by Sam Juliano
Famed auteur critic Andrew Sarris passed away at age 83 during this past week, and movie fans have lost one of the greatest and most intelligent film adherents. Sarris is one of the last from the generation that first greeted foreign cinema on these shores, and many of his reviews (like the masterpiece he wrote on Bergman’s The Seventh Seal) are models in deft interpretation and thematic assessment. Of his generation depleted by the passings of Pauline Kael, Dwight MacDonald, James Agee, Vincent Canby and a few others, only Stanley Kauffmann (age 96) and John Simon are still living. I once got the opportunity to speak to Sarris back in 1998, when he appeared at the Lincoln center Barnes & Noble to sign his new volume on criticism and to moderate a discussion on contemporary cinema. I asked why the science-fiction film Gattaca seemed to be lost in the shuffle, and he went off on a tangent as to why he loved teh film so much and complimented me on my similar taste, Indeed, as a close friend reminded me a few days ago, there was no other critic who I agreed with as much as I did with Sarris. My annual ‘ten-best’ list shown remarkable similarity in choices, and I well remember back in 1987 when Sarris called Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun the best films of the year, and a few years later one of the best of the decade. It was a position I fully endorsed. But there are so many more instances, much too numerous to document here. Sarris was an original, who forged his own path, and wasn’t afraid to engage in contentious dialogue, particular the combative Kael, with whom he engaged in some of the most hearted critic wars on record. Sarris, who was married to fellow film critic Molly Haskell up until his death from complications of a fall, was in his element with the French New Wave directors, Bergman, Antonioni and Ophuls. He’s on record as proclaiming the latter’s Lola Montes as the greatest film ever made. His most celebrated published volume is The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968, a work in which he asserted that there were 14 essential “American” directors who stood above all others, and this included Europeans who director a number of films stateside: Flaherty, Ford, Griffith, Hawks, Keaton, Welles, Lang, Lubitsch, Murnau, Ophuls, Von Sternberg, Chaplin, Hitchcock and Renoir. At that time he downplayed the significance and artistry of Lean, Kubrick and Wilder, but later recanted on the latter, elevating him to the top rank with the others. Sarris had the highest respect for Bergman, Antonioni and the French New Wave, all of whom commanded a good deal of his focus through the years. Sarris, who is said to have greatly influenced fellow critics Hoberman, Turan, A.O. Scott and Armand White, was in turn influenced himself by the Cahiers du Cinema. He wtote for many years, including stints for the New York Bulletin, the Village Voice and The New York Observer, and was a Professor of Film at Columbia University.
Dee Dee continues to promote the John Garfield petition, linked on the sidebar. All fans of the iconic actor and film in general are urged to take a few seconds and sign the written plea to a Warner Brothers executive to release a box set of the actor’s films. A number of Wonders in the Dark readers have already tendered their signatures, and Dee Dee an the WitD staff are hoping for more.
The long-awaited William Wyler blogothon at The Movie Projector is officially underway, and Sunday’s opening day salvos include some superlative essays from Jon Warner on Dodsworth and Brandie Ashe on The Little Foxes, Clara with a poem on Roman Holiday, and Jim Lane on Hell’s Heroes. Monday’s lineup includes several more Wyler essentials, that are well worth investigating.
The Film Forum’s three-week ‘Spaghetti Western Festival” concluded this past Thursday, but not before Yours Truly and family members took in six more features to bring the final total to 21 films seen of the 26 shown. Of the five not seen, two (A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More) have been seen several times over the years, leaving only three that have never been seen yet to this point. In any case this was easily one of the most entertaining and essential festivals ever staged at the theatre, and it has led to further investigation. I was happy to receive my copy of Alex Cox’s 10,000 Ways To Die in the mail this week, and have read through the first few chapters. Fascinating stuff!
