Monthly Archives: October 1978

Editorial: What is Public Cinema? (1978)

From The Thousand Eyes, Fall 1978. -– J.R.

I can remember what it used to be like, living in New York ten years ago. New Godard movies and Beatles records were being consumed the moment they arrived, with the kind of impatient enthusiasm that must have greeted the latest installments of serialized Dickens novels when they hit the New York docks a century before.

During the same decade that saw the birth of the New Wave, our first glimpses through film of part of the Third World, the flowering of the North American avant-garde, and a corresponding leap forward in film criticism, one was witnessing the growth of a new kind of audience, a new cinema, and a new kind of thinking about movies that started from the bottom up.

From the looks of things, that bottom has dropped out. What has happened to this passionate complex of forces, this pluralism of tastes and possibilities? No film by Godard has been released in the U.S. since 1971, and the last movies by directors ranging from Jacques Tati, Robert Bresson, and Jacques Rivette to Chantal Akerman, Marguerite Duras, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet remain undistributed. And we can see what’s happened to the legacy of the Beatles if we consider a typically cynical industry product like Sgt.Read more »

Take Two: THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T.

[2017 Preface: I'm reposting this article less than a month after its last posting on this site because Powerhouse Films in the U.K. has just sent me, at my request, its impressive "Limited Dual Format Edition" of this remarkable movie, and so far, the only complaint I have relevant to its riches is that they didn't access this 1978 article about it any sooner. If they had, some of the uncertainties and/or wrong guesses made by Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton in their often informative audiocommentary probably wouldn't be there. For the record then--to cite only a couple of matters not covered in the article below that conflict with their suppositions (apart from the mispronounciation of La Jolla)--in 1953, at age ten, I already knew who Dr. Seuss was because many of his books were already widely available but, even as a devoted radio listener,  I didn't know who Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy were.]

The principal source of this article — written for American Film, and published in their October 1978 issue — was a fairly lengthy phone conversation I once had with Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), better known as Dr. Seuss, when I was living in San Diego.Read more »

Sound Thinking (1978, with Carrie Rickey)

From The Thousand Eyes, Fall 1978. Carrie Rickey and I embarked on this film series and article shortly after we became flat mates, but lamentably it didn’t pan out as we hoped it would; our program notes, for starters, never got distributed. — J.R.

Sound Thinking

By Carrie Rickey and Jonathan Rosenbaum

One of the consequences of describing the world around us is that language separates into different senses what we often experience as a unified whole. Language, an instrument — perhaps the instrument — of’ culture, overvalues the visual at the expense of the other four senses. Our language for the way we see is more precise: looks are eminently describable, we discuss color, dimensions, surface.

Our language for the way we hear is a jumble, less precise. Ambient sound consists of so many simultaneous events: acoustics of a space., buzz of appliances, rhythm of a clock, crowd voices, footfall. We “focus” on a visual event; we “concentrate” on sound, which is more difficult to pinpoint. We screen out the rumble of the subway train to concentrate on a movie.

If movies themselves are a selective screening process, the ways we experience them often censor out other elements. The way we talk about films — referring to “viewers” and “spectators”, talking about “seeing” a movie, asking, “How does it look?” — incorporates this idea of sensory censorship.… Read more »