Category: News

Reagan at the Movies

The Verso Books blog has posted online the complete text of Thom Andersen’s essay “Reagan at the Movies”. The article was originally written for Artforum magazine in 1984 but feels particularly pertinent to the current political climate. The essay remained unpublished until its recent inclusion in “Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema.” An excerpt is below, and the full article can now be read online at Verso Books.

“Some would say the problem isn’t that Ronald Reagan still likes movies, it’s the movies that he likes. But I think the commentators who find Reagan’s support of Rambo unbecoming have missed the point. Reagan’s special genius as a politician has been his ability to make ressentiment seem virtuous and respectable. People like him because he makes them feel good about their anger. This is no small achievement. He succeeds so well because the rage and frustration he expresses is felt sincerely. He managed to keep his own sense of ressentiment alive against all odds. At the height of his fame and fortune as a movie star, he was able to feel passionately and keenly the injustice of the progressive income tax (and his apparently quixotic forty-year crusade against it has finally ended in a remarkable victory — a happy ending more improbable than Jimmy Stewart’s triumph in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). When he ranted about welfare chiselers, you knew he meant it. Her could count the dollars they were stealing from him.”
(Thom Andersen, Reagan at the Movies, 1984)

Slow Writing Frieze Review

The first review of “Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema” has appeared in the October 2017 issue of Friezeand is authored by Nick Pinkerton. Frieze subscribers can access the review online

“Because he has never made a living as a writer, Andersen has been free to pursue a criticism of enthusiasms, though one gets a sense of how much in commercial cinema fails to meet his standards. There is a stern loftiness in his authorial voice that makes me want to quibble with his conclusions even when I happen to agree with them. Yet, Andersen’s killjoy persona is hard to square with the man who, in The Thoughts That Once We Had, pays tribute to Maria Montez in Robert Siodmak’s South Seas fantasia Cobra Woman. Andersen rebuts one reviewer’s judgement of his film’s ‘tiresomely doctrinaire; and ‘quaint’ Leftism by noting that the audience at its public screening was a young one, and I think there’s much evidence that overtly ideologically grounded criticism of the sort Andersen practises is far from dated. […]

“In his review of the 2004 book The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood by David Thomson – a figure identified in the voice-over of Los Angeles Plays Itself of loving ‘everything about America except what’s worth loving’ – Andersen states that Thomson’s books ‘are fun to argue with.’ This is high praise of a kind that Slow Writing deserves. Andersen’s book is periodically brilliant and rarely less than absorbing; even, or perhaps especially, when you’re thinking about booting it across the room. It makes for a fine companion – and a worthy, vigorous opponent.”

—– Nick Pinkerton, Frieze, No. 190, October 2017

 

Thom Andersen in The Brooklyn Rail

The October 2017 issue of The Brooklyn Rail includes an except from our recently published book “Slow Writing.” Thom Andersen’s essay on David Lamelas’ 1974 film The Desert People is reproduced in full, alongside a new introduction by Mark Webber. The complete article can also be read online on the Rail’s website.

Thom Andersen explains some of the background to this curious article in the introduction to “Slow Writing” :-

“Occasionally I did feel like writing something about one of our shows—program notes that were sometimes written afterward and never published. I wrote for myself, in a style that would now be called ‘snarky.’ Maybe the words came easy for once; all I had to do was take dictation from my unconscious. I did manage to get a review of The Desert People by David Lamelas published in the student newspaper at SUNY Buffalo, despite an evident conflict of interest. I took advantage of the connections some students in the university film society had with the newspaper, and of course I used a pseudonym. My namesake, Aurora Floyd, was the protagonist and ostensible author of a middling Victorian novel. Although I loved The Desert People and I wanted to write about it, I thought a positive review was not appropriate, given the conflict of interest, and a seemingly hostile review might attract more students to the show. It didn’t.”
(Thom Andersen, Why I Did Not Become A Film Critic, 2017)

Thom Andersen in Paris

From Vienna, Thom Andersen will travel to Paris to present a retrospective at Centre Pompidou. “Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema” will be available at these programmes, and we are very excited to announce that Noël Burch will also attend the screening of Red Hollywood and will be in discussion with Thom after the film. Full schedule below.

