Download Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons PDF

TitleEssential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons
PublisherJohns Hopkins University Press
ISBN 139780801878404
CategoryArts - Film
Author
LanguageEnglish
File Size2.0 MB
Total Pages468
Table of Contents
                            Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction
I. CLASSICS
	Fables of the Reconstruction: The Four-Hour Greed
	Fascinating Rhythms: M
	The Color of Paradise: Jour de fête
	Backyard Ethics: Hitchcock’s Rear Window
	Songs in the Key of Everyday Life: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
	A Tale of the Wind: Joris Ivens’s Last Testament
	Kira Muratova’s Home Truths: The Asthenic Syndrome
	The Importance of Being Sarcastic: Sátántangó
	Blush
	The Ceremony
	Thieves
	True Grit: Rosetta
II. SPECIAL PROBLEMS
	Malick’s Progress
	Improvisations and Interactions in Altmanville, with an Afterword: Nashville
	Mixed Emotions: Breaking the Waves
	Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
	The Sweet Cheat: Time Regained
	James Benning’s Four Corners
	Overrated Solutions: L’humanité
	The Sound of German: Straub-Huillet’s The Death of Empedocles
	Beyond the Clouds: Return to Beauty
	Reality and History as the Apotheosis of Southern Sleaze: Phil Karlson’s The Phenix City Story
	Is Ozu Slow?
	The Human Touch: Decalogue and Fargo
III. OTHER CANONS, OTHER CANONIZERS
	Life Intimidates Art: Irma Vep
	Stanley Kwan’s Actress: Writing History in Quicksand
	Critical Distance: Godard’s Contempt
	Remember Amnesia? (Guy Maddin’s Archangel), with an Afterword: Ten Years Later (Please Watch Carefully: The Heart of the World)
	Ragged but Right: Rivette’s Up Down Fragile
	Critic with a Camera: Marker on Tarkovsky
	Riddles of a Sphinx: From the Journals of Jean Seberg
	International Harvest: National Film Histories on Video
	International Sampler: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
	Not the Same Old Song and Dance: The Young Girls of Rochefort
	Flaming Creatures and Scotch Tape
	Ruiz Hopping and Buried Treasures: Twelve Selected Global Sites
IV. DISPUTABLE CONTENDERS
	Back in Style: Bertolucci’s Besieged
	The Young One: Buñuel’s Neglected Masterpiece
	In Dreams Begin Responsibilities: Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut
	The Best of Both Worlds: A.I. Artificial Intelligence
	Under the Chador: The Day I Became a Woman
	Chains of Ignorance: Charles Burnett’s Nightjohn
	Good Vibrations: Waking Life
	Hell on Wheels: Taxi Driver
	Meat, John, Dough: Pretty Woman
	Tashlinesque
	Weird and Wonderful: Takeshi Kitano’s Kikujiro
	*Corpus Callosum
V. FILMMAKERS
	Mann of the West
	Otto Preminger
	Nicholas Ray
	Exiles in Modernity: Films by Edward Yang
	Hou Hsiao-hsien: Becoming Taiwanese
	The Countercultural Histories of Rudy Wurlitzer
	Samuel Fuller: The Words of an Innocent Warrior
	The Mysterious Elaine May: Hiding in Plain Sight
	Visionary Agitprop: I Am Cuba
	The Battle over Orson Welles
	License to Feel: Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Neon Bible
	Death and Life: Landscapes of the Soul—The Cinema of Alexander Dovzhenko
Appendix: 1,000 Favorites (A Personal Canon)
Index
	A
	B
	C
	D
	E
	F
	G
	H
	I
	J
	K
	L
	M
	N
	O
	P
	Q
	R
	S
	T
	U
	V
	W
	Y
	Z
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Essential Cinema

Page 234

OTHER CANONS, OTHER CANONIZERS 211

presses almost as much as his words do. But most of what follows constitutes a
weary confirmation of Truffaut’s bias; Frears is so plainly bored by his subject that
he can conclude 50-odd minutes later, ‘‘The only truth I have learned is that
people when they go to the movies like to see American films.’’ He can’t even
imagine why they shouldn’t—or why this bias may say more about the power of
Yankee advertising dollars than about Hollywood aesthetics.

Given such a crass sociological survey of English movies, where the bottom
line generally seems like the only game in town, it’s hardly surprising to see Frears
reject the whole silent era as inconsequential. He patronizes Michael Powell and
Humphrey Jennings (accorded one measly clip each); fails to mention Joseph
Losey, Cy Endfield, or Richard Lester (presumably regarding all three as Ameri-
can interlopers); reduces Ken Russell and Mike Leigh to the worst single clips
imaginable (and has nothing to say about the TV work of either); limits John
Boorman, Bill Douglas, Terry Gilliam, Peter Greenaway, Isaac Julien, and Sally
Potter to one fleeting movie poster apiece; and, apart from a disparaging nod to
Night Mail, omits virtually the entire English documentary movement, along
with the cycle of Hammer horror movies—meanwhile paying abject obeisance to
the Academy Awards and every crumb they’ve offered British cinema (special
points to Chariots of Fire, Gandhi, and Four Weddings and a Funeral ). It’s frustrat-
ing to imagine what a real critic of English cinema like Raymond Durgnat might
have done with what Frears chooses to discuss, not to mention what he leaves out.

It may be unfair to saddle Frears with all the inadequacies of this breezy tour,
for all its personal elements, because a cowriter (critic Charles Barr) and codirec-
tor (Mike Dibb) are also credited; apparently Frears was too busy directing Mary
Reilly at the time to do much more than chew the fat with a few colleagues
(Gavin Lambert, Alexander Mackendrick, Michael Apted, Alan Parker) and add
a few pithy voiceovers. Still, I think I’m fully entitled to conclude, bollocks to
Frears.

Equally dubious is The Russian Idea (1994), directed by Sergei Selyanov from
a script by Oleg Kovalov (Garden of Scorpions), which ignores all recent scholar-
ship and constructs crackpot theories as a substitute. Postcommunist only in the
most vulgar and crudely anticommunist manner, the narration informs us that
communism didn’t believe in individuality and then contrives to ‘‘prove’’ this by
cutting between sequences by Dovzhenko and Eisenstein while identifying nei-
ther. (With few exceptions, the clips are identified only in the final credits.)
Among the scandalous gaps are any mention of prerevolutionary Russian cinema
or the work of Lev Kuleshov. Only slightly better is Edgar Reitz’s Germany: Night
of the Filmmakers (1994), a hastily composed history that uses morphing to plant
most of the famous living German directors, from Leni Riefenstahl to Wim

Page 235

212 ESSENTIAL CINEMA

Wenders, in an audience in the Munich Film Archives’ auditorium. It’s symp-
tomatic that all the clips from silent pictures are partially blocked by the sil-
houette of the piano that provides the musical accompaniment.

I had higher hopes for Nagisa Oshima’s One Hundred Years of Japanese Cin-
ema (1995) that were only partially met. Apart from Akira Kurosawa, Oshima is
plainly the greatest living Japanese filmmaker, but since he despises the work of
virtually all other Japanese directors, he seems quite unsuited to this assignment.
Basically turning himself into an academician, he offers us a pocket social history
of twentieth-century Japan in relation to film, in which aesthetic issues play
almost no role at all. (At the end he speculates that over the next century Japanese
cinema will cease to be Japanese and ‘‘will blossom as pure cinema,’’ something
he clearly would like to see happen.)

Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, and Kurosawa are accorded only one clip
apiece; but Oshima grants himself four clips and manages to discuss or mention
most of his other features as well. He even foregrounds his self-interest by shifting
from third person to first person in his commentary on the 50s through the 80s—
an honest approach, though one that plays havoc with most of the other film-
makers. (He’s scarcely convincing when he calls his third-person commentary
‘‘objective.’’) The real problem here is that the story of Japanese cinema can’t be
recounted by a single voice. Oshima’s treatment of contemporary Japanese his-
tory sounds audacious and radical in relation to Japanese norms—he’s withering
about state militarism and attentive toward Korean residents in Japan—but the
sociopolitical slant and aesthetic indifference crowds out so much of his subject
that this survey can be recommended only as an annex to other materials.

The same caveat applies to one of the best documentaries in the series, Stan-
ley Kwan’s 80-minute Yang + Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema, an examination of
films from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China from the point of view of
gender and explicitly from the highly personal and autobiographical vantage
point of an openly gay director. But here, at least, Kwan had already done part of
the supplementary spadework himself—above all, in his masterpiece, Actress,
which tackles the silent Chinese cinema in an exciting mix of documentary and
fiction about the career of Shanghai actress Ruan Lingyu. And the fact that
Chinese film history still remains relatively uncharted gives Kwan the status of a
pioneer—a status shared by Oshima more when he contributes to Japanese film
than when he expounds on the subject.

