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This group is dedicated to discussing film as art from an auteurist perspective. The index to these files of posts can be found at http://www.fredcamper.com/afilmby/ The purpose of these files is to make our posts more accessible, for downloading and reading and to search engines.

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101


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 2:45pm
Subject: Re: westerns at chicago film center
 
> Also included are two Wylers
> (HELL'S HEROES, THE WESTERNER) which I won't include in my schedule
> unless I hear a strong endorsement from one of y'all.

HELL'S HEROES is good, actually. Opinions vary greatly on Wyler - mine
is that he's sort of stodgy after, say, 1936, but that his early period
is worth mining for unexpected pleasures. The visual plan of HELL'S
HEROES is lucid and expressive. - Dan
 
 
102


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 3:30pm
Subject: Re: westerns at chicago film center
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Dan Sallitt wrote:
> > Also included are two Wylers
> > (HELL'S HEROES, THE WESTERNER) which I won't include in my schedule
> > unless I hear a strong endorsement from one of y'all.
>
> HELL'S HEROES is good, actually. Opinions vary greatly on Wyler - mine
> is that he's sort of stodgy after, say, 1936, but that his early period
> is worth mining for unexpected pleasures.

That's my take on him, too. If I had to do the recent Wyler series over again, I would have
skipped THE LITTLE FOXES and (gah) BEN-HUR in favor of more '30s work. I was very
impressed and pleased by A HOUSE DIVIDED (Walter Huston, amazing!), TOM BROWN
OF CULVER (corny but really good), and especially COUNSELLOR-AT-LAW and the
Sturges-scripted THE GOOD FAIRY. I didn't detect a particularly strong or unique vision in any
of them, but they're still darn good and I'll see them again if I have the chance.

Jaime

 


103


From:
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 2:53pm
Subject: Re: Re: Clara's Heart
 
In a message dated 6/18/03 10:18:07 PM, f@f... writes:

>One thing that's great about Mulligan is the way his backgrounds often
>exercise an intrusive power as metaphors for character emotions, though
>not so much specific emotions as the idea of an emotionalization of
>space. The scene early in "Clara's Heart" in the hotel with the sea in
>the background is a great example. There are many other such examples
>across his career.

I also think of a number of sequences in "Summer of '42": Dorothy saying
good-bye to her husband on the dock by the water, for example.

>The first is in the "revelation" scene, and it's a tiny cut: Mulligan
>cuts from a close shot to a longer shot of the two characters sitting
>together at a table, just at the moment that the boy puts his hand on
>Clara's to comfort her.

This is a wonderful moment. A related thought, in response to Rick's view
that Clara's revelation in this scene is in conflict with the rest of the film,
I'd argue that this scene is, to a great extent, about David and his coming to
sympathize with Clara in a way he never really has ever before. I don't want
to say that what Clara reveals is unimportant, but the most important thing
to me in this scene is the deep understanding David expresses for Clara,
relayed in no small part by Mulligan's subtle mise en scene.

>The idea I think is to avoid having faces
>telegraph emotions in close-up, but instead let the viewer provide more
>of the feeling.

I think that's exactly it. I think it takes an incredibly subtle and
perceptive director to recognize when to stop, to step back, in a scene of great
emotional impact. Kubrick, actually, does something very similar to what we're
talking about towards the end of "Barry Lyndon," which I hope you'll be able to
see sometime, Fred.

Thinking about this... Preminger's long-takes kind of provide a variant on
this approach to emotional scenes, don't they? I'm thinking of the scene in "In
Harm's Way," when Wayne tells Prentiss the news about her husband. If I
remember correctly, it's an over-the-shoulder shot - of Wayne - and instead of
cutting to a reaction shot of Prentiss, Preminger has her turn away from Wayne to
look into the camera. I hope I'm quoting this shot right. But I remember
how effective it seemed because of its sense of restraint. I think Dan's talked
about it before, actually...

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
104


From:
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 3:00pm
Subject: Re: Hardly Working
 
In a message dated 6/19/03 2:36:54 AM, cklinger@e... writes:

>HARDLY WORKING is nothing I would make my girlfriend sit through but I
>would recommend it to any of you motherfuckers.

Well, you make it sound positively fascinating, Gabe. Seriously. What do
you (or anyone else) know about this late Lewis short film?

http://www.jerrylewiscomedy.com/film_boy.htm

Not trying to prolong the Lewis thread here, Jaime, but since we're talking
about him...

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
105


From: Gabe Klinger
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 7:03pm
Subject: Re: Re: Hardly Working
 
> I was just thinking how cool it would have been for Jerry to have
> starred in THE SHINING, Kubrick allowing him to improvise, etc.

The scene when Nicholson interviews for the position would work just as
well with Jerry. ("I got the job? You *really* mean it!?") Otherwise,
no. No. I think it would be a disaster.

Gabe
106


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 7:20pm
Subject: Re: Hardly Working
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Gabe Klinger wrote:
> > I was just thinking how cool it would have been for Jerry to have
> > starred in THE SHINING, Kubrick allowing him to improvise, etc.
>
> The scene when Nicholson interviews for the position would work
just as
> well with Jerry. ("I got the job? You *really* mean it!?")
Otherwise,
> no. No. I think it would be a disaster.

Whatever, I think it would be awesome. I don't mean far out, I mean
awesome. Awesome.

Oh yeah, the TV special, please answer my question on that, if
possible.

Jaime
107


From: Gabe Klinger
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 7:24pm
Subject: Re: Hardly Working
 
> Well, you make it sound positively fascinating, Gabe. Seriously.
> What do
> you (or anyone else) know about this late Lewis short film?
>
> http://www.jerrylewiscomedy.com/film_boy.htm

BOY? It's absolutely genius! This is like 10 minutes long but if anyone
wants to see it I'll run off a tape (when I get my VCRs back from
Rochester). Lewis explores a "shocking" racial divide, a completely
Kafka-esque situation which I won't reveal but to reiterate from Bill,
you watch something like this and you can't say Lewis isn't a totally
personal filmmaker.

Also there are his early home movies which I've seen clips of. These
are films he used to show as part of elaborate get-togethers at his
house. I don't know if they were ever meant to be seen by a larger
public but they certainly exist somewhere.

Peter, SMORGASBORD is also great. Especially when Lewis' car keeps
breaking down in the middle of the desert for no apparent reason.

Gabe
108


From: Gabe Klinger
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 7:30pm
Subject: Re: Re: Hardly Working
 
I think Kubrick wanted to cast Lewis in the Shelley Duvall role, Jaime.
Like the scene when Jack is chopping through the door and Duvall has
her head pressed against the wall, screaming her lungs out! Lewis would
have been perfect (biting his hand, sweating, nearly passing-out, doing
that "Ay-ay-ay-ay" noise, trying to fit out the window but getting
stuck).

I'll get back to you with details on the Lewis special.

Gabe
109


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 7:30pm
Subject: Re: Hardly Working
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Gabe Klinger

Do you know anything about this one:

http://us.imdb.com/Details?0220557

?
110


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 7:33pm
Subject: Re: Hardly Working
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Gabe Klinger wrote:
> I think Kubrick wanted to cast Lewis in the Shelley Duvall role,
Jaime.
> Like the scene when Jack is chopping through the door and Duvall
has
> her head pressed against the wall, screaming her lungs out! Lewis
would
> have been perfect (biting his hand, sweating, nearly passing-out,
doing
> that "Ay-ay-ay-ay" noise, trying to fit out the window but getting
> stuck).

I am literally bowing right now. That's the funniest thing I've read
since Fred's response to thanksbud re: the goats.

Jaime
111


From:
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 3:41pm
Subject: Re: Re: westerns at chicago film center
 
In a message dated 6/19/03 11:36:45 AM, j_christley@y... writes:

>I didn't detect a particularly strong or unique vision in any
>of them, but they're still darn good and I'll see them again if I have
>the chance.

I am almost completely unfamiliar with Wyler's '30s work, but I was very
impressed by "The Best Years of Our Lives" and "The Heiress" when I saw each on
television again in recent months. Again, I don't know him well enough to
comment on the Wyler "personality," but these two films - made just a few years
apart - have a remarkable consistency of vision thanks in no small part to their
extraordinary use of deep focus.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
112


From:
Date: Thu Jun 19, 2003 3:43pm
Subject: Re: Hardly Working
 
In a message dated 6/19/03 3:26:59 PM, cklinger@e... writes:

>BOY? It's absolutely genius! This is like 10 minutes long but if anyone
>wants to see it I'll run off a tape (when I get my VCRs back from
>Rochester).

This would be wonderful, Gabe. Thank you!

>Peter, SMORGASBORD is also great. Especially when Lewis' car keeps
>breaking down in the middle of the desert for no apparent reason.

"Smorgasbord" is just the alternate title for "Cracking Up," right? I love
"Cracking Up."

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
113


From: Damien Bona
Date: Fri Jun 20, 2003 2:51am
Subject: Catching Up
 
First of all, let me introduce myself to those of you who don't know
me. I'm Damien Bona and I first heard of this site from Zach, with
whom I've friends for several years. I've also hung out with Dan,
Gabe, Paul and Phil, and Jaime, and I know Peter through the
Internet.

In my youth, I had stubbornly resisted auteurism for a long time, my
own particular road to Damascus coming in the form of watching Frank
Borzage's Bad Girl at the Museum of Modern Art in 1975. There's a
scene in which James Dunn is in a boxing ring attempting to make some
cash, and being pummeled by his opponent. Suddenly, he gets word
that his wife has just had a baby. The opponent stops fighting and
enthusiastically congratulates Dunn. It instantly struck me that,
objectively, this moment was ridiculous, but that in Frank Borzage's
universe, this is the way things work and it and suddenly
auteurism -- made. The scales fell, and I've been hard-core ever
since.

I've been reading the messages here all week, without realizing that
my membership application had gone through. So here are some
thoughts on a few of the subjects that have been raised.

It's great to know that Jerry Lewis has devotees. It seems to me
that any discussion of Lewis needs to take into consideration a
differentiation between those movies he directed himself which
are
extraordinarily self-reflective works accentuating and critiquing the
distinction between Jerry-The-Serious-Creative-Artist and the crazy
guy in the movie, his on-screen comic persona. From at least as
early as The Errand Boy, Lewis is emphatically letting the audience
know that he is a completely different being from the lovable
simpleton he essays. To this end, in his self-directed films, Lewis
often tears down the artifice of cinema (in The Patsy, for instance,
in the middle of a scene, he calls on stage hands to strike the
set). In the Tashlin movies, Lewis is used more or less as another
of the director's surreal props. Tashlin employs Jerry's remarkable
elasticity as an element helping to convey his view of the modern
world as a State of Absurdity; Jerry is both a victim of that world
and as an out-of-control force, an embodiment of it. The there
are
the Norman Taurog/Hal Walker etc films which are essentially Jerry
doing schtick in the context of mundane mise-en-scene. (God, Norman
Taurog was a dreary director.)

Part of the reason that Hardly Working seemed so exciting to baby
boomers when it was released was that the film was sold as the return
of an icon with whom we grew up. At a time we were young adults,
Hardly Working promised to offer a comforting touchstone of our
youth. It served not only as a reflection of Jerry's career (the
film begins with a Greatest Hits montage), but also an opportunity
for its presumed audience of 20 and 30-somethings to wax nostalgic.
Gabe is very astute about the sadness that permeates the film and its
self-referential elements (in addition to Buddy Lester, the film
features as leading lady Susan Oliver from The Disorderly Orderly) I
haven't seen Hardly Working since it was first released, but have
very fond memories of it as a bittersweet, startlingly poignant self-
portrait (and it made me laugh a lot) If goodly numbers of boomers
went to the film, it was really only auteurists who appreciated it,
largely because of the strangeness Gabe mentions.

Gabe, I can't stop cracking up at your description of Jerry in the
Shelley Duvall role in The Shining. Since Tom Cruise is the weak
element in Eyes Wide Shut, it would also have been fascinating to see
what Jerry would have done with the orgy scene.

Dan wrote, "Try to imagine a hardcore sex film, in which you see
genitals and squirting things, followed by a slasher murder. The
image feels...redundant! The explicitness with which our culture
allows us to depict violence provides a psychic loophole in our
prohibitions against explicit depictions of sex.' Back in 1977 on
the Outer Banks, I saw a hard core porn take-off of Death Wish called
Sex Wish. A crazed killer would make couples have sex and then kill
them. It was a fairly disquieting movie, especially coming, as it
did, in the year of Son of Sam. Still, there was a priceless
exchange between one couple when they're ordered to perform.
Man: "Honey, I don't know if I can get it up." Woman: "You'd BETTER
get it up. Your life may depend on it."

Let me second Zach's recommendation of Brahm's The Locket. Not only
is Laraine Day's character one of the most complex women to be found
in not only 40s films, but in any American movie, the film's dizzying
narrative structure is a fascinating rumination on subjectivity,
truth and perception.

Peter, I'm afraid I think The Best Years Of Our Lives and The Heiress
are two of the dullest movies ever made. I do like early Wyler
though, and would go a bit further than Dan and say that Wyler was of
interest through the early 40s, with The Letter being his
masterpiece. Wyler's emotional restraint (or coldness, depending
upon how you feel about him) was perfect for the Maugham story of
repressed emotion and the struggle to keep up a facade. His
temperament was also particularly well-suited to Jezebel and These
Three, his two other best films.

Finally, my favorite King Vidor is The Stranger's Return, which
strikes me as his most heartfelt and affecting work (though I haven't
seen An Anerican Romance since I was a kid).

-- Damien
115


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Fri Jun 20, 2003 5:39am
Subject: Wyler
 
> Peter, I'm afraid I think The Best Years Of Our Lives and The Heiress
> are two of the dullest movies ever made. I do like early Wyler
> though, and would go a bit further than Dan and say that Wyler was of
> interest through the early 40s, with The Letter being his
> masterpiece. Wyler's emotional restraint (or coldness, depending
> upon how you feel about him) was perfect for the Maugham story of
> repressed emotion and the struggle to keep up a facade. His
> temperament was also particularly well-suited to Jezebel and These
> Three, his two other best films.

I guess my favorite is DODSWORTH, but I saw a real sleeper during the
Wyler fest: HER FIRST MATE, a lowly Slim Summerville comedy that was
several notches better and more daring than I could ever have expected.

I also like THE LOVE TRAP, HELL'S HEROES and THE GOOD FAIRY. But for me
it gets less interesting after DODSWORTH.

