50 Years Ago This Week – Another Masterpiece from Jean-Pierre Melville

Jean-Pierre Melville’s ninth feature film, Le Deuxieme Souffle, premiered in Paris on November 1, 1966.  The nominal plot – prison break, world-weary gangster, impossible heist, inevitable unraveling – sounds like standard-issue fare.  But in Melville’s hands . . . in Melville’s hands . . .

50 Years Ago This Week – Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson, Twice

The program of the 1966 San Francisco Film Festival, which ran from October 20-30 of that year, featured two modest efforts that were the product of a partnership between Jack Nicholson and Monte Hellman. The duo, who had previously collaborated on a pair of movies in the Philippines, had this time gone off to the Utah desert on Roger Corman’s dime (which is probably an appropriate indicator of their total budget) and shot two Westerns in six weeks, featuring overlapping casts.

50 Years Ago This Week – Hitchcock/Truffaut

October 1966 welcomed the publication of Hitchcock: The Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock by François Truffaut, a long-form interview of the Master by one of his most devoted enthusiasts, who, both as a young critic and subsequently as a great filmmaker in his own right, counted Hitchcock among his idols.  (It is easy to point to The Bride Wore Black as the Truffaut film that most obviously reflects this influence—too easy, I would argue.  To see the cinema

50 Years Ago This Week – Star Trek!

Since September 8, 1966, we have lived in a world that has included Star Trek, a television show that made a small difference, in a good way.  That it would endure for fifty years, spawning endless descendants, sequels, books, movies, and subcultures, is astonishing.  (The show bounced around NBC’s schedule for three years before it was finally cancelled, a casualty of its perennially poor audience share.)  That it has, finally and perhaps inevitably, been largely reduced to an assembly-line mass-consumption multiplex blockbuster product-package is disappointing. 

News and Commentary – Coming: The New York Film Festival

It’s time to mark up the calendar with plans to attend screenings at the Fifty-Fourth New York Film Festival, which will be held this year from September 30 to October 16.  The big tent, of course, dazzles with the glittering jewels of carefully selected new films, not yet in general release.  Always full of promise and anticipation, this year we’re most looking forward to Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper, which was

News and Commentary – What We Want from the Movies

What do we want from the movies?  Let us summarily dismiss questions of taste.  Movies are like wine—you can’t tell someone what to like.  The wine you like is the wine you like.  So too it is with cinema. To talk about what we want from the movies, then, is to ask something less personal but more profound: what is it that we value in a film; that is, by what criteria do we to consider a movie worthy not simply of our affection, but our attention?