Cinema lost a few giants this year, some soldiers, some heroes, duly heralded or not, and links from a good number of the names here will take you to collections of remembrances. I’ve also added notes and a few more recent tributes.
January 2. John Berger (90). The author of Ways of Seeing also co-wrote screenplays with Alain Tanner: The Salamander (1971), The Middle of the World (1974), and Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 (1976).
January 6. Om Puri (66). The actor “exuded a reassuring warmth and gravitas over a long career divided largely between Bollywood and Hollywood,” writes Ryan Gilbey for the Guardian.
January 12. William Peter Blatty (89). Best known for writing The Exorcist in 1971, Blatty also wrote, directed, and produced The Ninth Configuration (1980).
January 13. Mark Fisher (48). The critic, theorist, and author (Capitalist Realism) blogged as k-punk.
January 19. Miguel Ferrer (61). He was Twin Peaks’ FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield and chalked up over 120 more acting credits.
January 25. Mary Tyler Moore (80). The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s Mary Richards “was a perfect guide for navigating the a-wokening of the corporate American man (a project that is still ongoing, to say the least),” writes Taffy Brodesser-Akner in the New York Times Magazine.
January 27. John Hurt (77). “That voice, distilled from alcohol and Gauloises, a single malt of a voice, caressed the nation for half a century,” writes John Boorman in the Guardian. “In The Elephant Man it was only the voice. As Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant the voice swerved into a gay queenery. It expressed pain and suffering as a monster exploded out of his stomach in Alien. His Christ for Mel Brooks persuaded us that Jesus had such a voice. Its emollience spread over hundreds of movies, plays and commercials. On stage, it put audiences into a light hypnosis.”
Emmanuelle Riva (89). She worked with Alain Resnais (Hiroshima mon amour, 1959), Gillo Pontecorvo (Kapò, 1959), Jean-Pierre Melville (Léon Morin, Priest, 1961), Georges Franju (Thérèse Desqueyroux, 1962), Krzysztof Kieślowski (Three Colors: Blue, 1993), Julie Deply (Skylab, 2011), and Michael Haneke (Amour, 2012).
January 31. David Shepard, “a film preservationist who restored hundreds of discarded, hidden or forgotten films by masters like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and F. W. Murnau.” (William Grimes, New York Times).
February 13. Seijun Suzuki (93), “best known in the west for his deliriously entertaining and inventively realized crime and gangster B-movies, and turned out at a conveyor-belt rate by Nikkatsu studios in the 1960s,” as Jasper Sharp writes in the Guardian.
February 18. Richard Schickel (84). The author and critic wrote for Time from 1965 to 2010.
February 25. Bill Paxton (61). An accomplished director in his own right, he’s probably known to most for his work with James Cameron, playing a punk in The Terminator (1984), a soldier in Aliens (1986), a car dealer in True Lies (1994), and a treasure hunter in Titanic (1997).
March 6. Robert Osborne (84). The actor and film historian was a host on Turner Classic Movies for more than twenty years.
March 14. Robin O’Hara (62). “Fierce, committed and above all, tough—these are the words that collaborators use to describe producer Robin O’Hara, a longtime fixture of the New York independent film scene,” writes Anthony Kaufman for IndieWire.
April 2. Radley Metzger (88). “What has Metzger done for the American cinema?” asked Steve Macfarlane at Slant in 2014. “Consider the love scenes in movies like Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me or David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter, too lurid to survive the censorship of the prior 1960s, but too flowery and poetic to be considered anywhere near exploitation. The trend—triangulating lovemaking, eye candy and mood music into a kind of art-sex stew—had many fathers, but given Metzger’s surprisingly classy softcore riffs on Shaw, Bizet, or Dumas, there’s no questioning he was one of them.”
April 6. Don Rickles (90). Audiences seemed to love being insulted by him. Cinephiles remember him as the manager in Martin Scorsese’s Casino (1995) and as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story movies.
April 12. Michael Ballhaus (81). The legendary cinematographer worked with Rainer Werner Fassbinder on sixteen films, with Martin Scorsese on seven, with James L. Brooks on Broadcast News (1987), Francis Ford Coppola on Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Robert Redford on Quiz Show (1994), and Mike Nichols on Primary Colors (1998).
Toshio Matsumoto (85). The filmmaker and video artist was a pioneer of the Japanese avant-garde best known for Funeral Parade of Roses (1969).
