Friday, March 14, 2008


If you're questioning the validity of Erich Kuersten's claim of 'currently accepting fellowship offers from around the world,' consider that he used the term quadruple-Lolita-simulacrum in his review of Death Proof. No, Erich's credentials run deep and his writings span far and wide: from the indispensable Bright Lights Film Journal to the gargantuan Pop Matters, and he even dabbles in print media (pick up a copy of Scarlet Street, if you have the chance). Erich's writing often has an academic feel to it, and when class is in session you best put down your pencils listen up -- his essay on Lewton's The Leopard Man is a remarkable analysis of a film that's too often dismissed among its more well-known Val Lewton productions. Erich can regularly be read at the Bright Lights blog and Acidemic-Film, where his tribute to Chief Brody would have sparked great conversation at Roy Scheider's wake.

'I was crazy for monsters since before I can remember, and loved the old UHF creature feature showings of Ed Wood, Bela Lugosi and giant bug movies. In the theaters the first thing I remember was a Czech sci fi kiddie import called "The Wishing Machine" which my mom took a bunch of us kids to see for my sixth year birthday party. I remember all us kids laughing at it because it was so bad. I think my whole love of "roasting" cinema turkeys began that day. I never could find a mention of this film anywhere until here:'

LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: 'Last week I pre-ordered the Criterion 2-disc edition of Pierrot Le Fou, before that, Woman in the Window and Face in the Crowd over at Kim's Underground. I try to only pick up movies I know I will want to re-watch again and again for years to come, but sometimes I go crazy and just need to buy something... like Eyes of Laura Mars.'

FAVORITE GROSS-OUT MOMENT: 'It's at the end of Cronenberg's remake of The Fly: this hideous fly monster bursts out of Jeff Goldblum's lifeless husk and begins stalking Geena Davis around the room. Jeff and Geena were really dating and in love at the time and you feel their chemistry all through the film, so it's both chilling and deeply heartbreaking when Goldblum--whose been slowly dissolving all through the movie-- just "disappears" in front of his anguished lover, replaced by this animatronic, lumbering beast. Having been in a dysfunctional relationship or two, I feel her pain... and his.'

WHAT MOVIE ARE YOU ASHAMED TO SAY YOU HAVEN'T SEEN -- AND WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE?: 'I still haven't seen Brokeback Mountain. My excuse is having to review one too many Hong Kong "forbidden romance" pictures over the last decades. I think having spent my childhood in the American suburban swingin' 1970s really made me intolerant of the stoic "we must sacrifice our hearts to honor the social order" plots so beloved by conservative cultures. In my own life, I know I've given up everything for love on several different occasions, and probably would and will again. I'm a hopeless romantic, and a rebel, and sensitive, and all that, so a film like Brokeback is actually painful for me to contemplate going to see. I have to be really, really, really in the right mood. I'm going to see it this week, though... for Heath.'

3 Women
3 Days of the Condor -- 'Robert Redford in 3 Days of the Condor is the freakin' antichrist of 1970s cinema; his bland attractiveness as a smug publisher-CIA agent heralds the end of gritty, ugly depth in our lead male actors. He bosses around Faye Dunaway like a spoiled kid with his dad's new trophy wife; Tom Cruise must have been taking a lesson.'
3 Godfathers
3 Ninjas

FAVORITE KIND OF MOVIE TO REVIEW: 'The very, very bad ones. I am only really enthused about a film if it's either in the top 90% or the bottom 10% on the "tomatometer." Everything in the middle is just filler. I find that often the top and the bottom meet each other, as part of the circle of cinematic life. This point where they meet is what I try and capture in my writing. I love sitting in an empty theater on a bad film's opening day and then writing a positive review that doesn't lie or misinform, but which helps the reader "see" the movie through a warped enough lens that they can understand it as art. Two recent examples that come to mind: Hitman and The Marine. A recent bad film I really want to learn to enjoy is The Wicker Man remake. I still can't stand it, but I never give up trying.'

LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN, AND WHAT DID YOU SEE?: 'It was in 1987; my college girlfriend and I saw Nightmare on Elm Street 3 in this central NJ drive-in, in the pouring rain over summer break. The place was nearly empty, fallen into ruin--cracked pavement, weeds coming up, trees looming, growing in around the screen. By then the big gray boxes you hang in your open window for sound were no longer used and you tuned instead to some AM station where they broadcast the soundtrack... we could barely get the station in, the windows were all fogged up. It was a nightmare in every sense of the word and I loved it, of course. I was panicking that the battery would get drained from playing the radio, and we'd be stuck there, and eventually killed.'

FILM ERA OR GENRE YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH: 'It all bleeds together for me so it's tough to pick one - I see it as a sort of flowing evolution - from the pre-code 1930s Fields, West, Marx Bros. and Dietrich/Sternberg Parmaount films, the WB gangster films and the Universal Monster films through the war to noir and 1950s auteurs like Hitchcock, Nicholas Ray, Howard Hawks and John Huston - and from there the French New Wave, and onwards to the gritty American urban cinema of the 1970s and its sexual revolution, to the New World 1980s of John Carpenter and Paul Verhoeven.'

LAST TIME YOU VEHEMENTLY DISAGREED WITH SOMEONE OVER THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'I used to play poker with a bunch of guys and one of them started going to Columbia film School. He and his buddy were over at my place, talking about how they were against art in movies and wanted to bring back "simple romantic comedies" that would make money and not try to deliver any message or meaning, just a "feel-good time." I canceled the game and kicked them out of my apartment.'

FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'Manny Farber on Film; he's mainly an art critic/writer and painter, so his take on cinema is very much about the image, and he's brilliant, humble and hilarious- the Nabokov of film criticism. Camille Paglia's BFI book on The Birds is a close second. The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film was my bible through junior high school. All film writing by Truffaut, Godard, Kael, Agee, Newman and Robin Wood is essential...'

DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FILM INTAKE: 'It's hard to go out to movies when you have a really good home projector and a growing inability to suffer fools gladly. I don't have cable or a TV, just the projector and a lot of DVDs... sometimes I get paralyzed by the options. So all things considered, I see maybe 4 or 5 a week.'

THREE THINGS YOU'VE LEARNED FROM WATCHING MOVIES: '1. Always prolong the showdown before a fight, for maximum effect. 2. When someone asks you to go on a camping trip, say no. 3. If an unstoppable killer comes after you, don't cower and cling to your civilized veneer; access the inner savage right away. And don't assume they're dead when they fall over! I'd say the best tactic is to cut off their thumbs. Cut off their hands and the disembodied hands can strangle you in your sleep, but once the thumbs are off, it's over.'

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1 comment:

Stacie Ponder said...

Erich rules, even though his writing always makes me feel woefully inadequate.

I had no idea that Camille Paglia had written about The Birds...thanks, Erich and Friday Screen Test!