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

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of January 6

“Pagnol’s roots as a novelist and a playwright show in his intricate understanding of networks, of crosscurrents that whisk the characters away from seemingly nearby finish lines. He has an astonishing grasp of destiny, not as a sentimentally celestial branch of predetermination, but as a series of prisms fashioned by the push and pull between emotion and human-contrived social structures.” A restoration of Marcel Pagnol’s Marseilles Trilogy (for he is clearly the prime author, if only the director of the final installment) has Chuck Bowen marveling at the novelistic richness of the films; while Jeremy Carr is astonished by the lifelike, quotidian detail. (“[These] films take their time, making sure to supplant in the drama properly ample space for joking digressions and an informal laze-away-the-day realism. César’s boisterously high emotions are capricious, sometimes in the span of the same outburst, but that variability mirrors the gracefully juxtaposed outrage of the series in general; characters will get angry and breathlessly passionate, but the film itself—grounded, cautious, unflappable—refuses a wholly agitated tone.”

“He is the exile director: a Latin American who made most of his movies in English, French, or Portuguese—and whose aesthetic inhabits an absolute alien territory. His films are drifting, fantastical, introspective, melancholy, erudite, raucous—sometimes telling no story at all, sometimes telling too many. He made so many films, and they so consistently refuse to obey whatever formal rules we’ve come to expect from cinema, that they tend to develop into a blurry whole in your mind.” Adam Thirwell on Raúl Ruiz, of course, flush from a retrospective so partial it doesn’t even feature the movie it was named after, discussing how Ruiz’s narrative tangents and love of tableau vivant open cinema up to stories and visions unapproachable by more conventional means.

Raúl Ruiz’s ‘The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting’ (1978)

“Don’t cry, Kitty. Please don’t cry.” “I’m not crying you fool, I’m laughing.” Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin’s latest video essay and accompanying text examines perspective in Scarlet Street, and how the director reserves for himself a clear-eyed view of the whole situation. (“That’s when Lang’s movies slam home terrible, fatal realities—when all tricky veils and pleasant sentiments fall away from the images lodged in his characters’s eyes. Only the director, finally, is the Master of Perspective; only he is able to get outside the scene to see, and indeed plot, all the angles.”)

“It’s the second time I have had a dream about death. And each time I have felt an extraordinary sense of freedom, of not needing any kind of protection. What can it mean? The interview with Bergman where he says I am the best contemporary director is in Playboy.” Excerpts from Tarkovsky’s diary show that, yes, the director was actually that fond of philosophical conundrums and grand metaphysical statements, even making notes to himself about the official response to Solaris or the first stirrings of an idea that would become The Mirror. Via Mubi.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Solaris’

“I hadn’t thought about or seen Three Times in years, yet there it was, a film I’d stumbled into and loved at a festival years prior, readily bringing itself forward as the answer to a dense riddle. (How do I unpack Tarell’s voice, meld it with my own, and present what ultimately would become Moonlight to an audience?) Intellectually, the path from here to there is rarely ever clear to me; I can’t watch Hou’s film and know that someday it will provide the “eureka moment” that will send me on my way. In a world where visual stimulus surrounds us—whether staring at a 15-second teaser on our phones or sifting through Vimeo thumbnails on our Apple TV—I like to think that such influences are asserting themselves all the time, the things we see manifesting themselves in the things we make.” Barry Jenkins lists the cinematic influences on Moonlight in a brief introductory essay he wrote for a Lincoln Center program he curated on the topic.

“Four of five films of today and of yesterday thus prefigure the future era of cinema, and these are the films we have learned by heart, running them back and forth through the Moviola so as to grasp their secret. That’s why I find the following anecdote so revealing: this tale of a boy who didn’t at all like Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne when it was projected on a Saturday afternoon in a theater on the Champs-Élysées—but who was astonished, completely fascinated by its slow unfolding, once it was unveiled for him, and only him, on a tiny screen, like something to be read, no longer just seen; only then could he discover this extraordinary work in its true light.” Adrian Martin pops up again, as translator and writer of a short introduction for the less well-known but equally great of Alexandre Astruc’s 1948 essays, “The Future of Cinema,” a marvelous, rousing leap from cool, quite prescient predictions about technological advances to an outburst of self-admitted “fragrant lyricism” as the vision of cinema’s potential unlocked leads Austruc to a revolutionary froth. Via David Hudson. [.pdf warning]

Molly Haskell

“But ideally we should hope for filmmakers who are able to imagine the lives of other people who aren’t like them, and be critical when we don’t see that. It should be considered one of the criteria by which we judge an artist, his ability to identify with or empathize with other people. But it should be one criteria.” Molly Haskell talks with Matt Zoller Seitz about life without Andrew Sarris, how From Reverence to Rape was out of step with both the mainstream and the feminists of its time, the freedom-from-wanting-children escapism of Hepburn and Tracy films, and speculates on the long shadow Doris Day cast over the Movie Brats.

“And I wrote one volume just about light, and one volume about color, because after Apocalypse Now, I felt the need to stop and understand exactly what these things are—I was using them without knowing anything about them. So I stopped for one year and stayed in my house to read books, watch movies, and listen to music, but mainly read books, to understand what was “inside” light and color. I discovered the symbology, physiology, and dramaturgy of color, and I started a new chapter in my life.” In two recent interviews Vittorio Storaro has fully committed to the doomsayer classicist persona he’s been crafting for some time. With Yonca Talu (as quoted above) he breaks up the complaints about how the current generation just doesn’t get it with details of his collaborations with Allen, Coppola, and Saura; his interview with Sven Mikulec doesn’t bother with such pleasantries, despairing nonstop about technological devices and ignorant filmmakers that have let the art of cinematography, of telling stories through pictures, in such a wretched state. (“Video cameras today are very sensitive, they have 1000, 2000 ASA, which is a number that tells you their speed. At the beginning, the number was 16 or 25. So you had to know the use of light to make the image visible. Today they don’t know. Wherever they put the camera, you see an image. That’s it. They don’t interpret it. You need one kind of a scene, one kind of a visual concept, and in order to achieve those you have to use different kinds of light. That’s the problem today.”) Via John Wyver.


John Berger

Art critic, essayist, and novelist John Berger challenged the traditional approach to aesthetics with his four-part TV series and accompanying book Ways of Seeing, one of the most influential works of theory and criticism of the 20th century. Though he never addressed cinema directly in his work as a critic, he collaborated with filmmaker Alain Tanner as a screenwriter on the films The Salamander (1971), The Middle of the World (1974), and Jonah Who Will be 25 in the Year 2000 (1976) and scripted a number of British TV programs. Berger’s ideas were a powerful influence on Orlando (1992) and its star, Tilda Swinton, collaborated on the documentary The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger (2016). He passed away this week at the age of 90. Michael McNay for The Guardian, and David Hudson gathers an amazing compilation of tributes, profiles, and remembrances.

One last loss of 2016: William Christopher, who played the gentle Roman-Catholic chaplain Father Francis Mulcahy on the TV series M*A*S*H for 11 seasons and the short-lived spin-off After MASH. His TV co-star Alan Alda remembered Christopher with the note: “His kind strength, his grace and gentle humor weren’t acted. They were Bill.” He was 84. Liam Stack 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.