Friday 31 August 2018

On Blu-ray - David hare rejoices in the new Criterion edition of HEAVEN CAN WAIT (Ernst Lubitsch, USA)

Andrew Sarris, Molly Haskell
The gloriously happy couple in the two screens above are, of course, Andrew Sarris and Molly Haskell recorded here by Criterion for its 2004 DVD of Lubitsch’s last masterpiece, Heaven Can Wait from 1943. This terrific interview along with both original and brand new supplemental material has been ported over to Criterion's new Blu-ray edition of the movie including a new 4K restoration from Fox..
The inclusion of the Sarris/Haskell “married couple” discussion is, surely beyond felicity for a movie which is ostensibly so grounded in the mystery, magic, the drama and tragedy of marriage. Yet for all that, the movie is most remarkable for two huge temporal elisions. 
Don Ameche, Heaven Can Wait
The first and biggest is a ten years' gap, a complete blank from the day Henry van Cleeve (Don Ameche) and his beloved Martha (Gene Tierney, in supernaturally flattering Technicolor) elope, to the day ten years later of their anniversary date, when she leaves him to return to her monstrous parents - Eugene Palette and Marjorie Main - in their lurid log brown toned “Xanadu” nightmare conception of bucolic rural America in possibly the American cinema’s ugliest decor.
Gene Tierney, Heaven Can Wait
It’s no coincidence the screenwriter, Samson Raphaelson was also the author of Lubitsch’s four other greatest pictures: Trouble in Paradise (1932), The Merry Widow (1934), the Sternbergian-Pirandellian Angel (1936) and the sublime The Shop Around the Corner in 1940. For a screenplay that supposes the subject to be marriage, Heaven delivers itself over to Henry himself and an astonishingly sustained performance of a near impossible part by Don Ameche. 
Henry, even as a 15 year old, here played by Dicky Moore with a kind of Dionysian luridness and a set of smarts manages to get an extra six bucks a week for the new French Maid whom he’s just seduced. 
Don Ameche, Laird Cregar, Heaven Can Wait
Henry is at turns a hypocrite, a lecher, a louse, self-deluding and a quasi- liar, but - thanks to Ameche and Raphaelson and Lubitschs’ incredibly personal investment in the character, he’s human. And ultimately, as he tells Satan himself – played by a leering Amber-tanned black-suited Laird Cregar, straight out of Murnau’s incarnation of Old Nick as played by Emil Jannings in the 1926 Faust,  but now in a Deco-Moderne version of Hell out of Lube’s own 1932 Madame Colet's deco apartment in Trouble in Paradise, invented by Fox art Director James Basevi and photographed with all the opulence only Fox 40s Technicolor and Eddie Cronjager could deliver.
It’s no surprise Cronjager’s other big picture for Fox that year was Busby Berkeley’s hallucinatory The Gang’s All Here. 
The costumes in this picture, hideous almost to a shot and character, were “created” by Rene Hubert and reach their apex of awfulness in the dowdy, dead leather and worn coal tones of the rich yokel Strabels. Color design even in the paradisiacal sequences from the van Cleeve household always threatens to run into something way beyond picture postcard, a mood which the movie sets up initially for the recollected memories and then keeps intentionally losing throughout the narrative. 
Lubitsch sometimes pulls the color back, and in the most lyrical example (see screen above) he drags it right into a replica of pre 1933 two Color process Technicolor which could only reproduce red and a kind of blue-green. The sequence is the “Sheik of Araby” performance Henry and Martha attend at the Ziegfeld Follies just before the final sequences of the picture. As critic and Lubitsch scholar Joe McBride notes in his new biography of Lube, the show could well signal a call to one of Lube’s own 1920s “history” movies with all its show biz hokum and “exotica”. The payoff is Henry’s penultimate opportunity for infidelity, prompted by yet another blonde showgirl, played with fierce but endearing toughness by Helene Reynolds. 
Ernst Lubitsch
It’s not only the smart showgirl who determines the final parameters of this playboy’s life. Martha herself in two major dialogue scenes, both supposedly reconciling, reveals at every turn of the dialogue she’s at least three steps ahead of Henry and has been for the duration. And so will it be for her last great scene, sweetly, shortly before she dies. 
Samson Raphaelson
What matters to these two, as Lubitsch and Raphaelson clearly express, is also what matters to Gaston and Lily in Trouble in Paradise. And to “Angel” and Sir Frederick in Angel, and Danilo and Sonia in The Merry Widow- they are both innate rebels, they both crave to escape bourgeois rectitude and break out. They are sexually intoxicated by each other, often as much fetishistically by their mutual transgressions. And they can’t live without each other. 
Schawn Beltston
Just a few words on the new 4K. The work comes from Fox’ technical team under Archival maestro Schawn Beltston. It's almost impossible to believe something so beautiful could have been achieved with not a single first generation element. The restorers were obliged to reconstitute new separations and a working dupe negative from a CRI interneg which is possibly the worst imaginable situation from which a restorer can work. As we doubtless all know, Fox junked all its nitrate negs, including all the nitrate Technicolor three strips sometime after 1977 in some kind of insane economy measure. Quite frankly what Beltston and his team can achieve these days on titles like this and the amazing Leave her to Heaven is something only prayers could answer.