With Sammy in tow for all the spaghetti westerns, and Lucille for most, I saw:
Django Kill **** (Tuesday afternoon) Spaghettis at Film Forum
Hellbenders **** (Wednesday evening) Spaghettis at Film Forum
The Big Showdown *** (Wednesday evening) Spaghettis at Film Forum
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ***** (Thursday) Spaghettis at Film Forum
Death Rides a Horse **** (Thursday) Spaghettis at Film Forum
Django **** 1/2 (Thursday) Spaghettis at Film Forum
The Intouchables **** (Friday night) Angelika Film Center
The French audience pleaser THE INTOUCHABLES is being currently lauded as the second-highest grossing film in French history. The film chronicles the unlikely friendship between a wealthy tetaplegic and a poor young French/Sengalese man who lands a job attending the disabled man in a bizarre twist of circumstances. The film skillfully brings laughter and tears together, and makes some telling insights on personal relationships and self-confidence. The film won the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix award given to the best film at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Award for Best Actor to both Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy in 2011. Omar Sy received the César Award for Best Actor on 24 February 2012 for the role of Driss (defeating Jean Dujardin).
In the U.S., a review published in Variety finds the movie “offensive”, “which flings about the kind of Uncle Tom racism one hopes has permanently exited American screens”. In the film Driss (Omar Sy) is of Senegalese descent. Most French journalists do not understand such an interpretation and highlight the cultural issue that America has with anything linked to ethnicity. I couldn’t agree more on this point.
The spaghetti western festival ended with some exceptional entries in the genre including Sergio Leone’s masterful THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, and Sergio Corbucci’s exceptional DJANGO. I am hoping to say more about this unforgettable experience in the near future.
I managed to update some of the links from last week:
Jaime Grijalba takes a penetrating look at the Chilean film “Efectos Especiales” at Exodus 8:2, which he considers a flat-out masterpiece. Grijalba writes here with much passion: http://exodus8-2.blogspot.com/2012/06/cine-chileno-del-2012-7-efectos.html
John Greco offers up an excellent review of Richard Fleischer’s “The Narrow Margin” at Twenty Four Frames: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/the-narrow-margin-1952-richard-fleischer/
Judy Geater at Movie Classics has posted a fantastic contribution to the ‘Mary Pickford blogothon’ with a fascinating review of one of the star’s most celebrated films, the 1910 “Daddy Long Legs”: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/daddy-long-legs-marshall-neilan-1919/
Tony d’Ambra has posted a terrific capsule and screen cap display on Phil Karlsen’s “The Brothers Rico” at FilmsNoir.net: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/the-brothers-rico-1957-the-life-style-of-the-mob-executive.html
Laurie Buchanan talks about ‘luck’ in her marvelous new post “Lucky Bamboo” at Speaking From The Heart: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/lucky-bamboo/
David Schleicher features his Top 60 comedy list in a buffo presentation at The Schleicher Spin: http://theschleicherspin.com/2012/06/10/the-spins-top-60-comedies-of-all-time/
Samuel Wilson has penned a terrific review of Chahine’s “Cairo Station” at Mondo 70: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2012/06/cairo-station-1958.html
Jon Warner’s buffo contribution to the Wyler blogothon is a magnificent review of “Dodsworth” at Films Woorth Watching: http://filmsworthwatching.blogspot.com/2012/06/dodsworth-1936-directed-by-william.html
Joel Bocko’s latest post at The Dancing Image is a fascinating hodgepodge titled “Fragments of Cinephilia”: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2012/06/fragments-of-cinephilia-pt-ii.html
Terrill Welch presents ‘Squared to the Sea,’ a beautiful new series at the Creativepotager’s blog: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/3845/
Jason Marshall names “Aniki Bobo” #2 film of 1942 in a stellar review at Movies Over Matter: http://moviesovermatter.com/2012/06/20/aniki-bobo-best-pictures-of-1942-2/
Roderick Heath has posted a fantastic and comprehensive essay on the beloved swashbuckling Errol Flynn adventure epic “The Sea Hawk” at Ferdy-on-Films: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/2012/the-sea-hawk-1940/14810/
