Meet Sergei Parajanov, the Filmmaker Persecuted & Imprisoned by the Soviets, and Championed by Tarkovsky, Fellini, Godard, Buñuel, and Others

"Whoever tries to imitate me is lost," said the Soviet filmmaker Sergei Parajanov. Not so long ago, whoever tried to imitate him would also be in deep trouble. Persecuted by the Soviet authorities for the "subversive" nature of both his work and his lifestyle, he spent four years of the 1970s in a Siberian hard-labor camp. Nothing could speak more highly to his artistry than the fact that, even before his sentencing, Andrei Tarkovsky wrote a letter in his defense. "Artistically, there are few people in the entire world who could replace Parajanov," argued the director of Mirror and Stalker. "He is guilty – guilty of his solitude. We are guilty of not thinking of him daily and of failing to discover the significance of a master."

Alas, Tarkovsky's protestations fell on deaf ears, as did those of Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Luis Buñuel, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and other creators besides. Parajanov had earned their respect with two features, 1965's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors and 1969's The Color of Pomegranates, clips of which you can see here.

The powers that be actually looked kindly on the former, praising its poetic adaptation of a classic novel by Ukranian writer Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky. But the latter, a life of the 18th-century Armenian singer Sayat-Nova (the Georgia-born director was himself of Armenian heritage), seems to have gone too far in its break from the state-approved style of Socialist realism in which Parajanov once worked.

"Even when he was released, Parajanov was 'silenced,' as he said," writes Messy Nessy. "He tried to get back on his movie making, but struggled for another ten years until the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1980s. When he died in 1990 at only 66, he left his final work unfinished, leaving the world to wonder what other visions of his were lost to time." As the world has since slowly rediscovered the visions Parajanov did realize, his influence has here and there made itself felt. "I believe you have to be born a director," he says in the interview clip above. "A director can't be trained, not even in film school." Directing, to his mind, "is basically the truth, transformed into images: sorrow, hope, love, beauty." And as all those respected auteurs understood, no other filmmaker has ever seen the truth quite like he did.

via Messy Nessy

Related Content:

Watch 70 Movies in HD from Famed Russian Studio Mosfilm: Classic Films, Beloved Comedies, Tarkovsky, Kurosawa & More

Watch Earth, a Landmark of Soviet Cinema (1930)

The Film Posters of the Russian Avant-Garde

A Crash Course on Soviet Montage, the Russian Approach to Filmmaking That Revolutionized Cinema

Everything You Need to Know About Modern Russian Art in 25 Minutes: A Visual Introduction to Futurism, Socialist Realism & More

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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.

Watch Jean Cocteau’s Short Film About the Elegant House He Painted/”Tattooed” on the French Riviera (1952)

"Villa Santo-Sospir belongs to Madame Alec Weisweiller," says the narrator. "It dominates Cape Santo Sospir, the last point on the map before arriving on Cape Ferrat. The villa is situated on the road to the lighthouse and its rocks descend to the sea." So far this could be any of the myriad popular television houses about big, expensive houses in exotic places. Then it turns personal: "It looks out on Antibes, Cannes, Nice, and to the right, Villefranche, where I have lived for a long time." The narrator is avant-garde writer, artist, and filmmaker Jean Cocteau; the house is one he and other artists spent twelve years "tattooing."

Weisweiller, writes Vogue's Stephen Todd, was "a Parisian socialite and patron of Yves Saint Laurent," and the cousin of Nicole Stéphane, Elisabeth in Cocteau's Les Enfants Terribles. "It was Stéphane who introduced the two during filming. It was un coup de foudre, the pair of eccentrics hitting it off right away." Invited in 1949 to stay at Weisweiller's Riviera house for a week, Cocteau soon found himself, as he put it, "tired of idleness," and asked Weisweiller's permission to paint the head of the Greek god Apollo above the living-room fireplace. "

So delighted were the new pals with the result that they decided Cocteau should carry on," writes Todd, quoting Cocteau: "I was imprudent enough to decorate one wall and Matisse said to me, ‘If you decorate one wall of a room, you have to do them all.’"

Matisse contributed to the decoration of the house, as did Picasso and Chagall. You can see it in La villa Santo Sospir, the 40-minute film he made about the project in 1952, with more recent images available at Atlas Obscura. Most of the house's imagery comes from Greek mythology, even the entryway mosaics, one of which depicts the head of Orpheus. Eight years later, Cocteau would return to both Orpheus and Villa Santo-Sospir to shoot his final film Testament of Orpheus. "We have tried to overcome the spirit of destruction that dominates the time; we decorated the surfaces that men dreamed to demolish," says Cocteau in the earlier film. "Perhaps, the love of our work will protect them against bombs." And even if Villa Santo-Sospir should fall, cinema has preserved it for all time.

via Dangerous Minds

Related Content:

Jean Cocteau Delivers a Speech to the Year 2000 in 1962: “I Hope You Have Not Become Robots”

Jean Cocteau’s Avante-Garde Film From 1930, The Blood of a Poet

The Postcards That Picasso Illustrated and Sent to Jean Cocteau, Apollinaire & Gertrude Stein

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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 Discipline of D.E.: Gus Van Sant Adapts a Story by William S. Burroughs (1978)

Everyone who's read Jack Kerouac knows what it means to go visit the sage Old Bill Lee. And even many who haven't read Kerouac know who Old Bill Lee really was: innovative writer, Beat Generation elder statesman, and substance enthusiast William S. Burroughs. Gus Van Sant, who had imbibed from the counterculture early on, paid his own visit to Old Bill Lee a few years after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design. On a recent episode of WTF, Van Sant tells Marc Maron how, having read a Burroughs essay called "The Discipline of DE" back in Providence, he looked Burroughs up in the New York City phone book, called him, and paid him a visit — not just because Kerouac's characters did it, but because he wanted the rights to turn the story into a film.

The resulting nine-minute short puts images to Burroughs' words. "DE is a way of doing," says its narrator Ken Shapiro, who had directed the television-satrizing cult film The Groove Tube a few years earlier. "DE simply means doing whatever you do in the easiest most relaxed way you can manage, which is also the quickest and most efficient way, as you will find as you advance in DE."

We then see various cinematically illustrated examples of DE in action, including  "the art of 'casting' sheets and blankets so they fall just so," picking up an object by dropping "cool possessive fingers onto it like a gentle old cop making a soft arrest," and even gun fighting in the old west as practiced by Wyatt Earp, the only gun fighter who "ever really grasped the concept of DE."

Van Sant completed The Discipline of DE, his sixth short film, in 1978. Just over a decade later he would cast Burroughs in a highly Old Bill Lee-like role in his second feature Drugstore Cowboy, bringing him back a few years later for Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Van Sant adapted both of those films from novels, as he's done in much of his filmography. Traveling Europe with a film club after college, he told Maron, he got the chance to visit famed auteurs like Federico Fellini, Lina Wertmüller, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. It was Pasolini to whom he explained his own ambition in filmmaking: "to translate literature into film." Paolini's less-than-encouraging response: "Why would you do that? Why would you bother?" Yet Van Sant's drive to make cinema "more malleable, like the novel," has served him well ever since, as — if he adheres to it — has the discipline of DE.

Related Content:

The Making of Drugstore Cowboy, Gus Van Sant’s First Major Film (1989)

William S. Burroughs’ “The Thanksgiving Prayer,” Shot by Gus Van Sant

William S. Burrough’s Avant-Garde Movie ‘The Cut Ups’ (1966)

William S. Burroughs’ Home Movies, Featuring Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, Steve Buscemi & Cats

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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.

David Foster Wallace Explains How David Lynch’s Blue Velvet Taught Him the True Meaning of Avant Garde Art

Imagine you're a "hypereducated avant-gardist in grad school learning to write." But at your grad school, "all the teachers are realists. They're not at all interested in postmodern avant-garde stuff." They take a dim view of your writing, you assume because "they just don't happen to like this kind of aesthetic," but actually because your writing isn't very good. Amid all this, with you "hating the teachers but hating them for exactly the wrong reasons," David Lynch's Blue Velvet comes out. Not only does it belong to "an entirely new and original kind of surrealism," it shows you that "what the really great artists do is they're entirely themselves. They've got their own vision, their own way of fracturing reality, and that if it's authentic and true, you will feel it in your nerve endings."

This happened to David Foster Wallace, as he says in the clip above from his 1997 appearance on Charlie Rose, one of his very few interviews on video. He went on the show, seemingly under duress, to promote his collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, which among its long-form essays on the cruise ship experience, the Illinois State Fair, and professional tennis contains a piece on the man who made Blue Velvet.

"Lynch has remained remarkably himself throughout his filmmaking career," Wallace writes in the version of the article that first ran in Premiere. Whether "Lynch hasn't compromised or sold out" or whether "he hasn't grown all that much," the fact remains that he has "held fast to his own intensely personal vision and approach to filmmaking, and that he's made significant sacrifices in order to do so."

Elsewhere in the piece, Wallace describes the adjective "Lynchian" as "referring to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former's perpetual containment within the latter." When Rose asks Wallace about the meaning of the word, Wallace explains that "a regular domestic murder is not Lynchian. But if the police come to the scene and see the man standing over the body and the woman's 50s bouffant is undisturbed and the man and the cops have this conversation about the fact that the man killed the woman because she persistently refused to buy, say, for instance, Jif peanut butter rather than Skippy, and how very, very important that is, and if the cops found themselves somehow agreeing that there were major differences between the brands and that a wife who didn't recognize those differences was deficient in her wifely duties, that would be Lynchian."

A few years ago Youtube channel Dom's Sketch Cast turned Wallace's vision of an ideally Lynchian scene into the animation above. Lynch's visions exist, Wallace says to Rose, at "this weird confluence of very dark, surreal, violent stuff and absolute, almost Norman Rockwell-banal American stuff, which is terrain he's been working for quite a while — I mean, at least since Blue Velvet." Though Lynch may owe certain stylistic debts — "to Hitchcock, to Cassavetes, to Robert Bresson and Maya Deren and Robert Wiene" — nothing like the Lynchian existed in any tradition before he came along. Lynch has his detractors, but "if you think about the outrageous kinds of moral manipulation we suffer at the hands of most contemporary directors, it will be easier to convince you that something in Lynch's own clinically detached filmmaking is not only refreshing but redemptive" — and, as a young David Foster Wallace found in the theater that spring of 1986, revelatory.

The full Wallace-Rose interview appears below.

Related Content:

What Makes a David Lynch Film Lynchian: A Video Essay

The Surreal Filmmaking of David Lynch Explained in 9 Video Essays

David Foster Wallace on What’s Wrong with Postmodernism: A Video Essay

David Foster Wallace’s Surprising List of His 10 Favorite Books, from C.S. Lewis to Tom Clancy

30 Free Essays & Stories by David Foster Wallace on the Web

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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.

Peter Jackson’s New Film on World War I Features Incredible Digitally-Restored Footage From the Front Lines: Get a Glimpse

Perhaps one of the most criminally overlooked voices from World War I, Siegfried Sassoon, was, in his time, enormously popular with the British reading public. His war poems, as Margaret B. McDowell writes in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, are “harshly realistic laments or satires” that detail the grisly horrors of trench warfare with unsparingly vivid images and commentary. In lieu of the mass medium of television, and with film still emerging from its infancy, poets like Sassoon and Wilfred Owen served an important function not only as artists but as moving, firsthand documentarians of the war’s physical and emotional ravages.

It is unfortunate that poetry no longer serves this public function. These days, video threatens to eclipse even journalistic writing as a primary means of communication, a development made especially troubling by how easily digital video can be faked or manipulated by the same technologies used to produce blockbuster Hollywood spectacles and video games. But a fascinating new use of that technology, Peter Jackson shows us above, will also soon bring the grainy, indistinct film of the past into new life, giving footage of WWI the kind of startling immediacy still conveyed by Sassoon’s poetry.

Jackson is currently at work on what he describes as “not the usual film that you would expect on the First World War,” and as part of that documentary work, he has digitally enhanced footage from the period, “incredible footage of which the faces of the men just jump out at you. It’s the faces, it’s the people that come to life in this film. It’s the human beings that were actually there, that were thrust into this extraordinary situation that defined their lives in many cases.” In addition to restoring old film, Jackson and his team have combed through about 600 hours of audio interviews with WWI veterans, in order to further communicate “the experience of what it was like to fight in this war” from the point of view of the people who fought it.

The project, commissioned by the Imperial War Museums, “will debut at the BFI London Film Festival later this year,” reports The Independent, “later airing on BBC One. A copy of the film will also be given to every secondary school in the country for the 2018 autumn term.” No word yet on where the film can be seen outside the UK, but you can check the site for release details. In the meanwhile, consider picking up some of the work of Siegfried Sassoon, whom critic Peter Levi once described as “one of the few poets of his generation we are really unable to do without.”

Learn more about the war at the free course offerings below.

via Twisted Sifter

Related Content:

The Great War and Modern Philosophy: A Free Online Course 

World War and Society in the 20th Century: World War II (A Free Harvard Course) 

The Battle to Finish a PhD: World War I Soldier Completes His Dissertation in the Trenches (1916)

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

Stanley Kubrick’s “Lost” Script Burning Secret Surfaces, Complete Enough to Make into a Film

We remember Stanley Kubrick as the archetypal cinematic auteur. Though all hugely collaborative efforts, could any of his films have been made without his presiding authorial intelligence? Certainly none could have been made without his eye for literary material. Kubrick usually began his projects not with his own original ideas but with books, famously adapting the likes of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, continuing the practice right up until his final picture Eyes Wide Shut, an adaptation of Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella Traumnovelle, or Dream Story.

But Traumnovelle, it turns out, wasn't the only Austrian novella of the early 20th century Kubrick worked on adapting for the screen. A recently discovered "lost" Kubrick screenplay, writes the Guardian's Dalya Alberge, "is so close to completion that it could be developed by filmmakers. Entitled Burning Secret, the script is an adaptation of the 1913 novella by the Viennese writer Stefan Zweig. In Kubrick’s adaptation of the story of adultery and passion set in a spa resort, a suave and predatory man befriends a 10-year-old boy, using him to seduce the child’s married mother." Kubrick wrote the script in 1956 in collaboration with Calder Willingham, with whom he also wrote Paths of Glory, which would become his fourth feature the following year.

The studio MGM, Alberge writes, "is thought to have cancelled the commissioned project after learning that Kubrick was also working on Paths of Glory, putting him in breach of contract. Another account suggests that MGM told Kubrick’s producing partner James B. Harris that it did not see the screenplay’s potential as a movie." She also quotes Nathan Abrams, the film professor at Wales' Bangor University who recently found the Burning Secret script, as saying that "'the adultery storyline' involving a child as a go-between might have been considered too risqué” back in the 1950s. Since Kubrick could "only just" get Lolita through in 1961, this "inverse of Lolita" may not have had much chance half a decade earlier.

Zweig, one of the most popular writers in the world in the 1920s and 1930s, has already inspired one film by an American auteur: Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, which came out in 2014. Not only are several of its characters modeled on Zweig himself, it has the same structure of stories nested within stories that Zweig used in his writing. "It’s a device that maybe is a bit old-fashioned," Anderson said in a Telegraph interview, "where somebody meets an interesting, mysterious person and there’s a bit of a scene that unfolds with them before they eventually settle down to tell their whole tale, which then becomes the larger book or story we’re reading." Usually, heightening the confessional mood further still, the teller has never told the tale to anyone else. Hence the burning nature of secrets in Zweig — and hence the fascination of Kubrick's cool, controlled cinematic sensibility interpreting them.

