It’s “crap and exaltation,” the prolific composer tells a masterclass at the 50th Thessaloniki International Film Festival last November. Below, ideas about light, color and Vermeer, as demonstrated in The Girl With The Pearl Earring; what he really thinks of Quentin Tarantino’s needle-drops; and on working with Terrence Malick on Tree of Life.
Watched the trailer. Read part of the script. Saw the opening grafs of some reviews: just want to see where Noah Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh go after The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding. And what about that Greta Gerwig? [Trailer below.]
Douglas Sirk’s last interview may have been one conducted by Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery for Interview magazine in the early 80s, if memory serves, just before or just after the great director of melodramas went blind. I couldn’t find that piece, but instead, stumbled upon an epic piece at Bright Lights Film Journal by Jane and Michael Stern, about a two-week visit they made in 1977 visit to Lugano, Switzerland to meet Sirk and his wife, Hilde. (The bracingly smart “Sirk on Sirk” stands alongside “Melville on Melville” as models of extended conversation between directors and journalists.) I still treasure my years-ago memories of two of the three shorts he made late in life teaching film in Germany, the Fassbinder-starring Bourbon Street Blues (1978) and the serene, stunning Tennessee Williams adaptation, Talk to Me Like the Rain (Sprich zur mir wie der Regen, 1975) (based on Williams’ short play, “Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen”). Someday, these crisp shorts ought to resurface. For the moment, a couple of bits of scene-setting from the Sterns’ extended introduction, followed by one extended disquisition by Sirk on his experiences with art and commerce in his career as a European theater director, and then as an American studio hand. “Swooshing up the elevator shaft of Condominio Vall’Orba in a mirrored elevator to meet Sirk: He is still Sirk, never Douglas. Not yet anyway. You search your mind for an appropriate image of him. There are few to choose from: black and whites on the back of a book, a few auteurist articles with pictures decades-old, showing a man with a tweed jacket, piercing pale blue eyes and wavy hair. He is awesome-looking, aloof. Best forget these pictures… We eat at the Grotto, a favorite restaurant, a restaurant only Douglas Sirk would take you to, where Rock Hudson might take Jane Wyman. There is a warm Italian innkeeper, there are soft-hued walls, a special pasta, a flow of Chianti. Douglas impetuously drinks wine and eats roast pork. We know this is a special time for all of us. We have fallen in love with Douglas and Hilde… He is describing Lana Turner’s work in Imitation of Life. He describes their rapport. But one listens too casually, relaxed as with an old friend, and the mind wanders. But something strange starts to happen. You are off-guard. The old man starts to direct. He is showing you how he manipulated Lana Turner in her scenes. But instead of the Golden Goddess, he is doing it to you. The hooded blue eyes unfurl, revealing beneath the lids an unquenched intensity. They fix on you, the voice hypnotically cajoles and shames. “You like that, don’t you? You like that feeling,” he asks seductively. “Well, then, you are a fool!” Back and forth, changing your face, pulling the adrenalin to the surface. You aren’t an actor, so what is to explain these emotions shooting through you as he talks? You remain riveted, in confusion accepting the reality that you are now seated twelve inches away from Sirk the director on a couch somewhere far away from home. Douglas has vanished, and has been replaced by two ice-blue eyes and a commanding voice.
The highlight of this week’s DVD releases is Criterion’s Make Way For Tomorrow(Criterion, $30), a beautiful, essentially forgotten melodrama from Leo McCarey. I have strong, fond memories of it, but haven’t seen the DVD. Tag Gallagher’s essay for the release is here. Below: Crude, The Informant!, Alexander The Last. Crude awakening [*** 1/2] TURN THE TAP, WATER COMES, FLIP A SWITCH FOR LIGHT: pull up to the pump before driving to the discount grocery for the week’s dinners. We take delivery systems for granted, the social and economic structures that allow for, if not peace of mind, for “out of mind.” The genius of Joe Berlinger’s muckraking, muck-steeped Crude (First Run Features, $25) is that his clear, patient eye, taking a specific ecological tragedy to suggest the failure of systems, through the filthy work of extracting oil from beneath the earth’s surface, the almost-inevitable despoiling of water and other resources, and courtroom systems that pit international conglomerates, lawyers and locals against each other. Crude? “Texas Tea”? It doesn’t just bubble up like in “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Three years in the making, Crude examines a $27 billion class action suit against alleged pollution filed by indigenous Ecuadorian residents, the Cofón Indians, 30,000 strong, in the Amazon against Chevron Oil, successor to Texaco (after 2001). They charge that eighteen billion gallons of wastewater polluted the land and rivers of an oil patch roughly the size of Rhode Island from 1970 to 1990. Rashes, birth defects, leukemia and other cancers followed. A “death zone” of pollution lingers. Bureaucrats interfere. Officials delay. The law is a labyrinth. The case has lingered fitfully over sixteen years and no end is in sight. Berlinger gauges a vast river of litigation and allegation: Amazonian, yes. But Berlinger’s tack differs from the comic outrage of a Michael Moore, say: this is classical reportage, not “Petroleum: A Love Story.”
Best Film: The Hurt Locker
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education
Best Actor: Colin Firth, A Single Man
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Foreign Language Film: A Prophet
Best Animated Film: Up
You can neither make beautiful, great movies without risk as you can make babies without sex. Risk is part of the artistic process. That’s why I like performance, because performance is walking a high wire.
~ Francis Coppola
“Probably the most heralded movie I’ve ever been in was Forrest Gump. While I was sitting on the park bench, I asked Bob, ‘Is anyone going to care about this guy?’ He said, ‘I don’t know Tom. It’s a mine field. It’s a fucking mine field.’ So when it works, you just say, ‘We dodged all the mines.'”
~ Tom Hanks