Friday, February 22, 2008

Lang, Links

First, a word of thanks to Kevin Lee for inviting me to do the audio commentary for a 7-minute video essay on Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window (1944). It was my first such experience and it was fun.

A few links:

-- Michael Sicinski's February page has a clutch of reviews including Import Export, The Sun Also Rises, Mad Detective, Alexandra, Atonement and The Counterfeiters. Also, a Bollywood movie that can bring Michael to tears (Pradeep Sarkar's Laaga Chunari Mein Daag: Journey of a Woman) is one that's going on my queue immediately.

-- Chris Fujiwara in the Boston Phoenix: "Separation is the myth and the reality of Ritwik Ghatak’s cinema. His work screams it, shouts it, sings it in image and sound. It’s not enough for a marriage to come to an end; that end also has to become an abstract principle: “Separation is essential,” says the hero’s wife near the beginning of Reason, Debate, and a Story (1974). In E-flat (1961), a theater director tells an actress, “Think it is 1947 and you have to leave your home,” at which she breaks down in tears."

-- Dave Kehr in the NYT on Joan Crawford: "[She] was an almost entirely artificial creation, from top (those painted-on eyebrows and wide-open eyes) to toe (a tiny woman who began as a dancer, she learned to carry herself effectively en pointe to create an illusion of height). [...] She is always trying too hard: enunciating her words too carefully in hopes of hiding her native twang; moving with a too-studied precision meant to show off her superlative legs; or fixing the camera with that unblinking stare, intended to suggest an alluring hauteur but just as expressive of borderline panic."

-- Kimberly Lindbergs's sumptuous "favorite DVD releases of 2007" post.

-- Filmblog discovery of the week, via Craig Keller: David Cairns's Shadowplay.

-- At Errata, Rob Davis and J. Robert Parks do a podcast on a dozen films, which sparks a discussion in the comments, especially around I'm Not There.

-- David Bordwell on His Girl Friday: "[I]n the 1963 Cahiers tribute Louis Marcorelles called it “the American film par excellence.” Praising Hawks, and HGF specifically, was part of a larger Cahiers strategy to validate the sound cinema as fulfilling the mission of film as an art. What traditional critics would have considered theatrical and uncinematic in HGF—confinement to a few rooms, constant talk, an unassertive camera style—exactly fit the style that Bazin and his younger colleagues championed."

-- Dan Sallitt on John Ford's Tobacco Road: "Because we tend to associate the Fordian tone of elegy with admiration and celebration, we might be surprised to see it crop up here. I briefly wondered whether the studio might not have concocted a Ford-like score of a mournful accordion playing "Shall We Gather at the River" and laid it over the resistant material. But music is only part of the integrated Fordian elegiac tone, which also draws on beautiful deep-space long-shot compositions, a slowing of rhythm, an emphatic isolation of individual shots, and the use of symbolic imagery. There's no mistaking that Ford is on the job."

-- Both Acquarello and Daniel Kasman have been filing reviews from the Film Comment Selects series. Also, here are Daniel's reports from Berlinale at The Auteurs' Notebook.

-- Thanks to Ryland Walker Knight at Vinyl is Heavy, some poetry selections from Nietzsche's The Gay Science.

-- The Siren has been reading Mary Astor's memoir, A Life on Film.

-- At The House Next Door, Fernando F. Croce on Maurice Pialat's A Nos Amours: "[Sandrine Bonnaire's] Suzanne is in every scene, and throughout the film one feels a transfixed Pialat steering the still-unformed talent, not so much molding Bonnaire as discovering in tandem with the actress the corporeality, force, and shifting emotional depths that would later mark her greatest performances (Vagabond (1985), La Cérémonie (1995), Secret Défense (1998))."

-- At In Media Res, Michael Z. Newman picks the Ying Yang Twins's "Wait (The Whisper Song)" as a guilty pleasure: "Owning up to a guilty pleasure is a performance of confession to cultural sin, but the sinner seeks benefits other than absolution. Calling the pleasure guilty validates participation in the ritual of taste; now liking something bad doesn’t indicate failure to recognize criteria of quality and social acceptability but affirms them. Advertising a guilty pleasure can be a way flaunting status, as only those already in possession of cultural capital can risk some on a guilty pleasure."

-- Alex Cox to Dennis Lim on his film Walker: "It was incredible, but since 1988 I have not had one offer of work from any of the Hollywood studios. I've existed entirely independent of the studios. You make one political film, and that's it -- blacklisted. But that's OK, it's a good film to be blacklisted for."

-- Owen Hatherley at The Measures Taken: "What would a world be like without art? And why did the most talented artists of the period immediately after the First World War end up advocating the abolition of art altogether? ‘Art is Dead! shouted the Dadaists, with their hatred of galleries and museums. ‘From the easel to the machine’, was a slogan of the Constructivists. The ten years after 1918 marked a total war on the category of ‘art’, its networks of patrons and consumers, and its unique objects. This is something which hasn’t exactly been forgotten by history, but tends to be treated rather patronisingly – an eccentric extremism that art grew out of, a failed utopia, or a juvenile biting of the hand that feeds."

-- Here's a big, meaty Hitchcock website: Ken Mogg's 'The MacGuffin'. Mogg is the author of The Alfred Hitchcock Story (1999).

Traces: Joan Bennett and the monogrammed pencil.


Blogger Brian said...

Terrific link round-up as always, girish! I've read some of these already and will investigate the others.

As for the commentary, would you recommend it for those of us who have not yet seen the Woman in the Window, or should we wait to view the film first? It's playing at the PFA next Wednesday (unfortunately while I'm scheduled to work), and I have an unverified hunch that it might show up at the Castro Theatre soon as well.

I actually stopped by to (finally!) comment on your previous post on North By Northwest and the Far Country, two of my very favorite films. Hope you don't mind me using this space while I'm here.

It was mentioned that the term "North By Northwest" is a "cartographic impossibility" but what I recall from my Boy Scouting days is that the term is just an alternate name for the compass point I've usually called "North Northwest" (the direction Alaska is from the West Coast of the contiguous US, incidentally). I wouldn't be surprised if that's inaccurate, but I searched in two different Spoto books on Hitchcock for his comment on the matter and came up empty. Do you know which book Christian Keathley is referring to?

As for other "uncanny overlaps" I've always been intrigued by similarities between Tom Twyker's 1998 Run Lola Run and the first (and for my money best) Milkyway Production Too Many Ways to Be #1, directed by Wai Ka-Fai in 1997. Not only do they share an unusual alternate-reality structure, but there are certain shots, for instance a couple lying in bed together and a vantage from a streetcorner, that feel eerily similar. I've long thought I should investigate whether Wai's film was a direct influence on Twyker's (or somehow vice versa, though chronology seems off), whether they both shared a common antecedent, or whether there's another explanation.

February 22, 2008 5:51 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey there, Brian!

You've added a new wrinkle to the N by NW discussion! I'm not sure where Spoto made the comment, but Chris is a reader here and I'm sure he will see your comment.

Your reference to Wai Ka-Fai reminds me of Stephanie Zacharek's appetizing comments on the new Johnnie To film at Berlin, Sparrow: "Even though no one actually sings in Johnnie To's "Sparrow," it's more a musical than an action movie, borrowing the mood, color and vitality of pictures like "Singin' in the Rain" and "The Band Wagon" and "An American in Paris" -- and maybe even "The Young Girls of Rochefort.""

To answer your question about The Woman in the Window, it's a 7-min. clip, and for the first 3 mins or so I make general Lang comments that are light on any details from the film itself (if that helps).

February 22, 2008 8:49 AM  
Blogger Tucker said...

Girish, I have to say your video commentary on The Woman in the Window is wonderful. I have yet to see the film, but now I must!

February 22, 2008 9:16 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Tucker--I think you'll enjoy it! I remember my first time seeing it was on a theatrical double bill with Scarlet Street (made the following year, with the same leads), both terrific films...

February 22, 2008 9:52 AM  
Blogger weepingsam said...

As for other "uncanny overlaps" I've always been intrigued by similarities between Tom Twyker's 1998 Run Lola Run and the first (and for my money best) Milkyway Production Too Many Ways to Be #1, directed by Wai Ka-Fai in 1997.

There's a chapter on those two films, and a pretty likely antecedent, Kieslowski's Blind Chance in the new Bordwell book, Poetics of Cinema.

February 22, 2008 3:12 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

A fantastic essay, Girish. Thanks for the plugs too; I'm sorry I haven't been able to comment in your posts more often but I've been very busy lately! Are you still planning a March NYC trip?

February 22, 2008 4:09 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Thanks for the heads-up, weepingsam! I will make sure to read that (and see Blind Chance, too!)

girish, I listened to the first few minutes of your commentary; can't wait to continue once I've seen the whole film!

February 22, 2008 5:24 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, Sam, Daniel, and Brian!

Daniel, assuming all goes well here at work, I hope to be able to make the trip. And I look forward to hearing from you about your Berlinale experience.

February 22, 2008 5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet to watch the commentary, looking forward to it, but does remind of a wonderful moviegoing memory. Visiting friends in Paris in 2003 or so I decided to take in The Woman in the Window at a 3:30 showing or so and found myself the only one in the theater, watching that great film by myself, walking out after being very into the movie in that post movie daze practically forgetting I wasn't in NYC to be hit by the reminder that I was in a foreign city.

February 22, 2008 6:38 PM  
Blogger David said...

Fantastic commentary--and such a great film, that's only suffered (if it has), I think, because it was followed by Scarlet Street. Do more commentaries!

