Posted in: by Bruce Reid, Contributors, Links

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, November 4

“Who makes movies like this? And why aren’t more movies like this? Like Tarantino’s direction itself—stylish, cool, tight, but also relaxed, taking its time, in profile close-up, to show Ordell thinking, or Robert De Niro’s hilarious but deadly Louis, trying to figure out the phone, or Bridget Fonda’s stoner beach bunny sweetness mixed with amusingly acerbic shit talking, or Michael Keaton’s ATF agent chomping his gum, a little bit of a douchebag but not a terrible guy. There’s also the fantastic soundtrack adding heft and emotion to actors already doing the same. All of this surrounding Pam Grier who is, in a word, complex.” Kim Morgan’s notes for Jackie Brown are almost as much a (deserved) love letter to Pam Grier as the film itself. Via David Hudson.

“We don’t see Rio in prison, but we see how it changes him. He starts out as a carefree young bandit who perches on the counter during a bank holdup eating bananas and playfully weighing the peels on a scale, then steals a woman’s ring and uses it in his attempted seduction of an aristocratic señorita. After his time in the pen, though he still sports rakish scarves and a dazzling scarlet poncho, he has become sullen and withdrawn, brooding obsessively on revenge. When he finds his old partner in the coast town of Monterey, now a respectable sheriff with a family, he mirrors Dad’s hypocrisy, pretending to accept his lie about what happened while scheming to destroy everything he has. “A man can’t stay angry for five years, can he?” Rio asks with a wickedly disingenuous grin. Ask Ethan Edwards in The Searchers about that.” Imogen Sara Smith’s essay on One-Eyed Jacks begins by tracing the lineage of films that married the shadowed terrors of noir with the sunbaked vistas and haunted men’s-men of the western.

One-Eyed Jacks
One-Eyed Jacks

“Truffaut, who was nearly as indefatigable and as astute a reader as he was a moviegoer, saw the comedy in even the bleakest noir, and understood the genre’s odd similarity to farce, in the cascading awfulness of the calamities visited on their characters. The novel’s heroine sees in Eddie a resemblance to Charlie Chaplin: another small man who wants to be left alone (and never is), who can make you laugh and move you. When Truffaut filmed the novel, as Shoot the Piano Player, in 1960, he didn’t go full Chaplin—you never go full Chaplin—but he heightened both the humor and the pathos of Goodis’s low-down Philly noir.” Terrence Rafferty highlights the alterations Truffaut made to Goodis’s classic novel Down There—and the inherent faithfulness that underlies the change-ups.

““This is why teen-agers are so annoying to older people, but also why older people—or most of us—seem so tame in our passions and our desires and our generosity. Teen-agers have that kind of freshness to the world. They just want to wipe out racism, for example. And you are just, like, ‘You are never going to do that. Just go to a restaurant instead.’ Who is right in that conversation?” Rebecca Mead’s profile of Kenneth Lonergan makes clear how much the humorous, idealistic playwright and filmmaker identifies with both sides of his imagined discussion—and how much friends and family were worried about him after the ordeal of editing Margaret then fighting the studio for final cut drained him of the energy and spirit to do anything else for years.

Jean-Marie Straub’s list of ten (or eleven, or several more, depending on how you count) favorite films is said to be in “no particular order,” but the top three selections put paid to that.

The Chase
The Chase

David Bordwell has hunted down a script for The Chase, allowing him to confirm some of his earlier stated theories on how this iconic noir’s dream structure became so, frankly, weird. At piece’s end David Koepp writes in to Bordwell with a bit of confirmation that would only have occurred to a practical filmmaker who’s balanced a budget line or two of his own.

“I went to these doctors to try to get a rational, scientific explanation for what I had experienced. I thought they’d say, ‘This is some sort of psychosomatic disorder having nothing to do with possession.’ That’s not what I came away with. Forty-five years after I directed The Exorcist, there’s more acceptance of the possibility of possession than there was when I made the film.” This summer William Friedkin, ever the meticulous researcher, got around to doing what he’d intended to four decades earlier: witnessing and filming an exorcism. What he witnessed and what he claims medical experts told him afterwards makes for suitably interesting reading; bearing in mind that the teller of the tale could stand to see his reputation burnished a bit by having been right about this possession business all along. Via Longform.

HALLWAY TO HELL The corridor leading to the exorcism room (second door on right) at the Paulist Fathers residence in Rome. Photograph by William Friedkin.
The corridor leading to the exorcism room at the Paulist Fathers residence in Rome. Photograph by William Friedkin.

“It does [strike me as a political film]. I can see why it seemed that way. But it doesn’t seem that way right now to me. Maybe it’s because I can’t erase the things that were in our minds when we were making the film. Forget race. It was all about people stuck in a situation where the world is changing outside. Clearly, there was a substantive change happening, and these guys were still arguing about going upstairs, downstairs, blah, blah, blah. That’s all I see in it.” Halloween might be passed, but with a new restoration of Night of the Living Dead to play at MoMA, ‘tis still the season for George Romero interviews. There’s plenty of overlap in his discussions with Eric Kohn (quoted above) and Aaron Couch (“I’m telling you, man, after I did Land of the Dead, which Mark Canton produced, Universal picked it up and I had to use stars. I didn’t think I needed stars—Dennis Hopper was in it. I loved him. We hung out. I loved him, but his cigar budget was more than we paid for the entire budget of Night of the Living Dead.”), but chalk that up to his sense of economy and good storytelling. While Romero and many of his cohorts at Image Ten tell Glenn Kenny about the restoration, and how this might allow them to finally see significant profit off the blockbuster they made 48 years ago.

“Bunker’s book wasn’t much of a comedy and neither was the script, but the deeper I got into it, I thought, “This shit is funny.” I always thought Auto Focus was a comedy, but I learned from Auto Focus that you really have to hammer the audience hard. You have to let them know early on that they can laugh, so I did that on this one. I found while screening Dog Eat Dog that if an audience laughs in the opening scene, they’ll keep laughing, and if they don’t, they’ll never start.” Paul Schrader talks with Matt Fagerholm about Dog Eat Dog, how he came to film his first cameo, and the way our appreciation for the newest generation of filmmakers is hampered by film’s relative unimportance in society with the intellectual frankness that remains his hallmark.

Dog Eat Dog
Dog Eat Dog

“That’s the foundation for this modern conservatism: ‘Oh, my God. It’s so terrifying. Whatever we do leads to disaster. So what we have to do is shift around and plan for danger, in order to keep stable’—you have to have the right body mass index—and instead of analyzing the world in order to change it, you just monitor it for risk.” Interviewed by Jonathan Lethem—as Lethem puts it, “an American novelist pretending to be a journalist went to meet a British journalist who wanted nothing to do with being called an artist”—Adam Curtis discusses politics, the internet, and why he doesn’t want to be called an artist with the discursive, voracious intelligence that defines his essay films; he gets to the above point, for instance, by way of Jane Fonda, the VHS revolution, and Ted Turner marking the end of socially active liberalism. Via Mubi.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid.