Exterminating All Rational Thought With David Cronenberg’s ‘Naked Lunch’

In the fall of my sophomore year of high school, I hostessed at a restaurant on the beach. It was right along the water and whenever the wind blew it felt as though we all might disappear any moment. And as the weather grew colder throughout the season, the customers began to disappear. The only companion I had was the smorgasbord Sunday morning brunch buffet, which I wasn’t eve allow to dive into until proper brunch hours had ended—even when not a single soul came to dine. So to cure my boredom I began reading William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch instead of answering the phone.

The more I read, the less appetizing that calamari on the table would become. With each turn of the page, I no longer desired that saccharine wafting french toast perfectly placed so close to my stand. Even now nine years later, I can’t even think of the book without my memory tingling with the smell of buttery skillets and the quiet desolation that overwhelms beach towns in the winter. But I loved it, and as all books, films, etc. that eventually become the backbone of who you are, the novel always stuck with me as not only a piece of literature, but one of my most cherished sense memories.

And in imagining the adaptation those nine years ago, I found myself at a loss trying to imagine how Burroughs’s mind could be translated for the screen. For a world that lives so heavily in imagination and in the space between literal dictation and the surreal inquiry, I couldn’t fathom it finding a way to be filmed without maybe slicing out part of your temporal lobe and rubbing it on a strip of film. But leave it to David Cronenberg to bring Naked Lunch to the screen in a way that not only works but creates something completely his own in the process. 

So with the film playing at IFC Center this weekend, take a look back on some of Criterion’s wonderful on the set photos, as well as some further words on the film.

From the outset, Burroughs’s influence was like a neurological connection. Beyond its startling language and literary form, beyond its “forbidden” subject matter and obsessions (and sympathetic reaction to the repressive era in which it was written), the work spoke most immediately to Cronenberg’s viscera. More an infection than an influence.

To coexist with an infection, you have to be ingenious or it can subsume all of you. An artistic cure is essential to the creation of work that is intrinsically one’s own. Cronenberg’s particular antidote emerged in the act of filmmaking. He felt free to invent his own cinema, to be original in a way he could not with his writing, while many other filmmakers of his generation struggled with cinematic atavism under the towering shadows of Hitchcock, Ford, Hawks, and so on.

Also going on to that say:

Cronenberg is no cinephile. To Cronenberg, what separates Fellini from Paul Brickman, director of Risky Business, is the auteurist impulse: the drive to create a discernable, hermetically sealed world consistent from film to film, an instantly recognizable sensibility or vision. There are no direct cinematic influences on Cronenberg’s work. His heaviest influences are literary, and Burroughs is perhaps the strongest.

Similarities between the work of Burroughs and Cronenberg arise as much from the sheer force of imagery as from the imagery itself. Finding a cinematic equivalent for a literary vision is one thing; equaling its power in the context of another medium is something else entirely. Cronenberg’s compulsion is to “show the unshowable, to speak the unspeakable,” and even his relatively subdued and mainstream The Dead Zone (1983) is filled with images not easily erased from the mind. His ability to imagine and create the impossible in ways truly shocking, without compromise—a remarkable feat, given the commercial demands informing so much of cinema—is what binds the Cronenberg-esque to the Burroughsian. Both artists have suffered from often hysterically adverse reactions to the powerful images they have unleashed, and the impact of their visions has been overshadowed for some audiences by the “disgusting” nature of the subject matter.








There’s a Criterion Collection Flash Sale Going On! Here’s What You Should Be Buying

To save this dreadful Tuesday, the good folks over at The Criterion Collection have graced us with a special treat this afternoon. After announcing their spring releases a few weeks back, now they have graced us with a Flash Sale. Cue: cinephiles everywhere stopping whatever they’re doing, desparately scouring their dwindling bank statements and proclaiming, “But I will literally die without that Rohmer box set!”

So, from now until noon on Wednesday, all in-stock Blu-rays and DVDs are 50% off, and all you have to do is enter their code and voilà! I certainly understand that remembering what you wanted in the first place—let alone making a decision—is hard enough, so I’ve compiled the best Collectors Sets available on the site that you otherwise probably wouldn’t be able to shell out the money for. From American New Wave classics to German melodramas and everything in between, here’s a helpful reminder of what you should be purchasing today.

Eclipse Series 19: Chantal Ackerman in the Seventies

 Over the past four decades, Belgian director Chantal Akerman (Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles) has created one of cinema’s most distinctive bodies of work—formally daring, often autobiographical films about people and places, time and space. In this collection, we present the early films that put her on the map: intensely personal, modernist investigations of cities, history, family, and sexuality, made in the 1970s in the United States and Europe and strongly influenced by the New York experimental film scene. Bold and iconoclastic, these five films pushed boundaries in their day and continue to have a profound influence on filmmakers all over the world.

Three Colors Trilogy

This boldly cinematic trio of stories about love and loss, from Krzysztof Kieślowski was a defining event of the art-house boom of the 1990s. The films are named for the colors of the French flag and stand for the tenets of the French Revolution—liberty, equality, and fraternity—but that hardly begins to explain their enigmatic beauty and rich humanity. Set in Paris, Warsaw, and Geneva, and ranging from tragedy to comedy, Blue, White, and Red(Kieślowski’s final film) examine with artistic clarity a group of ambiguously interconnected people experiencing profound personal disruptions. Marked by intoxicating cinematography and stirring performances by such actors as Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Irène Jacob, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, Kieślowski’s Three Colors is a benchmark of contemporary cinema.

Eclipse Series 12: Aki Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy

 The poignant, deadpan films of Aki Kaurismäki are pitched somewhere in the wintry nether lands between comedy and tragedy. And rarely in his body of work has the line separating those genres seemed thinner than in what is often identified as his “Proletariat Trilogy,” Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, andThe Match Factory Girl. In these three films, something like social-realist farces, Kaurismäki surveys the working-class outcasts of his native Finland with detached yet disarming amusement. Featuring commanding, off-key visual compositions and delightfully dour performances, the films in this triptych exemplify the talents of a unique and highly influential film artist.

David Lean Directs Noel Coward

 In the 1940s, the wit of playwright Noël Coward and the craft of filmmaker David Lean melded harmoniously in one of cinema’s greatest writer-director collaborations. With the wartime military drama sensation In Which We Serve,Coward and Lean (along with producing partners Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan) embarked on a series of literate, socially engaged, and enormously entertaining pictures that ranged from domestic epic (This Happy Breed) to whimsical comedy (Blithe Spirit) to poignant romance (Brief Encounter). These films created a lasting testament to Coward’s artistic legacy and introduced Lean’s visionary talents to the world.

Eclipse Series 2: The Documentaries of Louis Malle

 Over the course of a nearly forty-year career, Louis Malle forged a reputation as one of the world’s most versatile cinematic storytellers, with such widely acclaimed, and wide-ranging, masterpieces as Elevator to the Gallows, My Dinner with Andre, and Au revoir les enfants. At the same time, however, with less fanfare, Malle was creating a parallel, even more personal body of work as a documentary filmmaker. With the discerning eye of a true artist and the investigatory skills of a great journalist, Malle takes us from a street corner in Paris to America’s heartland to the expanses of India in his astonishing epicPhantom India. These are some of the most engaging and fascinating nonfiction films ever made.

The BDR Trilogy

 By the age of thirty-four, German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder had directed already twenty-two feature films. In 1978, he embarked upon a project to trace the history of postwar Germany in a series of films told through the eyes of three remarkable women. Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun, Lola, and Veronika Voss—the BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) Trilogy—would garner him the international acclaim he had always yearned for and place his name foremost in the canon of New German Cinema.

Eclipse Seires 3: Late Ozu

 Master filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu directed fifty-three feature films over the course of his long career. Yet it was in the final decade of his life, his “old master” phase, that he entered his artistic prime. Centered more than ever on the modern sensibilities of the younger generation, these delicate family dramas are marked by an exquisite formal elegance and emotional sensitivity about birth and death, love and marriage, and all the accompanying joys and loneliness. Along with such better-known films as Floating Weeds and An Autumn Afternoon, these five works illustrate the worldly wisdom of one of cinema’s great artists at the height of his powers.

3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

 Vienna-born, New York–raised Josef von Sternberg directed some of the most influential, stylish dramas ever to come out of Hollywood. Though best known for his star-making collaborations with Marlene Dietrich, von Sternberg began his career during the final years of the silent era, dazzling audiences and critics with his films’ dark visions and innovative cinematography. The titles in this collection, made on the cusp of the sound age, are three of von Sternberg’s greatest works, gritty evocations of gangster life (Underworld), the Russian Revolution (The Last Command), and working-class desperation (The Docks of New York) made into shadowy movie spectacle. Criterion is proud to present these long unavailable classics of American cinema, each with two musical scores.

Frances Ha

Greta Gerwig is radiant as Frances, a woman in her late twenties in contemporary New York trying to sort out her ambitions, her finances, and, above all, her intimate but shifting bond with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Meticulously directed by Noah Baumbach with a free-and-easy vibe reminiscent of the French New Wave’s most spirited films, and written by Baumbach and Gerwig with an effortless combination of sweetness and wit,Frances Ha gets at both the frustrations and the joys of being young and unsure of where to go next. This wry and sparkling city romance is a testament to the ongoing vitality of independent American cinema.

Eclipse Series 8: Lubitsch Musicals

Renowned as a silent film pioneer and the man who refined Hollywood comedy with such masterpieces as Trouble in Paradise, The Shop Around the Corner, and To Be or Not to Be, Ernst Lubitsch also had another claim to fame: he helped invent the modern movie musical. With the advent of sound and audiences clamoring for “talkies,” Lubitsch combined his love of European operettas and his mastery of film to create this entirely new genre. These elegant, bawdy films, made before strict enforcement of the Hays morality code, feature some of the greatest stars of early Hollywood (Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Claudette Colbert, Miriam Hopkins), as well as that elusive style of comedy that would thereafter be known as “the Lubitsch touch.”

Pierre Etaix

 A French comedy master whose films went unseen for decades as a result of legal tangles, director-actor Pierre Etaix is a treasure the cinematic world has rediscovered and embraced with relish. His work can be placed on the spectrum of classic physical comedy with that of Jacques Tati and Jerry Lewis, but it also stands alone in its good- natured delicacy. These films, influenced by Etaix’s experiences as a circus acrobat and clown and by the silent film comedies he adored, are elegantly deadpan, but as an on-screen presence, Etaix radiates warmth. This collection includes all of his films, five features, The Suitor,Yoyo, As Long as You’ve Got Your Health, Le grand amour, and Land of Milk and Honey—most of them collaborations with the great screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière—and three shorts, Rupture, the Oscar-winning Happy Anniversary, and Feeling Good. Not one of these is anything less than a bracing and witty delight.

Eclipse Series 17: Nikkatsu Noir

From the late 1950s through the sixties, wild, idiosyncratic crime movies were the brutal and boisterous business of Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan. In an effort to attract youthful audiences growing increasingly accustomed to American and French big-screen imports, Nikkatsu began producing action potboilers (mukokuseki akushun, or “borderless action”) that incorporated elements of the western, comedy, gangster, and teen-rebel genres. This bruised and bloody collection represents a standout cross section of what Nikkatsu had to offer, from such prominent, stylistically daring directors as Seijun Suzuki, Toshio Masuda, and Takashi Nomura.

The Orphic Trilogy

 Decadent, subversive, and bristling with artistic invention, the myth-born cinema of Jean Cocteau disturbs as much as it charms. Cocteau was the most versatile of artists in prewar Paris. Poet, novelist, playwright, painter, celebrity, and maker of cinema—his many talents converged in bold, dreamlike films that continue to enthrall audiences around the world. In The Blood of a Poet, Orpheus, and Testament of Orpheus, Cocteau utilizes the Orphic myth to explore the complex relationships between the artist and his creations, reality and the imagination. The Criterion Collection is proud to present the DVD premiere of the Orphic Trilogy in a special limited-edition three-disc box set.

Eclipse Series 20: George Bernard Shaw on Film

 The hugely influential, Nobel Prize–winning critic and playwright George Bernard Shaw was notoriously reluctant to allow his writing to be adapted for the cinema. Yet thanks to the persistence of Hungarian producer Gabriel Pascal, Shaw finally agreed to collaborate on a series of screen versions of his witty, socially minded plays, starting with the Oscar-winning Pygmalion.The three other films that resulted from this famed alliance, Major Barbara, Caesar and Cleopatra, and Androcles and the Lion, long overshadowed by the sensation of Pygmalion, are gathered here for the first time on DVD. These clever, handsomely mounted entertainments star such luminaries of the big screen as Vivien Leigh, Claude Rains, Wendy Hiller, and Rex Harrison.

John Cassavetes: Five Films

John Cassavetes was a genius, a visionary, and the progenitor of American independent film, but that doesn’t begin to get at the generosity of his art. A former theater actor fascinated by the power of improvisation, Cassavetes brought his search for truth in performance to the screen. The five films in this collection—all of which the director maintained total control over by financing them himself and making them outside the studio system—are electrifying and compassionate creations, populated by all manner of humanity: beatniks, hippies, businessmen, actors, housewives, strippers, club owners, gangsters, children. Cassavetes has often been called an actor’s director, but this body of work—even greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts—shows him to be an audience’s director.

Six Moral Tales

The multifaceted, deeply personal dramatic universe of Eric Rohmer has had an effect on cinema unlike any other. One of the founding critics of the history-making Cahiers du cinéma, Rohmer began translating his written manifestos to film in the sixties, standing apart from his New Wave contemporaries, like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, with his patented brand of gently existential, hyperarticulate character studies set against vivid seasonal landscapes. This near genre unto itself was established with his audacious and wildly influential series “Six Moral Tales.” A succession of jousts between fragile men and the women who tempt them, the “Six Moral Tales” unleashed onto the film world a new voice, one that was at once sexy, philosophical, modern, daring, nonjudgmental, and liberating.

Eclipse Series 7: Postwar Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa came into his own as a filmmaker directly following World War II, delving into the state of his devastated nation with a series of pensive, topical dramas. Amid Japan’s economic collapse and U.S. occupation, Kurosawa managed to find humor and redemption existing alongside despair and anxiety. In these five early films, which range from political epic to Capraesque whimsy to courtroom potboiler, Kurosawa revealed the artistic range and social acuity that would mark his career and make him the most popular Japanese director in the world.

La Jetée/ Sans Soleil

One of the most influential, radical science-fiction films ever made and a mind-bending free-form travelogue: La Jetée and Sans Soleil couldn’t seem more different—but they’re the twin pillars of an unparalleled and uncompromising career in cinema. A filmmaker, poet, novelist, photographer, editor, and now videographer and digital multimedia artist, Chris Marker has been challenging moviegoers, philosophers, and himself for years with his investigations of time, memory, and the rapid advancement of life on this planet. These two films—a tale of time travel told in still images and a journey to Africa and Japan—remain his best-loved and most widely seen.

By Brakgae: An Anthology, Volumes One and Two

Working outside the mainstream, the wildly prolific, visionary Stan Brakhage made more than 350 films over a half century. Challenging all taboos in his exploration of “birth, sex, death, and the search for God,” he turned his camera on explicit lovemaking, childbirth, even autopsy. Many of his most famous works pursue the nature of vision itself and transcend the act of filming. Some, including the legendary Mothlight, were created without using a camera at all, as he pioneered the art of making images directly on film, by drawing, painting, and scratching. With these two volumes, we present the definitive Brakhage collection—fifty-six of his works, from across his career, in high-definition digital transfers.


This cornerstone of 1970s American moviemaking from Robert Altman is a panoramic view of the country’s political and cultural landscapes, set in the nation’s music capital. Nashville weaves the stories of twenty-four characters—from country star to wannabe to reporter to waitress—into a cinematic tapestry that is equal parts comedy, tragedy, and musical. Many members of the astonishing cast wrote their own songs and performed them live on location, which lends another layer to the film’s quirky authenticity. Altman’s ability to get to the heart of American life via its eccentric byways was never put to better use than in this grand, rollicking triumph, which barrels forward to an unforgettable conclusion.

Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project

Established by Martin Scorsese in 2007, the World Cinema Project expands the horizons of moviegoers everywhere. The mission of the WCP is to preserve and present marginalized and infrequently screened films from regions generally ill equipped to preserve their own cinema history. This collector’s set brings together six superb films from countries around the globe, including Senegal (Touki bouki), Mexico (Redes), India and Bangladesh (A River Called Titas), Turkey (Dry Summer), Morocco (Trances), and South Korea (The Housemaid). Each is a cinematic revelation, depicting a culture not often seen by outsiders on-screen.

American Lost and Found: The BBS Story

Like the rest of America, Hollywood was ripe for revolution in the late sixties. Cinema attendance was down; what had once worked seemed broken. Enter Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner, who knew that what Hollywood needed was new audiences—namely, young people—and that meant cultivating new talent and new ideas. Fueled by money from their invention of the superstar TV pop group the Monkees, they set off on a film-industry journey that would lead them to form BBS Productions, a company that was also a community. The innovative films produced by this team between 1968 and 1972 are collected in this box set—works that now range from the iconic (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Last Picture Show) to the acclaimed (The King of Marvin Gardens) to the obscure (Head; Drive, He Said; A Safe Place), all created within the studio system but lifted right out of the countercultural id.

Looking Back on Robert Altman’s ‘Nashville’ With Its Star Ronee Blakley

It was once said of Robert Altman’s 1975 film Nashville, that the film, “registers not private paranoia or public alarm, but rather a broad complacency,” that it, “transports the divine decadence of Cabaret to American soil. We are offered no crusading hero, no opposition to the conspiratorial menace,” but instead, “we see the lack of affirmative moral action with a benumbed populace.” And as Robert Altman’s swirling Americana tapestry of fame, politics, apathy, and twanging country tunes, Nashville takes place in the frenzied days leading up to a political rally for a Replacement Party candidate and was born of a post-Watergate mentality. It was also the the film that established Altman’s innovative and iconic filmmaking style—with his affinity for vast casts of actors playing against type, casual dialogue and overlapping improvisational style—that would go on to inform the rest of his directorial career.

With an on-set style like no one else, journalist Chris Hodenfield who visited the filming of Nashville, likened Altman’s troupe of actors to “an encounter group meeting during the days of Pompeii.” With over 20 roles in the cast, populated by such essential actors of the day—from Lily Tomlin and Keith Carradine to Karen Black and Shelley Duvall to Scott Glenn and Henry Gibson—the film also features its wonderful and essential cameos from stars like Julie Christie and Elliot Gould. Staying at the same motels, viewing dailies together with Altman, reveling in the chaos and immediacy of the time, to hear about the ongoings behind the scenes of picture is almost as thrilling as the onscreen world itself. But when it comes to the heart of Nashville, there was one woman who stands at the center and brings the curtain down, and that is Ronee Blakley.

