Monthly Archives: April 1971

Two Nights of an Extra: Working with Bresson

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 »

Letter to Sight and Sound about SPITE MARRIAGE (1971)

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 »