Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Contemporary Film Directors
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
What a pleasure it is for a professor to quote her students’ papers! Like my book on Krzysztof Kieslowski, this analysis is informed by the sympathetic understanding of dozens of Columbia University undergraduates as well as MFA candidates who studied Kaufman’s work with me. In addition to the ones cited in my...
An Eye for an “I”
Philip Kaufman’s cinema is stylistically and philosophically rich, but he has not received the kind of acclaim routinely showered on his peers. One reason is that the movies of directors such as Woody Allen, Robert Altman, or Quentin Tarantino are easier to categorize as belonging to one person. Because Kaufman’s versatility...
Born in Chicago in 1936, Philip Kaufman met Rose Fisher, his future wife and writing partner, at the University of Chicago. He attended Harvard Law School for a year (where he saw and was thrilled by The Seventh Seal) and returned to the University of Chicago to work on a graduate degree in history. But instead...
Sexual and Artistic Freedom
Not every great motion picture continues to yield new aspects of stylistic enchantment and thematic depth after a dozen viewings, but The Unbearable Lightness of Being is certainly one of them. Despite its approximately three-hour length, not a single frame is gratuitous. Every moment contributes to a vision that comprehends...
Male Relationships and Codes of Honor
From the 1970s into the early 1980s, Kaufman’s cinema examined camaraderie, conflicts, and codes of honor among men, whether riding horses and firing weapons in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, riding spaceships and orbiting the earth in The Right Stuff, or hunting whales and surviving the Arctic in...
Fallible Perception and Trust
Kaufman is hardly the only filmmaker to make use of unreliable narrators, but his cinematic storytelling is deepened by an interrogation of what we trust as viewers. Whether he presents a gradual revelation or a twist in perspective, there is an inherently political component to his narrative strategy of disorientation...
An "I" for an Eye
Nevertheless, a coherence of vision does not always constitute the auteurist mark that leads to recognition of a director’s oeuvre. Must a consummate filmmaker’s body of work be recognizable? Even if we can make a case for the coherence of Kaufman’s films, why should this be a higher standard of value than...
Interview with Philip Kaufman
In a way we have to find new kinds of heroes. There’s a whole world that is coalescing around us, and we never know how to deal with it. We have all kinds of therapies and policemen, law and order, and we’re always trying to figure out how to become heroes. But there’s something in the idea that every man and every...