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Thursday, October 13, 2016
Deadline's Nancy Tartaglione posted an informative summary yesterday of Quentin Tarantino's masterclass on the cinema of 1970, which took place Wednesday night at the Lumière Festival in Lyon. According to Tartaglione, Tarantino told the packed auditorium of about 2000 people that for four years now, he's been researching 1970 as a turning point for American and international cinema. Introducing it as a "work in progress," Tarantino said, "Am I going to write a book? Maybe. Is it going to be a six-part podcast? Maybe. A feature documentary? Maybe. I’m figuring it out."

"Now in its eighth edition," reports Tartaglione, "this is a festival close to Tarantino’s heart. It’s largely a retrospective with hundreds of restored films, thematic strands and uncovered gems. This year, the filmmaker has curated a group of 14 films from 1970 which he’s been presenting throughout the week."

A list of those 14 films can be found at Beverly Cinema. They include four intriguing double-features, and six stand-alone screenings:

Love Story by Arthur Hiller (1970, 1h39)
Deep End by Jerzy Skolimowski (1970, 1h40)

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage by Dario Argento (1970, 1h32)
The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun by Anatole Litvak (1970, 1h45)

Claire’s Knee by Eric Rohmer (1970, 1h45)
Le Boucher by Claude Chabrol (1970, 1h33)

The Kremlin Letter by John Huston (1970, 1h40)
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Billy Wilder (1970, 2h05)

Five Easy Pieces by Bob Rafelson (1970, 1h38)

Beyond the valley of The Dolls by Russ Meyer (1970, 1h49)

M.A.S.H. by Robert Altman (1970, 1h56)

The Liberation of L.B. Jones by William Wyler (1970, 1h42)

Drive, he said by Jack Nicholson (1970, 1h35)

Zabriskie Point by Michelangelo Antonioni (1970, 1h40)

In addition to all of that, Tarantino was also on hand to present Saturday night's opening film, George Roy Hill's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which, at the beginning of 1970, garnered an Academy Award nomination for best picture.

Tartaglione's article includes a passage in which Tarantino discusses his love for Altman's M.A.S.H. ("it was the first movie to truly deal with the dilemma of Vietnam"), although he and Altman did not like each other.


Here's more from Tartaglione's article:

Asked why he has chosen to focus on 1970, Tarantino cited the 2009 book by Mark Harris, Pictures Of A Revolution: Five Movies And The Birth Of The New Hollywood. The book chronicles the “real emergence of the New Hollywood,” Tarantino explained, and noted that “By the end of 1967, new Hollywood had won, only they didn’t know it yet. And Old Hollywood was over by 67 even though they didn’t know it yet.” He called Pictures Of A Revolution “the best cinema book written this decade.”

By 1970, Tarantino said, “New Hollywood was the Hollywood and anything that even smacked of Old Hollywood was dead on arrival.” The filmmaker said he became interested in when the revolution was won and, “not coincidentally, I was alive in 1970 and very conscious at 7 years old when my parents were taking me to all types of movies.” Now researching that year, he said, “the more I started going to the library and looking up newspaper articles of what it was like, I realized New Hollywood had won the revolution but whether it would survive wasn’t clear. Cinema had changed so drastically that Hollywood had alienated the family audience.”

And, although they were big fans, “the hippie audience wasn’t really moviegoers. Society demanded (the Hollywood new wave) but that doesn’t mean that they supported it as a business model and it made me realize that New Hollywood cinema from 1970-76 at the very least was actually more fragile than I thought it was. That experiment could have died in 1970.” He cited films like those that he’s showing here along with Carnal Knowledge, The Godfather, The Exorcist and Chinatown. But if MASH or Five Easy Pieces hadn’t worked in 1970, “It’s doubtful there would have been a Godfather or an Exorcist.”

