From Cahiers du Cinéma #334/355, avril 1982 (a special issue called “Made in USA”). I wrote this commissioned article (about two of Robert Altman’s stage productions) in English, while working with Serge Daney in New York on a number of other assignments. The French text is all I have now, and I’ve decided to reproduce it here because it’s the only account of these productions that I know about that are written from a filmic perspective, and the recent release on an Olive Films Blu-Ray of Come Back to 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (the Altman film, which for me removes most of the major virtues of the Broadway production) makes this perspective all the more relevant….Reproducing this French text has entailed a lot of retyping, and I hope I haven’t made too many mistakes. (I’ve also corrected a few typos, including “Atlman” for “Altman”.) -– J.R.
Après avoir vendu sa maison de production, Lion’s Gate Films, l’année dernière, Robert Altman a annoncé qu’il avait l’intention de se lancer dans une carrière théâtrale, il a d’abord mis en scène à Los Angeles deux petites pièces expérimentales en un acte écrites par Frank South; dans I’une, il n’y a que deux personnages (chacun tenant séparément un monologue et n’échangeant aucun dialogue) ; l’autre n’a qu’un personnage (qui fait un monologue tenant du tour de force).… Read more »
From American Film (April 1982). — J.R.
The Film in History: Restaging the Past by Pierre Sorlin. Barnes & Noble, $21.50.
Feature Films as History edited by K.R.M. Short. University of Tennessee Press, $16.50.
Vietnam on Film: From “The Green Berets” to “Apocalypse Now” by Gilbert Adair. Proteus, $13.95.
What is a historical film? Sociologist and cultural historian Pierre Sorlin concludes a comparison between two French films about the French Revolution released during the mid-thirties — Abel Gance’ s Napoleon Bonaparte and Jean Renoir’s La Marseillaise — with a succinct formula for his provocative working assumption in The Film in History. “A historical film,” he writes, “is a reconstruction of the social relationship which, using the pretext of the past, reorganizes the present.”
It’s an interesting notion to try out on all the films that we regard as historical. To get a proper fix on Reds, for instance, one has to consider not only the years 1915 to 1920, during which the portrayed events take place, but also the much more immediate past, during which the movie was being formulated and put together, and the present, during which it is being seen and understood. Thus the relatively short shrift paid in the film to class differences – a fundamental issue in John Reed’s life — can be ascribed in part to the basically middle-class orientation of the student revolts in the sixties, which have a lot to do with the way that we currently regard radical politics.… Read more »