Category: Film Festivals
Published on Monday, 24 March 2014 16:35
Written by Jack Angstreich
The Film Society of Lincoln Center is screening Noël Burch and Thom Andersen’s not uninteresting essay-film, Red Hollywood, which explores the contribution of screenwriters who were Communists or fellow travelers, in its documentary series, The Art of the Real, which runs from April 11th to April 26th, 2014.
With his work of the 1960s and ‘70s, Burch emerged as one of the most important critics in the history of cinema, an arch-modernist dialectical materialist — although, as I understand it, with a Stalinist background — and went on to direct avant-garde films. He later repudiated his rejection of Hollywood and adopted a more sociological, less ultra-formalist approach —as reflected in Red Hollywood — dovetailing here with the interests of Andersen, an intriguing figure in his own right.
The outcome of this collaboration is a work devoid of any aesthetic dimension but not without some intellectual rewards. It is a remarkable fact that of the many clips of old films employed in Red Hollywood, so few invite an artistic appreciation of the contributions of these victims of the McCarthyite blacklist. (That so many of the clips are from poor copies only enhances this impression.) One interesting exception is an extraordinary scene between Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Genevieve Tobin from the 1934 Success at Any Price, scripted by John Howard Lawson. At least as a piece of writing — and superb acting by Fairbanks — this is exceedingly impressive. Interviews with blacklistees such as Paul Jarrico, Alfred Levitt and Ring Lardner Jr are illuminating, but the real highlight among these is the brilliant commentary by Abraham Polonsky, probably the greatest writer and director among those expelled from Hollywood in the wake of the “Red Scare”.
Red Hollywood screens on Saturday, April 12th at 6:30 pm and on Sunday, April 13th at 2pm.
Film Society of Lincoln Center
70 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023
212 875 5601212 875 5601