April 30, 2007

Shorts, 4/30.

Discovering Orson Welles "I've been on a Welles kick the last couple of weeks," writes Girish as he revisits the films and a few books about them. "All these years I didn't quite realize just how formally daring - transgressive, even! - his movies can be." He also points to, among other things, Jonathan Rosenbaum's entry at the Chicago Reader, gathering "recent finds... especially worthy of notice," including a 9-minute trailer for F for Fake. And, if you buy the same sort of books I do, you'll also have heard from your friendly bookseller that Rosenbaum's Discovering Orson Welles is out tomorrow.

"[Slavoj] Zizek is typically, and willfully, perverse in his praise of 300 (found via Dejan)," writes Steven Shaviro. "[E]veryone else on the Left has denounced the film as a fascist spectacle, allegorically praising militarism and the American war in Iraq, so of course Zizek must instead praise the film as a revolutionary allegory of struggle against the American evil empire." Shaviro then pinpoints where he feels Zizek's gone wrong, adding that "the denunciation of 'hedonist permissivity' is certainly not the way to go - Zizek's loathing for this, like the similar loathings on the part of fundamentalist Christians and Jihadist Muslims, is a false response, based upon a misrecognition of the basic problem."

Stuart Klawans is "the best film critic in America." Looker lays out the evidence for his argument.

Matt Riviera on The Witnesses: "Revisiting the rise of the AIDS epidemic with the wisdom of distance and hindsight enables [André] Téchiné to use the disease as a narrative device, a tool to explore the dual subject of honesty and activism. Doing so with the same urgency as if the film had been made back in 1985 gives the film the seductive aura of a great political thriller."

Steven Bach: Leni Paul Harris reports in the Observer on Jodie Foster's Leni Riefenstahl biopic: "The on-again, off-again project has been in the works for at least seven years, but now a script is being written - by British writer Rupert Walters - and a director is being negotiated." Related: Taylor Downing on Steven Bach's Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl.

Also in the Observer:

Cathy Pryor profiles John Sayles for the Independent: "Though he's often thought of as an old leftie beating the drum of social concern, that idealism coexists with a supreme pragmatism. There are possibly few directors as resourceful or as capable of matching their ambitions to their budget as he is."

At Cinematical, Ryan Stewart previews The Shark is Still Working, "an epic documentary about all things Jaws - the making of, the fan community, the legacy, the whole damn thing."

In the Los Angeles Times, Chuck Culpepper tells the story of how Danny Boyle and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo found each other and how the Spaniard ended up directing the sequel to 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later.

In the New York Times:

Angela Lansbury

  • Jesse Green profiles Angela Lansbury, "one of the few actors it makes sense to call beloved."

  • Focusing on Hostel: Part II, Michael Cieply looks into the question of whether audiences will still have a taste for torture porn in the wake of the Virginia Tech killings. Related: Matt Singer and Alison Willmore's annotated list at IFC NEWS of movies that "have used the contrivance of the death-tournament as a vehicle for commentary on our violence- and voyeurism-obsessed culture, as its own excuse for copious violence and voyeurism, or, sometimes, both."

  • Caryn James: "Autism has become to disorders what Africa is to social issues, the celebrity cause du jour."

  • Jon Pareles talks with Björk about Volta, "a 21st-century assemblage of the computerized and the handmade, the personal and the global." More from Sasha Frere-Jones in the New Yorker. Both pieces feature audio clippage.

  • Brad Stone: "Vudu, if all goes as planned, hopes to turn America's televisions into limitless multiplexes, providing instant gratification for movie buffs."

  • Richard Siklos: "Sony is, curiously, the land of the rising stock."

  • Two Russians, remembered: Daniel J Wakin on Mstislav Rostropovich and Bill Clinton on Boris Yeltsin.

At DVD Panache, Adam Ross has ten questions for Dennis Cozzalio. Sample: "On the worst day of your life, what movie will you put in?"

Gautaman Bhaskaran sends another "Bollywood Dispatch" to the Lumière Reader.

"[Hilary] Brougher has shaped Stephanie Daley in a way that asks viewers to look into themselves and consider how they might handle a situation infused with such moral ambiguity," writes Gary Dretzka at Movie City News. More from Kenneth Turan in the LAT.

Also in the LAT, Michael Ordoña profiles Margarita Levieva (The Invisible) and Charles McNulty reviews System Wonderland, "David Wiener's new play about a young screenwriter's entanglement with a successful middle-aged writer-director whose career has stalled and his fading-actress wife."

Online viewing tip. Interviewing Hollywood.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:30 PM | Comments (2)

SFIFF, fests and events, 4/30.

Tarantino at the Alamo "Quentin Tarantino will be live in person for one final send-off of the Alamo Downtown on May 10, 11 & 13 with a different Grindhouse triple feature each night," reports the Austin American-Statesman's Chris Garcia - and he's got the lineup.

"For years a joke has been circulating online that a Chinese law exists requiring Daniel Wu to be featured in every Hong Kong film." For SF360, Jennifer Young talks with him about The Heavenly Kings, screening Friday in San Francisco.

In Boston, Cynthia Rockwell sees the "admirable" Year of the Fish and the "beautiful and bizarre" Kinetta.

In Indianapolis, Nathaniel R sees Milk and Opium ("In the film's last act in New Delhi, the themes become crystal clear: die out or be assimilated") and: "Eventually I came to grips with the realization that all of the lives within L'Heritage are unexplored. The story is in the gaps and the frisson between them."

At the Reeler, Elena Marinaccio previews BeFilm: The Underground Film Festival, opening tomorrow and running through May 5.

Acquarello is still savoring the films of Carlos Saura.

Looking for an Icon "If a great photograph is one that is symbolic, inviting us to project our wide-ranging interpretations onto them, then the images selected for deconstruction by Hans Pool and Maaik Krijgsman throughout Looking for an Icon are almost beyond reproach," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant. Icon screens with The Day You'll Love Me at the Film Forum May 9 through 22.

Jette Kernion at Cinematical and Todd at Twitch note that the Rolling Road Show sets off in July.

"Don't expect a lot of elbow room at Cannes this year," warns Variety's Alison James. "Everyone wants to come this year," a staffer tells her. Via Jeffrey Wells.

The question of which films are and which films aren't "In Competition" at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival should not be fuzzy. And yet, for three years now, it has been, as AJ Schnack explains.

"As Filmfest DC closes its 21st year tonight, it has maintained a steady-as-she-goes familiarity with locals, as synonymous with April as cherry blossoms," wrote Desson Thomson in the Washington Post yesterday. "But the festival has failed to create any visibility beyond the Beltway." Good or bad thing? Thomson looks into it; via Sujewa Ekanayake.

Online viewing tip. Jim Emerson shoots Roger Ebert introducing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls at Ebertfest. For more, see Kristin Thompson's big entry - pix and reviews galore.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:10 PM

Tribeca Dispatch. 3.

Chávez is one of the "buzz films" of Tribeca's opening weekend, to hear indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez tell it; here's David D'Arcy's take. A cascade of notes and pointers follows.

Julio Cesar Chávez Al Gore and Jon Bon Jovi aside, "green-is-the-new-black" environmentalism is far from the only theme de saison at the Tribeca Film Festival. This year we also have sports, in the form of a new section of the event, the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

It would be wrong to echo the skeptics and dismiss this new theme as a sponsor's naming opportunity, which it also is. Sports have been part of the independent film scene for longer than most of he audience at Tribeca will remember. Hoop Dreams and When We Were Kings are the most obvious examples. And let's not forget Chariots of Fire (from the studio perspective) and Werner Herzog's short masterpiece from 1974, The Great Extasy of the Woodcutter Steiner, about a young ski-jumper (sky-flyer, he calls him) who talks as if he walked right out of Woyzeck and makes his living crafting wooden objects by hand. (Perhaps it's not such a coincidence that Herzog is present at the Tribeca Festival this year in The Grand, an ensemble comedy set around the poker tables of Las Vegas, where he plays a German professional gambler. I guess poker can qualify as a sport, at least formally. Television airs it, people earn money playing it and people watch it.)

Most of our experience of sports comes through moving pictures, and, like it or not, most of sports - even the Olympics - is supported by the revenues that come from bringing advertisers to those images. Film should be a natural step ahead. Think of the writers who have written about sports as well as other topics like war and politics. It's a shame that David Halberstam died suddenly last week, on his way to interview the New York Giants' hero quarterback YA Tittle, before any of his sports stories were made into films. I suppose we have to assume that Halberstam wanted it that way.

So far, and we're still just starting, the sports film to watch at Tribeca is Chávez, a documentary about the Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chávez by the actor Diego Luna in his directing debut.

For years in the late 1980s, when Chávez (born in 1962) was fighting in the super featherweight division, he was considered to be among the finest fighters in the world. He weighed less than 130 pounds, and at that weight you don't get that much attention from anyone but diehard boxing fans or from your compatriots, whom you represent all over the world. It turned out that Chávez (career record of 108 wins, six losses, and two draws) earned an army of fans, which meant that he got plenty of attention from all the wrong people, like the now-disgraced Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari and the Saddam Hussein of boxing, Don King.

Julio Cesar Chávez Diego Luna is a fine actor, and this first film is nothing if not a story told from the heart. Chávez was, and still is, a cherubic presence. He is all of five foot seven, and he comes from a middle-class family in Sonora, Mexico, which means that he grew up poor. From an early age, he and his brothers boxed. Their father coached them, until he was beaten by stowaways on a train and seems never to have recovered. At times, Chávez and his family were living in the railroad yards. If that can't teach you survival instincts - and the notion that the best defense is a good offense - what can? Once Chávez got his career off the ground, all of Mexico saw that this boy was something special - gentle, courteous, and unwilling to surrender. Luna has breathtaking shots of him coming back to win over favored opponents, inter-cut with soft-spoken reflections on being in the ring when hope appeared to be gone. Chávez is an extraordinary subject.

As his career flourished, other people wanted part of him. This is the iron law of boxing. Usually other people want that part as quickly as possible, because boxers don't last that long at the top generally, although Chávez did, belying his beatific presence. One of his public supporters was Salinas (who later fell from power in assassination and corruption scandals). The president was seen everywhere in pictures with the innocent-looking champion, images which for a while cleansed him of association with the institutionalized kleptocracy of his ruling party, the PRI. Chávez seemed not to know any better. It's a flaw of Luna's film that the director didn't provide more context about Salinas or go deeper in the scandals that tore Mexico apart, but Mexicans don't need any help to get the picture.

With Don King, who took over Chávez's career later and gobbled up whatever money was to be made before he let the boxer lose his future in the ring, we see a cruder kind of exploitation. King took everything - this is something that those of us who followed boxing knew - and Chávez wasn't just robbed of his money. The fighting schedule imposed by King set the young man on a downturn that ended his career. It happens again and again. Funny how King's name is associated so frequently with such a trajectory. On camera, the motor-mouthed King (a convicted murderer and George Bush supporter) tells Luna that he doesn't seek out boxers. Needy boxers come to him. For once, the man is mostly telling the truth. It's a truth about the sport that Luna would have done well to explore in more depth.

At the end of the film, Julio Cesar Chávez Jr is fighting, coached by father. He doesn't have the father's natural ability, but even at a young age, he seems to have learned some out-of-the-ring preservation skills that passed his father by. As Chávez senior loses his last fight at 150 pounds in Phoenix in 2005 on a technical knockout (in an abrupt humbling end to what was supposed to be a victory lap around major cities, followed by a definitive retirement), the son is there to comfort him. It's a tender moment. If only other boxers could have been so lucky. Luna, who will surely make a better film with this one under his belt, should be thinking about a sequel.

- David D'Arcy


"A new documentary about a Mexican boxing hero (Chávez) and a pair of titles making the trip to Tribeca from European festivals (2 Days in Paris and We Are Together) were among the buzz films during the fest's opening weekend," writes Eugene Hernandez, rounding up coverage at indieWIRE.

Taxi to the Dark Side "Exactly how and when did the United States of America become a police state?" asks Andrew O'Hehir at Salon. "Even Alex Gibney's elegant and terrifying documentary Taxi to the Dark Side can't exactly answer that question. But it sure gives some clues." Also, first looks at Suburban Girl ("a moderately sophisticated, not-too-sweet cocktail") and " the enjoyable low-budget black comedy," You Kill Me.

More on Taxi from Anthony Kaufman (as "harrowing and upsetting as Rory Kennedy's Ghosts of Abu Ghraib"), who also sees I Am an American Soldier: One Year in Iraq With the 101st Airborne ("helps expose the way 9/11 has been exploited by the military to justify their abusive actions overseas") and Beyond Belief: "I wept like a baby throughout the film."

"Vivere plays like a demonstration exercise for How to Sucker an Arthouse Audience," writes Steve Boone at the House Next Door.

Erik Davis at Cinematical: "Featuring an all-star cast of talent, and some of the funniest on-screen bits I've seen in a long time, The Grand marks [Zak] Penn's second mockumentary - a no-holds-barred look at the highly-comedic (at times), yet painful world of high-stakes tournament poker." Also, Ryan Stewart on Napoleon and Me and the panel The Kid Slays in the Picture.

More insanely paced coverage from the Reeler:

Mulberry Street

At Zoom In Online, Christina Kotlar finds Nobel Son to be "a tightly wound, fast paced, avant garde thriller with an equally thrilling film score that keeps the pulse racing at every twist and turn."

Daniel Kasman on Passio: "Though by no means a prescriptive film, [Paolo Cherchi] Usai's unique and deliberate staging of the experiencing of his film—both in terms of the live music and in the religious setting—is certainly an attempt to find a middle-ground for the spiritual evocation of film between photography and the world outside it."

New York's special section is still hopping.

John Seabrook's snapshot of Julian Schnabel in the New Yorker has little to do with The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but still.

For the New York Times, Mickey Rapkin spends "a night out with" Fred Durst (The Education of Charlie Banks).

The Film Panel Notetaker has pix - and of course, notes. More and more.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:41 AM

Spider-Man 3 and the previews of summer.

Spider-Man 3 And so, the long hot summer begins: "Spider-Man 3 is the latest quasi-religious comic-book superhero epic to demonstrate that with extreme power comes extreme spiritual torment, that there are grave psychological dangers when the mask (in the Pirandellian sense) supplants the face, and that the practice of throwing around insane amounts of cash while getting absurdly rich off 'tent-pole' studio franchises can make even an ecstatic horror maven like Sam Raimi a little flabby," writes David Edelstein. "The movie isn't a dud: It has exuberant bits and breathtaking (money money money) effects. But it's supposed to be fun and inspirational, and it's too leaden for liftoff."

Also in New York, Logan Hill gets to the gist of five summer offerings.

Updated through 5/4. Plus: LAT's "Summer Movies."

"If Spider-Man 3 is a shambles, that's because it makes the rules up as it goes along," argues Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. The problem here is "not that it's running out of ideas, or lifting them too slavishly from the original comic, but that it lunges at them with an infantile lack of grace, throwing money at one special effect after another and praying - or calculating - that some of them will fly."

David Poland sorts through the movies and the studios and predicts the winners and losers of Summer 07. Meanwhile, Movie City News has its chart ready.

More summer previews: Philip French picks 10 "hot" ones for the Observer. Film Threat's run-through is laced with trailers. Among the Blogcritics, Tall Writer has the release schedule and Ian Woolstencroft predicts the top 11 at the box office. Bill Gibron sniffs out "Summer's Stinkers" for PopMatters.

Blogging for the Guardian, David Thomson assesses what all's riding on Spider-Man 3 and adds, "My hunch is that the ads are more excited than the audience. A three-year project's fate will be known in a few hours on its first Friday." And Nikki Finke explains how Sony will be squeezing all the screenings it can into opening weekend to ensure a $100+ opening.

Susan King glances at the three-decade-long friendship of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell for the Los Angeles Times.

Earlier: Eric Kohn for the Reeler; and "Peter Parker goes to Tokyo."

Updates, 5/1: "The 3 in Spider-Man 3 is no exaggeration," writes Nathan Lee in the Voice. "Everything's been tripled - to diminishing effect. There are three times the villains, three times the backstories, three times the psychological baggage, three times the special effects, three times the soul-searching, three times the webslinging, three times the three-cheers-for-New York, three times the desperation to entertain. Given that Spider-Man 2 was twice as fun as the first, it's triply disappointing what an overwrought bore S3 turns out to be."

"How do I dislike thee, Spider-Man 3?" asks David Poland. "Let me count the ways..."

"There's some tipping point where a big movie just topples under its own weight," suggests Anne Thompson. "It's all too much, too big, too grand. All human scale stops registering."

Updates, 5/2: Aaron Sagers, Ethan Alter and Kelly Federico present "A Guide to All Things Spider-Man" in PopMatters, launching its summer preview, rolling out through Friday.

"[T]his is a film that commerce mandated, a marketing puzzle that insisted on a solution, an über-franchise whose north of $250-million budget and sky-high expectations make it a master that must be served, a monster to be fed, an imperious creature with its own needs and drives," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. "In the face of those unbending commercial imperatives, it is simultaneously encouraging that this Spider-Man actually attempts to bring some originality to the table and disheartening that those attempts are not enough."

"Kicking off the summer blockbuster season with a sigh of disappointment, Spider-Man 3 only proves that more is less," writes Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly.

Robert Wilonsky, here in City Pages: "It all just feels so... Fantastic Four, so dopey and forgettable and crafted out of second-rate cheese."

The AV Club presents its "Summer Movie Preview Fall DVD Preview 2007," introducing each film with comments divided into four categories: "What it's about," "Why it might be worth seeing in theaters," "Why you're probably better off waiting for the DVD," and "Possible special feature on that DVD."

The Economist takes a look at how "the economics of blockbusters have changed.... Over the years the hillock of box-office revenues became a downward slope, then a cliff face. Given this year's crowded schedule, the drop-offs will be vertiginous."

"What was fun, campy, and grave in the first two Spider-Man films has been transformed into something rather noisy, flippant, and explicitly declamatory," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant.

"If a student in Screenwriting 101 introduced conflict by writing 'black evil goo falls from the sky and out of all of Earth's inhabitants, latches onto our hero by chance and turns him into an evil person,' they'd get an F," growls Matt Riviera. "That the costliest film ever satisfies itself with such cheap narrative tricks is testament to Hollywood's inverted value system, which says it's harder to make a good, cheap film than it is a bad, expensive one."

Writing in Christianity Today, though, Jeffrey Overstreet quite likes it, and what's more: "We'll have to hope that, against all odds, the director and the key members of his cast will return to make this the first franchise with four straight triumphs."

"Spider-Man 3 could have worked much better if the entire Sandman story had been jettisoned," proposes Edward Copeland.

Jürgen Fauth: "As far as megabudget superhero adaptations go, Spider-Man 3 delivers exactly what it promises: more of the same."

"If the first two Spider-Man movies soared above the banal realm of the Hollywood franchise, the third finds the series falling back to earth," writes Elbert Ventura at Reverse Shot. "Motivations are left unexamined; unaccountable changes of heart are the norm. Some might argue that such is the case with comic books anyway, but what made the earlier Spider-Man movies effective was how fantastical contrivances were rooted in the characters' dispositions and relationships."

"It breaks my heart to tell ya not to break a twenty trying to check out Sam Raimi's newest but I wouldn't even bother seeing this again in Imax," writes Canfield at Twitch.

Ben Walters interviews Raimi for Time Out.

It's Spider-Man Week in NYC, and ST VanAirsdale attended the premiere in Astoria, Queens; Topher Grace wasn't the only one who was "a little overwhelmed."

Update, 5/3: "[Y]ou keep hoping for young Peter Parker to wake up in a sweat, realize it was all a dream, and for the real movie to begin," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly. "No such luck.... Very few movie franchises, of course, make it to part three with the same vim and vigor with which they started, and watching Spider-Man 3, you more than once get the impression that, for the principal artists and technicians who’ve been with the series from the get-go, the thrill has somehow gone out of it for them this time around."

"Since the movie isn't going anywhere, really, Raimi goes internal; he spends almost two and a half hours contriving an ethical conflict for its played-out protagonist," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "But Spider-Man 3 never transcends tentpole movie triteness."

Neil Morris, writing in the Independent Weekly, isn't as down on S3 as many, "Nonetheless, much of the webbing is starting to look threadbare."

Drew Lazor, writing in the Philadelphia City Paper, isn't terribly down on it, either, though he's hardly enthused.

"Spidey 3 is essentially a romantic drama punctuated by SPFX chases," writes Time's Richard Corliss. "I can hear the fanboys shouting, 'There's no crying in action movies!' I can't imagine them hugging this movie to their man-bosoms. Which could be why I liked it."

"In the grand scheme of things, Spider-Man 3 might not be a big deal," writes Erik Davis at Cinematical. "But getting to experience a major film like this in a packed auditorium with hoards of screaming fans is something to remember."

Updates, 5/4: "Aesthetically and conceptually wrung out, fizzled rather than fizzy, this latest installment in the spider-bites-boy adventure story shoots high, swings low and every so often hits the sweet spot, but mostly just plods and plods along, as if its heart were pumping tired radioactive blood," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times.

"[W]hat makes a movie add up to $300 million?" asks Time's Rebecca Winters Keegan. Consider that "a couple of this summer's most anticipated movies, Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, will hover in the $260-$300 million range, not including the marketing costs. To put it in perspective, the most expensive film of all time adjusted for inflation is Cleopatra, which nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox in 1963 and would have about cost $295 million today." So she adds up the expenses.

For the Los Angeles Times, Josh Friedman looks over the summer schedule and talks to some rather nervous studio folks.

Also in the big "Summer Movies" package in the Los Angeles Times:

"Your first thought as the credits roll isn't 'Wow, what'll happen next?' but 'Where is there left to go with this?'" writes Dana Stevens. "Raimi and his Spidey team may be spending and making money by the forklift, but they're nickel-and-diming their hero out of a story." Also at Slate, a slide show from Dan Kois addressing the question, "How did Spider-Man get to be a brooding vigilante?"

For Salon's Stephanie Zacharek, this one's "more of the same - except better." It's "a vast improvement on the last picture in the franchise - in which the chemistry between MJ and Peter was barely an afterthought - and it's a deeper, richer picture than even the first Spider-Man."

"Ultimately, it's hard not to like these films, even this one," concedes Jim Tudor at Twitch. "I've finally settled into the grove of these films, but now it appears this may be it (at least for the Raimi/Maguire incarnation of the character). But we'll see."

"It's weird to try to apply a 'less is more' critique to a Hollywood blockbuster," writes Matt Singer for the Reeler. "As a Spider-Man fan since childhood, it's equally weird to think that there could be a thing as 'too much' in a Spidey movie, but again, it's seemingly true."

At 10 Zen Monkeys: "Ten Worst Spider-Man Tie-ins."

The Washington Post has its big summer package up and running, too. As for the movie at hand, Ann Hornaday is disappointed to see "an overlong, visually incoherent, mean-spirited and often just plain awful Spider-Man 3, a tangled web of special-effects overkill and self-indulgence that all but destroys the fun and goodwill created by the first two movies." And Ellen McCarthy profiles Topher Grace.

For the New Republic's Christopher Orr, this is "the most exhausting mass entertainment since Peter Jackson's King Kong.... Even viewers who enjoy the movie - and for fans of the franchise there's plenty to enjoy - may be relieved that this could be the last we see of the webcrawler for a while."

Bradley Steinbacher in the Stranger on Peter's dance routine: "It's the sort of astonishingly awful scene that can sink an entire film, and it marks an unfortunate turning point in Spider-Man 3. Up until that moment, director Sam Raimi had delivered a painless, if overly familiar, third installment to the franchise. As Peter makes like a touring member of Chicago, however, the vessel springs a major leak, quickly turns aft in the air, and sinks."

"The film's biggest problem is the same one that dogs every action-hero series," notes Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat. "How long can you keep upping the ante before turning into self-parody?"

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw isn't the first to remark that the "series is now beginning to resemble the Christopher Reeve Superman movies at their later sequel stage: a fair bit of zip, and some terrific-looking Manhattan streetscape battle scenes, but no satisfyingly unified story, and muddied by the fact that the love interest now knows the hero's secret identity."

Ryan Gilbey proves in the New Statesman that what one reviewer sees as a fatal blow is, for another, the saving grace: "On the rare occasions that I could make out what was going on through the breakneck editing, the action sequences looked up to par, but personally, I found Peter's dance routine at a jazz club to be shot with more aplomb and ingenuity than any of the countless airborne fight scenes."

"Raimi has opted to turn Spider-Man 3 into a fairground ride," sighs James Christopher in the London Times. "It's a shame." And Kate Spicer meets Tobey Maguire.

The Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu on Sandman: "[T]he idea of evil as wispy and environmental has a certain resonance in this era of avian-flu panics." Otherwise, "The film doesn't teem; it just seems cluttered - a collection of scenes, and occasionally great visuals or gags, strung together by an inadequate plot."

"They play it all with the straightest of faces," observes Derek Malcolm in the Standard. Mostly, "it doesn't quite work."

A "great bellowing bore of a film," sighs Noy Thrupkaew in the American Prospect, "the perfect opener for what's sure to be a summer of diminishing cinematic returns."

Bilge Ebiri at Nerve: "Rarely has a storyline felt so overstuffed and so thin at the same time."

Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Spider-Man 2 was a textbook example of how to make a sequel: Deepen it, make it funnier, give it more heart and come up with a strong villain and a good story. Spider Man 3, by contrast, shows how not to make a sequel."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:08 AM

April 29, 2007

Zinnemann @ 100.

Fred Zinnemann "It's not that [Fred] Zinnemann, who would turn 100 years old today, didn't make quite a few good and great films and at least one bona fide classic, but is there something you can point to as a Zinnemannesque film the way you might say Hitchcockian or Hawksian?" asks Edward Copeland. "Not really. He simply was a solid, workman-like director who ended up making movies worth watching far more often than he made clunkers." So begins an overview encompassing 14 features.

"Zinnemann became a crucial test case - and cause celebre - for the evolving auteurist theory in the 1960s, as [Andrew] Sarris wrote: 'I will not trade one shot of Orson Welles for the entire oeuvre of Fred Zinnemann,'" recalls Emanuel Levy. "Talk to young and current critics today about Zinnemann's status as a filmmaker, and you'll get the following pejorative adjectives: plodding, uninspired, humorless, and emotionally distant - if they remember who he is."

That said, "Zinnemann, even more so than William Wyler, was the 'perfect' Oscar director. As noted, two of his films won Best Picture: From Here to Eternity and A Man for All Seasons, and four were Oscar-nominated: High Noon, The Nun's Story, The Sundowners and Julia.... No less than 18 actors were nominated for work a Zinnemann film.... With their "sensitive" subjects and issues, humanistic orientation, and middlebrow sensibility. Zinnemann's movies were perfect "Oscar material." His films display good deal of consistency in their narrative concerns and moral dilemmas. Asked to describe the kinds of stories that attract him, he said: 'I just like to do films that are positive in the sense that they deal with the dignity of human beings and have something to say about oppression.'"

Marking the Austrian's centennial in the German-language papers: Christoph Egger (Neue Zürcher Zeitung), Michael Omasta (Freitag), Bert Rebhandl (Berliner Zeitung) and Hanns-Georg Rodek (Die Welt).

Posted by dwhudson at 4:41 AM

April 28, 2007

SFIFF, 4/28.

Hana Hirokazu Kore-eda's Hana [site] screens at the San Francisco International Film Festival today, Wednesday and next Saturday, and just up is Cathleen Rountree's talk with the director she feels "should be considered one of Japan's Living Treasures."

"Emanuele Crialese's on-stage ebullience at the opening night screening of Nuovomondo (Golden Door) helped kickstart the celebratory spirit of SFIFF50," writes Michael Guillén. "I asked him to speak to his creative decision to present this immigrant dream so literally that it veered into the surreal."

For further exploration of the festival's history as well as for video, photos and recommendations on what to catch through May 10, another starting point, besides the SFIFF site itself, is the San Francisco Chronicle's special section.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:31 PM

Tribeca, 4/28.

Tribeca "At least the Tribeca 'Film Festival' is becoming more brazenly honest about what it is and what it is not, first in [S James Snyder's piece in the New York Sun] and now in Gregg Goldstein's Hollywood Reporter interview with Jane Rosenthal," writes David Poland, noting that the real goal here seems to be "not a working film festival at all, but building the public support to help push through the $626 million pier project.... Shame on media that allows this potential cash cow to masquerade as an event intended primarily to benefit the community." What's more: "They do their best to damage other real festivals that have existed for much longer and really have been built on the communities they service. The most significant infliction of damage is to the San Francisco International Film Festival, America's oldest."

"Yes, I'll admit to being both a crank and an elitist snob," offers Filmbrain. "Why, you may ask, shouldn't there be room in a festival for the likes of both Jia Zhangke and (sigh) Adam Carolla.... Still, buried between the Hollywood tripe and yet another Ed Burns film, there are some gems to be found at this year's festival, and I've been lucky enough to catch three of them so far." Go and see.

At the Reeler:

Shotgun Stories

"Picture Entourage if it was set in New Jersey and revolved around a group of guys who, instead of being hot-shot Hollywood play-makers, were simple blue-collar offspring with drug habits and no career aspirations," suggests Erik Davis at Cinematical. "Gardener of Eden isn't for everyone, but if you're looking for something original - something funny, dark and painful - then this is a film I highly recommend."

For the New York Press, Eric Kohn listens in on The Kid Slays in the Picture, a panel moderated by David D'Arcy and featuring, among others, John Carpenter, who noted that the "torture porn" of films along the lines of Saw and Hostel "doesn't bother him one bit. In those movies, 'you identify with being tortured, not the torturer,' he said. 'That's what the media doesn't understand.'"

Posted by dwhudson at 2:06 PM

Weekend shorts.

Let's Get Lost "While clearly of a piece with [Bruce] Weber's still photography, the style of the film is fairly unconventional for a doc of its vintage, shot, as it was, in alternately underlit and high-contrast black and white, with interviews set and lit like photo shoots and the highly stylized directorial touch of the filmmaker evident throughout." For the Austin Chronicle, Anne S Lewis talks with Weber about Let's Get Lost, heading for the Film Forum in June and DVD in December.

Nick Curtis has a longish backgrounder on 28 Weeks Later for the Evening Standard and opens his review with: "This stunning sequel matches Danny Boyle's 2002 London horror hit 28 Days Later in almost every way."

"With Hulk, [Ang] Lee brings what has been churning in his œuvre for a decade to a boil," writes Gina Marchetti in Film International. "An Orientalist fantasy gone awry, Hulk shows that within the white, Western, establishment male (and, by extension, the American body politic) lurks the repressed man of color, perpetually angry, on the margins and on the loose, waiting to emerge as the apocalyptic destroyer of Western civilization or, perhaps, its ultimate salvation."

Salvador (Puig Antich) At european-films.net, Boyd van Hoeij talks with Manuel Huerga about Salvador (Puig Antich), which premiered at Cannes last year, stars Daniel Brühl and Ingrid Rubio and was nominated for 11 Spanish Goyas. But the first item of business: "European filmmakers have more possibilities in terms of themes, cultures and artistry, but because of its position of submission to Northern American capitalism, Europe is almost forced to sacrifice its identity, its particularity, its cultural richness and variety and its filmmaking talents."

"German cinema used to be the preserve of beret-toting university lecturers and media pseuds," writes Ed Caesar in the Independent. "Now, it seems, it has become the opiate of the popcorn masses. And not just German masses. Punters in Britain, America, Spain and Italy are forking over to see some extraordinary German films, of which The Lives of Others, Downfall and Goodbye Lenin! are only the most successful." The turning point? "Run Lola Run changed everything."

"Things have been looking up for Australian film," writes Garry Maddox in the Sydney Morning Herald. He does take note of the naysayers - George Miller and Fred Schepisi, among them - but counters with numbers and a list of films coming up from down under. Via Movie City News.

Jonathan Kiefer in the Sacramento News and Review on Year of the Dog: "You know a movie is humane when the main character becoming a petulant nutjob somehow only moves you even more deeply. This is not the italicized-and-underlined satire of rotting suburban normalcy that you see coming for miles and already have seen a zillion times anyway (thanks so much, American Beauty). Instead, it's a braver and more accurate reflection of how we live now - less like people in movies than we'd hoped to be, more apart from each other than we care to admit."

In a special issue of Film&Music edited by Björk, Ryan Gilbey talks with Darren Aronofsky about The Fountain ("Björk says:... maybe it was a relief to see him portray a spiritual world that was so idiosyncratic at a time when I feel so overwhelmed by religion") and Kira Cochrane considers "one of the key themes of the fantasy genre - the use of a young or adolescent girl as a protagonist." The occasion is Pan's Labyrinth, about which Björk says, "It really got me. I walked straight home and wrote 'Pneumonia.'"

Also in the Guardian:

American Shaolin

  • Stephen Poole reviews Brian Preston's Bruce Lee and Me: A Martial Arts Adventure and Matthew Polly's American Shaolin: One Man's Quest to Become a Kung Fu Master: "A question that both of these books ask is: why does the idea of 'kung fu' still hold such glamour and mystery in the west?... As Preston's title suggests, the answer is partly the legacy of Bruce Lee, who was not a particularly outstanding martial artist by Chinese standards, but who was gifted with great beauty and charisma and a willingness to show off some stunts that western audiences had rarely seen. The other part of the answer is a kind of Orientalist spiritualism: a new-agey pick'n'mix adulation of 'ancient Chinese wisdom' and meditation - which very often turns the western teaching of taiji, in particular, into flowery, non-violent nonsense."

  • "Spidey goes emo!" exclaims Steve Rose. "It's not just Spider-Man though.... Previously sunny and harmless areas of pop culture are gradually being cast into shadow, as if a giant pair of Ray-Bans is being lowered over the world." In other words, black is the new black. Even so: "What we're getting in Spider-Man 3 and elsewhere isn't actual darkness, it's the suggestion of it. It's darkness lite."

  • John Patterson finds the American Library Association's list of "The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990 - 2000" and urges more film adaptations: "You have to believe that annoying these censorious, yet subliterate bigots is a very good thing."

  • Peter Bradshaw on Away From Her ("a deeply impressive and intelligent film"), Andrew Pulver on The Painted Veil ("faultless, powerful filmmaking"; related: Rhoda Koenig in the Independent on Somerset Maugham) and Steve Rose on The Puffy Chair ("Promising stuff").

  • David Thomson on the Richard Linklater movies he likes and those he doesn't.

"Moments like the one Frenhofer has when sketching Marianne's face can be a godsend to an artist, no matter what his medium." Paul Clark dwells on that one, from Jacques Rivette's La Belle Noiseuse. Also at ScreenGrab, DK Holm on the work of film scholar Ginette Vincendeau, Anthony Lane's Barbara Stanwyck piece in the New Yorker and Rolling Stone's 40th anniversary issue: "Portions of the interview with Steven Spielberg are online along with random audio excerpts, though when Spielberg's or Scorsese's will show up is a crapshoot: cunningly, RS is parceling them out piecemeal."

"It's a boys' era. And the market is driving that," producer Lynda Obst tells Sharon Waxman, who notes that as fewer women run studios, fewer "women's pictures" are getting made. Glenn Kenny and David Poland comment.

Also in the New York Times:

Snow Cake

Jack Patrick Rogers lays out a history of James Bond. Also at PopMatters, Chadwick Jenkins enjoys the new James Cagney collection. On a related note, DK Holm rounds up several of this week's DVD releases at ScreenGrab.

Platform "Platform is a portrait of a country that was as marginally aware of the world outside its borders, as many were unaware of what life was truly like within China," writes Peter Nellhaus.

For JewReview.net, Shmuel Reuven talks with "one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, Lee Arenberg," who plays Pintel in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies: "When I met Keith Richards on P3, he reminded me of a modern fuckin' pirate, he really did."

For the London Times, Will Lawrence talks with David Fincher about Zodiac.

Sujewa Ekanayake calls for a Beats & Film Blog-a-Thon.

The Onion: "Despite the existence of cinema classics such as Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Seven Samurai, the 2004 film Garden State starring Zach Braff and Natalie Portman is some poor fuck's favorite movie, according to a posting on imdb.com." Via Jason Kottke.

Online listening tip. Cinematical's James Rocchi talks with Variety's Anne Thompson.

Online viewing tip. Bilge Ebiri finds John Cleese as a psychiatrist on At Last the 1948 Show. Stay for the interlude. Also, a clip from How to Irritate People.

Online viewing tip #2. Rex Sorgatz: "In a four-part interview (1, 2, 3, 4) Michel Gondry interviews Charlotte Gainsbourg, in which they both speak English and it sounds ridiculously sexy. [via]"

Online viewing tip #3. Zach Campbell posts a clip of Quentin Tarantino talking about Chungking Express and comments, "Tarantino's invocation of the French New Wave, about movie love bypassing the rules of filmmaking, is in one sense, of course, good and celebratory.... But I feel like, in my generation, what this means is essentially now a carte blanche to always defend Hollywood against any attack.... Is it just me, or do invocations of nobrow, high-low-boundary-transgressing more often than not come from quarters that wish to defend Hollywood or otherwise corporate product, and almost never in defense of the stuff that doesn't have millions of dollars backing it up?"

Online viewing tips. 10 Pulp Fiction parodies at 10 Zen Monkeys.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:35 PM

Weekend fests and events.

Losers and Winners "Entering closing weekend in Toronto, juries at Hot Docs have announced this year's honorees, with Best International Feature Documentary going to Ulrike Franke & Michael Loeken's German film Losers and Winners," blogs AJ Schnack. "A special jury prize went to Michael Skolnik's Without the King. In the category of Best Canadian Feature Documentary, the award went to Bryan Friedman's The Bodybuilder and I."

For the Financial Times, Nigel Andrews sketches a brief history of the Cannes Film Festival and then asks, rhetorically:

Why is it the most resonant annual junket in the world (measured by media coverage) after the Oscars and the Olympics? Because it exists as a unique set of paradoxes fashioned by a unique race, the French.... The contrariness works because of Descartes and Pascal. The Cartesian principle that thinking demonstrates existence is enacted every time we grapple with great art in Cannes, heedless of the beckoning sun and sea. (Those spurned temptations only make us feel more righteous and revelation-graced.) The Pascalian principle that wagering on a notional truth is as good as treating it as a certainty holds for the determination we have at Cannes to outstare a basilisk movie, or to die in the attempt.

Via Movie City News.

The Seattle Theater Group presents a Harold Lloyd retrospective - 9 films in 5 nights, starting Monday - and David Jeffers previews the series for the Siffblog.

Harold Lloyd Nathaniel R previews a few features lined up for the Indianapolis International Film Festival.

Susan King heralds another revival of "the Star Wars for young women," Dirty Dancing, "returning to theaters nationwide" on Tuesday and Wednesday. Also in the Los Angeles Times, Christopher Knight recommends WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, at MOCA's Geffen Contemporary through July 16.

Over at ScreenGrab, Bryan Whitefield wishes he could go to the "Futuro Presente Festival in picturesque Rovereto, along the Northeast coast of Italy, where they will be honoring legendary filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci." May 3 through 12.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:31 AM | Comments (1)

April 27, 2007

SFIFF, 4/27.

Les Blank On the occasion of the US premiere of All in This Tea, at the San Francisco International Film Festival, Jonathan Marlow talks with legendary documentarian Les Blank. The first part of a two-parter's now up at the main site.

"Plutonium and an opera chorus. Physics and poetry. Baudelaire and the Bhagavad-Gita. Babies born while the "father of the bomb" works on the ultimate destroyer of life." Judy Stone in the Los Angeles Times on Jon Else's Wonders Are Many: The Making of Dr Atomic: "The documentary features the patrician, New England-born and bred, white-haired composer John Adams, an eminence with a self-deprecating sense of humor, and the opera's director Peter Sellars, an impish dynamo, full of passionate persuasion. On Sunday, after delivering his optimistic 'State of the Cinema' address, Sellars will fly to Amsterdam to prepare the international premiere of Dr Atomic."

Murch James Rocchi at Cinematical: "David and Edie Ichioka focus their camera, more or less, on film and sound editor Walter Murch as he talks about the craft of editing and the film's he's applied it to. And really, any 'talking head' documentary stands or falls on whether or not the head doing the talking has interesting things to say - and by that standard, Murch is a movie lover's delight."

Michael Guillén on Heddy Honigmann's Forever: "If it is true that the etymological root of religion is the Latin religare - which means 'to tie, to fasten, to bind' - then perhaps it is memory itself that binds the living to the dead, accounting for what I've long accepted as the religiosity of memory. Honigmann skillfully captures the nature of that religiosity, its faithfulness, its evocation." Also, notes on Graham Leggat's Opening Night remarks.

SFIFF will be screening four films by Rob Nilsson this year; at SF360, he offers "not a 'top 10,' but a list of films which deeply affected him."

Jeffrey M Anderson previews about a dozen entries.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:41 PM

Tribeca, 4/27.

Passio Passio "was assembled from found material by the Italian filmmaker and silent-film scholar and archivist Paolo Cherchi Usai," notes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "[T]he film compiles a damning 'secret' history of human cruelty retrieved from the cultural scrap heap of the 20th century." The music, Arvo Pärt's St John Passion, is performed live by the Trinity Choir at the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine tonight and twice tomorrow.

Karina Longworth introduces "Tribeca 2007: The Buzz-O-Meter" at the SpoutBlog - what films they're talking about, and the odds of each of them living up to the buzz.

Daniel Kasman on the latest from Kira Muratova: "Each story, as well as their combination into Two in One is hard to make sense of, as neither segment stands alone, the first acting like a long-running conceptual joke rather than any kind of Altman-style social whirligig, and the second like a good play overextended and stripped of several necessary characters."

"Gardener of Eden is one of those self-consciously dark indies that feel like a mash-up of numerous hipster films of yore," writes Andrew O'Hehir at Salon. "As for The Hammer, which was developed by [Adam] Carolla and directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld (Kissing Jessica Stein), the audience enjoyed it fine, and I've certainly seen worse." I Am an American Soldier: One Year in Iraq With the 101st Airborne is "high-integrity, foursquare journalism of the old school, which reminds you how good straightforward nonfiction storytelling can be in the right hands." Further on that one, Tobi Elkin nabs comments from director John Laurence for the Reeler.

Times and Winds is "certainly not as profound nor powerful as its overused Arvo Pärt score portentously commands," writes Aaron Hillis for Premiere. It "may revel in its own beauty, but it clearly doesn't pass the 'exoticism test,' which is: would anybody watch the film if it were in English, with American actors?"

Black Sheep Keith Uhlich at the House Next Door on Black Sheep: "The film aims high and misses often; it clearly aspires to a prominent place in the midnight movie hall of fame, though its constantly inelegant shuffling between aesthetic innovation and plain ol' ineptitude dooms it to little more than footnote status." Related: For a Reeler piece on the popularity of the fest's Midnight screenings, John Lichman talks with director Jonathan King and Voice critic J Hoberman.

More Reeler:

A Walk Into the Sea

Lily Oei presents "Eating, Drinking, and Shopping in New York: An indieWIRE Insiders Guide."

"As festivals go, this is an odd one thus far," blogs Cyndi Greening. "The press corps is omnipresent here... far more so than at Sundance."

Christina Kotlar gets into the swing of things for Zoom In Online.

William Speruzzi's there.

Matt Dentler recommends "Some SXSW Films to See at Tribeca."

Online listening tip. Alex Gibney talks about Taxi to the Dark Side on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Online viewing tip. Reeler TV with Vitus director Fredi Murer.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:02 PM | Comments (1)

Fests and events, 4/27.

Independent Film Festival of Boston The Boston Globe's Ty Burr: "Support your local festival, folks: The fifth annual Independent Film Festival of Boston launched on Wednesday and runs all weekend and into next week at the Coolidge, the Brattle, and the Somerville Theatre." Blogging from the fest: Matt Dentler and Michael Tully. And! Cynthia Rockwell.

"'It's my happening, and it freaks me out!' Chaz Ebert exclaimed on behalf of her husband, Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, on stage Wednesday at opening night of the ninth Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival in Champaign-Urbana," writes Jim Emerson. "The line (memorably quoted by Mike Myers in the first Austin Powers movie) is from the Ebert-penned screenplay for Russ Meyer's 1970 cult classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which is among the titles in this year's festival."

More from the Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro: "As though in one of those movies that Roger Ebert would praise as long as the emotions rang true, the applause started softly near a rear entrance of the historic Virginia Theatre on Wednesday night and rippled outward until all in the crowd were standing on their feet smacking their hands together.... Chaz Ebert "explained that he won't be leading this year's onstage discussions because 'my speaking voice is disabled, pending another surgery.' But, 'I will fulfill a lifelong dream to have my own La-Z-Boy chair in a movie theater.'"

Why has Cannes snubbed Britain this year? In the Independent, Geoffrey Macnab asks around.

The Telegraph's John Hiscock talks with Quentin Tarantino about taking Death Proof to Cannes.

Chicago Anarchist Film Festival This weekend: The 7th Annual Chicago Anarchist Film Festival.

The UnionDocs Documentary Bodega series launches on Monday with Eric Metzgar's The Chances of the World Changing. Every Sunday in NYC.

The Columbia University Film Festival runs from Monday through May 10 in NYC and June 6 through 8 in Los Angeles.

In the Stranger, Jen Graves and David Schmader talk about the "best romantic comedy ever," Annie Hall, screening at the Northwest Film Forum through May 3.

Programmer Tom Hall posts his robust "Sarasota Film Festival Diary."

PopMatters opens a three-part special package on the 10th Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:00 PM | Comments (2)

Poison Friends.

Poison Friends "Poison Friends revives a rare pleasure of moviegoing: articulacy." Nick Pinkerton at indieWIRE: "Ten years ago Phillip Lopate diagnosed a 'Dumbing Down of American Movies,' and the disproportionate praise given to reactionary 'realism' in recent indies suggests that, as expectations shrivel, things have gotten stupider across the board. But Poison Friends, written by frequent Arnaud Desplechin scenarists Emmanuel Bordieu and Marcia Romano, defies the tendency, investing the same raucous humanity into the world of ideas that marked the academic milieu of Desplechin's My Sex Life... or How I Got Into an Argument."

Updated through 5/1.

It's "atmospherically and unmistakably French," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "It also has a degree of energy, an appetite for strong feelings and big ideas, notably missing in American movies about the young and overeducated, which tend to specialize in mumbled ironies and tiny epiphanies. André and his acolytes may be pretentious and self-dramatizing, but there is nothing slack about them, or about this film."

"The real triumph of Bourdieu's disciplined plotting is that he never condescends to his characters by turning them into wisecracking miscreants for the sake of enlivening every frame," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press.

Earlier: Leslie Camhi in the New York Times; "Wrapping NYFF." and "Cannes. Les Amities Malefiques."

Update, 4/28: "[T]he milieu is fascinating, the performances are casually terrific across the board, and Bourdieu's knack for hyperliterate gamesmanship partially fills the void left by Whit Stillman, whose Metropolitan is an unmistakable influence — though the tone here is less affectionate, more corrosive," writes Mike D'Angelo at Nerve.

Update, 5/1: Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic: "The story's conclusion verges on the grim, and it underscores Bourdieu's presumable theme: student life and talk are the last real vacations in many lives."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:11 PM

Diggers.

Diggers "This very particular movie has a lyrical feel for place, period, and the rhythms of a small-town community trying - and tragicomically failing - to run in place while the world around it opens its arms to creeping corporatism," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly. "Diggers is not a film you watch—it's a movie you live in, and when time's up you feel the same sense of loss as do these guys, who realize they have no choice but to move on."

"This minutely observed period piece, set in 1976, has the brave, mournful tone of a Bruce Springsteen song ('My Hometown,' say) set in Billy Joel territory," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "Directed by Katherine Dieckmann from a screenplay by Ken Marino, who plays one of the principal characters, the film makes you contemplate the passage of time. When was it exactly that the recent past slipped into the more distant past and began to seem so poignantly out of reach?"

Updated through 4/30.

"So many political prejudices infect recent indie films that it's unusual to see one that avoids them," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "This refusal is key to the pleasures found in Diggers, the small-scale social comedy directed with almost unerring tact."

In the Los Angeles Times, Kevin Crust finds it to be "one of those dialogue-heavy, character-driven films that always seem to attract good actors. Featuring Paul Rudd, Maura Tierney, Josh Hamilton and Ron Eldard, among others, it's a generally well-executed - if overly familiar - tale of a vanishing America, one where the hard-working middle class falls under the heel of a corporation that endangers its way of life."

Annie Wagner in the Stranger: "As a movie, Diggers is affable and lazy - its purpose obscured by a swarm of clichés. As a comic sketch about Frankie [Marino] and Julie [Sarah Paulson], it's great."

"It's a small movie that feels small instead of intimate," writes Annie Frisbie at Zoom In Online. "Even so, it's a triumph that Diggers has made it this far, and it's worth supporting for bucking trends so completely."

Ellen McCarthy talks with Rudd and Marino for the Washington Post.

Update, 4/28: Peter Smith, writing for Nerve, finds Diggers "affectionate and sometimes funny, but unsurprising to the point of lifelessness."

Update, 4/30: IndieWIRE interviews Dieckmann.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:29 PM

This Is England. In England.

This Is England "Like [Shane] Meadows's earlier pictures, Dead Man's Shoes and A Room for Romeo Brass, This Is England is about younger, vulnerable figures being taken under the wing of older, flawed men, and this personal theme here finds its richest and maturest expression yet," writes Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian. "As to whether we should buy its implied leniency about skinhead culture: that is another question.... However agnostic I confess to still feeling about his work, there's no doubt that Meadows is a real filmmaker with a growing and evolving career, and with his own natural cinematic language. When I think of his films, I think, for good or ill: this is English cinema."

Updated through 4/30.

"While This Is England is steeped in home-grown imagery, it conforms to an American style of storytelling best described as the 'things-were-never-the-same-after-that-summer' film, in which a naive teenager encounters the adult world, usually in the shape of sex (Summer of '42) or death (Stand By Me), and gets a crash course in maturity," writes Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman. "Meadows does a vivid job of bringing the 80s to life, but his attempt to make an insightful statement about England ultimately fails."

"The cast, especially [Thomas] Turgoose and [Joseph] Gilgun, are major finds," writes the Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu. "What's especially praiseworthy is their ensemble acting, the ebbs and flows of who's in and out being handled with confidence and control. Danny Cohen's photography recaptures the dowdy, pebbledashed ambience of those times.... Meadows has a rapport with his casts, a winning tone and an intimate knowledge of neglected British landscapes; what he desperately needs are new and more complex ideas. Until then, his films will continue to be pleasing but fatally lightweight confections."

Louise Jury talks with Meadows for the Evening Standard, where Derek Malcolm writes, "It is as if, in trawling through his own past again, he has hit upon some basic truths and pointed them up in a self-penned script with obvious emotional honesty."

"Few directors tap their damaged past as brilliantly as Meadows," writes James Christopher in the London Times. "This is England is by far his most personal and powerful testimony."

"This Is England is beset with the usual flaw of Meadows's film-making: his uncertainty with actors," writes Anthony Quinn in the Independent. "The performances are mixed, with some responding to the loose, improvisational atmosphere better than others. Turgoose is a real find, but many of the ensemble scenes look awkward."

Jason Solomons has a good long talk with Meadows for the Guardian.

Time Out's Q&As: Chris Tilly with Stephen Graham, Vicky McClure and Andrew Shim.

Earlier: Jon Savage in Sight & Sound and Aaron Hillis for Premiere; "Weekend Brits" and "This Is England. And Englishness."

Update, 4/30: "His films have become increasingly accomplished over the past decade without, fortunately, becoming polished," writes Philip French of Meadows in the Observer. "Starting with his first fully professional picture, TwentyFourSeven, in 1997, his films have been painful letters from Middle England about life on rundown estates populated by people who are rarely gainfully or happily employed: bullies, loners, eccentrics and assorted thugs, living lives of desperation both quiet and noisy. Meadows never sentimentalises or aggrandises these people. He understands their frustration and despair in communities that in this post-industrial era have lost their soul and purpose." And This Is England is "one of his best."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:09 PM

Brando.

Brando "It's probably safe to say that Marlon Brando - a confounding, wildly talented movie star often tagged as the most influential film actor of the 20th century - would have detested Brando, the two-part tribute doc that Turner Classic Movies is running Tuesday and Wednesday," writes Robert Abele in the LA Weekly. "That doesn't mean Brando isn't entertaining for the rest of us, though. For starters, the package is anecdotal catnip for cinephiles, a greatest-hits parade of the Nebraska native's explosive stage beginnings, meteoric rise in film, on-set eccentricities, passion for political causes and mercenary approach to movie roles as he segued into a final act as a corpulent island poobah."

Updated through 5/2.

