June 30, 2006

Slate. "Summer Movies Week."

More goings on during Slate's "Summer Movies Week": Walter Hill, Joe Dante and John Milius "are not doddering codgers, but individuals in late middle age who would still have been working regularly under the regimes of the old moguls, who knew the value (economic and artistic) of experience," writes Dave Kehr. Earlier he the piece, he observes:

Gertrud

Many film buffs have a special affection for the late works of the masters, even when those films - like Hawks' Rio Lobo (1970) or Ford's 7 Women (1966) - lack the obvious appeal of their midcareer work. These wintry films often have a stark, pared-down quality, a sense of cutting to the essence, that can be tremendously moving - at the same time, they seem a bit sketchy and remote. The glow of seeing Carl Theodor Dreyer's startlingly direct Gertrud, made in 1964 when the great Danish director was 75, temporarily makes all other movies look sentimental and overfurnished.

Slate asks a slew of directors, critics, a producer, an editor, "What movie have you seen the most?" For Paul Schrader, for example, it's Pickpocket; Albert Maysles, Rocco and His Brothers; Jonathan Rosenbaum, Playtime.

A Scanner Darkly In Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly, writes Joshua Glenn, "audiences may finally catch a glimpse - even if through a glass darkly - of the director's own paradoxical worldview, one in which slacking is not only a form of political activism but the only possible activism." Related: Stuart Klawans in the Nation: "By cutting to the story's political core, Linklater has given A Scanner Darkly the coherence the book never had, and he has done so without diminishing [Philip K] Dick's scattershot brilliance - which is to say, his life.... A Scanner Darkly is funny, unnerving, astonishing, urgent. It's my kind of summertime special-effects extravaganza."

Christopher Kelly argues that "while [Larry] Clark might very well be a pornographer, a hypocrite, and whatever else you want to call him, he's also the only American director working today whose work reckons with the complexities of our current generation of MySpace exhibitionists, and especially the way so many young people today seem to relish their own exploitation." Related: Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly: "If Crash grew a pair of cojones, it might look something like Larry Clark's cheerfully defiant Wassup Rockers." More from JR Jones in the Chicago Reader.

Feng Xiaogang: Cell Phone Tim Wu explains why we'll "likely see less funding [in China] for films that Chinese people enjoy - like those of director Feng Xiao-Gang, filled with quirky Chinese humor - and more movies designed for American tastes (kung-fu aplenty). For better or for worse, it's less beating Hollywood than serving it."

There are many reasons the big-budget historical epic is falling out of favor in Hollywood, and Ross Douthat explores several. Basically, though, "The studios had the technology, it turned out, but lacked the vision thing."

Grady Hendrix breezes through an amusing history of novelizations, their rise, their fall, and quite possibly, their rise again.

And poor Bryan Curtis sorts through that damn list I've previously struggled to avoid even mentioning and concludes, "It's a vicious cycle of inspiration, spanning decades. And it's enough to make anyone a cynic."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:58 PM

The Motel.

The Motel "Like the best independent films, The Motel realizes that life is made up of minor pleasures and tiny epiphanies, not sweeping character arcs or big dramatic moments," writes Nathan Rabin at the AV Club.

"Michael Kang's modest Sundance applause reaper, doesn't deserve to be shotgunned for the sins of 30 other movies," writes Michael Atkinson. "But the underwhelming syncopation of make-nice clichés is too familiar."

Stephen Holden in the New York Times: "With a running time of only 76 minutes, The Motel knows its modest place in the cinematic scheme of things. The drama, such as it is, stems not from any conventional plot, but in the accruing of small, telling details that sustain a feeling of lives in suspension."

Earlier: Greg Pak talks with Kang and producer Karin Chien.

Updates, 7/1: Andrew O'Hehir: "All the ingredients of this coming-of-age fable are individually familiar, but you rarely see them come together so well."

For Cinematical's Martha Fischer, The Motel is "an effective, biting look at a typically dreadful childhood that leaves us both depressed and thankful that we survived those years intact."

Update, 7/2: The Reeler: Kang "eschews melodrama for a kind of weighted whimsy (Sam and Ernest leaping around a rural road shouting "I want to be happy!") and broaches assimilation only inasmuch as the motel represents a humane (if low-rent) cosmopolis."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:36 AM

Who Killed the Electric Car?

Who Killed the Electric Car? "Fast and furious, Who Killed the Electric Car? is, in brief, the sad tale of yet one more attempt by a heroic group of civic-minded souls to save the browning, warming planet," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "As [director Chris] Paine forcefully makes clear, the story of the electric car is greater than one zippy ride and the people who loved it. From the polar ice caps to Los Angeles, where many cars truly are to die for, it is a story as big as life, and just as urgent."

At Grist, Hannah Eaves talks with Paine; one of the exec producers, Dean Devlin; former electric-vehicle sales rep Chelsea Sexton; "and Sexton's husband, Bob, who helped launch Saturn before becoming the go-to technician for EV owners." More from David Roberts.

Updated through 7/2.

"[T]hough its expose style precludes nuance, it packs a wallop," writes Kristi Mitsuda, kicking off Reverse Shot's round of reviews at indieWIRE.

"Much like a 60s European art film, the EV-1 had a limited but passionate audience," writes Steve Erickson for Gay City News. The doc "predicts a bipartisan coalition of electric car proponents storming the auto industry's gates. These good vibes are a little forced; I wasn't surprised to learn that its cheerful coda was added after the film's Sundance premiere."

In the New York Press, Jennifer Merin calls the doc "a first-rate detective story, well executed, with real social and political conviction."

But the AV Club's Nathan Rabin finds that Paine's "attempts to sweeten his message with pop-culture playfulness feel a little strained."

Rob Nelson in the Voice: "Another few of these squandered opportunities for art-house muckraking and we'll need someone to ask who killed the left-wing documentary."

Update, 7/1: Salon's Andrew O'Hehir: "By the end of Who Killed the Electric Car? you'll be worked into a lather one way or another. Paine crams in more theories, ideas and arguments than the movie can easily hold, but that's OK with me. He sees the Bush administration's hydrogen fuel-cell initiative as an enormous pie-in-the-sky scam, designed to buy the oil industry still more decades of hegemony, and suggests that while the electric car is dead for the moment, it isn't buried."

Update, 7/2: Jim Emerson finds the perfect quote.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:56 AM | Comments (1)

The Devil Wears Prada.

The Devil Wears Prada "For the legions who have suffered the caprice and cruelty of a tyrannical boss, The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger's best-selling roman à clef about a bright young woman's brief period of servitude at a fashion magazine, provides the satisfaction of vicarious payback," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "With her silver hair and pale skin, her whispery diction as perfect as her posture, [Meryl] Streep's Miranda inspires both terror and a measure of awe.... And the movie, while noting that she can be sadistic, inconsiderate and manipulative, is unmistakably on Miranda's side.

Rebecca Traister concurs:

[W]e welcome this summer flick with open arms and find ourselves unexpectedly embracing not the heroine with the heart of gold but the harridan with the soul of steel.

Updated through 7/5.

For all its basic adherence to backlash tropes of the past two decades - the frosty, ill-tempered, exacting, petty, socially dysfunctional female honcho who can't keep her personal life together - The Devil Wears Prada manages to present one of the most nuanced lady bosses ever to grace the silver screen. Devil's presentation of a woman chief who is more than a bloodless billboard on which to project all our anxieties about femininity and professional power may mean that Hollywood has finally come a short way, baby. It has figured out, in an era of Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Meg Whitman, how to show us a woman boss who is not a phantasmagorical figure but someone most of us have met, some have worked for, and many are on their way to becoming.

Also in Salon, Stephanie Zacharek assumes the film "is probably supposed to be half fashion fantasy, half satire of the fashion world. What a drag that it's not enough of either."

Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times: "Anna Wintour must be pleased.... [I]t's very clear on who's the star of the show. A serious improvement on the tantrum that inspired it, the movie is funnier and more evenhanded in its point of view. If living well is the best revenge, then being portrayed by Meryl Streep in peak comic form has got to run a close second."

"It's easy to imagine the way most studios would have made the movie: as a broad romantic comedy, where the plucky young heroine not only lands the guy in the end, but gets back at her wicked, evil boss, too," writes Anne Thompson in the Hollywood Reporter. "But that's not what Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler had in mind."

"As adapted by Aline Brosh McKenna, The Devil Wears Prada is crisper, less self-righteous and mercifully shorter than its intermittently funny but interminable source," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly.

Writing in Premiere, Aaron Hillis finds the film "as grossly anti-feminist as the fashion biz itself."

J Hoberman in the Voice: "Streep is the scariest, most nuanced, funniest movie villainess since Tilda Swinton's nazified White Witch." The AV Club's Keith Phipps even finds it "tempting to applaud at the end of her scenes."

Rob Nelson in the City Pages: "This is the umpteenth Hollywood movie about a purportedly talented writer that never bothers to show us anything she wrote. Still, as the line between advertising and editorial grows thinner than this year's model, maybe our heroine has all she needs. In the end, [director David] Frankel cranks up the pop as Andy [Anne Hathaway] works the rush-hour crosswalk, suggesting that the path from Park Avenue to the Pulitzer is just another runway."

David Edelstein in New York: "If there's any drama here, it's slender—maybe a size 2." Adds Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat: "There is not a surprising moment in David Frankel's film, but it goes down easily enough."

Vue Weekly's Josef Braun finds it "a little too blitzed with fussy montages and perky pop songs, but the film manages to coast entertainingly on some of the funniest sequences in a mainstream comedy this year."

The Stranger's Annie Wagner: "A Hollywood movie, I would argue, can do satire, but it can't usually do personal or dishy."

Updates: For the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, this is "a film that reveals an entire vibrant and sleazy world that most viewers would never have a hint of... To watch it is like being entertained while getting an anthropological crash course."

And it's "a tremendous pleasure to watch," writes Dana Stevens at Slate, even if "Andy's great descent into the ethical underbelly consists of not being the sweetest and most self-sacrificing person on-screen." Also, a rerun of Amanda Fortini's defense of Anna Wintour. Fresher Fortini on the fashion in the film: "More remarkable than what the film gets wrong is how much it gets right."

Update, 7/1:: Along similar lines, Ruth La Ferla checks with insiders for the NYT: "'The hair, the clothes, the furs, the handbags, the editor's apartment, it's very much the heyday of the 80s, which was our flashiest moment to date,' said Tiffany Dubin, a former curator of vintage fashion for Sotheby's. Those elements prompted Ms Dubin to dismiss the film's style with the fashionista's ultimate putdown: 'The people in it are trying a little too hard.'"

Roger Ebert gives the film a mere two stars.

Cinematical's Ryan Stewart: "[T]he movie is a throw-back; a dip of cotton-candy Americana so antiquated that Frank Capra could easily have spun a similar yarn and wrapped it around goings-on at the Bedford Falls newspaper."

Updates, 7/2: A "war movie the likes of which we've never quite seen before," announces Christopher Kelly in the Star-Telegram. "[T]his war will go on being waged: for as long as women want and demand what's rightly theirs; for as long as a glass ceiling exists; and for as long as tough cookies like Andy Sachs and Miranda Priestly keep boldly trying to smash their way through it."

MaryAnn Johanson: "Streep makes Miranda instantly one of the classic, iconic Hollywood villains."

"Meryl Streep vs Duct Tape" at Fametracker. Via Nathaniel R.

Updates, 7/5: Tom Hall: "[W]hen Andrea ultimately walks away from her job, I couldn't help but wonder if she was walking away because she recognized that she shared Miranda's ambitions or if she was rejecting Miranda's values altogether? I think the movie intended to make the latter point, but I don't believe it for a minute."

"In all, this has to be the most devastating boss-lady performance in the history of cinema," writes David Denby in the New Yorker. "By comparison, Faye Dunaway's hysterics in Network come off as amusing freak-outs, and Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl is a coarse, leather-lunged shouter."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:33 AM | Comments (1)

Superman Returns.

"Last seen larking about on the big screen in the 1987 dud Superman IV, the Man of Steel has been resurrected in a leaden new film not only to fight for truth, justice and the American way, but also to give Mel Gibson's passion a run for his box-office money," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Where once the superhero flew up, up and away, he now flies down, down, down, sent from above to save mankind from its sins and what looked like another bummer summer." Superman Returns is a "considerably more sober sequel to the first two films, one that shakes the earthiness off Superman and returns him to the status of a savior."

Superman Returns

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest may be poised to have the biggest opening in the history of movies, but we decided to lavish attention on a quiet little picture called Superman Returns." Slate introduces its "Summer Movies Week":

Updated through 7/7:

  • Dana Stevens: "Superman is such a hopeless goody-two-shoes, so filial and hardworking and clean-living, that awaiting the next installment of his adventures is like looking forward to the Sunday-school picnic."

  • Kim Masters: "As it became clear that many of Warner's summer 'event' movies were iffy, Superman Returns was supposed to be the sure thing. But considering the expense of making the picture, it has to do huge numbers just to come out OK. And it needs to do more than come out OK."

  • Troy Patterson: "Among the charms of Lois Lane - always a tough dame and yet forever a damsel in distress - is the elegant way she reflects Superman's kinks and its ideas of womanhood."

Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Press: "Where most comic book movies are paradoxically inclined to make their points verbally - bulldozing heaps of raw data in our faces, a la The Matrix movies, Batman Begins and [Bryan] Singer's own X-Men films - Superman Returns is conceived as a visionary spectacle, a series of mythic tableaus that brazenly liken Superman to Mercury, Jesus, Atlas and Prometheus. It's a sensory—at times sensuous—experience, modeled not just on great comic book art, but on the crème-de-la-crème of machine-age spectacles: 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

The Voice's J Hoberman finds Returns "surprisingly buoyant. The movie may not be a single-bound building-leaper but Bryan Singer reconfigures the daddy of all comic-book sagas into something knowing, witty, and even sensitive."

"[T]he most elegant and surprisingly resonant of comic-book extravaganzas," declares Godfrey Cheshire in the Independent Weekly. "In effect, the expressive visual plan created by Singer and production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas gives us what might be called an admirably capacious pop archeology of Superman, not the character but the long-evolving cultural icon."

The LA Weekly's Scott Foundas finds it "a loving homage to the ghosts of Supermen past... And if Superman Returns isn't an overtly political film, Singer has nevertheless made the most topical Big Summer Movie since Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds, by way of omission: Not once does Superman fly around the world holding Old Glory proudly in his powerful grasp; and when Daily Planet editor in chief Perry White (Frank Langella) asks his reporters to find out if the returned hero still stands for 'truth and justice,' the phrase 'the American way' is conspicuous by its absence. (Those wondering where it went are advised to see Superman Returns at a cinema also showing The Road to Guantánamo and settle in for a double bill.)" You may remember that Jürgen Fauth has done that very thing.

"[P]erhaps only a Superman movie could simultaneously court the evangelical press while ending up on the cover of the Advocate," notes Jim Ridley in the Nashville Scene.

"[T]he final scenes would make Wagner check his watch," quips David Edelstein in New York. "It's not that the movie is 157 minutes; it's that it feels like 157 minutes."

"The fact is that the only first-rate work to have fed off comic books was done by Roy Lichtenstein forty years ago, and the only comic-book movies to show any lasting swagger, like Spider-Man and its sequel, have hewed to the Lichtenstein line and mimicked the briskness and fluorescence of the painted surface." Yes, it's Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. "I have listened to Batman moan about how he will never fit in, and to countless mutants voice the same complaint, and, frankly, I don't give a damn. The ethical duties of Superman leave me cold; I just want to watch him catch a falling car." (This week's cover, by the way, has to be the best cover on any magazine so far this year.)

Cynthia Fuchs at PopMatters: "Yes, he still means to save this world, but the triumph is less complete now, the costs more visible."

At the AV Club, where Keith Phipps presents a "Rogues Gallery" of villains that've appeared in the comic books but are unlikely to make for makeable sequels, Scott Tobias: "Singer's reverence for the 1978 version edges perilously close to mimicry, as if he has no new ideas to bring to the table, but he succeeds in drawing out the Superman myth with simple power and a refreshing absence of irony."

Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix: "The mastery of cinematic form that Singer exhibited in his X-Men movies carries the narrative and then some. Images and eloquent editing not only tell the tale but also disclose elements of theme, depths of character, and tantalizing allusions."

For Sean Burns, writing in the Philadelphia Weekly, the movie "somehow feels like a blockbuster from another time—some probably imaginary era when summer spectacles were just a little bit slower, sweeter and a lot less vulgar than they tend to be these days." But for the Stranger's Andrew Wright, "It's reverent to the point of stasis."

Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "even if you ignore the religious metaphors and check your watch during the mushy relationship bits, it's hard not to get summer movie thrill-chills when John Williams's familiar theme (recycled here as part of John Ottman's score) plays under the swooshing title credits."

Will Lawrence talks with Brandon Routh for the Telegraph.

All in all, it's "never dull," admits Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat, "But it rarely takes flight; and, when it does, it never soars higher than its 1978 model."

Updates: "Superman is more than just another brand name; he's a vessel for an entire way of thinking about the world," writes Tom Hall. "Superman Returns is a big let down."

Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Superman Returns finds no reason for being, other than that it's summer and computer graphics have improved since the superhero days of Christopher Reeve."

Updates, 7/1: At Cinematical, Scott Weinberg sparks a string of comments with his list of "Plot Holes, Puzzles & Inconsistencies."

Lesley O'Toole interviews Bryan Singer for the Guardian.

David Poland: "IMAX is a superior way to see the film, though surprisingly, with the exception of space between Superman and the world he is flying over, the film doesn't particularly cotton to 3D.... My primary experience of seeing Superman Returns again was boredom."

Salon's Stephanie Zacharek: "This is a beautifully made picture, a modern-day fable marked by a strong sense of continuity with the past, and not just the recent past: The art-deco-influenced production design, the lighting, and some of the camera work carry echoes of German Expressionism.... Unlike so many contemporary Hollywood movies, which strut into our theaters as if they believe they've sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus (or maybe even just Scott Rudin), Superman Returns knows where it comes from."

Susan King profiles Kate Bosworth for the LAT.

Roger Ebert: "This is a glum, lackluster movie in which even the big effects sequences seem dutiful instead of exhilarating."

Online viewing tip. Kevin Smith talks for over 19 amusing minutes about his chapter in the Superman saga.

Updates, 7/2: "For a genre built on escapism for children, the superhero story has become awfully dependent on adolescent angst," notes Nicholas Barber in the Independent. But: "If Batman is smoking behind the bike sheds, Superman is a head prefect.... The irony is that while a tag-team of screenwriters and directors have wrestled since the Nineties with the puzzle of how to give Superman an edge, the one tactic they didn't try was the simplest one. They could have drawn inspiration from the very first Superman comics, as written by Jerry Siegel and illustrated by Joe Shuster in 1938."

"Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex," Larry Niven, 1971. Via Brendon Connelly.

Eric Kohn at Reverse Shot: "Superman Returns has a lot of the elements that make a Singer film work, and very few of the distractions that make a [Brett] Ratner film awful. The CG is marvelous, of course, but even though it's plenty fun to watch Superman save a wingless plane from interrupting a major league baseball game, Singer provides an additional, unexpected perspective - the pedestrian's view, as a miniscule blurb of blue and red wisping across a clear afternoon sky. Those small moments create a sense of awe to balance out the more raucous action.... And yet..."

Via Jeffrey Overstreet, Peter T Chattaway at Canadian Christianity: "[W]hen you look at the first two films together, an interesting pattern emerges - one that does not necessarily lend itself to orthodox Christian interpretation." More from Jeffrey at Christianity Today.

Reviews at Hollywood Bitchslap: Erik Childress, Brian Orndorf, Rob Gonsalves, Eric D Snider, Jason Whyte and David Cornelius.

MaryAnn Johanson: "This is a very geeky movie in the sense that it takes this shit seriously while it has its fun - Superman is here much more a figure of pathos than maybe any other Superman has been before."

Rafael Behr riffs in the Observer on why he's back.

Update, 7/3: Robert W Welkos notes the possible comeback of producer Jon Peters in the LAT. See the Kevin Smith online viewing tip above.

Updates, 7/7: John Patterson in the Guardian on whether or not we really do need another hero.

Matt Dentler: "7 Things I Realized While Watching Superman Returns."

In the Independent, James Mottram meets Brandon Routh.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:59 AM | Comments (1)

Fabián Bielinsky, 1959 - 2006.

Fabián Bielinsky
Argentine film director Fabián Bielinsky, who shot the critically-acclaimed Nine Queens crime caper, died of a heart attack in Sao Paulo, Brazil, consulate officials said on Thursday. He was 47.

Reuters, via indieWIRE.

If you see con-game films from other countries, you never think that the director is giving you the picture of the whole society.

Bielinsky, talking to the BBC's Tom Dawson in 2002 about Nine Queens.

Eugene Hernandez reported earlier this month, IFC First Take has just picked up his latest feature, El Aura.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:42 AM | Comments (1)

Interviews. Strangers With Candy.

Strangers With Candy Though we've had a few in the past, I'd wager GreenCine probably isn't known for its fun interviews. Well, we've certainly got another one now - a two-parter, no less. Andy Spletzer got together with Strangers With Candy director Paul Dinello, along with Amy Sedaris and Stephen Colbert, earlier this year at Sundance while studios scrambled for the rights to distribute their comedy. Half a year and a few bumps in the road later, he's just met with Dinello again.

More on Strangers, starting with AO Scott in the New York Times: "[D]evotees of the series, admirers of Ms Sedaris and fake-news junkies who can never get enough of Mr Colbert will find reasons to see it and to convince themselves that it is funnier and more satisfying than it really is. Count me in."

Updated through 7/3.

This week's indieWIRE interview questions go to Dinello. At the AV Club, Amelie Gillette talks with Sedaris and Nathan Rabin gives the film a "B."

Daynah Burnett at PopMatters: "Jerri [Sedaris] is less generous, or maybe just a less developed character, which is unfortunate, given that Sedaris' performance sets her up to be so fun to watch, you really wish she had some better material, and not an just an amalgam of scenes pulled straight from the series."

Michael Atkinson in the Voice: "Mannered and odd, Strangers With Candy - show or movie, because there is little functional difference between them - is a daring shot in the dark, but it misses the barn."

Update, 7/2: Marcy Dermansky: "Obnoxious and rude does not equal funny."

Updates, 7/3: Sheri Linden in the Hollywood Reporter: "[T]hough this film simmers with pitch-perfect observations, particularly about self-absorbed adults, it struggles to sustain the hilarity."

At Quick Stop Entertainment, Ken Plume talks with Sedaris and Dinello.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:19 AM

June 29, 2006

Online viewing tip. Kubrick's Day of the Fight.

Day of the Fight "It's a short fight (only one round) but a genuinely exciting piece of filmmaking," writes Filmbrain, who wondered two years ago if Stanley Kubrick's 1951 short, Day of the Fight "had any influence on Scorsese and Raging Bull - there are a few moments, particularly a through-the-stool-legs shot of the other fighter that seemed very familiar. Day of the Fight is an excellent first film that far exceeds Kubrick's two other shorts for signs of the future master. This would have made a perfect companion piece on the Killer's Kiss DVD - but no such luck."

Thanks to Jamie Stuart, we just got lucky. For a while at least. Thanks, DK!

Posted by dwhudson at 5:15 AM | Comments (3)

June 28, 2006

Cinema Scope. 27.

Southland Tales As Mark Peranson returns from Cannes to edit the new issue of Cinema Scope, he's not nearly as "burnt out" as he was last year but just as snarly. His three "specific reasons for the general malaise of 2006" are actually rather constructive, but, defending Richard Kelly's Southland Tales "as positively Pynchonian performance art" and Pedro Costa's "[e]qually misunderstood" Colossal Youth, he does go way out of his way to make sure you understand that his fellow critics, the "international conspiracy of dunces in a dinky French fishing village," are just too stoopid to get these movies. Though it's unlikely you'll miss his point, Peranson hits it again, introducing his interview with Kelly, who'll give you a better idea of what all he's bitten off to chew.

In his editor's note, Peranson, his tongue a bit less acidic, touches on a valid point: critical consensus is formed awfully quickly these days. Also: "A Short Interview with Raya Martin."

Christoph Huber: "[W]hile suffering through one of the most underwhelming competitions in recent memory, it was often the Quinzaine [des réalisateurs] films that kept one going." And Richard Porton reviews the "[p]olitically audacious and formally conservative" Palme d'Or winner, Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

Adam Nayman talks with David Christensen, whose debut, Six Figures, "is the most underrated Canadian feature in recent memory."

Olaf Möller on John Cook: "To truly understand the Austrian fascination/obsession with this ur-typical Canadian realist - imagine a radically vérité-styled mix of Jean-Pierre Lefebvre and Allan King, with a dash of Straub - one needs to understand the 'Realism Complex' of Austrian cinephilia."

Even though this year's Hot Docs International Canadian Documentary Festival was tremendously popular, "only a handful of films this year came close to approaching grand-scale, Herzogian ecstatic truths." David Balzer explains.

Reviewing the exhibition Tomorrowland: CalArts in Motion Pictures, Robert Koehler marvels at the "cultural contradictions" between Disney and the California Institute of the Arts, while Andréa Picard takes measure of the face-off between Jean-Luc Godard and curator Dominique Païni: "Godard wins."

Jonathan Rosenbaum: "We seem to be entering an exceptionally rich period when long-unavailable experimental films are finally coming to light on DVD."

Reviews: Jessica Winter on Strangers With Candy ("once the thickset plot is in place, the movie begins to taste warmed-over") and Michael Koresky: "[T]he feeling of time passing over [A Lion in the House] four-hour and six-year duration is what makes its every emotional rumbling hit with the force of a hurricane."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:14 AM | Comments (5)

June 27, 2006

Film Quarterly, CineACTION!.

First, thanks to Craig for wrapping up yesterday's batch of "Shorts" now that I'm somewhat incapacitated for a few days. Today, DK Holm reviews new issues of film journals most of us rarely see outside the library.

Film Quarterly "Yes, but I was a bad one," admits Aki Kaurismäki in a lead-off interview in the new Film Quarterly when interviewer Bert Cardullo asks the Finnish director if it is true that he started out as a film critic. "For me it was only masterpieces or shit, and that's not the right way to be a critic. The correct way is to be honest and not pretend anything - the same stuff as it takes to be a good filmmaker." Kaurismäki, in an interview recorded in November, 2003 (they have quite a lead time over there at FQ), goes on to note that "the basis for all art is reduction, simplicity. You go from an initial idea or narrative that you progressively reduce until it is sufficiently bare enough to be true. Then, and only then, are you finished."

This new Film Quarterly will be of interest to students of contemporary film journalism because it is the first issue under the stewardship of Rob White, who once worked at the British Film Institute, where from 1995 to 2005 he'd been Commissioning Editor, heading the BFI Film Classics series, while also writing a column at Sight and Sound (not that it proved to be much of a journey to FQ; White remains in London, and the BFI's books were already distributed in America by the University of California Press, which publishes FQ). White becomes only the third editor of the journal in almost 50 years, following Ernest Callenbach, helmer from 1958 through 133 subsequent issues, and Ann Martin, who came out of American Film and the New Yorker and who took over in 1991. Under Callenbach, the magazine was much more Hollywood oriented, though from a scholarly bent, with frequent essays on Ford, Wilder, Peckinpah, et cetera. Martin established the journal as much more exclusively academic. In her pages, you were more likely to find essays on early film history, the digital revolution, melodrama (or, the "kinetics of suffering"), and a focus on films from Cuba, Korea and Cyprus, for example. Film sound was a particular interest of Martin's. The movie review section played host to longer, if plodding, pieces, but occasionally Martin could throw off the shackles of academic sobriety and publish something fun, such as the Showgirls roundtable discussion of spring 2003.

The White Era maintains that policy, at least for now. Also at hand in this issue is an essay on screen violence by Stephen Prince, focusing on The Passion of the Christ, and Kristen Whissel on "verticality" in modern digital special effects, plus film reviews of Caché, Wedding in Galilee and The Cyclist. These are preceded by a charming "Close Up" column by Richard Armstrong on seeing Chungking Express for the first time ("Kinetic, chaotic, lyrical, serious, whimsical, earnest, wry, disciplined, anarchic, and free - this movie baffled, frustrated, appalled, excited, and upset me").

Book reviews have always been Film Quarterly's strong suit, and White's debut collection (assuming they aren't holdovers from the last regime) is satisfying and informative, kicking off with Scott Simmon on Robert S Birchard's Cecil B DeMille's Hollywood: "DeMille's first features are distinctive, for instance, partly because of their innovations in mood lighting. But in the sound films it's exactly the lighting, so flat and overbright (and later so oversaturated with color), that tends to simplify the dramas."

It's followed by, among other reviews, Bernard F Dick on Marilyn Ann Moss's Giant: George Stevens, a Life on Film, Vincent LoBrutto on Gene D Phillips's Godfather: The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola ("While other biographers follow Coppola on an emotional roller-coaster with uneven outcomes and illogical decisions, Gene Phillips keeps his wits throughout the hype and melodrama of Coppola's exploits to reveal an ambitious artist who is more likely 'crazy as a fox' than just plain crazy"), Elizabeth A Lathrop's consideration of Hugo Frey's Louis Malle, Alan Nadel on Mark Feeney's Nixon at the Movies - providing what passes in academia for a rave - Sharon Sharp on Derek Kompare's book on reruns in network television ("Rerun Nation demonstrates how, beginning in the 1970s, reruns satisfied a cultural desire to gaze backwards at the past, and how the television industry symbiotically exploited that backward glance in order to validate and profit from its business strategies of repetition"), Jacqueline Stewart on J Ronald Green's two companion volumes on Oscar Micheaux, and Lloyd Michaels on Peter Brunette's monograph, Wong Kar-Wai, part of the University of Illinois Press's Contemporary Film Directors series.

Minimal though it is, Film Quarterly does have an online presence, if only generally one sample article per issue, but as with most websites based in academia, the site lags behind the hard copy. In any case, shortly one of the above essays will be found on the mag's site.

CineACTION At least Film Quarterly has an online presence of however much paucity. The new CineACTION!, issue 69, is exiled from cyberspace, like all the previous issues in the journal's 21-year run. With the theme of "Films From Around the Globe," this issue includes: Peter Harcourt's "Images of the Rural: The Cinema of Quebec," which makes a fine companion piece to Steve Gravestock's essay on "the year in Canadian film" in the previous issue of Cinema Scope (not available online); Malek Khouri's essay on Youssef Chahine's Al Maseer (The Destiny), which, after a lot of throat-clearing ("This article...," "This essay...," "This essay first...") provides some pretty good information on the film and its contexts; Alive Shih's interview with Wang Xiaoshuai (Cannes winner for Shanghai Dreams); Nicola Galombik and Michael Zryd's consideration of Jonas Mekas's The Brig; an analysis of Bolivian director Rodrigo Bellot's Sexual Dependency; and reviews of Bruce McDonald's The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess, Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y, three documentaries from Nova Scotia, and reports from the AFI Fest 2005, 54th International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg, and the 7th Scandinavian Film Festival LA festivals.

Robin Wood (and come on, isn't Wood's work the first reason we pick up the publication?) is represented by "On William D MacGillivray" and a review of two films by Amnon Buchbinder, Whole New Thing and The Fishing Trip. The MacGillivray essay represents disjecta commissioned for a book about Canadian filmmakers, in which he rate's MacGillivray's Life Classes above Citizen Kane:

I included Life Classes in my list of the "ten best films ever made" in the last Sight and Sound critics' poll but one. My friends thought I was being quixotic but the choice was absolutely genuine. The very concept of "the ten best" is of course absurd: everyone will be able, with brief thought, to come up with a hundred films that will vie for inclusion. Let me say, however, that I easily prefer MacGillivray's film to Citizen Kane, which in those days always emerged in first place. This will doubtless be greeted with incredulity, perhaps laughter, by many readers, but it seems to me readily defensible. Is Kane (for all its undoubted brilliance) "intelligent about life" [in Leavis's phrase]? Or is it, first and last, a self-applauding celebration of its maker's genius? I think I have watched Kane and Life Classes about the same number of times (whether for class discussion or for pleasure), and Welles's film long since went dead on me emotionally (I can still admire its skills, but coldly, as from a distance) and MacGillivray's remains as fresh, as moving, as surprising, as intelligent as ever.

And that, in a nutshell, is the Robin Wood we know and love.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:40 AM | Comments (1)

June 26, 2006

Shorts 6/26.

overtheborder.jpg "How far South Korean movies about the North-South division have evolved since The Spy (1997) and Shiri (1999) may be seen in the fact that the story of Over the Border, with only a few details changed, would make sense in almost any national context where illegal immigration and acculturation are serious social issues," writes Kyu Hyun Kim at Koreanfilm.org. "The greatest strength of TV producer An Pan-seok's debut film is its almost anthropological approach to the everyday lives of North Koreans and Northerner exiles in South Korea."

AICN's Moriarty has seen Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and calls it "one of the best summer entertainments I've seen in a while, and it manages to improve on the first film in every way. It's smart, it's funny, it plays out on an epic scale while still putting character first, and it builds to a conclusion that will have audiences twisting in agony as they have to wait for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End next summer." Which will have Keith Richards in there, as Mack confirms at Twitch, provided, of course, "that he lives long enough to film his part in the film. And why not. I bet he's like Mr Burns in that episode of The Simpsons and when he visits the Mayo Clinic he finds out that he has every disease known to man but they're all in perfect balance and keeping him alive." Meanwhile, Jeffrey Wells is having none of it. Same goes for Robert Cashill, who'll be watching A Scanner Darkly on July 7 instead.