February 23, 2008 12:03 AM  
Blogger nitesh said...

Thanks, Girish...Amazing link round always highly informative. I ‘m yet to see the Fritz Lang film, but enjoyed the Video Essay nonetheless, hope to see it sometime in future. I was surprised by the mention of Pradeep Sarkar, Laga Chunri Meh Daag, which in my opinion is another tear jerker, cliché ridden and filled with stereotypes hyperbole typical Bollywood film, something I didn’t except from Pradeep Sarkar, after Parineeta.

February 23, 2008 3:24 AM  
Blogger Ryland Walker Knight said...

I guess I, too, must see _Woman in the Window_ now. But I won't be able to hit that PFA screening as I have my Hermeneutics seminar on Wednesday afternoons. That whole school thing takes a good deal of my time. As much as I dig it, though, I'm already ready to be done -- with homework more than anything -- so I can organize my time more to my liking. Not that working a "real job" will afford me any more free time; rather, I will only have self-imposed writing assignments. And more money.

Of course: Thanks for the nod, Girish. The poems (or simply "German rhymes") are, well, not very good. But, as is often the case with FN, they're funny -- "they're kind of willfully dreadful," as my professor said on Thursday; they are both silly/funny/not-serious and straight-up serious. It's that whole irony thing.

Sandrine Bonnaire is the real deal.

The coolest thing about theatrical films, it seems to me, is they pick up on the idea of performance as a public working over of issues (personal, political, moral/ethical, whatever), of how we measure up to the world and our image (idea) of the world. (This crops up pretty pointedly in both those films Fernando cites as two of Bonnaire's best performances.)

February 23, 2008 4:53 PM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

I loved the Woman in the Window commentary, absolutely terrific insights into Lang. I also found the film quite funny.
I thought that Robinson's wife looked about the same age he did, but they BOTH looked far too old to have such young children. Grandchildren, maybe.

As you don't give it away and it seems most of your readers haven't seen it, I won't ask my burning question about the ending, but if you get a chance to drop me a line I would be extremely interested in hearing your thoughts.

February 23, 2008 10:25 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, all!

Anonymous ~ It's always fun to associate and attach a trip with films you've seen. I remember scrambling to get a 12-hour transit visa in London once (they wouldn't give me a longer one for some reason I forget) and then walking about the city and ending up at a great, ground-shaking screening of the U2 Rattle & Hum concert film doc.

David ~ Thanks! Now I need to have Kevin give me a little tutorial on making video essays. When I returned from Madras a few weeks back I brought a big suitcase literally bulging with DVD's. It would be fun to select films from Indian film history (both popular and 'art' cinema) and show clips, point to things, talk about them...I'd like to work on this idea.

Nitesh ~ I haven't seen either film and don't know if I'll like the new one but Michael (in the link I posted) has some interesting things to say about it, and he's one of our best film critics. Which is why my interest is sparked.

Ry ~ You know, you've got me on a bit of Cavell jag. But it'll take me time to ponder, digest, make sense, before I'm able to post some semi-coherent thoughts. I like this about the blogosphere: turning each other on to new reading/viewing/listening every single day...

Siren ~ You said: "I thought that Robinson's wife looked about the same age he did."

Touché! You're absolutely right, of course. I must've been thinking about the children too...

You hinted at your blog that you've had a chance to see some Ophuls in your neighborhood, and I eagerly await your post(s) about them...

I will write to you today about the ending of the Lang.

February 24, 2008 11:44 AM  
Blogger girish said...

At Netflix today: I just added Miklos Jansco's Private Vices, Public Virtues, Philippe Falardeau's Congorama and Alan Rudolph's Intimate Affairs to the queue. The Rudolph film is the retitled Investigating Sex, which, as far as I know, has been distributorless for the last few years.

February 24, 2008 11:53 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- Manohla Dargis has a strong review, well worth reading, of Jacques Rivette's The Duchess of Langeais in the NYT.
-- Several new pieces at the Rivette site, Order of the Exile (David Hudson rounds them up), including two translated by David Pratt-Robson and this primer-like essay on Rivette by Sally Shafto.
-- Robert Koehler at Film Journey: "Why the Foreign Oscars Need to be Blown Up."

February 25, 2008 11:29 AM  
Blogger acquarello said...

Belated thanks for the linkage, Girish. Now I feel a little sheepish about shelving the last few FCS films that I was going to write about. :( (I came down with a stomach flu after I got home, so I was trying to get healthy by resting a lot in time for Rendez-vous with French Cinema this coming weekend).

The highlight was definitely the Rivette though, with Jeanne Balibar turning up for the Q&A (in a backless shirt and hot pants at 20°F, no less!). She had some pretty interesting things to say about how they worked more closely with the script in this one and didn't allow much improvisation than Va Savoir, and also about the idea of seduction as theater. She definitely won over the audience with her intelligence and articulateness.

February 25, 2008 2:27 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Acquarello, I'm sorry to hear of your stomach bug! And I hope you're recovering and getting your strength back for your upcoming French weekend.

Of those last few FCS films you didn't get a chance to review, were there films you found interesting and recommendable? (Or, conversely, not?)

February 25, 2008 2:56 PM  
Anonymous cinebeats said...

I really enjoyed your video commentary in the Fritz Lang clip Girish! Well done. You have a terrific speaking voice and your commentary was very insightful. I hope you will do more in the future.

And many thanks for mentioning my DVD list! I'm glad you enjoyed it and I hope I was able to shine a light on some lessor films.

February 25, 2008 6:41 PM  
Blogger acquarello said...

Hi Girish, unfortunately, the last three films I caught were kinda "meh", we is part of the reason I couldn't get inspired. I think you've seen most if not all of them though: Boarding Gate which is not quite as jumbled and opaque as demonlover, but just as disoriented; The Banishment, which I didn't really want to see since I wasn't a fan of The Return with its laden, hyperbolic imagery (my tickets were for Import/Export, but they canceled the Sunday screening and replaced it with this one); and Flash Point, which, as actions films go, really seemed to have been written as a "big boss" fight that would showcase Donnie Yen's talent, with the first 70 minute lead up inserted as an afterthought (shirtless studs on beach, check...romantic interest, check...comedy relief using exploding turkey...check).

February 25, 2008 6:55 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Kimberly and Acquarello!

Kimberly, I really enjoyed that you spotlighted those lesser-known films. I'm going to follow your example and do that next year for my own list.

Acquarello, turns out I haven't seen those three films. Have a good weekend trip; we'll await your dispatches from New York.

February 25, 2008 9:28 PM  
Blogger girish said...

-- New issue of Cineaste.
-- Andy Rector reproduces a handbill protesting the mutilation of Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico!.
-- At the Listening Ear: The films of Jose Luis Guerin.

February 26, 2008 8:42 AM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

New on DVD from First Run Features, the excellent documentary, Who is Henry Jaglom?.

February 26, 2008 3:21 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi Ray -- I've seen zero Jaglom. Do you (or does anyone else) want to recommend some good ones to add to the Netflix queue?

February 26, 2008 5:56 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

I've seen all of Jaglom's films...he's one of my favorite directors, but I can certainly understand anyone's dislike of what he does.

Someone to Love is essential viewing if just for Welles. But it's also a fascinating piece on relationships and deception.

Tracks can seem like a masterpiece one day, and then a terrible waste the next. Still, it's got some good work by Dennis Hopper and a visibly uncomfortable Taryn Power.

Eating is probably the closest he came to making a crowd-pleaser. It's good but not great. And Always, a critical favorite, fails in my opinion.

New Year's Day has good moments. Sitting Ducks can be either hilarious or supremely annoying depending on the mood of the viewer. Last Summer in the Hamptons is a blast of improvisation -- this is the film where Martha Plimpton supposedly called Jaglom a Nazi and told him to go fuck himself.

But you can watch Who is Henry Jaglom? without an extensive knowledge of his work.

February 26, 2008 6:09 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

A longish piece I wrote about Jaglom:

February 26, 2008 9:03 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ray -- Thanks for the tips and the link!

February 26, 2008 9:47 PM  
Blogger Ryland Walker Knight said...

G: I look forward to your thoughts on Cavell. He's pretty great, right? It's almost as if he's his own one-man school of thought / movement. Everything he writes is so wrapped up in everything he has read and seen and understood that it's hard to pin him to any one field. He's an analytical fisherman, kinda, if you get my meaning. ----I just thought of that nametag and, after I took a second, realized it's pretty cool; maybe I'll import it into the thesis. I've already looked into further Laleen Jayamanne writings -- and I even decided, since it was/is so awesome, that I should use that quote you posted from _Towards Cinema and Its Double_. Yup, it can be valuable, this internet. Many thanks. Cheers. It's sunny in Berkeley today and that means some AM basketball. Later!

February 27, 2008 11:25 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Ry.

" It's sunny in Berkeley today and that means some AM basketball."

And in Buffalo, we're picking up in the aftermath of a snowstorm...!

A couple of links:
-- The Art of Memory promises to "exclusively represent Bresson for the next 20 posts, approximately." The first post is on Balthazar and Mouchette.
-- Aaron Graham posts a YouTube interview clip with Otto Preminger.
-- Glenn Kenny has a couple of posts on Vittorio Storaro and aspect ratios.
-- An essay by Tim Lucas: "If Jean Cocteau was the filmmaker most successful at making audiences dream with their eyes wide open, José Mojica Marins is the cinema's greatest conductor of waking nightmares."

February 28, 2008 7:18 AM  

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