Most people who work for a company, regardless of its size, have probably attended an office party for the employees at a certain point. For some, the idea of socializing with co-workers outside of work is something to avoid if possible. For others, it is an opportunity to score points with the boss and maybe advance your career. Then there are employees who simply enjoy social gatherings where an open bar and free food is theirs for the taking. All of these personality types and more – the gossip, the prude, the party animal, etc. – are on display in The Invitation (French title: L’invitation, 1973), a comedy of manners by Swiss director Claude Goretta, in which the employees of a small firm gather at a country estate for an office party given by one of the most unlikely employees to host a soiree.Continue reading
After recently rewatching I Shot Jesse James on DVD from Criterion’s Eclipse label, I couldn’t get a certain scene out of my head. As you may know, this 1949 film is Samuel Fuller’s directorial debut about Robert Ford, the “dirty little coward” who assassinated the frontier legend in 1882 and the scene that pops out occurs not long after Jesse (played by Reed Hadley) is dead and buried. Ford (John Ireland) begins performing re-enactments of the event on stages for money as he travels around capitalizing on his notoriety. At first, I thought this was just a fantasy from Fuller’s fevered, pulp fiction imagination but after doing some research it appears to be true. Robert Ford really did take his act on the road, billing it as “Outlaws of Missouri,” and, night after night before paying audiences, he would act out that fateful day when he shot Jesse James.Continue reading
We’ve all heard the famous quote “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” which came from the 1697 play The Mourning Bride by William Congreve, but what are the options for the discarded one? Shame the perpetrator in public? Internalize the rage? Become detached? Laugh it off? In Hollywood, the idea of the scorned woman bent on revenge is usually depicted more along the lines of Jessica Walter in Play Misty for Me (1971) and Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (1987) but you really don’t have to wield a knife and go berserk to redeem your self-respect. Instead, you can be creative, unpredictable and non-threatening in appearance like Emily (Geraldine Chaplin), the protagonist of Alan Rudolph’s Remember My Name (1978). Continue reading
Buck Henry has had a remarkable career in the entertainment industry, one that has encompassed acting, screenwriting, directing, producing and even dubbing foreign language film imports. Not content to sit on his laurels, Henry at age 86 remains active in Hollywood where he is allegedly working on the screenplay to Get Smart 2. His previous assignment was writing the screenplay for The Humbling (2014), a comedy-drama directed by Barry Levinson starring Al Pacino and based on the novel by Philip Roth.
In April 2010, Buck Henry was a guest at the first annual TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood and was present at a retrospective screening of The Graduate to answer questions from Vanity Fair contributor Sam Kashner. I conducted the following interview with Henry about his career prior to that festival for Turner Classic Movies. Continue reading
Is there something weird in the water in Australia..or maybe the air is different? All I know is that that culture has produced some of the quirkiest and most unusual films of any country beginning in the seventies with such movies as Peter Weir’s The Cars That Eat People (aka The Cars that Ate Paris, 1974), Stone (1974), and Thirst (1979), and continuing through the ensuing decades with such cult items as Jane Campion’s Sweetie (1989) and Rolf de Heer’s Bad Boy Bubby (1993). More surprising is that a few have gone on to become highly profitable hits in the U.S. such as Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom (1992), Muriel’s Wedding (1994), and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994). But one of my favorites – Love Serenade (1996) – didn’t strike box-office gold like the above three titles. It’s a strikingly original black comedy for those who fancy that often unappreciated mixture of the macabre and the comical which is rarely executed with this much wit and verve. Continue reading
While it is rarely shown in retrospectives of his work, Robert Altman’s The James Dean Story (1957) is easily one of the more offbeat and poetic examples of documentary filmmaking. Officially cited as his second feature (Altman’s first was The Delinquents, 1957), The James Dean Story was co-produced and co-directed with George W. George, a former writing partner of Altman’s, as a serious exploration of the young actor’s mystique and impact on the youth culture of the fifties. Continue reading
“It’s a human drama thing.” That’s how Benny Perkins, one of the contestants in the “Hands on a Hard Body” contest, describes this unusual endurance contest in Longview, Texas which was once an annual event that officially began in 1992. I first became aware of S.R. Bindler’s enthralling, hilarious and often moving 1997 documentary of the event during a visit to New York City in 1998. Scanning the film section of The Village Voice for showings of movies unlikely to come to Atlanta, the title Hands on a Hard Body caught my eye and sounded like a softcore exploitation film, possibly set during Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale. Continue reading