From the January 5, 1996 Chicago Reader. — J.R.
Rumor has it that director Terry Gilliam hasn’t even seen La jetee (1962), Chris Marker’s half-hour SF masterpiece that served as the basis for David and Janet Peoples’s script. In a future world following a global epidemic that has eradicated most of humanity, time travel becomes the only hope of mankind’s survival. A volunteer (Bruce Willis) gets sent back to Philadelphia in the year 1996, where he’s promptly locked away as a madman while trying to find the source of the epidemic and simultaneously clear up a troubling childhood memory. La jetee, told almost exclusively in black-and-white still photographs, is the only purely fictional work of one of the greatest film essayists (whose work tends to circulate around issues involving memory and photography) and has a form, a style, and a subject that reinforce one another; this grungy thriller by contrast merely takes over the story, though it’s a haunting enough tale in its own right. (David Peoples also scripted Unforgiven, and one finds much of the same craft, as well as the same gratuitous unpleasantness, kicking about here.) I find all of Gilliam’s movies worth seeing, and this is no exception, though you should expect to find a fair amount of his characteristic designer grimness mixed in with cabaret comedy, which seems less fresh now than it did in Brazil in 1985. Read more
I’m reposting this as a sort of adjunct to David Bordwell’s excellent two-part study of Manny Farber (available here and here). My relatively recent review of Farber on Film can be accessed here.
This very personal essay was written in 1993 for my first collection, Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism. I’ve updated a few facts, all placed in square brackets, and corrected some typos, including one that appeared on the first page of the essay in the book, much to my irritation (as well as Manny’s) ….The photograph at the very end of this piece, before the new Afterword, taken by Andy Rector, shows Manny and Patricia with Gabe Klinger. — J.R.
They Drive by Night: The Criticism of Manny Farber
By Jonathan Rosenbaum
“What is the role of evaluation in your critical work?” Manny Farber was once asked in an interview. “It’s practically worthless for a critic,” Farber replied. “The last thing I want to know is whether you like it or not; the problems of writing are after that. I don’t think it has any importance; it’s one of those derelict appendages of criticism. Criticism has nothing to do with hierarchies.” A few years later, in another interview — published in French, so I can’t quote from it verbatim — he expressed his irritation with Pauline Kael writing about RAGING BULL as if she knew what was good or bad in every shot, in every scene. Read more
Written in 2013 for a 2019 Taschen volume. — J.R.
1.Why is Parade Tati’s least known feature?
It’s surprising how many of Jacques Tati’s fans still haven’t seen his last feature, and in some cases don’t even know about its existence. Yet the reasons for this neglect aren’t too difficult to figure out.
For one thing, Parade is the only Tati feature apart from Jour de fête in which his best known and most beloved character, Monsieur Hulot, doesn’t appear. For another thing, it was made on an extremely modest budget, and shot mostly on video for Swedish television; it never received even a fraction of the advertising and other forms of promotion, much less distribution, accorded to his five earlier pictures. And some of those who have seen it don’t even regard it as a feature, but think of it merely as a documentary of a circus performance in which Tati appears only as an emcee and as one of the performers, doing some of his more famous pantomime routines. It doesn’t have a story in the sense that all his previous films do on some level, including even his early short, L’école des facteurs (1947).
On the other hand, what we mean by “story” is already a bit different in the work of Tati than it is in the work of most other important filmmakers, comic and otherwise. Read more