Scorsese, Pasolini, and More

On Film / The Daily — Jun 1, 2017

“The greatest filmmakers, like the greatest novelists and poets, are trying to create a sense of communion with the viewer,” writes Martin Scorsese in the new issue of the TLS. “They’re not trying to seduce them or overtake them, but, I think, to engage with them on as intimate a level as possible. The viewer also ‘collaborates’ with the filmmaker, or the painter. No two viewings of Raphael’s Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints will be the same: every new viewing will be different. The same is true of readings of The Divine Comedy or Middlemarch, or viewings of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp or 2001: A Space Odyssey. We return at different moments in our lives and we see things differently.” The piece has grown out of a response to Adam Mars-Jones’s review for the TLS of Scorsese’s Silence.

Sabzian draws our attention to a conversation Nina Power and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith had back in 2012 and 2013, recently posted at Power’s site, about Pier Paolo Pasolini’s La ricotta (1963) and l Vangelo secondo Matteo (1964). Nowell-Smith: “Like most people on the left in Italy in the 1950s he was strongly anti-clerical (not surprising given the profoundly reactionary role played by the Catholic Church in Italy in the period) and it is only in his poetry that another side of him appears—an identification with suffering as experienced by the oppressed and potentially embodied in the figure of Christ.”

Kurt Vonnegut quite liked George Roy Hill’s 1972 screen version of Slaughterhouse-Five, notes Tom Carson, writing for the Library of America. “Calling the result ‘flawless,’ he effusively added, ‘I drool and cackle every time I watch that film, because it is so harmonious with what I felt when I wrote the book.’” While Carson points out a few inevitable deficiencies, he does allow that “the filmmakers understood that Vonnegut hardly meant to turn his generation’s experience of war and peace into a sci-fi fantasy. He was only saying that it might as well have been.”

Mark Harris’s “Cinema ’67 Revisited” column for Film Comment takes on the two James Bond movies of 1967, You Only Live Twice and the one that’s more fun to talk about than to watch, Casino Royale: “Its making could fill a book—it has served as an entertaining horror story in more than a dozen biographies, all of which are better than the fascinatingly awful, unfunny, insistently ‘with-it’ hodgepodge of a movie that resulted.”

Daniel Kasman wraps the Notebook’s coverage of Cannes 2017 with a piece on “two of the strongest films—both Portuguese—at the Directors’ Fortnight and, indeed, at the festival in general.” Pedro Pinho’s The Nothing Factory “plunges full hilt into the details and discourse of the particulars of the fading away of a single, lone factory and the congested efforts by its workers to keep their labor going and their livelihood intact.” And: “Following a lineage begun by America's cine-historiographer John Ford, more directly politicized and de-commercialized by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, and re-contextualized to Portugal’s social history in revolutionary digital aesthetics by Pedro Costa, [Marta Mateus’s] Farpões, baldios confronts us with a provincial landscape populated by a people dangerously left adrift in a country that seems on the verge of forgetting its past.”

Also in the Notebook, Uncas Blythe writes about the early work of Philippe Garrel.

Reverse Shot’s symposium Executive Orders, in which contributors each write about a film in response to one of President Trump’s EOs, rolls on:

  • Jeff Reichert on From the Other Side (2002): Chantal Akerman “spent a few months jockeying between Mexico’s Agua Prieta and its much smaller cross-border twin Douglas, Arizona.” The film “gradually builds force through the accumulated weight of the testimony shared.”
  • Emma Piper-Burket on Forough Farrokhzad’s The House Is Black (1963), “a film that reminds you that societies are good at creating outcasts.”
  • Greg Cwik on Death Wish (1974): “Despite being an artistically vacuous endeavor, directed with palpable indifference by the craft-slumming Michael Winner, the film encapsulates the pervasive idea of New York as a literally and morally bankrupt purgatory—the kind of place where a Donald J. Trump could make his millions.”

Despite the recent staff shakeup, the new issue of the Brooklyn Rail has come out right on schedule:

  • Susan Yung reviews Titicut Follies: The Ballet, inspired by Frederick Wiseman’s 1967 documentary and a collaboration between Wiseman, choreographer James Sewell, and composer Lenny Pickett.
  • Swagato Chakravorty on Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light, on view at the Yale University Art Gallery through July 23.
  • Sarah Mendelsohn on Risk, the documentary, six years in the making, on Julian Assange, and director Laura Poitras’s response to one angry viewer: “Assange’s misogyny does not cancel out the importance of WikiLeaks. It is increasingly important to allow both things to be true.”
  • Paul Grant: “The Museum of Modern Art’s A New Golden Age: Contemporary Philippine Cinema (June 1 – 25) sets out to offer a vision of what post-2000 Philippine cinema looks like. Presenting work by the nation’s current crop of cinematic luminaries, the retrospective simultaneously showcases the great strides the form is making in the Philippines, while unwittingly continuing the promotion of a homogeneous, Manila-centric vision of a Philippine national cinema.”
  • Will Fenstermaker on Adrian Chen and Ciaran Cassidy’s documentary short The Moderators about workers in India who scrub social media sites and apps.
  • David Bruin on Jerry Tartaglia’s Escape from Rented Island: The Lost Paradise of Jack Smith, which “intends to offer audiences that which they have often been denied: Jack Smith and his work.”

