Capra, Lewis, and More

On Film / The Daily — Feb 20, 2018

David Bordwell has revisited The Donovan Affair (1929), “Columbia’s first all-talking picture, and Frank Capra’s as well.” It’s “an unusually fluid early talkie” and studying it teaches us “some things about those transitional years 1928-1932, when filmmakers were figuring out how to make a sound feature.”

“To meet Jerry Lewis—even sick, even bitter, even in the gilt of the hotel Interconti-Mental—is a very moving thing.” So begins Serge Daney and Serge Toubiana’s brief introduction to their 1980 interview for Cahiers du Cinéma, now translated by Andy Rector and posted at Kino Slang.

“A team of scholars has examined the many facets of Orson Welles’s amazing life—theatrical innovator, radio star, celebrated filmmaker, newspaper columnist, and progressive activist—in Orson Welles in Focus: Texts and Contexts,” and Ray Kelly recommends the collection at Wellesnet.

Sabzian has posted Sarah Vanagt’s “State of Cinema 2018” address: “As long as films—old and new, ultrashort or endless, African, American, European, or Asian—are able to make something grow somewhere inside of our invisible selves, in places unknown to ourselves, then cinema is doing fine.”

Charles Vidor’s Love Me or Leave Me (1955) “has slipped through the cracks of serious critical consideration, despite its box office success, multiple Oscar nominations, and the draw of two gigantic stars like Doris Day and James Cagney,” writes Sheila O'Malley for Film Comment. “It was Cagney’s idea to cast Day. . . . Vidor, gifted with musical numbers, sometimes knew the best choice was to plant the camera in one spot, and let Day sell it. She does.”

“With Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno [2009], directors Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea both reconstruct and describe the production of the titular unfinished 1964 film, presenting their film as at once an op-art experiment and a traditional documentary of a failed production,” writes Henri de Corinth for the Notebook. “At its center, however, is a preoccupation with the notion of the historical fragment and the viewer’s attribution of meaning and value to the fragment.”

For PopMatters, Michael Barrett reviews Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray collection, Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin: Five Films, 1968-1971, suggesting that these works “aren't so much didactic as deconstructionist, which means they're not really about the lectures and arguments and dialectics that the characters engage in so much as formal explorations of how ideas can be presented, dissected, undermined and co-opted in a medium of sound and image.”

Jeremy Carr argues that “screwball comedies don’t get much funnier, or screwier, than Howard Hawks’s Twentieth Century [1934].”

Also at Vague Visages, Marshall Shaffer: “As both a man and an artist, Paul Robeson deserves more recognition in 2018 and beyond.”

For Little White Lies, Anton Bitel revisits a trilogy by Hal Hartley: “If Henry Fool [1997] is a text about varied textual reception, interpretation and appropriation, this metatextual, self-referential focus continues in Hartley’s sequels Fay Grim [2006] and Ned Rifle [2014], where it turns out that Henry has had a galvanizing effect not just on all the members of the Grim household where he has come to stay, but also seemingly on anyone else who has ever entered his orbit, including Central and South American dictators, Western spies, Middle Eastern terrorists, and Susan, the thirteen-year-old girl for whose statutory rape he was once tried, convicted, and jailed.”

As Mike Leigh turns seventy-five, Oliver Lunn revisits the London locations of the oeuvre for the BFI.

In Other News

The Motion Picture Sound Editors have presented the sixty-fifth Golden Reel Awards. Winners include Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049 “for film, while Game of Thrones and Stranger Things received top TV honors,” reports Dino-Ray Ramos for Deadline.

Goings On

New York. For BOMB, Nicholas Elliott talks with Nina Hoss (Phoenix) about performing in Thomas Ostermeier’s adaptation for the theater of Didier Eribon’s memoir, Returning to Reims, currently on at St. Ann’s Warehouse through Sunday.

Eribon’s 2009 memoir is “about growing up gay and intellectual in a homophobic working-class family that went from voting Communist to supporting the far-right National Front,” notes Elisabeth Vincentelli in the New York Times. “The book was a best seller in Germany, where it bitterly resonated in the new political climate, both international and domestic.”

Chicago. A new 4K restoration of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Bob le flambeur (1956) screens at the Gene Siskel Film Center from Friday through Sunday and again on February 28 through March 1. “Melville, an avid admirer and collector of Americana and American crime movies, took much from the gangsters and brooding tough guys in Hollywood pictures of the 1930s and 1940s,” writes Ray Pride for Newcity.

Austin. Bette Gordan will be at the AFS Cinema from Friday through Monday as the Film Society presents its series No Cover: Films by Bette Gordon. For Sightlines, Chale Nafus tracks the career from her early experimental work, some of it made in collaboration with James Benning, through Variety (1983) and the features that have followed.

Berlin. “There is nothing like a good film print from the 1930s to awake in you an awareness of your own corporeality.” For the Notebook, Christopher Small writes about two “ethnographic documentaries from the dawn of the so-called sound era” screening as part of the Berlinale Retrospective, Friedrich Dalsheim and Gulla Pfeffer’s People in the Bush (1930), screening once more tomorrow, and Clärenore Stinnes and Carl-Axel Söderström’s Across Two Worlds by Car (1927-1931), screening on Saturday.

Obits

“Burkina Faso’s Idrissa Ouedraogo, a towering figure of African cinema, died at the age of sixty-four on Sunday,” reports Christopher Vourlias for Variety. “A prolific director over the course of his celebrated career, Ouedraogo was best known for Tilai, a powerful drama about family honor that won the Cannes Jury Prize in 1990.”

The “fashion and art world mourns the loss of one of its truest radicals, Judy Blame, who has passed away at the age of fifty-eight,” writes Hannah Tindle for AnOther. “Blame’s work in design, styling and art direction remains some of the most vital in counter-cultural history, instrumental in defining the decade of 1980s and beyond.”

Listening

On the new Film Comment Podcast (36’41”), Violet Lucca is joined by Leo Goldsmith, Dennis Lim, and Dan Sullivan to discuss Valeska Grisebach, Western, “and her relationship to new forms of realism.”

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