November 30, 2004

Shorts, 11/30.

Sundance. Review the complete competition lineups at indieWIRE, Movie City News, and/or, of course, at the site itself. For more on the docs competition, you'll want to mine Steve Rhodes's mucho resourceful entry at his Tiger Beat.


At Flickhead, Christine Young is enraptured by Metropolis, Ray Young is relieved once Ed Wood's Necrophilia reaches its climax but has a better time reviewing Kenneth Turan's Never Coming to a Theater Near You: A Celebration of a Certain Kind of Movie.

In Kamera, Deborah Allison reviews Richard T Kelly's Sean Penn: His Life and Times, which "takes a bold stylistic gamble by structuring the work as an 'oral biography'.... At its best, the use of multiple viewpoints gives rise to many-sided interpretations of a single event.... At the same time, the sheer number of loose ends, repetitions and non-sequiturs that this methodology entails can prove frustrating."

Clive James has a loooong chat at the National Film Theatre in London with Peter Bogdanovich. Names are dropped, stories are told, and the audience laughs bunches.

Jonathan Romney in the Independent: "[C]ould synthespians put traditional star power out of business? It never really seemed a possibility, until now."

Pretty in Pink

Molly Ringwald, the perennial where-are-they-nower. Michael Agger checks in again. She's doing fine. Also in New York, albeit briefly: Logan Hill has a few quick questions for Zhang Yimou.

For PopMatters, Ellise Fuchs talks to Giulia D'agnolo Vallan, co-director of the Torino Film Festival, about American indies, "Americana" in general, Errol Morris, John Landis and more.

Todd Zaun reports on a set-back for Sony and its fellow Blu-ray enthusiasts: "A group of companies led by the Toshiba Corporation made a major advance in the effort to define a new DVD standard as Paramount and three other Hollywood studios announced on Monday that they would release films in the group's high-definition DVD format by the end of next year."

Also in the New York Times: Douglas Heingartner wraps the International Documentary Film Festival: "Major prizes at the Amsterdam festival - where the memory of Theo van Gogh, whose murder this month, the police say, was committed by a Muslim extremist in response to one of Mr. van Gogh's films, loomed large - went to works that took a head-on look at tensions within and around Islam." More from Eugene Hernandez at indieWIRE.

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash? Take a look at Mark Seliger's photos for Vanity Fair.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:11 AM | Comments (1)

John D. Barrymore, 1932 - 2004.

John Drew Barrymore
John Drew Barrymore, the sometimes troubled heir to an acting dynasty and absent father of movie star Drew Barrymore, died Monday. He was 72.

"He was a cool cat. Please smile when you think of him," Drew Barrymore said in a statement issued by her publicist's office.

The AP.

Perhaps his most bizarre role: Jesus and Judas in Ponzio Pilato (1962).

Posted by dwhudson at 4:21 AM

November 29, 2004

Shorts, 11/29.

Sundance 05 Sundance (January 20 - 30) is unveiling its line-up today and tomorrow. Keep an eye on indieWIRE's Park City coverage for the roll-out. Eugene Hernandez is already sorting through the finalists for the 2005 Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Awards.

In an entry labeled simply "Weird," Wiley Wiggins notes: "There's a picture of my eyes (both real and illustrated) on the 2005 Sundance Film Festival feature films page."

Jeff Economy in the Chicago Reader on John Cassavetes: "During his lifetime, his films were dismissively referred to as 'home movies,' but in the age of iMovie his kitchen-sink production studio looks positively prescient."

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession In the New York Times, Kate Aurthur has a fascinating piece on a potentially fascinating doc about a clearly fascinating subject. Xan Cassavetes's Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession tells two intertwining stories, the first of the highly influential LA area cable station and the second of its programmer, Jerry Harvey. Evidently, Xan's father was a fan, too.

In April, Film Threat reviewer Phil Hall went wild over a unique feature called Getting Out of Rhode Island - 44 characters living out a story in real time over two-and-a-half hours. Now that FT is releasing it on DVD, Mark Bell interviews filmmaker Christian de Rezendes.

Mark Schilling in Screen Daily on Blood and Bones: "In Shunpei, Takeshi Kitano has found the role he was born for - or perhaps raised for.... This monster makes for the best film to come out of Japan this year."

"For years I have been lobbying for Chi sei? (Beyond the Door) as one of the most maligned movies in horror history. David Colin, Jr, the talented child actor starring in both this movie and its quasi-sequel, Shock, had apparently made only those two movies and nothing ever since; nobody seemed to know anything about him." Until, that is, Colin himself emailed Harald Gruenberger and an interview ensued.

The Cinema of Andrzej Wajda: The Art of Irony and Defiance For Film-Philosophy, Hedwig Gorski reviews The Cinema of Andrzej Wajda: The Art of Irony and Defiance, a collection of essays edited by John Orr and Elzbieta Ostrowska.

"There's a lot of guff about the greatness of Scorsese, and apparently there are still people around who swallow this line," grumbles George Fasel. "On the other hand, there is this fabulously gifted Spaniard who seems to leap from one Himalayan peak to the next highest to the next highest, utterly without effort."

"With Gosford Park, and now with Vanity Fair, [Julian] Fellowes has established himself as Hollywood's top toff, the man you turn to when you want to know how a duchess holds a teaspoon." But Lynn Barber finds the wound in him that makes him human.

Also in the Observer:

Newsweek's Jeff Giles visits the set of Peter Jackson's King Kong. Naturally, things are going swimmingly. Then, Devin Gordon: "Like the first two Rings DVDs, the extended ROTK isn't just for obsessives. It's a flat-out better movie than the one that swept the Oscars."

DK Holm rounds up a few choice holiday films and DVDs over at Movie Poop Shoot.

Here comes a "sudden rush" of adaptations of works by Roald Dahl, reports Hugh Davies in the Telegraph: Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr Fox and Robert Altman's six-part TV series based on Dahl's short stories.

Time's Richard Corliss: "If a batch of recent movies were to ask, 'Are we sexier, more mature - better - than films of 30 years ago?', the brutal, truthful answer would be, 'No way.'" Via Movie City News.

A fun idea for the Reel Roundtable's series of weekly screenings: Have bloggers choose and introduce a film. The series kicks off with Greg Allen presenting Hirokazu Kore-eda's After Life. Elizabeth Carmody has more.

Wendy Mitchell gets out and about in Greece before heading home from Thessaloniki.

Online browsing tip.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:24 AM

Thessaloniki. Wrap-up.

Days and Hours Kinoeye editor Andrew James Horton wraps this year's Thessaloniki International Festival and assesses the future of the fest.

Back in the comfort of home, I can now write about my last hours of viewing at Thessaloniki and give details of the awards. Particularly, on the last day I caught some more films from the festival's Balkan Survey, this year celebrating its 10th anniversary.

days-and-hours.jpg But the best Balkan film this year was, understandably, in the international competition section. Pjer Zalica's Days and Hours (2004) underlines the strength of Bosnian film as outlined in my Dispatch No. 7. Here, Zalica takes the small talk of everyday Bosnians - mundane discussions about broken boilers, computer classes and leather slippers - and shows how the war has left its scars. There are no shots of shelled-out buildings here, and the trauma is almost entirely offscreen and understated. But nevertheless it is present, and the chit-chat of the film's protagonists, which would be boring if not realized with so much observational care, reveals the extent to which war becomes something that effects not just extraordinary circumstances (grand heroics, spectacularly tragic stories, extremes of human endurance, etc) but also the quotidian chores of all those who live through it and after it. This is a quiet film, but also an innovative one that depicts a people who have suffered beyond human comprehension but who have still chosen, as depicted in the almost fairy tale ending, to embrace life.

Sadly, though, I missed Victor Erice's short film "The Challenges" (1968), particularly regrettable as I'd managed to catch everything else in the retrospective of this important director who is beloved by cineastes but almost unknown to the general public.

Spirit of the Beehive

His Spirit of the Beehive (1973) has appeared on lists of the greatest films ever made (including that by veteran critic Derek Malcolm) and his Dream of Light: The Quince Tree Sun (1992) was voted the most influential film of the 1990s in a poll of over 60 international programmers. The strength of these works is not just their formal innovation (in fact, they seem remarkably unshowy and create an illusion that directing a film must be a very easy task) but that they fire a remarkable affinity for the process of imagination and creation in the viewer and that they are, in fact, the culmination of years of work condensed into a few films that have become milestones - since he started his filmmaking career in the 1960s, he has only completed three features, although another is reportedly in preparation. With a painterly interest in composition (Dream of Light is about the work of a Spanish artist, Antonio Lopez) and a film language that is both poetic and clear, Erice deserves to be more well known (for example, a few DVD releases would be nice).

Erice's Dream of Light is often compared to Abbas Kiarostami, the subject of his own retrospective at this year's Thessaloniki festival (perhaps it was a coincidence, perhaps not). Kiarostami has had a close relationship with the festival since the first year it went international (from being a showcase of Greek films) in 1992, when he was invited as a virtual unknown on the festival circuit. He's been back several times since, and, for example, I was able to see his first venture into digital filmmaking, Ten (2002) with Kiarostami in attendance at Thessaloniki in 2002. This time, I only got to see his Under the Olive Trees (1994), which amply exhibits a number of his favorite themes: making films about filmmaking, car journeys and gender relations in contemporary Iran.


Although there were many films here that I hadn't seen before, I was particularly disappointed that I never found time to head out to the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art where there is an exhibition of his still photography (traveling on from Turin). The reproductions I have seen have look stunning, expressing not just a wonderful sense of landscape and light but also a profoundly spiritual exploration of the Iranian countryside.

But what of the winners of the festival?

Bitter Dream If the Kiaorostami retrospective was not enough to confirm the reputation of Iranian cinema, Bitter Dream (Iran, 2004) by Mohsen Amiryousefi came away with the first prize, the Golden Alexander, and the Public Choice Award. I only saw two of the competition films, but of those I did see, I was pleased to learn that by Marina Razbezhkina's Harvest Time managed to pick up a shared Silver Alexander, with Alejo Taube's One or the Other (Argentina, 2004). Harvest Time also managed to bag the Artistic Achievement Award. FIPRESCI, often seen as the artistic antidote of the capricious whims of festival-installed juries, gave their prize to The Green Hat (China, 2004) by Liu Fendou.

Greek films should not go without a mention either. The festival showcases the entire year's production from the country and they have their own prizes (although two Greek films were also entered in the international competition). The most prestigious of these prizes, the FIPRESCI award for a Greek film, went to Nikos Panayotopoulos's Delivery (2004), which also played at the Venice Film Festival earlier in the year (but was, reportedly, jeered by the audience).

Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow

Theo Angelopoulos's Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow (2004) wasn't up for any prizes. I didn't get to see the film, but the buzz about it was very negative, with one of my colleagues in the international press only half-jokingly suggesting to me that the best way to view it was on fast forward in the video room so the action would appear at normal speed. However, the good news for Angelopolous fans is that the director has finally agreed that his early works can be released on DVD; he'd been holding out for ages on the basis that the only way to view his films was on the big screen. British releases are definitely in the pipeline. Surely the US can't be far behind?

I didn't attend the festival in 2003, but it was reportedly even better than this year's. Still, despite the occasional dull film, the selection for the 2004 edition has been superb, and admitting last year's was better is no sign of disrespect to the strong showing at this year's festival (which was hampered by a lower budget as a result of Greece's grand Olympic binge).

With its intimate atmosphere (helped by a compact festival venue, as opposed to being scattered all over a city's cinemas), Thessaloniki is a winning combination of good films and the ability to meet and talk to their makers. A little over a decade ago, this was just a small national film festival, yet it has been transformed in a matter of years to an event that commands international respect in a highly competitive field. It's not Cannes. It's not Berlin. It's not Venice. But it's a unique opportunity to watch the best of world cinema in a relaxed and informal environment. All of this can be credited to director Michel Demopoulos, who was the architect of the festival's transformation from parochial sideshow to small but important international crossroads in the film world.

So why would anyone want to change the winning formula? Answer: politics. A new right-wing government has just taken power in Greece and there is a serious chance that the festival's magical mix of international artistry and intimacy may be tampered with: either making the selection more Greek or more show-bizzy, either of which would probably involve deposing the popular Demopoulos and installing a new festival administration (shades of what happened to the Venice film festival when Silvio Berlusconi's right-leaning government took power in Italy). Absolutely everyone I spoke to at the festival, Greek and non-Greek, seemed to think this would be a disaster. Thessaloniki obviously can't compete with the red-carpet events of the film world (it can't attract the big-name stars to make it work and the soft-spoken auteurs who love it would disappear) and a more Greek-orientated festival could well lead to an exodus of carefully earned international attention. Representatives from magazines such as Variety, Sight and Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, Positif and Time Out and newspapers such as the Guardian, L’Humanité and Liberation were at this year's festival - how many of them would come to an event focused exclusively or almost exclusively on Greek cinema?

At the end of the festival, a petition was circulating in protest of the removal of Eduardo Antin from his job as director of the Buenos Aires Film Festival, despite his internationally recognized success at raising the profile of Argentinean cinema (which had a profile at Thessaloniki this year). Let's hope there'lll be no need in the near future of such devices to support Demopoulos and the work he has done.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:17 AM

November 27, 2004

Weekend shorts.

Aimless Bullet Filmbrain explains why he entirely understands that Aimless Bullet was voted greatest Korean film of all time in 1999 by Korean film critics.

Ben Slater has a major bone to pick with Tony Rayns:

In his absurd confidence about his own superiority in "the strange case of Kim Ki-duk," Rayns seems to have developed his own "blind spot" when it comes to his accusations about Kim. Claims that Kim is just a cynical manipulator of controversy and that the festivals that programme him are looking for a cheap thrill - are all charges that could so easily be levelled at Rayns fave Takashi Miike. Kim certainly has an eye on the Western market, and when I interviewed him he admitted that his lack of dialogue was in part a deliberate strategy to allow his films to travel, but I cannot for a moment question the intense, extraordinary sincerity of his work (all of which was in place long before Venice made him famous).

George Fasel's been on a Wong Kar-wai kick lately.

Sort of a Chinese double feature at the New York Times: Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers marks an increasing openness on the part of the Chinese government and viewers to accept "a frank, liberated approach to sex," writes Jean Tang, who talks to the director and a few stateside professors to get a broader picture of what's going on on the mainland. And Howard R French reports from Shanghai on the making of Merchant and Ivory's The White Countess, "an ambitious attempt to recapture the last flickers of this city's past greatness."

Also in the NYT:

  • "In the cult of Wes, everything connects." Christian Moerk maps the constellation swirling around Wes Anderson. The accompanying chart helps, too.

  • AO Scott considers Mike Nichols's Closer in the light of his entire career, but particularly his first film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: "Looking at the two films side by side can create a vertiginous, time-warp feeling." But that doesn't necessarily make the new one any good, argues NP Thompson.

  • Scott also puts forward a theory and defends it: "[C]hildren's entertainment has become the cornerstone of the American movie industry, not only commercially, but artistically as well."

  • What should have been the appeal of Alexander? The "eerily familiar details of his grandiose military ambition," of course, but Emily Eakin goes further: "Infinitely malleable and all-encompassing, auspicious allegory and cautionary tale, his story is tailor-made for the new world order."

The Power of Kongwan Province

Simon Pegg - and we can probably safely assume it's that Simon Pegg - raves and raves over Napoleon Dynamite.

