Interview: Monte Hellman – Monte Hellman is nothing short of a legendary figure in American independent cinema. From his beginnings working in the Roger Corman stable in the early 60s, a veritable breeding ground for talent that would emerge at the tail end of the decade, Hellman began his career with a bang, forging a partnership with Jack Nicholson that would yield four features as director, two written by Nicholson himself, one by Carole Eastman (who would go on to write Five Easy Pieces for Bob Rafelson). From his first two B-movie quickies with Nicholson, Back Door to Hell (1964) and Flight to Fury (1964), shot back-to-back in the Philippines, he developed a style that played with established genre sensibilities to remarkable effect. It was his next two pictures however, that cemented his reputation abroad, two hypnotic Westerns that paved the way for the likes of Jodorowsky’s El Topo and Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand. Ride in the Whirlwind (1965) and The Shooting (1968) are remarkable films, all the more so given the fact that each shoot lasted a mere 17 days. The Shooting in particular is a masterpiece of form and invention, a Beckettian fever dream set on the Utah salt plains starring Nicholson and Hellman regular Warren Oates. It subverts and deconstructs traditional notions of Western archetypes and builds to a conclusion of breathtaking tension and ambiguity. Later came the existential master-work Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), a film which picks apart the notion of American self-mythologizing, deconstructing the essence of the American dream on the cusp of a new decade. Hellman’s is a career spent as much in limbo between projects, from filming second unit on the likes of Robocop and filling in for directors who’ve died during production, to helping young filmmakers get their work off the ground, whether it be young upstarts like Quentin Tarantino, whose Reservoir Dogs he produced, or old stalwarts like Sam Peckinpah, for whom he cut The Killer Elite. It’s been the best part of twenty years since Monte Hellman made a feature film, but this year sees the release of Road to Nowhere, which can only be cause for celebration.
They All Laughed: Eyelines, Points of View, and Three-Dimensional Space in the Algonquin Hotel Sequence | The Sheila Variations – All of this is very very calculated on the part of Bogdanovich, and each scene is a mini-masterpiece of not only editing but forethought. Bogdanovich didn’t create this in the editing room, he filmed what he wanted to see, knowing in his head that the triangulation of glances needed to be as clear as possible, especially because we have no idea why these two blokes are following this dame. It’s even more extraordinary when you know that They All Laughed was filmed on a bare-bones budget, no money for extras – so the actors were actually placed smackdab in the middle of Times Square and had to play this all out in the middle of real passersby. But never for a second do you not know who is looking at whom.