May 31, 2005

RWF. 60.

Had Rainer Werner Fassbinder not died in June 1982, he would have been 60 today. While his films have been playing for a few weeks now on German television and events - discussions, screenings, lectures, what have you - are rolling across the country, and while a retrospective unreels in the Centre Pompidou in Paris before it moves on to Tokyo, there isn't much of anything in the English-language papers today. But a few items in the German press should be noted before pointing to a timeless item or two:

RWF

  • A portrait by Thomas Elsaesser would have to appear somewhere today, and the taz is a fine place for it. "Jean-Luc Godard once said: 'Maybe it's true that all of his films are bad, but still, Fassbinder is Germany's greatest filmmaker. He was there when Germany needed films to find itself. He can only be compared with Rossellini because even the New Wave didn't make France as present as postwar Germany is in Fassbinder."

  • Beginning with a recollection in the Tagesspiegel of running into RWF at Cannes in 1974, Peter W Jansen remembers RWF's furious drive and the effect it had on those who worked with him, the "group": "It was, plain and simple, a '68 commune in which everyone shared everything with everyone. Except for the last word. Fassbinder used the word 'group' only ironically and he hated the word 'leader.' But there was no way around his becoming precisely that."

  • "Rainer always had a tendency to make films for the public," remarks cinematographer Michael Ballhaus in Die Welt, which is why he wanted to work in television, even if it meant compromising here and there: "Rainer was very flexible; it was one of his great strengths, this ability to rethink and react quickly." Example: Having dealt with RWF's drug problems on The Marriage of Maria Braun, Ballhaus declined to work with him on Berlin Alexanderplatz; but RWF made a "blitzschnell" turnaround, dropped the cocaine and stayed off it for a year's intensive work on Alexanderplatz. Also: Ballhaus is sure RWF would be shooting on video today.

  • Also in Die Welt: Producer Günter Rohrbach recalls "the only true genius of the last 50 years," Hanns-Georg Rodek explains that while RWF bound himself to neither the Right nor the Left, his "persistent contemplation of his identity as a German" makes him one of the most important representative figures of the country around the world to this day; and a RWF timeline.

  • The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung runs brief comments from Wim Wenders, Jan Schütte, Benjamin Heisenberg, Hans Weingartner, Christian Petzold, Christopher Roth, Romuald Karmakar, Hans Steinbichler, Caroline Link, Christoph Hochhäusler and Dominik Graf.

In English:

  • Bright Lights editor Gary Morris's 1998 profile remains one of the best introductions.

  • Joe Ruffell took on the challenge of writing the RWF piece for the Senses of Cinema "Great Directors" critical database; more links are collected at the end.

  • And of course, the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation.

Happy b-day, RWF. Wherever you are.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:50 AM

May 30, 2005

Offscreen. 9.4.

"Just ahead of two thematically focused issues (on Quebec and Brazilian cinema) Offscreen presents a mixed bag of subject matter and approach which demonstrates its signature eclecticism, moving between arthouse, the Mondo film and Third World Cinema proper." To catch up, then:

The Wayward Cloud

Posted by dwhudson at 9:08 AM

May 28, 2005

Long weekend shorts.

Andy Klein opens the Los Angeles CityBeat's "Summer Film 2005" special issue logically enough - with a calendar of the season's releases. Then:

LA CityBeat: Summer 05

Laura M Holson's headline says it all: "With Popcorn, DVDs and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home." And if you don't believe the moviegoers and 'xperts she quotes, it's hard to argue with the accompanying graphic.

Also in the New York Times:

  • "Before, we used to read; now, we have images to create social conscience and leave a historical testimony." That's Andrés Manuel López Obrador, mayor of Mexico City, quoted in Perla Ciuk's piece on a doc Luis Mandoki is currently shooting about him, a film that will take the dramatic story of his run for the presidency on through the July 2006 election.

  • Ed Leibowitz: "The story behind Alice Wu's Saving Face [review: Stephen Holden] - which is squeezing into theaters between commercial giants Madagascar [review: AO Scott] and The Longest Yard [review: Manohla Dargis] this weekend - is almost as improbable as the film's plot."

James Dean

Director Mike Hodges: "There are two moments in Patrick Keiller's London I'll always remember. One made me explode with laughter, the other with pain.... Keiller's ability to be in the right place at the right moment is comparable to that of Cartier-Bresson. His eye is impeccable - and witty." Also in the Independent: James Mottram interviews Benicio Del Toro.

"They say providence favours a trier, especially one who, when slapped in the face, not only turns the other cheek, but is prone to do it again and again in the vain hope that a sore face might evoke pity in the Lord." Yes, making a truly independent movie can be hell. Just listen to Mark Norfolk's story in the New Statesman.

If you've heard of the West Memphis Three but have never gotten around to digging in and sorting out the back story, Duncan Campbell's piece in the Guardian on Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's Paradise Lost and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations is an excellent and compact primer. It's also a testament to the power of good documentary filmmaking, and what's more, the story is still far from over.

Also:

Britannia Hospital

Hollywood does love to go shopping for acting talent in Britain and, in the London Times, Patricia Dobson highlights a slew of young actors most likely to breakthrough.

Morpheus

Morpheus is dead, reports Patrick Klepek at 1up.com: "The principle character responsible for triggering the chain of events chronicled across The Matrix trilogy, Morpheus, has been eliminated during a Live Event in the series massively multiplayer online game, The Matrix Online." Via Peter Sciretta at Cinematical.

"We have a Disconnect Champion." David Edelstein's readers have spoken. Of all the odd couplings of cinema (e.g., Roger Moore and Grace Jones in A View to Kill), Woody Allen and just about every woman he's paired himself off with in the past thirty years or so is the clear frontrunner.

In the Stranger, Andrew Wright and Andy Spletzer pick out the highlights of the current week of the month-long Seattle International Film Festival.

Grady Hendrix: "Tony Jaa and the Ong Bak crew have teamed up for movie number three: Sword." Also, a review of Sha Po Lang, "my favorite Hong Kong movie of 2005 so far."

Marriage is a Crazy Thing is a Korean "RomCom without the Com," writes Filmbrain.

Not only will New Yorkers be treated to the NY Asian Film Festival next month (June 17 through July 2), they'll also have the Asian American International Film Festival to look forward to just two weeks later (July 15 through 31); right now, though, there's an "Unofficial Weblog" for that one.

Tale of Cinema To hear Shim Sun-ah tell in the Korea Herald, Hong Sang-soo's A Tale of Cinema actually sounds pretty intriguing.

At or via Twitch:

Midnight Movies Jeffrey Wells talks with Stuart Samuels about his doc, Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream. As Brian Brooks reports at indieWIRE, it'll open the Silverdocs festival, which opens in Silver Springs, MD, on June 14 and runs through June 19.

The UN's World Environment Day is actually six days long - June 1 through 5 - with all sorts of events going on in San Francisco, including a Green Screen film festival - no affiliation, but we're there in spirit.

Mark Bould at Film-Philosophy on Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film, the catalogue for the ZKM | Institute for Visual Media's exhibition "Future Cinema," edited by Jeffrey Shaw and Peter Weibel: "It is not so much exhaustive as exhausting. It puts the 'volume' back into volume. It fundamentally defies review. But here goes."

Nick Rombes: "I wonder if our fascination with the real in digital media - even as we experience that real through more complex interfaces - is in some ways an acknowledgement that we still yearn to be surpised."

At Flickhead, Ray Young isn't buying into the whole Olive Thomas mythology.

Ray Pride at Movie City News: "In a long catch-up column, some Sith afterthoughts, conversations with Hal Hartley and Todd Solondz and reviews of Arnaud Desplechin's mad masterpiece, Kings and Queen, Layer Cake, Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist and It's All Gone Pete Tong (and not a word about Cannes)."

Lords of Dogtown NP Thompson on Lords of Dogtown: "Catherine Hardwicke is no ordinary storyteller - she's a creator of mythology. She takes [Stacy] Peralta's hazy half-remembrances and charges them with epic poetry."

Doug Liman is one odd cookie, reports Kim Masters. Also in the LAT: Carina Chocano: "[C]ontemporary romantic comedy heroines are pure corporate product, a desperately pandering and clueless assemblage of received notions, sexual anxiety and recycled focus-group-think handed down over the years like Grandma's cheesecake recipe."

Wilfred Lobo: "Mumbai city came to a standstill with the sudden death of Sunil Dutt."

The AP's Ryan Pearson reports on the passing of Eddie Albert, 1908 - 2005.

Online listening tip. M Valdemar explains how you can listen to Bela Lugosi read Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart."

Online browsing tip. Eugene Kuo's snapshots from Cannes. Click "Index" or "Next" to get started. Via Lossless.

Online viewing tip. Miranda July's videos from her second whirlwind trip to Cannes - that is, when she rushed back to pick up that Camera d'Or.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:23 PM

May 27, 2005

Kushner on Miller.

The Nation is running Tony Kushner's remarks at a memorial service for Arthur Miller. A few...

Arthur Miller

He demanded that we must be able to answer, on behalf of our plays, our endeavors, our lives, a really tough question, one that Arthur wrote was the chief and, in a sense, only reason for writing and speaking: "What is its relevancy," he asks, "to the survival of the race? Not," he stipulates, "the American race, or the Jewish race, or the German race, but the human race."

[...]

He never wanted us to forget that without economic justice, the concept of social justice is an absurdity and, worse, a lie.

[...]

God, or the world, is listening, Arthur Miller reminds us, and when you speak, when you write, God, or the world, is also speaking and writing.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:26 PM

May 26, 2005

Shorts, 5/26.

Barbara Kopple Rob Nelson asks Barbara Kopple about her latest documentary, Bearing Witness, which "takes a critical look at wartime reportage, though it leaves control-room considerations aside in order to focus on the personal costs of unembedded frontline journalism." More on the doc from Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times. Also in the City Pages, also from Nelson: A look back at Cannes: "You know it's a dark film festival when the most well-adjusted male protagonist is Charles Bukowski."

Mike D'Angelo's Cannes wrap-up appears in the Nashville Scene: "This year's festival, which ended Sunday after 11 days of the best that world cinema has to offer at the moment, prompted a record number of dunderheaded misinterpretations."

Scott Foundas's recollections of Cannes center on his role as a Camera d'Or jury member and the thinking that went into selecting Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know and Vimukthi Jayasundara's The Forsaken Land - two very different films, on the one hand; on the other: "[I]n both films one senses a gifted young artist powerfully, thoughtfully responding to his or her environment in specific and unfamiliar ways. And both films can be seen as studies of isolation and loneliness in forbidding modern landscapes. At the end of our daylong deliberation, a shared prize seemed the only way to go."

Mysterious Skin Also in the LA Weekly, a Mysterious Skin double feature: Ella Taylor reviews the film ("on the evidence of his smart, fresh new movie, a fallow stretch has energized [Gregg] Araki and allowed him to grow up without abandoning his edge") and David Ehrenstein talks with its lead, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Plus: Ted Soqui's shots of Hollywood's Star Wars crowd.

All in all, Gerald Peary had a splendid time at Cannes. You can quibble with the jury's choices but, he argues, they did just fine. Peter Keough is glad American indie filmmakers fared well at Cannes, but that's not keeping him from worrying about the state of indie film in general. Also in the Boston Phoenix: Chris Fujiwara on Kira Muratova.

Tell Them Who You Are, My Architect, Tarnation. "What these works have in common is their makers' desire to put themselves and their personal traumas front and center," writes Elbert Ventura. "Implicit in each is the notion that the act of filming is integral to personal growth - a prerequisite for the 'healing' to begin. If that sounds not a little facile, that's because it is." Also at the New Republic site: Keelin McDonell reviews Alexandra Pelosi's Sneaking Into the Flying Circus: How the Media Turn Our Presidential Campaigns Into Freak Shows, a book that presents her take on all she saw making her HBO doc on the 2004 election, Diary of a Political Tourist. Since that take didn't come through in the doc, evidently.

Andrew O'Hehir takes in a series of docs for his "Beyond the Multiplex" column at Salon.

The Take Avi Lewis describes how The Take, the documentary he's made with Naomi Klein, is being "used as an organising tool by labour and social movements around the world."

Also in the Guardian:

Bob and Harvey Weinstein are beefing up the roster for their new Weinstein Co, reports Gregg Kilday in the Hollywood Reporter: "Tarantino and Rodriguez will each write and direct a 60-minute horror film, and the two films will be packaged together under the overall title 'Grind House.'" Much more on the Weinsteins' slate of up-n-coming films at indieWIRE Insider.

Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times: "Outfest presents its fifth annual collection of gay and lesbian shorts tonight, and it is one of its strongest to date."

Hawaii, Oslo Robert Davis follows up his thoughts on the state of the San Francisco International Film Festival - and festivals in general - by turning to the films themselves: "Many of the character's in this year's films travel without traveling, virtually. They live in an age when geography is no barrier and any place on earth is reachable, or seems for a time like it might be."

The Philadelphia City Paper's Sam Adams finds the current edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival "smaller and much weaker than usual. One of the three films in this year's brief program, the Korean documentary Repatriation..., not only fails to do justice to its subject, but actively contradicts the festival's stated goals." Update: Sam Adams is writing about the Traveling HRW Festival, not the series that will be screening in New York in June; hence, the link has been changed. Happily, and with a certain degree of relief, too.

At Koreanfilm.org, Tom Giammarco turns in a full and wide-ranging report from the 2005 Jeonju International Film Festival.

Today at the Seattle International Film Festival: Seattle Maggie at the Cinecultist and quite a crowd now at the Siffblog.

Kyle Henry took his film, Room, to Cannes - where he kept a diary that now appears in the Austin Chronicle. Also:

Bay Area folk: Brace yourselves for next week. It'll be a busy one. (Yet) Another Hole in the Head, eight nights of horror, sci-fi and fantasy, opens June 2 at the Roxie. Then, from June 3 through 5, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will be presenting a retrospective of Caveh Zahedi's work, culminating with the regional premiere of I Am a Sex Addict.

The Cinema Effect Richard Misek reviews Sean Cubitt's "brilliant, infuriating new book," The Cinema Effect, for Film-Philosophy; and Cubitt replies.

George Fasel is back from that circle of hell run by ISPs with a review of Agnès Jaoui's Look at Me, thoughts on the passing of Ismail Merchant ("people are always asking what producers do, and his career answers the question") and an odd combo: Claude Chabrol and Michael Cimino.

Mark Schilling in the Japan Times on Seijun Suzuki's Princess Racoon: "Expecting to be embarrassed by this former cinematic anarchist's trip down a dusty musical memory lane, I was charmed by his affection for his material and his unabashed showmanship in presenting it. His puckish sense of humor is still alive and well, but he is making a popular entertainment, not a private joke." Via the IFC Blog.

Alison Veneto picks up where she left off: "The Modern Hong Kong Triad Film: Part II." Also at Movie Poop Shoot: DK Holm echoes the Phoenix's Peter Keough: "Hal Hartley is probably the last of the true indie filmmakers." But then he swerves out onto his own lane: "So why don't I like his films? The Girl From Monday goes a long way toward telling me why."

Andrea Gronvall interviews Daniel Craig for Movie City News. Another slice of Layer Cake? Cindy Fuchs in the Philadelphia City Paper.

A roundup of what Darren Hughes has been watching lately.

The Up Series For the Chronicle of Higher Education, Lila Guterman profiles W Nicholas G Hitchon, who doesn't particularly enjoy having a camera aimed at him every seven years but allows Michael Apted to do it nonetheless: "Because he believes in the project... The movies have made him think about how personality is carved, how social class affects the course of Britons' lives, and how people make important life decisions."

Discussion of Richards Corliss and Schickel's top 100 list for Time hasn't been all that hot and heavy, primarily because few have taken it too seriously. DJMonsterMo, however, is pissed off and submits a list of changes or alternatives that would alter the list by about 20 percent. Excellent suggestions, but why the anger? Listening to Corliss and Schickel talk about their list, one really doesn't get the impression that they were aiming for the 100 best movies ever, but rather, a sort of movie history sampler aimed at, that's right, readers of Time. You can imagine: they have their accounts and are now wondering what to put in their queues. Different folks, different lists. Films using the Wilhelm scream? Ask Wiley Wiggins. Top 100 voices in the movies? The cinetrix's got you covered.

Empire gets Richard Linklater to say a few words - very few, but still - about his adaptation of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. Via Karina Longworth at Cinematical.

At Twitch, logboy has news of a trilogy of horror flicks in the works from Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper and Monte Hellman. These things always sound great at first...

"The native habitat of the US movie and entertainment industry, Hollywood, California, is a lush and densely populated ecosystem." At PopMatters, Glenn McDonald offers a guide on spotting a few species, from the Struggling Screenwriter (Scribblus interminus) through the Eager Young Protégé (Naiveius doomedii).

You won't find a more useful "Summer Movie Comparison Chart" than the one over at the Face Knife. Via the cinetrix.

Craig Phillips has been sorting through the GC promotion pile and has found seven must-see titles. The titles, that is, not the films. "I'm not making any of these up!"

Online viewing tips, round #1. His Girl Friday. Yes, the Howard Hawks classic. It's public domain now. Via Movie City Indie. The Crime in Your Coffee's been poking around the Internet Archive as well: Nosferatu and more.

Online viewing tips, round #2. Brian Flemming's live video chat with an audience in Birmingham, Alabama. That doesn't sound terribly exciting, but really. Watch. Meanwhile, Chuck Olsen has more online viewing tips than you can keep up with.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:12 PM

May 25, 2005

Seattle Dispatch. 1.

Sean Axmaker, a film critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a DVD columnist for the IMDb and frequent GC contributor, sends his first roundup from way up northwest.

Me and You and Everyone We Know The quality of the opening night film for the Seattle International Film Festival has become something of a local joke (the punchline was last year's film: The Notebook), so it was a pleasant surprise to see something as interesting as Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know open the 2005 incarnation of the most well-attended film festival in the country just days before it took home the Camera D'or at Cannes. A delightful tale of lonely, inarticulate people looking for their voice and for emotional connections, the modest little piece stars July as an aspiring multi-media artist with the social skills of a hyperactive child and John Hawkes (late of Deadwood) as a recently divorced father of two, both of whom use words to talk around their feelings (the off-center dialogue at times sings with yearning). As small and modest as they come, it's quirky and compassionate and even potentially discomforting sexual elements are oddly innocent and harmless. This is a world where people are not predators and trust is rewarded with affection.

Wong Kar-wai's luscious 2046 is technically a sequel to In The Mood For Love - Tony Leung Chiu Wai's Mr. Chow has since turned into a smiling, seductive womanizer, a charming cad who never makes himself emotionally vulnerable. Between his affairs (with Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Faye Wong) he recasts his life as a melancholy science-fiction tale where he's the tragic romantic hero. But Wong is less concerned with story than the texture of lives and the texture of image. The longing, the trampled emotions and Chow's glib manner of playing games with romance come through in the great 60s lounge tunes and Latin dance instrumentals, the hazy intensity of the color and Wong's way of tilting intimate scenes with his skewed visuals.

Documentaries are dominant at SIFF this year - there are over 50 in the line-up - but the form is as conventional as ever. One bright spot is Paul Provenza's documentary The Aristocrats, ostensibly about the filthiest joke in the world. As dozens of comedians and comics chime in with their take on the legendary after-hours joke, told off-stage for the amusement of fellow comedians and unfettered by notions of taste, it becomes a lesson in storytelling, an illustration of comic style and a study in taboo topics (the debate rages on: fecal matter versus incest?). Provenza seems to simply get out of the way of the comedians but his editing is a work of art, creating a structure out of the chaos while remaining sensitive to the timing of every individual comic. Pick your favorite telling of the joke. Mine is Bob Saget, who stops himself in moments of restraint, jumps in again as if inspired to top his previous heights of outlandish offensiveness, and walks out without delivering the punchline.

Rock School Also recommended (and, like The Aristocrats, a Sundance favorite) is Don Argott's Rock School, a portrait of Paul Green (founder of the Philadelphia-based Paul Green School of Music, which inspired the movie School of Rock) that has a good time with the contradictions of Green, a wannabe rock star whose passion to teach his kids (his self-proclaimed approach is that if he doesn't assume anything is too difficult for them, then they never set their own limits) chafes against his own spotlight-stealing ego and short temper - the film is full of his screaming rants in the midst of rehearsal. It's a big enough film to hold all the contradictions and still find time for a handful of pupils, from the class stars to the merely enthusiastic.

In contrast, the sweet and unadventurous Mad Hot Ballroom, about real life sixth-grade kids in New York City schools who have taken a ten-week dance course in the school system that culminates in a city-wide competition, plays like a companion piece to Spellbound. Too bad that director Marilyn Agrelo forgets that the kids and their lives should be the focus and not the dance contest that dominates the last act of the film; the little time we spend with them shows not merely a great cultural diversity, but a thoughtfulness and sensitivity that they are rarely credited with.

  Almost overlooked in the bounteous schedule is Abdellatif Kechiche's amazing Games of Love and Chance (aka L'Esquive), a riveting, beautifully played look at a multi-ethnic group of kids in a racially mixed school in the Paris projects disrupted when one Arab-French kid (the pitch-perfect Osman Elkharraz) becomes enchanted with a beautiful, spirited blonde classmate (a minority in the neighborhood). The title comes from the Marivaux play they are rehearsing, a comment on the codes of behavior we see all around the kids. The first-time teenage actors are unselfconscious and effortlessly convincing (especially the passive Elkharraz, whose slack-faced way of watching the world go by and getting dragged along silently with it speaks volumes) and the details of the day-to-day life, the incessant teenage arguments that wind round and round and round, and the social clashes that explode and settle within minutes feel genuine. It could use some pruning (a little narrative efficiency could really focus this film) but that rambling looseness is also its strength. Inch' Allah, man!

One final self-serving plug: The most complete coverage of SIFF (you decide if it's the best) can be found in my own paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which features reviews every weekday (the Friday coverage extends the whole weekend).

Posted by dwhudson at 1:26 PM

Ismail Merchant, 1936 - 2005.

Ismail Merchant
Filmmaker Ismail Merchant, who with partner James Ivory became synonymous with classy costume drama in films such as A Room With A View and Howards End, died Wednesday. He was 68.

[...]

"When we first began, Ruth [Prawer Jhabvala] told us she had never written a screenplay," Merchant told AP. "That was not a problem since I had never produced a feature film and Jim had never directed one."

- Beth Gardiner for the AP.

See, too, the full biography at the Merchant Ivory Productions site.

Updates:

I just couldn't believe it. I don't think I can take it, I'm too shattered. I just spoke to him three days ago, and he seemed fine.

Shashi Kapoor in the Indian Express.

A Merchant-Ivory film set was always something of a family affair, with Mr. Merchant a more frequent visitor than producers generally are and the same crew members returning for service over decades. Once on the scene, Mr. Merchant was just as likely to be fetching tea for a company member or making one of his celebrated curries for the cast as pitching a fit about cost overruns or schedule snafus.

Warren Hoge in the New York Times.

Friends described him as having "the cheek of the devil and the charm of an angel," and Merchant explained his success as the result of "a passion for making films, not for making money."

The Telegraph.

"There are very few people who become a brand. When you talk about a Merchant Ivory film, people know immediately what you're talking about. There is literally a handful of people in the history of cinema you can say that about."

Barnaby Thompson, head of Ealing Studios, as quoted by Dalya Alberge in the London Times.

And the BBC is gathering tributes from readers.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:48 AM | Comments (2)

Shorts, 5/25.

The New York Asian Film Festival (June 17 through 26 at the Anthology and June 24 through 30 at the ImaginAsian) has announced its lineup and Grady Hendrix has already made his personal picks.

NYAFF 05

Also: "Thai cinema is undergoing a renaissance, but you wouldn't know it unless you live in Thailand." Hendrix draws up a scorecard.

With that, then, a string of festival items before the rest. As is his wont, Robert Davis suddenly and volcanically bursts forth from another long silence. He begins by refusing to join pile-on in the local press in the immediate wake of the San Francisco International Film Festival. To an extent. Granted, he has his criticisms, and he does wrap with a bit of "unsolicited advice," but most critics of the fest, he argues, are missing the point: "[T]he real news, my friends, is not the soap operas within, spats between, and attendance fluctuations of major festivals but the rise of small festivals nationwide."

Two reviews follow: Jessica Yu's In the Realms of the Unreal and Mark Wexler's Tell Them Who You Are. More on that one from Dennis Harvey in the San Francisco Bay Guardian; meanwhile, in the New York Observer, Raquel Hecker mingles with Haskell Wexler and John Sayles.

Edinburgh Film Festival The Edinburgh International Film Festival is going to be happening in August after all, reports Tim Cornwell in the Scotsman, but it's in dire need of a long-term commitment from a strapping sponsor. Via The Movie Blog.

At Cannes, distributors may have been more interested in picking up foreign films for US theaters than it seemed at first glance. Anthony Kaufman explains.

For the Korea Times, Paolo Bertolin measures the "Highs, Lows" for Korean films at Cannes. Via the IFC Blog.

A Cannes wrap-up from George the Cyclist at Rashomon: "My totals for my 12 days of cinema: 66 movies... There were seven that could easily end up on my Top Ten List for the year: Battle in Heaven, Hidden, Down in the Valley, Broken Flowers, The Child, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, The Death of Mister Lazarescu."

Meanwhile, Cannes coverage has helped girish prep for Toronto.

Take One: Cronenberg Cannes dominates the film section of this week's Village Voice, beginning with J Hoberman's disappointments: "What does it take? Beginning with Dead Ringers (1988), or even The Fly (1986), Cronenberg has been, film for film, the most audacious and challenging narrative director in the English-speaking world. But then, Hou Hsiao-hsien - arguably the greatest narrative filmmaker working anywhere over the last 15 years - left Cannes without a prize as well."

In another dispatch, Hoberman proposes that two Mexican entries, Sangre and Battle in Heaven, "suggest a new sort of ceremonial cinema," while Melissa Anderson swings by a few selections from the Un Certain Regard and Director's Fortnight programs and Marc Peranson meets Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and muses on the "Cahiers bunch."

Also in the Voice, John Anderson talks to Werner Herzog about his doc, Grizzly Man.

