When we think of American cinema in the 1970s, it’s the “New Hollywood” that first comes to mind, landmark films such as The Godfather and Taxi Driver, Nashville and Chinatown. In his new book, Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-in Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American ’70s, excerpted at IndieWire, Charles Taylor blames no one for “not paying attention to the pictures that seemed content to stay within the genre boundaries the celebrated works were exploding.”
But these genre movies do share something with the A-list pictures of their time, something almost entirely missing in today’s commercial American cinema. In the ’70s the gritty and somewhat pessimistic nature that has always been characteristic of B movies translated into a refusal to keep bad things from happening to good characters, a resistance to handing out easy, happy endings. That’s why it’s possible to watch these movies now—despite the pulpiness, despite the obvious lashings of nudity and violence to satisfy the exploitation crowd—and feel as if you’re being treated like an adult. Their staying power is in the way they stand in opposition to the current juvenile state of American movies.
As noted yesterday, the Quad Cinema in New York is currently presenting a series drawn from the book and, from August 4 through 26, the UCLA Film & Television Archive will present another. That image up there is Pam Grier in Jack Hill’s Foxy Brown (1974).
For Musings, Alison Nastasi talks with John Waters: “I went to so many trials when I was young. I went to Patty Hearst. I went to [Charles] Manson. I went to Hillside Strangler. All those trials kinda showed up in [Serial Mom]. In Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble there’s a trial. There’s a mock trial in Desperate Living. I had those scenes in all my movies. I still think that a really good trial is theater.”
Speaking of trials, at the Film Stage, Michael Snydel talks with Steve James about Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. James—who speaks insightfully about the influence of Robert Altman’s Nashville here in the Current, by the way—notes that “if you look at my body of work, I do different things from time to time. My better-known work tends to be in the more observational mode of Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, or even a film like Stevie.” Life Itself “was a biography on one level, and on a very big level, it was a biography of a famous person, which I hadn’t done before. And then this is a procedural. . . . I welcomed the opportunity to try and tell a courtroom story, and one in which it’s not like sexy murder.”
“Social Media Before the Internet, the theme program of the 2017 Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, proposed 24 works of short film and media as precursors to the Facebook/YouTube/Twitter age,” writes Kevin B. Lee. “I covered this historical reconsideration of social media exclusively through social media, namely Sight & Sound’s Instagram feed. This wasn’t intended to be a mere exercise in self-reflexivity, but to also put into practice what lessons social media of the past might impart on the present.”
As President Trump pulls the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, Sloan Science & Film’s Sonia Shechet Epstein presents an annotated selection of twelve films “which integrate environmental change into the plot; they are all dystopian.”
Rob King’s book Hokum! The Early Sound Slapstick Short and Depression-Era Mass Culture is also freely available. Via Catherine Grant.
New York. The Metrograph series Bresson Part II is on through Monday, a fine reason to take another look at Robert Bresson’s page at Critics Round Up. Scroll down to find, beyond the collected reviews of individual films, links to reading on the oeuvre as a whole.
“This week, a repertory series at Anthology and a newly restored rarity from 1969 at the Quad demonstrate, long before it was fashionable to do so, a pleasing blurring of binaries,” writes Melissa Anderson in the Village Voice. “Guest-curated by John ‘Lypsinka’ Epperson, Cross-Dressing and Drag on Screen brings together titles in which gender expression is never fixed—a fluidity even more pronounced in Toshio Matsumoto’s far-out Funeral Parade of Roses (1969).” For more on both the series and the film, see yesterday’s entry.
On Tuesday, Light Industry presents William Raban's 2'45" (1972) and Dan Graham and Glenn Branca's Performance and Stage-Set Utilizing Two-Way Mirror and Video Time Delay (1983).
San Francisco. Empathetic Waves, happening at Artists’ Television Access on Saturday, is an “evening of spontaneous collisions showcasing experimental film, animation, and improvisational audio/visual performances by Jeffrey Alexander, Faith Arazi, arc, Paul Clipson, Gabriel Dunne, J.Lee, and Stephanie Sherriff.”
UK. Der müde Tod or Destiny opens in selected theaters tomorrow. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw: “The only response to this 1921 silent movie by Fritz Lang, now restored and re-released, is a kind of amazement—at its ambition, its enigma, its combination of innocence and sophistication. As so often with early cinema and silent cinema, you see the kinship with fable and fairy story, but also find yourself suspecting that it is somehow silent cinema that is truly aware of the medium’s possibilities; these seem to elude the more evolved, yet earthbound realist cinema that comes later.” For the BFI, Pamela Hutchinson and Alex Barrett have put together an annotated list of “10 great German Expressionist films.”
