Monthly Archives: October 2017

Why I Like TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE: A Conversation with Justin Bozung

The following is a slightly revised and rearranged dialogue recorded for a podcast in January 2014 and reworked a little over a year later for a  book by Justin Bozung about Norman Mailer’s films, and then cut from the book due to a lack of space the following year. I’m told it will appear eventually in a 2018 issue of the academic journal Mailer Review. –- J. R.

 Mailer in Provincetown

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JUSTIN BOZUNG: My first question for you is, Why in the hell are you and I the only two people in the world that love this film?

JONATHAN ROSENBAUM: Well, we aren’t quite the only two — there’s also my friend Mark Rappaport, who, like Mailer, is both a filmmaker and a writer. But it’s true, there aren’t many others. And I can’t speak authoritatively about why other people don’t like the film, but I will say that I’ve never been a fan of Mailer’s three previous films. And I use the word “film” deliberately and advisedly, because Tough Guys Don’t Dance is above all a movie; it’s the only thing of his that has some resemblance to Hollywood. And he has a flair for it.

I saw what I believe was one of its first screenings, soon after it was (probably) shown at Telluride, at the Toronto Film Festival.… Read more »

LAST FLAG FLYING

 From the Chicago Reader (October 12, 2017). — J.R

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Having no desire to revisit the adolescent, macho-military hijinks of The Last Detail (1973) or read the Darryl Ponicsan novel on which it was based, I had some forebodings about this screen adaptation of Ponicsan’s 2005 sequel, even though the movie was cowritten and directed by the smart and resourceful Richard Linklater. Fortunately the movie belongs mainly to its fine lead actors — Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne — playing buddies from the Vietnam war who reunite for a funeral in 2003 after one of them loses a son in Iraq. The movie asks whether Americans unable to share a country or a conviction can at least agree to share a symbol (whether it’s the Stars and Stripes or an unmerited military funeral), and even Linklater and Ponicsan seem divided and uncertain on the question. This has its moments, but it ends, like its characters, in sentimental confusion. — Jonathan Rosenbaum

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GOLDEN YEARS

Written for the Chicago Reader (October 12, 2017). — J.R.

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Golden Years

Nos Années Folles, the French title of this exquisitely upholstered and mysteriously provocative period drama, means “Our Crazy Years.” But as writer-director André Téchiné has suggested in such masterpieces as Wild Reeds and Thieves, being “crazy” simply means being human, alive, and horny. The protagonist (Pierre Deladonchamps), a passionately heterosexual soldier, disguises himself as a streetwalker to escape combat in World War I, then continues to wear drag in peacetime, yet his behavior seems no less rational (to him or to us) than that of little boys playing at war, or his adulterous wife (Céline Sallette) playing at marriage. For better and for worse, the mysteries remain unsolved and Téchiné’s elliptical tragic poetry prevails. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

Goldenyears

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LET THE SUNSHINE IN

 From the Chicago Reader (October 12, 2017). — J.R.

Let the Sunshine In

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Loosely inspired by Roland Barthes’ nonfiction book A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments – which dives into the absurd language of solitude and mythology that lovers and would-be lovers recite to themselves and others — this rapturous and faintly comic concerto for Juliette Binoche may well be the most pleasurable and original film Claire Denis has made since Beau Travail (1999). Binoche plays a divorced painter whom Denis pairs sexually, amorously, and/or tentatively with a succession of men played by everyone from Xavier Beauvois to Alex Descas to Gerard Depardieu. The filmmaker’s skill in framing her protagonist’s various trysts, moods, and dialogues, sometimes even setting them to music, is matchless. Novelist Christine Angot collaborated with Denis on the script. –- Jonathan Rosenbaum

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Reflections on Agee’s Complete Film Criticism: Reviews, Essays, and Manuscripts

Posted on the Film Comment web site, October 16, 2017. — J.R.

