Daily Archives: April 28, 2020

Utopia and Apocalypse: Pynchon’s Populist/Fatalist Cinema

Commissioned by the French quarterly Trafic for their spring 2020 issue. — J.R.


The rhythmic clapping resonates inside these
walls, which are hard and glossy as coal: Come-
on! Start-the-show! Come-on! Start-the-show!
The screen is a dim page spread before us,
white and silent. The film has broken, or a
projector bulb has burned out. It was difficult
even for us, old fans who’ve always been at
the movies (haven’t we?) to tell which before
the darkness swept in.
— from the last page of Gravity’s Rainbow


To begin with a personal anecdote: Writing my first book (to be published) in the late 1970s, an experimental autobiography titled Moving Places: A Life at the Movies (Harper & Row, 1980), published in French as Mouvements: Une vie au cinéma (P.O.L, 2003), I wanted to include four texts by other authors — two short stories (“In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” by Delmore Schwartz, “The Secret Integration” by Thomas Pynchon) and two essays (“The Carole Lombard in Macy’s Window” by Charles Eckert, “My Life With Kong” by Elliott Stein) — but was prevented from doing so by my editor, who argued that because the book was mine, texts by other authors didn’t belong there.… Read more »

Rotterdam ’89: Magic from Rivette and Ivens

From Sight and Sound (Spring 1989). The on-screen breakdown of Jean-Pierre Léaud in Out 1, alluded to below, was lamentably removed by Rivette shortly after its Rotterdam screening — attended, if memory serves, by no more than five or six people. — J.R.

When he died last July, Hubert Bals had already selected twenty films for his eighteenth Rotterdam Festival, and embarked on retrospectives devoted to John Cassavetes and Jacques Rivette. Rather than try to second-guess his preferences for the rest of the programme, interim director Ann Head and her able staff invited several filmmakers associated with Bals to complete the selection with neglected titles of their own or other choices. This quick galvanizing of energies resulted in the best of the six consecutive Rotterdam festivals I’ve attended. The event was haunted by recent losses – Cassavetes and Jacques Ledoux, as well as Bals – but the legacies they left behind were vibrantly present on the screen.

Raul Ruiz brought two engaging new featurettes, Tous les nuages sont des horloges ( a free adaptation of a Japanese mystery coscripted by his students) and L’Autel de l’amitié (a series of Diderotesque dialogues about the French Revolution), both bristling with visual invention.Read more »