Today is the 100th birthday of Raymond Nicholas Kienzle, better known as Nicholas Ray. The seminal Hollywood-outcast-turned-French-New-Wave idol behind Rebel Without a Cause, Bigger Than Life, Bitter Victory and the hallucinatory Western Johnny Guitar made intensely emotional films about isolated people, often infused with profound desperation and a sense of the nightmarish. Francois Truffaut dubbed him "the poet of nightfall," while Jean-Luc Godard simply declared that "the cinema is Nicholas Ray." He studied architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright, mentored Jim Jarmusch and let Wim Wenders film him as he was dying of cancer. Bob Dylan even wrote a hit song about one of his movies. [more inside]
For Roger Ebert, it's a prayer that made him "more alert to the awe of existence." For Rober Koehler, it's a kitschy New Age con. For Richard Brody, it perfectly captures the essence of a generation by depicting a character thinking "back to the musings and fantasies of childhood, which are the product of a wondrous and fantastic view of science formed by popular-science books for children and by the commercial artists whose illustrations adorned them." For Stephanie Zacharek, it's "a gargantuan work of pretension." For Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, it's "a creation myth in the guise of a crypto-autobiography" that invents a universe of its own only to destroy it. For J. Hoberman, it's lifeless and dull, "essentially a religious work and, as such, may please the director's devotees, cultists, and apologists." It spent thirty years in development, three in editing and, yes, it contains dinosaurs. The Tree of Life, written and directed by famously reclusive Zoolander fan and "JD Salinger of American movies" Terrence Malick , won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Tomorrow, it comes out in the United States. [more inside]
In Scenes from an Overrated Career, film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum writes a rare New York Times op-ed arguing that the work of recently deceased director Ingmar Bergman is overvalued compared to Carl Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson. Both Roger Ebert and David Bordwell respond to Rosenbaum's takedown of Bergman, while Rosenbaum writes a brief eulogy blog post on Bergman. Meanwhile, another blogger discusses how Antonioni and Bergman hated each other despite recent obits that have paired them together.
A Dozen Eccentric Westerns, Ten Neglected Science Fiction Movies, and Ten Overlooked Noirs selected by Jonathan Rosenbaum. A follow-up to an earlier post on offbeat musicals.
Collecting "art films" as a film critic might throw you in jail in Iran. Famous Iranian film critic, Kambiz Kahe, is arrested along with a few colleagues. Hard-liner Iranian police says they were "importing and distributing pornographic material", which according to them, could vary from French art films to something like American Beauty. Chicago-based film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, along with FIPRESCI (the international federation of film critics) has protested to these arrests in separate letters. Kahe and friends needs more international support to be able to sit next to their families on Persian new year’s day which is only days away (March 21st).