Mekas, Gregory, and More

On Film / The Daily — Aug 21, 2017

When Jonas Mekas and his brother Adolfas fled Lithuania in 1944 only to land in a Nazi forced-labor camp, Jonas began to keep a diary. Entries from that diary are gathered in I Had Nowhere to Go, out now from Spector Books, and the Paris Review is running three of them from January 1948; by that time, the brothers were in a displaced-persons camp in Weisbaden, which is where Adolfas shot the photo above of Jonas and two friends. You’ll find that photo among many more, as well as several more diary entries at the site for this year’s documenta.

Charlie Chaplin’s “strongest connection to the world of art was his friendship with illustrator Ralph Barton,” writes Susan Doll for Streamline. “Barton seemed to know everyone who gave the Jazz Age its flavor, from Mayor Jimmie Walker to actor Paul Robeson,” who would play Alexandre Dumas in Barton’s short film Camille (1926) with Anita Loos in the lead and, in smaller roles, Chaplin, H. L. Mencken, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, and Paul Claudel. And that’s just scratching the surface of Doll’s account of a remarkable friendship.

Five years on, Miriam Bale is reviving Joan’s Digest as a weekly, and she begins with an interview with Bertrand Bonello. Addressing the opening sequences of Nocturama, he says, “I tried to make a kind of ballet. A lot of precision and a kind of ultra-realism, and at the same time something a little abstract. I tried to mix the two. Basically that’s how the whole movie works: between realism and abstraction.”

W. S. Van Dyke’s Marie Antoinette (1938) “is one of those films where the American dream (the middle-class one) is clothed in the old noble garments of European history,” wrote Serge Daney in October 1988. And Jacques Tourneur’s ten-minute King Without a Crown (1937) is “as elliptical and convoluted as a mock Raúl Ruiz in search of mock TV.” Translation by Laurent Kretzschmar.

“In the early 1990s, absurdly muscular beasts such as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger had began losing their place as models of a new ideal of masculinity,” writes Manuela Lazic, revisiting Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction thirty years on for Vague Visages. “In her seminal 1993 book Spectacular Bodies: Gender, Genre and the Action Cinema, Yvonne Tasker explained how, in the 1980s, these were the figures of a complex response to second wave feminism. . . . With his much-less surreal anatomy, blow-dry haircut, smart suits and quiet confidence, Michael Douglas came to represent a more common and realistic man, which Tasker and other scholars often referred to as the ‘New Man.’ . . . Lyne does not believe in the ‘New Man.’ . . . After escaping from the authority of his wife for a weekend, then getting chased by an even more demanding liberated mistress, Dan [Douglas] finds himself recaptured by his angry and imperious spouse, crawling back to Beth with his tail between his legs.”

Introducing his interview with Eliza Hittman (It Felt Like Love, Beach Rats) for RogerEbert.com, Steve Erickson argues that “she’s making the films Larry Clark has been trying to make his career, and doing it much better than he ever has.”

A new restoration of Jean-Luc Godard’s Grandeur et décadence d'un petit commerce de cinéma (1986) opens in France on October 4 before screening along with other Revivals at the New York Film Festival

“Over the first decade of his career, the Israeli-born artist Tom Pnini has developed a compact film oeuvre that, while varied in terms of subject matter, exhibits an unusual degree of focus in terms of its techniques and themes,” writes Louis Bury for Hyperallergic. “Like the Lumière brothers’ infamous 1895 L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat, each of his dozen or so deceptively simple short films chronicles the minor drama of an object’s understated progression across time.”

It’s Abbas Kiarostami Day at DC’s.

In Other News

Franz Schwartz, the former director of Vienna’s Stadtkino, has been named interim artistic director of the Viennale following last month’s untimely passing of Hans Hurch. Says Viennale managing director Eva Rotter: “He and Hans Hurch were close friends, and Hurch thought highly of him with regard to his work and integrity. Together, we intend to stage a festival in the spirit of Hans Hurch.”

