Minnelli, the Aesthete in the Factory

(1) Vincente Minnelli on the set of Yolanda and the Thief (1945)

Vincente Minnelli, a prolific director at MGM for over three decades, was responsible for some of the most popular entertainments in history. American critics in the 1940s praised his humanism, British critics in the 1950s admired his unrivalled chic in the filming of song and dance, and French critics in the 1960s debated whether he was an auteur or simply a talented metteur-en-scène. He won an Oscar for Gigi (1958), and several later directors – notably Jean-Luc Godard, Martin Scorsese, and Damien Chazelle – have paid tribute to his work. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith has written that his importance to the mid-century film industry lay in an ability to “bring refinement to the popular,” and Andrew Sarris placed Minnelli on the “far side of paradise,” just beyond the pantheon of Hollywood’s greatest artists. “If he has a fatal flaw,” Sarris wrote, “it is his naive belief that style can invariably transcend substance and that our way of looking at the world is more important than the world itself.”1 Sarris’s argument depended upon a romantic faith in “the world itself,” but it confirmed a view among some auteurists that Minnelli’s work, for all its importance, lacked a certain high seriousness. As Sarris put it, “Minnelli believes implicitly in the power of his camera to transform trash into art, and corn into caviar. [He] believes more in beauty than in art.”2 Whatever the case, Minnelli’s films are a fascinating mixture of Kunst and kitsch, challenging the distinction between commerce and artistic legitimacy. At every level, they problematize the old and perhaps never valid distinction between authenticity and commercialism, reminding us that the Kantian aesthetic faculty was born during the industrial revolution.

Essentially a bricoleur, Minnelli kept files of clippings showing different styles of paintings and illustrations, which he liked to go through for inspiration. Like many commercial artists, he particularly admired the surrealists and was among the first Hollywood directors to use their motifs in a self-conscious way. “The accidental juxtaposition of people and things makes for surrealism,” he told a Time magazine interviewer in 1945. “The surrealists are the court painters of the period. They sum up an age which is at best utter confusion.”3 Minnelli’s interest in painting is evident throughout his career, but part of the drive and brio of his work came from his awareness that movies are a temporal as well as a spatial medium. He loved flamboyant color, costume, and decor, but he never allowed these things to freeze into static compositions. A master of changing patterns and complex movements, he filled his pictures with swooping crane shots, voluptuous plays of fabric, and skillfully orchestrated background detail. Among his contemporaries, only Rouben Mamoulian was his equal at making films in which characters passed so effortlessly from speech into song, from walking into dancing.

Minnelli was born in the American heartland, the fifth child of an Italian mother and a French father who were vaudevillians and operators of a travelling tent show. In his youth, he hoped to become a painter, but in 1921, needing to support himself, he went to Chicago and sought work as a commercial artist. His first opportunity came as a designer of show windows for the home furnishing department at the Marshall Field department store, which was among the finest establishments of its kind in the nation. The windows of the store changed with each season, and Minnelli treated them as a theatrical space, turning them into dramatic settings, as if he were rehearsing for the changing seasons in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). Meanwhile, he strolled the city as a flâneur, sampled night life, took classes at the Chicago Art Institute (where he saw a fine collection of French Impressionism), and attended the theater, taking along a sketch pad to make drawings of actors and costumes. On one of his visits to the theater, he met society photographer Paul Sloane, who hired him to retouch photographic portraits and arrange subjects in artful poses. In his autobiography, Minnelli recalls that in Sloan’s library he found a biography of James McNeill Whistler, whom he immediately recognized as a kindred spirit: a dandy, a proto-impressionist painter of fashionable people, and an interior designer.