Thursday 30 August 2018

A Tribute to Michael Edols - 25 September at 6.00 pm - AFTRS Theatre

A big thank you to AFTRS for the theatre

Speakers Bios
LES McLAREN a documentary filmmaker who worked as enthnomusicologist in PNG where he also produced 5 films.  A long collaboration with Annie Stiven includes Cowboy & Maria in Town (Best Doc SFF 1992) and Taking Pictures. He was Assistant Director, Film Editor & Sound Designer on the Edols Kimberley project, and most recently with Annie Stiven produced and directed the feature documentary Life is a very strange thing about life in post-colonial France.

HAYDN KEENAN Ex enfant terrible.  Currently gentleman filmmaker. First film 1969. First Government production investment 2005. Youngest winner:  best feature film in the history of the AACTA Awards. Produced three feature films two of which he directed. Also documentaries, music videos and a party political ad for the Australian Marijuana Party. His most recent series won Best Documentary from the Australian Film Critics Circle, was nominated for a Walkley Award and NSW Premier’s History Award. Developing: A history of men’s tailoring with Britain’s leading rapper and style icon Tinie Tempah; Series on the screen monsters we’re hooked on; Web doco series hosted by New York Times and a feature film.

JUNO GEMES is one of Australia’s most celebrated contemporary photographers. In words and images she has spent 40 years documenting the changing social landscape of Australia, and in particular the lives and struggles of Aboriginal Australians, a process that culminated in her being one of the ten photographers invited to document the National Apology in Canberra in 2008.

MARK GOULD –is a documentary filmmaker and theatre director who was touched by Mike Edols work. Mark has made over 35 documentaries: Moulin Rouge Girls (series); TIBET: Murder in the Snow; A Winners’ Guide to the Nobel Prize; Gut Instinct; Miss Tibet and the Limbo of Exile, the pilgrimage trilogy – The Holy Dip, Easter in Jerusalem and A Pilgrimage to the Kalachakra and in collaboration with Michael – Here’s My Hand. Mark has directed for Compass, Four Corners, Foreign Correspondent and Australian Story.
PAT FISKE is an experienced director and producer. She started making films in 1973. In 2001 she was awarded the prestigious Stanley Hawes Award for her outstanding contribution to the documentary industry in Australia. Some of the films she has directed are the award-winning documentaries:  Rocking the Foundations; Woolloomooloo; For All the World to See; Australia Daze, Following the Fenceline, Larrikin Lad and Footprints on Our Land. She has produced Business Behind Bars, Selling Sickness, River of No Return, Scarlet Road, Love Marriage in Kabul and Oyster. At present, she is producing When the Camera Stopped Rolling and developing several other projects.  Pat has mentored many emerging filmmakers and was co-head of documentary at AFTRS from 2002-2008. She is a founding member of Ozdox.

MAX HENSSER, Artist has enjoyed a 40-year career as a Professional Film Location Sound Recordist, working predominately in the Documentary Field. He trained in London in the 60’s and worked on many projects all over the planet.   Some Projects: A Clockwork Orange ~ Stanley Kubrick. (1971); Tamu ~ The story of Donald Friend) in Bali (1972);  Lalai Dreamtime ~ When the snake bites the sun ~ Director Michael Edols; Birdmen of Kilimanjaro ~ Best Sound AFI Award; Art From The Heart ~ Dir Richard Moore; An Artist in Egypt ~ with Tim Storrier;  Filming with Mike Edols and the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley in 1973 was a profoundly life changing experience. Vale Michael!!! 
WILL DAVIES graduated from ANU and worked at the CFU in 1972. He travelled overseas in 1975-76, worked in Hollywood and BBC Bristol. He set up Look Films in1977, was a documentary producer from 1983-2010 mainly for the ABC and SBS. Since 2002 Will has had nine books published and has just submitted his ANU PhD thesis. Currently he is a battlefield tour guide in France and is developing history tours.

