Offscreen Notes

  • Roger Corman (April 5, 1926-May 9, 2024)

    May 13th, 2024

    It was bound to happen some time soon but I always believed Roger Corman was immortal or at least would be one of those rare human species that lives productively well past the age of 100. He came close remaining active up until his death at age of 98 on May 9, 2024. Corman will certianly have as many obits written about him over the next few days and weeks as films he produced, which is close to 500 (yes you read right). Corman also has more nicknames than most film legends largely because of how he mastered every aspect of the film industry, priding himself on losing money on only one film, his 1962 anti-racist message film The Intruder, starring William Shatner, himself a 'young' whipersnapper of 91. He lost money with that film but learned a valuable lesson: never stake a claim on a film only because of its social message. This does not mean that Corman would never again interject social messages into his films -he did- but that it would always be at the service of exploitation and/or entertainment. Such as the youth and counter-culture films The Wild Angels (1966) and The Trip (1967). As a director Corman was at his peak in the early 1960s, with a run of remarkable (if not at least stylish and effective) horror and science-fiction films. Including his successful Edgar Allen Poe influenced (if not adapted) films House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), The Raven (1963), The Terror (1963), (his masterpeice as a director, along with X-The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, 1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and Tomb of Ligeia (1964). Corman was one of the first producers to cleverly employ older veteran actors at the end of their careers, realizing how their professionalism and eagerness to work were a perfect fit to his tight schedules constrained by budget and production strategy (reusing sets from one film in another, shooting with more than one film in mind). Actors who Corman brought back into the limelight (or at least back to earning an income) include Shelley Winters, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Basil Rathbone, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre. To supplement the known and experienced thespians, Corman was an astute judge of future talent (or as some would rather say, a great labor exploiter!) surrounding the older actors with up and coming stars of the 'new hollywood' (or beyond in some cases). The list is way too long to be complete but some of these young actors, screewnwriters, directors include Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Robert Towne, John Milius, Paul Mayersberg, David Carradine, Francis Ford Coppola, Dennis Hopper, Susan Strasberg, Bruce Dern, Joe Dante, and Martin Scorsese. Corman was savvy to see how the landscape for exhibition was changing post-Hollywood Studio system and the increasing desire for serious adult fare, partly spurred by film studies courses and programs being offered for the first time at universities across North America, whetting the appetites of young adults to search out more adventurous cinema. Corman set aside his exploitation tastes to successfully distribute arthouse films in North America, including Amarcord (1972), Cries and Whispers (1973),The Tin Drum  (1979), Breaker Morant (1980), My American Uncle (1981), Fritzcarraldo (1981), and Quartet (1982). In his later years Corman again re-invented himself or his penchant for crasser exploitation fare in the streaming age by producing cheap IPs (like the Sharknado films), knock offs and sequels (four Death Race sequels) exclusively for the SyFy channel. Safe to say that today's film landscape could never generate another figure even remotely like Roger Corman. One wonders what American cinema would look like today if Roger Corman had never been born?

  • David Bordwell (1947-Feb 29, 2024)

    March 2nd, 2024

    One of the most important educators, teachers, and film academics of his generation, David Bordwell, has died at the age of 76. Along with being a great and motivational teacher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he taught in one of the most influential film studies departments in North America from 1973 to 2004, Bordwell wrote some of the most important film studies books in the field. Beginning with his seminal Film Art: An Introduction (1st ed., 1979), which he co-wrote with his wife Kristen Thompson, and in later editions, Jeff Smith. The latter book is probably the most widely adopted university textbook in the world and has shaped the way film is taught and thought about for generations (and I would add, for better or worse, as the book’s formalist approach has its virulent and in some cases excessively so, detractors). Many of his best books were fruits of exhaustive secondary research but his writing never steered far from a deep analysis of film at the historical, aesthetic, and contextual level (he innovated in the field of industry analysis with his groundbreaking 1985 The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960). Perhaps Bordwell was most passionate when he wrote about questions of film style, in such books as Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema (1988’s), Figures Traced in Light: On Cinematic Staging (2005); On the History of Film Style (1997), and The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies (2006).