Friday 29 September 2017, at 8pm
Thom Andersen, The Thoughts That Once We Had, 2015, 108 min

Saturday 30 September 2017, at 4pm
Thom Andersen, Melting, 
1965, 6 min
Thom Andersen, Olivia’s Place, 1966/74, 6 min
Thom Andersen & Malcolm Brodwick, ––– –––––––, 
1967, 11 min
Thom Andersen, Get Out of the Car, 2010, 34 min
Thom Andersen, The Tony Longo Trilogy, 2014, 14 min
Thom Andersen, A Train Arrives at the Station, 2016, 16 min

Saturday 30 September 2017, at 7pm
Thom Andersen & Noël Burch, Red Hollywood, 1996, 118 min

Sunday 1 October 2017, at 6pm
Thom Andersen, Los Angeles Plays Itself, 2003, 169 min

Wednesday 4 October 2017, at 8pm
Thom Andersen, Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer, 1974, 59 min

All screenings will take place in Cinema 2 at the Centre Georges Pompidou, .

Thom Andersen at Skylight Books

Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema Los Angeles book launch at Skylight Books on 12 October 2017, at 7:30pm. Thom will be present to read from, sign, and discuss the new book with writer and poet Tosh Berman.

Slow Writing is a collection of articles by Thom Andersen that reflect on the avant-garde, Hollywood feature films, and contemporary cinema. His critiques of artists and filmmakers as diverse as Yasujirō Ozu, Nicholas Ray, Andy Warhol, and Christian Marclay locate their work within the broader spheres of popular culture, politics, history, architecture, and the urban landscape. The city of Los Angeles and its relationship to film is a recurrent theme. These writings, which span a period of five decades, demonstrate Andersen’s social consciousness, humour and his genuine appreciation of cinema in its many forms. Thom Andersen’s films include the celebrated documentary essays Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1975), Red Hollywood (1996), Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), and The Thoughts That Once We Had (2015). Of the thirty-four texts included in the book, six are hitherto unpublished; others have been revised or appear in different versions to those previously available.

Thom Andersen has lived in Los Angeles for most of his life. His knowledge of and enthusiasm for the city has deeply informed his work, not least his widely praised study of its representation in movies, Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), which was voted one of the 50 Best Documentaries of All Time in a Sight & Sound critics’ poll. Andersen made his first short films and entered into the city’s film scene as a student of USC and UCLA in the 1960s. His hour-long documentary Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1974) was realised under an AFI scholarship and has lately been restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. His research into the victims of the Hollywood Blacklist, done in collaboration with film theorist Noël Burch, produced the video essay Red Hollywood (1996) and book Les Communistes de Hollywood: Autre chose que des martyrs (1994). Andersen’s recent films include Reconversão (2012) on the work of Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, and The Thoughts That Once We Had (2015), a personal history of cinema loosely inspired by Gilles Deleuze. A published writer since 1966, Andersen has contributed to journals such as Film Comment, Artforum, Sight and Sound and Cinema Scope. He has taught at the California Institute of the Arts since 1987, and was previously on faculty at SUNY Buffalo and Ohio State University. Also a respected film curator, he has acted as programmer for Los Angeles Filmforum and curated thematic retrospectives for the Viennale. Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema is the first collection of his essays. 

Tosh Berman is a writer and poet. His two books are Sparks-Tastic (Rare Bird) and a book of poems, The Plum in Mr. Blum’s Pudding (Penny-Ante Editions). He is also the publisher and editor of his press, TamTam Books, which published the works of Boris Vian, Serge Gainsbourg, Guy Debord, Jacques Mesrine, Ron Mael & Russell Mael (Sparks) Gilles Verlant, and Lun*na Menoh. 

With thanks to David Gonzalez and Skylight Books.