Sátántangó (Film and Novel) as Faulknerian Reverie

In most respects, I’m delighted and honored that a version of the following essay was published in Issue Two of the journal Music & Literature, which is devoted to László Krasznahorkai, Béla Tarr, and Max Neumann, In fact, this essay was commissioned by the editors of this handsome special issue, and my only reason for posting my original version is that a few stylistic edits were made, in what I’m sure were sincere efforts to clarify some of the entanglements in my lengthy sentences, that unfortunately yielded some embarrassing factual errors in the piece, as well as a few significant cuts. (It now appears that I read portions of the French translation of Krasznahorkai’s novel before I ever saw Tarr’s film and that Erich Auerbach’s great book Mimesis now includes an analysis of Light in August that no one has previously read; and the remarkable observation from Dan Gunn that I quoted has been deleted.) So, just to keep the record straight, here, for better and for worse, is exactly what I wrote. More recently, in mid-January 2015, I belatedly received a copy of this article with the above Introduction reprinted in Scalarama, a publication put together by Stanley Schtinter to accompany a tour of Sátántangó in the U.K. Read more

Response to Patrick McGilligan’s Woody Allen Poll [slightly updated]

Preparing a book about Woody Allen, biographer Patrick McGilligan sent out a poll to me and many others, and here are my responses to his questions:

THE WOODY ALLEN POLL

1.  What five Woody Allen films do you hold in the highest regard?  

(List the five in any order.   One equal point will be assigned to each of your choices for the cumulative total to be listed from 100 participating critics and scholars.)

whatsuptl3

annie-hall

broadwaydannyrose

1989-oedipus-wrecks

mmm3

What’s Up, Tiger Lily?

Annie Hall

Broadway Danny Rose

Oedipus Wrecks 

Manhattan Murder Mystery

2.  What do you believe about the allegation by Dylan Farrow, Allen’s adopted daughter, that he sexually molested her?   

            c.  Undecided.

3.  Have the Dylan Farrow allegations, or his marriage to Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn – either or both – affected your view of his film?

No.

4.  How has his over-all legacy been affected?  Comments are welcome.

I’ve always thought he was overrated (cf. my “Notes Toward the Devaluation of Woody Allen”). If his reputation and legacy as an artist have been tarnished by these unconfirmed charges or his marriage, this only illustrates the public’s lack of seriousness about art. I find Allen’s far more confirmable shame and embarrassment about his working-class origins and his middle-class values far more relevant to the importance and (lack of) depth of his work.  Read more

TOUCH OF EVIL: From Program Picture to Classic (2002)

Published as “Classic Touch” in the January 2002 issue of AMC: American Movie Classics Magazine….The last photo reproduced here is of the whole crew of the re-edit team at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1998. — J.R.

touch of evil

Considering all the rereleases in recent years of studio classics that are
labeled “director’s cut,” it must seem like every studio picture has one.
But the phrase is often a marketing term, and therefore potentially
misleading. There are some movies, including a few great ones, that can’t
be released in “director’s cuts” because the director was never accorded
final cut in the first place. At least five of Orson Welles’s European films
and three of his Hollywood features have director’s cuts, but Touch of
Evil (1958), his last Hollywood movie, isn’t one of them. (For the record,
his three director’s cuts are all in the 1940s: Citizen Kane and two
separate edits of his Macbeth.)

TOE-timebomb

Admittedly, there was less studio interference on this noir thriller than
there had been on Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons, The Stranger,
and The Lady from Shanghai. Welles was allowed to direct and rewrite
the script only after he’d been cast as the heavy, a crooked cop — mainly
through the intervention of lead actor Charlton Heston, who played an
honest Mexican cop. Read more

Ambiguous Evidence: Cozarinsky’s “Cinema Indirect”

It’s sad to hear about the death of my friend Edgardo Cozarinsky, a writer and director, in Buenos Aires, at age 85, but the sadness belongs to his friends rather than to Edgardo himself, because I believe he had a rich and full life.

The following text, commissioned by Edgardo himself for a retrospective held in Paris, was reprinted in my original English in the September-October 1995 issue of Film Comment. I should stress that this essay is very much out of date once one starts to consider Cozarinsky’s prolific subsequent career as both a writer and a filmmaker — although I’ve anachronistically included some more recent book covers and film posters as illustrations, as well as a poster and two stills from the 2005 Ronda Nocturna, known in English as Night Watch, in part to help make up for the impossibility of finding stills for some of the rarer films of his discussed here.

