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David Poland

By David Poland

What The HELL?!?!?!

Ingmar Bergman.
Tom Snyder.
Bill Walsh.
Michel Serrault.
Ulrich M

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89 Responses to “What The HELL?!?!?!”

  1. If another iconoclastic European filmmaker dies and another amazing European actor dies then the ‘death comes in threes’ myth (which is clearly fact ALWAYS) will be complete for those sub-categories. I’m not familiar with Snyder and Walsh though. All I know is Snyder used to host some shows in the US and Walsh was a footy coach of some variety.

  2. bipedalist says:

    Don’t forget Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan. Not exactly at Bergman’s level but a blow nonetheless.

  3. DVertino says:

    They all changed the game for everyone who came after.

  4. mutinyco says:

    The interesting thing about directors like Bergman and Antonioni is that, despite their extended influence, their movies are firmly rooted in the periods in which they were made. A filmmaker could not get away with those pictures today without being ridiculed as pretentious and laughably over-serious. Yet the films work perfectly for what they represent — that brief period of innocence in the medium’s development where it attained consciousness and emerged into an art-form.

  5. Me says:

    Someone’s suddenly gaining a lot of Death Pool points.

  6. Wrecktum says:

    After my profane rant about the insulting stupidity of the “rule of three” meme over on Wells’ site yesterday, I guess I should have expected it to crop up over here.
    People understandably try to make sense of senselessness and to see patterns where they don’t exist. Whether it’s conspiracy theories after 9/11 or the insipid “rule of three” when celebrities die, death has a way of making perfectly reasonable people behave unreasonably.

  7. bipedalist says:

    Let’s face it: death brings us to our knees.

  8. Ian Sinclair says:

    Are we absolutely certain that Voldermort is dead?

  9. Nicol D says:

    “A filmmaker could not get away with those pictures today without being ridiculed as pretentious and laughably over-serious.’
    Perhaps, but what is considered ‘pretentious’ and ‘laughably over serious’ changes in film as the culture around it changes. What would make people/critics call them pretentious (if that is true) were they made today, is that we are now living in a culture that is largely based on the ‘rock n’ roll’ baby boomer values of the ’60’s and ’70’s. A culture that does not really want to contemplate the existential themes of death, mortality and morality that someone such as Bergman explored.
    Instead the same level of ‘seriousness’ is given to ‘pop art’ films like Death Proof or the confectionary trites of Wes Anderson and Sophia Coppola.
    What I feel comfortable in saying is that students will always have reason to study a Bergman or Antonioni film. His mark goes beyond pop culture. I cannot say the same of many other current directors who are considered serious artists.
    Even more current foreign film directors like Wenders, Bertolucci, or (God help us he is such a pretentious hack) von Trier do not compare to Bergman.

  10. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Wow, I find myself totally agreeing with Nicol D, it must be a full moon or something.
    Yes, in our post-ironic age, it’s tough to stomach some of the more serious Euro-films in the canon, but it doesn’t make them any less great. Instead, it makes us look like we cannot take anything seriously.
    I love me some Wes Anderson, but he is incredibly trite if you look at his films next to say Bergman’s or Antonioni’s. It’s not the best analogy, but it’s sort of like comparing Warhol to Rembrandt.
    I still consider Antonioni’s THE PASSENGER to be one of the best films I’ve ever seen, though I imagine I like that one best of all his films because Nicholson gives me an easy entry point.

  11. jeffmcm says:

    There are about five things in Nicol’s post that I disagree with in one way or another, but for right now I’ll just say that the reason a Bergman or Antonioni film would be considered ‘pretentious’ today is because of the very contributions that these filmmakers made. Antonioni’s style and methods have been so influential that they’ve become a big part of what we think of when we think ‘art film’. You can’t watch a Todd Haynes or Gus Van Sant movie without seeing his influence, which also means that the best Haynes or Van Sant movies have taken Antonioni’s lessons and improved upon them to mold them to our own times.

  12. jeffmcm says:

    I guess I can’t stop myself from adding that it’s really unfair to compare Wes Anderson, Sophia Coppola, or Death Proof to Bergman or Antonioni. It’s like comparing a young, popular novelist with James Joyce or Herman Melville – of course he/she isn’t going to compare.

  13. The Pope says:

    I think another thing that makes the likes of Bergman, Antonioni, Fellini et al so important is that they blossomed on to the scene when Europe was still traumatised by World War Two. That six year period almost brought more than a millenium of civilization to its knees. And just when people may have feared that Adorno was right when he said that there could be no art after Auschwitz. these people arrived and delivered. The world signs of regeneration. It needed art and art needed them. That is one of the lessons of genius. It finds a way. And that is why, although Bergman may be currently neglected, his works will come back. That is what helps us define them as classics.

  14. Nicol D says:

    “…which also means that the best Haynes or Van Sant movies have taken Antonioni’s lessons and improved upon them to mold them to our own times”
    So you think the best van Sant and Haynes is better than the best Antonioni? Really. That’s a bold statement. Can you elaborate? Van Sant I think peaked over a decade ago and is pretty much off anyone’s radar. Haynes has never really done anything I would call great compared to Antonioni.
    “I guess I can’t stop myself from adding that it’s really unfair to compare Wes Anderson, Sophia Coppola, or Death Proof to Bergman or Antonioni.”
    But they are given the same reverence in contemporary criticism. That is why the comparison is valid. They are considered our ‘best of the best’ and they can’t hold Bergman’s or Antonioni’s water.
    Bergman was 39 when he made The Seventh Seal. That’s younger than Tarantino who has never made anything in that ball bark and not much older than Anderson or Coppola. They are only younger than he was at that phase by a year or so. Nothing in their cannon even remotely suggests that level of sophistication. Please explain.

