Dwight Macdonald on film; The Film since 1950: Odds and ends
It was much less boring than I'd expected. The other hand it was just as catchy as I expected just as bad as static way. It really has everything and I would have liked kids 7 7 children and boy I think you. Are. Just like a little kid at a little red rag and yeah. And then has to refix ghastly smile it's the lyrics by the light I scan Hammerstein and. Then you had non. Now I'm like three gods are absolutely infallible in the movies I mean you know the thing about nuns is what you do about nuns in the cliche Hollywood movie what you do about them is of course to have it both right I mean you know they're obviously very respectable and very dedicated and so on and very sexless and so on but then you have them act like human beings. One of the first times I got of this was some film in which a group of nuns played baseball. Now this is really the ultimate in the use of nuns in the movies that they want.
You are listening to Dwight MacDonald on film. During the past decade Mr. McDonald has been perhaps the senior critic among American film critics and during this past year he was distinguished a visiting professor of film history and criticism at the University of Texas. These programs were drawn from a lecture series. The topic for this program is cinema in the 60s and now runs again. Here is Dwight MacDonald. Mr. Barry tells me that the scent of Freddy has given at the college house tomorrow evening from seven o'clock on my plate I send this tax out of wherever that is going to be dancing to various kinds of music and they Howard thing will go on for six and a half hours which is the length of time it will take to project on a screen somewhere in the background
anywhere hones famous movie called sleep. It was as you probably know it is a movie that pajamas on a bad who sleeps for six and a half hours. And I thought so I think this is perhaps the ideal way to see that movie is to have a little bit on that. Now tonight another announcement. Cinema for you is showing the films of kind of anger. Having seen none of them stronger due to attend it all actually I hear that anger is one of the few almost the only one perhaps of this underground camp group that group actually he's much older than the other ones but anyway he's one of the few ones that have any real talent and I'm not going to got to see them with great interest and I'm going to take part in the discussion afterwards on them. Now let me just sort of since I have my notes I do have
luckily I have two of the crucial books I was going to comment on. And. The present situation in the United States as far as movies are concerned seems to be that movie making is split into two extremes and neither of them any good unfortunately. One extreme is of course the commercial Hollywood movie which is like television seems to be getting Faber and Faber and less and less interesting than the crew because almost the only American commercial director that still makes these has been making up the now interesting movies. The other extreme is a so-called underground film The Donnas maker's new American cinema. Marc Cooper las breakages Ron Rice. The Smiths brothers flaming creatures because the omnipresent Mr. raal. And kind of you all know about Hollywood I don't
have that sound of music would be the absolute quintessence of modern Hollywood. This underground film sound caused Well last night as you probably know in this very hall a historic occasion took place namely the greatest horror film that that happened in the world because you know what then happened that has eliminated in his movies after an amount of art or even craft. And last night he limited the movie itself. Actually everybody here in Austin is so square you're now but in the new Iraq let's And I gather the lot of you want to weigh when you saw a sign up saying that from some mix up and transportation there were no films to be shown. Across in New York everybody would have filed in and sat down for at least two hours and looked at the screen. And then and this is precisely what anyone would have wanted you to do in
fact I think he was passed and you were out and you fail you fail. You share your provincials ground we can't all be sophisticated and metropolitan types. I must say that I didn't sit him for two hours but. There's something interesting about Rob just purely sort of a price until you see this is a culture in which last night Francis I and you too Francis had an option had two choices are many more but. Anyway these were the two choices we had in the round of cinema. One of them was to see these rocky horror films and the other one was to say the sound of music. Well I was going to try to combine both because I have to see both. I don't think I like either one but I'd actually both become icons. But fortunately I was able to see the whole sound of music. Now how many have seen The Sound of Music here. But you're not critics Why did you say it I mean. That's amazing. Did you say it because people told you there was a
museum. Because right because you wanted to hear those music. Well I mean that's it. But talk a question well I'm going to confess that I did the whole thing last night I will confess that it was much less boring than I'd expected. The other hand it was just as catchy as I expected just as bad as statically. The reason was less bragging rights because I thought it was well it was pretty sound of metal but I thought it could be rather slow timed out of that and this shows the great skill of Hollywood. I don't doubt that they're constantly changing the scene and costly having everybody in the big action all the time. So it really wasn't so boring I must admit that it would almost be. Now I was going to say I was one of those good bad films that we used to see in a 30 but of course you know it wasn't that good really but it was less painful than I'd expected. Unless of course you want to have any kind of experience if you want to have an experience that experience then of course it was perhaps just as bad as I thought. It really
