Monday 30 April 2012

The Matter of Design

Southbank, London, April 2012. ©Ehsan Khoshbakht
Vincente Minnelli & the matter of design, today on MUBI's Notebook.

Saturday 28 April 2012

The Art of Joe McElhaney

If I want to single out one book, among what's been written so far, on cinema of Vincente Minnelli, my choice, without any doubt, would be Vincente Minnelli: The Art of Entertainment, edited by Joe McElhaney. Jonathan Rosenbaum gives a good set of reasons why this book is important, which can be read here.

Mr. McElhaney, an associate professor in the Film and Media Studies at Hunter College, has brought together every imaginable name in the Minnelli's realm, under one colorful roof to map the critical changes in the reading of Minnelli's cinema since 1960s.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Raymond Durgnat on "Bells Are Ringing"


This essay is from March 1973 issue of Film Comment. The current copyright holder is © Raymond Durgnat Estate (Kevin Gough-Yates) and it's been published here with their kind permission. Visit the official website of Raymond Durgnat estate here.

Alongside the generally accepted trio of classic post-war musicals—On the Town, Singing in The Rain, The Band Wagon—l’ve long wanted to range a fourth: Give a girl a break. Between these and honorable third-line material like The Pirate, Summer Holiday, Funny Face and Kiss Me Kate l’d place some which grapple, more or less ruefully, with some post-war disillusionments: It’s Always Fair Weather, maybe The Girl Most Likely (Mitchell Leisen, 1958), Three For The Show (H. C. Potter, 1955) and The Girl Can’t Help It, and Certainly Bells Are Ringing (if one classes it as a musical rather than as a comedy with musical numbers).

My record-sleeve summarizes the plot thus: “Ella Peterson (Judy Holliday) has never met Jeff Moss (Dean Martin) but has fallen in love with him while handling his calls at Susanswerphone, a telephone answering service which she runs with her cousin, Sue.” The partners personify the alternative attitudes which are positive and negative poles of the film’s morality. Ella is always sympathizing with the unseen clients for whom she takes and leaves messages. Sometimes, not content with worrying, she quits her switchboard to do what she can to help. Sue, older and more wearied, reproaches her for worrying, for getting involved.

Friday 20 April 2012

Yolanda's Dream

Jane Feuer examines the interchangeability of 'reality' and 'dream' in one of the best sequences of Yolanda and the Thief

The ultimate synthesis of the musical consists in unifying what initially was imaginary with what initially was real. Musicals may project the dream into the narrative, implying a similar relationship between film and viewer. The dream resolution, the resolution of the film, and leaving the theater tend to occur within a very short time span. For a little while after seeing a musical, the world outside may appear more vivid; one may experience a sudden urge to dance down the street. The feeling of not knowing quite which world one is in may be evoked within the film as well. Peter Wollen says that, in Hollywood films, everything shown belongs to the same world and complex articulations within that world flashbacks are carefully signaled and located.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Art of Entertainment

Humphrey Bogart and Ira Gershwin entertaining the very little Liza Minnelli at Minnelli's.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Minnelli Loves...

In Mr. Richard Dyer’s introduction to the season of Minnelli which took place at National Film Theatre, someone asked about the influences on Minnelli’s cinema. It was near the end of the Q&A session, and memories couldn’t sever us well to point out that most of the directors who made an impact on Minnelli, were, as a matter of fact, European ones. If we want to bring up just one name, whose style and ideas can predict a great part of Minnelli’s career, that would be the painter, poet, designer, filmmaker Jean Cocteau. It’s tempting to see most of Minnelli’s film as variations of Blood of a Poet, made by Cocteau in 1930.

Monday 9 April 2012

Vincente Minnelli Books

A Pictorial Bibliography of Vincente Minnelli (1959-2010)
If you want to enlarge or save any of these pictures, just click on the slideshow.

Sunday 8 April 2012


Second part of Minnelli's reminiscing of how he worked with Katherine Hepburn, Robert Mitchum and Robert Talylor in his only film noir, Undercurrent (1946). Part one can be reached here.

Yet, as Kate and I were becoming good friends, I discovered that my cordial relations with Bob Taylor were in danger of deteriorating. He'd taken my chronic vagueness as disinterest, I suppose, and though he never voiced any complaints, I was aware of his dissatisfaction. Bob's wariness, that I was throwing scenes to Kate, ended when he discovered how effective he was being in the picture.

