April 30, 2005

Weekend shorts.

If you're reading this, you love movies (or at least like them), which is why I can tell you in full confidence that Filmbrain's explication of the dangers (never mind the sheer absurdity) of the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, just signed by the Prez this week, is the most important quick read you'll come across today.

San Francisco Documentary Film Festival Meantime: "I came across this quote from Jean Renoir a few months ago in Film Comment magazine (thanks, Kent Jones!): 'Reality is always magic.' Eureka! A documentary film festival tagline if I ever heard one." Tod Booth unveils the site for the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, May 12 through 22. Now, folks? Mouthing off about quality websites is hardly appropriate after the several days this very blog was kaputt, but anyone looking to cobble one together for a film festival can take a lesson or two from this one. Unique, common-sensical URLs for each film. And on each film's page - let's take the first one, as an example, Awake Zion, the photo, the blurb, the necessary info, all clear as can be, plus, written out and clickable so as to open a new window, a link to the film's own site. Bravo.

And: Congrats to Alison Willmore and IFC: the new design loads faster, it's easier to read and those features are going to come in handy for all of us.

Saul Symonds has been adding some intriguing new items to Light Sleeper. Brian McFarlane introduces "Standing up for Jesus," piece Raymond Durgnat wrote for Motion in 1963: "He could be maddening, sarcastic and labyrinthine but you always felt you were in the presence of a unique sensibility."

Schnitt 38 Then there are two reprints from Positif by Jean-Pierre Coursodon (and both in French), the first on Clint Eastwood's westerns, the second on Million Dollar Baby. And Schnitt editor Oliver Baumgarten looks back to the catastrophe flicks of the 70s and contemplates what they reveal about the American psyche. In German.

So Darren Hughes has returned home from the San Francisco International Film Festival: "It's a particularly great city to visit with other film buffs; we hit almost every stop on the Vertigo tour." Like Doug Cummings, to whom he points right there, Darren's a bit underwhelmed by the festival itself, but does name a few highlights, adding, "After a second viewing, L'Intrus may have bumped Café Lumière from the top spot of my 2004 list. Just a great, great film."

As it happens, the other film buff Darren was hanging with is Robert Davis, who's just posted some terrific tidbits from his interview with Claire Denis that didn't make an earlier cut.

"In the past few days, the heads of two different distributon companies separately told me about a film they consider to be one of the most important documentaries ever made. 'Ever made?' I asked. 'Yes,' they both answered. So Eugene Hernandez went and saw Adam Curtis's The Power of Nightmares.

La Cienaga "Iran had its moment, Finland and Korea too. But at film festivals around the world these days, much of the talk is focused on Argentina and the emerging crop of young directors who have been winning prizes and praise from Berlin and Rotterdam to Toronto and Miami." Larry Rohter asks some of the higher profile Argentine directors - Lucrecia Martel, Pablo Trapero, Diego Lerman, Lita Stantic, Daniel Burman - how this can be happening when, in so many other respects, the country's in such dire straits.

Also in the New York Times:

Back in March, Dennis Cozzalio popped a movie quiz on his readers. Questions ranged from #1, "The one movie you'd drop everything just to see again," through, say, #27, "Joan Crawford or Bette Davis?," to #40, "Your favorite Dean Jones Disney movie." Dennis has now painstakingly tallied the score.

Guardian Review: Jonathan Coe "And yet already something about this film haunts me." The Guardian's running an extract from Jonathan Coe's collection of short pieces, 9th & 13th. In this one, a prolonged quest to learn more about Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes leads to several wonderfully rendered far-flung encounters.

Also:

  • David Thomson tells Jean Vigo's life story and urges you, dear reader, to see L'Atalante - and for that matter, the entire oeuvre. It'll take you all of 200 minutes and it just might have the impact on you that it had on Truffaut.

  • Michael Coveney reviews By Jack Rosenthal: An Autobiography in Six Acts, written "in the form of a rag-bag screenplay." It does sound like a fun read.

  • John Patterson: "There may be few new taboos for [John] Waters and his ilk to break, but some of the old ones he pissed on first time around - the Catholic church, religious bigots of all stripes, sexual neurosis and hypocrisy - have proven themselves so satanically durable that he might want to take another whack at them now he's getting on."

  • Neil Armstrong looks into the strange business of movie memorabilia.

  • Television is not an inferior medium to cinema, argues Mark Lawson. It's just different.

For Grist, Amanda Griscom Little calls up Edward Norton at "his hotel in Prague, where he is on location shooting The Illusionist, to discuss his impressive environmental pedigree, his indignation over Bush administration policies, his heroes and his vices."

"How influential was he? Put it this way: without Hitchcock, movies themselves would have evolved in a drastically different fashion." The Toronto Star's Geoff Pevere lists eleven "key lessons he left us." Via Movie City News.

Stefan Kanfer in the City Journal: "[D]espite its profound influence on every facet of entertainment, from the musical to the television sitcom, American vaudeville had a trajectory as astonishingly brief - if sparkling - as a Roman candle." Via Arts & Letters Daily.

Patrick Schabe has a fine, quick piece on Douglas Adams at PopMatters.

Alison Veneto's primer, "The Modern Hong Kong Triad Picture," is being posted at Movie Poop Shoot in - yes, that's right - three parts. Also: DK Holm has a fresh column up, terrific as always.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind co-writer Pierre Bismuth recalls the sheer terror of Oscar night for... Frieze, of all things. Via Movie City Indie. Also, this. Who wrote it? We may never know.

"Have you seen Saved! yet?" asks the cinetrix. "Oh, you should."

Wiley Wiggins: "Issue two of the Chaise DVD zine is out- a free compilation of (printable) art, animation, and various sundry goodies. Send them a SASE and you'll get a disc."

Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul Online viewing tip. Todd at Twitch, where Canfield interviews Todd Solondz, has discovered that the site - complete with a gorgeous, downloadable trailer - for a film that's probably the very one I'm most looking forward to seeing this summer... is up: Fatih Akin's Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul. By the way, what else has Todd found? Screen shots from Broken Flowers, Jim Jarmusch's Bill Murray movie (every indie icon will make one, eventually). Eric Lavallee has the pix and lowdown at Ioncinema.

More trailers via Twitch: Tsai Ming-liang's The Wayward Cloud, Alexandre Aja's High Tension, Robert Rodriguez's The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, and of course, George A Romero's Land of the Dead.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:10 PM | Comments (1)

Beatnik in flannel.

Fans will know already, but Wired has a big cover package tied into the release of Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Steve Silberman meets a George Lucas yearning "to be the rebel filmmaker he aspired to become a long time ago."

Wired: Lucas So you're thinking, yes, yes, we've heard this before. But wait, wait:

"When I went to USC, I didn't know anything about movies," he told a Canadian film crew in 2002. "I watched television. I wasn't that interested in movies."

While this kind of talk suits Lucas' image as an ordinary billionaire in a flannel shirt who wanted to upgrade the old-fashioned cliff-hanger so generations of kids could learn to dream again, it obscures the crucial part of his life when he first glimpsed his own destiny. Understanding these early years not only casts light on Lucas' current yearning to make experimental films, it reveals the frustrations that drove a self-proclaimed Luddite to finance the creation of digital tools that forever changed the craft of moviemaking.

From that point on, the story gets very interesting. Turns out, 19-year-old George was sneaking off to City Lights to snatch up flyers with info on Canyon Cinema screenings, then down south to catch up on his Godard and Truffaut, but most of all: "The work of three Canadian directors in particular excited Lucas about the potential of experimenting with the tools of filmmaking." George Lucas, Norman McLaren fan? Claude Jutra? "The film that made the most profound impression on Lucas, however, was a short called 21-87 by a director named Arthur Lipsett, who made visual poetry out of film that others threw away.... 'When George saw 21-87, a lightbulb went off,' says Walter Murch..."

The site sports an online exclusive: Silberman's Q&A with Lucas: "I'll be remembered as a filmmaker. The technological problems that I solved will be forgotten by then, but hopefully some of the stories I told will still be relevant."

Then Jesse Scanlon previews the Letterman Digital Arts Center Lucas has built on what was once the Presidio army base at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge: "The joint facility will allow films and games, two principle sources of revenue for Lucas, to develop on the same track." Then, from Wired's main page, you can click on Michelle Devereaux's chart mapping the original Star Wars trilogy's influence on people, companies, technology... the navigation's a little clunky, frankly.

Fans will also already know that Kevin Smith has pronounced Sith "fucking awesome." Spoilers galore. Via filmtagebuch.

But should those not "genetically predisposed" to love Sith, as Smith claims he is, feel let down, Clive Thompson puts forward a suggestion in Slate: "Maybe Lucas should step aside and let the fans take over." He's not just being snarky. Star Wars: Revelations, he argues, is "just as good - and often quite better than - the cringe-inducing Star Wars movies of recent years." What's more, they're almost ridiculously feasible. Thompson explains.

Time: The Last Star Wars Updates: So Time's got a cover package as well, but unless you're a subscriber, you can read no more than the first few paragraphs of Richard Corliss's story, two of Richard Schickel's Qs and two of Lucas's As. But John Cloud's recollection of a childhood spent praying he could go live with Han and Chewie is all there, plus Lina Lofaro's Harper's-like Star Wars index and Patrick Stack's list o' links.

In the New York Times, Henry Fountain: "If truth be told, sci-fi writers say, their work and Star Wars never had much in common." And Laura M Holson considers the post-Star Wars future of Lucasfilm.

Earlier: Kevin Smith, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg talk - a lot - in Empire about the old and new trilogies; and much earlier, that is, circa 1999 in the Fray, a wonderful recollection of growing up with Star Wars from Adam Rakunas.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:12 PM | Comments (3)

Boston Dispatch. IFFB.

Last week's Independent Film Festival of Boston seems to have gone swimmingly; writer and producer Shannon Gee looks back on a grand time.

Independent Film Festival of Boston Taking a red-eye flight across country isn't the most relaxing way to start a weekend of film festival-ing, but when it is kick-started by the sight of a magenta dog, you know you're in for a good time.

The magenta dog really had nothing to do with the 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston, but she was a fellow guest at the Onyx Hotel, a festival sponsor. Her owner, Kelly Osbourne, wasn't a participant, but that was just as well. The festival was refreshingly free of the hyped, shellacked, or corporatized definition of "independent" that seems to hang over other festivals like so much smog. The spirit, hard work and enthusiasm of this festival's all-volunteer staff and its supportive audience was just as impressive as its lineup of films.

In its third year, IFFB has grown steadily in numbers, this year expanding its venue lineup from Boston's beloved independent movie houses - the historic Somerville Theater in Davis Square, the Brattle Theater outside the gilded gates of Harvard and Brookline's Coolidge Corner theater - to include the Museum of Fine Arts. Criss-crossing town via Boston's subway system, getting to each film was like a little mini-adventure. The festival opened with Steve Buscemi's Lonesome Jim, starring Boston-born Casey Affleck. The demure but eager-to-get-the-show-on-the-road crowd was treated to the best film festival trailer I have seen in years; a catchy live action/animated ditty by Liam Lynch (the writer, musician, actor, and director who is currently working on the Tenacious D movie) that was charming and funny even after the umpteenth time of seeing it. I don't mean to beleaguer a point that many critics have made, but Lynch's trailer put the insulting trailers by Jib Jab at Sundance to extra shame.

The Boston crowd took to Buscemi's film about a failed wannabe writer who returns to his dreary and mundane Indiana home so well that Buscemi ended up watching the entire movie with the audience and then came up for a pleasant Q&A session that only had one embarrassing question, which boded well for the Q&As to come. Pleasant as the audiences were, that didn't keep Buscemi's fan boys at bay, which led to a rather Spinal Tap-ish escape through the catacomb-like basement of the Somerville Theater to finally arrive at the opening night party at Sauce, where Buscemi sat with film scholar Ray Carney.

Stolen Friday presented the premiere of a number of films to the New England area - the US premiere of Don McKellar's Childstar, Sundance docs Mardi Gras: Made in China and Shakespeare Behind Bars and Hal Hartley's The Girl from Monday. One particular documentary was especially suited for this Boston festival. Stolen, directed by Rebecca Dreyfus and produced by Susannah Ludwig, traces one of the biggest art heists of our time - the job on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where five Degas, three Rembrandts, one Manet, one Flinck and Johannes Vermeer's The Concert were stolen on St. Patrick's Day, 1990. The film follows a number of theories about who stole the paintings through detective Harold Smith, a fine art detective whose passion for his work is only rivaled by Isabella Stewart Gardner's passion for collecting art (letters about acquiring the art between Gardner and Bernard Berenson, an art critic she hired to evaluate paintings for purchase, are read by Blythe Danner and Campbell Scott.) Stolen is a fascinating presentation about the impact of fine art and the people who collect it, protect it, steal it, write about it and have made it their life's work to recover.

Midpoint at the festival brought Slamdance doc winner Abel Raises Cain, buzz films Chain and the short film Allison, the Sundance hit Murderball (true to form, the audience cheered and wept during this powerful doc about the sport of quad rugby and the members of the US team's quest for gold at the 2004 Paralympics) and Popaganda: The Art and Crimes of Ron English. Like Stolen, Popaganda examines the power of art, but here the focus is on the subversive, culture-jamming billboard art of one of America's eminent guerilla artists.

Amazing Grace

By the last day, I felt I was only hitting my stride, but all good things must come to an end. An afternoon screening of Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley, was so crowded that the theater decided to swap its scheduled screening of Kung Fu Hustle in its big theater with Amazing Grace in its small theater so they could accommodate the rush ticket line. One thesis of this biography of the singer/songwriter whose life and career was cut short by a drowning accident in 1997 was that he was barely known and hardly popular in the US. You definitely couldn't tell by the over-capacity audience, who sat quietly enraptured by Buckley's musical performances that pepper the film.

The closing night film, Miranda July's beautifully delicate Me and You and Everyone We Know, played at the Museum of Fine Arts. It was a fitting venue for July, whose videos have played at MoMA and the Guggenheim Museum and, although it was a film playing at a somewhat highbrow venue and that featured a struggling artist, one audience member aptly commented: "You can't resist a good shit joke." The closing night party at Spire Restaurant enjoyed the company of Melvin Van Peebles, in town to talk about his experiences as an independent filmmaker, and members of Living Color, with whom the prolific Mr Van Peebles had done a musical collaboration recently. As the festival's many volunteers celebrated a successful end to their third festival and I toddled out of the party by midnight to catch my 6 am plane back to the west coast, all I could think was, "Thanks for a great festival. Now make it longer!"

The Award-winners:

Blackballed
Narrative Feature:

Documentary Feature:

Short Film:

Posted by dwhudson at 3:28 AM

April 29, 2005

Shorts pile-up.

Jean Vigo Chances are, you'll have noticed that a series of unfortunate events led to a meltdown around here for a few days. At long last (well, relatively speaking), GreenCine Daily is back, and in the meantime, the shorts collection has been swelling like a bladder sitting through The Best of Youth.

Before busting the dam, though, let's wish Jean Vigo a happy 100th by pointing to James Briggs's "Bon anniversaire"; via Howard Pierce. And if you're in New York, MoMA will be screening his films tonight and tomorrow. If you're not, there's Guy Dammann's appreciation of Vigo alongside Peter Bradshaw's of L'Atalante in today's Guardian; and Maximilian Le Cain's essay in Senses of Cinema.

Ok, let's spill...

As we enter the second week of the San Francisco International Film Festival, the San Francisco Bay Guardian blurbs on ahead, covering highlights through May 3 (the fest itself runs through May 5).

Also: Dennis Harvey on Bride of Frank, the "flabbergastingly tasteless joke that all participants seem joyfully 'in' on" that's just closed the "Giant Tubs of Mayonnaise: In Search of a Trailer Trash Aesthetic" series, and Cheryl Eddy on Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room: "[I]t's one you won't want to miss." For Slate's David Edelstein, by the way, the doc "has a touch of playful sadism that I quite enjoyed."

Doug Cummings had a rather "lackluster" string of days at SFFIF as far as films go: "Ten films, two incontestably good ones and one interesting mood piece, summarize my take, although I should note that the festival continues for another week and could improve." His "favorite film by far": Ana Poliak's Pin Boy (Parapalos).

The Tribeca Film Festival, of course, is the other vortex of cinematic goings on in the country and will be through May 1. IndieWIRE is the first of two spots to watch, with dispatches being filed daily at its Tribeca blog, where you'll also find pointers to further coverage, and the rest of its coverage gathered on this handy page right here. IndieWIRE has also already launched its Cannes blog, too, by the way.

The second source of the best Tribeca coverage is Cinematical, where Karina Longworth recently rounded up a helpful guide to all their entries from both Tribeca and the Independent Film Festival of Boston.

Also: Karina, who also happens to have the latest on the Maggie Gyllenhaal brouhaha, offers a fine mini-primer on the Situationists as she points to an evening of Films of the Situationist International: Guy Debord, Rene Vienet and Jean Isidore Isou at the Anthology Film Archives.

At Filmmaker, where there's a new issue up - more on that soon - Matthew Ross passes along "another indie-film horror story... Read and weep." Also: Steve Gallagher has an offline viewing tip for fans of 70s-era midnight movies (or, as John Waters calls them, "pothead movies"), a note on Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Hitler: A Film From Germany and a pointer to the lineup for this year's Director's Fortnight in Cannes, while Scott Macaulay lists Sundance's 2005 Summer Lab projects.

Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire won the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award at Sundance this year. Director Peter Raymont told eye's Joel McConvey that he believes the subject of his film, the Canadian general in charge of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda in 1994, is "a hero partly because he doesn't feel he is. He put his life on the line, and refused to leave when there was no more peace to keep. And he's been very straightforward about his post-traumatic stress disorder. That, to me, is more heroic than your [historical] American heroes, your Patton or MacArthur." Many agree. Gil Courtemanche, author of the novel A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, in which a character is based on Dallaire (as is Nick Nolte's character in Hotel Rwanda), does not agree - and explains why in his review of Dallaire's 2003 memoir from which the doc takes its name.

Also in the Guardian:

  • Geoffrey Macnab meets Jean-Luc Godard and finds him, at 74, "as playful, provocative and perverse as ever." He is also insistent on the whole end of cinema thing - "'It's over,' he sighs. 'There was a time maybe when cinema could have improved society, but that time was missed'" - links Tarantino and Abu Ghraib, doesn't like DVDs, film festivals... "Even Colin McCabe's enthusiastic biography, Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70, meets with his disapproval." Even so, he considers Notre Musique an optimistic film: "reconciliation is possible."

  • Highly recommended: Tariq Ali's whiplash primer on the widely various cinemas of Islamic countries.

  • In the long run, this particular event may be remembered as little more than a footnote, but in the short-term, it's a big deal: Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner have signed up Steven Soderbergh to direct six movies on HD - that's the "one" of the one-two punch - and each will be released simultaneously in theaters, on DVD and television. More on this from Eugene Hernandez in indieWIRE.

  • Novelist, poet and biographer Jay Parini gets a kick out of James B Stewart's DisneyWar.

  • Chris Petit's Radio On will soon be released on DVD; here, he reviews Clinton Heylin's Despite the System: Orson Welles Versus the Hollywood Studios.

  • Mike Figgis is enraptured and saddened by Julia Blackburn's With Billie.

  • Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week: Michael Radford's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

  • American sports movies follow a much simpler formula the British ones, explains Steven Wells.

  • John Patterson makes a bizarre argument against restoration.

"Sensational news! Philip Seymour Hoffman, arguably the greatest character actor of our generation, the guy you adored in Almost Famous and Boogie Nights, the guy who always delivers a fresh and unexpected gem of a performance in every single film he graces, absolutely loves our script! Pause for effect. And he passed on the part." Filmmakers David Munro and Xandra Castleton file an entry in their diary. Also in the San Francisco Chronicle: Benny Evangelista on the Open Media Network and Reyhan Harmanci has a lively report on Slavoj Zizek's appearance at the Roxie last week for the premiere of Zizek!.

When Chris Parry visited the set of Blade: Trinity for Spin, he discovered "a drug-affected, moody, uncooperative piece of garbage, masquerading as an actor while all around him tried to cover for his shitty attitude." That would be Wesley Snipes. Parry wrote the story as he saw it and Spin killed it. Not Hollywood Bitchslap, though. Also: David Cornelius's Ebertfest diary.

"Many of you know Georgia Hubley from Yo La Tengo, but you may not know that she came from a family of famous animators." Chickfactor, whose new website you'll know about if you follow Fimoculous like you should, talk to Hubley and her sister, Emily, about their Oscar-winning parents - and of course, their own work.

Even as his delightful second feature, Mutual Appreciation, makes the festival rounds, Andrew Bujalksi is now seeing his debut, Funny Ha Ha, opening in New York on Friday. Joshua Land chats him up and Dennis Lim notes that Funny "might be subtitled The Possibly Indelible Adventures of a Desultory Twentysomething." And he means that in the best way.

More Funnyness from Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Press, the Reverse Shot team at indieWIRE, AO Scott in the NYT and an extra special recommendation from the cinetrix.

Also in the Village Voice:

"Sounder is one of the greatest films ever made in this country, but guardians of film culture repeatedly choose to overlook it," writes Armond White in the NYP. "Anyone who thinks they're above this has not understood how Sounder's classically simple story was transformed by its director, Martin Ritt."

Ron Rosenbaum rants against what he calls "The Cinema of Pretentious Stupidity," epitomized, for him, by Tarantino and merely exemplified recently by Robert Rodriguez's Sin City. "Let's face it: The graphic novel (with the exception of R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman and a few others), superhero mythology and the Cinema of Stupidity with which it's often linked, have become our era's bourgeois avant-garde. Zzzz."

Also in the New York Observer: Jake Brooks talks to Michael Corrente about the film he's working on based on the rise and fall of Buddy Cianci, former mayor of Providence, Rhode Island. David Mamet's written two drafts of the screenplay and Paul Giamatti may well take the lead. Related doc: Buddy, reviewed by Peter Sciretta at Cinematical.

Before leaving the NYO entirely, though, gotta note that the ever-diligent Alison Willmore, who writes the IFC Blog, catches and expertly dissects Rex Reed's acknowledgment that he pissed off more than a few people with that Oldboy review of his a while back.

In the Austin Chronicle:

AICN's Moriarty flies to London and visits the set of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride: "One of the things that has been important to the filmmakers since day one is that this not play out like a sequel to The Nightmare Before Christmas. It's obvious from looking at the footage that they've accomplished their goal." There are films one places on top tens with all the appropriate fanfare, and then, there are the orphans of such lists, banned to the private quarters, the cabinet of personal favorites. For me, Nightmare has long been one of these; Moriarty's report has me very much looking forward to Corpse Bride.

The PR tour for War of the Worlds begins. Der Spiegel interviews Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise. Q: "Would you have made the film if September 11 had not happened?" Spielberg: "Probably not." Then, Cruise gets many, many words in about Scientology.

Sin City and Kung Fu Hustle are, "without question, two of the most inventive screen entertainments released so far this year," writes AO Scott, but they are also "knowingly and ostentatiously derivative." The influence of Pulp Fiction on the former is obvious; but go back, argues Scott, to Who Framed Roger Rabbit and note the ways in which it was "a harbringer of things to come."

Also in the New York Times:

Telegraph critics make and explain their choices of the twenty greatest opening scenes of all time. Also: Untold Scandal director E J Yong tells Sheila Johnston why he was compelled to make a period drama and what it was about Barry Lyndon that inspired him. Also: Paul Gent looks back on Jules et Jim.

David Smith on Hugh Laurie's long overdue breakthrough in the US: "So, 'by golly!', Laurie must be playing one of those goggle-eyed, bumbling, umming and aahing aristocratic English types the Yanks delight in? Not a bit of it. He is, instead, a misanthropic but brilliant hospital specialist with an impeccable American accent in House, a medical drama which is this year's surprise US hit." Also in the Observer: Simon Reynolds on the real golden age of British pop.

In Outlook India, S Anand profiles the two biggest stars in Tamil cinema - and wonders what the fact that they're both over 50 has to say about that state's films. Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau.

At Alternet, Elizabeth Kadetsky asks, "Why don't Americans know Amitabh Bachchan?"

Grady Hendrix has been doing more than blogging on Asian films for Variety recently; he's also been conducting quick interviews: Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Wu Jing. But this is short, sharp and great: "Asian Movie Myths Debunked!"

"The New Taiwan Cinema, or Taiwanese "new wave," refers to the film movement that arose in the early 1980s that challenged the aesthetic and sociopolitical orthodoxies of postwar Taiwanese filmmaking." And it's being celebrated in the series, "In Our Time: New Taiwanese Cinema," April 29 through May 8 in LA.

What do some wives of famous filmmakers do in their spare time with all those connections? Get their novels published, discovers the New Yorker's Lauren Collins. One of them is Cheryl Howard, wife of director Ron. Which brings up another question: Is Ron Howard underrated? Devin Gordon argues the case in Newsweek.