Anyone following the Siffblog knows that NP Thompson has been less than enthusiastic about what's on offer at this year's Seattle International Film Festival (through June 12), but he does have one hearty recommendation: Going Through Splat: The Life and Work of Stewart Stern, screening on Sunday: "SEE IT! This is a '5' on your ballot! Stern will be there for a Q&A after the film; I've seen him at audience Q&As before, and he's great!"

Speaking of fine docs, Kirby Dick's Oscar-nominated Twist of Faith will have its Los Angeles premiere on Thursday at the Amnesty International Film Festival.

That doc will be worth fighting traffic for, but Caryn James fears a glut: "Even as the genre leaps out of its niche, it is suffering from a tyranny of substance over style."

Also in the New York Times:

Fearless Freaks

  • Dana Stevens on, that's right, another doc, The Fearless Freaks: The Wondrously Improbable Story of the Flaming Lips. More from Dennis Lim in the Voice.

  • Elaine Sciolino on French comedian Jamel Debbouze's taking on a serious role in a WWII drama.

  • Yes, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith broke opening day and weekend box office records, but as Sharon Waxman explains, it "could not break a box-office slump that has kept movie attendance and ticket sales lagging behind last year's for 13 weekends, a trend that has some in Hollywood concerned about the habits of American moviegoers."

  • Anthony Tommasini reminds us that we should not overlook composer John Williams's contributions to the overall impact of Sith.

  • Waxman on how and why Catherine Hardwicke nabbed the director's chair vacated by David Fincher. According to Stacy Peralta, Lords of Dogtown is all the better for it.

  • Edward Rothstein on the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle; what's on display is "something like a history of the future, or a history of ideas about the future."

  • In the long run, though, it's David Carr who's probably covering the most important story. 2029's plans to release films in theaters and on TV and DVD simultaneously are not news, but here, Carr hears out the 'xperts as they weigh the pros and cons.

  • Dave Kehr on new DVDs.

The Esoteric Rabbit / Ghostboy Letters, Series 3: Audiences, Theatres and Thoughts on Distribution.

"Filmmaker magazine's Message Board has been completely redesigned and relaunches today," wrote Steve Gallagher on Monday. "We have created a number of forums to enable filmmakers, screenwriters, d.p.s, musicians and actors to network, trade info, seek jobs, promote themselves or discover new opportunities, and to suggest new forums." And it's free, though you do need to register to post.

Tarantino Chatting with Michael Madsen, FilmFocus's Joe Utichi has picked up quite a bit of info on Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards. Via Peter Sciretta at Cinematical.

"Japan is the second biggest market in the world for Hollywood movies," notes Chris Betros in Japan Today. "But why are so many movies released here so long after their US debut? How are they marketed? What about subtitles? Merchandising tie-ins? Let's find out." Ok! Via Movie City Indie.

"In my review of Star Wars: ROTS, I ventured that the mere sight of Samuel L Jackson hanging with Yoda was the biggest visual disconnect in the history of cinema," writes David Edelstein. "Reader Larry J. Rothstein countered with a fat, wattled Roger Moore bedding Grace Jones in his last Bond picture, A View to a Kill. I smelled a Slate contest." Also: Edward Jay Epstein on how insurance costs can cripple a star's career or even shut down a production.

Saskia Olde Wolbers: Trailer "You'll have gathered I have my problems with [Saskia] Olde Wolbers' work," writes Adrian Searle well into his review of Trailer, currently on view at the South London Gallery. "[T]he distant nods, which some critics have identified, to Jean-Luc Godard or Chris Marker (and in particular his 1963 La Jeteé) notwithstanding. I find it hard not to take her sensitivity, scrupulousness and seriousness for preciousness and pretension. That said, how is an artist going to get anywhere without pretensions?"

Also in the Guardian:

Only Human

Kamera's Antonio Pasolini meets Teresa de Pelegri and Dominic Harari, a married couple and directors of the Spanish comedy Only Human.

Patrick Goldstein meets Joe Roth, head of Revolution Studios, as he makes "a movie no one was willing to make - a harrowing drama about a lost child, set against a minefield of racial animosity - hoping for something between renewal and redemption."

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

  • The protest was daring; filming it has made it lasting. Barbara Demick reports in the Los Angeles Times on the widely circulating record of a North Korean's denunciation of Kim Jong Il.

  • Elaine Dutka on the unconventional roll-out of Tim Robbins's Embedded Live DVD.

  • Kevin Crust: "Film Independent - formerly IFP/Los Angeles - continues to expand the [Los Angeles Film Festival (June 16 - 26)] both geographically and cinematically with screenings and events stretching from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica." More from Eugene Hernandez at indieWIRE.

Ryan Wu: "It occurred to me over the weekend that many of my favorite films that had moved me with their indelible portraits of romantic yearning are actually case studies on helper guy pathology of one type or another."

Bad News Bears With Billy Bob Thornton (in Richard Linklater's Bad News Bears; Posterwire.com compares the poster with the original), Martin Lawrence, Burt Reynolds and Will Ferrell all coaching teams this summer, Joe Leydon's decided to measure them against onscreen coaches of the past in the New York Daily News.

Will the summer be all that bad? The Philadelphia Weekly's Sean Burns is actually looking forward to seven movies.

Just two reviewers from the Reverse Shot team chime in this week at indieWIRE, and both are disappointed in Alice Wu's Saving Face.

SXSW attendees were treated to trailers for a most unusual - and downright cool - event: The Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow Tour. 6000 miles, 21 days in August, twelve films, screened where they were shot. Examples: It Came From Outer Space in 3D and in Roswell; Close Encounters of the Third Kind at Devil's Tower. And, via the SXSW News Reel, more fun ideas for possible screenings in the future from Slashdotters.

It's Dracula month over at The Groovy Age of Horror. Via Bitter Cinema.

Brian Flemming is pleased - very pleased - with the how the premiere of The God Who Wasn't There went in San Francisco.

Nick Rombes: Some of the similarities between the birth of cinema and the birth of digital cinema - especially web cinema - are remarkable."

Thomas K Arnold in USA Today: "Though the handheld [PlayStation Portable], launched in March, is considered primarily a gaming device, Hollywood studios are aggressively releasing movies on the PSP's proprietary Universal Media Disc (UMD), a 21/4-inch disc encased in a protective plastic shell." Meanwhile, at AppleInsider, Kasper Jade rounds up rumors on the next iPod generation: Evidently some video capabilities are in the works.

CNET's Stefanie Olsen reports on the high-tech animation of Madagascar: "Every hair on every animal represented a line of computer code, for a countless number of algorithms that had to be compressed and rendered overnight to create the images in just one scene." As for the film itself, Cheryl Eddy writes in the SFBG, "The animation is colorful and realistically furry, but without a winning, memorable story, Madagascar fails to reach anything resembling Finding Nemo-style heights." More from Michael Atkinson in the Voice.

That swooshing sound you hear over at The Artful Writer is the screenwriting community switching all but en masse from Final Draft to Movie Magic Screenwriter.

The True Strangeness of the Universe Online viewing tip #1. The True Strangeness of the Universe, an aborted project by Errol Morris: "I was hired by IBM to make a film for the year 2000. It was for an 'in house' conference of IBM employees. Regrettably, the conference was cancelled, and the film was never finished." Via Movie City News.

Online viewing tip #2. Basement Jaxx's "U Don't Know Me" video, directed by Matt Kirkby. Via Fimoculous.

Online viewing tips #3 and #4. The Blood of Jesus (1941) and Go Down, Death! (1944), both directed by Spencer Williams and both via filmtagebuch.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:09 AM

May 24, 2005

Outlook India. Indian Cinema: 1995 - 2005.

Outlook Sandipan Deb opens a special issue of Outlook India: "The last 10 years of Indian cinema have seen traditions thrive and die, formulas soar and sputter, entire new categories and idioms created within mainstream Indian cinema." It's the very next sentence that rings with poignant immediacy in the wake of Sunday's bombings of two cinemas in New Delhi (see Randeep Ramesh's story in the Guardian). "Above all, it was a decade that saw more risk-taking than ever before. With subjects, treatment, roles, language, techniques and limits."

Despite that unexpected and alarming resonance, this is, overall, a celebratory issue spiced with well-intended criticism where called for. A good place to begin exploring is the timeline spotlighting the highlights and stars - or even better, the excellent companion piece by Rachel Dwyer - then maybe the poll of over a thousand "randomly selected Hindi film buffs in Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangalore, Hyderbad and Pune," a web-only collection of recollections of six filmmakers, a game of numerology, and then:

Earth

  • Namrata Joshi: "It was not difficult for us at Outlook to decide that Aamir Khan was 'the most interesting star of the decade.'" Plus: An interview.

  • Making a documentary about Shah Rukh Khan is both exhilarating and exhausting, writes Nasreen Munni Kabir: "The way SRK's NRI fans react to him has a different intensity compared to those on a Mumbai street. Influenced by the culture of their adopted homes, his fans in Dallas or Washington behave like most American teenagers would, say, at a JLo or a Britney Spears concert."

  • Jerry Pinto argues that there's been "a regressive streak in Hindi commercial cinema... When did we decide to make love another commodity?"

  • Sanjay Suri on the women of Bollywood: "Sometime over the last 10 years, what could have been cinema turned into a celluloid catwalk."

  • In "The Closet is Ajar," Shohini Ghosh traces the slow but sure emergence of gay and lesbian concerns on Indian screens.

  • Suveen K Sinha explains what's new and different about Bollywood singing lately.

  • Indian stars and filmmakers are closer than ever to crossing over to international stardom, but they're still not quite there yet, notes N Chandra Mohan.

  • Asha'ar Rehman has a particularly interesting piece on Pakistani views of Hindi cinema that ends with a plea: "Peace could make better cinema."

  • Saibal Chatterjee: "[T]he last 10 years saw the independent strand of India's regional cinema negotiate the ups and downs of life with composure even as commercial rewards and critical accolades eluded it."

  • S Theodore Baskaran on the mix of movies and politics in Tamil Nadu; similarly, SV Srinivas and S Anand.

  • Director Ram Madhvani on why he prefers listening to screenplays to reading them.

  • Labonita Ghosh on a mainstream genre of Bengali cinema aimed specifically at local audiences.

  • Bhavani Iyer, who wrote Black: "[W]hile the world looks at our cinema with indulgent amusement and tries to understand and examine and dissect our movies, we continue watching them with unashamed, unabashed pride."

  • Rahul Bose: "Every now and then a gloriously oblivious filmmaker will blithely miss the grave danger of trying to marry box office success with critical acclaim and proceed to make a film that does just that."

  • Aparajita Krishna on the actor most recently celebrated with a retro in New York, Amitabh Bachchan.

  • Director Anurag Kashyap lists ten guilty pleasures.

  • Vinod Mehta looks back on his brief career as a film critic.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:14 AM | Comments (1)

May 23, 2005

All-Time 100 Movies

Time Time ventures into podcasting. Richards Corliss and Schickel ramble at first, then loosen up and chat for about 35 minutes about how they drew up their list of the greatest 100 movies of all time. You'll see that each, from Aguirre: The Wrath of God through Yojimbo, is blurbed; and then there's a link from each of those film's pages to Time's original review. Problem is, if you want to read the entire archived review, you need to be a subscriber.

But while you listen to the two critics talk through the history of the medium, concentrating on the foreign influence on Hollywood and vice versa, you can jump to Schickel's selection of five great performances, his five guilty pleasures and his five top soundtracks. Corliss has evidently got his own five in each of those categories, too, but I don't know where to find them. You'll see his mark on the list itself, though, not least in the inclusion of Pyaasa and Nayakan.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:21 AM | Comments (3)

May 22, 2005

Shorts, 5/22.

Ebert: Two Weeks in the Midday Sun For those who missed IFC's live coverage of the Cannes awards ceremony, Karina Longworth has a fun moment-to-moment account at Cinematical: "Annette Insdorf... is doing the French translation, Ebert is doing ... the Roger Ebert."

Eugene Hernandez spices up indieWIRE's Cannes awards story with quotes from the winners; also: who bought what.

Besides their Cannes awards round-up for the New York Times, both Manohla Dargis and AO Scott respond in bloggish entries to Anne Thompson's piece in the Hollywood Reporter on what US distributors had been looking for at Cannes. Scott dismisses "the predictable philistinism of that article (one like it is published somewhere just about every year)," but Dargis responds directly to Thompson's interviewees: "I don't agree that people don't want to be challenged - or see good and great movies... I wonder if the state of art-house distribution would be in such sorry shape today if the American media and American distributors together had more guts and imagination."

Miranda July Karina Longworth also notes that Roger Ebert predicted the other night that Me and You and Everyone We Know, co-winner of the Caméra d'Or, will be "the Sideways of this year." In her Res cover story, Holly Willis explains why Miranda July will not be following Alexander Payne's career trajectory: "While July is often celebrated as a queen of experimental media, her feature film was lauded at Sundance not for being unusual or strange, but for being a great movie. Does this mean July will be Hollywood's next filmmaking darling? Probably not."

And now that Me and You and Everyone We Know has opened the Seattle International Film Festival, the Siffblog is rolling again.

Baffled by the lack of coverage in the English-language press of Hong Sang-soo's Tale of Cinema, Filmbrain turns to the French and Germans.

E-Flux passes along a nifty news item: "Filmmaker, writer, critic and curator Jonas Mekas, a driving force behind American independent cinema and the founder and artistic director of Anthology Film Archives, will represent Lithuania at this year's Venice Biennale."

Matt Welch in Salon:

Deadwood

Eleven years after the Gingrich revolution there is evidence galore that the two armies in the culture wars have simply switched sides after swapping the reins of power. The Republicans are now the party of big government and optimistic Wilsonian adventures abroad, while the Democrats flirt anew with federalism, fiscal sobriety and sour isolationism. Within this realignment, and the religious right's continued overreach in the Terri Schiavo case and others to follow, lies a golden Democratic opportunity for cultural re-branding. Yes, cocksuckers, it's time for liberals to get in touch with their inner Deadwood. It's good politics, better philosophy and (most important of all?) damned fun.

Plus: Half a zillion readers respond to Salon's question, "When did the force leave you?"

"Human rights groups such as Amnesty International are playing an ever-increasing role in marketing documentaries that play to their concerns," writes Anne-Marie O'Connor, previewing the AI Film Festival (May 24 through 29). "At a time when Amnesty International is making its way into everything from the liner notes of U2 albums to network dramas like The West Wing, its festivals are increasingly viewed as an effective branding tool - even for films that are already scheduled for distribution or broadcast."

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

Spike Lee The Independent runs an extract from Kaleem Aftab's Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It.

Back to the NYT:

  • "There are scores of Web sites run by screenwriters, most of them with limited credentials, and a few others run by pros and geared to working writers," writes Bob Baker. "By contrast, [John] August's site - free, like most of the others - draws an audience reminiscent of the University of Southern California's film school... The site reflects not only Mr. August's talent for explanation but also his enthusiasm for it."

  • Stefan Kanfer: "Ronald Radosh, a historian with many books to his credit, is a self-described red-diaper baby who made the journey from the Stalinoid ranks to the farther shores of neoconservatism. In Red Star Over Hollywood, he and his wife... go after the old radicals and their current apologists (Warren Beatty, Barbra Streisand et al.) with the raptor zeal of converts."

  • John Tierney: "The new installment of Star Wars has set off the usual dreary red-blue squabble, with liberals using the film to attack Republicans, and some conservatives calling for a boycott. But - and I know this is hard to believe for a movie with characters named General Grievous and Count Dooku - there's actually a serious bipartisan lesson about the dark side of politics."

  • Ross Johnson on a film school founded by a Jesuit and run - quite well, evidently - by Teri Schwartz, a woman who had no academic experience but who was respected within the Hollywood entertainment industry."

  • Charles Lyon on Movies for the Masses, a sort of community-based alternative to handing the lion's share of a film's profits to middlemen.

Tell Them Who You Are

Zoe Williams profiles Scarlett Johansson in the New Statesman.

"[H]ow can you live within a democracy that expects you to participate, to hold an opinion and vote and thereby control and be responsible for your society - but at the same time, you must surrender and follow the will of others if even the slimmest majority disagrees with you?" That's the question Ken Kesey poses in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; at least, that's how Chuck Palahniuk sees it. But the movie was a far more personal experience.

Also in the Guardian:

Roxie The beloved Roxie, San Francisco's oldest operating movie theater, is in deep dark trouble. Jesse Hamlin reports in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jeffrey Wells has plenty o' snaps from the Don't Come Knocking luncheon though he was actually "profoundly unmoved" by the film.

At Movie City News, Leonard Klady talks to Arnaud Desplechin (related: Ryan at pigs and battleships on Emmanuelle Devos), Andrea Gronvall interviews Mad Hot Ballroom director Marilyn Agrelo and Gary Dretzka offers tips on talking about Dave Chappelle - and explains why you'll need to.

Jason Solomons presents his own personal Cannes awards. Also in the Observer: David A Keeps listens to Harry Reems talk through his life, from high school to Deep Throat to a court room in Memphis to his current quiet life in Park City.

Another round of Cannes reviews from George the Cyclist at Rashomon.

Danny Boyle tells the Telegraph's Mark Monahan why he absolutely loves John Carpenter's The Thing. Also: David Gritten talks to Millions screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Paper Moon Paper Moon is "an excellent film," notes Jette, but when it comes to the stories Peter Bogdanovich and his ex, Polly Platt, have to tell about its making, "it's all Rashomon.

MS Smith: "Our understanding of the world, The English Patient implies, is, like the world itself, gray."

At Movie City Indie, Ray Pride quotes the good bits from Penn Jillette's amusing letter to journalists prepping them for The Aristocrats.

Online listening tip. M Valdemar: "I bring you music and songs from The Pace That Kills (aka Cocaine Fiends), a 'horror of narcotics' roadshow picture from 1935."

Online viewing tip #1. "A Delineation," David Lowery's sweet ode to growing up with Star Wars.

Online viewing tip #2. The trailer for a website. That's right. Ingmar Bergman: Face to Face will evidently be one helluvan archive. Via Movie City Indie.

Online viewing tip #3. Just Shy, a 12-minute film written by GC's Craig Phillips and directed by Heather Nicole.

More online viewing tips. The many trailers Twitch has been rounding up.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:43 AM

May 21, 2005

Cannes. The Awards.

Cannes Palme d'Or: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's L'Enfant (The Child). Articles and reviews: Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, Scott Foundas in Variety, Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter, Sukhdev Sandhu in the Telegraph and Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian.

Grand Prix: Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers. Articles and reviews:AO Scott in the New York Times and Todd McCarthy in Variety.

Best Performance by an Actress: Hanna Laslo in Amos Gitaï's Free Zone. Reviews: Derek Elley in Variety and Duane Byrge in the Hollywood Reporter.

Best Performance by an Actor: Tommy Lee Jones in his own The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Article: Joan Dupont in the International Herald Tribune.

Best Director: Michael Haneke for Caché (Hidden). Articles and reviews: Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young in Variety and Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian.

Best Screenplay: Guillermo Arriaga for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

Jury Prize: Wang Xiaoshuai's Shanghai Dreams. Review: Derek Elley in Variety.

For a list of the winners among the short films and the Un Certain Regard and Cinéfondation entries, see the comment posted below.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:19 PM | Comments (1)

May 20, 2005

Cannes Dispatch. 6.

The Three Burials of Mequiades Estrada In his final dispatch from the Cannes Film Festival, FilmStew contributor J Sperling Reich finds the European reaction to Wim Wenders's Don't Come Knocking somewhat baffling - and then finds himself on the receiving end of Tommy Lee Jones's testiness.

As this year's Cannes Film Festival comes to a close, that most American of genres, the western, has infused itself into the last round. On Thursday, Wim Wenders, who has been to Cannes twelve times before, brought his latest to the festival, Don't Come Knocking.

Over 20 years after the German filmmaker collaborated with renowned playwright Sam Shepard on Paris, Texas, the two reunite for Don't Come Knocking. This time, though, Shepard actually stars in the film as well. "To have Sam in front of the camera is one of my oldest desires as a filmmaker," admitted Wenders. "This time I didn't ask and that was a sneaky thing of me. After a few scenes, he mentioned sort of casually, 'By the way, I think I can kind of play this.' So I never had to say I would kill him if he hadn't."

Shepard plays Howard Spence, a down-and-out actor best known for his westerns. Well into his middle age, Spence combats his loneliness with plenty of booze, drugs and young women. For no apparent reason, he runs away from the set of the movie he is presently on and heads off to visit his mother in Elko, Nevada. Thing is, he hasn't seen his mother in 30 years. His mother informs him that a couple of decades back a woman called her looking for him, as she was pregnant with his son. Of course, Spence was unaware of any son, but decides to set out to find him in Montana. He does indeed find Doreen (Jessica Lange), his old flame and the mother of Earl (Gabriel Mann), his son. But Don't Come Knocking wouldn't be a Wenders-Shepard film if that were all Spence found Butte, Montana.

At this point of the Cannes Film Festival each year, burnout plays a major factor in whether a film is widely praised or not. I always wind up trying to catch the films I see in the waning days of the festival once again back in the States. Still, Don't Come Knocking seemed only above average to me. One of the better films of the festival, but nothing that made me jump out of my seat in the Lumiere Theatre and call home about them - not like Woody Allen's film, Match Point, for example, which was so clearly a cut above most of the films I see.

Don't Come Knocking

So imagine my surprise when, as the credits rolled at the early morning press screening, loud applause and cheers rang out. Apparently, most of the American press was as mixed as I was on the film, though foreign journalists broke into the loudest cheers we've heard thus far when Wenders and Shepard made their entrance at their press conference. They then spent the next 45 minutes gushing over their film.

Shepard's appearance in Cannes is actually quite unusual. After all, when he is in the United States he never flies, choosing to drive instead. Well, I was pretty certain he didn't come by boat, so I just had to ask him what he was if he was nervous about the flight into Cannes. "I've founds some drugs that help a lot so I'm able to climb on board... It's not nearly as traumatic as it used to be," Shepard laughed uneasily. "I do feel very strongly about this film. We worked on it for three years as a script. It's more than just a screenplay. It's like a piece... a piece of our lives. There is something at stake in it more than festivals."

Wenders, who also served as the president of the Cannes jury in 1989, is also clearly very proud of Don't Come Knocking. "When we were shooting it, I felt we were doing something right," Wenders stated. "And then when T-Bone Burnett edited the music, I knew that we were doing something very right. Certainly it's one of the best things I've done in my life."

In 1984, Paris, Texas managed to walk away with the Palm d'Or. We'll see if Wenders and Shepard are as lucky with their latest effort on Saturday evening when the Cannes jury finally announces the winners of this year's festival. Among the films Don't Come Knocking will be going up against is The Three Burials of Mequiades Estrada, the directorial debut of Tommy Lee Jones. Late Wednesday, word began to spread that the film wasn't actually as bad as everyone figured it just had to be. I mean, let's face it, Jones doesn't exactly strike anyone as a Francis Ford Coppola, a Jim Jarmusch or even a Clint Eastwood. And yet comparisons to Eastwood abounded after the Thursday evening press screening.

Jones seemed quite content to be mentioned in the same breath right alongside Eastwood. "Clint sets a very good example for any director," said Jones. "I do have one thing in common with Clint. I don't like to do any more than three takes. After three takes, if you are continuing to shoot the same thing over and over again somebody is making a mistake and it's probably me."

The Three Burials of Mequiades Estrada So there was a collective sigh of relief let out by more than 2000 members of the international press corp when we discovered Three Burials was actually quite good. Jones stars in the film as Pete Perkins, a Texas ranch hand working in a spec of a town on the Mexican border. When his good friend Melquiades Estrada (Julio César Cedillo) is found shot to death and half-buried in the desert, Perkins becomes enraged when the town law enforcement do nothing more than bury him in an unmarked grave. He kidnaps a Border Patrol officer (played by Barry Pepper), has him dig up Estrada and heads into Mexico where he hopes to return the body of his friend to his family.

Here's a warning should you ever run into Jones; whatever you do, don't call Three Burials a western. "The term has become pejorative, if not an epithet," he grunted when it was suggested to him. "I don't know why it would apply to our movie. Maybe it's because we have some horses and big hats." Um... yeah, maybe. I mean, what was the last movie you saw where someone got bit by a rattle snake. I'll bet you anything it was a western!

After such an remark, I thought the time might be right to broach what could have been a touchy subject. I asked Jones if the rumors were true; that, when he was disqualified from the Camera d'Or competition (the award given to first-time filmmakers) because he had directed a television movie ten years before, he had his lawyers dig up two additional first-time directors in Cannes who should also be disqualified. Producer Michael Fitzgerald jumped to Jones defense and dispelled any such notion. He claimed to have filled out the entry form himself and told the festival that he had directed a television movie. He had to learn about the disqualification from newspaper reports. He doesn't understand how the film could have been disqualified from something that it never should have been qualified for in the first place.

Jones couldn't let it go at that, though. "By the way, my lawyer can whip your lawyer's ass," he cracked.

Shows you what he knows... I don't even have a lawyer!

Posted by dwhudson at 3:28 PM | Comments (3)

The Stranger's SIFF Notes.

The Stranger: SIFF Notes The Stranger has redesigned just in time for its annual "SIFF Notes" special, the outrageously thorough and deliciously opinionated guide to the Seattle International Film Festival, which opened last night and runs through June 12. As film editor Bradley Steinbacher puts it, "SIFF Notes are intended to help make your cinematic gambling as painless and responsible as possible."

That goes even for those of us thousands of miles from Seattle. Because for the most part, these are not hopelessly obscure films on the program; they'll be available, if they aren't already, in one form or another. So it does help to know that, "Signed capsules mean that a Stranger reviewer has seen the film. Unsigned capsules have been rewritten - and often injected with unnecessary dumb jokes - from SIFF's promotional text." Online, they're cut into two giant slabs, beginning with 3-Iron and wrapping with Zana Briski, who'll be on hand for a special screening of the Oscar-winning doc Born Into Brothels, followed by a Q&A.

The Stranger now has a blog, too, by the way: Slog, naturally.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:15 AM

Cannes, 5/20.

With just the weekend left to go at the Cannes Film Festival, attendees are sussing out overriding themes and ranking their favorites. This year's festival turns out to be haunted by the past, surmises Manohla Dargis, which is perhaps fitting considering how many veteran filmmakers have returned. Among the strongest of the competing films for the New York Times critic would be Cronenberg's A History of Violence and Haneke's Caché (Hidden), while the Un Certain Regard entry Schläfer (Sleeper) gets a nice plug; the most recent of disappointments would be Wenders's Don't Come Knocking.

Don't Come Knocking

More on that one - in German - from an equally disappointed Cristina Nord in die taz, a slightly more impressed Verena Leuken in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and, filing with just a few degrees of approval more, Andreas Borcholte at Spiegel Online.

In English, and in the Telegraph, where he makes note of several other films he's caught as well, Sukhdev Sandhu finds the new Wenders "a hopelessly over-extended retread of former stylistic tics with paper-thin characterisation and a dull bluesy soundtrack." Much more on many other Cannes entries on the Telegraph's Cannes page.

In the Hollywood Reporter, Anne Thompson explains why critical acclaim doesn't mean all that much to distributors on the prowl at Cannes. Plus: A news roundup.

The Guardian runs a diary of sorts by Lucy Darwin, producer of Woody Allen's Match Point. And Xan Brooks has already flown out, looking back just once: "The festival is often confusing, frequently stupid, horribly hierarchical and occasionally ugly. But it is never dull."

More ways to catch up and keep up from afar:

Posted by dwhudson at 6:13 AM

May 19, 2005

Shorts, 5/19.

Jose Rodriguez Jose Rodriguez is programming an evening of shorts at the Edinburgh Castle Pub in San Francisco on June 6. Johnny Ray Huston has been following the work of this provocative filmmaker for years now and his intriguing profile opens a San Francisco Bay Guardian cover package on avant cinema:

It would be a mistake... to say Rodriguez aims only to shock. There's an uncanny dreamlike quality to his use of movement and point of view. He has star presence in front of the camera. And viewed together, his first 8mm efforts cast a compelling spell, their imagery, by turns bestial and dirty and religious, forming a mystery of sorts about family.

Huston also meets and talks with Michelle Silva, who not only "holds down the fort at Canyon Cinema" but makes films herself somewhat in the vein of her mentor, George Kuchar. "When I joke that the Georges Kuchar and Lucas have a love of green screens in common, Silva says Kuchar once showed her a picture of the two shaking hands."

James T Hong's provocations are of a different nature, as Cheryl Eddy, who meets him, explains. His Total Mobilization will be screened on Tuesday as part of the series, "Pirated: a post asian perspective."

The tsunami that hit southeast Asia in December informs the new issue of Politics and Culture:

  • Asad Haider: "Here at Penn State University, a class called 'Natural Disasters: Hollywood vs Reality' topped a list of 'The Coolest Courses on Campus' in Town and Student magazine."

  • David Coulson: "Is it empathy that makes people watch disaster compulsively? Or voyeurism?"

Tsunami

  • Valerie Heruska: "George Lucas was no match for Mother Nature."

  • Bethany Lewis: "$350 million is an awful lot of money to come from people who aren't capable of feeling sympathy for the cause."

  • Avi Nocella: "In watching Terry George's recent film, Hotel Rwanda, I found a perspective into what was missing from my understanding of the tsunami's devastation."

We naturally take particular interest in this one. Jan Herman writes at the ArtsJournal: "In the mounting catalogue of National Public Radio's recent troubles the David D'Arcy affair ranks lowest in public visibility... What happened to D'Arcy - a top-notch freelance journalist whose contract was terminated after a piece he did on Holocaust art theft and the Museum of Modern Art sent MoMA board chairman Ron Lauder so far around the bend that museum officials accused D'Arcy of 'shabby reporting' and pressured NPR to repudiate it - illustrates how even a well-meaning, public-spirited news organization can be corrupted by the influence of a big-money institution with huge cultural power and corporate clout."

Pasolini In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (and in German), Peter Kammerer, a professor of sociology at the University of Urbino, describes the impact on Italian politics and society of the reopening of the Pasolini murder case. Even more, though, given Pasolini's own comments - that death, for example, reshapes a life in the way that editing reshapes a film - and given Pasolini's eerily prescient predictions of his own murder, Kammerer explores the ways in which we might dare to read his poetry or watch his films with the biographical fact of that death in mind.

Conny Neumann and Michaela Schiessl interview Ayaan Hirsi Ali - in English- for Der Spiegel.

For indieWIRE, Brandon Judell talks to Mark Wexler about Tell Them Who You Are, "one of the most bizarrely entertaining, yet frustrating, documentaries of the year. The subject is his 82-year-old dad, Haskell Wexler, who besides directing Medium Cool, was the cinematographer for Elia Kazan's America, America, Mike Nichol's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and John Sayle's The Secret of Roan Inish among many others."

And at indieWIRE @ Cannes, Eugene Hernandez offers a first look at Wim Wenders and Sam Shepard's Don't Come Knocking and notes that the fiercest bidding war is over Michael Haneke's Caché (Hidden).

"Yes, you say to yourself, that's how it's done; that's how you make a movie." AO Scott's writing about good movies in general there, but it's Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers that's got him relishing such moments. Also in the New York Times: David M Halbfinger on the political tug-of-war over Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and Rick Marin on the "enviable" interior design to be seen in Layer Cake.

After the past several years, it'd take some pretty hellacious onscreen violence to truly rattle Cannes attendees, but according to Xan Brooks, The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael manages. Plus: More Cannes notes from contributors to the Guardian, where Bill Harpe remembers Surya Kumari.

Alison Willmore rounds up loads o' Cannes at the IFC Blog.

Anne S Lewis:

Filmmaking for Teens

The genius of Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts, written by Austin's St. Stephen's Episcopal School film teachers Troy Lanier and Clay Nichols... is that it forklifts everyone, including Mom, out of the frame and parlays the filmmaker into what the authors call the "Slash" (the all-in-one writer/producer/director/editor). Then, in a breezy, hip, never technical style, it painlessly reverse-engineers each step involved in the making of a five-minute short film, from "brainshowering" a subject to gaining entrance to the film festival circuit.

Also in the Austin Chronicle: A guide to the Paramount Summer Film Classics series and Raoul Hernandez on Jacques Demy's Donkey Skin.

Scott Foundas, who also reviews dueling prequels Dominion and Sith, interviews Arnaud Desplechin while Ella Taylor, who also reviews Mad Hot Ballroom, reviews Kings and Queen.

More on that one from Chris Fujiwara in the Boston Phoenix, where Peter Keough writes, "As the weird and wonderful assortment of films in the Harvard Film Archive's retrospective of his films demonstrates, anything is likely to turn up in a Busby Berkeley dance number."

Jamon Jamon Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times: "The American Cinematheque's tribute to Bigas Luna, a six-film, three-day mini-retrospective, calls overdue attention to the iconoclastic Spanish director."

At SFist, eve, recommends catching Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? if you can. She caught it at the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, which runs on through May 22. And if you're in San Francisco, you'll want to know that The God Who Wasn't There is screening May 21 and 22 at the Off-Market Theater.

Sam Adams recommends Marco Bellocchio's My Mother's Smile in the Philadelphia City Paper.

Nick Rombes on why "trying to figure out where my copy of Open City came from really drove home [Walter] Benjamin's ideas."

Interviews at the Hollywood Reporter: Mark Russell with Kim Jee-woon, Winnie Chung with Wang Xiaoshuai, Bec Smith with Greg McLean and Gina McIntyre with David Cronenberg.

Speaking of whom: Quiddity, via Ed Champion, who also answers 20 questions about Sith.

Alice Hung does the math on the Taiwan film industry for Reuters. Via Movie City Indie, where Ray Pride has boiled the piece down to the gist if you're in a hurry.

At Slate, John Swansburg speculates as to what the future might have held for James Dean had he survived that crash.

At Stop Smiling, Josh Tyson asks Paul Kaye all about It's All Gone Pete Tong.

The Broken Saints crew is pretty pleased that Robin Williams has bought their DVD.

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay can't stop listening to the soundtrack to Mysterious Skin.

Online browsing tip. new york a|v. Via the cinetrix.

Online viewing tip #1. "Acceptable Risk." The Yes Men strike again. Via Alternet's Peek.

A State of Mind Online viewing tip #2. The trailer for A State of Mind. Wow. Via Kaiju Shakedown.

Online viewing tip #3. The first five minutes of The League of Gentleman's Apocalypse. Via Twitch.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:38 PM

Synoptique. 9.

"Synoptique is about cinema, but it's also about communities," writes Janos Sitar in a how-do-you-do for the new issue. "[T]his edition represents efforts at translation: bridging the gaps between disciplines, looking for shared ground."

Brainstorm The subject, or rather, subjects of Najmeh Khalili Mahani's piece - the neuroscience of perception, for starters - are hefty but her prose is straight-ahead accessible.

To the already established discipline of Visual Anthropology, Carlos Quiñonez and Matthew Singer introduce "a novel addition," Visual Reality Anthropology.

Chris Meir on what happened to Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico! before it was restored - and on the influence of Nanook of the North and Tabu on its making.

Jerry White has been looking into the impact of the introduction of film and television not all that long ago to the Faroe Islands, an archipelago halfway between Scotland and Iceland.

Jessica Duran on how and why Pynchon files film and calculus in the same drawer in Gravity's Rainbow.

Shun-liang Chao on Godard's Vivre sa vie, "a seemingly paradoxical composite of modern and postmodern aesthetics."

Kisa Fotheringham looks back on Toronto's Hot Docs film fest.

In French: P-A Despatis D talks to Simon Sauvé about his Jimmywork.

Brian Crane: "What I’m suggesting is that The Passion of the Christ, like The Gospel According to St Matthew, is an important film. Not sociologically, not anthropologically, not culturally. Or at least not only in these ways. It is important because it is a film of ideas."

James Crane gets all excited when he sees the trailer for Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. Comments follow.

A nice long page of "Splinters."

In his "Squalid Infidelities" column, Randolph Jordan sets out in search of 70s-era Miles Davis.

And then, saying "Goodbye," Adam Rosadiuk hints at changes to come.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:55 PM

Cannes Dispatch. 5.

Jim Jarmusch FilmStew contributor J Sperling Reich listens in as Jim Jarmusch and Robert Rodriguez talk about their entries in the Cannes Film Festival.

It's hard to believe that the Lumiere Theater in the Palais des Festivals here in Cannes can actually hold 2500 people. I know this because 2800 people tried to squeeze into the screening of Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers on Tuesday morning at 8:30 am leaving 300 journalists from around the world standing at the foot of the red carpet without a prayer of getting in. Unfortunately, I found myself among them. At least I had good company; Manohla Dargis couldn't get in, either.

It seemed just as hard to believe that 2500 members of the international press corp would actually get up that early to see a press screening. With only three official screenings of Broken Flowers at this year's festival and not a market screening in sight, there were probably a ton of market pass-holders in the Lumiere, not to mention the folks who somehow manage to wind up with printed tickets for the morning press screenings. (Who the heck are those people and how do they get those tickets?!)

Broken Flowers

Though many festival-goers had fretted that Star Wars was stealing the thunder of smaller films, it was Jarmusch's latest that has caused the biggest stir thus far. It makes sense when you think about it. With the exceptions of Night on Earth and Year of the Horse, every film Jarmusch has made since Stranger Than Paradise played here in 1984 has screened at Cannes. So many celebrities showed up for the red carpet ceremony that it made the Star Wars gala just two evenings earlier look like a dress rehearsal.

Many journalists who saw the film claimed it was more mainstream and a departure for Jarmusch, who is known for making small, offbeat films. Still, the filmmaker returns to a familiar plot device; the road movie. "The journey is just a metaphor for one's life and one's life is just a journey," said Jarmusch. "This kind of road movie idea is one of the oldest story forms. It's The Odyssey. It's always the story of someone moving through things in the world and those things changing around them and interpreting them or misinterpreting them and just continuing."

Bill Murray joined Jarmusch on the red carpet Tuesday night, along with co-stars Julie Delpy and Tilda Swinton. Murray has been in Cannes once before though he doesn't think back on his last trip too often because, "It rained all week, so that doesn't count." This time Murray's trip might be getting the better of him. Or at least the cuisine. "I'll be excited to walk down the red carpet tonight I hope I look good," he laughed. "I hope I look my best. I've been working out but I've been falling apart the last couple of days here. I was doing well until I got here. It's just bouillabaisse for breakfast, lunch and dinner!"

As for Jarmusch, he says he made Broken Flowers the same way he makes all his movies. "I always negotiate my financing deals with a loaded shotgun," Jarmusch said. "I have to do things my own way; otherwise, I don't do them. I don't make studio films. Focus agreed to the terms when we made the deal to finance the film and they kept their word throughout the entire process."

Sin City

Robert Rodriguez, a filmmaker who continues to make modestly budgeted action films seem like big-budget blockbusters, believes Sin City was selected for the festival because the film is "something that is very bold and original [and] is something people haven't seen before." Rodriguez has never had a film in Cannes before but is eager to catch up with jury member Salma Hayek, whom he cast in both Desperado and Once Upon A Time In Mexico. "I haven't had a chance to meet her yet," Rodriguez confessed. "I'm going to go tell her, 'You better not reverse discriminate against me because you know me!'"

The Austin-based Rodriguez was joined on the red carpet by Sin City cast members Brittany Murphy, Mickey Rourke, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Madsen and Jessica Alba. The filmmaker waived off any question that he was nervous about putting his film in competition with fellow Texan Tommy Lee Jones's directorial debut, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. "Tommy Lee is great," he exclaimed. "It's great to be here with him. To be here from Texas and to be here at all is just a great honor. Good luck to everybody."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:53 PM

May 18, 2005

Shorts, 5/18.

Cannes At indieWIRE, Erica Abeel assesses the goings on at Cannes so far, and if you haven't been following any coverage of the fest at all, this is probably the spot from which to get oriented. Also: "We at Reverse Shot thought it might be an opportune time to look back over the last ten years of Palme d'Or winners and see where they went."

Meanwhile, iW editor Eugene Hernandez has fantastic news at the indieWIRE @ Cannes blog: Sony Pictures Classics "is leading the charge" get Adam Curtis's The Power of Nightmares into US theaters. Plus: Thoughts on Sith and Manderlay.

J Hoberman sums up the fest as of yesterday. Besides the handful of first impressions, Hoberman offers this in the Voice on Last Days: "Van Sant's masterpiece, which is to say, his best filmmaking in the 20 years since the similarly direct and affecting Mala Noche."

Another round from George the Cyclist at Rashomon.

The Dardennes Manoha Dargis talks with Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne about Dostoyevsky and their bad cop/bad cop approach to directing just before The Child premieres at Cannes. Among the positive reviews: Scott Foundas in Variety and Mike D'Angelo at Nerve.

Meantime, AO Scott takes stock of all he's seen at the festival so far, first the films by Cannes regulars, then by the newcomers, and both Dargis and Scott blog on.

Tom Hall responds to one of Manohla Dargis's posts: "[T]he state of film distribution in the United States is far worse than she thinks... From my point of view, there is an entire campaign required in order to turn American audiences on to the pleasures of foreign film, a campaign that utilizes film festivals, grass roots marketing campaigns and an expansion of foreign titles from urban art houses into suburban and rural theaters." Plus: "Envy (...or Remembrance of Cannes Past)."

Back to the New York Times:

Like unto wind, Miranda July whirls through Cannes.

Roger Ebert isn't just sending back instant reviews from Cannes; he's also taking some very fine photos, including a rather haunting shot of Bill Murray. And Jeffrey Wells has one of Murray, Tilda Swinton and, sliding off a tilting corner, Jim Jarmusch.

Broken Flowers

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw has enjoyed Jarmusch's Broken Flowers but is truly impressed with the Dardennes' The Child. Also: Xan Brooks meets a somewhat rehabilitated William Hurt, who appears in two films at Cannes, James Marsh's The King and Cronenberg's A History of Violence, and Charlotte Higgins reports that the Chapman brothers plan to make a horror feature.

Also in the Guardian: Alexander Linklater interviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch parliamentarian who's made a remarkable journey from supporting the fatwa against Salman Rushdie as a young woman to writing Submission, the film that provoked the murder of its director, Theo van Gogh.

Cinematical editor Karina Longworth gathers the most notable dealmaking-in-Cannes news in one clean entry.

Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog: "[I]n order to keep ourselves entertained through all the constant Cannes updates, we'd like to present the rest of this post in screenplay form..." You know, it kinda works.

Seattle Weekly: SIFF Brian Miller kicks off the Seattle Weekly hefty preview of the Seattle International Film Festival, opening tomorrow and running through June 12:

Also in the SW: John Moe's Star Wars jokes and Miller's review and NP Thompson on Karel Kachyna's The Ear: "Some of [cinematographer Josef] Illík's images are worthy of Kubrick."

In the New Republic, Stanley Kauffmann reminds us of the many ways in which Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is about a whole lot more than Enron. Related (and via MCN): Dana Calvo on the doc's impact in Houston.

Chaplin and Agee Until I was just reminded by Ray Pride at Movie City Indie, I'd forgotten that, when the Los Angeles Times brought Calendarlive.com out from behind the subscribers-only wall, it's also made the Book Review available to us again. I won't simply declare the LAT's Book Review necessarily better than the NYT's, but I do prefer it myself. At any rate, Ray points to Richard Schickel's review of John Wranovics's Chaplin and Agee: The Untold Story of the Tramp, the Writer, and the Lost Screenplay. And it's in there, notes Ray, that Schickel "disinters a predecessor at Time magazine as a movie reviewer, James Agee, and has a happy-dance on the remains."

More books:

Adam Hartzell has two new interviews up at Koreanfilm.org: Park Chul-soo and Byun Young-joo.

In the Korean Times, Kim Tae-jong reports on strategies distributors are dreaming up to try to ensure longer stays in art houses for Korean films.

The AFP passes along the hopes of European culture ministers and film industry types that the Internet might boost chances for European films to find their audiences. Via Movie City News.

Joyeux Noel

Erik Kirschbaum for Reuters: "Cheered at a gala screening at the Cannes Film Festival late on Monday, Joyeux Noel is also a powerful illustration of Europe's revitalised and increasingly confident film industry - with a story that would make Hollywood proud." Via the Alternative Film Guide.

Via Wiley Wiggins, Liza Foreman at Backstage.com: "Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are in final negotiations to star in Bathory, which Bauer Martinez will finance, produce and distribute. Delpy will make her directorial debut on the picture, working from her own script about the legendary Elizabeth Bathory, who inspired many a vampire myth with sadistic rituals that included bathing in the blood of virgins."

On the Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith front:

  • Salon's Stephanie Zacharek: "I suspect this picture is pretty close to what fans were hoping for, and for their sake, I'm glad it's markedly better than the two that preceded it. But Revenge of the Sith is still crap." Also: Five Salon staffers dump on Star Wars - and dump well.

  • Slate's David Edelstein: "It has certainly been a long slog through two and a half movies to the second hour of Episode Three, marked by lifeless pageantry, tectonic-plate pacing, Jar Jar, effects-cluttered frames, and Medusa dialogue (i.e., it turns actors to stone). What a shock when George Lucas finds his footing and the saga once again takes hold."

  • Ed Halter in the Voice: "Visionary, perhaps, but also super-sized, surfacey, and not slightly cheesy." Plus: Lucas goes avant and Episodes VII - IX.

  • Jim Ridley compares the run of the two trilogies and concludes: "More than anything, Episode III just seems... obligatory." Also in the City Pages: Rob Nelson, in Cannes, grabs a few Lucas quotes and observes: "[W]ith its corrupt Imperial Senate swaying public opinion by falsely accusing the Jedi of having stockpiled WMD, it's a lot closer to the here and now than any of the other Star Wars films ever were in their time."

  • Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly: "It almost becomes The Passion of the Vader - a well-known tale retold in brutal, elliptically cinematic language."

  • Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Press: "Easily the series' bleakest installment, Sith is a doom-spiral blockbuster that dares admit the narcotic allure of dread."

  • Patrick Macias in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "It's a Star Wars film that actually remembers to depict star wars."

  • Bill Gibron's open letter to Lucas in PopMatters.

  • Mike Palmquist's quiz in the SF Weekly.

  • John Horn and Chris Lee in the Los Angeles Times: "George Lucas may not endorse it, but the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org is summoning the Force to help preserve the Senate filibuster."

  • The posters, historically, at Posterwire.com.

  • Star Wars at the Triennale di Milano.

At Cinema Minima: Wilfred Lobo's Bollywood bulletin.

How's Kingdom of Heaven playing in Egypt? Amina Elbendary in the Al-Ahram Weekly, via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau."

In the Village Voice:

6ixtynin9

The cinetrix: "But here's the thing that sets Shattered Glass apart from its paranoid progenitor All the President's Men No one smokes. At a magazine. No one. That pretty much sums up the problem with Shattered Glass: The stakes aren't mortal; there's no smoke, no fire."

The President's Analyst Flickhead: "The President's Analyst survives as one of [James] Coburn's absolute gems, and a precious artifact of the post-modern age."

Jette returns to the Forbidden Zone.

Vince Keenan on Lawless Heart: "It's a small movie, and in its own way almost perfect."

"Progress eludes film culture when garbage like Crash is praised for its 'brutal honesty,'" reads Armond White's most polite criticism of most previous reviews. Also in the NYP: Saul Austerlitz on Nights at Cabiria.

Any PR company that turns goths away from a Tim Burton film is in the wrong business. Dave Canfield writes an open letter to the director at Twitch.

Aaron is back at Out of Focus and interviewing film and new media types for the Gothamist.

Slate's "Hollywood Economist," Edward Jay Epstein, explains why the Sunday afternoon box office numbers "have little real significance other than to measure the effectiveness of the studios' massive expenditures on ads."

Cory Doctorow has the lede of the day at Wired News: "America's entertainment industry is committing slow, spectacular suicide, while one of Europe's biggest broadcasters - the BBC - is rushing headlong to the future, embracing innovation rather than fighting it."

Online listening tip. Cinemix.

Online viewing tips #1, #2 and #3. Rant's parodies: "Who Makes Movies?" Via Peter Sciretta at Cinematical.

Online viewing tip #4. The trailer for Red, White & Blue.

Rocketboom Online viewing tip #5, seconding Matt Clayfield's recommendation for the outstanding May 17 edition of Rocketboom.

Online viewing tips #6 and more. Todd at Twitch, where you'll find pointers to an ongoing shooting diary for Tsui Hark's Seven Swords, has pieced together the trailer for Kim Ki-duk's The Bow.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:34 PM

May 17, 2005

SIFF. Preview.

The festival opens on Thursday and runs just under a month, all the way through June 12. Writer and producer Shannon Gee lays out a few of the highlights she's looking forward to.

Seattle International Film Festival

The Seattle International Film Festival is the biggest and longest film festival in the US, running 25 days and featuring over 230 feature-length films. It makes those of us who live in Seattle a little bit loopy and overly film literate for a concentrated period of time and provides some pretty fun and entertaining experiences in a relaxed setting (no wheeling and dealing at this audience-focused film festival). Bloody Marys one Sunday morning with Quentin Tarantino in 2001, catching Julianne Moore and Bart Freundlich at the beginning of their romance in 1996, getting caught totally off guard by Takeshi Miike's Audition in 2000 and downing many, many beers with cinematographer Christopher Doyle last year are some of my festival highlights over the years. This year, SIFF is kicking off with a bit of a rerun from other festivals, but the programmers have made a spectacular choice for an opening night film ("the best opening night film in years," one esteemed local film critic wrote me) - Miranda July's Sundance hit (and Independent Film Festival of Boston closing night film) Me and You and Everyone We Know. We'll see how the Seattle audience goes for "))<>((".

The World With so many films to choose from, SIFF does some choosing for us by highlighting special showcases, such as the program titled ¡Viva Argentina! that will feature 13 films from the current South American cinema hot spot. Argentine director Pablo Trapero will also be featured in SIFF's Emerging Masters program, which also includes The World's Jia Zhang-ke, Denmark's Susanne Bier (Brothers) and from Hungary, Attila Janisch.

Seattle was once upon a time known for its music scene, and there are a couple of Northwest music films in the Face the Music program, a selection of twelve music documentaries, that spawn from that bygone era. The world premiere of The Gits, the story of the Seattle band that was on the cusp of success when their lead singer Mia Zapata was murdered in 1993, happens Memorial Day weekend. A documentary following Death Cab for Cutie, Drive Well, Sleep Carefully: On the Road with Death Cab for Cutie premieres near the end of the festival and Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story, tells the story of the Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood, who died of a drug overdose before that band went on to success and evolved into Pearl Jam. Could a doc about Seattle's most famous grunge rocker be happening soon? Not likely, but that didn't stop Gus Van Sant from making Last Days, a narrative film inspired by the death of Kurt Cobain, the festival's closing night film.

Howl's Moving Castle There are themes to help maneuver this massive festival, but there are also stand-alone events that can't be missed. The Special Archival Presentation of Charlie Chaplin's The Circus is a must-see, while a special  event, An Evening with Peter Sarsgaard, is sure to be an in-depth forum with one of the most interesting and talented actors working today. The festival's ever-popular Secret Festival (it is just that; audience members have to sign a contractual agreement pledging to never disclose the films that they see here, films that are works-in-progress, tied up in legal battles, recovered archival prints, etc) is already sold out, as well as the screening of Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, despite it having a national release date the same day as the screening. In Seattle, we prefer to read our films if we have the option, as the version screening at SIFF is presented in the original Japanese with English subtitles and the wide release version will be dubbed.

I am personally looking forward to Wong Kar-Wai's 2046, Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man and hopefully hanging with the members of the US Quad Rugby team from the documentary Murderball. From the looks of the film, they could give Christopher Doyle a run for his money.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:04 PM

Cannes Dispatch. 4.

Manderlay FilmStew contributor J Sperling Reich looks back on the last few days of the Cannes Film Festival, focusing on the day Star Wars took over town (conceivably, there might be a few minor spoilers in there) and on David Cronenberg's A History of Violence and Lars von Trier's Manderlay.

Matrix Revolutions? Shrek? You wouldn't have expected the likes of these at Cannes in the past. But ever since the animated green ogre wowed the Croisette four years ago, one major Hollywood tent-pole movie is not only to par for the course each year, it's one of the highlights. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith was, in fact, one of the first films to be selected for this year's festival.

Which is why there are ads for the film everywhere you turn on the Croisette; even the Carlton Hotel, the ritziest in Cannes, is all done up in Star Wars billboards from top to bottom. And on Sunday, it was all Star Wars, all day. Not that George Lucas, who flew into town on his birthday to screen Episode III out of competition, wanted to show up any of the other films. "I'm happy I don't have to compete with those films because I probably wouldn't win," Lucas said. "It's nice to be able to be recognized and have the film be recognized without being in a contest. I'm not a big one for contests. Just being here is an honor. I hope all the films feel that way."

For those born in the last thirty seconds who haven't yet heard, Episode III serves as the climax to the Star Wars prequels, bringing full circle the story of the Skywalker family, the rise of Darth Vader and the formation of the Evil Empire. Anakin Skywalker, freshly married to Padme, is torn between his love for his new wife and his responsibility as a Jedi. Padme becomes pregnant and almost immediately Anakin has premonitions of her untimely death. When Chancellor Palpatine befriends the young Jedi, promising to teach him the dark side of the force that can keep his wife alive, Anakin pledges his allegiance and becomes Darth Vader. The movie ends with an extended light saber duel between Anakin and his former mentor, Obi Wan Kenobi. Guess how that turns out.

Star Wars: Episode III

Without a doubt, the evening gala for Episode III was the most elaborate red carpet event held at the Cannes Film Festival in the seven years since I started attending. Celebrities from all around the world managed to turn up and walk the red carpet, flanked by rows of storm troopers, while an orchestra laid into the theme music. Darth Vader greeted Lucas and his cast, Samuel L Jackson, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Anthony Daniels and Ian McDiarmid at the top of the steps when they arrived. Throughout, Vader's heavy breathing was heard intermittently and looming smoke added a final touch to the atmosphere.

When the final credits rolled, Lucas and his entourage were given a 25-minute standing ovation - almost as long as the one give to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 last year.

Jackson said he has a special relationship with the Cannes Film Festival, having been here previously for Pulp Fiction in 1994. "It seems as though each time I'm here, I have a different of success when I leave," he explained, before joking, "Hopefully, this will be another jump-start to my career."

Someone else who seems to have her own unique relationship with Cannes is Sharon Stone. She was in town to attend a press conference for Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction, which is presently shooting in London. Stone arrived 45 minutes late to the conference, keeping journalists waiting for over an hour in at the sweltering Nikki Club. She was joined by director Michael Caton-Jones, co-star David Morrissey and producer Mario Kassar. This would normally be the spot where a quote or two from Stone would be thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, she didn't say anything worth quoting. That the conference ended after only thirteen minutes didn't help matters. Stone's showing up in a different dress on the red carpet outside the Palais for the premiere of Star Wars fifteen minutes after her conference had ended absolutely infuriated most of the press corp.

But enough Star Wars, glitz and glamour.

Though A History of Violence is quite dark, it is David Cronenberg's most mainstream movie since The Fly. Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello play a loving married couple raising their family in a small midwestern town. That's about all I can tell you about the film, for Cronenberg doesn't want journalists ruining the suspense his film so deftly creates. Luckily for me, he was kind enough to provide members of the press with a brief, pre-approved synopsis. "I remember with The Crying Game Neil Jordan begged the press not to give away the secret and they honored that," the filmmaker reminded the journalists present at a mid-day press conference. "You can certainly say that Viggo's character, Tom Stall, seems to be mistaken for a gangster by a couple of gangsters from Philadelphia and that they won't go away. They won't leave him alone, so he has to begin to take matters into his own hands to dissuade them."

A History of Violence

As for the film's mainstream appeal, Cronenberg quipped, "Sex and violence have always done very well for me. It's like bacon and eggs. And if you look at the history of cinematic violence, you'll see that there's a long one. There's always a sexual component in violence and there is a violent component in sexuality of any kind. To me, that's a natural thing to explore." Even so, Cronenberg would like to think that he has been responsible about the way he has portrayed violence in the movie. "It was a serious discussion about the nature of violence," he said, "the impact that it has on society and families and human life and on human bodies as well."

The last time Cronenberg was in Cannes, he was here with Spider and thankfully, A History of Violence is far more accessible. Still, the movie has its ambiguous moments. "Most filmmakers, the last thing they want you to do is think for yourself," Mortensen noted. "It is easier when a politician or filmmaker tells you what to think. But it's more rewarding when you are allowed to think for yourself."

Lars Von Trier, on the other hand, has never been one for subtilty. He’d rather bang his audience over the head with a sledgehammer. This year, the Danish filmmaker brings Manderlay to Cannes, the second in what is slated to be a trilogy of films about America. Dogville, its predecessor, was invited to the 2003 festival.

Manderlay

Manderlay takes place in 1933 and picks up where Dogville left off. Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Nicole Kidman, who played her in Dogville) travels with her father (Willem Dafoe) from the mountains of Colorado into the deep south of Alabama. Their convoy stops along the road next to a plantation where an African-American woman urges Grace and her gangster family for help save one of the slaves from a beating. Grace does one better. Upon learning that the plantation still kept slaves nearly 60 years after emancipation, she had her father's henchmen force the owner to free the slaves. Minutes afterward, the plantation owner (Lauren Bacall) dies and Grace decides to stay behind to make certain the slaves gain their freedom. In a Von Trier film, such a set-up can not end up well for everyone involved.

While his film might take place in America, like Dogville, it was shot on a soundstage in Sweden in the same minimalist style that Von Trier has become known for. While von Trier himself has never actually been to the United States, he clearly feels the urge to make movies about the country. "America is a subject because such a big, big part of our lives has to do with America," he said. "In my country, it is overwhelming what has to do with America. I must say I feel there may just as well be American troops in Denmark because so much is American. We are a nation under influence. And also under a very bad influence from America right now because I think Mr. Bush is an asshole. America is kind of sitting on the world, there is no question about it. It is sitting on the world and therefore I am making films that have to do with America because America fills about 60 percent of my brain. So, in fact, I am an American. But I cannot go there to vote, because I am from a small country. So I just sit there and analyze and make films."

The writing in Manderlay is fantastic and one can fault Von Trier for attempting to explore what might be considered controversial ideas. Unlike the first film in the trilogy however, Manderlay does drag a little here and there. Its ending, though, certainly ties all the loose ends together quite nicely. As Grace races toward Washington for the third film, Von Trier tries to put a positive spin on the themes he has explored in the film. The ending credits, however, are seen over disturbing pictures of lynchings, Klu Klux Klan rallies, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and so on, while David Bowie's "Young Americans" plays on once again. Like I said... sledgehammer.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:03 AM

May 16, 2005

Shorts, 5/16.

Some of the most refreshing Cannes coverage last year came from George the Cyclist, who has once again biked 600 miles from Paris to the Riviera and is turning in short yet sharp reviews of the films he's catching.

Hidden

A cyclist, Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche in Caché.

Matt Langdon, who noted the other day, by the way, that Kino will be releasing a two-disc collection of avant-garde shorts at the end of June, is posting George the Cyclist's takes at Rashomon.

More previously unmentioned Cannes coverage is coming from Jeremy Mathews at Film Threat.

Eugene Hernandez helpfully gathers highlights of indieWIRE bloggish coverage of the fest in one handy entry.

Also blogging from Cannes at the moment is Evan, General Manager of IFC. Meantime, Vince Keenan calls Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession "the best program on television this month."

Quando sei nato non puoi piu nasconderti Manohla Dargis and AO Scott's Cannes blog rolls on, but Dargis has also shaped her views on Michael Haneke's Caché (Hidden), which "addresses the most urgent of issues - including terrorism both as an abstraction, as the monster under the bed, and as palpable reality," Marco Tullio Giordana's Quando sei nato non puoi più nasconderti (Once You're Born You Can No Longer Hide), "one of the most highly anticipated selections of this year's program [which] now stands to become one of its gravest disappointments," and briefly, Vimukthi Jayasundara's "moody, beautifully filmed" first feature, Sulanga Enu Pinisa (The Forsaken Land).

Also in the New York Times:

Battle in Heaven The Guardian's Xan Brooks is also blogging from Cannes, while Charlotte Higgins reports that the hot ticket has been the controversial Batalla en el Cielo (Battle in Heaven); director Carlos Reygadas insists, "I'm not being provocative gratuitously."

Neither is George Lucas, one imagines, but Higgins quotes him chatting about the political undertones of Star Wars. Not only might the story "awaken people to this danger" of democracies slipping into dictatorship, but "the parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq are unbelievable." The AP's David Germain has more, while Variety's Gabriel Snyder reports that conservatives are beginning to get ticked off.

At indieWIRE (where Brian Brooks has more info on Pedro Almodóvar's next one), Eugene Hernandez sets Lucas's comments next to fresh ones from Lars von Trier.

Meantime, the Guardian asks scientists for their takes on What the Bleep Do We Know?. Richard Dawkins, for example: "The film is even more pretentious than it is boring."

What exactly went wrong with the British film industry during the New Labour years? Ever so patiently, Nick Cohen explains: "Gradually, as Brit-flick followed Brit-flick, the Inland Revenue began to notice a disconcerting pattern: tax relief on film production wasn't financing film production but being creamed off by middle men."

Also in the Observer:

  • Euan Ferguson on why women are "quite thumpingly wrong," in his humble opinion, when it comes to men and their war movies.

  • It's time to grok Last Tango in Paris all over again, argues Cristina Odone: "In just under two hours, Bertolucci toppled the taboo of man as invincible sexual machine - and robbed feminists of their great weapon against pornography."

  • Jason Solomons on half a dozen films at Cannes.

POPaganda SFist has been covering the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival (through May 22); most recently, for example, you'll find rita's take on POPaganda: The Art and Subversion of Ron English.

Interviews at Hollywood Bitchslap: Greg Ursic with Paul Haggis and Peter Sobczynski with Daniel Craig and with Mad Hot Ballroom director Marilyn Agrelo. More on that film from NP Thompson.

Up and coming:

White Dog Doug Cummings on White Dog: "[Sam] Fuller's film is a powerful, inspired critique of racism, tapping into the relationship between humans and animals in a way that places it within the ranks of cinematic masterpieces like Au hasard Balthazar (1966)."

Filmbrain: Abdel Kechiche's "L'Esquive is easily one of the most original and vibrant films to come out of France in quite some time."

Nick Rombes revels in Agnès Varda's Cleo from 5 to 7.

Via Movie City News, Shawn Levy in the Oregonian on Henry Fonda.

"How real is 24?" asks Spencer Ackerman in Salon. Says Roger Cressey, "a former White House counterterrorism aide in the Clinton and Bush administrations who admits to TiVo-ing the last couple of episodes: 'Although the real world doesn't offer anything nearly as fast, or as good or bad, it's entertaining as all hell.'"

Anywhere near MIT? Greg Allen recommends catching Alberta Chu's Seeing The Landscape: Richard Serra: Tuhirangi Contour on Wednesday.

Online listening tip. Mike Atherton's podcast from the London Korean Film Festival at Cinema Minima.

Online viewing tips #1 through #4. Cyndi Greening posts four "videocasts," all of them reports from Sundance. One's an overview of the scene; another features Naomi Watts and Scott Coffey talking about Ellie Parker; and the last two feature director Alice Wu and the cast of Saving Face.

Online viewing tip #5. Hot Hot Heat's "Middle of Nowhere," via Fimoculous.

Online browsing and viewing tip #6. The Flux features a fresh indie short weekly. Via CK Sample III at Cinematical.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:48 PM

May 15, 2005

Rouge. 6.

The austere design of Rouge, combined with the editors' clear concentration on the concept for each issue - #5, for example, "The Image Issue," is precisely that while #2 is an annotated filmography of the work of Raúl Ruiz - inevitably draws attention to the lower right-hand corner: "RougeRouge"?

Body Snatchers Why is Adrian Martin's translation of an excerpt from Nicole Brenez's introduction to De la figure en général et du corps en particulier: L'invention figurative au cinéma right there? Where it also appears on the title pages of the other issues?

Regardless, Brenez's focus on a seven-and-a-half-minute sequence in Abel Ferrara's Body Snatchers is "illustrated" by an animated series of stills, rotating away and disturbing as hell - in the best way, of course - as you read about the "logic of the double."

The issue proper, I suppose, opens with Yvette Bíró on new works by Bill Viola: "Steeped in Oriental philosophy, Viola speaks to us inspired by Zen, Taoism and Buddhism with an awesome and utter simplicity." Further in, Bíró takes some critics to task for demanding that Bergman adhere to "some vague notion of 'the new'," rendering them unable to view Saraband on its own terms.

Deleuze: Cinema 2 Fabien Boully breaks down the elements of humor in Luc Moullet's Parpaillon while Moullet himself rambles more weightily than it would first seem about Deleuze; this piece is translated by William D Routt, who's attached a note about his approach, and as one who's tackled some fairly chewy German texts myself, it's an approach I whole-heartedly approve of. But that's hardly the end of it; Routt opens his own piece thusly: "I agree with almost none of Luc Moullet’s criticisms of Gilles Deleuze in the previous article, but then, you know, I agree with almost all of them. And I agree with everything Gilles Deleuze says in the Cinema books but, on the other hand, I disagree with virtually everything in those books as well."

Mercedes Álvarez's El cielo gira has Miguel Marías thinking about cinema, painting, old photographs and how sound ought to be able to amplify their lasting effects.

There's a German section: Soberly and thoroughly, Klaus Neumann argues the case against Downfall, demonstrating in the process how very important film criticism can be; and Roger Hillman: "Ultimately [Edgar] Reitz's summation of the twentieth century seems to be a salvaging of the nineteenth. That alone is no mean achievement, and the three Heimat series must constitute one of the major contributions to film to date."

Cafe Lumiere An excerpt focusing on Café Lumière is taken from a lecture on Hou Hsiao-hsien by Shigehiko Hasumi.

"There is something happening between white and black in Australia," writes Marcia Langton in "Aboriginal Art and Film: The Politics of Representation"; Alison Alder: "The idea of dioramas, or Bush TVs as they became known within the [Warumungu] community, came about through a series of brainstorming sessions to discover the means to present history and contemporary life through art to a diverse audience."

More from Australia: Kathleen Mary Fallon: "I've managed to write a real feature film, despite myself, and I'm very excited about it." And Adrian Martin on Whispering in Our Hearts: The Mowla Bluff Massacre: "It is as if the subject of the film forced [Mitch] Torres to question the very form of documentary, encouraging her to open this form out in a fresh, probing, heterogenous way."

That wraps the formal TOC, but three pieces follow:

  • Dave Kehr's remembrance of producer Humbert Balsan ends on an excruciatingly sad note.

  • A "Frozen Film Frame" from Jonas Mekas's Elvis Presley, Madison Square Garden, New York, June 9, 1972. Last New York Concert, a film in progress.

  • Henri Storck collection of answers from "142 cinema managers organizing children's matinees" to the question, "Are the children ever frightened by cartoons or during serials? If so, by what type of incident?"

Posted by dwhudson at 2:20 PM

Cannes Dispatch. 3.

Quinzaine Realisateurs At the Cannes Film Festival, FilmStew contributor J Sperling Reich catches Bent Hamer's Factotum, Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Gus Van Sant's Last Days, Michael Haneke's Caché and David Jacobson's Down in the Valley.

Year after year, Cannes boils down to tough choices. Do I wake up early enough to catch the daily 8:30 am press screening or do I go for an extra hour or two of sleep? Do I go see the Chinese film that's playing in Competition, or do I go see a film that's playing in the Director's Fortnight at the same time? Do I cover the obscure Bosnian film (and the year that question came up, it was No Man's Land, which went on to win the screenwriting award in Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film)? By the third day of the festival each year, these are the questions that every journalist (and probably every festival attendee) begins to ask.

This year the decision was to pass up Johnnie To's Election in lieu of Factotum, screening as part of the Directors Fortnight, directed by Norwegian filmmaker Bent Hamer and adapted from Charles Bukowski's novel of the same name. Those who know Bukowski know that plots can be tenuous at best.

Factotum "You shouldn't try to make films out of Bukowski's stuff. I mean, they contain everything you can put into a script but nothing to hook onto. That's one of the reasons that I wanted to do it," explained Hamer, whose previous film, Kitchen Stories, also appeared in the Director's Fortnight. "It's very easy to retell the cliché in his kind of life and his kind of writing. I really wanted to try and find the poem."

Indeed, Hamer peppers quite a few of Bukowski's poems throughout the film as he follows Henry Chinaski from one dead end job to the next. You see, Chinaski has a problem keeping the same job more than a few days, weeks or hours, thanks to a heavy drinking problem. When he's working, he usually moves into a flea bag hotel. When he's not working, Chinaski has no problem living on the street. As long as he can cruise the bars, sleep with every woman on skid row and continue writing his short stories.

In the end, it is unclear whether Chinaski (Matt Dillon) actually manages to learn anything. The character, as written by Bukowski, was meant to be somewhat autobiographical and, given the author's own life, the steady sameness of Chinaski's life may have been intentional. "I think for him drinking was part of who he was," said Dillon of Bukowski, whom he had never met. "To him, those few hours in a bar were worth all the hangovers. He loved that atmosphere. The danger often with artists and with poets is that they think, Bukowski did it and William Burroughs did it and Keith Richards did it, so I can do it. In reality, Bukowski showed up every day as a writer. He was committed to that lifestyle."

Factotum also stars Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei, who play two of the woman Chinaski beds, though it is Dillon who runs away with the film. No doubt, should this film find an American distributor who gives it a proper release before the end of the year, I wouldn't be surprised to find the actor on a few awards lists.

Another film premiering in the official Cannes selection in need of an American distributor is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the directorial debut of screenwriter Shane Black. You might recall him as the writer who was scored $4 million for his screenplay for The Long Kiss Goodnight. At the very least you'll remember him as the writer behind Lethal Weapon. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was produced by Joel Silver, so finding a distributor isn't going to be too much of a challenge. That the notices have been particularly good since it first screened here in Cannes won't hurt, either. In short, it's turning out just as Silver hoped. "We felt that people would really respond to it at the Cannes Film Festival," said Silver. "We thought it was a good place to introduce the movie. And frankly, we need the buzz and excitement that could be provided if the picture played as well as we thought it would."

Though there were a few mixed reactions from journalists who saw the film before its official press screening, for the most part, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is enjoying positive buzz. Black was so happy with all the reviews he was determined to acknowledge the press personally. "Thank you guys for responding as wonderfully as you have," he said. "I am overwhelmed at how kind you have been to the picture. It may sound like pandering, but truly I am just grateful that you guys got the joke."

Ah yes, there are jokes in the movie. And murder and action and sex... it's got everything a Joel Silver movie needs to have. In my opinion, it had a little too much of everything - to the point where it became somewhat unfocused. Even so, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang returns Black and Silver to their beloved buddy movie genre while paying homage to classic film noir. Robert Downey Jr stars as Harry Lockhart, a petty thief who accidentally stumbles into a potential acting career. While in Los Angeles to be screen-tested for an upcoming movie, Harry runs into a beautiful struggling actress who, as it turns out, he had gone to high school with. It's around this time that dead bodies start turning up by what seem like the busload. With nowhere else to turn, Harry teams up with "Gay" Perry (Val Kilmer), a private detective he was introduced to so he could "research" his movie role. Together, all three become embroiled in a real-life murder mystery.

If there's anything to rave about in particular, it would have to be Downey's rambling self-referential narration. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is definitely a movie that knows it's... well, a movie. At times, Downey actually addresses the audience, bringing up references to the last installment of the Lord of the Rings saga. In fact, it was the writing that initially sparked Downey's interest in the project. "When the script is good, you have to roll up your sleeves and potentially crank it up a little more because you don't want to rest on your laurels," he said.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Val Kilmer was also in Cannes to attend the gala screening of the film at midnight on Saturday. Kilmer, who has a notorious reputation for not answering journalists' questions, was more than happy to talk about the sexuality of his character. "I just called all my gay friends and asked what would be offensive and tried to accommodate them." As for his long, onscreen kiss with Downey: "I've only kissed two men in my life. One was Colin Farrell in Alexander, and Colin is not as good."

Many Hollywood studios would have considered it too risky to premiere a film at Cannes if it has not yet been released domestically for fear that, if it bombs on the Croisette, that's that. Silver doesn't see it that way. "All movies are risks," he shrugged. "They are all gambles."

One film that's managed to divide critics' opinions is Gus Van Sant's Last Days. Several journalists streamed out of the press screening on Thursday evening and, of all the journalists I've asked, only one has said he likes it: Roger Ebert.

Van Sant managed to surprise everyone at Cannes in 2003 when he won the Palm d'Or for Elephant. The cinematic style of Last Days picks up where both Elephant and Van Sant's previous film, Gerry, left off. With a narrative that double backs over itself at several points, the film tells the story of a young rock star named Blake living in a non-descript region that looks a lot like the Northwest. He has chin-length blond hair that is constantly in his face and seems to be quite enamored of flannel shirts and ripped jeans. And he's struggling with a heroin addiction. Last Days meandors along, documenting Blake has he takes a walk through the woods, goes swimming, cooks macaroni and cheese, passes out in a drugged stupor. Of course, you'd have to be living under a rock to not know how the story, or lack thereof, comes to an end.

Van Sant did not try to deny that the main character in Last Days is modeled on Kurt Cobain. "The first thought was to make a biopic about a guy named Kurt Cobain," Van Sant said. "I sort of entertained that for just a brief moment. Then I thought it would turn into just a regular biopic."

There are very few people in the world who could say whether Van Sant's film accurately portrays Cobain. One of them actually appears in the film. Kim Gordon, one of the founders of Sonic Youth, knew the musician when he was still alive. Unfortunately, she wouldn't confirm or deny anything. "I think everyone had their own ideas and thoughts about who Kurt was and what happened," said Gordon. "I think part of the idea of the film is that you can never really know somebody and that disparity between image and what goes on in a person's life day to day is very different."

Michael Pitt, who plays Blake, showed up at the photo call and press conference acting as if he might have become an addict himself. Unkempt and in need of a shower, the actor mumbled answers to questions in incoherent sentences. But when Pitt performed some of his musical compositions at the post-screening party, he looked much more at home with a guitar in his hand than he did walking up the red carpet.

The screening schedule is heating up in Cannes, at least for the press. Saturday had most journalists seeing three films, starting with Michael Haneke's Caché (Hidden). Most everyone liked the film but found its ending, or should I say, the absence of an ending completely baffling. Charles Ealy of the Dallas Morning News summed up Caché appropriately when he referred to it as a Hitchcock film without the punch line.

As for two films from Un Certain Regard, the evening screening of James Marsh's The King was quite crowded, at least when it started. It didn't take long - I think it was right after the half-brother and sister slept with each other for the first time - before nearly a third of the audience was heading for the doors. If you think that's bad, consider the screening of the Edward Norton vehicle, Down in the Valley, and directed by David Jacobson - only a third of the audience stayed.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:42 PM

The Film Journal. 12.

Suddenly, there's a lot going on at the Film Journal and not just the new issue. In two letters, editor Rick Curnutte and staff critic and feature editor Peter Tonguette announce a new direction:

Cahiers du Cinema: Hitchcock

The Film Journal has always been an auteurist publication in a plain old film journal's clothing, and from this issue (Issue 12) forward, the publication will take a pronounced and concentrated focus upon presenting writing that furthers that critical ideology. After many discussions, the editorial staff believes that in doing so, The Film Journal can stand out even further from the herd of informed, but dispassionate, critical writing on the cinema.... As a part of this announcement, we offer our Survey of Filmmakers, a completely unscientific polling of critics, writers and filmmakers of their top 25 directors. See the results here.

It's not a terribly surprising list, but it's a solid one. Hitchcock tops it, followed by Welles and Hawks before the rankings start getting cluttered up with ties (e.g., Renoir, Bresson and Kubrick at #4).

Curnutte has also evidently been blogging since the beginning of the month at Mad Mission: Rants and Raves from a Cinephile while Tonguette, who still collects his writings here, fired up Peter's Film-Centric Blog back in late March.

But onto the issue itself. Tag Gallagher introduces the "Centerpiece Article":

Two big stories have been missed, despite all the things published about John Ford. And I missed them in my own book about Ford, too.

Both stories relate to World War II. One is the interview reproduced here, which none of us knew about but all of us should have. The other is the shocking truth behind December 7th, which none of us knew about but all of us should have.

Gallagher tells that story; and then emphasizes - convincingly, too - the importance of the interview, conducted by Peter Martin, which originally ran in the American Legion Magazine in June 1964.

The articles:

  • Carey Martin most blatantly waves the auteurist flag the editors have raised with renewed confidence in a piece on how Hitchcock cultivated a rep as an actor-hater when, in fact, his actually quite good relationship with Cary Grant helped shaped the films they made together.

Saragossa Manuscript

Reviews:

Posted by dwhudson at 6:41 AM

May 14, 2005

The Nerve.

In the shorts below, Eugene Hernandez's disappointment in Michael Haneke's Hidden is registered, so Ryan Wu's comment, with its pointer to Mike D'Angelo's ongoing Cannes blog for Nerve, is doubly appreciated. D'Angelo - whose site and blog ride the top of Ryan's list o' links at his own pigs and battleships - quite liked Hidden, calling it "the first Competition film this year that's remotely challenging."

Nerve at Cannes

But that's just the half of it. The man is an entertaining read, whether a film's done it for him or not. Find the little pull-down navigation thingie on the left to catch up. Yesterday, for example, an encounter with the New York Sun's Nathan Lee:

Lee: Hey.
Me: Hey, how's it going?
Lee: Blogging up a storm?
Me: [gestures at computer screen]
Lee: Was the Egoyan atrocious or what the fuck?
Me (incredibly relieved): Oh my god.

And so forth. The thing is, I didn't even think Where the Truth Lies was all that terrible... But I hadn't actually had a chance to talk to anybody about the film yet, and the trade reviews won't be published until tomorrow, so I was just grateful that he didn't declare it a masterpiece and rattle off the names of half a dozen key tastemakers who feel likewise. (This sometimes happens; it's a queasy feeling, no matter how secure you are in your own judgment...)

