Every lost film is sadness enough, but more so when they’re part of a history that’s already too little-known. Sight & Sound gathers eight lost films by women directors—from pioneering African- and Chinese-American lensers to Lillian Gish’s sole turn behind the camera—whose rediscoveries could help rewrite the history we flatter ourselves to say we know.
“I have frequently fled from the vulgar amusements of the multiplex to the comfort of the Criterion Collection. I have savored “Anticipation of La Notte,” Phillip Lopate’s affectionately self-mocking memoir of his undergraduate infatuation with Michelangelo Antonioni and all he represented. I have furrowed my brow over Susan Sontag’s elegiac “A Century of Cinema,” which declared, in 1995, that it was all over, that the ardor and conviction of midcentury movie love would never be matched by later generations.” A. O. Scott celebrates the movie love that dare not speak its name—snobbery, with all its cultural baggage and proud demand to accept only the finer things.
“The producer probably imagined something a bit like a Carry On film, whereas Russell hoped to take things into Jacques Tati territory. He was probably precisely the wrong director to do so, given that his sense of humor tends to the broad and leering. I love his work, you understand, and none of this is intended in a pejorative sense. He’s just more Benny Hill than Pierre Etaix.” Context thus established for David Cairns’s praise of Ken Russell’s debut, the seaside farce French Dressing.
“Now the journey is nearly directly backwards, with more buildings entering at both sides of the frame. They appear, they fill the frame, and then they shrink. Actually they’ve only ever been shrinking. Slowly, gradually retreating before they even appear. Seeing Battery Park, leaving Battery Park, losing Battery Park.” Eric Haynes pays lovely tribute to Chantal Akerman breaking down the final, lingering shot of News from Home—both for its innate loveliness and its surprising biographical resonance. And Akerman herself offers a backwards glance over her entire career in Gustavo Beck’s hour-long video interview Chantal Akerman, From Here (2010), made available at Mubi. (Which, true to its subject, takes a while to just capture the energy of the room, so don’t make the assumption I did that the video wasn’t streaming for some reason.)
“[Kubrick] was cutting 2001: A Space Odyssey, and asked ‘How do you write a joke’? Genuinely troubled. I told him, ‘What you’re doing is making you a living, what the hell’s the problem?’” A recent evening at the Museum of the Moving Image had Jerry Lewis interviewed by admirer and erstwhile collaborator Martin Scorsese. Since neither man’s exactly known for restraint, here’s three write-ups with less overlap than you might think, from Jordan Hoffman, Thea Glassman, and Kenji Fujishima.
Gordon Thomas winds up more pleased with Pinter and Reisz’s solution to adapting the unfilmable French Lieutenant’s Woman than probably either the writer or director ever was.
“Medium specificity is a fundamental tenet of museum practice, yet it has become commonplace to see film and slide works exhibited digitally…. Museums will argue that practical reasons and cost are what prevent them from respecting the original medium in the display of moving-image works. But the greater problem is a mind-set invested in exploiting the cynical assumption that the viewer no longer knows, cares, or remembers how the work should be seen.” Tacita Dean makes the case, again, for the preservation of film, adding some wrinkles unique to her museum-exhibition experience. Via Mubi.
For years whenever I’d read potshots at the arriviste naiveté of Megan Ellison and Annapurna Pictures, I’d be so put off by the (anonymously-sourced) sour grapes of it all I could barely finish the articles. Now David Ehrlich profiles the equally ambitious and important A24 Films, and his inflated puffery—in which the distribution company can’t make a misstep, even when they do—puts me off nearly as much. So in fairness, maybe the problem’s just with me.
