From the Awl, The Cordial Enmity Of Joan Didion And Pauline Kael:
The only prominent item on the enormous glass coffee table at the editor’s house was Joan Didion’s then-latest novel, A Book of Common Prayer (1977). Kael asked the host what he thought of it. "The editor reached for the novel, held it up as if it had healing properties, and pronounced: 'It’s full of resonance.'" Wolcott adds: "I didn’t dare exchange glances with Pauline, for whom Didion was full of something, but it sure wasn’t resonance."
Kael, who died in 2001, had a simmering rivalry with Didion that occasionally came to a boil, as Nathan Heller notes in The New Yorker. Like all rivalries, it no doubt owed something to what the two had in common. David Kipen once said, “The story of modern American cultural criticism is the story of three California girls who went East—Pauline Kael, Susan Sontag and Joan Didion.” Kael and Didion both went to Berkeley (Kael didn’t graduate) and shook off sexism and East Coast bias to gain mountaintop perches in the literary-journalistic landscape. It’s not hard to imagine why they would have spent some time playing compare-and-contrast.
Mark Feeney on the Mother of Us All:
The Paulette issue isn't so much about imitation (theirs) as cultivation (hers). Kael was famous for seeking out young writers. She'd give out her phone number, offer invitations to join her at screenings, even help find them jobs. If you were the recipient of one of these unsolicited calls, it seemed like an act of astonishing kindness and concern. Others might equally well see it as claque-building.
For whatever it's worth, the most gobsmacked I've ever been in a fairly gobsmack-prone life was when a colleague in the Globe library told me one day that I had a phone call from Pauline. This was 1983. I'd reviewed her compilation of capsule reviews, "5001 Nights at the Movies," for the Globe that Sunday. "What have you been reading?" she asked. I haltingly got out the title ofIrving Howe's forthcoming memoirs, "A Margin of Hope." "Oh, the excerpt in the Times Magazine looked pretty dull. What did you think?" What did I think? What did I think? I was 25 and worked in the Boston Globe library as a data-base manager (don't ask). Who cared what I thought? Apparently, Pauline Kael did. Intoxicating as her writing was, the realization that the woman behind that style cared was a lot more intoxicating. A lot more.
Glenn Kenny gets meta in Theory, heresy, coffee-table anomie.
From THE ECONOMIST online
This autumn sees two new film adaptations of novels by the Brontë sisters: one, directed by Andrea Arnold, of Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”, and the other of Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre”, directed by Cary Fukunaga. Making a film adaptation of a classic novel is an ambitious and risky business—both of these books have been read, studied, loved and debated for over 150 years. The destructive passion of Catherine and Heathcliff and the stoic, enduring love of Jane and Rochester have seeped into the common consciousness.
"Olympia '52," Chris Marker
Maria Bustillos in the NYT on "Poster Boys":
Long after a movie opens and closes, the key art remains. Every time I’ve ever been in the office of a producer, director or actor, I’ve seen these images, lining a corridor or on a wall behind a desk. These people will have been two or three years making a project; it’s been such a big part of their lives for so long. And then it goes away and it’s not in their daily lives, and what is left is the poster. In this way, the image is like a trophy.
This comes amid a review of Tower Heist and Melancholia, and while the first is perfect in-bed, at-home, only-while-extremely-ill viewing, I can't imagine seeing Melancholia anywhere but in a theater. In part, that just has to do with size and projection: you can't possibly appreciate the first five or ten astounding minutes on the small screen. (The following 5004238 minutes, though, you probably could.)
So does Lane's colleague Richard Brody:
Those who love movies can tell the story of the cinema whether we watch them on our cell phone or our tablet or our television set or under Giovanni’s table. And that story gets longer and fuller every day, as other filmmakers extend it with new movies, whether made with a fancy studio setup or a portable video camera, and seen—wherever.
Not to mention Ebs:
For me, seeing a movie in a real theater with a real audience is an inescapable part of the experience. I watch as many movies on TV as most people, and they're okay that way, but when a movie is on fire I want to sense the audience burning. To be carried along in the dark on a wave of laughter of tears is exhilarating. Therefore, anything that helps theaters against TV in their war of more than 65 years is a good thing.
Somewhat related: Jeff Reichert on the "See It Big" screening of Lawrence of Arabia at MoMI this weekend.
I’ve decided to watch David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, a film that looms large over movie history, on my iPhone’s 3.5-inch screen. As I wait for the downtown 2 train to Brooklyn at 34th Street, I pull out my phone, plug in a pair of dirty white ear-buds and launch the video app, where I can see an icon forLawrence, ready to go after an iTunes download (only $9.99!) just a few hours earlier. I press play, and the screen goes dark. I find myself looking down into it, only to see the insides of my nostrils, the outline of an additional chin in chrysalis, and the overgrown forelock falling into my right eye reflected back; no sweeping vistas here, that’s for sure. The seemingly interminable darkness continues. Trains roll by. After an uptown 1 departs from the track behind me, I begin to make out snatches of familiar music—hearing Maurice Jarre’s score reminds me of the sad loss of the cinematic overture, even though, due to all of the surrounding noise, I can only catch bits and snatches. My mind fills in the blanks, lending the march of commuters, now scored to soaring strings and crushing brass, a certain lustrous grandeur.
