23.February.2012: Legendary publisher and first amendment crusader Barney Rosset died Tuesday at the age of 89. Though best known for the many outré literary masterpieces he published under the Grove Press imprint, Rosset also had a hand in distributing several controversial European films in the United States (including I Am Curious (Yellow)). MUBI Notebook’s David Hudson puts together a fine cache of recent Rosset profiles, including Loren Glass’s extensive feature for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Toward the beginning of that piece, Glass wrote, “It took over ten minutes for Rosset to mention Grove, and when he did it was in order to dismiss everything that had been written about it…‘People write about Grove — they think I came out of an egg or something.’ Barney Rosset did not come out of an egg.”
He did publish the unexpurgated version of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, however, a major landmark in censorship law and sex itself if you take Philip Larkin’s word for it (“Sexual intercourse began/In nineteen-sixty-three…Between the end of the Chatterly ban/And The Beatles first LP”). Lawrence’s novel is the source material for Pascale Ferran’s simmering Lady Chatterly, one of Fandor’s four Featured Films this week. The other three are A Swedish Midsummer Sex Comedy, which promises to give winter a shot in the arm; José Luis Guerín’s masterful In the City of Sylvia, described by J. Hoberman as “pure pleasure and pure cinema”; and Visions of a City, artist Lawrence Jordan’s own distillation of cinema as urban observation.
There are several deaths to report this week. Dick Anthony Williams, noted for his roles in both blaxploitation films and serious stage dramas, passed away last Thursday at 77. He played Malcolm X twice, in the 1978 mini-series “King” and in several productions of Jeff Stetson’s play, The Meeting. As co-founder of the New Federal Theater workshop, he had an immense influence on a subsequent generation of African American actors. Paul Vitello notes in his obituary for The New York Times that “The theater became a showcase for playwrights and actors including David Henry Hwang, Ntozake Shange, Amiri Baraka, Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.”
Blogger Cinetrix pulls up a post from 2005 in tribute to Marie Colvin, who died Wednesday covering the conflict in Syria: “Colvin, a foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times of London, is one of five female war reporters in doc-darling Barbara Kopple’s newest film…Bearing Witness. Holy shit, is Colvin badass…The film deserves my better-rested prose efforts: a full review TK, but the short version is see this film.”
Indiewire reports that the Tropfest short film showcase has teamed with Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the premiere Tropfest Vegas this June. Tropfest founder and director John Polson notes, “Tropfest filmmakers have created some ground-breaking short films over the years, and I’m thrilled the U.S. audience can experience them first hand with our All-Star competition.” A filmmaker in his own right, Polson’s Siam Sunset is streaming now on Fandor.