Daily Archives: August 5, 2019

Play it again: Review of THE CULT FILM EXPERIENCE

From Sight and Sound (November 1991). -– J.R.

Play it again

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Jonathan Rosenbaum

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The Cult Film Experience: Beyond AII Reason

J. P. Telotte (ed), University of Texas Press,

$36, 218 pp.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

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“It will be a sad day when a too smart audience will read Casablanca as conceived by Michael Curtiz after having read Calvino and Barthes”, Umberto Eco wrote in 1984. “But that day will come”. J. P. Telotte’s collection reminds us that Eco’s sad day is already well behind us — though it turns out to be Eco himself rather than Calvino or Barthes who provides the principal theoretical back-up.

Serious analysis of film cults can be traced back to a 1932 essay by Harry Alan Potamkin, but you won’t find Potamkin’s name in Telotte’s index. Indeed, apart from some cursory acknowledgments, the book fosters the impression that the arrival of film cults coincided with the burgeoning of film studies in the early 70s. This suggests that academic film study is itself an unacknowledged form of cult activity predicated on repeated viewings by a fetishistically inclined minority audience which reappropriates the film in question for its own specialized purposes.

One of these purposes is institutional, which accounts for the academics’ frequent recourse to the self- validating and ahistorical term ‘classical’ to dignify both mainstream movie-making and established film theory.… Read more »

Inside Pitches

This appeared in the March 20, 1998 issue of the Chicago Reader. —J.R.

 

Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life

Rating ** Worth seeing

Directed and written by Michael Paxton

Narrated by Sharon Gless.

Primary Colors

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Mike Nichols

Written by Elaine May

With John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Adrian Lester, Kathy Bates, Billy Bob Thornton, Larry Hagman, and Maura Tierney.

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

Two highly partisan political movies are opening this week, a right-wing independent documentary and a left-wing Hollywood feature — though it’s not clear that the filmmakers of either would categorize their work in this way. Certainly it wouldn’t be any exaggeration to call both films the efforts of special interest groups — a movie about Bill Clinton put together by people who mainly qualify as his supporters and friends and a sincere hagiography of novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand fashioned by many of her disciples and acolytes. How far they actually carry their respective loyalties is a different matter, however. Ultimately both movies flounder as well as triumph because of their insider points of view, though not always for the same reasons.

Whenever Ayn Rand’s name comes up, I have an impulse to scoff, an impulse I think is shared by many others.… Read more »