The Samuel Fuller Film Collection

crimson kimono

I’m traveling this weekend so I’ve put up the link to my Times column a bit early. I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this interesting collection from Sony, which includes seven Columbia features — two of them directed by Fuller (“The Crimson Kimono” and “Underworld USA”) and five on which he worked in one capacity or another as a writer: “It Happened in Hollywood” (Harry Lachman, 1937), “Adventure in Sahara” (D. Ross Lederman, 1938), “Power of the Press” (Lew Landers, 1943), “Shockproof” (Douglas Sirk, 1949), and “Scandal Sheet” (Phil Karlson, 1952).

For me, the discovery among the Fuller scripts is “Power of the Press,” which shows Sam in his full-on, hysterical-didactic mode (it’s about a group of Nazi sympathizers trying to take over a New York tabloid). But Landers, a hard-working B director who frequently brought an unexpected psychological depth and emotional delicacy to the wide range of assignments he handled, doesn’t seem to know what to make of Fuller’s taste for extremes. The picture remains a failure but an illuminating one — the words are there, but they need Fuller’s direction to come alive.

Fuller’s first produced screenplay, for a romantic comedy called “Hats Off” (Boris Petroff, 1936), is available on the public domain market, and it’s well worth a look: a story of two competing press agents (Mae Clarke and John Payne), it centers on a vividly rendered personal betrayal of the kind that would figure strongly in Fuller’s later work. Fuller also wrote four pictures for Republic during this period, including the first (1938) film adaptation of Herbert Asbury’s “Gangs of New York.” Needless to say, it would be fascinating to see those as well, but since they’re part of the Republic library now owned by Paramount, they’re unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon.

425 comments to The Samuel Fuller Film Collection

  • Johan Andreasson

    Dave, I realize this is a bit off topic but since satirical literature has come up and you think a good satirist should tell us: “These people are fools, aren’t they a lot like us?”, how do you feel about Evelyn Wuagh. He’s probably my favorite satirist, but as far as I can tell he has zero tolerance for fools and does not regard himself as one.

  • “Jamie, contempt for cruelty-Yes.  Contempt as cruelty-No.”

    Barry, I… what?

    Humanity is a complex animal and requires a complicated response.  Sometimes humanity needs a kick in the face.  The Coens aren’t really the MOST nuanced directors, but I value their work (and not all of it) for their unique style, and I just, you know like some of their films a hell of a lot.

    Ozu is Ozu.  Seems fair to compare anyone to Ozu.

    “Let me try to put my John Carpenter problem into these terms.  On the one hand you have ORDET, and on the other hand you have ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.  Which presents a more nuanced examination of faith in the face of adversity? Trick question!  

    There are some filmmakers who have a contemptuous, snide, cruel attitude towards their characters, the world, etc., and some who are generous.  Sometimes I agree with the point of view that I “feel” is structuring the work, sometimes I do not.  Sometimes, independently of all this, I feel the work is really great, or very good, or not so good, or foul and terrible.  What I don’t want to do, what I resist, is the urge to abbreviate my worldview so I can carry it around and apply it, with minimal new mental effort, to each film I see.  Like:  “Oh, this film endorses right-wing ideology, I’m mentally checking out, peace, etc.”

    Not saying anybody’s doing that, here.

  • Blake Lucas

    “Not saying anybody’s doing that, here.”

    Well, I hope not Jaime. I think it’s reasonable to recoil from what one perceives as a thoroughly as an unnuanced (the word is a bow to you), facile and unpalatable view of the world and the people in it without doing so because it’s not our world view. We surely get the most from films that expand or challenge our world view rather than let us be complacent within it. But is it really so wrong to condemn something that on every level repels us–Andrew Britton did this with FOX AND HIS FRIENDS, I do it with A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and I’m guessing if you’re honest there is some film you have done this with too.

    In any event, I think your ASSAULT/ORDET riddle is pretty good and admit I’d hesitate to answer. By the way, Carpenter is a “bleak” director I have especially liked–in that connection I put in a word for THE THING before, nothing to redeem the world in that one I can think of yet still it is not absent of humanity. I truly love the very last shot of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK–Kurt Russell’s limping posture and expression as he tears out the tape in that fine tracking shot, combined with Carpenter’s music, makes this gesture seem the epitome of nihilism, and as I interpret it, this is Carpenter’s idea of a hero. But I don’t think he is patronizing or contemptous of humanity at all. Carpenter seems to want to be an accomplished but also personal genre director who affords cinematic pleasure, in line with the director he admires most. But there is a real despair bleeding through that makes it hard to just be comfortable with him. And that’s a strength.

