Love Letters is the issue of Criticine that Alexis Tioseco was working on when he and Nika Bohinc were murdered last September. "One thing we knew, even on that first day of grief, was that Love Letters had to be completed," write Ben Slater and May Adadol Ingawanij. "As an editorial concept, it was such a pure distillation of all that Alexis had been doing up to that point in regards to his writing on Southeast Asian cinema. The bringing to light, the articulating of qualities overlooked, the explication of context - the understanding." The completed work is a profound tribute from a loving community.
A month before those senseless murders, Ronald Bergan reported in the Guardian that Yasmin Ahmad, "one of the few Malaysian directors to make a name on the world stage, has died aged 51 after suffering a stroke and undergoing surgery for a cerebral haemorrhage." Amir Muhammad "watched all of Yasmin's films again and wrote about what I saw in them, and my intended reader was, of all people, Alexis. It was my way of continuing my conversations with both of them, and the resulting book, Yasmin Ahmad's Films, is my way of making sure they stayed in the present tense a bit longer." At Moving Image Source, he presents a piece adapted from a chapter devoted to her commercials. "Among the jaded, the very phrase 'Petronas commercial' became shorthand for emotional manipulation. But if one of these commercials were to come on TV at one of Malaysia's crowded open-air eateries, most people would stop to watch. Anything that can tear Malaysians away from their food, at least temporarily, must be special. Then you realize the truth of one of her favorite sayings: A nation is nothing without the stories it tells (about) itself."
"It is with deep sadness that Experimental Conversations learned of the death of one of its heroes, Iván Zulueta, who passed away at age 66 just two days before the end of 2009." Editor Maximilian Le Cain, introducing the new issue: "Appreciated in his native Spain chiefly for the cult masterpiece Arrebato (1979, discussed extensively in Issue 2), he remains criminally neglected elsewhere. It is my contention that his cinema will still have its moment with international cinephiles, that a film as brilliant and appealing as Arrebato must come to light sooner or later accompanied by a chorus of dismay over how we could have missed out on such an important and deliriously entertaining work for so long... But now Zulueta, regrettably inactive as a filmmaker for many years, won't be around to witness this revelation."
To other issues. Film Matters is a new magazine "celebrating the work of undergraduate film scholars. Published four times a year, by students and for students." Volume 1, Issue 1 is freely available online.
The February issue of Sight & Sound is up, or rather, selections from it are. It's a best-of-the-decade issue, mostly, but editor Nick James and his contributing crew have steered away from the "best" idea and towards a list of "30 key films that illuminated the last ten years."
There's also a round of reviews, of course - Trevor Johnston on Hirokazu Kore-eda's Still Walking; Miguel Gomes's Our Beloved Month of August; Michael Atkinson on Clint Eastwood's Invictus - and Tim Lucas on "11 individual titles that continue the serial saga of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan the Ape Man from the moment ageing Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller hung up his loincloth to become Jungle Jim. Inheriting his mantle (and chimp) for five films was Lex Barker, a naturally impressive physical specimen who went on to 1960s stardom in West Germany, while a further six starred the first bodybuilder Tarzan, Gordon Scott."
Also, Tony Ryans: "In one of his most famous interview quotes, Ozu likened himself to a maker of tofu: 'I just want to make a tray of good tofu. If people want something else, they should go to the restaurants and shops.' But when film historians began to re-examine Ozu's pre-war work (a process that didn't really get started until the 1970s, since which time several early 'lost' films have turned up), they discovered that Ozu's tofu recipes were more varied than previously imagined. Few knew that the director of films like Tokyo Story (1953) and Early Spring (1956) had once made riotous student-slacker comedies and gangster movies."
The BFI's Ozu retrospective runs on through February 27 and, starting today, Late Autumn is being given a special run, screening nearly every day through February 25. See Peter Bradshaw's brief recommendation in the Guardian.
While we're on the subject of Japanese film, the Midnight Eye team presents its list of the "Best (and Worst) of 2009" (Sion Sono's Love Exposure fares quite well, you'll see) and invites you to participate in the readers poll. Also, Jasper Sharp interviews Tokachi Tsuchiya, whose A Normal Life, Please! won the award for Best Documentary at the 17th Raindance Film Festival in London.
Really shouldn't wrap this entry before mentioning the two major losses of this past week. In Slate, Dana Stevens notes that "JD Salinger was approached all his life by producers, screenwriters, and actors (including Elia Kazan, Billy Wilder, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jerry Lewis, who identified deeply with [The Catcher in the Rye] despite being decades too old to play the part). But Salinger obstinately refused to relinquish the rights to the novel. He explains his reasons in this 1957 letter to one Mr Herbert: 'The Catcher in the Rye is a very novelistic novel.... The weight of the book is in the narrator's voice, the non-stop peculiarities of it.... He can't legitimately be separated from his own first-person technique.'" Nevertheless: "Though Catcher was never filmed, Holden Caulfield has had perhaps the longest cinematic afterlife of any modern fictional hero."
On a related note, you'll want to see this recollection from Jonathan Rosenbaum.
Finally, whatever you think of Good Will Hunting, you have to give it credit for undoubtedly introducing many, maybe even very many to a vitally important historian: "If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. That book will knock you on your ass."
At Alternet, Zinn is remembered by Amy Goodman as she speaks with Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein and Anthony Arnove.
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