Previously known for her musical prowess, whether was in electronic music, film scoring, or the folk rock crowd, Blakley was virtually unknown as an actress when she stepped into Nashville in its most pivotal role of Barbara Jean—the princess of Nashville’s country music scene whose beloved status and massive fame end up being her ultimate demise. But when Blakely originally agreed to be a part of Altman’s world, she was hired to work behind the camera, incorporating songs she has previously written into the film and consulting on a number of musical matters. As a Juilliard graduate who had performed at Carnegie Hall, released a studio album, and scored films, this was certainly a world she knew—but when Altman found himself needing a new star for the feature, there was no one more perfect and qualified to play the role than Blakley. Not only was she nominated for an Academy Award in 1976, but Pauline Kael—who famously championed Nashville right out of the gate—wrote of Blakley’s performance:

This is Ronee Blakley’s first movie, and she puts most movie hysteria to shame. She achieves her gifts so simply, I wasn’t surprised when somebody sitting beside me started to cry. Perhaps, for the first time on the screen, one gets the sense of an artist being destroyed by her gifts.

And since, Blakley has worked with everyone from Wim Wenders and Walter Hill to Bob Dylan, using her collaborations to absorb a tremendous amount of knowledge about the entertainment industry, while impressing her myriad skills as an actress and musician upon their creative spheres. In addition, Blakley has also moved behind the camera, stepping into the directorial seat herself, while managing to become an acclaimed poet (with upcoming live shows in Los Angeles). So in celebration of the Criterion Collection’s stunning DVD/ Blu-Ray release of Nashville today, I had the chance to call Blakley last week to chat about a bit of everything—from stuffing money in her dress at Carnegie Hall to arriving on the set of Nashville and the artistic nirvana that defined Robert Altman’s American masterpiece.

It’s been 38 years since Nashville was released. How does it feel to look back on the film now and your experience with it? I was recently speaking with Bruce Weber and he mentioned  that when you make a film and go through all the trials and tribulations with it, you think well okay, it’s on its own, it’s standing on its own two feet but it’s never really over. Is it the same for you now too?
It’s almost completely come alive for me again, having talked about it so much now. And then I just recently watched the documentary over the weekend. Did you see it?

I did!
Yeah, that got my blood up.

Watching the documentary and reading about the making of the film, it just seems like such an amazing world to have been a part of. Can you still feel that sense of excitement and recall those emotions when you look back on that time?
It feels great in many way because it’s such a beautiful piece of work that everyone did—and everyone can say that and know that now from a safe distance, because we’re not right on top of it anymore and not right on top of each other. We were so together then, it was really wonderful. I guess for me now, it seems like the things that we’re talking about are somewhat for posterity because the film has achieved a classic status. So you feel like, well, I sure wish I still looked like that! I thought I did! I thought I was a brunette!

You talk about the cast and crew being like an organism, all a part of this grand collaboration towards something. How was it working so closely intwined with your fellow actors and with Robert Altman?
You know, I was the only one who had produced a soundtrack for a movie before this; I had actually produced the songs for a movie called Welcome Home Solider Boys. I was the only one who had put our an album and toured—which is how Richard Baskin really knew me in the first place, from songs from that record, and that I had met him at my boyfriend’s house when we’d played music together and got along very well. So when I was put on to Nashville originally, I was put on as a writer to write with Susan Anspach, and help her and work with her—she was going to play Barbara Jean.But she ended up not doing it and they had me do it. So I was kind of looked at as the professional music person, and yet I was not seen as an actor even though I had acted all my life, they didn’t know it. I had also made movies; I had a small part in a feature and I had done summer stock. I even belonged to Equity and I had been on stage at Carnegie Hall with moog synthesizers!

Yes, I knew about the Moog synthesizers. Would you actually mind telling me about that a bit, because that sounds amazing.
Synthesizers are ubiquitous today, but at the time there weren’t many—I think there were four. The Beatles had one, Paul Simon had one, Gershon had one, and Robert Moog was lovely guy. He built these things in his studio upstate and he had one assistant, a young college guy named Tony, and they would come down to Gershon’s studio where a synthesizer occupied a whole room. If you imagine the old-fashioned operator chords in and out like patch chords going in and out for every key, for every input there was an output, so the room had to be huge. I remember when he developed the first sequencer, oh that was so exciting! And it was exciting, I don’t mean to make fun of it, it was truly exciting and there were four moogs in Carnegie Hall and several of us vocalists .

I remember improvising in Carnegie Hall, I had five thousand dollars in cash in my underwear to take to David Crosby down in Nassau in the Bahamas because his engine had broken, and it had to be in 50 dollar bills so it wouldn’t be too hard to exchange down there. So then the money stuck out of my stomach because I was thin then and had on a slinky little satin gown, and I could not turn sideways because I had no place to put the money and I didn’t want to lose it. Anyway, so there was that and I was improvising and it was heady and fantastic and beautiful. That was in January of 1970 and that was what I did then.

Then I moved to LA and began my rock and roll or folk rock career and my song writing career—not for electronic music but into folk music and scoring for movies. But when I came to LA at that time after sailing around on David’s boat through the Panama Canal,  then I got a job doing that movie for Fox, Welcome Home. And from there I got my first album deal with Elektra and those songs are what attracted Richard Baskin to me doing Nashville. So I had him choose from my hundred, hundred fifty songs what he thought would work, and then I also contributed and other people did my songs. The girls who did a duet that are so cute in their pinafores, they sang one of my songs and the high school band played my song—so it was just fantastic. But when I watched the documentary, I didn’t get the sense of any of that. I got the sense that they picked me up on the street somewhere [laughs] Like I fell from the sky! [Laughs] Or arrived on a clam shell. Every person can’t have their bio in the documentary, but it sounds like I landed from a space ship. Well now, that was a roundabout answer, wasn’t it?

How did you go about approaching the character of Barbara Jean? You’ve always been a very active and political person in your personal life and Nashville is, of course, heavily imbued with the political landscape of the time, and yet Barbara Jean isn’t a political figure.
I tried to go to the role, I tried to let the role dictate to me what she was. I looked for her in the faces in the people that I saw and looked for her in the clubs and in the performers I saw. I looked for her in my grandparents and my grandparents ancestors who were pioneers coming from Missouri to Kansas and then Idaho. My dad became a civil engineer, but back in the past they were all country people. I tried to go to that and use that, and then I became that as best I could so that I could see that it was working. I maybe went too far with it—I don’t like to talk about it too much, but I kind of adopted that because I feel that if people believe you on the street they’ll believe you on the screen. So you go to your heart and you search and you seek, like any seeker, the one who is searching, and then you hope for inspiration and give it your best.