Also in the Guardian:

Wrong About Japan

The Independent's Roger Clarke piece on Isabelle Huppert is billed as an interview, but it's a more a profile; Ben Affleck's the one who chats a lot, wouldn't you know it; with Tiffany Rose. Also: Geoffrey Macnab files from the IDFA doc fest in Amsterdam, where filmmaker Duraid Munajim has been blogging and enlivening nearly every entry with loads o' pix. The indieWIRE IDFA bloggers tick off the winners.

For Movie City News, Gary Dretzka talks to Robert Stone about his doc, Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst: "I was sympathetic to [the SLA's] critiques of our materialistic society and capitalism, but... All of their actions were counterproductive to their ideals."

István Szabó tells the Telegraph's Sheila Johnston what he admires about Andrzej Wajda, Zbigniew Cybulski and Ashes and Diamonds.

Having read who-knows-how-much reader email and considered all the incoming suggestions, David Edelstein sorts and categorizes biopics - and even finds a few good ones.

Poor drew. He keeps running across terrible ideas. First it was the remake of The Warriors. Now it's a sequel to The Usual Suspects.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:06 PM

Philippe De Broca, 1933 - 2004.

Philippe De Broca
"French cinema has lost one of its most talented contributors," President Jacques Chirac said in a tribute on Saturday.


French filmmaker Philippe de Broca a master of costume drama and light comedy, including works such as King of Hearts and That Man from Rio, has died at the age of 71.... De Broca worked as an assistant director for Claude Chabrol and François Truffaut before he started making films himself... He worked with a galaxy of French stars including Jean-Paul Belmondo, who appeared in six of his films, Yves Montand and Catherine Deneuve.

AFP via MCN.

The King of Hearts is one of those rare films where it's difficult to put into words where my utter affection and admiration for the film comes from. If it's possible to be in love with a film, this is the one I'm in love with... Oh, there is certainly a harsh way of looking at this film and you could dismiss it as a ridiculous fantasy and full of so many conceits and flaws the film collapses like a house of cards in a gust of wind.


It's a film that played in several theaters not for five weeks, but for five years... You see, as it turns out, I am not the only one who was put under some strange hypnotic spell by the film. A film I've enjoyed at least 20 times in the last 30 years.

Christopher J Jarmick in

Posted by dwhudson at 12:20 PM

Thessaloniki Dispatch. 7.

Kinoeye editor Andrew James Horton's penultimate dispatch from Thessaloniki.

Schizo Once again, Russia proves that it is on a roll, with Guka Omarova's Schizo (2004) proving to be another compelling feature from the country on the rebound. Based around bare-knuckle fist fights in Kazakhstan, the film manages to find lyricism in even the darkest social conditions and evolves into a tender love story. Superb cinematography backs up the finely crafted tale.

Srdjan Vuletic's Summer in the Golden Valley (Bosnia/France/UK, 2003) in the Balkan Survey is similarly accomplished in capturing tender emotions in a ruined landscape, this time war-scarred Sarajevo.

Summer in the Golden Valley

Although perhaps a bit more narratively untidy than Schizo, Vuletic's story of a kidnapping that doesn't quite go according to plan is rather more innovative in expressing the mixture of desolation and hope that exists in contemporary Bosnia. It also had the Thessaloniki audience rolling in the aisles, proving once again - after films such as Emir Kusturica's When Father Was Away on Business and Danis Tanovic's No Man's Land - that Bosnia's wry sense of humor is eminently exportable.


Which was all a stark contrast to Svetozar Ristovski's Mirage (2004), another picture from the Balkan Survey, which seemed to have no hope in humanity at all. Clearly allegorical (and partly autobiographical), the film depicts violence winning out over intellectualism as a young poet finds he can better express himself with a gun. With no redeeming humor, the film is deeply pessimistic and I struggled to imagine why anyone would want to make a feature with so little faith in human nature.

Andrew's final wrap-up will appear in a few days, once he returns to the States.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:28 AM

November 26, 2004

Thessaloniki Dispatch. 6.

A full day in Thessaloniki for Kinoeye editor Andrew James Horton.

Thessaloniki Film Festival Listening to directors introducing their works has almost become monotonous. The weather has taken a sharply cold turn here, and the town feels as cold as Mount Olympus' snow-capped peak, visible across the bay. The unusually cold conditions have precipitated a wave of guests to comment that despite the actual temperature, the welcome at Thessaloniki is always warm. It might smack of crowd-pleasing sycophancy, but the consistency of the praise underlines the importance filmmakers attach to Thessaloniki as a forum for presenting their works and interacting with an audience. But back to the films themselves...

The Pharaoh Romania's contribution to the Balkan Survey sidebar this year is Sinisa Dragin's The Pharoah (2004). It's a film that, like Orson Welles's Citizen Kane, uses a journalist's investigation to unravel the mysteries of a life. The title character is a strange beggar who wanders the streets of Bucharest with a set of bathroom scales. It is rumored that he spent over four decades in the Gulag camps in Siberia, and it transpires he was once a handsome young architect with an international love life. Here, the man who lost everything to degenerate in a bumbling wreck of a man becomes a metaphor for the decline of Romania, a country that had huge potential it was never able to realize. On a more literal level, the use of a TV journalist as the main character allows a more literal exploration into everyday life in the country now. As much film essay as narrative drama, The Pharoah is thoughtful in its exploration of its themes. But it's hardly riveting viewing and is constrained by the obviously limited interest that goes along with the film essay form.

No such problems afflicted Sophia Zornitsa's Mila from Mars (Bulgaria, 2004), also in the Balkan Survey. The film - billed as the first independent film production in Bulgaria and shot on DV - triumphed among the Bulgarian films at the Sofia Film Festival this year and went on to win at Sarajevo. The film is also currently playing in Mannheim. Zornitsa's debut follows the titular social misfit Mila as she tries to run away from her abusive boyfriend. She ends up in an isolated village in the depopulated border region of Bulgaria, where she baffles the chiefly octogenarian residents.

Mila from Mars

The film is obviously aimed at young people. In fact, it is obviously aimed at people period - something of refreshing change for Bulgaria where in the 1990s films were heavily influenced by the Soviet style of Tarkovsky and existed as an expression of the director's ego rather than being directed at an audience (one Bulgarian film producer I met only half-jokingly said that Tarkovsky should be banned from the syllabus of Bulgarian film schools). The film is unlikely to spark a wave of interest in independent filmmaking in Bulgaria, despite its success. But it will probably help reinforce the current interest in human interest film narratives.

Polish-born Pawel Pawlikowski is no stranger to Thessaloniki. His last film, The Last Resort (2000), picked up four awards including the Golden Alexander here a few years back and he's also served on the international jury. His current feature, My Summer of Love (UK, 2004) continues his exploration of provincial English life (he is currently at Oxford Brookes University with a research grant to study genres of realism in British filmmaking), this time focusing on two Yorkshire girls who, despite different social backgrounds, form a strong friendship on the basis of their common experience with dysfunctional families and then fall in love. It's a nuanced character study bathed in beautiful summer life, but I could never quite escape the feeling that there was something rather voyeuristic about a middle-aged, male director making a film about teenaged lesbians. He could have made the film showing little more than a peck on the lips between the two girls and some cleverly unobtrusive camerawork (the early stages of the relationship are actually shown with such discretion and are worthy of Ernst Lubitsch's famous touch), but even though it adds nothing to the understanding of the girl's relationship, there just had to be an explicit love scene included. Why?

Ma mère

The feeling was reinforced as I'd just come from a screening of Christophe Honoré's Ma mère (2004), also replete with scenes of lesbianism and with an added dose of incest (the film is based on a novel by pornography-obsessed philosopher Georges Bataille, after all). Isabelle Huppert fans get to see yet another manifestation of the psychotic character she's been developing over a number of films including Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher. Pawlikowski's film in comparison, though, is positively restrained and humanistic and will for most viewers be a far more rewarding viewing experience.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:11 AM

November 25, 2004

Thanks and shorts.

"So, in the spirit of the holiday, I have compiled my 10 cinematic moments to be thankful for in 2004." A wonderful list from Tom Hall.

LA CityBeat: Holiday Film Guide But of course, 2004's still got a solid month of viewing to offer and, as Andy Klein notes in his Holiday Film Preview in LA CityBeat, at least his fellow Angelenos, "This year, we have 43 features opening between December 3 and December 31, which, as even the math-impaired will quickly grok, is more than one a day." Even so, there's the list and there're his notes for each and every one.

Philip Pullman:

When it comes to representing something with literal accuracy, the cinema will always trump the stage. To take an example from His Dark Materials, if I describe in the novel a daemon changing shape from a cat to a snake, or a gigantic bear wearing armour, or 10,000 witches flying through the Arctic skies, the cinema can show us that, exactly that, that complete in every detail. The theatre can't.

But where the theatre scores over the cinema is in the power of metaphor and its engagement with the audience's own imagination.

Also in the Guardian:

  • Three writers on adapting Pullman: Nicholas Wright, who adapted His Dark Materials for the National Theatre; Tom Stoppard tackled the screenplay, but as we all know by now, he's been unceremoniously knocked off the project; and Paul Hunter directed Told by an Idiot's version of The Firemaker's Daughter.

  • Steve Rose explains why Royston Tan is promoting his films 15 and "Cut" in a bunny suit. And here's your online viewing tip: Tan's Showreel at Zhao Wei Films.

  • Franco Zeffirelli has been knighted. John Hooper explains how this "will further tighten already close relations between Tony Blair's government and that of Silvio Berlusconi."

  • Dan Glaister imagines the firing of Hollywood publicist Leslee Dart as a movie. He also reports on that 30th anniversary screening of Chinatown.

  • Oliver Burkeman and Ben Aris: "According to a new biography of the German industrialist, there was no Schindler's list..."

  • Quiz: Literary adaptations (8 out of 10). The occasion is Enduring Love, which has received such an unfair and uninformed drubbing from the American press that the movie isn’t reaching the audience it deserves," argues NP Thompson.

Reporting in the Los Angeles Times on the cut-throat competition among studios to get their trailers screened in theaters, Lorenza Muñoz begins by profiling one man who decides which trailers unreel before which features. Via Movie City News.

For the New York Observer, Scott Eyman reviews Marilyn Ann Moss's Giant: George Stevens, A Life on Film: "So it ended with a whimper, not a bang. But remember the incandescent love scenes between Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun; remember the calm, resolute blond beauty of Alan Ladd in Shane and the way the film carefully builds to its deeply satisfying explosions of violence."

What's with all the puppets and dolls on screens lately? Reviewing Seed of Chucky, Kimberly Chun offers a few theories. Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Dennis Harvey looks ahead to the second half of the Cine Mexico series at the Pacific Film Archive and reviews Alexander, "not nearly so wild as one might have hoped."

Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light Ken Mogg, co-author of The Alfred Hitchcock Story, offers a detailed critique of Patrick McGilligan's Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. He praises it as "journalism" and as a "850-page equivalent of those wonderfully brisk 'making-of' documentaries by Laurent Bouzereau accompanying many of the Hitchcock DVDs," but even so, "I have two main problems with the book, which I may sum up as its simplifying tendency and its many errors and omissions."

In this week's LA Weekly:

  • Nikke Finke on the trial that "looks about to generate its own awards show: The Eisners, where there’s no red carpet, but you get a prick with brass balls."

  • Scott Foundas on Alexander, "the last thing one would have expected from [Stone]: an honorable failure."

  • Ella Taylor on A Very Long Engagement: "To my mind, Jeunet’s undeniable talent for design outstrips his grasp of narrative or human significance." By the way, Liza Bear interviews Jeunet for indieWIRE.

"Thessaloniki just keeps getting better." Wendy Mitchell's there, too, blogging up a storm: "Yesterday I saw five films, went to Kiarostami's master class, had a great greek lunch with fellow festival guests, and then went to a rather raucous party." Another blog going strong, propelled by the indieWIRE set in Amsterdam: IDFA.

Jason Guerrasio wraps the Hamptons International Film Festival for Filmmaker.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:13 AM

Thessaloniki Dispatch. 5.

Kinoeye editor Andrew James Horton catches two more films at the International Thessaloniki Film Festival.

Witnesses A couple of days ago, I reported on a Serbian film that, in part, looked at the country's role in war crimes in the Yugoslav wars of secession. Today, it's Croatia's turn. If anything, the debate in Croatia is even more of a touchy subject, as the country has largely escaped being viewed as culpable in the eyes of the international community thanks to the convenient death in 1999 of its own ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic leader, Franjo Tudjman, who viewed the Nazi-created Croatian state in the Second World War years as "an expression of the historical aspirations of the Croatian people." Today, there is a deep suspicion of the Hague and those who committed war crimes are viewed in some sections of society as heroes protecting the motherland. Enter Vinko Bresan's new film, Witnesses (2003), playing in the festival's Balkan Survey section.

Of all the directors to emerge from the remains of the Yugoslavia after the Dayton Peace Accords were signed, the most internationally successful so far has been Bresan. All his films have critically examined the recent past, and his first two - How the War Started on My Island (1996) and Marshal Tito's Spirit (1999) - were comedies. But this time, he's veered away from the comic to a serious drama examining the real-life murder of a Serbian civilian by Croatian soldiers in 1992 (via a novel by film critic Jurica Pavicic). Using a Pulp Fiction-style narrative to revisit events from different angles, Bresan slowly builds up the full story of moral weakness and guilt. Along the way, the film explores the arguments that come instinctually to many Croats, that investigating a single death of a single Serbian civilian (and, as it happens, a morally reprehensible one) when Croat lives are being lost all around is meaningless.

Full marks then to Bresan and Pavicic for their moral stance. But dramatically, the film suffers from some flatness. Perhaps the transition of the central character from a state of guilt by twist of fate to one of guilt by reason of moral failing is too fine a distinction for Western viewers unfamiliar with the heady arguments that surround Croatia's involvement in the war.

Harvest Time Later in the evening, I caught another Russian film, Marina Razbezhkina's Harvest Time (2004). Out of four Russian films I've seen, three have been very good and only one disappointing. This reflects a wider recovery of Russian cinema, following the dark years that followed the country's economic woes in the 1990s, and has been seen in the emergence of other films and directors at other festivals - think of Andrei Zvyagintsev's The Return, which scooped up the Golden Lion at the 2003 Venice Film Festival.

Harvest Time is a poetic film that looks back at a childhood on a collective farm in 1950. It's notable in two respects: firstly, its tender evocation of the passing of time, memory and its destruction, and secondly, its ability to recreate the age. Many films made in the former Eastern bloc after 1989 have had difficulty in looking back at the Stalinist years - and particularly youth in this era - caught between the feelings of individuals and the collective experience of the country. Either they turn the film into a savagely bleak indictment (focusing on the public and the collective) or into a gooey nostalgic whitewashing (focusing on the private and the individual). Harvest Time, though, captures both the harshness of the age - the poverty, the scars of the Second World War, the political pressures of the period - and the smaller scale human emotions necessary in portraying childhood. So, while Harvest Time's formal qualities are hardly those of Andrei Tarkovsky's masterpiece The Mirror (1975), with which Harvest Time shares some themes, Razbezhkina's debut feature is still accomplished.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:17 AM

November 24, 2004

Thessaloniki Dispatch. 4.

More from Thessaloniki from Kinoeye editor Andrew James Horton.

Rushing through the festival center, I was stopped in my tracks by a clear, forceful voice with a Laurence Olivier-style delivery extolling the virtues of all things digital. It was Peter Greenaway, here at the festival to pick up an honorary Golden Alexander, in the midst of giving a press conference.

