Sunday, May 17, 2015

Remembering James Agee (The Night of The Hunter)

"It is my business to conduct one end of a conversation, as an amateur critic among amateur critics. And I will be of use and of interest only in so far as my amateur judgment is sound, stimulating, or illuminating."

May 16th, 1955—60 years ago before this recording—James Agee died of a heart attack in the back of a New York taxi at the all too young age of 45. In his wake, he left a mountain of unprecedented writing, including the foundations for the first wave of serious film criticism in America. In this special episode, Scott Nye and Kristen Sales join Peter to discuss Agee's work and life. From his Southern roots in literature, including his poetic depiction of the depression, to his adoration of the silent comedies and vitriolic defense of one of Charles Chaplin's most contentious films. The conversation spreads from criticism to narrative prose to photography and finally to Agee's work within the moving image, especially his contribution to one of the all time great films, The Night of the Hunter.

0:00-4:19 Opening
4:40-22:30  "Comedy's Greatest Era" and Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
23:05-33:39 On Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity and The Lost Weekend
34:20-51:37 Monsieur Verdoux and "Knoxville: Summer 1915"
52:36-1:00:20 In The Street
1:00:56-1:03:15 Mubi Sponsorship - Mother and We Can't Go Home Again
1:04:22 -1:22:38 The Night of the Hunter 
1:22:42-1:24:49 Close / Outtake
Read Scott Nye at Criterion Cast and Battleship Pretension
Read Kristen Sales at Sales on Film.
Follow Scott on Twitter and Kristen on Twitter
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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Episode #59 - Brian Darr (The End)

"I like being able to walk down the street and see all these hints of a movie that I've loved.'

From the ghostly fog of Vertigo to the vigilante ethos of Dirty Harry to the geometric paranoia of Zodiac, San Francisco has been a curious site for the movies. It's also an amazing land for cinephilia, and Brian Darr, a writer, programmer, and curator of the blog Hell on Frisco Bay, has made it his mission to trace how cinephilia continues to thrive through the city's repertory, experimental cinemas, and beyond. Brian traces his cinephilia from middle America to Thailand and back to San Francisco, slowly expanding his canon along the way. From there, the two discuss the way the city grew as an alternative to Hollywood, its use for both commercial and art filmmakers, and how the city grew such a reputation for celebrating the cinema of yesteryear. Finally, Brian brings in beat poet Christopher MacLaine's 1953 film The End, which presents both an apocalyptic discourse of living at the end of days, but also presents new ways of thinking and watching cinema.

0:00-2:16 Opening
3:02-51:32  Deep Focus -Brian Darr
52:40-54:56 Mubi Sponsorship - Blondes in the Jungle and Once Upon A Time in Anatolia
56:33 -1:15:10 Double Exposure - The End (Christopher MacLaine)
1:15:13-1:16:46 Close
Read Brian Darr at his blog, Hell on Frisco Bay. You can also read him at Senses of Cinema and Keyframe Daily.
Maclaine's The End is available on Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986. You can also watch the first 10 minutes here.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Episode #58 - Fernando F. Croce (Once Upon A Honeymoon)

"I think of films at these points where older films go into and newer films come out of."

Reading Fernando F. Croce's work, you get the sense that his criticism is more of an ode to the gods that create cinema than descriptions of moral material. They are filled with such romanticism and specificity that each line feels as intensely sculpted as the contours of a Bernini. So Peter was absolutely delighted to travel up to San Jose to talk about film with the Brazilian born critic, including the influence of Manny Farber, seeing art as a great unconscious that spills between films and beyond, and the two pillars that hold up this great art. The two then dive into the truly unique world of Once Upon A Honeymoon, a Leo McCarey romantic comedy following Cary Grant and Ginger Rodgers as they flee the Nazi invasion of Europe, creating a pathos that includes both sexual innuendo as well as sympathy for the plight of a soon to be exterminated people.

0:00-2:28 Opening
3:24-9:52 Establishing Shots - Rossellini's India: Matri Bhumi
10:37-53:20  Deep Focus - Fernando F Croce
54:05-56:40 Mubi Sponsorship - Boarding Gate and A Spell To Ward Off the Darkness
58:10 -1:24:36 Double Exposure - Once Upon A Honeymoon (Leo McCarey)
1:24:41-1:26:19 Close
Read Fernando F Croce at his website CinePassion, as well as on Slant, MubiReverse Shot, and Keyframe Daily. Follow him on Twitter.
Watch Once Upon A Honeymoon on YouTube or Amazon.

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Episode #57 - Kiva Reardon (Leave Her To Heaven)

"Watching movies for me is not a passive experience. It's an active one."

Kiva Reardon isn't one to completely define what her work is, but for the past two years, her new journal cléo has broadened the conversation around cinema and feminism in a unique and exciting way. In this second Toronto-based episode, Kiva talks to Peter about growing up with classic movies, trying to deconstruct pop culture items (including but not limited to: Drake), and the gestural bodily cinema of Claire Denis. They then move onto forming cleo, and why its diversity in terms of both content and form has been one of the key aspects to its success. Finally, Kiva brings in the 1945 Technicolor noir Leave Her To Heaven with Gene Tierney, and the two discuss it as a template for a more recent murderous melodrama: David Fincher's Gone Girl.

0:00-2:00 Opening
3:05-11:44 Establishing Shots - Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien / Donations
12:28-48:35  Deep Focus - Kiva Reardon
49:47-51:27 Mubi Sponsorship - Jean Rollin and Tilda Swinton
53:00 -1:11:26 Double Exposure - Leave Her To Heaven (John M. Stahl)
1:11:30-1:13:34 Close  / Outtakes
Read Kiva Reardon on cléo, Cinema-Scope, The AV Club, and Keyframe Daily. Check out her personal website to follow all her writing. Follow her on Twitter.
Leave Her To Heaven is out on a very nice Blu-Ray via Twilight Time.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Episode #56 - Calum Marsh (The Last Days of Disco)

"The question of prose is the central question of my life, my writing, and my work."

What is the "work" of film criticism? That question takes center stage in a lively new episode of the podcast, in which Peter travels to Toronto, Canada to talk movies with critic and writer Calum Marsh. Calum traces his cinephilia to his VHS and DVD days in suburban England, eventually developing via the influence of rigorous Jonathan Rosenbaum, and then swinging to an attempt to understand how film criticism can work more similarly to the great literary critics. They talk the beauty of Blackhat and the Kim's Video generation, but most of all they discuss prose and its function in describing a visual medium. They then top it off with a look at Whit Stillman's wondrous nostalgia critique, The Last Days of Disco, using Stillman's own novelization of his work as an examination of the different worlds of cinema and literature.

0:00-1:53 Opening
2:37-9:38 Establishing Shots - Gems from UCLA's Festival of Preservation
10:23-59:27  Deep Focus - Calum Marsh
1:00:04-1:02:16 Mubi Sponsorship - Travel Plans and Broken Specs
1:03:43 -1:26:57 Double Exposure - The Last Days of Disco (Whit Stillman)
1:27:01-1:28:58 Close  / Outtake
Calum Marsh's writing can be found at The Guardian, Hazlitt, Maxim, The Village Voice, and Keyframe Daily. Follow him on Twitter.
The Last Days of Disco is available for streaming on YouTube and iTunes. The novelization is available on Amazon
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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Episode #55 - Jan-Christopher Horak (Her Sister's Secret)

"Our philosophy here is to try to re-create the original look of the film."

Film, both the art and the physical medium, will only survive as long as there are those willing to protect and restore it. This is the job of Dr. Jan-Christopher Horak, a film scholar and head of the archive at the University of California, Los Angeles, which hosts its 16th Festival of Preservation this month. Dr. Horak discusses his route into the archive, from his graduate work uncovering the genre of German exile filmmakers, to his other historical work on the early American avant-garde and recently on Saul Bass. The discussion then goes into the heart of the archive—its history as an institution, its practices (both film and digital), and most importantly, its exhibition to audiences. Finally, the two look at Edgar Ulmer's Her Sister's Secret, a family melodrama that might not contain the usual German expressionism of the director, but subtly breaks patterns of morality against the conventions of Hollywood.

0:00-2:52 Opening
4:18-11:16 Establishing Shots - Abel Ferrara's Pasolini
12:00-1:00:07 Deep Focus - Jan-Christopher Horak
1:03:22-1:14:12  Double Exposure - Her Sister's Secret (Edgar G. Ulmer)
1:14:15-1:15:56 Close 
The UCLA Festival of Preservation Runs March 5th-March 31st at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood, Los Angeles. More information here.
Check out Dr. Horak's books The Lovers of Cinema: The First American Avant-Garde 1919-1945 and Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design. More information on him can be found at his UCLA home page.
Follow the UCLA Film Archive and Dr. Horak on Twitter.
Her Sister's Sister will play at the Billy Wilder Theater March 14th at 3pm on 35mm. It is also available on Amazon Prime
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