For Cabinet, Charlie Fox writes about “the strange fate of silent film stars in our imagination: silence is a symptom of their magical condition.” Fox mentions the sad destinies of several stars following the advent of sound, but he’s primarily focused on just one: “There’s plenty of intoxicating material to be found by studying Buster if you dodge the lustrous peaks of his career in favor of going deep into its gloom and supposed dead ends.”
“I’ve been thinking about Alan Clarke recently,” writes Danny Leigh in the Guardian. “That’s not unusual: he’s a director I love, and his glorious, bristling films mean a lot to me. So it was his name that I first came up with when I started work on six short videos about the mavericks of British film. Maverick is a tricky word to parse, but if it meant anything at all, then Clarke—off on his own path, sparring with authority—has to be the benchmark.”
At the Talkhouse Film, Abel Ferrara argues that “if one assumes that the director is the one beating heart of a film and everyone else is just an appendage—major or otherwise—branching off of that heart, then that someone is not getting the dynamic of filmmaking as I see it. A writer or poet performing his lone act upon a blank page, or a painter facing an equally blank canvas, is the polar opposite of the communal act of filmmaking that I believe in.”
Adrian Martin‘s written to Girish Shambu regarding The New Cinephilia: “Is there a bridging experience of some kinds of community, of collectivity, between the modern monad at her or his laptop, and that big, wide world of Oliveira-uncomprehending masses out there, who we may hope to one day touch and convert in a public hall, a classroom, or a decently-selling printed book? This, to me, is the central question raised by your book.”
Just before he kicked up a shitstorm, New York Post film critic sent out a request. He was looking for a brief piece on Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) that Martin Amis wrote for Premiere back in the day. Thanks go out to Glenn Kenny for typing it up and posting it. Amis: “Coppola portrays the mob as a trade union of warrior capitalists. Scorsese’s hoods are sociopaths trapped in a category mistake. And they don’t even get the joke.”
“The literal translation of Francesco, giullare di Dio (The Flowers of St. Francis, 1950), directed by Roberto Rossellini, is ‘Francis, God’s Jester,'” notes Sérgio Dias Branco. “Scorsese claims that he has never seen the life of a saint ‘treated on film with so little solemnity and so much warmth.’ Scorsese notices that reverence is a usual problem in the films that portray saints, because it is ‘at odds with the way the saints must have felt about themselves.’ In fact, the persons who are considered saints were simple and modest. They did not saw themselves as perfectly virtuous. Rossellini proposes therefore a neo-realist portrayal of Francis and his friends, including Sister Clare, a female companion. Such an approach influenced Pier Paolo Pasolini and his Il vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 1964). We may say that Pasolini looks at Jesus in the same way that Rossellini had looked at Francis.”
Peter Cowie, writing for Criterion, on two cinematographers best known for their work with Ingmar Bergman, Gunnar Fischer and Sven Nykvist: “Each in his own way was the archetypal Swede: talking only when it made sense to talk, fiercely loyal, and manifesting a deep love of seascape and countryside. Both had an underrated, slow-burning sense of humor.”
Writing for Film International, Benjamin Bergholtz would “like to suggest that we can and should view Hitchcock’s films in Adornian terms, as aporetic works of art which resist their own commodification by formally exposing this commodification to critical reflection. As a test case I offer Vertigo, a film which dramatizes, enacts, and then violently reveals its own manufactured romance.”
“Few recognize it even today as the masterpiece it is.” That’s Bilge Ebiri at Movie Mezzanine on Orson Welles‘s The Trial (1962). “Kafka’s symbolic novel of bureaucracy, law, and guilt captured something universal about the human condition. Welles literally explodes that to create a parable of the twentieth century, one that both embraces and destroys the Cult of the Individual.”
Revisiting Michael Mann’s Heat (1995) at the AV Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky notes that “once you get past the perceived lack of narrative freshness, what you find are a masterful sense of proportion, several staggeringly tense set-pieces, the last truly great lead performance of De Niro’s career, and the clearest possible expression of a familiar theme, which reaches its peak in the final shot, with two men posed as purposefully as figures in a Renaissance painting, while airport runway lights converge behind them into a vanishing point and Moby’s ‘God Moving Over the Face of the Waters’ rises on the soundtrack. The composition is at once immediately legible, somewhat enigmatic, and moving.”
Vanity Fair is running an excerpt from Jen Chaney‘s forthcoming book, As If! The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and Crew.
“Early cartoons featured inanimate objects suddenly jumping around and talking, handshaking, back patting, or whistling at people. We should recognize interactive technology as belonging to that legacy.” Johannah King-Slutzky at the Awl on, among other things, Apple and Disney.
“Long before The Museum of Modern Art Department of Film was so named, it was called the Film Library.” Associate Curator Anne Morra presents a brief history.
Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland “is the year’s least subtle allegory, at the very least eccentric and occasionally bordering on batshit,” writes Duncan Gray in the Notebook. “But there’s not likely to be a zippier, dafter, more fascinating piece of family-friendly pop-art all summer.”
Morad Moazami in Reverse Shot: “Mad Men is about a young nation’s dubious promise and potential for continual reinvention, and the desire this instills in the individual to forget one’s history and past, and in its place, construct another life and identity afresh.”
Via the Film Stage
“The critiques against the idea of torture porn as a horror aesthetic end up fulfilling a masochistic mutuality with the spirit of the films themselves,” writes Mike Thomsen in the New Inquiry. “As Laura Kipnis wrote of Larry Flint in Men: An Ongoing Investigation, ‘The existential dilemma of obscenity is that it requires our inhibitions in order to be effective.’ One of the remarkable feats of the Human Centipede series that distinguishes it from much of the new wave of shock and gore horror is its adaptability, reflecting a protean willingness to take on any form that preserves maximum dislikability.”
