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Alexander Mackendrick, William Friedkin

More strange bedfellows this week, as the gods of Blu-ray decree upgrades to Alexander Mackendrick’s black comedy of 1955, “The Ladykillers,” and William Friedkin’s hyper-stylized crime thriller of 1985, “To Live and Die in LA.” My New York Times review is here.

Studio Canal has done a major rehabilitation job on “The Ladykillers,” which is being released in the US by Lionsgate although the edition, as our friends at DVD Beaver have learned, is identical to the versions being released by Maple Films in Canada, Optimum in the UK and Studio Canal in France. On the other hand, Canal’s new Blu-ray of “Contempt” reveals flaws that were not apparent in the now discontinued standard def Criterion release. It’s all a trade-off, isn’t it?

477 comments to Alexander Mackendrick, William Friedkin

  • Tom Brueggemann

    These are the Canadian films released theatrically in the US (at least NY and/or LA) in 2009

    Examined Life
    Dim Sum Summer
    Hollywood Babylon
    This Beautiful City
    Act of God
    Beautiful Tomorrow
    Punctured Hope

    About half were documentaries; only one – Adoration – played a normal art circuit release nationally. And Egoyan’s most recent one – Chloe – looks like the next one to get a wide specialized release.

  • Barry Putterman

    Jared, all of your questions are interesting, and answers, insofar as there are answers, would touch on a whole slew of social and artistic issues. I would say that the difference between us is that you seem to have developed a unified theory to explain everything and I have not.

    As for the downtrodden Canadains, I would say having three figures the stature of Cronenberg, Egoyen and Maddin established in the American market is a pretty good averge vis a vis any other country’s status as the moment.

  • Kent Jones

    Jim, actually the series wasn’t just Kazakhstan but all the former Central Asian Republics.

    Manohla didn’t mean anything by her remark. I just thought it was important to tell the audience that we didn’t simply wave the movie through because it had Hong Sang-soo’s name on it. Did someone write about this in Cineaste?

    The mention of 24 CITY reminds me of the screening, which was at the Ziegfeld. There was a problem with the projection, and the film started and stopped, started over and stopped about 3 or 4 times. The audience was getting extremely perturbed (and then they started arguing with each other). Jia was there and he took it all with a smile. At one point, we were in the booth and he looked at the screen and started laughing: “Those aren’t my subtitles,” he said. I looked and saw that the subtitles referred to pushing on to Santiago and guerilla warfare, and we realized that the subtitles for CHE had somehow been stored in the projector. I’m thankful that it was Jia, as opposed to Micheal Haneke or Mike Leigh.

    David – Dana Andrews makes more sense. Many years ago, I worked on the programming of a massive Canadian show – I really don’t like doing things by country, but I did have a good time doing that and the Central Asian show. Michael Brault came down with that historical epic he made – a lovely man and a great storyteller. I was quite taken with BEYOND TOMORROW, by the way. Earlier in the year, I saw a Québecois film called A L’OUEST DE PLUTON, which I didn’t think was all that great but which has stayed in my mind nonetheless.

  • Jim Gerow

    I honestly can’t remember what Dargis’s objection was to the film itself, maybe something like Hong was merely repeating himself in a different city. I was just bugged, as were many people, by her cheap shot at the festival.

    Jeremy Podeswa is an interesting filmmaker. I liked ECLIPSE and FIVE SENSES. John Greyson has done some great avant-garde/musical/queer/semi-documentary films (LILIES, ZERO PATIENCE) and his most recent one, FIG TREES, is a knockout. It’s good that they could get work on series like Queer as Folk, a truly awful show which nevertheless had a certain je ne sais quoi.

    Kent, I remember very well the technical problems with the 24 CITY screening. I also had to leave your critics’ panel early to catch it at the Ziegfeld.

  • Jared Weigley


    I attended the screening of 24 CITY you write about. When the subtitles you mention came up, it took me a second to realize that they were for CHE. At first I thought Jia was just going for something super experimental, some kind of allegory.