You speak in the documentary about the first scene you shot, when Barbara Jean faints and how you gave your own suggestion to Altman’s direction. Was it really freeing as a performer to be in such a heavily improvisational and collaboration set?
It was artistic nirvana. Like when I said no to Bob it wasn’t in an argument, it was just talking very close with someone, your heads are close and they’re muttering something to you and it’s taking place in an intimate fashion. It’s an intimate thing and someone whispers in your ear, and it’s all instinct and all nerve endings because it’s all happening right at that moment and it takes on importance that it would not have otherwise. The fact there’s a set and there are cameras and there are people spending all that money while you are diddle daddling about. If Bob had wanted me to do it, he would have said so. But that’s what he did as a director. It’s like being a puppeteer and coercing and cornering and inviting all your darling children to do this performance and make a play and make something out of nothing—which is what happened.


And I think that’s what makes the film feel so alive and swirling and constantly in motion. It’s thrilling.
It didn’t just feel like that, it wasn’t pretend i that way, it was real and the energy was real—even the extras, even the people that are just Nashville folk, even the man that cleaned my clothes, you see people. The people that go to greet Barbara Jean when she gets off the plane, those are just neighborhood people but they’re all into it and all excited, and it just has that feeling to it. I don’t know how you work up that kind of thing, but it becomes very real. Bob had a lot of good people around him, like Alan Rudolph as an assistant—who is also a fine director—and Tommy Thompson, may he rest in peace, who Bob could not have done it without. Tommy was like having another director on set but who is completely subservient to the director. And then Alan was out shooting second unit. But it was only in the documentary that I learned that Alan shot the Philip Walker Van as it went through town. You know, second unit goes out and shoots stuff but still, the next day he’d be back in writing up call sheets and telling actors it’s time to get to the set. So he’s got these really talented people working under him, and that broads your scope and gives you a wider swathe. You can really cut a wide swathe when you have people like Tommy and Alan as your right hand and left hand taking care of business.

That seems to echo the general sense that everyone had an equal part in contributing to the film. Staying at the same motel and watched dailies together, was there a real sense of intimacy and symbiosis between Altman and the cast?
Yes, we were in two motels. But of course you never knew because everyone had their own private relationship with Bob. It wasn’t like everyone rushed up together and then got together to discuss their parts in a group, that never happened. Whatever happened with Bob was private with that person and Bob. So I can’t speak for the other people because I wouldn’t have been present for that, you see what I mean? But we all gathered together and had parties and dinner and Bob would set up drinks for the dailies, so it was like a a party every night. It really was, a very nice little party, just lovely, really, with just the finest people. Our complex was called the Haystack Apartments, and it was just very real and people’s lives went on and there were personal traumas and dramas and family stuff and breakups, and everything you can imagine went on. And what’s most touching of all ,is those that are gone. It’s hard to take.

You were keeping a journal while filming—was that to help channel your own creative energy and something you always do or was it more in the voice of Barbara Jean?
Deeply for my character, but I’m a writer so I often keep a journal and write, and often times that’s also how y songs will happen. And they’re really invaluable now that I go back to prepare to write a book of my memoirs, and maybe a compilation of anecdotes and some poetry and some photographs and paintings and some new writing, It’s so fantastic to be able to go back to them and find, for example, something that Bob Dylan actually said, rather than to just try and remember. I have a little drawing of Bob at the Speedway and my scene that I wrote for Barbara Jean’s breakdown was in there.

Was it strange and frightening being thrust into the spotlight, having little prior acting experience and playing this character who is at the central of the Nashville universe and the epitome of a star.
Well of course it was daunting and exciting, but I was anxious to do it and I thought I could do it. If I had felt I couldn’t do it, that would have been terrifying and petrifying and walking on oil, but I felt that I could and Altman felt that I could, and everybody seemed to think that I could—nobody seemed to think twice about it. Because I had had experience in music, everyone kind of looked at me as the experienced one, so even though I was a beginner in movies and here I was given an important role, it just seemed to fit in somehow. If I were asked to play something that was further from me, for example, if I were asked to play a girl with an Irish accent who is a juggler, that would be real hard because I don’t know how to juggle and I’d have to study a Irish accent. I studied this accent and got it and practiced it, but you have to feel it. If you don’t close enough, you better get so you do. When you see Sean Penn play the guitar in the movie he did, or when you see people gain and lose massive amounts of weight and learn how to do things they never knew how to do, those kinds of performances are thrilling. It’s got to be real! It’s just got to be real. I was good to people and everyone was good to me, we all helped each other. I gave Gwen Welles singing lessons and I helped Bob find people for the movie, and I’m sure other people did other things. I even bought things for my room, my set, and they were all used.

And being on the set of a film like Nashville is an experience that I’m sure could not be replicated anywhere else. So as your first major role, I’m bet this set the bar pretty high and changed your view of the directorial process.
Yes, because nobody else works like that. So for that to be my first big role in a big movie. and then go on to other movies, and then to think they’re all going to be like that—well they’re not and they weren’t. Each was great in its own way, and some were not as great, but that was the greatest of all.

Now that you’re behind the camera…
I do the same thing! I say go out there and do it! No, no I write and sometimes it’s poetry. I give them stuff ahead of time and ask what they want to hear about such and such a topic and then I’ll write and they’re all reading. And then I like to shoot faux doc stuff and I like to break down the fourth wall sometimes. Sometimes I have to shoot stuff myself, but of course I’d prefer to have a professional camera person, but I do shoot if I have to. And my work with this this recent film that I’m doing is ultra, ultra low budget.

Is that the film starring your daughter?
Yes, but the production value is so low I don’t know what its future will be. I may just release it straight onto the internet. My first feature had enough oomph that it opened at the Venice Film Festival and went to about ten festivals worldwide, but it had a budget probably five, ten times as much. With this I just had to work with a little skeleton crew and work fast. So my movie is a small movie, a tiny movie about a very big thing, a small movie about a big subject.