And that one just gets better.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:27 PM

Weekend shorts.

Neil Jordan grew up allowed to read just about anything between two covers but to see only one movie every two weeks. Naturally, as soon as he was able, he "began a proper movie obsession." In the Guardian, he remembers:

La Strada

The Sergio Leone films were the ones that first allowed me see there was more going on here than pure entertainment. Then I saw Fellini's La Strada and realised there was something here that didn't only aspire to poetry, that was poetry. But Irish people didn't make films. They wrote books that were banned, whereupon they had to leave the country.

Also:

Machuca Reed Johnson in the Los Angeles Times: "Throughout Latin America, a bumper crop of recent and forthcoming feature films is bringing audiences face to face with some of the hemisphere's most turbulent issues and fateful historical events. A generation or less since numerous Latin countries kicked out military dictators or ended prolonged civil wars and tentatively embraced democracy, a growing number of filmmakers are revisiting pivotal episodes from both the near and the distant past."

In Film-Philosophy, Jon Baldwin begins his review of The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real, edited by William Irwin, by citing Slovoj Zizek's contribution in which he asks, "Isn't The Matrix one of those films which function as a kind of Rorschach test, setting in motion the universalised process of recognition, like the proverbial painting of God which seems always to stare directly at you, from wherever you look at it - practically every orientation seems to recognise itself in it." Baldwin: "What, then, do the other philosophers in the collection project into The Matrix when they take their Rorschach test? Responses range from nihilism to narrative to Nozick, scepticism to simulation to Socrates, materialism to metaphysics to Marx, the Enlightenment to existentialism to Christianity to Buddhism."

Nick Rombes: "[T]he beauty of analogue degradation is now an 'effect' I can create in my digital editing suite. Marshall McLuhan's notion that any new medium takes as its content the form of the previous medium is clear here: digital media makes visible and reprocesses the very form of analogue media."

The Independent asks a gaggle of actors, directors and writers for their nominations for the "Dinde d'Or Award," to be plopped onto the worst movie of all time.

CIA Here comes a slew of CIA movies, points David M Halbfinger, aimed at "a film audience newly awakened to gaping vulnerabilities in the nation's intelligence system." It really is quite a list. Also in the New York Times:

  • Robert F Worth on Iraq's most popular TV drama, Love and War: "It mixes slapstick and even a few Bollywood-style musical numbers with a brutally frank portrayal of the violence here. Several of its main characters die in bombings, others are kidnapped and tanks and helicopters are a constant backdrop."

  • JD Biersdorfer's look at DreamWorks' recreation of New York landmarks such as Grand Central Station for Madagascar is one of those pieces where the real fun is the accompanying audio slide show.

  • Michael Joseph Gross profiles Steve Sansweet, a former reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal who's now Lucasfilm's widely hailed head of fan relations.

  • The Cannes blog; the movies sound fine, but that's not keeping AO Scott and Manohla Dargis from having a miserable time.

Mary and Richard Corliss are keeping a Cannes diary for Time; that's by way of indieWIRE's Cannes blog, where Eugene Hernandez notes that Richard Corliss is perfectly capable of having a rotten day at the festival, too. Eugene himself is a little let down by Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and a lot let down by Michael Haneke's Caché (Hidden).

At Movie City News, Gary Dretzka questions the ratings system. Ray Pride at Movie City Indie: "No way I would try to improve on that headline in Chosun for a frank interview with South Korea's too-little-known Hong Sang-soo whose sixth movie, Tale of Cinema was a last minute add to Cannes." The headline? "Symmetry, Morose and Drunk: Cannes Just Loves This Korean."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:50 PM | Comments (2)

Sight & Sound. June 05.

Godard In Michael Witt's interview with Jean-Luc Godard in the new issue of Sight & Sound, we see Notre Musique as a collection of entry points into the oeuvre as well as Godard's concerns of the last decade or two. One tempting snippet would be his thoughts on how he'd commit suicide, but let's go with this one:

One needs a camera to see certain things. The majority of films today are filmed without using the camera as an investigative tool - instead of drawing on this analytical power during filming, people substitute a great mass of explanation: "I meant to do this. I meant to do that." Whereas a scientist or chemist who uses a microscope needs that microscope. And when Hawks filmed Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant, he needed a camera to do it. He wasn't writing a book.

Oddly enough, segueing into Jonathan Romney's piece on Jerry Lewis is easy:

France's high-brow Jerryphilia has long been a standing joke in Anglo-American film circles, and my purpose here isn't to argue that the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, Luc Moullet, Robert Benayoun et al were right. In fact... Lewis' humour is hit-and-miss and hasn't entirely dated well... Yet this cycle of [six] films [made from 1960 through 1964] remains audacious, bizarre, perverse and richly imagined: the product not merely of a strong auteur sensibility, but of one that is agonisingly equivocal about fame and success, and obsessed with problems of mastery, of control and self-control.

Reviews:

Sight & Sound

Posted by dwhudson at 8:44 AM

Cannes Dispatch. 2.

Where the Truth Lies In the second in a series of occasional dispatches from Cannes, FilmStew contributor J Sperling Reich offers first takes on Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies and Woody Allen's Match Point.

The programmers' old favorites have returned to Cannes this year, but with films that are major departures for them. One would never guess that Where the Truth Lies is an Atom Egoyan film, for example. It's Egoyan's eighth at Cannes, and the last time he was here, it was with Ararat in 2002. A modern noir, Where the Truth Lies couldn't be more different from that reflection on the Armenian genocide.

But the elliptical story structure is a tip-off - the whole story-within-a-story thing turns up quite frequently in this one. The film opens in 1959, following comedy team of Lanny Harris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth); they've got a shtick going, holding an annual telethon to raise money for children with polio, but their relationship sours when a beautiful girl is found drowned in the bath tub of their hotel suite. Fifteen years later, enter Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman), a young journalist with aspirations to write a book about how the famous comedy duo broke up. She winds up discovering exactly what did go on in that hotel room all those years ago and, in the process, a little about herself as well. Problem is, she was probably better off not knowing.

There was only one thing on the mind of all the journalists who saw the early morning press screening. Sex! Every other scene seemed to have some beautiful woman taking her clothes off so she could romp around with Bacon or Firth. Not that I'm not complaining.

But with all that nudity, it might be tough for Egoyan to get his film released in the US. The director doesn't seem to care. "I always saw this as a really sensual movie," said Egoyan. "I wanted to create this world that was intoxicating. I never think about censors." And he refuses to cut a single frame from the film for any MPAA censors in order to get an R rating. "That sense you feel that it's going too far is absolutely essential to the dramatic intention of the piece," he said. "The viewer has to experience a sense of violation. I wanted to make that sex as vivid and corporeal as possible."

I think it's safe to say, mission accomplished.

On Thursday, Woody Allen turned up with his latest, Match Point, and if I told you how good it was you probably wouldn't believe me. It has gotten rave reviews from most of the critics present at the festival. The only thing is... it's not a Woody Allen movie. If I were to show you the film without telling you who the director is, you would have never guessed Woody Allen.

Match Point It takes place in London rather than Manhattan, it stars a dashingly handsome Jonathan Rhys-Meyers rather than himself and it doesn't have a stitch of comedy. The story centers around Chris Wilton (Rhys-Meyers), who leaves his job as a tennis pro when he becomes romantically involved with Chloe Hewitt (Emily Mortimer), the daughter of a wealthy businessman (Brian Cox). Unfortunately for Chris, he's actually in love with Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), a struggling actress engaged to Tom, Chloe's brother. So Chris decides to marry Chloe only to learn that Nola's engagement has been called off. Don't you hate it when that happens. At least he's able to get an an illicit affair going with her as his social status rises to even higher levels. You just know this whole scenario is leading nowhere good, but that's all I'll tell you.

All of Allen's movies show out of competition in Cannes. He's had eight other films turn up here. Meantime, Allen says he will eventually return to shoot films in New York City and his next film (which is also being shot in London) is a comedy.

Why London, then? American studios "don't want to be thought of just as a bank," Allen explained. "They have something to say about the casting, they'd like to read the script, they'd like to occasionally come to dailies and I have never worked that way in my life and couldn't work that way. I want the money in a brown paper bag and I'll give them the film a few months later and that's it."

It was worth inviting Allen here with his film if only to see Scarlett Johansson walk up the red carpet on Thursday evening. She was absolutely beautiful.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:22 AM

May 13, 2005

Five-Point Redux

Now that this year's edition of the San Francisco International Film Festival has opened and closed, Jonathan Marlow revisits the Five-Point Plan he drew up last year and checks the list of proposals against what's been realized so far.

SFIFF 05 In this bright spot between SFIFF (and, as of this year, Tribeca) on one end, SIFF on the other and Cannes in between, Ruthe "that's my seat" Stein reported in the San Francisco Chronicle this morning that Roxanne Messina Captor ankled her role as Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society. This marks the third high-profile arts figure to announce their departure in the last twelve months (although the loss of Pamela Rosenberg as General Director of the San Francisco Opera and the Pacific Film Archive's retiring film curator Edith Kramer will certainly have more of an impact on the city). As one former SFIFF staffer privately stated to me moments ago, "The wicked witch is dead."

To be honest, Ms. Messina Captor was considerably more involved in reaching out to festival guests in this installment of the fest than at any time previous. There were other minor improvements on her part as well. Less rambling, since she largely stuck to the script. Less time behind the microphone, delegating the responsibilities of introducing the screenings to folks actually knowledgeable about the films in question. The numbers, at first glance, seem to support some results. At his State of Cinema address, Brad Bird noted that film festival attendance is down everywhere. Erroneous information, provided to him by SFIFF. Festival attendance is actually up across the country. Attendance at the San Francisco International even increased by five percent in 2005 (a modest gain against a substantial drop between 2003 and 2004), although you wouldn't know it by actually attending the screenings (perhaps, pure speculation, because hundreds of free tickets are included in these figures). Regardless, the decision to leave, either her own or the board's (supposedly, it was mutual), is a necessary step in returning some level of prestige to the event. If possible.

SFIFF 04 Thus, item one in the Five-Point Plan has come to pass. The board of directors, upon which much of the blame should rest, will have to rise to the challenge of finding an appropriate replacement that can increase the number of year-round programs, clean house of some deadwood in the programming department and attract films of a caliber befitting the oldest continuously running festival in America. They need not look too far for an example of how to run a finely tuned ship. Long-time festival publicist Hilary Hart has managed an almost entirely new team every year and, of late, it's the only part of SFIFF that seems to function properly - even exceptionally.

Ideally, as the new figurehead eventually settles in to their daunting role, they will consider the other four items in the Plan. Move the festival from the Kabuki, for instance. Halt the practice of financing the event through inflated ticket prices. Refashion the festival to end on a more celebratory Saturday or Sunday. Perhaps, in a moment of inspiration, put Castro legend/Mel Novikoff Award recipient Anita Monga in charge of the programming department. Hire the right person to guide the festival and the event can be returned to its rightful place as a gem within the San Francisco film calendar. Hire the wrong and we'll end up with an even larger monstrosity that dwindles further into irrelevance.

-- Jonathan Marlow

Posted by dwhudson at 4:45 PM | Comments (2)

Shorts, 5/13.

Arnaud Desplechin Tom Hall opens a terrific interview at indieWIRE with a bang: "There is not a more important filmmaker working today than Arnaud Desplechin." But that's not all. "There is a lot that I did get to ask Arnaud that didn't run in the interview, as space and brevity are an issue for indieWIRE. But not for me." So Tom posts twice as much or more from their conversation at his blog.

"For me, filmmaking is not about business. It's about militancy," Ousmane Sembene tells Alexander Carnwath. Also in the Independent: David Michael meets Scarlett Johansson and John Walsh presents an "Alternative Top 50" British films - alternative to a poll of HMV customers, that is, who've decided that Bridget Jones's Diary is the third-greatest Brit flick of all time. You'll like Walsh's list.

Reverse Shot's got a blog going, reverseblog, with over a dozen contributors - great fun so far.

So far, critical response to Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession has been quite good; Darren Hughes offers a well-considered dissenting opinion.

Up and coming:

Addict

"The four months of summer are intense and expensive," writes David Poland at Movie City News. "So, fully aware that I am going to eat dirt before this is over, I'm going to do a ranking of the studios by expected success (expected by me) and then, at the end of the season, we will revisit."

The Searchers Peter Keough offers another alt.weekly-style annotated schedule of summer releases in the Boston Phoenix, where Gerald Peary previews the "Classic Westerns" series at the Brattle, tonight through May 19.

Dennis Cozzalio tops off an ongoing conversation with his readers with a viewing of Los Angeles Plays Itself. Related: "Visualizing the City," a symposium at the University of Manchester, June 26 through 28.

Related, too, in a way: "[Fritz] Lang had once studied architecture, and like nearly all of his earlier films, Fury offers a striking portrait of the structure of society; its assorted classes, organizations and technologies, and methods of law and order are mapped out with fine dramatic precision." Doug Cummings.

"As a reviewer, I'm obliged to give movies star ratings, but they're simply a summary of my personal response, not a declaration of some objective value and certainly not of any sort of consensus," writes Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader. "In my reviews I try to describe the paths that lead to my subjective response so that readers can decide whether some part of my path might be theirs too. In the case of Crash I may blanch at [Paul] Haggis's narrative contrivances and think two stars, though I did enjoy them (three stars). But the vision of Los Angeles that they're designed to express strikes me as just and vital (four stars). So I wind up with an average of three."

Crash More on Crash from Matt Dentler.

There's Crash, and now, Crash; Kicking and Screaming, and now, Kicking & Screaming. How does this happen? asks Jill Hunter Pellettieri in Slate and finds that the question's more serious than it might seem at first glance. Also: David Edelstein on Monster-in-Law, Mysterious Skin and Kings and Queen; more on that one from Steve Erickson in Gay City News.

Oliver Burkeman talks to Helen Hunt about her return. Also in the Guardian: Peter Bradshaw gives one star out of a possible five to Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and John Patterson much prefers Killer of Sheep to Crash. Related: Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay has found disturbing news about Charles Burnett's current project.

From the "White House wrecker" to the "Crotch laser," Darren Zenko salutes the "Great Beams of Film" in the Vue Weekly.

Nietzsche had quite a lot to say about screenwriting, notes Craig Mazin at the Artful Writer.

In the LA Weekly:

  • Scott Foundas: "As with La Cienaga, the story of The Holy Girl is one told through askance glances, fleeting reflections, actions relegated to odd corners of the frame, and faces filmed in such tight close-up that the screen seems to buckle under their weight. It's a style at once ravishing and mysterious, austere and intimate, carrying with it the suggestion that even cinema may be powerless to invade the most clandestine antechambers of human behavior." Also: Layer Cake.

  • Ella Taylor: "Monster-in-Law may be warmed-over camp, but... it does have one thing going for it. Though hardly flattering, it's the most affectionate and forgiving celluloid portrait of a mom I've seen since Albert Brooks's far superior Mother."

  • Nikki Finke slams The Huffington Post.

Exterminating Angel Sean Spillane has a marvelous entry on cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa at Bitter Cinema.

Filmbrain's got something you just gotta see.

The "SRK Curse"? Ron Ahluwalia explains at Planet Bollywood: With the exception of Preity Zinta, any actress who makes her debut as Shah Rukh Khan's love interest is doomed to subsequent obscurity.

Setting out to "challenge portrayals of Shiri as something that 'came out of nowhere,'" Adam Hartzell takes in Kang Je-gyu's debut feature, The Ginko Bed, for Koreanfilm.org.

Mike Atherton at Cinema Minima: "It’s tricky to throw equal light on both sides of a conflict and especially difficult when that conflict is still unfolding. Private, by Saverio Costanzo, then, is a brave attempt to do just that, and it probably benefits from having the eye of an outsider looking in, as it’s an Italian film covering just one corner of the Palestinian–Israeli struggle."

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jacob Adelman has the background on one of the films screening at the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, The Loss of Nameless Things.

Do look back: PopMatters, Ellise Fuchs on last month's Torino Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Brandon Judell at indieWIRE on the San Francisco International Film Festival and Marjorie Baumgarten in the Austin Chronicle on the Tribeca Film Festival.

David Lowery calls up Todd Solondz.

Walken Letter Brandon Bird paints and writes. He also helps his students write letters to Christopher Walken. Via the SXSW News Reel.

Ever yearn for an ounce of Jack Black? From the Department of Eeewww, Celebrity Skin and Bodily Fluids.

Online viewing tips, round #1. Around 30 Kewpie commercials. Via The Crime in Your Coffee.

Online viewing tips, round #2. The latest batch of trailers dug up by the relentlessly resourceful team at Twitch.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:48 PM

Cannes, 5/13.

Le Monde: Cannes 05 "Does this festival still matter?" asks AO Scott in the New York Times. Surely, he must think so, given how much time and effort he's putting into covering it. Besides this initial overview, he's blogging right along with Manohla Dargis and those audio slide shows are getting downright fancy.

Also in the NYT: Thomas Crampton's quick blurbs, Eric Pfanner's assessment of the British presence at the festival, Doreen Carvajal on the possibly diminished importance of actually being there and Joan Dupont's review of Hiner Saleem's Kilometre Zero, "a road movie that takes place in Kurdish Iraq, about a soldier recruited by force into Saddam Hussein's army to fight Iran," both picked up from the paper's European outpost, the International Herald Tribune.

Gus Van Sant remembers Kurt Cobain in Libération (and in English). Via Movie City Indie. Related: From indieWIRE's Cannes blog, Eugene Hernadez's question for Kim Gordon.

Three interviews from the Hollywood Reporter's special coverage: Gregg Kilday with Gus Van Sant, Liza Forman with Shane Black and Mark Russell with Kim Ki-duk.

Plucking just one story from the Guardian's ongoing coverage, I'd have to go with Stuart Jeffries's interview with Adam Curtis even though we've just posted David D'Arcy's over at the main site. The Power of Nightmares is simply that important. "[Michael] Moore is a political agitprop filmmaker," Curtis tells Jeffries. "I am not - you'd be hard pushed to tell my politics from watching it. It was an attempt at historical explanation for September 11. You see, up to this point nobody had done a proper history of the ideas and groups that have created our modern world. It's weird that nobody had done before me."

Mary McNamara's keeping a breezy diary for the Los Angeles Times.

At Movie City News, J Sperling Reich adds his rave to the collection rapidly mounting up around Woody Allen's Match Point. So, too, does Jeffrey Wells.

Morocco's quite nicely represented at the festival, reports Karima Rhanem in the Morocco Times. Via the Alternative Film Guide.

"I don't know exactly how many times I've been to Cannes," writes Wim Wenders in Die Zeit (and in German), launching into a long reverie that stretches back nearly thirty years. Also: Katja Nicodemus on Christoph Hochhäusler's Un Certain Regard entry Falscher Bekenner (Low Profile) - and on why films like his have such a tough time at home. Hochhäusler: "In Germany, people look, above all, for content. Discussion of cinema, too, is focused on content. In France, on the other hand, the image has a different value; there's an entirely different tradition of seeing."

Naturally, there's a helluva lot of business going on, too, but probably the most interesting items in the long run involve Bob Berney and Harvey Weinstein. Brian Brooks has the first story at indieWIRE: "At the Majestic Hotel in Cannes, Berney revealed initial plans for the newest mini-major, Picturehouse." Cinematical's Karina Longworth has been following the second wheeler and dealer.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:45 PM

Match Point.

The Glasses Such hoopla in Cannes over a film just screened Out of Competition. As noted yesterday, AO Scott, blogging for the New York Times (come on, you knew the day had to come), seemed almost alarmed that his initial impression of Match Point was so very positive, while Andreas Kilb writes in today's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (and in German), "Match Point would be a worthy candidate for the Golden Palm [were it competing]. This film is an unexpected masterpiece."

How very long many of us have wanted to hear that said about a new film from Woody Allen, even if notes of caution are sounded, such as the one from the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, who's a little put off by Allen's London, looking to him as if it were filmed on "Planet Curtis." The Independent's Louise Jury hears similar criticisms from a handful of other British critics, though Sight and Sound editor Nick James does tell her, "It will work well in the States because it gives a very tourist's-eye view of Britain."

And the Americans are happy. While the Boston Herald's Stephen Schaefer simply seems delighted to have been "treated to the steamiest and sexiest flick of Woody Allen's career," Variety's Todd McCarthy telegraphs: "Well-observed and superbly cast picture is the filmmaker's best in quite a long time and as such reps an attractive potential acquisition for a US distrib keen to break Allen's recent string of BO flops." Stop.

Meantime, David Gritten reports in the Telegraph that Woody's going to be sticking to this evidently winning formula: His next film will also be shot in England and will also star Scarlett Johannson. And in the Los Angeles Times, Mary McNamara also reports on the post-screening press conference: "One by one, journalists, mostly from the UK and the US, ignored the cast members present - Johansson, Emily Mortimer and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers - to ask the director rather esoteric questions that seemed more about where Match Point fit in the Allen oeuvre, and what it signified to his future, than the film itself." Little wonder. A lot of us were getting worried.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:02 AM | Comments (2)

Film Comment. May/June 05.

Film Comment May/June 05 "Where do we stand with Michael Powell - allowing room somewhere inside that question for his partner, and crazy-mirror reflection, Emeric Pressburger?" asks Richard Combs in the new issue of Film Comment. "Fixing Powell's position has now become a major critical enterprise, starting slowly in the mid-Sixties and turning into an industry from the Seventies onwards, in which P & P were discovered and discovered again, as if their hiddenness could never be quite overcome." Dipping deeply into Powell's autobiography, A Life in Movies, Combs nudges the enterprise a tad forward yet again.

Another revisitation, this one from Kent Jones: "If you received The American Cinema at the right moment in your life, and many people including myself did, it came with the force of a divination, a cinematic Great Awakening." This is a highly personal appreciation of Andrew Sarris and we can be glad FC is running the full "author's cut," so to say, online.

Another online exclusive: Two interviews with Jean Rouch, both from the Fall/Winter 1967 issue: Jacqueline Veuve and James Blue.

And yet two more: Grady Hendrix interviews Johnnie To and Kristin M Jones reviews Pawel Pawlikowski's My Summer of Love.

Then there's Chris Chang on We Jam Econo and Amy Taubin's shout-out to distributors: Pick up Claire Denis's The Intruder!

Posted by dwhudson at 12:32 AM

May 12, 2005

Blogging, NYT-style.

Filed yesterday, but just discovered today, Manohla Dargis:

Cannes 05

This is the first of what we - meaning my colleague and buddy, AO Scott, and yours truly - hope will be many on-the-run postings from the Cannes Film Festival or, as it is known here, Festival de Cannes. Yes, in between press screenings, jostling through the crowds and writing articles for the paper, we are writing a blog. The idea is pretty simple: we want to give you an idea of what it's like to be at the best and most important film festival in the world by ruminating on the good, the bad, the ugly and, we hope, the purely, even frivolously entertaining.

And this morning, Scott writes: "My head is still spinning. A truly shocking thing happened this morning. I saw a really good Woody Allen movie. Really." Dargis, in the meantime, has just caught Fatih Akin's Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul and will soon be catching Gus Van Sant's Last Days.

What a very welcome development - and what fun.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:34 PM

Midnight Eye.

As Todd noted yesterday at Twitch, Late Bloomer is slated for a screening at the New York Asian Film Festival and it happens to feature prominently in the new issue of Midnight Eye. Nicholas Rucka interviews director Go Shibata and reviews "his phenomenally energetic and exciting new film."

Late Bloomer

Even taking into account that Rucka's a friend of Shibata, that review certainly does spark interest.

Tom Mez turns in the other major feature, a good long look at the hows and the whys behind the swift popularity in Japan of genre director Rokuro Mochizuki (more) and the sad consequences of the dry spell that began with the 00s. Even so: "While his career back home has been flailing since the dawn of the new millennium, outside Japan Rokuro Mochizuki is only just taking off, thanks to a wave of DVD releases of his best work."

There's no overriding theme to this issue's Round-Up, just a collection of astute reviews from Mes and Jaspar Sharp. More reviews:

    The Face of Another
  • Sharp on The Face of Another, one of two films released in the Masters of Cinema series by Hiroshi Teshigahara, the other being Pitfall: "These first two releases from Teshigahara are especially welcome, as much for the films themselves as for the significance of those involved in their production. Often lumped in as part of the Japanese New Wave of the 60s, director Hiroshi Teshigahara stood apart from the movement, if indeed it ever was a movement."

  • Mes on The Soup One Morning, an indie that's been making the festival rounds that's "solidly written, extremely well acted and generally handled with great sensitivity and empathy."

  • And a book review, Sharp on Noel Burch's To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in Japanese Cinema.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:06 AM | Comments (1)

May 11, 2005

Cannes Dispatch. 1.

First impressions from Cannes from FilmStew contributor J Sperling Reich.

Lemming You know Cannes has officially begun when you see journalist Henri Béhar strolling through the Palais des Festival. Even on Tuesday, the day before the festival officially began, it was nice to see Béhar, who moderates many of the press conferences here, exiting the press office. For those of us who arrived early, it is also possible to tell the festival is nearing when the Croissette (the boulevard that runs along the beach) is closed to traffic, the Carlton Hotel has more billboards for movies than windows and the wait for a table at La Pizza becomes at least a half-hour long.

Of course, the festival only truly begins when the first films roll, and today, Cannes opened with French filmmaker Dominik Moll’s Lemming. Moll’s previous film, With A Friend Like Harry, was all the rage here back in 2000 when Lars Von Trier’s Dancer In The Dark beat it out for the Palm d’Or.

This year, Moll won't be taking the Palm d’Or either; not because his film received a tepid response, but rather, because it isn’t being shown in competition. He doesn’t seem to mind, though. "The actual prizes, that's just a cherry on the cake as it were," he stated earlier in the day, saying that the response from the international press is worth far more important than any trophy. "I am delighted that Lemming is able to benefit from the whole setup here at the Cannes festival."