  15. David Poland says:

    The best directors are the best thieves… same as ever.
    Art is like science, in that the principles expand over time, the bedrock gets harder, and real leaps forward become rarer and rarer.
    They we get stuck with the Tyranny of the New, with smart, interested, movie loving people so hungry for something fresh that they will leap too quickly to pronounce anything as a breakthrough.
    Something like chatting with Death leapt into satire years ago, but the principle of that idea is as old as memory, a theatrical device for a character to express themselves out loud as opposed to internal monologue. Of course, the current master of internal-monologue-as-drama is Charlie Kaufman, all of whose screenplays have leaned heavily on the view of a character from inside their own head.
    Improve upon?
    The classic example of art shifting on its own is Rocky Horror Picture Show, which never really worked on its own, but whose audience tweaked it by voicing its subtext. Did they “improve” it? No. It is still the same movie.
    Docs will not forever be dominated by the first person style. Horror will continue to cycle from serious, to extreme, to ironic and back. Apatow’s comedy voice will dominate for the next few years and then our collective heads will turn elsewhere, as his and his collaborators either stray somewhere that we don’t follow or will play the same tune one too many times.
    Of course, the true artist doesn’t twist the work to seek the audience, they let the audience find them… or not.
    And the danger there is that it allows too many people to believe that they are succeeding by failing.
    Funny thing, art.

  16. jeffmcm says:

    I can’t elaborate too much right now except to say that this is a question of taste. Yes, I believe the best Van Sant and Haynes movies (for me, Elephant, Last Days, and Safe) are at least the equals, if not the superiors, of the best Antonioni, and I’m really surprised that you would say Van Sant is ‘off everyone’s radar’ since he’s won two Cannes awards in the last four years.
    Also I disagree that S. Coppola and W. Anderson are considered the ‘best of the best’. By who, exactly? I’d say that the best working American filmmakers are generally considered to be the likes of Spielberg, Scorsese, and Eastwood, and Anderson and Coppola are still considered to be up-and-comers.
    And back to the taste issue, I would absolutely say that Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown are in the same league as Seventh Seal. They’re radically different flavors of filmmaking, so difficult to compare. Perhaps you have a preference for high modernism.

  17. David Poland says:

    P.S. And Apatow is one of those who let the audience come to him… it took almost a decade after he became a working part of the industry.

  18. Joe Leydon says:

    Nicol D. With all due respect, you have to forget the Right Wing talking points for a second, and owe up to the fact that we Baby Boomers were the ones who discovered, embraced and championed the likes of Truffaut, Godard, Bergman, Fellini and Antonioni in the first place. Trust me, I know: I came of age at a time when campus film societies programmed out of the Janus Catalogue, book stores routinely stocked anthologies of serious film criticism (Pauline Kael, Stanley Kauffmann and Andrew Sarris, etc.) and art houses served free coffee in the lobby to encourage interaction, conversation and an overall sense of a

  19. mutinyco says:

    Guys, just so you know… it’s SOFIA not SOPHIA…

  20. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Grown ups in the 70’s? They were talented filmmakers for sure, but at the time it was the kids taking over the movie business…
    I’m still not sure it’s ok to call Dennis Hopper a grown up, and by most accounts EASY RIDER (along with say BONNIE & CLYDE and THE GRADUATE) ushered in the great 70’s era of filmmaking. Not stylistically, but more in spirit.
    As for our “best” clearly they are of the older generation he came of age in the 70’s (Scorcese, Speilberg) but if we’re talking the newest generation I would certainly put Sofia and Wes Anderson and PT Anderson and David O Russell and Spike Jonez up there as “our best” even if they still have a ways to go…

  21. Joe Leydon says:

    Carpetmuncher: We actually don’t disagree as much as you may think. The ’70s pop culture agenda was set by the grown-ups who agreed to hire and/or bankroll movies by groundbreaking, envelope-pushing filmmakers. (Even though all three movies you mentioned were, technically, made in the ’60s, they most assuredly did lead to the Hollywood Renaissance.) Who’s making those decisions now? And can anyone say they represent “baby boomer” values, as Nicol seems to claim?

  22. Nicol D says:

    “Nicol D. With all due respect, you have to forget the Right Wing talking points for a second…”
    Perhaps you should forget the left wing talking points, Joe. I know you are a highly charged political individual who always wants to see the ‘vast right wing conspiracy’ beneath everything I say, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. If I was parroting right wing talking points I wouldn’t exactly haven’t written about how much I love Bergman in the first place now would I?
    As for your larger point, you have to look at culture on a very long time line. Look at it in terms of generations. Yes, you baby boomers embraced these artists, but you were also raised with the structuralist values of the WW I and II generations. That is what the 60’s rebelled against…but you still had those core values instilled in you as children to rely on as a context.
    The Gen X and Gen Y generation, which you taught – ONLY – had your rebellious values as a context. Your anarchic tendencies, on a generational level, were the ones that informed them and their art. Hence, Gen X and Gen Y are in a generational sense, the monsters of the baby boomer creation. The monster to your Dr. Frankenstein. We have been taught by the boomers there is no truth in art, no form that can’t be deconstructed, and no answers to questions that are asked.
    Have you heard the phrase, ‘you have to know the rules before you can break them?’
    The baby boomers were taught the rules and then broke them. But they taught thier children (culturally speaking of course) – only – to break the rules without giving them the foundation first.
    In terms of art and cinema it meant a Godard could play with form and structure because he knew the structure to begin with. Many of the current artists do not know the basics of form and structure, hence they go straight to the deconstructionist aspects and the art is junk as a result.
    Marie Antoinette rewrites history to a generation that never was taught it to begin with.
    Kids taking film in school think they can go right to the Michael Moore mode of ‘doc’ filmmaking without learning the rules first. As a result most modern docs are poorly informed propaganda. But they were never taught what propaganda was to begin with.
    They have been taught – by your generation – that old films aren’t worth watching because they are politically incorrect.
    Again, who is hiring these new brash artists with minds of children? The baby boomers who do not want to grow old. Hence instead of signing more mature acts to record labels we get old men signing more Britney’s & Justin’s. Critics who think Eminem is a rebel- he’s not. And QT being considered deep because he has a fondness for the baby boomer programs he grew up on.
    Again, look at culture as more than a B& W issue. It flows like waves and currents with one generations main values informing the next.
    The rebellion of the Gen X and Y generation is there because that is what you taught them to do. The problem is, the system that they seek to change no longer exists. That is part of the reason for much of our poor art.
    As far as the seventies being the last decade when adults were in charge? I agree.
    But the baby boomers are still signing the checks. What does that say?

