Agee, Wheatley, and More

“This book will be one of the most important film publications of 2017,” declares David Bordwell, introducing a guest post from Charles Maland, who’s edited Complete Film Criticism: Reviews, Essays, and Manuscripts, Volume Five in the University of Tennessee Press series Collected Works of James Agee. Maland: “The goal of this Agee collection is to provide access in one volume—for the first time—to all of Agee’s movie reviews, all of his other published articles and essays on movies, and a number of unpublished manuscripts I discovered in my research that cast light on Agee’s movie aesthetic and writing.”

With Adam Nayman’s latest book Ben Wheatley: Confusion and Carnage now out in paperback, IndieWire’s running an excerpt that focuses on Sightseers (image above), which premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight in 2012. “If Cannes is historically the proving ground for auteur directors, then the presence of Sightseers on the Croisette suggested that Wheatley was emerging from his niche as a UK genre specialist. For [Robert] Koehler, Sightseers was one of the titles at Cannes that seemed ‘eager to play outside boundaries within which most of the other films were all too willing to contain themselves.’ . . . If Kill List [2011] plays out as a grim reversal of Down Terrace [2009]—a tragedy about a father who brutally murders his son—Sightseers could be a sequel, or maybe a sideways remake of the first film: a fable about two damaged souls who find each other, leaving a trail of corpses in their wake.”

For more on recent books, see Friday’s entry.

More Reading

“Cinema is a haunted medium,” Guy Maddin tells Antonella Bonfanti in an interview for Canyon Cinema.

“As filmmakers,” writes Sarah Cowan, Charles and Ray Eames “obeyed the design dictum that form follows function: they applied whatever approach would work best for the subject. They held mirrors to the lens to create abstract, psychedelic effects. They used narration and music, thirty-five-millimeter slides, and stop-motion techniques. . . . The couple’s main motto was ‘to make the best for the most for the least’ . . . The Eames goal was to make the house a home, the chair a host, the film an understanding.”

Also for the Paris Review,Paula Mejia writes an appreciation of screenwriter Eleanor Perry, whose “characters often illuminated aspects of womanhood that were deeply familiar and yet seldom depicted onscreen. She was especially shrewd at showing the innate defensive tactics that women use to protect themselves from men’s unwanted advances.” Among the films her husband Frank Perry directed from her screenplays are David and Lisa (1961), The Swimmer (1968), and Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970).

“It’s impossible to avoid describing the films of Spanish director Luis Buñuel as ‘surreal,’ and yet to do so is woefully insufficient,” writes Michael Joshua Rowin in the Notebook. “This is for two reasons. In the first place, Buñuel never made one kind of film. In the second place, even his strangest films deal with social reality.”

Alain Resnais’s Muriel, or: The Time of a Return (1963) “is no dream-saga or cannot be so easily internalized as such regardless of Last Year at Marienbad,” writes Craig Keller.

In a new essay for Film Criticism, Sabrina Negri argues that “that the ways in Alfred Hitchcock has dealt with the relationship between cinema and knowledge is deeply indebted with the kind of epistemological reflection that surrounded early cinema and early film theory, and that aspects of his style can be actually traced back to the quasi-magical revelatory power attributed to photography in the nineteenth century. However, rather than continuing this tradition in a seamless way, Hitchcock at times questions the faith in the epistemological power of photography and film almost to the point of assuming a skeptical position. To clarify what I mean, I will take into account Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956), and will see how the interplay between the photographic image and its epistemological potential gets complicated in unexpected ways.”

Catherine Grant flags a new site, Women & Film Under Communism: A Report from the Archive, which serves as an introduction “to the history of women in Polish documentary cinema. It presents some of the most prolific female filmmakers who, under Communism, managed to develop directing careers at the Documentary Film Studio in Warsaw.”

Ryland Walker Knight’s tweeted his list of the top twenty-three films of the twenty-first century. As for the greatest films of all time,Empire’s posted the results of its readers’ poll.

In Other News

For sixteen years now, Slant Magazine has been one of the most vital online publications for film and music criticism. Some of the best writers around have sent dispatches into the magazine or to the House Next Door from Cannes, Sundance, and the New York film festivals, interviewed the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, James Gray, Isabelle Huppert, or Liv Ullmann, and offered perceptive readings of new releases in theaters or on DVD and Blu-ray. Founding editors Ed Gonzalez and Sal Cinquemani tell us that Slant “is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest.” They’ve opened up a page at Patreon; you might consider donating what you can.

Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, formerly co-presidents at Sony Pictures Television, “have been tapped to run video programming at Apple.” Natalie Jarvey and Lesley Goldberg for the Hollywood Reporter: “The move signals a significant push into original programming at the tech company best known for making iPhones and MacBooks.”

