November 2, 2006

Shorts, 11/2.

Tacita Dean: Sound Mirrors "[Tacita] Dean's fidelity to 16-mm film and its bulky, outmoded apparatus, as digital technology quickly renders them obsolete, defines her art and her outlook; the materiality of the medium seems a bulwark against a fast-advancing future where imagery is insubstantial, endlessly transmutable, there but not there," writes James Quandt. "Dean is no loon or Luddite in her lost-cause allegiance to celluloid. As the poet of imperiled sites, abandoned dwellings, defunct technology, and architectural relics, she is at once an English romantic, an aesthetic descendant of Turner, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Michael Powell, and a recalcitrant materialist."

Also in Artforum, Tom Vanderbilt: "Our Daily Bread is quite shocking, though not, as might be expected, for scenes of horrific carnage and the squeals of dying animals; nor for the plight of the workers, who do not seem to suffer unduly; but rather for the bloodless sterility and antiseptic hush that prevail.... In the realm of the wordless visual essay, [Nikolaus] Geyrhalter is the anti-Godfrey Reggio: instead of sweeping shots of epic, backbreaking human labor set to an urgently pulsating minimalist score, he gives us confined shots of clinical work enveloped by a claustrophobic silence."

Blood Diamond "All along, the real question behind the scenes of Blood Diamond - an action-adventure pic set against the backdrop of civil war and chaos in the diamond-mining center of 1990s Sierra Leone, starring Leo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou, directed by Ed Zwick and produced by Paula Weinstein - is not whether it will be an Oscar contender (probably) or a critics' favorite (possibly)," writes Nikki Finke. "It's just how much mud the World Diamond Council and its flacks and flunkies and friends are planning to throw at the well-intentioned film and its too-liberal-for-the-room credits. Now the answer is clear: a lot, more than enough to dirty its awards chances."

The Films of James Broughton Also in the LA Weekly, Paul Malcolm: "The three discs that make up Facet's collection, The Films of James Broughton, reveal the work of a film poet whose passions - spiritual, carnal and aesthetic - grew stronger and wilder over the course of a 40-year career." And Tom Charity recommends The Pusher Trilogy.

"It only takes a few minutes of watching Iraq in Fragments to recognize that the film stands apart from the Iraqumentary pack: dazzling cinematography in place of the dull visuals of the evening news, slice-of-life narration instead of talking heads," writes Max Goldberg, who interviews director James Longley.

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

David Lowery: "What Steven Shainberg has set out to do with Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus is free the biopic from the shackles of literal history. Within the limits of that end, the film is an unqualified success. Beyond the confines of grand intentions, one runs into some problems - but nonetheless, I've done enough damning of the traditional biopic (no need to name names) that I can't help but embrace this picture."

Perfume Nathan Rabin at the AV Club Blog: "Perfume is a terrible, terrible film that everyone should see and will haunt me until the day I die."

How Capote broke Bogart's arm and more at SF360. Also, Dennis Harvey: "Excellent Cadavers opines that Italy is now sunk as deep as ever in Mafia business - an 'organic part of the political order' which the current State allows to (quietly) flourish anew by simply ignoring. This documentary has its flaws, but it's still an education."

"Some critics argue that she is always playing the same role: neurotic, chain-smoking, put upon farm wife with a penchant for carnality, or some variation on this type, but for my money, [Jessica] Lange is arguably the finest living actress of our time." And Matt Mazur forges straight ahead into making that argument. Also at PopMatters, Ian Murphy: "The King is Alive may well represent the most successful and overlooked Dogme outing to date."

Two fresh Old Joy interviews:

Old Joy

  • For Filmmaker, James Ponsoldt asks Kelly Reichardt: "When people talk about the politics of Old Joy, they tend to speak about the left-wing talk radio broadcasts the characters listen to in the car. But do you think the aesthetics of your film - the minimalism of its design and execution, or the fact that it's simply a depiction of two men - is equally 'political' in its content?"

  • And for Stop Smiling, Michael Joshua Rowin asks Will Oldham: "The scene at the campfire, when Kurt relates his theory of a 'tear-shaped universe' and then forlornly tells Mark that he misses him and that there's something between them - this is the most emotional moment of the film to me, and one of the most emotional moments I've seen in a film in some time. How did you prepare to get to the energy of that scene?"

Also just up from the Fall issue of Filmmaker: Sandi Dubowski talks with John Cameron Mitchell about Shortbus, Chris Campion introduces us to Dutch filmmaker Cyrus Frisch, "a reluctant enfant terrible," and Laura Davies meets the founders of Withoutabox, which "has simplified the festival-submission process in just a few years of operation, saving filmmakers hundreds of hours of laborious envelope-stuffing and form-filing."

Doug Cummings on Who's Camus Anyway?: "For a story as simple as a film student project and as sugar-coated for cinephile consumption as it is, [Mitsuo] Yanagimachi remains true to his career-long propensity for asking questions rather than offering answers, and the film's disquieting climax lingers long after it ends."

Wiley Wiggins on Manhattan, Kansas: "It's such a wonderful example of a person picking up a camera, asking for technical help and emotional support, and then stepping out of their comfort zone to heal themselves and invite viewers into their life. I think it should be on everyone's viewing list. It's honest, full of life."

Ray Pride at Movie City Indie: "The only movies that are 'downers' for me are ones that are badly mad or poorly observed, and while dealing with hopelessness and haplessness, Down to the Bone is uplifting for its minor-key yet majestic feats of empathy.... [Debra] Granik's movie is a feat of listening, and a feat of watching as well."

