly you’re reminded its maker was one of the rare masters who could find autobiographical resonance in the title. Spotted by Girish Shambu.

Roger Rees

Obituary

Welsh-born actor Roger Rees made his fame playing the leading role in the epic 1980 stage production of Nicholas Nickleby, which he played on the London and New York stage and the subsequent British TV mini-series adaptation, and is best known for his stage work, but he was a busy performer on TV and in movies as well. He had recurring roles on the sitcom Cheers and on The West Wing, played the fictionalized Peter Bogdanovich in Star 80 (1983) and the Sheriff of Rottingham in Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), and appeared in Next Stop Wonderland (1998), The Scorpion King (2002), Frida (2002), and Prestige (2006), among many other films and TV shows. He passed away at age 71. Simon Farguhar for the Independent, and Playbill celebrates his stage legacy.

Character actor Irwin Keyes, who suffered from acromegaly (a pituitary gland disorder that gave him oversized features), played villains, henchmen, and comic supporting parts on TV and in movies for almost 40 years, including a memorable turn as the asthmatic hitman Wheezy Joe in the Coen Bros.’s Intolerable Cruelty (2003). He also appeared in The Warriors (1979), Stardust Memories (1980), The Flintstones (1994) and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000), and House of 1000 Corpses (2003), and had a recurring role as a bodyguard on the The Jeffersons. He died at age 63 from complications due to acromegaly. Emily Blake at Entertainment Weekly.

Seattle Screens

Friday, July 17 is David Lynch night at the Seattle Art Museum, an annual event timed to occur near the Twin Peaks Fest. This year’s film is Lost Highway (1997), shown on 35mm. A limited number of tickets will be available for sale at the door if you have not bought advance tickets, all on a first-come, first-served basis. And I’ve informed that a cherry crumble and coffee special for $7 (David Lynch’s favorite number) will be available before the show and during intermission at TASTE café. Details here.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

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.