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June 09, 2011

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David Ehrenstein

No mention of Derek Jarman's Blue? This was his final film, made after AIDS took his sight. Against an Yves Klein Blue screen we hear voices -- Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton and briefly Derek himself -- talking about his impending mortality.

Jason M.

My immediate first thought as well, David. Beat me to it.

Tony Dayoub

Man, I wished I'd enjoyed SUPER 8 as much as so many others have. But save for the performances by the entire ensemble (especially Courtney and Fanning), the movie felt like it was pandering to the specific age group of most film critics/bloggers, offering the bribe of nostalgia in return for a good review. That and the cinematic conflict of interest that arises when Spielberg produces a film by a protege paying homage to him made all of the meta-manipulation just a little too overt for me to properly enjoy this movie.

edo

I am very excited for this. Thanks for not opening the mystery box, Glenn!

Glenn Kenny

Oh, much love for "Blue," David and Jason. I presume you both read what the incredibly empathetic churchgoer Dan Kois said about it in his delightful piece about "cultural vegetables:" "I still remember watching Derek Jarman’s 1993 'Blue,'a movie that’s simply 79 minutes of narration over a screen colored an unwavering deep blue. (It’s available on DVD — 'enhanced for wide-screen TVs,' thank goodness.)" Ha! Stupid gay filmmaker and his stupid AIDS-y blindness that he's trying to impose on the NORMAL viewer, now he's DEAD, that'll show him.

Ahem.

Tony, I can respect your not being too impressed by "Super 8," but I don't see the problem as being that specific; I think if Abrams is pandering, he's sincerely pandering to his own actual enthusiasms. That they happen to coincide with the enthusiasms of Devin Faraci is hardly his fault.

James Keepnews

As conceptual art, the late Mr. Jarman's BLUE is so perfect, it's remarkable no one had done it (named a sync-sounded moving picture after its unwavering eponym) before (or had they?). As for my retinas, I ended up hallucinating like crazy by minute 40 and couldn't watch the whole thing. That's on me, certainly. How's it end?

James Keepnews

(Oh man, the insane, literal thoughtlessness of my last comment only dawned on me now. I was trying to make a crack about the formal nature of BLUE, not Mr. Jarman's supernally elegiac content, and if you ever needed an object lesson on the indivisibility of either, here you go. Sorry sorry sorry.)

Tony Dayoub

Glenn, I guess any debate on SUPER 8 will boil down to the question of Abrams's sincerity. Although the aspects of the film dealing with Fanning and Courtney's relationship struck me just as honest and moving as you described it in your review, the Spielberg dressing seemed like a vehicle designed to sell the rest of it, and not as sincere a one as you characterize when you say he's "pandering to his own actual enthusiasms."

I can appreciate a director like De Palma paying homage to Hitchcock. But there's just something a bit self-serving (on both sides) about Abrams paying homage to Spielberg, a man who's actually been a mentor to him and is, himself, producing said homage.

Oliver_C

Does 'Blue' actually qualify as a film -- that is, a *moving* picture?

Glenn Kenny

Well, Oliver, that's the question, isn't it? And I think it's a question "Blue" explicitly poses, and leaves hanging. Obviously Jarman made it to be shown in cinemas. It's an interesting example of what you could call the cinema of contingency; that is, as with late Antonioni, its form was determined, if not dictated, by the physical condition of the filmmaker. And that of course is also the film's theme. That Kois decided to shunt all this aside for the sake of making a "can-you-believe-this?" nudge to the reader is disingenuous, coy (if you'll pardon the word) and ultimately morally repugnant in a way that none of his other derisions in the essay are. And that this description comes directly prior to his writing "as a film critic" (a phrase my wife still gets a big laugh out of) is just...well, I GUESS it's kind of funny.

David Ehrenstein

Somebody should strap Kois down "Clockwork Orange" style and force him to watch "India Song."

jbryant

That sampling of reviews compiled by Metacritic below your piece on THE TRIP seems to be referring to about 8 different films.

