Passages

A subforum to discuss film culture and criticism both old and new, as well as memorializing public figures we've lost.
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The Elegant Dandy Fop
Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2004 3:25 am
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Re: Passages

#9226 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:12 am

A true legend lost. Anytime people who are not cinephiles ask me to recommend them something outside of their traditional viewing habits, Two-Lane Blacktop was always a go to and never failed to please. Nothing brings me as much joy as Warren Oates ordering an Alka-Seltzer.

During quarantine, I caught up with my gaps in Hellman’s career. I read the Cockfighter book seven or eight years ago and barely recalled much about it, but the movie is a great portrait of an obsessive gambler with strategy and mechnical precision in the sport. Despite that heavy sounding premise, the film is hilarious and pretty delightful. Worth watching to see Harry Dean Stanton embracing some outlandish seventies western wear. There was a Japanese Blu-ray of this available (I believe incorrectly displayed at 1.37) and don’t expect this to be released here on account of all the unsimulated cockfighting.

China 9, Liberty 37 is a bizarre anti-western and sort of an odd marker denoting the end of the spaghetti western genre. It seems to want to avoid violence at all costs and instead is a portrait of how western men expect women to act and how to be treated. The spaghetti western has life real cheap and often plays the violence for laughs, but Hellman’s sensibility is far more somber and poetic. Has an excellent Pino Donaggio score as well. Am I making it up that Warner Bros. owns this film?

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swo17
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Re: Passages

#9227 Post by swo17 » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:27 am

I believe the best version ever released of Cockfighter was the R1 Anchor Bay DVD

beamish14
Joined: Fri May 18, 2018 3:07 pm

Re: Passages

#9228 Post by beamish14 » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:44 am

The Elegant Dandy Fop wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:12 am


China 9, Liberty 37 is a bizarre anti-western and sort of an odd marker denoting the end of the spaghetti western genre. It seems to want to avoid violence at all costs and instead is a portrait of how western men expect women to act and how to be treated. The spaghetti western has life real cheap and often plays the violence for laughs, but Hellman’s sensibility is far more somber and poetic. Has an excellent Pino Donaggio score as well. Am I making it up that Warner Bros. owns this film?

It is 100% owned by Warner Bros. in the States, and is not in the public domain, contrary to the glut of cheap DVDs of it out there. It's been on their restoration docket for years, and Hellman personally urged them to tackle it.

China 9 is an incredibly profane and vulgar film, but that's where its charm derives from as well. It's about repellant people, and it effectively mines them for comedy.

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GaryC
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 3:56 pm
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Re: Passages

#9229 Post by GaryC » Wed Apr 21, 2021 3:00 am

R.I.P.
The Elegant Dandy Fop wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:12 am
During quarantine, I caught up with my gaps in Hellman’s career. I read the Cockfighter book seven or eight years ago and barely recalled much about it, but the movie is a great portrait of an obsessive gambler with strategy and mechnical precision in the sport. Despite that heavy sounding premise, the film is hilarious and pretty delightful. Worth watching to see Harry Dean Stanton embracing some outlandish seventies western wear. There was a Japanese Blu-ray of this available (I believe incorrectly displayed at 1.37) and don’t expect this to be released here on account of all the unsimulated cockfighting.
1.37 is definitely wrong - 1.85:1 is what the filmography in Nestor Almendros's book says, which you'd expect for a commercially-made film in the US. According to my twenty-year-old review of the Anchor Bay DVD, that transfer is 1.78:1.

It's a difficult one - I certainly don't approve of cockfighting as a sport and yes, the film does contain footage of it, some of it edited in. Much of it MIGHT get past the BBFC on the grounds that they were genuine cockfights that Hellman and his crew filmed and which would have happened anyway. But one key scene definitely won't get past uncut - the hotel-room scene, in which the fight was staged for the film and arranged for a particular outcome, with one cock wearing plastic spurs and the other steel ones. (I am not a lawyer and it wouldn't be my money spent if anyone did submit the film to the BBFC.)