But, he hasn’t set out to make a Top 10 list. “Oddly enough, it was the films on the lower end of the Top 30 or 40, which, while they weren’t as good, in a weird way were more interesting to me… I’m always going to come at it from a critical or cinephile perspective but I wanted to put that in the minor and make it more as a historian or a sociologist.”

As part of his research, Tarantino says he’s been watching prints, DVDs, old videos and cable as well as reading reviews from the day. “That’s how I found the think pieces of the time. ‘What’s wrong with movies?’ ‘Movies have become scary,’ ‘Can Hollywood survive’.” It was a time “like a werewolf where the skeleton changes in An American Werewolf In London,” he said to laughter.

Patterns have emerged during the research. “There were a lot of promises made of possibilities of a new cinema. It was almost like, could Hollywood handle this kind of freedom? Could the public handle it? The freedom seemed limitless. Directors could adapt any book, could shoot anything. There were no restrictions and that was maybe untenable.”

“If you ask me, the promise was fulfilled,” he continued. But there were casualties. That included the possibility that a new “genuine black cinema” would emerge. He cited Hal Ashby’s The Landlord (written by Bill Gunn), along with Ossie Davis’ directorial debut Cotton Comes To Harlem and Melvin Van PeeblesWatermelon Man. He also pointed to films such as Paul Bogart’s Halls Of Anger and Brian De Palma’s Hi, Mom! which were making an impact.

But “Blaxploitation” ended up taking the place of this promise, said Tarantino. Despite being a fan of that genre, he said, “Now I see Blaxploitation did derail a real rising voice.”

Same goes for erotic cinema. “There was the promise that eroticism in cinema would be taken out of the raincoat crowd and would achieve mainstream success and play in nice theaters, particularly for couples. We had some wonderful artists at that time like Russ Meyer and Ken Russell. That worked for a little while but ultimately a lot of them went back to porno and sexploitation.”

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 13, 2016 1:17 AM CDT
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Thursday, August 4, 2016
The New York Times has a "Metropolitan Diary" column in which people are encouraged to send in submissions about life in the city. Dr. Stanley Shapiro sent in the following entry, which was posted to the NY Times August 1st:
Dear Diary:

Recent news coverage regarding a documentary about the film director Brian De Palma reminded me of the day in 1970 when he and Robert De Niro came to our I.M. Pei faculty/grad student building at New York University on Bleecker Street (now called Silver Towers).

The film, called “Hi, Mom,” continued the story of the antihero in “Greetings,” who was now a peeping Tom. My apartment was the object of his obsession, since it was opposite their other site on Greene Street.

Mr. De Niro was handsome and polite and smiled at our 6-month-old. Mr. De Palma shrugged around our place checking camera angles. I think we got $100 and moved out for 24 hours.

When we came back, they were still working on a scene with the actress Jennifer Salt, who was in a flimsy robe and getting ready to reshoot a nude scene in our bathtub. She was apologizing/explaining to my young wife about how acting and real life were not necessarily the same.

Maybe we should find a DVD of this film to revisit our cheap Danish Modern furniture. I seem to remember an orange foam rubber couch.

Posted by Geoff at 2:45 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 4, 2016 2:48 AM CDT
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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ari Bass produced a short film featuring Allen Garfield in 2000: Men Named Milo, Women Named Greta.

Posted by Geoff at 9:14 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2016 9:14 PM CST
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Sunday, March 29, 2015
From Armond White's review of Etan Coen's Get Hard, posted at National Review:

"[Get Hard] centers on the story of 'incarceration expert' Darnell Lewis (Kevin] Hart), who prepares convicted executive James King (Will Ferrell) to serve his upcoming sentence for fraud; the premise is winningly smart, unflinching, and ideologically complicated.

"Lewis in fact is a law-abiding black family man who wants to finance his own car-wash business. He is only pretending to be an ex-con, but King, an aloof white millionaire who lives in a Hollywood mansion, willingly believes Lewis’s miscreant shtick.

