Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bright Lights #71 Now Live!

There are two of my latest long pieces in the new issue of Bright Lights Film Journal (#71) so do check them out:
Dads of Great Aventure: A Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Cinema's Hyper-Parent
"Nervous producers, it seems, feel obligated to insert moral hand-wringing as if we might just use the fantasy of escape to actually escape, like we're too stupid to remember that the world is, like, important. It's almost in defiance of that phony liberal piousness then, perhaps, that writers add these ambiguous subtexts about this proximal hyper-parenting, much the way snarky Broadway wits would subtextually send up Christian moral hypocrisy in their production code-enforced scripts..."
The Last American Ruffalo: Lisa Cholodenko's Lesbian "Homespun" Family Values
"The heat of genuine subversion may be more destructive than positive, but at least it has heat. It has the guts to trash the existing structure rather than just toying with the idea of moving the furniture, then ostracizing the moving company."
I've only begun to read the rest of it, but it looks like one of the best issues ever! Congrats Gary Morris and company on another swell job! His editor's note mentions Bright Lights got a lot of clandestine Wikileaked angry mail from high up politicians, would-be Eberts, armchair punters, and Ford Beebians (I xxxed out words I found offensive, you can read the full editorial here): 
We had no idea that these writers — who were supposed to be in their cubicles reading old issues of Cahiers du cinema and Positif and diligently revising and updating Sarris's American Cinema categories — were in such a tizzy. Their words were indeed mutinous: "Sarris's 'canon' is more like a xxx gun!'" asserted one. "...xxxx....  "xxxx mise-en-scene!" said a third. Neither directors nor actors were spared. "All directors should be at the nearest xxx getting xxxxxx for the real auteur: the screenwriter!" "Bresson is a boring hack! My xxxx xxxxx could give a better performance than Balthazar!" and "Orson Welles isn't a patch on Ford Beebe's xxx!" (For some reason, the writers seemed particularly obsessed with Ford Beebe, auteur of 1940s and '50s programmers like Bomba and the Hidden City and many others.)
Now, this wikileaked mail is rather horrid, reflecting a lack of understanding about just what 'mise-en-scene' truly is. As for Bresson, I agree, and yet Balthazar is an amazing actor, conveying more 'animal' magnetism with a single dumbstruck glance than Mr. Ed ever could with pages of dialogue. And of course I agree about Ford Beebe. Let's never forget he's the man who gave us the awesome and unforgettable Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial, as well as Bela Lugosi's PRC triumph, MONSTRE DE NUIT (1942). Also, he has one of the greatest names in show business history.

I like Joseph Aisenberg's trashing/celebrating of Peter Biskind's STAR, the story Warren Beatty. Aisenberg eloquently sums up Biskind's current solidified association as chronicler of the 1970s New Hollywood decadence, what Eddie Muller is to film noir, or David Skal to classic horror, but on a larger attention-grabbing NY Times book list scale. Aisenberg notes Biskind's book as evincing a kind of semi-intellectual gossip hound: "it's all trashy gossip but kind of, sort of about culture." As someone who can't make it past a paragraph of Biskind's Gods and Monsters without getting irked at his politicized sanctimony (I devoured Bulls, though!), I appreciate Joseph's spot-on analysis

I really want to see CONFESSIONS OF AN OPIUM EATER before I delve deeper into Sean Nortz's quote-packed pipeful of chrystaline thoughts and pungent, smoky theories on the film, 'Could You Spare me a Nightmare?' How on earth did it fall off the radar!? Vincent Price!! Nortz notes the film's many trashings in the press, and seems determined to salvage it's reputation, and his cursory overview of Price's career and appeal is vividly rendered:
Price's previous roles — in the now-forgotten comedy Service de Luxe (1938), in a forgettable performance as Sir Walter Raleigh in Michael Curtiz's The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) and as the as the Duke of Clarence Tower of London (1939) — did not serve to highlight either his talents or his latent spectrality (though the latter saw his first bout of intoxication and his first brush with classic literature: it is loosely based on Richard III. Clarence is the one who drowns in a vat of malmsey). 

Drown in a vat of malmsey... death where is thy sting? (to paraphrase William Claude Field's oration in NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK). And I especially like the phrase 'latent spectrality' - good album name! The images in the review however, indicate this title is gray market only, not unlike the substance it depicts. Earth is all about irony. Down with the Draconian/Reptilian overlords that would stop from smoking our way to freedom!!

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