RIP Arthur Penn

arthur penn

He wasn’t a young man, though he always seemed a lot younger than his age. So, it’s still a bit of a sad surprise to read that Arthur Penn, one of the most notable American directors of the sixties and seventies, has died at age 88.

There aren’t a lot of clear dividing lines in life, but as close as you can probably get to that in film history is that American movies made after 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde” were most definitely different in any number of ways from movies made before it. Sure, there was the increased freedom with sexuality and violence, but there was also a looser and more European-inspired feeling in U.S. movies, for a time anyway. That’s not to say Penn was anything like a cinematic one-hit wonder. “The Miracle Worker,” “Little Big Man,” “Night Moves,” and “Mickey One,” at least were all remarkable and important films in their way. He was also, by the way, a major figure in the American theater and in the history of television as well.

I learned the sad news via the terrific blog, The Sheila Variations, and Sheila in turn led me to the very good and detailed obituary at the New York Times.

As always when a cinema great passes, there’s more from MUBI’s David Hudson. Also, I’ve got just a few videos after the flip.

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Tuesday late night movie news

It’s pretty clear that nothing going on in movieland tonight is going to be able to compete with the sheer entertainment value of the NBC late night TV quagmire, but there’s definitely stuff to talk about.

* Peter Saarsgard of the very good “An Education” is a highly intriguing actor who I’ve been following for some time, especially since catching his work in the underrated “The Dying Gaul” at Sundance a few years back. No matter what kind of character he’s playing, he seems to have a real gift for moral ambiguity. If he’s cast as a villain, we think he must have a good side, and if he’s cast as someone more upright, we wonder if there isn’t something underhanded going on. Anyhow, Borys Kit reports that it looks like he might be playing the villain side of the street in the Green Lantern movie. Could be good.

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* The longest named director in show business is back on “The Tourist,” a remake of a French thriller to star Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck is the very talented and personable multilingual director behind “The Lives of Others.”

* Simon Brew has some more on the upcoming “Spiderman” reboot announced yesterday. His list of possible new Spideys has two interesting entries that I can’t quite agree with. Daniel Radcliffe actually makes some sense, but we’ll have to see how his American accent is, though I’d personally advise the soon-to-be ex-Harry Potter to avoid overly franchisey roles for a while. Michael Cera would be interesting but, I fear, disastrous. He’d have to get muscular and we know what happens to funny young actors when they become too obviously physically fit. Just ask Anthony Michael Hall.

The trick with Peter Parker is that the actor has to be believable both as a vulnerable demi-nerd, and as the sinewy superhero. Tobey Maguire was actually a really outstanding choice.

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