Suitcase Number 68

Greenaway's latest project, the three-part The Tulse Luper Suitcases, is on show at the festival. Or rather, I should say, part of the project, since it not only embraces the three features on show at the festival but also a series of art installations, DVDs, CD-ROMs and more, all devoted to Tulse Luper, whom Greenaway describes as his alter ego. Some 500 people are currently working on producing all this material, and Greenaway, who now lives in the Netherlands, expects it to absorb his attention for the next three years, after which he hopes that the project will continue independently of him with a life of its own. Intriguingly, Greenaway claims that Tulse Luper will rival Harry Potter. Hmm...

Peter Greenaway and the Golden Alexander Meanwhile, on the subject of Golden Alexanders, it should be explained that the award gets its name from the legendary military commander Alexander the Great, the subject of the latest Oliver Stone film. Greeks take enormous pride in their history and, as a result, have taken umbrage at Stone's film, which paints Alexander as being bisexual. A group of Greek lawyers are now threatening to sue Stone and Warner Brothers, while Stone maintains a historian was constantly on set to ensure historical accuracy and gay and lesbian groups have hailed the film as a milestone in Hollywood blockbusters.

Back to films at the festival, though: I suffered a big disappointment attending Radivoje Andric's When I Grow Up I'll be a Kangeroo (Serbia, 2004). Andric is Serbia's answer to Kevin Smith, making screwball comedies about his country's own slacker generation. Local audiences have responded warmly to his films, which capture the mood of the times and are not overt political or social commentary (a pleasant contrast to many films from the Serbia). Andric's latest, though, just isn't as side-splittingly funny as his previous ones and doesn't even have a pretense of a plot.

More encouragingly, I caught two films from the festival's Victor Erice retrospective. More word on these magical, luminous films when I've seen the lot.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:09 AM

November 23, 2004

Shorts, 11/23.

La mort dans l'oeil This week's one-plus-two review from indieWIRE and Reverse Shot: "The Old Man's Back Again." The occasion is Notre Musique; the writers are Jeff Reichert and, responding, Michael Koresky and Neal Block.

At any rate, yes, he's back, and again, too, but in the Village Voice, J Hoberman reminds us that Notre Musique "is the latest, but scarcely the least, of Jean-Luc Godard's elegies for 20th-century Europe, the cinema, and himself.... Too touchy-feely for some hardcore Godardians, Notre Musique is the most lucid of the master's recent films. More gnarly Godard may be found in Moments Choisis des Histoire(s) du Cinéma... another installation in Godard's long goodbye."

Meanwhile, the New York Press's Armond White finds a way into the film via Alexander: "Ptolemy's narration, pronounced from the Library of Alexandria, reflects Godard's modern image of a disused library in Sarajevo that is full of cast-off books (discarded thoughts) - the irrelevant works and dreams of a detached privileged class that is no longer directly in touch with war and ambition."

Now then, a related item. Ask Google to tell you about Stéphane Zagdanski, but in English, please, and you won't come up with much. Mostly references to his untranslated novels or articles. But by way of Perlentaucher's Magazinrundschau, I see that he's raised a ruckus in France with a new book-length essay, La mort dans l'oeil: Critique du cinéma comme vision, domination, falsification, éradication, fascination, manipulation, dévastation, usurpation. Or maybe just Mort for short.

As the Perlentauchers helpfully explain (in German), he's taken on cinema as an "avaricious industry" based on a "hypnotic and manipulative" ideology. He evidently comes down hard on everyone from the Lumieres to the Wachowskis, but especially hard on Godard. Spotting an obvious runner, Le Nouvel Observateur invited Zagdanski and Godard for a two-hour face-off. If you can read French, here's Aude Lancelin's edit; and you can listen to the two go at each other via France Culture. The Perlentauchers assure us they ended up the "best enemies" in the world. Fortunately, here comes a long weekend and Google does know how to translate.

Newish and online-only from Film Comment: Preston Gisch: "Minority Report's strengths illustrate I, Robot's shortcomings." And Amy Taubin interviews Mike Leigh: "In the opening shot of Naked, I said to Dick, 'you should put the camera on your shoulder and run straight toward them.' And he said you're crazy. But it worked."

Related to that recollection (go on, you'll see why): The Esoteric Rabbit / Ghostboy Letters. Two young, sharp and insightful filmmakers, Matthew Clayfield and David Lowery, exchange email, discussing just where they want to take their talents.

Tom Stoppard has told the Independent on Sunday's Malcolm Fitzwilliams that he's been shoved off the film adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy: "It is not a completely unprecedented situation where people say that this is all fine, well done, and thank you and then a great silence descends." Evidently, though no one involved has been polite enough to inform Stoppard, he's been replaced by Chris Weitz. Whom Pullman himself has met, evidently: "He won't make my film into another American Pie." A modest leap, but a leap of faith nonetheless.

A version of Advocate editor Bruce Steele's interview with Bill Condon is featured in the November issue, but the full-blown conversation - about Kinsey, yes, but also about the entire world of the film; this is one rich talk - is online.

If only just one or two of these articles were: index magazine's Fall Film Issue.

Antonio Pasolini has "A Quick Chat With Bruce LaBruce" about, among other things, "how to avoid the co-optive powers of the media and make a sexy insurgency without succumbing to the merely cosmetic realm of radical chic. Nonetheless..."

Also in Kamera:

In the Realm of the Senses

For Film-Philosophy, Peter Ruppert reviews John Cunningham's Hungarian Cinema: From Coffee House to Multiplex: "No other national cinema, Cunningham suggests, has had to endure the devastating impact of a fascist dictatorship, the complete destruction of its facilities, state control, and censorship, and a 'systems change' in 1989. And no other European film industry, with the possible exception of Germany, has had to contend with the periodic emigration of its most talented filmmakers (after 1919, in the late 30s, after World War II, in 1956 and after). And yet..."

It's that time of the year again: Film Threat presents its "Frigid 50: The Coldest People in Hollywood 2004." And number one with a bullet is... Michael Moore. Let the purges begin, looks like.

Masters of Cinema is now taking votes through December 23 for its annual "DVD of the Year Award."

As David Edelstein has discovered, sorting through the mail he's received from readers, to parents and teachers, The Incredibles is not just a movie. It's also "reignited one of the oldest debates about child-rearing and society: competition versus coddling, excellence versus egalitarianism," writes John Tierney in a piece laced with colorful references to Nietzsche, Ayn Rand and Marx. Related: "Villany! Have politics hijacked 'toons?" David Sterritt in the Christian Science Monitor, via Metaphilm.

Also in the New York Times:

Robert Downey, Jr: The Futurist

  • Hilary de Vries talks to Robert Downey, Jr about his... album. The Futurist, it's called.

  • Charles Isherwood reviews Woody Allen's "glum new play," A Second Hand Memory.

  • AO Scott on that "two-minute distillation of the essence of Luhrmannism," the Chanel 5 commercial.

  • Bruce Weber: "[Y]ou would be hard-pressed to find a better parody of Shakespearean reality - oozing with the frailties and failings of humankind - than that recalled by the testimony of Michael D. Eisner, the chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, in a Delaware courtroom last week."

  • Sharon Waxman on "an unusual scramble for position among filmmakers and their usually low-profile media representatives" in the wake of the firing of publicist Leslee Dart.

  • Dave Kehr on new DVDs.

In the Observer, Jason Burke explores ideas similar to those put forward by Michael Ignatieff last week in the NYT Magazine: "The terrorists have become auteurs, mini film directors."


The slow death of the VCR warrants a lead editorial in the Guardian. Mark Lawson takes a longer look back.

"Of the many films made during South Korea's 'Golden Age' of cinema, two that are referenced repeatedly are Yu Hyonmok's Aimless Bullet and Kim Ki-young's The Housemaid." Filmbrain considers the latter; more on the former on the way.

New review at Adam Hartzell on Im Kwon-taek's Adada.

What did Robert Towne, Robert Evans, Jack Nicholson and Hawk Koch say the other night at the 30th anniversary screening of Chinatown the other night? Matt Langdon was there. He'll tell you.

Hm, there's a book in the works about the "mythic, sprawling and influential Austin film scene," as Matt Dentler puts it. The author? Alison Macor.

Todd at Twitch admires the teaser poster for Terry Gilliam's Tideland.

Gilda Back to the Voice. Mentioned before here and highly anticipated elsewhere, in a few days, New York's Film Forum will launch a month-long series entitled "Essential Noir." Toni Schlesinger introduces the Voice's "Noir Genius Exam" to be completed only after seeing all the films on offer. Besides the films themselves, there are prizes on offer.

What else:

Paris Review's interview with William Faulkner is now up. Read it all, but if you're a dead-set and single-minded cinephile, head for the middle and the biting story involving MGM and an exchange of countless telegrams.

Another online longish reading tip. Daniel Chandler's "Notes on 'The Gaze'," via the cinetrix's shout-out to David Edelstein.

Online viewing tip. Mahatma Gandhi speaks to the entire world in Spike Lee's ad for Telecom Italia (click here to go directly to the clip [Quicktime, 4.56 Mb]). That is Gandhi's voice, of course, taken from a recording of a speech delivered at the Inter-Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi in 1947. Via Perlentaucher.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:09 PM | Comments (2)

Thessaloniki Dispatch. 3.

Fresh word from Kinoeye editor Andrew James Horton in Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki: The Port

Another rewarding day, spent shuttling back and forth between the festival's locations - the historic port complex with its old red-brick warehouse converted into modern cinemas and the Olympion theater five minutes away in the waterfront Aristotle Square, reputedly the prettiest square in the Balkans.

Today's catch included two films from the New Russian Cinema series, although only one of them, Dmitri Meskhiev's Svoi (2004), is worth discussing, and Goran Paskaljevic's Midwinter Night's Dream (Serbia, 2004), part of the Contemporary Masters section of the festival. Although from different countries and having completely different themes and styles, both features are about coming to terms with past.

Midwinter Night's Dream Goran Paskaljevic was already internationally famous for his allegorical films with a political edge when he made, in 1998, the explosive anti-war drama Bure baruta (literally "The Powder Keg," but called Cabaret Balkan in the US for legal reasons), depicting a group of inter-connected Belgraders caught up in a meaningless cycle of violence. With his latest film, Midwinter Night's Dream, he follows up on Bure baruta's legacy by examining Serbia's attempts to come to terms with its recent history. Lazar (Lazar Ristovski) returns from a ten-year spell in prison for murder to find his mother's house occupied by Bosnian refugees and her possessions stolen by the neighbors. He tries to kick out the intruders, single mum Jasna and her autistic twelve-year-old daughter Jovana, but on seeing conditions in the refugee camp for Bosnians, he allows them to stay with him - falling in love with Jasna and building a deep affection for Jovana. Containing documentary elements, Midwinter Night's Dream is a study of Serbia's own autism and a horrible confession of its complicity in war crimes.

The film has already had a good start on the festival circuit, winning a special jury prize at San Sebastian, and is likely to be popular elsewhere for its intellectual and moral honesty. But I felt the film was marred by the clash between the gritty realism of its MiniDV photography and its clearly allegorical intentions. The real test of its strength as a film, though, will be how the film fares in Serbia. It has its domestic premiere in Belgrade tomorrow.

Can other countries rise to the challenge and admit their part in the horrors of the Balkan wars of the 1990s? Maybe. Later in the festival, I hope to report on a Croatian feature that has the opportunity to do just that.

Russia's huge sacrifice in the Second World War - a staggering twenty million dead - has had a correspondingly large influence on the development of the cinema of the country. Early films about the war against Hitler eulogized the personal courage of ordinary Russians (who were all good) against the Germans (who were all bad). Great advances were made in the late 1950s with the introduction of a more realist tone to this simplistic schema and, since the 1970s, filmmakers have tried to paint a more complicated picture. Larisa Shepitko's transcendental The Ascent (1976), for example, was the first film to show that Russians in occupied territory had collaborated with the Germans - a huge taboo in Soviet cinema.


Svoi seeks to muddy these moral waters further and aims to show that Russians who collaborated may have been decent people and may even have been patriots (although, obviously, many were not). This is even evident in the title, Svoi, which has been translated by the producers as "We Ourselves," making it sound staunchly isolationist (as in "without anyone else's help"), when, in fact, the word is more inclusive and embracing - one's own, one's nearest and dearest, one's country.

Also unlike the traditional Russian war film, Svoi revels in Peckinpah-like/Spielbergian effects - graphic shots of the bloody violence underlined by devices such as bullets shattering windows and jugs of milk in slow motion. But despite such stylization in its limited number of set pieces and its programmatic nature, Svoi strives to be realist in tone. The cultural specificities of the plot may be lost on most Western viewers, but it is testament to the dramatic power of this intelligent and tense work that it can overcome this and can easily be appreciated by anyone from any cultural background.

The next step for Russian cinema, presumably, is a film that sympathizes with German soldiers.

Also worthy of mention is a brief excursion out of my chosen patch into Argentinean cinema, with a viewing of Lisandro Alonso's second feature The Dead (2004), a beautiful and elegiac account of a serial killer's voyage into the jungle to visit his daughter. Viewing this, it is easy to see why the country is currently experiencing a wave of international interest (just three years ago, Thessaloniki had a sidebar devoted to Argentinean film).

Posted by dwhudson at 6:59 AM

November 22, 2004

Thessaloniki Dispatch. 2.

Kinoeye editor Andrew James Horton sends word from the International Thessaloniki Film Festival.

Thessaloniki Film Festival Barely having set foot in the town, I was queueing up for tickets. And with reason. The festival is well-attended and there are many sell-outs. In fact, I was unsucessful on two of my first choices for films to see on my first evening - the world premiere of Alexandra Leclère's Les Soeurs fâchées (part of an homage to its star Isabelle Huppert) and a Macedonian film from the Balkan Survey. I was, though, able to get tickets for Kira Muratova's The Piano Tuner (Russia/Ukraine, 2004) and Shane Meadows's Dead Man's Shoes (UK, 2004).

The Piano Tuner If Kira Muratova made films in America, she would probably work with actors such as William H Macy and Steve Buscemi. Her cinema is filled with quirky characters trying to find their place in contemporary Russia and Ukraine (where she now resides as a recluse). She's been making features since the 1960s, but has really made her mark in the glasnost and post-glasnost years. Her latest feature, The Piano Tuner, is a lesson in human weakness, in people allow their expectations to soar too high, all told through a series of hyper-verbal characters who also seem to suffer a form of attention deficit disorder. The plot revolves around Anna Sergeevna and Lyuba, both widows, and the piano tuner of the title, Andrei, who is divorced. All are struggling to find love and a place in life, but are constantly thwarted by the faith they put in other people - Andrei in his love for Lina, Lyuba in her prospective husbands (who invariably run off with her money) and Anna Sergeevna in Andrei himself.

Muratova's previous film was called Chekhov's Motifs (2001), and if anything, this film is even more Chekhovian, with its musical gatherings, aimless parlor conversation and the exaggerated literary delivery of the actors (Chekhov even gets squeezed into the dialogue). It's also a rather more eccentric film and even funnier too. But a running time of 154 minutes? I could be generous and say that the length is a reinforcement of the verbosity of the characters, but even the stellar performances can't mask the discomfort of the cinema seat piercing through the posterior as the film drags on, an extension of Muratova's well-known disregard for her audience.

