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The Company (#110 of 4)

A Perspective on Aughts Culture

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A Perspective on Aughts Culture
A Perspective on Aughts Culture

I haven’t seen David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive since it was released in theaters in 2001, but I saw it twice on the big screen then, and I remember it vividly. There are some dead ends in the narrative, and these dead ends are what people seize on when they criticize the film, but there are scenes and moments in Mulholland Drive that strike me as classic: Naomi Watts’s audition setpiece, where we realize that her character is a fine actress, or maybe just dreams of herself as a fine actress. The rapture of the sex scene Watts shares with Laura Harring. The impatient look on an aged Ann Miller’s face as she stares at Watts at a party near the end. Most of all, though, I remember the face and the voice of Rebekah Del Rio as she sings Roy Orbison’s hit “Crying” a cappella, in Spanish, her voice soaring out from some deep place within her and lingering in the air like a taunt of emotional defiance. I’m not sure how Mulholland Drive would look to me now that this decade is ending, but I thought at the time that it was the best film I had seen that had been made after the year of my birth, 1977, which saw the unfortunate debut of Star Wars.

“Feast” and “Feast (Annotated)”

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A celebration of cooking and eating on film. The first version (top) is a straight-up montage with movie titles listed chronologically at the end. The second version is annotated, using text to identify film clips, music cues and offscreen lines as they appear. To watch the videos at the Moving Image Source web site, or to read my written introduction, click here. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Matt Zoller Seitz is the founder of The House Next Door.

The Grainy Haze of Dreams: Movie Year 2006, and the Death and Rebirth of Cinema

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The Grainy Haze of Dreams: Movie Year 2006, and the Death and Rebirth of Cinema
The Grainy Haze of Dreams: Movie Year 2006, and the Death and Rebirth of Cinema

1. CINEMA: DEAD AGAIN

MZS: We just came through a pretty tumultuous year for movies, and for the media and the entertainment industry in general. Although it’s not possible to cover everything, I’d like for us to at least touch on some of what I think were evolutionary highlights—moments, movements, trends or developments that altered movies, or how we perceive movies.

Right after the first of the year, David Denby tried to to get at a big part of this—specifically the effect of technological change—in his New Yorker piece “Big Pictures.” But it didn’t satisfy me. In fact, parts of it were so out-of-it that they reminded me of an old episode of Gilligan’s Island where the castaways run into a Japanese soldier who wanders out of the bushes where he’s been for 20 years not knowing that the war is over.

Robert Altman (1925 - 2006)

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Robert Altman (1925 - 2006)
Robert Altman (1925 - 2006)

Yesterday I learned of Robert Altman’s death as I might have the passing of a relative: through a phone call from a friend. Sometimes this man did feel as if he were a relation, perhaps because this greatest of American directors understood our world as a vast family tree of entwined dramas—torn asunder by the politics of sex, race, and class, but never uprooted. (This is why everyone who seriously cares about film culture will mourn this maverick director’s demise.) No filmmaker understood our human value so acutely and complexly, and the power of his unique vision—seemingly casual but, in truth, meticulously detail-oriented—was such that to watch a film like McCabe & Mrs. Miller was not unlike experiencing the birth of our great nation, and his last film, the almost alien A Prairie Home Companion, suggests its death.

Many years ago, when Popeye and M*A*S*H were the only Altman films I had ever seen, The Player came to me like a revelation. I was only 16, uncertain whether I wanted to spend the rest of my life devoted to painting, psychology, or film, and The Player revealed to me a way of looking at the world and the people who live in it in a way I never thought imaginable. The Player was largely responsible for me applying to film school at NYU, though it would take me years to realize that I didn’t want to make films so much as study them—to look at them in the same way Altman looked at us: closely, madly, and deeply, always trying to cut through the bullshit. Like the incidents of fate that bind so many of the characters in Altman’s films, the director would follow me in strange and mysterious ways, from a sexual tryst, no joke, that hinged on my affections for The Player to internships at Sandcastle, Altman’s production company, and October Films that came to me almost by chance.