From the Soho News (December 23, 1980). — J.R.
“This film was made in violent contrast to Citizen Kane,” François Truffaut once wrote of The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welles’ second feature, “almost as if by another filmmaker who detested the first and wanted to give him a lesson in modesty.” In comparable fashion, Alain Resnais — a rationalist surrounded by surrealist nightmares — has often described some of his films as being made in reaction (and contradistinction) to the ones that preceded them.
Thus the subjective, highly mobile camera of the apolitical Last Year at Marienbad (1961) was countered by the objective, stationary camera setups and political contexts of Muriel (1963). And similarly, the proliferating dreamlike fictions and Lovecraftian enchantments of Providence (1977) have led to the documentary, demonstration-style demeanor and scientific wit of Mon Oncle d’Amérique (1980), his latest film — a movie that also attempts to combine elements from his nonfiction shorts and previous fictional features.
It’s been seven years since I last interviewed Resnais — on a soundstage at Epinay-sur-Seine, a Parisian suburb where he was shooting Stavisky… Greeting him recenty at his Park Lane suite, I still found him almost awesomely handsome at 58, and no less delicate, modest, and cordial in his manner, despite a continuing shyness that he has come some distance in mastering.… Read more »
From The Soho News (June 11, 1980). Note: The “Hollywood assistant” quoted below was Meredith Brody, working at the time for A-Team. — J.R.
A film by Eric Mitchell
St. Mark’s Cinema, midnight
“Sometimes I think most of the ’70s is being spent in
cars, discussing remakes,” a Hollywood assistant once
woefully remarked to me. She didn’t know how lucky she
was. Sometimes, in my less happy moods, I think that
most of the 80s will be spent in theaters, watching the
same remakes that were being discussed in the ’70s.
Willie & Phil –– Paul Mazursky’s remake of Jules and
Jim, set in the American ’70s — isn’t opening for a couple
of months yet. John Carpenter’s The Fog and several
other recent quickies have already remade Carpenter’s
Halloween, which was itself a partial remake of The Thing
(which Carpenter is now planning to remake more directly).
And to round off this minisurvey of new, original
thinking (if you want to exalt the conventional, call it
classical), the new Eric Mitchell film, the l6mm
Underground U.S.A., which already sounds like a remake
of Sam Fuller’s Underworld U.S.A. — is actually
described in its own pressbook as a remake of a remake:
“Taking the classic theme of Sunset Boulevard seen
through Heat,” Underground U.S.A… Read more »
This intemperate outburst — possibly written at some point during my stint at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the mid-80s, but far more likely written closer to the book’s publication date (1979), perhaps when I was still living in San Diego — was wisely and tactfully rejected by Chick (Ernest) Callenbach when I submitted it to Film Quarterly. (He added, as I recall, by way of explanation, that Film Quarterly tended to be a “friendly” publication.) Had I written it while I was at Santa Barbara, it would have probably been motivated in part by the fact that the late Frank McConnell (1942-1999) was far and away the most popular English professor at the university. But I’m pretty sure that my objections to his book were textual and ideological rather than personal — even if I later grumpily reflected that his popularity at UCSB was partly predicated on his uncanny capacity to both validate and extravagantly flatter not only whatever was most popular at the time, but also (it seemed) whatever his students said during his lectures, no matter how ill-informed or inane.… Read more »