  23. Joe Leydon says:

    “They have been taught – by your generation – that old films aren’t worth watching because they are politically incorrect.”
    Wrong again, Nicol. Wrong as generalization and very wrong as specific accusation. I teach film history courses at two Houston colleges, where I screen everthing from “The General” to “The Limey” for students, and have written a book about classic films that has been used as a textbook.
    “Hence, Gen X and Gen Y are in a generational sense, the monsters of the baby boomer creation. The monster to your Dr. Frankenstein. We have been taught by the boomers there is no truth in art, no form that can’t be deconstructed, and no answers to questions that are asked.”
    Nicol, I’m sorry if you have issues with your parents. If you want to go all “Family Ties” and rebel against their values, go ahead. But please don’t presume to know what values I’ve instilled in my child.
    And BTW: “Politically incorrect”? Once again, ditch the Right Wing talking points.

  24. jeffmcm says:

    “We have been taught by the boomers there is no truth in art, no form that can’t be deconstructed, and no answers to questions that are asked.”
    You know a couple of movies that I think of when I read a sentence like this? Antonioni’s Blow-Up and Bergman’s Persona.

  25. prideray says:

    Someone give Joel Schumacher a jingle to be sure he’s all right.

  26. Joe Leydon says:

    I wonder if every generation gets the filmmakers it deserves?

  27. MAGGA says:

    First time commenter here, but I just wanted to say I wish we could appreciate these great filmmakers without writing off everything that has a different agenda or style. It seems to be a sin to suggest that anything made since the days when feaces did not smell is worth licking the boots of the old masters. I adore Bergman, and I am very happy to see many of the elements that made him great having re-emerged in modern culture, especially in Six Feet Under and Sopranos, which also has an obsession with death and related issues, use dream sequences and symbolism, even if they are more soap opera-like. And yet I think Tarantino has made three great, historically important works and I did not even walk out of Transformers. When comparing the old to the new, Poland and Jeffmcm make the most sense, in my opinion. Oh, and the reason “arthouse” movies made their way into the US for a period in the sixties and seventies was that, for a brief moment, the suits lost track of how to market movies. These days you actually have to look for quality, but it is worth it. And may these inspirational figures RIP.

  28. MAGGA says:

    To clarify: we the viewer must look harder to find quality films. Not saying that distributors are looking for quality more now than then, which is clearly not the case.

  29. Joe Leydon says:

    MAGGA: Another thing — in the ’60s and ’70s, many of the movies we now think of as ballsy and innovative and cutting edge were released by major studios, so they opened EVERYWHERE. I mean, look, I reviewed films like Taxi Driver and The Man Who Fell to Earth in Jackson, Mississippi, and Annie Hall and Fellini’s Casanova in Shreveport, LA. Today? I am not going to argue that great moviemakers aren’t making great films these days. Hell, I won’t even argue that it’s impossible that, someday, filmmakers just beginning to make their marks in 2007 will be viewed as equal to Ingmar Berman. But as MAGGA astutely observes: These days, you really have to look for it. And, just as important, you have to want to look for it. Thanks to Netflix and cable and dishes, anyone living in the smallest burg in America can access the greatest works in film history, and the best of recent contemporary films, anytime s/he wants. There is no excuse for film illiteracy anymore. None.

  30. Wrecktum says:

    When given a choice, most people would prefer to do nothing.
    “Honey, we can rent either Rules of the Game or The Leopard.”
    “Thanks, but I’d prefer to stare at the wall.”

  31. The Carpetmuncher says:

    DVD really has been amazing in allowing everyone to see great films that don’t have great distribution. As a student, Laser Discs were the things for me, but hearing directors’ audio commentaries for the first time was a real revelation (I was particularly fond of Terry Gilliam’s commentary on The Fisher King, which was like a filmmaking class).
    I have to admit Nicol lost me on that last rant. I’m not sure how Eminem is not a rebel, maybe it’s just because his rich, but anyone with any understanding of hip hop has to admit that Eminem changed the game in a huge way, and he did it in his own style, which is what a rebel does.
    And lambasting Justin Timberlake’s music makes it sound like you’ve never listened to it. Timberlake has become hugely respected across racial and musical lines, and has been working with the most forward thinking hip hop producers. His two recents albums sold huge, but also were critical hits. Comparing Justin to Britney is just laziness – nobody with any knowledge about them would make that comparrison, except to lambast poor Miss Spears.
    As to the whole Generation X & Y thing, I’m not sure what it’s all about. Does anybody think Quentin is deep? Love to meet that person. I’m not sure there are many people who think referencing old movies makes somebody deep.
    As for the 70’s being when adults were in charge, I still don’t know where that comes from. Easy Rider was financing independently by Burt Schneider and Bob Rafelson, who proceeded to sell it to Columbia, who distributed it without knowing what the hell it was. The guys at Columbia (including Schneider’s brother) were adults, but were hardly “in charge” in any meaningful way that effected the film.
    Maybe what we’re talking about here is that guys like Scorcese doing MEAN STREETS were adults, but Wes Anderson is more like a kid?
    OK, maybe I’m just lost. Personally I’d take FIVE EASY PIECES, CHINATOWN and LAST PICTURE SHOW over RUSHMORE, LOST IN TRANSLATION or ADAPTATION, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love the last three films a ton, or think that they won’t become classics in time. But there is a lack of seriousness (for lack of a better word – maybe gravitas?) in our contemporary “great” filmmakers than there was in the 70’s. Even someone like Hal Ashby in a lark of a movie like SHAMPOO – that movie had a very harsh ending…
    And Joe, when you say “The General” I assume you mean Chaplan and not John Boorman? Ha ha…

