Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mailer

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Jeff
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Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mailer

#1 Post by Jeff » Tue May 15, 2012 5:51 pm

Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone and Other Films by Norman Mailer

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Norman Mailer is remembered for many things—his novels, his essays, his articles, his activism, his ego. One largely forgotten chapter of his life, however, is his late-sixties, headlong, kamikaze-style plunge into making experimental films. These rough-hewn, self-financed, largely improvised metafictions are works of madness and bravado, all starring Mailer himself and with technical assistance from cinema verité trailblazers D. A. Pennebaker and Richard Leacock. The fullest realization of his directorial efforts is the blustering, brawling Maidstone, a shocking sign of the political times in which Mailer plays a filmmaker and presidential candidate who may be the target of an assassination attempt. Along with Mailer’s other films of the period—Wild 90 and Beyond the Law—it shows an uncompromising artist in thrall to both himself and a new medium.

Maidstone

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Over a booze-fueled, increasingly hectic four-day shoot in the Hamptons, Norman Mailer and his cast and crew spontaneously unloaded onto film this lurid and loony chronicle of U.S. presidential candidate and filmmaker Norman T. Kingsley debating and attacking his hangers-on and enemies. This gonzo narrative, “an inkblot test of Mailer’s own subconscious” (Time), becomes something like a documentary on its own making when costar Rip Torn breaks the fourth wall in one of cinema’s most alarming on-screen outbursts.


Wild 90

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Norman Mailer’s first filmmaking effort stars the director and his two longtime creative collaborators Buzz Farber and Mickey Knox as a trio of gangsters holed up in a ramshackle New York apartment, drinking, braying, and fighting. Mailer once claimed he viewed making movies as “free psychoanalysis,” and this bristly, stripped-down experiment in improvisation shows a filmmaker baring himself for all to see.

Beyond the Law

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Norman Mailer’s belief that we’re all either police or criminals at heart was the impetus for his second film, which takes place over the course of one feverish night in a Manhattan police precinct and neighboring bar. The rough texture of the black-and-white stock and the intense depiction of the police lineup process lend the film a rugged, journalistic feel. In addition to Mailer, who casts himself as tough-guy Irish cop Francis Xavier Pope, Beyond the Law features Rip Torn and George Plimpton.

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Tom Hagen
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#2 Post by Tom Hagen » Tue May 15, 2012 6:03 pm

Has anyone seen these? I found an A.O. Scott article about them.

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LQ
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#3 Post by LQ » Tue May 15, 2012 6:05 pm

I wonder if the liner notes will include any articles originally published in Playdude

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zedz
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#4 Post by zedz » Tue May 15, 2012 6:17 pm

I've never seen these but have been curious about them for a long time. Critical opinion on them is sharply divided, and I believe the hypnotically dreadful Tough Guys Don't Dance (the only one of his films I've seen) is not representative. From what I've read about the films, this is anything but business as usual for Criterion.

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whaleallright
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#5 Post by whaleallright » Tue May 15, 2012 6:28 pm

Tough Guys may not be representative insofar as Mailer tries to play it relatively straight there (or at least is following the broad contours of a noir), but you should still expect rangy, uncontrolled performances and a marked lack of filmmaking finesse.

David E. James's book Allegories of Cinema has some interesting stuff on Mailer and Maidstone in particular.

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colinr0380
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#6 Post by colinr0380 » Tue May 15, 2012 6:31 pm

These sound fascinating and more films starring Rip Torn can't be bad! One of the imdb commentors on Beyond The Law complains about difficulties understanding the soundtrack, but presumably this won't be too big a problem with this release with Criterion likely to include subtitles.

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Gregor Samsa
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#7 Post by Gregor Samsa » Wed May 16, 2012 5:42 am

LQ wrote:I wonder if the liner notes will include any articles originally published in Playdude
:D

They could have got it in the description if they really tried.
Norman Mailer is remembered for many things—his novels, his essays, his articles, his activism, his ego, his waning libido.

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The Fanciful Norwegian
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#8 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Wed May 16, 2012 6:21 am

colinr0380 wrote:These sound fascinating and more films starring Rip Torn can't be bad! One of the imdb commentors on Beyond The Law complains about difficulties understanding the soundtrack, but presumably this won't be too big a problem with this release with Criterion likely to include subtitles.
Beyond the Law and Wild 90 have some of the worst dialogue recording I've ever heard. Even Mailer said Wild 90 "sounds as if everybody is talking through a jock strap." English subtitles alone would justify upgrading from the French releases.


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hearthesilence
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#10 Post by hearthesilence » Wed May 16, 2012 3:05 pm

I have not seen these, but I first heard about them when I was reading something on D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus' Town Bloody Hall some years ago. When Richard Leacock passed away last year, it was brought up in some obituaries too. (Both Leacock and Pennebaker shot these.) I'll definitely check these out.

