Manson and the Movies—and More

“Charles Manson, the hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after orchestrating the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, died Sunday after nearly a half-century in prison,” reports John Rodgers for the Associated Press. A highlight of this report can be found in a note attached at the end: “This story contains biographical information compiled by former AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch. Deutsch covered the Tate-La Bianca killings and the Manson trial for The Associated Press and has written about the Manson family for four decades.”

At the top of Margalit Fox’s obituary for the New York Times, we find a video, “Manson Mythology and Pop Culture,” a fine primer narrated by Janet Maslin and, on a Monday, this five-minute refresher may be all you have time for. But the Thanksgiving holiday is coming up, and if you haven’t listened to Karina Longworth’s outstanding You Must Remember This podcast series, “Charles Manson’s Hollywood,” now’s the time. It’s a twelve-parter, with episodes dedicated to the stories of Manson and his “family,” Tate and Roman Polanski, of course, but also Beach Boy Dennis Wilson; record executive Terry Melcher, son of Doris Day and boyfriend of Candice Bergen; Bobby Beausoleil and Kenneth Anger; celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring; Dennis Hopper and Michelangelo Antonioni; plus cameos from Joan Didion, John Waters, and more as well as a few observations on movies and television shows that have been based on Manson's story. All in all, an engaging, often disturbing in-depth course on that moment in American culture when the dreams of “the Sixties” came to a gruesome end.

And now, as Nicole Sperling notes for Vanity Fair, into this milieu steps Quentin Tarantino, whose “upcoming movie, according to a source who read the script, focuses on a male TV actor who’s had one hit series and his looking for a way to get into the film business. His sidekick—who’s also his stunt double—is looking for the same thing. The horrific murder of Sharon Tate and four of her friends by Charles Manson’s cult of followers serves as a backdrop to the main story. Deadline says Tarantino wants Margot Robbie, currently enjoying accolades for her role as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya, for the role of Tate.”

More Reading

Having recently revisited several films from the 1910s, David Bordwell notes that one of the “secondary arguments” in his new book, Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling, “is that many storytelling techniques of silent film subsided during the 1930s but were revived during the 1940s. Silent films were full of dream sequences, subjective points of view, fantasy projections, and flashbacks. Those got elaborated and consolidated for the sound cinema by Forties filmmakers.”

Lucrecia Martel’s Zama “is a deeply experiential meditation on colonialism, lust, and the Latin American landscape, seen through the eyes of a paranoid egoist descending into madness,” writes Sam George Jackson. “Martel’s first film in nine years, Zama is an adaptation of a novel by the Argentine writer Antonio Di Benedetto, and in many ways it marks a major departure from the tones and themes of her earlier films. In other ways, though, it is a natural continuation of her preoccupation with the culture, the language, and the aesthetics of Argentina.”

Also writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Nina Allan suggests that “all horror and especially British horror is, in a sense, folk horror.” In his book, Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange, Adam Scovell’s “touchstone texts—films like Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973) or Peter Plummer’s TV adaptation of Alan Garner’s 1967 novel The Owl Service (1969–’70)—are characterized above all by the myth of a return to the land that many would claim as folk horror’s most characteristic attribute. Yet we need only look to works like Alan Clarke’s film Penda’s Fen (1974) or Peter Dickinson’s ‘Changes’ trilogy (1968–’70) to see that Cold War cosmopolitanism has proved every bit as significant in terms of its influence on British horror as hippie rusticism.”

“Rather than working to maintain an illusion of diegetic truth, Godard’s work as always foreground its status as a manufactured product—of technology, of an industry, of on-set conditions and of an individual’s imagination.” For the Notebook, James Slaymaker writes about A Woman Is a Woman (1961), Contempt (1963), Alphaville (1965), Pierrot le fou (1965), First Name: Carmen (1983), Détective (1985), and In Praise of Love (2001).

For Kinoscope, Tanner Tafelski writes about Hong Sang-soo’s On the Beach at Night Alone and The Day After: “Like those of Yasujirō Ozu, Philippe Garrel, and Eric Rohmer, a Hong film can be appreciated on its own, but grows in richness when placed in the context of his ever-expanding body of work. His films may be similar in aesthetic (a direct approach with sequence shots, simple pans and flagrant zooms that accentuate actors’ performances), but this only draws attention to the different shades that set apart one film from another.”

Anne Helen Petersen has spent quite a bit of time talking with Sean Baker about The Florida Project and, writing for Buzzfeed, she tells us why: “It’s proof that indie cinema’s resonance in the cultural mainstream didn’t end with Weinstein, and that there’s still room for weird, incredibly filmic narratives that resist basically all Hollywood formulas—and not just on streaming platforms. Which is why The Florida Project—like Moonlight, another A24 film to which it is frequently compared—doesn’t just feel like a throwback to an earlier time in indie cinema. It feels very much like its future.” Via Movie City News.

A24 is, of course, the film’s distributor. Petersen suggests that we “think Miramax/Weinstein, but with better taste, more willingness to take risks, and without the culture of harassment.” In the Guardian,Steve Rose argues that, “as for the movies people will remember in 20 years’ time, this indie company seems to be cornering the market.”

The Paris Review has asked contributors to its Fall 2017 issue to write a bit about what they’ve been “reading, watching, listening to, and enjoying,” and a few of the entries need mentioning here. For Isabella Hammad, Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper (2016) offers “one of the best portrayals of ghosts in cinema I have seen in a while.” Sigrid Nunez calls Agnès Varda and JR’s Faces Places a “great work of art about the making of art.” And Esther Allen argues that Herbert Biberman’s The Salt of the Earth (1954) “is definitely the movie for our time.”

Chris Smith (American Movie) tells Stephen Saito the story behind Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – With a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton.

For Dangerous Minds, Paul Gallagher has put together the story behind Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter (1974) with Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling.

At Little White Lies:

  • Nadia Latif on Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, “arguably his most daring, troubled and spectacular film.”
  • Jack Godwin on James Mangold’s Cop Land (1997) as a key film in Sylvester Stallone’s career.
  • William Carroll on Gummo: “In 1997 America simply wasn’t ready to look into the smudged mirror held up by [Harmony] Korine and see its own bloodshot gaze staring back.”

At Hazlitt, Harry Harris looks back on “Jonathan Glazer’s “lush, romantic take on the gangster movie,” Sexy Beast (2000) and Elizabeth Donnelly tells us how her “mild obsession” with Owen Wilson turned into “complete hero worship.”

Writing for NewCo Shift, Allison Wood argues that “the mobile computing era is coming to an end. The paradigm that will replace it is coming into focus, and it has a name: Spatial computing. In spatial computing, the physical world around us is not only content, but also the interface and the distribution channel as well. How? We are on the precipice of shifting the OS layer from the mobile phone, where it has lived for nearly a decade, to the camera itself. Put simply, though boldly, the camera will bring the internet and the real world into a single time and space. Brand new worlds will enter our field of view, modular and stackable like so many NES cartridges of yore.” Via John Wyver.

For Creative Review,Emily Gosling talks with Giphy’s COO, Adam Leibsohn, “about why gifs are such succinct and effective narrative devices, our basic human drive to loop information, and the future of the format.”


“Cinema websites are varied,” notes Luke McKernan. “They range from nostalgic tributes to one venue or the cinemas of a town, to community-based projects, to academic studies, to reference sources, to databases (often overlaid with mapping software) . . . The best of them feature information rigorously collated, categorized and made searchable, but also with a sense of a magical world now lost.” And he presents “a diverse selection of some of the best or most interesting among them.”

The BFI has put together an annotated list of “100 thrillers to see before you die.”

In the Works

“Jim Jarmusch, my good buddy, and Forest Whitaker, have both signed on with me and another writer named Dallas Jackson, to executive producer another Ghost Dog,” RZA tells Telerama. “And we already have something written. So maybe Ghost Dog will make its way back to the silver screen, or small screen.” You can watch him speak these words at the Playlist.Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai was released in 1999.

Over the weekend, we noted that Fabrice du Welz would complete the trilogy begun with The Ordeal (2004) and Alleluia (2014) with Adoration, which, as Aurore Engelen notes at Cineuropa, “focuses on the journey of young Paul, 12, who lives alone with his mother, a cleaner for a private hospital in the woods. When Gloria, a schizophrenic teenager, arrives, he falls in love and is persuaded to help her escape, whatever the cost.” Now Engelen’s got the cast list, too, which includes Emmanuelle Béart, Beatrice Dalle, Benoît Poelvoorde, Peter van den Begin, “and the young Fantine Harduin, discovered by Michael Haneke, who is set to play Gloria.”

Engelen notes that is also supporting Joachim Lafosse’s Continuer, “an adaptation of the novel by Laurent Mauvignier, with Virginie Efira and Kacey Mottet-Klein”; Bertrand Blier’s Convoi Exceptionnel, with Gérard Depardieu, Christian Clavier, and Edouard Baer; and Ari Folman’s Horse Boy.

StudioCanal, “which was behind the Paddington films, is joining forces with Sam Mendes’s Neal Street Productions, for a live action adaptation” of Enid Blyton’s series of books, The Magic Faraway Tree, reports the BBC.


At the Film Stage, Jordan Raup’s embedded a conversation between Greta Gerwig and Spike Jonze hosted by the Directors Guild of America. Raup notes that, while making Lady Bird, “Gerwig would call up directors—including Jonze, Mike Mills, Rebecca Miller, Wes Anderson, Todd Solondz, Whit Stillman, and, of course, Noah Baumbach—and talk to them for hours about a variety of questions she had. So, this was a reunion of sorts for Jonze and Gerwig as they discussed the advice that was given. Perhaps the best bit from Jonze: ‘If you don’t like a shot, just start turning off lights.’” (21’58”).

TIFF Long Take host Geoff Macnaughton talks with David Gordon Green (George Washington, Pineapple Express) (29’34”).

Oneohtrix Point Never, aka Daniel Lopatin, who’s scored Josh and Benny Safdie’s Good Time, “has put together his second FACT mix (his first was way back in 2010) and woven together a selection of his favorite soundtrack cuts plus a few extras for good measure. It’s a wild ride, kicking off with Giorgio Moroder’s Midnight Express track ‘Cacophony’, running through a cut from Stanley Kubrick’s daughter Vivian (under her Abigail Mead pseudonym), a snippet from Brad Fiedel’s Terminator soundtrack and a memorable theme from Running Man.” (56’48”).

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