Written by William C. Benker Before Spider-Man took off, Sam Raimi’s distinctive eye for campy…
Written by William C. Benker The survival of the auteur in today’s synthetic assembly line…
by Stuart Kurtz
Art, whether it be the plastic arts, performing arts, or narrative has sought to pose riddles and produce answers to them for the satisfaction of the seekers. This has been the case, with the exception of mystical and Symbolist works of art, right through Modernism. The Post-Modern era is too fractured and complex to assume that the artist can find solutions to dilemmas and questions, including those of selfhood, identity, and reality. Robert Altmanâ€™s Images poses more questions than it answers. There are some possible answers in Images; however, they satisfy questions only within the context of the film. The larger ontological struggle of selfhood, identity, and reality are open. Life is a work in progress.
By Chris Kriofske
Robert Altman has said that the idea for the singular and utterly surreal 3 WOMEN came to him in a dream. He had just left another film he was set to direct at Warner Brothers because of a dispute with the studio. Shortly thereafter, his wife became seriously ill. While in the hospital with her, he spent a restless night where he claims to have dreamed up the film’s title, location and two lead actresses. He relayed a brief synopsis to Alan Ladd, Jr., head of production at 20th Century Fox, and encouraged him to make it (without a finished screenplay) for $1.5 million. The end result is surely one of the most challenging and personal films to ever come out of a major American studio.
By Peg Aloi
Perhaps one of Altmanâ€™s most timeless films, this Western is remarkable
for both its authentic, gritty tone and its anachronisms. The story is
straightforward enough: Warren Beatty plays McCabe, a crusty prospector
and smart-alecky entrepreneur who allows the ballsy, lovely Mrs. Miller
to run his brothel for a half-share in the profits. Tough, steely but
also sensual and decadent, Mrs. Miller embodies the Wild West femme
fatale with cool British capability. Beatty is marvelous as a man who
is smarter than he thinks he is, and the characterâ€™s emasculation is a
slow-burn conflagration that ultimately destroys him.
by Paul Monticone
“See, death is the only ending I know. A movie doesn’t end; it has a stopping place. That story, those people don’t die then: they live on and have terrible lives if it’s a happy ending, or if it’s a sad ending, they may survive it and recover and have happy lives. So death is the only ending and I deal with death as an ending. The people I have die are usually the wrong people, the ones you don’t expect to die. That’s the way it seems when people die.” (Robert Altman, 1992)
Altman’s quote, initially describing his resistance to narrative closure before digressing into the sort of modest wisdom that marked all of his interviews, sprung to mind on November 2oth. To anyone who takes American film seriously, the passing of Robert Altman was the sort of news that makes the world seem a little smaller and dimmer. Whether one thinks Altman the greatest American filmmaker since John Ford or a self-indulgent provocateur, the vitality and exuberance of each of his films is beyond dispute, to such an extent that the death of a frail, old man, who had just made the perfect swan song, Prairie Home Companion, came as something of a shock. The prodigious output of the indestructible Hollywood rebel had inexorably stopped, and a world without future Altman films is still hard – if not downright depressing – to imagine. To quantify what it is that we’ve lost, we can look to the works he left us, and his films of the 1970s – a decade of filmmaking that many identify with Altman – is the most obvious point of departure.
Written by Kristoffer Tronerud Before the late Nineties J-Horror onslaught, before there was The Grudge,…
Written by Sean Rogers
Carl-Theodor Dreyer had not completed a feature film for over a decade when he undertook production on Day of Wrath; another decade would pass before he finished his next major feature. These long pauses in his career feel as loaded with ineffable significance as those in his films: small shifts in meaning and purpose seem to have occurred, but only in retrospect might we discover them. In 1932, Dreyer released Vampyr, a fever dream of a movie soaked through with the uncanny, while 1954 would see his Ordet, a film fundamentally concerned with faith. 1944â€™s Day of Wrath mingles the two modes. Less overtly weird than Vampyr, and having less to do with Ordetâ€™s crises of faith than with faithâ€™s very structures and strictures, Day of Wrath is a strange hybrid: a deceptively humdrum melodrama, insidiously inflected.
Written by Paul Monticone
Although not programmed together in this series, Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi and citoyen du monde Max Ophuls share much in common. Both filmmakers were born at the turn of the century, and each died before he turned sixty, just as the international art cinema was entering its heyday. Each often worked in genres associated with womenâ€”Ophuls in the melodrama and Mizoguchi in its Japanese analogue, adaptations from shinpa theatre. Both filmmakers are regarded as mature, baroque artists, probably because they are known primarily through their late period films (in Mizoguchiâ€™s case, the majority of his early work is lost), but both were active during the transition to talking pictures, making films when the vagaries of early synchronized sound briefly made the long take the artâ€™s norm. Perhaps it was at this time that Mizoguchi and Ophuls developed an affinity for the device, which became a cornerstone in the distinctive and renowned style of each master. A series celebrating high-brow cinephiliaâ€”which Janus Films undeniably representsâ€”is certainly occasion for a note that is purely formalist in its concerns, so, at the exclusion of their complex themes and fascinating biographies, I offer some notes on how we might value the contribution of Mizoguchi and Ophuls to the art form today.