  • Johan, regarding Waugh, I haven’t read him, but I believe if you consult the rules of good art, an artist is allowed to be contemptuous and satirical, as long as the characters don’t have an accent or the laughs aren’t “easy” laughs.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Jaime, that’s curtains for Waugh.

  • vivian

    “Let me try to put my John Carpenter problem into these terms. On the one hand you have ORDET, and on the other hand you have ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. Which presents a more nuanced examination of faith in the face of adversity? Trick question!”

    That is definitely a trick question!

    Sublime as SCTV’s parodies were, it often transcended parody and presented characters of such loveable specificity that it’s not hard to guess that the creators “loved” them. (Perini Scleroso, c’est moi.) A lot more like Jane Austen, come to think of it, than the Coen Brothers are.

  • Brad, “If I were to show you TOKYO STORY and RAISING ARIZONA, and tell you that I believed one of these films was by a director who had little but contempt for his characters, would you really have any trouble working out which one I was referring to?”

    I don’t know, but I would probably not have any trouble. But not necessarily because I agreed with you. And even if I did agree with you it doesn’t follow that the Coens actually does feel contempt for their characters. And it wouldn’t tell us whether or not they always treat their characters with contempt. And even if they did always treat their characters with contempt, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a contempt for people in general (in real life).

    I sincerely believe that, and I don’t think we will get much further than this. If you think there’s objectivity here, that’s fine. I’ve been arguing with myself and others for several years on whether or not there’s objectivity in the appreciation of art, but I’m inclined to say “No”. And that’s my subjective bedrock.

    I do believe that there’s warmth and affection in abundance in for example TOKYO STORY or I WAS BORN, BUT (perhaps my favourite Ozu) which I don’t really feel in, say BLOOD SIMPLE. But I do feel a lot of warmth and affection regarding Marge and her husband in FARGO. It’s just how I feel.

    tgregory, “Such scenes are everywhere in the Coens work, and while I myself often find them funny without being a distraction, I can see where some might feel they undercut any pretense of seriousness in the films.” I’m one of those who sometimes feel that undercutting.

  • Dave K

    Johan, Waugh is indeed very chilly but don’t forget that much of his writing is thinly veiled autobiography. He doesn’t let himself off the hook, which I suppose is the core of the issue.

  • Barry Putterman

    Vivian, I was hoping that somebody would bring up Perini Scleroso during all of that talk about a Keira Knightley version of MY FAIR LADY. As if ANYBODY could touch Perini’s interpretation.

    Jaime, are you giving me the high hat?

  • Johan Andreasson

    Dave, thanks for the reply! Waugh indeed does not let himself off the hook. I’m pretty sure he regarded himself as intellectually superior to all of his characters and humanity as a whole, but he certainly hated himself as much as he hated anyone else. Now, there’s a true satirist for you!

  • Sorry about that, Johan. Well, I guess you’ll be more careful from now on.

    In all seriousness, I’ve been listening to a lot of incredibly brilliant and foul-tempered comedy albums lately, namely by Louis CK and David Cross. I don’t know if they’d meet with this board’s approval, but they’re great.

  • tgregory

    “He doesn’t let himself off the hook, which I suppose is the core of the issue.”

    Dave, I was wondering what your thoughts are on Barton Fink. I know you have a shortage of patience for the Coens overall, but I recall you liked this one quite a lot at the time of release and was wondering how it’s held up for you.

    I ask because, to me, it’s clearly a case where they aren’t, in your words, letting themselves off the hook. I think they’re putting themselves inside the crosshairs in that film as much as they have with anybody else in their other work.

  • Kent Jones

    Jim, you have Richard to thank for putting the show together, not me. I just had an idea, years ago – that’s the easy part.

    Dave, I think I’ll stick with satire, which may be one among an array of aesthetic choices but is an extremely specific and pointed choice, often if not always focused on very specific areas of behavior or human endeavor.

