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Comedians and Composers

On Film / The Daily — Jan 18, 2019
John Cassavetes and Peter Falk in Elaine May’s Mikey and Nicky (1976)

Next week’s going to be a busy one. Sundance will open and there’ll be Oscar nominations to celebrate or bewail. Before things get really noisy, here are five highlights from this week to take with you into the weekend.

  • For the Guardian, Pamela Hutchinson previews Starring Barbara Stanwyck, a two-month-long season opening on February 2 at BFI Southbank in London: “Perhaps Sam Fuller, who gave her a memorable late film role as a fearsome rancher in Forty Guns, summed up the Stanwyck touch most completely as ‘the happy pertinence of professionalism and emotion.’”
  • Variety’s Ben Croll has spoken with film director, historian, and preservationist Bertrand Tavernier about his current project, the restoration of scores by French composers, such as Maurice Jaubert (L’Atalante), Georges Delerue (Contempt), and Joseph Kosma (Grand Illusion), whose work has not been treated with the same care and respect as that given to the work of their American counterparts. Tavernier tells Croll that he began by working on “something specific to French cinema, which is the enormous number of songs written by film directors, from the 1930s, with René Clair and Sacha Guitry, all the way to the French New Wave, with Agnès Varda and Jacques Demy. I had never seen that focused on before; it wasn’t well known that Jean Renoir and Julien Duvivier wrote songs, many of which were very beautiful and moving.”
  • The occasion for Kim Morgan’s ridiculously entertaining interview with Elliott Gould is the revival of Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) at the New Beverly in Los Angeles, but the conversation also wanders over to Steven Soderbergh, Luis Buñuel, and beyond. As Morgan observes, Gould “free-associates in an erudite, non-linear way that recalls jazz.”
  • The four-week survey Far-Out in the 70s: A New Wave of Comedy, 1969–79 opens at New York’s Film Forum today, and the program features a sidebar opening on Tuesday, a retrospective of films by Elaine May. There’s “a theme that runs through the quartet of films she’s directed,” writes 4Columns film editor Melissa Anderson: “the derangements of coupledom, whether sexual or platonic, with a breezy but still biting focus on the pitiful vanities and obtuseness of men.” May, who’s currently starring in Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery on Broadway, is also one of the directors that Alicia Malone would have on the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 films:


  • Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others won an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2007, and his new film, Never Look Away, is on the shortlist in the same category this year. The few reviews that have appeared in English so far have been mixed, but the film’s fared far worse with German critics. By the end of 2018, seven of them polled all year by Cargo had ranked well over a hundred films, and Never Look Away placed second-to-last. Now Donnersmarck is contending with the cold fury of his ostensible subject, Gerhard Richter, widely recognized as one of the greatest painters alive and working. Never Look Away is not a straight-up biopic, but the film’s story, spanning three decades, hews too closely to Richter’s own for the artist’s comfort. Dana Goodyear’s lengthy profile of Donnersmarck for the New Yorker is actually a fascinating study of two complex personalities, the filmmaker’s and Gerhard Richter’s.

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