November 11, 2006

Weekend shorts.

Robin Wood: Hitchcock's Films "The 1965 publication of Robin Wood's Hitchcock's Films is a landmark of film criticism." So begins Armen Svadjian's introduction to an interview with Wood for Your Flesh, "conducted at Wood's apartment, over a few hours and much wine," and covering his youth and education and views on Hitchcock now, Arthur Penn, Bergman, Chabrol, Andrew Britton, "the most brilliant person I have ever come in close contact with," Hawks, Ray and more.

A few more wrinkles need to be ironed out of the system before new issues of vital journals can once again be given the attention they deserve, but for now, do note that a new symposium's up at Reverse Shot. "[W]hy De Palma?" ask editors Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert. "Perhaps because he represents a particular type of personal filmmaking that continues to divide film watchers: A cinephile's aesthetic or intellectual identity can be formed by his or her resistance to or alignment with De Palma's sensibility."

Related: Roger Clarke on the making of Carrie in the Independent, where, in a piece on The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, Sophie Fiennes tells Liz Hoggard, "I agree with Zizek when he says the true cinematic pleasure resides in the 'libidinal density of cinematic form itself', and it's actually very mysterious."

Issue 4 of Criticine, "elevating discourse on Southeast Asian cinema" and featuring reviews (of books, too) and interviews, is up.

Dave Kehr reminds us that Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies and videotape "might have been the final blow to the shaky edifice known as the Hollywood studio system.... Now, 17 years later, Mr Soderbergh is back with a movie that means to make amends.... The Good German, which Mr Soderbergh directed for Warner Brothers, reimagines what it would be like to make a movie under the studio system of old." What's perhaps most surprising about the piece is Soderbergh's praise for what Bazin once called "the genius of the system": "I often think I would have been so happy to be Michael Curtiz... That would have been right up my alley... making a couple of movies a year of all different kinds, working with the best technicians. I would have been in heaven, just going in to work every day."

Also in the New York Times:

Stranger Than Fiction

A Room for Romeo Brass "Shane Meadows could be British cinema's best-kept secret - a poet of pratting about, lippy banter, and boys doing what they're best at, which is being hopeless." That said, for Tim Robey, A Room for Romeo Brass is "still his best feature to date," while, with This is England, "his canvas is too small for the points he wants to get across."

In the LA Weekly, Nick Bradshaw talks with Richard Linklater about Fast Food Nation. So, too, does Howard Feinstein for Filmmaker. Related reviews: Michael Joshua Rowin in the L Magazine (pro) and Preston Jones in Slant (con).

"What might cause a crew revolt on a Hollywood set is really at the center of the brothers' filmmaking philosophy: They'd rather stop the machine than use it to make something that doesn't feel right." Bryan Poyser spends a night - working - on the set of the Duplass Brothers' followup to The Puffy Chair. Also in the Austin Chronicle:

"An epic tale by the celebrated Soviet-era author Mikhail Sholokhov - And Quiet Flows the Don - is being shown on Russian TV for the first time," reports the BBC. "It took more than 10 years for the film to return to Russia, after long negotiations with the Italian partners."

Waggish on Winter Wind: "The brilliance of it lies in how [Miklós] Jancsó communicates the abstract conflict between the idealists and the realpolitik sorts with pretty much no explicit political speech."

JG Ballard: Drowned World Simon Sellars asks Geoff Manaugh, "Which Ballard book would you like to see filmed?" Answer: "You're going to think I'm out of my mind, but I'd like to see Steven Spielberg direct The Drowned World - as long as he didn't add any kids to the screenplay. Or Danny Boyle film Concrete Island. Or, for that matter, Wong Kar-wai could film Concrete Island, in Chinese, set in Hong Kong. Or Shanghai - a nice bit of Ballardian symmetry there." Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

"Seconds is very ominous the first time you watch it – its whole style is very foreboding, and just builds through the whole movie," Christopher Nolan tells the Telegraph's Philip Horne. "The second time you see it, when you know where it's going, it becomes really quite unbearable at times."

Durs Grünbein recently received the Premio Internazionale di Poesia Pier Paolo Pasolini and Signandsight translates a bit of his acceptance speech: "The major question posed by Pasolini is: what does it mean to be a poet in a post-humanist world? That question is still pressing today, and eats away at every individual."

The San Francisco Bay Guardian film Goldies go to James T Hong and Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer.

"Do screenwriters really matter?" Keith Phipps and Scott Tobias discuss at the AV Club.

