Posted in: by Bruce Reid, Contributors, Links

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of November 17

“Camille Paglia is not the only one to observe that the great movie stars – of any era – are those with androgynous characteristics. The same could be said for literary characters (people always seem to forget the cross-dressing incident with Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre), for art, for architecture. Not so much yin-yang, but a fluid back-and-forth, an effortless integration, a beckoning that can be very destabilizing. Part of star power is that destabilizing effect. Kristen Stewart is the best example we have today of an actress working in that hard-to-quantify-or-even-talk-about realm. When we talk about charisma, I’d just point to Personal Shopper, one of the best films of 2017, where the majority of the film features Kristen Stewart answering and responding to texts … seriously, that’s most of the movie … and you cannot look away.” Sheila O’Malley lays out her convincing case for Kristen Stewart as the modern inheritor of Brando’s mantle.

“Emerging at the very moment that women’s filmmaking was getting under way, Deitch made Desert Hearts a milestone, the only film to use that energy to fuel a genuine lesbian cinema. Before her, lesbians could seemingly choose only between being French (Diane Kurys’s Entre nous) or a vampire (Tony Scott’s The Hunger). Instead, Deitch set out to make a big, grand, red-blooded American film. Her women would drive through the desert and gamble in the casino, strike out for a dude ranch and file for divorce. And Deitch envisioned a romance, a sexy one that most lesbians wouldn’t even have dared to dream back then. And not just one with a room of our own, but a hotel room, preferably with a naked woman in it, and nobody to interfere.” B. Ruby Rich salutes Donna Deitch’s Desert Hearts as a film both inextricably of its time—a product of the feminized ‘70s and a harbinger of the independent scene to come—and able to effortlessly entertain and beguile audiences a generation later.

Desert Hearts

“Yet the moment when the family pulls up in the Dodge is so sublimely emblematic of the era’s defining culture clash that the awkward fumbling earlier in the sequence immediately becomes an essential part, concisely revealing the cognitive disconnect that occurs when members of society don’t understand one another. For a brief instant two distinct realities share a coherent space and time. The two sides never interact, they don’t have to; here it’s enough for them to brush up against each other.” Emma Piper-Burket finds Antonioni’s suspension of time during the orgy scene in Zabriskie Point may not work as an isolated scene—but paired with the immediately following portrait of tourists collecting another travel spot it becomes something profound and tragic.

“Adapted by Perry’s wife Eleanor from a case history by Theodore Isaac Rubin, it regards psychiatrists not as highbrow Freud clones whose insights surpass comprehension, but as dedicated professionals imperfectly breaking down barriers to connect with their patients. Notably, the plainspoken head physician (Howard Da Silva) makes a point to avoid jargon; only the well-read but supercilious David uses it, in a way the film presents derisively. And while flawed parenting is evident (where is it not?), the Perrys break with convention by not blaming everything on Mom and Dad or positing that remembrance of inciting episodes will bring about instant recovery. For David and Lisa, healing is gradual, nonlinear, and far from guaranteed.” Steven Mears points out the avoidance of psychiatric clichés in David and Lisa is just one sign of the film’s maturity, despite it being the film debut of both Perrys.

David and Lisa

“Nollywood did not have a distribution problem. Its movies were widely available around the country and the world. It did not have a success problem. Nollywood was very popular. But the money made did not necessarily go to the producers who invested in the movies, because Nollywood had a piracy problem. The ad hoc distribution system that created the industry was now the biggest obstacle to its success.” An excerpt from Emily Witt’s new book Nollywood: The Making of a Film Empire chronicles visits to the electronics market outside of Lagos where official DVD distributors hawk wares alongside pirates and the headquarters of Gabriel Okoye’s distribution empire G-Media, while detailing how the thriving markets both legal and illegal make it impossible to even chart the popularity of a given film.

“Yeah, my movies have had a lot of male energy…. Which may be why some people say the violence in Psychopaths is a little too broad. And by ‘some people,’ I mean ‘me.’ I’m allowed to say that now…. But this wasn’t meant to be a corrective to that—it’s really how the story presented itself to me. Once I’d decided the character would be this woman consumed by grief, Mildred really sort of wrote herself. And I’d really wanted to write something for Frances.” Martin McDonagh talks with David Fear about the genesis for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and the invaluable contributions of his actors, particularly McDormand and Sam Rockwell—who took inspiration for their characters from John Wayne and Lee Marvin, respectively.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

At Mubi, a pair of interviews with an aging legend still trying to get started on a new film and a current master so prolific the conversation has to talk on his three most recent films. Samuel B. Prime sits down for breakfast with James B. Harris (“The more you care about something, the more it hurts when it doesn’t turn out like you had imagined it or, worse yet, when it doesn’t happen at all. You know, I’m 89. I will be 90 years old next year. I’ve surpassed the average life expectancy of a man. I’m still trying to get projects made. People tell me all the time that I should retire, take it easy, enjoy the time that I have left…. I don’t know whether it’s a blessing or a curse to be so hip when the world is so square.”); while Hong Sang-soo discusses his college years, the importance of miracles, and the conditions under which he’s willing to accept a beautiful shot in conversation with Darren Hughes. (“Okay, when you deal with practical things, we all have to speak the same language, so we pretend to [share the same reality]. But really, really, really [laughs] realistically speaking, everything’s okay, is how I feel. Know what I mean? Everything is illusion, everything is grace. But when you deal with everyday life you have to speak the same language in order to communicate and get what you want. It’s dualistic.”)

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.