Having collaborated with so many legendary people in both film and music, as an artist, do you feel like absorb certain traits and learn something new from each person you work with?
I do. I kind of go by osmosis and learn by osmosis—by watching and hearing and looking and feeling, whether or not its Wim Wenders or Andy Warhol or Bob Dylan or Walter Hill or Robert Altman. I just pick up as I go along and the things I love I would like to be able to do. I wish I could make movies like Francis Coppola! I’d like to have 100 million dollars and run around setting up things everywhere. But 100 million still doesn’t guarantee anything, and even if you’d like to be Francis Coppola, it doesn’t mean that you can be! There can only be one Francis. Although Sofia is doing great. She’s so great, with Lost in Translation—that’s such a fine movie.

You also have some live shows coming up, can you tell me a little bit about those?
Oh yes I do! I’ll be at the poetry headquarters here in Los Angeles. It will be my first headline here as a poet. I will be doing some songs, but it will be mostly spoken word, some prose poems and some which you might just call poetry. I have three albums of poetry out. It’s occupied a bit of my time over the past several years and I’ll be having some new stuff in the show.

Will we get a chance to see you in New York at all?
Don’t have anything booked right now, but I’d like to. I’d also like to get going on my book and I’d like to get my movie out. It also had a soundtrack album that I’ll be putting out. It’s called Of One Blood, and then I have a new album called Songs of Love. I’ve got to get cracking on this book! I have thirteen chapters but they need to be better.

And finally, do you have any favorite memories from the set of Nashville—whether it’s a moment with Altman behind the scenes or with the cast while shooting?
Well I guess it would have to be the moment when he came to read what I had written for my breakdown scene. There was no breakdown scene initially, she was just supposed to go down to the Opry and sing. But I asked Bob to come down and I left the makeup chair and stood on the sidewalk with him and I gave it to him to read. I didn’t say it to him, he just read it in my journal. And he said, “Do you know it?” And I said yes and then he said. “We’ll shoot it.” So that was an electric kind of a moment, and that explains who Bob is and explains what kind of director he is and the ability he had to make those kinds of judgements. I mean a lot of people could read something and say, “Oh that’s nice,” or read it and say, “I don’t think it’s very good,” but he could not only read it, take it in, split second judge it, but then he also had the power to make it happen. Then you go out there and you shoot it with a thousand people in the audience and all the cameras—and of course all that stuff was already set to happen—but when you have that kind of synergy between us, we could make some magic. It was very, very exciting.



Photos Courtesy of The Criterion Collection 

The February Criterion Collection Lineup Has Arrived

Ah yes, it’s yet again the time of month when The Criterion Collection announces their upcoming set of releases. We all flock to check our funds and make sure we’ll have enough for our most desire and start savoring for those on our wish list. With films like City Lights and Frances Ha released this month, we now have Criterion’s picks for February. Here’s what they’ll be releasing on Blu-Ray and DVD. Get excited.

The colorful, electrifying romance that took the Cannes Film Festival by storm courageously dives into a young woman’s experiences of first love and sexual awakening. Blue Is the Warmest Color stars the remarkable newcomer Adèle Excharpoulos as a high schooler who, much to her own surprise, plunges into a thrilling relationship with a female twentysomething art student, played by Léa Seydoux. Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, this finely detailed, intimate epic sensitively renders the erotic abandon of youth. It has captivated international audiences and been widely embraced as a defining love story for the new century. 
(See our interview with Excharpoulos HERE)

Blue Is the Warmest Color, Abdellatif Kechiche


Jules and Jim, Francois Truffaut

Hailed as one of the finest films ever made, Jules and Jim charts, over twenty-five years, the relationship between two friends and the object of their mutual obsession. The legendary François Truffaut directs, and Jeanne Moreau stars as the alluring and willful Catherine, whose enigmatic smile and passionate nature lure Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre) into one of cinema’s most captivating romantic triangles. An exuberant and poignant meditation on freedom, loyalty, and the fortitude of love, Jules and Jim was a worldwide smash in 1962 and remains every bit as audacious and entrancing today.

Foreign Correspondent, Alfred Hitchcock

In 1940, Alfred Hitchcock made his official transition from the British film industry to Hollywood. And it was quite a year: his first two American movies,Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent, were both nominated for the best picture Oscar. Though Rebecca prevailed, Foreign Correspondent is the more quintessential Hitch film. A full-throttle espionage thriller, starring Joel McCrea as a green Yank reporter sent to Europe to get the scoop on the imminent war, it’s wall-to-wall witty repartee, head-spinning plot twists, and brilliantly mounted suspense set pieces, including an ocean plane crash climax with astonishing special effects. Foreign Correspondent deserves to be mentioned alongside The 39 Steps and North by Northwest as one of the master’s greatest adventures.


Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson Fantastic Mr. Fox is the story of a clever, quick, nimble, and exceptionally well-dressed wild animal. A compulsive chicken thief turned newspaper reporter, Mr. Fox settles down with his family at a new foxhole in a beautiful tree directly adjacent to three enormous poultry farms—owned by three ferociously vicious farmers: Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Mr. Fox simply cannot resist. This adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel from Wes Anderson is a meticulous work of stop-motion animation featuring vibrant performances by George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, and Bill Murray.

King of the Hill, Steven Soderbergh For his first Hollywood studio production, Steven Soderbergh (whose independent debut, sex, lies, and videotape, had won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival a few years earlier) crafted this small jewel of a growing-up story. Set in St. Louis during the Depression, King of the Hill follows the daily struggles of a resourceful and imaginative adolescent (Jesse Bradford) who, after his tubercular mother is sent to a sanatorium, must survive on his own in a run-down hotel during his salesman father’s long business trips. This evocative period piece, faithfully adapted from the memoir by the novelist A. E. Hotchner, is among the ever versatile Soderbergh’s most touching and surprising films.


Tess, Roman Polanski

This multiple-Oscar-winning film by Roman Polanski is an exquisite, richly layered adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. A strong-willed peasant girl (Nastassja Kinski, in a gorgeous breakthrough) is sent by her father to the estate of some local aristocrats to capitalize on a rumor that their families are from the same line. This fateful visit commences an epic narrative of sex, class, betrayal, and revenge, which Polanski unfolds with deliberation and finesse. With its earthy visual textures, achieved by two world-class cinematographers—Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet—Tess is a work of great pastoral beauty as well as vivid storytelling.

