The widespread hunch that Mad Men will end with its hero’s death is what you might call overdetermined. It does not arise only from the internal logic of the narrative itself, but is also a product of cultural expectations. Something profound has been happening in our television over the past decade, some end-stage reckoning. It is the era not just of mad men, but also of sad men and, above all, bad men. Don is at once the heir and precursor to Tony Soprano, that avatar of masculine entitlement who fended off threats to the alpha-dog status he had inherited and worked hard to maintain. Walter White, the protagonist of Breaking Bad, struggled, early on, with his own emasculation and then triumphantly (and sociopathically) reasserted the mastery that the world had contrived to deny him. The monstrousness of these men was inseparable from their charisma, and sometimes it was hard to tell if we were supposed to be rooting for them or recoiling in horror. We were invited to participate in their self-delusions and to see through them, to marvel at the mask of masculine competence even as we watched it slip or turn ugly. Their deaths were (and will be) a culmination and a conclusion: Tony, Walter and Don are the last of the patriarchs.
So here’s what he’s eventually getting around to: “It seems that, in doing away with patriarchal authority, we have also, perhaps unwittingly, killed off all the grown-ups.” And, as this relates to cinema specifically: “Comic-book movies, family-friendly animated adventures, tales of adolescent heroism and comedies of arrested development do not only make up the commercial center of 21st-century Hollywood. They are its artistic heart.” From there, he’s off in search of the paths that led us here. Follow along to discover what Mickey Rooney‘s doing up there in today’s top photo.
In the second part of a series he’s writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, “The Ephemeral Real,” Drew Johnson turns to Michelangelo Antonioni‘s The Passenger (1975). The first part, by the way, dealt with Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (2013).
The Dissolve is discussing its Movie of the Week, Preston Sturges’s The Lady Eve (1941).
At Ferdy on Films, Roderick Heath revisits Dennis Hopper‘s The Last Movie (1971), which “clearly expands on the form- and mind-bending elements in Easy Rider while essentially telling its fans to fuck off.”
Jim Fearnley in 3:AM Magazine: “When discussing the nature of film, [Walter] Benjamin regards form as being capable of conveying ‘ritual identity,’ and suggests that the vestiges of ritual value identifiable in (silent) film confer their own aesthetic legitimacy on the medium.”
Canyon Cinema’s posted an excerpt from Tara Nelson‘s interview with Victor Faccinto.
New York. The 10th Dimension: Edward D. Wood, Jr., a week-long series opening today at Anthology Film Archives, “is just one of several new projects devoted to Wood’s late-career sex-theme work,” writes Erik Piepenburg in the NYT. He lists a few forthcoming DVD packages and a book due next month, Blood Splatters Quickly, “a collection of more than 30 short stories written by Wood, sometimes under the pseudonym Ann Gora… Wood’s erotic films ‘are rough and tumble and ugly, and if you can accept them on that level, then good or bad stops being a question,’ said Andrew Lampert, Anthology’s curator of collections.”
Henry Stewart recommends Glen or Glenda (1953), “a cry for understanding, buoyed by aesthetic dynamism, full of amazing ambition and admirable sincerity, the product of a fertile and febrile imagination pursuing its wildest impulses, unencumbered by financial limitations or the bourgeois demand for plain sense.”
Also in the L: Aaron Cutler on André Delvaux’s Rendez-vous à Bray (1971), screening Sunday as part of the Spectacle’s program How Anna Got Her Groove Back: Karina After Godard; Elina Mishuris on Marcelo Gomes‘s Once Upon A Time Veronica (2012), on through Sunday at MoMA; and Sarah Salovaara on François Truffaut‘s Shoot the Piano Player (1960), screening all day Saturday at BAM.
For more NYC goings on, see Steve Dollar in the Wall Street Journal.
Philadelphia. Just a reminder here that David Lynch: The Unified Field, an exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts, opens on Saturday and will be on view through January 11.
Los Angeles. Tonight the Filmforum presents Eve Luckring: With What Tongue, followed tomorrow night by Life is an Opinion: Films by Mary Helena Clark and Karen Yasinsky.
Nashville. The touring program arrives at the Belcourt on Saturday: Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema. Jim Ridley picks out the highlights in the Scene, where he also looks ahead to the best of the fall season. Also, Michael Sicinski recommends Albert Serra’s Story of My Death, screening at Third Man Records on September 17.
Seattle. “With Flashdance, Hollywood made a complete break with the realities of the working class,” argues Charles Mudede. And yes, Piketty is name-checked. Jennifer Beals will be a maniac, maniac on the floor tomorrow evening at Central Cinema. Also in the Stranger: a fall film calendar.
IN THE WORKS
Jessica Chastain will star in Xavier Dolan’s first film in English, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, reports Indiewire‘s Peter Knegt.
Isabelle Huppert is currently working on two sets, reports Fabien Lemercier. You already know about Joachim Trier’s Louder Than Bombs. She’s also appearing alongside Gérard Depardieu in Guillaume Nicloux’s The Valley of Love “and is scheduled to appear in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle in January.”
“The actor Richard Kiel, famous for playing the steel-toothed villain Jaws in James Bond films, has died at the age of 74,” reports Rory Carroll for the Guardian.
Listening (111’02”). Illusion Travels By Streetcar #29: Vincente Minnelli: The Melodramas (1949-1956).