“I’m sorry to say that the last complete retrospective in the U.S. devoted to Jean-Marie Straub and the late Danièle Huillet was held over thirty years ago, on November 2-14, 1982, at New York’s Public Theater,” writes Jonathan Rosenbaum. “I curated the 1982 event, which also included a selection of films by others made by Jean-Marie and Danièle to play with their own.” And he presents both the full program and his introduction, which even now serves well as a sort of primer: “Undeniably the most European figures in that branch of the neo-Marxist avant-garde that was educated at the Paris Cinémathèque—a group that also includes Godard, Rivette and Moullet—Straub-Huillet are the least chewable, the angriest (‘Look at this mountain, once it was fire’), the most mulish and intractable, and in some respects the most purely beautiful and political in their sounds and images.”
At Kino Slang, Andy Rector has posted Hans Hurch’s 1981 interview with Huillet and Straub, translated and annotated by Ben Brewster.
Steve Vineberg at Critics at Large on Orson Welles: “The virtual creator of conceptual directing, the first director to fit classic texts to modern settings, a conqueror of one twentieth-century technology (film) after another (radio), the first American filmmaker to make significant stylistic strides in the employment of sound (even though Kane came out fourteen years after the official birth of the talkies), one of the two American directors—the other was William Wyler—to import the deep focus lens that enabled the camera to show foreground, middle ground and background with equal clarity in the same frame, Welles was an embodiment of theatrical modernism. But he was a paradox. All of his best movies, beginning with Kane and ending with Chimes at Midnight, his last full-length dramatic feature, in 1967, in some way represent a conflict about the modern age wherein the boundless energy and hurdling drive of the new struggles with a longing for what it’s irrevocably replaced.”
Trailer for Alain Resnais‘s Life Is a Bed of Roses (1983), digitally remastered
For Glenn Kenny, “one of the draws of Too Much Johnson, the shot-in-1938 footage—it really won’t do to call the thing a movie, alas—that Welles wanted to form an early multimedia experience out of, and had to scotch because of money and timing issues, is its made-in-New-York quality.”
And Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s posted a piece written for Cinematograph in 1991 that appears in two of his books, “Orson Welles’s Essay Films and Documentary Fictions: A Two-Part Speculation.”
“In her 1930s heyday at Warner Brothers, it was advertised that Glenda Farrell could rap out 400 words in 40 seconds on screen, as if she was some kind of ace secretary of the fast-talking wisecrack,” writes Dan Callahan, “but of course her movie characters were usually averse to actual work and made no bones about getting money any which way they could. She was a blonde with squinty eyes and a broad nose and a mouth that kept puckering contemptuously, like a Ginger Rogers who refused to play nice; she had a curdled kind of face, like she was always smelling a rat. Too harsh a flavor of bitters for most studios and most films, she found her best opportunities in Pre-Code Warners movies, sometimes in small roles, sometimes in leads in tough-as-nails B-pictures.”
Also at the Chiseler, Phoebe Green on Marjorie Rambeau, “probably most familiar to us today in her Pre-Code incarnation as a yowling bag, with or without heart of gold.”
“Love Streams is, in part, Cassavetes’s version of a slapstick comedy,” suggests Howard Hampton, writing for Artforum. “Joined in mid-blur-of-consciousness, in Love Streams continuity constantly gives way to dream logic and dream logic takes up residence in the most humdrum everyday objects and objectives.”
“An unclassifiable filmmaker in 20th century French cinema, Guy Gilles [1938-1996] is the director of a little-known body of work, melancholic and poetic, that combines nostalgia for the past with a haunting evocation of the present.” Yesterday was Guy Gilles Day at DC’s.
At the Evening Class, Michael Guillén introduces an excerpt from Michael Koresky’s Terence Davies, which “explores the unique emotional tenor of Davies’s work by focusing on four paradoxes within the director’s oeuvre: films that are autobiographical yet fictional; melancholy yet elating; conservative in tone and theme yet radically constructed; and obsessed with the passing of time yet frozen in time and space. Through these contradictions, the films’ intricate designs reveal a cumulative, deeply personal meditation on the self.”
Trailer for Resnais’s Love Unto Death (1984), digitally remastered
Mark Harris’s Five Came Back : A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War, “thankfully, doesn’t pretend that it’s uncovering anything new, which makes its compulsive readability all the more astonishing,” writes Laya Maheshwari for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Jonathan Croall is “an admirably thorough, sensitive and industrious theater biographer [now] rehearsing his grievances against the late Sheridan Morley, a wayward, unreliable but enjoyably exuberant author, with whom he found himself in unwitting competition when both were attempting to write about John Gielgud.” Simon Callow for the Guardian: “Croall’s latest book, In Search of Gielgud: A Biographer’s Tale, is an account of his attempts to get to grips with the ever-fascinating actor, then still alive. At the same time as capturing the challenges of trying to write about a living subject, its raison d’etre is the bizarre behavior of the man he darkly refers to as The Other Biographer.”
“The film director who complained bitterly that too much fiction begins with boring intellectual introductions made sure to start his final novel with a man being shot through the throat and a baby sat on a time bomb,” writes Tim Hayes at Little White Lies. “Brainquake, Samuel Fuller‘s 1992 crime story only now appearing in an English edition for the first time, is knee-deep in threat and intimidation by page two, and swarming with Fuller-esque blue-collar tradesmen by page three.”
IN OTHER NEWS
“Chinese authorities blocked an annual independent film festival from opening Saturday, seizing documents and films from organizers and hauling away two event officials in a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.” Didi Tang reports for the AP: “Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were detained by police Saturday night but later released, according to their supporters.”
Erol Minta’s debut, Song of My Mother, has won the top award at the Sarajevo Film Festival, reports Variety‘s Leo Barraclough. The jury, headed up by Béla Tarr, “said it appreciated ‘the courageous simplicity, the pure cinematic language, the choice to show the daily life in a manner that makes us understand and love the characters. We are delighted that the filmmakers were capable to resist the temptation of mainstream cinema.'”
New York. Today’s screenings of Pei Shih (1972) and Mitra (1977) will wrap the Museum of the Moving Image series Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: The Cinema of Patrick Lung Kong and, in his latest column for Film Comment, Grady Hendrix explains why Lung Kong is so admired by Tsui Hark, John Woo and Wong Kar-wai.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Lav Diaz retrospective carries on today with a screening of Death in the Land of Encantos (2007). At nine hours (with one half-hour intermission), it’s asking a lot of an audience, but this month’s Golden Leopard might well be a draw.
Der Standard is reporting that Austrian filmmaker Florian Flicker lost his battle with cancer Saturday afternoon, just two days after his 49th birthday. Flicker began as a theater director, but his experiments with Super 8 led him to direct features and documentaries. His breakthrough came with Der Überfall (2000), which picked up a good handful of prizes at festivals around the world. It’d be twelve years before he directed another feature, Grenzgänger, nominated for three Austrian Film Awards, including Best Director and Best Feature Film. He won Best Screenplay.