In the Works

“Paul Greengrass will next direct a movie he has written about the Norwegian terrorist who in 2011 murdered 77 people in the country’s deadliest attack since WWII,” reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. That terrorist is, of course, Anders Behring Breivik, “a self described right-wing Christian extremist with a hatred for Muslims.” This will be a twenty million dollar Netflix project.

At the Playlist, before Jordan Ruimy passes along the synopsis for M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, set to open on January 19, 2019, he flashes a warning: spoilers!

“Denzel Washington is set to star as Theodore Hickman, AKA Hickey, in Eugene O’Neill’s acclaimed play The Iceman Cometh on Broadway next spring,” reports Dino-Ray Ramos for Deadline.

Obits

“Dick Gregory, the pioneering black satirist who transformed cool humor into a barbed force for civil rights in the 1960s, then veered from his craft for a life devoted to protest and fasting in the name of assorted social causes, health regimens and conspiracy theories, died Saturday in Washington,” writes Clyde Haberman for the New York Times. Gregory was eighty-four.

Writing for Open Culture, Josh Jones suggests that “the deaths of Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis have seemed like cultural footnotes amidst some of the most anxious, angry few days in recent U.S. history. Gregory and Lewis are stars of a bygone era, maybe two full generations behind contemporary popular relevance. And yet, in many ways, the mid-20th century world where both men got their start feels closer than ever.”

Independent producer and founder of the online radio show The Daily Buzz, Irene Cho, has passed away. She was only forty-six. “Her high-octane energy matched her endless range of ideas,” writes Rose Kuo in a tribute at Movie City News. “A desire or project would spring from her mind that seemed impossible or crazy, but somehow she would manage to will them into existence. One time, she called me and suggested that we organize a brunch for newly elected mayor of LA, Eric Garcetti—we didn’t know him—because she was sure that ‘he is going to be president one day.’ There was not enough time or money and he hadn’t agreed. Not only did Irene make it come to life, Garcetti played a tune for us on the piano during the event.”

“Brian Aldiss, the ‘grand old man’ of science fiction whose writing has shaped the genre since he was first published in the 1950s, has died,” reports Alison Flood for the Guardian. “Aldiss was the author of science fiction classics including Non-Stop, Hothouse, and Greybeard, as well as the Helliconia trilogy, which his agent said bridged ‘the gap between classic science fiction and contemporary literature.’ His numerous short stories include ‘Super-Toys Last All Summer Long,’ which was adapted into the Steven Spielberg film [A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)], while his Horatio Stubbs saga was based on his time during the war in Burma and the far east.”

Also in the Guardian, Mark Lawson looks back on the life of British television personality Bruce Forsyth, who has passed away at the age of eighty-nine: “Records, it is often said, are made to be broken. But the showbiz career of Sir Bruce Forsyth—from a teenage music hall act as ‘Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom’ to Strictly Come Dancing—will surely only be beaten if someone can achieve an even more spectacular combination of precocity, longevity and ability to adapt to new entertainment formats. Remarkably, his TV credits spanned three quarters of a century—most of the medium’s lifetime.”

One more from the Guardian. Gordon Williams, “who has died aged 83, was an elusive figure, wary of the publicity customarily associated with the literary life,” writes D. J. Taylor. “In his day, on the other hand, he was a versatile and prolific performer in a variety of high-profile genres. Not many Grub Street irregulars can boast, as he was able to do in the half-decade between 1966 and 1971, of having had one novel shortlisted for the Booker prize and another filmed by the Hollywood director Sam Peckinpah while carrying out ghostwriting assignments for an England football captain.” The novel was The Siege of Trencher’s Farm, and the film is Straw Dogs (1971).

Listening

At the Playlist, Martine Olivier introduces a recording of a recent Q&A in Melbourne with Luca Guadagnino, who talks about Call Me by Your Name, of course, but also has a few words about his remake of Suspiria, currently in post-production (23’23”).

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