"Marlon Brando was simultaneously blessed and cursed, and, maybe worst of all, he also possessed a perversity that caused him to curse his blessings and embrace his curse," writes Mick Farren in the LA CityBeat. "When his power was flowing, Brando was mesmerizing - and Brando provides enough archival material, some previously unseen, to demonstrate it."

Update: "While his honest work in Bernarndo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris allowed autobiographical elements to seep into the frame, it's a wonder he never worked with more independent filmmakers, which leaves us to contemplate what could've been," writes Eric Kohn at the Reeler.

Update, 5/1: "Brando fans may watch this program, as we watch the Brando movies or read the Brando books, in hopes of deciding the question of whether the big man was mostly a genius or mostly a fat fool. A decisive clue is not here," writes Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times.

Updates, 5/2: "Brando is most original and inspiring when it looks at Brando's other work," writes Cynthia Fuchs at PopMatters. "As [Bobby] Seale remembers, 'If I said, 'Constitutional democratic civil human rights,' I mean, it lit him up.'"

"While Brando is a fine primer—running, with clarity and care, through Stanley Kowalski, Marc Antony, Terry Malloy, Sky Masterson, and onward to Don Vito, Col. Kurtz, and poor old Jor-El—it also gives pause to the long-standing fan," writes Troy Patterson in Slate.

Michael Guillén talks with David Thomson about the doc and its subject.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:09 AM

Hari and the pomos.

Zizek! "Zizek! is a painful film, almost the record of a philosophical nervous breakdown," writes Johann Hari in the New Statesman (which, for whatever reason, chooses to illustrate the review with a shot from The Pervert's Guide to Cinema). Hari catalogues Slavoj Zizek's endorsements of Lenin and general disdain for liberal democracy and then really gets going:

This kind of thought can only be entertained because nobody would ever take it seriously enough to act on it. When Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari say we should all become schizophrenic, when the gay Michel Foucault embraces the murderously homophobic Ayatollah Khomeini, when Zizek suggests a return to Leninist terror - these very positions are admissions that postmodernism is merely an unserious confection by intellectuals. It leads nowhere except to demoralisation and disaffection.

Whatever your position, this is a fiery Friday read.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:42 AM

April 26, 2007

Jack Valenti, 1921 - 2007.

Jack Valenti: This Time, This Place
Jack Valenti, who became a confidant of President Lyndon B Johnson and then a Hollywood institution, leading the Motion Picture Association of America and devising a voluntary film-rating system that gave new meaning to letters like G, R and X, died yesterday at his home in Washington. He was 85.

David M Halbfinger, New York Times.

For 38 years until retiring in 2004, Valenti headed the Motion Picture Assn. of America, guiding the trade organization from a clubby group of movie studios led by autocratic moguls into a collection of global media conglomerates involved in television, the Internet and an array of other media businesses.

Updated through 4/30.

[...]

With his silver mane, custom-tailored shirts and suits, and polished cowboy boots, Valenti was one of the most recognizable figures in the nation's capital. Despite being a loyal Democrat, he skillfully worked both sides of the aisles, possessing one of the town's best Rolodexes. Along the way, he became nearly as much a celebrity as the stars - such as Kirk Douglas - he befriended, addressing the worldwide Academy Awards TV audience each year.

James Bates, Los Angeles Times.

Jack Valenti had, for better or worse, as profound an impact on American cinema as almost anyone this side of Orson Welles. And while I know it remains fashionable to dis Valenti (and the MPAA itself) for allegedly stifling free speech and repressing freedom of expression, I nonetheless find myself begrudgingly grateful for his efforts during the 1960s, when he found himself "caught between Hollywood's outdated system of self-censorship and the liberal cultural explosion taking place in America," and yet somehow "abolished the industry's restrictive Hays code, which prohibited explicit violence and frank treatment of sex, and in 1968 oversaw creation of today's letter-based ratings system." Trust me: Without the MPAA ratings system, we likely would have seen dozens (if not hundreds) of local censorship boards popping up throughout the United States from 1966 onward.

Joe Leydon.

Updates: Richard Corliss for Time: "He politicked hard and heartily with his old Washington friends for favorable tariff rulings, and in the process maintained Hollywood's status as one of the few national cinemas not subject to government censorship. (It's also one of the few to receive no direct government subsidies for film production, so I guess that's a fair swap.)... With the build of a miniature bulldog and his fondness for a wildly ornate, orotund oratory, he was a throwback character out of Preston Sturges or Allen's Alley. He may have raised winces on the faces of the new-breed, laid-back moguls. But I'm guessing Valenti didn't mind being smiled at. If he was a figure of fun, he had fun being that figure."

"I always admired his tenacity and skill set," blogs David Poland. "The guy was a perfectly coiffed bulldog. And he protected the film business more aggressively and more successfully than 99.9% of people can begin to imagine."

Nikki Finke collects comments from "Studio Moguls."

Nick Dawson at Filmmaker: "Jack Valenti's death is a reminder that his legacy, namely the system he created at the MPAA, has always favored studio films while, as [Kirby] Dick's potted history of the MPAA's 'quirky' decisions reveals, indie filmmakers have been the ones disadvantaged by the censors' double standards. And no doubt will continue to be."

Updates, 4/28: In the NYT, Michael Cieply assesses Valenti's legacy, the ratings system: "For the major studios the system has been a bulwark against outside interference, though it has often galled filmmakers and hasn't done enough for many parents, who increasingly want to know more about what their children are going to see in a picture.... Yet it was Mr Valenti's genius to have devised an apparatus that is not bound by precedent, changes its definitions at will and, ultimately, serves the motion picture industry by becoming, at any given moment, as permissive or restrictive as the prevailing climate seems to demand."

Vanity Fair runs an "expanded version" of George Wayne's interview with Valenti that ran in the March issue.

Updates, 4/30: "We were both privileged to work with Jack Valenti and to know him well," begins an appreciation from Sherry Lansing and William Friedkin in the LAT. "Jack was a leader and a healer. He was persuasive but never offensive. He loved movies. He was our greatest cheerleader, and he accomplished more for the industry than anyone ever has."

Leonard Klady at Movie City News: "As far as the public was concerned the prime purpose of the organization was to rate movies for theaters when in reality that part of its work maybe amounted to 5 percent of its energy. Film theft aka piracy similarly is not the primary focus of the organization. It is now and forever about hammering out favorable trade agreements. Entertainment is, after all, America's biggest export industry."

"Abroad, he was a tenacious and often successful fighter for retaining and opening markets to Hollywood entertainment," writes Christopher Reed in the Guardian. "This made him an irritant in Europe with his incessant skirmishings against domestic film subsidies and quotas, and his implacable defence of US 'cultural dominance.'"

"Valenti seldom objected to a film industry that was content sometimes to turn the movies into a kind of ghetto for violent dreams," blogs David Thomson. "We don't know exactly how that climate leads to events like the Virginia Tech shootings - but an enquiring mind is bound to wonder. Valenti's grin seldom had such a mind for company. He was a PR flack for an industry that has little respect for the imaginations it reached." Yes, he really wrote that. Click his name and see.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:22 PM | Comments (1)

Zoo.

Zoo "Did the Enumclaw zoophiles pervert the nature of their animals any more than some Chihuahua-toting bimbo?" wonders Nathan Lee out loud in the Voice. "I can't believe I'm thinking about this stuff, but weirdly grateful to Zoo for going there. The beautiful and beguiling new film by Robinson Devor meditates on the Enumclaw incident through a hypnotic blend of original reporting, staged reenactment, testimony of involved parties (both zoophiles and local law enforcement), and pervasive, somewhat precious lyricism."

Updated through 4/28.

It's "very easy to hide behind aestheticized imagery, as Zoo soon proves," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Much has been made of the film's look, and it's easy to see why. The cinematographer, Sean Kirby, who also shot Mr Devor's Police Beat, a fiction film about a lovelorn Seattle bicycle cop, has done some striking work here.... Yet, paradoxically, it is precisely because Mr Devor refuses to acknowledge the murkiness that clings to every frame in his film, because he refuses to engage with the world beyond that of the zoophiles, that they seem like creatures from some never-ending night."

"Devor succeeds because he's created a film depicting a lifestyle scandalous and controversial to the mainstream that's completely disinterested in fomenting scandal and controversy," writes Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE. "It's obvious that he's wise to the macabre curiosity that surrounds zoophilia - the way it's furnished hours of late night gross-out enjoyment in freshman dorms nationwide. But Zoo's more The New World than Jackass."

"Personally, I have problems with it." Aaron Hillis's interview with Devor is a refreshing break from the usual "What was it like to work with..." junket pandering. "If you present a sensational story with good intentions and restraint, is that enough to do away with its tabloid appeal?" Also at IFC News, Matt Singer: "I walked away from it feeling like I didn't entirely understand these men and their motives. One of the animal rights workers says that investigating Mr Hands's case let her approach an understanding of these people without actually achieving one. Perhaps that's exactly where Devor wanted to take us as well."

"I'm not sure Zoo is a great film, but it is a morally significant one, precisely because it invites us to suspend judgment (however briefly) and consider that guys who like to get slammed by horses are people too, with complicated life histories and motivations we hadn't thought about," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "For reasons I won't pretend to understand, it might almost be more difficult to raise such issues about a zoophile than about a Nazi death-camp guard or a child molester." He talks with Devor, too.

"Devor, who cites Tarkovsky and Resnais among his influences, eschews the conventional talking-head interview in favor of an allusive, poetic visual style, layering voiceover with Paul Matthew Moore's moody (if occasionally intrusive) piano score and gorgeous 16 mm images of the landscape around Enumclaw," writes Slate's Dana Stevens. "For him, what's most interesting is what the horses represent to the men who (gulp) love them: the wildness and purity of nature itself."

The "heavily filtered, often slow-motion reenactments [suggest] Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line done underwater," writes Mark Asch in the L Magazine.

"There are a select group of documentaries that should be seen on the big screen, and Robinson Devor's Zoo is definitely one of them," writes Anthony Kaufman.

"The artiness - and the ambient drone - of Zoo becomes oppressive, but it's still a ride like no other," snickers David Edelstein in New York. "I guess I couldn't suppress the urge to make dumb jokes. Call me a neigh-sayer."

IndieWIRE interviews writer Charles Mudede, and earlier: "Interview. Charles Mudede. Zoo."

Update, 4/28: Bryan Whitefield talks with Devor for Nerve, where Akiva Gottlieb writes, "This audacious film isn't testing the limits of good taste; it's testing the limits of human compassion."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:50 PM

Jindabyne.

Jindabyne "It's easy to see how a filmmaker could read one of Raymond Carver's spare little stories of domesticated males attempting to reassert their primacy and think, Why don't I flesh that out a bit? - and then discover, too late, that Carver has said all he needs to say and anything else is bloat," writes New York's David Edelstein. "Scene by scene, Jindabyne has dramatic force, but it's an awfully long slog. Carver's smartest tactic was never outstaying his welcome."

"Like more than a few Australian movies, it's haunted by the primal crime committed against the Aborigines and is something of a ghost story," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "Like [Ray] Lawrence's previous films, it's also very much a literary adaptation. As Lantana was blatantly Altmanesque in structure, Jindabyne references the master indirectly."

Updated through 4/30.

"Jindabyne wears its class politics lightly, weaving them into a ghost story about the intimate connection between how we treat our living and our dead that will hover around your shoulders long after you leave the theater," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly, where Scott Foundas talks with Lawrence.

"If you can speak of a Lawrence formula after just two pictures, it involves a couple of intriguing actors with Hollywood credentials (Barbara Hershey and Anthony LaPaglia in Lantana; Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne here) in a domestic situation that grows ever darker and more enigmatic," writes Andrew O'Hehir, who talks with Lawrence for Salon.

"Thoroughly deliberate in its exposition, the film unfolds at a pace as expansive as the landscape it depicts," proposes Jason Bogdaneris in the L Magazine.

Brandon Harris finds it to be "the first film to do justice to the late Mr Carver's sublime prose."

For Annie Frisbie, writing at Zoom In Online, it's a "sharply observed, superbly crafted joyride of a character study."

In the New York Press, Armond White recommends catching Boy Culture instead; not for thematic reasons but simply because, in his mind, it's a better adaptation.

Susan King talks with Byrne for the LAT.

Earlier: "Cannes. Jindabyne."

Updates, 4/27: "There are few actors who convey the wounded intelligence of an ordinary person in distress as well as Ms Linney," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "The characters she portrays are often, at first glance, satellites to a central male drama - the mother in The Squid and the Whale, the wife in Kinsey, the sister in You Can Count on Me - but in each of these cases it turns out that her psychological precision holds the key to the story." As for Jindabyne: "The real flaw is that the movie's best features - the aching clarity of its central performances - threaten to be lost in a wilderness of metaphor and mystification."

In the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan finds it "as slow getting started as a leisurely weekend fishing trip, but it ends up having an almost unbearable impact."

"Like Lantana, Jindabyne ponders the ways people connect or drift apart in fits of wounded emotion that break through its thriller format," writes Fernando F Croce at Slant. "Also like the earlier film, it shatters its own best effects with a lecturing tidiness that undercuts the ambiguity Lawrence strives for."

Nick Dawson talks with Lawrence for Filmmaker.

Sighs Michelle Orange at the Reeler: "It's not that this story of a corpse discovered and ignored on a fishing trip, and the ensuing repercussions for a marriage and an entire community, is a drag - God knows I am always up for a cracking drag - it's that it's a draaaaaaag."

"[I]f Jindabyne doesn't quite coalesce like its taut predecessor, it comes close enough; its unevenness is made up for by its ambitious wanderings through trickier, thought-provoking terrain, and, although it goes slack occasionally, clocking in at just over two hours, the film resonates with rhythmic momentum," writes Kristi Mitsuda at Reverse Shot.

Update, 4/30: Aaron Hillis talks with Lawrence for IFC News.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:36 PM

Election and Triad Election.

Triad Election "One of the greatest action directors working in the world and one of the most excitingly prolific, [Johnnie] To amassed a notable list of credits in the 1980s and 1990s before his films started showing up on the festival circuit," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "In its size and uneven quality, his recent output can bring to mind those golden-age Hollywood professionals who, come hell, high water or inferior script, would reliably do their part to meet the studio's sausage quota."

Ostensibly, she's reviewing Triad Election as a followup to AO Scott's review of Election, but both end up recommending both films. Scott: "Triad Election, which takes place two years later, has a higher quota of action-movie set pieces and is therefore more likely to be a crowd-pleaser. But while the two films stand alone perfectly well, they also enrich each other."

Updated through 4/27.

The occasion for the doubled doubles is the double feature at Film Forum, running through May 8.

Michelle Orange in the Voice: "To's rangy camera circles its cagey subjects like prey, sometimes drawing in for a close, almost tender framing of his cut-out characters, sometimes yanking back to find them swallowed by the grandeur of both urban and rural China; each angle - and To's take on the plight of the modern gangster - is inspired."

Mark Asch in the L Magazine: "Election and Triad Election are less an evolution of To's (eminently Netflixable [and of course, GreenCineable] and highly recommended) back catalogue than proof-of-concept, demonstration he has it in him to make credible versions of the movies he's been riffing on all along."

Earlier: David Austin's talk with To for Cinema Strikes Back; Andrew O'Hehir (Salon); "Wrapping NYFF" and "PIFF Dispatch. 2."

Update, 4/27: "To is the foremost genre auteur working in the world today, and Election 2 is emblematic of the kind of classicism, purity of filmmaking, and forthright slickness at which To excels as a storyteller," writes Daniel Kasman.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:18 PM | Comments (1)

Cannes and elsewhere, 4/26.

International Critics Week Many expected to see Hou Hsiao-hsien's Red Balloon lined up in the Competition at Cannes; instead, it will open Un Certain Regard on May 17. With the addition of Roy Andersson's You, The Living and Ana Katz's Una Novia Errante in that program and a special screening of Mehdi Charef's Cartouches Gauloises on an evening devoted to Algeria, Artistic Director Thierry Frémaux has finalized the Official Selection.

At indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez has the lineup for the International Critics' Week sidebar. The Hollywood Reporter's Rebecca Leffler detects "a taste of Latin America with a French twist."

Adam Nayman previews the Polish Film Festival Los Angeles, tomorrow through May 3. Guess which David Lynch film they'll be screening.

Also in the LA Weekly, Holly Willis on the work of Larry Gottheim, whose work will be screening at the Los Angeles Filmforum on Sunday and at REDCAT on Monday.

More LA goings on: Robert Abele in the Los Angeles Times.

"As two films screening [in Edmonton] on the eve of May Day show, seemingly distant labor struggles can hit close to home," writes Brian Gibson in Vue Weekly. The films: Mother Jones: America's Most Dangerous Woman and Lockout 484, both by Laura Vazquez and Rosemary Feurer.

"This Day is a series of programs of short films and videos featuring international artists whose work relates to the Middle East within a cultural, social, historical and political context." May 4 through 13 at the Tate Modern in London.

Seijun Suzuki "The Maison Du Japon in Paris, France will be the home of a rather impressive retrospective of one of Japan's most acclaimed cult directors, Seijun Suzuki," reports Aaron at Kung Fu Cult Cinema. May 31 through June 30.

Anthony Kaufman's "The Premieres Race; Rival Fests (Tribeca, SXSW, LAFF) Put Pinch on Filmmakers and Regional Showcases" at indieWIRE has sparked some thoughts from AJ Schnack and Andy Spletzer.

Today at indieWIRE, Jonny Leahan looks back on the highlights of the just-wrapped Sarasota Film Festival.

And Sam Adams looks back to Full Frame in the Philadelphia City Paper.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:58 PM

Tribeca Dispatch. 2.

David D'Arcy on Tribeca's new color scheme. A few notes follow.

Green Issues

Has the Tribeca Film Festival gone green? I'm not talking about the color of money (to drop a film allusion), the color of the American Express Card, but the green of environmentalism, of Al Gore, and of a campaign to broaden awareness about global warming.

Updated.

In New York, where the required garb is black, the farther downtown you go, there was more "green" last night at the opening of the festival than at the St Patrick's Day parade. This is a good thing, in an event that could otherwise reek of consumerism. Nothing (or almost nothing) is as seductive as a beautiful landscape. And there's almost nothing as gruesome as the sight of a landscape that's been ravaged and ruined. Short films by (among others) Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady from the SOS series that will accompany a series of fundraising concerts were shown, scrutinizing the wreck of the earth. A South African choir sang about being in this world "together." Jon Bon Jovi sang. And Al Gore spoke.

The festivities took off last night with the call to preserve the world - just as the landscape of Lower Manhattan has been preserved, festival officials said. Was this Sundance, which has always incorporated a world-saving rhetoric into its public cinema-saving utterances? There's another troubling parallel with Sundance. Tribeca has been remarkably effective in revitalizing its surrounding neighborhood downtown, where construction cranes are everywhere and prices (feared to fall after 9/11) are leaping skyward with the condos, hotels and office towers. Is this the way to save the rest of the world? I hope not. It certainly has not been the way to save Park City, Utah, which is one of the few places on the planet where prices are higher and real estate is more expensive than it is in Tribeca.

You can blame a lot of it on a film festival. It's now a Tiffany and traffic jam resort that few independent filmmakers can afford to visit. What a pity. What a greater pity that Sundance signed on to hold its festival there through the year 2018.

Green Issues

The cry of "noblesse oblige" will no doubt be raised about Tribeca's message last night. After all, Tribeca is later to the party on this one than either Sundance, or Town & Country, which had a green issue earlier this spring (you can find my piece on "green" film in that one) or Vanity Fair, which put Knut the polar bear cub of the Berlin Zoo, who was threatened with environmental euthanasia, on the front cover with Leonardo DiCaprio. In case you didn't know, the DC Environmental Film Festival has been leading the way for years, and ought to have more attention for that.

Better late than never for Tribeca, I would say, although I'm concerned about comparisons with the Live Aid concerts and movement - or non-movement. Does anyone remember anything about those efforts but the logo and the t-shirts? Look at Africa now. Did Live Aid accomplish anything? I'd love to hear that one defended.

Does anybody rent Silkwood these days? Just yesterday, a New York Times story by Stephen Labaton about the evisceration of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration examined the case of workers in a popcorn factory in Missouri who inhaled chemical so toxic that one of them has to have both of his lungs removed. Management blamed the workers for their injuries. OSHA under a Bush-appointed head who prepared for this by fighting union organizing in South Carolina, has not called for the inspection of all factories using the chemical in the US. Let's not forget that environmentalism begins with the home and the places where we work.

Green Issues

Al Gore gave a wooden speech last night, even for a politician, and even by his standards, in which he hauled out the usual clichés and praised artists for carrying the torch on the environment and for broadening public awareness. I think Gore was too generous, that he was giving the artists too much credit. It was thanks to politicians like Gore that the issue of global warming has been fore-grounded. Artists are following him on this one, as they should be. Will it amount to much? It will if Tribeca recognizes that the threat to the world is more than a marketing slogan. Perhaps the thing to do would be to run a two-minute film on threats to the environment before each feature film, and to have enough of those shorts so the audience isn't bored out of its mind. None of the shorts shown last night would be hurt a bit if it were shortened down to two minutes, even Rob Reiner's stupefyingly unfunny Spinal Tap sequel, in which the boys from the band ham it up for a reunion that will take place at one of the SOS concerts. Each was essentially an info-mercial for a good cause. No one wants to watch a commercial that's too long.

Time will tell if Tribeca's commitment is serious. I hope it is. Lou Lumenick in today's New York Post raised some legitimate concerns about Tribeca, and asked that Robert De Niro step down as head of an event that Lumenick called a "street bizarre." De Niro should stay, and prove the critics wrong - that is, if they are wrong, and I hope they are. Only someone from an oil company could possibly think that "green" films and "green" thinking will be any less urgently necessary next year.

-David D'Arcy


Aaron Hillis for Premiere: "Taxidermia is an intense, disgusting, and probably brilliant experience, its aesthetics as excessive as its themes. A word of warning: though you probably shouldn't see this one on a full stomach, you might also consider one last meal for fear of never wanting to eat again."

"Tribeca sometimes seems like the film-fest equivalent of the endlessly protean product in that old Saturday Night Live commercial, the one that was a floor wax and a dessert topping," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "This year's Tribeca event is a significant post-Sundance indie marketplace and a massive hype event for the release of Spider-Man 3 - and a rapid-fire showcase for numerous off-the-radar documentaries and foreign films as well.... Maybe a thoroughly obnoxious scale of ambition is the only one that makes sense for Tribeca. Why shouldn't New York, the world capital of obnoxious ambition, have the biggest, starfuckingest, most artistically ambitious and most expensive film festival in the world?... If that's the goal, I have three words of advice for [Jane] Rosenthal, De Niro, festival director Peter Scarlet, et al: Show better movies."

"With not a little irony Jia Zhangke staged the drama of his film The World at the amongst replicas of famous buildings from around the world, and the contrast between the World Park's simulated setting and the neo-realism of Jia shooting his latest film Still Life around the actual Three Gorges Dam, is stunning," writes Daniel Kasman. "It is a fresh, relieving change of course from the previous film's overwrought, allegorical setting."

More from Premiere's Glenn Kenny, who finds Still Life "beguiling and discreetly moving... a breathtaking cinematic experience."

Online viewing tips. It's early yet, but there are already Tribeca reports from LXTV and Reeler TV.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:30 AM

Tribeca, 4/26.

"The great discovery of the festival is Turkish director Reha Erdem's Times and Winds," announces Howard Feinstein, who then offers quick takes on ten more offerings in his latest "Critic's Notebook" for indieWIRE.

Times and Winds

Festival-goers on the opposite coast may want to know that Times and Winds is screening at SFIFF on May 8, 9 and 10. More from Michael Guillén, J Robert Parks and, in Sight & Sound, Hannah McGill.

Also at iW: Eugene Hernandez covers the opening goings on, including the screening of nine "SOS Films," green-tinted shorts introduced by Al Gore. Related: Agnes Varnum asks, "Are Green Docs Hot?"

More on that opening from ST VanAirsdale at the Reeler, where Michelle Orange offers her takes on Golden Door, Blue State, The Killing of John Lennon, Gardener of Eden, Beyond Belief and L'Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio.

Aaron Hillis for Premiere on This Is England: "British writer-director Shane Meadows (Dead Man's Shoes) would have made the late filmmaker Alan Clarke proud with this must-see, partly autobiographical dramedy about working-class skinheads, circa 1983." Related: Jason Solomons's longish interview with Meadows for the Guardian.

Tribeca And now, a little point-counterpoint. Mark Asch's comments in the L Magazine sound familiar: "I'm not really sure what Tribeca does for the movies it shows, or the viewers who want to see them: it started as a way of revitalizing a post-9/11 downtown, and now seems to exist solely to draw attention - to the neighborhood, to the sponsors, to the festival itself. And as such, the films, whichever kind of the films you want to see, are kind of drowned out."

"[N]one of the fundamental complaints leveled at the festival differ from general qualms about the current state of New York as a whole, with its ballooning real estate and increasingly claustrophobic space to accommodate the proverbial 'starving artist,'" counters Eric Kohn. "The genuine argument, one of utmost importance, tends to get lost in the chaotic shuffle of tired art-versus-commerce squabbling: Do the movies have room to breathe? In fact, most filmmakers involved designate the festival as a veritable oxygen tank." And he talks with directors ranging from Ken Jacobs to Mary Stuart Masterson to prove the point.

Also in the New York Press, Sara Karl: "Tribeca Teaches is a new, five-week program taught by Tribeca Film Institute Teaching Artists and visiting filmmakers, during which students will produce their own films and create a 'classroom snapshot.'" In the South Bronx.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:07 AM

SFIFF. Preview.

Jay Kuehner surveys the offerings of a golden anniversary edition.

SFIFF While the collective (and by now bloodshot) eye of the cinemonde turns its gaze in anticipation to the ?granddaddy of all film festivals? that is Cannes, another coastal celebration is getting underway that can claim such august status. The San Francisco International Film Festival is turning 50, and a preview of its golden edition leaves the impression that the fest is old enough to know better (about film history) and still too young to care (about its boundaries). In translation, this means tributes to forebearers obvious (George Lucas, Spike Lee) and less so (Heddy Honigmann, with her latest, Forever), while pushing film out of the theaters and showcasing recombinant trends, such as the ?live cinema spectacle? Arrows of Time by Ken McMullen, which alights on Derrida, Beuys, Borges and Stanford physicists alike. Less heady but hybrid still: Guy Maddin'’s extravaganza Brand Upon the Brain, with live orchestra (and castrato), and a seemingly unholy pairing of Victor Sjöström'’s surreal silent Swedish classic The Phantom Carriage with live score by reknown Scandinavian composer Jonathan Richman (that’s a joke).

Updated.

Falling For those who take the festival in stride, inside, and sitting down, ensconced in the Kabuki’s all too familiar theaters, it's the strata of international films comprising the bulk of the program that inform their festival experience. A glance at the lineup reveals a lean, even discreet survey of the year in international film. Lean because the program is not overstuffed; you get the sense that there are no films unaccounted for (i.e., programmers fought for their choices). And discreet, well, because there is a lack of conspicuous films in lieu of some that too easily could have slipped by in their upstream swim of the festival circuit (in hopes of spawning distribution). For example, two standouts that come to mind are Barbara Albert's Falling, following her kinetic Free Radicals and again employing ensemble performance to great effect (she also co-wrote fellow Austrian Michael Glawogger's Slumming, a compelling morality tale that outwits its eurotrashing protaganists). And Pablo Trapero's Born and Bred, which finds the Argentine - who practically jump-started a new wave with his grainy lament to unemployment in Crane World back in 1999 (SFIFF 2000) - maturing in unforeseen ways.

Likewise, the program is encouraging to new directors, some making return trips to SFIFF with fresh work. Auraeus Solito moves out of the barrio of his charming debut The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (SFIFF 2006) and into the lush Filipino countryside with Tuli. Veronica Chen (Smokers Only, SFIFF 2002) is back with Agua, a prizewinner at Locarno and Palm Springs that one colleague wryly dubbed The Loneliness of the Long Distance Swimmer.

Love for Sale: Suely in the Sky Virtual unknown Takushi Tsubokawa, returning with Aria, may be welcome to those who caught his somnambulistic Clouds of Yesterday last year. Karim Aïnouz, who thrust the sinuous Madame Sãta at audiences in 2003, again considers marginality in Love for Sale: Suely in the Sky (gorgeously rendered by the estimable cinematographer Walter Carvalho). And the winner of last year's SKYY Prize for best new director, Ying Liang - for Taking Father Home - used some of his prize money to fund his latest, The Other Half. Ying sticks with video, but his sense of formal interplay is conceptually rich, marking him as one of the more auspicious Chinese talents since Jia Zhangke.

This fidelity to director’s' nascent or continuing careers is a benevolent sign that, even at a ripe 50, the festival still has a nurturing instinct. Not only toward directors, but audiences as well. The sense of continuity is naturally a consequence of the flow of film exhibition, but a keen viewer will be rewarded for prior risks. Case in point: Eduardo Coutinho, the not-so-nascent Brazilian documentarian whose Master: A Building in Copacabana was a sleeper at SFIFF 2004, is again represented with The End and the Beginning, his foray into northeast Brazil in search of a subject. Blink (or step out for food) and you may have missed the connection.

Once From there the links are myriad. While you're in Brazil, why not catch the doc about indefatigable tropicalista musician Tom Zé (Fabricating Tom Zé, by Décio Matos Jr)? Or possibly resent the fact that Sundance Documentary Award winner Manda Bala, about the cycle of corruption in Brazil, isn't here, meanwhile realizing that a host of other standouts from Sundance are? Busker love in Once (John Carney, Ireland) won the hearts of the staunchest of critics in Park City, and features a sweet duet from its pair of nonprofessional actors. The Devil Came on Horseback (Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern), which also kicked up dust at Sundance, comes across as a formally conventional documentary about genocide in Darfur, but morphs from a consideration of its message to its messenger - an ex-marine who becomes lone witness to atrocity in Darfur while serving as an unarmed observer.

Ghosts of Cité Soleil (Asger Leth, Denmark), features a similarly complicated relation to its subject(s), here two rival gang leaders who are also brothers, in Port-au- Prince's notorious slum under Aristede's dubious execution of democracy. At Telluride, the film was highly divisive, seen as a disguised gesture of cultural tourism or conversely a fearless portrait of survival. Either way, the film offers some rather astonishing footage - perilously ripe for a Hollywood makeover.

Typical of SFIFF, French films get good billing. Both Pascale Ferran's César-winning Lady Chatterley and Olivier Dahan's Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose are welcome but have secure futures beyond SFIFF. Better perhaps to gamble on lesser-knowns such as Claire Simon (On Fire) or Christophe Honoré, whose follow-up to the Bataille-inspired Ma mère, Dans Paris, is a far more tender affair than its predecessor. A mercurial and fractured look at the bond between two brothers, this nouvelle vague-inflected bagatelle is played by two of France's indelible young actors, Romain Duris and Louis Garrel. Other French faces worth following, both behind and before the camera: Jean-Pascal Hattu's 7 Years, fresh from New Directors/New Films, features Bruno Todeschini (seen in last year’s Perfect Lovers by Nobuhiro Suwa), and Jeanne Waltz, whose A Parting Shot stars Isild Le Besco, who graced the Kabuki last year for a screening of Emmanuelle Bercot's study of idolatry, Backstage.

Bamako Pedro Costa's cryptic, demanding, and spectral Colossal Youth is among the more inspired choices from last year's Cannes competition. It's an austere work poverty, time and longing - see it at your own risk, miss it at your peril. It finds an unwitting companion piece, methodology wise, in Rob Nilsson's anthology of scenes from his work with the Tenderloin yGroup's acting workshops for street people, to be screened at SFIFF's outdoor venue. Another Cannes alumnus, Abderrahmane Sissako, inveighs on African - and by extension, global - politics with his fierce polemic Bamako, offering a platform for SFIFF's Picturing Development dialogue, presided over by the film's executive producer, Danny Glover.

Hot topics inevitably abound, but arguably the most anticipated address is to the state of cinema itself, delivered by Peter Sellars, the pioneering theater and artistic director. Locals may recall his collaboration with composer John Adams for the San Francisco Opera production of Doctor Atomic (which, in an instance of festival fortuity, is documented in Jon Else's Wonders Are Many). More recently, in Vienna, Sellars produced an unprecedented achievement with his New Crowned Hope series, in which several directors were commissioned to make films in commemoration of Mozart's anniversary.

SFIFF is privileged to be screening two of the series’ seven films - a small quotient, admittedly - but happily one of them is among the cinema year's real gems. Once I acclimated to Garin Nugroho's bewitching Opera Jawa, a retelling of a Sanskrit legend, nothing struck me more than the unfurling of an epic swath of crimson linen through the Indonesian jungle, by which macho butcher (and killer dancer) Ludiro attempts to seduce the beautiful, married Sita. The film is replete with ravishing visual sequences, and as a lament for victims of the Southeast Asian tsunami, it offers salve to sufferers anywhere. Its inclusion in SFIFF's 50th edition is good news indeed, enough to make me forgive a minor grievance, the absence of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Call it Syndromes and Half a Century.

-Jay Kuehner


To see the highlights all over again from another angle, check Dennis Harvey's "SFIFF50" at SF360.

Update: Michael Hawley has quite a preview at the Evening Class, where Michael Guillén asks David Thomson for his take on The Deal.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:08 AM

April 25, 2007

Shorts, 4/25.

Phantom Museums Glenn Kenny asks Stephan and Timothy Quay "whence the fascination with such Eastern European artists as Svankmajer and composer Leos Janacek sprang." Turns out it was an exhibition of Polish posters from the 50s and 60s: "I think it was a revelation to us that typography could be integrated very powerfully into the whole design of a piece," Stephen tells him.

Stanley Kauffmann lays out the early triumphs in the career of Alain Resnais and notes that, for some, the past few decades have been one long denouement. That said: "No Resnais film that I have seen has struck me as a sell-out. At their direst, Resnais's films have seemed the work of an avant-gardist who, like avant-gardists in other arts, has exhausted his innovations and is needy. His new picture, Private Fears in Public Places, isn't even quite that poignant."

Also: "It is too weak to say that [Werner] Herzog disregards conventions of narrative structure and editing: he is there to punish us for attending his film and to make us enjoy it. Other directors have at times made masochists of us: Herzog excels at this, and he doesn't often do it more stunningly than in Cobra Verde." And then there's After the Wedding. "Morten Søborg's camera here is so lucid that it almost seems to be producing the light that it captures." Nonetheless, "We watch this film like a puzzle being unraveled, rather than as a shared experience."

Just up at Order of the Exile: Jacques Rivette:

Don't Touch the Axe

"Poison Friends, written and directed by Emmanuel Bourdieu, is a literary film about literary pretensions," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "The movie is largely unclassifiable - at once a psychological study, an exceedingly dry comedy, and a moral tale in which stories are purloined and frauds perpetrated." More from Nicolas Rapold in the L Magazine.

Also in the Voice: Julia Wallace on Tekkon kinkreet, Brian Miller on The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez, Jessica Grose on Sing Now or Forever Hold Your Peace (more: Nick Schager, Slant), Robert Wilonsky on Something to Cheer About (more: Nick Schager, Slant) and Ella Taylor on Snow Cake and Diggers.

Keith Uhlich: "Something of a homecoming for the writer-director, I Don't Want to Sleep Alone is [Tsai Ming-liang's] first production set in his native Malaysia (in a decrepit metropolis soon to be blanketed by poisonous smog), and suggests a literalist exploration of Goethe's famed Faust observation, 'Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast.'"

Also in Slant, Ed Gonzalez on Ten Canoes: "Directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr, the film is an intricately layered jangle of melodramas and anecdotes, suggesting the dexterous stream of consciousness of William Faulkner."

In the New York Times:

  • Farley Granger, "in his star-studded personal life and in his nearly 60 years as an actor, has made an art form of keeping one foot in each of two worlds. Film and theater. American and Italian. Gay and straight." Neil Genzlinger talks with him.

The Collector

Emanuel Levy gives Spider-Man 3 a "B": "[A]dding more villains and a new femme simply means having more characters, subplots, and emotionally tangled web of relationships, but doesn't necessarily translate into a more engaging or enjoyable film."

"A statistic told me by Bat: the only area in Britain that has a non-white majority is above the fifth floor," writes Owen Hatherley in a followup to his earlier entry, "London - Cine-City (Part 1)." "One of the few recent films to try and chart at least some of this space is Michael Caton-Jones's Basic Instinct 2.... Interestingly, the film has an utter lack of any actual sexual tension, of any thrill or eroticism... The Hitchcockian or Brandtian city of seedy allure is entirely absent: and perhaps it is from London as a whole."

Spike Lee was in Austin yesterday and Chris Garcia took notes on his comments regarding Don Imus, Matty Rich and Wesley Snipes, whom Lee wants to play James Brown "in his biopic, which he's still trying to get greenlit. Snipes, Lee said, is a trained dancer."

The Bell Jar "Julia Stiles will produce and star in an adaptation of The Bell Jar, the only novel written by poet Sylvia Plath," reports Chris Tilly.

"The spoof heavy-metal band immortalized by the mock documentary This is Spinal Tap has reunited to join a campaign to save the world from global warming." For Reuters, Claudia Parsons reports on the new Rob Reiner-directed short.

"Following news that Brad Pitt is set to star alongside George Clooney and Frances McDormand in Burn After Reading, comes word from Variety that the Coens will follow up that pic with one called A Serious Man," writes Erik Davis at Cinematical. "Described as a 'dark comedy in the vein of Fargo, both Ethan and Joel intend on being credited as writers, producers and directors on the two films."

Kung Fu Cult Cinema looks ahead to the horror films slated for release in Korea this summer.

"After decades of stalling, it seems that science fiction is finally, rapidly, becoming fact - just as the first pulp writers and movie-makers were convinced it would, back in the 1920s," writes Gwyneth Jones. Also in the Guardian, Alfred Hickling interviews Pete Postlethwaite.

Interviews in the Independent: Geoffrey Macnab with Julie Christie and Stephen Applebaum with Ethan Hawke.

Garry Maddox talks with Terry Gilliam for the Sydney Morning Herald. Via Jeffrey Overstreet.

At Pixel Vision, Johnny Ray Huston has a wishlist: "50 Movies That Have Yet to Hit the Bay Area."

Noy Thrupkaew on Red Road in the American Prospect: "Despite the contrivances behind its creation, [Andrea] Arnold has made a film that is wonderfully, and organically, disturbing - thanks largely to the intensity of [Kate] Dickie's performance."

Joanne Laurier at WSWS on The Situation: "[Philip] Haas and screenwriter Wendell Steavenson have accomplished something quite rare in contemporary filmmaking, creating a living drama out of social and political relationships."

Edward Copeland on My Country, My Country: "as with many documentaries that didn't even make the final cut [in the Oscar race], this look at the months leading up to Iraq's 'landmark' elections is a powerful, riveting documentary that damn sure deserved the prize over Al Gore's PowerPoint presentation."

Naked City "The Naked City probably works much better for modern audiences than it ever did for it's contemporaries," writes Tom Huddleston. Also at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Adam Balz on This Filthy World: "[E]ven when [John] Waters's speech becomes unpalatable - a short mention of 'ultimate nudity' and 'blossoms' has the audience audibly squirming - no one leaves; everyone remains seated, waiting for more, even laughing in wild disgust. In making some of the most reviled, ridiculous, and downright repulsive films ever, Waters has also secured for himself an enduring and devoted following that, ten years ago, made Pink Flamingos the second-most popular video in the country."

"[W]hile Pulp suffers in comparison to [Get Carter] - name a movie that wouldn't - it's still worth watching," recommends Vince Keenan.

Online listening tip. Matt Singer and Alison Willmore of IFC News talk about the movies they're looking forward to this summer.

Online viewing tip #1. Jerry Lentz finds a clip from a doc on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Includes an interview with Daniel Richter, the actor in the ape suit who picked up the bone and jump-started human evolution.

Online viewing tip #2. Sean Penn and Stephen Colbert face off for a Meta-Free-Phor-All.

Online viewing tips. Brendon Connelly points to the AFI's YouTube channel. Why? Because they've got clips - lots of clips - of famous folks naming their favorite movies.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:15 PM

Other fests, other events.

Golden Thumb A round of cheers for Roger Ebert, who's going to Ebertfest, the paparazzi be damned: "Being sick is no fun. But you can have fun while you're sick. I wouldn't miss the festival for anything!"

"Bono, members of New Order and Depeche Mode will be among guests - and some of them might perform - at the opening night bash of the Cannes Film Festival sidebar Directors Fortnight on May 17, after a gala screening of the Ian Curtis biopic Control," reports Variety's Alison James.

Starting with the Barbara Stanwyck Centennial, J Hoberman has notes on what else is going on in New York this week besides Tribeca.

Louise Brooks And Looker advises: "New York readers, here's something to do between Tribeca Film Fest screenings: get thee to Louise Brooks and the 'New Woman' in Weimar Cinema at the International Center of Photography before it closes on Sunday."

Nathaniel R is heading to the Indianapolis International Film Festival, which opens tomorrow and runs through May 4. Though he'll be a juror, he'll also be blogging at the Film Experience.

A "political film festival" in Berlin from May 9 through 16: globale07.

AJ Schnack: "Sarasota holds fond memories." More from James Israel.

Ray Pride shot some very fine pix at Hot Docs.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:35 PM

Tribeca Dispatch. 1.

David D'Arcy on one doc and one dramatic feature - two takes on the Middle East. Tribeca notes and pointers follow.

9 Star Hotel As the Tribeca Film Festival opens, and the stars pile into town, I'll take a deep breath and look at films that may not make it through the hype. There are plenty of them at the festival.

One is 9 Star Hotel, Ido Haar's documentary from Israel about Palestinian workers, building Modi'in, a new city there on the site of an ancient Jewish town that is said to have been home to the Maccabees. They work illegally, passing from the Occupied Territories into Israel (although everyone, including their bosses, seems to know it) and they live illegally in settlements built from what artists like to call found materials in the hills above their construction site. The title is a joke. Not much else in this film is.

Updated.

The story builds irony upon irony, layering myths on the myth of Sisyphus. Palestinians, displaced and cut off from land which they once owned, have lost the source of their livelihood. Most of those whom we see have no formal education, and some are illiterate, so they work in the traditional masonry trades that Palestinians have practiced for years - although some have second jobs, believe it or not, as security guards. One of them, Ahmed, scrounges through garbage to make an extra five dollars a day. Mohammad, his handsome chain-smoking friend, provides political commentary throughout, talking mostly about working conditions and police. Both end up putting their lives at risk.

The jobs, no surprise, are with the Israelis, who are building everywhere, scarring the Holy Land with new towns, and highways to and from those places, all protected by various levels of Israeli law enforcement.

The workers live in shantytowns, built mostly with cardboard and trash, with no heat or water, not so different from what you can now see in and around every major city in the United States or Europe. This is an immigration story, after all, and almost all immigration is economic.

These "settlements" are illegal, hence another irony, that their illegality is prosecuted, while illegal West Bank settlements at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute are permitted by the government, or ignored as the disputes between Jewish settlers and their government await a "political solution." The laborers' labor is also illegal, yet that seems largely tolerated, because the illegal workers are an integral part of the construction economy, although the men are constantly on the watch for police. After all, the Palestinians are infiltrators.

It's all about land, and about the roles that the strong and the weak have in shaping the landscape. We see the men running across the highways, dodging cars and Israeli cops. We see them at work, pouring concrete and applying plaster to what look like luxury apartments. When the wall now being constructed to separate Jews from Palestinians on the West Bank is finished, they say that sneaking onto building sites could be impossible, so they'll lose the little income that they have.

And these are the men who have jobs. Some talk of being breadwinners for their entire families. "I'd like to join the Palestinian police force," one them says, adding with chagrin, "they only take people who can read and write."

9 Star Hotel DA Pennebaker likes to say that you can only make documentaries if the people who are the subjects of your film are willing to cooperate, and Ido Haar got remarkable access to the men who camp in the hills and descend to build the homes of Israelis.

The workmen are not terrorists, nor are they saints. When the subject of the Holocaust comes up, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, one of the men observes that six million Jews were killed. "Six million?" another says, imagining that if six million more Jews settled in Palestine and had children, things would be far worse than they are.

Haar's film is shot, by the director, either on the run or at the hilltop encampment where available light means a campfire or a flashlight. It has the look of a video image running to keep up with its subject. Yet there are some cinematic touches. The film opens with shots of the sky and the landscape. We hear sounds that seem like machine-gun fire, which can be routine there. They turn out to be the noises from drills that are preparing the ground for houses. It's reassuring - or is it. There's no gunfire here. Over the course of the documentary, however, we see that construction and occupation are effective instruments of war.

9 Star Hotel isn't making its premiere at Tribeca, having played at Jerusalem, IDFA, Hot Docs and other festivals. Yet it's appropriate that this spare, unsentimental film about real estate and the anonymous workers who create its value is shown at Tribeca, a festival that began as a maneuver to shore up the values of land in lower Manhattan after September 11.

The Israeli dramatic feature My Father, My Lord, by David Volach (in the international competition at Tribeca), is another grim picture of a tiny slice of that country, seen through the family of an orthodox rabbi whose ardent adherence to strict laws of observance end up costing the life of his son on an excursion to the Dead Sea. The film is so well-acted that the dialogue is barely necessary, with the dean of Israeli actors Assi Dayan as the rabbi and father, Sharon Hacohen Bar as his dutiful but tenderly doubting wife, and young Eilan Grif as their curious son.

Boaz Yaacov's cinematography catches every nuance of tension in the family. There's a deliberate contemplative pace to the storytelling here that some will undoubtedly call Bergmanesque. Bresson comparisons will also surely come up. Yet Volach has made his own film, a fatalistic look at the clash of faith and humanity. Think of it the next time someone recommends faith-based initiatives to you.

The Last Jews of Libya by Vivienne Roumani-Denn, a new documentary at the festival, reminds you that the "refugee problem," as it used to be called, isn't only an Arab one. More in a future installment.

-David D'Arcy


Tribeca "I don't subscribe to the hype, but I do believe in the opportunity: 150-something features; six dozen shorts; a few clever panels; and a press pass to rule them all." ST VanAirdale lays out the many ways the Reeler will be all over Tribeca, including Reeler TV and a reviews blog, the Screening Room.

"Art and politics: two poles rightfully addressed by many of the selections in a film festival located (more and more virtually) near the festering hole that was the World Trade Center." A preview from Howard Feinstein at indieWIRE, where the special Tribeca section is revving up.

"They have to figure out who they are. They've got all the potential in the world, but haven't realized it yet," Sony Picture Classics co-founder and co-president Tom Bernard, who hasn't yet picked up a picture at Tribeca, tells the New York Observer's Sara Vilkomerson.

Updates: "Is Alberto Gonzales stupid?" asks Alex Gibney at the Huffington Post, before answering: "I think that - within limited parameters - he's brilliant. And the proof is a moment from one of his performances in a hearing that I excerpted in my new film, Taxi to the Dark Side, about the Bush Administration's torture policy." Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

At the Reeler, Steve Erickson surveys the festival's other offerings from the Middle East.

Daniel Kasman on the revival of Gérard Blain's The Pelican.

"[T]he sad truth is that six years into the fest's history, I have yet to see a good movie there," writes Jürgen Fauth. "But we try... Napoleon and Me is intermittently amusing, but the film can't find its tone, theme, or center. With Monica Bellucci as full-bosomed Baronessa."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:07 AM

SFBG. SFIFF.

SFIFF 50 "The oldest film festival in the United States and Canada, the San Francisco International Film Festival reaches its golden anniversary this year," writes Johnny Ray Huston, opening the San Francisco Bay Guardian's preview package. "That's half a century of bringing movies from all over the world to one area of America that doesn't assume America is the world." His recommendations: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Daratt, Garin Nugroho's Opera Jawa and Veronica Chen's "gorgeous" Agua.

Updated.

"Critic James Quandt dubbed it new French extremism, though cinema brut works just as well," writes Max Goldberg. "In SFIFF films such as On Fire, 7 Years and Flanders, this tendency is toned down but still embedded in narrative and character."

SFIFF "is offering a rare treat this year with its presentation of Otar Iosseliani's latest film, Gardens in Autumn, and Julie Bertuccelli's documentary about Iosseliani, Otar Iosseliani, The Whistling Blackbird," notes Jason Shamai. "The critic J Hoberman described one of Iosseliani's recent ensemble films somewhat dismissively as a 'genteel circus,' but the tag can also serve as an affectionate characterization of his best work. His latest exercise in modulated hedonism may not have much to say on the politics of happiness, but sometimes that can be a blessing."

The Iron Mask "At the Castro Theatre, [Kevin] Brownlow (the recipient of the SF Film Society's Mel Novikoff Award, whose latest movie, Cecil B DeMille: American Epic, also screens at this year's festival) will present 1929's The Iron Mask," alerts Jeffrey M Anderson. "When The Iron Mask was restored, the great modern composer Carl Davis, whose work currently graces a number of silent movies on DVD, recorded a 42-piece orchestral score worthy of the film's energy and its melancholy. Fortunately, as Brownlow will no doubt demonstrate, it's possible to see the film with new eyes."

Also, an overview of the debut features in the running for the SKYY Prize.

Dennis Harvey scans the Big Names in town to pick up awards; and recalls winners past.

Previewing the Notes to a Toon Underground program, Kimberly Chun spotlights the work of Kelly Sears.

Cheryl Eddy: "The boy-band phenomenon of the early millennium has thankfully faded, but there's still parody meat enough for Hong Kong heartthrob (and San Francisco native) Daniel Wu, who makes his writing and directing debut with Heavenly Kings."

Matt Sussman on Colossal Youth: "Over the past decade, [Pedro] Costa has made a trilogy of films with the working poor of Fontainhas, a sprawling slum outside Lisbon. Trading [William T] Vollmann's pained self-consciousness for a meticulous formalism that favors rehearsal over reportage, Costa's remove sets into relief the humanity of his subjects, rather than objectifying or patronizing them."

"It's a tricky thing [Heddy] Honigmann is doing, engaging people about a profoundly internal process with a documentary technique that's necessarily obtrusive and spoken aloud," writes Max Goldberg, previewing Forever. "Her gift as a filmmaker lies in the moment-by-moment flow of interview and observation. Patience and curiosity: these are the stuff of Honigmann's persistence of vision."

Updates: A bit of anticipation elsewhere, too...

Michael Fox has a state-of-SFIFF piece in the SF Weekly, where he also previews works by Bay Area filmmakers in the lineup and contributes to the weekly's collection of capsule reviews.

At SF360, Katherin McInnis talks with Kerry Laitala, winner of the New Visions Golden Gate Award in 2005, about her new film, Muse of Cinema.

Cathleen Rountree posts her festival catalogue notes for The 12 Labors and Agua.

Michael Guillén previews La Vie en Rose.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:21 AM

April 24, 2007

Fests and events, 4/24.

Cannes Blogging from France, Scott Foundas looks over the titles lined up for the Competition in Cannes, notes the multi-national pedigree of many of those titles, and then tosses in the kicker: "[I]n Paris last week, I was able to attend a small advance screening of one competition entry, and I am happy to report that it is nothing less than superb. The film is called Secret Sunshine and it is the fourth to be written and directed by South Korea's Lee Chang-Dong, whose first three films - Green Fish (1997), Peppermint Candy (2000) and Oasis (2002) - pegged him as one of leading figures in his country's recent cinematic renaissance." The rave follows.

"In its 60 years, Cannes has managed to keep its identity intact and resist rampant commercialism," argues Agnès Poirier in the Guardian. "I'm obviously not talking of the parallel circus going on around diamond-laden and scantily clad stars walking up the famous red carpet each evening. I'm talking about films."

Far East Film Festival "The mood among Korean filmmakers in early 2007 is one of deep concern." Darcy Paquet's essay for this year's catalog for the Far East Film Festival (through Saturday in Udine, Italy) is now up at Koreanfilm.org.

"This year HotDocs has stepped up their embrace of new media and knowledge-sharing by recording almost their entire industry conference and posting the sessions online as free audio and video podcasts." Joel Heller's got the linkage.

At Twitch, Canfield's happy announces the launch of the site for June's Cornerstone Festival Imaginarium.

At indieWIRE, Steve Ramos takes stock of the highlights of the Nashville Film Festival, which runs through Thursday.

"Last night's Silver Jew screening was quite special," blogs Michael Tully from Nashville. "Our special guest introducer was Nashville's own cinematic wunderkind, Harmony Korine, who's latest, Mister Lonely, made it into the Un Certain Regard program in next month's Cannes."

Doug Block's zipping from festival to festival.

Picture House: Film, Art and Design at Belsay: May 5 through September 30.