It’s worth emphasizing that Kwan neglects many major areas of his subject
even within the restricted terrain he’s chosen—most flagrantly woman directors
such as mainlander Li Shaohong and Hong Kong filmmaker Clara Law (though
he does give extended space to Hong Kong actress Brigitte Lin and Taiwanese
critic Peggy Chiao, who coscripted Actress, and he examines at length his own

Page 467

444 INDEX

Tyner, McCoy, 256
Typically British, 210

Ullmann, Liv, 213
Ulmer, Edgar G., 243
Ulrich, Skeet, 178n.3
Ulysses, 111
Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The, 32–37, 225,

227, 228
Uncommon Senses, 114–15
Untouchables, The, 187
Up Down Fragile, 64, 76, 194–98
Urga, 135
Urusevsky, Sergei, 371
Utopia, 247

Vadim, Roger, 207
Vallée, Maine, 23
vampires, Les, 164, 165–66, 169
Vanishing Point, 245
Varda, Agnès, 37, 38, 224
Vatnsdal, Caelum, 191
Venom and Eternity, 169
Vernon, Anne, 36
Vernon, Howard, 126
Vernon, Florida, 102
Vertigo, 26
Vessey, Tricia, 218
Viaggio in Italia, 327
Vidal, René, 166–67, 168, 169
Vidor, King, 13
Vierny, Sacha, 240
Vig, Mihaly, 51
Viridiana, 258
Visconti, Luchino, 360
Vitti, Monica, 181
Vivre sa vie, 179, 180
Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr., 237, 346
von Trier, Lars, 95–100, 213
voyage dans la lune, Le, 41

Waking Life, 291–94
Walker, 351, 352, 355
Walking Down Broadway, 7
Walking Tall, 136, 138, 144

Walsh, Angela, 386
Walsh, Joseph, 80–81
Wang Ji, 56
Wang Zhiwen, 56
Warhol, Andy, 308, 310, 317
Warshow, Robert, 374–75
Watson, Emily, 95, 96, 100
Watson, Ian, 273
Wavelength, 318
Wayne, John, 301
Way to Santiago, The, 6
Weaver, William, 119
Webb, Clifton, 326
We Can’t Go Home Again, 336
Weinberg, Herman G., 4
Weis, Don, 197
Weller, Peter, 131
Welles, Gwen, 81, 91, 93
Welles, Orson, 3–5, 6–7, 10, 14, 55, 57,

107, 119, 233, 239, 267–68, 365, 370,
371, 376–85

Wells, Kitty, 233
Wenders, Wim, 97, 132, 134, 167, 337
Wenicke, Otto, 17
Weston, Jack, 367
When It Rains, 286
Where Is the Friend’s House?, 321
Whirlpool, 326, 327
Whitaker, Forest, 216, 222
White, Edmund, 107
White Balloon, The, 339
White Dog, 363
Whytock, Grant, 10
Widmark, Richard, 361
Wiggins, Wiley, 291–92, 293, 294
Wilbur, Crane, 143
Wilder, Billy, 100, 294
Wild Grass, 173, 176
Wild Reeds, 63
Williams, Dean, 387
Williams, John T., 88
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, 310–11
Wilmington, Michael, 75
Wilson, Dennis, 353
Wilson, Edmund, 105, 106

Page 468

INDEX 445

Wilson, Robert, 234
Wind Across the Everglades, 334
Wind Will Carry Us, The, 219
Wings of the Dove, The, 24
Woman Is a Woman, A, 197–98
Wood, Natalie, 301
Wood, Robin, 59, 122, 299, 322, 337
Woodberry, Billy, 115, 285
Woolrich, Cornell, 27
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 334
Wu Nien-jen, 347–48
Wurlitzer, Rudy, 351–56
Wynn, Keenan, 93

Yamiguchi, Yoshiko, 233
Yang, Edward, 338–45, 346
Yeats, William Butler, 274, 278–79
Yellow Submarine, 292
Yevtushenko, Yevgeny, 371

Yordan, Philip, 335
York, Kathleen, 288
York, Susannah, 83, 85
Young, Terence, 362
Young Girls of Rochefort, The, 33, 36, 37,

223–29
Young Girls Turn 25, The, 224
Young One, The, 257–61
Yutkevich, Sergei, 371

Zahedi, Caveh, 294
Zentropa, 96
Zhang Damin, 173
Zhang Huichong, 174
Zhang Yimou, 54
Zheng Nianping, 55
Zorn, John, 242
Zvenigora, 400

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