"Cinema is the art of appropriation — whether taking that which is before the camera or that which has already been filmed." J Hoberman in the Voice: "We'll never know who first discovered the possibility of re-editing existent footage, but, as Jay Leyda noted in his pioneering Films Beget Films, 'We can be sure that the practice is as old as the newsreel itself.' These days, film history is a hall of mirrors in which not just film footage but filmmakers may be incorporated in other filmmakers' work. Johan Grimonprez's Double Take gives Alfred Hitchcock a new role; Chuck Workman's Visionaries popularizes a persona invented by Jonas Mekas."
Double Take (site), opening today for a two-week run at Film Forum in New York, is "a meditation on a series of loosely related themes drawn together, somewhat tenuously, by the familiar yet elusive sensibility that Hitchcock brought to Hollywood and then to American television," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "Mr Grimonprez most often presents the real Hitchcock playing the version of himself familiar to fans of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: the charmingly sinister, roly-poly Englishman introducing brief, small-screen tales of crime and comeuppance.... At the same time, though, the juxtaposition of snippets from The Birds and North by Northwest with period newsreel and television images feels less haunting than obvious, and perhaps a little easy. It does not take much to evoke the atmosphere of cold war paranoia that thickened anew in the years between the Sputnik launching and the Cuban missile crisis, and the archive of collective memory from which Mr Grimonprez gleans his video feels pretty picked over at this point. Connections between Hitchcock's films and, to list a few examples, Nikita S Khrushchev, Richard M Nixon, Fidel Castro and John F Kennedy are made without any particular analytical insight. The birds and the bombs and the swell new color television consoles were all equally signs of the times."
More from Bruce Bennett (IFC), Noel Murray (AV Club) Andrew Schenker (Slant), Henry Stewart (L), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York) and James van Maanen. Graham Fuller talks with Grimonprez for the Voice. Update, 6/3: Alexander Scrimgeour interviews Grimonprez for Artforum.
"The American film avant-garde is in need of an approachable documentary that could make its staggering accomplishments more readily accessible to a wider audience," argues Tom McCormack in the L Magazine. "Or an erudite documentary that could spark discussion among those already in the know. Or, for that matter, a merely serviceable documentary that might invite in a few outsiders and let those who are well-seasoned a chance to enjoy some old favorites. Unfortunately, Chuck Workman's Visionaries is none of these things, and less."
On the other hand, the Voice's J Hoberman: "There's not much that's historical or even systematic to Workman's impressionistic approach, but there's something to be said for his film's immediacy and insistence on the image — a lot, actually. Jumping from a Shirley Clark city symphony to a Brakhage mega-home-movie to a Harry Smith abstraction, Visionaries' heedless montage brought back the sense of crazy possibility that excited me when, as a teenage kid from Queens, I first encountered Mekas's world."
At New York's Anthology Film Archives from Friday through Sunday.
WILLIAM A FRAKER, 1923 - 2010
"William A 'Bill' Fraker, a cinematographer who was nominated for six Academy Awards including for Looking for Mr Goodbar, Heaven Can Wait and 1941, died Monday," reports Richard Verrier in the Los Angeles Times. "He was 86 and had cancer.... 'He was an icon as far as cinematographers and filmmakers go,' said Owen Roizman, past president of the American Society of Cinematographers. 'His loss will be immeasurable.' Fraker was part of a group of young cinematographers that included Vilmos Zsigmond, László Kovács and Néstor Almendros who rose through the ranks of the studio system and helped usher in a golden era of filmmaking in the 1970s."
More from Robert Cashill and Joe Leydon. In 2001, the International Cinematographers Guild put together a collection of interviews and profiles on the occasion of his receiving the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award.
IN OTHER NEWS
The new second issue of Wide Screen features essays on, among other topics, the work of Jafar Panahi, Todd Haynes, Matteo Garrone and Robert Altman.
For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow The Daily Notebook on Twitter and/or the RSS feed. Recently tweeted: Stacey Anderson on Woody Allen's jazz (Voice), B Kite on video games (Moving Image Source) and Seth Colter Walls (Newsweek) on the influence of Metropolis on Janelle Monáe's The ArchAndroid.