Inspired by his experience with Chicago socialites and theatrical personalities, Minnelli took a portfolio of his drawings and watercolors to the Chicago office of the Balaban and Katz chain of motion-picture palaces, where he applied for a job as costume designer for stage shows. The big-city movie exhibitors of the day modeled themselves on the department stores, appealing to the growing urban middle class by constructing lavish auditoria and offering stage musical attractions along with films. Minnelli so impressed his interviewers that he was hired on the spot and began designing both sets and costumes for the stage extravaganzas, which changed every month. His ‘touch’ was noticed in Variety, and when Balaban and Katz merged with Paramount Pictures, he was moved to New York. Eventually he was hired as costume designer and then art director for the largest indoor theater in the world – the newly constructed Radio City Music Hall, where stage shows accompanying movies changed weekly. In this role, Minnelli demonstrated knowledge of art history and vanguard trends, ‘quoting’ such things as Erté’s curtains for the Folies Bergère, Aubrey Beardsley’s erotic drawings, the surrealist painters, and the modernist uses of African motifs. He became a widely-publicized figure, the subject of profiles in The New Yorker and Esquire and a member of Ira Gershwin’s circle of theatrical wits. Not long afterward, he left the Music Hall to become a director of Broadway ‘revue’ musicals. (Revues took the form of lavish musical numbers organized by a theme such as ‘around the world’; one of Minnelli’s MGM pictures, The Band Wagon (1953), pays nostalgic tribute to them.) He was now working with the biggest stage stars of the 1930s, and this made him attractive to Hollywood.

(2) Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944)

Before turning to Minnelli’s work as a film director, we should notice how much his biography illustrates symbiotic relationships between dandyism, artistic modernism, and capitalist modernity. Minnelli’s first job as decorator of show windows for a department store places him in company with Man Ray, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol, all of whom were at one time designers of shop windows. In fact, he belongs to a tradition of painters and decorators extending as far back as the Parisian magasins de nouveautés, or ‘arcades’, of the 1820s, where, according to Walter Benjamin, art was for the first time brought to the service of commerce. A decade later in France, as the middle-class gained ascendency over the aristocracy, the figure of the dandy became prominent – an idealized, ‘classless’ individual who functioned as an aristocrat of taste. The dandy was a kind of dreamer who implicitly rebelled against both the philistines and the barbaric nobility. But he was not simply a dreamer. As Baudelaire wrote, “his fantasy must be materialized in exterior signs. This is expensive.”4

By the 1850s in Paris and other major cities, shops proliferated. The merchandise in their windows wasn’t available to everyone, but a dream vision of commodities was open to view for any passerby. As the stores grew more elaborate, they needed artists to give their wares taste and charm. Minnelli’s various twentieth-century occupations – window decorator, fashion photographer, picture-palace showman, Broadway designer, movie director – are symptomatic for that need, charting an aesthete’s progress through the next century’s industrialized capitalism. In the late 1940s, when Minnelli’s career at MGM was firmly established, Orson Welles complained that Hollywood had developed a “merchant’s eye,” devoting itself to “lovingly evaluating texture, the screen being filled as a window is dressed in a swank department store.”5 Minnelli was among the chief exponents of that technique. Significantly, he once directed a charming comedy about a costume designer, Designing Woman (1957), and one of his dramas, The Cobweb (1955), involves a crisis in a mental institution when new drapes are selected for the common room.

Famous as a designer/director on Broadway, Minnelli briefly went to Hollywood in the late 1930s, spending an uneventful time as an ‘idea man’ at Paramount. Soon after returning to New York, he was invited back to California by producer Arthur Freed, who assembled a unit of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley artists at MGM, the most successful and star-filled of the film studios. Freed gathered a formidable array of talent, plus the biggest library of scores and show tunes in Hollywood, and his unit would soon become the world’s preeminent source of musical films. Minnelli’s first assignment as a feature director, however, was unusual: the low-budget, black-cast musical Cabin in the Sky (1943), produced at a time when the US government was encouraging Hollywood to increase minority representation. It starred Ethel Waters and Lena Horne, with whom Minnelli had worked in New York, and it gave the studio the confidence to put him in charge of the richly budgeted Meet Me in St. Louis, a nostalgic, war-time hit featuring one of Judy Garland’s best performances (she would soon become Minnelli’s wife) and a memorable collection of songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane; this film was a tour de force of design, color, and graceful camera movement, and it secured Minnelli’s position at MGM.

