April 2, 2007

Shorts, fests, etc, 4/2.

Berlin Alexanderplatz "For its first 13 episodes, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's adaptation of Alfred Döblin's 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz is most decidedly a masterpiece - this despite numerous nerve-trying flaws and longueurs that could only tickle the fancy of extended-running-time masochists like Susan Sontag," writes Keith Uhlich. "In conception, the film's two-hour epilogue is ingenious, a descent into absolute hysteria and madness wherein Biberkopf wanders through a politically and spiritually charged psychosexual dreamscape, complete with anachronistic musical cues from the likes of Janis Joplin, Lou Reed and Kraftwerk. Yet the experience of watching this intentionally incongruous coda is excruciating, and to no defensible effect beyond a shrug of the shoulders and an acknowledgement that literalizing the metaphysical is not Fassbinder's forte." Nonetheless, "certain parts of Berlin Alexanderplatz... rank with the finest work in cinema." Related: Slant's feature, "Beware of Rainer Werner Fassbinder."

"The Oyster Princess doesn't share the gracefulness, subtlety, and lightness of touch of Lubitsch's best Hollywood work (is there a more perfect romantic comedy than Trouble In Paradise?), but then it's a different kind of comedy - it explicitly characterises itself as 'grotesque' - yet one that works superbly well in its own right," writes Ian Johnston at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. Also, I Don't Want to Be a Man: "[U]ltimately any leanings there might be here to a radical reconsideration of gender roles are pretty much abandoned in favor of drawing as essentially equivalent the male and female experience of the restrictions placed on them by society."

"To tell the truth, after ten minutes of Winnequah Trail, I not only wanted to turn it off, but I was seriously thinking about a career change," David Bordwell tells Reid Rosefelt, who introduces us to Ken Schmidtke at Zoom In Online. "'Well, why didn't you turn it off?' I asked. 'I wish I could answer that,' said Bordwell. 'I just couldn't turn my eyes away from the screen. And when the first two films were over, I put on Michigan Sunset and watched it straight through." Anthony Kaufman is intrigued.

Anthony also passes on news from Variety that a bomb on the set of the film Samira Makhmalbaf is shooting in Afghanistan "killed a horse and injured six actors, along with crew members and extras." From the original report: "No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but security forces are treating it as an attempt on the lives of the Makhmalbaf family, who have been the target of four previous attacks." And Anthony adds: "Production has been halted indefinitely."

"Fashion is about many things - money, humiliation, fitting in and sticking out - but until skinheads showed up it was rarely about menace," writes Simon Garfield. "And now the menace is back, as unfashionable as ever and ripe for rehabilitation. There aren't so many skinheads on British streets any more, and, like punk, the cult has been exported, occasionally with comic results, to Europe, the United States and the Far East. But new interest is emerging - an exhibition, the reissue of classic books, and a striking film called This Is England, the latest work from director Shane Meadows."

This is England

Liz Hoggard talks with Meadows, who "is often compared to Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, but Scorsese is his idol. He may be dealing with the mean streets of Uttoxeter but Meadows loves films with a universal message. 'I've been trying to show that, irrelevant of what situation working-class people are in, they'll make the best of what they've got.'"

Also in the Observer: Tim Adams interviews Julie Christie and Euan Ferguson profiles Don Cheadle.

"Craig Weinstein, a Wellesnet correspondent in Florida wrote to report that Peter Bogdanovich appeared at the Florida Film Festival in Orlando... where he announced that Showtime's long simmering deal to finance the completion of The Other Side of the Wind has finally been consummated." Related: "Following its general release during the 1941-42 season, Citizen Kane went into hibernation that would last nearly fifteen years." At Greenbriar Picture Shows, John McElwee picks up the story he began last week - and reminds us of the invaluable role Janus Films has played in film culture.

Screamers "Utilizing the music of Grammy award-winning rock quartet System of a Down and exploring the main thesis from Harvard professor Samantha Power's Pulitzer prize winning book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, [Carla] Garapedian's latest documentary Screamers is a film that explores the reasons why genocide continues to happen and why the US government continues to remain neutral." And Chris Catania talks with her for PopMatters.

"Given that the Yasmin [Ahmad]'s movies to date have been centred around the same characters, the beauty of it is that you can watch them as stand alone, or when watched and pieced together, makes a compelling family drama dealing with separate themes and universal issues like interracial romance, love, and forgiveness." Stefan at Twitch on Mukhsin. Also, "two thumbs up from me" for first-time director Yau Nai-Hoi's Eye in the Sky.

