• [The Daily] Essays and Excerpts, News and Lists

    By David Hudson

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    “The film’s tag line was ‘They share the same body . . . but hate each other’s guts!’ I was told that the timing was a coincidence, but even before the film began it was clear that this was a movie about America under Donald Trump.” A. S. Hamrah’s “Heads without Bodies,” a piece from the forthcoming issue of n+1, is a melancholic, diary-like series of impressions from travels and viewings since last November. The movie referred in the quoted just pulled is Lee Frost’s The Thing with Two Heads (1972) with Ray Milland and Rosey Grier. Reality TV comes up, and so do Baywatch (“like the Trump Administration, [it] was made for the fans, not the critics”) and, of course, Twin Peaks, which “foregrounds a kind of American emptiness of the soul that is filled by violence. The show, hopscotching between its original locations and South Dakota, New York, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia, places this evil in the whole country now, not just in a single town.”

    Speaking of Twin Peaks, Vadim Rizov alerts us to a new piece for Filmmaker by Gina Telaroli:

    My first remark after watching the first two episodes was that I’d never seen anything that seemed to so fully and innately understand what it feels like to be living in 2017 and, even more so, how it feels to live in 2017 compared to how it felt to live in 1990. It’s embedded in so many of the elements of the show, the most monumental being the image. In slightly over 25 years we’ve gone from the softness of youth captured on the softness of film and viewed on textured and fuzzy CRTs to the harshness of old age captured digitally‎ in all of its horrific honesty and seen on computer and LCD screens, many of which are likely set to the overly bright sports mode (whether on purpose or accidentally).
    In that way, and more, Twin Peaks: The Return is foundationally about (the often shushed) process of aging and of dying.

    “How many rapes do viewers see in a lifetime? How many are filmed in a year? Does all this normalize rape or expose it as horror? Are these depictions power-fantasy turn-ons, victimizing exploitation, or dramatically and thematically vital? What toll do they take on viewers (and critics)—and on the people who produce the scenes?” These are some of the questions April Wolfe addresses in a vital piece for the LA Weekly.

    “Dorothy Arzner, the only woman director to have had a successful Hollywood career during the 1920-1940s, was central to the development of feminist film studies in the 1970s,” writes Judith Mayne for Film Quarterly. “Jump forward to 2017.” The Cinémathèque Française presents a retrospective and: “Judging by the introductory essay to the Arzner retrospective written by Philippe Garnier, old-fashioned cinephilia is still out there, kicking and screaming about women (and some men) who dare to suggest that there are ways of loving the cinema that differ from their own.”

    “For a woman to be elected president, literally every single man on earth—save one tree-dwelling hermit who presumably wasn’t registered to vote—had to die first,” writes Farran Smith Nehme for Film Comment.The Last Man on Earth [1924] and the even more interesting talkie version from 1933, It’s Great to Be Alive, both of which recently played at the Museum of Modern Art, quickly betray themselves as almost entirely male creations.”

    “The main criticism that has been leveled against Oliver Stone following the airing of The Putin Interviews on Showtime is that he was too soft on the Russian president,” writes Celluloid Liberation Front for the Los Angeles Review of Books. “It is one thing to maintain a polite demeanor in front of a head of state; it is quite another to laugh at his sexist and homophobic jokes. But there’s a deeper flaw in Stone’s approach. . . . Neither Stone nor his critics seem to contemplate the possibility that perhaps Putin is the outcome, rather than the cause, of his country’s problems.”

    Writing for 4Columns, Ed Halter notes that “critics have been quick to praise [War for the Planet of the Apes] as one of the most intelligent and innovative blockbusters in recent memory,” but he finds it inferior to the first two films in the trilogy. It “draws much too liberally from canonical war films like Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, The Great Escape, and Gladiator, larding its narrative with wink-wink references that only a first-year film student would love. . . . It tries to hold a mirror up to humanity, but merely provides a romp through a forest of empty signifiers.”

    On a somewhat related note, Jesse David Fox has put together an oral history for Vulture of the fictional Planet of the Apes musical in a episode of The Simpsons that aired twenty-one years ago.