Minnelli would go on to make a dozen pictures with Freed and many non-musicals for other producers. He was admired by the studio, but sometimes had to quarrel with his bosses or accept uninteresting films in exchange for projects he wanted. A master of glamorous, grandly designed productions, he required the talents of singers, dancers, composers, and a large technical staff. He also depended on the star system. Some of his best work would not have succeeded without such players as Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Holliday, Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Spencer Tracy, Kirk Douglas, and Robert Mitchum. His last films, made after he left MGM and as the old studio method of production was ending, seem the remnants of a bygone era. He needed the film factory as much as it needed him.

(3) Gigi (Vincente Minnelli, 1958)

An interesting feature of Minnelli’s career is that he was among the few classic Hollywood auteurs who specialized in more than one genre. He’s usually associated with three types of films: musicals, comedies, and melodramas. But Hollywood genres bleed into one another. Minnelli’s musicals are also comedies, and most of his pictures have a mixture of tones and emotional effects. The Clock (1945) has been described as a melodrama, but it feels more like a poignant comedy of young marriage. The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1963) is classified as a comedy, but it has a musical episode and an emotional crisis involving a boy and a goldfish that is as powerful as any scene in a family melodrama. Minnelli was also assigned a few pictures that don’t fit neatly into the three main categories, among them a film noir, Undercurrent (1946), and a remake of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962). With the qualified exception of Some Came Running (1958) and Home from the Hill (1960), he never made films associated with male action (notice the mutual instability and etymological relation of ‘gender’ and ‘genre’); and in those two pictures, the plots are chiefly centered on neurotic family relationships and social-class conflicts. In fact, Home from the Hill, despite its powerful boar-hunting sequence, is a critique of patriarchy, showing the tragic consequences of ‘manliness.’

Granting the instability of narrative categories, we can nevertheless make certain generalizations about Minnelli’s favored genres. His name is most often connected with the classic Hollywood musical, but all his films in this vein are in one way or other indebted to Broadway theater: they’re adaptations of successful Broadway shows, such as Bells are Ringing (1960); tributes to major Broadway song writers, such as An American in Paris (1951); or studio-generated films inspired by Broadway hits, such as Meet Me in St. Louis, (made possible by Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!), and Gigi (made possible by Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady). One distinctive quality of these pictures is their tendency toward melancholy, as in Judy Garland’s rendition of the Christmas song in Meet Me in St. Louis, or Fred Astaire’s rendition of ‘By Myself’ in The Band Wagon. Another is Minnelli’s longstanding and only occasionally gratified desire to tell stories in balletic fashion, so that dance and narrative are completely fused. The ‘girl hunt’ ballet in The Band Wagon originated in an idea he had unsuccessfully suggested to Paramount in the late 1930s. His most ambitious achievement of the kind is the climactic ballet in An American in Paris, which MGM allowed him to film only because of the international success of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s British-made The Red Shoes (1948).

On the other hand, Minnelli’s non-musical comedies, except for I Dood It (1943), an early assignment he probably hated, have a good deal in common with the rise of family-centered ‘situation comedy’ on American TV during the 1950s and 60s. Father of the Bride (1950), the most successful comedy in MGM history, was followed by a sequel and then by a short-lived TV series; The Long, Long Trailer (1954) was a vehicle for TV’s Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz; and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father led to a long-running TV show. Perhaps because they were made at MGM, none of these films are sex farces or verbal comedies in the manner of Lubitsch, Sturges, or Wilder (Goodbye, Charlie (1964), a sex farce produced at 20th-Century Fox soon after Minnelli left MGM, is uncharacteristic and relatively disappointing). In most cases, they’re gently satiric depictions of consumer culture and middle-class family life. Even when they take place at higher levels of society, as in Designing Woman and The Reluctant Debutante (1958), they contain little witty dialog; instead, they depend on slapstick or sight gags, usually performed in realist but very funny style by actors like Spencer Tracy, Gregory Peck, or Rex Harrison rather than by comedians. (Minnelli had to struggle with MGM to cast Tracy in Father of the Bride, because the studio wanted the famous comic Jack Benny.)

