Police barricades, yelling demonstrators, hectoring politicians and bitter press harangues — and all this after settling a summertime labor dispute with IATSE Local 1? No, this is not how the world’s greatest opera house, the Metropolitan Opera, expected to stage its 2014-2015 season.
Continue reading ‘John Adams and The Death of Klinghoffer: Protests at the Met’
Jean-Luc Godard, pixelated
Only a few ripples remain. When the critic-filmmakers of the New Wave surged against the ramparts of the French “Tradition of Quality,” sweeping away in Cahiers du Cinema the detritus of many post World War II movies, they introduced a revitalized Gallic cinematic spirit, an élan as fresh as when Gance, Delluc, Epstein, Pagnol, Cocteau, Vigo, Clair, Renoir and Carne made French cinema an artistic equal of Hollywood in the 1920s and ’30s.
Continue reading ‘Godard and Goodbye to Language‘
Bruegel’s Way to Calvary
According to art historians Giovanni Arpino and Piero Bianconi, there are more than 500 figures in the painting — that is, in addition to 40 horses, 20 birds and at least eight dogs. The oil panel is not small; Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s second largest work, Way to Calvary, measures about 4’ by 5½’. That’s a lot of life to cram onto a wooden board. Yet, except for a few clusters of silhouetted figures in the deep distance, every one of Bruegel’s people is an individual, and every expression, gesture and activity its own cog in the great mill wheel of life.
Continue reading ‘Lech Majewski Meets Bruegel on the Way to Calvary‘
Freddie Francis with a Mitchell BNC.
On the evening of March 26, 1990, cinematographer/director Freddie Francis made a brief but noteworthy speech on accepting his Academy Award for Glory. After a quick mention of producer Freddie Fields and director Ed Zwick, he said, “I’m only going to pick out one guy to thank, and that’s my wonderful operator, Gordon Hayman.” (Hayman’s name had been left off the film’s credits. He operated for Francis frequently from The French Lieutenant’s Woman to The Straight Story, Francis’ last assignment.)
The Innocents. From left: Director Jack Clayton, camera operator Ronnie Taylor and Freddie Francis.
The 72-year-old cinematographer concluded with, “And we’re available from September.” Both sentences were typical of the generous and indefatigable man who, though widely known as one of the greatest English cinematographers, also directed nearly two dozen features (plus television) between 1962 and 1989.
Continue reading ‘Freddie Francis and The Innocents‘
Rob Whitworth’s equipment
Passport? Check. Sneakers? Check? Ramen and espresso maker? Check. Oh, and a couple of Nikons with prime and zoom lenses, a tripod, the all-important ND filters for extended exposures, and a laptop loaded with After Effects.
Shanghai based time-lapse filmmaker Rob Whitworth is ready to hop on a plane to any of the world’s capital cities and take you on a dazzling tour of its vistas and the intricate patterns of its frenetic people and traffic.
Continue reading ‘Stop, Go, Stop, Go: Rob Whitworth and Time Lapse’
Unlike 405,399 of their fellow American servicemen (according to the Department of Veterans Affairs), John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler and Frank Capra did return from the trauma of the Second World War. But they were, like all of the “greatest generation” soldiers, profoundly changed by the experience.
Continue reading ‘Mark Harris: Five Came Back‘
A few weeks ago, I received a gracious comment from Austrian photographer Reiner Riedler on my recent post about his photographs of motion-picture print reels. I was disappointed that I had been unable to contact him directly for an interview because interviewing artists for these essays has been one of the payoffs of the writing.
Continue reading ‘A View from the Blog’
So intense are the narrative thru-line and emotional arc of Dimitri Kirsanoff’s 1926 film Ménilmontant that it is one of the few silent films without intertitles. The opening and closing scenes of graphic murder remain shocking today. Its sometimes frenetic but often poetic evocation of Parisian streets and the ominous waters of the Seine center it both in the 1920s tradition of urban documentary, as in films of Vertov, Ruttman and Siodmak, and in the mythic-poetic visions of Rene Clair, Man Ray and Buñuel.
Continue reading ‘Cinema Poet/Provocateur: Dimitri Kirsanoff’
Robert Hughes contemplating De Chirico
After critic Robert Hughes leaves art collector Alberto Mugrabi’s apartment at the end of his 2008 BBC documentary The Mona Lisa Curse, Mugrabi, breathing a sigh of relief, whispers, “He’s a tough cookie.” To call Time magazine’s uber-articulate, uber-opinionated former art critic a “tough cookie” is like calling Hurricane Katrina a “storm.”
Continue reading ‘‘A Bloody Ex-Pat’ and ‘The Mona Lisa Curse’’
Cabbage Hill, Oregon
“All photographs are self-portraits.”
“The photographer projects himself into everything he sees, identifying himself with everything in order to know it and to feel it better.”
These are just two of Minor White’s famous epigrams. He could easily have published a quotable photographic Little Red Book of Mao, so apt are his thoughts on his art form. It would be an appropriate companion to Robert Bresson’s Notes on the Cinematographer, which I wrote about in May 2011.
Continue reading ‘Minor White at the Getty’