    “Folk Horror may be intended to terrify, to unnerve and to even question a very uncomfortable area of nationalistic character,” writes Adam Scovell for Little Toller Books, “but its relationship to place is . . . a positive force in an era when the British landscape is once again at the center of several environmental, economic, and political conflicts.”

    Robert Bresson’s L’Argent (1983) “hits with the effect not so much reflecting a cleansing of the soul, but rather a ransacking,” writes Eric Henderson for Slant.

    “Is it possible for a film to be revered as a world classic and influence an entire generation of its country’s filmmakers yet still be underrated?” asks Nathaniel Thompson at Streamline. “In the case of Ashes and Diamonds (1958), the best-known film from the great Andrzej Wajda (whom we lost last year), the answer could very well be yes.”

    Photographer Robin Holland looks back on “meeting cute” with Jeff Goldblum.

    In the new issue of the Brooklyn Rail, James Lattimer looks back on Cannes 2017: “If nothing else, this year revealed that basing one’s programming around having known quantities deliver makes for a pretty flimsy strategy.” And Almudena Escobar López writes about the highlights of this year’s edition of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.

    “Sex” is the theme of the new issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room and, at RogerEbert.com, you’ll find Kara Shroyer’s essay on Steven Shainberg’s Secretary (2002).

    Wednesday was Udo Kier Day at DC’s.

    BOOKS

    “Murray Smith’s Film, Art, and the Third Culture: A Naturalized Aesthetics of Film is a powerful intellectual force whose impact will be difficult to reckon due to the depth of its analysis and breadth of its scope,” writes Rafe McGregor for Four by Three Magazine. “At the basic sub-disciplinary level Smith’s theory is, as the subtitle implies, a sophisticated theory of cinema, a study of the art form of film from the perspective of philosophical aesthetics. As such, the monograph has the potential to change the way in which aesthetics is researched and written and is, along with Bence Nanay’s Aesthetics as Philosophy of Perception, the most influential publication of the new century so far.”

    In a second excerpt from Shard Cinema, this one at Viewpoint Magazine, Evan Calder Williams suggests “that by the time cinema was becoming a medium that seemed to offer a novel form of mechanical time, motion, and vision, one that historians and theorists will fixate on as the unique province and promise of film, many of its viewers had themselves already been enacting and struggling against that form for decades, day in, day out.”

    Studio: Remembering Chris Marker is “a rare glimpse into the last decade of Chris Marker’s long and prolific life,” writes Sadie Rebecca Starnes for the Brooklyn Rail. “The homage pairs Adam Bartos’s photographs of Marker’s former Paris atelier with an essay by Colin MacCabe, whose many conversations with the auteur—like the piles of books, tapes, and trinkets photographed—zap across the decades, traversing the centuries, wars, and countries that framed Marker’s art. Hand in hand, the little photo-essay meanders from the Left to the Right Bank, through the 20th arrondissement to the dusty Rue Courat, straight through Marker’s unmarked door.”

    “Eve Babitz, an It girl of nineteen-sixties Los Angeles, has experienced a renaissance,” writes Jia Tolentino for the New Yorker. “Babitz was not yet thirty when Eve’s Hollywood was published. She was conscious of having a terrific origin story, one she could turn into a localized myth. ‘I looked like Brigitte Bardot and I was Stravinsky’s goddaughter,’ she writes, after a digression about losing her virginity to the taste of a certain beer.” Tolentino then turns to Babitz’s 1977 collection of essays, Slow Days, Fast Company, and her 1979 novel, Sex and Rage.

    For more recent book reviews and excerpts, see yesterday’s entry.

    INTERVIEWS

    Viewfinder’s posted Catherine Grant’s conversation with Amber Jacobs and Ian Magor about their experiences exploring and explaining film with audiovisual essays.