April 26. Jonathan Demme (73). “Jonathan had this gigantic generous heart, and his films are full of warmth and humanity,” Paul Thomas Anderson said in August. “On the other hand, when Jonathan decides to turn the screws to you, for anybody that’s seen Silence of the Lambs, he really does it deeper and nastier than anybody, which is the flip side of him. . . . One thing I would say about all of Jonathan’s films is that there’s not background in the traditional way that you see like somebody mindlessly crossing in the background of an office. Literally everything, every person in the frame seems to have some role or story going on.”
April 30. Jean Stein (83). The author and editor worked as an assistant to director Elia Kazan on the original production of Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, co-wrote Edie: American Girl with George Plimpton, edited Grand Street, and wrote West of Eden, “an oral history of Los Angeles, full of myth and rancor and especially desolation,” as Dan Piepenbring put it, writing for the Paris Review.
May 14. Powers Boothe (68). He appeared in George P. Cosmatos’s Tombstone (1993), Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City (2005), David Milch’s Deadwood (2004–2006) and won an Emmy for his lead performance in Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (1980).
May 23. Roger Moore (89). From 1973 to 1985, he was James Bond in seven features. He was also Simon Templar in The Saint (1962–1969) and a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
May 24. Denis Johnson (67). Philip Gourevitch for the New Yorker: “Johnson’s work throbbed with his irreducibly American voice, veering between hardboiled banter and hyperacute physical and emotional immediacy.” In 1999, Alison Maclean made a film based on his 1992 collection of linked short stories, Jesus’ Son.
June 9. Adam West (88). “His Batman showed us that occasionally we need our superheroes to be a little more like us,” writes Rob Hoerburger in the NYT Magazine.
June 13. Anita Pallenberg (75). “People think of her in one way—a 60s muse, all that shit—but she was so much more than that,” writes Marianne Faithfull in the Guardian. “A really talented artist, a great actor, intelligent, funny, thoughtful, fearless . . . she truly didn’t give a fuck what anybody thought of her. I was desolate when she died.”
June 16. John G. Avildsen (81). The AP’s Jake Coyle and Anthony McCartney noted that the two films he’s probably most famous for directing, Rocky (1976) and The Karate Kid (1984), were “dark-horse, underdog favorites that went on to become Hollywood franchises.” He also worked with Jack Lemmon on Save the Tiger (1973).
June 27. Michael Nyqvist (56). The first Mikael Blomkvist in the Millennium series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2009 and so on) and the heavy in Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) and Chad Stahelski and David Leitch’s John Wick (2014).
July 15. Martin Landau (89). Actor, teacher, producer, editorial cartoonist. After appearing in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959), he rose to fame in Mission: Impossible on television and remains unforgettable in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994).
July 16. George A. Romero (77). He’ll “always be known for turning hordes of dead people into a new kind of mainstream monster, but what made him a revolutionary artist is that he didn’t let the living off the hook,” wrote Jason Zinoman in a conversation with New York Times critic A. O. Scott, who looked back to a 1979 interview in the Village Voice in which “Romero called his movie [Dawn of the Dead] and [John] Carpenter’s Halloween ‘a form of punk; that’s purposeful disrespect.’ I wonder what’s become of that impulse—the anti-authoritarian, anti-respectability bravado that infused Mr. Romero’s movies (including nonzombiecentric work like Martin  and Knightriders ).”
July 21. John Heard (71). This was quite a run: Joan Micklin Silver’s Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979), John Byrum’s Heart Beat (1980), Ivan Passer’s Cutter’s Way (1981), and Paul Schrader’s Cat People (1982). And then there was that well-earned Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Detective Vin Makazian in The Sopranos.
July 26. June Foray (99). The voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Cindy Lou Who, Jokey Smurf, and many more. She’s also credited for playing a vital role in getting the Academy to create the Best Animated Feature category.
July 27. Sam Shepard (73). “I was a writer and he was a writer, and we both loved movies,” writes Johnny Dark in the Guardian. “He was an alcoholic and I was a drug addict. And we had an inflated sense of how wonderful we were. It was during this time that he was first approached to be in a movie. Bob Dylan called to ask him to go on the road with the Rolling Thunder Revue to do some writing for a movie they were making. And on the basis of that, the director Terry Malick called and asked him if he would like to be in Days of Heaven, with Richard Gere, an unknown at the time. . . . He played Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff, the man who broke the sound barrier, and people literally thought Sam broke the sound barrier.” Patti Smith in the New Yorker this summer: “Sam liked being on the move. He’d throw a fishing rod or an old acoustic guitar in the back seat of his truck, maybe take a dog, but for sure a notebook, and a pen, and a pile of books. He liked packing up and leaving just like that, going west. He liked getting a role that would take him somewhere he really didn’t want to be, but where he would wind up taking in its strangeness; lonely fodder for future work.”