  32. The Carpetmuncher says:

    It doesn’t get any better than RULES OF THE GAME….

  33. Wrecktum says:

    The General was Keaton, but you knew that.

  34. MAGGA says:

    Depth is one of several elements that can make a movie great. Tarantino did something unique with language, and his structures are always interesting, if not truly new. I would like him to show a more philosophical side, but I doubt it will happen. But there are big, star-driven movies with a lot of ambition whether or not we accept the results as something we value. Fight Club is as radical as Taxi Driver, if a lot more banal, Eternal Sunshine is on the level of Aniie Hall in my opinion. Typically of the different decades, Hall ends the relationship of its characters while Sunshine puts them back together, but it does so in a way that is pretty profound, making them choose it with full knowledge that there will be problems and that it will probably not work out. But how can they not try? Optimism does not equal lack of artistic courage. And Magnolia deals with characters, death, God, childhood and other Bergmanian themes, albeit in a more soap opera-like way. But so does Fanny och Alexander. A.I is, to me, a great, flawed movie, Gus Van Sant at least tries to go routes slightly similar to Antonioni, and Lukas Moodysson has made some great movies, especially Together, which examines the ideals of the generation we seem to be yearning for in a wonderful way, at least as it relates to Scandinavia. And Lilya 4Ever is mindblowing, especially for someone who lives close to where the events depicted happen on a regular basis. There are plenty of great movies, but I too am yearning for something completely new. And that is where all of us have to come in, right?

  35. James Leer says:

    Joe, I love ya, but enough with the “that’s the last time the adults were in charge” and “every generation gets the filmmakers it deserves” blah blah blah. The eighties were a pretty bad decade for moviemaking even though all those same people from the seventies were still around. They just weren’t making movies as well.
    I looove a lot of movies from that period, but it was still a lot of straight American white guys making movies about straight American white guys, and what’s exciting about films today is that we’re getting lots of different stories from all over the world, more so than ever before. So no need to pit one decade or generation against another — they all have great things that any film lover should be psyched about.

  36. bipedalist says:

    It’s important to be reminded of the times we live in. It is pointless to say we don’t have great directors anymore. We don’t have an environment that fosters those directors – maybe we never did. After all, Welles was crushed by the system. To work outside it, say, in Europe gives you more freedom to quietly make movies that ebb and flow. I suppose Woody Allen had that until his public shunned him (will they look back with kinder eyes though? Probably).
    The best directors (so far) are behind us. The best films (so far) may be behind us. But we should reserve the right to change our minds in twenty years time.
    With the emphasis on youth over experience, stardom over obscurity, looks over talent – it doesn’t look promising. Todd Haynes is someone I have great faith in. Van Sant as well – he’ll keep making movies whether or not he has hit a career high point.
    I don’t think we need to drag down Bergman in order to say our filmmakers are pretty good today. We don’t need to compare Tarantino to Bergman (PLEASE GOD).
    What we ought to be thinking is how can we get ourselves off of this extreme highs and extreme lows roller coaster. I do believe that Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg are on their way to becoming in the territory of John Ford. Of the three only Scorsese has been truly revolutionary in terms of art. Spielberg in terms of money and power. Eastwood in terms of career longevity. I look forward to finding a way to bring filmmakers like Bergman steadily along so that they can have a body of work and not just one or two hits.

  37. mutinyco says:

    I think the reason we look at so many of the older films/filmmakers as being greater than those of the modern-day is because the older works and their creators laid the groundwork, so to speak. I think too often we factor in the impact a movie might’ve had over the reality of how well it holds up.
    There are plenty of deities that don’t hold for me. I don’t like Hitchcock and I don’t believe Citizen Kane is the greatest motion picture ever made. But neither of those examples were divinely birthed to the tops of the order — it took decades for their impacts to take hold. Similarly, L’avventura was rated the second greatest movie ever starting in 1962, and currently it never shows up in the top 10. Or now, 2001 and Dr. Strangelove along with Kubrick are getting their overdue respect.
    Are there filmmakers today that are as good as those in the past? Of course. The only questions are whether their works will have the same impact, and whether there’s enough new ground to break? And will their works hold up in time?
    We can try to compare Spielberg to Ford (Spielberg is a much better and more versatile filmmaker, only he doesn’t yet maintain classic status), but ultimately time will be the judge.

  38. Wrecktum says:

    Is it really fair to compare Bergman to any American filmmaker who has to work in the modern American studio sysem? Even “independent” directors are only one degree away from Hollywood.
    Bergman never made a Hollywood film. He never even directed in English. His films grew out of a very insular, very educated postwar Swedish society and had nothing to do with what was coming out of Hollywood during the same era.

