“As Long As There Is Art”

On Film / The Daily — May 30, 2017

Now that the Cannes Film Festival has wrapped, we’ve got some catching up to do. Let’s begin with Scout Tafoya’s report for the Village Voice on a recent symposium “on film criticism and scholarship commemorating the legacy of German film journal Filmkritik. It lasted 27 years and had only 5,000 subscribers, but it courted first-rate talent: married critics Frieda Grafe and Enno Patalas, editor Harun Farocki, directors R.W. Fassbinder and Wim Wenders.” Molly Haskell, J. Hoberman, Carrie Rickey, and Film Quarterly editor B. Ruby Rich were among the attendees and speakers.

Further in: “Dr. Mattias Frey sets the stage in the opening panel, ominously titled ‘The Permanent Crisis of Criticism.’ He shares quotes, stretching from 2008 back to 1927, predicting the demise of cinema and criticism. ‘In my research,’ he says, ‘I found it was actually difficult to find a period in film criticism where there was not a perception of crisis.’” Tafoya wraps on what may be a surprisingly upbeat note: “As long as there is art, there will be criticism.”

“I married Jeanne Moreau in 1977 at a town hall in Paris,” begins William Friedkin in the New York Times’ T Magazine. “Moreau was one of the most revered actresses of her generation, and we were attended by a notable group: Jacques Chirac, the city’s soon-to-be mayor, spoke, and our witnesses were the film director Alain Resnais, who had introduced me to Jeanne, and his wife, Florence Malraux, daughter of the writer André Malraux.” But that's not really what Friedkin aims to address here. This essay is about “my love for Proust.”

“Comedy is a promiscuous and voracious genre,” and its “destiny” is “to recycle, combine, devour, and absorb bits of all other genres.” In “Game Space and Play Time: A Partial History of American Screen Comedy,” now up at photogénie, Adrian Martin considers the work of Ernst Lubitsch, Preston Sturges, and Frank Tashlin.

“American features of the 1910s include cuts and framings and camera moves and lighting choices and performance bits that no one now could imagine using,” writes David Bordwell, who then lays out several examples.

Also at Observations on Film Art, Kristin Thompson writes about several highlights in the Flicker Alley release Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology, “one of the last projects curated and produced by the late David Shephard.”

“The great paradox of interviews with directors is that, though they started as how-to guides for the interviewers themselves (Truffaut’s interrogation of Hitchcock was like his own film school, and his direction changed significantly after he completed the book), and though and there’s always an inescapable element of mere celebrity fascination to them (because now, unlike the fifties, directors are in fact celebrities), they are also a form of art in themselves.” And the New Yorker’s Richard Brody’s got some recommendations for us.

Catherine Grant points us to American Cinematographer, where we find an array of spectacular photographs accompanying an appreciation of Gregg Toland, probably best known for working closely with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane (1940). George E. Turner’s piece originally ran in 1982. Toland’s “advice to aspiring cameramen was simple. ‘Forget the camera. The nature of the story determines the photographic style. Understand the story and make the most out of it. If the audience is conscious of tricks and effects, the cameraman’s genius, no matter how great it is, is wasted.’”

“I got my True Identity gig at Disney because the year before I had made a successful, low-budget indie called Sidewalk Stories [1989],” writes Charles Lane at the Talkhouse Film. “To a large degree, Disney and I were at cross purposes. I think it’s fair to say that, at times, Disney and I were attempting to make two separate films. And, throughout our journey, knock heads we did.” For a while, it is not a pretty story. But then . . . !

Revisiting Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s Black Narcissus (1947) seventy years on for the BFI, Adam Scovell notes that it “raises some intriguing questions about the outlook of Britain in its period of production. Here, the world outside of Europe is treated, through a perceived exoticism, with a surreal otherness. This sits alongside a radical questioning of female sexual desire and repression, which unleashes a level of eroticism that’s surprising for 1940s British cinema.”

“Stanley Kubrick made just 13 feature films in his nearly 50-year career, and from the ‘60s through the ‘90s . . . each new project went through more or less the same press-cycle,” writes Noel Murray for Musings. “It was as though each picture had to re-teach the audience how to watch a Stanley Kubrick film.”

Afterimage may well be the most critical and self-critical film of [Andrzej] Wajda’s illustrious career,” suggests J. Hoberman, writing for the New York Review of Books.

“For all the cinephiliac references that abound in Reservoir Dogs,” writes Chuck Bowen at Slant, “there’s a figure of inspiration to [Quentin] Tarantino that’s been acknowledged but underestimated: David Lynch. Tarantino’s early films take Lynch’s totemic pop-art aesthetic and dilute its political and psychological undertow, replacing it with attitude.”

“As a seminal work of science fiction, [Katsuhiro Otomo’s] Akira [1988] is revolutionary in how it treats the divide between human and technology, since it erases it altogether,” argues Jacqueline Ristola in an essay at animationstudies 2.0. Via Catherine Grant.

“Late Ridley [Scott]—which is to say the films that he’s made since 2007, in the space between his 70th and 80th birthdays—tends to be heavy on talk,” writes Adam Nayman at the Ringer. “Or maybe it’s just that the talk itself that’s gotten heavy.”

In the London Review of Books, Michael Wood notes that Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966) “can’t get enough of the 1960s city, with its alleyways, shops, arcades, old red phone booths, a pot-smoking party in Chelsea and a club performance by the Yardbirds that is so authentic it looks like a flimsy parody of itself. Of course the mood of supposed distaste is really part of the city’s offbeat attraction, its infectious, self-regarding faith that there is no place like it.”

“I chose Bard College because I knew the truly great experimental filmmaker Peter Hutton was a teacher there,” writes Miles Joris-Peyrafitte. “That must have been enough for me because I didn’t look at any of the other professors on the active faculty. Imagine my surprise when on the first day of class, as I paced anxiously back and forth, I saw that unmistakable sandy-colored mutt Lucy bounding down the stairs before me, followed closely behind by none other than Kelly Reichardt herself. . . . With the help of Kelly, Peter, and yet another incredible filmmaker who happens to teach at Bard—So Yong Kim—I finished my senior thesis film and graduated in the summer of 2014. A year and a half later, As You Are premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, alongside So’s Lovesong and Kelly’s Certain Women.

Also at the TIFF Review, Chris Cummings (a.k.a. Marker Starling) revels in dozens of covers of Michel Legrand’s songs for Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964).

Daniel Riccuito, Tom Sutpen and David Cairns: “As a darkened inventory of American life in the years after the Great War, William A. Wellman’s Heroes for Sale has few peers. Like its drug-addled protagonist, it’s quick with a furtive grin to cover its nervous tension; its rhythms are sinuous, punchy, never maudlin yet prone to trembling fits. It is a film that moves from scene to scene, incident to incident, with a rash self-assurance, and a grim determination to embody everything that carried the United States, its people and its institutions, to a condition of deep estrangement. And it was released on June 17, 1933.”

Also at the Chiseler: “Thirties films had a unique sympathy with the older woman,” writes David Cairns, and Jim Knipfel considers Joseph Losey’s The Lawless (1950) and Roger Corman’s The Intruder (1962).

“The directorial personality of Robert Aldrich was not that of the harried floor manager but rather of a schizophrenic at a high state of inflammation,” writes Matthew Wilder for the Talkhouse Film. “In brief, Aldrich was a 100 mph collision of the personality of a cigar-chomping high-school football coach with that of an Abbie Hoffman-like Yippie.”

Writing about the late Seijun Suzuki for Streamline, Kimberly Lindbergs notes that Damien Chazelle has cited Tokyo Drifter (1966) as an influence on La La Land. Chazelle: “His super wide frames and very pop-art colors—they feel like musicals to me, but with guns.”

“A rude delight about a coven of feisty lesbian terrorists, [Bruce LaBruce’s] The Misandrists [2017] is a cinematic Molotov cocktail mixing screwball comedy, hardcore sex, and radical politics to explosive effect,” writes Charlie Fox for Artforum. “It’s also a total hoot.”

Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Sijia Li suggests that Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski's Sense8 is “a Netflix show that might as well be an allegory for Netflix itself.” Via Movie City News.

1987

“Three years ago, I launched a springtime tradition of revisiting a past Cannes, gathering every film I could find from each section of the festival and watching them in the order of their initial unveiling,” writes Nick Davis for Film Comment.

This May, I embarked upon a 30th-anniversary return to Cannes 1987, which bears two chief claims to fame. One concerns its contentious culmination, with Maurice Pialat harvesting a surprise Palme d’Or for his austere, quietly received Georges Bernanos adaptation Under the Sun of Satan, eliciting boos at the prize ceremony, which Pialat proudly reciprocated. Its other principal legacy is Roger Ebert’s 1987 book Two Weeks in the Midday Sun, reissued last year in paperback, a pre-Internet diary of how Cannes feels to a perennial, all-access pilgrim, complete with his pencil drawings and journal entries about screenings, interviews, promenades, computer crises, and favorite titles from the Cannes market, including Blood-Sucking Monkeys of Forest Lawn.

And his own private Cannes 1987 continues.

“May 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Alan Clarke’s film Rita, Sue and Bob Too—a twisted comedic drama, set in Bradford, about two schoolgirls (Rita and Sue) who embark on a polyamorous affair with Bob, a married man they babysit for,” writes Tom Jones. “Promoted as ‘Thatcher’s Britain with her knickers down,’ the film is a bawdy comic farce and a snapshot of northern working-class life under an increasingly repressive Tory government.” Also for the BFI, Oliver Lunn revisits the film’s locations.

“While the film may have dignified the working class in as much as it was not another gloomy representation of our friends in the north,” writes Jonathan P. Watts for frieze, “it is far more ambivalent about feminism and race politics—social movements well established in the north of England by the mid-1980s. . . . At what, and how, are we laughing when we laugh at sexual predators and casual racism represented in Rita, Sue and Bob Too?”

Adelle Stripe, author of Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile, a novel inspired by the life and work of Andrea Dunbar, the playwright who wrote Rita, Sue and Bob Too, for the Quietus: “This was most definitely not erotic cinema; instead it captured the grim, rainy, cold fumblings of a windswept Yorkshire moor.”

It was “an unexpected hit” and the BBC looks back at how Bradford took its moment in the spotlight at the time. In short, not well.

On a related note, ten years before, in 1977, the BBC pulled the plug on Alan Clarke’s Scum, an event Adam Scovell revisits for the Quietus.

Books

Jonathan Rosenbaum recommends Ben Davis’s Repertory Movie Theaters of New York City: Havens for Revivals, Indies and the Avant-Garde, 1960–1994: “This is above all a work of social history, and because the 34 years that it covers includes all of my own extended sojourns in Manhattan and environs . . . I can vouch for its accuracy as well as its success in evoking a now-vanished film culture without ever succumbing to the distortions of nostalgia.”

“[I]n the space of a few years, post-Mussolini Rome went from being known as a city downcast by war and fascism to the place the fashionable people of the world came to hang out, make movies and perhaps wear form-fitting Pucci clothes: Hollywood on the Tiber.” Writing for the Guardian, Bee Wilson suggests that Shawn Levy’s Dolce Vita Confidential: Fellini, Loren, Pucci, Paparazzi, and the Swinging High Life of 1950s Rome “would be just the thing to pack if you were intending a Hepburn-ish Roman holiday this summer.”

In Arresting Cinema: Surveillance in Hong Kong Film, Karen Fang “shows that Hong Kong has for decades been a metropolis where the movements of people have been tracked by watchful eyes,” writes Susan Blumberg-Kason for the Los Angeles Review of Books, “and she zooms in on how the movie industry has documented the progression of surveillance techniques from the days of black and white film to the present.”

The Library of America has a few questions for Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar about the anthology they’ve put together, Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z.

Interviews

Andy Rector introduces an interview at Kino Slang: “Ted Fendt has gifted us the following translation from the German of the only interview, to our knowledge, that Danièle Huillet did without Jean-Marie Straub. It comes from a 1982 issue of Frauen und Film.

“Billy Woodberry was a graduate student in UCLA’s film program when he started work on Bless Their Little Hearts (1984), a gauzy black-and-white portrait of a married couple in Watts as their responsibilities to one another are tested by the burdens of underemployment,” write Steve Macfarlane and Madeline Coleman at the top of their interview for Filmmaker. “Woodberry was part of the movement of young, black filmmakers studying there which eventually came to be known as the LA Rebellion. Taking place in the same neighborhood as Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, Hearts was written and mostly shot by Burnett, easily the Rebellion’s most famous member.”

At Shadow and Act, Aramide Tinubu talks with both filmmakers. Burnett: “We got into film right after the Civil Rights Movement, so that was our motivation.” Woodberry: “LA Rebellion was film scholar Clyde Taylor’s concept. He labeled it during the early ‘80s and it sort of just stuck. It took like twenty more years for it to become current.”

For the Guardian, Ryan Gilbey talks with Aki Kaurismäki about The Other Side of Hope, currently on screens in the U.K. “‘I wanted everyone to see that refugees are human too. Cinema can influence a tiny bit. One penny makes a big river.’ He stops. ‘No, that’s not it. One penny makes a Bill Gates.’ His hangdog look is interrupted by a sudden grin.”

The LA Weekly’s April Wolfe profiles Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Bad Batch). "On a certain level, I'm a social lunatic, but my lunacy has a practical application.”

“I changed my life, and for very sentimental reasons,” Matías Piñeiro tells Calum Marsh in the Village Voice. In short, it was love that brought him from Buenos Aires to New York, where he shot Hermia & Helena, currently screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Metrograph through Thursday.

Gary Kramer talks with Piñeiro at the House Next Door: “My other films are closer to theater, like the production in Viola, or the radio play in The Princess of France.” And at the Film Stage, Ethan Vestby interviews Piñeiro and Dan Sallitt, who says, “Matías is a very open and likable person, so he gathered a lot of people around him in New York—and it’s kind of an extraordinary crowd.”

At Hammer to Nail, Christopher Llewellyn Reed talks with Stephen Cone, whose most recent film is Princess Cyd. “And my other two movies are about repressive evangelical Christianity, so this was my shot to make a movie about liberals and progressives.”

Back to Filmmaker, where Ariston Anderson talks with Jon Nguyen about David Lynch: The Art Life: “When we went the route that we went with the whole anxiety phase that he went through, I thought maybe it might be too private. Because he was telling me a lot of things and I thought, ‘Who knows what he told because he forgot the recorder was on and just told the story.’ But at the end of it, he didn’t censor one thing.”

At realeyz, filmmakers Gustavo Letelier and Peter McPhee discuss the emergence of Chilean cinema over the past decade or so.

In Other News

“French mini-major Gaumont and Eclair, the European cinema technologies specialists and part of Ymagis group, are joining forces to restore more than 100 feature films,” reports Tom Grater for Screen. Titles include Julien Duvivier’s The Man of the Hour (1937) and The Heart of a Nation (1945), Jacques Doillon’s The Crying Woman (1979), and Robert Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac (1974).

And, as noted in the entry on Abbas Kiarostami’s 24 Frames, Variety’s Elsa Keslassy reports MK2 Films’ acquisition of the late director’s first twenty films—and the plans for new 4K restorations.

Andréa Picard, who curates the Wavelengths program for the Toronto International Film Festival, is the new artistic director of Cinéma du réel, the documentary festival that takes place each spring in Paris.

“Fatih Akin, Michael Haneke, Michel Hazanavicius have joined 80 top European filmmakers in a petition calling for a unified European Union vision on copyright and culture in the digital age,” reports Melanie Goodfellow for Screen.

And, as Anne Thompson reports for IndieWire, Jimmy Kimmel will be hosting the Oscars for a second time on March 4, 2018. Says Kimmel: “If you think we screwed up the ending this year, wait until you see what we have planned for the 90th anniversary show!”

In The Works

David Lowery has completed principle photography for Old Man and the Gun, featuring Robert Redford, Elisabeth Moss, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Keith Carradine, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, and the list goes on. And “it was great,” he writes, “and if this really is Redford’s final movie in front of the camera, we did our best to send him off well. I’ve made two movies with him now and am a luckier person and better storyteller for it.” He then lists a “few of the things I learned on this film.” Via Movie City News.

Michael Rooker is currently known to most as Yondu Udonta in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, but in 1986, he broke through as the lead in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. A couple of months ago, he brought a project to that film’s director, John McNaughton, an adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” written by Benedict Fitzgerald, who also wrote the screenplay for John Huston’s Wise Blood (1979), based on O’Connor’s novel. Now, writing for the Talkhouse Film, McNaughton fills us in on how it’s come together—and what’s left to be done.

“IFC Films has acquired the U.S. rights to Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built, a drama about a serial killer,” reports Graham Winfrey for IndieWire. “The film stars Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman, Riley Keough, and Siobhan Fallon Hogan.”

And from Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr.: “Sony Pictures Classics has landed North American rights to The Silent Man, the Peter Landesman-directed film that stars Liam Neeson as Mark Felt. The longtime FBI No. 2 man under J. Edgar Hoover, Felt will go down in history as Deep Throat, the nickname of the whistle blower and primary source for Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they uncovered the Watergate scandal that toppled the Nixon administration.”

Also, Blake Lively will executive produce and star in The Husband’s Secret, “an adaptation of the novel by Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty.”

Obits

“Denis Johnson, a National Book Award winner whose novels and short stories about the fallen—junkies, down-and-out travelers, drifters and violent men in the United States and abroad—emerged in ecstatic, hallucinatory and sometimes minimalist prose, died on Wednesday,” reports Richard Sandomir for the New York Times. “In his 1983 novel, Angels, a character on death row sits strapped in a gas chamber listening almost rapturously to his heartbeat as he awaits the end. . . . In 1992 he published Jesus’ Son, a collection of 11 short stories about petty crimes and murder across a desperate American landscape. . . . The book was made into a film in 1999 directed by Alison Maclean and starring Billy Crudup as the narrator, described by the critic A. O. Scott in The Times as ‘like Candide strung out on every drug he can find.’ Mr. Johnson had a small role in it.” Johnson was sixty-seven.

“There has seldom been more closeness between an acting career and a lifestyle than that of Dina Merrill, who has died aged 93,” writes Ronald Bergan for the Guardian. “As an heiress, socialite and philanthropist, Merrill had little trouble portraying upper-crust women in films and television.” Merrill appeared with Tony Curtis and Cary Grant in Blake Edwards’s Operation Petticoat (1959), with Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 (1960), and with Glenn Ford in Vincente Minnelli’s The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1963).

The Hollywood Reporter’s Mike Barnes remembers Lawrence Silk, “the preeminent documentary editor,” who has passed away at the age of eighty-six. Silk worked with Barbara Kopple on the Oscar-winning American Dream (1990) and Wild Man Blues (1997), a portrait of Woody Allen; with Sarah Kernochan and Howard Smith on another Oscar-winner, Marjoe (1972); and with George Butler and Robert Fiore on Pumping Iron (1977), which “launched the movie career of Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Barnes also reports that Oleg Vidov, “a box-office star in the Soviet Union who defected to the U.S. and appeared in Red Heat with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wild Orchid opposite Mickey Rourke, has died. He was 73.” Films by Jove, a production and distribution company co-founded with his wife, Joan Borsten Vidov, acquired the Soyuzmultfilm animation library, “which held about 1,200 Russian films produced from 1936-91.” Their restorations have helped “popularize Russian animation around the world.”

“Some 400 leading figures from the Asian cinema business attended a memorial service on Monday for Busan festival programmer and co-founder Kim Ji-seok,” reports Sonia Kil for Variety. “But the large attendance did little to mask the ongoing divisions in the Korean industry.” Kim, who was only fifty-seven, passed away in Cannes on May 17.

Lisa Spoonauer, “best known for playing Dante’s high school girlfriend Caitlin in Kevin Smith’s debut Clerks [1994],” has passed away, reports Josh Kurp at Uproxx, where he points us to a remembrance from Smith. Spoonauer was forty-four.

“Elinor Bunin Munroe, an Emmy Award-winning graphic designer whose name typically sped by in the closing credits of the productions on which she worked, but glows steadily in white lights in front of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s $40 million theater center, died on April 20 in Manhattan,” reports Sam Roberts for the New York Times. “She was in her mid-90s.” Art of the Title has spotlighted her work on Robert Rossen’s Lilith (1964).

“Gregg Allman, the singer, musician and songwriter who played an essential role in the invention of Southern rock, has died at the age of 69,” reports Richard Gehr for Rolling Stone. Glenn Kenny has posted an interview he conducted with Allman in 2011.

Listening

Peter Labuza’s guest on the latest episode of The Cinephiliacs (78’41”) is Girish Shambu, who’s hosted one of the most insightful blogs about cinema for well over ten years now. He’s also the author of The New Cinephilia, so Peter and Girish discuss “the opportunities and challenges that cinephilia faces in our current moment, both in terms of the expanding definition of media and its relation to politics. Finally, they turn their eyes toward the ever nebulous group of coy German filmmakers known as the Berlin School, and in particular, Thomas Arslan’s Klondike-trekking western Gold with Phoenix star Nina Hoss.”

Sam Adams has launched an eight-episode podcast series, Conspiracy Thrillers Movie Club, exclusive to Slate Plus members, but the first episode’s freely available (48’18”). He talks about John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) with Mark Harris, author of Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War.

“Musicals!” That’s the theme of a recent Film Comment Podcast in which our own Andrew Chan joins Michael Koresky, Violet Lucca, and Eric Hynes (77’56”).

On the latest BFI Podcast, Henry Barnes and Sam Wigley listen to an interview with Claude Chabrol and discuss his work (18’09”).

The Film Society of Lincoln Center has pulled one from the archives (48’36”). Back in 2011, Alexander Payne discussed “his cinematic influences, from Antonioni to Kurosawa.”

Illusion Travels By Streetcar #141: The Unedited Commentary Track: Privilege (Peter Watkins; 1967) (107’26”).

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