Daily Archives: December 29, 2022

The Suspended Vocation


One of Raul Ruiz’s earliest French features — an adaptation of Pierre Klossowski’s autobiographical novel about the conflict between rival doctrinal factions within the Catholic Church — this is also one of his most intractable, though some critics regard it as one of his best. It takes the form of a film within a film, involving the making of a film in 1971 that is an amalgamation of two earlier unfinished films made in 1942 and 1962. Alternating between black and white and color, and shot through with Ruiz’s deadpan humor and his taste for labyrinthine structures, it addresses the quintessentially Ruizian theme of institutions — how they function and how they survive (1977). (JR)

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Bell, Book And Candle

From the Chicago Reader (January 1, 1990). — J.R.

This charming 1958 comedy about witches is never quite as good as you want it to be, but it’s still a lot more entertaining than its director (Richard Quine) and its reputation suggest. Kim Novak is at her most luminous as a good witch who seduces publisher James Stewart away from the woman he expects to marry, and Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, and Elsa Lanchester all manage to shine as well. Adapted by John Van Druten from his own play; the Candoli brothers, Pete and Conte, provide some dreamy, muted trumpet jazz in a nightclub. If memory serves, and clearly thinking of the two leads, French writer Bernard Eisenschitz once called this an optimistic Vertigo. 103 min. (JR)

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Stroking the Suits

Ben Kenigsberg emailed me a few questions on November 27 for a story about the authorship of the Citizen Kane screenplay, tied to the upcoming commercial release of David Fincher’s Mank, for the New York Times. Since I regarded this as a fake issue designed to make a piece of infotainment sound more ‘serious’ than it actually was (which is why I refuse to include a still from Mank here), and despite my knowing that the Times will never print criticisms of its own positions, I responded as follows: :

1. Have you seen “Mank”? If so, what did you think? And if not, what do you think of the idea of the project?

Yes, I’ve seen Mank, and I wrote about it briefly on my site.

2. How would you explain to readers who know nothing about “Raising Kane,” “The Kane Mutiny” or even “Citizen Kane” itself why the authorship of the screenplay matters (assuming it matters)? Movies drawn from real events take liberties all the time, but what’s different about “Mank,” which implies (with maybe a bit of plausible deniability) that Mankiewicz deserved sole credit for the script, is that it resurrects a debunked idea that has a history and a subtext. Read more