Minnelli’s twelve dramatic films can also be positioned historically, as symptoms of Hollywood’s turn toward quasi-Freudian, psychological pictures in the years after World War II. Douglas Sirk at Universal was often associated with this type of film, but Minnelli had special interest in a subcategory of psychological fiction that might be termed ‘art melodrama,’ which deals with the relationship between neurosis and artistic imagination. His ideal protagonist in the melodramas is usually an artist of one kind or another – an actor, dancer, writer, director, or painter – and even when not an artist, as in Madame Bovary (1949) and Tea and Sympathy (1956), she or he is a sensitive person caught between an imaginary world of beauty, romance, and erotic fulfillment and a real world of money, bourgeois convention, and sordid sex. The distinctive tone of Minnellian melodrama rises out of the protagonist’s frustrated attempt to sublimate desire into art and transform the real with the imaginary. This project is doomed, but it provides the films with an impressive stylistic ‘excess’ or melodramatic delirium. It also makes the artist a lonely figure. We occasionally feel this loneliness in the more optimistic musicals, which transform the world through song and dance, but in the melodramas the characters never fully reconcile life and imagination. Especially in such films as The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Lust for Life (1956), and Two Weeks in Another Town (1962), Minnelli seems to recognize that the utopian force of art can never transcend its social and psychological circumstances. The melodramas are therefore the most revealing examples of his work – the place where the paradoxes and contradictions of his aestheticism become apparent.

(4) The Pirate (Vincente Minnelli, 1948)

Like all the auteurs in classic Hollywood, Minnelli’s personal style is identifiable in whatever type of film he made. Although I’ve described him as a ‘show window’ artist, his films are mostly free of commercial tie-ins. He nevertheless seems to think of the screen as a window onto a colorful, expensive, and slightly heightened world. Even when he depicts impoverished settings such as the black household in Cabin in the Sky, the sleazy apartment of Lana Turner in The Bad and the Beautiful, or the Borinage coal mines in Lust for Life, his imagery is slightly ‘against nature,’ and highly sensitive to décor, light, or color. Unusually attentive to women’s costumes, he differs from a fetishist like Sternberg in his supreme awareness of how clothing behaves in motion: Jennifer Jones waltzing around a ballroom in Madame Bovary in a ravishing white gown with a neurotic, artificial bird atop its bodice; Leslie Caron in Gigi, stopping conversation in Maxim’s when she removes a cape to reveal an over-the-shoulder creation; Kay Kendall in The Reluctant Debutante, bursting into a sedate office wearing a flamboyant red hat and coat; and Lana Turner in The Bad and the Beautiful, spinning through a maelstrom as lights flash across her mink stole. In the dream sequence of Yolanda and the Thief (1945), Fred Astaire is surrounded by washerwomen who trap him in a maze of colorful sheets; when he escapes, he encounters a Daliesque figure covered by windswept veils; the scene is almost abstract, as if Minnelli were fascinated with the movement of pure fabric and drapery.

