Did You See This?

Remembrances, Issues, and Conversations

The Daily — Jan 29, 2021
Cloris Leachman in Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show (1971)

Cloris Leachman, Cicely Tyson, Gunnel Lindblom, Alberto Grimaldi, Cecilia Mangini, Jean-Pierre Bacri. Death has been ruthless all week long. Leachman, who was ninety-four, is usually remembered first for her comedic roles—Phyllis in The Mary Tyler Moore Show or Frau Blücher in Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein—but she won an Oscar for her wrenching turn as a neglected wife in Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show (1971). In the final moments of the film, the high-school senior she’s had a fling with reappears. “Leachman strikes an amazing balance here, cycling through her emotions with impunity, ending on a note of cathartic grace,” writes Odie Henderson at RogerEbert.com. “It’s as fine a piece of acting as I have ever seen.”

In Martin Ritt’s Sounder (1972), Paul Winfield’s Nathan returns home from jail and a labor camp to Cicely Tyson’s Rebecca. Revisiting the film in 2019 for Film Comment, Sheila O’Malley wrote about the moment Rebecca “sees his distant limping figure and then breaks into a run. As she runs, she makes moaning and gasping sounds, her arms flung out, every fiber of her being yearning to get to him. A moment like this exists as an apotheosis of performance that goes far beyond ‘good acting.’ It is one of the great reunion scenes in American cinema.” Tyson was ninety-six.

Gunnel Lindblom, a prominent figure on the Swedish stage for six decades, was eighty-nine. Though she directed a handful of features, she will be remembered for her performances in several films by Ingmar Bergman, from The Seventh Seal (1957) through The Silence (1963) to Scenes from a Marriage (1973). Over the course of his remarkable career as a producer, Alberto Grimaldi, who was ninety-five, worked with Martin Scorsese, Federico Fellini, Sergio Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Gillo Pontecorvo, Elio Petri, and Francesco Rosi.

Variety’s Nick Vivarelli remembers Cecilia Mangini, the documentary filmmaker whose work explored “hot-button topics such as youth contending with Italy’s postwar poverty, the condition of women, and the roots of fascism.” She was ninety-three. And in the Guardian, Ryan Gilbey looks back on the life of actor and screenwriter Jean-Pierre Bacri, who, often working with his longtime partner Agnès Jaoui, “brought sympathetic comic shading to even the most irredeemable worrywart or miseryguts.” He was sixty-nine.

This week’s highlights:

  • On February 11, the BBC will release Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World, the new, six-part series from Adam Curtis (The Power of Nightmares). Josh and Benny Safdie are very excited about this, by the way. “For more than thirty years,” writes Sam Knight in the New Yorker, “Curtis has made hallucinatory, daring attempts to explain modern mass predicaments, such as the origins of postwar individualism, wars in the Middle East, and our relationship to reality itself. He describes his films as a combination of two sometimes contradictory elements: a stream of unusual, evocative images from the past, richly scored with pop music, that are overlaid with his own, plainly delivered, often unverifiable analysis. He seeks to summon ‘the complexity of the world’ . . . Each of his projects is anchored by a single, provocative idea, and the claim of his new series is that we have become unable to imagine the future—we are citizens of an eternal present stilled by dubious technology, hollow politicians, and catastrophic self-doubt.”

  • This week has seen not only new issues of Alphaville, the Cine-Files, and [in]Transition but also the launch of a new publication, Seen, “a journal of film and visual culture focused on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities” from Blackstar Projects. Selections from the inaugural issue currently online include Jon-Sesrie Goff’s essay on William Greaves, whose “legacy continues to resound to this day through over two hundred documentaries he produced or directed”; reviews of work by Sky Hopinka and Loira Limbal; and interviews with Radha Blank (The Forty-Year-Old Version) and Lulu Wang, who has just completed a new short film, Nian, directed remotely and shot on an iPhone 12 Pro Max.

  • Eric Hynes has revived Make It Real, his column on nonfiction filmmaking that ran in Film Comment from 2015 to 2020, at Reverse Shot. Before turning to Frederick Wiseman’s City Hall, Steve James’s City So Real, David Osit’s Mayor, and Dieudo Hamadi’s Downstream to Kinshasa, he takes stock. “The cliquishness of the ‘documentary film community,’” he writes, “the infuriating institutional mirages that pass for representation and fairness, the self-serving vampirism of festival programming, the uncompensated grind of festival travel, the diminished returns of distribution and theatrical exhibition, the myriad inequalities of access due to geography, education, race, money, privilege: all overdue for questioning and testing. But only those most cynical, permanently socially fatigued, or financially invested in technological opportunism would claim we’re better off without ways of coming together, off-line, to watch, discuss, disagree, encounter, and discover. Whatever we’re going back to, or whatever we create instead, needs to foster community and discovery, and foster it for real, rather than affirming and profiting from our preexisting networks and tendencies.”

  • At Vulture, Bilge Ebiri has put together an epically entertaining oral history of The Emperor’s New Groove (2000), “an irreverent, pratfall-heavy, non sequitur of an animated movie that so defied Disney’s painstakingly deliberate traditions, it’s hard to believe it actually exists today.” At one point, story supervisor Steve Anderson suggests that the film is “like a Looney Tunes cartoon more than a Disney cartoon.” He remembers coming across it recently on television and catching the scene in which Yzma, the emperor’s treacherous advisor voiced by Eartha Kitt, “bursts out of the closet and she gets tarred and feathered as she’s going down the hill and then becomes a piñata at the end. I was like, I can’t believe we got away with that.

  • Let’s wrap with hours’—days’ and weeks’, actually—worth of conversations and interviews. Deadline has launched Contenders, a site gathering talks with the casts and crews of films in play this awards season, and Variety has been pairing actors for half-hour chats. A good one to start with has Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster looking back on their work with Jonathan Demme on The Silence of the Lambs (1991). And Jason Kottke has come across PBS’s archive of “more than 1,000 original, never-before-seen, full, raw interviews” conducted over the years for its American Masters series. Among the interviewees are Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, William Greaves, Mike Nichols, Polly Platt, Peter Bogdanovich, Mel Brooks, Jonas Mekas, Sidney Lumet, Albert Maysles, Sidney Poitier, and the list just goes on and on.

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