Home    Film    Art     Other: (Travel, Rants, Obits)    Links    About    Contact
a_film_by Main Page
Posts From the Internet Film Discussion Group, a_film_by

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.

Important: The copyright of each post below is owned by the person who wrote the post, and reproducing it in any form requires that person's permission. It is possible to email the author of any post by finding a post they have written in the a_film_by archives at http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/a_film_by/messages and emailing them from that Web site.


701


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 0:27pm
Subject: Epics! and auteurs
 
How does everyone feel about the Hollywood epic and the role of the
auteur? Lots of auteurist favorites and/or erstwhile "small"
filmmakers - Anthony Mann (EL CID, THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE),
Nicholas Ray (KING OF KINGS, 55 DAYS AT PEKING), Frank Borzage (THE
BIG FISHERMAN), Andre de Toth (GOLD FOR THE CAESARS), Howard Hawks
(LAND OF THE PHARAOHS), Robert Siodmak (CUSTER OF THE WEST), Richard
Fleischer (BARRABAS, for starters), Henry Hathaway (CIRCUS WORLD),
Robert Aldrich (SODOM AND GOMORRAH), King Vidor (SOLOMON AND SHEBA,
WAR AND PEACE), Cy Endfield (ZULU), Carol Reed (THE AGONY AND THE
ECSTASY, OLIVER!), George Cukor (JUSTINE, MY FAIR LADY) and so on -
seem to have moved from either low-budget B-pictures or medium-budget
A- or B-grade genre or prestige pictures to colossal epics: road
show blockbusters, 70-millimeter monsters and Cinerama holidays.

The '60s, in this respect, seemed to represent both the New
Beginning for epic filmmaking, as well as its Death Rattle. John
Ford shot in Cinerama and Super Panavision 70 for HOW THE WEST WAS
WON and CHEYENNE AUTUMN, respectively. David Lean's movies got
fatter and fatter, and filmmakers as diverse as Blake Edwards (THE
GREAT RACE) John Frankenheimer (GRAND PRIX) and John Sturges (ICE
STATION ZEBRA) directed projects using various epic formats.

And the list of auteurist favorites who seemed to avoid, through
their own efforts or because of the fact that they'd fallen out of
favor at one point or another, the epic "trap", is equally
fascinating: Sam Fuller's movies got weirder and cheaper as he moved
from 'Scope movies like CHINA GATE and HOUSE OF BAMBOO to lower-and-
lower-budget classics like UNDERWORLD U.S.A. and THE NAKED KISS, his
falling-out-of-favor seemed to take place right at the point where he
should have taken on mega-budget stuff like THE LONGEST DAY
(according to Fuller, he was offered the job of helming TLD by
Zanuck, but turned him down). Alfred Hitchcock's transition
from '50s Hitch to '60s Hitch is the stuff of genius and the
assertion of a personal vision, not of being signed on to preside
over a Techniramic disaster picture or costume epic. Orson
Welles...well, you know. And Douglas Sirk quit H'wood, arguably,
while he was way ahead. Can you imagine a 70-millimeter, 6-track,
Techniscope epic in the hands of F.W. Murnau, Josef von Sternberg,
Max Ophuls (who came the closest, maybe, with LOLA MONTES), Jean-Luc
Godard, Jean Renoir, or Charles Chaplin?

Do epics represent an auteur's selling-out? When you're chained to
an iron beam marked SAMUEL BRONSTON, how do you express yourself
creatively? Does bigger necessarily mean fatter, more bloated, less
style, less interesting? What conditions seem to work in favor of
the auteur coming out a winner in the end, and which do not? What to
the better films of this class have in common, if anything? And
ZULU - Jesus, is that movie great or what?

Jaime

http://filmwritten.org/
702


From: Joseph Kaufman
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 5:18pm
Subject: Re: Epics! and auteurs
 
>Do epics represent an auteur's selling-out? When you're chained to
>an iron beam marked SAMUEL BRONSTON, how do you express yourself
>creatively? Does bigger necessarily mean fatter, more bloated, less
>style, less interesting? What conditions seem to work in favor of
>the auteur coming out a winner in the end, and which do not? What to
>the better films of this class have in common, if anything? And
>ZULU - Jesus, is that movie great or what?
>
>Jaime

I wouldn't be quick to put down Samuel Bronston. He knew what kind
of directors he was hiring, and he chose the thoughtful ones to make
his films for him.

And no, I don't think these films are sell-outs. They manage an
intimacy -- of theme, if not of scenes per se -- that one doesn't
find in, say, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. For instance I always
felt that KING OF KINGS was one of Ray's best, most politically
engaged projects.
--

- Joe Kaufman

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
703


From: Fred Camper
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 5:35pm
Subject: Re: Epics! and auteurs, and Q for Dan
 
There's so much to reply to here and so little time: I'll do what I can
starting with one or two of the ones that I can reply to more quickly.

Here's a "survey" I haven't actually taken but think I can guess the
results of: of the directors whose work I love who have made epics, I
like a higher percentage of their non-epic films than of their late 50s
and early 60s epics. But there are many, many exceptions. Some of Mann's
are very good. The ultimate epic of the period, Mankiewicz's
"Cleopatra," is actually a perfectly excellent Mankiewicz film that
needs no apologies once it's stripped of the historical baggage that
surrounds it for anyone who knows the story of its production
(memorialized in one of Andy Warhol's great newspaper headlines: "EDDIE
FISHER BREAKS DOWN. In Hospital Here, Liz in Rome"). (And Dan; was that
small room at Harvard the "Ivy Office"? Ivy Films was one of the two
film societies, but the only one with an office when I was there, and I
spent many memorable hours, sometimes alone and sometimes with others,
there. It was tiny and there was a mirror system someone had cooked up
to get a decent image size but that was no longer used. I mention this
in this context because a friend once watched a 16mm anamorphic print of
"Cleopatra" there. The image must have been about eight inches high.
That was a little too much, or too little, even for me). But some of the
other epics are terrible, such as "Solomon and Sheba." And I'm no great
defender of "King of Kings," nicknamed by some wag "I Was a Teenage
Jesus," which seemed stylistically undistinguished when I last saw it
save for a few great moments, such as the crucifixion.

While many directors thrive on a tension with their material, one
assumes that for many of these epics they were simply overwhelmed by the
production.

- Fred
704


From: Fred Camper
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 5:43pm
Subject: Re: female cinephiles
 
Elizabeth,

Welcome to our group! As co-moderator, I actually did a google search
when admitting you, and learned that you had an M.D. from Yale, so I
wasn't surprised by your information. Indeed, I think knowledge of
different aspects of the actual world is pretty important in
understanding and evaluating films and film history.

I took your little test and you'll be amused to know that after looking
at my watch I had a second or two of confusion, along the lines of "How
am I going to do this," before I figured out that I should go with a
mental map, starting with Maine. I got up to 48 in my minute.

I've read New York Times accounts of research that suggest there are
genuine, biologically based psychological differences between the
genders. I would still claim that they are "on average" differences and
that you're going to find group oriented women, loner or a-few-friends
men (that would be me), women who think in terms of maps, and so on.

Why there are more male cinephiles than women is an interesting
question, but it's one of those things like "Why do gay men like opera"
(about which someone wrote a whole book) that I'm not sure is all *that*
interesting, especially since there are cinephiles and opera-philes of
all types.

- Fred
705


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 6:34pm
Subject: Re: Expression/What is Expressed
 
> "Incidentally, in the collective text on YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, we
> distinguished clearly between ideology and writing. We were very
> conscious then of the danger (which we subsequently did not
> always avoid) of confusing ideology with writing. It's quite simple:
> the cinema loved by the Cahiers from the beginning is a CINEMA
> HAUNTED BY WRITING.* This is the key which makes it
> possible to understand the successive tastes and choices. This
> is also explained by the fact that the best French filmmakers
> have always been - at the same time - writers (Jean Renoir,
> Jean Cocteau, Marcel Pagnol, Sacha Guitry, Jean Epstein, etc.)"
>
> http://home.earthlink.net/%7Esteevee/Daney_1977.html
>
> *For '"writing" read "expression" (as in Astruc and Epstein's idea
> of cinema as "writing with images"), for "ideology" read "what is
> expressed."

This reminds me of that bit in "A Certain Tendency" where the word
"auteur" is seemingly used to mean "writer" (where Truffaut lists the
French directors he likes). I've always wondered whether there wasn't
some semantic confusion in the propagation of the word "auteur" -
whether it wasn't meant originally to refer to director-writers. - Dan
706


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 7:06pm
Subject: Re: Borzage, film viewing issues
 
> First off, I wanted to ask: which Borzage films are our favorites?
> I have Dan's "best of" page bookmarked, and there's quite a few
> there, and Damien has recommended a couple from between 1932 and
> 1944. How about Fred, Mike Grost, Bill K., etc.?

My feeling is that HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT is the film where Borzage
outdid himself. The rest you can probably get from my lists, but after
that I'd pick: THE MORTAL STORM; LITTLE MAN, WHAT NOW? (some kind of
archetype for Borzage, the film that I think sums him up best); A
FAREWELL TO ARMS; LUCKY STAR; and THE RIVER.

> Mann's development of the Arthur Kennedy and James Stewart
> characters in BEND OF THE RIVER and (much more successfully, I feel)
> THE MAN FROM LARAMIE put the viewer in a bind that, if you'll forgive
> the continued reference to S&M, is part of the pleasure that those
> films offer. THE FAR COUNTRY, also a good Mann/Stewart western with
> some amazing stuff in it, is somewhat inferior in comparison;

I think I'd go along with this evaluation. BEND OF THE RIVER's
construction is superior to that of THE MAN FROM LARAMIE, but I prefer
the latter film anyway - Borden Chase's scripts tend to bother me with
their us-against-them self-righteous dynamic, to the point where I feel
as if a director must actively undercut the script to overcome its
problems. - Dan
707


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 7:11pm
Subject: Re: Epics! and auteurs
 
> How does everyone feel about the Hollywood epic and the role of the
> auteur? Lots of auteurist favorites and/or erstwhile "small"
> filmmakers - Anthony Mann (EL CID, THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE),
> Nicholas Ray (KING OF KINGS, 55 DAYS AT PEKING), Frank Borzage (THE
> BIG FISHERMAN), Andre de Toth (GOLD FOR THE CAESARS), Howard Hawks
> (LAND OF THE PHARAOHS), Robert Siodmak (CUSTER OF THE WEST), Richard
> Fleischer (BARRABAS, for starters), Henry Hathaway (CIRCUS WORLD),
> Robert Aldrich (SODOM AND GOMORRAH), King Vidor (SOLOMON AND SHEBA,
> WAR AND PEACE), Cy Endfield (ZULU), Carol Reed (THE AGONY AND THE
> ECSTASY, OLIVER!), George Cukor (JUSTINE, MY FAIR LADY) and so on -
> seem to have moved from either low-budget B-pictures or medium-budget
> A- or B-grade genre or prestige pictures to colossal epics: road
> show blockbusters, 70-millimeter monsters and Cinerama holidays.

I think the hit rate of successful director's films in the epic genre is
probably respectably high in comparison to other genres. Mann's epics
are among his best works, and BARABBAS and WAR AND PEACE are very good.
CUSTER OF THE WEST is a pretty decent film too, though not quite as
expansive.

> Can you imagine a 70-millimeter, 6-track,
> Techniscope epic in the hands of F.W. Murnau, Josef von Sternberg,
> Max Ophuls (who came the closest, maybe, with LOLA MONTES)

Ophuls seemed completely comfortable with working on a big canvas,
didn't he.

> Do epics represent an auteur's selling-out?

Making films for money always involves some kind of compromise. I don't
see a good reason to draw the line at epics. - dan
708


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 7:14pm
Subject: Re: Epics! and auteurs, and Q for Dan
 
>(And Dan; was that
> small room at Harvard the "Ivy Office"? Ivy Films was one of the two
> film societies, but the only one with an office when I was there, and I
> spent many memorable hours, sometimes alone and sometimes with others,
> there. It was tiny and there was a mirror system someone had cooked up
> to get a decent image size but that was no longer used. I mention this
> in this context because a friend once watched a 16mm anamorphic print of
> "Cleopatra" there. The image must have been about eight inches high.
> That was a little too much, or too little, even for me).

I can't remember whether Ivy Films existed when I was at Harvard. My
recollection is that the film societies were mostly attached to the
houses by that time - I remember that one of my big reasons for
selecting Leverett House was that it had no film society. The storage
closet where I had my magical screening of LIFEBOAT was under a
staircase in a meeting room in old Leverett. - Dan
709


From:
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 8:00pm
Subject: Auteurism and Open-mindedness
 
About auteurism and openness to a director’s vision:
Tag Gallagher (an auteurist!) quotes Goethe in his book on John Ford: "Whoever would discover a poet, must journey into the poet's land..."
Years ago read a writer. He was a reporter telling how in the 1940's he had been assigned by his city editor to be drama critic for his paper. He had no experience whatsoever. He had to see a large variety of plays. Most of them immediately bored him, in the first five minutes. It was clear that they were kinds of plays he would never voluntarily see on his own. But he had to see them through to the very end. To his amazement, many of the plays gradually got more interesting to him as they went along. After a half hour or so, he would gradually start taking an interest, and begin to understand the approach of the play. By the end of the evening, he was often deeply fascinated by what he saw. The experience of being a reviewer opened up a whole new world to him, that of the theater, and gave him a huge number of intellectual directions he had never considered before.
He had a moral to this story: he was disturbed about how easy it was for people to change channels on the radio or TV, two minutes after the start of a show. He felt it often kept people trapped in a little world of narrow tastes, instead of exploring new things they would ultimately like.
710


From:
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 4:28pm
Subject: The Dreamers
 
Hello all,

A few of you know of my 10 month odyssey of researching and writing about
Orson Welles' "The Dreamers." Last night, the latest issue of Senses of Cinema
went online and, with it, my piece:

http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/03/27/welles_dreamers.html

I hope everyone enjoys it. I think it will be of interest to many on the
group. Comments, questions, or requests for elaboration are welcome!

Cheers,

Peter

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

711


From:
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 7:56pm
Subject: Borzage
 
Borzage is great!
Borzage was one of the screen's best directors of romances. My Borzage favorites:
A Farewell to Arms
A Man's Castle
Stranded
History is Made at Night
Stage Door Canteen
Borzage's characters are often employed in professions demanding skill. A good deal of a film might show their actual work. They often make things or build things or do services useful to others. Borzage respects this deeply. This is true of the women, as well as the men. The insistence on the dignity of women’s work can give a feminist edge to Borzage.
Borzage's women often serve as moral compasses to men, guiding them back into the right direction. Borzage's characters often have to fight their way through a crowd of people, literally pulled along by some moral force that is overwhelming: the blinded Chico making his way back to the heroine in Seventh Heaven; Kay Francis fighting her way through the unhappy workers with a message for them in Stranded. Or the way all the soldiers shift to the other side of the train in Stage Door Canteen at the opening, so they can see women out the windows on one side.
Living spaces and work spaces in Borzage can seem charged with meaning. I do not know how Borzage does this. His compositions often depend on the arrangement of furniture and partitions in such spaces.
Borzage criticized Nazi Germany in The Mortal Storm (1940). He looked at spousal abuse in History is Made at Night (1937). These films seem very modern politically.
Little known fact: Borzage and Raoul Walsh were friends when they worked at Fox in the early 30's.
A footnote: AMC used to show reruns of the old This Is Your Life TV program from the 1950's. One starred actor Jean Hersholt. The show listed all of Hersholt's charitable and service activities: they were astonishing! No wonder there is a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award each year at the Oscars. Towards the end of the show, the host said, here is your old friend Frank Borzage! Out came the middle-aged Borzage, who said a few pleasant words to Hersholt. It is just a glimpse, but there is surviving footage of Borzage.
The movie Ten From Your Show of Shows collects Sid Caesar's uproarious spoof of This Is Your Life.

 

712


From: hotlove666
Date: Fri Jul 25, 2003 9:02pm
Subject: Varia
 
I'm not sure that cinephilia is about finding friends for me. I went
to a Dwan silent screening at UCLA last night and spent as
much time avoiding people I didn't want to see as I did seeing
people I enjoy (Joesph K. with his Barthes Reader, David
Chierrchetti, whose book on Edith Head appeared in March, I
learned). Thinking back to the "primal screen" at Roger and
Howard's, there wasn't a lot of socializing going on. But God
knows cinephilia networked me into the various gigs I have today
(except for my day job) or have had in the past. That's for sure.

The psychoanalysis of cinephilia is a very interesting task - it's
been done in fragments here and there, but nothing I could
recommend reading.

All this talk of Mann and morals and nothing about THE NAKED
SPUR? There you have a Robert Ryan villain who shows up with
a bill of particulars (every crime in the book) attached to him
designating him as bad, and Stewart as the hero - after which
things get very complicated.

My friend Michael Singer, who did Blackhawk's indispensable
Directors book through 1997, is a big epic fan - he claims that
the genre contains lots of real as well as specious history,
geography and politics, citing for example Hawaii (George Roy
Hill, script by Trumbo and Tadarash). He's just nuts about the
genre - and correlatively, about Jesus movies and Alamo
movies. He says Black Hawk Down (a bitchun flick, in my
estimate) is the movie he's proudest to have worked on (as unit
publicist). Let me add to this hearsay defense of the genre the
fact that Ford's section of How the West Was Won is very, very
good (the most objective film ever made, according to Straub:
pardon me if I repeat myself). I also agree with Joseph K. about
King of Kings.

Arguably, an epic (like an action film today) requires a mastery of
all the elements of filmmaking that drama and comedy don't. Jan
de Bont pointed out to me that most Hollywood big-budget
actioners today are directed by immigres, because film school
grads in this country learn how to work with actors, but not how to
paint a set - something that Verhoeven, for example, had to do all
the time when he was still in Holland. I wonder how true that was
back in the Golden Age? Someone like Ulmer could do it all, and
was seriously handicapped when he was stuck with studio
departments creating their own constumes and sets, as in
Strange Woman, arguably his most boring film.

Writer-director is one of the things auteur can mean, and I think
that when auteurism was a politique, in france in the 50s and
60s, that was key: Demy gave a fascinating interview to CdC in
the 80s where he defined "auteur" by griping about how
producers were treating him: "I have the right to write my own
scripts - I'm an auteur!" "I have the right to an extra week in the
schedule to put in little details that only give pleasure to me - I'm
an auteur!" But I don't think it's limited to that. The "camera-stylo"
metaphor and the phrase "writing with images" also expand
naturally into a definition of directors as auteurs whether they're
writers or not.

Re: Borzage's brief appearance. I THINK that you can see
Tourneur on the set of Stars in My Crown for about 5 seconds in
William Castle's Hollywood Story, but I'm not sure.
713


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 0:03am
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
I was kind of surprised at the Borzage lists. "History is Made at Night"
is very good but I don't think it's one of the greatest.

With the type of auteur who keeps getting greater, at any point in
career there are films that represent his best work, great films that
also extend what he had done into somewhat new territory. In a long
article on Brakhage I referred to those films of his as the "main line,"
to differentiate them from his "applied" films -- that is, films in
which he "applied" his already-established style to a particular subject.

So, for example, Hawks's "main line" can be traced from "Four Sons" to
"Judge Priest" to "How Green Was My Valley" to "The Sun Shines Bright"
(very underrated, and very very great, my third favorite Ford I think,
after LV and 7W) to "The Searchers" to "The Man Who Shot Liberty
Valance" to "Seven Women." The last five of those seven are my five
favorites.

So for Borzage, while I haven't seen most of the silent films, of those
I have seen I'd start with "Lazybones," and then "Street Angel" and "The
River." Then in the sound era: "Man's Castle, "Green Light," and then a
string of masterpieces at Metro that are so great that it's hard to
exclude any: "Three Comrades," "The Shining Hour," "Disputed Passage"
(is that one Metro? And does imdb not list studios???), "Strange Cargo,"
"The Mortal Storm," "Smilin' Through," and then, of those after Metro,
"Moonrise," and "China Doll."

I have a "Disputed Passage" essay anthologized in volume I of "Movies
and Methods" that is one of the first serious treatments of Borzage in
English, and tries to limn his career a bit. I don't remember exactly
when it was written but probably around 1969.

Some more comments:

"Man's Castle" is in my view absolutely crucial. It's Borzage's
"Anticipation of the Night," his "Eroica Symphony," his early
declaration of the nature of his art. I did a long analysis of it in an
old issue of "Focus!" that I could find eventually; the crux of it was
that the film is about seeing the individual ego, and its desire and
possessiveness, as anomalies, as mistakes, as momentary states that
should be transcended -- as they in fact are at the film's end, on both
a plot level and in the camera movement of the final shot. "Green Light"
and "Disputed Passage" are two of his three films based on novels by the
then-popular religious hack writer Lloyd C. Douglas. They bear
comparison with the Sirk based on a Douglas novel, "Magnificent
Obsession." The difference, as I've said before, is that Borzage is a
believer who actually takes this stuff seriously. The dissolve from the
church-shaped radio to the actual choir near the beginning of "Green
Light" is great evidence of that, a spectacular opening up of the space
that shows in fact how he sees space.

"'Till We Meet Again" is great too.

The line of Metro ones are mostly religious, and they're amazing.
Indeed, Borzage is the greatest spiritualist of Hollywood cinema, a poet
of belief whose images are about a transcendence of materiality -- our
low-rent Dreyer, as it were. "Strange Cargo" is a kind of Jesus parable
with incredible use of skies. "The Shining Hour" is not one of the
religious ones, in fact, it's his sex film, though don't expect any sex
or nudity, of course. "The Mortal Storm" has one of the most
devastatingly great endings of any film, and what that ending says about
memory, and the spiritual versus the material realms, and the meaning of
an individual's life, could fill volumes. This would be the obvious
choice for his best film, though I would choose "Smilin' Through,"
kitschy as it is, as being even a bit more amazing. "Moonrise" is great
throughout but has a blazingly great opening montage. And "China Doll"
may not be quite as strong as some of the others for much of its length
but has an ending as great as anything in Borzage, an ending that's
worthy of the ending of "Anatahan," but is moving in a different way, a
way much closer to melodrama taken seriously.

Hey, I have a Borzage story to match Mike's: on a 16mm rental print of a
film by some other auteur, I don't remember who, there was a short about
golfing spliced onto the beginning of reel 1 that included a shot of
"Frank Borzage teeing off."

Important fact: his name is pronounced "Boar- ZAY - ghee." (Jeez, I
don't know if I'm phoenticizing this correctly, but it's not the sound
of "gee," but a hard "g").

Here's a cinephilia story. I have a friend who is very much like the
people portrayed in the recent movie (which I've not seen). He has a
print fetish. I used to joke with him, parodying the effeminate
rare-book collector Bogart briefly impersonates in "The Big Sleep" (he
refers to the "edition with the erratum on page 356," or something like
that), that he wouldn't go to a particular screening "because they were
showing the print with the splice at 224 feet of reel two." And he
generally refused to see things in 16mm. About ten years ago, he asked
me about "China Doll," and I sang its praises. He loved some other
Borzages and now he really wanted to see it. So I said, "As far as I
know it's impossible to see in 35mm, but I know a collector who owns a
16; let's do a screening." I don't know if I misunderstood that he
wasn't interested, or if he misled me into believing that he might be,
but after I arranged with my friend to screen it it became clear our
cinephile wasn't coming. My friend and I discussed what to do, and we
decided we both wanted to see "China Doll" again anyway, so I went over
and he ran it. And we both loved it again, and the ending brought me
close to tears. And a decade later the cinephile, or should I say
"cinephile," has, as far as I know, still not seen it.

- Fred
714


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 0:08am
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
> Borzage was one of the screen's best directors of romances. My Borzage favorites:
...
> Stranded

Wow - this is one I've never seen. (Looking at my records, I've missed
three sound Borzages: STRANDED, SHIPMATES FOREVER, and THE VANISHING
VIRGINIAN.

I guess I'd propose MANNEQUIN as the most underrated Borzage - it's just
a bit behind the favorites I listed in another post. AFTER TOMORROW is
also quite good and little known. Of the later films, THAT'S MY MAN
strikes me as the best (MOONRISE is probably the most accomplished, but
for some reason I've never loved it).

I remember someone putting HIS BUTLER'S SISTER on their Sight and Sound
all-time ten-best list. I think he was overreacting a bit, though that
reverse track through the crowd at the end is definitely striking.

(I used to confuse this film with the similar-sounding HER SISTER'S
SECRET, which actually is one of my favorite Ulmers, along with GREEN
FIELDS, THE CAVERN, and, inevitably, DETOUR. Embarrassing confession:
still haven't seen STRANGE ILLUSION.)

> Stage Door Canteen

This is rather an unusual choice! - Dan
715


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 0:14am
Subject: Re: Varia
 
> The "camera-stylo"
> metaphor and the phrase "writing with images" also expand
> naturally into a definition of directors as auteurs whether they're
> writers or not.

I presume that, in the article from Steve Erickson's page, Daney was
using some form of "ecriver" (to write) instead of some form of "auteur"
(author)?

It doesn't really matter how the term "auteur" came to mean what it
means today (whatever that is!), but I was fascinated by the idea that
the word may first have been deployed by the Cahiers critics to mean
"screenwriter." I wonder if the word was being bandied about before
Truffaut's "A Certain Tendency" article. - Dan
716


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 0:29am
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
Dan Sallitt wrote:

>....Of the later films, THAT'S MY MAN
>strikes me as the best....
>
Yikes! Major disconnect! Auteurist food fight coming!

Seriously, isn't that the stupid horse movie? I once owned a 16mm print
of it, actually. It has its moments but it's an incredibly minor. Is you
nuts or what? Care to settle this in the alley? Oh, wait a minute,
Borzage is the wrong director for that kind of talk, and I'm not even
drunk like Dave in "Some Came Running."

Seriously, this is hard for me to understand, especially given the
reasonableness of some of your other tastes.. I agree with you about
"Stage Door Canteen" being a weird choice, but "That's My Man"??? Hmf.
This would be like preferring "To Catch a Thief" (very good, better than
That's My Man) to "Vertigo. It don't make no sense.. I might think you
had horse fetish but you wuz recently dissin' my friend Tim's horse
movie "Sylvester" (admittedly, not one of his very greatest works).

Seriously, though I'm trying to be humorous, these choices make me
wonder if you "get" Borzage. At least, you don't "get" the same director
I get.

> Embarrassing confession:
>still haven't seen STRANGE ILLUSION.)
>
Ah, now I see the problem, even though this is a different director.
Study the way the camera moves past the picture of the father in the
middle of the movie for a key to how to see Borzage's subtler camera
movements. And study the opening dream for a key to the opening of the
later "Moonrise."

Well, I'm just kidding about "Strange Illusion," but not about Borzage.

Since some people seem to have enjoyed my reminiscence, I'll add this
one: as I think I've said before, sometimes we film society types just
rented films to see them, and not even show them publicly, out of our
budgets, if they were cheap enough. A lot of 16s could be rented for
$10, and some of them were things that our public audience might have
had some trouble accepting. Marty Rubin used to do this a lot the year
he ran the Yale Film Society, and during a particularly good period in
terms of what prints were in I went down for a day and saw six movies --
my record, matched one time in New York, where it was harder, going from
theater to theater. Anyway, we used to for-us-only rentals with Ulmers.
And that's the way I saw Strange Illusion the first time, alone, in the
office of the MIT Film Society. (Others of us saw it later, of course.)
I was so amazed by it I did something I'd never done before. After it
was over I *had* to see the opening again, but that didn't quite do it,
so then I rewound and watched the entire film again. There was something
about "Strange Illusion" that made me want to do that. And it wasn't
only greatness, because I had had access to prints of many greater films
that I didn't do
this t with, not twice in a row, not for narrative features (a lot for
avant-garde films though).

- Fred
717


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 0:35am
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
> the crux of it was
> that the film is about seeing the individual ego, and its desire and
> possessiveness, as anomalies, as mistakes, as momentary states that
> should be transcended -- as they in fact are at the film's end, on both
> a plot level and in the camera movement of the final shot.

This is a nice idea. Films usually portray love as the meeting of two
characters possessing the same set of personality points given them by
the screenwriter and director. It's a convenient shorthand way of
communicating to the audience, but it says little about love, or course.
Borzage has a tendency to show people moving past differences to a
state where the differences don't matter. This may not be exactly what
you were saying, but it's related, in that ego manifests itself not only
in desire and possessiveness, but also in the myriad of traits that make
up our personalities. One sometimes feels in Borzage as if the
characters are leaving their personalities behind as they travel into
love or faith. It's an idealized vision, but the departure from realism
is meaningful.

> "Green Light"
> and "Disputed Passage" are two of his three films based on novels by the
> then-popular religious hack writer Lloyd C. Douglas. They bear
> comparison with the Sirk based on a Douglas novel, "Magnificent
> Obsession." The difference, as I've said before, is that Borzage is a
> believer who actually takes this stuff seriously.

I actually have the feeling that Sirk does his best to pretend that he
believes in these stories when he directs them. Perhaps he tips his
hand by believing too hard! I can't honestly say that the Douglas films
are my favorite works of either director, though.

> The dissolve from the
> church-shaped radio

Antique dealers actually call them "cathedral radios." I looked for one
for the movie I just made, but couldn't get one cheaply. - Dan
718


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 0:44am
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
> Seriously, isn't that the stupid horse movie? I once owned a 16mm print
> of it, actually. It has its moments but it's an incredibly minor.

Well, it's been a while, but I seem to recall the characters having an
unusual seriousness. I don't know if I see all Borzage's qualities in
the film, but I liked it without reservations. Can't go into detail
without another viewing.

MOONRISE probably falls down a hole in my personality, but I've seen it
many times and never broken through to it. Maybe next time will be the
charm.

> This would be like preferring "To Catch a Thief" (very good, better than
> That's My Man) to "Vertigo.

Gee, TO CATCH A THIEF doesn't strike me as a minor film at all.

> I might think you
> had horse fetish but you wuz recently dissin' my friend Tim's horse
> movie "Sylvester" (admittedly, not one of his very greatest works).

That script couldn't be saved. I once wrote that I wished Hunter had
tried to subvert it more, and when I met him around the time of RIVER'S
EDGE he told me that he agreed. - Dan
719


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 1:31am
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
Dan,

Well, I certainly agree with your comments about Borzage and love, so I
guess our food fight is not to be, even if I still disagree about some
other things.

Thanks for the ID of "cathedral radio" -- that's great, and if I ever
write about the film it will prove useful.

Sirk certainly didn't *talk* as if he took the material all that
seriously, either in interviews or when I met him. In particular, the
choral music in "Magnificent Obsession" is not something that his style
saves, but rather that fits in as a kind of mockery.

About "Moonrise," if you do see it again, I think the swooping camera
movement in on the house is a key to much of the film's space, including
to the ferris wheel scene. There's another film I once owned a 16mm of.

It's been a long time since I've seen "To Catch a Thief." I *do* think
it's very minor compared to "Vertigo," but that doesn't mean it's minor
compared to, say, a major Dwan.

