Kehr, Hertzfeldt, and More

Let’s start today’s round with a few books. Next month sees the release of Movies That Mattered: More Reviews from a Transformative Decade, Dave Kehr’s followup to his 2011 book, When Movies Mattered. Before he became a curator in the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art, before his fourteen-year-long stint at the New York Times, and before his six years as a film critic for the Chicago Tribune, Kehr reviewed movies for the Chicago Reader. As Susan Doll notes in her preview at Streamline, the forthcoming book gathers reviews and essays written for the Reader and Chicago Magazine from 1974 through 1986—and they’re “not available anywhere online.”

Doll recalls that, during her years in the film program at Northwestern University, she and her fellow students would race each Friday morning “to snatch a copy of the Chicago Reader to read what Dave Kehr had to say about the movies opening that weekend. More than the dusty tomes of those academic thinkers, Kehr’s lengthy reviews in the Reader had an immediate influence on our tastes and ideas. Kehr applied the theories and ideas we were learning in our classes to his popular reviews but without the pretentious jargon associated with academia. We learned more about the auteur theory and genre analysis from Kehr, who was using it in practice, than from any text book.”

One of the reviews Doll singles out for mentioning is Kehr’s argument that La femme d’à côté (The Woman Next Door, 1981) with Gérard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant (image above) “represented [François] Truffaut’s interest in formal techniques, a new direction for him.” Jonathan Kirshner recommends Truffaut on Cinema, “nothing short of a treasure for movie-lovers. François Truffaut sat for about 300 interviews between 1959 and 1984, and every last one of them is collected in this book—and presented with a rather ingenious twist. The interviews were compiled and reorganized by Anne Gillain, and as reassembled the book proceeds thematically, film by film (rather than interview by interview) along with a number of topical chapters that pick up content that strayed too far from the discussion of particular Truffaut films. Originally published in French in 1988, Truffaut on Cinema has just been released in an English translation (by Alistair Fox).”

“In The Dying City: Postwar New York and the Ideology of Fear by Brian Tochterman,” writes John Duncan Talbird for Film International, “we are given two symbolic views of New York City since World War II: 1) ‘Cosmopolis,’ the archetypal ‘melting pot’ attracting people from all over the world for nearly infinite definitions of ‘making it’ and 2) ‘Necropolis,’ city as graveyard, a dangerous cesspool of crime and corruption. . . . Overall, The Dying City is a compelling book with an engaging thesis. If at times, it is a struggle to connect its strands, it is as much a testament to the ambition behind the book as it is to any flaws in execution.”

In the new issue of the New York Review of Books,Max Hastings writes about a book and a movie. The book is Alone: Britain, Churchill, and Dunkirk: Defeat into Victory: “Michael Korda, for decades a celebrated New York publisher, was born in Britain in 1933; his father was Vincent Korda, one of three Hungarian-born brothers who were cinema wizards of their day. Now he offers two books for the price of one, interweaving a historical narrative of the events of 1939–1940, climaxing with Dunkirk, and a succession of vivid fragments of autobiography.” And the movie, of course, is Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. “Britain’s grown-ups . . . should have been forcibly denied entrance to cinemas at this moment when we are threatened with embarkation upon one of the most self-indulgent, willfully foolish acts of self-harm in the nation’s history.”

More Reading

“Flourishing between World War II and the 1960s, the intergroup relations movement aimed to combat not only the spread of fascist ideology, but also racism, religious intolerance, and other forms of prejudice. . . . By way of an introduction to the movement,” Michelle Kelley presents “some key examples of intergroup relations films and broadcasts with relevance for the current political era.”

Also writing for Film Quarterly,Paul Julian Smith reports that the Permanencia Voluntaria Film Archive in Tepoztlán, “an hour or so outside Mexico City,” has been hit hard by the September 19 earthquake. “The invaluable archive is dedicated to very neglected fare: the rich heritage of Mexican popular film, especially the unique genres of wrestling movies and fichera (showgirl) features. . . . The archives director has written an urgent appeal, which you can read here.

Disney’s Dumbo (1941) “is perhaps more beautiful if you see it less as Dumbo’s revenge than as a process described in many myths, a process that tells the story of the hero’s double birth,” wrote Serge Daney for Libération in 1989. “The first birth is from day to night. The second birth from night to day.”

Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971) is, “for me, one of the most sublime films by Robert Bresson,” writes Wheeler Winston Dixon for Grasshopper Film.

“With Mon Oncle (1958), Jacques Tati gets closer to making his ideal film,” writes R. Emmet Sweeney in his latest piece for Streamline.

“It is now five years since animation artist Don Hertzfeldt released his tragicomedy feature It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012), which brings together his three short films Everything Will Be OK (2006), I Am So Proud of You (2008) and the 2011 short after which the trilogy is titled,” writes Josette Wolthuis for animationstudies 2.0. “Taking the understanding of ‘seriality’ from Television Studies in the sense of how a narrative arc is organized into subsequent episodes, I want to look at this trilogy’s storytelling, and ask: what occurs to the way and the intensity with which this work conveys its narrative through animation when the seriality of the three episodes is seamlessly edited together into one film? Indeed, in light of Hertzfeldt’s recent release of an ‘episode two’ to his 2016 Oscar-nominated short World of Tomorrow, it is now apt to consider the question of seriality in his work.”

In his new column for Sight & Sound,Brad Stevens argues the case for Werner Herzog’s “splendid” Queen of the Desert (2014), noting that it “seldom it feels Herzogian. . . . Indeed, stylistically it far more closely resembles several other Nicole Kidman vehicles . . . Despite his ‘masculine’ obsession with domineering madmen, Herzog would appear to be one of those genuinely modest ‘feminine’ figures who happily defer to their collaborators.”

For Scenes Journal,Shalini Adnani talks with screenwriter Gonzalo Maza, whose Gloria (2013) and A Fantastic Woman (2017), “for which he was awarded Best Screenplay at Berlinale, celebrate female endurance and resilience.” Both films were directed by Sebastián Lelio.

For the Notebook, Clare Nina Norelli writes about Pino Donaggio’s score for Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976): “It was Donaggio’s feeling that Carrie was a film concerned more with the tragedy and drama of Carrie’s existence than horror.”

Writing for Little White Lies,Joel Blackledge argues that “a host of prominent directors who spin movie poetry from pulp fiction—Steven Soderbergh, Nicolas Winding Refn and Michael Mann chief among them—have consistently drawn from [John Boorman’s] Point Blank [1967] for its effortless blend of cool, smart and weird.”

And Harriet Mould looks back on Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride, thirty years on.

Yesterday was Guy Maddin Day at DC’s.

In Other News

Movie City News notes that Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League has released a statement on behalf of Fantastic Fest, which he co-founded but is not attending this year. His decision to secretly rehire Devin Faraci, the former editor of the Alamo site Birth.Movies.Death accused of sexual assault, sparked a wave of anger and resignations. League is currently traveling to all Alamo theaters and “we have taken some first steps on the path to listening and ensuring that we create a safe, inclusive environment for our staff at both the theater and the festival as well as the community at large. . . . Moving forward, we have severed all ties with Harry Knowles and he is no longer affiliated with the company in any capacity.”

Knowles, founder of Ain’t It Cool News, “has been removed” from the Austin Film Critics Association, reports Kate Erbland at IndieWire. And “longtime AICN contributors Eric Vespe (‘Quint’), Steve Prokopy (‘Capone’), and ‘Horrorella’ [have] departed the site in the wake of the allegations against the AICN founder.”

Goings On

We begin this section today with Lexington, Kentucky, because the seventh annual Harry Dean Stanton Fest will take place from Thursday through Saturday. “Begun in an effort to both celebrate the diverse film work of this legendary cinematic icon and remind the community of his Lexington roots, the annual festival utilizes various venues throughout downtown Lexington for screenings, speakers, and Harry Dean Stanton related events.”

Meantime, Also Starring Harry Dean Stanton rolls on at the Quad in New York. Monte Hellman’s Ride in the Whirlwind (1966) screens tonight and Chris Shields finds that “because of its slow pace, dialogue-less passages, and concern with the fragile nature of identity,” it “earns its reputation as a rare existential western.”

