“Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010, a wondrous retrospective of the late German artist’s work at the Museum of Modern Art, is the most dramatic museum show of the century to date.” So begins Peter Schjeldahl‘s review in a recent issue of the New Yorker. “Even longtime Polke fans may be amazed by the cumulative power of the two hundred and sixty-five works on view, in painting, sculpture, graphic art, photography, and film.”
That’s right: film. “Did an erudite, fecund trickster like Polke ever mean for any of his footage to really be watched rather than briefly pondered as it flickered on a gallery wall amid his other work?” asks J. Hoberman in the new Artforum. “Does it even matter? The films are indifferent, and my guess is that the filmmaker was too.” Nevertheless, Hoberman dives in, anything but indifferent, and it makes for great reading.
Also writing for Artforum, Nick Pinkerton looks back on this year’s Images Festival: “If you want a panoramic view of what constitutes experimental film today, there are few more all-encompassing vantage points.”
“My new favorite filmmaker is the American animator Jodie Mack,” declares Notebook editor Daniel Kasman, introducing a lively and wide-ranging interview. It’s a perfect companion piece to Phil Coldiron‘s essay on Mack in the latest Cinema Scope; Danny calls it “the best possible summation, characterization, and analysis of these films.”
Cinema, de notre temps: Eric Rohmer, Part One (1994) with English subtitles via David Davidson
New York Times critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott have posted a round of “Memos to Hollywood,” a light-hearted mix of questions and demands. Why don’t Hollywood liberals hire more women directors, for example, and do they realize their labors are being watched on computer screens. And as for critics, suppose “we all stop writing about ourselves, about other movie critics, about other critics’ opinions, about the state of criticism and about what criticism should and should not be. How about we just write about, you know, movies?” And from Scott: “Television needs more visual inventiveness and personal vision, while movies could use some of the darkness that pervades the best TV dramas and the anarchy that animates its most daring comedies.”
Adrian Martin points us to James Naremore‘s 2011 essay, “Film Acting and the Arts of Imitation”: “When we encounter an overt, creative impersonation such as the one performed by [Christian] McKay [in Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles (2009)], we can begin to appreciate imitation in all its performing manifestations as what it has always been: a form of art.”
Longreads has posted Ned Stuckey-French‘s 1999 piece “Alexander Woollcott and Harpo Marx: A Love Story,” a must-read for Marx Brothers fans about two men who “formed an odd couple in the constellation of oddballs that was the Algonquin Round Table.”
Noel Murray‘s written up an extensive survey of William Friedkin‘s work, which is “rarely overtly ‘arty.’ It’s more about immediacy.” And Sam Adams talks with the man himself. In another piece for the Dissolve, Noel Murray asks, regarding both filmmakers and writers, “What drives some biographers to spotlight so much of what their subjects did wrong?”
Criterion’s posted “Don Siegel and Me,” a short appreciation Sam Peckinpah wrote up in 1974: “He was my ‘patron,’ and he made me work and made me mad and made me think.”
Cinema, de notre temps: Eric Rohmer, Part Two (1994) with English subtitles
“Resnais’s reputation among Anglophone critics and audiences remains largely petrified in a handful of early features,” suggests Oliver Farry in the New Statesman. And that, he argues, is a mistake: “The final films, with their unerring eye on death and their celebration of a life lived, suggest the man’s work was concerned, above all, with the challenges inherent in working and living.”
“I continue to believe a film can at least keep the idea, if not the substance, of freedom and dignity of the individual foremost in our minds,” writes Oliver Stone in MovieMaker. “And to that effect, if I can do one more ‘lost cause’ of a film, I will, with my last breath, try.”
Recently at Bright Lights:
- Michael Betancourt goes long on Pablo Ferro’s title montage for Peter Yates’s Bullitt (1968).
- “Befitting a great film architect, Robert Wise gave good prologue.” Steve Johnson on Audrey Rose (1977).
- Dan Harper on Bergman’s Sawdust and Tinsel (1953) and Ozu’s Floating Weeds (1958), two films that resemble each other “so closely that it’s surprising no one has noticed.”
- Matthew Kennedy reviews Robert Hofler’s new book, Sexplosion: From Andy Warhol to A Clockwork Orange – How a Generation of Pop Rebels Broke All the Taboos.
- Ryan Conrath talks with Joe Walker, who’s edited all of Steve McQueen’s features—and more.
- And Daniel Ross Goodman on Paolo Sorrentino‘s The Great Beauty.