JOHN OGDEN is a visual artist, writer, publisher and educator based in Sydney, Australia. Ogden’s career began as a photojournalist in Southeast Asia during the early seventies, before joining the infamous Tracks magazine as a correspondent while freelancing for other counterculture publications. In 1979 he graduated from the Western Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin University) having studied literature, anthropology and filmmaking. Over the last four decades he has worked as a Director of Photography, and is an accredited member of the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS). Following a life-changing accident in 1998 he established Cyclops Press in a mission to publish books that promote Australian stories. 

ANDREW PIKE is a film distributor, historian and documentary filmmaker.  With Ross Cooper, he co-authored Australian Film 1900-1977. His company, Ronin Films, has distributed many Australian films including STRICTLY BALLROOM and SHINE, and today specialises in documentaries, among them films by Michael Edols. He was a Board member of the National Film and Sound Archive 2009-12. His documentaries as director include THE CHIFLEYS OF BUSBY STREET, EMILY IN JAPAN and MESSAGE FROM MUNGO.  

JENNIFER ISAACS AM is an award winning author of twenty influential books on Australian art, culture, environment and history. She has also curated numerous Indigenous art exhibitions in Museums and Galleries across Australia and has mounted exhibitions in major art museums in the USA. Jennifer is a pioneer in the field of indigenous arts working with remote communities to advance their aims for 48 years, educating Australians about the richness and diversity of Aboriginal cultures in an effort to change the way Australians think and see themselves.

MARION VAN DEN DRIESSCHEN (EDOLS) is an artist, teacher and librarian. She and Michael married in 1998. Their partnership of 22 years has been one of collaboration both artistically and working together to digitise and rerelease Michael’s collection of documentaries. During the last 2 years their focus had been seeking funding for the Galangala Project, aiming to create a living resource from the digitised Edols Collection held by AIATSIS. For the last 3 years they lived on their yacht, the Bird of Passage surrounded by the beauty of Pittwater and a loving community, of which they have been a part for the last 20 years.

NICK TORRENS Facilitator: His much-awarded, idiosyncratic films over 40 years observe the critical forces that shape lives. A founding member & former National Chair of the AIDC, he has commissioned SBS documentary, conducted development programs for the SAFC & state film agencies & was Artistic Director of HEADLANDS, Australia’s first National Documentary Development Program. He designed courses for the AFTRS, acts as mentor for emerging filmmakers and works to enhance the Documentary profile and sense of community.  Recent awards include: China’s 3Dreams Best Documentary Australian Film Critics Circle plus six international Best Doc awardsLiberal Rule: The Politics that Changed Australia Best Documentary Series from both AFI and Australian Directors GuildThe Men Who Would Conquer ChinaSydney FF Dendy Award and AFI Award for Editing.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

A new Australian Documentary - An invitation to a screening of OYSTER (Kim Beamish)

Producer Pat Fiske (Rocking the Foundations/For all the World to See - the Fred Hollows film) invites you to a one-off Q & A screening in Sydney through Demand Films.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 6.30pm, Chauvel Cinema, 249 Oxford Street, Paddington 2021

Ticket link and synopsis below! (When 9 more tickets are sold, the screening goes ahead, so please don’t delay. Book now)


  • On the south-east coast of Australia, a punt glides over Merimbula Lake towards an oyster lease with passionate young oyster farmer Dom at the helm. It’s a romantic picture of tranquil beauty and a life close to nature, attuned to the rhythm of the tides. But Dom, partner Pip and the other oyster farmers swear that the water is getting warmer and the storms more severe. The lake is full of that famous gourmet’s delight, the Sydney Rock Oyster, but they take three years to mature and are only one big storm or heatwave away from disaster.  