At Scribbles and Ramblings Sachin Gandhi has some great movie match-ups, set in football terms: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2012/06/euro-2012-group-standings-quarter-final.html
Craig Kennedy has announced the winners of the Los Angeles Film Festival at Living in Cinema in a marvelous report: http://livingincinema.com/2012/06/24/laff-awards-jury-and-audiences-prizes-all-is-well-drought-beasts-of-the-southern-wild-birth-story-and-searching-for-sugar-man-honored/
Roderick Heath has posted “an academic piece” on the film “Gallipoli” at This Island Rod, and it truly looks like spectacular stuff: http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2012/05/civic-mythology-sequence-from-gallipoli.html
Ed Howard has penned another fantastic piece at Only the Cinema, this time on John Ford’s first film, “Straight Shooting”: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2012/06/straight-shooting.html
Richard R.D. Finch has posted a superlative review on Fassbinder’s “Fox and His Friends” at The Movie Projector: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2012/06/fox-and-his-friends-1975.html
Patricia at Patricia’s Wisdom offers up the perfect “beach novel” with “The Brevity of Roses”: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2012/06/the-brevity-of-roses-linda-cassidy-lewis/
At Cinemascope the amazingly prolific and resilient Shubhajit Laheri keeps up the pace with a provocative capsule review on “Hiroshima Mon Amour”: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2012/06/hiroshima-mon-amour-1959.html
Craig Kennedy has penned a terrific essay on “Prometheus” at Living in Cinema: http://livingincinema.com/2012/06/07/prometheus-2012/
At Doodad Kind of Town Pat Perry’s splendid contribution to the For the Love of Film Preservation blogothon is on Hitch’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2012/05/hitch-does-rom-com-for-love-of-film.html
Just Another Film Buff has penned a terrific capsule on Satoshi Kon’s 1997 “Perfect Blue” at The Seventh Art: http://theseventhart.info/2012/05/19/ellipsis-61/
At The Blue Vial Drew McIntosh leads up with “off the Wall” which brings “Silver Load” and the great John Alton into focus: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2012/06/off-wall.html
J.D. takes on Sidney Lumet’s 1986 feature “Power” in a captivaing essay at Radiator Heaven: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2012/06/power.html
At The Last Lullaby, the ever delightful filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman takes a look at part sixteen of his long running quartet series: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2012/04/favorite-four-part-sixteen.html
At Vermillion and One Nights Murderous Ink has written an extraordinary scholarly piece on gender roles in post-war Japan, making compelling reference to 1949’s “Green Mountains”: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2012/05/someone-who-looks-like-gary-cooper.html
There’s plenty of good stuff up at The Long Voyage Home by way of capsules and screen caps courtesy of Peter Lenihan: http://thelongvoyagehome.blogspot.com/
Stephen Russell-Gebbett at Checking on my Sausages again offers up a thoughtful post, this one on the film “Super 8”:http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2012/05/unearthing-grief-and-love-in-super-8.html h
Greg Ferrara at Cinema Styles has written a splendid essay on ‘The Ranking of Rock’: http://cinemastyles.blogspot.com/2012/06/insincerity-insecurity-and-self.html
A notable artistic collaboration leads the way at Michael Harford’s heartening Coffee Messiah’s blog: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2012/05/collaborations.html
Hokahey has penned a terrific takedown of “Battleship” at Little Worlds: http://hokahey-littleworlds.blogspot.com/2012/05/boom.html
At The Cooler Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard discuss two-time Cannes winner Michael Haneke for the latest phenomenal ‘Conversations’ dialogue: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2012/05/conversations-michael-haneke.html
Adam Zanzie has posted a superlative review of Lawrence Kasdan’s “Dreamcatcher” at Icebox Movies: http://www.iceboxmovies.blogspot.com/2012/05/dreamcatcher-2003-lawrence-kasdans.html
Dave Van Poppel has a tremendous batch of short reviews up at Visions of Non Fiction on the Toronto Film Festival: http://visionsofnonfiction.blogspot.com