The Rules of the Game "If you imagine a world where the films of Bergman, Truffaut, Altman, Mike Leigh and Woody Allen (among others) don't yet exist, you can begin to understand the prodigious influence of this movie," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "I think that describing Rules of the Game as an angry indictment of the pre-war European class system, as many critics do, is a little misleading.... [T]he experience of watching the film is not didactic, and it never feels laden with heavy-duty social commentary.... Renoir was able to transcend his own perspective, his own prejudices, and glimpse something of the terror and wonder of human life, the pain of misapplied or rejected love, for rich as for poor." More from Armond White in the New York Press.

And more O'Hehir: Soap, "latest in a parade of gender-bender romantic comedies from the current generation of European directors," Unknown and: "You may well decide that the back-to-the-land hippies who founded the Black Bear Ranch in the late 60s, deep in the remote forests of Siskiyou County, Calif, were nuts. But, at least in Jonathan Berman's film Commune, there's no disputing their courage."

indieWIRE interviews Romántico director Mark Becker. Related: Stephen Holden's review in the New York Times.

Also in the NYT, Jeannette Catsoulis on As the Call, So the Echo, "Keir Moreano's muted yet moving record of his father's experience as a volunteer doctor in Vietnam, documents a journey that's substantially more philosophical than medical."

"Given the rapid changes in attitudes towards homosexuality, and film culture's apparent influence on and reflection of that evolution, talking to queer film-makers about their unique perspective seemed a great idea for a book," writes Matthew Hays. "My publishers agreed." Hence, The View from Here: Conversations with Gay and Lesbian Filmmakers.

Also in the Guardian:

West Wing

  • Mark Lawson tracks the amazingly rapid rise of the TV show on DVD box sets. More from Lucy Mangan: "Confessions of a box-set binger."

  • Patrick Barkham: "An array of cheery incidents in the film Saw III could have induced the fainting fits among cinema-goers in Stevenage, Peterborough and Cambridge this week that led to 999 calls and ambulance crews racing to the scene. 'As well as collapses, we have had reports of people running screaming from the cinemas,' said Matthew Ware of the East Anglian Ambulance Trust."

  • What's an "ex-director's cut"? As Ryan Gilbey explains, it would be a version of a film by a director who was sacked during the shoot and who returns to present what would have been. Examples: Richard Donner's Superman II, Paul Schrader's The Exorcist: The Beginning and Brian Helgeland's Payback.

"First rule of box office prognostication is that it's a lot easier to predict [a film's] potential after you've seen it. And even then it's still a bitch." Nevertheless, Eric Childress gives it a shot at Hollywood Bitchslap, pinning daringly specific numbers on the full slate of releases through the end of the year.

Mike Russell talks with George Miller about Happy Feet.

You probably haven't heard of Sixty Six yet, but given how caught up Americans were this summer in the World Cup, you just might eventually. In the Independent, John Walsh talks with director Paul Weiland about the story from his childhood he was compelled to tell. More from Time Out's Chris Tilly.

Alison Willmore has news of Spike Lee's sequel to Inside Man at the IFC Blog.

Todd's got an official announcement regarding a "definitive version" of Wong Kar-Wai's Ashes of Time.

News of the up-n-coming from the Hollywood Reporter:

Speed Racer

And then there's this little order of business from Anne Thompson: "In a bold move to bolster the status of the newly configured MGM, chairman and CEO Harry Sloan announced today that he has pacted with star Tom Cruise and his Cruise Wagner Productions partner Paula Wagner, who recently left their production deal at Paramount Pictures, to take over the dormant film label United Artists."

"The point of the enterprise is to cast light on work that might not otherwise be published, and to present artists' work as it was intended to be seen." In other words, Perceval Press does what many independent publishing houses set out to do. What sets Perceval apart is that it's run by Viggo Mortensen. Janet Maslin talks with him for the New York Times.

Cineuropa's current "film focus": The Lives of Others.

Armond White on Shut Up & Sing: "There's talk about courage and death threats, and lead-singer Natalie Maines doesn't hide her loud-mouth arrogance; still, these commissioned filmmakers try maintaining truth by showing the price that is paid for audacity." Also in the NYP, Eric Kohn on Directed by John Ford: "Although there's hardly enough information to get a sense for Ford's life, Bogdonavich provides so many excerpts from the movies that the directorial talent is unmistakable."

Credit where credit's due: Comedy Central "has confirmed that it wants to find some way to keep the clips available, and has apparently given the green light for YouTube to put the material back up," reports Nate Anderson for ars technica.

Online viewing tip #1. ScreenGrab's found a 1982 horror roundtable featuring John Carpenter, David Cronenberg and John Landis.

Online viewing tip #2. Alan Smithee (him again!), reviewing Let's Get Frank for Flickhead: "In this simple four-minute clip, Barney Frank reveals himself to be the opposite of everything most people profess to hate about politicians."

Online viewing tips, round 1. Entries in the Night of the Living Dead Speed Remix Competition. Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

Online viewing tips, round 2. "When every campaign moment lands online, every regional candidate is subjected to a national referendum, and the art of audience-targeted persuasion becomes obsolete," writes Eve Fairbanks for the New Republic. "Of course, we're a long way from that dilemma. And, on the flip side, the YouTubification of politics brings local politicians who are fabulous, visionary speakers more national attention." Examples are strewn throughout the piece.

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Posted by dwhudson at November 2, 2006 3:16 PM