Daily Archives: January 25, 2021

Inside Pitches

This appeared in the March 20, 1998 issue of the Chicago Reader. —J.R.

 

Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life

Rating ** Worth seeing

Directed and written by Michael Paxton

Narrated by Sharon Gless.

Primary Colors

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Mike Nichols

Written by Elaine May

With John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Adrian Lester, Kathy Bates, Billy Bob Thornton, Larry Hagman, and Maura Tierney.

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

Two highly partisan political movies are opening this week, a right-wing independent documentary and a left-wing Hollywood feature — though it’s not clear that the filmmakers of either would categorize their work in this way. Certainly it wouldn’t be any exaggeration to call both films the efforts of special interest groups — a movie about Bill Clinton put together by people who mainly qualify as his supporters and friends and a sincere hagiography of novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand fashioned by many of her disciples and acolytes. How far they actually carry their respective loyalties is a different matter, however. Ultimately both movies flounder as well as triumph because of their insider points of view, though not always for the same reasons.

Whenever Ayn Rand’s name comes up, I have an impulse to scoff, an impulse I think is shared by many others.… Read more »

Samuel Fuller: The Words of an Innocent Warrior

From Written By: The Journal of the Writers Guild of America, West (March 1998, Vol. 2, issue 3).

The first photograph here was taken during the summer of 1987, when I was the director of the Film Studies summer school program at the University of California, Santa Barbara and invited Sam Fuller to serve as our Artist in Residence. –- J.R.

JR with SF samfullerhappy

Many film lovers of my generation were introduced to him in an early party sequence in Jean-Luc Godard’s already unruly Pierrot le Fou (1965), playing himself and smoking his signature cigar-a short, wiry firecracker ready to hold forth. Asked by Jean-Paul Belmondo what cinema was, he said it was like a battleground: “Love. . .hate. . . action. . .violence. . .death. In a word, emotion.”

By the time the writer-director-legend Samuel Fuller died in Hollywood last October at age 86, his reputation as the last two of these hyphenates was fully in place. Celebrated for his gritty noirs, unglamorous war films, and eccentric westerns, he also turned up in bit parts in everything from The American Friend to 1941. Yet the fact that he’s still better known as a director and as a juicy screen presence than as a writer seriously distorts the meaning of his life and career.Read more »

ABBAS KIAROSTAMI: A Dialogue Between the Authors (Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa & Jonathan Rosenbaum)

 This appeared originally in Senses of Cinema, issue 17, November 2001. The book it appears in has subsequently reappeared in an expanded second edition.  — J.R.

The following is an extract from Abbas Kiarostami by Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa and Jonathan Rosenbaum (University of Illinois Press, 2003) – one of the initial books in a series edited by James Naremore that is devoted to neglected contemporary filmmakers. Abbas Kiarostami contains separate essays by Rosenbaum and Saeed-Vafa followed first by this dialogue, then by an extended interview with Kiarostami conducted by both authors.

***

September 3, 2001, Chicago

JONATHAN ROSENBAUM: You were the one who originally had the idea of proposing that we do this book together. And maybe we should both consider why we thought it was a good idea.

MEHRNAZ SAEED-VAFA: Basically, as far as I remember, we had a lot of interesting dialogues about Iranian cinema and Kiarostami, and I thought it would be a great idea to put our effort into a book. We started our dialogue in 1992, at a time when Kiarostami was still was getting discovered in France, but unknown in the United States. And I respected you highly as a critic and I knew that you were respected among other readers outside the United States as well as inside.… Read more »