Also at Screen Slate, Rebecca Cleman writes about “a future vision that only the 1970s could conjure. . . . Death Race 2000 (1975), directed by Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul, Private Parts) but solidly a Roger Corman production, and one he is especially proud of, falls in the middle of a line of car-centric movies from that most dystopian, orange-and-brown hued decade.” Tomorrow night at the Alamo Drafthouse.

Los Angeles. On Friday, the New Beverly presents a 1983 reissue print of Michael Campus’s The Mack (1973) with Max Julian, Carol Speed, and Richard Pryor. Calling it one of “the most influential films in hip hop culture,” the theater notes that it has a cameo in Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993), written, of course, by New Beverly owner and head programmer, Quentin Tarantino. Kim Morgan finds that The Mack “feels constantly alive, constantly fresh, rooted in a time and place but with terrific characters that are still relevant, still meaningful.”

Toronto. “At age 24, Vsevolod Pudovkin was the elder of the ‘men with a movie camera,’ the young Soviet directors who helped turn the 1920s into one of the greatest decades in film history,” writes James Quandt at the top of his guide to the TIFF Cinematheque series The Heart of the World: Masterpieces of Soviet Silent Cinema, running from Thursday through October 31.

In the Works

At Cineuropa, Camillo De Marco reports that “Marco Bellocchio is set to direct his first TV series, Esterno notte, in 2018 once work finishes on Il traditore (lit. The Traitor), a film about Tommaso Buscetta (read more here). ‘It will be the reverse shot of Good Morning, Night,’ the director told ANSA agency, ‘and will tell the story of the fifty-three days of kidnapping, imprisonment, and assassination of Aldo Moro, but from outside the prison walls.’”

James Cameron has officially begun production “on the four Avatar sequels he is shooting in succession,” reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “No one is saying when Cameron will complete the unprecedented feat of shooting a quartet of blockbuster-budget 3D films in sequence.”

Also, once Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) wraps Venom, he’ll turn to “an untitled buddy cop comedy” featuring John Cena and Kumail Nanjiani.

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Armando Iannucci, creator of Veep and director of The Death of Stalin, has created, written, and executive produced Avenue 5, a comedy set in space. And as Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva reports, HBO has given it the green light.

“Netflix has lined up Chevy Chase, Richard Dreyfuss, Lewis Black, Andie MacDowell, Kate Micucci, and Chris Parnell to star in a new comedy film called The Last Laugh,” reports Sam Barsanti at the A.V. Club. It’ll be about “a ‘talent manager and widower’ who reconnects with one of his old clients, a stand-up who quit so he could start a family, and convinces him to go on a ‘bucket list tour’ of stand-up venues across the country.”

Kyle MacLachlan is joining Jack Black and Cate Blanchett in Eli Roth’s adaptation of John Bellairs’s 1973 horror story for children, The House with a Clock in Its Walls.Patrick Hipes has details at Deadline.

Shirley MacLaine is joining Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, and Billy Eichner in “Disney’s female Santa Claus film Nicole,” reports Variety’s Justin Kroll.


On Saturday, actor Jan Tříska “fell from Prague’s Charles Bridge into the Vltava River,” reports Ian Willoughby for Radio Praha. “Tříska was probably best loved by Czech audiences for the 1991 film Obecná škola, or The Elementary School, in which his turn as cane-wielding teacher Igor Hnízdo won him fresh popularity with audiences in his native country. . . . Among around four dozen films Tříska appeared in in the U.S. were two by his compatriot Miloš Forman, Ragtime and The People vs. Larry Flint.” Tříska was eighty.


David Lowery (A Ghost Story) has posted “the first movie I ever made. I shot it in the fall of 1988, which means the VHS tape I pulled it from is nearly thirty years old. I was seven and a half at the time. The last six months of my favorite age. We had just moved to Texas. My dad’s friend came to visit, with his camcorder in tow, and I was ready with scripts, props, and a cast of siblings. This one was my version of Spielberg’s Poltergeist, which I was aware of but definitely hadn’t seen.” (2’08”).

Alex Karpovsky and Teddy Blanks have launched a new series of shorts, Shrink, “in which smart, charismatic people who have been in therapy for years tell us everything they’ve learned—all in under two minutes.” This first round features Sarah Silverman, Susan Orlean, Lena Dunham, Gary Shteyngart, Kimberly Pierce, and Natasha Lyonne.

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