For the Washington Post, Dennis Drabelle reviews Hitchcock’s Partner in Suspense: The Life of Screenwriter Charles Bennett, a memoir, edited by his son, John Charles Bennett. The elder Bennett’s “take on the great director is not pretty. Bennett saw ‘tremendous ambition’ and ‘vast inventiveness’ blended with insecurity and arrogance. Hitchcock ‘could be the kindest guy in the world. He could bend over backward to be kind. He could bend over backward to be sadistic and horrible. I suspect he was only kind because it made him feel how wonderful he was. Actually, he was a bully.'”
For Film International, Wheeler Winston Dixon revisits Scott Bartlett’s “landmark film” OffOn (1967), “which, as filmmaker Charles Levine once observed in a conversation with me, ‘changed the language of cinema.'” And tomorrow in New York: “Microscope Gallery is extremely pleased to welcome Wheeler Winston Dixon for the first screening of his film works in over a decade.”
Pamela Cohn talks with Iva Radivojevic about her first feature, Evaporating Borders, “a gorgeously photographed personal essay film offering a series of interwoven episodes about life as an immigrant on the island of Cyprus.” Also for BOMB, Gary M. Kramer talks with Henry Jaglom about his latest film, reviewed in the Voice by Jonathan Kiefer: “In The M Word, Jaglom smartly sees a parallel between midlife hormone upheaval and sudden workplace superfluousness, but his unstructured-gabfest approach makes rather a mess of it.”
The Cinema of Alain Robbe-Grillet
“In The Dark Galleries: A Museum Guide to Painted Portraits in Film Noir Gothic Melodramas and Ghost Stories of the 1940s and 1950s, the art and film historians Steven Jacobs and Lisa Colpaert have created a guide to an imaginary gallery of these imaginary paintings, which often took imaginary people as their subjects,” writes Ali Pechman for the Paris Review. “Jacobs has also published a book of the real and imaginary architecture in Alfred Hitchcock’s films. His book with Colpaert, designed to resemble a forties- or fifties–era catalog, offers an encyclopedic collection of portraits, organized by categories like the ‘Gallery of Matriarchs and Female Ancestors’ (Lady Caroline de Winter in Rebecca), a ‘Gallery of Ghosts’ (Carlotta Valdes from Vertigo), and the ‘Gallery of Dying Portraits’ (Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard).”
Also at the Paris Review, Dan Piepenbring has extensive notes on David Lynch’s recent appearance at BAM.
In the New York Times Book Review, Thomas Mallon and Dana Stevens take on the question, “Why Is It So Hard to Capture the Writer’s Life on Film?”
Vulture‘s rolling out its “Summer Movie Preview 2014,” and the highlight so far comes from Bilge Ebiri, who argues that Adam Sandler may well be “the most important American comedian of his generation.”
Mark Waters’s Mean Girls (2004), written by Tina Fey and produced by Lorne Michaels, “is certainly, deservedly, a classic,” argues the New Yorker‘s Richard Brody, “but it’s a classic along the lines of Casablanca, renowned for its performances and for its dialogue, for a seemingly wondrous synergy of all involved.” In a separate entry, he suggests that “exactly as the bulk of filmmaking has shifted away from studio productions and virtually all movies except for franchises have become, in effect, independent films, movies have fallen into conflicting extremes of artifice and of reality, and the idea of reality has become a sort of critical cult.”
For David Cairns, writing in the Notebook, Peter Bogdanovich’s Nickelodeon (1976) is “largely delightful,” and he’s got a few ideas as it why it “gets no love.”
At RogerEbert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz offers advice to aspiring young critics.
Thursday was Maurice Ronet Day at DC’s.
Time‘s Richard Corliss lists his top dozen female revenge movies.
IN OTHER NEWS
The Film Comment Hot 25 is the magazine’s new list of “films that do not have a theatrical distributor in the U.S. The selection will be updated regularly as new films come onto our radar, and we’ll also note when films do get picked up.” Currently at #1: Albert Serra’s Story of My Death. Meantime, the latest columns are up from Grady Hendrix (“What’s up with Thailand?”) and Nick Pinkerton (topics: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Norman Rockwell, Ray Ashley, Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin‘s Little Fugitive and more).
“Mike Leigh will make his debut as an opera director with Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance for the English National Opera,” reports Tim Masters for the BBC. “The new production will open in May 2015 at the London Coliseum.”
“The Karlovy Vary Film Fest [July 4 through 12] is to fete American filmmaker William Friedkin and pay tribute to U.S. development, production and management company Anonymous Content.” Leo Barraclough has more at Variety.