July 31. Jeanne Moreau (89). Just this list alone from the top of that collection of remembrances: “She worked with Jean Gabin in Jacques Becker’s Touchez pas au grisbi (1954), and took the lead in Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows (1958). François Truffaut immortalized her iconic visage in Jules and Jim (1962), and she would work with him again on The Bride Wore Black (1968). She appeared in Michelangelo Antonioni’s La notte (1961), [Orson] Welles’s The Trial (1962) and Chimes at Midnight (1965), Joseph Losey’s Eva (1962), Jacques Demy’s Bay of Angels (1963), Luis Buñuel’s Diary of a Chambermaid (1964) [image above], Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Querelle (1982), Wim Wenders’s Until the End of the World (1991), François Ozon’s Time to Leave (2005), Tsai Ming-liang’s Face (2009), and Manoel de Oliveira’s Gebo and the Shadow (2012).”
August 1. Eric Zumbrunnen (52). “Creative kindred spirits, Zumbrunnen and [Spike] Jonze collaborated for more than two decades, teaming for the features Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002), Where the Wild Things Are (2009) and Her (2013),” wrote Mike Barnes in the Hollywood Reporter. “A proficient guitarist, Zumbrunnen brought his love of music to his work editing music videos, among them classics like ‘Buddy Holly’ from Weezer, Björk’s ‘It's Oh So Quiet’—both helmed by Jonze—‘Where It’s At’ from Beck and ‘Tonight, Tonight’ from Smashing Pumpkins.”
August 19. Dick Gregory (84). “In a documentary in production by Andre Gaines,” writes Adrian Nicole LeBlanc in the NYT Magazine, “Gregory explains in a radio interview—once again—why fighting for justice trumped show business. ‘It’s just—I liked what I felt,’ he says. You can hear the good feeling in his voice—one still alive on sixteen albums and as undaunted on the page.”
August 20. Jerry Lewis (91). Introducing MUBI’s Jerrython the other day, Christopher Small admits that he’s “found it hard to translate into words the way Jerry’s shtick—the flurry of mercurial personalities, the endless generation and regeneration of masks, the Brechtian refusal to acknowledge the sanctity of a self-contained dramatic universe—revealed something deep about the guy. Indeed, I started to believe that this in itself pointed to the limits of Lewis criticism as a whole. Jerry is too fast for description; his effortless parrying between conflicting emotional states overrides the critics’ attempts to pin down his essence. The total filmmaker in command of every aspect of the medium, the atomically precise image and sound sculptor, the master of the loaded gag, was quite obviously also its most ephemeral, diffuse physical presence.” See, too, “Meeting Mr. Lewis” by Bill Krohn and “Jerry and the Prefab People: Hardly Working and Americana” by Jessica R. Felrice.
August 26. Tobe Hooper (74). Writing for Sight & Sound, Nick Pinkerton notes that Hooper “credited an encounter with George A. Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead as opening his eyes to the unexplored potentialities of the genre. But if the homemade, rough-edged Night signified a definitive break with what had come before, Hooper’s 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was a scorched-earth, burned-bridges piece of work.” And “you can still feel the impact of its shocks on a more than merely ‘gotcha’ level.”
September 11. Peter Hall (86). He “was just twenty-five when Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot arrived on his desk, and he directed the UK premiere,” writes David Hare for the Guardian. “On any night in his theaters you could see Vanessa Redgrave and Judi Dench and Paul Scofield and Peggy Ashcroft and Ian Holm, while he also produced some of Peter Brook’s greatest work as a director.”
September 15. Harry Dean Stanton (91). Rolling Stone, introducing an annotated list of ten of his “essential films,” notes that he was “a child of the Depression, a WWII vet, a beatnik, a bit player in TV and movies, a troubadour, a hipster icon. Most of all, though, people referred to him as ‘a character actor,’ a term that he always hated and considered reductive at best and an insult at worst. But Stanton was part of an elite canon of screen performers who not only brought an edge or a sense of lived-in authenticity to a supporting turn, but could often lift a film out of the rut of a rote narrative.”
September 20. Lillian Ross (99). She started writing for the New Yorker in 1945 and kept at it for seven decades. Among the most famous of her books is Picture (1952), about the making of John Huston’s The Red Badge of Courage (1951). Film Desk offers a collection of her writing on François Truffaut.