Agee

My late father was never a cinephile, not even remotely, but he managed and programmed a small chain of movie theaters in northwestern Alabama for about a quarter of a century, from the mid-’30s to 1960. And during most or all of that period, he read Time magazine every week, from cover to cover. This means that from September 1942, half a year before I was born, until early November 1948, and not counting all the press books that passed through his office and the various trade journals he subscribed to, just about everything he read and knew about movies came from the so-called Cinema pages of Time, and most of these were written by James Agee.

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But he probably had little or no idea who Agee was during this period, even though their stints at Harvard had overlapped, because none of Agee’s writing for Time was signed and my father usually didn’t read The Nation while Agee was concurrently writing his film column there. It’s unlikely that he saw Abraham Lincoln, the Early Years on Omnibus in 1952 because we didn’t have a TV set then, and more probable that he saw The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky in Face to Face the following year at one of his theaters.… Read more »

Recommended Reading: JACQUES TOURNEUR

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JACQUES TOURNEUR, edited by Fernando Ganzo, Locarno Festival/Cinémathèque Suisse/Capricci,224 pages, 23 Euros.

Published to accompany the Jacques Tourneur retrospective at the Locarno Festival last August, this collection has been issued in separate English and French editions; Capricci has kindly sent me a review copy of the former, and although I’ve only just started to dig into its contents, I’m looking forward to many pleasurable and profitable times with the rest. Apart from translating a few important texts from the past — extended interviews with Tourneur in Cahiers du Cinéma and Présence du Cinéma (both in 1966), an essay by Petr Král from Caméra/Stylo in 1986 — this book mainly consists of new essays, most of them translated from over a dozen French writers (including Pierre Rissient, Patrice Rollet, and Jean-François Rauger) and two Americans (Chris Fujiwara and Haden Guest). There are also many illustrations in this slightly oversized volume, My only complaint is with the layout that prints about two dozen pages of the text on a shade of dark grey that makes them extremely (and needlessly) difficult to read. If Marc Lafon, the book’s design person, was trying to approximate some notion of Tourneur as the poet of shadows, I’m afraid this effort was misguided, because all that comes out of this exercise is murkiness, not poetry.… Read more »

Cleo From 5 To 7

From the Chicago Reader (February 1, 1997). I had a great time talking to Varda about this film at Chicago’s Music Box on October 14, 2015. — J.R.

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Cleo-Swing

Agnes Varda’s 1961 New Wave feature — recounting two hours in the life of a French pop singer (Corinne Marchand) while she waits to learn from her doctor whether she’s terminally ill — is arguably her best work, rivaled only by her Vagabond (1985) and The Gleaners and I (2000). Beautifully shot and realized, this film offers an irreplaceable time capsule of Paris, and fans of Michel Legrand won’t want to miss the extended sequence in which he visits the heroine and rehearses with her. The film’s approximations of real time are exactly that — the total running time is 90 minutes — but innovative and thrilling nonetheless. Underrated when it came out and unjustly neglected since, it’s not only the major French New Wave film made by a woman, but a key work of that exciting period  — moving, lyrical, and mysterious. With Antoine Bourseiller. In French with subtitles. (JR)

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FACES PLACES

 From the Chicago Reader (October 12, 2017). — J.R.

Faces Places

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In this French road movie, whose original title juxtaposes faces with villages, 89-year-old filmmaker Agnès Varda follows 33-year-old photographer and installation muralist JR across the countryside as he and his team photograph working people, enlarge these shots into monumental black-and-white likenesses, and paste them onto the sides of the buildings where the subjects live and work. From the opening-credit animation onward, this delightful, digressive, breezy collaboration, staged to look more spontaneous than it possibly could be, celebrates and enhances both artists, repeatedly finding the extraordinary in the ordinary and growing more reflective and melancholy only in its Swiss epilogue. For Varda, this is a spinoff of sorts to The Gleaners and I (2000) and The Beaches of Agnès (2008); for me it’s a welcome introduction to the work of JR. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

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