The new Senses of Cinema features, alongside its other pleasures, a dossier on the giallo and further genre deconstructions of filmmakers Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. An interview with Anton Bitel captures the pair’s humor, practicality, and intellectual ambitions (“We had a lot of pleasure when we have watched these movies as an audience, we had a very big cinematic pleasure, and we too want to create a kind of little orgasm for the audience, you know, to give pleasure. We like to take that grammar to tell our own stories, and not do, like, a fan film about giallo or western, but to take this oneiric grammar, in fact—because there is a big oneirism in this genre about eros and thanatos – and to talk about desire.”); Kat Ellinger traces their acknowledged debt to Sergio Martino (“Martino wasn’t without his own subversions when it came to giallo. Like Cattet and Forzani, he reintepreteted specific conventions which, through this re-rendering, belonged to him and him alone.”), while Clare Nina Norelli explores some of their creative resettings of famous giallo scores (“Cattet and Forzani’s recontextualisation of Morricone’s Maddalena score has transmogrified the images on screen, elevating their murder mystery narrative into the realm of the spiritual.”). Aside from his interview duties, Bitel also contributes a piece on gender viewed through Cattet and Forzani’s dual gaze (“A couple (like Argento and Nicolodi) in real life as well as joint writers and directors of all their films, they regender the grammar of their adopted genres by articulating them in a creative exchange between the sexes.”); Martyn Contario extends consideration of the genres explored by the couple to the Freudian thrillers of classic Hollywood (“[Lang’s Secret Beyond the Door and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears] share tortured male protagonists searching for the answer to a repressed memory, hinged upon depictions of troubled minds as architectural spaces to wander.”); and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas praises the slippery role memory and association plays in their casting with a tribute to Elina Löwensohn’s starring turn in their latest, Let the Corpses Tan (“A man can be seen behind the gun, but it is a woman’s face in extreme close-up that catches our breath: her eyes, her pores, her lines, the moisture on her tongue, the gaps in her teeth, her mouth in general as she gnaws on a cigarette.”). And just when you might be wondering how Cattet and Forzani’s approach to filmmaking is economically viable, Jeremi Szaniawski chats with their producer Ève Commenge to get a sense of their very pragmatic approach to filming (“The production design of Amer and Let the Corpses Tan was similar: in both cases we were dealing with old places in ruins, threatening to collapse, we had to know exactly which places to redo. The set designer knew she had to do a fake wall in a designated place, and that it had to be 2.5 metres tall, and not an inch more. Pre-production was clear and precise, and there was no improvisation on the set.”)
“If Morocco, Dishonored, and Shanghai Express offer an informal trilogy bound by fascination with the eternal feminine, the next three films explore violent pathology in which sacrifice is supplanted by a cruel if often diabolically funny tussle between remorseless sadism and miserable capitulation. Audiences don’t need censors to warn them away; audiences do their own censoring, demanding happy endings and comic-book heroics and embraceable glamour. Von Sternberg now sailed heedlessly onto thin ice, determined to crack it wide open and release dark undercurrents.” Gary Giddins stands amazed—as all honest critics must—before the audacious, perverse, inimitable wonder that is von Sternberg and Dietrich’s six collaborations.
“Tanaka often said that she chose to marry cinema, a catchphrase that expressed her passion, but that also reflected the social expectations upon Japanese women at the time…. In fact, Japanese actresses of the period typically retired young, when they got married, but Tanaka never married nor had children. Instead, she chose to continue her work and became a mature actress and director. In 1953, the year in which Tanaka made her debut as a director with Love Letter, she was 43 years old and faced the same unfair destiny of many middle-aged actresses, with ever fewer opportunities for playing interesting parts, let alone protagonist roles.” Columbia’s Women Film Pioneers Project profiles Kinuyo Tanaka—whose celebrated acting career certainly needs no such introduction, but whose career as a director is still regrettably overlooked. Via Film Comment.
