Revisioning the Western Female Character: Julie Christie in McCabe and Mrs. Miller

Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”. Warner Brothers

 
Robert Altman’s demystifying take on the Old West eschews the romanticism of the classic western. Yet McCabe and Mrs. Miller, at its 50th anniversary this year, has all the elements of the traditional Hollywood genre, but treated from a different angle, employing a style attuned towards naturalism and bearing a quality of intimacy to it, while conveying a microcosm of frontier life.

First, the haunting, bittersweet soundtrack of Leonard Cohen that pervades the film even when there is no music – “I had long discussions with Warren Beatty who wanted the soundtrack to be very distinct and I know it irritated a lot of people, but if I had put crystal clear sound like they did in the French version, then go see the film and tell me if it has kept any magic. I think that to criticise a part of a whole or to cut off a film from one of its elements, suddenly destroys it without even realising it,” Robert Altman told Bertrand Tavernier in an interview.

Then, the wild, snow-ridden, lurking with violence frontier town with its raw lumber and mud in the streets captured through the grainy, faded-out cinematography that gives the story such an authentic feel, leaving you with a pronounced sense of place, a vision of what frontier life might have been but that has never been told in this way before – “We approached McCabe like we had never seen a western and did a lot of research during that time. We discovered that in 1902 many things already existed that never appeared in most westerns.”

And those refreshingly flawed characters – McCabe is not a traditional hero, “which makes him closer to you and me,” Altman told Tavernier. “Anyway, we know everyone dies someday and McCabe has to think about it too. McCabe won his battle too, he killed his three guys, so why not say he won too? The fact that he then dies in the snow is a twist. I also see that he doesn’t die right away, like in a lot of westerns. Most of the deaths in the west were very slow and people took three days to die of gangrene because there was no medical treatment beforehand. You had to be hit in the heart or in the head to die instantly, which did not happen to the distance from where they fired and with the weapons they had.”

 

Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”. Warner Brothers

 
Set in a northwest frontier town, the film has McCabe (Warren Beatty) as a gambler who opens up a brothel with Constance Miller (Julie Christie), a Cockney-accent, business-minded, opium-addicted prostitute. Their establishment thrives, mainly thanks to Mrs. Miller (who, from the very first meeting in the saloon, dominates the conversation), but soon the mining deposits in the town attract the attention of a big corporation which wants to buy everything out. McCabe refuses to sell, incapable of seeing the violent consequences of progress and capitalism, ending in a beautifully tragic tale of the American Dream.

Robert Altman used his protagonists’ star personas atypically, not as stars playing heroes, but by getting eloquent performances out of them as interesting characters, and by introducing the feeling of surprise further down the plot. Beginning the film with a stranger arriving in town “but using a star as Beatty saved me twenty minutes of narration. Seeing Beatty arrive on his horse, we know that he is an importaht character and that the film is about him. The public believes that McCabe is a hero since he is played by Beatty, the people of the city take him for a powerful man: it allows me later to create the feeling of surprise.”
 

Julie Christie in “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”. Warner Brothers

 
Mrs. Miller was a role that allowed Julie Christie to develop her craft as an actor. Christie came to the public’s attention in the British film Billy Liar (1959), in a role that caught the spirit that would characterise the 1960s and that had her incredibly well-received by the public, as a result of the image she projected on the screen. Then she rose to prominence after appearing in John Schlesinger’s Darling (1965) and David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (1965), two films that were not only critical successes (she won an Oscar for Darling), but that further cemented her status as a cinema icon. Julie Christie constantly wrestled with that concentrated adulation, refusing to settle into one identity or another of her roles. Altman’s democratic style of filming and approach to character development allowed much freedom for the actors, encouraging them to write their own dialogue and improvise. “We didn’t have a clue what we were making because he [Altman] would get ideas overnight, or somebody would do a brilliant improvisation that just went on and on and he’s suddenly incorporate that,” Christie recalled.

The costumes were one other element that she contributed to shaping her character. Christie had to alter her physical appearance to play a 19th century whore in an American frontier town (the film was made in the British Columbia, Canada). Her blonde hair, luminous smile and romantic gaze gave way to a fizzy wig, coarse manners and a canny expression, a truly “indigenised” look rounded up by what was probably the result of Julie Christie’s and Alfreda Benge’s (reportedly Christie’s dresser, although Ilse Richter was credited for the wardrobe department) interpretations and reworking of existing clothes: a dark-brown velvet jacket (velvet was commonly used in the 19th century for dresses and jackets, only since the early 20th century having been considered a luxury fabric), ankle-length aubergine skirt, a carpet bag, a high neck blouse, a short fur cape, a black crocheted bag.

