COLUMNS

  • Film

    The Underground Festival at the Elgin Theater, La Raison Avant La Passion, Cat Food, and 1933

    At the Underground Festival that ran night and day in late December at the Elgin Theater, Snow’s films were pure reflective intelligence within an exacting, hard-nosed compositional system. The direct opposite is a random, hit-and-miss quality in Joyce Wieland’s La Raison Avant La Passion, a veritable pasture of expansive landscape imagery. The film is divided into three sections, a green section of the East. Coast, then a middle which is an ode to Trudeau (mostly Canadian flags and hot orange-red-pink face shots) and lastly an extraordinary white endlessness of snowscape. With its dry middle

    Read more
  • Film

    Don Siegel, Madigan, Coogan’s Bluff, and The Lineup

    Considering the automatic high coloring of his vermin, the anxious hopping around for the picturesque, the hokey scripts with worn-out capers and police-routine plots, why write about Don Siegel? Having made a few good modest-budget films—Baby Face Nelson, Flaming Feather with Presley, Return of the Body Snatchers—that aren’t shown in art theaters, he has been wrongly deified by auteurists, though he’s basically a determinedly lower case, crafty entertainer who utilizes his own violence to build unsettling movies with cheap musical scores that leave in their wake a feeling of being smeared with

    Read more
  • Film

    The New York Film Festival, My Nuit Chez Maud, Une Femme Douce, The Epic That Never Was, and Pierre and Paul

    In the type of multi-sensation circus that is the New York Film Festival, it is difficult to pin down the precise intellectual tone and incredible grace of Eric Rohmer’s Ma Nuit Chez Maud. What makes it so special is that it’s involved with a whole stratum of European culture that’s totally ignored in films: the intellectual Catholic living in the provinces. Constructed on the encounters of a single person in a new town, its pleasure comes from specificity: of time (Christmas), locale (a bustling job-prosperous town of narrow streets), geography (a wintry, sparse landscape), cast (an unimposing

    Read more
  • Film

    Duet for Cannibals, Adalen ’31, and Bob and Carol

    Susan Sontag’s Duet for Cannibals looks and feels like skimmed milk. An airless, room-locked, unusually adroit drawing-room comedy. A young man with the style and dress of an avant-garde painter is employed to catalog the life work of a political refugee. There is nothing convincing about his task, his employer’s career or the reason he and his girl are swallowed up by the powerful personalities of the two urbane, pompous vampires in an ultra-bourgeois house. The combination of a gutless spirit and sado-masochistic games (I kill you, you kill me and then we all get up and walk out the door)

    Read more
  • Film

    The Wild Bunch, Easy Rider, More, The Gypsy Moths, The Rain People, and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

    The Wild Bunch has a virile ribbon image, often an aerial view, of border life in 1914 Texas, stretched across a mottled wide screen in which there are so many intense, frontal details—five kids marching in a parade with their arms linked, a line of bounty hunters riding straight at the camera—that the spectator’s store chest of visual information is constantly widened. Someone seems to have studied all the frontal postures and somber-sharp detailing in Civil War photographs, as well as the snap-the-whip, across-the-page-compositions that Homer often used as a perfect substructure for the

    Read more
  • Books

    David Smith by David Smith

    David Smith by David Smith, ed. Cleve Cray (Holt, Rinehart, N.Y., 1968), 176 pages, illustrated.

    As a compilation of statements by the artist, accompanied by many color photographs of Smith and his work, David Smith by David Smith cannot easily be categorized. There is not enough information to consider the book either biography or documentary, nor is is sufficiently systematic to be considered scholarly. Another approach might have been philosophical—an attempt to establish the artists as a speculative or analytical thinker after the fashion of Kandinsky or Sir Joshua Reynolds—but here the book

    Read more
  • Books

    History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture

    History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. by H. H. Arnason, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1968

    H. H. Arnason’s History of Modern Art is guaranteed to become a bestselling textbook. In terms of the college market, the book has all of the “proper” ingredients: it is generously illustrated with black and white reproductions and colorplates of the highest quality; it contains more information on more painters, sculptors and architects from more countries than any other single volume published to date; it pursues its subject from the beginning of the 19th century to the late 1960s; finally,

    Read more
  • Film

    Sam Fuller, Pickup on South Street, Steel Helmet, Run of the Arrow, and China Gate

    Though he lacks the stamina and range of Chester Gould or the endlessly creative Fats Waller, Sam Fuller directs and writes an inadvertently charming film that has some of their qualities: lyricism, real iconoclasm, and a comic lack of self-consciousness. He has made 19 no-flab, low or middle budget films since 1949, any one of which could be described as “simpleminded corny stuff . . . colorful though,” a bit of John Foster Dulles, a good bit of Steve Canyon, sometimes so good as to be breathtaking, Pickup on South Street is a marvel of lower class nuttiness, Richard Widmark as a pickpocket

    Read more
  • Film

    Luis Buñuel, The Exterminating Angel, Robinson Crusoe, Los Olvidados, Viridiana, and Belle de Jour

    His glee in life is a movie of raped virgins and fallen saints, conceived by a literary old-world director detached from his actors but infatuated with his cock-eyed primitive cynicism. It’s this combination of detachment and the infatuated-with-bitterness viewpoint, added to a flat-footed technique, that produces the piercingly cold images of The Exterminating Angel.

    Buñuel reveals a kinship to other moderns: to Godard (the basic feeling that the audience needs educating, and he is just the one to do it), Bresson (they share an absorbed interest in the peasantry and the role of religion in rural

    Read more
  • Books

    Jack Burnham’s Beyond Modern Sculpture

    Jack Burnham, “Beyond Modern Sculpture: The Effects of Science and Technology on the Sculpture of This Century” (George Braziller, 1968); 402 pages, 135 illustrations in black and white.

    AFTER YEARS OF CONSIDERABLE NEGLECT, modern sculpture is beginning to experience an eager courtship by publishers anxious to present its history in the same coffee table format with cafeteria content that has afflicted modern painting. We are already wading in the first waves of books on sculpture whose covers are too far apart or which you can’t pick up once you’ve put them down. (Recently we have even been

    Read more
  • Film

    Two Rode Together

    Two Rode Together, a 1961 cavalry film that has been holed up this winter at a campsite in the Museum of Modern Art, has the discombobulated effect of a Western that was dreamt by a kid snoozing in an Esso station in Linden, New Jersey. Two wrangling friends, a money-grubbing marshall (Jimmy Stewart) and a cavalry captain (Richard Widmark, who has the look of a ham that has been smoked, cured, and then coated with honey-colored shellac), seek out a Comanche named Parker and trade him a stunningly new arsenal of guns and knives for a screaming little Bowery Boy with braids who’s only bearable in

    Read more
  • Film

    Pendulum, Bullitt, Coogan’s Bluff, Madigan and The Detective

    There’s no question that there’s a new crowd-pleasing movie around that has to do with a disenchanted cop, a city in which no corner is untainted, and an artichoke plot. Wrapped around a heart that is just a procedural cop story, police routines in Washington (Pendulum), San Francisco (Bullitt), Phoenix (Coogan’s Bluff), and Manhattan (Madigan and The Detective), is a shrubwork of Daily News stories, the whole newspaper from beginning to end: the sensationalism, sentimentality, human interest, plus some liberal editorials. Each film has its mini-version of the drug scene, investigating committees,

    Read more