“Passer remembers Forman as a competitive spirit, determined to win at any and everything—sports, chess, the Academy Awards, you name it. In fact, he first earned Forman’s respect in a ridiculous challenge, in which someone dared the boys to see who could hold his hat against the wall the longest. Passer and Forman were the two left standing, and although the stunt left them so stiff they could barely move their necks for three days, they remained friends for life. Although Forman nearly always won, “It was a joy to beat him,” Passer affectionately recalls.” Ivan Passer recalls his friend and collaborator Milos Forman—during their school days, early breaks in their film careers, and escaping across the border with the good luck of stumbling across a fan—in conversation with Peter Debruge. Via David Hudson.
“Of course, everyone seems amused that I worked on Revenge of the Cheerleaders, 1976. Two dear filmmaking friends had made a very successful drive-in exploitation feature called The Cheerleaders. The economic success of that film initiated a request for a sequel by the distributor. Paul Glickler who had directed the first film wanted to move on to better things and gave his filmmaking partner and cameraman, Richard Lerner the opportunity to direct the second. Richard was kind enough to offer me a chance to shoot a feature film, which was irresistible and I became his partner in the making of this rather strange farce of a teenage movie that was very much influenced by the Republic serials we both loved so much as kids.” Nathaniel Dorsky offers a brief but warmly recollected account of the movies he worked on professionally between his day job as one of our finest experimental filmmakers. Via Mubi.
“Depp e-mailed [his business manager Joel] Mandel back on December 7th, 2009: ‘Dear Joel, First, thank you for dealing and getting me through. Secondly, I am doing my very best on holiday spending, but there is only so much I can do, as I need to give my kiddies and famille as good a Christmas as possible, obviously within reason. But, regarding the plane situation.?.?.?I don’t have all that many options at the moment. A commercial flight with paparazzis in tow would be a fucking nightmare of monumental proportions.?.?.?.?What else can I do??? You want me to sell some art??? I will. You want me to sell something else??? Sure?.?.?.?what???’” Stephen Rodrick’s profile of Johnny Depp—ostensibly to hear the actor’s side in the ongoing lawsuits against his former money managers, unavoidably a portrait of a star so long isolated from responsibility he can barely keep the multiple supposed conspiracies against him straight—may go down as one of the great uncomfortable sit-downs in entertainment journalism, three days in the mansion of a constantly high perpetual adolescent whose considerable charms tumble against his paranoid defenses and bone deep certainty that his is the only voice and energy in the room that matters.
Award-winning writer Harlan Ellison has had a complicated relationship to movies and TV over the course of his five-decade-plus career. He’s written arguably the most acclaimed episodes of The Outer Limits (“Soldier” and “Demon with a Glass Hand,” 1964) and Star Trek (“The City on the Edge of Forever,” 1967) as well as episodes of Route 66, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and The Young Lawyers, and was a creative consultant and writer on 1980s revival of The Twilight Zone and the 1990s science fiction epic Babylon 5. His stories have been adapted to TV and movies (A Boy and His Dog, 1975), and he co-scripted one of the most notoriously bad Hollywood films of the 1960s, The Oscar (1966). He championed the rights of writers for decades and he’s been outspoken in his criticisms of TV and movies as a critic and as a public figure, even famously bad-mouthing the way his scripts were rewritten and produced. He was an aggressive supporter of the ERA in the seventies and has been accused of inappropriate behavior with women. And as the remembrances come out, you’ll find many, many stories of his generosity as well as stories of, simply put, how much of a dick he could be. He was all of these things, but most importantly he was one of the most interesting, influential, and inspirational writers of speculative fiction of all time. He passed away this week at the age of 84 after a long battle with ill health. More from Richard Sandomir at The New York Times, and do read Keith Phipps at Vox as he uses the story of his award-winning Star Trek episode as a portrait of his career in miniature.
The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker.