From Monthly Film Bulletin, December 1976 (Vol. 43, No. 515). — J.R.
One Second in Montreal
Director: Michael Snow
Dist–London Filmmakers’ Co-op/Cinegate. p.c /p/ph/ed–Michael Snow. 612 ft. (at 16 f.p.s.) 26 mins.; (at 24 f .p.s.) 17 mins.
A series of thirty-odd black and white still photographs – all showing park sites for a projected monument in Montreal covered with blankets of snow — are rephotographed and shown in succession; the duration of each photograph on the screen progressively increases during the first section of the film, and progressively decreases during the second, which ends with a ‘flash’ repeat of the initial title card. A simple experiment in what might be described as the phenomenology of duration in relation to the viewer’s attention and grasp of detail, One Second in Montreal apparently owes its title to the fact that the combined exposure time of the original photographs adds up to only one second.
Praised somewhat hyperbolically as a ”cinematic construction which plays upon the seriality of film images” (Annette Michelson) and a “snow film so silent you can hear the snow fall” (Jonas Mekas), the film is an ‘open’ work in the sense that it can be projected at either 16 or 24 frames per second.… Read more »
From Monthly Film Bulletin, December 1976 (Vol. 43, No. 515). — J.R.
Coilin & Platonida
Great Britain, 1976
Director: James Scott
The 1920s. Thrown out of the house by her uncle, Aksinya marries her lover, a sexton, and five months later gives birth to a son, Coilin. After the sexton drowns in a stream, she works as a servant to nuns, introducing and dressing Coilin as a little girl. Entering school at the age of twelve, Coilin is expelled for backwardness, and finds work as an apprentice to various craftsmen. After three years in the army, he returns to find his mother dead and is turned away from his uncle’s house. Visiting two orphaned boys who are distant relatives and finding them hungry and maltreated, he takes them under his wing and persuades his cousin Platonida to give them clothes. Settling in with the children in an unused room at Granny Rochovna’s cottage, he sells home -made polishand ink, does odd jobs, and applies unsuccessfully for work at the postoffice. Given an island by the town council, he builds a hut and teaches the boys to read. Four years later, Platonida’s husband dies, and her father-in-law promises to leave her his fortune.… Read more »
A program note written for the London Film Festival in 1976, held at the National Film Theatre in November. On November 17, at the first of two screenings, Duelle appeared as a double bill with the world premiere of Noroît, which was shown immediately afterwards, with Rivette in attendance. –- J.R.
Labelled the second feature in [Jacques] Rivette’s four-part Scènes de la Vie Parallèle, Duelle is in fact the first to be completed. Like all the films in the projected series, it covers the ‘Carnival’ period between the last new moon of winter and the first full moon of spring: the only time when goddesses can appear on earth and have commerce with mortals. These goddesses are split between moon ghosts and sun fairies; in Duelle, we find a ghost (Juliet Berto) and a fairy (Bulle Ogier) competing for possession of a diamond known as the Fairy Godmother which can keep them on earth past their allotted forty days.With a non-existent word (the female form of a masculine noun) as title and an imaginary muth as starting-point, Duelle deliberately defines itself through contradictions and clashes, maintaining a perpetual disequilibrium of elements that equally flirts with and refuses the comforting balances of ‘classic’ narrative.… Read more »
From Monthly Film Bulletin, November 1976 (Vol. 43, No. 514). –- J.R.
Director: Erich von Stroheim
Cert—A. dist–BFI. p.c–Universal Super Jewel. p–Carl Laemrnle. asst. d–Edward Sowders, Jack R. Proctor, Louis Germonprez. special asst. to Stroheim–Gustav Machaty. sc–Erich von-Stroheim. ph–Ben Revnolds, William Daniels. illumination and lighting effects—Harry J. Brown. ed–Erich von Stroheim, (release version: Arthur D. Ripley). a.d—E. E. Sheeley, Richard Day. scenic artist—Van Alstein [Alstyn]. technical d–William Meyers, James Sullivan, George Williams. sculpture–Don Jarvis. master of properties–C. J. Rogers. m—[original score by Sigmund Romberg]. cost–Western Costuming Co., Richard Day, Erich von Stroheim. titles–Marian Ainslee, Erich von Stroheim. research asst-J . Lambert. l.p—Rudolph Christians/Robert Edenson (Andrew J. Hughes), Miss Du Pont [Patsy Hannen] (Helen Hughes), Maude George (“Princess”Olga Petschnikoff), Mae Busch (“Princess” Vera Petschnikoff), Erich von Stroheim (“Count” Sergei Karamzin), Dale Fuller (Maruschka), Al Edmundsen (Pavel Pavlich, the Butler), Cesare Gravina (Signor Gaston), Malvina Polo (Gaston’s Daughter [Marietta]), Louis K. Webb (Dr. Judd), Mrs. Kent (Mrs, Judd), C.J. Allen (Albert I, Prince of Monaco), Edward Reinach (Secretary of State of Monaco).… Read more »
This appeared in the Autumn 1976 Sight and Sound, and I hope I can be excused for omitting the article that occasioned it, Lucy Fischer’s “’Beyond Freedom and Dignity’: an analysis of Jacques Tati’s Playtime,” that was included in the same issue. (In her subsequent book-length bibliography of writings about Tati, Fischer omitted this Afterword, along with much else, so I guess that this exhumation of my Afterword without her article could be interpreted as some form of tit for tat. But in fact, I don’t have the rights to her piece, which I don’t believe has ever been reprinted. However, even though I fully realize that most college students prefer to ignore texts that they can’t find on the Internet, this is a piece well worth looking up in a well-stocked library.)
Beginning with a quote from an article by B.K. Skinner entitled “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” -– “We attempt to gain credit for ourselves by disguising or concealing control” –- Fischer’s article sets about attempting to refute my claims that Playtime was a fulfillment of Andre Bazin’s claim that the “long-take style” accorded more freedom to the viewer by showing how Tati’s own style guides the viewer in various ways and towards certain details through his uses of color, camera movement, and sound.… Read more »
From Time Out (London), October 1, 1976. As I point out in my first collection, Placing Movies (1995), my flip comparison of moviegoing and sex in the latter part of this article led Robin Wood in the Times Educational Supplement (22 October 1976) to virtually link me with the downfall of Western civilization: “The implicit trivialization of art and life is the ultimate stage in our alienation.” This was some time before he declared Celine and Julie Go Boating a masterpiece on his own terms, bringing in a feminist perspective that my own appreciation sorely lacked.–- J.R.
The Plot Thickens
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jacques Rivette is the most important director working in the narrative cinema today. And Celine and Julie Go Boating, while it may not be his most important achievement, is by commonconsent the most enjoyable and accessible of all his movies to date It is also the first of his films to open commercially in England In over a decade. The two movies he has made since, Duelle and Noroît, will both be shown at this year’s London Film Festival — along with Sérail, the first feature by Eduardo de Gregorio, Rivette’s scriptwriter.… Read more »
From Sight and Sound (Autumn 1976). -– J.R.
THE NEW WAVE
By James Monaco
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, £9.95.
A writer whose methods immediately evoke the mood and dynamics of an energetic classroom, JamesMonaco restricts The New Wave to the five film-making alumni of Cahiers du Cinéma most often identified with that label: Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rohmer and Rivette. Considering the dearth of books in English on the subject (only Peter Graham’s anthology and Raymond Durgnat’s early monograph — both long out of print, and the latter unmentioned in the present book — qualify as predecessors), it is a fertile field for any critic interested in organizing a lot of diverse material, and this task is handled by Monaco with grace and assurance; for its bibliography alone, this over-priced volume is well worth having. Beginning with an evocation of Rivette’s first encounters with Godard and Truffaut (and later Chabrol and Rohmer) at the Avenue de Messine Cinémathèque in 1949 or 1950, he proceeds to the films of each until, some 320 pages later, he has burrowed his way through over a hundred features and shorts.
Lots of grist for the mill; but what kind of product is the Monaco factory manufacturing?… Read more »
From Sight and Sound (Autumn 1976). — J.R.
Behind the credits, a face peering out through a window; a downward pan revealing a vertiginous drop to the courtyard below; a pan back to the window and round the court to another face, a girl’s, which quickly turns into Roman Polanski’s; a continuing movement past a chimney, across more windows-down one side of the building, over a railing and up another side — eventually coming round to the door leading to the street, which Polanski enters . . . If the remainder of The Tenant were as impressive as the first shot, we conceivably might have had a masterpiece on our hands. Nearly as concise as the extended crane shot opening Touch of Evil, it differs from the latter by arranging its arsenal of elements into a non-narrative pattern — a set of materials which, except for the girl turning into Polanski, are related spatially but nor chronologically, until Polanski’s entrance through the street door launches the story proper.
A naturalised Pole named Trelkovsky is interested in seeing a flat, and the unfriendly concierge (Shelley Winters) gives him a hard time about it, agreeing to take him upstairs only after he slips her some money.… Read more »
From Monthly Film Bulletin , September 1976, vol. 43, no. 512. — J.R.
Goodbye, Norma Jean
U. S.A./Australia, 1975
Director: Larry Buchanan
Hollywood, 1941. Ogled by her foster father and despised by her foster mother, Norma Jean Baker is thrown out by the latter and takes work in a factory. Raped by a policeman whom she earlier persuaded not to give her a speeding ticket, she is comforted by Corporal Ralph Johnson. He prompts her on how to behave when she enters the Miss Whammo-Ammo contest (which she wins), photographs her in cheesecake poses, and advises her in her efforts to become a movie star. They drive to Tijuana and make love, although she admits that her former experiences with men have prevented her from enjoying sex. He next introduces her to model agent Beverly, who finds her work posing for pulp magazine illustrations and introduces her in turn to agent Irving Ollbach, who takes her to a party in Palm Springs. There she is sneered at by casting director Ruth Latimer, raped by actor Randy Palmer (who first offers to give her a screen test), and mocked by the party’s host, the wealthy Hal James, who none the less later arranges for her to have an interview at Lion-Rampant pictures.… Read more »
This appeared in the July 1976 issue of Monthly Film Bulletin (vol. 43, no. 510). 8/25 correction/ postscript: Ehsan Khoshbakht, who provided me with some more illustrations, informs me that (a) Sedric is playing tenor sax, not alto, (b) that a fourth Waller soundie that wasn’t included in the compilation I reviewed, “Your Feet’s Too Big ,” was actually the first one, and that (c) the photo at the bottom of this post, which I included just because I like it, actually comes from Stormy Weather. —J.R.
Director: Warren Murray
Dist—TCB. p.c—Official Films. m/songs–“Ain’t Misbehavin’”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “The Joint is Jumpin’” by Thomas “Fats” Waller. performed by–Fats Waller (piano, vocals), John Hamilton (trumpet), Gene Sedric (alto sax), Al Casey (guitar), Cedric Wallace (bass), Wilmore “Slick” Jones (drums), Myra Johnson (vocals). No further credits available. 314 ft. 9 min. (16 mm.).
A collection of three “soundies” made in the early Forties — mini-films designed to be shown on tiny screens inside jukeboxes — this entertaining short displays Waller’s showmanship at its flashiest.… Read more »
The following was written for the Monthly Film Bulletin — a publication of the British Film Institute, where I was serving at the time as assistant editor — and it follows most of the format of that magazine by following credits (abbreviated here) with first a one-paragraph synopsis and then a one-paragraph review. (For his resourceful photo research, thanks once again to Ehsan Khoshbakht.)–J.R.
Black and Tan
Director: Dudley Murphy
Dist—TCB. p.c—RKO. p. sup—Dick Currier. sc—Dudley Murphy. ph—Dal Clawson. ed—Russell G. Shields. a.d—Ernest Feglé. m/songs—“Black and Tan Fantasy” by James “Bubber” Miley, Duke Ellington, “The Duke Steps Out”, “Black Beauty”, “Cotton Club Stomp”, “Hot Feet”, “Same Train” by Duke Ellington, performed by—Duke Ellington and His Cotton Club Orchestra: Arthur Whetsol, Freddy Jenkins, Cootie Williams (trumpets), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Johnny Hodges (alto sax), Harry Carney (baritone sax), Joe Nanton (trombone), Fred Guy (banjo), Wellman Braud (bass), Sonny Greer (drums), Duke Ellington (piano), (on “Same Train”, “Black and Tan Fantasy”) The Hall Johnson Choir. sd. rec—Carl Dreher. with—Duke Ellington and His Cotton Club Orchestra, Fredi Washington, The Hall Johnson Choir. 683 ft. 19 min. (19 mm).