Talking of incorrect framing - the first time I saw Two-Lane Blacktop was on BBC2 in the Film Club slot, introduced by Philip French. He made the point that Hellman often used the sides of the (Scope) frame to convey particular information - only for the film to play panned and scanned with at times genuinely incomprehensible results. (FIlm Club also showed China 9, Liberty 37 panned and scanned, the only time I've seen it. It was odd that a slot aimed at film buffs and not the general audience was keen to point out that it showed the films uncut (with language that might have been removed on the BBC at the time) but still panned and scanned its Scope films, on the grounds that the general audience didn't want to see black bars on screen. They did later on start showing some Scope films with full letterboxing, starting with Last Year at Marienbad, though they tended to be at first ones in foreign languages and/or in black and white.)
Last edited by GaryC on Wed Apr 21, 2021 5:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
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Re: Passages

#9230 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Apr 21, 2021 3:38 am

GaryC wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 3:00 am
(FIlm Club also showed China 9, Liberty 37 panned and scanned, the only time I've seen it. It was odd that a slot aimed at film buffs and not the general audience was keen to point out that it showed the films uncut (with language that might have been removed on the BBC at the time) but still panned and scanned its Scope films, on the grounds that the general audience didn't want to see black bars on screen. They did later on start showing some Scope films with full letterboxing, starting with Last Year at Marienbad, though they tended to be at first ones in foreign languages and/or in black and white.)
Speaking of scope foreign language films of the period like Andrei Rublev and Solaris, what was the reason for moving the letterboxed image to the top third of the screen that seemed to regularly occur? Was that just to leave the bottom two thirds free for subtitles? Or an aesthetic approach to showing widescreen films when showing them anamorphically was not in the cards anyway, and 2.35:1 imagery was both relatively rare event and treated as a novelty whenever it appeared?

Off topic but the moment I knew the end was nigh for the Moviedrome series, after many episodes of the show which put an emphasis on the widescreen nature of upcoming screenings, was when Mark Cousins introduced the premiere of Luc Besson's Leon, praising the widescreen mise-en-scene and how much better the longer director's cut of the film was, only for the version that followed to be the pan-and-scanned theatrical release! Even doing that awful thing of letterboxing the opening credits then slowly, inexorably widening out to pan-and-scan, which was a technique that has always made me desperately want to reach into the screen and hold on to the black bars for dear life! I even suffered a bit of PTSD trauma from Xavier Dolan's Mommy because of past memories of it!

If it has to happen (which it doesn't, and never did) I much prefer the ugly, jarring jump from letterboxed opening titles into the pan-and-scanned opening scene, for at least not trying to 'artistically camouflage' the disfiguring surgery taking place!

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Dr Amicus
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Re: Passages

#9231 Post by Dr Amicus » Wed Apr 21, 2021 4:38 am

Or the first BBC screening of 2001, when the space sequences were shown in widescreen, but with stars painted on the black bars...

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MichaelB
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Re: Passages

#9232 Post by MichaelB » Wed Apr 21, 2021 5:08 am

...over which the BBC received quite a few complaints, including one from a Mr S. Kubrick of Borehamwood.

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MichaelB
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Re: Passages

#9233 Post by MichaelB » Wed Apr 21, 2021 5:16 am

GaryC wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 3:00 am
It's a difficult one - I certainly don't approve of cockfighting as a sport and yes, the film does contain footage of it, some of it edited in. Much of it MIGHT get past the BBFC on the grounds that they were genuine cockfights that Hellman and his crew filmed and which would have happened anyway. But one key scene definitely won't get past uncut - the hotel-room scene, in which the fight was staged for the film and arranged for a particular outcome, with one cock wearing plastic spurs and the other steel ones. (I am not a lawyer and it wouldn't be me money spent if anyone did submit the film to the BBFC.)
That's my understanding of the situation. In my experience - and over the last 32 years I've had a surprising number of direct and indirect dealings with the BBFC over animal cruelty - they're generally only too happy to wave something through if you can produce reasonably convincing evidence that the footage qualifies for one of the two loopholes (the cruelty was faked/it would have happened anyway).