No such problems afflicted Shane Meadow's Dead Man's Shoes, an original take on the exploitation revenge flick and an exposé of the dangers of drugs.

Dead Man's Shoes.jpg

The trouble with drugs and violence in cinema is that it invariably detracts from character development and visual storytelling even though a certain cinematic flair is achieved through excessive stylisation. Well, almost invariably, as Dead Man's Shoes does a good job of avoiding the pitfalls inherent in tackling the subjects, and Meadows has crafted a taught thriller that has beautifully painted characters and which captures the English countryside perfectly (not a usual trait of the genre).

Richard, back from the a stint in the army, turns up in his village but is barely recognized. Only when the mysterious semi-stranger starts playing havoc with the lives of a group of happy-go-lucky pill-popping friends do they make the connection to a guilty secret they all share about how they treated Richard's retarded brother. And then the blood bath starts...

Admittedly, I had huge reservations about the direction that this film was taking as I was watching it. But Meadows's grainy video work changes gear in the final section of the film and is skillfully transformed from a crass justification for mindless violence against those who have wronged you into a poignant moral tale on the price of conformity and not speaking out. The superb performances almost are up to the gargantuan task of realizing the emotion ending - but just not quite. And whomping Arvo Part choral music on the score to up the dramatic tension of the denouement seems a bit clichéd against an otherwise fresh soundtrack. Kudos to Meadows (who is self-taught) for making such a disturbing, original and funny film and one that is strong enough to overcome the implausibility of its ending.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:31 AM | Comments (1)

November 20, 2004

Weekend shorts.

Errol Morris reflects on the videotape of the marine shooting an unarmed, wounded prisoner in Falluja: "We can imagine, in the privacy of our thoughts, that war is heroic and honorable - even noble. Photography can make it difficult for us to maintain these illusions."

Also in the New York Times:

Histoire(s) du cinema

  • As it appears online, something odd is going on with the way Manohla Dargis's interview with Jean-Luc Godard has been formatted. Even given Godard's occasional penchant for objectifying JLG, at some point in the last third, Dargis herself seems to take over to bridge two sections... hard to tell. Update: See comments. The film at hand is Notre Musique, but...

  • For his Moments choisis des Histoire(s) du cinema, Godard also receives honorable mention in Dargis's piece on MoMA's two series, "112 Years of Cinema" and "Premieres," though the point is that "in not organizing its first big series around an aesthetic, historical or intellectual argument, the film department has made something of a statement anyway.... [I]t is being true to the populist promise of cinema - that movies are for everyone - and true to its own history."

  • Terrence Rafferty on A Very Long Engagement, "which takes on the challenge of putting across a sweeping, uplifting love-conquers-all saga while at the same time letting viewers know that it's hip to the horror of war. This is a bold and weird endeavor."

  • Sharon Waxman on how Oliver Stone's Alexander will be breaking new ground: "[T]he film industry has never risked quite so much on a blockbuster film that depicts a leading man as gay or bisexual."

  • How Beyond the Sea got rolling: Dennis McDougal tells the story.

As if he hadn't accumulated enough good karma by running a free screenplay site for nine years, Drew is adding to the humanitarian goodness by flagging quality new additions to the collection from his blog.

For Movie City News, Gary Dretzka interviews Mark Brian Smith and Tony Montana, the filmmakers behind Overnight, the sad tale of Troy Duffy, who "went from Hollywood’s flavor-of-the-month to someone who’s calls and emails need never be returned."

And via MCN: The Big Red One is now one of Roger Ebert's "Great Movies," and he's running his 1980 profile of Sam Fuller and a 1970 piece he did on Lee Marvin for Esquire.

Meanwhile, David Poland is quite rightly outraged at PBS affiliate WNET's self-censorship. If you haven't heard, they won't be airing spots for Kinsey because the station's CFO "is not comfortable with the content of this movie."

Radio On director Chris Petit picks up three books - The Story of Film by Mark Cousins, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer by Tom Shone and Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film - and, eventually, finds an argument: "While Tom Shone and Peter Biskind find themselves caught in the trap of a golden age, Cousins remains optimistic about the future when it is not intellectually fashionable to do so, with everyone from David Thomson to Susan Sontag bemoaning the death of cinema, rather than seeing it as a phase in a wider technological revolution."

Also in the Guardian:

The Story of Film

  • Zoë Green reviews Alexander Mackendrick's On Film-Making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director: "To the meat of the matter: this is an eminently readable volume, but it is something of a challenge too, which is exhilarating. It requires focus. It's like the textbook you wish you'd had earlier; but as Mackendrick says, 'Work is the only real training'."

  • Six months after Stanley Kubrick died, a "world exclusive," the last interview, appeared in TV Times. But to Anthony Frewin, who'd worked for Kubrick for years, there was something fishy about it. Naturally, he'd discover it's a fake, but that wasn't enough; assuming he finally has stopped, for quite some time, Frewin couldn't seem to stop investigating that "schmuck" Adrian Rigelsford.

  • Peter Hall tells the remarkable story of the making of Akenfield and notes, "Such an enterprise would be unthinkable today. No television company would dare to put money into such a dangerous improvisation."

  • Sam Delaney takes a fresh approach to the currently ubiquitous interview with Peter Bogdanovich: ask about specific actors and stack the paragraph-length answers in a column broken by their names in bold. Nifty.

  • Philip Kerr eventually gets around to reviewing Mark Winegardner's The Godfather: The Lost Years, but not before measuring the pop cultural impact of the original novel and film.

  • Suzie Mackenzie: "It is sometimes said that to be a star of real magnitude is to be able to do one very difficult thing supremely well - and [Maggie] Smith has been a star of international repute since her Oscar-winning performance in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie in 1969. What she does, and uniquely well, is empathy."

  • Helena Smith: "Troy may have bombed at the box office but, in Turkey, the film has put Homer's 'well-walled city' back on the tourist map."

    Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week: FW Murnau's Nosferatu.

  • John Patterson's mini-profile of the week: Samantha Morton, "the most fascinating English actress of our time."

  • Patrick O'Conner remembers film composer Michel Colombier, 1939 - 2004.

There they are: Frederick Wiseman, Robert Drew, Albert Mayles and Richard Leacock, all lined up in a single photo snapped by Brian Brooks.

Craig Phillips lists ten great movie titles.

The Grey Automobile. It'll be at the Queens Theatre in NYC on Sunday evening and hopefully in other cities on down the line. Let Greg Allen tell you about it.

Online weekend reading tip. Well, maybe a couple of weekends, actually. Robert Philip Kolker's 1983 book, The Altering Eye: Contemporary International Cinema. Full text with graphics and the occasional clip.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:23 PM | Comments (3)

November 19, 2004

Shorts, 11/19.

The Ninth Day Well, this is noteworthy. The German papers are giving positive reviews to a film by Volker Schlöndorff. It's about time. Thanks to FAZ Weekly, we can read Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Andreas Kilb in English.

Schlöndorff has made nine movies in the 25 years since he won an Oscar for The Tin Drum. Most of them were expensive flops. Schlöndorff could have considered the miniscule budget of The Ninth Day to be an insult. Instead, he used it to free himself from the false aesthetic models of his film adaptations of literary works. Once, it annoyed Schlöndorff to be called a "director without a style." Nowadays, he regards the lack of a recognizable trademark as an opportunity. In The Ninth Day, we can see why.

Not exactly praise of the highest order, no, though there is higher praise, albeit qualified, throughout the piece. The real revelation for Kilb is Ulrich Matthes, who portrays the priest, Henri Kremer. And again, Kilb is not alone. For those who read German, you'll find more reviews here.

Mention has already been made here, albeit too briefly, of the phenomenal ten-week program, "Premieres," celebrating the reopening of MoMA and, with it, the Department of Film and Media. Tonight, for example, sees the world premiere of Jean-Luc Godard's Moments choisis des Histoire(s) du cinema, which the program promises is "more than a summation of his multipart video masterpiece Histoires(s) du cinema. IndieWIRE's Wendy Mitchell talks to Laurence Kardish, senior curator at the Department, about many of the other outstanding highlights.

Meanwhile, iW's launched another blog: IDFA will cover the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam through November 28.

You've probably heard that the Academy has come up with a list of twelve documentaries from which it'll choose five nominees for the big one, the Oscar. But have you seen Steve Gallagher's notes and links over at Filmmaker?

As the 60 Years of South Korean Cinema series rolls into its second week, Filmbrain offers his recommendations. If you're in New York City and have even the slightest curiosity about Korean cinema, for heaven's sake, listen to the man.

For Film-Philosophy, Thorsten Botz-Bornstein looks for "a new concept of cinematic time that is proper to Tarkovsky."

If you're looking for a primer on the influence of Japanese cinema on recent American movies, Ian G Mason's got one for you at the New Statesman.

Friday Review: Alexander Fiachra Gibbons describes the very ugly "struggle over who have the right to call themselves descendents of the greatest military commander in history, and the first real western imperialist," a struggle that's grown a lot uglier on the eve of the release of Oliver Stone's Alexander: "I nearly lost an ear to a particularly patriotic barber in Thessaloniki last month when I mentioned that I had just arrived from the 'other Macedonia'." In an accompanying piece, historian Robin Lane Fox describes meeting Stone: "Six hours of questioning later, I was exhausted - and employed as adviser to the film."

Also in the Guardian:

  • Peter Bradshaw reviews "the biggest, poshest, shiniest advertisement ever - for Chanel perfume." Starring Nicole Kidman and directed by Baz Luhrmann.

  • Skye Sherwin opens her Anatomy of Hell tie-in - and by the way, though Ashcroft never succeeded in cloaking the goddesses of justice completely, in the wake of the "mandate," even Tartan Video has concluded it's best to save one's own skin by covering up that of others - with a terrific quote from Catherine Breillat: "Nothing could possibly be degrading to Rocco Siffredi. There are people who cannot be degraded."

  • David Mamet surprises with a fun and entertaining column about some of his favorite effects. Speaking of Mamet. Drew gets a kick out of Francis Heaney's "Dammit, Dave."

It's been three weeks, but Jonathan Rosenbaum is back. And how. His review of the reconstructed version of Sam Fuller's The Big Red One can't help but be enlighteningly subjective and conclude, "if a more intelligent and, yes, contemporary American movie has been released this year, I haven't seen it." And of course, even his pans are interesting: "Sexist male fantasies of conquering white heroes that were minted in the 60s - often fostered by wealthy and mythologized (as well as mythologizing) laissez-faire playboys and Ian Fleming fans such as JFK and Hugh Hefner - lurk behind both After the Sunset and the new Alfie, despite their radically different milieus."

In the Independent:

Doug Cummings: 3 notes.

John Hiscock previews The Aviator ("DiCaprio is in virtually every scene and he gives the best performance of his career") and Phantom of the Opera ("lacks the mystery and tension of the stage production").

Also in the Telegraph:

Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3D Those in San Francisco might well consider catching Harold Lloyd's Movie Crazy at the Balboa Theater on Sunday night. Lloyd's granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd, will be on hand to introduce the film and sign copies of her book, Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3D.

The Broken Saints team has announced the release of their mammoth DVD package.

Bush's Red Army is on the march, and it's no secret that they've got Hollywood in their cross-hairs. But Shark Tale? Yep. "The film does not come right out and say that we should all accept homosexuality," warns Ed Vitagliano, "reviewing" the film for the American Family Association, but it "comes far too close to taking a bite out of traditional moral and spiritual beliefs." (Thanks, Joe!)

So how do those new tax breaks for film production really work? Cinemocracy outlines the basics.

Online viewing tip. Errol Morris has posted a fascinating clip that might be something of a sketch for the Movie Movie, "an aborted project... based on the idea of taking Donald Trump, Mikhail Gorbachev and others and putting them in the movies they most admire. Isn't it possible that in an alternative universe Donald Trump actually starred in Citizen Kane?"

Posted by dwhudson at 3:09 PM | Comments (1)

Thessaloniki Dispatch. 1.

The International Thessaloniki Film Festival opens today. Kinoeye editor Andrew James Horton, arriving this weekend, anticipates what's on offer.

Thessaloniki Just what makes the ideal film festival?

Most people probably expect more or less the same things: a wide selection of films, including the most talked-about hits from the world’s leading filmmakers, new works from young up-and-coming directors and a smattering of retrospectives that invite you to stretch the boundaries of your film knowledge. On top of all that, the leading lights of the international cinema world should be on hand to discuss their latest works and general trends, with a relaxed, informal atmosphere that is conducive to enjoyable viewing and good conversation in between. And a historic and scenic location, well-served by good restaurants and bars is always a plus.

My nomination? Well, Thessaloniki seems to come close...

The international festival, held annually in the old port complex of Greece’s second-largest city, has deliberately shunned the so-called "A-status" ranking that FIAPF (the International Federation of Film Producers’ Associations) grants to the largest and most glamorous events, such as Cannes, Berlin and Venice, and has instead preferred to concentrate on preserving its intimate atmosphere and creating an stunningly good film selection, factors appreciated by both viewers and visiting filmmakers.

This year, the schedule includes films by Wong Kar-wai, Theo Angelopoulos, Ingmar Bergman, Peter Greenaway, Amos Gitai, Claire Denis, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Chantel Akerman, Todd Solondz, Kim Ki-duk, Alejandro Amenábar and Zhang Yimou, and Cool, the last work by the recently assassinated Dutch director Theo van Gogh to whom the festival has dedicated its New Horizons sidebar this year. Retrospectives will highlight the work of Abbas Kiarostami, Victor Erice (The Spirit of the Beehive) and "the new master of fantastic cinema," Kiyoshi Kurosawa. There are three regional selections of new films (which all bear 2004 as a production date), France, Russia and Argentina, as well as festival’s perennial survey of Balkan film. For more of the Balkan flavor, the festival also showcases all the previous twelve months’ Greek productions and there are two retrospectives of domestic directors, Costas Sfikas and Alexis Damianos.

Present at the festival will be Kiarostami, Erice and Greenaway, who will all be offering master classes, as well as Denis, Gitai and French actress Isabelle Huppert.


And last, but by no stretch of the imagination least, there's the international competition, which is devoted to new directors (eligible films must be one of the maker’s first three features), with works from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America in the line-up for the Golden Alexander, the festival’s top prize. Heading the jury will be Hungarian veteran helmer Miklós Jancsó. FIPRESCI also have their own jury at the festival.

The only bad word I can say about the festival is that this is patently too much for any one person to see, a condition made all the more painful by the high quality of the selection. Therefore, to cut things down to a more manageable agenda I’ll be concentrating on European cinema (although even with this restriction I’m unlikely to see more than a fraction of what is on offer), and over the coming week I’ll be sending along dispatches from the festival with this emphasis. Although, who knows what in the whirlwind of it all I’ll end up seeing.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:25 AM

November 18, 2004

Film Comment. Nov/Dec 04.

Film Comment Although Gael García Bernal graces the cover of the newly redesigned Film Comment, flagging Gary Indiana's insightful placement of Bad Education within the arc of Pedro Almodóvar's oeuvre, and by extension, the online-only outtakes from Gavin Smith's interview with Almodóvar, the centerpiece of the November/December issue is the "Focus on Korean Cinema," introduced by Chuck Stephens.

