6.April.2012: French director Claude Miller died yesterday. He was 70. As Jonathan Rosenbaum pointed out in his 1994 review of The Accompanist, Miller began as an assistant to Robert Bresson, Jacques Demy, and Jean-Luc Godard. He was most closely associated with Francois Truffaut, however, serving as his production manager for many films. “But it would be unfair to judge him only in the light of others, for his films can be appreciated on their own terms, thematically and stylistically,” writes Ronald Bergan in his obituary for The Guardian. “The typical Miller film has a central figure under a lot of pressure, either self-imposed or coming from others. His is a cruel universe, created with great sensitivity and handled with astonishing ease, fluidity and economy.”
A couple of items for weekend browsing: Kimberly Lindbergs offers a photo-rich overview of ten of the world’s most unique movie theaters at Movie Morlocks spanning a mobile cinema in Wales running on solar power to an outdoor theater in Barcelona sited at a 17th-century castle. For The New York Times David J. Karjicek revisits the decisive influence of Lucien Carr on Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac at Columbia University, terrain covered in the forthcoming dramatic film Kill Your Darlings. This production also rates a mention in The Chicago Reader’s J.R. Jones negative review of a new doc focused on the beat poets’ Paris days, The Beat Hotel: “Its tired combination of talking-head interviews, black-and-white photos, generic cool jazz, clumsy reenactments, and even worse animation sequences never amounts to more than a flabby piece of counterculture nostalgia.”
For The Los Angeles Weekly, Michael Atkinson looks ahead to an intriguing series opening at LACMA and Cinefamily called “Adventures in Wonderland: Alice and Other Lost Girls in Fantastic Worlds.” According to him, the linchpin adaptation for this series is Jan Svankmajer’s Alice: “[It] only loosely intersects with the book yet musters an uncomfortable physical world of unpleasant juxtapositions, mucous mixtures, semi-animated impossibilities, revolting taxidermic tension and a pervasive sense of real childhood danger (without, fascinatingly, inciting the merest drop of anxiety from his star, placid blond Kristyna Kohoutova). Self-referential and playfully conscious of pedophiliac threat as only a surrealist’s film could be, Svankmajer’s Alice does Carroll better than Carroll did Carroll, swapping the smarmy wordplay and faux innocence for the claustrophobia and stress you taste in a real dream.” The film screens at LACMA tonight, but if you’re far from Los Angeles try streaming any one of nine Svankmajer shorts at Fandor.
Several of Fandor’s four new featured films of the week also center on lost women, chief among them Manoel de Oliveira’s intoxicating The Strange Case of Angelica, named one of 2010’s best features by numerous critics, curators, and filmmakers (including Apichatpong Weerasethakul). Also featured this week is Bruce Baillie’s debut, On Sundays, a mesmerizing map of San Francisco circa 1961; Samuel Fuller’s incendiary exploitation picture, The Naked Kiss, called a “fizzy, wigged-out” masterpiece by Slant’s Eric Henderson; and Chris Newby’s dramatization of medieval devotion, Anchoress.