From Film Comment, November-December 1972 and Discovering Orson Welles (California, 2007) — the latter of which includes the following introduction. My apologies for some occasional glitches in the formatting, which I haven’t managed to rectify. — J.R.
The following article was inspired by my having been lent Welles’s first film script by the late, Cuban-born film critic Carlos Clarens while we were both living in Paris. This was supplemented eventually by my meeting with Welles, and initially by research in the library at that city’s American Center and correspondence with Richard Wilson, a longtime Welles associate who was probably unique among his close collaborators in his scholarly meticulousness (as evidenced in his suberb rebuttal to an article by Charles Higham about IT’S ALL TRUE, appropriately entitled “It’s Not Quite All True,” in the Autumn 1970 issue of Sight and Sound – an essay that lamentably had no sequels).
As a former graduate student at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in English and American Literature (1966-69) who had dropped out shortly before moving to Paris, I was still somewhat under the sway of that academic training when I wrote this piece, which partially accounts for its literary orientation.… Read more »
Here is another one of my Paris Journals for Film Comment – the first one, I believe, after the magazine shifted from being a quarterly to a bimonthly publication. Once again, I think part of the reason for reproducing this now is its value as a period piece. — J.R.
April 23: A screening of Dziga Vertov’s ENTHUSIASM (1930), organized by the magazine Cinéthique, at Residence de l’École centrale in Chatenay Malabry, a suburb of Paris. After taking a train and a bus, I find myself on an eerie, newly-built college campus — faceless buildings with hardly any windows or doors visible, each separated from the others by vast, empty spaces, like solitary islands: more creepy and ominous than anything in UCLA or Alphaville. After much wandering around, I find myself on the appropriate floor of the appropriate building and am directed down a long dark hallway. Each door in the hallway leads into a classroom, and each classroom — there are six in all — contains two television sets. Gradually, it becomes clear that the film will be shown close-circuit on a dozen sets, and one is free to pick whichever classroom and set one likes.
Vertov’s first sound film, principally concerned with the spirited group effort by miners of the Don coal basin, is a lyrical articulation of the exhilaration of that effort – the fusion of isolated energies and personalities in a common force.… Read more »
From the Summer 1972 issue of Sight and Sound. This was my first contribution to that magazine. — J.R.
Godard’s collected criticism (1) is many things at once: informal history (1950–1967) of the arts in general and film in particular, spiritual and intellectual autobiography, a theory of aesthetics, a grab bag of puns. For those who read the pieces when they first appeared — chiefly in the yellow-covered Cahiers du Cinéma and the newspaper format of Arts — it was frequently ill-mannered gibberish that began to be vindicated (or amplified) when the films followed, retrospectively becoming a form of prophecy:
Each shot of MAN OF THE WEST gives one the impression that Anthony Mann is reinventing the Western, exactly as Matisse’s portraits reinvent the features of Piero della Francesca . . . in other words, he both shows and demonstrates, innovates and copies, criticizes and creates.
For those who encounter the films first, it is likely to seem like an anthology of footnotes serving to decipher and augment what may have once seemed like ill-mannered gibberish on the screen. But for those more interested in continuity than cause and effect, it rounds out a seventeen-year body of work — from an article on Joseph Mankiewicz in Gazette du Cinéma to the “Fin du Cinéma” title concluding WEEKEND — that has already transformed much of the vocabulary and syntax of modern narrative film, further illustrating a style that has passed from avant-garde to neoclassical in less than a decade.… Read more »
I’m still hoping that Sam Fuller’s most personal film (1952), which he financed himself and was a personal favorite, will become available eventually on DVD. (I erroneously stated here that it’s included in a Criterion Eclipse set until a correspondent thoughtfully corrected me.) –J.R.
From Paris Journal, Film Comment, Summer 1972 (excerpt):
Nearly two decades have elapsed between the making of Samuel Fuller’s PARK ROW and its premiere at the Cinema Mac-Mahon. In the interim, Fuller has gone from being a cause célèbre in France to a critical industry in England, where no less than three books on his films have already appeared. A major limitation of this overkill, which is threatening to “assimilate” Douglas Sirk as its next victim, is its absolute humorlessness — a quality that was rarely present in Godard’s or Luc Moullet’s writing on either director in the 50s. Reviewing Sirk’s A TIME TO LOVE AND A TIME TO DIE, Godard affirmed that “ you have to talk about this kind of thing…deliriously, you can be quietly, or passionately delirious, but delirious you have to be, for the logic of delirium is the only logic that Sirk has ever bothered about.” In addition to being about as delirious as the London Times, most of the English writing about Sirk and Fuller suffers from myopia as well.… Read more »
This is the first thing I ever wrote about Ozu’s films. I’ve subsequently come to value Hen in the Wind much more than I did in 1972, above all as an expression of Japanese’s humiliation after the end of the war and during the American occupation. — J.R.
From Paris Journal, Film Comment, Summer 1972 (excerpt):
A recent screening of eight Ozu films at the Cinémathèque was, for Paris, an event of some importance. To date, not a single film by Ozu has received distribution in France, and local ignorance about his work extends to such places as Cahiers du Cinéma and Positif, which in their combined 368 issues have failed to publish a single article about him.
A particular revelation was WIFE FOR A NIGHT, which contradicted at least half of the received ideas that have been circulating about Ozu elsewhere. One of the ten silent films that he made in 1930, this remarkable American-style thriller begins and ends mainly in exteriors: a desperate robbery and escape at night, the criminal being led away at dawn. Virtually all of the intervening action is contained in the robber’s one-room flat, where he, his ailing daughter, his wife, and a policeman stand nervous vigil over one another for the night’s duration.… Read more »
From Film Comment (Spring 1972). — J.R.
According to the current issue of Pariscope – an indispensable guide to local moviegoing 260 films will have public screenings in Paris this week: 217 at commercial theaters, and 43 at the two Cinémathèques. By rough count, only 67 of these (about one fourth) are French. A hundred more are American, and the remaining 93 are split between fifteen other nationalities. Of the non-French films, approximately 40% are subtitled; except for a dozen or so at the Cinémathèques that will be shown without translation, the rest are dubbed.
It is possible that New York is beginning to surpass Paris in the number of interesting films that one can see. Yet the paradox remains that, if one excludes television – an incomplete form of film-watching at best – Paris maintains a decisive edge in narrative American cinema. To list only a dozen of the current undubbed features, is there anywhere else in the world where one can see ANATOMY OF A MURDER, ALL ABOUT EVE, DUCK SOUP, EASTER PARADE, MODERN TIMES, SALLY OF THE SAWDUST, THE SALVATION HUNTERS, SCARFACE, STAGECOACH, THE STRONG MAN, TABU, and THE WEDDING MARCH in a single week?
Aside from this particular kind of richness, there are pleasures, courtesies, and conveniences – as well as a few irritations – involved with Parisian moviegoing that one takes for granted here, but would not expect to find in the states.… Read more »