House Logo
Explore categories +

Gena Rowlands (#110 of 6)

Cross-Cultural Communion Night on Earth at 25

Comments Comments (...)

Cross-Cultural Communion: Night on Earth at 25

Fine Line Features

Cross-Cultural Communion: Night on Earth at 25

Whether due to cultural, linguistic, generational, or racial barriers, Jim Jarmusch’s characters often find themselves talking around rather than to each other. It’s no wonder that in Night on Earth, the director’s 1992 omnibus film consisting of five stories set in different international cities on the same night, the taxi cab provides the perfect visual framework, placing a spatial barrier between characters that makes communication even more challenging. Characters banter, bicker, ramble, and philosophize as they shuttle through various cityscapes like ghosts in the night, catching only fleeting glimpses of the other as reflections in a rear-view mirror. There is a natural yin/yang dynamic to each vignette that uses the dialectics of argumentation as well as visual rhymes, word play, starkly contrasting character types, and class conflict to deepen the audience’s understanding and empathy for the characters and the environment in which they live.

Cindy Sherman and Her Many Guises

Comments Comments (...)

Cindy Sherman and Her Many Guises
Cindy Sherman and Her Many Guises

Critical reactions to the current MoMA retrospective of Cindy Sherman have ranged from wildly enthusiastic to guardedly skeptical. Whatever your personal take may be, there’s no denying the artist’s prolific playfulness. Anyone who enjoyed dressing up as a child, or for Halloween costume parties, can relate to the thrill of being someone or something else, if just for a few hours. The initial appeal of Sherman’s work is this immediate identification.

On the surface, at least, for it doesn’t take long to note that as instantly appealing as her works are, with the exception of the grotesques and the more sexually explicit pictures, there’d a lot more going on in them than a childlike glee at all the makeup, costumes, and playacting.

Many of the works, most notably the Untitled Film Stills, reference the movie industry, and by extension popular culture. Publicity stills, as the show’s curator Eva Respini has pointed out, are snapshots rather than high art, discarded after they serve their function. Revitalizing this humble medium, Sherman captures female movie types, portraying ingénues, vixens, and vamps. A common reading of these stills is that Sherman is taking a critical stance on Hollywood female stereotypes. This is partly true, but a bit simplistic since many of the stills are genuinely haunting, and assert the power of the image even more than deconstruct it.

A Lover’s Discourse: Terence Davies’s Films

Comments Comments (...)

A Lover’s Discourse: Terence Davies’s Films
A Lover’s Discourse: Terence Davies’s Films

In a dark room, two women regard each other, the older one cloaked in shadow, the younger one better lit but turned away. The older is caring for her sick husband, wrapped up in bed sheets, while the younger thinks of killing herself due to the pangs of lost, despised love. “Sometimes it’s tough to judge when you’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea,” she says, a little bent over, to which her staunch, stiff counterpart snaps back: “A lot of rubbish is talked about love. You know what real love is? It’s wiping someone’s ass, or changing the sheets when they’ve wet themselves, and letting ’em keep their dignity so you can both go on. Suicide? No one’s worth it.”

The moment comes late in Terence Davies’s new film, The Deep Blue Sea, which opens theatrically tomorrow, and a sneak preview of which began the BAMcinématek’s retrospective of the British director’s nine-film career (next week, Film Forum will screen a new 35mm print of 1992’s gently gliding The Long Day Closes). This Deep Blue Sea scene, coming late into the story of a London woman struggling to move on post-WWII and post-love, in some ways sets the tone for all of Davies’s work.

Emotion Through Bodily Motion: Acting and the Frame in John Cassavetes’s Faces

Comments Comments (...)

Emotion Through Bodily Motion: Acting and the Frame in John Cassavetes’s <em>Faces</em>
Emotion Through Bodily Motion: Acting and the Frame in John Cassavetes’s <em>Faces</em>

To see a great cinematic tool once pioneered by D.W. Griffith and Lillian Gish lay waste in a large percentage of contemporary movies is tragic. The close-up, which occupied a position of closure, desire, and eroticism, is now just the byproduct of lazy film-making and another excuse to ogle our favorite celebrity faces. The problem lies not in the amount of use—close-ups and medium shots usually comprise the majority of a film’s running time - but in the ineffectual way these shots are employed. Most movies today exist in a “curtailed space”, whereby the close-ups/medium shots of objects and bodies bear little to no relationship to the framing of objects and bodies in the following shot. Because these pictures tend to rely on expository lines and scenery-chewing as opposed to judicious scaling and editing, dramatic effect and filmic movement are virtually nonexistent. Actors raise their hands toward high heaven, their cries meant to queue in drama, but the frame they occupy is static and the film remains a lifeless standstill. How maddening, in a medium that exists as a series of images, is it to find that dialogue has replaced what visuals should say?

John Cassavetes’ Faces is a violent reaction against traditional (popular) methods of filmmaking.

From the Short Stack: Ray Carney on John Cassavetes and The Method

Comments Comments (...)

From the Short Stack: Ray Carney on John Cassavetes and The Method
From the Short Stack: Ray Carney on John Cassavetes and The Method

Apropos of nothing but affection, here are some snippets from Cassavetes on Cassavetes, a book about actor-filmmaker John Cassavetes by Boston University professor, graduate studies director and film historian Ray Carney. Despite the straightforward title, it’s not a collection of transcripts and articles, but sort of a mosaic biography that fuses interviews from various sources (including Carney) with a candid assessment of Cassavetes the actor, writer, director, small businessman, theater impresario and barroom philosopher. Cassavetes’ first feature, 1959’s Shadows is generally thought of as the first modern American underground indie, a stateside cousin of such pioneering French New Wave features as Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Breathless. His filmography would grow to include Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, Husbands, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Gloria.