Yearly Archives: 2015

THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (catalogue entry)

Written for the catalogue of Il Cinema Ritrovat0, June 24 through July 4, 2015. — J.R.

 

THE MAN FROM LARAMIE

The-Man-from-Laramie

USA, 1955

 

T. it.: L’ Uomo di Laramie.  Sog.; Thomas T. Flynn. Scen.: Philip Yordan, Frank Burt. F. (CinemaScope): Charles Lang.  M.: William Lyon.  Mus.: George Duning, Lester Lee. Int.: James Stewart (Will Lockhart),  Arthur Kennedy (Vic Hansbro),  Donald Crisp (Alec Waggoman), Cathy O’Donnell (Barbara Waggoman),  Alex Nicol (Dave Waggoman), Aline MacMahon (Kate Canady)., Wallace Ford. Prod.: William Goetz Productions.

 

TheManfromLaramie-town

“Anthony Mann brought a touch of Oedipus Rex to almost everything he did—he was fascinated by families exploding from the inside—but in this 1955 western it’s more than a touch: he’s clearly aiming for classical resonance. Yet the film is never pretentious, perhaps because Mann is able to create characters complex enough to support the grand emotions, and because the landscape—animistic, enveloping—becomes mythic in his wide-screen framing. It’s one of Mann’s cleanest, clearest films, constructing an elaborate but ultimately lucid network of character relationships, all of them perverse. With James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, and Donald Crisp. 104 min.” (Dave Kehr in the Chicago Reader)

man-from-laramie-jail

This is the eight and last of Anthony Mann’s features starring James Stewart, made over a mere six years (1950-1955)—a fascinating body of work that, like Alfred Hitchcock’s uses of Stewart over roughly the same period (in Rope, Rear Window, and Vertigo) as well Cecil B.… Read more »

A Few Further Reflections on GREED (as seen on TCM, 6/14/15–6/15/15)

Greed2

I hadn’t originally intended to watch this film again, for the umpeenth time, when it was shown late last night on Turner Classic Movies, but as soon as I noticed the exquisite tinting and the (uncredited but fabulous) music score on the print they were showing, I couldn’t resist. (Apparently — or at least hopefully — the same print is available for online viewing.)

Greed-Trina asleep

I can’t think of another film in the history of cinema in which hands are more expressive, in a multitude of ways — a motif that may be even more telling than the gradual evolution of Mac and Trina’s wedding photo, half of which eventually becomes the wanted poster for Mac’s arrest.

greed-biting hands

Greed-Xmas

Too much of the writing about Greed (mine included) has been concentrated on the legend of the filming and the subsequent cutting and not enough about what remains, entirely visible and triumphant, in what remains and is fully visible.

A lot has been written about the relationship between the fates of Greed and The Magnificent Ambersons in terms of their eviscerations, and not enough about the major differences between the ways that they’re edited in their surviving forms.(Perhaps the most neglected but significant common point between the films is the unerring sense of camera angles in the staging of both films.) I’ve never pointed this out before, but June Mathis’s editing of the release print is both sensitive and masterful, not only as storytelling but as a way of paring down and concentrating the original to a conventional length.… Read more »

A Memorable Evening (Upgraded)

I was privileged to conduct a lengthy public interview with Oja Kodar Saturday night, May 9, in Woodstock, Illinois, as the main event in a weekend devoted to Orson Welles — the first of three successive celebratory Welles weekends to be held there this month. Oja, as always, was passionate, candid, funny, lucid, informative, and perceptive about Welles, but I’ve never seen her in public speak with so much warmth and insight. The whole event was recorded, and I hope everyone will get a chance to watch it at some point. — J.R.   [5/11/15]

Two weeks later, after returning from a second very enjoyable weekend of Welles events in Woodstock, I’ve added a few more photos of the May 9 event, including two taken by Peter Gill shortly beforehand which show Oja with her great niece Biljana and her sister Nina as well as me. — J.R. [5/24/15]

 

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Orson Welles in the 21st Century

 Published in the Spanish newspaper El mundo as “El maverick impredecible” on May 1, 2015. — J.R.

