This is the pre-edited version of a review published in its post-edited form elsewhere on this web site, as well as in the March 25, 2005 issue of the Chicago Reader. — J.R.
MELINDA AND MELINDA*
DIRECTED AND WRITTEN BY WOODY ALLEN WITH RADHA MITCHELL, WILL FERRELL, CHLOE SEVIGNY, CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, JONNY LEE MILLER, BROOKE SMITH, WALLACE SHAWN, AND LARRY PINE
“Amongst a democratic population, all the intellectual faculties of the workman are directed to…two objects: he strives to invent methods which may enable him not only to work better, but quicker and cheaper; or, if he cannot succeed in that, to diminish the intrinsic quality of the thing he makes, without rendering it wholly unfit for the use for which it is intended. When none but the wealthy had watches, they were almost all very good ones; few are now made which are worth much, but everybody has one in his pocket. Thus the democratic principle not only tends to direct the mind to the useful arts, but it induces the artisan to produce with great rapidity many imperfect commodities, and the consumer to content himself with these commodities.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)
De Tocqueville’s 170-year-old account of why Americans often blanch at intellectual abstraction and art-for-art’s-sake — and prefer accessibility over complexity when it comes to both thought and art — still seems pretty up to date.… Read more »
This appeared as the lead article in the May-June 1974 issue of Film Comment – a somewhat pared-down revamping of my entry about Stroheim for Richard Roud’s belatedly published Cinema: A Critical Dictionary (New York: The Viking Press, 1980), and, if memory serves, the longest of my several contributions to that long out-of-print collection. I’m sorry that I’ve been unable to illustrate this more precisely with most of the shots that I describe. – J.R.
Second Thoughts on Stroheim
by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Total object, complete with missing parts,
instead of partial object. Question of degree.
– Samuel Beckett, “Three Dialogues”
Two temptations present themselves to any modern reappraisal of Erich von Stroheim’s work; one of them is fatal, the other all but impossible to act upon. The fatal temptation would be to concentrate on the offscreen image and legend of Stroheim to the point of ignoring central facts about the films themselves: an approach that has unhappily characterized most critical work on Stroheim to date. On the other hand, one is tempted to look at nothing but the films — to suppress biography, anecdotes, newspaper reviews, reminiscences, and everything else that isn’t plainly visible on the screen.
Submitting Stroheim’s work to a purely formal analysis and strict textural reading of what is there — as opposed to what isn’t, or might, or would or could or should have been there — may sound like an obvious and sensible project; but apparently no one has ever tried it, and there is some reason to doubt whether anyone ever will.… Read more »