Neal Gabler, author of the terrific 1989 book An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, has a must-read piece in the New York Times that is, in part, a response to two other, more recent books, Ben Urwand’s highly controversial The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler and Thomas Doherty’s more widely respected Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939. Carl Laemmle, a German Jewish immigrant “who commanded Universal Pictures for more than 20 years,” sprang to action in the mid-1930s and, “like Oskar Schindler, kept a list—an ever-lengthening and changing list of Jews whom he fought to save from the Nazis…. And though the numbers are imprecise, by the time Hitler invaded Poland, Laemmle directly or indirectly saved more than 300 Jews.”
Gabler notes that Laemmle’s hard-fought battles with the German government and “recalcitrant elements of the American State Department” are “scarcely mentioned” in Urwand’s and Doherty’s books, which makes this overlooked chapter all the more vital.
He was a man who admitted to various marital infidelities, including one with Marilyn Monroe (“a touching pathetic waif”), recognized the appeal of Paul Newman (“plenty of power, insides and sex”), scolded [Warren] Beatty for being a diva and fought tooth-and-nail with censors and studio heads to preserve his directorial vision. He was a man who loathed much about Hollywood—writing his wife, Molly Day Thacher, that he hated it “in a shrieking insane way. … It’s like the grave, the tomb, the charnel pit—except it’s all very fancy … full of really very fine people, all in various stages of decomposition, without knowing”—but came to Tinseltown anyway because that’s where movies are made.
Bright Lights seems to be rolling out its new issue piecemeal, which is actually pretty helpful; it can be overwhelming when the whole thing suddenly plonks online. Recently posted: Robert Keser on agent, mover and shaker Henry Willson who “earned his sobriquet of ‘fairy godfather of Hollywood’ through his single-minded focus on newly arrived young hunks on the Sunset Strip”; Thomas Larson on “the female-comeuppance, heart-expanding, heart-attack film”; and D.J.M. Saunders riffs on a 1982 BBC-TV production of Cymbeline.
Pico Iyer’s wide-ranging 2010 conversation with Werner Herzog
“The first debate in 2014 about the future of film criticism is under way, this time touching down on both sides of the Atlantic, so that must make it official.” Tom Shone chimes in, blogging for the Guardian. “Call it Auteurism 3.0: the belief that great films arise not from one man’s mastery but a three-way collision of souls, director, writer and star, all intent on an act of simultaneous autobiography…. (weddingful.com) So yes to discussions of technique, but can we remember what the technique is there for?”
The latest issue of Offscreen to go online features essays on Manoel de Oliveira‘s Gebo and the Shadow (2013), Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), Tom Cruise in Minority Report (2002) and Oblivion (2013) and British responses to Dogme 95.
Luke McKernan‘s posted an excerpt from Louis Couperus’s observations on cinema-going in Europe, first published in 1916:
As soon as we go North, the cinema becomes something of a theater, becomes pretentiously heavy. You are received by employees in braided frocks, your coat and stick are taken from you, you are allocated a certain, fixed seat, you are not allowed to stand up, you notice everyone around you in the shimmering darkness in their seats for hours, there is an intermission … Nothing of all this in Italy or Spain. Not only is the cinematografo or the cine much cheaper than the bioscoop, but the whole interior is more light-hearted, comfortable, accommodating.
For Bookforum, Willie Osterweil presents seven “examples of excellent novels that spawned films that are works of art in their own right.”
IN OTHER NEWS
The Museum of the Moving Image has announced that Mizoguchi, the first major retrospective in North America in nearly 20 years and the first to feature all 30 existing titles (Kenji Mizoguchi made 85 films in all; the others are lost), will run from May 2 through June 8 before heading to the Harvard Film Archive and the Pacific Film Archive.
— Close-Up (@closeupcentre) April 4, 2014
IN THE WORKS
Film Comment editor Gavin Smith‘s posted another round of updates, leading with word that Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani‘s “next project will be Laissez bronzer les cadavres (roughly translated as ‘Let the corpses get suntanned’). It’s an adaptation of a 1971 novel by cult Seventies neo-polar writer Jean-Patrick Manchette, whose Nada became an underrated 1974 film by Claude Chabrol, and whose 1981 novel The Prone Gunman has just been adapted by Taken director Pierre Morel with Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, and Mark Rylance under the rather uninspiring truncated title The Gunman.” Guy Maddin’s adaptation of Sparks’ 2009 radio-drama album The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman is back on and there’s more on what Luca Guadagnino, Denis Villeneuve, Anton Corbijn and many others are up to.
“Baz Luhrmann could be going from the Roaring Twenties to 19th century China.” Borys Kit for the Hollywood Reporter: “The Australian filmmaker behind The Great Gatsby is in talks to direct Kung Fu, Legendary Pictures’ big-screen adaptation of the 1970s martial arts Western television show.”
Trailer for Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, winner of a special jury prize at Tribeca last year; in theaters on May 23
Jane Fonda and Bruce Greenwood have joined Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried in Gabriele Mucino’s Fathers and Daughters, reports Variety‘s Dave McNary.
“Sue Townsend, who has died aged 68 after suffering from a stroke, was one of Britain’s most celebrated comic writers: novelist, playwright and journalist.” Kate Kellaway for the Guardian: “She was best known for the fictional diaries of Adrian Mole.”