"With 30 days to go before King’s prison sentence begins, Lewis and King riff on a masculine survival crash course. The title comically alludes to a cultural shift in values since Bob Rafelson’s 1975 Stay Hungry: A defensive coarsening replaces the former all-American drive to succeed; the reference to erection suggests that we now pornographically fetishize macho traits. These traits include language, dress, and grooming styles from baldness to beards that have trickled upward from prison subculture. As Ferrell’s King learns to cuss, fight, and display “mad-dogging” facial expressions, he relishes “an ambrosia of primal sensations.” ... It’s the perfectly clueless flip side of Hart’s Lewis admitting “I don’t have to be a thug to portray a thug.”

"Though Get Hard is a minor film, it’s pertinent social satire. It reveals how easily The Wire’s stereotypes can arouse predictable responses, including the usually unacknowledged mix of fear and pleasure — satirized adroitly by Hart, Ferrell, and writer-director Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder). King has the statistic “one in three black men will find themselves incarcerated” in his head along with the usual attendant fantasies. The frequently, shamelessly, hilariously nude Ferrell makes himself the exposed buffoon-victim of racial and political stereotypes, as he haplessly mimes the black thug of popular imagination — one of the best parodies of its kind since the 'Be Black Baby' sequence in Brian De Palma’s 1970 Hi, Mom!"

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 29, 2015 11:11 PM CDT
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Romain at the Virtuoso of the 7th Art sends news that Carlotta will release a DVD of Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom! in France May 5th. The DVD will include an introduction by Samuel Blumenfeld, co-author of Brian De Palma: Conversations with Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud, and an analysis by legendary French filmmaker and critic Jean Douchet, as well as other bonus features.

Posted by Geoff at 9:03 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 8, 2010 1:07 AM CDT
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Saturday, March 13, 2010
Tonight at 7pm, Recess Activities, Inc., an artist development and exhibition organization, presents "Be Black Baby: A House Party In Response to Brian De Palma’s 1970 film Hi Mom!”. The event is being organized by Simone Leigh, along with Sarina Basta and Karin Schneider, as part of CoBra Class (CoBra stands for the Coalition of Black Revolutionary Artists) at Bruce High Quality Foundation University. The event is part of a weekly class that is listed on the Recess website as CoBrAnarch Class, in which participants consider "issues such as nostalgia, the mask, collectivity, authorship and cultural appropriation. Conversations begin in response to films and manifest in the creation of props, performance and more filmmaking." Tonight's event begins with performances at 7pm, followed by a dance party from 9pm to midnight. One of the speakers includes film critic David Edelstein, who is, of course, very familiar with De Palma's cinema.

Posted by Geoff at 12:30 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, March 13, 2010 12:33 AM CST
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Out of all the movies in Brian De Palma's oeuvre that could be turned into a haunted house idea, who would have thought someone might consider a scene from one of De Palma's early comedies might be the one that sticks out? Well, anyone who has seen the riveting "Be Black, Baby" sequence in De Palma's Hi, Mom! will surely never forget it. Steve Biodrowski at Hollywood Gothique feels that Hollywood's Theatre 68 Halloween Haunted House, which runs through October 31st on Sunset Boulevard, "is the closest anyone has ever come to realizing our dream of a haunted house attraction, which would be a Halloween version of the interactive ”Be Black, Baby” sequence from Brian De Palma’s early black comedy, Hi, Mom!" Biodrowski describes the Theatre 68 haunted house further by contrasting it with Universal's:

In a dramatic sense, Theatre 68 succeeds where Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios fails: Universal’s theme park Halloween attraction promises to make you feel as if you have entered into a horror movie, but the experience is more like walking through a living museum recreating horror hits from your favorite franchise; even without a proscenium arch, you are one step removed from the scenes that play out in front of you, and you get the feeling they would continue with or without your presence. Theatre 68, on the other hand, really makes you feel like an active participant; in fact, you are the centerpiece of the show, which cannot go on with you. There are many Halloween haunts that hurl horrors of every kind at you; Theatre 68 is the only haunted house that truly immerses you in the action every step of the way.