    Brad, I can’t agree that the Coens are satirizing certain film styles. Evoking them is more like it. What’s weird is when they mix and match them. In THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, for instance, Jennifer Jason Leigh talks like a 30s comic heroine, the production design is very 40s, and the film is set in the jet-streamed 50s. Why? To create some kind of timeless American industrial neverland, but to what end I couldn’t tell you.

    jbryant, your question about NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is a very good one, I think. I read the McCarthy novel, and I have to say that I thought the film was an improvement. But the seeds of what you describe are planted in the novel – which, like all of McCarthy’s work, is pretty lofty. I liked the film when I saw it, but I have to admit that I have no desire to see it again. Ever.

    Jaime, I know what Barry means. The other day I saw Raoul Peck’s new movie, MOLOCH TROPICAL, a very interesting and savage political comedy which blends the forced departure of Aristide with that of Henri-Christophe 200 years earlier with intimations of Sokurov’s film about Hitler in Berchtesgaden, MOLOCH. It is a film made with complete, purifying contempt for its protagonist, a democratically elected leader who has abused his power while trading on his former glory. Now, one could argue about exactly where the contempt is directed – perhaps at the man himself, perhaps at the tendency in mankind to devolve to such a level – but it is contempt nonetheless and it is directed at a certain type of political figure precisely because of the cruelty he’s perpetrated. I think it’s extremely rare to see this kind of total contempt in movies – you get it in certain films by the Straubs (MACHORKA-MUFF, NOT RECONCILED), in Godard (for instance, in that incredible short film JE VOUS SALUE SARAJEVO), in Lanzmann’s films. But this is obviously a different kind of “contempt” from what is being described here, SO different that I don’t believe they deserve to fall under the same heading.

  • Joseph Neff

    Jaime spoke “In all seriousness, I’ve been listening to a lot of incredibly brilliant and foul-tempered comedy albums lately, namely by Louis CK and David Cross. I don’t know if they’d meet with this board’s approval, but they’re great.”

    Well, Louis CK directed POOTIE TANG, and that certainly has my approval. He and Cross are both very funny, I agree, and I also thought that Cross’s collaborator Bob Odenkirk’s MELVIN GOES TO DINNER was strong, based on just one viewing, anyway. It made me wish that Odenkirk had directed RUN RONNIE RUN, a film I feel is loaded with great satirical content but sadly burdened with rather junky form…

    Joseph N.

  • Tony Wiliams

    No, Michael W. – you are “stacking the deck” by putting words into my mouth I never said. Rather, my implication is “How can you isolate the films of Leni Riefenstahl apart from her involvement in Nazism that she denied and her use of gypsies in TIEFLAND that she immediately knew would end up in concentration camps after filming?” Did this director love her characters? In THE MINISTRY OF ILLUSION, Eric Rentschler demolishes any claims she made for THE BLUE LIGHT being an art film. My point is that you can not entirely isolate any film from its social, historical, and ideological context as well as the known involvement of any director in certain appalling activities. That is far from the interpretation you ascribed to the example I gave.

  • Brad Stevens

    “Let me try to put my John Carpenter problem into these terms. On the one hand you have ORDET, and on the other hand you have ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. Which presents a more nuanced examination of faith in the face of adversity? Trick question!”

    I think you’re confusing the issue here. My question about TOKYO STORY and RAISING ARIZONA had nothing to do with the former film being superior to the latter, but rather with my claim that the Coens look down on their characters. Several people have insisted that this is a fantasy on my part, that the Coens don’t look down on their characters, that there’s no such thing as a director who looks down on his or her characters. I was simply suggesting that this tendency in the Coens becomes crystal clear as soon as you consider a typical example of their work alongside a film by a director who represents the opposite approach.

  • Joseph – until listening to his routines, I was not familiar with Cross as a creative producer, just as an actor in other people’s work, but I am aware of MR SHOW and all that.  Other than MR SHOW, he had a highly unusual role in a Michel Gondry short, starring the director, playing the part of a – literal – piece of shit, and in the last scene he has been transformed into an officer in the Nazi SS.  UM…YEAH.  An odd film to say the least, maybe not worthwhile, but you can see it on the DVD of Gondry’s (frequently terrific) music videos that came out a few years ago.  Also, Cross presented Joan Micklin Silver’s CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER at Anthology Film Archives a few years ago.  Didn’t know him as a brilliant stand-up until maybe a month ago.
     
    Cross derives energy from the contrast between his persona – he looks like a timid, nebbishy, “four eyes,” 99-pound-weakling – and his personality, which is fiercely anti-Conservative, foul-mouthed, and outspoken.  His jabs at religion are frequently amazing, such as a 10-minute takedown of the first few chapters of the Old Testament and some creepy-sounding religious group called “Truth Tellers” (may’ve gotten that wrong, sorry).
     
    CK – well, I know it was shot by the legendary Willy Kurant, but I wasn’t charmed by POOTIE TANG.  Then again, I was sober when I saw it.  I dunno. 
     
    With Louis CK, like Cross, performance is essential to his work, in that his expressiveness and his attitudes are what divide him from the hundreds of comics who dwell on, to put it bluntly, the same basic material (i.e. the woes of a hitherto-lower-class, now-priveleged-yet-harried, middle-aged white man in America, from kids to married life to Wal-Mart).  He is at his best when he’s talking about his kids, describing how he caught a cold that laid him out for a week (his 3-year-old daughter thought people heard secrets through their mouths, so she tried to whisper one to him but ended up coughing directly into his throat).  He’s been compared with Carlin but their styles are miles apart, although CK does explore language, arguing in defense of unacceptable slurs, which for obvious reasons (won’t be as funny; offensive) I won’t try and print here.  I will say, though, that like a lot of great comic performers, he goes down side streets that most people, including comics, don’t notice, as when he turns a road rage incident (wherein an angry driver tells him to “suck a bag of dicks”) into an amused, bemused, 10-minute, free-associating meditation on language, masculinity, sexuality, etc.

  • Dave K

    tgregory, “Barton Fink” remains the one Coen Bros. film that I genuinely admire, for the reasons you mention. As I wrote at the time (paraphrasing myself here), it’s a movie about a self-absorbed screenwriter who can’t tell a story, a subject they clearly know something about! But J. Hoberman finds it their most anti-Semitic film, for the way it plays into the dual stereotypes of the pretentious New York intellectual and the loud-mouthed Hollywood vulgarian. You can’t make everybody happy.

  • Barry Putterman

    Brad, none of us know whether the Coens look down on their characters. The Coens might not even know whether they look down on their characters. It is hard enough just trying to figure out our own intentions and motivations without also trying to make definitive statements about anybody else’s.

    The point is that you, and many other people whose views I respect on this site, get the impression of mean spirit condesension from their films, and there is certainly enough evidence to support that as one of many valid viewpoints.

    That’s good enough for me. Is it good enough for you too?

  • John M

    Me, I prefer the contempt in Godard’s CONTEMPT.

  • I just think it’s fine for a filmmaker to express attitudes I find repugnant. That’s my whole play.

  • Michael Worrall

    Tony wrote: “How can you isolate the films of Leni Riefenstahl apart from her involvement in Nazism that she denied and her use of gypsies in TIEFLAND that she immediately knew would end up in concentration camps after filming?” Did this director love her characters?… My point is that you can not entirely isolate any film from its social, historical, and ideological context as well as the known involvement of any director in certain appalling activities.”

    Even if we can’t, so what? (Where does this place someone like Polanski?) Are we supposed to reject Riefenstahl‘s films out of hand for her actions in real life? Since I don’t, and will not, disregard her films because of her actions, am I less of a writer of film criticism or a human being to my fellow brothers and sisters? Robin Wood would probably say that I am embracing the death drive over life. Quite an assumption in how I live and view life. This is what I mean by stacking the decks.

    If art is ultimately about morality, then why then just replace it with a lecture or a lesson, since there would ultimately be no need for art? In regard to the revolution, I highly doubt that it will take place via film criticism. You are going to have to do a lot more than talk to workers about the qualities of Renoir, Ferrara, or Hou. This is why I think Robin Wood, Brad Stevens, and you are ultimately, in this particular area of film criticism, are barking up the wrong tree.

    Brad wrote: Only in response to the implication that the humanist position is the incorrect one!