Fun fact: One of my students recently got the outline of Twin Peaks tattooed on her forearm. In case you were looking for more evidence that we are experiencing a David Lynch moment: a recently recovered scene featuring Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) threatening one of his ‘friends’ as Jeffrey Beaumont and Dorothy Vallens (Kyle MacLachlan and Isabella Rossellini) look on in horror.
In 2007, Portman talked to this paper's Simon Hattenstone about the effect on her life of playing Marty in Beautiful Girls and the very similar Mathilda in Léon in 1994. It made for uncomfortable reading.
I'm trying to think of a sensitive way to ask about playing all these sexualised children, but fail miserably. "Were you aware that you were a paedophile's dream?" I blurt out. She nods. "Yeah!" She giggles, perhaps a little uncomfortably. "It was weird, and it dictated a lot of my choices afterwards 'cos it scared me." How did she become aware of it? "When you're a little kid you get really excited about it and you think being famous is pretty cool, and you get a fan letter and you read it, and then I'd be, like, 'Eeeeeugh!' Terrified." What did the letters say? "You can imagine. I stopped reading them obviously, but it made me really reluctant to do sexy stuff, especially when I was young."
Of Beautiful Girls, she said: "It definitely made me shy away from that kind of role. And there's a surprising preponderance of that kind of role for young girls. Sort of being fantasy objects for men, and especially this idealised purity combined with the fertility of youth, and all this in one."
She's right, of course. Marty calls herself "an old soul", but she could only be a fiction, this girl so wise and funny. It's only the knowledge that she could never be real that makes the scenes she shares with Willie bearable, let alone as touching as they are. Take the beautifully acted moment when she suggests to Willie they could be girlfriend and boyfriend, and for the merest moment he allows himself to think of it.
"Really?" he asks. "Yes, you don't think?" Realisation sets in, but still tempered with hope. "Well, we … we have a little age problem." "I know. We're as starcrossed as Romeo and Juliet. It's a tragedy of Elizabethan proportions." "What light through yonder window breaks? Tis the east and Juliet is the sun." "And the coloured girls go doo do-doo do-doo do-doo-do-dooo doo do-doo do-doo do-doo-do-dooo." "So, what do we do?" "Alas, poor Romeo, we can't do diddly. You'll go to penitentiary and I'll be the laughing stock of the Brownies."
Speaking of age, Wesley Morris asks, "At the movies, is there even a place for gray hair to go? What would it do? Is this a trend or a permanent condition? Who can say?"
What’s concerning is that we now seem to live in some strange tale of science fiction in which time has stopped, and Clooney stands to be the last gray movie star on Earth. It doesn’t sound like a big deal. We don’t go to the movies for hair. But some moviegoing has always been an investment in stars. We expect a return on that investment in the form of movies that flatter and build upon personas. We also expect that investment to appreciate and mature. The friction between those two expectations - between a popular persona and its natural evolution - now plays out cosmetically. Can Brad Pitt get away with not looking like Brad Pitt?
From the Film Fanatic:
Notorious is a surprisingly serious film about a “depressed, heavy-drinking young woman” (Bergman) who, given her “fervent loyalty to America”, agrees to take on a potentially lethal undercover assignment proposed to her by a suave stranger (Grant) at a party. Much of the film’s tension revolves around the fact that Bergman “has fallen for Grant” (who may or may not feel the same way in return)
Bat Segundo talks Rin Tin Tin with Susan Orlean:
There’s a kind of charisma that certainly the first Rin Tin Tin had, but also this symbol of a dog, which is a dog who is brave and true and loyal and heroic. That resonates with people. He embodied it — especially the first Rin Tin Tin — so well that I think it touched something that was already there. The desire to have a superhero who was credible and not some comic book figure, but actually something real.
Click through for an offcut from Miranda July's latest film, The Future. The scene has been reconstituted by the actress, writer and filmmaker for NOWNESS, complete with a score by David Byrne collaborator Steven Reker.
Can you sum up what the movie is about for you?
My work is never only about the story—it is always about what is inside the people who are in the story. But, in the most basic sense, it's about time: getting through it, minute by minute, stopping it, and the end of it, death.
You’ve said that The Future is your version of a horror movie. Can you explain why?
The character I play in the movie fails to make the dance she sets out to make, and then flees her life. She moves to a world where she will never have to try and fail again. No one cares if she's creative there. This is a sort of horror movie for a person like me, who has created her sense of self through making things. But it's also a fantasy: a fear-fantasy.
