July 13, 1963
Like most autobiographical works Federico Fellini's scintillating new film 8 ½ reveals something more than its author intended. Begin with the title. It derives from the fact that, up to now, Fellini has made six full-length films and has contributed three "half" segments to anthology films. Before we step into the theater, the title tells us that he is clever, and that he sees the film as part of his personal history. It also tells us that he found himself stuck for a title.
There is an imperturbable grace about Stanley Kauffmann’s writing, a plainspoken clarity in the face of the onslaught that is the movies. Arriving for lunch in his favorite Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village, Stanley exuded that grace and clarity; he looked ageless in a beautiful sports jacket purchased in London decades earlier. Movies, plays, books! This was the air he breathed—together, of course, with his friendships and his great marriage with Laura.
Suppose I asked, do you want to meet “Michelle," what would you expect? You might wonder, “Does he mean the first lady?” But the more you think about “Michelle,” the younger the name seems. If I had to take a guess, I’d say “Michelle” would be closer to a Beatle-like 25. That’s the age Michelle Pfeiffer was in Scarface, when her character, Elvira, in an aqua-colored sheath and straight blonde hair, got in the glass elevator to go to dinner with her guy, Frank, and the guy who straightaway reckoned to be her guy, Tony Montana.
September 23, 1946
In honor of Raymond Chandler's birthday, our 1946 review of the film version of his novel "The Big Sleep," starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
They have things in common. Johnny is only a few months older than Brad. They were country boys from the rough northern edge of the South: Johnny Depp was born in Owensboro, Kentucky; and Brad Pitt was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma. They make vague claims about having Cherokee blood, and they can get $30 million for a picture—which is not a Cherokee trait. The Indian heritage is as sentimental as it is uncertain; it indicates that they would like to think of themselves as outside the cozy, $30-million-a-picture club.
It would be hard to name the most brutal example of naturalism since the style came in about a century ago, and the last place one would have looked for a contender is the Venice Film Festival. Yet the winner of the Golden Lion at last year’s festival is a contender for that distinction. The film is Pietà by the South Korean director Kim Ki-duk, and the opening credits—extraordinarily—tell us that this is his eighteenth work, as if to assure us that this is not a cheap shot by some fly-by-night sensationalist.
The HBO biopic Phil Spector isn't a truthful work—but it gets some things very right.