For Film International, Christopher Weedman revisits Ermanno Olmi’s The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978): “When this 187-minute examination of nineteenth-century Italian peasant life beat out the eccentric Bye Bye Monkey (Marco Ferreri, 1978) and The Shout (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1978) to win the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1978, director Alan J. Pakula, the festival’s jury president, remarked, ‘I arrived from America one way, and after seeing this film, I’ll be going home a different man.’”

“It’s strange to be an atheist and love this film so much,” writes Jessica Ritchey as she looks back on Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire (1987).

“Francis Ford Coppola described Rumble Fish (1983), his screen adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s young adult novel, as ‘an art film for teenagers,’” notes Sean Axmaker at Stream On Demand. “He shot it right after making The Outsiders (1982), also adapted from a Hinton novel, but where that was a lush, operatic tale, Coppola made Rumble Fish in stylized black and white, like a teen noir seen through the eyes of a kid who has mythologized the idea of street gang chivalry to the point that he can’t see the reality through the idealization.”

“When Ghost World came out 16 years ago, it felt like the apotheosis of alienated Generation X cool, a movement of sorts that had roots in the music, alternative comics, and indie filmmaking of the ’80s and ’90s,” writes David Sims for the Atlantic. “It pushed back against the conformist monoculture of the Reagan era, embraced a strange kind of kitsch that reflected on the even more homogenous 1950s, and traded punk’s angry, vocal rebelliousness for an attitude of total remove. As a remastered, director-approved edition is released by the Criterion Collection this week, Ghost World feels undeniably dated, but in the best way—a reminder of an age since passed, told with the kind of universal empathy that helps it endure.”

Bruce LaBruce at the Talkhouse Film: “One of my film mentors, the late, great pioneering gay critic Robin Wood, used to tell his students that he didn’t understand the concept of ‘guilty pleasures’ in cinema: you either like the film or you don’t, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about the pleasure it gives you. Revisiting Making Love, the 1982 Hollywood film directed by Arthur Hiller, I can gladly confess that it pleasures me in multitude of ways—as a melodrama, a tear-jerker, a social issue film, an event film, and even, in my own mind, proxy porn.”

Interviews

Laura Mulvey is surely best known for her 1973 essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”; four by three introduces its interview: “In her latest book, Death 24x a Second, Mulvey examines the ontological shift from film to digital at the turn of the century, reading it along the lines of a shift from movement to stillness, thereby illustrating the altered relationship between film and viewer through new technological means, while giving a close reading of works by Alfred Hitchcock, Roberto Rossellini and Abbas Kiarostami. We spoke with Laura Mulvey about the relationship between film and death, with reference to Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes and Andre Bazin, and its relation to truth, reality and temporality.”

A Gentle Creature is at once [Sergei] Losnitza’s most furiously pitched and painstakingly constructed work to date, moving ahead with an appropriately methodical rigor even as it reaches heights of hallucinogenic madness in its final stretch,” writes Jordan Cronk, introducing his talk with Loznitsa for Film Comment about “the suppressed state of political cinema in Russia, the importance of aesthetics in his films, and the everyday absurdity of provincial life in the former Soviet Union.”

For New York Magazine, Adam Sternbergh talks with Zoe Kazan about The Big Sick, a hit at this year’s Sundance, and After the Blast, her new play “about a near future in which humanity lives underground, having fled ecological catastrophe and nuclear disaster.”

“I started before there was a Sundance Festival,” John Sayles tells Zach Gayne at ScreenAnarchy. “When I was making my third or fourth movie there might be forty movies applying to that festival. Now there's 3,000 feature films a year.”

At The Talks, James McAvoy tells Emma Robertson why he doesn’t take acting too seriously.

In Other News

“The New York Observer has laid off longtime film critic Rex Reed, in addition to several other members of its entertainment staff, in the latest cutbacks to the newspaper since owner Jared Kushner divested from the paper after the 2016 presidential election,” reports IndieWire’s Eric Kohn. “Reed, the Observer’s chief film critic for over 25 years, has remained a colorful fixture of the New York film scene for decades. Over the course of a career in print and broadcast as a film and theater critic, Reed wrote for publications including the New York Times, Esquire, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan, in addition to writing several books.”

Also:The Florida Project, Sean Baker’s vibrant portrait of a six-year-old girl and her single mother living in a budget motel on the outskirts of Disney World, topped IndieWire’s annual critics poll of the best films and performances from Cannes.”

Goings On

New York. Commemorating the 125th anniversary of the birth of Ernst Lubitsch, Film Forum presents thirty-one films from Friday through June 15. In the Village Voice, Farran Smith Nehme previews The Lubitsch Touch: “As the world grows steadily more coarse and obvious, Lubitsch’s unique brand of easy virtue still appeals. He lived through times far more cataclysmic than our own, yet he clung to his vision of humanity: flawed, hypocritical, at times selfish, but all the same—as Melvyn Douglas’s Leon tells Ninotchka—'this doomed old civilization sparkles.’”

As it happens, in their latest audiovisual essay for De Filmkrant (11’46”), Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin focus on a key scene in the first film in the series, Cluny Brown (1946).

Los Angeles. The Panic in Needle Park (1971) screens at the New Beverly on Sunday and Monday, and, in her program notes, Kim Morgan quotes director Jerry Schatzberg: “Keith [Richards] was funny—I knew the Stones, I’d photographed them a lot, once dressed as women—and they were in Cannes when I was there with Panic in 1971. Keith said to me, ‘Hey, are you on the hard stuff?’ pointing to his arm, and I said ‘No.’ He said, ‘Then how come you can make a film like that?’”

Chicago. As noted in yesterday’s roundup on current goings on, the Gene Siskel Film Center is presenting Jean-Pierre Melville: Criminal Codes from Monday through July 6. And for Ben Sachs, writing in the Reader, it’s “one of the key movie events of the summer, a chance to revisit or discover one of the architects of modern cinema.”

San Francisco. “A pair of films by trailblazing women directors, a quartet of movies spotlighting the year 1925, plus Oscar Micheaux’s Body and Soul starring Paul Robeson (with live accompaniment by DJ Spooky!) are among the anticipated highlights of the 22nd San Francisco Silent Film Festival,” writes Michael Hawley in his preview. “This year's edition takes in 18 programs, and according to the indispensable Film on Film Foundation Bay Area Calendar, fully half contain some element of 35mm presentation.” Today through Sunday.

London. With a Dustin Hoffman season on at BFI Southbank throughout June and July, Christina Newland writes about “10 essential films” starring the actor who turns 80 in August.

Berlin. João Pedro Rodrigues, currently a fellow of the DAAD's Berlin Artists-in-Berlin Program, will be at the Arsenal on Tuesday and Wednesday for the presentation of five of his films.

In The Works

Michelle Williams will replace Rooney Mara in Leos Carax’s English-language musical Annette, reports Jordan Raup at the Film Stage. The story focuses on “a stand-up comedian (Adam Driver) whose opera singer wife is deceased.” With music by Sparks.

And Williams is joining Amy Schumer in the comedy I Feel Pretty, in which “an ordinary woman who struggles with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy on a daily basis recovers from a fall and suddenly believes she’s the most beautiful and capable person on the planet.” Variety’s Justin Kroll has more.

“Maggie Gyllenhaal is set to star in The Kindergarten Teacher, a feature based on writer/director Nadav Lapid’s acclaimed Israeli film of the same name,” reports Deadline’s Anita Busch. “The film was adapted by and is being directed by Sara Colangelo (Little Accidents).”

Per Fly will direct an adaptation of Bille August’s Pelle the Conqueror (1987) as a television miniseries of eight one-hour episodes. Jorn Rossing Jensen has more at Cineuropa.

Obit

From the Hollywood Reporter’s Mike Barnes comes word that Joe Hyams, “who spent 45 years at Warner Bros. and was the last of an influential genre of Hollywood publicity executives,” died yesterday at the age of ninety. “Hyams managed the film campaigns of such legends as Clint Eastwood, Barbra Streisand, Stanley Kubrick, Francois Truffaut, Robert Redford, Federico Fellini, Oliver Stone, William Friedkin and John Wayne.”

Listening

The two most recent Film Comment Podcasts have come from Cannes, where Jordan Cronk, Nicolas Rapold, Jonathan Romney, and Amy Taubin discussed the films as they premiered. Roundtable #1 (59’45”) and #2 (45’50”).

Director Matías Piñeiro and cast members Agustina Muñoz, Keith Poulson, Dustin Guy Defa, and Dan Sallitt discuss Hermia & Helena at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (42’40”).

The Poster Boys, Brandon Schaefer and Sam Smith, discuss the work of MIT graphic designer Jacqueline Casey (113’40”).

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