Although he has only directed four films, James Gray has already established himself as one of the most accomplished voices in modern American cinema. At a time when Hollywood moviemaking is defined by youth and spectacle, and “independent” cinema by disingenuous quirk, Gray’s films have embraced a restrained and classical visual style, a focus on the working class, an emphasis on character over action, and sincere performances of great depth and feeling.Director James Gray on the set of ‘Two Lovers’.
It’s a style that’s a unique blend of American and European influences, and appropriately, Gray has long been received as a modern day auteur abroad. In France, Gray has been consistently praised by the critics of the prestigious Cahiers du cinema, and is the subject of a new book, Conversations with James Gray.
Born and raised in New York City — the setting for all of his films — Gray made his directorial debut in 1994 with Little Odessa, a striking mob picture set in Brooklyn’s Russian-Jewish community. Directed when Gray was only 25 years old, the film won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and immediately established Gray’s finely tuned sense of place and facility with actors. Little Odessa was followed by a pair of noir-tinged, classically tragic crime dramas about families on either side of the law: The Yards and We Own the Night, both starring Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix again starred in the romantic mood piece Two Lovers, giving a bravura performance as an emotionally scarred man who finds himself torn between two women (Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw).Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix in scenes from ‘Two Lovers’.
James has generously taken time out of preparation for his newest film (with an all-star cast including Phoenix, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Renner) to be with us for the Dryden Theatre screening of Two Lovers, this Friday, December 2nd.
Archive for the 'Featured in Close-Up' Category
Our recently-released book 500 Cameras is a survey of some of the most innovative and influential examples from the nearly 200-year history of cameras in our Technology Collection. The collection was featured in an earlier book, A Century of Cameras by Eaton Lothrup, documenting the 1839-1939 period— so of course this new book brings things more up to date.
The cameras are broken down into the catalogue types we use in the archive (box cameras, studio cameras, professional cameras, folding cameras, toys, etc.) and are arranged chronologically within each of those sections. This way, readers can experience how we categorize and work with the collection every day.
In my last book, Camera, we tackled a history of photography as seen through the camera and highlighted images made with them. This new book has a different focus: the cameras themselves. Each has a description and an informal narrative— somewhat along the lines as if I were personally touring you through the collection. It’s less about the technical nuts, screws and bolts and more about why they are culturally important.
The collection has over 8000 cameras, so of course picking 500 is a bit of a challenge. Right off the bat I started with those that are historically important, and that covers a lot of categories. Some were large selling products, others were milestones or ‘firsts’.
Above (top): Giroux Daguerreotype Camera: The first manufactured camera. Above (bottom): Page from ’500 Cameras’ featuring the Giroux.
Super Kodak Six-20: First automatic exposure control camera
Some were owned by well-known photographers:
Ansel Adams’ boyhood Brownie
The original Leica: the first high-quality mass produced 35mm camera
I’ve been at the museum for 11 years now, first as an intern, then as a student at Eastman House’s L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation. I was hired as a curatorial assistant and then moved into the position of cataloger for the Motion Picture Department.
My wife hates it when I talk in terms of fractions, but it’s been more than one-quarter of my life spent here at Eastman House, and the thing that attracted me, inspired me and drives me to this day is the wonderful film preservation program that we all play a daily part in.
George Eastman House has collected close to 28,000 titles in the last 60 years, and has been preserving them on film for almost as long, keeping them in vaults that will make sure they are accessible to future generations for hundreds of years to come.
In my current role as Head of Collection Information and Access, I get to talk to people about these films, whether it’s for exhibition at our own Dryden Theatre, or researchers who come to Rochester to view films from the collection, or institutions around the world that borrow the prints and play them at their own venues. So, when I received the opportunity to talk about some of these films with a national audience, I jumped at the chance.
Turner Classic Movies chose George Eastman House to be the focus of a 24-hour salute, providing airtime for films that have been conserved, preserved, restored, and reconstructed by the Motion Picture Department. The highlight of this salute to George Eastman House will be the introductions provided by longtime TCM host Robert Osborne and, as a representative of the museum, myself. I visited the studio on Friday, Nov. 11, to tape the segments for broadcast.
The four movies highlighted with introductions are Stanley Kubrick’s Fear and Desire (1953), Technicolor gem Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951), early action film Roaring Rails (1924), and the oldest-existing film version of Mark Twain’s classic Huckleberry Finn (1920).
I did a lot of research and preparation in advance of the trip. I made sure I knew about not only the films themselves, but also the preservations that George Eastman House provided for them – the history, the technical aspects, the materials used. I tried to anticipate any question about the films that might be asked, and even prepared short papers to structure the information in my mind.
But I needn’t have worried. Mr. Osborne and the entire crew at Turner Classic Movies are so kind, professional, and generous that they made the entire experience a joy. We sat down for an hour and a half and had casual (but informative!) conversations about the films, the George Eastman House, and preservation in general. The set looked gorgeous, staged for the holiday season, and I had a great time, from the first minute to the last.
As the tribute day approaches, I will blog again, in more detail about the salute, as to what will be on, and when to watch. But the date to remember is one month from today — Wednesday, December 14 — starting at 6:15 a.m. on Turner Classic Movies.
On Thursdays in November and December, the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House presents a tribute to one of the great sirens of the silver screen, the incomparable Elizabeth Taylor, with a film series titled A Place in the Sun: The Films of Elizabeth Taylor.
When Taylor passed away in March 2011, so passed one of the last bona fide queens of a bygone era. While her stunning looks and tabloid-ready personal life often eclipsed her talent in the public’s eye, her staggering career lasted nearly 70 years, encompassing triumphs on stage, screen, and television. Although Taylor had been acting for several years, her big break came at age 12 as plucky jockey Velvet Brown in National Velvet. Unlike other child stars of her day, her appeal came not from her girlishness, but from her preternatural assuredness and dark beauty, traits that helped her ease into adult roles after a string of mostly forgettable contract pictures.
Taylor with Mickey Rooney in NATIONAL VELVET (1945).
She came into her own as an adult star — at age 17 — with the first of three iconic collaborations with lifelong friend Montgomery Clift, A Place In The Sun. As the intoxicating socialite who tempts working-class Clift away from his pregnant girlfriend, Taylor earned widespread acclaim and cemented her reputation as a serious actress.
It wasn’t until 1956, however, that Taylor truly entered the Hollywood stratosphere, earning four Academy Award® nominations in a row for iconic performances in films like Raintree County, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, and her first Oscar® triumph, Butterfield 8. Not classically trained, it was her charisma, her presence, and her tough charm that would come to define her acting style and persona. Taylor earned her well-earned second Academy Award® for Best Actress® for her role in the 1966 film Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
As ‘Maggie the Cat’ in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, (1958)
Taylor spent the second half of her career using her celebrity for humanitarian efforts. Before AIDS was widely acknowledged, she was at the forefront of HIV/AIDS activism, and eventually raised $270 million for the cause that she described as “her life.” Fittingly for a dual citizen of Britain and the United States, Elizabeth Taylor was royalty in all the right ways: charming, beautiful, generous, and talented.
Please join us at the Dryden Theatre as we pay homage to one of Hollywood’s finest stars. The series begins Thursday with National Velvet. The roster also features A Place in the Sun, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Raintree County, Giant, Little Women, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Thursday, Nov. 3, 8 p.m.
(Clarence Brown, US 1945, 125 min.)
Thursday, Nov. 17, 8 p.m.
A Place in the Sun
(George Stevens, US 1951, 122 min.)
Thursday, Dec. 1, 8 p.m.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
(Richard Brooks, US 1958, 108 min., 16mm)
Thursday, Dec. 8, 7 p.m.
(Edward Dmytryk, US 1957, 187 min., w/ intermission)
Thursday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m.
(George Stevens, US 1956, 197 min.)
Thursday, Dec. 22, 8 p.m.
(Mervyn LeRoy, US 1949, 121 min.)
Thursday, Dec. 29, 8 p.m.
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
(Mike Nichols, US 1966, 131 min.)
From folding cameras to Brownies, antique cameras have been displayed for my viewing since my birth. My grandfather’s house introduced me to the history of the camera as well as early photographs of my family’s American heritage.
My grandfather along with his father, like many other Rochesterian men, worked for the Eastman Kodak Company. Throughout my grandfather’s time working at Kodak and exploring his photographic hobby, he collected an array of classic cameras. Each room in his house has several cameras resting on dressers, antique china cabinets, wooden tripods, and any other flat surface providing a home for a piece of his vintage collection. Antiquated photographs as well as stereographs can be seen accompanying the cameras that took them.
While walking through George Eastman House’s new exhibition, Between the States: Photographs of the American Civil War, nostalgia overcame me. Hanging a right after entering the exhibit doors and coming around the first wall brings you “front and center” with two authentic cameras used to shoot American Civil War photography. Just as in my grandfather’s house, I was brought face to face with pieces of photographic history.
One of the cameras in the exhibit, along with another on loan to the Newseum in Washington, D.C., were used by the studio of Mathew Brady, the prolific Civil War photographer. They are the only two known Brady cameras in existence today. These, along with the Lewis wet-plate camera also on view in the Eastman House exhibition, are held exclusively in George Eastman House archives.
Brady’s stereo camera was acquired by George Eastman House from Graflex Inc. and was found in Auburn, N.Y., amidst a collection of Brady’s glass plates. This camera was used to produce a pair of 4½ x 4½-inch images. The images would be separated, cropped and mounted together side by side. Looking at the two images through a stereographic viewer would produce a seemingly three-dimensional image.
Grandpa also has a couple of stereographs lying around his house. I remember my amazement looking through a pair of stereograph glasses resembling 19th-century bifocals and viewing the two images combined to make one with depth and length. You can sense this awe two feet away from the two cameras as George Eastman House has provided a Brady stereotype and a beautiful viewer constructed by a student of the graduate program.
Also gracing the glass case in the Between the States exhibition is a Lewis wet-plate camera. The Polaroid Corporation gifted this aged artifact to Eastman House. The camera, manufactured by Henry James Lewis, was conventional of Civil War photographic equipment. It also produced two images, although these were 3¼ x 4½-inch. This wet-plate camera closely resembles the daguerreotype camera, which Lewis’s father and brother had previously produced. This camera provides a perfect representation of the size and style of camera that had to be lugged around on the bloody battlefields of the Civil War.
This exhibition is important to Rochester and the history of American photography. I was fortunate to have my grandfather introduce me to historic cameras at an early age. We, as citizens of Rochester, are innately enriched with photographic history. We hold here, in our own backyard, images of a war that has shaped our nation to this very day. This is evident in the accompanying exhibit Still Here: Contemporary Artists and the Civil War.
The opportunity to view the apparatus by which these images were captured is exclusive to Rochester and George Eastman House, where you can experience the amazement and power these cameras display.