Yearly Archives: 2016

Lost and Found: Susan Sontag’s UNGUIDED TOUR (1983)

I’ve been trying for years to track down and see Susan Sontag’s fourth and final film, Unguided Tour (1983), and now, quite by accident, I’ve discovered that it’s available online, here. If, like me, you can’t follow the Italian without English subtitles, perhaps the best solution would be to read Sontag’s original story, the final one included in her 1978 collection I, etcetera. [3/6/2016]



A lengthy postscript: Thanks to the generosity of David Heslin and the wonders of the Internet, there are the complete English subtitles:

00:00:39,362 –> 00:00:44,104
00:00:44,400 –> 00:00:47,558
by Susan Sontag
00:01:49,488 –> 00:01:52,357
A tourist city different from
any other.
00:01:54,195 –> 00:01:56,284
Different from Florence.
00:01:57,995 –> 00:01:59,883
Different from Siena.
00:02:01,316 –> 00:02:03,003
Different from Rome.
00:02:04,664 –> 00:02:06,476
Different from Athens.
00:02:08,036 –> 00:02:09,697
Or Dubrovnik.
00:02:11,711 –> 00:02:13,699
Because there’s an imaginary kingdom
00:02:13,850 –> 00:02:16,241
of which this city is the capital.
00:02:17,310 –> 00:02:19,550
of which this city is the centre.
00:02:24,559 –> 00:02:28,711
There was a very dear friend of mine,
an Argentinian film-maker in exile
00:02:29,139 –> 00:02:31,165
who fled to save his skin.
Read more »

Selected Moments: Some Recollections of Movie Time

Commissioned by and written for a collection entitled Time, published in February, 2016 by Punto de Vista, Festival Internacional de Cine Documental de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. — J.R.

Selected Moments: Some Recollections of Movie Time

Florence_0431. My first sixteen years (1943-1959) — growing up in northwestern Alabama as the grandson and son of Jewish movie theater exhibitors — ensured that time and cinema were alternately parallel and crisscrossing rivers that coursed through my childhood, along with the Tennessee River that separated Florence from Sheffield. Florence, where I lived, had three of the Rosenbaum theaters, at least until 1951, all within a three-block radius, while Sheffield, which I could see across the river from my back yard, had two more theaters, one around the corner from the other. For Southerners like myself, the past was always present, a kind of double vision that movies taught me as well — a camera’s recording of the past becoming the present of both a screen and an audience, which then in retrospective memory becomes the past as well. And for Jews like myself, the past was also identity — meaning one’s past, present, and future. This explains why Lanzmann’s Shoah represents a shotgun marriage between the present tense of existentialism and the past tense of Judaism.… Read more »

An Epic of Understanding: John Gianvito’s WAKE (SUBIC)

Posted on Film Comment‘s blog, February 2, 2016. — J.R.

Wake (Subic)

Consider the lengths of time between Jean Vigo’s death and the first appearances of Zéro de conduite and  L’Atalante in the U.S. (thirteen years), or between the first screening of Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 and its recent appearances on Blu-Ray (forty-five years), and it becomes obvious that the popular custom of listing the best films of any given year is unavoidably a mythological undertaking. By the same token, film history in the present should be divided between important filmmakers skilled and successful in hawking their own goods, from Alfred Hitchcock to Spike Lee to Lars von Trier, and those who, for one reason or another, aren’t — a less definitive roll call that includes, among many others, Charles Burnett, Ebrahim Golestan, Luc Moullet, Peter Thompson, Orson Welles, and John Gianvito.

I haven’t seen Gianvito’s early shorts, one of which is called What Nobody Saw (1990), but its very title seems emblematic of his career — as does the epigraph from Cesare Pavese opening the first part of his first feature, The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein (2001), which introduced me to his work and remains my favorite: “Everywhere there is a pool of blood that we step into without knowing it.”… Read more »

The best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2015 (for a Sight and Sound web exclusive)

Posted on the BFI web site on January 14, 2016. — J.R.

Age is… Re:Voir Video



Army Criterion Eclipse



Jauja Cinema Guild



Letter from Siberia (Blu-ray included in the Chris Marker Collection) Soda Film + Art



Moana with Sound Kino Lorber


Despite (or is it because of?) the disorderly quirks of commerce, ideology, and opportunity, we all occupy disparate time frames, so I’ve unapologetically cited, in alphabetical order, five imperishable films that I happened to encounter for the first time in 2015, all of them in digital editions worthy of their achievements.

Dwoskin’s last film – a satisfying conclusion to a remarkable career – comes from the same label that afforded me my first look at Marcel Hanoun’s remarkable 1966 L’authentique procés de Carl-Emmanuel Jung with English subtitles.


le procès (640x483)

Army is a wartime propaganda feature subverted into a pacifist lament, Jauja a haunting medieval western (or southern) time-bent into a luscious advance in Alonso’s art.

Letter from Siberia, even without the benefit of the French version promised on its jacket, is a delightful early essay film showing its author’s wit, literary gifts, and photojournalistic richness in optimal form, enhanced by a superb Roger Tailleur essay.

And Moana with sound is a seemingly unpromising but beautifully realized re-edition and further enrichment of the Flahertys’ early masterpiece, launched by their daughter Monica and restored by their great-grandson Sami van Ingen and Bruce Posner.… Read more »

Debra Paget and Mark Rappaport, For Example

 Commissioned by Fandor Keyframe in late January 2016. — J.R.


Mark Rappaport and I have been friends for well over three decades. He’s a year older than me, and even though our class and regional backgrounds differ, we’re both film freaks and film historians who grew up with the same Hollywood iconographies, for better and for worse. How these experiences might qualify as better or worse have been the source of countless friendly arguments, all the more so when they converge on the same objects of fascination — as the title of his latest video puts it, Debra Paget, For Example.


Thirty-six minutes and thirty-six seconds long, this juicy video about the 15-year screen career of Debra Paget (1948-1963, ages 14 to 29, including a busy eight-year stretch as contract player at Fox, 1950-1957) seems at times to cover almost as much material and as much cultural ground as Rappaport’s two star-centered film features, Rock Hudson’s Home Movies  (1992) and From the Journals of Jean Seberg (1995), both of which I’ve reviewed in the past. (See and for specifics.) It might even be called a compendium of Rappaport’s rhetorical strategies, such as using an actor to play the star in question — as in those two features, although here only offscreen (as was also done in his brilliant recent video I, Dalio, or The Rules of the Game), with Paget voiced by Caroline Simonds — and using Rappaport’s own voice, as in another recent video, The Circle Closes.Read more »