Did You See This?

Couples and Cops

The Daily — May 14, 2021
Romy Schneider and Alain Delon in Jacques Deray’s La piscine (1969)

Fourteen months in, this pandemic is still messing with the festival calendar. There’s such a surplus of delayed releases that Cannes has been inundated with submissions and will postpone the announcement of its lineup by one week to June 3. Karlovy Vary has shifted its dates from early July to late August, but Variety’s Nick Vivarelli reports that Venice is “on track, barring complications, to run as a completely in-person celebration of cinema with hundreds of journalists and dozens of film delegations expected to make the trek to the Lido from all over the world.” Berlin and Tribeca, too, will be in-person events, but since they’ll be happening in just a few weeks, the movies will be screening outdoors.

Online platforms, in the meantime, carry on innovating. Canadian filmmaker Sophy Romvari has launched the Exquisite Shorts Program and is now taking submissions. Isabel Sandoval will select one film to introduce, and the maker of that film will present the next, and so on down the line. Ecstatic Static is presenting five films by Jodie Mack, all of them freely accessible worldwide, and starting Sunday, Another Screen will host a program of work that Marguerite Duras made for television.

This week’s highlights:

  • A new 4K restoration of Jacques Deray’s La piscine (1969) opens today at Film Forum in New York and in three theaters out west next week. Bronzed and often dripping or smoking, a happy couple (Alain Delon and Romy Schneider) lounges contentedly by the pool of a villa near St. Tropez when an old friend (Maurice Ronet) arrives with his eighteen-year-old daughter (Jane Birkin). The “cryptic cleverness” of the screenplay by the late Jean-Claude Carrière “may not register at first,” writes Farran Smith Nehme at RogerEbert.com. “The plot inches forward as information about this four-sided relationship is parceled out in non sequiturs, passive-aggressive observations, and backhanded compliments.” For all the tension, “even all these years later, the real-life histories and off-screen ironies enrich La piscine,” and Nehme piles on one eyebrow-raiser after another, capping it all with a still-unsolved murder.

  • On September 18, 1952, Charlie Chaplin set out from New York for London, where he intended to premiere Limelight. The very next day—thanks in no small part to Hedda Hopper and J. Edgar Hoover, working hand in hand—the U.S. Attorney General revoked his reentry permit. Twenty years later, producer Burt Schneider went to Switzerland, where Chaplin was living in exile, to convince the legendary filmmaker to let him rerelease his films in America. Schneider also persuaded the Academy to give Chaplin an honorary Oscar. At Air Mail, Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger tell the stories of two welcome-back parties, one hosted in New York by Gloria Vanderbilt, the other in Los Angeles by Carol Matthau, wife of Walter. Chaplin’s nervous hesitation to return to the country that had made and then shunned him is genuinely moving, and so, too, are the testimonies to the love between Chaplin and his wife, Oona. “Being around them,” Candice Bergen is quoted as saying, “the institution of marriage seemed less obsolete.”

  • This year marks the tenth anniversary of the release of Pariah, the debut feature from Dee Rees and the story of Alike, a young Black woman coming to terms with her sexuality. The Academy is presenting the film along with a conversation with Rees and her cast and crew, and the program will be available through next Thursday. Pariah, which we’ll be releasing on June 29, “just represented the inner state of Alike and how she felt in the world,” Rees tells Aramide A. Tinubu at IndieWire. “She felt not at home in the straight world and not quite at home in the lesbian world. I was reading a lot of Audre Lorde at the time, and there was this one quote, ‘Wherever the bird with no feet flew she found trees with no limbs.’ For me, that synthesized the whole journey.”

  • The New York TimesA. O. Scott has “learned at least as much about American life from what I saw in multiplexes and revival houses, on late-night television and on VHS and DVD as I did from my teachers or parents,” he writes at the top of a piece on seven films, each of them “offering reasons for faith and grounds for skepticism in the same gesture.” Each film interrogates one of seven powerful notions—forces, really—that shape the country and how we perceive it: Power, freedom, law and order, money, the media, politics—and what do we really know about “the American people”? Preston Sturges’s Sullivan’s Travels (1941) “remains the definitive celebration—and debunking—of Hollywood-style populism.”

  • Sometimes getting things right entails studying something gone terribly, terribly wrong. In 1990, television writer and producer Steven Bochco, who’d created a massive hit the previous decade with Hill Street Blues, presented Cop Rock, “a police procedural with musical numbers,” as Katharine Coldiron describes it in a piece for Bright Lights Film Journal that offers greater entertainment value than any other this week. “Before you read any analysis of Cop Rock, you must believe that it aired, which is a process, not a light switch,” she writes. The show ran for eleven episodes before it was cancelled, and by the end of the last one, “a viewer may have succumbed to a new reality in which Cop Rock is normal, but it’s a little like accepting cult conditions: it only occurs with immersion and a fatally open mind.” So what has she learned? “Any lesson from Cop Rock is a lesson about genre, and how genres work, together and apart.”

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