Having some historical perspective on changing fashions in film taste is never easy, but it becomes necessary if one is to understand the fluctuating meanings of the career of Orson Welles. Just as one needs to recall a time in the early 20th century when the crime serials of Louis Feuillade such as Fantomas and Les Vampires were regarded with utter scorn by sophisticated cinephiles, and a time in the mid-20th  century when Alfred Hitchcock was still considered an entertainer but not an artist, we have to consider that during the half-century constituting the career of Orson Welles, his audience swerved repeatedly back and forth between regarding him as a mainstream star and viewing him as an esoteric artist. Although the tendency to see him as a maverick has been constant, the issue of where he belongs as a maverick has never been entirely resolved.

 

Even before Citizen Kane, when at age 23 he appeared on the cover of Time magazine (1938) for his work in theater and as a radio actor, and shortly before he began a weekly radio series of his own, he already had the profile of a boy genius full of imagination and mischief, a reputation that was only enhanced about half a year later when he fooled part of his radio audience into believing, through an unorthodox adaptation of H.G.… Read more »

Recommended Viewing: Mark Rappaport’s I, DALIO (OR THE RULES OF THE GAME)

In order to see Mark Rappaport’s brilliant new video about the life and career of French/Jewish character actor Marcel Dalio (2015, 33 min.), you have to take out a trial subscription to Fandor, as I did, but I can assure you it’s well worth the trouble. As in his classic features Rock Hudson’s Home Movies and From the Journals of Jean Seberg (go here for an interview with Rappaport about the latter), both also available on Fandor, but this time with the use of an another actor who’s heard but not seen, Rappaport takes us on a fictional tour through an actor’s career, albeit one supported by a great deal of research and careful film-watching, that proposes some enlightening ways of reinventing how we watch movies, teaching and hugely entertaining us at the same time. Mark’s own accurate  synopsis of what he’s doing, reproduced below, is taken from the web site of a film festival held in the Canary Islands — one of the many festivals where the film has already shown or will be shown later this year. — J.R. [4/26/15]

 

I, Dalio - Or The Rules OF The Game (Subsección Ensayos)

Synopsis 

Are you defined by other people and their perceptions of who you are? Or can you exist  outside of the arbitrary boundaries which are placed on you?… Read more »

Speech by Pere Portabella (part three)

Four years ago, I requested and received authorization from Pere Portabella to publish in English translation two lengthy texts of his — a lecture that he gave in 2009 when he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the Universidad Autónoma of Barcelona and the even lengthier (over twice as long) “Prologue” he wrote and published for Mutaciones del Cine Contemporáneo (2010),  the Spanish translation of Movie Mutations: The Changing Face of World Cinephilia (2003), which I coedited with Adrian Martin. The first of these was an unsigned English translation that Nicole Brenez sent to me; the second was a makeshift translation hastily but generously done by two of Rob Tregenza’s students at Virginia Commonwealth University, Daniel Schofield and Caleb Plutzer.

The original plan was for both of these pieces to appear in the online journal Lola, but for a variety of reasons, this didn’t pan out, and both these texts were recently returned to me. For now, I am opting to reproduce the translation of the speech in three consecutive installments. — J.R.

 

pereportalla

II

In the early eighties, a significant about-face took place, especially in the European Union and the United States. All of the avant-garde movements’ residual ideas, or those protected under that name, were driven out, as the need for a unique form of politically correct, artistically appropriate thought was ushered in, and anything that smacked of “deconstruction” was swept away.… Read more »

Speech by Pere Portabella (part two)

Four years ago, I requested and received authorization from Pere Portabella to publish in English translation two lengthy texts of his — a lecture that he gave  in 2009 when he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the Universidad   Autónoma of Barcelona and the even lengthier (over twice as long) “Prologue” he wrote and published for Mutaciones del Cine Contemporáneo (2010),  the Spanish translation of Movie Mutations: The Changing Face of World Cinephilia (2003), which I coedited with Adrian Martin. The first of these was   an unsigned English translation that Nicole Brenez sent to me; the second was a makeshift translation hastily but generously done by two of Rob Tregenza’s students at Virginia Commonwealth University, Daniel Schofield and Caleb Plutzer. The original plan was for both of these pieces to appear in the online journal Lola, but for a variety of reasons, this didn’t pan out, and both these texts were recently returned to me. For now, I am opting to reproduce the translation of the speech in three consecutive installments. — J.R.

