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

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of January 29

“Mann himself thinks that he has turned his back on Cooper. What he’s really done, perhaps, is to liberate Cooper from himself. Hawkeye’s and Cooper’s admiration for the Mohicans’ way of life—their blend of pragmatism and chivalry, and their genius at warfare, hunting, and navigating their environment—emerges stronger than ever in Mann’s version of the tale.” Michael Sragow praises Michael Mann’s “iconic and iconoclastic” take on The Last of the Mohicans; this inaugurates a series of articles on films related to works published by the Library of America, so more attention than usual is spent on the film’s relationship to its source novel, and Mann’s own disdain for Cooper’s “whitewash of land grabs and cultural imperialism.” Via Matt Fagerholm.

‘Last of the Mohicans’

Gilda is not meant to be clear. It is meant to plunge the audience into an atmosphere so emotionally claustrophobic that even Johnny’s voice-over can’t provide escape or enlightenment. In fact, his voice-over drops away in the final section of the film, so that Johnny’s feelings about Gilda in the last scenes are never revealed. Most noir voice-overs provide backstory and explanation. Not Johnny’s. There are some things that are buried too deep. The only characters in the film who have any perspective are the washroom attendant and the police detective. The leads have none.” Sheila O’Malley revisits Gilda, with particular focus on the understated (thus underappreciated) direction of Charles Vidor and the dazzling entrance of Rita Hayworth—not just in the film, but into legendary stardom.

Steven Mears compares the climaxes in two versions of The Letter, Bette Davis’s famous reluctance to bring cruelty to the moment coming off as “pillow talk” next to Jeanne Eagels’s roaring take on the material. Also at Film Comment, Marc Walkow’s account of how the Lady Snowblood films came to be made makes you regret we’ve never gotten to see Meiko Kaji play the scene, which might have been definitive.

‘Lady Snowblood’

“If, for instance, a studio was planning to make an Untouchables prequel starring Nicolas Cage and Gerard Butler and directed by Brian De Palma, Kavanaugh posited that he could evaluate the potential investment by plugging scores of historical-performance variables into his model, from Cage’s average global-box-office grosses in a particular genre to De Palma’s track record within a particular budget range. Applying this analysis across a studio’s entire slate, he could theoretically cherry-pick the winners and channel investors’ money into those alone. […] The company ended up passing, but someone close to the financial modeling recalls doing a double take at the rosiness of the Relativity algorithm’s prediction. ‘I read the input log for it. I thought: What’s missing? I said, ‘Where’s Snake Eyes?’—a Cage flop. ‘They said, ‘Uh, we’re leaving that out.’’” Benjamin Wallace’s investigation into Relativity Media founder Ryan Kavanaugh exposes a financial wizard whose dealmaking comes off just this side (and sometimes the other) of a con game, a philanthropist more interested in the public acclaim than paying off promised donations, and a producer who seems pretty indifferent to the films themselves. The perfect Hollywood insider, in other words, which is probably why the company’s already beginning to bounce back from bankruptcy and law suits.

Infuriated by the British Board of Film Classification’s policy of charging film producers by the minute for the nuisance of submitting their films for ratings—without which distribution is pretty much impossible throughout Great Britain—Charlie Lyne decided to waste the Board’s time as much as they do independent filmmakers’, raising the funds to submit a 10-hour film of paint drying called, naturally, Paint Drying. Abby Ohlheiser has the story; Lyne himself showed up for a Reddit AMA in good spirits even as the film was unreeling for its potential censors—who passed it with flying colors.

Christopher Bickel posts Lalo Schifrin’s original score for The Exorcist, and some relevant quotes from the composer on one of “the most unpleasant experiences” of his life. Comments on the internet can generally be avoided, but scroll down for a lengthy one from “snapeye” that offers a sharp musicological analysis of what Schifrin was up to, and a plausible scenario for why Friedkin reacted so negatively (that still mostly depends on the director being a temperamental bully).

“But Karina disagrees; she likes being the muse. ‘How could I not be honoured?’ she asks me, aghast. ‘Maybe it’s too much, it sounds so pompous. But of course I’m always very touched to hear people say that. Because Jean-Luc gave me a gift to play all of those parts. It was like Pygmalion, you know? I was Eliza Doolittle and he was the teacher.’ At this, she briefly channels Henry Higgins. ‘By Jove,’ she says. ‘I think she’s got it.’” Xan Brooks interviews Anna Karina, who’s, yes, lived a full life since parting with Godard; all of which gets covered in a brief paragraph toward the end of the article.

Anna Karina

Streets of Fire began in the euphoria of knowing that Paramount really liked [48 Hrs.] and wanted to be in business with us if they could. What happened was that after we screened that cut for Paramount, Larry looked at Walter and said, ‘Paramount is pregnant; let’s get something and set it up right away.’ Walter knew what he meant—that we were in a great position here—so he said, ‘We can do this two ways: present an idea now and get a deal done, or write a script on spec and get a lot more money.’ Walter proudly considers himself a capitalist, so he suggested we do the latter.” Screenwriter Larry Gross—who, from his apposite dropping of Godard and Cocteau references to his sincere regret the film didn’t include more gore, seems the perfect Walter Hill collaborator—talks with Blake Harris about the making of 48 Hrs. and Streets of Fire. Via Movie City News.

“The films I did with Marc Caro, we had to have a common world. And Amélie was absolutely not the cup of tea of Marc Caro. After City Of Lost Children we needed to separate, we both needed to make something more personal. We are not brothers like the Coens, and we are not lovers! We did an interview in San Francisco and they were very disappointed that we were not lovers (laughs).” Jean-Pierre Jeunet talks with Simon Braund, dispelling some rumors about his career (he quite enjoyed the experience of making Alien: Resurrection, and appreciates the free rein he was given) and confirming others (Jeunet’s far from the only filmmaker to criticize Harvey Weinstein, but he’s among the most vehement). Via David Hudson.

Laurie Anderson discusses with Mat Colegate her 13 favorite films, a pretty marvelous mixed bag that ranges from the intimacy of Ozu to the unabashed spectacle of The Ten Commandments (“Yul Brunner’s great in that movie too—he looks like he’s made of bronze”).

Obituary

Abe Vigoda

Abe Vigoda had been performing on stage for decades when he was cast in his breakthrough role: Salvatore Tessio in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972). “Tell Michael it was only business,” he says. “I always liked him.” A couple of years later he was cast as Detective Phil Fish in the sitcom Barney Miller, staying with the series for two and a half seasons, and starred in the spin-off Fish, which ran two seasons. Vigoda made his stage debut in 1947 and first appeared on TV in 1949 in an episode of Suspense, but he was almost exclusively performing on and off Broadway until The Godfather elevated his distinctive profile. He was a mafia Don in The Don is Dead (1973) and was cast as heavies and mobsters on shows like Mannix, Kojak, Cannon, Hawaii Five-0, and The Rockford Files before Barney Miller took off. Later he appeared in the films Cannonball Run II (1984, again playing a mobster), Plain Clothes (1987), Look Who’s Talking (1989), Prancer (1989), Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), Sugar Hill (1993), and Good Burger (1997), voiced another mobster in the animated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), and returned to voice the role of Salvatore Tessio for the game version of The Godfather. Vigoda passed away at the age of 94, 34 years after his demise was widely (and erroneously) first reported. The cause was “old age,” according to his daughter. Stuart Lavietes for The New York Times.

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.