Graham Fuller, who once applied for a job at Vogue, has a long piece on The Devil Wears Prada and the gradual mellowing of Anna Wintour. Also in the Observer, Mark Kermode on The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Paul Harris on the M Night Shyamalan brouhaha (more at Film Fatale) and Sean O'Hagan's interview with Neil Young.

There's a personal component to Chuck Tryon's take on Jesus Camp.

That Little Round-Headed Boy files an early entry for Thursday's Lana Turner blog-a-thon.

GreenCine's Craig Phillips: "The long delayed American release of Jean-Pierre Melville's haunting and brilliant Army of Shadows, restored and looking as fresh as it must have in the Sixties, could not have come at a better time for me personally."

Mack at Twitch points to a Shenzhen Daily talk with Luc Besson.

25_0.jpg Richard Schickel in Time: "Click mostly wastes Sandler (along with [Christopher] Walken and [Kate] Beckinsale), and the Dickens cheat - it was all (ha-ha) a dream - is not improving with the years."

The latest title from the Edition Filmmuseum: Why should I buy a bed when all that I want is sleep? A chamber film with Robert Lax. Earlier: "Kubelka and Vertov.

Offline listening tip. The only place in the US where you'll be able to see Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint series in its entirety is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the only time is now through September 17. Greg Allen's discovered an audio tour "available to visitors via cell phone. So if you dial 408-794-2844... whaddya know, it works. Here's a little directory to the ten audio segments. To heighten the effect, immerse yourself in a vat of petroleum jelly while you listen."

Online listening tip. Benoit Jacquot on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Vince Keenan on Lady Vengeance: "This is pulp storytelling for the 21st century."

Posted by cphillips at 1:56 PM | Comments (1)

Fests.

Matt Clayfield's work will be featured at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival on Sunday, July 9.

Todd at Twitch from the New York Asian Film Festival: "Quite possibly the best Michael Mann film not actually made by Michael Mann or anyone associated with him, the Ram Gopal Varma-produced, Shimit Amin-directed Ab Tak Chhappan is the sort of murky-moraled crime thriller that reputations are built upon." Los Angeles Film Festival: At Twitch, Peter Martin reviews Who Killed the Electric Car? and Ira & Abby.

Online viewing tip. The trailer for Inside, slated to screen at Dances With Films in Santa Monica in July and at the Fantastic Fest in Austin in September.

Posted by cphillips at 8:56 AM

June 25, 2006

Online viewing tip. Four-Eyed Monsters invite.

This is really rather amazing in a variety of ways. It is, basically, an ad that tells you, teaches you how to help it propagate itself; it's viral marketing squared, a hack with a vital social engineering component. Fortunately, it's also for a "product," a true indie from Susan Buice and Arin Crumley, whose struggle to score a distributor and subsequent segue into plans for self-distribution have already been the subject of extensive press coverage, ranging from indieWIRE to the New York Times, is one we don't mind at all helping to get word out about. Besides all those levels of sheer meta to peel away and consider, the invite - which I came across via Cynthia Rockwell's Wild Sound, by the way - offers other self-distributors an array of helpful tips (throw a party!) to choose from.

Buffalo, NY - Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre

Wednesday June 28th @ 5:30 pm | Thursday June 29th @ 5:30 pm
Wednesday June 28th @ 7:30 pm | Thursday June 29th @ 7:30 pm
Wednesday June 28th @ 9:30 pm | Thursday June 29th @ 9:30 pm
Print B&W flier | Directions | Who is attending
Trailer | Video Podcast

Posted by dwhudson at 3:44 PM | Comments (1)

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man.

Leonard Cohen: The Book of Longing "The filmmaker, Lian Lunson, gets it!" Jennifer MacMillan opens the Leonard Cohen "mini-blog-a-thon" with an appreciation of Lunson's doc, Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man.

Salon's Stephanie Zacharek is sure the doc "has been made with love, and even when it's not quite measuring up to your hopes, you feel warmed by its affection.... Cohen hardly comes off as morose: He may be a serious-minded guy, but he's also a vibrant, vital presence."

"[H]e continually undercuts his own solemnity," notes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "Here is he is on his own mystique as a silver-tongued Casanova: 'My reputation as a ladies' man was a joke. It caused me to laugh bitterly the 10,000 nights I spent alone.'"

Still, the Voice's Laura Sinagra finds the doc "rather grating hagiography."

Updated through 7/2.

indieWIRE sends its weekly questions to Lunson.

Jeffrey Wells records Cohen's parting remark just prior to a screening of the film at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Saturday night.

Online listening tip. On Bookworm, Michael Silverblatt talks with Cohen about his new Book of Longing (MP3). Via Ed Champion.

Updates, 6/30: Greg Burk has a fine long talk with Cohen in the LA Weekly: "He picks up the lone fully strung ax, and the famous arpeggiation mode he invented swells out effortlessly from his fingers. He's thinking about a tour, and he's been practicing."

Still, for Bradford Nordeen, the film is an "atrocity."

Updates, 7/1: Gary Dretzka offers a history of Cohen's music in film at Movie City News.

Gene Seymore in the Los Angeles Times: "Director Lian Lunson attempts to mold a synthesis of biopic, symposium, concert film and mash note to one of the icons of late 20th century songwriting. The creature that results from such earnest work looks either exotic or distorted, depending on your angle of vision."

Updates, 7/2: Michael Guillen and Zach Campbell.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:00 AM | Comments (4)

Sydney. Awards.

Little Miss Sunshine Matt Riviera's not only got the lists of award-winners at the Sydney Film Festival, he also adds his own thoughts on the winning shorts (Dendy Awards) and his own top ten, plus ten more "definitely worth your while," four which "failed to impress" and two he walked out of.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:27 AM

June 24, 2006

Weekend shorts.

Broken Trail Sean Axmaker noted late last year that many critics will argue that Walter Hill is one of the "most underrated American directors working today." As Robert Abele writes in the LA Weekly, the movies' loss is television's gain. He talks to Hill about his new two-part, four-hour Western for AMC, Broken Trail. More from Robert Lloyd and Paul Lieberman in the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Wallenstein on NPR and, via the House Next Door, Matt Zoller Seitz in the Star-Ledger.

There is, by the way, a lot going on at the House Next Door. Kenji Fujishima, for example, writes, "If Happy Together represented a stepping stone, an emotional deepening of Wong [Kar-Wai]'s usual themes of love, loss and desire, Fallen Angels represents both a look back and a look forward for one of cinema's most important current directors." And NP Thompson argues that, with Heading South, Laurent Cantet has "made the kind of film that's meant to be inferred, not watched - in short, a natural for 'analysis' by practitioners of what I call the Village Voice school of arts criticism, which turns out reviewers who are so hyperaware politically that you don't have to be, and neither does the moviemaker." Meanwhile, the Odienator picks five summer movies.

Robert Cashill looks forward to the indies of summer; Gary Dretzka proposes a bit of alternative programming for home viewing instead.

Jim Emerson is going all out with his Open Shots Project at scanners; there's a quiz and a slightly easier followup exercise.

Tim Lucas takes the subject of his column in the current issue of Sight & Sound, Writer of O, "Pola Rapaport's extraordinary docudrama about Pauline Réàge, the pseudonymous author of the novel The Story of O," and writes his way to childhood and back. Wonderful stuff.

Back to the LAW:

El Doctor

Edgar Rice Burroughs "was essential to the popularization of the idea that technology could be terrible and that man was the inevitable target of increasingly restrictive and ominous inventions," writes Stanley Crouch in Slate. "One cannot hope to comprehend the curving path of American popular culture unless the visions of paradise lost and paradise regained are assessed."

Michael Feingold: "With only a smattering of television credits and an even sparser list of film appearances, [Alvin] Epstein represents what it means in America to devote your life to the theater. Barely a blip on the mass audience's radar, he's one of our culture's hidden treasures, a leading figure among the working professionals who believe in and live for their art."

Also in the Village Voice:

The Hidden Blade

What are "cinephiliac moments"? Girish explains the idea put forward by Christian Keathley in Cinephilia and History, or The Wind in the Trees: "[T]hese are small, marginal moments that detonate an unforgettable little frisson in the viewer. The important thing to remember is that these are not moments carefully designed to exert great dramatic effect - not that there's anything wrong with those - but instead they are fleeting "privileged" moments writ small that we find ourselves strongly attracted to, perhaps even disproportionately so given their scale and possible (lack of) intention."

"For those determined to sift through the whole package, it's a significant commitment...but a genuine pleasure; a film archive in a box." Doug Cummings has been spending a few weeks with Criterion's Mr Arkadin package. "The best feature of the set, however, is the commentary by Welles experts James Naremore and Jonathan Rosenbaum, who breezily exchange observations about the film and its relation to Welles' career while tossing in comments on the French New Wave, Cold War paranoia, the grotesque in art, and a wide array of themes and topics. It's the best DVD commentary I've heard in a while; highly informed yet conversational and multi-faceted."

Meanwhile, in the Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum explains why "Three Times, one of the peaks of [Hou Hsiao-hsien's] career, may be your last chance to see his work inside a movie theater." As for the film itself, its "achievement lies mostly in the beautifully articulated similarities and differences among the three [episodes] - in their compositions and themes, in the way space is defined and camera pans connect characters, in their use of music and other means of personal expression (snooker, pop tunes, and letters in 1966; poetry, singing, and letters in 1911; photographs, singing, and e-mails in 2005), and in the performances of the two stars." More from Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Devil Wears Prada Dan Callahan in Slant on The Devil Wears Prada: "This is a predictable movie, not particularly funny, like Funny Face with no musical numbers, but it's a fairly well made and very well acted piece of sadistic bad-job porn." (More from David Poland, who finds it "so very frustrating.") Also: Ed Gonzalez on The Science of Sleep and three DVDs, Caché, Protocols of Zion and Yi Yi.

In the LAT, Susan King reviews the Clark Gable: The Signature Collection.

That Little Round-Headed Boy on 3:10 to Yuma: "[H]iding inside this classic morality oater is a scorching-hot, sensual romantic interlude that might be one of the sexiest exchanges I've ever seen on screen." Also: "[I]f [Tony] Scott has truly captured our anomie visually, he's also sadly extended the storytelling ennui of most of today's Hollywood blockbusters. And it's a shame, and sort of ironic, because the really interesting thing about Domino isn't how its visual rococo overwhelms everything else, but how its actors cut through the craziness."

"To filmgoers for whom the names of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Ida Lupino and Ann Sheridan evoke the glory days of Warner Brothers' 'women's pictures' of the 1940s and early 1950s, the director Vincent Sherman, who has died aged 99, was something of a hero." Ronald Bergan explains his "way of dealing with difficult leading ladies." Related: Greenbriar Picture Shows.

Also in the Guardian:

Pierluigi. On Cinema.

  • "Looking at Pierluigi Praturlon's photos and reflecting upon them is to relive a glorious, but irretrievably lost, era on which I cannot but look back with a touch of pride and regret." That's Claudia Cardinale, quoted in a piece by John Hooper on the exhibition Pierluigi. On Cinema at the Galleria Photology in Milan through September 8.

  • Will Hodgkinson on Finisterre, "a homage to London by Paul Kelly and Kieran Evans that was intended originally as an accompaniment to Saint Etienne's album of the same name.... The chief inspiration for Finisterre is The London Nobody Knows, a book by the historian Geoffrey Fletcher."

  • Oliver Burkeman reports that Paramount is suing Chris Moukarbel, the artist forced to take his 12-minute version of World Trade Center down from his site. More from Eric M Weiss in the Washington Post, Ray Pride at Movie City Indie and Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

  • Producer Guy de Beaujeu got burnt in LA by Limelight Films Inc, which, it turns out, "was a front for laundering drugs money." But his problems run deeper, he argues. His film, Living in Hope, stands little chance because it's British, and "British film has been disastrously mistreated - by the British."

  • Howard Feinstein on The Bridge: "Those who see this film will never forget it, for as well as learning about the lives and problems of the six dead people, they also see them jumping."

  • John Sutherland talks with cognitive philosopher Steve Quartz about how to market a movie.

  • "Do films really have to be so long?" asks Peter Bradshaw, introducing the "long list." Andrew Dickson calls for comments.

  • Duncan Campbell on Tao Ruspoli's "unique approach to film finance...: invest as little as $1 and you will not only become a credited associate producer but also have a vote to decide the next film the company makes."

Travel(s) in Utopia, Jean-Luc Godard 1946-2006, In Search of a Lost Theorem

Nathan Lee reports from Paris on the Godard retrospective and exhibition at the Georges Pompidou Center: "For the Godard cult, the retrospective is epochal; the mother ship of mise-en-scène has landed. But the movies are only foreplay to the main seduction. Travel(s) in Utopia, Jean-Luc Godard 1946-2006, In Search of a Lost Theorem is the unwieldy title of an unruly installation that sprawls throughout the large south gallery of the museum. Designed and executed by Mr Godard, the show opened amid much controversy on May 11 and continues until Aug 14."

Also in the New York Times:

  • Sharon Waxman surely has the strangest story of the week. "Last year an admiring doctoral student and evident computer whiz, David Hanson, built a life-size facsimile of [Philip K] Dick, using the latest artificial intelligence technology, robotics and a skinlike substance he calls 'frubber.'" But: the head's gone missing.

  • As the opening day for Clerks II approaches, Caryn James profiles Kevin Smith. Cool detail: "In an ingenious new ploy, he has recorded a commentary for Clerks II that will be available for free download on iTunes, encouraging viewers to take their iPods to the theater for a second viewing."

  • "Are the Chan films racist? Not, I think, by the standards of their time," argues Dave Kehr. Jeff Chang begs to differ.

  • Crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz answers readers' questions about Wordplay. Reviews: Kevin Crust in the LAT, Michelle Devereaux in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Andrew Sarris in the New York Observer and Chuck Tryon.

  • AO Scott on Waist Deep, "unapologetically a B movie, its narrative premise whittled down to a mean little nub and placed carefully on the borderline between the wildly implausible and the completely absurd." More from Gene Seymour in the LAT.

  • Manohla Dargis: "Some films offer up their mysteries openly; others, like the quietly affecting Sri Lankan film The Forsaken Land, keep their secrets close, revealing them gradually shot by shot, scene by scene.... Like [Michelangelo] Antonioni, who once dyed grass in one of his films to underscore "the sense of desolation, of death," [Vimukthi] Jayasundara uses color both to create an enveloping mood and to underscore the medium's plasticity. Given that Sri Lanka's horrific history could easily overwhelm even the boldest aesthetic voice, this expressionistic gambit seems as smart as it may be necessary." More from J Hoberman in the Village Voice and Steve Erickson in Gay City News.

  • Sarah Lyall reports that the British government is taking up the case for the family of filmmaker James Miller who was killed in Gaza three years ago: "The killer was identified as the commander of an armored personnel carrier in the Israeli Army who had admitted firing his gun that night, but no one in Israel has been charged, and many of the questions raised in the hours after the shooting have never been resolved."

The Mod Squad

The SFBG's Cheryl Eddy talks with Park Chan-wook and reviews Lady Vengeance, "the glorious female-revenge film Quentin Tarantino wished he could make, ending up with two so-so Kill Bills instead." More from G Allen Johnson in the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Almost nobody, it seems, is interested in arguing over whether [The Wind That Shakes the Barley] is artistically compelling - bluntly, it isn't - but in its political implications and historical accuracy. How does it hold up on that front?" Stephen Howe, who teaches history at Bristol University, takes on the question in openDemocracy. More from Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, Anthony Quinn in the Independent, Sukhdev Sandhu in the Telegraph, James Christopher in the London Times and Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman. It's also the current film focus at Cineuropa.

"Some police-blotter columnists look for comedy. [Charles] Mudede looks for poetry," writes Mike Russell in a glowing review of Police Beat.

Yvonne Rainer's Journeys from Berlin "can be seen as a curiously prescient, incisive, unabashedly cerebral and relevant film on the nature and psychology of violence, isolation, trauma and repression," writes acquarello. Also: "Channeling the understated and incisive relational observations of Eric Rohmer, refracted through the magical realist convergences of Raul Ruiz's voluptuous living memories, and bifurcated through Hong Sang-soo's situational parallelisms, All the Fine Promises is a gorgeously rendered, lyrical encapsulation of Jean-Paul Civeyrac's aesthetic modulations between physicality and sensuality, dreams and reality, memory and desire."

The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress Chuck Tryon: "Mark Binbaum and Jim Scherbeck's The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress plays like an agitprop border-state film noir, with witnesses often shrouded in heavy shadow describing in detail how a once unknown Congressman in Texas conspired to transform the Republican Party into what DeLay himself described as a 'permanent majority.'" Also, more thoughts on Can Mr Smith Get to Washington Anymore?.

"Just about everything you've heard about An Inconvenient Truth is true," writes Joe Leydon in the Tennessean. The doc is "consistently fascinating, intelligently compelling and even, wonder of wonders, unexpectedly entertaining."

"Is she or isn't she the anti-Garrison Keillor?" For PoetryFoundation.org, Ange Mlinko traces her disappointment as she follows Lola, the suicidal poet played by Lindsay Lohan in A Prairie Home Companion, into the spotlight. Somewhat related: Phil Morehart at Facets Features.

"Are Cars and A Prairie Home Companion basically the same movie?" asks Jonathan Kiefer in Maisonneuve.

Harnessing the energy sparked when comedy meets suspense, Only Human works and works well, according to Eric Kohn. Also in the New York Press, Jennifer Merin on Lower City and Loverboy.

Who knows what's made it such a huge hit in Korea, but for Filmbrain, what ultimately matters is that "King and the Clown is first and foremost a brilliant piece of entertainment."

Brian Clark talks with Caveh Zahedi about I Am a Sex Addict. Also in the Austin Chronicle, Toddy Burton on Harlan County, USA; after the first frame, "it's immediately apparent how the beauty of film buries the DV of today's docs."

"Momma Don't Allow is a short film which appeared in the first program to be shown at London's National Film Theatre (NFT) under the rubric 'Free Cinema,'" writes Richard Armstrong at Flickhead. "On the 50th anniversary of the first Free Cinema program, and the release of the bfi DVD box set Free Cinema, I am struck by certain moments in Momma Don't Allow." Also: "The life and death and cult iconography of Donald Cammell exists somewhere between the lines of avant-garde cinema and 1960s pop nostalgia, with a cursory nod to Argentinean author Jorge Luis Borges." Ray Young reviews Rebecca and Sam Umland's Donald Cammell: A Life on the Wild Side.

The AV Club's list this week: "Classic Movies It's Okay to Hate." This is a good one. The reputation of each film is summed up, then debunked, followed by dissent from a defender.

Via Anthony Kaufman, Variety's "10 Screenwriters to Watch."

Takashi Miike At Twitch, logboy has decided he's found the director "who embodies so much about my interests outside film, my secret desires for what films could be like, that it's like a dream come true," and presents a "Takashi Miike List of Lists."

Chrys Wu in the LAT: "This weekend, Erotica LA will once again, uh, come to the Los Angeles Convention Center.... So in honor of the 10th anniversary of the gathering, we present 10 movies that spiced up mainstream cinema."

Dan Buskirk talks with Gael García Bernal for the Philadelphia Weekly, where he reviews The King. More from Cindy Fuchs in the Philadelphia City Paper, where Sam Adams reviews the early work of Michael Haneke.

Brothers of the Head Matt Dentler: "Just a couple of days ago, a journalist called me for a few comments on Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's mock-rock-doc Brothers of the Head. I think I caught the writer off-guard by being so fanatical about the film."

Jerry Lentz: "I admit I have a nervous fear [that] my little revolutionary idea for an acting class that results in a feature-length improvised movie available on DVD, using non-professional actors, will grow, expand and explode into something uncontrollable."

Up-n-coming:

In the Vue Weekly: Carolyn Nikodym on Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy and Stranger in My Own Skin and Steve Lillebuen on En Route to Baghdad.

In the Telegraph, Cassandra Jardine meets Bill Nighy and Sheila Johnston talks with Byambasuren Davaa about The Cave of the Yellow Dog.

Interviews at Boyd van Hoeij's newly redesigned europeanfilms.net: Michael Glawogger (Workingman's Death), Roger Crittenden (Fine Cuts: The Art of European Film Editing) and Grégoire Colin (Beau Travail and Inquiétudes).

Time Out's Dave Calhoun talks with Charlotte Rampling.

Signandsight translates Martin Meyer and Andreas Breitenstein's interview with Peter Handke for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

Ken Silverstein talks with Robert Baer for Harper's.

The Man Who Heard Voices Interviews via Movie City News: Peter Howell in the Toronto Star with Johnny Depp, Claudia Eller in the Los Angeles Times with M Night Shyamalan (commentary: Ray Pride, Anne Thompson and Jeffrey Wells) and Jason Silverman in Wired News with Dennis Muren (Equinox).

In the Independent, Lesley O'Toole talks with Milla Jovovich.

"[T]he race to be the Next Meryl Streep is heating up," proposes Richard Rushfield who, in the LAT lays out the odds for Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, Keira Knightley and Kirsten Dunst. Related: "More List Mania" at Film Experience

Josh R at Edward Copeland on Film: "Michael Douglas has been involved with some of the most blatant exercises in anti-woman propaganda that the modern cinema has produced."

Dave Heaton reviews a slew of new soundtrack releases at PopMatters. Also, Violet Glaze on Edith Head.

Speaking of soundtracks, MS Smith listens to a tune featured on the soundtrack for "one of the cinematic gems of 2005," The Beat That My Heart Skipped.

John Landis's Into the Night doesn't deserve the neglect it reaps, argues Vince Keenan; neither do a lot of 80s-era music videos.

At AICN, Scott Green revisits all things Patlabor. Meanwhile, Emru Townsend has been writing up the top five animated car chases.

Craig Phillips takes Plotbot for a test drive; basically, it "allows writers to use their web browser to write a screenplay, and then invite others (one other, several, or as many as you want) to work on it with them." That's basically. Craig has far more on the specifics and writes, "As the site is in beta mode, I hope my comments here will be kind and fair if also honest enough to help this work in progress."

Online listening tip. Amy Reiter talks with Amy Sedaris for Salon.

Online browsing tip. Russian movie posters via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip. "Trailers for Historically Significant Films." I've pointed in that direction before, but the collection just keeps on growing.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:50 PM

Weekend fests and events.

Cinema South Film Festival "Despite being in the firing line of Hamas Qassam rockets hurled daily from Palestinian Gaza territories, [Sapir College] holds the Cinema South Film Festival every year with a particular orientation towards the graduation films of its students and invited guests from around the world," writes Roger Clarke in the Independent. "Sapir is the largest public college in Israel and does its best to encourage the admission of Muslim students. This is the Israel you never hear much about."

Congrats to Matthew Clayfield! The Brisbane International Film Festival will be screening his Firelight.

For The Love of Movies: The Cinema of Benoît Jacquot is a series running at the Walter Reade in NYC through July 11; in the Voice, Michael Atkinson considers this "troublesome but fascinating figure in contemporary French film." Also, Elliott Stein previews Vittorio De Seta: A Retrospective (today through June 30 at MoMA). In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (and in German), Martin Lejeune talks with De Seta.

On Photography: A Tribute to Susan Sontag And: On Photography: A Tribute to Susan Sontag is an exhibition at the Metropolitan open through September 4, and "one could hardly imagine a more fitting memorial to the writer, who died two years ago, than this show of photographs organized around her reflections," writes Leslie Camhi.

In the Los Angeles Times, Margaret Wappler previews the REDCAT International Children's Film Festival, "a program of 38 animated and live-action shorts and features representing 15 countries, including Mexico, Japan and Iran," running through next Thursday. Also: Susan King on the exhibition, It's Alive! Bringing Animatronic Characters to Life on Film, through August 20 at the Grand Lobby and Fourth Floor galleries of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Lumière Reader launches its coverage of the Telecom New Zealand International Film Festivals.

From the Sydney Film Festival:

"How many film masterpieces is it possible to absorb in a two-month period?" Brian Darr peeks ahead to what'll be showing in July and August in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jette Kernion rounds up Austin-area goings on at Cinematical, where Ryan Stewart wraps Film Forum's B Noir series and reviews The Brothers Rico. Also, Martha Fischer on Don Siegel's The Lineup and Irving Lerner's Murder by Contract.

Newport Film Festival Stephen Holt looks back to the Newport Film Festival at Movie City News.

Kim Adelman: "The jury had no trouble deciding that director Greg Spottiswood's Genie-nominated short Noise should take home the award for Best Canadian Short Film at the 2006 Canadian Film Centre's Worldwide Short Film Festival, which took place June 13th - 18th in Toronto, Ontario."

Also at indieWIRE, Sarah Jo Marks wraps Silverdocs.

Online viewing tips. SXSW's 2002 trailers will put a smile on your face.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:49 AM

Frameline: Closing weekend.

Michael Guillen was there to hear B Ruby Rich's Persistent Vision 2006 keynote address, "The Q-Word, the Post-Brokeback Landscape, Queer Normativity and the Genderation Gap":

B Ruby Rich: Chick Flicks

Admitting she had come to praise New Queer Cinema, not to bury it, she quoted a comment made by Amy Villarejo in an essay written for GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies - "The questions raised by queer studies, queer film studies, are still operative. It matters whether we choose to [embalm] them or resuscitate them, transformed for today." Qualifying that Villarejo was talking mostly about history, Rich nonetheless thought it could likewise apply to a reappraisal of queer cinema terms. "I suppose what I want to do here today is neither and both," she decided.

Extensive notes follow in this excellent entry.

"A minimum of 16 filmmakers from the Bay Area are finding at least 15 minutes of fame, if not more, in the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival this year." Susan Gerhard's got the list. Also at SF360, Dennis Harvey: "Writing at the festival's midpoint, and having come directly from a double bill of Indonesian and Filipino features that drew audiences thoroughly mixed in gender and ethnicity, one thing that struck me is how comfortable with its own diversity the SF gay community has become."

Quick takes at SFist from the fest: Eve on George Michael: A Different Story and Matt on Alonso Duralde's presentation of "a whirlwind of Elizabeth Taylor and heaving gladiators, a stream of clips that left us even gayer than we were when we walked in."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:21 AM

LAFFing through the weekend.

Los Angeles Film Festival Peter Martin sends an early word from the Los Angeles Film Festival into Twitch. At Movie City News, Len Klady recommends half a dozen films to catch this weekend.

Elizabeth Snead is blogging from the fest for the Los Angeles Times; more coverage:

Updated.

Mario's Story

Scott Kirsner has much, much more on that panel.

Updates: Back to Twitch for Peter Martin on Before Born (Jie Guo), Old Joy and Grain in Ear (Mang Zhong).

For AJ Schnack, the move to Westwood is a better idea that it seemed at first.

Bradford Nordeen: "The Descent hits theaters August 4th and is certainly not to be missed."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:05 AM

Weekend must-read: Jürgen Fauth's mash-up.

The Road to Guantánamo and Superman Returns The title, "Review Mash-Up: Superman Returns vs The Road to Guantánamo," might look like a joke, but Jürgen Fauth's not joking: "I don't mean to be flip. History has taught us that the fantasies about Strong Men with infinite power seem to go hand in hand with a reality where innocents are rounded up in camps. Seen through the lens of The Road to Guantánamo, the self-righteousness of Superman looks not just absurd but dangerous."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:09 AM

Midnight Eye. New reviews.

All four by Tom Mes:

The Whispering of the Gods

  • "If The Whispering of the Gods is occasionally a bit too eager to wallow in depravity, such youthful indulgence is easy to forgive on the part of a novice director who manages to conjure up such sustained solemnity in the shape of such gorgeous images."

  • Heart, Beating in the Dark - New Version "is nether a remake nor a sequel. It is both those things, and at the same time it is also a documentary, a portrait of the consequences of passing time, and an occasionally very funny reflection on what the hell the point is of all this filmmaking business anyway."

  • "Although for its budgetary constraints DV / Domestic Violence may not seem like the kind of big dramatic statement churned out by the likes of Koreeda or Akihiko Shiota, it emerges as no less pertinent."

  • "The late Shuji Terayama remains one of the most enigmatic figures in the history of Japanese cinema.... Carol Sorgenfrei's Unspeakable Acts is the first monograph in the Western world to attempt to unravel the mystery and do Terayama justice."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:55 AM

June 23, 2006

Online viewing tips, 6/23.

Academy Awards Movie Via Ray Pride comes news that Errol Morris has not only posted his full Believer conversation with Adam Curtis, but also that wonderful "Academy Awards Movie."

Also: "On CNN's 'BlogBuzz,' the newsreader adopts a patronizing tone toward 15-year-old Alabaman Ava Lowery, whose short, WWJD?, ties quotations about faith and the singing of 'Jesus Loves Me' to images of bloodied and broken Iraqi children."

Andrew at Lucid Screening: "Dylan Bergeson's debut documentary, This Body is a Prison, shot on video over four months, captures the reality of Palestinians' lives under Israeli occupation. In one short hour, it manages to convey existence in a world where complexity is denied by violence, where everyday life is a struggle, and yet, through that struggle, art and education persist."

A little browsing, a little viewing: A gallery, an interview and a diary: Mike Figgis in Cannes; also via Movie City News, the trailer for Paris je t'aime and Danny Boyle introduces a first peek at Sunshine.

Drew Hemment talks with Conrad Chase, proprietor of the Baja Beach Club and "surrogate front man for VeriChip's human RFID implants."

The Norman Rockwell Code. Via The Crime in Your Coffee.

Grady Hendrix has a trailer for you: "Forget slickness, forget cleanliness, forget kindness. Dog Bite Dog is like swallowing a handful of broken glass."

Françoise Hardy: "Tous les garçons et les filles," at Rashomon.

Three clips from the Yorkshire Film Archive at DVblog.

Google Video spotlights Moving Pictures Magazine.

Slate, currently celebrating its 10th anniversary, revives Tim Noah's piece on Harry Shearer's Face Time.

Pitchfork's "100 Awesome Music Videos," via everywhere, but let's say Fimoculous.

Trailers for Branagh Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara, a Bollywood version of Othello. Via Todd at Twitch.

Online viewing tip for July 6, 7 and 8. The Influencers.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:30 PM

They could be heroes.

Superman Returns From Flash Gordon to Invisible Woman, Adrian Turpin presents a superhero "power list" in the Independent, hitting on their back stories, their look, powers, love interests, arch-enemies and, just in general, their issues.

"Superheroes may have been born in comic books, but they were made for the movies," writes Jim Emerson as he introduces a collection of over two dozen reviews of superhero movies Roger Ebert has written since 1978.

Thomas Goetz talks with Bryan Singer for Wired, where Neil Gaiman and Adam Rogers riff on "The Myth of Superman": "Superman is different because he doesn't really belong to the writers who've created his adventures over the last 68-plus years. He has evolved into a folk hero, a fable, and the public feels like it has a stake in who Superman 'really' is."

"Superman's values of 'truth, justice and the American way' resonated during World War II and the Cold War, but sound arrogant and unilateral in the wake of two Iraq wars," writes Sacha Molitorisz in the Sydney Morning Herald. "His superpowers seem old-fashioned and simplistic in an age when the misunderstood mutants of X-Men perfectly embody the Zeitgeist. The 68-year-old Superman has X-ray vision; X-Men's Rogue absorbs the memories and life force of anyone she touches. Even his outfit seems naff." Also via Movie City News, Cefn Ridout in the Australian News on recreating Metropolis from bits of Sydney.

The Boston Phoenix's Peter Keough finds himself among the fan boys on the Superman Returns junket.

Updates, 6/24: Jeffrey Overstreet has "10 Things to Do If You Get Bored During Superman Returns."

Keith Uhlich at Slant: "Superman Returns is a pleasant enough piece of hackwork, anonymous in all the right ways so that it neither offends nor thrills."

Updates, 6/25: David James talks with Bryan Singer for Newsweek; and David Ansen calls Returns "beautifully crafted" and notes "it's obviously made with real love."

"I could criticize the movie, and point out its few flaws, but why should I when I so sincerely enjoyed it?" asks David Lowery.

Online listening tip. NPR: Physics prof James Kakalios on the science behind Superman.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:01 PM | Comments (1)

NYAFF, 6/23.

NYAFF 06 Tuesday night's screening of Funky Forest: The First Contact (site) "was the start of a new religion," reports New York Asian Film Festival co-founder Grady Hendrix. "The sold-out house was laughing, cheering, and they burst into applause after a particularly good dance number... And when they came out of the theater their eyes were shining, their hair was aflame and their feet hardly touched the earth."

It screens once more, tomorrow, and Alison Willmore reviews it at the IFC Blog, along with Ski Jumping Pairs, The Road to Torino.

At Cinema Strikes Back, David Austin reviews Oh! My Zombie Mermaid: Utter Mayhem, interviews Gangster director Bade Haji Azmi and offers a general roundup on all the goings on at the fest.

Reviews at Twitch:

Updates, 6/25: "[T]he Subway Cinema lads haven't lost their eyes," writes Time's Richard Corliss, introducing his list of recommendations. "Even their conventional choices display pinwheeling formal expertise." What's more, Grady Hendrix is "the savviest young writer on film I know, east or west."