For instance, for The Stranglers of Bombay they were happy to accept a comment from the since-deceased camera operator that the mongoose-vs-snake fight was bought in from an Indian documentary filmmaker, as this was corroborated by the visual texture of the film noticeably changing at those points - but they didn't demand proof that the original footage wasn't staged (which would of course have been completely impossible to come up with, and I suspect they knew this). It's basically legal arse-covering - they don't want to cut this stuff, and the fact that there's at least some evidence (even if it's not 100% clinching) to suggest that everything's OK vis-à-vis the Animals Act is likely to discourage anyone from going to the expense of mounting a private prosecution.

So with Cockfighter, as you say, the genuine cockfights would probably be OK - but I honestly can't see how the hotel room scene would get through unscathed, and any UK distributor picking up the film would have to assume upfront that it would be cut at that point. Which is presumably why nobody has picked it up, and nobody's likely to.

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agnamaracs
Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2006 3:13 am

Re: Passages

#9234 Post by agnamaracs » Wed Apr 21, 2021 12:46 pm

Burlesque legend Tempest Storm.

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hearthesilence
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
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Re: Passages

#9235 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:14 pm

Either last summer or later in the year, I decided to buy Road to Nowhere since I always wanted to see it. (I had completely missed out on its brief theatrical run.) I was kind of surprised it was already out-of-print, but with a little patience, it seemed like you can get a copy for a good price. Sad that he never finished another (more on that in a sec), but what a great film. Even after all these years - decades - he made something startlingly original and insightful out of an old concept that was getting beaten to death around the time it came out.

It's been interesting going through the obituaries - more than usual, not only do they cover different details of his life, but they throw a different spin or emphasis on each one. For example, that slasher sequel he made in 1989 is understandably seen as the low-point, with one quoting his dismissal of the film as the worst thing he's ever done, but the Guardian points out that it began a professional relationship with the executive producer, and the two of them more or less "discovered" Tarantino's script for Reservoir Dogs (which Hellman wanted to direct and then produced for Tarantino, raising the funds and mentoring him during production as some financiers were concerned about Tarantino's lack of experience).

A tribute on RogerEbert.com points out that he was on social media, and since Road to Nowhere, he posted quite a few photos of him working, but strangely nothing else was ever heard about those projects. Surely he must've been working on more films...on second thought, I wonder if it was usually something related to his job teaching at CalArts rather than a new film?

beamish14
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Re: Passages

#9236 Post by beamish14 » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:31 pm

hearthesilence wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:14 pm


A tribute on RogerEbert.com points out that he was on social media, and since Road to Nowhere, he posted quite a few photos of him working, but strangely nothing else was ever heard about those projects. Surely he must've been working on more films...on second thought, I wonder if it was usually something related to his job teaching at CalArts rather than a new film?


I believe these videos are related to Cal Arts projects. Like Alex Cox, to also migrated to academia at the University of Colorado, Hellman really believed that film students should be engaged in filming and constantly going into the field as opposed to just hearing about production methods vis a vis lectures. Hellman was with some of his pupils on the Criterion Two-Lane Blacktop disc.

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MichaelB
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Re: Passages

#9237 Post by MichaelB » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:50 pm

Alexander Mackendrick and Wojciech Marczewski are other filmmakers who largely abandoned directing their own projects in favour of film education - Mackendrick because he was sick and tired of directing, Marczewski because he refused to work with the Jaruzelski government after it imposed martial law. And it's worth looking on the bright side in cases like this: regardless of what we lost in terms of unmade films of theirs, all three are frequently cited as being absolutely inspirational teachers.

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Forrest Taft
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2007 8:34 pm
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Re: Passages

#9238 Post by Forrest Taft » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:56 pm

hearthesilence wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:14 pm
For example, that slasher sequel he made in 1989 is understandably seen as the low-point, with one quoting his dismissal of the film as the worst thing he's ever done, but the Guardian points out that it began a professional relationship with the executive producer, and the two of them more or less "discovered" Tarantino's script for Reservoir Dogs (which Hellman wanted to direct and then produced for Tarantino, raising the funds and mentoring him during production as some financiers were concerned about Tarantino's lack of experience).
If I remember correctly, Hellman did Silent Night 3 as a favor to his friend Richard N. Gladstein, who wanted to become a producer, and would get a shot with this project if he got a name director. A few years later, Hellman read the Tarantino script and passed it on to Gladstein - now a producer who had done a few pictures. It was at this point the project started gaining momentum, though it wasn't till later, when Keitel signed on, that it got financed.