Let me also quote my Reader capsule review of Night Watch: “With a few exceptions, I prefer the literature of Edgardo Cozarinsky, an Argentinean based mainly in Paris, to his films, and his nonfiction in both realms to his fiction. But this poetic, atmospheric drama, shot in Buenos Aires, challenged my bias, mixing the natural and the supernatural, the cinematic and the literary, with such assurance that Cozarinsky no longer seems like a divided artist. Read more

On ORSON WELLES AND ROGER HILL: A FRIENDSHIP IN THREE ACTS

Almost seven years have passed since I quoted from the manuscript of this wonderful book in the Introduction to my own Discovering Orson Welles. At that point the subtitle of Todd Tarbox’s book was A Friendship in Four Acts, but if anything, the book has only grown since then, both physically and in terms of readability. In short, it’s been well worth the wait. (June 2014 footnote: For more details, including an excerpt from one of the Welles/Hill conversations, go to Todd Tarbox’s  radio interview with Rick Kogan, here.) — J.R.

The major and longest-lasting close friendship of Orson Welles’s life was with one of his earliest role models — his teacher, advisor, and theatrical mentor at the Todd School who later became the school’s headmaster, Roger Hill. By editing and arranging many of their recorded conversations at the end of Welles’s life and career, Hill’s grandson, Todd Tarbox, has given us invaluable and candidly intimate glimpses into many of its stages, especially ones towards the beginning and end of that diverse and complicated saga. In the process, he also confounds and complicates the array of “weak” and flawed father figures that populate most of Welles’ films, all the way from Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersonsthrough The Trial, Chimes at Midnight, Don Quixote, and The Other Side of the Wind, with a bracing and ennobling alternative to that pattern, an unwavering relationship of mutual admiration and respect that was a clear source of strength to both of them. Read more

Three More Hack Reviews of Hack Movies (from 1975)

All three of the following short reviews appeared in the June 1975 issue of Monthly Film Bulletin (vol. 42, no. 497). The reason why I had to cover so many films of this kind for the magazine was that I was the assistant editor, and it was very hard to convince most of our freelance reviewers (apart from Tom Milne) to take them on. -– J.R.

I_corpiCorpi Presentano Tracce di Violenza Carnale. I (Torso)

Italy, 1973

Director: Sergio Martino

 Torso

After two college girls, Florence and Carol, are savagely murdered and butchered by a masked assailant, one of their classmates, Daniela, recalls having recently seen the scarf left behind by the murderer but can’t remember who was wearing it. Before long, she receives an anonymous threatening phone call, and her uncle Nino requests that she so for a rest to his country villa with her school friends Ursula, Katia and Jane. Jane stays behind briefly to look up Stefano — a student whom she suspects is the killer, but who proves not to be at home — and passes up an invitation to attend a concert with her art professor Franz. A scarf-dealer who meanwhile tries to blackmail the killer by phone manages to collect 3 million lire, but is then run down by a car; that evening, after a local shoe-peddler spies Ursula seducing Katia in the country house, he is pursued, killed and thrown into a well by the masked assailant. Read more

SWEDISH WILDCATS (1975 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, February 1975 (vol. 42, no. 493). -– J.R.

SwedishWiuldcats-title

 

Swedish Wildcats

U.S.A./Sweden, 1974

Director: Joseph W. Sarno

SwedishWildcats-DVD

Copenhagen. Margareta, a brothel madam who displays her prostitutes in elaborate cabaret revues at private parties, summons her two orphan nieces Susanna and Karen — both part of her entourage — to participate in a ‘slave auction’ staged for some local clients. Gerhard Jensen, chief of a ground crew handling air cargo, bids for Karen and then offers to pay extra to share a room with Susanna and his friend; Margareta agrees and watches the results through a two-way mirror: Gerhard complains to Karen, “I could get more excitement from a piece of raw liver”, and tries to make love to Susanna, then beats her when she refuses to kiss him on the mouth. In a park, Susanna meets Peter Borg, another member of Gerhard’s crew; it is love at first sight, and she presents herself as Natasha, a ballet dancer, while he claims to be a test pilot working on a secret project. Meanwhile, her sister Karen has also fallen in love with someone who doesn’t know her profession — Gabriel, an architect from a very respectable family. Read more

RED PSALM (1971)

This was written in the summer of 2000 for a coffee-table book edited by Geoff Andrew that was published the following year, Film: The Critics’ Choice (New York: Billboard Books). — J.R.

