I suspect that the easiest money I’ve ever made in my
entire life as a writer was the year I mainly supported
myself, 1974-75, during my fifth and final year of living
in Paris, by writing capsule film reviews for a monthly
magazine in English called Oui — a joint publishing
effort of Hugh Hefner in Chicago and Daniel Fillipachi
(the publisher of Lui and, for a long stretch in the 1960s,
Cahiers du Cinéma) in Paris. At a time when I was struggling
to make ends meet -– my inheritance money having run
out, and my other freelance jobs being few and far
between -– my life was virtually saved by Terry Curtis Fox,
a Chicago-based associate editor of Oui, who engaged
me to write reviews for the magazine on a regular basis.
If memory serves, this paid $50 a review (a fortune
at the time), and I could pretty much select which films
I wrote about as long as the two-page section of the magazine
called “Prevue” could meet its monthly “tits and ass”
quotient with its illustrations, which the magazine gathered
on its own. So I wound up writing about the latest films of
Jacques Rivette, Robert Bresson, Carmelo Bene, Maurice
Pialat, Alain Resnais, and everything else I could find that
interested me, usually averaging two or three reviews per
issue, starting off with the latest films of Alain Robbe-
Grillet and Marco Ferreri in their May 1974 issue.… Read more »
This appeared as the lead article in the May-June 1974 issue of Film Comment – a somewhat pared-down revamping of my entry about Stroheim for Richard Roud’s belatedly published Cinema: A Critical Dictionary (New York: The Viking Press, 1980), and, if memory serves, the longest of my several contributions to that long out-of-print collection. I’m sorry that I’ve been unable to illustrate this more precisely with most of the shots that I describe.
I’m in Lisbon this week to lecture on Erich von Stroheim at the Cinematheque here, starting this evening with Blind Husbands. – J.R.
Second Thoughts on Stroheim
by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Total object, complete with missing parts,
instead of partial object. Question of degree.
– Samuel Beckett, “Three Dialogues”
Two temptations present themselves to any modern reappraisal of Erich von Stroheim’s work; one of them is fatal, the other all but impossible to act upon. The fatal temptation would be to concentrate on the offscreen image and legend of Stroheim to the point of ignoring central facts about the films themselves: an approach that has unhappily characterized most critical work on Stroheim to date. On the other hand, one is tempted to look at nothing but the films — to suppress biography, anecdotes, newspaper reviews, reminiscences, and everything else that isn’t plainly visible on the screen.… Read more »
From Film Comment (May-June 1974). Apart from my responses here to Malle, Whale, and Fejos, I no longer identify with most of what I wrote here, over 41 years later. Much of this -– especially my reactions to Ferreri and The Great Garrick — was strongly influenced at the time by my friendship with the late Eduardo de Gregorio. – J.R.
The word is out that Marco Ferreri’s TOUCHE PAS LA FEMME BLANCHE (DON’T TOUCH THE WHITE WOMAN) isn’t making it at the box office. The notion of staging a semi-political, semi-nonsensical Western in Les Halles seems to be bewildering French audiences, even when they laugh, and neither the presence of Michel Piccoli, Marcello Mastroianni, Philippe Noiret, and Ugo Tognazzi, nor the singular glace of Catherine Deneuve as the white woman, appears to have turned the trick. Our local Philistine, Thomas Quinn Curtiss in the International Herald Tribune, was distinctly sourced by the experience: “The subject is certainly serviceable for caricature, but Ferreri’s hand is so clumsy that the result is rather a burlesque of the cow operas of his homeland…All is grotesque, but nothing is funny in this wild, tasteless travesty that consistently misses its targets.” When I mentioned liking the film to a French colleague on the phone, I can almost swear I heard an audible shudder creep across the lines.… Read more »