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November 15, 2012


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Chris L.

Are these the same sort of online presences who might take to assaulting kitchen appliances when they read your Anna K. review?

David Ehrenstein

Yes. And here they are in action!



I am a fan of her acting ability, I do think she's pretty, and I admire her for taking a stand (for now) against Hollywood's usual weight standard for actresses. However, I have to admit, I was more than a little disturbed by that recent NY Times interview she gave where she expressed disdain at the idea of watching a black-and-white expletive deleted silent movie. As I wrote on a friend's Facebook page, I'm trying to write that off as a folly of youth, "trying" being the operative word. That said, given how much I liked the book, I still want to see SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.

As for ANNA KARENINA, is it at least better than the Bernard Rose version from 15 years ago? Because that looked beautiful, but was awful otherwise, except for Alfred Molina.

Stephen Whitty

Yes, lipranzer, that quote -- ugh. (For a second I imagined the whole "Sunrise" fight starting up again online.) But yes, folly of youth. Let's hope.

And Glenn, good insights here. "Anna Karenina" struck me the same way, although I thought the most outrageous thing was hidden away in the production notes, where Joe Wright said that Tom Stoppard had written the script it as a straight screenplay. The idea of doing it instead as sort of a filmed stage play was completely Wright's.

Because, of course, what does Tom Stoppard know about stage plays, or what medium a story works best in? Sometimes you just need someone like Joe Wright to step in and TELL him.

St. Genet Parochial School

I've never really cared for Joe Wright, but A.O. Scott's review had an interesting and opposite take on the use of a stage that has certainly piqued my interests.

Also, I just want to see two hours of Keira Knightley's cheekbones.

Gordon Cameron

>However, I have to admit, I was more than a little disturbed by that recent NY Times interview she gave where she expressed disdain at the idea of watching a black-and-white expletive deleted silent movie.

Eh, she's 22, and she's an actress, not a director. Maybe in time her tastes will evolve, or maybe not, and I'm not sure in either case it will impact what she is capable of doing onscreen.

For most 'normal' people, watching silent movies is an experience that is completely off the table in terms of desirability. Oh the humanity, etc., but that's how it is, and I wonder if that fact is a factor in why such a noise was made about 'The Artist' (a film I liked well enough when I saw it, but which I can barely remember a year later).

Glenn Kenny

I'm with you for the most part, Gordon. The really irritating thing about the interview wasn't so much Lawrence's comment as the way Melena Ryzik waved it around to signal the actress's lack of "pretention."

I have to say I'm actually more shell-shocked that A.O. Scott fell for that crock "Karenina." What's happening to our world?

David Ehrenstein

Wright's direction crushes Anna long before the train rolls over her.

Give me Garbo any day!!!!

Brian Dauth

Dear Glenn:

"... ripens to a level of what can only be termed You Must Be High Camp."

Bless you.

Brian Dauth

Now if the late Harold Pinter had written the script:

Karenin: Vronsky? Adultery?


Anna: Yes. Vronsky. (Pause). Divorce?


Karenin: No.


Anna (calling to servant): Bring me a train schedule.

David N

lipranzer - the Bernard Rose version was cut down from 2 hours 20 to 1 hour 50 by the producers, if I remember correctly. Not exactly a defence, I know, but Rose is a more interesting (and better) director than that film suggests...


David N - Oh, I agree about Rose, being someone who passionately defends the merits of IMMORTAL BELOVED against any and all comers (and regret never seeing IVANSXTC, as it sounded very good). But while I acknowledge a longer cut of his ANNA KARENINA might have worked more than what was released, I don't know if it could overcome one part that was miscast (I have liked Mia Kirshner in other projects, particularly EXOTICA, but she's out of place in a period piece), one performance that seemed to be channeling another (Sean Bean, whom I normally like, played Vronsky as if he was still playing his bad guy character in GOLDENEYE), and most of all, an actress whose charms elude me in the lead role (and lest you think it's merely because she's uncomfortable in English-speaking roles, I haven't thought much of Sophie Marceau in her French-speaking roles either).


Re. Bernard Rose's Anna K., he sez: "Yeah, that was just totally re-cut. I don't just mean shortened a bit ... In ways that I won't bore you with, it kind of subverts what the book is actually trying to say and do. I think it's pretty awful, actually" (http://www.thefilmjournal.com/issue5/bernardrose.html). I like the dude. He's done some pretty interesting work.


The AV Club just chose that Lawrence quote as an example of an example of "appalling celebrity behavior," right there with Charlie Sheen and Chris Brown. I think we should let her have her taste, and it will change or it won't, and the world will keep right on turning either way.


Hey, when I was 20 I thought 'Akira' was a masterpiece.

