Of Terence Malick: “Now that Stanley Kubrick has passed on, Malick is the undisputed recluse/auteur of the film business, the director that the most movie people would most like to work with, if only they could find him.” Of Robert Altman: “He is renowned for the buzzing expansiveness of his stories, the crisscrossed plots and people, but what strikes home most of all in this sprawl is a terrible sense of aloneness. In film after film, from “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” and “The Long Goodbye” to “Nashville” and “Short Cuts,” the human tumult masks a solitude.”
In his underrated, or, as he titles it, “underseen” bin is one of my favorite films, “Babe: Pig in the City.” Rainer argues that the dark and uncommercial sequel to the sunlit and charming “Babe,” about a pig who wanted to be a sheepdog, is as good as “Babe” and perhaps even better. Chased by a pit bull “with “as much vroom as anything in ‘Mad Max,’” “Babe doesn’t comprehend why animals – or people – self-destructively play out their natures. The pit bull clues him in: ‘I have a professional obligation to be malicious.’ And yet, when Babe’s generosity redeems his attacker, it’s as if all of evolution had suddenly been overruled…Kids barred from this movie by wary parents are missing out on a helluva role model.”
Rainer devotes an entire chapter to Steven Spielberg. “Spielberg’s genius was not simply to think like his audience – any good hack can do that – but to be his audience. His aesthetic instincts and his commercial instincts were twinned, and not in a calculating way either – at least not until “Raiders of the Lost Ark” which is when his large-scale entertainments, followed by the two “Indiana Jones” sequels and the “Jurassic Park” movies, turned into corporate theme parks themselves.”
“Rainer on Film” has an excellent index. Dip into it as you would a bowl of mixed nuts, picking out the people and films that intrigue you.
"Rainer on Film" on-sale date is June 1.