Daily Archives: August 9, 2018

My Favorite Films/Texts/Things (1976) (further upgraded for reposting)

From the November-December 1976 Film Comment and exhumed now mainly as a telling time capsule of this period in the world of English film criticism. I’m still indebted to Laura Mulvey for introducing me to Zoo, or Letters Not About Love in her own list, which has subsequently become a touchstone for me.

For illustrations, I’ve selected the first film cited in each list whenever possible, even when there’s no particular significance to the order (when I couldn’t come up with one for The Nightcleaners, at least until Ehsan Khoshbakht — see below — furnished me with production stills or framegrabs, I accorded the late Claire Johnston two others)….Because of a scanning error and oversight, I originally had to omit two entries, those of David Pirie and Paul Willemen, which are now included. In the remaining 27, I’ve corrected a few typos for the first time, and accidentally introduced a few others, but thanks to the generous efforts of my good friend and best proofreader, Ehsan Khoshbakht, on December 4, 2014 (as well as Adrian Martin three days later, who caught a few more glitches), these are now corrected, and five additional illustrations (again, courtesy of Ehsan) have been added.Read more »

Capra’s Catastrophe

This review of Frank Capra’s Broadway Bill (1934) first appeared in the August 7, 1992 issue of the Chicago Reader. –J.R.

BROADWAY BILL

*** (A must-see)

Directed by Frank Capra

Written by Robert Riskin and Sidney Buchman

With Warner Baxter, Myrna Loy, Helen Vinson, Clarence Muse, Raymond Walburn, Walter Connolly, Margaret Hamilton, and Frankie Darro.

Though it’s surely a coincidence, the theatrical rerelease of Frank Capra’s Broadway Bill and the simultaneous publication of Joseph McBride’s Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success are mutually enhancing in a number of ways.

FrankCapraTCOS

Capra’s 1934 Christmas release was made for Columbia, bought by Paramount, and withdrawn from circulation over 40 years ago, when Capra was preparing a remake called Riding High (1950) — a Bing Crosby musical with virtually the same plot and dialogue that was so unmemorable that despite numerous TV screenings the film critic for the Boston Globe claimed last month that it had never been made at all. The much feistier Broadway Bill, by contrast, has never turned up on TV, and apart from a few archival airings has remained unseen for over half a century. A breezy if edgy racing comedy laced with some serious ingredients, it isn’t nearly as good as The Bitter Tea of General Yen or It Happened One Night, both of which preceded it, but on the other hand it isn’t as cloying as the worst parts of its successors Mr.Read more »

Vigo’s Secret (L’ATALANTE)

From the Chicago Reader, March 29, 1991. —J.R.

L’ATALANTE

**** (Masterpiece)

Directed by Jean Vigo

Written by Vigo, Albert Riera, and Jean Guinee

With Michel Simon, Dita Parlo, Jean Dasté, Gilles Margaritis, and Louis Lefevre.

“What was Vigo’s secret? Probably he lived more intensely than most of us. Filmmaking is awkward because of the disjointed nature of the work. You shoot five to fifteen seconds and then stop for an hour. On the film set there is seldom the opportunity for the concentrated intensity a writer like Henry Miller might have enjoyed at his desk. By the time he had written twenty pages, a kind of fever possessed him, carried him away; it could be tremendous, even sublime. Vigo seems to have worked continuously in this state of trance, without ever losing his clearheadedness.” — François Truffaut, 1970

L’Atalante is one of the supreme achievements in the history of cinema, and its recent restoration, playing this week at the Music Box, offers what is surely the best version any of us is ever likely to see. Yet the conditions that made this masterpiece possible were anything but auspicious.

When Jean Vigo started to work on his first and only feature in July 1933, he had no say over either the script or the two lead actors.… Read more »