This was my second posting for the Chicago Reader blog post, although it might have been the first one I wrote (and the second to have been edited) — I can no longer remember for sure. –J.R.
Film history that is open to the present
Tue, Nov 14, 2006 at 4:07 PM
Last month Alexander Horwath, director of the Austrian Film Museum, sent me a press release about an ambitious and audacious retrospective he’s presenting throughout November entitled “Notre Musique,” devoted to “forty major works of fictional and documentary cinema made between 2000 and 2006.” “Film museums are often — and justifiably — viewed as places where an awareness of the historic foundations of contemporary cinema can evolve,” he begins. “Yet a reverse perspective is equally important — an approach to film history that is open to the present.” His selection, he adds, “is not so much influenced by the best-known or `most-discussed’ films of recent years but rather by the unbroken capacity of cinema to bear witness to life on this planet [his emphasis] — not just in the sense of documentation but also as an illumination of circumstances that habor a potential for change.” What he’s put together, in short, is a group of films that are supposed to bear witness, politically and responsibly, to the present moment — a daring gesture if one considers Jacques Rivette’s plausible statement in a Cahiers du Cinéma roundtable over 40 years ago, that it’s virtually impossible for a critic to know the long-term value of a film when it first appears. Read more
Posted Fri, Dec 8, 2006 at 11:21 AM
It’s interesting to see how some of the most difficult and challenging examples of art cinema have become increasingly popular over the past decade. Back in the 60s and 70s, Robert Bresson was virtually a laughing-stock figure to mainstream critics, and someone whose films characteristically played to almost empty houses. Yet by the time that he died, a retrospective of his work that circled the globe was so successful in drawing crowds that in many venues—including Chicago’s Film Center — it had a return engagement. Much the same thing has happened with Andrei Tarkovsky — another uncompromising spiritual filmmaker, and one whose films are even tougher to paraphrase or even explain in any ordinary terms.
I’m just back from a trip to the east coast where I was gratified to find, when I turned up to introduce a screening of Jacques Rivette’s 252-minute L’amour fou (1968) in Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image, that the film was playing to a nearly packed house. (Incidentally, this galvanizing love story about the doomed relationship between a theater director and his wife, played by Jean-Pierre Kalfon and Bulle Ogier, has never looked better to me, though I’ve been a big fan since the early 70s.) Read more
Criterion has just released Overlord on Blue-Ray. Here are my two separate reviews of the film, written over three decades apart — for Monthly Film Bulletin, September 1975, Vol. 42, No. 500, and for the Chicago Reader, June 2, 2006. — J.R.
Great Britain. 1975
Director: Stuart Cooper
Cert–A. dist-EMI. p.c–Joswend. p–James Quinn. p. manager—
Michael Guest. sc–Stuart Cooper, Christopher Hudson. ph–John
Alcott. optical effects–Vee Films. ed–Jonathan Gili. a.d–Michael
Moody, Barry Kitts. m–Partl Glass. songs–“The Lambeth Walk” by
Douglas Furber, Noel Gay; “We Don’t Know Where We’re Going” by
Ralph Butler, Noel Gay, sung by Nick Curtis. costume advice–Laurie
Milner. titles–Ann Hechle. sd. ed–Alan Be1l. sd. rec–Tony Jackson.
sd. re-rec–Gerry Humphries. l.p–Brian Stirner (Tom), Davyd Harries
(Jack), Nicholas Ball (Arthur), Julie Neesam (Girl), Sam Sewell (Trained
Soldier), John Franklyn-Robbins (Dad), Stella Tanner (Mum), Harry
Shacklock (Station-master), David Scheuer (Medical Officer), Ian Liston
(Barrack Guard), Lorna Lewis (Prostitute), Stephen Riddle (Dead German
Soldier), Jack Le White (Barman), Mark Penfold (Photographer), Micaela
Minelli (Little Girl), Elsa Minelli (Little Girl’s Mother). Read more