I’ve mentioned the “cavalcade of opening doors” metaphor sequence in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Spellbound before, but I’ve never found a clip until now. It’s not embarassing by today’s standards — it’s embarassing by the standards of 50 years ago. But there’s something about the on-the-nose emotionality of this almost insanely overwrought bit (which begins around 2:00 and starts the payoff around 2:45) that’s curiously “right.”
I saw Phillip Noyce‘s Newsfront at the 1978 New York Film Festival. I loved it, and somehow I got my hands on a special Newsfront pin made by the distributor. I lost it a couple of years later (naturally) but last night I was given an exact copy by a good friend. It’s now on the lapel of my best suit jacket.
I used to wear this pin everywhere. I was always given special treatment as people assumed I was some news syndicate hotshot. Hosts and waiters where always obliging when I visited a nice restaurant, which rarely happened as I was dirt poor and living hand-to-mouth back then. Six months before the 1978 NYFF I’d moved into my very first Manhattan apartment, a reasonably-priced, cockroach-infested dump at 138 Sullivan Street — bedroom, kitchen, bathroom. On the fourth or fifth floor.
The legendary documentarian Les Blank has passed away. I’m not much of an authority as I’ve only seen three or four of his films, and because I’m partial to his early to late ’80s period (i.e., Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers, Burden of Dreams, In Heaven There Is No Beer?, Huey Lewis And The News: Be-Fore!, Ry Cooder And The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces). But I’m not the only one who feels that Burden of Dreams is his masterpiece.
From a Werner Herzog riff in Burden of Dreams: “Nature is much stronger than we are. [It’s been said] that nature is full of erotic elements. I don’t see so much erotic. I see it full of obscenities. Nature is vile and base. I see fornicaton and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and growing and just rotting away. Of course there is a lot of misery. The trees here are in misery. I think the birds are in misery. They just screech in pain.”
Here’s the last thing I wrote about Blank, which posted in August 2010:
“A little more than six years ago filmmaker Les Blank, best known for his legendary Burden of Dreams (1982), a doc about the making of Werner Herzog‘s Fitzcarraldo, took part in a 2004 Santa Barbara Film Festival panel discussion about documentary filmmaking. I don’t remember what Blank said (a video of the discussion sits below), but I do recall his decision to lay out DVDs of his films on a blanket outside the theatre and offer them for sale.
“The fact that Burden of Dreams is now free on Hulu indicates that it’s not exactly a hot-selling Criterion Collection title. It is nonetheless one of the most stirring making-of-a movie docs ever made. It is arguably equal to Fitzcarraldo itself, as both films deal with a white man’s manic obsession and borderline lunacy in a remote South American jungle, and how it impacts a native culture. Klaus Kinski‘s Fitzcarraldo = Werner Herzog = Fitzcarraldo and back again.
“In my book BOD is in the same realm as George Hickenlooper‘s Hearts of Darkness, Laurent Bouzereau‘s two-hour-long ‘making of Jaws‘ doc (i.e., originally included on a Jaws special edition laser disc in the ’90s, re-appeared on a 30th anniversary Jaws DVD that came out in ’05) and Charles Lauzarika‘s Tricks of the Trade, an innovative 71-minute doc about the making of Ridley Scott‘s Matchstick Men.
In a 4.7 N.Y. Times interview with Dave Itzkof, Louis C.K. is asked to compare his surging career (his “Oh, My God” HBO special, the digital-download success of “Live at the Beacon Theatre,” a role in David O. Russell‘s ABSCAM film) with the opportunities and accomplishments of lesser-known performers. And he says something about the difficulty of making it that hits home.
Itzkoff: “Does it matter that what you’ve achieved with your online special and your tour…[that this] can’t be replicated by other performers who don’t have the visibility or fan base that you do?
Louis C.K.: “Why do you think those people don’t have the same resources that I have, the same visibility or relationship? What’s different between me and them?”
Itzkoff: “You have the platform. You have the level of recognition.”
Louis C.K.: “So why do I have the platform and the recognition?”
Itzkoff: “At this point you’ve put in the time.”
Louis C.K.: “There you go. There’s no way around that. There’s people that say ‘it’s not fair, you have all that stuff.’ I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this — and by ‘new at it’ I mean 15 years in, or even 20 — you’re just starting to get traction.”
I’ve been doing an online column for almost 15 years now (the Mr. Showbiz column started in ’98), and the online adventure has been a step-by-step, brick-by-brick process. It only really started to get good and semi-fulfilling about seven or eight years ago. But the print days of the ’80s and ’90s were sometimes horrible. I remember being so miserable around ’94 or ’95 that I used to dream about ways of moving to Australia or Asia and never coming back and maybe even changing my name. I wanted to move to Europe and never return in ’03. (I wound up moving to Paris for the entire summer that year.)
I wouldn’t say that making it has taken “my whole life,” as Louis declares, but it was anything but easy. In the ’80s and ’90s it sometimes felt like I was hauling Fitzcarraldo’s boat over the muddy mountain.
In Asghar Farhadi‘s A Separation, a professional-class married couple (Leila Hatami, Peyman Moaadi) with a bright and perceptive teenage daughter (Sarina Farhadi) was shown going through a breakup, which was largely about whether or not to live in a repressive Iran. In Farhadi’s The Past, a Parisian couple (Berenice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa) with two kids (including Pauline Burlet‘s teenaged daughter) is divorcing over the husband’s decision to return to Iran.
Except when Mosaffa returns to Paris to sign divorce papers, he finds Bejo and the kids living with a younger French-Middle Eastern guy (A Prophet‘s Tahar Rahim). Duhn-duhhhn! Duhn-duhn-duhn-duhhhn!