Cinephile's Notebook: If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)
...so then I thought, why not just write a series of blurbs about retrospectives that I’d like to see put together someplace?
Classical genre directors like Walsh and La Cava are the recipients of this summer’s major retrospectives; we could wait until venerable action filmmaker Walter Hill is in the ground to appreciate him, but that seems unnecessary. His best films are distinguished by a fascination with their own settings that verges on the childlike. In The Warriors and Southern Comfort (the Opening Night double bill of our theoretical retro), everyday ecosystems — the subways of 70s New York, and the Louisiana bayou, respectively — are transformed into hermetic battlegrounds. The real locations used for The Warriors’ odyssey are stripped of their normal associations; Hill leaves himself just the space, to repopulate with color-coded gangs no less fanciful for their brutality.
Pursuing the angle further: our Closing Night pick, The Long Riders, strives to recapture the mythic aspects of the James-Younger gang. The casting of real sets of brothers (the Carradines, Keaches, Guests, and Quaids) as the familial outlaws smacks of romanticism, and even the violence — flapping trenchcoats, leaping horses, shattering glass — is tied to a nostalgic, movie-fed vision of the Old West. One shot, when a bank clerk takes a bullet in the face and slides down to the floor, leaving a streak of blood on the wall behind him, melds the lyrical with the visceral as well as anything in Peckinpah.
Aside from two Kubrick scripts — Paths of Glory and, less of a stretch, The Killing — Jim Thompson wrote a series of pulp novels whose violently paranoid, vividly written first-person narrators have attracted a disparate group of directors: Peckinpah did the McQueen-McGraw meet-and-greet-and-divorce-your-respective spouses The Getaway and Stephen Frears the stylish The Grifters; Burt Kennedy tackles The Killer Inside Me and James Foley After Dark, My Sweet; less well-known adaptations have also been done by Steven Shainberg and even Bertrand Tavernier.
Concert Films: No, not rock films like Tommy, the linear pretentiousness of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, or the quivering, grainy tenuousness of Neil Young’s Greendale. The fan-stroking, occasionally worthwhile concert films. Unsurprisingly, the Jonthan Demme-helmed Stop Making Sense still holds up, but how would the more dedicated auteurists out there like to try to locate the directorial thumbprint of Steven Soderbergh in: Yes: 9012 Live?