Brian Dauth

Glenn: I love the concept of "cinema of contingency." Thank you.

David Ehrenstein

Better still the creep should be force-fed Michael Snow's "Rameau's Nephew By Diderot(Thanx to Denis Young) By Wilma Schoen" It's 5 hours of sheer avant-garde bliss!

edo

"I can appreciate a director like De Palma paying homage to Hitchcock. But there's just something a bit self-serving (on both sides) about Abrams paying homage to Spielberg, a man who's actually been a mentor to him and is, himself, producing said homage."

I haven't seen the film yet, but this sounds like more of a moral question than an aesthetic one, and, given that, it's unclear to me what exactly is making you uncomfortable about the partnership between Abrams and Spielberg. What is wrong with parlaying one's personal, idiosyncratic enthusiasms, fetishes, or feelings of nostalgia into fodder for popular entertainment? And, in Spielberg's place as mentor, what is wrong with capitalizing on someone else's admiration for your past work? It seems to me that SUPER 8 is basically selling a particular kind of experience, a thoroughly modern bit of entertainment that's also a throwback to another era (much like STAR TREK was). It just so happens that, in this case, Abrams may be committed to the concept personally as well as commercially. If that ends up meaning that his commitment as a filmmaker is all the stronger, then can't that just be for the better?

Quentin Tarantino, for another, does this all the time, both to his own and others' benefits (think of all the actors whose careers he has either rejuvenated or upgraded). In his case, it can start to feel a bit self-aggrandizing and indulgent, and that can be tiresome, like having to listen to a friend go on at length (for like the fifth time) about the time they got to shoot the shit with their favorite celebrity, but I think that's because Tarantino often gets so absorbed by the process of exploring his fantasies that he loses sight of what exactly he's making a film about.

In both cases, I don't think it's a moral issue, but a question of different attitudes toward filmmaking and the kind of relationship a movie can create with an audience. Abrams seems like a born entertainer with real talent and instinct, and I'm glad that Hollywood still has one of those.

Lex

I don't know why, but I always had this sense that Hitchcock would've thought DePalma was just straight ripping him off and kind of a dick, and ALWAYS got the sense Altman was such a prick he wasn't exactly flattered by Paul Thomas Anderson. It must suck finding out your hero thinks you're a dick, kind of how on Harlem Nights allegedly Pryor and Murphy didn't really get along. Like if I met Michael Bay and he thought I was a douche and flushed my head down a toilet, I'd be all "Fuck that guy!" I wouldn't make 20 more movies riffing on his style like DePalma did with Hitch.

And bringing it on home, the cynic in me ALWAYS thought it sounded like Spielberg was WAY overstating his great partnership and friendship with "Stanley." Always suspected like Kubrick called him once or twice about lenses or something and that was it.

Lens flares are delightful. JJ Abrams GETS PAID, so all shall bow.

Tom Block

Altman must've have thought Anderson's just a little prick if he thought of him that way at all--PTA was on-set as the backup hitter for "A Prairie Home Companion".

Lex

I'm well aware PTA was on the Prairie set. I still tend to suspect Altman didn't like it, or him, or anyone, or anything.

Genius or not, Altman always struck me as an epic asshole who hated everyone.

Tom Block

That's ridiculous.

Glenn Kenny

Altman liked Dan Blocker, so there's that.

And yeah, I don't have a source on me, but I do recall that Hitchcock was not at all happy with DePalma's "homage" "Obsession."