October 5. Anne Wiazemsky (70). She made her onscreen debut at the age of nineteen in Robert Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar (1966), married Jean-Luc Godard while they were making La Chinoise (1967), and appeared in his Week End (1967) and One Plus One (1968) before they divorced in 1979. Wiazemsky worked with Pier Paolo Pasolini on Teorema (1968) and Pigsty (1969), with Marco Ferreri on Il seme dell'uomo (1969), with Marcel Hanoun on La vérité sur l'imaginaire passion d'un inconnu (1974), with Philippe Garrel on L'enfant secret (1979), and with André Téchiné on Rendez-vous (1984).
October 17. Danielle Darrieux (100). “Unlike most branded stars whose appeal can be captured in one well-chosen adjective, the multifaceted Darrieux would require the whole thesaurus,” wrote Steven Mears for Film Comment in May. “The early 1950s brought three collaborations with Max Ophuls for which she is likely best known: La Ronde , Le Plaisir , and most particularly, The Earrings of Madame de . . . , in which she offers a performance of breathtaking complexity as [Charles] Boyer’s faithless wife, in what Andrew Sarris called “the most perfect film ever made.’” She also worked with Jean Cocteau, Claude Chabrol, Henri Ducoin, Joseph L Mankiewicz, André Téchiné, Anne Fontaine, and François Ozon.
October 20. Federico Luppi (81). The Argentine actor is best known for his work in Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1993), The Devil’s Backbone (2001), and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).
October 23. Walter Lasally (90). The German-born British-Greek cinematographer worked with Tony Richardson on A Taste of Honey (1961), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), and Tom Jones (1963), and won an Oscar for his work on Michael Cacoyannis’s Zorba the Greek (1964). He plays the older writer in Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight (2013).
November 7. Debra Chasnoff (60). “I think that very first film has done more to change the world than anything else I could possibly do,” she said on Blog Talk Radio in 2013, referring to Choosing Children (1984). “It’s no longer assumed you can’t be a parent if you’re gay.” In 1992, she won an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) for Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment.
November 15. Betty French Jarmusch (96). She wrote about theater and the movies for the Akron Beacon Journal, wrote features for magazines, short fiction, and a screenplay. Her daughter, Ann, is a journalist, and of course, both of her sons, Jim and Tom, are filmmakers.
November 19. Della Reese (86). Singer, actress, ordained minister, and the first black female guest host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. She appeared in Eddie Murphy’s Harlem Nights (1989) and is probably best known as Tess on Touched by an Angel, which ran on CBS from 1994 to 2003.
November 23. Anthony Harvey (87). He directed Katharine Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, and Anthony Hopkins in The Lion in Winter (1968), George C. Scott in They Might Be Giants (1971), and Liv Ullmann in The Abdication (1974) and Richard’s Things (1980). Harvey also worked as an editor for Stanley Kubrick on Lolita (1962) and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).
November 28. Shadia (86). The Egyptian actress and singer appeared in more than a hundred films starting in the 1940s. “Her fan base reached across the Arab world. Her roles ranged from willful country girls and city career women to emotionally disturbed women and hopeless romantics,” notes the AP. “Her roles in two films based on novels by the Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz won her lavish praise from Mr. Mahfouz himself.”
November 30. Alain Jessua (85). After working as an assistant for Jacques Becker and Max Ophuls, he made his first film, Léon la lune (Leon the Moon), a short documentary that won the Prix Jean Vigo in 1957. La Vie à l’envers (Life Upside Down) won an award in Venice for best feature debut in 1964, and Jeu de massacre (The Killing Game) won a best screenplay award in Cannes in 1967. For more, see his entry at newwavefilm.com.
Jim Nabors (87). His character on The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, would eventually get his own show.
Alfie Curtis (87). As Katie Kilkenny notes in the Hollywood Reporter, he “famously intimidated Luke Skywalker as Dr. Evazan at the Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope .” He also appeared in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980).
December 2. Ulli Lommel (72). Known for his collaborations with Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Andy Warhol, Lommel directed nearly sixty films (many of the later ones would go directly to video) and acted in over eighty.
December 4. Shashi Kapoor (79). “English-speaking audiences will remember him best in Merchant Ivory films such as The Householder (1963), Shakespeare Wallah (1965) and Heat and Dust (1983), and for these he willingly accepted far less money than for the Bollywood movies that made his name,” writes Derek Malcolm in the Guardian. “In fact, he appeared in some of the best Bollywood films of his era, opposite the greatest stars in the business.”
December 5. Johnny Hallyday (74). “He was one of these artists who burns, like Elvis or Edith Piaf,” writes Carla Bruni in the Guardian. “He would sing like he was going to die the very next minute. He was a good actor too—the only problem was that his presence was so strong, it was hard to forget it was him.” He appeared in Godard’s Detective (1985) and Patrice Leconte’s Man on the Train (2002).