has everything you know what have the kids seven seven children and boy are they cute. Oh. Just like a little kid has a little red rag and yeah. And then I was to really think ghastly smart lyrics by the light I ask on Hammerstein and she died about 10 years before I did but. And then you have a very authoritarian Baron master of the household which of course is just the king and I which is by the same amount of fat I think. And then you had none. Now I'm like cigars are absolutely infallible in the movies I mean you know in fact there are two movies now as you know which feature none. The thing about nuns is what you do about nuns in the cliche Hollywood movie what you do about them is of course to have it both ways I mean you know they're obviously very respectable and very dedicated and so on. And
very sexless and so on but then you have them act like human beings. One of the first times I got of this was some film in which a group of nuns played baseball. Now this is really the ultimate in the use of nuns in the movie. But here the nuns were on the one hand very sacred and religious and other worldly and sexless and so I went on the other hand I also worked quite well Randi and you know you have a something to push against and also those customs of God that nuns custom any nuns custom is actually terrific you know. And they came in all the time with these black cars and but you know there was something underneath that that they really seemed to. Thanks. Quite good that way. Then you have the architecture which is one of most beautiful towns in the world. But you didn't have any of the music of South Park which is which is right is really not for and that's an interesting thing these traps syngas reputation on pretty good music I'm told I've never hired them but here and this is typical of Hollywood here because every
damn tone in it was written by Richard Rodgers and not at his best he's not so good in recent years I think he's been infected by Hammerstein the great days of Rodgers across to Rodgers and hot the power John Wayne days that's when he was really good and when the lyrics were good too. But here we don't have any good music at all and yet it's called The Sound of Music. And then you have mountains and you have Nazis too you have a very young but across a poppy I might shy villain who was easily disposed of. And so everything is exploited every possible tug on the hot strings or dramatic possibility and it's asked by a professional. And it is a very competent job of Hollywood moviemaking God is that a slick movie. I mean absolutely beautifully made film. You know had to go south. You know you could just run your hand along as I fish and I was tactile it so smooth. In fact I can say will cos why do that they've got the. Because as you know if you ask for
the best movie and also got several other awards I can see why it did. But of course what it says and everything that happens in it is of right and balance it really is. It's corny. Q Sanomat sounding cliche cliche cliche that's the main thing and you know I can through now really one justification for that ghastly Andy Rollins movie. I saw that it's called anybody see that and they go to the table. Well I was there I was that last seven minutes I went out after 20 minutes. And then I came back again after another 25 minutes. The same thing was going on and I was going on was the entire movie 70 minutes this guy's got plenty of glory and now 70 minutes there was a sofa as it was a two women and even vaster blonde and a brunette. Blonde in a Rochester not in a black dress as I remember sitting on a sofa and the brunette had a cat and
Persian cat. And behind them were two men I think also and tuxedo. One of them was smoking a cigarette the one on the left lung as for that the other one time I saw the movie didn't do anything and didn't change his expression. They burned that also didn't do anything to change the expression except at one point the cap got out of her grip on the question you know because people behave but the cat. In the jacket an unexpected note of action into the picture. She soon recovered and so that and there was no more of the cat. Fights that happen after five minutes of this. It was like a still belly and they were dressed and well I guess sort of a parody of the 80s evening clothes and you see how that means also Jeanne of course this cap business of pop stuff and exploiting mass culture and so on and I should explain that there was a soundtrack for the whole 70 minutes which seemed to be two men one of them was the former husband of Jean Harlow. I
suppose Paul Brennan perhaps one of our from husbands and he seemed to be trying to explain to the other man a friend of his a ride that had gone sour. And I say that seemed to be because I actually would only hear about one third of the soundtrack. I literally could not understand what they would sign. And I'm sure this was deliberate too. So anyway that's what went on the background had no connection with the foreground. After about five minutes the man standing behind the blonde who was hollered anybody went to I think you know because he's I mean sexy was very disappointed by the man who took out a cigarette and lit it and then after another for five minutes offered the blonde a cigarette anyway and then after five minutes the blonde opens her price or any bag and takes out a banana and very slowly peels it and very slowly eats it. And that took about 20 minutes and then at that point I went out for a breather for at least 20 minutes. And came back having pressed myself by just running around the campus a little bit.