  • Oyster follows Dom and Pip into their home, their work-shed, out on their punt and into the water to see what it’s like to be raising two energetic young boys, while working big hours to keep a few million oysters alive, and any decision they make to deal with the global pressures of fickle luxury markets, climate change, environmental damage and increasing disease could have far reaching consequences.    
  • Monday 27 August 2018

    On DVD and Blu-ray - TWIN PEAKS (David Lynch, Mark Frost, USA, 2017)

    I must be preaching to the converted when I confess that I finally got round to giving the 2017 edition of Twin Peaks a good go round. The last person to get to that one, I’m almost sure.

    That was followed by a quick look at Wikipedia to try and work out some of the casting. I read there that Cahiers du Cinema voted it Best Film of 2017 and Sight and Sound voted it second best. Those things may or may not be true. There are plenty of times when someone will say something like “Cahiers said that Roger Vadim was the greatest of all nouvelle vague directors” and the source is some obscure piece by someone who indeed said that once somewhere, probably referring to a great man’s sad decline….or somesuch. And I cant be bothered checking.

    But I do remember much enthusiasm by all especially in the Facebook chatter last year. 

    David Lynch as FBI Director Gordon Cole,
    Twin Peaks 
    But as I watched, hence the Wikipedia consultation, it occurred to me that my memory was playing tricks, I had simply forgotten things or Lynch and co-writer Mark Frost were playing tricks. I now have to pronounce that before you embark on the 2017 Twin Peaks (subtitled on the box but nowhere else, “A Limited Event Series”, whatever that may mean or intend to mean) the smartest thing to do would be watch the whole 29 eps, and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me again before you embark on the 2017 iteration. It's worth the trouble.

    Naomi Watts as Janey-E Jones, Kyle
    McLachlan as Dougie Jones
    Twin Peaks
    Then, with a reasonable memory, you would know just who’s who, who’s gone (Sheriff Harry Truman, Michael Ontkean, being the main one) who’s appeared (Diane, Laura Dern in wigs, being the main one) who’s new (FBI Agent Tammy Preston, Bushnell Mullins, Janey-E Jones and the Mitchum Brothers, played by Chrysta Bell, Don Murray(!), Naomi Watts, James Belushi and Robert Knepper respectively). Don Murray, I hear you mutter. My God. All the way back to Bus Stop  and Advise and Consent. 

    The new Twin Peaks is a wild ride, full of bursts of scenes that take time to make sense if they make sense at all. It reaches some sort of peak in Episode 8, the one done entirely in black and white, which starts with a nuclear explosion in 1945 and meanders along up to 1956. My friend David Hare suggested one unravelling thought about the whole ep when he remarked “It all wiped me out but I think Chapter 8 which is the black and white Atom bomb test ep in which it opens the portal to the other world with the guy who channels life was probably the most out there.” Well that’s some sort of clue. 

    Laura Dern as Diane, Twin Peaks
    Lynch may well be the truest inheritor of Cocteau’s dizzying take on the world – a poet, a storyteller, an inventor of mad schemes, a creator of characters and narratives that don’t fit together in any rational way but keep you gripped throughout.

    The Twin Peaks Box Set however is worth the purchase and notwithstanding the increasing emerging disdain for the ‘old technology’ of DVD, it still offers pleasures that only DVD can provide, at least in the current market. Disc 8 is made up entirely of special features. All up there are eight separate films, all made by the same team of young Germans and including all new music. These are called by Lynch himself, in an on set moment, as  ‘Behind the Scenes’ and they give a more vivid and acute picture of the actual process of modern film-making than I have ever seen. 

    Lynch’s attention to detail is remarkable. The crew are apparently totally efficient. The DOP gets exactly the effects that Lynch himself calls for. Some actors have no idea what he’s up to. Others, Robert Forster, the new Sheriff Frank Truman in particular, are right on top of things both with the mechanics of the scene and the meaning Lynch is trying to impart. You also get one superb glimpse of Kyle McLachlan’s technical skills as he works up a scene. Worth half the price of admission alone.

    I’m saying it late, and in the wrong year, but it’s the best thing I’ve seen on screen this year, in fact for many years.

    Sunday 26 August 2018

    Talkie Talk #26 - Adam Bowen alerts readers to the week's new releases and some TV highlights


    The Flip Side - Aussie romcom, starring Eddie Izzard and Tina Bursill.

    Watch the trailer by clicking here(and read some thoughts by the producer, director and star by clicking here

    The Insult(2017) - the prejudices of a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee go on trial in Beirut.

