Sunday, July 29, 2007

Links/Roger Corman



-- Perfect timing given our recent discussions here: Adrian has an article on surrealism and cinema in The Australian this week.

-- In case you didn't get a chance to see it, the surrealism and cinema post led to an invigorating back-and-forth of ideas in the comments.

-- Bertrand Tavernier is keeping a DVD blog (en francais).

-- Two posts from David Bordwell: "Watching Movies Very, Very Slowly" and "Summer Camp for Cinephiles".

-- Michael Guillen transcribes for us an onstage interview with John Waters.

-- Craig Keller on Godard's A Few Remarks on the Direction and Production of the Film 'Sauve Qui Peut (La Vie)'.

-- Michael Sicinski on Frederick Wiseman's State Legislature.

-- Best wishes to Filmbrain and Aaron Hillis, who are now at the helm of a DVD distribution company, Benten Films.

-- Brian Darr interviews Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky.

-- Steven Shaviro on Guy Maddin's Brand Upon The Brain!.

-- I wish I had Sandrine Marques's visual memory—check out these pairs of images: Van Sant/Raphael; Von Sternberg/Sofia Coppola; and De Sica/Fellini.

-- Thom Ryan has an erudite post on several 1938 films.

-- Peter Schjeldahl on Gustave Courbet in the New Yorker.

-- James Wolcott: "Who knew that an essay by David Denby could induce more than groggy nods from readers fortunate enough to make it across the finish line?"


* * *

I saw and liked Jonathan Demme's Caged Heat (1974) and I'm tempted to do a little immersion in the films of Roger Corman. I'm wondering if you had any recommendations of films he either produced or directed? Thank you.

A few Corman links: a profile-essay by Wheeler Winston Dixon at Senses of Cinema; two interviews with Corman at Bright Lights (one and two); and the "Corman at 80" blog-a-thon hosted by Tim Lucas.

pic: A screengrab. And the film is...?

59 Comments:

Blogger pilgrim said...

I'm not going to tell you these are the *best* Corman movies - haven't seen enough of the early work to say - but Fall of the House of Usher, Man With The X-Ray Eyes and Masque of the Red Death are all worthwhile. The latter featuring Nic Roeg as director of photography...

July 29, 2007 9:40 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

As I get older, Corman's films become increasingly difficult to get through. Remember that he was noted more for discovering talent and making whole films in a matter of days than for aesthetic brilliance. But A Bucket of Blood holds up exceptionally well; The Trip is a priceless time capsule; The Intruder a noble attempt; Teenage Doll has moments of excellence; and The Undead is an original and atmospheric spin on the Bridey Murphy event, featuring a very fetching Allison Hayes.

July 29, 2007 10:03 PM  
Anonymous brian b said...

Second the recommendation for THE INTRUDER, and, although it's been years since I've seen it, CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA sticks out in my mind as one of the more entertaining "deliberately [bad, ironic, whatever]" AIP efforts.

And, although Corman apparently only did some patch-up work on it, THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES is pretty remarkable - a low-budget alien invasion film set on a farm that focuses resolutely on the pre-existing domestic angst of its characters.

July 29, 2007 11:53 PM  
Anonymous Filipe said...

A few Corman films:
-- Machine Gun Kelly (58) is a fine gangster film with a pretty good Charles Bronson as lead.

-- All of his Poe adaptations from 60's are worth at least a look. The better ones being certainly House of Usher (61) and The Mask of Red Death (64).

-- X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (63) is one of those B movies that know how tomake the best possible use of it's high concept.

-- The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (67) and Bloody Mama (70) were gangster films with relative higher than usual budget that are both very lively and has some strong performances.

July 30, 2007 12:46 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, Pilgrim, Flickhead, Brian and Filipe, for your recommendations!

Re: the screengrab, just wanted to say that it's not from a Corman film, or related to any of the links above (that I know of)...

Ingmar Bergman died today; he was 89.

July 30, 2007 8:01 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Dennis Lim on Pedro Costa in the New York Times.

July 30, 2007 11:13 AM  
Blogger Bob Turnbull said...

girish, just want to add to the previous comments about Corman's take on some of Edgar Allen Poe's stories.

"The Masque Of Red Death" is a particular favourite mainly because of its beautiful sets, colours and lighting. But don't forget others like "The Pit And The Pendulum" and "Premature Burial". Inventive, lovely to look at, decent acting (I have new respect for Vincent Price after having seen these and other 'horror' films of that period like "Theatre Of Blood" and "The Abominable Dr. Phibes") and most of all - fun.

IMDB has Corman as producer of 380 films. Wow.

July 30, 2007 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Corman: Tomb of Ligeia, The Trip, Masque of the Red Death (Corman does Bergman), and of course Attack of the Crab Monsters. And X - the Man with the X-Ray Eyes and Little Shop of Horrors.

Corman puts Bergman in the drive-in: Cries and Whispers.

July 30, 2007 1:15 PM  
Anonymous Andy H. said...

Rock, rock, rock, rock, Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979)! Of all the films I've seen with a legitimate claim to be called a "punk film," this is one of my favorites: Observe the hierarchies that still exist once the school is occupied and overrun by the students! Observe the tug of war between The Ramones (and Corman) and commercialism! All the while bask in the delirious mise en scène, thrill to the zany energy of P.J. Soles' Riff Randell, and rock out to the incomparable Ramones!

July 30, 2007 4:45 PM  
Anonymous cinebeats said...

Corman produced hundreds of great films but he was also a good director. His Poe adaptations and other gothic horrors are easily his best work in my opinion, but his counterculture drug/gang movies are also loads of fun.

A few of my favorite Corman movies that he directed and I believe produced as well are Gas! (1971), Bloody Mama (1970), The Trip (1967), Wild Angels (1966), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Raven (1963), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), House of Usher (1960), The Wasp Woman (1960)and A Bucket of Blood (1959).

All his work with Vincent Price is well worth a look.

July 30, 2007 5:39 PM  
Anonymous Thom said...

Girish - thanks for recommending Le Quai des brumes, it was an excellent day for cinema.

Corman-wise, I like the midnight movies feel of The Pit and the Pendulum, and I'll back up Flickhead about The Trip being rewarding as a time capsule; especially fun are the psychedelic night club scenes, a chase scene where everything suddenly becomes posterized or solarized to suggest the drug state, and possibly the only instance of chair-phobia in cinema history.

July 30, 2007 6:26 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Uh oh, Thom, now you've done it: I guess I'll be popping in The Trip right after I type this. Luana Anders as the waitress: "Hey, you're stoned out of your mind, aren't you?!?" Barboura Morris (in hair curlers) doing laundry!! Sally Sasche's take on the cops: "What police? There are no police! I don't believe in police!" And, best of all, Peter grooving to "the Living room!"

Oh man!

July 30, 2007 9:40 PM  
Blogger aaron said...

Although not a great representation of his Poe series, this set will undoubtedly be a no-brainer for you in September:

http://www.amazon.com/Roger-Corman-Collection/dp/B000SK5ZFC/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-4652669-6660758?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1185846073&sr=1-1

I’ve also written to you off-list with some suggestions!

July 30, 2007 9:47 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

My vote for best Corman goes to The Intruder (1962)

Next
Masque of the Red Death (1964); best Poe adaptation
The Little Shop of Horrors (1960); Feeeeed me!
X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963); hubris, mad scientist

I was totally smitten in late eighties and early nineties with Corman and recently watched Little Shop again and loved it just as much as the first time.

As a distributor brought films from Ingmar Bergman, Francois Truffaut, Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, and Werner Herzog to the United States.

He also produced Amarcord (Fellini) and Fantastic Planet (Topor et al).

Jan

July 31, 2007 2:40 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Jesus, what a week: Antonioni has died; he was 94.

July 31, 2007 6:38 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks so much, Bob, Peter, Andy, Kimberly, Tom, Flickhead, Aaron, and Jan.

It's funny: after a few weeks of a-film-a-day, I had managed to drive my Netflix queue from its brimful of 500 films down to the 460's. And now, with these Cormans, it's shooting back up again!

July 31, 2007 6:44 AM  
Blogger girish said...

(Via Darren at 1st Thursday.)
The Venice lineup has been announced and includes new films by Todd Haynes, Wes Anderson, Brian De Palma, Eric Rohmer, Youssef Chahine, Abdellatif Kechiche, Jiang Wen, and Ken Loach.

July 31, 2007 6:56 AM  
Blogger girish said...

In Dennis Yuen's archive: Sam Rohdie on Antonioni, from a talk he gave on the occasion of a retrospective at the Hong Kong Cultural Arts Centre:

"It is difficult to put into words films composed principally of images, of colour, of movement, of shape, of design more than they are of story, character and event. The visual, and in the case of Antonioni's films a visual which is beautiful and fine, elegant and exquisite, can only be approximated in words. His images ore constantly shifting. Objects disappear and recompose, lines, structures, colours, tones shimmer and alter. Nothing is fixed in an Antonioni image, nothing secure, nothing clear, at least not for very long. His vision touches things like a caress, glances by them, sensitive to changes in light and shape, and to changes brought about by the act of looking itself. How can you seize hold of such impermanence? How do you grasp and reduce what is unfixed, tentative, fleeting?

[...] His characters do not act like heroes do, hut regard it, like artists do. The regard does not result in anything as certain as understanding or resolution. The illusion of the narrative cinema has been tied to the certainties it provides through story and emotional resolutions, through final endings. Ultimately, it stabilises and fixes, as if it were taking possession of the world, as if it were possible. The fact that these procedures do not happen in Antonioni's films may mean that the audience is denied the pleasure which narrative illusions and sureties can sometimes give. But the insecurity, the shifting, the lack of identity, the objective-subjective mystery of looking provides another, richer pleasure.

Antonioni's object is not to make the audience insecure, still less to express philosophical and existential banalities. He is not a philosopher, nor a theorist nor a social reformer. He is a filmmaker. He does not construct messages. He makes films. The films are instruments for letting significance proliferate, rather than securing it in some definite and comforting place.

[...] In the films of the greats of the post-war Italian cinema there is a tinge of regret and a turning away from the modern world toward myth, toward the past, toward make believe and the subjective. Antonioni alone among these Italian filmmakers accepted what was in the contemporary world without taking a particular view of it. While Fellini and Pasolini decried television and the vulgarity of modern culture and Visconti recreated and transposed the nineteenth century operatic melodrama to the screen, contemporary culture made Antonioni curious. He wanted to know what possibilities it offered rather than regretting the possibilities it may have closed down."

July 31, 2007 7:14 AM  
Anonymous jpm said...

I'm going through a Roger Corman retro at the moment and just watched The Masque of the Red Death last week. It's possibly a masterpiece. Unfortunately the copy wasn't great, but I still think it should be seen on the big screen if possible.
X was a particular intense experience for me (maybe because of personal reasons since I have a few problems with my eyes), so all that psychedelic images/vision towards the final of the film and the ending were pretty ecstatic to me.

I also dig very much Frankenstein Unbound, which Mr. Corman himself thinks it's one of his worst works or so he said in one interview. I wonder how it's perceived by critics nowadays.

From his work as producer I admire the westerns of Monte Hellman, Targets by Bogdanovich (that's a Corman production right?)and others, and am also very curious to discover the films of Alan Arkush, Paul Bartel and the first Jonathan Demme's.


RIP Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman

July 31, 2007 7:29 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

It has been quite a week for deaths-in-cinema; for those of us not quite as auteur-minded, I think Michel Serrault is worthy of a tip of the cap, too (even though much of his most interesting work isn't easily available in English-language markets)!

July 31, 2007 8:42 AM  
Blogger Sachin G. said...

Hey Girish,

Yeah it has been a strange week with both Ingmar Bergman & Michelangelo Antonioni passing away in such quick succession. I feel like the legends of cinema are all slowly starting to fade away.

Sigh...

July 31, 2007 12:53 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

"Starting"??????

Jeez...I thought there were only like one or two left...

July 31, 2007 2:24 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Roger Corman wasn't directly involved in this one, but I submit that the much underrated Richard Rush's Psych-Out is in the firm tradition of Corman-style pictures, with excellent racket-focusing camerawork (see the scene with strung-out beads) by the recently deceased Laszlo Kovacs (some of his best work, I think). I think Rush is the better filmmaker overall than Corman.

And for more Cormanlike films, check out those by the (in my opine superior, if working with even less money) Gerardo de Leon. His Women in Cages, his vampire films, his Terror is a Man.

Hasn't anyone mentioned The Intruder, with the rare Bill Shatner performance that takes the man at his terms and uses him well?

Plus I liked Frankenstein Unbound (doesnt' the creature in certain angles resemble Julianne Moore? The thought keeps me awake at night, sometimes), but it's worth it seeking out the (far better) novel by Brian Aldiss.

July 31, 2007 3:20 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Plus I just remembered writing this little thing about Corman.

July 31, 2007 3:24 PM  
Blogger Sachin G. said...

Flickhead, yeah they were probably the last ones. statement came out wrong. Good think you are around to jump on it..1/2. 6.

July 31, 2007 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Jim Flannery said...

I'll happily add another vote for X--The Man with the X-Ray Eyes ... I first saw it on an after-school "Dialing for Dollars"-type show when I was 10 or so, but my favorite screening of that one was at the tail end of a triple bill with the Conrads' Four Corners and Sharits' Razor Blades ... quite the theme night :-).

And let me put in a word for The Terror, which is so incoherent it crosses the line into positive surrealism.

July 31, 2007 5:28 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Isidore Isou (Venom and Eternity), founder of Lettrisme, also left us on Saturday July 28th 2007...

July 31, 2007 6:10 PM  
Blogger girish said...

jpm, Gareth, Sachin, Flickhead, Noel, Jim & Harry -- Thank you!

I discovered that Netflix doesn't have several of the Corman titles mentioned here; I'll be checking my local indie video store for them on VHS.

Sad to hear about Isou. I haven't seen any of his films and first heard his name when Zach mentioned him at Acquarello's during the avant-garde blog-a-thon. I notice that Venom and Eternity is at ubuweb.

Apropos of nothing except good news: Bunuel's The Young One (which is terrific) and Gran Casino (which I haven't seen) are now both available at Netflix.

And btw, the screengrab image above is from Mark Waters's Freaky Friday (2003), with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan (a film I like quite a bit...).

July 31, 2007 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Hey Girish, on a "brighter" note, if you're going to the TIFF, new films by Miike and Argento will be premiering there at the Midnight Madness series.

July 31, 2007 9:45 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Peter, I just noticed that. They've only announced a fraction of the total films so far and there's already enough for a full week's viewing.

July 31, 2007 9:53 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey, Jim. Lots of cool ideas in your reading list and your viewing list at A Placid Island of Ignorance.

July 31, 2007 10:27 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

It's been a bad year for filmmakers since at least March, when Joey Gosengfiao (if you've heard of him, hats off to you; he was a camp master of Filipino cinema, better than Almodovar in my opine) died.

August 01, 2007 12:01 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

I saw a 16mm print of Isou's Venom and Eternity a few months ago and was pretty blown away by it. Acquarello's post on lettrism a year ago was the first I'd heard the term. Doing a little google-poking on Isou after the screening I noticed he was still alive; very sad to hear that it's no longer true. What a week!

Here is an interesting post on Venom and Eternity that says it's coming to DVD in a restored version soon.

August 01, 2007 1:02 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Great news. I was about to watch it at UBU but will now wait for the dvd and the extra half-hour of the restored version.

August 01, 2007 6:33 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- Steven Shaviro on Ingmar Bergman.
-- A few new posts at Mubarak's place.
-- Thom Ryan has announced a Slapstick blog-a-thon.
-- Glenn Kenny has an interesting post on John Boorman's feature debut, Catch Us If You Can, about the Dave Clark Five.

August 01, 2007 7:28 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- David Hudson has a post in which he collects links to several new pieces on Pedro Costa by Dennis Lim, Ed Halter, Nathan Lee, etc.
-- Dan Sallitt on Alexander Mackendrick's The Sweet Smell of Success.

August 01, 2007 1:32 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Brad Stevens, in a thread at a_film_by, on BBC's coverage of the Bergman/Antonioni passings :

"The resentment NEWSNIGHT's team felt about having to waste valuable screen time on yet another dead Johnny-Foreign-Trousers director (instead of something 'serious', such as a fluctuation in the stock market) was almost palpable. Actually, the piece was partly intended as a response to viewer complaints about The Paxman's attitude during yesterday's Bergman 'tribute' (one viewer quite rightly described his comments as 'barbaric'). The main interviewee was Toby Young, whose antipathy towards art-house cinema seemed almost inexplicable: presumably he isn't happy with Hollywood's domination of 99 per cent of the market, and won't rest until the remaining one per cent has been conquered. His main accusation was that art house films were elitist: pretty rich, given that Bergman's films dealt with such 'elitist' issues as fear of mortality, family life, the difficulties of marriage, etc. Whereas it is the Hollywood films Young champions which truly speak for elitist values - the values of that corporate culture which created them."

August 01, 2007 5:46 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Speaking of Costa, didn't you get to dine with him, Girish? Did you post about that somewhere and it just didn't register? Or is it being written up? Questions questions. Enquiring Mayans want to know.

August 01, 2007 6:08 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey there, Michael.
Actually, I didn't write about it because it wasn't an 'assignment' or anything like that. James Quandt asked me to go out with them for a Japanese meal. We spent about 3 hrs chatting; we didn't talk much about his films, mostly about other filmmakers and films we liked. Such a thoughtful, humble man...

August 01, 2007 6:19 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Brad has a point, but at least the Newsnight people have actually heard of Bergman.

August 01, 2007 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Girish, thanks for alerting us to David Hudson's post about Costa; I read Greencine Daily just about, well, daily, but hadn't seen that yet. Lots of good stuff to read. I still vividly recall attending the screening of Colossal Youth at last year's TIFF; the film was as challenging (in a good way) as anything I'd seen at the festival, including the Wavelengths films, and though some of it was elusive to me, it left me hungry for more. Man, I wish I would have been able to attend that recent retrospective in Toronto. Do you know if he's relatively well represented on DVD?

And, hey, only 36 days till TIFF '07. :)

August 01, 2007 11:08 PM  
Blogger girish said...

"Do you know if he's relatively well represented on DVD?"

Michael, not so on region 1, but Ossos, Casa de Lava and Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie (the Straub-Huillet documentary) are all available on DVD in Europe.

Good to know that you'll be able to join us again at TIFF this year.

August 02, 2007 7:25 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- Kristin Thompson has a very interesting post on Len Lye.
-- Dave Kehr's post on Raymond Bernard from a couple of weeks ago produced some informative comments, including one by Mark Rappaport.

August 02, 2007 7:26 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Thanks, Girish. I'll look for those Costa DVDs at Amoeba Music (which stocks non-R1 DVDs) or some other sources.

August 02, 2007 12:21 PM  
Blogger acquarello said...

I suspect that the Costa DVDs are going to take a bit more effort. The two by Gemini (Ossos and Casa de Lava) are French releases. Casa is still available, but Ossos is out of print. (France Gemini releases tend to not last more than a year before going OOP).

The Straub/Huillet doc is a Portuguese release, not available on satellite megastores like fnac.pt. I got mine from CDGo.

August 02, 2007 1:43 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey, Acquarello, thanks for posting that ordering info.

A couple of links before I leave to go out of town for the weekend:

-- Weeping Sam at The Listening Ear: "Online Film Community Top 100 Handwringing".
-- Kimberly Lindbergs at Cinebeats: "Conversations with Peter Whitehead".
-- Doug Cummings at Film Journey on Rivette's Out 1.

August 03, 2007 7:32 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

For those in the Los Angeles area, Thom Andersen will apparently be mounting a Costa retrospective in mid-September...(immediately after TIFF--whew!)

August 03, 2007 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Acquarello, thanks for the info about the Costa DVDs; and, Doug, thanks for reminding us about the Costa retrospective. I'd almost forgotten about it.

August 03, 2007 12:44 PM  
Anonymous Jim Flannery said...

Linked here b/c more people will see it than on my own site (I am so cheap ...): Jon Swift wraps up the Right Wingut political blogger response to Berman/Antonioni deaths.

August 03, 2007 9:52 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 04, 2007 1:15 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Did you read Rosenbaum shockingly trashing Bergman on the occasion of his death in the NYT? See the a_f_b thread.
I mean, it's not just a petty rant (with arguable criticism), it's a lack of tact (to dance on his grave as good riddance). And I didn't think the great Mr. Rosenbaum capable of such low blow... even if this is his opinion, it's not one to leave as a landmark to commemorate someone's death. Leave these sort of aesthetical controversies for dispassionated days, for curtesy sake! What kind of dignified critic would use an obituary to laungh a vendetta on someone who has made one film in the last 10 years. Surely Bergman benefited from too much audience for too long, the time of his death is the time to stop this myth. (?)

I thought he started his article on blaming the underexposition of his oeuvre on DVDs, and in film schools (which is one of his noble cause) but then uses this example of disinterest of the industry to prove that Bergman is "overrated" artistically!!! Like if such (commercial) evidence consistently sifted the good auteurs from the bads in regard to long term film history...

I don't even understand his main point that Bergman wasn't as much a "commentator on the contemporary world" as Dreyer, Bresson, Antonioni, Tarkovsky or Welles... He can be theatrical alright, but to pretend his films were uncinematic is unbelievable.
When one says that Bergman is too "entertaining" and "doesn't challenge viewing habits / film language" enough to be considered art cinema we obviously reached a paradoxical deadend in the prosperous tradition of "boring art film bashing"...

August 04, 2007 1:34 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Rosembaum's obit does lack generosity, I'll agree. I get the sense something else is going on behind the scenes. Perhaps Ingmar stuck him with a bill somewhere?

But I agree with you completely that Rosenbaum's is not only an unkind--but fruitless--enterprise. It's true that public preferences come and go, but the films will survive. I've no doubt of it.

In tribute, TCM programmed the Dick Cavett interview with Bergman. Did anyone catch it? He was a handsome man and very down to earth, I thought.

August 04, 2007 2:07 PM  
Blogger andrew tracy said...

I was recalling the day after Bergman's death how Rosenbaum, in his review of Saraband, compared Bergman to Ed Wood (sometimes unfavourably) - a cheap tactic of denigration by association which he barely attempted to mask with some threadbare aesthetic justification.

Rosenbaum has his cinematic priorities, which do not include Bergman (nor JR's much-hated German New Wave), and that's all well and good - but to use the occasion of the man's death to "put him in his place" is somewhere beyond uncharitable. The predictable piety that followed upon his passing certainly feels stale in most instances, but Bergman's work - however much it might once have intersected with middlebrow intellectual aspirations and classist chic - should be evaluated apart from all of them; an artist isn't (always) responsible for his audiences, after all.

The expanded interest in Bergman's lesser-seen peers that has been aided by the growing availability of their works on DVD - however inadequate it still remains - is a marvelous development, but it hardly requires Bergman's banishment to justify itself. I believe that Rosenbaum's laudable championing of the little-seen or the unseeable has curdled into a hatred of that which has been (comparatively) widely available for a number of decades, married in this instance to his personal distaste for Bergman's work in toto. Economic and aesthetic damnation both! Bravo...

August 04, 2007 6:17 PM  
Blogger David said...

Really well said, Andrew--although strangely, Rosenbaum put Saraband in his top ten/24 list of 2005 (after Capote and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with the backhanded compliment "The content is typically self-punishing, but I could only admire his willingness to record such barrenness using a technology that wouldn't grant it even a modicum of glamour").

What I find so offensive about the obit is that, like that dunder-headed Derrida obit in the NYT a few years ago, the whole thing masquerades as a tribute. And, of course, that his distinctions are wrong: it's hard to love Chimes at Midnight and Gertrud for their investments in the modern world (at least, anymore than Fanny and Alexander), and not hard to love Au Hasard Balthazar for its ability to entertain, replete as it is with a murder, a frame-up, a grand inheritance, juvenile delinquents, rock and roll music, border smuggling, a barroom brawl, and, for the rest of the family, romance and animals. Just as it seems strange that a guy who loves Oliveira and Rivette so much would deride theatricality (though certainly Bergman's is of a different sort, but isn't Persona attempting to change "the language of cinema"?). Worst of all is that he would attack Bergman's status based on his popular reputation, after first claiming that sometimes "the best indication of an artist's continuing vitality is simply what of his work remains visible and is still talked about," as though reputation has anything to do with ability. And what would that latter statement say about Charles Burnett, whose name, as Rosenbaum writes in this week's Chicago Reader, "doesn't show up in any of the 125 or so links to Web sites and major articles devoted to filmmakers listed on mastersofcinema.org"? Not to mention Hitchcock and Sirk, who of course needed critical resuscitations after initial public embrace, as Bergman might now (surprisingly, there still isn't much great criticism on him), or Rivette, who's talked about, but whose great work is hardly visible in America (and certainly not before his first American retrospective this past year).

His actual attack on Bergman's work, come page two, makes more sense (and I'm inclined to agree for some of Bergman's films), though his chiding that "these emotions remain ugly ones, no matter how stylishly they might be served up," is not only nonsensical, as though showing ugly characters with grace is no "emblem of higher purpose in cinema," but wrong--as though Carl's farting and 3am acting for his kids (for example) in Fanny and Alexander, which Rosenbaum has claimed not to have seen, is somehow ugly bombast.

August 05, 2007 1:20 AM  
Anonymous Cole said...

Good Lord, are people even reading the aforementioned Rosenbaum article? It seems like they merely scanned it, cherry-picked the ideas that irked them, and then reacted.

I found the piece to be a very moderate putdown of the reputation that Bergman enjoys. Most of the strongest reactions seems to come from Bergman fans. Bergman wasn't being "shockingly trashed" or "put in his place". Rosenbaum was simply expressing skepticism at a career that is placed among the most elite. People should venture into the more probing and open-minded discussion going on in the A Film By yahoo group, where Rosenbaum himself responds. Or are people afraid of having their opinions about Bergman challenged?

Whoever said that someone's death automatically warranted the suppression of negative opinion? Rosenbaum didn't know Bergman as a human being but as an artist.

August 05, 2007 4:25 AM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Thanks, Cole: I thought I was the only one who recognized those things in Rosenbaum's piece -- perhaps the best written and most honest on Bergman that week.

August 05, 2007 8:10 AM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

BTW, the reactions to Rosenbaum reflect how so many skim rather than read.

August 05, 2007 8:13 AM  
Blogger andrew tracy said...

Cole and Flickhead: as I'm well acquainted with Rosenbaum's writing and his views on Bergman, I'd like to think that my response wasn't simply a knee-jerk reaction to a cursory skim of his article. My objection to his piece is not his dislike for Bergman, but the tactics he employs to, precisely, "put him in his place" - by explicitly and firmly establishing him well below Dreyer, Bresson. Tarkovsky, et al.

Bergman's work is always open to criticism and his reputation to qualification, but Rosenbaum's contention as to the visual paucity of his films - essentially downgrading Bergman's aesthetic sense to a transparent container for "ugly ideas" - is, at the very least, highly questionable. Rosenbaum's criticism here shades over into mere dismissal of a filmmaker he finds thematically and politically objectionable to his own critical project.

For a critic who has always strenuously argued against any "natural" sifting of the canon - emphasizing always the need for retrieval, reviewing, and reappraisal - to essentially portray the fact that Bergman is seldom studied in university courses anymore as a natural result of his inessentialness is, I think, against the grain of Rosenbaum's own enterprise - opportunistically, at that.

Speaking for myself, at least, I'm more than willing to have my ideas about Bergman challenged - which I'd like to pursue by going back to the films themselves, many of which I haven't seen for several years (thus, you'll note, I have kept my own critical views on Bergman largely out of my posts - it was the nature and tone of Rosenbaum's article, rather than any views which may have been contrary to mine, which occasioned my comments).

For those who are interested, seeking out Stanley Kauffmann's contemporary writing on Bergman would be an ideal place to start, as they combine a lucid and sometimes quite cutting appraisal of his flaws, blind spots and inconsistencies with an equally lucid evaluation of his cinematic skill, absent the implicitly condescending qualifiers that Rosenbaum employs.

August 05, 2007 5:36 PM  
Blogger girish said...

This is really a great discussion; thank you, everyone.

Andrew, I know we talked about Kauffmann the last time we got together. I've been meaning to check out one of his books; I've read almost nothing by him.

August 05, 2007 8:47 PM  

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