July 7, 2007

Weekend shorts.

"Yes, they do things differently in Europe," writes Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times.

Der Dritte Mann

"They have done, with intervals for optimism, ever since The Third Man. Today, as then, Hollywood's rapprochement with the old continent can be diagnosed as a case of paranoid split personality: a disturbed yet fascinating condition. It is paranoid because Americans always believe that Europe is out to get them. It is two-minded because sometimes Americans like to be 'got.' They believe that the ancient culture might sometimes, having entrapped them, educate and refine them rather than torture and kill them."

Andy Horbal launches Mirror/Stage with an entry he calls in a comment that follows a "statement of principles":

These are new times, and they call for a new criticism; I believe that we are entering the age of the "termite critic." It is no longer necessary, desirable, or even possible for film critics to be "movie experts," to be King of the Mountain, Arbiter of Good Taste. Instead, the critics of tomorrow will devote themselves to some small part of the Cinema and nibble away at it until sated, at which point they will move onto another.

But surely we'll be allowed the occasional grand sweeping pronouncement. I'd like that.

Smoking / No Smoking "When Alan met Alain: this was the start of a beautiful, if improbable, relationship between the second-most performed English dramatist (after Shakespeare), one who is best (if unfairly) known as a satirist of Britain's suburban middle classes, and the seemingly austere giant of postwar French cinema. It has resulted in two cinematic adaptations by the Frenchman from the Englishman's vast oeuvre: the 1993 picture Smoking/No Smoking, and the new film Private Fears in Public Places." Stuart Jeffries meets both Alan Ayckbourn and Alain Resnais - and they're both great talkers. There's more in the Telegraph, with Jasper Rees talking with Ayckbourn.

Also in the Guardian:

  • Ore wa Kimi no Tame ni Koso Shini ni Iku (For Those We Love) "has raised eyebrows - thanks to what has been described as an overtly nationalistic viewpoint," writes Denis Seguin, noting that the blockbuster "was written and executive-produced by Shintaro Ishihara, the ultra-patriotic governor of Tokyo.... The film challenges several articles of faith, not least the notion that history is written by the victors. Still, orthodoxies should be challenged. Another kamikaze movie is opening next month which also faces down many preconceptions - but this time is a useful corrective to the likes of Ore. Wings of Defeat is the work of documentary filmmaker Risa Morimoto, who in 2005 discovered her late uncle, someone she remembered as a kind and gentle man, had been a kamikaze pilot. She decided to get straight to work researching the history of the tokkotai."

  • Ronald Harwood, author of over 30 realized screenplays and now, too, Adaptations: From Other Works Into Films, explains, among other things, why Roman Polanski asked him to adapt Wladislaw Szpilman's memoir for The Pianist.

  • "Has Tony Soprano whacked the American novel?" wonders John Freeman. "This question is not as facetious as it might at first seem.... America's most powerful myth-making muse long ago moved in to Hollywood (and the White House press room), so the ascendancy of The Sopranos to the level of quasi-literary art should have been expected. Indeed, this wouldn't be troubling were Americans reading other, actual novels. But they're not - at least not in the numbers they once did."

  • On the eve of Live Earth, Dan Glaister meets Rob Reiner, for whom "the appearance of Spinal Tap at the Wembley concert represents a happy collision of the two sides of his brain. While the 1984 rock-doc satire opened the way for him to become one of Hollywood's most successful directors, Live Earth gives voice to the political activist, the archetypal Hollywood liberal, the man who can bring the clout of popular culture to bear on serious causes."

  • Ronald Bergan: "In both the figurative and literal sense, Alex Thomson, who has died aged 78, was a cinematographer's cinematographer."

  • John Patterson: "Although [Pauline] Kael trumpeted [Last Tango in Paris] as the inauguration of something altogether new, she was wrong. If only she'd been right."

  • Jess Cartner-Morley meets Maggie Gyllenhaal.

  • Rosanna Greenstreet slings a string of questions at Bruce Willis.

  • Why did Oliver Stone want to shoot a doc about Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the first place, wonders Zoe Williams.

  • David Thomson's thoughts on Ralph Fiennes.

  • For Peter Bradshaw, Bruno Dumont's Flanders is "a strange, atmospheric, violent parable about our current military adventures." But Edmond is "a truly awful movie, one of the very worst US pictures to be released here in years." More on that one from Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman: "[I]ts self-consciously provocative observations on race and gender belong to an earlier era, lending it the quaintness of a period piece. And quaintness is the last thing you want in a film about a racist, misogynistic murderer."

At Cinematical, Jeffrey M Anderson praises the performances in Talk to Me and, as for director Kasi Lemmons, her "major achievement is the way that she has been able to trace nearly 20 years of history while still allowing the film to live in its current moment."

Ted Pigeon on Ratatoille: "[T]his is a brilliant movie. Not a brilliant Pixar movie. Not a brilliant animated movie. A brilliant movie. So brilliant, I contend, that I'm inclined to proclaim Brad Bird as one of the unique voices in American cinema."

Sion Sono's Noriko's Dinner Table is "a bravura, high-risk work that raises an array of provocative questions about parent-child relationships, the treacherous quest for happiness and fulfillment, the complex interplay between reality and make-believe and the mutability of identity," writes Kevin Thomas.

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

Police Beat

    "Seattle-based director Robinson Devor is one of the few American filmmakers who has found a measure of success while remaining indie in the old-school sense," writes Dennis Lim. Police Beat, "an under-the-radar critical favorite at Sundance 2005," is released on DVD on Tuesday.

  • Lael Loewenstein on I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal, "a compelling look at the man whose persistent research and unflinching resolve led to the capture of 1,100 former Nazi officers."

  • Deborah Netburn visits the set of Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, "the longest-running series in fan film history."

  • Kenneth Turan on Manufactured Landscapes: "Concerned that 'when we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves,' [photographer Edward] Burtynsky views his provocative photographs not so much as a call to arms as an invitation to awareness, intended, as was the recent food-based documentary Our Daily Bread, to alert us to what we are doing in our pursuit of progress and consumer goods." More from Kevin Lee.

  • Kevin Crust on Vitus, "a charming Swiss drama about a young boy with an off-the-charts intellect."

"An itty-bitty movie with a great big heart, [Colma: The Musical] is about three young people on the brink of that terrifying adventure called life, but it's also about how we learn to give voice - joyfully, honestly, loudly - to the truest parts of ourselves, parts not everyone else hears," writes Manohla Dargis.

Also in the New York Times:


  • "For four centuries William Shakespeare's plays have been reinvented to fit contemporary sensibilities," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in his review of the latest Macbeth. "But few recent efforts can match the Australian writer and director Geoffrey Wright's brutal and thrilling new version, which envisions the thane of Cawdor as a longhaired, drug-addled gangster and his poisoned realm as a decadent MTV dreamscape of nymphet witches, smoky nightclubs and point-blank, slow-motion gun battles." Also: "The artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney's knack for biomechanical erotica is showcased in De Lama Lamina, an hourlong record of a huge performance art collaboration between Mr Barney and the musician Arto Lindsay."

  • Neil Genzlinger: "There isn't as much exposé as you might expect in Shadow Company, a documentary by Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque about the use of soldiers-for-hire in Iraq and other recent conflicts, but there's considerably more thoughtfulness."

  • Rachel Saltz: "Dynamite Warrior is a genre confection with more than a passing resemblance to Hong Kong martial arts movies of the 1980s. It opts for comedy over character, and action over everything."

  • Alexandra Jacobs reviews Choking on Marlon Brando: A Memoir: "You're left wondering whether Antonia Quirke is totally brilliant or if she really did lose it (her sanity, that is) at the movies."