David Lowery looks back to Sarasota - lots of pix!

At AICN, Scott Green's got lots of news from the Anime Boston Convention.

Erica Abeel looks back on last month's New Directors / New Films series for Filmmaker.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:53 PM | Comments (1)

Tribeca run-up, 4/24.

Tribeca With the Tribeca Film Festival opening tomorrow and running through May 6, Nathan Lee opens the Voice's package with "half dozen random, contradictory, but generally optimistic notes."

The preview: "25 movies that intrigued, annoyed, and greatly pleased our fest-happy critics." The interviews:

Even with the Spider-Man 3 US premiere, "in the years since 2004, Tribeca has been cannily paring down its blockbuster mentality and ramping up its cinephile appeal," argues Glenn Kenny, introducing Premiere's preview package. Besides the photos and such, it includes Aaron Hillis's festival picks.

Black White + Gray In a New York Times piece headlined "The Man Who Made Mapplethorpe," Philip Gefter previews James Crump's directorial debut, Black White + Gray, a portrait of curator and collector Sam Wagstaff.

For the Wall Street Journal, Anthony Kaufman selects, as he puts it on his blog, "a dozen picks that I believe are safe bets for WSJ readers. And at indieWIRE, noting the numbers that count for many - "75 world premieres, five international premieres, and 30 North American premieres" at Tribeca - Anthony takes a moment to step back to scan the big picture: "'this ridiculous concern for premiere status,' as one festival programmer calls it, puts excessive pressure on filmmakers, limits their ability to generate momentum on the festival circuit, and arguably runs counter to the broader mission of film festivals in the first place: to showcase good films and cultivate cinephilia."

ST VanAirsdale talks with Mary Stuart Masterson about her directorial debut, The Cake Eaters.

Tim Murphy blogs for New York: "Festival followers are yammering about a generational turf war between Robert De Niro's by-now well-established Tribeca Film Festival, which kicks off tomorrow, and the inaugural year of the exquisitely edgy High Line Festival, which launches May 9, hard on the heels of its Big Daddy downtown." High Line, by the way, is curated by David Bowie.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:35 PM

SFIFF run-up, 4/24.

SFIFF 50 "Is there anyone who doesn't know that the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) is turning 50 this month?" asks B Ruby Rich. "The drumbeat in the Bay Area has been celebratory, from the Pacific Film Archive tribute program of films drawn from its history to the daily bulletins in the San Francisco Chronicle, where Ruthe Stein has been publishing 50 items over 50 days, all drawn from the festival's archive. Instead of focusing on the usual festival squibs, forecasts, and must-sees, then, this writer headed over to the fabled Presidio on an unusually sunny day to talk to the festival staff about the past."

Also at SF360, Michael Fox talks with Jon Else about Wonders Are Many: The Making of Doctor Atomic, screening at SFIFF.

Justin Lowe, too, looks back over 50 years for Filmmaker.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:13 PM

Renoir / DVDs, 4/24.

Jean Renoir Collector's Edition "To mark the release of the Jean Renoir Collector's Edition from Lionsgate, a three-disc set featuring five features and two shorts straddling the reaches of his career, I've taken the opportunity to look back on his career, or at least those films now available to us on DVD," writes Sean Axmaker at the main site. "Between Lionsgate (which secured its prints from Studio Canal in France) and Criterion, a rich collection of Renoir's cinematic canvases are available in superior home video prints."

Updated through 4/27.

In the New York Times, Dave Kehr explains why this set is such a bargain and pinpoints what's remarkable in the first and last images, chronologically, of the entire package. Also, though directed by Robert Stevenson, the 1944 version of Jane Eyre can pretty much be seen as an Orson Welles film "in disguise."

Hacking Democracy is "a terrifying HBO doc about the slow ascension of computerized voting machines, and how much rank dirt has been dug up in the process about how ineptly they're programmed and how much outrageous political skullduggery gone into the deal, leading to inevitable accusations (let's make that 'criminal charges') about the degree to which machine-makers like Diebold had been conceiving of these modern miracles as election-stealers from their very inception," writes Michael Atkinson at IFC News. "Sometime before the primaries begin, the movie should be seen by every client of American democracy." Also, another fine rant sparked by Al Franken: God Spoke.

"One of the best scenes in last year's best movie - Children of Men - is in the deleted scenes." Nick Rombes explains.

Arthur Ryel-Lindsey on James Cagney: Signature Collection at Slant: "No actor had more fight in such a small package. None was as scrappy or as capable at throwing his weight around with menace or grace, depending on the scene.... If the cinema were a boxing match, Cagney would be the pound-for-pound champ. And he'd be sure to mention Brooklyn along the way."

"I had the opportunity to meet [Kenneth] Anger in Telluride in 1975," writes Peter Nellhaus. "While keeping a respectful distance from them, I watched Anger and Stan Brakhage, two old friends, conversing. I felt like I was a privileged observer of two artistic giants. For Anger and Brakhage, it was a personal moment, while for myself it was witnessing the reunion of the two most revered names in personal filmmaking." As for Films of Kenneth Anger, Volume 1, "While others have perceptively written about Kenneth Anger, it's nice to be able to see or re-see the films with Anger himself discussing his work."

A Moment of Innocence John Adair on A Moment of Innocence: "There is something false in the filming of any image, but [Mohsen] Makhmalbaf attempts to drive at the truthful portrayal of his actors even as they exist in the midst of this false environment."

"Overlord is striking in its originality and meditative tone and just cynical enough to acknowledge the beauty that often accompanies the most horrible acts of mass human cruelty," writes Josh Rosenblatt in the Austin Chronicle.

Nick Davis watches Martha Fiennes's Onegin, "a gorgeous and beautifully judged rendering of Pushkin's classic novel in verse."

The Self-Styled Siren watches Macao: "Like Come and Get It, this is a movie that was taken away from one celebrated director and finished by another, Nicholas Ray. Unlike the logging epic, with this one you don't get a clear stylistic delineation. There are Sternberg moments, and Not Sternberg moments. Little or nothing suggests Ray's innovative framing, his characters' intense sexuality or his interest in the psychology of violence. The younger director appears to have phoned in Macao from a very, very long-distance connection."

"Despite a shoestring budget, hokey models, and slapdash special effects, The Atomic Submarine delivers enough creative storytelling techniques and efficient acting to transform potentially inane set pieces into engrossing adventures," writes Thomas Scalzo. Also at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Rumsey Taylor on Corridors of Blood.

DVD roundups: Sean Axmaker at MSN Movies, DVD Talk, Bill Gibron at PopMatters, Movie City News and Susan King in the Los Angeles Times.

Updates, 4/25: Premiere's Glenn Kenny on the Renoir set: "Yes, the appeal to Renoirphiles is substantial — one wouldn't want to recommend this as a starter set to those who haven't yet seen Illusion or Rules. But one doesn't want to identify its value as strictly academic either. Le Marseillaise is, in particular, a revelatory picture. It's a humanistic but hardly uncritical look at Versailles and the seedbeds of the French Revolution that anticipates both neo-realism and that bit of dialogue from Rules stating that everyone has their reasons."

"The Siren registers polite disagreement with Dave Kehr of the New York Times, and his review yesterday of new DVDs. I hope he didn't mean it when he said that the 1948 Anna Karenina and the double DVD set of the 1935 and 1952 Les Misérables were destined to sit 'somewhere on a back shelf in high school libraries, to be shown whenever an English teacher feels like taking an afternoon off.' Both releases have a great deal to offer film lovers."

Update, 4/27: Susan King reviews the Renoir set for the Los Angeles Times.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:40 PM | Comments (1)

Online viewing and a tip.

Cassavetes You may remember Ray Carney's search for and discovery of the "first version" of John Cassavetes's Shadows; if not, he tells the story here, and I summed up the situation as it stood in May 2004. Now, in the middle of this page, he's posted three brief clips from that version.

On that same page, by the way, Carney is pointing to an archive at Euroscreenwriters featuring over 60 interviews with European filmmakers: "From the obvious masters like Kieslowski, Buñuel or Hitchcock to the modest contributors like Benigni or Andersson." Thanks, Alex!

Posted by dwhudson at 11:45 AM | Comments (2)

Jump Cut. 49.

China on Screen As if the new issue of Jump Cut weren't offering enough reading on "China and China disapora film," Chuck Kleinhans introducing that special section, adds an annotated list of recently published books for further reading.

Anyone prepping for Cannes, whether or not you'll actually be going, will want to get in the mood for Wong Kar-wai (whose My Blueberry Nights opens the festival) with Allan Cameron's piece on the films "which deal most specifically with cultural translation and travel: Chungking Express (1994), Happy Together (1997), In the Mood for Love (2000) and 2046 (2004)."

Stephen Chow, whose latest, A Hope, has been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, has been invited to consult on a Japanese sequel of sorts to Shaolin Soccer, Shaolin Girl. Here, Kin-Yan Szeto examines how Kung Fu Hustle "depicts an imaginary China in ways that commingle various historical and political meanings."

For many, Curse of the Golden Flower, just out on DVD in the US and now opening in theaters in Europe, finds Zhang Yimou teetering on the edge of a rut. Just five years ago, though, Hero heralded "a new era in Chinese filmmaking, one that single-mindedly pushes for market success," writes Jenny Kwok Wah Lau. "Thus, we need to ask what conditions in Chinese cinema affected the emergence of films such as Hero and what does that film's success mean for Chinese films' future?"

Envisioning Taiwan In Envisioning Taiwan: Fiction, Cinema, and the Nation in the Cultural Imaginary, June Yip "addresses Taiwanese identity within a broad framework of theoretical discussions on the relation between popular culture and collective identity, the tension between local and global, and issues of exile and displacement," writes Li Zeng.

Tan See-Kam aims to show "the contemporary discursive relevance of a now-defunct film genre" - Huangmei opera films - "in relation to current transnational film studies, star studies, diasporic studies, and queer studies."

Poshek Fu looks back to the 50s and the Shaw Brothers' rival studio in Singapore and Hong Kong: "I focus on one of its most celebrated films, Air Hostess (Kong zhong xiaozhe), to bring to light the ways Cathay-MP&GI production was intricately intertwined with the changes in gender relations and the Cold War politics of postwar Hong Kong and Chinese cinemas."

Similarly, Kenny KK Ng, who focuses on the studio's "North vs South" comedies of the early 60s and "their pioneering efforts to 'break the barrier between Mandarin and Cantonese films,' as well as [the way they envision] the city as a melting-pot of pluralistic languages and cultures, and its fellow citizens as 'travelers on the same boat.'"

"[T]he use of a specific dialect in a film pertains to nothing less than the symbolic construction of the modern Chinese nation-state," writes Sheldon Lu, who explores "the use of dialects in varieties of Chinese-language films in the early 21st century."

Esther MK Cheung talks with seven critics from the PRC and Macau: "These critics generally share strong convictions in upholding the oppositional nature and critical role of independent cinema."

Who knows where Brett Ratner will take Rush Hour 3, slated for August, but Wendy Gan notes a shift between the original and 2, namely, that Hong Kong "tends to become marginalized in the film's imagining of global relations as US-centric.... Do we find alternative renderings of transnationality in Hong Kong cinema and of what kind?" she asks. "My argument here is that we do and the examination of the Hong Kong films, Comrades: Almost a Love Story and One Nite in Mongkok, reveals a complicated world order where there is more than one center of power and where the tensions of difference are played out in ways that reveal globalization's deployment and maintenance, not erasure, of difference."

Dumplings "Despite the fact some of the early Hong Kong films dealt with social injustice, inequities, and the gap between rich and poor, Hong Kong cinema has rarely taken as its theme the concept of class," writes Wimal Dissanayake. "Only with the work of Fruit Chan do we begin to see the persuasive articulation of class in cinematic terms." And Chuck Kleinhans sees Dumplings as "a disturbing social satire using creepy taboo topics of cannibalism and abortion to pump up the shock and to underline ethical issues of capitalist culture. With a foundation in class politics, the feature interweaves grotesque horror imagery and a critique of the cult of youth and the commoditization of beauty in contemporary consumer society."

Wrapping up the special section, Ting Wang examines how Hollywood forged inroads into the Chinese market long before China's accession to the WTO in November 1999.

One special section is not enough, evidently; there's also a "Spotlight on horror" in Issue 49, opening with Justin Vicari's piece on The Addiction. Having listened to launch of Adrian Martin's translation of Nicole Brenez's Abel Ferrara and having read Girish praise it ("simply a jaw-dropper"), I have little doubt that the neglect of Ferrara in the US which Edward Colless referred to during that launch simply cannot last.

Caetlin Benson-Allott has some provocative thoughts as to why "The Ring takes as its bugaboo VHS."

"As with Buffy, Ginger Snaps subverts the horror genre by providing an alienated cum kick-ass high school chick as its heroine," writes Patricia Molloy. "Yet whereas it is Buffy's reluctant transformation into the Slayer, the overwhelming responsibilities of being the 'Chosen One,' which is the source of her teen angst, Ginger's outsider status as geek is overcome with her transformation into a hypersexualized werewolf."

Stephen Harper takes aim at the "racist, sexist and homophobic elements" in Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse.

Nicola Rehling: "I would like to insert the whiteness as well as the maleness of serial killing into my analysis of the contemporary serial killer movie in order to explore the anxieties that the genre articulates about contemporary US, white, heterosexual masculinity."

Two pieces on "Audio in film and video": Giovanna Chesler on why she teaches sound production before image-making and Andrea Hammer asks, "[H]ow might a habit of listening deeply to what Don Ihde calls 'the noise and voice of the environment, of the surrounding lifeworld' lead to new forms of documentary expression and alternative habits of perception?"

Essays on narrative features:

  • Nina K Martin: "Underneath Down with Love's candy-colored, giddy veneer is the beating heart of a very traditional femininity coupled with a seemingly empowered view of sex."

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Bert Cardullo offers a "brief history" of "interrupting narrative" before turning his attention to Last Days, Tony Takitani, 3-Iron, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Me and You and Everyone We Know.

  • Justin Vicari: "By concentrating on spectacular human failure rather than the unlikely overcoming of adversity, [Brokeback Mountain] suggests that our society's compassion toward its minority groups must be measured not by the anomalous, hit-or-miss success stories that spring up now and then in spite of discrimination, but by the people who drown along the way, the nameless ones who fail to survive."

  • Carter Soles on how Chuck & Buck "engages with male homosexual desire in a way that renders its queer male characters and thematics at least potentially palatable to non-queer-identifying audiences while taking its viewers on a 'stalker's odyssey' that marks the film as pervasively queer."

  • Thelma Wills Foote: "By critically examining the interplay of race, gender, sexuality, class, and age within the context of the contemporary black lesbian subject's relationship to the past, [Cheryl] Dunye's The Watermelon Woman ventures into a territory that the mock-documentary genre has rarely explored."

  • Intan Paramaditha: "Through its cinematic language, Pasir Berbisik explores the dimensions of female gaze and female voyeurism as well as reappropriates the Oedipal narrative structure. It thus offers a new feminine aesthetics that one could hardly find in Indonesian cinema since 1926 until the end of the New Order era."

  • Frank P Tomasulo looks at how Michelangelo Antonioni "uses mise-en-scène and other formal articulations" in L'Avventura "to convey both disgust and sympathy for the Italian bourgeoisie during the postwar 'boom' years."

In Hollywood, gossip has an economic impact. It always has. Anne Petersen examines "the gossip blogger" - and one in particular, Perez Hilton - "in relation to five key aspects of star production - economics, manipulation, fashion, magic/talent, and the nature of the medium - but also... how each element of production is (or is not) influenced by Hilton's status as a gay man. I go on to assert that the gossip blogger's use of new media is, in fact, a stripping of mechanisms mediated directly by Hollywood."

For Jyotsna Kapur, "a recent film/ performance, Mutual Conversations 1979 - 2005 (Mike Covell, 2005)... gets to the heart of confronting the image with the real." And this is relevant, even urgently so because: "In war, the reduction of distance between the image and the real, between the generals in their war rooms and the destruction of life on the battlefield is brutal and irrevocable."

The Anderson Platoon "Such feature-length independent documentaries as Gunner Palace and Occupation: Dreamland offer intriguing accounts of how the war is being represented as it is still taking place and, therefore, how it is likely to be remembered," writes Tony Grajeda, who examines the "limits and possibilities of their historicity" and "their formal and rhetorical framing of truth claims, in part by contrasting them with such Vietnam-era documentaries as the early in-country films The Anderson Platoon (1966-67) and A Face of War (1967), as well as the more well-known In the Year of the Pig (1968) and Hearts and Minds (1974), films noted for their historical contextualization of the Vietnam War and now recognized as documents of the past themselves."

"Mohamed Soueid's passion, compassion, love of lost or unlikely causes, and taste for slapstick are all aspects of a certain approach to the virtual that this filmmaker embraces in his personal documentaries," writes Laura U Marks. "Soueid is a central proponent of the experimental video documentary movement, which is perhaps Lebanon's greatest contribution to contemporary Arab and world cinema."

Robin Murray and Joseph Heumann argue "that Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth mainly succeeds not because of its predictions but because of the eco-memories it evokes. Like eco-disaster films from the 1970s, Gore's film argues most powerfully when it draws on environmental nostalgia, a nostalgia we share for a better, cleaner world."

Francisca da Gama presents "a discussion of two feature films: Francisco Lombardi's The Lion's Den (1988; La boca del lobo) and Marianne Eyde's You Only Live Once (1993; La vida es una sola), in the context of Peruvian historiography and intellectual cultural production."

Book reviews:

Porn Studies

In his "media salad," Chuck Kleinhans considers Notes on Marie Menken, a feature-length doc that "combines samples of Menken's short, intense lyrical films which influenced other makers such as Stan Brakhage (who honored her as the major influence on his own style), and interviews with friends who remember her life and work such as Kenneth Anger, Alfred Leslie, Peter Kubelka, Gerard Malanga and Jonas Mekas." Even so: "This film would have been much better at half the length." Also, a quick review of Russell Campbell's Marked Women: Prostitutes and Prostitution in the Cinema.

Julia Lesage traces the path that's led her to "a new social use for bookmarks or favorites, previously accumulated on individual web browser software," which isn't exactly "participating in a new kind of community," though, of course, there's nothing wrong with that. "My own process of exploring the Internet, especially the social web, has made clear just how located we are historically in our own time and place as learners, and thus also as teachers."

And finally, a "last word" from editors Chuck Kleinhans, John Hess and Julia Lesage: "Today the US has lost strategic focus, pissed away international prestige and credibility, and crippled its ability to respond militarily in the future, while increasing debt, further wrenching trade imbalance, and compromising the domestic economy. With the recent shift in US public opinion, evidenced in the November 2006 Congressional elections, and the subsequent ramping up of US media skepticism regarding the Bush agenda, there seems to be a new terrain for thinking about popular political films." And, as they explain, realism, too.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:54 AM

Midnight Eye. Anime.

The Anime Encyclopedia "The big question (apart from the obvious one of why all three of us are still interested in Japanese cartoons now that we're all the wrong side of our mid-30s) is what has changed" since Midnight Eye was launched online over five years ago, writes Jaspar Sharp in a review of a new "Revised & Expanded Edition" of the volume that "led directly to us starting our book review section," The Anime Encyclopedia. In commercial and pop cultural terms, it's a whole new world, of course, but "has the language and discourse surrounding anime really changed that much"? After wading through the Encyclopedia's sea of infobits, Sharp turns to a collection of essays, Mechademia: Emerging Worlds of Anime and Manga, for interpretation, but: "Anime and manga may now be global phenomena, but from the evidence presented here, [the contributors'] scholarship has adopted a resolutely US-centric perspective."

Johannes Schönherr emails Hiroshi Harada to ask about the "incredibly elaborate 'freak show' events which encompass live theater, live music, acrobatic acts, wild stage settings, freaky characters let loose on the audience" that would frame screenings of Shojo Tsubaki in the 90s - all of which would be sprung as a surprise on the audience. As for the film itself, "it's animated, it's on celluloid, it is about a poor young girl who lives a hard life in a freak show circus, and its scenes often switch from being extremely kawaii to extremely graphic, violent, and at times oozing into the territory of far-out sexual fetishism."

Kihachiro Kawamoto Outside of Japan, only "obsessive manga-heads or art film fanatics" are aware of the work of Kihachiro Kawamoto, supposes Dean Bowman. "Kawamoto's embracing of puppet animation is... imbedded in a culturally specific Japanese tradition of Bunraku puppet theatre.... Despite the cultural specificity of his work, which might act as a barrier to the kind of popular appeal [Hayao] Miyazaki has enjoyed often in spite of his rather abstract approach to narrative, it is nonetheless fitting that The Book of the Dead was premiered at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival during a retrospective of his work in 2005. In 1963 Kawamoto studied for a year in Prague under the Czech animator Jiri Trnka (The Hand), a period that was to cement his passion for the medium and exert a considerable influence on his style."

Catherine Munroe Hotes: "Released in 2005, Thinking and Drawing features a wide selection of animation styles from line drawing to CGI manipulated photographs. The subject matter ranges from feminist allegory to ghostly tales. Although each film has a short running time of between 5 and 17 minutes, the depth of meaning in each is truly astonishing. The films have shown together and separately at festivals in Europe, North America, and Australia."

Paul Jackson finds Koichi Chigira's Brave Story "so steeped in the genre traditions of fantasy cinema and video games, flaws and all, that its characters, settings and storytelling rarely rise above their familiar confines."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:05 AM

April 23, 2007

Shorts, 4/23.

"The timing of [Michael] Moore's film is propitious," writes Alternet's Don Hazen. Sicko "targets drug companies and the HMOs in the richest country in the world - where the most money is spent on health care, but where the US ranks 21st in life expectancy among the 30 most developed nations, obviously in part due to the fact that 47 million people are without health insurance."

The Short Life of José Antonio Gutiérrez

Ed Gonzalez on The Short Life of José Antonio Gutiérrez in Slant: "[Filmmaker Heidi] Specogna evinces scant outrage for the gangsters running our government because her commentary on the complicated role Latino immigrants play in this country is largely implicit." Also, Nick Schager pans The Last Time.

Carol Kino talks with the sons of Alice Neel and her grandson, Andrew Neel, who's made a documentary on the painter. "To position Alice Neel in 20th-century art history, he interviews contemporary artists and scholars, including the painters Marlene Dumas, Alex Katz and Chuck Close; the art historians Richard Brilliant and Linda Nochlin; and the curator Robert Storr. Yet the film's emotional core lies in Mr Neel's intimate conversations with the family and friends who knew his grandmother best, most particularly his father and uncle."

Buddy Bolden Also in the New York Times: A "troupe of seasoned filmmakers and impassioned amateurs struggle to capture [Buddy] Bolden and his world in not one but two, related, movies." Michael Cieply.

"Thailand's ministry of culture has drafted a new Thai Film Act to be submitted to national legislators in an effort to update the kingdom's currently archaic censorship system," reports the Bangkok Post, passing along an item from the DPA. "The debate over film censorship became a news items last week when the award-winning Thai film Saeng Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century) missed its local debut in Thai theatres on Thursday because Thailand's board of censors insisted on cutting several 'sensitive' scenes." Thanks, David! Related online viewing tips. At Big Screen Little Screen, Ted Z points to trailer for Syndromes and Tsai Ming-liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone. Earlier: "petition" and "Syndromes."

David Austin talks with Johnnie To about Triad Election for Cinema Strikes Back.

"Centered on the lives of the oiran, elite prostitutes working in official red light districts of the Edo era, Sakuran has been a surprise hit with Japan's style-conscious young women," writes Bruce Wallace. "[Mika] Ninagawa took her story from a 1990s manga and, on a budget of just $2.5 million, turned it into a mash-up of flamboyant colors, exuberant music and over-the-top fashion."

Also in the Los Angeles Times: "[Darryl] Roberts says he came up with the idea for America the Beautiful after seeing a news report about a photographer who murdered a beautiful model because "if he couldn't have her, nobody could,'" writes Elizabeth Kaye McCall. "The question he's ultimately getting at is whether the preponderance of Americans have become so swayed by appearances that the old adage that true beauty comes from within no longer rings true."

And: "Green is now officially big business in Hollywood," reports Meg James.

Jacques Rivette, le veilleur "Claire Denis supporters are warned upon approaching Jacques Rivette, le veilleur: the imagery for which we have come to love her is only here in embryonic form," warns Travis Mackenzie Hoover at the House Next Door. "Still, Denis's tactile, environmental approach is clearly in evidence here; of a piece with her early work, it suggests both the location specificity and the unmoored personalities that dot films from Chocolat to I Can't Sleep."

Ignatius Vishnevetsky: "The Quiet Man is the sequel to an imaginary film noir: the movie that details John Wayne's life as a boxer in America prior to his return to Ireland."

Some jobs are tough, but someone's got to do them. Matt Riviera's in Morocco.

"The best readings of Inland Empire have rightly stressed the film's labyrinthine, rabbet-warren anarchitecture," writes k-punk. "Yet the space involved is ontological, rather than merely physical."

Robert Altman wasn't playing "the cynic's card" with The Long Goodbye, argues Nathan Kosub in Stop Smiling.

Books:

Sarah Bernhardt: The Art of High Drama

  • "Sarah Bernhardt won't go away. She was born in 1844 and died in 1923, long past her glory days and well out of our reach. Her few silent films are awkward and off-putting. Yet she remains the most famous actress the world has ever known." Robert Gottlieb takes over 60 books into consideration for his piece in the New York Review of Books.

  • Jürgen Fauth reads Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir: "Leni's extreme unreliability (I had the uncanny sense that she started lying around page 5, about a playground incident) adds a layer of uncertainty that makes the book even more intriguing, down to the heartbreaking (or calculated?) last sentence."

  • "In Same Time, Same Station: Creating American Television, 1948 - 1961, James L Baughman performs the basic historian's function of taking a story whose conclusion we all know and showing that it didn't necessarily have to turn out that way," writes Nicholas Lemann in a piece for the New Yorker that also touches on NBC: America's Network, Harry Reasoner: A Life in the News and Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America's Media.

"Offside, for all its humor, has something quite serious in mind: the pain of being an outsider in one's own country," writes Amaya Rivera for Mother Jones. More from G Allen Johnson in the San Francisco Chronicle.

For Entertainment Weekly, Joshua Rich looks forward to "15 Summer Movies We Can't Wait to See." Nathaniel R, who can barely make it past the cover of the new issue. Related: At Cinematical, Erik Davis asks: What'll be the summer's most disappointing blockbuster?

Also, a list from Jeffrey M Anderson: 7 overrrated actors, "all currently working, and each could use a serious career adjustment."

ScreenGrab lists 10 great British directors the Telegraph looked over.

Online browsing and reading tip. Alan Sondheim remembers his lost films with shots of the Canyon Cinema catalog - back when Canyon still handled them: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Online listening tip. Karina Longworth lounges on Spout's FilmCouch. Plus, Gregg Araki talks about Smiley Face.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:28 AM

Fests and events, 4/23.

Balloon in Sarasota First, award-winners. From Syracuse, Dante A Ciampaglia's got the list. And Sarasota? Film Threat lists them and Tom Hall's kaputt.

Film by film, Peter Sobczynski previews Ebertfest (Wednesday through Sunday) at Hollywood Bitchslap.

Darren Hughes lists the films he's looking forward to catching at the San Francisco International Film Festival, which opens Thursday and runs through May 10. Cathleen Rountree previews The Old Garden and Flandres.

Acquarello carries on filing from the Commitment and Grace: The Films of Carlos Saura series, running through May 3, with reviews of Mama Turns 100 Years Old and Elisa, My Love. Related: Reverse Shot's robbiefreeling recommends Cria cuervos, " certainly one of the best Spanish films of its era."

"Odd couple Henry Rollins and Janeane Garofalo bonded last summer over their shared disaffection with the Bush administration and have now teamed up with comedian Marc Maron for an evening of impassioned storytelling titled It's Not a Play and There's No Music," writes Hugh Hart in the Los Angeles Times. "The triple bill played this month in New York and opens Tuesday at the Silent Movie Theatre with a straight-ahead format: three expert talkers performing three solo monologues."

The VES Festival of Visual Effects takes place in Beverly Hills from June 7 through 10.

At indieWIRE, Charlie Olsky files at dispatch from the recently wrapped Wisconsin Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:31 AM | Comments (1)

Tribeca run-up, 4/23.

Maldeamores The Tribeca Film Festival opens on Wednesday and Not Coming to a Theater Near You is ready.

Sandra Guzman previews one of the fest's world premieres for the New York Post: "Benicio Del Toro's latest film project, Maldeamores (Lovesickness), explores matters of the heart, but don't expect a happy ending. The film's tag line says it all: 'Whatever your age, love is a pain the ass.'"

In New York, Logan Hill has a dozen recommendations for anyone making Tribeca plans.

This Is England screens on May 2, and ST VanAirsdale notes that, with the film facing an "18 rating - the equivalent of the MPAA's NC-17," Shane Meadows "is hitting the Guardian's arts blog to make his appeal."

"The Tribeca film festival will feature some fascinating documentaries," writes Marshall Lewy at Alternet. "But as I read about the range of interesting subject matter covered by these docs, it got me thinking more about what the place is for exploring social issues and political ideas in films."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:06 AM

Barbara Stanwyck Centennial.

Barbara Stanwyck "You couldn't tell who Barbara Stanwyck was just by looking at her; it took a little trouble to get to know her, and she had the ability - a star's ability - to make millions of viewers believe she was worth the trouble," writes Terrence Rafferty in the New York Times. "In honor of her centennial, the BAMcinématek at the Brooklyn Academy of Music is offering a modest retrospective - it starts Wednesday and runs through May 6 - and what's striking about the series is that every one of the dozen movies in it depends at least to some degree on the ambiguity of the heroine's character."

Updated through 4/27.

More - much more - from Anthony Lane in the New Yorker: "It was a face that launched a thousand inquisitions: the mouth too tight to be rosy, and a voice pitched for slang, all bite and huskiness. When I think of the glory days of American film, at its speediest and most velvety, I think of Barbara Stanwyck."

Earlier: Jim Emerson, as the centennial was being celebrated in Chicago.

Update, 4/27: "I think science fiction was the only genre she didn't attempt, which was just as well, as she would have told any fearsome bug-eyed monster where to get off." Robert Cashill surveys the series.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:53 AM

Shakespeare Blog-a-Thon.

William Shakespeare The Bard goes Bollywood at Coffee coffee and more coffee, where Peter Nellhaus is hosting the Shakespeare Blog-a-Thon.

Related: Observer literary editor Robert Crum recommends William Shakespeare: Complete Works, edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, "the first to have the exceedingly good idea of providing a fully edited version of Shakespeare's work, as it first appeared in print," and Rene Weis's Shakespeare Revealed: A Biography.

Update, 4/24: Daniel Garrett at cinetext: "Shakespeare Behind Bars: On Crime and Punishment, Literature, and Film Technology."

Update, 4/27: "This month opportunity knocks like the porter at the gate in Macbeth - a stack of Shakespeare books released to coincide with the playwright's birthday on April 23," writes William Grimes in theNew York Times. "Such onslaughts are a time-honored ritual, but this year the pickings are unusually rich."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:31 AM | Comments (1)

April 22, 2007

Filmmaker. Spring 07.

Filmmaker Spring 07 "Mumblecore," "Slackavettes," "neo-slacker," "bedhead cinema." It's tough to find a name for an entity that's so nebulous, so diverse and so new it's hardly an entity at all - and yet, something's going on. In the Spring issue of Filmmaker, Alicia Van Couvering does a damn good job of sketching a moving target, and she does so by first asking the right questions: "When is it time to demarcate a filmmaking 'movement'? What if the filmmakers in this movement don't want to be grouped into any kind of movement at all? And what if the films in this movement revolve around the crisis of self-definition? Could it get any worse for one of its members than to have to talk about feeling self-conscious about being in a movement?"

And there's a sidebar: Joe Swanberg talks about making LOL, and he's followed by "a selective list of some, but not all, of the films that might comprise the mumblecore movement."

James Ponsoldt: "This notion is at the core of Killer of Sheep: what it means to be an adult, and how children learn and internalize grown-up behavior and responsibilities through lectures, through tears, but mostly by silently observing, peeking around corners, usually unbeknownst to their parents. The children of Killer of Sheep are witnesses, sponges - loved and shielded, but not ignorant." He then talks with Charles Burnett.

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis Steve Gallagher on Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis: "A delirious documentary portrait of the artist, Mary Jordan's film immerses the viewer in Smith's work, captured here through film clips, audio recordings and stills, while forcefully arguing for the continuing relevance of his philosophies on art and politics." And he talks with Jordan.

Scott Macaulay meets Marion Cotillard, whose outstanding performance as Edith Piaf is the single saving grace of La Vie en Rose.

Justin Lowe has five online viewing tips, you might say, but there's more to it than that. He asks Little Miss Sunshine filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, The Foot Fist Way director Jody Hill, writer-directors Cory McAbee (The American Astronaut) and Maria Maggenti (Puccini for Beginners) and Finishing the Game director Justin Lin about the films they made for mobile phones as part of the Sundance Film Festival Global Short Film Project - and links to those shorts.

Meanwhile, at the blog: "If you can't do Cannes..." Nick Dawson notes that there are new films on the way to stateside theaters from Takeshi Kitano, Aki Kaurismäki, Shane Meadows and Lars von Trier.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:07 AM

Sight & Sound. May 07.

The Clash: This Is England The May issue of Sight & Sound simply has to have a piece on This Is England, so the editors have made a smart move: Get Jon Savage, author of England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock and Beyond, to write it. (He has a new one out, too: Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture.) So read about The Clash, the general milieu of England in the 80s, and of course, the movie - "Made with tenderness and humor, it is a film about not just national identity and manhood, but also early adolescence, that key moment in identity formation" - and then catch up with the just-updated entry, "Weekend Brits."

To the Italians, with Guido Bonsaver: "Roberto Rossellini's Francis, God's Jester (1950) is one of those rare films that help define not only a director's philosophy, but a national trait and a cultural climate too.... [A]fter the elections of 1948, Italy was fast becoming a more hedonistic, Americanized society. It might have been a cry for help. And it was one that struck a chord in subsequent generations."

Reviews:

  • Tim Lucas considers "a compelling artefact," Schoolgirl Report #1: What Parents Don't Think Is Possible. "Nakedly exploitative on one hand, educationally minded and idealistic on the other, it also has the ring of a revolutionary act, lending its voice to the tensions that had developed by the end of the 1960s between the post-war youth of West Germany and their overly strict, beer-chugging, Hitlerjugend parents."

Sight & Sound: May 07
  • To Germany again, but the other one, with Geoffrey Macnab: "Is it plausible that he could change so fundamentally? Whatever these quibbles, The Lives of Others has a maturity and breadth of vision rarely found in a debut feature."

  • Nick James on Scott Walker 30 Century Man: "[T]he film catches various commentators - Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn, Alison Goldfrapp et al - as they listen to, and are often visibly shaken by, Walker's music. The emotions here are so exposed you would have to be allergic to every aspect of Walker's singing not to experience at least a wobble of empathy. Remembering that existential symphony of the melancholy modern self that is a Scott Walker song gives us pause, as if all other rock music should somehow be ashamed of itself for being so unambitious."

  • "Critics and viewers may be split over the merits of the historical epic 300, but its technical achievement is beyond question," argues Andrew Osmond.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:04 AM

The French, 4/22.

Cahiers: Propositions So the French are voting as I type. Turn out, evidently, is high. If you haven't been following the campaign but you've got 5½ minutes, the audio slide show that accompanies Ariane Bernard's piece in today's New York Times is a fine overview of the candidates and the stakes. If you've got a bit more time this Sunday, see Jane Kramer's piece in the New Yorker; and if you've got all day, there is, of course, the Guardian's coverage.

Cahiers du cinéma, which recently polled the candidates regarding their politique pour le cinéma, lays out its "12 Objectives for Cinema in France." After all, "everything is not very well. As the surveys in Cahiers point out month after month, the problems lie predominantly with aberrations in the support measures that make up our rightly famous "French film system" - aberrations that have ended up reversing the effects they originally intended."

Also:

Paris je t'aime "Paris is the city of lights but also of love, and in Paris je t'aime, 18 renowned directors contribute star-studded vignettes about amour, each set in a different metropolitan neighborhood," begins Nick Schager at Slant. "Typical of such compilations, results tend to vary wildly, though despite roughly an even number of slight successes and minor misfires, the bad nonetheless tends to outweigh the good courtesy of a few preachy and/or ugly episodes that spoil the otherwise light, affectionate mood."

Via Movie City News, Philippa Hawker reflects in the Age on the century-plus-old love affair between Paris and the cinema.

In the NYT, Leslie Camhi previews Emmanuel Bourdieu's Poison Friends. Thibault Vinçon plays André, "the brilliant ringleader of a band of Parisian graduate students... Perhaps only in France could people's literary impulses appear so widespread and insistent that, according to André, they must be controlled, like a physical itch or a psychological compulsion."

Philip French calls this week's DVD club in the Observer to order: Last Year in Marienbad.

Earlier: James van Maanen's coverage of this year's Rendez-Vous With French Cinema: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:50 AM

Jack @ 70.

Rolling Stone: Jack Nicholson "Jack Nicholson is the greatest American movie actor since Cagney, Bogart and Stewart, and he's as much a part of his time as they were of theirs," writes Philip French, introducing the Observer's salute to the rebel-turned-Hollywood ambassador. Wishing Jack a happy 70th: Dennis Hopper, Kathy Bates, Rob Reiner, Susan Sarandon, Robert Towne, James L Brooks, Danny DeVito and Tim Burton.

Xan Brooks blogs: "There are numerous performers who might lay claim to being the ultimate American screen star (I admit to still holding a candle to Brando). But I don't think any of them has enjoyed the sustained run of great performances in significant films that Nicholson boasted in that golden period between 1968 and 1976. This was an astonishing spell, kicking off with Easy Rider and running through Five Easy Pieces, Carnal Knowledge, Marvin Gardens, The Last Detail, The Passenger and Chinatown before wrapping up with his Oscar-winning turn in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Marc Hairapetian had a birthday chat with Nicholson on Thursday for the Frankfurter Rundschau (in German). More congrats in the German-language papers: Michael Althen (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), Tobias Kniebe (Süddeutsche Zeitung), Gerd Midding (Die Welt), Jan Schulz-Ojala (Der Tagesspiegel) and Michel Bodmer (Neue Zürcher Zeitung).

Posted by dwhudson at 5:53 AM | Comments (1)

April 21, 2007

Weekend shorts.

Annie Hall Edward Copeland looks back on Annie Hall as it turns 30 - and sets off a string of fine comments.

Thaicinema.org reports that Apichatpong Weerasethakul is receiving support from some considerable heavyweights in the Thai political and cultural scene in his bid to see the law changed not just so that Syndromes and a Century can screen in its homeland but for the sake of other Thai filmmakers - and audiences - as well. Thanks, Peter! Earlier: "petition" and "Syndromes."

Anne Thompson notes that reviews of Spider-Man 3 by Todd McCarthy and Michael Rechtshaffen (Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, respectively) are up; you'll find a couple more here.

Ed Gonzalez in Slant: "Though the film is mostly interesting as a tour of the cliquey art world and [Allan] Stone's relationship to it, The Collector still feels redundant of documentaries like Who Gets to Call It Art? that have been all the rage in the past few years."

Barry Lyndon Daniel Kehlmann, author of Measuring the World, "my novel about [Carl Friedrich] Gauss and Alexander von Humboldt and their endeavour to quantify and survey the world, about Enlightenment figures and sea monsters, and about the grandeur and comedy of German culture," reflects on daring to place a fiction in the past. For a moment, too, he lingers on Barry Lyndon, "which reconstructs a lost world in intricate detail. It does so by focusing not on what has survived from that period, but on its most ephemeral moments, and by choosing to highlight not the things that we still have in common with that era, but precisely that which separates us from it."

Also in the Guardian:

John S Rad, née Yeghanerad, the accidental auteur of the cult film Dangerous Men, has died," announces Paul Cullum in the LA Weekly. "The film itself defied description: Ostensibly a generic revenge drama begun in 1985, then modified with new characters and plot elements in 1995, the final product - released 20 years after its inception - was governed by a supremely eccentric vision and an aesthetic sensibility somewhere between David Lynch and Ed Wood.... Learned and soft-spoken, Rad was deferential to a fault, while remaining resolute in his personal vision."

"[P]eople who look upon cinema as an art don't necessarily share the same conceptions of what kind of art it is," writes David Bordwell, gently warning that what lies ahead in that entry "will be a bit more theoretical than most. Don't let that scare you off, though; I'm trying for clarity, not murk."

Meanwhile: "[A]lpha fans are enjoying an unprecedented era of influence, through blogs, podcasts and movie-news sites that have become trusted sources of movie information for millions of filmgoers," writes Time's Rebecca Winters Keegan. "And not just on casting decisions. 'They're the new tastemakers,' says Avi Arad, a producer behind this summer's Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. 'Hard-core fans represent a small piece of the viewing public, but they influence geek culture, journalists, Wall Street. You don't want them to trash your project.'"

Adds Richard Corliss: "To [Variety editor Peter] Bart, who once was a Paramount Pictures executive, and to other Hollywood sachems, the ascent of the fanboy critics must be like manna falling from above. They rose from the culture they speak to, they're as obsessed with horror films and special effects as the industry currently is, and they love nearly everything they see. Whereas the mainstream critics - they're so damn critical." What's more, they've never made smash hits; what they can do, he argues, is launch films like Pan's Labyrinth "into the public conversation" and "put films in context."

Triad Election In Triad Election, "the portrait [Johnnie] To paints of relations between Chinese state capitalism and Hong Kong organized crime, a decade after the former British colony was returned to mainland control, could scarcely be bleaker," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon.

In the New York Times:

  • "The fascinating documentary Alice Neel - a biography of this influential, emotionally troubled painter by her grandson Andrew Neel - could easily have been titled 'Form Follows Function,'" writes Matt Zoller Seitz. "It achieves the documentary format's basic goal of illuminating history while also demonstrating, through filmmaking choices, how an artist's style reveals his or her personality." Also, "A Dios Momo, directed by Leonardo Ricagni, is to melodrama as corn syrup is to sweeteners: efficient but crude."

  • "A hackneyed melodrama partly redeemed by a cast convinced that it's performing Tennessee Williams, Downtown: A Street Tale follows a bunch of stereotypically damaged people in an abandoned building in New York," sighs Jeannette Catsoulis.

Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader on Offside: "[Jafar] Panahi becomes more of a master with every movie, combining fiction with documentary so adroitly that we can't tell which is which. In this respect he remains the sharpest of Abbas Kiarostami's disciples."

Ray Pride: "Interminable, morally and psychologically incoherent, it is a soulless bore. Brightly lit, bluntly framed and criminally dim, Year of the Dog is Todd Solondz light, as infuriating as a stone in a shoe on a 90 minute walk somewhere you wouldn't want to go."

"A shameless rip on Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale, The Condemned unseats Slow Burn as the most hilariously inane film of 2007," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant.

"Thus the Western world was saved, at least for a while, from what the film calls 'mysticism and tyranny.' Mysticism? That's what you call fanaticism when you're trying to be creepy rather than dogmatic." Michael Wood in the London Review of Books on 300. Related: "Why is genocide dampening crevices and stirring pocket-linings in a cinema near you?" asks Lenin's Tomb. And John Powers in Art Threat: "300: Racist War Propaganda with Septic Timing."

Death Proof "If anything, Death Proof proves Tarantino incapable of making a film, however derivative the source material or expansive his scholarly, esoteric film memory, that doesn't directly address the realm of his personal obsessions and aesthetic motifs. He is an auteur," writes Brandon Harris. "His film, despite its modest aims, is a by turns uproarious, disquieting and completely satisfying revenge cartoon."

Matt Bartley inducts James Stewart into the Hollywood Bitchslap/EFilmCritic Hall of Fame.

"By encompassing the social, political and economic conditions that caused the problems associated with alcohol addiction and national prohibition, The Wet Parade is markedly different from pictures like Little Caesar that typically don't bother looking at causes at all," writes Thom at Film of the Year.

"Despite [Erich] von Stroheim's dismay at the forced cut of Greed from nine hours to two, the end product is superlative," writes Billy Stevenson.

"[T]he lasting intrigue of The Haunted Strangler remains [Boris] Karloff's villain, how his transformation deprives him of judgment and bestows him with adrenaline-fueled strength," writes Rumsey Taylor. Also at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Thomas Scalzo: "[W]here the slew of alien- and creature-centric sci-fi/horror movies of the 50s focused largely on external terrors, here we have a film [First Man Into Space] presaging the stories of internal torment that would come to dominate the horror genre in years to come - a film centered on a monster that is also a man, an Other that is also us."

Online browsing tip #1. "Italian movies. Posters and publicity." Via Rashomon. Related: Coudal Partners' "Posterpalooza," parts 1, 2 and 3.

Online browsing tip #2. Fun with movie posters and Photoshop at Worth1000. Via Movie City News

Online viewing tips. ScreenGrab's top 10 this week: "The Most Historically Inaccurate Films Ever Made." Parts 1 and 2.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:42 PM

Weekend Brits.

Rock Against Racism "On 30 April 1978, more than 80,000 people took part in a 'Rock Against Racism' carnival in Victoria Park, east London," writes Patrick Sawer in the New Statesman. "Who Shot the Sheriff?, a documentary by Alan Miles that will be screened at the Glastonbury Festival this summer, shows how the movement was sparked by an Eric Clapton concert in Birmingham in 1976 at which, to the dismay of black fans such as the future author Caryl Phillips, the guitarist urged his audience to back Enoch Powell's anti-immigrant stance." Recollections of RAR from the likes of Billy Bragg and others follow.

Updated through 4/22.

Kevin Maher talks with Stephen Graham, "the nervous one in TV's Band of Brothers, the funny one in Guy Ritchie's Snatch, the tough one from Scorsese's Gangs of New York, and the aggressive one in Arctic Monkeys' promo video for their song When the Sun Goes Down. And now, thanks to a role in what is undoubtedly the best British movie since Trainspotting, Stephen Graham, star of This is England, is about to become, simply, the One."

In the Guardian, Shane Meadows remembers the 80s: "As a kid growing up in Uttoxeter, Staffs, it was a time of great music, brilliant fashion and a vibrant youth culture that makes today's kids look dull and unimaginative by comparison. It was also a time of massive unrest when British people were still prepared to fight for the stuff they believed in. My new film, This Is England, is about all of these things.

Distant Voices, Still Lives Also, Beryl Bainbridge on Distant Voices, Still Lives: "After a lapse of almost 20 years, I am still mesmerised by its originality of structure, its use of music, its attention to detail."

"The Wind That Shakes the Barley is [Ken] Loach's best movie," declares Charles Mudede in the Stranger. "If any criticism is to be leveled at Loach's new film, it's not on the grounds of his simplistic moralizing but on these other grounds: the film's stunning landscapes, handsome actors, and cozy interiors dominate the content. The political message is here reduced to the function of being nothing more than a stage for the real star: the exceptional beauty of Ireland itself."

"British Airways cut a cameo by Richard Branson from its in-flight version of the latest James Bond film and blurred out the tail fin of a Virgin Atlantic plane seen in the movie." D'Arcy Doran reports for the AP.

Earlier: "This Is England. And Englishness."

Updates, 4/22: The Independent asks Meadows and This Is England producer Mark Herbert "to pick their favorite young [British] actors, writers, directors and producers, and to tell us why we might soon be seeing their names up in lights."

Chris Sullivan talks with Meadows for the London Times, Bernadette McNulty with Thomas Turgoose, "the 15-year-old star of This Is England," for the Telegraph.

Also in the Telegraph, Sheila Johnston talks with Terence Davies about a film that had a profound impact on him when he was a teen: "'It was extremely brave to make the film at a time when homosexuality was still a criminal offence. Changing the law took another six years. But I think Victim helped: it was part of a general move towards being more liberal.' Did it make Davies feel militant himself? 'Well,' he replies wryly, 'Dirk Bogarde making a stand in the Inner Temple was a bit different from being the youngest of 10 in a working-class family in Liverpool.'"

Back to the Independent: "The films of Terence Davies remain a unique, marvellous anomaly in British cinema," writes Jonathan Romney. "Released in 1988, his first feature Distant Voices, Still Lives had some sort of a context then: it echoed a lineage of British films about working-class life, but also had some kinship with the deeply personal, poetic (and more explicitly avant-garde) films of Derek Jarman and contemporaries. Now re-released, Davies's feature strikes you as not having dated at all - partly because it was never 'of its time' - but also as a melancholy instance of a path opened up in British cinema, and barely followed since."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:01 PM

Weekend fests and events.

"Thus far I've heard the Institute alternatively characterized as a 'boot camp,' a 'fantasy camp for film critics,' and as an 'immersion' in the world of film criticism," blogs Andy Horbal. "In aggregate I think these descriptions give you an idea of the heady mixture of intensity and fun our hosts have concocted for us. This is, basically, the toughest vacation I've ever taken."

Syracuse International Film and Video Festival Goldring Arts Journalists are blogging from the Syracuse International Film and Video Festival, running on through tomorrow.

Andy Spletzer: "The Hidden Life of a Festival Programmer."

A "funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century," writes Rachel Saltz in the New York Times. "As India Now, a series of nine features and two shorts beginning tomorrow at the Museum of Modern Art, shows, the boundaries between Bollywood and not-Bollywood began to blur.... The films at MoMA, none more than two years old, include a documentary, an animated short, a Shakespeare adaptation, a movie inspired by TS Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, a drama about the 2002 Gujarat riots, comedies, tragedies and, of course, some glorious melodramas."

Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai On a related note, the big event: "It has been dubbed Bollywood's wedding of the decade," writes Randeep Ramesh in the Guardian. "Following Hindu tradition in northern India, actor Abhishek Bachchan, 31, rode in on a white horse leading his wedding procession in Mumbai, before circling a fire to marry one of his leading ladies, Aishwarya Rai, 33.... The bride is a former Miss World who became India's favourite actress, while her husband, part of a new wave of heartthrobs, is the son of actor Amitabh Bachchan, who was named the Greatest Star of the Millennium by a BBC online poll, ahead of Marlon Brando, Sir Laurence Olivier and Charlie Chaplin." Also related: Gautaman Bhaskaran's big Bollywood dispatch for the Lumière Reader.

Dana Parsons profiles Le Van-Kiet, whose Dust of Life premieres tomorrow night at the Vietnamese International Film Festival: "[I]t's a gritty look at Vietnamese gang life and the crimes and violence it produced, set against family relationships that provided balm but, unwittingly, also sowed some of the seeds of the teenagers' alienation."

Commitment and Grace: The Films of Carlos Saura runs through May 3 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and acquarello is there: "In The Garden of Delights, Carlos Saura infuses his now familiar, archetypal elements of financial crisis, physical disability, infirmity, and game hunting that were introduced in his seminal film, The Hunt as subversive, iconic symbols for the rigidity of Francoist corrupted ideology, with a healthy dose of blunt, tongue in cheek - and pointedly allegorical - Buñuelian absurdity to create a perversely wry, acerbic, and trenchant indictment of the bourgeoisie, whose unwavering support of General Franco enabled his ascension to (and retention of) power in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War."

Campbell Robertson talks with Frank Langella about playing "an unbelievable bag of neuroses" in Frost/Nixon, opening on Broadway this weekend. Related: Scenes from the play and the original interviews at NPR.

"When thinking about the upcoming San Francisco International Film Festival, music may not be the very first thing that pops into your head," writes SF360's Susan Gerhard. "It may not be the second. But, says SFIFF programmer Sean Uyehara, 'The festival provides one of the best ways to check out amazing performances, whether those performances are live or on film.'" He got a list of ten places to look.

AJ Schnack has a big Full Frame wrap-up - with pix.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:36 PM

Iggy @ 60.

Iggy Pop Iggy Pop is 60 today. To celebrate, Mark Beech reviews Paul Trynka's "fast-paced biography, Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed, which comes as the Stooges are touring together to promote their first studio album in three decades."

More well-wishers: popnutten and Neva Chonin in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Online viewing? You bet.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:07 AM | Comments (1)

Interviews. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Hot Fuzz "With Hot Fuzz, we're drawing attention to the formal quality of action movies by sticking it in a different context, so there is a gentle ribbing, but it's all done with a complete reverence," Simon Pegg tells Jeffrey M Anderson. This is a pretty special edition this time around. Not only do Pegg, director Edgar Wright and Nick Frost make for a fun read as they riff off each other, you can also watch them riff on, thanks to Cabinetic.

"The meta-movie silliness works well enough for the crisp setup," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "But since Mr Wright and Mr Pegg are essentially parodying self-parodies (see Con Air ad infinitum), they have also smartly kinked up their conceit by setting most of the film in a sleepy village that might as well be called Ye Old English Towne, thereby wedding one of the most irritating British exports (see Calendar Girls ad nauseam) to one of the most absurd American ones. Think of it as The Full Monty blown to smithereens."

Updated through 4/27.

"The English have a wellspring of comedy that will never be exhausted: the combination of bestial urges and excellent manners," writes David Edelstein in New York. "Hot Fuzz is fun, and it's nice to see all the English character actors who aren't busy in Harry Potter films, but it lacks its predecessor's freshness.... The ramshackle Shaun of the Dead was held together by more than just gags. It was, at heart, the story of a child-man who gets the courage to grow up—to take responsibility for his life, commit to a woman, and make peace with his mother. That he could do this and still get to blow off the top of her head with a shotgun - that's the magic of movies."

"At a running time of more than two hours, it's a wee bit lengthy," writes Robert Wilonsky in the Voice. "And yet to see it once is to fall in love and want to pay up immediately for another screening, so abundant are the poker-faced gags that race through the quaint village of Sandford in which the would-be-wannabe Bay-'n'- Bruckheimerian blockbuster is set. Hot Fuzz is a cult film writ humongous - a send-up of Hollywood spectacles that's far bigger and better than anything to which it pays homage."

"Hot Fuzz may not quite hit the same level of raucous mayhem [as Shaun]," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "But I think it's even sharper and funnier, and Wright and Pegg never run out of ideas: The movie is streaming with them, and just when you think there really can't be anything left to laugh at, a baddie holds a gun to a poor, runty redheaded kid and sneers, 'Stay back, or the ginger nut gets it!'"

"One week ago in this very space the subject was Grindhouse, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's painstakingly fetishistic, overlong ode to the trashy movies they grew up with," writes Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly. "Now we've got Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's painstakingly fetishistic, overlong ode to the trashy movies out right now. Oh well - at least this one's funnier."

In the New York Press, Armond White sees this as a comparison crying out to be made as well: "Grindhouse - a fanboy bacchanal - ignores the real world and is politically obtuse, while Hot Fuzz mixes the fine English comedy tradition of social and behavioral observation with audacious pop references."

"Hot Fuzz's basic comic strategy," as defined by Adam Nayman at the House Next Door: "the reupholstering of pop detritus into something even tackier.... And while it might sound like heresy to suggest it, Hot Fuzz is quite simply a more enjoyable (and less grueling) experience than Grindhouse. Its trashy affections come unencumbered by sky-scraping pretensions. Put simply, the two films demonstrate the difference between being tipsy on your own cleverness and irretrievably shitfaced."

Dennis Harvey at SF360: "Odd that it took some Brits to finally, definitively satirize a style that's plagued mallflicks for over two decades now - at least in a form without puppets (I will always love you best, Team America: World Police). But there you are."

"Some of the parody here is way past its due date," notes Nick Pinkerton at indieWIRE. "But keeping within what you do best - in this case, a self-deprecatingly English tweak on the blockbuster - without letting the stiffness of routine show is, by itself, an accomplishment."

Jürgen Fauth: "It takes a while for Hot Fuzz to ramp up the action, but in the meantime, the spectacular supporting cast keeps things very entertaining: Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Bill Nighy, and a slew of other familiar faces populate the town with characters that range from oddly endearing to cheerfully creepy."

"[T]he comedy is less Airplane!-style parody than a trickier, subtler mix of affectionate ribbing and fond re-creation," writes Jim Ridley in the Nashville Scene. "Cop movies, after all, are reassuring for the same reasons as cozy mysteries: they restore order."

"Although it sounds odd, Hot Fuzz is like watching a classic Agatha Christie novel stuffed into a semi-automatic weapon, and strapped to the side of some of the best comedic talent working today," writes Erik Davis at Cinematical. It's "an adrenaline-fueled, balls-to-the-wall cup of simmering tea, served up to resemble everything you love about those big-budgeted run-and-gun movies, but with enough British flavor to have this Yank itching for more."

"It is hard to parody material that is already beyond parodying," notes Neil Morris in the Independent Weekly, "so when Wright fashions an extended finale that recreates scenes from Point Break and Bad Boys II or replicates the visual gimcracks of Michael Bay and Tony Scott, it is difficult to divine where the setup ends and the punchline begins."

"Sad as it is to say," though Andrew Wright will say it anyway in the Stranger, "there're more than a few long stretches of just waiting around for a punch line."

Vadim Rizov, writing at the Reeler, finds it "disappointing only according to the high standards set by its predecessor."

But the LA CityBeat's Andy Klein finds it "every bit as funny" at Shaun.

"Whereas the US movie parodies are content to string together gags, often without so much as a segue, Wright and Pegg are storytellers who weave their naughty bits into genuine characters and a plot," notes Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times.

Shaun Brady, writing in the Philadelphia City Paper, finds it more "amiable than hilarious" but "still a worthy successor" to Shaun.

"Hot Fuzz isn't a film without problems but its charms far outweigh them," writes Canfield at Twitch.

"One of the pleasant surprises of the Hot Fuzztival was that Edgar Wright... introduced every single one of the movies that day." Jette Kernion writes up her impressions.

Cheryl Eddy has a fun talk with Wright, Penn and Frost for the San Francisco Bay Guardian blog, Pixel Vision. Keith Phipps has a similar blast at the AV Club.

Robert Abele chats with Wright and Pegg for the Los Angeles Times. More from Marc Savlov in the Austin Chronicle.

For Filmmaker, Nick Dawson talks with Edgar Wright "about his first forays in film, making one of the Grindhouse trailers, and why Robocop makes him cry."

Online listening tip. At IFC News, "Matt Singer and Alison Willmore discuss some of their favorite film cop clichés, from turning in your badge to seizing the cars of private citizens for official police business."

Earlier: British reviews and Nick Schager in Slant; and Sean Axmaker's interview with Pegg and Wright in 2004.

Update: "Here's just the movie for the weekend after the Va. Tech killings: a gun-love comedy about a rural town where, by the end, nearly everyone has been mowed down in a tsunami of bullets." But Time's Richard Corliss manages to catch himself: "We interrupt this rant for a review of the best, surely the smartest, English-language movie of the year to date."

Updates, 4/23: "Consider it the filmic equivalent of a bacon double cheeseburger with a big side of greasy fries," writes Jason Morehead. "It doesn't necessarily attempt to subvert or deconstruct the action genre (though there are scenes that could possibly count as such). Rather, it attempts to simply relish in the genre, to tease out and enjoy every single one of its ludicrous aspects. To that end, it's a wild success - and the fact that it also features some of the most memorable characters, some of the best dialog, and some of the funniest moments of any movie so far this year is just an added bonus."

"[T]hink of Miss Marple pulling a .44 Magnum from beneath her tweeds to waste the local curate, and you're almost there," suggests Anthony Lane in the New Yorker.

Or: "Imagine having a nice quiet dinner with Emma Thompson followed by a violent trip into the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon with Chuck Liddell," offers Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle. "The movie succeeds on both levels, even if the transition is a bit abrupt."

Update, 4/24: Mike Russell has a good long talk with the trio, too.

Update, 4/25: "[F]or all the constant, if somewhat muted comedy, the feeling of the film is very... odd, because for all its humor the movie is essentially playing it straight, and not in the Dr Strangelove sense of reality being so absurd as to be comedic," writes Daniel Kasman.

Updates, 4/27: Stop Smiling gets Rusty Nails to do their Q&A.

In the London Times, Ken Russell - yes, Ken Russell - asks, "How do you sell a movie about the British constabulary in a couple of nervous lines to a board of hardheaded American businessmen?"

Posted by dwhudson at 3:13 AM

April 20, 2007

Paul Fox. Video Q&A.

Everything's Gone Green Everything's Gone Green. "What is the meaning of the title?" is just one of the questions Cabinetic puts to Paul Fox, who's realized Douglas Coupland's screenplay.

"If Generation X spoke aptly to Coupland and his cohort's experience of a more uncertain and impermanent future than that faced by preceding postwar generations," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly, "the harmless, modestly charming Everything's Gone Green feels like a slightly stale rehash of his earlier themes of diminishing opportunities in love and work and a surfeit of false choices in a high-tech world governed by shiny appearances."

"Coupland and director Paul Fox seem to have arrived at the hipster-comedy party about a decade late, and their case of Pabst Blue Ribbon has gotten warm," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "As tepid and profoundly unoriginal as Everything's Gone Green is, it's got a wistful, winsome Canadian-ness that might give it some shelf life. Fundamentally, it's a well-executed formula movie, perfect for first-date couples or miscellaneous group outings. Is it wrong to expect more?"

"Much of it plays like a Don DeLillo novel by way of a sitcom, with good-looking 20-somethings fretting about consumerism and the yuppie mentality and cracking wise about existential predicaments," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times.

"The film's tone is on the sitcom side," agrees Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times, "but its likable cast and zany subplots make it palatable."

"Everything's Gone Green is far from revolutionary," writes Matt Singer at IFC News, "but it is light and fun and won't tax you too much in exchange for ninety entertaining minutes."

"Everything's Gone Green feels fresher than it is, aided by a most appealing cast, and if it doesn't have quite the energy to make a lot of green itself, it deserves a look," writes Craig Phillips at Guru. "If nothing else, it'll make you want to visit Vancouver."

IndieWIRE interviews Fox.

Earlier: Jason Clark at Slant.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:29 PM

Vacancy.

Vacancy "With no zombies, Asian ghost children or clattering symbols of post-9/11 uncertainty, Vacancy feels remarkably pure, almost naive, in its thrill seeking," writes Tim Grierson in the LA Weekly. "As a rebuke to so many horror films, where the terrorizing element springs from some sociological or personal demon, the motel's mask-wearing, knife-wielding psychopaths are blessedly free of subtext, which makes David and Amy's predicament all the more arbitrary and therefore traumatizing.... Happily, the movie is exactly what you think it's going to be, only better."

Updated through 4/22.

"At first glance, Vacancy seems to be the latest entry in the lamentable 'torture porn' genre, whose films mainly involve waiting for the next vaguely sympathetic character to have his or her vital organs pulled out with a fork," writes Sam Adams in the Los Angeles Times. "But director Nimród Antal and writer Mark L Smith are up to something a bit cannier as well as more devious."

"Vacancy runs a very brief 80-odd minutes, but uses its time wisely," writes Ryan Stewart at Cinematical.

But for the New York Times' Manohla Dargis, it's little more than a "banal horror retread."

More from Nick Schager in Slant and Eric Kohn, who interviews Antal for the New York Press.

Update, 4/22: Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times: "[T]he spying that's bothering us in recent films seems to have more to do with the sort of ad hoc, vigilante monitoring we subject one another to than any kind of organized, institutional effort. What concerns them is not Big Brother but the ways in which we've internalized voyeurism, prurience, violence, schadenfreude and self-policing. The fear these new films are expressing is a fear of the spy we know, the person in the next room, at the desk beside us, in the same bed. The fear of the spies we are becoming." Films touched on besides Vacancy: Red Road, Disturbia, Alone With Her, The Lives of Others, Caché and, harking back, The Conversation and Blow Out.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:06 PM

Stephanie Daley.

Stephanie Daley "[T]oo many independent films seem pathologically allergic to melodrama, as if the greatest works of the Western tradition didn't involve war, murder, sexual betrayal and unlikely coincidence," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. Not this one: "Despite an overly abrupt and oblique conclusion, this is a major American film, announcing the arrival of an independent director who deserves all the hype."

Updated through 4/26.

"There is a fine line between a human drama with its own life and an issue-oriented dramatic essay," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "And if Stephanie Daley, written and directed by Hilary Brougher, didn't have its ear so perfectly tuned to intergenerational dialogue, and to the severe language of sex education in schools where abstinence is taught as the only acceptable form of birth control, it would come across as just such an essay."

"By remaining physically and emotionally attuned to her actors (as they are, in turn, to their characters) and not simply the considerable melodramatic heft of her story, Brougher avoids the towel-wringer this unfortunately topical story could have been had it been called, say, The Ski Mom," writes Michelle Orange. "Between [Tilda] Swinton's wounded, watchful eyes and [Amber] Tamblyn's soft internality emerges something that transcends the inherently stale nature of their transactions."

Also at the Reeler, ST VanAirsdale talks with Brougher.

Earlier: Karen Durbin's interview with Brougher for the NYT.

Update, 4/21: "An examination of the Sundance lab films of the 21st century reveals an alarming trend towards homogenization, and Stephanie Daley, a product of the Directors Lab, is a near-perfect example of the negative effect that Hollywood-style development has had on independent film," writes Annie Frisbie in a fine analysis at the House Next Door. "To begin with, Stephanie Daley uses tight causality in a classic setup/payoff dependent structure. Story choices are limited to those that advance the plot, and the tighter the causality, the less able the viewer is to construct alternate meanings."

Update, 4/23: IndieWIRE interviews Brougher.

Updates, 4/26: "There is so much to admire and empathize with in Stephanie Daley that it feels almost boorish to quibble about whether the film needs to come packaged as a murder mystery," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly. "Stephanie Daley is most persuasive as a realist family drama made by a writer-director whose forte is the accretion of quotidian detail that, as much as any crisis, tells us who her characters are. It is also, with luck, a career-clinching showcase for Tamblyn, daughter of my first-ever movie crush Russ Tamblyn."

Jennifer Merin talks with Brougher for the New York Press.

Susan King talks with Tamblyn - Amber, of course - for the Los Angeles Times.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:02 PM

In the Land of Women.

In the Land of Women "Jonathan Kasdan's In the Land of Women is a gentle, sweet-spirited picture about the bewildering qualities of love, about the conflicts that arise in families even when everyone (or nearly everyone) has the best of intentions, about how it's possible to reinvent and reenergize a life," writes Stephanie Zacharek in Salon. "The problem is that the picture is so gentle, it barely leaves an impression."

It's "a softer, fuzzier Garden State," pronounces Stephen Holden in the New York Times.

Updated through 4/23.

"Kasdan (son of Lawrence) isn't much of a director but he's even less of a writer, and his debut's schmaltz plays out like a corny Lifetime-for-men TV movie," writes Nick Schager at Slant.

The San Diego Reader's Duncan Shepherd finds it "a relationship thing at about the Cameron Crowe level of wit and wisdom, although perhaps that name offers itself as a reference point because of the way in which every significant mood or moment is swept up, and along, by a pop song on the soundtrack."

"This is supposed to be a character-driven film, but few of the characters are complex or interesting," writes Jette Kernion at Cinematical.

But for the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan, Kasdan uses "sweetness and concern to make this story of looking for love and finding your way through life unexpectedly interesting."

Quint talks with Adam Brody and Kasdan for AICN.

Updates, 4/23: For the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, it's "an appealing and emotionally satisfying film. But [Kasdan] doesn't know what he's talking about, not really, and though he structures the film around his areas of ignorance, that only works partially."

Sarah Bardin finds it "an engaging, gentle-humored film."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:57 PM

Fracture.

Fracture "Directed by Gregory Hoblit from an enjoyable knotty script by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers, Fracture isn't a great movie," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly, "but it hums with the insidious smarts and theatrical flair that made Hoblit's debut feature, Primal Fear, a classic of its kind." The real revelation here, though, seems to be Ryan Gosling: "He's the kind of actor who makes other actors look lazy. He is Brando at the time of Streetcar, or Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces, and altogether one of the more remarkable happenings at the movies today."

Updated through 4/21.

Michael Guillén adds: "His hotshot sexiness and seemingly insouciant and disheveled intelligence begin to burn quite darkly by film's end and I was pleased to see him follow up his celebrated performance in Half Nelson with a performance at least half as good, though again his moral dilemmas noticeably harken back to his previous performance. This actor can do more with a glint of humor in his eyes - and its removal - than most young actors working today, save perhaps Robert Downey, Jr."

"Anyone who can credibly threaten to steal a movie from Anthony Hopkins has seriously got it going on," agrees Dana Stevens in Slate. "[C]asting Gosling opposite Hopkins in a big-budget legal thriller is clearly Hollywood's way of saying, 'Here he is folks: the next big thing.'"

"Gosling earned the respect of critics in 2001 with The Believer, scored box-office cred in 2004's The Notebook, and an Oscar nomination, Spirit Award and a slew of other kudos for Half Nelson," adds Kevin Crust. "But what Fracture gives Gosling is the kind of pairing that helped elevate Tom Cruise and Kevin Costner to superstardom 20 years ago. Cruise squared off against Paul Newman in The Color of Money and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, while Costner was tangling with Gene Hackman in No Way Out and Sean Connery in The Untouchables. Forget romantic chemistry, it's the mano-a-mano, passing-of-the-torch fireworks that really launches an actor into the stratosphere in the age of the blockbuster."

"Mr Hopkins and Mr Gosling navigate the film's sleekly burnished surfaces and darkly lighted interiors, its procedural twists and courtroom turns without breaking stride or into a sweat," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Fracture isn't a movie about ideas; it's about slick surfaces and suggestive adjectives like rich and poor, good and evil, weak and strong."

Tim Robey in the Telegraph: "There's a touch of Schadenfreude in Hopkins's devious little game, and in the film's: it has picked a hero who needs taking down a notch or two. But it's Gosling who rises, wittily and nimbly, to the challenge."

Stephanie Zacharek in Salon: "The picture is clever, somber, quiet: There's just no reason it has to be as deadly boring as it is."

"Fracture isn't horrible, but it tries way too hard to be clever, and as Spinal Tap once said, there's a thin line between clever and stupid," writes Zack Smith in the Independent Weekly.

On the other hand again, Ryan Stewart at Cinematical: "A refreshingly simple, Grisham-style legal thriller, Fracture lays out its agenda early on and never feels the need to delve into absurdities or tack on sixteen endings in order to complete its business."

Elaine Lipworth has a longish talk with Hopkins in the Independent.

Update, 4/21: For the Los Angeles Times, Rachel Abramowitz meets Hopkins and Gosling in a coffee shop in Santa Monica.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:39 PM

Interview. Francis Veber.

The Valet "As flamboyant and bubbly as vintage Krug, The Valet is typical [Francis] Veber: often populated with despicable characters and washed in world-weary cynicism, but ultimately exuding the optimistic, innocent energy of first love," writes Michelle Devereaux, introducing her interview with the director. "In Veber's world, the 'little' guy is never nearly as little as everyone thinks."

Updated through 4/25.

"Francis Veber has been an industrious source of chipper, very lucrative French screen farces for well over 30 years, working first as a screenwriter, then as a director, amassing credits on such popular titles as La Cage aux Folles and The Dinner Game, as well as a smattering of American remakes," notes Nick Pinkerton at indieWIRE. "The Valet, his latest product, is yet another inconsequential roundelay of playacting and ostensibly comic misunderstandings - there's no cross-dressing or hiding in wardrobes, but it's essentially that kind of movie. Odds that some critic will call it 'as light and flaky as a fresh croissant' are about 2:1."

"If you love to hate the superrich, The Valet, a delectable comedy in which the great French actor Daniel Auteuil portrays a piggy billionaire industrialist facing his comeuppance, is a sinfully delicious bonbon," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "Because its structure and the targets of its satire - vanity, greed and lust - hark back to Molière, The Valet offers a reassuring vision of a fixed social order, bourgeois to the core, in which virtue is rewarded and hubris exposed. For all its cynicism about sex, money and power, it doesn't rock any boats."

"While some of the sight gags on view in The Valet have roots that go back to the great silent clowns, Veber's innate understanding of what makes people laugh, his gift for impeccable timing and for getting his cast to work together like interlocking parts of a fine machine, are difficult to resist," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times.

"After the vaporous whimsy of Avenue Montaigne and now the drippy antics of The Valet, Paris really could use more Gaspar Noé leather infernos," suggests Fernando F Croce at Slant.

Jennifer Merin talks with Veber for the New York Press.

Earlier: "Rendez-Vous. 12."

Updates, 4/21: "Considering that the plot is the thing," writes Nick Schager at Cinematical, "it's somewhat disheartening to find that the film doesn't contain a single moment that would qualify as a bona fide surprise."

"I put down Robert Zemeckis's Used Cars as the funniest movie I had ever seen in my responses to the personal movie quiz I posted earlier this week, but if I had thought about I might have picked Veber's The Dinner Game (1998), which come to think of it may be the funniest movie I have ever seen in a theater, to judge by the constant laughter that greeted the film when I saw it," recalls Robert Cashill. "The Valet is a milder film, still funny, but rarely explosively so. It's comforting to know that somewhere in a world that seems colder and crueler by the week someone is still writing doctor jokes, and still wringing chuckles from them."

Update, 4/23: "Veber films in general give a strong, time-puncturing hint of what it was like to sit in a Paris theatre in 1907 and watch a Feydeau farce," writes Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. "To be honest, The Valet does not show Veber at his best. His palate for misunderstandings of every vintage is as refined as ever; what he has lost is his taste for human failing."

Update, 4/25: Peter Sobczynski talks with Veber for Hollywood Bitchslap.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:09 PM

Fests and events, 4/20.

Tribeca "More than any other American film festival it operates from the premise that the movies wouldn't be the movies without some Barnum & Bailey razzle-dazzle and Hollywood tinsel." In the New York Times, Stephen Holden previews the Tribeca Film Festival, opening Wednesday and dominating New York through May 6.

ST VanAirsdale talks with author, NYU prof and Telegraph film critic Sukhdev Sandhu about the South Asian Underground Film Festival, which he's organized and which runs through Sunday - and with Anna Paquin, who stars in Blue State, set to premiere at Tribeca.

Also at the Reeler: Christopher Campbell listens to Slavoj Zizek introduce Duck Soup.

Film-Makers' Cooperative Third Annual Benefit Concert: Monday evening in New York.

Hamburg's Thalia Theater sees the world premiere of a stage adaptation of From the Life of the Marionettes, "my only German film," as Ingmar Bergman calls it.

Chicago Latino Film Festival The Chicago Palestine Film Festival opens today and runs through Thursday; the Chicago Reader previews the highlights. Also, reviews from the ongoing Chicago Latino Film Festival (through Wednesday), Earth Day (Sunday) in Chicago and Version 07 (through May 6).

"It has to be acknowledged that the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival is not terribly exciting," writes Annie Wagner at the Stranger. "But recently Three Dollar Bill Cinema, which produces SLGFF, has been programming brief, carefully considered series at Northwest Film Forum in which every film is worth seeing."

Bryan Hendrickson rounds up more Seattle-area goings on for the Siffblog.

Great to Be Nominated honors "the film from each awards year that received the most nominations without winning best picture," notes Susan King in the Los Angeles Times. On Monday, the Academy's screening of Star Wars features "a post-movie discussion with [George] Lucas as well as editor Richard Chew, visual effects wizards John Dykstra, Richard Edlund and Robert Blalack and art director Leslie Dilley."

The Miami Beach Film Society's Francis Ford Coppola series in May will feature screenings of his forthcoming Youth Without Youth and a new documentary, CODA: Thirty Years Later, which is described as more than just a making-of-YWY. That'll screen on May 23, followed by a Q&A with Coppola. Rene Rodriguez had more at the Miami Herald's Reeling.

The Philadelphia Film Festival wrapped on Wednesday and Scott Weinberg's been reviewing up a storm at Cinematical: Unholy Women, Taxidermia, The Kovak Box, Dead Daughters, Cages, American Fork, Wicked Flowers, Exiled, The Living and the Dead and End of the Line.

Kerem Bayraktaroglu wraps the Istanbul International Film Festival at indieWIRE. The top award went to the Norwegian festival darling, Reprise.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:47 PM

Up-n-coming, 4/20.

Middlemarch "Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes has announced he plans to make the first big-screen version of the George Eliot novel Middlemarch." The BBC reports.

Variety: "Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman will star in Doubt, the screen adaptation of the John Patrick Shanley play for Miramax Films that begins production in New York on Dec 1."

"Fresh from their roles in Ocean's 13, Brad Pitt and George Clooney are preparing another co-starring venture in the new film from the Coen brothers," reports the Guardian. Burn After Reading is "a black comedy that is based on the brothers' first original screenplay since 2001's The Man Who Wasn't There."

"For the sake of a friend in need, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is stepping back in the cast of John Woo's The Battle of Red Cliff after Chow Yun-fat's sudden departure." Wolf's got the news at Twitch.

Meantime, once again, Alison Willmore does lots and lots of up-n-coming heavy lifting at the IFC News blog.

More news of productions in the works from european-films.net, where Boyd van Hoeij has more details on each of these:

Christopher Columbus

Also at european-films.net, Boyd talks with Morten Hartz Kaplers, whose mockumentary AFR "sees him play a rent boy and squatter who has a stormy relationship with the current Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is seen in archive footage and whose initials make up the title, JFK style."

"Having made the monstrous mess of a movie that was Boxing Helena, one would think that writer-director's Jennifer Lynch's career was over before it had even begun, but this week, disturbing news reaches Time Out towers," reports Chris Tilly. "After nearly 15 years in the cinematic wilderness, Lynch will be allowed back behind a camera to shoot a supernatural thriller entitled Surveillance.... [H]er father David will produce, and the cast includes Pell James, Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman (who must be a glutton for punishment having also appeared in Boxing)." Is he thinking of Bill Paxton?

Posted by dwhudson at 1:24 PM

Full Frame Dispatch. 3.

A postscript from the cinetrix.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival For the second year in a row, inclement weather drove the Full Frame Awards Barbecue off the plaza and into the Durham Armory. No matter: pulled pork and the vinegary tang of east North Carolina-style sauce taste good anywhere. The buzz of anticipation was underscored by a string band and anxious conversations about how - and whether - attendees would be able to fly out of Raleigh-Durham in the midst of an April Nor'easter.

First-time director Pernille Rose Gronkjaer had no worries on the weather front. She'd stayed home in Demark, leaving producer Sigrid Helene Dyekaer the happy task of accepting The Charles E Guggenheim (yes, those Guggenheims) Emerging Artist Award for The Monastery on Gronkjaer's behalf. A beaming Sigrid held up her cell phone so that Pernille could hear the audience's wild applause. After she hung up, Gronkjaer must have headed right out to find some celebratory champagne, because she didn't answer when Dyekaer took the stage a second time to accept the Grand Jury Award from Ric Burns, John Sinno and Kirby Dick.

The Devil Came on Horseback The other big winner was Annie Sundberg, whose already acclaimed Darfur doc, The Devil Came on Horseback, shared Walter Mosely's Seeds of War prize with another African documentary, Uganda Rising, and scored the Full Frame/Working Films Award, which grants filmmakers cash and in-kind promotional support. Both films were part of this year's sidebar, Africa Stories. As Full Frame director Nancy Buirski noted in the program: "Festival sidebars are typically planned years in advance, researched and curated with expertise and care. I wish we could claim credit for such foresight. In the case of the film series we are calling Africa Stories, we can only claim wisdom for recognizing a dynamic trend in filmmaking that revealed an urgent need to deliver stories about the continent."

On a personal note, the cinetrix had her worst awards ceremony showing yet, managing to see exactly none of this year's winners. (What can I say? It's a gift.) Yet I still saw a slate of astonishing films - truly not a disappointment in the bunch - which speaks to Full Frame's impressive depth of programming. Granted, some were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, like La Vie Commence Demain and Superstar (on 16mm!). But you too can catch plenty of standouts in the coming months. To name only a handful: Jessica Yu's Protagonist and Asger Leth's Ghosts of Cite Soleil play next at the Atlanta Film Festival. Helvetica is slated for Hot Docs. And Alex Gibney's riveting Taxi Driver to the Dark Side, which officially debuts at Tribeca, is not to be missed.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:12 AM

Laurens Straub, 1944 - 2007.

Laurens Straub In 1970, Dutch writer, producer and occasional director Laurens Straub was, along with Fassbinder, Wenders, Volker Vogeler, Hark Bohm and others, one of the founders of the Filmverlag der Autoren, a milestone in the early history of the New German Cinema. It was, in essence, a DIY distribution cooperative. In the 80s, he and Horst Schier produced, among other films, Frank Ripploh's Taxi zum Klo, Richard Blank's Friedliche Tage, Radu Gabrea's Ein Mann wie EVA and Herbert Achternbusch's Rita Ritter.

The German Press Agency reports that Straub has died at age 62. For last year's celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Hof Film Festival, Straub recalled some of his best years at one of Germany's most vital annual gatherings and it's there that you can get a sense, in English, of what he held dear: "Unity of place and film utopia. Dreamlike. Congenial. Brotherliness.... The most important thing is that our films exist."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:34 AM

Jean-Pierre Cassel, 1932 - 2007.

Jean-Pierre Cassel
French actor Jean-Pierre Cassel, who shot to fame as the star of film comedies by director Philippe de Broca in the 1960s, has died after a long illness, a statement from his entourage said Friday.... During his career in which he starred in more than 110 films, Cassel worked with some of the biggest names in film including Claude Chabrol, Robert Altman, Luis Buñuel and Richard Attenborough.

[...]

His son, actor Vincent Cassel is married to the Italian actress Monica Bellucci.... Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres praised Cassel as "a perfect example of an accomplished artist whose aura was as refined as it was popular."

The AFP.

See also: Wikipedia (English and French).

Posted by dwhudson at 8:25 AM

Black Book. Again.

Black Book "As someone who undervalued the political smarts of Basic Instinct and Showgirls when they first appeared, I'm probably not the best one to fault others for not taking [Paul] Verhoeven seriously, but I still have to say that, ethically speaking, Black Book seems far less vulgar than a feel-good Holocaust movie like Schindler's List," writes Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader. "In fact, part of what I admire about Black Book is how it offers a kind of bracing rebuke to Schindler's List, providing a much darker vision that refuses to let its audience off the hook so easily, though ostensibly it's more fictional."

"Within 30 seconds of meeting Verhoeven, it's immediately apparent that the potent and sometimes uncontrolled life force that pulses through his films comes directly from him," writes Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper. Also: "In some ways, Black Book is a dangerous movie, but it's the right kind of dangerous."

The LA Weekly's Ella Taylor might disagree: "[W]e live in dodgy critical times when aesthetic sophistication trumps moral and political discrimination. And when pop aestheticism reaches all the way from effusing over the ritualized violence and reverse feminism of a Sin City or a Grindhouse to heaping laurels on a movie that pits sensitive Nazis against treacherous resisters, it may be time to get uncool and start pointing the finger."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:15 AM | Comments (5)

Noir City. Video Q&A.

Noir City LA Noir City: Los Angeles vs New York: The 8th Annual Festival of Film Noir barrels on at the Egyptian and Aero theaters in Los Angeles through May 2. Now at the main site, Cabinetic presents an onstage Q&A with Marsha Hunt (Raw Deal, Kid Glove Killer) conducted by Eddie Muller during the San Francisco edition of Noir City in January.

For the Los Angeles Times, Susan King talks with Muller, who tells her "that one of the differences between New York and LA noir is that in the former, 'the characters want to escape the big city, the teeming metropolis. In LA, you get to the Promised Land and you realize there's no escape. I find the most effective LA noirs are always set in places where there is an horizon, which you don't see in New York noir.'"

Posted by dwhudson at 12:51 AM | Comments (1)

April 19, 2007

Fests and events, 4/19.

East End Film Festival For the Independent, Charlotte Cripps previews the East End Film Festival, which opens tonight with Julian Cole's With Gilbert and George.

Looks like quite an event: The Moving Image Institute in Film Criticism and Feature Writing. The schedule, with those speakers and journalists, ought to be pretty productive. Tomorrow through Tuesday.

Dispatches from the Sarasota Film Festival: David Lowery and Michael Tully.

Scott Foundas reviews the highlights of the final days of this year's City of Lights, City of Angels festival. Through Sunday. Also in the LA Weekly, Holly Willis: "Before his death in 2005, avant-garde filmmaker Mark Lapore spent many years traveling the world documenting people and places with a rare intensity and unequivocal gaze." The Intimate Distance: A Tribute to Mark Lapore takes place Monday night at REDCAT.

And Susan King points out some of the best of what else going on in and around LA for the Los Angeles Times.

"The 2007 Boston Cyberarts Festival takes place April 20 - May 6 at museums, galleries, theatres, universities, and public spaces in and around the Boston area."

Britspotting, a festival of British and Irish films, opens tonight in Berlin and runs through Wednesday before moving on to Munich (May 10 through 15) and Stuttgart (May 17 through 23).

Visions du Réel, tomorrow through April 26 in Nyon.

Dead Channels' final Sleazy Sunday offers "an eccentric, tasteless, and delightful triple bill of movies that passed well under the mainstream radar when first released," writes Dennis Harvey at SF360.

Michael Hawley lays out his "SFIFF50 Gameplan" at the Evening Class. April 26 through May 10.

The Subjective Camera is a "series of retrospective film screenings of six film artists whose work examines subjectivity with an analysis of film language. Emerging within the context of the London Filmmakers' Co-op during the 80s and 90s, these artists each developed an independent practice that at once built on and countered the principles of the Structuralist film movement of the 70s." Wednesdays in London, beginning next week.

The San Francisco International Arts Festival: May 16 through 27.

At european-films.net, Boyd van Hoeij has the first four titles in competition and more from the first round of announcements from the Karlovy Vary Film Festival (June 29 through July 7).

"Winning a festival's audience award is getting to be old hat for Guido Thys's Tanghi Argentini, which followed up its amazing success at this year's Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival with a similar triumph at the 16th Aspen Shortsfest," writes Kim Adelman at indieWIRE.

Online viewing tip. Scott Westphal-Solary posts a teaser for The Reeler's Tribeca coverage.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:55 PM

Wrapping Full Frame.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival "By almost all accounts, Full Frame's 10th anniversary was a smashing success," writes Neil Morris. "Yet, the record turnout does not jibe with the feeling of many perennial attendees that there was a perceptible drop in the energy level at this year's festival." Also in the Independent Weekly, Fiona Morgan: "The selection of frameset films included everything from tedious, personal video journals to virally popular humor to serious international reporting."

"Despite the Full Frame's growing number of world premieres, market action remains minimal here, which helps explain the unusual sense of calm at this festival, one where academics and activists outnumber autograph-seekers 10 to one, and where legendary documentarians can be seen lining up alongside ordinary folks for both film and food," writes Rob Nelson in the Voice, where he describes a few choice offerings, including one hand-picked by DA Pennebaker, "La vie commence demain, an obscure French intellectual primer from 1950 in which the likes of Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre appear eminently approachable to our host, a film noirish tough guy who scratches his head and shows up on the Parisian doorsteps of various implausibly gracious geniuses." Also: What Enron director Alex Gibney's been up to.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:21 PM

Hammer.

Oldboy / Cho Seung-Hui "So, the New York Times has identified the guilty party, and it's Park Chanwook." Dave Kehr's terse comment: "Ridiculous, as well as faintly racist."

"And if you want to argue that this violent film provoked this disturbed young man to commit this atrocity, you should be prepared to explain why all those who saw Oldboy, and The Matrix, and Saw, didn't do the same," adds Time's Richard Corliss.

"I really didn't like Oldboy," writes Robert Cashill, "but can better see what Park was driving at regarding love with the other two films [in the 'revenge trilogy']. Alas, the shooter does not seem to seen the forest for Park's trees." And: "In the spirit of inquiry, and to shed a little light on the subject for anyone unfamiliar with the films, I've decided to post a discarded draft of an article I wrote for last summer's Cineaste." The first question in the interview: "Some audiences find it difficult to look past the violence of your films. Is your main intent to shock and provoke?"

Updated through 4/23.

On a related note, Chuck Olsen: "Cho was not a vlogger."

Update: Mike Nizza, the NYT blogger who got all this going in the first place, steps back: "With Mr Cho expressing so many other reasons for his shooting spree, it is hardly time to start blaming movies."

Updates, 4/20: Well, for Gerald Kaufman, opining in the Telegraph, there's no question - Cho was "directly inspired by a recent South Korean splatter movie, Oldboy," and the MP feels it's high time to revoke "the apparent God-given right of every film-maker to depict what was described in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange as 'lashings of the old ultra-violence.' In fact, the so-called ultra-violence in that movie, though deeply unsettling, was as nothing compared to the sanguinary content of Oldboy or of the John Woo murder movie Face/Off, which Cho seems also to have seen and, Heaven help us, been inspired by."

"A Virginia Tech professor, Paul Harrill, alerted us of the similarity between images," wrote the NYT's Mike Nizza in the blog post that set off the storm. The Paul Harrill who writes Self-Reliant Filmmaking came to mind, but I had no idea he was one and the same. Now he's posted a "Last Word on the Subject": "Let me be clear: My comparison of these two images was not meant to suggest in ANY way that movies, any movie, 'made him do it.' Likewise, my comparison of these two images is IN NO WAY an attempt to make ANY generalizations based on racial, nationalistic, or any other sorts of lines.... My point in all of this, however misguided the effort, was to initiate a conversation about what Jill Godmilow calls 'the pornography of the real' - in this case, news outlets using a mass murderer's fantasies as sick spectacle and - let us never forget - as a source of revenue."

Grady Hendrix at Slate: "In the end, Oldboy bears no more responsibility for the Virginia Tech shootings than American Idol, but it's fortunate that it has come up. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter a few years ago, Oldboy's director Park said, 'My films are the stories of people who place the blame for their actions on others because they refuse to take on the blame themselves.' And that's one of the smartest things that anyone's said so far about the motives of Cho Seung-Hui."

Update, 4/21: "One of the most jolting moments at this year's Sundance Film Festival came in the closing sequence of a movie called Dark Matter: A disaffected Asian college student abruptly snaps and goes on a bloody rampage, killing professors, classmates and, finally, himself. The audience was plainly shocked, and some critics attacked the finale as a jarring gimmick that, narratively, came out of nowhere." Jeff Goldsmith reports in the Los Angeles Times: "At the close of Sundance, film distributors seemed unsure what to do with such a bleak film, and it was uncertain whether it would be released theatrically or go straight to DVD. Now the film is getting interest again as a theatrical release."

Update, 4/23: "We have been here before," writes AO Scott in the NYT. "The extreme, inexplicable actions of a tiny number of profoundly alienated, mentally disturbed young men have a way of turning attention toward the cultural interests they share with countless others who would never dream - or who would only dream - of committing acts of homicidal violence." He then goes on to address the outlandishly absurd piece Stephen Hunter dribbled onto the pages of the Washington Post last week.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:34 PM | Comments (3)

RWF/TLS.

TLS: RWF Leo A Lensing seems to hang with a different crowd here in Germany than I do: "Even if Fassbinder's homeland has been slow to recognize his high standing in film history, the rest of the world has not," he writes in the Times Literary Supplement. If Lensing means - and I don't think he does - that it's only in Germany that RWF was, during his lifetime, as reviled by conservatives as he as revered by the left, he might have a point. Regardless, his review of three newish books is an important reminder to cinephiles of the work that engaged RWF's feverish energies before he devoted them to his films.

The books:

Im Land des Apfelbaums

  • Referring to the essay Fassbinder wrote on Alfred Döblin for Die Zeit in 1980, the piece Justin Vicari explored so rewardingly for the Film Journal a year ago, Lensing reminds us that RWF was a voracious reader. "Im Land des Apfelbaums (In the Land of the Apple Tree), an elegantly edited collection of unpublished texts from the rich archival trove of Fassbinder's literary juvenilia, demonstrates that the young reader also became a precocious writer."

  • "The new edition of Fassbinder's dramatic works has been given the more provisional title Theaterstücke (Theatre Plays), presumably in anticipation of further unpublished plays and fragments surfacing from the archives."

Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the German Theatre
  • "Even if one divides Fassbinder's writing for the theatre neatly into obvious categories - the unpublished early problem plays, the radical experiments at the limits of linguistic performability, the aggressive adaptations of classical and traditional plays, and the late operatic melodramas - it is not easy to make sense of the breakneck evolution of his theatrical and dramaturgical ideas or of his place in the literature of West Germany.... Thanks to David Barnett's new study, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the German Theatre, the first book devoted exclusively to the full range of what he calls Fassbinder's 'theatrical activities,' we now have the framework for a more dispassionate investigation into just how much more complex and interesting this part of his career actually was."

Posted by dwhudson at 11:37 AM

Austin Chronicle. Cine Las Americas.

Cine Las Americas "With 10 years under its belt, the Cine las Americas International Film Festival continues to perfect the balance between film festival and cross-cultural education. Universal, human themes abound textured by the unique and wildly varying cultures under the umbrella of 'the Americas.'"

The Austin Chronicle presents an extensive preview of the fest that opens today and runs through April 26.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:46 AM

Cannes. Lineup.

Cannes @ 60 First, click and take a look at that poster. If that doesn't put a smile on your face...

Anyway, the lineup. The buzz was in tune: Wong Kar-wai's My Blueberry Nights will indeed open the Cannes Film Festival (May 16 through 27).

Also lined up:

Updated through 4/23.

And Denys Arcand's L'Âge des ténèbres will wrap the festivities.

Screening out of competition: Michael Moore's Sicko, Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Thirteen and Michael Winterbottom's A Mighty Heart.

The feature films jury: Stephen Frears (prez), Maggie Cheung, Toni Collette, Maria de Medeiros, Sarah Polley, Marco Bellocchio, Orhan Pamuk, Michel Piccoli and Abderrahmane Sissako.

Cine?fondation and short films jury: Jia Zhang-ke, Niki Karimi, Deborah Nadoolman Landis, JMG Le Clezio and Dominik Moll.

Un Certain Regard Un Certain Regard:

More titles, more events, more sections: indieWIRE.

Comments and notations so far: Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net.

Updates, 4/20: The Guardian's Xan Brooks: "British cinema was effectively shut out of the Cannes film festival with the announcement that no domestic titles are to feature in this year's competition."

Simon Crerar's headline in the London Times: "Americans dominate Cannes line-up."

Deutsche Welle (in English) on Fatih Akin's entry: "His film tells the story of six people whose lives take unexpected turns. As he did in Head-On, Akin explores the often emotionally laden points where Turkish and German culture intersect."

"[W]ith due respect to a very good film festival, it seems anxious to become more irrelevant to the American marketplace every year." David Poland explains.

Jeffrey Wells hears why Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream won't be at Cannes - and a bit more about the film, too.

Geoffrey Macnab picks out the films to look forward to... "But why - Winterbottom aside - the absence of Brits? Given that Ken Loach won the Palme d'Or last year, this perhaps shouldn't be a cause for concern. Then again, it is always at least a slight embarrassment for the UK film industry when there are no local movies to cheer on."

Updates, 4/21: Nathaniel R comments on every film lined up for the Competition.

Glenn Kenny's got notes on some of those films - and on the films he thought might make it but didn't.

Update, 4/23: Fabien Lemercier has a quick overview of other goings on during the festival at Cineuropa.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:33 AM | Comments (4)

Hot Docs. Preview.

Hot Docs Doc producer, writer and director Shannon Gee is off to Canada.

I personally may be flying from Seattle, Washington to Toronto, Ontario, but at this year's Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, which runs from April 19 through 29, people will go to the moon.

In the Shadow of the Moon

The opening night film is David Sington's In the Shadow of the Moon, the story of the Apollo astronauts. As the largest documentary festival in North America, Hot Docs will also take audiences to World War II, (Nanking, Wings of Defeat), Darfur (The Devil Came on Horseback), rock and roll camp (Girls Rock!), Andy Warhol's Factory (A Walk Into the Sea), a Chinese circus (Circus School), the voting booth (a special program lineup called Doc the Vote!) and the very specifically titled To Costco and Ikea Without A Car (it's a five-minute short, but it's as intriguing as a lunar landing as far as I'm concerned.)

Helvetica

With a 129 documentaries to choose from, there's definitely something for everyone. The opening weekend includes the world premiere of Let's All Hate Toronto, a look at the hows and whys Canadians love to hate their most metropolitan city; Zoo, the sex-with-a-horse doc that premiered at Sundance 2007 and surprised many with its poetic and non-exploitative take on the subject; Yoga, Inc., an examination of the westernization of the ancient practice; Helvetica, a documentary about the world's most used font and its role in history; King Corn, the story of two college buddies who decide to try their hand at growing America's most productive and government-subsidized grain; and Miss Universe 1929, a profile of the only crowned Miss Universe from Austria, as told by her cousin Marci.

Heddy Honigmann

The festival will also showcase a retrospective of work by Canadian documentary filmmaker Kevin McMahon (The Falls, In the Reign of Twilight, Intelligence, McLuhan's Wake), and recognize Dutch filmmaker Heddy Honigmann (Crazy, Metal and Melancholy, Private) with an Outstanding Achievement Award.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:08 AM

April 18, 2007

Shorts, 4/18.

The Show Must Go On "In his debut feature Rules of Dating, director Han Jae-rim transformed a relationship drama into something unexpectedly real and frank, while also exploring issues of power, gender and sexual harassment," writes Darcy Paquet at Koreanfilm.org. "There was an underlying tension in that film - sexual, moral, aesthetic - that propelled it forward. In the gangster film The Show Must Go On, it's not so much tension as a sense of irony." Also, Cruel Winter Blues: "Director/screenwriter Lee Jeong-beom's debut feature, like the now-classic Korean melodrama Failan, drags us deep into the psyche of an emotionally shattered gangster in the hopes of uncovering a hint - but perhaps only a hint - of human warmth."

Jeannette Catsoulis: "Wang Bing's epic, three-part documentary, Tie Xi Qu: West of Tracks, is an astonishingly intimate record of China's painful transition from state-run industry to a free market."

Also in the New York Times:

  • Julia Moskin has a piece in the Dining & Wine section on the pies in Adrienne Shelly's Waitress. Jenna, played by Keri Russell, "invents an I Hate My Husband Pie (bitter chocolate drowned in caramel), then Baby Screaming Its Head Off in the Middle of the Night and Ruining My Life Pie (cheesecake, brandied pecans, nutmeg), and finally Earl Murders Me Because I'm Having an Affair Pie (juicy crushed berries in a dark chocolate crust)." As you watch, keep this in mind: "All the pies on the set were edible."

  • Alan Riding talks with Julie Christie about growing older, shunning celebrity and why she agreed to play Fiona in Sarah Polley's debut feature, Away From Her.

  • Matt Zoller Seitz has a brief review of Alejandro Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain, "a dazzling, rambling, often incoherent satire on consumerism, militarism and the exploitation of third world cultures by the West."

Goya's Ghosts "This is not a biography at all. It is a fiction," Milos Forman tells Geoffrey Macnab for a piece in the Independent on Goya's Ghosts.

Christopher Orr in the New Republic: "Curse of the Golden Flower (now out on DVD), does not kowtow to tyranny as explicitly as Hero, but the similarities are difficult to miss: another murderous emperor, another rebellious hero, another devious conspiracy - and another concluding moral that is, at best, morally dubious."

"Anyone's who's seen a Michael Haneke film will know where Benny's Video is headed from its opening VHS images of a pig's slaughter," writes Nick Schager. He's none too happy with The Seventh Continent, either.

"Why has everyone written about Leonard Zelig in Woody Allen's film Zelig, but no-one has written about Eudora Fletcher?" asks Irene Dobson at Flickhead. "The film is a tribute to her." (Side to Ray: Is that the actual poster? I seem to remember that it is. Regardless, just brilliant.)

Over at the Siffblog, E Steven Fried seems to have had a horrible time - but an intriguingly horrible time - watching the 1969 doc A Married Couple (more).

Who's Camus Anyway? Peter Nellhaus on Who's Camus Anyway?: "Unlike the name-dropping in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, [Mitsuo] Yanagimachi's dialogue is smarter in its references, more interesting to listen to, and organic to the narrative." It "begins as a cheerful celebration of films and filmmaking, but concludes as an inquiry into how art and reality collide, affecting our selves and each other."

Everyone's pointing to Josh Horowitz's interview for MTV with writer and director Frank Darabont, who tells him, "I spent a year of very determined effort on something I was very excited about [the screenplay for Indy 4], working very closely with Steven Spielberg and coming up with a result that I and he felt was terrific. He wanted to direct it as his next movie, and then suddenly the whole thing goes down in flames because George Lucas doesn't like the script... I said, 'You have a fantastic script. I think you're insane, George.' You can say things like that to George, and he doesn't even blink. He's one of the most stubborn men I know."

Hillary Frey explains the difference between It Girls, Is Girls - and the Wuz Girls on the cover of the New York Observer this week: Claire Danes, Chloë Sevigny and Parker Posey. "A Wuz Girl has talent - talent enough to keep herself in front, talked about. She will never be a mega-star, but she will always be an original. No media concoction, her self-possession and character carry her through." Also: Andrew Sarris on Johnnie To's Election and Triad Election.

A list from the AV Club: "13 Films With Wildly Mismatched Romantic Pairings."

Because his blog is about literature, Ed Champion has had more of an "in" when it comes to speaking about the unspeakable - the shootings at Virginia Tech. Of course, movies have come to mind while watching and reading news in the past couple of days, but at the moment, it is still to early for that sort of doodling. For a "within the context of this actually rather unrelated blog" sort of post, I was most moved by this post from Time art critic Richard Lacayo. Today, Richard Lacayo has this to say about that post:

So when I started to think yesterday about ways to mark the moment, or even whether to mark it, I thought of Rothko. The work of his mature years was dedicated to finding a way to express the unfathomable, and more than that, to express tragedy in a century that either denied it with all the noisemakers at its disposal - you've heard of pop culture? - or contended with it by way of religious consolations that did not speak to him.

Online viewing tip #1. Brendon Connelly will get you the trailer for Kenneth Branagh's As You Like It, noting, "the cast is delicious: Bryce Dallas Howard, Janet McTeer, Alfred Molina, Adrian Lester, Kevin Kline.... Watching Dead Again the other evening, I was impressed, as I always am, how much Branagh enjoys film and filmmaking."

Online viewing tip #2. Interplast releases the Academy Award-winning A Story of Healing "under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommerical-No Derivatives license (by-nc-nd)." In other words, you may now watch it for free.

Update: Actually, one addendum on a political note. Because I just caught up with Timothy Noah's piece in Slate: "Are we sorry that 32 people, most of them no older than 22, were killed? Of course. But we aren't so sorry that we intend to do anything to prevent such a tragedy from happening again."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:01 PM | Comments (2)

Kitty Carlisle Hart, 1910 - 2007.

Kitty Carlisle Hart
Kitty Carlisle Hart, whose long career spanned Broadway, opera, television and film, including the classic Marx Brothers movie A Night at the Opera, has died at age 96, her son said Wednesday.... [H]er other film credits included: She Loves Me Not and Here Is My Heart, both opposite Bing Crosby; Woody Allen's Radio Days; and Six Degrees of Separation....

Hart's late husband [Moss Hart] was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who wrote You Can't Take It With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner with George S Kaufman and won a Tony for directing My Fair Lady on Broadway....

Updated through 4/19.

She attended the Sorbonne, the London School of Economics and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.... She served on the board of Empire State College in New York and was an honorary trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

Ula Ilnytzky for the AP, also mentioning that Hart served 20 years on the New York State Council on the Arts and received the National Medal of Arts from Bush I.

Until the end of her life, Miss Carlisle remained a svelte, attractive woman with dark, neatly coiffed hair that she said she colored herself. With a full mouth outlined in bright red lipstick, she burst easily into warm laughter. She was known for her grace and charm, but by her own account she was slightly eccentric, a trait she treasured because she believed it gave her a lot of leeway.

Marilyn Berger in the New York Times.

See also: the official site; Gary Brumburgh's bio at the IMDb; the Wikipedia entry.

Update, 4/19: Richard Wolinsky conducted a telephone interview with Kitty Carlisle Hart in January 2006. The first question in the 13 and a half minute or so conversation is about dating George Gershwin. "He was a charmer." Also, a few stories about the Marx Brothers.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:39 PM | Comments (4)

Fests and events, 4/18.

In Between Days "Good, smart festivals - and [the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival] is one of them - can dole out terrible awards," writes Robert Koehler at filmjourney.org. "The Saturday awards capping the final days (which I'll be reflecting upon in postings to come) were no exception. I'll be breaking down some of the results later, but the happiest result was unquestionably my international jury's wise selection of So Yong Kim's In Between Days for best film (with the nifty bonus of an acting award for the film's beautifully instinctive lead actor, Jiseon Kim)." The full list follows.

Alison James has more Cannes buzz in Variety, leading with news that the likely opener will be Wong Kar-wai's My Blueberry Nights. Via Monika Bartyzel at Cinematical. Jeffrey Wells reminds us that such speculation is hardly news and adds a list of titles he expects to see in the lineup.

Starting today, visitors to REDCAT can see Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Unknown Forces, an installation described by Fiona Ng in the Los Angeles Times as consisting "of a four-screen video projection; taking up one side is footage of a pickup truck rolling down a highway, with passengers in the back. Ostensibly laid back, the scene in fact references the population of itinerant construction workers in Thailand, on whose backs the country's real estate boom is built. The installation is a tribute to these workers, Weerasethakul said, as well as an allegory about the country's political history." Still being updated: "Syndromes and a Century."