    I read about the whole NIGHT AND DAY deal for the first time yesterday. Since I bought the new issue of CINEASTE yesterday, I assumed it was there but now I can’t find the reference. Due to an overabundance of work, I missed the screeing of NIGHT AND DAY at the NYFF and only caught it when it played for a week at Anthology Film Archives last. The criteria for getting into the NYFF has always been an enigma to me. From my perspective, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with waving the work of certain major directors into the festival.

  • Kent Jones

    On the Canadian front, I’m also a fan of the TV show SLINGS AND ARROWS.

    Jared, there’s absolutely nothing enigmatic about the NYFF’s criteria. Five people sit down for hours on end and watch tons of movies, in Cannes and in New York, and decide which of the 24 or 25 they like enough to invite. Opening and closing night are a little different. Sometimes movies are not available because of timing or because a festival screening square with distribution plans.

  • Jared Weigley


    The Museum of Modern Art in NYC hosts an annual survey of new Canadian films. This year’s series will running be from March 17-24. Among the selections playing this year are Peter Mettier’s PETROPOLIS and Denis Villeneuve’s POLYTECHNIQUE. A series such as this is the main way Americans have to dip into Canadian narrative cinema beyond the Cronenberg-Maddin-Egoyan axis and the stray documentary. The film from this year’s MOMA series that seems likeliest to make its way into American theaters (or perhaps onto American television) is a documentary on Hugh Hefner. Aside from documentaries, horror films seem the Canadian movies with the best chance of gaining a following in the U.S. PONTYPOOL, for example, was just released here on DVD.

  • Bill Sorochan

    I am Canadian, live in Canada, and work in the film industry here in Canada so I’m quite amused by this commentary.

    The Director you want to look for is John Paisz-he’s fantastic and completely undervalued. There is another great Quebec from the 1980’s entitled “The Heat Line” which is magnificent and completely unknown.

    Another great totally unknown “Canadian” film is W.S. Van Dyke’s “Eskimo” which is the best portrait of an Indigenous Culture I’ve ever seen in a Hollywood Film, one of the great films of the 1930 and sadly totally forgotten today.

  • Kent Jones

    Bill, it goes without saying that we showed TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN in our Canadian show. In fact, I believe the poster for the film still hangs in the box office at the Walter Reade. By the way, it’s “Paizs.”

    What is THE HEAT LINE and who made it?

  • Kent Jones

    This is LA LIGNE DE CHALEUR? About the father and son driving south?

  • In the mid to late 1990s there came a bunch of Canadian films to Sweden, and it felt like something of a wave. I tried to convince my editor at the time that we should do a piece on it but nothing came of it, I probably didn’t pitch it hard enough. But among the good stuff I saw was UN 32 AOÛT SUR TERRE, LAST NIGHT and THE FIVE SENSES. EMPORTE-MOI also got a fair amount of attention. Then I don’t know what happened but it seemed like there were significantly less Canadian films coming our way.

  • Bill Sorochan

    That’s right Kent. I saw La Ligne De Chaleur at the Toronto Film Festival in the mid 80′ (when the festival was more of a cinephile event as opposed to the factory farm that it is today).

    The director (whose name escapes me) introduced the film. He was married to another great French Canadian Director Micheline Lantoit at the time. He was extremely nervous, explained how personal the film was to him, and how he suffered from a minor form of nervous disorder. During the screening I sat behind the jury who were giving out the Canadian awards for that year. They were all pretty dismissive-checking their watches, talking about the parties, completely uninvolved and uninterested. They all left before the credits and I could tell the Director was heartbroken by their response.

    After the screening I asked the Director if he was at all influenced by John Ford when he was making this film or was I just reading this into the film. His eyes lit up and he said “One Film-Two Rode Together-James Stewart, Richard Widmark-one scene of them sitting in front of the creek for ten minutes. There was only one filmmaker that I was thinking of when I was making this film and that was John Ford. Thank-you, thank-you very much.”

