“Consumed is clearly the work of David Cronenberg,” begins Chuck Bowen at the House Next Door. “The novel suggests a print fusion of the filmmaker’s early, grungy, bluntly metaphorical work with the subtler, formally refined, classical elder-statesman films of his most recent period—and the contrast of those sensibilities allows for occasionally quite effective shocks. The prose is chilly and erudite, suggestive of Nabokov and, particularly, of Ballard, which will resonant with fans of the director’s Crash. In the tradition of those authors, Cronenberg sweeps you up in the pure power of his aesthetic command, coaxing your guard down so as to spring perversities that eventually cast the entire book in unsettling hues of twisted inevitability. Cronenberg isn’t moonlighting; he’s a real novelist.”
“For a poet still struggling to fight free from his post-romantic subjectivity, the shock therapy of film would allow him to shed all metaphysics, all abstractions in order to emerge as an objective medium for the Orphic expression of the optical unconscious of the modern world—Rimbaud and Whitman updated for the century of cinema.” Writing for the TLS, Richard Sieburth sketches a chapter from the life of Blaise Cendrars (and pardon the lengthy block quotation here, but early 20th century modernist poetry is right up my alley):
In 1918, Cendrars’s brief career as a cinéaste took off. Acting as Abel Gance’s personal assistant on the anti-war epic, J’accuse (1919), he provided advice on the shooting of the battle scenes and briefly appears on screen with his bloodied stump of an arm as part of the uncanny host of dead poilus who return to haunt the living at the movie’s close. His collaboration with the French D.W. Griffith continued in 1920 when he was promoted to assistant director on Gance’s La Roue (1922): Cendrars came up with the movie’s title, discovered its star in Nice (the locomotive named Norma), helped with the title cards, arranged for the music (Arthur Honegger’s Pacific 321), and directed a short documentary on the making of this momentous film, Autour de La Roue. Through the good offices of Cocteau, he then made his way to Rome in 1921, where he found himself at the Studio Rinascimento directing an orientalist extravaganza entitled La Venere nera, starring an Eurasian dancer by the name of Dourga and with a cameo appearance by his own Raymone [Duchateau]. Cendrars’s later satiric recounting of this disastrous shoot in “Une Nuit dans la forêt” (1929)… bears comparison to Fellini’s 8½. Universally panned by critics on its release in Italy, Black Venus seems to have gone to its celluloid grave. All that remains of it is a screenplay that Cendrars published the same year in Belgium under the title La Perle fiévreuse.
“Viewing Taxi Driver today, it becomes apparent that while the urban landscape depicted by Martin Scorsese and DP Michael Chapman represents a poetically stygian version of pre–Mayor Koch Manhattan, its protagonist’s febrile psychological state is rooted in a timeless, prescient, and political reality,” writes Ashley Clark in the latest entry in Reverse Shot‘s Scorsese symposium. Clark examines “how Taxi Driver represents the key threats to Bickle’s ideal society through its portrayal of minority figures.”
“Every director has a few embarrassments chained up in the attic of his or her filmography, but not Takashi Miike,” writes Grady Hendrix for Film Comment. “‘I never made a movie I didn’t want to make,’ he said in an interview back in 2001, but that’s a bold claim when you’ve got close to 100 films under your belt; 96 to be exact, according to Tom Mes, author of Agitator and Re-Agitator, the definitive English-language books on Miike.” With a bit of guidance from Mes, the latest “Kaiju Shakedown” column explores some of the more obscure works in the Miike oeuvre.
RogerEbert.com has begun a new series, the “Movie Love Questionnaire,” as a way to introduce us to its regular contributors. First up is Godfrey Cheshire: “I’ve often said that the most memorable experience I’ve had in a movie theater was showing the Iranian film Children of Heaven to a theater full of school children at Ebertfest (then the Overlooked Film Festival) and then fielding their questions afterwards with Roger and Chaz. The kids were completely with the movie from the first to its exciting end, and their comments were wonderful. There was a lot of love in that room.”
Terry Gilliam is a film artist of seemingly boundless imagination—and in a lot of ways, that’s the problem.” Writing for the Nashville Scene, Michael Sicinski walks us through the oeuvre before arriving at The Zero Theorem, which might “be read as a quarter-century answer film to Brazil. The industrial age has been completely replaced with digital interface, both in the making and the narrative action of the film.”
It’s Patrice Énard Day at DC’s. The filmmaker and critic, who died in 2008, “developed a particular appreciation for Russian cinema—especially the work of Dziga Vertov—the Lumière school and the French New Wave. Those influences led him to conceive of an activist, subversive and deeply political form of cinema.”
Javier Grillo-Marxuach, a supervising producer and writer on Lost during its first few years, for the Los Angeles Review of Books:
I would love to sell you the idea that the Second Golden Age of Television is the result of an army of competent journeyman craftspeople toiling endlessly and thanklessly to prop up the messianic visionaries, feature directors, empire-building absentee micromanagers, 900-pound gorillas, and network executives.
That, however, would also be fatuous and self-serving. What I have observed in 20-plus years as a member of television’s middle-class, and believe to be the true reasons for TV’s emergence as the pre-eminent, thought-provoking, visually stimulating, character-revealing mass medium of the early 21st century is the result of a number of interdependent factors. All these factors are primarily external to the actual business of creating televised narrative; and none of them have anything to do with anyone’s personal greatness. Hard as it may be to admit, those of us working in television today may merely be the lucky surfers of a three-crested wave of socio-techno-psychological change.
IN OTHER NEWS
The Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced that the world premiere of Kathryn Bigelow’s PSA on the crisis of elephant poaching, Last Days, has been added to the New York Film Festival program. Saturday’s screening will be followed by a panel Bigelow will moderate.
“Assheton Gorton, the Oscar-nominated and avant-garde English production designer and art director who worked on Blow-Up, Get Carter and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, has died. He was 84.” Mike Barnes in the Hollywood Reporter: “Gorton’s film career got off to an impressive start when he served as art director on two films set in the ‘Swinging London’ of the 1960s: the Richard Lester comedy The Knack … and How to Get It (1965)… His résumé also includes Lester’s The Bed Sitting Room (1969), starring Peter Cook; The Magic Christian (1969), with Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr; Ridley Scott’s Legend (1985), starring Tom Cruise; Revolution (1985), with Al Pacino; For the Boys (1991), starring Bette Midler; Rob Roy (1995), with Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange; and Shadow of the Vampire (2000), starring John Malkovich.”
Listening (121’10”). Illusion Travels By Streetcar #31: The Rise, Fall and Rise of Sam Peckinpah (1962-1969).