Tsai Ming-liang Talking with Tsai Ming-liang about I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, which screens at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts tomorrow through Sunday, Fiona Ng, like Johnny Ray Huston, focuses on the green angle in the Taiwanese director's films. "Pollution, contamination, unknown illnesses, and inexplicable catastrophes run deep in Tsai's world: in 1997's The River, the main character contracts a nagging, stubborn neck pain after being in a filthy river (the causality, however, is never made explicit). His peripatetic quest for a treatment leads to a denouement of son-and-father bonding in a gay sex club. The Hole, Tsai's 1998 follow-up, imagines Taipei after a deadly and unknown pandemic strikes; the entire city is emptied out but for two people, surviving unbeknownst to each other. Taipei is once again under ecological threat in 2005's The Wayward Cloud as a dire water shortage drives people to eat watermelons for liquid sustenance."

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: The series Legendary Composer: Ennio Morricone opens Friday and runs through April 25. Matt Sussman: "The Castro Theatre has assembled a decent pocket guide - Il Maestro for Dummies, if you will - which includes chestnuts such as 1986's The Mission (his biggest Oscar snub and crossover success) and the more rarely screened and heard, such as Sam Fuller's 1982 tale of a racist canine, White Dog."

Mike has the lineup for the Portland Documentary and eXperimental Film Festival (PDX, April 25 through 29) at Bad Lit.

"Marine Hugonnier'd Trilogy is the third installment of Live Cinema, an exhibition series exploring single-channel work at the Museum's Film and Video Gallery." Opening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday; through July 22.

Hammershøi i Dreyer

On view at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona through May 1: Hammershøi i Dreyer.

The Independent Film Festival of Boston opens a week from today and Peter Keough has a few warm-up thoughts on Fay Grim, Congorama and Great World of Sound. Also in the Boston Phoenix: Gerald Peary on Air Guitar Nation, beginning its run at the Brattle, and Sara Faith Alterman: "It was hard to tell who was more excited about the presence of Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker at the Coolidge Corner Theatre Thursday night, February 12 - the gobs of drooling film students and smoky-throated hipsters, or Ty Burr, film critic for the Boston Globe."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:09 AM

Germans, 4/18.

Cannes When the Cannes lineup is announced tomorrow, look for Fatih Akin's German-Turkish production, Yaşamın Kıyısında / Auf der anderen Seite des Lebens, advises Der Tagesspiegel. Click the German title to read a bit about it in English.

Hans Weingartner's Free Rainer might have been considered, the paper notes, but it simply won't be ready in time. Weingartner, you may remember, broke the virtual shut-out of German-language films at Cannes when The Edukators competed in 2004.

A highlight of the Achtung Berlin festival, opening today and running through Sunday: Anfänge der Berliner Schule: Frühe Filme von Regisseuren der Nouvelle Vague Allemande (Beginnings of the Berlin School: Early Films by the Directors of the Nouvelle Vague Allemande), two programs of shortish films by Thomas Arslan, Valeska Grisebach, Birgit Großkopf, Benjamin Heisenberg, Ulrich Köhler, Christian Petzold, Angela Schanelec and Henner Winckler.

Otherwise, Hannah Pilarczyk, writing for die taz, is underwhelmed by the program, which pretty much consists of films that have received funding from the states of Berlin and Brandenburg.

Berlin Alexanderplatz If you happen to be in the city and looking for something else to do, then, VideoBustour's come up with a new thematic route: "Filmstadt Berlin." The gist: You get on a bus, ride to various locations where films have been shot, watch clips, compare and contrast reality and art. A sampling from the stops: One, Two, Three, Run, Lola, Run, The Bourne Supremacy, The Lives of Others, of course, and the 1931 version of Berlin Alexanderplatz (Fassbinder's was shot on a set in Munich).

Up-n-coming: Anyone who's seen Mostly Martha and then the trailer for No Reservations has a serious hunch that a remake, particularly with Catherine Zeta-Jones, was a bad, bad idea. At any rate, Sandra Nettelbeck, director of the original, has her next project lined up, Helen, which she'll shoot in September in English with Gillian Anderson.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:46 AM | Comments (1)

City Pages. M-SPIFF.

M-SPIFF 07 Rob Nelson opens a City Pages cover package on the 25th anniversary edition of the Minneapolis-St Paul International Film Festival (tomorrow through April 29), featuring his conversation with founder Al Milgrom, who doesn't exactly make it sound easy: "Now the problems are overwhelming. Film costs have gone way up.... Getting sponsorships is a problem.... Making a production of the whole thing, turning it into a show, is a hassle."

Nonetheless, this one's ready to roll, opening with Bamako, which Nathan Lee sees as "the festival film par excellence." Which, of course, he means in a good way.

Dylan Hicks began previewing M-SPIFF films a couple of weeks ago and managed to watch 30 movies in 9 days; whether or not his journal is as useful as the usual alt-weekly mound of blurbs is debatable, but it is more fun.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:49 AM

April 17, 2007

Shorts, 4/17.

Pedro Infante "He was the Crosby, the Sinatra, the Elvis of Mexico," writes Time's Richard Corliss. Pedro Infante was also "an ornament of Mexico's Golden Age (La é poca de Oro del Cine Mejicano), a two-decade stretch of potent moviemaking."

Up-n-coming:

  • "Columbia has landed Clive Owen to topline The International an action-thriller about an Interpol agent who investigates corruption at powerful banking institutions. The pic will be directed by Tom Tykwer, with lensing skedded to begin in September." Diane Garrett reports for Variety.

  • Time Out's Chris Tilly: "Ridley Scott has obtained the rights to Tom Rob Smith's debut novel Child 44, a thriller revolving around a series of murders in Stalinist Russia."

  • More news of the up-n-coming: Alison Willmore at IFC News.

"The Game is Over is worth looking at for its images of swinging Parisians dancing to the tunes of Arthur Brown before he became the God of Hellfire," writes Peter Nellhaus. "The film also suggests that [Roger] Vadim as a filmmaker was a bit more than the sum of his leading ladies voluptuous parts."

On the DVD front:

Bedazzled
  • "In a decade replete with remarkable satires - Dr Strangelove comes to mind - Bedazzled remains one of the finest, a film both of lightness and purpose, stocked with some very big laughs.... Peter Cook, "who wrote the screenplay, endlessly spouts quotable lines with a dry, absurdist quality... that clearly left an impression on the up-and-coming humorists who later became the Monty Python troupe." Other DVDs Dave Kehr reviews in the New York Times: "Anchor Bay Entertainment, fulfilling its mission of becoming the Criterion Collection of genre pictures, has reissued Phantasm in a handsome new widescreen transfer, along with two other films by [Don] Coscarelli.

  • At IFC News, Michael Atkinson reviews Sombre, "a stormy, moody, portentous experience, full of evocations of a tormented consciousness... The upshot is unpredictably moving." And: "[Y]ou know going in, and you're not wrong, that [Notes on a Scandal] works best as a stage for two brilliant and epically talented actresses to engage in a very Brit but fascinatingly nasty pas de deux."

  • At Cinema Strikes Back, David Austin reviews a Turkish double feature just out from Onar Films showcasing unique approaches to "two of the most popular horror genres of the era - gothic horror and gialli."

  • DVD review roundups: DVD Talk and Movie City News.

At ScreenGrab, Leonard Pierce remembers The Ninth Configuration, "one of the most original, audacious and fascinating films of its day, a movie that deserves a far greater audience than it's ever received, even after a long-overdue DVD release in 2002." William Peter Blatty "is a much better director than his other work might indicate; he's usually quite competent behind the camera, and his screenplay is watertight, blooming into a dark exploration of the need to believe and a strange, bloody theodicy while never losing its crazed sense of humor."

"With Fellini as his muse, Leonardo Ricagni attempts to craft a whimsical ode to childhood, friendship, and the divine power of words and knowledge with Goodbye Momo," writes Nick Schager in Slant. "What he comes up with instead is middling Cinema Paradiso magic realism turned lifeless by abundant treacle and a literal approach to his lightly surreal material." Also, Diggers.

"[G]iven the number of truly wretched reduxes that seem to spew forth every year, maybe it's time we propose some guidelines for those who want to dip into the past and supposedly improve it." Lewis Beale offers five tips at the Reeler.

Nathan Rabin at the AV Club:

Like Christopher Walken in Envy, Brando kidnaps the film and sends it spinning in a weird new direction. Which is a shame, because before Brando shows up and takes over, Missouri Breaks ambles along beatifically as a strangely lyrical Western comedy chockfull of cult screenwriter/novelist Thomas McGuane's oddball poetry. It's the kind of film where even a desperado like Nicholson spews honey to Lloyd like "If there's anybody in this district that got a right to think of themselves as wholesome companionship why it's yours truly." If Wes Anderson wrote a revisionist Western comedy it'd probably look and feel a lot like the film's first half.

Remembrances:

James Lyon in Poison

  • IndieWIRE has put together quite a tribute to James Lyons, with contributions from many of the filmmakers who worked with him. Some amazing comments are coming in as well.

  • "Correspondent Alan Bobet has written to inform me of the death of actress Chris Jordan, best-remembered as a standout supporting player in several Joe Sarno films of the 1970s," writes Tim Lucas. "Unfortunately there are no details at present, but the news of Jordan's 'recent' death was announced at an April 5th screening of A Touch of Genie at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater in New York City, with Joe Sarno and his wife/assistant Peggy Steffans Sarno in attendance. Considered one of Sarno's lost films until recently, A Touch of Genie is scheduled to be restored and released on DVD this summer by RetroSeduction Cinema, along with The Switch and How to Alter Your Ego, another sex-comedy featuring the same basic cast."

  • "Bruce Bennett, who has died aged 100, was, as Herman Brix, an Olympic shot-putter and screen Tarzan, and, as Bennett, he was a stolid, lanky supporting actor of the 1940s and 1950s," remembers Ronald Bergan in the Guardian.

As the Mann National Theater in Westwood CA prepares to lower its curtain for the last time on Thursday night, Jason Whyte writes at Hollywood Bitchslap, "The fact that bland multiplexes survive and gala cinemas like this close down is just another nail in the coffin to the sagging state of moviegoing today, and this gem of a cinema will surely be missed."

SusanP lists the top ten "Most Lovable Cads" at the Film Experience.

Online chuckle. Alex Ross finds Strauss and Mahler Re-enact Your Favorite Movie Moments.

Online viewing tip. "Will and I were just screwing around and it was like, hey, that's a good idea, let's film that," Adam McKay tells the Los Angeles Times' David Sarno. The Landlord.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:41 PM

Fests and events, 4/17.

Cannes "The Official Selection of the 60th edition of the Cannes Film Festival will be announced on Thursday, but some information has already been made public, including the selection of the Bruno Merle thriller Héros (Hero) as the opening film of Cannes' Critics' Week." Boyd van Hoeij has more at european-films.net.

Time: Elliot Gould "Only in 1970: America was falling apart, but a manic, overgrown 31-year-old kid from Brooklyn was having the greatest year of his professional life," writes J Hoberman in this week's cover story for the Voice. In a box office ranking that year, Elliot Gould "ranked just behind John Wayne - and ahead of the previous year's neophyte Dustin Hoffman, Lee Marvin, Jack Lemmon, and his new ex-wife Barbra Streisand. It was only a matter of time before this manic who's-he elbowed his way to the forefront of American popular mythology, assuming Humphrey Bogart's signature role of private eye Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye - Robert Altman's New Wave anti-noir, which opens Friday in a fresh 35mm print for a week-long run at Film Forum." Also, the week ahead for New Yorkers.

City of God, Carandiru and Lower City. "The guilty secret of these testosterone-fuelled films is that, with just a little imagination, they are really quite queer," writes Paul Julian Smith. But: "Brazil has a patchy record on gay rights. So this month's season of gay films being shown by London's Brazilian Contemporary Arts is all the more welcome."

Jerry Lentz attended Sunday's screening of Jon Jost's La Lunga Ombra in LA and notes that, though a "heated debate broke out in the Q&A after the film," Jost also managed to say "things that hurt me. Not the political stuff, but things like, 'There is absolutely no market for my films' and 'I've barely made a living as a filmmaker' and 'When I submit a film to a festival, one that liked me in the past, they go, 'Ehh, sorry."'" But then he sold some DVDs. A lot of DVDs. Jerry: "If he can sell $3000 worth of DVDs at every screening, that sounds to me like some kind of demand."

For Hollywood Bitchslap, Dan Lybarger previews the Robert Altman Film Festival in Kansas City, April 27 through 29.

At indieWIRE, Hugo Perez has a fine overview of the just-wrapped Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:49 PM

Books, 4/17.

Cast a Giant Shadow "How to Make a Jewish Movie reads like the work of an expert comedy writer," writes Lawrence Levi for Nextbook, noting, of course, that it was: Melville Shavelson, who chronicles the making of Cast a Giant Shadow in the book, would write for Bob Hope for 20 years. "Shavelson is talented enough to make the story of creating a flop irresistible, and humble enough to accept at least some of the blame." This is also "quite possibly the first book by a Hollywood director devoted entirely to the making of his own movie."

"Christopher Tolkien is now 81, the same age his father was when he died, and one supposes that The Children of Húrin is his last, best shot at telling one of Tolkien's great 'untold tales' in something close to a complete form," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "It emerges here for the first time as a full-fledged adventure yarn, complete with narrative urgency, fear of the unknown and recognizably human characters.... If Lord of the Rings is a story where good conquers evil, this one moves inexorably in the other direction." More from Time's Lev Grossman.

The Road As you'll have heard, this year's Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday. The New York Times lists the winners and points to a few related resources. A few film bloggers are particularly glad to hear that Cormac McCarthy has won one for his novel, The Road. Jeffrey Overstreet, for example, and David Lowery, who notes that he's not surprised, but: "What is surprising, however is that the same novel is the latest selection for Oprah's book club and, even moreso, that McCarthy, who in his entire career has limited his press to a single print interview in the New York Times, will be appearing on the show at some point in the near future.... [T]hat this novel - which isn't McCarthy's most difficult, but is still far from what many would consider accessible - will be getting introduced to such a wider audience can only be a good thing." Meanwhile: "There's still no release date set for the Coens' adaptation of McCarthy's No Country For Old Men, but you can see exactly one shot of it in their promo for Apple's Final Cut Studio 2." More from Ed Champion.

Meanwhile, Fresh Air is rerunning its interview with Lawrence Wright, who won in the general-nonfiction category for The Looming Tower: Al-Qaida and the Road to 9/11.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:30 PM

April 16, 2007

Reverse Shot. On Demand.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off "If each film 'generation' has its own particular point of view, as surely, drastically, the next one will, then what is ours? And how does it aid/impede us?" ask Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert in the editorial that opens Issue 19 of Reverse Shot: "On Demand." The "us" here are the RS writers themselves, and "most of us came of age as cinephiles in the era of home video... [W]e were the first generation which had access to a wide array of movies all of the time... And as a result, we watched, a lot, and over and over, making us the first on-demand generation." The issue, then, is a collection of pieces on films "seen many, many times, across different periods of [our] lives."

"John Hughes movies don't lose anything on the small screen," writes Eric Hynes, who, "like thousands, perhaps millions of people roughly my age," has seen Ferris Bueller's Day Off "several dozen times." Back to his point: "Hughes's art depends on the quality of the writing, full stop. When his writing is good, as in Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, his films are as funny, exhilarating, and remain as timeless as anything from the post-silent, pre-television heyday of Preston Sturges and Ernst Lubitsch."

Michael Joshua Rowin: "Along with The Simpsons and various other phenomena of the early 90s, Wayne's World met with its audience at the perfect late capitalist moment - a product to satisfy evolving marketing strategies, the film ornaments corporate ideology with self-conscious irony, fostering its audience's dependence on popular culture by selling it as above-it-all satire."

As a child, Jeff Reichert "had grown so into the fabric of [Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi]... that I felt less myself when that tape wasn't playing." Now, of course, he has put away childish things: "George Lucas succeeded so grandly because he figured out a formula to get me, and seemingly everyone else literally hooked on his films. But after a while I stopped buying the junk."

"Bob Fosse's Cabaret is one of those movies - there are too many - that I wish I could see again for the first time," writes Chris Wisniewski. At the same time, "Cabaret is nothing if not a respectable object of obsessive repeat viewings."

Videodrome David Cronenberg "was also no stranger to censorship battles," notes Travis Mackenzie Hoover, which "makes it all the more perplexing that he would make as his first masterpiece Videodrome, which threw into confusion both the pro-video and anti-video positions while setting them both in sharp relief."

"First impressions are fierce; only upon a replay could I begin to grasp Wild at Heart separate from my sensorial responses to Lynch's visual and aural atmospheres," writes Kristi Mitsuda.

"VHS certainly granted me a certain degree of autonomy over my childhood experience of [Who Framed Roger Rabbit]," writes Brendon Bouzard, "the ability to speed to my favorite scenes, rewatch the dazzling opening cartoon, skip past the scary part..., and above all, try to piece together what the hell was actually going on in this movie."

"[John] Carpenter made movies for crowds, for opening weekends at multiplexes," writes Nathan Kosub. "King Friday. And when he no longer could, his movies suffered.... [N]umbers, not anonymity, made Carpenter great. Something should be said, then, for his most underrated film. Big Trouble in Little China is his lightest success, carefree with its own mythology and expansive in its gifts - the soft-shoe his horror triumphs couldn't inherently manage."

"I first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey at age six - appropriate for a film that makes infants of us all." Michael Koresky: "This was before I knew that 2001 would become my Rosetta stone of movie-watching, that which would subconsciously inform all other film experiences and would provide a template for what narrative cinema should, reach for, crib from, aspire to."

"No grand conclusions... simply some observations" from Andrew Tracy:

  • While production and distribution have changed, "the content of what we are watching has not significantly altered."

  • Massive availability "has both the invaluable effect of progressively widening our sphere of film knowledge and the more questionable one of driving us to find our own 'territory' to stake out."

  • Movie moments are not to the films they're snipped from as songs are to albums.

  • "For all the talk about new ways of seeing, there are precious little indications that new forms of criticism are being developed to deal with these presumed 'evolutions.' Ancestor worship reigns in print and online both."

  • "[T]he rise of video, and subsequently DVD, has decisively tipped cinephilia into the realm of possession as opposed to experience."

The interviews in this issue: Michael Joshua Rowin with Andrea Arnold, Chris Wisniewski with Jafar Panahi and Adam Nayman with Bong Joon-ho.

Tears of the Black Tiger New releases reviewed: Jeannette Catsoulis on Grindhouse, Nick Pinkerton on Lonely Hearts, Justin Stewart on The Hoax, Nicolas Rapold on Black Book, Elbert Ventura on Blades of Glory, Nick Pinkerton on On the Bowery, Chris Wisniewski on Offside, Michael Joshua Rowin on Maxed Out, Michael Koresky on 300, Michael Joshua Rowin on Zodiac, Leo Goldsmith on Into Great Silence, Michael Joshua Rowin on What Is It?, Elbert Ventura on The Lives of Others, Sarah Silver on Tears of the Black Tiger, Adam Nayman on The Host, Nick Pinkerton on Private Fears in Public Places and Jeff Reichert on Syndromes and a Century.

DVDs: Justin Stewart on When a Woman Ascends the Stairs and Idiocracy.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:41 PM | Comments (2)

Peter Parker goes to Tokyo.

Spider-Man 3 in Japan Spider-Man 3 has premiered in Tokyo, and Sophie Hardach files a longish report for Reuters, setting the scene (Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire "were greeted with screams of 'kawaii' ('cute') by hundreds of young Japanese") and collecting initial reactions. If you've seen the trailer, the news that this one's rather dark won't come as a surprise. The two critics Hardach talks to have positive things to say, one of them noting that the film is "left wide open for another one."

Updated through 4/20.

Next: "The movie's makers travel to London on April 23 and then Rome, Berlin, Madrid, Moscow, Stockholm and New York." The for-real opening is May 1 for Japan and May 4 for everybody else. More from the BBC, and just noted earlier in the entry below: Sheigh Crabtree's very fine backgrounder for the Los Angeles Times.

Update: Cinematical's Erik Davis has spotted more reviews and Brendon Connelly hears good things.

Update, 4/17: Bruce Wallace in the Los Angeles Times on what the movie means for Sony.

Updates, 4/18: Scott Weinberg at Cinematical on Spider-Man 2.1: "[T]he eight extra minutes of 'new' footage does a lot for the flick."

And Brendon Connelly has rounded up some "Spidey-Stuff."

Updates, 4/20: Leo Lewis caught the film in Tokyo and, in the London Times, calls it "a daft, highly polished couple of hours of fantasy fun. There is not enough of the super-villains and they are not nearly twisted enough. But then there never is and they never are.... And for reminders that Japan, the home of manga comics, is an increasingly powerful influence on Hollywood directors there is an unmistakable homage to the anime classic Akira."

John Hiscock talks with Maguire for the Telegraph.

Charlotte O'Sullivan in the Evening Standard: "The good news is that this pacey, rainbow-coloured blockbuster works both as a filler and a finale. It's easily the best of the trilogy and, for my money, one of the most enjoyable films of the decade."

Over at Cinematical, Chris Ullrich has found a few clips.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:32 AM | Comments (2)

Shorts, 4/16.

Cleopatra "[T]he palatial sets, outlandish backdrops, and outsized drama of Cleopatra resemble another, much more recent epic about larger-than-life figures. Along with forties serials, The Hidden Fortress, Ray Harryhausen and all the other usual suspects, there is no doubt that the Cinemascope epics of the 50s and 60s, and specifically Cleopatra, served as a blueprint for the Star Wars films," writes Jürgen Fauth, before moving on to another compare-n-contrast exercise, George Lucas's epics and Grindhouse: "Star Wars works where Death Proof fails, perhaps because its admiration for the movies it emulates isn't eclipsed by the director's self-indulgence. Face it: true movie love doesn't care how hip it is, and true cool doesn't have anything to prove."

"Director Patrick Tam has picked up five trophies at the Hong Kong Film Awards with his first film in 17 years," reports the BBC. "After This Our Exile, which tells the story of a gambling addict who forces his son to steal to make ends meet, won best film, director and screenplay."

"After 90 or so films, [Maggie] Cheung is, she says, moving away from cinema," sighs Bob Flynn. She tells him: "I don't want it to be the only thing I've done in my life. I'd like to paint and compose music, which means everything to me. I have to have music from the moment I wake up. My goal is to edit and score films. Maybe I'll discover I'm not talented that way, but I want to try. And I want to travel more."

Also in the Independent:

Lights in the Dusk

The Telegraph critics draw up a list: "From Chaplin to Meadows - the top 21 British directors of all time." Sarah Crompton talks with writer and producer Jimmy McGovern about one of his favorite films: "Why do you need the B story? You only need it because you haven't faith in the A story. There is no B story in High Noon. It is about a man having to confront evil and not winning anyone to his cause. It is so lean and mean, it's just beautiful."

Money for Nothing "In Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes, critic Saul Austerlitz provides an essential study of our favorite subject," writes Obtusity, introducing an interview with the author. Related online viewing (because he's honorably mentioned in the book): Brent Chesanek.

Only tangentially related to film, but certainly not entirely unrelated, either: John Rogers on James Poniewozik's cover story for Time.

"Vigen Chaldranian has directed 15 feature films, yet nobody knows who he is. Or rather, nobody who isn't Armenian," notes Brandon Hall at the Filmmaker blog. "Which is a little odd considering he isn't merely a part of Armenian cinema; he is Armenian cinema." Now, "The Priestess is the first ever Armenian-American cinematic collaboration and Chaldranian's finest opportunity to garner recognition this side of the Mediterranean."

"Nothing prepared me for the ferocity, the liveliness, the wall-to-wall richness. I was expecting something good, something special, but I wasn't expecting this." Zach Campbell on Killer of Sheep. More - a lot more - from Nick Schager.

And then Zach Campbell finds a certain "B-movie auteurism" in Shield for Murder.

Prince Caspian, the next adaptation of CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, is being filmed at the Barrandov studios in Prague, which has just seen the completion of Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth. Fran Yeoman pays a visit for the London Times and finds things going well but not perfectly: "The question of tax credits - the mantra of filmmakers everywhere - has inevitably raised its head. The Czech Republic is lagging behind some of the other new EU states on this."

Kiss of the Spider Woman Charlotte Westenra is directing a new stage version of Manuel Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Donmare Warehouse (the run will be April 25 through May 26) and looks back on the novel's origins and many interpretations over the past few decades: "Even in adulthood, Puig would set his evenings aside for his mother whenever he was in Argentina, so that they could catch up on the latest films his friends would post to him. The Argentinian film industry didn't excite them in the way that Hollywood did. Their taste was broad and populist: B movies, zombie flicks, musicals and rom-coms were all part of the repertoire."

Also in the Guardian:

The success of Smoke Signals "appeared to be a harbinger of a new wave of Native filmmaking. What's happened since? 'Absolutely nothing,' according to [director Sherman] Alexie." Matthew Fleischer reports in the LA Weekly. Related: Ann Cummins reviews Alexie's novel, Flight, for the Washington Post.

At Dr Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope, Jason Sperb follows up on his first entry regarding Hulk and Baudrillard. (Related: Brendon Connelly's entry, "Edward Norton Blah Blah Hulk Blah Blah Reboot Blah Blah Blah.") Also: "How can a scholar (they of the 'critical distance' persuasion) also write as a cinephile? Loving the cinema, for [Christian] Metz, constitutes seeing the cinema only as a special landscape immune from the traditional standards of scientific and intellectual rigor. So, one must stand outside their love."

"The aesthetic of writer/director Eugène Green is so clean and simple in this age of image saturation and hyper-abundant kinetics that his 'mini-film' Les Signes feels as natural and fluid as his fascinating longer features like 2004's Le Pont des Arts and 2003's miniature knight's tale, Le Monde Vivant," writes Daniel Kasman.

Mio fratello è figlio unico Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net: "The intriguingly titled upcoming book adaptation Mio fratello è figlio unico (My Brother is an Only Child) reunites some of the more established talents of Italian cinema with two of the Young Turks of Italian acting."

Not only has Michael Guillén taken extensive notes on an impromptu a Q&A with Francis Veber that followed a screening of La Doublure (The Valet) for the press in San Francisco, he's also interviewed Veber one-on-one. Related: For the Los Angeles Times, Susan King asks Veber what's up with the name "François Pignon."

"In style, Hyperbola of Youth belongs more to the 1930s than to the 1950s, but that's okay," writes Duncan Mitchel. "Thirties Hollywood comedies are more fun." Also at Koreanfilm.org: "The Feminist Video Activism WOM collective, in their documentary triptych Out: Smashing Homophobia, succeeds in protecting each girl's identity while ushering the audience into the triple lives of Korean lesbian teenagers," writes Annie Koh. Earlier: "Seoul Dispatch."

"Over 500 jurisdictions now record confessions on video, we're told. In virtually all instances, there's only one camera, and it shows only the accused. That means, in movie terms, there are no reverse shots of the questioner. What difference does it make?" asks David Bordwell. "Quite a lot, it seems."

"We are in a cycle right now where Hollywood is not really creating new stars." David Poland ranks the players on the field.

Sahara has become "one of the biggest financial flops in Hollywood history. For the Los Angeles Times, Glenn F Bunting takes a close look at documents that "provide a rare behind-the-curtain peek at the thousands of expenditures that drain the budget of a major motion picture."

Also in the LAT:

  • "A rumored $250 million is riding on whether sand, venom, a goblin and a mysterious black tar-like substance from outer space can keep a high-flying movie franchise soaring." Sheigh Crabtree talks with the team behind Spider-Man 3.

The Reaping
  • "Considering how fuzzy the line between good guys and bad guys has gotten in real life, it's no surprise our horror films are confused," proposes Carina Chocano.

  • Mark Olsen profiles Danish writer and director Anders Thomas Jensen.

  • Cristy Lytal meets Adam Brody. On a related note, Newsweek's David Ansen: "In the Land of Women is the kind of small, personal tale that once would have made for a slight but promising first novel. Here... [Jonathan] Kasdan has made a winning if overly pat first feature notable for its keen ear, its preference for character over plot and its refreshing modesty."

"Lyon has a population of one million, four times less than Sydney (where I currently live), but about five times the number of screens dedicated to what we would call 'arthouse' cinema," writes Matt Riviera. "It's when I come here that I truly realize how little diversity there really is on our screens in Australia. The same applies if you compare Paris to London, Toronto or even New York."

Michael Guillén recalls meeting Cathleen Rountree and recommends her book, The Movie Lovers' Club: How to Start Your Own Film Group.

Camillo de Marco has a quick talk with Danish director Per Fly for Cineuropa.

Michael Brunton interviews Andrew Goldsworthy, the subject of Rivers and Tides, for Time.

"The prospect of younger viewers being able to see All That Jazz with fresh eyes untainted by knowledge of the film's proximities to [Bob] Fosse's personal life is an encouraging one," finds José Teodoro in Stop Smiling.

Film Threat's Mark Bell asks David Arquette about his directorial debut, The Tripper, which Arquette describes as "a political horror film set in the Redwood Forest at an outdoor music festival."

Rebecca Paul Harris revisits the case of the Zodiac killer. Also in the Observer: Daphne du Maurier "is about to be comprehensively celebrated," notes Kate Kellaway.

"I've learned to take my punishment and pleasure in small doses," blogs cnw for Reverse Shot, "and to content myself with watching Berlin Alexanderplatz as it was intended to be seen, whatever other critics who climb mountains in their seats and toss down gauntlets with their pens (or keyboards) have to say about it - and I'm sure my ass, spared a second day of Titus 1, will thank me."

At Filmmaker, Scott Macaulay remembers editor, writer and actor, Jim Lyons.

"Barry Nelson, the first actor to play James Bond on screen, has died aged 89," reports the BBC. "Nelson played the famous spy in a one-hour TV adaptation of Casino Royale in 1954." Adds Joe Leydon: "Nelson also will be remembered by many as a reliable MGM contract player of the 1940s and, later, an accomplished stage actor in and around New York."

Pazit Cahlon talks with Sacco and Vanzetti director Peter Miller for ScreenGrab.

For the New York Press, Eric Kohn talks with Henry Rollins about his Show on IFC.

Lindy West spends one long horrible day at the movies. Fortunately, it was cheap. She reports for the Stranger.

"Culture Snob is hosting a forum for essays, arguments, and provocations on misunderstood movies. The blog-a-thon will run Wednesday, May 16, through Sunday, May 20, although I won't turn my nose up at contributions that arrive before then."

48hours New Zealanders: Registration is open for the 48Hours competition. The weekend shoot: May 18 through 20.

Online browsing tip. Nathaniel R launches the "20:07 Project."

Online browsing tips. The work of poster artist Bob Peak. Also via John Coulthart: Coming attraction lanterns slides at the George Eastman House.

Online browsing and viewing and/or listening tip. Not only is Girish pointing to a slew of sites that'll derail your day before you choose the ones you want to work into your routine, he's also pointing to video and audio of the book launch for Nicole Brenez's Abel Ferrara: "The speakers include Edward Colless and the book's translator, Adrian Martin. Their remarks are insightful and contagiously enthusiastic; it's cinephile catnip."

Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for Cinematographer Style, via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip #2. Michael Tully finds "Quite Possibly My Favorite Scene Ever."

Online viewing tip #3. Filmmaker has a "Rough Cut Clip" from John Sayles's upcoming Honeydripper.

Online viewing tips, round 1. Seven from the Guardian's Kate Stables.

Online viewing tips, round 2. Ted Z's got a few at Big Screen Little Screen.

Online viewing tips, round 3. ScreenGrab's "Greatest 'No-Sex' Sex Scenes."

Online viewing tips, round 4. A "mash-up masterclass" at the DVblog.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:33 AM | Comments (2)

April 15, 2007

Up-n-coming, 4/15.

First stop: Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog. Because she's got three excellent recent roundups of movies "in the works": 1, 2 and 3.

Jacques Mesrine "The two-part 1970s gangster tale based on the life of France's 'public enemy number one' Jacques Mesrine is taking shape," reports european-films.net. Jean-François Richet will shoot both films simultaneously and he's lined up "a veritable who's who of French-language cinema" in various roles.

"Italian movie director Marco Bellocchio is making a movie about a little-known chapter in the life of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini - the story of a son he kept hidden in mental asylums until his early death." Marta Falconi reports for the AP.

Etan Vlessing in the Hollywood Reporter: "John Malkovich, Evangeline Lilly and Romain DurisGilles Bourdos's supernatural thriller Afterwards."

"Bryan Singer and Gus Van Sant are racing to be the first into cinemas with separate projects about the assassinated gay San Francisco Mayor Harvey Milk," reports the Guardian. Peter Bowen comments at Filmmaker.

Also in the Guardian, Randeep Ramesh: "The Mumbai film producer Firoz Nadiadwala, whose last movie Phir Hera Pheri - More Fraud - was a big hit in India, is lining up [Mike] Tyson for a dance sequence in his upcoming film Fool-n-Final."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:59 PM

Docs, 4/15.

MC5 "The latest chapter in the tumultuous saga of MC5: A True Testimonial, the explosive documentary by local filmmakers David Thomas (a part-time Reader employee) and Laurel Legler about the Detroit proto-punk band, has drawn to a close, and now it almost seems possible that the film could get released," announces Peter Margasak at the Chicago Reader's blog, Post No Bills. For much more on the case, see Detroit Tango.

Update: AJ Schnack has the award-winners from this year's Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and notes, "The double win by The Monastery, following its triumph at IDFA in November, makes it one of the front runners for this year's Oscar nominations."

"Ultimately, the more films that play in more venues, the better it is for all of us who make nonfiction films," writes AJ Schnack in an entry that explores the Academy's new rules for qualifying to run the Oscar race in the documentary category and the history that's led up to them. "The sky isn't falling (even if a recent Best Documentary winner suggests it might be sooner than we think) and docmakers have a real opportunity to build a grass roots network of venues across the nation wherein filmmakers can accomplish self-distribution." Today, a follow-up entry, responding to comments on the original entry.

POV: Manufactured Landscapes Verena talks with Jennifer Baichwal about Manufactured Landscapes for PingMag. Via Coudal Partners. Related: From Hello Cool World, a PDF of Adam Nayman's piece on the film in POV; HCW and The Corporation, by the way, have launched a new zine, News of the Cool.

Like the cinetrix, Chuck Tryon, too, has been at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which wraps today. On Friday, he caught two shorts, Alice Sees the Light and South of Ten, and two features, Everything's Cool and Radiant City. On Saturday, he saw Meeting Resistance, James Longley's short, Sari's Mother, The Devil Came on Horseback, Talk to Me and Kurt Cobain About a Son. But there's more: Chuck also saw three films by Jem Cohen.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:44 PM

DVDs, 4/15.

DK Holm reads the DVD experts' takes on The Natural. Several notes follow.

The Natural One of the well-known virtues of DVDs is the format's service as a vehicle for revised, improved versions of movies, the Director's Cut, wherein the filmmaker restores to full effect what the studio had truncated for whatever reason, be it tone, pace, or being able to fit in more screenings a day.

The latest big film to enjoy this form of modern restoration is Barry Levinson's popular favorite, The Natural, the baseball movie with Robert Redford released in 1984 and based on the novel by Bernard Malamud. Now available in a double disc set with about 10 bits of supplementary material, plus a version of the film somewhat longer than the previously released version. The consumer's immediate question will be, just how different is the "new" Natural?

Gregory P Dorr of the DVD Journal notes that "most of [what] is most noticeable [is] in the opening sequences," while Glenn Erickson, the DVD Savant, explains that in "a taped introduction, Barry Levinson explains that this longer re-cut clarifies the opening half-hour while both adding and subtracting footage."

Gary Tooze of DVD Beaver offers a bit more detail, noting that the new film "has about 20 extra minutes - mostly in the opening scenes which define our protagonist a bit darker than in the theatrical cut. Levinson tells us that this 'new' version is closer to the intended film he hoped to make but lack of time forced [him] to create the eventual theatrical. It also loses some of the theatrical scenes making it only about 6 minutes longer overall." The anonymous reviewer at Current Film echoes this, almost to the letter.

Fusion3600 of DVD Authority writes that "The Natural still looks and feels like the same movie, just with some things more fleshed out. So some characters get a little more time, a few arcs are given more room to shine, and the Roy Hobbs character comes off as more isolationist than before. I can see why fans would be split as to which version is the best, but I suspect most will stick with the original theatrical edition." Fortunately, the way the internet works, movie reviewers, too, can go back to their reviews and add details later, if they choose. Perhaps being ever so pressed for time, no one, it turns out, did a compare and contrast between the two versions of The Natural.

But is the film worth revisiting in the first place? There is a consensus among the reviewers that it is. Dorr rather brilliantly summaries baseball itself as "a game that emphasizes and isolates the major dramatic conflicts: man vs man, man vs nature, and man vs self. It assumes the pretense of a team sport, but is really a series of individual tests of skill and character with only fleeting moments of team interaction. It's a series of Mexican stand-offs," he writes, before going on to say that The Natural "asserts with great conviction that what enamors us so with great athletes is the heightened circumstances within which they strive to escape human constraints in pursuit of perfect moments of pure grace."

For Erickson, The Natural is a "remarkable filmic construction," one that "demonstrates a command of cinematic graphics that betters today's comic-oriented action films." For Tooze, The Natural is "an extremely enjoyable film - I'm one who sees past the obviousness and few tech-baseball errors and I allow myself to fall head first into the larger-than-life story." For the Current Film reviewer, The Natural "remains a fantastic effort from director Barry Levinson."

- DK Holm


Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show "Tuesday marks the release of Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show, a four-disc selective retrospective of the paradigm-breaking, paradigm-setting 1992 to 1998 HBO comedy about a late-night talk show host and his codependents - a set with which [Garry] Shandling, its star and guiding light, was thoroughly, even profoundly involved," writes Robert Lloyd. The set "revels in contradictions: the seriousness of comedy; playing a role to become yourself; offering for public consumption what the menu describes (in Shandling's own handwriting) as 'intimate, personal, indulgent visits with my friends that are meant for only me to see.'"

Also in the Los Angeles Times: "Easily the most provocative and important dance DVD released thus far in 2007 collects three acclaimed television films adapted from collaborative, iconoclastic stage productions by England's DV8 Physical Theatre." Lewis Segal reviews that one and three more dance titles.

"Despite its escapist intentions, Green For Danger is simply too steeped in wartime paranoia ever to work as a simple crime thriller," writes Tom Huddleston. "Which is fortunate, because in the final analysis the film is so much more - an examination of interpersonal relationships under pressure, a rather bleak and unsatisfied romance, a gleeful tribute to wilful eccentricity. What emerges is a sort of Ealing noir, by turns hardboiled and hallucinatory, horrific and hysterical."

Also at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Ian Johnston on Shoeshine and its place in Vittorio De Sica's oeuvre.

John Coulthart recommends Tim Buckley: My Fleeting House.

Michael Atkinson at IFC News on Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple: "[T]he day you see it in any context might be the darkest day of your year." More from Jonathan Kiefer in the Sacramento News & Review.

"Abbas Kiarostami's Ten has been a highlight of my ongoing and extremely rewarding mini-Iranian film fest," writes John Adair.

David Haglund in Slate on the Hemingway Classics Collection, five films in all: "These are prime examples of a peculiar subgenre one might call Hollywood Hemingway: widescreen, Technicolor adaptations featuring foreign settings and doomed love, and always at least half an hour too long. Mostly products of the 1950s, they were made when Hemingway was a living legend and motion picture executives - thanks to the collapse of the studio system and the new ubiquity of television - were deeply insecure."

Little Caesar "Prohibition, extortion, crooked political figures may provide a social/political backdrop to the story of Rico Bandello and his ilk but these issues are never addressed in the book or in the film. Little Caesar never gets mired in a moral argument nor tries to explain the causes or expose the operations of gangsterism," writes Thom Ryan. "Gangster films still owe great a debt to that gat-blasting, wry mouthed miscreant named Little Caesar for helping to codify one of the greatest guilty-pleasure genres of them all."

Tim Lucas notes that the deluxe edition of Don't Look Back, "when held in one's hand, has the earnest heft of a Bible," before moving on to Masked and Anonymous: "It's hard to tell whether this film - co-scripted by Bob Dylan and director Larry Charles - was intended as a fantasy or an allegory, but I'm inclined to see it as a remake of Don't Look Back of sorts, and Dylan's own jet-black recrimination of a world that has failed to heed the warnings of his best-loved songs and grown monstrous."

"Movies that passed well below the critical radar when they were first released in the United States - in urban grindhouses and Southern drive-ins - are now returning in prestige editions, loaded with commentary (by [Tim] Lucas) and extra features," writes Dave Kehr, reviewing The Mario Bava Collection, Volume 1 in the New York Times. "For [Mario] Bava, a modest man who died in 1980 without ever making any claims for himself or his work, the road from the grindhouse to the art house - or at least, the virtual art house of the DVD player - has turned out to be surprisingly, encouragingly short."

"Cinema played a key role in mediating audiences' understanding of the [Mexican] Revolution, and no other director was better suited to take up the challenge than Fernando de Fuentes," argues Chris Robé, reviewing the Revolution Trilogy.

Also in PopMatters: "It may strike the reader as somewhat odd to see the release of a Darren Aronofsky Collection consisting of only two films: the wrenching saga of hope corrupted to become despair encapsulated in Requiem for a Dream (2002) and the fascinating intellectual thriller Pi (1998)," writes Chadwick Jenkins. "On the other hand, there is a certain fittingness to packaging these two films together. Aside from being the early efforts of a shockingly talented and aggressive filmmaker, these films - while relating quite different stories - share an underlying narrative structure and a profound concern for the individual's deeply embedded need for the patterns that inform his/her life."

And a Short Ends and Leader DVD roundup.

Performance Sean Nelson in the Stranger on Performance: "Rigorously psychedelic, structurally unsound, sexually omnivorous, Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg's grand experiment riffed on identity, stardom, art, and violence at a time when cinema was beginning to tear itself apart. The fact that the film starred Mick Jagger at the height of his Satanic majesty was just one of the cosmic jokes at the center of this subversive masterpiece."

"[P]erhaps the most overlooked great film Kubrick made was his version of Lolita," suggests Paul Clark at ScreenGrab.

It's only the last two thirds or so of the second season of Twin Peaks that's "awful - well, not awful, but hugely disappointing," writes Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat.

"The biggest mystery in Blue Velvet is not its story but how one film can keep evolving in a viewer's perceptions more than 20 years after it was first made," writes Edward Copeland.

Half Nelson: The John Hiscock interviews Ryan Gosling for the Telegraph, Wendy Ide, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden for the London Times. Akin Ojumu in the New Statesman: "Inevitably, Half Nelson will raise questions about whether its makers are 'soft on drugs,' but the film honestly shows the complex role drugs can play in our lives, and challenges some lingering prejudices about addiction. We've certainly come a long way from Sinatra's smack alley."

Roundups: DK Holm - yes, the very same - at ScreenGrab, Movie City News, Jürgen Fauth and Marcy Dermansky, Kevin Polowy at Cinematical and Jess Sauer in the Austin Chronicle.

"Dragon's Lair is now fully compatible with the All New PlayStation 3 in full 1080p High Definition video as well as your standalone Blu-ray Player."

Drawn!'s giving away copies of The Animation Show, Volumes 1 and 2.

UK residents: Win Old Joy DVDs and posters from Tom Hartshorn.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:32 PM

Baader-Meinhof, Terror und Trauma.

Terror und Trauma Focus reports that Bernd Eichinger's Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex, based on Spiegel editor Stefan Aust's chronicle of the Red Army Faction (RAF), is taking shape. Aust and Eichinger are writing the screenplay and Uli Edel will direct. The Netzeitung, in the meantime, is passing along casting rumors: Moritz Bleibtreu as Andreas Baader; Martina Gedeck as Ulrike Meinhof; and Nina Hoss as Gudrun Ensslin. But Bild, the tabloid justifiably demonized in The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (though, these days, ridicule is probably the more appropriate response), sees Franka Potente as Meinhof. As an admirer of both Gedeck and Potente, it's hard to know who to root for, particularly since the project as a whole is a pretty iffy proposition.

On a related note, a new collection of essays by Thomas Elsaesser has come out in Germany, Terror und Trauma. Zur Gewalt des Vergangenen in der BRD (Terror and Trauma: On the Violence of the Past in the Federal Republic of Germany). In his quite favorable review of the book for die taz, Simon Rothöhler notes that Elsaesser has written a new introduction for a batch of pieces on Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge and "the loner Herbert Achternbusch" that have appeared elsewhere in languages other than German and added a new introduction that places them in a "retroactive trauma-theoretical framework." Elsaesser sees "a structural affinity between trauma and cinema, 'for it is there that reality is condensed to affect, and what once was becomes what is, the present, again and again.'"

Posted by dwhudson at 8:48 AM | Comments (3)

NYT, 4/15.

The Sum of Destructions "The general picture that has emerged is one of Cubism bubbling up out of a thick Parisian stew of symbolist poetry, Cézanne, cafe society, African masks, absinthe and a fascination with all things mechanical and modern, mostly airplanes and automatons," writes Randy Kennedy. "But while almost every aspect of [Picasso and Georges Braque's] lives has been scrutinized - their friends, lovers, favorite drugs, hangouts, hat sizes and nicknames (Picasso called Braque Wilbourg, after Wilbur Wright) - one mutual fascination has been largely overlooked: Both men were crazy about the movies." The exhibition Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism will be on view at PaceWildenstein from Friday through June 23.

Dennis Lim calls up Slavoj Zizek to talk about The Pervert's Guide to Cinema. "Zizek has been the star of three documentaries in recent years - which is three more than your average Marxist-Lacanian psychoanalytic theorist." For this one, "He eagerly agreed to conduct what is in essence an illustrated film-studies lecture. The title springs from his assertion that cinema is 'the ultimate pervert art.' As he puts it: 'It doesn't give you what you desire. It tells you how to desire.'" Did you know that he's "a featured commentator on the new DVD for Children of Men, calling it a reflection of the 'ideological despair of late capitalism'"? And here's the best news: "He and [Sophie] Fiennes are also planning sequels. The Pervert's Guide to Ideology is in the works, to be followed perhaps by The Pervert's Guide to Opera. (He's a fan.)"

Jindabyne "Jindabyne, which opens April 27, an Australian film directed by Ray Lawrence and starring Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney, is just the second full-length [Raymond] Carver feature - or even the first if, like some hard-line Carver purists, you don't count Robert Altman's Short Cuts, which came out 14 years ago," writes Charles McGrath. Jindabyne is "a movie that doesn't quite look like a movie: so natural seeming it's a little bleached out, and so understated in its acting that it's the screen equivalent of Carver's transparent, vernacular prose style."

Speaking of Altman, though, Terrence Rafferty looks back on The Long Goodbye, "neither a homage nor a deconstruction, though it contains elements of both. It's a film about transience, about the awful fragility of the things we want to think are built to last: friendships, marriages, faiths of all kinds - including the faith that pop culture can sometimes makes us feel in powerful fantasy figures like Marlowe and his jaunty, street-smart, superbly incorruptible ilk."

Scott Foundas, writing for Variety, found Stephanie Daley to be "a taut, provocative, sometimes overreaching but always absorbing thriller." Now, in a Q&A format a little unusual for the New York Times, Karen Durbin talks with writer-director Hilary Brougher.

Also in the NYT in the past few days:

Redline
  • For Andy Webster, Redline is "about surfaces, for young men with testosterone to burn, and the racing passages snap." John Horn has a backgrounder in the LAT. "There's something agreeably psychotic about Redline," finds Cinematical's James Rocchi.

  • Charles McGrath remembers cartoonist Johnny Hart (B.C.), "who died at his storyboard on Saturday at the age of 76, [retaining] a punning, gagman's sensibility."

  • "For all their complexity, Hollywood labor talks have often boiled down to issues of leadership," writes Michael Cieply. Patric Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America West, "has helped set a tone of wariness, if not outright anxiety, with his insistence on big solutions."

  • Cieply again: "A surge in online promotion and the proliferation of unrated DVDs has eroded the entertainment industry's promise not to entice youth with violent fare, according to a Federal Trade Commission report on the marketing of violence to teenagers."

  • Home viewing over at multimillionaire Bill Williams's place must be a fairly awesome if somewhat disturbing experience. Joyce Wadler reports.

  • Caryn James: "[I]n a time when no public record or paparazzi snap is likely to stay hidden from snoopy Web sites, the cult of the invisible celebrity has become all but obsolete."

Earlier: "Friday the 13th."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:51 AM

Full Frame Dispatch. 2.

The cinetrix follows up on Friday's dispatch from the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival It's that point in the festival. Your pal the cinetrix is awash with images and ideas. A quick look at some standouts, and then it's back into the dark for me.

Believe the hype about Manda Bala (Send a Bullet). This riveting look at corruption and crime from the highest offices to the most destitute favalas in Brazil presents its stories with arresting visuals and amazing characters. Mr M drives a bulletproof car. "Patricia" was kidnapped and had both of her ears cut off. Magrinho kidnaps the rich to provide food, medicine, sewage and smooth roads for his favela. Senator Jader Barbalho bilks the residents of Amazonia out of billions of development dollars. And it's all tied together by... a frog farm.

How did the filmmaker decide to tell this story? Affable, casually cursing Jason Kohn revealed during the Q&A that years ago he and his producer got high and watched some video he'd shot at frog farms while visiting his father in Brazil. With the profundity of one in an altered state, Kohn observed of the frogs: "They look like little people." And thus a film was born.

Ghosts of Cité Soleil Kohn urged me to see Ghosts of Cité Soleil, set in the slums of Port-au-Prince just as Aristede left. (I just thanked him.) It's a brutal, yes, but also moving story of masculinity in extremis with a fast-paced style that suggests the videos of the hip-hop artists that gang-leading brothers Bily and 2Pac model themselves after, with true life-or-death stakes.

Time for typeface. Helvetica is about to start, so I'll leave you with something St Clair Bourne said during this afternoon's Power of Ten roundtable: "Media sells soap, but it also carries dreams."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:48 AM

April 14, 2007

Syndromes and a petition.

Syndromes and a Century As of this writing, nearly 600 people from around the world have signed the "Free Thai Cinema Movement Petition." You'll have heard about Apichatpong Weerasethakul's run-in with Thailand's Censorship Board, which demanded four cuts before it would release Syndromes and a Century. "Joe" has refused to make those cuts, and you can read his reasons in the petition.

That said: "We're petitioning not only for a just decision for Syndromes and a Century, but also for a long-needed modernization of Thai legislation concerning movie censorship."

Go on, sign. I did.

Updates, 4/15: Commentary from Peter Nellhaus and, among the Cinemarati, Brian Darr. The "Syndromes" entry's also been updated through 4/21.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:27 PM

Remembering Lily Wheelwright.

Orphans After a screening of Orphans at SXSW, I stepped outside for a smoke. Lily Wheelwright came up to me and asked for cigarette. Happily obliging, I apologized for not having any Winstons on me, the brand I'd just seen her smoking on screen. She smiled and lit up and that's the full extent of our acquaintance. Nonetheless, it was a shock when the emails came in with the news of her death on March 22. She was only 24.

Now, Neil Amdur has a bit of background in the New York Times and mentions a memorial service taking place today at the Meeting House of Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn and a screening of Orphans on April 30 at 10 pm at the IFC Center. I thought that, if you're in New York, you might like to know.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:35 AM

Oxford American. Southern Movie Issue.

Oxford American: Southern Movie Issue Not only has the Oxford American put together an impressive "Southern Movie Issue 2007," they're also tossing in a free DVD for the first time - there's a trailer for it at the site, as well as liner notes by Marc Smirnoff - and they've posted a generous selection of articles online.

"Baby Doll is a movie about people not having sex," writes Jack Pendarvis, for example. "Man, it is so hot when they don't have sex in that swing. But I'm getting ahead of myself."

Tom Carson looks back on the romance between Paul Newman, "a half-Jewish, middle-class joe from Cleveland," and the South. By the 70s, "From Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Sweet Bird of Youth, and Hud to Cool Hand Luke, those blue eyes had spent so much screen time sizing up Delta mansions, muggy Gulf Coast hotels, and lonesome Texas ranch houses as fit thrones for the Newman loins that most actresses playing opposite him could have sued the scenery for alienation of affection. Putting on a Southern accent used to stimulate him the way chances to suffer did Montgomery Clift."

Cintra Wilson riffs on the casting and possible uncasting of Lindsay Lohan in a film based on The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, a script by Tennessee Williams discovered after his death: "Williams would have been utterly sympathetic to Lohan; he would have understood her compulsive delinquencies."

