Posts Tagged ‘film’
April 11, 2014 | by Sam Stephenson
On photographer W. Eugene Smith’s unseen opus.
On September 2, 1958, W. Eugene Smith’s passport was stamped at the airport in Geneva, Switzerland. Hired by General Dynamics, he was there to photograph the United Nations Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, known as “Atoms for Peace.” He was to be paid $2,500 for two weeks of work (about $20,000 in 2014 money), plus a $20 per diem. Commercial work wasn’t Smith’s preference, but he needed the money. He needed some distance from New York, too.
A week later, on September 9, Smith’s long-awaited extended essay on the city of Pittsburgh hit newsstands in Popular Photography’s Photography Annual 1959. It was the culmination of a three-and-a-half-year odyssey that began with a three-week assignment and led to 22,000 exposed negatives, two thousand of which he said were “valid” for his essay. He staked his reputation on the work, evoking Joyce, Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Beethoven, among others, as influences for the “layers” intended in his Pittsburgh layouts. Two consecutive Guggenheim fellowships (the first one coinciding with his friend Robert Frank’s fellowship for the work that became The Americans) further raised expectations. After turning down $20,000 from both Life and Look magazines when they would not agree to his demands for editorial control, Popular Photography offered to put thirty-six pages of their Annual 1959 at his disposal for $3,500. Smith accepted.
Now the anticipated magnum opus was set to arrive. But rather than stick around to toast his achievement, Smith jetted to Geneva. He had anticipated a Pittsburgh flameout earlier that summer, in a letter to his uncle, Jesse Caplinger: “The seemingly eternal, certainly infernal Pittsburgh project—the sagging, losing effort to make the first of its publication forms so right in measure to the standards I had set for it … it is a failure.” Later, he wrote his friend Ansel Adams to “apologize” for “the debacle of Pittsburgh as printed.” Read More »
March 19, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
On March 19, 1895, 119 years ago, August and Louis Lumière made the inaugural recording with their newly patented cinematograph, a sixteen-pound camera made to compete with Edison’s nascent kinetoscope. The cinematograph was powered by a hand crank, and it improved on the kinetoscope in that it incorporated a projector, which allowed a large audience to take in its spectacles. (Edison’s machine had only a peephole; maybe he thought moving pictures would appeal exclusively to voyeurs. And maybe they do.) The perforated film reel in a cinematograph was easier to hold in place, which meant it produced sharper, stabler images than had ever been seen.
This first film, La Sortie des usines Lumière à Lyon, features, as its title promises, workers leaving the Lumière factory in Lyon. What’s remarkable to me is how purely documentary this footage is: no one breaks the fourth wall. Even the dog isn’t terribly curious. If I were toiling in a factory all day, about to play a part in the debut of a revolutionary new technology, I would be sure to wave at the camera on my way out.
March 3, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Who can talk about the Oscars when Alain Resnais has died, at ninety-one? YouTube offers a number of interviews with him; many consist of baffled Frenchmen attempting to divine the meaning of Last Year in Marienbad.
- Scientists have looked into being funny: the whys, the hows, the what-have-yous. “It could be that office-cooler witticisms, stand-up routines, and sitcoms are just part of one big pickup line you never saw coming.” Surely many of us have seen it coming.
- Bill Watterson, the Calvin and Hobbes creator, has drawn his first public cartoon in nearly twenty years. It contains buttocks.
- “Surely the fact that writers really don’t mean a goddamn thing to nine-tenths of the population doesn’t hurt. It’s inebriating.” An expansive new interview with Philip Roth.
- Take out your credit card and clear your schedule: you’re about to buy an erotic computer game based on Oscar Wilde’s Salomé.
February 4, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- A strange but urgent side effect of LA’s switch from sodium-vapor to LED streetlights: in night shots, the city will look strikingly different on film.
- One last item about the Super Bowl, before it goes graciously into the night—the art of Super Bowl ticket design.
- As a postscript to yesterday’s Tulipomania post: Dennis O’Driscoll’s “Tulipomania,” a poem from the April 2002 edition of Poetry.
- Relatedly: “Each day we are faced with sound bites and catchphrases deadening and trivializing our language … poetry is the corrective.” In defense of poetry’s cultural sway.
- Against grammar, or its ruthless enforcers: “Blind adherence and conformity … pave the way for fascism.” Now everybody get out there and split some infinitives.
- To the literary bachelors of New York: Housing Works’ Literary Speed Dating event needs more gentlemen seeking ladies. (Ladies’ tickets are sold out. They’re waiting for you, you, you!) The event is on February 10; use the discount code QUEEQUEG for three dollars off the fifteen-dollar admission.
January 9, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Not that long ago, I was walking down a Brooklyn street and encountered an elderly woman surrounded by grocery bags. I offered to help carry them into her apartment, and I was sort of disappointed when she said yes and I saw what a long staircase it was and how heavy the bags were. After several trips we’d gotten them all in and she thanked me. “I was worried I was going to miss the beginning of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on TV,” she explained. “It’s my favorite movie.”
“You know,” I said, “it’s out on DVD now. I’d be glad to loan it to you.”
“Oh, I have the DVD,” she said blithely.
The film inspires such irrational devotion. Whenever I am down, I go to YouTube and watch the barn-dance scene, which is famous not just because of the number of accomplished dancers in the cast but also because of the sheer, exhausting athleticism of Michael Kidd’s choreography. As a child, I decided that my wedding party would replicate the entire number—I was going to be Milly and do the pas de deux in the middle—but then you grow up and realize that unless you are a dictator on an international scale, this kind of thing is impossible. Nevertheless, I defy anyone to watch it and not get just a little bit cheered up. Read More »
December 24, 2013 | by Nick Antosca
All this week, we are bringing you some of your favorite posts from 2013. Happy holidays!
My favorite movie of last year—the best movie of last year, I would argue—wasn’t nominated for any Academy Awards. It wasn’t even part of the conversation. That’s because the movie is Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. You might think I’m just being ironic, that I’m taking pleasure in saying what no one else is saying. The latter may be true but the former is not. This movie is a secret masterpiece.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is a movie Werner Herzog, David Lynch, and Shivers-era David Cronenberg might make if they teamed up to shoot a Bourne knockoff in Louisiana on a shoestring budget. This thought experiment works even better if we imagine Gaspar Noé dropping by the editing room later on.
The actual director, John Hyams, has a distinctive voice and style. He and his cinematographer, Yaron Levy, create a nightmare-scape of blighted semisuburbia through which the hero drifts like a damaged samurai, occasionally getting sucked into maelstroms of berserk, finger-hacking, foot-severing violence. The compositions are beautiful. The cheapness of the sets only enhances the lush and lurid atmosphere; everything seems hypnotic and dreamlike. Interiors look like Gregory Crewdson photographs and exteriors look like William Egglestons. This is not your standard VOD action movie. Read More »