From the beginning of his career, Minnelli was a great colorist and a clever manipulator of the storehouse of art and fashion, often ‘quoting’ or updating familiar sources, occasionally using them for pastiche and parody. Meet Me in St. Louis evokes the paintings of Thomas Eakins, Yolanda and the Thief quotes the illustrations of Ludwig Bemelmans, The Bad and the Beautiful alludes to Garbo’s historical pictures, Lust for Life turns French landscape into a copy of Van Gogh, and Gigi often resembles drawings by SEM. (Sometimes Minnelli alludes to himself, as in the movie theater marquees in the background of a few films, the movie posters on a fence in The Band Wagon, the ‘Drop that Name’ number in Bells are Ringing, and the crazed driving scene in Two Weeks in Another Town, which replays The Bad and the Beautiful with Kirk Douglas instead of Lana Turner behind the wheel.) He repeatedly borrows from three Parisian artistic formations that have an underlying affinity: the decorative art nouveau of the 1880s, the early modernism of the impressionist and post-impressionist painters, and the dream visions of the surrealists. All three of these formations are romantic, aestheticized, and ‘dreamy’; but of the three, surrealism was probably the most important for Minnelli, whose films not only allude to surrealist painters but also burst into remarkable oneiric passages, such as the Halloween sequence in Meet Me in St. Louis, the nightmare in Father of the Bride, the berserk carnival in Some Came Running, and the mythic boar hunt in Home from the Hill. The corollary to these scenes are the many occasions in which he creates a frenzied vortices of movement: the swirling camera as servants break windows in Madame Bovary, the spinning automobiles in The Bad and the Beautiful and Two Weeks in Another Town, and the swirls of paint in the close-up views of Van Gogh’s canvases in Lust for Life.

Almost every Minnelli film has a big party scene – even The Long, Long Trailer, in which a crowd of party goers stumble over each other inside the trailer. (Minnelli almost took his name off Two Weeks in Another Town because of the way MGM and producer John Houseman cut material out of the decadent, dolce-vita style party near the film’s climax.) In these moments, as in the Penn Station crowds of The Clock and the Manhattan streets of Bells are Ringing, he’s an impressive director of large groups of skillfully individuated and dressed extras. In intimate sequences involving only a couple of actors, he’s equally good at blocking the action and devising small bits of business (notice the after-the-party scene between Dick Powell and Gloria Grahame in The Bad and the Beautiful). Most of all, however, he can be identified by eloquent camera movement, especially with movement involving the camera crane, a technology Hollywood had developed in the 1930s for use in musicals. When Minnelli shows directors at work in The Bad and the Beautiful and Two Weeks in Another Town, they’re atop camera cranes, guiding actors like generals deploying troops. He often uses the crane not only to preserve the uncut unity of the mise-en-scène, but also to exploit big sets and heighten emotional intensity. The important point, however, is that in all his films, the sets, costumes, performances, and camera movements work together to create a recognizable Minnellian ‘world.’ Artificial as this world might seem, its narrative power and strange beauty are undeniable.

(5) Two Weeks in Another Town (Vincente Minnelli, 1962)

Minnelli did most of his work in a period before rock and roll, before videocassette recorders, and before cineplexes; he was a product of modernity, but we cannot help seeing him through a ‘postmodern’ lens. In the age of electronic reproduction, his surviving pictures begin to seem like found objects, washed up on the shores of history, possessing implications that neither he nor MGM intended. We know, for instance, that The Pirate was one of Hollywood’s first self-conscious exercises in camp. Speaking of the S. N. Behrman play upon which the film was based, Minnelli has remarked, “It was great camp, an element that hadn’t been intentionally used in films… I say intentionally.”6 But when we look at The Pirate today, we cannot tell exactly how much of its effect was deliberate. The film was made by the old studio system (or by what Andrew Ross describes as a “disempowered mode of production”), and it automatically invites a later audience to engage in a whole new range of ironic readings.7

Critics need to be aware of these problems, but they can never transcend them. Criticism is always governed by a fluctuating consensus about what artistic texts signify. For example, the most intelligent American reviewers of Minnelli’s early films, who were guided by the dominant critical values of their day, tended to describe Minnelli as a poetic humanist. James Agee and Manny Farber, writing respectively for the Nation and the New Republic, were attracted to the passionate heightening of sentimental, ‘everyday’ situations in Meet Me in St. Louis and The Clock; at the same time, they were put off by the studioish look of both films. Farber noted that The Clock was “dominated with the desire to be neatly pleasant and pretty,” and he completely dismissed the story as the kind of “sensation-filled, laugh-hungry, coincidence-ridden affair a gag writer would invent.”8 For his part, Agee speculated that “Minelli [sic] does not discriminate very clearly between the good in his work or the not-so-good or the downright bad which in part he puts into it and which is in part forced on him.”9