    David Lowery edited Amy Seimetz’s Sun Don’t Shine (2012), and now Filmmaker’s got her talking with him about A Ghost Story: “I’ve been very resistant to the idea that this was a response to making the Disney movie, because I loved making the Disney movie. I had a fantastic blast, and I’m very proud of the finished product. But there’s a degree of spontaneity I’ve always loved about the creative process that you lose when you spend three years on one thing that you just get to know way too well. And so, I had the urge to make something quickly again, to kind of rekindle that love of doing something fast and seeing what comes out of the process—what comes about when you have very little means and very little time and how those two shortages can yield wonderful things.”

    For the Brooklyn Rail, Tanner Tafelski talks with Ermek Shinarbaev about the “miraculous and mysterious making” of Revenge (1989) and about “contemporary Kazakh cinema and politics.”

    Interview has posted the conversation Victoria Hamburg had in 1989 with Kathryn Bigelow, who at the time was editing Blue Steel.

    More interviews? Here’s yesterday’s roundup.

    LISTS

    Rolling Stone has put together “a crack team of film fanatics, culture vultures, pop-culture pundits and various critics to weigh in on the 100 greatest movies of the Nineties.”

    Critics at IndieWire have written up a best-of-the-Nineties list as well; they’re sticking with “just” fifty titles, though.

    Thrillist has a great feature on 100 of the best props in movie history and how the directors, production designers, and artists found, chose, designed, bought, borrowed, or stole them to be a part of their films,” notes Jason Kottke, spotlighting some of his favorite stories from the batch.

    Dalhousie University professor Jerry White lists his top 100 Canadian films at the Toronto Review.

    And from CinePensieri, the “Top 50 Movies of the 21st Century.”

    IN OTHER NEWS

    “Alexander Payne’s Downsizing will open this year’s Venice International Film Festival,” reports Ramin Setoodeh for Variety. “The dark comedy centers on a man (played by Matt Damon) who wonders what his life would be like if he shrank himself. Laura Dern, Kirsten Wiig, Christoph Waltz and Jason Sudeikis round out the cast.”

    Ryan Gallagher passes along word from the Czech Republic’s National Film Archive that Janus Films and Criterion will be bringing thirty classic Czech films to the U.S. And Gallagher’s got the full list of titles.

    The sixty-ninth round of Emmy Awards will be presented on September 17, and the Television Academy has announced its nominations. Vulture’s got the complete list, while over at IndieWire, Zack Sharf notes that a “majority of the biggest contenders, from The Handmaid’s Tale to The Night Of, Big Little Lies, and The Crown, brought some of the best film talent to the small screen over the last year.”

    GOINGS ON

    New York. “Movie and theater love of the most florid kind suffuses Andrzej Zulawski’s L’important c’est d’aimer,” writes David Noh for Film Journal International. “The 1975 film posits the unbearably luscious Romy Schneider as Nadine, the actress fulcrum of a love triangle between her charmingly fey, movie-mad husband Jacques (Jacques Dutronc) and Servais (Fabio Testi), a bottom-feeding paparazzo whom she meets when he takes some illicit photos of her filming a porno movie. Very naturally, Nadine redeems him through love.”

    “The title role in the play belongs to one Karl-Heinz Zimmer, played by Klaus Kinski at full Kinski volume,” adds Glenn Kenny in the New York Times. “The restoration, by Rialto for this United States release, is lovely; Ricardo Aronovich’s cinematography is largely a study of tragic faces, and when his light hits the whites of Schneider’s eyes a certain way, the effect is breathtaking.” More from Jon Auman (Screen Slate) and Ela Bittencourt (Film Comment). At the Quad through Tuesday.

    Ongoing: Ford to City: Drop Dead—New York in the 70s, Mondo Bava, and Japan Cuts.

    Los Angeles. “One of L.A.'s best kept secrets is the Silent Society, an offshoot of the Hollywood Heritage Museum that screens vintage 16mm flicks at Paramount Ranch, deep in the hills of Agoura,” writes Nathaniel Bell in the LA Weekly. “The summer season kicks off with the 1926 Beau Geste, starring a handsomely mustachioed Ronald Colman.” Sunday.

    Chicago. The Cine-List has you covered through Thursday.