Related Content:

Lost Kubrick: A Short Documentary on Stanley Kubrick’s Unfinished Films

Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Stanley Kubrick Never Made

Stanley Kubrick’s Annotated Copy of Stephen King’s The Shining

Stanley Kubrick’s Jazz Photography and The Film He Almost Made About Jazz Under Nazi Rule

Stanley Kubrick Explains the Mysterious Ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a Newly Unearthed Interview

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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.

Watch All of the Commercials That David Lynch Has Directed: A Big 30-Minute Compilation

Some filmmakers start in commercials, honing their chops in anticipation of making personal projects later. A select few go in the other direction, realizing their distinctive vision before fielding offers from companies who want a piece of that vision's cultural currency. Anyone who's seen David Lynch's most acclaimed work will suspect, correctly, that Lynch belongs in the latter group. With 1977's cult hit Eraserhead, he showed cinema what it means to be Lynchian. This brought him the attention of Hollywood, leading to the respectable success of The Elephant Man and the disaster that was Dune. Only in 1986, with Blue Velvet, could Lynch make a truly, even troublingly personal film that hit the zeitgeist at just the right moment.

Naturally, Madison Avenue came calling soon thereafter. "With the smash Blue Velvet, a Palme d'or at Cannes for Wild at Heart, and then the national phenomenon of Twin Peaks' first season, David Lynch clearly established himself as the U.S.A.'s foremost commercially viable avant-garde-'offbeat' director," wrote David Foster Wallace in a 1997 piece on the filmmaker.

"For a while there it looked like he might be able to single-handedly broker a new marriage between art and commerce in U.S. movies, opening formula-frozen Hollywood to some of the eccentricity and vigor of art film." Lynch's fans in television advertising must have imagined that he could do the same for their industry, and you can watch the fruits of that hunch in the half-hour compilation of Lynch-directed commercials above.

Lynch has worked for some startlingly big brands, beginning with Calvin Klein: his trio of spots for the fragrance Obsession take as their basis the writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and D.H. Lawrence. A few years later he directed a humorous mini-season of Twin Peaks to promote Georgia Coffee, one of the top brands of canned coffee in the Lynch-loving country of Japan. The New York Department of Sanitation engaged Lynch's services to imbue their anti-littering campaign with his signature high-contrast ominousness, a mood also sought by fashion-industry titans like Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, and Dior. The marketers of humbler goods like Alka-Seltzer, Barilla Pasta (a seemingly auteur-aware brand that has also hired Wim Wenders and Fellini), and Clear Blue Easy home pregnancy tests have also gone in for a touch of the Lynchian.

Quite a few of these commercials originally aired only outside America, which may reflect the supposedly more enduring appreciation of Lynch's work that exists in Europe and Asia. But for all Lynch's artistic daring, the man himself has always come off as an enthusiast of unreconstructed American pleasures. To this day he remains a steadfast smoker, and in 1998 brought that personal credibility to the Swiss cigarette brand Parisienne. The resulting spot features men in ties, showers of sparks, dead fish, backwards talking, a forbiddingly illuminated shack, and apocalyptic flames: Parisienne, in other words, must have got exactly what they paid for.

Related Content:

What Makes a David Lynch Film Lynchian: A Video Essay

David Lynch Made a Disturbing Web Sitcom Called “Rabbits”: It’s Now Used by Psychologists to Induce a Sense of Existential Crisis in Research Subjects

The Surreal Filmmaking of David Lynch Explained in 9 Video Essays

Wim Wenders Creates Ads to Sell Beer (Stella Artois), Pasta (Barilla), and More Beer (Carling)

Spike Jonze’s Imaginative TV Ads

Fellini’s Fantastic TV Commercials

Ingmar Bergman’s 1950s Soap Commercials Wash Away the Existential Despair

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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.

« Go BackMore in this category... »