As we might expect, the French in the fifties and sixties debated about whether Minnelli was an auteur or simply a metteur-en-scène; in fact, a controversy over this issue, centering chiefly on Lust for Life, provoked André Bazin into writing a famous rebuke of his younger colleagues, where he pointed to the “genius of the system.”10 Even the most devoted of the auteurists were divided over Minnelli. For some, he was a sly satirist of the ‘American way of life’; for others, he was a talented hack. One proponent of the former view was Jean Domarchi, who described The Bad and the Beautiful as an attack on American capitalism, directed by a sort of latter day Balzac: “If the Hollywood un-American Activities investigation had had any sense,” Domarchi wrote, it would have put Minnelli on the blacklist, rather than “those admirable but infinitely less dangerous directors like Dassin, Losey, or Berry.”11 During a 1961 roundtable discussion at Cahiers, Jacques Rivette took an opposite position: “When you extend the politique des auteurs to people like Minnelli or ten other American filmmakers, it becomes an aberration… When you talk about Minnelli the first thing to do is talk about the screenplay, because he always subordinates his talent to something else.”12

Only a few months after Rivette’s statement, Jean Douchet responded with an elaborate, protostructuralist interpretation of Minnelli’s entire oeuvre. According to Douchet, “Each Minnelli character pursues, in effect, an inner dream… Each one wishes to surround himself [sic] with a set which bears the mark of what he is, what he loves, what he desires… But when the dream assumes a body, it finds itself for this very reason subjected to contingency.”13 The key to Minnelli’s world, Douchet argued, was the way sets or ‘dreams’ came into conflict. In a subsequent article for Objectif, he claimed that The Long, Long Trailer was an ‘exemplary’ case in point: “Our heroes realize their dreams of conjugal felicity by buying a mobile ‘home,’ an immense trailer painted an aggressive yellow. How this itinerant touch of yellow clashes with the decor of the landscape; how the external world penetrates this home and ravages everything.”14 Despite Douchet’s analysis, however, other cineasts (including François Truffaut) remained unimpressed. Jean-Louis Comolli charged that Minnelli’s attention to sets and art direction was “only an effort at mise-en-scène”;15 and in 1965, Jean-André Fieschi commented, “When you read an interview with Minnelli – a nice man, but he doesn’t have much to say – and then an interview with John Houseman, who produced Minnelli’s films, it’s obvious that the auteur is not Minnelli but Houseman.”16

(6) Lust for Life (Vincente Minnelli, 1956)

Virtually everyone who has written about Minnelli describes him as a paradoxical phenomenon, partly a servant of the industry and partly an unorthodox stylist. Some writers explain the paradox as a ‘deep-structural’ effect of American ideology, and others as a sign of the director’s own divided attitude toward his material. In either case, Minnelli is usually regarded as both a conformist and an individual, both a company man and an artist. Like every other celebrated American director, Minnelli was an ‘author’ or creative agent who sometimes had a good deal of power within the studio system; at the same time, he was created by a variety of cultural, historical, and social forces. Analysis of his work must therefore take into account all the factors I have been trying to describe, including the division of labor in the film business, the contradictions in the worldview of individual artists, and the multitude of uses consumers can find for what they see. We should not ignore the nuances of Minnelli’s style or the ideological aims of Hollywood, but we should remember that aesthetic pleasure is negotiated at a social level, and that meaning is always up for grabs.

