Daily Archives: December 28, 2021

King Kong (review of remake, 1977)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, February 1977. — J.R.

King Kong

U.S.A., 1976
Director: John Guillermin

The Petrox Oil Company sends an expedition by ship into Micronesia, hoping to find petroleum deposits on uncharted Skull Island. Group leader Fred Wilson and scientist Bagley believe that the vapor surrounding the island may come from oil, but Princeton University paleethnologist Jack Prescott — a stowaway — suggests animal respiration, and talks of ancient accounts of Kong, a prehistoric monster. Dwan, a prospective starlet and sole survivor of an explosion that destroyed a film producer’s boat en route to Hong Kong, is picked up before the ship reaches the island. Ashore, Wilson, Bagley, Jack and Dwan come upon an enormous wall and a native ritual in which a girl is about to be sacrificed. That night, as Dwan is about to keep a sexual rendezvous with Jack, she is kidnapped by natives and offered as an altar gift to Kong, a forty-foot ape who arrives and carries her away. While Jack penetrates the jungle with a rescue team, Wilson learns from Bagley that the island’s oil deposits won’t be usable for another 10,000 years, and begins to think of capturing Kong for use in Petrox publicity. Read more

An Encyclopedia of Nuanced Gestures: NELLY AND MONSIEUR ARNAUD

 Written for the Kino Lorber Blu-Ray of this film, released in September 2019. — J.R.


Let me start with a confession about the ways that both fashion and one’s age can affect one’s taste. My first acquaintance with writer-director Claude Sautet (1924-2000) came when I was a hippie and cinephile in my late 20s living in Paris in the early ‘70s, a follower of Cahiers du Cinéma in my viewing preferences more than a follower of its leading monthly competitor, Positif, although I usually purchased both magazines. Back then, Sautet’s The Things of Life (1970), and César and Rosalie (1972) struck me as the epitome of well-crafted, genteel yuppie navel gazing, especially for what I took to be their uncritical embrace of the upper middle class. He was clearly a skilled director of actors, but the overall whiff of his milieu seemed complacent to a fault. Consequently, I steered clear of his 1974 Vincent, Francois, Paul and the Others, one of his biggest hits, and when, five years later, back in the U.S., I wrote an article about Chantal Akerman, Jean-Luc Godard, and the team of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet for the mainstream and middlebrow American Film, I was mortified when my editors condescendingly changed my title to “Jean-Luc, Chantal, Danièle, Jean-Marie, and the Others,” which led Akerman herself to reproach me for the piece, assuming that I’d dreamed up that title myself. Read more

Rotterdam 1987: the once and future cinema

From Sight and Sound (Spring 1987). –- J.R.

The Rotterdam Festival is gradually expanding in scope and attendance, while its survival seems to become increasingly polemical and precarious. Now in its 16th edition, the festival continues to honor its director Hubert Bals’ stubborn, utopian precept that, ‘An audience should be found for a film, not a film for an audience.’

Thus, while Libération critic Serge Daney was lecturing persuasively on the growing impossibility of critics mediating between films and audiences, it was possible to watch a videotape, Joan Does Dynasty, in which New York critic Joan Braderman, with the aid of Manuel De Landa’s computer graphics, does precisely that for the TV series.She appears in front of Dynasty in different sizes, shapes and positions, from diverse angles and with varying degrees of transparency, and delivers an exuberant, madcap critique of the show. Part of a cycle of low-budget, leftist media critiques known as Paper Tiger Television which appears on us public access cable and boasts more than a hundred titles in its catalogue, Braderman’s pungent intellectual stand-up is the likely formal masterpiece of a variable, slapdash series ranging from the unfocused and obvious (Peter Wollen on the U.S. Read more

Introduction to Rivette: Texts & Interviews (1977)

This book was published in 1977 by the British Film Institute and has been long out of print, although nearly all its contents has been reprinted on the excellent Jacques Rivette website, “Order of the Exile”. — J.R.

Rather than be considered in isolation, this book should be regarded as part of a general effort to make the work of Jacques Rivette available, in every sense of the term. This is not to imply that the following texts and interviews are being offered as a mere supplement to his films: if the entire body of Rivette’s work can be read as a series of evolving reflections on the cinema, the critical work contained in this volume is indissolubly linked with the critical work represented by his film-making. From this standpoint, it is not enough to say (for instance) that Rivette’s 1957 review of Fritz Lang’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt helps to ‘explain’ — indeed, provides a veritable blueprint for — many of the preoccupations of his 1976 film Noroit. One of the assumptions of this collection is that it might be equally valuable to view Noroit as a key towards understanding Rivette’s important text on Lang. Read more