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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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501


From: hotlove666
Date: Sun Jul 13, 2003 5:27pm
Subject: Story of a K
 
My casually bitchy spelling of Akademia has certainly provoked a lot
of discussion. Let me just say a couple of things to clear the air
and then give some history, trying to keep it as impersonal as I can,
even though I lived through this, like Fred and Dan, and have strong
feelings about it. I should probably also note that one of my best
friends is a professor of film studies, but she's the exception that
tests (probat) the rule.

1) I love theory, about film or anything. Love it. I majored in
English lit, but philosophy and psychology were my other intellectual
passions and still are. I read both (present tense) constantly,
particularly in French. I've read all of Derrida and Barthes, and
much of Guy Debord, Lacan, Deleuze, Jacques Ranciere and Foucault,
just to stick with the (mostly) non-film people. I recommend them
highly, although Derrida really can't be read in English, except for
some of the early books and essays. Avoid Baudrillard, an obnoxious
phony who parlayed a few gags stolen from Debord into a huge career,
mostly here. (Cool book covers, though...)

2) Even more than a good theory, probably, I love a good
interpretation (of a film, or anything). Meaning is pleasure to me,
and I suspect plays a larger part in the pleasure we all take in
films than anyone is admitting.

3) Most of the writers with academic posts brought up by various
respondents to avoid tarring everyone with the same "K" are good. Not
great, but ok. But they pretty much all predate the events I'm going
to describe now. Pardon me for bringing up the Cahiers again, but
that's where a lot of this starts:

Structuralism and post-structuralism are French phenomena that began
(faintly) in the 50s, when existentialism ruled, and flowered in the
60s and 70s. The film magazine that did the most with them was the
Cahiers, although there were others around at the time - Change, Ca,
even Tel Quel, the font of theory in the 60s and 70s - who tried to
get something going and failed.

The reason is that you need to know and love (and in some cases even
practice) film in order to theorize about it well. The Cahiers also
inherited a theory, auteurism, which had been better thought out in
France in the late 50s and early-to-mid-60s than it had or has been
here. After Bazin and his proteges, there was a transitional figure
of great importance who's still unknown here, Jean Douchet, who
pushed auteurism to its theoretical limits and prepared the way for a
new generation of critic-theorists led by Serge Daney and Jean-Pierre
Oudart, many of whom Douchet recruited at the Cinematheque.

Douchet is the source of a lot of ideas that have even filtered
through here. I discovered, for example, writing on Minnelli's
comedies for a Bleecker Street booklet, that he had invented and
developed the theory of the "decor" (set) as central to Minnelli's
films and took it as far as possible, eventually making a short film
using his ideas in "Paris vu par." I'm told that his book on
Hitchcock may finally be translated and published here.

When I say he "prepared the way" I mean that Jean eventually started
looking for the "scars" in a film or an oeuvre, the weaknesses, the
flaws, the incoherences, the contradictions, and evolved a whole new
way of understanding the film or films from that. That (plus Derrida
and Lacan) became the basis of deconstructive theories of film which
the Cahiers expounded from the late 60s through 1972. Those theories,
developed collectively by Daney, Oudart, Pascal Bonitzer, Jean
Narboni, Jean-Louis Comolli, Pascal Kane and others, exerted and
still exert a deep influence on everything I write about film.

All that is post-structuralist. But before that period the Cahiers
was open to structuralist ideas, including those of Noel Burch, whose
book on film form appeared there in serial form. Christian Metz also
published in the Cahiers for a time. Last and most important, Raymond
Bellour was an early fellow traveller of the new Cahiers group - his
first article was a very allusive study of Lang's style - who
developed a structuralist technique for reading films and film scenes
built around frame enlargements. When his study of the lake-crossing
in The Birds was published in the Cahiers (full of misprints), they
had already moved on, and Jean Narboni, in a little-read postface,
both praised it and raised theoretical questions about it, indicating
the need to go further - questions which referred, like all the work
of the magazine during this period, to the ideas of their great
theoretician, Oudart ("La suture").

What happened next is crucial, because it affected the lives of many
of my friends who should be teaching film now, probably including me:
Bellour set up a school in Paris which taught his theories for credit
to French and American students. Remember that academic accreditation
for film degrees was just getting going then, and there weren't
enough NYU, UCLA and Columbia grads to go around. So departments that
needed to beef up their curricula hired Bellour's students for the
simple reason that they had a credential, and a theory. And thereby
hangs a sad tale, because the theory was shaky and most of the
students were no good.

(Naming no names, one of Bellour's most successful graduates actually
suppressed shots in a frame analysis of a scene from Stagecoach to
make his "theory" - which even caricatured Bellour - work. Another
raved on at great length in French and later in Frenchlish about the
pathetic little cubist painting on the wall of Lina's new home in
Suspicion because he was reading just one sequence in isolation and
didn't notice that the character was portrayed as living in a world
of books, including one on Modern Art we see her reading before her
second scene with Johnny. Both articles were published in a two-
volume work by Bellour, helping the students land choice academic
posts that they still occupy.)

The other thing that happened was that Screen and the BFI became the
channel through which the new theories were to be transmitted here.
And inevitably, Bellour graduates helped with that. Their lack of
comprehension of the important theoretical currents in France, which
were made to burn with a hard, gemlike flame in the Cahiers
application of them, turned much of what got translated and
transmitted into something else, equal parts dogmatic socialism
(thanks to the BFI), dogmatic feminism (thanks to both the BFI and
Bellour) and positivistic reductions of key texts like Oudart's "La
Suture," which became in those fumbling hands a restatement of ideas
about point-of-view technique in novels that had been spelled out
better by American literary critics like Wayne Booth 20 years
earlier. (By the way, I recently reread that article by Mulvey that
everyone is always quoting, and it has been distorted and flattened
in the same way by the people who quote it, if anyone who doesn't
read French wants to observe the process I'm talking about in action.
It was a good article!)

This in turn became the basis for many careers and whole departments,
where American film "theorists" still soldier on, filling the heads
of students with an astonishing mixture of gobbledygook and over-
simplifications that are guaranteed to turn all but the toughest
cinephiles into cine-zombies. I still remember sitting in on a class
Jonathan Rosenbaum gave at Santa Barbara in the 80s, with a guest
appearance by Sam Fuller. Sam was just geting warmed up, but when the
bell rang the students got up and left him sitting there - the class
was over, right? Later Dave Kehr offered Jonathan the post at the
Chicago Reader and I strongly urged him to take it and never look
back. I'm sure we all can tell stories like that.

Add to this the fact that most auteurists here weren't, in Dan's
immortal words, ready for their close-up (i.e. were weak on theory),
and you have the sad result we live with today. I have certainly
moved on with no regrets, thanks 100% to the Cahiers, and for other
Old Tumors reading this I can point hopefully to the example of Joe
McBride, who has published 20 times what most film academics have and
recently landed a teaching post in Berkeley. As people filling the
jobs die off or wilt into idiocy from the protracted effort of
thinking with, for and about nothing for their entire professional
lives, maybe a few spots in Film and Literature will open up in
teacher's colleges in the South that won't be automatically filled by
their students, and those will be handed to one of the scattered,
demoralized, day-job-drained old soldiers who are potential
contributors to this site, like that rocking chair ole Mose is handed
at the end of The Searchers.

And maybe the next generation will avenge us, but if they're going to
do it, I strongly advise them to develop theories that go way beyond
like/don't like, and to start by reading the good theoretical writing
of the past. Barthes is still the place to begin, and thanks to
Richard Howard, he loses little in English translation.

I love what I'm reading about Hulk. I saw Play Dirty in a brand-new
print at the American Cinematheque a few weeks ago, and I would
certainly be prepared to argue that there's no point in seeing it on
video. But that's true of most good films, and we do it anyway.
502


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sun Jul 13, 2003 5:47pm
Subject: Re: Film theory in the paper
 
Patrick Ciccone wrote:

>Here is an article in today's LA Times about USC's film dept.:
>
>http://www.latimes.com/features/printedition/magazine/

[editing the url to something that will work if you haven't registered
with the site...]

>I am not that sympathetic to the specificities of the author's
>argument, but yet... How many film theorists have ever seen a de Toth
>film?

This a pretty interesting article, but like Patrick, I have reservations.

The author's love of the "humanist" side of film, as in studying what
the characters in movies are all about, is, not surprisingly, something
I'm not very sympathetic to.

And the long quotes from Branigan citing Benjamin at the end is not
ridiculous. I mean, it's a point of view that students should be exposed
to, it's an interesting argument, and it will certainly illuminate a
film such as "The Man With a Movie Camera." Now if he goes on to make
the leap that, for example, all Hollywood melodramas are bad, and if
nearly everyone else in the program says the same thing, that's
something else. But the quotes from him taken alone are not
incomprehensible gobbledygook, but a completely reasonable argument that
has served as a program for significant filmmakers.

About the more obscure quotes, simply citing passages that make no sense
in excerpted form is an old tactic of American anti-intellectuals. And
just because one cannot understand something doesn't mean there's
nothing there. And while I too am troubled by the almost knee-jerk
leftist bias in film theory, the terms on which it is "exposed" here are
disturbing. What about the possibility that Bush supporters, seeing that
one of the professors passionately opposed both wars on Iraq, will try
to shut the program down?

But one student quoted confirmed my recent cartoonish characterization
of film "theory" as arguing that film is a tool to prevent workers from
making the revolution:

"[Film] can be two things, a useful propaganda tool in a communist
revolution, or part of the capitalist superstructure, a way of lulling
the working class into a haze to subdue them and give them an escape
from the pressures of reality."

This echoes the terms of my earlier post. And even given a writer's
propensity to find ridiculous quotes to make an entertaining or alarming
article, this is pretty frightening, no? What I particularly regret is
the Manicheanism of his formulation. I mean, what about my favorite
model, the modernist-inspired active-viewer mode, in which viewers
interact with a film in a variety of ways in order to make up their own
mind. Then no propaganda will have the kind of controlling effect this
kiddie apparently wants it to have. Apply the kind of viewing Brakhage
calls for to all films, I say, and you will be a lot freer as a viewer.
But students are known to over-simplify; it's hard for me to believe
that the professors there are advocating for "propaganda" films that
will help make the "communist revolution."

Finally, Branigan's accurate characterization of much of the "film
theory" he's talking about as trying to find what all films have in
common takes me back to Sitney's objection that he isn't interested in
what "Ordet" and a travelogue might have in common, and I agree. There
is another kind of film theory, of course, one I have advocated for
elsewhere but not on our new group, so briefly, it's the film theory
written by filmmakers themselves. Key examples: Eisenstein, Vertov,
Epstein, Deren, Brakhage, Markopoulos, Kubelka, and (I would argue, but
this is mostly in interviews) Rossellini, Breer, and Gehr. Such
formulations generally follow a similar pattern: often starting with
some references to the material nature of the medium, with different
elements being chosen by each filmmaker (for Bresson, the fact that
movie actors are not live presences; for Kubelka, the fact that a film
is actually a succession of stills), the filmmaker reasons forward to an
argument about what cinema "should" or even "must" be, a prescription
generally only fulfilled by his or her films. These theories are also
typically mutually exclusive, and often intended as such. At least three
filmmaker-theorists felt the need to invent a unique word which would
refer to his own (or his own and colleagues') and no others: the
"cinematography" film for Bresson, Vertov's "Kino-Eye," and
Markopoulos's "film as film." (If anyone knows of any other examples,
I'd love to hear them.) And I have long felt that following this pattern
a critic could write a film theory for filmmakers who did not -- I'm
going to try Hawks myself someday.

Each great filmmaker redefines cinema, in other words, and what's most
interesting is their differences, not what they have in common. This is
true because what's significant is those differences, and the way they
contradict each other. And this is hardly unique to cinema: the history
of art in recent centuries has been one of multiple redefinitions,
sometimes related, sometimes exclusive, sometimes even within the same
two artists -- Duchamp's last two pieces, in Philadelphia, are almost
mutually exclusive.

A story I know I told somewhere: a former friend of mine, a Harvard
student in the late 60s while I was at MIT, described the inspiration of
his first film as resulting from a contemplation of the paradox inherent
in the fact that a Fritz Lang and Jean Renoir film can both be "true."

The attempts at a synoptic film theory that I've read fall into two
categories: those that are just wrong, because they reflect the author's
own idiosyncratic vision of film, and the "right" ones, which tend to be
simply not very interesting, because, yes, a Dreyer film and a
travelogue do have certain things in common, but those things are not
nearly as different as what makes "Ordet" unique.

In reply to Patrick's rhetorical query about how many films does a film
theorist see, I've heard that in many programs Ph. D. students rarely go
to movies that don't relate to their dissertation topic -- or, if they
do, what they go to is the same thing everyone else goes to,
"Independence Day" et cetera.

I experienced a version of this myself circa 1975 -- one can date it
exactly because it corresponded to the MoMA's screening of either "A
Private's Affair" or "Marines, Let's Go" in their Walsh retrospective.
Whichever film it was, it wasn't very good -- late Walshes are very
uneven. It included a voiceover narration by one of the soldiers --
"Then we went to Australia for R&R," that sort of thing. After the film
I, a friend who was an NYU Cinema Studies undergrad encountered a former
"Screen" editor, someone who had a few years earlier advised me, after
publishing my Sirk essays, that I needed to read more theory even at the
expense of seeing fewer movies. Anyway, he wanted to know what we
thought of it, and neither of us thought it was very good. He, however,
thought it was great. Why? "It was amazing because it had these two
times -- the time of the images and the different time of the
narration." He seemed not very receptive to my argument that this was a
standard narrative device found in a zillion Hollwyood films and, dulled
by overuse, it didn't necessarily mean anything, given that there seemed
nothing distinctive about Walsh's use of it, and wouldn't have meant
much even to the average viewer at the time who would have seen it in
many other films. So my friend said, "There are many more unusual uses
of voiceover. What about 'Sunset Boulevard,' in which the
film is narrated by someone who is already dead?" This got the
ex-editor's attention, and great surprise, and he asked my friend to
repeat the title of the film as he wrote it down. It sounded to us like
it was a title that he'd never heard of before.

I'm not a particularly big Wilder fan, though I've kind of liked some of
his films, and I've never much liked the argument that there are certain
films that one *must* see, but Jeezus....

- Fred
503


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sun Jul 13, 2003 5:47pm
Subject: Re: Story of a K
 
Thanks to Bill for a fascinating history of this stuff. He confirms my
superficially-based impression that many of the original French thinkers
were great, but have been mis-applied by mediocrities. I certainly know
first hand that that is true of Barthes.

Bill, can I get a copy of the Douchet piece on Minnelli? Please email
me. If it's possible to do so in terms of copyright law, I'd post it on
my site in the spirit of my posting of Stroheim on Welles. I remember
the Douchet episode in "Paris vu Par," and it's pretty interesting; as I
recall, he does stuff with the colors of the walls and so on that make
me unsurprised there's a relationship to Minnelli.

- Fred
504


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Sun Jul 13, 2003 7:02pm
Subject: Re: Film theory in the paper
 
> >Here is an article in today's LA Times about USC's film dept.:
> >
> >http://www.latimes.com/features/printedition/magazine/
>
> [editing the url to something that will work if you haven't registered
> with the site...]


Note: this URL doesn't work for me either, but I got the article via news.google.com by entering "usc semiotics film."

505


From: nzkpzq
Date: Sun Jul 13, 2003 7:28pm
Subject: Art and Theory
 
Mike Grost here.
Works of art seem vastly more interesting than philosophy. But our
society seems to be promoting the opposite point of view. Works of
art all seem to be dismissed as too high-brow (opera, ballet, poetry,
painting) or too low-brow (comic books, TV shows, mystery stories).
When you try to tell people that they should read great poetic
writers like Aeschylus or Sei Shonagon or Keats, they look at you as
if you are crazy. But if you tell them that old Mystery in Space
comic books are full of great stories, they tell you you must be
stupid. It is a two-pronged assault on the idea that art is all-
important.
Anti-art attitudes have made great progress in my lifetime. In 1947,
85% of American kids read comic books, according to surveys. Today
the figure is around 1%. Today, a film like Unbreakable treats comic
books as the bizarre phenomenon of a freakish minority subculture.
What Americans have lost by not reading comic books is stupendous.
Much of the most imaginative art created in the United States in the
last 70 years is in comics. Comic books are works of art. By losing
them, we have lost a great sea of imagination that used to be all
around us.
In 1911, when the Ballets Russes first appeared in England, they
caused a mass public sensation. Clothes and furniture for a year
reflected their influence. Designer Leon Baskt's use of red-orange
combinations and blue-green combos were unheard of, and were soon
reflected everywhere in clothes and interior design. Women dressed
like the Baskt-costumed stars of Scheherazade. Men noticed too.
Rudolph Valentino's clothes in "The Young Rajah" ten years later
echoed Nijinsky's costume in that ballet. And one can see Minnelli's
use of purple-blue and green in the joyous and beautiful fashion show
of "Lovely to Look At" as his own tribute to the new world opened by
the Ballets Russes.
Is anything like this making a similar splash today? Or are we in an
anti-art mode?
In 1960, I absorbed the idea that intellectuals went to the opera and
ballet. Today there is an insidious attitude that people who actually
like works of art are not really intellectuals. Don't believe this!
Works of art, whether they are TV shows or comics or poems or
ballets, are central to human experience. An hour spent with any of
these things can be of great, great value.
"Things of a Day! What are we and what are we not? A dream about a
shadow is Man. But when some God-given splendor falls, a glory of
light comes over him, and Man's life is sweet as honey." Pindar – 9th
Pythian Ode.

 

506


From: hotlove666
Date: Sun Jul 13, 2003 8:35pm
Subject: Mike's post
 
Three cheers for Mike's fabulous post, which makes good use of a
discipline I only started acquiring recently: history. I no longer
have any faith in any theory whatsoever that's spun out of someone's
guts, like the spider decried by Francis Bacon. Give me facts,
patiently accumulated, with perhaps a guiding hypothesis or two to be
tested, but NO A PRIORI ASSUMPTIONS, and let the theory come out of
them, like the honey out of Bacon's bee. In that sense of "theory," I
really believe that Mike's post could be the starting point for
theoretical formulations. In fact, it already is - breathtakingly so.

I recommend to all members of the group Mark Peranson's interview
with Olivier Assayas, the strongest critic-theorist to come out of
Cahiers du cinema in the post-Daney period, which is posted at
www.cinema-scope.com. The topic is Olivier's last film, but you don't
need to have seen it to read the interview, which makes very
important points about film practice and theory, mainstream and indie
filmmaking, and Bergman and the New Wave. Mike, you'll probably find
things to disagree with, but I think it will also stimulate you to
carry the ideas in your post further, and perhaps in other
directions.

Let me just add that the only reason you don't see the theoretical
side of what you're doing as "theoretical" is that, at the moment,
there are too many brain-dead careerists who call themselves
theorists enthroned in Akademia: spiders spinning frail webs that the
first puff of wind would blow away, if breezes ever reached their
airless cells. You certainly aren't them - but then again, they
aren't really theorists.
507


From:
Date: Sun Jul 13, 2003 4:57pm
Subject: Video, De Toth
 
In a message dated 7/13/03 1:12:56 AM, f@f... writes:

>I don't think people should apologize for seeing things on video on my
>account, but I do think, from the point of view of film criticism, that
>it's bad form to post comments on a film seen only on video without
>acknowledging that that's how you've seen it. Probably no one in the
>world agrees with me, and I'm not going to try to "enforce" this; it's
>just a suggestion. And I'm sure I've violated it myself once or twice
>over the years.

I think it's a useful suggestion since I do agree with your stances on video.
I should be better at prefacing my own posts with this caveat. On the other
hand, when I do see a "classic" film theatrically, I almost always note that
because it's such a treat. I realize that's a kind of backwards way of doing
this. I'm sure I'll work up some ecstatic post after I see "The Big Sleep"
and the Godard "Breathless" (I say "the Godard" since Jim McBride rightfully
commands a lot of respect in these quarters) for the first time theatrically this
coming Wednesday.

>"Ramrod" is a key early de Toth, if you've not seen it. "Day of the
>Outlaw" is to Ramrod as "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is to the
>Cavalry Trilogy. "Day of the Outlaw" begins like another "Rmarod," with
>the scene in the bar liming a network of disputes, and then at the
>moment the "Outlaw" catches the bottle and stops the warfare it goes to
>a whole other level.

I've not seen "Ramrod" yet, but it's on the list. Thanks! I'll also try to
post some comments on "Dark Waters," which I went ahead and ordered.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
508


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Sun Jul 13, 2003 9:29pm
Subject: Re: Story of a K
 
Bill,
Fascinating post, and, like Fred, sort of confirmed how I thought a
lot of this stuff disseminated. While I think the popularity of this
kind of theory within the academic film community may be on the wane,
its continued proliferation has given this type of film theory a
currency outside of the film deptmartment--not just the approach but
the actual "findings" of theory allegedly concerned with film.
Example: last year several Columbia English majors (some of them
acquaintances though not friends) put out a new journal of
"Undergraduate Literary Criticism." What came out had several decent
essays on literature, but one glaring article--written by an English
major--about the "Transexual's Gaze in the Silence of the Lambs,"
which starts out with post-Mulvey feminist film theorists, and only
briefly treats the film in not-too-enlightening analysis. The
mid-section of the article is actually ridiculous and could have been
funny parody since he takes the whole idea of a fear-of-castration
male a la Mulvey absolutely seriously in talking about how a pre-op
transexual would actually *want* to be castrated, then how a post-op
transexual would no longer fear castration, et cetera. (Summarizing
this, it actually sounds interesting but it's not--if you read a
similar article you can imagine this). I initially drafted an angry
letter, but didn't send it--what maddened me that this was supposed to
be a journal of literary criticism--I'm sure if I had suggested an
article more explicitly about a film or even about film aesthetics, it
would have rightly been considered out of bounds of such a publication.

I guess it's not necessarily a bad thing for non-film people to be
interested in film theory, but it's telling that it is always *this*
film theory--I doubt you'd run into a non-cinephile who's interested
in film theory who really likes, say, Bazin's writing. (Or maybe even
knows who is...)


And Ranciere's book on cinema is quite good--I'll post an excerpt
later if I have time; what film theory should be, perhaps.

Patrick
509


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sun Jul 13, 2003 9:55pm
Subject: The last word in Film "Theory": "L'Isle de Gilligan"
 
I have a hard copy of this somewhere, and if I could have found it I
probably would have posted it just about now now, but someone else has
put it on the 'Net, at
http://danny.oz.au/danny/humour/Gilligan

It actually appeared originally in "Lingua Franca" -- "Dissent" must
have reprinted it. And, missing is the funniest part, which is that in
the original version, the article was said to have been a reprint from
another journal -- "Discours du Jour."

I gave a copy of it to Tom Gunning soon after it appeared, and he showed
it to his grad students, one of whom said, "I'll buy that."

And in the process of searching for it on the 'Net, I discovered a
posting of it as an "intriguing reading" to a Foucault list in the
middle of a discussion of interpreting a different TV show. I'd like to
think the poster of it was joking, but fear that he took it seriously.

- Fred
510


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 0:19am
Subject: Re: Story of a K
 
> When (Bellour's) study of the lake-crossing
> in The Birds was published in the Cahiers (full of misprints), they
> had already moved on

I haven't read a lot of Bellour, and I hear he may be more interesting
than I've always believed, but I got very angry reading his close
analysis of MARNIE, which takes pages and pages just to detail the
ideological problems posed by the titles.

It occurred to me that long-ago afternoon, as I kept putting the article
down in exasperation and forcing myself to pick it up again, that we
lack the ability to establish a weighting system of which elements of a
film (or of any work that requires interpretation) are more important
than others, and that without such a weighting system, it's very hard to
call film thinkers on the carpet for losing a sense of proportion.
Imagine the following made-up argument, which is outrageous but
nonetheless somewhat Bellourian: "In the frame, Marnie and the telephone
she is using are symmetrically arranged, of equal visual importance.
Hitchcock visually relegates Marnie to the status of an inanimate
object, of no more significance than the device next to her." Assuming
you want to argue with this, how do you do it? Somehow you have to say,
one way or another, "This isn't important." And that makes you look
shallow.

I had this problem all the time when I took a class from Stanley Cavell,
whom I know Bill admires (and who is no lit-crit person). I was 19 and
not quite a match for Cavell, and it seemed that I was always saying to
him, "No, this isn't important," and he quickly got tired of not being
able to persuade me that I was wrong.

I remember an article by Cavell on RULES OF THE GAME in which he makes
much of the fact that Gaston Modot's gun seems to be pointed at Dalio's
head during the final speech on the steps of the chateau after Roland
Toutain's death. The article was accompanied by a still that showed the
gun pointing at Dalio's head. I thought to myself, "That's not what the
scene is about, it doesn't come across that way when you watch it," just
as I always used to in Cavell's class. The next time I saw the film, I
saw Modot's gun pointing at Dalio's head only for a split-second as
Modot is turning around, before coming to rest at an entirely different
angle. I still think that Cavell's argument came from the still and not
from the movie.

> (Naming no names, one of Bellour's most successful graduates actually
> suppressed shots in a frame analysis of a scene from Stagecoach to
> make his "theory" - which even caricatured Bellour - work.

I've never read this famous article, but I think I indirectly supplied
the frame stills! I had rented STAGECOACH for my film society at
Harvard back in 1973 or 1974, and the author asked if he could borrow my
print to make frame duplications.

> Their lack of
> comprehension of the important theoretical currents in France, which
> were made to burn with a hard, gemlike flame in the Cahiers
> application of them

I must say that, although I've heard some auteurists speak with
admiration of the Cahiers article on YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, I read it with
the same clenched-teeth irritation that so many other texts like this
evoked in me. I could never bring myself to read the follow-up article
on MOROCCO, which is my favorite film in the world - I didn't think I
could take it. It's been years, though. - Dan
511


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 0:44am
Subject: Re: Film theory in the paper
 
> "[Film] can be two things, a useful propaganda tool in a communist
> revolution, or part of the capitalist superstructure, a way of lulling
> the working class into a haze to subdue them and give them an escape
> from the pressures of reality."

Here's someone to whom I would have posed that question, "What do you
think the function of art is?" He probably would have said something
that means, "The purpose of art, like other forms of public
communication, is to promote the communist revolution." In other words,
art has no defining function. Fair enough, I guess - at least the terms
of battle would be clearer.

> At least three
> filmmaker-theorists felt the need to invent a unique word which would
> refer to his own (or his own and colleagues') and no others: the
> "cinematography" film for Bresson, Vertov's "Kino-Eye," and
> Markopoulos's "film as film." (If anyone knows of any other examples,
> I'd love to hear them.)
> And I have long felt that following this pattern
> a critic could write a film theory for filmmakers who did not -- I'm
> going to try Hawks myself someday.

I once made up a film theory for Hitchcock, and gave it a name:
"intrarealism." I was young. But I got published with it. (The basic
idea of "intrarealism" was that the filmmaker promotes a correlation
between closeness of the camera to what it is photographing, and actual
closeness within the film universe.)

> The attempts at a synoptic film theory that I've read fall into two
> categories: those that are just wrong, because they reflect the author's
> own idiosyncratic vision of film, and the "right" ones, which tend to be
> simply not very interesting, because, yes, a Dreyer film and a
> travelogue do have certain things in common, but those things are not
> nearly as different as what makes "Ordet" unique.

"Bassington, you are right - but nonetheless boring." - DESIGN FOR LIVING

- Dan
512


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 0:48am
Subject: Re: Video, De Toth
 
> and the Godard "Breathless" (I say "the Godard" since Jim McBride rightfully
> commands a lot of respect in these quarters)

I really like the McBride BREATHLESS. Back at the LA Reader in the
early 80s, I packed the paper with auteurist critics in an attempt to
get a mini-Cahiers vibe going. While most of the rest of the world
dismissed McBride's remake, two of us ten-bested it at year's end, and
our third critic felt obligated to explain in a note why he didn't
ten-best it. That was fun. - Dan
513


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 1:26am
Subject: Re: Story of a K
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Dan Sallitt wrote:

> of no more significance than the device next to her." Assuming
> you want to argue with this, how do you do it? Somehow you have to
> say, one way or another, "This isn't important." And that makes
> you look shallow.

A while back, Zach, Gabe and I were making fanciful plans towards
starting a film magazine, which we were going to use to jumpstart our
career as international film critical celebrities and take over the
galaxy. It didn't work out, but in the planning phase I learned that
one doesn't say "I think you're over-analyzing this," because a
writer shouldn't have to fear going into great detail in order to
convey his/her interpretation of a film (experience). Probably a
good idea - there are so many things a writer has to worry about, it
would be nice if the fear of being ridiculed for constructing a close
reading was not, in fact, one of them. But in the same conversation
it was suggested (by Gabe, I think) that there are writers who suck
the ever-loving life out of a film in order to build a mass of
complicated, tangled bunkum that passes the most liberal definition
of the word, "analysis."

How to tell one from the other? If you're a reader, I say this: if
the analysis opens up the film for you, gives you a new way of
looking at it, even (sakes!) helps you out with a difficult film; all
in all, if the rewards are worthy of the challenges, then it's a good
piece. If you're the writer, ask yourself these questions: does my
reading [a] make instinctual sense in the process of film viewing
(immediate reactions to a text, regardless of the number of times
you've seen it before, or if you have at all) or [b] intellectual
sense, in considering it afterwards (considered reactions to the
text, "cold" analysis, away from the moment-to-moment viewing
experience). And above all, [c] am I making the film to fit my
analysis, or am I making my analysis to fit the film?

Jaime
514


From:
Date: Sun Jul 13, 2003 9:34pm
Subject: McBride, auteurist ballot-stuffing
 
In a message dated 7/13/03 8:49:48 PM, sallitt@p... writes:

>I really like the McBride BREATHLESS. Back at the LA Reader in the
>early 80s, I packed the paper with auteurist critics in an attempt to
>get a mini-Cahiers vibe going. While most of the rest of the world
>dismissed McBride's remake, two of us ten-bested it at year's end, and
>our third critic felt obligated to explain in a note why he didn't
>ten-best it. That was fun.

That's very, very cool. Something a little similar happened when both me and
my editor at The Film Journal, Rick Curnutte (also a member of this list),
placed Soderbergh's widely panned "Solaris" in the #1 positions of our
respective Top 10s. As far as I'm aware, we were the only two critics in the nation to
have done this. I'm not sure what Soderbergh's reputation is in the
auteurist community, though I think "Solaris" is by far his best film, apt for real
reconsideration someday, and am proud that I was on the bandwagon waaay before
it was fashionable.

I think McBride's a terrific talent. His "Breathless" is great, though my
favorite is probably "The Big Easy." For Zach, as an addendum to the TV
conversation: the IMDB indicates he directed a few "Wonder Years" episodes too.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
515


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 1:50am
Subject: Soderbergh
 
> I'm not sure what Soderbergh's reputation is in the
> auteurist community, though I think "Solaris" is by far his best film

I'm not sure either. I never liked him before SOLARIS - I don't know if
I'd say the new film was a total success, but it was the first of his
films that felt expressive to me. I haven't seen all his work, but I've
caught some of the big titles (SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, KING OF THE HILL,
OUT OF SIGHT, TRAFFIC). - Dan
516


From:
Date: Sun Jul 13, 2003 10:03pm
Subject: Film and Theory
 
The discussion on film and theory is really interesting!
Fred Camper's comments seem deeply true:

>my goal [as a writer on film] was to produce a
>deeper, more meaningful, and, well, more ecstatic viewing of the films,
>for myself and for others.

>As I think I've said before here, the aesthetic pleasure of a great film
>can't be fully translated. The viewing experience has ecstatic,
>ineffable, chaotic, even orgasmic aspects. But it's also not true that
>it has no themes, no implications; things can be said. One proof of that
>is that many filmmakers have said them. I want both. But I would like
>that the latter illuminate and deepen the former.
This is exactly true!

I also plan to learn much more about the writers praised by Bill Krohn in his
posts. They are all new to me - they are part of a world of French film
criticism that is unfamiliar here. The article on Minnelli and decor sounds very
interesting!
Mike Grost
517


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 5:53am
Subject: Re: Theory and akademia
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper wrote:

> If there are "theory" essays that you find valuable and that don't
> deny some kind of subjectivity, name names please.

I'll consider my bluff called, since I can't, off-hand, name names.
Maybe there aren't any, but there might be one or two. I enjoy any
writer who opens my eyes to new things, etc...even someone who seems
to think he's passing down the Absolute Truth About Film, like
Siegfried Kracauer, has been instrumental in my learning process.

In the end, I guess all I have to say is something completely
tautological like: I don't like theory that I don't like, but I *do*
like the stuff that I like. Since film has so far denied everyone's
attempts to lay down the law, I tend to approach an essay with an
attitude of, I can take this or leave it, or take part of it but
reject the rest, etc.

> I didn't really understand your reference). [re: Plato and the cave]

The Plato/cave allegory has been my touchstone for talking about how
we can't escape our subjective impressions of the world. I've read
the Baudry essay, also.

> and asked Sitney what he thought of them, and he had a great
> response: "This type of discourse is only interesting on the level
> of not discussing actual things."

Isn't that kind of obvious, though? That's why they call
it 'theory'. A person *has* to deal with gravity, with the phsyical
aspects of his environment and his body, etc., but he can go his
whole life, very happily, without picking up a film theory essay: he
can dedicate his life to 'actual things.' I wouldn't want to be that
person, at the moment.

> It doesn't work so well if you're a mediocre, or pretty
> good, film professor. To apply this to another field, writing, a
> lot of people can become at least pretty good journalists, and do
> some useful work. Perhaps a lot can also become "pretty good"
> poets, but I don't have a whole lot of use for pretty good poets.
> Some fields are a lot more demanding than others, and I think in
> that respect philosophy is more like poetry.

I don't have a whole lot of use for poets at all, except film poets,
and there are a lot of journalists I'd be pleased to trade for a
mediocre poet or a pretty good film professor, but I see your point.
I only hope I'm not doomed by its implications.

Jaime
518


From: rpporton55
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 3:27pm
Subject: Re: Theory and akademia
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Jaime N. Christley" <
j_christley@y...> wrote:
> --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper
wrote:
>

>
>
> I don't have a whole lot of use for poets at all, except film poets,
> and there are a lot of journalists I'd be pleased to trade for a
> mediocre poet or a pretty good film professor, but I see your
point.
> I only hope I'm not doomed by its implications.
>
> Jaime

I have been following the disucssion on academia and
auteurism on this board with great interest. Although I respect
aspects of the auteurist tradition and have a marginal
relationship to the academic world, iIam neither a hard-core
autueurist nor a full-time academic.
In fact, I am nothing if not ambivalent concerning the academic
world. Although I completed the Ph.D. prorgarm at the NYU
cinema studies department, I hate the pettiness , and
trendiness, that seem part and parcel of academia. When I
started at NYU in 1978, no one thought it unusual that people
like Jay Leyda , Annette Michelson, and William K. Everson never
endured Phd programs or wrote doctoral dissertations. (As far
as I know, aside from Jay's studies with Eiseinstein, he had no
formal training and I rather doubt that Everson got beyond
secondary school in England). Annette may have been nuts
(and still is as far as I know), but these people were respected
for their passionate interest in film, not because they were
adherents of some fashionable academic trend. As I wrote in
Cineaste last year, when a graduate student told me that she
could no longer go to the movies because of her need to "stay
home and read Lacan," I knew cinephilia was doomed . It
seemed to make some sort of resurgence last year with a
conference on cinephilia at the department, but I fear that might
have merely entailed making cinephilia another academic field
of inquiry.

Since I have to flee the confines of this apartment soon, I'll just
tell a few, I hope telling, anecdotes before leaving—and without
undue commentary:
While I was teaching a graduate class at NYU last semester,
Chris Straayer (who I like very much and has proved friendlier
than any other recent chair of that department) asked me to
formulate a few questions for the PhD exams in Italian Cinema
and American cinema before the sound period After I submitted
several questions on American cinema to Bob Sklar, he told me
that several would have to be revised. I had asked several
questions , on motifs in Keaton and Stroheim's film style, that
were viewed as unacceptable. "Are these questions considered
overly auteursist?",, I asked. He nodded and later rewrote them
to address questions of sexual politics and the relationship of
silent comedy to issues raised by the Frankfurt School.

In addition, although I for the most part enjoyed teaching the
NYU students , I was a bit puzzled by how all cinematic and
historical questions are now filtered through the lens of gender.
I'm sympathetic to both feminism and gay rights, but
occasionally the current obsessions in cultural studies make
class discussion rather farcical. For example, towards the end of
the semester, I screened Dusan Makavejev's WR: Mysteries of
the Organism and discussed it within the context of May '68, the
Situationists, and of course Reich (The Situationists, particularly
Raoul Vaneigem, were very interested in Reich.) One student
raised his hand during the discussion and remarked, "This film
is unacceptable; it has a heterosexist bias and makes no
mention of the gay Sitiatuionists from '68." It was all very
ludicrous, but I didn't quite know how to respond. For one thing,
WR is obviously not a "Situationist" film (Debord and Co.
probably would have hated it). I merely was providing some sort
of provocative context. And the ahistorical nature of the
comments were astounding—the fact that the student didn't take
into consideration that this was a film by a Yugoslavian director
and that gay liberation was in an embryonic stage etc. For me
this illustrated the difference betwen "poltical corectness" and
true radicalism.

Gotta go, Richard Porton
519


From: Rick Curnutte
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 3:29pm
Subject: Re: McBride, auteurist ballot-stuffing
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, ptonguette@a... wrote:

> That's very, very cool. Something a little similar happened when
both me and
> my editor at The Film Journal, Rick Curnutte (also a member of
this list),
> placed Soderbergh's widely panned "Solaris" in the #1 positions of
our
> respective Top 10s. As far as I'm aware, we were the only two
critics in the nation to
> have done this.


If I recall correctly, Peter, we took quite a pounding over at CMers
for this position, as well. Perhaps that just goes to show how right
we were...

Rick
520


From:
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 5:37pm
Subject: Theory and academia; Goals for Auteurists
 
Mike Grost here.
It's a Monday, and back to work. I've shed yesterday’s green velvet suit with a sunflower in the lapel, mark of Walter Pater's aesthetic movement in the 1880's, and am now in the pinstriped suit and spit shined wingtips of a businessman. (Actually, like most business people in 2003, I am just wearing a pair of Dockers. I did enjoy wearing pinstripe suits till Business Casual emerged around 1996. They looked exactly like the suits worn by men in film noir. Think of Glen Ford's hero in The Big Heat (Fritz Lang, 1953), or James Craig's villain in Side Street (Anthony Mann, 1950). Craig's character might have been rotten to the core, but he did know how to look sharp.)
All this does bring up one of the main approaches of the business world: setting goals.
What are our goals for auteurism?
Implicit in the discussion so far are several different goals, possibly contradictory to each other. Which of these do we really want to pursue?
1) Educate everyone on Earth in the ideas of auteurism, perhaps using the Internet as a medium of instruction.
2) Get jobs for all auteurists as reviewers for mass magazines, such as Teen People, Better Homes and Gardens, and the New Yorker.
3) Get faculty positions in academia for all auteurists.
4) Change the minds of every university faculty staff member on Earth, so that they become auteurists.
5) To have every high school and college student in the world study the auteur theory, and auteurist histories of film such as Andrew Sarris' The American Cinema.

I long ago picked 1) as the goal to pursue. It seems like a big but perhaps achievable goal.
I think 5) might eventually happen, too, but it will take longer.
We can write up out ideas, publish them on the Internet, and share them with anyone who is willing to listen.
We are not going to make any money by doing this.
But we ARE going to educate and inform a whole host of film lovers.
Is 1) a good goal?
If so, what concrete steps can we take to reach it?
521


From: Zach Campbell
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 6:46pm
Subject: Theory and academia
 
Thanks Fred and Bill for your very informative responses. Scattered
points below –

Fred, NYU Ph.D. dissertations in Cinema Studies are almost guaranteed
to be more sociologically-based than some place like Wisconsin
(Bordwell's home). Lauren Steimer, the absolutely impeccable TA
Jaime mentioned, was writing her dissertation on Hong Kong action
cinema and the place of women/feminist heroes, from a Marxist
perspective. It might be standard grad-student theoretical work by
description, though anyone who would dismiss it on account of this
alone would be making a mistake – as they don't know Lauren. Even if
we postulate that upper-level (or all) Cinema Studies represents a
negative trend, I'm convinced there's enough good work being done by
good people to make up for it.

Fred wrote: "There's a difference between celebrating -- while also
trying to understand -- one's subjective ecstasy at the camera
movements in "Fallen Angel," and trying to understand how late
capitalism has constructed our subjectivity as an example of some
kind of regressive tendency that needs to be overcome." You're
right, and not only is there a difference between two things, but
they don't even necessarily conflict. Camera-movement-induced
ecstacy opens up a new can of worms regardless of whether or not
capitalism has constructed one's subjectivity.

Bill, your history lesson was invaluable.

Patrick's SILENCE OF THE LAMBS anecdote is telling: I'm a firm
believer in applying theory and testing hypotheses in the real
("real") world, but a big problem with some of this applied theory is
that the writers have (in my opinion) elementary comprehension skills
when it comes to form. A theory should, ideally, equally illuminate
(or equally not illuminate) any or most film texts, but writers
almost exclusively stick to (a) really mainstream films, which others
will be more likely to read as symptomatic, or (b) independent films
that explicitly foreground (or very clearly provide a subtext) for
the topic at hand. I would be willing to provide examples if anyone
wants, though something tells me I wouldn't be changing anyone's
minds here if I did.

And Richard, I'm glad to hear your positive comments about Chris
Straayer, for whom I have nothing but respect and admiration. I
think she's a brilliant teacher. As far as your fear of cinephilia's
death, I can only say that the youth contingent on this list itself
should be encouraging, shouldn't it?

Mike – I don't know how successful an attempt to position auteurism
as a universal foundation for film studies (in and out of
universities) would be, but your goals are great, distinct pathways.
I would love to have a stint for a while at a major magazine or
newspaper, though I know the reality of mainstream reviewing would
disallow what I think would be the ideal role for the mainstream
critic. Nobody knows what the future holds, but provided I can find
the money I do hope to eventually earn a Ph.D. and teach (and it's
likely this will be in cinema studies). I'd love to do a generalist
class like undergrad film theory, but as far as my specialty goes it
seems inevitable that I would gravitate to theories of authorship.
Surprise.

Thanks for providing great reading on the subject, folks – my weekend
left only a little downtime, which I spent most of catching up on the
posts. Needless to say I still felt productive …

--Zach
522


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 7:04pm
Subject: Re: Theory and academia; Goals for Auteurists
 
> Implicit in the discussion so far are several different goals,
> possibly contradictory to each other. Which of these do we really
> want to pursue?
> 1) Educate everyone on Earth in the ideas of auteurism, perhaps using
> the Internet as a medium of instruction.
> 2) Get jobs for all auteurists as reviewers for mass magazines, such
> as Teen People, Better Homes and Gardens, and the New Yorker.
> 3) Get faculty positions in academia for all auteurists.
> 4) Change the minds of every university faculty staff member on
> Earth, so that they become auteurists.
> 5) To have every high school and college student in the world study
> the auteur theory, and auteurist histories of film such as Andrew
> Sarris' The American Cinema.

I don't have a goal (I'm a bad businessperson), but I have one comment.
I don't think everyone should be an auteurist. If you really like, say,
HIGH NOON (I don't mean to make it hard for people to defend any
particular film, but as long as HIGH NOON has already been widely
attacked here, let's pretend that it's a Platonic instance of a film
that no auteurist could possibly defend), you probably shouldn't waste a
lot of time trying to convince yourself that you like it because of the
direction. If you love to see Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in
anything, you don't have to bother remembering the directors' names.

Mind you, I think it would be great to have college classes where you
try to convince kids that they only thought they used to like HIGH NOON,
right down the hall from the classes where the kids are being convinced
that they only thought they used to like capitalism. But, if the lesson
doesn't take, then those kids have no reason to bother with auteurism
any longer. - Dan
523


From: hotlove666
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 7:31pm
Subject: Goals
 
I subscribe to all of Mike's goals, but I'm putting them in a larger
context. I think the auteur theory (as it's called here) needs to
become a politique (as it's called in France) for all this to
happen. That's why I strongly recommend the Assayas interview
to everyone in the group: He is the only recent Cahiers critic who
sees film as part of the world, and artistic use of film as political -
but not in the silly sense practiced in Akademia and the
all-turniphead press, where "All the characters are bourgeois!" is
the default jibe for those critics who aren't surreptitiously edging
toward a neocon version of PC ("Nonjudgemental portrayal of
teens killing each other is irresponsible!").

What Olivier had just started doing before he went off to make
films was to propose theses like: "Fellini, and his apotheosis at
the hands of critics, was an answer/alternative to the New Wave"
- looking at the whole terrain of contemporary film as a
battlefield, not between classes, but between kinds of film, and
then seeing that in the context of the contemporary world where
film plays an ever larger role. What's bracing about his latest,
which is that post I cited, is that it sees film and film theory as
being about now, today, and as being very important because of
the huge role film and its offshoots play in that contemporary
world. (OA is a Debord disciple, but he has gone past Debord's
theses about spectacle and is talking now about dreams.)

I'd put it this way: If linguistics is the queen of the human
sciences, film criticism, in the fullest sense, is the queen of
"communications studies," because film is the center and origin
of the whole complex of audiovisual practices which play such a
huge role in modern life - the center, and often the model, as in
Dan's observation that news programs model themselves on
movie conventions today. So obviously, people who understand
film have a big contribution to make in tandem with the artists
who are practicing the art - and you might be surprised at how
Olivier reads the "rapports de force" on that terrain today, where
he sees some mainstream films like FIGHT CLUB or even
CONSPIRACY THEORY as making stabs at exploring
contemporary reality (usually compromised after the first act by
the development process), and most indies as expressing
defensive nostalgia for a simpler days.

The good news is that there's really a lot to do, on this site and
elsewhere, and the competition is idiots. The bad news: They
have jobs. We have to work on that.
524


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 7:47pm
Subject: Re: Theory and academia
 
Zach, I did know that NYU Ph. D.s in cinema studies tended to be
"sociologically based." I heard recently that someone is doing one there
on the social history of gay film festivals. I think this is a perfectly
fine topic and is doubtless worthy of study. Most of the topics probably
are. And I don't rule out any particular approach either. What I object
to is the almost total absence of aesthetically-based dissertations. Has
some great revelation occurred in the last few decades that "proved"
that the aesthetic experience of a viewer of a film is no longer worthy?
I must have missed it -- unless it was the Brian Henderson statement I
cited earlier. One can no longer, it seems, argue that Perminger's
camera movements (my boilerplate example du jour, especially since it
has echoes with the incidents that precipitated our group's founding)
have such and such meanings and implications based on their effect on a
sensitive viewer.

I agree that capitalism can have an effect on the way one sees things. I
think what I object to is the knee-jerk attitude that that effect must
always be bad. However, the tone of that LA Times article is
increasingly bothering me, as I start to worry that that department will
suffer in some massive "Red scare" backlash that will reduce their
funding and be bad for academia in general -- and I consider myself no
great advocate for academia. If anyone hears of any effects, please
inform us. -- and I consider myself no great advocate for academia.

Re Patrick's citation of "The Silence of the Lambs" article and the
discussion in general, an editor at a film journal in the late 70s told
me that the all too many of his submissions were, it seemed, from
assistant professors that began with 20 pages on Lacan and then followed
with two or three pages on a film -- without any interesting or even
intelligible connections being made.

In response to Mike and Dan, first of all, I agree that not everyone is
cut out to be an auteurist. Not every autuerist is cut out to be an
auteurist 24/7. I know lots of card-carrying auteurists in good standing
who will say, I enjoy (plug in bad film or TV show here) a lot, but it's
of no interest aesthetically / the direction is not interesting, but
it's good for other reasons / It's trash but I like it anyway / whatever
other phrase they might use.

Anyway, for me, auteurism itself is not a goal, but a means to an end.
What I care about is deepening my own and others' experiences of films
and art, helping to effect complex and pleasurable and deeply meaningful
experiences that, old 60s type that I am, I still think might change
consciousness. It would be my claim that this is more likely to happen
to you when you see six great Walsh films and think of the relationships
they have to each other (and I don't mean themes) than when you see six
great films photographed by John Alton and try to focus on common
elements in the cinematography, or six great Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films
and try to focus on what the studio's products had in common, though
both are not unworthy ventures.

I still haven't read the article on Spielberg Zach posted a link to -- I
got lost early, in the plot synopsis of "Hook" -- though I will try to
return. But I do remember reading an "auteurist" treatment of Spielberg
in perhaps the early 80s. It focused on common themes, and there was
almost nothing about the way his films looked. I would much prefer an
interesting and intelligible (even if wrong) analysis of how the
pleasure I get out of Preminger's camera movements was a result of my
unconscious acceptance of bourgeois ideology than another auteurist
study like that one. So I can't see "auteurism" in and of itself as
being either a good or bad thing. I mean, if when I got interested in
film in 1963 the "auteurists" were all praising Zinneman and Stevens and
Wyler and Wellman and trashing Hawks and Ford and Sirk and Borzage, the
movement would have a whole different rep today.

Finally, back to Zach: if you remember our group's formation, Peter
suggested it, and I was the only one to fully sign on at first. I value
the knowledgeable input of people my age and older here (yes, there is
at least one who's older) enormously, and have already learned a lot
from them, but I'm not sure I would have been interested in getting this
going at the time it was proposed if Peter were my age rather than 20,
and if the group didn't promise to have people of all ages. And yes, of
course, meeting young people who genuinely love cinema for interesting
reasons does give one hope. But you guys don't seem to be anything close
to the majority in film study programs, right?

