“The reasons that so many twentieth-century writers, everyone from Vladimir Nabokov to Angela Carter, turned to film as a metaphor for modernity were manifold,” writes Kate Webb in Guernica, “but part of the attraction was the internationalist milieu in which Hollywood evolved, one that helped the city become an important focus for radical idealism and then for the reaction against it…. [B]y the early ’20s, Hollywood was cosmopolitan enough to have earned the name ‘Hollywood Babylon.’ … Alla Nazimova, the actress Adolph Zukor once called ‘the quintessential Queen of the Movie Whores,’ was typical of this milieu, her exoticism provoking adoration and horror in equal measure. In 1918, she bought a mansion and plot of land on Sunset Boulevard, then still only a dirt road. Here she established one of Hollywood’s earliest salons where you were as likely to find Charlie Chaplin or Valentino as Nazimova’s women friends and lovers.” Webb then conjures a scene that’s “persisted in the imagination, at least, as a place of freedom and tolerance.”
“Alice Guy-Blaché wrote, produced or directed nearly 1,000 films over her 20-year career,” writes Katie Carman-Lehach at Filmmaker. “She directed one of the first films to have an all-Black cast of actors. She was also a savvy businesswoman, opening her own film studio, Solax Films in the U.S., becoming the most financially and technologically successful film studio at the time on the East Coast. Alice also pioneered the first uses of synchronized sound and image manipulation/superimposition, among other things. Clearly her work had an impact on film as we know it today, so why is her name missing from cinema studies textbooks around the world?” Again, we refer you to Pamela Green and Jarik van Sluijs’s Kickstarter project, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché.
Noel Murray introduces a terrific interview: “When The Dissolve chose Targets as a Movie of the Week, we immediately reached out to its director, Peter Bogdanovich, a noted raconteur who usually has insightful comments to make about his own work and the work of other filmmakers. As it turned out, it was harder to connect with Bogdanovich than we’d expected, but for the best possible reason: He’s in the middle of shooting a new movie in New York, Squirrels to the Nuts, a comedy produced by Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson, and starring Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots, Kathryn Hahn, Jennifer Aniston, Will Forte, and many, many more bright comic actors. Nevertheless, after a long night on the set, the 74-year-old director graciously took a few minutes of his off day to talk with us about Targets, the arc of his career, and whether he now feels any responsibility to mentor young filmmakers the way he was once helped by the likes of Sam Fuller and Orson Welles.”
“During the late 1950s, there was a revolution in Polish poster art,” writes Michael Guillén. “Free from the shackles of socrealizm (the Polish adaptation of socialist realism), a wave of artists brought a strikingly modern artistic sensibility to the poster. Lacking the resources to produce slick Hollywood-like posters, these artists turned to various modernist trends for inspiration. Often armed with little more than a brush, crayon or simply just a pair of scissors, these Polish artists developed a raw, sometimes savage but always intelligent approach to the film poster. Artists such as Henryk Tomaszewski, Jan Lenica and Roman Cieślewicz developed a unique and often witty approach to rendering the very essence of a film in a single, eye catching image. Less well known, however, are the women of Polish poster art, including Teresa Byszewska and, in particular, Barbara Baranowska.” Michael presents “a slightly paraphrased transcription” of a talk Daniel Bird, a “leading scholar of Eastern European cult cinema,” delivered as an exhibition of Baranowska’s posters opened in Montreal’s J.A. de Sève Cinema.
Writing in the Notebook, David Cairns finds that Anthony Asquith‘s Underground (1928) “wears its Germanic aspects more lightly than [A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929)], with some giddy-making angles and sharp chiaroscuro associated with the character played by Norah Baring (from Cottage) who’s desperately in love with Cyril McLaglan (more handsome brother of the more famous Victor)…. And oh yes, much of the action centers around the London Underground, not a political movement but a subway system, still sparkling, clean and ultra-modern in this film. Nowadays the movie that captures its essence more faithfully is the seventies cannibal horror Death Line (AKA Raw Meat), which would be recommended as the dark half of a double bill with this one. The crumbling, dripping catacombs of that film have little in common with the gleaming tunnels and platforms in Asquith’s movie, which recall the dazzling futurity of Metropolis.”
It’s Peter Sellers Day at DC’s.
Los Angeles. “Almost certainly Michael Mann’s strangest film, 1983’s The Keep is also the only one by the director of Miami Vice and Heat to never be released on DVD,” notes Michael Nordine in the Weekly. “As such, its two screenings at Cinefamily this Saturday, Aug. 24 (at midnight), and Sunday, Aug. 25 (10:15 p.m.)—on what the programmers enticingly describe as a ‘ridiculously rare’ 35mm print courtesy of the British Film Institute, no less—are not to be missed.”
Philadelphia. The City Paper posts a calendar of local goings on.
In the works. Spike Lee has an announcement to make: “Ladies And Gentlemen, We Have Added A Great Talent To Our Stellar 2 Leads. My Main Man Brooklyn’s Finest, Michael K. Williams Has Joined The Cast Of My Newest Hottest Joint.”
The sequel to Ang Lee‘s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) has a screenplay, a director (fight choreographer Wo Ping Yuen), and, as the Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth reports, the beginnings of a cast, with Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen returning, and quite possibly, Zhang Ziyi as well. There will be flashbacks.