Back in the New Yorker, David Denby turns in an early review of screenwriter Paul Haggis's directorial debut, Crash, calling it "hyper-articulate and often breathtakingly intelligent and always brazenly alive. I think it's easily the strongest American film since Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, though it is not for the fainthearted."

In the Independent, David Benedict contemplates the everlasting appeal of Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, Sheila Johnston interviews Harvey Keitel and Melanie Goodfellow reports on the Palestine Film Festival (through May 6).

Kevin Burton Smith reviews two novels that happen be coming out at more or less the same time, Reed Farrell Coleman's The James Deans and Robert Eversz's Digging James Dean: "Each, in its own tangential way, does justice to the memory of the young cinematic rebel from Marion, Indiana." Also in January: An excerpt from Charles Higson's Silverfin, a prequel taking Ian Fleming's James Bond back to the 30s - when he was 14.

George Fasel revisits Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game: "Nobody who cares for film, art or life should miss this gorgeous creation."

Robert Davis on Abbas Kiarostami's Five: "It's the kind of movie that succeeds when you're willing to let your mind wander the way it does when you watch clouds."

Flickhead on Jean-Pierre Melville's Un Flic: "Between the trench coats, sunglasses and tension, Melville tips his Fedora to noir while establishing a reticent mood never to be abandoned for a moment, in a study of ambiguous figures and their varying degrees of contempt—for society, for rules, and ultimately for themselves." Also: a pointer to word from Gary Tooze on Criterion's plans for its releases this summer. The menu looks delicious.

Filmbrain discovers Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin to be little more than "a poorly written Afterschool Special with a great soundtrack."

Ed Champion defends Interiors, one of Woody Allen's "most underrated films."

The best thing about Hal Hartley's The Girl From Monday? Sabrina Lloyd, argues NP Thompson, though he does add, "Technically, the film is a marvel."

At Bitter Cinema, Sean Spillane recounts tales of sloshed moviemakers.

"Rock films as revealing as [Bradley Beesley's] The Fearless Freaks [The Wondrously Improbable Story of the Flaming Lips] are rare, writes Matt Ashare in the Boston Phoenix.

Edward Jay Epstein, author of The Big Picture: The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood, explains in Slate where, when they want it, Hollywood studios can get their "money for nothing." In short, they scoop it right out of loopholes in German tax law.

The summer's looking pretty bleak already to David Poland at Movie City News.

Of course, Star Wars diehards won't be discouraged. Empire runs ten thousand words on Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. It's actually a freewheeling conversation the magazine hosted between Kevin Smith, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. Freewheeling yet serious as hell. This is via Twitch, which again... just too much good stuff to pluck out a few items. These guys forage like nobody's business and they can probably rightfully claim, "You heard it here first," more than any other film blog out there: Twitch, Twitch, Twitch.

How nerdy to you have to be if you happen to love Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Not too, discovers Emily Biuso. Also in Salon: Thomas Bartlett interviews one of the film's stars, Mos Def and Andrew O'Hehir: "I'm on a particular mission to get people to see [Danae Elon's] film Another Road Home. Yeah, it's a documentary about Israelis and Palestinians, but it isn't what a friend of mine calls 'spinach cinema.'" More from Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT.

In the Globe and Mail, Tralee Pearce previews Jeppe Ronde's The Swenkas, screening tonight at the hotdocs festival in Toronto. And who are the Swenkas? Zulu men who perform a sort of South African variation on voguing. Meanwhile, in indieWIRE, Jonny Leahan: "Personal documentaries - films being made by people about their own lives or those very close to them - are more prevalent than ever, and if the programming at the recent doc festivals around the world is any indication, the trend isn't slowing down."

Another busy week for Sam Adams of the Philadelphia City Paper. He looks ahead to the Trenton Film Festival (tomorrow through Sunday), which is showing Home the feature debut of NYP critic Matt Zoller Seitz, and to the MadCat Film Festival; and he interviews Todd Solondz and reviews Palindromes. More on that one from Gerald Peary in the Boston Phoenix, Sean Nelson in the Stranger, JR Jones in the Chicago Reader and Christian Lorentzen for n+1: "Our poor hipster auteurs - they seem destined to spend their careers excising the ghosts of suburban childhoods."

The Nashville Film Festival, which wrapped last week, was a success any way you cut it, and Jim Ridley not only celebrates in the Nashville Scene; he's got ideas for making it even better.

At Stop Smiling, Christopher Stapleton looks back on three days at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Jordan S Hatcher spent a weekend watching horror flicks at the 12th annual Dead by Dawn festival in Edinburgh and lives to write about it for Cinema Minima.

Ben Slater turns in quite a report in his two weeks in the UK, where he curated "a strand on 'digital feature films'" at Lovebytes.

Mindjack has launched a new and expanded section, "Mindjack Film." Editor Donald Melanson handles the unveiling.

Ray Pride at Movie City Indie: "The jaw-droppingly gifted Scottish director Terence Davies, who made Distant Voices, Still Lives, The Long Day Closes, The Neon Bible and House of Mirth sees another project detonate for lack of English finance. Scotland on Sunday reports..."

In the LA Weekly's special issue devoted to local apartment living, you'll find Nikki Finke's tour of Hollywood's spookiest and most glamorous apts; sometimes at the same address.

The Economist surveys a fresh wave of celebrity mags about to wash over America.

With less than a week to go before the British election, Kevin Mahler reports in the London Times on how the major parties are hiring A-list directors to argue their cases.

CNET's Declan McCullagh explains the implications of the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act: "The bill, approved by Congress on Tuesday, is written so broadly it could make a federal felon of anyone who has even one copy of a film, software program or music file in a shared folder and should have known the copyrighted work had not been commercially released. Stiff fines of up to $250,000 can also be levied. Penalties would apply regardless of whether any downloading took place." Also: John Borland on the making of Star Wars: Revelations, one of the many truly indie, bootstrap fan films; this one's "sweeping the Net as fast as any X-wing."

Video blogging has come of age, announces Greg Lindsay in a piece for Business 2.0. He lists the companies investing in the next wave, but of course, there's one big stand-out: "Google has the means to invent and own the way video bloggers find, publish, and store their content, and apparently it has the will to at least take the first step."

Online listening tip #1. Joe Jabbar talks to Mark Jeavons, the writer and director of The Boy With a Thorn in His Side, and Matt Cope, director of the doc, People to Contact in the Midlands When You're Dead.

Online listening tips #2 and #3. Writing a screenplay? Ever heard of the "Truby Method"? Cyndi Greening talks to Karen Copeland about it and offers another, shorter listening tip: Danny Boyle, talking Millions.

Online viewing tip #1.JD Lasica talks with Dan Gillmor about citizen journalism. Parts 1 and 2. Via Matt Clayfield.

Online browsing tip. "Poetry in Movies," a comprehensive list compiled by Stacy Harwood for the Michigan Quarterly Review. Via the cinetrix.

Online browsing and viewing tip. Dr Macro's High Quality Movie Scans, source of countless 8x10 glossies and oodles of film clips. Via Wiley Wiggins.

Online viewing tip #2. The Crime In Your Coffee has rounded up links to dozens and dozens of trailers for so-bad-they're-really-bad movies.

/dwh

Posted by cphillips at 4:14 PM | Comments (1)

Udine Dispatch. 5 + 6.

Peacock At the 7th Udine Far East Film Festival, Koreanfilm.org contributor Adam Hartzell discovers a significant moment in the history of South Korean cinema and catches a few more films.

Wednesday was a day devoted to interviews, so I was only able to catch one film, Gu Changwei's Peacock (2005). So I've combined the next two days' films into one Dispatch since I only caught two films on Thursday due to a meeting and, come on, I need to spend some time wandering around this lovely town, too. I was able to catch half of the talk with three leading cinematographers in East Asia, which included Gu Changwei of China (Farewell My Concubine, Red Sorghum), Tamra Mazaki (Lady Snowblood, Eureka) and Kim Hyung-koo (Beat, Woman Is the Future of Man).

Hanna Lee, producer of two Hong Sang-soo films (Turning Gate and Woman Is the Future of Man), coordinated this focus series at the festival entitled "Eye of the Beholder." (In addition, the lobby of the theater is collaged with film stills and on-set images photographed by Hong Kong photographer Jupiter Wong.) She's doing this in part because cinematographers - who are also sometimes Directors of Photography, or DPs, when they oversee both the camerawork and the lighting - are often get overshadowed by directors and actors. Also, as Stephen Cremin noted in the program, one hopeful way of addressing film piracy on DVD is to emphasize what is unique to cinema-going.

What was interesting about the first set of questions Hanna Lee asked is they each brought out a common response of "there is no difference" from each of the participants. Gu answered Lee's question about the difference between Chinese Fourth Generation and Fifth Generation filming by responding that there wasn't one. Tamra answered Lee's question about Tamra's wide experience in lensing puppet animation, documentary and narrative by saying that he doesn't see them any differently, that his job is simply to convey the director's vision. And Kim began not by answering Lee's question, but by stating his appreciation for being invited since people often don't think cinematographers are that interesting when indeed they are. That is, there is "no difference" between them and the directors and actors.

Still, pushed again to compare Fourth and Fifth Generation film in China, Gu did admit that up through the socialist 80s it was a lot easier because the funding was widely available and one was practically guaranteed to earn their budget back. With the gradual opening up of China's market, films are made more cheaply now and there is greater competition.

Lee asked Tamra how he came to limit his recent work to independent filmmakers and Tamra said that he got to the point where he simply wanted to work with interesting people and topics and the the works independent filmmakers, such as Aoyama Shinji, were where the interesting people congregated. Lee was also curious as to why Tamra has avoided membership in the Japanese Society of Cinematographers (JSC) and if not having membership made finding work difficult at all. Tamra said that he does not have a strong interest in managing the lighting, choosing to specialize in takes, and since the definition of Director of Photography includes managing lighting, by definition he is not a DP nor would he want to be. Tamra added that his not being a member of the JSC has not affected his career.

Beat Kim relayed a story asked of him by Lee regarding his experience working on Kim Sung-soo's Beat (1997). Kim wanted the lighting crew to implement new techniques that he had learned while studying in the USA. The lighting crew was difficult to convince since they had grown quite accustomed to the reliable methods they had been using. However, once they saw the rushes that utilized his suggested techniques, the lighting crew was easily swayed and such new techniques began to be embraced by others working in the South Korean film industry. Considering that every critic will note the high quality production value of South Korean films regardless of the varying opinions they have about the directing, acting and storytelling, Kim's decisions on the set of Beat might be significantly responsible for the success of the industry today.

Like Zhang Yimou before him, Gu has now shifted from cinematography to direction with his debut, Peacock. The film features three narratives of three siblings as they try to negotiate around their limited options as the Cultural Revolution comes to an end. The stories are not necessarily told from each individual's perspective, but there is a primary focus on the daughter in the first story, a square cap on a round bottle; the elder brother in the second, a big mouse amongst men; and the younger brother of the third, a guaranteed disappointment considering the unrealistic expectations. Each sibling is nicely evened out to show their less than respectable side along with their simple humanity. Gu seems to have waited just long enough before taking control of the wider metaphorical lens that is the director's authority when making a film.

Pontianak: Descent of the Tuber Rose While in Udine, my home city of San Francisco is simultaneously having its festival. One series I am disappointed to be missing in San Francisco is the survey on recent Malaysian cinema. At least I was able to catch one Malaysian here at Udine on Horror Day, the vampiress film Pontianak: Descent of the Tuber Rose (Shuhaimi Baba, 2004). Apparently Malaysia's variation on the fairly common vampiress myths worldwide connects the vampiress with death in childbirth. The pontianak has a long history in Malaysian cinema, as far back as the 1950s. Baba's take on the myth here involves Meriam (Maya Karin), a "primadonna" or dancer considered by all a national treasure. She is also the object of one man's affection and another man's lust. She chooses the former over the latter. But when her husband leaves for a trip to Indonesia, tragedy strikes the pregnant Meriam that will result in the return of the pontianak a few decades later to seek revenge on the family of the man responsible. Don't worry, the film isn't that scary, relying on loud sounds, ghoulish faces, blood-red eyes, slicing long finger-nails and other faulty frights placed intermittently throughout the disjointed narrative, leaving you more bewildered than jolted. However, the indigenous songs that accompany the dances made the film worth it all for me.

R-Point Here's a little factoid I learned while here: It is illegal for a film in China to make a film about the supernatural. To work around this, a film would need to be completely financed in Hong Kong, but that would then limit its market since it still wouldn't be allowed to screen in China. So the film Suffocation (Zhang Bingjian, 2004), a film I didn't see, has to work off the horror possibilities of the subconscious to frighten Chinese viewers while appeasing Chinese censors. I was thinking of this as I was watching R-Point (Kang Soo-chang, 2004) and perhaps this unique aspect of China helped seed a realization I had about South Korean cinema. It wouldn't be unique to South Korea, since it would be applicable to any country that has mandatory military service, but I realized that we can pretty much assume when watching a Korean war genre film such as R-Point that the actors know what it is like to be in the military. They may not have experienced combat, but they have real-life experience to work with. It is as if the government has indirectly subsidized these films since the production company need not involve simulated military training for their actors.

Of course, R-Point is not just a war film, but also a horror film, à la Jacob's Ladder (Adrian Lyne, 1990). Director Kang has dealt with Koreans in the Vietnam War before, having adapted the script for White Badge (Jeong Ji-yeong, 1992) from the novel by Ahn Jung-hyo. Here, nine men, (count them, nine, it's important later), are asked to find evidence of a lost company somewhere in Vietnam. They find nothing but ghosts of wars present and past and their own unit begins to crumble in this situation for which their boot camps understandably never thought to train them. The film does develop the necessary suspense at points, especially a nicely played scene when the first death occurs, but the speed of much of the film is its biggest flaw, not allowing the fear to seep in as all good horror films do. Good for me, though, since the walk home in the dark wasn't so scary.

/dwh

Posted by cphillips at 3:41 PM

SFIFF. State of Cinema.

Hannah Eaves catches two events at the San Francisco International Film Festival taking stock of the current and future state of cinema, a panel on new means of distribution and a talk given by Brad Bird.

SFIFF In retrospect, Sunday was a fascinating day at SFIFF for thinking about the future of cinema. The AM hours saw a gathering of independent filmmakers and online distributors for one of SFIFF's "Free Education Panels," this one suffering under the laborious title, "New Distribution Platforms: Opportunities for the Independent Filmmaker." In all honesty, it's a fascinating field, one in which GreenCine itself is heavily involved. The first thing I noticed was the "new" distribution agents' striking physical similarity to the old guard; the six panelists were all white men. Represented were Akimbo, TiVo, IFILM, Movielink, Underground Film and, speaking for independent filmmakers, the form of the wonderfully articulate Jon Else.

a home theater

This is all code for Video-on-Demand, the process whereby viewers download or stream media from the Internet to either their computer or television. Subscription services will inevitably become an alternative to cable TV. It was, at times, an uneasy grouping of competitors, none really knowing (but all betting on) the future direction of Internet distribution. Akimbo's set top box demonstration was impressive, and there was some unease on TiVo's side, considering that their move into the Video-on-Demand market has been glacial. They have formed a partnership with Netflix, who happen to be suffering from the same speed deficiencies.

Movielink is the studios' answer to VOD. They're trying to get in early so as to keep ahead of things in a way that the music industry didn't. It is the goliath of this field because it offers big studio blockbusters. In reality, it purchases the rights to all of its "independent" content from cable channels like Sundance.

There were a few pointed questions from the audience about payment of royalties, a very important issue. GreenCine (and hence, Akimbo) gives a percentage of every rental directly to the filmmaker. IFILM and Underground Film were put in a bit of a spot about their continued lack of payment. According to co-attendee Jonathan Marlow, they're both stuck in a circa-1998 business model. Short films for free on a website might be good for exposure but ultimately no one gets paid. It doesn't have to be that way anymore. IFILM pointed out (a tad defensively) that no one's forcing filmmakers to submit their films, and Underground Film countered that they're a non-profit that tries to funnel viewers onto the filmmakers' own website for paid Video-on-Demand.

There was also much discussion of Google's recent announcement that they will be providing free searchable video hosting. This may mean that filmmakers will be able to post their own films, enabling them to take all of the rental revenues. Others were quick to point out that collecting quality content together, grouping by popularity, critical success or genre, will be essential in dealing with the coming indiscriminatory media tsunami.

What was stressed throughout is that, while this new model may be incredibly helpful to independent filmmakers, they should be proactive in creating the new structure. Theoretically, it will create the ultimate capitalist system in which you only get paid if someone watches your film. Hopefully, this system won't completely destroy the chances of filmmakers to get paid for small but important niche films (read: films with no market), particularly documentaries.

Another consequence of this movement is the continued marginalization of movie theaters. In his "State of Cinema" address, Brad Bird stipulated that in the future all small films will be released simultaneously online and in the cinema, where they'll experience only a limited run, if they manage to get one at all. The "State of Cinema" address is unique to SFIFF. It is essentially a forum for a film notable to rant and Brad Bird, director and Academy Award-winner for The Incredibles, ranted in a charming and captivating manner. What clearly came through was his absolute undying enchantment with the ritual of cinema.

The Egyptian Theatre
Essentially a dry explanation of the studios' and exhibitors' massacre of the cinema-going experience, Bird chose an alternative title, "A Bunch of Stuff I Think About Movies." His central thesis stipulated that one essential thing is now missing from movies: genuine showmanship. Going to the movies should still be an event. There should be lines, and people in costumes, overtures, souvenir programs and a real curtain. He began his speech by reminiscing about memorable movie-going experiences of his own - girls screaming at A Hard Day's Night, people cheering at lines in Casablanca and the spontaneous post-credit applause on opening day of the then-unknown Star Wars.

Several specific changes have led to this slide, and Bird came up with several co-responding solutions.

  1. Stop printing box office receipts. This turns the whole thing into a race and perpetuates the carpet-bombing ad campaigns for blind opening weekend dollars, which exist so that the studios can make their money back on a film immediately, before everyone finds out how terrible it is. Also, if people see that a film has done well on its opening weekend, they're more likely to go see it, regardless.

  2. Studios should dump their MBAs. Instead, they should be hiring enthusiasts with instinct (showmen).

  3. Change some exhibition laws. Allow studios to own movie theaters again. Alter the law requiring theaters that hold 300 or more seats to make every single seat wheelchair accessible. Exhibitors currently screen opening-weekend movies in a variety of differently-sized theaters, which makes it possible for an audience member to slip in to, say, The Incredibles (shot with extreme intent in Cinemascope) in the smallest of the multiplex's theaters, without knowing it. In Bird's mind, opening weekend should be an event for a film, and it is only fair to then show it on a big, big screen.

  4. Get rid of pre-film ads and tighten up screening conditions in general. Here, he also touched on neighborhood rescue plans for local single-screen movie palaces. Exhibitors are responsible for the extended TV ad reel before films begin, and for shamelessly pushing concessions. Revenues are greater, of course, if the venue has lots of little screens instead of a couple of big ones. Exhibitors are also known to employ cost-saving measures such as projecting with the bulb at half-light, playing damaged prints and leaving the gate open to accommodate threading a film through several projectors, which throws the image out of focus. Bird believes that if the studios owned their own cinemas, it would be in their best interests to make their films look as good as possible.

Ultimately, profit-generating DVDs and the dropping costs of high-end home cinemas are making Bird's dream for the future ever more elusive (and essential). In his experience, there is often a feeling on the film set, coming from the studios, that the theatrical release is really just a glorified advertisement for the DVD. If going to the cinema thrilled again, it might just counter this drift.

He chose to end his speech by stressing one important point. Re-creating the magic of the movie-going experience is essential. But most importantly, we need to ensure that movies still get made. Period. New directions in distribution may make that possible, or almost destroy it. If you can see anything, anywhere at any time for cheap, will real movies die?

/dwh

Posted by cphillips at 3:32 PM

Udine Dispatch. 4.

crimson-pistol.jpg How Monday went for Koreanfilm.org contributor Adam Hartzell at the 7th Udine Far East Film Festival...

It was raining even harder Monday morning, impeding my early departure to the second theater on the other side of town to catch another Nikkatsu Action film. Thankfully, it dissipated soon enough for me to rush over via cab to catch Ushihara Yoichi's Crimson Pistol (1961). The original English title was Rebel Without a Grave. Although such a reference might seem unnecessary, it worked off the James Dean image the lead actor, Akagi Keiichiro, had after his untimely death at the age of 21 when he crashed his go-cart on the Nikkatsu lot. The film follows a circuitous route of gangster alliances, along with a love interest between Akagi's character and a blind woman for whom he sets up the obligatory fantasy of a miraculous cure. It all comes off as campy now, with lines such as, "As long as there is crime, he'll be busy," sparking laughter in the audience. I don't know if my schedule will allow me to catch more Nikkatsu Action, but Crimson Pistol's faults counter The Velvet Hustler's good marks.

Letters From an Unknown Woman Letters From An Unknown Woman (Xu Jinglei, 2004) was a film unknown to me, one that I wasn't even planning to see. However, due to an unintentionally long afternoon nap, I had missed Bae Chang-ho's Road (2004), so I felt I should catch something else before the film I was most anxious to see, that being Park Chul-soo's Green Chair (2004). In her second feature, Xu is a Jane of all trades, directing, writing, co-producing and acting in the lead. The film is a reworking of Stefan Zweig's 1922 novella already adapted by Max Ophuls in 1948; this time, the setting is China in the 1930s. The unknown woman quickly reveals herself and her multiple relations to the writer who receives her letter. The film has a nice pace, with wonderful images of the two parties glancing at each other. However, the whole leaves me unfulfilled. There doesn't seem to be much depth and it ends without much impact. Still, Xu is quite capable of handling all the individual roles she's taken on and she shows even more promise now for better works in the future.

Someone else who once showed promise but got lost in the recent success of his country's cinema is Park Chul-soo. Park can feel free to take some of the credit for getting me interested in South Korean cinema because his 301, 302 is the first South Korean film I ever saw, since it the first to receive an international release. I was intrigued then and haven't stopped watching since.

Green Chair

In Green Chair, Park again settles in on a controversial topic, a thirty-something woman, Mun-hee (played by Suh Jung from The Isle) jailed for having an affair with an underage boy, Hyun (Shim Ji-ho). After her initial time in jail, her sentence is reduced to three years of community service. However, upon release, she returns to her boy on the edge of becoming a man, Korean manhood and womanhood commencing at the age of 19. They proceed to have a lot of creative and tender sex (well, some of it isn't tender, but for once, for a South Korean film at least, this isn't because of rape but simply due to the fact that the couple has just been having too much sex).

Thankfully, Park refuses to bring the plot towards punishment for this sexual freedom. This is particularly nice to see since women of all the world's cinemas are so often denied sexual agency for archaic Madonna/Whore dichotomies. Park merely explores what sex means to some of us and why we spend so much time exploring our own and others' bodies. Oh Yoon-hong plays Mun-hee's friend and develops a wonderfully fresh characterization. I'm happy to see her get more acting work after The Power of Kangwon Province. (She actually directed a short independent film recently entitled One Night Affair.) Park's tropes are on full display; we have the funky perspectives (this time, a number of scenes in which characters look down into the camera or whole scenes are purposely rendered slightly blurry); we have the exposure of a director-like figure as in Farewell, My Darling and Kazoku Cinema; and we have the wonderful Korean take on a Greek chorus we witnessed in Push! Push! during the final dinner party of Green Chair. One can even make out some similarities to Jang Sun-woo's controversial film Lies (2000). There's a control to Park's chaos, but there is chaos nonetheless, which prohibits me from fully grasping what Park intends here. But I look forward to further viewings in order to figure out this invigorating film. I'll be sitting in Green Chair for a while just as I have sat with South Korean cinema since 301, 302.

Posted by cphillips at 3:25 PM

Cinemad. 9.

Cinemad 9 Over at Filmmaker some time ago, Scott Macaulay noted that the ninth and latest issue of Cinemad was up. Finally caught up with what publisher (and Sundance and Cinevegas programmer) Mike Plante calls "a campfire with outlaws.They are incredibly outspoken and creatively prolific. They are also people you can sit down and shoot the shit with. Hope this feeling gets across." It does.

And in some cases, that's a surprise. The likes of, say, Bruce Conner, with whom Plante chats about punk, the American flag, and of course, his films, are so wrapped in an aura of legend that it's difficult to imagine shooting anything like the shit with them, but Plante's at ease doing just that and doing it well.

Or Alejandro Jodorowsky. It's Ed Halter manning the trigger there, passing it over occasionally to filmmaker Michael Galinsky who was manning a video camera. Nearly five years ago. Halter explains.

Plante's talk with Kevin Everson is perhaps most interesting when the topic turns to academic and art house crowd expectations of a black filmmaker; a similar note in a different key arises towards the end of the session with Blackhorse Horse.

Talking with Crispin Hellion Glover, Plante sticks to the nearly ten-year gestation of What Is It?.

Black, white and blue come up fairly often in the talk with Jennifer Reeves. Honorable mentions: the Flaherty Seminar and Stan Brakhage. And REDCAT programmer Berenice Raymond turns out to be a magnificent talker, guiding a listener through decades and continents of cinema history.

As a coda of sorts, Plante offers short reviews of DVDs he's glad to have gotten his hands on, along with Nina Menkes on Asia Argento's The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, Cam Archer on the Maysles Brothers' series of films about Christo and Jeanne-Claude and Nicholas McCarthy on Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste.

/dwh

Posted by cphillips at 3:21 PM

Maria Schell, 1926 - 2005.

Maria Schell
Maria Schell, an icon of the German-speaking film world who achieved international fame before withdrawing into retirement only to return in dozens of memorable character roles, has died, the mayor of her hometown [Preitenegg, Austria] said Wednesday.... Best known internationally for her role as the enigmatic Grushenka in Richard Brooks's The Brothers Karamazov, Schell starred in dozens of popular German language films in the 1950s and later made hundreds of television appearances to become an idol to the postwar generation in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.... "Men come and go, but you cannot lose a brother," she would later say of her close relationship with Maximilian.

The AP

We all remember her moving onscreen performances with OW Fischer, Gary Cooper, Marcello Mastroianni and Marlon Brando.

Maximilian Schell.

More from André Soares at Cinema Minima.

/dwh

Posted by cphillips at 3:19 PM

Sign here.

You may remember that when Andrew James Horton was covering the Thessaloniki Film Festival last fall, he wrapped by writing:

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.... Let's hope there'lll be no need in the near future of such devices to support [Thessaloniki Film Festival Director Michel] Demopoulos and the work he has done.

Unfortunately, hope was not enough.

Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow

And now:

We, in the international film community, directors and staffs of film festivals and cinematheques, producers, artists, critics and film studies teachers, are profoundly troubled and saddened by the drastic and ill-considered actions of the Greek government in dismissing Theo Angelopoulos and Michel Demopoulos from their respective positions as President and Director of the International Thessaloniki Film Festival....

Read on and, if you're so inclined, sign here.

/dwh

Posted by cphillips at 3:16 PM

Opening the Kingdom.

Kingdom of Heaven It's not often that the release schedule of a film is as interesting as that for Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven. Next week, it's going to start rolling out across globe very, very quickly. On Wednesday, May 4, it opens in a few minor yet notable markets as far flung as Iceland and Egypt, Indonesia and Belgium. The following day sees the first of a worldwide one-two punch. A sampling: Australia and New Zealand; Argentina and Chile; Germany and Austria; Hong Kong and Singapore; and this'll be interesting: Israel. The next day, Russia, South Africa and the big payoff, the US and the UK.

In years past, such immediate saturation led to suspicion: Do the filmmakers and distributors want to draw in as many crowds as possible before word-of-mouth takes hold? Now such questions are rendered moot by the need to get the crowds in before pirated copies render all those ten-dollar tickets moot. But such a noisy opening is going to make it nearly impossible at first to gauge what'll probably be the most fascinating aspect of the film, namely, how the depiction of clashing Christian and Muslim armies in the deserts near Jerusalem is received in various parts of the world.

About half a year ago, in the pages of the New York Times, a few Islamic scholars expressed... concern. In last Sunday's NYT, Alan Riding hears Scott out: Kingdom of Heaven will not rile up even more antipathy between Christians and Muslims, argues the director. "It's actually about doing the right thing... It's about ethics. It's about going to war over passion and idealism. Idealism is great if it's balanced and humanitarian." Ah.

Peter Stanford states the case more convincingly in the Observer, going deeper as he explains how the film will take Gladiator's theme of "faith lost and reborn" to far richer places, and wider, noting that Scott hopes to appeal not only to secular humanists the world over but also to the audiences recently discovered by Mel Gibson. They may turn out to be his toughest sell: "It is in its loud and repeated plea for religious tolerance and understanding rather than its precise historical accuracy that Kingdom of Heaven risks most. Evangelical Christians went to see The Passion of the Christ because it buttressed their own faith position. They may not welcome being told that Jesus, Mohammed and Jehovah are all much of a muchness."

Scott, in the meantime, is aiming to set the parameters of the debate with a preemptive piece in the Guardian:

We set out to tell a terrific story from a dramatic age - not to make a documentary or a piece that aims to moralise or propagandise. But since our subject is the clash of these two civilisations, and we are now living in the post-9/11 world, Kingdom of Heaven will be looked at from that perspective. We did make some choices about the values expressed through the story, beginning with the central situation of two leaders trying to serve their own people and their sense of mission, while exercising a degree of tolerance of the "other".

Whether Kingdom turns out to be as brilliant as Alien or as clunky as Gladiator, talking about it is going to be a lot more engaging than whatever anyone can dream up to say about the Sith.

/dwh

Posted by cphillips at 3:10 PM

Udine Dispatch. 3.

We begin our return to accessibility with Koreanfilm.org contributor Adam Hartzell's third dispatch from the 7th Udine Far East Film Festival. Look for much more in the hours and days to come.

memories-still.jpg

Sunday morning, my choice was to see a film I have already seen twice or to see a film new to me. The rain helped me lean towards the former, since I was umbrella-less and computer-full and didn't want to walk across town to see Season of Heat (Kurahara Koreyoshi, 1960). Bad things happen in the rain, at least that's the case with Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder (2003), the movie I've seen twice before and am more than happy to see again. Memories of Murder would be the perfect film for the first South Korean monograph in the British Film Institute series, since there are so many topics to travel. One can relate the film to the play upon which it was based, relate the film to the real-life unsolved serial murder case from which it evolved, flush out the composite Koreans represented in the three "suspects" (particularly the leftist intellectuals that left their privileged homes in the 80s to organize with the working class, hence the soft-hands that led to the third suspect), illuminate the rural/urban divide and South Korean specifics of that universal struggle, or even elaborate on Bong's sneaking in Boiler Kim again, a character mythologized in his debut film Barking Dogs Never Bite. Memories of Murder continues to impress upon me new analytical avenues.

Continuing with the series on leading cinematographers, Memories of Murder (and Peppermint Candy) was utilized here to provide examples of the work of Kim Hyung-koo. In Memories of Murder, Kim creates a warm tone with the yellows of the fields and a cool tone with bluish rain, adding to an already solid atmosphere provided by Bong's direction and one of the better ensembles in South Korean cinema (the exceptional Song Kang-ho, Kim Sang-kyung, Song Jae-ho and everyone else involved).

When Lei Fu asked Dan Dan if there was a festival going on in One Nite In Mongkok, Dan Dan told him there was, but not one of theirs. That is, not a Buddhist festival, but the Christian festival of Christmas Eve. I couldn't help but think that, since this was a Sunday and I was momentarily involuntarily fasting because most of Udine's restaurants were closed during lunchtime in this mainly Catholic city, how cinema is very much my church, and Udine one of my church's festivals. I am one of those people Jonathan Haidt and Craig Joseph, in their article in the Fall 2004 issue of the journal Daedalus, note "... love to exercise their third party moral intuitions so much that they pay money to see and hear stories about fictional characters who do bad things to each other." Here at Udine, I was indeed praying in my own agnostic way as I sorted out the ethics and aesthetics of Memories of Murder.

a-family.jpg

A family's own unique moral conundrums followed in Lee Jung-chul's A Family (2004). Veteran Joo Hyun plays a widower of a young boy and a young adult woman (Soo Ae), the latter having just come home following a three year stint in prison. The film follows the slow processing of each character's ethical stance rubbing against the others. The other tension within the film has to do with the daughter's gangster past and the way it stands in the way of the future she wants. Both Joo and Soo pull in wonderful performances, as does little Park Ji-min. Korean kid actors are often directed to be too cute or too obnoxious, but Park shows promise here. Interestingly, the daughter's violent past is filled in via flashbacks whereas the widower's past episodes of domestic violence and alcoholism is left free from such elaboration. Still, the daughter is a noticeably strong character who does harbor some secret wound, the resolution of which does not bring her fully back into a female's "proper" place, a la the My Sassy Girl Syndrome. This family definitely tugs those emotional strings that tie up all of us and even the steps over the melodramatic edge at the end; it's difficult to keep the tears from flowing.

Yes, I'll admit it, I cried. (And why is it that critics rarely admit that?) And I wasn't the only one. Besides the other people sitting in my row, Philippine director Joyce Bernal was quite choked up as well. So much so she had to compose herself when introducing her film Mr. Suave (2003), a film Bernal commendably admitted she doesn't like herself. The film was made fast in order to capitalize on the song of the same name by Parokya ni Edgar that hit the top of the charts in the Philippines. Bernal joked (or perhaps she was serious) that they had to complete the film before the song "dropped to number two." The film follows Suave (Vhong Narrano) - and you guessed it, his first name is Rico - as the personification of the song, a lanky, bicycle-mustached, long-haired lady-killer who wears chaps over his pants. However, this Casanova has a little trouble with the final thrust. It's not the dysfunction you think, so here's where I'd tell you to go see it to find out except I wouldn't recommend the film unless you're into this kinda thing - whatever this thing is. Boy, does the speed of production show. The film doesn't hold humor for long, falling quickly into over-used sight gags and jokes at the expense of lesbians and gay men. We end up laughing simply at the ridiculousness of it all. The only good things that can be said about this film are that Narrano has talent that shouldn't go to waste like it does here, that the film at least doesn't impose a double standard when it comes to requiring virginity of its characters, and that Bernal knows this film is as bad as it is.

beyond-our-ken.jpg

Mr. Suave was not the only film based on a song today, but whereas Suave was a synergistic product, a song by Italian pop singer Gianna Nannini that Hong Kong director Pang Ho-cheung heard during a jaunt to Rome after his last trip to Udine was the inspiration that solidified Beyond Our Ken for Pang. Improving tremendously on my first impressions of Pang made by the lackluster AV, Beyond Our Ken goes well beyond expectations. Ex-girlfriend seeks out ex-boyfriend's present girlfriend and a strange but endearing friendship emerges. And why shouldn't it, they "share common interests." Gillian Chung is wonderful as the ex, and Tao Hong, as the other half of this strange "friend crush," complements Chung well. The second film so far to be affected by the Udine Far East Film Festival itself (the first being Pang's AV and the third will be Hirayama Hideyuki's Lady Joker showing on Tuesday, April 26, where a scene within the film takes place in Udine), we can also see the influence of Pang's previous trip here in the romanticism of his Roman holiday via the lovely Vespa ride through Hong Kong that solidifies the bizarre relationship between our two protagonists.

My second Pang film is definitely my favorite so far of the festival. And rather than risk another Mr. Suave harshing my buzz, I decided to turn down my opportunities to see the Japanese World War II film Lorelei: The Witch of the Pacific Ocean (Higuchi Shinji, 2004) and the Thai martial arts film Born To Fight (Panna Ritthikrai, 2004) and called it a day.

Posted by cphillips at 1:45 PM

April 24, 2005

Udine Dispatch. 2.

Koreanfilm.org contributors Adam Hartzell files another dispatch from the 7th Udine Far East Film Festival.

There are certain films that do not lend themselves to being well-received at festivals by those taking a festival in as I'm doing here, seeing so many films back-to-back over so many days and then reporting on the drive-by experience. The films that can get lost are those that take a while to seep into you. Hong Sang-soo's Woman Is the Future of Man is a good example of what I'm talking about here. When asked by a friend what I thought of Hong's continued tale of male/female mismatching after our first viewing, I told my friend to get back to me in a week because I couldn't sort out my impressions of it immediately. Within a week, my friend wouldn't be able to get me to shut up about the film. Woman Is the Future of Man has been a part of my future practically every day since, especially whenever I stare out a cafe window and find myself absent-mindedly fixated on a passerby.

Desert Moon The Japanese film Desert Moon (Aoyama Shinji, 2001) may be such a film. I say "may be" because it could also be that I'm just ignorant of many of the references, cinematic and cultural, or it could be an incomplete film or one with structural faults. Only time with it will tell. Part of the enjoyment of the film is trying to figure out where we're headed, whether or not the wife and daughter of Nagai (Mikami Hiroshi) have passed away, disappeared, or simply got up and left Nagai. Although the dialogue purports that Nagai is a workaholic, we really don't experience Nagai as such, but as a man haunted by something. I like the atmosphere of the film, the aura surrounding the characters and the story, which is very much enhanced by the sound design, particularly the wonderful, dampened noises within an indoor racquetball club.

It is somewhat ironic that I am so impacted by the sound because this is one of the films where I should have been impacted by the cinematography, since it was one of the two films chosen (the other being Lady Snowblood) to represent the work of cinematographer Tamra Misaki. There are some interesting shots such as the cascading images of Akira (Toyoto Maho) and the young male prostitute Keechie (Akiyoshi Kumiko) in bed and the visual effects that allude to the presence of something bigger than Nagai surrounding him, but otherwise, nothing dramatic on the level of what we'd expect when discussing great cinematography. Perhaps another film Tamra had done with Aoyama, the caramel colorings of Eureka (2000), would have made a greater impact. But that film clocks in at well over 200 minutes, a difficult film to program at a festival like this. What is valuable about showing Desert Moon for such a series is how it demonstrates that subtlety can be, ironically, as vivid a sign of great lensing as well-placed artificial lighting and vibrant colors. Tamra has stated that, "Artificial light... shouldn't be used for its own sake," and this aesthetic may be what has left me impressively unimpressed.

Velvet Hustler
I caught my first film from the Nikkatsu Action Series today, Masuda Toshio's The Velvet Hustler (1967) and it has definitely motivated me to catch more. Watari Tetsuya plays Goro, a hitman who is too cool for any rule, gangsta strolling through scene after scene with such manly-man signifiers as opening a bottle with his teeth, blowing away the smoke of a just-fired gun, and working his cigarette like an appendage. Goro ain't the only hip cat on these Kobe streets because several other steady Mod-ing Japanese men and women are shimmering along with him in their own boots made for more than just walking. Goro shines no greater than in a wonderful scene in which he restarts the action on the dancefloor with the most subtle of choreographic moves as all present begin bunny-hopping behind him. (Seriously, it really works.) This cool consistency allows for a dramatic moment when Goro loses his cool, a scene that was expertly paced by Masuda, allowing for full-on effect of the dramatic camp that Watari was capable of. Sushido Jo plays an outlandish meta-hitman, the hitman sent to off the hitman Watari, and he was present along with Masuda to introduce the film through Mark Schilling's translation. Sushido, now in his 70s, apparently hasn't let his age slow him down because his animated comments didn't need any translation for the crowd to get the gist. He and Masuda appear to still be playful with each other after all these years, demonstrated by the elder Masuda's refusal of Sushido's sarcastic assistance as he descended the stairs from the stage. "I don't need your help, punk!" Masuda appeared to say, which Sushido followed up with by throwing a well-executed, joking missed punch at Masuda.

The Velvet Hustler was followed by another actioner, Derek Yee's One Nite in Mongkok (2004), the film I'd heard most about prior to coming to Udine. The story begins über-violently, setting up a battle between two gangs in Mongkok (a section of Hong Kong); the local police come under significant pressure to resolve it quickly. Stumbling into this gang war is Lai Fu (Daniel Wu), a hitman from the mainland who acquires the non-job-related services of a prostitute named Dan Dan (Cecilia Cheung). The film provides quality performances all around, especially commendable due to the ease with which this story could have stepped into histrionics. Director Yee capably juggles a great number of characters so that each receives clear enough differentiation without relying too heavily on character clichés.

And it is these action films, with their choreographed fighting and shootouts, that are the most effective when experiencing a festival as I am here. As Goro noted to his love interest (played by Asaoka Ruriko), "Vulgar is more interesting." So such scenes of virulent violence, acrobatic action and sassy style affect marathon viewers such as me more powerfully when collaged together with film after film over a few days. But the true test of a film is the one that stays with you years later, for the spectacle can tarnish over time if the substance can not withstand the future years to come.

(Note: The rush of blogging can make one vulnerable to mistakes, and I made a major one in my first dispatch. Malaysia is not an archipelago as I wrote, but a peninsula. I apologize to Malaysians everywhere for misrepresenting their beautiful country. The bright side is the embarrassment of that mistake will more likely keep me from making that mistake, or one like it, again.)

Posted by dwhudson at 3:07 AM

April 23, 2005

SFIFF. Mouth to Mouth.

Craig Phillips on a world premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Mouth to Mouth After Palindromes, just what I needed was a film about... a teenage runaway. But Alison Murray's feature debut (she’s done terrific work in short filmmaking) Mouth to Mouth, an imperfect but striking effort, is of a wholly different universe and energy. Based on Murray’s own experiences as a teenage runaway, the film depicts the troubled relationship between a mother and the teenage daughter she had too young. The girl, Sherry (played with ferocity by Ellen Page, who jarringly reminded me here of an ex-girlfriend, but never mind), runs away to strike out on her own in Europe and hooks up with an charismatic group of partying activists who call themselves SPARK (Street People Armed With Radical Knowledge; check out the group's faked up website). They work to get people off of hard drugs, making them part of a family, travel in a sort of "Burning Van" eventually to their own compound at a vineyard, where, well, when you put the words "compound" and "family" together, you can see where this is going, and not some place good.

Along with Page, it’s Maxwell McCabe Lokos, as Mad Ax - and he is like something out of a Mad Max film - who makes the most striking impression. A Tasmanian Devil of a character, Lokos, who looks like Dennis Christopher with a mullet, shakes up the screen but never veers off into caricature. An early tragedy in particular shades his character as a sad case to be empathized with, as does the memorable last scene with Page.

Murray’s work is admirably uncompromised, and her previous experience directing dance films filters through here in the way the action is choreographed with constant movement. For the most part, that energy and the film’s edgy style speed things along well, but one integral component of the plot I had trouble getting past: the presence of the mother, Laurie (Natasha Wightman), who ends up joining the cult - I mean, group. I felt as annoyed as Page's character at the disruption and, unfortunately, that and some exasperating behavior on the part of some of the characters almost steers the film toward the silly. However, focusing on Sherry's slow realization of things going awry manages to sustain interest to the end. Mouth to Mouth, a world premiere at the SFIFF, is a messy trip, but there's a lot of spark here and signs of good things to come from Murray. Executive produced by Atom Egoyan, of all people.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:53 PM

John Mills, 1908 - 2005.

John Mills
Sir John Mills, one of Britain's best-known and best-loved actors, has died at the age of 97. He starred in more than 100 films since the early 1930s including Great Expectations, War and Peace, and Ryan's Daughter - for which he won an Oscar.

The BBC.

There was nobody comparable really who gave such a variety of absolutely impeccable performances. He never stopped work - work was everything. He was immensely proud of his profession and he brought great honor to it.

Richard Attenborough.

He's 95, you know, and he said, "Oh, this film you're doing, is there a part in it for me?" And I said, "Oh, gosh. Now that you mention it, there is. There's an old man, it's very small, it's not a speaking part," and he said, "Oh good, I'm 95, I don't want to learn lines at all." And I explained what happens, snorting cocaine at a party, and he said, "Oh good, my first coke movie."

Stephen Fry, talking to Sean Axmaker just last year.

Updates: In the Observer, David Smith and Anushka Asthana; and Philip French: "To anyone born before the Second World War, Mills is part of their experience of British life as they grew up."

In the Telegraph, Chris Hastings and Roya Nikkah; and Stephen Fry: "He really was one of the last of a certain kind of Englishman: modest, honourable and unconcerned with vanity or ego.... For 20 or 30 years, he was cinema's only authentic British leading man."

In the Independent, Helen McCormack: "Perhaps more than any other of his performances, Sir John Mills will be remembered for his role as a village mute in Ryan's Daughter."

In the New York Times, Robert D McFadden: "Sir John delivered touching, restrained performances that caught cherished notions of what it meant to be a Briton - self-effacing, decent, sentimental, even mawkish, but reliable, cool under fire, the ordinary seaman who pins down a German battleship, the schoolmaster-turned-RAF pilot."

In the Guardian, John Patterson: "I've rented Ice Cold in Alex and Tiger Bay to watch later tonight in honour of Sir John. I'll be doing it alone - it feels like an utterly private, quintessentially English eccentricity - but I know I'll be ecstatically happy every minute of the way."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:12 PM

SFIFF. Palindromes.

Craig Phillips catches the feel-bad movie of the season at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Palindromes The palindromically named Aviva is the center of this latest glimpse into the Todd Solondz universe, an innocent, soft-voiced 13-year-old whose main goal in life is to have a child. What sounds on the surface like an After School Special-ish plot - teenage pregnancy, runaways, etc - is turned inside out by Solondz's unique ability to hone in on all that makes up our failings as a collective people and as individuals. The catch, though not the gimmick it could have been, is that Aviva, a cousin of Welcome to the Dollhouse's Dawn Wiener character, is played by a series of actresses of various shapes and ages, with Valerie Shusterov playing her the majority of the time, while two African American actresses play her prominently as well, as does, most conspicuously, though still mesmerizing, Jennifer Jason Leigh. (I half-expected Philip Seymour Hoffman to attempt it at some point, but fortunately, Solondz restrained himself.) Aviva, then, is a bit of cipher, although she certainly has emotional range; but what the device does is serve as an entryway into the journey that we take with her. Think of it as a Fractured Fairy Tale for the arthouse set.

It's a looking-glass way of opening to interpretation irreconcilable differences in American values, most overt in the abortion plot (which Solondz's describes in his press notes as essentially a "MacGuffin"), while, front and center, there is still only one component for how Solondz depicts the human landscape in general. It may be suburban New Jersey, but it's the suburban New Jersey that exists within the director's mind, and it's not a pretty landscape. Although the film primarily takes place in the drab, almost suffocating interior locations that represent much of Solondz's milieu, he's opened it up a bit more to keep it from being too claustrophobic, and we see hills, creeks, woods, roadsides. With the dreamy, creepy score and the iconography of childhood strewn about the landscape, it's easy to feel that this is both a nightmare and a dream. And yet the plotlines could just as easily be ripped from today's headlines.

Ellen Barkin and Jennifer Jason Leigh
No one else making films can teeter so much on the edge between pathos and mockery as Solondz can. Unforgettable: the collection of Sunshine Singer Christian teens with various disabilities earnestly singing pop songs like a disturbing offshoot of N'Sync (despite Solondz's protestations to the contrary, it's a bit hard not to feel they're being mocked - or, at the very least, it's easy to find it alarmingly hilarious - but he does seem to have a genuine affection for the sheer delight in which they take to performing). And moments where Ellen Barkin's mother character tries earnestly to explain the situation to her daughter, to comfort her, border on the hilariously mawkish or inappropriate. As always, it's never clear where he stands on anything. To his credit, as eerie as the Sunshines may appear, the matriarch of the clan comes across as well-meaning and, in her own sense of the word, loving, as she tries to feed and shelter wayward children. Some have also misinterpreted the film's riffing on abortion as mocking pro-choice activists - while others see it in the reverse (certainly, the film has little sympathy for the latter, who are ultimately depicted as murdering hypocrites themselves). But that's not to say he's not tapping into something real here, either. Barkin's character may be seriously flawed (who in a Solondz film isn't?) but as portrayed, she's achingly true to earnest motherhood gone awry, while the male characters are mostly a sorry lot of American archetypes, albeit crafted in three dimensions. And there's a diversity of faces beyond just those masking Aviva; some of the people populating this world seem to have stepped out of an R. Crumb strip.

I'm still not convinced about the necessity of having Dawn Wiener's character die, to start the film with her funeral, or really to have any overlap with Welcome to the Dollhouse (Solondz has said he'd wanted Heather Matarazzo to reprise her character for the film but she had no interest and so he did her the "favor" of killing Dawn off). Possibilities: Solondz' own fixation with the film or a desire for closure. Despite that and a few tonal missteps along the way, and a few flat scenes, I'd rank it not as his best work, but as a brave piece that will infuriate as many as it captivates. One may wish for a bit more underneath, but the mirrors of Palindromes reflect back upon Americans' attitudes on taboos and perceptions, and for that we should be grateful, if not fully satisfied.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:41 PM

Udine Dispatch. 1.

Koreanfilm.org contributing writer Adam Hartzell sends in his first dispatch from the 7th Udine Far East Film Festival, which opened yesterday and runs through April 29.

Udine Far East Film Festival "It sounds like a lot of South Korean films are socially conscious?" This is roughly what my good friend from Salzburg said to me. I was giving her the rundown on South Korean cinema projected from my computer onto the wall of her flat in Salzburg, just a few steps down from Mozart's birth house, where I was staying before heading to Italy to attend the 7th Far East Film Festival in the northern city of Udine. My response to my friend's comment was that rare instance of quickly ascertaining the appropriate answer: "Well, that's because you're hearing about South Korean cinema through my filter." I can definitely make it sound like South Korean films are more socially conscious than the average bearish and bullish cinemas. But if all you've seen is what the distributors have allowed in your neck of the woods, which is more than likely a Kim Ki-duk film, Oldboy or Save The Green Planet (all now at theaters near you!), that filter might lead you to believe that South Korean cinema is more violent than others. However, I'm not willing to bet that it is neither any more progressive nor any more violent. I still have many more films to see from many more cinemas of the world before I could come close to making either claim.