    Watch the trailer by clicking here and click here for some reviews following screenings at the SFF.

    Three Identical Strangers – doco about three young men - strangers - who discover they’re triplets, separately adopted. Why?

    Crazy Rich Asians– aspirational romcom, starring Constance Wu & Henry Golding

    Mile 22 – CIA thriller starring Mark Wahlberg & Lauren Cohan.

    Luis & the Aliens – Animated adventure in which a young boy meets 3 aliens. Three ETs for the price of one ticket.

    Kin – sci-fi/action/ involving feds, escaped convicts, aliens, a teenage boy and a weapon with magical powers.


    Fox Classics Monday 10.50pmThe Gunfighter (1950) - plain, unflashy story of a retired gunman (Gregory Peck), who can’t escape his past. Setting, direction (Henry King) and monochrome photography (Arthur Miller) are spot on.

    Fox Classics Tuesday 8.35pm and Wednesday 12.20pm: Rio Bravo (1959) Character piece in which sheriff, John Wayne, his drunken deputy (Dean Martin), ol’ Stumpy (Walter Brennan), and a young gunslinger (Ricky Nelson) take on some evil outlaws. Director Howard Hawks’ answer to High Noon- spun out at a nice leisurely pace, never taking itself too seriously. Also starring Angie Dickinson.

    Angie Dickinson, Rio Bravo
    Fox Classics Thursday 11.20pm:The Treasure of the Sierra Madre(1948) – in Mexico, three gold prospectors (Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt and Walter Huston) form an uneasy alliance.

    Saturday 25 August 2018

    On DVD and Blu-ray - David Hare confesses to his delight in ever more editions of the films of Jean Vigo

    The screen above was the first format in which I bought the complete Vigo in DVD, a French "integrale coffret" back in the early 2000s. Subsequently Gaumont and then Artificial Eye and Criterion re-issued the films in Blu-ray. 
    When I bought the Criterion single Blu disc (above) a few years ago and also downloaded a custom re-edit of the older version of L'Atalante which differs slightly from the authorised version, I made the difficult decision to discard the older French DVD boxset. I did this with literally hundreds, if not thousands, of DVDs which were being steadily replaced. I have regretted it ever since because the box was so beautiful, and it also contained a small booklet.
    But the new Blu-ray box from Gaumont (above) looks like a worthy successor. 

    Some of us seem to be at the point where we're tracking our life through these things.

    The Current Cinema - some links to Film Alert reviews of THE INSULT (Ziad Doueiri, France Lebanon)

    The Insult
    The most popular film at the 2018 Sydney Film Festival was Ziad Doueiri’s French/Lebanese co-production The Insult. Now the film has had previews and is opening commercially around Australia next week. 

    Here are the links to two reviews published following the SFF screenings, first by Barrie Pattison and then by Rod Bishop.

    Click on each name to go through to the review.

    Ziad Doueiri

    Friday 24 August 2018

    Melbourne International Film Festival (7) - John Snadden praises ANGELS WEAR WHITE (Vivian Qu, China)

    Amongst the paltry Asian offering from this year's MIFF was the Mainland drama, ANGELS WEAR WHITE  (2017), the second feature from Vivian Qu. It scored her the Best Director prize at the Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan.
    The film follows the case of a high level Communist Party official who is charged with sexually assaulting two young girls. It's a grim study of moral, economic and legal corruption - which still appears to be endemic in China (even after nearly a decade of anti-corruption purges by the CCP).
    It's a genuinely powerful movie which never resorts to overheated dramatics or contrived story-lines. A short sequence set in a provincial hospital depicts a truly crushing personal betrayal, where all the safeguards of a reasonable society have been thoroughly trampled. 
    Angels Wear White
    ANGELS WEAR WHITE is wonderfully acted by leads Zhou Meijun and Vicky Chen, and beautifully shot by French DOP Benoit Dervaux. 
    Locally, we probably won't see this pic again on the big screen, but it's definitely worth a DVD purchase or download. 

