A Hitchcock mashup where Kubrick is the villain. “Jimmy was having a rather beautiful day until he bumped into Jack and things got weird.”
The film world received dreadful news this week when it was discovered that the famed Belgian filmmaker and pioneer of modern feminist cinema Chantal Akerman had died. She is well known for her breakout film, directed at age 25, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), which depicts several hours in the domestic life of a single mother who is also a sex worker.
Mitigating the sad circumstance of Akerman’s passing, the Criterion Collection, an American film distribution company known for its discriminating supply of virtuoso filmmakers, has made its entire catalogue of Akerman’s work available for viewing on Hulu for free.
Do check out Jeanne Dielman. It’s very slow paced, but that pace feels deliberate and effective. The subtlety of the photography and sound design manages to hold your attention for 3-plus hours. However, you may want to seek out the film elsewhere if you don’t have a paid Hulu account. The relentless advertising significantly shifts the viewing experience. I appreciate the gesture of the Criterion Collection licensing this as they have, but such a quiet, poised film easily gets overwhelmed by schlocky ads.
I just discovered that the Open Culture weblog has created an addendum to Matt Whitlock’s Essential Movies for a Student of Philosophy list that’s been hanging out in my bookmarks for a couple months.
Only today did I come across this letter by Philip K. Dick, published in the excellent Letters of Note last September, addressed to the production company for Blade Runner. He loved how the film was developing, but died before it was actually released.
I came to the conclusion that this indeed is not science fiction; it is not fantasy; it is exactly what Harrison [Ford] said: futurism. The impact of BLADE RUNNER is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people — and, I believe, on science fiction as a field. Since I have been writing and selling science fiction works for thirty years, this is a matter of some importance to me. In all candor I must say that our field has gradually and steadily been deteriorating for the last few years. Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches BLADE RUNNER. This is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing that, well, after the segment I found my normal present-day “reality” pallid by comparison.
Well, kind of, thanks to a company that custom builds text-to-speech voices. Ebert’s new voice is compiled from his vast accumulated archive of reviews and commentary tracks.
CereProc didn’t need to hear me speaking a specific word in order for my “voice” to say it. They needed lots of words to determine the general idea of how I might say a word. They transcribed and programmed and tweaked and fiddled, and early this February, sent me the files for a beta version of my voice. I played it for Chaz, and she said, yes, she could tell it was me. For one thing it knew exactly how I said “I.”
CereProc is now blending in my audio snippets for “Casablanca,” where I sound enthusiastic, and “Floating Weeds,” where I sound calm and respectful. It’s nice to think of all these great movies sloshing around and coming out as my voice.