First he establishes that "the rise, and further rise, and rising further still of South Korean cinemania" has led to "a fireworks display of films and festivals and passionate fandom so dazzling as to qualify as one of the greatest renaissances in global filmmaking the world has ever seen." We're then treated to a brief history of this particular flourishing as well as praise for "the willingness of Korean audiences to rise to the occasion, cultivating a taste for serious-minded art-cinema to complement the latest popcorn pleasures from the chaebol assembly lines," before a swath of serious linkage back to the "golden age" of the 60s: "Sexed-up and shock-driven, Korean cinema - for better or worse - has long had a passion for the putrid and the perverse, a love for low-lifes that predisposes it to retching-up the deforming repressions of the recent past in the forms of the emasculated intellectuals, romanticized rapists, radiant harpies, adorably psychotic schoolgirls, and brutalizing pimp-hunks that populate its screens today."

But! As Stephens is quick to point out, it's not all Old Boy and Kim Ki-duk's rough stuff. Korean cinema is also a blockbuster like Taegukgi, "the intellectual bent of Hong Sang-soo," and sweet romantic comedies like My Sassy Girl.

Unfortunately, we can't read the five (evidently, here and there, gleefully contradictory) pieces that follow online, but not only is the intro encouragement enough to chase down the actual issue, it'll probably have you seeking out many of the films mentioned as well.

Also: Dave Kehr reviews A Very Long Engagment, which "has greater ambitions [than Amélie] and fulfills them less successfully. What is forgivable in a fluffy comedy set in an imaginary Paris is unpardonable in a drama set in an authentically harrowing vision of WWI." And Tony Pipolo looks back on the New York Film Festival. Like others who've seen it (Susan Gerhard, AO Scott), he finds that Jia Zhangke's The World "both thematizes, and presents itself as a product of, globalization," echoing, in a way, the experience of the film festivals that screen it.

Online only: Amy Taubin's interview with Andrew Bujalski, whose Funny Ha Ha she put on her 2003 top ten list. What's more: "In the two years of its 'non-release,' Funny Ha Ha has accumulated a dedicated fan base and a set of reviews (from critics of all ages) that most first-time filmmakers would die for."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:45 PM | Comments (1)

Shorts, 11/18.

Bat Boy Major congrats to Brian Flemming, who has big news:

John Landis has been hired to direct the movie version of Bat Boy: The Musical. Naturally, we're all thrilled to death. We've been talking with him over the past two weeks, and he has great ideas for turning this musical into a movie. Larry, Keythe and I will be writing the screenplay. Because I really don't have enough to do.

"'Did you see Blue Spring?' one of them asks me. It was the reason she wanted to work with [Toshiaki] Toyoda. He's got big-time cult status in Japan. Everyone here shares this sense of awe." Mike Skurko visits the Tokyo set of the director's newest film, The Hanging Tree and, exhilarated, reports back to SF IndieBlog.

Canfield at Twitch reports on a Q&A session with Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Lots of terrific detail on A Very Long Engagement, but the big news of the evening is clearly word that Delicatessen is finally on its way to DVD. Also: Todd's Christmas list.

Wiley Wiggins posts an annotated list of his "favorite bunch of punk, post punk, new wave (or whatever) movies."

The Castro It takes Johnny Ray Huston three healthy paragraphs just to tick off the highlights of what all the Castro Theatre has accomplished and come to mean not only for the Bay Area but, with its landmark revivals and career-making premieres, for cinema in general as well. The point, of course, is to hammer home what's at stake in the wake of dramatic shake-ups over the past few weeks that have seen the dismissals of programmer Anita Monga and assistant manager Christian Bruno. As Monga says, "[T]he community has a huge stake in this place." And again, it's not the Bay Area community alone.

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

Kinsey, Sideways, I ♥ Huckabees... this could be Fox Searchlight's first clear shot at an Oscar or two or more since 1999's Boys Don't Cry, writes Jake Brooks. But the most fun anecdote is the one about how they nabbed their big money-maker of the year, Napoleon Dynamite. Also in the New York Observer, Tom Shone reads Robert McCrum's Wodehouse: A Life and finds himself wanting it. The life, that is:

"I can still picture him," recalled his stepdaughter Leonora, "floating motionless and happy in the pool, looking at his toes, or at the deep blue California sky, while presumably working out the next bit of writing complexity." Aren't writers who go to Hollywood supposed to end up face-down in the pool?

And: Rex Reed on Bad Education, Andrew Sarris on Finding Neverland and Drew Friedman on The Nutty Professor.

Tonight, in Austin, Richard Kern, in person, for a retrospective of his films at the Alamo Drafthouse. The Austin Chronicle's Marc Savlov phones him up.

Joel Stein as entertainment columnist for the Los Angeles Times? Bad idea, argues Nikke Finke: "At issue is not even the 33-year-old writer's talent, or lack thereof, though his résumé reads like a case study of someone failing upward. No, it's that Stein, a scavenger of snark, may very well be the most conflict-riddled columnist working in show-biz journalism today, and that's saying a lot."

Laurie Anderson Also in the LA Weekly, Doug Harvey: "Taken as a whole, [Laurie] Anderson's oeuvre constitutes one of the most significant creative projects of the last quarter-century, and while her cultural currency may have diminished as the 80s waned, the ominous global dread and McLuhanesque slapstick of her early work have suddenly taken on a profound new potency since 9/11." And Scott Foundas on Moolaadé, a film that, while it's no musical, is nonethless musical "in a distinctly African idiom that neither seeks the approval of Western viewers nor solicits their patronizing awe."

Cedric the Entertainer as Ralph Kramden? Yep, reports David Carr in the New York Times.

So Kevin Spacey is evidently planning to revive The Philadelphia Story at the Old Vic. David Thomson has some advice for him. Also in the Independent: Ryan Gilbey interviews Jonathan Demme.

Charles Taylor in Salon:

Accents - and impeccable enunciation - have bolstered the myth that British actors are superior to American actors. But the differences between British classical acting and American Method acting are eroding as a more uniform style, grounded in Method acting and its dedication to naturalism and emotional realism, takes precedence on both sides of the Atlantic.

Where did this idea that accents equal good acting come from anyway?

Buongiorno, Notte "I didn't expect ferocious polemics." And yet, that's precisely what Marco Bellocchio has been met with ever since making Good Morning, Night (Buongiorno Notte), a fictional account of the Red Brigades kidnapping of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro. He talks to the Guardian's Sophie Arie.

Also in the paper:

  • Tracey Emin is still furious at the British Board of Film Classification for slapping her debut feature, Top Spot, with an 18 rating: "The most ludicrous thing about the BBFC's decision is that the film is going to be shown over the Christmas season by the BBC and anyone will be able to watch it." Indeed. Colin Blackstock reports.

  • Legal correspondent Clare Dyer explains the complex set-up by which Roman Polanski might pursue his libel suit against Vanity Fair, an American magazine, of course, in a British court via videolink from France.

  • John Francis Lane remembers film composer Carlo Rustichelli, 1916 - 2004.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross proposes that Jamie Foxx's performance in Ray is "one of the most technically convincing portraits of a musician ever put on film." And explains why. Via CultureSpace.

Talking to John Sinno, head of Arab Film Distribution, among many others, Anthony Kaufman pulls together a portrait of how the Arab film community is coping in the face of current American prejudices. In short, it's been rough.

Also at indieWIRE: Shilpa Mankikar previews the International Thessaloniki Film Festival (November 19 - 28; watch this space for more) and the LGBT People of Color Festival (November 19 -21; more).

Like me, Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher is already looking ahead to the Berlinale (February 10 through 20).

CNET's Richard Shim reports on a coating that'll make DVDs more scratch-resistant; it's also being interpreted as ammo for the Blu-ray camp.

Online listening tip. Farai Chideya talks to Neil Jordan about his novel, Shade (the 11.16.04 item in the Your Call archive).

Posted by dwhudson at 7:38 AM

November 16, 2004

Shorts, 11/16 going on 17.

Tiffany's Crew Thanks to a grant from the NEA, the Paris Review is now not only willing but able to make its entire collection of over 300 interviews with writers conducted over the past half-century available online for free. These'll be appearing at the site decade by decade, starting with the 1950s and all those gods and monsters who give every aspiring writer raging, conflicting fits of inspiration and anxiety-of-influence. Posting the interviews (as PDF files, complete with the traditional manuscript sample pages) seems to be going a bit more slowly than planned, but that's understandable; this'll be a gargantuan task.

I remember (or I think I do; for a variety of long-forgotten reasons, all that's left of my "Writers at Work" collection are the 3rd and 4th series) - anyway, I remember that the William Faulkner interview has a few delicious bits on the Hollywood of his day. At the moment, he has a page but no interview yet.

Truman Capote's is up, though, conducted in 1957:

Seriously, though, I don't think a writer stands much chance of imposing himself on a film unless he works in the warmest rapport with the director or is himself the director. It's so much a director's medium that the movies have developed only one writer who, working exclusively as a scenarist, could be called a film genius. I mean that shy, delightful little peasant, Zavattini. What a visual sense! Eighty percent of the good Italian movies were made from Zavattini scripts - all of the De Sica pictures, for instance. De Sica is a charming man, a gifted and deeply sophisticated person; nevertheless he's mostly a megaphone for Zavattini, his pictures are absolutely Zavattini's creations: every nuance, mood, every bit of business is clearly indicated in Zavattini's scripts.

The man cultivated opinions.

Ah, this is good: Sure, weekly columns are nothing new and running second, even third opinions alongside reviews isn't a taboo-breaker, either, though it's a lot less common. But fit those two modes together, have all the contributors come from Reverse Shot and run it in indieWIRE... that's good. Michael Koresky heads up the inaugural column, a review of Bad Education, with responses by Jeff Reichert and Cecilia Sayad.

On that note, the Advocate's Alonso Duralde interviews Pedro Almodóvar: "And as the film went along the kids felt more comfortable around me. One asked me, 'So my character becomes a transvestite, right?' and the other one said, 'Does mine become a transvestite also?' And I said, 'No,' and he said, 'Dang.'"


From Capote's draft of Breakfast at Tiffany's

A lovely coincidence: Matt Zoller Seitz links Almodóvar and Capote, writing about the former's "well-documented affection for Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's and 1950s Hollywood in general." Also in the New York Press: Armond White on Bear Cub and Eminem's "Mosh."

But back to iW: A new blog, Awards Watch; Brian Brooks assembles the crew's photos snapped at the AFI Fest and Eugene Hernandez sorts through the awards. Another excellent round-up: Matt Langdon's annotated list of films, both good and bad.

Elizabeth Carmody at the Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival: "Luck was on my side last night when I chose to see a movie called Oscar."

Festival reports from the What's-the-Rush? Department: Last month's New York Film Festival receives a thorough going-over from Martha P Nochimson in Film-Philosophy and a breezier once-over from Thessa Mooij and Marina Gorbunova in Kamera, where Metin Alsanjak reviews the 48th London Film Festival.

Don Shewey meets Sam Shepard, who's returned to the stage after over thirty years in Caryl Churchill's A Number just has his own new play, The God of Hell, has opened across town. "While the action is zany," writes Shewey, "a steady undertow of disturbing references to torture, beheadings, and contamination accumulates, making the play darker, stranger, and more political than anything Shepard has written in years, possibly ever." Director Lou Jacob notes the difference in audience response before and after November 2: "Before, the audience was more reticent. They were holding their breath more. Now it's a reality and they're gasping with horror." Shepard also talks a bit about the difference between acting on stage and for the camera and notes he'll soon be promoting Don't Come Knockin', directed by Wim Wenders and starring himself and his wife, Jessica Lange.

Also in the Village Voice:

Roddy Doyle: Oh, Play That Thing

In the New York Times:

  • Lewis Beale: "Bayonne? Yes, the town across New York Harbor known primarily for its oil refineries and industrial pallor" is basking in its "revitalized image and its currently hot status as a filmmaking center."
  • "Some miracles can't be repeated." Charles McGrath reviews Mark Winegardner's The Godfather Returns.
  • Dave Kehr on selected new DVD releases.

Still a pundit! For TheFeature, Douglas Rushkoff considers what people will want to watch on their cell phones. Via Ray Pride, who's been contemplating the fate of an older-fashioned sort of cinema.

DVD tech pointers: Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay and the self-destructors; Matt Dentler and the format wars.

Roger Avary is suing Microsoft and ResponDesign: "After over a year of creative process and brain drain, Microsoft had the audacity to exploit my concept, and then claim they have no obligation to reimburse me."

Enough already, says Craig Phillips, listing "visual elements in film that have become too common."

David Nusair talks to Movie Poop Shoot "patron saint" Kevin Smith, who just handed in a first draft of his screenplay for The Green Hornet.

Eugenia de la Torriente interviews Penélope Cruz for L'espresso. Also via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau" (and in English): Namrata Joshi in Outlook India on four major films about to open over there and Girish Karnad reviews Nasreen Munni's biography of Guru Dutt.

So what's Girish Shambu been up to lately? Turns out he has quite a story about going to see Jennifer Reeves's The Time We Killed.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:29 PM

November 15, 2004

Books and shorts.

Metallica: The Monster Lives Metallica: The Monster Lives is a new book by Joe Berlinger, written with Greg Milner, documenting the making of the doc, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, shot with his frequent partner, Bruce Sinofsky. It'll be out tomorrow, but Filmmaker is already offering a sample chapter as a downloadable PDF file. Also: Jeremiah Kipp interviews Jim Van Bebber, writer and director of The Manson Family.

"Each of the twenty short stories in Seconds of Pleasure, [Neil] LaBute's prose fiction debut, revisits the discomforting territory of his dramatic work, and its formal concern to show, rather than tell." Andrew van der Vlies reviews the collection for the Times Literary Supplement, but you'll find the piece at Powell's.

Doug Cummings: "Art by Film Directors is definitely an interesting and at times relevatory book that sheds light on an important and neglected subject, even if it's easy to wish it had been more."

If you're going to read Who the Hell's In It?, Andrew Anthony writes between the lines, the grain of salt you'll need is the brush-up on Peter Bogdanovich's own biography he offers in the Observer.


  • The headline over a piece by Ken Loach cuts straight to the chase: "All film students should see this woman's work." To be fair, the recommendation was more or less dictated to Liz Hoggard, but: Icíar Bollaín is the Spanish actor, writer and director Loach is so enthusiastic about.

  • Hugh Grant has had a severe falling out with the press, his fans and his profession in general. The feeling is mutual, surmises Mark Honigsbaum, an old school friend: "No one wants to hear that 'acting is so tedious but the money's nice, darling' routine any more, least of all from a multi-million-pound movie star whose face is plastered on every billboard and bus stop in Britain."

  • Polly Vernon profiles Kelly Brook.

  • "In a recent survey, 1,000 travellers were asked to name their ideal travelling companion. Michael Palin came first, pipping Jesus Christ and Elvis." Joanne O'Conner reviews Palin's Himalaya and Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's Long Way Round.

  • There's a biography of Uma Thurman out. Entitled, sensibly, Uma Thurman: The Biography. Written by Bryony Sutherland and Lucy Ellis and reviewed by Anna Lynskey.

"It's a sign of the times. My friend and sometime 'boss' Mark Kitchell, an Oscar-nominee for Best Documentary film for Berkeley in the 60s, is looking for work." Fellow GreenCine editor Craig Phillips has launched a blog, and already, he's putting it admirable use. But most of all: "This blog will primarily be used for film and writing related posts.... Okay, I'll admit it - this blog will primarily be used as a tool for procrastination."