  • "Xanadu, the story of a muse come to earth to help open a roller disco, is on Broadway," announces Cara Joy David. "And while the notoriously misguided film might seem a peculiar choice for resurrection, there is something almost as unusual about those behind it: all six of the musical's above-the-title producers are Broadway neophytes."

"In Between Days plays like a teen movie with all the narration removed, and with the smooth medium-to-long-shots - the ones that tell the audience that this story is happening to a fictional character - replaced by a succession of hand-held close-ups almost off-putting in their intimacy," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "This is by design."

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman For the Stranger, Michael Atkinson revisits 1958's Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, "a film less familiar by now than its notorious title and ubiquitous poster imagery, but itself such a bald-faced cataract of self-confessional dreads and social impulses that it's a wonder it hasn't spawned a subindustry of postmodernist academic attack to rival the junk heaps that have accumulated around Vertigo or Blade Runner."

Darren Hughes: "After watching The Elephant Man, Eraserhead, and David Lynch's short films, all for the first time and in short succession, what's most striking is the seamlessness of Lynch's evolution from art school animator to studio hire."

Phil Nugent at ScreenGrab: "[S]omehow the trim, exciting Men in War continues to slip through the cracks and remain largely forgotten - which might be kind of appropriate for a movie about the Korean War."

At Stop Smiling, Andy Beta reviews The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, One-Armed Swordsman, King Boxer, My Young Auntie, touching on three decades of the Shaw Bros. empire in various states of ascent and decline. Exemplified throughout these films are individual studiousness, brotherhood and a steadfast overcoming of adversity."

In Strongman Ferdinand, Alexander Kluge "presents a potent metaphor for the vicious circle of violence and exploitation, where the idealistic goal of a noble end no longer justifies the draconian means, but metastasizes into a grotesque inhumanity and corrupted, if amnesic consciousness," writes acquarello.

Teknolust "In Teknolust, the high-tech and high-profile science of biodigitality is rescaled because of concern about human-machine interactions, and because the human stance towards technology seems to rely either on fear, suspicion, or on the capitalist need for profit," proposes Jussi Parikka in Postmodern Culture.

Bill Gibron at PopMatters on that JJ Abrams thing: "Through all the denials and determined PR statements, one thing's for certain - Cloverfield is no longer a non-entity. Among the many 2008 titles generating incredibly early interest (Indiana Jones 4, Speed Racer, The Happening), this still unknown effort has moved right up to the top." Christopher Campbell has more related news at Cinematical.

"In his latest documentary for Turner Classic Movies, film historian (and Time critic) Richard Schickel is content to let Steven Spielberg spin the same old tales," writes Keith Uhlich in Time Out.

"The documentary American Scary is basically an epic fanboy geek-out on the subject of 'horror hosting' - that uniquely American phenomenon where grown men and women dress as ghouls and vamps and make horrible jokes amid even more horrible movies on late-night TV," writes Mike Russell, who gives it a B-.

"I found myself resisting Once (2007) for the first half hour or so." At Memories of the Future, an account of giving oneself "over completely to the film's undeniable charms."

The Telegraph's Sheila Johnston interviews Romain Duris. So does Kaleem Aftab, in the Independent, where Tim Walker reports on the MySpace My Movie Mashup.

Michael Phillips asks fellow Chicago Tribune staffers which movies they've walked out on - and of course, why. Via Movie City News.

"What film soundtrack do you most often hear in your head, and when, and why?" asks Matt Zoller Seitz at the House Next Door.

Dan Jardine revives his famous Screen Cap Quiz.

Adam Ross's interviewee this week: Tucker Teague.

Online listening tip. Cinematical's James Rocchi interviews Karina Longworth, now blogging at Spout.com.

Online viewing tip #1. At Bright Lights After Dark, C Jerry Kutner posts a "classic Kennedy-era improv routine" by Mike Nichols and Elaine May.

Online viewing tip #2. The Shamus finds Donald Sutherland on Scene by Scene.

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Posted by dwhudson at July 7, 2007 1:12 PM