Yearly Archives: 2012

One More Bibliographic List

Here are some links to pieces of mine that are available online elsewhere, but not (yet) on this site, in chronological order, over the past six or seven years. Many of them include various lists of their own. — J.R.

10 Favorite Offbeat Musicals (March 2006):

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/10_offbeat_musicals.htm

Ten Overlooked Noirs (April 2006):

www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/noir.htm

A Dozen Eccentric Westerns (June 2006):

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/westerns.htm

Ten Neglected Science Fiction Movies (August 2006):

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/sci-fi.htm

Ten Overlooked Fantasy Films on TV (and Two That Should be Available) (October 2006):

www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/fantasy.htm

A Dozen Undervalued Movie Satires (January 2007):

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/dozen_undervalued_movie_satires.htm

Eleven Treasures of Jazz Performance on DVD (April 2007):

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/eleven_treasures_of_jazz_on_dvd.htm

18 Thrillers You Might Have Missed… (July 2007):

www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/18_thrillers_you_might_have_missed.htm

Ten Underappreciated John Ford Films (December 2007):

www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/ten_underappreciated_john_ford_films.htm

My Dozen Favorite Non-Region-1 Box Sets (June 2008):

www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/dozen_favorite_nonR1_boxsets.htm

My Dozen Favorite Non-Region-1 Single-disc DVDs (November 2008):

www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/dozen_favorite_nonR1_single-disc.htm

Trial and Era (on Jim McBride’s early films) (posted April 3, 2009):

http://www.artforum.com/film/id=22423

The Consequences of Fame (on Roman Polanski’s arrest, posted Sept. 19, 2009):

http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/the-polanski-uproar/#jonathan

Tony Tony Tony (on The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, posted December 23, 2009):

http://www.artforum.com/film/id=24395

Great 30s Movies on DVD (…and a few more that should be available) (February 2010):

www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/great_30s_movies_on_dvd.htm

Too Many Greats Ignored (on the Oscars, posted March 4, 2010):

http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/do-the-oscars-undermine-artistry/#jonathan

Gertrud and Light in August (posted October 26, 2010):

www.criterion.com/current/posts/1635-gertrud-and-light-in-august

Visions of the South (March 10, 2011):

www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/from-brimstone-preachers-to-baby-dolls-the-belcourts-new-series-surveys-life-below-the-mason-dixon-line-on-film/Content?oid=2300712

A Star Who Knew Who She Was (on Elizabeth Taylor’s death, posted March 28, 2011):

www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/03/23/is-it-harder-to-be-a-celebrity-now/a-star-who-knew-who-she-was

Acid Test: The curiosity of Otto Preminger’s Skidoo (posted July 20, 2011):

www.movingimagesource.us/articles/acid-test-20110720

Capitulating for the Camera’s Sake: the Late Artistry of Raúl Ruiz (Nov.Read more »

Best DVDs and Blu-Rays of 2012 (My DVD Beaver Ballot)

At the suggestion of a reader, Philadelphia cinephile David Ortega, here is the ballot I submitted to DVD Beaver‘s poll late last year. Note: Sadly, the absence of any titles from the excellent U.K. label Masters of Cinema can probably be explained by the fact that this label stopped sending me any of its releases about nine months ago, after sending me all of its releases prior to that  — a decision that I continue to find baffling. [P.S.: A couple of people have pointed out that, in fact, Park Row wasn't released on Blu-Ray; it came out only on DVD. Sorry for this error. This is also available, by the way, from Masters of Cinema, but I haven't included that version because I haven't seen it -- although Craig Keller was kind enough to send me a PDF of that edition's excellent accompanying booklet.] — J.R.

Top 10 SD-DVD Releases OF 2012

(NOTE: Please ONLY DVD releases that are NOT available on Blu-ray!)

1.DANIÈLE HUILLET & JEAN-MARIE STRAUB, Volume 7 (Editions Montparnasse)

2. DRIVER X 4: THE LOST AND FOUND FILMS OF SARA DRIVER (filmswelike)

3. ECLIPSE SERIES 34: JEAN GRÉMILLON DURING THE OCCUPATION (Criterion)

4. POLISH CINEMA CLASSICS (Second Run)

5.Read more »

Movie Love (on CINÉMA CINÉMAS, 1982-1991)

From Moving Image Source [movingimagesource.us], posted March 5, 2009. The last time I checked, the box set Cinéma Cinémas was still available from French Amazon, for 25.56 Euros. — J.R.