Paris. A retrospective of films by Mauritz Stiller, best known for discovering Greta Garbo, runs at the Cinémathèque française from Wednesday through July 5.
Annecy, France. “This year Chinese animation was supposed to be the star of the show at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival,” writes Amid Amidi at Cartoon Brew. “Instead, on the eve of the festival, the Chinese government has embarrassed itself with a straight out act of political censorship, revealing the deep schism that exists between its official authorities and the country’s most innovative artists.” As Amidi reports, Liu Jian’s Have a Nice Day, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, has been pulled from the competition lineup.
Curitiba, Brazil. Olhar de Cinema, currently underway through June 15, features a retrospective of films by F. W. Murnau. Writing for the festival, Luciano Berriatúa argues that Murnau “continues to show us a possible path—a path indeed rich with possibilities—for the cinematic art.”
In the Works
“Director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan will reunite once again, after working together on Fruitvale Station, Creed, and Black Panther.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Rebecca Ford: “Their fourth collaboration will be an adaptation of the New Yorker piece ‘Wrong Answer.’ Ta-Nehisi Coates will write the script based on Rachel Aviv's article. Her 2014 piece explored the standardized test cheating scandal at Atlanta Public Schools through the lens of one middle school.”
“Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys, Bradley Whitford, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, David Cross, Alison Brie, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Zach Woods have joined the ensemble of Steven Spielberg’s The Papers, which already stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep,” reports Variety’s Justin Kroll. “The film centers on the Washington Post’s decision to publish the classified Pentagon Papers in 1971.”
Also, Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) will direct Waco, “set during the 1993 standoff between the FBI and Texas state law enforcement and the Branch Davidians that lasted 51 days and saw 76 people killed in the process.” Mark Boal, who wrote The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, will co-write Waco with Marc Haimes (Kubo and the Two Strings).
And Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) will direct Unearthed, a potential franchise. “Set in a distant future where Earth has been undone by environmental disaster, Unearthed sees a scholar and a scavenger reluctantly team up to venture to the planet of a now-extinct alien race.”
IndieWire’s Kate Erbland reports that Frederick Wiseman’s Ex Libris: New York Public Library will open at Film Forum as part of the New York theater’s retrospective The Complete Wiseman.
Also, Rachel Weisz has been talking about her role in Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, set in the court of Queen Anne, who reigned in Britain from 1702 to 1707. “It’s funny,” Weisz assures us. “It’s different in that it’s not an imagined world, almost all of it really happened. There are some things that are dreamt up, but it’s English history, so it’s not just a Yorgosian dystopia or fairy tale.”
Abdellatif Kechiche tells the Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Roxborough that Mektoub, My Love, his “two-part feature, starring up-and-coming French actors Lou Luttiau, Shain Boumediene and Ophelie Bau, was in postproduction when the film's financing bank abruptly blocked its line of credit, leaving the project ‘in limbo.’” So Kechiche will auction off not only “oil paintings that played a central role in Blue Is the Warmest Color” but his Palme d’Or as well. In 2013, the Cannes jury awarded its top award for the first time to the film’s director and its two stars, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.
“Sony is fast tracking a remake of the 2015 French film Disorder, with Logan helmer James Mangold now attached as director after reading the script by Taylor Sheridan,” reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “The Alice Winocour-directed French film starred Matthias Schoenaerts as an ex-soldier with PTSD hired to protect the wife and child of a wealthy Lebanese businessman while he’s out of town. Despite the apparent tranquility in Maryland, the soldier perceives an external threat.”
Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) will direct Nicolas Cage in Mandy, reports Deadline’s Diana Lodderhose. The action thriller will be set “in the primal wilderness of 1983 where Red Miller, a broken and haunted man hunts an unhinged religious sect who slaughtered the love of his life.” And the Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth notes that Jóhann Jóhannsson will be writing the score.
For the Los Angeles Times, Jeffrey Fleishman drops in on Ethan Hawke as he edits Blaze, a film he’s directed about songwriter Blaze Foley. “It’s one of many projects the actor, novelist, producer, musician, onetime slacker and long-ago Hamlet has in the works.”
On the latest Film Comment Podcast, Violet Lucca, Aliza Ma, and Nick Pinkerton discuss Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day, a five-episode series broadcast in West Germany in 1972 and 1973 (55’10”).
On Remote Controlled, Variety’s Debra Birnbaum talks with Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer about their second season (48’46”).
Another Gaze talks with Alice Lowe, who’s directed, written, and starred in Prevenge (2016) (6’19”).
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