May 19, 2007

Weekend shorts.

Philippe Garrel "Inspired by the activism of his parents during the Algerian war in Liberté, la nuit Philippe Garrel masterfully charts the repercussions of such political and historical involvement in terms of memory, idealism and human relationships long after the events themselves have died down," writes Daniel Kasman.

Marlon Brando's image "as a man who was resentful of the world and full of self-loathing, is being challenged with the discovery of previously unseen home movies and photographs – some of which are published for the first time in the Times today," reports Dalya Alberge.



Time's Richard Schickel on In Search of Mozart: "OK, it's a pretty bad film. But I loved every minute of it. Why? Because [director Phil] Grabsky is generous with his performance footage; operas, symphonies, concertos, chamber works tumble forth, giving us a sense of the composer's fecundity, tireless ambition and quite modern need to make a living when the traditional patronage system was beginning to falter." Further in: "It's much harder to explain my regard for Bug. I mean, eclectic as I pretend to be, I don't much care for horror movies, especially the currently endemic teen-slasher variety. But I saw William Friedkin's movie many months ago and it has haunted me ever since."

Filmbrain recommends Bug as well: "As Richard Linklater demonstrated with Tape, it is possible to mount a successful drama within the confines of a motel room, though unlike the DIY aesthetic of Linklater's piece, Friedkin applies a remarkably jarring visual style, and matching sound design, that succeeds in enhancing the tension and capturing the paranoid gaze. Though not as severe as Gaspar Noé's gunshot punctuations in I Stand Alone, this is Friedkin's greatest use of sound since The Exorcist."

Andrea Hubert introduces "mumblecore" to Guardian readers.


Hollywood on Trial

  • Michael Freedland, author of the forthcoming Hollywood on Trial, sets off a string of comments at the Guardian as he looks back on a dark anniversary: "Huac was responsible for suicides, fatal heart attacks and the destruction of the careers of more than 400 people placed on the blacklists held by Hollywood producers. Most were men and women who refused, or failed to answer 'satisfactorily,' the vicious $64,000 question: 'Are you now or have you ever been a communist?' That in a country which never banned the party or its newspaper, the Daily Worker."

  • David Thomson considers George Clooney.

  • Andrew Pulver's talks with David Fincher about Zodiac.

  • Hannah Pool interviews Mackenzie Crook.

"I have many more American films to see, but I'm confident Killer of Sheep will maintain its rightful place in the Library of Congress's National Film Registry as one of the greatest American films ever made," writes Adam Hartzell at Hell on Frisco Bay.

Craig Phillips takes up a fresh and welcome angle in his review of Sheep - What's Charles Burnett been up to since making this national treasure? - and find the filmography "short, but there have been some masterpieces." Particularly, "his piece for the series The Blues - Warming By the Devil's Fire - probably comes closest of all his recent work of truly being his vision."

Angel François Ozon's Angel "is a movie you either get or you don't - this response more or less dictates whether sitting through the film's 134 minutes is a wicked delight or a dreadful bore," writes Matt Riviera.

"Even when he's worked with escalated budgets, John Dahl has retained his playful noir side," writes Jason Clark. "His latest, the eclectic, often hilarious You Kill Me, may star an Oscar winner but its roots are firmly planted in the Dahl aesthetic."

Also at Slant, three reviews by Nick Schager:

  • "9 Star Hotel is an empathetic portrait of a particular human circumstance, but without greater context, it ultimately feels like only half the story."

  • Day Watch: "[T]rying to discern meaning amid this garbage heap of spare Matrix parts - secret realities hidden behind our everyday one, bullet-time effects, supermen who wear their sunglasses at night - is as futile as searching for a character with a single coherent personality trait."

  • And I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal "is predictably hagiographic in nature."

The Wendell Baker Story "The appeal of The Wendell Baker Story depends on how charming you find the Wilson brothers, with their chipmunk grins and hip smart-aleck attitude," writes Stephen Holden. "For my taste, a little goes a long way. But if you like Lyle Lovett songs, Thomas McGuane novels and sardonic country yarns sung by grizzled Texan 'outlaws,' you'll have no trouble slipping into its easygoing groove, fortified by its country-rock soundtrack. Smirks are to be had, but no belly laughs."

More from Matt Singer at the Reeler: "If he were played by Owen Wilson, Wendell might have made this fast-talking conniver a bit more charming; the movie still wouldn't have been much good. Above all, Luke should stick to being Luke." And Cinematical's Erik Davis sees it "falling somewhere between Bottle Rocket and Rancho Deluxe; a neatly-wrapped Texas meal that comes with enough mouth-watering sides to keep your belly full as your mind begins to wonder."

And: "The Wendell Baker Story is too slight a goof to withstand much critical scrutiny—let's just say that it disappoints, Wilsonishly, by failing to live up to its promise. But that very fact makes the movie as good an excuse as any to assess the brothers at midcareer," decides Slate's Dana Stevens.

Back to the New York Times:

  • Stephen Holden on Brooklyn Rules: "However authentic and heartfelt this film's depiction of life on the meaner streets of the Northeast corridor may be, it doesn't begin to match The Sopranos' epic vision of violence, class struggle and upward mobility in a barbarous culture." Related: ST VanAirsdale at the Reeler: "Despite its marvels of rage, Brooklyn Rules is ultimately a paean to sobriety: the rehabilitation of individuals and the communities that shape them."

  • Also, "Even Money is so devoted to sustaining shock and awe that it doesn't bother to offer clues about the causes and treatment of gambling addiction."

Private Property
  • "Watching [Isabelle Huppert] in Michael Haneke's Piano Teacher or Private Property, a slow-boiling film from the young Belgian Joachim Lafosse, you wonder how much more she can afford to give, how much she has left," writes Manohla Dargis. "But the beauty of this admirably modest and emotionally true film is that, no matter how profound the cruelty, Mr. Lafosse and his actors never let us forget the love. That might seem terribly sentimental; really, it's just sentiment."

  • "A Michael Keaton outing is always cause for celebration, no matter how ramshackle the vehicle (First Daughter, anyone?) or paper-thin the role," writes Jeannette Catsoulis, and right she is. "Unpredictability is his game, and when he's on top of it, he can make you forget that there's a script. That ability is formidably tested in The Last Time, a Glengarry Glen Ross knockoff written and directed by Michael Caleo."

  • Also, in Memories of Tomorrow, director Yukihiko Tsutsumi "surrounds [Ken Watanabe] with hysterical speeches and Michiru Oshima's weeping orchestral score. Mr Watanabe, of course, requires none of this; his performance is all the emotion the movie needs."

  • And: "Briskly directed by Christopher Smith (who also contributed to the screenplay), Severance overcomes its narrative deficiencies with inventive bloodletting and no small amount of wit."

  • Matt Zoller Seitz finds that "while [Rolling Like a Stone] has poignant and funny moments, it's a serious film about mortality, success and the ephemeral nature of experience and memory."

  • Also: "There may be a point to The Boy Who Cried Bitch: The Adolescent Years, a purportedly fact-based psychodrama about the teenage evolution of a future serial killer. But the film is so clumsily written and directed, and the performances so one-note, that any potential for enlightenment is suffocated."

  • Neil Genzlinger: "What Six Days is doing in theatrical release rather than on the History Channel isn't quite clear; the film, about the 1967 war in the Middle East, is a standard-issue documentary, and a rather plodding one."

Wagstaff celebrates the 30th anniversary of Smokey and the Bandit at Edward Copeland on Film.

Looking for some fresh Asian horror? André Salas has a few recommendations at Filmmaker: "I know, I know... the female ghost with matted, long dark hair covering the face has pretty much been done to death (pun intended) but I'll be damned if the Koreans aren't still managing to get a little extra milage out of this tired horror trend."

"There is no better way to watch this film than in a packed midnight showing. Without a bunch of strangers surrounding me echoing my emotions, I would have seen Black Sheep as a much worse film," writes Dan Eisenberg. Also: "Death Trike is a comic take on the slasher film, except the slasher is a tricycle." And: "To be sure its oddity resembles Napoleon Dynamite. However, Eagle Vs Shark makes most of its characters sympathetic, instead of just strange." Plus, Everything Will Be Okay: "I honestly feel like this is the closest thing I've seen to a piece of transcendent work in a long while. It touched me on an intellectual level, an emotional level, and a spiritual level. There is nothing more I could ask of from a film."

With shots from Nostalghia, Matthew Swiezynski runs passages from Andrei Tarkovsky: Interviews.

They Live By Night "What is beautiful about They Live by Night is that it takes as its characters little people who don't do great things or apparently have great feelings but live meanly and die horribly between the cracks of conventional aspiration," writes Irene Dobson at Flickhead. "I am reminded of the small desperate stories of the Italian Neo-Realists, anecdotes of difficult days using people drawn from the day itself and given their lives on a daily basis to keep them fresh. They Live by Night was released in 1948, the same year as Bicycle Thieves, so my presumption doesn't seem so far-fetched."

Mike at Esotika Erotica Psychotica on Daughters of Darkness: "[A]side from a brilliant plot, sense of visuals, and musical score, the element that makes this film stand out so far above many is it's tone and sense of atmosphere." Also, Last House on Dead End Street: "Originally released in May of 1977, this year, 2007, marks its 30th anniversary. Also, this year marks the sad death of its director, Roger Watkins, who was also responsible for several brilliantly atmospheric hardcore films made between the late 70s and 80s."

This week's interviewee at DVD Panache: Steve Carlson.

Ted Pigeon argues that we now have "criticism deserving of the pop-discourse it perpetuates."

"Polish police have 'held for questioning' at least six people in a crackdown on online movie piracy. Their crime? Providing free subtitles." David Cassel reports for Tech.Blorge; via Xeni Jardin, who's floats a theory as to what's behind this odd move at Boing Boing.

"After a 10-year intermission, drive-in movies are returning to Orange County, courtesy of an inflatable silver screen." Roy Rivenburg reports in the Los Angeles Times.

Tobey Maguire's looking to buy some art. Sarah Thornton takes notes for Artforum.

Online viewing tip. Joe Leydon finds "100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100 Numbers."

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Posted by dwhudson at May 19, 2007 2:08 PM