Daily Archives: February 7, 2018

Music For the Eyes [on Oskar Fischinger]

An email from Cindy Keefer updating and correcting much of what follows:

Dear Jonathan,
I hope this reaches you.
I just noticed and am very curious why you’ve reposted a 17 year old post about Oskar Fischinger on your blog, reposted on Jan 26, 2018.  And those “up to the minute additions” by me at the end, are years old now, definitely no longer up to the minute!!  More of the info you have given has changed by this point; one detail is that Center for Visual Music now owns the Fischinger films (gift from the Fischinger Trust). Thus, all those films stills you have online are now (c) Center for Visual Music.
Since then there has been a LOT more Fischinger news, exhibitions and releases – and just now, a new Oskar Fischinger DVD release! Info below.
ALSO – as you may know, I am the curator/archivist for the restoration/reconstruction of Oskar Fischinger: Raumlichtkunst, which has been exhibited in museums worldwide. Though credited incorrectly, you did give some attention to this in artforum in 2012 (my name was excluded as curator, and credit was mistakenly given to a Whitney curator, much to my chagrin).  That HD three projector installation continues to be exhibited, most recently in San Francisco, in New Zealand, and at the Whitney for the second time in the recent Dreamlands exhibition. … Read more »

Benjamin Schwarz on David Thomson: A defense of Orson Welles [Chicago Reader blog post, 1/12/07]

A footnote to the following (February 7, 2018): I now regard Patrick McGilligan’s Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane as the best of all the Welles biographies to date — at the very least, the most thoroughly researched. — J.R.

Film Benjamin Schwarz on David Thomson: A defense of Orson Welles

Posted By on 01.12.07 at 03:30 PM


I sent the following letter to the Atlantic last August. I’m not surprised it wasn’t published. But I can’t resist reproducing it now that Benjamin Schwarz, the magazine’s literary editor and national editor, has shown further signs of his David Thomson idolotry while writing about Cary Grant in the current issue. This time Schwarz calls Thomson’s A Biographical Dictionary of Film, now in its fourth edition, the “finest reference book on the movies.” (He also offers some other debatable critical judgments, such as calling Sylvia Scarlett “a mess of a picture” rather than an exciting forerunner of the French New Wave in its daring mix of genres.) But before getting to his assertion about Thomson’s book, let me reproduce my letter:

“It seems sadly characteristic of the mainstream reviewing of film books in general and those about Orson Welles in particular that nonspecialists routinely take precedence over specialists — and that biographers who forgo original research for the sake of speculation or invention, and even admit to doing this, can be deemed superior to actual scholars, at least if their biases match those of the reviewers.

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From the Chicago Reader (January 12, 2007). — J.R.

Letters from Iwo Jima ****

directed by Clint Eastwood

written by Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis

with Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Hiroshi Watanabe, and Takumi Bando

The Dead Girl ***

directed and written by Karen Moncrieff

with Toni Colette, Rose Byrne, Mary Beth Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Brittany Murphy, Kerry Washington, Giovanni Ribisi, Piper Laurie, James Franco, Mary Steenburgen, Bruce Davison, Nick Searcy, and Josh Brolin

Given my usual aversion to war and slasher movies, I wasn’t instantly won over by either Letters From Iwo Jima or The Dead Girl. Both films display a fundamental decency and seriousness from the outset, but both are unrelievedly grim and full of booby traps. (At press time I was told that The Dead Girl may not open for another week or so.)

Letters From Iwo Jima, directed by Clint Eastwood, one of the finest directors alive, looks at the World War II battle of his recent Flags of Our Fathers from a Japanese perspective. Letters From Iwo Jima opened in Japan around the same time its counterpart opened here, evidence of the nobility of his intention to address the people of both countries, not just us.… Read more »