His performance helped us prolong the denouement. Though Bob had gotten over his pretty boy reputation, you still couldn't disguise his charm. The audience simply wouldn't take him for a murderer...until that climactic scene with his brother. The mask was stripped, and his psychopathic character was finally revealed. I started mulling over the scene, to see if I could supply it with a new approach.

Saturday 7 April 2012


Hepburn and Taylor - Shadow of Mitchum

Undercurrent was one of the few Minnelli's films, outside his familiar territory of musical, melodrama and comedy. Surprisingly, it was a film noir. Probably one of the oddest films in Minnelli's career, it still bears some of key themes of Minnelli's world, especially those related to the darker side of him. Last night's screening of Under the Clock [US: Clock] at NFT, showed how ready was Minnelli for noir genre in the 1940s. In Under the Clock, there is a scene when newly married couple enter a run-down bar, where a mad woman and a loquacious drunk, in a low-key photography, talk about un-Americans, madness, corruption and "dogs" which is a disturbing scene, almost like a mistake, in a sweet melodrama. I thought that scene can be approached as an equivalent of Halloween sequence of Meet Me in St. Louis, made one year earlier, where a sudden destruction of the dream world shocks the Minnelli's characters. Here, from his autobiography, I Remember It Well, Minnelli, charmingly, tells the story of how he worked with three major stars in Undercurrent. This is part one of his memoirs about Undercurrent. Film will be shown tomorrow (8 April, 18:30) at NFT, and the second screening is 18 April, 20:40.

Bob Mitchum feels it was fiscal collusion between the studio and David Selznick, to whom he was under contract that brought him the part. For he admits he was never comfortable in the role of the sensitive Michael.

But Bob didn't need the later-developed Mitchum swagger to convey his innate strength. He's always underestimated his ability.

I can't deny that Selznick was being paid $25,000 a week to loan out Bob for my picture, and getting the same amount for a second Metro picture, Desire Me, which Bob was shooting in the afternoon. On top of this, Bob was working at night on The Locket at RKO. "I worked the three pictures for twenty-six straight days," Bob remembers. "We'd shoot all night at RKO, then I'd report for Undercurrent from seven in the morning until noon, when I'd be flown to Monterey to work all afternoon on the picture with Greer Garson." No wonder he became famous for his sleepy eyes.

Friday 6 April 2012

On An American In Paris [repost]

مقاله زير واكنش من به يادداشت ديويد تامسون درباره يك آمريكايي در پاريس در كتاب Have you seen? است كه پيش‌تر در شماره 401 ماهنامه فيلم چاپ شده است.
يـك آمـريـكـايـي در پـاريــس: شـور عـشـق و خـلسـۀ هـنـر
آقای دیوید تامسون در کتاب مستطاب «اونو دیدی؟...پیش درآمدی شخصی بر هزار فیلم» که به تازگی منتشر شده و به شهادت مقدمه‌اش حاصل سال‌ها تلاش، دو دلی و از این ناشر به آن ناشر رفتن مولف است در یادداشتی بر یک آمریکایی در پاریس (وینسنت/وینچنته مینلی،1951) و ضمن مقایسۀ آن با کفش‌های قرمز (مایکل پاول و امریک پرسبرگر،1948) به این نتیجه می‌رسند که با یکی از فراموش شدنی‌ترین موزیکال‌های عصر طلایی روبروییم. تامسون در همان خط اول، فرضیۀ "هنر برای هنر" فیلم را به پرسش می گیرد (تلفیق نیش و کنایۀ انگلیسی با نقد مارکسیستی!)، اگر اصولاً چنین فرضی درباره یک آمریکایی در پاریس قابل طرح باشد.
آن چه در یک آمریکایی در پاریس – لااقل از نگاه ما – به عنوان هستۀ مرکزی فیلم دیده می‌شود، تفسیر هنر از هنر (یا هنر دربارۀ هنر و نه برای هنر) است. موضوع آن دشواری آفرینش هنری از خلال تلاطم زندگی، تضاد میان آرمان‌ها و ایده‌آل‌های هنر با تنگناها و مرزهای زندگی حقیقی است که به طور مساوی بین دو شخصیت ایده آلیست فیلم تقسیم شده است، یکی خوش بین و سرزنده که موسیقی در سرشت اوست (جین کلی) و دیگری شخصیتی بدبین (اسکار لِیونت) که به عنوان یک آهنگساز و رهبر، تصویری آکادمیک از هنر را به نمایش می گذارد؛ در حالی که هر دوی آن‌ها به شدت وابسته به یکدیگرند. تامسون فیلم را کپی شده از ایده و میزانسن کفش‌های قرمز می‌داند، از یک سو کفش‌های قرمز را منازعه میان شور عشق و خلسۀ هنر می‌داند و از سوی دیگر یک آمریکایی در پاریس را دربارۀ رابطۀ هنر و جلوۀ دکوراتیو و نمایشی آن می خواند و تبلور این ذهنیت را در سکانس بالۀ هر دو فیلم جستجو می کند. در یکی درامی پرشور را تشخیص داده و در دیگری لحن سرد کارگردانی شیفتۀ جلوۀ موزه‌ای امپرسیونیست‌ها.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Minnelli's Jazz Portraits

