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

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of September 15

Filmmaker’s annual collection of 25 new voices in independent film has arrived, a clutch of movie makers, with influences ranging from Laura Moss’s love of horror films to Jessica Kingdon’s reconnection with her mother’s Chinese heritage, to discover and, in a few cases at least, excitedly anticipate their future development.

“I’m not going to declare that Ruby Gentry is a litmus test for cinephilia, especially because the film itself fails all litmus tests. But there is something about it that gets to the heart of how movies live and why we watch them. That “something” is wrapped inside a contradictory film that ultimately gives way to the delirious powers of animal magnetism, deft shadowplay, and compositional expressiveness. If you love movies, you know the camera lets hobgoblins loose. Good taste and ideological purity are little match for a mud-spattered Jennifer Jones and Charlton Heston creating a Pietà in a swamp.” Even in Caledonian exile Robert Horton feels the pulse of uniquely American films, in this case King Vidor’s strange, powerful, (typically) underrated Ruby Gentry.

Ruby Gentry

“I’ve always thought of The Band Wagon as a poor man’s Singin’ in the Rain. In film classes, one is encouraged to compare the two, presumably because they are contemporaneous and both regarded among the top five of the genre. If The Band Wagon holds together at any point, it’s because of a certain continuity of mood and feeling. It’s the consummate “putting on a show” musical. And it’s a movie about the theater that seems to suggest, even more than Singin’ in the Rain does, that if your problems can’t be fixed by love, they can still be fixed by art. And that art, in turn, can be fixed by self-knowledge, including the knowledge of one’s own limitations.” Henry Giardina is a bit dismissive of the appeal and artistic merit of The Band Wagon, but he’s dead right about one of Fred Astaire’s least-commented upon charms: the ability to rise above adversity with a great pragmatic nonchalance.

“There’s a spiritual aspect to Bonnaire’s performance as she seems to exemplify some corrupted notion of free will. That freedom results in idle pleasure or beautiful stolen moments, like an intimate late night powwow with her father, brilliantly played by Pialat himself. He reveals that he’s planning to walk out on the family, but this bombshell barely registers with Suzanne because this is the type of brutal spontaneity that has become her creed. She carries on chomping a disc of baloney.” David Jenkins finds the lack of earnest life lessons and the natural acceptance of time rolling on regardless of your problems makes Pialat’s A nos amours the greatest of all teen dramas. Via David Hudson.

A nos amours

A (so far as I can determine) uncredited news article details the ongoing digitizing of hundreds of hours of Afghani films that had been hidden from the culturally destructive clutches of the Taliban by Afghan Film’s Habibullah Ali, who should be everybody’s new film hero. Via Bilge Ebiri.

“These days, though, she thinks her reputation is on an upswing. ‘The atmosphere has changed again,’ she tells me, with a sort of bemused detachment about the whims of public opinion. ‘I really feel like I’ve reached this new sort of Granny level. Don’t be really rude to Granny, you know?’ She laughs; her earrings dance. ‘The system is like, this is respect for your longevity in the industry. I feel that.’” Jane Campion discusses the highs and lows of her career—in terms of critical and popular support, not artistry and daring which have never waned—with Lindsay Zoladz.

Elisabeth Moss and Jane Campion

Vulture has a pair of interviews with comedic filmmakers that are as interesting for their surprising overlaps as their expected differences. John Cleese is far enough along in years and respect to be giving standard valedictory interviews, but talking with David Marchese he remains too prickly and sardonic to go the respectable route. (“Jesus is said to have never laughed in the Bible, and I think it’s because laughter contains an element of surprise—something about the human condition that you haven’t spotted yet—and Jesus was rarely surprised. I still laugh, but many of the things that would have made me laugh 30 years ago—paradoxes about human nature—wouldn’t make me laugh anymore because I just believe them to be true. They’re not revelations.”) While Mike White contrasts his introspective self-discovery with the envy-riddled business of Hollywood in conversation with Kyle Buchanan. (“I know some of my contemporaries to be incredibly craven and ambitious and monomaniacally obsessed with work and esteem and prizes and then they make these movies about, like, sheepish sad-sack slackers who are in love with some girl. And I know that guy probably spends 5 or 10 percent of his waking hours thinking about his relationship, because he’s spending 90 percent of it thinking about wanting to be impressive, wanting to make movies that are impressive. That’s so universal in this business. You spend so much of your day being triggered by, like, “Am I up? Am I down?””)

To promote the release of a new album featuring the rerecording of several of his classic themes, John Carpenter shot a video with Christine once again prowling nighttime streets, the streetlamps dripping of her polished hood as she glides along. No surprise the four minute ride is as sleek and witty as Carpenter can manage even in autopilot mode; though it is a bit unexpected that any vintage auto enthusiast would ever again have trusted him with a ’57 Plymouth Fury. Via Sam Barsanti.


Len Wein

Comic book writer and editor Len Wein began in the late 1960s as part of the new generation who grew up on comic books and brought their passion for the characters and the genre to their work. He co-created (with artist Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing, which brought horror and superhero genres together in what was the most unusual series character at DC at the time, and at Marvel co-created Wolverine (with Herb Trimpe) for an issue of “The Incredible Hulk” and tapped him for his revival of the “X-Men” comics, where he also created Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus with artist Dave Cockrum. All of those characters have made the transition to both TV and movies, as well as others he created over his decades-long career: Lucius Fox for “Batman,” Cheetah and Amanda Waller for “Justice League,” and the comic book “Human Target,” which became a short-lived series on Fox, to name just a few. Wein wrote for many characters in comics, including Batman, The Flash, and Superman, and was editor on many others, including Alan Moore’s “The Watchmen,” and wrote numerous episodes of various animated shows as well. He was 69. More from Steve Marble for Los Angeles Times.

Frank Vincent was a professional drummer before he was cast in his first film, The Death Collector (1976), but he became one of the go-to actors to play East Coast mobsters, thanks to Martin Scorsese, who first cast him in Raging Bull (1980) and then made him a gangster icon as Billy Batts in Goodfellas (1990). Spike Lee cast him in Do the Right Thing (1989) and Jungle Fever (1991) and he was in Scorsese’s Casino (1995), and to many he’s best known as Phil Leotardo in The Sopranos (2004-2007). He passed away at the age of 78. More from Neil Genzlinger 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.