From the editor and writers of Bright Lights Film Journal
Action! Interviews with Directors from Classical Hollywood to Contemporary Iran
(Anthem Art and Culture), by Gary Morris (Editor), Bert Cardullo (Introduction), Jonathan Rosenbaum (Foreword). London and New York: Anthem Press, 2009.
"I dare anyone to squeeze between two covers a more varied, useful and flat out entertaining sampling of the personalities that make the seventh art the liveliest."
David Hudson,
From the Editor
"Danger, Reader, Danger!"
At Bright Lights, we don't normally deal in cautionary tales; we're usually too busy sampling one or more of the seven deadly sins (we're enjoying "sloth" this week). But even the most sybaritic among us needs an occasional break, and during a recent one we noticed a surprising thread of "watch out!" filigreeing the new issue. Generally, these are subtle warnings, carefully embedded by our highly trained team of writers so as not to alarm an already jittery populace. In one case, though, the caveat is overt: J D Markel's plea to readers to avoid L.A. as a classical hell-space, which leads off the issue. The L.A. chamber of commerce may fume, but readers will surely enjoy J D's scorching analysis of America's most apocalyptic city as seen in movies from Falling Down to Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.
Continuing in the features section, BL regular Norm Ball casts his warning about, well, societal collapse via the work of British documentarian Adam Curtis in a powerful piece. Graham Daseler brings us back to earth with a robust study of Hollywood film editors that includes such rarely discussed pioneers as '30s cutter Margaret Booth. And wrapping up this section, Marilyn Papadanis takes us to the third world for a bracing investigation of "sex tourism," colonialism, the older female body, and other culture tropes in Heading South and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
Moving on to the articles brings us to D. J. M. Saunders' charming look at gentlemanliness (and lack thereof) in such films as Hitchcock's The Lodger, Lang's While the City Sleeps, Griffith's Birth of a Nation, and Ford's Wagon Master. Norm Ball rebounds with a scintillating read on Patricio Guzman's Nostalgia for the Light that, as always with Norm, quickly hits the cosmic ceiling and keeps on going. A new contributor, A. Loudermilk, authoritatively analyzes a variant of the "final girl" in stalker films — the sissy figure — and enriches the piece by making himself part of it. Maximilian Yoshioka weighs in with two entries this time: a heady probe of Godard's timeless Alphaville via Marcuse and other thinkers and, in the recent films section, a thoughtful study of Joachim Trier's bittersweet Oslo August 31st. BL newbie Ingrid Fernandez engagingly elucidates body horror and more in a revisit to Polanski's The Tenant. Another new contributor, Jessica Hagemann, examines the work of Jan Svankmajer from the standpoint of birth trauma and the gesture of touch in an insightful survey.
As much as we like the sound of our own voices here at Bright Lights, we like hearing directors talk even more. Julia Leyda's interview with Todd Haynes, covering everything from gender politics to '80s glam culture to Imitation of Life, is more like a visit between good friends. Sam Weisberg spoke with Paul Morrissey and surely deserves an award for bravery under fire, enduring a fusillade of verbal shots from the notoriously cranky right-wing auteur. Sam, your medal should arrive shortly.
Speaking of bravery, in our ongoing attempt to grapple with "the now," we showcase reviews of four recent films this time. In addition to the aforementioned Oslo August 31st, there's a fine piece by Steven Massa on the Egyptian revolution anthology film 18 Days, which touches on politics, allegory, and montage. Associate editor Alan Vanneman tackles Hunger Games in a short, hilarious review that asks the pressing question, Where'd they get all that calico? Two new contributors, Ravi Bhoraskar and Sudha Shastri, cover considerable ground in a probing read of the Indian mega-hit Kahaani.
Skedaddling back to our beloved past (that was close!), the revivals section features, first, Vanneman, with a detailed, witty interrogation of High Noon; new contributor Jon Towlson in a fascinating defense of Tod Browning as a visual artist, complete with photo-essay showing Hans, Frieda, and Cleo; and BL returnee Ian Murphy skillfully salutes the greatness of Walter Hill's Southern Comfort. Vanneman also continues his biblically proportioned epic on Fred Astaire, this time discussing Fred's variably accessible TV work in a typically mordant piece.
This year is the centenary of Sam Fuller's birth, and we honor the indie godfather with two tributes to less heralded films: Lee Weston Sabo's rich reading of Park Row and our old pal John Belton's smart and fair-minded explication of the butchered Shark!, the latter article resurrected from the old print edition of Bright Lights.
Every magazine should have a manifesto, and it's been a while since we've published one. A new writer, Michael T. Smith, came to the rescue with one called "Nine Techniques for the Bad Viewer" playing off Samurai Cop. Michael advises us to enhance our film viewing with such practical activities as "put a sleeper hold on your companions," "smear your glasses with your popcorn butter," and that old war horse, "imagine a collapse of time." Michael, we're enjoying ourselves more already!
In his regular DVD column, Gordon Thomas discusses four films — Das Weib des Pharao, Confidence, The Navigator, Casa de Lava — with happy results. Gordon also expertly exhumes film pioneer Col. William N. Selig in a review of a recent book on that almost forgotten character. Our longtime BL buddy Erich Kuersten contributes a strong review of the new Dario Argento book by Maitland McDonagh.
Wrapping up the issue are two festival reviews. Associate editor Lesley Chow went to the Melbourne International Film Festival and focuses on the experimental film sidebar with her usual elan. And Robert Keser brings it home with another festival sidebar, this time the Algerian film component of the Abu Dhabi film festival.
No more warnings now; just a tip of the hat to our faithful crew of regulars and a hearty welcome to the new contributors. Enjoy the issue.
Gary Morris
November 2012 | Issue 78

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