Showing posts from February, 2008

W. C. Heinz, R.I.P.

He was 93 years old, so I can't say I was exactly shocked to pick up today's New York Times and see an obituary for W.C. Heinz. But I was saddened. Heinz was one of the best prose stylists in American journalism in the 20th Century, and I cherish the hour or so I spent on the phone interviewing him several years ago for a piece on journalists in danger. He was warm and engaging, utterly forthright about his feelings covering WWII, just as I had always thought he would be.

According to the Powell's Books website, at least five of his books are available. You can probably do even better if you use If you have never read Heinz, I recommend just about any of his work, but you should probably start with the piece cited in his Times obit, "The Morning They Shot the Spies," and move on from there to his sports journalism. I believe it is currently out of print, but you should definitely seek out Once They Heard the Cheers, a unique and moving journey in w…

Israeli Jests, French Jews and An Amish Ernest Borgnine

Well, better late than never, I always say. (Gets very boring after a while, though.) Eran Kolirin's The Band's Visit opened three or four weeks ago, but I finally caught up with it on Monday. It's really quite a lovely little film, well worth a trip to the Angelika or the Lincoln Plaza if you're in NewYork City. My review runs this week in Jewish Week.


As Daryl Chin noted Saturday in his excellent blog, the sudden profusion of Jewish-themed films from France is something of an oddity. The French have always taken a sort of arm's-length attitude toward their minorities, particularly the Jews (or so it seems to me), and that desire for distance extends into their movies. Obviously there are notable exceptions, Jean Renoir being the most distinguished and empathetic. But the presence of three films in this year's "Rendezvous with French Cinema" that deal directly with France's Jews and, more particularly, the Shoah, is unusu…

Dark Days Fore and Aft

Here's a movie recommendation for you. Stefan Ruzowitzky's The Counterfeiters is one of the more inventive films about the Holocaust, a tight little offering that works as both a meditation on morality and community and as a suspense film. My review, in this week's Jewish Week, is here.


Sad news from outside the film world. As some of you know, I am an ardent follower of English football (a hangover from my brief and undistinguished career as a defensive midfielder at Lawrence Junior High and Lawrence High). Anyway, the great -- and greatly troubled -- Paul Gascoigne, the George Best of his generation, i.e., an immensely talented footballer whose off-field antics wrecked his career and his life, was picked up by Newcastle police and committed under the Mental Health Act after he caused a disturbance at a hotel. For all you film folks who don't know about Gascoigne, I think the best analogy would probably be Sam Peckinpah, a man whose demons chased …

Truly a Cinema to Die For

Whatever fantasies we have entertained about dying to save a movie, there are people who have really had to choose between film and death. I want to draw your attention to a story in today's Guardian, about the remarkably heroic men who saved some historically significant items from the former Afghani cinematheque. Puts this stuff into a very different light, no?

Robbe-Grillet Dies -- I Hope He Hadn't Read My 'Marienbad' Piece

I swear I had nothing to do with Alain Robbe-Grillet's death this morning. Heck, I didn't even wish him ill. On the other hand, I have to say that of all the nouveau roman writers, I think his work has worn the worst, and as a filmmaker, he wasn't much more than a very slick smut-merchant. But I guess I said all that a few weeks ago.

I will say this in his defense: as writers of fiction-as-a-rarefied-form-of-puzzle-making go, he was moderately amusing, neither as intellectually rigorous as Borges nor as playful as Calvino. And as my mother always tells me, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." So I'll stop here. for a somewhat more reverential take on the author/director and his work, go here
or here or here.

Spring Is Coming

I know, because pitchers and catchers have reported (the five most beautiful words in the English language). Also because I have done my spring arts preview pieces for Jewish Week. I won't bother you with the music preview (although you are welcome to read it, obviously), but the film preview can be found in two parts: short pieces on three films here, and a list of ten other upcoming film events of Jewish interest here. Come to think of it, at two of the featured music events are also film-related, so check those out here.

In the next day or two I'll run down some of the films in this year's Film Comment Selects series at the Walter Reade.

News, News, News

A couple of items to which I want to draw your attention. In fact, these would seem to be linked in theme, namely, how do we see older films.

First, the exciting news that a sizeable consortium of European film archives is being created to make rare films available on-line for free.

And a very depressing piece from the San Francisco chronicle about the economics of running a rep house. If a rep programmer can't make a go in SF, there really isn't much hope left for seeing older films on a big screen, is there?

It's sort of a cruel irony. When I first started studying and writing about film, there were so many titles that were nearly impossible to see, films that were supposedly lost, films that were out of circulation due to rights issues, films that just never turned up on television. And, of course, letterboxing was unheard of, so seeing a widescreen film on television was a form of medieval torture. But there were dozens of repertory houses in New York City. As I noted in …

Don't Go Away Yet

I know, I've been derelict in my duties to my readers and to all those nice people who invite me to screenings and send me screeners. Okay, I'm sorry. Very, very sorry. (Don't say it.)

At any rate, the Museum of Modern Art is embarking on their annual Documentary Fortnight shortly and you can find my review of two of the films from that series here. Some very interesting films on offer, by the way.

The 12th Annual New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival kicks off tonight and that is worthy of note simply because as the festival has grown, the quality of the films has done likewise. There are several notable items this year, and you can find my review here.

For everyone except the Ira voters, 2007 is over. Senses of Cinema has compiled their annual poll of critics and filmmakers and it's online at their website. if nothing else, this multinational gathering proves again how quirky global distribution has become. Sokurov's Alexandra, which is a real return to form for h…