“Kubrick/Tarkovsky”: A Video Essay Explores the Visual Similarities Between the Two “Cinematic Giants”

Who are your favorite filmmakers? Responses to that question including the names Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky have been heard so often, for so long, that they've passed into the realm of cinephile cliché. How, then, to rediscover what about their films makes Kubrick and Tarkovsky synonymous with the very concept of the brilliant auteur? In "Kubrick/Tarkovsky" above, cinematic video essayist Vugar Efendi sheds light on the essence of these two "cinematic giants" by putting their work side by side: Eyes Wide Shut next to Ivan's ChildhoodA Clockwork Orange next to StalkerPaths of Glory next to Andrei Rublev. (You may remember a similar comparison, previously featured here on Open Culture, between Kubrick and Wes Anderson.)

Fortunately, "Kubrick/Tarkovsky" sheds only four and a half minutes of light, prolonged exposure to so many masterworks at once potentially being too much for many cinephiles to bear. For directors with such strong visions of their own, it might also come as a surprise to see such strong resonances between their images, such as Jack's walk into the Overlook Hotel's suddenly populated (and returned to the Jazz Age) ballroom from The Shining alongside Domenico's candle-bearing walk across the empty pool with a candle from Nostalghia and 2001: A Space Odyssey's journey through the "star gate" alongside Solaris' drive through Tokyo-as-humanity's-urban-future.

Kubrick appreciated Solaris enough for it to make a list of 93 films he really liked, but Tarkovsky didn't feel the same way about 2001. "A detailed ‘examination’ of the technological processes of the future transforms the emotional foundation of a film, as a work of art, into a lifeless schema with only pretensions to truth," he said in an interview before he made Solaris, describing what he would get right that Kubrick had got wrong. From just the brief clips of those pictures included in "Kubrick/Tarkovsky," even viewers who have never seen either director's films can tell how differently they realized their visions of humanity's space-voyaging future. Throughout the rest of the essay as well, each emphasis on a visual similarity comes with an emphasis on deeper difference; as one of the video's commenters astutely puts it, "Tarkovsky is dreams, Kubrick is nightmares."

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“Auteur in Space”: A Video Essay on How Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Transcends Science Fiction

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Shot by Shot: A 22-Minute Breakdown of the Director’s Filmmaking

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Charlie Chaplin Archive Opens, Putting Online 30,000 Photos & Documents from the Life of the Iconic Film Star

Charlie Chaplin knew his movies were popular, but could he have imagined that we'd still be watching them now, as the 130th anniversary of his birth approaches? And even if he could, he surely wouldn't have guessed that even the materials of his long working life would draw great fascination in the 21st century — much less that they would be made instantaneously available to the entire world on a site like the Charlie Chaplin Archive. A project of the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna, which has previously worked to restore and preserve Chaplin's filmography itself, it constitutes the digitization of Chaplin's "very own and painstakingly preserved professional and personal archives, from his early career on the English stage to his final days in Switzerland."

This online archive includes everything from "the first handwritten notes of a story line to the shooting of the film itself, stage by stage documentary evidence of the development of a film, or a project that never even became a film," as well as materials not directly related to the movies: "poems, lyrics, drawings, programmes, contracts, letters, magazines, travel souvenirs, comic books, cartoon strips, praise and criticism."

The vast majority of these items have never before been made publicly available, and all of them enrich our picture of the maker of classic comedies like Modern TimesCity Lights, and The Great Dictator as well as the highly eventful periods of history through which he lived.`

You can explore the Charlie Chaplin Archive by plunging straight into its collection of more than 4,000 images and nearly 25,000 documents, or you can enter through its curated topic sections: one on Chaplin's early career offers a glimpse into the humble launch of a cultural phenomenon that would go on to transcend cultures and eras; another on music shows Chaplin, who grew up in a musical family with musical ambitions of his own, conducting orchestras; and a section on travel presents clippings and photos related to his journeys to places like Bali and Japan, from which he returned on the same boat as Jean Cocteau. "Cocteau could not speak a word of English," Chaplin wrote in his autobiography of the voyage home. "Neither could I speak French, but his secretary spoke a little English, though not too well, and he acted as interpreter for us."

"That night we sat up into the small hours, discussing our theories of life and art," Chaplin continues, quoting Cocteau's secretary thus: "Mr Cocteau... he say... you are a poet... of zer sunshine... and he is a poet of zer night." These words, in turn, appear quoted (alongside the sketch of Chaplin by Cocteau above) on the Charlie Chaplin Archive's "Chaplin and Jean Cocteau" page, one of its continuously updated stories. Others collect material related to Chaplin's luxury-item purchases, Chaplin as director, and Chaplin's final speech delivered as the title character of The Great Dictator, which a recent announcement about the archive calls "one of the most licensed elements of Chaplin’s work in the 21st century" — a time whose surreality Cocteau might well recognize, and whose absurdity Chaplin certainly would.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

When the Nazis Declared War on Expressionist Art (1937)

The 1937 Nazi Degenerate Art Exhibition displayed the art of Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Georg Grosz, and many more internationally famous modernists with maximum prejudice. Ripped from the walls of German museums, the 740 paintings and sculptures were thrown together in disarray and surrounded by derogatory graffiti and hell-house effects. Right down the street was the respectable Great German Art Exhibition, designed as counterprogramming “to show the works that Hitler approved of—depicting statuesque blonde nudes along with idealized soldiers and landscapes,” writes Lucy Burns at the BBC.

Viewers were supposed to sneer and recoil at the modern art, and most did, but whether they were gawkers, Nazi sympathizers, or art fans in mourning, the exhibit drew massive crowds. Over a million people first attended, three times more than saw the exhibition of state-sanctioned art—or more specifically, art sanctioned by Hitler the failed artist, who had endured watching “the realistic paintings of buildings and landscapes,” of sturdy peasants and suffering poets, “dismissed by the art establishment in favour of abstract and modern styles.” The Degenerate Art Exhibition “was his moment to get his revenge,” and he had it. Over a hundred artists were denounced as Bolsheviks and Jews bent on corrupting German purity.

Afterwards, thousands of works of art were destroyed or disappeared, as did many of their creators. Many artists fled, many could not. Enraged by the eclipse of sentimental academic styles and by his own ignorance, Hitler railed against “works of art which cannot be understood in themselves,” as he put it in a speech that summer. These “will never again find their way to the German people.” Many such quotations surrounded the offending art. The 1993 documentary above, written, produced, and directed by David Grubin, tells the story of the exhibition, which has in time proven Hitler’s greatest culture war folly. It accomplished its immediate purpose, but as Jonathan Petropoulos, professor of European History at Claremont McKenna College points out, “this artwork became more attractive abroad…. I think that over the longer run it was good for modern art to be viewed as something that the Nazis detested and hated.”

Not every anti-Nazi critic saw modern art as subverting fascism. Ten years after the Degenerate Art Exhibition, philosopher Theodor Adorno, himself a refugee from Nazism, called Expressionism “a naïve aspect of liberal trustfulness,” on a continuum between fascist tools like Futurism and “the ideology of the cinema.” Nonetheless, it was Hitler who most bore out Adorno’s general observation: “Taste is the most accurate seismograph of historical experience…. Reacting against itself, it recognizes its own lack of taste.” The hysterical performance of disgust surrounding so-called “degenerate art” turned the exhibit into a sensation, a blockbuster that, if it did not prove the virtues of modernism, showed many around the world that the Nazis were as crude, dim, and vicious as they alleged their supposed enemies to be.

In the documentary, you’ll see actual footage of the theatrical exhibition, juxtaposed with film of a 1992 Berlin exhibition of much of that formerly degenerate art. Restaged Degenerate Art Exhibitions have become very popular in the art word, bringing together artists who need no further exposure, in order to historically reenact, in some fashion, the experience of seeing them all together for the first time. From a recent historical review at New York’s Neue Gallerie to the digital exhibit at MoMA.org, degenerate art retrospectives show, as Adorno wrote, that indeed "taste is the most accurate seismograph of historical experience."

The original exhibition “went on tour all over Germany,” writes Burns, “where it was seen by a million more people.” Thousands of ordinary Germans who went to jeer at it were exposed to modern art for the first time. Millions more people have learned the names and styles of these artists by learning about the history of Nazism and its cult of pettiness and personal revenge. Learn much more in the excellent documentary above and at our previous post on the Degenerate Art Exhibition.

Degenerate Art - 1993, The Nazis vs. Expressionism will be added to our list of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch the Trailer for Echo in the Canyon, the New Documentary on the 1960s Laurel Canyon Music Scene

Next month will mark the release of Echo in the Canyon. Directed by Andrew Slater, the new documentary revisits the 60s music scene that emerged in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon--a fertile period when folk went brilliantly electric. Find the brand new trailer above, and a short summary below:

Echo In The Canyon celebrates the explosion of popular music that came out of LA’s Laurel Canyon in the mid-60s as folk went electric and The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and The Mamas and the Papas gave birth to the California Sound. It was a moment (1965 to 1967) when bands came to LA to emulate The Beatles and Laurel Canyon emerged as a hotbed of creativity and collaboration for a new generation of musicians who would soon put an indelible stamp on the history of American popular music.

Featuring Jakob Dylan, the film explores the beginnings of the Laurel Canyon music scene. Dylan uncovers never-before-heard personal details behind the bands and their songs and how that music continues to inspire today. Echo in the Canyon contains candid conversations and performances with Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Michelle Phillips, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Roger McGuinn and Jackson Browne as well as contemporary musicians they influenced such as Tom Petty (in his very last film interview), Beck, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Regina Spektor and Norah Jones.

The film will be released in LA on May 24th and in NYC on May 31st.

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Cinema Lovers Rejoice, the New Criterion Channel Launches Today: Get a 14-Day Free Trial

If you lamented the demise of Filmstruck last year, you'll surely welcome the rise of the new Criterion Channel. It launches today. According to Criterion, the "new service will host the Criterion Collection and Janus Films’ ever-growing library of more than 1,000 feature films, 350 shorts, and 3,500 supplementary features, including trailers, introductions, behind-the-scenes documentaries, interviews, video essays, commentary tracks, and rare archival footage." In addition, you will get access to a "constantly refreshed selections of Hollywood, international, art-house, and independent movies."

The Criterion Channel will launch in the U.S. and Canada. It can be accessed on desktop browsers and also apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, iOS, and Android and Android TV devices. If you sign up now, you can get a 14 day free trial. Find more information on the channel here.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Watch Great Directors, a Documentary That Explores the Minds of 10 Great Auteurs: David Lynch, Agnès Varda, Richard Linklater & More

When we first start watching movies, often we decide what to watch by settling on a favorite genre, divisions first solidified by video-store shelves: action, comedy, drama, science fiction, and so on. When we've watched more movies, many of us move on to following the work of a particular actor, which takes us across not just genres but eras as well. And practically all cinephiles will remember when it dawned on us that no figure could better guide our viewing than the director — about the same time we usually learn the term auteur, which identifies certain directors as the primary "authors" of their films. From that point on, we had only to master the knowledge of as many directors' filmographies as possible, then determine those too whom we would pledge our allegiance — thus forging bonds with (or drawing battle lines against) all other film fans.

If the best movies come primarily from the minds of their directors, then there must be a great deal else of interest in those directorial minds. Or so implicitly argues Angela Ismailos' 2010 documentary Great Directors, which consists of interviews with ten auteurs of the late 20th and early 21st century whose work has not only drawn critical acclaim but also provoked the full range of audience opinion, even inspiring some viewers to dedicate themselves to cinema.

"I wanted to cover the French cinema and I love the controversial cinema of Catherine Breilliat and how she portrays the emotional and physical travails of women in her cinema," Ismailos says of the project's origin in an interview with Filmmaker magazine. Then came Agnès Varda, and after her a lineup including Bernardo Bertolucci, Liliana Cavani, Todd Haynes, Richard Linklater, John Sayles, Ken Loach, and Stephen Frears. "The last director I added to the film was David Lynch. He was the most difficult to get."

Put together, these ten filmographies — containing pictures from Matewan to My Beautiful Laundrette, The Last Emperor to Velvet Goldmine, Poor Cow to Eraserhead, Fat Girl to Slacker — contain an impressively wide range of cinematic sensibilities. But what do the ten directors, coming as they do from several different countries and cultures, have in common? "In their films they’re trying… to break moral standards," says Ismailos. "They are not surrendering to preconceived notions of commerce or audience popularity or preconception of what cinema should be. I believe through the years they are constantly asking their audience to grow and face the uncertainties and unpredictability of adult life. This is the cinema I personally love." She's certainly not the only one, and all the rest of us with an interest in films of that kind — and thus an interest in directors of this kind — will certainly be glad that she's made Great Directors free to view online.

Great Directors will be added to our list of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

via Welcome to Twin Peaks

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

High School Kids Stage Alien: The Play, Get Kudos from Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver

High school drama departments tend to work from a pretty standardized repertoire, which makes sense given the strict limitations they work under: short time frames, school-sized budgets, teenage actors. The elaborate, Hollywood film-like productions staged by Max Fischer in Wes Anderson's Rushmore speak to frustrated high-school theater directors and their fantasies about what they could put on stage with a bit more in the way of resources. But just this month, a real high-school drama club put on a show that out-Max Fischered Max Fischer, drawing not just the astonishment of the internet but the respect of one of the most eminent filmmakers alive.

"A New Jersey high school has found itself the unexpected recipient of online acclaim and viral attention for its recent stage production of Alien, the 1979 science-fiction thriller," writes the New York Times' Dave Itzkoff. "Alien: The Play, presented last weekend by the drama club of North Bergen High School, starred a cast of eight students in the film roles originally played by Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt and Ian Holm. Whereas the movie had a budget in the range of about $10 million, Alien: The Play had costumes, props and set designs made mostly from donated and recycled materials." Or as North Bergen student Justin Pierson put it in NJ.com's video on the surprise hit: "This is going to sound really funny but (the set crew) used garbage essentially."

With that "garbage" — "just anything that was lying around, like cardboard and metal" — they built not only a set that convincingly evokes the dark claustrophobia of the space ship Nostromo, but a shockingly accurate-looking alien, the terrifying creature originally born from the mind of Swiss illustrator H.R. Giger.

The young cast and crew get into detail about how they did it on Syfy's Fandom File podcast: "Much of the attention has highlighted and embraced their DIY approach," writes host Jordan Zakarin, and "they were endlessly creative in building the sets, with hand-puppet aliens, egg crate walls, a stuffed cat (the stand-in for Jones was a particularly ingenious idea), and other sweded props."

Responses to the video clips of Alien: The Play that have circulated on the internet include a personal congratulatory message from the original film's star Sigourney Weaver as well as a letter from its director Ridley Scott, which Alien: The Play's director, North Bergen English-teacher-by-day Perfecto Cuervo, posted on Twitter. "Limitations often produce the best results because imagination and determination can surpass any shortfalls and determine the way forward — ALWAYS," writes Scott, who has built his reputation in the film industry on taking firm and decisive action in the face of any and all production difficulties. He also offers both the funds for an encore production as well as a suggestion: "How about your next TEAM production being Gladiator." No doubt Cuervo and his enterprising players are feeling pretty vindicated in their decision not to do Our Town right about now.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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