  39. hendhogan says:

    i would say the american director that comes the closest is john sayles.

  40. Joe Leydon says:

    Wrektum: Actually, Bergman did make a movie in English — The Touch. Not coincidentally, even he thought it was one of his worst films.
    James: “I looove a lot of movies from that period, but it was still a lot of straight American white guys making movies about straight American white guys…” Er, Jim, I hate to be the one to break this to you, being a straight white guy and all, but in the ’70s, they had these movies called, well, blaxploitation…
    Mutinyco: “I don’t like Hitchcock…” Then, sorry, I suspect something like, oh, I dunno, four-fifths of the filmmakers in the world will never take anything you ever say seriously again. I mean, jeez, even the director of Saw has props for Hitch. “2001 and Dr. Strangelove along with Kubrick are getting their overdue respect.” Precisely when was Kubrick not getting respect?
    Carpetmuncher: “But there is a lack of seriousness (for lack of a better word – maybe gravitas?) in our contemporary “great” filmmakers…” I think that’s the perfect word — gravitas. I mean, I think Quentin Tarantino is a great stylist, but with the arguable exception of Jackie Brown, which of his movies has been about anything other than, well, other movies? On the other hand, if we’re going to discuss great filmmakers who are into real-world concerns: Wes Anderson… Gus van Sant (if, of course, you’re willing to forgive Psycho, which I am)… Spike Lee… Steven Soderbergh… Alejandro Gonz

  41. Sorry to jump in so late in the argument, but I have to call shenanigans on someone’s point…
    “The Gen X and Gen Y generation, which you taught – ONLY – had your rebellious values as a context. Your anarchic tendencies, on a generational level, were the ones that informed them and their art. Hence, Gen X and Gen Y are in a generational sense, the monsters of the baby boomer creation. The monster to your Dr. Frankenstein. We have been taught by the boomers there is no truth in art, no form that can’t be deconstructed, and no answers to questions that are asked.”
    As a Gen Xer and film lover who is married to a Gen Yer and film lover, I showed this statement to my wife and she had the same reaction I did.
    If that is what you have been taught, Nicol, then you should have found better teachers. Neither of my parents have ever been a hundredth as passionate about film as I’ve been over the course of my life, and my wife’s parents were even less passionate about film than mine. Yet both my wife and I, individually and together, have been able to find there much truth in the art of filmmaking, and many answers to questions that are asked. (The part about no form that can’t be deconstructed is basically true of anything in life. All of life can be deconstructed in some way, be it a literal deconstruction or abstract or jejune.) There is as much truth in Harold and Maude today as there was when Colin Higgins wrote it all those years ago. (HOLY FUCK! HAS IT BEEN THIRTY-FIVE YEARS SINCE HAROLD AND MAUDE WAS RELEASED?!?!?!)
    Truth is where you find it. If you cannot find truth in art, you’re either not looking well enough or you’re looking in the wrong place. But please do not lump me or my wife or many of the friends I had in high school a quarter century ago, who are still friends today and have, like myself, migrated to (or in my case, back to) Los Angeles because we found so much truth in the art of cinema, we wanted to make it our lives.
    Thank you.

  42. Wrecktum says:

    Hmmm….The Touch isn’t really discussed in the typical Bergman filmography, is it?

  43. Joe Leydon says:

    Wrecktum: It sure as hell didn’t get mentioned in any of the obits I read today.

  44. mutinyco says:

    My comment regarding Kubrick was in relation to the Sight & Sound poll. 2001 cracked the top 10 starting in ’92. Took a quarter century.
    As for Hitchcock, I’m not sure I care what people think about that opinion. I’m not a critic nor do I pretend to be. He was an expert craftsman. But his stories make no sense, character motivations make no sense, and his actors are mannequins in a Madison Ave. glossy. Personally, I prefer a director who can give me a 3-course meal, not just a slice of cake.

  45. bipedalist says:

    I actually think Hitchcock is underrated, believe it or not. His films rarely hit the top ten of those lists do they? He made some GREAT ones. I just watched The Birds the other day and even overt genre Hitchcock is brilliant. But how can you top Psycho and Vertigo, Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, I Confess…of course the character motivations make sense. His characters are often archtypical: overbearing mother, reluctant bachelor, slutty yet prim blonde leading him down the path of temptation (away from mother). Then there’s the girl with glasses who is jealous of the blonde. With Hitch, it’s not so much the story he’s telling but the way he’s telling it.

  46. jeffmcm says:

    I agree with you, Bipedalist. At the time Hitchcock was demeaned as being just an entertainer with great craft and style, and it appears that has persisted up to today. A movie like Rear Window or Psycho is to me the ultimate cinematic four-course meal. Good thing there are so many books written about him and his films to fill gaps in one’s knowledge.

  47. Noah says:

    I would argue that Spielberg is the Hitchcock of today. Most people write him off as just an entertainer, but I think history will judge him more kindly. Look for my in-depth Spielberg column soon!

  48. “I don’t like Hitchcock”
    Is that not the most absurd thing?
    I’m all for people having difference of opinion, but Hitchcock? Psycho! The Birds! Rear Window! Vertigo! North by Northwest! The list goes on and on…

  49. mutinyco says:

    Yeah, I don’t like Hitchcock.
    I’m not trying to be contrarian, and I’m not rying to change anybody’s mind. Just my personal opinion.
    If a filmmaker today were to make movies with the same kinds of narratives he used (I’m not talking about the Psycho remake) that director would be ridiculed by the critical establishment as making improbable and absurd films. You can’t get away with what he did today. That filmmaker WOULD be considered all style and no substance.
    Part of a director’s job is to be a salesman. The director has to tell a story, no matter how unlikely, but if it’s done well and he has a straight face, he can sell people. (My favorite example is that Spielberg convinced a billion dollars worth of people to fall in love with a rubber puppet in E.T.) Nobody will deny Hitchcock’s mastery of craft, just for me, that mastery isn’t enough to sell me on any of his storytelling or characters. This is exacerbated by the fact that, for the mot part, I’ve always had difficulty getting involved with movies made prior to the mid-to-late-’50s — there’s a certain artifice to the films that acts like an invisible wall denying entry. And that wall makes Hitchcock’s flaws that much more apparent to me.
    Hitchcock was probably the greatest storyboarder of all time, but I have yet to be convinced that he really cared much about anything more than designing the visual language of his pictures and self-promotion.

  50. bipedalist says:

    Ugh, I may faint. “The director has to sell a story.” Since when? When did the artist suddenly become the salesman? When you walk in a museum do you become enraged because of the wall put up by artists you don’t yet get? Does something obscure and difficult to access have to be merely “storyboarding” because it doesn’t make you sob at the end of the movie? What Spielberg did in ET was tell a good weepy, yes. But it was on the nose. It was manipulative. It was formulaic. This from someone who considers Spielberg, and that film, of the best. There is room for both the manipulative storyteller (Spielberg, Capra, James L. Brooks, Mike Nichols…) and the visual artist (Hitchcock, Orson Welles, David Lynch, Antonioni, etc).
    Hitchcock made movies that are thrilling and sometimes creepy, sometimes funny but always blazingly original and always visually stunning. Watch Notorious.
    Be careful, by the way, how you toss around the phrase “I don’t like Hitchcock.” You might find it becomes a “thing,” a distinguishing mark that you feel you must cling to for your whole life so that you stand out from the crowd. If so, you will be missing out.

  51. Ian Sinclair says:

    Mutinyco, you continue to dig your own grave with your garbled and at time utterly inchoherent argument, which has thus far carried all the intellectual weight of a budgerigar with bulimia. This is the sort of trouble people can get into when they don’t really know what they are talking about. It’s the rampant ignorance of your subject that makes your comments risible.
    As for the comment that you have “difficulty getting involved with movies made prior to the mid-to-late-’50s,” because “there’s a certain artifice to the films that acts like an invisible wall denying entry” words fail me. Perhaps all the directors, set designers, cinematographers and their many brothers and sisters in these and other crafts who worked during and prior to this period are suitably chastised to be swept up into the garbage bag of history by such a clueless contrarian.

  52. mutinyco says:

    I’m not missing out. I’ve never been part of any crowd. And I don’t feel the need to cling to my opinion — it’s just my honest reaction to his movies. I used to turn heads by arguing that Scorsese was overrated.
    When I say “salesman” I do mean just that, in terms of narrative filmmaking. The filmmaker needs to sell the audience on what their watching. If the performances are bad you won’t buy it. If the camera and editing are shoddy you won’t buy it. If the plotting goes beyond an accepted limit of suspended disbelief you won’t buy it. Movies aren’t reality, and most make no attempt to be — yet the filmmaker must still create a reality that holds its audience for 2 hours (give or take). Therefore, the director is a salesman.
    But to suggest Hitchcock was a visual artist and NOT a manipulative storyteller is absolutely ridiculous on its face. Hitchcock was the KING of manipulative storytelling! He was a suspense director! That’s what his technique was built upon — manipulation.
    It’s one thing if we’re talking about highly intellectualized directors who don’t give a damn about the mainstream. Fine. But that’s NOT what Hitchcock was. He was the ultimate mainstream director. His movies were extremely accessible and made tons of money. It’s only been the critical establishment sitting on its thumbs for years that have tried to argue he was something more complex than that.

  53. DVertino says:

    Good christ, Mutiny!
    To suggest that a filmmaker has to either care or not care about connecting to the “mainstream”, and that those are the only two choices, shows a complete misunderstanding of the art (and business) of the form.
    Hitch was a master of all of it.
    Your ignorance is stunning.
    Words fail me.

  54. Wrecktum says:

    I would certainly agree that a movie like The Birds is overrated, but Vertigo is a masterpiece in all aspects of the cinematic craft, be it storytelling, character development, mis en scene, acting, editing. Everything.

  55. mutinyco says:

    DVertino, read back through the thread. It was Biped who broke it into those two categories not me. I then used her example to illustrate a point.
    I do find it interesting that offering a rather calm opinion can result in silly hyperbolic responses that make no attempt to contradict what I said other than to try to attack me. I do know what I’m talking about. And if you toned down your emotional reactions you’d see that what I’m saying makes very logical sense. It’s just my opinion. You can disagree with it fine.
    Yeah, Vertigo, as it works for you on every level, fails for me on virtually every level. Rather humiliatingly. It has possibly the least believable plot I’ve ever come accross, and I don’t believe any of the character motivations or emotional expressions. It certainly has interesting themes, and it’s well-shot, but everything else fails for me.

  56. jeffmcm says:

    You can tell you really annoyed Ian Sinclair because he elevated his vocabulary like a skunk waving its tail around.

  57. Ian Sinclair says:

    A three year-old would have a more elevated vocabulary than your own, Jeff; I’ve seen smarter creatures running around a farmyard with their heads chopped off.

  58. Joe Leydon says:

    I’m just curious: Is mutinyco the same person who used to post his little home movies on the Movie City News site?

  59. jeffmcm says:

    Thanks for reaffirming yourself once again, Ian.
    Joe: yes.