A bit more vitamin twee:
Coppola’s film is itself the kind of personal film that is made personal both by its distinctive, original, and impassioned artistry and by its distillation of the director’s own experience. She is, of course, a daughter of Hollywood—the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola—but she’s not showing what it was like to have him for a father. She’s showing what it’s like to grow up with money and celebrity as a given—and suggesting that the vulgar indulgences of the movie milieu are an essential part of the allure and the affect of Hollywood movies. This is one of the great paradoxes of “Somewhere”—and of Coppola’s career. Hollywood, like Versailles, can both inspire the unprejudiced and unblinkered imagination or stifle it; in “Somewhere,” the vain actor’s Ferrari, which for him is an unreflective pleasure and a status symbol, is, for Coppola, the ultimate camera dolly: her views of the city from its low-riding, smooth-gliding, road-hugging perspective are contemplative, introspective wonders. Few recent movies make such sharp use of point-of-view shots; few conjure so vivid a sense of thinking by way of vision itself—or connect life experience so closely to the actual act of looking.
Let's close with some bad bitches, shall we? First up, because it makes me so so happy: I SAW THAT watches The Hunger.
So it turns out David Bowie is just the latest of Deneuve’s long-term lovers. She turned him into a vampire in the 18th century and they’ve been having a grand old time, but now suddenly he’s aging. Aging!! And really quickly! AMAZING MAKEUP EFFECTS! He demands to know what became of all her other lovers, who he refers to somewhat disturbingly by name, like, who are all these vampires and where are they now? And how old is this Deneuve person, if she’s had all these lovers who all lived hundreds of years? (We briefly see later an image of her in ancient Egypt, so, there’s that) She says all her lovers had the same thing happen to them–suddenly they started aging, and couldn’t sleep, and she doesn’t know why. Bowie understandably seems to think she should have told him about this before vamping him out back in pre-revolutionary France or whatever. She doesn’t seem too concerned–she mostly just leaves him alone in the house, apparently hoping he will finish aging and dying so she can get on with her life. He querulously asks her who she’s going to replace him with and she won’t tell him. THEY SMOKE.
We have also met a very young Susan Sarandon who has the most badass haircut ever. She’s a doctor, working on the secrets of aging. She and her team have this emo monkey in a cage who ages 100 years in five minutes and then turns into a skeleton and then crumbles into dust right there on the VHS tape while they all smoke intensely and watch. Sarandon goes on TV to talk about aging, and poor aging David Bowie sees her and tries to go get her help. Instead she calls him a “crank” and abandons him in the waiting room for hours, during which time he ages roughly 500 years. Then he’s like “You disappointed me” and she’s like “WHAT, YOU GOT SO OLD, WAIT DON’T LEAVE” but he does. When she follows him to his house, Catherine Deneuve tells her he went to Switzerland.
Well none of this makes any sense but giving a plot synopsis of this film really does it an injustice. It’s so incredible and beautiful and strange. My old man is a Tony Scott scholar (not really) and he was pointing out all these characteristic Tony Scott-isms that appear later to great effect in Top Gun. Like almost every scene involves billowing white sheer curtains as a person stands moodily amongst them. There are also crazy Top Gun camera angles, like we are looking down and to the left, from way up high, higher than the ceiling, while a person looks in a mirror or whatever. Also apparently their attic is filled with billowing white sheer curtains and flapping doves. The whole thing is so hallucinatory and strange and wonderful, with the terrible (in the old-timier sense of the word) Schubert plodding through it all, plus some great Delibes later, because of lesbians.
So then check this out. Bowie is now indescribably ancient and stumbling around, and Deneuve is kind of grossed out and sad. He begs her to kill him, to “release” him, and suddenly she tells him that she can’t. That the flip side of their gift of eternal (or at least, very long) life is that they actually can not ever die. That their bodies might wither all the way to dust but still they’d be there, conscious, watching, feeling, within “the rotting wood” of the coffin. He’s so ancient and gnarled and mummified and shrunken that she carries him like a baby up into the aforementioned dove-filled attic, and puts him in a box she has waiting there, and then the camera pulls out and we see a huge stack of those boxes. And she puts her hand on one of them and is like “Alexander, Cynthia, this is John. I love him, as I love you. Be kind to him tonight, my loves,” etc.
SHE HAS ALL HER LOVERS IN BOXES IN THE ATTIC.
Let's end with the uses of sadness, shall we?
These days, film theory courses in the universities have gone crazy for 'affect' — which is not exactly the same thing as old-fashioned emotion, but comes close. In any case, it's all about feeling — often strong feeling. Affect theory adds back into film studies what it has so often lacked: the current or charge of the spectator's experience, which usually eludes discussion based squarely on theme or genre or the director's signature...
Affect also puts drama — melodrama, even — back into cinema analysis. Film, in our passionate encounter with it, becomes the heated terrain of life or death, ecstasy or despair, breakthrough or breakdown. Along this path, theory-talk shakes hands, at last, with the kind of wild testimonies long associated with the outpourings of cinephile critics.
Sadness is not only an affect we experience; it is also a label is ascribed to us, or that we ascribe to others. In English, to call someone 'a sad case' is not compassionate but derisive; it means they are pathetic, hopeless. In a forgotten, early 'cultural studies' essay of 1960, the windy, conservative American poet Randall Jarrell evoked "a sad heart at the supermarket": "It is a standard joke of our culture that when a woman is bored or sad she buys something to make herself feel better; but in this respect we are all women together, and can hear complacently the reminder of how feminine this consumer-world of ours is".