Lubitsch, Bertolucci, and More

The Daily — Nov 21, 2017

Ernst Lubitsch’s “world is defined by time as much as place,” writes Daniel Witkin in the latest entry in Reverse Shot’s symposium on time. “Anachronistically straddling the 19th and 20th centuries, his characters embody unfashionable virtues of discretion and tact but are modern enough to approach the greater share of dogma and convention with bemused skepticism. As such, Lubitsch’s world is largely ahistorical.” The film at hand is Trouble in Paradise (1932), “Lubitsch’s first non-musical talkie, after he helped to create the American movie musical with his legendary cycle for Paramount.”

John Bailey, renowned cinematographer and current president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, writes a column for American Cinematographer, and in his latest, recalls watching Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) for the first time—and then two more times immediately afterwards. “I knew the course of my career was set. Two years later, I crashed a party for [cinematographer Vittorio] Storaro at the Chateau Marmont, and we met. I was still a camera assistant, but I never looked back. Today, nearly 50 years on, this movie continues to define for me everything that makes the movies the greatest art form of our time.”

Also in the American Cinematographer, and also via Movie City News, David Alexander Willis reports on the restoration of an iconic camera, “the Mitchell BNC with serial number 2, the camera that legendary cinematographer Gregg Toland, ASC had used to shoot Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane and other classic films.”

“In her little book Chantal Akerman, Passer la nuit (2017), [Corinne] Rondeau suggests that it is futile to see Akerman’s work only in the context of her family’s traumatic past during the Second World War, the silence in the family that had affected her deeply, and her suicide in 2015,” writes Nadin Mai. “Rondeau sets an example, looking even at the small things. Her chapter headings are fascinating at the beginning, simply called ‘encore’ (again) or ‘où’ (where), chapters in which she brings to the fore the essence of Akerman’s work, I find.”

Currently a resident at the Stanley Kubrick Archive, Sarah Wood’s posted a fresh entry: “I’ve noticed throughout my time in the archive that Kubrick, even in research photographs, is drawn to a wide scene-revealing frame that contains a dark occluded center. This, of course, is most apparent in 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the monolith cuts a perversity of blackness across cinema’s wide-open gaze. But this isn’t the only place this framing is revealed. Looking through production stills across Kubrick’s career I’m struck by the Rothko-like concertina into a dark endpoint that his framing often offers. It’s a very radical strategy. It is the perfection of cinema and the end of cinema held in one frame.”

For the Notebook, Jorge Mourinha revisits Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006), “a hyper-romantic threnody for a love lost traveling across time and space, from a Spanish conquistador looking for the Fountain of Eternal Youth to an interstellar traveller aiming to restore life to a dying tree.”

Reporting for the Guardian from Paris, Kim Willsher finds it hardly surprising “that a call for French directors to stub out smoking on screen has been greeted with a mix of disbelief and outright ridicule. It has also prompted the existential question: what would French cinema be without the cigarette?”


“In late summer 2004, I arranged a phone interview with Ruth Hussey about her role in The Philadelphia Story (1940),” writes Dan Callahan at the Chiseler. “She was ninety-three at that time and lived in a nursing home, but I was assured by her very helpful daughter Mary that Hussey still had ‘all her buttons.’” And sure enough, she did.

For Longreads, Jessica Gross talks with André Aciman, author of the novel Call Me by Your Name, adapted by James Ivory for Luca Guadagnino’s film. “I do get a touch of joy—which I immediately mitigate, because I am too embarrassed to feel joy about something I’ve done. But there is a sense that they’re making a movie, there is a musical score, there’s a beautiful image, a beautiful cover to the book taken from the movie—I am very happy. And then it just withers away.”

“The sheer quantity of flair on his person was Pharaonic,” notes Thomas Chatterton Williams, describing Spike Lee as he met him this summer. Williams’s profile for the New York Times Magazine covers a lot of ground, and the occasion, of course, is the new series for Netflix, She's Gotta Have It, based on the 1986 film and reviewed for Slant by Chuck Bowen: “Every episode of She's Gotta Have It concerns systemic prejudice, most notably the dangers inherent to the life of a beautiful woman of color navigating a society defined by Caucasian patriarchy. These plots could offer the tidy lessons that are common to television, yet Lee's an artist with a social conscience as well as a ferocious aesthetic appetite that must also be fed. Lee's gotten into hot cultural water in the past for his reductive depictions of women and, though this series exhibit a relatively new empathy for feminine life, he remains a naughty sensualist.”

Back in the NYT, Sopan Deb talks with Terry Gilliam about Jabberwocky (1977), out today in a fortieth anniversary edition, and about “his fellow Pythons and the news in June that production had wrapped on The Man Who Killed Don Quixote . . . He said he had recently watched Jabberwocky again for the first time in 25 years. ‘I thought, “God, I was good then,”’ he said. ‘“I was much better than I am now.”’”

For Filmexplorer, Jacqueline Beck talks with Kevin B. Lee about video essays, ISIS propaganda, “hypernarration,” cross-media publishing, and more.

And for the Notebook, Joel Neville Anderson talks with Kazuo Hara about the first film he’s made in over a decade, Sennan Asbestos Disaster.


