Did You See This?

Franju on Lang, Adler on Kael, and More

Peter Lorre in Fritz Lang’s M (1931)

We lost Aretha Franklin this week. Understandably, when the current outpouring of tributes to the immeasurable power of the Queen of Soul mention cinema at all, those mentions address her contributions to soundtracks. But there’s a coincidental overlap between one of this week’s five items and Mike Fleming Jr.’s interview with John Landis for Deadline. Landis credits Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi for their “intention to exploit their own celebrity of the moment” to capture performances by many of America’s great blues and soul artists—Franklin included, of course—in his 1980 film, The Blues Brothers. And Landis notes that Pauline Kael “routinely slammed all of my films. Her review of The Blues Brothers is essentially a dismissal of the movie, and then five or six pages on the genius of Aretha Franklin. Which, by the way, was fine with me.”

  • The New York Review of Books has unlocked from its archives one of the most famous—or, depending on which side you’re on, infamous—takedowns in recent literary history. Renata Adler’s 1980 piece “The Perils of Pauline” was ostensibly a review of New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael’s collection When the Lights Go Down, which Adler, a fellow staff writer at the magazine, deemed “piece by piece, line by line, and without interruption, worthless.” That’s the pull quote, but the gist of her argument was that, while Kael had once been a critic to turn to, “the substance of her work has become little more than an attempt, with an odd variant of flak advertising copy, to coerce, actually to force numb acquiescence, in the laying down of a remarkably trivial and authoritarian party line.” Looking back on the piece in 2015, M. H. Miller, a senior editor at ARTnews at the time (and now an editor at T: The New York Times Style Magazine), argued that “Adler’s castigation of Kael still seems relevant, and encapsulates so much of what’s wrong with the media.”
  • In 1937, Georges Franju, the director of Judex and Eyes Without a Face, wrote a piece on the style of Fritz Lang for CINEMAtographe, which then reappeared in the 100th issue of Cahiers du cinéma in 1959. Kino Slang has posted Sallie Iannotti’s translation of the essay in which Franju discusses what he calls Lang’s “intuitive editing,” his penchant for spectacle, and the performances he drew from actors, nearly all of them “characterized by extreme attitudes, energetic expressions, and nervousness of gesture. It is difficult to determine whether Lang discovers personalities, or exploits them.”
  • Writing for Sight & Sound, Abé Markus Nornes looks back on the life of cinematographer Masaki Tamura, who passed away in May at the age of seventy-nine. The piece is shot through with memories of personal encounters with Tamura, known for his work with documentary filmmaker Shinsuke Ogawa, with Toshiya Fujita on Lady Snowblood and its sequel, and with Juzo Itami on Tampopo.
  • Programmer and critic Eric Allen Hatch has launched a new column at the Notebook, and his first installment picks up where his widely shared article for Filmmaker, “Why I Am Hopeful,” left off in June. In essence, he’s refreshing his call to all of us who participate in film culture to be more adventurous in our choices of films to watch, show, and write about, only this time by way of a frank assessment of some of the major film festivals in North America.

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