Thursday, June 30, 2016

Holly Herrick on Maurice Pialat; Essential Cinema Series Begins 7/7

AFS Head of Film & Creative Media Holly Herrick discusses the work of Maurice Pialat. The all-35mm AFS Essential Cinema Series Inexplicably Yours: The Films Of Maurice Pialat begins July 7.

One thing that you’ll notice immediately in a Maurice Pialat movie is what’s not there. Films that are made up almost exclusively of characters in dialogue never tell us where we are in the story. With enormous gaps, whether they be in time or in plot, Pialat takes us to those precise conversations, however long their duration, where the words spoken go beyond the literal. With Pialat, we return to these moments the way we might if these were our own memories: looking back and understanding how our lives and ruminations evolved from a particular point in time where feelings were permanently bruised, or we were fully awakened to ourselves.

Pialat is a bit of a mystery for American audiences. There is little biographical scholarship about the director whose work appeared after the French New Wave had peaked, who disdained his own era of filmmakers for their overly fetishized relationship with their cinematic heroes, who rejected the idea of cinema as anything but a moral obligation. At the time, he didn’t fit in with any thread of his contemporaries, though he, along with filmmakers Jean Eustache and Jacques Rozier, would form an anti-establishment trio who would not share an aesthetic but a philosophy: the idea of a cinema grounded in intuition and an exploration of personal truth, authentic physicality, incredible emotional sensitivity. Pialat was known for declaring that all of cinema could have ended after the first film of the Lumières:
“What is too bad with cinema is that it never progressed. The first film was the best… it already had everything."
Unsurprisingly, the lightness of the new wave would be absent from Pialat’s films. The director and actor Noémie Lvovsky, one of the many filmmakers greatly influenced by Pialat, perhaps said it best:
“I have never had such a strong impression of seeing outright despair, love or hate. As though (Pialat) could actually touch emotions that you feel in real life.”

Pialat was born and raised in Auvergne, a very rural, remote region of central France where the primary industry is coal mining. When he was still young, Pialat’s parents moved the family from the backwoods of Auvergne to the Parisian suburbs. This move would result in Pialat having a permanent sense of exile, a theme that would show up over and over again in his films. In Paris, Pialat entered architecture school and discovered his love for painting. After the war, despite exhibiting his work in galleries that showcased the work of young artists, he became fed up with painting, fell into deep depression, and at a certain point, turned his attention to cinema. Making short film after short film, and then working as an assistant for years on others’ features, Pialat was unable to put together the resources for his own feature film until 1968. He was well into his 40s, and the New Wave was at the end of its decade of dominance. But his first feature L’ENFANCE NUE was a remarkable critical success. Despite it being a debut film, it was from a fully developed artistic voice. Even today it feels like a breath of fresh air and completely apart from other coming of age stories.

Pialat’s tortured demeanor and gruffness were famous in the French film industry, and inseparable from his personal struggles as an artist and his born emotional fragility. Everything for Pialat would be personal. A NOS AMOURS follows a young girl who looks everywhere outside of herself for love, and comes from a family where money, the family business, and familial and romantic relationships are all blended together in discord. Arlette Langmann, with whom he had a quite serious love affair, wrote the screenplays for A NOS AMOURS and LOULOU, basing the latter on her and Pialat’s break up when she met a new man. UNDER THE SUN OF SATAN, the adaptation of a George Bernanos novel (the same author of DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST) and Pialat’s most Bressonian film, may appear at the outset to be a departure from Pialat’s tendancy to be autobiographical. But in fact everything about that film’s main character, Dossignan, a priest who self flagellates for his lack of talent in his chosen métier and performed by a chubby, maladroit Gerard Depardieu, speaks to Pialat’s struggles with self-doubt and concerns about artistic failure. Pialat’s most autobiographical film of all is WE WON’T GROW OLD TOGETHER, based on his own novella and attempt to put to rest his agitation from a long-running, unhappy affair with a much younger woman that took place while he was still married to his wife.

In Pialat, we more often than not experience a sense of loss or a feeling of having been abandoned by those that we deem most important in our lives: family, lovers, God, or even as in LOULOU, part of ourselves. It is thanks to Pialat’s absolute conviction in facing his own weakness that led to a cinema so uniquely his own.