About Tim Hunter's "Sylvester," among other plot problems (spoilers!
MAJOR SPOILERS!) is the fact that in this girl and her horse movie the
horse wins the big race at the end. What a big surprise. Jeez.

About my long story about viewing "Strange Illusion" alone, I was trying
to make a point that I should have made clearer: that the ideal model of
film viewing for me is alone with a print, not with an audience, and
certainly not with an audience of critics. (I mean, I'd prefer a "real"
audience if I had a choice -- for one thing, you learn more from their
reactions.) So having access to 16mm prints, and being able to look at
them again and again, alone in a film society office or in my apartment,
was a key to the way I learned to see film. Now if there was a few close
friends there, the kind who *also* loved Borzage, that was OK, but alone
was still better.

I still get this opportunity sometimes today. I still do own a few
prints, mostly of avant-garde films, including some Brakhages. And at
some press screenings at the Film Center or Facets I can be the only
viewer. These are typically not great films though. But when I wrote
that long review of "Bonjour Tristesse," I made it clear to the Film
Center that I had to see it twice first, and for some strange reason no
other critic showed up to their screenings, and so I got to see their
beautiful 'Scope print twice, alone, in my favorite seat. Ahhhhh.

- Fred
720


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 2:48am
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
Even though there are certainly some humdrum Borzages as well as outstanding ones, I'm somehow particularly uncomfortable with the idea of playing "favorites" with this director -- that would mean I'd be unlikely to recommend, as Mike Grost did, something as problematical as STAGE DOOR CANTEEN, whose sublimities I'd think only the most confirmed auteurist would be prepared to appreciate, amidst Gracie Fields' now-incredible "Jap"-gunning song and the mind-annihilating barrage of other entertainment ephemera and propaganda hitting us squarely between the eyes. And now I see even Fred and Dan have questioned this choice! I'd better keep my endorsement of SONG O' MY HEART to myself.

Anyway, I once saw a mint 35mm print of STAGE DOOR CANTEEN that seemed only a rung or two below heaven -- in the '70s, in a theater in a collector's home in San Francisco. I've never been able to remember the name of this theater, which was then a well-known revival venue -- I assume it's been gone for decades. Does anyone remember it - or know what ever became of *those* prints?

I was obsessed with seeing Borzage films for a while, but threw in the towel partly out of frustration at the apparent unavailability of many of them (and just talking about the sound films really). (I never had a 16mm projector.) More recently, the Lincoln Center retro in the '90s (actually a Borzage and Margaret Sullavan retro) offered only a limited selection, not particularly well attended and so basically, probably, the end of it for now. THE BIG CITY, which did show up in Howard & Roger days and which I've always wanted to see again, no longer seems to be available, for example (I don't know about cable tv). I used to figure it would turn up in a Spencer Tracy retro at some point (ditto for Cukor's THE ACTRESS, by the way) but I suspect there may be even less interest in Tracy these days than in Borzage!

THAT'S MY HORSE, which I did see ages ago, went galloping over my head as well, but is there any way of seeing something like that nowadays in any form, not that it would be my first choice, just wondering? To say nothing of GREEN LIGHT or DISPUTED PASSAGE...
721


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 3:05am
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
> Sirk certainly didn't *talk* as if he took the material all that
> seriously, either in interviews or when I met him.

In the Halliday book, he didn't talk about treating the material with
distance or cynicism. He talked about finding the craziness in bad
material and going with it. And he made comparisons to Greek tragedy
and other high art. On paper, at least, he sounds as if conviction was
the key to him being able to put the movie over.

> Important fact: his name is pronounced "Boar- ZAY - ghee."

Belton gives us "bor-zay-dzhee." I took that "zh" to be the sound in
the middle of "vision." - Dan
722


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 3:14am
Subject: Re: Re: Borzage
 
> Even though there are certainly some humdrum Borzages as well as
> outstanding ones, I'm somehow particularly uncomfortable with the
> idea of playing "favorites" with this director -- that would mean I'd
> be unlikely to recommend, as Mike Grost did, something as
> problematical as STAGE DOOR CANTEEN, whose sublimities I'd think only
> the most confirmed auteurist would be prepared to appreciate, amidst
> Gracie Fields' now-incredible "Jap"-gunning song and the
> mind-annihilating barrage of other entertainment ephemera and
> propaganda hitting us squarely between the eyes. And now I see even
> Fred and Dan have questioned this choice! I'd better keep my
> endorsement of SONG O' MY HEART to myself.

No, your at-least-partial endorsement of Mike's endorsement is
appreciated. I may have missed its virtues the way you missed those of
THAT'S MY MAN! It's a daunting structure, though, you must admit.

I also did not enjoy SONG O' MY HEART or LILIOM very much, though I
don't mean to discourage these confessions. I felt as if Borzage was
having trouble with sound, though in a year or two he was doing fine.
And the horse of THAT'S MY MAN seemed more workable a device to me than
the tenor of SONG.

> THAT'S MY HORSE, which I did see ages ago, went galloping over my
> head as well

I liked what Hoberman said this week in the Village Voice about
SEABISCUIT: "The movie, however, is concerned that every one of its
viewers even Seabiscuit himself will get the significance." - Dan
723


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 3:21am
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
Well, first, I think "Stage Door Canteen" is really good, kind wonderful
actually. It's just when people put it on a list of the best Borzages
that I take exception. A great director can have many levels of
greatness, and the greater the director the higher the lower levels. Is
"Air Force" one of the six greatest Hawks films? Of course not. Is it a
great film? Of course. And does it have any flaws? Not really.

I remember Sirk's talking about how he could stay in Hollywood and do
still another "impossible" (or something like that) story, and I think
that was in Halliday. You're right that he wasn't taking a smugly
mocking perspective or being truly cynical, but he also, in the old
interview in Cahiers du Cinema 189 (which is much better than the
Halliday interview, and one of the great director interviews of all time
-- it was so good that Halliday plugged a few quotes from it into his
book, when he couldn't get Sirk to repeat them), he talked about "An
Affair to Remember," and my impression, though he didn't say it
directly, was that he admired it for its sincerity, a sincerity he saw
as different from what he was doing.

I mean, can anyone really argue that the viewer is supposed to take all
that Lloyd C. Douglas "source of infinite power" talk in "Magnificent
Obsession" seriously? A cynical treatment, no, but a distanced
treatment, absolutely.

I still want to reply about why Sirk is much greater than Fassbinder,
but that's going to have to wait a few days...

- Fred
724


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 3:05pm
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Dan Sallitt wrote:
> One sometimes feels in Borzage as if the
> characters are leaving their personalities behind as they travel into
> love or faith. It's an idealized vision, but the departure from realism
> is meaningful.


HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT may not be the most stunning Borzage visually, although I don't think I've ever seen it in a clear print (by the way, MOONRISE, photographed by John L. Russell, I found absolutely astounding in 35mm), but there's one aspect of it that struck me the last time I saw it: Just as Jean Arthur is initially married to the dastardly Colin Clive, Charles Boyer almost seems to be portrayed as "married" to his restaurant partner, the genial chef Leo Carillo; but if Clive is a possessive and abusive lover, Carillo is an unusually selfless and nurturing one (it's evidently an "open" relationship), stepping aside and encouraging and helping the (bisexual) Boyer to pursue his heart's true Borzagean love once recognized. (Even that somewhat androgynous quality of the very great Jean Arthur seemed to plug into this reading...)
725


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 3:20pm
Subject: Re: Re: Borzage
 
> Just as Jean Arthur is initially
> married to the dastardly Colin Clive, Charles Boyer almost seems to
> be portrayed as "married" to his restaurant partner, the genial chef
> Leo Carillo; but if Clive is a possessive and abusive lover, Carillo
> is an unusually selfless and nurturing one (it's evidently an "open"
> relationship), stepping aside and encouraging and helping the
> (bisexual) Boyer to pursue his heart's true Borzagean love once
> recognized.

The selfless, sexless best friend is such a storytelling convention,
though. I don't know if its presence says much about Borzage, as he
doesn't develop this idea in any unusual way.

> (Even that somewhat androgynous quality of the very
> great Jean Arthur seemed to plug into this reading...)

Androgynous, eh? Don't know what it says about me, but this never would
have occurred to me. - Dan
726


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 3:26pm
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
Dan Sallitt wrote:

>Belton gives us "bor-zay-dzhee."
>
He's wrong, sorry.

And, since we *are* publicly archived, I phoned Belton. He agrees it's
"Bor-ZAY-ghee" (hard "g," NOT as in "gee"). I read him your
pronounciation from his book, which he didn't remember. He laughed and
said, "That author obviously doesn't know what he's talking about."

- Fred
727


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 3:36pm
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
>>Belton gives us "bor-zay-dzhee."
>
> He's wrong, sorry.

Darn - I'm too old to re-learn this.... - Dan
728


From:
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 11:38am
Subject: Borzage
 
Read with enormous interest everyone's posts on Borzage. And learned a lot.
Most of the writers have seen more Borzages than I have. Unfortunately, my
Borzage viewing has been in fits and starts throughout the years - a film
society screening here, a TV viewing there. What I need to do is go through a month
when I see nothing but a lot of Borzage movies over and over. Thats what it
takes to generate a deeper understanding.
My post was careful not to claim the listed movies were the BEST Borzages.
Instead, it called them FAVORITES. These were the movies that really sent me at
the time of watching them. They just seemed terrific.
Stranded: This just showed up on TCM a year ago, on a double bill with Living
on Velvet. (TCM also shows The Actress (George Cukor, 1953), which someone
mentioned recently. The camera movements in the parlor scene with Tony Perkins
are superb.)
For what its worth, I always pronounced the name Borzage the way Fred Camper
does, with a hard G at the end. Where did I hear this? It took decades to get
a definitive take on pronouncing Cukor (its like cucumber, as the director
used to tell people).
Stage Door Canteen. I only saw this once, around 20 years ago. Obviously this
is atypical of Borzage's career, at least on the surface. Or is it? It has
little to do with two of Borzage's principal themes, love and spirituality. But
it has much to do with Borzages reverence for work. The theater people in the
film are all great artists and craftsmen. They are the kind of people he
admired in film after film, people whose work is creative and meaningful. It is a
side of Borzage that needs to be brought to the surface.
Have never forgotten the young soldier's awe at his meeting with Katherine
Cornell, and their reciting of Romeo and Juliet together. This scene
encapsulates all the love for the theater many people have. It is a force as great and as
sublime as cinephilia. Only Borzage could express such an interior spiritual
force with such clarity and power. (My other favorite film about the love of
theater: The Great Garrick (James Whale, 1937)).
Also loved the music in this film, especially Gracie Fields singing The
Lord's Prayer. Have also seen a clip of an early Borzage talkie, Song O' My Heart
(1930), with the great tenor John McCormack singing Little Boy Blue. Such slow,
delicately emotional numbers seem like a Borzage tradition. The tango Adios
Muchachos in History is Made at Night is also memorable. Hollywood films used
to be full of wonderful musical numbers.
Mike Grost
729


From: Damien Bona
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 5:06pm
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Dan Sallitt wrote:
>
> Androgynous, eh? Don't know what it says about me, but this never
would
> have occurred to me. - Dan

Like Jess, I've always found Jean Arthur to have androgynous
qualities, although more so in some pictures than in others. In The
Plainsman and Arizona, the major subtexts of the films is her
characters' sexual identity. And in Mr. Smith, she's "one of the
guys." On the other hand, her androgyny is much less pronounced
when she was playing more standard romantic comedy leads such as in
You Can't Take It With You and Easy Living. And then there's A
Foreign Affair, in which the issue isn't sexual ambiguity but,
rather, sexual repression.

> The selfless, sexless best friend is such a storytelling
convention,
>though. I don't know if its presence says much about Borzage, as he
>doesn't develop this idea in any unusual way.

To me the most frustrating sexless best friend character is Tommy
Noonan in A Star Is Born -- he is so obviously a neutered gay man
that his bland unemotional devotion represents the only false notes
in the film.
730


From: jess_l_amortell
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 5:54pm
Subject: Re: Borzage
 
> For what its worth, I always pronounced the name Borzage the way Fred Camper
> does, with a hard G at the end. Where did I hear this? It took decades to get
> a definitive take on pronouncing Cukor (its like cucumber, as the director
> used to tell people).


I only relatively recently learned how to pronounce Boetticher (Bett-ick-er, right?). But this reminds me - before I irreparably disgrace myself on line at the Walter Reade or something, does anyone know the preferred pronunciation of De Toth, if any? Is it as in "Goth," as I've usually said, or as in "loath," or perhaps something a little more Hungarian-sounding?
731


From: hotlove666
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 7:06pm
Subject: Names, ecriture, Dwan, Strange Illusion
 
I've always said it with a hard "g." And de Toth does rhyme
with "Goth." The big mystery to me is Gerd Oswald. I've been saying
it "Jerd" ever since I heard Joe Dante say it that way, but he later
told me it was just an assumption. I don't recall Chabrol (who knew
Oswald) correcting me when I said "Jerd," but that could just be
French politesse.

Serge wrote "ecrire" and "ecriture" in that interview, which was
conducted in writing before I met him. The word rhymes with the 30-
year-old phrase "writing with images" on the one hand and the newly-
minted "ecriture" in the Derridean sense. Serge's unsurpassed, still
untranslated Hawks article ("Rio Lobo: The One Grows Old") said that
the basis of Hawks' style and thematics was "the refusal to write."

Fred, comparing Dwan to Hitchcock is like comparing apples to
oranges, but I'll tell you one thing - Dwan was, if anything, more
interested in space as the main component of film language than
Hitchcock. My Dwan article for Locarno last year drew heavily on
Rohmer's great and as far as I know still untranslated article on
space in cinema. (Has "The Taste for Beauty" been translated? It's in
there.) One could argue that Dwan's fidelity to the idea of cinema as
a spatial art, and the very specific form it took, were eccentric,
but I think it just looks that way in comparison with the triumph of
German ideas in the genius of Hitchcock. Dwan's cinema is 100 pecent
American, and rooted in the silent cinema. It's just that he was
relegated to B movies after sound came in - B movies which are,
unfortunately, kind of hard to see. (Thank God for Eddie Brandt!)

As with Dwan (and Tourneur, and Oswald) there's something about a
film like Ulmer's Strange Illusion that rivets me as few films even
by the greats do. Can it be that, doing modest films, they had a
freer hand to express themselves, and Hollywood conventions be
damned? Where else but at PRC (and only after achieving a measure of
power there - the first 5 PRC Ulmers are nothing to brag about!)
could you begin and END a film with a dream sequence?

That goes triple for the poor mugs making movies for the studios
today, as Tim Burton recently learned: When he agreed (against his
better judgement) to do Mars Attacks! with CGI instead of stop-
motion, the budget went over $100 million and he lost control of -
and interest in - the film, which as a result was his only boring
work...until Planet of the Apes, where he was crushed like a bug by
the same studio that let James Cameron run wild on Titanic. Cameron
had already learned his lesson on The Abyss, and made sure that the
need for popcorn sales would never again eliminate the last twenty
minutes of a film that was working beautifully with audiences before
he was forced to eviscerate it. Hitchcock learned that working with
Selznick and never forgot it, until a studio head infinitely less
gifted than Selznick, Lew Wasserman, reminded him by engineering the
destruction of Topaz.

Where is Fred's article on Bonjour Tristesse? Hulk want. Must have.
733


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 7:16pm
Subject: Re: Names, ecriture, Dwan, Strange Illusion
 
hotlove666 wrote:

>
>Where is Fred's article on Bonjour Tristesse? Hulk want. Must have.
>
>
>
>
Bill,

Just quickly, because I'm running out: the stuff about space and Dwan I
find fascinating. Is your article in English? And if you find the Rohmer
in English, let me know. Being a lazy film viewer, or perhaps one who
isn't that interested in being "entertained" by a film that isn't great,
I tend to give up early on directors who don't really spark my interest;
of the Dwan's I've seen, which includes a few silents, the only one I
*really* liked was "The River's Edge" (seen on my beloved 42nd Street).

Bonjour Tristesse:
http://www.fredcamper.com/Film/Preminger.html

An index to my film writing on the 'Net:
http://www.fredcamper.com/Film/writingF.html

- Fred
734


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 7:25pm
Subject: Re: Names, ecriture, Dwan, Strange Illusion
 
> Fred, comparing Dwan to Hitchcock is like comparing apples to
> oranges, but I'll tell you one thing - Dwan was, if anything, more
> interested in space as the main component of film language than
> Hitchcock.

Yeah, that's Dwan's thing.

Here's something I wrote on Dwan for That Other List:

--------

He's an odd sort of auteur, because he wholeheartedly embraces the
Hollywood/genre qualities of whatever material he works with, whereas
most good genre directors have more of a filtering sensibility,
rejecting or minimizing the conventions they don't like and playing up
the ones they do. Dwan seems never to have met a convention he didn't
like, which means that an inane project in his hands usually comes out
inane squared, and almost unbearable. But he has an assured visual
philosophy: a wonderful sense of how space can be interpreted
dramatically, and a dedication to Griffith's emotional syntax that
sometimes seems almost radical. Take, for instance, the "Hey, I've got
a great idea! Let's build a canal!" moment from SUEZ, which is amazingly
filmed by Dwan as a long closeup that comes to feel like something by
Warhol.

It's probably pretty hard to appreciate Dwan's virtues without being
familiar with the baseline studio style for the genres he used. Maybe
the world will eventually stop producing Dwan fans, as the context for
his work becomes less available.

---------

> My Dwan article for Locarno last year drew heavily on
> Rohmer's great and as far as I know still untranslated article on
> space in cinema. (Has "The Taste for Beauty" been translated? It's in
> there.)

It has been translated, and this article ("Cinema, the Art of Space")
has been one of the touchstones of my aesthetics ever since I read it.

- Dan
735


From: David Westling
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 10:44pm
Subject: Mai Zetterling's _Night Games_
 
Hello out there,
I'm trying to find out information about Mai Zetterling's _Night Games_
(1966). A film that has all but fallen through the cracks, it has garnered
notoriety for its audacious use of graphic sex (allegedly deemed
'pornographic' by Italian and French censors at the time, and shown in its
appearance as the Swedish entry to the Venice Biennale in '66 as a private
screening) in telling the tale of a troubled young aristocrat who makes an
attempt to overcome the influence of his domineering mother, first as a
twelve-year-old boy and then at the age of 35. The scene is an old castle
where the protagonist follows a rite of passage though an orgiastic
bacchanal to the destruction of the castle to shed the burden of his past.
Anyone have any citations for reviews or info on procuring a copy?

David Westling
736


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 11:34pm
Subject: name pronunciations
 
Martin Scorsese's A PERSONAL JOURNEY helps a great deal with
pronouncing directors' names. At least, I would think so, since he
pronounces 'Borzage' the way Fred had it, with the hard G. I can't
remember Boetticher, but he said it when he talked about THE TALL T.
My mind always says De Toth as in "goth," but about a month ago I met
a girl whose last name was Toth, and she said her name with the long
O, as in "loath", but with a hard TH. She was of Hungarian descent.

While we're on the subject, is it "GodarD" or "Godarh"?

I wish I could respond to a lot of the great recent posts, but I'm so
damned tired. Hope everyone is well.

Jaime
737


From: cjsuttree
Date: Sat Jul 26, 2003 11:48pm
Subject: Re: Fassbinder
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Dan Sallitt wrote:
>
> He dedicates this film to Rohmer, doesn't he? And this is 1965 or
1966
> - he probably could have been referring only to THE SIGN OF THE
LION.
>

I just saw _Love is Colder Than Death_ (on video only, alas),
and while I don't know German I'm guessing that its opening
credits also contain a dedication to Rohmer (among others).
Interesting that Fassbinder seemed so fond of Rohmer at one
point. I guess the early Rohmer films featured some pretty
vicious characters, compared with the mildly selfish deluded folks
who end up mostly hurting themselves in his later films.
The males in _Suzanne's Career_, _The Baker's Girl of Monceau_,
and _La Collectionneuse_ may not find themselves out of place
in Fassbinder's universe.

I like Fassbinder more and more these days, but some of his
stuff leave me scratching my head. I don't have the right
frame of reference to understand or enjoy _Chinese Roullette_,
_Whity_ is plain wierd (it must bother Schygulla to know that
she can't carry a tune), _Angst der von Angst_ is like a TV
movie of the week, extremely well shot and framed but the
subject matter hardly seems worthy of Fassbinder's talents.

Something just struck me, thinking about Rohmer and Fassbinder.
Fassbinder was such a rebel and criticized everything left
and right, but I don't remember any of his film being especially
critical of religion. In fact the only of his films I've seen
where Christianity plays a significantly role seem to be
_Berlin Alexanderplatz_ and _In a year of 13 Moons_.

Anyway, has any filmmakers ever come up with more enigmatic
and baroque movie titles (_Gods of the Plague_, _Beware of a
Holy Whore_, _Mother Kuster goes to Heaven_ ...) than Fassbinder?
738


From: Tosh
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 0:29am
Subject: Re: Fassbinder
 
>
>
>Anyway, has any filmmakers ever come up with more enigmatic
>and baroque movie titles (_Gods of the Plague_, _Beware of a
>Holy Whore_, _Mother Kuster goes to Heaven_ ...) than Fassbinder?
>
>
>
Since he was a huge Douglas Sirk fan, maybe he based his titles (as a
tribute) on some of his films: Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven
Allows, There's Always Tomorrow, The Tarnished Angels, Imitation of
Life, and Sign of the Pagen.
--
Tosh Berman
TamTam Books
http://www.tamtambooks.com
739


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 0:31am
Subject: Film titles
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "cjsuttree" wrote:

> Anyway, has any filmmakers ever come up with more enigmatic
> and baroque movie titles (_Gods of the Plague_, _Beware of a
> Holy Whore_, _Mother Kuster goes to Heaven_ ...) than Fassbinder?

I won't use Sirk to flog Fassbinder, as I'm sure Fred will when he
replies, but I think Sirk has the greatest titles in filmdom, at least
from ALL I DESIRE on. In fact, I once thought up a definition of
narrative cinema that uses three Sirk title and one Tourneur one:
Cinema is an art which comes out of the past to write on the wind an
imitation of life whose only law is that there is a time to love and a
time to die.

Patrick
740


From: Tristan
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 3:51am
Subject: Re: name pronunciations
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Jaime N. Christley"
wrote:
> Martin Scorsese's A PERSONAL JOURNEY helps a great deal with
> pronouncing directors' names. At least, I would think so, since he
> pronounces 'Borzage' the way Fred had it, with the hard G. I can't
> remember Boetticher, but he said it when he talked about THE TALL
T.
> My mind always says De Toth as in "goth," but about a month ago I
met
> a girl whose last name was Toth, and she said her name with the
long
> O, as in "loath", but with a hard TH. She was of Hungarian descent.
>
> While we're on the subject, is it "GodarD" or "Godarh"?
>
> I wish I could respond to a lot of the great recent posts, but I'm
so
> damned tired. Hope everyone is well.
>
> Jaime

What about Fassbinder? Is it with an a with an "ahh" sound or with
the sound of an a in "fast? Is the i a hard i like in "crime". Todd
Haynes says it with the "ahh" and soft i like in "in".
741


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 6:24am
Subject: Re: Re: Fassbinder, Rohmer
 
> I guess the early Rohmer films featured some pretty
> vicious characters, compared with the mildly selfish deluded folks
> who end up mostly hurting themselves in his later films.
> The males in _Suzanne's Career_, _The Baker's Girl of Monceau_,
> and _La Collectionneuse_ may not find themselves out of place
> in Fassbinder's universe.

I always think of Rohmer as having a little more of an edge than is his
rep. There are certainly later films too with troublesome characters:
PAULINE AT THE BEACH, the last episode of LES RENDEZVOUS DE PARIS, and
(if female characters count) LES NUITS DE LA PLEINE LUNE come to mind,
not to mention the rather scary world of L'ANGLAISE ET LE DUC.

LE SIGNE DU LION is written by Paul Gegauff, which probably has
something to do with its edginess. Admittedly SUZANNE is one of his
darkest works, but the hero of BOULANGERE isn't all that bad, is he?
About average for a Rohmer guy, I'd say.

> I don't have the right
> frame of reference to understand or enjoy _Chinese Roullette_,
> _Whity_ is plain wierd (it must bother Schygulla to know that
> she can't carry a tune), _Angst der von Angst_ is like a TV
> movie of the week, extremely well shot and framed but the
> subject matter hardly seems worthy of Fassbinder's talents.

Of these three, I like only ANGST, and not as much as the best
Fassbinders. Certainly he went in a lot of weird directions, many of
which didn't work out. But then, the dude made something like 41
features, in approximately the time that would elapse between two
consecutive Dreyer films. That kind of crazy productivity is probably
tied to the need to experiment. - Dan
742


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 2:48pm
Subject: Re: Mai Zetterling's _Night Games_
 
> Hello out there,
> I'm trying to find out information about Mai Zetterling's _Night Games_
> (1966). A film that has all but fallen through the cracks, it has garnered
> notoriety for its audacious use of graphic sex (allegedly deemed
> 'pornographic' by Italian and French censors at the time, and shown in its
> appearance as the Swedish entry to the Venice Biennale in '66 as a private
> screening) in telling the tale of a troubled young aristocrat who makes an
> attempt to overcome the influence of his domineering mother, first as a
> twelve-year-old boy and then at the age of 35. The scene is an old castle
> where the protagonist follows a rite of passage though an orgiastic
> bacchanal to the destruction of the castle to shed the burden of his past.
> Anyone have any citations for reviews or info on procuring a copy?

I have a friend who has a video copy of the film (probably PAL) in
Swedish with Greek subtitles. If you have any use for such a thing,
he's willing to duplicate it for you.

I thought there was a Sarris review of this film somewhere, but I can't
run it down. Thomson mentions it as one of his two favorite Zetterling
films in BIO. DICTIONARY. - Dan
743


From:
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 0:54pm
Subject: Favorite films by year
 
The list of favorite films by year is now up!
It covers 1909 - 1974.
It is at:
(http://members.aol.com/MG4273/chron.htm)
The list covering 1975 - present is also still available.
It is at:
(http://members.aol.com/MG4273/zten.htm)

This is a humbling exercise.
It reminds one of how many great, famous films I still have not yet seen.
Comments are welcome.
Thanks!
Mike Grost
744


From: hotlove666
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 5:17pm
Subject: How to pronounce Godard
 
Godarh. Dennis Bartok (who knew him well) always said de Toth like
Goth; John Hughes (ditto), Fass-bin [like been] der. Fascinating
comment re: Rohmer and Fassbinder.
745


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 5:34pm
Subject: Re: How to pronounce various names
 
One does want to get foreign names right, but I don't think one needs to
jump through hoops to say them exactly as they are said in their native
language. I wouldn't correct someone who pronounces the final "d" in
"Godard," for example, though I certainly would correct someone who said
"True-Fote" instead of "True-foh," because not pronouncing final hard
French consonants in English is pretty standard, whereas I have heard
"Godard" pronounced with the final "d" more than once. Most native
English speakers are not going to get "Bunuel" exactly right, because
there's a middle syllable sound that doesn't exist in English. I don't
say "Bun-well," but what I do say, something like "Boon-you-el" with the
"you" very quickly said, is not correct either, though I hope it's
closer. The same is true of German names with umlauts over the "u." Most
Americans speak of the patina "Durer" without accounting for the umlaut,
even though that would be wrong in German.

Back in those film society days I've been talking about one of the
Harvard types among us read that in Japanese the syllables are all
accented equally. Thus when he announced next week's film by Mizoguchi
he would say something like "Mitz-o-goo-chee," trying to pronounce each
syllable carefully and equally accented. A couple of decades later I saw
a documentary about Mizoguchi that included interviews with people who
knew him. Not only was his name spoken about three times faster than the
way my friend did it, and not only was the final syllable way
under-accented compared to the rest, but a non-Japanese speaker hearing
it probably wouldn't even be able to write it down in his or her own
language. The whole rhythmic system of Japanese is just utterly
different from that of English. In other words, a native Japanese
speaker lecturing on Japanese directors in English would, if she
pronounced their names as they were pronounced in Japanese, make it hard
for her listeners to figure out who she was talking about, especially if
the names were unfamiliar to the listeners. So I think one should say
"Mizoguchi" as if it were an English word, so that your listeners will
know what you're talking about.

- Fred
746


From:
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 1:52pm
Subject: The Dreamers
 
The article by Peter Tonguette on The Dreamers is terrific!
It is beautifully written, clear, and packed with information.
Now our only problem is, where can we see this movie?
The only one of the missing Welles films that has been seen here is Its All
True (1942), restored by Bill Krohn. That film is fascinating, with a rich
visual style. It is an index of what we are missing with Welles.
I last saw The Immortal Story decades ago. At the time, it seemed like the
most beautiful color film ever made.
A movie like this should be regarded as a national treasure. It should be
shown regularly on cable TV.
And news that there is half an hour of a sequel should cause theaters
everywhere to want to show it as a short.
Mike Grost
747


From: David Westling
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 6:57pm
Subject: Re: _Night Games_
 
Dan Sallitt:

> I have a friend who has a video copy of the film (probably PAL) in
> Swedish with Greek subtitles.  If you have any use for such a thing,
> he's willing to duplicate it for you.
>
> I thought there was a Sarris review of this film somewhere, but I can't
> run it down.  Thomson mentions it as one of his two favorite Zetterling
> films in BIO. DICTIONARY. - Dan

Thanks for the offer, but it kind of hits me sideways, if you know what I
mean. I understand it does exist in an English-subtitled version; I need
that one, really. PAL would be okay, I can get that converted.

I'll try to track down a Sarris review myself.

Thanks,
David Westling
748


From: David Westling
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 7:00pm
Subject: Re: favorite films by year
 
>
> The list of favorite films by year is now up!
> It covers 1909 - 1974.
> It is at:
> (http://members.aol.com/MG4273/chron.htm)
> The list covering 1975 - present is also still available.
> It is at:
> (http://members.aol.com/MG4273/zten.htm)
>
> This is a humbling exercise.
> It reminds one of how many great, famous films I still have not yet seen.
> Comments are welcome.
> Thanks!
> Mike Grost
>

I can't get these links to work. I get a URL not found error message.

David Westling
749


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 7:10pm
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven
 
Trying to get caught up here....

I went to "Far From Heaven" kind of expecting to hate it, since I
usually hate most things said to be Sirkian unless they were directed by
Him Himself. And if I'd gone expecting "Far From Heaven" to be as good
as "Written on the Wind," probably *would* have hated it. I wound up
rather liking it, but mildly. I didn't take it as a melodrama to be
taken at face value, though Bill is right that it's about a marriage
breaking up. But I think it's also "about" a gay man's reimigining of
the 1950s as filtered through Sirk films and his own version of what the
50s were like, or something like that. Are these people on the screen
illusionistic presences meant to represent actual characters, even as
they do in Sirk, or are they figments of a madia-made imagination? I
think the latter.

Also, Sirk's vision is in a way more general, and here I'm echoing
comments I received form Patrick Ciccone around the time I saw the film.
In Sirk, the characters cannot find happiness because of the general
state of things (of which more soon). One has the feeling from "Far From
Heaven" that the sources of unhappiness are more localized, and that the
filmmaker thinks if we could just "fix" homophobia and racism the main
characters in fact would be happy. This strikes me as a more localized,
and more sociolgically-based, and less vision-based statement, and hence
not as interesting as Sirk's.

It also seems to be wrong, but that's no reflection of the film one way
or the other.

About Sirk being watched by Mrs. Sirk: the one time I met him, at the
time of 1979 Museum of Modern Art retrospective, when I went to New York
mostly to see him, I spent two and a half hours with him in his hotel
suite Mrs. Sirk was there, said hello, and then went into the bedroom,
and stayed there. Of course, I suppose she could have been listening in....

- Fred
750


From: Fred Camper
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 7:56pm
Subject: Re: Re: Fassbinder
 
This is mostly in response to Damien's Sirk and Fassbinder post. I think
Damien gives a reasonably good account of Fassbinder. My only problem is
that I don't like his films.

I've only seen six or seven, my usual limit for a direcotr I don't much
like. The first was before he had much of a reputation here, at a
retroscpectve Marty Rubin mounted around 1972. I went to "The Bitter
Tears of Petra von Kant" and was intrigued by what I took to be its
Sirkian use of wall paintings in the background (or is it wallpaper).
But the more I went, the less that I found of interest. Tristan is right
that Fassbinder capable of careful framing that articulates the
narrative well, and Damien is right that Fassbinder's use of decor and
actor postiioning and productin design is quite calculated and
controlled. And I agree with what I take Damien to be saying about
Fassbinder's more "humanist" side, and that his subject is more actual
characters in the world than Sirk's is. At the risk of seeming like an
anti-humanist, that's what I think limits him, just as I think it limits
Haynes in "Far From Heaven." There's a difference between offering a
commentary and expressing a genuine vision.

At the crux of what I think Sirk is about are images up that are so
riven with perceptual paradox as to approach having a blinding effect,
on both the characters and the viewer. The strongest and most explicit
instances of these include the entrance to the Miami hotel in "Written
on the Wind," the long take exit from the seedy caf with mutliple
mirrors in "The Tarnished Angels," and the compositions in the Moulin
Rouge in "Imitation of Life" (the tiny figure of Annie in the bacground
of some). These are compositions that can't be easily parsed or easily
resolved. The Miami hotel that Kyle has arranged for Lucy to get her to
have sex with him is full of objects, but none of its colors really flow
into each other, the parts of the frame are all divided from each other.
The profusion of objects and surfaces overwhelms, it stupifies, it
destroyes logic, it ultimately blinds. And this is an effect that is, by
the way, largely lost of video, in which colors tend to blend into each
other and small differences between colors are effaced.

In general, Sirk's compositions, with their weird tension between
foreground and background, with their almost stage-like theatrical
spaces that don't ever really come together -- it's as if the edge of
the stage is always visible, so that the viewer can't get lost in the
image -- create a space that's difficult to navigate. The objects and
surfaces of our materialistic culture come together to deny the
individaul any autonomy. Even on a narrative level, it can sometimesd
seem like the objects are telling the characters what to do.

Fassbinder seems to me to be a pretty good visual storyteller. His style
varies a bit from film to film, and never amounts to anything more than
decor for me -- it never becomes, as decor does in Minnelli or Sirk,
articulated architecture. The parts never seem to be interacting with
each other -- verticals with horizontals, planes of depth with
backdrops. If you like his stories and his acting, his style will
heighten them for you, but the style never amounts to a vision.

One of the last ones I saw was "Lola," which I was told I would
definitely like because the colors are so "Sirkian." The colors are
quite nutty is what they are, over the top, mannerist. It was
interesting. I just didn't think it was very good.

- Fred
751


From:
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 5:36pm
Subject: Re: The Dreamers
 
In a message dated 7/27/03 1:54:03 PM, MG4273@a... writes:

>The article by Peter Tonguette on The Dreamers is terrific!

Thank you, Mike!

>Now our only problem is, where can we see this movie?

I know that the Munich Filmmuseum has shown their presentation of the
material at Welles retros in London and Libson, so that bodes well for more showings
in festival settings. The film - particularly what Bill usefully terms "the
garden fragment" - >needs< to be seen and nothing gratifies me more than to
hear that my article makes people want to see it.

I think Welles was doing things with color in "The Immortal Story" which few
directors have ever approached, so your comment that it seemed like the
greatest color film ever made when first released resonates very much with me, Mike.
I once wrote a long interpretation of the film which I'm not entirely
confident in, but it basically boils down to my feeling that one of the things
Welles was talking about in TIS was human denial of the metaphysical, the intangib
le, the mysterious. This is what Mr. Clay is doing when he insists on enacting
the old piece of sailor's lore; he can't bear it that it never actually
happened. Remember that Welles himself was drawn to superstitions - the moon held
a great deal of meaning for him - and I think this adds credence to my
theorizing, with OW being the polar opposite of the literal-minded Clay.

But you're right that the film is a wonder purely on a visual level. A
close-up of Jeanne Moreau's Virginie behind an iron gate; a long shot of her
vanishing into the smokey streets of Macao; the lace curtains masking a bed; a
seashell dropping to the floor. These images are as fine as any I can think of in
the cinema.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
752


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Sun Jul 27, 2003 11:57pm
Subject: Aviation films (plus cars
 
I resaw THE TARNISHED ANGELS again today and I was wondering if there
are any other great auteur aviation flicks out there--the list
obviously includes ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS. I haven't seen Hawks'
other aviation flicks, but I actually like the Edmund Goulding remake
of THE DAWN PATROL a lot, though I haven't seen it in a long time.
Ditto FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX. I'm blanking on anything else great --
WINGS isn't too good, based on what I've seen.


It seems to me that the plane is less the vehicle tied to cinema than
the car--to rephrase Godard, both the cinema and the automobile might
be best thought of as 19th century inventions only resolved by the
20th century. And the car seems to be something that the cinema has
dealt with better than literature has--


By the way, what if Burke Devlin of THE TARNISHED ANGELS and Tolly
Devlin of UNDERWORLD, U.S.A. are brothers?

Patrick
753


From: Joseph Kaufman
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 0:36am
Subject: Re: How to pronounce Godard
 
Bill wrote:

>Godarh. Dennis Bartok (who knew him well) always said de Toth like
>Goth; John Hughes (ditto), Fass-bin [like been] der. Fascinating
>comment re: Rohmer and Fassbinder.

Yes but Dennis mispronounced Elmer Bernstein's name (should be
"bern-steen", not "bern-stine"). OTOH Dennis comes from Hungarian
ancestry, so maybe he got Andre's name right.

According to Katz, Andre's real name was Ssvri Farkasfawi
Tthfalusi Tth Endre Antai Mihaly, which presents a vaster problem.
--

- Joe Kaufman

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
754


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 2:25am
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven
 
> Are these people on the screen
> illusionistic presences meant to represent actual characters, even as
> they do in Sirk, or are they figments of a madia-made imagination? I
> think the latter.

I think they start out as the latter and are gradually and
surreptitiously deployed as characters with enough reality to focus our
identification. Both levels exist in both FAR FROM HEAVEN and SAFE, and
I think both levels are necessary for the films to work the way they do.

> One has the feeling from "Far From
> Heaven" that the sources of unhappiness are more localized, and that the
> filmmaker thinks if we could just "fix" homophobia and racism the main
> characters in fact would be happy.

Couldn't one say the same about Mizoguchi's feminist films, for
instance? There are other layers in both cases. I don't think Haynes
made a protest film. - Dan
755


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 2:27am
Subject: Re: Aviation films (plus cars
 
> I resaw THE TARNISHED ANGELS again today and I was wondering if there
> are any other great auteur aviation flicks out there--the list
> obviously includes ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS. I haven't seen Hawks'
> other aviation flicks, but I actually like the Edmund Goulding remake
> of THE DAWN PATROL a lot, though I haven't seen it in a long time.

Yeah, I like that Goulding film too. Ford's AIR MAIL is quite good, and
surprisingly like ONLY ANGELS. And then there's Von Sternberg's JET
PILOT. And DR. STRANGELOVE, if you're a fan. - Dan
756


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 3:08am
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven
 
Dan Sallitt wrote, first quoting me:

>>One has the feeling from "Far From
>>Heaven" that the sources of unhappiness are more localized, and that the
>>filmmaker thinks if we could just "fix" homophobia and racism the main
>>characters in fact would be happy.
>>
>>
>
>Couldn't one say the same about Mizoguchi's feminist films, for
>instance? There are other layers in both cases.
>
Yes, yes, of course, but Haynes has 1.3 other layers, and Mizoguchi has
4,962 other layers....

- Fred
757


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 3:15am
Subject: Re: Aviation films (plus cars
 
It's not as great a film as "Only Angels Have Wings," but the Hawks
"Dawn Patrol" is both quite great on its own and much more of an
aviation film, in that there are lots of shots of landscape from planes
on bombing missions that give a real physical feel for flying in a
small plane. I only saw the Goulding a few decades ago on TV, but I
remember it as ridiculously stagy by comparison. There's also, of course
Hawks's "Air Force," though that's as much about the crew and fixing up
the plane as it is about flying.

My memory of this film is very poor, but I believe Josh H. Lewis's
"Desperate Search" has some amazing flying sequences, though it's not an
aviation film

There's an incredibly great flying sequence at the beginning of
Mulligan's "The Other," though no planes are being referenced.

There's actually amazing footage from planes in a variety of Brakhage
films, footage that captures some of the real mystery of flight, and the
fragility of landscape seen from planes. On the DVD, there's "Crack
Glass Eulogy." There's also amazing aerial footage in "Sol," I think
"Flight," and many others.

- Fred
758


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 3:27am
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven
 
> Yes, yes, of course, but Haynes has 1.3 other layers, and Mizoguchi has
> 4,962 other layers....

Gee, I think Haynes is an extraordinarily complicated filmmaker.

I guess it depends on one's aesthetic approach, but I think that
Mizoguchi's didactic films are very damaged by his didacticism, whereas
Haynes aren't really didactic at all. - Dan
759


From: David Westling
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 4:24am
Subject: Re: _Far from Heaven_
 
One of the things that bothers me about _Far from Heaven_ is what bothers me
about so much television fare: the way audience identification is handled.
Will & Grace, Dharma & Greg, Roseanne (but maybe not Captain Nice)--the
types they invoke cry out for positive cathexis, to borrow a psychoanalytic
term. I'm not trying to equate Haynes' work, which I do think has some
merit, with these abominations, but I believe the principle holds for them
all. I find myself admiring directors who set up a dynamic that allows for
a bit more subtlety in characterization. One of the things that always
strikes me in viewing films from before, say, 1960 is how alienness crops up
more and more as the age of the film increases. That guy in Mamoulian's
_Applause_ (shown at the LaSalle Bank in Chicago last night), the common-law
husband, are there still guys under 70 out there like that? But the problem
with the Haynes film is beyond cathexis as such. I identify with, say,
Ronald Coleman in Capra's _Lost Horizon_ (almost an aviation film!), but
somehow it doesn't have the somewhat cloying quality of Haynes' protagonists
in _Far from Heaven_. I think it has to do, in this case, with the property
of anachronism. They just seemed too early twenty-first century to be valid
exemplars of mid-century sensibility. I know, this is a very hard notion to
pin down.

David Westling
760


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 5:03am
Subject: Re: Chat
 
At Tristan's suggestion Peter and I and I believe Tristan will try out
the "chat" feature of our group tomorrow, Monday, July 28, at 9 PM
Central time.

That would be 10 PM Eastern time, 8 PM Mountain, 7 PM Pacific, and 5 AM
Istanbul time (sorry to our one group member who is in Istanbul at
present -- well, I don't know where everyone is, maybe there's more than
one, but I do know of one).

Any and all are welcome to join us.

I'm not sure what we'll chat about or for how long but we'll doubtless
think of something.

- Fred
761


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 5:43am
Subject: Re: Re: _Far from Heaven_
 
> One of the things that bothers me about _Far from Heaven_ is what bothers me
> about so much television fare: the way audience identification is handled.
> Will & Grace, Dharma & Greg, Roseanne (but maybe not Captain Nice)--the
> types they invoke cry out for positive cathexis, to borrow a psychoanalytic
> term.

Do you mean that they cry out for the audience to identify and invest
their emotional state in the characters? I like your way of thinking
about it, but it seems to me that there are many barriers to this
cathexis in the film: for example, Cathy's continuous 50s-style firmness
with her children (which feels almost abusive in a modern context -
their every request is denied, except for one "We'll see"), or her
inability to grasp the race issues surrounding her treatment of her maid.

> I think it has to do, in this case, with the property
> of anachronism. They just seemed too early twenty-first century to be valid
> exemplars of mid-century sensibility. I know, this is a very hard notion to
> pin down.

I buy it, but you could see the film (and I do) as a struggle between
old-Hollywood style/values and modern sensibility, in which case the
anachronism becomes purposeful. (I list some of the character
anachronisms in my article on the film at 24fps.) Old Hollywood wins,
which explains the graceful sorrow of the robin's-egg-blue old-fashioned
titles claiming the screen in the last shot. - Dan
762


From: Joshua Rothkopf
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 6:09am
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven
 
Delurking for a moment...

Fred:

> One has the feeling from "Far From
> Heaven" that the sources of unhappiness are more localized, and that the
> filmmaker thinks if we could just "fix" homophobia and racism the main
> characters in fact would be happy.

You have that feeling perhaps, but I don't pick up any of that stridency or naivete
from Haynes at all. The way you put it -- in terms of a "fix" -- is fascinating (and
helpful to me, actually) in that I think Haynes is doing just the opposite: All of his
films posit a "fix" to begin with, only to subtly debunk it for not proving to be the
cure to the social ill in question. There's the extremist Wrenwood retreat in SAFE, the
sexually permissive glam-rock moment in VELVET GOLDMINE (an extremely
underrated film), the forward-thinking interracial friendship/relationship in FAR
FROM HEAVEN. If anything, Haynes is presenting a general commentary on doomed
radicalism, with characters struggling in unyielding social contexts -- characters who
seem slightly ahead of their time and suffer for it. How is this perspective not "vision-
related" a la Sirk?

Dan, then Fred:

> >Couldn't one say the same about Mizoguchi's feminist films, for
> >instance? There are other layers in both cases.
> >
> Yes, yes, of course, but Haynes has 1.3 other layers, and Mizoguchi has
> 4,962 other layers....

Lots more layers than 1.3; this is a far more complicated filmmaker than you're giving
him credit for. Film after film, he comments discretely on media plasticity (his use of
Barbie dolls in SUPERSTAR and VG is extremely shrewd). He's reifying and extending
the women's picture for modern audiences while at the same time not sinking into a
single mannerist signature a la David Fincher or some of his other peers. Plus, on all
his pictures Haynes is the writer (a dirty word around these parts), with an
uncommonly deep grasp of film history and grammar (Sirk, Fassbinder, Antonioni,
etc.) that sets him apart from virtually all young American directors working with
Hollywood's money today. You'd think with these credentials, Haynes would be better
defended around these parts. Doesn't he deserve more than mystified shrugs at the
fact that his film topped so many year-end lists (except Sarris')?

Of one-sentence glib dismissals of FAR FROM HEAVEN, the less said, the better.

-joshua
763


From: hotlove666
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 7:25am
Subject: Aviatrix pix, writer-directors, The Immortal Story
 
LE CIEL EST A NOUS is a great aviatrix picture, and could serve as an
ideal introduction to a little-known French director, Jean Gremillon,
who deserves to be much, much better known - if you can find a tape.
Jean-Pierre Limosin, another regretably unknown French director,
planned to do an American miniseries on a real-life aviatrix of the
thirties, but couldn't pull it together. (His Tokyo Eyes was a hit
and is available on DVD.)

