-In the Nothing New Under the Sun Department: I’ve only just begun J. Hoberman’s The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Absence of Communism, and already the author- who I’m more a fan of as I read on through his various cinema studies- has presented a very resonant, relevant cultural/historical episode. In 1963, the destined-to-be-famous Czech filmmaker Milos Forman made a pseudo-documentary called Competition, for which the director staged a fake come-one, come-all public audition for the position of Pop Singer. What he witnessed was, apparently, Pop Idol, American Idol, and their ilk. Forman’s reaction, as quoted by Hoberman:

”I couldn’t believe the power of the microphone over the girls. They stepped up to it as if it were a magic wand that would endow them with a great voice and beauty. This foot of fat wire got homely young women to vamp shamelessly, tone-deaf singers to wail away at the top of their voices, shy neurotics to put themselves through the torture of public scrutiny. There were moments when the spectacle of the audition became tough to watch.”

-Today’s Sunday viewing includes finishing off the John Cassavetes: Five Films box set with Charles Kiselyak’s Cassavetes documentary, A Consant Forge. Of the Cassavetes works, I found Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, and especially Opening Night to be much more rewarding than Shadows or The Killing of a Chinese Bookie; this undoubtedly has to do with the absence from the latter two of Gena Rowlands’s powerful presence. The fact that Cassavetes’s films are sometimes beautiful, sometimes outrageously, willfully taxing, but never less than stubbornly challenging (if not downright contemptuous) makes me think it wouldn’t be entirely off the mark to characterize him as the American Godard.

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