On a weekend of UCLA Film and Television Archive screenings curated by Sandi Tan—publisher, film critic, and director of the acclaimed doc Shirkers (2018)—a standout is Tim Hunter’s cult eighties noir RIVER’S EDGE.
Favorably compared to In Cold Blood by Roger Ebert, the film centers on the non-reaction by a group of teens to a dead body in their midst, and stars Keanu Reeves, Ione Skye, Crispin Glover, and DennisHopper. (Skye will join Tan for an onstage discussion.)
RIVER’S EDGE will be preceded by Leos Carax’s 1999 shocker POLA X.
“It’s appalling to read solemn academic studies of Hitchcock or von Sternberg by people who seem to have lost sight of the primary reason for seeing films like Notorious or Morocco—which is that they were not intended solemnly, that they were playful and inventive and faintly (often deliberately) absurd. And what’s good in them, what relates them to art, is that playfulness and absence of solemnity. There is talk about von Sternberg’s technique—his use of light and decor and detail—and he is, of course, a kitsch master in these areas… Unfortunately, some students take this technique as proof that his films are works of art, once again, I think, falsifying what they really respond to—the satisfying romantic glamour of his very pretty trash. Morocco is great trash, and movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them. The kitsch of an earlier era—even the best kitsch—does not become art…
“We are now told in respectable museum publications that in 1932 a movie like ShanghaiExpress ‘was completely misunderstood as a mindless adventure’ when indeed it was completely understood as a mindless adventure. And enjoyed as a mindless adventure. It’s a peculiar form of movie madness crossed with academicism, this lowbrowism masquerading as highbrowism, eating a candy bar and cleaning an ‘allegorical problem of human faith’ out of your teeth.” — Pauline Kael, “Trash, Art, and the Movies,” 1969*
“Not long before she died, Pauline remarked to a friend, ‘When we championed trash culture we had no idea it would become the only culture.’ That’s exactly the point. [Kael] and her foot soldiers won the battle but lost the war.” — Paul Schrader, “Fruitful Pursuits,” 2002**
Pauline Kael (1919–2001) was the film critic for The New Yorker throughout the 1970s, when American film culture—if not the magazine—was at its peak, and the country’s preeminent writer about the movies was at the height of her powers. In the obituary he wrote for his colleague, Roger Ebert said, “Kael had a more positive influence on the climate for film in America than any other single person over the last three decades. She had no theory, no rules, no guidelines, no objective standards. You couldn’t apply her ‘approach’ to a film. With her it was all personal.”
Kael had her pet critics and filmmakers, and this coterie style of extreme subjectivity brought many detractors—most notably Renata Adler, whose 1980 takedown “The Perils of Pauline” (published in the New York Review of Books) sent shock waves through Manhattan media circles.
This week at the Newport Beach Film Fest, Rob Garver will present his documentary WHATSHE SAID—THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL.
MA NUIT CHEZ MAUD—screening at Cinefamily early Saturday evening—is the third of Rohmer’s Moral Tales, but was shot fourth, while the director waited for Jean-Louis Trintignant’s schedule to clear.
“MA NUIT CHEZ MAUD is about love, being a Roman Catholic, body language and the games people play. It is just about the best movie I’ve seen on all four subjects. It is also a refreshingly intelligent movie: not that it’s ideological or academic (far from it) but that it is thoughtful, and reveals a deep knowledge of human nature.” — Roger Ebert, 1970
This presentation of Rohmer’s Moral Tales is part of Cinefamily’s La Collectionneuse series, programmed by Kalyane Lévy.
MA NUIT CHEZ MAUD, Saturday, July 15, at 5 pm.
CINEFAMILY, 611 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles.
At 3:30 pm, Jim Smith from The Smell is playing a DJ set at a pre-MAUD reception at CINEFAMILY. Ticket-holders can r.s.v.p. here: