Daily Archives: October 1, 2020

Documentary Expressionism: The Films of William Klein

From the English magazine Creative Camera (No. 1, 1990). This is mainly derived from a catalog that was  put together about Klein for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis the previous year, consisting of an essay and interview which will eventually be posted here separately. -– J.R.

One of the limitations of conventional film history, with its subdivisions of schools and movements, is that many interesting filmmakers who are unlucky enough to exist apart from neat categories tend to disappear between the cracks. The case of William Klein, whose film work has received negligible commentary (especially in English), can partially be explained by pointing to the things he is not — or at least not quite.

He is not quite “American” — although he was born in New York City in 1928, grew up near the intersection of 108th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and has devoted a substantial part of his film work to American subjects. He is not quite “French” — although he moved to Paris in 1948 to study painting with Fernand Léger and has been based there ever since. He began making films in the 1950s, around the same time the French New Wave was gaining prominence, and he might provisionally be regarded as a member of the so-called Left Bank group, which included Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, and Agnes Varda.… Read more »

Santa Sangre

From the Chicago Reader (June 1, 1990). — J.R.

santasangre

This 1989 feature by Alejandro Jodorowsky is just as silly and pretentious as his previous El topo and The Holy Mountain, but it’s similarly watchable and fun in a campy, sub-Fellini sort of way — if only because of its dogged devotion to surrealist excess. (The Mel Brooks of vulgar surrealism, Jodorowsky’s basic principle is that if you throw 30 outrageous ideas at the audience, 2 or 3 are bound to make an impression.) It’s basically a sadomasochistic circus story about a crazed former magician (played at different ages by Jodorowsky’s sons Axel and Adan) whose father (Guy Stockwell) ran a circus and whose mother (Blanca Guerra) is a religious fanatic who worshiped an armless saint and lost her own arms. Many years after a traumatic (if, for Jodorowsky, characteristic) family incident that involves the mother’s mutilation and the father’s mutilation and suicide, the mother compels her son to become her lost hands, forcing him, among other things, to murder lots of women (Thelma Tixou, Zonia Rangel Mora, Gloriella). A deaf-mute the son loved as a child (Sabrina Dennison and Faviola Elenka Tapia) turns up later to redeem him. Scripted by Jodorowsky, Roberto Leoni, and Claudio Argento, and filmed in Mexico in English.… Read more »

Weird [TALES FROM THE GIMLI HOSPITAL]

From the Chicago Reader (September 15, 1989). — J.R.

TALES FROM THE GIMLI HOSPITAL

*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Guy Maddin

With Kyle McCulloch, Michael Gottli, Angela Heck, Margaret-Anne MacLeod, Heather Neale, and Caroline Bonner.

Given the murky black-and-white photography, the fascination with repulsive medical details, the loony deadpan humor, the impoverished characters and settings, and the dreamlike drift of bizarre and affectless incidents, it’s difficult not to compare Tales From the Gimli Hospital with David Lynch’s Eraserhead. It’s also being distributed mainly (although not yet in Chicago) as a midnight attraction by Ben Barenholtz, the same man who launched Eraserhead on the midnight circuits a dozen years ago. Turning up here at the Film Center in Barbara Scharres’s “Films From the Lunatic Fringe” series, Tales From the Gimli Hospital isn’t an easy film to categorize, but invoking the name and weirdness of David Lynch gives you at least a rough idea of what to expect.

In many respects, Guy Maddin’s oddball independent Canadian production is distinctly different from Eraserhead. The sensibility at work here is neither painterly nor musical — the frames aren’t rigorously composed, and the eclectic editing rhythms are relatively stodgy and clunky — but steeped, rather, in the traditions of oral narrative and cinema of the late 20s and early 30s.… Read more »

Godfather and Son [on THE FRESHMAN]

From the Chicago Reader, July 27, 1990. –J.R.

THE FRESHMAN

*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Andrew Bergman

With Matthew Broderick, Marlon Brando, Bruno Kirby, Penelope Ann Miller, Frank Whaley, Maximilian Schell, and Bert Parks.

“The overwhelming attractiveness of the screwball comedies involved more than the wonderful personnel. It had to do with the effort they made at reconciling the irreconcilable. They created an America of perfect unity: all classes as one, the rural-urban divide breached, love and decency and neighborliness ascendant. –Andrew Bergman, We’re in the Money (1971)

Most reviews of The Freshman have understandably focused on Marlon Brando. After all, everybody knows Brando, while hardly anyone is familiar with Andrew Bergman, the writer-director. But a movie as outlandish as this needs to be seen in some sort of context if one is going to make any sense of it, and it seems to me that Bergman is more important to this context than Brando is. It was his script, after all, that lured Brando into his first major role in a decade.

Bergman was born in Queens, the son of a New York Daily News radio and TV columnist named Rudy Bergman, and was an early fan of TV comics like Ernie Kovacs, Victor Borge, and Bob and Ray.… Read more »