On the question of who is or isn't a writer-director, it's hard to
tell. Ford couldn't write (there's a joke about that in Wings of
Eagles), but Hitchcock could. There are whole drafts of some films,
unmade, that he signed. While I was working at Fox, Bob Rafaelson
directed Black Widow and David Cronenberg directed his remake of The
Fly - films supposedly written by a lawyer-turned-screenwriter named
Ronald Bass and Charles Poague, respectively. But both scripts were
completely rewritten by their respective directors. The Fly, in
particular, was dreadful on paper, except for the DNA-scrambling
idea, and I have always supected that Bass, whose career was launched
by Black Widow, has always ridden on other people's talent -- he only
co-signed the script that won him an Oscar, Rain Man. Directors tend
to be surprisingly lenient about these credits, so it's always a good
idea to take a look at the script file, if you can get your hands on
it, before ruling out someone as a writer-director.

The Immortal Story has its detractors, but I'm certainly not among
them. I hope Stefan Droessler restores it; it would be a good double
bill with the Welles-Kodar short script of The Masque of the Red
Death, written a few years after TIS for Spirits of the Dead but
cancelled to make room for Malle's episode -- if Oja directed it
(today) herself. I think Gary wants Curtis Harrington to tackle it.

In his famous article "La suture" Jean-Pierre Oudart mysteriously
referred to TIS as a film where the "phantasm" underlying classical
cinema was revealed, and with it the "figurative" destiny of cinema.
It's unclear what the latter meant, but he later spelled out (in his
article on Four Nights of a Dreamer, available in the BFI Cahiers
collection for that period) what he meant by the former: The Immortal
Story (film, story and story-within-the-story) is about someone
enacting literally the perennial cinematic depth-perversion Oudart
refers to in the Bresson article as "the castrated metteur-en-scene."
Welles took it a lot further in The Other Side of the Wind!
764


From: Damien Bona
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 7:37am
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Joshua Rothkopf"
wrote:
. Doesn't he deserve more than mystified shrugs at the
> fact that his film topped so many year-end lists (except Sarris')?
>
> Of one-sentence glib dismissals of FAR FROM HEAVEN, the less said,
the better.
>

Well, one could say a glib movie deserves a glib dismissal. What
bothered me most about Far From Heaven was that Haynes's
deconstruction of tropes from 50s melodramas illuminated absolutely
nothng about the 1950s, the 2000s, 50's movies, the plight of pre-
feminist middle class women, Rock Hudson, racial or queer issues or
anything else. For me, his imposing a post-modern irony upon a now-
all-but-vanished sub-genre resulted in nothing more than a piece of
post-modern irony. (Despite the references to Sirk found in almost
every review -- Sirk had to have been mentioned in the press notes --
for the most part, Far From Heaven looks less like Sirk specifically
than Ross Hunter pictures in general -- a Jerry Hopper or Helmut
Kautner movie, for instance, as much as Sirk. And there's of course
the overt reference to Ophuls's Reckless Moment.)

I also think that Haynes terribly miscalculated the lead character.
The women in 50s melodramas may have faced societal barriers, but
they were nevertheless strong-willed and possessed an independent
streak (look no farther than Jane Wyman in All That Heaven Allows).
Haynes and Julianne Moore so overplay the ineffectual naivet of the
character that she comes across as a bit of a mental deficient and
bears little relation to a real person. The impression I was left
with is that Haynes does not have a very clear understanding of life
in the Eisenhower era nor of popular culture from the period.

-- Damien
765


From:
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 6:47am
Subject: Aviation Films
 
There are:
The Man Who Found Himself (Lew Landers, 1937).
Lew Landers is a B-movie director who is consistently pleasant.
Nick Carter, Master Detective (Jacques Tourneur, 1939)
Nick solves a mystery at an airplane factory. Some interesting flight and
factory sequences. Not one of the director's best, but shows his background as a
documentary filmmaker.
Twelve O'Clock High (Henry King, 1950)
A Lady Without Passport (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950).
Some good aerial sequences and shots at end.
There are some films I've never seen:
Flight Command (Frank Borzage, 1940).
Winged Victory (George Cukor, 1944).
Strategic Air Command (Anthony Mann, 1955)
The first sequence shot from a helicopter is purportedly the opening shot of:
Criss Cross (Robert Siodmak, 1949).
Mike Grost
766


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 1:09pm
Subject: Re: Re: Far From Heaven
 
Joshua Rothkopf wrote:

>Of one-sentence glib dismissals of FAR FROM HEAVEN, the less said, the better.
>
>
>
For the record, post 749, which was my actual post about "Far From
Heaven," has 11 sentences on that film.

I'm not sure it's frruitful, though, to always go back and forth with
responses. I've said what I do and don't see in the film. We've seen the
same movie but different films and I don't see any need to "rebut" your
points. But keep in mind that my "1.3" layers was in comparison to
Mizoguchi, who I take to be one of the four or five greatest filmmakers
ever; I somewhat liked "Far From Heaven."

- Fred
767


From: Zach Campbell
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 4:14pm
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven
 
Josh Rothkopf:
> You'd think with these credentials, Haynes would be better
> defended around these parts. Doesn't he deserve more than mystified
shrugs at the
> fact that his film topped so many year-end lists (except Sarris')?

Well, not everyone here is dissing FAR FROM HEAVEN. Furthermore, why
make generalizations about "these parts" (e.g., 'writer is a dirty
word') and not acknowledge that auteurists have a historical habit of
remaining unimpressed with films for their credentials?

Damien:
> What bothered me most about Far From Heaven was that Haynes's
> deconstruction of tropes from 50s melodramas illuminated absolutely
> nothng about the 1950s, the 2000s, 50's movies, the plight of pre-
> feminist middle class women, Rock Hudson, racial or queer issues or
> anything else.

Do any of the pro-FFH people foreground these things though? It
seems that the critics and cinephiles who like this movie, at least
those who give impressive defenses of it, posit commentary such as
the stuff you understandably find lacking, as secondary.

I think the film is very good, and to me it's a film about cultural
history and the way we (individuals and societies) bend it - maybe a
second viewing would go so far as to convince me it's about the death
of idealism as projected onto the past from the present. More than
any sociopolitical issue, I think FAR FROM HEAVEN is about cultural
perception. It's not about approximating Sirk, it's about how we
perceive Sirk. ('Sirk' really being shorthand for the myriad 1950's-
1960's tropes and signifiers Haynes plays with in the film.) I think
this is why aspects in the film like the interracial love story and
Quaid's dilemma work in such a context: they throw our 'enlightened'
social desires into a world that we register as 'old-fashioned.'
What makes the film kind of tragic, but in a gentle way, is that
we're seeing our own enlightenment defeated by the moral and
aesthetic trappings of the past - as Dan has mentioned, the story can
be read as a battle of values, with "Old Hollywood" coming out on top
in nice blue lettering.

Now the question is how the breakdown among people about FFH
correlates to their feelings on DOWN WITH LOVE ...

--Zach
768


From: Damien Bona
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 5:27pm
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Zach Campbell"
wrote:
It's not about approximating Sirk, it's about how we
> perceive Sirk. ('Sirk' really being shorthand for the myriad
1950's-
> 1960's tropes and signifiers Haynes plays with in the film)>

But, Zach, why do we need Todd Haynes to tell us how we perceive Sirk
and other 50s pop culture touchstones? I was watching Sirk movies
long before Todd Haynes came along, and I certainly not only
appreciate their brilliance as personal works of art but understand
their relation to the real world of the 1950s.

>>I think the film is very good, and to me it's a film about cultural
history and the way we (individuals and societies) bend it.>

I agree that this was one of the issues Haynes was attempting to put
across, but I don't think it's a particularly novel or profound
concept. One reason we study history -- specifically social and
cultural history -- is because it's a given that perceptions of the
past get changed with the passage of time.
769


From: Damien Bona
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 5:59pm
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper wrote:
But I think it's also "about" a gay man's reimigining of
> the 1950s as filtered through Sirk films and his own version of
what the
> 50s were like, or something like that. Are these people on the
screen
> illusionistic presences meant to represent actual characters, even
as
> they do in Sirk, or are they figments of a madia-made imagination?
I
> think the latter.
>

Fred, I think you're absolutely right in your observations here. My
problem is that I didn't find Haynes's reimagining to be at all
interesting or original, certainly not nearly as much so as, say,
John Waters's reimagining of 1962 in Hairspray.
770


From: Fred Camper
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 6:05pm
Subject: Re: Re: Far From Heaven
 
I guess I agree with both Damien and Zach, somewhat in between the two.
I mean, so often when I see a new much-touted commercial narrative film,
which isn't very often, I find it almost unwatchable. This one kind of
engaged me, and the combination of care in decor and so on and curiously
distanced effect did seem interested and even a little affecting. But
not a lot affecting. Maybe 3 layers rather than 1.3.

I'm also willing to believe that it's better than I think. I haven't
seen "Safe," which many regard as his best.

- Fred
771


From: hotlove666
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 6:39pm
Subject: Aviation flick, FFH
 
Let's not forget The Spirit of St. Louis, one of Wilder's best films.

The business of projecting our libertarian ideals into a restrictive
past is actually not dissimilar from what some 50s filmmakers,
like Sirk and Ray, were already doing. After seeing Bigger Than
Life with me, my filmmaker ex-, Barbara Frank, commented:
"These guys were imagining what it would be like to live in
suburbia and saying, 'If I were there, I'd go crazy!'"
772


From: Zach Campbell
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 8:09pm
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Damien Bona"
wrote:
> --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Zach Campbell"
> wrote:
> It's not about approximating Sirk, it's about how we
> > perceive Sirk. ('Sirk' really being shorthand for the myriad
> 1950's-
> > 1960's tropes and signifiers Haynes plays with in the film)>
>
> But, Zach, why do we need Todd Haynes to tell us how we perceive
Sirk
> and other 50s pop culture touchstones? I was watching Sirk movies
> long before Todd Haynes came along, and I certainly not only
> appreciate their brilliance as personal works of art but understand
> their relation to the real world of the 1950s.
>
> >>I think the film is very good, and to me it's a film about
cultural
> history and the way we (individuals and societies) bend it.>
>
> I agree that this was one of the issues Haynes was attempting to
put
> across, but I don't think it's a particularly novel or profound
> concept. One reason we study history -- specifically social and
> cultural history -- is because it's a given that perceptions of the
> past get changed with the passage of time.
773


From: Zach Campbell
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 8:10pm
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven (correction)
 
(Sorry about that last post)

Damien:
> But, Zach, why do we need Todd Haynes to tell us how we perceive
Sirk
> and other 50s pop culture touchstones?

We don't "need" Haynes to do anything for us, but one can say that
about virtually any work of art, so it's a discussion-stopper. He's
not "telling us how" -- I don't register FFH as didactic -- he's
taken a much humbler stance as far as I'm concerned. He's trying to
look at gaps in comprehension and perception, and he's doing a rare
thing in giving weight to the past, in allowing convention to trump
our dignity (and that of Julianne Moore). This is self-evidently
justified as an artistic goal, isn't it? Or, why not?

> I was watching Sirk movies
> long before Todd Haynes came along, and I certainly not only
> appreciate their brilliance as personal works of art but understand
> their relation to the real world of the 1950s.

This statement can be repeated verbatim by Dan or others of your
generation who actually liked or loved FAR FROM HEAVEN -- so it
can't logically be used as an argument against the film. If
anything, it might indicate more fully that the real issue of FFH is
simply not the relation of Sirk's films to 1950's reality.

> I agree that this was one of the issues Haynes was attempting to
put
> across, but I don't think it's a particularly novel or profound
> concept. One reason we study history -- specifically social and
> cultural history -- is because it's a given that perceptions of the
> past get changed with the passage of time.

I don't think I've made myself sufficiently clear. I'm not trying to
say that FFH is good because it acknowledges that perceptions change -
- the "given" you assign to Haynes -- I'm saying that FFH is good
because of how it examines the implications of this "given" and
dramatizes and visualizes the ways in which they play out for us.
It's more than projecting libertarian ideals onto a restrictive
landscape, as Bill rightly pointed out Sirk & Ray, et al, were doing
in the 1950's -- it's doing so in an historical continuum in which
the anachronisms themselves take on a meaningful role. More than any
sort of social criticism, I'd say FFH is metacognitive criticism on a
cultural scale, if that makes any sense. I think the biggest success
of the film is that, with aesthetic control and great subtlety, it
can rouse a viewer out of slumber. If it doesn't work for a viewer,
that's fine and we can try to examine why, but this strikes me as all
too obviously an intelligent film made by someone who cares about his
material.

If it means anything, I love Sirk and value his great films more than
I do FAR FROM HEAVEN, but I think Sirk and Haynes are very different
filmmakers doing very different things, and Haynes' one-
film "appropriation" of Sirk et al. is simply both subject and tool
for doing many of the things Haynes has repeatedly done in his
work ...

--Zach
774


From: hotlove666
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 9:03pm
Subject: FFH
 
The two women I saw the film with were a mother and daughter
whose husband/father came out of the closet in the 70s and
died of AIDs in the 80s. They were in shock by the time it was
over. The woman said she could have written it herself - she had
said all those lines or heard them at the time she was going
through the divorce.

It lanced a boil and permitted a healthy discussion of their
experience, including the fact that the husband, who was rich,
had an easier time of it after the divorce than the wife, who found
herself being dropped by joint friends - the treatment of Moore by
her best friend, although the issues were different, brought that
out, cementing my idea of the film as feminist, and only
incidentally about racism.

Neither of them ever heard of Sirk, although they did of course
notice that the film was stylized. I dragged them to it not knowing
(because of mealy-mouthed reviewers) what it was really about.
The next night we saw the film they had wanted to see in the first
place, Frida, to make up for the unsought "wakeup" experience.
They loved Frida.
775


From: hotlove666
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2003 10:43pm
Subject: The Aviator
 
That's the title of Scorsese's new film on Howard Hughes, with di
Caprio and Blanchett, now in pre-production.
776


From: George Robinson
Date: Tue Jul 29, 2003 4:53am
Subject: Article on Ulmer
 
Speaking of test cases for the politique, there is an interesting piece on
Edgar G. Ulmer in an unlikely place -- the summer issue of the Jewish
Quarterly, an excellent English magazine; Sylvia Paskin, the author, is
coordinating a major Ulmer retro in London for next year, which is his
centenary. Wonder if we'll be as fortunate.
Unfortunately, the article is not available on their website
(www.jewishquarterly.org) so you'll have to look on your newsstands.

George Robinson
Alas, where is human nature so
weak as in a bookstore?
-Henry Ward Beecher
777


From: Tristan
Date: Tue Jul 29, 2003 4:58am
Subject: Re: Chat
 
I'm glad to report this worked out great. The only problem was only
four people showed up. I hope we can do this again soon. How about
sometime on Friday? Please suggest some times so more people will be
able to join us.
778


From: David Westling
Date: Tue Jul 29, 2003 5:54am
Subject: RE: chat
 
>
> I'm glad to report this worked out great. The only problem was only
> four people showed up. I hope we can do this again soon. How about
> sometime on Friday? Please suggest some times so more people will be
> able to join us.

I tried to join the group, but I'm on a Mac--according to the yahoo info,
only PCs can access, if I'm reading it correctly.

David Westling
779


From: Peter Tonguette
Date: Tue Jul 29, 2003 6:18pm
Subject: Re: chat
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, David Westling <
dwestling@s...> wrote:
> >
> > I'm glad to report this worked out great. The only problem
was only
> > four people showed up. I hope we can do this again soon.
How about
> > sometime on Friday? Please suggest some times so more
people will be
> > able to join us.
>
> I tried to join the group, but I'm on a Mac--according to the
yahoo info,
> only PCs can access, if I'm reading it correctly.


David,

I joined for two sessions - Tristan and I chatted briefly at 9:00
and then Tristan, Fred, Greg, and I chatted for over an hour at
10:00. Each time, I was on one of two Macs I have here at home
and it worked fine.

Peter
780


From: Damien Bona
Date: Tue Jul 29, 2003 9:20pm
Subject: Re: Far From Heaven (correction)
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Zach Campbell"
wrote:

>
> We don't "need" Haynes to do anything for us, but one can say that
> about virtually any work of art, so it's a discussion-stopper.
He's
> not "telling us how" -- I don't register FFH as didactic -- he's
> taken a much humbler stance as far as I'm concerned. He's trying
to
> look at gaps in comprehension and perception, and he's doing a rare
> thing in giving weight to the past, in allowing convention to trump
> our dignity (and that of Julianne Moore). This is self-evidently
> justified as an artistic goal, isn't it? Or, why not?<<

I agree that this is a completely justifiable goal; my problem is not
with the intent but the inadequate result. Haynes simply didn't
provide me with any new insights, and I didn't find what he had to
say about the past and/or our perception of it to have any particular
depth. Nor was I moved by the film -- it didn't engage me on either
an intellectual or emotional level. He's clearly a very intelligent
filmmaker, and I think the movie is an honorable failure, but a
failure nevertheless. I have the film on DVD, and maybe a second
viewing will make me appreciate it more.


>
> This statement can be repeated verbatim by Dan or others of your
> generation who actually liked or loved FAR FROM HEAVEN -- so it
> can't logically be used as an argument against the film. If
> anything, it might indicate more fully that the real issue of FFH
is
> simply not the relation of Sirk's films to 1950's reality.

I think Dan's piece in 24fps is the best thing I've read by someone
who likes the film. The movie spoke to him in a way it didn't speak
to me.

By the way, for a film that brilliantly analyzes the past and probes
the relation between history -- and our perception of it -- with
present day society, I highly recommend Peter Watkins's astonishing
La Commune. I think everyone in this Group would greatly appreciate
it.
781


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 1:19am
Subject: G. Oswald and Borzage (availability)
 
I was enormously pleased to find DIE SCHACHNOVELLE (aka BRAINWASHED)
at no less than the New York Public Library - the branch at 42nd
Street and 5th Avenue. They didn't appear to have any other Oswalds,
but they had a fair selection of videotapes. I'm looking forward to
watching it sometime this week.

Also, when I bought a VHS of the hitherto very-very-very-very-very-
very-hard-to-find Oscar-winning BAD GIRL on eBay, I learned that the
seller, based in Toronto, is a Borzage *nut*. He sent me a list of
all the Borzage tapes he owns, including (I am not making this up) a
small list of films in which FB appeared as an actor - chiefly 1915-
17 stuff as well as that JEANNE EAGELS movie with Kim Novak.

Lining his list up with the IMDb's Borzage filmography, he's been,
uh, pretty darned thorough. Some are incomplete, though.

The Pitch O' Chance (incomplete)
Life's Harmony (opening credits missing)
The Pilgrim
Nugget Jim's Pardner/ Calibre of Man (opening credits missing)
Until They Get Me
The Gun Woman (some opening credits missing)
Humoresque
Back Pay (incomplete & out of sequence)
Valley of Silent Men (incomplete)
The Nth Commandment (incomplete)
Secrets (Russian intertitles with English voiceover translation)
(credits missing)
The Lady (incomplete)
The Circle
Lazybones
The First Year
Seventh Heaven
Street Angel
The River (incomplete)
Lucky Star (silent) (English with secondary French intertitles)
They Had To See Paris (French subtitles)
Song O' My Heart 1929-30
Liliom (French subtitles)
Doctors' Wives
Young as You Feel
Littlefield
Bad Girl
After Tomorrow
Farewell to Arms
Secrets
Man's Castle
No Greater Glory
Little Man What Now?
Flirtation Walk
Shipmates Forever
Living on Velvet
Stranded
Hearts Divided
Desire
Green Light
History is Made at Night
Big City
Three Comrades
Shining Hour
Mannequin
Disputed Passage
Strange Cargo
Mortal Storm
Flight Command
Smilin' Through
Seven Sweethearts
Vanishing Virginian
Stage Door Canteen
His Butler's Sister
Till We Meet Again
Spanish Main
Magnificent Doll
I've Always Loved You
That's My Man
Moonrise
Day is Done (NBC TV: "Screen Directors' Playhouse #2)
A Ticket For Thaddeus (NBC TV: "Screen Directors' Playhouse #25)
Day I Met Caruso (NBC TV:"Screen Directors'Playhouse" # 34)
China Doll
Big Fisherman

I won't copy down the prices and fees, because this isn't a sales
pitch. But if anyone is interested in contacting the seller (his
name is Marcel Pereira) or seeing the complete version of what I've
listed above (with prices and detailed notes, and more Borzage-
related items), I would be happy to put you in touch with him.

Speaking for myself, I'm going to try and score a copy of MAN'S
CASTLE and, based on the quality of that and BAD GIRL (which I have
not watched yet), will decide if I want to buy more.

Jaime
782


From: Fred Camper
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 1:41am
Subject: Re: The Dreamers (now "The Immortal Story")
 
ptonguette@a... wrote:

>....I think Welles was doing things with color in "The Immortal Story" which few directors have ever approached....
>

I love "The Immortal Story" and its color. It's been ages since I've
seen it, so I don't remember that much in detail, but I do remember both
the intensity of the color and the use of extreme contrasts, such as
between blue and yellow.

As for finding it superior to other color films, though, at the risk of
sounding like a broken record I'd have to say the use of color in
Brakhage's "Dog Star Man" -- and specifically, the use of color for the
physical effects of strong contrasts and the articulation of textured
surfaces -- is quite a bit more complex. And of course there's Sirk, and
"Vertigo."

The opulent colors in "The Immortal Story" tend to make the film's
compositions even more powerfully physical. For me this connects with
the theme, that of a megalomaniac trying to take in the whole world,
that underlies much of Welles's oeuvre. One's eye scours his images for
detail, almost as if consuming them in the same way Welles wants to
consume everything he sees, and the colors encourage this. But unlike
Mr. Arkadin who is an almost Mabuse-like figure, the Welles character in
"The Immortal Story" is really old, and the film is about the impotence
of aging. That theme underlies "Touch of Evil," of course, but it's even
stronger in "The Immortal Story." Were the colors an almost ironic
commentary on what the old man can't achieve physically? They certainly
heighten the voyeurism theme -- now that action has become impossible,
potency resides merely in looking.

- Fred
783


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 2:13am
Subject: color
 
There are few broader topics, surely.

So I just wanted to toss in a few. Fred, Tati is on your "B" list,
but you might take a chance on his 1973/4 film PARADE, which he shot
for television. (Thus, it's "safe" to watch a video version - the
Criterion laserdisc or Home Vision Entertainment videotape will be
your best bets.) The colors are just one reason why it can stand
beside PLAYTIME as one of Tati's great achievements.

Funny that the first Sirk film I've seen *on* film was Sunday, b&w
TARNISHED ANGELS. I don't think a single viewing was adequate in
getting a handle on the use of lights and shadows in that movie, and
that's just the beginning.

Jerry Lewis was another master of color: THE BIG MOUTH, THE LADIES'
MAN, HARDLY WORKING, even CRACKING UP had some powerful stuff on this
front.

Jaime
784


From: Peter Tonguette
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 2:28am
Subject: Re: The Dreamers (now "The Immortal Story")
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper wrote:

> I love "The Immortal Story" and its color. It's been ages since
I've
> seen it, so I don't remember that much in detail, but I do
remember both
> the intensity of the color and the use of extreme contrasts,
such as
> between blue and yellow.

In Bill's most wonderful Cahiers interview with Welles, he (Bill)
points out one example of the color contrasts Welles was up to
in "The Immortal Story": a long shot inside Jeanne Moreau's
room where essentially half of the screen is pink and the other
half green. Extraordinary.

The use of color in "The Dreamers" fragments is also pretty
singular. The night scenes are very darkly lit, but marked with
pockets of color: the leaves in the distance behind Pellegrina's
gate or that amazing close-up of the gold ring Marcus hands to
her, a shot which I detail in my piece.

> As for finding it superior to other color films, though, at the risk
of
> sounding like a broken record I'd have to say the use of color in
> Brakhage's "Dog Star Man" -- and specifically, the use of color
for the
> physical effects of strong contrasts and the articulation of
textured
> surfaces -- is quite a bit more complex. And of course there's
Sirk, and
> "Vertigo."

Good selections, Fred, and I also fully concur with Jaime's
choices. "Playtime" is amazing in its use of greys. "Parade" is
colorful in every way, right down to the hippie-style clothes of the
people in the audience.

> But unlike
> Mr. Arkadin who is an almost Mabuse-like figure, the Welles
character in
> "The Immortal Story" is really old, and the film is about the
impotence
> of aging. That theme underlies "Touch of Evil," of course, but
it's even
> stronger in "The Immortal Story." Were the colors an almost
ironic
> commentary on what the old man can't achieve physically?
They certainly
> heighten the voyeurism theme -- now that action has become
impossible,
> potency resides merely in looking.

I think that's exactly right. Perhaps this theme is articulated with
more urgency than ever before in Welles because, for the first
time, he was experimenting with erotic scenes. The scenes
between Moreau and the sailor bristle with an energy and
vibrancy which contrast sharply with everything else in the movie
and serve as glimpses to a world which Clay cannot enter, even
if he wishes to orchestrate it. Some amazing handheld work in
these scenes too.

I wish Oja would do the script of "Masque of the Red Death." I've
never read it, but I'm sure it's wonderful, and she has such a
distinctive filmmaking style of her own. Her film "Jaded" is quite
interesting and, as I talk about in my piece, what we take to be
Welles in a lot of these later films is often partly or wholly Oja.
She was as vital a collaborator as he ever had, I'd say.

Peter
785


From: Peter Tonguette
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 2:28am
Subject: Re: The Dreamers (now "The Immortal Story")
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper wrote:

> I love "The Immortal Story" and its color. It's been ages since
I've
> seen it, so I don't remember that much in detail, but I do
remember both
> the intensity of the color and the use of extreme contrasts,
such as
> between blue and yellow.

In Bill's most wonderful Cahiers interview with Welles, he (Bill)
points out one example of the color contrasts Welles was up to
in "The Immortal Story": a long shot inside Jeanne Moreau's
room where essentially half of the screen is pink and the other
half green. Extraordinary.

The use of color in "The Dreamers" fragments is also pretty
singular. The night scenes are very darkly lit, but marked with
pockets of color: the leaves in the distance behind Pellegrina's
gate or that amazing close-up of the gold ring Marcus hands to
her, a shot which I detail in my piece.

> As for finding it superior to other color films, though, at the risk
of
> sounding like a broken record I'd have to say the use of color in
> Brakhage's "Dog Star Man" -- and specifically, the use of color
for the
> physical effects of strong contrasts and the articulation of
textured
> surfaces -- is quite a bit more complex. And of course there's
Sirk, and
> "Vertigo."

Good selections, Fred, and I also fully concur with Jaime's
choices. "Playtime" is amazing in its use of greys. "Parade" is
colorful in every way, right down to the hippie-style clothes of the
people in the audience.

> But unlike
> Mr. Arkadin who is an almost Mabuse-like figure, the Welles
character in
> "The Immortal Story" is really old, and the film is about the
impotence
> of aging. That theme underlies "Touch of Evil," of course, but
it's even
> stronger in "The Immortal Story." Were the colors an almost
ironic
> commentary on what the old man can't achieve physically?
They certainly
> heighten the voyeurism theme -- now that action has become
impossible,
> potency resides merely in looking.

I think that's exactly right. Perhaps this theme is articulated with
more urgency than ever before in Welles because, for the first
time, he was experimenting with erotic scenes. The scenes
between Moreau and the sailor bristle with an energy and
vibrancy which contrast sharply with everything else in the movie
and serve as glimpses to a world which Clay cannot enter, even
if he wishes to orchestrate it. Some amazing handheld work in
these scenes too.

I wish Oja would do the script of "Masque of the Red Death." I've
never read it, but I'm sure it's wonderful, and she has such a
distinctive filmmaking style of her own. Her film "Jaded" is quite
interesting and, as I talk about in my piece, what we take to be
Welles in a lot of these later films is often partly or wholly Oja.
She was as vital a collaborator as he ever had, I'd say.

Peter
786


From: Damien Bona
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 4:20am
Subject: Re: G. Oswald and Borzage (availability)
 
Jaime, please keep us posted on the quality of the tapes (frequently,
independently-made dubs are very poor, but it's to be hoped that this
will be an exception). Although I've managed to secure a great
number of Borzage films thanks to the good graces of TCM, there are
still a number I'm lacking, including Bad Girl, which is a seminal,
literally life-changing film which I haven't seen in 28 years.
787


From: hotlove666
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 5:35am
Subject: Color
 
Jean-Pierre Oudart wrote a very interesting analysis of the colors in
Taira Clan. He argued that directors whose careers were mostly black
and white, when they use color near the end (but not necessarily the
first time they use it) end up rereading their own myths, which were
forged in black-and-white, by dreaming them in color. Another example
he alludes to of this is Lang's Indian diptych, but there he doesn't
go into detail as he does on the Mizoguchi, diagramming the color
system and the way the colors evolve through the film, concluding
that what they unfold is "Oedipus in color." I feel the same way
about Welles, but only in the Dinesens: Immortal Story and the garden
fragment of Dreamers. The use of color in the late essay films is, in
comparison, not very significant.

With Hitchcock color becomes meaningful with Rear Window and
continues to evolve in jaw-dropping ways through Marnie, after which
many things come to a screeching halt. The colors continue to be
important, and there are all sorts of interesting experiments going
on, but I think there was a dialogue with Burks that wasn't possible
with the later cameramen. Peggy Robertson describes in Barbara Hall's
oral history how he'd leave a Vermeer or a Rembrandt cofee-table book
on a desk somewhere on the soundstage when working with a new
cameraman, rather than telling him what he wanted and having to put
up with an argument. "This way," he'd whisper confidentially to
her, "maybe we'll get a Vermeer!"

For me the way color explodes in Three Godfathers (not in Drums) is
something that has been under-appreciated. Beautiful as some of the
50s and 60s films are, I don't think Ford attained that level of
dreamlike intensity in the use of color again until Seven Women.

And I think it's a shame we can't see Babes in Baghdad in color.
Ulmer designed the sets and spent a year making it, but all most
people have seen is a mutilated black and white tv print. Admittedly,
as Joseph K can explain better than I, he was using a limited
palette, but he was really using it there, in Genevieve de Brabant
and in The Naked Dawn.

Interestingly, Tati doesn't really fall into the late-bloomer
category, since we now know that his first feature was actually shot
in color! And Lewis's self-conscious use of black and white in The
Bellboy is strictly an homage to Stan Laurel - color is inherent in
his cinema, even if a couple of films are in black and white
(coincidentally, the two that refer most overtly to the cinema).

Incidentally, I just saw the Eastman House restoration of Stage
Struck again, and I'm wondering why, once they start making the D2,
they don't just put the green back in the Technicolor dream sequence
at the beginning. There must be some documents that could guide them.
Right now it looks like it was shot in sepia tones with red accents,
a la Reflections in a Golden Eye or something - not at all what Dwan
meant. But the truth is that he never cared much for color. He told
Bogdanovich that when he watched films on tv he'd turn the color off.
I don't see much in the Bogeaus films that suggests he was all that
enthralled by the flamboyant palette his collaborators were using.
But I do see a late awakening to the possibilities of color in parts
of Enchanted Island, including an astonishing shot that looks like a
Gaugin.
788


From:
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 3:42am
Subject: Re: Color
 
In a message dated 7/30/03 1:36:54 AM, hotlove666@y... writes:

>I feel the same way
>about Welles, but only in the Dinesens: Immortal Story and the garden
>fragment of Dreamers. The use of color in the late essay films is, in
>comparison, not very significant.

It's true, neither of the two finished essay films ("F for Fake" and "Filming
'Othello'") really fit this pattern. "F for Fake" is much more predicated on
editing than it is on a worked on visual design, I think. That isn't to say
that the material he and Gary shot isn't often quite beautiful, just that it
doesn't seem like the point so much.

And the same is true of "Filming 'Othello'", though in a different way: here
are focus is not on the movement ans speed created by cutting, but on Welles
as storyteller and historian. It is formally interesting in the way the very
construction of the film reflects Welles' process as a filmmaker, constantly
reimagining things and placing old material in new contexts - for example, all
but one of the clips he shows from "Othello" are re-edited by him totally and
there's a fascinating bit where he's having a conversation with Micheal
MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards over lunch... and the reverse shots of Welles are
clearly done years later.

But neither of these great films are too interesting in their use of color as
such. "The Immortal Story" and "The Dreamers" fragments are the ones that
stand out. I think he was still deeply attached to B&W - and, as I understand
it, planned to shoot one of his very last projects, "The Cradle Will Rock," in
B&W - but clearly had developed a command of color photography too. Hard to
say where "The Other Side of the Wind" stands here. Probably more of you have
seen excerpts of this than have the "Dreamers" material, since Welles himself
introduced two clips from TOSOTW during his AFI tribute. Part of the film is
cinema veritie material intended to look as though it was shot by film
students; the other part are supposed to be excerpts from a very moody, 'arty' unfinis
hed film shot by John Huston's character. Neither style is really Wellesian,
though it's the latter that looks promising to me in terms of color.

I've always thought of Tati as a color guy for some reason. A decade before
"Playtime," "Mon Oncle" demonstrated a masterly use of it. Kubrick's color
photography was often great too, though like Welles it seems he occasionally
itched to go back to B&W. I've heard that he began shooting "Full Metal Jacket"
in B&W and then scrapped the idea after a week or two. "Eyes Wide Shut" has
some extraordinary contrasts of yellow and blue; it's probably his most fully
developed film visually anyway.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
789


From: Joseph Kaufman
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 7:50am
Subject: Re: Color
 
Bill wrote:

>And I think it's a shame we can't see Babes in Baghdad in color.
>Ulmer designed the sets and spent a year making it, but all most
>people have seen is a mutilated black and white tv print. Admittedly,
>as Joseph K can explain better than I, he was using a limited
>palette, but he was really using it there, in Genevieve de Brabant
>and in The Naked Dawn.

BABES was in Cinefotocolor. There's something in French about this
system here (under the year 1941); perhaps someone can give us (me) a
quick translation:
http://www.cinemaenlumiere.com/histoire/sitfr/pages/pages/chrono.htm

IIRC it's one of any number of two-color systems in use in that
period, which limits the palette, but not necessarily the intensity
of the color.
--

- Joe Kaufman

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
790


From: Patrick Ciccone
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 11:11am
Subject: Re: Color
 
He argued that directors whose careers were mostly black
> and white, when they use color near the end (but not necessarily the
> first time they use it) end up rereading their own myths, which were
> forged in black-and-white, by dreaming them in color.

Could you consider PSYCHO and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE in the
opposite sense? Or a second reification?

PWC
791


From: Yoel Meranda
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 0:52pm
Subject: Re: Color
 
--- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Joseph Kaufman wrote:
> Bill wrote:
> BABES was in Cinefotocolor. There's something in French about this
> system here (under the year 1941); perhaps someone can give us (me)
a
> quick translation:
> http://www.cinemaenlumiere.com/histoire/sitfr/pages/pages/chrono.htm


------------------------------------------------
"Cinefotocolor" (also called "Realcolor" or "Exotic color"). It was
used on an original camera but it is said that it was less subtle in
use than its rival, Technicolor. Still, this process helped some B-
films (especially Edgar G. Ulmer's Babes in Bagdad, 1952) to move to
Cinecolor. Many Spanish films were shot thanks to this process.
------------------------------------------------

hope it helps...

Yoel
792


From: Dan Sallitt
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 3:13pm
Subject: Re: Re: Color
 
> He argued that directors whose careers were mostly black
>>and white, when they use color near the end (but not necessarily the
>>first time they use it) end up rereading their own myths, which were
>>forged in black-and-white, by dreaming them in color.
>
> Could you consider PSYCHO and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE in the
> opposite sense? Or a second reification?

Hitchcock said, plausibly enough at the time, that PSYCHO would have
been unbearable for audiences in color. - Dan
793


From: Fred Camper
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 3:39pm
Subject: Re: Re: Color
 
Bill, Patrick, and then Dan:

Dan Sallitt wrote:

>>He argued that directors whose careers were mostly black
>>
>>
>>>and white, when they use color near the end (but not necessarily the
>>>first time they use it) end up rereading their own myths, which were
>>>forged in black-and-white, by dreaming them in color.
>>>
>>>
>>Could you consider PSYCHO and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE in the opposite sense? Or a second reification?
>>
>>
>
>Hitchcock said, plausibly enough at the time, that PSYCHO would have
>been unbearable for audiences in color. - Dan
>
>
And Ford said, "Black and white, that's real photography."

Still, I think there's a point here. I've long that thought when great
filmmakers choose to work in black and white after significant work in
color, the black and white films are often different, because black and
white becomes a more conscious choice, and is thus sometimes more
stylized, and has a certain intensification of vision. Having worked in
color causes them to see blacks and whites and grays as a palette to be
worked with, not a convention to be accepted.

I don't think Bresson wanted to work in color initially; I wish he could
have made a late black and white film, had he wanted to.

In addition to "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," which is a black and
white film par excellence, with its use of light and shade to create and
almost architectural sense of the verticals and horizontals of rooms and
doorways, I'd cite Brakhage's amazing "Fire of Waters," in which black
and white really does seem a choice. Even in "Wedlock House: An
Intercourse," which is on the DVD, the use of B&W and negative seems
like a conscious stylization rather than an acceptance of photographic
convention -- though admittedly the same can be said for Brakhage's much
earlier "The Way to Shadow Garden." Larry Jordan's great semi-narrative
"The Old House, Passing" has blacks and whites surely informed by his
earlier use of spectacular color. And for Sirk, the obvious example is
"The Tarnished Angels," made right in the middle of that glorious string
of color films. Borzage made a few color films before "Moonrise," and
though he may not have had the choice to make "Moonrise" in color, its
noirish use of black and white is something different from his use of
b&w in the Metro films.

I don't know of that many other examples, but two very great ones that
come to mind are Preminger's "In Harm's Way" and Mann's "Men in War,"
both arguably among their top two or three best films. The use of black
and white in "Men in War" is astounding.

All of these seem to me to be examples of filmmakers rereading amd
reinventing their styles (I dunno about "myths").

- Fred
794


From: Elizabeth Nolan
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 3:58pm
Subject: Re: Digest Number 51 THE AVIATOR casting error?
 
On Tuesday, July 29, 2003, at 01:53 AM, a_film_by@yahoogroups.com
wrote:

> Subject: The Aviator
>
> That's the title of Scorsese's new film on Howard Hughes, with di
> Caprio and Blanchett, now in pre-production.



I'll be curious to see DiCaprio as Howard Hughes. DiC was great in
SOMETHING'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE and MELVIN'S ROOM, and charming in
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, but I never felt the 'revenge' of TALES OF NEW
YORK. He was not the character for that story as told by Scorsese and
I wonder how he will cover such a powerful figure as Howard Hughes.
I'm certain DiCaprio can do the charm, the romance, the excitement, but
the heavy adult male role?
795


From: Joseph Kaufman
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 6:50pm
Subject: Re: Color
 
>------------------------------------------------
>"Cinefotocolor" (also called "Realcolor" or "Exotic color"). It was
>used on an original camera but it is said that it was less subtle in
>use than its rival, Technicolor. Still, this process helped some B-
>films (especially Edgar G. Ulmer's Babes in Bagdad, 1952) to move to
>Cinecolor. Many Spanish films were shot thanks to this process.
>------------------------------------------------
>
>hope it helps...
>
>Yoel

Thanks, Yoel, for your translation. What isn't clear from the text
on that web page exactly how Cinefotocolor worked. I have one book
here that refers to the emphasis of blue in the process (and I
remember something of the sort in the tape of BABES IN BAGDAD that
Bill and I watched). In any event, all color systems are
abstractions of how the eye sees, and a film maker of such classical
tendencies as Ulmer would have designed his film with the tendencies
of the color system in mind.
--

- Joe Kaufman

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
796


From: hotlove666
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 8:27pm
Subject: Color, DiCaprio
 
There is no question that the black and white of Psycho and The
Wrong Man is black and white done after the director completely
mastered color, and that's true as well of Tarnished Angels, In
Harm's Way (and Bunny Lake is Missing), Moonrise and other
examples of the phenomenon, including some from our era: The
Last Picture Show, Pi, even The Elephant Man, which is half
Freddie Francis to me anyway. (Lynch had not done a color
feature before that, and his shorts do not use color well. Dune
certainly does, and all the films after that.)

Hitchcock was interested in Red Desert, but primarily, I believe,
because it contained shots that proved you could light a white
wall without having shadows. He wanted everyone on his Torn
Curtain crew to see it.

A third Ford film which seems to be using color for more than
"mere" esthetic effects is The Searchers.

I had never heard the story about trying to do Full Metal Jacket in
black and white. Fascinating! But the Lola Montez references in
the first half wouldn't have worked as well in black and white.

As for Welles, I'd guess that both The Other Side of the Wind and
The Deep (shot by Willy Kurant, who shot The Immortal Story)
will break ground in the use of color. I haven't seen enough of
Merchant of Venice to know, but as Joseph K can testify, the very
rough cut Stefan D has done of The Deep - much of it printed in
b&w - suggests that Welles was experimenting with color.
There's a scene where they're going to set fire to the second
boat, and instead of gasoline they splash flammable paint all
over it, so that the sequence becomes the cinematic equivalent
of action painting.

The other style he and Gary had for color, which you also see in
the comic fragments filmed in London, or even what I've seen of
The Magic Show, is strictly documentary. The Moby Dick
fragments, however, are experiments with light and color that
may have born fruit in The Other Side of the Wind and The
Dreamers.

Di Caprio is agood in Titanic - maybe Scorsese can get
something out of him this time. I agree that "Amsterdam" was a
big part of the problem in Gangs. No doubt the flying sequences,
like the boxing sequences in Raging Bull, will inject some eye
candy for those of us who are lukewarm on Scorsese the
dramaturge, but he and di Caprio will have to go some to make
me forget what William Graham and Tommy Lee Jones did with
The Amazing Howard Hughes!
797


From: Jaime N. Christley
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 9:01pm
Subject: Full Metal Jacket (Ku**ick)
 
The rumor, which must be sixth- or seventh-generation at this point,
had it that Ku**ick had originally started shooting FMJ with 65-
millimeter cameras, in black and white. I haven't been able to
verify this with a Google search, and when I read it, it was from
an "I heard..." kind of thing.

Where do you see MONTES references in FULL METAL JACKET?

Jaime
798


From:
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 5:42pm
Subject: Re: Full Metal Jacket (Ku**ick)
 
In a message dated 7/30/03 2:05:25 PM, j_christley@y... writes:

>The rumor, which must be sixth- or seventh-generation at this point,
>had it that Ku**ick had originally started shooting FMJ with 65-
>millimeter cameras, in black and white. I haven't been able to
>verify this with a Google search, and when I read it, it was from
>an "I heard..." kind of thing.

I first heard it from David Mullen, a DP and Kubrick fan most recently of the
film "Northfork." As I recall it, David posted that Kubrick began shooting
in 65mm B&W, dropped that, thought about switching to 16mm, and then finally
settled on 35mm color. All this in the first weeks of shooting. I believe
David got his info. from Doug Milsome, so it is, if not firsthand, reliable
secondhand info. I'm sure his post is archived somewhere on Google for those who
want to read it.

It's hard to say where Kubrick was thinking of going, but 16mm B&W has me
thinking of newsreel photography - an aesthetic actually not dissimilar from the
look Kubrick got in 35mm color during the final third of the film with all
those shaky steadicam moves.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
799


From:
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 5:51pm
Subject: Welles, Color
 
In a message dated 7/30/03 1:34:16 PM, hotlove666@y... writes:

>I haven't seen enough of
>Merchant of Venice to know, but as Joseph K can testify, the very
>rough cut Stefan D has done of The Deep - much of it printed in
>b&w - suggests that Welles was experimenting with color.

I'm fascinated to see what Stefan has done with "The Deep." I know Welles
didn't seem to have conceived of it as a major work like "The Other Side of the
Wind" or "The Dreamers," but I'd be very surprised if it isn't very bold in
its use of color and also a lot more interesting than the plot line might
indicate. I forget where, but I recall reading some accounts of people who'd seen
the material and report that it's very "dreamlike" and uses the story as a way
to examine strain within a marriage, etc.

>The other style he and Gary had for color, which you also see in
>the comic fragments filmed in London, or even what I've seen of
>The Magic Show, is strictly documentary.

I'd agree, though some of the "Magic Show" material is a bit more stylized
than, say, "London." I recall the "thread trick" segment being unusually and
evocatively lighted, to name one. Of course, some of this may be just Welles'
savvy at presenting magic on film as opposed to any "style" per se.

This is actually a good prelude to my upcoming interview with Jim Steinmeyer,
a magician and close friend of Welles during the last few years of his life.
He was around during the time Welles worked on his magic special and is a
fount of information and insight. The interview will be appearing on The Film
Journal.com Aug. 1.

Peter

http://hometown.aol.com/ptonguette/index.html
800


From: hotlove666
Date: Wed Jul 30, 2003 10:32pm
Subject: Full Metal Jacket and Lola Montes
 
The first shot of the DI walking toward the camera through two
parallel lines of grunts closely copies the opening shot of
Ustinov spieling in Lola Montes.

I see him as a version of the Puppetmaster or Master of
Ceremonies character in Ophuls (who is NOT Ophuls), and the
two closeups of characters with "war faces" - Pyle and the
Vietnamese sniper - as the grains of sand in the mechanism the
Master of Ceremonies has created, a "group mind" that
malfunctions in part 1 from an internal cause (Pyle's madness)
and in part 2 from an external cause (the Tet Offensive, the
closeup of the sniper's hate-filled face).

Gerard Guerin has theorized that the closeup of Lola sweating
before she makes her dive at the end of LM dynamites Ustinov's
mise-en-scene in the same way. I applied GG's ideas (and
Deleuze's) to FMJ in an article reprinted in a collection called
Incorporations (from MIT Press), if anyone likes reading books
the size of the NY phonebook.

K saw the old sets for LM in the studio where he was shooting
Paths of Glory, and Ophuls and Welles are his masters - the
explicit Ophuls parody being Lolita, right?

It's interesting (particularly in light of the info about b&w) to
compare FMJ with Fear and Desire, which emerged from the
stripey hole after SK's death and is now rentable.

By the way, the news about Brainwashed is mindblowing!

a_film_by Main Page
Home    Film    Art     Other: (Travel, Rants, Obits)    Links    About    Contact