“Each table is crowded with sinister figurines as well as examples of that creepiest of all nineteenth-century fads, dead flowers under glass. The rooms seem to oppress the characters with all these things. The main staircase and the hallways are emptier, it’s true, but who wants to hang out in the hallways, where every door looks alike and is ready to swing shut without warning?” Farran Smith Nehme gets her seasonally appropriate production design love on, praising (for Library of America) how Robert Wise, cinematographer Davis Boulton, and designer Elliot Scott crafted images in The Haunting to somehow match Shirley Jackson’s implicitly sinister prose; then at Film Comment saluting one of the essential elements of Hammer horror. (“Every time characters walk outside or ride in a carriage, on their way to investigate, to rescue, flee or pursue—no one is ever just out for a walk or a drive in a Hammer movie—the wheels send dead leaves flying and half-bare branches curl toward the road like fingers. The travelers clutch their wraps and look up at menacing, usually gray skies. And when they arrive, what should greet them, but the sets of Bernard Robinson.”)
Film Comment also has Steven Mears on Deboarah Kerr’s unique aptitude for playing governesses (“This reciprocity (or, at worst, codependency) [with her charges] infuses all of her governess portrayals, and is one reason why her creations are miles apart from Julie Andrews’s impeccable Mary Poppins or concurrent TV domestics like Shirley Booth’s Hazel and Alice from The Brady Bunch: Kerr’s nannies need their children, perhaps even more than they’re needed by them.”); and Margaret Barton-Fumo applauds Harry Nilsson’s soundtracks, from Skidoo’s tellingly old-fashioned tunes to Popeye’s on-the-money raggedness, as well as the rare “concert” films the stage-fright afflicted Nilsson only allowed to be filmed without an audience.
“[At] certain points in the story, particularly early on, the footsteps are louder than the dialogue, and there are stretches when you can’t make out any single word. It is imperfect and messy, just like the frontier, just like the film itself, just like life. In McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Altman did not so much reproduce a lost past as create a new world, with its own logic and texture. This is the source of the film’s honesty, which is to say its beauty.” At Criterion, a pair of idiosyncratic takes on genre that wind up masterpieces of the forms they’re deconstructing. Nathaniel Rich finds McCabe’s heroic but inevitably doomed stand against the system a parallel to Altman’s own; while Michael Atkinson sees the rich interplay between reality and fantasy, politics and personal journey, metaphor and mental landscape in del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth as its own justification, rather than the facile question of what’s really happening. (“[The Spanish Civil War] was, for many, a loss of innocence, which for a piece of pop-genre filmmaking with a preteen heroine might be symbolic load enough. But the action of the film also reverberates beautifully as a metaphor for the incomprehensible mysteries and wholesale savageries of the adult world, as seen from four feet off the floor.”)
“Night at the Crossroads resembles no other movie made before it: smoky, foggy, and visually very dark. It represents a key step between the detective film, which is supposed to be resolved logically, and the purely filmic thriller, which trades in atmosphere and seduction.” Often written off as minor Renoir, Night at the Crossroads is remarkable, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky attests, not just as a harbinger of film noir, but the embrace of a cinema built on mood and effect, not plot and character.
Lyon’s Lumière Festival certainly seems to be doing at least one thing right: getting filmmakers to speak freely and openly about matters that interest them. From this last week, highlights are offered (by John Hopewell and Jamie Long) from Walter Hill’s frank, rousingly apolitical career overview (“I feel very strongly… that a lot of filmmakers seem to want credit for throwing themselves on the side of good intentions. Then when the films don’t work, they kind of ask for a kind of pity. I totally reject this.”) and (by Nick Vivarelli) of Quentin Tarantino’s latest cinematic obsession, which he has whittled down to a fascination with the year 1970 (“There was a promise in 1970 that a new genuine black cinema would emerge…. That ended up not happening. Blaxploitation ended up taking its place. I’m known as a fan of blaxploitation, but now I’m seeing that blaxploitation did derail a true black voice [from] rising in cinema as much as I appreciate it.”).