Lemming is a hard film to write about. Not only does one not want to give too much away, but the story itself becomes quite complicated. It centers around a young, upwardly mobile couple played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Laurent Lucas. He is a home automation engineer who has moved with his wife to a new town so that he can work for a corporate big shot named Richard Pollock, (played by André Dussollier). As a friendly gesture, Pollock and his wife Alice, played by Cannes favorite Charlotte Rampling, attend a dinner at the young couples house. Unfortunately, the Pollocks get into a heated, strange and quite personal argument which, once they leave, somehow manages to disrupt Gainsbourg and Lucas's happy marriage. Later that same evening, the young couple finds a lemming in the drain pipe of their kitchen sink. Apparently, this is supposed to be some sort of metaphor for the craziness that is about to enter their lives. By morning, the lemming, which was thought to be dead, is discovered to be actually alive and the lives of the two couples begin to become interwoven. Not all for the better, either. The film, which starts out quite promising, turns into a thriller with a little supernatural twist tossed in.

Cross Hitchcock and M Night Shyamalan and you're somewhere in the neighborhood. At least Hitchcock knew when to end his films, for the most part. Lemming overstays its welcome as it devolves into madness. Moll was neither upset nor surprised when journalists compared his film to a Hitchcock thriller. "It's true that I am a great admirer of Hitchcock," he admitted. "I think when I went to film school and saw all his films I learned a lot from him and his films. So I think it's natural that you might have the impression that there are similarities in Lemming."

Lemming Charlotte Rampling joined Moll at the press conference. The last time she was in Cannes, it was for another French film, Swimming Pool. A few of the British journalists wanted to know why Rampling was starring in more French than British films. Her answer was quite simple: "The work that has been interesting in the last few years has come from France. Where work comes from doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with nationality. It just so happens that perhaps the last two or three films that I’ve done that have been particularly powerful have been French."

Probably the lightest moment came when the Rampling, who turned 60 this past February, was asked why she doesn't work in Hollywood that often. Could it be that Hollywood doesn't cast middle-aged women? Absolutely. "The system in Europe is not so barbaric in terms of the aging process," laughed Rampling. "It doesn't actually matter so much here. If a woman is prepared to age and prepared to take on what that means, which is actually quite beautiful, having a few wrinkles and looking different is no reason to feel that you should be put away. In Europe, thank goodness, they have understood that and I am still around."

The first day of the festival is also traditionally the day that the jury makes a public appearance. Toni Morrison, as a writer rather than a filmmaker, was asked about her qualifications. "I know my judgment is infallible in spite of the fact that I’m not in the industry," she joked. "So I bring you my infallibility and my enthusiasm."

Whoever selects the jury from Cannes must realize they have a couple thousand photographers to impress each night, too. They always manage to sneak some outrageously good-looking actress into the mix, be it Aishwarya Rai in 2003 or Sharon Stone in 2002. Salma Hayek fits the bill this year. She’s been here three times before with films such as Kevin Smith's Dogma and Robert Rodriguez's Desperado. Hayek says this year will be her best experience yet.

"When you are an actress, it is very exciting, but mostly, what you have to do is give interviews and, when you are a juror, mostly what you have to do is watch movies," said Hayek. "When you come with a film to a festival, most of the learning has already been done through the process of making the film and you are just presenting it. When you are a juror, it is in these moments when the visual stimulation is coming to your brain and it's so rich. You get to see so many amazing movies and see them with a virgin eye and, at the same time, you get to see the perspective of these amazing people that I have admired for a long time."

Tomorrow, Woody Allen will bring his latest film, Match Point, to the festival. The advance buzz on the film has been positive, so these "virgin eyes" can't wait to see it.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:52 PM

Shorts, 5/11.

Cannes opens this evening and the media are standing by. The Los Angeles Times now has a special section on Cannes going, joining the Guardian, the Times of London, Libération, Le Monde, Variety and, of course, indieWIRE's ferocious blog, already roaring, and special, idling and anxious.

Libération: Cannes 05

And how are the French anticipating Cannes? With mixed feelings, according to Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau." Writing in Le Nouvel Observateur, Pascal Mérigeau files the usual complaints about the dominance of the Americans and how, "year by year," they're squeezing French cinema into an ever-diminishing market share, but at the same time: "In Moscow, Beijing and New York, French film is seen as romantic, intelligent, humorous, 'different,' though at times irritatingly intellectual; in any case, French cinema has something no other cinema has, or has any longer." Harrumph!

The Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson surveys the buying and selling fields and finds the sands shifting. Also: Charles Masters has the first inklings of news regarding David Lynch's next project. It's about time.

Sally Pook reports in the Telegraph on The Man Who Met Himself, the only British short to be screened at Cannes this year. Ben Crowe, 27, made it for all of $750. Via the SXSW News Reel. Also: David Gritten listens Mike Barker rave about Walter Salles's Central Station and SF Said files another report from the Arctic location of the Journals of Knud Rasmussen shoot.

Pasolini The murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini in November 1975 remains one of the most mysterious and contentious events in modern Italian political and cultural history. And it's just gotten a lot more mysterious and contentious. Pino Pelosi, the man accused of the murder and subsequently imprisoned for nine years, has said in a recent TV interview that it was actually three men who beat the director to death, while Sergio Citti has told La Repubblica that it was five. As Benedetto Cataldi reports for the BBC, the inquiry is now being reopened. Doug Ireland comments at Indymedia.

Read this: Brian Flemming: "Independent distribution - it's actually working."

Morgan Spurlock on his FX series, 30 Days: "The [first] episode asks the question, "what's it like to live on $5.15 an hour?" And I'll tell you right now, it ain't easy.... Future installments will deal with Islam and America, Binge Drinking, Anti-Aging, Consumerism, Homosexuality."

City of Quartz "Los Angeles is in love with the idea of its own self-destruction," writes Manohla Dargis. "To watch a movie like Crash or to peruse a Los Angeles bible like Mike Davis's Ecology of Fear (1999), the second book in his proposed trilogy about the city (the first is City of Quartz), is to know that Angelenos have met the enemy and he is us."

Also in the New York Times:

  • David Carr on the other coast: "Culturally vibrant, if economically still fragile, New York has quietly been emerging as the world's primary clearinghouse for a fast-expanding pool of very-low-budget movies."

  • Veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will soon be making their first appearances in American movies; in next year's Harsh Times, for example. Caryn James considers the "emblematic screen heroes" of previous wars and notes that the next round will be, at least at first, "determinedly apolitical, partly for practical reasons. With the war in Iraq still raging and the country polarized, few filmmakers want to alienate half the audience."

  • Box office is down, and now, "Hollywood is starting to get worried," reports Sharon Waxman. "Are people turning away from lackluster movies, or turning their backs on the whole business of going to theaters?" Variety subscribers can read Gabriel Snyder arguing more or less that everyone just needs to calm down, the year so far has been fine.

  • Dave Kehr picks three new DVDs to write about: The Americanization of Emily, Boccaccio '70 and The Longest Yard.

  • Gary Gately on the duelling DVDs of Baltimore: the police vs the dealers.

  • Waxman on producer Ray Stark's art collection.

"We're living a medieval nightmare, in a world slipping back into cycles of holy war and revenge," writes Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, having just seen Kingdom of Heaven. "Perhaps [Ridley] Scott is not being entirely fanciful in suggesting that the solution, too, is medieval. If we're going to lose the Enlightenment we might at least rediscover chivalry." Related: The LAT's Patrick Goldstein talks to Scott and Maurice Timothy Reidy for the New Republic: "At the heart of Scott's film lies a rather sentimental tribute to American values and the progressive idea that those values can be cultivated abroad." And to think they've all seen the same movie, too.

Lily Oei interviews Xan Cassavetes for Nerve. Via Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay.

At Movie Poop Shoot, DK Holm finds Taschen's $200 mammoth edition of The Stanley Kubrick Archives "a valuable addition to Kubrick scholarship [but] it is also something of a rip-off."

At Koreanfilm.org, Darcy Paquet reviews Kim Dae-Sung's Blood Rain, the #1 film in South Korea this past weekend.

NYP: Hollywoo The crux of Matt Zoller Seitz's cover story in the New York Press goes like this:

[I]f you believe action pictures can aspire to the status of popular art, [Jet] Li's statement [that martial arts films are even better now than in the 70s] sounds less like a pitch than a simple assertion of fact. Some of the most visually, rhythmically, technically assured films of the past 15 years have been martial arts pictures - or action pictures with a strong martial arts component - produced mainly in Pacific Rim countries. And despite baffling missteps by English-language distributors, they've found grateful audiences in the States.

Also in the NYP: Armond White lists the many ways in which Jane Fonda is too good for Monster-in-Law (more from Jessica Winter in the Village Voice) and Saul Austerlitz briefly previews the First Nations\First Features series (in New York May 12 though 23; in Washington DC May 18 through 23). More from Joshua Land in the Voice.

Speaking of which, Arnaud Desplechin gets the interview + review treatment this issue. Dennis Lim's talk with the director is longer than many the Voice has been running lately (a hopeful sign, though his chat with Joseph Gordon-Levitt is brevity abbreviated) and J Hoberman remarks that "Desplechin appears to thrive on the structures that impede narrative progress. Kings and Queen just picks up the baggage and runs - it's terrific filmmaking." Three more thumbs up, way up, in indieWIRE from the Reverse Shot crew.

Back to the Voice:

Westfront 1918

Noting that the Caligari's Cabinet Awards are back after nearly four years, M Valdemar remarks, intriguingly, "if a low-budget horror film with a failed distribution deal ever deserved the Criterion treatment, I'll vote Messiah of Evil [aka Dead People] over Carnival of Souls any day of the week."

David Thomson: "[T]he season of films that show [HG Wells's] links to film history at the National Film Theatre may be a stunner in revealing just how many situations and ideas in science fiction come from Wells." Also in the Independent: Meryl Streep, as seen by Thomson and Elisabeth Vincentelli.

Cheryl Eddy, who contributes the movies rundown to the San Francisco Bay Guardian's special summer guide, looks ahead to the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, opening tomorrow and running through May 22.

Also in the SFBG:

So we have a frontrunner in the Oscar race for Best Actor already, according to Emanuel Levy. I'd scoff if it were anyone but Robert Downey Jr. Via Movie City News.

Stop Smiling's running an excerpt from Katherine Turman's interview with Mark Mothersbaugh. The occasion is Criterion's release on DVD of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Blanchet: Blockbuster Film-Philosophy launches a special issue, "Gigantic Visions of Mankind: Spectacular Effects and Digital Cinema," with two pieces on the same book, Cinetext editor Robert Blanchet's Blockbuster: Aesthetik, Oekonomie und Geschichte des Postklassischen Hollywoodkinos. Jacobia Dahm:

Blanchet's overall claim - drawing on Tom Gunning and Umberto Eco - is that the development that culminates in the spectacle films of the last decade is not so much a new way of storytelling as it is cinema's return to its roots: the cinema of vaudeville, amusement fairs, Méliès, and Edison, etc. which made up the cinematic entertainment of the very beginning of the 20th century. It is the modes of production that have changed rather than storytelling itself.

Marina Sheppard adds that, "Although [the monograph is] written from an academic point of view and by a film and media scholar from the Vienna Institute of Philosophy, laymen will find it understandable and enjoyable." Laymen who read German, naturally.

At indieWIRE, Wendy Mitchell sends in a dispatch from London, where she hears more about Danny Boyle's next two films and Greg Hall's The Plague, the second feature distributed online by It's All Electric.

Suzy Hansen has a lot to say about Angelina Jolie in the New York Observer: "She has brought back the big, beautiful, silty riverbed of American romance: queen of the photo op, good-will ambassador for the UN, free-loving promiscuite, rippling action hero, adoptive mom, daughter of a Hollywood duke of the 70s, Oscar winner."

Alison at the IFC Blog: "The Onion AV Club has the bestest, most pessimistic summer movie guide ever."

Quick Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith round-up:

  • William S Kowinski in the San Francisco Chronicle: "The society and the hero that think themselves good but transform themselves into evil is a bold theme that in some ways goes against the grain of America after Sept. 11, 2001."

  • Dale Peck, on the other hand, in the NYO: "[W]hatever else it is, Star Wars is hardly reactionary."

  • More first glances from Louisa McLennan in the London Times and Patrick Macias, who - unrelated - passes along word from Matt Alt in Tokyo on a sort of cross between a panel discussion and a PR gig for Production IG.

For Slate, Edward Jay Epstein reads Schwarzenegger's contract for Terminator 3: "It's a state-of-the-art exercise in deal-making."

Late Bloomer Todd at Twitch has early and pretty nifty news of what'll be on offer at the New York Asian Film Festival, June 17 through 30.

Via Perlentaucher again: Mohamed El-Assyouti's thorough review of the 11th National Film Festival in Egypt for the Al-Ahram Weekly.

The Microsoft Short Film Competition: "Thought Thieves." Via Greg Allen, who puts it best: "You can't make this stuff up, folks."

Reel Identities, the New Orleans LGBT film festival, running from June 10 through 12, has just unveiled its schedule.

Chuck Olsen, whose Blogumentary opens in Seattle on Friday, cuts loose a transatlantic wave of vlog news.

If you enjoy reading this sort of thing, imagine the kick you'd get writing it: Cinematical is looking for bloggers.

Online browsing tip. The Mary Woronov Website. Via Flickhead. You'll also want to catch Ray Young's review of Hindle Wakes.

Online viewing tips #1 through #5. One of them's an ad for Windows, of all things. But it's cute. What's more, Jason Wishnow interviews the filmmaker, Chris Niemeyer, just as he interviews all of his "Weekly Pics" at Nerve. Some of them require a premium subscription, but these don't: 1 (the ad), 2, 7, 8 (you'll have seen that one if you follow all the links here, and if you do, please consult your family physician) and 9. Via the SXSW News Reel.

Moonwater Online viewing tip #6. Evan Mather's Moonwater. I have no idea why I love it.

Online viewing tip #7. Stanley Donen's Charade has slipped into the public domain, and therefore, onto the Internet Archive. Via The Crime in Your Coffee.

Online downloading and listening tip. The New Pornographers will be releasing Twin Cinema in August, but you can nab that title track now. Via Salon's "Audiofile."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:42 PM | Comments (4)

May 10, 2005

MovieMaker. Spring 05.

MovieMaker Of the five features online from the new issue of MovieMaker, the one I leapt to first is Jennifer Soong's interview with Xan Cassavetes. So what was it like growing up with a "good Greek father"? "Being grounded isn't really that bad when you have Z Channel in your room and you can sneak your pack of cigarettes in and watch a bunch of Bertolucci movies, fantasizing about the future."

The other interview: Jessica Hundley with Todd Solondz. Like nearly everyone who talks to him, including our own Craig Phillips, she's pleasantly surprised to find his demeanor calm, collected and exceedingly self-aware.

Donald Melanson goes for a round of one of almost every cinephile's favorite parlor games, selecting "20 great films that never won the Academy Award for Best Picture - but should have."

Bob Fisher: "[E]ven in our digital age, Super 16 counts some of Hollywood's most legendary DPs as fans. Here, we speak with cinematographers Amy Vincent, Steve Mason and Vilmos Zsigmond about the unlikely renewed interest in this 40-year-old format."

And Matthew Power says, do try this at home: how to make a tracking dolly, a dimmer box and a camera crane.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:32 PM

May 9, 2005

Shorts, 5/9.

Robert Gottlieb marvels at the resiliency of Tallulah Bankhead, "a star more than an actress, a personality more than a star, a celebrity before the phenomenon of celebrity had been identified":

Time: Tallulah Bankhead

Tallulah, with her signature "dah-ling"s and her notorious peccadilloes and her endlessly caricaturized baritonal gurgle of a voice - a voice that the actor-writer Emlyn Williams said was "steeped as deep in sex as the human voice can go without drowning" - would be easy to dismiss as a joke if she hadn't also been a woman of outsize capacities. As it is, the story of her life reaches beyond gossip and approaches tragedy.

Also in the New Yorker: David Denby on Kings and Queen - "this movie, however incomplete and frustrating, is also fully alive and extraordinarily intelligent" - and Monster-in-Law, "commercial product, as squarely aimed at teen-age girls as an advertisement for pink cell phones. Still, the self-confident fatuity and condescension of the movie is offensive." And Malcolm Gladwell zeroes in on an important misconception about Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good For You: "Johnson wants to understand popular culture - not in the postmodern, academic sense of wondering what The Dukes of Hazzard tells us about Southern male alienation but in the very practical sense of wondering what watching something like The Dukes of Hazzard does to the way our minds work."

Damien McGuinness has seen Fatih Akin's Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul and offers his mostly favorable first impressions for Spiegel Online: "This is a city where medallioned homeboys rap in Turkish, DJ electronic club sets are underscored with Arabesque beats and the long-necked Lyre is used for Jazz improvisations. East not only meets West, but takes it on, tunes it up and spits it out."

Alles auf Zucker Meanwhile, Alles auf Zucker has so far beat Downfall, ten nominations to three, in the race for the Deutscher Filmpreis. Erik Kirschbaum reports for Reuters. Via the indieWIRE Insider. More nominees.

Edmund Sanders in the Los Angeles Times: "After decades of government censorship and a two-year U.S. occupation, actors, filmmakers and television producers are embracing new artistic freedoms to tell stories about Iraqis - before and after Saddam Hussein's overthrow - for an increasingly housebound audience."

Look who's blogging at the Huffington Post: John Cusack, Ellen DeGeneres, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall, David Mamet, Mike Nichols and Harry Shearer. And that's just the showbiz folk, of course.

Via Movie City News, Roger Ebert, in an excerpt from his 1987 memoir, Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook, recalls the year Coppola was there with Apocalypse Now:

He had gambled five years and his personal fortune on a film that was now entered in the official competition at Cannes (which meant that it could come home as a loser). He was no doubt sitting out there even now, thinking what private thoughts no one could guess. By renting the yacht and anchoring it in solitary splendor at the end of everyone's view, he had dramatized his presence and his isolation.

Variety's got its Cannes special up and running. Via the cinetrix.

15 years since he first saw Koyaanisqatsi, Alex Steffen watches it again; his thoughts, focusing on the power of a single iconic image and posted at WorldChanging, spark a string of comments.

"Multimillion dollar productions by "tourist" directors, absurdly over-privileged and removed from the realities of the majority of Angelenos (less than 3% of whom actually work in the industry), continue to perpetuate myths about America's second largest city." Doug Cummings describes the ways Thom Anderson's Los Angeles Plays Itself unravels them.

Le Lettere di Ottavia "A book has stirred debate over the most famous scene in Italian cinema history," reports John Hooper. Did Fellini lift the Trevi Fountain bit from a novel he'd read four years before he made La Dolce Vita? Also in the Guardian: Clare Longrigg, author of No Questions Asked: The Secret Life of Women in the Mob, notes the ways Paolo Sorrentino's Consequences of Love varies from previous depictions of the Mafia on Italian screens. Plus: The premiere Bose: The Forgotten Hero has been moved from Calcutta to Jaipur because its portrayal of Indian independence leader Subhash Chandra Bose has offended the party he founded, the Forward Bloc. For much more news of Indian cinema, turn to Wilfred Lobo at Cinema Minima.

Depending on where you are, it may be a while before you get a chance to see The Take, the doc by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein. In the meantime, there's Kim Phillips-Fein assessment of Klein's impact and relevancy for n+1.

One of the minor yet notable aspects of Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession is the need Xan Cassavetes obviously feels, in order to set the stage, to get a few of her older interviewees to conjure a world before HBO, before VCRs or any home video of any kind (and by the way, IFC's Andrea Meyer interviews her; a must-read). It wasn't that long ago, kids. And yet, back in those Dark Ages, as Nick Rombes reminds us, there were people like Jack Gould - not an academic, mind you, not a theorist, but a writer for the New York Times - who could see what was coming: "[I]n many of his articles Gould is almost McLuhan-esque," writes Nick and points to a 1967 piece that pretty much outlines the features we've come to love in the DVD.

It makes me wonder who now is as prescient about the future as Gould was then; I keep coming back to Charles Mann's "The Heavenly Jukebox," which appeared in the Atlantic nearly five years ago. Merely apply all he wrote about the standoff between musicians and listeners on the one side and the music industry on the other to their counterparts in the realm of film and video, and we'd have a sober reminder that the limits to attaining such heavenliness are not technological but legal. Ironically, that cover story, once free, is now available only to Atlantic subscribers.

George Fasel: "Broadly speaking, my views on John Wayne are not unlike those about [Errol] Flynn: he made something like 175 films (including the early silents in which he was essentially an extra), of which I find no more than a dozen watchable.  But in those twelve, where there was a highly fortunate and rare matchup of script, direction, and a commitment of interest by Wayne, he's as good as any action hero gets and better than many male leads of any sort."

Journey Into Fear "Looks like Welles, feels like Welles... but isn't Welles." Filmbrain on Journey Into Fear.

Let Ben Slater tell you about the half a dozen films he caught at the Singapore International Film Festival.

From Cassavetes to Daredevil? Mike Sterling's found an interesting shot of Ben Carruthers.

Two profiles via Movie City Indie: Miles Fielder in the Scotsman on producer Gillian Berrie, the link between Scottish filmmakers (e.g., David Mackenzie) and Danish filmmakers (the whole Dogme set, basically), and Joey Guerra in the Houston Chronicle on Damian Chapa who, because he has no PR budget to speak of, "has been doing local radio spots, making appearances at nightclubs and distributing fliers at gas stations" to promote El Padrino, a "gritty gangster flick, which stars Jennifer Tilly, Stacy Keach, Faye Dunaway, Gary Busey, Robert Wagner and Brad Dourif."

At the Artful Writer, Craig Mazin has a little advice for screenwriters on dealing with suits.

New York's guide to the movies of summer.

Online browsing tip. Annie Leibovitz's Star Wars photo album. Related: Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle on growing up watching, living and breathing these movies. You can also listen to Jason Calacanis rave about Sith. For quite a while, too.

Online viewing tip #1. "On Hyperlinkage and the Evolution of the Species." Matthew Clayfield's short video goes from zero to 100 in mere minutes. While the notion of information anxiety has been tackled by authors ranging from Robert Saul Wurman to David Shenk, Matt makes an interesting link to a supposed ADD/ADHD epidemic (and he's right to suggest that the jury is still out on this) and proposes that we consider the possibility that a whole new generation may be displaying symptoms of an adjustment that's far healthier than we realize. (And this idea is just a few doors down the hall from Steven Johnson's, actually.) My own hunch, though, is that, if information begins to pose an actual threat economically, we'll turn to technology to nip it in the bud far sooner than actual physical evolution ever could.

Tim Burton: Vincent Online viewing tip #2. "Feeling out of place and ready to leave [Disney], [Tim] Burton was given the opportunity to direct Vincent, a six minute short based on a children’s story he had written. The film is a humorous look at a suburban boy named Vincent who reads Edgar Allen Poe and identifies with horror film star Vincent Price. The studio gave Burton the go ahead after Price read the story and agreed to do the voiceover. Price said later that the film 'was the most gratifying thing that ever happened. It was immortality - better than a star on Hollywood Boulevard.'" At Grey Lodge, via M Valdemar.

Online viewing tip #3. Andy Menconi's Flash animation, "If it ain't broke, don't privatize it!" Winner of the Bush in 30 Years contest. Via Craig Phillips.

Online viewing tip #4. "That guy was a homo as sure as you're alive." Michael Cortese points to video of Pat Robertson during a break in a CNN interview whispering his theory regarding the sexual orientation of all who disagree with him. Via Alternet's Peek.

Online viewing tip #5. "[Some] times you can't for life of you imagine what must have possessed the filmmaker to cut something. This is one of those times." A deleted scene from The Grudge, via Todd and logboy at Twitch (now with a new FAQ).

Posted by dwhudson at 4:42 PM | Comments (2)

Firecracker. 6.

Firecracker now opens with Flashed-up clip from Ong-Bak, reviewed in this new issue by Nick North; Erika Franklin interviews Tony Jaa.

Ong-Bak

There's also "a glance at one of the most vibrant genres in contemporary world cinema," Asian horror - it's a primer of sorts, brisk and bracing - and Robert Williamson revisits Tampopo.

And there's one other theatrical review from North, on The Cat Returns, which can just as well join the robust collection of DVD reviews:

"International reviews":

Posted by dwhudson at 3:47 PM

May 8, 2005

Shorts, 5/8.

Underground With Cannes set to open in a few days, the time is ripe for a full-on profile of the president of the jury, Emir Kusturica. As Dan Halpern drives home in his piece for the New York Times Magazine, there can be no consideration of Kusturica's films without taking into account his role, however reluctant, however distant or indirect, in the wars that rolled across what was once Yugoslavia throughout the 90s: "Kusturica's impulsive self has served him better in his art than in his politics: his recognizable stamp is one of frenzied, raucous energy."

Halpern dutifully lists the accusations that have been thrown at Kusturica and his own counter-arguments:

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek says that Underground is "a mythical Balkans shot for the Western gaze," adding, "it's a film that internalized the Western notion of a crazy nation, where war is simply our nature." (In Zizek's book The Plague of Fantasies, the section on Kusturica is titled "The Poetry of Ethnic Cleansing.")

[...]

[Kusturica's] basic argument was that the West had found a suitable demon and, in order to fit the necessities of a simple narrative, concluded from the one example that all Serbs were minidemons. (In 1999, he claimed that Underground could be understood as "the strongest attack there has been on Milosevic.")

The unique vitality of Kusturica's films will ensure that these arguments simmer on for decades to come; one can only hope, though, that during the festival, Kusturica's band won't be scuffling with Cannes security again.

In the paper:

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

  • Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession is a fantastic documentary about a local cable channel in LA in the late 70s and 80s that'll enthrall, inspire and disturb any cinephile who thinks he'll just dip into it for a few minutes and then realize, as the final credits roll, that it's nearly 3 am (why, yes, I am speaking from experience, and if the generous fellow who made that experience possible is reading, I thank you again). What's more it's the fine work of Xan Cassavetes, that's right, daughter of John, who was recently dining with friends in Hollywood before Z premieres on IFC tomorrow and is screened at Cannes; Monica Corcoran tags along.

  • Charles Isherwood on The Passion of the Crawford at the Zipper Theatre (and evidently extended through May 22): "Most of the movie goddesses who regularly snarl and snap on the CinemaScope screen that is the face of Lypsinka will have to cool their heels for a bit. Miss Joan Crawford has taken up full-time residence on this postmodern billboard, at least temporarily, and she's not looking for co-stars."