Of course, Bazin was a big Wyler fan, which keeps me open to him. - Dan
116


From: hotlove666
Date: Fri Jun 20, 2003 3:31pm
Subject: Greg Ford, Wyler, Bazin, More Jer
 
Greg used to say that the fact that Bazin chose Wyler as his main
example proved that his theories were wrong.

One more piece of Jerriana: That's Life. The production of Hardly
Working was troubled. Jer's youthful producer, Joseph Proctor,
announced an ambitious slate of films, changed his name to Joseph
Ford Proctor, went bust in mid-shoot and lit out for Canada, leaving
the director to finish it with his own money. (Something similar
hppened on The Human Factor.) As soon as he wrapped Jer announced
that he was starting That's Life, a film about an old folk's home
with a cast of old comic performers. (Exuberant at his return to
filming, he announced that the film after that would be Hardly
Working Attacks Star Wars.) According to the LA Herald Examiner,
which covered all this in detail, he did shoot for a couple of weeks,
although the film was never completed. Where is it? What is it?

By the way, he did ok with Hardly Working: 9 million in rentals.
117


From:
Date: Fri Jun 20, 2003 2:12pm
Subject: Re: Jer
 
In a message dated 6/20/03 1:16:32 AM, hotlove666@y... writes:

>Even though he probably wasn't considered for The Shining, Jer did
>unconsciously reproduce Kubrick's masterstroke in Filming the
>Shining: the sudden cut to Scatman Crothers in mid-interview, in
>tears, when we haven't seen him before in the documentary. Last year
>the first shot of the telethon was Jer in tears, his head the size of
>a ski-lift gondola because of that medication he had to take, in mid-
>conversation with his longtime buddy the head of the firefighters
>union - a typically obscure telethon regular who had been elevated
>(in Jer's mind, at least) to the status of a national icon by the WTC
>massacre.

That was a lovely moment.

In regards to Kubrick, I assume people are familiar with the story about the
night SK stopped by Lewis's editing suites, around the time that "2001" was
being made? Jerry was editing and claims that that night, as he was going over
a scene, he coined the expression, "You cannot polish a turd." After a few
moments, Kubrick replied, "You can if you freeze it." I think this anecdote
comes straight from JL, as part of Bogdanovich's SK oral history.

>The Day the Clown Cried is my number one want-to-see movie.

For me, it's this and "The Other Side of the Wind." Maybe I crave "The Day
the Clown Cried" a tiny, tiny bit more just because I've seen >nothing< apart
from a few stills, while I've seen three or four clips from TOSOTW. Bill and I
have talked about the way these projects intersect, actually. Each, in a
way, could be called a "homemade" movie made by a director we usually associate
with the Hollywood apparatus. It's some kind of tragedy that neither has ever
been released.

...and then Bill goes and mentions the unfinished Lewis film about the old
folk's home. I >need< to see this.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
118


From: hotlove666
Date: Fri Jun 20, 2003 6:49pm
Subject: MIAs
 
Actually, Clown and even Wind aren't really home-made
(Jonathan Rosenbaum's term) -- there were crews, script
supervisors, producers, stars, locations; but Clown was made in
Sweden, Wind in LA totally outside the system. And both were
never released.

Home-made films are a long tradition that doesn't interest me as
such - Brakhage et al - and really have nothing to do with films
like Clown and Wind, or even their "home-made" brethren.
Certainly early Lynch is also home-made and has a density only
home-made films can have - but arguably Kubrick was able to
achieve the same thing by shooting for a year on The Shining.

I suspect that "hand-made" would be a better term for what JR
was talking about, and it could perhaps expand to include the
work of obsessives like Welles and Kubrick, even though the
latter was definitely working in a big-budget studio framework,
with release dates, etc. The French call it "artisanal" filmmaking,
and the truth is, artisanal technique is a component in all good
filmmaking, not just films made for a dollar.

Anyway, the term I coined for films like The Day the Clown Cried
was MIA - films by veteran directors who had gone missing, but
missing "in action." So people will get a sense of what Peter and
I are talking about, these would include

Welles -
The Deep, Don Quixote, The Other Side of the Wind, the
Dreamers
Boetticher -
Arruza
My Kingdom For
Vidor -
Truth and Illusion
Metaphor
(There were also unrealized plans for a "San Robles" and a
"James Murray")
Sirk -
Speak to Me Like the Rain, etc.
Lewis -
The Day the Clown Cried
That's Life!
Boy
Ray -
We Can't Go Home Again
Marco
Burt Kennedy -
Comanche
Ford -
Vietnam, Vietnam
Fuller -
Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street
Sternberg -
The Saga of Anatahan

Some are certainly home-made, and all are independent, but I
coined "MIA" in opposition to "CIA" (Cinema independent
americain) when I started writing for Cahiers to distinguish the
indie work of these veterans (much of it unseen) from the
eternally-hyped CIA, whose initials bespeak what I thought of it at
a time when it was mostly PC grant-system cinematic
Esperanto films. I thought the MIAs (and Ulmer, whom I tried
more or less futilely to redefine as an independent, as opposed
to "The King of the Bs") were better examples for young
independent filmmakers to follow than Nick Broomfield and
Barbara Kopple. I still think so.
119


From:
Date: Fri Jun 20, 2003 7:55pm
Subject: Re: MIAs
 
I agree with Bill's useful distinction between "home-made" and "hand-made."
I think Rosenbaum coined the "home-made" term specifically in reference to a
few narrative films in the '80s which used their directors' houses as main
locations: Godard's "King Lear," Mailer's "Tough Guys Don't Dance," and one or two
others which I'm forgetting. "The Other Side of the Wind" is probably best
thought of as "hand-made," though a number of late Welles fragments were
literally shot in his Hollywood home and with the most minimal of crews.

Kubrick seems to be the ideal example of a Hollywood director who came to
adopt an increasingly "hand-made" approach to filmmaking. I understand that he
owned his own equipment, which he loaned to Warner Bros. "The Shining" and
"Eyes Wide Shut" were both very studio-bound projects, something which invited a
"hand-made" approach; he didn't have to worry about only having a certain
amount of time to spend at a location, etc. There are also smaller things, like
how he decorated the sets with his wife and daughter's paintings and used some
of his own furniture in EWS, which contribute to this sense I have.

I've heard of most and seen a few of the films Bill lists as belonging to the
"hand-made"/"home-made" traditions, but not this one:

>Ford -
>Vietnam, Vietnam

Do you have any info. about this, Bill?

>I thought the MIAs (and Ulmer, whom I tried
>more or less futilely to redefine as an independent, as opposed
>to "The King of the Bs") were better examples for young
>independent filmmakers to follow than Nick Broomfield and
>Barbara Kopple. I still think so.

As you know, I couldn't agree more. And with the advent of DV, it's so easy
to do this now. The lesson to young filmmakers (including myself) is: go out
and make your own home movie. I recently read a quote from Godard in which he
talks about what advice he'd give to up-and-coming directors. He talked
about how it's perfectly okay to get a DV cam and make a movie about your
girlfriend, warning only that one should study the ways painters have painted their
girlfriends and poets have written about their girlfriends and musicians have
composed about their girlfriends throughout history. Right on, Jean-Luc.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
120


From: hotlove666
Date: Sat Jun 21, 2003 0:14am
Subject: MIAs
 
Vietnam, Vietnam is a documentary Ford supervised for the Army
but didn't sign. Tag Gallagher describes it in his book and
analyzes its Fordian qualities; so does Joe McBride, I believe.

One difference I noted between MIAs and CIAs when I started
working on It's All True: "Professional" documentarians
(including many CIAs) have dogmatic rules like not overshooting,
pre-interviewing to know what you're going to get and extracting it
on-camera and so on. MIAs take the opposite tack, as a rule, and
so do good documentarians in general: Terry Zwigoff filmed the
Crumb family for 9 years, Boetticher took several years to finish
My Kingdom For.

Obviously, there's an art to grabbing a small amount of footage
on the fly and turning it into something - I'm experimenting with
that now, out of necessity - but I believe strongly in the other
approach, and generally like films that take a long time to make.
Eraserhead took five years to make; Blue Velvet was made on a
normal schedule. It shows.
121


From:
Date: Fri Jun 20, 2003 9:07pm
Subject: Re: MIAs
 
In a message dated 6/20/03 8:17:03 PM, hotlove666@y... writes:

>Vietnam, Vietnam is a documentary Ford supervised for the Army
>but didn't sign. Tag Gallagher describes it in his book and
>analyzes its Fordian qualities; so does Joe McBride, I believe.

I read and loved McBride's Ford bio when it came out, so I'm probably just
not remembering. In any case, thanks for the info.

>One difference I noted between MIAs and CIAs when I started
>working on It's All True: "Professional" documentarians
>(including many CIAs) have dogmatic rules like not overshooting,
>pre-interviewing to know what you're going to get and extracting it
>on-camera and so on. MIAs take the opposite tack, as a rule, and
>so do good documentarians in general: Terry Zwigoff filmed the
>Crumb family for 9 years, Boetticher took several years to finish
>My Kingdom For.

Would you say that the MIA approach to documentary-making, then, by
definition places a great deal of emphasis on the editing process, more so than a CIA a
pproach? Maybe this is obvious. I don't know too much about either the
Zwigoff or Boetticher shoots, but I'd imagine that each went in with an idea of
what they wanted, shot for a long time seeking it out, and edited for just as
long as they decided what goes in and what goes out and so forth.

>Obviously, there's an art to grabbing a small amount of footage
>on the fly and turning it into something - I'm experimenting with
>that now, out of necessity - but I believe strongly in the other
>approach, and generally like films that take a long time to make.
>Eraserhead took five years to make; Blue Velvet was made on a
>normal schedule. It shows.

I think a great deal of the old Hollywood professionals who took pride in
doing things swiftly, but they had the apparatus in place to work that way - the
studio-employed crews and all that. (Or they were a tyro like Ulmer or Dwan.)
But whoever set down the rule that making a "big" film in 30 days is
preferable to doing something with a little less money and a lot less of the niceties
of studio filmmaking, and doing it over the course of five years, has ruined
a lot of careers, I think. One reason I have such admiration for Kubrick is
the way he utilized the power he gained so intelligently. What was his biggest
"excess," the thing he asked most of the studios? >Time<.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
122


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sat Jun 21, 2003 1:50am
Subject: Re: Vietnam, Vietnam (was MIAs}
 
I don't want to get into an argument over taxonomy and naming, but
"handmade" seems even worse to me than "homemade," especially if the
idea is to distinguish the films from those of Brakhage and his
colleagues. Brakhage held the camera, edited himself, scratched or
painted or collaged (or all three) onto the film strip himself. Some of
the MIA films listed were made with a similar personal touch (the one
avant-garde Vidor I've seen), but others, such as "Vietnam, Vietnam,"
were surely not. Of course, "homrmade" doesn't work very well either.
That film had a "producer" an organization immensely larger than, I
guess, any other economic entity in the world, the U.S. government.

hotlove666 wrote:

>Vietnam, Vietnam is a documentary Ford supervised for the Army
>but didn't sign. Tag Gallagher describes it in his book and
>analyzes its Fordian qualities; so does Joe McBride, I believe.
>
>
>
Well, I haven't read Tag Gallagher's book; there was an old McBride
article, "Drums Along the Mekong," that I read before seeing the film,
and perhaps that's in the book. But, I have seen this film, in a 16mm
print, a bit more than 30 years ago. It is sickening garbage, in my
opinion. Not only did I see nothing Fordian in it, and nothing of
aesthetic merit (the collage-like editing style really doesn't work for
Ford), but as a film about what I consider perhaps my country's worst
instance of pre-meditated mass murder, it is utterly revolting. The
basic montage technique here-- or at least, the one I remember best --
is to intercut worthies such as LBJ and other government officials
waxing solemnly and (seemingly) intelligently about the need to protect
the world from communism with anti-war demonstrations in which stoned
hippie girls play with yo-yos, that sort of thing. From the film, you'd
think the lying murderers who led our government were honest protectors
of liberty and the anti-war demonstrators were all drugged-up morons.

Not to argue the war here, but even if you supported the goal of killing
commies, there was an impassioned response from a Vietnam vet who lost a
leg there to McNamara's recent revelation that he considered it
unwinnable as early as the early 60s: "I enlisted in 1966 because I
believed in the cause. It would have been nice to know that the
Secretary of Defense considered the war unwinnable before I lost my
leg." Or, I might add, before some three million southeast Asians were
killed.

Ford, by the way, was the recipient of the AFI's Life Achievement Award
(the first), I believe when he was already dying, and he said, to in his
acceptance speech to an audience that I believe included Nixon,
something like, "I want to say a prayer that I know is on many
Americans' lips tonight: 'God bless Richard Nixon.'"

I and some others watched this live on TV that night, and the next day,
in Cambridge Massachusetts, at least one or two auteurists were heard to
say, "I never really liked Ford that much." I still love his films, but
really, when someone makes a propaganda film in favor of mass murder
(which is what I call any war whose goals, if achieved, will not even
make the world a better place), one should at least name it correctly.

- Fred
123


From:
Date: Fri Jun 20, 2003 10:39pm
Subject: Re: Vietnam, Vietnam (was MIAs}
 
In a message dated 6/20/03 10:24:47 PM, f@f... writes:

>Well, I haven't read Tag Gallagher's book; there was an old McBride
>article, "Drums Along the Mekong," that I read before seeing the film,
>and perhaps that's in the book. But, I have seen this film, in a 16mm
>print, a bit more than 30 years ago. It is sickening garbage, in my
>opinion. Not only did I see nothing Fordian in it, and nothing of
>aesthetic merit (the collage-like editing style really doesn't work for
>Ford), but as a film about what I consider perhaps my country's worst
>instance of pre-meditated mass murder, it is utterly revolting.

I'm really sorry to hear this, I must say, especially as I seem to recall
reading in the McBride that Ford (while of generally "conservative" politics)
privately held deep reservations about the war. If that's the case, it's hard
for me to imagine why he'd participate in this project.

On "home-made" and "hand-made": I'm comfortable enough with these terms
because they do accurately describe at least some of those MIAs. On the other
hand, what we really seem to be talking about here is something altogether
broader: post-Hollywood work by Hollywood directors. I'll write some more about this
over the weekend...

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
124


From: hotlove666
Date: Sat Jun 21, 2003 7:55am
Subject: Time
 
The Hollywood Professional myth needs some debunking. Hitchcock went
over schedule all the time; so did Hawks - a lot. David Thomson
called The Big Sleep "a home movie," and judging from the production
reports, so was Bringing Up Baby. They'd come in, fool around with
the scene they were supposed to shoot, and finally start shooting mid-
afternoon.