Oliver_C

'In 1972 a talented young director named Brian De Palma, believing Bernard Herrmann dead, requested a Herrmann-like composer for his Hitchcockian thriller Sisters. When he learned, to his delight, that Herrmann was not only alive but hungry for film work, the director immediately set up a meeting in order to screen a print of the film for Herrmann. Believing that it would give Herrmann an idea of the kind of music he wanted for his film, De Palma arranged to have the soundtrack of Marnie played under the dialogue. Herrmann was not amused, and began thumping his cane against the floor threateningly. When De Palma, dumbfounded, warily asked Herrmann what the problem was, Herrmann berated him mercilessly for presuming to suggest how he should score the film. "But Hitchcock," De Palma pleaded. "You, Sir," replied Herrmann icily "are not Hitchcock."'

http://www.bernardherrmann.org/articles/misc/torncurtain/

Jason M.

Back to Derek Jarman's 'Blue', for a moment, in response to your question, Oliver_C, I found it pretty damn moving. The actual image, of course, maybe not quite so much.

bill

"And yeah, I don't have a source on me, but I do recall that Hitchcock was not at all happy with DePalma's 'homage' 'Obsession.'"

That makes two of us.

lipranzer

Three of us (though my problems with OBSESSION are as much to do with its leading man - a fine character actor who doesn't quite fit the role - as it does with DePalma's aping Hitchcock, which he's done better in other films).

I'm surprised in the Abrams/Spielberg "is this sincere homage or cynical rip-off" discussion no one's invoked Sonny Boy Williamson, who reportedly said of the British rockers of the 60's who revered his work, "Those Englishmen want to play the blues so bad, and they play it so bad!" I do think Abrams is better and more sincere than other Spielberg wannabes like Roland Emmerich and especially Michael Bay, but he doesn't quite have the knack at making the emotion completely honest or integrating the special effects within the story, rather than having them overwhelm the story, like Spielberg does at his best. SUPER 8, for me, was entertaining, but could have been better. That said, even if Kyle Chandler does little more than his "Friday Night Lights" persona, he's at least good at it, and anchors the movie, and Elle Fanning is as good as advertised.

I loved THE TRIP, though I have a weakness for movies that seem to be about nothing and yet are about...well, "everything" is a strong word, but it actually covers quite a bit, and is more melancholy than you'd think (and as hilarious as advertised).

edo

Lipranzer, I don't think anyone has suggested, not even Tony D., that it's a matter of whether Abrams is cynically ripping off Spielberg. It's more of whether one thinks he is capitalizing on the nostalgic appeal of the film's throwback premise (which of course he is!) and whether that's a bad thing (I think not...). Also, I think the parallel between Hitchcock/DePalma and Spielberg/Abrams is really off the mark. De Palma apes Hitchcock, and other filmmakers, in very precise stylistic terms down to how he constructs sequences from shot-to-shot. Abrams has his own manner. As do Emmerich and Bay, for that matter. I don't think any of them are Spielberg "wannabes". That just seems like an unexamined presumption based on the fact that all four of the above are primarily directors of big summer blockbusters.

Andy

"But there's just something a bit self-serving (on both sides) about Abrams paying homage to Spielberg, a man who's actually been a mentor to him and is, himself, producing said homage."

Sonic Youth putting out early Blonde Redhead, the Beatles and Badfinger, Altman and Rudolph...people love to hear echoes of themselves.

Article Submission

I think audience reaction is a different thing than talking in a theater. Enthusiasm is always welcome. Thanks for the post!
Article Submission Directories

Joseph McBride

I attended a small private screening of Truffaut's THE STORY OF ADELE H. in Beverly Hills at the time of its release. There were about twelve people in the screening room, including Jeff Bridges and Brian De Palma (not together). De Palma seemed in a somewhat, shall we say, elevated state of consciousness. After the movie, he stood up and went into an embarrassing rant about how he was a better director than Truffaut. Then he added that he was a better director than HITCHCOCK too. Incroyable but true. This of course is highly ironic since DePalma spent much of his career stealing from Hitchcock.

Glenn Kenny

@ Joseph McBride: Wow. As my friend Howard Karren likes to say, "LOP." (Lot Of Problems)

Mark Asch

So what did Jeff Bridges think of THE STORY OF ADELE H., then?

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