• [The Daily] Books: Brakhage, Andersen, and More

    By David Hudson

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    The Literary Hub is running excerpts from A Dance with Fred Astaire in which Jonas Mekas recalls his encounters with Anaïs Nin, Arthur Miller, Allen Ginsberg, and Aldous Huxley.

    Stan Brakhage (image above) wrote Metaphors on Vision in 1963, putting “into words a kind of cinema that’s so sui generis it feels like its own universe, one that subsequent artists travel through,” writes Tanner Tafelski for Hyperallergic. “Metaphors maps out a fresh perspective on film and filmmaking. Jonas Mekas—that godfather and perpetual nurturer of avant-garde cinema—first published Metaphors as a special issue of his and his brother Adolfas’s magazine, Film Culture, which was designed by George Maciunas. Long out of print, Anthology Film Archives and Light Industry have republished it, bringing it back into the public consciousness once more. And boy is this an extensive overhaul of the original!”

    “Steeped in Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound,” writes Sadie R. Starnes in the Brooklyn Rail, “fueled by the early influence of poets Charles Olson and Duncan, Brakhage is rooted in ‘the milieu of American poetry rather than in discussions of cinema in the fifties.’ In the course of more than 350 mostly silent 8mm and 16mm films—from the cranberry heat of Cat’s Cradle (1959) to the Sisyphean epic Dog Man Star (1961–64) to his first extended ‘abstract’ film Text of Light (1974)— he sought to render the immediacy of synesthetic sight by ‘cine-poems,’ as he makes clear in his final 2003 interview.”

    Also in the Brooklyn Rail, Mark Webber introduces an excerpt from Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema, “the first collection of writings by a filmmaker who is known and much respected for his celebrated documentary essays including Red Hollywood (1996, made with Noël Burch), Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), and The Thoughts That Once We Had (2015). . . . Its range of subjects encompasses the avant-garde, documentary, installations, exploitation films, film noir, independent features, and Hollywood productions, and Andersen’s plainspoken writing style communicates an enthusiasm and knowledge nourished through many years of watching, discussing and teaching cinema.”

    Having translated thirty columns that critic Serge Daney wrote for Libération in the late 1980s, Laurent Kretzschmar has now posted the table of contents from Daney’s fourth and last book, Devant la recrudescence des vols de sacs à mains, cinéma, télévision, information, with links to the texts in English.

    “To talk of Tarantino’s influence now is to do so with a wince or small cluck of nostalgia for that period, somewhere between the launch of the Hubble telescope and the impeachment of Bill Clinton, when you could barely find a coffee shop in Southern California that didn’t clatter with the sound of aspiring young screenwriters bashing out talky, violent, blackly comic shoot-’em-ups on their typewriters.” That’s Tom Shone in the New Yorker, writing on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of Reservoir Dogs. “To those coming to the film from the freewheeling mayhem of the director’s later work, it’s a remarkably disciplined feat of storytelling, featuring just as many departures from chronology as, say, Pulp Fiction—its structure is a nautilus-like series of boxed flashbacks, telling each character’s story in turn—but the flashbacks never feel like flashbacks. You’re never antsy to get back to the warehouse. Without an ounce of fat, at a trim ninety-nine minutes, the movie pierces like a bullet, leaving a clean hole.” Shone’s Tarantino: A Retrospective is out now.

    Nick Pinkerton’s met with Gérard Depardieu for Film Comment, and “never have I had an interview which suffered so much in transcription for the inability to convey facial expression or gesticulation—I will say only that Depardieu pantomimed humping three times during the course of my brief audience with him, and that it was funny every time.” The occasion for the interview is the publication of “his slender new book, Innocent,” which is “more scattershot manifesto than autobiography . . . Topics discussed within include the milquetoast quality of much contemporary art, the impossibility of marriage, the Russian right to Crimea, and the globe-trotting Depardieu’s claim to be able to understand people the world over despite his frequent inability to actually understand their language.”

    Tom Hanks has a new book out, too, Uncommon Type, a collection of short stories. Profiling him for the New York Times, Maureen Dowd finds that “there is a strain of melancholy that runs through many of the stories about small-town characters. . . . His voice is recognizably Hanks, with lots of Norman Rockwell phrasing: lollygagging, yowza, thanked his lucky stars, titmouse, knothead, atta baby.”

    In Dolce Vita Confidential: Fellini, Loren, Pucci, Paparazzi, and the Swinging High Life of 1950s Rome, Shawn Levy “picks apart different aspects of mid-century Italian cinema and the melting pot of influences that made it happen, culminating in Fellini’s major global breakthrough, a devastating portrayal of narcissism that functions as socio-political critique,” writes Elaine Lennon for Offscreen. “Levy’s special talent in building a picture of the city is in the accumulating of gleaming detail.”

    For Bright Lights, John McIntyre reviews John Andrew Fredrick’s Fucking Innocent: The Early Films of Wes Anderson, “a trio of spirited essays” and “criticism-as-grinning-jaunt.”

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