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June 21, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Polly Frost recalls a dear friend of hers, the late film critic Pauline Kael, who would have turned 87 the other day. Another friend of Kael's, Craig Seligman, talks about Pauline with Julie Copeland. (Everyone who read Kael's reviews thought of her as "Pauline.") Funny and sad to think of that whole generation growing so old. It's funny too to encounter, as I often do these days, young film buffs who have never heard of Pauline Kael.

* David Lynch thinks we should all take up meditation. Watch and listen to him here.

* I'm one of the few people you'll ever meet who will say that one of his favorite filmmakers is Marco Bellocchio. Even among hardcore filmbuffs, Bellocchio's work isn't very well-known. Now in his 60s, Bellocchio emerged in the middle 1960s with an amazing first movie, "Fists in the Pocket." For a few years, he was celebrated alongside Bernardo Bertolucci as a brilliant young prodigy. Bellocchio grew more and more radical, though, and as he did his films grew prickly and ingrown. (I like a bunch of them anyway.) In recent years, he has emerged from this psychoanalysis-and-Maoism stretch, and has entered into a period of reflecting mournfully and ruefully on the costs of extremism. His film "Good Morning, Night," a small-scale chamber fantasia about the Red Brigades' kidnapping of Aldo Moro, is quietly devastating; it's also one of my favorite new films of the last five years. I saw it at a film festival, though, and thought it would never be commercially released in this country. So I'm surprised and happy to notice that it's now available on DVD. (Amazon, Netflix.) I wrote about the film when I first saw it here. I'm even happier to notice that Criterion has brought out a deluxe DVD version of "Fists in the Pocket" that has been embellished with some tasty-sounding extras. (Amazon, Netflix.) The film is often described as a savage and satirical attack on the Italian family, but it strikes me as more useful to think of "Fists" as a punk-rock-like frenzy of youthful movie talent.

* New on DVD too is Michelangelo Antonioni's "The Passenger." (Amazon, Netflix.) I wrote about this austere and slow-moving yet magnificent (in a backpackin'-hippie kind of way) film here.

* Anne Thompson reports that Seattle-ites see more movies per capita than people in any other U.S. city, and that she loved the new Brazilian film "House of Sand."

* Word comes from pulpier parts of the cinema universe that you can now buy or rent a freshened-up DVD version of the scrappy, funny, and sexy Italian zombie thriller "Cemetary Man." (Amazon.) Director Michele Soavi demonstrates that beauty, poetry, and audacious emotional effects can be achieved on a tiny budget.

* I got half a kick -- and that ain't bad! -- out of Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects." (Amazon, Netflix.) The film is an attempt to do a wild-ass, hell-for-leather, ridiculous/absurdist, get-high-on-excess variant on '70s horror films; it's as though Sam Peckinpah circa "The Getaway" directed a "Texas Chainsaw" splatter movie. "The Devil's Rejects" didn't entirely work for me. There was too much telegraphing going on; the film (for all its rock and roll bravado) could have been sexier; and I wish Zombie had provided more in the way of relief and variety. But it's a fun and intense hipster-thrillride anyway, with everyone involved showing off a lot of commitment and talent. (Priscilla Barnes, of "Three's Company" fame, cranks up the scary heat in the film's most scorching sequence.) Here's an interview with Rob Zombie, who is also known as a heavy-metal rocker. Turning up in a minor role is PJ Soles, fondly remembered for her spunky-tomboy appearances in a number of late-'70s/early-'80s movies: "Rock and Roll High School," "Carrie," "Halloween," and "Stripes." Here's an interview with PJ. She recalls that the Ramones were shy, and that Harrison Ford once played footsie with her. "That was the first time I realized I had a lot to learn about show biz," PJ says.

* Kevin Kline and Viriginia Madsen offer some glimpses of what it was like acting for Robert Altman on "A Prairie Home Companion."



posted by Michael at June 21, 2006


Hmm, didn't you link to a Pauline Kael review on the relative merits of Clark Gable and Cary Grant? I tried searching your site (in a very desultory fashion) and didn't immediately find it. I remember mentally bookmarking it to read later because I was impressed by the seriousness of the tone and the whole taking masculinity seriously angle - not a hint of irony in site. I wonder if I remembered that correctly?

Virginia Madsen is awfully pretty isn't she? I remember getting into the wierdest fight with someone I knew in med school about her. We were both in our fraternity (co-ed) t.v. room watching some totally dumb movie and she was all like, "Virginia Madsen is not attractive," and then I said, in a totally bitchy girly way, "you just don't like her because you think she's fat," and she was all like,"that is so rude," and stomped out. Now why oh why would we argue about something as dumb as that? I think maybe it was finals week.....

Posted by: MD on June 21, 2006 5:51 PM

MD, you're alive!
[sorry for the OT. It was reflexive. Such joy!]

Posted by: Tat on June 21, 2006 7:25 PM

". . . Pauline Kael review on the relative merits of Clark Gable and Cary Grant?"

Pauline Kael's THE MAN FROM DREAM CITY is here Might that be it?

Posted by: Dave Lull on June 22, 2006 9:38 AM

Thanks Dave. That's one great essay!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 22, 2006 4:31 PM

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