Monthly Archives: September 2012

ROOM 237 (and a Few Other Encounters) at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2012

Like so much (too much) of contemporary cinema, Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 is at once entertaining and reprehensible. Alternating between the extravagant commentaries of five analysts of Kubrick’s The Shining (Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Julie Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner), it refuses to make any distinctions between interpretations that are semi-plausible or psychotic, conceivable or ridiculous, implying that they’re all just “film criticism” and because everyone is a film critic nowadays, they all deserve to be treated with equal amounts of respect and/or mockery (assuming that one can distinguish between the two) -– that is, uncritically and derisively, with irony as the perpetual escape hatch. Thus we’re told, in swift succession, that The Shining is basically about the genocide of Native Americans, the Holocaust, Kubrick’s apology for having allegedly faked all the Apollo moon-landing footage, the Outlook Hotel’s “impossible” architecture, and/or Kubrick’s contemplation of his own boredom and/or genius. Images from the movie and/or digital alterations of same are made to verify or ridicule these various premises, or maybe both, and past a certain point it no longer matters which of these possibilities are more operative. Unlike his five experts, Ascher won’t take the risk of being wrong himself by behaving like a critic and making comparative judgments about any of the arguments or positions shown, so he inevitably winds up undermining criticism itself by making it all seem like a disreputable, absurd activity.Read more »

Ritwik Ghatak at 21

This beautiful photograph, which I’m told has never been published before, was given to me by his maternal niece Rina Chakravarti in Toronto last night, at the Lightbox, shortly before I gave an introduction to a restored, gorgeous print of Ghatak’s 1960 masterpiece, The Cloud-Capped Star. It was taken taken in 1946 in Baikunthapur, Madhya Pradesh.

As one can (arguably) see from the photo below, of Niranjan Roy — the male lead of The Cloud-Capped Star, who plays the character Sanat — there’s a certain resemblance. [9-11-12]

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A New Leaf

From the Chicago Reader (October 1, 1995); corrected and updated in September 2012. — J.R.

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ANewLeaf-Matthau-Coco

Writer-director-star Elaine May’s first feature (1971). Not all of it works, and the studio cut some of the darker elements (including a murder sequence that May avows was one of the funniest things Jack Weston ever did), but it’s still an often brilliant and frequently hilarious comedy. Walter Matthau, cast wildly against type, plays a spoiled playboy suddenly deprived of his wealth who plots to marry and murder a wealthy, klutzy, and clueless botanist (May, playing sort of a female Jerry Lewis). May’s savage take on her characters irresistibly recalls Stroheim; she’s at once tender and corrosive (as well as narcissistic and self-hating). This is painful comedy, to be sure, but there’s a lot of soul and spirit behind it. With James Coco, George Rose, and William Redfield. (JR)

ANewLeaf-WestonRead more »