“Certain things are destiny, like when he [pointing at Michael] showed up at the door for his first audition—I opened the door and thought “Henry’s here.” It was not a process of sifting through ideas and going through things that I had thought of over the years. When I left the building that day, there was a 7-11 down the street and I went there and bought some lottery tickets because I figured this was my lucky day.” John McNaughton and Michael Rooker (who, yeah, really should have kept the suitcase), interviewed by Peter Sobczynski, look back from 30 years on at Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
“On his way into a California Pizza Kitchen on the less glamorous side of Wilshire Boulevard, a young woman on her way out of the restaurant instantly recognized him: ‘Oh my god, you’re my favorite actor!’ ‘And you’re mine,’ Beatty fired back. Warren Beatty seduced the world, and the world still seems to be in love with him.” The seductiveness of Warren Beatty still persists, apparently, enough to receive a remarkably glowing profile from Sam Kashner, in which tossing out a handful of details on his lothario past is taken as a sign of his discretion (consider how many he didn’t name!), and dragging out—till her agent finally had to call and ask if she had the part—Lily Collins’s interviews and rehearsals for Beatty’s new film Rules Don’t Apply only shows how marvelously he can take moviemaking at his own, unhurried pace.
“And [being told the teen residents of an Austin shelter were ‘the throwaways of America’] had a huge resonance for me. I wanted to find people whose lights hadn’t gone off—where despite their hard starts in life, you could still see their potential, their beauty, and their spirit, and see they’re not throwaways at all. I guess on some level, if the film is trying to show anything, it’s that.” Andrea Arnold discusses her unorthodox filming methods—on her latest, American Honey, no less than her previous films—with Robbie Collin; and even manages to do that distinctively, perching on her hotel room’s windowsill where previous interviewees had all talked with Collin on the couch.
“It’s not the most luxurious place in the world…. Everyone who is here is here because they need to live, because they have an urgency, they have a sense of purpose, which is very basic. It’s ‘I need to feed my family’, ‘I need to make enough money to make things work’. So we all understand each other.” Christopher Doyle, lugging camera equipment, lost among the labyrinth, and enjoying a beer at 11am, guides an unidentified South China Morning Post reporter through Chunking Mansions, hoping to stop development from making a memory of the iconic residence where Chunking Express was filmed. Via Movie City News.
Adrian Curry celebrates the 54th New York Film Festival with a selection of posters from films that played 50 years ago, at the 4th.
Circus acrobat, clown, cabaret star, artist, actor, and for a brief time director, Pierre Etaix was one of the great comedy treasures of France. He trained and performed as a clown, became a star on the cabaret circuit in the fifties, and worked with Jacques Tati as both gag man and a graphic artist on the classic Mon Oncle (1958), where he sketched the legendary caricature that Tati continued to use through his career, before making his own films. He won the Academy Award for his second short film, Happy Anniversary (1962), and went on direct four feature comedies, including The Suitor (1962), Le Grand Amour (1966), and his masterpiece Yoyo (1965), where he played both a ruined millionaire and his son, who grows into a celebrated clown. Celebrated on their release, the films all but disappeared for four decades due to legal issues and his legacy dimmed until they were freed only in 2009, restored in 2010, and rereleased to great acclaim. Though he never directed another film after the documentary Land of Milk and Honey (1971), he took roles in a number of films, including Jerry Lewis’ notorious and uncompleted The Day the Clown Cried (1972), Nagisa Oshima’s Max mon amour (1986), Philip Kaufman’s Henry & June (1990), Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs (2009), and Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre (2011). He passed away at the age of 87. Ronald Bergen for The Guardian.
Ted V. Mikels produced and directed dozens of low-budget exploitation movies over his 50 year-plus career, earning cult status with films The Astro-Zombies (1968), The Corpse Grinders (1971), Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (1973), and The Doll Squad (1973). In later years he made films directly for the home video market, cashing in on his most memorable titles with such sequels as The Corpse Grinders 2 (2000) and Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2004). He continued making movies right up to his death at the age of 87. William Grimes 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.