March 27, 2007

Shorts, 3/27.

Cahiers: Don't Touch the Axe Those who've taken to reading e-Cahiers du Cinéma can supplement this month's cover package on Jacques Rivette's Don't Touch the Axe with a new round of additions to Order of the Exile, which include Rivette's "Letter on Rossellini," new, or rather, vintage interviews and essays, all of which can, of course, be savored with or without the Cahiers.

"The most profound artistic statement made on music's new role in post-war, post-modern America did not come from a musician or writer," writes Eric Harvey at Pitchfork. "It came from Alfred Hitchcock, who in the 1950s was entering what would become the most significant creative peak of any American-based film director. Rear Window is frequently cited as one of his greatest works, but conversations regarding its profound social comment are typically restricted to voyeurism. There is, of course, plenty to talk about in that regard, but Hitchcock's incorporation of popular music into every square inch of the film's imagined urban courtyard setting adds intriguing depth and complexity to the conversation."

So Bill Clinton was talking about his favorite TV shows the other night, as Paul J Gough tells us in the Hollywood Reporter, and he made a few headlines when he included 24 on his list, adding, "even though an uber right-wing guy writes it." As it happens, the November 3rd Club has been engaged in a lively debate over 24 ever since the appearance of Jane Mayer's profile of the show's co-creator and executive producer, Joel Surnow in the New Yorker last month.

"Martin Scorsese is looking to direct Leonardo DiCaprio in the film adaptation of Jordan Belfort's upcoming tell-all autobiography The Wolf of Wall Street for Warner Bros Pictures, with The Sopranos scribe Terence Winter aboard to write," reports Pamela McClintock for Variety. Also, McClintock and Michael Fleming report that Darren Aronofsky may direct Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon in a boxing picture.

Revolutionary Road Speaking of adaptations (and DiCaprio), Michael Tully writes an open letter to Sam Mendes: "Please don't do it."

"Ricky Gervais has finally signed up for his first leading role in an American movie," reports Time Out's Chris Tilly.

"A forthcoming film about Adolf Hitler's would-be assassin has sparked criticism from the dead man's family," reports the Guardian. "Descendants of Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg object to the choice of Tom Cruise for the lead role, fearing that the story will be turned into 'propaganda' for the actor's Scientology beliefs."


  • More than a little perturbed by La Vie en Rose, Agnès Poirier argues that biopics "often come up at a time of national drought of imagination and inventiveness, revealing reactionary politics and cultural emptiness, if not downright ridicule."

  • Michael Billington talks with Christopher Hampton, who's written the screenplay for the adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement "as well as an original script about Tokyo Rose, the Japanese-American woman trapped in Tokyo during the second world war and later tried by the Americans for treason on totally trumped-up charges. But the really cheering news is that Hampton has lately rediscovered his passion for theater."

  • "Why is there increasingly such a gulf between prominent female public figures and the way they are portrayed in films?" asks Barbara Ellen. "One might even argue that there is a growing trend for the neutering of halfway interesting female characters in film and the first step is always wilfully inappropriate casting. Not just in the case of [Renée] Zellweger and [Beatrix] Potter, but also with Jane Austen and the recent movie, Becoming Jane."

Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein take indieWIRE's questions on The Prisoner, or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair.

"Adam Curtis and BBC2 deserve much credit for keeping alive the idea of the ambitious, single-voice television essay," writes Max Steuer in a piece on The Trap for Prospect. "But there is something deeply worrying when the style of debate we are given plays with ideas without understanding them, and exploits our fascination with conspiracies."

Sacco and Vanzetti "The story of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti remains a clarion call for strict judicial oversight and the fierce protection of civil liberties." Annie Anderson for In These Times on Peter Miller's new documentary Sacco and Vanzetti.

"It's interesting to speculate about what a plagiarized film would be," proposes David Bordwell.

"To be honest, when I first set out to write this essay, I figured, 'I'll keep it real and drop bombs on Gandhi,'" admits Reihan Salam in Slate. "But watching the film again, I was struck by how much of it I remembered vividly. It's difficult to overstate Gandhi's impact on my life and on the world. Even now, veterans of the anti-apartheid movement praise the movie as an inspiration, and high-minded do-gooders have dubbed an Arabic version for screening across the West Bank. While Gandhi isn't about to bring peace to the Middle East, it's actually a pretty great movie."

"One of the most pleasurable movies I own," writes Girish, "is Alain Resnais's romantic-musical comedy On Connaît La Chanson (1997), in which Resnais, as an homage to Dennis Potter, uses French pop songs that actors lip-sync to."

The Burmese Harp Among the DVDs Dave Kehr reviews this week: Resnais's Muriel and Kon Ichikawa's The Burmese Harp. Also in the New York Times: "The professor is first impressed with Liu's brilliance and diligence but turns against him when he begins to pursue a project that goes against his mentor's favorite theory. He pulls the rug out from Liu's doctoral thesis, meaning that the student will have to leave school and seek a job without his degree. Instead Liu, played by Ye Liu, gets a gun." Dennis Overbye looks into the real-life parallels behind the story told in Dark Matter, winner of the Alfred P Sloan Prize at Sundance.