There are many reasons why I travel to Udine - to meet up with the fellow writers who contribute to the same websites as I, to see friends outside of my writing networks, to work on my German on the way, to eat the gelato, etc - but one of the reasons I come is because of Udine's approach. They intend to represent a wide swath of each Asian country's films from the previous year. This means films from all genres. Since I prefer the artsy, slow-paced films, Udine's inclusion of romances, comedies, and action films keeps me from developing any false beliefs about cinema fueled by the more art house fare I tend to watch.

Pontaniak

I attended the 5th Far East Film Festival two years ago and part of what I appreciated about this particular festival was the intimacy. All the screenings were held in one theater and, even though well-attended, there always appeared to be room in the large theater for late-comers to snag tickets. All the films are subtitled in English and Italian-speakers can grab headphones for title-by-title translation. Several directors are brought over and the smaller size of the festival allows for easier access for questions, research and formal interviews. In many ways, this controlled, baby-bear-porridge of a festival (not too big, not too small, but just right) well represents the city of Udine itself. Udine lies in the shadows of the popular holiday destination of see-it-before-it-sinks Venice and its distant cousin, Trieste. Udine is the second cousin once removed. Too bad, because it offers considerable shopping and European feel to the tourist who might stumble upon it, or to the tourist who has Austrian acquaintances who have put them in the know about this Italian stop less taken just across from their border. This latter point explains why shop-owners regularly mistook me for Austrian my first time here and would speak to me in German rather than Italian or my native English. But perhaps I further encouraged this misinterpretation by all the Adidas I wore like a corporate Canadian flag on the backpack of my person to hide my nationality since my country had just invaded another country on false pretenses.

The festival has since expanded to a second theater where films run simultaneously in the morning, which now requires me to make viewing choices I didn't have to make before. Well-stocked in Chinese, South Korean and Japanese films, the festival also has a smattering of films from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. This year, the up-and-coming peninsula of Malaysia is represented with Pontianak - Scent of the Tuber Rose (Shuhaimi Baba, 2004) screening on Asian Horror day, the sole theme-day that always takes place in the middle of the festival. Udine also focuses on two separate areas each year. This year we have Mark Schilling, Udine's regular curator of Japanese films, putting together a series entitled "No Borders, No Limits: The World of Nikkatsu Action." Accompanying Schilling's series is the publication of a book of the same name in which Schilling elaborates on films from Nikkatsu's catalog that have gone underappreciated, from a Red Quay (Masuda Toshio, 1958) to a Red Handkerchief (Masuda Toshio, 1964). The publication of a book along with the program is a tradition Udine inaugurated last year with the publication of Tim Young's Black Roses and Sentimental Warriors: The Cinema of Chor Yuen. The other special series this year, sans book, will focus on three respected cinematographers, from China - Gu Changwei (Red Sorghum, Farewell My Concubine), Japan - Tamra Masaki (Lady Snowblood, Desert Moon) and South Korea - Kim Hyung-Koo (Peppermint Candy, Memories of Murder).

Everybody Has Secrets
Arriving to Udine later than I'd planned, (a friendly Salzburger who shared my cabin hipped me to the fact that railroad schedules had recently changed, cutting back on the regularity of certain runs, one of which, unfortunately, was the one I intended to take to Udine), I made it in enough time to check in, shower, and catch the last two films on the first night. Both happened to be sex comedies, one from South Korea, Everybody Has Secrets (Chang Hyun-soo, 2004) and the other from Hong Kong, AV (Pang Ho-Cheung, 2005). One is for the adult who hasn't lost that legal teen spirit of experimentation. And the other is for that horny teenage boy or that man who is still grasping onto memories from his days as a member of that younger demographic.

It is no secret that the sex comedy is an escape from the diplomatic negotiations of our real life sexual selves, where playful fantasies are presented and matters are resolved without any headaches such as excommunication or STDs. However, two years ago at Udine, we had the South Korean film Sex Is Zero (Yoon Je-gyun, 2002), providing a contrarian model, a moral smackdown in the second half of the film to demand that we all agree that what we saw in the first half was "wrong." This time, Everybody Has Secrets, a film about three sisters letting their mojo flow with the same man, respects you enough to allow you to play around with gender roles and other societal constraints for awhile. Lee Byeong-heon (JSA, A Bittersweet Life) is indeed a pretty boy here. He hams it up enough to make up for the parts of this film where the comedy is off. Choo Sang-mi (Turning Gate, A Smile) once again impresses as well. Although Pang intends AV to stand for "adult video" and not "audio-visual," the entire film is still a high school, audio-visual club kid's wet dream.

You see, Pang garnered the assistance of real life Japanese porn star Amamiya Minami to play out the object of this projected onanism. Four HK young men hire her on to shoot a porno by faking their way through a legitimate illegitimate business while Minami fakes the orgasms. The film gets lost at times and evokes that 'Ugh!' response to heavy-handed humor (I guess that's with the free hand). But there are some interesting angles taken, and I don't mean the camerawork since bodies are well-positioned to prohibit the pornographic here. Pang weaves in a real life incident in 1971 where 21 protesters were arrested by the British colonial government, even bringing in Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr in ways, especially considering Parks's successful lawsuit against the hip-hop troupe Outkast, I'm sure they wouldn't appreciate. But, hey, comedy is often about pushing our comfort zones to eleven. Then there's the unique bit of product placement in AV. Perhaps just a part of the print shown for this audience, Pang dropped a major shoutout to the "Udine Film Festival" in the dialogue, which drew much appreciation from the crowd.

We'll see if Udine and I respect ourselves in the morning.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:39 AM

SFIFF, 4/23.

An opening entry from frequent GC contributor Hannah Eaves.

SFIFF The San Francisco International Film Festival has begun. Being the oldest of something fosters a tendency towards both meritorious deeds and regressive stagnation, and the festival has been aggressively persuing both agendas. Despite our bitter grumblings (as cinephiles and locals, both), the festival is a highlight for many Bay Area residents, who may only venture into the art film world a few times in a year. This represents a chance for people who really enjoy films to see some things that won't make it in to a cinema, or even onto DVD.

Opening night began well with Le Couperet (The Ax) from Costa-Gavras, a competent thriller and timely, despite being based on Donald Westlake's late-90s book of the same name, which clearly took its own cues from the "kill everyone for the throne" historical tragedies of Shakespeare.

Le Couperet

Bruno Davert (José Garcia) is, in resume-speak, a proactive problem solver facing his biggest work related issue yet - unemployment. A victim of inevitable downsizing and relocation, the highly skilled paper chemist decides to reduce the number of those in his niche job pool to one. This film is both comedy and commentary, and possibly great therapy for those dealing with the boredom, madness and panic of being unemployed in a job-centric world. Costa-Gavras was there in person and rounded up the screening with an audience Q&A.

I didn't see any personally, but I am assured that the Gala Opening Night Party was a star-studded event. It took place in the outdoor courtyard of Giradelli Square, a San Francisco tourist centerpiece. Several attendees told me how nice it was to be outside on such a lovely evening, and I nodded my agreement through chattering teeth. Apparently, the indoor VIP section was hot and stuffy, so I guess it was the sauna mentality - out of the hot room and into the cold pool.

There will be some interesting high profile events in the coming days. Academy Award winner Brad Bird will talk about the state of cinema. Two strong, creative women will take the stage when Sally Potter interviews Peter J. Owens Award Winner Joan Allen, who plays a role that seems suspiciously based on Potter herself in Yes.

Abel Raises Cain, Cinévardaphoto, and Innocence have all been positively reviewed here in days (and festivals) past. And we just can't stop talking about Adam Curtis's The Power of Nightmares.

Earlier this year, Adrian Martin wrote an excellent if brief essay on the inherent difficulties of screening short films. In lieu of finding a copy of this online, here is another one he wrote about the problems we have even defining these films (does any film deserve to be defined by its length?). The most tolerable way to watch shorts is on a DVD at home, and only one at a time. Almost as good is in front of a feature film, as long as it hasn't been chosen only for its similarity to the feature. It is unfair to screen shorts in a group, especially when they are linked thematically, because the tastes of the curator(s) will often go beyond theme; stylistically similar films tend to be grouped together. Occasionally, there is some attempt to resolve this problem by adding animated films to the program, but that is a ruse.

La Vie d'un Chien
The only straight up and down international narrative shorts program being offered this year at SFIFF suffers from this very problem. Children, and the problems children face all over the world, are front and center in this program designed for adults. If that's your kind of thing, you'll be in a sort of kinder-paradise. Grouped under the title "Revelations," these films ostensibly mine what is unique or out of the ordinary. Only two films really succeed, and they succeed exceptionally well: La Vie d'un Chien and Two Cars, One Night. Not surprisingly, both have screened all over the place, here and around the world. If you're in San Francisco, now is your chance to see them.

Coming from New Zealander Taika Cohen, Academy Award nominee Two Cars, One Night has won awards at Berlin, AFI and Seattle. Three kids are left in two different cars while their parents have a drink at the local pub. Strangers, they strike up a conversation (of sorts). While the film that beat them to the Oscar, Wasp, is a highly realistic drama, Two Cars, One Night has the same level of realism in its comedy. It's great when kids can be funny and natural without being syrupy, too.

La Vie d'un Chien is a satirical homage to Chris Marker's La Jetee that can easily be enjoyed by audience members unversed in French film history. This "photo-roman," comprised entirely of stills, follows the highs and lows of a scientist who has discovered a way for humans to transform into dogs. As a result of either great skill or accidental success, the film manages to be both infectiously tongue-in-cheek and occasionally touching.

La Jetee, mentioned above, is an example of all that short films can be. It screens alone around the country and is the most commonly included short film on "100 best films" lists. Lately, films of diminutive length have been breaking out of the mould with their innovation (Flotsam/Jetsam, The Raftman's Razor, etc.). When they manage to combine their stylistic uniqueness with emotional gravitas, they can truly stand on their own. Neither of these films quite manage that transcendence, but I have great hope for the future. Perhaps in Tracing Paths, SFIFF's program of international short documentaries? We'll see.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:45 AM

April 22, 2005

Shorts, 4/22.

Newsweek: Enron "If you are looking for a good dose of outrage at a theater near you," writes AO Scott, "you won't find a better bargain than Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." At Alternet, Noy Thrupkaew concurs, calling the doc "devilishly entertaining." And in Gay City News, Steve Erickson: "As a cautionary tale, it's vital." More from Jim at Twitch, which, as always, is bulging to the bursting point with amazing stuff.

Time: Enron But Salon's Andrew O'Hehir argues that Enron is crucially flawed in that it degenerates into just another in a series of "lefty agitprop movies." Odd, not simply because director Alex Gibney's tone is far more sober than Michael Moore's while his stance is far less overtly ideological than The Corporation's - O'Hehir's examples - but also because Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, who wrote the book the film is based on - and they're reporters for Fortune, after all, not, say, Mother Jones - certainly didn't seem to think the doc wandered too far out in left field when they appeared for a Q&A at SXSW.

Back to the New York Times: Novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, playwright Caryl Churchill and actioneer Michael Bay are hardly clones of each other, literally or figuratively, but Caryn James notes all three have taken a keen interest in the topic.

"The transition from powerful studio president to independent producer is not a smooth one." Anne Thompson talks to Kevin Misher about his three-year trek from Universal to The Interpreter. Also in the Hollywood Reporter, Paul Bond talks to studio execs who foresee the day when the window between a film's theatrical and DVD releases is reduced to nil; and Anna McQueen surveys the films lined up for International Critics Week at Cannes.

Independent Film Festival of Boston Peter Keough previews highlights of the Independent Film Festival of Boston, which runs through Sunday. Also in the Boston Phoenix: Gerald Peary: "The guilty amusement of this week, or any week, is Maidstone (1970), which is at the Harvard Film Archive on Saturday (April 23) as part of its 'Death of the Sixties' series. It's Norman Mailer's self-starring, self-promoting, self-indulgent saga about a porno filmmaker who runs for president."

The release of Kung Fu Hustle has Godfrey Cheshire sketching the predicament of Hong Kong cinema in the US for the Independent Weekly.

George Fasel on Errol Flynn: "I thought it might be interesting to look at one actor who did one narrow thing well, but so well that he may deserve a special little niche in a corner of the pantheon."

Phantom of the Opera Walter Addiego for the San Francisco Chronicle: "We've selected a dozen promising offerings from each of the two major categories of the 48th San Francisco International Film Festival." Also: James Sullivan talks to Ken Winokur, a founding member of the Alloy Orchestra about the impact the Lon Cheney version of The Phantom of the Opera must have had in 1925.

Want to see Hal Hartley in person tomorrow at San Francisco's Roxie Theater? RSVP, please.

"Cyber cinema," Kate Stables's monthly round-up of online viewing tips for the Guardian, is an especially good batch this time around.

Also:

  • Jimmy Leach: "Michael Moore has established a scholarship for students who defy the administration at California State University - the same institution that cancelled his talk last year."

  • Paul Merton is presenting a series of silent comedies at the Barbican this weekend: "One of my best moments was being accosted by a seven-year-old boy, who stood and yelled at me: 'THAT-WAS-FAN-TAS-TIC!' He had just seen a comedy made in the 1910s."

  • Reuters: "Sony and Toshiba are in talks to develop a common standard for next-generation DVDs and end a fierce battle over formats that has been threatening to stifle the industry's growth."

  • Sam Sarowitz is "hooked" on collecting movie posters.

  • Oliver Burkeman meets Rory Culkin.

  • Ronald Bergan remembers Ruth Hussey.

The Beautiful Country Good on Jeffrey Wells for writing up The Beautiful Country. It's not too early.

John Hiscock talks to Emily Mortimer about her latest career move: "Last year, her advisers stepped in with a firm admonition. It was time, they said, for her to stop taking her clothes off in arty, low-budget films, no matter how worthy, and to make the transition to the big time." Also in the Independent: Neil Sinyard probes Hitchcock's penchant for the macabre.

Stephen Leslie: "It may sound like an absurd proposition, but without the contribution of Britain, science fiction cinema would be in the doldrums." More thoughts on sci-fi in the London Times: Ian Johns.

Rosie Millard in the New Statesman: "As ever, the British film industry is trailing behind Hollywood, which has long since collapsed the notion that black actors must always play the sidekick to a white lead."

Mike Atherton is covering London's Raindance East Film Festival through April 28 for Cinema Minima.

In the LA CityBeat, Andy Klein catches three movies that are all, in one way or another, about movies: Torremolinos 73, After Midnight and Double Dare.

Jonathan Rosenbaum previews the series, "Every Man For Himself: The Films of Maurice Pialat," at the Facets Cinémathèque beginning tonight and running through May 3. Facets, by the way, has just announced it'll be bringing out the Edgar Reitz's full 16-hour mini-series, Heimat, on DVD in August. Back to the Chicago Reader: Benjamin Strong is unimpressed by The Amityville Horror while Kevin B Lee has a pretty good time with Kung Fu Hustle.

It's Earth Day and the Marin Environmental Film Festival is off and running through Sunday.

Screen Test Sam Adams alerts Philadelphia City Paper readers to Secret Cinema's "Re-loaded" Velvet Underground Film Festival, a good portion of which is rarely seen, e.g., Warhol's Screen Tests.

David Ehrenstein, who published his first piece - on Warhol, natch, in Film Culture -straight out of high school, meets David Ehrenstein, editor of Physical Review Focus.

Also in the LA Weekly:

  • "I want very much to make a $15-million to $20-million movie where I don't have this daunting, and inhibiting, pressure to reach everyone in the world or the picture’s not considered a success." Sydney Pollack, an incredibly young 70, tells Scott Foundas about his plans.

  • And Ella Taylor reviews The Interpreter ("there's fascination in the movie's mapping of a political landscape - part wish, part fear - that reveals as much about the contradictions in liberal American attitudes in the international arena as it does about global terror and diplomacy in a post-9/11 world") and Kontroll ("the movie combines high-speed rail chases and schoolboy prankishness with the kind of romantic alienation that many young people wear with their basic black and assume will see them through the rest of their lives").

  • Nikki Finke: "Hypocrisy, thy name is EW's parent company, Time Warner."

Slate offers more on Pollack and his movie. Bryan Curtis: "He can take any scenario - from the ridiculous to the horrific, from Streep to strife - and mold it into benign mush. This is the source of Pollack's enduring popularity and why some of us find his recent pictures so maddening." David Edelstein doesn't have much fun taking in The Interpreter (so he makes his own in an update to his review at the end), but this is fun:

I want to throw my hat in the ring as America's Go-To Movie Guy. Studios, agents, publicists: Think about what you spend on an ad in the New York Times with yet more gush from Peter Travers or drivel from some low-wattage radio flunkie from San Bernardino. Now think about putting a fraction of that money into a critic with proven integrity.

Speaking of... "Oldboy is not [Rex] Reed's first serving of crackpot culinary dish." Ray Pride turns up evidence that the way to this critic's pen is through his stomach.

James Seo caught Michel Gondry's talk at MIT a couple of weeks ago.

Christian Bartels in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (and in English):

The distinct possibility of getting rid of the tax benefits for the film funds has resulted in an uproar from an illustrious gang of actors, producers and directors, who along with fund managers are bemoaning the end of German cinema. This commotion comes despite the fact that very few in the German film industry have profited from the funds themselves.... "Should a German-financed film do well against all expectations, the Americans always think of some way to make sure the money stays in their hands,” says fund specialist Stefan Loipfinger.

Roger Avary: "I don't know about you (or those of you who've watched it), but for me watching Project Greenlight is a gut-wrenching, nerve-wracking experience."

Daniel Robert Epstein's latest interview for SuicideGirls? Woody Allen. Via Cinematical.

Grady Hendrix recommends Ram Gopal Varma's Sakar.

The International Istanbul Film Festival wrapped on Sunday; at indieWIRE, Kerem Bayrak reports on the awards, the atmo, and of course, the films.

Dressed as Their Favorite Characters From a Wes Anderson Movie Online browsing tip. "Dressed as Their Favorite Characters from a Wes Anderson Movie" at Never Loved Milk. Via filmtagebuch.

Online viewing tip #1. Frank Hudec's mash-up of Gus Van Sant's and Hitch's Psycho(s). Via Bitter Cinema.

Online viewing tip #2. Sleater-Kinney's "Entertain." Via Tom Hall.

Online viewing tip #3. Greg Allen watches NEC.

Online viewing tip #4. The trailer for Lars von Trier's Manderlay. Via Movie City News, where David Poland looks ahead to this summer's movies and where you'll find Patrick Franklin's Ebertfest blog and The Door in the Floor, a story by John Irving illustrated by Jeff Bridges.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:46 PM

Meanwhile, in Austin.

A Scanner Darkly Matt Dentler checks in on post-production for Richard Linklater's next one. No, not Bad News Bears, though, yes, that may well be fun. The one we're really waiting for: "I remember when we screened Waking Life during SXSW in 2001, I mentioned to Rick, 'No one has seen anything like this before.' But, in the case of A Scanner Darkly, everything moves to the next level. Everything changes when this movie is released."

Linklater recently gave a talk at the University of Texas, by the way. At the Daily Texan (where your intrepid blogger filed his first film and book reviews long, long ago), Jocelyn Ehnstrom nabs a few quotes and observations. Via Wiley Wiggins.

Austin FX Marc Savlov's hefty cover story for the Austin Chronicle surveys the state of special effects in and around the local filmmaking scene: "[S]urprisingly, and somehow comfortingly, as well, even in this highest of high tech cinema savvy cities, where virtually every other person you pass on Congress Avenue works for either a video-gaming company or is shooting, writing, or editing a film, the old school has yet to adjourn, and the new school? It took the lessons of the past to heart in ways Hollywood never quite managed." Sidebars: a talk with Brian McNulty of Highway 71 Productions a list of Austin's FX companies and artists. With addresses and URLs.

With more than 100 films lined up, the 8th Cine Las Americas International Film Festival opened Wednesday night and runs through Sunday. The Chronicle selects and writes up about a dozen screenings. Matt Dentler, by the way, was at the opening.

Also: Shawn Badgley a budding comedy troupe and Spencer Parsons reviews Disney's release of Hayao Miyazaki's Porco Rosso on DVD.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:03 PM

Tribeca roundup, 4/22.

Stephen Holden is bullish on Tribeca: "In a few years, it could give that old French circus by the Mediterranean a run for its money. That would be good for movies, good for New York and maybe even good for Cannes." There's an audio slide show as accompaniment, and you know, Holden's got a damn fine voice.

Mad Hot Ballroom

Also in the New York Times, which is gathering its ongoing Tribeca coverage here, Leslie Kaufman tells the story behind the "feel-good" film set to debut at Tribeca, Mad Hot Ballroom.

Robert De Niro is lookin' at Brian Brooks as he snaps the photo to accompany Eugene Hernandez's report on the press conference that opened the festival. IndieWIRE's Tribeca blog has come alive.

Cinematical's Karina Longworth's been snapping shots, too. And reviews Sally Potter's Yes.

Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher is looking forward to TV Party, a doc on Glenn O'Brien's late-70s public access show that featured anybody who was anybody in NYC at the time (a very fine site, btw; makes you need to see this movie).

In Gay City News, Steve Erickson finds Claire Denis's dance doc Vers Mathilde "pretty disappointing."

The festival runs through May 1 and Aaron at Out of Focus has a reminder for New Yorkers: "Nothing is 'sold out' at the Tribeca Film Festival until the film starts. You can always get in a 'Door Sales' line, and if you're reasonably near the front, there's a better than not chance you'll get in."

Posted by dwhudson at 11:44 AM

Ruth Hussey, 1911 - 2005.

Ruth Hussey
Ruth Hussey, an actress nominated for an Academy Award for her role as James Stewart's wise-cracking girlfriend in The Philadelphia Story, died on Tuesday in Newbury Park, Calif., north of Los Angeles. She was 93.

The AP.

Director George Cukor, a friend who hired Ms. Hussey for The Philadelphia Story (1940), became a mentor. "He gave me one piece of advice that I always use," she once said. "'Keep your emotions near the surface so that you can call on them when you need to.'"

[...]

Her ascent was swift. A bit player opposite Spencer Tracy in the drama Big City (1937), she became his co-star three years later in the frontier drama Northwest Passage (1940).

Adam Bernstein in the Washington Post.

The official site.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:08 AM

April 21, 2005

SFIFF. Nay vs Yea.

The 48th San Francisco International Film Festival opens tonight and runs through May 5. Frequent GC contributor Tamara Lees and GC Content Acquisitions Director Jonathan Marlow present contrasting sets of plaudits and criticisms.

SFIFF Preview: Tamara Lees

Yes From the look of things, this promises to be the best festival yet. An exceptional selection of films, a number of remarkable guests - I can't wait for Seattle. Actually, the same comments could easily apply to Tribeca. Or perhaps Cannes. As for San Francisco, they're trying. Barely.

SFIFF 2005 appears to be assembled from a checklist of festivals past. Silent film with live accompaniment from a rock band? Check. Hack director honored for lifetime achievement? Check. Program co-presented with the San Francisco Cinematheque of experimental shorts? Check. Naturally, I am ecstatic that Anita Monga will be presented the Mel Novikoff Award. I am less pleased that it took her firing from the Castro to make it happen. Perhaps a more significant show of her impact on the San Francisco film community would've been an entire move from the Castro as a screening venue?

Nevertheless, there are some swell films in The City over the next fifteen days, from Miranda July's off-kilter Me and You and Everyone We Know to Sally Potter's truly unconventional Yes. I urge you to see them both. Ignore the lackluster production values of a lightweight festival held in an eyesore of a multiplex and enjoy what you find on the screen. Look hard enough and you'll find a few gems hidden in the program, many of which will never return to a theater near you.

Rebuttal: Jonathan Marlow

Janet Gaynor in Street Angel Despite repeated comments from folks within the organization that my controversial "Five-Point Plan" was widely distributed at the Film Society, how many of my "points" were actually enacted? None. It might seem a bit odd for an outspoken critic of SFIFF to rush to the defense of an institution that doesn't really require my help.

Still, the program for this installment is better than it might appear at first glance. Thanks to Tom Luddy, Adam Curtis will be in San Francisco with his latest, the incredible Power of Nightmares. Thanks to Roger Garcia and Michel Ciment, we have a mighty fine selection of Malaysian and French films (respectively). Granted, the efforts of the "official" programming team leave much to be desired. They've definitely made my life easy, though. I have already seen a third of the films elsewhere; another third already have distribution and essentially half of those are of little or no interest. My advice? Stick to the documentaries.

