As year-end rituals go, remembering those we've lost over the past twelve months is the solemn twin of list-making, though it's often no less an act of celebration. In the new issue of the Brooklyn Rail, Charles Bernstein and Susan Bee look back on the life of George Kuchar, "one of the most creative, original, and influential filmmakers of our time, straddling two generations of North American iconoclasts, from Stan Brakhage, Ken Jacobs, Rudy Burckhardt, Kenneth Anger, and Michael Snow to Warren Sonbert, Ernie Gehr, Abigail Child, and Henry Hills. Often collaborating with his twin brother, Mike, George Kuchar started making films as a Bronx teenager, and the brothers' early films already show the ingenuity, exuberance, and do-it-yourself charm that would pervade scores of their subsequent films."
More from Clara Pais in the freely downloadable December issue of One + One, which also features Diamuid Hester on Jacques Tati, Donna K on Brent Green, Greg Scorzo on Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Treasa O'Brien's interview with Marcel Schwierin, co-curator of the Shooting Animals program at Oberhausen Short Film Festival 2011. Via Mike Everleth.
The same day we lost Kuchar, September 6, Jordan Belson left us at the age of 85. Gregory Zinman: "The 30 films he made as an independent, artisanal filmmaker are suffused with mystery, navigating inner and outer spaces via slowly mounting flames of deliquescent light, shimmering starfields, and rainstorms of color."
For its collection of "Obituaries of 2011," the editors of the Observer New Review have called on a remarkable roster of writers for their personal remembrances. Here, for example, is Gena Rowlands on Peter Falk: "He listened. He didn't just pretend to listen like many actors do. It's actually hard to listen on set, what with all the necessary distractions: the lights, the crew, the attention. He had a truly great talent for that. That's one of the reasons I took to him."
Shirley MacLaine on Elizabeth Taylor: "She did not see herself as 'Elizabeth Taylor' at all. She was much more like a Yiddisher momma, to be honest."
David Arnold on composer John Barry: "When we went out for dinner, I was the eater and he was the drinker. He particularly liked champagne cocktails in those days. Shortly after that, I got my first Bond movie. I am sure somewhere along the line John had given me the thumbs-up."
David Hare on Anna Massey: "The thing that bonded us immediately was our mutual love of gossip, which we both saw as evidence of proper human curiosity."
Idil Ibrahim, partner of Tim Hetherington, the photojournalist and co-director of the award-winning documentary Restrepo who died in April in a clash between Libyan soldiers and rebels: "Although my heart is broken, I try to take some comfort in knowing that he was killed doing what he loved most, in a place he wanted to be."
Also: Jamie Byng on Gil Scott-Heron, Mark Ronson on Amy Winehouse, Stephen Wolfram on Steve Jobs, Boy George on Poly Styrene, Sally Clarke on Lucian Freud and Ed Victor on Josephine Hart.
Back in the Brooklyn Rail, Ricky D'Ambrose considers Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture, Miranda July's The Future and Matthew Lessner's The Woods and draws up an argument: "Between the gap that once separated the mundane and the minute from the important and the serious there now exists a type of aesthetic experience that forms the link between them; art, under these circumstances, and within the purview of these films, becomes a peculiar form of psychotherapy."
Abigail Child's series of seven films, completed in 1989, Is This What You Were Born For?, is out on DVD from MētisPresses, and Jim Supanick notes that this "cycle has been described by film scholar P Adams Sitney as 'one of the most important and original sequences in the American avant-garde.' Quite right he is, and yet it's many other things as well: a cinematic corollary informed by, if not identical to, the work of the Language poets; a direct challenge to the prudish misapplication of feminist film theory, especially that laid out in Laura Mulvey's 1975 essay 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema'; a paean to the sights, sounds, and artistic spirit of the 1980s Lower East Side; and a collaboration with some of the leading lights of that neighborhood's musical scene, itself a truly golden age within the larger history of American music."
Lists. "There hung over the cinema this past year a sense of loss, of things being eroded, slipping away, disappearing." The Observer's Philip French's top ten is alphabetical: Archipelago (Joanna Hogg), The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius), The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies), Hugo (Martin Scorsese), The King's Speech (Tom Hooper), Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen), Le Quattro Volte (Michelangelo Frammartino), A Separation (Asghar Farhadi), The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodóvar) and True Grit (Ethan and Joel Coen). And he's tossed in one "turkey," Roland Emmerich's Anonymous.
In the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan and Betsy Sharkey pick their favorite foreign films of 2011: Tsui Hark's Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, Lu Chuan's City of Life and Death, Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre, Fred Cavayé's Point Blank, The Skin I Live In and A Separation.
In other news. Terrence Malick cut a six-hour version of The Tree of Life and, while cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki calls it "incredible," according to producer Dede Gardner, we'll never see it. Chris Willman reports for TheWrap. Via Movie City News.
Dave Kehr in the New York Times: "With its bleak, film-noir imagery and barely suppressed undertone of suicidal despair, Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life has somewhat mysteriously assumed an unshakable position as America's official holiday film. But for those in search of a more vibrant, warmhearted and subtly melancholic seasonal celebration there is Vincente Minnelli's 1944 musical Meet Me in St Louis, which Warner Home Video will release this week in a superbly restored Blu-ray edition."
In the works. "Sony Pictures and Smokehouse partners George Clooney and Grant Heslov will turn the story of 60s comedians Tom and Dicky Smothers into a feature film," reports Deadline's Mike Fleming. "They've optioned the David Bianculli book Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and they've set Brian Hecker and Craig Sherman to write the script. Clooney and Heslov will produce. It's too early to determine whether or not Clooney will star or direct."
Photos. everyday_i_show collects another amazing batch of vintage Hollywood portraits.