  60. Ian Sinclair says:

    Jeff, if you insist on insulting people without provocation, at least have the good manners not to whine when they insult you right back.

  61. Wrecktum says:

    Well, mutinyco, I respect your opinion about Vertigo and I vigorously reject everything you say. A humiliating failure? Who, exactly, has been humiliated by the film? Certainly not Hitchcock. It’s considered not only his personal masterpiece but also one of the greatest films of all time. Granted, at the time it received mixed notices (as did most Hitch movies) and the boxoffice wasn’t stellar (though no means a bomb like some are led to believe).

  62. jeffmcm says:

    I’m pretty sure I didn’t ‘whine’ and the provocation, Ian, was your constant intellectual bullying.

  63. Clycking says:

    Ooh, I remember Ian’s “running around a farmyard” expression from Fawlty Towers. How intelligent ad hominems are! They’re almost good enough to forgo logic entirely.
    Thank goodness some of the commenters here have enlightened me to the truth that people must be wrong if they don’t feel the same way about a piece of art as some critical majority. Such people must have a missing sensus artisticus. Oy vey.

  64. Joe Leydon says:

    If you’d like to expose yourself to some intelligent commentary about movies (and no, this isn’t a plug for me):
    No beheaded chickens. Just flexible thumbs.

  65. David Poland says:

    I have to say, Joe, calling MutinyCo’s work “little hime movies” is shitty and beneath you.
    It is your right not to like them – and they have gotten raves in many quarters – but to dismiss his efforts is not the behavior of someone who cares about film and filmmakers. And I don’t normally think this to be the case with you.

  66. The Carpetmuncher says:

    I never thought VERTIGO was all that either. I didn’t find the plot believable, I think Kim Novak is a bore, and that watching that film is like watching paint dry.
    I am a big Hitchcock fan and do think he’s an important filmmaker, but I wouldn’t put him in the same category as Howard Hawks.
    And I don’t think Speilberg and John Ford are really that close. I’m not either guy’s biggest fan – and I think Ford is highly overrated – but I think Speilberg is by far a superior filmmaker. Speilberg is really today’s Frank Capra IMO. And I do like Capra a lot more than a lot of folks, I’m a big fan.

  67. Joe Leydon says:

    Well, actually, I wrote “little home movies.” (I know — just a typo on your part. But “hime” is too close to an anti-Semitic slur for me to let pass, lest casual readers think it was something I actually wrote.) Which, BTW, isn’t the worst thing that’s been said about his work here.
    And David, for someone who requests a certain degree of decorum on the blog here, I am mildly surprised by your recourse to scatological language. Indeed, the passionate fury of your response leads me inescapably to believe that I have hit some sort of raw rerve.

  68. Wrecktum says:

    Why compare Hitchcock to Hawks? Why must eveything be a comparison here?

  69. Joe Leydon says:

    Wrecktum: Well, they compare Kobe to Jordan, right? And isn’t that the American way?

  70. Wrecktum says:

    You can compare NBA shooting guards. That’s kinda what you’re supposed to do. Comparing one artist to another and then ranking the two is silly and demeans the work of both.
    That said…who’s going to win Best Director this year?????

  71. Chucky in Jersey says:

    All I know is Snyder used to host some shows in the US and Walsh was a footy coach of some variety.
    Tom Snyder, host of the “Tomorrow” show on NBC in the 70’s and 80’s. Also an anchorman for many years in NYC and Philadelphia.
    Bill Walsh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers when they won the Super Bowl in the 80’s. Also did well as athletic director and head football coach at Stanford University.

  72. Blackcloud says:

    For deaths of famous people, nothing will ever–and I mean EVER–top 4 July 1826.

  73. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Lazlo Kovacs was a lovely man, I had the pleasure of working with him a couple of times and he was always such a pro.
    He also shot some of my favorite movies. He’ll be missed.
    Man, they say deaths come in 3’s but this is like triple that, it’s getting ridiculous.

  74. bipedalist says:

    “Little hime movies.” LOL. Talk about your really bad typos!
    It is your right of course to hate Vertigo or whatever and to think Kim Novak is a bore (wasn’t that the whole point of the film and in fact Hitch hated Novak because she insisted upon walking around with no bra on – yes, she was THAT pert). I absolutely love Vertigo. I could watch it every day for the rest of my life and not get tired of it.

  75. Joe Leydon says:

    Bipedalist: Nor am I sure AH cared that much about that plot. Otherwise, I don’t think he would have revealed the “twist” so early and off-handedly.
    BTW: How many folks here have read Hitchcock/Truffaut?

  76. Ian Sinclair says:

    I have. Most of the others here only like the sort of books you colour in with crayons.

  77. Joe Leydon says:

    OK, Ian, admit it: You have a great big goddamn poster of John Cleese in your den, right?
    BTW: You might appreciate this — I thoroughly enjoyed The Bourne Ultimatum, but… It was very startling to see how old Albert Finney looks so soon after catching him on cable in Charlie Bubbles (still one of my all-time faves).

  78. Ian Sinclair says:

    I do not have a large poster of John Cleese in my study. Much as I admire him, it would not work with the paneled oak. I do, however, have a framed, treasured photgraph of Cleese with the two late, great titans of British comedy, Spike Milligan and peter Cook.
    I love the apartment Finney has in Charlie Bubbles. The first reel of that movie with Colin Blakely is so much fun.

