From Cinema Comparat/ive Cinema, Volume 1, No. 1, 2012 (a Spanish academic online journal, available at http://www.ocec.eu/cinemacomparative/pdf/ccc01.pdf) — J.R.
“Rivette in Context” had two separate incarnations, occurring a year and a half apart. The first consisted of 28 programs presented at London’s National Film Theatre in August 1977, to accompany the publication of Rivette: Texts and Interviews — a 101-page book I had edited for the British Film Institute while still working on the staffs of two of its magazines, Monthly Film Bulletin and Sight and Sound, in 1976.
This book included a polemical Introduction by me and translations — most of them by my London flat mate, Tom Milne — of two lengthy interviews with Rivette (one in 1968 that was centered on L’amour fou, the other in 1973 that was centered on the two separate versions of Out 1), three key critical texts by him (“Letter on Rossellini,” 1955; “The Hand” [on Lang’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt], 1957, and “Montage” [with Jean Narboni and Sylvie Pierre], 1969), and a brief, undated proposal of his from the mid-1970s (“For the Shooting of Les Filles du Feu” — the latter was the working title for a projected series of four features, never completed, that was subsequently retitled Scènes de la Vie Parallèle).… Read more »
Written for The Unquiet American: Transgressive Comedies from the U.S., a catalogue/collection put together to accompany a film series at the Austrian Filmmuseum and the Viennale in Autumn 2009. — J.R.
Jerry Lewis’s opulent second feature as a director
(1961), in some ways his most ambitious (and his first
in color), is also the one that has the most to say
about his character’s sexual hysteria, intensified once
the hero discovers that he’s been hired to work as
houseboy in a boarding house full of sexy young aspiring
actresses -– all of whom are initially seen simultaneously
in their separate rooms as part of a single gigantic
dollhouse set occupying two soundstages at
Paramount. (To keep track of both this set and his
own performance, Lewis invented the video assist, a
filmmaking technique used in Hollywood filmmaking
ever since.) Furthermore, Lewis’s talent for freeform
psychic fantasy, which clearly distinguishes his
work from the social satire and narrative motivations
of Frank Tashlin, reaches a kind of apogee here when
he encounters a Bat Lady (shades of Artists and
Models) lurking inside a “forbidden” room, along
with the Harry James Orchestra. And his character is
no less free to dance with George Raft (playing himself)
in another sequence.… Read more »
This appeared in the December 8, 1989 issue of the Chicago Reader. –J.R.
THE FILMS OF WILLIAM KLEIN
At a time when the National Endowment for the Arts is under siege — and not only from yahoos like Jesse Helms, but also from certain anarchists, leftists, and intellectuals — the general paucity of information and understanding about national funding of the arts in other countries only helps to underline how isolationist this country has become in cultural matters. As a rule, our overseas news coverage and our access to foreign films both seem to operate according to the same chillingly reductive circular reasoning: if people don’t already know about something or understand it, they aren’t likely to be interested.
Thus reports last spring of the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square routinely assumed that any popular sentiments in China that didn’t support the status quo automatically had to be “pro-democracy”; a lifetime of U.S. reporting has been devoted to the principle that only two political positions exist in the world, not three or six or 30 or 600. By the same token, most of the foreign films that we wind up seeing are those that support rather than challenge our generally clichéd notions of what other countries are like.… Read more »