Breathless, Jean-luc Godard

There was before Breathless, and there was after Breathless. Jean-Luc Godard burst onto the film scene in 1960 with this jazzy, free-form, and sexy homage to the American film genres that inspired him as a writer for Cahiers du cinéma. With its lack of polish, surplus of attitude, anything-goes crime narrative, and effervescent young stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, Breathless helped launch the French New Wave and ensured that cinema would never be the same.

The February Criterion Collection Lineup Has Arrived – Movies – BlackBook.

Screen Musings: This Week’s Best Film Reads

Now that the weekend is almost upon us, before heading down to the cinema to enjoy the myriad screenings of both essential classics and fantastic premieres infiltrating theaters, check out our roundup of this week’s most interesting and vital writing on film.

How would Lubitsch do it?: Crtierion’s Tributes to Ernst Lubitsch

In 2002, for the release of Trouble in Paradise, the Criterion Collection asked a handful of directors and writers to pay tribute to Ernst Lubitsch with handwritten testimonials. The varied responses—from Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, and Cameron Crowe, Roger Ebert, James Harvey, Leonard Maltin, and Jonathan Rosenbaum—are featured here, along with behind-the-scenes images of the Hollywood comedy legend.
From Trier to Hansen-Love to Lanthimos: The New York Times’ 20 Director to Watch
This is a list of 20 filmmakers to watch. Other than their relative youth — one turned 40 a few months ago, and several more will join him soon — they share little besides passion and promise. But bringing them together, and shining a light on their accomplishments and their potential, seems especially urgent as another new season of serious moviegoing gets under way. Here’s why: We are living in a time of cinematic bounty. In multiplexes and beyond, movie lovers have a greater, more dizzying variety of choices — and of screens, large and small — than at any time in history.
I’ll See You at the Movies: The Dissolve argues Roger Ebert wouldn’t have agreed he was the last film critic who mattered
It’s astounding that in 2013, we still have not stopped mourning the supposedly golden age of media that is now long gone. Yes, once upon a time, every local newspaper in the country could afford to have its own film critic. There was no easy way to take the collective cultural temperature about a movie before its release, so we had to rely on what the paid reviewers told us. And if we disagreed, our primary option for voicing that dissent was to sit down, write a letter, shove it in an envelope, and then wait for the post office and an overworked newspaper mailroom staff to eventually set it on a paid critic’s desk, where he or she (but most likely he) would proceed to ignore it. Man, those were just the damn days, weren’t they?
The Destitute King: The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody on a new book of Orson Welles interviews
The Welles-Jaglom book is more cinema-centric and provides far more of Welles’s reflections on his art. It also presents Welles under the influence of irritants, of unwanted meetings and movie deals going sour, around which he elaborates verbal pearls darkened with his bile. The discussions in Tarbox’s book are altogether sweeter, though no less shadowed by Welles’s latter-day struggles to work and to earn money. (Here, too, Welles describes his desire to shore up his finances with rankly mercenary network-television shows and commercials.) The subjects tend toward personal recollections and nostalgic delights, and Welles is aware of the nostalgia. 
La tristesse durera toujours: The Daily Beast talks with the stars of Blue is the Warmest Color
The film’s two stars, who deliver two of the best performances of the year, sat down with Marlow Stern at the Telluride Film Festival to discuss the hellish-sounding making of the film, including why they’re embarrassed by the film’s talked-about 10-minute sex scene, and how they were terrorized on set by Kechiche. 
The State of Art Today: Filmmaker Magazine & Kentuck Audley on the Nature of Indepdent Filmmaking
Independent filmmaking: hobby or career? It is a question that has been on more than a few lips for years now. Though digital platforms have greatly democratized the distribution process, filmmakers are still reaping minimal financial returns on their work. Should the aspiring independent filmmaker pursue her passion wholeheartedly, or should she be pragmatic from the get go, making films as a hobby alongside a more lucrative career?
Truth twenty-four times per second: The Village Voice looks at the lasting power of Contempt, Bardot, and Godard
Contempt, possibly Godard’s most melancholy film and probably his most beautiful, is now 50 years old. The picture has weathered several waves of feminism and thousands of pages of analysis at the hands of film critics, most of them male. But Contempt—which Godard adapted from Alberto Moravia’s Il Disprezzo—needs no special pleading from any camp. And if Film Forum has turned revival and restoration of the picture into a kind of cottage industry—it brought Contempt back into our collective field of vision in 1997 and 2008, and is now back with a new, 50th anniversary restoration—no one’s complaining.
As our summer days begin to melt behind us, it’s time to cast our eyes to fall and get excited for all the cinematic events in store for us. The air will start to chill and the leaves will begin to wither from their branches, but what’s really important are the myriad retrospectives, premieres, and events happening around the city to enjoy. And if you’re currently experiencing the woeful jealousy that comes with knowing you’re missing out on the Venice and Toronto film festivals, never fear, the New York Film Festival is just around the corner.
Main image via The Criterion Collection

Indulge in the Divine Delight of Gabriel Axel’s ‘Babette’s Feast’

Adapted from a short story by Danish writer Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), Babette’s Feast—a food-lover’s delight and gently revelatory film—took home the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1988. And since it’s release, the film has been regarded as a treasure of modern cinema, telling a 19th century tale of two pious adult sisters living in an isolated Scandinavian village. Directed by Gabriel Axel, Babette’s Feast, “invites viewers to swoon over the sensual and spiritual experience of the climactic meal as if they were eating it themselves. By the end of the film, you will be convinced that food can be raised to the level of art—and that through art comes divinity.” 

And to celebrate the Criterion Collection’s Blu-Ray of the picture, they’ve given us an excerpt from an extended interview with sociologist Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson (which appears as a part of the film’s new release), in which she dives into dynamic and layered nature of the film’s titular meal. 
Also speaking to the work, Mark Le Fanu writes:
The quality of the film is, in the end, a spiritual one (which is why mention of Dreyer is merited). Since its release, critics have pointed out that the story is open to religious interpretation, which is fair, and fine, as long as one understands what is meant by this. Certainly, story and film are studded with religious references—to the Last Supper, to sacramental grace, to the importance of charity, and so on—but given that the milieu being depicted is religious, this should contain nothing to surprise us. Plainly, as viewers, we need to acknowledge a certain irony and genial good humor being directed against the narrowness of the village sectarians, while also taking the trouble to observe that the critique provided (such as it is) is congruent with broadly Christian sentiment. As in Ordet, there is puritanical Christianity and a more enlightened Christianity “of the body.” The feast given by Babette to the pious townspeople opens their minds to the notion that the pleasures of the senses aren’t necessarily sinful, but the satire involved here is very gentle, and it would be false to interpret the great sequence we are talking about as some simple endorsement of epicureanism. Actually, you could argue that the film itself resists interpretation because, as with the story, everyone already understands its essence. We take from it the sentiments and epigrams that appeal to us: “A great artist is never poor” or “That which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is also granted us.” Or the poignant last line of the general’s speech: “For mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss have kissed one another!” These are delicate and beautiful sententiae, and may be most of what we remember when, having seen the film, we come to ask ourselves where its wisdom lies.
Check out the video below and get the new edition of Babette’s Feast from the Criterion Collection today.