Bruce Reid

I actually read Lawrence's quote as explicitly being about The Artist, more a blow against award-winning prestige than a specific period of filmmaking. If she'd been in the mood a year ago, I suspect she'd have defended Rob Schneider films against "slow-moving freaking boring [unprintable word] English royalty dramas."

Doesn't make the charge better or worse, but it does sort of reframe the issue. If I'm right, of course, and I've got nothing to support this but general goodwill toward the actress.

Bill Sorochan

"Chouga," directed by Darezhan Omirbayev is a tremendous recent version of Anna Karenina that sadly seems to have fallen off the radar. Fantastic film.

Joel Bocko

"For most 'normal' people, watching silent movies is an experience that is completely off the table in terms of desirability."

Which is kind of funny when you think about it. Eighty-five years ago, i.e. within the lifetime of people still living not back in like caveman times, watching silent movies was not only considered tolerable but highly desirable. Yes, to a certain extent is was "for lack of other options" (I remember Pauline Kael's claim that audiences welcomed talkies eagerly as a relief from silent melodramatics) but that can be exaggerated. Point is, what is so inherently awful about watching something that lacks color and sound, i.e. the attributes of "real life"? Cartoons are not very realistic either, but people seem to tolerate things too.

Is it a learned behavior? Is it inherent, at least if given the choice between something in color/with sound and something not? I mean we all just take it for granted, of course only a handful of us can appreciate the challenges of silent cinema etc etc but when you stop and think about it...why???

Sorry, that's all I've got haha. Maybe someone else has answers. But yeah, she is hot. The preview for this movie made it look like "just-another-quirky-indie" though. And frankly, I'd rather watch a black-and-white fucking silent movie than another one of those...


I admit the quote gave me pause, but I did think she was probably referring specifically to THE ARTIST. In fact, I'd wager that THE ARTIST represents the sum total of the young'un's experience with "black-and-white, freaking boring—expletive deleted—silent movie(s),” so, grain of salt. If she did mean to tarnish all such films with one brush, it is indeed regrettable, but as others have noted, we have to cut callow youth some slack, 'cause we've all been there and have regrets about some aspects of our nascent opinions.

I also cut her slack for being an otherwise delightful interviewee, extremely talented, and, yes, downright luscious. A fellow Kentuckian, too.

But sure, if some commenter here had said the exact same thing, I'd be all indignant.


Re; B. Rose:

I bought a copy of Ivansxtc from Amazon UK a few years ago. It is a very upsetting movie, but for reasons I can't quite articulate.

B. Rose's Kruetzer Sonata is his best movie.


Re; B. Rose:

Candyman is a long forgotten genre exercise, but it was a gem of a flick.


Could we send Lawrence some Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd DVDs? That might open her eyes. I've found that comedy is often the best on-ramp to an appreciation of silent film.

When I was 14 or 15, I was ordering silent Super 8 movies from Blackhawk Films (mostly comedy shorts), but I understand that not everybody is a movie buff at a young age -- or at any age. That's life.

Gordon Cameron


You have asked a very large question and I can't begin to get round all sides of it, but let me come at it from a couple of angles.

1. Silent movies, like foreign movies, obviously carry some of that 'cultural vegetables' baggage (sorry!), that sense of being more homework than pleasure. I don't know why so many people associate old texts with homework, except that maybe they first encounter old texts AS homework, and therefore along come associations of obligation vs. pleasure, deadlines, stern teachers, and so on. Plus old texts often have idioms that are different than what we grow up with, therefore taking that extra bit of effort to unpack. Plus in most social contexts, your buddies aren't imbibing old texts (except, again, as homework, as The Thing To Be Avoided/Procrastinated), so you lose that whole incentive of having topics for water-cooler (or campus-quad?) conversation which IMO strongly incentivizes us in our consumption of culture.

2. Unlike many old texts -- say, a novel by Dickens, a play by Shakespeare, or a symphony by Mozart -- silent movies have the additional burden of being seen by some as essentially 'incomplete' -- as artifacts of a time before all of the pieces of cinema were properly in place. Certain elements in the art form even draw attention to this supposed 'incompleteness' -- the silent lipflap, most obviously. Even a non-classical-music aficionado can still (I hope) be dragged to Disney Hall and have a chance of having their hair blown back by the overture to The Marriage of Figaro, or by the Ride of the Valkyries, or whatever. They will have a total experience that will seem complete unto itself. But a silent is always signalling the technical parameters of its medium which, in hindsight, can look like shortcomings. (I think, incidentally, this is partly why silent comedy tends to hold up for many audiences better than silent melodrama, because the action and stunts and sight gags of a Chaplin or a Keaton render dialogue completely superfluous anyway.)