I'll save the story of my two-hour conversation with an undergrad major
in film directing at UCLA, in 1990, for another time, but suffice it to
say he'd seen almost no films before the 1980s, and hadn't even heard of
anything, and didn't seem very interested either.

- Fred
525


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 8:10pm
Subject: Re: Goals
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "hotlove666" wrote:
> I subscribe to all of Mike's goals, but I'm putting them in a larger
> context.

I'm narrowing the context, I guess. The goal is: to exhume the films; to get all of them shown on screens again, in repertory, in perpetuity.

I'm not an academic, but academia is obviously one starting place for this enterprise (remembering that there were some early auteurist retrospectives on campuses, though not very many I suppose, in the '70s, before the wind shifted...)
526


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 8:34pm
Subject: Re: Theory and academia
 
> And yes, of
> course, meeting young people who genuinely love cinema for interesting
> reasons does give one hope. But you guys don't seem to be anything close
> to the majority in film study programs, right?

I find it interesting, though, that all the self-described auteurist
types on the movie boards seem to be over 45 or under 25. Am I
forgetting anyone?

> I'll save the story of my two-hour conversation with an undergrad major
> in film directing at UCLA, in 1990, for another time, but suffice it to
> say he'd seen almost no films before the 1980s, and hadn't even heard of
> anything, and didn't seem very interested either.

Younger film buffs often have a problem that isn't their fault: they
didn't grow up with old-Hollywood style on their TVs, and therefore have
to bridge a culture gap to enjoy pre-60s films. (They often revere 70s
American cinema, which is a sign that they want more art than they're
getting.) My generation had a similar problem with silent film, and we
had to work hard to appreciate silents as much as sound films, whereas
film buffs one generation older than I had grown up with silent cinema
still around, and have no trouble with that era's customs. - Dan
527


From: programming
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 9:05pm
Subject: Re: Theory and academia
 
> I find it interesting, though, that all the self-described auteurist
> types on the movie boards seem to be over 45 or under 25.  Am I
> forgetting anyone?
>
>
> ME! I'm smack in the middle. I'm a self-described auteurist type (for the
> most part), but not an obsessive or omniverous one (fortunately or
> unfortunately?). [References: yesterday saw Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's
> Diary, an okay film by a okay non-auteur, and Seven Men from Now, a great
> film by a great auteur]
>
Patrick (F. not C.)




[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
528


From: hotlove666
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 9:19pm
Subject: Query
 
Does anyone think all directors are auteurs?
529


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 9:38pm
Subject: Re: TV (footnote)
 
The recent tv posts reminded me that the last nighttime show I ever watched regularly was "Northern Exposure" -- I make no particular claims for its mise en scene, but the series suggested something of the feeling of the benevolent community in a sort of unending Renoir film. It was, of course, a terminally quirky community for many viewers -- although, interestingly enough, one portrayed as founded by a pair of (unfortunately non-indigenous) lesbians, no less. An old movie house, sometimes presided over by the teenage cinephile and documentarian, Ed, had an occasional place in this community. There was one memorable episode in which Maurice (Barry Corbin) balked at being offered senior admission; another featuring a suspiciously Kael-like filmgoer who commented and explicated her way noisily through a screening. Best of all, though, and my principal reason for bringing this up, was the show in which Bogdanovich, playing himself, came to town (at Ed's invitation) to address the film society. If I remember correctly, wonderful clips from AMBERSONS were shown, and a copy of Bogdanovich (and Rosenbaum)'s "This Is Orson Welles" was held up before the camera. As auteurism goes, that was only Auteurism 101, I suppose, but it seemed pretty enlightened for American network television.
530


From: hotlove666
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 9:47pm
Subject: Peter Bogdanovich on Northern Exposure
 
I didn't see it, but I heard that in his guest episode Peter talked
about his deep interest in Robert Graves' White Goddess
feminist counter-mythology. He used to do a year-planner with a
tree calendar (month-names based on trees rather than
emperors, 28-day months to match the moon cycle and the
female menstrual cycle), which he sent out to everyone on his
Christmas list. As recounted to me, the DJ interviewing him on
the program was stunned to learn all this. I believe the mythical
symbolism is used discreetly in the films.
531


From:
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 5:59pm
Subject: Re: Peter Bogdanovich on Northern Exposure
 
In a message dated 7/14/03 5:52:06 PM, hotlove666@y... writes:

>I didn't see it, but I heard that in his guest episode Peter talked
>about his deep interest in Robert Graves' White Goddess
>feminist counter-mythology. He used to do a year-planner with a
>tree calendar (month-names based on trees rather than
>emperors, 28-day months to match the moon cycle and the
>female menstrual cycle), which he sent out to everyone on his
>Christmas list. As recounted to me, the DJ interviewing him on
>the program was stunned to learn all this. I believe the mythical
>symbolism is used discreetly in the films.

So do I. Though it's hard to pinpoint exactly how it manifests itself, it's
definitely present in the attitudes of a lot of the post-"Saint Jack" films.
That was, I believe, around the time PB first got into Robert Graves. Orson
Welles - who was mad about Graves (see his delightful though completely serious
commentary about the moon in "Filming 'The Trial'") - had suggested the books
to him years earlier, the story goes.

But if Dorothy Stratten and Audrey Hepburn aren't treated like goddesses in
"They All Laughed," I don't know who is.

David Chase was behind "Northern Exposure" and, I've read, it was on the
basis of Bogdanovich's guest appearance on that show that he later hired him for
"The Sopranos."

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
532


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 9:59pm
Subject: Re: Query
 
> Does anyone think all directors are auteurs?

The terms are difficult. If someone asked, "Does anyone think that all
films are good films?" it would be easy to answer in the negative,
because it's given that there's a continuum between good and bad, and
that a good film is one that passes a certain cutoff value. But we
don't assume the same thing with directors: the auteur terminology
carries with it a digital, on/off connotation that makes the question
hard to answer. I'd be willing to say, "No, Zinnemann isn't an auteur"
if that didn't make it sound as if he never did anything expressive in
his life. - Dan
533


From:
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 6:04pm
Subject: Re: Soderbergh
 
In a message dated 7/13/03 9:51:24 PM, sallitt@p... writes:

>I'm not sure either. I never liked him before SOLARIS - I don't know if
>I'd say the new film was a total success, but it was the first of his
>films that felt expressive to me. I haven't seen all his work, but I've
>caught some of the big titles (SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, KING OF THE HILL,
>OUT OF SIGHT, TRAFFIC).

Part of it might be that "Solaris" was so consciously conceived as a step
forward by Soderbergh. I think that after several years of testing his skills
with studio assignments and going far afield with little experiments like "Full
Frontal," he really wanted to bring it all together and produce a major
personal statement. He's said as much in interviews. For my money, it worked. I
think "Solaris" is a great movie full of amazing things: as a screed on the
fallibility of memory and people's willingness to be seduced by illusions, it's
little short of heartbreaking. It's also just beautifully put together with
the most artfully done flashbacks I've seen in an American movie in a long, long
time and with a sophisticated mise en scene predicated on Soderbergh's
beautiful shallow focus compositions.

Admittedly, I might be slightly biased due to his very honorable promoting of
Richard Lester, practically a forgotten figure when put next to the Scorseses
and Coppolas of that generation. But I wouldn't have argued for Soderbergh
as a major figure prior to "Solaris." Now I would.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
534


From: Zach Campbell
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 11:01pm
Subject: Re: Theory and academia
 
Fred wrote:
> But you guys don't seem to be anything close
> to the majority in film study programs, right?

No, not as far as 'cinephilia' as I like to define it goes. But
there are all different types, probably not one majority group in the
department. So, for what it's worth, auteurist-sympathetic
cinephilia is holding its own given the eclecticism of the
environment.

--Zach
535


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 11:25pm
Subject: Re: Re: Theory and academia
 
Zach Campbell wrote:

>....So, for what it's worth, auteurist-sympathetic
>cinephilia is holding its own given the eclecticism of the
>environment.
>
>
>
I gather you're an optimist. That's great, and it may give you a happier
life than I have had, not that my life has been all that awful.

Applying the old "optimist says the glass is half full, pessimist says
it's half empty" joke to the above, the way I'd say it is that the great
majority of students in a department devoted to the study of film don't
actually love films.

Fred
536


From:
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 7:29pm
Subject: Re: Theory and academia
 
In a message dated 7/14/03 3:51:41 PM, f@f... writes:

>One can no longer, it seems, argue that Perminger's
>camera movements (my boilerplate example du jour, especially since it
>has echoes with the incidents that precipitated our group's founding)
>have such and such meanings and implications based on their effect on a
>sensitive viewer.

This is a big problem, I think, though it spills over into a lot of writing
about film outside of academia too. There's a quote from Steve Erickson's inter
view with Manohla Dargis - a smart critic, though I'm not sure if she can be
considered an auteurist - which sums up my feelings pretty well:

"Even reviewers who are somewhat more ambitious than the average hack tend to
write about movies as if they're reviewing books. They pay very little if any
attention to the specifics of the medium, to how a film makes meaning with
images – with framing, editing, mise en scène, with the way an actor moves his
body in front of the camera. To read most film critics in the United States you
wouldn't know that film is a visual medium."

A suggestion: could the lack of widespread mainstream acceptance of auteurism
be related to the fact that many of the people who write about film don't
look at cinema this way? Would it be possible to identify a Preminger film as a
Preminger film if one largely ignored the compositions, the camera moves, the
editing, the >space< of his films?

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
537


From: hotlove666
Date: Mon Jul 14, 2003 11:31pm
Subject:
 
could the lack of widespread mainstream acceptance of
auteurism
be related to the fact that many of the people who write about film
don't
look at cinema this way? Would it be possible to identify a
Preminger film as
a
Preminger film if one largely ignored the compositions, the
camera moves, the
editing, the >space< of his films?

Yep. Been a problem. Is a problem. Will continue to be a
problem.
538


From: rpporton55
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 1:13am
Subject: Re: Theory and academia
 
--- In
>
>
> P
>
> And Richard...
> t As far as your fear of cinephilia's
> death, I can only say that the youth contingent on this list itself
> should be encouraging, shouldn't it?

Yes, I agree with you. Perhaps I was being a little snide. I
sincerely liked the people who organized the NYU cinephilia
conference and I'm impressed with the passion for film evinced
by the young people on this list, as well as Cinemasters. In truth,
my comments weren't really meant to be ad hominem. The point
really is that when academics get hold of an alluring idea——
cinephilia might be one example—they often turn it into
something dry and deadly . Of course this isn't always true—
there are academics who write lucid , jargon-free prose and
don't view their "fields" as personal fiefdoms. This really has
more to do with Russell Jacoby's argument that something has
been lost now that intellectuals are forced to become
credentialized and professionalized . It seems doubtful that the
department would now hire Leyda or Everson sans PhDs . "And
that's really a pity—despite the fact that I have a PhD myself!

Richard

Richard
>
>
539


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 3:52am
Subject: Re: Theory and academia
 
> "Even reviewers who are somewhat more ambitious than the average hack tend to
> write about movies as if they're reviewing books. They pay very little if any
> attention to the specifics of the medium, to how a film makes meaning with
> images – with framing, editing, mise en scène, with the way an actor moves his
> body in front of the camera. To read most film critics in the United States you
> wouldn't know that film is a visual medium."
>
> A suggestion: could the lack of widespread mainstream acceptance of auteurism
> be related to the fact that many of the people who write about film don't
> look at cinema this way? Would it be possible to identify a Preminger film as a
> Preminger film if one largely ignored the compositions, the camera moves, the
> editing, the >space< of his films?

Sarris said something very like Dargis's comment once. Bazin always
took a different tack: he was interested in the likeness among art forms
as well as the differences, and he resisted the idea that film is a
visual medium, emphasizing instead its realism as its essential
characteristic.

I think that a blind person with some sensitivity should be able to pick
up a lot of the differences between good and bad films. I think that
good films have a sort of gestalt, a state of being that all the
constituent parts partake of. - Dan
540


From: hotlove666
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 4:02am
Subject: Query
 
But has anyone ever toyed with the idea that all directors are
auteurs, even though clearly some are good and others aren't? I know
all the definitions of the word and am not asking to hear them again -
including the ones that would exclude people widely thought to be
auteurs (Guy Maddin, apparently, being one of them for one member of
this group). But I remember for some reason having to see a couple of
films by Joseph Pevney - Back to God's Country and another, I forget
which, maybe Yankee Pasha - where the titular hero (Rock Hudson in
God's Country) was sytematically devalued by the story and by
whatever the director, whose powers were obviously limited, could do
to accentuate the devaluation. I wondered how far that would check
out if I just kept going, but of course dropped the idea. I always
remembered a Cahiers article on Spenser's Mountain by Jean-Louis
Noames (who now writes under his real name of Louis Skorecki in Libe,
and is very respected) called: "Delmer Daves, or the Scent of Glazed
Chestnuts." I didn't realize then that there's a Daves cult that grew
out of the cineclub movement in France, which Positif, with its
liberal political engagements, was always particularly supportive of.
And in fact I later saw A Summer Place and Dark Passage at Amiens and
realized that there was something there. Not a lot, to be sure. But
mainly I always rembered Loulou's phrase, and another he penned in
some other article: "Delmer Daves, always confronted with a screen
too large for him to fill." (Greg Ford was also good at this kind of
just-for-fun taxonomic extremism.) And I wondered if it was possible
that in some meaningful sense, having very little or nothing at all
to do with quality, every director was in fact an auteur, with
thematic, stylistic and even spiritual (ineffable) continuities that
could be traced out by anyone equipped with an eye or an ear or a
soul for similaritiesl, and a strong stomach. Has anyone else ever
had that idea, even fleetingly? I think the ritual phrase when an
example of it would come up used to be, "That way lies madness."
541


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 4:37am
Subject: 'Scandal' at Kino?
 
A search for information on the new DVD of Sirk's A SCANDAL IN PARIS (Sirks on disc are still fairly novel) led me to Kino's site. I've only encountered the film in 16, and wondered if this could conceivably come from a 35mm source. If so, it doesn't say -- but here's what it does say: Kino describes this as well as each of the other '30s and '40s films in its series as: "Letterboxed 1.85:1"!

I suppose, though, it's inadvisable to be too literal-minded when reading even manufacturers' own web sites...?

http://www.kino.com/video/news-classics_from_vault.html
543


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 5:10am
Subject: Re: Query
 
> And I wondered if it was possible
> that in some meaningful sense, having very little or nothing at all
> to do with quality, every director was in fact an auteur, with
> thematic, stylistic and even spiritual (ineffable) continuities that
> could be traced out by anyone equipped with an eye or an ear or a
> soul for similaritiesl, and a strong stomach. Has anyone else ever
> had that idea, even fleetingly?

More than fleetingly, but I eventually developed a theory that goes in
the other direction. That theory, which I expounded recently on That
Other List, is that a collection of skilled craftspeople, left to their
own devices, almost inevitably produce non-art, something mediocre. I
don't think this is just a matter of chaos, of conflicting bits of art
cancelling each other out: I think there's something about craft
expertise that wants to choose the most pre-digested, unchallenging
vehicle. This has definitely been my experience making movies: to
produce something without character, all you have to do is listen to
everything that the DP, sound person, art director, actors, etc. tell you.

So there's a model for how to be a non-auteur: just let everyone do
their job. Obviously the occasional craftsperson will think more like
an artist.

As I write this out, I realize that this theory needs another,
lower-level theory to support it. Because what does it mean for art to
be "predigested, unchallenging," and why is this bad? Here's my
lower-level theory: for art to work, the mind of the audience member has
to be distracted from its normal function of finding concepts for what
it sees and hears. Because concepts eliminate complexity, by
definition. Think of a soap opera actor having to tell a lie. He or
she will shift his or her eyes around, show discomfort, finally speak
unnaturally. (I just saw Audrey Tautou do this tonight in DIRTY PRETTY
THINGS. It happens all the time. Scott Fitzgerald, talking about Joan
Crawford's acting, called it "an impersonation of Benedict Arnold
selling West Point to the British.") We all know that almost no one
does this in real life, and yet almost everyone does it in the movies.
It communicates clearly. The audience is left in no doubt: a lie is
being told. In fact, this is all that it's possible for the audience to
think or feel: it's a concept and nothing else.

For some reason most actors will want to do this if you don't tell them
not to. I suspect they want that bond with the audience, don't want to
risk it.

If you want the audience to have a more complicated, multileveled
experience at such a moment, you have to do two things: feed them a
"cover" concept so they let their guard down, then do something else
that doesn't integrate perfectly with the cover concept. Perhaps the
concept of "telling a lie" can be conveyed by context or some small
indicator, while the actor slips in other emotions that connect to other
parts of the film.

Anyway, this is very sketchy, but I'm trying to argue that there's a
baseline for "predigested, unchallenging," an easy way out that is
usually taken and which reduces the art to something so simple that the
mind gets no sense of experience from it.

So maybe a director has to earn being an auteur, that the easiest thing
to do is to let the craftspeople produce a non-experience for you. In
some cases, maybe the director tries hard but still produces a
non-experience because he or she prefers it.

- Dan
544


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 6:38am
Subject: NOT AS A STRANGER
 
It would be sacrilege on this list to suggest that Stanley Kramer is
an auteur, but I saw the last thirty minutes of this film in a bar
(without sound) and it actually seems like rather an amazing film,
with lots of dynamic camera movement and rather pungent
crosscutting--but Kramer is shit, how to explain this? I wasn't aware
of this film at all, but it actually seemed rather amazing--am I
hallucinating in enbriation, or does Kramer has some unforeseen
talent? This is somewhat troubling...

PWC
545


From: hotlove666
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 7:23am
Subject: Devil's Advocate
 
Yes, but before that, Dan, when you were entertaining the more than
fleeting idea that maybe Sam Wood was an auteur, too. (Half his
output was silents. Who knows? A fascist auteur, perhaps, according
to Groucho, but so was Leni Reifenstahl.)

I love your idea of a director having to cancel what the cast and
crew will do if left to their own devices (although we can overhear
Hitchcock coaching 'Tippi' Hedren to commit more or less the kind of
bad acting you pick as an example in the transcript of their pre-pro
talks for Marnie at the Herrick), and I suppose one reason for posing
extreme questions is to find new and better ways to define "auteur,"
as you do in your post. Certainly I was trying to do that when I
wrote my Hitchcock book, and by extension, in earlier posts I argued,
as you do, that "auteurism," for the directors who practiced it, was
always a struggle: with the technicians and actors, and also with
producers and studio production execs - all of whom "try to ruin your
movie" in the words of the little-admired director I quoted on that
dirty secret.

That's why I keep wanting to call it a "politique" - not just some
old French magazine's "policy" of writing about directors instead of,
say, actors, but politics, power struggles: the struggle of the
artists to impose their vision in a medium that is often described
as "collaborative" when in fact, as Joan Didion once noted, it's more
often like a war where one side (the studio) has nuclear capabilities
(and the profit motive rules - even more so today, with the
conglomereates and multinationals and ten-country simultaneous
openings of blockbusters ythat never fail). I certainly would like to
see more of that reality in discussions of "film authorship" (and
less of the kind of naive debunking that has gone on in the Groves of
Ak---- since the late 70s) because I believe it can be documented,
and does in fact support the idea of the director as "auteur."
(Ironically, some people saw the Hitchcock book as a piece of
debunking, just because it described the process in some detail.)

At the same time, if that's what Hitchcock or Ford did, who's to say
that Wood or Pevney or - yes - Stanley Kramer didn't do the same
thing? Sure, we don't like the results in those cases, but even they
can be interesting as illustrative of the process. (I'm still someone
who would rather have a chat with Don Weis than with Frederick
Wiseman, because I suspect it would be more interesting to chat with
Don Weis: Wiseman's films are so easy.) After that comes the question
of quality: What if it turned out that we could just use traditional
or brand-new esthetic principles - from Longinus to Kant to Walter
Pater or Herbert Read (or Eisenstein, or Vertov, or Bazin, or
Rohmer) - to distinguish good from bad, rather than making the very
act of successfully imposing one's will on the material the sole
criterion for artistic success? Traditional esthetics doesn't make
the very act of sculpting/writing/painting - "he got something on the
canvas, by God" - the sole criterion. Once we've established that
directors can do it and always have, maybe we should get on with the
real job.

The fact is, anyone who stayed on his feet in the studio system
probably DID manage to impose his will on, say, a slender majority of
the people who were "helping" at least some of the time. So
auteurism, freed from the task of making that endless binary decision
(auteur/non-auteur), would be free to develop more interesting
esthetic criteria, on the one hand, and to explore meaningful or
pleasing or even UNpleasing esthetic, religious, political or
psychological idiosyncracies in the work of filmmakers whose work is
ultimately unsatisfactory, by way of understanding the process better
and thereby to appreciate more sensitively the results achieved by
the geniuses. Or just for the hell of it.
546


From: Damien Bona
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 8:07am
Subject: Re: NOT AS A STRANGER
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Patrick Ciccone" wrote:
> It would be sacrilege on this list to suggest that Stanley Kramer is
> an auteur, but I saw the last thirty minutes of this film in a bar
> (without sound) and it actually seems like rather an amazing film,
> with lots of dynamic camera movement and rather pungent
> crosscutting--but Kramer is shit, how to explain this? I wasn't
aware
> of this film at all, but it actually seemed rather amazing--am I
> hallucinating in enbriation, or does Kramer has some unforeseen
> talent? This is somewhat troubling...
>
> PWC


Oh, Stanley Kramer is definitely auteur, in that his personality is
all over his movies. (I haven't seen Not As A Stranger so I can't
comment on that particular effort.) But Kramer is an example of how
a filmmaker can be an a genuine auteur without being any good. His
painfully earnest and overwhelmingly limited middlebrow sensibility
is all over, say, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, and who wants to see
that thing again.

Cecil B. DeMille and Charlie Chaplin are two more examples of
distinctive filmmakers whose movies are torture for me. And George
Stevens's pictures may be difficult to sit through, but you certainly
know it's a George Stevens picture you're having difficulty sitting
through.
547


From: George Robinson
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 8:25am
Subject: Re: Re: NOT AS A STRANGER
 
Andrew Sarris always pointed to the sadomasochistic cinema of Peter Collinson as the work of a "bad" auteur. I would also suggest that since the politique des auteurs achieved something like wide acceptance, we have been visited by a profusion of bad auteurs, filmmakers who know they are supposed to impose their personalities on their material but who have personalities you wouldn't want to spend an evening alone with (pardon the fractured syntax).

George Robinson

Alas, where is human nature so
weak as in a bookstore?
-Henry Ward Beecher

----- Original Message -----
From: Damien Bona
To: a_film_by@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2003 4:07 AM
Subject: [a_film_by] Re: NOT AS A STRANGER


--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Patrick Ciccone" wrote:
> It would be sacrilege on this list to suggest that Stanley Kramer is
> an auteur, but I saw the last thirty minutes of this film in a bar
> (without sound) and it actually seems like rather an amazing film,
> with lots of dynamic camera movement and rather pungent
> crosscutting--but Kramer is shit, how to explain this? I wasn't
aware
> of this film at all, but it actually seemed rather amazing--am I
> hallucinating in enbriation, or does Kramer has some unforeseen
> talent? This is somewhat troubling...
>
> PWC


Oh, Stanley Kramer is definitely auteur, in that his personality is
all over his movies. (I haven't seen Not As A Stranger so I can't
comment on that particular effort.) But Kramer is an example of how
a filmmaker can be an a genuine auteur without being any good. His
painfully earnest and overwhelmingly limited middlebrow sensibility
is all over, say, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, and who wants to see
that thing again.

Cecil B. DeMille and Charlie Chaplin are two more examples of
distinctive filmmakers whose movies are torture for me. And George
Stevens's pictures may be difficult to sit through, but you certainly
know it's a George Stevens picture you're having difficulty sitting
through.


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[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
548


From: Fred Camper
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 5:19pm
Subject: Re: NOT AS A STRANGER
 
Patrick Ciccone wrote:

>This is somewhat troubling...
>
>
>
Nah, it's not troubling; as I said in another post, most auteurists
aren't auteurists 24/7. In that bar, you wuz a surrealist. I don't do
substances, but I've had lots of weird semi-visionary experiences of bad
films on various "natural" highs and in other weird situations. Once I
worked on producing this: during a period when I was seeing a lot of
Ernie Gehr's films, and thinking about them, I went to the just-opened
"Towering Inferno," sat much too close, and performed various "Wait" (a
great early Gehr) like eye exercises on the image. The film still looked
like crap as a whole, but I had an interesting time.

To cite the film Dan mentioned, if you're determinemd to take the cure
then I recommend a viewing, or mutliple viewings if necessary, of "Guess
Whose Coming to Dinner." It's actually not that awful, but in no way is
it good.

- Fred
549


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 5:27pm
Subject: Re: NOT AS A STRANGER
 
That last sentence of mine was confusing--my query was more aimed at
the fact that NOT AS A STRANGER actually seemed pretty good (without
the sound) with some interesting camera movements. I'm not worried
that the film seemed decent--more that it was weird to find Kramer's
name on it, given the total disinterest of his other films. Just
bizarre--it seems to be a minor blip in the Kramer career... Have to
see it sober and with sound--probably will change my mind.

PWC


--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper wrote:
>
>
> Patrick Ciccone wrote:
>
> >This is somewhat troubling...
> >
> >
> >
> Nah, it's not troubling; as I said in another post, most auteurists
> aren't auteurists 24/7. In that bar, you wuz a surrealist. I don't do
> substances, but I've had lots of weird semi-visionary experiences of
bad
> films on various "natural" highs and in other weird situations. Once I
> worked on producing this: during a period when I was seeing a lot of
> Ernie Gehr's films, and thinking about them, I went to the just-opened
> "Towering Inferno," sat much too close, and performed various "Wait" (a
> great early Gehr) like eye exercises on the image. The film still
looked
> like crap as a whole, but I had an interesting time.
>
> To cite the film Dan mentioned, if you're determinemd to take the cure
> then I recommend a viewing, or mutliple viewings if necessary, of
"Guess
> Whose Coming to Dinner." It's actually not that awful, but in no way is
> it good.
>
> - Fred
550


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 7:16pm
Subject: Re: NOT AS A STRANGER
 
> It would be sacrilege on this list to suggest that Stanley Kramer is
> an auteur, but I saw the last thirty minutes of this film in a bar
> (without sound) and it actually seems like rather an amazing film,
> with lots of dynamic camera movement and rather pungent
> crosscutting--but Kramer is shit, how to explain this? I wasn't aware
> of this film at all, but it actually seemed rather amazing--am I
> hallucinating in enbriation, or does Kramer has some unforeseen
> talent? This is somewhat troubling...

Never seen it, but I've heard a few auteurists (including David Thomson)
say that it's Kramer's best. And it's not all that unusual for a
director to start somewhere interesting, then fall into permanent bad
habits. - Dan
551


From: Zach Campbell
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 9:10pm
Subject: Re: Theory and academia
 
Fred wrote:
> Applying the old "optimist says the glass is half full, pessimist
says
> it's half empty" joke to the above, the way I'd say it is that the
great
> majority of students in a department devoted to the study of film
don't
> actually love films.

But the only way this can be true is if you classify anyone who
doesn't love films the way you do as being someone who doesn't love
films period. And because non-auteurists are a diverse and
heterogenous group united only by their lack of auteurism - to say
they all don't love movies strikes me as a leap founded not on logic
but on prejudice. Note that I wasn't making many categorizations
about what the non-auteurist majority is like, as this majority is an
amalgamation of minorities that exists only when polarized against
the auteurist minority.

--Zach
552


From: hotlove666
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 9:11pm
Subject: RE: NOT AS A STRANGER
 
I guess everyone's out making the world safe for auteurism, so
I'll keep the thread going. In 1979 and 1982, Louis Skorecki (see
my "Devil's Advocate" post) published long favorable reviews in
the Cahiers of The Runner Stumbles and Five Days One
Summer (the theatrical version) - the last films of Stanley Kramer
and Fred Zinnemann, respectively. What do you think he was
trying to tell us?
553


From: Zach Campbell
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 9:38pm
Subject: Re: Query
 
Bill:
> But has anyone ever toyed with the idea that all directors are
> auteurs, even though clearly some are good and others aren't?

I've certainly toyed with it. I already gave some of my thoughts on
this topic in post an earlier message (#254). As I've said, I don't
put much weight on whether or not a director is an auteur, as
dividing lines thus far have proved too arbitrary for me. I do think
that pretty much every director puts fingerprints on a film, and in
this sense is an auteur. I'm the sort of guy who not only suspects
but expects to find some kinds of links (usually in concrete more
than thematic terms) between the films of virtually every director
whose work I encounter.

I like Dan's hypothesis, but I think that all agents of film
production tangle with convention and that directors don't strike me
as having a particularly special privilege over the cast and crew in
dealing with this: or perhaps they do, but I suspect with greater
privilege comes greater challenge. I just know that generally a
director's films will feel more of a whole than a set of films linked
by actor, cinematographer, editor, genre, or studio. To me the best
film artists will work to be not anti-conventional but meta-
conventional; and conventionalism itself really leaves room for a
massive amount of possibilities, and one can be entirely personal and
conventional at the same time.

--Zach
554


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 9:46pm
Subject: Re: Devil's Advocate
 
> Yes, but before that, Dan, when you were entertaining the more than
> fleeting idea that maybe Sam Wood was an auteur, too.

I've only seen six or so Sam Wood films, but I have indeed entertained
the idea that he might have a little something.

> (although we can overhear
> Hitchcock coaching 'Tippi' Hedren to commit more or less the kind of
> bad acting you pick as an example in the transcript of their pre-pro
> talks for Marnie at the Herrick)

I recently saw it in Stahl's THE WALLS OF JERICHO. Of course, even if
you buy my idea that this is non-auteur-like acting, it's not a proof
that the director isn't an auteur. Every director combines some
elements of convention with his or her more assertive qualities.

> in the words of the little-admired director I quoted on that
> dirty secret.

Do you like Miner? I remember thinking that FRIDAY THE 13TH PT. II was
undoubtedly superior to the original, but I didn't stick around for the
rest of his career.

> At the same time, if that's what Hitchcock or Ford did, who's to say
> that Wood or Pevney or - yes - Stanley Kramer didn't do the same
> thing? Sure, we don't like the results in those cases, but even they
> can be interesting as illustrative of the process. (I'm still someone
> who would rather have a chat with Don Weis than with Frederick
> Wiseman, because I suspect it would be more interesting to chat with
> Don Weis: Wiseman's films are so easy.) After that comes the question
> of quality: What if it turned out that we could just use traditional
> or brand-new esthetic principles - from Longinus to Kant to Walter
> Pater or Herbert Read (or Eisenstein, or Vertov, or Bazin, or
> Rohmer) - to distinguish good from bad, rather than making the very
> act of successfully imposing one's will on the material the sole
> criterion for artistic success?

But don't we do that already? Speaking for myself, I just put out my
aesthetic antennae when I'm watching a film, and worry about the
director overview later. Certainly that's also the way Sarris described
his auteurism - as an a posteriori idea of where the good stuff might
have come from.

My speculations about the director imposing his or her will on reluctant
collaborators are also a posteriori. If we lived in a world where all
films were chock-a-block with vital artistic touches that lacked unity,
then I'd assume that all those craftspeople were powerful artistic
forces in their own right, but just needed a coordinating hand.
(I think, by the way, that this is the way the world does seem to some
filmgoers, who must have a different aesthetic than myself.) But
instead I live in a world when almost all films, and even more TV shows,
seem pretty worthless and pretty similar, as if some unseen force were
pulling everything toward the same kind of mediocrity. So I come up
with a theory according to which good directors must fight this
destructive force field.

If Wood, Pevney, etc. (I'm just using their names because you did - no
particular aspersion is intended) are really "bad auteurs," then their
exertions are resulting in movies which feel a lot the same as every
other movie in all the important ways. I'd rather save the "bad auteur"
category for directors whose work seems fundamentally original.

As I observed in my first post, I don't find the auteur/non-auteur
dichotomy to be of much practical use, and I'm not in the habit of
saying that X is an auteur and Y isn't. Yesterday I saw Frears' DIRTY
PRETTY THINGS - like almost all of Frears's work in the last 15 years,
I'd definitely throw it into the non-auteur pile if I had to. The day
before I saw his 1979 BLOODY KIDS, and I still find it as well and
vigorously directed as any film ever made - between 1978 or so and 1986
or so, the fellow seemed as powerful a directoral force as an Ophuls or
Renoir. I have no idea what happened with his career, and the cinema is
full of weird, inexplicable things like this. I worry about these
inexplicable things, but it's more important to grapple with the power
of BLOODY KIDS than it is to decide which camp Frears' total oeuvre
belongs in. - Dan
555


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 9:57pm
Subject: Re: RE: NOT AS A STRANGER
 
> In 1979 and 1982, Louis Skorecki (see
> my "Devil's Advocate" post) published long favorable reviews in
> the Cahiers of The Runner Stumbles and Five Days One
> Summer (the theatrical version) - the last films of Stanley Kramer
> and Fred Zinnemann, respectively. What do you think he was
> trying to tell us?

Beats me, but I've seen both films. THE RUNNER STUMBLES (which we used
to call THE STOMACH RUMBLES) struck me as painfully off, and FIVE DAYS
ONE SUMMER as merely uninteresting. Sounds to me as if Skorecki was
getting nostalgic for Old Hollywood style. - Dan
556


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Tue Jul 15, 2003 11:58pm
Subject: Re: Re: Query
 
> I like Dan's hypothesis, but I think that all agents of film
> production tangle with convention and that directors don't strike me
> as having a particularly special privilege over the cast and crew in
> dealing with this

Well, directors haven't got any particular job to do, which is a good
starting point, in a way. A piece of acting can be due to the actor or
the director; a lighting effect to the cinematographer or the director;
and so on. The only way for a director to leave a mark on the film is
by interfering with the work of someone who is more qualified to do his
or her job than the director is. This puts you in a state of mind
different from everyone else's.

> To me the best
> film artists will work to be not anti-conventional but meta-
> conventional; and conventionalism itself really leaves room for a
> massive amount of possibilities, and one can be entirely personal and
> conventional at the same time.

In the same sense and at the same time? You can certainly combine
elements of the personal and the conventional, or build unconventional
things onto a framework of convention. But it seems to me that a
personal work has to violate some conventions. - Dan
557


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 3:15am
Subject: De Toth alert (New Yorkers)
 
The new 35mm print of PLAY DIRTY is being presented by the Film
Society of Lincoln Center on August 31 and September 2. Both the
AMMI and the Walter Reade widescreen-anniversary series have a number
of auteurist red flags (John Ford, Nick Ray, Brian De Palma, James
Cameron [shut up], Sam Fuller and Joseph Losey, for starters), but
this particular flag seems to be flying higher than most, for me
anyway.

Jaime
558


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 3:27am
Subject: Re: De Toth alert (New Yorkers)
 
> The new 35mm print of PLAY DIRTY is being presented by the Film
> Society of Lincoln Center on August 31 and September 2. Both the
> AMMI and the Walter Reade widescreen-anniversary series have a number
> of auteurist red flags (John Ford, Nick Ray, Brian De Palma, James
> Cameron [shut up], Sam Fuller and Joseph Losey, for starters), but
> this particular flag seems to be flying higher than most, for me
> anyway.

Where did you see the schedule? - Dan
559


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 3:33am
Subject: Re: De Toth alert (New Yorkers)
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Dan Sallitt wrote:

> Where did you see the schedule? - Dan

It's in print, not (obviously) online yet. I was at the WRT for LE
SAMOURAI today.

No doubt you've seen the AMMI schedule. Here's the full WRT list for
August only:

BITTER VICTORY (Nick Ray)
BIGGER THAN LIFE (Nick Ray)
FORTY GUNS (Fuller)
SATYRICON (Fellini)
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Kubrick) (70mm)
SPARTACUS (Kubrick) (70mm)
THE INNOCENTS (Clayton)
THOSE ARE THE DAMNED (Losey)
THE THIN RED LINE (Malick)
THE LONG GRAY LINE (Ford)
SCARFACE (De Palma)
ALIENS (Cameron)
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (Leone)
PIERROT LE FOU (Godard)
MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER (Altman)
ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE
THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT (Tashlin)
THE WIND AND THE LION (Milius)
THEY LIVE (Carpenter)
PLAY DIRTY (De Toth)

I'm very hot on seeing most of these, even SCARFACE, which I
dislike. And since Walte Reade has one of the biggest screens of any
arthouse, many of these should be, well, orgasmic.

Jaime
560


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 5:08am
Subject: BITTER VICTORY @ WRT
 
Unless there's been a mistake, the print of BITTER VICTORY is not the
shimmering, full-length restoration print that was shown at the
Museum of Modern Art's Nicholas Ray series earlier this year. The
running time is listed as 82 minutes, whilst the MoMA print was
listed as (and ran for) 103 minutes.

Jaime
561


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 2:16pm
Subject: Re: BITTER VICTORY @ WRT
 
> Unless there's been a mistake, the print of BITTER VICTORY is not the
> shimmering, full-length restoration print that was shown at the
> Museum of Modern Art's Nicholas Ray series earlier this year. The
> running time is listed as 82 minutes, whilst the MoMA print was
> listed as (and ran for) 103 minutes.

This wouldn't be surprising, as the shorter version played NYC just a
little before the MOMA Ray retro (at BAM, I think), and has played here
before in the last ten years. There are lots of differences: the one I
remember best is that the shorter version is missing Burton's famous
line about the 10th-century structure being "too modern" for him. - Dan
562


From: Zach Campbell
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 3:08pm
Subject: Re: Query
 
Dan:
> The only way for a director to leave a mark on the film is
> by interfering with the work of someone who is more qualified to do
> his or her job than the director is. This puts you in a state of
> mind different from everyone else's.

If I follow you here, would you go on to say that this state of mind
enables experimentation on the part of the director in ways that
other filmmaking roles don't easily allow, and thus accounts for the
opportunity to imprint themselves on a film? That's the line I'm
sensing. If this is so, I more or less agree. But aren't there ways
of handling ("interfering with") the others' jobs that lead to
conventional (and 'competent') directing jobs? It's not always a
matter of imprinting yourself personally *or* letting the
craftspersons do their job, is it?

> In the same sense and at the same time? You can certainly combine
> elements of the personal and the conventional, or build
unconventional
> things onto a framework of convention. But it seems to me that a
> personal work has to violate some conventions.

But it's hard to find a single film that doesn't violate some
conventions! And sometimes violating one convention simply means
following another: e.g., deciding not to tell your story in linear
fashion often leads to the trend of setting your film in a disjointed
flashback structure. As conventional choices in narrative, blocking,
composition, etc. abound, the whole playing field for "convention"
becomes more convoluted and unpredictable as new conventions pop up
as (often logical and simple) reactions to old conventions. And so
saying something is "conventional" retains much meaning but loses its
precision.

As far as being personal and conventional at the same time - here are
a few suggestions:

1) A filmmaker holds conventional values (cultural, religious,
aesthetic) in great esteem, and his or her expression of such
dominant ideas-tones is one and the same with the filmmaker's
personage.

2) Ron Howard and Sydney Pollack both do conventional filmmaking, in
a similarly broad/bland range of genres and on comparable prestige
levels. But their bodies of work feel different, and I think you can
gauge how their bodies of work feel in themselves, on a whole - you
get a sense of a Howard or Pollack personality, even if the judgment
calls they make in production are simply subconscious picks from a
vague list of conventional options. In other words, I don't think a
film becomes personal in the moments it escapes convention. A film
is personal, practically, a priori--maybe that's a postulate I hold
to that nobody else shares--and seeing the films determines the ways
in which they are such.

--Zach
563


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 5:25pm
Subject: Re: Re: Query
 
>>The only way for a director to leave a mark on the film is
>>by interfering with the work of someone who is more qualified to do
>>his or her job than the director is. This puts you in a state of
>>mind different from everyone else's.
>
>
> If I follow you here, would you go on to say that this state of mind
> enables experimentation on the part of the director in ways that
> other filmmaking roles don't easily allow, and thus accounts for the
> opportunity to imprint themselves on a film? That's the line I'm
> sensing. If this is so, I more or less agree.

Yeah, I think that's part of it. Or rather, that that state of mind is
conducive to rebellion against restrictive codes. The fact that the
director is the only person to be able to unify the film is another part
of it. Not so much because unity is a big virtue for me, but more
because being in that position tempts the director to go for all the
marbles.

> But aren't there ways
> of handling ("interfering with") the others' jobs that lead to
> conventional (and 'competent') directing jobs? It's not always a
> matter of imprinting yourself personally *or* letting the
> craftspersons do their job, is it?

Yeah, I agree. I said something like this in my last post.

> But it's hard to find a single film that doesn't violate some
> conventions! And sometimes violating one convention simply means
> following another: e.g., deciding not to tell your story in linear
> fashion often leads to the trend of setting your film in a disjointed
> flashback structure. As conventional choices in narrative, blocking,
> composition, etc. abound, the whole playing field for "convention"
> becomes more convoluted and unpredictable as new conventions pop up
> as (often logical and simple) reactions to old conventions. And so
> saying something is "conventional" retains much meaning but loses its
> precision.

This is a challenging argument, and I don't know if I can give a
convincing response.

I guess I should say first that my use of the word "convention" is
perhaps a little sloppy. I don't mean to imply that good direction is
necessarily predicated on doing something different from what most
people do. When I say "convention," I'm really thinking more of the
kind of filmmaking I described in the last post, which manages to work
against film's birthright of complexity in the name of clear
communication. I do think that this sort of filmmaking is pretty much
identical with baseline filmmaking conventions, but it's not really the
conventionality that bothers me as much as the quality of the art.

I think you're right that, in practical terms, I'd have trouble using
these terms precisely. When I like a moment in a film, I feel that I
can find something there that jars convention, but it might be hard to
convince an unsympathetic ear that that departure was important.
Similarly, there is no film so deadly boring and predictable and
lifeless that someone with more sympathy for the enterprise can't come
up with ideas about it that I wasn't attuned to.

In other words, I admit to a danger that I'm just bolstering my tastes
with a theoretical underpinning that won't stand up in court.

> 2) Ron Howard and Sydney Pollack both do conventional filmmaking, in
> a similarly broad/bland range of genres and on comparable prestige
> levels. But their bodies of work feel different, and I think you can
> gauge how their bodies of work feel in themselves, on a whole - you
> get a sense of a Howard or Pollack personality

I actually don't get a sense of their personalities, and I even think
Pollack has a little something. But it's not really relevant whether I
have a sense of them or not: surely they must be doing something that a
sympathetic eye can detect.

John Sayles is a guy whose films are pretty recognizable, and yet I
don't think he's a expressive filmmaker: more than Howard, maybe, but
less than Pollack to my mind. So your argument doesn't depend on my
being able to pick Ron Howard out of a lineup.

> A film
> is personal, practically, a priori--maybe that's a postulate I hold
> to that nobody else shares--and seeing the films determines the ways
> in which they are such.

This sort of syncs up with your post a month or so back on That Other
List, where you imagined auteurists in an alternative universe applying
auteurist lingo to the careers of Huston and Daves instead of Sirk, and
it felt basically like auteurism to you.

I dunno, I actually don't think that world could happen. I think
there's something about the way Huston directs (let's leave out Daves,
who has a modest auteurist following) that would prevent his fan base
from rearing up and founding auteurism. Hard to quantify this, of
course. But when Sarris talked about some directors' signature being
written in invisible ink, he was saying that some directors seem
personal from superficial characterists, but really aren't. Obviously
we are running into semantic issues here. I am not using the word
personal to mean simply, "different and recognizable." You could argue
that "different and recognizable" is closer to the standard meaning of
the word, in which case I'd have to concede the point. But auteurists
have taken the word "personal" and invested it with a complex of
connotations over the years, and I think I prefer to maintain that, in
auteurist lingo, "personal" has come to refer to forms of artistic
expression rather than just identifying characteristics. Now, it's
absolutely hard to specify in clear terms just what those
characteristics are. But I'm unwilling to give up the attempt, even
though it's hard, because I think there has to be a nexus between
auteurist ideas and the kind of art auteurists like.

- Dan
564


From:
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 4:06pm
Subject: McCarey's names
 
Has anyone ever written about the significance of the name "Lucy" or
"Lucille" in McCarey's films?

I note that in his masterpiece "Make Way For Tomorrow," Beulah Bondi's
character is named Lucy. So is Irene Dunne's in "The Awful Truth." In "My Son
John" (which I've not seen) Helen Hayes' character is named Lucille. And so is
Ann Sheridan's in "Good Sam."

This seems awfully similar to Hawks' habitual nicknaming of his characters -
Slim, Chance, Stumpy, Colorado, Easy, Mississippi, etc., etc. - though even
more eyebrow raising in its consistency.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
565


From: Rick Curnutte
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 8:31pm
Subject: Re: McCarey's names
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, ptonguette@a... wrote:
> Has anyone ever written about the significance of the name "Lucy"
or
> "Lucille" in McCarey's films?

A quick bit of research reveals that both are derived from the Roman
Lucius, which comes from the Latin "lux" or "light". I haven't seen
all of the films listed, so I can't speak as to the significance of
the characters having names that mean "light".

Does this shed any light (oh, Gawd) on the matter?

Rick
566


From: George Robinson
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 8:38pm
Subject: Re: McCarey's names
 
Not to mention the profusion of Griff(s) in Fuller's films.
g

Alas, where is human nature so
weak as in a bookstore?
-Henry Ward Beecher
----- Original Message -----
From: ptonguette@a...
To: a_film_by@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 4:06 PM
Subject: [a_film_by] McCarey's names


Has anyone ever written about the significance of the name "Lucy" or
"Lucille" in McCarey's films?

I note that in his masterpiece "Make Way For Tomorrow," Beulah Bondi's
character is named Lucy. So is Irene Dunne's in "The Awful Truth." In "My Son
John" (which I've not seen) Helen Hayes' character is named Lucille. And so is
Ann Sheridan's in "Good Sam."

This seems awfully similar to Hawks' habitual nicknaming of his characters -
Slim, Chance, Stumpy, Colorado, Easy, Mississippi, etc., etc. - though even
more eyebrow raising in its consistency.

Peter

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


[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
567


From: hotlove666
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 8:53pm
Subject: Re: McCarey's Names
 
Or Chabrol's habit of giving the main characters in many of his
films the same three names: Paul, Charles and Helene.

Griff was someone Fuller knew.

But this is the first I hear of McCarey having a pet name for
female characters. I only know of one (-third of a) book on this
amazing filmmaker, and of course no biography, so it's a
subject for research - a highly worthwhile one.
568


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 9:14pm
Subject: Re: McCarey's Names
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "hotlove666"
wrote:

> Griff was someone Fuller knew.

Right-o. Griff was a friend of Fuller's in the Army. A land mine
made him a quadriplegic, but according to Fuller, he was very
optimistic and brave (really, not just in a movie-cliche way) despite
his awful circumstances.

From A THIRD FACE:

"Griff's invincible spirit would always be an inspiration. I will
take his optimism with me to my grave. Life is too precious and far
to short to get hooked on negativity. In my scripts and stories,
you'll find a helluva lot of characters named Griff. It was my way
of saying thanks for his will to survive."

Jaime
569


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 9:40pm
Subject: Re: Re: McCarey's Names
 
> But this is the first I hear of McCarey having a pet name for
> female characters. I only know of one (-third of a) book on this
> amazing filmmaker

How is that third of a book? I glanced at it recently and thought that
it might be interesting? - Dan
570


From: hotlove666
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 10:14pm
Subject: McCarey
 
I don't own it yet, but Book City has a copy marked down from
$35 to $17.50, and I'm getting tempted. I haven't read it - just
made a photocopy for the friend who did the McCarey retro at
Amiens. My recollection is that it was above average for the
Hollywood Professionals series.

Thanks to that french retro, there's now a McCarey essay
collection in French, published by the French Cinematheque,
who participated in the retro. (They bailed on the Ulmer retro last
year, but with Serge Toubiana in and Charles Tachella [!]
departing, that great archive will be back to doing important
retrospectives, books and so on. They were doing lots of "bad
auteurs" the last couple of years, as one would expect with a bad
auteur as President.)

As with all directors, there are many pages on McCarey already
in print in back issues of the Cahiers, the best for me being
Skorecki's career article in the blue issue with Laurel and Hardy
on the cover. There was supposed to be a "collective text" on
Once Upon a Honeymoon in the early seventies, but I'm told it
never got past the gleam-in-the-eye stage.

But I've never heard of any efforts being made to put together the
kind of biographical information Howard Prouty of the Herrick
Library was able to research for Locarno's Tashlin retrospective,
which was enough to make a book, even though it was cut down
to make room for a lot of worthless essays in the catalogue -
much less an actual biography like those already done of many
lesser lights. (I except David Chierichetti's Leisen bio, which is
elevated by being by David - I'm reading it now.) Seems like a
missed opportunity that someone should be seizing.
571


From:
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 9:29pm
Subject: Stanley Kramer; Travelogues
 
Many Stanley Kramer films are stupifying: The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)
ruined a lively novel.
But, a few months ago was channel surfing, and started to watch Inherit the
Wind (1960). Soon was completely absorbed. This is a filmed play. Also, one of
the few Kramer comedies was a childhood favorite: It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World
(1963). Seeing it a couple of years ago, it still stands up as a fun movie.
Neither of these films have much visual style - that I was able to notice, at
least. Yet the performances are pleasant, from their gifted casts. Maybe Kramer
had a skill at directing actors, or at least encouraging them to give good
performances. There is a sense he really respects his actors, and is thrilled to
have them appear in his movies. One suspects they are favorites of his, and
that he regards their performances as a treat. There is a lively, vaudeville
like feel to both films, an old-fashioned theatricality.
Travelogues
I agree with P. Adams Sitney that travelogues have little to do with the
great Dreyer.
But actually, many travelogues are good cinema.
The Lumiere Brothers sent their teams all over the world to make films in the
1890’s. Many of these little films are just superb. The shots of New York
City reveal a town that looked utterly unlike anything else one has seen in other
films. Bernard Tavernier’s anthology The Lumiere Brothers First Films is
highly recommended. It contains 85 little movies by the Lumiere teams. I once saw
this, and the modern day tribute Lumiere and Company (1995), in which
contemporary directors make Lumiere style brief documentaries. Then I told my friends
that I saw 140 movies in one weekend.
Interior New York Subway, 14th Street to 42nd Street (G.W. Bitzer, 1905 - the
camera who would later work with D.W. Griffith) Dazzlingly photographed short
film, showing a ride on the newly completed subway. A highly unusual optical
experience, often more like a film abstraction than a representational movie.
The Fitzpatrick Travel Talks are frequently shown on Turner Classic Movies as
part of their One Reel Wonders. These are brief color documentaries, shot all
over the world. Seeing what the Thames Valley or Hong Kong or the Yucatan
peninsula looked liked around 1940 is just fascinating. The photography is often
very beautiful, and the shots are also full of intellectual interest.
Mike Grost
572


From: Fred Camper
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 1:57am
Subject: Re: Stanley Kramer; Travelogues
 
Oh, I agree about travelogues; I wish I'd read your post before
responding to the latest "aren't you an auteurist zombie" thread on
another board, because I could have added early cinema in general and
early cinema travelogues in particular to my home movie & instructional
film list.

When I showed some early Lumieres, not the most famous ones but lesser
known items like the camera in a boat on the Seine or ascending over
Paris in the Eiffel Tower's elevator, to some students long ago, one
made a remark that I've been repeating ever since: You can sense that
these *are* some of the first films, that the camera is joyously
discovering what it can do for the first time. Some slightly lately
travelogs are wonderful too. "From the Pole to the Equator" collected
many of those, but in a way that I hated; still, the source material is
good enough to place it a cut above the Koyaanisqatsi-Baraka-Decasia
school (I'm leaving out Barney so that Ken Eisenstein can concentrate on
important work rather than having to reply again). In some later "early"
travelogues, the camera angle echoes nineteenth century landscape
photography, but in some earlier ones, you get the sense of the camera
as a truly free roving eye, moving about almost as if without limits.

- Fred
573


From:
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 10:18pm
Subject: Re: Re: McCarey's Names
 
In a message dated 7/16/03 4:55:37 PM, hotlove666@y... writes:

>But this is the first I hear of McCarey having a pet name for
>female characters. I only know of one (-third of a) book on this
>amazing filmmaker, and of course no biography, so it's a
>subject for research - a highly worthwhile one.

Surprising that so little has been written - in English, at least. My love
for his cinema has really cemented this year, having seen for the first time
"Make Way," "The Awful Truth," "Love Affair," "Once Upon a Honeymoon," "Good
Sam," "Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys," and "Satan Never Sleeps" (phew!) Some are
greater than others, certainly, but each is so distinctive, so personal-feeling
that I'm amazed that no one's attempted a biography or critical work which
integrates biographical detail.

(Yes, Peter, now what are you going to do about it?)

Bogdanovich indicates that he had a daughter named Mary (and here I was
wishing it was Lucy). Perhaps she's still living and is good for some info...
thinking aloud, as usual.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
574


From:
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 10:25pm
Subject: Re: Re: McCarey's names
 
In a message dated 7/16/03 4:36:19 PM, racurnutte1@y... writes:

>A quick bit of research reveals that both are derived from the Roman
>Lucius, which comes from the Latin "lux" or "light". I haven't seen
>all of the films listed, so I can't speak as to the significance of
>the characters having names that mean "light".
>
>Does this shed any light (oh, Gawd) on the matter?

Very interesting information, Rick, though my gut instinct is that the name
has some sort of personal (rather than historical or metaphorical) significance
to McCarey, maybe not unlike Fuller and Griff. Or maybe he just liked the
name.

But, if nothing else, it's a useful anecdote to drop in your next
conversation with an anti-auteurist.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
575


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 2:42am
Subject: Re: McCarey's names
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, ptonguette@a... wrote:
> Has anyone ever written about the significance of the name "Lucy" or
> "Lucille" in McCarey's films?
>
> I note that in his masterpiece "Make Way For Tomorrow," Beulah Bondi's
> character is named Lucy. So is Irene Dunne's in "The Awful Truth." In "My Son
> John" (which I've not seen) Helen Hayes' character is named Lucille. And so is
> Ann Sheridan's in "Good Sam."

Hmm... in James Harvey's chapter on McCarey in "Romantic Comedy in Hollywood," after discussing MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW, he does note: "And the heroine of _The Awful Truth_ is _also_ named Lucy. There are several signs, in fact, that for McCarey the two movies were connected by more than chronology." But then, as far as I can see, he doesn't pursue "Lucy/Lucille" into GOOD SAM and (six pages or so on) MY SON JOHN (possibly because he doesn't care for those films and so isn't inclined to see them as personal).
576


From:
Date: Wed Jul 16, 2003 11:01pm
Subject: Re: Re: McCarey's names
 
In a message dated 7/16/03 10:45:04 PM, monterone@e... writes:

>Hmm... in James Harvey's chapter on McCarey in "Romantic Comedy in
Hollywood,"
>after discussing MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW, he does note: "And the heroine
>of _The Awful Truth_ is _also_ named Lucy. There are several signs, in
>fact, that for McCarey the two movies were connected by more than
chronology."

Our own Damien Bona also made note of this in his superb essay on "Make Way"
and "The Awful Truth." So at least a few observers have noted the overlap in
those two movies.

But the clincher for me was noticing that the name reappeared in two later
McCareys.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
577


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 6:54am
Subject: The Crowd Roars (Hawks)
 
Just saw a tape recording from Turner Classic Movies. It didn't
surprise me that this was superior to RED LINE 7000 (although I like
that movie), what was surprising was, And how! The racing sequences,
especially the final one, are as exciting as they come, and the
reunion scene at the raceway diner is gutwrenching.

Film form-wise, the final race is kind of mindblowing. Towards the
goal of producing a satisfying narrative arc, the sequence "works,"
but moment to moment, it seems to be a series of small visual
explosions. Sure, like a combustion engine, but that's not what I'm
going for - the sequence seems to be full of jagged edges, it's cut
in an unpredictable manner, *boom* the crowds, *boom* the announcer,
*boom* an accident on the track, *boom* an extreme long shot, etc.
It doesn't make sense to describe it, you have to see it yourself,
there doesn't *seem* to be any rhyme or reason for the editing.

But the unpredictability of the sequence is a pleasure in itself, and
it also serves to keep the viewer off-balance, at a stage in the
narrative where the outcome is uncertain.

No cut is accidental - the sequence (um...) speeds by with subtle
precision that is, finally, the most satisfying aspect.

Anyway, great film, even if I saw an abbreviated version. 70 or 71
minutes. The IMDb lists it as 85 minutes. Any idea what I might
have missed?

Jaime
578


From: Damien Bona
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 7:17am
Subject: Re: McCarey's Names
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, ptonguette@a... wrote:
> In a message dated 7/16/03 4:55:37 PM, hotlove666@y... writes:
>

> Surprising that so little has been written - in English, at least.
My love
> for his cinema has really cemented this year, having seen for the
first time
> "Make Way," "The Awful Truth," "Love Affair," "Once Upon a
Honeymoon," "Good
> Sam," "Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys," and "Satan Never Sleeps"
(phew!) Some are
> greater than others, certainly, but each is so distinctive, so
personal-feeling
> that I'm amazed that no one's attempted a biography or critical
work which
> integrates biographical detail.
>
> (Yes, Peter, now what are you going to do about it?)
>
> Bogdanovich indicates that he had a daughter named Mary (and here I
was
> wishing it was Lucy). Perhaps she's still living and is good for
some info...
> thinking aloud, as usual.
>


The only book I have dealing with McCarey is the Hollywood
Professionals series Volume 7, covering the top-billed Billy Wilder
and McCarey, and written by Leland A. Poague. That Poague has great
affection for McCarey comes through in his writing, but much of his
analysis seemed off to me.

Sarris has written several columns about McCarey over the years, and
maybe about 15 years ago (it was when he was still at the Voice)
declared that the director deserved to be elevated to in "The
American Cinema"'s pantheon.

Peter, have you seen any of the Laurel & Hardy movies McCarey worked
on? It seems to me that Stan and Ollie are in many ways the key to
understanding McCarey's cinema, because these two most human of
screen comics express the kind of lovably flawed and identifiably
foolish human behavior that McCarey so masterfully conveyed in his
films. (The relationship was symbiotic in that McCarey greatly
helped to hone Laurel & Hardy's personae, while the boys reportedly
imparted to him the importance of patience in working out comic set
pieces, and the beauty of the slow build up.)
579


From: filipefurtado
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 9:20am
Subject: Hi, everyone
 
Some people here know me (Zach, Gabe, Damien, Jaime, I 'm not
sure with there's someone else), but a little presentation is
probably useful. I'm 21 year old brazilian film student who
lives in São Paulo, which I guess makes me the first non-
american here. I'm writing to a film magazine called
Contracampo (www.contracampo.com.br), it's in portuguese so
probably the only one here able to read is Gabe. Anyway, some
of your comments on auteurism and the lack of space for it in
the american press make me think about how much i would like
to read more magazines like it in english (most auteurist-
oriented, with a taste to bringing light to lesser known
figures and a wide range of interests). A list with some of
my favorite films can be found here:
http://www.ymdb.com/user_top20_view.asp?usersid=7303 Also,
english isn't my first language, so pardon me for the
ocasional mistakes.

I was reading some early posts, some very good discussions.
Glad to know there's more people who think Bogdanovich got
better with age and that i'm not the only fan of Hellman's
Silent Night, Deadly Night 3.

Bill, your mail about the historical context of american film
studies answers some questions i had, I've always being
curious about the way in which film studies (as discussed by
some american friends) seems to be an american phenomenon. By
the way, most academic film studies in Brazil are awful too,
but it didn't look at all like what i've read from US.
There's very few film schools here, which ended creating a
very small audience for academic studies (and even fewer
teaching jobs). That limits the range of the thing, but it
didn`t change that most of it is really bad sociology-
oriented study (the sort were every movie is seen as a
symptom of some high Truth the academic decide before even
seeing the film). And there's the problem of Cinema Novo
influence in the studies of brazilian cinema history, which
results in a discomfort to deal with almost everything made
after 1970 and a refuse to deal with anything made before
1960 (unless it's by Humberto Mauro or Mario Peixoto) which
succefully reduced brazilian cinema history to the 60's (some
of this can be seeing in Robert Stam's very good
collection "Brazilian Cinema", which has many good stuff,
including some important brazilian articles translated, but
which deals with everything that isn't related to Cinema Novo
only marginally).

I'm not the biggest fan of early 70's Cahiers, but usually
had the feeling that most american film studies relations to
it, ressambles my theory on Peter Greenway. That Greenway saw
Godard's Passion, didn't get much of it and had the sudden
ilumination that what he had just seen was the future of
cinema, and then make an entire career on distorting it. I
would say something similar can be said between 70's Cahiers
and much of the french theory of the time and US film studies
(but I guess i should add that both my attempts to read Lacan
ended badly).

Also on Hulk, i like it a lot too (and I'm not much of a fan
of Lee). I'm amazed by how unpopular the film is, and i
think Jaime remarks on it help to explains why (also I think
you are right on the spot with that death scene, i'm trying
to avoid spoilers here, it seems to be the most widely hated
scene in the film, I've read many remarks on how such a bad
piece of craft it is, I guess the delibarate use of "bad
craft" to achieve meaning is beyond most people, including
most people with aspirations to take film seriously. Also I
get vary enraged by most commentaries like D'Angelo's on the
film use of psychology. Lee never uses it to simplify Bruce's
behaviour to the audience (as most films, both mainstream and
arthouse do) and I get really impressed by the way in which
he refuse to give any sort of comfort reconciliation that we
can bring home, to both Bruce's relationship to hilmself or
the two father/son relationships, and I think he translates
this visually pretty well in the climax (which is another
good example of Lee's using "bad craft" to achieve meaning).
I don't think it's a complete success but it's certainly
among the most intersting films released recently.

Filipe



---
Acabe com aquelas janelinhas que pulam na sua tela.
AntiPop-up UOL - É grátis!
http://antipopup.uol.com.br
580


From: filipefurtado
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 9:46am
Subject: Re: Re: McCarey's Names
 
> The only book I have dealing with McCarey is the Hollywood
Professionals series Volume 7, covering the top-billed Billy
Wilder
and McCarey, and written by Leland A. Poague. That Poague
has great
affection for McCarey comes through in his writing, but much
of his
analysis seemed off to me.


Amazon's mentions an out-of-print book on him "Leo McCarey
and the Comic Anti-Hero" by one Wes D. Ghering.

Curious that McCarey entry in Hollywood Professional series
is with Wilder. Not only they had nothing in common (unless
you count that both become well known with comedies), but it
always seems to me that the reasons why Wilder is so
overrated today, are the same that make McCarey a difficult
filmmaker to become fashionable.

Filipe


---
Acabe com aquelas janelinhas que pulam na sua tela.
AntiPop-up UOL - É grátis!
http://antipopup.uol.com.br
581


From: Zach Campbell
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 2:08pm
Subject: Re: Query
 
Dan:
> This sort of syncs up with your post a month or so back on That
> Other List, where you imagined auteurists in an alternative
> universe applying auteurist lingo to the careers of Huston and
> Daves instead of Sirk, and it felt basically like auteurism to you.
>
> I dunno, I actually don't think that world could happen. I think
> there's something about the way Huston directs (let's leave out
> Daves, who has a modest auteurist following) that would prevent his
> fan base from rearing up and founding auteurism.

I didn't want to claim that Huston would fit easily (or at all) into
the historical, ideological currents from which auteurism as
politique, theory, and taste sprang. I just wanted to clear the
space, in principle, for someone to defend Huston if their own auteur-
radar (or antennae, to use a good phrase of yours) started picking up
on something. The option to disagree is always available; I just
find that I'm sympathetic to auteurist applications toward directors
I don't like or wouldn't normally approach as "auteurs" (in the
traditional sense). Two reasonably articulate, intelligent papers
come out on Huston (or any "non-auteur," if you're really dead set
against him as an example). The first is anti-auteurist and makes
the standard argument that Huston was a good craftsman who did his
job, didn't leave his mark, etc. The second is clearly auteurist-
friendly and puts forth evidence that Huston had something going on
throughout his work, how you can see a clear progression of Huston's
handling of material, etc. My instinct is to take the second article
very seriously, regardless of how I feel about Huston - perhaps it's
because I'm young and am still working out my personal aesthetic
system.

I've kept with Huston, by the way, because I've seen little of his
work and felt that I could discuss him as an abstract figure
(constant or variable, who knows?). This isn't a good idea to me
now, though, and I should have chosen someone else ...

Let me put it another way - I know a bearded, NYC-dwelling auteurist
who likes Milestone and Negulesco and yet who is cool toward Fuller
and Tashlin. This baffles conventional auteurist taste, but nobody
would argue that this person is not an auteurist: partly because he
values some traditional auteurs, but also because of the way he talks
about these artists.

--Zach
582


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 2:33pm
Subject: Re: Re: Query
 
> I just wanted to clear the
> space, in principle, for someone to defend Huston if their own auteur-
> radar (or antennae, to use a good phrase of yours) started picking up
> on something.

Of course. It's too bad that canons have an intimidating effect,
because one really doesn't want to intimidate film thinkers.

> Two reasonably articulate, intelligent papers
> come out on Huston (or any "non-auteur," if you're really dead set
> against him as an example). The first is anti-auteurist and makes
> the standard argument that Huston was a good craftsman who did his
> job, didn't leave his mark, etc. The second is clearly auteurist-
> friendly and puts forth evidence that Huston had something going on
> throughout his work, how you can see a clear progression of Huston's
> handling of material, etc. My instinct is to take the second article
> very seriously, regardless of how I feel about Huston - perhaps it's
> because I'm young and am still working out my personal aesthetic
> system.

I hope you take articles like this seriously even when you're old!

I know that this isn't your point, but I don't think I'd describe Huston
as a good craftsman who didn't leave a mark. (And not just because his
craft is very dubious!) He was a strong director who made decisions and
was sometimes able to create what he wanted to create - and yet
auteurists have tended to feel that there's some important form of
expression that is missing from his work, or perhaps unacceptably muted.

> I've kept with Huston, by the way, because I've seen little of his
> work and felt that I could discuss him as an abstract figure
> (constant or variable, who knows?). This isn't a good idea to me
> now, though, and I should have chosen someone else ...

