Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's Gonna Be Hard for Me to Keep My Mouth Shut About This Great Gatsby Adaptation

I’m finding it hard to not chime in on this whole Gatsby thing. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Baz Luhrmann is planning a Great Gatsby adaptation with Leonard DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and (probably) Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan. And I guess Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, though I’m sure it’ll all change before cameras start rolling late next year or whenever the hell they finally do, if they do. Others have chimed in about how Gatsby adaptations never work properly -- everybody has their own reason why. I am about to share with you mine, but before I do that, I guess I should stick up a bit for the one party in this entire affair who always gets beaten up in these stories: Jack Clayton’s 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford as Gatsby, Mia Farrow as Daisy, and Sam Waterston as Nick, scripted by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Robert Evans, utilizing the full faith and credit of Paramount Pictures at its dizzying 1970s height. (The original Daisy was going to be Evans’s wife Ali MacGraw, who had recently become a huge star thanks to Love Story; then she made a getaway [har har] with Steve McQueen and, naturally, lost the part.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Why Clint Matters

Several weeks ago I wrote this snarky little piece for Vulture, creating a pseudo-mathematical formula that predicts whether a Clint Eastwood-directed film will be any good or not. It was fun to do, a lot of people read it, and I got a lot of good feedback about it, so I don’t regret writing it. (I also think that, as far as the breakdown of Clint’s films goes, it’s mostly accurate, especially near the top.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Things Not to Say to Dino De Laurentiis

The death of Dino De Laurentiis reminds me of many things, but my favorite has got to be this story about his attempt to collaborate on a film version of The Bible with the great Robert Bresson. The story comes via Bernardo Bertolucci (who himself knows a thing or two about domineering producers), who relates it in the Cinematheque Ontario’s monograph on Bresson, and concerns an encounter in the mid-60s. It’s actually more of a Bresson story than a De Laurentiis story (and it may also, for all I know, be apocryphal), but I still have to share it:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

“The Men Died Splendidly”: Some Thoughts on Paths of Glory

“You've spoiled the keenness of your mind by wallowing in sentimentality.”
– Gen. Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) to Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas)

Paths of Glory, which debuted as an amazing-looking Criterion DVD/Blu-ray a couple of weeks ago, is one Stanley Kubrick film that even those sad few who don’t like Stanley Kubrick films can get behind. There are plenty of reasons for this, but the one most often cited is that Paths represents one of Kubrick’s more humanistic films, as opposed to allegedly cold (and to some even misanthropic or sadistic) works like 2001: A Space Odyssey or A Clockwork Orange. “Humanistic” is a loaded word, of course, but it certainly applies to Paths: It’d be hard for someone who believes Kubrick’s work to be cold to really say the same for this film, since it’s got some of the most emotionally wrenching scenes ever committed to celluloid.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why Is This Man Smiling?

Charlie Chaplin’s in the air these days – a Chaplin at Keystone DVD set just came out, a Modern Times Criterion is impending, and the retro that hit Film Forum this Summer is now at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, prompting this overview piece from yours truly. It kind of came together fairly quickly (the article, not the retro), and I wasn’t able to watch all of the films again, so forgive me if I made any silly mistakes. None of that should detract from my main point, which is that these movies are awesome, and residents of Nashville (and anyone else with a DVD player, really) should do whatever they can to see them (again, if necessary).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Some Recycled Thoughts on Bertolucci's "Luna" (R.I.P. Jill Clayburgh)

The passing of the great Jill Clayburgh prompted me to think back to what I consider to be her best film, Bernardo Bertolucci's much-maligned, little-seen Luna. I wrote about it some years ago, for a "Forgotten Films" series I did back when I was writing and editing Nerve's film blog The Screengrab. That blog isn't around anymore, and its archive doesn't seem to go too far back, so I hope they won't mind my repurposing my entry on Luna for this purpose. In truth, my piece is not so much about Clayburgh's (excellent) performance as it is about the film itself: But, well, there you go.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Is This the Moment Modern Action Movies Were Born?

When Criterion’s new Blu-Ray of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai arrived the other day, shivers went up and down my spine as usual; we all have those films, the ones that have an immediate effect on us at the very mention of their name. In the case of Kurosawa’s film, this has to do with more than just its innate awesomeness (though said awesomeness is, in fact, considerable). Check out the above stills, taken from Adam Low’s 2001 documentary Kurosawa, in which the director’s long-time script supervisor and assistant Teruyo Nogami shows us her script for the film, its pages having been battered back in the day by relentless wind and rain and mud, the whole thing now looking like some ancient scroll. In other words, there’s something heroic about the film’s very existence, in the idea of Kurosawa and his cast and crew out there shooting for more than a year, running catastrophically over budget, braving the elements, and coming back with, well, Seven Samurai.

Much has been written about Seven Samurai, and much will continue to be. (Somewhat paradoxically, when I tackled Kurosawa’s oeuvre in two separate pieces earlier this year, I didn’t dwell much on it, despite the fact that it’s my favorite and probably his best-known film.) It’s hard to overstate the film’s importance, but it’s also the case that words don’t quite do it justice. The thing I keep coming back to is this scene right here, occurring less than half an hour into its 206-minute running time. It’s far from the most important or poignant or powerful or exciting scene in the film, but I’ve always found it hard to shake. Here’s the setup: A bandit has taken a young child hostage in a small shack. The film’s head bad-ass Kambei (Takashi Shimura), comes to help. And, well, you’ll see what happens.