  • Daniel J Wakin on a series of recordings coming out from Naxos: "The releases are shining light on the works of a generation of journeyman composers who worked in Hollywood starting in the 1930s."

  • In London, Alan Riding previews that West End adaptation of Billy Elliot.

"So, why do all his characters smoke and drink? Is it because of the nostalgia it evokes, reminiscent of Bogart and Bacall? 'Because this is a subject I know very well,' Wong says. 'And also, it's something that you know is not going to happen for very long. Sooner or later they will say, "No more cigarettes in film."'" Sacha Molitorisz interviews Wong Kar-wai for the Sydney Morning Herald.

That's via the indieWIRE Insider and Ray Pride at Movie City Indie, who points to Michael Wilmington unveiling of "the first edition of the National Society of Film Critics Movie and Video Poll, a weekly chart of rankings and consensus critical picks on the current film scene, covering the latest theatrical and DVD releases, voted on by members of the NSFC." But here's the thing, notes Ray: it's appearing on the Chicago Tribune's Metromix website, right? There's only one member of the NSFC who is not participating, either by choice or... not. And that's Roger Ebert, who is, of course, a film critic and major asset of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Yang Yoon-ho's Fighter in the Wind has Adam Hartzell thinking over the "remasculinization" of Korean cinema. Don't forget to check the news, too, now and then at Koreanfilm.org.

Bram Stoker: Dracula Suppose Jonathan Harker carried a Blackberry-enabled quill? The result might look a lot like Dracula Blogged: "Bram Stoker's vampire novel, published by its own calendar." Via Mindjack Film.

So what's Cannes actually like? A team of Observer writers queries seven Brits who've been, starting with Emily Mortimer.

Death of a Salesman is a Jewish play, runs David Mamet's odd argument, and hence, not "universal." Also in the Guardian: John Patterson lauds Jane Fonda and Andrew Pulver considers another adaptation: Henry Hoyt's The Lost World.

Anthony Kaufman on the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act: "I just love how the bill touts itself as anti-piracy legislation and then allows for what is effectively pirated content: taking movies and then turning them into new products. Isn't this a contradiction? As DGA president Michael Apted told Variety earlier in the year: it's now "perfectly OK for other people to make 15,000 versions of Titanic.'"

Some serious disagreement going on over at the Siffblog regarding Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know.

What are the chances of an Asian not doing kung fu snagging an Oscar next spring? Maybe not too bad, suggests Alison Veneto.

At Twitch, follow news of Kôji Wakamatsu's 17 and Life, a Korean film fest in London, a most unusual animated series, That Scottish Play ("By 'the Scottish play,' I assume you mean..."), Kakurenbo and on and on and on.

Catch up with the week at Cinematical via one single handy entry.

Ears XXI: Duke City Shootout Anyone with a 12-minute screenplay has until June 1 to submit it to Ears XXI. What happens then? A panel of judges and mentors, including Spike Jonze, Peter Fonda, Phillip Kaufman, Tom Waits, Phyllis Diller [!], Patricia Cardoso, Penelope Spheeris and Tony Hillerman, selects the winners who get flown out to New Mexico where waiting crews have one week to turn those screenplays into films. Ears XXI prez Christopher Coppola: "This festival captures the essence of filmmaking, highlighting cutting-edge digital media which is revolutionizing the film industry."

A snapshot of the team behind Beowulf.

For the Coagula Art Journal, Roger Macintosh reviews the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art's "Top 40" show.

Uncle Grambo: "Hands down, by far, without a doubt, dude jones, any way you slice it. Choose your own descriptive introductory clause, Project Greenlight is the best show on tellyvision." More from Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay.

Freevlog 2.0 launches. Via Chuck Olsen.

PES: Kaboom! Online viewing tip #1. The stop-motion animated shorts of PES. Via The Crime in Your Coffee.

Online viewing tip #2. Cinecittà News Bites. In English, via Screenplay Europe by way of Cinema Minima.

Online viewing tip #3. Demos for the Khronos Projector, an interactive art installation. Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip #4. Blaxploitation horror trailers at the Zombie Astronaut. Via M Valdemar.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:58 PM | Comments (2)

May 7, 2005

Summer. Coast to coast.

Long anticipated by Movie City News, the Los Angeles Times seems to have finally made a very smart move, namely, pulling its "Calendar Live" section out from behind the subscribers-only wall. There are still a few bugs in the system, but aren't there always.

Los Angeles Times Just guess-work here, but knocking down that wall seems to have been done in conjunction with the unveiling of the paper's "Summer Sneaks" extravaganza. And wouldn't you know, it also happens to be the same weekend that the New York Times rolls out its seasonal "Movies Special." But first, the LAT:

War of the Worlds

New York Times To the NYT's "Summer Movies" special:

  • AO Scott on the triumph of the superheroes: "Their ascendancy in Hollywood is a triumphal chapter in a 70-year epic during which comic books have moved from the disreputable, juvenile margins of pop culture to its center." In the accompanying audio slide show, Scott points out a few of his favorites.

Batman

More summer previews: The Hollywood Reporter's month-by-month breakdown is similar to those of the two papers', but it's much, much more appealing to the eye than either. And MCN's David Poland reworks a few old taglines for this summer's batch: "After all, the kids won't know the difference..."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:06 AM | Comments (5)

May 6, 2005

Shorts, 5/6.

Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader:

Kira Muratova

The dozen obstinately weird and wild films of Kira Muratova, seven of which are playing this month at the Gene Siskel Film Center, are described by some critics as Russian to the core, and I wouldn't hesitate to call her the greatest living Russian filmmaker. (I'd link Alexander Sokurov's work to the 19th century rather than to the 20th or the 21st.) Yet I'm not entirely sure what "Russian" means these days or how it applies to her.... The more I see, the more complex her talent seems.
Earlier: Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher on his first encounter with a Muratova film and Andrew James Horton on Muratova's The Piano Tuner.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Reader is also offering a guide to the Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival.

On Film-making For 25 years, from the late 60s to the early 90s, Alexander Mackendrick, who'd had more than his fill of Hollywood, taught the practice and philosophy of filmmaking at the California Institute of Arts. "British author and director Paul Cronin has spent the last few years pulling together anything and everything available related to these courses," writes Filmbrain, "as well as conducting extensive interviews with former students of Mackendrick, and the resulting book (On Film-making) and film (Mackendrick on Film) are so utterly vital that it will establish a place for Cronin in the history of cinema." If that sounds like overstatement, read the full post as well as the excerpt from the book Filmbrain points to. Little wonder "Filmbrain found himself walking away [from a screening at Tribeca of two of the seven hours Cronin has put together so far] with newfound inspiration, something that no screenwriting book (or class) has ever come close to achieving."

"Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know and Vît Klusák and Filip Remunda's Czech Dream took top honors this week at the 48th San Francisco International Film Festival." Brian Brooks has the other award-winners as well at indieWIRE.

Nick Rombes revels in one of the "radical possibilities of digital cinema: not the elimination of error, but its embrace."

Tristram Shandy Seeing Code 46 has only made David Lowery all the more anxious to see Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy: "The screenplay was written by Winterbottom's frequent collaborator, Frank Cottrell Boyce, who I recently decided I should pay much more attention to after reading this charming interview [conducted by Roger Ebert]. I'm always quite interested in writers adapting material in untraditional ways, as Boyce did with The Claim (based on Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge) as well.

For PopMatters, Michael Beuning looks back on the BAMcinématek series, "Before and After: Jean-Luc Godard."

Alternet's Jon Frosch notes that the subject matter of Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin is "hardly surprising," but: "What is surprising, given the thinness of his previous work, is how much of a knockout the film is."

Anne Thompson on Matthew Vaughn: "Overnight, it seems, the 34-year-old Brit has leapt from rookie director of the upcoming $7 million gangster flick Layer Cake to A-list director of the latest $100 million X-Men sequel.... But there's more to this rapid career climb than meets the eye."

Revenge of the Sith Also in the Hollywood Reporter: Well... Kirk Honeycutt's review of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, naturally. His and Todd McCarthy's for Variety appeared almost simultaneously. Matt Dentler's seen it, too, and his instant review's pulled in well over 70 comments so far - perhaps a record for an indieWIRE blog?

Two more at Twitch, currently featuring a slew of fresh reviews: Yoji Yamada's The Hidden Blade, MX Oberg's The Stratosphere Girl, Lasse Spang Olsen's In China They Eat Dogs and, yes, Jaume Serra's House of Wax.

Two lists front-load the Guardian's Friday Review: Tim de Lisle lists 40 arguments against Star Wars and Peter Bradshaw previews twelve of what he considers to be the most noteworthy films lined up for Cannes.

Howard Feinstein takes a closer look at one - Last Days - and talks to director Gus Van Sant. Here's where one could add a spoiler warning, but you already know how this one ends. Otherwise: "The individual shots are exceptionally intense. For this, he credits Hungarian director Bela Tarr, whose opus Satantango is a leisurely film with very strong imagery in shots of long duration."

Also: Will Hodgkinson talks music with Robert Downey Jr.

In Elaine Lipworth's conversation with Jeremy Irons, we learn that he's "working on a screenplay" with David Lynch. Co-writing? Probably not. Preparing for a role? Could be. Also in the Independent: Tiffany Rose meets J-Lo and more Cannes previewing from Sheila Johnston.

David Cronenberg The Toronto Star's Peter Howell talks to two fellow countrymen heading to Cannes: David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan. Via Movie City News.

In the London Times, Neil Fisher offers a few Cannes do's and don'ts, while Joanna Hunter gathers the URLs of a few hotels you might consider staying in if you're going to stargaze.

Also: Wendy Ide meets Machuca director Andrés Wood (more on the film from Tim Robey in the Telegraph) and Jonathan Riley-Smith, a professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge, has several bones to pick with Kingdom of Heaven. Separating fact from fiction, he adds, "At a time of inter-faith tension, nonsense like this will only reinforce existing myths."

The New Dance Cinema 2005 series runs on in Seattle through Sunday; Annie Wagner finds "something bracing and delicious about watching dance skillfully choreographed for film." Also in the Stranger: Bradley Steinbacher on Kingdom of Heaven (more from Manohla Dargis in the New York Times) and Andrew Wright on Crash (more from AO Scott in the NYT). More on both - in the same breath! - from Slate's David Edelstein.

Andy Klein (and here's his take on Kingdom) in the LA CityBeat on Los Angeles Plays Itself: "It is hard to imagine anyone who sees this nearly-three-hour documentary not being provoked a) to go rent a bunch of the forgotten or never-known films it shows clips from, b) to argue the issues [Thom] Andersen raises with your friends (or with Andersen, if he happens to be handy), and c) to reconsider all of one's assumptions about Hollywood, film, Los Angeles, and LA." That's right, there's a difference.

Profiles and interviews in the Telegraph: Jasper Rees with Tom Wilkinson, Elizabeth Grice with David Thewlis and Mark Monahan on Anna Chancellor.

The Synoptique team is now blogging? Thanks, Chuck Tryon.

Wiley Wiggins: "I think that there's a pretty serious disconnect between media-dealers and people who watch media. They intend for us to rent culture... when obviously lots of people want to be curators of it. Collection, in a way, is a creative act, and I love looking through my friends collections."

Online listening tip. Screenwriter John August is rewriting a feature called Father Knows Less and not only is he blogging about it, but Variety's Claude Brodesser has been following the development of the project as well on KCRW's "The Business." August rounds up the direct links; via The Artful Writer.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:39 AM

MovieMaker. HOP 5.2.

The latest issue of Moviemaker isn't online yet, but there are fresh "Hands-On-Pages":

  • KJ Doughton speaks with the legend of the bunch: editor Thelma Schoonmaker. This is the sort of conversation movie lovers crook their necks to listen in on. Plus: Three things Schoonmaker's learned over the years.

Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese

Posted by dwhudson at 4:15 AM

May 5, 2005

Shorts, 5/5.

The Guardian's running the full transcript of Geoff Andrew's conversation with Abbas Kiarostami at the National Film Theatre last week. Among the highlights: Solving a problem in Close-Up (for which Kiarostami thanks Mohsen Makhmalbaf, that is, for the problem because it required a solution), ceding control to non-actors, his best friend (his car), and then, this from the audience:

Elena: Kiarostami

I have a question about the quote which appears at the front of the Alberto Elena book. Jean-Luc Godard famously said: "Film begins with DW Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami." What do you feel about this?

AK: This is a very good opportunity for me to talk about this, and I think that Jean-Luc Godard would be very happy for me to make a comment about what he said. This comment was made six or seven years ago after I had made Life And Nothing More. So, therefore, if this book had been published six or seven years ago, he would have been very happy. But he doesn't believe this any more. And in every interview now, with no provocation, he makes a sly comment about me, so I don't think he believes that statement any more. So I correct, on his behalf, what has been said, and hope that he's happy about what I've said. I do think I'm diverting cinema off its course a little bit, especially with Ten.

Then Anthony Minghella hands him an award and they all call it a night.

Also in the Guardian: Kate Stables has seven online viewing tips for you.

Amy Taubin has a new "Art & Industry" column at Film Comment: "Two of the most alive U.S. fiction films in the Tribeca Film Festival are by filmmakers who, perhaps not so coincidentally, graduated from SUNY Purchase in the mid-Eighties." She then talks with John G Young about The Reception and Tim McCann about Runaway.

Cintra Wilson in Salon: "Aside from his obvious physical gifts, [Grégoire] Colin, who began acting on the French stage at age 12, brings something to the screen that American stars can't - range, emotional courage; fascinating choices. Colin takes risks that would paralyze American stars with insecurity."

Brian Brooks parses the just-announced lineup for the Seattle International Film Festival (May 19 through June 12; reviews are already coming in over at Siffblog). Looks like we're all in love with Miranda July and Joan Allen. Also at indieWIRE: Ellen Keohane looks back at Hot Docs (more from Gerald Peary in the Boston Phoenix) and Brandon Judell interviews Gregg Araki.

Dokfest Muenchen DOK.FEST Munich, opening tomorrow and running through May 14, is featuring a retro of some of the best works screened over its 20-year history.

Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix: "Perhaps a return to the transgressive cinema of the young Gus Van Sant, Todd Haynes, and Mary Harron is overdue. But to judge from much of the selection in this year's Gay & Lesbian Film/Video Festival at the Museum of Fine Arts [May 11 through 22], that's not going to happen soon."

More festival news in the Austin Chronicle: Anne S Lewis previews all the entries in the 10 Under 10 shorts fest and Marc Savlov looks ahead to the TriPartIte Film Festival, one night only - tomorrow. And for a good cause, too.

Also in the Chronicle:

Meanwhile, Jette has mixed feelings about Viva Les Amis.

Dennis Cozzalio discovers (or rather, remembers) that there are indeed movies in love with Los Angeles after all.

Crash Speaking of, Crash opens tomorrow and director Paul Haggis has been making the rounds, talking to Sam Adams of the Philadelphia City Paper, where Cindy Fuchs reviews the film, and FX Feeney for the LA Weekly. There, Ella Taylor announces that Crash is "not just one of the best Hollywood movies about race, but, along with Collateral, one of the finest portrayals of contemporary Los Angeles life period." The LAW site also features Joy Mitchell, a sophomore at USC, agreeing - but in moving, personal terms.

Also in the LA Weekly: Scott Foundas on Kingdom of Heaven: "[I]f the compromises are manifold, they're not nearly as many as they might have been, resulting in a tempered, thoughtful piece of mainstream entertainment that few will confuse with Andrei Rublev, but which may nevertheless disappoint those who are expecting Gladiator II - which, in case you haven't caught my drift, I intend as a compliment." More from Keough in the Boston Phoenix, where it's Tom Meek who praises Crash.

Back to the City Paper a moment. Sam Adams has returned to Philadelphia from Tribeca: "People go to film festivals looking for the next big thing, but the head-and-shoulders standout was a two-part tribute to Italian filmmaker Vittorio De Seta, hosted by a garrulous Martin Scorsese."

Steve Silberman's Q&A with George Lucas is having repercussions of the most bizarre sort. Instead of Star Wars fans furious over where he's taken the whole enterprise, it's right-wing bloggers blasting him for not criticizing Michael Moore the right way. No, really. At Cinematical, Karina Longworth has found and followed the threads of surely one of the silliest yet somehow irresistible flurries out there in some time.

George Fasel has considerably more than "a few thoughts" to offer on Michael Powell.

OWLS AT NOON Prelude: The Hollow Men is an installation by Chris Marker, "the first element of a work in progress conceived specifically for The Yoshiko and Akio Morita Gallery" at MoMA. Steve Gallagher has more at Filmmaker.

Darcy Paquet on A Bittersweet Life, screening out of competition at Cannes: "The familiar stylistic traits of director Kim Jee-woon, seen before in A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), The Foul King (2000), and The Quiet Family (1998), can be spotted here in abundance, and yet he has never made a movie quite like this one." Also at Koreanfilm.org: Kyu Hyun Kim on Lee Kyu-hyung's DMZ, "jaw-droppingly inept nostalgic trip through one boy's experience as a fresh military recruit stationed at the North-South border in the late 1970s [and] my choice for the worst South Korean film of 2004."

Online viewing tip #1. Twitch's logboy's found the teaser trailer for Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.

Online viewing tip #2. "Ben's BB's." "Ben" as in "Ben & Jerry's." With a few words about our nuclear arsenal.

Online listening tip. Andrés Soares talks for nearly an hour (so, fair warning: this also nearly a 50MB download) with Roy Windham, a friend of Hedy Lamarr. So you can just imagine what they talk about.

Then, allow this small indulgence: GreenCine figures in two newspaper articles today, Ilana DeBare's on small businesses with blogs in the San Francisco Chronicle and Edward C Baig's on Akimbo in USA Today.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:12 PM

SFIFF. Two recommendations.

The San Francisco International Film Festival wraps tonight with The Dying Gaul and a party. Craig Phillips has two recommendations for you. Catch them if you can.

SFIFF With a move scheduled right smack dab in the middle of this year's San Francisco International Film Festival, I've felt like a spectral presence existing only on the periphery of the event instead of really living it. Next year I hope to be more consistently absorbed in the whole thing. But I've seen some fine films, and hope to see a couple more before it's all over. It's obvious that what the festival lacks in (who cares) premieres, it made up for in a diverse program of international treasures. I only wonder if it might not be better for the SFIFF to consider once again shifting to a different time of year - either much earlier, mid-January perhaps, when the days here are short and wet, and there's no Cherry Blossom fest in the neighborhood to eat up parking, or just a little earlier in the season. At any rate, two films worth seeing...

Up Against Them All

The Brazilian film Up Against Them All (which sounds eerily like "up against the wall") was not surprisingly co-produced by Fernando Meirelles, co-director of City of God (with Kátia Lund, who is frequently forgotten and undercredited), for while it's not quite in that film's league in terms of cinematic virtuosity, it shares with both an immediacy and a depiction of the rampant hopelessness of living in Brazilian urbanity.

Up Against Them All

Director Roberto Moreira explained in an interview that he changed the title from the original "God Against All," which was coined by Mario de Andrade for his book, and was later used by Werner Herzog as the subtitle for his Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (Every Man for Himself and God Against All), he removed it because he thought it inclined the film too much toward religious issues, which was not his intention. However, it's hard to overlook the fact that religion carries a major thread through the film - the woman Teodoro (Giulio Lopes) hopes will save him and take him away from the life of darkness and crime into which he'd fallen is a devout Catholic, characters pray for the ill, and in the film's creepy final scene, recite a line from scripture at a wedding - this may not be City of God, but this place is a city of Jesus, with people scrambling for whatever hope they can amidst the monetary stresses and crime. Tension between Teodoro, his daughter Sonhina, and his second wife, her stepmother, Claudia (the striking Leona Cavalli), forms the triangular plot, as each of them leads a secret life of sorts away from the others - but Teodoro's turn to crime being the most violent, and ultimately leading to the fairly shocking conclusion (although the film definitely gives all the earmarks throughout of being one that likely won't end happily). Dioniso Neto is also great as Teodoro's cohort, but with a greater life, if not hope, still in him, and who also has an affair with Sonhina. While the narrative has some gaps, and the final montage struck me as a bit of a left-field cheat, the film still packs a wallop. Filmed in documentary style, with a single, hand-held camera on location, Up is at once immediate and fresh while also harkening back to Brazil's own Cinema Novo movement, of which City of God could be inspiring a second wave. Despite its connections, Up Against Them All may not see a Stateside release, and that'd be a shame.

Me and You and Everyone We Know

Me and You and Everyone We Know
Miranda July is a lithe presence but that she commands the screen isn't the real surprise of Me and You and Everyone We Know; it's how well she controls things behind the camera. DP Chuy Chavez (who also did excellent DV work on Chuck and Buck) certainly should get some of the credit for the assured look, on HD, but it's July's easy way with the actors, both adult and child, and the delicate handling of the material that won me over. Even though the script features a multi-character overlay, it's not at all Altman territory; the characters whose lives intersect here do so in a closer, less hopeless manner, and it takes a particular interest in the many child characters. The kids are portrayed with kindness and empathy, and even though this perches the film on the edge of cloying, it never crosses over in a film in which even the perversity is good-natured. I'd just seen John Hawkes in Deadwood on DVD, so it was briefly disconcerting to see him a long way from the Old West, but he's quite well-cast as the befuddled just-separated dad of two mixed-raced children who give him the silent treatment and are often one step ahead of him. But it's his scenes with July that carry the most weight, particularly a wonderfully crafted scene in which they've just officially met and are walking down the street to their respective cars, wondering aloud how their lives together would play out with the distance of their walk forming a microcosm for that potential. It's also great to see veteran actress Ellen Geer in a brief but memorable role as a dying woman. The film also features one of the most suspenseful scenes involving a goldfish, ever, and what is certainly one of the funniest internet chat/IM scenes in a film, putting Closer's to shame. Me and You and Everyone We Know could be considered a "small" movie, in a good way, for while it may not offer up a ton of drama, it has a huge heart. It's a film about people trying to communicate with each other and the rest of the planet, managing to be both magical and grounded at the same time. No small feat.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:04 AM

May 4, 2005

Shorts, 5/4.

Miranda July joins the growing number of indie filmmakers who blog. Thing is, she's a delight to read.

David Dylan Thomas, see, who's working on a list of the 50 greatest character actors, is pretty damn funny, while J Alden is ambitious.

Last Days For indieWIRE, Jason Guerrasio reports on five ongoing indie productions. Also: IFP/Los Angeles is now Film Independent, but you can call it FIND. Eugene Hernandez has the story and the story behind the story. Plus: a first peek at Gus Van Sant's Last Days.

"We are approaching the day when the movie itself will constitute the interface to the movie." Nicholas Rombes, who recently edited the book, New Punk Cinema, has launched a blog: Digital Poetics.

"[W]hat could everyday life in Lebanon during the civil war possibly look like in film?" asks Iman Hamam in the Al-Ahram Weekly. "Certainly [Maroun] Baghdadi's Little Wars seems to present an answer to this question." Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau."

Doug Cummings on Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep, now restored and blown up to 35mm (look for it in theaters and on DVD this year): "[I]t deserves every bit of the acclaim it has received as one of the few authentic, sensitive, and complex portraits of inner city black community."

Wajda's trilogy of war films, writes Saul Austerlitz at the New Republic, "is about Poles' World War II experiences, it is also, more clandestinely, about the disasters that came after the war.... A realist in temperament, Wajda loved a well-composed, symbolically weighted frame, and A Generation, much like the films to come, balances the director's desire to realistically depict the war, which demands that the auteur recede to the background, with a stylistic tendency to stage visually impressive, high-contrast set pieces. There is a nightmarish clarity to the imagery in A Generation even in the happy moments." Also: Lee Siegel on the new Kojak.

"[I]t would seem that the contemporary horror rennaisance in Japan just keeps on giving." Howard Peirce has two quick recommendations for you.

Yakuza Eiga asks Patrick Macias ten questions.

2046 at Tribeca James Seo points to a new Flickr group: Wong Kar-wai. "Dig the photos of the locations from WKW films." More: Wong Kar-wai calendars.

Kim Ki-duk round-up in the wake of Jonathan Marlow's interview: Filmbrain approaches The Bow cautiously and Todd at Twitch has news of a release on DVD of Address Unknown in Korea.

In the Korea Times: Kim Tae-jong interviews Song Il-gon (via IFC and Twitch) and Kim Ki-tae reports that Hong Sang-soo's Tale of Cinema has been added at the last minute to the Competition lineup at Cannes. At Twitch, Todd points to the trailer and IndieWIRE has word on half a dozen more recent additions, all out of Competition - and here's another trailer for another headed to Cannes, Wilson Yip's Sha Po Lang, via Twitch.

Did you go to the Tribeca Film Festival at any point during its run? If so, Aaron at Out of Focus would like to know what you thought. Not just the films; the whole experience.

More on Tribeca. Howard Feinstein has a good long look back at the fest at indieWIRE: "Without a doubt, some of the strongest films of the festival were documentaries." Brian Brooks, in the meantime, collects more pix; lots of fun captions with this batch.

And Michael Musto offers another look back; at the fun parts, that is.

Also in the Village Voice:

Woody Allen At Cinematical, Karina Longworth asks, "[D]oes Tribeca want to be more of a trade show, or more of a community event?" Also: That Emanuel Levy piece was one too many for Karina, who leaps to Woody Allen's defense.

The festival circuit wound itself entirely differently a few decades ago and, at Movie City News, Leonard Klady shares a few fond memories before turning to the problem at hand: What should Tribeca do about Cannes?

The SXSWclick Festival (used to be SXSWeb) is now accepting submissions - DVD, VHS or SWF - through June 10. Which is closer than you think.

Steve Rosenbaum lists the audience favorites at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto, which wrapped on Sunday; the Jury, of course, has made its own choices.

Steve Silberman has dropped by to note that the National Film Board of Canada would make Arthur Lipsett's short, 21-87, the one that so impressed George Lucas, available as a DVD on demand. You might want to give them a call.

