From the Autumn 1973 issue of Sight and Sound. — J.R.
Surfacing in Cannes in the worst of conditions — not quite finished, unsubtitled, shrieking with technical problems of all kinds, and dropped into the lap of an exhausted press fighting to stay awake through the fifteenth and final afternoon of the festival — Nicholas Ray’s WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN may have actually hurried a few critics back to their homes; but it probably shook a few heads loose in the process. Clearly it wasn’t the sort of experience anyone was likely to come to terms with, much less assimilate, in such an unfavorable setting, although the demands it makes on an audience would be pretty strenuous under any circumstances.
Created in collaboration with Ray’s film class at the State University of New York at Binghamton, and featuring Ray and his students, the film attempts to do at least five separate things at once: (1) describe the conditions and ramifications of the filmmaking itself, from observations at the editing table to all sorts of peripheral factors (e.g., a female student becoming a part-time prostitute in order to raise money for the film); (2) explore the political alienation experienced by many young Americans in the late 60s and early 70s; (3) demystify Ray’s image as a Hollywood director, in relation to both his film class and his audience; (4) implicate the private lives and personalities of Ray and his students in all of the preceding; and (5) integrate these concerns in a radical form that permits an audience to view them in several aspects at once.… Read more »
From Sight and Sound (Summer 1973). – J.R.
FILM AS FILM: Understanding and Judging Movies
By V.F. Perkins
PENGUIN BOOKS, 35p
Responding polemically to some of the more antiquated notions found in Rotha, Lindgren, Manvell, Arnheim and others, the title of Victor Perkins’ short and engaging book carries a sympathetic resonance. A major part of his enterprise is to clear away cobwebs from the attics of film theory and lay a few outdated texbooks to rest, and ‘Film as Film’ adequately summarizes the central thrust of his yarious charges. But as we know, theories arc usually debunked to clear the way for newer models, and as soon as Perkins’ own theory gets under way, his title begins to seem much more inclusive than anything he claims to offer in his text. Unavoidably, alternate titles come to mind: “Action as Presentation”, or, perhaps more to the point, ‘Movie as Movie’.
As Perkins indicates in his preface, ‘The examples discussed are not drawn from the (rightly or wrongly) accepted classics of Film Art nor from the fashionable “triumphs” of the past few years, but generally from films which seem to represent what the Movies meant to their public in the cinema’s commercial heyday.’ What
is meant by this is not, say, Gone with the Wind, King Kong or Casablanca, but rather the films of Preminger, Hitchcock, Minnelli, Brooks, Fuller and Nicholas Ray — in short, an abbreviated paraphrase of the pantheon that dominated the pages of Movie in the 1960s.… Read more »
Originally published in the May-June 1973 issue of Film Comment; it’s reprinted, along with my 2002 Afterword, in my latest collection, Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia. (The following paragraphs are now slightly out of date, but I’ve retained them as records of where things stood at the time.)
Reprinting this piece has been prompted by two exciting pieces of news: the relaunching of a Raymond Durgnat website, thanks to the efforts of one of Durgnat’s old friends, Sue Ritchie, and the long, long overdue second edition of Durgnat’s irreplaceable 1970 book A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Influence, which the British Film Institute is bringing out next month, thanks to the efforts of another old friend, Kevin Gough-Yates, who provided a new Introduction (and has also been behind the earlier creation and the recent recreation of the Durgnat website).
The website, at raymonddurgnat.com, currently includes a biographical sketch, a very detailed, hefty, and rather awesome bibliography, four poems by Ray (all of them veritable collectors’ items), four “additional resources and links,” a Raymond Durgnat Forum that awaits commentary from visitors, and nine full-length articles that can be linked through the bibliography. One hopes that many more attractions, especially texts, can be added in the future, for a world is still waiting to be found in Durgnat’s writing.… Read more »
This article and interview was originally published in the May-June 1973 issue of Film Comment, roughly half a year after the interview took place. I went to work for Tati as a script consultant several weeks after I had the interview, but well before it appeared in print. A few years ago, this piece was reprinted online in the Southern arts magazine Drain. —J.R.
An Interview and Introduction
Like all of the very great comics, before making us laugh, Tati creates a universe. A world arranges itself around his character, crystallizes like a supersaturated solution around a grain of salt. Certainly the character created by Tati is funny, but almost accessorily, and in any case always relative to the universe. He can be personally absent from the most comical gags, for M. Hulot is only the metaphysical incarnation of a disorder that is perpetuated long after his passing.