    I only mention this because film festival screenings can be so cruel and disheartening to filmmakers who spend their lives working on a film and how it can be so easily destroyed in an instance by an indifferent jury or boorish audience. (as a sidenote, at that same festival I sat behind a very influential critic who followed the audience and started laughing during James Benning’s “Landscape Suicide” only because everyone else was).

    I always try to say something positive and constructive if I have a chance to any filmmaker. It’s just as hard to make a bad film as it is to make a good film, so it’s great to try to make someone’s day by communicating thanks on a much deeper level.

  • It is really enlightening to read everyones thoughts on Canadian cinema.

    Bill, Have you heard of the Montreal documentary/experimental filmmaker Donigan Cumming? The Cinémathèque Québécoise in Montreal on March 17th at 6:30 is screening his recent work from 2003-2009. I really look forward to this event, it was recommended to me by my friend Scott who is currently finishing his graduate thesis on Donigan Cumming at Carleton University.

  • Kent Jones

    Bill, it’s Hubert Yves-Rose.

    That scene in TWO ROAD TOGETHER has been discussed here at great length. Just to tie things together with the recent thoughts on SHUTTER ISLAND, the scene is a great favorite of Scorsese’s, too.

    People laughed during LANDSCAPE SUICIDE? Who are these people and where do they live?

    David, I have always liked Donigan Cumming’s work very much, especially A PRAYER FOR NETTIE and CUT THE PARROT. The Cinémathèque Québecoise is at Concordia, no? That’s where I saw Godard gives his Histoire(s) lectures when I was studying at McGill.

  • Bill Sorochan

    David-unfortunately I haven’t seen the work of Donnigan Cumming’s but I’m sure it’ll be a worthwhile event to attend-it’s never a bad day when you attend a cinematheque!

    Kent you’re a lucky man to have studied at McGill. The best university in Canada bar none!

    I’m just saddened that nobody has started talking about “My Son John” on the Make Way For Tomorrow blog-but overjoyed that they haven’t started talking about the Coen Brothers either!

  • Barry Putterman

    Bill, you are openly invited to turn to the McCarey page and start talking about MY SON JOHN. I’m hopeful that doing so will cheer you up and I’m also thinking that many others will gladly join in the discussion.

  • Shutter Island again Another interpretation of the film occurred to me after the screening, and I have been ruminating on it since, because it is so farfetched. Is the film a quiet, subtle defense of Elia Kazan? Scorsese gave the director his lifetime Oscar, and is now making a documentary about him, so regardless of his views of Kazan’s politics, he has some sympathy and esteem for the man. In the film itself, Teddy expresses a theory in the film’s third quarter that there are government shenanigans going on in the mental hospital, involving drugs and the CIA and HUAC. The key reference to me was HUAC, which, politically speaking, is out of left field in the film’s context. At the end of the film, however, this theory is shown to be wrong, and the heads of the institution are in reality unconnected to the government and are indeed benevolent individuals. In a strange and convoluted or backhanded way, is Scorsese trying to minimize the weight of HUAC and the red scare? I doubt if this is what the movie is really about, though maybe the thought crossed Scorsese’s mind during these one scene of conspiracy speculation. The film is probably really “about” the Warden’s single conversation about violence.

  • Kent Jones

    D.K. Holm,

    Marty and I co-wrote and co-directed the forthcoming film on Kazan, and we’ve been working on it for four years. I can assure you of two things: SHUTTER is in no way related to Kazan, and no one, MS and myself least of all, is interested in “minimizing” the weight of HUAC and the red scare. (*SPOILER*) The stuff about HUAC in SHUTTER is a red herring (*END OF SPOILER*), and while our film is not about Kazan’s politics (see the PBS film NONE WITHOUT SIN about his relationship with Arthur Miller), his testimony is obviously a central question.

  • Kent, thanks for the background information.