Even someone like Jack Arnold, making The Space Children for half the
budget he would have had at Universal, didn't follow the schedule
established by the Paramount production department because he knew he
had to shoot in sequence to get good performances from the child
actors. He did finish on time, but he didn't let the factory tell him
how to do it.

I don't know how regularly Ford exceeded budget and schedule, but
while tracing the interminable shooting of Suspicion in the Reporter,
I noticed that the same thing was happening over at Fox on How Green
Was My Valley. Before Grant went to RKO for Suspicion he spent 74
days on Penny Serenade at Columbia. Ub Iwerks drove Hitchcock's team
crazy on The Birds because he just assumed, after working for Disney,
that he'd have several years to do his part. Certainly it would
appear that Walsh and Dwan were fast, at least during the sound era,
but Chaplin, Keaton - I don't see how their features could have been
made within a factory situation. I definitely consider this a subject
for further investigation.
125


From: hotlove666
Date: Sat Jun 21, 2003 8:31am
Subject: Vietnam, Vietnam
 
I haven't seen it. Needless to say, I have heard reactions like
Fred's and I've heard others. I hope one day to see it and judge for
myself.

Tag gives a brief description and assessment of this $250,000
production, which was filmed in 1968 and released in 1972, noting
that the film's politics had "become an embarrassment by the time of
release." Joe goes into much more detail, but doesn't deny that the
film is "the most dismaying item in the Ford filmography." His
account, which makes clear what Ford did and didn't do on the film,
leaves no doubt that he was largely responsible for its shape and
content, even if he was to old to go around Vietnam directing the
filming in late 1968.

One point I found interesting in Joe's several pages on the subject -
remember that this war went through at least three distinct phases -
is that Vietnam, Vietnam was an embarrassment even to the USIA by the
time it was half-heartedly released, because American policy had by
then shifted to Vietnamization, meaning withdrawal of all US troops.
Even the time Ford spent in the country was after Tet, when the war
was good and lost.

Although Johnson was privately admitting the war couldn't be won even
before this, to the best of my knowledge that didn't come out until a
few years ago - I remember being appalled when Newsweek, publishing
the fact, described it as "adding a tragic dimension" to Johnson's
character, when as Fred say it just makes him, unambiguously, a mass
murderer. I doubt if Ford was aware of it.

Joe's book reminds me that there was a second post-Hollywood Ford
film, a sentimental documentary called Chesty which I also haven't
seen but again list for the sake of completeness. As you'll see
reading his long account of both, he considers them Ford films (he
compares the Vietnam film more than once to Drums Along the Mohawk),
but also believes they show how out of touch Ford - a liberal
Democrat until after the JFK assassination - was by that time in his
life.
126


From: hotlove666
Date: Sat Jun 21, 2003 8:32am
Subject: hand-made? home-made?
 
For the record, Ford did spend 3 years on Vietnam, Vietnam.
127


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sat Jun 21, 2003 4:19pm
Subject: Re: hand-made? home-made?
 
hotlove666 wrote:

>For the record, Ford did spend 3 years on Vietnam, Vietnam.
>
>
And I would hold, as a matter of principle, that there could be Fordian
elements there -- even, that, on an aesthetic level, greatness -- that I
simply missed it on my one viewing.

-Fred
128


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sat Jun 21, 2003 4:44pm
Subject: To all group members (operational stuff)
 
Dear Members of a_film_by,

Our group was originally formed only eight days ago, after a week of
email discussions among seven people. After some further email
discussions among those seven "founders," Peter and I will now assume
administrative duties, such as they are (we hope they aren't much).

Here are some points you should be aware of.

New members are admitted by recommendation of existing members. If you
want to admit someone, first email Peter and myself with the email
address that person will be using when they apply (some people use
multiple addresses, which can make for confusion.) Then ask them to read
our Statement of Purpose and some past posts to make sure the group is
of interest to them, and if so, apply for admission. On one of your
recommendations, admission will be automatic. Please be discriminating
about who you admit; we want to keep our discussions interesting and our
group focused; you don't have to be a member to read our messages. I
think as our group's posts get indexed by search engines (see below)
interested people will start to find their way to us, and I think that
we will eventually have a problem with way too many posts and members,
not too few.

When someone applies for admission from the Web, the co-moderators,
Peter and myself, receive a notification, and one of us makes the
decision, sometimes after a brief exchange of emails. A few people that
we already knew have been admitted without any correspondence. So far,
typically, applicants have either not responded to our request for more
information, or, when they have, have been admitted.

We request that all members sign their posts, and, if you're willing,
also put names, ages and locations, into your Yahoo! Group profile.

If any member has a film-related personal Web site, please place the url
in our 'links' section. Please also link to our group's main page from
your site, if you want to, as well as to any posts you would like search
engines to be able to find ('click here for a particularly lucid
analysis of late Wendkos')."

Thanks to a suggestion from Jess, the files section is now accessible to
non-members, and if there are no objections I'll place the above message
there as well.

Part of my own motivation for wanting to have a group such as ours to
post in is so that the posts will be publicly available, and eventually
indexed by search engines. I don't think this would happen on its own,
though, because the posts even in public Yahoo! Groups are not linked
to. So I've created a little index page at
http://www.fredcamper.com/M/afilmby.html The few names or topics I've
chosen to mention with each group are *highly* biased -- there will be
no mention Stanley K*****k on my Sacred Web site, thank you very much.
But I don't think this matters: if I understand how google and the
others work, the bots will follow the links from my page to the actual
posts, and then index the content of each post. There are relatively few
google hits now for the exact phrases "John Ford" and "Vietnam,
Vietnam," and I intentionally will leave those off of my indexes to
those posts, to see if my theory is right. In a few weeks, or months,
our posts on "Vietnam, Vietnam" should show up as the result of such a
search, and if so that will show that I don't really have to mention any
names on my index page.

My intention is to keep my index page updated, time permitting.

Of course, google does prioritize hits by the number of links, so if
someone thinks there's a brilliant post on the inner structure of the
images in the films of Stanley K*****k that you would like to have
search engines place higher than otherwise, try to create links to it,
get other K******kinas to create links to it, et cetera.

So far I haven't linked to the page I just mentioned from my own site,
but I will in a day or so, after putting in any needed corrections I
discover or that someone alerts me to.

- Fred
129


From:
Date: Sat Jun 21, 2003 0:53pm
Subject: Re: Time
 
In a message dated 6/21/03 3:57:01 AM, hotlove666@y... writes:

>The Hollywood Professional myth needs some debunking. Hitchcock went
>over schedule all the time; so did Hawks - a lot. David Thomson
>called The Big Sleep "a home movie," and judging from the production
>reports, so was Bringing Up Baby. They'd come in, fool around with
>the scene they were supposed to shoot, and finally start shooting mid-
>afternoon.

Yes, you're right, of course. Leo McCarey certainly worked this way too
(much to the dismay of Cary Grant on "The Awful Truth," if I'm remembering
correctly.) He'd go and play the piano to think up new ideas during shooting.

So there's less conformity than I implied among studio directors, though
still (obviously) a huge gap between the time they were able to take versus a
Kubrick or, on the literal "home-made" level, early Lynch or some of late Welles.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
130


From: hotlove666
Date: Sat Jun 21, 2003 5:07pm
Subject: Vietnam, Vietnam
 
Here's more by Joe McBride about this film: "Vietnam Vietnam is not
entirely an aberration in Ford's career - Raymond Durgnat, describing
Ford's view of history as 'the great homeric whitewash,' referred to
Drums along the Mohawk as Drums Along the Mekong - but it tends to
exaggerate certain tendencies in Ford that are usually restrained by
aesthetic and historical distance. One reason that Ford's war
propaganda films are so much less complex than his war dramas is that
his instincts are so much finer than his conscious attitudes."

He makes it clear that he's not talking about Battle of Midway, which
he considers one of Ford's best films, then notes in conclusion that
despite the propagandistic fervor of the scenes atrocities in
Vietnam, Vietnam, they are "so appalling, and the combat scenes so
unromantic, that even the most fervent hawk would be forced to
reflect on the obscenity of war."

Joe concludes - giving vent to a streak of Irish-American black humor
he shares with his subject - by describing the laughs that greeted
Chesty: A Tribute to a Legend (starting with "the first sight of John
Wayne in his cowboy outfit") when he arranged to have it shown at
Filmex (to an audience that had come to see The Candidate) in
1976: "The headline over my review in weekly Variety provided a stark
epitaph for Ford's illustrious filmmaking career: 'Anti-Climax: John
Ford Booed.'"

I wonder if the Straubs, who revere Ford above all other filmmakers,
ever saw these two films? When Tag and I met them in New York in 1975
they were looking for a print they could buy of The Civil War, which
Straub called "the most objective film ever made."

Ford's unfilmed last project - about a black cavalryman who joins the
Indians - certainly sounds interesting. He told Axel Madsen about it
at some length, and used to regale Budd Boetticher with his plans for
it when Budd (alone among the men in the Ford troupe, who all stayed
away) made his faithful visits to the sickroom bearing rations of
forbidden whiskey. Typically, Ford's explanation for why he wanted to
make this film, which sounds even more exhilaratingly self-revising
than Seven Women, contained a racist obscenity: "I want to create a
nigger star."

Budd was also my source on Burt Kennedy's last short film, Comanche,
about the horse who was the sole survivor of the Little Big Horn. He
never pretended his good friend's films were better than they were,
but he liked that one a lot. So does Blake Lucas. I still haven't
seen it.
131


From: hotlove666
Date: Sat Jun 21, 2003 7:47pm
Subject: McCarey, Ray, La Cava, Preminger, Zanuck, Curtiz
 
"Everybody tries to ruin your movie."
Steve Miner (during pre-production on Lake Placid)

McCarey providentially recorded Robert Walker's last speech in My Son
John at his home and was able to use it when Walker died before
completing the film. One has the impression that Nick Ray worked a
lot that way (the oft-told story of James Dean and the milk bottle).

Another important filmmaker whose work did not at all conform to
studio rules was Gregory La Cava, who would muscle the scenes around
in the morning and then film them, even more than Hawks did. La Cava
improvised quite a bit more than Cassavetes, who stuck to the script
on all but one film. He also taped real aspiring actresses gabbing
and gave the dialogue to his actresses in Stage Door - and that was
an adaptation of a hit play by George S. Kaufman!

There were, on the one hand, the studios, and on the other hand, the
artists. The full story of how the artists accomplished their aims
has been obscured by decades of propaganda, in which the artists were
often complicit because it served their purposes. More recently,
starting in the 80s, historians who were themselves, shall we say,
perfectly at home in institutional settings have increasingly printed
the legend, aggrandizing the reputation of producers and studios.

A particularly salutary counter-blast to that mentality is the
section in Peter Bogdanovich's interview with Otto Preminger about
how systematically Darryl Zanuck did everything humanly possible to
destroy Laura (hated the theme, thought Webb was too "faggy," etc.
etc.). Of course I know Zanuck was a great man, one whose like we'll
never see again. I taped an interview with Sam Fuller a couple of
days after Zanuck's death. All I had to do was ask one question - was
Zanuck really a good writer, as he's reputed to have been? - to
catalyze one of Sam's amazing three-hour improvs in which he
interwove moving tributes to Zanuck's guts and vision with ironic
examples of what a horrible writer he was, to produce a brilliant
character study of a studio head by an auteur who loved him. I wish I
could have heard Zanuck's side of it!

But I'll tell you, without stressing it, Sam did not conceal in that
interview about the fact that Zanuck imposed the plot and themes of
The Immortal Sergeant on him when he was writing Fixed Bayonets. I've
looked in the script files, and it's clear that Sam simply folded in
his rewrite of those parts, which had already been developed by two
writers before him, and wrote his movie around them. The seams are
still visible: Sam's motivation for the Baseheart character is buck
fever, the idea that he re-used for Mark Hamill in The Big Red One
before David Bretherton chopped most of it out; Zanuck's motivation
for the same character was "fear of responsibility." The line "you've
got to have the guts to lead" isn't Sam's, nor is the sentiment.

I once agreed with the general opinion that the Fox films were Sam's
best; I'm now coming to the conclusion that the independent films of
the same period are better because they were made with a freer hand.
For what it's worth, I believe that Run of the Arrow is now Christa's
favorite Fuller film.

Why do I insist on this? Stephen Sommers, who directed the remake of
The Mummy for Universal, one of the most boring films I've ever seen,
says he admires Michael Curtiz, because he thinks Curtiz was a hack
like him. I'd bet money he's never seen The Breaking Point (which
Monte Hellman prefers to Hawks' version of the same book) or Roughly
Speaking. Sam PECKINPAH loved Curtiz, for God's sake! He told me he
actually likes Curtiz's Flynns better than Walsh's, which I don't
buy, but still - that's a real filmmaker talking!

I fear that what the film schools are turning out now is mostly eager
slaves who have been fed a line about Ford and Hitchcock being just
like them. Which is why they keep getting hired by the studios to do
one film, two films, and discarded like Kleenex unless they luck into
a hit. Then they think they're "Michael Curtiz" - emphasis on the
quotation marks.

Godard always considered Thalberg's invention of the producer to be
the first big battle filmmakers lost for maintaining their
independence WITHIN the studio system. That's really what the auteur
theory was about, and not just in the US.
132


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Sat Jun 21, 2003 11:33pm
Subject: Re: McCarey
 
> McCarey providentially recorded Robert Walker's last speech in My Son
> John at his home and was able to use it when Walker died before
> completing the film.

What was his idea in recording that speech, anyway? Did he actually intend=
to have it hollowly played in the hall after the character's death?   I was=
recently looking at a bio of Walker and Jennifer Jones which seems to sugge=
st that that was the intention all along. Yet it's hard to believe the whole=
story wouldn't have played out in a more balanced and nuanced way, more in =
keeping with the first two thirds of the film (McCarey's artistry overriding=
his "politics"), if Walker had lived. Do you think, or does anyone know if=
that speech was some sort of rough draft that might have been revised and q=
ualified in, perhaps, an improvisatory process?
133


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 2:17am
Subject: Re: Vietnam, Vietnam
 
> I wonder if the Straubs, who revere Ford above all other filmmakers,
> ever saw these two films?

Somehow the idea of Ford making a gung-ho Vietnam film doesn't surprise
or unnerve me. Seems to me that being a Ford fan (and he's one of my
favorite directors) means coming to terms somehow with the wide range of
his problemsome personality traits. Some of his WWII docs are pretty
hard for me to swallow already.

I've always thought of Ford as a river that carries a lot of flotsam and
jetsam. Sometimes you feel the full force of the river's majesty, but
the flotsam and jetsam are still there. And under the wrong
circumstances, all you get is the debris. - Dan
134


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 2:33am
Subject: Re: McCarey, Ray, La Cava, Preminger, Zanuck, Curtiz
 
> Another important filmmaker whose work did not at all conform to
> studio rules was Gregory La Cava, who would muscle the scenes around
> in the morning and then film them, even more than Hawks did. La Cava
> improvised quite a bit more than Cassavetes, who stuck to the script
> on all but one film. He also taped real aspiring actresses gabbing
> and gave the dialogue to his actresses in Stage Door - and that was
> an adaptation of a hit play by George S. Kaufman!

LaCava's pretty good, isn't he. I remember how delighted I was when I
attended USC's LaCava retro in 1982 and found out that a whole lot of
the smaller films that Sarris never mentioned were very strong indeed.

> For what it's worth, I believe that Run of the Arrow is now Christa's
> favorite Fuller film.

Mine too, by a distance. I've never been a huge Fuller fan, actually.

> I'd bet money he's never seen The Breaking Point (which
> Monte Hellman prefers to Hawks' version of the same book)

THE BREAKING POINT is good enough to seem like an aberration in Curtiz's
career to me. I like ROBIN HOOD, too, but it doesn't make see Curtiz as
a neglected artist; whereas THE BREAKING POINT suggests a more
artistically serious guy.

> Godard always considered Thalberg's invention of the producer to be
> the first big battle filmmakers lost for maintaining their
> independence WITHIN the studio system. That's really what the auteur
> theory was about, and not just in the US.

An interesting viewpoint, in direct contrast to what I've always thought
of as the original message of auteurism: namely, that good work could
emerge from embattled circumstances. I'm at the point in life where
your statement sounds good to me: after making a few films, I'm very
reluctant to romanticize the artistic slavery of a powerful studio
system. It takes enough force of personality just to impose your ideas
on people who are supposed to be working for you. - Dan
135


From:
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 0:45am
Subject: Mystic River
 
I thought some here would have an interest in checking out the teaser trailer
for Clint Eastwood's latest:

http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/mystic_river/

As one can see, it shows virtually nothing of the film, but is notable in
that Eastwood, while he doesn't appear in the film, narrates the trailer as its
director. Reminds me a little of the old Hitchcock trailers in which Hitch
would introduce the film to us. It's a nice trick, when the director has the
persona to pull it off. Peter Bogdanovich used to insert himself into trailers
for his movies.

Anyway, I have high hopes for "Mystic River." It looks to be his most
ambitious since "A Perfect World."

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
136


From:
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 1:06am
Subject: Re: To all group members (operational stuff)
 
In a message dated 6/21/03 12:46:32 PM, f@f... writes:

>My intention is to keep my index page updated, time permitting.

I think this is a really great idea, Fred, and I have no problem with
personal biases informing what you choose to index. My hope is that if someone
writes a really great piece on here (and a few already have, for my money), they'll
provide a link to the specific post or thread from their personal web site,
if they have one. It's a way to get one's writing out there and will obviously
lead visitors to the site as a whole.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
137


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 5:56am
Subject: Uh, a screenwriter?
 
Has anyone seen DESERT FURY, from 1947, directed by Lewis Allen? This
is showing up at MoMA soon, and I ask since the screenplay is by A. I.
Bezzerides, writer of the screenplays of two of my very favorite
films, ON DANGEROUS GROUND and KISS ME DEADLY. While the former's
script is perhaps unremarkable, the Aldrich pic has arguably one of
the best screen plays ever--I'm curious if the other pics he worked on
were anywhere as remotely interesting...

Plus (devil's advocate game) are there any screenwriters in the
pre-1960 Hollywood whose work is interesting among varying directors?
(This discounts Frank Nugent et al) Corliss' whole screewriter
thesis seems pretty shaky, through I've only read it in condensed form.

Patrick Ciccone
138


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 2:12pm
Subject: Re: Uh, a screenwriter?
 
> Plus (devil's advocate game) are there any screenwriters in the
> pre-1960 Hollywood whose work is interesting among varying directors?

Oh, sure. My pet is Furthman, who did such great work for both Hawks
and von Sternberg. Ben Hecht did distinctive and excellent work for a
whole mess of directors - and, unlike with Furthman, there's no danger
of confusing his personality with that of his directors. It's hard to
tell what Philip Yordan wrote and what he fronted for, but what a
filmography. And so on - I'm sure there are more good examples. (A few
distinctive writers like this, including Preston Sturges, became
directors later.)

My eye is currently on the little-known David Hertz, who wrote one of
Hollywood's best scripts for DAISY KENYON, and who also has a credit
on HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT.

- Dan
139


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 4:16pm
Subject: Re: Uh, a screenwriter?
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Patrick Ciccone" wrote:
> Has anyone seen DESERT FURY, from 1947, directed by Lewis Allen? This
> is showing up at MoMA soon, and I ask since the screenplay is by A. I.
> Bezzerides, writer of the screenplays of two of my very favorite
> films, ON DANGEROUS GROUND and KISS ME DEADLY.

It's enjoyed an underground rep for its gay subtext or subplot, involving John Hodiak and Wendell Corey. (There's a David Ehrenstein article about it in the Film Quarterly Reader, and it figured prominently in Mark Rappaport's amusing docu on queer Hollywood.) For whatever it's worth, I evidently found the film so forgettable that even when I saw the clips used by Rappaport, I had no memory of ever having seen it, although I'd done so (also I think at MoMA) only a few years before (later found it listed in a log I'd kept).
140


From: hotlove666
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 4:35pm
Subject: Re: Uh, a screenwriter
 
Dan, add to that list blacklistee Hugo Butler: The First Time, The
Southerner, The Young One, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Autumn
Leaves, The Legend of Lylah Clare. And keep me posted on Hertz. Daisy
Kenyon is one of my favorite films.

A. I. Bezzerides is an artist in his own right, and people who've
seen his script for Kiss Me Deadly maintain that he is responsible
for much of the visual style. I haven't seen the script, but I spent
an afternoon with him (he lives in a Schindler house in the valley
that's falling down, with almost no furniture but a couple of
exploded chairs and a desk), and he is every bit as unforgettable as
Sam Fuller.

He described to me how he came up with the idea of the thing in the
box. He had no idea what it was going to be, but once he had
established that it would be kept in a locker, he began to imagine
what it would look like, and feel like. When he realized it would be
hot to the touch, he visualized getting out a knife and prying it
open, and voila: the Great Whatzit.

Other films to see are Thieves Highway, which he wrote based on his
novel, Juke Girl, Track of the Cat, and a little thing about truckers
called They Drive By Night, which is all "Buzz"'s script (and novel)
up until the melodrama with Lupino kicks in. At 92, he recently
finished a new novel: First Kill. He has spent a lot of time lately
reflecting on why he married his first wife, based on an irresistible
mutual sexual attraction the night they met, and has come to some
amazing post-Freudian conclusions about his parents.

He's the guy in the bar in On Dangeorus Ground (a very good script,
in my opinion) who says to Ryan, "Hey Benny, your horse came in!"
141


From:
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 2:10pm
Subject: Re: La Cava, Cassavetes, Fuller
 
In a message dated 6/21/03 3:47:35 PM, hotlove666@y... writes:

> La Cava
>improvised quite a bit more than Cassavetes, who stuck to the script
>on all but one film.

Cassavetes: talk about someone who needs some myths dismantled. The myth
that all of his films were randomly improvised continues to cling to him, despite
all of the accounts to the contrary. They have the look of being done
on-the-fly because of the way he shoots (and his interest in characters over
"plot"), but I don't know if I could think of a director who rehearsed and revised
and worked more than Cassavetes. The recent documentary "A Constant Forge" is
outstanding for illuminating some of these things.

I think the only LaCava I've seen is "My Man Godfrey." Anyone care to list
some essential ones?

>I once agreed with the general opinion that the Fox films were Sam's
>best; I'm now coming to the conclusion that the independent films of
>the same period are better because they were made with a freer hand.
>For what it's worth, I believe that Run of the Arrow is now Christa's
>favorite Fuller film.

I love them all so much that it's hard for me to decide, but since it's fresh
in my memory I'll go with "Park Row" right now. The phantom four-hour cut of
"The Big Red One" I'm sure could easily supplant it though.

Since we're talking Fuller, let me put in a plug for Bill's most excellent
review of Fuller's autobiography "A Third Face" in the current Cineaste. This
in turn allows me to plug the book itself, which I've read twice since it came
out.

A favorite anecdote among many: When asked by Jonathan Demme in the mid-90s
who or what he would like to make a film about (Demme and Martin Scorsese were
going to produce one last Fuller film; Universal wouldn't finance it), Fuller
responds:

"Ruth Snyder!" I said excitedly, grabbing Jonathan's arm tightly. "Ruth
Snyder, for Chrissakes, that's what!"

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
142


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 6:13pm
Subject: Re: Uh, a screenwriter
 
> He's the guy in the bar in On Dangeorus Ground (a very good script,
> in my opinion) who says to Ryan, "Hey Benny, your horse came in!"

Thanks, Bill--I didn't mean to imply that the ON DANGEROUS GROUND
script was uninteresting, it just seems less evidently great as a
script than KISS ME DEADLY.

I wonder who came up with the idea of introducing Ida Lupino's blind
character with a POV shot from her (Ray? Bezzerides? Lupino?)--I
love that moment. Speaking of bizarre POV shots, Lubitsch's THE OYSTER
PRINCESS may be the only movie I know of that has one from behind a
monocle!

Patrick
143


From: hotlove666
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 6:31pm
Subject: Monocle shots
 
Nope, Hitchcock did it in Easy Virtue. But he probably copied it from
Lubitsch.
144


From: Greg Dunlap
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 6:37pm
Subject: Re: La Cava, Cassavetes, Fuller
 
> The recent documentary "A Constant Forge" is
> outstanding for illuminating some of these things.

Was this ever released on video or screened on cable somewhere? I
really wanted to see it but missed its only screening here last year
(two years ago?) at Film Center.

=====
--------------------
Greg Dunlap
heyrocker@y...

__________________________________
Do you Yahoo!?
SBC Yahoo! DSL - Now only $29.95 per month!
http://sbc.yahoo.com
145


From:
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 2:39pm
Subject: Re: La Cava, Cassavetes, Fuller
 
In a message dated 6/22/03 2:38:23 PM, heyrocker@y... writes:

>Was this ever released on video or screened on cable somewhere? I
>really wanted to see it but missed its only screening here last year
>(two years ago?) at Film Center.

It shows pretty frequently on Sundance Channel. That's where I caught it. I
don't think it's had a video release yet.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
146


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 7:11pm
Subject: Von Stroheim's review of "Citrizen Kane"
 
Dear Members of a_film_by,

And speaking of monocles, as an extra-special reward for joining our
group, you now recipients of a scoop on a totally fabulous Web page I
have just put up but haven't yet linked to from my site -- so at the
moment, only you, or browsers of our group's archive, will find it.

Well, it may not be that fabulous, but it was almost sixty years in the
making.

As far as I know, Erich von Stroheim's 1941 review of "Citizen Kane" has
never been reprinted in English. Since it seems to be hard to find, and
since I recently received a copy, I've put it up at
http://www.fredcamper.com/M/VonStroheim.html

It's not a big revelation, actually, but I found it interesting. If
anyone sees any errors, broken links, typos, etc., please let me know. I
don't object if someone wants to post the url elsewhere; I'll link to it
in a day or so.

- Fred
147


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 8:06pm
Subject: La Cava
 
> I think the only LaCava I've seen is "My Man Godfrey." Anyone care to list
> some essential ones?

You picked a good one to start with: the consensus classics are GODFREY
and STAGE DOOR, and both are very good.

Sarris picked four films as La Cava's best: those two, SHE MARRIED HER
BOSS, and UNFINISHED BUSINESS. These two are excellent too - UNFINISHED
BUSINESS is more drama than comedy (though all these films have a big
dark streak) and is especially fascinating for that reason. David
Thomson highlights the same four films, so they probably constitute as
much of a La Cava canon as exists.

However, you could easily conclude from Sarris' and Thomson's pieces
that the rest of La Cava's films are not equal to these four, which is
not true. There are four other late La Cavas ("late" meaning the same
period as the above four films): FIFTH AVENUE GIRL, PRIMROSE PATH, LADY
IN A JAM, and LIVING IN A BIG WAY. All are worthy, though after one
viewing I don't know if PRIMROSE PATH worked for me. Talk about dark
films by comedy directors, though. My favorite of these four is LADY IN
A JAM - the second half isn't as strong as the first, but it's got real
inspiration. Probably the highest-rep film among these four is FIFTH
AVENUE GIRL - there's an essay by Chris Fujiwara on it in THE FILM
COMEDY READER. It's a good, solid film, though not my very favorite.
LIVING IN A BIG WAY is an archetypal late film, relaxed and overtly
personal, a little reminiscent of some of McCarey's work from the time,
and quite pleasing once you get the rhythm.

Far from being a late bloomer, though, La Cava was quite successful even
in the silent comedy days. (His best-known silent films were the W. C.
Fields films RUNNING WILD and SO'S YOUR OLD MAN - both distinctive and
funny, though neither among my favorites.) And he worked steadily
through the first half of the 30s, and turned out a number of his best
films, though there's still no critical consensus on them. My favorites
are PRIVATE WORLDS, about the doctors in a mental institution, and
GALLANT LADY, a pre-Code drama with a very unusual love story. I'd rank
both of these with La Cava's best.

- Dan
148


From: Gabe Klinger
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 8:48pm
Subject: Re: Von Stroheim's review of "Citrizen Kane"
 
Fred:

> As far as I know, Erich von Stroheim's 1941 review of "Citizen Kane"
> has
> never been reprinted in English. Since it seems to be hard to find, and
> since I recently received a copy, I've put it up at
> http://www.fredcamper.com/M/VonStroheim.html

On the subject of CITIZEN KANE reviews, has anyone read Jorge Luis
Borges' review of the film? (Peter in particular, you should check this
out if you haven't.)
149


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 9:12pm
Subject: Re: La Cava, McNiven, Millar, Ulmer
 
P. S. to my last La Cava post: I just re-read Roger McNiven's piece on
La Cava in Coursodon and Sauvage's AMERICAN DIRECTORS PT. I, and
recommend it as possibly the best career overview I've run across.