pereportalla

Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, the fiction and essay writer, defines “lyrical poetry as that which does not strictly have any ‘recipients’, because it does not communicate any semantic content at all; instead it has just ‘users’, and their ‘use’ consists precisely of taking the place of the ‘id’ in the poem.… Read more »

Speech by Pere Portabella (part one)

Four years ago, I requested and received authorization from Pere Portabella to publish in English translation two lengthy texts of his — a lecture that he gave in 2009 when he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the Universidad Autónoma of Barcelona and the even lengthier (over twice as long) “Prologue” he wrote and published for Mutaciones del Cine Contemporáneo (2010), the Spanish translation of Movie Mutations: The Changing Face of  World Cinephilia (2003), which I coedited with Adrian Martin. The first of these was an unsigned English translation that Nicole Brenez sent to me; the second was a makeshift translation hastily but generously done by two of Rob Tregenza’s students at Virginia Commonwealth University, Daniel Schofield and Caleb Plutzer.

The original plan was for both of these pieces to appear in the online journal Lola, but for a variety of reasons, this didn’t pan out, and both of these texts were recently returned to me. For now, I am opting to reproduce the translation I have of the speech, in three consecutive installments. — J.R.

 

pereportalla

Speech by Pere Portabella for the event at which he is awarded an Honorary Doctoral Degree by the Universidad Autónoma of Barcelona

 

I

 

In order to conceive a film, I must always place a blank sheet of paper in front of me.… Read more »

En movimiento: TWIN PEAKS Revisited

My column for the April 2015 issue of Caimán Cuadernos de Cine. Although I didn’t have the space to discuss this, it seems to me in retrospect that Jack Nance, even as a relatively minor character (Pete Martell), is as much the realistic backbone of Twin Peaks as he is the realistic anchor of Eraserhead — and, as such, he stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from such supernatural pasteboard characters as Bob (Frank Silva) and Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh). — J.R.

TP-Jack-Nance

TwinPeaks-thentiremystery

The news that David Lynch and Mark Frost are preparing nine new Twin Peaks episodes — all to be directed by Lynch and set in the present, and to air on cable TV’s Showtime in 2016 — has coincided with the release of a beautifully designed Blu-Ray box set with ten discs, Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery and The Missing Pieces, devoted to the 29 episodes broadcast in 1990 and 1991 and the subsequent prequel theatrical feature, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), and many extras. All this has prompted a re-evaluation of the series as a whole, which I’ve now seen in its entirety for the first time. A few critics have aided me in this quest—especially Michel Chion in his 1992 French book on Lynch, Martha P.… Read more »

SCARFACE

A capsule review requested by and written for MUBI’s Notebook in conjunction with an ongoing series at New York”s Film Forum. — J.R.

scarface

Scarface (Howard Hawks, 1932): A surprising amount of Howard Hawks’ unstable, weirdly graceful universe is informed by the imminence of death and the proximity of offscreen space, tied to the risks of tangling with sudden impulses. Few of his films are more aware of this encroaching void than Scarface, where X is made to mark the offscreen spot around every narrative corner. This frighteningly brutal black comedy, the least romantic of his crowd-pleasers — a much better gangster film than any of the Godfathers, especially when it comes to confronting reality — was made when people were far less deluded than they are today about the fact that their lives and destinies were being controlled by crooks. What makes it bleaker than Only Angels Have Wings and Rio Bravo is the small and indecisive role friendship is allowed to play in holding back the darkness; perhaps only Land of the Pharaohs betrays a comparable nihilistic bleakness. — Jonathan Rosenbaum

http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ln28nyzWSs1qhqg0d.pngRead more »

Rivette, The Long and Short of It

Written for the April 2015 issue of Sight and Sound. — J.R.

