Monthly Archives: January 2021

Unpublished Letter to THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS

This was written on February 25, 2007, provoked by yet another case of a Wellesian pseudo-expert bonding with another non-expert to lay down what is supposed to be the definitive history and wisdom on the subject. Sanford Schwartz did write me a short, polite, private response that, as nearly as I can recall, didn’t really engage with any of my arguments. — J.R.

To the Editors:


I’m grateful for Sanford Schwartz’s article about Orson Welles in the March 15 issue of the New York Review of Books,  which strikes me as being far more sensitive to Welles’s work and some of the issues posed by his troublesome career than most pieces I’ve read on the subject by nonspecialists. Even if Schwartz’s ideas about Welles as a proto-surrealist are more provocative than convincing to me, they do lead to some arresting observations about his visual style. So I hope he’ll forgive me for pointing out an error in his piece and a few assertions that I believe are misleading. They all derive from confusions that invariably greet any effort made to describe Welles in relatively simple terms.

First, the error: “Although [Welles] was involved with many films that for one reason or another weren’t brought off, he actually finished only twelve, a group that includes the fairly short F for Fake and The Immortal Story, both made for TV.” Read more

The Eddy Duchin Story

From the Chicago Reader, August 1, 1989. — J.R.


Tyrone Power and Kim Novak star in this biopic and musical melodrama, directed by George Sidney in 1956, about the life and career of the celebrated pianist and bandleader during the 30s and 40s. It’s not a movie that gets revived often, but it’s certainly one of the best Hollywood weepies of the 50s, comparable to the best of Douglas Sirk in both its imaginative mise en scene and its strong feeling. Carmen Cavallaro dubbed all the keyboard solos, and Victoria Shaw and James Whitmore are the main secondary players. (JR)

eddieduchinstory Read more

Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer

From the Chicago Reader (April 1, 1989). — J.R.


This gory slasher movie was made in Chicago in 1986 but held in limbo until 1989 because of its disturbing content. Very capably acted (by Michael Rooker, Tracy Arnold, and Tom Towles), written (by Richard Fire and John McNaughton), and directed (by McNaughton), this, like every other slasher movie, has its roots in Psycho. The tensions developed here are more behavioral and psychological than those essayed by Hitchcock, though the insights into the personality of a compulsive killer are at best partial and perfunctory. What mainly registers is the nihilism of the warped ex-con (Rooker) and his dim-witted friend and accomplice (Towles), who joins him in a string of senseless murders, which the film makes chillingly believable. Certainly not for everyone, but if slasher movies are your cup of tea this is a lot better than most, and the use of Chicago locations is especially effective. 90 min. (JR) Read more

The Gaze of Antonioni

 Written for Rouge No. 4 (2004). The film can be accessed here. — J.R.


The Gaze of Antonioni

Jonathan Rosenbaum


Surfacing without press screenings at a few theatres in the Landmark arthouse chain in the US for two weekend screenings in mid-August, Michelangelo Antonioni’s 17-minute Lo Sguardo di Michelangelo may conceivably be his most interesting film since Red Desert (1964). It’s hard to be sure of this after only one look at it – the film was abruptly withdrawn after qualifying for an Oscar nomination – but I thought afterwards that I might have just seen one of the first truly durable reflections to date on digital cinema.

The Gaze of Antonioni

Mislabelled Michelangelo Eye to Eye in English when a more accurate English title might be The Gaze of Michelangelo, this beautifully filmed meditation is preceded by an intertitle – the only words in the film apart from the credits – explaining that Antonioni has been confined to a wheelchair since his stroke in 1985, but through the ‘magic of movies’ shows himself visiting the sculpture on foot. The action consists of Antonioni – walking without a cane, and looking like Antonioni prior to his stroke – entering the St. Pietro church in Rome to look at and then touch and caress portions of the restoration of Michelangelo’s Moses, then leaving again. Read more