This is the first of all my Paris Journals for Film Comment, written for their Fall 1971 issue, and also the first piece I ever published in that magazine, when it was still a quarterly. This Journal is missing only its first section — a somewhat misinformed and misconstrued account of an ongoing feud at the time between Cahiers du Cinéma and Positif that I see little point in recycling now. (I’ve corrected a few errors here, but also left in a few others — such as the running time and title of OUT 1 — to preserve some period flavor.) I wound up writing this column for virtually every issue of the magazine, which soon afterwards became a bimonthly, for my remaining three years in Paris, then transformed it into a London Journal during my two and a half years in the U.K., and finally turned it into a column called “Moving” for a brief spell after I moved back to the United States in early 1977. (If memory serves, the last of the “Moving” columns became the prelude to my first book, Moving Places: A Life at the Movies, published by Harper & Row in 1980.) —J.R.… Read more »
Yearly Archives: 1971
When I previously reprinted on this site my first Paris Journal for Film Comment, from their Fall 1971 issue, I omitted the entire opening section, largely because of its embarrassing misinformation (both naive and ill-informed) in detailing the background of the ongoing feud at the time between Cahiers du Cinéma and Positif. But for the sake of the historical record, I’ve decided to reprint it now, along with a lengthy letter from Positif’s editorial board and my reply to it two issues later. — J.R.
Of all the gang wars waged over the past thirteen years between Cahiers du Cinéma and Positif, the latest appears to be the most extensive and the least illuminating. When Truffaut ridiculed Positif for anti- intellectualism and self-serving vanity in 1958, Cahiers‘ orientation was Catholic-conservative while its leading rival was surrealist and leftist; the former enshrined Hollywood while the latter denigrated it as imperialist. When Positif launched a lengthy counter-offensive in 1962 (amply documented in Peter Graham’s anthology, The New Wave), the terms of the equation had already begun to shift: many Cahiers critics were already beginning to veer away from their backgrounds as they became filmmakers, and Positif was starting to develop a stable of its own Hollywood auteurs, like John Huston and Jerry Lewis.… Read more »
This page of festival coverage in The Village Voice (June 17, 1971) appeared (without any photos) after my second trip to the festival; if memory serves, my first trip there, in 1970, yielded no writing at all. One complication about this piece is that Amos Vogel and I jointly discovered after arriving at the festival that a separate editor at the Voice had given each of us the assignment of “covering” the festival. After Amos checked back at the front office about this, it was agreed at the Voice that we both write coverage, about separate films, which we wound up doing for two years in a row.
I think this article manages to convey some of the political flavor of the early 70s, although it’s worth adding that all the films listed here with the exception of Sontag’s Brother Carl are currently either available on DVD or are about to be (e.g., Portabella’s Cuadecuc – Vampir, identified here incorrectly as Vampyr). Indeed, strange as it seems, the most “out of date” detail here is a single shot I describe in Cuadecuc – Vampir (“a ghoulishly made-up actress making a face at someone between takes”), which Portabella inexplicably (and lamentably) has subsequently removed from the film.… Read more »
From the Village Voice (April 25, 1971). This was the first piece I ever published there, and I’ve done a light edit (in October 2012) in order to make it a little more bearable to me. The “Indian girl” [sic] mentioned here, who subsequently became a very good friend, was Munni Kabir; as Nasreen Munni Kabir, she is identified today on Wikipedia as an author and TV producer, based in the U.K., and about ten years ago, I saw her again in London when she came to a public discussion I was having with Geoff Andrew about the short films of Kiarostami.
I believe I was mistaken about the seasonal setting of the Dostoevsky story, and apologized profusely about this to Bresson himself when he expressed interest in reading this article (which he conveyed to me via Munni, along with his address) and I sent him a copy, along with a note; I still have a copy of his gracious thank-you note, sent to me in Alabama, including his assurance that my error wasn’t very important….My subsequent encounters with (or, more precisely, sightings of) Bresson in Paris occurred at a screening of White Nights at the Cinematheque’s auditorium on Rue d’Ulm, a private screening of Susan Sontag’s Promised Lands, and two successive private screenings of Lancelot du Lac with members of his cast and crew.… Read more »
From Sight and Sound, Spring 1971. This letter, which preceded my first article for the magazine by a little over a year, was mainly prompted by my having attended a public screening of a Keaton feature in London with a ruinous piano accompaniment. –- J.R.
SIR, — John Gillett’s comments about Spite Marriage in the Winter 1970/71 SIGHT AND SOUND gainsome relevance if one refers to Rudi Blesh’s Keaton (Secker & Warburg, 1966), where one learns that Keaton had tried to convince Irving Thalberg to make Spite Marriage with sound. ‘It needn’t be one long yak-yak,’ Keaton is reported to have said to Thalberg. ‘There’s nothing wrong with sound that a little silence won’t cure….I visualise sound effects. When you fall down and go boom, you really go boom. But leave the wisecracks and the bad puns and the dirty jokes to the burlesque comedians…. Let the man say, “Now you go and do this,” and then we go about our silent business with sound all around us.’
Immediately relevant to this information is the fact that Spite Marriage is one of the ‘noisiest’ of all silent films in its various visual strategies for suggesting sound, a quality that is only enhanced by its showing in Paris without musical accompaniment.… Read more »
The year before I started my Paris Journal for Film Comment, in late 1970 and/or early 1971, I wrote a couple of prototypes for it for a short-lived magazine, On Film, that didn’t survive long enough to print either one of them. In fact, On Film never made it past its lavishly glossy first issue, which was devoted mainly to Otto Preminger. Not all of either of these columns has survived either, but here is the first entry in the second of these columns, which did. — J.R.
November 6: Howard Hawks’s FIG LEAVES at the Cinémathèque.
Twenty days ago, I concluded my previous column with remarks about Ozu’s TOKYO STORY. Since then, I’ve seen or reseen a dozen films; Mizoguchi’s SISTERS OF THE GION and THE CRUCIFIED WOMAN, Franju’s THOMAS L’IMPOSTEUR, Kramer’s ICE, Malraux’s L’ESPOIR, Tati’s PLAYTIME, Demy’s THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT, Minnelli’s CABIN IN THE SKY, Mankiewicz’s THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN, Godard’s MASCULIN-FEMININE, Ray’s BIGGER THAN LIFE, and now Hawks’s second film, a comedy made in 1926.… Read more »