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A Week and a ½

William Greaves

Each week out crazies the last one. If you’re in need of distraction, here are some other things that have been going on.

  • Even among cinephiles, there isn’t much awareness of the work William Greaves did beyond his groundbreaking experiment in documentary, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One (1968). From Elena Gorfinkel comes word that Greaves’s partner, Louise Archambault Greaves, has been working with filmmaker Su Friedrich to create an outstanding online resource gathering essays, links, news, reviews, and more related to the prolific filmmaker who started out as a singer, dancer, and actor, appearing on Broadway and in some of the last independent Black-cast “race movies” of the late 1940s. Scott MacDonald, who has coedited a book due next May, William Greaves: Filmmaking as Mission, has contributed to the site, where we also learn that Kino Lorber will be releasing Nationtime, Greaves’s documentary about the National Black Political Convention of 1972, to virtual theaters on October 23.

  • In 2005, Greaves returned to his most celebrated project with Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take 2½, whose title has to be a playful reference to one of the greatest of all films about filmmaking, 8½. In the TLS, Adam Mars-Jones offers a close reading of Fellini’s classic, noting that it is “partly an attempt to absorb Bergman,” and maps its influence on such films as Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz (1979) and Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (1980). “In 1963,” he writes, “there was no such psychological syndrome or indulgence as the midlife crisis, but perhaps can be said, if not to have invented, then at least to have consecrated it.”

  • Field of Vision, First Look Media’s acclaimed documentary project, has launched Field Notes, an online journal dedicated to nonfiction cinema featuring a regular columnist, Ashley Clark, director of film programming at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Clark has been revisiting the work of Stuart Hall, “the godfather of the field of Cultural Studies, and one of the most influential figures in a boom of radical Black British filmmaking in the 1980s.” In 1979, Hall and actor and activist Maggie Steed created a half-hour program, It Ain’t Half Racist, Mum, exposing the BBC’s biases on the BBC. It was, writes Clark, “one of the most remarkable and atypically radical slices of television ever broadcast nationally in the UK.”

  • Yesterday, we posted Hillary Weston’s interview with dancer and choreographer Bernardo Montet, who worked with Claire Denis and cinematographer Agnès Godard on Beau travail (1999). When the conversation turns to Denis Lavant’s eruptive dance solo in the final scene, Montet says it’s “100% Denis.” New York Times dance critic Gia Kourlas talks with Montet, too, but her piece opens and closes with her fascination with Lavant, whose character has “spent most of the movie obsessing over someone else, but his dance flips that story. Through his wild metamorphosis, he becomes an object of obsession—ours.”

  • Sight & Sound carries on pulling up remarkable features from its rich archives, and the latest is an essential read for anyone with an interest in French cinema, and in particular, Robert Bresson. For the winter 1976/1977 issue, Tom Milne spoke with cinematographer Léonce-Henry Burel, whose career began in 1915 when he started working with Abel Gance. Other fruitful collaborations followed: Jacques Feyder, Maurice Tourneur, Marcel L’Herbier. Then—it must have been around 1950—a producer called, begging him to shoot some tests for Bresson. “Test?” he recalls asking. “An old dog like me with a hundred films behind him? You can’t be serious.” But he was, and so was Bresson. In vivid detail, Burel then talks us through the process of realizing the very specific look Bresson had in mind for Diary of a Country Priest (1951). A Man Escaped (1956), “by far the best thing Bresson has done,” was a joy, and Pickpocket (1959), a challenge. Burel then explains why he felt Bresson thoroughly botched The Trial of Joan of Arc (1961). They never worked together again.

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