At Twitch, Todd has admiring praise for A Stranger of Mine.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:28 PM

Wassup Rockers.

Wassup Rockers "Wassup Rockers is a 'quintessential' LA story, as they say, and possibly of more interest now with the success of Crash, which deals with some of these issues in much cornier and less true ways," write John Payne and Caroline Ryder in a feature for the LA Weekly for which they spend quite some time with director Larry Clark and his "skater-hipster" stars.

"Has Larry Clark gone soft?" asks Justin W Ravitz in the New York Press. "Not exactly. It's just that this goofy posse of discovered non-actors, essentially playing themselves, couldn't possibly inspire a teenage-wasteland nightmare.... Instead, this fictionalized, meandering road trip gently unearths a tiny youth sub-culture that's fascinating largely because of its indomitable optimism."

Steve Erickson in Gay City News: "Clark takes an unexpected leap into a previously unknown realm - empathy for his characters. It's the first Clark film I haven't hated." Usually, his films "objectify and demonize youth, combining moralism and prurience in a way that feels deeply American."

"However you respond to Wassup Rockers, it is completely alive, unlike any number of teenage Hollywood movies with their stale formulas and second-hand puerility," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. But not before getting a few issues out of the way: "A filmmaker, photographer and besotted observer of sex and death on the adolescent fringe, Mr Clark pointedly photographs young flesh with the drooling concentration of a chicken hawk. Although he might say his purpose isn't to turn viewers on but to capture the intense physical reality of adolescent experience, there is more erotic energy floating through his films than in a hundred laboriously obtained orgasms from a pornographic loop. Watching his films can make anyone over 30 feel like a dirty old whatever."

"I just wanted you to meet these kids who you never see in movies," Clark tells Jessica Winter in the Village Voice. J Hoberman: "bod-caressing camerawork aside, it seems as though Uncle Larry's underlying fantasy might be a neorealist remake of A Hard Day's Night or a goofball West Side Story."

More from Noel Murray in the AV Club: "It may be truer to the lives of his amateur cast to watch them engage in mumbly, inarticulate conversations between rounds of failed skate tricks, but it isn't especially cinematic."

"[T]he film is not nearly as volatile or as engaging as Clark's previous works, Kids and Bully," writes Elizabeth Mixson for Res. "Despite its faults it is an enjoyable, informative, shocking and, at times, heartbreaking film."

Update: IndieWIRE interviews Larry Clark, Cassavetes fan.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:36 AM | Comments (3)

Seattle Dispatch. 9. Final.

From Jonathan Marlow: "Nine SIFF dispatches warrant nine items otherwise left unaddressed."

Seattle International Film Festival 1. In his excellent indieWIRE wrap-up, Brian Brooks quotes Seattle International Film Festival artistic director Carl Spence as stating that "...we have argued about shortening the festival for years but the audiences here in Seattle have embraced the largess and length of SIFF. They support it wholeheartedly..." Some of the regulars definitely support it. Others see it as evidence that the programmers are incapable of making difficult decisions about what appears and what doesn't. A few of the worst films that I've ever seen screened at SIFF. Who Killed the Baby Jesus, anyone?

2. Given its size (and the above comments notwithstanding), it always leads to questioning the films that didn't make it into the line-up. Where was Abduction? Where was Regular Lovers? I could go on... Granted, I'd sit through just about anything that Maryna Ajaja and/or Helen Loveridge were passionate about. It makes such a difference to have programmers with taste you can trust.

3. A considerable amount of talk has gone into the increased quantity of quality made-in-Seattle films, specifically last year's Sundance underdog Police Beat and Ward Serrill's high school basketball doc, The Heart of the Game. There was a larger-than-average number of Seattle-centric pictures in the program, most notably Rick Stevenson's Expiration Date (look for an interview with him here next month) and a pair of NWFF-related projects - Linas Phillips's obsessive Walking to Werner and Lynn Shelton's Slamdance winner, We Go Way Back. In the midst of all this adoration for locally produced product, I was disappointed that Kristian St Clair's remarkable film, This is Gary McFarland didn't generate deserved kudos after its sole screening at the festival. It is easily one of the best music documentaries of the year.

OSS 117

4. OSS 117: Nest of Spies won the Golden Space Needle for Best Feature, a film that wasn't even originally in the program but served as a last-minute replacement. A hit in France, OSS 117 currently lacks US distribution (WTF, Hollywood?). If anything, it proves that contemporary films that strive to evoke 1960s-era productions yet are set in the mid-1950s are long overdue for a comeback. Perhaps the forthcoming Casino Royale should've taken this approach.

5. SIFF has never been one to give credit where credit is due. In all of the comments about the landmark performance of Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie (their first live appearance together), it was only noted in passing that Emerald Reels' Reed O'Beirne was involved. It's a bit more complicated than that. Without his efforts and the behind-the scenes work of a few others, the show might not have happened at all. Spence evidently had the initial notion and contacted Gregg Araki (in addition to earlier collaborations, the pair scored Mysterious Skin). The plan was to get them to compose music for a silent feature film but they passed. Robin called Reed to see if he could suggest an alternative. Reed called me. I sent a dozen discs from my library of so-called "experimental" shorts and a similar number of recommendations from the nearly one hundred titles hidden among those collections. Some he used and some he didn't. Is it really too much to ask for a mere mention of the fact that most of the images on the screen came from the efforts of Bruce Posner's Unseen Cinema project by way of the Cabinetic archives (otherwise known as "my basement")? Does that minor mention really pose such a difficulty, even when pointedly asked about the print source during the Q&A by Peter Moore (another part of the Bay Area contingency at SIFF)? He had no idea that I was involved. I could say that I was disappointed, offering my time for no recognition (although, not that the oversight was his fault, Reed certainly made a point to thank me repeatedly), but it really confirmed what I expected from the festival all along. Nothing.

6. In fact, my disappointment (see above) was reserved for the absence of Bruce Baillie. In our first few conversations about the program, it was immediately decided that we wanted to present a film by the legendary Baillie with some small hope that he would also appear at the screening. Unfortunately, he did not attend. Unless, of course, I am mistaken and he was quietly there at the Egyptian all along. It wouldn't surprise me but it would definitely double the disappointment! I'll try not to think about such a possibility...

7. Outside of the plentiful films, what is the best part about attending a film festival? Meeting new people. John Anderson, I look forward to reading the book that you wrote with Laura Kim (and also referring it to others when they ask me the frequent questions about what to do with their film now that its festival tour has ended). Ishai Setton, I look forward to seeing your film The Big Bad Swim. Since I figure that friendly folks make good films, yours must be great. Anne Thompson, please keep reading our blog. We'll keep reading (and referencing) yours!

8. Much like previous adventures on SIFF's closing night, the official party was something of a lackluster affair. However, the after party was once again a clear highlight of the weekend. Makes me wonder why the same infectious energy can't be found at the earlier "sanctioned" event. Furthermore, I knew that Shannon Gee could keep pace with my crazy-person antics on the dance floor but who knew that Americanese producer/star Allison Sie and script supervisor Cecilia Tsai, along with Cinema Scope (and occasional GreenCine) correspondent Jay Kuehner, could match my moves? Color me impressed.

9. The final point is always a throw-away, right? This one is only geographically related - Gary Payton had to leave Seattle and the Sonics in order to get his ring. Congratulations, Gary! Someone should either make a movie about this guy or give him his own television show. The Finer Things in Life with Gary Payton. I'd watch that. Evidently, Susie Gerhard would watch it, too.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:10 AM | Comments (4)

Army of Shadows.

Army of Shadows As the newly restored version of Army of Shadows opens a bit wider, Sean Axmaker places the film within the context of Jean-Pierre Melville's oeuvre.

In this week's issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Dennis Harvey writes, "If Army of Shadows sometimes seems less than the sum of its parts, those parts are nonetheless mightily idiosyncratic and frequently arresting."

Earlier: Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader, Manohla Dargis in the New York Times and J Hoberman in the Village Voice.

Updates, 6/24: David Pratt-Robson and, in the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:49 AM

June 22, 2006

Opening LAFF.

Los Angeles Film Festival The Los Angeles Film Festival opens today and runs through July 2. LA Weekly critics name seven not-to-be-missed entries as well as "Rest of the Fest," while Ernest Hardy previews the Music Video Showcase.

Scott Foundas talks with the organizers about this year's changes (there's been a move across town, for example), previews three picks from the International Showcase "by foreign-born filmmakers who eventually became Los Angeles-based expatriates," and a "series of acclaimed recent films that have yet to screen locally, curated by members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, [which] returns as part of this year's LAFF, complete with a panel discussion in which critics (including this one), distributors and exhibitors will discuss the market forces affecting the distribution of foreign and independent films."

The Los Angeles Times, a presenter, opens a special section devoted to the fest, with Mary McNamara getting organizers to explain why Los Angeles, of all places, would actually need a film festival: "'So many people in LA are, quite frankly, ground down by life in the industry,' says Dawn Hudson, executive director of Film Independent, which produces the festival. 'We want to remind them why they came here in the first place. We want to remind them that it was for a love of film.'"

Also, Kevin Crust recommends ten docs and Susan King offers a few tips for attendees.

Andy Klein presents his recommendations in the LA CityBeat - the "best of the batch" he was able to preview "is handily 13 (Tzameti)" - and Lauren Horwitch talks with Artist in Residence, Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:21 AM

The Road to Guantánamo.

For Salon's Andrew O'Hehir, The Road to Guantánamo is "the most important and most challenging film we're likely to see in the United States this year." What's more...

The Road to Guantánamo

[The film] challenges American viewers to confront the possibility (note that word, please) that the worst fantasies of the Chomskyite left fringe have already come to pass. In other words, the possibility that the country some of us still believe is capable of fulfilling the rhetoric of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D Roosevelt has already become a new kind of totalitarian superstate, enforcing consumer narcosis at home with a borderless secret-police apparatus that spans the globe. At the same time, the film cannot dispel other hypotheses: Maybe the Tipton Three are a complete anomaly, and everybody else sent to Gitmo is a hardened al-Qaida assassin. Maybe the Tipton Three are not the hapless bozos they appear to be, but decided to prey on the sympathies of weak-minded liberal journalists after their release.

We're going to hear all these theories, and more besides, as this film percolates into the American consciousness.

Updated through 6/24.

Anthony Kaufman for Alternet: "A couple years back, director [Michael] Winterbottom crafted a similarly stunning docudrama called In This World, a woefully under-seen immigration tale that followed two real-life Afghan refugees on a harrowing journey from Peshawar to Britain.... Never sensational, Road to Guantánamo isn't agit-prop, but it does strike a powerful blow at the heart of the Bush administration's callous wartime policies, revealing the suffering it has inflicted on innocent people."

"There's little reason to doubt Winterbottom's lurid account of what went on in the camp (the flagrant indifference to Geneva Convention protocol, the routine crossing of the line between interrogation and torture are torn from the headlines with visceral ferocity) and - on the evidence of last week's suicides, clearly still does - despite Bush's belated announcement that he wants the place closed," writes Ella Taylor. "Still, for a movie that relies heavily on reenactments to have no credited screenwriter seems like a deliberate fudging of the line between reality and fiction, a popular gambit these days but nonetheless specious for all that. By inviting us to take on trust the Tipton Three's accounts of what they were doing in Afghanistan, Guantánamo falls into a familiar trap of agitprop filmmaking - turning the victim into a hero."

Also in the LA Weekly, Winterbottom tells Scott Foundas, "One of the terrible things about Guantánamo is that before it existed, no one would have believed it could exist, and once it closes down, people will be horrified that it ever existed.... Something like Guantánamo sends out a very strong signal to the rest of the world that the rule of law does not apply when America doesn't want it to apply."

"For a film loaded with war casualties and torture, it's disarmingly entertaining," writes Stephen Beachy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He hits his main point, though, at the end:

Even in other recent films that package their torture as political critique, like Syriana and V for Vendetta, the subjects and objects of the verb 'to torture' have been muddled; we've watched only white Americans and Brits enduring the worst, at the hands of Muslims, cartoon characters, or - in movies like Hostel, in which the torture is pure entertainment - East European whores and Germanic S-M fags. As in dreams, audiences probably understand that the roles are confused, and that Americans should actually be the ones wielding the clubs and attack dogs. Finally, however, we've been presented with a more accurate grammar: The Americans and British are torturing and the Muslims are tortured. For that reason alone, The Road to Guantánamo is an important and necessary film.

J Hoberman in the Voice: "By making a spectacle of the purposeless violence inflicted by frightened authority on whoever might be available, the movie could just as well have been called The Road to Haditha."

For the AV Club's Scott Tobias, "What it lacks is a necessary dash of skepticism."

"[F]lawed but inflammatory," offer Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix, arguing that "the contradictory approaches [of dramatization and documentary] undermine each other." Keough also talks with co-director Mat Whitecross, who counter-argues that "the only way to make a documentary in a traditionally understood form is to be with them as everything was happening, and obviously that’s impossible. So the only way you could do it is with 'talking heads.' And it's just not a very cinematic way of describing it to an audience." Also: The Tipton Three today.

Updates: Nick Pinkerton opens Reverse Shot's round at indieWIRE by arguing that Road is "a not-too-distant cousin of Paul Greengrass's recent United 93. Both represent the same tendency towards visceral, present-tense cinematic reportage that, through the integration of actuality footage and that universal symbol for facile cinematic 'immediacy,' handheld camerawork, the film seeks to immerse the viewer firsthand in the queasy ordeal of experiencing headline-sized tragedy." Kristi Mitsuda is swept up, but Lauren Kaminsky has her reservations.

As for Armond White's review, Matt Cornell has already commented sufficiently. In this same issue of the New York Press, reviewing Nacho Libre, he calls the benign comedy School of Rock "hateful." White used to be outrageous and thought-provoking; recently, he's just been outrageous.

Though the film "does not tell us anything new," writes AO Scott in the New York Times, "It is nonetheless a wrenching and dismaying account of cruelty and bureaucratic indifference, a graphic tour of a place many citizens of Western democracies would prefer not to think about.... But by far the scariest thing about this movie is that, for too many people in this country and elsewhere, it may already have lost the power to shock."

Updates, 6/23: Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times: "If history has established the banality of evil, The Road to Guantánamo illustrates its rank stupidity." She notes that the Tipton Three "are tortured with death metal played at deafening levels, and later, after they're cleared but before they're released, they're rewarded with Burger King and Pizza Hut. The idea that 'American culture,' which we've slowly allowed to be supplanted by corporate capitalism, has become a handy instrument of torture and as well as its hasty palliative is curious to say the least."

In the Hollywood Reporter, Anne Thompson talks with Roadside Attractions partner Howard Cohen about the chances they've taken picking up the film for distribution in the US.

IndieWIRE interviews Mat Whitecross.

Slate's Dana Stevens finds the film "exhausting, depressing, slightly nauseating, and unfortunately necessary.... A detractor might point out that this film never allows for that possibility the boys actually were in Afghanistan for nefarious purposes in October of 2001. A defender might counter that, given that the United States couldn't come up with a justification for their detention even after the case went before the Supreme Court in 2002, the burden of proof hardly rests on Michael Winterbottom."

Online listening tip. Ruhel Ahmed and Michael Winterbottom are guests on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Christopher Campbell at Cinematical: "I think that it needs to be appreciated foremost as an astonishing tale of survival, a kind of modern Odyssey with a touch of the old mistaken-identity scenario, presented in a pointedly discriminating first-person narrative.... Basically The Road to Guantanamo is just good storytelling."

Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog: "It's impossible to walk out of this film feeling any less than righteously enraged, but we couldn't help feeling manhandled as well — the film's purpose may be to pull strings, but Mr Winterbottom, must you tug so hard?"

Doug Cummings: "To its credit, the film isn't sensationalistic nor is it political agitprop. While the violence is concrete and upsetting, it's virtually tame by contemporary Hollywood standards.... Ultimately, the film seems less conceived as a political document than a memorial to [the camp's] victims."

Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker: "It's the most important and to my mind best movie of the year."

Updates, 6/24: At Movie City News, Larry Gross responds to David Poland's take: "The issue-problem here is that, for better or worse, Winterbottom struggled to stay as close to the eye-view of the people he made the film about. A comparable decision was made by Greengrass in [United 93]. (I'd love to see the two of them gab about the similarities and differences in their approach and results.)"

Ruthe Stein in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Like An Inconvenient Truth, The Road to Guantánamo is a film that must be seen to understand the sad truths of our times."

Chuck Tryon: "[W]hile suspicious viewers may be able to 'nibble at the factual edges of this film,' as Andrew O'Hehir of Salon puts it, I believe it's almost impossible to shake the larger argument of the film that - in Guantánamo at the very least - the United States is not living up to the values of human rights and justice that it claims to be promoting in the Middle East."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:13 AM | Comments (7)

Online viewing tip. Jami Bernard.

Jami Bernard "After 13 years as a film critic with the New York Daily News, we've parted ways. As Dianne Wiest would advise in Bullets Over Broadway, I'll say no more," writes Jami Bernard at her new blog, The Incredible Shrinking Critic, named after her forthcoming book about losing 75 pounds. And here's the viewing tip: Behold the Future of Film Criticism, "a quick look at what movie critics do when they're sans portfolio." The visual consultant is Jamie Stuart, so you know it's going to look sharp.

Meantime, Bernard writes, "The first movie I saw as a civilian is The Break-Up, as depressing a movie-going experience as I've had.... Tell me, what kind of romantic comedy has you rooting for the protagonists to see other people and move on with their lives?"

The Break-Up As it happens, Suzy Hansen is currently defending the film in the New York Observer, arguing that it's not supposed to be the feel-good movie of the year: "When [the relationship] falls apart, it's immature and cliché-ridden and nasty, which seems about right.... the writers are so un-American in their rejection of sentimentality, it almost feels French."

Oddly related in the NYO - Vince Vaughn, weight loss - Sara Vilkomerson spots a trend: "The Hollywood box-office draws have stopped looking like the lithe and graceful Orlando Blooms of the world, delicate and emotive and who might possibly weigh less than an average female fan, and instead now look like guys you can recognize as being from the same planet you inhabit, who eat, drink, and smoke what they want, pack on the pounds and still get to regularly bed skinny actresses who can't remember what carbs taste like. What's more, the women don't mind a bit - in fact, some prefer it."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:22 AM

Wilder @ 100.

Billy Wilder "Unlike many of his fellow emigrants, [Billy] Wilder never felt as if he was in exile in Hollywood. To the contrary: It was a dream come true," writes Volker Schlöndorff in a wonderful remembrance in the Los Angeles Times. "It is my hope to someday achieve his seemingly carefree levity. For as different as our personalities and films may be, he has always been my role model."

Wilder would have been 100 years old today, and the German papers are celebrating: Anke Westphal in the Berliner Zeitung, Tobias Kniebe in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Daniel Kothenschulte in the Frankfurter Rundschau, Hellmuth Karasek in Die Welt, and Michael Althen in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (lots of pix).

Suggestions for further clicking: Richard Armstrong in Senses of Cinema, Robert Porfirio's 1975 interview for the Film Noir Reader 3 and, well, me, back in 2002, reflecting on reaction in Europe to Wilder's death in late March of that year.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:49 AM | Comments (4)

June 21, 2006

Kamera. The Sex Issue.

Vamp: The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara Antonio Pasolini introduces the modest issue with a few thoughts: "Perhaps our resistance and uncomfortable-ness with 'real sex' stems from the fact that we don't want to be reminded that the thing is actually quite banal. Naturalising it means losing the magical, forbidden, subliminal appeal that pulls millions of filmgoers to cinema theatres in search of an elusive erotic moment."

Thessa Mooij on "The World's First Vamp on Film": "Theda Bara was an instant hit; her exoticism played up in the days before the moguls decided that blonde, corn-fed shiksas would be the object of the theatergoer's desire, instead of moody, dangerous and dark women of unclear ethnic origins."

Colin Odell and Michelle Le Blanc on conservative morality and the coupling of sex and death in horror movies: "Innocence is no guarantee of protection but promiscuity is a pretty good ticket to a nasty end."

Tanya Krzywinska's Sex and the Cinema, a study in two parts, "Defining Sex in Cinema" and "Themes of Transgression," is excerpted.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:13 PM

Sight & Sound. 07/06.

Avida The July issue of Sight & Sound features a whopping Cannes package, most of which is online. The festival "often delivers less than its optimistic constituency would wish for," writes editor Nick James in a broad survey of the Competition. "But this year's festival seemed more to dash hopes for the future than enhance existing reputations."

For Jonathan Romney, the other sections of this year's edition "yielded no great bolt-from-the-blue revelations," either. He quite liked Avida, though, and has good things to say about Colossal Youth and Eugène Green.

"Power and extremism proved to be recurring themes" for Ali Jaafar, who notes a few favorites. Geoff Andrew sets out to write about the European entries but ends up casting his net far wider. And, as expected for some time now, Amy Taubin steps up to bat for Richard Kelly's Southland Tales, which she finds as "oneiric and overwhelming as two memorial films of Cannes past - David Lynch's Mulholland Dr and Wong Kar-Wai's 2046 - and a lot funnier."

Reviews:

Sight & Sound 07/06

Posted by dwhudson at 7:21 AM | Comments (3)

Outlook India. Bollywood Music Special.

Outlook India: Bollywood Music Special "Call it passion or pathology, the film song is so basic to our landscape - like neem, or pepper, or cows on the roads - that we're liable to not notice that it's a special kind of artefact," writes Bollywood. "Uniquely Indian, found in all its climatic zones, warm-blooded but immune to the snow."

Namrata Joshi: "The one thing our special issue reveals is that Hindi film songs speak to different people in different ways; it's about lots of songs, the people behind them; several voices and opinions, nostalgia and memories and flashes of angst as well. In the 75th year of Indian Talkies, it seems completely appropriate to celebrate the eternal appeal of the best Hindi film songs."

Guide So Outlook polls 30 composers, lyricists and singers to comprise a list of the "20 Best Hindi Film Songs Ever." Joshi and Partha Chatterjee delve into the background of the #1 song, Man Re Tu Kaahe Naa Dheer Dhare, Joshi celebrates the most popular film, Guide (1965), Chatterjee, the most popular lyricist, Shailendra, Joshi, the most popular singers, Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi, and Chatterjee, the most popular composer, SD Burman.

Also:

Posted by dwhudson at 6:16 AM | Comments (1)

Seattle Dispatch. 8.

Producer and writer Shannon Gee offers her impressions of the Seattle International Film Festival.

Seattle International Film Festival 26 days later, the first film I saw under the auspices of the SIFF, Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion, seems as fading as an old radio battery. This juggernaut of a film festival is the long distance marathon of fests and at times an exercise in patience. But every year, I look back at the festival like one would recall their freshman year at college; there are a lot of late nights and there's a little too much drinking. But you can check in with the classics and you always discover new films that carry you to the next year.

Although Prairie was the first film I saw (and, despite living in a NPR-heavy town, I was not familiar with the radio show and therefore more confused by the film version than appreciative of it), I did catch up with some films I missed at other festivals. I found Wristcutters: A Love Story (Sundance 06) to be just the quirky light touch I needed that day. While I was prepared to take a stand on which segment of Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times (Toronto 05) I liked best, I found all three to be satisfying in their own way. Closing Night film The Science of Sleep (Sundance 06) proved to be the most disappointing. While Michel Gondry's Dave Chappelle's Block Party never seemed able to finish a thought (or rather, a song), Sleep's half-baked main character Stephane (Gael García Bernal) has not even a quarter of the staying power of the mighty Dave Chappelle (who can hold together a film that teleports through time like a crew member on the Star Trek Enterprise with ADD) and has woefully much less narrative caulk than the resonant Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Bernal's character and the story overall have a weak pulse, but Sleep still has a lot of strength in terms of its whimsical art direction and imagery. It's an eyeball's feast of arts and crafts.

Walking to Werner

I had seen The Heart of the Game, Seattle's favorite hometown documentary about girls' high school basketball, in Toronto where it created a lot of buzz and was picked up by Miramax. This leaner, re-narrated version was just as good and affecting the second time around. Another hometown doc with less buzz coming to the plate ended up being a pleasant surprise and warranted a special jury mention at the awards banquet atop the Space Needle. Walking to Werner, a nearly real-time chronicling of Linas Phillip's on-foot journey from Seattle to Werner Herzog's home in LA, was funny, desperate and hit a raw nerve in the best way. Phillips, a fan of Herzog and a first-time filmmaker, was inspired to walk the 1200 miles along the Pacific Coast by Herzog's own walking journey from Munich to Paris. Narrated at times by Herzog commentary lifted from interviews and DVDs, Walking to Werner feels like a companion piece to Herzog's Grizzly Man. Once Phillips films himself inside a tent, his similarity to Timothy Treadwell, the doomed grizzly bear preservationist, becomes visually soldered - but Phillip's grizzly bear is Herzog himself.

I went to a lot of the music events, mostly out of curiosity and to find evidence of the simpatico relationship between film and music that the festival and the City of Seattle was trying to impart. (Could it be because Seattle's film office is officially the Mayor's Office of Music and Film?) Sometimes the programs under the "Face the Music" banner worked. The screening of Tod Browning's The Unknown with a live score by Portastatic worked for me, but a lot of people, who perhaps favor the tinkling pianos of yore, disliked their modern, funky take. Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd popped into town to do a loose, transporting score to a variety of avant-garde and experimental films. While it had no narrative shape, the music felt spacey in a good way, and it doesn't hurt to revisit Maya Deren's Meshes in the Afternoon every once in awhile.

Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out

The oddest, but no less fun event was the Face the Music Rock Party, which featured a number of local Seattle bands doing covers of songs related to various music documentaries that played in the same program. The audience got a smattering of Devo, The Police, and Harry Nilsson to coincide with a visit from Mark Mothersbaugh, the Stewart Copeland doc Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out and Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everyone Talking About Him?). If anything, the event got us out of the movie theater and on our feet, which at a festival like the Seattle International, is pretty hard to do.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:55 AM

June 20, 2006

Light Sleeper. Updates.

Pasolini Not to denigrate the level of discourse in the four fine new pieces up at Light Sleeper by mentioning Entertainment Weekly in the same breath, but if, for whatever reason, you needed a reminder of the limp and limited reach of pop cultural memory, you might start by noting that Pasolini's Salò is not among EW's 25 "most controversial movies," though it is most certainly, as LS editor Saul Symonds writes, introducing a roundtable discussion of the film between himself, David Ehrenstein and Noel Vera, "deservedly one of the 20th century's most controversial films." Beyond the controversy, though, and far more interesting, are the conflicting critical interpretations brought to the roundtable and the enduring mystery of its "disturbing power," which Saul explores in a follow-up essay.

He quickly dismisses its critique of fascism as being anywhere near the source of that power, but that dismissal makes for a nice segue to Ronald Bergan's rattler: "Last year, at the Mar del Plata Film Festival in Argentina, I had the honour of meeting SS Obersturmbannführer Heinrich Ehrhardt (retired) whose views on the film Downfall (Der Untergang) I recorded."

The fourth new addition is Richard Armstrong's review of Nina Kusturica and Eva Testor's 24 Realities per Second, a doc that follows Michael Haneke "on trains, in cars, directing actors, talking at a Q&A, shards of experience that may reveal glimpses of temperament and preoccupations.... The film is a record of its making."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:20 PM | Comments (2)

Interview. Robert Baer.

Robert Baer is the author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, the memoir Syriana is based on (George Clooney plays Baer, more or less), Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude and most recently, a novel, Blow the House Down.

Robert Baer: 3 books and a movie

His latest project is the film, The Cult of the Suicide Bomber, which Hannah Eaves describes, introducing her interview with Baer, as "an eye-opening portrait of the overwhelming adoration suicide bombers inspire in their communities and families."

Baer also pinpoints what he feels is the crux of the problem in the Middle East, the problem "everybody's afraid to talk about," and explains why the war in Iraq is "total folly" and how the ongoing presence of the US in the country will only further exacerbate the situation - and why another terrorist attack on the US is only "a matter of time."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:40 AM

Seattle Dispatch. 7.

Sean Axmaker looks back on the just-wrapped marathon of festivals, Seattle International Film Festival.

The Science of Sleep Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep closed the festival on a note of imaginative spirit and emotional pain. I love the way he uses whimsy and fantasy to get at prickly emotions, uncomfortable feelings and the sometimes painful divide between our dreams and our lives. There's a childlike sweetness and honesty in Gael García Bernal's aspiring illustrator, who reimagines his world through the TV show of the mind. It's both prologue to his freewheeling dreams and madcap escape from reality, which he hosts and directs from a cardboard and cellophane set that lies just behind his eyes. The flip side to his creative imagination and flights of fancy is an emotional immaturity that cripples any adult connection to his neighbor (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a seeming soul mate. In the face of a mind-killing job and an unrequited love, his fantasy becomes pure escape that soaks through to both his dreams and his waking world.

As Gainsbourg remarks in the film, it's hard to create randomness as we tend to create patterns. Gondry directs from his first original screenplay (he collaborated with Charlie Kaufman on the story for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and it lacks the architectural beauty of Kaufman's intricate scripts - purposefully, I would say. In place of the complex patterns and surreal order, Gondry captures the sloppiness of life with a scruffy chaos with no grand design, a life that is not necessarily random, but certainly doesn't feel narratively determined. The connections he makes arise from the images and themes and the feelings expressed in his fantasies.

A Comedy of Power My last SIFF screening, chronologically speaking (I saw Science earlier in the week) made for a satisfactory bookend to the festival. With A Comedy of Power, Claude Chabrol takes another break from his thrillers (which have been getting a little stale as of late) for a drama in halls of justice with a political backdrop. The SIFF audience didn't seem quite ready for the sober remove and lingering pace of his direction, a dryly sardonic look at a powerful and dogged French magistrate (Isabelle Huppert) on the trail of institutional corruption in a public company. While she uses her quite extensive power to pressure corporate officers - she earns her nickname, "The Piranha," and seems to thrive on blood in the water - even greater power is wielded from above to shield the politicians and power brokers who sacrifice the board members and their petty corruptions like pawns to protect their skims and scams. Chabrol presents the investigation, the power games, the interrogations and the intimidations aimed at her with a matter-of-fact directness, inflected with nothing more than a shrugging recognition and a subtle, ironic wit and concluded with a sour punchline. It was nice to see Chabrol in such smart (if not quite cinematically compelling) form.

The awards have been announced and posted on the Daily. As usual, I missed most of the Golden Space Needle Award winners, the audience awards of the festival. Not that I've ever embraced the winners with the same passion as the audiences. The winning film, OSS 117: Nest of Spies, was a hoot, but hardly the best the festival had to offer. It was, however, an audience pleaser that manages to both spoof classic spy movies and satirize European and Western arrogance in the Middle East with a light touch, and the director and co-star were on hand for the screenings, which always enhances the excitement.

Elsa & Fred It's always interesting to compare the general audience results with the Fool Serious ballots, a non-affiliated group who poll an exclusive group of voters (full series passholders only). "Most Liked" film is Elsa & Fred (Spain), an octogenarian romantic comedy (it was second runner-up in audience awards), followed by Mother of Mine (Sweden/Finland), Dorota Kedzierzawska's I Am (Poland), Carlos Saura's dance and music tribute film, Iberia (Spain), and Yoji Yamada's The Hidden Blade (Japan), the second film in a trilogy that began with The Twilight Samurai. Their top documentary pick is Adam Curtis's acclaimed The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (UK).

Of the 65 films I saw, many of them chosen by random luck of the draw while covering the festival for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, my biggest joy was Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy, which I fear has little hope a theatrical release. Other highlights include Christoffer Boe's Allegro (Denmark), Gela Baluani's 13 (Tzameti) (France/Georgia) and Danis Tanovic's Hell (France). I missed more films than I'd like to remember, and saw a few I'd just as soon forget. But it's over. The longest film festival in the country tossed its closing night party (where I wound up hanging with Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson, aka Dante and Randal from the Clerks films - they weren't part of the festival, they just happened to be in town) and waved goodbye for another year. I'd like to use the time to hibernate.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:29 AM

June 19, 2006

Shorts, 6/19.

Besides its pointer to James Parker's piece in the Boston Globe on the current whither-film-criticism debate ("as the blurby, slangy, barely-considered Ain't It Cool style becomes the lingua franca of film criticism, we should cherish the last of our old-school film writers"), the cinetrix's latest entry as a whole reminds us why it's felt so empty, her being gone so long til now.

The Passenger

"And so the film went into production and the caravan set off from Notting Hill to Munich to Barcelona to Almeria to Djanet in the Algerian Sahara and then back to the Hotel de la Gloria." Having conjured the milieu, Mark Peploe recalls the realization of The Passenger in Time Out. "Many wondrous things happened along the way. On one occasion Antonioni asked me to write a piece of additional dialogue for Maria Schneider. Without reading it, she rolled it into a ball, popped it into her mouth, and ate it."

Also via Ray Pride at Movie City News, Subhash K Jha at Glamsham on how Sacred Evil references and reveres Satyajit Ray.

Leonard Cohen At Invisible Cinema, Jennifer MacMillan calls for a Leonard Cohen mini-blog-a-thon for Sunday, June 25. Related: MaryAnn Johanson on Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man: "How odd, that someone would make a documentary about Leonard Cohen with so little Leonard Cohen in it!"