We've noted it before, but it bears repeating. If it weren't for Blue Underground, British television director Alan Clarke, who featured Gary Oldman, Tim Roth and Ray Winstone early in their careers, might have slipped completely into obscurity. Nicolas Rapold reviews the set of four films for Stop Smiling:

The typical Alan Clarke film is distinguished by superb naturalistic performances and by political interests as doggedly revelatory as other TV fare is determinedly escapist. Philosophically, his camera is no organizing authority; it aims instead at following the free will of characters, most notoriously via Steadicam but also through 360° lighting and long takes. His crisp economy leads to comparisons with Bresson, though his moral reserve and interest in marginal figures must also contribute.

But the surest mark of Clarke is a vigilant ear against the false note, in both performance and narrative arc - surely the only possible way anyone could ably render skinheads, hooligans, and, for pete’s sake, prison rapists, without exploitation or melodrama.

Filmbrain recalls film endings punctuated with just the right bit of music - and others chime in with more.

Jubilee The cinetrix points out that the question of what is or is not punk cinema has been brought up on a list; there must be a lot of cross-posting going on. But besides the cinetrix's thoughts on the matter, David Tetzlaff's entry in the discussion is a handy bit of orientation.

Oh, that Variety! "FX is mixing church and slate, teaming with Section Eight principals George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh on a 10 Commandments-themed event miniseries." Denise Martin reports; via Twitch.

In the New York Times:

  • AO Scott on the restored version of Sam Fuller's The Big Red One: "This 'fictional life based on factual death' is as honest as war movies come, but it attains this status by acknowledging that it has been, with visible effort and palpable inspiration, shaped, interpreted and embellished. It is a true story in which the emphasis falls equally on both words."

  • Very nifty graphics accompany Bob Baker's piece on historical accuracy in the staging of the battles in Oliver Stone's Alexander.

  • Denzel Washington turned in one of the better performances in Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing over ten years ago; now, as Jesse McKinley reports, he's headed to Broadway to take on the role of Brutus in Julius Caesar.

  • Brett Ratner tells Lola Ogunnaike what went wrong, more or less, with After the Sunset.

  • Stephan Paternot, one of the rise-n-fall dotcommers of the late 90s, believes he's found the next gold rush: indie film. Robert Johnson reports.

  • An editorial points to several ABC affiliates declining to air Saving Private Ryan on Veterans Day out of fear of the FCC as a sign of "the government's growing willingness to intrude excessively into American culture."

  • Thomas Vinciguerra samples a few of the papers delivered at the University of Kansas at Lawrence symposium, "In Godzilla's Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage."

  • In some ways, a complementary read: JD Considine on Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi, "a made-in-the-USA cartoon intended to turn average American kids into fans of a Japanese pop group."
  • Andrea Elliott: "[F]or thousands of Muslims... the American premiere of the animated feature Muhammad: The Last Prophet, was unquestionably a landmark cultural event."

  • To the surprise of very few, The Incredibles trounced Polar Express at the box office this weekend. Sharon Waxman reports that Warner Bros will go on playing its high stakes game anyway while Laura M Holson notes that Pixar is sitting pretty - and is in no hurry to choose a distribution partner.

Lillian Ross listens in as Randy Quaid asks Sam Shepard about the play the latter's written and the former's performing in. Also in the New Yorker, Anthony Lane on JM Barrie; and David Denby: "Complex and devious beyond easy recounting, Bad Education is about the fallout from the ending of a 'pure' love between boys, consecrated in an Almodóvaran temple - a movie theatre."

Broken Blossoms

The Guardian runs a piece from its archives - August 29, 1919 - on DW Griffith's Broken Blossoms.


Newsweek's Devin Gordon reports that Tom Hanks will likely play Harvard scholar Robert Langdon in Ron Howard's adaptation of The Da Vinci Code.

Who was Theo van Gogh?

AFI Fest: winners.

Greg Allen: "Movie Theaters I've Been To That Have Closed."

Online viewing tip #1. A little something from vkn. Via a brand new blog, SF Indie Blog.

Online viewing #2. "Get Your Videoblogs on TV." Via Cinema Minima.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:33 AM

November 14, 2004

NYT Magazine. 11.14.04.

NYT Magazine "Movies 2004: Us & Them" seems a pretty odd choice for a title of a special issue of the New York Times Magazine focusing on the globalization of cinema in every which way - culturally, economically and so on; after all, why reinforce a distinction when the overall argument is that it's dissolving?

At any rate, right off the top, "The Way We Live Now" may be a fixture of the magazine but it's never felt more on-the-money for readers of this blog, I'd guess, than it does this week as Manohla Dargis takes measure of the current state of cinephilia. In brief, there are two main forces at work in the revival of a new sort of cinephilia rising in the wake of the first round, as more or less defined by Susan Sontag and which faded with the passing of cinema's first century: the glocalization of the festival circuit and the DVD. And as for that second one, there are several sub-forces at work: DVDs make formerly inaccessible films both accessible and portable while the discs themselves are, in a way, a subset of an array of interconnected networks of information: the films themselves, data about the films, including where to find more of both and so on and so on. Giddy times.

Cinephilia aside, the DVD is also having a walloping impact on the industry as a whole. Hardly news. But Jon Gertner's thorough examination of exactly how it's impacting the works should appeal to cinephiles and MBAs alike.

The cover girl of the issue is Julia Roberts, looking, frankly, miserable. In a Christina Rossetti sort of way, that is. The shot comes from a collection of photos by Deborah Turbeville. You can page through them and wonder just what sort of image makeover this is supposed to be. You won't be alone. Seven very smart people have been asked to chime in on the mystery as well.

The first of Jean-Baptiste Mondino's photos of Maggie Cheung suggests an entirely different sort of blend of death and beauty; porcelain white, Maggie Cheung looks like she might be one of Mamoru Oshii's animated dolls. Fortunately, there's second photo to reassure us that she is very much alive. Susan Dominus: "To wonder why Cheung isn't a Hollywood star is to wonder a bigger question: why hasn't any contemporary Asian actress become a major Hollywood star?"

The World

The issue's backbone is two-fold, the "Us" and "Them" pieces. Lynn Hirschberg outlines the ways in which studios are homogenizing their increasingly bland product to reach the widest possible range of global audiences - and I do mean "outline" literally. This is one well-organized, bullet-pointed argument. And in Jia Zhangke's The World, AO Scott finds a nearly perfect way of tackling what seems at first a nearly impossible task - a survey of world cinema, as digested in the accompanying audio slide show - but turns out instead to be a history of the very idea of the "foreign film" in America.

Hirschberg also introduces a collection of photos of up-n-coming or already-there actresses from around the world; and asks Pierce Brosnan, as so many have, what it's like saying goodbye to James Bond. The interview may have been conducted before Colin Farrell made it crystal clear he's not at all interested in taking over the role.

Lukas Moodysson tells Kristin Hohenadel about A Hole in My Heart: "This was the first film I've made that I really felt I didn't have any idea what I was doing. And that was a great feeling."

Michael Ignatieff, who's tirelessly argued the cases for wars in the Balkans as well as the US invasion of Iraq, now examines the wreckage:

Before Iraq, there had been plenty of vicious insurgencies - in Algeria against the French, in Kenya against the British, in Vietnam against the Americans - but none of them used the camera as an instrument of terror.... We now have the terrorist as film director.... One horrendous picture seems not just to follow the other but also to justify it. From Abu Ghraib to decapitation footage and back again, we the audience are caught in a loop: one atrocity begetting another in a darkening vortex, without end.

Suketu Mehta on Bollywood: "Kitschy, illogical, often defying common sense, these movies have made me who I am. They shape the way I conduct my love affairs or think about religion or treat my elders." And Mira Nair: "Chai-making, like cinema, is all about rhythm, patience and timing."

Jonathan Dee turns in a brief profile of Freddie Highmore and Rob Walker describes the ways companies ensure celebrities get their stuff: "'Gifting the talent,' as this practice is called, is a good way to get visibility for a brand."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:32 AM | Comments (4)

November 12, 2004

Shorts, 11/12.

Brakhage still While They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? carries on tweaking its "1000 Greatest Films," a poll of lists that, statistically speaking, is probably the most accurate snapshot of the current state of the canon around, the site has introduced another list that, critically speaking, skews in the opposite direction. "Ain't Nobody's Blues But My Own" gathers "very personal favourites or undervalued gems that obviously hold a very special place in at least one individual's heart and/or mind, but not in most" - films that have appeared on some critic's or filmmaker's top-ten but on no one else's.

100 in all, and the list is fascinating. The choosers are identified and the chosen are linked to reviews. Stan Brakhage, who himself chooses an Oskar Fischinger film, pops up three other times; yes, of course, Fred Camper will make sure there's a Brakhage on his list - but Joe Dante? A pleasant surprise.

Oliver Burkeman heads to California to discover the secret of "Pixar, movie for movie, the most successful studio of any kind in the history of cinema." Of course, it's hardly a secret. As Randy Nelson, one exec, puts it, "No amount of good technology can turn a bad story into a good story, and we just set out to tell a good story as well as we can."

Also in the Guardian:

  • Suzanne Goldenberg: "More than 20 American TV stations last night boycotted a Veterans Day screening of war picture Saving Private Ryan because of fears that they would be censured by a newly aggressive television regulator over the movie's violence and graphic language." More from CNN via Weblogsky.

  • Will Hodgkinson meets film composer Zbigniew Preisner, "a beacon of European civilisation in the face of an American cultural avalanche. Having established himself after writing the music for almost all of fellow Pole Krzystzof Kieslowski's films including the Three Colours series, Preisner has since been flooded with work offers from Hollywood. He has chosen to stay loyal to European cinema."

  • Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith believes he's found what's wrong with Hollywood and what's right with Bush in The Manchurian Candidate.

  • Patrick Barkham meets Zach Braff, who's still blogging.

  • Alex Cox argues that a certain alchemy took place when John Wayne acted alongside George Hayes: Hayes made Wayne better.

  • Finally, a fresh approach to promoting a movie. In this case, Coffee and Cigarettes. Get two stars to email each other: Jack White and Steve Coogan.

  • Henk Spaan: "As I write this in Amsterdam, yet another press conference is being held on the crisis triggered by the killing of the film-maker Theo van Gogh." In case you haven't seen this elsewhere, "Submission," the eleven-minute short that angered Van Gogh's probable murderers, can be viewed at IFILM.

"Can Almodóvar be considered a political filmmaker?" asks Stuart Klawans in the Nation. "If so, what difference does it make?" Like Klawans, the LA Weekly's Ella Taylor can't help but watch the movies she sets out to review - Kinsey and Finding Neverland - in the light (or rather, the shadow) of the election.

Speaking of that last one, NP Thompson adds "a few more sketches" to those he laid out in his intro to his interview for us with Marc Forster.

"Everybody thinks that actors sit around and talk about what's going on and motivation and they don't. Actors talk about restaurants, girls and movies." Christopher Walken lets's Richard Sharp in on a few secrets of the trade.

Hats off to Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei: Just a great string of interviews for Gothamist, all week long.

Blind items. Usually, you skim right over them. But not when they come by way of the cinetrix.

Kung Fu Cinema passes along news that DreamWorks specialty division Go Fish will be distributing Casshern in the US.

In the Independent:

Vanity Fair has launched a new site. The offerings are somewhat limited, though there is a modest movies page alongside columns by a few of the magazine's higher-profile writers and, currently, a portfolio of photographs by Helmut Newton.

The Sea Inside Brian Brooks sorts through the nominations for the European Film Awards. Ahead with five each are Almodóvar's Bad Education, Alejandro Amenábar's The Sea Inside and Fatih Akin's Head On. Also at indieWIRE: Brandon Judell interviews Brother to Brother director Rodney Evans.

CNET's Paul Festa reports on innovations TiVo hackers keep coming up with which the company won't condone (for fear of angering Hollywood) but won't condemn, either (since, for one thing, the ideas hackers come up with may well have future potential for the company).

For Apple, Bija Gutoff finds probably its multiest-cultiest profile of a Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro user yet: Indian-born director Debdoot Das has made his mark with The Quick and Dirty Guide to Salsa.

AFI Fest: indieWIRE's blog is hopping with blurbs and pix; Matt Langdon's been sharply and concisely reviewing the highlights he's caught; Matt Dentler's still at it, too.

Doug Cummings is running reviews and impressions by Russell Lucas from the Three Rivers Film Festival in Pittsburgh.

Jonathan Rosenbaum previews the series "Toward a Political Modernism? Critical Japanese Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s" at the University of Chicago Film Studies Center, with screenings tonight and tomorrow.

Underskatement, a traveling fest of shorts made by skateboarders, rolls into San Francisco on Tuesday. For second opinions on a few of the Bay Area events Jonathan Marlow wrote up yesterday, see David Kim on the Film Arts Festival and Summi Kaipa on the South Asian Film Festival, both in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Online viewing tip #1. Again, it'd be a shame to pluck any one pointer from the constant flow of online viewing goodness to be found at Twitch.

Online viewing tip #2. Chuck Olsen has video'd a bit of a Q&A session with Jonathan Caouette. Nice silhouette effect there.

Online viewing tip #3. Amazon Theater. Via Greg Allen, whose comments make for a very entertaining preview.

By the way, following Greg's link to Stephen Mansfield's piece in Metropolis Tokyo on Donald Richie's The Japan Journals: 1947 - 1999 (although the version currently available runs up to 2004), I spotted this along the way: "Watercolors," an excerpt from Koji Suzuki's Dark Water.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:02 PM

Offscreen. Maddin Canada.

From the Atelier Tovar The Canadian film journal Offscreen tips its hat to fellow countryman Guy Maddin with four pieces, beginning with editor Donato Totaro's overview of his career, outlining his themes, techniques, style ("the archaic made [post]modern") and achievements as "Canada's only genuine cult director," but also reminding the reader that that doesn't necessarily mean all the projects he'd like to realize ever will be - "Wake Up, Canada!" is the final rallying cry on that one.

Totaro also reviews Maddin's From the Atelier Tovar: Selected Writings: "It may not be as eccentric as his films, but it remains an odd enough structural blend that includes real and pseudo autobiography, journal entry form, essayistic and conventional film criticism, film treatments, and artistic doodling."

The title of Roberto Curti's piece is relatively self-explanatory: "Transplant, Consumption, Death, Or: Disease, pathology and decay in Guy Maddin’s cinema." And while reviews often come off as an afterthought in journals, however unintentionally, Daniel Garrett's review of The Saddest Music in the World is probably the longest piece of the issue.

Instead, the caboose this issue, albeit one that fully pulls its own weight, is Michael Vesia's report on "Quintus," the first annual Montreal Italian Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:40 AM

MovieMaker. Vol. 4. #6.

MovieMaker Fall 04 Like Filmmaker, MovieMaker is a magazine aimed at people who, that's right, actually make 'em, and so, emphasizes the hands-on, need-to-know aspects of the process. So when, for example, Jennifer M Wood interviews Taylor Hackford, whose most recent film is Ray, questions aren't of the "what was it like to work with Jamie Foxx" variety, but rather, "How did you come to Jamie?" What does a director have to consider when casting a lead role, particularly when the character is a real person nearly everyone in the world knows? Or you talk budgets and how to spend them. And you wrap with a sidebar by Hackford himself: "Things I've Learned as a Moviemaker."

Other "Things I've Learned" sidebars this issue come from screenwriter Daniel Pyne, interviewed by Chris Diestler, cinematographer Rob Hahn, interviewed by Wood, and Voices of Iraq filmmakers Eric Manes and Martin Kunert, also interviewed by Wood.

