Daily Archives: January 5, 2021

Hell And High Water

From the Chicago Reader (March 29, 2007). — J.R.


In this propagandistic but well-paced cold-war adventure (1954), a mercenary submarine captain (Richard Widmark) helps foil a Red Chinese plot to drop an atomic bomb on Korea from a U.S. plane. Fox hired director Samuel Fuller to shoot this in a few days, partly to prove that CinemaScope could work in tight spaces and on a limited budget, and he did a pretty good job with it. He even got to rewrite the script, defiantly giving Widmark a variant of the salty, unpatriotic line that J. Edgar Hoover had already tried and failed to get Fuller to delete from Pickup on South Street: “Are you waving the flag at me?” With Cameron Mitchell, David Wayne, Fuller regular Gene Evans, and Bella Darvi, the mistress of studio chief Darryl Zanuck. 103 min. (JR)


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Other voices, other blogs [Chicago Reader blog, 3/16/07]

Posted By on 03.16.07 at 01:28 PM


Last night, the final session of “Cinema of Tomorrow,” a symposium held over the last three days at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival, was my own, derived from an article that just appeared in the Spring issue of Film Quarterly: “Film Writing on the Web: Some Personal Reflections.” But as I interjected at one point, a more accurate title might have been, “Film Writing in English on the Web.”

The symposium was effectively organized by my friend Quintin (see photo, second from left) so that the six presentations over three days had a logical flow and development: two rather pessimistic analyses of the way film festivals operate, including Mar del Plata, by Peter van Bueren from Amsterdam and Mark Peranson from Vancouver (whose papers I briefly summarized in former posts); two looks at contemporary trends in films by Emmanuel Burdeau from Paris (who emphasized themes of globalization in films by Abbas Kiarostami, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Jia Zhangke, among others) and Cristina Nord from Berlin (who offered fascinating comparisons between new Argentinean cinema and new German cinema, both strengthened as well as hampered by the task of coping with a dark political past); and on the final day, two rather optimistic analyses of contemporary cinephilia by Alvaro Arroba from Madrid and myself.

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Unpublished Letter to THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS

This was written on February 25, 2007, provoked by yet another case of a Wellesian pseudo-expert bonding with another non-expert to lay down what is supposed to be the definitive history and wisdom on the subject. Sanford Schwartz did write me a short, polite, private response that, as nearly as I can recall, didn’t really engage with any of my arguments. — J.R.

To the Editors:


I’m grateful for Sanford Schwartz’s article about Orson Welles in the March 15 issue of the New York Review of Books,  which strikes me as being far more sensitive to Welles’s work and some of the issues posed by his troublesome career than most pieces I’ve read on the subject by nonspecialists. Even if Schwartz’s ideas about Welles as a proto-surrealist are more provocative than convincing to me, they do lead to some arresting observations about his visual style. So I hope he’ll forgive me for pointing out an error in his piece and a few assertions that I believe are misleading. They all derive from confusions that invariably greet any effort made to describe Welles in relatively simple terms.

First, the error: “Although [Welles] was involved with many films that for one reason or another weren’t brought off, he actually finished only twelve, a group that includes the fairly short F for Fake and The Immortal Story, both made for TV.”Read more »