Monthly Archives: January 1975

London Journal (1975)

From Film Comment (January-February 1975). (January 23, 2012 update: Thanks, once again, to the ever-vigilant Ehsan  K for spotting a few typos here and thus enabling me to correct them.)– J.R.

October 8: Victor Erice’s EL ESPIRITU DE LA COLMENA (THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE). I’ve been trying all weekend to come up with an adequate description of this lovely Spanish film, but I can’t get anywhere. A colleague recently spoke of the film as “beguiling,” which seems like an honest start. Two remarkably expressive little girls, Ana Torrent and Isabel Telleria, see James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN at a traveling film show that stops in their village in Castille. Afterwards, Isabel explains to her sister that the monster is still alive — and indeed, he makes a brief appearance in the final reel. The girls’ father is a bee-keeper who broods over Maeterlinck, while the mother writes unexplained letters to someone in France. Isabel plays dead for a bit, and Ana believes her. Ana befriends a fugitive soldier who is eventually killed.

I don’t know what sense to make of either the plot or Erice’s beautiful honey-tone colors and honeycomb compositions, but I find the film haunting and rather spellbinding in a muted way, and emotionally it all seems to add up to something.… Read more »

IL BOSS/MURDER INFERNO (1975 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, January 1975 (vol. 42, no. 492). –- J.R.

IlBoss-ad 

 

Boss, Il (Murder Inferno)

Italy, 1973

Director: Fernando Di Leo

ilboss

Sicily. Under orders from Mafia chieftain Don Corrasco, Nick Lanzetta sneaks into a projection booth to murder most of Cocchi’s gang of mobsters while they are watching a pornographic film. The next day, other members of the Cocchi gang kidnap Rina, the teenage daughter of Daniello, a high-ranking member of the Corralsco clan, offering to spare her life in exchange for her father’s. Corrasco refuses to abide by this trade, despite Daniello’s willingness, and orders Lanzetta to kill him if he tries to negotiate a deal – an eventuality that shortly comes to pass. Police officer Torri, while investigating the screening room massacre, is severely chastised by his chief Questore for tapping the phones of the members of the rival clans. Meanwhile, Rina is enjoying her captivity – particularly sex with her captors, whom she takes on singly and in pairs. An informer tells Gnzeita the address of the hideaway, and after the former is murdered for spite, Lanzetta kills Rina’s captors and takes her to his own flat, where he is shocked to discover her unshaken by Daniello’s death and eager to seduce him.… Read more »

IL BOSS/MURDER INFERNO (1975 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, January 1975 (Vol. 42, No. 492). -– J.R.

Italy, 1973
Director: Fernando Di Leo

Sicily. Under orders from Mafia chieftain Don Corrasco [Richard Conte], Nick Lanzetta [Henry Silva] sneaks into a projection booth to murder most of Cocchi’s gang of mobsters while they are watching a pornographic film. The next day, other members of the Cocchi gang kidnap Rina [Antonia Santilli], the teenage daughter of Daniello, a high-ranking member of the Corrasco clan, offering to spare her life in exchange for her father’s. Corrasco refuses to abide by this trade, despite Daniello’s willingness, and orders Lanzetta to kill him if he tries to negotiate a deal — an eventuality that shortly comes to pass. Police officer Torri, while investigating the screening room massacre, is severely chastised by his chief Questore for tapping the phones of the members of the rival clans. Meanwhile, Rina is enjoying her captivity — particularly sex with her captors, whom she takes on singly and in pairs. An informer tells Lanzetta the address of the hideaway, and after the former is murdered for spite, Lanzetta kills Rina’s captors and takes her to his own flat, where he is shocked to discover her unshaken by Daniello’s death and eager to seduce him.… Read more »

MACHORKA-MUFF (1975 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, January 1975 (Vol. 42, No. 492). — J.R.

Machorka-Muff

West Germany/Monaco, 1963 Director: Jean-Marie Straub

Germany, in the early 1950s. Colonel Machorka-Muff arrives in

Bonn to see his mistress Inn and continue his efforts to clear the

name of General Hürlanger-Hiss from disgrace after his retreat at

Schwichi-Schwalache during World War II. At his hotel the next

morning, after meeting and exchanging pleasantries with a lower

rank officer he commanded, he also sees Murcks-Maloche from the

Ministry, who informs the Colonel that he is to give the dedication

address at the foundation-laying ceremony to inaugurate the

Hürlanger-Hiss Academy of Military Memories. After the Colonel

spends the morning walking through Bonn, Inn picks him up in her

Porsche and they drive to her flat and make love. She wakes him a

few hours later to announce the arrival of the Minister of Defense,

who presents him with a general’s uniform and drives him to the

ceremony; there Machorka-Muff announces in his dedication that

Hürlanger-Hiss made his retreat after losing 14,700 men, not “only”

8,500 as previously-thought. At mass the next morning, Inn

recognizes the second, fifth and sixth of her seven former husbands,

and Machorka-Muff announces that he will be the eighth; afterwards,

the priest explains that there will be no problem in having a church

wedding because all of her former marriages were Protestant ones.… Read more »

SHORT AND SUITE (1975 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, January 1975 (Vol. 42, No. 492). — J.R.

Short and Suite

Canada, 1959 Directors: Norman McLaren, Evelyn Lambert

Dist—BFI. p.c–National Film Board of Canada. visuals–Norman

McLaren, Evelyn Lambert. In color. sp. effects–Arnold Schieman.

m–Eldon Rathburn. performed by–The Buff Estes Group. 450 ft.

5 mins. (35 and 16mm.).

A characteristically bright, giggly and pithy animated short in

the McLaren manner, Short and Suite would probably be better still

if it had more inspired music to work with. Begone Dull Care (1948-

49), thanks to the ebullience and effervescence of Oscar Peterson’s

piano, was closer to a duel than a gloss on a ‘text’; this more modest

foray into synchronized, syncopated doodling plays with and against

a less improvised, less distinctive form of jazz, which is certainly

enhanced and highlighted by the visuals, but is not exactly transcended

by them. Beginning with pink and blue splotches to illustrate the bass

notes, and then clean white lines to match those played by the piano,

the design resolves itself into shifting parallel lines as the clarinet

comes in. Sometimes the lines wiggle or pulsate in strict

accordance with the music (one line reflecting the melody, the

other the rhythm), sometimes they curl into other shapes that

suggest the equivalent of a separate melodic line.… Read more »

HARRY AND TONTO (1975 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, January 1975 (Vol. 42, No. 492). -– J.R.

Harry and Tonto

U.S.A., 1974
Director: Paul Mazursky

Harry Coombs, an elderly widower who lives with his cat Tonto, is evicted from his West Side Manhattan apartment when the building is slated for demolition. After spending some time in the suburban home of his son Burt, where he tends To sympathize with the vow of silence taken by his grandson Norman over the objections of the latter’s parents and more conventional brother, he decides to visit his daughter Shirley in Chicago. Quarrelling with security officials at the airport about his carrying case for Tonto, he decides to go to Chicago by bus, but leaves the vehicle en route when Tonto refuses to relieve himself in the bus toilet. He buys a used car and picks up Ginger, a runaway- teenager, who decides to accompany him and persuades him to look up an old flame, Jessie, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she is residing in an old folks, home. In Chicago he re-encounters Norman, dispatched by Burt to bring him back to New York; but after a short stay with Shirley, he decides to drive West with Norman and Ginger.… Read more »

THE PROJECTIONIST (1975 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, January 1975 (Vol. 42, No. 492). -– J.R.

The Projectionist
U.S.A., 1970

Director: Harry Hurwitz

Chuck, a stocky film projectionist who works in midtown Manhattan, hears on a radio about an old man mugged on the Lower East Side, and imagines himself coming to the rescue as Captain Flash. The reverie is broken off by the arrival of his friend Harry, an usher, who hears him describe meeting a pretty girl on the way to work (provoking a romantic-movie pastiche); this is interrupted in turn by Renaldi, the tyrannical theatre manager, who orders Harry out of the booth. Chuck next fantasizes a preview,’The Terrible World of Tomorrow”, before getting off work. As Captain Flash, he loses a fight with the thugs, and the old man informs him that The Bat is after his death ray; they proceed to The Bat’s hideout, where Flash sees the same pretty girl he had described to Harry. In the cinema lobby, Chuck chats with the Czech candy man, who is eventually reprimanded by Renaldi for giving Chuck free lemon drops from the counter. Chuck imagines another preview (“The Wonderful World of Tomorrow”) and a Flash episode in which he visits ‘Rick’s Bar’ in Casablanca and tangles with a prehistoric beast in The Bat’s cave.… Read more »

OCCASIONAL WORK OF A FEMALE SLAVE (with Yehuda Safran, 1975)

Cowritten by Yehuda Safran (a lecturer in the philosophy of art with whom I was sharing a flat in Hamstead at the time), and published in the Winter 1974/75 issue of Sight and Sound. It seems fair to say that this review (from the 1974 London Film Festival) is in some ways more Yehuda’s than mine. Note: This film has more recently been called Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave in some English-speaking countries. -– J.R.