In the BFI booklet Julie Christie, Melanie Bell recounts how Altman asked the actors to put together their characters’ clothes from the production company’s stock costumes: “Now, you’ve got to live in these clothes in this fucking weather, so you’d better get out there and sew those holes up.” He gave free rein to everyone from leads to extras to choose their own outfits and encouraged them to customise their garments with “little artifacts” to make “their characters more real”. They had to care for their clothes and mend them just as real frontierspeople would have done a century before. The result is very authentic, for Mrs. Miller as well. Her clothes look lived in and are, quite frankly, one of the most authentic female costumes in westerns, which usually look so crisp and ”stylised” (even in female character-driven westerns, where women assume roles previously exclusively reserved to men, while men are a little more than mere objects of desire for the two), like they are part of a film, not part of real life, and this is what Altman’s film so brilliantly does differently. It is indeed a myriad of small details, from wardrobe to the dirt under the fingernails, that somehow play their part.

Constance Miller’s costume is so ingrained in the character that an overly analysis of the look would be besides the point. Because that look is just part of the landscape in a way, and part of the character – it was more than a performance, it was being present.
 

Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”. Warner Brothers

 

Editorial sources: Amis américains: Entretiens avec les grands auteurs d’Hollywood, by Bertrand Tavernier; Julie Christie, by Melanie Bell

 
 

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Read Instead…in Print


 
A photo of a good book about cinema. No discursive, pretentious analyses, no verbose scrutiny. Because the idea is to invite you to read the book, not read about it here. But instead of using social media, I use my journal. Back to basics. Take it as a wish to break free of over-reliance on social media (even if it’s just for posting a photo of a good book) for presenting my work, cultural finds and interests. These are things to be enjoyed as stand-alone pieces in a more substantial and meaningful way than showing them in the black hole of Instagram thronged with an audience with a short attention span. This is also a look through my voluminous collection of books about film that I use as research in my adamant decision to rely less and less on the online and more on more on print materials.

Read Instead…in Print 03: The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando. Reading William J. Mann’s book gave me the impression that he disregarded everything that has been written about Brando before (both in length and content) and that his aim was to finally recount Brando’s story by taking him at his word. I appreciate the non-linear narrative and the fact that this is not a minutiae report on Brando’s life, especially not on his childhood. Instead, his move to New York City, his studying with Stella Adler and his beginnings in theater and the movies receive plenty of coverage and that part I found fascinating. Because those were the years that shaped him as an actor (that shaping never overrode his natural instinct though). When reading a biography or autobiography, I am not seeking to learn everything there is to know about one’s life – I can’t shake up the feeling of prying too much, and Mann becomes very focused on the intimate details at times. I like to separate the person from their talent, but by trying to figure out the person too much, the author seems to want to figure out the actor too much. Should an actor, an artist be figured out? No, I don’t think so. But dropping in in certain moments and roles, I like that, I like those parts of Marlon Brando, the actor: the actor who did not perform, but lived on stage, the actor who didn’t bring just naturalism on screen, but a sense of revolution, the actor who had no desire to be great, but to succeed for himself, the actor who did not act by any “method” (incidentally, he never studied with Lee Strasberg and his Method acting), but from within, the actor who was not a glossy studio product, but the living being of real human experience, but most of all, instinct and his own imagination. There has been just one Marlon Brando.
 
 

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October Newsletter: On Taking a Seat in the Warm Colours of a Woody Allen Film

Right: Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Migration, by George Butler

 

Photos: Classiq Journal

 
 
I often associate a view I see with movies. I see a red and grey barn on a countryside road and I think of Bergman’s remote Fårö island home. A deserted street lined with tall buildings on a rainy, grey day from the window of a cafe, Three Days of the Condor. A flock of birds on a wire, The Birds, always. The sky before a storm about to break, Der Himmel über Berlin. A blanket of fallen leaves, in an autumnal colour palette of reds, yellows and golds, Woody Allen’s Another Woman.

