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January 21, 2003


Chicago Sun-Times, January 19, 2003: Roger Ebert publishes what is (to the best of our knowledge) his first ever review of a Tarkovsky movie: Tarkovsky's Solaris. The author, in an otherwise thoughtful and well-written review, finds fault with Tarkovsky's work and (surprisingly) suggests that Harvey Weinstein et al. might have been able to improve upon things... by the use of scissors. Mr. Ebert did not return our request for further clarification. For the record, we do not consider Tarkovsky's oeuvre to be perfect—Tarkovsky himself would be the first to admit so—but we hardly consider Mr. Weinstein (however sensitive a soul he may be) even remotely qualified to improve upon Tarkovsky's work. We pause for a moment, and reflect upon what Andrei said in 1973 about the then recent Cannes Film Festival:

    Interviewer: You took your film to Cannes. What did you think about the other films that were shown there?

    Tarkovsky: I was astonished by how low the standard was. I don't understand. On the one hand everything I saw was highly professional, on the other it was utterly commercial. For example, they would treat a subject that was bound to be of concern to everybody: the problem of the working-class movement, or the relationship between the working-class and other sections of the population. And all of it was done with such an eye to the audience, with such a desire to please... One really had the impression that all the films had been edited by one and the same person. But in film the most important thing of all is to be aware of the inner rhythm. So, what can only be individual had become commonplace, hackneyed. It is extraordinary. Even Fellini's film about Rome, the most interesting film of all—it was shown outside the festival proper—is a sort of game of give-away played with the audience, the editorial rhythm is so slick that one feels offended on behalf of Fellini. I remember pictures of his where the shots, the length of the shots, and their rhythm, were tied to the inner state of the character and the author. But this picture has been made with an eye for what is going to please the audience. I find that repugnant. Anyhow, the film tells us nothing new either about Fellini himself or about life. [ more ]


    January 22, 2003


    A brief follow-up to yesterday's column:

    Our alert readers were quick to inform us that Roger Ebert actually has reviewed an additional Tarkovsky film, namely The Sacrifice. The review is, in our mind, not particularly well-written, but you may wish to check for yourself.

    Another reader called our attention to the fact that Jonathan Rosenbaum in his review of Tran Anh Hung's excellent movie Cyclo also mentions the name of Harvey Weinstein, but not in a positive light:

    [...] And at Cannes this year an even more prominent critic from the New York Times told me she thought Harvey Weinstein would have "improved" Dead Man if Jim Jarmusch had allowed him to recut the picture. I think it's obscene to grant critical approval to any distributor who proceeds in this fashion [...]

    Since Roger Ebert appeared unwilling to comment further on his own Weinstein remark, we thought it reasonable to ask Jonathan Rosenbaum to comment on it instead. Mr. Rosenbaum had not yet had occasion to read Ebert's review in full, but promptly provided us with the following while on his way to the airport:

    From: Jonathan Rosenbaum
    To: Nostalghia.com
    Subject: Tarkovsky/Weinstein
    Date: Wed, 22 Jan 2003 13:47:42 -0600
    
    
    It's too bad.  I suspect that Roger may live  to  regret  having  made
    such  a statement, though maybe I'm wrong in supposing this.  I wonder
    how Roger would feel about  Weinstein  recutting  his  favorite  Woody
    Allen and Spike Lee movies.
    
    > "And at Cannes this year an even more prominent critic  from  the  New
    > York  Times told me she thought Harvey Weinstein would have "improved"
    > Dead Man if Jim Jarmusch had allowed him  to  recut  the  picture.   I
    > think  it's  obscene to grant critical approval to any distributor who
    > proceeds in this fashion."
    
    That was Janet  Maslin  I  was  referring  to,  by  the  way.   As  an
    expression  of artistic and journalistic corruption, I think it speaks
    for itself.  If Roger said something similar about Tarkovsky's work, I
    can  only  say  I  deeply  regret  it.   But  I  also realize that the
    mainstream valorizing of Weinstein that's  been  going  on  for  years
    makes  such  a  conclusion  logical  and  unsurprising.   Furthermore,
    without suggesting any conspiracy theory, I don't think the fact  that
    Disney  produces  Roger's  TV  show  is  entirely irrelevant to such a
    conclusion — especially  because  Miramax,  owned  by  Disney, already
    determines which of the films it controls that Roger can review on the
    show by deciding what clips to make available.
    
                                                                        JR
    
    
    
    
    Mr. Rosenbaum also touches upon some of these points in his book Movie Wars. Tarkovsky-related Rosenbaum film reviews accessible online: [ One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich | In Space, No One Can Hear You Sweat ] end block
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