December 9. Grant Munro (94). The award-winning Canadian animator appeared in Norman McLaren's Neighbours (1952).
December 10. Bruce Brown (80). What his landmark 1966 documentary The Endless Summer did for surfing, his 1971 film On Any Sunday did for motorcycling.
December 14. Chuck Kleinhans. With Julia Lesage and John Hess, a co-founding editor of Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, which has taken “an explicit political stand as a nonsectarian left, feminist, anti-racist and anti-imperialist publication” since 1974.
December 19. Thérèse DePrez (52). As a production designer, she worked with Tom DiCillo on Living in Oblivion (1995), Mary Harron on I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), Todd Solondz on Happiness (1998), Spike Lee on Summer of Sam (1999), Stephen Frears on High Fidelity (2000), Darren Aronofsky on Black Swan (2010), and Park Chan-wook on Stoker (2013).
December 22. Jerry Greenberg (81). The award-winning editor worked with William Friedkin on The Boys in the Band (1970) and The French Connection (1971); with Brian De Palma on Dressed to Kill (1980), Scarface (1983), Body Double (1984), Wise Guys (1986), and The Untouchables (1987); with Joseph Sargent on The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974); with Arthur Penn on The Missouri Breaks (1976); with Francis Ford Coppola on Apocalypse Now (1979); with Robert Benton on Kramer vs. Kramer (1979); with Michael Cimino on Heaven’s Gate (1980); and with Penny Marshall on Awakenings (1990).
December 23. Thomas Stanford (93), also an editor. “Over a career that spanned nearly three decades, Stanford worked on features including The Yakuza, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, and his first credited work, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1959 film Suddenly Last Summer, but it was his work on 1961’s West Side Story for which he received his sole best film editing Oscar,” reports Denise Petski for Deadline.
December 28. Fernando Birri (92). In February, the Berlinale presented a restoration of ORG, a rare screening since the 1979 premiere in Venice. “For almost three hours, 26,000 cuts and some 700 audio tracks,” writes Celluloid Liberation Front for the Notebook, “ORG evokes a visual cataclysm where the signified, be it narrative or political, is never assigned a fixed signifier. Fernando Birri dares the impossible and ends up with the improbable, channeling in one film the cosmic (im)potential of 60s and 70s cinema and all its naïve yet desperately needed ambition. Georges Méliès and Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich and Jonas Mekas are just some of the diegetic extras the film swallows in its multitudinous folds of expressionist extremism. . . . It is significant that a director like Birri, forever associated with the ‘New Latin American Cinema,’ a man who founded adversarial film schools in Argentina and Cuba, conceived of this film while exiled in Italy (where the director had already studied after the war before debuting in 1960 with Tire Dié). ORG is in fact a film summa, a sampled cut-up of all the currents, moods and visions political cinema had expressed until then, both in the western and in the so-called third world.”
Rose Marie (94). Born in 1923, she won a talent contest at the age of three and “began her professional career as Baby Rose Marie.” Alison J. Peterson for the New York Times: “By the time she was four, she was starring on a local radio show, and within a year after that she had her own national show on NBC.” Donald Liebenson for Vanity Fair: “She was a pistol as comedy writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s. And in 2017, she reemerged as a voice in the #MeToo movement. Rose Marie . . . was one of the last of a generation of entertainers whose career spanned vaudeville, radio, movies, Broadway, television, and social media.”
Recy Taylor (97). She’s passed on three weeks after the theatrical release of Nancy Buirski’s The Rape of Recy Taylor. In Alabama in 1944, Taylor was abducted and raped by six white men. “Two all-white, all-male grand juries refused to indict the men, even though one of them had confessed,” writes Sewell Chan in the New York Times. The efforts of the then-young activist Rosa Parks to attain justice will be the subject of a film by Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust).
Sue Grafton (77). Her series of mysteries began with A Is for Alibi in 1982 and ended this year with Y Is for Yesterday. Sarah Weinman for Vulture: “Grafton refused to sell the film and television rights to her books. She spent sixteen years as a Hollywood screenwriter, the latter part with Steven Humphrey, her third and surviving husband. She saw firsthand how adaptations mess with a writer’s head. Grafton didn’t want someone else’s vision of Kinsey Millhone to compete with her own.”
December 29. Dan Talbot (91). With his wife, Toby, he ran the immeasurably influential distribution company New Yorker Films as well as the New Yorker Theater and the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. “What we talk about when we talk about ‘foreign films’ is in no small part defined by their curatorial instincts,” writes Jordan Hoffman in the Village Voice.
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