The restoration of most (long story short, the three-hour reissue version, not the original six-hour serial) of Otto Rippert’s 1916 Homunculus has Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell joining in on a lengthy post. Thompson offers the background, placing the film in the context (visually and narratively) of the early experiments in fusing expressionism and cinema. (“For Expressionist filmmakers, elements of the supernatural or the legendary could motivate highly stylized mise-en-scene. In contrast, these 1910s films often used relatively realistic mise-en-scene. Location shooting, straightforward period costumes, and skillfully executed trick photography introduced the fantastic elements into the milieu of a concrete, seemingly everyday world.”) While Bordwell looks at the film itself, finding a provocative, wide-ranging film where even the element that seems the most dated—the mannered title performance of Olaf Fønss—is part of a larger, more elegant design. (“It’s now clear that by focusing just on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) we have limited our sense of the wide-ranging visual discoveries of German cinema. Homunculus belongs with the splendid string of films that includes Der Tunnel (1915), Algol (1920), I.N.R.I. (1920), and the outstanding pair of 1919 films by Robert Reinert, Opium and Nerven.”)
“He was a romantic who had a special way of visually enfolding the lovers in his movies that is almost Frank Borzage-like, and he glorifies very different women in what must be the best close-ups of their careers: look at some of the close-ups of the melancholy Sylvia Sidney in Behold My Wife! and then look at the close-ups of the wised-up Joan Bennett in 13 Hours by Air and see how Leisen gives them the same glamorizing treatment without ever losing what makes them so individual.” Dan Callahan joins the small but devoted list of fans who feel Mitchell Leisen’s visual intelligence, humanity, and consistency of vision make him a far greater talent than his seeming perpetual ranking as not one of the best but tops among the rest.
“You could marvel that it took Chabrol so long to get around to making an anti-Vichy film. But you could also note that he had been gunning for the Vichystes all along and just hadn’t been so blunt before. In fact, Story of Women should feel very familiar. He had made this movie at least twice before.” David Kalat traces the almost clockwork evolution—three films each made and set about a decade apart—that led to Chabrol’s indictment of the Vichy regime.
“You were in the house, calling my name, but I couldn’t find you. Then there you were, lying in bed, but it wasn’t you. It looked like you, but it wasn’t.” For Third Rail the frequent collaborators Christina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin offer provocative takes on Lost Highway. Álvarez López, in conjunction with a new video piece, considers Lynch’s skill at plunging us, moment by moment, into subjective space. (“What happens here, in a strictly narrative sense, can be easily summarized in one sentence; but the imprint it leaves on Fred’s psyche must be cinematically experienced.”) While Martin shows how well Lynch’s method fits in with some cutting-edge philosophical takes on the different bodies we inhabit. (“To paraphrase it: cinema (Brenez says) has the dual power both to concentrate the most complex of phenomena into a single, readable gesture or moment; and also to take what we have assumed to be transparent, straightforward, everyday things and make them seem suddenly, fantastically, strange and complex. This dual process is what David Lynch achieves, miraculously, virtually all the time.”) Via David Hudson. (.pdf warning and, given the choice of stills, NSFW.)
Nathalie Morris salutes I Know Where I’m Going at 70—and the gin and Dubonnet cocktail it celebrated just as it was going out of style.
“Come away around 4.30, weary rather than exhausted as I’ve contributed very little, my only suggestion being that Alex Jennings, who is eating an egg sandwich, should drop some of the egg down his pullover, as I invariably do. The costume department seize on this as a piece of cinéma vérité and egg is accordingly smeared down his front. It hardly seems a day’s work.” Alan Bennett diaries his days on the set of The Lady in the Van, amused as ever at how the British carapace, encountering upset (madness in the case of Mary Shepherd, the bustling of a film crew for his neighbors), refuses to crack, instead adapting the disorientation as a new routine. Spoilers for the film’s new ending.
“There is plenty to question or criticize about what “Star Wars” wrought, but in May of 1977, it was Lucas figuring out how to make nostalgia seem futuristic by taking it into space. It was a sign that event movies would truly have to be Events, and a warning that the era of the big expensive best seller adaptation was ending. It was also a reminder that you can’t engineer a hit or a cultural watershed moment.” Jessica Ritchey looks back to Spring, 1977, when 20th Century Fox was juggling a risky rinky-dink space opera no one knew how to sell, and a prestigious sure thing, the adaptation of Sidney Sheldon’s The Other Side of Midnight, offering a specific example of the Old Hollywood that Lucas had a major part in upheaving.