MAURICE PIALAT by Joël Magny. Éditions de l’Étoile/Cahiers du Cinema, 1992.

MAURICE PIALAT by Gérard Pangon. Éditions Mille et une nuits/ARTE Éditions, 1997.

MAURICE PIALAT by Marja Warehime. Manchester University Press, 2006.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Takes Major Steps Toward Diversity

You have to give credit where it's due for decisive action.

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, best known for the Academy Awards gala, but in fact a very active and positive organization year-round, was rightly roasted for a lack of diversity when the 2014 award nominees were announced. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite became omnipresent for a while, and the Academy's membership certainly did seem alarmingly out of touch. Of the Academy's 6,621 voting members, 92 percent were white, and 75% were male. A correction seemed in order, and, today, was made, as 683 new membership invitations were issued, with the intention to adding more women and minorities. The diverse pool of new invitees will hopefully go a long way toward making the Academy look more like the vibrant, international film community it wishes to represent.

A complete list of the "Class of 2016" can be found here. Congratulations to all the new members of the Academy, and, thank you to the Academy for providing this timely and important leadership.

Marlene Dietrich in Words & Images

The AFS Surrealist Love Goddesses Essential Cinema series concludes Thursday, June 30 with a 35mm screening of THE SCARLET EMPRESS, starring Marlene Dietrich.

James Agate, critic
“I can only say that she makes reason totter on her throne.” (Contemporary review of THE BLUE ANGEL, 1930)

Ernest Hemingway, friend
“If she had nothing more than her voice she could break your heart with it. But she has that beautiful body and that timeless loveliness of her face. It makes no difference how she breaks your heart if she is there to mend it.” (Quoted in Peter Bogdanovich, “Who The Hell’s In It?”)

Curtis Harrington, critic & filmmaker
“Like Garbo, she transcends any period, though some of her films do not. Her style throughout remains constant, within little characteristic variations, and as a personification of sexuality her luster never dims.” (quoted in “The Great Movie Stars”, David Shipman, 1979)

Josef von Sternberg, director

“’Marlene’ is a contraction of ‘Maria Magdalene,’ two names not often found in one person. Before becoming reconciled to being known as Marlene Dietrich, she pleaded with me to change her name, as no non-German could pronounce it correctly. The plea was ignored and she was told, correctly pronounced or not, the name would become quite well known. She attached no value to it when I met her, nor did she attach value to anything else so far as I could ascertain, with the exception of her baby daughter, a musical saw, and some recordings by a singer called Whispering Jack Smith." (“Fun In A Chinese Laundry”, 1965)

Peter Bogdanovich, friend
“Privately, Dietrich would tell friends, she felt somewhat guilty about World War II. Hitler had wanted to sleep with her, and she had refused him. Later, Marlene often said that if she had slept with him, she might have altered his views on life, and history would have been different.” (“Who The Hell’s In It?”)

Jean Cocteau, friend
“Marlene Dietrich! ... Your name, at first the sound of a caress, becomes the crack of a whip. When you wear feathers, and furs, and plumes, you wear them as the birds and animals wear them, as though they belong to your body. Your beauty is its own poet, its own praise. There is no need for us to speak of it, and so I salute, not your beauty but your goodness. It shines in you, as light shines in the moving wave of the sea: a transparent wave coming out of the far distance, and carrying like a gift, its light, its voice, and the plumes of foam, to the shore where we stand.” (1954)

Ernest Hemingway
“I think she knows more about love than anybody. I know that each time I’ve seen Marlene Dietrich she has touched my heart and made me happy. If that is what makes her mysterious, then mystery is a fine thing.”

Kenneth Tynan, critic
“She has the bearing of a man; the characters she plays love power and wear trousers. Marlene’s masculinity appeals to women and her sexuality to men.”

Marlene Dietrich
“Beauty comes from within. The idea might seem horrible but it’s true.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

Watch This: Robert Downey Sr. on Canadian TV, 1967

"If everybody could get turned on to not taking themselves too seriously and having a sense of humor about themselves, I think we could get over a lot of things that we take very, very seriously. We could approach the serious matters in a different way, like war, poverty, and all the things that are going on."

Robert Downey Sr. (born on this day in 1935) is one of the underappreciated masters of comedy filmmaking. His films often have a deep satirical bite, and they're also just plain funny. He's a funny guy with a serious belief in the power of humor, as he conveys in the following interview from 1967.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Garbo in Words & Images

The AFS Surrealist Love Goddesses Essential Cinema series continues Thursday, June 23 with a 35mm screening of MATA HARI starring Greta Garbo.

“After much brooding and re-appraisal I still cannot make up my mind whether Garbo was a remarkable actress or simply a person so extraordinary she made everything she did, even acting, seem remarkable.” (Isabel Quigley, The Spectator)

"Greta Garbo has been called ‘The Divine’ in several languages… To some of her worshippers she is only ‘The Incomparable One’, while to others she is simply ‘poetry, sunrise and great music’. In England she has been characterized as ‘a superhuman symbol of ‘The Other Woman’, and in Germany as ‘the supreme symbol of inscrutable tragedy’. Other European gallants, blowing hot and cold simultaneously, have described her as ‘the flaming icicle’ and ‘the frozen torch’. In America she has been hailed with majestic dizziness as ‘the mysterious, inscrutable, available but untouchable essence of the indefinable.” (John Bainbridge, Garbo, 1955)

“In close-ups she gave the impression, the illusion of great movement. She would move her head just a little bit and the whole screen would come alive – like a strong breeze that made itself felt. Wonderful movements.” (George Cukor, 1964)

“Garbo has only to flash on the screen to seize our attention. Her brilliance dispels our dullness. She takes us out of ourselves by the mere accident of her presence. It isn’t acting; it has nothing to do with acting; it is something which holds us in its spell – a kind of magic. This magic is Garbo.” (John Barrymore, 1932)

“Greta Garbo was a marvelous actress. The most interesting actress I have ever seen.” (Robert De Niro, 1995)

"Garbo is far more a fetish than an actress. (She is not) unaware of this. She has made the most of phenomenal personal characteristics: the long, poetic, prehensile arms of a growing youth; the virginal torso appropriately accented with a monosyllabic pelvis. The face itself (destiny's hands are many) is not without a more spiritual and edifying lesson: it has the equilateral beauty of some profound heroic masochism; it is fundamentally the face of a silent and nobly suffering slave, grimly humorous (with one eyebrow set back and up as though with a hair-pin) yet relentlessly combative in its supineness; a supineness which is a truly political proneness.” (Parker Tyler, Quoted in Cecil Beaton’s New York, 1938)

“Something in Garbo wanted to be where sex wasn’t. For if there’s sex, there’s bound to be sex’s uniform; if there’s a uniform, there’s bound to be a costume, and if there’s a costume, there is, possibly, a masquerade. And if there’s a masquerade, there’s a kind of deception.” (Parker Tyler, The Garbo Image, 1968)

“She was pretty much self-styled, you might say. Her features were so photogenic. You could light her face in any manner possible; any angle, up, down. Her bone structure and proportions – her forehead, her nose was just right; the difference between here and there was just right. And her eyes were set in such a way that you couldn’t go wrong.” (Photographer George Hurrell, quoted in People Will Talk, John Kobal, 1986)

“Garbo still belongs to that moment in cinema when capturing the human face still plunged audiences into the deepest ecstasy, when one literally lost oneself in a human image as one would in a philtre, when the face represented a kind of absolute state of the flesh, which could be neither reached nor renounced. A few years earlier the face of Valentino was causing suicides; that of Garbo still partakes of the same rule of Courtly Love, where the flesh gives rise to mystical feelings of perdition.

“Garbo offered to one's gaze a sort of Platonic Idea of the human creature, which explains why her face is almost sexually undefined, without however leaving one in doubt.

“The name given to her, La Divine, probably aimed to convey less a superlative state of beauty than the essence of her corporeal person, descended form a heaven where all things are formed and perfected in the clearest light.

“Garbo's face represents this fragile moment when the cinema is about to draw an existential from an essential beauty, when the archetype leans towards the fascination of mortal faces, when clarity of the flesh as essence yields its place to a lyricism of Woman.” (Roland Barthes, The Face Of Garbo, 1957)

“Just as Christ simultaneously asserted godliness and humanity by going off - into the wilderness, into a secluded part of the garden, simply to be alone - so Garbo is forever held back from that peace by films…

“Garbo’s films keep her for the audiences. They allow us to leave the cinema with the thought that she escaped the plot, the settings, and the other characters to perform endlessly in our dreams.” (David Thomson, New Biographical Dictionary Of Film, 3rd ed, 1994)

“I never said I wanted to be alone. I said I wanted to be left alone. There is all the difference.” (Greta Garbo, quoted in Bainbridge, ibid.)

50 Years Ago Today: Hollywood's Production Code Fell

Hollywood's Motion Picture Production Code was adopted by the studios in 1930 to counter the expensive and delaying influence of the then-preponderant state censorship boards. Prior to the creation of the code, and even for a while afterward, local boards would ban films because of this or that offense, and the release would be disrupted while the producers negotiated and made cuts.

Here is the resolution, approved by the heads of studios, that spells out the "don'ts" and the "be carefuls."

Resolved, That those things which are included in the following list shall not appear in pictures produced by the members of this Association, irrespective of the manner in which they are treated:

  1. Pointed profanity – by either title or lip – this includes the words "God," "Lord," "Jesus," "Christ" (unless they be used reverently in connection with proper religious ceremonies), "hell," "damn," "Gawd," and every other profane and vulgar expression however it may be spelled;
  2. Any licentious or suggestive nudity – in fact or in silhouette; and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture;
  3. The illegal traffic in drugs;
  4. Any inference of sex perversion;
  5. White slavery;
  6. Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races);
  7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases;
  8. Scenes of actual childbirth – in fact or in silhouette;
  9. Children's sex organs;
  10. Ridicule of the clergy;
  11. Willful offense to any nation, race or creed;

And be it further resolved, That special care be exercised in the manner in which the following subjects are treated, to the end that vulgarity and suggestiveness may be eliminated and that good taste may be emphasized:
  1. The use of the flag;
  2. International relations (avoiding picturizing in an unfavorable light another country's religion, history, institutions, prominent people, and citizenry);
  3. Arson;
  4. The use of firearms;
  5. Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc. (having in mind the effect which a too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron);
  6. Brutality and possible gruesomeness;
  7. Technique of committing murder by whatever method;
  8. Methods of smuggling;
  9. Third-degree methods;
  10. Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishment for crime;
  11. Sympathy for criminals;
  12. Attitude toward public characters and institutions;
  13. Sedition;
  14. Apparent cruelty to children and animals;
  15. Branding of people or animals;
  16. The sale of women, or of a woman selling her virtue;
  17. Rape or attempted rape;
  18. First-night scenes;
  19. Man and woman in bed together;
  20. Deliberate seduction of girls;
  21. The institution of marriage;
  22. Surgical operations;
  23. The use of drugs;
  24. Titles or scenes having to do with law enforcement or law-enforcing officers;
  25. Excessive or lustful kissing, particularly when one character or the other is a "heavy".
The Production Code was initially pretty ineffectual, due to a too-heavy workload, but in 1934, generally considered the beginning of the Production Code era, a new agency was created, with staff and real teeth, the Production Code Administration, run with great attention to detail by Catholic zealot Joseph Breen.

For many years the iron grip of censorship and enforced conformity prevailed but by the time television became a pervasive force in American's lives, the film industry fighting for every scrap of advantage it could gain. At the same time, European art films like Ingmar Bergman's SUMMER WITH MONIKA (1953) were breaking attendance records in small art theaters and even drive ins, displaying new flesh and new attitudes toward lifestyles that had previously been taboo on screen.

In 1952, the United States Supreme Court guaranteed First Amendment protection to films and the momentum for the abolition of the code grew. Enforcement grew somewhat more lax as the administrators of the code felt the heat, which rose to wilting temperatures with 1959's SOME LIKE IT HOT. The PCA denied the film a Code certificate, but United Artists released it anyway. As you must know by now, the movie was a smash hit, and the Code reeled.

The '60s presented many more challenges to the declining code and finally Jack Valenti, incoming president of the Motion Picture Association Of America, was charged with reviewing Mike Nichols' brilliant adaptation of Edward Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF. Knowing that the film's impact would be lost if the language was neutered, he merely insisted on the removal of the word "screw." Other instances of shocking dialogue were untouched, though the film received an advisory label due to its language and themes. In this manner it was released on this date in 1966.

Valenti's improvised advisory tag was to prefigure the movie ratings system, which was the eventual successor of the Production Code.

Friday, June 17, 2016

30 Minutes of THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED Is Now Online!

One of the most elusive and sought-after films ever made is Jerry Lewis' unreleased - in fact suppressed - film THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED. It's set in a concentration camp and is about a clown named Helmut Doork whose job is to lead children gleefully to their deaths. The clown is played by Jerry Lewis, who also directed the film. After he finished the movie in 1972, he decided it was not good enough to be released, also, it was probably in bad taste. The film's negative and all prints then were placed under lock and key. Until recent developments have brought it closer to the light.

There's more backstory in this AFS Viewfinders article from 2015, about the Library Of Congress' acquisition of the film.

But the big new news, which we first read in this Screen Crush article, is that 30 minutes of footage from the film has now been uploaded to YouTube. See it while you can, as it might not be up for long.

Here is the video:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Anna May Wong In Words & Images

Anna May Wong:
“When I was about 17, a truck came booming down the street and the driver yelled for me to get out of the way. He called me “chink.” To my surprise I blazed back a remark equally insulting at him and he wilted. That was the turning of a corner for me.” (1934, Los Angeles Times
“We were always thrilled when a motion picture company came to Chinatown to film scenes for a picture…I would worm my way through the crowd and get as close to the camera as I could. I’d stare and stare at those glamorous individuals, directors, cameramen, assistants, and actors in greasepaint, who had come into our section of town to make movies.  
“(I decided) yes, I would become a movie star too! Having made up my mind to this, the next step was to watch motion pictures on the screen..." (1926, Pictures Magazine) 

“And then I would rush home and do the scenes I had witnessed before a mirror. I would register contempt, shame, reproach, joy and anger. I would be the pure girl repulsing the evil suitor, the young mother pleading for her baby, the vampire luring her victim.

"One day, I was doing a big crying scene before my mirror when my mother walked into my room. She must have been amazed to see me with tears streaming down my face, clutching a bit of lingerie to my bosom but she said nothing. She was very considerate of one whom she must have thought at least peculiar. She left the room without a word.” (San Francisco Chronicle, 1928)

Hye Seung Chung:
"The first period of her career involved her struggle as a pioneering Asian American screen actress whose talent and beauty became largely subsumed within Hollywood’s exotic and sexual imagery of a Madame Butterfly and a “Dragon Lady” in such films as ‘THE TOLL OF THE SEAS (1922) and THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1924). Disheartened by Hollywood’s treatment, in 1928 Wong left the U.S. for Europe to seek what would be a “second beginning” of her acting career. In Germany, France and England, she ascended to international stardom, appearing in a variety of lead roles on stage and in film productions fluently speaking all the original language dialogue."("Hollywood Asian", 2006)

Karen J. Leong:
“Anna May Wong joined an out-migration of performers of color when she traveled abroad. From the 1920’s, American culture infused by the Italian Renaissance, expanded its horizons artistically as well as geographically. The resulting outflow of talent consisted primarily of African Americans, most notably artists like Josephine Baker and Paul Robeson, who similarly performed throughout Europe before more appreciative audiences. Within this transatlantic flow of talent, Wong distinguished herself with her unique status of “being oriental” and American at the same time, continually surpassing expectation with her modern flapper-style and wry sense of humor.”  ("The China Mystique", 2005)

Graham Russell Gao Hodges:
“(During the shooting of PICCADILLY) her impact on the public was immediate. People mobbed to her everywhere she went, making her forays into the city (London) difficult. English girls tinted their faces ivory with ochre color to get “the Wong complexion.” They cut their hair with bangs in the front to achieve the “Wong haircut.” Gorgeously embroidered coolie coats blossomed among the theater crowds in Piccadilly Circus.” – ("Anna May Wong: From Laundryman’s Daughter to Hollywood Legend", 2004)