I second the rec of the Brad Stevens book. When I viewed Arrow's Robocop-disc, the only thing I missed was a Hellman interview. They had interviewed Mark Goldblatt, one of the other two (?) second unit directors on the film, and his experience of doing second unit work for Verhoeven was very different from what Hellman experienced as detailed in the aforementioned book. Of course, Hellman by this point already had some experience with action pictures, having edited The Killer Elite, and directed (till he was fired) Shatter, a somewhat enjoyable Hammer-Shaw Brothers co-production, shot on location in Hong Kong.

I should revisit Road to Nowhere one of these days, I was very impressed with it when it came out.

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colinr0380
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Re: Passages

#9239 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Apr 21, 2021 3:18 pm

And to defend Silent Night Deadly Night 3 a little further, it does feature the first film role for Laura Harring, later to be better known for her role in Mulholland Drive. There's a Cinema Snob video devoted to it here.

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Forrest Taft
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Re: Passages

#9240 Post by Forrest Taft » Wed Apr 21, 2021 3:20 pm

And her boyfriend in the film is Leo Johnson! Benjamin Horne is also there, in the opening scenes.

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wishhersafeathome
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2021 6:34 pm

Re: Passages

#9241 Post by wishhersafeathome » Wed Apr 21, 2021 9:21 pm

MichaelB wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:50 pm
Alexander Mackendrick and Wojciech Marczewski are other filmmakers who largely abandoned directing their own projects in favour of film education - Mackendrick because he was sick and tired of directing, Marczewski because he refused to work with the Jaruzelski government after it imposed martial law. And it's worth looking on the bright side in cases like this: regardless of what we lost in terms of unmade films of theirs, all three are frequently cited as being absolutely inspirational teachers.
It's an interesting transition from being "sick and tired of directing" to instead teaching essentially the same subject. I've known countless artists who had to teach to survive and who, despite their public statements otherwise, would have dropped that gig in a heartbeat for the opportunity to practice their chosen profession "in the wild."

Whereas a number of critics do/did make the inverse switch from the academic approach to the practical, which makes much more sense to me.

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Never Cursed
Such is life on board the Redoutable
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Re: Passages

#9242 Post by Never Cursed » Wed Apr 21, 2021 11:49 pm


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therewillbeblus
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Re: Passages

#9243 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:01 am


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Never Cursed
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Re: Passages

#9244 Post by Never Cursed » Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:14 am

Lord, why did it take the Times so long to scrape together an obit for him?

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Passages

#9245 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:38 am

Maybe they felt it was too soon to spread the love or a stunt, man

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MichaelB
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Re: Passages

#9246 Post by MichaelB » Thu Apr 22, 2021 5:36 am

I remember Ronald Bergan and I were racing each other to see who'd be the first to get our Walerian Borowczyk obits into print - him for The Guardian, me for Sight & Sound. You'd have thought he'd have a massively unfair advantage there, but in fact he only just beat me, thanks to a twenty-day delay that he had nothing to do with: evidently, everyone else who died between 3 and 23 February 2006 was considered higher priority.

And when Googling for the obituary date, I see that the New York Times waited until March 6...

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dwk
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Re: Passages

#9247 Post by dwk » Thu Apr 22, 2021 10:05 pm


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fiddlesticks
Joined: Thu Sep 20, 2007 8:19 pm
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Re: Passages

#9248 Post by fiddlesticks » Wed Apr 28, 2021 1:47 pm

Magnificent mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig

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fdm
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Re: Passages

#9249 Post by fdm » Wed Apr 28, 2021 3:02 pm


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therewillbeblus
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Re: Passages

#9250 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Apr 29, 2021 10:17 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Wed Apr 07, 2021 9:02 pm
Walter Olkewicz (Jacques Renault of Twin Peaks)
Wow, Walter Olkewicz just showed up in the season three episode of Taxi as Jim’s brother when he returns home to Boston- hardly recognizable as a high society square!

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