Magic Lantern Podcast

The Magic Lantern: Episode 106 – The Second Mother

Caring for children is sacred work, according to writer-director Anna Muylaert and her film The Second Mother (2015). It’s also very undervalued, under-discussed work. Decades ago, Muylaert envisioned a story about this work and the women who do it. At that time, she felt she wasn’t ready to bring the story to life. After becoming a mother and raising her own children, she found the center for the story in the character of Val. Val is a beacon of love and joy, and our hero. Muylaert also worked hard to find the right trajectory for Val’s daughter, Jessica, making her into what you might consider a warrior.

Muylaert wanted to examine the difference in being a parent and raising children, especially when those two tasks are not necessarily done by the same person. Though the characters’ backgrounds are firmly placed within Brazil’s socioeconomic gulf of the urban and the rural, the story has a universal appeal across gender, border, or bank account. Even when the parent is not necessarily the caretaker, Muylaert doesn’t take the easy road or create easy targets. We are encouraged to look at the unique perspectives of our characters: the young woman from a rural area looking to earn money and do the best for her family; the young man who is a product of loving care from a non-parent; the affluent couple who live in a world that relegates childcare to others as an afterthought.

Did you have a second family, or a second caregiver like Val? Were you a person seeking new avenues in a bigger world, like Jessica? Did you have to make difficult choices, like they both did?

What you’ll find in this episode: how Regina Casé is basically the Oprah of Brazil, our trauma of reliving the proposal scene, and more context about Brazil’s rigid class structure.

– Ericca

Links and Recommendations:
Check out The Second Mother on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Baby Boom.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Boudu Saved from Drowning.
In Brazil, a Hostility to Academe

The Magic Lantern: Episode 105 – Invention for Destruction

There is simply nothing like Karel Zeman’s Invention for Destruction (1958). Taken from the pages of some of Jules Verne’s greatest adventures, these images combine to form one of the greatest cinematic pop-up books ever committed to film. The amount of painstaking detail that must have been involved in bringing this line engraving style of illustration to life boggles the mind. The end result is a film that gloriously straddles the line between the archaic and the state of the art. It’s a wildly inventive hybrid of live action and various types of animation that also addresses the fears and anxieties of living in a world in which the catastrophic potential of weapons of mass destruction has outstripped the creator’s ability to control it.

That being said, Invention for Destruction is no dry, didactic bit of finger-wagging. This is a rollicking adventure full of eye-popping visuals from beginning to end. There are shark fights, giant sea monsters, underwater bicycles, pirates, submarines, hot air balloons, explosions, a secret volcano lair, and so much more! And it’s great for all ages, too. It’s just as thrilling today as it was when it was made. I am so grateful for the restoration efforts that save these films for us and the distributors around the globe that are dedicated to making sure these films stay in our collective consciousness. Because of that, more than sixty years down the road, I have found yet another film that I will never forget.

What you’ll find in this episode: the DIY aesthetic of Karel Zeman, the illustrators that brought Jules Verne’s words to life, the Sears catalogue of 1905, and the first thing we’re going to do if we ever go to Prague.

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Invention for Destruction on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Japser Morello.
An archive of the original illustrations from Jules Verne’s Voyages Extraordinaires.
The website for the Karel Zeman museum.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 104 – Noir City Austin 2019 by Lantern Light

In this special episode, we discuss the films of Noir City Austin 2019 and its theme of “It’s a Bitter Little World”, featuring a program of ten stellar examples of the progression of film noir from the end of the 1940s through the start of the 1960s. Noir City Austin is always a highlight of our year and The Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller, never fails to bring a stunningly dark vision of the recent past.

Thanks to the great work of the Film Noir Foundation, we were able to escape into glorious 35mm restored and preserved titles from the genre. In counterpoint to last year’s journey through the 40s, there are new forces at work in the world of noir, notably the advent of television and the Red Scare. As always, we hope to see you at next year’s festival!

The Noir City Austin 2019 Festival Line Up:
Trapped (Fleischer, 1949)
The Turning Point (Dieterle, 1952)
City That Never Sleeps (Auer, 1953)
Private Hell 36 (Siegel, 1954)
Killer’s Kiss (Kubrick, 1955)
A Kiss Before Dying (Oswald, 1956)
Nightfall (Tourneur, 1956)
Murder by Contract (Lerner, 1958)
The Crimson Kimono (Fuller, 1959)
Blast of Silence (Baron, 1961)

What you’ll find in this episode: a Dark City dame and new discoveries, the influence of the Korean War, and some cagey teasers on new titles coming from the Film Noir Foundation.

– Cole and Ericca

The Film Noir Foundation
Noir City
TCM’s Noir Alley
Eddie Muller’s website
Alamo Drafthouse

The Magic Lantern: Episode 103 – The Hitch-Hiker

The Hitch-Hiker (Lupino, 1953) is not officially the first noir directed by a woman, but there is no doubt that director, producer, and screenwriter Ida Lupino was a pioneer. In adapting the true crime story of murderer Billy Cook, Lupino took the opportunity to get inside the mind of a killer to craft an unforgettable character. William Talman then brought the nasty, unpredictable, and savage Emmett Myers to life. Lupino also accomplished something no less innovative in deconstructing the macho tropes surrounding our two trapped average joes. She created a character study that is unlike most portrayals of victims or male friendships of the time. Noir favorites like Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy are more than up to the task of bringing life and pathos to the characters. But it’s Talman who truly runs away with the film.