“We unequivocally defend WikiLeaks’ journalistic right to publish true and newsworthy information,” write Brenda Coughlin, Yoni Golijov, and Laura Poitras, producers of the documentary Risk in Newsweek in response to cease and desist letters sent to distributors from Julian Assange and Wikileaks. “In WikiLeaks’ efforts to prevent the distribution of Risk, they are using the very tactics often used against them—legal threats, false security claims, underhanded personal attacks, misdirection—and with the same intentions: to suppress information and silence speech.”

Goings On

New York. The Anthology Film Archives series Simian Vérité, “a study in the ridiculous sublime that results when an anthropoid primate goes before a cinematographic device,” as Nick Pinkerton writes for Artforum, is on through June 27. “I’m not saying the ape film is the quintessence of cinematic art, but it is mighty hard to find its equivalent in painting or prose or lyric poetry.”

The Paris Review’s Caitlin Love is the latest to recommend Toshio Matsumoto’s” masterly 1969 debut about queer life in Toyko, Funeral Parade of Roses.” At the Quad through Thursday.

London.Selina Robertson is one of the founders of Club des Femmes, which has organized Being Ruby Rich, the series on at the Barbican from Thursday through June 26. Writing for Another Gaze, Robertson notes that, twenty years ago, “Rich’s curatorial advocacy acknowledged and championed the talent of many British feminist filmmakers whose work subsequently went on to receive international artistic and commercial acclaim. The roll call of women filmmakers is outstanding: Clio Barnard, Sonali Fernando, Tina Keane, Carol Morley, Jayne Parker, Sarah Pucill, Allison Murray, Miranda Pennell, Lis Rhodes and Sarah Turner.” And she talks with Morley, Pucill, and Turner.

In the Works

“Diane Kruger has joined Steve Carell in the untitled Robert Zemeckis movie, based on Jeff Malmberg’s 2010 documentary Marwencol,” which “centers on a man who recovers from an assault by building a miniature World War II-era village in his backyard.” Dave McNary has more in Variety.

Glenn Close “has been tapped to star in Amazon half-hour comedy pilot Sea Oak.Lesley Goldberg for the Hollywood Reporter: “The pilot, picked up in March, is described as a mix of zombie drama and family revenge comedy.”

“Ben Kingsley is set to play Adolf Eichmann in Operation Finale, the Chris Weitz-directed MGM thriller about the hunt and capture of the notorious Nazi war criminal in Argentina in the ’60s,” reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “Oscar Isaac plays Peter Malkin, the leader of a group of Israeli spies tasked with hunting down Eichmann.”


“Oscar-winning director John G. Avildsen, whose Rocky sent a shot of adrenaline through movie theaters and turned Sylvester Stallone into one of cinema’s most unforgettable boxers, has died at 81,” reports Jeffrey Fleishman for the Los Angeles Times. Avildsen “was also known for The Karate Kid (1984), the story of a restless teenager and his Okinawan martial arts mentor. But Avildsen was also known for deep and nuanced portraits of characters caught in the complexities of their times. His Save the Tiger (1973), which won Jack Lemmon an Academy Award for best actor, was the story of a garment manufacturer who burns down his company for insurance money. In Joe (1970), Peter Boyle starred as a racist factory worker and iconoclast in an exploration of hippies and murder that touched on the nation’s changing cultures.” Joe Leydon spoke with Avildsen in 2014 about the Rocky phenomenon: “We thought it was going to be on the bottom half of a double bill of a drive-in in Arkansas. There was no expectation of what it became.”

“Bill Butler, the British-born film editor who received an Oscar nomination for his work on Stanley Kubrick's 1971 classic A Clockwork Orange, has died.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Mike Barnes: “The London native also cut movies including One More Time (1970), directed by Jerry Lewis and starring Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford, and A Little Sex (1982), helmed by Bruce Paltrow.” Butler was eighty-three.

“British actor Sam Beazley, who played Professor Everard in 2007’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, has died,” reports Deadline’s Denise Petski. “Beazley began his acting career on the stage as a teenager in the early 1930s, appearing with John Gielgud in productions of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.” He was 101.


On the latest episode of NitrateVille Radio (62’35”; if you don’t see it at the first link, try here), Bill Morrison discusses his film Dawson City: Frozen Time and Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph talk about their book A Thousand Cuts: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies.

The Long Take hosts Rob Kraszewski and Geoff Macnaughton talk with Edgar Wright about his unhappy experience with Ant-Man and his very happy one with Baby Driver, which just recently received a ringing endorsement from none other than William Friedkin (26’54”).

On The Gist, Welsh journalist, documentary filmmaker, and screenwriter Jon Ronson talks to Mike Pesca about writing Bong Joon-ho’s Okja (28'02").


The Notebook’s Daniel Kasman and Kurt Walker interview Werner Herzog (24’59”).

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