It's a Disney film, but England is stamped all over it. Even so, Thomas Jones, an editor at the London Review of Books, hasn't seen it yet: "But that, in its way, is true to the spirit of The Hitchhiker's Guide, which, like all the best adventure stories, and the best jokes, relies on a constant sense of deferral."

Theater of the New Ear? "Sound plays" by Joel and Ethan Coen and Charlie Kaufman "with eight extraordinary actors, scripts in hand, joined on stage by a sound-effects artist and a live band to create multiple characters and parallel realities, located somewhere between melodrama and comedy." Those extraordinary actors: Steve Buscemi, Hope Davis, Peter Dinklage, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brooke Smith and Meryl Streep. May 13 at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Jeremy McCarter has the story.

Also in the Guardian:

Heimat

  • Edgar Reitz's Heimat 3, all 680 minutes of it, is headed to British cinemas. Stuart Jeffries asks him about this epic about Germany in the 20th century that Reitz has spent nearly three decades making. More from Gerard Gilbert in the Independent.

  • George Monbiot: "Darwin's Nightmare is an allegorical tale of the exploitation of Africa, and a moving and beautifully filmed portrait of the little fish living in the global pond."

  • Agnes Poirer previews three British films screening at Cannes this year.

  • "Inspired by Bollywood romance and emboldened by wider social freedom, increasing numbers of starry-eyed young Afghans are defying an age-old custom of arranged marriage in favour of 'love marriages'," reports Declan Walsh.

  • Lee Hall breaks down the story of Billy Elliot, year by year.

In the Independent, David Thomson ruminates on the endurance of Death of a Salesman and Jonathan Romney interviews Todd Solondz. In the SFBG, Kimberly Chun does as well (while Johnny Ray Huston reviews Palindromes, calling it "a bracing tonic for these times"), and the page leads right into Dennis Harvey's preview of tomorrow night's screening of George and Mike Kuchar's films that "flabbergasted the gasbags in a downtown art scene that had never quite glimpsed anything like them" back in the early 60s.

Also in the SFBG: Cheryl Eddy on the "tiny self-starter," Fighting Tommy Riley.

"I believe in truth. And in the pursuit of truth." Read and/or listen to Errol Morris on NPR. Via Movie City Indie.

Hugh Davies in the Telegraph: "Nick Hornby has confirmed his status as one of Hollywood's favourite novelists by selling the film rights to his latest book before it has even been published."

For Kamera, Beth Gilligan reviews The Trouble with Men, edited by Phil Powrie, Ann Davies and Bruce Babington.

Those reviled pre-show ads movie theater chains have been forcing on us? James Barron reports that Loews, at least, is going to respond to moviegoers complaints. Not by actually cutting the ads, of course. Heaven forbid. But instead by listing two starting times for each screening, the first as the more or less official starting time, the second denoting the actual start of the actual movie. In the immortal words of Graham Chapman, this is getting altogether too silly.

Also in the New York Times: Stephen Holden on The Girl From Monday, "a weightless, sentimental and intellectually lazy effort from an independent filmmaker whose movies seem increasingly insubstantial" (more: Ed Halter in the Voice), and Manohla Dargis on Writer of O, a doc shot through with "missed opportunities" (more: Jessica Winter in the Voice).

Jism Via the IFC Blog, Rachna Kanwar selects and annotates "The 10 Most Erotic Moments in Hindi Cinema" for the India Times.

George Thomas: "Rediff is polling readers [sic] about which Hollywood films they would like to see remade as Hindi films. Just what we need now: encouragement for the increasingly powerful wave of dumb-me-down prevading the sociosphere."

Know of a remake that beats the original? Add to the list building up at A Girl and a Gun.

"What's the first movie you went to unchaperoned and under your own steam?" asks the cinetrix. "Share. Share."

Following a break-in, Twitch's Todd needs to rebuild his DVD library. Help him out, won't you?

Richard Vernon in Sojourners on the recent wave of horror flicks: "Where does America go to understand how it feels about communism, atomic science, immigration, AIDS, or terrorism? Where it always has - the back row of the movies."

"Craptastic," "turkey" or "film maudit"? In the Nashville Scene, Jim Ridley presents the facts (and yes, a few outstanding opinions) of three cases and leaves it to you to decide: Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Manson Family and Reflections of Evil.

Thomas Groh and Sean Spillane love it: Monstrous Beast.

"It's idiotic to watch State of the Union as a thrill ride and ignore its cultural signals," fumes Armond White in the New York Press.

Edward Jay Epstein, author of The Big Picture: The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood, has another piece in Slate, this one breaking down the numbers on Fahrenheit 9/11. In short, Michael Moore, the Weinsteins and Disney all did very, very well.

Has it been a year already? Happy B-day, Defamer.

In the Hollywood Reporter, Martin A Grove considers the implications of Steven Soderbergh and 2929 Entertainment's plans to release six movies, each in theaters, on DVD and on TV simultaneously.

Martin Mull: Bible Stories Online browsing tip. Paintings by Martin Mull. Yes, that Martin Mull. Via Rashomon.

Online viewing tips #1 and #2. Vloggin'. Today's edition of Rocketboom features Chuck Olsen reporting from the Living Green Expo in Minneapolis and Steve Garfield from Harvard, talking to Steven Johnson about that book. You know the one. Meanwhile, Matthew Clayfield: "So, finally, my first real vlog entry... Lo-fi rocks my world, I guess."

Online viewing tips #3 and #4. "Harlan McCraney." Via Alternet's Peek, also currently pointing to Sarah McLachlan's "World on Fire" video. It cost $15, you know. The remaining $149,985 slotted for the budget went to benefit developing and war-torn nations. Before you roll your eyes, go ahead and actually watch the video.

Online viewing tip #5. Greg Allen notes that the "urban explorer/cinephiles of La Mexicaine De Perforation were featured on Laurent Weil's program, La Semaine du Cinéma Sunday (Dimanche Mai 01) on Canal+." WMV off that page or QT here.

Online viewing tip #6. The trailer for Blush. What is it? Who else could explain but Todd. At Twitch.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:03 PM | Comments (4)

Bright Lights. 48 + 6.

Bright Lights How could Bright Lights Film Journal possibly outdo itself? Take it away, Gary Morris: "Not content with publishing one issue, we've also added the entire contents of the Douglas Sirk print issue of Bright Lights from the halcyon winter of 1977-78." What's more, "we've also added two associate editors to the roster, BL regulars Megan Ratner and Robert Keser. They join Alan Vanneman in this exalted status." Before sampling the "köstliches Festmahl" of the new issue, then, back to 1977, when Gary Morris wrote, "This is our first issue dedicated to a single director. Douglas Sirk was the logical choice."

The floor is then yielded to Andrew Sarris. What's appealing about this piece is the immediate and open admission to his early prejudices against Sirk before he came around to appreciating that "oblique art of mirrors and windows and compassionate contemplation." He doesn't say exactly when that happened, but in 1977, he's still defending that appreciation. In other words, the critical establishment was still playing by strict rules in the States, whereas much earlier in Europe, as Sarris notes, "there sprung up in a new generation of film critics a desire to analyze films stylistically rather than thematically." Just as a point of reference, though, Fassbinder, who had a hand in a Sirk retrospective back in 1971, had by this point already managed to marry melodrama and (relatively) radical politics.

There's Always Tomorrow It's Jean-Loup Bourget who clarifies several of the questions raised by Sarris's piece by starting over and tracing the various intertwining strands of critical reception before staking out his own position: "To a large extent, the artist is a medium, not a demiurge." In short, Sirk's a-okay. In a second piece, Bourget notes the difficulty of sorting through what in his films is "personal" and what is simply part and parcel of the assignment.

"Sarris must be given credit for calling attention to Sirk at all and for suggesting that his films are best apprehended by seeking a dialectic between the subject matter and the director's execution," acknowledges Stephen Handzo; at the same time, he's got a bone to pick with Sarris over his definition of "hilarity."

Robert E Smith guides us along a slow, downward spiral as love fades from Sirk's oeuvre. Jeanine Basinger considers the "re-interpretation of romantic myths" in There's Always Tomorrow and All I Desire.

Clips of comments from screenwriter George Zuckerman and producer Albert Zugsmith make for a nice bridge to the big payoff, Jane and Michael Stern's long talks with Sirk himself.

Departing Switzerland, we crossfade to the new issue, and personally, I was drawn right away to Stephen M Glaister's attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of AI. Good on Glaister: "AI emerges as coherently engaged with complex and decidedly unschmaltzy ideas and arguments, making it, in all likelihood, the most explicitly philosophical mainstream film since 2001." That might be overstating the case, but the film has been so unjustifiably maligned, a little pendulum-swinging is excusable, especially when conducted in the spirit that allows for a bit like this: "Before moving on to our AI primer, some rules of the game for this essay: Save the Spielbricking for later..."

Because Gary Morris's regular feature, "Little Stabs of Happiness (and Horror)," a collection of brief reviews, always pulls up the tail end of the TOC of each issue, I usually mention it last, too; that hardly seems fair.

Another regular feature: "Distribute This!" Tom Sutpen makes the case for Allen Baron's Blast of Silence. And the "revival room," you'll find Paul Brand on Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death.

Articles:

Bright Lights

  • Alan Vanneman: "One suspects that Fred Astaire was almost as grateful for Easter Parade in 1948 as we are today." Also: "Writers for [Have Gun, Will Travel] projected all their fantasies on Paladin: he was a man who had been everywhere and done everything, the fastest gun in the West, to be sure, but with an eye for bone china, an ear for Mozart, and a wardrobe to die for."

  • Sutpen: Over 40 years on, The Servant "remains a far more subtle, less baldly allegorical work than critics and some audiences first surmised." Also: "Portrait of Jason, for those like me who weren't around back in '67 for the halcyon days of the New American Cinema, is a black-and-white, 16mm, 105-minute film wherein a bespectacled, aging African-American hustler, looking dapper in a white shirt and blue blazer, rehearses his life, times, ambitions, and philosophies of livin' before a single camera that does its best to keep up with him and often succeeds quite beautifully..."

  • Subtitles on, subtitles off. Boris Trbic considers various ways of reading a film in a language other than your own.

  • Jane Fonda's crowning achievement? Klute, argues Dan Callahan: "The performance is an agony and an exorcism; every scene is a tour-de-force, filled with discomforting rawness and danger."

Festivals: Megan Ratner finds that, "Overall, this Berlinale felt transitional, with Asia the source of the most provocative and original work." And looking back on the 3rd Chicago International Documentary Film Festival, Robert Keser wonders, "What's driving this renaissance?" Of the doc, that is. Also, the 8th European Union Film Festival is where Keser caught Resnais's Not on the Lips, "a confection from the dessert trolley, sweet with generosity for his characters who accept each others' foibles until they finally sort themselves out into three couples, and flawlessly paced until all misunderstandings resolve in harmony."

Reviews:

Dinner at Eight

Posted by dwhudson at 2:33 AM

May 3, 2005

(Artbreak.)

Daumenkino The flip book gets its first comprehensive exhibition at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf from May 7 through July 17: "The main focus of the exhibition is upon flip books by contemporary artists and filmakers, such as John Baldessari, Robert Breer, Tacita Dean, Elliott Erwitt, Julia Featheringill, Jårg Geismar, Volker Gerling, Gilbert & George, Douglas Gordon, Keith Haring, Sabine Hecher, William Kentridge, Sigrun Köhler, Eric Lanz, Jonathan Monk, Bruce Nauman, Stephanie Ognar, Tony Oursler, Dieter Roth, Miguel Rothschild, Jack Smith, Beat Streuli, Andy Warhol and Janet Zweig amongst others."

"If there is a Thai equivalent of Gesamtkunstwerk, [Apichatpong] Weerasethakul's cinema is it," writes James Quandt in Artforum. It's a wonderful piece. Besides his unpacking of that statement and the Q&A beginning on the third page, here's Quandt on the "modus" of a filmmaker steeped in "Bruce Baillie and Andy Warhol... Thai soap operas and ghost stories, love songs, talk shows, children's tales, and Buddhist fables":

... to turn everyday objects and images into the ineffable and enigmatic, inhabitants of a phantom zone where the hard, "real" world of cars and bodies and buildings cedes dominion to a magical realm of reverie and desire. There, all is fleeting, elusive, and mutant: Stories morph, change course, or start over; genre slips moment to moment from fiction to fantasy to documentary; characters shift shape, male to female, human to animal, extraterrestrial to earthling, and what they report is often unreliable; time becomes suspended, and setting ebbs from landscape into dreamscape.

Also in Artforum: TJ Demos on the exhibition, "Slide Show," at the Baltimore Museum of Art through May 15.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:27 AM | Comments (3)

May 2, 2005

Udine Dispatch. 7.

Koreanfilm.org contributor Adam Hartzell wraps up his coverage of the 7th Udine Far East Film Festival with an overview of the state of Filipino cinema and quick takes on one film from Japan and another from Korea.

To Catch a Virgin Ghost From Kong Soo-chang's war/horror genre mélange R-Point to Shin Jung-won's comedy/horror genre mash To Catch a Virgin Ghost. A gangster breaks off from his gang and steals already stolen jewels. An accident places him at the mercy of a farming community. A silly turn of events transpires and he ends up unconscious, with one of the diamonds up his nose. The farmers conspire to take advantage of this opportunity, but unbeknownst to them, the gang is on their way to retrieve what was wrongfully theirs.

These gangsters soon find out that all is not as it seems in this farming community, signaled by the presence of a "virgin ghost" (hence the English title; the Korean title of the film translates roughly as "The Town Where Time Is Lost - 2 Kilometers," as in a road sign pointing to said town.) I, and the Italian crowd around me, found this film funny and scary enough to feel this sunny morning screening was well spent. One of the more humorous, and endearing, moments is when the main gangster (Im Chang-jung) sits down to have a chat with our virgin ghost (Im Eun-gyung). Not a perfect film, but just enough mixture of both genres to satisfy nearly two million Korean viewers in the summer of 2004.

Feng Shui

Mr. Suave, a film I wrote about in my second dispatch, also did quite well with its home country's audience and with this Udine crowd. Although director Joyce Bernal said she didn't like Mr. Suave and I found the film too ridiculous to enjoy for long, the crowd at Udine rated it very highly, making it one of the more popular films early on. On Thursday, there was a forum for the two Filipino directors at the festival, Bernal and Feng Shui director Chito S. Roño (whose horror film I did not see), to talk about their films and the state of Filipino cinema. The state is not that great. Particularly disheartening, noted by Roño, is the fact that, during the festival, the film processing company, LVN, closed up shop. There are two processing companies still remaining, but all on the panel (which included the curator of the Filipino films, Roger Garcia) agreed that they could not approach the quality of LVN. Roño expounded on the further problems facing Filipino cinema, saying that TV, coupled with current economic conditions, is a major source of their troubles. Stars receive too much exposure on TV and people will forgo seeing a star in a film at extra cost when they can simply watch them on a soap later that evening for free.

One of the questions asked of all the attendees this year was about censorship in their respective countries. Whereas Roño said he has yet to come across much censorship, Bernal shared that she had experienced a lot of censorship of her "sexy movies", or sex comedies. She would often be required to remove scenes or have major dialogue changed.

In the San Francisco Bay area, many Filipino-Americans artists are responsible for making the city such an exciting cultural space. The San Francisco hip hop scene is quite influenced by such artists. Not that familiar with Filipino cinema, I was curious if there has been much involvement with the diaspora since there are so many talented individuals with which to collaborate. Roño said that there have been some attempts, but for the most part, the productions haven't been fruitful.

Following up on this question, Roland Domenig, an Austrian specialist on Japanese Cinema who also does subtitling in German for Japanese films such as Takeshi Kitano's Dolls, asked for the directors' comments about the possibilities for a Pan-Asian cinema aesthetic. This was a very interesting question, considering Erik Matti's comments in his essay that was part of this year's program.

Pa-Siyam.jpg Matti's film Pa-Siyam was screening this year but he was not in attendance. When he attended Udine two years ago, he said, "Looking at the Korean or Chinese movies makes me jealous of their work. Their movies are true to their cultures, but with a very strong universal theme that holds their stories." Realizing what Filipino films were lacking, he exclaimed to himself, "Shit, I have to do something fresh and universal, too!" Moreover, as I mentioned before, Joyce Bernal was quite affected by the Korean film A Family (Lee Jung-chul, 2004). Plus, she had said she greatly enjoyed Park Chul-soo's Green Chair. So it appears that we may eventually see the effects, thematically and aesthetically, across Asia of this yearly festival at Udine which brings all these Far East Asian directors together who might not normally network with each other. As for working collaboratively with other artists across Asia, Roño didn't see this happening with Filipino film presently. However, films at this festival, such as Pang Ho-cheung's AV, show that Pan-Asian production possibilities are there.

Kamikaze Girls I finished off the festival with Kamikaze Girls (Nakashima Tetsuya, 2004) and Flying Boys (Byun Young-joo, 2004). Kamikaze Girls was wonderfully stylish and, in spite of the tangential trajectories of the plot, Nakashima always seemed to bring us back to this strange place on earth. Based on a novel by Novala Takemote, Momoko (Fukada Kyoko) is a girl immersed in baby doll fashions and Rococo stylings who finds herself cut off from her beloved fashion center, Daikanyama in Tokyo, when her father is forced to move to a Japanese farming town. She meets a Japanese girl-gangster named Ichigo (Tsuchiya Anna) who drives a seriously souped-up scooter and much of the plot revolves around Momoko fighting off this friendship - not because Ichigo is a gangster, but because Momoko values her loner status. The film wonderfully investigates the meaning behind the Japanese fashion alignments that befuddle many Westerners. This is all done while refusing to fetishize the girls and while challenging assumptions about group-think amongst Asian cultures. This is the type of film that American distributors would stay away from because it's not what they would expect from a Japanese film, but with the right marketing, I don't see why it wouldn't do well. It did so well, in fact, with the Udine crowd that it was the second highest vote-magnet for the Audience Award, finishing behind Gu Changwei's Peacock.

Flying Boys Flying Boys, however, did not fly at Udine, possibly due to the randomness of the plot at times. The story follows Min-jae (Korean pop star Yun Gye-sang making his film debut) during his final year of high school, a very stressful time for all Korean youths as they prepare to take their college entrance exams. Min-jae is quite implausibly extorted into taking ballet lessons. He stays on when he discovers his crush, Su-jin (Kim Min-jeong), has also been forced to take the class. In Su-jin's case, her mother imposes the classes upon her due to her anxieties about Su-jin's sexuality. The film offers enough interesting takes on gender roles and sexuality - plus a genre-defying scene during the ballet performance - that I found it enjoyable. But that's just peculiar to my own interests in South Korean films. I realize that the film failed for the most part to create a sustainable, entertaining story.

That was my last film at Udine; since my flight home was in the early afternoon, so I only had time for interviews in the morning. The festival was a successful one for me again, primarily due to my reporting here at GreenCine and interviewing the three South Korean directors present. Udine provides a unique space even amongst the world's many Asian film festivals since it insists on highlighting much of what has been popular or marketed for mainstream audiences. Because of this focus, Udine will often bring directors who have never been invited to festivals before, such as Joyce Bernal this year and Mo Ji-eun (A Perfect Match, 2002) from South Korea two years ago, providing these directors with the experience of judging responses to their films from audiences outside their own countries. Udine's audience seems to be particularly geared to appreciate a wide variety of films, as noted by the films that fell into their top ten, from serious films (Xu Jinglei's Letters from an Unknown Woman and the Audience Award-winner Peacock) to comedies (Kamikaze Girls), actioners (Ryu Seung-wai's Arahan) and melodramas (A Family). Although I am concerned about how big the festival is becoming (as demonstrated by how limited interviewing times are now; no more than 15-20 minutes), I am still able to locate a seat easy enough, if not one from the best viewing angle. But this only underscores the different perspectives Udine throws me into as a town off the beaten tourist track and a festival outside of highbrow demands.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:43 PM | Comments (1)

Shorts, 5/2.

JLG "I doubt that many young people, whatever their admiration for Godard of today or yesterday, have any sense of the electricity which each new release of roughly 1960-67 sent through his audiences," writes George Fasel. "I didn't doubt then that those years were the most creative, imaginative, innovative, stimulating, and original run that any director - any director, ever - has enjoyed, and a selective viewing of the releases from those years has done nothing to change my mind." What follows is a subjective tour of those years, a vital primer for anyone who hasn't yet gotten around to looking into what all the fuss is about or, for those soaking in it, a vantage point from which to look back and reconsider "those early years, that burst of creativity and energy and joy - even with all the deaths, even with all the gloom - he gave us."

The Tribeca Film Festival wrapped yesterday and its page announcing the award-winners is particularly fine - each title is linked to its own little page.

More Tribeca:

Speaking of winners, André Soares not only points to the winners of this year's David di Donatello Awards (shorthand: Italian Oscars, sort of) but also links to reviews of six of them at his Alternative Film Guide.

There are a couple of weeks to go before the marathon known as the Seattle International Film Festival opens (May 19 through June 12), but Tablet has already launched Siffblog, where, courtesy of NP Thompson, you can see what a contrarian's view of Head-On looks like.

Deep Focus Film Festival David Cornelius previews the Deep Focus Film Festival (May 5 through 8 in Columbus). Also at Hollywood Bitchslap, book reviews: Charles Tatum on Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon II and Matthew Bartley on Peter Biskind's Down and Dirty Pictures.

"Mumblecore"? Leave it to a sound guy; it just might work. Context: At indieWIRE, Michael Koresky asks Funny Ha Ha director Andrew Bujalski, "Are there other directors working today with sensibilities that you find harmonize with your own in their final product?" Part of the answer: "My new film, Mutual Appreciation, premiered at South by Southwest, and there was some talk there of a 'movement' just because there were a bunch of performance-based films by young quasi-idealists. My sound mixer, Eric Masunaga, named the movement 'mumblecore,' which is pretty catchy."

Everyone's intrigued - and understandably so - by the announcement that Richard Linklater is set to direct Catalina Sandino Moreno in an adaptation of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay seems to have the most info for non-Variety subscribers.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown More coming-soon news via Karina Longworth at Cinematical: Pedro Almodóvar has cast Penélope Cruz and Carmen Maura in his next one, Volver, "a generational comedy about three women who travel from Spain's south to Madrid seeking a better life."

Doug Cummings admires Orson Welles's essay film, F for Fake. Two footnotes for those who receive TCM: May is Welles month, but May 5, as Flickhead points out, is Buñuel day.

So here comes Paul Schrader's Exorcist prequel, Dominion. Dave Kehr suggests that a "simultaneous, side-by-side screening" along with Renny Harlin's Exorcist: The Beginning "could provide fodder for a textual analysis of the auteur theory, with almost identical material yielding wildly different results in the hands of two tempermentally opposed artists."

Also in the New York Times:

Anyone who doubts that promoting a movie is hell is kindly referred to Lillian Ross's record of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith's New York stopover. Wonder if they ever made it to Tiffany's. Oh, the movie, by the way, is Ladies in Lavender. Also in the New Yorker: Anthony Lane is impressed by neither Kingdom of Heaven, the "politically nervous" "damp gust" nor The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; and John Lahr: "Everything that's wrong with [the Roundabout Theatre production of A] Streetcar [Named Desire] - the casting, the rhythm, the attention to detail - is right in Joe Mantello's pitch-perfect revival of David Mamet's majestic Glengarry Glen Ross (at the Royale)."

Gael García Bernal is in London to perform in a new version of Lorca's Blood Wedding. Kate Kellaway meets the "sensationally handsome pixie." Also in the Observer: Anthony Haden-Guest sorts through Brando's stuff.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Hugh Hart interviews Arnaud Desplechin. Via Movie City Indie.

At Film Threat, Sean McCarthy has a good long talk with Malcolm McDowell.

Think about it... "Is there a movie that's in love with Los Angeles?" asks Dennis Cozzalio.

Leadbelly Online browsing tip. And possible bookmark, too. Rex Sorgatz has found what so far looks to be a terrific new blog: Posterwire.com. That's right, posters. And commentary on posters. Love it.

Online viewing tip. The only known film appearance by Leadbelly. 1945. edited by Pete Seeger. At iFilm, via Salon's "Audiofile."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:46 AM

May 1, 2005

Filmmaker. Spring 05.

Mysterious Skin Kicking off the online offerings from the new issue of Filmmaker, Peter Bowen asks Gregg Araki first what he's been up to in the six years since Splendor and second all about the making of Mysterious Skin: "I wanted it to be a gorgeous aesthetic experience, to feel like a Wong Kar-wai or a Terrence Malick movie in its visual splendor." Cam Archer talks with the film's stars, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet.

Introducing his interview, Matthew Ross reminds us of the commitment with which Todd Solondz has stuck to his aesthetic guns.

Scott Macaulay:

Expertly capturing the almost surreal quality of Enron's corporate culture and the near insane behavior of its leaders, director Alex Gibney's new film is a compelling human drama, a tale of hubris writ large. And if that were the end of it, I'd recommend Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room simply for its entertainment and historical value. But when the Bush administration is out there touting Social Security privatization, when deregulation and reliance on the free market are promoted as economic panaceas and when some of the biggest players in Enron's rigged games were held only minimally accountable, it's clear that the lessons conveyed by this engrossing and necessary picture are ones we still need to learn.

What follows is a discussion with Gibney and Bethany McLean, co-author of the book the film's based on. One of the reasons Enron is so powerful is that it has a single compelling story to tell and it sticks to it. Fahrenheit 9/11, on the other hand, successful as it was in riling the emotions in a way the Democrats could not, seems in hindsight like a scattershot blast against an administration so broadly offensive on so many different fronts. Now, in the wake of last November's election, many indie filmmakers are reconsidering their strategies, on both a personal and professional level, as Reed Martin, who's talked to several of them, discovers. In a sidebar, Fisher Stevens looks back on his own efforts to swing Ohio into blue territory and considers ways to apply the lessons of losing to winning in 2008.

Alan Jacobson's talk with filmmaker Rusty Nails about securing music rights has been noted earlier, but there it is.

Filmmaker: Spring 05 Mary Glucksman returns with her terrific regular feature, a look at independent films currently in production. Five new ones this time.

Anyone hoping to break into games should check out Graham Leggat's piece.

Quick reports:

Posted by dwhudson at 7:11 AM