Work created in the Bay Area didn't fare so well this year, either. Interested in seeing Caveh Zahedi's delightful, just-completed I am a Sex Addict? You'd have to go to Tribeca for that. Any chance of seeing Rob Nilsson's new film(s)? You'll have to wait for the Mill Valley Film Festival, I wager. How about Rick Prelinger's recent collection, Panorama Ephemera? Rotterdam screened it. Other Cinema presented it. The Cinematheque even had it at one point. I guess that means that it's played out. Over-exposed. Whatever. On the other hand, catch Jenni Olson's shot-in-San Francisco Joy of Life. It is, as I've noted, a "compelling film for those seeking something far outside of the conventional narrative." Which you should be seeking without me telling you.

Finally, it's not just any rock band. We should be thankful that the American Music Club will grace the stage, even if hearing Mark Eitzel sing while Janet Gaynor emotes on the screen will be more than a bit disorienting.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:24 AM | Comments (3)

April 20, 2005

Shorts, 4/20.

So we've got two major festivals going on, one on each coast. The Tribeca Film Festival opened last night in New York with The Interpreter and runs through May 1.

Tribeca

SFIFF A few thousand miles to the left, the San Francisco International Film Festival opens tomorrow night with Costa-Gavras's The Ax and runs through May 5.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian is ready. First week blurbed? You bet. And at first, Jenni Olson's The Joy of Life might seem feature-worthy enough for a local alternative weekly - it's "about" the 1300 who've leapt to their deaths from the Golden Gate Bridge - but of less interest elsewhere. Susan Gerhard will correct that impression:

Olson's film mourns the way a film by Hirokazu Kore-eda does - with distant shots that won't let you come right up and touch the trauma but that make the aftermath all the more real by being opaque. Its essayistic narrative feels Su Friedrich serious, and its visuals James Benning concentrated. But Olson's film finally pivots on the kind of archival fascinations that motivated Thom Andersen's documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself.

Chuck Stephens: "That a new wave of Malaysian independent filmmakers should begin storming the barricades during the last three or four years now seems inevitable." SFIFF's focus on Malaysia, then, is "certainly timely," but "our local programming visionaries only managed to get the queerest part of the story straight."

"One could easily argue that Argentina is home to the most exciting filmmaking in the world at the moment," marvels Johnny Ray Huston, and what's more amazing is that "the country's new wave has risen from - and crashed againt - economic ruin."

Two "Evenings With" are previewed: Kimberly Chun examines Taylor Hackford's "romance with pop" (April 27) and Cheryl Eddy revisits a few of Joan Allen's finer performances (April 29).

"Czech Dream's comedic take on large-scale deception is counterbalanced in the festival by a slew of docs that take a more sober view of the subject." Eddy looks at half a dozen in all.

Adam Curtis, writer and producer of The Power of Nightmares, the documentary series whose current stops on the festival circuit include Tribeca and SFIFF, does not mince words: "At the heart of the story, which begins 50 years ago, are two groups: the American neo-conservatives and the radical Islamists. Both were idealists born out of the failure of post-war liberal optimism, and both had very similar explanations for why that failure had occurred. Both groups did change the world -but not in the way either intended."

Also in the Village Voice:

Save the Green Planet

Shara Tren de sombras, a Spanish magazine covering all things cinematic - the name is taken from the title of a film by Jose Luis Guerin - is running a piece in English: Adrian Martin's lovely remembrance of seeing Naomi Kawase's Shara.

More reports from the Philadelphia Film Festival from Todd at Twitch: The Voyage Home, Niceland and Lonesome Jim; next day: Cutie Honey, Soundless and Survive Style 5+. GreenCiners have been offering their takes as well.

Here's the question Rob Nelson asked Martin Scorsese at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: "Do you think there's anything we can do to make sure that celluloid continues to exist outside of museums? And can the new, corporate distribution and exhibition of digital cinema stay somewhat open to independent filmmakers?" Nelson transcribes the full, four-minute answer. Also in the City Pages, Michael Tortorello: "The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival is good at a lot of things, but projecting movies isn't one of them."

"The stink from last year's summer movie output has barely cleared our nostrils as the aroma of a brand new summer is heading our way. But will this summer smell like fresh picked roses, or a bucket of steaming road apples?" Film Threat's 2005 Summer Movie Preview. Guaranteed to provide more laughs than the movies themselves.

Slant's Ed Gonzalez: "Why is it that a serious writer like [Charles] Taylor, a fearless critic of shallow entertainment punditry, is out of a job while a shill like Rex Reed is allowed to continue spewing his venom from atop his perch at The New York Observer?" Following Reed's "review" of Oldboy, variations on this question flooded online forums and blogs, but Gonzalez, far as I know, is the first to address it seriously and soberly. Via Dennis Cozzalio.

In the meantime, Taylor's work has been appearing in the NYO; this week, for example, he reviews Greil Marcus's Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads. Of course, Reed's in there, too, on The Interpreter ("muddled") and Palindromes ("as amusing as lung cancer"). Also: Jake Brooks digs into the nasty legal battle between Stephen Carlis and Steven Rosenbaum.

James Verini visits the Institute for Creative Technologies, where "animators, graphic artists, videogame designers, artificial intelligence researchers, engineers, screenwriters and directors emigrated from Hollywood" all work on training simulations for the military. Fascinating stuff. Related: In the SF Weekly, Luke O'Brien visits Forterra, another VR company working with the Army.

Back to the Guardian:

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Surf's up on Saturday, April 30, at the Barbicon in London. Charlotte Cripps reports in the Independent.

For those in need of a Julie Delpy fix, The Legend of Lucy Keyes looks promising. Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher has info on its all-digital, hi-def making.

Cinema's Missing Children Michael Abecassis reviews "a major study," Emma Wilson's Cinema's Missing Children, which argues that "the treatment of absence and loss have increasingly become the focus for the family dynamics of characters in cinema." That's in Film-Philosophy, currently pointing to news of the symposium "TIME@20: The Afterimage of Gilles Deleuze's Film Philosophy," May 6 and 7 at Harvard, free and open to the public. Related: Christian Kerlake in Radical Philosophy, "Transcendental cinema: Deleuze, time and modernity." An abstract, but a hefty one. Earlier: Keith Ansell Pearson, "Demanding Deleuze."

"Something strange is happening in Bollywood," writes Namrata Joshi in Outlook India. "Some atypical characters have been winning over the box office." Two sidebars note the formulaic flops and the iconoclastic winners. Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau," which also points to an interview with Bela Tarr in Elet es Irodalom - and in Hungarian.

Michelle Le Blanc and Colin Odell review Stephen Glynn's entry in TCM's British Film Guides series, A Hard Day's Night: "[T]his book's depth and analysis go way beyond expectations."

Also in Kamera:

goEast

Via Alternet, Rachel Fudge in Clamor: "As many commentators have pointed out, as all of the old you-can’t-do-that-on-television taboos - sexual content, violence, cursing, nudity, homosexuality - have fallen away, abortion is the one hot-button issue that simply remains too hot for TV."

Danny Leiner's The Great New Wonderful, premiering at Tribeca on Friday, is a 9/11 story, though it's "anything but explicit" about it, reports David M Halbfinger. Hot on its heels, though, are "several sweeping projects that seek to harness directly the full dramatic potential of the cataclysmic 9/11 story: its antecedents and causes, its horrors and its aftermath."

Also in the NYT:

  • Manohla Dargis looks over "a classic Cannes selection."

  • Sharon Waxman notes that there's been a sudden influx into Hollywood of "Internet magnates, trust-fund entrepreneurs and sports-team owners" over about the past two years, outsiders bent on spending their own money - a lot of it - to make their own movies.

  • Dave Kehr (presumably) on the new batch of Errol Flynn DVDs.

  • Laura M Holson on producer Scott Rudin's move from Paramount to Disney.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers Wiley Wiggins: "I'm not going to call it the greatest movie ever made, but when is the last time you saw the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Watch it again."

Vanity Fair's Patricia Bosworth recommends Mark S Wexler's portrait of his father, Haskell Wexler, Tell Them Who You Are.

NP Thompson celebrates a year of Movies into Film. And so do we.

You may remember a pointer to Twitch's terrific interview with Paul Spurrier, the British filmmaker who's shot a ghost story in Thai. That film, P, has just won the Audience Best Film Award and the Silver jury Award at the Weekend of Fear festival in Erlangen.

Grady Hendrix has a few quick notes on the Asian films at Cannes this year.

Craig Phillips on The Animation Show: "[T]here's no dud in the bunch and much to behold."

Via Movie City Indie:

The World Jia Zhangke's The World screens tonight in Nashville; in the Scene, Joshua Rothkopf.

Tabloidy, but: Natasha Lyonne trashes one of Michael Rapaport's apartments: 1, 2, 3, 4. Cinematical has an update.

Online listening tip #1. For DVD Talk, Geoffrey Kleinman interviews Primer director Shane Carruth.

Online listening tip #2. For Cinematical, Karina Longworth chats for half an hour with the filmmakers behind Kissing on the Mouth.

Online viewing tip. Impactist's Nebraska in Single Frames. Via Greg Allen.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:58 AM

April 19, 2005

Zizek! The Movie.

Zizek: On Belief Even if you're not in San Francisco, consider this an online viewing tip: a clip from Zizek!, a new film from the Documentary Campaign. Here, he discusses "Belief," the subject of one of his books (an excerpt), and if you've never seen or heard him speak, you'll begin to get an inkling as to why the Chronicle of Higher Education has called him the "Elvis of cultural theory." Maybe it's a schtick; it hardly matters.

If you are in San Francisco, there'll be a special preview of Zizek! on Thursday night at 8pm at the Roxie, followed by a Q&A with - yes, Zizek - and director Astra Taylor and editor Laura Hanna.

Wary of movie about a philosopher? Doug Henwood's post to Nettime should assuage those worries: "Really smart and fun... a real departure from that tedious documentary style of talking heads and high seriousness."

For more on Zizek, see the thorough collection of links to his writings online gathered at Wikipedia, Rebecca Mead's New Yorker profile and/or Robert Boynton's "Enjoy Your Zizek!"

Posted by dwhudson at 1:39 PM

Cannes. The lineup.

Cannes 05 There it is, all streaming down one long page: the lineup for the 58th Cannes Film Festival (May 11 through 22, albeit with a Rencontre on May 10 during which the future of festivals in general will be discussed).

Following introductory remarks by fest director Gilles Jacob ("the festival continues its work as land-clearer, surveyor") and Jury President Emir Kusturica (like his Kustendorf, "the Festival de Cannes is... an international village that is devoted to sharing, dedicated to cinematopgraphic and personal encounters. The spectators always prove to be greedy, curious and demanding") are a list of events, Thierry Frémaux's handy Cannes FAQ, a note on the market (Marché du Film) and the big lists:

Dominik Moll's Lemming will open the Compétition, and then, the race begins:

Where the Truth Lies

There are, of course, some very interesting films screening out of competition and in Un Certain Regard and so on, but there's a first glance.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:48 AM

Sight & Sound. May 05.

Sight and Sound: May 05 Now that we've read the story of its making a few times, Andrew Osmond's cover story for the May issue of Sight & Sound presents the first substantive preview of what might turn out to be one of the few highlights of a very dry summer:

As a film, Hitchhiker may well suit its slot in the film release calendar as a gentle pre-emptive raspberry to Steven Spielberg's forthcoming remake of War of the Worlds, which is unlikely to keep the anti-humanist heft of Wells' original. At the same time Hitchhiker has none of the noisy obnoxiousness of Tim Burton's mischievous Mars Attacks! (1996), which played a counter-programming role in the year of Independence Day... The resulting film is intermittently funny and/or charming and sometimes genuinely strange.

David Thomson shoots for a "rehabilitation" of Otto Preminger, but not exactly a straight one: "What sort of film criticism or commentary is this, you may be asking, with rather more the sense of a dream's dissolve than of analytical exactness."

Reviews:

Posted by dwhudson at 2:12 AM

April 18, 2005

Shorts, 4/18.

The Stanley Kubrick exhibition may be packed up now, but there is now a permanent record of all the careful collecting, collating and curating his widow, Christiane, and her brother, Jan Harlan put into it in the form of a mini-monument designed by Taschen: The Stanley Kubrick Archives is "a physical marvel," writes Malcolm Jones in Newsweek:

Kubrick Archives

It comes with a little CD-ROM with an interview with the director, and a piece of 70mm film from 2001 is tucked into a sleeve on the first page.... But there's lot of text, with original essays by Kubrick experts like Gene D. Phillips, memoirs by Kubrick friends like the writer Michael Herr and lots of reprinted interviews with Kubrick himself, who was so articulate that he could almost talk you into thinking that you like a film that you didn't like.

To celebrate, promote or inquire, take your pick, Sean O'Hagan drives out to the big house in Hertfordshire and talks to Christiane Kubrick.

Also in the Observer:

Garth Pearce is mightily impressed by Kingdom of Heaven: "Most of the doubts about this film, set in 1186, from the controversial subject matter to the casting of [Orlando] Bloom, are nailed in its first half-hour... [the film] has the power to make an audience feel it is living and breathing history." There's one for the poster. At any rate, for the London Times, he talks to Ridley Scott, whom he finds "in a pugnacious mood." Via Movie City News.

In the New Yorker:

Shin Sang-ok

Over the course of a single page, Edward Levine asks Albert Maysles a wide range of questions.

Tom Hall: "The thrill of criticism is, to me, not found in the actual pronouncements of judgment by writers I admire, but in the curious thrill of having my own feelings go toe to toe with another critical mind.... For me, talking about movies is almost as important to understanding them as watching the films themselves."

Will Knight in the New Scientist: "A computer interface inspired by the futuristic system portrayed in the movie Minority Report , starring Tom Cruise, could soon help real military personnel deal with information overload." Via Wiley Wiggins.

Ruthe Stein reports on how Chris Columbus turned a few streets of San Francisco into 80s-era New York for his adaptation of Rent. Also in the San Francisco Chronicle and via Movie City News, Stein's profile of Peter Sarsgaard.

The Big Red One David Thomson in the Independent: "[O]ne of the great historical virtues of The Big Red One is simply the notion of a long, destructive, just war in which everything might have to be sacrificed except resolve."

More from the Philadelphia Film Festival from Todd at Twitch: Off Beat, Oldboy, Stratosphere Girl, Quiet as a Mouse and Evilenko.

Hollywood Bitchslap's Peter Sobczynski previews the 7th Annual Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival, April 20 through 24.

At Cinema Minima, Andre Soares examines a collection of series running at the Filmarchiv Austria through May 1, "propaganda films disguised as escapist comedies, dramas, and musicals, much like what was being done in Hollywood [in the 30s and early 40s]. Except, of course, that the heroes of those films were the Nazis and/or assorted members of the Aryan race."

In India, there's a wavelet of professionals giving up corporate life for screenwriting, reports Manju Sara Rajan in the Indian Express. Via Movie City Indie.

Matt Clayfield's revised his top ten.

Quick: Groucho Online browsing tips. Marx-Out-of-Print, via Eye of the Goof; Walking the Shark, via M Valdemar; both in a roundabout way via Bitter Cinema.

Online listening tip. Cyndi Greening talks with Mike Luciano about his "transition from digital filmmaking student to industry professional."

Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for Gus Van Sant's Last Days. Via Greg Allen.

Online viewing tip #2. David Lynch's weather report. Via Cinematical.

Online viewing tip #3. As Brian Flemming puts it, yes, "This is an Apple promotional video, but worth watching for [Walter] Murch."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:29 AM | Comments (2)

April 17, 2005

Light Sleeper. 1.

For several months now, Saul Symonds, a young film critic in Sydney who's written for the likes of The Film Journal and Senses of Cinema, has quietly been working on a vital and vivacious new online publication, Light Sleeper. Right off, you'll see it's divided into two major sections, "Recent Cinema" on the left, where you can familiarize yourself with Symonds's smooth prose and smarts (did you realize Garry Marshall's got a thing for feet?), and on the right, "Past, Classic, Cult & Obscure Cinema."

Light Sleeper

For all the sharp insight of Symonds's reviews of the new, it's over here on the right where you can sense his passion for and dedication to cinema. Among the many highlights:

La Dolce Vita

And that's just scratching the surface.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:18 AM

April 16, 2005

'Scuse me, 'scuse me, 'scuse me...

Reserved At MSNBC, Andy Dehnart quite justifiably rails against what Regal Cinemas, for one, is calling "The 2wenty": "Essentially, movie theater chains have found a way to give us even more advertising: by running pre-show ad films while the lights are still on and audiences are finding their seats."

If you haven't experienced these audial and visual onslaughts firsthand, they may not seem like all that big a deal; but as you read all his well-argued objections, check your pulse and see if it isn't racing a tad more furiously. Dehnart also points to an organization that's trying to do something about it, the Captive Motion Picture Audience of America, but Flickhead, who sent along the appreciated tip, notes two points Dehnart could have emphasized: First, "We pay $10 a piece to sit through this garbage." And second, though it's the chains' own deal, the studios aren't raising the slightest objections. After all, most of their revenue now comes from DVD sales. Whether or not Flickhead's assertion that the studios "don't give a shit about people who go to movie theaters" holds water, that's the impression.

I'd just like to point out that, not only could it be worse, it is - in Europe. At least in the US, features actually begin more or less at the advertised time. Not here. A 9 pm showing, say, all too often actually begins at 9:20, even 9:30, once all the ads unreel (and I don't mean trailers - ads, some of them merely blown up from the broadcast video versions we've already zapped away from on our TVs at home, but of course, as a captive audience in a theater, you can't). In Germany, this swath is interrupted only by a break to sell ice cream. Seriously.

At any rate, moviegoers here have long grown savvy to the practice, and so, they simply make their reservations online and arrive 20 or 30 minutes past the time the theater has promised the feature would begin. Often, this works out fine. But woe to the moviegoer who's expected a 20-minute block of ads to precede a screening of, oh, I dunno, some anime feature only playing for a week or so anyway and the chain's decided that the audience will be so small, they're only worth 10 minutes of ads.

Personally, I'm set. Much to the frustration of my family, I'm determined to have our butts in those seats at the time printed in the paper or on the site precisely because the chain-owners might well be inclined toward such arbitrary decisions. You never know. But: That doesn't protect us from the pseudo-savvy stragglers anticipating the usual delay. Which means that, during those crucial first ten minutes or so, for which the entire team of filmmakers has put its best foot forward in order to grab you and escort you elsewhere, you're raising your knees to your chin to allow those pseudo-savvy stragglers to bumble along towards their seats, all the while, hissing, "When did it start? How much have we missed?"

This whole theatrical phase of a film's release is in a seemingly nonstop decline. The experience is becoming less and less inviting as the quality of home viewing rises, windows between theatrical and DVD releases shrink and families in particular realize they can have a lot more fun for a lot less money just waiting a bit for the DVD.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:20 PM | Comments (5)

Weekend shorts.

Tale of Tales In the Guardian, novelist AS Byatt reviews both a film and a book about the film. Yuri Norstein's Tale of Tales, voted the greatest animated film of all time in a Los Angeles arts fest in 1984 (while another of his films, Hedgehog in the Fog, won the votes for that honor at the Laputa Animation Festival in Japan in 2003), is, for Byatt, "a film that immediately changes the memory - mine at least - of all other films. It is immediately apprehensible, and needs to be seen again and again, because it remains puzzling, both as to its form and as to its meaning."

One who has indeed seen it "at least 50" times is Clare Kitson, former Commissioning Editor for Animation at Channel 4 and author of Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales: An Animator's Journey, to be released at the Animated Encounters festival in Bristol (April 21 through 24). For more on the book as well as a major exhibition and retrospective in Moscow, see Anna Malpas's profile of Norstein in the Moscow Times.

Back to the Guardian:

Trees in Snow

La Maschera del Demonio

The Amityville Horror and Kung Fu Hustle prompt Slate's David Edelstein to consider the various kinds of onscreen violence and recalls a talk he once had with Stuart Gordon: "He appreciated the irony: If he put a fight onscreen in a way that made the audience hate violence (cartilage breaking, blood flowing copiously in close-up), he might get an X for his troubles; but if he made it Popeye-painless (scores of bloodless punches with no bruising), he'd get a PG and an audience of happy kids learning the lesson that violence is fun."

Todd's now filing reports from the Philadelphia Film Festival (through April 20) over at Twitch. His first is comprised of a few quick words on Robert Lepage's The Far Side of the Moon, "a remarkably confident film and frequently laugh out loud funny in an absurdist sort of way." His second: Héctor Carré's La Promesa, Izumi Takahashi's The Soup One Morning and Ryoo Seung-wan's Arahan.

In the New Republic, Stanley Kauffmann reviews Yvan Attal's Happily Ever After and Agnès Jaoui's Look at Me. This may seem trivial, but if you read this blog, you'll probably enjoy the fact that, of the first, he notes:

Happily Ever After

[Charlotte] Gainsbourg is not irresistibly appealing but is authentic enough. To indulge in the familial: she is the daughter of Jane Birkin, the Anglo-French actress who first came to attention in Antonioni's Blow-Up. More film-world twinings: Vincent's mother and father are played by Anouk Aimée, a goddess of the past who now does grandmothers, and Claude Berri, director of the superb duo derived from Marcel Pagnol, Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring

Meanwhile, at Movie City News, Leonard Klady spells out the good news and bad news for French cinema.

In the spirit of Monday night's gala tribute at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Manohla Dargis celebrates Dustin Hoffman's career, reminding us not only that it was he who "helped pave the way for similarly untraditional types like Al Pacino and [Gene] Hackman, who in the 1970s would strip the gloss from the role of the leading man and usher in a new era of authenticity," but also, in two very fine paragraphs, that Hoffman brought a new sort of intense eroticism to the movies during that same period.

Also in the New York Times:

Project Greenlight finalist Scott Smith may not be shooting that feature, but he's still blogging. The best bits are the transcripts of his conversations with his kids.

Insan Suddenly, a nice dollop from George Thomas on Indian film. As for the latest from Bollywood, check Wilfred Lobo's blog at Cinema Minima on a regular basis.

When in doubt, quote Pauline, notes Ray Pride.

Online presentation tip. By way of Chuck Olsen, Eli Chapman: "In general, filmmakers have been very slow to effectively use the web. The main problem is that we don't think of the web as an integral part of the filmmaking process. Today, a filmmaker might have a website, a Quicktime trailer of the film, some press clippings, a mailing list, and maybe even a blog. That needs to change." His presentation, available as a PDF file, is entitled "Models for Sustainable Cinema" and it makes you wish you could see and hear him deliver it.

Online viewing tip. Very funny. Peter Jackson poops out at the end of the King Kong shoot and calls in for help. Via Movie City News.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:15 PM

April 15, 2005

Midnight Eye. Pink.

Love Cinema Besides racking up several awards at festivals around the world, Vibrator was named by the critics of the Japanese film magazine Eiga Geijutsu (Cinematics) the best film of 2003. Jaspar Sharp does ask Ryuichi Hiroki about the film, as well as about his contribution to the Love Connection series, L'amant, but he also, about midway through, introduces the overriding theme of the new issue of Midnight Eye: "You began in your career working in the pink industry, working for Genji Nakamura's production company during the 70s. What were these days like?"

The director's recollections segue nicely into the current Round-Up: "Pink films and more." Some of these are available, but as Sharp notes, some are "probably unlikely to ever see the light of day in the West." For more background, see Andrew Grossman's swift history in Bright Lights as well as his piece on gay pink films. Online browsing tip: Pink movie posters.

Sharp also reviews Takahisa Zeze's A Gap in the Skin, and it's there that we get a little more background on the pink film revival of the mid-90s. As for the film at hand, "What any of it all means is anyone's guess. The closest comparison I could come up with is Korean director Kim Ki-duk's The Isle (1999), another film where the mood and colour of the natural elements suffuses every frame, and another work where the meaning is left opaque enough to provoke hostile reactions for those trying to seek meaning in the chaos."

More reviews:

Neighbor 13

And finally, a special tribute by Mes: "The death of Kihachi Okamoto brings us yet another step closer to the disappearance of a truly matchless generation of Japanese filmmakers."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:56 AM

Shorts, 4/15.

Sean Nelson in the Stranger:

Chinatown

Here comes an untenable statement I nonetheless regard as unassailable fact: Chinatown - directed by the great Roman Polanski, written by the great Robert Towne, and starring the great Jack Nicholson - is the greatest film of all time. Not "one of," not "arguably among," not "probably" - but undoubtedly, empirically, categorically the greatest film that has ever been made, ever. The end.

Of course that's pretty out there, but now that Nelson's got your attention, you can appreciate his appreciation. Also: Andrew Wright on Turtles Can Fly.

"None of Godard's features made before 1968 is devoid of formal interest, but Masculine Feminine is missing many of the things that tend to make the others pleasurable," writes Jonathan Rosenbaum, who prefers the "flaky, funny and sexy" The Girl From Monday and maps that film's Godardian elements.

Also in the Chicago Reader: More notes on the weekend's offerings at the Chicago International Documentary Festival, the Chicago Palestine Film Festival, opening today and running through April 28, and the Chicago Latino Film Festival, through April 21.

