New DVDs: “The Robe” and John Alton

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The first film to be released in CinemaScope, Henry Koster’s 1953 “The Robe” forever altered the way movies looked. Henceforth, Hollywood either released its pictures in authentic anamorphic formats like CinemaScope, which effectively offered an image twice as wide as the old Academy ratio, or by finagling standard methods to produce “widescreen” images in 1.66 or 1.85.

For decades, it’s been hard to tell from the battered, fuzzy prints of “The Robe” available on television and home video just what it was that stunned audiences so much in 1953; the film had been overprinted to the point where the original color had effectively been lost, and the images softened into mush. But now a major new restoration under the hand of Fox’s chief archivist, Schawn Belston, has resulted in a cleaner, crisper “Robe,” which looks much better in standard definition but is truly impressive in Blu-ray.

“The Robe” remains a transitional film, in that Kostner and his cinematographer, Leon Shamroy, seem to have discovered what doesn’t work in ‘scope (big close-ups, over-the-shoulder cutting) without yet having found what does (such as the long takes and camera movements that Otto Preminger would soon import to ‘scope from his established Academy ratio style). “The Robe” may still far short as motion picture art, but now, at least, the viewer can get some sense of what all the fuss was about. Just keep trying to imagine that image on a 30 by 75 foot screen.

Also this week, our friends at the independent label VCI Entertainment have managed to bring a couple of important films photographed by the great, eccentric cinematographer John Alton back from the pale and fuzzy realms of public domain. Though neither would be mistaken for a first generation print, they look vastly better than they have in decades.

VCI’s new “Classic Film Noir Volume 3″ offers the unbridled Alton stylishness of the Gothic thriller “The Amazing Mr. X” (aka “The Spiritualist,” 1948) directed by Bernard Vorhaus, as well as Anthony Mann’s droll “Reign of Terror” (aka, “The Black Book,” 1949, shown above), which finds three of the great visual stylists of classical Hollywood — Mann, Alton and the production designer William Cameron Menzies — collaborating on a noirish, labyrinthine vision of revolutionary Paris, all the more impressive for having been achieved on a Poverty Row budget.

More details in your Sunday New York Times.

97 comments to New DVDs: “The Robe” and John Alton

  • Kent Jones

    Alex, I will stick with “entirely” because of mise-en-scène. What does “racketting” mean?

    As for ROAD TO PERDITION, I don’t remember the shot in question. I remember many other shots, no doubt equally beautiful in your eyes, and it was shot by one of the greatest DPs who ever stepped behind a camera. But I think it’s a genuinely terrible movie, without qualification. The talents of the people involved only seemed to magnify the inanity.

  • Kent Jones

    To be a little clearer, it’s the term “mise-en-scène” that prompted me to amplify “different” with “entirely.”

  • skelly

    Yes Dodworth looks great (and to clarify I didn’t mean to imply that the non-Toland lensed Wyler films are less visually impressive; just, perhaps, less distinctive…though I’m a very big Wyler fan and tend to attempt to prop up the rep of any of his films including his allegedly lesser ones). Kent’s reference to Rudolph Mate and the discussion re visual style of a director vs. that of a cinematographer makes me wonder what happens when a lone time DP becomes a director. I admittedly (though with little real scrutiny) can’t find much of a link or consistency in visual style of Rudolph Mate directed films – like the 3 of his 1950 efforts I’ve managed to see (BRANDED, UNION STATION and D.O.A.).

    What’s the biggest name DP that’s made a successful transition to director? Lee Garmes didn’t last long (though I do like ANGELS OVER BROADWAY).

    p.s. I’m also in the ROAD TO PERDITION nice-looking bad movie camp

  • nicolas saada

    “makes me wonder what happens when a lone time DP becomes a director.”
    Depends: Nicolas Roeg, Jack Cardiff, Barry Sonnenfeld. I like Mate’s DOA as much as UNION STATION.
    Kent, i would agree with you as to films that look great and are plain silly. WATCHMEN is a milestone.
    Great films that don’t look great : some Fassbinder films, some late Pasolini, possibly some other Italian films.
    The name of a dp on a credit can sometimes wet my cinephile’s appetite. But not for long.
    I think that both Mann and Orson Welles had a terrific sense of space and that came from their background in theatre. If the lighting of some of the post-Alton Mann films can sometimes be a little less sophisticated (only a little less: SIDE STREET is beautiful), the films are still extremely solid in terms of framing. “Framing” is really part of “mise en scène” as it also determines the acting and of course the editing. Richard Fleischer remained consistent through the years, so did Nicholas Ray, Orson Welles. Hitchcock is another example of a filmmaker with such a solid visual style that almost any dp could fit in his style. But his partnership with robert Burks is outstanding. I saw another film photographed by Burks, Felix Feist TOMMOROW IS ANOTHER DAY. It’s an extraordinaty little film, extremely well paced and shot. Has anybodu seen it lately ?

