Satyajit Ray at work

Satyajit Ray at work

Satyajit Ray on directing:  “The edicts of the theorists, learnt assiduously over the years, doubtless perform some useful function at the back of your mind.  But…your approach should derive not from Dovzhenko’s Earth, however much you may love that dance in the moonlight, but from the earth, the soil, of your own country  —  assuming, of course, that your story has its roots in it.”  From Ray’s article “A Long Time on the Little Road” about his making of Pather Panchali  —  from the anthology Sight and Sound, a fiftieth anniversary selection, edited by David Wilson.  Faber and Faber, 1982. ( I AM a lover of that dance in the moonlight, and Semyon Svashenko’s performance in Earth is one of cinema’s greatest.)

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Margaret is telling her new and mysterious neighbor about the man she met in more than one place in Europe when she was a nurse during World War ll:  “Lloyd just appeared one day.  Somehow he knew where I was.  This was in France.  He took me to see a movie in an old château we’d taken back from the Germans.  Casanova Brown  —  a silly romance with Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright.  They put up a screen in the entry hall.  And sitting on the marble floor watching that silly movie were hundreds of dirty unshaven GIs with guns in their hands.  Topsy-turvy.”  (From Leah Stewart’s suspenseful recent novel The New Neighbor.  Touchstone, 2015.)

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Sam Shepard

Sam Shepard

Do you recall that much of Paris, Texas is set in motels?  Sam Shepard has an interesting collection of sketches, short tales and poems called Motel Chronicles:  “I remember trying to imitate Burt Lancaster’s smile after I saw him and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz.  For days I practiced in the back yard.  Weaving through the tomato plants.  Sneering.  Grinning that grin.  Sliding my upper lip up over my teeth.  After a few days of practice I tried it out on the girls at school.  They didn’t seem to notice.”

“King Solomon’s Mines was the movie that most haunted me as a kid.  I’ve never seen it since then but images from it still remain.  Watusi warriors with red clay stripes down their noses.  Raised black welts studding their chests.  Teeth filed down to needle points.  Lions ripping someone’s arm off.  Flies landing on someone’s lip and the lip not moving.  Torches in caves.  Blue jewels surrounded by skulls.  That English actor guy scared half to death.”

And Shepard describes himself as the kind of moviegoer I never was, though I too was an admirer of King Solomon’s Mines:  “The Rialto Theatre was dark and musky in the middle of day and I entered the world of the movie so completely that the theatre became a part of its landscape.  The trip to get popcorn up the black aisle with the sound track booming and the kids squealing in their seats was all part of the plot.  I was in the cave of King Solomon at the candy counter. The ‘Ju-Ju-Bees’ were jewels.  The ushers were jungle trees.  Cheetahs roamed through the bathroom.

“I breathed African dust for days afterwards in a town of solid white folk.”  (Motel Chronicles by Sam Shepard.  City Lights Books, 1982.)

NEXT POST June 17, featuring Semyon Svashenko of the midnight dance.

Until then,
See you at the movies,


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