"Tuesday night's panel at the Museum of Radio and Television in New York had more than a few memorable moments," notes moderator Steve Rosenbaum.

Before Morgan Spurlock, there was Franny Armstrong, whose doc, McLibel, has been updated, expanded and re-released. The BBC's Neil Smith reports. Speaking of the Corporation: "Free internet access to thousands of clips from public service radio and TV programmes is a step closer after the launch of the Creative Archive Licence."

The International Edition of Kateigaho gathers the thoughts of director Hideo Nakata, producer Roy Lee and writer Koji Suzuki on the international appeal of Japanese horror. That's via Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher, who also points to Stefan Lovgren's J-Horror overview for National Geographic.

Wild Japan Wild Japan film festival is touring ten cities in the UK and iofilm has collected its batch of reviews.

Filmbrain on Failan: "First things first... Choi Min-sik is without any doubt one of the greatest actors working today."

Steve Erickson previews the Tribeca Film Festival (April 19 through May 1) for Gay City News.

For Film-Philosophy, Kenneth MacKinnon reviews The Trouble With Men: Masculinities in European and Hollywood Cinema, edited by Phil Powrie, Ann Davies, and Bruce Babington: "There are no dud essays in this collection. There are also some outstandingly interesting ones."

Todd Solondz is still talking. Still making sense much of the time, too. Today's batch of questions this time come from Matthew Scott Kelemen at Alternet, Matthew Plouffe at indieWIRE (where Hugo Perez files a report on the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival) and Geoffrey Macnab in the Guardian, where you'll also find:

Night Watch

At Movie City News, David Poland looks ahead to the summer season and finds we'll be "in a near-permanent state of déjà vu."

The Telegraph's David Gritten chats up the team behind The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Also: "It is incredibly cold, -20C on a good day. But it's beautiful." SF Said visits the set of Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn's follow-up to Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner). Via Movie City Indie.

When the Dog Barks Broken Saints: It's a blog now, too.

Renai LeMay at CNET: "Hollywood is anxious to embrace BitTorrent as a method of movie distribution, according to the father of the Internet, Vinton Cerf."

Online viewing tip. Jeremy Harrison's When the Dog Barks.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:16 AM | Comments (4)

April 14, 2005

Shorts, 4/14.

Robert Davis is back: "It's easy to find books and movies about Chaplin. They're everywhere. They march through the standard lore and sing their condescending tune. Here's a brief ode to watching the films themselves." Also, from Ocean's Twelve to Los Angeles Plays Itself, a preview of things to come.

Chaplin

BRAINTRUSTdv talks with Caveh Zahedi about tech, Linklater, Tarkovsky, his own films, of course, GreenCine, pleasure and the future:

The beauty of digital technology is that it democratizes the filmmaking process. Anyone can make a film now, and anyone can put it on a DVD and hand it to or mail it to anyone else. This is a very good thing and really and truly is the beginning of a revolution in the way films are made and seen. I'm all for it and feel that it is already having a very positive effect in the world.

Heavy reportage going on over at pullquote. With the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival wrapped, the cinetrix can reflect in near-Wordsworthian tranquillity on:

Same Sex America

The Independent Weekly's David Fellerath looks back on the fest and concludes that it "seemed to enter a new era of institutional stability, both in the global documentary community and as a Durham cultural event.... One of the festival's virtues is its intimacy, with fans, journalists and upstart filmmakers mingling with the likes of famed documentary makers like DA Pennebaker and Barbara Kopple on the street and at cocktail parties. But this intimacy came with a price when some filmmakers approached members of the grand jury and asked for their thoughts on their own films." Heh. Also: A preview of Gatewood: Facing the White Canvas, a portrait of artist Maud Gatewood.

Last Year at Marienbad

Chris Fujiwara: "The eight films (six features and two shorts) upcoming in the Harvard Film Archive's "Alain Resnais: Selected Films" reveal much about the director’s range - and his consistency." Also in the Boston Phoenix: Peter Keough on Oldboy and Memories of Murder and Gerald Peary on Mondovino and, briefly, Steve Buscemi's Lonesome Jim, which opens the Independent Film Festival of Boston on April 21.

Oldboy

Speaking of Oldboy, though. It's never too late the join the fray, especially if you've got a serious argument to wield and, at the New Republic site, Elbert Ventura undoubtedly does. First, as George Faser has pointed out earlier, "Invoking the self-proclaimed geeks of post-Tarantino cinephilia and the Ain't It Cool News set," as Ventura puts it, "doesn't just identify the movie's presumptive demographic - it diminishes the movie by association and gives critics an excuse not to engage Park's work seriously." Second, "That original grievances become obscured by the sadism isn't a failing of the movie: It's the point." There's more (for example, "His surfaces are so dazzling that it may require effort to look past them"), but that's the gist.

That's quite a talk Alison Veneto's had with Kim Yoon-jin. The bulk, all about her career in Korea, is at Movie Poop Shoot while Lost is discussed at SMRT-TV and the rest is spilling over onto her blog.

Meanwhile, at Koreanfilm.org:

Staff unceremoniously dismissed from the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival a few months ago, including its former director, have set up an alternative event, the Real Fantastic Film Festival, running in Seoul from July 14 through 23, i.e., the very dates of PiFan. Kim Tae-jong reports in the Korea Times, but you'll find Mack's commentary and background at Twitch most helpful.

Xu Ge-Hui interviews Zhang Yimou for nihou, via Movie City Indie.

Afro-Punk

"With Afro-Punk, I wanted to challenge the mainstream perception of what defines Blackness," director James Spooner tells Michael A Gonzales. "I've made the kind of film I wish was around when I first got into the scene." In PopMatters, Gonzales calls the film "a 70-minute brilliant mess that that brims with blissful energy and enthusiasm... an important document that serves as both introduction to a subculture and a cinematic manifesto that assures marginal Blacks with blonde mohawks that they are not 'freaks'." The question of just what "Blackness" means is also at the center of Mark Reynolds's defense of Roger Ebert.

The Edukators

"For about 11 years there wasn't a German film worth seeing," Daniel Brühl tells Stuart Jeffries. "Thankfully, there is now a really good movement in Germany. It's getting better." Indeed. Jeffries spends most of the piece contrasting the late 70s and early 80s in Germany and in its cinema and notes, too, why he's talking to Brühl about it: "Brühl is, after all, that rare thing - a Teutonic male hottie. A fact which, one might be forgiven for thinking, shows how Germany is changing beyond cinemagoers' wildest imaginings." More from Phil Hoad in the London Times, via the IFC Blog, which has been cooking lately.

But back to the Guardian: Paul Laverty is pleased that Universal has released a new DVD version of Carla's Song, the film he wrote and Ken Loach directed. He's far less pleased that the postscript he wanted included was deemed "contentious and inflammatory" and refused. The offending paragraph begins: "The man who was at the centre of the US experiment to tear Nicaragua apart in the 80s was Mr John Negroponte." It goes on. So does Laverty's plea that we not forget who it is exactly that George Bush has nominated to be the first US Director of National Intelligence.

And:

Jeffrey Wells on Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room: "The most chilling scene for me happens during a morale-boosting meeting among Enron employees right when the meltdown has happening, and some guy asks if he should invest all of his money, 'all of my 401 K' in Enron, and he is told by a spokeswoman who happens to be standing at the mike, 'Absolutely!' And then she laughs."

Kenny Boy

More from Greg Goldin in the LA Weekly, including the reaction of former California governor Gray Davis, whose own role in the story is, as Goldin reminds us, not purely that of another victim: "Seeing this movie now, armed with all this information after Enron's collapse, it is easy to make the connections. But living it? It was not so easy to immediately conclude that one company in America could be so completely guilty of fraud, chicanery and manipulation." He's shocked, in other words. Shocked.

Today, it's also the LA Weekly's turn to try to get a handle on Palindromes. Scott Foundas takes on the interview, Ella Taylor, the review. Again, Todd Solondz states his case very well (for more, see Raphie Frank and Mindy Bond's Gothamist interview), but Taylor states it even better: "What is absolutely clear, notwithstanding a mischievously ambiguous ending and Solondz's oft-repeated claim that he leaves the drawing of conclusions to his audience, is the triumph of Solondz's bleak fatalism over his heroine's ingenuously American insistence on the possibility of happiness."

Palindromes

And here's a surprise from Armond White: "Palindromes is the most inventive film yet by an artist whose focus on human behavior - and the peculiar confusions of this era - has become bewilderingly powerful." Also in the New York Press: Matt Zoller Seitz previews "Candid Cameras: Real Life on Film," a series at the Museum of the Moving Image running April 16 through May 8, and Saul Austerlitz blurbs the "In the Company of Arnaud Desplechin" at the BAMcinématek through Sunday.

Good heavens. Arnaud Desplechin is Tom Hall's "favorite living filmmaker."

David Thomson marks the passing of MGM to "some investment companies and Sony" with a few wistful memories. Also on the newly expanded editorial pages of the New York Times, an amusing letter from Robert Redfern-West, editorial director of Academica Press, in response to news that publishing hotshot Judith Regan is moving from New York to LA.

Short shorts:

Andrew O'Hehir, in his latest "Beyond the Multiplex" column for Salon, interviews It's All Gone Pete Tong director Michael Dowse, then reviews Torremolinos 73 and House of D.

The City Paper previews the final stretch of films screening at the Philadelphia Film Festival, through April 20.

The Nashville Film Festival opens tonight and runs through April 21. Eugene Hernandez has a preview and the Nashville Scene gets a few last minute notes in. And at indieWIRE: Wendy Mitchell on Dogme 95, ten years on.

Bollywood

Louis Black, "a passionately enthusiastic novice" when it comes to the genre at hand, previews the Austin Film Society series "Bollywood and More: Recent Hindi Cinema," running Tuesdays from April 19 through May 24 at the Alamo Drafthouse Village.

Also in the Austin Chronicle:

Matt Clayfield: "You rock, Rockwell."

For filmmakers on a budget, India is the new Canada, reports Andrea Meyer for IFC News. Via Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay.

Rex Sorgatz: "Google has released a video upload tool. As the FAQ says, you have to own the rights to the video, but you will be able to charge people to view it. This completely breaks open the doors for micopayments." Chuck Olsen's got more related news.

And via Fimoculous, the Webby nominees in the category "Movie and Film": Aardman, Garden State, I, Robot Now, The Uninvited and TCM's "The Essentials."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:43 PM | Comments (2)

April 13, 2005

Senses of Cinema. 35.

Paul Wegener "For all intents and purposes, this is a transitional issue," write Rolando Caputo and Scott Murray, the new editors of Senses of Cinema, emphasizing over and again how pressed for time they've been. "Readers will immediately notice that it is more streamlined and contained in the area of content."

Readers might not object. At the very least, #35 is a manageable issue and may not take all of three months to fully digest. And streamlining is by no means necessarily a diminution of quality. Any editor that can score pieces by, say, Thomas Elsaesser (who reviews Heide Schönemann's Paul Wegener: Frühe Moderne im Film) or Tag Gallagher (on the "White Melodrama" of Douglas Sirk) has nothing to apologize for.

And range? It runs wide, from young Matthew Clayfield's vigorous embrace of Evan Mather's "Cyber-cinema" to the weary yet sobering pessimism of Jon Jost, from the informed chattiness of Carloss James Chamberlin's against-the-wind defense of Million Dollar Baby to the academic precision of Alain Kerzoncuf and Nándor Bokor's transcriptions of Hitchcock's trailers.

No complaints here: Five names have been added to the Great Directors database, the annotations keep pouring in, six enticing books are reviewed and so are just as many festivals. New films reviewed, brief encounters with the old, meaty features and the interviews - again, range: Claire Denis, Françoise Romand, Hu Jie and Charles B Griffith. If this is slouching towards summer, it's more becoming than Caputo and Murray may realize.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:06 PM | Comments (2)

Shorts, 4/13.

Voice: Tribeca Top 40 As New Yorkers rev up for the Tribeca Film Festival, opening April 19 and running through May 1, they're sorting through their options: 158 features and 96 shorts. Enter the Village Voice with what's become an almost obligatory yet always welcome alternative weekly feature: the string of blurbed highlights. This team's whittled their batch down to "a handpicked selection of the 40 best."

But the 19th is nearly a week away. In the meantime, there's Todd Solondz and his Palindromes to contend with. The Voice sends in Laura Sinagra to interview the director and J Hoberman to review the film. There are many keen observations in that review, of course; but, as with the film itself, no ultimate verdict. The buck is passed on to you, dear viewer.

More from Andrew O'Hehir in Salon, the Reverse Shot crew at indieWIRE (where Brian Brooks has got pix of the NY premiere) and Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly, who certainly doesn't shy away from an opinion: "D-". And then, an online viewing tip: Margaret Pomeranz of Australia's ABC talks to Solondz about the film - before delivering her final one-word verdict.

Back to the Voice:

Torremolinos 73

In the New York Observer, Rebecca Dana and Jake Brooks also look ahead to Tribeca. In its first two years, they write, the festival "seemed to parallel a city that continues to transform into a parody of its own grandeur. But this year feels a little different. The fest seems to have moved beyond its awkward adolescence, if not grown into maturity... [to] become a sophisticated smorgasbord fit for a city of New York’s various tastes." The guide that follows is broken down not alphabetically, but rather, day by day. And a lot wordier than the Voice's guide. Dana and Brooks talk you right through to May 1.

Also in the NYO:

PW: Is Cosby Right? The Philadelphia Weekly presents its second week of blurbage on the Philadelphia Film Festival (through April 20). Those in a hurry can skip to the letter grade at the end of each entry.

Also: Bill Cosby's ignited a debate that's far from over, of course. Michael Eric Dyson, who's written the soon-to-be-released Is Bill Cosby Right?, clarifies his position after having been soundbitten far too often over the past half a year: "It's no sweat off Cosby's back if he turns out to be wrong; but it may bring greater social stigma to the poor, and threatens to plunge those who buy Cosby's argument deeper into regretful self-loathing because they believe they haven't solved the riddle of their poverty."

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room The cinetrix, still viewing hard at the Full Frame Documentary Festival, takes in if not the best, potentially the most important film I caught at SXSW, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and Barbara Kopple's Bearing Witness, "a rare glimpse into the gritty reality of the lives of female foreign correspondents." Consider that one something of a Tribeca preview as well.

At the New Republic site, Christopher Orr on Hotel Rwanda: "[I]t's hard to shake the sense that the film would have been considerably more celebrated had its hero and victims not been so dark skinned and far away." Also: Stanley Kauffmann on Mondovino and Melinda and Melinda.

Speaking of. Christian Lorentzen's piece for n+1 almost seems to have been written in response to Richard Armstrong's in Flickhead (though, of course, it's a response to conventional critical wisdom in general ["Critics for more than a decade have made an annual ritual of castrating Woody Allen"]: "Hostility toward his muses is a crime Allen somewhat fesses up to - 'I'm not evil or anything, just sort of floundering around' - yet it has not prevented him from writing the most unforgettable female leads of the last four decades of romantic comedy."

Also at n+1: Lorentzen on how Wes Anderson is inadvertently proving that "the Age of Twee is finally over in hipsterdom" and John Colpitts on DiG!: "This is absolutely the most pointless and narcissistic bunch of lame-asses around which you could center a film. That said, director Ondi Timoner squeezes out some great drama from these mundane and artistically corrupt people."

Roger Avary is surprised to find The Aristocrats "the most hilarious, gut-busting, and enriching moviegoing experience I've had in quite a long while.... This movie is exactly what this country needs, right now more than ever."

Low Life As something of a preview of one of the most anticipated features of this year's San Francisco International Film Festival (April 21 through May 5), Adam Hartzell reviews Im Kwon-taek's 99th film, Low Life: "Who better to travail the political and apolitical gangster under and upper world of South Korea in the 50s, 60s and 70s than Im, a director who was able to maintain a filmography across this entire era and onwards." And yet...

"Sure New York and Los Angeles get a lot of screen time, but San Francisco has been the setting of more films than perhaps any other city in the world..." Really? Could be. What a fun chart or list that'd be, though, the number of times the top, say, 50 cities have served as film settings. Anyway, starting Saturday and running through May 11: "The Balboa Theatre is delighted to offer a month-long festival of The Reel San Francisco, with filmmakers and authors introducing many shows."

Susan Gerhard is wowed by Turtles Can Fly: "The image of that tiny boy hanging on for life around the neck of his armless guardian would seem the definition of bathos if it weren't for the incredibly natural way it's pulled off. It's hard to imagine finding one or two child actors with this kind of skill; [Bahman] Ghobadi's found an entire troupe of them."

Double Dare Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: Cheryl Eddy previews the hi/lo Film Festival (tomorrow through Sunday) and recommends Oldboy and Double Dare, "Amana Micheli's winning documentary" about the friendship between two stunt doubles.

Sean Spillane at Bitter Cinema: "Charles Chaplin called him the 'funniest man in the world,' and his stage name became a Spanish verb (cantinflear - an act of doubletalk; a torrent of verbiage for a prolonged amount of time that fails to make any sort of sense at all). Of course, we are referring to the great Mexican movie comedian Mario Moreno Reyes 'Cantinflas'."

Melbourne's pulling out all the stops to make itself Australia's film capital, reports Nassim Khadem in the Age.

In the Guardian:

All too often, press junkets produce little more than "It was so great to work with X" fare, but Gary Dretzka's got a report from one that must have been a fun and refreshing change, chatting up the Fabulous Moolah and the Great Mae Young, champion wrestlers and subjects of Ruth Leitman's Lipstick and Dynamite - and they're blogging at indieWIRE, too. Also at Movie City News: Ray Pride on Head-On.

Karina Longworth introduces a new feature at Cinematical: "ReWatching" is pretty much what you'd think; the twist is that its a review of a re-viewing of a film about to be remade, in this case, The Heartbreak Kid. Also, Karina's Tribeca previews: The Great New Wonderful and Mysterious Skin.

Bruno

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay: "Help Bruno."

Virginia Heffernan really seems to have enjoyed previewing the upcoming season of Project Greenlight for the NYT. Also: Ned Martel on Raging Dove, a "ruising but illuminating documentary [that] considers how nationalism flattened one young, sure-footed boxer."

At Twitch:

    Mantango
  • Broken looks like a helluva lot of movie for 8000 bucks.

  • Love the Google ads running alongside Todd's review of Ishiro Honda's Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People, one of the first "horror" pix my parents let me stay up late and watch.

  • Another review from Todd: "Despite the obvious limitations of a microscopic budget first time director Hiroki Yamaguchi has marked himself as a talent to look out for with Gusher No Binds Me, , just released on these shores by Media Blasters as Hellevator: The Bottled Fools. With a visual style that borrows liberally from Terry Gilliam's Brazil and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's City of Lost Children, Yamaguchi tells a wholly original story of life in a nightmarish, underground dystopia."

Online browsing tip. Raiders of the Lost ArtBase: "During March and April 2005, Michael Connor will be tunneling into the Rhizome ArtBase until his eyes bleed, hunting for buried treasures both ancient and new."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:13 AM | Comments (2)

April 12, 2005

Firecracker. 05.

With its fifth issue, Firecracker, a magazine devoted to East Asian cinema, goes online. Let me rephrase that: With issues 01 through 05. That means, quite suddenly, there's a deluge of Asian cinematic goodness to wallow in gleefully.

Firecracker 05

The interviews alone. Park Chan-wook. Tartan Film's Hamish McAlpine. Zhang Yimou. "Four of the leading lights in Singapore." Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Gu Changwei. E-J Yong.

Not to mention features, ranging from the Beginners'/Blaggers' Guide to the current overview of Im Kwon-taek's life and work, festival reports, and of course, theatrical and DVD reviews galore.

With support from the UK Film Council, Firecracker Media Ltd is also up to more than the magazine. Besides the Showcases, they're planning a major event for London in September, the city's first full-fledged East Asian Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:49 AM

Shorts, 4/12.

Namrata Joshi in Outlook India:

Last week one of Bollywood's most talented young filmmakers, Anurag Kashyap, got a new middle name: jinxed.

Black Friday

In 2001, his debut film, Paanch, a searing portrayal of the ugly underbelly of urban youth, was banned by the censors for its graphic violence, foul language and scenes of drug abuse. Now, Kashyap's second film, Black Friday, a no-holds-barred recreation of the Bombay bomb blasts of March 12, 1993, has come unstuck, despite a valid censor certificate in hand. This time the issue is not of censorship or ban. Black Friday is on difficult turf, at the centre of a face-off between two delicate issues - that of a filmmaker's creative autonomy and the legal rights of the accused.

Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau."

The cinetrix has got some serious coverage of the Full Frame Documentary Festival going on. Besides a longish take on Mondovino ("Nossiter is not especially subtle in building his anti-globalization argument"), she's also got - appropriately - shortish ones on several shorts.

Rendezvous

"The visceral power..., whatever one believes to be true or untrue about the film and its genesis, remains undiluted," writes Dennis Cozzalio, so enthralled by Claude Lelouch's C'était un rendez-vous that he's really looked into what is and isn't known about it (he's even found a map documenting the route taken by the anonymous driver). "The fact that laws and lives were possibly flaunted in order to get that action on the screen just adds another layer of goose bumps as they uncontrollably crop up amidst the comfort and safety of the thrill-seeker's home theater."

Alison Veneto agrees a bit, disagrees a bit with bc magazine's 3rd annual Golden Durian Awards, which are "not entirely unlike the Razzies but for HK film."

The Anime News Network's Bamboo Dong's got not only a review of Cruising the Anime City: An Otaku Guide to Neo Tokyo but also interviews with its authors, Patrick Macias and Tomohiro Machiyama.

Early Cinema Film-Philosophy's currently featuring two pieces on Simon Popple and Joe Kember's Early Cinema: From Factory Gate to Dream Factory: Marshall Deutelbaum and Richard Schellhammer.

In the Guardian:

A Talking Picture Manoel de Oliveira isn't for everyone, admits Flickhead, but he remains intrigued.

Chuck Olsen posts a few more "tiny reviews" from the Minneapolis-St Paul International Film Festival (through April 16).

Cyndi Greening's got the list of Wisconsin Film Festival winners.

Here's an idea: Host a Media That Matters screening.

In San Francisco April 14 through 17? The hi/lo Film Festival.

Here's a slew of updates related to Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman's Derrida, including news of a book and a related appearance by the filmmakers in LA on Sunday, April 17.

June 12 is "Roger Ebert Day in Chicago," Mayor Daley's declared. That and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Bill Zwecker reports in the Chicago Sun-Times. Via Movie City News.

Greg Allen asks Keira Alexandra, VP, Creative Director at the Sundance Channel all about this new ID, moving logo thing built on the metaphor of gallery walls. Plus an online viewing tip.

CNET presents a special report: "Me TV: Television of the Future."

Matt Haber recommends a double feature at low culture. Related: Ned Martel in the New York Times.

Online browsing tip. Institut Drahomira. Via Rashomon.

Online listening tip. Brian Flemming (who also has an online viewing tip for you), talking about The Beast and The God Who Wasn't There on New York's WBAI.

grau

Online viewing tip. Robert Seidel's _grau, a ten-minute suite of stunning visual phenomena suggesting a not-too-distant time and place in which nature and technology, having merged completely, carry on evolving long past our time. Via a highly appreciated tip from brakhage, who also points to two cached versions.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:43 AM | Comments (1)

Yoshitaro Nomura, 1919 - 2005.

Japanese film director Yoshitaro Nomura, best known for the 1974 thriller Castle of Sand, has died of pneumonia in a Tokyo hospital.

The BBC.
Zero Focus

Nomura was one of Japan's most prolific and celebrated post-World War II directors, making an astonishing 89 films - from samurai dramas to musicals to crime stories - over more than three decades.

The AP's Kenji Hall

What’s most original - and best - about Zero Focus is its marvelous atmosphere. Nomura sets his action in a civilized world perched in the shadow of the menace of nature. Teiko's trip to northern Japan takes her from the comforts of the city to a snowbound, provincial landscape fraught with natural peril: here cliffs tower over raging, icy seas, shanty communities perch along rocky slopes, gorges open up beneath roadways, and snow falls ceaselessly. As Kenichi's double life comes into focus for Teiko, this landscape becomes ever more threatening, until at last this guileless young wife has cause to wonder if she’s in mortal danger herself.

Jake Euker at Filmcritic.com.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:52 AM

April 11, 2005

Shorts, 4/11.

"Woody Allen's Stardust Memories (1980) is 25 years old this year," writes Richard Armstrong at Flickhead. "Reflexive and interior, Stardust Memories echoed the postwar European art cinema that Allen's own generation had been brought up on. But it made few concessions to its 80s audience."

Stardust Memories

Armstrong's rereading, both personal and critical, is about more than the film's form, though; Allen's view of women does not get a free pass here. Also: Ray Young on Piccadilly.

