“I sat down and said something sincere and clumsy about how I knew she was going through a hard time and that I was concerned about blundering into things I shouldn’t touch. ‘If you do that, I will stop you,’ she replied. ‘If you ask anything I don’t like, I’ll step around it and go on. I can take care of myself.’” Mary Gaitskill ably defends Charlotte Rampling’s notorious privacy as her right even in a profession synonymous with tell-all confessionals; then rather less convincingly argues that the actor’s unique appeal owes mostly to her skill at portraying “the natural representation of real people.” Possibly NSFW due to a Helmut Newton portrait (hey, it was the ‘70s).
“In conversation with his high-school mentor Roger Hill, he declared that opera directors should be unobtrusive presences, serving the conductor, the performers, and, above all, the composer. The man who helped to originate conceptual staging, with his historically displaced productions of Macbeth and Julius Caesar, felt that such radical transpositions had no place in opera. In a sense, he may have been captive to his early operatic memories, to the lingering Gilded Age milieu in which he got to know the art. On his home turf, however, Welles handled music with freewheeling brilliance.” The only strange thing about last week’s excellent Orson Welles piece by Alex Ross is that one of our best music critics had no comments to make about Welles’s use of music or even his films’ inherent musicality. Turns out that discussion had merely been carved out for a separate, equally fine article.
“Still, this judgment [that Harold Lloyd is the most complacently ordinary of the early comedians] needs to be complicated, because only a profoundly and uniquely imaginative artist—by definition, an outsider—can take on his shoulders the burden of synthesizing the entire society around him and fashioning an archetype from it that will play in Peoria.” Phillip Lopate finds the virtues of Speedy precisely in the everyday-man archetype that Lloyd’s detractors find so off-putting—and in the matchless string of terrific gags, of course.
Dan Callahan takes stock of William Dieterle’s career, and finds a talent probably too eager to fall into the boring solemnities of big studio biopics, but one who managed more to achieve more than a few delights along the way; and, in The Last Flight, at least one “triumphant” masterpiece.
“I don’t know what makes me do these things. It’s just some lizard brain in me or something.” Scott Tobias makes the connection—not remotely as forced as it might seem at first blush—between Brooks’s Modern Romance and Raging Bull. Via Movie City News.
“They can recreate grain digitally now, but it’s pixel-fixated. It doesn’t have this anthropomorphic quality in which the grain structure in each frame is changing. The actual physical grain of film adds another expressive layer that is impacting the surface of the characters’ emotional being. It has to do with how film captures movement and exposure in the frame—finer grain for highlights and larger grain for lower light areas—that gives a certain emotionality to the image that feels more human. I really believe with Carol that people would feel something different than if I had shot it digitally.” Cinematographer Edward Lachman relates how the period detail of Carol was achieved—a specific type of period, at that, as everything from the selection of film stock to the choice of colors was chosen to not bring up the Sirk associations of his previous collaborations with Haynes.
David Lang, who as a high school teenager had two jobs—in a music store and movie theater—reflecting his love of modern music and the movies, recalls how The Exorcist and its soundtrack fueled both of his passions.
“One raven-haired, the other blindingly blonde, the actresses form a kind of dark/light chiaroscuro—a term mostly inappropriate to Warhol’s jewel-toned, flatly rendered paintings and silkscreens of the two. Dissimilar in image and sensibility (one vulnerable, the other seemingly invincible), Liz and Marilyn were nevertheless sisters in notoriety by the time Warhol turned them into icons of Pop Art—Monroe for perishing young, quite possibly a suicide, Taylor for her unapologetic avarice in accumulating husbands, lovers, jewels, and the highest salary ever paid an actress, all with ferocious alacrity.” James Quandt introduces a new series focusing on Monroe and Taylor by considering their strong impact on one of the 20th century’s great image-makers and –adapters, Andy Warhol. Via David Hudson.
The new Cine-Files presents a dossier on the challenges of teaching films—whether you have problems with the film as a dramatic artifact however much you feel its making and political impact are important (Nicholas Poppe on La Historia Oficial), or need to situate a film into multiple contexts for your students (Sarah Keller introducing classes to Meshes of the Afternoon), or the postmodernist’s unique dilemma of trying a structuralist, anti-auteurism approach and having the whole class, teacher included, fall under the spell of Orson Welles (Corinn Columpar on Touch of Evil). Tarshia Stanley’s interesting dilemma can’t be better summarized than by quoting the title of her article, Teaching The Birth of a Nation at Spelman College.