  79. James Leer says:

    I have read it as well.
    Also, Joe, to respond to your response:
    “James: “I looove a lot of movies from that period, but it was still a lot of straight American white guys making movies about straight American white guys…” Er, Jim, I hate to be the one to break this to you, being a straight white guy and all, but in the ’70s, they had these movies called, well, blaxploitation…”
    They did indeed! Movies like “Coffy,” “Foxy Brown,” “Cleopatra Jones,” “Sheba Baby”…all, still, made by straight American white guys.
    The point I was trying to make that I think you sidestepped is that nowadays, certain types of people can get behind a camera that historically were not able to. I think that’s an exciting thing, as I’m sure you do, because it will add to the stories being told. So there is a lot to look forward to in film these days.

  80. bipedalist says:

    Joe, but isn’t that the definition of suspense by Hitchcock himself? That he reveals the twist/secret early because he never thought that finding out the surprise was, in itself, the best part of suspense.
    “I need you to be Madeleine for a while.”
    Is it pedestrian of me to have loved John Cleese the best in A Fish Called Wanda? “I Wendy, I wonder…”

  81. Joe Leydon says:

    Ian: For the life of me, I cannot understand why Charlie Bubbles (with the babe-o-licious Billie Whitelaw) has never been released on video in any format in this country. But, then again, there are a surprising number of films from that period — many of them Brit-produced, oddly enough — that have fallen through the cracks. (Joanna and Staircase, for example; I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname, argubaly Michael Winner’s best film, with Oliver Reed’s best performance, was availble on DVD for a while, but now appears to be out of print. And, yes, love that flat with the mutiple video monitors.
    James: Actually, there were SOME black filmmakers in action — including Gordon Parks, Gordon Parks Jr. and Sidney Poitier — but your point is well taken.

  82. jeffmcm says:

    I also have read and own Hitchcock/Truffaut, but I do not have a burnished oak bookcase in which to keep it. Ikea all the way.
    James, you remind me of another point I wanted to make regarding Bergman and Antonioni’s deaths; that if we wanted to find contemporary filmmakers to the two of them, we have to look overseas, to the likes of Kiarostami, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, and Cristi Puiu. Not necessary to restrict ourselves to Sofia Coppola.

  83. Joe Leydon says:

    Bipedalist: You are absolutely right, I was actually trying, clumsily, to support your argument. As I wrote in my book, now available on and at fine bookstores everywhere —
    Vertigo is not so much a neo-gothic thriller as a moody meditation on sexual obsession. On one level, the film is a metaphor for the filmmaking process itself

  84. palmtree says:

    RIP the above. Anyone else go (or going) to the Bergman double bill at the New Bev?
    “I’ve always had difficulty getting involved with movies made prior to the mid-to-late-’50s — there’s a certain artifice to the films that acts like an invisible wall denying entry.”
    Mutinyco, I hear arguments all the time regarding classical music and/or opera. An operatic soprano somehow seems too artificial no matter how beautiful the song may be otherwise. Likewise people feel the orchestral sound is too smooth and not raw enough like an amped guitar.
    The problem is not the artform, but just the fact that different art created in different eras used different conventions to convey their stories. I mean if you watch Chinese opera, all it is are some guys in elaborate face paint, elaborate costumes, and a four-legged table. But depending on the story, the table can be a mountain, the face paint can portray a painful emotion, and the costume can mean he is a king or a pauper. The stories may be fantastic and unrealistic, but that doesn’t make them unenjoyable or emotionally false.
    Well, I’m sure you know all these things, but still…it pains me to hear you say something is artificial when in fact all art is artifice. No doubt in 50 years people will look at movies that seem “real” today and be able to pick out the ways they are “false.”

  85. Joe Leydon says:

    Palmtree: Also, as I warn my students — the day will come when you’ll be tootling around town in your car, with the radio on real loud, and you’ll be enjoying Nelly or Outkast or The Killers… and your kid sitting next to you will complain: “Turn that old crap off!”

  86. mutinyco says:

    I’m not talking about different art forms and their accessibility. I’m talking about the progression of a single art form — the motion picture.
    It’s not my position that movies prior to the mid-20th Century are bad. This is just my own personal opinion based on the reactions I have to those movies in terms of relating to what’s on screen. It’s understood that this very young medium underwent a transformation after WWII. I look at the first 50 years as simply the medium trying to figure itself out. On top of that, at least for American pictures, everything was filtered through both the studio system and the decency code; it wasn’t just a different style or a different era.
    As it’s been noted all over this past week, it’s generally accepted that the post-WWII filmmakers elevated motion pictures into an art form — Bergman, Fellini, Antonioni, Kurosawa, etc. They subsequently inspired the French New Wave. Then there was America’s Vietnam-era filmmaking. And so on. Furthermore, the style of acting began changing during that era as well, as Brando and the like came to prominence.
    The medium was now being carried creatively by generations that had grown up watching and digesting movies. There was a much greater consciousness toward the form. And this coincided with the falling of the old guard which allowed greater freedom to the filmmakers.
    I could try to intellectualize why I don’t connect to those older movies, but, honestly, it’s really more intangible. This isn’t for all movies. Many are very well-made. There’s just a fundamental difference between the first and second halves of the past century.

  87. palmtree says:

    I agree generally with the idea of film as a young medium with kinks being worked out continually.
    However, I would define “the wall defying entry” to be stylistic differences in the medium, usually outside of the control of the artist (all the factors you mention regarding pre-WWII). And to borrow an expression from Stravinsky, great art needs restriction. Greater freedom simply means that now the artist gets to determine more of what restrictions they impose on himself/herself. If you like one period over another, that’s cool…but it’s not because of “improvements” just as paintings did not “improve” with the advent of Impressionism.
    I understand why you might like post-WWII films better. But 50 years is a long infancy. And I thought the French New Wave was also inspired by Hitchcock, John Ford, Howard Hawks, etc. and elevated them to the pantheon.

  88. palmtree says:

    Sorry for the double post.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon