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November 29, 2010


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Mat Viola


I’m glad you mentioned Loving – a keenly observed study of middle-class discontent which belongs squarely in the Expressive Esoterica category. I’m curious what you mean by “prophetic”, though. I assume you’re referring to the farcical/dramatic climax in which Segal’s extramarital dalliance is caught on closed-circuit television - much the way similar “indiscretions” are today being broadcast on various media.



"RoboCop 2 is as close to a genuine, out-and-out fascist motion picture than anything Hollywood has ever produced."

'300' comes closer, surely? (Or should that be, "Shirley"? ;-) Of course, the common factor is Mr. Miller.

Remember the days when Miller was a Japanophile libertarian, whose work expressed suspicion of those in power, and not a foaming-at-the-mouth, conscription-advocating NeoCon?

Robert Cashill

Kershner also directed another, unsung sequel, 1976's THE RETURN OF A MAN CALLED HORSE. Maybe not as magnificent as Pauline Kael (his girlfriend? One-time flame?) claimed, but I think better than the original.

And THE EYES OF LAURA MARS is straight-up 70s studio sleaze with an "arty" edge.

Adam K

I've always delighted in George C. Scott's perf in Kershner's THE FLIM-FLAM MAN.

Account Deleted

Very sad... The Empire Strikes Back was a monumental part of my childhood. Farewell, and thank you.


Kerschner was definitely hard to get a handle on, but he made a number of good films. I liked his precocious debut, STAKEOUT ON DOPE STREET, which was one of James Ellroy's picks when he was guest programmer on TCM a while back. It's like Roger Corman meets DRAGNET meets THE KILLING. And LOVING is great; superbly visualized (Gordon Willis was DP), very adult and sophisticated in a way that doesn't interest the studios much anymore. I thought it played very much like the stuff Claude Sautet was doing during the same period.


Very sad news-- like marki, EMPIRE was (and still is) a big part of my cinephilia. And I'll stick up for NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN: like its loose inspiration, THUNDERBALL, it falls apart until the end, but Kershner gets superb performances out of Connery (much, much better here than in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER or YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE), an eerie Klaus Maria Brandauer, and a very witty Barbara Carrera. Its credits sequence action is well-staged, and in Edward Fox's M and Alec McCowen's Q Kershner has fun both tweaking the Bond tropes and poking fun at Thatcher's England in a manner not dissimilar to what Richard Lester does with Wilsonian Britain in HELP and A HARD DAY'S NIGHT. The 80s video-game showdown and Kim Basinger's lousy acting haven't aged well, but it's certainly a more consistently enjoyable Bond film than OCTOPUSSY or A VIEW TO A KILL, its theatrical contemporaries.


Oops- that should be "falls apart at the end" above.


Clearly I haven't seen most of his stuff, but I truly marvel at how he was able to give ESB EVERYTHING (and under GL's powerful eye) all 5 other films were lacking. it just oozes greatness.


I just re-watched LAST TEMPTATION this weekend for the first time in a few years. I've always loved Kirshner's delivery in Zebedee's confrontation with Jesus during the stoning scene.

"Listen to him! He doesn't want this. Well, *we* want it."
"We don't have to TELL you why!!!"

Comes perilously close to camp but he makes it work, even if it does make me chuckle each time.

Greg Ferrara

THE LUCK OF GINGER COFFEY had a profound effect on me as a budding cinephile and I wish more people were familiar with it. He had real talent for getting to the character's insides, I think. Wish he'd done more.


THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK has the distinction of being one of three films I've walked out on midway through. At roughly the one hour mark, its hollow grandstanding became unbearably boring. Kirschner was a better director than Lucas (who isn't?), but at least the film which it followed attempted to move what little story it possessed at something of a clip.

NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN has the finest cast ever assembled for a Bond movie, even though it was not part of the Cubby Broccoli series: Sean Connery, Max von Sydow, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Kim Basinger, Barbara Carrera, Bernie Casey, Alec McCowan, Edward Fox, even Rowan Atkinson. And, despite years of preparation on the part of the producers, it's sluggish, drawn down by action scenes that are incompetently staged and edited, the tale of hijacked nuclear bombs meandering on without an ounce of tension, the humor unfunny. It does have, however, Barbara Carrera's best performance, and whenever she's onscreen the film comes to life, sometimes magnificently so. When her character dies (too early), the picture flatlines. Unless I'm mistaken, Kirschner credited Carrera for the characterization and let her have her way with the part -- which then excludes him from receiving any credit for it.

THE LUCK OF GINGER COFFEY seems to me generic Kitchen Sink. A FINE MADNESS is virtually unwatchable, that rare film that makes one want to strangle Joanne Woodward. THE FLIM FLAM MAN is another generic 60s concoction with an amusing George C. Scott performance and a bouncy Jerry Goldsmith theme that's been rattling in my head for forty-three years from back when I saw it first run.

If there's an auteur at work here, color me blind.

Mr. Peel

Here's Barbara Carrera (a personal favorite of mine) on Irvin Kershner in THE BATTLE FOR BOND, a very good book that details the history of the THUNDERBALL property from its beginnings in the late 50s all the way through to NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN and beyond: "To me he's the greatest because he was the first director who allowed me to pull out all the stops. He allowed me to take control of this character. When I came to him with ideas he did not reject them, in fact he listened and then he enhanced them. I've never had that relationship with a director again. As an actor one yearns for this kind of work where one can be very creative and have the support of those around you to help you be creative. And I had that on this film. It was the first and the last."


Jbbryant - that's a very apt comparison you make with LOVING and Sautet's work (I'm a big fan of his as well). Though I still admit to liking the now much-derided "suburbia sucks" films of the late 90's (THE ICE STORM, AMERICAN BEAUTY), I fully admit LOVING is better than both (and was arguably a big influence on both). And sorry, Flickhead, but I don't think EMPIRE is full of "hollow grandstanding"; I think it dispenses with most of the clunky dialogue of the previous installment, contains the same excitement, and builds to something more involving than the previous installment did. Not a fan of NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, though I attribute that to the fact I wasn't a fan of the original either.

Dan Coyle

You know, it was an untold legend in comics that Frank Miller's original Robocop 2 script, before it was rewritten by Miller himself Walon Green (among others), was really good, so good, that Avatar Press had Miller's friend Steven Grant adapt it for comics about six years ago as Frank Miller's Robocop.

In that particular case, the legend should not have been printed. Because if you thought the movie was incoherent, misogynistic, and fascist... oh dear lord.

James Russell

"RoboCop 2 is as close to a genuine, out-and-out fascist motion picture than anything Hollywood has ever produced"

With the exception, perhaps, of GABRIEL OVER THE WHITE HOUSE, which is a total piece of fascism advocacy.


'The Ice Storm', "much-derided"?! Not in this household, nor by advocates as diverse as David Thompson and Brian de Palma.

Gordon Cameron

It's hard for me to focus purely on the storytelling about "Empire" when the visual and musical sweep of the thing is so overpowering. The effects have that magical quality that's in a direct lineage from Melies, and the color palette (from the whites of Hoth to the blacks and browns of the asteroid chase to the pinks of Bespin) feels much richer than that of the first movie. Williams's score -- well -- I suppose it's all ripped off from Holst, that's what they tell me, but damn if it doesn't achieve an operatic intensity that's rare in movies of any era. Neither of these, I suppose, is particularly Kershner's contributions, but I imagine we can set other virtues at his doorstep. I am chagrined to admit that not only haven't I seen "Loving," but I had never even heard of it until this wave of obits kicked off. One for the Netflix queue; thanks all.

(As for Lucas's presumed awfulness as a director, well, I still like all of his first three features [THX, American Graffiti, and Star Wars] -- three successful efforts in three totally different genres. I could name a hundred directors who have done a hell of a lot worse.)

Dan Coyle

I still consider American Graffiti to be a wonderful film. I have a hard time believing that Lucas ever really existed, though.


"Kirschner credited Carrera for the characterization and let her have her way with the part -- which then excludes him from receiving any credit for it."

Huh? Isn't that the mark of a good director? And a gracious one?


You're right. I have no idea what I'm talking about. Please excuse my outburst. It won't happen again.

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