Much more interesting and I came back and I got the Parises and the blonde was opening a bag and take it out and. I left. But I think at the end there is some action at the end I think that the man pour some water on the head or something like that or there's a little bit of action that much anyway. And that's then that 70 minutes were now I think what. Comes out of. The leg. Yeah. I mean this is not a line I mean I don't say you can say yeah sure how stupid of me not to
have been that kind of anger you know to think of the one anyway about the right of an Italian Renaissance God. And this is figure that one is close but I'm sure that the man who in fact I see from the program that sounds like a man. Yeah well that's what I think about it underground film on a ride they all seem to be homosexuals as far as I don't know where the RA is himself but riders I don't know and for that matter why is it the playwright serious playwrights are also homosexuals I suppose it just chance really. It doesn't make it interesting for some of us anyway. When I knew I set out I can see what he's getting out after having seen The Sound of Music which I saw the evening before. Having seen this. Kept thinking about it. Well Andy Warhol that was kind of films without Rock Hall I did say a thing the night before at the cinema for a newsreel thing about Ron Paul telling about his so-called aesthetic sense
I want to I want to think this out about making movies while he does everything possible to make movies very badly in a sense that he has a hand camera and he shakes it as much as possible and he gets out of focus and exposes his plants are under exposes them and he doesn't quite get in the center. I already he's really doing is and this is his justification you know the fact is wow it's not about I mean his products would give you that impression but he's not a diabetic. He said what I'm trying to do is to rank up the audience for the fact that they're looking at a movie. And this is quite profound a true right I think and I think philosophically that somebody is either very crude like the Smith brothers timing which is the same kind of a movie except lots more is going on then. But I can see what they're trying to do that trying to show I was at the cinema is an actual art medium and that it isn't just simply some kind of value taken for granted. Smoothed out process that Tynes out movies and mostly year after year hundreds and hundreds of them which don't
seem to append any plan by anybody and don't seem to be. You don't see the roughness of a medium when you've got a sound like the sound of music you say you really don't think you just see in a movie. Everything is so perfectly done but rather wants to put all of the interruptions a stammers the failures that really make you conscious of the stylings of the form. That just seems something in cinematic form the best way to illustrate it is to think of what they did in the first place and then size on later but mind they was most interesting. The dominant painting in France because you know I was a silent painting academic painting by people like that. Now of these pandas had developed a kind of style which looked sort of renaissance but had really become so slick so grassy So technically perfect that it was almost as if they were done by machines really I mean there was no sense of a painter being involved as an individual. And no sense either of the canvas of the paint. In fact they tried very hard to
make a new look exactly like a naked woman. And I achieved enormous success in this sort of thing and I came along and he painted extremely roughly. And in fact criticism for a generation of Philistine critics said but mind I doesn't finish his pictures and God knows there's that even more about size on an issue that compared to this kind of pain he didn't finish them and otherwise dies on Monday and the question isn't post-impressionist I brought out the painterly quality the property of the medium. So anyway I think this is what I try to do to rub your nose in it to show you that this really is an artificial medium and isn't just something that comes out of you know the brow of God and I think this is really the justification for a lot of this underground cinema in reaction against the slickness of Hollywood which makes it impossible to see that you're using paints or anything in the sky as a commons on right hand Howard and I don't even try to hold them still. In
fact there's a little bit of nervousness and blaring is fine. They don't have any trouble in developing and printing the negative of the soundtrack as and Ron Howard's movie is inaudible for the most part. And also nothing happens and nothing happens at all because after all. And the raw hardware guy also that made a famous film called sleep and it runs about sleep about a man sleeping. Nothing obscene about it just the man sleeping for eight hours. And you watch them. We're not trying to if I you know it that is if you wanted to and he has not a film called Empire State which is four hours of looking at the Empire State Building which believe me does not move. It's absolutely the same at the beginning and then and I can sympathize with him after I'd seen The Sound of Music To some extent but I'm damned if I'm going to see eight hours of somebody asleep. That's going the other statement as we now are two wrongs don't make a right and two extremes don't make an