A terrific viewing list: "13 More Essential Southern Documentaries," each written up, and written up well by a separate contributor.

Chrystal Writer, director and actor Ray McKinnon addresses writing, directing and mostly acting, particularly the sort of "carelessness in screen acting and screenwriting that has motivated me to finally step up and tell my own flawed versions of the Southern experience."

Francine Prose on seeing Jezebel again: "[S]trangely, the part that I failed to remember - perhaps because I did see it in the 60s, before the force of so-called second-wave feminism slammed into the culture - is how much of the plot occurs at the precise point at which the drive toward female self-determination hits the brick wall of cultural and social expectation."

"In 1967, those of us who saw Bonnie and Clyde in the small towns of North Louisiana walked out of the theaters in a kind of daze - moved, shocked, silent, and perhaps secretly exhilarated." William Caverlee reflects on the myths and realities of the legend.

"What makes a film 'Hustonian'?" Joseph McBride on John Huston.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:04 AM | Comments (2)

April 13, 2007

Full Frame Dispatch. 1.

From Durham NC, once again, the one, the only, the cinetrix.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Here's a telling thing the cinetrix overheard at Full Frame this morning: a journalist on his cellphone peering out the window and giving a pal directions: "It's between Pennebaker and the coffee cart." Yes, as in DA Pennebaker. Now in its 10th year, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is, more than ever, about the filmmakers. (A canvas tote is the extent of the swag here.)

A film geek standing as I stood on the mezzanine of the Durham Armory last night, looking down on the Catalan-themed Opening Night Party below, would be in heaven. There's Kirby Dick chatting with a striking woman clad in white. A server wafts another bottle of wine over to the table at which tall, lean Ariel Dorfman and petite festival founder and executive director Nancy Buirski chat with pals. HBO doc doyenne Sheila Nevins is rumored to be here this year - a fun game to play is to guess which woman is She. I looked for a queue of documentarians waiting to kiss her ring, but to no avail.

Outside I bum a cigarette from The Carpetbagger himself, David Carr, who's catching up with Andrew Rossi and his partner Kate. Carr appears briefly in Rossi's doc about Sirio Maccioni's restaurant Le Cirque, A Table in Heaven. Kate confided that they'd finished editing only the day before. She marveled at the party: "It's like a wedding." Or a family reunion.

But what about the films? An entire program could be built around hands. I caught the short Metacarpus this morning and am about to dash into The Hands of Che Guevara. On Sunday, Nathaniel Kahn screens his latest, Two Hands. Or another program about the project of bringing cinema to all corners of the world. Jamie Meltzer's Welcome to Nollywood was a crowd-pleasing look at the film industry in Nigeria, the third largest on the planet. Uli Gaulke's Comrades in Dreams took viewers even further afield, tracking dedicated exhibitors in Shingnapur, India; Congsan-Ri, DPR Korea; Ouagadougou, Burkina-Faso; and Big Piney, USA. What drives these folks, one says, "is a calling stronger than family." Speaking of which, a film calls. More soon.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:12 PM

Goings on. All over.

More Than Meets the Eye: Remaking Jane Fonda "The Wexner Center's exhibition space for video, The Box features varied works shown in an intimate setting. Screenings run continuously seven days a week." Currently on view through April: Scott Stark's More Than Meets the Eye: Remaking Jane Fonda. And downloadable as a PDF is Chris Stults's accompanying essay.

At Twitch, Peter Martin notes that the "program for the Ninth Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, has been posted online. As usual, it's a stellar line-up." April 20 through 28.

David Bordwell has been saying hello and goodbye to just about everyone in the Hong Kong film industry, it seems.

Overviews in the Chicago Reader: Chicago's Baseball Film Festival (today and tomorrow) and the Chicago Latino Film Festival (today through April 26).

Cine Las Americas "Cine Las Americas opens this year's festival with Mexican filmmaker Francisco Vargas Quevedo's multi-award-winning drama, El Violín... a stunning film that dazzles with its deceptive simplicity," writes Claudia Alarcón in the Austin Chronicle. April 19 through 26.

Opening April 27 at the AFI Silver Theatre somewhere in the vicinity of the nation's capital and running through May 2 is the film David Gordon Green has called one of the best American independent films, if not the best American independent film in years, The Guatemalan Handshake.

"I know that it's sacrilege in some circles to put down Andrew Bujalski - whose films are easily among the best (only?) genuine contemporary American comedies - but [Reg] Harkema completely schools Bujalski when it comes to marrying observant comedy about young men and women today with real cinema," writes Robert Koehler in another of a string of ongoing dispatches to filmjourney.org from the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival, which is screening all of the Canadian filmmaker's work. "In Harkema, there's editing, and the music that comes with this; it's simply not found - not yet anyway - in Bujalski's funny but comparatively static films."

"The prime audience for [Cam Archer's Wild Tigers I Have Known, at the Brattle this week] is arthouse adults, as some of the material is probably too licentious for approved teen watching. Too bad," sighs Gerald Peary. Also in the Boston Phoenix, Peter Keough's overview of jewishfilm.2007. Through April 22.

The Joke Accompanying the Vancouver International Film Centre's Czech New Wave series is an exhibition of "Czech Film Posters of the 20th Century," on display through April.

On tour in the UK: Geoff Smith on three hammered dulcimers, providing live accompaniment to Häxen: Witchcraft Through the Ages. The Independent's Charlotte Cripps meets him.

"The preselection process for the 12th International Media Art Biennale WRO 07 has been completed." May 16 through 20.

Bryan Hendrickson looks back at some recent goings on in Seattle for the Siffblog.

The deadline for submitting work to the DivX Film Festival has been extended to April 30.

Online viewing tip. IFC News presents SXSW 2007: Behind the Badge.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:14 PM

Goings on. LA.

Homecoming "Jon Jost [site] may well be the most important American filmmaker who remains virtually unknown to moviegoers," suggests Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times. "The perverse irony is that although his films aren't readily accessible in theaters, they are in themselves highly accessible." His latest is La Lunga Ombra, "a beautiful, elliptical meditation on the aftermath of 9/11 in Europe, in particular its effect on three Italian women deeply touched on a personal level by the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan," screening Sunday in LA, courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive. See acquarello's review as well. And Jost's Homecoming screens Thursday at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Jost will be present on both evenings.

"Since its inception, [City of Lights, City of Angels] has offered local moviegoers a rare opportunity to don honorary French citizenship for a week and see movies the way the French public does - that is, the same mix of highbrow and lowbrow, mainstream and off-the-beaten-path, that can regularly be found playing in any decent Paris cinema, as opposed to the rather narrow selection of haute-bourgeois comedies, lavish period epics and other ready-for-export offerings of le cinéma français that make their annual pilgrimage to American art-house screens," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly. April 16 through 22.

The LAT notes the opening of the Vietnamese International Film Festival, through Sunday and April 19 through 22.

For the LA CityBeat, Andy Klein talks with Bill Plympton about Hair High, opening at Laemmle's Sunset 5.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:47 PM

Goings on. NYC.

L Magazine: Film Issue The centerpiece of the L Magazine's Film Issue is a preview of the Tribeca Film Festival (April 25 through May 6): "Though at press time we hadn't seen any of the offerings, we've done our best to sort out the celluloid wheat from the cutting room chaff. And because Tribeca's not the only film festival that can attract a self-important crowd, we've done our best to mock the stereotypical festival-goers of the other major film gatherings. Because we can."

"Apple and indieWIRE are proud to present Filmmaker Talks at the Apple Store Soho during the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival." Also, Charlie Olsky's been out on the town, taking notes.

"The greatest thing about the Gen Art Film Festival is its simplicity," writes Erik Davis at Cinematical. "7 nights. 7 premieres. 7 parties. That's it." Through Tuesday.

At the Reeler:

First Run Film Festival

The Voice's J Hoberman previews a "week of Chinese, Korean, and Thai fests" in New York.

"The 10th Brooklyn International Film Festival (BiFF) has been titled IDENTITY." June 1 through 10.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:35 PM

Goings on. Bay Area.

Sonoma Valley Film Festival Another 10th anniversary: The Sonoma Valley Film Festival has quietly opened and runs, or rather, strolls on through Sunday. As Susan Gerhard writes at SF360, "SVFF is all about the good life. Every screening is preceded by 'gourmet food and wine pairings,' winery excursions are offered, and 'casual mingling with celebrity chefs and star winemakers' is billed right up there with the possibility of hoisting glass with some rising director or glamorous thespian. Which is not to say all this wining and dining comes at the expense of a solid program."

"SF360.org checked in with a few friends in the San Francisco filmmaking scene to see what they're looking forward to in the 50th edition of the SF International Film Festival."

"[A]s Michael Jacobs's documentary Audience of One reveals, the quixotic [Richard] Gazowsky has hit endless snags in his quest to be the next Mel Gibson (or George Lucas) with his 'Ten Commandments meets Star Wars" epic, Gravity: In the Shadow of Joseph," writes Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Guardian. "It seems unquestioning faith can only go so far before naïveté, technical inexperience, and long-overdue rent get in the way." Audience of One screens at the San Francisco International Film Festival on May 3 and 7.

I Don't Want to Sleep Alone Back at SF360: Max Goldberg on Tsai Ming-liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, screening at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on April 19, 21 and 22, and Alberto Lattuada's Mafioso.

Michael Guillén notes that Sound of the Soul: The Fez Festival of World Sacred Music opens tonight at the Roxie before moving on to San Rafael on Sunday and Monday. He talks with filmmaker Stephen Olsson. Also: "Yet another film I caught at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival and which I'm pleased to discover on the SFIFF50 line-up is Hirokazu Kore-eda's Hana."

More on Sound of the Soul from G Allen Johnson in the San Francisco Chronicle, where he also reviews Mafioso and Journey From the Fall.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:22 PM

Friday the 13th.

What's being said about a few of the other films opening today, films that probably won't see their own entry...

The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai "The overripe morsel who gets batted around in the Japanese absurdithon The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai looks like she was conjured up by a teenage boy in dangerous hormonal overdrive." For Manohla Dargis (New York Times), the film's a "clutter of soft-core political parody, hard-core narrative nonsense, breezy sexism, junky visuals and penny-ante surrealism." More from Aaron Hillis (Voice) and Rob Humanick (Slant).

"With Voice of a Murderer, the unpredictable Korean director Park Jin-pyo returns to the docudrama form he employed so provocatively in Too Young to Die, his 2002 examination of septuagenarian sex." In the end, Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT) finds the new one "an uninvolving melodrama more suited to the small screen than to the large."

Nick Schager in Slant on Dreaming Lhasa: "With their plodding episodic narrative beset by an energy shortage, and their cast as stilted and unnatural as the script's painfully simplistic dialogue, the filmmakers prove unable to effectively paint a portrait of contemporary Tibetan émigrés, whose plight—being caught between love and loyalty for their birthplace, and the allure of foreign/American cultures and opportunities—is cogently established but listlessly handled." More from Ed Gonzalez (Voice) and Kristi Mitsuda (indieWIRE).

Stephen Holden (NYT): "There is enough of a grain of truth in this noirish thriller, directed by James Foley from a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, that even after it lurches from the far-fetched into the preposterous, Perfect Stranger leaves a clammy residue of unease." More from Derek Malcolm (Evening Standard), Stephanie Zacharek (Salon) and Ryan Stewart (Cinematical).

"[T]he queasy mixture of sympathy and curiosity that Red Road evokes is evidence of a talented, risk-taking filmmaker discovering her power," writes AO Scott (NYT). More from Steve Erickson (Gay City News) and Annie Frisbie (Zoom In Online). Michael Joshua Rowin interviews Andrea Arnold for Reverse Shot. For indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman looks into the state of Zentropa's Advance Party project - not going too smoothly, evidently. Earlier: "Interview. Andrea Arnold."

Lonely Hearts Stephen Holden (NYT): "Lonely Hearts, a beautifully photographed remake of Leonard Kastle's 1970 cult B-movie The Honeymoon Killers - which was based on the actual crimes of the couple known as the Lonely Hearts Killers - succeeds better than many [crime dramas] in balancing the philosophical with the visceral, although its villains' dirty deeds still trump its deeper strain of melancholy." More from Annie Frisbie (Zoom In Online). IndieWIRE and ST VanAirsdale interview director Todd Robinson. But "the picture belongs to Salma Hayek," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. Speaking of whom, as Lorenza Muñoz reports in the Los Angeles Times, "Seeking to tap into the growing Latino market in the United States, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc has partnered with actress Salma Hayek to make two to four Latin-themed movies a year."

Matt Zoller Seitz (NYT) on Modern Man: "If you go to movies expecting certain familiar elements - plot, dialogue, relationships and so forth - you'll want to throw popcorn at the screen. But if you tune into this film's rhythms, you'll leave the theater seeing the world with fresh eyes." More from Aaron Hillis (Voice).

Manohla Dargis (NYT): "All grunting, all goring, the witless action flick Pathfinder has little to recommend it, though Terrence Malick completists may be interested to know that it rips off a few setups from that master's magnum opus The New World."

The Boston Globe's Ty Burr lays out his "picks for Friday the 13th."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:56 PM

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters "Not to condescend to the faithfully stoned: Aqua Teen Hunger Force is a trip," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "Which makes its feature-length incarnation, aptly titled Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, into a befuddling journey."

"Adapted from the popular show on the Adult Swim programming block on the Cartoon Network and directed by that show's creators, Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis, the Aqua Teen movie is strictly for cultists, and even they might find less than 90 bongless minutes hard to sit through," writes AO Scott in the New York Times.

"I just saw a movie in which a pack of french fries, a wad of ground beef and a milkshake save the world - or at least, New Jersey - from a psychotic giant exercise machine built 70,000 years ago by aliens," writes the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter.

Updated through 4/19.

"Self-aware to a fault, the movie is post-explanation, post-narrative and, most important, post-effort, which makes plot summary not only undesirable but unwise," advises Sam Adams in the Los Angeles Times.

Slate's Dana Stevens: "Neither a satire, a pastiche, nor a parody, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters> is like the bright-colored gunk you might vomit up after a weekend of gorging on cartoons, B movies, and bad science fiction. But when I compare the movie to vomit, I don't mean it in a bad way."

"Oh, people I know love ATHF - unabashedly, and I don't think it's just drug-induced - but it has no sticking power for me. And showing me ATHF bigger and longer and uncut doesn't do much to change that," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi.

"[T]his motion picture is brutal, amateurish, insulting, and occasionally brilliant," writes Brian Orndorf at Hollywood Bitchslap.

On the whole, the movie "feels deeply calculated rather than genuinely crazy," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek.

"Next to Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny looks like a Ken Burns documentary," writes Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Update, 4/19: Nick Schager: "A self-consciously anti-conformist, surrealistic animated saga for adults, it glides along to the beat of its own foul-mouthed drum (or, rather, the magically powered drums of Rush's Neil Peart), never stopping to offer any concessions to mainstream audience expectations or demands and, in the process, proving to be that rare major studio-financed movie whose every fiber is the product of a thoroughly unique, maverick voice."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:25 PM

Disturbia.

Disturbia "In teen movies, almost any story, from The Taming of the Shrew to The Maltese Falcon, can be reconfigured into an exploration of the pressures and crushes of high school's senior year. So why not Disturbia, which lifts its premise from Alfred Hitchcock's provocative 1954 thriller Rear Window?" asks Liam Lacey in the Globe and Mail.

Well: "Don't bother trying to appreciate the awfulness of Disturbia with the sort of guilty pleasure indulgence that watching cheesy B-movies occasionally allows," warns Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "The sole point of interest is the surprising amount of talent involved in the production. Director DJ Caruso's ominous drama, The Salton Sea, had its moments. And Shia LaBeouf, a marvelously capable young actor whose role in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints resulted in one of last year's finest performances, here seems like a cardboard cut-out of himself."

"Disturbia will never be accused of undue originality, but its adherence to genre conventions works in its favor," writes AO Scott in the New York Times.

"Awful title aside, Disturbia's reworking of Rear Window for the YouTube generation is pretty nifty, drenching its tale of paranoid surveillance in the type of modern techno-gadgetry - DV camcorders, camera phones, various Apple products - that's helped transform privacy from a right into a luxury," writes Nick Schager at Slant.

"It isn't a bad movie, but you can find better movies in theaters right now, if you want to watch a good thriller," advises Jette Kernion at Cinematical.

More from Robert Wilonsky in the Voice and Andrew Sarris in the New York Observer.

"At 20, Shia LaBeouf (it's pronounced Shy-ah LaBuff) is already an accomplished actor with a lengthy résumé." Tasha Robinson interviews him for the AV Club. Related: Susan King's profile in the Los Angeles Times. Cinematical's Erik Davis notes that he'll be in the fourth Indiana Jones film, too.

Ellen McCarthy profiles David Morse for the Washington Post, where John Maynard finds the film "takes enough turns to keep you guessing until nearly the end."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:16 PM

Germans, 4/13.

Arsenal ticket With Berlin Alexanderplatz screening through Sunday at MoMA - Vadim Rizov, by the way, writing at the Reeler, finds the whole experience "a brilliant pain in the ass, a mostly rewarding slog" - a few related items.

Though Ralf Schenk's overview of the vast yet leisurely paced series at the Arsenal in Berlin, Written on the Wind: Gruppenbild mit RWF, is in German, you might be interested in the general idea. Basically, alongside films by Fassbinder, they'll be screening films by his associates, films that influenced RWF, even films he simply happened to quite like. The series runs on through mid-summer.

More recently in the Berliner Zeitung, Schenk previews the Pasolini retrospective that begins tonight at the Lichtblick-Kino and runs through May 2. Also: Knut Elstermann reviews Ulrike Franke and Michael Loeken's documentary on the effects of globalization, Losers and Winners.

Shooting for Volker Schlöndorff's adaptation of Donna Woolfolk Cross's bestseller, Pope Joan, with Franka Potente pencilled in for the lead, has been indefinitely delayed, reports the Berliner Morgenpost. The probable problem: John Goodman is said to have agreed to play a 9th century pope, then backed out; now he faces a $3 million lawsuit.

International Short Film Festival Oberhausen The 53rd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen is set for May 3 through 8.

Meanwhile, it's official: The Lives of Others, opening in the UK today (and reviewed by Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian; Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman; Anthony Quinn in the Independent; Sukhdev Sandhu in the Telegraph, where Sheila Johnston talks with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck; James Christopher in the Times; and Derek Malcolm in the Evening Standard), has made more money in the US than any German film since Das Boot. Der Tagesspiegel reports.

Also: Nina Hoss, who won a Silver Bear at the Berlinale for her performance in Christian Petzold's slow-burning wonder, Yella, is taking on the title role in Max Färberböck's adaptation of the diary Anonyma.

It's still hard out here for a German filmmaker, reports Ole Tangen Jr for Deutsche Welle - and in English.

Steven Bach, author of Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl, writes in the Los Angeles Times: "Still alive when I began writing about her (she died in 2003 at the age of 101), Riefenstahl invaded my sleeping hours and (to paraphrase Ernst Lubitsch) did to my slumbers what her Führer did to Poland. Writing about her required me to immerse myself in a life of formidable strengths and frailties, and into the dark heart of one of the most brutal and dishonest epochs in recent human history. Thus do dreams become nightmares."

And Kate Connelly reports in the Guardian on a tiff between Marlene Dietrich's 77-year-old daughter, Maria Riva, and Universal that has delayed the release of a DVD box set of 18 films featuring "the only world star that Germany has ever produced," as one representative of the estate puts it. "The lesson? Next time you consider falling in love again, just make sure you have written permission."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:29 AM

This Is England. And Englishness.

This Is England "I assumed all skinheads were racists," writes Sarfraz Manzoor:

This, after all, was a time when National Front-supporting skinheads would march through our town centre on Saturday afternoons, and the news, circulated through the Asian community, would prompt our parents to ensure we did not venture into town. Memories of those fear-filled afternoons came rushing back to me as I watched This Is England, an astonishingly powerful and compelling new film from Shane Meadows. The 1980s were about more than Rubik's cubes, ZX Spectrums and the New Romantics, and by recalling the dark side of the decade, Meadows rescues it from the lazy compressions of nostalgia.

Updated.

Its associations with racism have meant that skinhead culture has inspired less cinematic affection than other English youth cultures. This Is England is, among other things, an attempt to rehabilitate the skinhead movement by reminding us of its links with ska and reggae, and to capture a moment when there was nothing oxymoronic about being a black skinhead.

Also in the Guardian: "This Is England left me with a sense that perhaps my mother had sneakily been selling film options on my early 1980s diaries, because sitting through it was akin to watching a rerun of my youth in the forlorn resort of Margate," writes Iain Aitch.

And Danny Leigh: "Most of us have our theories as to why Meadows's accounts of suburbs and small towns have such novelty value in the ersatz world of British movies. Personally, I put it down to the class filter that dominates the industry."

All this and the film doesn't even open until April 27. Meanwhile, the Guardian also takes notes of another sort of Englishness, namely, that "Mr Bean's rubbery face and pratfalls may be unfunny here, but they obviously have some kind of recognition in Iran." And "if you ask a non-Brit to describe Mr Bean, these are the words they deliver back: hapless, awkward, self-conscious, childlike, disaster-prone ... and British." Patrick Barkham wonders how that's happened.

And then there's this shocking news: "Britain is a nation of 'film bluffs' with many people lying about the films they have seen and their favorite titles in a bid to appear more intellectual, according to a new survey." The Evening Standard reports.

Updates: "London today is so absurdly cinematic, in its outrageous contrasts of wealth and scale, that its almost criminal that no-one is doing anything with it." Another excellent entry from Owen Hatherley.

"Is Terence Davies the greatest living director that no one talks about?" Blogging for Reverse Shot, robbiefreeling argues, basically, yes.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:27 AM

April 12, 2007

Resnais. Coeurs and Muriel.

James Monaco: Alain Resnais "I had seen Marienbad and Hiroshima and many more in crappy prints all through my cinephilic teens, and I had read and re-read James Monaco's 1978 book on Resnais too many times to mention. Anyone who knows me even a little will tell you that I'm one of those peculiar sorts who is only starstruck by directors. I leave it to you to imagine my elation when, before turning things over to his interpreter..., Resnais took the receiver in Paris and said, in English, 'Hello, Glenn. I am Alain.'" And so begins Glenn Kenny's marvelous conversation with Alain Resnais for Premiere about Private Fears in Public Places (Coeurs), though it also touches on Stan Lee, Michel Gondry, DVDs, humor and a "precise souvenir."

"Both Resnais's first color film (it is stunning) and his first to take place in a recognizably contemporary French setting, Muriel is his first unqualified masterpiece, a film that now seems years ahead of its time in its complex editing and its refusal to validate or discount its characters' possibly mistaken conception of the world around them," writes Travis Miles at Stop Smiling.

Updated through 4/16.

Armond White begins his review of Private Fears in the New York Press by first looking back to the early works: "Resnais' movies constructed images to represent cogitation, memory and imagination. Though easily copied, they were never matched; only traduced by movies like Memento, The Matrix and Stranger than Fiction - or unacknowledged by our timid and conventional contemporary film culture.... Resnais is the most influential yet least familiar filmmaker from that period Philip Lopate called the 'heroic age of moviegoing.' Watching Private Fears gives one that 60s heroic feeling due to Resnais' still-challenging emphasis on form."

"I found the interlocking bitterness of [Alan] Ayckbourn's play (adapted by Jean-Michel Ribes) irritating and overly neat, and these people don't seem to belong to Paris or London or anywhere else, at least not anytime in the last 20 years," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir of Private Fears. "But something about Resnais' rigorous attention to the tiniest detail, his infinitesimal flourishes of surrealism and the metrical precision of Eric Gautier's camerawork - not to mention the terrific cast of French cinema veterans - finally sucked me in, and for a while the patent artificiality of Private Fears in Public Places seemed real, and the real world a dream."

Jim Ridley in the Voice on Private Fears: "Resnais's mastery shows how avant-garde the movie equivalent of a well-made play can be." More from Mark Asch in the L Magazine.

Earlier: Dave Kehr's must-read in the New York Times.

Updates, 4/13: "These days, difficult films - it seems important to add that difficult is not a pejorative - rarely elicit anything but yawns and condescension," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Private Fears in Public Places is far from difficult and that, it is also worth noting, is not a criticism. The film is accessible, pleasant, dreamy, a touch goofy and melancholic. Its modernist gestures are little more than stylistic tics, but there's an image of snow falling on two clasped hands that is almost rapturous."

"I have a hard time accepting what I feel is the resigned subtlety of Alain Resnais' current style," writes Daniel Kasman, who's so recently praised Muriel. The opening scene of Private Fears "moves from a foggy, Psycho-like swooping camera moving over Paris as it comes to rest at an apartment window, and proceeds to film the scene in the empty apartment through Cinemascope close-ups, tight camera movements, somewhat-abstracted background space, precise framing, and an otherwise interested, but never incisive formalism. The effect is of general dulling of a sharpness to the work, missing an edge that truly unites the obvious theatre roots of the source to the cinematic adaptation of its oft sublime sadness, as the uniformly stellar cast continually outperform the fairly mediocre play."

"Despite Resnais's turn to filmed theater, which began with his 1986 Mélo, he's still experimenting with film form," writes Steve Erickson at Gay City News. "In fact, the relationship of Private Fears in Public Places to the Alan Ayckbourn play from which it's adapted is akin to Michael Mann's Miami Vice and the TV series it's based on."

"In Private Fears In Public Places, technique outstrips content for a while, although the script's fundamental toothlessness eventually destroys the movie," writes Vadim Rizov at the Reeler.

Update, 4/16: Richard Gibson posts a shot of Resnais and Chris Marker at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger...

Posted by dwhudson at 3:08 PM | Comments (4)

IW. Full Frame.

Independent Weekly: Full Frame "Marking its 10th anniversary, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is more than a diamond in the rough," writes Neil Morris, opening the Independent Weeky's big celebratory package on the fest, opening today and running through Sunday. "Sure, it is the largest film festival in the United States devoted solely to documentaries. It is the Triangle's preeminent arts and entertainment event. But, perhaps more significantly, the festival has contributed to and benefited from the overall ascendancy of documentary filmmaking. Many of the films shown at Full Frame over the past nine years are like historical time stamps chronicling our collective zeitgeist, from 9/11 to the Iraq War to Katrina and beyond."

The overview crescendos here: "Foremost amid the schedule is the Power of Ten curated program, in which 10 acclaimed artists who have contributed to Full Frame's success were asked to select one film that has significantly influenced them."

Michael MooreAllen Gurganus will be presenting this year's Career Award to Ross McElwee, and Douglas Vuncannon talks with both him and his frequent star and muse, Charleen Swansea.

"Exactly who is David Allan Coe, and what does he believe in?" asks Grayson Currin. "[Director Shambhavi] Kaul's not saying in Field of Stone or in conversation because she doesn't know, and that's the provocative edge of her work."

Banished and Greensburo: Closer to the Truth are featured in the Southern Sidebar. Lisa Sorg takes a look at both.

Then comes the great swath of capsule reviews written up by IW staff.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:31 AM

Philadelphia, 4/12.

Philadelphia Film Festival "Russian ghost stories, Haitian child gangsters and British office workers fighting off blood-thirsty killers in the mountains of Hungary—all this and much more as the Philadelphia Film Festival enters its second week." The Philadelphia Weekly picks the highlights.

The Philadelphia City Paper reviews the week, too, check-marking its recommendations. The fest runs through Wednesday.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:57 AM

Grindhouse, 4/12.

Grindhouse Ray Pride finds it odd but interesting to be writing about Grindhouse "after its cataclysmic opening weekend, with mooted plans by distributor The Weinstein Company to perhaps pull the $90 million-plus investment from theaters and to release Robert Rodriguez's twangy, frenetic Tex-Mex-neck zombie Planet Terror separately from Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, a sadistic, even nihilist, limb-scattering car-crash demolition derby opus and girl-gawking trash-talk epic (aka 'Gone in 60 Footrubs')."

Indeed: "As last weekend's box-office take for the heavily promoted Grindhouse tumbled in at just $11.6 million, a chilly realization came with the numbers: Not all is well with the Weinstein Company," reports Michael Cieply for the New York Times.

So what happened? At the Reeler, ST VanAirdale assesses "the routines of movie blogs' finest second-guessers," and it's there that you'll see all the main bullet points fired off.

Updated through 4/17.

Joe Leydon fires a few fresh ones himself; more from Ron Gonsalves at Hollywood Bitchslap, where there are new reviews from Jason Whyte and David Cornelius. Plus, Whyte and William Goss ask, "What's wrong with the world today?"

Michael Z Newman has a few suggestions; the ads made it look misogynist, argues Justine_FilmFatale. Geoffrey Macnab finds it "fitting that the film itself is now being sawn through the midriff."

Even so, some are still getting a kick out of the full-evening-ride version. At DVD Panache, for example, Adam Ross sends out thanks to all the filmmakers involved. PopMatters' Bill Gibron finds it "a resplendent reminder of why movies are magic."

But: "Quentin Tarantino is ruining American movies," declares Jonathan Kiefer in the Sacremento News & Review. "If Robert Rodriguez knows what's good for him - and for the art of filmmaking - he'll dissolve his professional partnership with Tarantino immediately. As the writer-directors' tag-teamed double feature Grindhouse makes clear, Tarantino is only dragging Rodriguez down."

And the Philadelphia Weekly's Sean Burns gives it a "C".

Earlier: "4/4" and "3/28."

Updates: It's "an uneven, hyperventilating whole high on its own audacity," writes Jeannette Catsoulis for Reverse Shot. "Essentially a well-executed nostalgia trip with no new detours, Planet Terror scavenges Romero and Fulci with less artistry and more secretions.... The real problem with Death Proof is its absolute failure to engage our emotions; compared to the revenge-driven heroine of the Meir Zarchi classic I Spit on Your Grave, these gals are as expendable as blowup dolls."

"Grindhouse in the long run is a grind indeed," sighs Duncan Shepherd in the San Diego Reader. "Anyone wanting to relive the experience of Golden Age exploitation would do better to see Black Snake Moan. All it lacks are the scratches and a second bill."

"If the recent box office disappointment of Grindhouse itself recalls the miniscule awareness of original grindhouse movies, then the movie has managed a brilliant bout of performance art," suggests Eric Kohn in the New York Press. Come to think of it: "Given their underground prominence in the gritty land of 70s-era Manhattan, it's an unfortunate byproduct of misunderstanding that prevented any real discourse between the exploitation scene and a thriving group of independent experimental filmmakers taking shape in the Downtown area. In the preface to Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square, coauthor Bill Landis recalls a time when Anthology Film Archives founder Jonas Mekas scolded him for leaving a grassroots publication centered on exploitation movies in the lobby of Mekas' theater. Granted, a guy like Mekas might not want to deal with anything titled Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, since the video diarist spent the early years of World War II producing anti-Nazi fliers while hiding out in Lithuania. But the incongruity of two anti-populist movements within an insular film culture is a curious situation that undoubtedly contributed to the further marginalization of grindhouse movies."

"I don't even get paid to make savvy marketing guesses, and I could have told Harvey that them what likes Norbit and Wild Hogs and Blades of Glory may not flock to his movie (especially on Easter weekend)," writes Dennis Cozzalio. "But for heathens and film-savvy fans eager to revisit the heyday of pus-and-blood zombie epics, road-rage-fueled revenge thrillers and directors like Jack Hill, Lucio Fulci and George A Romero, when downtown urban grindhouses and, perhaps even more importantly for my generation (and Tarantino's), drive-ins served as musty, rickety, sticky cathedrals for exhibiting the violent, sleazy, amoral dregs of movie culture, Grindhouse is a 195-minute bliss-out, a giddy orgy of nostalgia, reinvention and, maybe for some, redemption of a kind of movie most often held beneath contempt by critics and even moviegoers."

Matt Zoller Seitz and Keith Uhlich discuss "My Tarantino Problem, and Yours" at the House Next Door. Pack a snack.

"In the end, the failure of Grindhouse isn't really about a failure for 70s B-movie nostlagia - it's a failure for 90s nostalgia." Karina Longworth explains.

"You knew Tarantino's contribution would be good, but who would've expected Rodriguez to match him (and in my humble opinion, one-up him) with a film just as inspired in its lunacy?" wonders Dave Micevic.

Updates, 4/13: Mike Goodridge interviews Tarantino for the Evening Standard.

"Lloyd Kaufman is the legendary NYC-based, B-movie auteur and founder of Troma, an independent film studio that's acquired and distributed thousands of films you've probably never heard of," writes Matthew A Stern, introducing his interview for the New York Press. "With the grindhouse phenom cranking up, it seemed like the perfect time to check in with him and, with his inexhaustible discursiveness and characteristically bawdy wordplay, Kaufman gave a rousing defense of independent cinema, and a critique of the zombie culture that has the mainstream media, who so often ignore him, suddenly scrambling for his phone number."

"[I]n Death Proof, black suited guys are replaced by hotties in baby tees and tight pants, and the results come off as little more than male geek fantasy - gorgeous young women sitting around dropping references to Zatoichi, obscure British rock bands, and 70s cult cinema," notes Filmbrain. "It's unbelievably juvenile, and more than a little pathetic."

"Grindhouse is to grindhouse movies as the AMC Empire 25 is to the Empire: a gussied-up homage that can't compare to the real thing." Looker explains.

Update, 4/14: Nikke Finke looks at the weekend box office numbers so far, and for Grindhouse, they are most definitely not good: "Not only did the Hard R-rated pic place only 11th its second week out, but The Weinstein Co's release dropped a whopping 74% Friday to squeeze out only $1.3 mil from 2,629 venues for a paltry new cume of $16.7 mil. Its per-screen average of just $494 meant the much-hyped movie was playing in near-empty theaters. The most it could make this weekend is $4 mil."

Update, 4/15: Harry Knowles posts a list at AICN: "I personally vouch for each and every one of these fuckers as being righteously kick ass titles of the Grindhouse variety."

Update, 4/16: The Ultimate Dancing Machine sends notes from Tarantino's Grindhouse Festival in LA to Hollywood Bitchslap.

Updates, 4/17: "Like the fabled producers of old, the men who made exploitation the historical hinge for all post-modern cinema, you can't take failure as the final response." In an open letter to the Weinsteins, PopMatters' Bill Gibron outlines a battle plan. After all, "David F Friedman, Dan Sonny, Harry Novak and Bob Cresse didn't make mountains of money - and a ballbusting reputation - by moping around the minute the public rejected their efforts. No, they reinvented these projects, using the standard carnival barker approach of bait and switch to change the perception of their problematic productions."

At ScreenGrab, DK Holm reviews Grindhouse: The Sleaze-filled Saga of an Exploitation Double Feature and Death Proof: A Screenplay, both naturally from Weinstein Books.

"I still miss the old Harvey, who used to confront filmmakers when they were arrogant or indifferent to audience concerns, as he did when he got into a screaming fight with Tarantino in the lobby of a multiplex in Seattle over the filmmaker's refusal to trim Jackie Brown. That was the Harvey who almost single-handedly dragged independent film into the commercial mainstream, championed young film talent and turned the Oscars into a brilliant marketing weapon for his art-house acquisitions." Yes, Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein actually misses this guy.

Jeremiah Kipp's "5 for the Day" at the House Next Door: Kurt Russell.

"The project is a worthy one, both economically and from the point of view as a theatre spectator," writes Daniel Kasman. "Watching the package with a large crowd reminded me of the unforgettable live viewing of Guy Maddin's fairly mediocre film Brand Upon the Brain!, where the in-the-moment experience was thrilling and memorable but the content itself is entirely without longevity."

Updates, 4/18: "From frame one I was hyped," writes Rufus at Lucid Screening. "So yeah this review isn't neutral but who the hell cares? It's exploitation."

An online viewing tip from Ed Champion: "Quentin Tarantino vs Jan Wahl."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:50 AM | Comments (2)

Kurt Vonnegut, 1922 - 2007.

Kurt Vonnegut: A Man Without a Country
Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle and God Bless You, Mr Rosewater caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died last night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island....

His novels - 14 in all - were alternate universes, filled with topsy-turvy images and populated by races of his own creation, like the Tralfamadorians and the Mercurian Harmoniums. He invented phenomena like chrono-synclastic infundibula (places in the universe where all truths fit neatly together) as well as religions, like the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent and Bokononism (based on the books of a black British Episcopalian from Tobago "filled with bittersweet lies," a narrator says).

Updated through 4/18.

The defining moment of Mr Vonnegut's life was the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, by Allied forces in 1945, an event he witnessed firsthand as a young prisoner of war. Thousands of civilians were killed in the raids, many of them burned to death or asphyxiated. "The firebombing of Dresden," Mr Vonnegut wrote, "was a work of art." It was, he added, "a tower of smoke and flame to commemorate the rage and heartbreak of so many who had had their lives warped or ruined by the indescribable greed and vanity and cruelty of Germany."

His experience in Dresden was the basis of Slaughterhouse-Five, which was published in 1969 against the backdrop of war in Vietnam, racial unrest and cultural and social upheaval.

Dinitia Smith, New York Times.

"There was never a kinder and, at the same time, wittier writer to be with personally," author Tom Wolfe, a friend and admirer of Vonnegut's, told [the Los Angeles Times]. "He was just a gem in that respect. And as a writer, I guess he's the closest thing we had to a Voltaire. He could be extremely funny, but there was a vein of iron always underneath it, which made him quite remarkable.

"He was never funny just to be funny," Wolfe added....

He is "together with John Hawkes and Günter Grass... the most stubbornly imaginative" of writers, novelist John Irving once wrote of Vonnegut. "He is not anybody else, or even a version of anybody else, and he is a writer with a cause."

Elaine Woo, LAT.

Updates: The Guardian collects ten links for further exploration and runs an extract from Vonnegut's last book, A Man Without a Country, a memoir.

The NYT gathers its reviews of Vonnegut's books as well as book reviews by Vonnegut on one "Featured Author" page.

Ed Champion is turning an entry into a motherlode of resources.

Nice collection taking shape at Boing Boing, too.

"[R]eading his work for the first time gives one the sense that everything else is rank hypocrisy," writes Time's Lev Grossman.

Jerry Lentz: "He was my favorite writer."

"Often, when a book and/or author has an almost mythic reputation, starting with their most famous book can disappoint," writes Edward Copeland. "Slaughterhouse-Five, with its flights of fancy spun intricately with horror and heartbreak did not disappoint."

Salon runs Dave Eggers's entry on Vonnegut for their Reader's Guide and Dana Cook gathers recollections from notables' past writings. And then there's Andrew Leonard: "My father and Vonnegut were good friends. One trickle-down side effect of this was that, in between devouring Asimov and Heinlein and a score of other lesser science fiction lights, I was also handed by my dad The Sirens of Titan and told, 'Heinlein's a fascist, read this.' Another perk was having Vonnegut crouch down on the floor that Thanksgiving, eschewing the give and take of New York conversational tango, and invite me to play a game of chess." Two fine stories follow.

James Urbaniak recalls "one brief evening [when] Kurt Vonnegut and myself were both a part of each other's imaginative landscapes. So, as the master said, it goes." He then points to a tribute from Todd Alcott: "He was also, he said that night, outraged at George Bush, not so much for starting the war in Iraq, but for using the US Army in a manner more befitting a snotty rich boy with a set of plastic army men. And he was right about that too. Let's face it, there was not much that Vonnegut wasn't right about. I am doubly saddened to realize that he died while Bush was still in office."

Destiny tells an amazing story about Vonnegut and Sammy Davis, Jr at 10 Zen Monkeys.

Philip K Dick on Vonnegut.

Steve Bryant has two online viewing tips.

Updates, 4/13: "I'm sure there are plenty of people who think he is entirely unsuitable for readers under the age of disillusionment," writes Verlyn Klinkenborg in the NYT. "But the time to read Vonnegut is just when you begin to suspect that the world is not what it appears to be. He is the indispensable footnote to everything everyone is trying to teach you, the footnote that pulls the rug out from under the established truths being so firmly avowed in the body of the text."

Phil Baker in the Guardian:

The fame of Slaughterhouse-Five has made Dresden seem like the central experience of Vonnegut's life, but Vonnegut played it down, saying that he was more shocked by Hiroshima. He joked about it when he was interviewed by Martin Amis: after describing Dresden as "a beautiful city full of museums and zoos - man at his greatest," and emphasising that the raid failed to shorten the war, weaken the German war effort, or free a single person from a death camp, he went on to explain that in the end only one person benefited. "And who was that?" asked Amis. "Me. I got several dollars for each person killed. Imagine."

[...] The individual of whom JG Ballard once said "his sheer amiability could light up all the cathedrals in America" is no more.

Also, Ed Pilkington gathers more tributes from other writers.

The 1977 Paris Review interview.

Stop Smiling reruns JC Gabel's 2006 interview.

More online viewing from Bilge Ebiri and Faisal Qureshi at ScreenGrab.

The Nation runs a speech John Leonard gave at a recent birthday celebration.

TNR: Irving on Vonnegut

The New Republic: "In 1979 - occasioned by the release of Jailhouse, Vonnegut's ninth novel - TNR published 'Kurt Vonnegut and His Critics,' an expansive profile by fellow writer John Irving. In it, Irving takes Vonnegut's critics to task for dismissing him as an 'easy writer' and his work as unserious. Instead, he offers a defense of Vonnegut's childlike clarity and completeness, and of the 'human dignity and common decency' in his stories." A downloadable PDF.

Online listening tip. Vonnegut on Fresh Air in 1986.

Update, 4/14: "It was In These Times' pleasure and privilege to publish the work of Kurt Vonnegut," writes Joel Bleifuss, and he remembers two great rants worth quoting in full. The first is from a phone interview in 2003:

Those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C students. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

The second is from "Cold Turkey," the most popular piece of Vonnegut's In These Times published. May, 2004:

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. "Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Bleifuss also notes, "There were two folks Kurt was wont to quote: Jesus and Eugene V Debs."

Glenn Kenny ranks the film adaptations. A few folks leaving comments one-up, too, as far as the worst is concerned.

Update, 4/15: "[H]is method of making himself heard was both courageous and effective; he told us the hardest of truths, but in the gentlest, funniest and most amiable way he knew how," writes Alex Clark in the Observer. "He was, to use his own word, a 'sap.'"

Update, 4/16: "So it goes? Fuck that noise." Phil Nugent tells a helluva story.

Update, 4/18: In the New York Observer, George Saunders proposes a new national holiday: "I will be happy to be the Commissar of Vonnegut Day. To this end, I have put together the following proposed slate of what I am calling Vonnegutian Immersions, designed to bring out the inner Vonnegut in all of us..."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:56 AM | Comments (1)

Roscoe Lee Browne, 1925 - 2007.

Roscoe Lee Browne
Roscoe Lee Browne, the Emmy-award winning actor with the mellifluous baritone that he used to give voice to roles as varied as Shakespeare's plays and the popular animal film Babe, died Wednesday... He was 81....

A classically trained actor with a commanding presence, Browne worked for some of the leading directors in film, including Alfred Hitchcock in Topaz and Jules Dassin in Up Tight! and starring in William Wyler's last film, The Liberation of LB Jones.

Jon Thurber, Los Angeles Times.

[F]or many film buffs, he'll be best remembered as the camp cook who led John Wayne's young proteges in a mission of revenge in The Cowboys. Even in this role, however, Brown evidenced flawless diction - much to the consternation of some white critics who, truth to tell, may have been channeling their inner Don Imus. "Some critics complained that I spoke too well to be believable" in the cook's role, Browne told the Washington Post in 1972. "When a critic makes that remark, I think, if I had said, 'Yassuh, boss' to John Wayne, then the critic would have taken a shine to me." Of course, maybe that critic had never seen The Liberation of LB Jones (1970), in which Brown's dignified businessman refused to take any guff from any white guy, even at the cost of his life.

Joe Leydon.

Mr Browne came to acting somewhat late, after gaining fame as a track star in the early 1950s. But he soon became part of a vanguard of leading black actors in the traditionally white New York theater world. He began as a fixture of New York Shakespeare Festival productions and then in 1961 joined James Earl Jones in the original cast of a long running Off Broadway production of The Blacks by Jean Genet.

Campbell Robertson, New York Times.

"That voice. Once you heard it, you never forgot it. You might not recognize the name or even remember specific roles, but when you heard the voice, you knew exactly whosomeone was talking about." Edward Copeland.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:53 AM | Comments (11)

April 11, 2007

Rock the Bells.

Rock the Bells "Whether Ol' Dirty can get his shizat together long enough to rock the mic (or just stand up without help) is the least of [concert promoter Chang] Weisberg's problems in Rock the Bells, an electrifying, occasionally terrifying documentary by filmmakers Denis Henry Hennelly and Casey Suchan," writes Nathan Lee. "Condensed from 20 hours of fly-on-the-wall footage, it follows the [Wu-Tang Clan reunion] from (naive) planning to (inadequate) preparation, to (sloppy) execution, to imminent disaster as thousands of frustrated Wu fans threaten to riot. Think Dave Chappelle's Block Party booked on United 93."

In the New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis adds that the film "demands neither familiarity with the music nor a hankering for rhyme... [the] lively documentary grabs hold of the backstage drama and doesn't let go until the last weary fan has shuffled off home."

Updated through 4/12.

"If the film feels plagued by a lack of focus and relatively limited scope, the resolution of its subjects - both on and off the stage - succeeds in keeping it as potent as one of ODB's classic rhymes," writes Rob Humanick for Slant.

Rock the Bells opens tonight at the Pioneer in New York for a two-week run. Click here to check for future playdates around the country.

Update, 4/12: "I can't quite say enough for the tense, hilarious and totally serendipitous Rock the Bells," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. It's "a must-see for music buffs."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:01 PM

Interview. Jeff Lipsky.

Flannel Pajamas "Despite the hoopla, genuine indies, the kind of passion-made, personal film without slumming stars or boutique-studio funding, are rarer than we think, and often just as difficult to define as such," writes Michael Atkinson at IFC News. Flannel Pajamas is "an eagle-eyed, mature, true-to-thyself piece of cinema made for the sheer making, a film in which the people count more than the PR footprint the movie might make in the Park City snow.... [T]he movie doesn't feel generalized or iconic - the textures of the characters' lives are specific, thorny, culturally alert and thrumming with surprise."

Just up at the main site: Sara Schieron's interview with writer/director Jeff Lipsky.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:33 PM

Syndromes and a Century.

Syndromes and a Century First, a bit of news that'll rankle. Apichatpong Weerasethakul has cancelled the local release of Syndromes and a Century after censors "insisted that four 'sensitive' scenes be cut," reports Kong Rithdee in the Bangkok Post. Limitless Cinema has the article and more linkage.

"David Lynch may have drawn sold-out screenings at the very beginning of Inland Empire's recent theatrical run, but Apichatpong's movie casts a more rewarding and successful spell with trademark gambits and surreal touches," writes Johnny Ray Huston. "Syndromes and a Century reinvents a genre that would seem beyond rescue, the romantic comedy.... When Apichatpong and his actors hit their improvisational stride, the results can be as funny as - and less forced than - 60s-pop Jean-Luc Godard at his most madcap.... When Apichatpong lets the story go underground and grow aimless, Syndromes starts to levitate."

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Matt Sussman talks with the director. And here's the 12-inch remix.

"On the crest of festival circuit success and critical favorites like Blissfully Yours and Tropical Malady, Weerasethakul has carved out a space in international filmmaking resolutely, uncompromisingly his own," writes Michael Joshua Rowin in the L Magazine. "When Dennis Lim opened his review of Malady with words of intrepid reverence - 'World cinema's premier maker of mysterious objects, Apichatpong Weerasethakul is on a one-man mission to change the way we watch movies' - it was an understatement: Weerasethakul has already done so."

Earlier: "Venice. Sang Sattawat."

Update, 4/13: "In the spirit of bifurcation," Michael Guillén presents two capsules, originally written for the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, one on either side of the edit. Michael also interviews "Joe."

Updates, 4/15: With Unknown Forces: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, opening opening Wednesday and on view through June 17, the filmmaker "presents his first solo exhibition in the United States. Weerasethakul's films explore perception, impermanence and the imaginary, cultivating fanciful potential within the mundane. His abstract interchanges interrogate conventions of cinematic narrative while exploring desire, reality and a kind of melancholy perhaps peculiar to our times. Weerasethakul's exhibition at REDCAT features a newly commissioned video installation that expands upon characters developed in his previous feature films, shorts and video installations through comedy."

See also: "Syndromes and a petition."

Update, 4/16: At indieWIRE, Michael Koresky does his best to "persuade his readers to get out of the grindhouse and into the rhythms of Apichatpong... Syndromes is funny. Syndromes is pure - to the extent that I don't believe that there's a wasted moment, extraneous visual, or unharmonious cut, and that everything you see comes from the genuine expression of a painter and philosopher who just happens to use film as his medium."

Updates, 4/17: In his interview for IFC News, Aaron Hillis asks Apichatpong Weerasethakul about censorship in Thailand, the sort of music he listens to, "bisected" structures, globalization and: "What was the last blockbuster that left you smiling?"

Answer: "I enjoyed Grindhouse very much. Is that a blockbuster? I really loved Tarantino's part."

And indieWIRE sends its questions to "Joe."

"Syndromes and a Century presents a world in which multiple times coexist and more-or-less congruent personalities experience two different sets of lives, working in two different hospital," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "Are these parallel tales a Buddhist romance? An attempt to induce something like 3-D narrative depth? A consideration of repetitive human activity over the course of a lifetime? You might as well ask why the breeze is rustling the leaves."

And Nathan Lee talks with Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Update, 4/18: "Syndromes and a Century, like its curious title, has the logic of a dream, a piece of music or perhaps a John Ashbery poem," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "Its coherence is evident; it is too lovely and lucid to be frustrating or dull. But it takes place just on the other side of conscious apprehension."

For the Los Angeles Times, Fiona Ng talks with Weerasethakul about the installation at REDCAT, consisting "of a four-screen video projection; taking up one side is footage of a pickup truck rolling down a highway, with passengers in the back. Ostensibly laid back, the scene in fact references the population of itinerant construction workers in Thailand, on whose backs the country's real estate boom is built. The installation is a tribute to these workers, Weerasethakul said, as well as an allegory about the country's political history."

Daniel Kasman: "One of the unexpected - and most welcome - things about Syndromes and a Century and Weerasethakul's films in general is that while maintaining a familial resemblance to the monumental master-shot style made famous by Hou Hsiou-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang, Weerasethakul's work carries a serene air of gentleness, off-handedness, openness, and a complete lack of pretension - traits that strongly humanize and personalize his work."

Writing in the New York Press, Armond White notes that "reviews feature interpretations seemingly as arbitrary as the film itself, made up from press release clues that it's about 'memory,' 'the director's parents,' Thailand in 'the 70s.' None of this is apparent in the film's content. The repetitive scenes create an undeniable formal structure, but due to Weerasethakul's casual rhythms (hesitating to move in on precise emotions), Syndromes and a Century remains light verse, not great poetry."

Updates, 4/19: "Syndromes and a Century is probably the strangest hospital drama since Lars von Trier's The Kingdom," writes Jürgen Fauth. Another comparison: "While Lynch dregs shocking epiphanies from the gunk of the subconscious, Weerasethakul’s mysteries lie right on the surface, in the obvious, seemingly trivial moments that are riddle and answer at once."

Doug Cummings: "Unknown Forces emphasizes momentary feeling and sensation, and arranges that experience in a way that provokes extended contemplation."

Update, 4/20: "As human beings, we're geared to desire an actual plot in our movies, and I regret to inform you that nothing really happens in Syndromes and a Century - and yet the experience of the movie is all about the not happening," writes Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.

Update, 4/21: "[I]t's Weerasethakul's most enigmatic film since his debut, Mysterious Object at Noon, writes Steve Erickson at Gay City News. "The director's work looks minimalist, but it's so loaded with ideas that its simplicity is deceptive."

Posted by dwhudson at 11:51 AM | Comments (1)

Seoul Dispatch.

Adam Hartzell, who's most recently written not one but two pieces for us on Hong Sang-soo, sends in a briefing on his latest adventures in South Korea.

Women's Film Festival in Seoul For those with the means and the interest in Women's Cinema, the last two weeks offered quite an opportunity to pursue that interest. One could have started at the quintessential Women's Cinema event, the 29th Créteil Films de Femmes which Moira Sullivan wrote about here at the Daily, and then one could have continued onward to the well-attended 9th Women's Film Festival in Seoul (WFFIS) the following weekend (April 5 through 12). I was unable to prepare as extensively for my second visit to this festival in the Shinchon district of Seoul, well-positioned between subway stops and walking jaunts from three of South Korea's more respected universities (Yonsei University, the women's university Ewha, and the art school Hongik). My contacts at the festival either failed to respond or failed to return to their posts. And the English translation of the website didn't extend this year beyond a mere introduction. Plus, due to work commitments, my time here was limited to three days rather than the preferable week-long stay.

