In 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky told Leonid Kozlov about his favorite films. Tom Lasica recently talked with the critic.
I remember that wet, grey day in April 1972 very well. We were sitting by an open window and talking about various things when the conversation turned to Otar Ioseliani’s film Once Upon a Time There Lived a Singing Blackbird. “It’s a good film,” said Tarkovsky and immediately added, drawing out his words, “though it’s, well, a little bit too… too…” He fell silent with the sentence half finished, his eyes screwed up. After a moment of intense reflection, he bit his fingernails and continued decisively, “No! No, it’s a very good film!” It was at this point that I asked Tarkovsky if he would compile a list of his favorite ten or so films. He took my proposition very seriously and for a few minutes sat deep in thought with his head bent over a piece of paper. Then he began to write down a list of directors’ names – Buñuel, Mizoguchi, Bergman, Bresson, Kurosawa, Antonioni, Vigo. One more, Dreyer, followed after a pause. Next he made a list of films and put them carefully in a numbered order. The list, it seemed, was ready, but suddenly and unexpectedly Tarkovsky added another title – City Lights.
After the list had been typed and signed “16.4.72 A. Tarkovsky,” we returned to our conversation, during which he quite naturally changed the subject and started with his gentle sense of humor to talk about something of no importance. Looking back at the list today, 20 years on, it strikes me how clearly his choices characterize Tarkovsky the artist. Like the numerous top ten lists submitted by directors to various magazines over the years, Tarkovsky’s list is highly revealing. Its main feature is the severity of its choice – with the exception of City Lights, it does not contain a single silent film or any from the 30s or 40s. The reason for this is simply that Tarkovsky saw the cinema’s first 50 years as a prelude to what he considered to be real film-making. And though he rated highly both Dovzhenko and Barnet, the complete absence of Soviet films from his list is perhaps indicative of the fact that he saw real film-making as something that went on elsewhere. When considering this point, one also needs to bear in mind the polemical attitude that Tarkovsky became imbued with through his experience as a film-maker in the Soviet Union.
For Tarkovsky, the question lay not in how beautiful a film-maker’s art can be, but in the heights that Art can reach. The director of Andrei Rublov strove for the most profound spiritual tension and extreme existential self-exposure in all his work and was ready to reject anything and everything that was incompatible with this end. His list, which includes three films by Bergman, undoubtedly reflects his taste both as a director and as a viewer – but the latter is subordinate to the former. As the way he began to compile his top ten shows, this is not only a list of Tarkovsky’s favorite films, but equally one of his favorite directors.
Not my “Top Ten” list, but certainly not an implausible collection, one particularly indicative of Tarkovsky’s metaphysical obsession. What I found curious was the omission of The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Tarkovsky’s apparent unfamiliarity with the films of Eric Rohmer and Yasujiro Ozu.
Tasteless and moronic video by Jim Carrey simultaneously sneering at rural America, insulting the late Charleton Heston, and blaming American gun owners for violence. If anyone ever doubted that Carrey is an asshole and an idiot, just watch this. He is so spectacularly stupid that he obviously thinks this is clever, and that the chain of consequences alluded to in the rapid patter, closing section of the song makes some kind of sense.
The left dominates the media, the universities, Hollywood, the arts, all the engines and apparatuses of communication and creation of culture. Jonathan Chait, in New York magazine, freely admits what everybody knows, and openly gloats.
You don’t have to be an especially devoted consumer of film or television (I’m not) to detect a pervasive, if not total, liberalism. Americans for Responsible Television and Christian Leaders for Responsible Television would be flipping out over the modern family in Modern Family, not to mention the girls of Girls and the gays of Glee, except that those groups went defunct long ago. The liberal analysis of the economic crisis—that unregulated finance took wild gambles—has been widely reflected, even blatantly so, in movies like Margin Call, Too Big to Fail, and the Wall Street sequel. The conservative view that all blame lies with regulations forcing banks to lend to poor people has not, except perhaps in the amateur-hour production of Atlas Shrugged. The muscular Rambo patriotism that briefly surged in the eighties, and seemed poised to return after 9/11, has disappeared. In its place we have series like Homeland, which probes the moral complexities of a terrorist’s worldview, and action stars like Jason Bourne, whose enemies are not just foreign baddies but also paranoid Dick Cheney figures. The conservative denial of climate change, and the low opinion of environmentalism that accompanies it, stands in contrast to cautionary end-times tales like Ice Age 2: The Meltdown and the tree-hugging mysticism of Avatar. The decade has also seen a revival of political films and shows, from the Aaron Sorkin oeuvre through Veep and The Campaign, both of which cast oilmen as the heavies. Even The Muppets features an evil oil driller stereotypically named “Tex Richman.”
In short, the world of popular culture increasingly reflects a shared reality in which the Republican Party is either absent or anathema. That shared reality is the cultural assumptions, in particular, of the younger voters whose support has become the bedrock of the Democratic Party. ...
[The] capacity to mold the moral premises of large segments of the public, and especially the youngest and most impressionable elements, may or may not be unfair. What it is undoubtedly is a source of cultural (and hence political) power. Liberals like to believe that our strength derives solely from the natural concordance of the people, that we represent what most Americans believe, or would believe if not for the distorting rightward pull of Fox News and the Koch brothers and the rest. Conservatives surely do benefit from these outposts of power, and most would rather indulge their own populist fantasies than admit it. But they do have a point about one thing: We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite.
The Daily Caller reports Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld’s mocking reaction to Sarah Jessica Parker’s plea during Sunday’s MTV Music Awards for viewers to support Obama.
Well, I tried to watch the MTV Movie Awards last night but something stopped me — oh yeah, I threw up,” Gutfeld said. “If MTV were a person, it would be the divorced dad getting an earring trying to hit on his teenage daughter’s friends. It’s the old fool trying to be cool. I admire, however, how the aging in-crowd sticks together even as they fall apart. Take the ad that aired during the awards with that annoying lady with three names. In it, she raffles off a dinner with herself, the president and his wife.”
“‘We need him and he needs us.’ Who is ‘we?’” Gutfeld asked. “I call it a co-dependence of cool where both sides cling to each other while everyone else jumps ship. Celebs, desperate to be seen as smart and not shallow, cling to Obama as the p.c. life raft during auditions, Frappuccino runs and coke parties. Saying ‘vote Obama’ beats thinking. It’s the best thing to happen to no-talents since breast implants, which is why Hollywood is now Obama’s volunteer PR army and personal ATM machine. But while the prez and this cult are the best star-pairing since ‘Thelma and Louise,’ — you know how that ended. And also, if Anna Wintour is the face of the campaign … your campaign may need a facelift.”
The trailer for the Bob Loveless tribute documentary which premiered in Los Angeles on April 26th is now on-line. Presumably the filmmakers will eventually be offering it for sale on DVD.
“Among his peers, Robert ‘Bob’ Loveless achieved the title, ‘living legend.’ He was the superstar of the custom knife world and you would have to reach far and wide to find someone to say differently. He was respected and his knife designs are the most copied around the world. He was a modern times genius. He had the eye and the taste. When you get a Rolex right, a Ferrari right, a Porsche right, you don’t mess with it. Same with a Loveless knife. Bob was fearless, gentle, stubborn, loving, generous, witty and sometimes just outright mean. Bad or good, that was Bob. . . he lived life ‘his way.’”
Yahoo informs us that the arrival of Joss Whedon’s latest cultural contribution is just around the corner.
Anticipation for the film is off the charts, and having Whedon running the show reassures Marvel fanboys that it’s been done right, since he’s been one of them from childhood, and informs general audiences that it’s worth their time, since he has a gift for taking far-out tales into the mainstream.
The film opens in U.S. theaters May 4 and a bit earlier in many overseas territories.
Variety tells us that Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” (2012), scheduled for release next December, is going to have a different look.
Exhibs and press gathered at Caesar’s Palace to see the debut of 10 minutes of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” at 48 frames per second, the format that James Cameron championed at the confab one year ago.
Exhibitors—all of whom would need projection upgrades to show the format—were not all enamored of the 48 frames-per-second look. The “Hobbit” reel looked distinctively sharper and more immediate than everything before it, giving the 3D smoother movement, while losing the cinematic detatchment from the motion blur of the longtime industry-standard 24 fps.
“Some of the closeup shots looked like an old soap opera on TV,” said one exhib, who added that his cinema already has a digital projector to accommodate the change. “But the wide vistas were pretty breathtaking. It will take some getting used to, for sure.”
The century anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is right around the corner. James Cameron’s record box office winner “Titanic” (1997) will be returning to the theaters in 3D, and we can expect the networks to be running round-the-clock broadcasts of the regular version.
Lindy West of Gawker sat down and watched the interminable Leonardo DiCaprio tearjerker and offers to spare us having to bother. Her review is devastating and extremely funny.
I don’t remember a lot of specifics about watching Titanic in theaters in 1997, but I was 15 years old, which means my two biggest concerns were 1) locating romance, and 2) not dying in a nautical catastrophe. So I think we can safely assume that I fucking loved that movie. I watched Titanic again on TV with my sister a few years later, making sure to switch it off right before that whole stressful iceberg thingy—a strategy that turns the movie into a pleasant romp about two teenagers who take a perfectly safe boat ride and then bang in a jalopy. The end. Charming! Watching Titanic for a third time this weekend—in advance of Wednesday’s big 3D reopening—I cannot imagine what I was thinking that second time around. I could not wait to get to the second half and watch all these motherfuckers drown.
Here’s the thing about Titanic, and the reason 15-year-old girls love it so much: James Cameron is a 15-year-old girl. All of the characters are either 15-year-old girls in disguise (“Parents just don’t understand!” “Waaah, make the boat go faster!” “I know we literally met 20 minutes ago, but I love you with a suicidal fervor!”), or the kind of goofy caricatures that 15-year-old girls would write if we let 15-year-old girls write our blockbuster screenplays. It’s She’s All That on a Boat, only with Kate Winslet as Freddie Prinze Jr., Leonardo DiCaprio as that girl who isn’t famous anymore, and also everyone freezes to death in the north Atlantic at the end.
Robert Loveless, An America Legend Film Poster, top lines read: “A reputation can put a load on your shoulders that some men don’t want to bear.”—Jack London. Below: “A Documentary about the greatest custom knife maker in the World.”
Information and publicity are scarce. Hey! it’s twenty-odd days away. But we have that tiny (nearly unreadable) poster image above, and we know that there will be a pre-theater get-together at 4:00 p.m. at Mel’s Diner, 8585 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.
The actual screening will be at the Clarity Theater, 100 North Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills. Red Carpet reception at 5:30 p.m. The film is scheduled to run from 6:00 – 7:20 p.m.
Intended viewers are instructed to RSVP to Producer Ed Wormser at email@example.com. Repeat after me: M.I.C.K.E.Y. M.O.U.S.E.
Still, if I were on the lower left coast, I would definitely want to see it.