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

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, September 16

With a restoration of The Man Who Fell to Earth playing England, the film has become quite the hot topic for discussion. Candy Clark talks with Neil Armstrong about the charms of working with David Bowie, who was always more straight-laced than he appeared (“Does [Bowie in the film] look like someone on heavy cocaine? No. His eyes are clear, his skin is clear, he is very relaxed. He had vowed to Nic Roeg that he would not do drugs while doing this film. I believe he kept his word. I think he made up all that other stuff just to be controversial, which he liked to do.”); while drugs—and sleeping around with Bianca Jagger—do make an appearance in Chris Campion’s account of how John Phillips came to make the film’s score. (“‘Those kind of episodes with Nic were relatively … I wouldn’t say frequent but they were not infrequent,’ says Graeme Clifford, who edited The Man Who Fell to Earth. ‘Everybody who knows Nic, at one point or another, has got into a rolling around on the floor fight with him. If John Phillips had not had a fight with him, I’d say, Oh really?’”) And cinematographer Tony Richmond shares some behind-the-scenes tales—including how his own blood made an on-camera appearance—with Leigh Singer. (“The spinning in the air—“aliens having orgasms”! We did that at Shepperton Studios afterwards. We built two towers and were up there with a camera, about 20 feet up. And we bought a huge trampoline and brought a trampoline specialist in, and the prop men were on another tower. And as they jumped up, they threw buckets of wallpaper paste all over them. And that’s what’s coming off them! Although quite frankly what I hate nowadays, is all these ‘how-they-did-this’ [features]. There’s no magic in movies anymore.”) Via David Hudson.

“It’s very hard for me to talk about the backlash because for me it was so directly personal. It was my mother getting sympathy cards, it was people coming up to me on the street telling me that they wished I was dead, saying they want their money back. It was me in my 84 Toyota Celica breaking down in LA in La Cienega underneath a billboard with my own face on it. It was a profoundly surreal experience.” As the new Blair Witch film hits theaters, Emalie Marthe talks to filmmakers Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick and actors Heather Donohue and Joshua Leonard about the making of the say-what-you-will-but-it-was-certainly-influential original, and the downside to having the most hyped film of your career marketed on your supposed death.

Chan is Missing
Chan is Missing

“Throughout the film, the seeming impossibility of tracking down the elusive Chan seems to emerge as a quintessentially Chinese predicament, which can only be solved by “thinking Chinese,” as Jo is advised—whatever that means. ‘This mystery,’ he ponders, over a close-up shot of rippling waves, ‘is appropriately Chinese. What’s not there seems to have as much meaning as what is there.’ But, he sighs, ‘I guess I’m not Chinese enough. I can’t accept a mystery without a solution.’” Jonathan Romney finds that Wang’s Chan Is Missing hasn’t aged a day since 1982, its freshness still intoxicating, its “inquisitive, skeptical” identity politics still livelier than most ponderous efforts.

“According to Narciso, who was a small boy at the time, the Chimes production shot in Chinchón over the course of three to five days sometime in 1966. Welles would show up with his entire crew every single day of the shoot. The filmmaker always ordered the same meal: bean and chorizo stew, followed by a 700-gram churrasco steak, cooked rare, which he washed down with the house red, fermented in caves below the restaurant. Kate and I attempted the same meal, but the 350-gram churrasco was more than enough for both of us.” Valeria Rotella visits Chinchón, Spain, to track down what, if any, filming Orson Welles did there for Chimes at Midnight and (not in dispute) The Immortal Story. As you’d expect from a career as haphazard as Welles’s, local legend proves a lot easier to pin down than verifiable records.

Fernando Rey in 'The Immortal Story'
Fernando Rey in ‘The Immortal Story’

“My first film was in this mode, Michael Winterbottom’s The Road to Guantánamo. It told the story of a group of friends from Birmingham who were illegally imprisoned and tortured in the US detainment camp. When it won a prestigious award at the Berlin film festival, we were euphoric. For those who saw it, the inmates went from orange jumpsuits to human beings. But airport security did not get the memo.” Riz Ahmed describes how his constant being profiled by airport security wore at him even as his acting roles expanded beyond easy stereotypes.

“I feel very proud. I was in South Korea and they spoke about Cleo from 5 to 7 as if it was made yesterday. In China, I remember, a student came up to me saying, ‘You know the film, Cleo from 5 to 7? You say that you’ve used real time but I saw one scene where you have a jump cut,’ which was true. But the idea that 55 years later, when a student from as far as China knows about your work, you feel something. Like your film exists.” Discussing her career—and her marvelous elder status as a highly-feted legend—with Chandler Levack, Agnès Varda evinces an optimism and buoyancy that seems the result of having faced so many obstacles in her career and having sailed through them all effortlessly.

Agnes Varda
Agnes Varda

“The best student films would screen at Royce Hall every quarter, and I remember being at one of those events. All the movies were about flower children who were just discovering sex and going up to Topanga Canyon. And I thought, What is this? I mean, you want to talk about Black Lives Matter . . . In my world, people were getting beat up with clubs and sticks, people were going to jail and disappearing. I had to drive from South Central all the way to UCLA; it was just a different environment. When I saw these films, I just thought, I can’t do this.” Charles Burnett talks with Andrew Chan about his formative years at UCLA, from stirrings of the thought he might be a cinematographer to the marvelous instruction of Professor Elyseo Taylor, who steered him toward Joris Ivens and world cinema, first hint to the young man that his voice wasn’t only worth hearing, but would be heard.

“David and i were composing and producing a debut album for Julee Cruise, who’s an absolutely wonderful singer, called floating into the night. We all worked together earlier on the song ‘mysteries of love’ from Blue Velvet, and we both realized she had such a special voice. So, David gave me a few lyrics and boom, we got Julee to record that song for her album. One of the lyrics was ‘falling.’ he legitimately just wrote ‘falling’ to begin with. Nothing else—very helpful, David.” Angelo Badalamenti tells Devon Ivie how five iconic tracks from the Twin Peaks soundtrack were made, including the reveal (kept secret for years, “because we didn’t want anyone else to use it”) of what instrument is playing at the theme’s opening.

Seattle Screens, the weekly survey of film events around town, is on Parallax View here.


Alexis Arquette
Alexis Arquette

Actress and transgender activist Alexis Arquette, born Robert Arquette, was the younger sibling in the acting clan that included sisters Roseanna and Patricia. She made her screen debut playing a transvestite in Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989), appeared in Of Mice and Men (1992) and Threesome (1994), had small but memorable roles in Pulp Fiction (1994) and Bride of Chucky (1998), and played a Boy George impersonator in two Adam Sandler comedies: The Wedding Singer (1994) and Blended (2014). On the small screen she had guest shots on Roseanne and Friends and played Caligula on Xena: Princess Warrior but had a much bigger impact appearing on the celebrity reality show The Surreal Life in 2003. In 2007, she was the subject of the documentary She’s My Brother (2007), which engaged her life and issues of sexual identity. She died from complications related to AIDS as 47. Ryan Gilbey for The Guardian and an appreciation of her influence in the transgender movement by Tre-vell Anderson for Los Angeles Times.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries and Seattle Screens curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.