Gary Meyer, co-director of the Telluride Film Festival, has launched Eat Drink Films, dedicated to three of his top passions.
IN THE WORKS
The top story in this section comes from Deadline‘s Mike Fleming Jr: “Joaquin Phoenix has finalized a deal to star in the next film directed by Woody Allen, which I’m hearing is going to begin shooting in July.” As it happens, Diane Keaton has a new book out and Emma Brockes interviews her for today’s Guardian. Keaton says of Woody: “He’s the strongest person I’ve met in my life. He’s made of steel. And talk about a work ethic… He’s going to be practicing that clarinet and touring with his band and making his one movie a year until they push him—he’s never going to stop. Who in the history of movies has done that? He’s 78, he makes a movie a year and he has total control. How is that possible?”
TheWrap‘s Jeff Sneider reports that Joe Swanberg has already wrapped production on Digging for Fire, “which has added Anna Kendrick, Orlando Bloom, Jenny Slate and Mike Birbiglia to previously announced cast members Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sam Rockwell and Brie Larson.” Also: Baz Luhrmann is in negotiations to direct an Elvis Presley biopic.
Dee Rees (Pariah) is set to direct Queen Latifah as blues legend Bessie Smith in Blue Goose Hollow, reports Tambay A. Obenson.
The Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth reports that Michel Gondry is abandoning his plan to adapt Philip K. Dick’s Ubik and instead will tell the story of two teens on the run in Microbes et gasoil.
“David Goyer is joining James Cameron on The Fantastic Voyage.” The Hollywood Reporter‘s Borys Kit: “Goyer, who has guided the screen story for The Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel, has been tapped to write the treatment for the remake of the 1966 sci-fi classic.”
Los Angeles. Starting today, the new Academy @ LACMA weekend program presents The Essential Orson Welles each Saturday through June 7. “The series begins May 3 with Welles‘s playfully surreal short The Hearts of Age (1934) and the Los Angeles premiere of the recently discovered Too Much Johnson (1938),” writes Doug Cummings in the Weekly. “Norman Lloyd, 99-year-old screen legend and Mercury Theatre actor, will be in attendance. However, it was with the bombastic Citizen Kane (screening May 10) and the elegiac The Magnificent Ambersons (May 17) that established Welles’s visual style, a spellbinding display of acute, wide-angled images, low-key lighting and deep compositions that utilize foregrounds and backgrounds with an immersive gravity.” And: “The best is saved for last: 1965’s rare Chimes at Midnight (screening June 7 with Welles’ brilliant 1973 essay film, F for Fake).”
At filmjourney.org, Doug links to and adds notes on a fine collection of Welles-related viewing and listening.
Oddly, the newly restored Othello (1952) doesn’t seem to be headed to Los Angeles. Still, for more on Too Much Johnson and the rest of the series, see Kenneth Turan in the Times. Meantime, Orson Welles: Lost & Found runs at the TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto from Friday through May 13. Correction! Thanks to Doug Cummings for pointing out that Othello will be screening at Cinefamily from May 17 through 23.
Tomorrow at the Velaslavasay Panorama: Henry Hills: Rhythmic States.
“Criterion’s release of [Dino Risi’s] Il Sorpasso  is one of the home video releases of the year,” declares Omar Ahmed. “Film academia has in the past framed 1960s Italian cinema through the prism of an existential art cinema, leading to the canonization of international auteurs including Bertolucci, Pasolini, Antonioni and Fellini. One could argue the popularization of the auteur theory around about this time also crystallized a hegemonic ‘art cinema.’ Such a valedictory attitude fabricated a snobbish historiography of Italian cinema. The exclusion of genre films especially Italian comedies from the canon of 1960s Italian cinema, many which were commercially successful in Italy, reiterates a familiar rhetoric of low and high culture that disputably led to their ostracism.”
“Archly camp and dreamily surreal, Joe Massot’s ineffable whatsit Wonderwall  retools Shakespeare’s story of Pyramus and Thisbe for the psychedelic set.” 3.5 out of five stars from Budd Wilkins at Slant. For Erich Kuersten, it’s “an entomological freakfest.”
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. died yesterday at the age of 95, reports John Rogers for the AP: “Zimbalist became a household name in 1958 as Stu Bailey, the wisecracking private investigator who was a co-partner in a swinging Hollywood detective agency located at the exclusive address of 77 Sunset Strip. When the show of the same name ended in 1964, Zimbalist became an even bigger star playing the empathetic, methodical G-man Lewis Erskine in The F.B.I.“