Fests and events:

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Doug Cummings on The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: "While [director Mamoru] Hosoda draws a lot of rich humor and observant drama from the setup - his depiction of the random, combustible way teenagers physically move and interact is especially observant - the plotting may actually be too clever by half, resulting in a breathless, looping final act whose logic frankly lost me.... Regardless, there's a lot to enjoy here: an exhilarating command of pacing, from quiet scenes of contemporary tranquility in sun-dappled parks or late afternoon schoolrooms, to screwball time-leap montages ([author of the original 1965 novel, Yasutaka] Tsutsui cites the Marx Brothers among his influences), to classic suspense chase sequences."

Ronald Bergan's latest entry at the Guardian's blog: "Why Joe Queenan is wrong about Ingmar Bergman."

In the New York Times:

Year of the Dog

"HBO Films has greenlit Recount, a scripted movie about the 2000 presidential election, and has attached Sydney Pollack to direct," reports Steven Zeitchik in Variety.

"Denmark's biggest film export, Lars von Trier, who has broken his own sales record with his comedy The Boss of It All (sold by Trust Film Sales to over 30 territories), has already convinced six international distributors to follow him on his next project: Antichrist, set to start shooting at the end of the year." Annika Pham reports for Cineuropa.

"Back in the late 1970s, when the so-called Three Amigos were in high school, director Felipe Cazals was busy pushing cultural hot buttons and flaying cinematic sacred cows. He was part of a group of Young Turks, akin to the Coppola-Scorsese-Spielberg troika, that helped lift Mexican cinema from the slough of institutional mediocrity that had followed its Golden Age of the 1930s through the 1950s." Reed Johnson meets him.

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

All That Jazz

"For almost as long as there have been power lists, Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise - "The Toms" - have jockeyed for first position, occasionally letting Mel Gibson sneak up on the rail, just to keep things interesting. But just like that, the race has changed," writes Sean Smith in Newsweek. "In the past year, all three men have been eclipsed. With a worldwide career box office of $4.4 billion, Will Smith is now the most powerful actor in Hollywood, followed by Johnny Depp and Ben Stiller." And he focuses on just one: "'Let's put it this way,' says one studio head, 'there's Will Smith, and then there are the mortals.'"

Michael Guillén on Godard's 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle (Two or Three Things I Know About Her): "I found the film's maverick sensibility quaint, if that's a word that can be used with regard to Godard's iconoclastic adventures. Quaint and oddly nostalgic; dated enough to make it palatable but not so much so that I lost complete interest."

"A series of recent French films have focused on exploring aspects of the French colonial suppression of Algeria. Valuable works such as Alain Tasma's October 17, 1961, Philippe Faucon's La Trahison and Laurent Herbiet/Costa-Gavras's Mon colonel unearth long-buried crimes and experiences." At the WSWS, Joanne Laurier reviews another: Days of Glory.

Sean Uyehara talks with documentary filmmaker Amanda Micheli for SF360.

The TV Set "I'd rather see a new [Will] Ferrell movie than one by any of his fellow SNL graduates. He has a sweet spirit missing from other contemporary screen clowns; he finds the poetry in fatuousness," writes David Edelstein. (More from Elbert Ventura at Reverse Shot.) And: "The TV Set is yet another filmmaker's whine of dashed dreams and Faustian bargains and integrity under siege, written and directed by the overprivileged Jake Kasdan, son of Lawrence. Except it's deftly calibrated and acted with relish: Kasdan is really good!" Also in New York, Emily Nussbaum talks with Edie Falco about Carmela Soprano.

Stanley Kauffmann revisits past crimes in the New Republic: Sacco and Vanzetti, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Zodiac.

John Patterson talks with Wes Craven. Also in the Guardian: Paul Cartledge, professor of Greek history, on 300.

Debra Kaufman interviews cinematographer Claudio Miranda for Film & Video. Via Cyndi Greening.

The AP's Pauline Arrillaga profiles Don 'In a World' LaFontaine, "the voice behind 5,000 movie trailers." Via Movie City News.

Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House The Toledo Blade's Christopher Borrelli tells the story behind "a replica of the home in [Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House], constructed 59 years ago by a Hollywood studio as an elaborate promotion for a fluffy romantic comedy (that, to this day, is a Turner Classic Movies staple). It's also played home to four generations of local families, a film set that became a dwelling." Via Movie City News.

JJ Faulkner lists "5 Irritating Things in Otherwise Perfectly Serviceable Baseball Movies" at the House Next Door.

Not film-related, but: "Still-Life," a new story from Don DeLillo in the New Yorker.

Online listening tip. During the month of March, 70 new titles, that is, free audiobooks - free! - went online at LibriVox. Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, where David Pescovitz points to David Gill's new Philip K Dick blog, Total Dick-Head.

Online viewing tip. A Brief History of Errol Morris. Via Ajit at TickleBooth.

Online viewing tips. Works by Brian Gibson at the DVblog.

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Posted by dwhudson at April 2, 2007 11:25 AM