“I’ve never had my producer come to me and say, “I don’t like this part,” or “I want you to work with professional actors,” or “I want you to cast my mother.” Well, sometimes I do get people saying, “I want you to cast my mother,” but I’m free to accept this—sometimes it’s good to cast the mother. It’s okay. But I don’t have any limits. That’s essential. I cannot work otherwise.” Miguel Gomes discusses politics, Portugal, and keeping things fresh and lively on a film set in an interview with Tânia Cypriano.
“And, to come back to Oliveira, in Belle Toujours, there’s one point where I pass by Piccoli in the street outside a shop. I was walking normally, and so was he. The camera was in a building on the first floor opposite, with Oliveira. He was 98 at the time. Several times he walked down to show me how to walk in the manner of the silent films.” One delightful consequence of Out 1 finally seeing a release in this country is that Bulle Ogier is more in the public eye since…I’ll say ever. Talking with Christopher Small, Ogier reminisces about the preparations Rivette and Oliveira put her through for movies, and the experimental theater background that lay behind that.
“Stone: It stung, and it’s kind of been forgotten. But technically and artistically it was a big step for me, and no matter what the gross was, it’s what gave me the confidence to do Born. That was my first anamorphic movie with Bob, and we really pushed that camera and those lenses because of the confidence we had acquired solving the problems on Talk Radio. The wheelchair didn’t seem like such a big deal after being stuck in that fucking radio station.” Oliver Stone recounts the filming of Talk Radio—mostly chipper anecdotes about the profitable deal he struck and fair-minded assessments of the headbutting he did with various actors—with Jim Hemphill.
Adrian Curry’s selection of the best posters for the year starts off with a lovely pair whose numerous consanguinities Curry hadn’t even noticed till he placed them next to one another.
Sarah Moroz offers a gallery of some of the 4000 pictures Agnès Varda took in 1963 Cuba for her documentary Salut les Cubains; images that manage to avoid the condescension of the “dancing revolution” stereotype even as they celebrate it.
Robert Loggia, best known as the grandfatherly toy company executive in Big (1988), had a career that spanned more than 50 years. After a series of roles on live TV, he starred as Elfego Baca in a series of western adventures for The Wonderful World Disney and a retired acrobat / thief turned bodyguard in T.H.E. Cat for TV in the 1960s and appeared in scores of TV shows through the 1970s until his career got a boost with roles in Scarface (1983), Jagged Edge (1985), for which he received an Oscar nomination, and Prizzi’s Honor (1985). He appeared in Independence Day (1996) and Lost Highway (1997) and four episodes of The Sopranos (2004) and continued workin in movies and TV shows until his death at the age of 85 after a five-year struggle with Alzheimer’s. More from Peter Sobczynski at RogerEbert.com.
Holly Woodlawn, the transgendered underground star of Andy Warhol’s Factory, became a queer icon after appearing in Trash (1970) and inspiring Lou Reed’s song “Walk on the Wild Side.” Though unable to turn her underground celebrity into stardom, she appeared in some underground and indie films. Her last noted screen appearance was in two episodes of the Emmy-winning series Transparent. She passed away this week at the age of 69. William Grimes at The New York Times.
The Framing Pictures panel—Robert Horton, Richard T. Jameson, and Kathleen Murphy—will convene at 7pm tonight, Friday, December 11, at the Scarecrow Video screening room to discuss the best films of 2015. Check the Facebook page for details.
The second weekend of the Genius Film Festival, which spotlights the work of local filmmakers, takes place at Northwest Film Forum. On Saturday, December 12, James Longley screens his Oscar-nominated documentary Iraq in Fragments (2006) and David Russo shows his feature The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle (2009). On Sunday, December 13, director and actor Linas Philips screens short films and excerpts of his feature work and there’s a “Crewtopia” panel discussion with Phillips, Megan Griffiths, and Charles Mudede. All events include Q&As with the filmmakers and are free but you should register in advance for tickets. Showtimes, program details, and registration here for the Saturday and Sunday programs.
SIFF presents a Tom Courtenay double feature on Monday, December 14 at SIFF Uptown: a 35mm screening of Billy Liar (1963) plus an advance screening of the new film 45 Years with Charlotte Rampling. Details here.
SIFF Film Center has special screenings of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) presented in Smell-O-Vision and The Princess Bride with interactive Quote Along subtitles. Both play Firday through Sunday. Showtimes and other details here: Willy Wonka and Princess Bride.
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.