Duke Ellington rehearses his “Black and Tan Fantasy” for a club date in his flat with trumpet Arthur Whetsol until interrupted by two men from the piano company, sent to remove the instrument because he has fallen behind in the payments.… Read more »
This was originally published in the July 1976 issue of the Monthly Film Bulletin (vol. 43, no. 510), to coincide with the release of Hitchcock’s Family Plot (illustrated on the cover, and reviewed in that issue by the editor, Richard Combs). — J.R.
Great Britain, 1927
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Dist—BFI. p.c–British International Pictures. p–John Maxwell. asst. d—Frank Mills. story/sc—Alfred Hitchcock. continuity—Alma Reville. ph—John J. Cox. a.d—Wilfred Arnold. l.p—Carl Brisson (“One Round” Jack Sander), Lillian Hall-Davies (Nelly), Ian Hunter (Bob Corby), Forrester Harvey (Harry), Harry Terry (Barker), Gordon Harker (Trainer), Billy Wells (Boxer). 3,179 ft. (at 16 f.p.s.) 132 min. (16mm). Original 35 mm footage—8,400 ft.
At a traveling circus, prizefighter “One Round” Jack Sander is knocked out and defeated for the first time in his show by Bob Corby, an Australian heavyweight, and a mutual attraction develops between the latter and Nelly, Jack’s ticket-seller fiancée. With his prize money, Bob buys Nelly an arm bracelet which she hides from Jack, and Bob’s manager offers Jack the chance of a job as the champion’s sparring partner if he wins a trial match, which he grudgingly accepts.… Read more »
From Film Comment (July-August 1976). In some respects, I think this may be the best of all my many Journals for Film Comment, but for my readers who feel that my work is sometimes (or often) marred or even ruined by my strident tone, it may also be legitimately regarded as my worst. Among other negative consequences, Truffaut read my comments about THE STORY OF ADELE H. and wrote me an angry letter about them (which can be accessed, along with my response to it, on this site), I suspect (without actually knowing) that my passing comment about Pauline Kael may have sabotaged any hopes I’d had about ever becoming friends with her, and my friend (at the time) Gilbert Adair, cited just before the end of this piece, was furious about the over-the-top way I expressed my displeasure with Charles Barr in Movie. For better and for worse, I think this shows my writing at its most intense. -– J.R.
March 25 (London): A KING IN NEW YORK. Even on a Steenbeck, Chaplin’s penultimate feature and last extended performance has such a naked power of embarrassment and assault that one can see right away why so many have recoiled from it.… Read more »
I still seem to be in a minority in preferring Family Plot to Alfred Hitchcock’s other late films, but after reseeing the film countless times, I’m not about to revise my opinion. It would appear that some of Hitchcock’s biggest champions, such as Robin Wood, have tended to dismiss the film because it isn’t sicker. I tried to respond to their criticism at least provisionally in the opening of this review, written for the summer 1976 Sight and Sound, which they ran as their cover story for that issue and which I’ve now revised, but only minimally. — J.R.
“Everything’s perverted in a different way,” Hitchcock has noted; and perhaps no other filmmaker has illustrated this postulate better, by starting from precisely the opposite premise. Without a well-established sense of the normal, the abnormal doesn’t even stand a chance of being recognized, and the director has always made it his business to offer all the right signposts and comforts to guarantee complacency before proceeding to unhinge it. Yet one of the rules of the game is deception, and if the Master’s artistry has been identified more with rude shocks than with the subtler conditioning which makes them possible, one can be certain that this too plays a role in his overall strategies.… Read more »
From Time Out (London), June 4-10, 1976. I’ve always had very mixed feelings about this commissioned cover-story piece, especially about its stupid and offensive title (not mine) as well as what I now regard as a certain conformist pandering to what I regarded as mainstream taste. As I recall, the whole piece was written very quickly, following the capricious whim of the magazine’s editor. I especially regret the way I fell into some of the mindless consensus of condemning The Day the Clown Cried without having seen any part of it, which by now has become a standard reflex in Anglo-American Lewis-bashing. I’ve corrected a couple of factual errors. -– J.R.
Who is Jerry Lewis?
A comedian who has acted in over three dozen films, eight of which he’s directed, himself.I became a fan back in 1949, when he first appeared as secondary comic relief in ‘My Friend Irma’, and followed him religiously through his countless vehicles with Dean Martin in the 50s. As I grew older, critics began to warn me that he was childish and self-indulgent, friends groaned whenever his name cropped up, and I discovered that he usually came across as a sanctimonious prig whenever he made personal appearances on TV.… Read more »