Remembering Jerry Lewis in a piece for the Guardian,Martin Scorsese recalls working with him on King of Comedy: “Jerry Langford was an uncomfortable role for him to play, because he was skirting the edges of his own life in absolutely every scene. Sometimes it went beyond that: he was wearing his own clothes, he was playing scenes where he was often expressing his own feelings about showbusiness and celebrity, and at times you didn’t know if you were seeing Jerry Langford or Jerry Lewis. And through it all he was, needless to say, a consummate professional. It was a remarkable and moving experience to watch him at work, improvising with Bob De Niro and the other actors and with his old friend Freddie de Cordova—I felt like I was watching a virtuoso pianist at the keyboard. And he knew his way around live television so well that I asked him to direct some of the actual on-air sequences for The Jerry Langford Show.”
In his latest “Cinema ’67 Revisited” column for Film Comment,Mark Harris (who also has a terrific piece for Vulture on Taylor Swift as “an embodiment of Trump culture”) turns to a big one, John Boorman’s Point Blank. “Grim, violent, elliptical, transfixingly sour and strange, it remains, 50 years later, a vital link between old and new, seeming at times like the tail end of classic noir, at others like the first sign of something fresh. It’s a hybrid of American, British, and French influences that becomes very much its own thing.”
Also writing for Film Comment,Scott Eyman: “Anne Bancroft embodied two qualities that were nowhere near as diametrically opposed as they seem at first glance: the sensuality of a beautiful woman used to commanding any room she entered, and the zero-to-60-in-three-seconds-flat capacity for rage of someone born Anna Marie Louise Italiano in the Bronx.” Plus, Steven Mears on Robert Benchley.
Reviewing Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio for the New York Times,Tom Shone notes that, in David Thomson’s view, Casablanca (1942) “could have come to fruition only at Warner Brothers, a studio run by a family of Jewish émigrés, headed by the irresistible Jack Warner, ‘not just a clown, a singer and a show-off, but a modern showman who was going to end up telling the family story and smiling at America.’ Under his stewardship, the studio gave the country gangsters in great suits, dames, gunfire, wisecracks and above all a tone—‘wry, fond of sentiment yet hard-boiled, as if to say we’re Americans, we can take it and dish it out’—that was a direct distillation of the restless, propulsive energies that had brought the Warners to America in the first place.”
Also in the NYT,J. Hoberman revisits Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), which “revived the Cold War space-invader genre with a difference. Humans had previously been menaced by bloodsucking carrots or brain-eating Martians; in Close Encounters, the new extraterrestrials were positively angelic.” And it “was very much a generational statement. Roy’s faith in the extraterrestrials inspires him to drop out, grow a beard and rebel against an official culture of lies.”
“Working on my long-promised book about the slightly mysterious founder of British cinema, Robert Paul, has given me a chance to revisit some of the great stories that emerged from the earliest months of showing moving pictures around the world,” writes Ian Christie at Film Alert 101. “One of the best of these is a story about how the international magician Carl Hertz took one of the very first projectors all the way from London to Melbourne in the summer of 1896.”
Laurent Kretzschmar’s translations of Serge Daney’s 1988 columns for Liberation keep coming. “Like all duds,” wrote Daney, Gilles Grangier’s Archimède le clochard with Jean Gabin, “is ageless.” And “Griffith as an obsessional shower, halfway between Dickens and Bataille.” And Jean-Jacques Beineix (Diva) “is the last director about whom anything resembling an ‘aesthetic debate’ has taken place in France.”
“Phil Alden Robinson’s Sneakers is a comic-book movie where the superpowers employed are mental, not physical,” writes Odie Henderson at the House Next Door. “It’s a surprise to discover a cerebral, 25-year-old film following the blueprint for today’s endless glut of superhero movies. It certainly operates on this level for the masses. But for those of us who’ve been in information technology as long as this film’s been in circulation, Sneakers also offers the chance to geek out on the ghosts of technologies past.”
“From the beginning, Jean Renoir embraced dualities,” writes Blake Lucas in a piece on The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936) for the Notebook. “One wants to say he played with them, and that’s often true, but he also took them seriously. When these two things are happening at the same time, his work is imbued with a magic that still casts a spell, just as it did over French New Wave filmmakers of the 1960s who rightly took him as a father figure.”
Jeremy Carr for Vague Visages on David Lean’s This Happy Breed (1944): “Set between the years 1919 and 1939—a pre and post-war period beset by rampant social and political fluctuation—the film’s whirlwind canvas is certainly a tumultuous one, with births, deaths and weddings (and most every other facet of day-to-day existence) all condensed in a 20-year survey and a nearly two-hour film. Yet with a discerning script, Lean’s discreet direction and a roundly impressive cast, This Happy Breed feels neither rushed, congested, nor sentimentally overblown. Rather, its vignettes are concise, powerful and unaffected. It is, quite simply, one of the most engaging and most charming movies ever made.”
“Dorothy Dandridge scared people,” writes Colin Dayan for Avidly. “Too black and too white, or neither black nor white, she fit nowhere. She made viewers think, even when singing about sex. Knowing in her bones how race hatred, ever inventive, traveled from the South to Hollywood, though under cover as entertainment—perhaps even more pernicious and long lasting because of that—she threatened.”
Featured in the latest round of videographic essays at In Media Res are Catherine Grant’s homages to Jeanne Moreau, John Hurt, and Carrie Fisher; Christine Becker revisits “the moment we unveiled [in]Transition” to a packed house at Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Seattle in 2014; Chiara Grizzaffi considers the “role of film festivals in promoting videographic film studies and criticism”; and Drew Morton warns that “one of the obstacles I see on the horizon is a certain level of stagnation in the practice.”