Sometimes I run across talented auteurist writers like McNiven and
realize that I don't really have a handle on the scope of auteurist
criticism. For instance, I recently picked up the old Praeger paperback
THE FILMS OF ROBERT BRESSON, which is a collection of essays on
different Bresson films compiled by Movie magazine's Ian Cameron. The
essays on LES DAMES DU BOIS DU BOULOGNE and PICKPOCKET were written by a
fellow named Daniel Millar, whose insights impressed me. Anyone know
much about him?

Writing about La Cava's treatment of alcohol and the connections to La
Cava's own alcohol problem, McNiven says, "In the 40s, 50s and 60s,
Edgar G. Ulmer presented what might be seriously analyzed as a drug
addict's vision." As we have the world's foremost Ulmer scholar on this
list, I ask Bill whether McNiven was giving information about Ulmer's
private life or merely being metaphorical. - Dan
150


From: Damien Bona
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 0:09am
Subject: Re: La Cava
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Dan Sallitt wrote:
"All are worthy, though after one viewing I don't know if PRIMROSE
PATH worked for me. Talk about dark films by comedy directors,
though."

I think ultimately Primrose Path works for me, but it's certainly not
an unqualified success. There are some real flaws in narrative
continuity and character development. And at times La Cava's mise-en-
scene here is often so artless as to seem almost primitive -- there
are scenes which look like they could have been filmed in 1914. But
the film contains many lovely moments, and some very funny ones, as
well (mostly provided by an actress I'm not familiar with called
Queenie Vasser, who plays the impeccably waspish grandmother, and the
wonderful Joan Carroll, five years before her seminal work as Patsy
in The Bells of St. Mary's, who here is her an unusually feisty
little sister).

Although Primrose has some very dark aspects -- especially when Miles
Mander is around -- I don't think I would characterize it as dark
film because it does celebrate the unexpected benignity that people
are capable of providing.

I think LaCava's masterpiece is My Man Godfrey, a film of which I
never tire, and I'm also very fond of She Married Her Boss and
Private Worlds. Thinking of Joan Bennett's performance in the
latter -- and the entire cast of Godfrey -- reminds me what a
wonderful director of actors La Cava was.
151


From:
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 9:16pm
Subject: Re: Re: La Cava
 
Michael Grost is unable to subscribe to the group due to technical
difficulties his computer encounters with Yahoo! Groups, but he asked me to post this in
reference to La Cava.

(And thanks to everyone else for their suggestions. I think "Living in a Big
Way" is the one I most want to see now and, fortunately, it's one of the very
few La Cava pictures available on video.)

Anyway, Mike's comments are below.

Peter

Gregory La Cava
Some worth while La Cava movies:
Living in a Big Way (1948). This is a delightful mix of Gene Kelly dance
numbers, and comedy scenes done in La Cava’s personal style. The social commentary
in the film, about the importance of building affordable housing for
returning veterans and their wives, recalls the concern with helping out hoboes and
other homeless people in the Depression in “My Man Godfrey”.
“Bed of Roses” (1933). Two shady ladies get out of reform school and work as
gold diggers. Zingy.
“The Half-Naked Truth” (1932). The ferocious, abrasive, brassy and downright
obnoxious comedian Lee Tracy lets it all hang out here as a carnival
pitchman, complete with lion roaming around loose, if memory serves. I always liked
Tracy, and was reduced to helpless giggles by his outrageous monologues in Roy
Del Ruth’s “Blessed Event”. Wish one could see Tracy’s star-making stage
performances in “Broadway” (1926), that first of all gangster melodramas, in
which he played an honest two-bit hoofer up against the mob, and in “The Front
Page” (1928).
“Gabriel Over the White House” (1933). Really, really weird Depression story
about a President with supernatural powers who cleans up the mob and fights
the Depression. Some of the richest visual style in La Cava’s work. People
rarely talk about La Cava as a stylist. Admittedly, he was no Sternberg, but this
film shows a good sense of visual composition.
For the record, have never liked “Stage Door”. It is too painful to watch
these nice young women get their hearts broken, trying to make it on the stage.
152


From:
Date: Sun Jun 22, 2003 9:33pm
Subject: Re: Von Stroheim's review of "Citrizen Kane"
 
In a message dated 6/22/03 4:48:05 PM, cklinger@e... writes:

>On the subject of CITIZEN KANE reviews, has anyone read Jorge Luis
>Borges' review of the film? (Peter in particular, you should check this
>out if you haven't.)

I've heard that famous quote of Borges' about "Kane" (about the film being a
"centerless labyrinth") but never actually read the review I presume it's
taken from. Now I have an excuse to pick up that book of Borges essays I've had
my eye on (not that I need an excuse when it comes to Borges.)

Thanks, Gabe. And thanks very much to Fred for this Von Stroheim piece.
Obviously, there are whole sections with which I disagree (the movie's structure
- the idea of assembling a man's life from those who knew him and what he left
behind - is one of the things I love most about it), but I'll value this
piece if for nothing else than the quote, "Whatever the truth may be about it,
"Citizen Kane" is a great picture and will go down in screen history. More power
to Welles!"

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
153


From: hotlove666
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 2:58am
Subject: La Cava, Roger McNiven, Ulmer, Stroheim, Borges, Schifrin, Seigel
 
Three cheers for The Half-Naked Truth! There's an Italian scholar who
is doing cutting-edge work on La Cava - he's my source for GLC taping
the aspiring actress gabfest and using the dialogue. When he spoke at
the LA County Museum he also showed some La Cava Felix the Cats. He
was also an animator.

I believe Roger is the other half of Roger and Howard, Howard
Mandelbaum being the first half. They screened films at their
apartment in NY in the late sixties and seventies. It was there that
I first saw many, many films - Dwan, Ulmer, Oswald and Tourneur
weren't being screened anywhere else. Howard still runs Movie Star
News, I believe - the current incarnation of Irving Klaw's photo
service (I believe). He co-wrote a lavish book on art deco production
design.

Thanks for the compliment, Dan. Roger is quoting a rumor that got
started in Europe about Ulmer being a drug addict. I have never heard
it confirmed by anyone who knew him. Maybe he did speed - so did
Welles. But according to Arianne, he wouldn't even take an aspirin
when he had a headache.

I found Stroheim's critique of Kane fascinating, both re: Welles and
re: Stroheim.

Weirdly, I was just discussing Borges this afternoon with Lalo
Schifrin, who knew him and attended his lectures when he was a young
man in Argentina. I was interviewing LS on Jazz and Cinema for a
festival in Switzerland. We spent quite a bit of time talking about
his important six-film collaboration with Don Seigel.

After rapidly reviewing the films, I can recommend as examples of
what Seigel and Schifrin did together the credits and first five
minutes of The Beguiled, a deliberate example of musique concret, and
the credits of Charlie Varrick, a highly condensed compendium of
Americana; the blink-and-you-miss-it driving-past-honkytonks sequence
in Dirty Harry and the more overt barroom-with-snake-and-player-piano
sequence in Telefon. The source-music bits in the latter two were all
composed and recorded by Schifrin ("in those days, we did everything
ourseleves") as part of plans he worked out with Seigel for what
would now be called "sound design." Seigel, by the way, told me that
he was a classically trained mandolin player, although Schifrin says
he really knew just enough about music to communicate his ideas.
154


From: Damien Bona
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 3:45am
Subject: Re: La Cava, Roger McNiven, Ulmer, Stroheim, Borges, Schifrin, Seigel
 
Howard Mandelbaum -- with his brother Ron -- actually runs Photofest,
a photo rental agency. Movie Star News is watched over by Paula
Klaw, Irving's widow.

The Howard and Roger screenings are the stuff of New York legend, and
one of my regrets is that I never attended any when I first came to
the City to go to school back in '73.

Howard also co-wrote Flesh and Fantasy, a wonderful mix of erudition
and trash.
155


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 5:16am
Subject: The Barefoot Auteurist (was La Cava)
 
Synchronistically, was just watching THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA in which Ava Gardner surprises Bogart's writer-director ("How did you know my name? Only one out of 10,000 moviegoers...") by spouting: "Oh, I can name to you [counting on fingers] Lubitsch, and Fleming, and Van Dyke, and La Cava" -- strange Mankiewiczian pantheon, years before Sarris' Directors' Issue. (Bogie's reply: "You didn't think I was dead too, did you?")
156


From: hotlove666
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 7:13am
Subject: Ulmer
 
Synchronistically, just after I signed off from this group to
transcribe my Schifrin interview, Arianne Ulmer excitedly called to
announce her latest find: The Border Sherriff (sic), one of the two-
reel silent westerns her Dad directed at Universal in the 20s, while
Wyler was directing two-reel westerns on an adjoining soundstage. She
found it on e-bay (!) - a 16mm copy - and should be getting it in two
weeks.
157


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 2:53pm
Subject: Epstein
 
Somehow I am only now slowly realizing that Jean Epstein is considered a
major figure by many. I have managed to get through life so far without
seeing any of his films except for THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, and
that so long ago that my opinion of it is insecure. Would anyone like
to give me some tips? Does appreciation of Epstein's work these days
center more on his silent films or on the sound films he made in Breton?
- Dan
158     top


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 3:35pm
Subject: Re: Epstein
 
The films of Jean Epstein are, well, cosmic.

He has three periods. The silent narratives are spooky and poetic,
influenced by surrealism. He was great right from the beginning --
"Coeur Fidele" is amazing. The 30s sound films are less obviously
"artful," but auteurists in this group (as opposed, say, to more
orthodox avant-gardists) might be sympathetic to my argument that his
long takes of fishermen's craggy faces in fact have a magic equal to, or
greater than, the early works. These films do amazing things with time
and space and the power of "ordinary" images: as if being lost in a
single shot of a face can have its own rhythm.

Then there's the "late" period, which consists of only two films, of
which I've seen only "Le Tempestaire," which really *is* cosmic. A
twenty-minute "short" with a threadbare narrative about a storm and the
fishing village that's affected by it, the whole thing is really just an
excuse for some long takes of the sea, with slow-motion imagery AND
slow-motion sound, rather an innovation for the 1940s. (The foregoing
isn't quite fair, actually; the story is part of it, and there are some
great things there too; I mean this is the same sense that Walsh's
narratives can be said to be an excuse for his landscape pans, which is,
not completely.) Anyway, Epstein's pantheism was never clearer than
here: the patterns on the sea and in the sound track are representations
of the idea that nature is itself alive, that the distinctions we make
between animate and inanimate are false ones. It's also much spookier
than any of his early films, in a way that's completely disconnected
from narrative spookiness. Sublime, sublime. In other words, I like it.

His writing seems to be great too. My French is extremely poor, but
years ago I parsed through "The Cinema of the Devil" with a dictionary,
and it seemed to be quite great, and quite illuminating of his films.

I don't know what other people who like Epstein "these days" think about
all this. I'm off in my own cocoon, I guess.

I also don't know what to tell you about how to see them. I think "Le
Tempestaire" is still rentable. MoMA showed "Coeur Fidele" a few years
ago; maybe they have a print.

- Fred     top
159


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 3:39pm
Subject: Re: Epstein
 
I think Fred's the expert here, but I've seen two: the silent MAUPRAT
(which screened in MoMA's silent film series a few years back) and his
final film (or maybe penultimate), the amazing short LE TEMPESTAIRE,
which I caught at the Cinematheque Francaise last year. The former is
merely a very beautiful if undistinguished court melodrama (if I
recall correctly) though there are some remarkable moments (I remember
in particular on very long shot with a massive oak dwarfing the
characters). I think Fred wrote his masters on Epstein, so I'll let
him describe the rest and LE TEMPESTAIRE in detail. I think his book
is supposed to be great too.

Patrick


--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Dan Sallitt wrote:
> Somehow I am only now slowly realizing that Jean Epstein is
considered a
> major figure by many. I have managed to get through life so far
without
> seeing any of his films except for THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, and
> that so long ago that my opinion of it is insecure. Would anyone like
> to give me some tips? Does appreciation of Epstein's work these days
> center more on his silent films or on the sound films he made in
Breton?
> - Dan
160


From: Rick Curnutte
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 3:45pm
Subject: no creativity, please (PPP)
 
This is merely a humorous aside.

I was watching PROJECT GREENLIGHT last night, and one of the
screenplays was rejected because it was too much of an "auteur film".

Speaks volumes for the quality of work PG is interesting in, doesn't
it?

Rick
161


From: Rick Curnutte
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 4:14pm
Subject: Leone
 
Caught ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST this weekend on Turner, I think
it was.

I'm not sure how Sergio Leone is viewed within the auteurist
community, but I was wondering how much you all thought he was
influenced by the sensiblities of Dario Argento and Bernardo
Bertolucci, the two credited with OUATITW's story.

Rick
162


From: Joshua Rothkopf
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 4:36pm
Subject: Re: Leone
 
Rick:

> I'm not sure how Sergio Leone is viewed within the auteurist
> community, but I was wondering how much you all thought he was
> influenced by the sensiblities of Dario Argento and Bernardo
> Bertolucci, the two credited with OUATITW's story.

I think you have it backwards bud. Dario Macro-Lens owes a large formal debt to
Leone, and Bertolucci's sweeping mid-period internationalism (LAST EMPEROR) feels,
at least to me, very Leonian.

Their work on the script, I've read, was less than creative: basically finding other
westerns that Sergio liked (HIGH NOON, etc.) and smuggling the best scenes into
their expanding blueprint. Screenwriting was the least essential aspect to Leone.

-joshua
163


From: Rick Curnutte
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 5:04pm
Subject: Re: Leone
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Joshua Rothkopf"
wrote:

> Their work on the script, I've read, was less than creative:
basically finding other
> westerns that Sergio liked (HIGH NOON, etc.) and smuggling the
best scenes into
> their expanding blueprint. Screenwriting was the least essential
aspect to Leone.
>
> -joshua

No question about what you wrote. I guess I wasn't sure how much
input they had into the film's creation. Thanks for clarifying.

Rick
164


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 8:28pm
Subject: Loseyphone speakers
 
I was wondering how Losey's rep fares today--it was kind of hard to
gauge after EVA, I thought. I've only seen THE SERVANT, which I think
is a masterpiece, but I know little of where to go from there, though
the Walter Reade will show MR. KLEIN next month. I feel like Losey is
a more liked in France, even though he is on the Far Side of Paradise.
I see he doesn't make Fred's A or B list, but he all over Dan's list
of films.

Patrick
165


From:
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 5:12pm
Subject: Re: Loseyphone speakers
 
In a message dated 6/23/03 4:32:26 PM, pwc8@c... writes:

> I see he doesn't make Fred's A or B list, but he all over Dan's list
>of films.