  • Kent, The Cinémathèque Québecoise is at 335, boul. De Maisonneuve Est, It is not in Concordia. The Cinémathèque’s loby has a photograph exhibit and there is an attached gallery, the last exhibit I saw there was on Nikkatsu Roman Porno posters from Asia.

    I do not go to often as I live in Ottawa which is a two hour drive, but for certain films it is definitly worth it.

    It is really cool that you saw the the Godard Histoire(s) lectures at Concordia. I was just reading on that Caboose Books website that they were currently preparing a book on those lectures: Jean-Luc Godard, Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television.

    Caboose Books is a montreal publisher of books relating to film and their last book was a definitive translation of selected essays from André Bazin’s What is Cinema?.

  • Kent Jones

    David, I’m sorry – cancel that thought about Concordia and the Cineemathèque. I was mixing up two memories.

    Yes, I heard about the book. And I’d love to read those Bazin translations.

  • pat graham

    KENT–re “People laughed during LANDSCAPE SUICIDE? Who are these people and where do they live?”

    probably wisconsin …

  • Vivian

    “probably wisconsin …”

    Good one.

    I haven’t seen LANDSCAPE SUICIDE for decades, but I remember a few mordantly humorous moments during the Ed Gein interview.

  • Peter Henne

    Kent, Work has kept me away from this site for a couple of days, so I just wanted to drop a note to say I’m so very appreciative of your thoughtful post on 2-19, 12:15am.

    I’m still catching up here. The few Canadians I know anything about are David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan. For me, Cronenberg’s THE BROOD gets into the thick of sexuality, exploring the tension between “high” metaphysics and the “disreputable” human body, so successfully and unsettlingly that it trumps the others I’ve seen, RABID, SCANNERS, VIDEODROME, DEAD RINGERS, NAKED LUNCH, M. BUTTERFLY, CRASH, and ExISTENz. That last is where I got off the boat, feeling he was not revisiting but now definitively recycling. I also thought ExISTENz was where he demonstrated clearer than ever before that humor was beyond him, because this material of hooking up intestines to your body to play a video game was plainly hilarious to me; yet Cronenberg diligently tamped down the embers of comedy at every opportunity. I got the impression that here was a man frowning at my cravings to laugh. I left off feeling that Cronenberg, for all of his alleged liberation, has blockages himself toward tenderness and spontaneity that he can’t or won’t acknowledge in his work. Maybe I made a hasty judgment.

  • Jared wrote: “I’m for-sure in the minority on Coppola’s DRACULA.”

    You can add John Boorman and me to the minority.

  • Nicolas wrote: “Jared and Michael, we are discussing a real great movie in the new thread, McCarey’s MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW. I’d love to read what you have to say about it.”

    Thank you for inquiring, Nicolas. Unfortunately, I have yet to see MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW. I am on the opposite spectrum of your reaction to AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER.

  • To return to a much earlier discussion on this thread since I happened upon the source material this weekend, I just wanted to quote what I vaguely accurately cited earlier in re: Bud Smith discussing Friedkin + Sorcerer in his Shock Cinema interview (issue #32 from ’07):

    SC: You must be really disappointed that the DVD revolution has left SORCERER behind – it’s only available on a full screen, bare bones disc…

    Smith: I’m disappointed by a lot of things. (laughs) That is just one of them. But there is a special edition of TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A and THE EXORCIST. I think what happened on SORCERER is that the two studios just hated Billy Friedkin. (laughs) It’s like with CRUISING. I’ve been trying to convince them to do a behind-the-scenes documentary on that – but at Warner Brothers – who own the DVD and VCR rights – they said, “Number one, we hate the fucking movie and number two, we hate Billy Friedkin.”

    Whether or not lingering studio animus is one of the main reasons there’s been no proper Sorcerer DVD release (and I think it’s clear form the quote that this is largely conjecture on Mr. Smith’s part), I think this is nonetheless a revealing quote.