Woody Allen’s films have a certain look. Have you noticed? They are beautiful to look at. I feel at ease watching them. It’s like entering a familiar world. I can not speak for others, but the cinematography in Allen’s movies has always been one of the things I personally love the most about them, to the point where I think you can not talk about his films without talking about the way they are filmed, just as you can’t talk about them without talking about the writing. So I wasn’t surprised, but I was certainly glad, that the element of cinematography is brought up so often in the book Woody Allen: A Retrospective, by Tom Shone. Because “cinematography is the medium,” the writer-director himself insists. Of course, he is right.

Until Allen came along, comedies did not look like this. “Mostly the good-looking stuff is stuff without laughs in it,” he remarked. The look of comedy, its status as cinematographic artifact, was not something anybody paid attention to or considered important. “I don’t see any reason why movie comedies can’t also look pretty,” said Allen, who hired Belgian cinematographer Ghislain Cloquet, who had worked with Jacques Demy and Robert Bresson, to shoot Love and Death. He then went on to employ The Godfather‘s cinematographer Gordon Willis to shoot Annie Hall, and continued to work with him on seven more movies, including Manhattan, “one of the best-photographed movies ever made,” as Roger Ebert described it, along with the thematically and visually chilly Interiors, probably Allen’s most Bergmanesque film, and Zelig, one of Woody’s most visually complex movies. Manhattan “brought to maturity the simple, elliptical style they had worked on-the-fly for Annie Hall,” is noted in the book – long scenes playing without a cut, without even a close-up or a reverse angle to break up the flow, with actors repeatedly wandering out of frame entirely, still speaking, only to return at a later point in the conversation.

Manhattan, with the city appearing almost as another character, was all shot in black and white because that’s how Woody Allen remembered the city from old movies. I admit that I am guilty of having sometimes fallen into the trap of holding his vision of New York against Woody Allen; a New York that is recognisable to everyone but which does not exist in reality. But the thing is Woody Allen has never tried to pretend otherwise. The New York in his movies is the New York he had seen in the movies in his childhood (“I not only was totally in love with Manhattan from the earliest memory. I loved every single movie
that was set in New York, every movie that began high above the New York skyline and moved in.”), that is to say, a New York that has more to do with cinematic universes than with reality. We need that kind of cinema, too, just as we need realistic films. I always go back to that Roger Ebert quote: “We go to different films from different reasons.”

Hannah and Her Sisters marked the beginning of Woody Allen’s collaboration with Michelangelo Antonioni’s cinematographer Carlo Di Palma (Blow-Up, Il deserto rosso), who had had an auspicious beginning in cinema with Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione. They would work together on eight more films. Di Palma’s ravishing autumn colours of Manhattan in Hannah and Her Sisters (the narrative goes throughout the course of two years and three Thanksgivings) are a highlight of the film and the movie itself is another one of Woody Allen’s love letters to the city of his heart. It was in fact argued that it was Di Palma who brought a cosmopolitan, Europeanised look to Allen’s New York, and one of the arguments in this regard was the travelling shot he devised for the restaurant quarrel scene in Hannah and Her Sisters.

Another Woman was the first time filming with cinematographer Sven Nykvist, who had developed an intimate, close-up-driven style of shooting with Ingmar Bergman which he called “two faces and a tea cup”. Another Woman is a very Bergman-like movie, both in tone and look, even though Allen was less enamored with close-ups than Bergman and preferred a darker palette that took some getting used to. Allen and Nykvist would do two more films together, Crimes and Misdemeanors (a film Bergman himself held in high regard, as Linn Ullmann briefly mentions in her book) and Celebrity.

For Midnight in Paris, Allen had discussions with cinematographer Darius Khondji, who would film three more of Woody’s films, about shooting the 1920s sequences in black and white, but they eventually decided to go with colour. “Matisse said that he wanted his paintings to be a nice easy chair that you sit down in, and enjoy. I feel the same way: I want you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the warm colour, like take a bath in a warm colour.” Let’s do that.
 

Right: Criterion Collection cover art by Sean Phillips for “On the Waterfront”

 
Viewing

Woody Allen films. For all the reasons mentioned above. But I wonder, why hasn’t Criterion released any Woody Allen films? Actually, there are so few decent editions of Woody Allen’s films available at the moment. Which, really, is cinema’s and the viewers’ own loss. Fortunately, Arrow Films did a beautiful job with its three collections of the filmmaker’s works (and which fortunately I own). Unfortunately, they are not available anymore. Which brings me back to the above question.
 
