1. For me, there have been quite a few surprises in the results of Sight and Sound’s latest ten-best poll of film critics around the world — not so much the displacement of Citizen Kane from first place (which it occupied for half a century, ever since the second poll in 1962) by Vertigo, something that was bound to happen sooner or later, as the first appearance of The Man with a Movie Camera (in eighth place, with 68 votes). And, perhaps most startling of all, seeing Sátántangó tied with Jeanne Dielman, Psycho, and Metropolis (each of which received 64 votes), or seeing Abbas Kiarostami (represented by Close-Up, in 42nd place — in an incongruous six-way tie with Gertrud, Pather Panchali, Pierrot le fou, Playtime, and Some Like It Hot) doing better than Charlie Chaplin (represented by City Lights, in 50th place, tied with La jetée and Ugetsu Monogatari).
“Let’s remember,” Roger Ebert recently blogged, “that all movie lists, even this most-respected one, are ultimately meaningless.” But he goes on to note, correctly, that “In the era of DVD, all of the [50-odd] films on the list are available; in 1952, unless you had unusual resources, most of them could be found only in a few big cities,” which is far from meaningless.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (April 1, 1988). — J.R.
Apart from offering what is likely the best stretch of the late, great Charles Ludlam (of New York’s Ridiculous Theater) on film, Mark Rappaport’s dense and fascinating 1980 independent feature — a tragicomic melodrama designed to stick in the throat (and brain)surely qualifies as one of the wildest and wittiest American movies of its decade. The structure is basically confrontational: gay and/or straight couples, twins and/or lovers, crooks and/or romantic heroes, doppelgangers all, try to ridicule one another out of existence, with enough deadpan bitchy dialogue to choke a horse, and a plot derived equally from The Maltese Falcon and Proust’s Albertine disparue. Rappaport’s ingenious low-budget strategies for suggesting big-budget opulence are particularly disturbing and suggestive. Magic, stolen jewels, jealousy, paranoia, and torture parade through this hysterically convoluted, elegantly mounted tale of wisecracks and woe like a Hollywood funeral procession for American romanticism: the results are nightmarish, hilarious, and indelible. With Michael Berg and Ellen McElduff. (JR)
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From DVD Beaver, posted in November 2008. Some of the links may be out of date by now. — J.R.
The following selection is not only personal but very eclectic. It’s not exactly a list of my favorite films: I prefer Erich von Stroheim’s Foolish Wives (1922) and Greed (1924) to his Blind Husbands (1919), for instance, and if I had to take one Anthony Mann film along with me to a desert island, this would undoubtedly be The Naked Spur (1953) rather than his Man of the West (1958). Similarly, my favorite films by Nicholas Ray are probably Johnny Guitar (1954) and Bitter Victory (1957), even though Party Girl (1958), for all its flaws, is still a Ray film that I’d describe as sublime. But I’ve opted in these cases for the DVDs devoted to Stroheim, Mann, and Ray that I cherish the most, and the reasons why I cherish them are stated below.
A few other caveats:
(a) There are at least two other editions of Carl Dreyer’s Gertrud (1964) —- the U.S. one from Criterion and the English one from the British Film Institute—- that are top-notch, and they’re probably easier to come by in the Western hemisphere than the Australian edition on the Madman label that I cite.… Read more »
From the April 2017 Sight and Sound. — J.R.
FILM IS LIKE A BATTLEGROUND
Sam Fuller’s War Movies
By Marsha Gordon. Oxford University Press, 314 pp. £24.07, ISBN 9780190269753
Reviewed by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Some Samuel Fuller fans may find it surprising that
the two most substantial academic studies of him so
far have both been by women—Lisa Dombrowski’s 2008
The Films of Samuel Fuller: If You Die, I’ll Kill You! and
now Marsha Gordon’s more specialised volume. But for
anyone lucky enough to have known Fuller personally,
isn’t surprising at all. An unabashed feminist whose
feisty mother remained a key figure for him, Fuller
confounded macho stereotypes as much as those
associated with familiar ideological and Hollywood
patterns, even while remaining a feverish self-mythologizer.
Gordon’s principal strength is as a researcher, and her access to such items as Fuller’s letters home and diaries during his wartime service and some of his lesser-known publications, productions, and projects (such as a 1944 magazine story, an unsold 1959 TV pilot called Dogface with some striking anticipations of his White Dog, and his subsequent unrealized screenplay The Rifle) allows her to treat her elected subject with a great deal of thoroughness.… Read more »