Occasional work

‘Roswitha feels an enormous power within her,’ Alexander Kluge remarks offscreen at the outset of his latest feature, ‘and cinema teaches her that this power exists.’ The task of making the invisible visible is essentially the project of a director more concerned with social and political history than with film history, who seems to regard his work as a translation of ideas into sounds and images rather than the other way round. What matters is what the words and images ‘say’ and imply in relation to each other -– not their independent formal qualities, but their capacity of modify and explicate a complex experience.

What do Kluge’s opening words say and imply? That film is a means of translating potentiality into actuality, feeling into thought, experience into understanding –- the very problem that Roswitha Bronski (Alexandra Kluge, the director’s sister) is struggling to cope with over the film’s duration.… Read more »

Dream Masters I: Walt Disney (Part Two)

This is the second and final part of an article published in the January-February 1975 Film Comment. — J.R.

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Towards an aesthetic evaluation. For critics of the Thirties and the early Forties, Disney was an essential figure in the arts. Eisenstein declared him to be the most interesting filmmaker in America, and over the decade that followed, Erwin Panofsky praised the early cartoons and “certain sequences” in the later ones as “a chemically pure distillation of cinematic possibilities”; Gilbert Seldes offered many sympathetic critiques; and even E.M. Forster published a brief tribute to Mickey Mouse. Lewis Jacobs’ assessment of Disney in The Rise of the American Film is certainly more likely to raise eyebrows today than it was in 1939:

“In the realm of films that combine sight, sound, and color Disney is still unsurpassed. The wise heir of forty years of film tradition, he consummates the cinematic contributions of Méliès, Porter, Griffith, and the Europeans [sic]. He has done more with the film medium since it added sound and color than any other director, creating a form that is of great and vital consequence not only for what it is but for what it portends.… Read more »

Dream Masters I: Walt Disney (Part One)

From Film Comment (January-February 1975). Although this is obviously dated in many respects, and most likely contains some errors, I’ve made only a few revisions while transcribing it. Given the length, I’ve decided to post this in two parts, with the second part to be posted later today.

This is a much-expanded entry written originally for Richard Roud’s two-volume Cinema: A Critical Dictionary (1980). It was mainly researched while I was still living in Paris in the mid-1970s, and I can recall having had lots of difficulties attending various kids-only screenings of Disney cartoon features, and convincing various theater managers that my interests were strictly scholarly and I wasn’t a dirty old man. — J.R.

http://www.sitcomsonline.com/photopost/data/2860/waltdisney_moon.jpg

In some respects, there may be no cultural figure in the West as potentially controversial as Walt Disney,  even though love and hatred for what Disney represents are frequently felt by the same people. At the same time, there is certainly no other filmmaker whose aesthetic and ideological preoccupations have permeated so much of modern life that, paradoxically, his omnipresence verges on invisibility. Even beyond the grave, continuing manifestations of his vision have become some integral to American society that they are commonly regarded as natural and relatively unquestioned parts of the landscape, like a salt shaker or a babysitter or a place to go on vacation.… Read more »

Exchange with Charles Wolfe on Claude Chabrol (1975)

From Film Comment (January-February 1975). This was a good eight years before I became a colleague of Chuck Wolfe at the Film Studies program University of California, Santa Barbara, where I found myself trapped in a dead-end jobfor four years before my 20-year stint at the Chicago Reader. — J.R.

 

To the editor:

Contrary to Jonathan Rosenbaum’s introduction to his interview with Jacques Rivette (Film Comment, Sept.-Oct.1974), the first major Cahiers critic to embark on a feature film was Claude Chabrol, not Rivette. Chabrol shot LE BEAU SERGE between December 1957 and February 1958, finished editing in May, and presented the film at the Locarno festival that year. Rivette began work on PARIS NOUS APPARTIENT in the summer of 1958 while Chabrol filmed his second feature, LES COUSINS. This information is confirmed in Claire Clouzot’s Le Cinéma Français depuis la nouvelle vague and Guy Braucourt’s Cinéma d’aujourd hui volume on Chabrol.

All this may seem trivial, but it reflects a general misunderstanding of Chabrol’s crucial role n the transition of the Cahiers critics from writers to filmmakers.… Read more »