Traveling From Cassavetes to Carruth: This Week on Hulu

With the wealth of rare and unique films populating Hulu’s film section, tradition holds that each week we make you privy to the best of what the Criterion Collection is highlighting on the site. But this week, I thought I’d share with you the best movies available for free on Hulu outside of the coveted collection. From The Who’s teenage wasteland of Quadrophenia to Shane Carruth’s confounding debut Primer, there’s a stunning film here for every movie mood whether it’s brilliant narratives or or illuminating documenarties you’re looking for. So as we inch closer to Friday, peruse our roundup to see just what you’ll be cuddling up to this weekend. Enjoy.


Hoop Dreams



The Beales of Grey Gardens


Hollis Frampton (nostalgia)



Lust, Caution


Harlan County, USA



The Evil Dead


Manhattan Murder Mystery




Betty Blue

Get a Behind the Scenes and In Color Look at Bergman’s ‘Wild Strawberries’

Yesterday, the Criterion Collection released their Blu-Ray edition of Ingmar Bergman’s brilliant masterpiece Wild Strawberries. The iconic work of art house cinema tells a journey of self-discovery in the painfully honest and beautifully-crafted way that only Bergman can—winning him a Golden Bear in 1958 as well as an Oscar nomination in 1960. "The phenomenon of old age wherein childhood memories return with ever-increasing clarity while great stretches of the prime of life vanish into obscurity is the nub of Wild Strawberries," a film that deals with the essence of fear.

And speaking to the film, Mark Le Fanu said:

Wild Strawberries is not about illness (though it is certainly about the pain of old age); it is not, except as a minor excursus in the case of Isak’s mother, about different generations hating one another; and it is not—emphatically not!—about any problems that follow from having too many wives. No, the film tells a story in its own right; it has the dignity of third-person narrative. Isak Borg, the protagonist, and Ingmar Bergman, the director, share the same initials, but they are not otherwise linked in obviously discoverable ways—indeed, it is strange to learn, given how memorably the aged actor stamps the part as his own, that the role of Isak was not even written with Sjöström in mind. All great films have multiple miracles attached to them, the greatest miracle here perhaps being that this legendary actor-director—one can really call him the founder of Swedish cinema—should have still been alive when needed, that someone should have inspiredly thought of him, and that he should have been willing to take the part when it was offered to him…
These things can be said, then, without denying that the film is autobiographical; if we couldn’t guess it ourselves, we have Bergman’s word for it. Plainly, he believed that in some vital way he was the unwanted child of quarreling parents, and that no amount of talent and ambition could make up for this—it was a guilt he would need to carry to the grave. But I believe it is wrong to overemphasize these connections and what one might call the movie’s existentialism. There is torment aplenty in Wild Strawberries, but the film is not really about torment, I think—indeed, the contrary. Mention was made earlier of the calmness and sanity of its closing episodes, and it is time to dwell a little more on those qualities. Surely, all along, it has been impossible to miss the movie’s good humor. The viewer who is alert to tone can’t fail to have remarked the way in which courtesy, lightness, and gaiety govern so many of its major sequences.
And now, you can go behind-the-scenes in color to get a glimpse closer in Bergman’s world thanks to the Criterion Collection. Watch the clip below and purchase their edition of DVD for additional audio commentary, galleries of stills, and uncompressed monaural soundtrack.

A Fresh Start for Summer: This Week on Hulu

Now that the festivities of Memorial Day are behind us, we can now look forward to the infinite pleasures of summer. And aside from the sunlight and weekends spent rolling in the sand, there’s always the delight of summer films. So in honor of the season, The Criterion Collection is offering up something new in their weekly unveiling of free films on Hulu. With their 101 Days of Summer, they will now be highlighting a new title every day which will remain free for forty-eight hours. And to start off the season in style, they’ve made seven wonderful features—from existential Bergman classics to rare Altman dramas—available for your post-holiday cinematic endeavors. Take a look at what they’re offering this week and enjoy.





This silent comedy, in which Lloyd plays a go-getter whose many jobs include cabdriver and soda jerk, is the only Oscar-nominated film in the slapstick icon’s oeuvre. It features some incredible on-location New York shooting (including a scene set at Coney Island and a car chase through the Washington Square Park arch) and a cameo by none other than Babe Ruth.

The Naked Kiss

The setup is pure pulp: A former prostitute (a crackerjack Constance Towers) relocates to a buttoned-down suburb, determined to fit in with mainstream society. But in the strange, hallucinatory territory of writer-director-producer Samuel Fuller, perverse secrets simmer beneath the wholesome surface. 

Secret Honor

 Based on the original play by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone, and starring Philip Baker Hall in a tour de force solo performance, Robert Altman’s Secret Honor is a searing interrogation of the Nixon mystique and an audacious depiction of unchecked paranoia.

Two English Girls

The film resounds with themes and elements that interested and obsessed Truffaut throughout his career, but many of these themes flow directly from Roché: the incalculable complexity of love between men and women, the detached protagonist and the mismatched romantic partners, locked in love and crippled by its consequences. But Two English Girls sets itself apart by its sheer grace and palpable beauty, and if the film is a monument to Truffaut’s most prized and personal pleasures, our greatest pleasure is simply in observing the conjurer at work.



Seduced and Abandoned

Merciless and mirthful, Seduced and Abandoned skewers Sicilian social customs and pompous patriarchies with a sly, devilish grin.

A Hen in the Wind


The Seventh Seal

The Seventh Seal maintains throughout a peculiarly modernistic insistence on doubt. It embraces doubt the way most of the others embrace piety, futility, or melodrama. Only The Seventh Seal achieves uncanny timelessness by convincingly re-creating the time in which it is set.