Did You See This?

The Gang’s All Here

On Film / The Daily — Nov 29, 2019
Al Pacino in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II (1974)

A reassessment of a critical kerfuffle and a couple of primers are among the items that caught our eye this week:

  • Many of us are spending this holiday weekend with Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman—watching it, of course, but also reading about its stars, the historical background, and so on. At Film Comment, James Wham points us to another supplemental read, J. Hoberman’s essay for Tablet on the rise of a new kind of movie gangster in the early 1970s. Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) “might be considered what Leslie Fielder . . . called ‘an inadvertent epic,’” one that would include Mario Puzo’s “novel, the movie and its two sequels, Martin Scorsese’s 1990 corrective, Goodfellas, and perhaps the 1984 remake of Scarface starring Al Pacino as a monstrous Cuban gangster.” But it was The Godfather that first and most effectively “normalized the notion of America as a criminal enterprise.”
  • For Filmmaker, Christopher Small reports on a conversation that Jia Zhangke had with Zhang Yimou at the Pingyao International Film Festival last month. “Zhang speaks reverently of his host, fellow filmmaker, and on-stage moderator,” writes Small, “but contrasts his own involvement with cinema with Jia’s lifelong cinephilia. He reflects on the first time he saw Jia’s Pickpocket (1998) in a crowded, smoky room projected from a 16 mm print. ‘I loved the film. But there is the whole idea—I mean, the difference between us. I chose to yell, you chose to whisper.’”
  • This summer we learned that David Fincher is finally realizing a dream he’s had for over twenty years. Working with a screenplay written by his father, Jack Fincher, a newspaper man, Fincher will direct Mank, a black-and-white film for Netflix based on the life of Herman Mankiewicz, the journalist-turned-screenwriter who cowrote Citizen Kane (1941) with Orson Welles. At Literary Hub, Alan Jacobs revisits Pauline Kael’s infamous 1971 essay “Raising Kane,” in which she argued that Welles’s contributions to the screenplay were minimal—a claim that has since been thoroughly debunked. Jacobs grants that Kael resorted to “lies and thefts and distortions and exaggerations,” but he also insists that the controversy the essay sparked immediately upon its publication has obscured her main point. “Kane,” writes Jacobs, “arises from a theatrical and cinematic (and, indirectly, journalistic) tradition that made no claims to profundity; paradoxically, it is the fidelity of Kane to this ‘shallow’ tradition that, Kael believes, seeds its greatness.”
  • Here’s a fine primer that will prep you for our upcoming release of Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman. “If you took special effects film pioneer Georges Méliès and combined him with stop motion animation genius Ray Harryhausen and surreal fantasist Terry Gilliam, you’d have a filmmaker very close to Karel Zeman.” Keith Allison elaborates in Diabolique Magazine.
  • Another primer, this one on the Department of Justice’s decision to terminate the Paramount Consent Decrees of the 1940s, may sound like a pretty dry read, but Peter Labuza, writing for Polygon, explains with engaging clarity how this reversal could potentially have a major impact on what sort of movies get made and how they might be seen. “Your theatrical viewing options may already seem dominated by too few companies making the same type of movie,” he writes. “And this could make the problem worse.”

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