New York's Logan Hill is looking forward to a better Tribeca Film Festival (April 19 through May 1): "[T]his year’s less glitzy competition films - which, last year, felt like Sundance's reject pile - have improved significantly. And you’ll be stunned to discover that at least one of the New York films in this year’s competition - The Great New Wonderful may be brilliant. Judging from a rough cut of the film, this wonderfully acted ensemble piece may be the best fiction film about post-9/11 life to appear on screens." Also: Gavin Edwards meets David Duchovny.

Hollywood Bitchslap's Scott Weinberg is having a blast in Philadelphia and will continue to do so through April 20: "[T]his is a film festival on the rise." Besides listing his own highlights, he points to guides at Monsters at Play for horror fans, the previously mentioned City Paper and the previously unmentioned Philadelphia Weekly.

Something To Do With Death "In the English-speaking world at least, no one has done more than Christopher Frayling to make Sergio Leone a name to drop in cinephile circles," writes Kevin Jackson in a profile of the professor who turned in a thousand-page draft of Something To Do With Death to Faber (which promptly cut the book in half), has recorded DVD commentaries for the major features and is organizing an exhibition set to open in LA in July. And quotes him, too: "Now it's a great cliché to say that Leone is a major director, but at the time I first made the case for him, everyone thought that I was quite mad... and that Leone was utter crap."

Also in the Independent:

Filmbrain finds Fruit Chan's Public Toilet "a fascinating curiosity... Though not as profound as, say, Jia Zhangke's The World, Chan's take on globalization in China (and other parts of Asia) is still quite impressive."

Hanzo the Razor Raves for the soon-to-be-released Hanzo trilogy from Ian Jane at DVD Maniac via Patrick Macias.

Which are "the most important or significant American independent films of the past two decades"? IndieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez will be teaching a course this summer at The New School and is taking suggestions.

What's drawn the likes of Denzel Washington (on Broadway) and Ralph Fiennes (in London) to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar? Deborah Warner, director of the London production, tells Kate Kellaway, "This is a moment to look at issues of power and whether democracies can survive.... This is not a time for TV-style documentaries about politics. We need insights, important truths about the human condition."

Also in the Observer:

Fiona Tan
  • "An entrancing film is being shown at Modern Art Oxford: nine minutes of pure fascination." Laura Cumming on the work of Fiona Tan.

  • David Smith reports on "newly discovered, colour footage which renders [Hitler] more vividly and uncomfortably real than ever before."

  • Liz Hoggard redoes the Hollywood comedy cabal story the NYT ran a few weeks ago.

  • Book reviews: Andrew Anthony on James B Stewart's DisneyWar and Stephanie Merritt on Kevin Booth and Michael Bertin's Bill Hicks.

TV Documentary Festival The Museum of Television and Radio's Television Documentary Festival opens Tuesday night with the seminar, "The Passion of the Partisan: What is the Future of the Political Documentary?" Panelists: Robert Drew (Primary), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight), Alexandra Pelosi (Journeys With George), Thom Powers (Guns and Mothers), Ted Steinberg (Celsius 41.11) and Paul Stekler (Last Man Standing). Moderator: Steve Rosenbaum.

"We've been punished for the very success we've had with documentaries," Mark Urman, head of the US Theatrical Division at ThinkFilm tells the San Francisco Chronicle's Hugh Hart: "After we did Spellbound, the prices went up. Everybody came to us with films where the sales pitch was, 'It's just like Spellbound,' which is idiocy.... There's been inflation, and we've contributed to that." Via Movie City Indie.

In the New York Times:

TV

  • "Television and media," Bob Luff, chief technology officer at Nielson Media Research, tells Jon Gertner in the Magazine cover story, "will change more in the next 3 or 5 years than it's changed in the past 50."

  • AO Scott on what makes Lucrecia Martel "one of Argentina's - and the world's - bravest and most original filmmakers."

  • Scott on Saul Bellow: "He had political opinions and allegiances, some controversial, but his mind leaned away from abstraction toward the inexhaustible strangeness of life, toward an ideal of the novel not as a form or a tradition but as a vessel of personality."

Online listening tip. Cyndi Greening talks Sundancing with Alec Hart.

Online viewing tips #1 through #622. Music videos. Good ones. Via Fimoculous.

Online viewing tips #623 through #628. Trailers via Twitch:

Git

Online viewing tip #629. If you're at all reluctant to even entertain the possibility that America could ever slip into some new 21st century form of totalitarianism - given the prompting, say, of another terrorist attack - watch the crowd's reaction to a simple statement of fact - there were no WMDs - in the trailer for This Divided State.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:33 AM | Comments (3)

April 9, 2005

Full Frame.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival "It's day two of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and the cinetrix just met Walter Mosley." Bill Clinton's favorite author's had a hand in the "Why War?" series at the fest and the cinetrix notes: "Driving here yesterday, I passed a billboard on I-85 that boasted that North Carolina was the most military-friendly state in the nation, which makes the slate of war docs hit harder, sting more, somehow." Among the film's reviewed in that deceptively casual style of hers: Occupation: Dreamland (the cinetrix points to Merle Bertrand's Film Threat rave), Barbara Kopple's Bearing Witness (also screening at hotdocs) and the eight-minute short, Getting Through to the President (trailer).

More Full Frame: The Independent Weekly comes through with capsule reviews of 40 of the 78 films in competition. Also:

Mana: Beyond Belief

  • Neil Morris asks, "Can the largest documentary showcase in the United States continue to expand without sacrificing its intimacy?" Mention is made of Scorsese's presentations - and more capsules follow.

  • David Fellerath talks with Roger Manley, who used to live in Durham but has since been traveling around the world making Mana: Beyond Belief, "a sly film" about "power objects" and the people who believe in them.

  • Fiona Morgan explains the crippling impact of current copyright law on doc-makers and points - it can't be mentioned enough - to Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi's report for the Center for Social Media, "Untold Stories: Creative Consequences of the Rights Clearance Culture for Documentary Filmmakers."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:57 AM

Weekend shorts.

Werner Herzog Oops. Werner Herzog was scheduled to speak in Williamstown, Massachusetts, next year but popped up on Thursday. "These accidents sometimes have a special charm," he told his audience, as John E Mitchell reports for the North Adams Transcript. It was evidently quite a talk. Among the topics covered were his controversial methods of staging scenes in his docs to get at an "ecstatic truth," far deeper than the "accountant's truth" - in other words, mere facts.

It is a gift that you can develop and you can develop it by experiencing fundamental things like knowing what it means to be starving, what it means to be incarcerated, knowing what it means to raise children, knowing what it means to be shot at unsuccessfully. That's a deep experience, when people open fire at you and you aren't hit. You experience that and you develop into a human being who knows the human part, knows it better than others, and knowing the heart of men.

That's the sort of thing he'd teach at film school. First item on the agenda, though, would be lock-picking. Then maybe stealing cars.

Meantime, "Dudley Smith" offers a first glimpse of Herzog's Wild Blue Yonder, featuring Brad Dourif, at Ain't It Cool News.

That first story comes via Movie City Indie, where Ray Pride's also found:

Christopher Doyle and Pen-ek Ratanaruang

Kings and Queens The series "In the Company of Anraud Desplechin" runs April 13 through 17 at the BAMcinématek in New York, peaking on the 15th with a Q&A session with the director while the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus launches its own retrospective on April 16, picking it up again every couple of days through the end of the month. AO Scott explains why he considers Desplechin "one of the most intriguing French filmmakers of his generation: those directors, mostly in their 40's, who came up in the long shadow of the new wave, too young to have participated in the tumult of the 1960's but too close to that decade to shake off its hangover."

Also in the New York Times:

Truffaut "It's hard to believe that François Truffaut died 21 years ago, in 1984, at the age of 52," writes Gilbert Adair:

Since his death his reputation has been coloured by two tenacious myths. One, that he was perhaps the last true humanist of European cinema, a director whose work was infallibly "tender", "sensitive" and "compassionate", and whose aesthetic credo might have been "women and children first". And, two, that he ended by selling out to the system he had formerly attacked as a critic, an alleged capitulation to commercial imperatives for which he was to find himself vilified by more than a few fair-weather fans.

Adair sets out to debunk both. Also in the Guardian:

  • "What happens to celebrities after they die?" asks Dan Glaister. "Well, for an increasing number of them, they are likely to end up endorsing a product they would never have imagined in their lifetime, will have their faces plastered over everything from credit cards to mouse pads, and will find their earnings outstripping their mortal returns."

Anatomy of a Murder
  • John Patterson on Anatomy of a Murder: "Forty-six years on, in our backward-looking, old-fashioned era, it's as modern as tomorrow morning."

  • Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week: Disney's The Jungle Book.

  • Chris Roberts: "At 56, Margot [Kidder]'s own story trumps any movie mythology for drama, and it's a relief to hear that despite her 1990s hell, it resolves itself with our leading lady as 'a grandmother with my dogs and nice friends here in the Rocky mountains. Ever see the movie A River Runs Through It? That's where I live.'"

"A reader asks: What happens to a director who's not in the guild?" Daniel Engber, Slate's explainer on this one, maps Robert Rodriguez's options.

Sydney Morning Herald readers - a lot of them - respond to the question David Dale posed on Thursday: "Is Nicole's time up?" Via Movie City News.

Roger Avary: "Neil Gaiman and I are currently hiding out in a hotel on the California coast feverishly executing change notes for Bobby Z. (our mob name for Robert Zemeckis, who occasionally calls our cells and says 'mush, mush!')."

How to review a friend/acquaintance's film? Straight-ahead honesty is the most helpful approach, as Matt Clayfield demonstrates. Flaws are noted, unflinchingly, but in the end: "Deadroom is one film by four directors, not four films by four directors, and that's at once both its greatest strength and the most subtle and effective of its charms."

The latest from Japan via Twitch: logboy passes along word from Nausicaa.net that the last film Hayao Miyazaki directs before he retires might be an adaptation of the Chinese book, Wo Diushile Wode Xiaonanhai (I Lost My Little Boy). Note well that it's the author of the book saying so, not Miyazaki. Also: The Gomorrahizer points to sites for Mitsuo Kurotsuchi's Semishigure and Izuru Narushima's Fly, Daddy, Fly.

Planet Bollywood: "Dismal! That's the word to describe the first quarter of the year 2005."

Wisconsin Film Festival Dan Erdman has been covering the Wisconsin Film Festival for Film Threat: Days 1, 2, 3 and 4. Also: The American Cinemateque unveils a program of "movies not available on video."

Salon's Laura Miller interviews Ian McEwan.

Bear with me a moment: A Saul Bellow roundup:

"The Ghostly Social Aspects of Cinema" is sort of an unusual name for a conference, but the program seems promising. April 14 through 16 at the Jan van Eyck Adademy in Maastricht.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:50 AM | Comments (3)

April 8, 2005

Shorts, 4/8.

Chabrol: Bridesmaid "The whole idea of the nouvelle vague was more vague than new." Claude Chabrol makes for a charming interviewee, as the Telegraph's David Gritten discovers. "I'm convinced women are the future of mankind, the driving force, the regulators of the evolution of human nature... It's good to get to know them and be in their good books, because they're very powerful - the bitches!" And you know he means that with love and the utmost respect. Also in the Telegraph: John Hiscock interviews Sydney Pollack.

"It is a fittingly ironic fate that the movement that inspired the femme fatale has become the very force that has destroyed it. And as with any good noir, the culprit is a powerful woman. In this case, lots of them." Sean Macaulay traces the history of the "temptress archetype." Plus: The most fatal femme of each decade, from the 20s to the present. Also in the London Times: Ian Johns picks Hollywood's best legal dramas.

BRAINTRUSTdv interviews Lori Silverbush, writer, co-producer and co-director of On the Outs, winner of the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance, and slated to screen tonight and tomorrow night as part of the GenArt Film Festival in New York.

Sebastian Harcombe goes to Odessa and sends word back to the New Statesman: "This year is the centenary of the historical events dramatised in [Battleship Potemkin], which was made 80 years ago. In the light of these anniversaries and the deep suspicion many Odessans feel about Ukraine's recent 'orange revolution,' I wondered if the very mention of the film, a potent symbol of 74 years of the Soviet Union, might provoke some interesting conversation."

Untold Scandal "Filmbrain recently caught up with two Korean films from 2003 that were both smash hits in their native country - Lee Je-yong's Untold Scandal, and Kwak Jae-yong's The Classic."

Why hasn't Stephen Chow been as huge internationally as he has been in Hong Kong? You know, like Jackie Chan? Andy Klein explains in the LA CityBeat. But this is likely Chow's big moment: "If the gamble being taken by Sony Pictures Classics pays off, Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle will be a big hit," writes Eugene Hernandez.

Also at indieWIRE: Lisa Bear interviews Lukas Moodysson.

"The story behind the Hitchhiker's movie might have sprung, fully formed, from one of [Douglas] Adams' novels," writes Xan Brooks:

It is a tale of development hell at "the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral Arm of the galaxy", and of a whirlwind success that became bogged down in 25 years of baton-passing, thumb-twiddling and excruciating near misses. If the chief thrust of Adams' intergalactic satire was to remind us that the human race is really rather powerless and inconsequential then the fate of Hitchhiker's: the Movie might be regarded as the author's crowning cosmic joke. Until now, that is.

Also in the Guardian:

  • Woody Allen's next film - the pace just doesn't let up, does it? - was shot in London. He tells Peter Kelly why (in a word, money) and, as if to prove he was actually there, the paper presents a map of the locations where Match Point was shot.

  • "'Fun-loving' is certainly not the first adjective that most moviegoers associate with [Sean] Penn," notes Richard T Kelly. But he can be. Really! He's got the quotes to prove it. Related: Roger Clarke in the Independent: "Is politics about to come into fashion in American films for the first time in 30 years?" For the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw reviews The Assassination of Richard Nixon.

Pickpocket

"The recorded rock concert has become familiar to the point of passé. A live DVD usually means an added profit margin for a marginal artist and at best a sub-par performance." Dan Nishimoto explains in PopMatters why Born to Boogie, a record of the T.Rex concert in London in 1972, is the exception that proves the rule.

"At 57, [Christopher] Guest may be the best parodist working today, and the evidence is in a tightly focused retrospective beginning tonight at the Museum of Modern Art." In the New York Times, Caryn James presents an appreciation in text, pix and audio.

The Boxer From Shantung Interviews in the Independent: Marc Cameron with Melissa George and Tiffany Rose with Matthew McConaughey. Related: Sean Axmaker's interview with Steve Zahn.

Uncle Grambo shares ten quality minutes with Danny Boyle.

USA Today's Andrew Kantor on the significance of the FCC vs Brand X case before the Supreme Court: "Imagine turning on your TV and having an Internet's worth of programming to choose from, just like when you start your Web browser. I'm not talking about Web pages - I'm talking about television content delivered through an Internet-like model."

Online browsing tip. Shaolin Chamber. Posters, trailers, the works. Via The Crime in Your Coffee.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:14 AM

April 7, 2005

Shorts, 4/7.

City Paper "[T]hough the Bush administration has done its best to alienate us from the world, this year's Philadelphia Film Festival proves we may not be so far apart," writes Sam Adams, introducing this week's Philadelphia City Paper cover story: "We've picked three stories of postwar recovery from the festival's offerings - films that differ in tone, setting and date but share a common goal: helping countries rebuild themselves." Those three, by the way, are: Midwinter Night's Dream, Shake Hands With the Devil and I Know Where I'm Going!.

More in the City Paper on the festival that opens today and runs through April 20:

  • Adams on how the PFF has managed to present a wide range of films from Asia.

  • The staff writes up short takes on the first week's offerings, marking a few "Recommended" and a select few "Highly Recommended."

  • Elisa Ludwig tells the unusual production story behind cellar, a tight drama about two friends locked in a basement.

Also in the City Paper:

Libby, Montana You'd think it's Hazardous Building Materials Week or something. As our interview with Blue Vinyl director Judith Hefland runs at the main site, another disturbing doc screens tonight at the Walter Reade in NYC and later this month at the 2nd annual Artivist Film Festival in LA (April 20 through 24).

"Equal parts mystery, horror film, black comedy, corporate indictment and human tragedy, Libby, Montana sheds what light it can on a menace once mined in that town, the asbestos contaminate vermiculite," writes Ray Young in a solid review at Flickhead anchored even deeper by links to several further resources. "The film pulsates with urgency and commitment, and manages splendidly without the abrasive finger-pointing and knee-jerk aggression that has marred reportage in our age of so-called reality television."

Doug Cummings has an excellent entry on The Corporation, "a crash course for those unfamiliar with the ideological and historical underpinnings of the corporation and yet it is also humorous, engaging, and visually creative." As for the two-disc DVD, "this was clearly a labor of love."

At Alternet:

Hot Docs "When it comes to documentary film festivals, April has evolved into a key month, featuring some important festivals around the globe, among them the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in the United States, Hot Docs in Canada, and the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in Greece." At indieWIRE, Jonny Leahan notes which films are being talked about most - and why. Also: Brian Brooks briefly tells the back story on "[g]uerilla documentary The Art of Flight" and previews MIX, the New York Queer Experimental Media Festival relaunching today.

Salon gives Andrew O'Hehir enough space to chat through the state of Chinese cinema on his way towards a review of Kung Fu Hustle. Also: Dana Cook collects memories of Saul Bellow.

Diner: Geschichte? The "mission" of Downfall, argue David Cesarani and Peter Longerich in the Guardian, "is to depict the German people as the last victims of Nazism whose true defenders were a band of brave German soldiers, including SS men, who fought until overwhelmed by the Bolshevik hordes. This is no accident. The film's agenda echoes the Historikerstreit controversy in the late 1980s over interpretations of the Third Reich, and parallels the efforts of former Chancellor Kohl to allow Germans to feel comfortable with their past."

Also in the Guardian:

  • The final extract from Jane Fonda's My Life So Far. It's the Ted Turner section. A shorter clip on the workout video slipped online yesterday, too.

  • US philanthropists are sending Ben Kingsley on a tour of the Middle East with Gandhi.

  • Guy Dammann and Xan Brooks on elections in the movies.

  • Ian Sample reports that Sony "has patented a device to evoke smells, flavours and even a sense of touch in audience's brains, in the hope of enhancing the movie-watching experience." It's evidently some ways off, but it's also very weird: Do you really want to go to the movies to get your brain microwaved? More: Jenny Hogan in the New Scientist, via Movie City Indie.

Also via MCI:

Speaking of critics. The cinetrix has found the interview of the day, hands down: Aaron Aradillas's with Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman. Longish, not exactly new, but heavens; if you're short of time at the moment, the cinetrix, as is her wont, has pulled an excellent quote, and Ben, who blogs at The Whine Colored Sea, has pulled half a dozen.

"[D]efinitely the weirdest thing I've ever seen." Cinematical's Peter Sciretta catches What Is It? and points to Brett Buckalew's interview with Crispin Glover for Film Stew.

Cannes 05 Also: Karina Longworth gleams news of films selected to screen in competition at Cannes from Variety. Among the highlights: David Cronenberg's A History of Violence, Gus Van Sant's Last Days, Lars Von Trier's Manderlay, Jim Jarmusch's Bill Murray movie and the Wim Wenders-Sam Shepard collaboration that may set Wenders back on track.

The trailers swarming the Net and the theaters right now aren't just ominous warnings that the summer is about to hit and to hit hard; they also help industry watchers "handicap which studio stupidos are about to involuntarily spend more time with their families," writes Nikki Finke before launching into riffs on the major offenders.

Also in the LA Weekly:

Michael Snow

  • A Michael Snow retrospective is headed to LA and it's going to be all over town. Scott Foundas: "For five decades now, this founding father of avant-garde cinema has been tearing apart and reassembling the DNA of film language in a series of dazzling experiments - and lest that sound austere or forbidding, I should add that Snow possesses a healthy reserve of impish good humor."

  • Ella Taylor on Eros, "either a deep curtsy to Michelangelo Antonioni by two major talents who have outstripped him, or a sad homage to a master whose powers sank into decline even before he suffered a stroke in the early 90s."

  • Foundas: "Anyone seeking proof of the profound diversity of interests and influences at work in today’s French cinema need look no further than the ninth edition of the City of Lights, City of Angels film festival (April 11 - 17)."

  • And once again, Scott Foundas: "Even on its own terms, Fever Pitch strikes out."

Harvey Milk The Times of Harvey Milk will screen in Austin next week as part of the Texas Documentary Tour. Anne S Lewis, who interviews director Rob Epstein, writes: "Watching this film 27 years after the events it portrays, one is struck by its feeling of timelessness, probably because the Harvey Milk story is the past, present, and future of the gay struggle for co-existence across the country."

Also in the Austin Chronicle: Marc Savlov talks to Jim Van Bebber about making The Manson Family and notes a few other key attractions in the Alamo Drafthouse program. And Josh Rosenblatt takes in Criterion's release of Kagemusha.

Wiley Wiggins points to another Austin event, this one happening on Saturday: "Luke Savisky presents Film Actions V, the latest in his series of ethereal live projection performances. The visuals will be accompanied live with musical pieces by Graham Reynolds and Stars of the Lid, with a special guest performance by the Tosca String Quartet (fresh from their world tour with David Byrne)."

Despite a devastating fire last year, the Belfast Film Festival is back this year with "its biggest program yet," reports Jane Campbell in the Independent. The fest opens today and runs through April 16.

EMAF 05 Highlights of the European Media Art Festival in Osnabrück, April 20 through 24: An "extensive" program of work by Harun Farocki, an Owen Land retrospective and the further adventures of Peter Greenaway and those suitcases.

Chuck Tryon's slouching towards an excellent Saturday in Atlanta: Two Harold Lloyd classics accompanied by the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra at the Rialto.

"Are studios finally embracing the Net?" asks Todd at Twitch. Also: News of a live action adaptation of Urasawa Naoki's manga series, Monster.

Online browsing tip. Sean Spillane loves those movie star tribute sites. Now he's turned up a keeper: The Meeker Museum.

Online browsing and viewing tip. Works by Marc Lafia.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:06 PM

April 6, 2005

Shorts, 4/6.

Darren Aronofsky AICN's Moriarty visits the set of Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain as part of a small group of journalists: "The oddest outlet involved was Scientific American, but as the day wore on, it made sense that they were invited." This movie is sounding better and better, isn't it. What's more, there'll be no CGI, evidently, the central communications center sounds amazing and, though "this version of The Fountain may cost less than the originally proposed one... that doesn't make it any less or ambitious." Lots of detail and juice in this one.

Week 2 of the Minneapolis-St Paul International Film Festival, and City Pages crew turns in another collection of swift and sharp blurbs.

The Nashville Film Festival is set to launch next week, April 14, and run through April 21. That calls for more swift and sharp blurbs from a local alternative weekly, and the staff at the Nashville Scene comes through with flying colors. Jim Ridley's take on Mutual Appreciation, for example, a film I enjoyed in Austin far more than that pesky critical apparatus of mine told me I should, is spot on. Also: Jack Silverman asks Harmony Korine about, well, among other things, great American comedy.

Nelson Lyon is bound to have a lot of great stories to tell. One of them goes to Stop Smiling's James Hughes, the one about getting Jake LaMotta's book to Robert De Niro.

Paul Sperrier Todd at Twitch interviews Paul Spurrier, evidently the first westerner to shoot a film in Thai, P (or "Phii" or "Phi," the Thai expression for "ghost"). You think that's kind of interesting? That's not the half of it. Unless you're already soaking in Thai culture, go, read. Also: Mack hears that Kim Ki-duk's The Bow may be ready for Cannes.

At indieWIRE, Jason Guerrasio checks in on five indies currently in production: Capote biopic Every Word is True; Our Very Own, a 70s-era story of small town teens hoping to make it big; Out of the Broom Closet, a doc on witchcraft; Serial, in which it's a TV reporter who hopes to make it big; Where Love Reigns, about an affair between Carl Jung and his patient.

Wiley Wiggins weighs the rumors floating around that David Lynch might revisit Dune.

My Brother Nikhil "Quietly, gently, My Brother Nikhil has tested the limits of the Indian cinemagoer's sensibility."Somini Sengupta reports from Mumbai for the New York Times on a film about a gay man the ways the team behind it has adeptly avoided stirring the ire of India's conservatives. Also: Ned Martel on David Hockney: The Colors of Music and Anita Gates on In Satmar Custody.

The Guardian runs a second extract from Jane Fonda's My Life So Far:

She... began speaking to me in Vietnamese, not angry, very calm. Quoc translated: "You shouldn't cry for us. We know why we are fighting. The sadness should be for your country, your soldiers. They don't know why they are fighting us." I stared at her. She looked back, right into my eyes.

The Washington Post's Jonathan Yardley finds the book "as beguiling and maddening as Jane Fonda herself." Rebecca Traister in Salon: "Fonda's series of timely transformations combined with her bumbling, slightly daffy attitude make her a Forrest Gump-ian figure."

Also in Salon: Stephanie Zacharek on Major Dundee: "As the picture unfolds, for the first hour at least, it has the look and feel of a masterpiece - it's a picture rushing toward something, and despite the grave disappointment that it never quite gets there, you never doubt you're in the presence of greatness."

