Monthly Archives: April 2014

Recommended Reading & Viewing (with qualms, 4/24/14)

 Directory of World Cinema Belgium

In today’s mail: Directory of World Cinema: Belgium, edited by Marcelline Block and Jeremi Szaniawski. Bristol, UK/Chicago, USA: Intellect Books, 332 pp., $31.95 from Amazon.

Nightfall

Discovered today on the Internet (at YouTube): 17 films by James Benning: five shorts (Two Cabins, Short Story, Two Faces, Postscript, Youtube) and a dozen features (Twenty Cigarettes, Ten Skies, One Way Boogie Woogie, Easy Rider, The War, Faces, After Warhol, Small Roads, Nightfall [see above photo], BNSF, casting a glance, Stemple Pass).  

In both cases, untold riches. Just for starters, the book offers countless reviews and essays by 38 contributors exploring multiple facets of a neglected subject, the first detailed account I know in English of all the features of André Delvaux, fascinating interviews with Chantal Akerman and Boris Lehman (including the former’s description of The Misfits as “a documentary about Marilyn Monroe undergoing a depression” and the “extremely accurate, just relationship” between people and space in John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath), reflections on Jean-Claude Van Damme and “Belgium as Cinematic ‘Non-space’”. The Benning bounty includes five film that I’ve already seen and a dozen more that I haven’t .Read more »

Workingman’s Death [R.I. P. Michael Glawogger, 2014]

From the Chicago Reader (February 24, 2006). I was shocked and upset to learn today that Michael Glawogger, the visionary Austrian filmmaker and world traveler, has just died from malaria in Liberia at age 54. The film of his that left the most lasting impression on me was the remarkable Megacities (1998, see first still below), which filmed people living on the edge in Mumbai, New York City, Moscow, and Mexico City — the first part of an epic documentary trilogy that was followed by Workingman’s Death (2004) and Whores’ Glory (2011, see second still below). I’m sorry to say that this capsule review below is the only time I had occasion to write about his work. — J.R.

megacities

whores-glory

Workingman's Death - Workingman's Death (2005)

In Megacities (1998), Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger emulated the city symphony films of the 1920s, and for this 2005 documentary about manual labor around the world he also references film history with clips from Dziga Vertov’s Enthusiasm and Georges Franju’s Blood of the Beasts during the opening credits. Glawogger shoots coal miners in the Ukraine and sulfur miners working a volcanic crater in Java, the slaughter and rendering of goats and bulls in Nigeria, and the dismantling of tankers in Pakistan, emphasizing the workers’ small talk along with their physical activities.… Read more »

Global Discoveries on DVD: Mitigating Circumstances

My Spring 2014 DVD column for Cinema Scope, posted in March. — J.R.

a-Throne of Blood Criterion

There’s no question that DVDs and Blu-rays are fostering new viewing habits and also new critical protocols and processes in sizing up what we’re watching. A perfect example of what I mean is Criterion’s brilliant idea to release Kurosawa Akira’s Throne of Blood (1957) with two alternative sets of subtitles by Linda Hoaglund and the late Donald Richie, both of whom were also commissioned to write essays explaining the rationales and methodologies of their very different translations—a move that I already wrote about and praised in my fourth DVD column for this magazine, just over a decade ago. So I’m very happy to find these subtitles and essays preserved in Criterion’s new dual-format edition, providing an invaluable pedagogical tool that was (and still is) unavailable to anyone seeing Throne of Blood theatrically.

In 1963, after seeing Jules and Jim, I had the pleasure of reading Roger Greenspun about it in Sight & Sound. I regret this option isn’t readily available today, but I have to admit that in Criterion’s new dual-format edition, I have many other things I can turn to—I’m especially grateful for the dialogue between Dudley Andrew and Robert Stam, an interview with Truffaut’s co-writer Jean Gruault, and a fascinating documentary about the film’s real-life models, all of which, perversely or not, held my interest longer than seeing the film all the way through for the umpteenth time.… Read more »