Hye Seung Chung:
"Back in Hollywood, the biggest disappointment for Wong came when MGM offered her the Temptress role of second wife Lotus in the film adaptation of Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth (1931), instead of the lead role of O-lan. After losing the role of lifetime to Luise Rainer, Wong again deserted Hollywood to visit her ancestral homeland for the final time, to find out whether she was “playing a Chinese or merely giving an American interpretation of one.” ("Hollywood Asian", 2006)

B. Ruby Rich:
“The great tragedy of Wong’s life was that she sought to break free of her tradition – bound community and join the world of modernity that the cinema represented, on to find herself lashed by the very industry to constraining racist stereotypes.” (Guardian, 2004)

Anna May Wong:
“How should we be, with a civilization that’s so many times older than that of the west? We have our own virtues. We have our rigid code of behavior, of honor. Why do they never show these on the screen? Why should we always scheme, rob, kill? I get so weary of it all, the scenarist’s concept of Chinese characters.” (quoted in “Asian America Through The Lens”, Jun Xing, 1998) 
AFS Presents Anna May Wong in PICCADILLY (1929) with a live score by Ms. 45s on Thursday, June 16. Details here.

Monday, June 13, 2016

From MovieMaker Magazine: Julia Halperin's Pre-Production Diary

Those of us who have never made a feature film have little idea of all the work that goes into preproduction. In this month's MovieMaker Magazine, filmmaker Julia Halperin has shared a diary that gives us a tiny notion of how many of these little details are swarming around a producer/director during the preproduction period of an independent film. It's an excellent, though too brief, article and it makes us look even more forward to seeing LA BARRACUDA, which she is co-directing with her partner Jason Cortlund.

Important takeaways:

  • The grind never stops. If you're not actively scouting locations or talking to actors, you are sending scores of emails.
  • The availability of your onscreen talent is a constant worry, especially if you're not working with a First Class and Four Seasons budget. But good actors are also good filmmakers, and they are worth it.
  • Good location people, and locations, are very important.
  • You should always stock up on groceries before going into preproduction.

Friday, June 10, 2016

AFS Viewfinders Podcast: Alamo Drafthouse Programmer Tommy Swenson

The new episode of the (very irregular) AFS Viewfinders Podcast is here. Alamo Drafthouse Programmer Tommy Swenson joins us to talk about the art of film programming as well as upcoming series, the social responsibility of programmers, and the mysterious but compelling "pulp imagination" embodied in both pulp fiction and other forms of expression. It's a long, discursive podcast with some very provocative ideas.

Here it is.

Who Are/Were The Videofreex?

This month's doc night presentation is HERE COME THE VIDEOFREEX, screening on June 22, a new film by Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin that tells the fascinating story of a collective of early video users who helped to pave the way for a more democratic approach to media. There are interviews with the surviving Videofreex and their cohorts and, most importantly, footage of astonishing historical import, such as a passionate and inspirational interview with Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was assassinated by police soon after. It's a really interesting film, particularly for those who are concerned with the history of the era, and the history of ideas.

Founded in 1969 by a group of friends who met at Woodstock, the Videofreex used the new Sony Portapak video camera to document their times. They applied for a grant from the New York State Council of the Arts and added a high-tech bus to their arsenal. At this point they were basically a standalone television network. After a brief flirtation with CBS news, who wanted a youth-appeal program but couldn't abide the group's leftist politics, they went on the road, making programs of their work along the way, and, eventually, founded the first pirate television station in 1972.

It's intriguing stuff. Below are a few samples of the Videofreex work. Hopefully much more of it will be made available in the years to come. Currently the digitized files reside with the Video Data Bank, where they can be licensed.

Here is a very early Videofreex excerpt, featuring freak-folk icon Buzzy Linhart singing a Fred Neil song in a living room while the turned-on cameraman makes video feedback with a television set.

And here is a chaotic hour of Lanesville TV, the first pirate television station.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Louise Brooks in Words & Pictures

The AFS Surrealist Love Goddesses Essential Cinema series begins this Thursday, June 9. Here are some quotes about, and photos of, the woman writer Angela Carter called "“greatest of all the surrealist love goddesses.

"Those who have seen her can never forget her. She is the modern actress par excellence because, like the statues of antiquity, she is outside of time...she has the naturalness that only primitives retain before the lens...she is the intelligence of the cinematographic process, she is the most perfect incarnation of photogenie; she embodies in herself all that the cinema rediscovered in its last years of silence: complete naturalness and complete simplicity." – Henri Langlois, Cinematheque Francaise

"Louise Brooks is the only woman who had the ability to transfigure no matter what film into a masterpiece. . . . Louise is the perfect apparition, the dream woman, the being without whom the cinema would be a poor thing. She is much more than a myth, she is a magical presence, a real phantom, the magnetism of the cinema." – Ado Kyrou, "Amour-Eroticisme et Cinema"

“The great art of films does not consist of descriptive movement of face and body, but in the movements of thought and soul transmitted in a kind of intense isolation.” - Louise Brooks, “Lulu In Hollywood”

“During the 1920’s, when Europeans were flocking to Hollywood, Louise Brooks went from California to Germany… Brooks started out as a dancer, working as a showgirl on Broadway… before becoming a film actress in the late ‘20s. With her classic bob, Brooks was one of the most beautiful actresses of the decade. She also lived by her own rules and turned her back on Hollywood to star in two extraordinary films by German director G.W. Pabst, PANDORA’S BOX and DIARY OF A LOST GIRL (both 1929) – on which her reputation rests today.” – Kevin Brownlow, “Silent Movies: The Birth Of Film & The Triumph of Movie Culture”

“One morning (in 1929), I went to watch G. W. Pabst making DIARY OF A LOST GIRL in a studio on the outskirts of Berlin. I arrived at a moment when they were adjusting the lights, and, with evident pride, Pabst introduced me to the actress playing the heroine of his film, a young American woman of fascinating beauty who was sitting there reading. Incredibly, what this beautiful young woman was reading was a translation of Schopenhauer's Essays. Of course, I assumed that this was a publicity stunt of Pabst's; he knew perfectly well that I was a university graduate. However, I grew increasingly aware of an almost magical power emanating from this strange young woman, who spoke very little, even though I addressed myself to her in English. It was Louise Brooks. I stayed on, to watch Pabst work. And this Louise Brooks, whom I scarcely heard speak, fascinated me constantly through a curious mixture of passivity and presence which she projected throughout the shooting.” – Lotte Eisner, Afterword, “A Witness Speaks”


“Today we know that Louise Brooks is not just a ravishing creature but an amazing actress gifted with an unprecedented intelligence.” – Eisner, “L'Écran démoniaque, 2nd edition”

“… even in the Jazz Age, America didn’t know what to do with such a free spirit. Returning to Hollywood, she found herself ostracized. Brooks even made a two-realer with the forlorn Fatty Arbuckle and, subsequently, managed only a handful of supporting roles… Brooks was rediscovered in the ‘50s, and film writers journeyed to Rochester, New York, where she lived in seclusion, to hear the extravagant, highly intelligent actress offering the unvarnished truth about Hollywood’s golden years. Indeed she became a film writer herself, contributing articles to “Sight & Sound” and “Film Culture.” – Brownlow, ibid.

“I'm sure that Louise Brooks could have been, had she wished, had she even so much as lifted her little finger, as big and as durable a star as her contemporary, Joan Crawford. But she was presented, without either her knowledge or consent, a choice between Art and Fame, as straightforwardly as it might have been offered in a Renaissance allegory, and, without even being aware of it, she plumped, as it were, for the eternity promised by the poet. I do believe that, in her heart, she knew just what it was she wanted. She wanted "to rise high in the ranks". It was the reverse of a Faustian bargain. She bartered her future in exchange for her soul.” – Angela Carter

“… from the day the preservation of great films began, the petty plotting of small and selfish men to wipe out the record of beauty and truth that has sometimes been achieved in spite of them, was forever frustrated. The return of Louise Brooks to the screens of the world is a portent: the art of film has its own immortality.” – James Card, 1958, curator, George Eastman House