    I beg to differ. More than once on a_film_by you would list a bunch of qualities that you deemed humane and then say that we all would “surely “ find such qualities as right and just. In real life, perhaps so, but that does not mean that such qualities have to be in a work of art to be good, great, or even worth considering. Your use of “surely” sets people up in that they would look questionable or immoral if they did not agree that such qualities were indeed desirable or correct. And even if they didn’t, so what? Your arguments make it defacto that such humane qualities in life would therefore make films that have such qualities as worthy of championing.

  • Michael Worrall

    To clarify my last sentence in the post above: “Your (Brad’s) arguments make it defacto that such films or filmmakers that include and/or embrace the qualities you deem humane in real life are the only films worthy of championing.”

  • Tony Wiliams

    There is a difference between art and propaganda in the service of a destructive state and ideology. Despite her denials Riefenstahl was a Nazi and lent her talents to the creation of a particular racist ideology. The Polanski issue is different and your citation merely clouds the issue.

    Very few people would evaluate Riefenstahl in an artistic vacuum in this particular area.
    I’m glad to learn that you also dismiss how she used gypsies in TIEFLAND in the service of your particular idea of a cinematic art that is certainly not humanitarian at all. I now await your defense of Veit Harlan’s JUDE SUSS (1940) as opposed to the very different trajectory of JEW SUSS (1934).
    I’d also suggest you read thoroughly the criticism of F.R. Leavis and the journal SCRUTINY in particular where the arguments concerning artistic expression and evaluation are far more sophisticated than you believe. I’m sure there are other writings dealing with this complex issue.

  • edo

    “There is a difference between art and propaganda in the service of a destructive state and ideology.”

    Tony, are you saying there’s an essential difference here, or one that is contingent? I would agree if you mean the latter. I don’t think Michael is denying that Riefenstahl’s esthetic was constructed toward specific propagandistic purpose. Nor does he seem to be advocating that the issue of her films’ artistic merits be separated from their politics like the chaff from the wheat – Actually, that sounds more like what you’re advocating in the sentence above. Rather he’s asking why does that preclude us from considering them or even liking them now and admiring their beauty? I think that TRIUMPH OF THE WILL is quite an amazing film. It’s also really really boring. And of course much that is evil about it. But ultimately it’s only a movie at this point. The real enemy lies elsewhere it seems to me. That doesn’t of course mean that the damage it did do at one time, and perhaps that it to a certain extent continues to do (who knows?), isn’t a consideration, but I don’t see how it makes Michael’s ideal of cinematic art inhumane. I feel that’s an unfair claim.

  • Michael Worrall

    Tony wrote: “I now await your defense of Veit Harlan’s JUDE SUSS (1940) as opposed to the very different trajectory of JEW SUSS (1934).”

    With this, I find you to be engaging in the type of reasoning/baiting that I wrote earlier of, and you now feel free to assume what position I would take on any work of art. I cannot see how you can deny that you are taking a position in which you feel you are the most correct,and surely more “sophistiacted.” Again, if you think great social change is going to happen via film critcism, you are in the wrong business.

  • Michael Worrall

    Edo wrote: “Rather he’s asking why does that preclude us from considering them or even liking them now and admiring their beauty?”

    Thank you.

  • Joseph McBride

    Factually, Riefenstahl was not a Nazi, i.e., not a member of the Nazi Party. She was convicted of being a Nazi sympathizer.

  • Michael Worrall

    I should probably make it clear that I do admire aspects of Tony’s, Brad’s, and Robin Wood’s writing, — I would never question that they do indeed know how to read and understand film language–I just take major issue in what they ultimately demand film or any other art offer; i.e. what Adrian wrote about in regard to Britton and Wood taking a hard line with films that offer a utopian vision. Does any art have to offer this? If an alternative is not offered, why does that make the work of art any less valuable or successful?

    In fact Tony, I have always found you the more level headed in terms of this particular position, and have very much appreciated our correspondences off this blog and a_film_by, so it does pain me a bit to criticize your views. But if we are going to talk about revolution and reaching the workers, I really think film criticism will barely play a role. Workers are too busy just trying to survive day by day then to take in a Hou film and read up on it in CineAction

  • Joseph McBride

    Evelyn Waugh’s SCOOP is a wonderful, hilarious satire of the press and of war mania.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Joseph, Whether Riefenstahl was not a member of the Nazi Party or not or a “Nazi sympathizer”, she was a Nazi even if she did not possess a Party Card. I had this on good authority from Professor M.R.D. Foot who belonged to the SOE (Special Operations Executive) in World War 2 who introduced a Manchester University Film Society showing of TRIUMPH OF THE WILL via the Imperial War Museum in 1971 when it was still officially banned in England. Despite the fact that we wanted to show it with NIGHT AND FOG, the IWM were reluctant to allow us to show it until Professor Foot intervened. Since we followed Riefenstahl with Resnais this is obviously “stacking the deck” but I was not apologetic then nor am I now. Similarly, Thomas Mann had nothing but contempt for the “internal exile” ideology of those who became camp followers of the Nazi Regime and refused to help them escape justice due to his exilic brand of artistic integrity.
    In view of the Holocaust and Riefenstahl’s propaganda in the service of the Nazi state that appears in TRIUMPH, I am appalled at any suggestion that anyone can even today like or admire TRIUMPH’S “beauty.”

    Personally, I regard that attitude as stemming from a very sick mind.

    Also, Michael, you began the baiting when you implied that I stated that anybody who liked TRIUMPH was a Nazi. You not only stack the deck but also deal cards underneath the deck. Also, as with your final sentence in 7.30, please stop associating me with statements I would never make. Criticism can make the difference in moving thought towards a better society. This is the point differently made by both Leavis and Trotsky in LITERATURE AND REVOLUTION who also made the very valid point that no society (or revolution) can advance unless there is a progressive movement in the cultural realm (and before you reply by saying I mean Mao’s Cultural Revolution I will direct you to what Trotsky says about the peasantry in THE HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. I also find your final sentence in 7.49 condesending and disdainful in the extreme and can only direct to the work of Trevor Griffiths and others (who worked in UK political theatre in the 1970s (such as the 7/84 Company to give one example )who did NOT have this attitude of contempt for the working class that you do – although I will admit that there are great problems associated with this very issue.

    Again, in terms of your statement that I am making a “sophisticated” argument, this is equivalent to a former Chair of my Department calling me an “elitist” (the first time anyone has ever done so) because I defended Howard Hawks rather than showing trashy films such as WAYNE’S WORLD, SPICEWORLD etc in his class designed to show contempt for cinema and, by implication, the students themselves who are supposedly not interested in that “stuff”, namely black and white films and anything 20 years old. However, both workers and students are often much more intelligent and streetwise than most people (such as yourself) believe.

    Finally, Michael, please allow me to bait you again. If you feel so strongly about the artistic merits of TRIUMPH OF THE WILL then why do you not attempt to screen it at your nearby synagogue or before a group of Holocaust survivors to see if they share your aesthetic feelings? If Daniel Barenboim has attempted to get Wagner performed in the state of Israel then, at least,please show the courage of your convictions and perform this very necessary step to support your arguments. That is, unless you regard this section of the audience in the same light you do “the workers”?

  • Tony Wiliams

    On a lighter note, the Daily Telegraph has announced that Clint Eastwood has been made a Commander of the Legion of Honour in France. See the photo of Clint and Sarky.

  • Sylvia

    Kent Jones, thank you for your very thoughtful response. I very nearly agree, but will resist a little. You say, “I don’t think that building mythologies around phantom objects is a very good idea.” Isn’t “building mythologies around phantom objects” a rather good definition of cinephilia? And it is interesting to me to that you call Daney childish for not seeing Kapo when he very explicitly draws the connection between cinephilia and his inability to relinquish childhood. He won’t see Kapo, but he ends the piece by saying he will see Bambi. Childishness like blind faith is a tough thing to defend, but there is something touching about the acknowledgment of it. And I do wonder about its connection to cinephilia. Remember Andrew Sarris: “Yes, Virginia, there is an Edgar G. Ulmer.” Indeed. It would be devastating to tell Virginia that Ulmer’s films could be subject to ideological analysis by academic feminists or mocked by “pomo” filmmakers who look down on their characters. For Daney, unlike Sarris, cinephilia is tied to theoretical and political battles and for him it would be devastating for the tracking shot in Kapo not to be as Rivette described it and for it just to be a matter of interpretation or questionable filmmaking choices. In a court of law it may not hold up, but to use the criteria offered earlier in this thread, I don’t think he lets himself off the hook.

  • Barry Putterman

    Tony, also on a lighter note, I understand that Stalin was no slough as well in the mass murder department. If I admired the work of an artist who was a member of the Communist party during his regime, would it be evidence that I had a sick mind?

    Also, I think that WAYNE’S WORLD is a very funny movie and SPICEWORLD has its moments also. Of course, if I can only see one movie I would opt for HIS GIRL FRIDAY, but of course I’m not a student.

    Finally, I am Jewish and not a particular fan of Riefenstahl on aesthetic grounds, but if Michael can organize a screening I would buy a ticket for the same reason I would have bought a ticket to see a screening of THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST with an audience of Christian fundamentalists.

    May peace be with all of us.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Appropriately lighter, Barry! This is just what we need. However, were not Eisenstein, Vertov, Pudovkin etc actually scared at the time? Unlike Leni (who briefly visited Hollywood), they were stuck in that debased “worker’s paradise” and had very little choice. I’ll go with you over HIS GIRL FRIDAY too.

    I’d actually travel to where Michael would do this screening to see the reaction but I recall the words of a Jewish friend many decades ago when we went to see Andy Warhol’s PORK performed at the Roundhouse in London. “It was obvious that the JEWISH CHRONICLE would give it a bad review!”

  • > were not Eisenstein, Vertov, Pudovkin etc actually scared at the time?

    Eisenstein’s colleague, Grigori Kozintsev says that he (and many fellow directors) felt that Eisenstein was dangerously naive (and oblivious) as to the realities of politics in Stalin’s Russia. (This specifically in reference to the original in-house showing of Part 2 of Ivan the Terrible).

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘if Michael can organize a screening I would buy a ticket for the same reason I would have bought a ticket to see a screening of THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST with an audience of Christian fundamentalists.’

    Barry, you must tell Mel Brooks to make movie about it!

  • Joseph McBride

    It’s best to be precise about the nature of people’s crimes and connections with Nazism. There’s too much looseness in discussing history. Read Steven Bach’s book for a carefully-documented study of Riefenstahl’s allegiances and actions. Whether Riefenstahl should have been convicted of greater crimes is a different issue from whether she was a party member, as is the nature of her propaganda.

  • Joseph Neff

    A most excellent response, Jaime. I need to see the Gondry film (and DVD) that you describe. I’m pretty fond of the two Gondry features I’ve seen (the first two), and I thought Cross was well used in ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. The thing that makes his standup stand out for me is how the fierceness is so well calibrated. Unlike the late Bill Hicks, Cross never fells like he’s losing his grip onstage. Some of my friends who, like me, basically share Cross’s ideology/sensibility tend to find him exhausting, but I really enjoy his work.

    On POOTIE TANG: I’ve watched this sober and half in the bag and I find it equally as funny in either state, though it’s definitely a movie that will inspire differing milage rates. I’ve also liked the handful of episodes I’ve seen of LUCKY LOUIE. I’m curious if you’ve watched that.

    CK’s Comedy Central standup really blew me away. I feel he has the same prowess as Pryor, probably my all time favorite standup comedian, though to borrow yr phrase, their styles are miles apart. I think it has something to do with the combination of sincerity and energy in CK’s work, making the performance avoid feeling like a routine. I’m really glad he’s been getting increased exposure of late.

    On a final note, I really want to see CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER. No DVD apparently, at least not in Region 1.

    Joseph N.

  • Blake Lucas

    I’m fascinated by the discussion of KAPO and the infamous tracking shot because I don’t know what this is really all about. I haven’t seen the film and would certainly avail myself of the opportunity.

    But what’s amazing to me is that so admired and respected a critic as Daney would feel it’s OK to take a position on this without seeing the film, and that anyone would feel this is OK. No problem with Rivette’s opinion, no matter what one thinks about the shot. He saw the film.

    I personally believe it’s indefensible to have an opinion on some thing you haven’t seen. I earned my negative view of TRIUMPH OF THE WILL by actually sitting through the whole thing. And even if they are admittedly far more innocent in history, the same goes for A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and THE LONG GOODBYE.

    I have opinions about Steven Spielberg and Coen Brothers films too–the ones I’ve seen. The ones I never will see are the ones I will never see. And that’s all I can say about them.

    So just asking, anyone real feel it’s OK for Serge Daney to take a stand on KAPO?

  • Michael Worrall

    Tony wrote: “That is, unless you regard this section of the audience in the same light you do “the workers”?

    To imply that I hold workers in contempt or think little of their analytical abiltites is ridiculous, but once again you have no problem making the jump to such an assumption.

  • Michael Worrall

    I guess I have to make my point crystal clear: I said that workers, who are forced to get up every day and work for substandard wages so they can survive in a capitalist system, may not have the time to watch a film by Hou and then read a “progressive” or “socialist” review of the film. I do not see how any of this displays a contempt of the working class on my part.

  • Brad Stevens

    “I said that workers, who are forced to get up every day and work for substandard wages so they can survive in a capitalist system, may not have the time to watch a film by Hou”

    Don’t you think it’s just possible that the reason they don’t have the ‘time’ to watch a film by Hou but do have the ‘time’ to watch a film by Michael Bay might have something to do with indoctrination by a capitalist system which rigidly defines ‘entertainment’ as being whatever best serves its own interests?

  • Sylvia

    “So just asking, anyone real feel it’s OK for Serge Daney to take a stand on KAPO?”

    I think Daney’s piece is a wonderful one. If it were a review of KAPO or an analysis of Pontecorvo based only on Rivette’s review, that would be absurd. But as I was suggesting, that’s not what the piece is about but rather a kind of admission of faith related to an idea of cinema and how it relates to the world.

  • Blake — I think it has to be okay (for an amateur at least) to take a stand on a film that you watch until the point you can no longer tolerate it. Basing a theoretical stand on something one has not seen at all, seems to be a stretch — even for a non-professional. ;~}

    Brad — I find that Hou’s films make little impact unless you are rested and alert enough to give them your undivided attention. I didn’t dislike (initially) the first HHH film I saw due to indoctrination, but almost solely to being too tired to follow what was going on. I would suggest that perennially over-worked and over-tired individuals do not constitute a promising audience for his sort of film — while hyperactive overly-stimulative films are probably best-suited for passively entertaining such audiences.

  • edo

    “Don’t you think it’s just possible that the reason they don’t have the ‘time’ to watch a film by Hou but do have the ‘time’ to watch a film by Michael Bay might have something to do with indoctrination by a capitalist system which rigidly defines ‘entertainment’ as being whatever best serves its own interests?”

    I believe that is actually Michael’s point…

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Blake: of course it’s not OK but Sylvia has a point. Cinephilia IS a kind of faith and there have been numerous examples of it in its history, some just as egregious, if you pause to think about it, as Daney’s provocative “admission.” To believers, considering the evidence is useless and irrelevant. It didn’t matter a bit to Daney that Rivette’s description of the infamous tracking shot was inaccurate, which had been established, I believe, by the time he wrote the article. His was an act of faith — which reminds me of those people who picketted the theatre that played LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST because their faith told them that this film they hadn’t seen and refused to watch was sacrilegious. Cinephilia is a religion. And why would you want to see KAPO when you can see BAMBI? The connection of cinephilia with childishness is indeed an issue that deserves study (isn’t faith almost by definition “childish”?)

  • Junko Yasutani

    About usage of ‘faith’, it is having different nuance according to culture. Japanese understanding is special trust in something. Is it similar to Western understanding?

    I have read that belief is different from faith in Western theology, because belief is made from old English word ‘lief’ meaning a wish, so belief is strong wish. It is different from knowledge.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    junko, the American Heritage Dictionary defines “faith” as “belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.”

    To believe in God is an act of faith. Daney believed in Rivette, another act of faith.

    Moreover, “to believe” used as an intransitive verb means “to have firm faith, especially religious faith.” So the two concepts actually overlap.

  • Barry Putterman

    I’ve never been too clear about what anybody meant by “workers.” What I do a the office is certainly “work” by my lights and I decidedly feel exhausted at the end of the day. Yet that never seems to be good enough to grant me status as a “worker.”

    Irrespective, my guess is that the worldwide preference for Bay over Hou has less to do with capitalist propaganda than it does cinephillia. Most people of all economic and intellectual classes aren’t connected enough to movies to b able to develop an appreciation of Hou. Their childishness has bee cultivated in other areas.

    I, for one, couldn’t identify one car from another, but who is to say that the poetry of the automobile is any less significant than that of the cinema on the cosmic level of affairs.I