Polisse, 2011

This is a tough film. It’s also one of the best films I have seen in a long time. It is a shockingly realistic chronicle on the daily life of an investigation group of the Parisian Brigade for Child Protection. What these people experience in their work (difficult to imagine, harsh to watch and hear – hear because the most disturbing stories are not graphically presented, but calmly recounted in the investigations the police conducts with the accused, an approach that is incredibly effective in showing the psychological strain on the cops) reaches them from within. Their specific sense of humour seems to be the only thing they can cling to to be able to go on, to show up for work day after day, not to sink into drama. Until it isn’t. The sound of children playing in the schoolyard as the end credits roll sticks with you after that unexpected finale. And the title of the film, especially seen on the movie poster, the word “police” misspelled in French (“polisse”) by a child’s writing (an idea Maïwenn took from her son’s orthographic mistake) on the backdrop of one of the cops, his/her face covered by a photo of a child, that’s an image that speaks a thousand words, the image that tells the whole film in a frame, that quietly speaks of all its drama and power.
 
A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951

Even today, seventy years later, watching Brando in Streetcar leaves you with something so vivid and intense that makes you realise that, to this day, he still has no identifiable image on film. I have recently written about Marlon Brando and the undesigned outfit, the new symbol of American maleness. I am planning to rewatch On the Waterfront now. “For all its exterior shots, the real drama of On the Waterfront is interior. Marlon allowed the audience to see that.” – I am currently reading William J. Mann’s The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando and there are a few films that simply require a new viewing.
 
BAC Nord, 2021

On what criteria are those “best of” lists based? I check those out twice a year because I need to be informed, and I am careful where to look, and still, they lack rigour, with each list copying each other. BAC Nord premiered at Cannes this year outside the competition. That alone doesn’t make it good, but it does make it eligible for being considered among the films released this year. Because it is good. Based on a true story, a major police scandal in the Northern suburbs of Marseille, from 2012, when several polices officers from the anti-crime unit were arrested for extortion and drug theft as part of an organized gang, the film follows the story without judging or taking sides. “Whether they’re guilty or innocent, what I’m really interested in is the person caught up in this kind of crisis,” director Cédric Jimenez, a Marseille native who grew up in those same suburbs, said in an interview at the festival. “I dissect the case from a human perspective.” It is this human quality that makes the film very powerful. And the soundtrack makes you beat along with the characters.
 
 
Reading

I mentioned George Butler’s art a little while ago in the journal. In the meantime, I have been sent the book Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Migration, and I will dedicate a separate article to it, but for now I wanted to stop over one question the artist asks himself: “Can art change anything?” I do believe that George Butler’s art does more than reveal world issues, more than making these stories seen and heard. It brings people together and reaches deep down to what makes us human. And it’s in the very nature of illustration, much more than photography, to do that.

Read Instead…in Print. A cultural endeavor where I handpick and highlight the most interesting books about film.

An American looks back on two decades living in Italy. It’s about embracing a simpler, more meaningful, more beautiful and down-to-earth way of living, as opposite to believing that self-interest is the thing always at work, underneath everything. “This dolce vita is not really a fake thing or just the name of a movie, I mean, it’s really a national pastime of enjoying. And Italians are much more concerned with their experience rather than how much they can do and how much money they can make and how much they can get out of a situation or a person or a job. That’s a generalization, but it’s definitely true when you compare it to America and where I came from.”

Jim Jarmusch talks to Francesca Aton for Art in America about his creative influences, the latest in films and books and what else has kept him inspired during the pandemic. His book, Some Collages, came out this September.
 

 
Listening

Monocle on Culture speaks to director Cary Joji Fukunaga and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson about the much anticipated new James Bond film, No Time to Die.

Nirvana, Nevermind. Because it never gets old. And because it’s been 30 years since its recording in Sound City. “In the age of digital, when you can manipulate anything, how do we retain a human element? How do we keep music to sound like…people? The feeling that I had when I was young?” – Dave Grohl, reminiscing about the times of their beginning in music, in the documentary he directed, Sound City.
 
 
Exploring

Readings bookstore, Australia, even if only from afar. Because I love my favourite local bookstore to pieces and I love seeing what others are doing for their communities as well. The Readings Kids’ Book Subscriptions, for example. Readings’ children’s books experts handpick a book every month and have it delivered straight to you or the little one in your life. I can’t think of a more beautiful gift for a child. “When I was little, one of my father’s ex-colleagues would send me, unannounced, a book. He had a bookseller select the book for him and they were always perfect; it gave me immense pleasure to receive that special parcel each month. When I had grandchildren, I wanted to do the same thing for them and I turned to our marvellous and award-winning children’s booksellers to guide me. Now with the Readings Kids’ Book Subscription, that service and advice is available for the little people in your life.” – Mark Rubbo, Readings managing director
 
 
The regulars: The interviews, newsletters and podcasts I turn to every week and/or every month because they are that good. Craig Mod’s all three newsletters: Roden, Ridgeline, and Huh. Wes Del Val’s book-ish interviews. Soundtracking, with Edith Bowman. Here’s the Thing, with Alec Baldwin. Alicia Kennedy’s newsletter. Sophy Robert’s The Art of Travel. Monocle and Sirene magazines, in print.
 
 

““Just give me the information on the phone or via email.”
No, they wanted to have lunch.
And what I realized afterwards was, those lunches were bridges.
And the bridges were connections to real people, real relationships.”

JJ Martin on Italy

 

Posted by classiq in Books, Culture, Film, Newsletter | | Comments Off on October Newsletter: On Taking a Seat in the Warm Colours of a Woody Allen Film

The Undesigned Outfit, the New Symbol of American Maleness: Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire

Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, 1951. Warner Brothers.

 
It was September when A Streetcar Named Desire, the film, premiered in New York City. The year was 1951. Exactly seventy years ago. Marlon Brando had reprised his role from the Tennessee Willliams Broadway play of the same name that had propelled him to the attention and acclaim of theatre goers and critics alike. Elia Kazan returned, too, in the directing chair. So did Kim Hunter (Stella Kowalski) and Karl Malden (Mitch) in the supporting roles. Only Jessica Tandy was replaced from the main cast, by Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois. Leigh was the right choice, Brando thought, who had never gotten along with Tandy. His unpredictability, the imagination, naturalism and radicalism he brought on stage, the classical trained Tandy didn’t know what to make of this iconoclast who didn’t and didn’t want to fit in, she didn’t know what she was witnessing. But the audience knew, they “felt that they were witnessing the dawn of a new cultural era,” Patricia Bosworth notes in her book Marlon Brando, “a breakdown of sexual taboos, the play’s central conflict, of desire and sensitivity against brutality dramatized the eternal clash within everyone.”

Tennessee Williams thought Brando’s reading – Kazan arranged a meeting between the playwright and Brando at Williams’ house before rehearsals began and Brando eventually arrived several days later – was by far the best reading he had ever heard. Kazan saw in Brando the characteristics of Stanley: “the sexual magnetism, the brooding self-involvement, the little boy quality. He was both brute and infant, and had a strange tenderness, as well as a bizarre sense of humour.” But Marlon didn’t slip right into the role of Stanley Kowalski.

It was only near the third week of rehearsal that Brando got into character when the costume designer, Lucinda Ballard, took him for a fitting at the Eaves Costume Company. She had decided to dress him like one of the Con Ed ditch diggers she’s seen slaving away in the heat in midtown, according to Patricia Bosworth citing Peter Manso’s story in his biography of Marlon Brando. “Their clothes were so dirty that they had stuck to their bodies.” It was the “undesigned” outfit that Ballard chose – T-shirt and blue jeans – that ultimately became part of the culture, “the new symbol of American maleness”, an urgently desired new beginning, a badge of cool, a symbol of identity, the defining fashion moment of the decade, and, most importantly, fashion that was accessible to all, regardless of the economic reality in which people lived.

A ragged jacket, a couple of pairs of jeans and t-shirts and tennis shoes were his acting costume from his theater days, when he started to work with Stella Adler, prompting her to ask “Who’s the bum?,” when he entered her class. He would soon become her protégée. Stanley Kowalski’s look was not far from the bum, but it took the hand and imagination of a costume designer to transform an “undesigned” outfit into a character. As Patricia Bosworth continues to retell the story in her book, Ballard “dyed a couple of t-shirts red and washed them over and over again until they had shrunk. Then she tore the right shoulder to suggest that Stella might have scratched Stanley. She had the tailor cut and taper the jeans to fit the contours of Brando’s body like a second skin. When he saw his reflection in the mirror, he saw how the jeans outlined every muscle in his thighs. He “almost went crazy,” Ballard told Peter Manso. “He was dancing between the glass cases…leaping up off the ground,” saying “This is it! This is what I’ve always wanted!” This was also what Marlon Brando needed to become Stanley Kowalski, and his “undesigned” outfit became part of the Brando iconography and of cinematic history.
 

Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, 1951. Warner Brothers.

 
Brando would later complain that he was sick to death of being thought of as a blue-jeaned slobber-mouth, referring to Stanley, when he accepted the role in Julius Caesar (1953). But that look was so new and daring and unexpected and instinctive, just as his acting was so new and daring and unexpected and instinctive – the reason why Jessica Tandy didn’t know what she was witnessing (“Hers seemed to be a performance. Marlon was living on stage,” Elia Kazan said about his contrasting leading actors in the play, as William J. Mann writes in The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando) – that it forever changed cinema. As Camille Paglia put it, “Brando brought American nature to American acting, and he brought the American personality to the world … Brando, the wild, sexy rebel, all mute and surly bad attitude, prefigured the great art form of the sixties generation: rock and roll.”

And perhaps this revolution he brought on screen is nowhere more telling than in the opening image to this article, that shot of Stanley Kowalski and Blanche DuBois. That shot encapsulates the historical significance of their pairing together: the brooding naturalism, the poet’s face and “squat gymnasium physique” (as described by Truman Capote), the raw sensuality and animal virility that Brando brought on screen, with his “sweaty t-shirt and unselfish-conscious swagger” and a voice partly drawn from observing working class guys in nylon shirts from a phone booth in Times Square – “Guys like Stanley, who hold a cup of coffee like an animal with a paw around it. The Stanleys of the world have no self-awareness.” – everything was so earthy and explosive and intuitive, and in striking contradiction with the stagey Vivien Leigh, with her sensitivity, cultivated femininity and nervous theatricality that so hauntingly projected on screen the inner torments of frail, faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois – “She was very much Tennessee’s wounded butterfly,” Brando described her. Old Hollywood was on its way out. Watching Brando, the world knew they were at the center of something that was about to change.

“Don’t use yourself, you’re too small. Find it in your imagination,” was Stella Adler’s acting philosophy, the opposite of Lee Strasberg’s Actor’s Studio Method acting, which is so often still wrongfully associated with Brando. Even today, seventy years later, watching Brando in Streetcar leaves you with something so vivid and intense that makes you realise that, to this day, he still has no identifiable image on film. And in that “undesigned” look that didn’t belong to anyone, the whole world suddenly found, and generation after generation will continue to find, a sense of belonging.
 

“A Streetcar Named Desire”, 1951. Warner Brothers.

 

Editorial sources: “The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando”, by William J. Mann; “Marlon Brando”, by Patricia Bosworth

 

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Posted by classiq in Film, Film costume | | Comments Off on The Undesigned Outfit, the New Symbol of American Maleness: Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire

Read Instead…in Print


 
A photo of a good book about cinema. No discursive, pretentious analyses, no verbose scrutiny. Because the idea is to invite you to read the book, not read about it here. But instead of using social media, I use my journal. Back to basics. Take it as a wish to break free of over-reliance on social media (even if it’s just for posting a photo of a good book) for presenting my work, cultural finds and interests. These are things to be enjoyed as stand-alone pieces in a more substantial and meaningful way than showing them in the black hole of Instagram thronged with an audience with a short attention span. This is also a look through my voluminous collection of books about film that I use as research in my adamant decision to rely less and less on the online and more on more on print materials.

Read Instead…in Print 02: Unquiet, by Linn Ullmann. This one is not a book about cinema, and although Linn Ullmann is indeed the daughter of Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann and Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, that’s not why I wanted to include it here, but because it is a very special book. The daughter and the father decided to write a book together when he was in his eighties, but when they start working on it, it won’t be long before he is gone. All that remained were her memories, especially from her childhood summers, every one of them spent with her father on the island of Fårö. And those didn’t come easily, didn’t come back flowingly, neatly unfolding, ready to be written down. “For me it was like this: I remembered nothing, but then I came across a photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe that reminded me of my father. I began to remember. I wrote: “I remember,” and felt unnerved by how much I had forgotten.” Yet, this made much more sense. “In order to write about real people – parents, children, lovers, friends, enemies, brothers, uncles, or the occasional passerby – it is necessary to make them fictional. I believe this is the only way of breathing life into them. To remember is to look around, again and again, equally astonished every time.” This is a wondrous journey into love, and loss, and longing, and belonging, and into the self. It’s not easy searching for your memories, dropping in at moments of your life and getting in as close and as deep as possible, and making sense of these memories requires the talent of a writer. Linn Ullmann is a wonderful writer.
 
 

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