For JSTOR Daily, Kelli Marshall considers “Stars and Scars: Disfigurement in Film.”
As you may remember, a couple of weeks ago, the Austin Film Society wrapped up another round of screenings in the series Jewels in the Wasteland: A Trip through ’80s Cinema with Richard Linklater. “Last year,” notes Lars Nilsen at AFS Viewfinders, “Linklater created a 1980-1983 Summer Viewing List for people who wanted to keep the series going at home, or just to get some great movie recommendations. Now he has created the 1984-1986 Summer Viewing List.”
Well chosen and annotated, Michael Smith: “The 40 Best Films of 1975 (on the Occasion of My 40th Birthday).”
From Jeremy Mathews at Paste: “The 100 Best Silent Films of All Time.”
And you can watch “10 Great Films about Art and Design,” gathered by Anna Chayasatit for People of Print.
IN OTHER NEWS
Also: “Wes Anderson, Joel Cohen, Frances McDormand, Paolo Sorrentino and Italian star architect Renzo Piano are among onstage speakers recruited by new artistic topper Antonio Monda for the tenth edition of the recently reconfigured Rome Film Festival.” October 16 through 23.
“Miguel Gomes and his three-volume 383-minute film Arabian Nights has won the $48,000 ($62,000) Sydney Film Prize, it was announced on Sunday, the closing night of the 62nd Sydney Film Festival,” reports Sandy George for Screen.
The Guardian‘s Ben Child: “It’s been a fierce topic of debate amongst fans ever since George Lucas’s Special Edition tinkering in 1997: who shot first, Han Solo or Greedo, at the Mos Eisley Cantina in 1977’s Star Wars? But in a new twist to the tale, Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew has revealed the alien bounty hunter wasn’t even present in the original shooting script.” In this version, “Han faces off against somebody named ‘Allen.’ But it does show Solo shooting first.”
We need to formally catch up here with the passing of saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman last week at the age of 85. In the New York Times, Ben Ratliff calls him “one of the most powerful and contentious innovators in the history of jazz… Coleman widened the options in jazz, and helped change its course. Partly through his example in the late 1950s and early ’60s, jazz became less beholden to the rules of harmony and rhythm, and gained more distance from the American songbook repertory. His own music, then and later, became a new form of highly informed folk song: deceptively simple melodies for small groups with an intuitive, collective language, and a strategy for playing without preconceived chord sequences.” More from Richard Brody, Glenn Kenny and, writing for the Paris Review, Brian Cullman and Rafi Zabor.
From Georg Szalai in the Hollywood Reporter: “Ron Moody, who was nominated for a best-actor Oscar and won a Golden Globe for his role as Fagin in the musical Oliver!, died Thursday. He was 91.” Adds Nancy Tartaglione at Deadline: “Throughout his career, Moody appeared in such TV series as Gunsmoke, Starsky & Hutch, Hart to Hart and UK soaps Eastenders and Holby City. He was offered, but declined, the lead role in Doctor Who in 1969. His long list of film credits includes 1995 Disney family adventure A Kid in King Arthur’s Court. He played Merlin with such actors as Daniel Craig and Kate Winslet also in the cast.”
“Sarah Erulkar, the documentary director, who has died aged 92, was something of an outsider in the realm of postwar British film-making, being Indian-born, Jewish and a woman.” Katy McGahan in the Guardian: “While outwardly mild-mannered and self-effacing, however, she had an inner feistiness that ensured she quickly came to prominence and her strength found expression in many of the 80-plus documentaries she directed over a career that spanned 40 years.”
“Monica Lewis, a former Benny Goodman vocalist who headlined the very first broadcast of The Ed Sullivan Show, was the voice of the popular Chiquita Banana cartoons, clowned opposite Jerry Lewis, Red Skelton and Danny Kaye, and had co-starring roles in such films as Earthquake, Airport 1975 and The Concorde — Airport ’79, died on June 12,” reports Variety. “She was 93.”
Burlesque dancer Blaze Starr has died at the age of 83. Jacques Kelly and Chris Kaltenbach in the Baltimore Sun: “Ms. Starr, who became a successful businesswoman as owner of the 2 O’Clock Club on East Baltimore Street, was so unthreatening to local morals that she appeared in an advertising campaign for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co…. One chapter of Ms. Starr’s life—her late-1950s affair with Louisiana Gov. Earl Long—made it to the screen in the 1989 film Blaze. She was played by Lolita Davidovich; Paul Newman was Governor Long. Ms. Starr had a cameo in the movie…. ‘For a while, she was the only famous person Baltimore had,’ director John Waters said. ‘I never actually met her. But Divine and I went down and saw her show. She had such dedicated fans. We loved her act. She helped form myself and Divine.'”
“Oscar-winning producer Robert Chartoff, who was behind hit boxing films such as the Rocky series and Raging Bull, has died in California, aged 81,” reports the BBC.
From Karina Longworth, You Must Remember This #46: Charles Manson’s Hollywood, Part 3: The Beach Boys, Dennis Wilson, and Charles Manson, Songwriter (45’24”).
Illusion Travels By Streetcar #61: New J-Wave, Part One: Here Comes the Sun Tribe! (1956-1960) (119’27”).
This Long Century has recently posted NSFW unused footage from Amat Escalante‘s second film (13’31”), a 1981 painting by director and cinematographer Fred Kelemen, a reminiscence by Will Oldham, a transcription from Peggy Ahwesh and more.
The Film Doctor‘s posted a round of “montage links.”
Several entries were updated over the weekend, most substantially those on Christopher Lee, Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, Apichatpong Weerasethakul‘s Cemetery of Splendour and, linking to a terrific essay from David Bordell, Kent Jones’s Hitchcock/Truffaut.