Program notes for this double feature at Manhattan’s Public Theater, March 8-13, 1983. A few of the arguments here, such as the comparison of Driver with Straub, strike me now as forced, but when I recall that students in the Downtown Whitney program during the same period compared You Are Not I abusively to The Twilight Zone (and were equally reluctant to regard John Ford as a serious artist when Straub praised him), I think my polemics were warranted….A happy postscript: both films are now available in excellent digital restorations (see below). -– J.R.
Slow yet relentless in their narrative progressions, deliberately nonspecific in their period settings, and equally unimaginable in anything but black and white, YOU ARE NOT I (1981) and THE HONEYMOON KILLERS (1969) are both startling and achieved first films about the triumphs of inexorable wills — each made with a kind of rigor and passion that seem oblivious to the whims of fashion. Small wonder that François Truffaut should be enthusiastic about the earlier film, with its accelerating montage of breathless love letters, its flighty camera movements and implacable bursts of Mahler; or that Jean-Marie Straub should be enthusiastic about the later one (“I liked your film ten times better than Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe movies”), with its integral use of dialectics in conception and treatment alike.… Read more »
Below is my Foreword to The Medieval Hero on Screen: Representations from Beowulf to Buffy (McFarland, 2004), a collection edited by Martha W. Driver and Sid Ray, minus a few editorial tweaks and abridgements. — J.R.
It’s a curious fact, at least to me, that I’m writing a forword to this book, even a short one. I’m neither a medievalist nor a historian; I haven’t seen many of the films discussed, and, perhaps because I spend much of my time reviewing films for a weekly newspaper, the Chicago Reader, I have seen but have mainly forgotten some of the others. As a professional film critic who occasionally gets invited to speak and teach at college campuses, I have the benefit of both close and long-range views of film history, and try to create some two-way traffic between these positions in my writing.
It has always been a handicap for film scholars that one can’t necessarily count on all the important works being widely accessible or even widely known. In the essays that follow, some of my favorite films with medieval themes and settings have only been briefly touched upon —- I’m thinking especially of Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc and Eric Rohmer’s Perceval -— while others, including Fritz Lang’s magnificent two-part, five-hour Die Nibelungen (1924), and Les visiteurs du soir (1942), a haunting fantasy written by Jacques Prévert and Pierre Laroche and directed by Marcel Carné during the French Occupation, are not mentioned.… Read more »