    Though Bordwell seemed to move farther away from film theory as he got older, he did write at least three key works of film theory, Narration in Fiction Film (1985), and his controversial Making Meaning Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema (1991), and its sequel in spirit,  Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies, co-written with Noël Carroll in 1996. Collectively these two works challenged the then widespread approach to film modelled on what he and Carroll labelled as ‘Grand Theories’ , a school of interpretative approaches to film based on mainly Continental theory and philosophy (German Idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, structuralism, post-structuralism, Marxism, etc.). As you might expect, the books stirred endless debate and venom.  

    In terms of his own methodological approach to film Bordwell is perhaps best remembered for his promotion of neoformalism, a return to the roots of Russian Formalism applied to cinema, most forcefully in Narration in Fiction Film, which he researched and practised along with his wife Kristen Thompson; and his notion of ‘historical poetics’, an approach which analyzes how broad cultural patterns influence the way films look and sound.

    I was lucky enough to have met Bordwell on a few occasions and was struck by his boyish enthusiasm and boundless energy. He seemed like the kind of bloke that you would enjoy sitting down and chatting with about film. And from people who knew him much better than I, the one thing that Bordwell lived for more than anything, was watching and listening to film. Let’s hope wherever he is there is a projector or big screen TV not far away.

  • Norman Jewison: 1926-January 20, 2024

    January 22nd, 2024

    A Canadian legend of countless Canadian and American productions, Norman Jewison, dies at age 97. Jewison will be remembered for a few key films but I will remember him as one of those old school Hollywood directors who was able to apply himself to any kind of script or genre, like drama (In the Heat of the Night, And Justice for All, Agnes of God, The Cincinnati Kid), musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Fiddler on the Roof), comedy (Moonstruck, The Russians Are Coming The Russiands Are Coming, The Art of Love, Send Me No Flowers), bio-pics (The Hurricane, F.I.S.T.) and science-fiction (Rollerball).

  • David J. Skal (RIP, 1952-2024)

    January 13th, 2024

    Very sad to hear about the passing of film critic, historian and writer David J. Skal, who died on January 1, 2024, at the age of 71 (b. 1952). Skal was best remembered by those who knew him as a classic Monster Kid, someone who grew up watching broadcasts of the classic Universal horror films on television in the 1960s. Skal nurtured this love and passion of these films into a career as one of the most intelligent historians of this period. I still rate his second non-ficiton work The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror (1993) as one of the best books on the horror genre. Across his written works and frequent appearances on documentaries and physical media commentaries Skal helped us to realize how important fear in its artistic manifestations is to our understanding of human psychology and culture in general. 

  • Amir Naderi’s The Runner

    December 15th, 2023

    Nice to see Amir Naderi's important post-Revolution Iranian film The Runner (1984) get the Criterion Blu Ray treatment.

  • Mario Monicelli Retrospective During December 2023 in Montreal

    December 15th, 2023

    The great Mario Monicelli is the subject of this December 2023 retrospective at The Cinematheque Quebecoise.

  • New Blu Ray of Three Films by Experimental filmmaker Richard Kerr

    October 27th, 2023

    Stephen Broomer through his series Art & Trash, and blu ray label Black Zero has been one of Canada’s most vocal and articulate supporters of experimental cinema. His latest Blu Ray release is a package of three films by Canadian filmmaker/teacher Richard Kerr, entitled Field Trips. The disc includes Last Days of Contrition, Cruel Rhythm and Field Trip.

  • Daruish Mehrjui (1939-2023)

    October 19th, 2023

    I can not believe or understand this latest tragedy, and I am frankly shocked. The great Iranian filmmaker Daruish Mehrjui and his wife Vahideh brutally stabbed to death in their apartment on October 14. Mehrjui was a favorite at Offscreen and I encourage you to read some of the essays and articles we have published on Mehrjui over the years.