Posted by Geoff at 11:13 AM CDT
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Friday, July 31, 2009
Just outside of Baltimore, in Hampden, is a late night coffee house with a bustling art scene called El Rancho Grande. A new monthly film series begins there tonight, kicking off at 8:30 pm with a screening of Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom!. The Baltimore Sun's Michael Sragow wrote about the film today, quoting series programmer John Lingan, and recalling sitting with De Palma seventeen years ago at a Toronto Film Festival screening of Man Bites Dog. Read on:

Based on the 100 percent correct feeling that "there are generally too few places to see older movies in a public place in Baltimore," John Lingan, the managing editor of the Web site Splice Today, launches a new monthly film series at 8:30 tonight at the Hampden café El Rancho Grande (3608 Falls Road).

If Lingan and his fellow programmer, photographer Dan Stack, keep selecting films as cannily as they did for opening night, they may be in for a long, wild ride. Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom!, their debut attraction, remains a milestone of satirical yet artful guerrilla moviemaking. It stars Robert De Niro in crackling improv form. He plays a failed director of what could be called "found porn" who moves on to become a bit player in black revolutionary theater and then a bomb-planting radical.

Seventeen years ago, I sat next to De Palma at a Toronto Film Festival screening of the pseudo-cinema verite serial-killer movie, Man Bites Dog. He hooted and cheered appreciatively at every bold stroke, but afterward whispered, with a smile, "Didn't I do all that 20 years ago in the last half-hour of Hi, Mom!?" He did all that, and more: Hi, Mom! skewers conventional notions of TV, stage and movie "reality" while providing an indelible portrait of New York on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Lingan says he chose it "because I have no idea what to expect. There could be three people there, or we could pack the coffee shop uncomfortably; either seems possible. And Hi, Mom! is a perfect fit for either scenario - you can watch it closely, even academically, or you can watch it in a cramped and crowded nontheater environment and see how everyone reacts to its unique tone and structure. It's a movie that begs to be seen outside of a theater, and maybe while you're pushed up against a stranger or sitting on the steps of a neighborhood coffee shop. We're hoping for that kind of atmosphere, because the movie is pure pandemonium."

Posted by Geoff at 12:38 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 31, 2009 12:39 PM CDT
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Monday, January 26, 2009
At Tractor Facts this past Thursday, "Fox" posted an essay about last Tuesday's screening of Hi, Mom! in Austin, Texas. According to Fox...Before the show, our emcee prefaced it with a shaky disclaimer of "if you're offended by anything in this film, just remember what era it's from". He also admitted feeling a tad uneasy knowing that "this was the movie we were showing on the day Barack Obama was inaugurated". Having seen Hi, Mom! before, I immediately knew what our timid host was referring to, and that was the (in)famous "Be Black, Baby" sequence that practically takes over the second half of the film.

But what our host completely misunderstood, was that "Be Black, Baby", and the entirety of Hi, Mom!, makes for the most ideal type of viewing on a day when a black man was sworn into our nation's highest office. Because even though we just elected our first African-American president - and probably because of that - our culture has become more gun shy and eggshell aware than ever before. The elephant in the room that is "race" has been shrunk and is now hanging around the neck of every American daring to engage in a discussion of social politics.

Once again, in taking a step toward "political progress", what's sadly come along with that is an underbelly of weak-kneed cultural distress and a hesitation over open discussions.

Fox's post was challenged in the comments section by The Cooler's Jason Bellamy, which led Fox to clarify in a subsequent comment:

So to take the elephant in the room being "shrunk" thing, yeah, it does sound like I'm saying it's lessened, but what I meant to imply was that everyone now carries it with them wherever they go. It's not just in the room, it's around our necks, hanging over our heads, behind our eyes, etc.

More clearly, yes, I think race is even more touchy a subject now that Obama is president. That's not the President's fault, it's just the current climate...

