Daily Archives: October 2, 2020

Raymond Durgnat

Originally published in the May-June 1973 issue of Film Comment; it’s reprinted, along with my 2002 Afterword, in my latest collection, Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia. (The following paragraphs are now slightly out of date, but I’ve retained them as records of where things stood at the time.)

Reprinting this piece has been prompted by two exciting pieces of news: the relaunching of a Raymond Durgnat website, thanks to the efforts of one of Durgnat’s old friends, Sue Ritchie, and the long, long overdue second edition of Durgnat’s irreplaceable 1970 book A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Influence, which the British Film Institute is bringing out next month, thanks to the efforts of another old friend, Kevin Gough-Yates, who provided a new Introduction (and has also been behind the earlier creation and the recent recreation of the Durgnat website).

The website, at raymonddurgnat.com, currently includes a biographical sketch, a very detailed, hefty, and rather awesome bibliography, four poems by Ray (all of them veritable collectors’ items), four “additional resources and links,” a Raymond Durgnat Forum that awaits commentary from visitors, and nine full-length articles that can be linked through the bibliography. One hopes that many more attractions, especially texts, can be added in the future, for a world is still waiting to be found in Durgnat’s writing.Read more »


From the Chicago Reader (January 27, 2006). — J.R.


The first in a projected series of six low-budget HDV features to be released simultaneously in theaters, on cable, and on DVD, Steven Soderbergh’s quirky 2005 drama, written by Coleman Hough (Full Frontal), is to my taste the best thing he’s done in years. Cast with nonprofessionals and filmed near the border of West Virginia and Ohio, it concerns the elusive story of three characters employed at a local doll factory: a stocky middle-aged woman (Debbie Doebereiner) who lives with her invalid father, a timid guy (Dustin James Ashley) she considers her best friend, and a young single mother (Misty Dawn Wilkins) who’s brought on as a temporary airbrusher and immediately bonds with him. Starting off as a low-key psychological drama, this suddenly turns into a murder mystery that’s resolved awkwardly and ambiguously, but the fascination of the characters and milieu remains. R, 90 min. Landmark’s Century Centre.

BubbleRead more »

Give Up the Gimmick [MELINDA AND MELINDA]

From the March 25, 2005 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

Melinda and Melinda

* (Has redeeming facet)

Directed and written by Woody Allen

With Radha Mitchell, Will Ferrell, Chloe Sevigny, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jonny Lee Miller, Brooke Smith, Wallace Shawn, and Larry Pine

Brainteaser movies have been enjoying a certain vogue in the past few years. The taste for them can be traced back to at least 1994 and the jigsaw-puzzle narrative of Pulp Fiction. But the trend got started in earnest in 2000, with the release of Memento, which tells a complicated story backward, and it gained further momentum two years later when the same gimmick was combined with sex and violence in Irreversible. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Kill Bill have more substantial characters than either of those films, yet part of their appeal lies in the challenge of putting scrambled narrative pieces together.

There are people who say they don’t like to read or write but spend plenty of time doing both on the Internet. Similarly, there are people who say they don’t like to think while watching movies yet don’t mind using their brains when it comes to “puzzle” movies. But there are different kinds of thinking.… Read more »