  • 1Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions (New York: Dutton, 1968), 102.
  • 2Ibid.
  • 3Ibid., 101.
  • 4Quoted in Rosalind Williams, Dreamworlds: Mass Consumption in Late Nineteenth-Century France (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982), 119.
  • 5Quoted in James Naremore, The Magic World of Orson Welles (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1989), 121.
  • 6Vincente Minnelli and Hector Acre, I Remember It Well (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974), 164.
  • 7Andrew Ross, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 1989), 139.
  • 8Manny Farber, ‘Dream Furlough,’ New Republic (May 21, 1945), 709.
  • 9James Agee, Agee on Film, vol. I (New York: McDowell, Obolensky, 1958), 166.
  • 10André Bazin, ‘On the politiques des auteurs,’ in Cahiers du Cinéma: The 1950s, ed. Jim Hiller (Camebridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985), 248-260.
  • 11Jean Domarchi, ‘Knife in the Wound,’ in Cahiers: 1950s, ed. Hiller, 243-4.
  • 12Quoted in Jim Hiller, ed., Cahiers du Cinéma: The 1960s (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), 2-3.
  • 13Quoted by T.L. French, ‘The Comedies,’ in Bleeker St. Cinema, The Films of Vincente Minnelli, 88.
  • 14Quoted, ibid., 88.
  • 15Quoted, ibid., 89.
  • 16Jim Hiller, ed., Cahiers du Cinéma: The 1960s (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), 198.

James Naremore made this adaptation of his book The Films of Vincente Minnelli (Cambridge University Press, 1993) for Sabzian.

Many thanks to James Naremore


Image (1) Vincente Minnelli on the set of Yolanda and the Thief (1945)

Image (2) from Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944)

Image (3) from Gigi (Vincente Minnelli, 1958)

Image (4) from The Pirate (Vincente Minnelli, 1948)

Image (5) from Two Weeks in Another Town (Vincente Minnelli, 1962)

Image (6) from Lust for Life (Vincente Minnelli, 1956)

In Passage, Sabzian invites film critics, authors, filmmakers and spectators to send a text or fragment on cinema that left a lasting impression.
Pour Passage, Sabzian demande à des critiques de cinéma, auteurs, cinéastes et spectateurs un texte ou un fragment qui les a marqués.
In Passage vraagt Sabzian filmcritici, auteurs, filmmakers en toeschouwers naar een tekst of een fragment dat ooit een blijvende indruk op hen achterliet.
The Prisma section is a series of short reflections on cinema. A Prisma always has the same length – exactly 2000 characters – and is accompanied by one image. It is a short-distance exercise, a miniature text in which one detail or element is refracted into the spectrum of a larger idea or observation.
La rubrique Prisma est une série de courtes réflexions sur le cinéma. Tous les Prisma ont la même longueur – exactement 2000 caractères – et sont accompagnés d'une seule image. Exercices à courte distance, les Prisma consistent en un texte miniature dans lequel un détail ou élément se détache du spectre d'une penséée ou observation plus large.
De Prisma-rubriek is een reeks korte reflecties over cinema. Een Prisma heeft altijd dezelfde lengte – precies 2000 tekens – en wordt begeleid door één beeld. Een Prisma is een oefening op de korte afstand, een miniatuurtekst waarin één detail of element in het spectrum van een grotere gedachte of observatie breekt.
Jacques Tati once said, “I want the film to start the moment you leave the cinema.” A film fixes itself in your movements and your way of looking at things. After a Chaplin film, you catch yourself doing clumsy jumps, after a Rohmer it’s always summer, and the ghost of Akerman undeniably haunts the kitchen. In this feature, a Sabzian editor takes a film outside and discovers cross-connections between cinema and life.
Jacques Tati once said, “I want the film to start the moment you leave the cinema.” A film fixes itself in your movements and your way of looking at things. After a Chaplin film, you catch yourself doing clumsy jumps, after a Rohmer it’s always summer, and the ghost of Akerman undeniably haunts the kitchen. In this feature, a Sabzian editor takes a film outside and discovers cross-connections between cinema and life.
Jacques Tati zei ooit: “Ik wil dat de film begint op het moment dat je de cinemazaal verlaat.” Een film zet zich vast in je bewegingen en je manier van kijken. Na een film van Chaplin betrap je jezelf op klungelige sprongen, na een Rohmer is het altijd zomer en de geest van Chantal Akerman waart onomstotelijk rond in de keuken. In deze rubriek neemt een Sabzian-redactielid een film mee naar buiten en ontwaart kruisverbindingen tussen cinema en leven.