With an appreciation and reviews of Casino Royale from Peter Bradshaw (pro) and Tim Adams (con), the Guardian opens a special section on James Bond. Related: In the Independent, Andrew Roberts rounds up many of those who were not cast as Bond. Claudia Eller assesses Sony's gamble for the Los Angeles Times, where Mimi Avins profiles Daniel Craig. More on him from John Hiscock in the Telegraph. And a first impression from Anne Thompson.

Back in the Guardian:

  • "[Ridley] Scott, [Christopher] Nolan and [Anthony] Minghella have all become in effect American or international cinematic figures, in the way that their great predecessors Charles Chaplin (from Walworth, south London) and Alfred Hitchcock (born in Leytonstone, east London) did," notes Mark Lawson. "But is this chameleon achievement to be welcomed - an expression of cultural free trade - or is it a kind of submission to an artistic superpower?" Related: Anthony Horowitz in the New Statesman: "It is strange that while we worry about literacy and the need to read, an entire generation is growing up in complete ignorance of a rich and varied part of its own cultural heritage. How many teens could name one film by David Lean, Lindsay Anderson, Ken Loach, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock or Michael Powell - or even explain, with any degree of accuracy, what their involvement with that film actually was?"

  • Ken Russell offers his answer to the question, "What makes a good short film?"

  • Jonathan Jones : "Again and again, it is the dark side of the Disney landscape that you know him by, from the early black and white Egyptian Melodies, in which a spider crawls down a highly realistic tomb shaft beneath the Sphinx to be terrified by the spectacle of mummies having a midnight party, to the skull-shaped island, inspired by King Kong, in Peter Pan."

  • "Even for those who wonder if life might perhaps be too short to follow the fortunes of a spoof rock band, Tenacious D in 'The Pick of Destiny' is a hoot," suggests Dorian Lynskey, who asks Jack Black and Kyle Gass for "the seven steps to rock-movie success."

The Zombie Survival Guide
  • Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead and curator of the Festival of the (Living) Dead, explains why zombies, like the poor, will always be among us.

  • "[W]e can put ourselves in the place of human beings who kill themselves or die for love," writes Perfume author Patrick Süskind. "If it were not so, how could we read The Sorrows of Young Werther, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary or Effi Briest unmoved? Yet the point where empathy and understanding end and interest wanes, giving way to outright repugnance, is reached when Eros throws himself violently into the arms of Thanatos as if to merge with him, when love seeks to find its highest and purest form, indeed its fulfilment, in death."

  • Simon Callow on Gay Life and Culture: A World History: "Read Robert Aldrich's excellently edited, authoritative, accessible, highly informative and blessedly jargon-free book: weep and rejoice."

  • AL Kennedy reviews Box 18: The Unpublished Spike Milligan, edited by Norma Farnes, and Graham McCann's Spike and Co: Spike, Eric and the Golden Age of British Comedy.

  • John Patterson: "The success of Borat and the ubiquitous high-profile presence of Brits in contemporary US comedy simultaneously suggests that Americans who are able to search online for alternate, offshore sources of laughter have for a long time now been turning to the Brits. Finally, film and TV producers have caught on." Related: Kevin O'Flynn and Nabi Abdullaev in the Moscow Times on Russia's ban, Kasia Boddy at openDemocracy (spoilers galore). And "how many of Sacha Baron Cohen's gags are real, and which ones are staged? Which of Borat's victims were legitimately goofed, and which ones just played along for giggles?" David Marchese and Willa Paskin set out on a quest for Salon.

  • Ryan Gilbey interviews Hugh Jackman.

  • "[W]hy does Scarlett Johansson keep getting work?" wonders Joe Queenan.

Bill Gibron, blogging at PopMatters on The Year of the Yahoo: "[I]f you took a smattering of Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd, mixed in a smidgen of standard exploitation, and sprinkled the entire enterprise with a heaping helping of hominy and hambone, you'd have Herschell Gordon Lewis's long lost masterpiece of down home despotism and the media's unpardonable ability to influence events. With a narrative fresh out of today's headlines and a tone as cynical as a grad student's weblog, Lewis lifts the lid off the muckraking ridiculousness that is our political process, and even provides a few toe-tapping musical PSAs along the way." Also: an appreciation of Vertov from Violet Glaze and an interview with Flushed Away directors Sam Fell and David Bowers from Scott Thill.

Dance Party USA Ed Gonzalez at Slant: "A film of easy set ups and resolutions, Dance Party USA is best when observing how crisis is metabolized. The actors are great, but they don't just nail that teenage language of likes and whatevers that remains elusive to anyone old enough to remember the Nixon administration, they invest in it." Also, Highway Courtesans and, at the blog, Children of Men, "worth seeing, mainly for the way [Alfonso] Cuarón directs the mother-fucking shit out of a flimsy script."

