Back in May 2013, Kristin Thompson celebrated the release of French Masterworks: Russian Émigrés in Paris 1923-1929 and called for a followup from Flicker Alley—which has now arrived. “For decades, La Maison du mystère“—a ten-episode serial directed by Alexandre Volkoff and starring Ivan Mosjoukine, Charles Vanel and Helene Darly—”remained one of the fabled lost films of the silent era. It was an enormous popular success upon its release in 1923, and critics praised it as well. Even Louis Delluc, who highmindedly promoted cinema as a realistic, restrained art, grudgingly said of it, ‘La Maison du mystère is a serial. They are a necessity. So be it. This one is intelligent, sober, frank, genuinely human.’ Watching the film today, ‘sober’ seems an odd term.”
One click over, David Bordwell‘s posted a new entry on Orson Welles. “As a teenager getting interested in film, I focused most avidly on Welles,” and his “first serious piece of film criticism,” an essay on Citizen Kane (1941), ran in Film Comment. “That movie has been a leitmotif of my life—a centerpiece of our textbook Film Art since its publication in 1979, important in The Classical Hollywood Cinema, and still stubbornly facing me down in my current struggles with 1940s Hollywood narrative.” Further in: “One of the lessons Welles seems to have learned from Eisenstein is that continuity is overrated. Almost every shot-change forces you to readjust your attention, and a cut is less a link than a jolt. André Bazin was right to praise Welles’s long takes, but the Wonder Boy of the 1940s also loved disjunctive cuts, apparently from Too Much Johnson onward.”
On a related note, a transcript from the Film Doctor: “Since the student response in my film analysis class to Citizen Kane seemed even more politely indifferent than usual, I thought I’d interview them about their reactions in class.”
“Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp was released to the public through Essanay Studios on April 12th, 1915,” begins Dan Callahan in a terrific piece for RogerEbert.com. “Chaplin has been much written about in the 100 years since he first captured the attention of the public, but his career is so jam-packed with messy attitudes and impulses that it still stands as a shifting, fresh body of work to marvel at and get lost in.”
L’Amore (1948) “inaugurates a busy if unruly stretch in Rossellini’s work marked by experimentation, independence, wanderlust, a great deal of controversy and scandal, and a shift in leading ladies from Anna Magnani to Ingrid Bergman,” writes Jonathan Rosenbaum, who goes on to address three particular controversies this anthology film sparked back then.
Roderick Heath at Ferdy on Films: “Carefully entwined with the political and social ruminations in The Leopard  is a far more personal and intimate story, a confrontation with the strange ramifications that assail us in mortality, in a world and time carefully designed to keep careful checks and balances on such primal forces. Visconti and his post-neorealist followers, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Bernardo Bertolucci, were fascinated by the juncture of personal proclivity and social constructs.”
“When he made The Conformist , Bertolucci was, after all, a hyper-talented young man full of beans,” argues Gordon Thomas in Bright Lights. “Yet both book and film are political works, and as such they mean business, attacking Italian Fascism from different generational perches. Moravia lived and suffered under Fascism, and his novel has an undercurrent of controlled rage at the system’s bland idiocy. Bertolucci, an avowed Marxist, views the period at a distance, but portrays Italy’s Fascism as an inhumane blossoming of empty-headed nationalism, one that would necessarily succumb to change.”
In Reverse Shot, Andrew Tracy argues that “the disorienting, nightmarish montage that opens [Ingmar Bergman‘s] Persona ” is “ultimately, and one must suppose designedly, unreadable. It is not mental space, allegorical space, or any other space apart from the space of film, that phantom kingdom of images whose very falsity is the proof of its ineradicable existence.”
In “The Trouble with Clint,” Jacob Krell writes in the Los Angeles Review of Books: “What Eastwood is after now is, in a word, simplicity, though what ‘simple’ means in this case is a bit more complicated, and more destructive, than simplicity tends to be. For when this aesthetics of simplicity takes on a political valence, it ends up being far more insidious, and far more appealing, than a jumbled conversation with an empty chair seems to indicate.”
Ray Pride has begun posting pieces he wrote in the 90s that’ve slipped through the cracks and the other day, he revived a conversation with Frank Gaeta, the supervising sound editor on David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997): “David had very specific ideas about what the movie should sound like. For a car crash, he would mouth the sound for me. ‘Man, David,’ I said, ‘Let’s just record your voice!'”
“Visually and sonically, it is awash with hauntological whispers.” For the BFI, Stephen Dalton takes a good long look back at Blade Runner (1982). Related: John Coulthart lines up shots from Blade Runner and Metropolis (1927).
— Catherine Grant (@filmstudiesff) April 10, 2015
“The text of the film is indeed an unattainable text.” Daniel L. Potter’s posted Raymond Bellour‘s landmark 1975 essay.
Speaking of which, Movie Mezzanine‘s running an excerpt from Tina Hassannia‘s forthcoming book, Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema, and another from Forward Observer: Stanley Kauffmann at the Cinema, 1999-2013, edited by Bert Cardullo.
James Layton and David Pierce’s new book, The Dawn of Technicolor, 1915-1935, “is dense with text, technology and sidebars about important figures,” writes Farran Smith Nehme for the Wall Street Journal. “But there are illustrations to delight a cinephile, including reproductions of actual frames of nitrate film. Chapters begin with full-page photos, rare and often stunning. The final section is a complete filmography (compiled by Mr. Layton with Crystal Kui) of all 371 films made using the two-color Technicolor process. Each entry includes extensive production data and, sadly, ‘survival status.’ Most of these early color films are lost or exist only in a fragment. In some cases, the frames pictured in the book constitute nearly all of what is left of the film.”
