Daily Archives: July 30, 2022

Filling in the Blanks [LE SAMOURAI & THE BIRTH OF LOVE]

From the June 6, 1997 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

Le samourai Rating *** A must see

Directed and written by Jean-Pierre Melville

With Alain Delon, Francois Perier, Nathalie Delon, Caty Rosier, Jacques Leroy, Jean-Pierre Posier, and Catherine Jourdan.

The Birth of Love Rating *** A must see

Directed by Philippe Garrel

Written by Garrel, Marc Cholodenko, and Muriel Cerf

With Lou Castel, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Johanna Ter Steege, Dominique Reymond, and Marie-Paule Laval.

If much of French cinema can be said to derive from the famous Cartesian phrase “I think, therefore I am,” why does it yield so many realistic movies? Certainly fantasy remains central to a good deal of French art, past and present, but if you compare the films of early pioneers like the Lumiere brothers to those of Thomas Edison, you might conclude that the French have a certain edge in seeing clearly what’s right in front of them. I found that of the dozen French movies I recently saw in Cannes and Paris, six were strictly realist in a way that few American features are: a cheerful Pagnolian hand-me-down (Marius and Jeannette), a Blier road movie for grown-ups (Manuel Poirier’s Western), Manoel de Oliveira’s moving French-Portuguese self-portrait, which features Marcello Mastroianni’s last performance (Voyage to the Beginning of the World), an experiment in first-person camera involving adultery (La femme defendue), a mysterious meditation on rural French punks (deceptively titled The Life of Jesus), and a spirited comedy by and with Brigitte Rouan (Post-coitum, animal triste).… Read more »

I Missed It at the Movies: Objections to “Raising KANE”

From the Spring 1972 issue of Film Comment; this is also reprinted, with a lot of contextual material, in my 2007 collection Discovering Orson Welles (where I’ve also retained my original title — not used by Film Comment, who ran it as an untitled review). I’m still hugely embarrassed by the assertion early in this piece that “[Kael’s] basic contention, that the script of KANE is almost solely the work of Herman J. Mankiewicz, seems well-supported and convincing” — a howler if there ever was one. I’m not sure if this would qualify as a valid excuse, but this was the first lengthy essay about film that I ever published. My joint audio commentary with Jim Naremore on Criterion’s new KANE box set addresses some of Kael’s more dubious factual and critical assumptions.

Recently I‘ve been reading Brian Kellow’s biography of Pauline Kael, and I’m very pleased that he’s up front about the serious flaws of “Raising KANE,” factual and otherwise — but also disappointed that Kellow is unaware that “The Kane Mutiny” — signed by Peter Bogdanovich, and the best riposte to Kael’s essay ever published by anyone — was mainly written by Welles himself. (See This is Orson Welles and Discovering Orson Welles for more about this extraordinary act of impersonation.)Read more »

DOGS’ DIALOGUE (1984 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, December 1984 (Vol. 51, No. 611). In retrospect, I’m rather proud of the synopsis here, which must have been a bitch to put together. -– J.R.

Colloque de chiens (Dogs’ Dialogue)

France, 1977
Director: R
âúl Ruiz

Cert–AA. dist–BFI. p.c–Filmoblic/L’Office de la Création Cinématographique. p–Hubert Niogret. asst. d–Michel Such. sc–Nicole Muchnik, Raul Ruiz. ph—Denis Lenoir, Patrice Millet. In colour. still ph–Patrice Morère, Mario Muchnik. ed–Valeria Sarmiento. m–Sergio Arriagada. cost–Fanny Lebihan, Yves Hersen. sd. rec–Michel Villain. sd. re-rec–Paul Bertaud. English version/English commentary—Michael Graham. French version/French commentary–Robert Darmel. l.p–Eva Simonet, Silke Humel, Frank Lesne, Marie Christine Poisot, Hugo Santiago, Geneviève Such, Laurence Such, Michel Such, Pierre Olivier Such, Yves Wecker, the dogs of the Gramont refuge. 1,938 ft. 22 mins. (35 mm.)

The film alternates three kinds of material: footage of barking dogs, shots of streets and other locations, and the following story, illustrated chiefly by a series of stills (and occasionally by shots in motion) and narrated off-screen: Monique discovers in a school playground that the woman she believes to be her mother isn’t her mother. At home, she learns that her real mother is a woman named Marie, who doesn’t know who her father was.… Read more »

Plagues of the God: Fassbinder’s Torturous Cinema

Commissioned by Arrow Video for their box set The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Collection, vol. III, released in summer 2022. -- J.R.                                                                                

“Capitalism is the plague. Criminals are its gods.”                                                                                                                         --Fassbinder during the German trailer of Gods of the Plague                                                                                    

Rainer Werner Fassbinder was only twenty-four when he made his first four features in 1969, the third of which was Gods of the Plague. Years later, when he compiled a list of what he believed were his ten best features, Gods of the Plague made it into fifth place. The only other very early film on this list was his seventh feature, Beware of the Holy Whore — one of the six feature-length works he made in 1970 -– which figured in first place.

An inveterate list maker who plainly enjoyed that somewhat adolescent pastime, Fassbinder also ranked his ten favourite films made by others (topped by Luchino Visconti’s The Damned) and his ten favourite actresses and actors, both in the films of others and in his own films: Marilyn Monroe, Hanna Schygulla, Clark Gable, and Armin Mueller-Stahl. He also plausibly put himself at the top of his list of the ten most influential German New Wave directors.


One can argue that early Fassbinder is very much a matter of certain raw and irreducible basics – including the contradictions that would haunt the remainder of his prolific oeuvre, which ended, sadly yet predictably, with his drug-fueled death in 1982.… Read more »

Responding to some questions about “Acid Westerns” and DEAD MAN

This was done for Not Coming to a Theater Near You (notcoming.com) in April 2013, and the questions were put by Rumsey Taylor. — J.R.
• We’re approaching the acid Western as if it could satisfy a chapter in your book, Midnight Movies. At the time of its writing, how might you and Hoberman have denominated the films that have retroactively become known as acid Westerns (The Shooting, Greaser’s Palace, The Last Movie, El Topo, et al.)?

I can’t speak for Jim Hoberman. As nearly as I can remember, I simply coined the phrase in order to group together several countercultural westerns — which included, by the way, some of the novels of Rudy Wurlitzer as well as some movies.

• The first instance I’ve found of the term “acid Western” occurs in Pauline Kael’s review of El Topo in 1971, and she employs it in derogatory fashion, alluding to the pothead audience that extolled the film — an audience she admittedly did not belong to. Being that your use of the term is more academic, do you think that the acid Western was meant to be viewed under the influence of hallucinogenic substances?

 

Maybe Kael used the term before I did and I unconsciously borrowed it.
Read more »