Back in February, the Self-Styled Siren called for a Lana Turner blog-a-thon; Peter Nellhaus reminds us it's set for June 29.

"[T]ime, and film critics and film audiences, may finally have caught up with [Roger] Ebert and [Russ] Meyer." Dennis Cozzalio has a long, appreciative post on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Peter Suderman: "For a low-budget Canadian splatter flick from the 70s, David Cronenberg's Shivers is a remarkable accomplishment. Not only is it a chilly, twisted take on the birthing of a zombie holocaust, it is a startling, early indictment of the modern cult of materialism. Perhaps most interesting, though, is how precisely it foreshadows the rest of Cronenberg’s distinguished career as horror filmmaking's most thoughtful and cold-blooded auteur."

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore Caveh Zahedi comes around to appreciating Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore in the way Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin did in the early 80s.

"[Bernard] Herrmann believed that in ideal situations there was an exact equivalence between the content of a movie and the melodramatic nature of the medium itself. In other words, music in the dark, music in the air, music apparently played by the screen, or music generated by the same mysterious and sublime force that is making the imagery move - as if it were alive! - on the screen." In the Independent, David Thomson previews July's Bernard Herrmann season at the National Film Theatre.

In the New York Times, David Carr praises the "mordantly effective filmmaking" of The War Tapes, then notes the "rash of current documentaries feeding appetites for information and coverage beyond traditional channels of information," mentioning An Inconvenient Truth, Who Killed the Electric Car? and The Road to Guantántamo: "The urrent surge in politically inflected documentaries seems like a mashed-up, digital version of the 1960s, when books like Silent Spring, Unsafe at Any Speed and The Other America came out of nowhere to define public debate."

Nicolas Rapold at Reverse Shot: "Harlan County USA is primary and essential."

New DVD reviews at Slant:

Yakuza Graveyard

Ed Gonzalez, in the meantime, has been in the theaters, watching Queens, Boys Briefs 4 and Wondrous Oblivion.

Nick Davis is picking flicks again and has just crossed the halfway point in the countdown of his top 100; today, #48: Irma Vep.

Nice list: Matt Riviera's "top 10 comfort movies."

Roger Ebert adds The Shining to his collection of "Great Movies."

Matt Dentler's top ten Chicago movies.

At Koreanfilm.org, Kyu Hyun Kim reviews Dirty Carnival, "a straightforward rendition of the oft-told narrative of the rise and fall of an underdog criminal, almost Chandler-esque in its quasi-romantic, melancholic appraisal of this rotten world we live in."

David Austin at Cinema Strikes Back on The Uninvited: "Fans of psychological and existential horror will enjoy this well-crafted thriller, but others may find it overlong and somewhat muddled. I look forward to seeing more from Su-Yeon Lee, who clearly possesses an enormous talent."

Newsweek: Depp; Time: Bombay "No one in Hollywood, it's fair to say, has worked harder at not being a movie star than [Johnny] Depp has, and yet he has evolved into one of the most adored actors of his generation not in spite of that persistence but because of it." Sean Smith talks to Newsweek's cover boy. Related: Captain Jack lookalikes and, at Cinematical, Erik Davis has a few tantalizing hints as to what we might expect to see in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, due next summer. And Kimi Yoshino reports in the Los Angeles Times on how Disney is revamping its Pirates of the Caribbean ride to look more like the movies.

You can't do a cover package on Bombay without a piece on Bollywood. If you're Time, you get to ask Mira Nair to write it for you. Related: Maseeh Rahman reports on a controversial kiss.

Also in the Guardian, Imogen Fox: "Tonight's premiere in New York of The Devil Wears Prada, a satirical view of life at a glossy Manhattan fashion magazine, is going to present a real wardrobe dilemma for its stars."

Thumbs up from Eugene Hernandez on Superman Returns: "[T]hrilling, contemplative, and fun." The BBC rounds up more positive critical reaction and Time's Richard Corliss finds it "an action adventure that's as thrilling for what it means as for what it shows."

Greg Pak talks with Michael Kang about The Motel.

"You're being told there's going to be a train wreck; now sit back and watch the carnage." John Dahl tells the Telegraph's Marc Lee what it is that fascinates him about Sunset Boulevard. Via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

At SF360, Glen Helfand talks with Matthew Barney about Drawing Restraint 9, a film David Lowery caught the other day.

Deborah Solomon chats with Jack Black for the New York Times Magazine.

Torn Apart: The Life of Ian Curtis Up-n-coming news from Martha Fischer at Cinematical: a Blackadder movie set in the Russian revolution? Let's hope so. Also: the "long-rumored" film based on Torn Apart: The Life of Ian Curtis "is finally, officially happening."

At Flickhead, Christine Young doesn't so much urge us to watch Ecological Design: Inventing the Future as to engage with the challenges "design outlaws" put forward; learn about them in the film or via the links at the end of her review.

DIY filmmaker Sujewa Ekanayake has been doing the math and taking inspiration from Jacques Thelemaque.

Book reviews in the Observer: Carole Cadwalladr on Charlotte Chandler's Bette Davis: The Girl Who Walked Home Alone and Sinclair McKay on Simon Winder's The Man Who Saved Britain.

The Reeler notes that he, the IFC Blog (thanks to the wit and wisdom of Alison Willmore) and the blog you are currently reading are nicely profiled today by Julian Vernet at the Wall Street Journal. And you can be sure we appreciate that.

Spider-Man as Russian folk art

Online browsing tip #1. Contemporary movies depicted at Russian folk art prints. Via BibliOdyssey.

Online browsing tip #2. Laurent Blachier's film director caricatures. Via Drawn!.

Online listening tip. The Hitchcock/Truffaut Tapes #8 at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger....

Online viewing tip #1. Opening titles for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Deadwood and such by Danny Yount. Via That Little Round-Headed Boy, who also points to Joe Russ's interview with Yount for Computer Arts.

Online viewing tip #2. Stanley Kubrick at the premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey, speculating on the probability of life elsewhere.

Online viewing tip #3. Fantastic Planet, rescored. Via Screenhead.

Online viewing tip #4. An Unfair War is a machinima short (DivX) made using The Sims 2. Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

Online viewing tip #5. A first entry in the Mutant Chronicles production diary, via Wolf at Twitch.

Online viewing tip #6. Jamie Thraves's video for Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." Via Coudal Partners.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:34 PM | Comments (4)

Fests and events, 6/19.

Frameline30 Michael Guillen notes that John Cameron Mitchell is "all over Frameline30," as he's featured in Katherine Linton's documentary Follow My Voice: With the Music of Hedwig and Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema and will also be delivering the closing remarks at Frameline's Persistent Vision Conference. "Sure," Mitchell tells him. "It's a free ticket. A good time. The best queer festival in the world. Why not?"

Michael's all over Frameline himself. He talks with director Fawn Yacker and exec producer Lauren Sterling about Ugly Ducklings - and: "As an exercise to help promote and sell copies of his recently-published film guide 101 Must-See Movies For Gay Men, Alonso Duralde's Saturday film clip lecture of the same name at the Roxie Film Center was effective - he sold every copy of his book that he brought to sell out on the sidewalk in front of the theater - and rightfully so!"

From the Sydney Film Festival:

The Pervert's Guide to the Cinema

Movie City News has the press release from Cinevegas announcing its awards; Brent Simon has more at Now Playing.

The Reeler's got the award-winners from this year's Brooklyn International Film Festival.

Criminal Lovers There's a lot of horror screening in San Francisco this summer, and Brian Darr suggests locals might even want to "build a 'history of horror' curriculum, as films from every decade since the development of the talkie are represented."

At Koreanfilm.org, Davide Cazzaro offers up "Observations and notes" on the 7th Jeonju International Film Festival and talks with programmers Jung Soo-wan and Yoo Un-seong.

At the Siffblog, David Jeffers is impressed with Claude Chabrol's A Comedy of Power but disappointed in Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly.

Online listening tip. For German speakers, that is. The first episode of a podcast accompanying the X-Filme exhibition at the Filmmuseum Düsseldorf through August 27. Via filmz.de.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:33 PM

NYAFF, 6/19.

NYAFF The update you want first on how things are going at the New York Asian Film Festival comes from co-founder Grady Hendrix himself, predictably honest and entertaining.

"While other festivals are highlighting Asia in their midnight program with bland horror films like Korea's Voice, Subway has been serving up one of the most diverse selections of Asian films in the country - rivaled only by the Philadelphia International Film Festival - and this year is no exception," writes Michael Lerman before presenting a few don't-misses at indieWIRE.

Aaron Hillis catches The Great Yokai War, "a mildly subversive, nearly family-friendly epic fantasy that must be [Takashi Miike's] most approachable and entertaining film since 2001's The Happiness of the Katakuris," A Stranger of Mine, " a pulp-fictional exercise in deviating viewpoints," and The Magicians, "a bittersweet 95-minute drama shot in one continuous Steadicam take. You might say it's the East Asian version of Sokurov's Russian Ark, minus the, uh, centuries' worth of revolutionary history in the Hermitage stuff."

NYAFF: Ram Gopal Varma

"Ram Gopal Varma is unquestionably one of the most talented filmmakers working in India (or anywhere) today," writes David Austin at Cinema Strikes Back. The occasion: NYAFF is presenting the world premiere of Shiva and screening a few other films he's directed or produced. "For those who dismiss Indian films out of hand as musicals and melodramas, these films will prove you wrong so fast that your head will spin."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:50 PM

SIFF. Awards.

Seattle International Film Festival Another Sunday gone by, another festival wrapped. The Seattle International Film Festival has announced its awards. Once again, see the list after the jump, but for now a quick pointer to Cinematical's Kim Voynar: "If you've ever gone through a really crappy time in your life - one of those times when the thunderclouds never seem to stop hovering directly above your head, and it seems no matter how hard you try, you're floundering desperately just to keep your head above water, Urban Scarecrow might just speak to you."

Update: Anne Thompson offer comments on a few of the winners.

Look for a wrap-up from Sean Axmaker soon; and onto the winners...

Jury Awards

FutureWave Awards

Audience Awards

Posted by dwhudson at 7:58 AM | Comments (2)

Silverdocs. Awards.

Silverdocs has wrapped and announced its awards; you'll find the list after the jump. But first:

Leila Khaled, Hijacker "Perhaps it says something about my tastes or my interests that all of the films I've seen so far at Silverdocs offer extreme views of womanhood." From there, Cynthia Rockwell segues into her initial takes on The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief, Leila Khaled, Hijacker and Only Belle.

On Saturday, Chuck Tryon's caught two more films: Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple "provides a valuable window into a history that most people have forgotten, recalling the tragic end of the story when over 900 people were killed rather than the culture that led up to it. B.I.K.E. offers a glimpse of the Black Label Bicycle Club, a group of artists and activists who form a community around the pro-bicycle movement."

Update: Cynthia Rockwell finds Walking to Werner "an unabashedly sentimental and sweet and inspirational road movie, made by an adorably sweet young man."

On Sunday, he saw Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, "a fun film about the meteroic rise and fall of US soccer enthusiasm in the 1970s," and Walking to Werner, "a film very much in the spirit of the director who inspired it, Werner Herzog."

The awards:

Posted by dwhudson at 6:11 AM

iTunes Movie Store.

Apple "Where's the iTunes for movies?" is the question that's bugged anyone who's been stumped as to when and how film distribution would finally catch up and join the music industry in the 21st century. The answer, it turns out, and as Ben Fritz reports in Variety, is so elegantly simple it should have been obvious all along: it's iTunes.

Fritz is reporting that studio "sources expect an iTunes moviestore to debut by the end of the year at the latest." Apple and the studios are quibbling about pricing at the moment, but as one exec tells him, "Every studio wants to have broad distribution in digital, and we all know that having Apple as part of that is very, very important." In other words, they'll work it out. Because they know they'll have to. It's not just the built-in user base, though that's a considerable argument, of course. It's that iTunes has the qualities Paul Boutin ascribed to YouTube and MySpace when he explained why they've beaten the socks off of BitTorrent and Google Video and Friendster and Blogger in terms of phenomenally immediate take-up and use: They're "runaway hits because they combine two attributes rarely found together in tech products. They're easy to use, and they don't tell you what to do."

The analogy is not perfect, naturally. YouTube and MySpace are free toys, social networks whose every new member brings the promise of more. iTunes is a delivery and playback system for products you actually have to pay for; but when Napster posed its challenge several years ago, and countless companies offered countless solutions, it was the iTunes model that proved satisfactory enough to all parties - in this case, the record companies, the artists and the listeners - to win out. Of course, it has a powerful and sleek mate, the iPod, and Fritz reports, "Many predict feature films will bow on iTunes at the same time the video iPod with a bigger screen more appropriate for films is launched."

Fine, but, due to the vastly different nature of experiencing music to its fullest and experiencing film to its, a portable video player comes in a lot less handy than a portable music player. The video iPod's portability may serve, though (along with recordable DVDs), as the bridge between the computer and the home viewing system the industry's been looking for. Countless vloggers are already aware of the effectiveness of podcasting via iTunes and television networks are reportedly quite happy with sales of their shows via the iTunes Music Store. When the studios sign on, they're going to find the iTunes pathway to viewers well-paved, smooth and already well-traveled.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:35 AM | Comments (5)

June 18, 2006

Cineaste. Summer 06.

V wie Vendetta "In many respects, the critical controversy generated by the Hollywood version of V for Vendetta is more fascinating than the film itself," writes Richard Porton in the summer issue of Cineaste:

It's especially astonishing that debates once confined to esoteric political sects and academic journals are now surfacing in more accessible form in the popular press. For example, whether consciously or not, those critics who decry the hypocrisy of a multimillion dollar film, seemingly endorsing terrorism and revolution, hark back to the Situationists' more convoluted assertions that superficially radical gestures within mainstream culture are usually little more than self-negating manifestations of the 'society of the spectacle.' Conversely, the unabashed fans of the film seem to unwittingly channel the rants of academic pop culture cheerleaders who argue that knee jerk condemnations of mainstream movies and television reek of self-defeating snobbism.

Porton also interviews Nathalie Baye, whose "talent lies in working beautifully in concert with costars such as Gérard Depardieu, Philippe Léotard and Sergi López, not with stealing their thunder."

Cineaste Summer 06 Criterion's release of Ugetsu, with its accompany 1975 doc on Mizoguchi, "make one seriously wonder how he managed to pull off such an achievement," writes Catherine Russell. "If his film tended to confirm an Orientalist conception of modern Japanese art, it was also open to a wealth of interpretation that is far from exhausted 53 years later."

In a brief online sample from the print issue's special section, "New Perspectives on Iranian Cinema," the editors argue that now is "an ideal time to revisit the cinema of Iran. We need to renew the hope of conciliation that it offers, or at least to deepen our understanding of the country and its people before our perceptions are further obscured by the rhetoric of war."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:38 PM

Offscreen, Volume 10, Issue 5.

Doing Philosophy at the Movies In the latest issue of Offscreen to be posted, Daniel Garrett recommends Doing Philosophy at the Movies (first chapter), by Richard Allen Gilmore, "a man very much in touch with the human material of films - people, and what they say to and do with and to each other - and he is sensitive to (yes, he enjoys!) the resources of craft, feeling, imagination, insight, and wit filmmakers bring to their work.... He is precise without being pedantic, serene without being boring, and wise without being arch or too earnest."

David Church examines Stanley Kubrick "an example of a filmmaker in whom auteurism and cultism are interrelated" and writes in a second piece: "Because of its 'mainstream' status, Fight Club stands as a key text in a developing narrational mode of cinema that radically departs from classical Hollywood narratives through the use of dramatic deception of the spectator - yet manages to straddle both art-house and mainstream acceptance."

For James MacDowell, Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven is "a film with a unique position regarding interpretative criticism, as it is itself an 'interpretation' of the work of Douglas Sirk, a director whose work has been subject to much changing interpretative study over the course of the development of film studies as a discipline."

The issue is dedicated to Alida Valli, who died in April, and editor Donato Totaro's appreciation is a remarkable reminder of her significance, particularly to European cinema.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:22 PM

Laika shoots for the moon.

I've had notes suggesting that this story is more interesting that it seems at first glance. Sure enough, DK Holm explains why Nike co-founder Phil Knight's dabbling in the movie business is worth keeping an eye on.

Coraline In the latest chapter of a long and evolving business tale that might make an interesting movie in itself, Nike co-founder (and current chairman of the board) Phil Knight announced on Wednesday that he plans to build an animation movie studio on a 30-acre "campus" in Tualatin, an upscale suburban area outside of Portland, Oregon. In his Oregonian story on the announcement, Mike Rogoway notes that the move underscores "the scale of Knight's filmmaking ambitions as Nike's founder tries to leverage the fortune he built in footwear into a movie studio that can hold its own against the established animation brands at Pixar and Dreamworks."

Essentially, Knight is moving his current filmmaking enterprise, Laika Entertainment House, to a new, expanded location. Now situated in that slacker paradise known as Northwest Portland, Laika is the former Will Vinton Studios, which Knight took over in 2002. In a fascinating series of moves, Knight first began by offering to bail out the struggling film studio (most famous for the singing California raisins commercial and for popularizing the term Claymation) by becoming the majority stock holder - and then installing his son Travis as the boss. In the end, Knight reportedly paid founder Will Vinton a mere $10,000 for Vinton's remaining shares in the company that had born his name for some 27 years. Shortly thereafter, the board fired Vinton, leaving him with nothing. Travis Knight continues to work at Laika, but isn't in charge. The story of the takeover is chronicled in a lengthy Oregonian story by Jeff Manning and Kristi Turnquist from May 2003 (available for pay only, but reprinted in part at Death Fall). In 2005, Knight changed the name to Laika (and of course, there's dead Russian dog by that name still floating around out there in space).

The Knight vs Vinton conflict has the flavor of a Hollywood feud like Diller vs Eisner or of a scene out of the William Holden vehicle Executive Suite, but on a much more provincial level. Vinton himself, though, is no stranger to controversy or troubled relationships. He had a falling out with his then-partner Bob Gardiner after they won an Oscar for their short film Closed Mondays. In 2003, Vinton filed suit against Knight over what turned out to be a takeover, but in October 2003, a judge ruled that Vinton had no case. Vinton Studios were never particularly successful beyond a few commercials. Its TV shows, The PJs on Fox and Gary & Mike on UPN, did not go over well, and its feature film, The Adventures of Mark Twain, was a flop.

Though Laika employs under 200 people, Knight claims that at the new location the company will make room for 400 more employees on its campus, which raises questions, or at least aspirations, in the mind of Portland Architecture blogger Brian Libby, who notes that, in the past, "Knight could have been a huge contributor to Portland architecture. The Nike campus in Beaverton includes some very impressive architecture, a collection of pristine white contemporary buildings by Thompson Vaivoda. Unfortunately, though, these buildings are walled off from the public by a giant berm and a guarded security gate."

Meanwhile, Rogoway, who is apparently on the Knight beat at the Oregonian, reported in May on Laika announcement at this year's Cannes Film Festival that Focus Features had picked up the studio's first movie project, Coraline, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's children's book from 2002, and due in theaters in 2008, featuring the voice of Dakota Fanning. A second feature, penned by Laika animator Jorgen Klubien, is slated for 2009, and currently Laika's short film Moongirl is making the rounds of the festivals.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:00 PM

Firecracker. Start the presses.

Firecracker Firecracker, publishing once a month online now for a mere year and a half, launches a quarterly print version that's free to pick up in the UK and available to UK and international subscribers. Looking good.

Meanwhile, Nick North offers more than just a report from the Far East Film Festival in Udine; it's practically an ode.

Robert Williamson writes up several of the shorts he caught at the Singapore International Film Festival, devotes another piece to Malaysian filmmaker Azharr Rudin's Amber Sexalogy, comprised of six interconnected shorts, and interviews Kan Lume (The Art of Flirting) and Royston Tan (15).

Reviews:

Dumplings

Posted by dwhudson at 8:59 AM | Comments (1)

June 17, 2006

Weekend shorts.

Richard T Jameson suggested the parallel; Jim Emerson takes it to amazing places: Birth and Un Chien Andalou.

Birth

What's more, Emerson follows up with "two of my cardinal rules for movie-watching."

The "Peter Handke affair" has engaged feuilleton writers and readers in Germany and Europe for weeks. Now that it's pretty much played out, signandsight offers a timeline and translated passages from the papers.

In the Guardian:

Kiss Me Deadly

Ridha Behi's Brando and Brando was to have told the tale of "a young man from Tunisia obsessed by US culture in general and by Marlon Brando in particular," writes Geoffrey Macnab in the Independent. Brando had actually agreed to appear as himself. "The story of how Behi and Brando came together in the first place is fascinating but also a little dispiriting. A venture that began in a spirit of idealism soon became derailed by greed, illness and misunderstandings." Nevertheless, the project is not dead and may be on its way to Cannes next year.

Rossellini as Selznick My Dad is 100 Years Old is "an intense and touching effort to reconcile [Isabella Rossellini's] cinephilia with the world's indifference to film history," writes Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader. As for her line, "My father was a genius - I think," Rosenbaum writes, "Her hesitation may alienate some of his acolytes, but she's also paying him the ultimate tribute of accepting him on his own terms." In the Telegraph, Michael Shelden meets her and revisits all the varied and famous turning points of her parents' lives and her own.

"Since I greatly admire The Road to Guantánamo and hope millions of people will see it, I'd better be able to justify its use of the always dubious techniques of docudrama." And so, Stuart Klawans lays out the facts, asks pertinent questions and makes the case for "a bit of directorial fudging." More from acquarello.

By the way: "Ten years ago, just after the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, The Nation published a special issue on the National Entertainment State." There was a cool chart "depicting the tentacles of four colossal conglomerates that were increasingly responsible for determining how Americans got their news - Time Warner, General Electric, Disney/Cap Cities and Westinghouse." Ten years on, there's a new chart and "the landscape is considerably more complex, though it still bears the oversized footprints of a few giants."

"This is the film capital of China, the whole world wants to be in Shanghai at the moment." Time Out's Ben Walters talks with Christopher Doyle.

Shooting has begun on Julie Delpy's Two Days, reports Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa where Heading South is the current "film focus."

Michael Joshua Rowin on four early films by Michael Haneke: "Following an enduring tradition of European art cinema, Haneke's nuclear family — two parents and a child, insulated from one another and the outside world by a web of media, and reliant on material possessions to confer identity — must be transgressed to reveal the fragility of the prevailing capitalist social order that secures their privilege." Also in Stop Smiling, José Teodoro on Guillermo Arriaga's The Night Buffalo, "a work that eschews Arriaga's characteristic juggled plotlines in favour of a single narrow narrative delivered in first-person, one that reads very much like a first draft, in which the author, by adopting what he believes is a distinctive voice, hopes find his true story — and doesn't." Related: Michael Guillen catches Arriaga's Q&A at the Balboa in San Francisco.

Canyon Cinema Michael himself interviews Canyon Cinema exec director, Dominic Angerame.

Speaking of indispensable institutions, Facets has fired up a blog. Thanks, Sujewa!

The "Irritating Academic," the "Nitpicker" and the "Lecher" are among the "15 People You Meet Listening to DVD Audio Commentaries," an AV Club list.

"It's not my idea, but one worth exploring," begins Anthony Kaufman. "A friend recently put forth the notion that most film criticism tends to fetishize female stars (and ignore sexy male actors) in ways that are essentially sexist. Critic as letch?"

In the New Statesman, Kira Cochrane asks, "why are there so few blockbusting female characters? This is especially strange when you consider that two of the biggest-grossing films of all time remain Gone With the Wind and Titanic, both of them ostensibly 'women's films.'"

The "problem" with A Scanner Darkly, proposes David Lowery, "is that, rather than preserve the spirit of what he felt was the heart and soul of the novel, Linklater seems to have assumed it would be implicit in an adaptation that isn't necessarily extremely literal, but is extremely perfunctory in all the wrong places."

Oh, look, it's Phillip Lopate in the New York Times, and he's reviewing a movie, Wordplay: "Those of us addicted to doing the crossword puzzles in this newspaper should find the spectacle of similar fetishists compulsively watchable. Nonaddicts may need more convincing." More from Stephanie Zacharek in Salon. Related: indieWIRE sends director Patrick Creadon a questionnaire.

Also in the NYT:

  • "From 1999 to 2004 I wrote about fashion as a reporter and critic for this newspaper," writes Ginia Bellafante, who assures us that The Devil Wears Prada "is easily the truest portrayal of fashion culture since Unzipped, the 1995 documentary about Isaac Mizrahi."

  • "[U]sing classic film and television images to separate his longtime friends in the hip-hop duo OutKast from the genre's clichés," music video director Bryan Barber "has become a sort of 'third OutKast,'" writes Roni Sarig. Now, "Where the videos used Mr Barber's craft to define OutKast, Idlewild employs OutKast's André Benjamin (a k a André 3000) and Antwan Patton ('Big Boi') as actors in the service of what is essentially a self-portrait of Bryan Barber."

Filmmuseum

That Little Round-Headed Boy: "Neil Young: Heart of Gold is the most moving and surprising film experience I've had so far this year."

At Koreanfilm.org:

Blue Swallow

For Film & Video, Bryant Frazer talks with director Davis Guggenheim and editor Dan Swietlik about An Inconvenient Truth.

Sujewa Ekanayake on Nacho Libre: "Mexploitation-lite."

For the London Times, Wendy Ide talks with Maria Schneider about Last Tango in Paris and The Passenger; you probably already know which film and which director she prefers.

Ray Pride: "In the upcoming UK-themed edition of Chicago-based slick StopSmiling, majordomo JC Gabel takes a flight to Blighty to the rural farm of undersung screenwriter, novelist and ranteur Bruce Robinson."

The Stranger's Annie Wagner on Harlan County USA: "This is what a documentary looks like."

The Pop View has been reading Oscar Levant on Bernard Herrmann.

"I have a cemetery in my cinematic closet, and I chose to wake the dead by holding the first annual Shameful Movies of Odie's Past film festival, or SMOOP." Enjoy the double features at the House Next Door.

The BBC: "Hollywood legend Paul Newman has said that his next film could be his last."

Up-n-coming:

Criterion: The Spirit of the Beehive At Twitch, Todd's got news of a slew of titles coming from Criterion in the fall.

Dushko Petrovich in Slate on Artstar, in which "contestants work toward a coveted spot at one of New York's leading galleries. The first shock is that nobody did this sooner—history will note that it took the New York gallery scene 14 years to hook up with TV's avant-garde, The Real World, which debuted on MTV in 1992."

Not exactly film-related but definitely worth noting: Ron Hogan strikes up a dialogue between Jeff Chang and Simon Reynolds.

Online browsing tip. I rarely link to one of my own favorite blogs, BibliOdyssey because its entries are rarely film-related. Today, however, there's a terrific one, a collection of caricatures by Fellini and a pointer to more (if you go to that library, click the image logo on the far right to see each sketch).

Online viewing tip #1. Michael J Asquith and Ben Stenbeck's award-winning, 15-minute Zombie Movie.

Online viewing tip #2. Jon Stewart on W's recent Rose Garden press conference.

Online viewing tip #3. Jan Brzeczkowski's video for Etienne Charry's "A bomb." Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip #4. The Cake.

Online viewing tip #5. Via Movie City News, the trailer for The US vs John Lennon.

Online viewing tips, round 1. Walerian Borowczyk shorts at Gpod.

Online viewing tips, round 2. Trailers via Twitch: Wolfhound ("Russian sword and sorcery"), Storm ("Swedish genre-masher"), Brothers of the Head (Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe).

Online viewing tips, round 4. At the DVblog, Michael Szpakowski introduces clips from the site for a new edition of Hanns Eisler and Theodore Adorno's Composing for the Films.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:24 PM

Weekend fests and events.

Michael Haneke At the last minute, Michael Haneke declined to take his seat at the head of the jury for the Moscow Film Festival (June 23 through July 2), a move the fest has declared in an open letter "will certainly result in major public repercussions." True enough; Vienna's Der Standard is one of the many German-language papers carrying the story. It's ugly. At Twitch, X translates Haneke's excuse. Seems he needs to run off now to prepare for a shoot that starts on September 11 in New York; are you getting this down? Once again, the festival: "We find your actions to be insulting not only to the Moscow International Film Festival, but to our country as well, and disrespectful to the filmmakers from other countries who will present their works at the Festival."

At her Post, Arianna Huffington notes that "the way to George Bush's heart is through a TV or movie screen." When his Counselor, Dan Bartlett, showed him a DVD depicting what was going on in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, he finally got moving; and Jean-Michel Cousteau's Voyage to Kure evidently inspired him to order up "the single biggest act of conservation in US history, creating the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument, a marine preserve larger than all of America's national parks combined." So Huffington's thinking, "we need to show this guy more movies and TV shows! Maybe make an event out of it. Sundance on the Potomac. Call it the 'Inspire George Bush Film Festival.'" As for programming, she has some suggestions but calls for more.

The Camden 28 The New Republic's Stanley Kauffmann on the Human Rights Watch Film Festival: "There is no choice here between art and gravity: these are talented film-makers. We are not asked for artistic concessions because of their serious subjects." He presents "some notes" on KZ, Rain in a Dry Land, Dias de Santiago, Source and The Camden 28.

San Francisco's LGBT festival, Frameline30, has just opened and runs through June 25. Jeffrey M Anderson's got a preview at Cinematical and Michael Guillen previews El Cielo Dividido (Broken Sky), 20 Centimeters and Two Drifters. More on that one from Ed Gonzalez in Slant.

At Silverdocs, Chuck Tryon catches Black Sun, Leila Khaled, Hijacker and A Certain Kind of Beauty - and: Air Guitar Nation, Danielson: A Family Movie and Can Mr Smith Get to Washington Anymore?.

Alison Willmore catches Art of the Devil 2, Blood Rain and Takashi Miike's The Great Yokai War at the New York Asian Film Festival. Robert Cashill, an associate editor of Cineaste, has a bit more on that last one, but lots more on his Asian film viewing history.

The Stranger's Charles Mudede previews the Summer of Samurai series running at Seattle's Northwest Film Forum through July 6.

Elaine Perrone at Hollywood Bitchslap from SIFF: "Playing like an excruciatingly overlong Saturday Night Live skit, and squandering the considerable talents of an impressive cast, Strangers with Candy is decidedly Not Ready for Prime Time."

From Sydney, James Russell notes he's not quite as enthusiastic about The Aura as others have been.

"You know it's a special movie premiere when it: (a) happens at outdoor beer palace Zeitgeist, and (b) doubles as a birthday party for Virginia, the Tamale Lady," writes Reyhan Harmanci in the San Francisco Chronicle. The film is Meter Maid Me Massacre and the premiere's on Sunday.

"Beginning on Wednesday night and running through July 13, the American Scandinavian Foundation is screening 'Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander Mysteries,' four 90-minute television films, written by Mr Mankell, the author of the internationally best-selling Wallander novels." Catch them if you can, recommends Anita Gates in the New York Times.

Vertigo Antonio Pasolini has info on "Crossing Borders: Vertigo, Cahiers du cinéma and Independent Film," June 23 through 29 in London.

Cinematical's Martha Fischer takes an "Early Look at the Venice Debuts." At europeanfilms.net, Boyd van Hoeij notes that the festival will awards its Career Golden Lion to David Lynch (his Inland Empire is slated to premiere there as well). Also at Cinematical: Jette Kernion rounds up Austin area goings on.

Matt Dentler points to the first round of titles programmed for Austin's Fantastic Fest, slated for the fall.

Film Forum's B Noir series has just wrapped; for closing takes, see Daniel Kasman, Slant's blog and Ryan Stewart at Cinematical.

SFist quick takes from the just-wrapped Another Hole in the Head: Eve on The Ghost of Mae Nak and Dark Remains; and Feed.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:29 PM | Comments (3)

Synchronicity on the spot.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley Though Ken Loach's Palme d'Or winner doesn't open in Britain until next Friday (albeit in far fewer theaters than in France), it was yesterday, Bloomsday, that he was all over the British papers talking about it. Coincidence? Of course. But how resonant nonetheless. "The past illuminates the present," writes John Patterson in today's Guardian, "and just because Loach's movie is set nearly 90 years ago doesn't mean it has no application to our current nightmares. The Wind That Shakes the Barley is set, after all, in 1920-22, exactly when Britain was bombing the newly created state of Iraq into existence." And of course, it was in February 1922 (after it'd been serialized in The Little Review from 1918 to 1920) that the first copies of James Joyce's Ulysses saw the light of day - in Paris.

In yesterday's Guardian, Stuart Jeffries recounts the utterly absurd but entirely predictable insults, complete with all the exhausted-to-the-point-of-meaninglessness Nazi references, flung at Loach in the British press and then asks him to comment: "'I know from these attacks that we've really hit home. It is personally abusive, but I know where these people are coming from. It shows that if you attack their notion of the British empire as a charitable institution, then they foam at the mouth and bite the carpet.' And then the quiet man turns up the volume. 'These people who write this are the breeding ground for fascism.'"

Well. While that goes round, Jeffries offers: "What's most exasperating about the attacks on Loach is that they hinder more sensible reflection on Loach's work at the very moment when it is being internationally celebrated as never before." Meanwhile, the Telegraph's David Gritten also has a good long talk with Loach, noting towards the end, "Not long ago Telegraph readers voted him a Great Britons contender. They may dislike his views, but admire the sincere, unswerving way he articulates them."

