Monthly Archives: July 1980

Notes on the Work of John Cassavetes

These program notes for a John Cassavetes retrospective in July 1980 were commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art’s Film Department, which as I recall edited them fairly substantially. (My subsequent “review” of the retrospective for The Soho News, “The Tyranny of Sensitivity,” is already available on this site.) I no longer have the unedited version, but I’ve tweaked this version in a few spots for style as well as factual accuracy without altering any of its opinions, some of which I might no longer share. -– J.R.

JOHN CASSAVETES, FILMMAKER AND ACTOR

June 20–July 11, 1980

“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” the cornball anthem that sounds       so memorably through the final moments of Cassavetes’ THE KILLING       OF A CHINESE BOOKIE, might be a fair enough theme song for what his contribution to movies is all about: a radical commitment to people that goes beyond mere thought.

His attitude is one that often has been difficult to grasp, for in over        three decades as director, writer, and actor, he has seldom encouraged,     or even allowed, a detached appraisal. For someone like me, who grew     up watching his performances in films and live TV dramas in the fifties before experiencing the raw shock and revelation of SHAD0WS in 1961,      a disinterested account of what that shock meant is perhaps impossible.    Read more »

Sam Fuller Spills His Guts

My first meeting with Samuel Fuller is chronicled in this interview/essay published in the July 9, 1980 issue of The Soho News. Seven years later, while concluding my academic career at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I was placed in charge of running the film studies summer school program, I was still crazy about Fuller, and invited him to serve as our “visiting artist”, which led to our becoming friends from that summer until his death a decade later. I did my best to try to capture his singular way of talking in this article. For my title, I’m using the headline on that issue’s front page, not the title given inside (“Sam Fuller Reshoots the War”). — J.R.

SamFuller

When I enter his suite at the plaza, he’s finishing lunch, expressing his regret about missing Godard at Cannes, remarking on the absurdity of prizes at film festivals, asking me what Soho News and Soho are. (The one he knows about is in London — he fondly recalls a cigar store on Frith Street.)

It isn’t hard to figure out why Mark Hamill affectionately calls him Yosemite Sam, or why Lee Marvin simply says he’s D.W. Griffith. Bursting with the same charismatic, comic-book energy that sky-rockets through most of his movies, old crime reporter, novelist, war hero, writer-director and sometime producer Samuel Fuller, almost 69, still moves and talks like his daffy action flicks — like the wild man from Borneo — in quick, short, blocky punches, like two-fisted slabs of socko headline type.… Read more »

Personal View: Explorations in Film

From Film Quarterly (Summer 1980). –- J.R.

PERS0NAL VIEWS: EXPL0RATI0NS IN FILM

By Robin Wood. London: Gordon Fraser. 1976.

It’s a pity that Robin Wood’s first collection of essays, published in England four years ago, has had to wait this long to find a US distributor (ISBS, Inc., PO Box 55, Forest Grove, OR 97116). Very much of a transitional work between Wood’s justly celebrated auteurist monographs (on Hitchcock, Hawks, Bergman, Penn and Satyajit Ray) and his recent, more ideologically based film studies. Personal Views: Explorations in Film inevitably loses some of its intended impact by arriving here out of sequence. And for those like myself who feel that the essays in this volume do not represent Wood’s work at its strongest — weighted, as many of them are, more toward the adoption of certain positions than toward their subsequent implementations (and other consequences) — they are more often useful as “stepping stones,” in establishing the backgrounds of some of Wood’s current arguments, than they are as independent studies in their own right.

In broad terms. what this book chronicles in some detail is Wood’s discovery of –and engagement with – some of the theoretical issues in film theory that were being broached in Screen in the early seventies, including those which directly challenged many of the pre-suppositions of his own earlier work.… Read more »