I've only seen a smattering of Losey, but "The Go-Between" is my favorite of
what I have. I'd have to re-watch it to get into specifics, but I remember
being very taken with Losey's artful balancing of time periods and intelligent
use of wide shots to express a sense of a distant past. (I seem to remember an
NY Times piece by Vincent Canby which was unusually astute in commenting on
this.) Highly recommended.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
166


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 9:25pm
Subject: Re: Loseyphone speakers
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Patrick Ciccone" wrote:
> I was wondering how Losey's rep fares today--it was kind of hard to
> gauge after EVA, I thought. I've only seen THE SERVANT, which I
think
> is a masterpiece, but I know little of where to go from there,
though
> the Walter Reade will show MR. KLEIN next month. I feel like Losey
is
> a more liked in France, even though he is on the Far Side of
Paradise.
> I see he doesn't make Fred's A or B list, but he all over Dan's
list
> of films.

You know, I didn't know he was a blacklistee (or an American!) until
after reading Eisenschitz's Nick Ray book. It looks like, of his
American movies (his first was in 1939), only M (yes, a remake) and
THE BOY WITH GREEN HAIR are as well-known as his British films.

Jaime
167


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 9:47pm
Subject: Re: Loseyphone speakers
 
True, he's not on either of my lists, but some of his work is really
quite nice. I was moved by "The Go-Between," a very intelligent and not
unemotional piece of film literature, that is, a film with literate
qualities. "Eva," like it or hate it, is kind of extraordinary. But "The
Damned" ought to appeal to auteurists tastes -- some are going to think
it's really great, and I would hope that "Night of the Living Dead" (a
film I only like very mildly) fans will see that one as a good deal better.

I've not seen that many of the others.

-Fred
168


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 9:51pm
Subject: Re: To all group members, from both your moderators
 
Joshua Rothkopf wrote:

> ....bud....

We'd really appreciate it if the in-group lingo from another film
discussion group (whose moderator has asked me not to name it, since we
are Web archived) did not make appearances here. Some of us are to some
extent refugees from that group, and part of our idea is that a_film_by
is *not* a closed club of friends, but includes people who don't know
each other and want to talk about film outside of any personal
relationship that might or might not exist. And part of the point of our
group being Web-accessible is that others should be able to benefit from
our brilliant insights. Thus we'd also request that film names and
director names be spelled out, and that we avoid developing our own
private slang.

Thanks,
Fred & Peter
169


From: programming
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 4:59pm
Subject: Re: Epstein
 
Hello All,

An up-to-now lurker here to second Fred's enthusiasm on "Le
Tempestaire," which is amazing.

It is rentable in 16mm from the Rohauer Collection. Pricey (for the
length), as I remember, but worth it. If anyone wants contact
information let me know and I'll dig it up.

I should also say that I saw it via a (terrific, by the way)
lecture/screening that Fred did for us several years ago on Nature and
Cinema (info about this talk on your website, Fred?)

I believe that some late 20's Epsteins are available from Rohauer and
likely from MoMA. (Usher, La Glace a Trois Face, etc.) A scant
representation for a great maker.

Patrick Friel
Chicago Filmmakers



Fred Camper wrote:

Sublime, sublime. In other words, I like it.


>
>
> I also don't know what to tell you about how to see them. I think "Le
> Tempestaire" is still rentable. MoMA showed "Coeur Fidele" a few years
>
> ago; maybe they have a print.
>
> - Fred
>
>




[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
170


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 10:16pm
Subject: Re: Epstein
 
programming wrote:

>a (terrific, by the way) lecture/screening that Fred did for us several years ago on Nature and Cinema (info about this talk on your website, Fred?)
>
>
>
I have to say I like the way this a_film_by group is turning out! (joke,
joke)

A brief description of the program Patrick refers to is at
http://www.fredcamper.com/L/Nature.html.
A slightly longer description of a slightly different version of that
lecture-screening (called "Cinema and Nature," but without the Epstein,
though, excluded for reasons of length and cost), one of two related
programs, is at http://www.fredcamper.com/L/Naples.html, and that one
has some interesting links.

- Fred
171


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 10:24pm
Subject: Re: Epstein, AND, info on a software bug on our grou's site
 
I just realized from my recent post with my urls that there's a bug
here: if you put a period or a comma right after the url, it gets
included, and the link doesn't work. I've actually seen this on another
board's sofware too. This only applies to people who read a_film_by on
the Web, not by email. So, if you post a url, leave a blank space at the
end of it if you want it to work.

I repeat the relevant paragraph from my last post with the urls now
configured correctly:

A brief description of the program Patrick refers to is at
http://www.fredcamper.com/L/Nature.html A slightly longer description of a slightly different version of that
lecture-screening (called "Cinema and Nature," but without the Epstein,
though, excluded for reasons of length and cost), one of two related
programs, is at http://www.fredcamper.com/L/Naples.html and that one
has some interesting links.

- Fred
172


From: Damien Bona
Date: Mon Jun 23, 2003 11:19pm
Subject: Re: Loseyphone speakers
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Patrick Ciccone" wrote:
> I was wondering how Losey's rep fares today--it was kind of hard to
> gauge after EVA, I thought. I've only seen THE SERVANT, which I
think
> is a masterpiece, but I know little of where to go from there,
though
> the Walter Reade will show MR. KLEIN next month. I feel like Losey
is
> a more liked in France, even though he is on the Far Side of
Paradise.
> I see he doesn't make Fred's A or B list, but he all over Dan's
list
> of films.
>
> Patrick

Joseph Losey doesn't seem to be discussed widely today, and his
reputation -- at least among auteurists -- was probably at its apex
in the 70s.

I haven't seen nearly enough of his films -- just a handful -- but
the one that stands out is The Romantic Englishwoman. I haven't seen
it since 1975, but I recall that the director's framing and camera
placement superbly complemented the brilliantly witty script by Tom
Stoppard and Thomas Wiseman.

Even though it doesn't quite come together, Losey's first feature,
The Boy With Green hair is a fascinating work. An anti-war parable,
it's Very sweet-natured and certainly on the side of the angels. The
problem is that Serious Issues are raised in a straight-forward
fashion (i.e. rather preachy dialogue), but they come within the
context of a fable, and Losey wasn't able to make the two separate
aspects gel. In other words, it's a left-of-center polemic
presenting its message in the odd context of what feels like a
children's movie. The film still manages to be quite moving, and a
scene in which war orphans materialize is truly haunting.
173


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 5:36am
Subject: Re: Loseyphone speakers
 
I forgot to say that the MacMahonists of the early 1960s held four
director as the absolute masters: Lang, Losey, Preminger and Walsh.



--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Damien Bona"
> > the Walter Reade will show MR. KLEIN next month. I feel like Losey
> is
> > a more liked in France, even though he is on the Far Side of
> Paradise.
174


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 6:51am
Subject: Re: Loseyphone speakers
 
> I was wondering how Losey's rep fares today--it was kind of hard to
> gauge after EVA, I thought. I've only seen THE SERVANT, which I think
> is a masterpiece, but I know little of where to go from there, though
> the Walter Reade will show MR. KLEIN next month. I feel like Losey is
> a more liked in France, even though he is on the Far Side of Paradise.
> I see he doesn't make Fred's A or B list, but he all over Dan's list
> of films.

As Patrick inferred, I love Losey, though he's a complicated artist who
went in some unsatisfactory directions. I have an essay on THE DAMNED
coming out one of these days in THE SCIENCE FICTION READER which makes
some overall points about Losey: you can read it at:

http://www.panix.com/~sallitt/damned.html

There is really nothing in the cinema like Losey's style. He is an
anguished pessimist, never confident that his left ideas can prevent
suffering. But he films from the point of view of the indifferent or
hostile universe that destroys his protagonists. He is the cinema of
the vacuum, of what once existed but no longer does.

Losey's career breaks down into sections. He made five American films
(1948-51), enough to establish him as a distinctive voice. Most people
agree that the best of these is THE PROWLER, an unsettling film noir and
investigation of American masculine ideals. The others - THE BOY WITH
GREEN HAIR, THE LAWLESS, M, and THE BIG NIGHT - are probably all flawed,
but there's something uncanny, arresting and remote about all of them.

Then to England because of the blacklist, doing three or four assignment
films, mostly pseudonymous, that have only bits and pieces of virtue.

But he caught his rhythm in England as a director of grim genre
exercises. This is in my opinion (oops, another phrase from that other
list) his best period: TIME WITHOUT PITY, BLIND DATE, THE CRIMINAL, THE
DAMNED. (THE GYPSY AND THE GENTLEMEN, a good film from this period,
doesn't quite fit the others in mood.)

He always considered himself an art film maker, and never seemed to care
much for genre. He got his art break with EVA, a very good film that
was recut and poorly distributed. With his next film, THE SERVANT, he
had his art success, and did several more films as an art director in
vogue: KING AND COUNTRY, MODESTY BLAISE, ACCIDENT.

He began to lose critical ground with well-publicized failures like BOOM
and SECRET CEREMONY. And then a long meandering end period, arty but
indecisive, trying to find subjects and styles. He had his greatest
acclaim in this period with THE GO-BETWEEN and MR. KLEIN. I really like
THE GO-BETWEEN, THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN and LA TRUITE, but not all the
films of this period come together.

I think Losey's rep is still good among auteurists. He never caught
fire with non-auteurists the way Ray and Sirk eventually did, but his
rep didn't decline like Preminger's or Edwards's, as far as I can tell.
- Dan
175


From: hotlove666
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 5:14pm
Subject: Losey
 
Dan, if you like Eva, add it to the list of scripts by Hugo Butler, the
writer I mentioned.

When Secret Ceremony ran on tv, they added a prologue and
epilogue, shot in "Loseyan" style, of a psychiatrist and a lawyer
discussing the "case," so people wouldn't be thrown by the total
lack of a sane perspective in the film.

Boom is John Waters' favorite film.
176


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 6:02pm
Subject: Re: Losey
 
> Dan, if you like Eva, add it to the list of scripts by Hugo Butler, the
> writer I mentioned.

According to Losey, Butler couldn't arrive at a script that Losey wanted
to shoot for EVA, so Evan Jones was brought in and produced a script
that was close to what was shot. Apparently Butler was involved in
polishing this script as well.

On the other hand, Losey gives Butler most of the credit for the fine
script for THE PROWLER.

> Boom is John Waters' favorite film.

Wow, that's perverse. As much as I love Losey, I just don't know what
to do with BOOM! I'm not a huge SECRET CEREMONY fan either, but you can
make a case for it, and many have.

Last night I thought of another screenwriter with a good filmography:
Wendell Mayes. He did a string of Preminger's best films (ANATOMY,
ADVISE AND CONSENT, IN HARM'S WAY) and what I think is Hathaway's best,
FROM HELL TO TEXAS. There are also a lot of lesser films with his name
on them that are better than they should be: Winner's DEATH WISH,
Champion's BANK SHOT (not a bad film, actually), Post's GO TELL THE
SPARTANS. Who knows, maybe he even contributed to the watchability of
THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. - Dan
177


From: hotlove666
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 6:14pm
Subject: Butler, Aldrich, Tashlin, Ulmer, Matheson, Biette, Tourneur
 
Dan,

Eva, The Young One and The Legend of Lylah Clare all written by
one guy - isn't that interesting? I wrote a piece on his script for
Sodom and Gomorrah and how Aldrich interpreted it that's
probably still up at sensesofcinema.com. Butler's most daring
script, apart from The Young One, is The First Time, which is one
of Tashlin's best films, and certainly his most most political one.

In that case I pretty much sided with the writer against the
director, but in a presentation on the making of The Naked Dawn
that ended up not being read at the Ulmer symposium in NY I
side with Ulmer against Julian Zimet, the blacklistee who wrote
the script, inspired by Gorky's early short story "Chalkesh." Zimet
interpreted Gorky by giving the Chelkash-Santiago character
(mostly in the screen directions) what they call in Hollywood a
"curve" based on the idea that the young peasant is the "son he
never had," and Ulmer in turn interpreted Zimet's script,
sublimely. Seeing in Santiago an ambiguous version of the
Murnau nosferatu-figure, he jettisoned the "curve," and put in its
place a character whose actions aren't rationalized and
sentimentalized for the audience, any more than they are in
"Chelkash."

I'm not an advocate of the screenwriter as auteur, because I'm
really just interested in the finished film, but I did write acareer
article on another great writer of particular interest to our
genre-oriented members, Richard Matheson. which is probably
still up at the web site of Written By, the WGA magazine. That's
where I first proposed the formula that directors "interpret "
scripts, which is my common-sense revision of a perverse
formula invented by Jean-Claude Biette, the brilliant French
critic-filmmaker who died ten days ago at age 60, in an article
called "Reseeing Wichita": "In Wichita Jacques Tourneur extracts
the full content - moral, ideological and psychological - of the
script. I know of no better definition of 'mise-en-scene.'"

hotlove666
178


From: hotlove666
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 6:28pm
Subject: Wendell Mayes, Preminger
 
Dan,

I love In Harm's Way, but Mayes gives himself too much credit in
interviews. The book is the source of a lot of what's interesting in
the film, and he pretends that he and Preminger didn't even look
at it. It's by a former Nixon speechwriter, and its knowledgeable
portrayal of the backroom politics of an army at war leaves room
for absurdities (Wayne keeps getting blown out of the water, and
the big invasion at the end is won without firing a shot, for no
apparent reason) that are fact-based, but that a liberal probably
wouldn't have left in (unless he was a liberal named Otto
Preminger). Incidentally, in the manuscript (until the publisher
imposed a name-change) the Patrick O'Neal character is a
Bostonian with a Harvard accent. Preminger didn't follow that, of
course. Hey, it's ultimately his film, but credit where credit is due.
At the end of shooting Wayne (who found the property and took it
to Preminger, contrary to Preminger's recollection) was having a
red lei hung on his neck by the director at the wrap party: "Now
we see your true colors," he said.

I suspect that the "silly bestsellers" Preminger kept adapting
were generally more intelligent than critics who haven't bothered
to read them imagine. The author of The Cardinal was the
co-writer with Joseph Campbell of a book that every lit major had
when I was in college, A Skeleton Key to Finnegan's Wake.

PS Does anyone still buy the myth that Preminger's characters
are all ambiguous (the O'Neal character, for instance...) and that
ambiguity is the meaning and purpose of his all-in-ones?
179


From:
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 4:50pm
Subject: Re: Wendell Mayes, Preminger
 
In a message dated 6/24/03 2:35:14 PM, hotlove666@y... writes:

>PS Does anyone still buy the myth that Preminger's characters
>are all ambiguous (the O'Neal character, for instance...) and that
>ambiguity is the meaning and purpose of his all-in-ones?

These days I'm thinking that Preminger's love of long takes relates to his
characters' isolation from one another (I think of Jean Seberg eavesdropping in
"Bonjour Tristesse" or any number of other examples). As John Belton has
written, even when many characters are shown in the same space, they still feel
off in their own private worlds. His all-in-one approach also has the potential
to be incredibly moving, as in the scene in "In Harm's Way" when Wayne tells
Prentiss that her husband's missing and he doesn't cut to a reaction shot of
her; instead, she turns away from him into the camera.

On the ambiguity front, I would say it's more that Preminger's mise en scene
lends itself to an ambiguous, neutral presentation, rather than the characters
themselves lack shading or detail. I'm less sure about these issues though.

And to Zach, Damien, and Dan (the three biggest "Daisy Kenyon" supporters I
know of on this list) - holy cow, is "Daisy Kenyon" some film! I'll be posting
something about it very soon, I'm sure. Preminger is quick becoming my
favorite Hollywood director.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
180


From: Gabe Klinger
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 8:56pm
Subject: Biette
 
On Tuesday, June 24, 2003, at 01:14 PM, hotlove666 wrote:
> ... That's where I first proposed the formula that directors
> "interpret "
> scripts, which is my common-sense revision of a perverse
> formula invented by Jean-Claude Biette, the brilliant French
> critic-filmmaker who died [whaaa?] ten days ago at age 60 [oh my god],

I've had my mind preoccupied with serious life issues in the last few
weeks, so I'm not shocked I didn't hear this before. But holy shit. Are
there any details you or any other Cahierists would care to impart with
us? 60, that sounds premature. Has his last film been released in
France yet? If yes, what was the reception? And any other details?

I nearly programmed a Biette last summer. Now I am sad I didn't go
through with it.
181


From: hotlove666
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 9:08pm
Subject: Biette
 
Gabe,

I just heard yesterday - Fiona at Senses of Cinema emailed me
about writing an obituary and I nearly passed out. He was one of
my oldest and best friends in France - 25 years. I got some
skimpy detail from the Liberation web-site: He had a hearty
attack after presenting his new film, Saltimbank, at Cannes last
month. Needless to say, Dogtown and Brown Bunny gobbled up
the coverage - I didn't even know it had been shown until I looked
up his death in Libe. A friend who saw him 6 months ago said
he was in the pink and bubbling with plans and enthusiasm.

To the best of my knowledge no film of his has ever been shown
in the US or subtitled for an English audience. Maybe he should
remain a treasure for people who are fluent in the language - like
Mallarme - who will have to go to Paris to see them, like you have
to go to Philadelphia to see Duchamp's last installation.
182


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 9:16pm
Subject: Re: Butler, Aldrich, Tashlin, Ulmer, Matheson, Biette, Tourneur
 
> I'm not an advocate of the screenwriter as auteur, because I'm
> really just interested in the finished film, but I did write acareer
> article on another great writer of particular interest to our
> genre-oriented members, Richard Matheson. which is probably
> still up at the web site of Written By, the WGA magazine. That's
> where I first proposed the formula that directors "interpret "
> scripts, which is my common-sense revision of a perverse
> formula invented by Jean-Claude Biette, the brilliant French
> critic-filmmaker who died ten days ago at age 60, in an article
> called "Reseeing Wichita": "In Wichita Jacques Tourneur extracts
> the full content - moral, ideological and psychological - of the
> script. I know of no better definition of 'mise-en-scene.'"

I just saw a good film that really made me think about what constitutes
screenwriting and direction. The line between them can get fuzzy at
times, of course.

The film is the Israeli TV movie SLAVES OF THE LORD by Hadar Friedlich.
Apparently it was in Directors' Fortnight. The film's concept has
great purity and integrity, and Friedlich's script follows the concept
through without hesitation or compromise. Her direction isn't beyond
reproach: many of the supporting actors have that leaden, unrevealing
diction characteristic of so many Israeli films, and the visuals are
often inexpressive. And yet I don't want simply to say that the film is
well written and badly directed. Something about the way the film is
directed conveys that Friedlich is fully aware of, and focused on, the
script's narrow, laser-like, fatal trajectory. At the risk of sounding
mystical, that focus constitutes direction. Sometimes just being aware
of what you are doing constitutes direction, even if it partly manifests
itself in stuff you don't do.

Maya Eshet's performance in the lead role is indeed beyond reproach, but
I don't know how much credit to give the director for this.

The film is playing twice more in NYC in the Israeli Film Festival, on
Sunday afternoon and next Wednesday afternoon. - Dan
183


From: hotlove666
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 9:21pm
Subject: In Harm's Way
 
I screened a 35 print of the film for Jim McBride, who had picked
it as a forgotten masterpiece to be shown during Locarno's 50th
anniversary. He then talked about it very interestingly, debunking
the ambiguity idea and advocating seeing the all-in-one as a
storytelling technique. I looked back in the critical tradition, and
Godard was actually the first debunker, in an article called
Defense and Illustration of Classical Decoupage, which talks
about OP a lot and puts down people who try to simplistically
equate a cinematic technique with a view of the world. He
thought that the key to OP was his close-ups.

The version of OP that we all read in The American Cinema was
actually one that had hardened into a dogma at Movie - it was
never a dogma in France. Certainly the later OP films, beginning
with In Harm's Way, show the gaps between people, things,
places and causes more and more, climaxing in Rosebud, Such
Good Friends and Junie Moon. That tendency for the void to
creep into and between the images was first foreseen in
Comolli's analysis of the "white death" and the "black death" in
Advise and Consent. He later defended In Harm's Way in the
same terms when it was attacked at Cannes for being jingoistic,
and Daney carried the idea further in his review of Hurry
Sundown. But Preminger criticism kind of stayed frozen where
those couple of paragraphs by Sarris had left it in this country.

Jean-Claude Biette, by the way, had become skeptical about the
value of Preminger by the mid-90s, although paradoxically he
expressed his skepticism in a very laudatory piece on River of
No Return.
184


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 9:24pm
Subject: Re: Preminger
 
> PS Does anyone still buy the myth that Preminger's characters
> are all ambiguous (the O'Neal character, for instance...) and that
> ambiguity is the meaning and purpose of his all-in-ones?

Not me.

I'm about to participate in a round table on DAISY KENYON, so I don't
want to spill my Preminger ideas just now.... But I have an alternate
approach to Preminger, which I'll talk about later. - Dan
185


From: hotlove666
Date: Tue Jun 24, 2003 10:18pm
Subject: DK
 
All hail Daisy Kenyon - possibly the most adult movie ever made
in Hollywood.
186


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 2:13am
Subject: SAINT JOAN aspect ratio? also Hawks
 
Strange coincidence, with all this talk of Preminger, that I should
see SAINT JOAN this evening. It's a pretty nutty movie, I don't
think it's very good but it had a lot of cool things going on in it.
Widmark was horrible, but Seberg was frequently pretty great when she
didn't remind me of the kid in 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T.

Anyway, I could have sworn that I'd read somewhere that it was shot
in anamorphic 2.35:1, although it bears no CinemaScope logo.
Preminger had already shot a number of 'Scope movies before JOAN, so
it only makes sense, unless it doesn't. The reason I ask is because
the French Institute Alliance Franaise print had some weird
cropping going on: the visible image seemed closest to 1.85 or so,
but I could see the image bleeding over the top and a little on the
bottom, and in studying the image overscan on the top, it seemed that
the image should also have been wider. In other words, the
projectionist seemed to have cropped the film on the top and bottom
(adjusting the screen size) as well as the left and right side
(adjusting the projector output). But I could be wrong, perhaps JOAN
is supposed to be severely matted - there wasn't a significant loss
of visual information, as with a pan & scan tape of BONJOUR
TRISTESSE, all of the compositions seemed okay, i.e. no heads or
halves of bodies cut off in strange ways.

***

SPOILERS FOR 'EL DORADO'

***

Speaking of nutty auteurist films, I also watched Hawks' EL DORADO on
DVD today. It takes a bit of time to generate any momentum, but it's
pretty groovy. And probably the strangest Hawks western since THE
OUTLAW (if that counts)! Duke catches some lead near his spine, the
doc says, You should get this taken care of. Hmmm - I guess that
won't cause any problems at inopportune moments, right? (You'd be
wrong.) It's like a perverse remake/parody of RIO BRAVO, you've got
Arthur Hunnicutt playing musical church bells with his shotgun
(strange soundtrack for a chase scene), and that isn't the most
bizarre musical interlude, viz. the pianist who shore would like to
stop playing the piano now! Or the bartender who catches a handful
of mean splinters - what an insane moment! Finally, if we consider
this (rather than LOBO) to be Hawks' last statement on the Hawks
western, how significant is it that he should include the long
bathtub scene, only to illustrate that J.P. Harrah doesn't want the
ladies to see his personal parts. Not to mention the fact that the
team of heroes consists of an eccentric old coot (Hunnicutt), a
Mumblin' Method Actor who can't shoot straight (Caan), a one-legged
drunk (Mitchum), and a one-armed Duke whose spine may give in at any
time. Should've call this THE TRIUMPH OF THE WALKING WOUNDED or
something, it's full of scars and bum legs and wounds and
disabilities, it's a visual catalog of human nastiness. But anyway,
I really liked it - I'm starting to realize that sometimes, the
lovability of a Hawks movie can get a little grating at times (so
that the "Hawks-ness" of a movie isn't a 100% guaranteed pleasure),
but when I get into it, I really get into it. Thoughts?

Jaime
187


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 2:14am
Subject: Re: Preminger
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Dan Sallitt wrote:

> I'm about to participate in a round table on DAISY KENYON

I can't imagine I'm the only person who'd be interested in hearing
some reports back from your round table, Dan, especially regarding
your thoughts on KENYON and Preminger in general.

Jaime
188


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 3:18am
Subject: Re: SAINT JOAN aspect ratio? also Hawks
 
> Anyway, I could have sworn that I'd read somewhere that it was shot
> in anamorphic 2.35:1, although it bears no CinemaScope logo.
> Preminger had already shot a number of 'Scope movies before JOAN, so
> it only makes sense, unless it doesn't. The reason I ask is because
> the French Institute Alliance Franaise print had some weird
> cropping going on: the visible image seemed closest to 1.85 or so

My memory is that it was wide but not Scope, so I think you might have
seen it in the right ratio but with some matting, appropriate or not.

> Speaking of nutty auteurist films, I also watched Hawks' EL DORADO on
> DVD today. It takes a bit of time to generate any momentum, but it's
> pretty groovy.

The first part is much darker than the rest of the film. Apparently
Hawks started out trying to make a Greek tragedy but lost his confidence
and fell back on the RIO BRAVO format. I love the first part and sort
of wish he'd have tried to carry that mood, but the existing film is so
good that I can't get too upset.

> Duke catches some lead near his spine, the
> doc says, You should get this taken care of. Hmmm - I guess that
> won't cause any problems at inopportune moments, right? (You'd be
> wrong.)

But it's not there just to help the plot along. As you point out, the
film is pretty much all about infirmity and aging. It evolves into a
celebration, but it never loses sight of the darkness - it just sort of
laughs about it.

> I'm starting to realize that sometimes, the
> lovability of a Hawks movie can get a little grating at times (so
> that the "Hawks-ness" of a movie isn't a 100% guaranteed pleasure),
> but when I get into it, I really get into it.

I think I know what you mean. I want the films to do something with
that familiar group dynamic, and not just play it out for its own sake.
Fortunately, there's usually some inflection. - Dan
189


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 3:19am
Subject: Re: Re: Preminger
 
> I can't imagine I'm the only person who'd be interested in hearing
> some reports back from your round table, Dan, especially regarding
> your thoughts on KENYON and Preminger in general.

It's a 24fps production, so I imagine it'll be online. I'm sure the
list will be kept posted. - Dan
190


From: Fred Camper
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 3:25am
Subject: Re: SAINT JOAN aspect ratio? also Hawks
 
I don't think "Saint Joan" is anamorphic. The cropping you describe
could also have been that many 50s films were shot at 1.33:1 with the
knowledge they'd be masked in projection; maybe the Alliance Francaise
was using the wrong mask, or their set-up was otherwise out of adjustment.

I guess for me the key to a lot of films has always been the kind of
"space" that the director sets up, the sum total of the effect og camera
movements and compositions and editing creating, in a good film, a
particular kind of visual construction. So I don't think the answer to
Preminger should be couched in terms of his attitudes toward his
characters. For me, and I realize most don't agree here, there's
something more abstract going on, and you have to get at that first
before you can get back to thematic interpretations.

About "El Dorado," while it was being shot Hawks described it as "a
remake of "Rio Bravo," with a touch of "Red River." And he was aware of
dealing with the fact that his actors were aging -- and, presumably,
that he was aging too. I've always thought Hawks was a lot more
"abstract" than he seems, but I'm not ready to explain or defend that.

- Fred
191


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 3:32am
Subject: Re: SAINT JOAN aspect ratio?
 
It's not 'Scope--Jaime, looks at the reel change marks to tell. I
think the Alliance was just using slightly tighter masking than
normal, but nothing to significantly affect the compositions.

I have to say I found little interesting to SAINT JOAN at all. I
think part of the problem is with the source material, but I found
Preminger's staging awkward (they feel like play sets) and
compositions and camera movements rather matter-of-fact, though some
of the later close-ups of Seberg are moving in a way that the rest of
the film is not. I've only seen seven Preminger films (LAURA, DAISY
KENYON, ANGEL FACE, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, SAINT JOAN, ANATOMY
OF A MURDER, BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING) but aside from BUNNY, which is
clearly a masterpiece and seems to predate the current world art-film
vogue for really long takes, I find the first three vastly superior; I
know this may just be a matter of hitting the wrong later ones, but
the late-50s films seem clinical, like they were directed from a
hospital. Especially SAINT JOAN. (Yes, I need to see the other
Preminger Seberg flick...)

Patrick
192


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 4:01am
Subject: Re: SAINT JOAN aspect ratio? also Hawks
 
Fred,
>
> I guess for me the key to a lot of films has always been the kind of
> "space" that the director sets up, the sum total of the effect og
camera
> movements and compositions and editing creating, in a good film, a
> particular kind of visual construction. So I don't think the answer to
> Preminger should be couched in terms of his attitudes toward his
> characters. For me, and I realize most don't agree here, there's
> something more abstract going on, and you have to get at that first
> before you can get back to thematic interpretations.