Recently attended a screening of Vincente Minnelli's I Dood It (1942) at National Film Theatre, I was amazed by its dedication to jazz music of the early 1940s. I felt one of the subtexts of the film is the transition from popular big band music to a more personal, wilder and challenging jazz which is soon about to happen in Minton's club. Though there is no reference to revolutionary bop music in I Dood It, the sharp contrast between early scenes in Jimmy Dorsey's MGM style club with its white sets, and overdecorated space with the last numbers played by Hazel Scott and Lena Horne alludes a change in life-style and art in which main characters with their social differences can reunite.

In the "segregated" concept of placing the musical numbers, when the it comes to the "black" numbers, sets are minimalist, or even empty, hence the emphasis has been put on music. The walls of Jericho in a number near the end of the film is a painted paperboard, but the manner in which the musicians are shown, the sound, choreography and dazzling camera movements create the complete space, as if Charlie Parker is rising from the ashes of big bands to give birth to a new sound and a new black identity.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

The Pirate Isn't Just Decor [repost]

"In what kind of setting is the little image of the great Pirate (1948) lodged, with the signature luxury of its MGM sets that dazzled when their reds glowed, unrivaled, within the huge images being projected in a darkened theater?

And here comes the answer: What difference does it make, since The Pirate and its sets hold up splendidly? Because what they've lost in store-window impact they’ve gained in pure logic. Because, quite simply, this is not a “decorative” film. That’s the decisive point. For if there is a type of film that loses its aura by being deported to the small screen, it’s the decorative film, one that risks being less accomplished in matters of decor than the “interior” is seen. That confrontation, while unconscious, can be quite cruel.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Clockmaker of the World

كريستين ماركلي، زمان و طولاني‌ترين فيلمِ تاريخ
ساعت‌سازِ جهان

آيا فيلمي را مي‌شناسيد كه وقتي ساعت 8:45 شب وارد سالن سينما شويد، زماني كه روي پرده نشان داده مي‌شود 8:45 باشد و اگر تصادفاً يك ربع ساعت دير به نمايش فيلم برسيد، وقتي به پرده نگاه مي‌كنيد زمان روي پرده ساعت 9 شب را نشان دهد؟ آيا فيلمي را مي‌شناسيد كه طول آن 24 ساعت باشد و زمان روايي با زمان محلي – آن‌چه در ساعت مچي يا روي موبايلتان مي‌بينيد – يكي باشند؟ يك فيلم، و فقط يك فيلم، در تاريخ با چنين مشخصاتي وجود دارد، اما بايد پيشاپيش به چند نكته دربارۀ آن اشاره كنيم: اول – اين فيلم، به معناي واقعي كلمه يك فيلم نيست، بلكه هزاران فيلم است كه به يك فيلم واحد تبديل شده؛ دوم – اين فيلم تنها متعلق به دنياي سينما نيست، چون موزه‌ها آن را نمايش مي‌دهند، اگر چه در سينما يا خانه هم قابل تماشاست. براي توضيح اين پديدۀ استثنايي از كتايون يوسفي كه وقتش را در گالري‌ها مي‌گذراند و سه بار، در ساعات مختلف، به تماشاي فيلم (يا بخش‌هايي از آن) رفته خواستم تا چيزي دربارۀ فيلمِ عجيب و 24 ساعتۀ ساعت (2011) بنويسد: