“As incredible as it seems,” write Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin in the new issue of Sight & Sound, “Philippe Garrel, at the precocious age of 16, had already sketched most of the now familiar elements of his cinematic style in the opening shots of his first film, the 15-minute Les Enfants désaccordés (1964). Everyday banality; locations leached of identifying marks; the rhythmic alternation of entries and exits from static images; the fondness for lyrical ‘walk and talk’ scenes.” And the “central situation of an impulsive, anarchic flight from society, driven by the idealism of romantic love, will remain a constant in Garrel’s cinema.”
Pamela Hutchinson, writing for the BFI: “Timely on its first appearance in 1937, Renoir’s masterpiece is now accepted as timeless, although it has suffered a little dangerous neglect. As the continent stumbled towards a second world war, this story of prisoners of war finding friendship, solidarity and hope behind enemy lines voiced the mounting pacifist sentiment in France and offered a vision of European unity. Eighty years later, the message of La Grande Illusion is every bit as relevant.”
For the Guardian, Tim Adams meets up with Juliette Binoche in Paris. “I mention how the great French star of the 60s, Jeanne Moreau, once said about actors that they had to be ‘in love with love.’ Would that describe her? She smiles. ‘I had conversations with Jeanne. Once she said to me, of love, “You know, I never said no to green grass.” I found that beautiful. But I am not like that at all. I have often said no to green grass. For my grace.’”
Charlie Campbell talks with Liu Xiaoqing for Time: “The star of more than 60 films and TV shows, Madame Liu, as she likes to be called, has a résumé that includes four marriages, once being China’s richest woman, and a jail term for tax evasion.” In Empress, a fourteen-part series, she’ll once again play Wu Zetian, the only woman to have ever ruled China. As Empress Regnant of the Zhou Dynasty, Wu Zetian reigned from 690 to 705.
The list of the “25 Best Films of the 21st Century”—so far, of course—from Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott has naturally kicked up quite a bit of reaction and the New York Times film critics have written a brief response in return. Scott cites a “widespread acceptance of the idea that movies aren’t as good as they used to be. What gave this project urgency was partly the desire to rebut that notion, to put down a marker in favor of the present and the recent past. And also to remind our readers (and ourselves) of the miraculously protean character of movies.”
“For sport,” Glenn Kenny’s tweeted his “whack at a 25 films of the 21st.” At #1: Alexei German’s Hard to Be a God (2013).
And from Tyler Coates at Esquire, another list: “20 Documentaries That Will Change Your Life.”
In Other News
“Dear Evan Hansen was the big winner of the night, winning best new musical at the 2017 Tony Awards on Sunday,” reports Michael Paulson, who’s got the full list of winners for the New York Times. “Oslo, a crackling drama about the little-known back story behind the 1993 Middle East peace talks, won the hard-fought competition for best new play.” Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty finds that “the Tonys accepted the reality of a post-Hamilton hangover and took pride in a Broadway year in which fine work was accomplished even if not many people watching across the country could tell you much about what was being feted.”
And writing on The Merry Widow (1934) at Screen Slate, Patrick Dahl asks, “[H]ow often does a prewar sex comedy age unscathed into the 21st century when most of the genre’s output during the 1990s seems irredeemably retrograde a mere two decades later? Part of the game is pitting the Lubitsch’s witty flourishes against the material’s well-worn sexual politics.”
Also at Screen Slate, Dana Reinoos recommends Kon Ichikawa’s An Actor’s Revenge (1963), screening Wednesday as part of the Anthology Film Archives series Cross-Dressing and Drag on Screen: “Visually, An Actor’s Revenge brings to mind the films of Seijun Suzuki, Ichikawa’s contemporary, with its stage-like lighting, overlaid images and brightly colored flourishes.”
The series also features Tod Browning’s The Devil-Doll (1936), and Chloe Lizotte notes that “the film’s complications of moral allegiances might speak to contributions from co-screenwriter Erich von Stroheim.”
Curitiba, Brazil. With the F. W. Murnau retrospective running as part of Olhar de Cinema through Thursday, Aaron Cutler’s posted David Kalat’s piece on Sunrise (1927)—as a comedy: “Consider the basic premise: Sunrise presents a sexy, vampish ‘Woman of the City’ who invades a rural idyll where her very presence corrupts a naïve young man. In order to pursue this temptress, the young man comes to believe his only escape from his existing small-town romance is to kill his girl, which he utterly fails to accomplish, and thereby sets in motion the plot developments of the rest of the film. Just six months before Sunrise hit theaters, American audiences saw the exact same plot in Harry Langdon’s comedy Long Pants!”
Melbourne. From Wednesday through June 28, the Cinémathèque presents Double Agent: The Period Films of Eric Rohmer.
In the Works
For the New York Times, Catherine Porter reports on Edge of the Knife: “With an entirely Haida cast, and a script written in a largely forgotten language, the film reflects a resurgence of indigenous art and culture taking place across Canada.”
“Adam West, the ardent actor who managed to keep his tongue in cheek while wearing the iconic cowl of the Caped Crusader on the classic 1960s series Batman, has died.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Mike Barnes: “After struggling for years without a steady job, the good-natured actor reached a new level of fame when he accepted an offer to voice the mayor of Quahog—named Adam West; how’s that for a coincidence!—on Seth MacFarlane’s long-running Fox animated hit Family Guy. On the big screen, West played a wealthy Main Line husband who meets an early end in Paul Newman’s The Young Philadelphians (1959), was one of the first two humans on the Red Planet in Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and contributed his velvety voice to the animated Redux Riding Hood (1997), which received an Oscar nomination for best short film.”
Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz:
West’s Batman/Bruce Wayne is, and will always remain, the single most important screen incarnation of the character, for better or worse: for better because it was the most surprising, at times confounding, interpretation of the Caped Crusader, feather-light and hilarious precisely because of the character’s seeming lack of self-awareness; for worse, in the eyes of some fans, because it encouraged millions of people who had never picked up a Batman comic, or any comic, to be amused by the sight of adults dressing up in wild outfits and pretending to punch each other in the face. Every subsequent, high-profile reinvention of Batman, whether in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke, Tim Burton’s alternately perverse and sincere Batman and Batman Returns, Christopher Nolan’s operatic trilogy, and Zack Snyder’s funereal Batman vs. Superman, is, first and foremost, a reaction against the Adam West-driven Batman series.
That’s how important the show was: it was cancelled 50 years ago and hasn’t been a force in syndication since the ‘80s, yet the whole superhero-industrial complex is still defining itself in opposition to it, subconsciously or with intent.
For Dennis Cozzalio, “what a delight it was to discover, years later as an adult, that Batman wasn't the simple crap-fest that so many of the shows I liked as a kid often turned out to be, but instead a wholly aware, sharply funny collage of color, sound and pop absurdity, all built around the sturdy totem provided by Adam West.”
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