Yearly Archives: 2012

Brief Interview on the New Wave (Spring 2012)

From The Cine-Files, Spring 2012, issue 2. — J.R.

 

 

What for you makes the French New Wave such an exciting topic to study? Or… Is the French New Wave still an exciting topic to study?  What can moviegoers of the 21st century take away from French New Wave films?

For me, the greatness of the French New Wave stemmed directly from the fact that it was the first comprehensive film movement spearheaded by film critics who were well versed in film history — an education that came about specifically through the efforts of Henri Langlois, the cofounder and director of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris, a very inspired and creative film programmer. And this was a critical appreciation that became closely tied to their filmmaking, not so much as a series of hommages as a kind of critical understanding. I’m not talking about tips of the hat to favorite movies or moments in movies, which is what we usually get in Woody Allen, Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Coppola, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino; I’m talking about critical insights that change our sense of the movies.

Not all of the French New Wave filmmakers were critics or writers—the most notable exceptions that come to mind are Jacques Demy, Alain Resnais, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, and Agnès Varda (and perhaps, reluctantly, one could add Louis Malle to this list)—but I think it would be safe to say that all of them had a critical grasp of film history thanks to the programs of Langlois, and this critical grasp of film history is plainly visible (and audible) in their films.Read more »

Raymond Durgnat’s Web Site is Growing

I was delighted to discover just now that the Raymond Durgnat web site — relaunched about half a year ago, and one of my favorite movie-related web sites (which, even better, includes a lot of material about things other than movies, including some rare poems), has been growing and expanding lately; see, especially, Articles, Poems, and Additional Resources and Links for some of the new additions.  It’s also worth recalling that Ray’s pioneering A Mirror for England came out in a second edition late last year, with a new Introduction by Kevin Gough-Yates, his literary executor, and this was about a year after the publication of a second edition of A Long Hard Look at ‘Psycho’, with a new Introduction by Henry Miller. (May 21 update, wonderful news:  Miller has also edited a superb Durgnat collection of previously uncollected pieces that the British Film Institute plans to bring out in December 2012.)…On the web site, I haven’t found any activity yet on the Forum, but I’m hoping that this will start to grow soon as well. [3/11/12]

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Why European Conservatives, If They Exist, Have No Reasons To Live

Russ Limbaugh on Rick Santorum (after explaining that Newt Gingrich and John  Kerry were once on the same panel where they sort of agreed that global warming exists): “Nobody is innocent. Everybody is guilty on [sic] some transgression somewhere against conservatism. Except Santorum.”

Rick Santorum on Western Europeans (speaking to the conservative Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in 2006): “Those cultures are dying. People are dying. They’re being overrun from overseas…and they have no response. They have nothing to fight for. They have nothing to live for.”

Clearly, Rick Santorum can’t be guilty of any transgression against any European conservatives, secular or religious, responsive or otherwise. How could he be, because they don’t exist? Or at least have no reasons to live, or anything to fight for, anywhere. Or somewhere.

Thanks, Russ and Rick, for clarifying that we must be the only folks in the world who exist, or deserve to, or want to — at least one of those things, or maybe, if they can have their way, all three. [2/10/12]

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Princess Theatre, Florence, Alabama (an “early” photo and news story)

I’m terrible when it comes to dating cars from any period, especially during the early part of the 20th century. According to my memoir Moving Places: A Life at the Movies (1980), which I researched pretty thoroughly back in the late 1970s, “The Florence Princess, an $85,000 Opera House, [opened] triumphantly on Labor Day, September 1, 1919” (see pp. 180-181 in the book for more details). But according to this newspaper photo — which I don’t recall ever having seen before, posted by Betty Terry on “Remembering Florence” (a Facebook page) last November — it cost $40,000 more than that; and according to a news clipping that went with it (see below), which she posted about a week later, it opened, apparently in some other form, in 1925. An abiding mystery…but of course we can never get very far by believing what’s printed in newspapers, then or now, even when that’s all we have left. Because newspapers are largely generated and sustained by advertising, and it’s typically the job of advertising to make things sound brand-new even when they’re simply or merely upgraded.  [1/16/2012]

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UNFORGIVABLE

Written for the January/February 2012 Film Comment. — J.R.

Unforgivable
(André Téchiné, France)
Téchiné’s best films (Wild Reeds, My Favorite Season, Thieves, Unforgivable) have two major signifying traits: all the characters are major fuck-ups, and the co-writer-director loves them all equally. Some of those in his latest film, set in and around Venice, include a macho novelist (André Dussollier), his flighty daughter (Mélanie Thierry), his real-estate agent and subsequent wife (Carole Bouquet), and one of her former lovers, a detective (an especially memorable Adriana Asti), whom he hires to go looking for his daughter. The multiple crisscrossed emotions and lives are every bit as intricately and beautifully plotted and tracked as those in Thieves.—Jonathan RosenbaumRead more »

Azazel Jacobs

From Cinema Scope No. 50, Winter 2012, as part of a feature, “50 Best Filmmakers Under 50”. — J.R.

Azazel+Jacobs

 

Many reviewers of Azazel Jacobs’ four features understandably place them in a direct lineage from his father Ken’s work. Both filmmakers are clearly preoccupied with interactions and crossovers between fiction and nonfiction — although the same could be said of everyone from Lumière, Méliès, and Porter to Costa, Hou, and Kiarostami. And both are remarkable directors of actors/performers, even though, in the case of Ken, projectors and found footage have performative roles along with people. The dialectics forged by opposite coasts and mindsets — corporate Hollywood vs. flaky New York Underground, claustrophobic obsession/fixation versus airy and uncontrollable street theatre — are equally constant.

Most reviewers are quick to point out that Azazel is more committed to narrative than his father. It’s easy to see what they mean, but some of their assumptions are worth questioning. If part of what we mean by “narrative” is plot and incident, there may be more of both contained in the intertitles of Ken’s The Whirled (1956-63) than there is in the main action of Azazel’s second feature The GoodTimes Kid (2005). If part of what we mean is “character,” then the work of both filmmakers is overflowing with it, from Jack Smith’s manic cavorting in many of Ken’s films to Diaz’s exhilarating dance in The GoodTimes Kid, not to mention John C.… Read more »