Celebrating southern cinema

[Chicago Reader blog post, 4/23/07] (I’ve eliminated all the now-out-of-date links, making this even more esoteric.) — J.R.


Five years ago the Oxford American, a quarterly publication that dubs itself the “southern magazine of good writing,” published a special issue on southern movies. It did so well that they’ve just brought out a sequel. Though I contributed to the previous issue I didn’t propose anything this time round, but now that I have the follow-up in front of me I find I can recommend it for a couple of things. There’s a good interview with Charles Burnett by Dennis Lim and a thoughtful essay by Joseph McBride about John Huston, his Wise Blood in particular. Maybe it’s not always reliable: Jack Pendarvis claims that “if you Google ‘commedia dell’arte’ + ‘baby doll’ you’ll get over a thousand hits,” but when I tried I got only 368. All the same, it’s interesting to see Elia Kazan’s Baby Doll, a 1956 feature scripted by Tennessee Williams, and commedia dell’arte connected .

What I mainly value in the package, though, is the free DVD that’s been appended to it–an eclectic collection of 16 items consisting of 13 clips (from films ranging from Roger Corman’s overlooked The Intruder to Joey Lauren’s Come Early Morning to Ross McElwee’s Bright Leaves, plus the overexposed Black Snake Moan) and three full-length shorts, all three pretty arcane: animator Leon Searl’s 1916 Krazy Kat Goes A-Wooing (download required), Mary Ellen Bute and Ted Nemeth’s 1938 animation Synchromy No. 4: Escape, and Phil Chambliss’s 1995 live-action film The Devils-Helper. As a sampler, this is pretty resourceful. But I wish the magazine’s Web site would dispense with the one-minute teaser for this DVD–a flood of image-bites suggesting an Oscar-night montage and reducing a thoughtful compilation to indiscriminate flashes of everything and nothing. [04/23/07]

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