For Grasshopper Film, Bertrand Bonello (Nocturama) lists his ten favorite films of the past ten years.

IndieWire’s put together a “Sundance Wish List: 69 Films We Hope Will Head to Park City in 2018.”

Kevin Laforest, who posts his writing at Extra Beurre, lists his top 100 Canadian films at the Toronto Film Review.


Oreet Ashery, who “works across moving image and performance,” has won the 2017 Film London Jarman Award. “Her risky, fearless and often satirical work breaks taboos and challenges audiences.” And Guardian art critic Adrian Searle interviews her: “Artists can never stop. You always have to self-present. You are always ‘on.’ If you are not, it is as though you are dead.”

The Producers Guild of America has announced the nominees for its annual documentary awards, and Movie City News has the list.

Get Out, Girls Trip, Detroit, and Mudbound are among the top film nominees for the 49th annual NAACP Image Awards,” reports Cynthia Littleton for Variety.

Goings On

Advance screenings of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread will begin on Friday in Los Angeles and New York.

All twenty of the screenings announced so far are sold out, but who knows, more dates and times may appear here.

New York. “A poet wunderkind in his home country since age eighteen, Shūji Terayama remained a popular sports announcer, playwright, filmmaker and ‘happenings’ instigator in Japan, despite calling for anarchy and rejection of oppressive social norms in the conservative, conformist culture his entire career.” Danielle Burgos for Screen Slate: “Terayama remains shamefully underknown in the U.S., the purview of academics and darling of film fanatics. Anthology Film Archives means to change that with their outstanding retrospective Throw Away Your Books: The Films of Shūjji Terayama, a rare stateside presentation of his works on film.” Today through December 10.

Berlin. “Weimar Cinema Revisited” is the title of the Retrospective of the sixty-sixth Berlin International Film Festival running from February 15 through 25. The Berlinale “will present a total of twenty-eight programs of narrative, documentary, and short films made between 1918 and 1933.”

Seoul. “One day, I am sure, the century will be Mekassian.” Mousse Magazine has posted a text by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, who, with with Eunhee Kim, has curated Again, Again It All Comes Back to Me in Brief Glimpses, an exhibition of work by Jonas Mekas on view at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea through March 4.

In the Works

Viola Davis will star in and co-produce an adaptation of Terry McMillan’s bestseller I Almost Forgot About You to be directed by Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip) and written by McMillan and Ron Bass (Rain Man), reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming, Jr. Davis will play Georgia Young, “a twice-divorced, successful optometrist” who “goes on a wild journey of self-discovery, reuniting with old lovers, and getting a brand new lease on life.”

Fatih Akin (Head-On, In the Fade) “Akin is adapting Heinz Strunk’s bestselling 2016 novel Der goldene Handschuh (The Golden Glove), which chronicles the true story of Fritz Honka, a physically and psychologically scarred serial killer who murdered four women in Hamburg’s red light district between 1970 and 1975,” reports Ed Meza for Variety.

Michael Green, who wrote the screenplay for the new Murder on the Orient Express, is now writing an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile and, according to the Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit, “Kenneth Branagh is expected to return as director and reprise his role as [Hercule] Poirot.”


Amsterdam’s EYE Filmmuseum remembers Frans Zwartjes, who “worked as a musician, violin maker, nurse and teacher at the Academy for Industrial Design Eindhoven before he began to profile himself as a filmmaker in the late Sixties.” When the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London presented a program of Zwartjes’s work in 2014, Maximilian Le Cain wrote that he was “arguably Holland’s pre-eminent experimental filmmaker. His highly stylized, poetically claustrophobic films achieve a unique level of sensual intimacy in their renditions of sexual and domestic tension, and voyeurism.” Susan Sontag once called Zwartjes “the most important experimental filmmaker of his generation.” He was ninety.

“Della Reese, the husky-voiced singer and actress who spent almost a decade playing a down-to-earth heavenly messenger on the CBS series Touched by an Angel and became an ordained minister in real life, died on Sunday night,” reports Anita Gates for the New York Times. Reese “considered her role as a 1920s madam in Eddie Murphy’s Harlem Nights (1989) pivotal because it proved she could play a character different from the ones she had in the past. She told The Ottawa Citizen in 1997, ‘For a long time, I was the woman who owned the club where the star came in after he broke up with his girlfriend.’ Ms. Reese, who sometimes filled in for Johnny Carson as guest host on The Tonight Show, was the first black woman to host a national television variety-talk show. The syndicated Della lasted only one season (1969-70), but that amounted to almost 200 episodes.”

Also in the NYT, Neil Genzlinger remembers Girish Bhargava, who was a master of the underappreciated art of editing dance films and put that skill to use on the hit movie Dirty Dancing and numerous episodes of the PBS series Dance in America.” He was seventy-six.


On the new Film Comment Podcast (46’09”), J. Hoberman, Dave Kehr, Violet Lucca, and Nick Pinkerton discuss “the role of campus film culture in shaping cinephilia.”

Filmwax Radio host Adam Schartoff talks with “indie film pioneer” Ira Deutchman (62’54”).

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