What else:

Posted by dwhudson at 6:17 AM

Goings on. LA.

Jonathan Marlow's "Embarrassment of Cinematic Riches on the West Coast," Part Two: Los Angeles.

AFI Fest 2004 The just-completed American Film Market in Santa Monica, for the first time paired with AFI Fest across town, has to be judged an unqualified success if you focus on the numbers. 356 companies (not including those businessmen lingering in the lobby) and 459 films highlight this shift of AFM to November. Of course, with the last edition occurring in February, it might be a little too soon for attendees to take full advantage of the market. Some exhibitors were remarking that things were comparatively quiet. If that unlikely trend continues in twelve months, expect further tinkering with this partnership between market and festival, rich with possibilities. The screenings (including new works by Jia Zhang-ke, Todd Solondz, Takashi Shimizu, Thomas Riedelsheimer and others) at AFM are reserved for distribution and acquisitions executives. For the audience-friendly face of this event, look no further than the ArcLight.

Otherwise known by its wordy alternative, the 18th American Film Institute Los Angeles International Film Festival, AFI Fest is second only to Sundance for an American festival with omnipresent appearances from celebrities. Not surprising since the event happens in these stars' backyard. What a backyard, too - the ArcLight is a lovely venue as multiplexes go.

While there were 24 world premieres (including the US comedy My Tiny Universe and the Korean "underground railroad" film Seoul Train), twelve was the number of choice. A dozen special screenings, another dozen international features (and an identical number of docs) in competition and a further twelve films in the European Showcase. Twelve not to your liking? How about eight? The sideways-infinity-sign represents the number of entries in the Asian New Classics, Made in Germany and Latin Cinema series respectively.

Among the standouts of this year's event: Opening night film Beyond the Sea, director/star Kevin Spacey's Bobby Darin bio-pic (of which I am proud to say that I'm the only person I know less than or equal to 35 years of age who actually owns a number of Darin's albums); the North American premiere of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's long-awaited A Very Long Engagement; a tribute to Pedro Almodóvar (along with a screening of his latest, Bad Education, and a selection of his earlier films); a presentation this weekend of the complete Infernal Affairs trilogy (soon to be needlessly remade into a single film); fresh looks at the effects of capitalism throughout the world, specifically Buenos Aires in Avi Lewis's The Take and the "big box" hoax perpetrated in Czech Dream; Gurinder Chadha's Bollywood-by-way-of-Jane Austen Bride and Prejudice, starring the stunning Aishwarya Rai.

The Far Side of the Moon

Of all these wonderful things, I particularly urge audiences to seek out one truly creative work if it happens to arrive in your neighborhood - The Far Side of the Moon. Writer/director/star Robert Lepage elegantly merges an array of clever ideas, creating parallels in a deceptively simple narrative about our struggles to understand who we are and how we get along. Lepage, best known here for his theatre work (upon which this film is based), has directed other fantastic films but none of them are available on video in this country. This blemish might finally be remedied with Far Side's submission by Canada as its official entry for Best Foreign Language Academy Award®.

Hungary's official entry this year (and part of the European Showcase at AFI Fest) is Nimród Antal's Kontroll (which also recently screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival). Unfortunately, it bears the weaknesses of many first-time features. Visually impressive but narratively incomplete, entertaining at times, if overly long, and submerged by an intrusive score. There is no doubting that better achievements are ahead for the director, though.

As with any festival, there are also plenty of pictures that I am disappointed to have missed: Alex de la Iglesia's Crimen Ferpecto (his 800 Bullets from 2002 is currently in limited release while the even earlier Common Wealth, circa 2000, is due to hit American screens in a few weeks); the likely disastrous combination of Asia Argento and JT LeRoy with The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things; the Haskell Wexler documentary Tell Them Who You Are, directed by his son; the certain-to-be-depressing Hotel Rwanda, telling the story of yet another ignored-at-the-time genocide. Thankfully, one festival leads to another. The big three (Sundance, IFFRotterdam, Berlinale) are on the near horizon. There are always more films to see.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:11 AM | Comments (8)

November 11, 2004

Goings on. SF.

Jonathan Marlow files the first of two reports he suggests might fall under the rubric, "Embarrassment of Cinematic Riches on the West Coast." Today: San Francisco.


Planning is at its weakest this weekend as several film festivals descend on the city (or end in the city) for their annual events. The SF International South Asian Film Festival (including at least two remarkable films - Ritwak Ghatak's fantastic Jukti Takko aar Gappo and the Bollywood extravaganza Main Hoon Na, starring the great Shahrukh Khan) at the Castro (Saturday) and the Roxie (Sunday); the inspired Cinemexico series begins at the Pacific Film Archive; the American Indian Film Festival continues at the Galaxy and the Palace of Fine Arts; the Latino Film Festival moves to the Lark Theatre and elsewhere for another week; Godzillafest opens at the Castro next Wednesday (more about that next week).

If that weren't enough, two higher-profile events additionally begin in the days ahead.

New Italian Cinema

New Italian Cinema returns for its ninth year, produced as always in association with the San Francisco Film Society (as a companion to its better-known SF International Film Festival). The boot-shaped showcase launches Sunday with Lina Wertmüller's latest, the oddly named Too Much Romance… It's Time for Stuffed Peppers. In her hands, and with a cast consisting of F Murray Abraham and the wonderful Sophia Loren, this Romance should make for a terrific opening night. Over the subsequent seven days, the fest serves that great role of offering a cinematic collection that will not likely grace local screens again, including more than a half-dozen works by first- and second-time directors. Like its sibling, though, the series relies too much on the Kabuki - in this case, its sole venue.

Meanwhile, in a culture fascinated by the symbolic significance of numbers, anniversaries carry deep psychological meanings that are otherwise unwarranted. Take, for instance, the Film Arts Foundation’s Film Arts Festival, founded in 1984. This year marks its 20th annual event, giving the multi-talented Gail Silva and the staff of FAF special reason to celebrate.

One week prior to the festival proper, Philip Kaufman convened an audience at the grand Castro Theatre for an evening of sights and sounds from a career (ideally) not quite half-finished. The festival officially kicks off tonight, November 11, at Mighty with the so-called "Redeclaration of Independents." The usual (and deserving) suspects will be honored for their achievements in film and, consequentially, their decision to remain in Northern California - documentary filmmaker Lourdes Portillo, media archaeologist Craig Baldwin and "non-fiction cultural historian" turned "biting satirical narrative filmmaker" Terry Zwigoff.

FAF's FAF @ 20
This is a film festival, right? There are a few of those, too. Firstly, the feature IPO with a premise that was stale before the camera started rolling (or, since this is video, "pixilating"). Not satisfied with a single simple cliché, the filmmakers add a half-dozen more to the mix. Fortunately, the performers take this material and elevate it to several sincerely inspired moments, making the film considerably better than many similar efforts. Folks that missed Girl Trouble at the aforementioned SFIFF have another opportunity to miss it at FAF. That would be a shame because the documentary deftly follows three young women as they work their way through the juvenile justice system in San Francisco.

Three is also the number of days worth of screenings in this brief event, with Saturday almost entirely devoted to short films (four programs, back-to-back). In addition to works partially funded by the Film Arts Fund for Independent Cinema (Push Button, The Keep and Fabrication among them), FAF includes recent shorts from Michael Wilson (not the Mike Wilson that made Michael Moore Hates America - this Mr. Wilson is an unusually skilled filmmaker), Rock Ross and Kerry Laitala. These individuals carry on a tradition of unconventional work in a city that can produce uniquely different visions, from George Kuchar to Francis Coppola (with Jim Mitchell somewhere in between).

Posted by dwhudson at 1:52 PM

November 10, 2004

Bright Lights. 46.

Bright Lights Film Journal Like Senses of Cinema, which usually produces a new issue at around the same time, Bright Lights Film Journal has simply become too bounteous-to-bursting with goodness to mirror the table of contents all over again, but that doesn't mean the appearance of a new issue of one isn't one of the two major highlights of any season (the other, of course, being a new issue from the other).

For orientation, head, as always, straight to editor Gary Morris's opening remarks:

Now that the pre-election jitters are gone (and the real horror is here), we've decided to do our small bit here at La Casa de La Luz Bright by redesigning the site to take it, to paraphrase George Brown (who actually did the redesign), "to insane new levels of minimalism." We agree with George that when the world spins off its axis, nothing quite satisfies like a little redecorating.

Frankly, the old design was even easier to read than SoC's new design, but yes, this is even better. For those in the States, you can be glad tomorrow's a holiday with a weekend hot on its heels. There's plenty to dig into here; myself, I'll probably start with Alan Vanneman's dressing down of Pauline Kael and wander, dazed and dazzled, from there...

Posted by dwhudson at 11:27 AM

Shorts, 11/10.

Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Foreign Film Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher finds the perfect way to introduce Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Foreign Film, edited by Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour: Let B Ruby Rich do it.

Resfest has just swept through Singapore on its way to São Paulo, and it's left Ben Slater anything but intoxicated with hope for the future of cinema. In fact, his solid reading (laced with links) of digi-fest culture is a healthy, sobering slap in the face:

Res is constructing a very specific notion of the future of film, a globalised spikey haircut kind of future, where film-makers and audiences are all homogenized into a definition of 'state-of-the-art' that owes more to design and branding than it does to the real world we live in. This troubles me, because a festival dedicated to innovation needs to be doing a lot more than just checking to see if it looks good in the mirror.

Amitabh Bachchan is the star of Romesh Sharma's Dil Jo Bhi Kahey..., currently being shot in Mauritius. Namrata Joshi visits the set and finds that the film "is unique in that it's a Bollywood film that doesn't talk about India. Instead, it zooms in on contemporary Mauritian society and the politics inside Mauritian homes." Also in Outlook India: Meghnad Desai reviews Bunny Reuben's ...And Pran: A Biography.

New reviews at

It's not available online (though it can be ordered online_, and it's in Spanish, but it warrants mention. The November issue of Rockdelux marks the Spanish magazine's 20th anniversary and features a hefty dossier on the best films from Spain - ever.

Quite a read in the Independent from Kevin Jackson. It's about war movies and it opens with often observed but still baffling juxtaposition between "that which leaves the viewer harrowed by the fake and bored by the real." He then moves toward an explanation of why the "challenge for filmmakers who wish to be more than hacks or propagandists when depicting war has grown into an increasingly complex one."

Also in the paper: Justin Huggler on mercenaries and the film Leonardo DiCaprio wants to make about them and Charlotte Cripps previews the Face on Film Weekend (November 19 - 21).

Speaking of war movies, J Hoberman finds The Big Red One "certainly a testament to [Sam] Fuller's tenacity, but recent raves notwithstanding, it's no masterpiece." As for Kinsey: "Opening too late for the election but still one the year's most politically relevant movies, [Bill] Condon's earnestly middlebrow biopic is an argument for tolerance and diversity."

Also in the Village Voice:


"Pat O'Neill: Views From Lookout Mountain" is a retrospective running through Saturday at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "A native Angeleno, Mr. O'Neill has been creating startlingly beautiful, technically virtuosic films since the early 1960's, many of which engage with the city as a subject." (See also our interview.)

Also in the NYT:

  • Craig S Smith reports on how the murder of Theo van Gogh "has polarized [the Netherlands], giving the rest of Europe a disturbing glimpse of what may be in store if relations with the Continent's growing immigrant communities are not managed more adeptly."

  • In LA, Nick Madigan checks in on the third annual Screenwriting Expo and watches hopefuls pitch their hearts out.

  • Dinitia Smith asks Liam Neeson about playing Alfred Kinsey, a man so different from himself.

  • Dave Kehr highlights the best new DVD releases.

  • Reviews: Dargis on The Polar Express ("a grave and disappointing failure"), Dana Stevens on New Guy ("the film's tone shifts from satire to horror and back again") and AO Scott on Overnight: "Any movie that makes you root against the underdog... is cause for suspicion."

IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez reports on the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (November 11 through 13): "Festival films will be judged using a criteria that includes a project's 'sound biblical worldview,' its theological accuracy, the quality of the project, production values and the 'holiness in presentation.'"

Cinemocracy has been sorting through reports on Hollywood's role - if indeed there is one - in the outcome of the election.

One of David Edelstein's readers points out how The Incredibles is being read differently in red and blue states.

For Movie City News, Andrea Gronvall interviews Brad Bird.

A Way of Life

In the Guardian:

Finding Neverland "may be a deceptive breakthrough" for Johnny Depp, warns Adam Sternbergh in New York. "The role may help his career, but it suggests a threat to his immensely valuable niche in our culture." (See also our interview with Marc Forster.)

In the New York Press:

Anthony Kaufman: "These are dire times. Award-giving bodies must be stopped." But seriously. Bruckheimer?

Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei interview Tribeca Film Festival co-managing director and programmer Nancy Schafer for Gothamist.

A Piece of Cairo What, another manifesto from Matt Clayfield? Actually, he means it this time.

Online viewing tip. Peter Reid's "A Piece of Cairo" (scroll down). Via Newstoday.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:09 AM

November 8, 2004

Sight & Sound. 12/04.

Sight & Sound: December 04 Geoffrey Macnab introduces his own interview with Catherine Breillat. The subject at hand is Anatomy of Hell and among the other artists the film calls to Macnab's mind (e.g., Buñuel) is a surprise: "There's a hint of Strindberg about the extraordinarily intense and destructive relationship between the man and the woman." Breillat herself nails one of the many differences: "After all, my film is about showing what is unwatchable."

For those who'd agree (hear! hear!) with Brian Price when he writes in Senses of Cinema, "One of the unfortunate consequences of Breillat's reputation as the auteur of porn is that it has obscured the much more interesting fact of her engagement with the history of modernist filmmaking," or, "Breillat is also one of the most important colorists working in film today," but have also worried that she's been drilling herself deeper into the same film over and again lately, good news: Evidently, her next project is "a costume drama based on Barbey D'Aurevilly's 1851 novel Une Vieille Maîtresse (An Old Mistress), the tale of an impoverished aristocrat obsessed by his former mistress."

But back to the December issue of Sight & Sound. J Hoberman, himself a Breillat defender to a point, notes in his overview of John Waters's career (the occasion is the UK release of A Dirty Shame) that "as a recognised authority on aesthetic shock [Waters] is called on to endorse such films as Catherine Breillat's Anatomy of Hell ('the most politically incorrect movie I've ever seen in my life'). One hopes he will eventually weigh in on Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ - though his response to Gibson's sacred gross-out may well be A Dirty Shame." The S&S editors probably had no idea how timely their inadvertent "moral values" issue would be; Hoberman's piece even opens with his own take on the "two Americas" (and it's not what Edwards was preaching).

Reviews (and as S&S warns, there are spoilers in these):

Posted by dwhudson at 2:04 PM

November 7, 2004

Rouge. 4.

"I think that among the arts, cinema is the least known. Its history is generally ignored, and so is, above all, its real nature." Víctor Erice, whose 1973 debut film, The Spirit of the Beehive, has been called "a startling essay on the cinema's capacity to infect real life with mystery" (Michael Atkinson), opens the fourth issue of Rouge by raising a few essential questions in two relatively recent pieces now appearing in English for the first time.

The Spirit of the Beehive

Erice's second essay is, in a sense, a contemplation sparked by a quote from Manoel de Oliveira: "'O cinema é sempre um fantasma da realidade' - 'Cinema is always reality's ghost'."