    Benoit Dervaux, Vivian Qu

    Streaming - David Hare adds his voice to the enthusiasts for 4 SEASONS IN HAVANA (Félix Viscarret, Cuba/Spain, 2016)

    We are loving this like crazy. Coming recommended originally by Rod Bishop and Geoffrey Gardner
    We've devoured three of the four, with the third, Mascaras knocking me completely out. The author, Leonardo Padura and the cast and director of the series, Félix Viscarret are unknown to me but one wants to see much more. Currently on Netflix everywhere. 
    Havana itself is the beating heart of the show, endlessly seductive and ridiculously beautiful. All the while, beyond shabby, totally run down, dysfunctional. But by Epiosde 3 you are no longer seeing the peeling paint, the rusty iron the splitting concrete, and the broken faucets, you're only seeing the gorgeous wrought iron, the totally unique post deco-moderne curving 50s architecture which is unlike anything in Miami. There are times when the city makes Barcelona look dull! 
    How much longer will Cuba be like this I wonder. I want to get straight on a plane.
    Click on this link  for a teaser trailer

    Wednesday 22 August 2018

    Australian Documentary - more screenings for LIFE IS A VERY STRANGE THING (Annie Stiven & Les McLaren)

    In an earlier post on this blog attention was drawn to a fine new documentary by Annie Stiven and Les McLaren Life is a Very Strange Thing. Click on the link to get some more info on the film.

    Les McLaren has now advised that some further screenings are planned for Melbourne

    Tue 28 Aug, COMO Cinema, Sth Yarra @ 6:30
    Wed 29 Aug, NOVA Cinema, Carlton @ 6:45

    There are also 2 pending screenings:

    Sun 16 Sep, NOVA Eastend Cinema, Adelaide @ 2pm
    Mon 17 Sep, EVENT Cinemas, Innaloo, Perth @ 6:30

    These are the last cinema screenings planned before Ronin DVD & streaming release in October.

    Here's the home website with trailer

    Melbourne International Film Festival (6) - FIRST REFORMED - Bruce Hodsdon takes the two Adrians and others to task

    I've been mulling over exchanges of comments generated by Adrian Danks' interesting summing up of his viewing at MIFF posted on FB at 6.42pm on 17/8 and reposted  here on Film Alert. 

    Adrian lists his top 7 films at MIFF in order together with a few comments on his selection. An additional comment is his dismissal of Paul Schrader's First Reformed as  “certainly the most overrated movie I've seen - static, obvious, somewhat impoverished” - and even “ludicrous.” This produced prompt agreement from Adrian Martin that First Reformed  is “a bizarrely overrated film” followed by a series of comments in similar vein from other cinephiles broadening the attack onto Schrader's previous film, Dog Eat Dog (2016), a black comedy based on a trash script. 

    The commentators somewhat missed the point - a film which Schrader himself has described as “a completely outrageous, off the rails, profane, gonzo, Tarantino kin of a film” which he obviously seems to have enjoyed making and does contain brilliant moments for those who can tolerate such indulgence. Dying of the Light (2014) also came in for a mauling in the post's FB commentaries although Schrader disowns that film because of producer interference, rating it the worst experience of his long career as writer-director. He has recut it for “screening by film institutes.” The Canyons (2013)troubled collaboration with Bret Easton Ellis is given a somewhat kinder treatment in the comments. Scroll down Adrian’s Facebook page to get the full flavour. 

    Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
    The point of this blog however is not to survey Schrader's career (which I am anyway in the process of doing  in one of a series, in Film Alert, of short essays on key filmmakers in 'old and new' Hollywood)I have actually been holding off completing the blog waiting for the opportunity to view First Reformed.Advance reports and reviews have indicated a substantial upturn for Schrader both critically ( if “bizarrely overrated”) and at the box office after the “black anger and despair” he felt over Dying of the Light.This opportunity has been provided by MIFF prior to what should be a theatrical release if not I hope pre-empted bystreaming. There is is a good deal to be gained by seeing it in a cinema.

    I have to say that I am disappointed by the pejoratively sweeping way, both Adrians, you have dismissed the film in such a few words which even had one of the readers reconsidering whether he would view the film, as he had planned, at its third screening at MIFF that night, such is the deserved standing of you both with many of us readers online. I say this because I am certain you  would be aware of Schrader's classic, lucid work of film scholarship (he certainly can write!)  Transcendental Style first published in 1972 which has just been republished for at least the second time. However your comments suggest to me that you have either not read it or more likely have not done so for quite some time as was the case with me.

    Amanda Seyfried, First Reformed
    It would also seem that you may not have taken in the advance information about the significance of this film – the aspiring 'transcendental work' Schrader thought he would never make “because it does not suit my personality,” i.e. his previously self confessed “love of the profane” as a filmmaker and critic. The significance for Schrader and dare I say for American indie cinema, of the explicit substitution of the “sparse means” of sacred mystery for the “abundant means” of the profane, in search of “stasis” is outlined in an article by Philip Concannon based on an interview with Schrader  in the August issue of Sight & Sound. A knowledge of what underlies the theory of transcendental art is of course not necessary to make First Reformed accessible to the general audience Schrader has worked so hard to reach – his self acknowledged 'evangelical impulse'. The last thing Schrader wants is mystification although he is seeking a certain strangeness. 

    The greatest danger is the apparent simplicity in strangeness and the relocation of empathy required. It is significant, Adrian D, that you use the words 'obvious' and 'static' to downgrade the film. I am also interested Adrian M in your statement that “if FR is 'slow cinema' (according to Schrader - which I question) we're all in deep trouble.” FB is clearly not a forum for extended debate and analysis and one is entitled to one's opinion but I do see this as a special case given the 'extra-cinematic' information available. At least some qualification is in order.

    Lest the whole notion of transcendental style in the cinema seem rarefied, as a coda I add this short excerpt from Schrader's book (p.10) :
    Many filmmakers have employed the transcendental style but few
    had the devotion, the rigor, and the outright fanaticism to employ
    it exclusively (even Carl Dreyer, Schrader suggests). Elements of transcendental style can be  detected  in the films  of many  other directors:  Antonioni, Rossellini,  Pasolini,   Boetticher,    Renoir, Mizoguchi, Bunuel, Warhol, Michael Snow, Bruce Baillie.....

    And I might add in at least some of Schrader's works of profane cinema.
    I recommend David Hare's short piece in Film Alert on 14 August
    Paul Schrader

    The Current Cinema - BLACKKKLANSMAN - The best American movie of the year

    “…. Such a timid and uninspiring film…” Christos Tsiolkas, The Saturday Paper
    “….an unashamedly partisan feature for a divided nation…Lee takes us out on that (comedy) limb only to return to the vicious realities of racism…” John McDonald, The Australian Financial Review

    BlackkKlansman may well be the American movie of the year, a combined thunder storm over and a sabre jab at American racism which you would hope pierces all the way to the head if not the peanut-sized heart of the mentally challenged buffoon elected (‘by the Electoral College not the people’ as Stephen Colbert says loudly frequently) US President in 2016.  Trump’s idiotic moral equivalence words, following the disgrace of KKK encouraged violence in Charlottesville, fittingly end the movie and indicate that in near fifty years between the events of the film and today things have only got worse. Even worse in fact ,because the film takes us all the way back to the strident racism of DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation  and to David O Selznick’s  Gone with the Wind, both of them paeans to white supremacy.

    After the Cannes prizes the chatter has been widespread, sufficient for the New York Times to run a piece which gathers up much of the written conversation both in the (liberal) press and online and provides links to all of them. Publicity to dream about.  

    John David Washington, Laura Harrier BlackkKlansman
    The story itself is so bizarre as to be worth dwelling on simply for its improbabilities ---

     Young cop in some Colorado backwater, given a job in some moment of affirmative action in the backwater of Colorado Springs, Utah, is first dumped into the records cage and then plucked from it and allowed to run a hokey undercover operation in which he is 
    aided by a Jewish cop who says he’s not Jewish really, a ‘secular’ Jew

    He is regularly bullied and insulted by a vicious racist white cop,

     During the course of the efforts to embed himself into the KKK the Jewish undercover cop has hair-raising run ins with a vehement white racist with a racist wife who twigs early on that something is not kosher (oops) in the masquerade.

    Four separate film eras are  incorporated – the aforementioned Birth of a Nation  and Gone With the Wind, Ron Stallworth’s Black Klansman adventure and then the abysmal footage of Trump apologizing for the Nazi racists of Charlottesville. Spike Lee skates across a hundred years of screen time to tell us that the problem is getting worse. 

    And as well there is a quick doco moment when Ron Stallworth and Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier) discuss the then (70s) current vogue for blaxploitation superstars, male and female. 

    This is a movie which rewards cinephiles. It also reinforces the notion that the dangerous evil that Trump represents indeed seems to have normalised. 
    Spike Lee