Film Writing Nov. 2016 – April 2017

It’s been awhile. Work obligations, as well as personal projects and other responsibilities, have taken precedence over updating my blogs. Of course, you can always find me on my Tumblr as well as Twitter & Facebook. Before I let another month get away, I thought I’d finally share an update to the film writing I’ve done for the last 6 months.

I’ve broken topics up into 4 categories (Horror Cinema, British Cinema, Japanese Cinema and Other) since I tend to focus on 3 subjects more than any others. Hopefully, it will make it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for. As always, I write about film every week for FilmStruck’s Streamline blog and you can find my latest updates here:


Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Horror Cinema:
Devil’ Advocate: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Venomous Snakes & Poison Ants: Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
A Double Dose of Boris Karloff
The Devil Made me Do It: La Main Du Diablo (1943)
An Actor’s Revenge: Theatre of Blood (1973)


The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

British Cinema:
Angry Cinema: The British New Wave
Losey Let Loose: The Criminal (1960)
Margaret Lockwood is The Wicked Lady (1945)
Equal Shares For All: The League of Gentlemen (1960)


Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Japanese Cinema:
– Screen Sorcery: Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
Nippon Noir: Celebrate #noirvember with FilmStruck
Everyone’s Gone Crazy: Violent Cop (1989)
Tokyo Gone Gagaga: Otaku (1994) The film is actually an international production directed by French filmmaker Chris Marker but the focus is on Japan


Red Desert (1964)

Surveying the Red Desert (1964)
My Melancholy Valentine: Dans Paris (2006)
There Are No Safe Spaces: An Arturo Ripstein Double Feature
Adventure in Istanbul: Topkapi (1964)
Joan Bennett: Fritz Lang’s Muse
Stranger Than Fiction: The Baron of Arizona (1949)
Creative Collaboration: Jane B. par Agnès V. (1988)
Adolescent Adventure: The World of Henry Orient (1964)
The Search for Common Ground: A Separation (2011)
Strokes of Genius: Moulin Rouge (1952)
The Future is Now: Remembrance of Things to Come (2001)

They said WHAT?!

Dirk & Monica
Dirk Bograde & Monica Vittii in Modesty Blaise (1966)

From my latest piece at the the Movie Morlocks:

“In June actor Harrison Ford made news after publicly calling, Shia LaBeouf, his young costar from INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (Steven Spielberg; 2008) “…a f–king idiot.” Since then I’ve been thinking about insults that actors have hurled at other actors over the years and a recent piece at Flavorwire titled “The 30 Harshest Filmmaker-on-Filmmaker Insults In History” compelled me to compile a list of 30 of the worst actor-on actor insults I’ve come across. Some of them are surprisingly crude so I thought I should worn potential readers before they plunge ahead. Let the war of words begin…”

A few choice examples:

Bette Davis on Joan Crawford: “I wouldn’t piss on her if she was on fire.”

Dirk Bogarde on Monica Vitti: “I’ve fallen deeply in love with every woman I’ve ever worked with except Monica Vitti. She was a beast.”

Oliver Reed on Jack Nicolson: “Nicholson? As far as I’m concerned, he’s a balding midget. He stands five-foot-seven, you know. He tries to play heavies and doesn’t quite make it.”

Richard Harris on Michael Caine: “An over-fat, flatulent, 62-year-old windbag. A master of inconsequence masquerading as a guru, passing off his vast limitations as pious virtues.”

Want to read more actor-on actor insults? Make your way over to the Movie Morlocks!
They said WHAT?! Classic Insults from Classic Actors @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

The Eyes Have It

My blogging buddy Peter Nellhaus over at Coffee, Coffee and more Coffee has asked me to contribute my own list of “20 Favorite Actresses” to a new film meme making the rounds of the blogosphere. Frankly I was just going to blow him off and ignore his request because these meme things tend to make me nuts but Peter is too nice a guy to ignore. I tried to throw caution to the wind and just quickly put together a list of 20 of my favorite actresses, but as usual I spent way too much time thinking about this and managed to give myself a headache in the process. This meme madness must end! But at least it gave me an excuse to post a bunch of fabulous photos of some of my favorite actresses.

Naturally I ignored the rules and decided to post a list of 23 40 favorite actresses instead of limiting myself to only 20. My list could have been even longer and I’m sure I’ll regret forgetting to include a few more favorites but over time I felt the need to keep adding to the list and finally just doubled the size. Some of these talented and lovely women were never offered the better roles they so richly deserved, while others are acclaimed Academy Award winners and celebrated Hollywood legends. They do have a couple of things in common though; they’ve appeared in a lot of great movies and I never get tired of watching them!

So without further blabbering, here are 20 50 Women I Love Watching . . .

Elizabeth Taylor

Monica Vitti

Sarah Miles

Julie Christie

Barbara Steele

Charlotte Rampling

Kim Novak

Anna Karina

Carroll Baker

Meiko Kaji

Catherine Deneuve

Isabelle Adjani

Brigitte Bardot

Natalie Wood

Deborah Kerr

Sophia Loren

Gene Tierney

Glenda Jackson

Ava Gardner

Ursula Andress

Delphine Seyrig


Edwige Fenech

Ingrid Pitt

Judy Garland

Florinda Bolkan

Marisa Mell

Katharine Hepburn

Soledad Miranda

Barbara Shelley

Bette Davis

Pamela Franklin

Barbra Streisand

Claudia Cardinale

Anita Ekberg

Paula Prentiss

Geneviève Bujold

Marlene Clark

Diana Rigg

Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer

Alida Valli
Alida Valli

Jenny Agutter
Jenny Agutter

Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate
Pam Grier
Pam Grier
Gayle Hunnicutt
Gayle Hunnicut
Linda Hayden
Linda Hayden
Samantha Eggar
Samantha Eggar
Raquel Welch
Raquel Welch
Suzy Kendall
Suzy Kendall
Ewa Aulin
Ewa Aulin

Michelangelo Antonioni 1912 – 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni 1912 - 2007

You ask what you should watch. I ask how I should live. It’s the same thing.
– Corrado Zeller (Richard Harris) in Antonioni’s The Red Desert (1964)

Cinephiles have suffered some great losses in recent days with the death of Ingmar Bergman, actor Michel Serrault and now Michelangelo Antonioni. I was really touched by all the great tributes I read to Bergman yesterday but I never became too personally involved with Bergman’s work myself. I admired the man greatly and seriously respected his influence which was obviously enormous, but in all honesty my personal relationship with Bergman could never come close to the long lasting and personal one I share with Michelangelo Antonioni.

My first introduction to Antonioni was on a rainy Sunday afternoon when I was only about 12 years old back in the early 1980s. I was at home watching television when suddenly good old channel 2 in the Bay Area started to run Blow-up. At first I kept watching because I thought actor David Hemmings was incredibly cute, but as the film went on I became more and more drawn into the film’s mysteries and silences. While I enjoyed the swinging London setting and the sudden excitement of hearing the Yardbirds perform “Train Kept A-Rollin”, as well as the colorful and frenetic moments of Hemmings’ character shooting beautiful British models with his camera, it was really the silence and the isolation infusing Antonioni’s Blow-up that truly touched me and fascinated me in ways that few other films previously had. Once the movie had ended I knew I had seen something very special. I can remember trying to explain the film to friends and having trouble finding the words. At the time I was alone in my appreciation for the film but that was okay with me.

As the years passed I would see more of Michelangelo Antonioni’s films and I would also continue to feel more alone and isolated from a world which contained astonishing landscapes and breathtaking beauty while often remaining extremely cold and incomprehensible to me. Antonioni captured the world I saw and experienced with his camera. His films have made me appreciate and understand human loneliness and isolation in ways that few artists have. I’ve been moved and deeply touched by his work, which seemed to grasp at beauty in the most unexpected places and embrace the mystery of life that so many other artists, directors and human beings run away from or try to avoid and fill up with noise.