A recent documentary about communist musicals called East Side Story (Dana Ranga, 1997) assumes that communist-bloc directors were just itching to make Hollywood extravaganzas and invariably wound up looking strained, square, and ill-equipped. But Red Psalm (1971), Miklós Jancsó’s dazzling, open-air revolutionary pageant, is a highly sensual communist musical that employs occasional nudity as lyrically as the singing, dancing, and nature. That is to say, within its own specially and exuberantly defined idioms, it swings as well as wails.

Set near the end of the 19th century, when a group of peasants have demanded basic rights from a landowner and soldiers arrive on horseback to quell the uprising, Red Psalm is composed of only 26 shots. (With a running time of 84 minutes, this adds up to an average of three minutes per shot. Jancsó’s earlier feature from 1969, Winter Sirocco, is said to consist of only 13 shots.) Each long take is an intricate choreography of panning camera, landscape, and clustered bodies that constantly traverse, join, and/or divide the separate groups. Read more

Preface to the Iranian Edition of ABBAS KIAROSTAMI (July 2014)

Written in late July, 2014  for this recently published volume. — J.R.

Kiarostami with AK book

JONATHAN ROSENBAUM: Having by now covered practically all of the films of Abbas Kiarostami between us — starting with our book about him published in 2003, which dealt with all the films up through 10 (2002), and then continuing with further articles and dialogues since then, all the way up through Like Someone in Love (2012) -– it’s hard to know what we can add in the form of a Preface to the Persian translation of all of the above. Broadly speaking, I suppose one could say that over the past decade, Kiarostami has shifted from being an arthouse director to being a sort of gallery artist who worked in both film and still photography before finally, in more international and less Iranian terms, becoming an arthouse director again. Does this overall description of his evolution strike you as being accurate? And do you think Kiarostami has gained or lost anything in the process?

certified copy 2 leads

Like Someone in Love

MEHRNAZ SAEED-VAFA: Your description sounds accurate to me, and I think Kiarostami has definitely gained something. He’s made several shorts and features going in different directions and styles that continue to challenge the expectations of his fans and followers.   Read more

Character Flaws [MAJOR PAYNE]

From the Chicago Reader (March 24, 1995). I must confess that I’m immensely grateful that I no longer remember anything more than a stray detail or two about the dozen movies cited in the first paragraph, including the film under review. — J.R.

Major Payne *

Directed by Nick Castle

Written by Dean Lorey, Damon Wayans, and Gary Rosen

With Wayans, Karyn Parsons, Steven Martini, Andrew Harrison Leeds, Joda Blaire-Hershman, Stephen Coleman, and Orlando Brown.

It’s hard to remember when the mainstream releases have been as dismal as the offerings of the past few weeks. Admittedly, I haven’t seen everything, so it’s possible I missed the odd trick or two. But the rewards of The Quick and the Dead, Federal Hill, The Walking Dead, Losing Isaiah, Outbreak, Shallow Grave, Tall Tale, Circle of Friends, Bye Bye, Love, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, Muriel’s Wedding, and Major Payne have been so paltry that I’ve been reluctant to search out further punishment. If there’s an element that unites this disparate dozen, it’s an absence of characters — an absence stemming from a lack of consistent vision of what characters are supposed to be. Read more

A Force Unto Himself [on Hou Hsiao-hsien]

From the Chicago Reader (June 2, 2000).

On October 5, 2014, I had the pleasure of introducing The Sandwich Man at the Museum of the Moving Image’s exhaustive Hou retrospective in Astoria. My late friend Gilberto Perez came to the screening and we had dinner afterwards; it was the last time I ever saw him. 

For a Turkish translation of this article, go here. — J.R.

Films by Hou Hsiao-hsien

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. — Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Mother Night

How significant is it that neither of the two greatest working narrative filmmakers is fluent in English? Not very. But it might be logical. After all, most of the people in the world, including those in Iran and Taiwan, don’t speak English, even though that places them, in American eyes, in the margins, outside even the on-line global culture.

