Melvin Van Peebles in Paris

Is your dream to become a film director? Well, don’t expect Hollywood to give you a leg up. You need to forge your own path and think creatively like Melvin Van Peebles. When he tried to find employment in the Los Angeles-based film industry, a movie executive told him there were no jobs but there might be an opening for an elevator operator. Van Peebles’s solution was to figure it out on his own and taught himself the basics through making some film shorts. Eventually, he relocated to Paris and reinvented himself as a novelist, journalist and short story author. As a writer in France, he was eligible for a director’s card so he applied, got it and adapted his 1967 novel La Permission as his feature film debut under the title, The Story of a Three-Day Pass (1968). The story depicts a brief romance between a black U.S. soldier stationed in France and the French woman he meets in a Parisian nightclub. The premise might sound simple and straightforward but the execution is decidedly original, resembling a merger between Nouvelle Vague filmmaking techniques and Van Pebbles’ own idiosyncratic directorial choices.

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Oedipus Rex in Drag

Next to William Shakespeare, Sophocles is probably the most enduring and internationally renowned dramatist in terms of his work still being adapted for the stage, television and cinema and I doubt you will find a more bizarre or outre version of his Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex than Funeral Parade of Roses. Directed by Japanese avant-garde filmmaker Toshio Matsumoto, this revelatory 1969 movie – it was his first feature film after several experimental shorts – is just as fresh and startling today as it was when it first appeared over fifty years ago.    Continue reading

Missing in Action: Birds in Peru Starring Jean Seberg

Jean Seberg in Birds in Peru (1968)

Jean Seberg in Birds in Peru (1968)

There is a popular misconception these days that almost any movie you want to see is available for streaming or viewing somewhere in cyberspace but that simply isn’t true. Thousands of films go missing, become inaccessible or go into distribution purgatory as the years pass and they become forgotten in time. Birds in Peru (aka Birds Come to Die in Peru) would probably be forgotten too if it hadn’t received such scathing reviews upon its original release in 1968.     Continue reading