Among that subset of the population that cares about such things—a population rivaling that of the Sumatran rhino—there is something like a Delmer Daves revival afoot. Mostly remembered today as a director of outdoor adventure pictures, Daves was unique in his field for the serious, consuming fashion with which he dealt with sex and romantic love, and it’s worth tracing the roots of this.
Frame by painstaking frame, Ray Harryhausen elevated the art of incorporating stop-motion model animation effects into live-action films to a level previously, and subsequently, unseen. In his passing, Harryhausen becomes a symbol for A Time When They Did Things Differently, when what we broadly call “movie magic” still bore human fingerprints, before the business of ensorceling the rubes was delegated to vast armies of pixel-pushers.
“Action is character,” William Friedkin told his audience, citing F. Scott Fitzgerald in justifying his own commitment to a kinetic cinema, saying of his characters, “What they do is what they are.” Few filmmakers have understood this lesson as completely as Sam Peckinpah, who didn’t know how to put together a shooting schedule on Major Dundee, but certainly knew something about the inextricable futility and nobility of martial tradition.
Can one hope to address the abject debasement of popular culture in its various lowest-common denominator manifestations with sophisticated parody and lambent drawing room wit? Perhaps the only tactic is to meet the challenge of a force-feeding entertainment-industrial complex head-on, to open up under the sewage-spewing spigot and say “Ahhhh.”
As Terrence Malick stays aloof from the fray, the debate over his Art rages on: Does the Emperor have no clothes, or is he resplendent in ermine-lined royal finery? I’ve long been inclined towards the latter answer and, much to my surprise, someone was paying attention to my exhortations. Last Tuesday, at 12:38 EST, I received a phone call from an unlisted number. A muffled voice, possibly speaking through a handkerchief, asked me if I would be interested in “Talking … Read More
Jerry Lewis trotted out on the stage trim and tuxedoed, only slightly faltering in his step. As our palpable awe settled, Jerry settled into a chair, beginning a program that mixed Methuselah-vintage shtick with a program of video clips. A teleprompter sat near the footlights, but was mostly disregarded, and apparently useless.
Today, as from its inception, Reverse Shot remains essentially a labor of love for all involved. The phrase “I don’t know how you do it” is flung around a lot, but I mean it quite literally when talking about Msrs. Reichert and Michael Koresky, who for a decade have done this thing on evenings and weekends, with minimal consideration for the profit motive. And it is a thing very worth doing precisely because it is free of that motive.
It is safe to say that the author of films with titles like How Awful About Allan, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?, and What’s the Matter with Helen did not take himself too seriously. Yet Curtis Harrington’s communion with film history was indeed serious, and profound, for he was every bit the scholar of cinema that Liebling was of fisticuffs.
The ironic soundtrack counterpoint is by now a hoary cliché. Like most clichés, it can still be tweaked to create associations that are complex and beguiling. More often, though, it’s an excuse for a cheap, smug effect, conveying something like “What a world where such cheap, plastic Tin Pan Alley sentiment can coexist with such horror! Behold this incongruity, ye audience, and despair!”