Perhaps there will never be perfect agreement on this list about which
director can be used as a whipping boy. Which is cool - we'll just have
to qualify our examples all the time.

> Let me put it another way - I know a bearded, NYC-dwelling auteurist
> who likes Milestone and Negulesco and yet who is cool toward Fuller
> and Tashlin. This baffles conventional auteurist taste, but nobody
> would argue that this person is not an auteurist: partly because he
> values some traditional auteurs, but also because of the way he talks
> about these artists.

I think that "values some traditional auteurs" is probably more what
keeps me in good standing than "the way I talk about these artists."
But the lingo counts for something, of course. - Dan
583


From: hotlove666
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 3:04pm
Subject: Hello Filipe!
 
Great to have you in the group! The names I know that should be added
to the must-see list of Brazilian directors are my friends Rogerio
Sganzerla and the late David Neves, and Julio Bressane, who was
recently feted by Torino and Cannes. (Sylvie Pierre's occasional
pieces in Trafic have communicated others.) I also have a precious
collection of chanchada highlights - This Was Atlantide - which I
bought in Sao Paolo. The great thing is that apart from the language,
there are no barriers to exploring this heritage, because you use
NTSC, too. As the future greatest civilization in the world, Brazil
has much to teach us now. Also, the work-print of Magnificent
Ambersons may still be kicking around in Rio or Sao Paolo. I suggest
you connect with Peter Tonguette of this group, who has taken over
the Ahab job from me, to coordinate efforts for tracking it down.
584


From: Fred Camper
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 3:20pm
Subject: Re: Hello Filipe!, Brazilian cinema & Sergio Bianchi
 
I'm pretty ignorant of much Brazilian cinema, but there's a current
director I've seen a bit of and like: Sergio Bianchi. My capsule review
of his "Romance" is at http://65.201.198.5/movies/capsules/22420_ROMANCE

He combines Godardian self-referentiality with a strong, slightly goofy
and slightly surreal (possibly Latin American?) humor.

- Fred
585


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 4:09pm
Subject: Brazil
 
Welcome, Filipe. Nice to see A NOS AMOURS on someone else's best list.

> The names I know that should be added
> to the must-see list of Brazilian directors are my friends Rogerio
> Sganzerla and the late David Neves, and Julio Bressane, who was
> recently feted by Torino and Cannes.

I didn't know Neves was dead. I liked his film IT'S NICE TO SEE YOU -
LUZ DE FUEGO is interesting too.

For some reason, I really liked Diegues' BYE BYE BRAZIL, but never cared
much for anything else he did. I wonder what his rep is. - Dan
586


From: hotlove666
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 9:01pm
Subject: Tourneur
 
On a too-rare visit to the Herrick I snagged a bit of info about J.
Tourneur - mentioned by the late George Turner (of American
Cinematographer) during an oral history conversation with
Robert Boyle: According to George, when filming a sequence of
back-and-forth between two people talking, Tourneur would
CHANGE THE SETUPS slightly so he wasn't endlessly repeating
the same two shots.
587


From: filipefurtado
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 9:11pm
Subject: Re: Brazil
 
Hi

David died in late 94 or early 95, I know Sylvie Pierre wrote
an obituary for Cahiers, but I don’t think his death was very
mentioned (it get very little press here). It’s Nice to Meet
You is a film i’m very fond of. My favorite from him is
probably Lucia MaCartney, one of the best films about acting
that I know. Neves was also a very smart film critic.

Diegues is vastly overrated. He made one very good film early
on his career, The Great City, and Bye Bye Brazil has it’s
merits, but almost everything else is mediocre, and he wasted
many good oportunities. His rep is high here, mostly with
older cinephiles and people who didn’t like films that much.
He is very popular with journalists too, probably because
he’s a very good interview. Most of his films are
aesthetically poor, he seems to believe that a good shot is a
pretty one, his compositions always looked good and usually
are overestuffed with color and art direction, but he has no
sense of how to place an actor on screen, or to make
expressive use of space or light. Since early 90’s he’s being
working with Affonso Beatto, who is Jim Mcbride and Pedro
Almodovar DP, and it’s amazing how Beatto works to Diegues
are far less expressive (if always good to look at) than to
them.

Fred, I confess that I still didn’t make my mind on Bianchi,
I like Romance and Should I Kill Them?, but I didn’t care to
The Secret Cause and Cronically Unfeasible is a very
complicated film for me.

Bill, Sganzerla is great. He has a new film “The Sign of
Chaos” that will probably premiere in Locarno, a friend saw
it in a private screening and told me that he’s still on top
form. Sganzerla’s two films about Welles period in Brazil
should be better known, I imagine the subject would make them
easy to foreign audiences, and they could help to end the
usual misinformations about what Welles was doing here (and
It’s All Brazil is almost all in english, so it didn’t even
have the language barrier). There were a guy in the brazilian
cinematque, with whom I lost contact, who usually talks about
finding Ambersons. If there’s still a copy somewhere, I would
say Rio is the most likely place.

Bressane should be better known too. He’s far more uneven
than Sganzerla (but he made far more films too), but even in
his worst films we can have the sense of an inteligence at
work. And his best films “Killed the family and went to the
movies”, “An angel is born”, “Bras Cubas” and “The
Preachings”are great. The trouble with Bressane may be the
opposite of Sganzerla, in the sense that most of his work
since the 80’s is very related to brazilian culture and I
don’t know how someone with no gasp of it relates to them.
Bras Cubas, for example, is an adaptation of an important
19th-century novel, a memoir of a mediocre man narrated by
him from the dead, whose essentially all narration and no
plot. Bressane’s film is essentially an attempt to translate
the book narration to the films images (plus some critical
commentary on the original material) and I don’t know how it
plays for someone who hasn’t read it yet . If my memory is
right there’s only two of the many very well known monologues
of the book in the film, I always thought it was funny that I
never found a single literature professor who likes it, since
it’s one of best book adaptations that I know. Curious, that
you mentioned both Bressane and Sganzerla, Contracampo was
born mostly because one of my editors wanted to create a
place to defend Sganzerla’s It’s All Brazil (which got some
unfainly and very absurd negative reviews when released), and
later last year we organize our first big event and it was
exactly a Bressane retrospective (incluing some films that
were thought as lost) completed with some seminars on him.

I’m a big fan of chanchadas. This is Atlantida is a great
collection of moments from them, to bad that Carlos Manga
didn’t try to use the film to make a more critical analyses
of them, but that isn’t in Manga’s personality so it’s no
surprise (still, it’s curious that the film was made thanks
to the success of That’s Enterteriment! since many of the
best chanchadas were parodies of well-known american films,
Manga’s own on High Noon justifys Zinnemman’s film
existence). Atlantida was a very lucky studio when it comes
to directors (maybe because it began as a cooperative run by
them). Almost everyone who worked there were talented. The
best were probably Moacyr Fenelon and José Carlos Burle.

Also about brazilian cinema, DVD may make things easy to
foreigners. Almost all DVDs of brazilian films released here
are region 0 and subtitled at least in english (frequently in
spanish and french too).

Filipe


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588


From: hotlove666
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 9:32pm
Subject: Brazil
 
Actually, both of Rogerio's best films on Welles are in English,
because he's using English clips - the other, my favorite, is The
Language of Orson Welles, a 22-minute short shown at
Locarno. An extraordinary, perfect essay film - that genre
everyone says he's doing, but few succeeded at - that everyone
should see. And I love his first film, Red Light Bandit, a kind of
homage to Breathless that also doesn't need a lot of translation.

There is now a small book out in English on Nelson Pereira
dos Santos, in the series James Naremore is editing. And to
anyone who hasn't seen it I'd recommend Ruy Guerra's
adaptation of Marquez' Fable of the Beautiful Pigeon Keeper,
which is not hard to find - the whole series is out on cassette
and DVD.
589


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Fri Jul 18, 2003 0:11am
Subject: Re: The Crowd Roars (Hawks)
 
*sigh*
590


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Fri Jul 18, 2003 1:15am
Subject: Re: The Crowd Roars (Hawks)
 
Ugh. Please excuse that gesture of self-pity. I know that not many
people here have seen THE CROWD ROARS, and even if they have, then it
probably hasn't been for a while. So, sorry.

Jaime
591


From:
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 10:56pm
Subject: Re: Re: McCarey's Names
 
In a message dated 7/17/03 3:18:46 AM, damienbona@y... writes:

>Peter, have you seen any of the Laurel & Hardy movies McCarey worked
>on?

I've seen several - and even a few, like the most excellent short "The
Finishing Touch," projected theatrically. I also have really fond memories of
"Liberty" and "Big Business."

>It seems to me that Stan and Ollie are in many ways the key to
>understanding McCarey's cinema, because these two most human of
>screen comics express the kind of lovably flawed and identifiably
>foolish human behavior that McCarey so masterfully conveyed in his
>films.

Definitely. Well put.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
592


From:
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 10:59pm
Subject: Re: Re: Brazil
 
Welcome, Filipe! Your YMDB list is truly superb. "Hatari!," "Make Way For
Tomorrow," "In a Lonely Place," "Love Streams," "Touch of Evil," "The Young
Girls of Rochefort" - these are some of my very favorite films. I'm suddenly
regretting that I don't speak Portuguese, as I'd love to read some of your
published work.

>There were a guy in the brazilian
>cinematque, with whom I lost contact, who usually talks about
>finding Ambersons. If there’s still a copy somewhere, I would
>say Rio is the most likely place.

As Bill suggests, send me a private e-mail sometime and we can talk shop.

Whaddya say Filipe discovers "Ambersons," I report it, and everyone at
a_film_by gets complimentary tickets to the premiere? Stranger things have happened.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
593


From:
Date: Thu Jul 17, 2003 11:11pm
Subject: McCarey, Wilder
 
In a message dated 7/17/03 5:51:20 AM, filipefurtado@u... writes:

>Curious that McCarey entry in Hollywood Professional series
>is with Wilder. Not only they had nothing in common (unless
>you count that both become well known with comedies), but it
>always seems to me that the reasons why Wilder is so
>overrated today, are the same that make McCarey a difficult
>filmmaker to become fashionable.

Would you say those reasons relate to McCarey's humanism and warmth versus
Wilder's cynicism and derisiveness?

The Wilder films I value most are the late ones, which Sarris has pinpointed
as revealing a more bittersweet, somber side of the filmmaker. In this
category are "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes," "Avanti!," and "Fedora," all of
which I love; "Avanti!" is a flat-out great film and probably his best. (The
corrosive "Buddy, Buddy" is a something of an anomaly in this regard and I'm
not sure where to put "The Front Page.) Of course, that isn't to say that some
of Wilder's earlier films don't fit this mold too - "Love in the Afternoon"
most especially does - but they don't seem to be what he's remembered for as
such. So, all in all, I agree that it's quite strange to pair up McCarey and
Wilder.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
594


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Fri Jul 18, 2003 4:07am
Subject: Re: The Crowd Roars (Hawks)
 
> Film form-wise, the final race is kind of mindblowing. Towards the
> goal of producing a satisfying narrative arc, the sequence "works,"
> but moment to moment, it seems to be a series of small visual
> explosions. Sure, like a combustion engine, but that's not what I'm
> going for - the sequence seems to be full of jagged edges, it's cut
> in an unpredictable manner, *boom* the crowds, *boom* the announcer,
> *boom* an accident on the track, *boom* an extreme long shot, etc.
> It doesn't make sense to describe it, you have to see it yourself,
> there doesn't *seem* to be any rhyme or reason for the editing.

One thing I notice about Hawks is that he always does something unusual
with dramatic climaxes - i.e., climaxes where the rules of drama seem to
dictate that the event be slowed down suspensefully because of its
dramatic importance. Hawks will usually throw away the slow-down, and
either speed things up or give the impression that he is speeding them
up with unexpected punctuations. The best example is probably the
countdown when Marlowe forces Eddie Mars out the door in THE BIG SLEEP -
unlike all other movie countdowns, this one doesn't feel slowed down.

This is one instance of the way Hawks likes to play films in a faster,
less formal style than the genre background would lead us to expect.

I really like THE CROWD ROARS, though I haven't seen it in a while.
Don't know about the shorter version. - Dan
595


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Fri Jul 18, 2003 4:09am
Subject: Re: Wilder
 
> "Avanti!" is a flat-out great film and probably his best.

I'm no Wilder fan, but I'd agree: AVANTI! is the only Wilder film that I
love. - Dan
596


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Fri Jul 18, 2003 4:17am
Subject: Re: Brazil
 
> There is now a small book out in English on Nelson Pereira
> dos Santos, in the series James Naremore is editing.

Pereira dos Santos is puzzing to me. I really like his MEMORIES OF
PRISON - otherwise, I don't quite get where he's coming from. Anyone
have any thoughts on him?

I haven't seen a lot of Guerra - maybe three films. I sort of liked
ERENDIRA, but have the feeling that it's not typical.

Anyone know anything about Laiz Bodansky, whose film BRAINSTORM showed
some talent? Don't know if I'd call it a success, though I think Gabe
liked it. - Dan
597


From: filipefurtado
Date: Fri Jul 18, 2003 4:20am
Subject: Re: Brazil
 
I haven't seen The Language of Orson Welles, Sganzerla's
shorts are rarely screened. I love The Red Light Bandit, but
I prefer the one he made just after it Everybody's Woman. I
think Welles is also a big influence, mostly in the radio-
inspired offscreen narrators (even with it isn't the same
sort of radio narration we usually associate with Welles).

Filipe


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598


From:
Date: Fri Jul 18, 2003 0:46am
Subject: Re: The Crowd Roars (Hawks)
 
In a message dated 7/18/03 12:08:37 AM, sallitt@p... writes:

>The best example is probably the
>countdown when Marlowe forces Eddie Mars out the door in THE BIG SLEEP
>-
>unlike all other movie countdowns, this one doesn't feel slowed down.

You know, I just saw "The Big Sleep" for the first time theatrically last
night. (And what a difference! Hawks' bold lighting calls to mind the many
nighttime exteriors in "Bringing Up Baby.") And all I could think of during the
scene you mention is that I'd seen it somewhere else recently. Well, that
somewhere else was "El Dorado." There's a scene in that film nearly identical to
the one in "The Big Sleep," with Wayne forcing a character out a door as he's
counting down and shooting at him.

I stand by my claim that few film artists could 'recycle' elements from their
own films as pleasurably as Howard Hawks.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
599


From:
Date: Fri Jul 18, 2003 0:56am
Subject: Re: Wilder
 
In a message dated 7/18/03 12:10:30 AM, sallitt@p... writes:

>I'm no Wilder fan, but I'd agree: AVANTI! is the only Wilder film that
>I
>love.

It's pretty amazing, isn't it? On a first viewing, you think that Wilder
might take some of the jokes too far and become crass about them - like with
Juliet Mills' weight problem or Lemmon having to switch clothes with the guy on
the airplane. But he never does. There's a serenity behind the comedy and also
a genuine affection for the characters.

I know Gabe routinely places this film near the top of his favorite films
lists, so maybe he's the one to talk about it. But I love the laid-back pacing,
the long takes, and the scent of Lubitsch always permeating from the screen.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
600


From: filipefurtado
Date: Fri Jul 18, 2003 5:14am
Subject: Re: Brazil
 
> I think we can break Nelson Pereira career in two periods.
The first one (55-73) where he approachs popular culture (the
first subject of most of his films, history being the second)
from the position of a superior intelectual commentator (with
some exceptions) and the second (74-) where he tries to get
closer to his more popular roots and criticizes openly some
of his early positions (again with a few exceptions). The
second period also welcomed a more messy and spontaneous mise
en scene (Memoirs of Prison is the more controlled of the
period). This tendency was already present in Red Mandacuru
and El Justicero, the two films of the first period that are
closer to the ones in the second (and El Justicero is after
Rio North Zone, my favorite of his). There's a wonderful
story about how Red Mandacaru happened. In 61, Pereira had
come with a crew to the northeast to make Barren Lives, but
it suddenly start to rain. The crew stayed there for two
weeks and the rain didn't stop and they need arid locations
so there no way they could shot Barren Lives there. Pereira
get the crew and the actors talk to then and decide to
improvise a small western without a script (there is some
regular low-budget westerns in brazil in the 60's and 70's,
using the cangaceiros in the place of the cowboy). The film
is not a complete success but it's quite good, and this story
seems to me important to Nelson Pereira methods, specially in
the late movies.

I'm not a big Guerra fan, but his last Turbulence is very
good, I would strongly recommend his first The Scoudrels and
Malandro too. It's hard for me to think in a typical Guerra
film, since I don't seen much continuity in his filmography.

I liked Brainstorm too, it was very overrated here, but it
has merits and I'm certainly seeing Bodansky next film.

Filipe


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