Quentin Tarantino’s insistence on filming The Hateful Eight in 70mm—and the Weinstein Co.’s willingness to indulge him—didn’t just have consequences during filming, but in the months since, as the company’s been rounding up mothballed projectors and refurbishing them so that theaters can actually show the damned thing, as Hiawatha Bray reports.
“He is, in short, having the sort of late career that eminent movie actors tend to have, popping up for a scene or two in commercial stuff that needs a touch of gravity, and receiving, as famous old actors do, the honor of “last billing”: after all the lesser players have been listed, a stand-alone credit that reads “And Max von Sydow.”” Terrence Rafferty salutes von Sydow as the greatest living actor, digging into a few parts that especially live up to the billing—Bergman and Troell, of course, but also, for Hollywood, a pair of very different priests in The Exorcist and Hawaii. Coincidentally, while I’ve no problem with von Sydow granted the title, my own choice for the movie’s best living actor, Donald Sutherland, also gets a profile, courtesy of Robbie Collin. (“Sutherland grins. It’s a hungry grin, wide and wolfish, and it makes the air seem to prickle with danger, regardless of whether you see it on a wet, black night at Glasgow airport or anywhere else. Easing from one memory to the next, the actor rewinds to 1962 and his first film audition. Afterwards, he was contacted by the director, writer and producer, who told him that even though they had “admired his work”, they couldn’t use him for the part. ‘We’d always seen this fella as a guy-next-door character,’ the director said, ‘and to be absolutely truthful, we don’t think you look like you’ve ever lived next door to anybody.’”)
“I love the way you wrote about it because you wrote about it very simply and personally. I so recognized that thing you said about, “I didn’t want to be an asshole,” you know? I want to be polite. We’ve got to stop being polite. If I ever had children, which I don’t, the first thing I’d teach a girl of mine is the words “[fuck] off. “” The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Actress Roundtable remains a good read, with the likes of Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Brie Larson, Jane Fonda, and Jennifer Lawrence (receiving praise above from Helen Mirren) talking with Stephen Galloway about both the struggles of the career and the joys of the profession.
“I did despair, I have to say, and that was very hard. I really did think: it’s all over now. I don’t know how on earth I lived, I don’t know how on earth I earned money. But it certainly puts iron in the soul. I just thought: ‘Oh well, that’s it. If my career is over then The House of Mirth is not a bad note to end on.’” Terence Davies talks with Adrew Pulver about the years of frustration when he couldn’t get Sunset Song financed, and how his career prospects have changed enough to almost make him sound optimistic—which is a weird fit with Davies, it’s true. (He also, along with Alan Bennett, is the second person this week to reference Barbara Goalen, suggesting the model was a bit of an icon for gay Englishmen of a certain generation.)
An auction of some marvelously preserved movie posters offers the opportunity not only to sample several acknowledged classics, but a wealth of charmingly illustrated one sheets for cartoons. Via Mubi.
Criterion presents a gallery of Guy Maddin collages, each charged with the unmistakable nervy, sexualized frisson that sparks his films.
Indian-born actor Saeed Jaffrey was a star of stage, radio, TV and movies in a busy career that spanned 50 years. He was Fulbright scholar who studied in America and settled in Britain and an Indian actor in a pre-multicultural entertainment industry, which meant limited opportunities on stage and screen in the 1960s and 1970s, when he was a regular presence on BBC World Service radio. A major role in John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King (1975) charged his career and he went on to star in Satyajit Ray’s The Chess Players (1977) and Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning Ghandi (1982), the TV mini-series The Far Pavillions (1984) and The Jewel in the Crown (1984), David Lean’s A Passage to India (1984), and Stephen Frears’ My Beautiful Laundrette (1985). His international profile attracted Bollywood producers and he made dozens of film in India through the 1990s before settling back to Britain, where he was back to a mix movies, TV, and radio roles. He passed away at the age of 86. Naseem Khan at The Guardian.
The Romanian Film Festival in Seattle is back for a second edition at SIFF Cinema Uptown this weekend and it opens on Friday, November 20 with a screening of Aferim!, Romania’s entry for the Oscars and winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. It runs through Sunday. More details on the festival and a complete schedule (with guests noted) at the Romanian Film Festival 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.