If being in the margins means being in the majority, it stands to reason that Abbas Kiarostami and Hou Hsiao-hsien, as chroniclers of what’s happening on the planet at the moment, should both be poet laureates of the sticks — though they don’t have much in common beyond a taste for filming in long shot, pioneering direct sound recording in their national cinemas (in both cases to honor the speech patterns of nonprofessional actors), and a general sense of philosophical detachment. Read more

Best Films of the Decade (2010-2019, for Caimán Cuadernos de Cine)

the-turin-horse-fatherdaughter
1. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr, 2011)
Margaret-Damon&Paquin
2. Margaret (186-minute version, Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
The-Other-Side-of-the-Wind
3. The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles, 2018)
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4. Adieu au Langage (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)
holy-motors-mask
5. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
Horse-Money
6. Horse Money (Pedro Costa, 2014)
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7. Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2011)
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8. A Bread Factory (Patrick Wang, 2018)
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9. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
I-DALIO
10. I, Dalio (or The Rules of the Game) (Mark Rappaport, 2015)
Read more

Paris-London Journal [1974]

From Film Comment, November 1974. I suspect that one factor that may have kept me from scanning and posting this column until now, at least in its complete form, is my dissenting view of CHINATOWN and WHAT?, even before the former became fully canonized as Holy Writ. -– J.R.

Moving across the Channel, a profound difference in the cinematic climate becomes immediately apparent. How could it be otherwise, considering that the lifestyles that go with each city are so strikingly antithetical? Paris is all adrenalin and shiny surfaces, hard-edged and brittle and eternally abstract, the capital of paranoia (cf. Rivette) and street spectacle (cf. Tati), where café tables become orchestra seats as soon as the weather gets warm — the city where everyone loves to stare. London is just the reverse, a soft-centered cushion of comfort where trust and accommodation make for a slower, saner, and ostensibly less shrill mode of existence: relatively concrete and prosaic, more spit and less polish, a city more conducive to eccentricity than lunacy. Relatively speaking, London isn’t a movie town. It’s considerably easier to go out to films in Paris and to be more selective about what one sees, because the area is smaller and the action tends to be more concentrated. Read more

Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut

From the Chicago Reader (October 2, 1992). — J.R.

Blade-Runner-2

Far and away the best SF movie of the 80s, though a critical and commercial flop when it first appeared (1982), Ridley Scott’s visionary look at Los Angeles in the year 2019 — a singular blend of glitter and grime that captures both the horror and the allure of capitalism in the Reagan era with the claustrophobic textures of a Sternberg film — is back in a new version that more closely approximates the director’s original intentions, minus the offscreen narration and happy ending and with a few brief additions. Loosely adapted by David Webb Peoples (who later scripted Unforgiven) and Hampton Fancher from Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the story mainly concerns the tracking down and killing of “replicants” (lifelike androids) by the hero (Harrison Ford), and much of the film’s erotic charge and moral and ideological ambiguity stems from the fact that these characters — Joe Turkel, Sean Young, Darryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, and Joanna Cassidy — are very nearly the only ones we care about. (We never know for sure whether Ford is a replicant himself, and one advantage to this version is that it makes this uncertainty more explicit.) Read more

Wayne Wang Isn’t Missing: The Return of CHAN

Written for MUBI in early August 2021. MUBI decided not to run it because of its borrowings from an earlier piece of mine that ran in Sight and Sound in 1983 (see link below: https://jonathanrosenbaum.net/2019/03/on-chan-is-missing-and-wayne-wang/), which is why I’m posting it here.– J.R.

https://jonathanrosenbaum.net/2019/03/on-chan-is-missing-and-wayne-wang/

 

It’s a sad fact that when certain filmmakers fail to perform the narrow tribal duties assigned to them by the marketplace, they risk floating off the map of our awareness. For the past sixteen years, ever since I reviewed one of his lesser efforts (Because of Winn-Dixie, 2005)Wayne Wang has drifted out of my consciousness, not because he’s been inactive but because I’ve seen none of his last seven features and his media profile has been too scattered to produce many ripples in the American mainstream. Yet in a culture where it’s still frowned upon to insist that Barack Obama is half-white, that two of Roman Polanski’s recent and undistributed and/or ignored movies (Venus in Fur and Based on a True Story) qualify as feminist antocritiques, and that Spike Lee’s most accomplished and affecting feature, 25thHour (2003), has nothing to do with being black, the failure of Wayne Wang to stick exclusively to his perceived roots (Hong Kong, American, Chinese-American) has prevented him from becoming or remaining a household name.

Read more