With such restricted means, as soon as the bus dropped me off at the Shinchon Rotary, I quickly went underground to get back up again across the street towards the Artreon multiplex where the festival takes place. A quick perusal of the films available to me revealed some nice surprises and some disappointments. Concerning the latter, I wouldn't be able to make any of the four South Korean films on show. Three because they didn't fall in line with my visit (Park Jeong-suk's documentary, Lady Camellia, about a leprosy patient; Ryou Eun-jung's high school revenge film Punch Strike; and Sung Ji-hae's Before the Summer Passes Away, which I thankfully caught at Busan) and one because it was sold out (Out: Smashing Homophobia Project by Feminists Video Activism WOM, which, as you'll soon read, I'm totally bummed I couldn't attend). Still, I made the most of what I could catch.

Made in the Philippines, to Fukuoka with Love I began the festival with three Filipina short documentaries by Ditsi Carolino and Sadhana Buxani, entitled Made in the Philippines, to Fukuoka with Love, which was here as part of the Women Migrants: Invisible People series. Although the first short about sweatshop laborers in the Philippines and their fight for justice doesn't seem to relate to the theme, it does provide the context of the reasons some Filipinas might want to leave the archipelago. The next two shorts each dealt with "JapaYuki," or "Japan Go," Filipinas who have migrated to Japan where they can make in a day more than they can make in a month back home. Despite the literal definition, the term denotes prostitutes in the vernacular, and much of the face time spent by the participants in the latter short is to squelch that stereotype.

I stumbled upon a friend of mine while looking for my assigned seat at this screening and the latter short was the primary one we spoke about amongst the Korean women defiantly smoking outside the theater. (It wasn't that long ago when women would be verbally and sometimes physically accosted when daring to smoke in public in South Korea.) The three Filipinas in the final short spend much of their time disassociating themselves from prostitutes rather than, as festivals like this intend, focusing on solidarity in their mutual plights as women and as migrants. Two of the women spend a great amount of time talking about how "in the Philippines, you'd have a maid," but in Japan they are the maids for their husbands. Along with underscoring how much of men's leisure is subsidized by women's labor, this also sets distance between these women and other Filipinas based on class, since it's only a certain privileged class that has access to expectations of acquiring maids in the Philippines, as opposed to the class which provides maid labor along with sex workers. It is the middle short that bridges the two divided by class, for this woman spends much of her leisure time with the homeless in Japan whom she identifies with because she herself feels spiritually "homeless." She connects with them because she's willing to risk identifying with them, rather than separating from them out of fear.

As the Shadow

As the Shadow, Marina Spada's Italian feature, could have fit within the Women Migrants series as well since it follows an Italian travel agent who has a Ukrainian migrant placed in her reluctant stewardship. Instead it was the only film I caught in the New Currents section of recent outstanding features by women directors. As the Shadow was definitely my favorite of the features I caught. I tend to enjoy slower films and those that address isolation caused partly by our modern condition and this film definitely takes that direction with some well-punctuated moments of the whir and drone of the empty streets that too often surround us even in our "crowded" urban environments.

Gypo is another film that bleeds from one section into another since it contains both a Rumanian-Czech migrant character and a lesbian subplot. This film by UK director Jan Dunn was included in the Queer Rainbow series of films by women about sexual minorities. A Dogme95 film, it wasn't as compelling to me as a narrative whole, although sections of it were interesting, such as the fight at the dinner table intimately displaced before the eyes of the young immigrant.

Another film I caught in the Queer Rainbow section was the Taiwanese Spider Lilies. (The two sections from which I failed to catch representative films were the Empire and Women section, which looked at "the specific aspects of women's lives either forcibly or actively related to the globalization and the neoliberalism in the global/local context" and that featured films such as Enemies of Happiness about "Afghanistan's most famous female," Malalai Jaya, and an Iraqi women's life resulting from US occupation in My Home, Your War, and a section of youth films cheekily titled Girls on Film.) Zero Chou's film about a tectonically-traumatized tattoo artist and a webcam girl at the edge of womanhood follows in a long line of tragic love stories that I'm quite turned off by these days. (That is, unless such tragedy is internally critiqued as I find it to be in Leesong Hee-il's No Regret.) Yes, the end presents an interpretation of hope, but it seems tacked on rather than flowing from the larger themes.

Because I wasn't able to prepare for this festival as I somewhat obsessively would normally, I did attend a few screenings I'd probably not have otherwise. One of these screenings was a series of shorts from Canada, the USA, Malaysia and South Korea. Megan Martin's Ninth Street Chronicles is a littler Little Miss Sunshine, Jenn Kao's short speculates on the inside that draws us Outside, Tan Chui Mui spends a birthday all-nighter with a girl on the edge of 18 and her friend of 34 who respectfully keeps it friendly in A Tree in Tanjung Malim, and Kang Hae-yun runs a Good Girl through her melodramatic paces. The stand-out of the bunch was Tan's short. Having produced The Gravel Road and one of Amir Muhammad's films (the latter being the director I've yet to see a film by whom I most want to see a film by), Tan presents further positive signs of what we've been hearing is to come from Malaysia. It is patient for a short film with an interesting juxtaposition between the hope of youth ("Even if I fail to get where I'm going, I get to see beauty anyway") and the cynicism of age ("What the hell do you know?"). One of the nice aspects of the short I found was how Adthan, or the Muslim Call to Prayer, can serve as a diegetic clock in cinema based in Muslim countries. We can fairly assume that the characters have spent the whole night together as they wait to depart at the bus stop because behind them we hear Fajr, or the first Call to Prayer of the day that occurs before sunrise. Such underscores how our efforts to inform ourselves of the cultures, histories and politics of the films we watch can greatly enhance our viewing.

Diary For My Children

Which obviously would have enhanced the screening I attended of the only Márta Mészáros film I was able to catch. Each year WFFIS features a series of works by a single female director and Hungarian director Mészáros was this year's selection. Due to South Korean anti-communist politics in the early decades of South Korea's brief halved existence, films from the Eastern bloc countries to South Korea's West wouldn't have had many opportunities to grace cinemas here until recently. I know much more about South Korea's history than I do Hungary's, and the film I saw from 1982, Diary for My Children, required more knowledge from me as an audience member than that with which I came. The film has definitely pushed me to learn more about her (the country's and Mészáros's) history and of the world cinema references that pulse on the screens within the screen, for the main character of Diary for My Children seeks solace in the cinema from the chaos of her time in Hungary's history. Based on my friend's comments, her masterpiece from 1975, Adoption, the film for which she became the first woman to win a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, would have been a better introduction, but I passed my ticket onto this friend since she had a strong interest in the film.

I also forwent this valuable haptic opportunity to see Adoption; haptic in the sense that films touch us through our eyes, because another such opportunity was available to me. I decided to spend time with a friend in the real rather than on the screen. The events and conversations surrounding the film festival are as much a part of the experience as are the films themselves. With its Queer Cinema focus this year, there was an accompanying Queer Night event at a local basement bar. This event featured drag shows both queen and king and it was the latter that drew an attendance of fire hazard levels. Lips and hips sync-ed to Tom Jones's "Sex Bomb," an Elvis Herselvis-y side-burned and pompadour-ed Korean woman fully king-ed in a blazing red formal shirt gave the crowd exactly what they were hanging from the stair handrails for. It was quite an event and it was a pleasure to see all the shiny happy people truly enjoying the celebratory space that WIFFS provided, challenging any shorthand-ed clichés about this "conservative" country.

Out: Smashing Homophobia Project

Yet, I won't equally shorthand South Korea as a liberal stalwart since I am also aware that I can't tell you who I might have seen at this particular party. The masks Queer Koreans still have to wear while walking throughout the everyday South Korea were placed on all of us at the screenings of this year's Documentary Ock Rang Award winner, the omnibus Out: Smashing Homophobia Project, a triptych of lesbian teens who are reconciling their sexual selves with the society that surrounds them. I would have to learn about this film from several secondhand sources since the only screening I could attend was sold out. And as much as I was bummed I couldn't attend, I was glad such a film sold out and it provided me an opportunity to vicariously soak up the joy my friends and their friends exuded and the rapid-fire takes they had on the film. My friends talked about how the one girl's mother's testimonial of love for her lesbian daughter at the end brought them to tears. (They would later be told the eye masks needed to be returned for the next screening, causing them to pity the next person who had to wear their tear-drenched ones.)

My friends would tell me about how they found the second film in this omnibus problematic because they felt the director was imposing her experience on this girl who probably has as much trouble deciding what to put on in the morning let alone who to put out to at night. And my one friend would seethe with anger at the comments from one member of the crowd that each of these girls' experiences was merely a "phase," making my friend want to scream like the young masked girls in the promotional poster. (Although, that's not really a good comparison because, well, look at how happy those girls on the poster seem to be, finding their voice in their roars atop the panoptic rooftop of South Korean sexual surveillance.) I hope a festival near me gives me a second chance to catch this film for myself (Frameline, are you listening?), but for now, I have memories of how dearly this film touched my friends and how they deeply touched me by privileging me through the moments each shared about the film.

Ironically, it's the film I didn't see that will likely stay with me the most this year due to the circumstances I fell into with this year's WIFFS. In this way, the festival didn't disappoint but continued my interest in returning again and again, just as I return again and again to the themes and ideas that all such festivals provide, as I return to the emotional embrace of my friends when our busy lives manage to synchronize regardless of the physical miles that separate us. In this way, the modern isolation I so appreciate in films such as As the Shadow is kept there on screen to learn from so as to disallow it from encroaching upon my own life outside the theater.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:49 AM | Comments (4)

Year of the Dog.

Year of the Dog "Screenwriter Mike White has a humanistic proclivity for bestowing outcast and oddball characters with dignity, a propensity he maintains in his sweet if somewhat slim directorial debut Year of the Dog," writes Nick Schager at Slant.

White "directs his latest geek's revenge fantasy like a psychotherapeutically treated Todd Solondz," writes Rob Nelson in the Voice. "His fishbowl universe of prissy suburban breeders, casually sadistic office bosses, and zoophilic outcasts might turn [Molly] Shannon's administrative assistant a touch irritable at the midway point, but, unlike Solondz's, White's humor isn't merciless. If anything, Dog's bark is more like a lonely howl; its comic bite never breaks the skin, and its kisses are sloppy."

Updated through 4/17.

"Not for nothing was White a writer and supervising producer on the beloved television show Freaks and Geeks," writes Matt Singer at IFC News. "He's practically American film's foremost authority on the subject." Meanwhile, "Though Year of the Dog's trailer sells the film as a sweet romantic comedy, be forewarned: this film goes to some dark places. That's not a criticism, mind you, merely an observation."

John Horn reports on how the movie came together in the Los Angeles Times.

Ann Donahue talks with Shannon for Premiere.

Online listening tip. White is a guest on Fresh Air.

Earlier: Franz Lidz's profile of Shannon for the New York Times and "Sundance. Year of the Dog."

Update, 4/12: "Depending on how you look at it - and White leaves you a ton of interpretive legroom - Year of the Dog is either the story of the making of a fanatic or a redemptive tale of a lonely woman finding fulfillment," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly. "It's both, and more besides - a reality-based fairy tale of Southern California as a sun-kissed land filled with normal-looking obsessives, of whom Peggy is by far the least doctrinaire going in."

Updates, 4/13: "Year of the Dog is exactly the kind of story you would expect Mr White to make for his directing debut," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "It's funny ha-ha but firmly in touch with its downer side, which means it's also funny in a kind of existential way."

IndieWIRE interviews White. So does Michael Martin for Nerve.

Cinematical's Kim Voynar finds it "a touching, funny tale about love, loss, and finding meaning in a meaningless world. No, really, it is - just not in the cliched, melodramatic sense."

ST VanAirsdale offers a spoilerific review at the Reeler.

Updates, 4/14: "With pathos competing equally against the often pungent laughs for the audience's attention, it's a movie that is both unsettling and amusing, most comparable to Chuck & Buck in tone," finds Kevin Crust, writing in the LAT.

Michael Fox talks with White for SF360; Nick Dawson for Filmmaker.

Update, 4/15: "Attending a word-of-mouth screening of Mike White's directorial debut The Year of the Dog allowed me my first opportunity to experience the elegant Lettermen Digital Arts Center in San Francisco's Presidio," writes Michael Guillén. "Admittedly, though the film engendered a few chuckles, it disappointed for being too slight." But he took notes during the Q&A with White anyway.

Updates, 4/17: "White has populated the screen with unhappy characters for what feels like the intent of gentle mockery," writes Marcy Dermansky. "The compassionate ending, therefore, comes as a confounding surprise."

Alison Willmore interviews White for IFC News.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:08 AM

NYAFF Dispatch.

David D'Arcy on three films screening at the New York African Film Festival, which wraps tomorrow. For further related events throughout the year, click here.

New York African Film Festival An African film festival, like the one in progress at Lincoln Center in New York, forces us to look back on at least 15 years of movies in Africa. In the early 1990s, Sub-Saharan Africa (especially the Francophone countries of West Africa) seemed to be on one of the new frontiers of cinema, along with Iran and China. Burkina-Faso was a crossroads for new talent from all over the continent, and within that one country there seemed to be new directors appearing all the time. When was the last time that an African film played in a theater in the US? Even festival screenings are relatively rare these days. All the more reason to pay some attention to the African Film Festival in New York.

It's a mixed bag, partly because what we're seeing is being made inexpensively, mostly for television, and in situations where filmmakers and journalists take a risk every time they try to witness anything political on camera. What we're seeing is mostly testimony, valuable testimony because we're unlikely to see it anywhere else, even though Africa is now the cause of the week. (When did you last see footage from Darfur?)

The Forgotten Man by Osvalde Lewat-Hallade looks at the fate of Leppe, who entered a prison in Cameroon at the age of 25 for forging documents, and is finally released, on camera, 33 years later. Leppe is a gentle soul who has endured the sufferings of Job, plus the isolation that comes with a family's refusal to visit him. What's more a part of film history than the story of a man unjustly punished? We don't learn much more about how Leppe survived his years in a prison that we can assume is much worse than what we see, and what we see is not fun. At one point, Leppe tells us that, after escaping and being recaptured, he was beaten and chained to two other prisoners, with whom he had to go everywhere - everywhere - for several months. The sweetness of his personality is all the more remarkable. He's a skilled carver, and he leads prayers and songs at mass. In fact, it is through the intercession of the local Catholic bishop that Leppe's case got any attention at all in the bureaucratic inertia that takes Kafka to a new geographical location. The rapid disposition of a case that had been around for more than 30 years makes you wonder. It shows you what a camera can do.

It's easy to feel superior, looking at miscarriages of justice in a country that locks someone up for decades for a minor crime. But what about forging intelligence reports about Iraq buying uranium in Niger and reciting them, before Congress, to anyone watching television? No one's been punished for that.

This isn't the first film about the justice system in Cameroon. Sisters in Law, co-directed by Kim Longinotto and Florence Ayisi, a film that did play in theaters a year ago, showed how two ethical judges in the small town of Kumba can crack through walls of corruption and official disdain and make a tremendous difference in people's lives. With both The Forgotten Man and Sisters in Law, you have the impression that, in watching these rare cases of justice finally being done, you're not seeing the larger and far more common picture of wrongs committed with impunity. There are plenty of films waiting to be made about those untold stories.

In A Love During the War, also by Osvalde Lewat-Hallade, a couple is separated for six years as war divides the Congo. Didier is stuck in the eastern part of the country, and is absent as his children grow with his wife Aziza. Yet the real story here is the work that Aziza, a radio journalist, is doing with women who have been raped. The numbers seem incalculable, and neither age nor youth protects them. The stories of rape and mutilation told by survivors and the doctors who examined them bring a specificity to the shocking statistics, and the film brings a face and real emotions to lines of testimony in the newspaper. Didier and Aziza's marriage has a future. It's brighter than the life ahead for the many thousands of women who are raising the children of their rapists. The same testimony could easily come from Sudan or Sierra Leone.

Death of Two Sons In another look at the subject of unpunished crimes, the documentary Death of Two Sons [site] by Micah Schaffer examines the killing of Amadou Diallo, 22, the Guinean street peddler who was shot more than 40 times by the NYPD Street Crime Unit. Officers testified that they thought he was reaching for a gun inside his jacket. It turned out to be his wallet. Maybe he wanted to show the cops some identification. He's not there to tell us now. A jury ended up acquitting the officers. (There's a sleazy film angle to this story. Right after the shooting took place and the city was in shock, Howard Safir, Rudy Giuliani's police commissioner, jetted with his wife out to the Oscars, where he was caught on the red carpet glad-handing with the rich and beautiful. Now that's compassion.)

Later that year, on his way to the town where Diallo's family lived, a Peace Corps volunteer named Jesse Thyne was killed in a car crash. The film looks at the two lives, particularly the experience of a young American in Diallo's village, where he was welcomed and remembered with tenderness by Diallo's family. The Diallo story is the other side of crime reduction in NY during the Giuliani years, a time when thousands of Africans settled in New York, most of them invisible to the media and to filmmakers. Exhumed in this documentary, the story remains a symbol of those years. Sadly, it's been eclipsed by another African tragedy in New York, the death of five children from Mali in a tragic fire in the Bronx. Now there's another documentary.


For more on the festival, follow acquarello's journal.

The Film Panel Notetaker attended a discussion among African filmmakers and scholars on Monday evening.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:44 AM

April 10, 2007

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis.

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis "Catalyst of the New York underground from the 1950s through the 1970s, and a direct influence on Andy Warhol, among a multitude of likewise indebted artists, Jack Smith is an overlooked genius worth an incisive onscreen portrait," writes Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE. "Mary Jordan's Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis attempts to paint that portrait by documenting Smith's often exploited legacy, but in striving to emulate the one-of-a-kind director's aesthetic too often betrays the spirit of its subject with obfuscating messiness." Also at indieWIRE, an interview with Jordan.

"It's Jordan's feat to make a linear, talking-heads documentary (among the heads are Jonas Mekas, Robert Wilson, John Waters, Nick Zedd and John Zorn) that still manages to evoke something of Smith's floating, ravishingly colorful dreamscapes - a menagerie of creatures that, even as they're captured on film, are already fading into the air," writes David Edelstein in New York.

Updated through 4/12.

For Ed Halter, writing in the Voice, the film "blips quickly through a surprisingly slick televisual format... Such a treatment proves paradoxically welcome." At the same time, though, "Jordan makes little mention of the [Flaming Creatures] controversy that drew in everyone from Susan Sontag to Strom Thurmond.... The omission seems strange, given Jordan's argument that Smith is the secret font of all that is cool in late-20th-century culture." Still, the interviews "attest to Smith's reputation as a pivotal influence on film, performance art, gallery installation, and photography; as Richard Foreman once declared, everybody stole from Jack."

Eric Henderson, writing for Slant, finds the film "tries a little too fastidiously to piece together a life its owner tried quite brazenly to shatter and disseminate into a thousand shards of passive-aggressive antipathy. But then again, the portrait it gives is itself awfully incomplete and fragmented, so I'd say Jordan and Smith are Even Steven."

Matt Singer at IFC News: "I felt like I learned a great deal about Smith the artist, and only a little about Smith the man. Perhaps Jordan's point is that to Smith, the two aspects were one and the same."

Updates, 4/11: Matt Zoller Seitz, writing in the New York Times, finds the film "worth seeing - even though Ms Jordan dices Mr Smith's films into snippets that don't convey their languorous rhythms, and seems content to mythologize rather than dissect.... You come away impressed by Smith's charisma, versatility and integrity, while also wondering if a man so abrasively self-important could have made such playful art."

Michael Sicinski has a good talk with Jordan for ScreenGrab.

Scott Macaulay posts an excerpt from Steve Gallagher's interview with Jordan that'll be appearing in the next issue of Filmmaker.

Updates, 4/12: "Jordan unzips the myth of cultural pioneering," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "Behind the legend of the rebellious 1960s, a more fecund period than today, she finds the hard fact that art reputations are maintained by business relationships, hustling and competition - focusing on Smith's rivalry with his more shrewd and organized contemporaries, Andy Warhol and Jonas Mekas."

"Jordan does everything you could ask to rehabilitate Smith," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir, "but this passionate, paranoid, prodigiously committed artist - like the vanished downtown art scene he helped launch - remains a fading enigma, his legacy ambivalent and his work just beyond our grasp."

"One of the intriguing paradoxes of Smith's experimental films is that they embrace commercial cinema while simultaneously subverting it," notes Eric Kohn at the Reeler, adding, "Ultimately, the decline of Smith's work after Flaming Creatures in 1963 symbolizes the death of a scene that was sustained primarily by his efforts."

"While the usual procession of talking heads is present, Jordan's greatest talent may be knowing how and when to make room for her subject," suggests Steve Erickson at Nerve.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:54 PM

Calvin Lockhart, 1934 - 2007.

Calvin Lockhart
The year was 1970. The movie was Cotton Comes to Harlem. The actor was Calvin Lockhart. The question was: "Am I black enough for you?" The answer would change Hollywood.

Joal Ryan, E!.

Calvin Lockhart, an actor who won acclaim for his roles as underworld figures in 1970s blaxploitation films, died on March 29. He was 72.

The AP.

"Calvin had wonderful range as an actor," [Sidney] Poitier told [the Los Angeles Times] this week. "He really had such enormous promise. I don't know why he was not more utilized, because he was so good. As a matter of fact, he had movie-star qualities. He was a very handsome man, his impact on the screen was striking and his work was highly praised."

Dennis McLellan, LAT.

He is perhaps one of the most beautiful men of African descent ever to inhabit a film frame and beyond that, a captivating presence to watch onscreen.

The Cocoa Lounge.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:00 PM | Comments (5)

Offscreen. Spaces and Places.

"[I]maginary, real, physical, mental, geographical and geopolitical" are the sorts of spaces and places Offscreen editor Donato Totaro sees addressed in the five essays that make up the new issue.

Pickpocket / Once Upon a Time in the West Here's an unexpected pairing: Robert Bresson's Pickpocket and Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. But Totaro has found affinities.

Daniel Garrett reviews Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema, a collection of essays "on the aesthetics, history, politics, and reception of Palestinian film: it is a thoughtful and sometimes provocative book; and its strengths are its clarity, its focus, and its passion, as it argues that Palestinian film is an affirmation of Palestinian identity, an identity that is threatened by exile, by slander, by violence; but, sometimes, with no lack of sympathy for the injustices of history, one reads the book and longs for a little more film criticism and a little less historical context, for a little more objectivity and a little less outrage."

Betty Kaklamanidou examines "the contemporary depiction of the city and its various connotations expressed via a number of films."

In Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee "offers up a pure archetype of the romantic figure which can be found at the core of the Western mythology," argues Irini Stamatopoulos.

Jason Lindop describes the ways in which Eisenstein mapped the differences "between presenting the objects of thought and mounting the very processes of thought itself." Can't help but note that Ezra Pound's interest in the Chinese ideogram ("we do not seem to be juggling mental counters, but to be watching things work out their own fate") seems to predate Eisenstein's notion of montage as "an idea that derives from the collision between two shots that are independent of one another." Two constructs, beginning in similar places, but heading off in very different ideological directions.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:41 AM

April 9, 2007

Shorts, 4/9.

Sol LeWitt: Four Cubes Frankly, other than the items already posted today, there isn't a film story out there that would warrant taking the lead spot in this batch of "Shorts" away from the news of the death of Sol LeWitt at the age of 78. FWIW, he does have an IMDb entry. More relevantly, he wasn't, of course, a complete stranger to cinema. The Guardian's Adrian Searle noted in December that "LeWitt has in his long career conveyed ideas through his arrangements of aluminium cubes, through paired photographs of worn-out shoes and a film of a cock-fight."

At any rate, Michael Kimmelman today: "To grasp his work could require a little effort. His early sculptures were chaste white cubes and gray cement blocks. For years people associated him with them, and they seemed to encapsulate a remark he once made: that what art looks like 'isn't too important.' This was never exactly his point."

Somewhat related online viewing at the DVblog: "Baldessari sings LeWitt.

Back in the New York Times:

Twin Peaks: Season 2
  • The release on DVD of the second season of Twin Peaks is "a challenge to the received wisdom that the show's second half was a prolonged free fall," writes Dennis Lim.

  • Ben Brantley, AO Scott and Alessandra Stanley respond to comments Stephen Fry made a few weeks ago. You may remember: "I shouldn't be saying this - high treason really - but I sometimes wonder if Americans aren't fooled by our accent into detecting a brilliance that may not really be there."

Billy Stevenson has launched a blog, afilmcanon, "to accompany a fairly comprehensive film screening program that I am embarking upon with two friends." By "fairly comprehensive," he means around 2000 films - to be watched over a period of years. No plot summaries; the gist lies "somewhere between criticism, reviewing and anecdotal appreciation - an attempt to evoke what was most distinctive about each film. Concomitantly, Dave Marin-Guzman will be providing a decade-by-decade assessment." He's begun with Méliès, seen a lot of Griffith and is just now getting into the 20s.

"Okay, so I've heard bandied about something to the effect that you're New Zealand's only American, Hungarian, Chinese filmmaker." Jacob Powell talks with Sándor Lau for the Lumière Reader.

"Crossing Over, a film that focuses on the gut-wrenching drama of people caught up in the nation's immigration morass, begins filming Wednesday in Los Angeles, and judging by the script, it paints a searing portrait of immigration issues in LA in much the way Crash did with the city's race relations." For the LAT, Robert W Welkos reports on the film starring Harrison Ford, Sean Penn and Ray Liotta. Speaking of whom; Chrissy Iley interviews Liotta for the Guardian.

"[R]ecent decades have seen a shift in the tastes of audiences, and as the musical has declined, and audiences have drifted away, its role has been usurped (at least in part) by a most unlikely candidate: the Chinese martial-arts epic." Shane Danielsen lays out his argument in the Independent.

For the New Yorker, Michael Schulman spends some time with Father Michael Holleran, who has been answering viewers' questions following Film Forum screenings Into Great Silence.

"Over the next few months, Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman and Renée Zellweger - all of them Oscar winners - will topline scary movies.... Hollywood has turned into Horrorwood, and the reason is simple: money," writes Newsweek's Devin Gordon.

"What Are You Reading?" asks Girish, and the comments burst forth.

More books:

The Frodo Franchise

Mardecortesbaja.com on The Shop Around the Corner: "The deep humanity and emotion of the film revealed that his dreamy evocations of high-class European culture were simply a displaced nostalgia for his youth, and when he engaged that nostalgia directly, a sort of miracle occurred. Lubitsch opened his heart for perhaps the first time ever in his work."

Jennifer Merin talks with Susanne Bier about After the Wedding for the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. Via Movie City News.

Scott Kirsner ranks "the five players that are 'most likely to succeed' in the business of digital distribution." That list looks about right to me, too.

Online viewing tip #1. Thomas Groh's got one. Thou Shalt Always Kill. Scroobius Pip vs Dan Le Sac. Sold.

Online viewing tip #2. At Curbed LA, a 1972 BBC documentary featuring architecture critic Reyner Banham touring Los Angeles. Amazing in all sorts of way. Thanks, Evan!

Posted by dwhudson at 2:28 PM

John Carpenter Blog-a-Thon.

John Carpenter "Today begins "The John Carpenter Effect: A Blog-A-Thon" and it will continue through Wednesday," writes Piper at Lazy Eye Theater, who's convinced that Grindhouse is "one endless tribute to John Carpenter."

On a related note, at PopMatters, Bill Gibron weighs the pros and cons of Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:31 PM | Comments (1)

Taxonomies, 4/9.

Alain Resnais: Liaisons secretes, accords vagabonds "Although his career has overlapped those of François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and other critics-turned-filmmakers who became collectively known as the New Wave, [Alain] Resnais was never a member of their group. He, and contemporaries like Agnès Varda and Chris Marker, came from the liberal intellectual establishment of the Left Bank, while Truffaut and many of his colleagues were uncredentialed Right Bank outsiders, whose politics, at least in the early days, tended toward Catholic conservatism." And from this third paragraph on, Dave Kehr walks us through an excellent primer on the oeuvre, right on up through Resnais's latest, Private Fears in Public Places.

As Sujewa Ekanayake adds a page to the IndieFilmPedia, "Mumblecore," Matt Dentler posts an entry entitled "Mumblecore's Cousin = the 'Gordon Green Gang.'" They're distant cousins, but relatives nonetheless, he argues.

In the GGG corner would be Craig Zobel, Zack Godshall and Jeff Nichols, whose crews for Great World of Sound, Low and Behold and Shotgun Stories, respectively, have included many who have had one thing or another to do with David Gordon Green's films. "And, quite directly, there are three filmmakers in the mumblecore movement connected to the North Carolina film community. They are: Nate Meyer (Pretty in the Face), Michael Tully (Cocaine Angel) and Aaron Katz (Quiet City)." But wait, there's more: "I would go toe-to-toe with anyone to proclaim that [DGG's] first two films, George Washington and All the Real Girls, are the first major mumblecore films of the last 10 years. That was where the verite styles of Maysles and Malick, became married with the personal approach of Cassavetes and Rohmer."

Meanwhile, Andy Spletzer introduces himself at Film.com: "What is Indie? And Who Am I?"

Posted by dwhudson at 1:08 PM

Fests and events, 4/9.

Berlin Alexanderplatz Berlin Alexanderplatz opens tomorrow at MoMA and runs through Sunday. In the New York Times, AO Scott recommends the marathon: "More opera than soap opera, it is one of those hybrid cinematic works that demand immersion and endurance - an element of punishment to sweeten the pleasure. If you dip in an hour at a time over the course of a week or a month, you risk missing its hypnotic, cumulative power.... Berlin Alexanderplatz may not be [Fassbinder's] masterpiece, but it does demonstrate, perhaps more than any of his other work, his range as a writer, a visual stylist and a director of actors."

Acquarello has posted a slew of reviews of films caught at the New York African Film Festival.

Brandon Harris lists the Aspen ShortsFest award-winners.

Mike has the lineup for the Calgary Underground Film Festival at Bad Lit. Wednesday through Sunday.

Tropical Malady Brian Darr attends a screening of Tropical Malady, and here's the thing: Apichatpong Weerasethakul was there, microphone in hand. "Not only did Joe provide his own personal reflections and interpretations on this famously enigmatic film at precisely opportune moments, but PFA curator Steve Said also asked audience members to call out 'stop' when we thought of a question to ask for ourselves." And Brian took extensive notes. Related: Johnny Ray Huston's interview with Apichatpong Weerasethakul for SF360.

"The Dunwich Horror (1970) effects a theramin-saturated blend between Gidget and Rosemary's Baby. Michael Guillén emerges from another Sleazy Sunday.

Robert Koehler carries on filing dispatches from the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival at filmjourney.org.

Visiting Role Play: Feminist Art Revisited 1960 - 1980 at Gallery LeLong (through April 28) and AL Steiner + robbinschild's C.L.U.E. (color location ultimate experience) at Taxter and Spengemann (through April 21), Paddy Johnson, writing for the Reeler, finds "as many similarities as differences in feminist video art made yesterday and today."

Posted by dwhudson at 11:33 AM | Comments (1)

Mob-a-Thon.

The Sopranos Last night saw the beginning of the end for The Sopranos, and in the run-up to that final dive, the Boob Tubers were hosting a "Mob-a-Thon."

On a related note, Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times: "The series lowered the bar on permissible violence, sex and profanity at the same time that it elevated viewers' taste, cultivating an appetite for complexity, wit and cinematic stylishness on a serial drama in which psychological themes flickered and built and faded and reappeared. The best episodes had equal amounts of high and low appeal, an alchemy of artistry and gutter-level blood and gore, all of it leavened with humor." More from Lynn Smith in the Los Angeles Times.

And there's been some massive Sopranos-related pontification going on at the House Next Door, too.

Update: More from cnw at Reverse Shot's blog and Jeffrey Goldberg and Timothy Noah at Slate.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:45 AM | Comments (1)

Brooklyn Rail. April 07.

The Long Goodbye "As Peckinpah undid the Western with The Wild Bunch, Altman undid film noir," writes David N Meyer in the April issue of the Brooklyn Rail. "Since so many films have subsumed its tone, The Long Goodbye no longer seems all that subversive. Its revolution has become canonical."

"Two productions this past month bring into focus the relationship between live art and cinema," notes Mathew Sandoval: "Miranda July's THINGS WE DON'T UNDERSTAND AND DEFINITELY ARE NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT, which played at The Kitchen March 1 - 3, and Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands, which opened March 14 at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. These productions are two sides of the same coin - one is a performance preparing to be adapted into a film, the other was a film that has now been adapted into a performance."

"Everyone's awesomely unrepressed in The Host, the masterful Korean monster movie by Joon-ho Bong," writes Sarahjane Blum, noting further in, "For all its hostility toward US presence in Korea, The Host is deeply inspired by American culture."

"Mouchette was made only one year after [Bresson's] masterpiece, Au Hasard, Balthazar, and the lack of preparation is evident in the final result," argues John Oursler.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:54 AM

Créteil Dispatch.

From Moira Sullivan, who's sent along some terrific photos as well.

Créteil Films de Femmes The 29th Créteil Films de Femmes, International Women's Film Festival (March 23 through April 1), threw its spotlight on films directed by women from Great Britain, featuring, for example, a retrospective of the work of Sally Potter. Among the highlights were Yes, with Joan Allen and Sam Neill, and the brilliant and luscious Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton based on the novel by Virginia Woolf.

The charismatic Scottish filmmaker's Mary Miles Thomas's One Life Stand, a remake of Pasolini's Mama Roma, tells the story of a single mother who works as a tarot card reader over the telephone and struggles to raise her 18-year-old son, John Paul, who is employed by an escort service for women. The outstanding digital feature has already won several awards at various festivals.

The first feature from festival veteran Pratibha Parmar, Nina's Heavenly Delights, was seven years in making and centers on an Indo-Scottish lesbian who returns to take up her father's restaurant business following his death - she falls for a woman who owns half of the establishment.

Charlotte Rampling

This year's guest of honor was Charlotte Rampling, who selected François Ozon's Under the Sand from her repertoire for screening. Rampling plays Marie, a university professor at the Sorbonne in Paris whose husband Jean suddenly disappears during their beach vacation. Marie refuses to accept that Jean is dead even when the coroner produces his body.

Mira Nair

Mira Nair was also celebrated at Créteil this year with a screening of her new feature, The Namesake, released in France at the end of March. [Nair has also been a recent guest on Film Weekly.]

Xiaolu Guo

Xiaolu Guo from Beijing, now based in Great Britain, took home the jury prize for best feature film. In How Is Your Fish Today?, the interplay of voiceover with a rich tableau of iconographic documents creates a rich tapestry of investigation, making Guo one of the most exciting Chinese directors of today. Guo, who also produced the film, received partial funding from Channel Four in Great Britain. She says her work is representative of a new generation of Chinese filmmakers who are finding new ways to make films and steering clear of an industry stuck on recycling martial arts formulas.

The runner up chosen by the 29th Créteil jury was Shoot the Messenger by Ngozi Onwurah from Great Britain, also voted the best film by the public and the Créteil youth jury. The film is about a black teacher, Joe Pascale (David Oyelowo), who works in an urban school composed of predominantly black students and white teachers. He's hired to inspire black youth, according to the school administration, but is instead soon unfairly accused of assaulting a student and his entire world collapses. Joe is driven to insanity, incarcerated and later winds up homeless but is soon rescued by evangelicals and a job recruitment firm. The film is refreshingly told from Joe's, with strategic close-ups of him commenting directly into the camera about the story unfolding.

The audience runner-up was Finn's Girl, the story of a woman whose partner dies and who decides to raise her daughter and carry on her work at an abortion clinic which has been receiving death threats. The film was made by the Canadian couple Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert.

The documentaries at Créteil this year, many of them overtly political, addressed a wide array of topics. Receiving an honorable mention from the Créteil gymnasium jury was Melek Ulagay Taylan's Dialogues in the Dark from Turkey, a film which deals with legislation aimed at "honor killings" of Muslim women by male relatives. The filmmaker also touches on the Turkish diaspora by bringing in the infamous case of 26-year-old Fadime Sahindal, who was murdered by her brother and father because she had a Swedish boyfriend. Sahindal immigrated to Sweden from Kurdistan as a little girl.

Judith Butler, philosophe en tout genre Several new French documentaries were screened at the festival. Judith Butler, philosophe en tout genre by Paule Zajdermann explores a visit by the UC Berkeley gender studies professor Judith Butler to France in 2005. Les Tomates Voient Rouge, by Andréa Bergala, takes up the globalization of alimentation, noting, for example, that there are only seven varieties of tomatoes that remain in France today. Love and Words are Politics, by Sylvie Ballyot, is a poetic film essay in which a woman searches for her space in Yemen.

The Créteil festival is at present the largest annual pageant of films made by women in the world. It is generously supported by several government ministries, regional as well as municipal, and a host of corporate sponsors. Créteil has been able to successfully integrate the surrounding area with the festival through student juries from local gymnasiums (lycée) and universities. This jury of the 29th festival was comprised of Noëlle Châtelet, Daniel Vigne, Loïc Magneron, Philippe Grandrieux, Laura Benson, Marylin Alasset and Maryse Wolinski. Seven percent of the world's directors are women and this events presents a panorama of shorts, documentaries and feature films dedicated exclusively to this marginalization.


Photos of Charlotte Rampling, Mira Nair and Xiaolu Guo by Moira Sullivan.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:50 AM

April 7, 2007

Weekend shorts.

Pantheon, Rome "[Walter] Murch's interests go far beyond the reach of cinema, encompassing architecture, astronomy, music theory, and mathematics - among an almost impossibly broad range of other subjects. When a friend of mine casually mentioned that Walter had 'discovered' something about the Pantheon, in Rome, and that this discovery had something to do with Nicolaus Copernicus and the origins of heliocentrism in Western astronomy, I was determined to write about it for BLDGBLOG." And so, Geoff Manaugh talks with the legendary editor about his research as well as about "the Mithraic religion of the ancient Mediterranean, urban acoustics, the music of the spheres, Brian Eno, Single Speed Design, the architecture of film, and even whether or not CCTV surveillance of city streets should be considered a new cinematic avant-garde."

"'I think the French are diseased,' says the director Bruno Dumont, taking a drag on the fourth or fifth cigarette he has lit in the past half-hour," notes Daniel Trilling who meets him for the New Statesman and seems a bit thrown off as he discovers Dumont "maintains a completely deadpan expression and speaks in clipped sentences, peppered with references to Sophocles and Nietzsche. It's as if he is consciously playing up to his reputation as a lofty, dispassionate French auteur.... 'My films are completely philosophical,' he says. 'It's a metaphysical cinema: good, evil, love, hate.'"

"Truth arrives as grudgingly as reconciliation in the Chadian film Daratt (Dry Season)," writes Manohla Dargis. "Gently and quietly told, steeped in the kind of resigned sorrow that can come after years of hurt and disappointment, it is an unassumingly political work that unfolds with the simplicity of a parable and the gravity of a Bible story."

Also in the New York Times:

Public Cowboy No 1
  • "[Gene] Autry put his signature on 20th-century entertainment," writes Jeanine Basinger in her review of Holly George-Warren's Public Cowboy No 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry. "He mastered synergy before anyone had coined the term. He used his movies to sell his radio show, his radio show to sell his recordings, his records to sell his sheet music and the covers of his sheet music to sell his movies. When television arrived, he was the first real star to accept it. 'Let's look it square in the face,' he said. 'The sooner we all start figuring out how to benefit from it ... the better off we'll be.'"

"When Premiere magazine announced last month that its April issue would be its last, the epitaph for long-form movie journalism may well have been written." For Variety, Anne Thompson traces the recent career trajectories of past movie magazine stalwarts. Paramount online marketing executive Amy Powell tells her that "Alpha Fans" are "becoming part of our movie, engaging, interacting, passing along, voting, organic. They build it themselves." To which Thompson adds, "The movie magazine niche as such is no more." Glenn Kenny comments.

On a related note, Maxim Jakubowski, blogging for the Guardian: "British film magazines like Empire or Total Film would certainly not have been launched had Premiere not paved the way, but if the US market can't sustain a popular film magazine, what are the long-term chances of British ones?"

"I'd like to think that a quietly precious piece of artfully arranged storytelling like The Cats of Mirikitani and a brassy piece of bluster like The Hoax represent respectively the future and present of movies," writes Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader. "The first is addressed to its audience like a personal letter; the second isn't addressed to anyone at all. Watching it is like being sprayed with paint."

"What gives [Aki] Kaurismäki's films their delightful tension is the tug-of-war between this apparent miserabilism and the surges of hope that disrupt the dour surface," writes Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman. "Lights in the Dusk is like the emotional equivalent of an optical illusion: the glass that appears to be half empty is shown, by the end of the picture, to be overflowing with the milk, or rather the vodka, of human kindness."

In the Guardian:

The Monstrous-Feminine

  • "[M]odern horror still can't seem to work out what to do with women." Emine Saner talks with a psychologist, a producer, a gaggle of fans and Barbara Creed, author of The Monstrous-Feminine.

  • "[N]ow there are good opportunities for Chinese actresses in Hollywood. I can be in a film as an artist, not as a decoration," Gong Li tells Jonathan Watts. Related: Will Lawrence talks with Zhang Yimou for the Telegraph. Yes, Curse of the Golden Flower has arrived in the UK.

  • John Patterson describes Shooter as "Rambo retooled with liberal trimmings, while I like to think, with tongue only partly in cheek, of the quasi-fascist 300 as hiding a clarion call for the acceptance of gays in the US military. I swear, you just can't tell left from right in Hollywood any more." Related: Kevin Maher talks with Mark Wahlberg for the London Times.

  • Patterson also hears that Perfect Stranger, starring Bruce Willis and Halle Berry is "Color of Night-bad" and puts forward a modest proposal: "I think they should be allowed to take Oscars back from performers who are too clueless to exploit the alleged prestige the award confers upon them. Three strikes and you're out seems like a good rule of thumb here."

Linda Linda Linda Korean actress Du-Na Bae is developing quite a resume, and with US releases - within a month of each other - of the monster movie The Host (she was the archer) and now the Japanese girl-power rock band movie Linda Linda Linda, she has to be considered a legitimate international cult figure." G Allen Johnson in the San Francisco Chronicle on "an extremely well-written, emotionally complex coming-of-age tale that has a John Hughesian respect for teenage angst." Also: Police Beat and The Page Turner.

Even if Joseph Gordon-Levitt's stock is skyrocketing, it's still not overvalued, argues Meghan O'Rourke in Slate.

In the LA CityBeat, Andy Klein celebrates the return of the "one of a kind" Killer of Sheep. So, too, does Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times: "[W]hile blunter, more blustery films have become yesterday's news, almost nothing about this quiet film has dated. That is in part a tribute to [Charles] Burnett's gifts, which blossomed in subsequent African American-themed works like the marvelous Danny Glover-starring To Sleep With Anger and the too-little-seen Nightjohn. But it also speaks to the enduring power of poetic cinema, of films with genuine artistic vision that create mood and capture emotion in ways only motion pictures can."

Also, ST VanAirsdale wonders if Janet Maslin's 1978 review in the New York Times "meant what it would mean to a no-budget indie in 2007: near-instant death."

A double double-pack from indieWIRE: Interviews with Dreaming Lhasa co-directors Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam; and Live Free or Die co-directors Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin. More on that one from Craig Phillips at the Guru.

"The Wind That Shakes the Barley still shows Loach's weakness for dialectics," writes Noy Thrupkaew for the American Prospect. "But there is something spellbinding in the way that the cogs of bloody revolution keep churning in [Ken] Loach's film - murderers and martyrs and those who are both, all grist for an unceasing and unforgiving fate."

Friedrich von Blowhard poses a few questions regarding spatial coherence, with particular reference to Buster Keaton.

Lesley O'Toole talks with John Travolta for the Independent.

The Inner Life of Martin Frost Bilge Ebiri talks with Paul Giamatti and Bryan Whitefield asks Paul Auster about The Inner Life of Martin Frost and why an acclaimed novelist would make a film in the first place: "It's the collaborative aspect that is so attractive to me. Because I spend so much of my life, alone, sitting in my room."

Martyn Palmer profiles Aishwarya Rai for the London Times.

Reviewing The Namesake for the WSWS, Joanne Laurier asks, "Why did [Mira] Nair find it necessary to sanitize two deeply socially polarized cities - New York and Calcutta - by placing out of sight all but a tiny, privileged segment of the population?"

"Visit your multiplex, and try, just try, to find a movie where women are as plentiful and powerful as men," writes Time's Richard Corliss. "One reason for the vanishing movie female is that the genres in which women used to be equal or dominant - the romantic melodrama and comedy - fell out of favor when the core audience changed from families to teen boys."

At ScreenGrab, Pazit Cahlon talks with Howard Zinn about Sacco and Vanzetti.

"While I enjoyed a few fests in the 1980s and 1990s, I just don't have the time or patience anymore," writes Kathy Fennessey at the Siffblog. "Glastonbury allows music fans to enjoy the sights and sounds without having to experience the smells and other "fringe benefits" of the festival experience."

"Urban renewal is mocking the working class, Godard observes... Of all the devastatingly timeless truths that [Two or Three Things I Know About Her] reflects, this one probably hurts the most." Tram at Lucid Screening.

Vintage TV John Borland for Wired News: "The TV is Dead. Long Live the TV." Via Chuck Tryon.

Online click-through tip. Miranda July's No one belongs here more than you, via Ray Pride.

Online viewing tip. Owen Hatherley gathers three parts of "Chris Marker's The Train Rolls On, his 1971 film on the cine-train of Alexander Medvedkin," in one handy entry.

Online viewing tips. Michael Guillén rounds up a slew at SF360.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:53 PM | Comments (2)

John Flynn, 1932 - 2007.

Rolling Thunder / The Outfit
John Flynn, director Rolling Thunder (1977) and The Outfit (1973), among others, passed away in his sleep on Wednesday. Both films got great responses at last year's Best of QT Fest (notes here and here). I don't like writing obits, so I'll just say that if you haven't seen these two movies (both of which really need to be released on DVD), I'd highly recommend checking them out.

Micah at Reel Distraction, who heard via the Grindhouse Film Festival, where, as Jerry Lentz notes, Flynn introduced Rolling Thunder just the other night.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:20 PM | Comments (8)

Weekend fests and events.

Lon Cheney Lon Chaney: Man of a Thousand Faces, a series at the Barbican in London introduced by Kevin Brownlow, is a fine occasion for a piece by Geoffrey Macnab in the Independent on the "shape shifter. Grotesques were his speciality. He could play hunchbacks, limbless gangsters, Dickensian villains, clowns, insane surgeons, old ladies and vampires. You never knew where you would see him next. 'Don't step on that spider,' director Marshall Neilan told a party guest. 'It might be Lon Chaney.'"

"Shakespeare's plays are so deeply encoded into the collective imagination that his influence on popular film-making, even if unconscious, is inescapable. Shakespeare helped perfect cinema's genre moulds 300 years before its birth." Daniel Rosenthal, author of 100 Shakespeare Films, preps Guardian readers for the Inspired by Shakespeare series (online exhibition). Through April 29.

"'What the Collective did was continue a number of the ideas that had developed in Ken Jacobs's class into a more public sphere that had to with showing more avant-garde films - and also slide shows and video in the context of all kinds of other work, Hollywood movies, ethnic movies and documentaries,' said filmmaker and critic Jim Hoberman, a former student at Binghamton and one of many Collective members taking part in this weekend's semi-retrospective On the Collective for Living Cinema at Anthology Film Archives." Karen Kramer reports for the Reeler.

Johnny Guitar "Searchers, Misfits, and Left-Handed Guns: Reinventing the Myth of the American West, a retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, features 18 sagebrush sagas, produced between 1943 and 1995, that turned the genre on its ear," writes Susan King for the Los Angeles Times. April 13 through May 12.

"I was talking to a Deauville Festival official the other night, and he told me that they were keen on inviting some solid directors from India and exhibiting some serious Indian cinema," writes Gautaman Bhaskaran. "Two names that he mentioned: Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who is now shooting his 10th and 11th movie back-to-back in Kerala's Allepey district, and Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday. So, Deauville is not just about Bollywood and Krrish's out-of-this-world antics."

Also for the Lumière Reader, more coverage of New Zealand's World Cinema Showcase.

"[T]he Philippines and Malaysia are becoming homes to critical masses of young, extremely independent filmmakers," and in Robert Koehler's latest dispatch from the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival to filmjourney.org, he focuses on Filipino Raya Martin's The Island at the End of the World. Also, "Essential Argentine film of BAFICI (so far, it being only Day 4!): Rafael Filippelli's exquisite Musica Nocturna."

At the Hong Kong International Film Festival, David Bordwell catches five films by Paolo Gioli - and three more.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:33 AM

Weekend DVDs.

DK Holm rounds up reviews of the DVD release of The Good Shepherd; a few notes follow.

The Good Shepherd At the time of its release, reviewers of the theatrical version of The Good Shepherd didn't show much love. The film scored a mere 56 percent approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes and among the more disparaging comments are Jon Popick's of Planet Sick-Boy ("a cinematic still-birth") and Rolling Stone's Peter Travers: "It's tough to slog through a movie that has no pulse." There appears to be no sentimentality left for Robert De Niro, here making his second foray into directing.

One can see their point. It is a long movie (167 minutes), and Eric Roth's ambitious script necessarily spans decades to tell its story. And the subject matter - an alternative history of the CIA - seemed an unlikely fit for a man whose first directorial effort was a gritty tale set in the streets and gutters of an ethnic enclave. Anyway, most everyday viewers probably mixed it up with The Good German.

Still, The Good Shepherd had much to recommend it. Few movies these days attempt its scope, or if they do, they rarely manage to make sense over the long haul. The film has a terrific cast, from Matt Damon, as a stand-in for CIA executive James Jesus Angleton, here playing a sort of anti-Bourne, through Angelina Jolie (whom the viewer keeps thinking must be a femme fatale; she isn't), Alec Baldwin (a current king of cameos), Billy Crudup as Kim Philby, De Niro himself, Keir Dullea, Michael Gambon, William Hurt, John Turturro, Timothy Hutton, and all the way down to Joe Pesci, in a small part as a gangster.

In fact, Pesci's character supplies something of a key to the film. The Good Shepherd's alternative account of the CIA's international interventions shows the organization as one utterly breached and rife with continual failure (yet, as one character comments, in the end, the US still "beat" the USSR). Viewers may have been unsettled by a big, expensive movie that essentially told the audience that one of their major institutions was a total failure, with a central "hero" who was more withdrawn than Rain Man. At one point (chapter 15 on the disc), in a marvelously chilling scene that completely redefines the spectator's view of him, Matt Damon's Edward Bell Wilson is talking to Pesci's Joseph Palmi, and the Italian gangster asks Wilson what his social class has as a defining characteristic, in contrast to the Italians with their church and family and African-Americans with their music (in Palmi's terms). Wilson replies, "The United States of America: The rest of you are just visiting." Suddenly you see that Wilson is not a nice guy, but an ideologue and a demagogue, tromping on civil rights in defense of his presumptive ownership of America.

So, might the DVD reviews of the film be better, given that the writers have more time to reflect and replay? The anonymous reviewer at Current Film finds the movie's narrative "only occasionally" interesting, though the film's visuals "are exceptional, with gorgeous cinematography... Still, despite superb visuals and some memorable supporting performances, Good Shepherd never manages enough momentum and the story isn't as compelling as the story of the early days of the CIA had the potential to be."

The acronymal JJB at the DVD Journal, however, is much more sympathetic, noting that the film "attempts to put a human face on the early years of the CIA, even if the faces we meet are more compromised than noble." The writer also clarifies the film's intentions: "The Good Shepherd takes a dim view of US intelligence activities from 1946 to 1961, although it doesn't play as an anti-American screed or cautionary tale. There's no mistaking the all-white, insular Ivy League elite that founded America's spy community, but at no point does the story seem to suggest that a foreign intelligence service isn't vital to the nation's security, or that America isn't worth the fight. Instead, the intrigue plays out with the subtlety of a John le Carré novel, where the compromises are not necessarily the product of moral defects, but instead the inherent, inescapable result of all covert operations, large and small."

Meanwhile, Phil Bacharach at DVD Talk is even more enthusiastic. Matt Damon gives a "tour de force performance... His Edward Wilson is a tragic figure who sacrifices personal happiness for the demands of a job that precludes trust and intimacy. Damon conveys fierce intelligence, but it is edged with melancholy, too; you know that he realizes exactly the magnitude of what he has denied himself. That subtlety is no small feat in a movie that faces the age-old conundrum of how to tell the story about cold detachment without becoming coldly detached along the way."