    Portland. Northwest Film Center’s Classic French Cinema series launches today and runs through August 29. “The selection contains a number of established classics ranging from the WWII period to the late ’60s, with work from expectedly well-known directors like Jean Renoir and Robert Bresson,” writes Ned Lannamann in the Portland Mercury. “But the French film movement that’s perhaps best known to US moviegoers—the French New Wave—is not represented much at all, in favor of work from perhaps less familiar but no less important directors like Marcel Carné, Jacques Becker, and Jean-Pierre Melville.”

    IN THE WORKS

    Back in April, Deadline’s Anita Busch reported that Martin Scorsese would direct Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro in Eric Roth’s adaptation of David Grann’s book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. Now Variety’s Nick Vivarelli hears from production designer Dante Ferretti that Scorsese hopes to begin shooting next spring, that is, almost immediately after completing The Irishman. And speaking of The Irishman, Ray Romano is joining Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci in the cast, reports Variety’s Justin Kroll. For more on The Irishman and more projects in the works, see Thursday’s roundup.

    Todd Solondz, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, “actress-screenwriter Arsinee Khanjian, and Brazilian director Anne Muylaert have arrived in Jerusalem to begin pre-production on an ambitious portmanteau feature set against the backdrop of the Old City,” reports Screen’s Melanie Goodfellow. “Titled The Quarters, the picture will capture the four different districts of the Old City—Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian—through the eyes of an outsider with ethnic or religious ties to the neighborhood.”

    “Timothee Chalamet and Elle Fanning have been offered two of the three lead roles” in Woody Allen’s as-yet-untitled project, the one that’ll follow Wonder Wheel with Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, and Jim Belushi, slated for release on December 1.Jeff Sneider has more at the Tracking Board.

    “Alexandre Aja is behind the first Oculus-produced virtual-reality horror series, entitled Campfire Creepers, a live-action terror anthology where urban and horror legends will be narrated in VR and 360-degree vision,” reports Vassilis Economou for Cineuropa. “Legendary actor Robert Englund, best known as Freddy Krueger from the 1980s A Nightmare on Elm Street horror franchise, will put in a guest appearance in the first episode as ‘an old man of the forests that collect heads.’”

    “Some thirteen years after the original Incredibles hit theaters, director Brad Bird revealed new details for The Incredibles 2, the long-awaited sequel,” and Carolyn Giardina and Borys Kit have details in the Hollywood Reporter.

    OBITS

    “Thomas E. Sanders, the production designer and art director who worked for some of the top names in Hollywood on such pictures as Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula has died,” reports Anita Busch for Deadline. Sanders was sixty-three.

    Variety’s Rebecca Rubin reports on the passing of producer Evzen Kolar: “In addition to his role as vice president of production at Fireline Productions and CEO at Crossover Films Ent., Kolar line-produced a number of features, including Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery as James Bond, Street Smart starring Morgan Freeman, Bat 21 with Gene Hackman and Danny Glover, and Storyville starring James Spader and Jason Robards.” Kolar was sixty-seven.

    LISTENING

    Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This series on Jean Seberg and Jane Fonda finds our two iconic actresses in Paris (52’47”).

    On the latest Film Comment Podcast (57’20”), Margaret Barton-Fumo, Shonni Enelow, Violet Lucca, and Nick Pinkerton discuss Barbara Loden’s Wanda (1970).

    Barton-Fumo also walks us through a playlist of music for films by Stewart Copeland.

    Samm Deighan, Ken Stanley, and Mike White are in the Projection Booth, discussing Peter Greenaway’s The Cook The Thief His Wife & Her Lover (1989) (112’00”).

    VIEWING

    The Sea Speaks, Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin’s audiovisual essay for De Filmkrant (9’34”), is “a composite poem (using seven films [by Jean Epstein]) from images and sounds of the sea and women.”

    At Open Culture, Colin Marshall spotlights One Hundred Years of Cinema, which launched in April 2016 with “The Invention of Cinema (1888 to 1914).” Episodes running between five and ten minutes or so appear about once a month and, so far, the series has worked its way up to “1932: Scarface - Defining the American Gangster Film.”

    For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

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