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Avant-Garde 3


Volume three in Kino’s Avant-Garde series includes some rare titles from Eastman House, among them Alberto Cavalcanti’s amazing anticipation of Godardian political montage, “Rien que les heures,” while Icarus offers Martina Kudlacek’s 2006 documentary “Notes on Marie Menken” (which includes three Menken films) and Microcinema comes up with an elaborately produced edition of Jonas Mekas’s epic cycle “Walden” (1969) — all in time for holiday giving! A round-up review here in the New York Times.

166 comments to Avant-Garde 3

  • edo

    Coming in late on this, but I just saw ME AND ORSON WELLES, and thought it quite wonderful…

    The portrayal of Welles seemed to me very nicely poised, and not in the least mean-spirited. We can’t simply dismiss him as superficial or immoral, because he reflects the self-righteous vanity of the hero. At the end, Efron hasn’t turned from show business. He’s been shut out by someone better at the bunk than he is, a genius of bunk in fact, and in that he’s learned a valuable lesson less moral than pragmatic. I especially liked that Linklater didn’t overplay the final scenes, which could have turned cheaply moralistic, but instead are quite tentative and open-ended. For instance, it would have been simplistic, and reactionary, to play the opposition between Danes and Kazan as a lifestyle choice for the hero. Instead, we are given to understand that when Danes exits to meet O’Selznick, she has made her own conscious choice, even registering just the slightest tinge of regret and unsureness. She wants success more than she wants Efron, but she’s not sure. The kicker is that Efron would probably make the same choice had the cards been dealt differently. Then again maybe he wouldn’t have.


    It seemed to me a very contemporary take on youthful prodigality and comeuppance, but also right for the period. If I have one complaint, it’s the golden-hued palette, which just screamed PERIOD PIECE.

  • nicolas saada

    Gabe Klinger is in the house !!! How are you ?

  • jbryant

    O’Selznick? 🙂

  • Chris Doyle is certainly a wild man, that is for sure, and I guess that means he can swing any which way he pleases !!

    David, where did you get your hands on Dassin’s PHAEDRA? This crazy film (I especially remember a sex scene in some distorting mirror?) has haunted me since I caught it on late night commercial TV in Australia in the early 70s !! And it has never popped up again since. Is it as weird as I remember it?

  • edo

    Ah! O. Selznick*. Not a good idea to type messages pushing four in the am.

  • Just because Van Sant does not talk about postmodernism in those interviews does not mean he was not working in that vein. Those interviews were to promote a studio product, and I doubt that the subject of postmodernism would have been a welcome one.

    Nor does it mean that he was, Brian. I think he could have vouchsafed a little something to Film Comment if he were. But as we both agree, the film isn’t really an appropriation but a re-interpretation, and to my mind a reductive one. When a film is reduced to its political/social/case study meanings, as occurs in both Van Sant’s and Haynes’s remakes, it’s precisely “the range of possible understanding and aesthetic experience” that suffers.

    John M, Sirk had no problem dealing with issues of race at a profound level in “Imitation of Life,” along with a lot of other things. The 50s were far less benighted than you think.

  • david hare

    Adrian, weird is not the word. It’s probably the campest film from Dassin’s baroque/Melina period. There’s also – I had totally forgotten this – a couple of Lesbian scenes between Melina and her maid (to amplify the Euripean aspect of the drama of course.) What I always remembered was Tony Perkins carreering down the coastal highway in a sports car screaming “Phaedra!! Phaedra!” while one of the Bach Toccata and Fugues frenziedly accomapnied the scene in a non-diegetic/diegetic sort of way. It’s a piece of work and I think unintentionally humorous when it’s not meant to be. This turned up on a US MGM HD cable channel and made its way from there. It’s obviously still an MGM/UA property like Topkapi and 10.30 PM Summer which were released on DVD – although they’re in color of course.

  • john m

    “John M, Sirk had no problem dealing with issues of race at a profound level in “Imitation of Life,” along with a lot of other things. The 50s were far less benighted than you think.”

    I was thinking more of Dennis Quaid’s storyline–that is, the gay husband storyline. Actually, I guess was thinking solely of Dennis Quaid’s storyline–should’ve depluralized “issues.” (Was Sirk ever as explicit about homosexuality? I haven’t seen everything he’s made…)

    In any case, I don’t think “character assassination” is what Todd Haynes intended, and it wasn’t my experience as a viewer.

    Now, that being said, given the choice right now between watching IMITATION OF LIFE or FAR FROM HEAVEN, I’d take the former, yes please.

  • To David Hare: Yes, the BFI “Leopard” is on my “to do” list (I haven’t the actual goods in hand yet), and your news about it is quite alarming. I see the DVD Beaver folks have sounded the alarm just the other day, hopefully their plaint will be taken seriously. As I understand the official release date is some time off this problem should be fixable!

  • david hare

    Glenn things are happening as we speak and I understand people are talking to John White at BFI. The release at the moment is through an HMV exclusive and the general release is late January next year thru amazon et al (same deal as the ITV Red Shoes.) So they have a window of time in which to fix the problem. I think once they’ve corrected the black crush issue in the last 72 minutes of the BD telecine this is going to be an sensational disc, maybe one of the best ever.

  • “Character assassination”? John M, I realize you are a young man in a hurry but please take the time to read me (as well as Douglas Sirk) correctly. I called Van Sant’s “Psycho” “a lifeless reduction of Hitchcock’s work much like Todd Haynes’s assassination of Sirk in “Far from Heaven” — “assassination” being perhaps a melodramatic word but as a newspaper hack I’m addicted to alliteration. I was actually on the set of “Far from Heaven” for a day and I can vouch for the fact that Todd reveres Sirk probably more than he should for the good of his own art — each page of his script was covered with frame enlargements from the Criterion “All that Heaven Allows,” from which Todd was studiously copying the camera placement and color design. The result: a sterile, stillborn movie that kills Sirk’s expressive, inventive mise-en-scene. With its puppet-like characters, going through their predictable, ideologically pre-ordained motions, the picture is remarkably lifeless and uninvolving.

  • vivian

    “The result: a sterile, stillborn movie that kills Sirk’s expressive, inventive mise-en-scene. With its puppet-like characters, going through their predictable, ideologically pre-ordained motions, the picture is remarkably lifeless and uninvolving.”

    This expresses precisely my take on Far From Heaven. Although perhaps Haynes can try again with a triumphant re-imagining of, say, The Birds, in which he would make more explicit the impact of global warming on the population of West Coast seagulls, or of Touch of Evil in which he confronted immigration policy more forthrightly.

  • “Chris Doyle is queer?? I seriously doubt it !!”

    Uh–no. When I met him in Hong Kong he was seriously hetero. But a lot of fun.

  • Well, on reflection, possibly bi. But not exclusively gay, is my impression.

  • john m

    Dave, I’m happy to be called a “young man,” since I’m feeling less and less like one lately.

    I think we feel pretty similar about FAR FROM HEAVEN, though I did find myself moved by the tribute–it certainly didn’t capture Sirk, but on the other hand, I found it a good deal more than “lifeless.”

    True, you didn’t write “character assassination,” but you did write “assassination,” which doesn’t seem to be at all what you meant, so maybe I can get a “let” from the line judge? In any case, I’m confident Sirk made it through this “What if?” experiment unscathed, and unassassinated.

  • Alex Hicks

    The way FAR FROM HEAVEN lines up predictably lines up viewer sympathies may limit character development and curtail narrative surprises, but it hardly warrants comparison with hypothetical reductions of Hitchcock’s surreal birds to a environmental allegory THE BIRDS of Welles’s morally contrarian TOUCH OF EVIL with a nativist anti-immigration tract. Indeed, the ideological framing of sexual politics in FAR FROM HEAVEN – sympathy for cross-class, cross-age extra-marital lovers– is not wildly more iconoclastic for ’56 than that of ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS – sympathy for inter-racial and gay extra-marital partners—is for ’02, at least not in the world of critical opinion, and not clearly in the world of popular opinion. True, is the finer director with for both eye and actor. However,at the risk of being dully conventional on my bottom line, I’d say that Haynes accomplishes enough for his film’s look and performances and imagination to provide viewers with a far more accomplished Sirkian homage and spin-off than homage than the great Van Sant could manage with his slavish, stillborn PSYCHO.