Another pair of related pieces: An excerpt from Jean-Jacques Schuhl's Ingrid Caven: A Novel and Thomas Elsaesser's examination of how (and why) a 1997 television drama, Death Game, "rewrit[es]" Germany in Autumn (1978).

Then, Hitchcock; two films, three articles. Jean-Pierre Coursodon presents his ample "Notes on the Fetishism of the Long Take in Rope"; Douglas Pye on what Under Capricorn reveals about The Paradine Case and Hitch himself, talking to Mark Rappaport, maps the unpleasant uphill climb making Paradine turned out to be.

Antonioni's 17-minute Lo Sguardo di Michelangelo sparks two short pieces by Jonathan Rosenbaum and Enrica Antonioni. Rosenbaum notes that translating the title as Michelangelo Eye to Eye just isn't right; The Gaze of Michelangelo would work... Regardless, this "may conceivably be his most interesting film since Red Desert (1964)."

Rosenbaum also introduces an interview with Jacques Rivette conducted by film critic John Hughes and which first appeared in 1975 in the collection Rear Window and an interview Hughes conducted with himself as a fresh approach to reviewing Rivette: Texts and Interviews, which Rosenbaum edited in 1977.

The Ozu centennial retrospective is still on the road and has just opened in LA. Rouge runs a paper Shigehiko Hasumi delivered last year in New York: "Ozu's Angry Women."

Robert Kramer's "Letter to Bob Dylan" and its introduction by his collaborator, Bobby Buechler, had me checking on the status of Todd Haynes's I'm Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Bob Dylan... still there, evidently.

And finally, "To make an investigation into the original photographic and chronophotographic experiments carried out by the French physiologist EJ Marey (1830 - 1904)": James Clayden.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:03 PM

Sunday shorts.

A Very Long Engagement Looks like there's going to be another bonus packed into the recent launch of Spiegel International: English translations of reviews that appear in the magazine. Often, that'll mean sneak peeks of European films that aren't quite due yet for US release. For example: Lars-Olav Beier reviews Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement. Todd at Twitch is, in the meantime, holding his full review until the week of its release, but nevertheless offers his first impression.

The film is currently the center of a raging debate over France's program of subsidizing domestic productions, as Jon Henley reports in the Guardian. Though it's "set in France, was filmed in France, is spoken in French and kept some 600 French technicians, 80 French actors and 1,500 French extras employed for more than two years," two associations of French producers are arguing that the film is, in fact, not French, and therefore, does not qualify for public funds.

Also in the Guardian:

Anthony Kaufman: "Changing a culture that celebrates The Apprentice and Survivor - games of humiliation and materialism and Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest - a culture of diabetes-causing fast food chains and chemical-spewing corporations (all duly attacked this year, but apparently not enough to do anything about it). It all seems like a noble goal, but I expect American culture to be unconquerable and lost for good."

Doug Cummings has a different take and looks to what, in the wake of the election, might be learned from a mentor in the truest sense of the word: "[André] Bazin's cultural engagement was more moral, progressive, spiritual - even Christian - than the conservative half of the American electorate could possibly dream."

Filmbrain finds that The Assassination of Richard Nixon "might just have a greater impact today than it would have a few weeks ago."

Koza Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece in PopMatters on Nuri Bilge Ceylan: "It is as though we are watching not film, but the director's very thoughts and experiences as they play out across the screen of his mind.... In his melancholic pessimism and everyday existentialism, Ceylan brings hope, at least, to cinema."

Nicole Kassell's The Woodsman and Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation (Caouette link via Brian Flemming, by the way) have taken the top awards at the London Film Festival. Louise Jury reports; Roger Clarke amplifies.

Also in the Independent, which is having off-n-on problems with its new site, so be patient, two interviews: Leslie Felperin with Nicole Kidman and Ryan Gilbey with Meryl Streep.

Unfortunately, only Atlantic subscribers can read all four of David O Russell's blurbs on books he recommends, but it does seem that two are available to the rest of us.

At Movie Poop Shoot, Alison Veneto presents an introduction to J-Horror (and posts some bad news regarding the domestic release of Steamboy as well), DK Holm wonders what Sherry Lansing's departure from Paramount might mean for William Friedkin's future and Chris Ryall reports from the Hamptons.

The new blog at indieWIRE: AFI Fest 2004. There, too: Matt Dentler and Leonard Klady.

In San Francisco, the 8th International Latino Film Festival opened on Friday and runs through November 21 and the 29th annual American Indian Film Festival opened yesterday and runs through next Saturday.

In the New York Times:

  • Ross Johnson spots a trend at the American Film Market, perhaps best summed up by Avi Lerner: "The days of buyers wanting to pay by the pound for movies with actors rented by the day are over."

  • Steve Martin tells the story of one of his better purchases: "The drawing was lush with Surrealist imagery that was woven together seamlessly. I am not a sucker for photorealistic skill, but the microscopic details were effortlessly done and expertly supported the drawing's content. I felt I was looking at an exceptional artwork."

  • Together with Paul Reubens, Dave Itzkoff looks back: "On the air from 1986 to 1991, Pee-wee's Playhouse was a vibrant and relentlessly inventive half-hour that was equal parts dollies and Dali, whose every frame was crammed with pop art, vintage toys and talking furniture."

  • Laura Holson on Michael Ovitz's version of Hollywood: "It is, as some noted, a world where the fictional Mafia family the Sopranos would be at home, and probably do well in."

  • Extracts from Cliffs Notes-style film study guides.

"Über Teens" rule on TV, writes Heather Havrilesky in Salon.

In the Observer:

  • "The superman is a man of power, which means that from the first his mission was political."Peter Conrad traces the history of the superhero from Nietzsche to Mr Incredible.
  • Jason Burke take measure of the political climate in the Netherlands where the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh "has catalysed a steady erosion of the Dutch tradition of moderation and self-censorship on race and religion."
  • David Smith profiles Nathan Lane.

Via Movie City News: Scott Eyman interviews Peter Bogdanovich.

In the Telegraph:

Good Lord. A mere $5250 will get you the Criterion Collection Holiday 2004 Gift Set. Via Matt Clayfield.

Online viewing tip. A Japanese television promo for Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, via Todd at Twitch.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:00 PM

NYT. Holiday movies.

What, already? Seems like only the day before yesterday that the New York Times was previewing the fall; my, how time flies when you're preoccupied with a fall of an entirely different order. But lo, many of the same films pop up again in this Sunday's "Holiday Movies" package.


Posted by dwhudson at 11:54 AM

November 5, 2004


Synoptique, a journal founded by grad students at Concordia University in Montreal, makes the most of its online presence with, for example, a wider-than-widescreen table of contents-slash-navigation interface. What's more, the newest edition, the fifth, inaugurates a Style Gallery, established to tackle the very concept of "film style" and to "collect concrete examples from actual films that individuals were willing to stand behind and point to and say, 'Yes, this is a moment of film style.'"

Synoptique 5

For starters, this means: Clips! Ten so far, ranging from films by Wes Anderson and Todd Haynes to Truffaut and Kubrick, and they are gorgeous to look at. But watching them is only the first step. Those who've submitted the clips comment on them; you are invited to leave comments; and you're invited to submit a "style moment" as well.

Also in this edition:

Another journal incorporating interactivity but with a bit more of a tech aesthetic about it is the Italy-based Cinemascope (not to be confused with Cinema Scope), an independent film journal whose first issue is set to appear early next year. What's up at the moment is the "zero issue," bearing the title, "Cinema and Independence." Linking to individual pieces is possible, but it does spoil the overall effect; besides a clock and adjustable sound effects, the site features the ability to slightly shift the color scheme, switch between the Italian and English versions of articles and so on. So, as with Synoptique, it's best to go in through the front door.



Zoetrope All-Story "Cruisers" is John Sayles's contribution to the fall issue of Zoetrope: All-Story:

"Remember the dude two Christmases ago," says Ricky, "washed up by the old turtle works?"

"Accidental causes."

"That's what they always say when they don't know shit. Didn't know where he came from, what boat he was off of, nada. And nobody ever claimed him."

"Plenty of that on this island."

Also: Dilip K Basu: "On Satyajit Ray's Film Adaptation of 'The Goddess'."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:21 AM

November 4, 2004

Shorts, 11/4.


So, anyway. Movies.

No, wait. Forgive just one short note, which I'll address to those of us still recovering from an almost inexplicably visceral shock, whose heads were perfectly aware that the election could have gone either way, even as our guts were telling us Kerry would win: Aussie Mel Gibson knows America better than we do. But that doesn't mean we need to cede the evidently decisive "moral values" issue to the religious right. The next round of debates may be laced with more quotes from the Bible than from the Constitution, but if I recall correctly, Jesus of Nazareth said a few things about killing, about the meek, and generally, about how we should all go about living together that might come in handy for our side. And just one link: John Powers.

Bruce Conner: America is Waiting Ok, enough. Movies.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian unveils its list of "Goldies" (Guardian Outstanding Local Discovery Awards) for the year, and a Lifetime Achievement award goes to Bruce Conner. Johnny Ray Huston:

Conner's movie-making proves he's a seer. Dennis Hopper cites his editing as a formative influence on Easy Rider, and like fellow Canyon Cinema trailblazer Kenneth Anger, Conner can rightfully claim that music video directors owe their very existence to him - though the hordes who unknowingly followed in his wake usually confuse his pointed formal approach with mere style.

The other film-related Goldie recipient this year is Kelly Duane. Susan Gerhard: "As a political documentary, Monumental does the impossible: it breathes." And there's just one film review this week: Kimberly Chun on Alfie.

Three writers put together a piece in Outlook India on the censorship of films in their country: "At the cutting edge of the debate is political ideology and hate speech, rather than obscenity and violence." Also via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau": Muriel Zagha's review in the Times Literary Supplement of Edward McPherson's Buster Keaton: Tempest in a Flat Hat: "Keaton wanted to produce a vision so true it 'hurt'."

For the City Pages, Rex Sorgatz interviews Blogumentary filmmaker Chuck Olsen, who describes the project as "partially a website, partially a large collection of archived video interviews, and partially a documentary. It's become an amorphous entity without beginning or end."

Doug Cummings on Japanese horror of the 50s and 60s.

In the LA Weekly:

Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE: "The Oscar category for Best Foreign Language film is fraught with so many intricate procedures and regulations that both industry insiders and outsiders never fail to be surprised by its outcome."

In the New York Times:

Koji Suzuki: Dark Water

  • Randy Kennedy profiles Koji Suzuki, the novelist who's provided the storylines for several J-horror films.

  • Lewis Beale checks in on George Romero as he films Land of the Dead in Toronto.

  • Caryn James talks to novelist Ian McEwan, screenwriter Joe Penhall and director Roger Michell to track the process of turning McEwan's "apparently unadaptable" novel into Enduring Love.

  • Matthew Hays discovers the dangers facing documentary filmmaker Parvez Sharma and the subjects of his newest, In the Name of Allah, which profiles Muslim homosexuals.

  • Marlise Simons reports on the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who had recently stirred controversy with a film critical of elements of Islamic culture. In a follow-up piece today, Simons adds that eight arrests have been made in connection with the crime. In the Guardian, Jon Henley reports that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is "'very much afraid' that 'Submission,' an 11-minute film about Islamic violence against women that she wrote and the filmmaker produced, was the direct cause of his death. Unlike van Gogh, Hirsi Ali lives under 24-hour police protection."

  • Jason George on the Icelandic government's efforts to attract foreign filmmakers: "So could Reykjavik be the next Toronto?"

Andrea Gronvall interviews James Wan and Leigh Whannel, the filmmakers behind Saw for Movie City News, which points to a BBC piece on Tarantino's plans: "Everyone still thinks I'm doing Inglorious Bastards next, but before I do that I want to do something much smaller." Your basic little kung fu flick. In Mandarin.

In the Guardian:

  • The London Film Festival wraps today, and the paper tops off its coverage. For more, of course, check the Times, one of the fest's co-sponsors.

  • A ten-part adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and the Margarita is being shot in Russia and the Orthodox Church is not pleased, reports Nick Paton Walsh.

  • John Sutherland's defense of piracy: "A revolution is happening in the film industry. Behind every revolution lies crime. Until after the revolution, that is, when crime is redefined as the people's hammer blow for freedom. Forward with the student downloaders, say I." Meanwhile, in the NYT, Laura M Holson reports that some Hollywood studios are about to make the same mistake the music industry's made.

  • B Ruby Rich interviews David O Russell. We get a little more background on what sort of activist he was back in the 80s.

  • Will Hodgkinson gets cast in The Wild and Wycked World of Brian Jones: "I came to interview Woolley and a few cast members about the film, but in a cost-cutting process that is no doubt common in the impoverished British film industry, [Stephen] Woolley's got me multi-tasking."

  • Oliver Burkeman meets The Yes Men.

  • Owen Bowcott on remakes that never should have been.

  • Michael Billington on Peter Brook's production of "an extraordinary trilogy that raises timeless questions about the subversiveness of faith, the meaning of existence and the conflict of free will and destiny."

Two Election Night party reports at Salon: Rebecca Traister on Harvey Weinstein's and Priya Jain and Corrie Pikul's on The Daily Show's.

In the New Yorker: Larissa MacFarquhar meets Paul Giamatti.

Jessica Winter talks to Bill Condon about Kinsey: "There's a myth in American movies that's as strong today as ever, that there exists out there a soul mate for you who will also fulfill all your sexual needs over an entire lifetime. And if you don't find that person, then somehow you've failed in life."

Also in the Village Voice:

Fade to Black

In the New York Press:

In the Independent, now sporting a new design:

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

Online viewing tip. Trailers for Katsuhito Ishii's The Taste of Tea, via Todd at Twitch.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:56 AM | Comments (5)

November 1, 2004

Midnight Eye. 11/04.

Aerial Momotaro Jaspar Sharp's survey of the early pivotal works of Japanese animation picks right up where it left off in the last issue of Midnight Eye to conclude with a note on its significance for the present:

With animation as one of the nation's biggest cultural exports, directors such as Mamoru Oshii and Katsuhiro Otomo continue to push the medium in search of new levels of realism and way past the thematic and intellectual boundaries of the nation's live action cinema.... It's been tempting for Western audiences to assume that these modern works have sprung up from nowhere as if by magic, but the box of treasures unearthed at Puchon in 2004 reveals that Japan possesses as long and as bountiful a legacy in the animated medium as virtually any other country you could name in the world, and there's no hint of the good times coming to an end any time soon.

Sharp's chat with Makoto Shinozaki is also a follow-up of sorts; Tom Mes interviewed the director back in 2001. This time around, talk is mostly of dogs. After all, as Sharp observes at the beginning of his review of Shinozaki's latest film, Walking With the Dog, "2004 is the Year of the Dog as far as Japanese cinema is concerned." But there are also interesting exchanges concerning Tomio Aoki, the influence of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and the origins of the Cop Festival project.

Mes briefly reviews The Cinema of Japan and Korea, a collection of essays to which both he and Sharp contributed, so it's an admirable gesture when he notes that the book is "well worth considering for its Japanese half, and pretty much indispensable for its Korean section."

There's no overriding theme to the "Round-Up" this issue; just five quick reviews. The other two lengthier reviews: Nicholas Rucka on Marronnier, Hideyuki Kobayashi's "twisted karaoke video-doll-slasher-movie," and on Umizaru, evidently sort of like a Japanese Top Gun, only much better.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:48 AM