Gordon Cameron


3. There is this idea among some people, in particular a friend with whom I constantly debate on the point, that art forms tend always to trend upward because the number and quality of tools in the toolbox keep improving. It *is* true that today's lenses are better, that audio recording is far better than in Bogart's day, that Protools and non-linear editing open up new possibities in picture and sound cutting, that steadicams and pogocams and CGI and mo-cap allow images to be created which could not have been created in 1922 or 1952. Where I part ways with the subsequent aesthetic chauvinism is that I feel forced to distinguish *the available tools* from the *capacity* of a single creative mind (or collective of creative minds) to make use of those tools. Having more tools, after all, gives you more options, and having more options can just confuse you. J.S. Bach didn't have electric guitars, saxophones, or stereo panning, but he did fine with what he had because the available tools were more than enough to sustain and challenge a mature creative imagination (he was, incidentally, in his day a gearhead's gearhead). My friend might counter with something like: "Okay, not all artists make better art with today's tools, but the point is that they *could*," to which I can only respond, "when they do, let me know."

4. Silent acting is such an animal unto itself, but modern audiences may be inclined to project modern standards backward onto it. Of course, modern acting wouldn't have worked in the silent days, precisely because the actors in those times did not have voices to work with and had to rely on other things. My understanding of silent acting is at best crude -- Denby, I think, wrote a wonderful piece about it last year in the New Yorker -- but I think one must at a minimum shed the modern fetish for 'realism' in acting in order to appreciate what those actors were doing. To the minds of some, acting is bad precisely insofar as it departs from 'realism', and so those poor silent stars haven't a chance. Again, Chaplin and Keaton and their ilk probably fare better than most; they are not asked to play melodrama (usually), and Chaplin is an expert mime and we still somewhat understand mime today, whereas Keaton's stone-faced demeanor is a long way from anything that could be deemed mugging.

Let me finally say that I had the good fortune to attend the screening/lecture at the DGA a year or so ago of the restored color 'Voyage A La Lune' hosted by the wonderful Serge Bromberg, and that the screening illustrated for me the importance of context and environment. Gently guided back in time by Bromberg's skilled MC'ing, watching a series of silent shorts (including a couple that Melies 'accidentally' shot stereoscopically, what a treat!), we were quietly immersed in a place where the intervening 100 years had seemed not to happen at all. Suddenly these films seemed, again, fresh, absorbing, and high-tech. Such contextualization, done as expertly as it was here, is priceless, and I wish everyone who decries 'boring fucking silent movies' could be shown something similar.


I've met people in Lawrence's age group (the early 20s) who won't even watch TALKIES if they're in black and white. Expecting them to watch silent films may be asking a lot.

It may have been easier for my generation, because I was a teenager in the '70s, when local TV stations showed movies from the '30s, '40s and '50s every day. So black and white wasn't alien to me. There was also a program of MGM silents on public television circa '74 that got me interested in that form. And reading Walter Kerr's "The Silent Clowns" made me want to see every movie discussed in that book.

There was a nostalgia boom and a general interest in old movies in the '70s, which coincided with my teen years. (I remember "Animal Crackers," from 1930, getting a major re-release and even playing small towns.) I don't think that has existed for subsequent generations.

Gordon Cameron

Yeah I think it's winnowed down to just a few key flicks (Casablanca, Wizard of Oz, It's A Wonderful Life, maybe Miracle on 34th Street) -- although even that is coming from my own memory of TV broadcasts in the 1980s.


Well, local stations generally stopped showing old movies in the '80s, and left that to cable "super stations," and then to TCM and AMC (when it was a classic movie channel). So if your parents didn't subscribe to cable, or if those channels weren't available in your area, you were out of luck. You weren't likely to develop an early appreciation of classic films.


Boy, you all really are picking over what was a throwaway comment by a young actress aren't you? Thank god she didn't say foreign movies.

This smacks of an older kid condescending to his young brother about how, one day, he'll appreciate the musical complexity of Yes when he grows out of his stupid love of Katy Perry.

Though I agree generally with the point about youngsters and old movies.


Wait, it's condescending to express regret at someone else's condescension? Intentionally or not, she dismissed an entire era of filmmaking, possibly without seeing even one example of it. In the New York Times no less. Even though I'd forgive her (all night long), I see no problem with calling her out on it.


The condescension is that if only she saw this film, that film, then surely her eyes would be opened. Ever considered that maybe she has seen a few silent films and just doesn't like them?

Admittedly her quote was rather sweeping, but that doesn't automatically equal total ignorance. I'm not all that keen on silent flicks either and I've seen a lot. People are allowed not to like things you know.

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