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out1-leaudogier

Jacques Rivette’s preference for longer films over shorter ones has led to many alternate versions over the course of his career, starting with a two-hour version of  L’amour fou (1968, 250 min.) that the director disowned, though it premiered in Paris at the same time as the longer one, and attracted fewer spectators. The differences between the 750-minute Out 1 (1970), composed as an eight-part serial, and the 260-minute Out 1: Spectre (1971), designed as a feature, are far more important: the first is a free-form comedy whereas the second, a tightly edited nightmare fashioned out of the same footage, took Rivette a year to put together, with a separate editor.  Most fascinating of all is the fact that the same shots sometimes have substantially different meanings and impacts. Fortunately, both versions are now available in a lovely German box set from Absolut Medien in which the serial has optional English subtitles. Together and separately, these two films remain Rivette’s key achievement, along with L’amour fou and the 1974 Celine and Julie Go Boating.  (For the latter, Rivette even signed a contract stipulating that his comedy wouldn’t run over two hours, but then everyone who saw the 185-minute work print agreed that it shouldn’t be cut.)

Out1-Berto-color-knives

C&J-Berto-magic act

At least three other (and later) Rivette features exist in shorter and longer versions, both edited by him: L’amour pour terre (Love on the Ground, 1983, 170 min.… Read more »

Interview for a Shanghai Weekly

This interview with Han Jian, reporter for the Bund Pictorial – a culture and lifestyle weekly based in Shanghai — was conducted for a cover story about American film critics planned for their February 17, 2015 issue. [Feb. 28: Now that I've been sent a link, it's clear that the Chinese version of this piece is somewhat longer, because of an added introduction.]– J.R.

ShoalsTheatre

1. How did you become a film critic? Do you still remember your first film review?

Much of this is described in my first book, an experimental memoir entitled Moving Places: A Life at the Movies (1980; second edition, 1995). I was the grandson and son of movie theater exhibitors in northwestern Alabama, which enabled me to grow up watching a great many movies for free. My father wrote a column for the local newspaper promoting the current releases, and shortly after my 14th birthday, I substituted for him one week, although this wasn’t actually a review. But the following year, I published my first actual film reviews — of The Astounding She-Monster, The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent, The Vikings, and a live TV drama called No Place to Run – in my high school newspaper.Read more »

A Shocking Death, and a Gratifying Message (“Still learning…”)

perez-gilberto

I can’t remember the first time I met Gil Perez, but the first time I got in touch with him, which must have been in the late 60s, it was to reprint a remarkable essay of his about Murnau that had appeared in Sight and Sound for an anth0logy I was editing called Film Masters, a book that for various complex reasons never came out (although, if memory serves, it twice reached the galley-proof stage). I do recall that Gil was still a theoretical physicist at the time, in the U.S. but still relatively fresh from Havana, and he was most likely making his academic transition to film studies and film theory when we eventually met in New York. (See his Introduction to his magisterial 1998 The Material Ghost, “Film and Physics,” for more    details.) Years later, circa the early 80s, we became neighbors in Hoboken, living only a few blocks apart, and we remained loosely in touch for the remainder of his life, during his various stints at William Paterson, Princeton, Harvard, Missouri, and, most permanently, Sarah Lawrence, where he ran the film history program.

TheMaterialGhost

A slow and methodical writer, but also a prolific one, Gil wrote frequently about film for the The Hudson Review, The Yale Review, and the London Review of Books and less often for film and academic journals, and I was often envious of the way he was both welcome and able to hold his own as a public intellectual with a literary sensibility in those and similar venues, such as The Nation.… Read more »

Conspicuously Absent or Apt to be Overlooked

My “Global Discoveries on DVD” column for the Winter 2015 issue of Cinema Scope. — J.R.

 

For now the truly shocking thing was the world itself. It was a new world. and he’d just discovered it, just noticed it for the first time.

– Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book

I: Some Conspicuous Absences

As a rule, this column has been preoccupied with what’s available in digital formats, but I’d like to start off this particular quarterly installment with a list of some of the things that aren’t available, at least not yet. This alphabetical checklist is by no means even remotely exhaustive and is entirely personal, based on a few of my recent experiences:

statues

 

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Alain Resnais (two titles): The two most glaring lacunae here are Resnais’ first major film and the last of his features, neither of which can be found yet with English subtitles. Les Statues meurent aussi (Statues Also Die, 1953), written by Chris Marker, a remarkable half-hour essay film about African sculpture, also qualifies as his own first major film work –- its beautiful and corrosive text is the first one Marker chose to print in his (still untranslated) two-volume 1967 collection Commentaires.Read more »