Did You See This?

Essays, a Conversation, and a Knockout Tour

Shelley Winters and Robert Mitchum in Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Now that we’re caught up with the lineups and the lists, let’s take some reading into the weekend.

  • In a piece widely shared throughout the week, the New York TimesManohla Dargis writes about what the movies she watched growing up taught her about women—that, for example, they’re there to be kissed or spanked but also that they can transcend stereotypes and become heroes. Farran Smith Nehme, a writer we clearly admire, adds another, more chilling fate to that list in her piece for the TIFF Review on films inspired by the Bluebeard folktale in which a woman marries a mysterious man who’s quietly murdering a succession of wives. “Women have always been drawn to Bluebeard films,” writes Nehme, “seeing in them outsized versions of the fears and dilemmas they may face themselves—as well as heroines who are able to get out from under abuse, whether physical or psychological.” Nehme’s also contributed to a collection of essays written for last weekend’s Day of Silents in San Francisco. Read her on Frank Borzage’s 7th Heaven (1927), “the ultimate tale of how even the most bedraggled and downtrodden can find enduring love,” as well as Monica Nolan (and René Clair!) on Jean Epstein’s Coeur fidèle (1923), Michael Atkinson on Karlheinz Martin’s From Morn to Midnight (1920), and Fritzi Kramer on Walter Lang’s The Red Kimona (1926).
  • Research in Film and History is a new peer-reviewed, open access journal from the University of Bremen in Germany, and its inaugural issue opens with Thomas Elsaesser, the author of landmark books on the Weimar era and New German Cinema, sorting through an array of complex issues raised by Harun Farocki’s 2007 film Respite. We also find Gertrud Koch and Nicholas Baer on Siegfried Kracauer, author of From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (1947), and Catherine Russell on “archiveology,” a “critical method derived from Walter Benjamin’s cultural theory.” Two more new issues of academic journals need mentioning, Film Criticism’s on the importance of merchandise to the business of making films and Imaginations’ on mise-en-scène in the 1970s.
  • The blog run by the Cinematheque at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has come up around here before, but we need to make note of three recent entries, Henry Witt’s on Jacques Rivette’s Duelle (1976) and two by Tim Brayton on Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) represents “an exceptional artistic maturity that ushered the thirty—three-year-old director into the final phase of masterpieces,” he writes, while Lola (1981) is a case all its own: “Of all Fassbinder’s sardonic attacks on bourgeois culture throughout his career, this final assault on cinematic beauty itself just might be the most savage.”
  • BOMB Magazine has posted a thoroughly engaging conversation between Nicolás Pereda, the Mexican-Canadian director perhaps best known for Summer of Goliath (2010), and J. P. Sniadecki, an anthropologist and filmmaker who works with Harvard’s famed Sensory Ethnography Lab. As it happens, both of them have been shooting in the desert recently, each of their respective projects focusing on sixty-year-old loners. “We talk about cinema and montage as if they are amplifying reality or making it more powerful, more impactful, more meaningful,” says Sniadecki. “But sometimes it’s the reverse.”
  • Back to the New York Times, where Steven Lee Myers files a report from Hengdian World Studios, a complex of thirteen lots “scattered over 2,500 acres in and around what was once a sleepy farming village nestled in the hills of Zhejiang Province, in eastern China.” The sheer scale of Hengdian absolutely boggles the mind, and so, too, does the scope of production there. Lam Yik Fei’s wide-lensed photographs and clips for Myers’s piece document several of the spectacular sets for films and television series that take place in a centuries-spanning range of periods in China’s history.

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