  • alex hicks

    Sorry, Kent, “bracketting” –perhaps more common than real world independence and easier than orthogonalizing.

    Besides great film that look plain and bad films that look great, there are films that look so great we think they might be so despite reservations about other elements (e.g.,Curtiz’s Unsuspected, Bertolucci’s The Conformist; Yo Soy Cuba.)

  • alex hicks

    A nice example of “mise-en-scène” leading cinematography some is Carringer on Welles’ use of Toland’s deep focus capabilitiese to enable him to retain the decalamatory acting and multi- and full-figured theatrical tableaux style of the Mercury Players. However, it’s also an example of the interdependence of “mise-en-scène” and cinematography, for Toland remained indispensible as well as manipulated — and then some.

  • steve elworth

    Skelly mentioned the wonderful Black and white work of the great Ghislain Cloquet. Lets not leave out the great Black and white work of his predecessor as DP for Bresson, L. H. Burel on his work from Gance to Bresson.

  • dm494

    A great (or very good) film that doesn’t look great: A NEW LEAF.

    Laying out a coherent space–whether through a series of shots or through what Nicolas calls a “tunnel shot”–seems like a “visual” task that the director, not the cinematographer, is responsible for. Take a look at something like Benton’s BAD COMPANY for example. Thanks to Gordon Willis, the film’s individual shots are beautiful to look at, but–especially in the gunfight towards the end–they don’t lock together and give the impression of a unified space in which the actors are moving around.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, Mann’s MEN IN WAR is a perfect example of a film where the space of the scene, the relative positions of the actors and other objects, is laid out with absolute clarity through a series of shots. (I’m thinking of something like the Korean soldiers sneaking up behind Aldo Ray.)

  • jbryant

    I’ve enjoyed a number of films by cinematographer-turned-director Ted Tetzlaff, including The Window, Riffraff, The White Tower and Time Bomb (aka Terror on a Train), even if none are exactly masterpieces. I particularly like Riffraff, a sort of Casablanca knockoff with Pat O’Brien. The B&W is stunning, courtesy of George Diskant, who shot Desperate and On Dangerous Ground (both mentioned elsewhere in the thread), not to mention They Live by Night, The Narrow Margin, Kansas City Confidential and The Bigamist, before finishing out his career with about a decade of TV work.

  • Michael Kastner

    How about a word for the combo of Preminger & La Shelle : Laura, Fallen Angel & Where the Sidewalk Ends? Actually how about Preminger and any DP :Stradling(Angel Face) Perinal (Bonjour Tristesse) Leavitt (All really, especially Advise & Consent).Another plug too for Devil’s Doorway. A bitter story paired with a visual feast. One of the great noir westerns.

  • Junko Yasutani

    Miyazawa Kenji is great black and white cinematographer, maybe greatest for Japanese directors.

  • skelly

    JB, you know it’s funny I’ve seen and enjoyed all of Desperate,On Dangerous Ground, They Live by Night, The Narrow Margin, Kansas City Confidential and The Bigamist – but don’t think the name George Diskant has ever registered with me. I’ll keep an eye out for Riffraff (thought Tetzlaff’s The Window was real solid)

  • I’ll second Men in War; the spatial clarity there reminded me of the last twenty minutes of Full Metal Jacket.

    And if we’re naming great cinematographers, I’ll throw in a few Filipino names–Mike Accion (worked with Gerry de Leon, and you can see his color stuff (if not his best work) in Ibulong Mo sa Hangin (Whisper to the Wind, available on DVD as Blood of the Vampires) and El Filibusterismo (great gothic drama), and Lamberto Avellana’s Anak Dalita (The Ruins).

    Conrado Baltazar, some of whose best work can be seen in Lino Brocka’s Insiang, and Mario O’Hara’s Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos.

    Rody Lacap,whose best work was in Mike de Leon’s films, particularly Kisapmata, and Peque Gallaga’s Oro, Plata, Mata.

    Romy Vitug, who did Mario O’Hara’s Bilanggong Birhen (The Captive Virgins), Laurice Guillen’s Init sa Magdamag (Midnight Passion), and Celso Ad Castillo’s Ang Alamat ni Julian Makabayan (The Legend of Julian Makabayan).

    And Mike de Leon himself, who did great work in Eddie Romero’s Agila, and Lino Brocka’s Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon).

    And there are more, so many more.

  • Kent Jones

    NS, not to deny the merits of DOA or THE WINDOW, but for me the only DP who really crossed over was Roeg, and then only for what now seems like a relatively brief period of his lengthy career – roughly 1970 to 1983.

    MEN IN WAR – a great film.

  • For everyone who cares about serious critical writing – and about putting the record straight:

    http://www.cinema-scope.com/cs38/feat_krohn_brody.html

    A magisterial piece by Bill Krohn on Brody’s disgraceful Godard biography.

  • Alex Hicks

    Beware of the version of THE BLACK BOOK dispensed by Netflix.

    La Shelle noir!

  • Brian Dauth

    Favorite b&w cinematographers for me are two DPs whose work helped to shape the house style at 20th Century Fox: Arthur C. Miller and Milton Krasner.

  • On visual style in Anthony Mann:
    There are some new kinds of shot, that run through the Mann-Alton collaborations. These include:
    Urban landscapes:

    * Enclosed areas, photographed as abstract, unique landscapes:
    steam room: T-Men,
    Corkscrew Alley at end: Raw Deal,
    tunnels: He Walked By Night
    * Nocturnal urban landscapes, deserted, with lit-up buildings along lonely side streets:
    fence in initial murder, ship at end: T-Men,
    prison break: Raw Deal,
    opening murder of a policeman: He Walked By Night
    * Shadows of poles, etc., that cross the ground in long straight lines:
    opening scene: T-Men,
    opening murder of a policeman: He Walked By Night
    * Arched entrance ways:
    T-Men,
    hotel entrance to alley: Raw Deal,
    police headquarters, electronics firm: He Walked By Night

    There is also the mathematical shape known as the Trapezoid (known in Britain as trapeziums). This is a four sided-figure, with two sides parallel. There are lots of them in Mann-Alton films, and they persist in the Mann-non-Alton Side Street:

    * Trapezoids, formed from doors or windows shot on angles:
    fence at opening: T-Men,
    signs on ship wall: Raw Deal,
    buildings in policeman murder, lab equipment, tunnels at end: He Walked By Night,
    Reign of Terror,
    Border Incident

    * Trapezoids or rectangles are sometimes combined with a highly conspicuous small circle, to balance the composition:
    ship entrance + circular street light, cabin mirror + circular portholes and lights: Raw Deal,
    trapezoids + octagonal clock or circular mirror: He Walked By Night,
    buildings at opening + circular blinking stop sign: Side Street

    You can see the trapezoids right in the image on the top of Dave Kehr’s blog (Reign of Terror).
    The wall behind the figure is shot at an off-angle, making a trapezoidal region. The whitish light on the ceiling also forms a roughly trapezoidal shape.

    Also notable:
    Men who walk from back to front, or front to back, of deep perspective shots:
    hero in X-shape alley: T-Men,
    motorcycle cops and car, cop in house after shooting, heroine answering phone in hotel: Raw Deal,
    motorcyclist and clerk in post office, motorcycle in lettuce field, George Murphy in water tower: Border Incident, Farley Granger at opening: Side Street

    By contrast, many Mann characteristics begin long before the Alton collaboration.
    I have not seen any Mann films from 1942-1944. They might well contain precursors to the above techniques. More research needed.

  • Nicolas, I really like Felix Feist’s TOMMOROW IS ANOTHER DAY too. Also Feist’s Western, THE MAN BEHIND THE GUN.

  • David Boxwell

    Joan Crawford was on record loathing her Feist flick, THIS WOMAN IS DANGEROUS (52): “cheap and corny.” Home viewers can revel in its baroque insanity since it’s in the first tranche of Warner Home Video DVRs. It’s a bizarre companion piece to Sirk’s MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, what with female suffering, ocular degeneration, and romantic doctor redemption, and stuff.

    Other Feist masterworks: THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE (47); THE THREAT (49); THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (50), whose climactic setting prefigures the opening of Boorman’s POINT BLANK.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Adrian: yes, Bill’s analysis looks very impressive and there is good research there, but I’ll have to read Brody’s book to make a final opinion! Seems to me that Bill was so focussed on dismissing Brody’s accusations of anti-semitism that he forgot or didn’t have the time or space or inclination to discuss whatever Brody had to say about most of the films. Bill makes Brody’s book look like a hatchet job but then Bill picks up the hatchet and goes at poor Brody with a vengeance. Well, I don’t know, as I said I haven’t read the book (I will read it though!) so I probably should keep quiet about the whole thing, but the whole thing makes me sort of uneasy — although of course I’m no Godard scholar or even Godard fan — just an ordinary cinephile.
    Would like to read your piece though, Adrian (which Bill mentions in his piece).

  • david hare

    Yes Adrian, if you can post a link to your review that would be greatly appreciated!

    J-P Im no scholar (definitely) but I did read one possibly condensed chapter of Brody’s book in a New Yorker from over a year ago – it’s the one on the Truffaut/Godard rift, but it doesn’t also extened to the Braunberger “Sale juif” rupture, et al stuff. The venom drips from the page like blood, and one gets the distinct feeling from this (and Bill K’s review) that Brody is actually an intransigent narcisscist.

  • Ian Johnston

    From someone who has actually read Brody’s book I’d say: (1) Yes, Brody’s wildly off-base over the anti-Semiticism argument and he seriously misunterprets/underrates “Notre Musique”. (2) This biography is anything but a hatchet-job on Godard; flawed yes, but hardly “disgraceful”. I simply don’t see this “venom” dripping from the page like blood. In any case, I’m open to anyone who,like Brody, shows such appreciation of Godard’s post-seventies work. Do we need to like (and defend) everything an artist does in order to love the work?

  • Re: Ian Johnston’s question, “Do we need to like (and defend) exerything an artist does in order to love the work?” No.

    That said, Krohn’s attempt to reduce the Godard/Braunberger “Sale juif” incident to nothing more than Godard attempting an allusion to Renoir and Braunberger not “getting” it is a real stretch.

  • Sylvia

    I’d say Brody’s book is more than flawed but slightly less than disgraceful. I would quibble with aspects Krohn’s piece, but overall I think it is on target.

    It’s true that Brody’s book is not venomous exactly because he clearly idolizes Godard. Let me suggest what’s strange about Brody’s book:
    1) He wants to hold on to this vision of Godard as genius
    2) He wants to assassinate Godard’s character with insinuation

    The combination of these two things is typical of what Krohn calls cultural journalism. It’s called having your cake and eating it.

    But in addition to this, Brody also wants to claim that Godard’s genius can all be tied to his personal life. For Brody, G’s films all turn out to be veiled autobiography. This is, of course, also typical of cultural journalism and it completely deflates Godard’s politics, as Krohn points out, but the same time it jars with Brody’s attempt to separate Godard’s genius from his character.

    After looking closely at the role the Holocaust plays in Histoire(s) Du Cinema (which Krohn seriously underestimates) it would be ridiculous to imply its maker is anti-semitic. (Glenn Kenny-above-seems to want to carry on the insinuation.)
    What neither Brody (or Krohn) seems capable of doing is analyzing the powerful role of the Holocaust in Godard’s recent work without reference to gossip or cheap psychology.

  • Alex Hicks

    Mike, I enjoyed your latest stylistic inventory, like all the rest. The results could be quite exciting if you turned these evocatively telegraphed sketches into fleshed out prose.

  • Alex, Thank you.
    The post was actually a summary of a long article on Mann on my web site. It put such “auteurist checklists” in front of my articles, to try to make it easy to grasp that data.
    Big mystery on Mann: he seems to go through drastic changes of style. I can’t find a lot of connections between his noir films and his Westerns – just as others pointed out.

  • Recently reviewed another early Vorhaus at The Auteurs Notebook: http://www.theauteurs.com/notebook/posts/614
    I find his stuff exhileratingly playful.

    As for Mann and Alton, I think Alton excels at noir and his visual style dominates any director’s when he works in that mode. Outside of that genre he can sometimes lose his magic, although his work in An American in Paris shows that he could be adaptable. A movie like Talk About a Stranger (nice little film) has more in common visually with The Big Combo than TBC has with Gun Crazy, and more in common with Mystery Street than MS has with any other John Sturges film.

    The combination of Vorhaus and Alton is great because they’re both instinctive risk-takers who delight in bravura effects and implausible, goofy ideas. Alton is at his most extreme in this film.

    I find Mann’s sensibility very distinctive, but his visual approach does change a lot. I can spot Alton’s work more easily.

  • One can see some features of visual style that show up in both non-Alton Mann, and in Alton-Mann collaboration:

    Architecture:

    * Polygonal rooms: with corners at other than 90 degrees (bookie parlor: Railroaded!, Detroit hotel room: T-Men, Burr’s suite: Raw Deal, lawyer’s office: Side Street)
    * Curtains, hung to make elaborate patterns on screen (beauty shop: Railroaded!, Burr’s suite: Raw Deal, maternity ward: Side Street)
    * Mirrors on dressing tables (Desperate, T-Men, Raw Deal, Reign of Terror, Side Street)
    * Indoor Staircases, elaborately photographed (Desperate, Side Street)
    * Bridges, sometimes seen in the background (Raw Deal, Border Incident, Side Street)
    * Outdoor staircases (Border Incident, Side Street, The Fall of the Roman Empire)
    * Trains in backgrounds of streets (New York elevated train: Side Street, Angel’s Flight funicular: The Glenn Miller Story)
    * Ships (T-Men, Raw Deal, Bend of the River, Thunder Bay, The Heroes of Telemark, A Dandy in Aspic)
    * Airplanes in war (The Bamboo Blonde, The Glenn Miller Story, Strategic Air Command)

    Costumes:

    * Police Uniforms
    * White uniforms (women beauty shop employees: Railroaded!, milkman: He Walked By Night, white uniforms in middle of film: The Heroes of Telemark)
    * Leather jackets (Desperate, Railroaded!, Border Incident)

    Imagery:

    * Clocks (finale: Desperate, finale: Raw Deal, Side Street, The Heroes of Telemark)
    * Newspapers used to tell the story of a crime (Desperate, Side Street)
    * Swinging or blinking lights (Desperate, Raw Deal, T-Men, Side Street, A Dandy in Aspic)
    * Street signs on poles (Railroaded!, Raw Deal)

    Steadily propulsive, slow camera movements, that move forward into an area (opening: The Great Flammarion, opening shot in the street past the beauty parlor: Railroaded!, entrance into the ship: Raw Deal)

    Crowd shots, overhead views of groups and/or cars, in geometric patterns (bus driver walks through crowd: Desperate, people at night club tables: Railroaded!, cops in woods: Raw Deal, police interrogate crowd, cops in station, post office: He Walked By Night, Mexican laborers, post office: Border Incident, wagon trains at beginning: Bend of the River, Roman legions: The Fall of the Roman Empire)

    All of this makes for a complex system.
    There are both “Mann visual style” aspects, which flow across different cinematographers. And aspects in my previous post that seem to be restricted to Alton-Mann collaborations.

  • Re: Ian Johnston’s question, “Do we need to like (and defend) everything an artist does in order to love the work?”
    I agree; especially with Godard. I was recently watching some of the “Believer Magazine” DVD of Godard in America and have to say Godard seems to often be putting people on because I don’t see how anyone can take the Mao revolutionary stuff seriously. It makes me cringe. I’ve often found many of Godard’s political positions to be somewhere between earnest and humorous and it’s tough to know when he is merely playing devil’s advocate. I know most will disagree. But, that said, I still consider myself a fan.

  • Thanks for the thumbs-up, Sylvia, but in fact you don’t have a clue about what it is I want to carry on. You and Krohn think you can clear the table merely by looking down your noses at what you call “cultural journalism,” be my guest. I see no point in trying to engage you.

  • Kent Jones

    In my opinion, Godard has a “Jewish” problem. The question: is he himself aware of it? I think the answer is obviously yes. Because it’s true that HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA simply isn’t the creation of an unrepentant anti-semite, even of the “pre-war” type, nor is the desire to make a film out of THE LOST. On the other hand, the Hitler/Golda Meir juxtaposition in ICI ET AILLEURS is pretty troubling, and so is his discussion about it with jean Narboni in Alain Fleischler’s film PETITS MORCEAUX DE CONVERSATIONS AVEC GODARD.

    If I remember it correctly, Brody makes the point that Godard is a kind of casual “pre-war” anti-semite, comfortable with calling someone a “sale juif” (whether it’s a Renoir reference or a pose or neither, it’s anti-semitic) or remarking that the Jews are always the first ones to call when the cash registers start ringing. However, hasn’t Godard always made himself indefensible? Hasn’t he always offered himself as what Pasolini called “the inconvenient guest?” He’s always speaking to the unspeakable. Sometimes he does it haphazardly, poorly, and sometimes he does it so stunningly that it takes your breath away. Which is a way of saying that it doesn’t seem worth the effort to expunge the problematic from artistic gestures and remarks that are meant to be problematic in the first place. Godard tries to be large enough to encompass, and embody, everything – every hope, every contradiction, every error, every tragedy. It’s an impossible effort, of course, but a beautiful one. And, often, very troubling. So yeah, he’s the guy who called Braunberger a dirty jew, but he’s also the guy who made the HISTOIRE(S). Those two facts can’t be reconciled through a straight biographical perspective.

  • Alex Hicks

    D. Cairn, I very much agree with your points on Alton-Mann issues. Not that I have much analysis to back my claim, but I first raised As I firsat raised the name of Alton above the holy name of Mann here at this thread.

    Mike, mise-en-scene and composition are importand to film style, but what about the qualities of light bracketed away from those (as in comparisons of impressionists across similar landcapes or bodies of water). Surely this is inportant and can be paramount, as in Kôhei Sugiyama work in “Gate of Hell,” or the rendering of color in Cardiff’s work for Powell and Pressberger or as Henri Decaë’s work in the long opening sea sequence in “Plein Soleil”

  • Alex Hicks

    or (also) Henri Decaë’s rendering of the seemingly naturalistic mise-en-scène of “400 Blows.” Of course, sometimes composition or mise-en-scène dominates and at others light, composition or mise-en-scène are one as in von Sternberg.

  • IMHO, both directors and cinematographers can be major visual artists. One can trace personal, consistent visual styles for both. And directors and cinematographers interact and collaborate in complex ways.
    We are just at the beginning of understanding visual style. We need a lot more ideas and concepts to describe it. I keep trying to come up with concrete ideas to describe what is going on. Clearly, this is just a start – we need a lot more ideas and concepts to reach full understanding.

  • Sylvia

    “However, hasn’t Godard always made himself indefensible? Hasn’t he always offered himself as what Pasolini called “the inconvenient guest?” He’s always speaking to the unspeakable.”
    I think this is right. He’s always been working with contradictions and finding ways to provoke. In the late work, the Holocaust becomes the very sign of the unspeakable and failure of cinema to live up to its promise.

    I also think Godard’s personality is part of his work, but I don’t think the Braunberger story should be seen as a key to Godard’s work. I think in Brody’s book it’s meant to insinuate something that becomes a kind of thread in the book that is never fully brought to the surface. And it’s not useful. Brody does something similar with Godard’s relation to young girls. Maybe “cultural journalism” is not the most useful epithet, but what is troubling about Godard’s work can lead to much more interesting aesthetic and political questions than how we are to judge him as a human being.

  • Sylvia, is your own work (it sounds very interesting) on Godard and the Holocaust available to read? I agree with what you’re saying about the level on which Godard’s contradictions start to become interesting – which is not the strictly biographical level. Kent made a good point about this too: biography is not the plane where the contradictions are best played out, let alone resolved in some kind of personalised pathology.

    Glenn, I think you’re over-reacting to the ‘cultural journalist’ tag. I don’t believe Bill (or Sylvia for that matter) were wiping off all journalists who write about culture (for there have been and are some very fine writers in this field). But Bill is trying to put his finger on a certain facile tendency in some (a lot of) contemporary journalism, which trades in what he rightly calls ‘Wiki-thin’ accounts of culture, politics and history. And Brody’s book abounds in dreadful examples of this: such as what he says (in about 2 lines) about the Lettrists and Situationists. On your blog, you seemed to be taking an awful lot of that book at face value; Krohn’s critique of it is surely worth your time. The Braunberger point, for example, is larger than simply the interpretation of that one line of racist speech: Bill draws a whole political context before and after that moment.

  • Kent Jones

    I think Glenn is right to be offended by Godard’s flashes of anti-semitism. I also think Godard’s attempts to deal with the “Jewish question” are often poorly or incompletely thought out. There’s a tendency to see everything Godard does as part of a grand pattern before looking at it all closely enough.

    On the other hand, seeing the Braunberger insult as the key to anything other than itself is not a good idea. And of course, I agree with Ian – we can love and defend the work without feeling obliged to do the same for the artist. Whatever Godard’s relation to the kids in FRANCE/TOUR/DETOUR/DEUX ENFANTS was, it’s a masterpiece.

    I was very moved when I watched the Dick Cavett interview again on the GODARD IN AMERICA disc. He’s extremely touching. We all have Jake Perlin to thank for that DVD.

  • I agree with Kent’s points, all of them. Let me just say for myself that in exploring facets of anti-semitism extant in Godard—traces of which might (emphasis on “might”) be found behind the Brassillach fetishizing in “Eloge,” not to mention in the near-obsessive Spielberg-hatred (maybe someone ought to send out Armond White to straighten out JLG on this), it’s never been in the interest of repudiating the work, or the man. I’ll admit in that respect that I have fallen into some of the pitfalls that are potentially relevant to what Krohn describes in his beef on “cultural journalism.”

    Still, Krohn’s own animus—his sneer, early in the Cinema Scope piece that “Everything Is Cinema” is “a chance for a writer of capsule film reviews for The New Yorker to go after bigger game”—doesn’t quite help his case. A little proprietary,no?

  • Sylvia

    I really don’t see “flashes of anti-semitism” in Godard’s work. I agree that we shouldn’t assume Godard is a genius who we can’t question. On the contrary, most of Godard’s work is about questioning, stammering even. So to suggest that it is problematic or troubling or “not fully thought out” doesn’t seem to me to be a criticism. It is perhaps connected to what is most interesting and moving about Godard.

  • Kent Jones

    Adrian, the contextual information about Godard, Truffaut and Branberger is welcome. I was a little puzzled that it didn’t make it into the book.

  • Kent Jones

    Sylvia, I didn’t mean in the work, I meant in his exchanges. As for your characterization of his work, I think you’re right. However, when he takes on the role of philosopher/historian, sometimes he treads into territory that, I believe, needs more care – from him.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    To return to a point referred to in earlier threads -

    TCM is showing Seven Days to Noon again right now.
    And it has been restored to its correct 1.33×1. Maybe someone there reads this blog? In any event, nice to see that they made an effort to correct this.

  • Alex Hicks

    Tom B,
    Thanks for 7DAYS tip. Caught some and eager to catch it all sometime. (BTW, at least one or two TCM folks read this blog pretty regularly.)

    Three Jacques feyder films starting this Midnight, a 1926 silent and the rousing John Bucanish “Knight without Armour” as well as classic “Carnival in Flanders.” Quelle Qualite!

  • Stephen Bowie

    Well, it would’ve been nicer if the TCM website hadn’t clearly stated that SEVEN DAYS TO NOON was the same 16:9 copy that showed last time. Maybe the TCMmers reading here could schedule a second encore for those of us who skipped it on that basis?

  • Laszlo Kriston

    Does anyone know anything about Alton’s Argentinian(!) period? He was a key figure in establishing the industry there prior to his coming to Hollywood.
    By the way, he was born as Jenö Altman to a family of German origin in Austro-Hungary. At home they spoke deutsch. Yet, I saw an interview with him on Hungarian TV in 1996 (the year of his death) talking a somewhat rusty Hungarian :) He died shortly before he was due to come to his home country for the international meeting of Hungarian emigre filmmakers (autumn 1996). BTW, ZsaZsa didn’t show up either! :)
    So anyone about Alton in Argentina?

  • Foster Grimm

    Today the VCI DVD of “Reign of Terror” arrived. I decided to do a quick comparison with the Alpha DVD.
    The transfer is much better
    but….
    there are a number of missing frames in the beginning of the VCI, more than the Alpha. For example, the guillotine sequence in the opening introduction sequence is mostly missing on the VCI.
    More importantly one missing sequence changes the meaning of a scene.

    The scene where Robespierre denounces Danton

    VCI print
    Close-up of Robespierre. He asks,
    “Citizens, what is your will?”
    Cut to crowd. Man in crowd stands up. He raises his fist and shouts “Death!” Crowd yells and cut back to Robespierre.

    Alpha print
    “Citizens, what is your will?”
    Cut to crowd looking confused.
    Cut back to close-up of Robespierre.
    “Death!”, he shouts.
    Cut back to crowd. Man stands up, raises fist, but no sound from him. Crowd yells.

    I guess I keep both versions.