Appreciating the silence in life is essential to appreciating the work of Antonioni.

I’m often astonished by the amount of talking that characters do in film after film. When I was younger I would watch movies directed by the brilliant Woody Allen, or countless wonderful Howard Hawks’ comedies and be surprised and utterly entranced by the amazing communication and humor shared between characters and the deep feelings openly expressed in countless monologues. And while I appreciate well-written dialogue, the real world around me has always been rather silent. In my experience people rarely communicate. We might chat about life, work and family but it is often just surface nonsense with very little substance to it. Real relationships are hard to foster. True friendships are rare and should be treasured. We seem to be naturally guarded creatures who roam the world alone and finally die alone, no matter how deep our relationships are with friends and family. Michelangelo Antonioni understood this like no other director I’ve ever encountered.

L' Eclisse (1962)
Monica Vitti and Alain Delon in L’ Eclisse (1962)

Antonioni often tossed out convention when he made his films and embraced ambiguity. He knew that real life was full of questions that rarely had answers and he knew human behavior was often unpredictable and motivated by the incomprehensible interior life of every individual. He brought all of this truth to his films and I love him for it. I’m grateful that the world I know was so beautifully captured and shown to me through his camera. Antonioni was able to communicate with me in ways that few other artists and human beings have been able to and I’ll be forever grateful to him for that. Within Antonioni’s silences I heard symphonies.

Unfortunately it hasn’t always been very easy to see Antonioni’s films. In recent years that has changed due to companies like Criterion which have been making Antonioni’s films more accessible to American audiences, but I’ve still only seen L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961), L’Eclisse (1962), Red Desert (1964), Blow Up (1966) and The Passenger (1975) myself. Each of his films has resonated deep within me and I’d have a hard time leaving any of them off a list of “Favorite Films” that I might put together.

With Bergman’s death and now Antonioni’s passing, critics are bemoaning the lack of respect these directors seem to have with modern audiences but I think it’s ridiculous to weigh their incredible achievements against popular opinion. Antonioni’s work is so incredibly modern that it still confounds critics and divides audiences. If that isn’t the mark of an important filmmaker who’s work is still worth exploring and has much to offer current audiences, I don’t know what is. I have no doubt that Antonioni’s films will be appreciated for years to come and new generations of film lovers will find themselves discovering his work and being as deeply moved by it as I have been.

Links to some Michelangelo Antonioni film trailers on YouTube:
L’ Avventura (1960)
L’ Eclisse (1962)
Blow-up (1966)
Zabriskie Point (1970)
The Passenger (1975)

Vive La France!

The Cannes Film Festival turns 60 this week and that’s reason enough to celebrate all things fabulous and French, so I plan on doing just that throughout the next week until the festival wraps up.

I haven’t come across many books written about the early days of Cannes but I can recommend Cannes – Fifty Years of Sun, Sex & Celluloid: Behind the Scenes at the World’s Most Famous Film Festival compiled by the editors of Variety. This thin cheap large-format paperback book only has 96 pages and it’s put together like some scrapbook that you might come across in a film critics old file cabinet. It contains lots of great black and white photos of directors and actors, plus news clippings and articles about the festival written by various journalists and critics between 1946 and 1996. This is not an in-depth look at the history of Cannes, but if you’re looking for some quick and interesting reading about the film festival with lots if pretty pics, the book is definitely worth picking up.

Here’s a few examples of the writing you can find in Cannes – Fifty Years of Sun, Sex & Celluloid: Behind the Scenes at the World’s Most Famous Film Festival:

Employees of the French film industry take to the streets in protest (1968)

Barricade ’68: The Day They Seized the Celluloid
by Penelope Houston (Sight & Sound)

“May 18, 1968 – The day the brakes were slammed on the 21st Cannes Film Festival. In Paris, the students had carried their grievances from their suburban campuses onto the city streets. The barricades went up and riot police moved in. A rather frail alliance between students and workers brought waves of strikes. For a few days, it seemed that France really might be balancing on the edge of revolution. And in Cannes, predictably, they launched their revolution with a press conference.