It is regrettable that André Bazin’s seminal essay on Jacques Tati (“M. Hulot et le temps,” 1953, in Qu’est-ce que Ie cinéma?… Read more »
This is by far the most challenging book review I’ve ever had to write. I wrote it during my extended stint in Paris (1969-74), after requesting the assignment from an editor at The Village Voice. I was already a big Pynchon fan by then, having already reviewed The Crying of Lot 49 for my college newspaper, The Bard Observer. Years later, I would review both Vineland and Against the Day for the Chicago Reader, and Mason & Dixon for In These Times. I’ve recently been assigned to review Pynchon’s next novel – Inherent Vice, due out in early August — for Slate.
Eventually, after getting assigned to review Gravity’s Rainhow for the Voice in 1973, I received a copy of the bound, uncorrected galleys resembling the one seen below on the right, the marked-up copy of which I still possess today. One significant difference between this version and the published one is the epigraph preceding the fourth and final section, “The Counterforce”. In the published version, which I received shortly before completing my review, this is, “What?” — Richard M. Nixon. In the uncorrected proofs, this is, “She has brought them to her senses, /They have laughed inside her laughter, /Now she rallies her defenses, /For she fears someone will ask her /For eternity — /And she’s so busy being free….” — Joni Mitchell.… Read more »
From Film Comment (January-February 1973). — J.R.
JEAN RENOIR: THE WORLD OF HIS FILMS by Leo Braudy. Doubleday & Co., New York, 1972; hardcover $8.95; 286 pages; illustrations, index.
I’ve often wondered why a disproportionate amount of bad film criticism comes from English teachers. One would suppose that anyone devoted to narrative, lyric and dramatic structures would have some sensitivity for and interest in movies, but look at the recent issues of literary magazines like Modern Occasions, Partisan Review and The New York Review of Books and see what they usually have to offer in their “movie chronicles”: bilious, solipsistic professors who waste their time at EASY RIDER and THE GRADUATE (or DEATH IN VENICE and THE GO-BETWEEN) and then conclude that film is a “low art” or an overrated medium because these works don’t live up to the claims of their publicists. Even a critic like Stanley Kauffmann — who should know better — will complain (in a recent Film Comment) that “a list of memorable foreign films” for 1970 would only run to three or four titles, implicitly making the assumption that he’s seen all the likely candidates: a standard literary procedure, at least in America.
Fortunately, Leo Braudy, an English teacher, shares none of the false snobbery and little of the myopia about film that tends to plague his profession.… Read more »
From the January 1973 issue of the short-lived Saturday Review of the Arts. — J.R.
Henri Langlois’s latest creation, the Cinema Museum in Paris, finally opened last summer, a year and a half behind schedule. Only a few of the exhibits were labeled, and five months later the long-awaited catalogue of the exposition has not yet appeared. But even in its present state, the Cinémathèque Française is already the most influential film archive in the world.
Langlois’s “Seventy-five Years of Word Cinema” occupies sixty rooms in the curving promenade of the Palais de Chaillot, directrly across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower; the present exhibit represents less than one-tenth of the Cinémathèque’s collection of movie memorabilia. From the beginning, the Turkish-born film historian has tried to save everything: to impose selective criteria, he believes,is to anticipate the critical standards of the future. If the result is a cross between a crowded attic and a carnival funhouse, with all its calculated effects, this approach also permitted such young critics as Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, and François Truffaut in the 1950s to take crash courses in every kind of cinema before making their own movies.
The vision of the Cinémathèque’s founder encompasses both Marilyn Monroe and Eisenstein; stray souvenirs and essential artifacts are given equal prominence.… Read more »
From The Real Paper (January 17, 1973).
As I recall, this was my only contribution to this Boston alternative weekly, commissioned by the late Stuart Byron. He asked me to review the film because I was the only colleague of his who defended it when it was shown at the 1972 New York Film Festival, where everyone else, at least within his earshot, considered it an unmitigated disaster — which probably accounts in part for my defensive, almost apologetic tone, which I now regret. I suspect that part of my problem with conceptualizing the film came from my confusion of “science fiction” with the French category of “fantastique,” which incorporates Surrealism and its tolerance for fantasy as well as science fiction. So it’s gratifying to see Manohla Dargis declaring the film a masterpiece at the time of its early 2014 run at New York’s Film Forum, and doing an infinitely better job of saying why than I was able to muster 40-odd years earlier, writing from Paris. — J.R.
At first glance, Alain Resnais’ fifth feature seems as sharp a decline from La Guerre est finie, his previous film, as that one was from Muriel. The science-fiction situation that frames the main body of the narrative is so clumsily sketched in and illogically developed that it emerges as unintelligible; we can accept the time-travel experiment that goes haywire and sends its subject bouncing through the previous year of his life either as an awkward contrivance leading us into the past of Claude Ridder (Claude Rich) or not at all.… Read more »