Daily | Tarr, Carax, Lubitsch


Béla Tarr’s ‘Sátántangó’ (1994)

“As someone who grew up in northwestern Alabama and spent the first sixteen years of my life there (1943-1959), I have treasured [William Faulkner’s] Light in August [1932], which I first read shortly after I left for a New England boarding school, as the novel that best captures the quasi-totalitarian climate of that culture, especially in relation to race,” writes Jonathan Rosenbaum. “Even though this is clearly not addressed as directly as Faulkner addresses racism in Light in August, it seems no less clear that [Béla] Tarr and [László] Krasznahorkai recognize and understand this climate with comparable depth, not to mention sorrow and outrage, and regard it no less metaphysically as a blight on humanity. So, whether it’s willed or not, Sátántangó deserves to be regarded in both its forms as one of the great narratives about Stalinism and its effects on alienating people from themselves as well as each other—including, one should stress, the lingering effects of that Stalinism on a capitalist society.”

More reading. In the Notebook, retinalechoes argues that “a reference to the great French writer of urban Paris, Louis-Ferdinand Céline” in Leos Carax’s Les Amants du Pont Neuf (The Lovers on the Bridge, 1991) is “a key reference which unlocks an entryway into the film’s meaning and the secrets of its construction.”

“In an effort to understand Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970), as well as the filmmaker’s use of locations and space, it’s essential to understand the history of the EUR district in Rome and its deep ties with fascism.” The new issue of Interiors is out.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Martin Ritt’s ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’ (1965)

John Le Carré‘s piece on the making of Martin Ritt’s 1965 adaptation of his novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is not available to those who don’t subscribe to the New Yorker, but David Denby‘s reflections on the film are: “Seeing the picture again after reading le Carré’s piece was like entering a physical and spiritual atmosphere that was once very powerful but now has shifted from the dangerous to the aesthetically and morally sinister, from reality to art. The distance is reassuring, but the experience remains no less overwhelming.”

“The widespread understanding of stoner cinema is basically the high school English teacher who has totally read Palahniuk.” Dr. Teens in the New Inquiry: “Awful. Gross as hell. One-hundred percent wrongheaded in approach and method. Go for that only if you dig tradition and stagnation. All the cool teens will be over here with me knowing the truth about stoner cinema: It is not a genre and cannot be limited to a finite set of films. Stoner cinema is a mode of spectator power; it is a method of experience. Stoner cinema is ‘corrupting’ films unused to the stoned gaze and shattering a TV show’s complacency in its own sense-making. Stoner cinema is real-time disruption of editing patterns and, through lighting up, lighting up the cinema’s flammable narrative structures.”

“There is a warmth that runs from eternity and into the present, and now that warmth is here, but not in me. It’’s in my pastrami sandwich.” From “Terrence Malick at the Delicatessen.” By Chris Okum. At McSweeney’s.

You’ll recall that Reverse Shot is celebrating its 10th anniversary and Filmmaker its 20th. For the Wall Street Journal, Steve Dollar talks with Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert, editors of the former, and Scott Macaulay, a producer who edits the latter.

A Star Is Born

William Wellman’s ‘A Star Is Born’ (1937)

Hollywood.Janet Gaynor is so ripe and lilting in A Star Is Born [1937] that it’s easy to forget she was 31 at the time,” writes Michael Koresky at Sundance Now. “She looks like an apple tumbled fresh off the cart. Maybe it’s the Technicolor. As cinema’s first incarnation of Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester, the prototypical small-town gal with big dreams who lights up Hollywood, Gaynor must have been an unusual choice. It had been a decade since the former silent-film star won best actress at the first Academy Awards, and the five-foot slip of a thing had been one of the few actors to successfully transition to sound cinema. Rather than banking on a glamorous new-ish face of 1937, like perhaps Joan Fontaine or Ann Miller, producer David O. Selznick and director William Wellman went for a relative veteran. This helped when Esther assumes a seen-it-all gravitas by film’s poignant end, but for most of the running time, Gaynor is fresh as a lamb, those dewdrop eyes and rosebud lips peering at costar Fredric March (and us) with porcelain-doll fragility.”

David Bordwell interviews C. O. “Doc” Erickson, once a “production manager for Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet, John Huston, Anthony Mann, Roman Polanski, and Ridley Scott. In later years he was associate or executive producer on Chinatown, Urban Cowboy, Popeye, Blade Runner, Looking for Bobby Fischer, Groundhog Day, Kiss the Girls, Windtalkers, and many other projects. In short, he was an eyewitness to film history.”

At the Chiseler, Dan Callahan surveys the career of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., while Jim Knipfel compares and contrasts the approaches of Cecil Kellaway and Edmund Gwenn to the role of the “wise, slightly absent-minded elderly scientist who explains the what-for to usually incredulous military and government officials” in 50s-era monster movies.

“For grace and charm in the movies, there’s no one greater.” Peter Bogdanovich has posted the third and final part of his Lubitsch file.

In other news. Ioncinema‘s “2013 Cannes Film Festival Predictions” countdown is now complete. The staff has now written up 100 titles: synopses for each film, plus reasons it’s a candidate for the lineup.

April 7: Police break up a demonstration on behalf of the Emek Theater

It seems more and more likely that the Emek Theater, “Turkey’s oldest and most prestigious cinema, an Istanbul landmark that dates back to the early days of Atatürk’s rule,” will “effectively be destroyed,” reports Constanze Letsch for the Guardian.

A.A. Dowd, who just last week lost his job as one of Time Out Chicago‘s two film critics (the other being Ben Kenigsberg), has announced that he’s the AV Club‘s new film editor, taking over from Scott Tobias. Matt Singer reports at Criticwire.

MTV‘s evidently handed out some awards.

List. At Vulture, David Edelstein, Bilge Ebiri, and Miranda Siegel roll out the “20 Essential Documentaries of the Century.”

Viewing. Catherine Grant‘s posted a collection of video essays and scholarly resources under the banner “Breaking the Fourth Wall: Direct Address and Metalepsis in the Cinema and other Media.”

Obit. “Besedka Johnson, who was plucked from obscurity and made a star by a movie producer who had spotted her swimming one summer in Southern California—when she was 85—died on April 4 in Glendale, Calif.,” reports William Yardley for the New York Times. Johnson, who was 87, debuted in Sean Baker’s Starlet (2012), “a critically acclaimed low-budget drama in which her character, Sadie, develops an unlikely friendship with a young woman named Jane, played by Dree Hemingway.”

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