From Sight and Sound, Winter 1982/1983, and reprinted in my collection Placing Movies. It was initially commissioned by Peter Biskind for American Film, who decided not to run it and paid me a kill fee, so I sent it next to Penelope Houston, who accepted it without hesitation. Originally, this piece was designed to be run with my translation of a brief, early piece by Barthes (“Au Cinemascope,” originally published in Les Lettres Nouvelles, February 1954). To my frustration, after Sight and Sound secured the rights to run this piece, they wound up omitting it due to lack of space, but it has subsequently appeared online in at least two places: here and here (the latter on this site). — J.R.
One reason for looking at the late Roland Barthes’ writings about film is that we all tend to be much too specialized in the ways that we think about culture in general and movies in particular. Far from being a film specialist, Barthes could even be considered somewhat cinephobic (to coin a term), at least for a Frenchman. Speaking to Jacques Rivette and Michel Delahaye in 1963, he confessed, “I don’t go very often to the cinema, hardly once a week” — inadvertently revealing the French passion for movies that can infect even a relative nonbeliever.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (September 26, 1997). — J.R.
Rating *** A must see
Directed by Lars von Trier
Written by Carl Dreyer, Preben Thomsen, and von Trier
With Kirsten Olesen, Udo Kier, Henning Jensen, Solbjaig Hojfeldt, and Prehen Lerdorff Rye.
Rating *** A must see
Directed by Jonathan Nossiter
Written by James Lasdun and Nossiter
With David Suchet, Lisa Harrow, Jared Harris, Larry Pine, and Joe Grifasi.
It’s been disconcerting to read, over the past several weeks, of no fewer than four Hollywood projects in the works that purport to be by and/or about Orson Welles. Three of these are based on Welles scripts that he never found the money to produce: The Big Brass Ring (an original with a contemporary setting), The Dreamers (an adaptation of two Isak Dinesen stories), and The Cradle Will Rock (an autobiographical script set in the 30s). Yet all have been extensively rewritten, and the fourth — as recently reported by Todd McCarthy in Daily Variety — is a series of whole-cloth inventions about the making of Citizen Kane, presumably with a few facts thrown in, called RKO 281, written by Chicago playwright John Logan.
Why is all this money, effort, and media attention being expended on “celebrating” Welles when nobody is showing the slightest interest in making available unseen Welles features like Don Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind?… Read more »
Written for the July-August 2017 Film Comment. This is the unedited version of my review. — J.R.
Two Cheers for Hollywood: Joseph McBride on Movies
By Joseph McBride, Hightower Press, $38.50.
Anyone who’s read his astute critical biographies of Capra, Ford, Spielberg, and Welles knows that Joseph McBride is one of our most invaluable film historians. No less ambitious but more personal are his three most recent books, all brought out expertly under his own imprint and available from Amazon: his hefty Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J. D. Tippit (2013), his very moving and painfully candid The Broken Places: A Memoir (2015), and now an even heftier volume collecting half a century’s worth of his film journalism and criticism, encompassing 56 separate items and almost 700 large-format pages. It’s the sort of old-fashioned bedside compendium and browser’s paradise that we seldom get nowadays from academic publishers—with a few rare exceptions, such as Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors’ delightful 2009 New Literary History of America (which included one of the better McBride essays reprinted here, “The Screenplay as Genre,” about Citizen Kane). McBride prefaces each piece with a contextualizing introduction, and part of what makes this volume fun is the informal history it offers of McBride’s own taste and career.… Read more »