book review: THE LION AND THE GIRAFFE by Jack Couffer
The author of this colorful memoir may not be a household name, but he’s been involved in everything from Walt Disney’s The Living Desert to Out of Africa, from Disney animal movies like The Incredible Journey to Never Cry Wolf…and he has great stories to tell.
Couffer was a naturalist and a seaman before he ever thought of looking through a viewfinder. It was only by chance, when he attended USC on the G.I. bill after World War Two, that he became friendly with a fellow student named Conrad Hall, who persuaded him to try a cinema class. He fell under the spell of the celebrated montage-maker and teacher Slavko Vorkapich, and before long, he, Hall, and another newcomer were filmmaking partners. Couffer’s tales of trying to break into the business—and how the three hungry newcomers bent and broke rules to do so in the 1950s—are evocative and still instructive today. How the trio made its first dramatic feature (Running Target) on location, with—
If the medium is the message, then Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a masterpiece. Director Edgar Wright has tried to incorporate the look and feel of videogames in his adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels. The result is a film that grabs you right away with its lively, irreverent approach to storytelling…although the timing and attitude aren’t very different from Wright’s British TV series like Spaced, which starred Simon Pegg.
If you’re in New York City any time over the next two weeks and you’ve never seen “old-school” Hollywood 3D, make a beeline for Film Forum on Houston Street. Forget the untruths and distortions you’ve read about how primitive the process was in the 1950s and judge for yourself. You’ll have a great time, even if most of the movies aren’t great…and you won’t be wearing red-green glasses: that’s just one of the myths that’s been perpetuated by an ignorant press while touting new digital 3D.
To quote Film Forum’s press release, “The fifteen rare 35mm 3-D prints (not digital) in the series will all be run in the original dual-projector Polaroid system, employing a silver screen, special filters, two synchronized projectors (one for the left eye, the other for the right) and a super-cool pair of Buddy Holly-style 3-D glasses for each member of the audience. Film Forum is the only cinema in New York equipped to screen vintage double-system 3-D.” That’s because Film Forum’s program director, Bruce Goldstein, is a movie lover of the first order who does things right. Appropriately, the 3-D Fest overlaps with a tribute to—
At the recent San Francisco Silent Film Festival I acquired several recently-published books I hadn’t seen before. Now that I’ve spent time with them I feel duty-bound to spread the word.
Rudolph Valentino, The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs by Donna L. Hill is a beautiful paperbound book, all the more impressive because it was self-published. Hill, who runs the website rudolph-valentino.com, has spent the past thirty years researching her subject and gathering rare and revealing pictures. As Emily W. Leider, author of Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino, points out in her foreword, “The pictures tell us that long before he appeared in films, Valentino displayed a love of finery, a propensity for posing before the camera, and a preoccupation with his own image. An actor in life before he became one professionally, as an underemployed immigrant he would don a tuxedo and—
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