Let's hope so. There's more on the film and Loach in the New Statesman (choose carefully; if, like me, you're not a subscriber, you can only read one article for free per day), while, in the London Times, an appearance by Loach at the Barbican on June 22 is promoted thusly: "Put Ken Loach on the spot."

"None of what we're living through is new," writes Patterson after suggesting films be made about the Algerian war, John Brown and Haditha. "There are a million relevant, exciting stories which resonate loudly down to our own times. If only people would start filming them."

Ulysses By the way, Coudal Partners were having a fine Bloomsday yesterday and found a few terrific items: Djuna Barnes's 1922 interview with Joyce for Vanity Fair; DT Max in the New Yorker on Joyce's grandson, who's "effectively controlled the Joyce estate" since the mid-80s; and a 2004 piece in the Economist on Bloomsday hoopla. "A great book? Yes it is Yes."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:52 AM

Seattle Dispatch. 6.

As the Seattle International Film Festival winds down, Sean Axmaker offers his takes on House of Sand, Americanese, So Close, So Far and Expiration Date.

Seattle International Film Festival It's the homestretch at SIFF, the final weekend of the 24-day fest (double that if you've been attending press screenings from the beginning). It's enough to make the local critic (most, like me, frantically trying to keep up with the pounding schedule of press screenings and picking their way through the evening and weekend schedule of films that did not screen for the press) smile like a Sisyphus who has just been told that his replacement has arrived.

Don't get me wrong. SIFF is a great festival for what it is. If the numbers are any indication, it is (to use the lingo created by Seattle's silicon forest) the most user-friendly festival for an audience any city festival ostensibly serves: the local population. It's just a challenge to cover while keeping up with your day job (and really, who wouldn't pass up a chance to see Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times when the an advance screening of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift beckons?). It's not that the films run together. It's simply that the sprawl diffuses the intensity of the experience. I've seen some fine cinema and had some memorable experiences, but it simply doesn't feel like it's all of one festival.

SIFF is a festival designed for sampling, for picking and choosing your way through like hors d'oeuvres, not for a steady diet. Full series passholders will argue differently, but what good is binge viewing on a schedule that lasts for so many weeks that you have no time to let films set and simmer and bounce around your head?

Thus endeth the rant and begineth a few short notes.

House of Sand Andrucha Waddington's sensuous House of Sand could be called Sea of Sand. Set in the isolated Maranhao region of Brazil, a coastal desert of shifting sands on rocky plains, Waddington gives it the look and feel of a terra firma ocean with tides charted in years. The story of the three generations of women who are at first trapped in the barren landscape of roaring winds and whipping dust, and then settle in to their place in the social ecosystem, swims in long moments where time never seems to move and then jumps years, decades ahead without so much as a nudge to the audience. Disconnected from the flow of social history and adrift in a world where time is stranded, it's up to the audience to keep up with the leaps ahead. Fernanda Montenegro plays all three women at the end of their lives - the daughters literally become their mothers.

Americanese Americanese, from director Eric Byler (Charlotte Sometimes), is not your traditional romance - it opens on a break-up and tracks the relationship of the split pair improving after the separation - and it's not particularly romantic. The supporting actors have more life to them than Chris Tashima (as the older college professor who pays 'stalker visits' to his former lover's apartment just to feel centered again) and Allison Sie (the younger photographer and daughter of a Chinese mom and a Caucasian dad, who is tired of her intellectual boyfriend's tirade on race). Based on the novel American Knees by Seattle author and University of Washington professor Shawn Wong, it's a long-winded story that puts an interesting and complex frame around questions of race, racism and racial awareness in America, and offers an ambiguous answer. Which is a nice way of saying that the film sacrifices its story for its themes, creating an object for discussion at the expense of a drama.

So Close, So Far You can feel echoes of Abbas Kiarostami in Reza Mir-Karimi's So Close, So Far, the story of a callous neurologist whose self-involved world is turned inside out when he discovers that his son is dying of an inoperable tumor (the specifics are vague) and rushed headlong into the desert to connect with the son he's neglected almost his whole life. The execution is far from Kiarostami, however, even as the urban neurologist is helped by a wandering holy man and a selfless village doctor who reveres his reputation. The obstacles that hinder his journey build to an almost mythic (biblical?) scale, while his only connection is a series of faltering cell phone conversations. The disembodied voice only accentuates the distance between father and son, and the father's helplessness in the face of the medical assault he, of all people, should be able to address. He has wandered so far out of the world, made so insensitive, that he can't find his way back. In the best tradition of Iranian cinema, the final image is a literal hand held out to lead him back, a simple, powerful, healing moment that pays off every hardship.

Expiration Date I was charmed by the homegrown Seattle comedy Expiration Date, from local director Rick Stevenson (who began his career producing the early films of Michael Hoffman), an odd mix of gallows humor, whimsy and romantic comedy built around a curse that involves a 25th birthday and a fatal collision with a milk truck. Robert A Guthrie (making his film debut) is the doomed young man working through a to-do list before his date with destiny who crosses paths with a screwball dream girl (Sascha Knopf), a high maintenance goofball and a whirlwind of energy and impulse who gives him reason to live.

Am I overrating the film? Possibly. It's a little awkward and clunky, but the tonal balance is dead on, the offbeat humor is perfectly deadpan and the portrait of Seattle is more than simply charming, it's irresistibly romantic.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:50 AM | Comments (3)

June 16, 2006

NYAFF, openers.

Cromartie High School, Volume 3 "Now in its fifth year, the New York Asian Film Festival (today through July 1) has evolved from the little festival that could into one of the city's most valuable events," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. She briefly runs through the history of the fest, makes note of the lineup - "most of the films in this year's edition are from Japan, which has a robust and, in the United States, criminally neglected national cinema. Also showing are films from Korea (seven), India (five) and Thailand, Malaysia and China (one apiece)" - and calls up Grady Hendrix before offering her own tips: Cromartie High School and Duelist.

As it happens, David Austin reviews that first one at Cinema Strikes Back, where he calls it "a deadpan serious, completely bizarre, frequently hilarious take on the 'Delinquent School' vein of Japanese pulp fiction."

At Associated Content, Christopher Bourne begins his very fine roundup by contrasting the fest with Tribeca, which also happens to have turned five this year: "Simply put, the overriding philosophy is to bring a selection of quality films, surprising, shocking, tender, cruel, and unclassifiable films that deserve a larger audience. Just good films, without the paraphernalia of publicists and mercenary careerism. What a concept!"

For Gay City News, Steve Erickson also emphasizes that the festival is now more "vital" than ever.

Filmbrain writes up his picks.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:35 PM

Nacho Libre.

Nacho Libre Jared Hess's Nacho Libre is "endearingly ridiculous," writes Manohla Dargis, and of course, it's really all about Jack Black: "Unafraid of looking like a jerk, he has carved out a modest but memorable screen niche playing self-aggrandizers — the music-store snob in High Fidelity, the preening music teacher in School of Rock — who walk and talk much bigger than they actually are, sometimes because they're totally clueless, sometimes because they're not. Yet even at their most aggressively unself-conscious, say, as the director in King Kong, the characters invariably arrive at a moment in the story when they seem compelled to expose their soft underbelly to us, like the misunderstood pit bull that really just wants to cover you with kisses."

"Although, by comparison, Nacho Libre is a silly piece of kitsch, it put me in mind of the old Cantinflas movies," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times. "Cantinflas was the well-known persona of Mexican actor and comedian Mario Moreno, whose characters were all variations on a penniless outsider who uses his gifts for obfuscation and confusion to get out of scrapes or get ahead. Ignacio is no wily Cantinflas, and Nacho Libre contains nothing like the barbed satire of Moreno's films, which merrily skewered Mexican society. But there's a quality to Black's character that recalls a certain kind of underdog common to Latin American and Italian comedies of the 50s and 60s: the little man who is beloved precisely because he is ridiculous, pathetic and innocent, not in spite of it." Also, Deborah Netburn has five quick questions for Hess.

But, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert sounds a cautionary notes to Black fans (like me) who'd watch him do just about anything: "Jack Black is essentially, intrinsically and instinctively a funny actor. He has that Christopher Walken thing going where you smile when he appears in a movie. It takes some doing to make a Jack Black comedy that doesn't work. But Nacho Libre does it."

For Slate's Dana Stevens, "Sophomore efforts don't get much more sophomoric." More to the point: "Jack Black is a force of nature, a spectacularly antic performer who falls outside categories like actor, singer, or comedian.... But at this point in his career, fresh from his flat role in King Kong, Black risks falling into the dreaded Robin Williams Vortex - the career trajectory of the comic whose manic energy is diverted into increasingly unfunny projects until, finally, he becomes unfunny himself." Yikes.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle finds Nacho Libre "a movie to root for more than to enjoy."

Twitch's Canfield is more than happy to root: "Nacho Libre is the most fun I've had at the movies in a long time."

"Is it funny?" asks Stephen Hunter rhetorically. "Now and then. Stupid? Very. Racist? Possibly. Ugly? Profoundly. Wild? Undeniably. Singular? Completely." Also in the Washington Post, Jen Chaney profiles Hess.

Cinematical's James Rocchi isn't the only wondering... "I know you can't look for realism in a comedy, but why does Nacho Libre's Mexico have the sunny, sleepy, small-town two-dimensional feel of a backdrop in a Speedy Gonzales cartoon?" At Reverse Shot, for example, robbiefreeling makes a similar point.

Hollywood Bitchslap offers not one, not two, but three takes: Brian Orndorg says it's "such a remarkable improvement over Napoleon Dynamite, someone might want to check the temp in hell and see if it's still toasty down there"; for Scott Weinberg, it's a "one-joke flick in which the one joke... ain't all that funny"; and for Eric D Snider, "the pairing [of Black and Hess] is wrong, all wrong."

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

Interview. Robert Edwards.

Land of the Blind Robert Edwards already had a slew of documentaries under his belt when his first screenplay for a fictional feature won the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. Once Ralph Fiennes read it and signed on, well, long story short, Land of the Blind premiered in Rotterdam and has since screened in the Tribeca and Human Rights Watch film festivals. Today it opens in New York and reviews have been... mixed. But intriguingly mixed. The Reeler, for example, acknowledges that Fiennes and Donald Sutherland's performances "make Land of the Blind easy to endorse" and adds that "the film's flaws reflect its spectacular ambition," which is, as Edwards describes it himself, to be a "satiric political drama about terrorism, assassination, and the power of memory."

At the main site, Jonathan Marlow talks with Edwards about working with his wife, cinematographer and editor Ferne Pearlstein, humor in the face of horror and his many, many plans.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:22 AM

June 15, 2006

Shorts and fests, 6/15.

The Night Buffalo Michael Guillen talks with Guillermo Arriaga, the screenwriter and novelist with "a shaman's piercing stare," a bit about Babel, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is mentioned as well, but mostly they talk about The Night Buffalo, his latest novel which has already been adapted for a film he's produced.

The New Republic's Lee Siegel vs the New York Observer's Ron Rosenbaum: "Tony Scott's films are everything that's wrong with film, and everything that's wrong with culture now."

Not being able to see Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times in his hometown gets San Diego Reader reviewer Duncan Shepherd thinking: "The big screen is for big audiences, the little for little. In that respect, the great blessing of DVDs is also the great curse of DVDs. Their capacity to fill a void inevitably increases the capacity of the void."

Scott Foundas not only has a good long talk with Bryan Singer, he also recounts the epic, and occasionally, epically ridiculous stories behind the making of each of the Superman films. And Dave Shulman asks, "Is Superm'n Jewish?"

Also in the LA Weekly, Ella Taylor on The Lake House, "a slow and heavy kickoff to the summer romance season."

More on Superman Returns in the Boston Phoenix: Mike Cotton has an interview with Kevin Spacey and a behind-the-scenes report. You might prefer this week's other package: Peter Keough revisits Blue Velvet, accompanied by Owen Glieberman's original review and, also retrieved from the archives, his talk with David Lynch.

What Remains At Silverdocs, Chuck Tryon catches What Remains, Jesus Camp and Punk's Not Dead. There, he met Cynthia Rockwell, who watched What Remains with him before heading to a screening of La Persona de Leo N.

At SF360, Dennis Harvey previews Frameline30.

"After more than a decade as college radio faves and critical darlings without crossing over to more mainstream success, the indie-rock band Luna decided to call it quits in 2004," writes Kevin Crust. "The quartet's bittersweet farewell tour is the subject of the introspective documentary Tell Me Do You Miss Me, directed by Matthew Buzzell." Also in the Los Angeles Times, John Balzar previews the LA edition of the Bicycle Film Festival (June 21 through 24).

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir on Lower City: "There's no mystery to the mini-vogue for Brazilian movies: At their best, they combine an art-film level of craftsmanship and a healthy appetite for trashy, eventful stories." Also, the "never elegant" but "often hysterically funny" Only Human and a/k/a Tommy Chong: "This is a small film, but it moved me and made me angry." Related: Jennifer Merin talks with director Josh Gilbert in the New York Press.

"[W]hat value can [Louise] Brooks's unabashed sexual intelligence have in a film culture that doesn't know what to do with Angelina Jolie or Beyoncé?" asks Armond White in his review of Pandora's Box. And, never one to lend praise without a sharp backhanded slap: "How [James] Toback gets financed is no more relevant to the content of his films than it is relevant to the real meaning of 'independent filmmaker' because it's Toback's individuality and personal integrity that makes him truly independent. That's the virtue missing in the Linklaters of the film world whose movies are as conformist and unoriginal as if they sprang directly from timid investment banks."

Also in the NYP, Eric Kohn on The Heart of the Game, "a by-the-numbers chronicle of how women basketball students at Seattle's Roosevelt High aimed to win their statewide championship [that's] far more brutal than surface inspection reveals," and Justin W Ravitz on The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift ("accidentally interesting bits lurking beneath the asphalt here") and Wordplay ("bouyant").

Gravitation Steven Spielberg will likely direct a sci-fi story exploring Kip Thorne's theories of gravity fields. Lynda Obst will produce and there will be black holes and "hypotheses that Albert Einstein chased but never could prove," write Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit in the Hollywood Reporter.

In the Independent Weekly, David Fellerath previews the Hi Mom! Film Festival (today through Saturday) and Godfrey Cheshire reviews An Inconvenient Truth. More on that one from Craig Phillips.

Eugene Hernandez comments on the deal that'll have ThinkFilm distributing Shortbus and on A Crude Awakening, new doc "even more numbing and frightening than the excellent An Inconvenient Truth."

Jim Ridley in the Nashville Scene: "At heart, District B13 is a fanboy mash-up of greatest hits from the oeuvre of John Carpenter - one of those quintessential American genre auteurs the French always seem to adopt early."

In the New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis is not worked up by Going Under.

Online browsing tip. Coming Attraction Lantern Slides. Via Rashomon.

Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for Takashi Miike's Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (enter the site, you'll see it). Via the Gomorrahizer at Twitch, where Todd reviews Lee Han's Almost Love.

Online viewing tip #2. Caveh Zahedi in the Alps.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:30 AM | Comments (4)

June 14, 2006

Shorts, 6/14.

La Cienaga "It may seem foolish to travel several thousand miles just to dash to a movie theater," writes Meghan O'Rourke in an entry she and James Surowiecki are keeping for Slate. "But what the early 1970s were to film in the United States... the past decade has been to film in Argentina: a period of renaissance and excitement, thanks to a host of striking films that are usually grouped under the rubric 'New Argentine Cinema.'... [F]ilms like Lucrecia Martel's Holy Girl, Fabián Bielinsky's Nine Queens, and Pablo Trapero's Mundo Grúa... have gained increasing attention abroad, winning coveted prizes at Cannes, Sundance, and Rotterdam." So they decided to go down and "talk to people in the film community about the New Argentine Cinema, all while getting a feel for the city itself." After all, "Buenos Aires is the closest thing Americans have to a Paris of the 1920s or a Prague of the 1990s."

Also in Slate, Richard Morgan considers a recent wave of anti-Americanism in Turkish pop culture (there's a whole lot more to it than Valley of the Wolves: Iraq) and notes that it's a two-way street: "Anti-Turkish pop-culture references turn up in, for example, episodes of 24, which started last season with a Turkish national kidnapping the secretary of defense; or The West Wing, in which an international incident centered upon Turkey's beheading of a woman accused of having sex with her fiance. (Turkey, one group pointed out, doesn't have a death penalty anymore and hasn't executed anyone since 1984.)" Just another reason Ankara and Brussels need to stop pussyfooting around and get on with Turkey's membership in the EU.

"In one of those remarkable defining moments that exemplify the grass-roots nature of today's pop culture, the most compelling film about the immigration reform debate that's raging across the country today has come from a 63-year-old former schoolteacher living outside a tiny border town in southern Arizona." Patrick Goldstein in the Los Angeles Times on Cochise County, USA.

"It's mid-June, and much has been made of the dearth of worthwhile cinema thus far in 2006," writes the Reverse Shot team, eight-fold this time out, at indieWIRE, but "we thought we'd try to raise everyone spirits by taking a preemptive look back... and give our favorite films one more grand shout-out." Related: "Here we are closing in on the year's halfway mark and I'm thinking: where's a movie to send me back on my heels?" asks Vince Keenan. "This Australian western will do the trick nicely."

Robert Bresson "Sometimes the things you feel closest to are the hardest to write about." But Girish finally gets around to writing about Robert Bresson.

Doug Cummings finds Cavite "an effective, compelling, and uncommonly revealing thriller." Also, a rich entry on Arthur Lipsett. By "rich," I mean, besides his own initial thoughts on 21-87, Doug offers pointers to online listening and news on an upcoming documentary.

"The reality of reality television is that it is the one place that, first, shows our fellow citizens to us and, then, shows that they have been changed by television," writes Mark Greif in n+1. "This reality is the unacknowledged truth that drama cannot, and will not, show you."

Nathaniel R visits the Douglas Gordon: Timeline exhibition and hovers around 24-Hour Psycho: "This exhibit unexpectedly gave me a different Psycho experience than I've ever had before. I felt more inside the film than ever. But I also felt removed enough (without the sound and music) to notice things I've never noticed and to appreciate with renewed clarity what a genius Alfred Hitchcock was."

Ron Rosenbaum in the New York Observer: "Sometimes we're not even aware of the way films change the way we see things - or, as in the case of Tony Scott's Domino, which practically nobody saw (but which I want everybody to see), the way a film captures, purely with its look, the way we look. Holds a mirror up to our distorted nature." Among such films for Rosenbaum are "Terrence Malick's Badlands, Peter Brook's King Lear, Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, Oliver Stone's JFK (not for the idiot conspiracy theory, but for the faster-than-the-speed-of-thought fluid film-stock-shifting look), Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line and, most recently, David Gordon Green's George Washington and All the Real Girls. (If you haven't seen the last two, especially the former, you've missed something inexplicably powerful and almost mystically beautiful.)"

Also, Andrew Sarris on A Prairie Home Companion and John Heilpern on Neil LaBute's new play, Some Girl(s). And more on that from John Lahr in the New Yorker, Jeremy McCarter in New York and Jorge Morales in the Voice.

Speaking of Prairie, at the naked gaze, Carlos Rojas has been considering it hand in hand with, interestingly enough, X-Men: The Last Stand: "One of the distinctive aspects of the embattled communities in each of these films is that their members straddle an invisible boundary between a mundane and an imaginary/performative space."

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls "When [Russ] Meyer and I were hired a few years later to work on an ill-fated Sex Pistols movie called 'Who Killed Bambi?' we were both a little nonplussed, I think, to hear Johnny Rotten explain that he liked Beyond the Valley of the Dolls because it was so true to life." With the film now out on DVD, Roger Ebert revisits an article he wrote for Film Comment in 1980. If you're looking for a review, Eric Henderson's got one at Slant.

Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman pooh-poohs the "Myth of the Decline of the Critic." Via Jeffrey Wells. Related: Jim Emerson reacts to director Wayne Kramer reacting to critics: "Actually, I wish more filmmakers would talk about the critics they respect, and the ones they don't - and why."

Preview for free or even buy a copy: the June issue of fps Magazine.

"There is no movie more overrated in recent history than Napoleon Dynamite; it's to cinema what the Doors are to rock and roll," writes Robert Wilonsky in a review picked up by the Voice. "So it's of some relief to announce that Nacho Libre, the latest from [Jared] Hess..., isn't an entirely unpleasant experience, which is to say it doesn't feel as though it's worn out its welcome before the second reel." More from Ed Gonzalez in Slant and Aaron Hillis in Premiere.

Also:

Asphalt

More at Slant: Ed Gonzalez on 20 Centimeters and The Mostly Unfabulous Life of Ethan Green; Keith Uhlich on Welcome, or No Trespassing; and Nick Schager on Heading South and Jailbait.

Dennis Harvey argues that Michael Cuesta's 12 and Holding "is a warmer, more nuanced, even more ambitious movie than L.I.E. - not necessarily better, but revealing a better person behind the camera." Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Jason Shamai on Meth and Rock Bottom: Gay Men and Meth: "The one you decide to see may come down to a packaging preference."

Cinema by the Bay At SF360, Susan Gerhard talks with Sheery Avni about her book, Cinema by the Bay.

The New Republic's Christopher Orr calls Kiss Kiss Bang Bang "a delightfully crafty ride, a film that succeeds as both paragon and parody of its genre better than any other since the Scream franchise."

"There's at least one thing that makes the modest, marvelous Sketches of Frank Gehry by Sydney Pollack a unique documentary," writes Ray Pride, introducing his interview with the director: "it's a five years ongoing mutual appreciation-cum-bitch session between a pair of successful men in their 70s who must navigate the ego and caprice of other men who would give them the millions necessary to practice their respective crafts of architecture and moviemaking." Ray's also got info on the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers closing its doors on June 28. More from Anthony Kaufman and Brian Newman.

And via Movie City News, the AP's Jacob Adelman reports that some Christians see parallels between Jesus and Superman.

Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker, Stuart Gordon tells SuicideGirls' Daniel Robert Epstein why he'll be revisiting Re-Animator: "I actually believed that Donald Rumsfeld had died. I couldn't believe he was still around. Suddenly I had this idea that this was a reanimated Cabinet. I got very excited about the idea. I've actually been pestering Brian [Yuzna] to do this House of Re-Animator idea for awhile. It wasn't until Bush started his second term that Brian had finally said, 'Okay. I think we should do it.'"

The AV Club's Noel Murray spoke with Richard Linklater just before he went to Cannes. Related: Looker walks out of A Scanner Darkly.

That Little Round-Headed Boy on Two-Lane Blacktop: "You could describe it as Antonioni directing a Roger Corman quickie, a sort of Zabriskie Vanishing Point, in which the characters remain tight-lipped as they stare into the existential abyss (it's no wonder the Euro critics revere this film.)"

In the New York Times:

  • Manohla Dargis: "The film a/k/a Tommy Chong tells the depressing, often ridiculous and generally enraging story of how and why Mr Chong, an extremely laid-back and genial camera presence, ended up doing time in the minimum-security Taft Correctional Institution in Taft, Calif." More from Nathan Rabin in the AV Club and Rob Nelson in the Voice.

  • Ken Belson: "After more than half a decade as Hollywood's savior, the DVD is looking a little tired — and the movie studios, for once, are having trouble coming up with a sequel."

  • Dinitia Smith: "The head of the Library of Congress is to name Donald Hall, a writer whose deceptively simple language builds on images of the New England landscape, as the nation's 14th poet laureate today."

In the Observer, Jason Reitman writes about "running around the world promoting my film, Thank You for Smoking," and in the Guardian, Joe Penhall talks with Sam Shepard.

Loverboy In the Philadelphia Weekly, Chris Anderson talks with Kevin Bacon directorial debut as a feature filmmaker, Loverboy. For the AV Club, Scott Tobias reviews the film; so does Luke Y Thompson for the freebie chain.

At PopMatters, Amos Posner wonders whether Lady in the Water "will show the artistic growth we've all been waiting" to see M Night Shyamalan, "or if we'll continue to watch a talented filmmaker's potential drift away."

David Austin at Cinema Strikes Back: "Even by poliziotteschi standards, Convoy Busters is not a stand-out film. What makes it memorable is the presence of Maurizio Merli (Violent Naples; Violent Rome; The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist), a legend in the genre." Also, the "DVD Release of the Week," Cemetery Man. More on that one from Craig Phillips.

Up-n-coming:

AJ Schack looks back on a year of blogging.

5 for the day at the House Next Door: Western towns.

Online listening tip #1. Rosie Perez talks with Leonard Lopate about Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que Tu Lo Sepas! (I'm Boricua, Just So You Know).

Online listening tip #2. Cinefile's Movie Music Archives, Volumes 1 and 2. Via filmtagebuch.

Online listening tip #3. Score, Baby! Let Dennis Cozzalio tell you all about it.

Offline listening tips for the near future. Ben at the Whine Colored Sea has the probable tracklist for the Marie-Antoinette soundtrack and Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing has a sneak peek at the Neil Gaiman tribute CD.

Online viewing tip #1. Eugene Hernandez has video of John Cameron Mitchell talking about Shortbus.

Online viewing tip #2. Jay and Silent Bob's MTV shorts, via Screenhead.

Online viewing tip #3. The trailer for The Great New Wonderful.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:44 PM

Fests and events, 6/14.

Back to Seattle in a moment, but first to E Steven Fried at the Siffblog, where not only is his introduction to his interview with Jack Smith And The Destruction of Atlantis director Mary Jordan excruciatingly fair and even-handed, but the conversation itself somehow makes for both a leisurely and meaty read.

The work of Jack Smith

The film also plays Friday at the Roxie in San Francisco, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Johnny Ray Huston wonders, "if [Smith] were alive today, would his work be accepted into Frameline's 30th incarnation [tomorrow through June 25], or those of its straight counterparts? It's a question worth pondering, as Frameline is forced to grapple with post-New Queer Cinema profiteering and post-"death of gay culture" mainstreamed, apolitical notions of identity, while the popularity of festivals makes their formulaic aspects increasingly apparent." Still, the SFBG finds plenty to recommend.

Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE: "While the 17th annual Human Rights Watch International Film Festival (HRWIFF) kicked off in New York last week, there are more and more such events taking place around the globe. Today, there are established human rights festivals in Nantes, Moscow, Prague and Seoul, newer events in Bologna, Nuremberg, Paris, and Geneva, and fledgling showcases in New Zealand, New Orleans, Rhode Island and the Ukraine." Meanwhile, acquarello has been offering excellent HRWIFF coverage.

From the Sydney Film Festival (through June 25), James Russell on Jackie Chan's The Myth, "the sort of deeply flawed but nonetheless fascinating work of art I often find myself more interested in than your classically perfect and flawless works." More Sydney coverage: Michael Collins at Hollywood Bitchslap and Matt Riviera on Pusher and Old Joy.

Chicago International Children's Film Festival "The Chicago International Children's Film Festival will hold two sessions of its wildly popular Young Chicago Critics camp this year due to growing demand. The intensive eight-day camp offers children the rare opportunity to learn about film critique and participate in every aspect of filmmaking." Click that fest and scroll down for details; the two sessions will run June 21 through 30 and July 10 through 19.

SFist impressions from the ongoing Another Hole in the Head festival: Eve and Wendy on Broken and The Gravedancers; Eve on Blood Deep, Room 6 and The Beast.

New York Asian Film Festival At the IFC Blog, Alison Willmore begins previewing offerings from the New York Asian Film Festival (Friday through July 1) with her takes on Always: Sunset on Third Street, A Bittersweet Life and Linda Linda Linda.

Michael Atkinson previews the fest for the Village Voice: "[T]he series has always erred on the side of popness, psychotronica, and pulpitude.... The sugar highs and crashes can be exhausting, but the ethnographic gains can overshadow the most rigorous realist art film." And The Reeler calls up "NYAFF co-founder and all-around swell guy Grady Hendrix to get the latest on this year's fest."

Cinematical's Kim Voynar talks with director Rick Stevenson and actor Robert Guthrie about their Seattle International Film Festival entry, Expiration Date and reviews OSS-117: Nest of Spies.

"No controversy, no political messages," writes Sakis Kontos at Cineuropa. "This year's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival [June 30 through July 8] is going to be 'a feast of world or European film premieres celebrating cinema' according to the event's organizers who announced the official competition program in Prague." Fine, but if you're looking for the full lineup, Boyd van Hoeij has it at europeanfilms.net.

Bside launches a Touring and Independent Film & Music Festival.

Catherine Deneuve will chair the jury at the Venice Film Festival this year, and the fest will see the premiere of Kenneth Branagh's The Magic Flute. Reuters reports.

At Twitch, Todd notes that the site for the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (October 20 through 24) is already up.

Richard Armstrong at Flickhead: "The MediaMag Short Circuit short film competition is the initiative of the UK education resource Media Magazine, a publication catering to film and media students of the 16-18 age range. A shortlist of twenty-one shorts, trailers and pop videos has appeared on a DVD and there are some powerful little movies on it."

Online viewing tip. Via Screenhead, shorts by the French animation school Gobelins, l'école de l'image for the just-wrapped International Animated Film Festival in Annecy.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:46 PM

June 13, 2006

Seattle Dispatch. 5.

At the Seattle International Film Festival, Sean Axmaker catches two restored films noir and a satire that's already a huge hit back home in France.

The Man Who Cheated Himself I'd like to single out GreenCine friend and contributor Eddie Muller for bringing a couple of film noir rarities to the festival Sunday afternoon. Both have played in Muller's own San Francisco festival but were treats to see up here in rain city. Felix Feist's The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950), the sole film produced by Warner son Jack M Warner, has been unavailable in 35mm until UCLA acquired a print from France within the last year. The film, starring the unlikely romantic pairing of Lee J Cobb as a cop who "slums" with high society and Jane Wyatt as a flighty rich dame with street-level taste in men, is not a particularly gripping, stylistically exciting or narratively compelling example of the genre, at least until the last reel. When the fleeing couple detour into Fort Point, an abandoned brick structure with a courtyard that suggests Alcatraz, the entire atmosphere is transformed as if Feist was suddenly inspired by the possibilities of this astounding location. And it doesn't end there. Where so many Hollywood films opt out at the coda for a forced happy ending, the exchange in the final scene says more about the crazy illogic of passion and the compromises we make - and don't make - than many films in their full running time.

The Window The second feature, Ted Tetzlaff's The Window, was presented by Muller as the first restoration from his non-profit organization, the Film Noir Foundation. Though not as rare, the print was sterling and the film itself, a thriller about an adolescent boy (Bobby Driscoll) who's cried wolf so often that when he witnesses a murder no one believes him (except the killers), is a much tighter and more gripping film, enhanced by marvelous location shooting in New York. The labyrinth of fire escapes and rooftop pathways creates a second city known only to the denizens of the low-rent district, and the tenement building where he lives feels too dumpy and dreary to be a Hollywood set (if it is, it's a tribute to the designers). I'm happy to say that both films filled SIFF's showcase theater, The Egyptian, to the rafters (or at least to the balcony) on an otherwise temperate spring Sunday afternoon, and the Muller charmed the audiences with his passionate and witty introductions.

OSS 117: Nest of Spies On a more recent note... A smash hit in France (there's already a sequel in the works), OSS 117: Nest of Spies made its North American premiere at SIFF to a sold-out crowd that tapped right into the spy spoof's tongue-in-cheek yet barbed commentary on western arrogance in the Arab world. Jean Dujardin (looking like a perfect beefcake 60s-era Connery knock-off, right down the smirk) plays the Bond-like French secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, alias OSS 117, a culturally illiterate colonial agent sent to Egypt as it prepares to nationalize the Suez Canal. The idiot super-patriot has an IQ that matches his belt size and the cultural sensitivity of Bill O'Reilly, and he's also apparently irresistible to women and wears a tux like he was born in it. For all of the comic shtick, from a Nazi splinter group hiding in the pyramids to a ruthless war between rival poultry companies, it eschews Airplane absurdism for the oblivious bluster of 117 and his dim-bulb bumbling through Muslim culture that almost incites a race war. For all the genre spoofing and broad humor, it's a pointed satire of blindered imperialism and unthinking political insolence that reverberates through contemporary adventures that aren't nearly as funny.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:41 AM | Comments (1)

The Pathway of Independence. Half Empty.

Jonathan Marlow maps routes taken by true indies like Half Empty.

Marquee If you wished to venture toward one event that would satisfy as the premiere showcase for the best in American independent films, your initial instinct would likely be Sundance. That is, after all, the public perception. Park City is a fine destination for truly independent work but it isn't likely to be found at the Eccles or the Prospector. The films one thinks of as "independent" - self-produced, first- or second-time efforts - will generally be found at Treasure Mountain. For instance, Todd Rohal's The Guatemalan Handshake, the first of the so-called Maryland New Wave features, began the festival year there as part of Slamdance, followed closely by Michael Tully's Cocaine Angel at SXSW and Sujewa Ekanayake's Date Number One, hitting the self-distribution route a few weeks thereafter. At Sundance? The Jury Prize went to the disturbingly undistinguished Quinceañera, a poorly written picture of ponderous predictability (no surprise, then, that it also received the Audience Award and was picked up by Sony Picture Classics).

This, despite appearances, is not an overall criticism of Sundance. The institute and the festival promote a particular kind of filmmaking that, circa 1989 and shortly thereafter, was fresh and original. Now the majority of US titles pushed through the system have grown tired and formulaic, a near caricature of Redford's noble intentions.

