• [The Daily] Laughton, Kurosawa, and More

    By David Hudson

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    “My first job out of UCLA Film School, at age twenty-two, was directing second unit on The Night of the Hunter for Charles Laughton.” So begins a collection of memories, pre-production sketches, and screenplay pages at the Talkhouse Film from Terry Sanders, who has since produced and directed over eighty films and won two Oscars. Above, Lillian Gish and Charles Laughton in the set of The Night of the Hunter (1955).

    “In the autumn of 1988, Serge Daney started to write about films on French television in a column called ‘Ghosts of permanence’ for the newspaper Libération,” writes Laurent Kretzschmar, introducing a series of translations that will be rolling out at his blog, Serge Daney in English. A sample observation: “Plunged into the trivial promiscuity of television, films ‘breathe’ better than on the lone pedestals of cinematheques.”

    Akira Kurosawa’s films “are full of mud, dirt, rain, fog and the effects of heat, which help to define the mood, heighten the action or reflect the emotional and psychological states of his protagonists.” For the BFI, Jasper Sharp writes about “how Kurosawa directs the elements in four of his greatest films,” Stray Dog (1949), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957), and Ran (1985).

    “Into the Zone,” an excerpt from Geoff Dyer’s book Zona that ran in the Fall 2011 issue of the Paris Review, “is Dyer’s thought, in all its allusiveness and wit and sneaky brilliance, welded inextricably to the rhythms of [Andrei Tarkovsky’s] Stalker [1979],” writes Matt Levin. “This is the only narrow path to Stalker—a film that is both direct and maddeningly slippery.”

    “Camilo Restrepo’s Impression of a War is, necessarily, an incomplete picture,” writes Michael Pattison. “How, but how, could one film encompass the myriad political forces, cultural currents, social tensions and historical factors that have undergirded Colombia’s notoriously endemic violence over the last seventy years? . . . Brevity is brutal. Across a mere twenty-seven minutes, Restrepo traces lineages—banal scraps of an extraordinarily complex and ongoing civil conflict—and accumulates something resembling a personal, essayistic foray into his country’s heartache.”

    Also in the Notebook: Howard Hawks’s “best early films are outliers, and only gradually did he come to explore the kind of group dynamics, sexual sparring and codes of professionalism with which he's now justly associated,” writes David Cairns in a piece on Tiger Shark (1932). “Truly successful Hollywood films of the era dance around morality and audience requirements and make everything work out to our dramatic satisfaction. Intriguing but flawed ones like this run smack into a wall whichever way they turn.”

    “So,” writes Cairns, kicking off a discussion at Shadowplay, “this time watching [Hawks’s] The Big Sleep [1946], I decided to keep notes and try to track the plot. And think about to what extent it makes sense and why the audience seems to not care.”

    “Our first movie gods and goddesses—Rudolph Valentino, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich—were thoroughbreds of personality,” writes Sheila O'Malley for Film Comment. “There is variety to be had within established personae,” and Elvis Presley “was a persona actor. If you hold Presley up against Laurence Olivier or Claude Rains, then it doesn’t even seem like they are in the same profession. But it is the same profession. Presley had many natural gifts and he knew how to use them. He was dazzling to look at. He didn’t take himself too seriously. . . . Most importantly, he operated from a place of generosity. And generosity like that cannot be manufactured. Audiences feel it.”

    “To revisit exploitation movies from the mid-1960s is to have the hope of ironic fun almost consistently thwarted by grim reality,” writes Mark Harris in his latest “Cinema ‘67 Revisited” column for Film Comment. “They’re mostly parties you want to leave after about fifteen minutes.”

    “In its time Elena and Her Men (1956) was something of a disaster for Jean Renoir, a succession of problems (contested rights, fevers, bad accents) for which he struggled to find solutions,” writes R. Emmet Sweeney. “It was a box office and critical dud, and ended any hope of Renoir returning to Hollywood. . . . And yet the film itself is an effervescent thing, an improbable farce about a coup d’etat that positively shimmers with invention.”

    Also at Streamline, Kimberly Lindbergs argues the case for Otto Preminger’s Daisy Kenyon (1947) with Joan Crawford.

    At Mid Century Cinema, Jonathan Kirshner returns to Alfred Hitchcock, offering “a modest assessment and career overview, culminating with our invariably-beloved, inherently-contestable, always-subject-to-revision user’s guide to his feature films.”

    Michael Frank has a new memoir out, The Mighty Franks. “The leading characters in his probing and radiantly polished account, his Aunt Harriet Frank Jr. and Uncle Irving Ravetch, were MGM screenwriters (Hud, Norma Rae),” wrote Peter Haldeman in May for the New York Times. But the family member he focuses on in his new piece for Literary Hub is his grandmother, Harriet Frank, who, in the 1930s and 40s, would read novels and then tell the stories to MGM head Louis B. Mayer. If she moved him—perhaps with a single, well-timed tear—he’d buy the property.

    Dante A. Ciampaglia talks with Kogonada about his first feature, Columbus, for Architectural Record: “For me, Modernism seeks to engage and find meaning in absence. The presence of glass, light, walls, and cantilevered beams reveal absence. So emptiness is literally constructed in meaningful ways. The town of Columbus is surrounded by buildings that are thoughtfully and artistically engaging the modern condition, whether we choose to see it or ignore it.”

    Catherine Grant points us to a rich resource, Transformation and Tradition in Sixties British Cinema.

    IN OTHER NEWS

    The Venice International Film Festival has announced that Stephen Frears (Philomena, The Queen, Dangerous Liaisons) will receive the Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker award during its seventy-fourth edition running from August 30 through September 9.

    The festival is also marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jean Rouch by adding “the very unusual and previously unreleased short film Cousin, cousine (1985-1987) with Damouré Zika and Mariama Hima” to the Venice Classics lineup.

    The inaugural Tribeca TV Festival, running from September 22 through 24, will include a Will & Grace reunion, a talk with Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K. about Better Things, the series premiere of At Home with Amy Sedaris, and more.

    La La Land director Damien Chazelle announced yesterday that he’s decided “to join Twitter because I feel a responsibility to add my voice to the chorus. The Trump administration is openly endorsing Nazism and white supremacy. It's that simple.”

    On Tuesday, a woman identified only as Robin accused Roman Polanski of sexual assaulting her in 1973 when she was sixteen. As Gene Maddaus reports for Variety, Robin “said she was ‘infuriated’ when the victim in Polanski’s 1977 rape case, Samantha Geimer, recently urged Judge Scott Gordon to drop the matter.” Polanski’s attorney, Harland Braun, has criticized Robin’s attorney, Gloria Allred: “If you have a position, you come to court and you file it. Why have a news conference? . . . The only purpose is to generate publicity and maybe try to influence a judge.”

    This year’s European Film Awards won’t be presented until December 9, but the European Film Academy has presented a list of fifteen documentaries to be whittled down to five nominations for European Documentary 2017.

    OBITS

    “Tough cookies with soft centers were the stock-in-trade of the actor Joseph Bologna,” writes Ryan Gilbey for the Guardian. “He was the tyrannical comedian King Kaiser, modeled on Sid Caesar, in the nostalgic comedy My Favourite Year (1982), starring Peter O’Toole as an alcoholic former matinee idol. He played one of Gene Wilder’s drinking buddies in The Woman in Red and a man whose teenage daughter (Michelle Johnson) is having an affair with his best friend (Michael Caine) in Blame It on Rio (both 1984).” Bologna was eighty-two.

    Mexican filmmaker and artist Eugenio Polgovsky, whose documentaries have been screened in Cannes, Venice, and Berlin, has passed away in London at the age of forty.

    LISTENING

    The new episode of Karina Longworth’s Jean and Jane series on You Must Remember This finds Seberg “in a fragile mental state” and Fonda scoring a second Oscar for her performance in Coming Home (1978) (69’08”).

    Cinephiliacs host Peter Labuza visits Chicago Film Archives to talk about the project with three key members (74’01”). The conversation then turns to “one of its most prized works, American Revolution 2, in which ideology along the left becomes an increasingly impossible debate.”

    Mike White and guest hosts Jay Bauman and Chris Bricklemyer talk with Brian Jay Jones, Matthew Wilder, Maggie McOmie, Bruce Chesse, and Sid Haig about George Lucas’s THX-1138 (1971) in the Projection Booth (242’47”).

    VIEWING

    Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin introduce their tenth audiovisual essay for De Filmkrant (8’10”), this one on two film by Raúl Ruiz, noting that “between City of Pirates in 1983 and Time Regained in 1999, there is a surrealistic ‘communicating vessel’ that explores sensations of memory, time and fluidity; and a mise en scène of bodies, voices and movements.”

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

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