This was written in the summer of 2000 for a coffee-table book edited by Geoff Andrew that was published the following year, Film: The Critics’ Choice (New York: Billboard Books). — J.R.
Apart from his scandalous Salò, or the 120 days of Sodom, 1975 -– another film with spiritually induced levitation -– this shocking 1968 feature, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s last film with a contemporary setting, may be his most controversial work, displaying the kind of audacity and excesses that send some audiences into gales of defensive, self-protective laughter. (For a contemporary near-equivalent, think of Bruno Dumont’s 1999 film L’Humanité.)
The “theorem” of the title is a mythological figure whose arrival is heralded by Pasolini’s favorite fetish-actor, Ninetto Davoli, bringing a telegram to the home of an industrialist (Massimo Girotti). An attractive young man in tight-fitting trousers (Terence Stamp) then pays an extended visit, proceeding with solicitous devotion to seduce every member of the household — father, mother (Silvana Mangano), teenage daughter (Anne Wiazemsky), somewhat older son (Andrès José Crux), and maid (Laura Betti) — to the recurring strains of Mozart’s Requiem Mass and a modernist score by Ennio Morricone.
Then the stranger leaves as mysteriously as he came, and everyone in the household undergoes cataclysmic and traumatic changes.… Read more »
The following is taken from the online Moving Image Source, and the first introductiion is by David Schwartz. –J.R.
This essay was commissioned by the Museum of the Moving Image in 1988 for a catalogue accompanying the month-long, 150-film retrospective Independent America: New Film 1978-1988. The ambitious series, which took place during the Museum’s inaugural season, was an attempt to make a statement not just about the state of experimental filmmaking at the time but also about the Museum’s wide-ranging programming philosophy.
The underlying idea was to showcase films that were cinematically inventive, works that broke boundaries in form and content, subverted conventions, and created new hybrid forms. In this way, the series revealed the inadequacy of such confining labels as “avant-garde,” “fiction,” and “documentary,” and it also tried to reinvigorate the notion of what it means to be “independent.”
Before the commercial success of Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Pulp Fiction (and before the rise of home video), independent filmmakers made and showed their films in a world truly apart from Hollywood. To get their work seen, they would travel for months, with their 16mm film prints in tow, to colleges and media arts centers across the country.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (May 2, 1997). — J.R.
Films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
I’m still trying to figure out what I think of Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1945-1982), the German whiz kid who’s the focus of a nearly complete retrospective showing at the Film Center, Facets Multimedia Center, and the Fine Arts over the next couple of months. An awesomely prolific filmmaker (he turned out seven features in 1970 alone), Fassbinder became the height of Euro-American fashion during the mid-70s, then went into nearly total eclipse after his death from a drug overdose — reminding us that the fate of a fashionable filmmaker is often to be discarded (as, more recently, have been David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino).
As skeptical as I often was in the 70s about Fassbinder as a role model, I’ve been more than a little disconcerted by the speed with which he’s vanished from mainstream consciousness. Having now seen two dozen of his 37 features, one of his four short films, and one of his four TV series — though I haven’t seen many of them since they came out — I find much of his work, for all its deliberate topicality, as fresh now as when it first appeared.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (May 6, 1994). I haven’t reseen The Second Heimat since then, and it would be interesting to discover how it holds up today. — J.R.
**** THE SECOND HEIMAT
Directed and written by Edgar Reitz
With Henry Arnold, Salome Kammer, Daniel Smith, Noemi Steuer, Armin Fuchs, Martin Maria Blau, Laszlo I. Kish, Frank Roth, Anke Sevenich, Franziska Traub, Michael Schonborn, Hannelore Hoger, Susanne Lothar, Alexander May, and Peter Weiss.
Why is it so hard to be happy? — Clarissa in the seventh episode of The Second Heimat
The 60s and early 70s reveled in long, ambitious works — movies and music alike — epic, multilayered statements that through their unwieldy lengths alone challenged and disrupted the flow of everyday life. In jazz there were Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, in rock Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, We’re Only in It for the Money, and Tommy, and when rock and movies came together in Woodstock (1970) the running time was three hours — about as long as a marijuana high.
An interesting paradox: to go to a long concert or long movie during that period was to be “somewhere else,” but that didn’t necessarily mean to escape.… Read more »