Half Empty

A case study against this style of filmmaking might be the following tale. In an interview with director (and Slamdance co-founder) Dan Mirvish, we talked briefly about his efforts to get the Academy to acknowledge (and nominate) his film in the "Best Musical" category. In the process, he and his friend, actor Robert Peters (not exactly a household name but with over eighty films to his credit, such as his memorable performance as "Eye-in-the-Sky Technician #1" in the Ocean's Eleven remake or "USAF Radio Specialist" in Air Force One) made an impromptu movie in order to reach the qualifying number of musicals in theatrical release. That film, Half Empty, directed by Peters, co-photographed by Mirvish and co-written by both, went on to appear at the Silver Lake, Houston International and Santa Barbara International festivals, where it won well-deserved awards at all three events. Shot in a little more than a week, Half Empty stars Peters as a Handey-esque spewer of aphorisms on a book tour in Germany. He is accompanied by a guide (exceptionally portrayed by German television actress Mareike Fell) who plays cynic to Peters's unshakeable optimism. If, on the surface, this reads like a recipe for disaster, remember that it is also a musical.

All of these elements would, under normal circumstances, conspire to form a heaping miasma, but Peters ably pulls the various threads together into a thoroughly enjoyable whole - narratively, musically and otherwise. Thanks to the efforts of producer's rep Michael A Weiss and an upstart distributor, the film will be spared the usual purgatory of imaginative work with an intended limited theatrical in October. With The Puffy Chair in current distribution and Mutual Appreciation due in September, there is still hope for audiences searching for inventive independent cinema. Sensible audiences ought to show their support accordingly.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:54 AM

June 12, 2006

Shorts, 6/12.

Jesus Camp Jesus Camp, the documentary that won the Special Jury Prize at Tribeca, is something of a wake-up call for progressives, which is fine, but it's also needlessly alarmist, argues Kirsten A Powers. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady should have made it clear that the camp is Pentecostal, "which puts it far to the right theologically and politically, even within the evangelical movement." Evangelicals "make up close to 25 percent of the electorate" and "many evangelical leaders believe that a growing number of these voters are prepared to return to the Democratic fold, but only if Democrats stop misunderstanding, neglecting, and even intentionally ignoring what was and should be a natural constituency."

Also in the American Prospect, Sudhir Muralidhar writes that The War Tapes "demonstrates exactly how frustrating and demoralizing the helplessness of the current occupation can be for troops on the ground."

"It was a beautiful shoot, absolutely beautiful," Cillian Murphy tells Sean O'Hagan. He's talking, of course, about The Wind That Shakes the Barley. "Easily my best experience in terms of the process of acting. Plus, it was during the summer months; I was living at home with my folks; my wife was pregnant with our son; and we were running around the hills of west Cork shooting up Black and Tans. Fantastic!"

Also in the Observer, Alex Clark reviews Isabella Rossellini's In the Name of the Father, the Daughter and the Holy Spirits: Remembering Roberto Rossellini.

Texte zur Kunst: Gossip "Welcome to the new celebrity colonialism." For spiked, Brendan O'Neill examines the implications of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie effectively shutting Namibia down for several weeks.

"It is the despair - not the thought of martyrdom - that consumes you there." Paisley Dodds talks with Shafiq Rasul, Ruhal Ahmed and Asif Iqbal, the subjects of Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross's The Road to Guantanamo, about Saturday's suicides. Related: A lead editorial in the Guardian and commentary by Zachary Katznelson. And David Lowery: "While I was watching The Road To Guantanamo, I kept thinking about Paul Greengrass's United 93, which blurs the same lines that Winterbottom does, but in different ways."

Dave Kehr takes issue with "the critical clichés and historical misconceptions that have gathered around the Western since it passed from mass popularity in the early 1970s.... In my experience... I've found the genre to be far less reactionary and rigid than consistently questioning and even progressive."

In an interview with Northwest Film Forum co-founder Jamie Hook, Sujewa Ekanayake discovers he's got quite controversial views of the arts communities in Seattle and Minneapolis.

Roger Ebert's been deluged with mail in response to his review of An Inconvenient Truth; now he responds back. More thoughts on the film from Eric Ditzian in Flak.

David Walsh at the WSWS on Nicole Holofcener: "It's another feature of our unhappy situation that an artist would more or less boast about not 'making any statements.' How are we expected to reply? Well, congratulations then, you've succeeded very nicely!"

"Is there an Iraqi film wave on the horizon?" asks Anthony Kaufman. Also: Hollywood's moves abroad.

At Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Ian Johnston revisits that "unique American masterpiece," Night of the Hunter.

John Adair on Decalogue IX: "Kieslowski, the ever-spiritual director, leaves his characters with the comfort of knowing they are not alone."

Richard von Busack at Cinematical on Yi Yi: "[Edward] Yang handles separate characters with such skill that there never quite seems to be anything that qualifies as a subplot. As in Mike Leigh and Yasujiro Ozu films, here's the sense that anyone of the characters could be followed through into a movie of their own."

That Little Round-Headed Boy writes a magnificent ode to Karen Allen's performance as Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Filmbrain's image of Jesus "as temperamental rock star, or foppish song and dance man," formed by Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell, lasted for years. Until he discovered a few other portrayals.

Mommie Dearest turns 25 this year and "it may finally be time to start to take the film seriously," writes Gregg Kilday in the Hollywood Reporter.

Superman Returns is "terrific," writes Anne Thompson.

Peter Suderman: "District B13 is a far, far better movie than it has any right to be."

"Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul makes its strongest commentary on matters East-West through its structure," writes Nicolas Rapold in Reverse Shot, "an order of presentation that reverses the usual narrative of Westernization as progress: the Turkish pyschedelic rock and hip-hop do not come at the end of a survey of the country's native forms as if in culmination, but are merely early stops along the way."

Patrick Kennelly: "Though firestarting with a frenzied, dimly lit montage that anticipates frenzied narrative dislocation, Cavite quickly winds itself up into a minimalist, real-time, what would you do? mind fuck."

MS Smith reviews Little Fish, "a careful, purposely incomplete examination of lives that are like unfinished minor-key symphonies."

Michael Chabon: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh Via Darren Hughes, Barbara Vancheri in the Post-Gazette: "Pittsburgh will play itself - in all of its Cloud Factory, Lost Neighborhood, Checkpoint of Too Much Fun glory - in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," an adaptation of Michael Chabon's novel with Max Minghella lined up for the lead.

Caveh Zahedi hangs with Claire Denis and the Quay Brothers.

Greg Pak talks with Steven E Mallorca about Slow Jam King.

Dennis Cozzalio nominates two line readings as the best of the year so far. A wonderful idea, by the way.

At Listology, Jim's top 57 animated movies.

The BBC: "Comedy legend John Cleese has said he is retiring from writing and performing sitcoms because he will never manage to top the success of Fawlty Towers."

Though this is a film blog, it's odd not to even mention the World Cup. Fortunately, Chris Barsanti has put together a slightly film-skewed collection of pointers. And Filmz.de lists 16 recent soccer movies.

"Ingo Preminger, the producer of the film M*A*S*H who was also the literary agent for several leading writers who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era, has died. He was 95," writes Jon Thurber. And yes, he was the brother of director Otto Preminger. Also in the Los Angeles Times, an obit for John E Horton, Hollywood's link to the Pentagon.

Lost in Translation

Online viewing tip #1. Akira Kurasawa's ads for Suntory whiskey, featuring Francis Ford Coppola. Via Martha Fischer at Cinematical.

Online viewing tip #2. The I/O Brush demonstrated and explained. Via Peter Suderman.

Online viewing tip #3. David Lynch's Premonitions of an Evil Deed, via Wiley Wiggins.

Online viewing tip #4. At Twitch, X points to a trailer for and clips from Bong Joon-ho's The Host.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:29 PM

Fests and events, 6/12.

G.I. Jesus Jeffrey Wells: "Carl Colpaert's G.I. Jesus is the first truly exceptional Cinevegas film I've seen so far."

Cynthia Rockwell is "Anticipating Silverdocs," tomorrow through Sunday just outside DC.

On Thursday, the premiere of American Zeitgeist: Crisis and Conscience in an Age of Terror in NYC will be followed by a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Eric S Margolis. There'll be free beer, so things could get rowdy.

You're a filmmaker in Chicagoland? Screenhead reminds you you've got until Sunday to sign up for the Fast Forward Film Festival.

Cinematical's Kim Voynar rounds up wide and varied bloggish coverage of the ongoing Seattle International Film Festival and reviews Apart From That. Also, Vince Keenan catches two films noir introduced by Eddie Muller. More from David Jeffers at the Siffblog.

Matt Riviera carries on blogging from the Sydney Film Festival.

The Brooklyn International Film Festival announces its winners.

IndieWIRE's Brian Brooks previews the Provincetown International Film Festival (June 14 through 18).

Paris Cinéma Two festival previews at Cineuropa: Fabien Lemercier on the Paris Cinéma Festival (June 27 through July 11) and Anne Feuillère on the Brussels European Film Festival (June 30 through July 8).

At SF360, Cheryl Eddy looks back on the San Francisco Black Film Festival.

Online viewing tip. The Year of the Wonderful Bedroom. A SIFFcast.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:29 PM

György Ligeti, 1923 - 2006.

György Ligeti: Atmosphères
György Ligeti, a major composer whose music became familiar to millions through the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, died today in Vienna, his publisher announced on its web site. He was 83.

[...]

In 1961, he found international recognition for Atmosphères, a large-scale work consisting of slowly evolving, massive chords, or "sound masses." He called the technique micropolyphony.

[...]

Parts of Atmosphères, Requiem, and Lux aeterna appeared on the soundtrack for 2001, a 1967 film by Stanley Kubrick that became a cultural icon. In fact, according to various sources, Kubrick used Ligeti's music without permission.

Ben Mattison in PlaybillArts, via Alex Ross.

See also: Sony Classical's biography, the BBC's profile and the Wikipedia entry.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:15 AM | Comments (2)

Seattle Dispatch. 4.

Seattle International Film Festival At the Seattle International Film Festival, Sean Axmaker takes measure of the state of Danish cinema.

SIFF cast a spotlight on Denmark with a collection of 14 films, including two documentaries, an animated Midnight Movie, and the entire grunge-noir Pusher trilogy by Nicolas Winding Refn. The eight I've seen suggest that, my personal reservations aside, the Dogme 95 movement may indeed have accomplished its purpose: to break filmmakers' habits and keep them from reflexively falling into the usual cinematic conventions and clichés. A frustrating side effect has been the codification of handheld camerawork defined by exaggerated instability and a hyper-naturalism that has created a whole new roll call of clichéd characters: the motormouth nervous types, repressed figures whose gaze wanders nervously and volatile figures whose emotions careen about and blow up without warning. It's not just the directors who signed off on a Dogme production; it's seeped into a national style, from films as diverse as Refn's Pusher sequels, set in the backstabbing underworld of petty crime with its unforgiving crimelords who eat the drones alive, Pernille Fischer Christensen's precious and impossible love comic drama, A Soap, and Annette K Oleson's 1:1, a nicely observed but familiar social drama of prejudice and racial tension in a Danish slum.

Allegro Which is perhaps why I liked Christoffer Boe's Allegro so much. In his second feature (after the brilliant Reconstruction), Boe takes the handheld work and naturalistic performance style in his own direction, weaving it through a romantic fantasy of troubled love that reveals the impossibility of remaining unhurt in our emotional lives. Ulrich Thomsen wears a mask of complete control as the perfectionist concert pianist ("He is very successful. Not as a human, as a pianist."); he blocks out a painful love affair with such power that it completely leaves his consciousness and forms an impenetrable bubble around a small Copenhagen district. "The Zone" is a fantasy out of Tarkovsky by way of The Matrix and the angel (or perhaps devil) who presides over it (he also happens to be the film's tough-love narrator) sends the pianist a formal invitation to reclaim his past. Boe's use of animated interludes is inspired - I'm enchanted by the visualization of the pianist as a perpetual child wandering through life - and his juxtaposition of the ridiculous and the mundane is both whimsical and painful. As in Reconstruction, Boe offers us a vision of love as a beautiful thing that leaves destruction and pain in its wake. This time he insists that we're not complete without the pain that follows the pleasure.

Anders Thomas Jensen plays with his own divine intervention (of sorts) in Adam's Apples, his blackly comic reworking of the story of Job. Mads Mikkelsen is a cheerfully self-deluded priest in state of self-denial (his wife killed herself, his son is paralyzed and unresponsive, and he has a brain tumor "the size of a volleyball") with a crew of parolee misfits, kind of a warped King of Hearts with a weirdly destructive edge. The eccentric (and at times downright deranged) pastor is convinced he's in a pitched battle with Satan, who could very well have sent him his greatest challenge yet - a violent neo-Nazi parolee (Ulrich Thomsen) who tests his limits and shakes his faith, knowing full well that shocking him out of his warped neverland could kill him. Jensen doesn't pretend it's cute and or harmless - there's a fascinating ambiguity to the happy fantasy laid over the misery and failure - and he pushes every situation to almost unforgivable extremes. That's one way to measure the limits of forgiveness and the healing power of hope.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:00 AM

June 11, 2006

Online viewing tip. Young American Bodies.

With the sixth episode now up at Nerve Video (though you'll naturally want to start with the first), we're now halfway through Joe Swanberg's oddly irresistible NSFW series, Young American Bodies, and I for one am certainly hoping Nerve will order up another round - at least.

Joe Swanberg

On its MySpace page - of course it has a MySpace page - YAB is described as an "indie soap opera for the web," and you can't help but feel while watching it that, as YouTube carries on growing exponentially (current estimates: 50,000 uploads and 50 million videos viewed per day) and vlogs race to catch up in number with blogs, YAB is a prime example not so much of the future preferred alternative to television but of the present preferred alternative.

But that much we know. Rather than dwell on its distribution, I want to turn to the work itself. Unfortunately, I haven't yet seen Joe's debut feature, Kissing on the Mouth, but I did catch and enjoy his second, LOL, in Austin in March. As in the films of, say, Woody Allen or Jacques Tati, the most compelling figures in LOL and YAB are those played by Joe himself; to an extent, the worlds of these films spring from and are cut and shaped - warped might be a better word - around the personalities of their respective writer-directors. To what extent in LOL and YAB is an interesting question because they're evidently the results of collaborative efforts. I'm guessing that however you'd describe Swanbergworld, he's got quite a number of friends living in it with him.

An early scene in LOL sets the tone, the storytelling mode. Tim (Swanberg) and his girlfriend Ada (Brigid Reagan) are on the beach. While she flirts with a good-looking but empty-headed hunk, Tim narrates the scene into his cell phone, telling the guy on the other end that she's just trying to get back at him for spending their quality time on the beach yapping into his phone. Because he's utterly aware of what he's doing, it's funny, but the addiction to mediated communication that keeps him incapable of RL communication grows more serious, problematic and just plain sadder as the story plays out. (That green shot up there, by the way, comes from YAB but could just as easily have come from LOL.) One evening, Ada's clearly in the mood. Tim, typing away as usual, says something to the effect that double-checks the situation, that it is indeed sex she's after. A "duh-you-idiot" look serves as confirmation, and he asks, "Could you give me, like, 20 minutes?" Well, no. Cut to foreplay - and to Tim stealing looks at his open laptop while they loll around in bed.

The two other 20-something men LOL centers on are no better off. Alex (Kevin Bewersdorf) is so focused on hooking up with a ridiculous fantasy he's found on a come-hither website that he brutally ignores the shy advances of an attractive girl who expresses more interest in him than he probably deserves. Best scene: they sleep over at her parents' place and, though she might have made room for him in her bed, he spends the night resuscitating an ancient PC and cobbling together a makeshift net connection. Chris (C Mason Wells) has a girlfriend willing to send provocative shots she snaps of herself on her cell phone, but when he complains they aren't sexy enough, we know that whatever it is he's looking for, it won't be coming to him via that phone.

Gadget fetishism plays a much smaller role in YAB, but there's far more real sex going on (and strangely loud kissing, too, I can't help adding). But as Paul Harrill notes at Self-Reliant Filmmaking, "it's not porn - not even close." The sex here is as varied as it is in life; sometimes it's real lovemaking, other times it's just for fun, and at least once, it's simply a way of warding off loneliness. But for all the flopping bodies, the network of friends and acquaintances in YAB have just as much trouble finding shared wavelengths as the characters in LOL. At one point, Casey (Eve Rounds), reluctantly filling Ben (Joe Swanberg) in on her problems with her boyfriend, tells him they've already had "the communication conversation." It hasn't helped.

If the narrative here - more evenly distributed among the women and men than in LOL - sounds like a series of frustrations, first, YAB is, after all, a "soap," and second, the honesty with which the characters are written and played is the real attraction (it also happens to suitably justify the explicitness of the sex). At one point, Ben's roommate, Dia (Kris Williams), chastises him for being such a "dick," and he stands there, furious - and smiling. Why is he smiling, she demands. He thinks this is funny? No, not at all. What is that bizarre reflex that breaks out a smile in the face of pain? Whatever it is, Joe plays it perfectly.

"When it comes to this quest for realism," writes Karina Longworth in a very fine review of LOL at Cinematical, "I've read reviews of Swanberg's work that try to peg him as Andrew Bujalski-lite, which is somewhat unfair. Though both young filmmakers are in some ways using naturalism to investigate modern (mis)communication, Swanberg's characters actively fuck with one another in ways that Bujalski's do not."

Agreed. And though Bujalski makes a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in LOL, Joe may (or may not) be as tired of hearing Bujalski's name brought up in discussion of his work as Bujalski is of hearing Cassavetes brought up in discussion of his. Even so, the references aren't entirely fruitless. A few weeks ago, a friend, fretting over the current state of American independent film, complained that he was seeing too many filmmakers who seem to have viewed Funny Ha Ha and decided that less is always more, when obviously, that simply is not the case. On the one hand, though, we have to credit trendsetting films when credit is due. Both Kevin Smith and Spike Lee have said that, when they saw Stranger Than Paradise, it dawned on them that they could make films, too. So blame Jarmusch if you'd like for Jersey Girl and She Hate Me, but if you're going to, be sure and thank him for Clerks and Do the Right Thing. At the same time (and this is the other hand), both of those last two films are uniquely Smith's and Lee's; they've channeled that inspiration into work that is utterly their own, while anyone else who made work too derivative of Jarmusch's ten or fifteen or more years ago most likely hasn't been heard from since.

As for Joe Swanberg, it's the "Bujalski-lite" accusation that is, as Karina writes, unfair, even if one prefers Bujalski's films. First, I have no idea how much of an inspiration Bujalski might be for Joe, but that's ultimately beside the point. I'd argue that each gives us something in his films the other doesn't. There are similarities, of course. They're about the same age, or in the same neighborhood age-wise, and so are their characters. The question of what to do with one's life - as opposed to what one's done with it - lurks and occasionally pounces. Improvisation is part of the process behind LOL and YAB and, though Bujalski insists his characters speak the lines written for them, there's an improvised feel to the dialogue in the work of both filmmakers (hence critics' autopilot Cassavetes allusions).

But there's also more of an improvised feel about Joe Swanberg's camerawork, even though he often ends up making more conventional choices about where to place that camera (though certainly not always). With both filmmakers, we spend a lot of time indoors, but Bujalski more often tends to want to take in an entire room within the frame; he always makes sure we know exactly where we are, whereas in some of Joe's scenes, particularly in YAB, location is practically irrelevant. And of course, there's texture. Shot in grainy black-and-white, great swaths of Bujalski's Mutual Appreciation look as if they could have been filmed in 1980 or even 1960. Joe's very mid-2000s digital video work occasionally soaks up saturated colors, or, every now and then, as in scenes in a club in YAB, he doesn't seem to mind at all if the screen goes black - it only draws Ben and the girl he's flirting with closer together as they lean in towards a candle's flame and away from the noise all around them.

The most important difference between the character-driven films of Swanberg and Bujalski, though, as Karina suggests, lies in the characters themselves. No character is ever completely truthful, but Bujalski's do tend to try harder at it; there's a lot more conscious lying going on in Joe's films. A keen awareness of their own vulnerability lies behind both contradictory impulses. Bujalski's characters deconstruct and implant various layers of disclaimers within each sentence even as they speak them. That's simply going to be too much trouble for several of Joe's characters, who'll emote a little more recklessly, sometimes a lot more recklessly. What most defines the differences between these two worlds is the difference between the personalities that conjure them.

But I've already gone on too long with this little compare-n-contrast exercise. On Thursday, June 15, Austinites will be able to take such comparisons in an entirely different direction when Kissing on the Mouth screens on a double bill with Bryan Poyser's Dear Pillow. Both directors will be in attendance and proceeds will help finance a short Poyser aims to shoot with Joe Swanberg and Pillow star Rusty Kelley taking on roles. I don't know, but I'd guess they met at SXSW, which is also where I saw for the first time work by Joe Swanberg, Andrew Bujalski, David Lowery (who also pops up for a moment in LOL) and other filmmakers helping shape not only the future of the art but its present as well.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:21 PM | Comments (4)

June 10, 2006

Weekend shorts.

The Red S Jeffrey Wells has seen Superman Returns and writes that it "feels like a truly personal film that came from somebody's heart... It's a hell of an upgrade (it refines and deepens in the tradition of Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins), an extremely reverent nostalgia piece, an above-average chick flick, an extremely sumptous and harmonious piece of work ([Bryan] Singer is a masterful technican and film 'composer') and, frequently enough, a solid action thriller."

More from the Boston Herald's Stephen Schaeffer: "What Singer’s done is a dandy trick: He's honored the tradition of Superman as a quintessentially 20th-century American myth and simultaneously given the Man of Steel a home (cinematically) in the 21st century.... Even better, Singer has transformed Superman, the alien from another planet with his extraordinary powers, into a majestic, awe-inspiring figure, not a kiddie comic book guy in tights."

"Ernest Hemingway once said that all of American literature could be traced back to one book, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, and something similar might be said of American cinema and The Searchers," writes AO Scott. "It has become one of those movies that you see, in part, through the movies that came after it and that show traces of its influence."

Also in the New York Times:

Edmond

Room More new Slant reviews: Nick Schager on Wordplay, The Blood of My Brother and Who Killed the Electric Car?; Ed Gonzalez on Lower City, Excellent Cadavers, Going Under and Room.

"[Robert] Aldrich died in 1983 but he'd be having a ball if he were alive now," writes John Patterson. "He wouldn't be churning out boring tracts like Syriana or incoherent tripe like V For Vendetta, he'd be working in a solidly populist vein, integrating his leftwing politics into all manner of raucous genre entertainment." Also in the Guardian, a bit of up-n-coming news featuring Peter Jackson and Uma Thurman and a non-film-related must-read comes from Pankaj Mishra: "The neo-orientalist reconceptualising of India and China ignores or suppresses large aspects of their recent history." Related: John Gray reviews Mishra's Temptations of the West: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond.

Predictably, An Inconvenient Truth has been attacked by the oil industry and Fox News - Ray Pride notes that even CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck remains sadly ignorant of Godwin's Law - but Salon's Katharine Mieszkowski asks around and finds: "Climate scientists who have seen Gore's film say on the whole it presents a scientifically valid view of global warming and does a good job of presenting what's likely to occur if human-induced greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated."

Mozartkugel Kristin Hohenadel talks with Kenneth Branagh about his adaptation of Mozart's Magic Flute. Related: Magnificent and free Mozart downloads at the Guardian, which is also running one of Edward Said's last pieces, a consideration of Così fan tutte.

Also in the Los Angeles Times, Patrick Goldstein talks with Victor Salva about Peaceful Warrior - and about his own time behind bars.

The Oregonian's Shawn Levy has a good long talk with Garrison Keillor. More on A Prairie Home Companion: In Stop Smiling, Nick Pinkerton finds it a "lovely, funny surprise," and for Steve Erickson, writing in Gay City News, it's "one of the sweetest, most cheerful films Robert Altman has ever made"; or it's "a nearly plotless jumble of pure delight" (Greg at Lucid Screening); David Pratt-Robson notes at videoarcadia that it's "being pronounced as his most 'humanistic movie,' which amounts to congratulating a great movie for the wrong reason."

Besides that review, Nick Pinterton's got an interview with Altman in Reverse Shot, where Leah Churner reviews Agnes and His Brothers and Justin Stewart reviews Winter Soldier.

Michael Agger on Cars: "Lasseter and his team would naturally have affection for the local and unique. It's a mirror of the way Pixar works, with each animator perfecting his own small patch of brilliance.... It's impossible to find more joy in the dark at the moment." Also in Slate, Troy Patterson on the MTV Movie Awards.

Considering the number of people who've read the book, the fact that there were few Christian protests until Ron Howard's version of The Da Vinci Code came along speaks volumes about the power of film, notes Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic. Related, and via Movie City News, Peter Howell's open letter to Howard on why he (Howard) screwed up by ignoring the advice he (Howell) offered two years ago.

El Aura "[W]ho would have expected the dark moody pleasures on offer from El Aura?" asks Kurt at Twitch. "El Aura riffs on Antonioni's The Passenger and Nolan's Memento (sans backward narrative) with liberal dashes of Lynch's Twin Peaks for good measure." Also, "Is Turkey's 3 Dev Adam the most cult of all cult films?" Todd asks. "It just might be."

Ben on The Last Seduction at the Whine Colored Sea: "I want my film noirs unapologetically mean and black as pitch, that's why [John] Dahl's exercise in evil will always warm my heart."

Designer Frank Kozik picks his top ten Criterion titles.

Entertainment Weekly: The 25 Most Controversial Movies of All Time The AP reports that Entertainment Weekly has put The Passion of the Christ at the top of its list of the "25 Most Controversial Movies of All Time." Nikki Finke's got the full list - and comments.

Speaking of EW, Lisa Schwarzbaum's ten favorite Meryl Streep performances. Speaking of Meryl Streep, Nathaniel R declares June Meryl Streep Month.

Up-n-coming news, all via Cinematical:

At Hollywood Bitchslap, Collin Souter talks with Jonathan Demme and Neil Young about Heart of Gold.

"I was Russell Crowe's stooge" is the title of the article by Jack Marx in the Sydney Morning Herald making the rounds out there. Little wonder.

Bradford Nordeen on Interview With the Vampire: "Neil Jordan has to be about the gayest heterosexual filmmaker the world has ever seen.... File this one under guilty pleasures with very few actual redeeming qualities."

Grady Hendrix: "The New York Asian Film Festival kicks off next week (June 16 - July 1) and we've added a truckload of events and special guests." Also: A roundup of Election reviews in the UK press.

Nantucket Film Festival Brian Brooks previews the Nantucket Film Festival (June 14 through 18) for indieWIRE.

The Reeler looks back on a year of blogging.

Brian Newman points to a face-off on the BBC between the MPAA's Dan Glickman and the EFF's John Perry Barlow and notes that the MPAA "is going to keep fighting this war, and keep losing, for quite some time. It would be interesting to see them take their collective heads out of the sand and think about the possibilities of addressing the changes due to the internet, instead of reacting in a manner that alienates their consumers."

Online viewing tip #1. Twitch's Todd has found nine minutes of Pavel Ruminov's Dead Daughters.

Online viewing tip #2. The trailer for Genuine Nerd.

Online viewing tip #3. Philip Giorgias talks with Pericles Hoursoglou about Matia Apa Nichta (Eyes of Night).

Online viewing tip #4. Dana Linssen interviews Peter Greenaway for SubmarineChannel. It's likely that you've heard his opening argument before, but this time it's spiced up with clips from the Tulse Luper project and his thoughts on what he feels he's actually doing about the crisis he perceives in cinemahh. Via ticklebooth.

Online viewing tip #5. Never Coming Home is a series at Slate on the families of five young men killed in Iraq.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:36 PM | Comments (3)

June 9, 2006

A fest and lotsa shorts.

Roads of Kiarostami In this week's Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum focuses on one title lined up for the 18th Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival (June 15 through 18). In half an hour, Roads of Kiarostami "starts out as a straightforward and unassuming introduction to a selection of his black-and-white landscape photographs, but it turns into something poetic and frighteningly up-to-date that speaks to a much broader constituency." More.

Christopher Hayes for In These Times:

Progressives have an annoying habit when it comes to pop culture. Anytime they fall for a particular TV show, movie or Top 40 hit, they proceed to spend inordinate amounts of time and mental energy convincing themselves that while most of what the corporate media produces is reactionary crap, this particular product is actually subversive, laced with a cutting critique of capitalism, patriarchy or the Bush administration.

I mention this only because I'm about to do the exact same thing. But of course, in this case, it's really, really true: My current television obsession, UPN's Veronica Mars (Tuesdays at 8 pm CST), is the single most compelling exploration of class anxiety and class friction on the little or big screen today.

Brian Darr among the Cinemarati on a 1934 John Ford movie: "Certainly any good film can springboard a myriad of interpretations, but in 2006 a dominant one surely is to see The Lost Patrol as an eerie premonition of this country's current situation in Iraq." Related: The second part of John McElwee's consideration of The Searchers at Greenbriar Picture Shows.

Ken Loach talks with Time Out's Cath Clarke about being savaged in the British press. Also: Chris Tilly reports that DreamWorks has hired British ad directors Tim and Charlie Guard to remake Kim Ji-woon's A Tale of Two Sisters.

24-Hour Psycho

Jon Bentham asks various directors who've made horror films, most of them fairly recently, about their favorites of the genre. Here, all on one page, are, for example, Eli Roth on Audition, Robin Hardy on Psycho, Hideo Nakata on The Haunting, Rob Green on Rosemary's Baby and Neil Marshall on Alien.

Also in the Guardian, Laura Barton asks Jim Jarmusch about his favorite "musical moments in film": "Wild Zero. Guitar Wolf. Where they're killing zombies. Rude Boy. The Clash. Performance which has Mick Jagger..."

Had enough of United 93? One more. Because it's Martin Amis. In the London Times.

Acquarello reviews "Nagisa Oshima's trenchant and acerbic coming-of-age tale, Boy."

Just look at that cast for Zak Penn's poker movie: Ray Liotta, Woody Harrelson, Cheryl Hines, Ray Romano, Jason Alexander - and here's the point, really - Werner Herzog. Cinematical's Martha Fischer has more.

William Goss at Hollywood Bitchslap: "A Scanner Darkly seems to be practically begging for a cult following, but any such appeal can be attributed more to the story beneath than the glossy package it comes in."

In the New York Times:

Douglas Gordon: Timeline

Also in the LAT: Sam Adams on The Whore's Son, "a sub-zero Stella Dallas," and Chocano on The King, "a dark and deeply unsettling movie with its roots in classical tragedy."

So how's the summer going? Moolah-wise? David Poland's got your numbers.

Cineuropa's current "film focus": Anders Thomas Jensen's Adam's Apples.

Anne Thompson: "MySpace is proving to be a new model for personalized participatory grass-roots marketing." Also in the Hollywood Reporter, Tatiana Siegel: Ryan Phillippe will likely star in Kimberly Peirce's Iraq war drama, Stop-Loss.

In the Stranger, Brendan Kiley looks back on that strange, strange relic, Oh! Calcutta!

In the Independent, Gill Pringle talks with William H Macy. In the Telegraph, Cassandra Jardine talks with James Purefoy, Sheila Johnston with Jason Reitman.

Bilge Ebiri at Nerve: "This week's Perfect Pitch entry came to me anonymously, so even I don't know who wrote it. Needless to say, I can't verify it either, so take it with a grain of salt if you want. That said, I'd like to think it's true, cause it's a good 'un..."

Los Angeles 1955-1985: The Birth of an Art Capital

For the New Statesman, Richard Cork surveys Los Angeles 1955-1985: The Birth of an Art Capital, an exhibition "as concerned with the seamy underbelly of LA as it is with Hollywood gloss."

Online viewing tip. Rashomon points to "Jean-Luc Godard's [rejected] jean commercials." Are they?

Posted by dwhudson at 5:19 AM | Comments (8)

June 8, 2006

Shorts, 6/8.

The Innocents "Jack Clayton's 1961 film The Innocents has a fair claim to be the most terrifying British horror film ever made." Geoffrey Macnab tells the story of its making in the Independent.

Andrew Dignan at the House Next Door on Deadwood and The Godfather, parts I and II: "The surface similarities are unmistakable.... Both works also serve as microcosms of America, allowing us to watch the nation develop from within the confines of a tightly-knit community. Look deeper and the similarities become even more pronounced."

Over at the naked gaze, Carlos Rojas sees overlapping concerns at work in Nicholson Baker's novel, The Fermata, the 1992 Peter Hyams film, Stay Tuned and the upcoming Adam Sandler vehicle, Click. In all three, "the fantasy/nightmare... revolves around a paradoxical conjunction of absolute mastery over one's domain, on the one hand, and absolute loss of control over that same domain, on the other."

Death Walks the Streets Time once again for Jason Guerrasio to check in on five indies in production for indieWIRE: 100 Films and a Funeral, Bill, Death Walks the Streets, Friends (With Benefits and Kisses.

"For a film about death and endings, A Prairie Home Companion is a cracking good time - a warm, golden bauble within which to shelter, like the radio show that inspired it, from the misery and ennui that engulf us in and out of the multiplex," writes Ella Taylor for the LA Weekly, where Scott Foundas meets Robert Altman to talk about the "ongoing serial" that he's been working on for nearly 50 years now.