The Hitch-Hiker is a taut 71 minutes, though it never feels rushed or truncated. You might also notice that every single shot, many taking place within the confines of the car, is unique. There is no angle that seems to be repeated. Lupino and company made the most of the claustrophobia in that car, along with the desert, stretching out to nothingness in all directions. You may be more familiar with Ida Lupino as an actress, including some of her indelible noir performances, but you will be no less astonished by her creation here as director and writer. What a way to kick off May, our month for film noir!

What you’ll find in this episode: details of the real-life underpinnings of this story, an examination of the portrayal of the police, and how the desert is the perfect noir landscape.

– Ericca

Links and Recommendations:
Check out The Hitch-Hiker on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Out of the Past.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The Devil Thumbs a Ride.
The life and times of spree killer Billy Cook.
An overview of Ida Lupino’s trailblazing directorial career.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 102 – Betrayal

I first encountered David Jones’ adaptation of Harold Pinter’s play about his extramarital affair, Betrayal (1983), when I was thirteen years old. Those were the heady days of the early cable television boom and my afternoon ritual was to walk to Head’s Grocery, get a Dr Pepper and some Hot Tamales, and then walk to my grandmother’s house to absorb whatever HBO and The Movie Channel had in store for me for a few hours until my parents picked me up on their way home from work. I saw some incredible films that way, including some eternal favorites that we’ve already discussed on the show, like Gregory’s Girl (1980).

Most of my favorites shared one particular characteristic. They were a window into the world of adulthood. Just having entered my teenage years, I was keen to accelerate the process of growing up. Betrayal may be responsible for that more than any other film. I was enthralled by these urban sophisticates and the adult facades they maintained. The appeal wasn’t just the gossipy nature of Pinter laying his indiscretions bare, either. It was the tangle of melancholy and joy within. It was a glimpse into a world that I didn’t know what to do with. And it was the deft use of the backwards chronology that transcended gimmickry. I was beguiled and perplexed. I knew that I was supposed to be feeling something very specific, but I wasn’t yet fully equipped to understand what. Over the ensuing years, I returned to it again and again and each time I grasped more of it. It’s still yielding its pensive pleasures thirty-odd years down the road. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. Maybe one of these days it will see the home media release it deserves. For now, it languishes in the realm of VHS only. That’s the true betrayal here.

What you’ll find in this episode: tablecloths from Venice, deception, the terrifying intensity of Sir Ben Kingsley, and growing up via cable television.

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Betrayal on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of The Song of Lunch.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Turtle Diary.
A great list of films employing reverse chronology.
A handy introduction to Harold Pinter and his works.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 101 – Shoplifters

Shoplifters (Kore-eda, 2018) was a revelatory filmgoing experience. So much so that as we were walking out of the theatre, I proclaimed that I would cover it in an episode as quickly as possible. I can’t think of another film in recent memory that I knew immediately was my new favorite as I was watching it. It has been recognized and acclaimed by many critical bodies around the world, and went on to become very financially successful in Japan. I think you’ll get a sense of why we are so attracted to this work of such great intelligence, depth of emotion, and sensitivity.

This film was also my introduction to the work of writer and director Hirokazu Kore-eda, as well as to the stellar cast. And though I found the second viewing to be just as emotionally difficult as the first, it’s a film that encourages multiple viewings. Each moment builds upon the last, and the way information is gathered or given to each character, and understood by them at any moment is key. There is also something new to be gleaned from subsequent viewings. I discovered so much visually that hadn’t occurred to me the first and second times just by advancing frames in certain scenes, and of course, by insights from Cole during our discussion.

What you’ll find in this episode: how the cinematographer contributed to the visual metaphor of compartmentalization, true stories that inspired this film story, and how Kore-eda works with child actors.

– Ericca

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Shoplifters on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Birds of Passage.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Bicycle Thieves.
One of the pension fraud stories that inspired the film.
More the 230000 Japanese centenarians are ‘missing’.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 100, Part Two – Listener Questions

Ok, grab yourself some treats from the concession stand and then we will get on to part two! If you just want to listen to us talk about Paris, Texas, please go back to Episode 100, Part One. If you would like to hear us answer listener questions, press on!

We wanted to make episode 100 all about the listeners that have been so great to us for the last three and a half years. So, not only did we ask them to choose the film they most wanted to hear about, we also collected all of the questions that they had about us and the show. As usual, they did not disappoint. These listener questions run the gamut. We get into everything from childhood inspirations to adult pastimes. It’s everything you wanted to know about the Lantern and maybe then some. Thanks to everyone that contributed such wonderful questions! We had a great time answering them!

What you’ll find in this episode: who is on our cinematic Mount Rushmore, our process for creating an episode, from viewing through posting, what film courses we would teach, and a lot of other surprises!

