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by Jordan Cronk and Calum Marsh

25 Jan 2012

Calum Marsh: Whether you want to call it the last great contemporary film noir or the first great buddy action film, Robert Culp’s Hickey & Boggs deserves far more recognition than the paltry sum it’s accumulated over the last forty years. It should come as no real surprise that the cultural high guard has ignored a film of this kind altogether—unless they come conveniently prepackaged with Point Blank-style arthouse frills, action flicks rarely find their way into the canon—but I’m genuinely surprised that a movie as fun and exciting as this hasn’t found at least some sort of niche audience to embrace it after all these years.

You’d think Hickey & Boggs would be an easy sell on pedigree alone: though clearly the passion project of director and co-star Robert Culp, the film has the distinction of being the very first screenplay written by Walter Hill, who went on to create The Warriors and, most famously, the Alien series. And it co-stars Bill Cosby, which should be reason enough to make this thing more widely known. As it stands, it languishes in seemingly permanent obscurity, going largely unseen and totally undiscussed. Honestly, why isn’t this thing a cult classic?

by Jordan Cronk and Calum Marsh

11 Jan 2012

Jordan Cronk: Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman occupies a similar position to that of a few other directors we’ve touched on in the pages of ReFramed over the months—Thom Andersen, Aki Kaurismäki, Mark Rappaport—whose entire careers need to, in a sense, be reframed. These are all important filmmakers for various reasons, but Akerman represents arguably the most vital of all under-recognized directors. She’s still consistently working and producing at a remarkable level—her newest film, Almayer’s Folly, may be her best work in nearly two decades—but her brief arthouse star seems to have dimmed since her most visible and acclaimed period in the mid-1970s.

And unfortunately, even among cinephiles, her career seems to hinge solely on her groundbreaking 1975 film, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. That film is a remarkable achievement on many levels and by any standard, bringing as it did a formal rigor and the observational tack of the avant-garde into a narrative framework, but it’s just one piece of a much larger career that encompasses shorts, documentaries, and even musicals. We’re not going to dive into her extreme experimental phase today, but the film we’ve chosen to discuss, 1978s Les rendez-vous d’Anna, is perhaps equally unique in her oeuvre, standing as it does on the precipice of her first wave, more narrative-ly inclined works and her successive hybridizations and experiments with documentary and self-reflexive forms of cinema.

by Jordan Cronk and Calum Marsh

14 Dec 2011

Jordan Cronk: Thus far, we’ve been fortunate enough with ReFramed to kind of focus on some of our favorite films that for one reason or another don’t get the attention they deserve from either audiences or critics. This has resulted in a lot of talk about individual directors’ best works—say, Love Streams, Stalker, The Green Ray, A Brighter Summer Day, etc. I’m sure we’ll soon venture back toward canonical works like these in the near future, but outside of our Hitchcock two-fer (Frenzy and Family Plot), we haven’t taken a whole lot of time to push for less visible works from major directors that haven’t crossed that invisible barrier between curiosity and classic. The Japanese film industry is especially ripe for such discoveries, as many great works remain unavailable or simply buried amidst the plethora of releases from the golden age of East-Asian cinema.

Kenji Mizoguchi, arguably the greatest of all Japanese filmmakers, has a dense and knotty oeuvre, and one that remains sadly under-represented on the home video front (at least in Region 1 format). Two of his best films, 1953s Ugetsu and 1954s Sansho the Bailiff, are solidly ensconced in the canon, but outside of those two peak-era works, other fine Mizoguchi films languish just left of widespread regard. His other great 1954 film, The Crucified Lovers, is one film that I feel undoubtedly deserves to be reconsidered, at the very least, alongside Mizoguchi’s greatest works.

by Jordan Cronk and Calum Marsh

29 Nov 2011

Jordan Cronk: Well, Calum, this was inevitable. But you know what? I can’t think of a more appropriate title to feature in the pages of ReFramed than Paul Verhoeven and Joe Eszterhas’s subversive 1995 cult classic Showgirls. In many ways this film embodies exactly what we’re trying to accomplish with this column, and that’s to encourage reexaminations of misunderstood and unfairly neglected cinema. And in that sense, Showgirls is the quintessential misunderstood film of our time.

Let’s begin with a bit of contextual information, though, as it is all but mandatory when discussing this great piece of earnest, satirical filmmaking. Dutch director Paul Verhoeven has had a storied and unique career in the Hollywood these past 25 years, but it’s important to note the series of early films he made in the Netherlands throughout the 1970s. While none of these are probably standalone masterpieces, they do document a vivacious, committed visual stylist and a unique strain of sexual provocation that would reach its, um, climax, in the early-to-mid-‘90s with Basic Instinct and Showgirls, a pair of thematically rich, bold, and uncompromising works he made at the peak of his Hollywood visibility.

by Jordan Cronk and Calum Marsh

16 Nov 2011

Calum Marsh: Mark Rappaport is perhaps the least well-known filmmaker we’ve discussed in the ReFramed series to date, but I’d argue he’s one of the most important—and certainly one of the most deserving of critical rediscovery. Rappaport has produced more than a dozen experimental shorts and features since the beginning of the ‘70s, all of which deserve recognition and reevaluation, but today we’re focusing on the two essential video essays he made in the mid-‘90s: first there’s Rock Hudson’s Home Movies, from 1992, an hour-long look at the homosexual undertones permeating infamously closeted Hollywood icon Rock Hudson’s filmography; and then there’s the feature-length opus From The Journals Of Jean Seberg, a kind of philosophical and spiritual exegesis of the career of the mostly forgotten American actress, who committed suicide in 1979.

Like many of the films we’ve highlighted throughout this series, both Rock Hudson and Jean Seberg are largely neglected by contemporary critics, and neither are widely available on DVD (the latter is long-since out of print, while the former is exclusively available through an independent distribution company specializing in gay-themed independent videos). And, as usual, the neglect is a real shame: despite being nearly twenty years old, Rappaport’s radical approach to the documentary form seems every bit as forward-thinking and progressive as it no doubt did when they made a brief splash in the arthouse world in the early ‘90s, when Rappaport was on the very forefront of experimental video-making.

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