In the Philadelphia City Paper, Sam Adams takes on both the review and the Altman interview. More from Godfrey Cheshire in the Independent Weekly, Michael Koresky in Reverse Shot, Martha Fischer at Cinematical and Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix, who also chats with Kevin Kline - as does MaryAnn Johanson.

Also in the LAW: David Thomson finds Olivia de Havilland at 89 "as alert, quick-witted, good-natured, funny and attractive as many people half her age." What's more, he reminds us that she "was a movie star in 1935, when she was only 19."

And Ella Taylor on Cars, "cheerfully [hitching] cutting-edge animation to a folksy narrative plugging friendship, community and a Luddite mistrust of high tech."

Agnes and His Brothers Salon's Andrew O'Hehir sends "Get well soon, Bob!" greetings to Altman and reviews Agnes and His Brothers, "a grand, angry entertainment, absolutely free of the airless dreariness that affects too much European art cinema.... See this one, whenever and wherever you can." (A second opinion: Jürgen Fauth.) Also, Autumn "is actually pretty damn good. It's a defiantly odd work, a movie-movie set more in the crime-film Paris of Jean-Pierre Melville or Jacques Becker or early Godard than in the real 21st century city." What's more, Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul is "a joyous revelation."

"Beyond the Valley of the Dolls manages to cram more hedonistic debauchery and grandiloquently campy pseudo-moralizing into 109 minutes than any other film [Russ] Meyer did before or since," writes Marc Savlov, who calls up ,a href="http://www.greencine.com/character?cid=432411">John LaZar and Erica Gavin. Also in the Austin Chronicle, Taylor Holland on Louis Malle.

John McElwee looks back on the 1956 premiere of The Searchers at Greenbriar Picture Shows.

24 Lies a Second editor Jim Moran introduces Peter Gelderblom's "Nighthawks: A Celluloid Fantasia," "an unconventional tale spun to stimulate readers to consider their privileged position and responsibility as spectators—but surprisingly, through the subjectivity of some classic (and some nearly forgotten) movie characters encountering each other in a surreal New York City landscape."

For Wired News, Annalee Newitz looks into "several fan-created online films and TV series set in the so-called Whedonverse, the special land where Joss Whedon's three canceled shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, take place. With the official Whedonverse put out to pasture, fans have taken the reins on a stable of unofficial spinoffs."

At Mindjack, Donald Melanson revisits The Quiet Earth, "one of the best last-man-on-earth movies (at least for the film's first act)."

Up-n-coming:

Waggish remembers Shohei Imamura.

Today's first Inconvenient Truth mention is short and sweet: Jonathan Chait at the New Republic. For more, though, see Garance Franke-Ruta in the American Prospect.

Robert De Niro: Taxi Driver Owen Gibson reports that Hello!, the magazine that paid an estimated $7 million for the first shots of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's baby, will be taking legal action against web sites that've run the photos. Also in the Guardian, Duncan Campbell: "The New York taxi driver's licence used to prepare for the part of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and two leather jackets, one with bullet holes, worn in the movie Ronin are among some 3,000 items from Robert De Niro's film career that he has donated to a Texas university." The Reeler grumbles.

Jeannette Catsoulis: "Whether in the whorehouse or the sanitarium, Psychopathia Sexualis is an exercise in unrelenting dullness." Also in the New York Times, Nathan Lee on Nicolas Philibert's Animals and More Animals; and David Leonhardt explains why "what's saving Netflix - allowing it to thrive when the technology to obliterate it already exists - is yet another attempt by Hollywood to hold onto a fading business model."

"[M]y seven-year-old son promptly declared the movie 'lame,'" writes Steve Ramos. "Godzilla, he told the people exiting the cinema, just wasn't scary enough. Of course, that didn't stop him from having nightmares later that night."

Not all that film-related actually, but brilliant: Greg Allen.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:16 PM | Comments (3)

Fests and events, 6/8.

Another Hole in the Head opens tonight in San Francisco and runs through June 15; Dennis Harvey's got a preview at SF360; meanwhile, at indieWIRE, Susan Gerhard presents an overview of Frameline30 (June 15 through 26), "the oldest and the largest on the now international circuit of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender film festivals, and [facing] something of a repositioning task in a world where the highest profile films with queer themes reach all the way up to Oscar." The Queer Film Blog enthusiastically recommends the opening night film, Puccini for Beginners.

Hollywood Black Film Festival "It's Hammer time as the American Cinematheque celebrates The Golden Age of British Horror, 1955-1975," writes Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times. Also previewed: The Goethe-Institut's Blockbusters! series and the Hollywood Black Film Festival (June 13 through 18).

John Patterson, writing in the LA Weekly, is less impressed with the Hammer series; the films "now look like the rickety, bottom-of-the-bill fare they in fact were."

The French Film Festival has just opened in Manila and, in BusinessWorld, Noel Vera writes that "easily the most interesting and imaginative of the lot isn't even French. Raya Martin... is premiering his latest work: Maicling Pelicula Nang Ysang Indio Nacional (O Ang Mahabang Kalungkutan ng Katagalugan) [A Short Film About the Indio Nacional (Or the Prolonged Sorrow of the Filipinos), 2005].

In the New York Times, Stephen Holden highlights seven films screening in the Human Rights Watch Film Festival (through June ).

On Saturday at 8:30 pm at the Vox Populi Gallery in Philadelphia, A Family Finds Entertainment will screen as part of the Small Change film series. "Psychedelia isn't usually my cup of tea," writes Paul Harrill, "but I was consistently fascinated - and, yes, entertained - by this video's mix of melodrama and Mardi Gras." Joe Swanberg interviewed director Ryan Trecartin back in late 04.

In the Austin Chronicle, Anne S Lewis talks with Don Bernier about In a Nutshell: A Portrait of Elizabeth Tashjian, which he'll be introducing at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown on June 14.

Walking to Werner Last year, Linas Phillips set out from Seattle towards the home of Werner Herzog in Los Angeles. On foot. "Several days into the trip Herzog called and left a message telling Phillips he would be in Thailand," writes David Jeffers at the Siffblog. "He urged Phillips instead, to walk in search of his own 'ecstatic truth.'" Walking to Werner screens just once in Seattle: Thursday, June 15.

Don't Knock the Rock is a film and music festival set into motion in LA from June 29 through July 3 by Allison Anders. Via Jerry Lentz.

New CineVegas (tomorrow through June 17) interviews at Hollywood Bitchslap: The Favor director Eva Aridjis, Beer League co-creators Frank Sebastiano and Artie Lange and 5up 2down director Steve Kessler.

The New York Foundation for the Arts runs Patrick Z McGavin's Cannes diary.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:24 PM

Online viewing tips, 6/8.

tango-180.jpg Some days, it's umpteen million channels and nothing on. Other days, like today, there are so many watchables they need an entry of their own. Let's start with Zbigniew Rybczynski's Tango at No fat clips!!!

Then there's first Beatles cartoon, 1965. No need to stick with this one, but the novelty's worth a few seconds. Via Screenhead.

Amanda Congdon interviews George Soros on Rocketboom.

IFC's got the trailer up for Kirby Dick's This Film Is Not Yet Rated.

Grady Hendrix has got one one for you and the story behind it, too.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley More tips, round 1. "Trailer traffic coming from Cannes," alerts Boyd van Hoeij, pointing to trailers for, yes, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, and also Paris je t'aime (plus extras-type clips), Azur et Asmar and a few more.

More tips, round 2. Shorts by Michael Nesmith, via Coudal Partners, where, in Found & Reused, CP meet Aesthetic Apparatus.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:40 PM

Midnight Eye, 6/8.

Heart, Beating in the Dark Following up on his 2002 interview, Tom Mes gets together with Chuck Stephens for a more extensive talk with Shunichi Nagasaki. The occasion is his new version of Heart, Beating in the Dark, "[o]ne of the most daring and original films to come out of Japan this year... [revisiting] the original 8mm feature that formed one of the major works from the generation of independent experimentalists that rejuvenated Japanese cinema." Related: Tom Charity in Cinema Scope.

Matt Kaufman has been watching many, many Hollywood treatments of Japan over the past few years and presents his takes on ten of the "most unusual and obscure films I've found along the way."

In memory of Shohei Imamura, Jaspar Sharp revisits Black Rain. Related.

Johannes Schönherr has a personal story to tell about Masashi Yamamoto's Carnival of the Night, the film that's at least partly responsible for his relocation to Japan. Related: Hideki Iwauchi interviews Yamamoto for insite Tokyo.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:42 AM | Comments (1)

NYP. Film Issue.

New York Press: The Film Issue "Among the Tinseltown hubbub regarding NYC shoots, the Bronx is conspicuously absent," writes John DeSio in probably the most interesting piece in the new Film Issue of the New York Press - besides the actual reviews. Charting the borough's missed opportunities, he also notes, "When the Bronx does host movies, they seem to do more harm than good." The "burned out rubble" of 1981's Fort Apache, The Bronx, for example, "left an immeasurable black mark on the Bronx that has yet to be lifted."

There's a hefty preview of the festivals and film series in the city in June and July and a gathering of lists, the Top 5 Movies of All Time, according to contributing writers, a jazz pianist, three chefs, a sculptor, a couple of band members, a choreographer and so on.

Jim Knipfel humbly tells the story of how he once applied for the spot on the masthead that eventually went to Matt Zoller Seitz instead.

Jennifer Merin talks with Bryce Dallas Howard about her career so far and offers a quick primer on the current state of distribution.

Tony Dokoupil meets Jon Voight: "Questions regarding all-things 'Bradgelina' were declared out-of-bounds, leaving him more time to muse about his new film, The Legend of Simon Conjurer, a magical and mysterious indie thriller that's now in cinemas."

Amy Sedaris "isn't weird for the sake of finding an untapped Hollywood niche market," writes Jerry Portwood. "[S]he genuinely likes what she likes."

Interning's no fun, warns Andrea Janes, so if your considering that route towards a real job in the industry, you'd better "make sure you want this - really, really want it."

To the reviews!

A Prairie Home Companion

Posted by dwhudson at 1:38 AM

June 7, 2006

Fests, events, shorts.

And Hope to Die We begin at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, where, this evening at 7:30, GreenCine and Cabinetic present René Clément's 1972 "gritty, little-seen neo-noir," And Hope to Die, starring Robert Ryan (so you know who's behind this programming coup).

It's also at YBCA that Jenni Olson is curating Kees Kino: The Film Work of Weldon Kees, presented by the San Francisco Cinematheque on Sunday evening, also at 7:30. "My fascination with Weldon Kees began while I was researching the history of suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge (for my film The Joy of Life - coming to DVD in July, by the way)," writes Olson at SF360.

More events and such:

Baby Doll, writes Charles Taylor in the New York Observer, is "a barnyard view of human nature as a parade of plush hens and preening cocks, some a bit more presentable than others," and Karl Malden, looking "like a debauched Frank Rich," delivers "a performance entirely without vanity. An actor willing to appear so foolish has to be able to trust his director and his screenwriter, and Mr Malden is rewarded not just with some of the juiciest, funniest lines [Tennessee] Williams ever wrote but what has to be [Elia] Kazan's finest piece of film direction."

Silent Movie The two finds in the new Mel Brooks box set for Matt Cibula are The Twelve Chairs and Silent Movie, "a silent movie about the making of a silent movie, and it is funny and knowing and weird, weird, WEIRD." Also in PopMatters, Bill Gibron: "Thanks to exploitation diva Doris Wishman, and her knowledge of the fabulous flesh freak shows that could be created using Chesty [Morgan], this poor orphan from Poland became an instant idiosyncratic icon."

Two interviews at Time Out: Nick Funnell with Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher 3) and David Jenkins with Jafar Panahi (Offside).

Reviewing Old Joy at Lucid Screening, Tram emphasizes Kelly Reichardt's use of sound in her "minimalist gem."

Zeljko Blaçe turns in the second part of his look at innovative video in Berlin at springer|in, where Christian Höller samples the "gift economy" at work at UbuWeb.

Online browsing tip #1. Exploitation Poster Art, via Rashomon.

Online browsing tip #2. Warsaw International Poster Biennale.

Online viewing tip. Waltz 57 at Newstoday. Stick with it.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:20 AM | Comments (2)

June 6, 2006

Shorts, 6/6.

28 Days Later "Abandoned urbanism is part fantasy, part nightmare: an impossible dream that is now the preserve of advertising or cinema's vision, dystopic or nostalgic," writes Jonathan Bell in the Morning News. "The static city has long been grist for science fiction, representing the hubristic conjunction of man's achievements and his subsequent obliteration; the empty city either presages imminent catastrophe or its immediate aftermath. We should be careful what we wish for."

Fernando F Croce on the latest addition to Slant's "100 Essential Films," Distant Voices, Still Lives: "[Terrence] Davies's film is an act of exorcism, but also one of redemption... a far darker work than The Long Day Closes, Davies's luminous 1992 follow-up, where he could freely, lyrically recall the burgeoning awareness of his homosexuality, his joy for cinema, or, simply, the stupefying play of light on a carpet; as Armond White superbly put it, the difference between the two films is the difference between 'memories Davies can't get rid of and memories he won't let go.'"

Also in Slant: Nick Schager on Fatih Akin's Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (more from R Emmet Sweeney in the Voice) and Ed Gonzalez on Strangers With Candy, "easily the most quotable movie of the year."

"Before [Luc] Moullet, I'd never found a true comedian amongst the New Wavers," writes clarencecarter at Reverse Shot. "Godard is often very funny, but never separates his humorous moments from his theoretical engagement with the idea of the laugh; Rohmer's usually more winsome and intellectually wistful than simply funny; Truffaut too earnest and lacking in that dash of sadism which underlies true hilarity; Rivette too psychologically intense. At times, all of these directors tackle 'comedy' in their works but Moullet seems unique (Varda comes closes at times, but her works range across a wide, wide spectrum) in his investment in exploring absurdity and physical comedy."

Waking Life Fader talks with Wiley Wiggins about Dazed and Confused. Wiley will be showing Waking Life at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin on Thursday evening.

3 considerations of the political quandaries implicit in X-Men 3: Bionic Octopus, Josef K at Different Maps and k-punk.

"Putting on that eyelash in a town as conservative as the one I grew up in was a fairly bold thing to do," Richard E Grant tells the Telegraph's Marc Lee. "It annoyed people. But I never went round beating up tramps." They're talking, of course, about A Clockwork Orange.

More interviews? Allison Willmore's got a slew at the IFC Blog.

In case you weren't aware of how severely Ken Loach is being raked over the coals in the British press, George Monbiot neatly sums up the bile and the inevitable Hitler comparisons from those who haven't even seen The Wind That Shakes the Barley before emphasizing the film's contemporary relevance: "Occupations brutalise both the occupiers and the occupied."

Also in the Guardian: Ronald Bergan remembers Robert Sterling (1917 - 2006), Lucy Mangan on Fergie's excessive DVD-viewing habits and Paul Arendt: "The Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay will write and direct the film adaptation of We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver's Orange Prize-winning novel set in the aftermath of a high school massacre."

My Country, My Country Michael Atkinson in In These Times on Sean McAllister's The Liberace of Baghdad, Laura Poitras's My Country, My Country, and Deborah Scranton's The War Tapes: "While all three offer up an understanding of life in that war zone we'll never get from embedded network telejournalists, the differences between the first two and the last are significant: Whereas McAllister's and Poitras's first-person films are intimate with Iraqi civilians and, necessarily therefore, scaldingly anti-occupation, Scranton's audience-pleaser is assembled from footage soldiers shot themselves.... Predictably, of the three movies, only Scranton's is winning film festival awards and gathering steam toward a probable theatrical release in this country."

Ray Pride talks with Al Gore not only about An Inconvenient Truth but also about Net Neutrality and the churn of the daily news cycle.

Matt Carter explains at TurnHere why documentary filmmakers are getting more "assertive about claiming fair use."

Dave Kehr briefs on the story of Mauritz Stiller, who brought Greta Garbo to Hollywood: "Mr Stiller's discovery soon escaped his control, and this headstrong director, used to getting his own way in Europe, clashed first with his bosses at MGM (who fired him from the Garbo vehicle The Temptress), and later with his employers at Paramount, where he was put to work directing another European import, Pola Negri. Embittered, Mr Stiller returned to Sweden in 1928 and died soon after, at 45." Also in the New York Times, Stephen Holden finds The Omen "supremely unnecessary."

"If the charge of blasphemy has today lost its kick, what makes Viridiana such an enduring shocker?" asks Leah Churner in Reverse Shot. "The discomfiting currents of necrophilia and incest are made all the more effective for their overt subtlety - like the greatest of storytellers, Buñuel is a master of hiding things in plain sight."

Meanwhile, at indieWIRE, a RS trio offers three takes on A Prairie Home Companion. More from Ed Gonzalez at Slant and Rob Nelson in the Voice.

Joan Mellen: Modern Times For Kamera, Deborah Allison reviews Joan Mellen's contribution to the BFI Classics series, "her compelling new study of Chaplin's last silent masterpiece, Modern Times."

Roger Ebert: "Welles was born to play Falstaff... Both men lived long and too well, were at odds with the powers at court and were constantly in debt."

It's been a while, but Doug Cummings is back with reviews of Ming Nguyen-Vo's Buffalo Boy, "a visually sublime account of peasant life in French Indochina shortly before World War II," and Oxhide, "23-year-old Liu Jiayin's film - shot in widescreen DV within the confines of her small Beijing apartment and starring herself and her parents... [and] presenting a family in various stages of discussing their failing leather bag business, but the family dynamics are so well observed that their interactions reveal much deeper concerns of professionalism, self-respect, modernization, and existential fears in a changing world."

Adam Hartzell at Koreanfilm.org: "Whereas Sweet Sixties poses alternatives to patriarchal precepts including a Queer-friendly subplot, When I Turned Nine advocates regular reinforcement of core patriarchal principles, primary of which is that women require, and thus should submit to, male protection."

Road Movie Filmbrain: "Road Movie is a four sternum-kicker film that is not only one of the most accomplished and impressive debut features, but easily one of the best Korean films of the last six years."

Acquarello finds that Michele Placido's Crime Novel, "while indeed highly polished, elegantly rendered by a strong ensemble cast, and impeccably reconstructed period filmmaking, is also one that is encumbered with a sense of anecdotal historicity, familiar caricatures, overdesign, and pathological neatness."

Flickhead on Run Lola Run: "Color me mundane, but I think the thing rocks."

"As every pop-culture geek knows, The Day the Clown Cried was meant to be Jerry Lewis's first "serious" film, the story of a German circus clown who winds up shepherding kids into the gas chambers at Auschwitz," Looker reminds us. But there's more. Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, back in the days when he was a Hollywood producer, was evidently trying to get the thing realized, and what's more, Looker hears from an ethics professor with nothing but admiration for his efforts.

Vince Keenan recommends District B13: "Take my word on this. You may see more expensive action films this summer, but you won't see a better one."

"Cars is as eye-popping as anything Pixar has done," writes Newsweek's David Ansen. "But Cars inspires more admiration than elation. It dazzles even as it disappoints. This time around, John Lasseter and his codirector, the late Joe Ranft, seem more interested in dispensing Life Lessons than showing us a roaring good time." More from Nick Schager at Slant and, in the Village Voice, the Dallas-based Robert Wilonsky. Is this going to be the summer in which even Pixar disappoints?

Josh Tyrangiel profiles Jack Black in Time, where Richard Corliss recommends five DVD collections that showcase fruitful collaborations.

Anthony Kaufman: "So the Weinsteins have found a new Gwyneth Paltrow: Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi."

What's left in the Voice to mention: Jessica Winter on a "charming Gallic duo of featurettes," Vivian Ostrovsky's Ice/Sea and Nicolas Philibert's Animals and More Animals. And the "Tracking Shots": Benjamin Strong on Psychopathia Sexualis, Melissa Levine on Autumn, Dennis Lim on Agnes and His Brothers, Jorge Morales on El Perro and Ed Park on Slow Jam King.

I'm only going to mention this 666 thing once, and it'll be this: Brian Flemming announces that The Beast is dead but Danielle lives.

"[G]overnments across the world are aggressively trying to put a slice of their country's tourist destinations on the Indian silver screen," reports TR Vivek in Outlook India. Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau."

At Cinema Minima, Charles Maupin points to a report in Libération on a strike that's shutting down the Cinémathèque Français for a week.

Creative Screenwriting presents James P Mercurio's "How to Write a Screenplay Method" for those looking for one. 120 articles freely accessible articles.

Billy Preston: That's the Way God Planned It If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger... remembers Billy Preston, 1946 - 2006.

Online listening tip #1. The Reeler presents 30 minutes with Keane director Lodge Kerrigan.

Online listening tip #2. DVD Talk editor Geoffrey Kleinman talks with Sarah Silverman about Jesus is Magic.

Online listening and viewing tips. First, for the iPod (or what have you), quite a collection of talks at Zoom In Online, for example, with experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs, Rock the Bells directors Dennis Henry Hennelly and Casey Suchan, Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People's Temple director Stanley Nelson, Air Guitar Nation director Alexandra Lipsitz and practical insights on filmmaking from the likes of James Longley and many others. As for sights, Zoom In Online's got those, too, in the form of a few spotlights and several tutorials.

Online viewing tip #1. A teaser for The Guardians of Childhood, from William Joyce and Reel FX, whose joint efforts go by the name Aimesworth Amusements. Via Drawn!

Online viewing tip #2. Nathaniel R posts a clip from one of the most fun-to-watch performances of the 80s: Sandra Bernhard in King of Comedy.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:43 PM | Comments (1)

Fests and events, 6/6.

Winter in Baghdad Complete with an interactive map, Slant launches a new feature on the 17th Annual Human Rights Watch International Film Festival: "George W Bush's human rights violations have fully caught up with today's documentary filmmakers, whose disquisitions on the effects of our rogue president's war on terror account for three works in this year's lineup: James Longley's Sundance triple-crown winner Iraq in Fragments, Javier Corcuera's Winter in Baghdad, and Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross hybrid doc drama The Road to Guantanamo."

Michael Atkinson calls the fest "certainly the most thematically vital" in New York: "Not since the Reagan-era rape of Central America has the fest had quite so much grist to mill, and naturally the docket concerned with Iraq, Muslim life, and US neo-imperialism is well stocked." Also in the Voice, J Hoberman on a "must-see retrospective," The Vision That Changed Cinema: Michelangelo Antonioni, a piece that is itself a must-read.

Roberta Smith in the New York Times: "As you walk through New Video, New Europe [through June 30], an engrossing exhibition at the Kitchen, you may begin to feel that you are seeing bits and pieces of another world, one that few Americans know well, if at all. It is the world of Eastern Europe, recovering from the tumultuous aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when economies unraveled, ancient hatreds resurfaced, and some nations broke apart."

Cinematical's Kim Voynar talks with Seattle International Film Festival Programming Manager Beth Barrett.

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover "We made $7 or $8 million on people absolutely being told, 'Do not fucking see this movie.'" The Reeler listens to Harvey Weinstein tell stories.

Kristina Woo previews the Newport International Film Festival (June 6 through 11) at indieWIRE.

At SF360, Carrie Lozano behind her doc, Reporter Zero, screening as part of Frameline30, June 15 through 25.

Anticipating Sydney: More from Matt Riviera.

The Tate Modern presents a live webcast of a Guerilla Girls multimedia performance on July 1.

Samir Farid looks back on Cannes for the Al-Ahram Weekly.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:47 PM | Comments (2)

Interview. Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel.

Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel "Countless magazine articles and a few unauthorized biographies have chronicled his life and death with varying effect and accuracy - with good reason. It's a story that reads like a Southern gothic novel, full of dark characters and a morbid conclusion."

Heather Johnson introduces her interview with Gandulf Hennig, whose doc, Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel, screens at San Francisco's Roxie Cinema from June 8 to June 15. Hennig will attend the June 8 screening for a Q&A. And the doc's out on DVD on June 20.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:17 AM | Comments (4)

June 5, 2006

Offscreen. "Murder by Numbers."

The Communist Who Ate Children "Evilenko is, along with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, one of the more grim cinematic depictions of a murderous mind," writes Donato Totaro in an issue of Offscreen devoted to "Murder by Numbers" (spotted via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?); Lise Millay Stevens interviews Evilenko director David Grieco who had been reporting on Andrei Chikatilo, the actual serial killer who, as Totaro explains, "has the dubious distinction of being the most prolific (if that is the right word) serial killer in modern history, with anywhere from 52 to 55 victims, according to different accounts. More disturbing is the method of his killing, which included rapacious, wolf-like attacks of live dismemberment, multiple stabbings, and cannibalism." Grieco, a journalist, wrote a novel based on his reports, Il comunista che mangiava i bambini (The Communist Who Ate Children), before directing this first feature.

Le Couperet Betty Kaklamanidou seeks "to unravel the intricate levels of sociopolitical meanings within [Costa-Gavras's] Le Couperet, an 'Ax' that takes whatever form or shape one desires and is used as a weapon in an increasingly callous society."

Will Wright argues that Dario Argento "creates statements within such films as Tenebrae and Opera that are directed at the negative accusations of sexualised violence that are said to be operating within his movies."

Catherine Benoit writes that Jane Campion's In the Cut "revolves around the constant schematic confrontation between what is male and what is female, that is, how female sexuality is almost continually threatened by male violence."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:39 AM

Critics, fests, shorts.

In the San Diego Reader, Duncan Shepherd recalls meeting Manny Farber and eventually becoming his teaching assistant:

Manny Farber

Manny's film classes - I can speak first-hand of only three years of them, though they would continue for another thirteen until his retirement in 1987 to devote himself full-time to painting - were the stuff of legend, and it seems feeble and formulaic to call him a brilliant, an illuminating, a stimulating, an inspiring teacher. It wasn't necessarily what he had to say (he was prone to shrug off his most searching analysis as "gobbledegook") so much as it was the whole way he went about things, famously showing films in pieces, switching back and forth from one film to another, ranging from Griffith to Godard, Bugs Bunny to Yasujiro Ozu, talking over them with or without sound, running them backwards through the projector, mixing in slides of paintings, sketching out compositions on the blackboard, the better to assist students in seeing what was in front of their faces, to wean them from Plot, Story, What Happens Next, and to disabuse them of the absurd notion that a film is all of a piece, all on a level, quantifiable, rankable, fileable. He could seldom be bothered with movie trivia, inside information, behind-the-scenes piffle, technical shoptalk, was often offhand about the basic facts of names and dates, was unconcerned with Classics, Masterpieces, Seminal Works, Historical Landmarks. It was always about looking and seeing.

Shepherd also mentions that a "new book of his previously uncollected criticism, tentatively titled Roads and Tracks, is in the offing."

Girish's main beef with Manny Farber "centers on white elephant art. I don't think ambition or a grand vision or an impulse to fastidiously and thoughtfully 'design' each frame in an 'all-over pattern' is necessarily a bad thing (at all)."

David Pratt-Robson counts off the many ways he disagrees with Clive James. Likewise, Jim Emerson: "What's really puzzling about this drivel is that James not only doesn't know what the auteur theory is, he doesn't know what movie criticism is - and he hasn't a clue what movies are, either. I find it difficult to believe he's ever seen one. Or, at least, a whole one. And no matter what projected images may have passed before his eyes, it's mighty obvious he hasn't seen anything at all."

In the Scotsman on Sunday, Brian Pendreigh has the lowdown on Ken Loach's next film, which "will tackle the topical subjects of gangmasters and the international exploitation of untrained workers." Via Richard Gibson.

X-Men: The Last Stand

"X-Men: The Last Stand can only be understood as an experimental film - it just doesn't work on any other level." Nick Rombes is being neither flippant nor dismissive. There's a "radical, incoherent beauty" in films like this one, he argues.

Anthony Kaufman presents a "Foreign Summer Movie Preview," his "picks for this summer's must-see counter-programming from abroad - and with distributors fleeing world cinema in droves, it's a very short list."

Tim R considers William Wyler, "one of the most genuinely reliable directors of Hollywood's golden age, if by reliability we mean a versatile craftsmanship in, out and between genres, a habit of doing intelligent justice to his given material, and a sturdy interest in recurring themes without the instantly recognisable authorial stamp of his more canonised peers," and The Best Years of Our Lives, "almost the summary statement of Wyler's career: shrewd, humanistic and powerfully layered, an honourable and unpretentious achievement which stands its ground, neither giving in to maudlin awards-bait theatrics nor pretending to solve all its characters' problems in one go."

John Lahr has a long profile of Sean Penn in the Observer. Also: Neal Ascherson meets Tom Stoppard to talk about his new play, Rock 'n' Roll. And what's with all the hardcore all of a sudden, wonders Mark Kermode.

David Thomson on The Passenger: "No, it's not in my top 10, but sometimes I think it's the one I like the best, by which I fear I mean it's the film I'd most like to be in, instead of just watching." Also in the Independent: Jonathan Romney meets Daniel Auteuil.

Psychopathia Sexualis Ed Gonzalez in Slant: "Everything you ever wanted to know about sexual perversity but were afraid to ask is on anemic display in Bret Wood's new film, which adapts case studies from Austro-German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis for the screen without profound connective tissue."

Matt Dentler: "Make no mistake: Southland Tales shows the utter brilliance of Richard Kelly. That's precisely what makes it such a frustrating experience." Like Anne Thompson, who looks back on a few things Kelly said in Cannes, he's hoping the film will take shape on the editing table. Hm.

Matt Zoller Seitz: "In celebration of the third and regrettably final season of David Milch's HBO series Deadwood, The House Next Door will spend this entire week, June 4-11, publishing essays on various aspects of the series."

"Four Sided Triangle invites a couple of different readings," suggests Peter Nellhaus, and one of them is seeing it as "a symbolic retelling of the life of star Barbara Payton."

That Little Round-Headed Boy: "If David Lynch were making musicals in Hollywood's golden era, he might auteur a movie as delightful and demented as Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers of 1935."

Fests:

Sydney Film Festival

Wholphin, and for that matter, the very idea of "a literal movie magazine" is a terrific idea, writes Jonathan Kiefer in Maisonneuve: "What's more, good batches of good short films are harder to come by than you might think, if you ever think about such things (which you probably don't, which is part of the reason why they're hard to come by)."

NP Thompson: "A light wisp of a documentary that's gone into thin air before you know it, Sketches of Frank Gehry alternates between banal and stirring."

The BBC: "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has opened a film studio in the country aimed at curbing the cultural influence of the US in Latin America."

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc has a creepy, creepy story in the New York Times Magazine about a school for rich kids hoping to get richer by landing roles in movies and TV shows. The parents, of course, say it's not about the money. Creepy pictures, creepy kids, creepy parents.

Online listening tip. The Hitchcock/Truffaut Tapes #7 at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger....

Posted by dwhudson at 5:15 AM | Comments (3)

June 4, 2006

Seattle Dispatch. 3.

Seattle International Film Festival In his third dispatch from the Seattle International Film Festival, Sean Axmaker considers L'Enfer, 13 (Tzameti) and Factotum.

L'Enfer I saw Danis Tanovic's L'Enfer (Hell) a couple of days ago and I'm still mulling over it. The second film from Tanovic (whose No Man's Land won him an Oscar on his first time out) is based on a scenario by Krzysztof Kieslowski and a script by Kieslowski collaborator Krzysztof Piesiewicz, intended as the second film in a trilogy that was never begun due to Kieslowski's death [Heaven was realized by Tom Tykwer]. L'Enfer has gotten mixed reviews and I'm not surprised. Tanovic doesn't seem to be the "right" director for the project. Where Kieslowski sought out grace and ephemeral moments with a hushed elegance, Tanovic has a more visceral and earthy sensibility, and he tends to hammer the themes with beautiful but blunt scenes rather than let them arise from the drama. The treatise on Medea spoken by youngest sister Anne (Marie Gillain) over images of the newly separated eldest, Sophie (Emmanuelle Béart), playing with her children is the kind of overkill you'd never see from Kieslowski. Karin Viard rounds out the trio as the rabbity, withdrawn middle sister, the only one of them who visits their crippled mother (Carole Bouquet, playing the part like a gray cloud come to Earth to glower), for whom the Medea reference is truly meant.

Tanovic doesn't have a light touch - the music is memorable but oppressive, weighing down the film with it's dramatic doom and gloom - but he has both passion and compassion. Tanovic turns the drama of three damaged sisters, completely disconnected from one another and torn by emotional traumas in their isolated lives, into a full-blooded opera with performances to match. There's a harrowing, still unresolved familial horror from their childhood to reveal and clever but not always resonant twists to wind through. The script works at tragedy too hard, and Kieslowski surely would have toned it down, but Tanovic accentuates it with expressive and unforgettable images. The startling sight of Emmanuelle Béart snaking her head along the sleeping body of her husband's mistress, as if sniffing out his telltale scent on her flesh, justifies the entire film.