Vibhuti Patel talks with Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The Namesake, about Mira Nair's adaptation. Also in Outlook India, Namrata Joshi: "In the book vs film debate, my vote goes to the book but the film too holds its own." And for Time Out, Ben Walters interviews Nair.

"Maybe only a German could make a film about these events, the oracles say, now that the film has been screened in Poland." Signandsight translates Fritz Göttler's piece for the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Volker Schlöndorff's Strajk. "He didn't want to make a docu-drama, he says, but a heroic ballad. And this is where the problem lies, the straightforwardness of his storytelling, the result of his intense engagement. We encountered this in The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum. And it's just as vexing here, because it lacks the moments of inconsistency on which cinema - which never renounces its Brechtian tradition - thrives."

Ruedigar Suchsland talks with German writer and director Anne Wild for Cineuropa.

La Belle Captive "La Belle Captive is a brilliantly constructed mystery," writes Mike at Esotika Erotica Psychotica, "meticulously elliptical, repeatedly coming back to the same semi-ending... [Alain] Robbe-Grillet drops many clues, some of them add up to something, others just create more confusion."

Vince Keenan watches all four films in the Michael Shayne Collection in rapid succession: "Concocting disguises that fool no one like a proto-Fletch, tossing off sharp lines, engaging in deft physical comedy while still coming across as a man who can handle himself, [Lloyd] Nolan essentially creates the modern PI template out of whole cloth."

There'll be a DVD in May, notes Mike Russell, "But the biggest treat is getting a chance to discover, on a big screen, that Becket contains some hot-blooded, laugh-out-loud scene-chews by two of the greatest, drunkest actors in film history, Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton."

"Re-Animator is such a fierce, energetic, high-flying concoction that every aspect of it feels like a well-tuned joke - from its timeless, TV-tinged university setting to the iconic acting to the balls-out comic gore, which predated Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2 by a few years, and in any case set a new standard for discomfiting dismemberment satire," writes Michael Atkinson. Also: "Scabrous fun of a newer stripe, ?lex de la Iglesia's The Perfect Crime has this nasty Spaniard, in a crowd of nasty Spaniards, going more and more glitzily commercial." And also at IFC News, "Small Town Noir," An annotated list from Matt Singer and Alison Willmore.

"Which classic film would you most like to see given a proper DVD restoration?" asks C Jerry Kutner of "all you bloggers and cinephiles out there" at Bright Lights After Dark. His own answer: "The 1936 Alexander Korda production of Things To Come. Story and screenplay by HG Wells. Designed and directed by the brilliant William Cameron Menzies." The current version floating around, he argues, simply will not do.

J Robert Parks on The Lives of Others: "It's not that I believe people can't change, but this middle-brow film makes it sound like all you need is just to meet the right people. The movie even posits with a straight face that anyone who truly loves music can't be bad. Excuse me if I'm reminded of the great Simpsons quote about Sideshow Bob, 'No one who speaks German can be an evil man.'"

"After the Wedding is the weakest of the films nominated for the 2006 Foreign-Language Film Oscar," writes Robert Cashill. "But it's still pretty good, and the final proof of a strong year for that category."

"If talk about the best contemporary screen actresses wasn't pretty much limited to those who speak English, Moon [So-ri] would be considered as good, if not better than a number of her Anglo-American peers," writes Peter Nellhaus.

Peppermint Candy At Zoom In Online, Reid Rosefelt recommends the "searing, devastating" Peppermint Candy: "While there is no question that knowledge of Korean history adds resonance to the movie, pretty much anything you need to know is woven into the story of the film."

"Ah, Eurospy flicks," sighs David Austin at Cinema Strikes Back. "Cheap, cheerful, colorful, silly – cinematic Froot Loops for the soul. And they don't come much goofier than the Kommissar X films."

Nick Dawson talks with Color Me Kubrick director Brian Cook for Filmmaker; on the blog, he adds a couple of extras, too.

Also: Scott Macaulay quotes enthusiastically from Joshua Holland's Alternet interview with Maxed Out director James Scurlock.

Whatever happened to San Francisco's 17 Reasons sign - and how did it end up on The L Word? Jenni Olson has the story at OurChart.

The Advocate: Derek Magyar "Should Film Festivals Out Their Problem Guests?" AJ Schnack has very mixed feelings about this - and two stories to tell as well. Gives him reason, too, to point to David Jay Lasky's profile of Derek Magyar for the Advocate.

More fests:

Look at all those Blog-a-Thons. Edward Copeland marks up his calendar.

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema Online listening tip. Slavoj Zizek and Sophie Fiennes discuss The Pervert's Guide to Cinema on Open Source. Via Fimoculous.

Online viewing tip #1. Meeting Paul Verhoeven, Jamie Stuart extends his exploration of alternatives to the tired and worn junket interview by "handing the reigns to a chirpy and obscenely animated E!-style news chick," as Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay puts it. Related: Jeff GP at the Six-Reel Shuffle on Black Book.

Online viewing tip #2. DVblog: "Elegant, witty & revealing re-edit of Hawks's His Girl Friday by Valentin Spirik."

Online viewing tips. Via wood s lot, three 50-minute BBC docs at Continental Philosophy from a series called Human All Too Human: Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre.

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Posted by dwhudson at March 27, 2007 9:26 AM