“The backgrounds were meant to flag the idea that some of the kinds of experiences Milgram was having throughout his life were simulacrums. I think that’s true of anyone’s experience—you dress up to take your wife to your mentor and you’re playacting, in a way. You’re trying to impress the guy and there’s a sense of performance. That’s translated into visual terms with rear-screen projection. It’s also a way to wake up the movie—to recognize that the idea of realism in a movie doesn’t have to be limited. I was thinking about how Milgram’s work invited people to participate in an illusion, and even as you’re aware of the illusion you can get sucked in.” Michael Almereyda talks with Nicholas Elliott about Experimenter, his celebrated portrait of Stanley Milgram, the appeal of biopics in general, and the fun of screening the movie for foreign audiences unfamiliar with the phrase “the elephant in the room.” Staying at Film Comment, Livia Bloom interviews Mbissine Thérèse Diop about her first starring role, 50 years ago, in Sembene’s Black Girl. (“My mother wasn’t happy about it… I don’t know why. My friends congratulated me. Some of them wouldn’t talk to me, but mostly they were happy. Other artists contacted me afterwards a bit, and I accepted a few films. I did Emitaï  with Sembene. But I made sure I kept my seamstress work… because I really liked being a seamstress, too.”)
“Obviously, with Joel and Ethan, I pretty much will do anything. But usually there’s certain kinds of material I like. I like historical pieces, but it’s not often that I get that kind of material. So usually it’s my reaction to a script. If I don’t feel it’s gonna make a film that I would want to go see, then I don’t really want to work on it. I think it’s too much of an involvement of time in your life to work on something that you don’t actually have some sort of passion for, especially at my age.” Roger Deakins explains his work ethic, in a relaxed, appreciative conversation with frequent subject and fellow photochemical enthusiast Jeff Bridges.
Ken Fertig offers a gallery of film noir posters featuring Robert Ryan—or, put another way, a gallery of 30 artists who make their best efforts, but fail to capture the most disdainful sneer in movie history.
Catching up with Agnès Varda, Criterion makes available her most recent short, The 3 Buttons, whose budget (provided by fashion house Miu Miu) the director found delightfully, uncharacteristically extravagant.
“Chantal Akerman was 25 years old when she made her landmark film Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), a 200 minute movie where (as critics are so fond of saying) nothing happens, at least nothing that we are used to seeing on screen.” I wrote that introduction to a profile of Akerman for Turner Classic Movies and the channel’s Trailblazing Women series. It was never meant to serve as a memorial but this week Ms. Akerman died at the age of 65 of apparent suicide. Her interest in cinema began when she saw Godard’s Pierrot le Fou (1965) at age 15. After attending film school she moved to New York City and, influenced by the work of experimental filmmakers Michael Snow and Jonas Mekas, made La Chambre (1972) and the short experimental feature Hotel Monterey (1972). Her first official feature, the minimalist road movie Je Tu Il Elle (1975), made her name on the festival circuit and introduced her to French star Delphine Seyrig, whose support led to Jeanne Dielman. Decades later, the mix of narrative, avant-garde, documentary detail, and precise imagery is just as startling and it remains a singular works of cinema. Akerman continued to move between narrative features (Les Rendez-vous d’Anna, 1978, starring Aurore Clement; La Prisoniere, 2000, based on Proust) experimental shorts, and provocative documentaries (From the East, 1993; South, 1999), created art instillations for museums and exhibitions in the United States and Europe, and published novels. Her latest film, No Home Movie (2015), had played Locarno and Toronto. She died days before the film’s American debut at the New York Film Festival. David Hudson collects the remembrances and obits at Keyframe.
The 10th Annual Seattle South Asian Film Festival opens on Thursday, October 15 with a screening of For Here or To Go?, a comic drama about an immigrant software professional in Silicon Valley who gets entangled in the bureaucratic jungle when it comes time to renew his work visa. It screens at Pacific Place, and then the screenings shift to SIFF Film Center, NWFF, University of Washington, and Seattle Asian Art Museum. Details here, and the complete schedule is here.
The Seattle Polish Film Festival plays at SIFF Cinema Uptown through Sunday, October 17, featuring 23 features and documentaries plus filmmakers and actors brought in to introduce their films. More at the festival homepage.
The 20th Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival continues through October 18 at NWFF, The Egyptian, the 12th Avenue Arts Building, and Pacific Place. Complete schedule is available here.
SIFF Big Screen Classics celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the homegrown documentary The Heart of the Game with a special screening at the Uptown on Tuesday, October 13 with the director and film subjects present. Details at the SIFF website.
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.