Thursday 26 November 2020

Dick Cavett Show: John Cassavetes, Peter Falk & Ben Gazzara

Husband (1970)

Notes on the restored version of Dick Cavett Show: John Cassavetes/Peter Falk/Ben Gazzara (21 September 1970), screened at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2019. The entire programme, sourced from a VHS tape, can be viewed below. — EK

A notorious moment in television history, one which is both funny and embarrassing to watch. Dick Cavett's interviews with film personalities are usually precious; they can be casual (resulting in some hilarious moments with certain guests) but at the same time focused. In 1970, two years into its run, Cavett introduced a new, longer format show to coincide with football fixtures, when many TV viewers would be hooked to the sports channel. The first episode to follow this new format, featuring the leading talents of Husbands, made for a disastrous start. Everything that could go wrong with an interview (including the unlikely possibility of the guests taking off their socks on camera, rolling on the floor and wrestling) did go wrong. Seemingly intoxicated, Cassavetes, Gazzara and Falk refused to talk and when they did, it was in incomprehensible half-lines – the spirit of the Three Stooges channelled via three figures of the New American Cinema. Cavett leaves the set in protest, returning later with the audience clamouring, "We want Dick!" The three bad boys kneel in front of him, seemingly apologetic. Yet, five seconds later, the mischief resumes to a maddening intensity. Towards the end it becomes clearer to see that it's all more of an act than actual intoxication. It's up to you whether to see it as a mean attack on the shallowness of such TV shows, or a sign of troubling immaturity. (For further drunk interviewees at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2019, see Sterling Hayden in Pharos of Chaos.) 

Monday 16 November 2020

His name was Negahdar Jamali...

نگهدار جمالی، سینمادوست، مبلّغ سینما و فیلمساز خودآموختۀ شیرازی که برای فیلم‌های ویدئویی وسترن، تارزانی و اکشنی که با کمک دوستان و هم‌محله‌هایش می ساخت، اول در شیراز و بعد به لطف مستند کامران حیدری، «من نگهدار جمالی وسترن می‌سازم»، در سطحی جهان به شهرتی کوچک رسیده بو،د شب پنجشنبه، 22 آبان، بر اثر ابتلا به کرونا فوت کرد.

این خبر را کامران حیدری مستندساز تأیید کرد که قصد داشت فیلم دیگری با مرحوم نگهدار بسازد.

تماشاگران بین‌المللی با وجد فراوان «من نگهدار جمالی وسترن می‌سازم» را در لندن و نیویورک و شهرهای دیگر دیدند و به دنیای ساده اما دیوانه‌وار این وسترن‌باز شیرازی خندیدند، نه از سر تمسخر، بلکه از سر همراهی با شیدایی او و ایمانش به کاری که می‌کرد.

وقتی اولین بار این فیلم را دیدم، نگهدار را رومانتیکی یافتم که شکست‌های متعددش چیزی از عشقش به سینما نکاسته و درباره‌اش نوشتم «نگهدار جمالي يكي از وجدآورترين فيلم‌هاي سال 2013 است كه مي‌تواند هر بيننده‌اي را تحت تأثير قرار دهد و فقر فيلم‌هاي اين مؤلف شيرازي ناخودآگاه او را به وسترن‌هاي اوليه ادگار اولمر پيوند مي‌دهد.»

Saturday 14 November 2020

University of Wisconsin Cinematheque Podcast: Filmfarsi

"Discover a hidden world of Iranian film with this fascinating archival documentary, which resurrects the long-lost popular cinema that thrived in pre-revolution Tehran. Though today it is best known for world-class auteurs like Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi, Iranian cinema between the 1950s and 1970s was sensational and melodramatic, chock full of sex and violence. As director Ehsan Khoshbakht wryly notes, the actual quality of many of these films “starts at B and descends to the last letters of the alphabet,” but today they provide a valuable window into the country’s midcentury psyche. Created in a culture caught between religious tradition and modernity, these lowbrow genre films often encapsulated contradictory ideas—on the common motif of actresses wearing miniskirts along with their headscarves, Khoshbakht observes that “women’s freedom meant a feast of male visual pleasure.” Nearly all of the over 100 films excerpted in Filmfarsi were eventually banned in Iran, relegated to the VHS bootlegs that form the raw materials of this invaluable history. To complement our presentation of Filmfarsi, Khoshbakht has also provided an exceedingly rare opportunity to see The Deer, a high-water mark of pre-revolution Iranian cinema." — Mike King

Wednesday 4 November 2020

La femme et l'animal (Feri Farzaneh, 1962)

La femme et l'animal

A much-welcomed online streaming of a series of short art and culture documentaries by Mostafa Farzaneh is significant in the sense that it allows for adding a few pages to the still being drafted history of the birth modern cinema in Iran. When I say "being drafted", I'm directly pointing at the question of access which is particularly relevant to these type of films, as Iran remains one of the last cases in cinema history where access to certain films is still systematically denied, with the majority of the films made prior to the 1979 revolution not available to the public.

Films like La femme et l'animal (Mostafa Farzaneh, 1962) whose director worked and was known in France as Feri Farzaneh, have been overlooked in reassessing the ebbs and flows of modern experience in Iranian cinema mostly due to that fact that they stand in a no man's land: produced in France with a French crew and in French language but essentially meant to promote Iranian cultural heritage through the medium of moving images to non-Iranians. Hence it is both "institutional cinema" in its approach to the subject and "cultural heritage cinema" in its reverence for it. So if Charles Ravier arranges French 13th music for this film whose subject is ancient Iran and the artifacts from Achaemenid Empire and earlier, it is because the film somehow clings to the common practices of "institutional cultural heritage" cinema, aiming for a cinéma de qualité.