News to Me: Béla Tarr, Věra Chytilová, and Seymour Cassel
Seymour Cassel and Gena Rowlands in Minnie and Moskowitz (John Cassavetes, 1971)
1. The recent passing of much-loved Seymour Cassel has brought on a welcome wave of tributes. The actor was arguably most famous for his collaborations with John Cassavetes, though he appeared in hundreds of other productions for film and television. Criterion recently published their remembrances; but for more on Cassel and Cassavetes connection, check out Film Comment Editor-in-Chief Nicolas Rapold’s interview from 2008: “He said he was shooting a movie, and I said, ‘Can I watch?’ I wound up being an associate producer.”
2. We also learned yesterday of Swedish actress Bibi Andersson’s death. Another performer renowned for her collaborative career, Andersson starred in many of Ingmar Bergman’s best known films, including The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, and Persona, the subject of Michael Koresky’s most recent Queer & Now & Then column. In the spirit of celebrating these great working partnerships, here’s Bergman and Andersson together on The Dick Cavett Show, filmed in 1971, and Film Comment contributor Sheila O’Malley’s video essay on the on-screen chemistry between Andersson and Liv Ullmann.
3. BAM has begun their latest retrospective, The Anarchic Cinema of Věra Chytilová. Billed as the “most radical” director to emerge from the Czech New Wave, Chytilová “created films that defied the conventions of classical cinema and challenged the oppressive political-cultural regime” (as Meredith Slifkin wrote in our 2014 obituary). A recent essay from the East European Film Bulletin further explicates the filmmaker in relation to the history of Czechoslovakia. Also, check out Violet Lucca’s Film Comment photo essay on the gustatory and tactile pleasures of Chytilová’s Daisies.
Daisies (Věra Chytilová, 1966)
4. The reports of Béla Tarr’s retirement have been greatly exaggerated. Set to premiere at Vienna’s Wiener Festwochen in June, the Hungarian filmmaker’s latest picture, Missing People, offers a documentary-view of the city and its inhabitants. “Using just a few shots, the film shows these invisible people in the kind of place to which they would normally have no access,” the description states. “A powerful plea for humanity.” For Film Comment R. Emmet Sweeney spoke with the great director in 2012 after the release of his supposedly final film, The Turin Horse.
5. The Criterion Channel has launched at last, and though you may be eager to dig in, it’s sometimes difficult to know where to begin. Thankfully, several dedicated cinephiles have put together a complete list of everything currently available—including such coveted special features as Bi Gan’s introduction to Kaili Blues. (Read our recent interview with the director here.)
6. If you recently subscribed to Criterion and are just dying for more monthly micro-transactions, here are two more streaming services of note: first, the long-awaited Disney+, set to launch in November this year (with newly acquired Fox assets included); and the second, in staunch opposition to the all-consuming monolithic mouse, an attempt at an anti-capitalist media organization, from the team behind AOC’s election campaign: “America is dominated by corporate media, and if there’s no worker-owned media that really exists, you’re not going to see any ideas really threaten the hegemony.” Meanwhile, clouds continue to gather over corporate Hollywood with the breakdown of negotiations between the WGA and talent agents.
7. Recent reports of China’s “Muslim tracker” technology, and their doubling-down on the practice—along with near-constant revelations of lax privacy regulation by world-gobbling tech giants—have sparked renewed conversation about the use of surveillance systems by both the state and private sector. What better time to revisit this piece from FC contributor Nick Pinkerton on cinema, scopophilia, and CCTV, written for The Baffler in 2018? “Far from fearing the eyes of Big Brother, we’ve largely ceased to give his presence a second thought.”
8. “Practical sounds of the space, crazy dynamic dialogue that’s always moving in the scene, Keegan’s score; on top of that, Alex gave me the instruction to create the densest soundscape possible. I wanted to hear bombs going off.” Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell is now in theaters (see our feature from Mark Asch in the March-April issue). In a recent article in NYLON, pieced together from interviews with Perry, composer Keegan DeWitt, and sound designer Ryan Price, the team describes how they worked to make the film sound “like a panic attack.”
9. If you missed out on this year’s New Directors/New Films Festival, fear not: Festival Scope is offering several of the films for free, available to stream until April 23. The lineup includes Andrea Bussmann’s Fausto (discussed on the Film Comment Podcast last week) and Mark Jenkin’s neorealist-inflected, homespun Bait (read Chloe Lizotte’s interview with the director here).
10. Finally, a little digging into the BFI web archives turned up this remarkable collection of photos of Oliver Reed, Shirley Anne Field, and director Joseph Losey on the set of 1961’s The Damned.