And by the way: Glorious Technicolor: From George Eastman House and Beyond, the series that premiered at the Berlinale and is now screening in Vienna (through May 3), is slated to run from June 5 through August 4 at MoMA.
Sebastián Silva at the Talkhouse Film on why he keeps switching up his approaches to making films: “Fear of failure is huge. It makes it worth it.”
“Writing is such an essential part of my own process, so of course the great filmmakers I relate to are directors like [Ingmar] Bergman or Fassbinder because they have been both great playwrights and great directors. They have always been models for me.” That’s Olivier Assayas, talking to Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club.
Zach Lewis in the Notebook on Joel McCrea in The Most Dangerous Game (1932): “He’s a boy among men, or at least a nouveau riche figure to well-mannered old money, admitted in their company thanks to his renown as a big game hunter. McCrea’s addition to this character resides in his easy-going compliance with these suits: a smile at their compliments, a joke or two to lift any air of class difference. It’s a sense of belonging with the established elite through a degree of can-do exceptionalism, another slice of American meritocratic thinking that pervades McCrea’s characters.”
Writing for the Atlantic, Kristi York Wooten explains why architect John Portman has made Atlanta attractive to filmmakers, particularly those with futuristic projects in the works.
The Hollywood Reporter has “asked studio heads, marketing chiefs, directors, screenwriters and a slew of industry types for their collective ranking”—of New York film critics.
Via Ryan Lattanzio at Thompson on Hollywood, a list from Popular Mechanics: “The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies—As Chosen By Scientists.” And the AV Club‘s countdown of the “100 best films of the decade (so far)” is now complete.
IN OTHER NEWS
“Diao Yinan’s Golden Bear winner Black Coal, Thin Ice took three major awards at this year’s China Film Directors Guild Awards, earning best film, screenwriter of the year for Diao and the actor of the year award for Liao Fan.” Clifford Coonan has more in the Hollywood Reporter.
The Norwegian Film Critics’ Association has named Eskil Vogt’s Blind the best Norwegian film of the year. Jorn Rossing Jensen has the story at Cineuropa.
The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival has announced the award-winners of its just-wrapped 19th edition.
“Judith Malina, an actor and director who with her husband, Julian Beck, founded the Living Theater, a troupe of activists and provocateurs who advanced the idea of political theater in America, catalyzed fierce debate over their methods and intentions, and in the name of art ran afoul of civic authorities on three continents, died on Friday,” reports Bruce Weber in the New York Times. Malina, who was 88, also “appeared on The Sopranos (as Aunt Dottie, a dying nun who reveals to the gangster known as Paulie Walnuts that she is actually his mother) and in films including The Addams Family, Woody Allen’s Radio Days and, perhaps most memorably, Dog Day Afternoon, as the anguished and frantic mother of Sonny Wortzik, the misguided bank robber played by Al Pacino.”
Word of the passing of Sam Rohdie, author of books on Antonioni, Pasolini and Fellini, is making the rounds. Rohdie, Professor of Cinema Studies in the Department of Film at the University of Central Florida, was 75. In 2010, Deane Williams interviewed him for Screening the Past.
The Up Series, which has been checking in on a group of Brits every seven years since 1964, is pretty much Michael Apted’s project, but the first installment, Seven Up!, was directed by Paul Almond, who’s died at the age of 83. The Hollywood Reporter‘s Mike Barnes: “Almond was married to fellow Montreal native Genevieve Bujold from 1967-73, and he directed the actress in the features Isabel (1968), Act of the Heart (1970), Journey (1976) and Final Assignment (1980).”
“Vivian Nathan, an original member of the Actors Studio who appeared in the original Broadway productions of Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo and Camino Real, has died. She was 98.” Again in the Hollywood Reporter, Mike Barnes makes special mention of Nathan’s “memorable performance” as the psychiatrist who treats Bree (Jane Fonda) in Alan J. Pakula’s Klute (1971).
“Valencia College is mourning the loss of Ralph Clemente, who created and established Valencia’s well-regarded film technology program,” reports Linda Shrieves Beaty for Valencia News. “What made Valencia’s program stand out was Clemente’s insistence that his students would get hands-on experience working on feature films.”
Joe O’Connell remembers Odell Grant: “I’d written a 2006 Austin Chronicle story about his life’s improbable last act as a film and television extra capable of stealing a scene, and he was convinced with my guidance he could become a story. Two years ago we met for lunch for the last time and he regaled me with tales from the set. ‘I was embalmed and buried in the low-budget film Elvis and Annabelle,’ Odell says of the film in which he is featured as a dead coach. ‘I had my funeral. Nobody I know of has met their pallbearers.'”
On The Treatment, Elvis Mitchell talks with Matthew Weiner about the final season of Mad Men (29’37”).
Adam Schartoff‘s posted the first of three podcasts recorded at SXSW 2015. His guests: Bob Byington (7 Chinese Brothers), Ben Dickinson (Creative Control) and Eugene Kotlyarenko (A Wonderful Cloud) (101’26”).
Michael Smith and Adam Selzer discuss their book Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry on WGN (18’55”).
Logan’s Run authors William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson are guests in The Projection Booth (155’44”).
Illusion Travels By Streetcar #54: Paddy Chayefsky’s Dilemma (1958-1980) (153’42”).
The BFI’s season Southern Gothic: Love, Death and Religion in the American Deep South runs throughout May and is the subject of Nick Pinkerton’s Sight & Sound cover story (not yet online) and Robert Greene‘s surprisingly personal video essay (7’02”).
At Dangerous Minds, Amber Frost introduces Stanley Kubrick‘s The Seafarers, “a 30-minute, 1953 promotional film for the Seafarers International Union.” It’s “pure workerist propaganda (my favorite kind).”
Adam Curtis’s classic BBC documentary The Century of the Self (2002) runs about four hours.