Daily Archives: August 6, 2020


From the May 24, 2002 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

Jacques Demy’s first and in some ways best feature (1961, 90 min.), shot in exquisite black-and-white ‘Scope by Raoul Coutard, is among the most neglected major works of the French New Wave. Abandoned by her sailor lover, a cabaret dancer (Anouk Aimee) brings up their son while awaiting his return and ultimately has to choose among three men. Chock-full of film references (to The Blue Angel, Breathless, Hollywood musicals, and the work of Max Ophuls, among other things) and lyrically shot in Nantes, the film is a camera stylo love letter, and Michel Legrand’s lovely score provides ideal nostalgic accompaniment. In his third feature and biggest hit, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Demy settled on life’s disappointments; here at least one major character gets exactly what she wants, and the effect is no less poignant. With Marc Michel, Jacques Harden, and Elina Labourdette (the young heroine in Robert Bresson’s 1945 Les dames du Bois de Boulogne). A restored 35-millimeter print will be shown. In French with subtitles. Music Box, Friday through Monday, May 24 through 27.


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Kenneth Fearing

Some wisdom from the last Depression, courtesy of Kenneth Fearing (1902-1961), taken from his 1935 Poems. (My apologies for not being able to transcribe the spacing more accurately.)


1-2-3 was the number he played but today the number came 3-2-1;

bought his Carbide at 30 and it went to 29; had the favorite at Bowie but the track was slow —-

O, executive type, would you like to drive a floating power, knee-action, silk- upholstered six? Wed a Hollywood star? Shoot the course in 58? Draw to the ace, king, jack?

O, fellow with a will who won’t take no, watch out for three cigarettes on the same, single match; O, democratic voter born in August under Mars, beware of liquidated rails—-

Denoument to denouement, he took a personal pride in the certain, certain way he lived his own, private life,

but nevertheless, they shut off his gas; nevertheless, the bank foreclosed; nevertheless, the landlord called; nevertheless the radio broke,

And twelve o’clock arrived just once too often,

just the same he wore one gray tweed suit, bought one straw hat, drank one straight Scotch, walked one short step, took one long look, drew one deep breath,

just one too many,

And wow he died as wow he lived,

going whop to the office and blooie home to sleep and biff got married and bam had children and oof got fired,

zowie did he live and zowie did he die,

With who the hell are you at the corner of his casket, and where the hell we going on the right-hand silver knob, and who the hell cares walking second from the end with an American Beauty wreath from why the hell not,

Very much missed by the circulation staff of the New York Evening Post; deeply, deeply mourned by the B.M.T.,… Read more »

This Way, Myth [on ME AND ORSON WELLES]

Written for Moving Image Source [movingimagesource.us], and posted there on October 9, 2008. — J.R.

“A writer’s reputation,” Lionel Trilling once wrote, “often reaches a point in its career where what he actually said is falsified even when he is correctly quoted. Such falsification — we might more charitably call it mythopoeia — is very likely the result of some single aspect of a man’s work serving as a convenient symbol of what other people want to think. Thus it is a commonplace of misconception that Rousseau wanted us to act like virtuous savages or that Milton held naive, retrograde views of human nature.”

Although Orson Welles is rightly regarded as someone whose creative work partially consisted of his own persona, he remains unusually susceptible to mythmaking of this sort. This is because he often figures as someone who both licenses and then becomes the scapegoat for vanity that isn’t entirely — or even necessarily — his own. Quite simply, many of those (especially males) who obsess on the “meaning” of “Orson” are actually looking for ways to negotiate their own narcissism and fantasies of omnipotence.

It’s part of the special insight of Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles, which premiered last month at the Toronto International Film Festival, to perceive and run with this aspect of the Welles myth, which is already implied in its title.… Read more »

RR (Vancouver International Film Festival)

Here is a link to the formidable cast list of James Benning’s RR, announced as his last work to be shot in 16-millimeter and seen last night at the Vancouver International Film Festival. I hope to follow with some more details about this beautiful epic soon. [10/3/08]

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Thomas Pynchon: A Journey Into The Mind Of P.

From the Chicago Reader (October 6, 2006). — J.R.

TP doc ad

Pynchon freaks can be divided into two categories: those fascinated by his work, who respect his wish to be known through it, and those fascinated by his life, who see his writing as an illustration of his experiences. Aimed at the latter group, this 2001 Swiss documentary by Fosco and Donatello Dubini begins by enlisting a former Pynchon squeeze to show us his LA digs from the early 70s (she’s identified as Bianca from Gravity’s Rainbow, which discounts whatever art he brought to his experiences) and goes mostly downhill from there. Pynchon groupies weigh in while significant critics like Edward Mendelson are omitted, and even as gossip the movie reflects poorly on some of the author’s old friends. But the archival footage does include Lee Harvey Oswald (who may have been in Mexico City at the same time as Pynchon) and a cat freaking out on mescaline. 90 min. (JR)… Read more »