aesthetic either. But I'm just talking in purely philosophical times you know I can see why they're doing it. As a matter of fact Santa has a rather interesting argument of this point. Her book is called It's an interesting book by the way against interpretation it's a collection of essays some of my movies she's a great movie fan. She told me once that she sees an average of one movie a day which is really quite a lot. And I see them I say by being against entire But she means that she means very much of what I've been saying here that you should look at the writing itself that you shouldn't take for symbols and all this kind of business about what his bagman mean by this picture in a cosmic ray that the picture itself the record sounds as much as you look at. And in that respect I agree with her and she speaks with a modern style of interpretation which excavators. And as it escalates destroys the things behind the text to find a subtext which is the real one and she mentions Marx and Freud. And she points out that both Marx and Freud fried in a sexual
field and mocks in the economic field both of them are constantly looking beneath beyond our behind phenomena on the surface in order to see what the real meaning is in other ways. Fred talks about manifest content. And manifest content is what actually you do or say and I write in content which is what interests and the analyst Laden kind it is what this symbolizes what this means and Moxon the same right. Marxists never take anything at face value you know if something happened some economic event some businessman does something they are was asked well you know reps behind it what's the class Route 7 and both Marx and Freud were great the bankers in a sense of stripping away the facade of appearance and grime below it. They were the perfect people to begin this age of and type attention. But as Ms Sontag says when you treat a work of art this way you really excavated and really destroy it because a work of art is entirely on the surface a work of art is
itself. And it should not if it's a good record it should not stand for something else. You should get satisfaction from the right to choose. But we've gotten so much in the habit of looking for some other kind of a means out and so far as this is concerned I think she's quite right. But anyway to make this point the power of the business about why did I do this kind of rough kind of non-technical stuff. You see art in Orpheus has developed by now and even in the movies to some extent is developed by now to such an extent. We know how to do everything. One of the things that drive the present passion is crazy about the academic school. And so I was precisely that technical facility. I could paint anything you know now and you could just kind of mount this raw and I looked absolutely terrific and run sense but in another sense they were completely empty and meaningless. And so this is an effort to really get back against this and show that the medium here and that it can't be just
handled in this way it's an effort to simplify and that you can't carry it any farther. You can't develop any father in a direct line so you have to make a break. The trouble is that I say that with very few exceptions the Americans anyway in this line are not very good and that's a different question but philosophically the other is this to be said for them. Now look let me just conclude with a few things from Susan Sontag about this Muriel and I hope a lot of you will try to see this evening because it's why waste your time I might say that it's very interesting. You have the entertainment on one hand on the underground from On the other hand. And you really have by some odd chance to women right now who as critics express each side of Pauline Kael whose book you've been reading I laughed at the movies Playland Kale is a tough no nonsense sort of apparatus just for the entertainment film. And when she attacks that kind of underground founded Sontag lives and that other people like I must say I agree with it. On the other hand I think that you got much too far and been a
scared of any kind of advanced intellectual films and the other hand you have Vera Susan Sontag who is said equally tough and she's full of nonsense he's not no nonsense she's very complicated. She knows a great deal. Very imaginative but often she comes to very quiet conclusions it seems to me. Anyway she was the one that thinks that the bravest and best sounds films and the flaming creatures and lots of the underground films she thinks of these films which people I care myself think I rather doubt she thinks that these are really great films almost precisely because they are so uninteresting aesthetically she has a very austere rather pleasure as taste it seems to make. Anyway so this is the other side of it. Sontag against interpretation as she says about Muriel. The reason we are as difficult as it attempts to do better is what Hiroshima bad did. It attempts to deal with substantive issues. The Algerian really by the hour I asked the racism of the French
colonists in Algeria even as Hiroshima dealt with the bomb pacifism and collaboration. But I also like Marianne bad tries to project a purely abstract drama on the brain of the intention to be both concrete and abstract dubbers the technical complexity of the film. Well now that's typical of Zantac that's very very well expressed a very interesting insight and I think it's quite true. Unfortunately I think anyway maybe I'll change my mind when I see it again. But I'm think that this film is a failure precisely for that reason I don't think he's able to combine the concrete in the abstract I think what you have is a film that doesn't have the impact of either Hiroshima or the end bad precisely because it further tween the two. I'm like Hiroshima. She doesn't directly suggest an elaborate plot and complex and her relationships. Yet for all this complexity conscientiously of writes direct NARRATION That's a typical Sontag phrase conscientiously avoids direct now raising road that's one of the manly things about the film.
Every scene is interrupted arbitrarily as far as I can see nothing is out of question and the speech in one scene is carried over into the next scene quite often. I can never understand why and want to just make it more difficult. And why should he conscientiously avoid direct nomination. He gives us a chain of short scenes resign or an emotional time when I have no idea what that means. How resigned will an emotional town. Which focus I'm Sarek to under magic moments. The rise of the four main characters because they would be under magic. Primary not Main is interesting Fred but she says I have seen it twice and expected after I saw at once that I would see more in it the second time and that I think is a pretty good test of a good movie and then she sort of crosses you up by saying I didn't mean I like Marianne bad should not present because there was nothing behind the lean to the kind of statement that one sees. Well but the difference is aggressive and bad is
frankly an exercise in mystification and it's quite frankly completely abstract artificial. Whereas Muriel as you'll see seems to be telling a very definite story of an ageing woman and a blonde whose love of family love of 20 years ago comes back and I try to pick it up again. And this really doesn't write with this kind of abstract style I think that I have. And then she continues he says. There is rather as if running had taken a story which could be titled Christ like forever in the end cut against the grain and I think it's just what he did this against the grain of feeling a sense of being shown the action and I go Is that peculiar mark of my will it is running his way of making a realistic story over into an examination of the form of emotions. Well maybe that's the crude. Form of motions this is also temper of this kind of criticism as much as she's on a much higher level than most of these critics like me and people like that she says are at a run of his films are about the inexpressible. The main topics which are inexpressible and to grant an
erotic longing. And a 20 I was into an express ability is banality in high art banality was the modesty of the inexpressible I hope you're following me. When I get out I'll be rocking it to inexpressible festival and I have to do this with the inexpressible is by definition because how can you express the inexpressible without express it I think is the guise of marriage that is indeed inexpressible. But that's the trouble. If an artist tries to express the inexpressible. If you use words as what they mean then he must read because it's not able to be expressed. So then it's a fact that you cannot express the inexpressible in that you cannot express it then you have got to write about I would you have been listening to bright McDonald on film. In this program Mr. McDonald has discussed cinema in the 60s. These programmes were drawn from Mr. MacDonald's lecture series during his recent
tenure as distinguished visiting professor of film history and criticism at the University of Texas. This series was produced by communication center at the University of Texas for a national educational radio producer for the series by Phil Miller speaking. This is NPR National Educational Radio Network.
- Dwight Macdonald on film
- Producing Organization
- University of Texas
- KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- The Film Since 1950: Odds and Ends (Kurosawa, Fellini)
- Series Description
- Series of lectures by Dwight Macdonald on film: its makers, its history, its future.
- Film and Television
- Media type
Announcer: Miller, Phil
Producer: Jordan, Bill
Producing Organization: University of Texas
Producing Organization: KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
Speaker: Macdonald, Dwight
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-16-13 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “Dwight Macdonald on film; The Film since 1950: Odds and ends.” 1967-06-15. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-08638g91>.
- APA: Dwight Macdonald on film; The Film since 1950: Odds and ends. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-08638g91