Offscreen Notes

  • Hans Hurch, RIP

    September 18th, 2017

    Abel Ferrara directs a trailer the 2017 Vienna International Film Festival in tribute to its recently deceased Program Director Hans Hurch:

  • Harry Dean Stanton (RIP), age 91

    September 18th, 2017

    Seventy-five years after he smoked his first cigarette as he told us in Twin Peaks The Return character actor extraordinaire Harry Dean Stanton dies on September 15, 2017. Wow. Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, The Intruders, Two-Lane Backdrop, The Godfather 2, Farewell, My Lovely, Straight Time, Alien, Escape from New York, Christine, Repo Man, Paris Texas, The Last Temptation of Christ, Wild at Heart, The Straight Story, The Good Life, and Twin Peaks: The Return. A man who epitomized cool by just being. An actor who seems to have never done the proverbial “dial one in” with a role. A director’s dream. An actor’s friend. A cinephile’s confidant.

  • Jerry Lewis RIP: 1926-August 20, 2017

    August 22nd, 2017

    One of America’s greatest comedians died on August 20, 2017 at the age of 91, leaving behind a lasting legacy as an old school comedian who redefined himself to become a modernist directing and writing and starring in a series of films peaking in the 1960s that had as much in common with Beckett and Brecht and Tati as Keaton and Chaplin and Lou Costello. Jerry Lewis along with his comic partner Dean Martin were the most popular comic team of their time, perhaps of all-time, consistently making films that topped the box-office charts throughout the fifties. His penchant for combining manic movement with stoic stillness defined two poles of comedy, which can be expressed through a comparison of someone like Harry Langdon to Buster Keaton. Stasis versus movement. This is captured in one great scene from the Lewis directed/written vehicle The Patsy (1964), where Lewis as the bell boy soon to be patsy enters a hotel room to service its occupants. The scene cuts between (mainly) long shots of a harried, jittery Lewis nervously entering the room, all arms and legs, and long shots of the six black dressed business types standing perfectly still, like statues, staring in bewilderment at the odd human in front of them and slowly turning their expressions to eureka divination at having found their patsy. No comedian mugged for the camera with more brazen conviction than Lewis, who well into the second half of the 20th century still treated the camera with a mixture of contempt, love and lunacy. There will never be another like Jerry Lewis. That mold is done and busted.

  • Sam Shepard RIP: 1943-July 27, 2017

    August 2nd, 2017

    Always youthful looking, playwright, writer, novelist, actor and director, Sam Shepard died on July 27, 2017 at the age of 73, a few days of the world of film lost Jeanne Moreau.

  • Jeanne Moreau: 1928-2017

    August 2nd, 2017

    Beauty meets charisma meets talent, personified, Jeanne Moreau passes away at the age of 89. An actress who made her mark with the French New Wave acting in some of its most seminal films and went on to work with such notable directors as Asquith, Frankenheimer, Blier, Bunuel, Antonioni, Welles, Losey, Besson and others. A life well lived.

  • Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

    April 27th, 2017

    American director Jonathan Demme is dead at age 73, after a two year struggle with cancer. Like his colleague Martin Scorsese, Demme split his film career between making fiction films with a social heart and music documentaries and concerts. He will always be best remembered for his masterpiece Silence of the Lambs, which saw him squeeze out of Anthony Hopkins one of the most disturbing portrayals of evil hiding behind a veneer of sophistication. Read Bruce Weber’s obit on the NYTimes:

  • Michael Ballhaus, cinematographer (August 1935- April 11, 2017)

    April 17th, 2017

    Long-time Werner Rainer Fassbinder and Martin Scorsese cinematographer has died at the age of 81.

    The Guardian obit:

  • Tomas Milan: 1933-2017

    March 24th, 2017

    Cuban born American-Italian actor Tomas Milan died at the age of 84 on March 22, 2017. Though best known for his run of well over two dozen Italian western and crime films of the 1970s and 1980s Milan’s career also spanned films in England and the United States, plus art house films in Italy (Boccaccio ’70, Ro.Go.Pa.G., Identification of a Woman, in which he starred as Michelangelo Antonioni’s alienated movie director Niccolo ). Milan excelled in both serious roles, comic roles, and roles that blended both comedy and tragedy (a trait of Italian popular cinema). His poor anti-hero Manuel ‘Cuchillo’ Sanchez, who first appeared in the classic 1966 Spaghetti western The Big Gundown, became a symbol of the lower class, Mexican underdog in a series of politicized westerns. In 1967 Milan starred in Giulio Questi’s surreal, baroque western masterpiece Django Kill….If You Live Shoot!, which saw him depicted as a Christ-like Stranger. In my own words from an earlier Offscreen essay, the film is “…perhaps the most violent, surreal, horrific, Biblical and apocalyptic Western ever made. Thomas Milan plays the mysterious Christ-like character yet again christened The Stranger who returns from the dead in the opening scene of the film –he literally crawls out of his grave and is brought back to life by a pair of Indian witch doctors– and is later crucified in a prison cell in one of the most blatant Western gunfighter-as-Christ images ever put to celluloid.” Milan starred in only one giallo, but it was a great one, Lucio Fulci’s 1972 Don’t Torture a Duckling. One of his most impressive later star turns was as General Arturo Salazar in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000). Milan left Cuba after his father committed suicide and settled in Italy for 25 years, becoming a naturalized Italian citizen. Milan would return to the United States where he worked in both film and television until his death in his home in Miami. It is hard to imagine such a varied career, spanning seven decades across so many genres and countries, to come our way again any time soon.

  • William Peter Blatty, RIP, (January 7, 1928 – January 12, 2017)

    January 17th, 2017

    American author and filmmaker William Peter Blatty has died at the age of 89. Blatty’s novel The Exorcist is perhaps the single most influential and defining horror creation of the 20th century. With the recent reboot of the classic tale of religious and psychological horror as a television series, Blatty’s influence continues strong into the 21st century. Even though the creative history between the Roman Catholic Blatty, and the director of the adaptation, William Friedkin, an atheist Jew, was fraught with differences both spiritual and aesthetic, in the end it was a perfect marriage. A perfect union of two creative minds who, over the years, came to understand and appreciate their creative differences. Blatty was also a film director of considerable talent, especially his uniquely operatic and theatrical debut film, The Ninth Configuration. The Ninth Configuration was based on a novel by Blatty and adapted by him to the screen as a novel blend of psychological art therapy horror. The film is wonderfully literate, visually sophisticated and blessed with one of the most remarkable male casts of character actors ever put together: Stacey Keach, Jason Miller, Scott Wilson, Neville Brand, Ed Flanders, Moses Gunn, Robert Loggia, Joe Spinell, Alejandro Rey, Tom Atkins, and Richard Lynch. And then there is The Exorcist 3 and the hospital corridor scene. Perhaps the single greatest jump scare in horror history. Blatty’s place in the horror pantheon is secure.

  • Music & Moving Image Conference

    October 21st, 2016

    Conference: Music & the Moving Image on May 26 – 28, 2017.

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