Kristi Mitsuda: "Come Early Morning is neither a cinematic achievement nor is it highly original; but if you look closely, it's less middling and more provocative than it first appears." Related: Susan King has a backgrounder in the Los Angeles Times. At Hollywood Bitchslap, Peter Sobczynski talks with Joey Lauren Adams. New York's Logan Hill meets Ashley Judd, who's almost made Marcy Dermansky happy with this one.

You've probably heard that Park Chan-wook's next feature is a romantic comedy, I'm a Cyborg, But That's Okay. For Yonhap News, Kim Hyun listens to Park talk about it a bit: "Somehow I wanted to return to my childish dream. I wanted to make a movie that is as fresh as them and that smells like fruit. An age 12-rated movie that I can watch with my daughter."

The Weinsteins have snapped up all US rights to Wong Kar-wai's Blueberry Nights (the one with Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman).

"Hail, Mary is a film of often extraordinary feeling and tenderness—only errant flashes of which could be found in earlier Godard - but I question those critics at the time who saw the shade of orthodoxy in his approach to this material," writes Tom Sutpen at Flickhead, where Ray Young reviews Mini's First Time.

The Stop Smiling DVD roundup: Peter Bogdanovich's They All Laughed, Grigory Kozintsev's Hamlet, Warren Beatty's Reds and Harun Farocki's The Interview and Indoctrination. More on that second one from Doug Cummings: "Kozintsev sees the play as a dramatic conflict between two systems embodied by Hamlet's beloved Wittenburg, the site of his university and the center of Renaissance enlightenment, and Elsinore, the setting for the drama's corrupt and oppressive court."

Chris Sullivan talks with cinematographer Jack Cardiff about John Huston for Time Out, where Trevor Johnston talks with Bong Joon-ho.

The Philadelphia City Paper's Sam Adams talks with Kelly Reichardt and reviews Old Joy.

The Stranger's Andrew Wright talks with Amy Berg about Deliver Us From Evil.

In the London Review of Books, Michael Wood reflects on gangsters, Scorsese and Nicholson.

In the New York Review of Books, Daniel Mendelsohn considers "the many attractions, and ultimately the fatal weaknesses" of Marie Antoinette.

Filmbrain: "With the beauty of La Notte combined with the brutal honesty of films like 5x2, Climates is a masterpiece of the breakup genre (is there such a thing?), and without question one of the best films of 2006."

Following up on this, more Louise Brooks: Dan Callahan in Bright Lights, Michael Guillén at the Evening Class and Dennis Harvey at SF360.

"Jimmy Stewart deserves better than he's gotten," argues Scott Eyman in the New York Observer. "And after Marc Eliot's dismal biography, he still does."

"The resounding refrain at Digimart, held for the second year in Montreal, was that the traditional model of independent film and video distribution was dying." At SF360, Sean Uyehara presents three case studies of indie filmmakers dreaming up innovative ways of getting their films out there.

At Zoom In Online, Annie Frisbie offers three examples of the coming-of-age genre, plus a favorite, but she's looking for more.

StinkyLulu is calling a Supporting Actress Blogathon for Sunday, January 7, 2007: "You are invited to write a post about one Supporting Actress performance from 2006 that you love or find especially noteworthy."

ArtDaily: "More than 50 years after his death in 1955, James Dean is being honored with an official museum and a Performing Arts Center."

Deadline for the Slamdance Horror Screenplay Competition: December 15. Prize: An "upfront advance of $10,000 against 5 percent of the film's budget, as well as 'net' profit participation and payments for future sequels," reports Reuters.

Great new tools: Thomas Groh's Movie Magazine Search Engine and Movie Blog Search Engine.

Online browsing tip. Ray Pride has a John Fante-inspired LA portfolio at Sharkforum.

Online listening tip #1. Gottes Letztes Interview, in German, via poputten.

Online listening tip #2. A 1989 interview with the late Ellen Willis on Fresh Air.

Online listening tip #3. Jeffrey Wells talks with Lives of Others director Florian Henckel-Donnersmarck.

Online viewing tip #1. Two guys (happen to? It's hard to know what to believe these days) stumble across David Lynch's Oscar campaign for Laura Dern. Bilge Ebiri has the clip at ScreenGrab.

Online viewing tip #2. Actually, I just checked this to make sure it isn't a remake of this. It isn't.

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Posted by dwhudson at November 11, 2006 5:43 PM