Ken Loach: Carla's Song Back to the Guardian: Ken Loach: "I'm normally suspicious of the director's cut phenomenon.... But the special edition of Carla's Song is a reduction. It's about 15 minutes shorter, and the whole thing is a lot tighter." Oh, and: Daniel Craig is James Bond. [Update: Or not. See comments.] There's a Bond quiz, too.

In the Independent, Kaleem Aftab interviews Ashley Walters, MC Asher D of the So Solid Crew and star of Bullet Boy.

"DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, whose documentary The War Room changed the way Americans view politics, have begun filming Fernando Ferrer's campaign for Mayor," reports Ben Smith in the New York Observer.

Also:

  • Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Television, sent out an email last week soliciting donations for two tickets to Cannes. The idea was that she and Pat Kaufman, director of the Governor's film office, need to be there to, you know, promote the city and all but, as Jake Brooks writes, it did raise "a few eyebrows around the film industry and City Hall, given the ethical issues involved when a government agency makes urgent pleas for money from prominent members of an industry it regulates."

  • Joe Hagan gets confirmation from Warren Beatty that he'll "probably" be blogging for Arianna Huffington.

  • Andrew Sarris on Sin City and Look at Me.

  • "Ah, the 70s: What a great decade it was for onscreen hurling!" Tom Shone on The Amityville Horror.

George Thomas recalls a few films he caught on a recent trip to India.

Cheryl Eddy does triple duty in this week's San Francisco Bay Guardian, reviewing Dust to Glory (no pullquotes here, but she approves), Sahara, "big, silly and eager-to-please" (also meant approvingly) and Look at Me, "a drama whose brilliant wit, pathos, and insight all rise organically out of characters and relationships that couldn't be more credible or intriguing." Also: Kimberly Chun pretty much agrees with everyone else as far as Eros is concerned.

Matt Zoller Seitz, on the other hand, argues that, after Soderbergh's mid-section, the "master steers Eros back on track." Also in the New York Press: Armond White praises Stephen Chow's "moral approach to spectacle" and Saul Austerlitz, briefly, on the Chaplin vs Keaton debate.

Assuming (erroneously) that no one remembers Sprockets (if only that movie had come together), Harmon Leon tries a little conceptual humor. Also in the SF Weekly, by way of Dallas: Robert Wilonsky is underwhelmed by Sin City.

Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog: "As we approach the 25th anniversary of his death, the Times [of London] offers three ways of looking at Alfred Hitchcock, all interesting and fascinatingly inconsistent with each other." Leader, quotes, ready, set, go:

Hitchcock

"Malba - Coleccion Costantini is proud to present Chantal Akerman, An Autobiography, the first exhibition and comprehensive retrospective in Latin America of one of the most influential filmmakers of her generation." If you won't be in Buenos Aires any time soon, you still might want to read more or maybe even order the catalogue.

"CinemaElectronica announces its first online publication, CE Quarterly. The first issue's theme is 'Lost and Found,' and each piece submitted must reflect this theme in some way, and be no longer than 15 minutes. A supplementary 'exquisite corpse' is also accepting submissions under the theme 'Found,' and must be no longer than 30 seconds and be comprised entirely of found footage." Deadline: May 15.

Mark Cuban: "The countdown for the extinction of CDs is about to begin." And all you film-lovers who did passably well on the analogies section of your SATs do know what this eventually means. More Cuban-related news via Movie City Indie: The rollout for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is going to be a little unusual. Mike Slocombe and Simon Perry report for Digital-Lifestyles.info.

The Cinema + Technology International Conference opens in Lancaster, UK, today and runs through Saturday. Other upcoming conferences, symposiums and the like:

Online listening tip #1. Leonard Lopate plays host to Neil LaBute, Amanda Peet, Ben Stiller, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jim Taylor and Tamara Jenkins. Via Greg Allen.

Online listening tip #2. Radio Days, all month long, live from Amsterdam.

Online viewing and listening tips. Sean Spillane's got a few for you at Bitter Cinema.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:42 PM | Comments (3)

Between covers.

What Makes Sammy Run? Before Bruce Wagner, before Julia Phillips, there was Budd Schulberg. In City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s, Otto Friedrich describes the impact on that one-industry town of Schulberg's 1941 novel, What Makes Sammy Run?, the tale of a quintessentially American social Darwinist who stabs each and every back necessary to claw his way to the top. Friedrich first quotes a moment when the narrator, visiting Sammy's conspicuously ostentatious spread in Beverly Hills, confronts him:

"'Sammy,' I said quietly, 'how does it feel? How does it feel to have everything?' He began to smile. It became a smirk, a leer. 'It makes me feel kinda...' And then it came blurting out of nowhere - 'patriotic.'"

Hollywood was accustomed to such barbs from visiting English novelists, but what made Sammy so wounding was that Schulberg had grown up in Hollywood and had known it from the inside all his life.... The young Schulberg had been petted and kissed by Mary Pickford and Clara Bow.... So Schulberg was intensely pleased when Dorothy Parker praised him by saying, "I never thought anyone could put Hollywood - the true shittiness of it - between covers." For that was indeed what he had done.

As Joseph Berger reports in a very fine piece for the New York Times (for which he also spoke with Schulberg, now 91), despite stops and starts over the years, the novel never been adapted for a film. But in 1959, NBC presented a performance in two episodes as part of its Sunday Showcase anthology - a performance that was long thought lost until it was recently discovered, filed away and mislabeled, at the Library of Congress. Tonight, it'll be screened at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York.

"Will the rediscovered teleplay of Sammy ever run outside the museum?" asks Berger. "'In the perfect universe there would be a television counterpart of Turner Classic Movies,' [curator Allen] Glover said." Knock, knock.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:16 AM

Saul Bellow, 1915 - 2005.

The Adventures of Augie March
Saul Bellow, the Nobel laureate and self-proclaimed historian of society whose fictional heroes - and whose scathing, unrelenting and darkly comic examination of their struggle for meaning - gave new immediacy to the American novel in the second half of the 20th century, died yesterday at his home in Brookline, Mass. He was 89.

Mel Gussow and Charles McGrath in the New York Times.

He believed that literature should hew to one of its original purposes - the raising of moral questions - and his own writing remained firmly indebted to the works he had studied as a boy: the Old Testament, Shakespeare's plays and the great 19th-century Russian novels.

Michiko Kakutani, NYT.

A few days later John [Berryman] came home with the typescript of Saul's new novel and said, "I'm going to take the weekend off to read this." Seated in his red leather chair, immobile for hours except to light a cigarette, make a note on a small white pad, run the corkscrew he liked to toy with through his fingers, or let out a high-pitched "eeeeeeeeeeeee," which meant he was laughing so hard he couldn't get his breath, he trained his intelligence on The Adventures of Augie March, giving it the kind of reading every writer dreams of having. After the first chapter, he said, "It's damn good." When he finished, "Bellow is it. I'm going to have lunch with him and tell him he's a bloody genius and so on."

Eileen Simpson, Poets in Their Youth.

Saul Bellow The New York Times has also set up one of its "Featured Author" pages for Bellow, collecting reviews of the books from Dangling Man to Ravelstein, articles on and interviews with Bellow and book excerpts and pieces by Bellow himself.

Edward Champion, "taken with the way Bellow still managed to cut to the fine point of human observation in unexpected ways," points to Mark Sarvas's collection of related links. And I'll post a more personal note as a comment here.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:18 AM | Comments (4)

April 5, 2005

Shorts, 4/5.

ahmed-zaki.jpg What a strange spring, suffused as it's been with death. Worse, all this waiting for the inevitable. The ritual has played out in Florida and the Vatican in radically different ways, of course, but the echoing of motifs described by Youssef Rakha in the Al-Ahram Weekly (via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau") on the occasion of another death that hasn't resonated too far west of Egypt is chilling:

It seemed peculiarly fortuitous that an actor's funeral should be preceded by so much political angst, yet it was equally peculiarly apt. His phenomenal talent notwithstanding, a significant portion of the media and popular attention paid to Ahmed Zaki's illness - and the ubiquitously sentimental anticipation of his death - was due to the place he occupied in the collective imagination, a place reinforced all the more by his decision to die playing the singing legend Abdel-Halim Hafez in the incomplete film biography Al-Andalib.

In the same issue, Hani Mustafa draws an intriguing parallel between the changes Sidney Poitier brought about in Hollywood with those Ahmed Zaki introduced to Egyptian cinema. Mohamed El-Assyouti considers the career, and this is probably the most helpful piece for those (like me) who don't know that much about him.

Same issue, different topic: Iman Hamam took in last months retrospective, "Beyond Truth and Fiction: The Works of Akram Zaatari and Mohamad Soueid," and reflects on the state of independent filmmaking in the Arab world.

cineaste-spring-05.jpg Chris Fujiwara on Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse, "a remarkably modern film": "Lang is the least consoling of filmmakers, and Testament is one of his starkest works. Yet it's also a work of dazzling exuberance." Also in the Spring 05 issue of Cineaste: Sidney Gottlieb reviews Robert Garis's The Films of Orson Welles and Peter Conrad's Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life.

beyond-rocks.jpg Gregory Crouch recounts the story of a vital find: "Over a three-year period, the Filmmuseum's archivists waded through a virtual hazardous waste site of decaying film before they discovered all seven reels of Beyond the Rocks." The 1922 silent film stars Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson and may hit theaters in the fall.

Also in the New York Times:

The Pulitzers. Greg Allen (who has an online viewing tip for you) notes the significance of one of the awards; meantime, congrats to Joe Morgenstern.

Darren Aronofsky tells the SuicideGirls' Daniel Robert Epstein more than we've heard yet about The Fountain. Also via Cinematical: Lots and lots - seven hours' worth, evidently - from Kevin Smith about where he'll be going from here.

Together again: Spike Lee will be directing Denzel Washington in Inside Man, reports blackfilm.com. Via the Movie Blog by way of Coming Soon.

crying-fist.jpg The #1 movie in Korea this weekend was Ryoo Seung-wan's Crying Fist, featuring Oldboy's Choi Min-shik. Darcy Paquet has just posted a review at Koreanfilm.org. Also noted: South Korean Golden Age Melodrama: Gender, Genre and National Cinema, edited by Kathleen McHugh and Nancy Abelmann.

Asian film roundup at Twitch:

Steve Gallagher raises a damn good question:

Most musicians make ends meet through constant touring and from the sale of merchandise at concerts. The corollary for filmmakers, I suppose, is the non-theatrical speaking gig. Why has no enterprising company sprung up to capitalize on this by organizing the touring circuit for indie filmmakers - who currently must go it alone on the road - at universities, film societies, festivals (which should compensate filmmakers for their work), and other grass-roots organizations?

ballad-jack-rose.jpg That's at Filmmaker, where Scott Macaulay's made a fun find that'll segue nicely into a surprising piece from NP Thompson: "Words fail me in describing The Ballad of Jack and Rose, the third film written and directed by Rebecca Miller. The recipient of several bad reviews both here in Seattle and across the nation, this movie is actually a ravishing tour de force, the first piece of cinema in 2005 that ascends to such dizzying, vertiginous heights of greatness that I walked out of the theatre, to use Pauline Kael's word, 'reeling.'"

In the Voice:

A Reverse Shot trio frets over Eros, too. Also at indieWIRE: Erica Abeel interviews Agnès Jaoui and Brian Brooks looks ahead to the City of Lights, City of Angels Film Festival (April 11 through 17).

Via Movie City Indie, Karin Kross and Liz Miller talk Sin City at Bookslut. More succinctly, Vince Keenan.

monster-road-box.jpg Monster Road co-producer and co-editor Jim Haverkamp once suggested to the cinetrix that "my mention of Edie and Edith Beale, the eccentric mother and daughter at the center of Grey Gardens, made him think I might enjoy Monster Road. He's right, and I did. Both films offer insights into complicated families and gentle eccentrics who carve out worlds just big enough for them to master."

Interviews via the IFC Blog:

fc-cinema-sex.jpg Time's Richard Corliss looks back to an era "when porn - the entire cultural life - was different, bolder, weirder, better." Hearing this refrain again might seem tiresome at first, but wait. This is quite a recollection, encompassing, among many, many other things, the special issue of Film Comment on "Cinema Sex" Corliss co-edited back in 1973. Via André Soares at Cinema Minima.

Yanks who sound like Brits and vice versa: In the Guardian, John Sutherland lists the ten best and ten worst "cross-accenters."

Brian Flemming: "It isn't enough that the Australian version of the Screen Actors Guild has forbidden its members to participate in films licensed under Creative Commons licenses. Now that union has apparently declared its opposition to the very production of films licensed using Creative Commons."

Just launched, Current TV describes itself: "It'll be a video iPod stocked with a stream of short segments and set to shuffle.... Finally, there's the Current Studio: our participatory production program, anchored online and open to anyone." Via Fimoculous. Related press coverage: Jesse Hamlin in the San Francisco Chronicle and Richard Shim at CNET, where Jim Hu reports on the current state of searchable video.

Online fiddling around tip. 56kTV - Bastard Channel.

delivery.jpg

Online viewing tip #1. Delivery, an eight-minute film by Till Nowak. Via Alternet's Peek.

Online viewing tip #2. Wim Wenders talking about Land of Plenty - and America, of course - at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Film Festival, shot and posted by Chuck Olsen.

Posted by cphillips at 4:14 PM

April 4, 2005

Shorts, 4/4.

Warhol: Jane Fonda Alongside Emma Brockes's interview, in which we learn the iconic American actress is also an architect with a penchant for feminist conceptualization, the Guardian runs an extract from Jane Fonda's autobiography, My Life So Far. The book evidently sets out to be quite a project, an ultimate how-to of sorts: "[B]y moving back inside ourselves, we can restore balance - not just within ourselves, but on the planet." But at the same time, even in just this clip, we're treated to encounters with quite a cast of characters: her father and brother only briefly here; swimming with Garbo; but the bulk of what's here is all about Roger Vadim.

The Filmgoer's Guide to God Jonathan Hourigan, who worked with Robert Bresson on L'Argent, interviews Tim Cawkwell, author of The Filmgoer's Guide to God: "The four central characters - Bresson, Dreyer, Tarkovsky and Rossellini - are all recognised as great filmmakers.... I wanted to write a book that considered them seriously as religious artists. The twentieth century is the great century of doubt, of scepticism and atheism. Perhaps cinema has been the prime art form to express the rough materialism of the world and here were four great filmmakers who were saying that religious themes were still vital to our understanding of the world." Via Darren Hughes.

Back to the Guardian: Andrew Pulver introduces the paper's guide to the long hard summer ahead. Going by that list alone, it would seem that the only possible - and the stress here comes down hard on possible - moments of relief from what otherwise looks like one of the most dreadful summers yet might be: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (and by the way, Jay Sweet and Stewart Engesser talk to the filmmakers for Paste), The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse, Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Linklater's The Bad News Bears... and maybe, just maybe Peralta's Lords of Dogtown and Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

Fortunately, Hollywood Bitchslap is maintaining a far more encouraging list. Even so... it ain't autumn.

In the New York Times:

Denzel Washington as Brutus

Two pieces in the Observer are only tangentially related to film but definitely worth a look: Gaby Wood meets Benjamin Buchloh, Rosalind Krauss, Hal Foster and Yve-Alain Bois to talk about their book, Art Since 1900, and Sean O'Hagan presents an "interview/collaboration" with John Berger.

David Thomson in the Independent: "The idea of this column is that I list my 10 favourite pieces of movie music... I am going to cheat. Ten is absurd."

Filmbrain argues that Oskar Roehler's Agnes and his Brothers is "one of the best German films in years."

"A Hole in My Heart makes a useful companion to Sin City," asserts Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. "Rodriguez is pleased to flash his hipster credentials, proud of the hole where his heart is supposed to be, whereas Moodysson cannot film a threatening gesture without reminding us that somebody's heart has received another blow."

Ian Whitney files the first entry from the Minneapolis-St Paul International Film Festival for Dual Lens; meanwhile, Chuck Olsen and Lorika are sending in "tiny M-SPIFF reviews."

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival opens in Durham, North Carolina, on April 7 and runs through April 10. In the Independent Weekly, David Fellerath notes that the fest "has been very good to local artists." Still, Anthony Kaufman notes that "the Chicago International Documentary Festival (CIDF) could steal some of Full Frame's thunder."

Cyndi Greening talks to North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival programmer Israel Ehrisman about Full Frame and, well, just a whole host of issues.

For Hollywood Bitchslap, Ryan Arthur looks ahead to the 7th Annual Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival, April 20 through 24.

Salon's Heather Havrilesky highly recommends that you catch Oscar-winning director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade's eight-part documentary, The Staircase, on the Sundance Channel.

Adam Sternbergh chats briefly with Christopher Guest in New York. Turns out The Office - the British one - is the "best TV show I've ever seen."

Kristen Elde checks in with the creators of Aqua Teen Hunger Force for Flak.

The God Who Wasn't There Online listening tip. Stream the soundtrack to Brian Flemming's The God Who Wasn't There: "DJ Madson remixes Thievery Corporation, David Byrne, Zap Mama and Le Tigre."

Online viewing tip #1. At Fimoculous, Rex Sorgatz points to a handful fun music videos. The best, IMHO: Futureshock's "Late at Night."

Online viewing tip #2. Matthew Clayfield's Mark and Katrina Go Boating.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:18 AM

April 3, 2005

Reverse Shot. "2004's Last Gasp."

And why not. "Though March of 05 may seem a bit late to set about wrapping up the cinematic year that was 04, by the industry's calendar, we're right on schedule," explain Reverse Shot editors Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert. Besides, "there’s something to be said for sitting things out and searching for a little perspective." True, true. But then segueing into another pot shot at Slate's "Movie Club"? Folks, again, let's not take an email chat among a handful of friends too seriously.

Reverse Shot: Spring 05

At any rate, what follows the heftily annotated top ten is the fun list: "2 Cents" is a collection of endnotes for a volatile year, ranging from the insightful ("Genre of the year") to the silly-but-someone-had-to-say-it ("Worst Review Titles"). Two more sections - "But What About" (ten titles) and "Get Over It" (four) - are self-explanatory, and then there are the issue regulars: four new theatrical releases and two DVDs are reviewed.

Reverse Shot: Spring 05

That leaves the centerpiece of the issue, Koresky and Matthew Plouffe's interview with Charlie Kaufman: "I find it very uninteresting going in with a clear idea of what I'm going to do. For me, not knowing is the most important thing about writing; the writing is the exploration, otherwise I don't know what it is."

Meantime, the week-long "Reverse Shot Presents..." series runs on at the 92nd Street Y in NYC.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:32 AM

April 2, 2005

Weekend shorts.

Cinevardaphoto James Quandt in Artforum on Cinévardaphoto: "The portmanteau approach may be more pragmatic than poetic - film distribution renders any short film an instant orphan - but the wily [Agnès] Varda turns necessity into conceptual invention.... Despite their divergent aesthetic approaches... the three films achieve dense, sometimes unwilled coherence."

A somewhat restored version of Sam Peckinpah's Major Dundee is set to roll out, starting Friday, and J Hoberman tells the tale of its making and unmaking: "The extended Dundee is richer and more coherent, but it remains a fascinating wreck. It not only represents a debacle, it embodies one and, in that, remains extraordinarily attuned to its historical moment."

Also in the New York Times:

More Sin City: Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, David Edelstein in Slate, Uncle Grambo at whatevs, Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix, Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat, Bradley Steinbacher in the Stranger, Wiley Wiggins at News of the dead and Stephanie Zacharek in Salon. Then: Chris Barsanti on the books for Kirkus Reviews, via his Vast Wasteland.

The Power of Nightmares David Thomson reviews the career of Adam Curtis, recipient of the San Francisco Film Festival's Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award and the filmmaker behind The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear. (More here, an online viewing tip of sorts.)

Also at the SFIFF site:

Besides recommending Jacques Becker's Le Trou, George Fasel outlines what he sees as the three main issues in the Oldboy debate.

Those who object to perceived strains of "fascinatin' fascism" in Hero are missing the point, argues MS Smith.

Likely match-ups for future projects:

The Interpreter Scott Hughes in the London Times: "There is a new feeling among film-makers that when the script calls for shooting in a famous site, only the real thing will do. And, increasingly, such locations are saying yes." The occasion, of course, is The Interpreter, parts of which were shot at the UN. More from John Hiscock in the Telegraph.

Keeping up with the Weinsteins: David Poland and Leonard Klady at Movie City News.

In the Boston Phoenix:

Jordan Todorov interviews Mika Kaurismäki for Cinema Minima.

Going back to the February issue of The Believer here: Sigrid Nunez interviews Todd Solondz.

"It is not, as is sometimes argued, a form of wilful perversity to say that the trailers are the best bit of a trip to the cinema." Oliver Burkeman talks to the people who make them.

Also in the Guardian:

Shepperton Babylon

Der Himmel ueber Berlin In Germany, the Wim Wenders oeuvre has been rolling out on DVD. So far, Arthaus has released Paris, Texas, Der Amerikanische Freund and Der Himmel über Berlin. Still to come: On April 5, Lisbon Story and, on May 24, the 279-minute version of Bis ans Ende der Welt. In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (and in German), Michael Althen asks why these films were so very well received internationally while his most recent films have not been.

Meantime, Wenders will be present at Monday night's screening of Land of Plenty at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Film Festival. He's on his way there from Stamford, Connecticut, as Ray Pride points out at Movie City Indie. Kerry Wills reports for the local Advocate: "'I love this country,' said Wenders, who has lived in Los Angeles for eight years. 'I feel it is my love for this country that makes me want to protect what I love, which is in danger.... These days, though the press use the words "liberty" and "freedom" in every line, they pervert these great American notions.'"

It's been way too long since the last pointer to Scott Green's anime round-up at AICN.

For news on the program of this month's Jeonju International Film Festival and the winners of the Korean Society of Cinematographers' Golden Cinema Awards, see Darcy Paquet's blog at Koreanfilm.org.

Vince Keenan looks ahead to the "Love Crimes: Sixty Years of French Film Noir" series at the Seattle Art Museum. Thursdays, starting April 7 and running through June 9.

Ongoing through tomorrow: Thai Takes 2: Contemporary Thai Film Festival at the ImaginAsian in New York.

In the New Statesman, Rachel Millward emphasizes the importance of last month's Birds Eye View, a festival of films by women: "In short, it matters who makes films; it matters whose stories we listen to." Sidebar: an annotated list of eleven milestones.

au hazard balthazar Johann Hari on the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, which has just left London: "From the Balkans to Palestine to the Congo, the festival is a Holiday in Hell for people too busy, timid or broke to set off on a package trip around the world's killing fields." Also in the Independent: Elaine Lipworth interviews Robin Williams.

See HBO's Left of the Dial, say James Wolcott and Jeffrey Wells. Each in his own way, of course.

Online browsing tips. At Bitter Cinema, Sean Spillane has found a handful of rich resources for exploring the early history of Black Cinema.

Online viewing tip. Beck on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic. Via Darren Hughes, who's been watching a lot of music lately yet has still had time to discover one helluva major DVD release coming our way.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:40 PM | Comments (1)

April 1, 2005

Series and fests.

Oddly, April Fool's Day turns out to be a popular day to launch a series or film festival. The Chicago International Documentary Festival opens today and runs through April 10. As always with these pointers, even if you aren't in the area and can't make the events themselves, often what's written about them makes for terrific reading nonetheless, and the Chicago Reader's thorough guide to this fest is certainly no exception.

Chicago International Documentary Festival

What's more, Jonathan Rosenbaum's chosen three of particular interest (or at least potential interest, sadly unrealized, evidently, in the case of one) to write about at length: I Am Cuba, Siberian Mammoth, The Journey: Portrait of Vera Chytilova and Golub: Late Works are the Catastrophes.

The Reader also offers notes on the 9th annual Asian American Showcase at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Previewing the series, "The Early Sturges: Preston Sturges Screenplays, 1930 - 39," opening today at Film Forum Manohla Dargis considers "a creative streak so prodigiously original, so fast and furious, it is hard not to think that movies were made to talk for one reason: to give Sturges a forum for the snaky stories, sophisticated wordplay, razor-sharp zingers, belly-aching guffaws and sexual entanglements he served up as casually as a short stack of flapjacks."

Also in the New York Times: Stephen Holden's preview of the "New Faces of Swedish Cinema" series at the Walter Reade focuses on Lukas Moodysson.

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival At indieWIRE, Brian Brooks on the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival: "Human rights issues and immigration will be two primary themes for the event, starting today and running through April 10." And the indieWIRE Weekly makes note of two other festivals opening today: the Minneapolis-St Paul International Film Festival (through April 16; more) and the Method Fest in Calabasas, California, through April 8.

And finally, if you're in or near San Francisco and don't have plans for the evening just yet, you might want to catch John Landis - tonight - presenting Innocent Blood and An American Werewolf in London. Details at the Fearless Tales site.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:09 PM