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knives
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#11 Post by knives » Fri May 18, 2012 6:17 pm

So in anticipation for this set I watched his last film and I honestly don't know if it's one of the worst or best films I've seen (which seems to fit with what's been said in this thread), but that's not terribly important. The one thing to truly fascinate me though is how much it films like a Lynch film, or rather a parody of one. I don't think this is just because of the presence of Rossellini and Badalamenti either. The structure and dream logic feel to the enterprise is strikingly similar to Blue Velvet with the acting being a less smooth version of the bizarre affectations of Lynch. Despite probably being horrible I think this one has got me excited for this set.


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The Narrator Returns
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#13 Post by The Narrator Returns » Sat May 19, 2012 9:35 am

Oh god, oh man, oh god, oh man!

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CSM126
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#14 Post by CSM126 » Sat May 19, 2012 10:30 am

If Tough Guys Don't Dance is Mailer's best film then these others must be excruciating. Somewhere below the bottom of the barrel with Freddy Got Fingered kinda bad. Tough Guys... Sitting through that is like someone flicking your scrotum for two hours. It just hurts.

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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#15 Post by Mathew2468 » Sat May 19, 2012 10:35 am

Is it bad only because of the direction and acting? More to films than that pard. If you can get past that is it still scrotum-flickingly bad?

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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#16 Post by CSM126 » Sat May 19, 2012 10:48 am

The dialogue and plot are fucking terrible as well. It comes across as what one might get if a child watched a hard boiled noir and tried to copy it, the logic being that if the characters speak in long-winded sentences full of absurd metaphors and similes, and the plot is full of ridiculously seeding doings, the film will automatically be good. But it's not because it's all so forced and you sit there (or at least I did) shouting "No one speaks this way! Nobody does these things! This is all so stupid!". God it's just awful. Wretched. Garbage.

I also think it's a mighty accomplishment that this film features what may be Ryan O'Neal's worst performance. I say that having seen the mockery of cinema that is Fever Pitch, which also falls into the absurd hard boiled nonsense subgenre. Probably the only film to feature Ryan O'Neal doing Kung fu with a Rotary phone!

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The Narrator Returns
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#17 Post by The Narrator Returns » Sat May 19, 2012 10:55 am

Here's a sort-of defense of Tough Guys Don't Dance by the AV Club's Nathan Rabin.

And here's the absolutely brilliant trailer, where Mailer reads the comment cards from a test screening, both good ("Bold! Innovative! Wonderful!"), bad ("Giant death-orgy with lots with maniacs!"), and beyond ("The devil made this picture.")

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med
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#18 Post by med » Sat May 19, 2012 12:07 pm

I haven't read Tough Guys Don't Dance, but Rosenbaum calling it Mailer's worst novel makes me wonder if he actually read Ancient Evenings.

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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#19 Post by Mathew2468 » Sat May 19, 2012 12:30 pm

I've never read Mailer though I'm interested because he interests me. Books like An American Dream, which people hate, calling it a guide to killing your wife! It's his most hated that interest me including Tough Guys Don't Dance, the film, even though I'm obsessed with Bressonian precision and rigour. I kinda wish they included it here, maybe a mainline release! And what's with the title, Maidstone and other etc.? Should have a real title.

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swo17
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#20 Post by swo17 » Sat May 19, 2012 12:39 pm

Eclipse Series 35: A Poorly Written Title for a Collection of the Poorly Written Films of Norman Mailer Except for the One That Isn't Here for Some Reason But That Is Still by All Accounts a Poorly Written Film

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#21 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat May 19, 2012 12:50 pm

med wrote:I haven't read Tough Guys Don't Dance, but Rosenbaum calling it Mailer's worst novel makes me wonder if he actually read Ancient Evenings.
There are people who think Ancient Evenings, tho' flawed, is his best work.

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med
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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#22 Post by med » Sat May 19, 2012 1:03 pm

I got about 50 pages into it and was prepared to give up when the news broke that Mailer died. That inspired me to tough it out; I lasted only 20 or so more pages before quitting.

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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#23 Post by Buzz Cameo » Thu Jun 07, 2012 6:36 pm

Amazing these are finally coming out on DVD. I saw them a few years ago at a Mailer retro in NY and, flawed as they may be, they are incredible right up there with Warhol, Shirley Clarke and William Greaves. "Tough Guys" is a completely different film from these three. You can't really compare 'em. They were made under completely different circumstances. For me the end of Maidstone is right up there with Gimme Shelter. Berserk and truly frightening.

Mailer did a Q & A after Maidstone at Lincoln Center and told the crowd that Jean-Luc Godard was the second most evil person he'd ever met (!). He said Reagan was no. 1

Ancient Evenings is a tough one, but worth seeing all the way through. Armies of the Night, Advertisements For Myself and Executioner's Song are untouchable!

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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#24 Post by Mathew2468 » Thu Jun 07, 2012 7:30 pm

Godard wanted Mailer to make out with his (real) daughter in King Lear. \:D/

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Re: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone & Other Films by Norman Mai

#25 Post by Buzz Cameo » Thu Jun 07, 2012 7:59 pm

funny interview with Mailer about the films:

http://www.filmcomment.com/article/ridi ... -interview" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Beyond the Law (Blue)?!

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