But I think you may be missing my point about Hi, Mom!. (And again, I will concede that I may have done a not so swell job of laying it out...).

I'm not saying that it's so socially relevant today because it openly confronts race issues (which it does), but rather because it highlights both a soft-headed, submissive mentality (the audience members in Hi, Mom! who feel that going through the Be Black, Baby gauntlet grants them instant enlightenment the way many people feel an Obama election grants the country instant salvation) and militant-style discourse (the radicals that who put on the play and confront people on the streets with the notion that only their point-of-view is the just one) that is currently dominating our political culture.

Mind you, I don't mean to imply that the above is exclusive to a leftist/liberal ideologie, it's just the phase we're currently in, and what DePalma chose to target for this particular film. (Still, he makes it clear that Jon slides along the ideological scale, becoming a right-wing bigot in the end after commiting a terrorist attack).

Fox mentions this latter point in his original post:

The final scene in Hi, Mom! brings us back to Jon Rubin, who, overnight, has gone from leftist urban guerrilla to hawkish right-wing bigot. DePalma is showing the fine line that exists between these two ideological fringes of extremism. As a good friend often says to me, when you move too far along either end of the political spectrum, eventually you may find yourself around onto the other side.

After ripping through a slur-filled rant to a news reporter, Jon looks at the screen and says "Hi, Mom!". Freeze shot, the end. And what a timely image for a post-Election '08 American audience to take in in this age where the cult of personality is raging like I've never seen it before.

Also in the insightful essay, Fox says a few words about De Palma and the many labels attached to him over the years before delving deeper into the context of "Be Black, Baby" within the whole of Hi, Mom!, using frames from the film to illustrate the confused motivations between promoting and participating in the radical theater production.

Posted by Geoff at 3:11 PM CST
Updated: Monday, January 26, 2009 7:52 PM CST
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

In an essay for the Los Angeles Times this weekend, Peter Rainer asks, "What is going on in the zeitgeist when an African American is poised to become president and Robert Downey Jr. is in blackface?" Linking Downey's performance in the current Tropic Thunder to a more sophisticated version of free-form sketch comedy routines, Rainer proceeds to discuss a cultural history of blackface and whiteface minstrelsy where he suggests that the "Be Black, Baby" sequence in Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom! helped to set a vaudvillean racial template that would morph into blaxploitation and rap music. Discussing Downey's riffs on race in the film, Rainer states that they "have an even earlier pedigree"...

Downey's father, Robert Downey Sr., directed 1969's funky, acidulous Putney Swope, about a Black Power takeover of a lily-white Madison Avenue ad agency. A year later, in Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom!, black militants stage an off-off-Broadway show called "Be Black Baby," during which, in white face, they force their white patrons to wear blackface and then proceed to terrorize them so they can better "understand" the black experience. The comic kicker comes at the end. Says one brutalized white guy, admiringly, about the evening: "It really makes you stop and think."

These underground movies, mostly forgotten now, nevertheless set the template for the scabrous racial vaudeville that morphed into the blaxploitation cycle right on up through rap. For white audiences, especially guilty liberals, the message in these movies was explicit: "We really are your worst nightmare."

HISTORICALLY, white actors in blackface incarnated the cruelest of racial caricatures. (Even when Fred Astaire in Swing Time wore blackface in tribute to Bill Robinson, it was implicit that Bojangles could never star in such a film.) But one cannot talk about blackfaced white performers without at the same time summoning up the camouflages worn by black actors -- worn, in many cases, to have any career at all. Throughout all too much of Hollywood's sorry history, particularly pre- Sidney Poitier, black performers, with no decent roles available to them, wore minstrel masks too. They acted out the demeaning images whites set for them (and still, like Robinson himself, they frequently managed to be more electric than their often starched-white counterparts). By the time the '60s counterculture came along, attitudes had shifted. Black minstrelsy became a put-on -- a weapon. Be black, baby.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 22, 2008 4:10 PM CDT
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