The new Film Colossus features Travis Bean on Andrea Arnold, whose “progression as a filmmaker shows how attentive she came to be with the physical and emotional space between characters.” There’s focus on movie endings with Chris Lambert on Joel and Ethan Coen’s No Country for Old Men (2007), Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966), Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006), and more. Plus, new analyses, interviews with directors, producers, and cinematographers, and more.
Interview has asked none other than Iggy Pop to talk with Josh and Benny Safdie about Good Time and Heaven Knows What, which Pop could only watch “up to where she goes into the bathroom and takes out the needle. I've done that and I don't want to see it anymore, so I had to cut out.”
“Last weekend in Little Rock, Arkansas, Jeff Nichols launched Premiere, the first event of his newly minted Arkansas Cinema Society,” writes IndieWire’s Anne Thompson. She talks with Nichols, David Lowery, and Adam Driver “about how they define creative independence as they balance high- and low-budget movies.”
For the Notebook, Christopher Small talks with Olivier Assayas “about viewing habits, mobile phones in cinema, and his upcoming project Ebook.”
Hossein Eidizadeh talks with Denis Côté for Kinoscope: “I would write a full page on an Abbas Kiarostami retrospective and then two or three lines on Spiderman. That is how I made my reputation as a film critic. In 2005, I made my first film, Drifting States. I really didn’t know what I was making. When it was finished, I watched it with my editor and we thought, “Is it a fiction, is it a documentary, what is it?” It was really exciting! Then I heard that Locarno Film Festival was interested in the film. I was like, ‘What is Locarno?’ We sent the film and won the main award in the video competition. That was the beginning of my career. After that I made a film every year.”
In Other News
“After nearly twenty-five years as Toronto International Film Festival Director/CEO, Piers Handling announced this morning that 2018’s festival will be his last,” reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “He has guided the festival, which begins next week, from a small gathering to a preeminent 10-day event that is a vital awards season launch pad and acquisitions market for indie films.”
“For the first time, Fantastic Fest is coming to us,” announces Matt Singer at ScreenCrush. “Drafthouse patrons in Brooklyn, Denver, and San Francisco will be getting an abbreviated ‘satellite’ version of Fantastic Fest the weekend of September 29.”
New York. Richard Linklater, Lucrecia Martel, Agnès Varda and JR, Hong Sangsoo, and Philippe Garrel will be taking part the New York Film Festival’s series of Talks (September 28 through October 15).
The Witches (1990), “as a ‘project,’ is noteworthy for many things,” writes Dylan Pasture at Screen Slate, among them “being one of the best adaptations of Roald Dahl, whose voice of glee and acid bitterness are intact here . . . ; for being the last feature film of Jim Henson, whose creature shop outdoes even the ghoulish, genuinely gross heights of The Dark Crystal . . . ; and, of course, for the direction of Nicolas Roeg, one of filmmaking’s great expressionist rogues, who brings his whole bag of punctuation zooms to push Dahl’s material to places both dark and delirious. Included here in the Quad’s 35 mm-heavy Roeg roundup, it is a chance for your dreams, too, to be haunted by a gathering of witches, feral with ecstasy, made up with warts, crooked teeth and tufts of greasy hair, trying to stomp a child-mouse to death. Sleep well.” Today and Tuesday.
Toronto. “In France in 1916, director Louis Feuillade established what would become the prototypical superhero narrative: a mysterious, masked and caped crusader with a tragic past seeking vengeance on the villain who destroyed his family.” Alicia Fletcher for the TIFF Review: “[B]efore there was Batman, there was Judex, a 14-chapter, 300-minute serialized epic that became a box-office sensation and established the template for the superhero genre. And, much like the seemingly endless cycle of sequels and reboots that has given us three Batman franchises over 20 years and three Spider-Men over ten, Judex as well inspired a 1963 remake directed by Georges Franju—which, unlike most such exercises, is a masterpiece in its own right, an homage to silent cinema that brings its own surrealist flavor to the caped-crusading proceedings.” Screens this evening.
“Károly Makk, one of Hungary’s greatest film directors whose Cats’ Play was nominated for an Oscar in 1975, has died,” reports Pablo Gorondi for the AP. “Makk’s film Love, one of the best films about the aftermath of the failed 1956 anti-Soviet uprising and life under tyranny, won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971. Between 1955 and 1987, six of his films, including Liliomfi,Another Way, and The Last Manuscript, were nominated for the top Palme d’Or award at Cannes.” Makk was ninety-one.
“Richard Anderson, who simultaneously played Oscar Goldman, leader of secret government agent the OSI, on both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman after a long career as a supporting actor in film and TV, died on Thursday,” reports Variety’s Carmel Dagan. Anderson was ninety-one.
“Shelley Berman, Grammy winning and Emmy-nominated actor and comedian, known for playing Larry David’s dad on Curb Your Enthusiasm has died,” report Greg Evans and Denise Petski for Deadline. Marc Maron’s reposted his 2012 conversation with Berman (56’33”).
“J.D. Disalvatore, a leading producer of LGBT films and a gay rights activist, died Thursday.” She was fifty-one. The Hollywood Reporter’s Mike Barnes: “Disalvatore produced writer-director Jonah Markowitz's Shelter (2007), which won a GLAAD Media Award for best feature film in limited release and in 2012 topped a list of the 100 greatest gay movies of all time.”
On the latest Poster Boys podcast, designers Brandon Schaefer and Sam Smith “head back to the halls of academia, diving into some of the most notable posters for films centered in or around the school” (111’08”).
On La Grande Bouffe, Cole Smithey and Mike Lacy discuss Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb (1995) (50’09”).
For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.