How does one distinguish American cinephilia from the original, hardcore French brand? Based on an exchange I had with French critic Raymond Bellour and several other friends a dozen years ago — a round of letters first published in the French film magazine Trafic that later grew into a collection in English that I co-edited with Adrian Martin, Movie Mutations: The Changing Face of World Cinephilia — there’s some disagreement about how serious a role French cinema actually plays in “classic” (i.e., French) cinephilia. According to Raymond, spurred in part by remarks from the late Serge Daney — a mutual friend and the founder of Trafic — modern French cinephilia was from the outset basically American, as suggested by the archetypal question, “How can one be a Hitchcocko-Hawksian?”:

It’s a question of theory, but even more of territory. This is what necessarily divides me from Jonathan, in whom cinephilia was born, like in everyone else, through the nouvelle vague, but who, as an American, takes the nouvelle vague itself as an object of cinephilia — whereas the cinephile, in the historical and French sense, trains his sights on the American cinema as an enchanted and closed world, a referential system sufficient to interpret the rest.Read more »

Spielberg’s Audio-animatronic Lincoln

From the Jewish Daily Forward (November 9, 2012, for their November 16 issue). — J.R.

Lincoln-dark

My suspicion that Steven Spielberg can’t really do historical films isn’t anything new, although the fact that he keeps trying shows at least how ambitious he can be. Conversely, the fact that he keeps failing, at least in my opinion, may point to a wider incapacity on the part of his audience, meaning you and me — a failure to grasp and sustain Abraham Lincoln as a myth the way that John Ford and his audience could when Ford made “Young Mr. Lincoln” with Henry Fonda in 1939.

Some of this, of course, can be accounted for by the radical changes in mainstream film-going over 73 years: an audience that has been subdivided by targeting strategies and ancillary markets, reduced mainly to kids, artificially inflated by advertising budgets and split among homes, computers and theaters on screens of different sizes, shapes and textures. But it’s also a sign that in “Lincoln,” we’re much further away from our historical roots than American moviegoers were in 1939, even when a master storyteller and myth-spinner is in charge.

Leaving aside “The Adventures of Tintin” and “War Horse” (neither of which I’ve seen), the diverse cavorting of Indiana Jones and the cartoon extravagance of “1941,” I think my troubles with Spielberg as a historian started with his ignorance about Jim Crow prohibitions in the Deep South involving the front seat of a car in “The Color Purple” (1985).… Read more »

On the Internet, No One Can Hear You Think (or, Datelessness Equals Cluelessness)

The avoidance or frequent absence of history on the Internet is often a problem, but I’ve rarely seen it exploited so shamelessly and cripplingly as it is in a post supposedly “celebrating” Godard’s 82th birthday that quotes fifteen filmmakers on the subject of Godard, including Godard himself, arranged alphabetically from Chantal Akerman to Wim Wenders.

Let’s start with the first sentence in the first quotation, from Akerman: “You can see him excluding himself from the world in an almost autistic manner.” Is this the Godard of For Ever Mozart, the Godard of Film Socialisme, or a much earlier Godard?  It’s impossible to understand, much less evaluate what Akerman is saying, without knowing the answer to this question. Pretend that this doesn’t matter and you’re pointlessly sliming both Akerman and Godard, for no good reason.

Five quotes later, we get, “Luis Buñuel: I’ll give him two years more, he is just a fashion.” Obviously, this statement was made when Buñuel was still alive, which means he had to have said it at some point between, say, 1960 and 1983. Lots of leg room in there — about 30 features’ worth.

And one quote later, from Godard himself: “I am not an auteur, well, not now anyway.” When is “now”?Read more »

At the Viennale: Chris Marker Lives!

Posted on Film Comment‘s blog, November 16, 2012. — J.R.

Much as Godard’s special brand of cultural tourism quickly became a dominant influence at international film festivals half a century ago, the literal tourism of the late Chris Marker became a major reference point in many of the edgiest offerings at the Viennale, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Fittingly, the last to date of the festival’s annual commissioned one-minute trailers, 19 of which were just issued on a DVD, was by Marker himself — a somewhat jaundiced view of the “perfect” film viewer as sought by Méliès, Griffith, Welles, and Godard, eventually and rather sadly achieved in the sad figure of Osama bin Laden watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon on a TV set.

Museum-Hours

Marker’s more benign influence was especially evident in Jem Cohen’s magisterial Museum Hours, a luminous mix of fiction and essay set in Vienna itself, where it takes the form of a casual friendship developing between a guard at the Kunsthistorisches Art Museum (played by Bobby Sommer — a familiar and friendly Viennale presence, who has worked for many years at its guest office) and a Canadian tourist (Mary Margaret O’Hara) who arrives to visit a dying cousin and turns up at the museum.Read more »

How To Like THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR

Fresh from one of the my favorite boutique labels, Twilight Time, comes the Blu-Ray of Jean Negulesco’s opulent, ridiculously overripe 1955 CinemaScope remake of his own 1939 The Rains Came, which I hadn’t seen since I was 13 or so — a highly enjoyable bad movie, which on some level must mean that it also qualifies as a good movie. Perhaps the most morally neutral adjective to be employed here is one of those used by Julie Kirgo, Twilight Time’s ever-industrious in-house scribe: “lurid”.

None of the characters here is ever quite believable — Lana Turner as wealthy, aristocratic maneater Lady Esketh, Michael Rennie as her self-hating cuckold husband, Richard Burton as the innocent and idealist doctor and one-time Untouchable who falls heavily for Lady Esketh, quotes Eliot and Shakespeare, and spouts profound aphorisms, Eugenie Leontovich as the urbane Maharani who raised the doctor, Fred MacMurray as a well-to-do and secretly virtuous alcoholic, Joan Caulfield as the latter’s oversheltered protégé — but every one of them is, shall we say, exceptionally vivid, and the performances are all much better than they need to be. Similarly,  the special effects trotted out for the title catastrophe are worthy of Cecil B. De Mille, with Lahore, Pakistan and (I presume) various Fox soundstages standing in for Ranchipur as fearlessly as the mesmerizing White Russian refugee Leontovich pretends to be Indian, or the no less self-validating Lana Turner pretends to be candid.Read more »

Elliott Stein (1928-2012)

I can’t remember precisely when it was that I first met Elliott in Paris, but I’m sure it was in the early 70s, and I suspect it was the late Carlos Clarens, another Cinematheque regular, who introduced us, most likely after some Palais de Chaillot screening. It wasn’t much later when I discovered we were neighbors living a few blocks apart — me in a small, sunless flat on Rue Mazarine, Elliott in a large room stuffed with all sorts of arcane memorabilia at the Hotel de Verneuil on Rue de Verneuil. He was already a pack-rat then, especially when it came to his collection of clippings, and he continued to live that way years later when he eventually moved back to New York — first to a hotel on lower 5th Avenue, then to a roomy loft in Soho on West Broadway. It was a tragic moment for him when he had to move out of the latter place, leaving behind or giving up many of his treasured possessions (including, as I recall, a table once owned by Robert Ryan). And only a few days ago, at the Viennale, hearing about the ravages of Sandy on New York and environs, my friends and I were concerned about whether or not Elliott was okay.… Read more »

End or Beginning: The New Cinephilia

Published in Screen Dynamics: Mapping the Borders of Cinema, coedited by Gertrud Koch, Volker Pantenburg, and Simon Rothoehler and published by the Austrian Film Museum in 2012. A year later, this is already out of date in some particulars, but I haven’t attempted to update it.  — J.R.

ShoalsTheatre

Shoals Theater, Florence, Alabama, 1948

ShoalsTheatercirca2008

Shoals Theater, Florence, Alabama, 2008

         
                         

            It’s a strange paradox, but about half of my friends and colleagues think that we’re currently approaching the end of cinema as an art form and the end of film criticism as a serious activity, while the other half believe that we’re enjoying some form of exciting resurgence and renaissance in both areas. How can one account for this discrepancy? One clue is that most of the nay-sayers tend to be people around my own age (66) or older whereas most of the optimistic ones are a good deal younger (most of them under 30).

            I tend to feel much closer to the younger cinephiles on this issue than I do to the older ones. But I must admit that much of the confusion arises from the fact that the two groups typically don’t mean the same things when they use terms like “cinema,” “film,” “movie,” “film criticism,” and even “available”.… Read more »

A Note on HOLY MOTORS

There’s a particular Parisian tradition that seems peculiar to French aesthetics involving a certain license to behave like a depraved lunatic and receive approval, endorsement, and other cultural rewards in return for this boorishness.(Many years back I tried writing about this subject, in a long review of My Life and Times with Antonin Artaud.) I suppose one very bourgeois way of describing this tendency would be to call it the aesthetics of self-indulgence combined with a gift for self-promotion, and though I don’t know French literature well enough to determine what poets might have established this trend (apart from such relatively modern figures as Baudelaire and Rimbaud), there’s no question that Jean Cocteau set down many of the terms and conditions of this tradition in cinema, along with the visiting Spaniards Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali — including, perhaps, a special talent for hustling up various forms of patronage.

Even though not all artists with these characteristics are French, much less Parisian, it could perhaps be argued that those who are commonly celebrated for these traits are typically appreciated either by French critics (Nicole Brenez writing about Abel Ferrara) or Francophile critics (such as Adrian Martin writing about Philippe Grandrieux, among many others).… Read more »

Eduardo de Gregorio, 1942-2012

On October 14, 2012 I received the sad news from Pierre Bayle d’Autrange that his longtime partner Eduardo de Gregorio, also a longtime friend of mine (since 1973), died Saturday night at the St. Louis Hospital in Paris, not long after his 70th birthday.

I wrote the following for the festival catalogue of the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Film in 2004, to accompany a retrospective of Eduardo’s films — as far as I know, the only such retrospective that was ever held. It is also reprinted — along with a short essay of the same length on Sara Driver (also the subject of a BAFICI retrospective that year)– in “Two Neglected Filmmakers,” a piece included in my most recent collection, Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia as well as here.  — J.R.

Eduardo de Gregorio’s Dream Door

It must be a bummer to be an Argentinian writer and/or filmmaker and constantly get linked to Jorge Luis Borges. It must be especially hard if you’re Eduardo de Gregorio, whose first major screen credit is on an adaptation of “Theme of the Traitor and Hero” for Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 feature The Spider’s Strategm.

I don’t mean to question the credentials of de Gregorio as a onetime student of Borges — just the appropriateness of a too-narrow understanding to impose on a singular body of work that owes as much to cinematic references as to literary ones, and one that indeed juxtaposes the two almost as freely as it juxtaposes different languages and historical periods (while including all the cultural baggage that comes with each of them).… Read more »

Jews in Hollywood, Actual and Imagined

From the Jewish Daily Forward, October 9, 2012. — J.R.

Hollywood’s Chosen People:

The Jewish Experience in American Cinema

 

Edited by Daniel Bernardi, Murray Pomerance, and Hava Tirosh-Samuelson

 

Wayne State University Press, 270 pages, $31.95

 

The coeditors stake their claim in the first sentence of their Introduction: “This book sets out to mark a new and challenging path of the role of Jews and their experience in Hollywood filmmaking.” And to some degree, they live up to this goal, in a varied collection that tends to get livelier as it proceeds. But considering how slippery and elastic their definitions of “Jews” can be, part of their path strikes me as both familiar and questionable.

Fritz Lang, for instance, gets cited over a dozen times in the book’s index, but for me his inclusion is fully justified only once — in a fascinating article by Peter Krämer that charts diverse efforts over four decades to make a movie about Oskar Schindler that preceded Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List in 1993, many of them launched by Schindler himself, who had a lengthy correspondence with Lang about the first of these projects in 1951. Virtually all the other references assume that Lang was a Jew because of his mother’s origins—a default position held in spite of his being raised solely as a Catholic and apparently never betraying the slightest interest in identifying himself any other way.… Read more »

Preface to the Korean Edition of GOODBYE CINEMA, HELLO CINEPHILIA

Written in October 2012 for what was supposed to have been the first (and, so far, only) translated edition of my most recent collection, although it has never come out. There is, however, a Korean translation of my earlier collection Essential Cinema (with a new Afterword, available here).

In retrospect, I’m sorry that I didn’t find some way of mentioning Lee Chang-dong’s extraordinary Poetry (2010), my favorite Korean film [see all the stills below] — and one that, incidentally, helps to explain the reason for my alienation from most of the other South Korean films I’ve seen and their excessive reliance on rape and serial killers as subjects (something that I was embarrassed to bring up in this Preface, written at the request of the publisher). This film in fact addresses the theme of rape and its role in Korean society quite directly. — J.R.

My acquaintance with cinephilia in South Korea is limited. My only first- hand knowledge comes from my experience as a juror on Indie Vision at the Jeonju International Film Festival in the Spring of 2006 and my acquaintance over a longer period with the brilliant and discerning critic and programmer Un-Seong Yoo, who worked for that festival for many years and, more recently, was my fellow juror on the New Directors jury at the San Sebastian Film Festival in the Fall of 2011.I credit Un-Seong in particular for some of the crucial choices and selections made for the extraordinary Jeonju Digital Project that began in the year 2000, and has already yielded such masterpieces as Jia Zhang-ke’s In Public (2001), Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Twelve Twenty (2006), and Pedro Costa’s The Rabbit Hunters (2007).Read more »

A Master Index To This Site (as of October 1, 2012)

Trevor Vartanoff, one of the frequenters of this web site, has just come up with an invaluable gift to me and to others — an alphabetical master index of all (or almost all) the postings here, complete with links. “I found it useful,” Trevor just wrote me, “maybe you or readers will too.” — J.R.

***

Featured Texts:

*Corpus Callosum

*CORPUS CALLOSUM

12 Monkeys

12 and Holding

15th Annual Festival of Illinois Film and Video

2 Oxford Companion Entries (Albert Brooks and découpage)

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her

2001: A Space Odyssey

2046

20th International Tournee of Animation

29th Chicago International Film Festival: Mired in the Present

4 Little Girls

4

60s Wisdom

7 Women

8 1/2

8 Mile

84 Charlie Mopic

9 1/2 Weeks with Van Gogh

A Bankable Feast [BABETTE’S FEAST]

A Beauty and a Beast

A Bluffer’s Guide to Bela Tarr

A Breakthrough And A Throwback

A Brief History of Time

A Brighter Summer Day

A Bronx Tale

A Christmas Commodity: SCROOGED

A Cinema of Uncertainty

A Constant Forge

A Couple of Kooks [MY BEST FIEND]

A Cut Above [HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER]

A Depth in the Family [A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE]

A Dialogue about Abbas Kiarostami’s SHIRIN

A Different Kind of Swinger [GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE]

A Different Kind of Thrill (Richet’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13)

A Dry White Season

A Family Thing

A Far Off Place

A Few Eruptions in the House of Lava

A Few Things Well [A LITTLE STIFF]

A Film of the Future

A Fish Called Wanda

A Force Unto Himself [on Hou Hsiao-hsien]

A Great Day in Harlem

A History of Violence

A Home of Our Own

À la recherche de Luc Moullet: 25 Propositions

A Little Transcendence Goes a Long Way

A Lucky Day

A Major Talent [on SWEETIE]

A Man Escaped

A Midnight Clear

A Moment of Innocence

A New Leaf

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

A Page of Madness

A Perfect World

A Perversion of the Past

A Place Called Chiapas

A Place in the Pantheon: Films by Bela Tarr

A Place in the World

A Price Above Rubies

A Prophet in His Own Country [Jon Jost retrospective]

A Quirky Cowboy Classic [on THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA]

A Radical Idea [HALF NELSON & THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED]

A Road Not Taken (The Films of Harun Farocki)

A Room With No View [ORPHANS]

A Russian in Hollywood [SHY PEOPLE]

A Scanner Darkly

A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love

A Single Girl

A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries

A Stylist Hits His Stride (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND)

A Tale of Love

A Tale of Winter

A Tale of the Wind

A Tale of the Wind

A Thousand Words

A Time of Love

A Time to Lie (CROSS MY HEART)

A Time to Live and a Time to Die

A Touch of Class [GOSFORD PARK]

A Woman’s Tale

A World Apart

A Year at the Movies

A Zed and Two Noughts

A.I.… Read more »