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 »

Dream Masters II: Tex Avery

From Film Comment (January-February 1975).  An expanded version of an entry for Richard Roud’s 1980, two-volume Cinema: A Critical Dictionary. (“Dream Masters I,” incidentally, which appeared in the same issue of Film Comment, is devoted to Walt Disney — a much longer essay that can be accessed here.) I was delighted to receive a handwritten letter of thanks from Avery himself sometime after this was published which I still have in one of my scrapbooks. And, for the record, despite my gripes here about the unlikeliness of a Paul Fejos Festival, I did actually attend a Paul Fejos retrospective at the Viennale in 2004, almost 30 years after this was written. — J.R.

Paris, late January, my deadline a week away (later postponed).Read more »

Richie’s Ozu: Our Prehistoric Present (Part 3)

good-morning-1959-003-laundry-hanging

For the first part of this article, go here. For the second part, go here.

 

Unfortunately, Richie’s division of Ozu into successive stages of ‘creation’ inevitably leads to the erection of a Platonic ideal, an all-purpose model of ‘the’ Ozu film — an unrigorous model indeed when what one concretely has to contend with are films, each with its own peculiar set of conditions and stresses. Since Richie has more production details about the later films, these tend to dictate most of the dimensions of the model, and the lost films implicitly become subsumed in the same homogenising process whenever Richie speaks about the entire body of the work. The usual approach is to lump together examples of certain aspects or procedures, leading to the formulation of such generalities as ‘the Ozu family’. This results in a profusion of catalogues, some quite nonsensical in presumed meanings and applications: ‘Another pastime to which the Ozu family is addicted is toenail cutting, an activity which seems worth mentioning because it occurs possibly more often in Ozu’s pictures (Late Spring, Early Summer, Late Autumn) than in Japanese life.’ In the long run, individual works are made to seem important or unimportant insofar as they help or fail to exemplify the hypothetical model.… 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 »

Theory of Film Practice

This book review appeared in the Winter 1974/5 issue of Sight and Sound. For illustrations, I’m including a contemporary photograph of the author, Noël Burch (seen here in Rotterdam with the late Allan Sekula) and two stills from Burch’s first and (probably) best film, Noviciat (1964 — only 18 minutes long, but including illustrations of a remarkable number of the formal procedures described in his book.

Shortly after this review appeared, I recall receiving a gratifying fan letter of sorts from James Leahy, a teacher at the Slade School in London and a devoted Burch disciple, at least at the time. — J.R.

Theory of Film Practice

THEORY OF FILM PRACTICE

By Noël Burch

Translated by Helen R. Lane

Secker & Warburg, ₤3.50 (paperback, ₤1.90)

Theory of Film Practice is at every point derived from and confirmed by the perception that film develops not through the contraints and coventions of an industry, but in opposition to them.” Thus Annette Michelson, in her exemplary introduction to this revised and updated English edition of Praxis du cinéma (1969), sets forth one salient fact about Noël Burch’s seminal work that clearly isolates it from the critical mainstream as we know it today.

There are many others: a total rejection of the illusionist principle which was expanded in depth by André Bazin (more precisely, extended into deep focus), and has subsequently been adopted as an unexamined postulate by most of his epigones; a ‘scientific’ approach that rigorously eschews journalism, sociology, literary analysis and the promulgation of moral concerns, however much it reflects Burch’s own aesthetic predilections; above all, an obstinate insistence on regarding films as sounds, images and the formal relationships between them.… 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 »

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 »

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 »