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
If you would like to support the show, please check out our Patreon.
You can tweet at us here.
Come join our Facebook group.
Check out our network, The Twenty-Fifth Frame, for a lot of other great shows!

The Magic Lantern: Episode 100, Part One – Paris, Texas

Paris, Texas (Wenders, 1984) is our first ever crowdsourced episode choice, and we’re so grateful to you, our listeners, for sticking with us for 100 episodes, and for choosing something so wonderful to discuss and celebrate!

Wim Wenders originally envisioned this as more of a cross-country film, but Sam Shepard had a different idea. He encouraged Wenders to stick mainly to Texas for the setting, as he thought the whole of America could be found there and, by extension, in this film. And we happen to agree with him. It’s a road movie, it’s a movie about families, it’s a movie about fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and brothers. Whether you’ve traveled any of that terrain yourself—physical, emotional, or metaphorical—there’s always something new to be found in the performances, in Sam Shepard and L.M. Kit Carson’s script, in Wim Wenders’ direction and Robby Müller’s capturing of light and color.

Is there a character you identify most closely with? Travis, Walt, Jane, Anne, or Hunter? What might keep you from speaking? Where does this film fall on the spectrum of your favorite Wenders films?

This episode is also special in that it’s a two-parter. Episode 100, Part Two is our version of an Ask Me Anything. We took questions from our listeners, and had a wonderful time answering them. Thank you for this journey to 100 episodes, and we hope you’ll stick with us for the next 100!

What you’ll find in this episode: an exploration of Robby Müller’s reds and greens, Allison Anders’ story of catatonia, and a discussion of where we think everyone goes after the ending.

– Ericca

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Paris, Texas on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Mud.
Cole’s further viewing pick of David Holzman’s Diary.
Blind Willie Johnson, an inspiration for the score.
Robin Holland’s photos on the film set.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 099 – The Duke of Burgundy

The Duke of Burgundy (Strickland, 2014) is a prime example of a film that you come to for one reason and love for another. I was drawn in by the lure of the sexploitation throwback and pleasantly surprised to find it was so much more than that. I found a complex, intimate relationship drama that knew its way around a corset. Within that, I also found a film that treated kink with respect. It’s surprising, and often disappointing, how seldom that is the case. Erotic films are often a dodgy proposition, maybe even more subjective than comedy. Sex is such an undeniably powerful component in so many of our lives. Sometimes it’s an epiphany, sometimes completely bewildering, sometimes even boring. No one film is ever going to be all things to all people, but some don’t even try. We should celebrate those that are this ambitious, revealing, and beautifully rendered.

We should also celebrate those that find the universality under the more exotic sexual trappings. Simply put, The Duke of Burgundy is a love story. It addresses the most common questions of shifting power in a relationship. Don’t let the bondage fool you. The most complicated restraints are seldom visible to the eye. Insecurities can keep even the most dominant of doms off balance and dissatisfied. Living a life of subservience, even one that you have carefully scripted for yourself, may not be enough. Strickland builds a place here away from the world that lets us immerse ourselves. Don’t be afraid to explore and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to indulge.

What you’ll find in this episode: butterflies, bondage, baking, and what to do when your significant other polishes someone else’s shiny boots of leather.

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
Check out The Duke of Burgundy on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of The Lover.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.
Six films that inspired Peter Strickland to make The Duke of Burgundy.
A look at BDSM, personality, and mental health.
Plan your trip to The Museum of Sex!

The Magic Lantern: Episode 098 – Andrei Rublev

This is a very special episode for us. For the first time, we are discussing a film that is a patron’s choice! Ian Buckley is our first Patreon supporter to pledge at our top tier. As a result, it was his prerogative to program an entire episode of The Magic Lantern. He chose what we would discuss and his viewing recommendation is included with ours and, I must say, he was not fooling around. He selected Andrei Rublev (Tarkovsky, 1966).

This marks our first foray into Russian cinema for the podcast and we couldn’t have chosen a better film ourselves to christen that part of the world. Andrei Rublev is arguably the greatest arthouse film ever made. This was both an intimidating and thrilling film to take on. It has the immense historical sweep of an epic, but simultaneously deals with the most eternal and perplexing questions about the interior life of the artist. 15th century Russia was not exactly a cakewalk. I can’t imagine trying to balance a subsistence existence with such lofty philosophical aspirations. Faith and artistic ability don’t keep the wolves or Tatars from the door. How does the artist survive, much less thrive? How does the penitent monk best serve his fellow man? Can you rekindle the passion for creating once you’ve lost it? We do our best to tackle all these questions and considerably more in this episode. Thanks again to Ian for giving us this opportunity to take up such a challenge.

What you’ll find in this episode: lofty pursuits, lowly peasants, crises of faith, political treachery, patrons and patronage, and the secret of casting a bell.

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Andrei Rublev on IMDB.
Ian’s further viewing pick of The Passion of Joan of Arc.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Solaris.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The Mill and the Cross.
A gallery of fifty-eight of Rublev’s artworks.
A brief overview of life in 15th century Russia.