François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard presided over the conference on the morning of May 18. These were filmmakers who had been most active three months earlier in the battle of the Cinematheque Francaise, when Arts Minister Andre Malraux sacked Henri Langlois, the powerfully charismatic founder and head of the Cinematheque. Langlois was reinstated, though with reduced powers, after a protest that involved the French film community, filmmakers from around the world, the major American companies and an interesting sprinkling of left-wingers. Journalists expected Truffaut and Godard to use the publicity spotlight of Cannes and the impetus of the Cinematheque triumph to press their grievances against the Gaullist film establishment. They were in for a shock.

Truffaut and Godard called an immediate halt to the festival, to show solidarity with students and workers and as a response to the national crisis. The occasion was well-timed. Jurors Louis Malle, Roman Polanski and Monica Vitti were on hand to announce their own resignations. French filmmakers promised to withdraw their films; others, including Milos Forman and Carlos Saura, joined them. Still others jumped up to say they would have withdrawn their films if they had been in competition, which unfortunately they were not. I bumped into Richard Lester, hurrying to record his protest. This being the year of flower power and gurus, the British director was wearing what at first looked like a white frock, but what in fact was an Indian-style tunic. Somehow, this rig seemed to fit the surrealism of the day.”

Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford at Cannes promoting Jeremiah Johnson (1972)

May 12, 1972 – Sunshine, Darkness, Nixon, Schizophrenia.
by Charles Champlin (L. A. Times)

“There is something bizarre and conceivably lunatic about coming to the sun-bleached shores of the Mediterranean with a total commitment to darkness

Along the Criosette, the local ladies are airing the local poodles and the international wanderers, vagabonds in jeans, already have spread displays of brass and silver jewelry, leather work and watercolors on the sidewalks. At the outdoor cafe alongside the Palais, the day’s debut has already begun over cups of coffee the color and texture of the Mississippi in flood tide.

The cinema is packed but even the early arrivals sit down front. Godard and the New Wave critics made it an article of faith that film should be a total, enveloping and developing experience, seen from as close up as vertebrae and eyeballs will allow.

Into the sunshine again briefly for lunch at one of the sidewalk cafes. A salade Nicoise and some eau minerale, in a desperate move to prevent the festival from becoming a total caloric disaster.

Back into the darkness again. The stage of the Palais theater has been set with artificial grass and flowers arranged to spell out XXV, this being the 25th festival, though it is the 26th year (1968 was a no-show). The plastic plants have an eerie glow in the dim light, hinting that nothing real any longer exists anywhere. There is a kind of urgent rustling of newspapers; half the waiting audience is reading accounts of the Nixon speech. The feelings of unreality are deepened.

The movie is Robert Altman’s Images, the Irish entry in festival mostly because it was filmed there. Susannah York plays a children’s author in advanced stages of paranoid schizophrenia, hearing voices, seeing dead lovers and being bedeviled by glimpses of her own accusing self. It is a dazzling piece of moviemaking and mood-spinning.”

There’s some great old clips from Cannes floating around Youtube that I highly recommend giving a look:

1962A feature about pretty aspiring starlettes who come to Cannes with hope of becoming the next Brigitte Bardot. François Truffaut is interviewed and a beat band plays.

1965A young and very cute Sean Connery, along with the beautiful Claudine Auger, at Cannes promoting the latest James Bond film Thunderball.

1970Lots of footage of the festival featuring the lovely Candice Bergen, who is also interviewed.

1973The beautiful diva Diana Ross in Cannes promoting Lady Sings The Blues.

1979Francis Ford Coppola explains Apocalypse Now to the press at Cannes.

More vintage clips from Cannes can be found at the wonderful TSR Archives site.

Extra reading:

GirishOn Henri Langlois.

Moon In The Gutter On Life with Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel.

FlickheadThe fabulous Claude Chabrol Project