    Partial Filmography

    Leila

    Human Sonata

  • Terence Davies: 1945-October 7, 2023

    October 9th, 2023

    One of England’s most respected directors, Terence Davies, died on October 7, 2023 at age 77. Davies ‘only’ made about 15 feature films but managed to instill a quiet visual intensity and narrative complexity (often concerned with issues of temporality, memory and the relationship between the personal and the historical) to all his films. His final two films were bio-pics, one about 20th Century poet Siegfried Sassoon, Benediction, and the other about write Emily Dickenson, A Quiet Passion (2016) [read review here). Perhaps his greatest works were more autobiographical in nature, dealing with his working class, Catholic upbringing (in the city of Liverpool) as a gay man in a time when homosexuality was not socially accepted. Three shorts that formed The Terence Davies Trilogy (1983), Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), The Long Day Closes (1992), The Neon Bible (1995) and Of Time and the City (2008), a documentary on his hometown of Liverpool.

  • Yes! Film Festival

    August 23rd, 2023

    The Montreal Yes! Film Festival has a focus on local talent and is showcasing the 2023 crop of new talent this Saturday August 26 at the Leonardo Da Vinci Center. There are three programs of films:

    Horror shorts 11:00 am-3:30 pm
    Local Competition 3:30 pm-6:00 pm
    International Films 6:30 pm-9:00 pm

    Please note due to programming time restrictions, not all films listed are being screened. Filmmakers have already been notified of official selections.

    NOMINATION FOR BEST ACTOR

    Cedrick Mainville in PEANUT BUTTER
    Alexis Deziel in LE MONSTER
    Giuseppe Calvinisti in ELEVEN LINES
    Mhohamad Ali Jawad in PINK TORERO KUSH
    Shawn Baichoo in WRAITH
    Nir Guzinski in BITTER SUN
    NOMINATION FOR BEST ACTRESS
    Tina Mancini in BITTER SUN
    Lesly Velazquez in ISABELLE WALKS WITH ANGELS
    Anne-Julie Proulx in HEALTH CHECK
    Myriam Lopez in ELEVN LINES
    Anne-Sophie Millette in LE MONSTER
    Jen Viens in WRAITH

    NOMINATION FOR BEST DIRECTOR

    Gabriel Despre for LE MONSTER
    Maxime Divier for PEANUT BUTTER
    Giuseppe Calvinisti for ELEVEN LINES
    Naomi Silver-Vezina for ISABELLE WALKS WITH ANGELS
    Samuel Edward Mac for WRAITH
    Tommy Harvey for HEALTH CHECK

    NOMINATION FOR BEST SOUND

    ISABELLE WALKS WITH ANGELS
    WRAITH
    ELEVEN LINES
    PEANUT BUTTER
    TEARS OF METAL
    LE MONSTER

    NOMINATION FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

    ELEVEN LINES
    PEANUT BUTTER
    LE MONSTER
    PINK TORERO KUSH
    ISABELLE WALKS WITH ANGELS
    WRAITH
    HORROR NOMINATIONS

    NOMINATION FOR BEST ACTRESS

    Moika Perreault in THE ILL FATED
    Micheline Chartier in RED TILES
    Charlotte Gagne in THE ILL FATED
    Laurianne Dupuis in THE ILL-FATED
    Charlotte Poitras in DIVA
    Kochar Ababkir in AN ANGRY KNOCK

    NOMINATION FOR BEST ACTOR

    Niwar Amin in AN ANGRY KNOCK
    Gabriel Caron in GALATEA
    Rizgar Hama in AN ANGRY KNOCK
    Jonathan Asselin in SERIAL ENCOUNTERS
    Dareen Smile in AN ANGRY KNOCK
    Cedric Mainville in DIVA

    NOMINATION FOR BEST DIRECTOR

    Remi Frechette for DIVA
    Philippe Bourret for RED TILES
    Stephane Turgeon for THE SCREAM
    Sarbast Raza Carmiany for AN ANGRY KNOCK
    Daniel Rodriquez for THE ILL-FATED
    Catherine Cote-Moisescu and Jeremy Glavac for SERIAL ENCOUNTER

    NOMINATION FOR BEST SOUND

    THE ILL-FATED
    RED TILES
    THE SCREAM
    GALATEA
    DIVA
    FUEL

    NOMINATION FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

    GALATEA
    AN ANGRY KNOCK
    THE ILL-FATED
    RED TILES
    FUEL
    THE SCREAM

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