Gilberto Perez

Gilberto Perez, Noble Professor of Art and Cultural History at Sarah Lawrence College, is the author of The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium.

How We Remember: Terrence Malick

Gilberto Perez, 12 September 2013

The family is moving out of town, and as the car drives away the mother looks back at the house they’re leaving behind. ‘The only way to be happy is to love,’ she says in voiceover. ‘Unless you love … your life will flash by.’ We cut to her point of view and, through the car’s rear window, see the pale green two-storey house receding down the quiet...

Bourgeois Nightmares: Michael Haneke

Gilberto Perez, 6 December 2012

‘What I want,’ a young Luis Buñuel announced to the audience at an early screening of his first film, Un Chien Andalou (1929), ‘is for you not to like the film … I’d be sorry if it pleased you.’ The film’s opening scene, which culminates in a close-up of a straight-edge razor being drawn through a woman’s eyeball, is often taken as the epitome of cinema’s potential to do violence to its audience. The suasions of rhetoric, the effects of art on the observer, are of course achieved by inflicting pain as well as eliciting pleasure, by aggression as well as ingratiation.

House of Miscegenation: Westerns

Gilberto Perez, 18 November 2010

The hero of the Toy Story trilogy is a toy cowboy. In Toy Story 3 when the toys belonging to Andy, now about to leave for college, find themselves at a daycare centre, and a kindly bear welcomes them into a community of toys freed from their owners, the cowboy alone stays loyal to Andy; and when the toy bear turns out to be a dictator worse than any owner, the cowboy, who was never persuaded...

Building with Wood: Time and Tarkovsky

Gilberto Perez, 26 February 2009

The first film Andrei Tarkovsky shot outside the Soviet Union was Nostalghia – spelled that way because ‘nostalgia’ is too weak an equivalent for the Russian word, the Russian emotion. Made in Italy in 1982-83, it begins with a visit to the Tuscan church where Piero della Francesca painted his fresco of the pregnant Virgin Mary, the Madonna del Parto. But the scene...

Self-Illuminated: Godard’s Method

Gilberto Perez, 1 April 2004

“Godard and Miéville put together Ici et ailleurs (1976) out of pieces from Jusqu’à la victoire, a militant film about the Palestinian situation . . . it conveys on Godard’s part an unearned sense of being let down by the Palestinians on screen; like his revolutionism, his disillusionment with revolution has something brattish about it. When MacCabe later ‘asked him what he thought of politics’, Godard ‘mimed injecting a huge syringe into his arm’ and replied ‘Some people take drugs, some people take politics.’”

Aphotograph of Abbas Kiarostami in Hamid Dabashi’s book shows him crouching over a frying pan that has two eggs in it. Beside him, and like him focused on the eggs, is the original movie camera invented by Lumière. The photograph was taken during the shooting of Lumière et compagnie, a film which, on the 100th anniversary of Lumière’s invention, enlisted...

Looking for Imperfection: John Cassavetes

Gilberto Perez, 23 August 2001

‘I’m really against nudity in movies,’ Julia Roberts said a while ago. ‘When you act with your clothes on, it’s a performance. When you act with your clothes off, it’s a documentary. I don’t do documentaries.’ Quoting this bit of wit and wisdom in a recent New Yorker piece on Roberts, Anthony Lane wrote: ‘it shows … how remote she...

‘He is the best novelist of the films,’ Erwin Piscator said of Erich von Stroheim, whose Wedding March (1928) he likened to a novel by Balzac. That was the last film Stroheim completed as a director. He may be better known as an actor (‘the man you love to hate’, La Grande Illusion, Sunset Boulevard), but in the history of film he made more of a mark as a director. It...

When I was a child in my native Havana, I thought that every capital city had a Capitolio that looked like the Capitol in Washington. Cubans were proud of their Capitolio: an aerial view of Havana with the building at the centre appeared on the cover of the civics book my mother wrote. Eventually I found out that our Capitolio was a copy of the one in Washington and I started to feel ashamed of the look-alike. Couldn’t we Cubans do any better?

Slices of Cake: Alfred Hitchcock

Gilberto Perez, 19 August 1999

Alfred Hitchcock is famous for planning everything beforehand, shooting his films in his head, never looking through the camera because he knew exactly what he would find. But the photographs in Hitchcock’s Secret Notebooks show him always sitting by the camera. He may not have looked through the viewfinder but he identified with the camera: the eye that knew exactly what it would find, the gaze for whose benefit everything would perform according to plan. We see him sitting by the camera on the set of Rear Window, looking out of the same rear window through which the immobilised protagonist spies on his neighbours, and using a microphone to direct the actors playing the neighbours in the apartment across the courtyard. This is a god spying on the people whose every move he commands.


Comanche from Germany

18 November 2010

I regret that there was no acknowledgment of Diane Stevenson in my piece on the Western (LRB, 18 November). Diane is my wife, but her ideas about The Searchers weren’t tossed at me in marital conversation: they were presented in research papers at academic conferences. I had never heard of Quanah Parker, the historical Comanche chief of mixed race who was, as she established, the inspiration...
Esther Allen (Letters, 10 August) says that José Martí held contradictory views of the US. I said the same thing in my article. But Allen seems to want to resolve the contradictions in a certain way. She suggests that the strong anti-American sentiments expressed in Martí’s last letter, from which I quoted, shouldn’t be taken too seriously because that letter was addressed...

The names of the actors appear briefly on a dark screen. We hear the sound of a car on a road. A title reads: ‘This film is based on a true story.’ Then we see a large American car...

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