Robert Mulligan; Links
Mulligan is clearly not the author of his films in the same way that Ingmar Bergman is; he does not create his own characters or stories or write the dialogue. But Mulligan is a storyteller, interpreting the stories of others. As Mulligan describes his role, “Things have to sift through me. That’s me up there on the screen. The shooting, the editing, the use of music—all that represents my attitude toward the material.” In his role as storyteller, Mulligan interposes his personality and sensitivity between the tale and the audience; he makes the story his own by supplying attitude. It is this attitude or tone that becomes the true subject of a Mulligan film, not character or plot. Thus in a Mulligan film, no single individual—director, screenwriter, producer, or actor—stamps the film with his personality; the feelings generated by Mulligan’s view of specific characters in specific situations and settings are what count most.
Mulligan, as interpreter, chooses preexisting plots and characters for the stories of his films. His best films have been based on best-selling novels that have in common strong subjective narrations and settings that are inseparable from character and plot.
I know he's much admired but I've seen only two of Mulligan's films, To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) and Summer of '42 (1971). The former has been forever transfigured in my memory since I encountered Austrian filmmaker Martin Arnold's appropriation and deformation of it in his avant-garde classic Passage À L’Acte (1993).
I'm wondering: Do you have any favorites among Mulligan's films? Perhaps we can collect some ideas and recommendations here?
Adrian Martin has a new essay--on William Klein. Here is an excerpt:
William Klein is a remarkable figure in film history, a law unto himself, ultimately beyond (while overlapping with) many movements and trends. To look at the 1964 footage that constitutes the first half of Muhammad Ali, The Greatest (1974) - with its lack of voice-over narration and its relentlessly energetic 'in the moment' reportage - one might imagine him to have issued from the American cinéma-vérité school of Leacock, Pennebaker and the Maysles brothers. But, crucially, there is no spurious objectivity in Klein: just one look at the deliberately ugly way he frames the boxer's Southern white 'owners' (another lateral 'defilement') in contrast to the open, generous way he films Ali and his intimate entourage, is enough to palpably convey who the filmmaker is for and against, who he likes and dislikes. So, there is an aspect of Klein that anticipates the cooler, more analytical - although still indirect - gaze of Frederick Wiseman's documentaries about every kind of social institution (prison, school, office, abattoir, monastery ... ) as well as the more loquacious essay-films of Chris Marker, who first encouraged Klein to turn his photographic eye into a cinematographic eye in the (literally) dazzling short Broadway by Light (1958).
-- Michael Newman at Zigzigger has one of my favorite 'end-of-the-year favorites' posts.
-- The latest (#3) in Ry Knight's wonderful series of 'quotation collage' posts.
-- A recent blog discovery: Some Landscapes, devoted to "landscapes evoked or depicted in the arts: painting, literature, music, film etc. and [...] the creation or alteration of landscapes by architects, artists and garden designers."
-- Beaucoup reading at The Auteurs Notebook including David Phelps (on Oshima--lots!), Danny Kasman, David Cairns, Andrew Tracy, and Glenn Kenny.
-- Michael Sicinski's December page has a number of interesting reviews including: Iron Man, Trouble the Water, Encounters at the Edge of the World, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, W., Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Frost/Nixon, and Slumdog Millionaire.
-- Several new and interesting posts at Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's blog, Sounds, Images, including a Bazinian entry called "The Ontology of the Recorded Sound."
-- Also, Ignatiy kicks off the newest Film of the Month, Julien Temple's Absolute Beginners (1986).
-- A sneak peek at the top 20 released and unreleased films of the year in the Film Comment poll at the FilmLinc blog.
-- Two recent and useful end-of-year posts at Joe Bowman's place, Fin de Cinema: on region-1 DVD releases, and the best and worst of television.
-- Catherine Grant has a links-filled post on Daniel Frampton's Filmosophy.
-- Ed Howard is hosting an Early Hawks blog-a-thon next month.
-- At his blog Remains of the Day, Harmanjit Singh has an interesting entry that begins thus: "The practice of Actualism is to minimize, and finally remove, malice and sorrow in oneself, so that one may live happily and harmlessly. There is usually little argument on the happiness aspect, but there can be a lot of confusion about being harmless."
-- Dave Kehr in the NYT on the Murnau/Borzage box set, which, he writes, "also functions as a miniature history of the transition from silent films to sound. The free-floating camera and dramatic fluidity of the silents seem to screech to a halt with Borzage’s first all-talking picture, the 1929 Will Rogers vehicle “They Had to See Paris.” He recovers a bit of his camera mobility with the interesting 1930 “Song o’ My Heart,” a musical starring the hugely popular Irish tenor John McCormack, in which Borzage experiments for the first time with sound to create a bridge between lovers separated by space. But sound also constrains Borzage’s gossamer romanticism, and his films take on the straightforward, slightly embittered social realism that was beginning to dominate over at Warner Brothers."
-- David Bordwell: "Like many Hong Kong movies, nearly every one of Wong Kar-wai’s films went through multiple versions. But unlike many directors he seems to enjoy tweaking and rethinking his work. In production he shoots scenes, watches them, reshoots them, recuts them, and reshoots again. Editing and mixing involve the same play with variants. He adds different shots, juggles the order, adds or subtracts music at will. [...] His drive to redo his films seems to go beyond indecision or commercial calculation. Wong seems to have taken to heart his central theme of the transient moment, the fact that love can be extinguished at any instant. So why not change your films to match your mood today? Further, like Warhol, he seems to enjoy prodigality for its own sake. He enjoys conjuring up one variation after another, multiplying just barely different avatars, and draping in mist the notion of any original text. His films’ basic constructive principle—the constant repetitions that create parallels and slight differences, loops of vaguely familiar images and sounds and situations—gets enacted in his very mode of production."
-- Steven Shaviro on presses (in this case, Continuum) with extremely restrictive agreements that prohibit authors from disseminating their own work, thus limiting their readership. He writes: "Some of the best theory books of the last decade have received far less notice than they deserved, all because they have been caught in the limbo of this sort of publishing arrangement. [...] There obviously needs to be some sort of open access policy for scholarship in the humanities, as there already is to a great extent in the sciences. We don’t really get paid for our writing, except very indirectly in the sense that a scholarly reputation increases your “marketability” and hence the kind of salary you can get as a professor. In these cases, the policies of presses like Continuum (which I am singling out here only because of my own dealings with them; many other academic presses are just as bad) serve the interests neither of writers nor of readers. I don’t have a blueprint of how to get there (open access) from here (restrictive copyright arrangements), but a first step would be for those academics who, like me, can afford to forgo the lines on their vitas, to refuse to publish with presses that have such policies."