13 (Tzameti) The language and the landscape of 13 (Tzameti) is French, but the sensibility and style of Gela Babluani's shaggy slacker comedy turned bleak nightmare is unmistakably Eastern European. Sébastien, a laidback immigrant roofer (amiably played by the director's brother, George Babluani), is stiffed on his payment when his employer dies. The guy was a former criminal plotting one last score (or so we gather from Sébastien's habitual eavesdropping through a convenient hole in the ceiling), which should have set off alarm bells of some kind when he nonchalantly pockets an enigmatic envelope addressed to the dead man and makes use of the contents, a train ticket to Paris and hotel room reservation (he's forgiven for missing the small army of cops shadowing his every move). The lighthearted direction frames it all as a meandering comedy with a nothing-to-lose idiot throwing himself into a North by Northwest bender of anonymous phone calls and directions found in train station lockers. When the reality of his odyssey is revealed - in an excruciatingly restrained scene that allows your mind to run away to your worst fears as the situation is doled out in tiny pieces - it's like the trap door drops beneath him and us and we wait for the rope to snap taut.

I like to think of it as Eastern Europe's answer to Hostel, in the sense of an innocent wandering into an urban legend come true. It's not a horror film in the traditional sense but the ordeal is grueling - not for gore but in the cold, matter-of-fact resignation of a man locked in an unimaginable situation. Gela Babluani (making a memorable film debut) creates tension with a stripped-down style and an unflinching camera and drives the film with a crisp pace that feels both out-of-control and achingly protracted. It's a nightmare more dire and deadly than anything Cary Grant ever faced and the film emerges from it all with a sobering gravity. Sébastien's broken-voice quaver and living-dead walk show just what a toll it has taken on the soul of the once happy-go-lucky kid.

Factotum What is it about Charles Bukowski that fascinates foreign directors? Barfly, Love is a Dog from Hell and Tales of Ordinary Madness all came from Europeans (two of whom who came stateside to make the films), and now Factotum follows suit, with Norwegian Bent Hamer (Kitchen Stories) directing the film in Minneapolis/St Paul (!), which stands in as the anonymous American City. It's the second SIFF "Weekend Gala" to be shot in St Paul, Minnesota and it's as different from the first - Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion - as could be. Matt Dillon shuffles through the film as a quasi-autobiographical Bukowski stand-in Henry Chinaski, an itinerate day laborer who would rather be writing, drinking or fucking, not necessarily in that order. He goes with the flow as long as it's flowing. The minute he starts to feel dammed up or, worse, stagnated, he splits with no hard feelings or emotional scenes... at least on his part.

The episodic structure simply drifts with Chinaski from one brain-dead job and/or convenient bed to another. Dillon has that disaffected attitude down cold and narrates with a bemused matter-of-factness that matches Hamer's deadpan direction. That blunt directness has its charms and its shortcomings. Bukowski's work doesn't necessarily lend itself to the feature-length form and Hamer has a tendency to puncture the deadpan tone when he pushes for a laugh from the wry humor with a distracting self-awareness. It's better when it doesn't try so hard and simply drifts with Chinaski: neither hero nor villain, neither above things nor apathetic to the world, simply focused on his own place in it (a place that inevitably involves someone pouring drinks). Hamer's sensibility is distinctively not American, and maybe that's what makes this askew look at rumpled dignity in a most undignified existence come through with a subdued, modest grace.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:59 AM

June 3, 2006

Critics and shorts.

Typhoon & Fanaa David Chute sees his capsule reviews for the LA Weekly filleted by the editorial blade, recalls the days when there was a difference between page layouts in the alternative weeklies and USA Today and writes, "Unless I'm over-thinking this (which is always a possibility) it appears that we are now edging alarmingly close to the policing of thought, to the suggestion that any attempt to sneak around the restrictions with shorthand or allusive phraseology will be dealt with harshly. Reminds me irresistably of my favorite editorial complaint of recent years, also from a watchdog at the Weekly, that a certain graph contained 'too many facts.'"

Update: Do not read on until you have read this.

Fortunately, David Chute has a blog and it's there that we can read his takes on Typhoon and Fanaa as he intended them to be read. And readers will catch on. They will pick up the weeklies only when they're looking to buy or sell something, in other words, for the classifieds (a purely workaday service rapidly being supplanted by the likes of Craigslist), discard the rest and go online to read what their favorite writers actually have to say. It's there that, as Roger Ebert has told Cinematical's Christopher Campbell, "Good writing will prevail."

Related: Edward Copeland, Ray Pride and David Poland, commenting on Anne Thompson's piece in the Hollywood Reporter. And, as noted yesterday), she's most helpfully rounded up pointers to related entries out there: Jon Fine (Business Week), Andrew Horbal (Blogcritics), Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal), Peter Suderman (Alarm!), Jeff Jarvis (BuzzMachine), Marc E Babej and Tim Pollak (Forbes), AJ Schnack and, of course, Dave Kehr.

Also related: Anthony Kaufman documents the slow and painful self-destruction of the Village Voice/New Times papers here and here. While you're there, read his take on why he simply cannot agree with "venerable critics who I have the utmost respect for" when it comes to Southland Tales.

Clive James [site] reviews American Movie Critics: An Anthology From the Silents Until Now: "It quickly becomes obvious that those without theories write better.... [P]erceptions aren't just more entertaining than formal schemes of explanation, they're also more explanatory." Yes, he has his favorites. If you're looking for a piece to tussle with over the weekend, here you go.

Also in the New York Times:

L'Avventura

  • The Vision that Changed Cinema: Michelangelo Antonioni is a series running at the BAM Rose Cinemas June 7 through 29, and it gives Stephen Holden an opportunity to reflect on the filmmaker's impact: "When L'Avventura was released in 1960, a young generation of cineastes immediately recognized it as an intellectual and emotional expression of a mood that had already found its way into literature, painting, music and architecture. I was a college student when I saw L'Avventura for the first of many times, and it changed my life."

  • Dennis Lim on the 12-and-a-half-hour Out 1: Noli Me Tangere: "If there is a movie equivalent of reading Proust or watching the Ring cycle — of committing to an artwork of overwhelming proportions that promises to repay accordingly — it's likely to be found in the films of the French New Wave veteran Jacques Rivette."

  • Michael Joseph Gross talks with Bryan Singer about Superman Returns: "'Even if you're the strongest man in the world,' Mr Singer said, 'if the woman you love has found someone else that she's nearly married to that's not a bad guy, how do you figure out what your place is in that woman's life?' He added, 'I call it my first chick flick.'" Related: Mitchell Warren in the Miami Poetry Review: "10 Directors That Know How To Make Comic Book Movies." Via Frank at Chromewaves, who thoroughly despises X-Men: The Last Stand.

  • Paul Cullum previews the "brazenly unconventional" CineVegas (June 9 through 17).

  • Back to the NYT Book Review "Summer Reading" package and to Terrence Rafferty: "Horror is, it's fair to say, pretty determinedly nonaspirational, which is perhaps why it appeals so strongly to teenagers, slackers and fatalists, and hardly at all to normal, functioning adults, who are busy keeping the more pressing everyday anxieties — disease, financial ruin, loss of love — at bay and who may fail to see the benefit of adding vampires and zombies and poltergeists to the list." Nevertheless, he enjoys reading horror fiction and recommends a few titles to those "willing to surrender."

And on to one of my own favorites. Colm Tóibín on The Turn of the Screw:

The Turn of the Screw

The story has had enormous influence, indirectly, on the structure and tone of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness... and on films such as The Others.... In 1954, Benjamin Britten's opera based on the story was first produced. In 1971, Marlon Brando starred as the evil Peter Quint in The Nightcomers, a dark prequel to James's story. In 1974, ABC Television in the US made a rather clunky version of the story with Lynn Redgrave as the governess. But it is the 1961 adaptation called The Innocents starring Deborah Kerr - scripted by William Archibald, who wrote the Broadway play of the story, and Truman Capote, with some dialogue by John Mortimer, and just released on DVD in this country - that best catches the psychological eeriness, the claustrophobia and the essential ambiguity of the original story by James.

Also in the Guardian: They should've remade Omen III: The Final Reckoning instead of The Omen, argues John Patterson.

Via Cartoon Brew, Esther Leslie in Tate Etc on the "collision between high art abstraction and mass commercial culture" in the work of Oskar Fischinger.

Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box / San Francisco Silent Film Festival It's not often that Ed Gonzalez gives a film four out of four stars at Slant. But then, films like Pandora's Box, "a stirring vision of the world gripped by a sinister moral vice - a nosedive into a carnal abyss of despair lined with visionary chiaroscuro sights and thorny mythological references," aren't all that common, either.

In Frieze, Tom Morton interviews Pierre Huyghe, whose "installations, films and collaborative works have looked at the relationship between our experiences, the past, our expectations and the future." Also, Max Andrews: "Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Kurdistan, Chechnya, Lebanon: the regions visited or invoked in the six films that comprised A Picture of War is Not War were a sobering, conflict-ridden roll-call."

RES profiles:

Acquarello: "Johan van der Keuken's sublime and exhilarating riff on the city symphony and musical documentary, Brass Unbound, is a thoughtful, infectiously engaging, and complexly resonant exposition on the transformative evolution of the ceremonial brass band in post-colonial societies from tools of enslavement and imperialism, to instruments of cultural celebration and personal expression."

Today's dose of An Inconvenient Truth comes from Chuck Tryon and comes heartily recommended.

The Chacabuco Project is a fundraising effort for Deserted Memory, "a documentary on Chacabuco, the abandoned nitrate mining town and Pinochet-era prison camp in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile."

The King Jay A. Fernandez in the Los Angeles Times: "A collaboration between British documentary director James Marsh (Troubleman, The Burger and the King) and writer-producer Milo Addica (Monster's Ball, Birth), The King, which opens in Los Angeles on Friday, is a movie that unfolds with the dread of a looming execution. And some viewers are likely to experience no small discomfort with the brooding drama's emotional, sexual, spiritual and thematic terrain."

On the Boston Phoenix's Outside the Frame blog, Peter Keough talks with Michael Cuesta about 12 and Holding. Related: David D'Arcy's April interview.

20 years after Heavy Metal Parking Lot [site], William F Yurasko gets John Heyn and Jeff Krulik reflecting on the whole "Parking Lot Odyssey." Via Gabriel Wardell.

Richard Linklater's working on a documentary about Texas baseball. Cedric Golden reports for the Austin American-Statesman. Via Matt Dentler.

Jason Kottke gives five out of five stars to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Online viewing tip #1. Via Movie City News, the trailer for Woody Allen's Scoop, which looks a lot more like The Curse of the Jade Scorpion than Match Point.

Online viewing tip #2. Chris Moukarbel's World Trade Center, "adaptation of an extract of the screenplay of Oliver Stone's forthcoming film," as the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art puts it. Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

Online viewing tip #3. the show with zefrank. Via everybody, all of a sudden.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:57 PM | Comments (8)

June 2, 2006

Shorts, 6/2.

To Kill a Mockingbird Guardian readers have spoken, choosing their top 50 adaptations; Peter Bradshaw and Xan Brooks add their takes on the top 20 and Mark Lawson considers what sort of literary texts make for good movie material.

Sometimes John Patterson is just loud, but today's he's loud and right on (except for that remark about Cassavetes): "A group of American actors in a bar are more likely [than a 'conclave of luvvies in a London pub behind the Old Vic'] to be deadly earnest and dead serious about their 'craft,' their 'journey' and - oh hateful term! - their 'process.' No wonder half of them end up in the Church of Scientology, which traffics so heavily - and so remuneratively - in this kind of pseudotherapeutic linguistic horse manure." Sing it. Patterson also talks with Haskell Wexler, vigorous as hell at 84 and "like a Zelig of the post-second world war American left." Related: Andrew Pulver on Tell Them Who You Are.

Der Spiegel's Alexander Osang has quite a piece (and in English, too) on HBO's Baghdad ER centered on Paula Zwillinger, whose son dies at the end of the one-hour documentary.

The Telegraph's Jasper Rees talks with Jafar Panahi about Offside and blurbs a few other soccer movies.

Darren Hughes: "While watching Birth's opening sequence I was struck by a feeling I've experienced again and again in the months since, as I've caught up with [Jonathan] Glazer's first feature film, Sexy Beast, and with his many television advertisements and music videos: I was watching a filmmaker whose mise-en-scene was purposeful, controlled, surprising, and stylized (in the sense that 'stylized' is now commonly used to describe films by Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson, for example) but always in the service of story and character. I trusted Glazer immediately and completely."

Kieslowski Girish goes to the movies: "I was looking forward most to the new Chris Marker, and while it was terrific, it was the Kieslowski on the bill that unexpectedly proved to be the knockout of the evening."

Nick Davis: "Ross McElwee's Sherman's March may be the most convincingly lovelorn movie I have ever seen."

Stuart Klawans in the Nation: "A Prairie Home Companion is surely the bounciest, cheeriest musical I've ever seen on the subject of death and failure." NP Thompson offers a dissenting opinion.

Via Jeffrey Overstreet, Robert Davis in Paste on The New World: "It's indeed a movie about new worlds - chosen worlds - and life's left turns. And it's one of the boldest movies to come out of Hollywood in a long time, not because it flirts with controversy but because it asks patience of its audience and sacrifices dramatic conventions to explore a greater truth."

"Minutes later, I walked out of the studio, my only profit this absurd but true story." At Nerve Bilge Ebiri passes along an anonymous screenwriter's account of the first pitch. Also: "Reviewing the Reviewers."

Clarencecarter gathers "terrific" reviews for A Lion in the House all in one nifty Reverse Shot entry.

Teddy Blanks at Not Coming to a Theater Near You on Husbands: "Cassavetes was interested in emotional truth, and for him, truth and realism were mutually exclusive."

"[I]t's been 1940s cinema a-go-go around here," jots Tim R on the run.

Tim Lucas at his Video WatchBlog on Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Innocence: "This is decidedly not a horror film - don't expect scares - but if you can be content with a magic realist story that is insinuated rather than told, rooted in intriguing questions rather than answers, and which may be an allegory or a fantasy situated in the Afterlife or in pre-natal memory, this is for you."

Meiko Kaji Nick Pinkerton at Reverse Shot: "I've now watched four films starring Sasori, and I could tell you remarkably little about her as a human being aside from her superhuman capacity for absorbing, thriving on, honing, and venting hatred, her penchant for visualizing orgasm as a gradually spreading red blob, and her physical description."

You may have thought the albino's time would be up by now, but not quite. On the New York Times Op-Ed page, you have Paul Fortunato writing, "As a member of Opus Dei, I would like to thank Dan Brown and Ron Howard for The Da Vinci Code." In Slate, Kim Masters warns that a prequel of sorts is all but inevitable (David Poland comments), while in the San Diego Reader, Duncan Shepherd practically apologizes to his readers - for reviewing the thing at all and for being a week late about it.

Also in the NYT, reviews, naturally. It's Friday:

"The Salzburg Festival: A Brief History is a 195-minute celebration of phenomenal music-making by luminaries such as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Alfred Brendel, Daniel Barenboim, Placido Domingo, Mitsuko Uchida, Simon Rattle and more. It is also a riveting tale of power, glory, Mozartkugeln and the Nazis." Jessica Duchen talks to director Tony Palmer. Also in the Independent: Gill Pringle interviews Mia Farrow.

Your daily dose of An Inconvenient Truth begins with the Stranger's Annie Wagner talking with Al Gore (he found Stephen Colbert's appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner "brilliant," by the way) and reviewing the film.

More Gore:

Al Gore and a few movies

  • Pointing to Dervala's notes on the background behind Spike Jonze's campaign video (it was never shown but it's a must-view now, in particular, for our purposes here, when it comes to his daughter's description of Gore's movie-viewing habits), in which we learn, among other things, that Gore's a Being John Malkovich fan, and to Garr Reynolds notes on the background to Gore's global warming presentation, in which we learn, among other things, that Gore's an Apple guy, Jason Kottke reminds us just how tragic (in the Weisbergian sense of the word) it is that we never saw the real Gore in 2000.

  • Steve Ramos relates a coincidental event at one screening worthy of William Castle.

  • An excellent roundup of yet more recent coverage from Chuck Tryon.

  • More reviews: Jeffrey M Anderson (who also talks to Gore), Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle and William Goss and Peter Sobczynski at Hollywood Bitchslap.

IndieWIRE takes the email interview format it used during Sundance and Cannes and launches a weekly series pegged to new films of interest; this week: Cavite directors Ian Gamazon and Neill dela Liana.

Arthur Asiimwe for Reuters: "Rwandan president Paul Kagame on Wednesday dismissed the Oscar-nominated drama Hotel Rwanda as an attempt to rewrite the history of the central African country's 1994 genocide."

The Saga of Gosta Berling Reviews of Kino's new Swedish classics releases at Slant: Ed Gonzalez on The Saga of Gosta Berling (an "essential addition to any DVD collection") and Sir Arne's Treasure and Eric Henderson on Erotikon.

Winona Ryder has signed onto Sex and Death 101, to be written and directed by Daniel Waters, who wrote Heathers, according to Sheigh Crabtree in the Hollywood Reporter. Also: Anne Thompson on the waning influence of film critics. On her blog, Risky Biz, she gathers several more takes on the issue.

Stephen Metcalf, looking for just the right cartoon for his three-year-old daughter, may well have found it in Charlie and Lola: "Its brilliance lies in capturing childhood instead of manipulating it: by which I mean, it neither panders to an adult's ideal of childhood innocence nor to a child's fantasy of adult mastery and power," he writes in Slate.

The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons Mary Ward Menke reviews Samantha Barbas's The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons for January.

Christopher Bray reviews Simon Callow's Orson Welles: Hello Americans in the New Statesman.

Daniel Robert Epstein talks with Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman for SuicideGirls.

Online viewing tip. The Republican Strategy.

Online viewing tips. iMomus: "Home Movie Depot is the YouTube of Super 8 home movies - a collection of fragile, stereotypical, unedited memories from about 1950 to about 1980. As you watch the films in the archive you're filled with a sense of reassurance, uneasiness, conflicting impressions of freedom and determinism. Here are eight thoughts about Super 8." Via Coudal Partners.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:55 PM | Comments (1)

Fests and events, 6/2.

Black Gold "Courage, which conventional movies sell you by the rusty bucketful, springs fresh on all sides in this year's Human Rights Watch International Film Festival," writes Stuart Klawans in the Nation, picking out three docs to preview, Switch Off, Source and Black Gold. Sidebar: The Media That Matters Film Festival.

Cinematical's Kim Voynar notes that the Seattle International Film Festival has launched SIFFcast. Trailers, interviews, events and so forth to watch online. Meanwhile, the Stranger's, Siffblog's and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's coverage of the fest plows ahead.

As if that weren't enough to keep up with up there, the Seattle True Independent Film Festival opens tomorrow and runs through Monday. The fest named The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah "Best Religious Film" and will screen it tomorrow night at 10.

Before launching into his final wrap-up of the 49th San Francisco International Film Festival, Brian Darr runs through a schedule of Bay Area events worth looking forward to over the coming weeks.

Austinites: Jette Kernion's got your weekend options at Cinematical.

With CineVegas opening in a week, Hollywood Bitchslap begins interview directors with films in the lineup: Damn Yankee Day director Robert Shupe and Full Grown Men director David Munro.

At indieWIRE, Tamara Schweitzer looks over the Silverdocs lineup (June 13 through 18).

Anne Thompson presents a Cannes top ten.

In Italy? The Bellaria Film Festival runs through Monday; Camillo de Marco scans the program for Cineuropa.

The full program for the 11th annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival (July 14 through 16) is now up.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:29 PM

Interview. The Puffy Chair.

The Puffy Chair Readers and writers have always said those little red New!s at the right just aren't enough when a new article or interview goes up at the main site. Readers and writers are right. I tried occasional roundups, but as Albert Goldbarth once wrote, "The days go by, then more days go by."

So. Individual announcements it is, starting with Thomas Logoreci's interview with Jay and Mark Duplass, whose feature, The Puffy Chair, Film Threat named as one of ten "Indies to Look Out for in 2006." It opens today in San Francisco, Austin, Berkeley, Boston, Portland and DC.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:45 AM

June 1, 2006

Shorts, 6/1.

Why Does Herr R Run Amok? "I have seen Why Does Herr R Run Amok? probably ten times," writes Nick Pinkerton at Reverse Shot. "If I am gifted with a long life, I may watch it 40 more. I will say just this: If greatness in filmmaking were determined by the sustained clarity of a singular vision alone, this might be one of the greatest movies ever made."

Gary Indiana in Artforum on Richard Linklater: "He is, unquestionably, the Dostoyevsky of movie dialogue, however flighty and paper-thin his interdigitating narratives appear to be.... Sartre once noted that nobody is just a waiter. Linklater has embraced this indisputably true and, for some, uncomfortable realization."

"We've seen 13 horror films released so far and next Tuesday we'll be seeing one more when The Omen hits theaters on the ominous date of 6/6/06," writes Deborah Netburn in the Los Angeles Times. "Most of these films — shot on small budgets with unknowns — grossed more than $40 million.... And so we asked three horror movie directors - John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing), Christophe Gans (Silent Hill) and Courtney Solomon (An American Haunting) — why horror? Why now?"

Koreans will be getting scared this summer, too, reports Kim Tae-jong for the Korea Times.

Mouth to Mouth is "a rough but boldly imaginative first feature by British-Canadian writer-director Alison Murray," writes Ella Taylor, and it has a star: "An intensely direct performer, [Ellen] Page is also subtly adept at hinting at something held back, in this case through the merest tilt of a jaw that hints at a skeptical strength taking root within a girl who has little reason to trust anyone."

The Break-Up Also in the LA Weekly, Joe Donnelly: "Sadly, The Break-Up is simply an exercise in confusion. To call it erratic would be to imply there was a course it went off, but the film's intentions are impossible to fathom." More from Armond White in the New York Press, where Jennifer Merin reviews The War Tapes and talks with Omen John Moore. So, too, does Peter T Chattaway for Christianity Today.

War Tapes is the subject of Reverse Shot's round of reviews at indieWIRE this week. For The Reeler, the doc "reveal[s] the anguish, cynicism and humanity that has always threaded the most memorable war chronicles of film and literature."

In the Independent Weekly, David Fellerath talks with Break-Up director Peyton Reed. Also: "In true, accentuate-the-negative punk fashion, a film that premieres this weekend on the Duke campus suggests that the notion of a harmonious and prosperous creative class is little more than a delusion. For the past two years, a Durham filmmaking concern called Sea Shanty Films has been working on X-Gen, a drama about the assimilation of alternative culture."

An Inconvenient Truth Today's Inconvenient Truth package begins with the Boston Phoenix, where you'll not only find Peter Keough reviewing the film and talking with Al Gore but also an entire new special section at the site on global warming.

Also:

  • Jonny Leahan tells the background story at indieWIRE, where you can see that, so far, as Steve Rosen reports, the doc's doing remarkably well.

  • NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Gore and Truth producer Laurie David.

  • Lindsay Beyerstein rounds up blog buzz for Alternet.

  • Slate's Jacob Weisberg: "The outcome of the 2000 presidential election looks increasingly like not just a fiasco, but a tragedy." No kidding. "Whether or not one concurs with the judgment of the historian Sean Wilentz that he may be the 'worst President in history,' George W Bush has already done enough damage to America's position in the world and its economic future to earn a spot on the bottom tier. And whether or not Al Gore would have been a successful president, it's improbable that he could have made any mistake as disastrous as Bush's unplanned, go-it-nearly-alone occupation of Iraq."

Also in Slate: John DeFore recommends the best bootleg DVDs.

Tintin and I Acquarello has a fascinating piece on the 2003 doc, Tintin and I.

Time Out's Chris Sullivan talks with Olivier Marchal about 36 Quai des Orfèvres, an "incendiary tale of love, corruption and deceit based on the life of Dominique Loiseau, a senior member of the notorious BRI (Search and Action Squad) in the mid-80s."

At Hollywood is Talking, Jerry Brewington reviews Date Number One, "five stories of diverse characters juggling in and around a cozy bookshop in Kensington, Maryland. It's probably fair to say that [Sujewa] Ekanayake has been inspired by the early work of Richard Linklater and Jim Jarmusch, two filmmakers who patiently take the time to let their characters talk, and perhaps more importantly listen."

In the New York Times:

In the Guardian, Geoffrey Macnab talks with Robert Towne about Ask the Dust.

Songbirds The "documentary musical" Songbirds is "is tough-mindedly striking on several levels," writes Dennis Harvey at SF360. Related: David D'Arcy's review from Sundance.

"Social division and categorization is for most of us self-evident," writes Nils Clauss at Koreanfilm.org. "[F]or people like Kim Ki-duk - not only in Birdcage Inn but also throughout his oeuvre - it seems to be the ongoing motivation to make films."

"I still can't get it out of my head. It's the best thing I've seen in months. And my oh my, how the world has changed." Tom Hall on The Passenger.

Steve Uhler talks with Harry Lynch about Ride Around the World, an IMAX extravaganza tracing "the global history of the cowboy culture, from Moorish horsemen to Spanish conquistadores, from vaqueros in Mexico to cowpokes in Texas and up northward into British Columbia."

Also in the Austin Chronicle:

In the Nashville Scene, Jim Ridley measures the impact of the Visual Content Act of 2006 on the Nashville Screenwriters Conference and PJ Tobia looks into a bill that's created the Tennessee Motion Picture and Television Grant: "It's a solid piece of legislation that helps everybody - not least, the lawyers of Adams Reese."

Harry Knowles talks with M Night Shyamalan about Lady in the Water.

If you'll be dodging blockbuster wannbes this summer, Andrew O'Hehir points you to several potentially worthy alternatives.

Martha Fischer's got one for you, too, at Cinematical: "In place of contrived storylines and massive stars crisscrossing the globe, District B13 offers the awesome, graceful power of parkour alongside a simple story, sneaky wit and 90 minutes of thrilling, absolutely gleeful action. It might just be the best action movie of the summer." More from Richard Schickel in Time and William Goss at Hollywood Bitchslap. Related: Twitch's giveaway and clips.

Via Anne Thompson, Michael Blowhard on why he never became a movie reviewer.

Wagstaff has a sort of autobiographical comparison of various movie-watching experiences at the House Next Door.

Marilyn Monroe's 80th birthday seems to be a bigger deal in Germany than in the US.

In the New Republic, Stanley Kauffmann reviews "a unique perspective on the early film world," Adventures of a Hollywood Secretary: Her Private Letters From Inside the Studios of the 1920s. Also, Christopher Orr: "There was a time, not so long ago, when going from TV star to movie star was an unquestioned step upward." Now, it seems, the hierarchy has flipped. Jim Emerson comments.

"After 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace cold-cocked the franchise that Richard Donner launched so reverently in 1978, the Man of Steel went into a 17-year development coma," writes Mike Russell for In Focus. "The behind-the-scenes saga is long, silly and mind-bogglingly pricey." That much you've probably heard. Russell has a long talk with screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris about just what Superman Returns has turned out to be. Says Dougherty, "The comparison I like to make is that they're closer to James Bond films. We had a series that starred Sean Connery, and then the torch is passed to another actor, all the way up to Daniel Craig. But they don't call a sequel 'James Bond 19,' and they don't necessarily refer to events that took place in the previous film. But you do have certain conventions and supporting characters that you're expected to use well."

For the Times Literary Supplement, Richard Vinen reviews Simon Winder's The Man Who Saved Britain.

The BBC: "A US war veteran is suing filmmaker Michael Moore for $85m, alleging TV clips of him were used without his consent in documentary Fahrenheit 9/11."

Independent Lens is seeking submissions. Deadline: September 25.

I love this feature, and James Israel's got another new edition: "Movies I Will Never Ever See Based On The Stills."

Jet Pilot John McElwee's got more bad John Wayne for you at Greenbriar Picture Shows.

Online gawking tip. The Architecture of Fight Club. Via Jason Kottke.

Online listening tip. The Guardian talks with Paul Greengrass about United 93.

Online viewing tips. The Orange Open Movie Project claims Elephants Dream "might well be the world's first true 'Open Movie,' which will be published under the Creative Commons license including all production files and used software." Via Screenhead, where you'll also find Brad Neely's George Washington, a favorite of Scott Weinberg's over at Cinematical.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:19 PM | Comments (6)

Fests and events, 6/1.

Winter Soldier "The ostensible context for bringing together the more than 40 Vietnam films in the Harvard Film Archive's nearly month-long series At Home and Abroad: The Vietnam War on Film is the May 30 reissue on DVD of the Winterfilm Collective's painful yet cathartic 1972 exploration of the My Lai massacre, Winter Soldier," writes Matt Ashare in the Boston Phoenix. "But it's hard to ignore that giant elephant in the corner of the room - namely, the increasingly discouraging situation in Iraq, which, on so many levels, seems to resemble what this country went through in Southeast Asia."

If you've seen Xan Cassavetes's Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, you already know you want to see Overlord. Well, Ray Pride's got a review, plus news that it'll screen in Chicago June 2 through 8 before going national "in the months to come."

A sudden flurry of "Live! In Person!" news:

The Brooklyn Independent Cinema Series expands this summer to the first and third Monday of each month.

The scaling down of Indieforum, Darcy Paquet's favorite festival in Seoul, is indicative of what's happening Korean independent film in general, he explains.

At the site for the New York Asian Film Festival, Kevin B Lee and Michael Kerpan have a terrific little piece up, "We Love Bae Doo-na (even if Korea doesn't)."

In the Los Angeles Times, Kevin Crust whiplashes from a review of the Iranian drama Border Café to a preview of the Recent Spanish Cinema series (June 1 through 4). A bit more from Mark Olson in the LA Weekly.

"The best way to approach Lincoln Center's [Open Roads: New Italian Cinema] is to pace it with recent DVD releases that are in themselves grand occasions," suggests Armond White in the New York Press. E.g., The Passenger and Fists in the Pocket.

A note from Shawn Badgley in the Austin Chronicle alerts local readers to De/Re:Constructing the Narrative: Global Experiments in Film, running Tuesdays, June 6 through July 25.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:02 PM

Wrapping Cannes, 6/1.

Marie Antoinette "Marie Antoinette was, following the unqualified disaster of Richard Kelly's Southland Tales, the one movie in this year's Cannes competition that felt authentically hip and young and the product of a dazzling pop sensibility," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly. "If there were many good movies in Cannes this year, and perhaps even a couple of great ones, Colossal Youth is the only one I would venture to call heroic.... Still, in its discussion of the seeds of terrorism, of centrism at odds with extremism, and of political interests placed ahead of human ones, it was The Wind That Shakes the Barley that had more to say about the world of today than any other film screening in Cannes."

Eugene Hernandez puts in another good word for Marie Antoinette.

Salon launches a new podcast, Conversations, with the talks Andrew O'Hehir had in Cannes with John Cameron Mitchell and Richard Linklater. Meanwhile, in old-fashioned pixelized text, Hehir has "two parting shots before I sober up and move on, and then it's not a peep about Cannes for the next 11 months, I promise."

John Powers has a recap on NPR.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:44 PM

Seattle Dispatch. 2.

Sean Axmaker, whose most recent interview at the main site is with screenwriter Stewart Stern, sends his latest takes from the Seattle International Film Festival: Old Joy and The Call of Cthulhu.

Old Joy

There isn't a simpler plot or a more modest production in the festival catalogue than Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy [site], a true-to-the-core American indie overshadowed in its Sundance premiere by bigger stars and high-concept scripts. Reichardt's intimate and easy-going piece, about Mark (Daniel London) and Kurt (Will Oldham) heading out of town for a weekend jaunt to a hot springs hidden along a rural forest highway in the Oregon Cascades, captures the soothing spell of a lazy road trip and the ephemeral pleasure of the company of old friends with lucid simplicity. Nothing really happens on the trip, partly because Kurt, the free-spirited (and apparently unemployed) navigator, tokes up soon after pulling out of town and quickly loses his way (though never his confidence in giving directions), but Mark, at the wheel, doesn't care. It's the company and the journey that frees him from the pressures of life (he's soon to be a father) and the noisy clutter of the city, at least for a few precious hours. Modest, intimate and quietly candid about the moments between the drama when we do most of our thinking and feeling and living, it's as honest and affirming portrait of the real joys of life I've seen in years.

Call of Cthulhu

Andrew Leman's silent film adaptation of HP Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu [site], shot on video in an obsessively antiquated style that pays tribute to 1920s cinema, is more than simply a love letter to the stylized artificiality of silent expressionist horror. Leman resists the temptation to construct a linear narrative around the eerie recounting of the investigation of supernatural phenomenon surrounding the mysterious cult of Cthulhu, making it the most faithful screen translation of the author's work to date. It's an admirable approach and a qualified success, at least on a dramatic level - even a simple flourish might provided the anti-climax with narrative bite - but his dedication is commendable and his execution is so exquisite that he creates an atmosphere with a drama all its own.

Leman has an innate feel for silent movie texture and probably comes as close as humanly possible to achieving it, given his budget and his choice of equipment. The simple, uncomplicated digital effects that take the place of the trick photography and glass mattes of the silent era artisans is admittedly distracting in a film that otherwise evokes the subtle qualities of silent movie style. It's forgivable, given the intricate sets he creates on a starvation budget (the ritual sacrifice scene in the jungle and the island altar to Cthulhu are deliriously unreal and wonderfully weird spectacles), and the lovingly sculpted totems and icons to Cthulhu is a mark of his team's craftsmanship and devotion to the spirit of the material. The drama is in the atmosphere and the beautiful evocation of Lovecraft's constant theme: the more you investigate the secrets of the dark dimensions, the more power you feed the hungry god Cthulhu at the expense of your own sanity. That which does not kill you only makes you madder. The 47-minute short feature is also available on an independently produced and distributed DVD.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:50 AM | Comments (4)