This is sort of devil's advocate, since I agree that this level of
form is usually what makes a film, but I think this is ultimately too
short sighted. I mean, if we agree that greatness in form relies on
how a director frames and blocks humans (usually actors) in relation
to the set , both statically and in motion (camera and actors) I think
you have to take acting and the treatment of characters seriously as a
very important component of what directors are doing to achieve
greatness. Because I don't think many of the films we'd agree on as
great would be at all great if the actors and their acting styles were
somehow made indistinguishable while keeping all the other formal
elements intact--if you have a form as human-centered as narrative
cinema, what the humans do within that formal construction seems quite
important. I don't know if that makes sense--

Patrick
193


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 4:07am
Subject: Re: SAINT JOAN aspect ratio?
 
Agreed it's not and has never been in Scope (you're probably thinking of "the other Seberg flick"), but when in doubt, I usually consult Maltin's listings -- that's one thing they seem to be good for (although not as regards the intermediate ratios, of course) or is my trust misplaced?
194


From:
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 0:19am
Subject: Re: In Harm's Way
 
In a message dated 6/24/03 5:24:53 PM, hotlove666@y... writes:

>I looked back in the critical tradition, and
>Godard was actually the first debunker, in an article called
>Defense and Illustration of Classical Decoupage, which talks
>about OP a lot and puts down people who try to simplistically
>equate a cinematic technique with a view of the world. He
>thought that the key to OP was his close-ups.

I'll have to have a look at that Godard piece - thanks for the heads-up. I
do reject the deduction made from Preminger's visual style that he was a cold
or "sterile" artist. To the contrary, I find his films very emotional and that
the long takes, the two shots, the substitution of cuts with movement within
the frame only make the emotion more palpable. The shot I mentioned of Wayne
and Prentiss in "In Harm's Way" is a great example, I think. Too many to
mention from "Bonjour Tristesse."

>The version of OP that we all read in The American Cinema was
>actually one that had hardened into a dogma at Movie - it was
>never a dogma in France. Certainly the later OP films, beginning
>with In Harm's Way, show the gaps between people, things,
>places and causes more and more, climaxing in Rosebud, Such
>Good Friends and Junie Moon.

"Such Good Friends" is just extraordinary. I really do think "Daisy Kenyon"
has a chance at becoming my very favorite, but "Such Good Friends" might be #2
right behind it. Preminger found the ideal template for his obsessions with
loneliness, isolation, and the unknowability of people in this story of '70s
New York. Initially "Rosebud" struck me as more routine, but I'm eager to give
it another go; Belton, for one, takes the "Citizen Kane" parallels further
than just the title.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
195


From:
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 0:22am
Subject: El Dorado, Hatari!, Ulmer
 
Jaime wrote:

>good stuff about "El Dorado"<

Jaime, this is completely ironic - I was just preparing a post about "El
Dorado." Because I'm too tired to reformat it, I'll just paste it here below in
its entirety. Hopefully my comments are reasonably edifying; I'm not sure what
kind of detail I can go into to defend this film, but suffice it to say that
I love it. And it's great to hear that some others here do as well.

(There's also some stuff for Bill about Ulmer at the bottom. Ya see, I was
preparin' one of them big posts for y'all.)

Acting on Dan's recent comment that "El Dorado" was for all intents and
purposes Hawks' "summation film," I decided to revisit it a few nights ago. For
some reason, late Hawks (by which I mean all of the films he made after
returning to the screen with "Rio Bravo" in 1959) has been growing on me over the
course of the past year. While in the past I might have listed my favorite Hawks
films as "Bringing Up Baby," "His Girl Friday," or "Only Angels Have Wings,"
today I think I'd have to name "Hatari!" or "Man's Favorite Sport?" right along
with them.

Well, add "El Dorado" to that list. My experience with it on a second
viewing mirrors that of the others late Hawks I've been revisiting this past 12
months. I always liked the film, but it was only the other night that I came to
fully appreciate its many pleasures; perhaps Hawks from this period is so
easygoing and unfussy that it takes several viewings to adjust.

If there's one Hawks film which "El Dorado" reminds me most of, it's
"Hatari!"; both begin quite dramatically and slowly ease into something more relaxed
and character-based. In this respect, each clearly reflects the quite
conscious emphasis Hawks was placing on characters and situations over "plot" in the
years since "Rio Bravo." Certainly this was nothing new for Hawks ("The Big
Sleep" anybody?), but it seems to me that it's even more pronounced in these
later works. Even "Red Line 7000" kind of works with this interpretation in its
abandonment of a single driving plot for a series of vignette-like stories.

Back to "El Dorado." The way Hawks unashamedly reworked previous films and
favorite things in these late works is really extraordinary to me. "El Dorado"
functions as a restatement of "Rio Bravo" in much the same way that "Man's
Favorite Sport?" does for "Bringing Up Baby." That in itself doesn't make these
movies "good," of course. But I think I could make a case that Hawks felt
his freest when he was dealing with things he liked, whether characters,
stories, or attitudes. And "El Dorado" is most certainly the film of a free man.

A few favorite things: The way Wayne and Mitchum are visually opposed (one
shown walking screen L to R, the other walking screen R to L) in the series of
shots before they track Jason's gang down at the church. Contrast this with
the film's final shot, in which Wayne and Mitchum are not only walking in the
same direction, but walking within the same frame, the same space. Wayne's
acting after he's shot the McLeoud boy; this is some of his best work and I'm of
the opinion that Wayne was rarely better than he was with Hawks.

An unrelated note about "Hatari!" Thinking about the recent thread about
studio directors who didn't conform (a group which Hawks surely belongs to) led
me to consider "Hatari!" in this context. Is there anything more risky than
bringing a Hollywood movie crew out to Africa and improvising around what big
game animals you're able to catch?

Finally, a question to Bill. What do you think of "Strange Illusion" and
"Pirates of Capri"? All this talk about Ulmer has me curious to seek out more of
his work and both of the above titles are available in what look to be superb
DVD editions.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
196


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 4:38am
Subject: Re: Re: SAINT JOAN aspect ratio?
 
> I have to say I found little interesting to SAINT JOAN at all.

I don't think it's that good either. I do remember one very
Premingerian moment that I loved: when the flame leaps at Joan. As I
said, I'm laying off the Preminger analysis for now so I can save it for
DAISY, but I think this moment is as good a place as any to enter Preminger.

> I've only seen seven Preminger films (LAURA, DAISY
> KENYON, ANGEL FACE, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, SAINT JOAN, ANATOMY
> OF A MURDER, BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING) but aside from BUNNY, which is
> clearly a masterpiece and seems to predate the current world art-film
> vogue for really long takes, I find the first three vastly superior; I
> know this may just be a matter of hitting the wrong later ones, but
> the late-50s films seem clinical, like they were directed from a
> hospital.

I must say that it is idiosyncratic to throw ANATOMY OF A MURDER onto
the reject pile. After DAISY, it's my favorite. GOLDEN ARM isn't
perfect, but I find it very interesting and characteristic.

Preminger went through distinct periods, so there may be problems in
harmonizing his different approaches at different phases of his career.
As conventions of realism changed, Preminger absorbed the new
standards and adapted his aesthetic to them. (He tried it one last time
in the late sixties as the whole Old Hollywood aesthetic went down like
the Titanic, but I suspect that the seismic shift was too great - to me,
he never quite righted himself after, say, HURRY SUNDOWN.) - Dan
197


From: hotlove666
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 6:33am
Subject: Hawks, Ulmer
 
I discovered Hawks, and American cinema, starting with Red Line 7000,
the first Hawks film I ever saw, so my relationship to late Hawks is
primal; the other stuff came later. The first issue of Cahiers I
bought had Red Line on the cover, so you can blame my involvement
with them on late Hawks, too, and on that film in particular.

There were big changes starting with Rio Bravo. He told Peter
Bogdanovich that after taking a few years off and hanging out in
Europe, he saw what tv was doing when he got back and decided that
all stories have been told a million times, so that audiences are
bored with them - he would henceforth make films about characters.

All the late films, and not just the Rio Trio, as we used to call it,
contain repeated situations and even whole scenes (night, a couple
outside on a patio, people inside around a piano...). All the late
films are abstract games with repetition, as the credit sequence of
Rio Lobo illustrates: guitar strings being plucked, an image of the
unity of emotion and mathematical form. The best article ever
published in Cahiers - at least the one that affected me the most -
is Daney's "Rio Lobo: Viellesse du Meme." It has never been
translated; when it is, I hope the translator has the sense to call
it "Rio Lobo: The One Grows Old."

Repetition in late Hawks - intensified, foregrounded, but completely
continuous with the earlier films - exemplifies what auteurism is
about. As Daney said elsewhere, all the greats - Lang, Lubitsch,
Hawks - were obsessed with repeating one kind of pleasure that is
unique to each of them, and that drive to repeat underlies all the
other repetitions - formal, thematic - that we recognize
as "signatures."

Besides Daney, and while waiting for that translation, I'd
recommend "Mostly About Rio Lobo" (I think that's the title) by Greg
Ford in Focus on Hawks, about that film and the Rio Trio as a whole.

Pete: Pirates and Strange Illusion are well worth a look. Very few
Ulmers aren't. I'd advise skipping The Strange Woman and hunting the
rest down fanatically. Once you've seen Pirates, try to find a book
called The Celluloid Asylum, by Sidney Haye, the screenwriter - a
roman a clef about the making of that film. It never came out in
paperback, but it's around. The speeches by the Ulmer character,
Sigfried Melmson (sp?), seem to me to be the real thing. Post-
modernists might also want to check out an Ulmer-inspired novel
called Flicker by Theodore Roszak, which is about the Ulmer mystique,
but strictly a work of fiction.
198


From: Gabe Klinger
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 6:50am
Subject: Daney on Rio
 
On Wednesday, June 25, 2003, at 01:33 AM, hotlove666 wrote:

> The best article ever published in Cahiers - at least the one that
> affected me the most -
> is Daney's "Rio Lobo: Viellesse du Meme." It has never been
> translated

Not in English, but I've seen it in Portuguese and Spanish. Months ago
I was working on a translation (from the Portuguese) for my own
purposes -- once I get my stuff moved from Rochester I can dig it up
for the group (though it's *rough*).

On Daney, Rosenbaum mentioned to me that a French publisher was looking
to put together an English-language volume on SD with selections from
years at La Libe. Jonathan was writing an introduction and was supposed
to receive a contract in the mail but about a month ago he told me that
they had more or less vanished. Too bad.
199


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 2:27pm
Subject: Hawks
 
Thanks for the aspect ratio information, everyone!

--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Dan Sallitt wrote:

> But it's not there just to help the plot along.

Sure, I'm just teasing. I don't mind bedrock plot stuff (i.e. the
"gun on the wall in the first act will
be fired during the third act" business), I know it goes with the
territory. And you're right, it
becomes something more than just a piece of Plot Development, the
idea that Wayne never
gets his back taken care of, in fact postpones it until after the end
of the movie, that's a pretty
interesting way to ride out into the sunset. Or shuffle.

> As you point out, the
> film is pretty much all about infirmity and aging. It evolves into
a
> celebration, but it never loses sight of the darkness - it just
sort of
> laughs about it.

I'm sure the final shot confirms that - the last line is something
like, "We don't need your kind
around here anymore," but it's said with a kind of a laugh, and it's
a happy ending. That's about
as optimistic a goodbye as we could probably expect from Hawks and
his westerns.

> I think I know what you mean. I want the films to do something
with
> that familiar group dynamic, and not just play it out for its own
sake.
> Fortunately, there's usually some inflection.

I don't know if that describes the difference between when I can "get
into" the Hawks-ness and
when I can't - there's a lot of playing around in MAN'S FAVORITE
SPORT?, but I can't stand
that movie, whereas RED LINE 7000 and HATARI! have long stretches of,
well, just the group
dynamic...just taking up space, and I really like both of those
movies. I guess I might say that,
regardless of whether he's developing and shaping and refining or
just sitting back in the world
he's created, Hawks can get a bit too precious for my stomach to
handle.

It seems like Hawks is one of those filmmakers where one of the
primary pleasures of watching
his movies is to inhabit (as a viewer) the spaces he creates, to
experience the company of his
characters. I would agree, with some hesitation, since that's not
always the case with him, and
apply that to directors like Jerry Lewis, Mikio Naruse, and Jacques
Tati (and a few others, I'm
sure), as well.

Jaime
200


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Wed Jun 25, 2003 2:36pm
Subject: Hawks
 
Thanks for the aspect ratio information, everyone!

--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Dan Sallitt wrote:

> But it's not there just to help the plot along.

Sure, I'm just teasing. I don't mind bedrock plot stuff (i.e. the
"gun on the wall in the first act will
be fired during the third act" business), I know it goes with the
territory. And you're right, it
becomes something more than just a piece of Plot Development, the
idea that Wayne never
gets his back taken care of, in fact postpones it until after the end
of the movie, that's a pretty
interesting way to ride out into the sunset. Or shuffle.

> As you point out, the
> film is pretty much all about infirmity and aging. It evolves into
a
> celebration, but it never loses sight of the darkness - it just
sort of
> laughs about it.

I'm sure the final shot confirms that - the last line is something
like, "We don't need your kind
around here anymore," but it's said with a kind of a laugh, and it's
a happy ending. That's about
as optimistic a goodbye as we could probably expect from Hawks and
his westerns.

> I think I know what you mean. I want the films to do something
with
> that familiar group dynamic, and not just play it out for its own
sake.
> Fortunately, there's usually some inflection.

I don't know if that describes the difference between when I can "get
into" the Hawks-ness and
when I can't - there's a lot of playing around in MAN'S FAVORITE
SPORT?, but I can't stand
that movie, whereas RED LINE 7000 and HATARI! have long stretches of,
well, just the group
dynamic...just taking up space, and I really like both of those
movies. I guess I might say that,
regardless of whether he's developing and shaping and refining or
just sitting back in the world
he's created, Hawks can get a bit too precious for my stomach to
handle.

It seems like Hawks is one of those filmmakers where one of the
primary pleasures of watching
his movies is to inhabit (as a viewer) the spaces he creates, to
experience the company of his
characters. I would agree, with some hesitation, since that's not
always the case with him, and
apply that to directors like Jerry Lewis, Mikio Naruse, and Jacques
Tati (and a few others, I'm
sure), as well.

Jaime

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