During my early teens, I watched Studio One fairly often, but Playhouse 90 went on too late for me to be able to watch it more than occasionally. So about two weeks prior to my 14th birthday, I missed The Comedian (1957), which I’ve just seen for the first time on a DVD compilation called The Golden Age of TV Drama — starring Michael Rooney in the title role as an abrasive, tyrannical TV star, Mel Tormé as his weak-willed brother, Kim Hunter as the latter’s despairing wife, and Edmond O’Brien as the comedian’s harried scriptwriter, and powerfully directed by John Frankenheimer. (I initially thought that was Frankenheimer on the left in the publicity photo below, but a friend suggests that it’s more likely Edmond O’Brien.)
Frankenheimer was probably the only TV director in that period whom I recognized by name, and it was a name that I valued highly. (He shot his first film feature the same year, and by the time The Manchurian Candidate came out five years later, his auteurist stamp was already unmistakable—especially in his volatile way of doubling one’s view of the action via TV monitors, already apparent at the very beginning of The Comedian.)… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (November 17, 1995). — J.R.
Soft and Hard (A Soft Conversation Between Two Friends on a Hard Subject)
Directed and written by Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Luc Godard
With Godard and Miéville.
A 48-minute video that’s premiering in Chicago ten years after it was made, Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville’s Soft and Hard (A Soft Conversation Between Two Friends on a Hard Subject) is so far in advance of most films and videos made today about the essential properties of both media that it makes not so much Chicago but contemporary Western culture feel like an intellectual backwater. It was commissioned by and originally broadcast on England’s Channel Four, and although most of Godard and Miéville’s talk is in French and subtitled, the funding source is acknowledged in several ways: by the video’s English title, by English intertitles throughout, by many stills from Hollywood pictures (including Frankenstein, Scarface, Rear Window, and the 1948 Joan of Arc) employed as punctuation, by an early sequence of Godard speaking in English on the phone about business arrangements for his film King Lear, and by a brief but moving exchange in English between Godard and Miéville that concludes the work.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (February 1, 1991). — J.R.
A middle-aged couple (Woody Allen and Bette Midler) in southern California celebrating their 15th anniversary go to a shopping mall, and they proceed to decompose and recompose their relationship on the basis of various revelations. Although this only runs for about 90 minutes, it’s the emptiest and most long-winded movie Paul Mazursky (working here with his frequent cowriter Roger L. Simon) has ever made, a disappointingly steep descent after his Enemies, a Love Story. The characters never come to life, and restricting almost all of the action to a gigantic mall only makes the narrowness and boredom of the movie more obvious. Mazursky has returned with a vengeance to his special universe where the upper middle class is the only thing that exists, and this time he has absolutely nothing to say about it. (JR)
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