Incidentally, the disc, from Universal, comes with an excellent transfer and, for supplements, only a 16-minute collection of seven deleted scenes that comprise a subplot about Angelina Jolie's brother (Gabriel Macht), also a spy and, furthermore, a traitor. The sequence also alludes to the hints of incest suggested in the original film.


When the Light is Mine: The Best of the IRS Years 82 - 87 At Marathonpacks: A video-by-video breakdown of the R.E.M. DVD When the Light is Mine: The Best of the IRS Years 82 - 87.

"A creeping editing motif grows through Alain Resnais's Muriel, or the Time of Return, a kind of pre-split screen simultaneity: we catch glimpses, sometimes for only a shot, sometimes across several, of what other people are doing while we are watching the central story of the film." Daniel Kasman elaborates.

Steve Erickson on Early Bergman: "The packaging is rather bare-bones - its only bonus feature is a page of well-written liner notes accompanying each disc - but this austerity suits the films."

Annie Wagner reviews Gavin Lambert's Another Sky for the Stranger.

Michael Blowhard ho-hums over François Ozon's 5x2 and suggests, "Why not catch up with Water Drops on Burning Rocks instead? Now there's a pansexual chamber dramedy with a frisky and absurdist kick."

Peter Sobczynski has a walloping DVD roundup at Hollywood Bitchslap; Movie City News has another.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:07 AM | Comments (4)

Trashy Movie Celebration Blog-a-thon.

The Brain That Wouldn't Die "For those needing a refresher, the long explanation is [here], but all you need is the trashy movie - skin flick, kung fu, spaghetti western, women-in-prison or whatever - or movie genre that you think deserves not a defense against being bad, but rather celebration as good, worthwhile, artistically valid, important... Hell, just great!"

Clearly, it's a good weekend for a "Trashy Movie Celebration Blog-a-thon," and Neil's hosting it at the Bleeding Tree.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:29 AM

Luigi Comencini, 1916 - 2007.

Luigi Comencini
Filmmaker Luigi Comencini, who was one of Italy's greatest post-war directors, has died aged 90.

The BBC.

Comencini was best known for his 1953 hit, Bread, Love and Dreams, starring Gina Lollobrigida and Vittorio De Sica, a film that spawned two sequels and helped turned the page on Italy's neorealism movement.

The AFP.

See also: The allmovie profile; the IMDb. More in Italian; and in German.

Update: "Bread, Love and Dreams and Husbands in the City were presented to me as films I really needed to pay attention to, to catch up on," writes Brendon Connelly. "And I loved them - but I didn't know then that they were made by the master that affected me so much ten or fifteen years earlier with Pinocchio."

Update, 4/9: "Though he refused to make the third film in the [Bread, Love...] series, he played safe by testing his newly won box office credibility with three more comedies in a row," writes John Francis Lane in the Guardian. "Only then did he feel ready to make a film which he would always cite as one of his favourites, La Finestra sul Luna Park (Window on the Fairground, 1956) with a subject which he felt deeply about, a recurring theme in his work, the relationship between father and son."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:11 AM

Interview. Paul Verhoeven.

Black Book Just up at the main site, David D'Arcy talks with Paul Verhoeven about Black Book, US politics, his Crusades movie that was to have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and a possible project set in the McCarthy era. But as for Black Book, it's been quite a while since I've gathered such a wide-ranging collection of conflicting opinions. Here we go...

"Six years after he disappeared with the whimper that was Hollow Man, Paul Verhoeven has returned with what may be his best film," writes Lawrence Levi for Stop Smiling. "Though it's critical, Black Book is no message movie. It's a first-rate thriller. And, like most of Verhoeven's films, it's erotic, outrageously violent and deeply twisted."

"A masterly synthesis, Black Book blurs the line between early and late Verhoeven," writes Howard Feinstein, introducing indieWIRE's interview. "Combining the gutsy openness of his Dutch films with the sophisticated technique he learned in Hollywood, the 68-year-old director exposes the skeletons in Holland's wartime closet."

Updated through 4/12.

"Verhoeven has insisted that Black Book, which he and his screenwriter Gerard Soeteman began working on 20 years ago, is based on historical cases," notes J Hoberman in the Voice. "No specific sources are given, but the movie is underscored by two discomfiting facts. First is the relatively late and weak Dutch resistance to the Germans; second is the dramatically low percentage of Dutch Jews who survived the war." And further: "'I never thought I'd dread liberation,' she says. That's the movie's melancholy moral."

On a somewhat similar note, Anthony Lane in the New Yorker: "[T]he winter of 1944 and the succeeding months (the time frame of Black Book) saw the Netherlands besieged by famine, with people grating tulip bulbs to make soup. None of that desperation pinches Verhoeven's film. Resisters and collaborators alike are elegantly dressed, with plenty of flesh on the bones, and some of Rachel's escapades have the casual air of a spree."

"Black Book, which did big business in Holland and arrives here with the cachet of an acclaimed foreign film about the Holocaust, would be plain-old kitsch if it didn't cash in on the suffering of millions to get its low-brow action-adventure kicks," writes Jürgen Fauth. "The word for this is Shoahxploitation."

At Reverse Shot, Nicolas Rapold dwells on a comparison with Spielberg's Holocaust movie: "[I]nstead of restaging Schindleresque public debates about problems of representation and moral propriety, I wanted to recall another defining feature of Spielberg's landmark: a German protagonist tailored to American sympathies."

For the LA Weekly's Ella Taylor, "a viscerally effective thriller ends up a repugnant exercise in moral relativism, delivered with the grandstanding swagger of the self-styled provocateur." For one thing, among many other points she makes, Verhoeven's "jubilant rip-off of a climactic scene from the Dutch thriller The Vanishing to ratify an act of revenge near the end of the movie reeks of exploitation."

Black Book But for the New York Press's Armond White, "Its success must be measured in how it enables viewers to think about war and survival in new ways - without shopworn, Oscar-endorsed sentiments. Imagine a Fassbinder movie, deliberately self-conscious for the new century." Also: How did Verhoeven end up in the US in the first place? He tells Eric Kohn that he owes his immigration to Steven Spielberg.

"Verhoeven has never so successfully put together a piece of serious entertainment, strong in pacing, thrills, and eroticism, but also one so slickly produced that it is difficult to see into the depths of the film," finds Daniel Kasman.

"Verhoeven is perhaps something of a split personality: a man who cannot unlearn the headlong American way of making movies that he learned comparatively late in life (he was 48 when he came here) and a man who may also have an aging eye angled at his eventual place in cinema history," suggests Richard Schickel in Time. "Black Book is, I think, an attempt to satisfy both these impulses. Such mixtures of motives rarely work in the movies. But this time it does." Also, a talk with the director.

"Paul Verhoeven tries to go respectable with the WWII drama Black Book," writes Nick Schager, "and the question that persists is: Who wants a respectable Paul Verhoeven?"

"Black Book encompasses the best and very worst of its director's signature pulp brutalism, which means it's pretty much a hoot," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times.

"Verhoeven's ability to thrive in the blockbuster economy has made critics wary; during the flush years of his American work, he showed an uncanny understanding of how to tickle the imagination of 14-year-old boys," writes Nick Pinkerton at indieWIRE. "But if his sensibility is adolescent, it is in the best sense: his anarchic entertainments exist somewhere between Alfred Jarry and Terry and the Pirates."

Aaron Hillis has a good talk with Verhoeven and then pops his last question:

Early last year, a group of film bloggers from around the world each re-evaluated Showgirls on the exact same day. Have you heard of the "Showgirls Blog Orgy?"

Yes, I read an article on the internet about this, and I heard there were many different opinions. Where do I find this? I'll write it down.

Also at IFC News, Matt Singer calls Black Book Verhoeven's "most accomplished, entertaining and truly 'Verhoevian' work since Basic Instinct.... [T]he material is as old as World War II, if not time itself, but Verhoeven makes it sing."

"As a Verhoeven heroine, Rachel is atypical, and yet in her indomitable will to survive, game sexual maneuvering, sometimes quizzically emotionless adaptability and frequently exposed breasts, she finds some common ground with her predecessors," notes Michelle Orange at the Reeler, where ST VanAirsdale interviews the woman who plays her, Carice van Houten, and Verhoeven.

Black Book "I think Verhoeven is an underappreciated cinematic master, but the reasons for his lack of stature are partly of his own creation," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Even his best pictures (I would nominate Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers and probably The Fourth Man) are always conflicted, at war with themselves, undermining their own integrity and coherence as they go along. Black Book is like that too." Also, a long talk with Verhoeven.

For the AV Club, Scott Tobias talks with Verhoeven "about his World War II experiences, his battles with the MPAA, and how Starship Troopers was made and misinterpreted."

"As epic as its two-hours-and-25-minute running time indicates, Black Book is as subversive as it is traditional, both enamored of conventional notions of heroism and frankly contemptuous of them," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times.

"Verhoeven is a master action director, and Black Book contains several breathtakingly expert sequences," notes Annie Frisbie at Zoom In Online.

Steve Erickson interviews Verhoeven for Nerve.

Online viewing tips. David Poland lunches with Verhoeven. Earlier: Jamie Stuart's Trim Chat.

Update, 4/9: "At the start, I couldn't believe that the floridly cynical Verhoeven could make a movie this romantic, this thrillingly old-fashioned, this straight; I thought he must have had surgery to get his tongue out of his cheek," writes David Edelstein in New York. "The Verhoevenisms that do creep in recall Hitchcock's emotionally labyrinthine double-agent melodrama Notorious. But before you can yell, 'Auteur! Auteur!' Verhoeven reasserts himself with a vengeance."

Update, 4/10: Matt Singer at IFC News: "The Ballsy Cinema of Paul Verhoeven: A Selected Filmography."

Updates, 4/11: Patrick Goldstein talks with Verhoeven for the LAT.

Black Book's "145 minutes are by turns ridiculous, offensive, and irrelevant. They're also more exciting than various recent cinematic expressions of feigned historical truth telling," writes Dennis Harvey in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "They are tasteless yet arguably less so than Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful (1997), which turns sad-clown sentimentality into something pornographic."

Update, 4/12: "Paul Verhoeven has made a brilliant study of the origins and consequences of Fascism. That film, of course, is Starship Troopers (1997)," writes Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix. "Black Book... is something else entirely. It's a bit of a romantic comedy, with the traditional mistaken identity and pairing of opposites of that genre. It's a hyper-emotional melodrama sparked with treacheries, illusions, revenge, and obsessive love. It's a Hitchcockian suspense thriller without suspense. It's a trash heap of enjoyable but absurd contrivances and mismatched conventions with glimmers of political and psychological insight. In short, it's a Paul Verhoeven film, of the kind that's been missed for a decade."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:18 AM | Comments (3)

April 6, 2007

Interview. Andrea Arnold.

Red Road Jonathan Marlow: Did you use as a reference point the work of Atom Egoyan or Michael Haneke?

Andrea Arnold: That comes up a lot.

JM: I'm sure that it does. They are both associated with the impact of video imagery - of watching and being watched, by surveillance or otherwise - in everyday life. They had no influence?

AA: I'd only seen Hidden a couple of months ago and I'd only seen one Michael Haneke film before that, The Piano Teacher, which never crossed my mind when I was writing Red Road. I'm sure that you're influenced by all kinds of things...

Updated through 4/12.

JM: This is a gateway question, I wager. What were you thinking about as you were writing the script?

AA: People have asked me about a few films, like Rear Window and The Conversation, which I only saw when we were editing because my editor mentioned it...

JM: Because of the sound design, primarily?

AA: Yes. He said, "I think we should have a look at The Conversation because there are a lot of similarities..."

JM: I think that was good advice.

AA: People also always mention Blow Up, which I've never seen. I have to see it because I've had at least ten people mention it to me...

JM: I suspect that you would like it.

AA: I think I might, too.

And here's the full conversation.

Update, 4/10: Alison Willmore talks with Arnold for IFC News.

Updates, 4/11: "No one does poetic British with more remorseless hyper-realism than the Scots, and Arnold, who amassed a raft of reputable awards for her 2003 short film Wasp, directs with a precociously sure touch and a raw taste for graphic sexuality rare in a woman helmer," writes Ella Taylor in the Voice.

"Red Road isn't as assured as the Dardenne Brothers' The Son, but Arnold increases its stalker suspense while keeping an eye on moral consequences, intra-character tension, and the social determinism of its surroundings," writes Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE. "[T]his is Arnold's film, and it bears the mark of a director possessing her own vision."

"[A]s Arnold begins to trickle in explanations, the effortlessly maintained intrigue degrades into a belabored endeavor skewed by gotcha urges," writes Nicolas Rapold in the L Magazine.

Updates, 4/12: "Whatever labels it merits, Red Road surely demands that viewers pay attention," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "'Someone said to me that in a thriller the audience knows what the main character knows,' Arnold explains. 'In Red Road, that's not the case.'... The skill of Arnold's direction hardly comes from beginner’s show business luck.... 'I've been emerging for 18 years.'"

Red Road is "a kick-ass, creepy, sexy mystery-thriller from Scotland that gets under your skin and wiggles around like a parasite," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "It's one of the movie-buff events of the year, or it ought to be. But it's in danger of becoming another festival hit, another well-respected movie that geeks like me (and possibly you, since you're reading this) talk about in terms of veneration but that hardly anybody actually sees. This must not be allowed to happen!"

Marcy Dermansky finds Red Road to be "an odd, unsatisfying meditation on grief. By not explaining the motivation behind Jackie's often off-putting actions, Arnold holds her cards too close. This contrivance, unfortunately, keeps the audience at an unbridgeable distance."

"Arnold has a good eye, and Red Road has finely observed performances and an intriguing set-up," writes Robert Cashill. "But I'm something of an Arriaga agnostic [the screenwriter is thanked in the end credits], finding his contrived screenplays rather cheap, and think Arnold, who won the live action short Oscar in 2005 for Wasp, might want to follow her own path next time."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:38 PM

Sunshine.

Sunshine "[Alex] Garland and [Danny] Boyle's story reaches out, or reaches back, to the lost 1970s tradition of darkness, scepticism and subversion in science fiction, a period that combined the technological optimism of the Sputnik/Apollo era with the succeeding decade's political discontent," writes Peter Bradshaw, referencing 2001, Solaris and Dark Star. "But Sunshine also channels queasy modern anxieties from our modern age: a world of climate change, weapons of mass destruction and even suicide bombers." Related: the space movie quiz.

"Ridley Scott's Alien virtually pioneered the modern sci-fi horror, not just in its fusing of genres (the 'lost platoon' crossed with a monster movie) but in its innovative use of lighting, sound and production design," Anthony Quinn reminds us in the Independent. "Just as soon as we see the eerie corridors and clanging walkways of the spacecraft Icarus II in Sunshine we can be pretty sure that Boyle is giving us the nod: prepare yourself for strenuous running and screaming.... Pulp done with energy and wit can be a wonderful thing, as Boyle proves here, but when it gets highfalutin it only looks dim. For most of its span, though, Sunshine dazzles with its use of CGI and its enveloping atmosphere of disquiet. It's by far Boyle's best film since Trainspotting."

Updated through 4/11.

"The only thing more dazzling than the angry star throbbing at the centre of our dying solar system is the production design on Danny Boyle's visually arresting sci-fi picture," writes Wendy Ide in the London Times. "It's just a pity that the film sells out much of its initial potential and intelligent restraint with a final act that feels as if it was tacked on to appease a teenage audience."

"You're reminded of how almost all Boyle's films, from Shallow Grave to 28 Days Later, tend to go a bit psycho near the end, tumbling over themselves to fulfil certain generic expectations and letting the compact ingenuity of their core conceits fly out of the window," agrees the Telegraph's Tim Robey. "Still, it's almost fitting that this journey into a great ball of fire should give itself over to pure sensory bombardment, more in the tradition of trippy, visionary science fiction (Solaris or 2001, say) than your usual interstellar disaster movie."

Earlier: Mark Kermode in the Guardian and Nigel Floyd's extensive interview with Boyle.

Update, 4/7: Online listening tip. Jason Solomons hosts a "special spaced-out edition of Film Weekly," featuring, of course, an interview with Boyle.

Updates, 4/9: "You end by admiring Boyle and Garland's powered-up determination to push through the 'space' we know - that darkness where no one can hear you scream - into a space where light riots, sound cataracts, sensation spins, and each human, eyeballing the spectre of immolation, is forced into a last showdown with himself," writes Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times.

Philip French whips through the history of sci-fi movies in the Observer, then adds, "Sunshine is remarkable for the technical virtuosity with which it creates life on a space vehicle and the cosmos around it, and it's worth noting that like Things to Come, 2001, the Star Wars films and the Alien series, it was made in Britain." Overall, he seems impressed, but not quite enough to come right out and say so.

"[T]he popular opinion that Sunshine is very good until the last act isn't harsh enough," writes Brendon Connelly. "The many mistakes in the last part are echoed and rooted in the earlier sequences of the film."

Updates, 4/11: A Cineuropa "Film Focus."

Swarez sends a review into Twitch from Iceland. Loved it.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:23 AM | Comments (1)

April 5, 2007

Shorts, 4/5.

The Holy Mountain "The planet is ill, everyone knows that," Alejandro Jodorowsky tells the Guardian's Xan Brooks. "But I need to be optimistic, otherwise I would just be adding to the negativity. So every night I come on Madrid TV and read a piece of good news." Really. He does. At any rate, Brooks has a good talk with him in Paris and catches up with the midnight classics: "I watch El Topo and it stands up pretty well; a shotgun wedding of Sergio Leone and Federico Fellini: primal and pretentious in about equal measure. Then I watch The Holy Mountain and it's as though the world has gone widescreen. It's astonishing, outlandish; unlike anything made before or since."

Also in the Guardian, a "new generation of Arab film-makers are emerging across the region intent on breaking taboos and challenging audiences both at home and abroad," writes Ali Jafaar. "Whether Djamila Sahraoui's Algerian civil war road movie Barakat!, which won the inaugural Best Arab film prize at last year's Dubai international film festival, Ghassan Salhab's Beirut-set vampire story The Last Man, or Moroccan director Faouzi Bensaidi's genre-busting tale of a love-struck Casablanca assassin in WWW: What a Wonderful World, Arab cinema is experiencing something of an awakening."

And Brian Logan asks, "Has Sam Mendes lost touch with British theater?"

"We can finally announce that Godard's elusive Histoire(s) du cinéma is available for order (really!)." A gleeful Jon Pais. Also at Twitch, Canfield posts a huge "March DVD Wrap-up."

More DVD recommendations? Shawn Badgley's got several in the Austin Chronicle.

Everything's Gone Green For Jason Clark, writing in Slant, Everything's Gone Green is "a trite comedy that examines Gen Y-ish ennui and the futility of believing a middle class exists, a perfectly ripe subject for any film these days, but this one buries its good intentions in a deluge of missed opportunities."

Los Muertos is "an extraordinary film from the young Argentine director Lisandro Alonso, which premiered at Cannes and Toronto in 2004 and has yet to find North American distribution," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "It's a gorgeous, troubling odyssey through the South American jungle... It's a tremendous experience, whatever it is; the kind of thing supposed art-movie audiences used to tolerate and pretty much don't anymore." Also: "After a precisely crafted first hour with nary a detail out of place, Whole New Thing comes unglued toward the end, spiraling into melodrama without ever escaping its whiny, indie-rock soundtrack."

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times on The Reaping: "The only remotely notable thing about this particular jumble of boos, bangs and door creaks, swaying Spanish moss, creeping blond kids and swelling décolletage, creatively presented from various angles in various contexts, is that it tries to wed the horror trend with the heated-up God market." More from Michael Ordoña in the Los Angeles Times.

For acquarello, "The Ceremony is a provocative and excoriating satire on the amorphous nature of modern Japanese identity that could only have been forged in the wake of Nagisa Oshima's increasing disillusionment with the impotence of the left movement."

Jason Sperb, writing at Dr Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope, finds Barbara Klinger's Beyond the Multiplex: Cinema, New Technologies and the Home to be "a crucial piece of scholarship, which offers a satisfying account of expanded sites for interrogating contemporary American film cultures. As her title succinctly suggests, Klinger's book is interested in how film exists beyond the theater - beyond urban movie palaces, run-down small-town venues, has-been mall theaters, and the newest suburban 30-screen multiplexes. Instead, she is interested specifically in how the home is a central space for the construction of film cultures."

Southland Tales Updates on the up-n-coming at Cinematical: Christopher Campbell on Danny Boyle's Slum Dog and Erik Davis on Richard Kelly's Southland Tales.

"The world's oldest working film director, 98-year-old Manoel de Oliveira, has begun shooting his latest pic, Christopher Columbus: The Enigma, produced by Francois d'Artemare of Filmes do Tejo," reports Martin Dale for Variety.

Asia Argento, Mathieu Amalric and Laurent Lucas are set to star in Bertrand Bonello's De la guerre, reports Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa.

"For viewers interested in the Franco-Algerian question but put off by the intellectual puzzle that was Michael Haneke's Caché or the simplistic indignity of the colonial soldiers drama Indigènes (Days of Glory), Thomas Gilou's comparatively breezy Michou d'Auber might be the perfect antidote," suggests Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net.

"The period, the predicament, the politics are all utterly palpable," writes Robert Avila at SF360. "Still, the power of The Wind That Shakes the Barley lies in the immediacy of the subject matter of war, occupation, and empire - especially in the way [Ken] Loach brings these themes to bear locally, on the lives of ordinary persons in a specific community."

"Not only did I find my mind wandering during [Two or Three Things I Know About Her], but I felt like I was being hectored," writes Kathy Fennessey at the Siffblog. "I didn't enjoy the film as essay or rant, but I did appreciate it as a time capsule of a particular time, place, and sensibility."

"Is drug use a distinctly American movie theme?" An annotated list from Josef Braun in the Vue Weekly.

David Byrne explains why an increase in the performance royalty rates for 'non-interactive streaming services' is a bad, bad idea.

Online viewing tip #1. The Hollywood Reporter's Steve Bryant has found MK12's The History of America.

Online viewing tip #2. At Filmmaker, Nick Dawson finds Ileana Douglas's Supermarket.

Online viewing tips. Brendon Connelly: "A huge archive of footage from the Cannes film festival has gone online today."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:16 PM

Fests and events, 4/5.

Fish Kill Flea The Austin Chronicle's Anne S Lewis discovers that Brian Cassidy, Aaron Hillis and Jennifer Loeber can give a very amusing interview. Fish Kill Flea screens April 11 at the Alamo.

Brandon Harris is posting dispatches from the Aspen ShortsFest. Through Sunday.

Robert Koehler carries on sending dispatches into filmjourney.org from the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival: "Morten Hartz Kaplers's AFR, a Danish whatsit that plays the same game (poorly) that Death of a President played (poorly) last year." And "is Kim Ki-duk still South Korea's worst filmmaker?" he wonders. After seeing Time, he decides, "yes." Also: "Aurélien Gerbault's intriguing and personal portrait of Pedro Costa, Tout refleurit (whose English title, All Blossom Again, hints at some of the film's innate optimism about the filmmaking process)... and the final film from that greatest of filmmaking couples, Straub-Huillet, Quei loro incontri."

"The Tribeca Film Festival today announced that Al Gore will host the fest's opening night gala on April 25, which will also feature seven SOS short films," writes Filmmaker's Nick Dawson. "SOS (Save Our Selves) is the organisation set up by Gore and Kevin Wall (the worldwide executive producer of the Live 8 concerts) to 'trigger a mass-scale movement to combat our climate crisis,' and which is organizing Live Earth concerts around the globe on 07/07/07." Related: For the Times Literary Supplement, Robert May reviews a slew of books on global warming, including Al Gore's. ST VanAirsdale has more Tribeca news at the Reeler.

Cannes Variety rounds up the latest on Cannes.

Scott Foundas's "guide to the best of the rest of [Tarantino's] grindhouse fest" at the New Beverly Cinema in LA. In the Los Angeles Times, Susan King rounds up the dates and times for several other local goings on.

For the Philadelphia City Paper, Mickey Jou previews tomorrow's Reel Travel: A Penn Humanities Forum Symposium.

Michael Guillén's got entries on a variety of events in the Bay Area.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:10 PM

Philadelphia, 4/5.

Philadelphia City Paper Sam Adams opens the Philadelphia City Paper's cover package on the Philadelphia Film Festival, opening today and running through April 18, with an in-depth piece on the documentary The Killer Within.

The weekly's staff also writes up dozens and dozens of festival offerings, adding check-marks to the titles they recommend.

Earlier: The Philadelphia Weekly's write-ups.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:08 AM

frieze. 106.

The Ghosts of Songs "In a contemporary art world characterized by exploration of the documentary, the archival impulse, the resurgent interest in the video essay, collective collaboration and the possibilities for alternative pedagogy, the cine-cultural practice of the Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC) could not be more timely," write Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar in the new issue of frieze. "The title of their current retrospective, The Ghosts of Songs, which we curated, hints at the temporal hypothesis of the exhibition. Can a past that the present has not yet caught up with be summoned to haunt the present as an alternative?"

Runa Islam has a series of lovely notes on Warhol and Dreyer; Raúl Ruiz's Tres tristes tigres (Very Sad Tigers); Godard's 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle (Two or Three Things I Know About Her); Antonioni's L'Avventura; Tarkovsky's Solaris; Tati's Playtime; Marco Ferreri's Ciao maschio (Bye Bye Monkey); three by Polanski, Hitchcock's Rope and Michael Haneke's Benny's Video; Nicolas Roeg's Bad Timing; Buñuel's Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie; Dennis Hopper's "incredible, underrated" The Last Movie; Welles's F for Fake; Kiarostami's Close-Up; and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.

"After 30 years, the Anthology Film Archives in New York will publish the second volume of a vast bibliographical project, The Legend of Maya Deren. Melissa Gronlund celebrates:

Deren's films of the 1940s were a bridge between the tightly controlled exercises of early European avant-garde film, whose production had mostly stopped during World War II, and the improvisatory, personal cinema of the New York and San Francisco avant-garde of the 1960s. The work was serious and ambitious: Deren aimed for the measured rhythm of myth and ritual, and her remit was the expression of universal truths. Although links can be made between, particularly, her enactment of the "trance" film, which depicts a psycho-sexual quest, and later filmmakers, for whom this model was seminal, Deren is above all a Modernist filmmaker, concerned with the integrity of form and medium.

Catrin Lorch reviews the video work of Mathilde ter Heijne, who "has twice chosen to devote pages from her own catalogues to conduct interviews with various women: she talked to theorist Elizabeth Bronfen about life, love, death and the female corpse, Margarethe von Trotta on what it means to be a feminist filmmaker, and various other women about natural disasters, fatal love, the Bronze Age, contemporary terror, and the representation of domestic violence in interactive theater."

"Probably the most burning question on everyone's mind is: why did you decide to organize a show on Feminism at this particular moment in time?" Amelia Jones asks Connie Butler about WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution. Through July 16. Similarly, Polly Staple, Kristin M Jones, Belinda Bowring, Jenni Sorkin and Roland Kapferer's interview with Saskia Sassen.

Beyoncé: B-Day Jörg Heiser reviews the Dreamgirls soundtrack, oddly enough, but primarily as a defense of Beyoncé Knowles and her "critically under-acclaimed album B-Day": "There is a spoken-word interlude on her record in which she explains how it came about 'effortlessly' after finishing the film, 'because I was so inspired by Deena, I wrote songs that were saying all the things I wish she would've said in the film.' A little voice inside my head translates this as: 'The behavior assigned to Deena pissed me off so much that I had to set the record straight immediately.' Exactly."

"'This body is the city/this city is my body' ran the tag line, which, as tag lines go, was pretty effective. (Although, since when does a new art work have a tag line? Or, for that matter, a citywide advertising campaign?)" wonders Steven Stern. "As it happened, Sleepwalkers opened on the first brutally cold night of a previously balmy, global-warming-era winter - the kind of night when all sane residents try to keep their bodies as distinct from the city as humanly possible."

"What film has most influenced you?" frieze asks Mark Wallinger. "I like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton - artists creating the form - and the early Bruce Nauman studio videos."

Hardly film-related, but still: "On being an American in Europe by Robert Storr."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:05 AM

Bob Clark, 1941 - 2007.

Bob Clark
Bob Clark, whose film A Christmas Story became a seasonal fixture for its bittersweet cataloguing of holiday dreams and disappointments, was killed with his son in a car crash. He was 67.

The AP's Jeremiah Marquez.

They had just driven a few blocks and were heading south on Pacific Coast Highway near the Bel-Air Bay Club at about 2:20 am when a GMC Yukon swerved across the lane, striking their Infiniti Q-30 sedan head-on. Father and son were pronounced dead at the scene.

Valerie Reitman and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times.

Updated through 4/9.

[T]his makes me deeply sad - actually, pretty fucking angry - which makes it unlikely I'll finish writing tonight about the images in my head from Quentin Tarantino's epic, limb-scattering head-on collisions in Death Proof.

Ray Pride, who gathers several links at Movie City Indie, including one to "Roger Ebert's nostalgic and very personal 'Great Movies' review" of A Christmas Story.

See also: Ty Burr (Boston Globe), Christopher Campbell (Cinematical), Brendon Connelly, Edward Copeland, Bill Gibron (PopMatters), Lou Lumenick (New York Post), Quint (AICN), Reel Distraction, Swarez (Twitch) and Jeffrey Wells.

Updates: Here's a happier Grindhouse connection: For the LA Weekly, Scott Foundas, Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez convened "a kind of roundtable with a few favorite grindhouse veterans... or, to quote Tarantino, summit." Bob Clark was among them. An exchange between QT and Clark:

Tarantino: I have to tell you that, of course, everyone talks about the George Romero movies when they talk about the zombie genre. But hands down, on my own list of great zombie movies - or even the great shoestring classics of 70s horror - Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things is right up there in the tip, tip top. The thing I loved about that movie so goddamned much is that the whole movie is humorous - it's humorous from beginning to almost end. If the movie is 90 minutes long, for 79 of those 90 minutes it's a comedy. And then, when the zombies show up in the last 11 minutes, there ain't a goddamn thing funny about it. They just wipe out everybody. I have never seen a movie that for 79 minutes is a comedy and the last 11 minutes is balls-out horror!

Clark: Well, you know what? I've always said I would never allow any of my movies to be remade. I betrayed that by allowing Black Christmas last year. But now I have written a new script for a remake of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, and I'm going to direct it myself. It's going to be like Monty Python meets Night of the Living Dead.

Whoever directs that screenplay, I'm looking forward to watching that one.

"[H]e always struck me as a guy who loved movies, loved moviemaking, and practiced his craft with the same enthusiasm wherever his career took him," writes Glenn Kenny. "For my money, Clark's one certifiable masterpiece is the deeply creepy 1974 Deathdream, in which The Monkey's Paw meets Vietnam."

Update, 4/6: "Clark's career was the kind in which a demand for apologia was built in," writes DK Holm at ScreenGrab. "And that's because the tyranny of the 'well made film' and the bias against genre (if not pleasure itself) still prevails in some circles. Bob Clark left behind at least two films that will live on with viewers forever - and of how many washed up 70s and 80s has-beens can that be said?"

Update, 4/7: "The big surprise in viewing Black Christmas was not that it matched my memory, but actually exceeded it," writes Dennis Cozzalio. "The saddest commentary on Clark's life and career is that they could be so mindlessly, instantly snatched away in a horrific set of circumstances that remain far too common on every street and highway in our country and around the world."

Update, 4/9: "A little bit of Canada died along with Bob Clark," writes Peter Howell in the Toronto Star. "[I]t was with the teen sex romp Porky's in 1982 that Clark really carved his initials into the maple tree. By that time he had joined with a production team that included Don Carmody and Harold Greenberg, two names that in later years would figure prominently in the Canadian movie industry.... 'I remember when I first read Bob's screenplay for Porky's,' Carmody said from Montreal yesterday. 'I said, "Holy Christ, we can't make this thing!" Then I went back and said, "That's exactly why we have to make it, because nobody's ever seen anything like this!" We got on board and it was a wild ride, I can tell you.'" Via Movie City News.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:19 AM | Comments (1)

April 4, 2007

Werner Herzog. A dossier.

Online listening and viewing, offline reading...

Werner Herzog

All told, probably a few hours' worth of Werner Herzog, gathered in a single dossier by Ray Pride at Movie City Indie.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:30 PM

Shorts, 4/4.

Los Muertos Nathan Lee in the Voice: "See Los Muertos with virgin eyes; this cool-headed enigma is best approached cold, ignorant of everything but the title. 'The Dead' is an ironic appellation for a movie so fiercely alive, though perfectly apt for what turns out to be a strange sort of horror film."

"The uncomfortable silence [in England] with which David Lynch's Inland Empire has been greeted is really rather telling about current expectations of cinema," writes Owen Hatherley. "The premise is basically a mutated Horror, much as Mulholland Drive riffs on Noir: though the many moments of extreme shock provide the affect without (mostly) the thing, the expected act of violence itself: the most terrifying shot is of a distorted face. The film's Lacanianism resides as much, though, in its extremely bleak view of the allegedly non-existent rapport sexuelle: it feels fundamentally... unhealthy."

"Most TV series and films show a fake version of life, devoid of the contradictory strangeness that happens all around us, all the time," writes Jeremiah Kipp in a longish consideration of Twin Peaks: The Second Season at the House Next Door. "Lynch plugs right into those aspects of reality. Some may complain that his work is too esoteric, but it's unsettling, because it's more familiar than we'd like to admit."

"When a Woman Ascends the Stairs is 'mature' [Mikio] Naruse," writes Justin Stewart at Reverse Shot. "Like so many other lumped works (Rothko's color fields, Conan Doyle's collected Holmes stories), the masterpiece is not so much about the particulars as it is the combined entirety. In these films, Naruse repeatedly found beautiful, economical, and multifaceted ways of exploring his favorite topic - the futility of hope (despite the admirability and beauty of the hopeful) - that forms his overarching pessimism."

Rescue Dawn Where's Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn? Jeffrey Wells explains that the "stinky sulfur cloud" hanging over the film "has nothing to do with Herzog or the film itself... I've been asked not to mention this whole magilla, but any sentient person in Kabul, Osaka and/or Terre Haute can read the whole sordid saga in pieces by just searching around on the IMDB and the various pertinent company sites." For Filmmaker, Nick Dawson gathers much more Herzog news and, though you've probably seen it, video of the odd incident that occurred when Mark Kermode was interviewing him. You may remember: He was shot on camera.

Chris Tilly reports that Perfume's Ben Whishaw will play Keats in Jane Campion's biopic. Also at the Time Out Movie Blog, Geoff Andrew talks with Nanni Moretti about The Caiman.

Nathaniel R calls for an Action Heroine Blog-a-Thon. June 12.

"Kiranjit Ahluwalia has led an extraordinary life, which has inspired the new British Asian film, Provoked: A True Story," writes Julie Bindel, who meets her for Guardian profile. "The film traces her journey - from a victim of domestic violence to convicted murderer, to the woman who changed public opinion towards battered women who kill their abusers. Her case also helped change the law." Related: "Bollywood stars Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan have been nominated for International Indian Film Academy Awards, to be held in Sheffield." The BBC reports.

Police Beat, writes Max Goldberg in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, is one of those "rare work[s] to merit the overused 'Kafkaesque' tag." Related: Kathy Fennessey's interview with Robinson Devor for the Siffblog. Also in the SFBG, Cheryl Eddy on The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

For Newcity, Ray Pride tips Chicagoans to "the kinds of movies that need to persist if 'art' is to remain in the cinematic universe alongside the commercial, but how do you make even the smallest amount of money in this jaded, over-informed, under-analyzed culture? (Besides, without these examples, where would Hollywood lift those cool camera moves and post-narrative niceties?)"

Frost/Nixon James Wolcott on Peter Morgan's new play: "Frost/Nixon is a whirling-parts documdrama recreation of the famous series of David Frost interviews with the man inevitably described as The Disgraced Former President. Frost/Nixon doesn't have the behaviorial depths and pathos of Longford; it's far more comedic, with Michael Sheen (Tony Blair in The Queen) getting maximum mileage out of Frost's foppish vowels and voodoo hands, Frank Langella slowly inhabiting Nixon's most Nixonian qualities as if squirming inside a carapace, and the period details from the Seventies (sideburns, ugly wide ties, smoking on airplanes, the whole swinger atmosphere) suggesting those old Braniff ads with Andy Warhol and Sonny Liston sharing first-class swellegance."

"In the post-Watergate era of the mid-1970s, paranoid thrillers seem to spring up with amazing regularity and recently I revisited 1976's Marathon Man and was impressed that it plays much better than I recall," writes Edward Copeland.

"I just watched Next Stop, Greenwich Village, from 1976," notes the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris. "What can I say? I've never seen it, it was on, I couldn't stop watching, and it's by Paul Mazursky, who really is one of the great unsung directors of the 1970s and 80s."

"No matter how many apologetic bells and whistles they surround it with, Song of the South still carries a disturbing disrespect that's hard to hide." Bill Gibron, writing at PopMatters, knows it'll be out on DVD some day and considers that inevitability not a good thing.

The Hours and the Times Lining up home viewing for the coming long weekend? Anthony Kaufman recommends the new release of Christopher Munch's The Hours and the Times.

At Cinema Strikes Back, David Austin reviews a new collection of films based on the work of HP Lovecraft.

The New Republic's Christopher Orr on Children of Men: "It is a frequently moving, occasionally harrowing tour de force of cinematic technique; yet it is also somehow hollow. It was simultaneously one of last year's best movies (better, I think, than any of those nominated for Best Picture) and one of its larger disappointments."

"Once again placing his gangsta credentials in serious jeopardy, the rapper Ice Cube returns to the multiplex with Are We Done Yet?, an ill-advised sequel to Are We There Yet? and a feeble fable of better parenting through home improvement," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times. Also, Firehouse Dog: "Whatever they were paying this mutt, it wasn't enough."

"A major new sales, production and financing firm with an eye on digital distribution - dubbed Dreamachine - has been formed by the merger of HanWay Films and Celluloid Dreams," reports Eugene Hernandez at indieWIRE. "[T]he new London, Paris and Toronto based outfit will debut next month at the Marche du Film in Cannes. In an announcement on Tuesday, Dreamachine detailed a high-profile roster of projects and indicated that the combined company's library will include some 500 films." Eugene has more, too: "Buried in yesterday's Variety story... is the following insight, noting that the new company - Dreamachine - will pull back from foreign language and arthouse 'product' (as they call it)." iW working on a followup story now.

Online omigod tip. "Caption This Picture" at PinkDome, via David Pescovitz at Boing Boing.

Vanity Fair: The Green Issue Online browsing and viewing tip. Annie Leibovitz shoots Leonardo DiCaprio and Knut. Vanity Fair's also running excerpts from The 11th Hour, "a feature documentary on environmental ills and possible cures, a kind of state-of-the-earth address with gorgeous pictures and eloquent experts, which DiCaprio is producing, co-writing, and narrating."

Online viewing tips, round 1. Citroen DS Moviestar. Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tips, round 2. "The Guy with the Glasses strips your favorite films to the core, boiling them down to 5 seconds," notes Ted Z at Big Screen Little Screen.

Update: Anthony Kaufman's article, "With Creation of Dreamachine, Foreign-Language Films Face Sleepless Nights Ahead," is now online at indieWIRE.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:58 PM

Fests and events, 4/4.

On the Collective for Living Cinema "The avant-garde has always had its aprés element, a tendency toward ancestor collecting," writes Ed Halter. "The latest backward glance is On the Collective for Living Cinema, an ambitious tribute to a long-running downtown exhibitor of alternative film that closed its doors in the early 90s after almost 20 years. At both Anthology and the Orchard Street Gallery, the show raises the question of how to revive not simply the older films themselves, but a whole history of experiencing them." Through April 29; and you'll want to read this one.

New York African Film Festival Also in the Voice: "Fourteen years strong, the New York African Film Festival resonates as a rallying call," writes Ed Gonzalez. "Flaunting grace and outrage, the films, shorts, and panel discussions organized for this year's program... reveal the multitudinous ways in which a continent of people insists on being heard." For the Reeler, Elena Marinaccio talks with festival director Mahen Bonetti. Through May 28.

And among the recommendations J Hoberman has for New Yorkers this week: Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz at MoMA, April 10 through 15: "The miniseries is fueled and consumed by the 33-year-old filmmaker's identification with the material."

ST VanAirdale has his fellow Reelers pick "The Best of BAM's Best of 2006." Through April 24.

David Bordwell sends another great dispatch from Hong Kong.

Gerald Peary alerts Boston Phoenix readers to "Sophie Fiennes's three-part BBC video series The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, a sampling of [Slavoj] Zizek's more accessible pronouncements on movies. This mindful, entertaining trio are being shown at the Harvard Film Archive April 6 and 8, though as one slightly numbing 150-minute piece... Zizek regards cinema as a Freudian boiling cauldron, with, in a typical narrative, a hidden war among the superego, the ego, and the id. Zizek cheers when the amoral id runs amok." Also: "For The Bergman Trilogy, April 7 and 19 at the MFA, the great octogenarian filmmaker invited Marie Nyreröd (and us) to that wonderful hidden house where he's in retreat from his five ex-wives and eight grown children, and from the rest of the world."

Images Festival The 20th edition of the Images Festival opens today in Toronto and runs through April 14. E-Flux has the best overview and it is quite a program.

Robert Koehler is sending dispatches from the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival (through April 15) to filmjourney.org.

The Philadelphia Film Festival opens tomorrow and runs through April 18. The Philadelphia Weekly offers a "guide to the best and worst of week one."

At Lucid Screening, Andrew has news regarding the Chicago Anarchist Film Festival (April 28 and 29).

Peter Martin turns in another slew of reviews from AFI Dallas at Twitch.

Online viewing tip. Matt Dentler posts video from the "extravaganza known as Zellner Vs Duplass: a Sibling Rivalry in Short Form." Don't let the antics give you the wrong idea, by the way; the films themselves are amazing. Also: "SXSW Video Highlights."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:03 PM | Comments (1)

Grindhouse, 4/4.

Picking up from the lively "3/28" entry now...

Grindhouse

"From first rude frame to lascivious last, Grindhouse guns to be the last word in fanboy fetishism," writes Nathan Lee in the Voice. "Where Rodriguez does grindhouse more or less straight up, Tarantino takes greater license with Death Proof - which is to say the tradition he's elaborating on is the Tarantino Movie." Both "aim for nothing more noble than to freak the funk, and it's about goddamn time. Go wasted, go stoned, go without your parents' permission. In paying homage to an obsolete form of movie culture, Grindhouse delivers a dropkick to ours."

Updated through 4/9.

"Carried along by a current of crude energy and gory élan that rarely lets up, Planet Terror gets the audience worked up into such a frenzy that you start to wonder how Tarantino can possibly top it," writes Scott Foundas in the City Pages and elsewhere. "But one of the surprises of Death Proof is that he doesn't even try. Rather, he mellows the mood with a thoroughly unpredictable road movie in which long, laconic passages of cheerleader-movie-style girl-bonding give way to sudden bouts of vehicular manslaughter and an orgiastic tribute to tough, kick-ass babes."

"I'm almost surprised that Tarantino and Rodriguez didn't convince their patrons, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, to coat the floors of the theaters themselves with the very special shoe-sole-sticking gunk that was an unavoidable aspect of the real grindhouse experience," writes Premiere's Glenn Kenny. "Death Proof offers 'thrills' that are deeply unpleasant and deeply unwholesome, and it's here that Grindhouse comes closest to achieving the 'climate of perdition' that another surrealist critic, Robert Benayoun termed the hallmark of 'authentic sadistic cinema.' A lot of people associate a taste for grindhouse movies with the tiresome condescension of the 'so-bad-it's-good' ethos, but Tarantino understands the aesthetics of aberrance that animated the explorations of so-called trash hounds."

For Rolling Stone, Gavin Edwards interviews each of the trailer-makers.

Updates: Online viewing tip. Vanity Fair posts video from the photo shoot for the May issue: "Rose McGowan, Rosario Dawson, Marley Shelton and the rest of the Grindhouse Girls strut their ample stuff for photographer Patrick Demarchelier." Safe for work, but you'll probably feel silly if anyone catches you watching.

ScreenGrab's Top 10 this week: "Chicks with Guns," Parts 1 and 2.

Austin Chronicle: Grindhouse Updates, 4/5: Austin Chronicle editor Louis Black considers audiences' varied reactions to the several editions of QT Fest that have unreeled in Austin over the years, gets the money quote out of the way - "Tarantino and Rodriguez have made not only two truly great movies but also probably the two most across-the-board acceptable in the history of grind houses" - and then reviews some of his most enjoyable experiences in inner city movie theaters: "The overriding attraction of all these films is their remarkable energy and unrelenting imaginations, a straight-ahead, pedal-to-the-metal construction, no matter how strange the narrative or unskilled the cast. This was the cinema of possibilities."

Also, Mark Savlov talks with Rodriguez about Planet Terror.

When Scott Foundas proposed to Tarantino and Rodriguez that the LA Weekly convene "a kind of roundtable with a few favorite grindhouse veterans, little did I imagine the historic meeting - or, to quote Tarantino, summit - that was about to transpire. Only too happy to answer our call were Richard Rush, who began his career with the classic biker movies The Savage Seven and Hell's Angels on Wheels; Bob Clark, who directed the 1970s creep-outs Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things and Black Christmas before going on to create the Porky's franchise; and the British-born Brian Trenchard-Smith, whose résumé ranges from directing Steve Railsback in the cult classic Escape 2000 to latter-day entries in the Leprechaun and Omega Code franchises. Joining them would be three alumni of the Roger Corman dream factory: Allan Arkush (Hollywood Boulevard, Rock 'n' Roll High School), George Armitage (Private Duty Nurses, Vigilante Force) and Lewis Teague (The Lady in Red, Alligator)."

Also: Scott Foundas's "guide to the best of the rest of [Tarantino's] grindhouse fest" at the New Beverly Cinema in LA.

"The only real knock on Death Proof is that it's, well, too good of a movie to really fit into the exploitation genre," writes Ross Moroz in the Vue Weekly. "But after Planet Terror, which suffers from the opposite problem (sacrificing plot, acting, dialogue, et al to better serve the genre), Death Proof is a revelation, and is one of Tarantino's most genuinely enjoyable pictures."

"There's no way around this film's junky, self-annihilating compulsiveness except to meet it head-on, call it crap and defy it.... Grindhouse's frenzy of vengeance indicts all of American pop culture. It's an Abu Ghraib action extravaganza." Who else? Armond White in the New York Press.

Gavin Edwards's piece on the trailers for Rolling Stone has been duly noted, but have you seen that cover? Cinematical's Erik Davis has: "Not only does it objectify women and promote violence, but it also makes you really want to see Grindhouse this weekend." RS offers a video extra to boot, plus excerpt from the cover story, and of course, Peter Travers's 3½-out-of-4-stars review.

Cinematical has a review of its own as well. Nick Schager: "Rodriguez goes for full-blooded faithfulness, Tarantino goes for genre analysis and reconfiguration, and the results are, ultimately, about as coherent and fulfilling as a typical grindhouse double-feature."

The Hollywood Reporter's Gregg Kilday considers this weekend's box office prospects: "Precedents look to put the movie in the low- to mid-$20 million range."

Brian Orndorf at Hollywood Bitchslap: "Grindhouse is as pure a theatrical experience as they could possibly make in today's in-and-get-out marketplace. It's a heavily stylized, volatile, atomic sensory shockwave that is so hip and ice cool, you'll need to visit MySpace just to bring your overall awesome back down to a manageable level."

"Planet Terror is a visual, technical, emotional failure," writes Jeff GP at the Six-Reel Shuffle. "It fancies itself a non-stop, heart-pounding romp, but is a self-satisfied bore."

Glenn Kenny is reminded of a precedent: Stanley Donen's Movie Movie, "no masterpiece but an enjoyable confection," was also a two-for-one package, "fake trailers and all."

David Poland: "The first, Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror is, to a great extent, shit. The second, Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof is, to a great extent, The Shit."

Updates, 4/6: AO Scott finds the "essence of Grindhouse in a scene in Death Proof in which two "vintage American muscle cars" pull onto a highway "full of late-model minivans, SUVs and family sedans.... Grindhouse, soaked in bloody nostalgia for the cheesy, disreputable pleasures of an older form of movie entertainment, can also be seen as a passionate protest against the present state of the entertainment industry. Those Detroit relics, modified with loving care in someone's garage or backyard, may waste gas and burn oil, but they seem to have an individuality - a soul - that the homogeneous new vehicles, with their GPS and their cruise control, their computer chips and their air bags, can never hope to match."

"What will get lost in all the ballyhoo about the correctness of the term's use, the length of the two movies together (after cuts, the film comes to about three hours and 10 minutes) as a marketing impediment, the level of its financial success, and whether or not Tarantino's film represents a aesthetically regressive move is the actual nature of Tarantino's achievement," predicts DK Holm at Quick Stop Entertainment - and you may remember, Doug's written Quentin Tarantino for the Pocket Essentials series. "[T]he level of the mimicry doesn't end just in its overexposed shots or the chick banter. Tarantino has gone on to conceive of a plot that is just as odd as some of the better more experimental 70s drive in films."

"For the most part, Rodriguez chooses to reproduce the effect, rather than the particulars, of those old films. He cranks everything up to 11," writes Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat. "I preferred Death Proof, partly because it's designed as an homage to stunt people in general and to Zoe Bell in particular.... Tarantino seems to have designed the whole film to shout, 'Hey! This is my pal Zoe! Isn't she fuckin' awesome?' Well, yes, she is."

Martin Tsai in the Stranger: "Ultimately those "Prevues of Coming Attractions" steal the show from the two feature-length main programs, especially the one by Shaun of the Dead director [Edgar] Wright for the phony movie Don't."

"[W]hat truly makes the contemporary taste for grindhouse movies worth considering is how often the progress of film as an art form depends on the re-evaluation of stuff that was considered junk in a previous era," writes the Oregonian's Shawn Levy:

Just as Edgar Allan Poe and Gustave Flaubert made high art out of penny dreadfuls and cheap romances, respectively, the low genres on display at the grindhouse have inspired young filmmakers to make great aesthetic leaps forward for decades....

With a combination of foreign exoticism and exploitative vitality, films like Breathless and Shoot the Piano Player led hip young American audiences to reconsider the second-tier American films of an earlier era.

Among those audiences were young men who would go on to invigorate the mainstream Hollywood cinema with a double shot of global art and Hollywood pulp, directors such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. Their earliest films - Mean Streets, Duel, Sisters and, yes, Star Wars - felt like old Hollywood make-work gussied up into something vital with new techniques and attitudes.

"Lovingly made and yet lazy in its reinvention, it's as if the duo thought straight homage was edgy enough to withstand the dulling down that happens when so-called cult cinema is spoon-fed to audiences as a market-tested wide release," writes Aaron Hillis for the Reeler. "Grindhouse is compelling enough to play for over three hours without sagging, but it's not the mind-blowing ride it presents itself to be. Frankly, its affected mean-spiritedness is inexcusably tame, especially when compared to the lurid rarities programmed at each QT Fest."

Dana Stevens for Slate: "Death Proof is a reminder of what there was to like about Tarantino in the first place: his uncanny ear for dialogue that's at once naturalistic and deliriously wordy, his kinetic action sequences, and his voracious love for cinema in all its incarnations, especially the sleazy ones. With its lean 90-minute running time and a near-complete absence of CGI, Death Proof feels like an experiment in austerity after more than a decade in which Tarantino had free run of the special-effects candy store. And it works fabulously, much to the surprise of this generally Tarantino-weary writer." Then: "Planet Terror, Rodriguez's feature contribution, is 10 minutes shorter than Death Proof, but it feels 20 minutes longer."

"The Rodriguez segment is terrific and shows a director in complete control of tone, image and story," writes the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle. "The Tarantino, by contrast, has flashes of interest and eventually achieves a certain visceral impact, but it's long-winded and juvenile, the work of a director who hasn't grown and, what's more, seems afraid to try."

The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter on Planet Terror: "Okay, here's what you get for your entertainment buck: lots of folks being shredded, atomized, liquefied, splattered, Cuisinarted or otherwise deconstructed by gunfire. Lots of folks." And: "Tarantino's Death Proof is so narratively simplistic that to describe it is to ruin it. Let's just say it's a car-chase movie fused with a women's acting workshop and leave it at that."

"[W]hile some of the ineptitude in Planet Terror is obviously affected - the camera swaying as a door slams, the jumbled close-ups that disorientingly lead into a scene - it strikes me, looking back over [Rodriguez's] career, that his imitation of a graceless, bludgeoning hack is remarkably similar to, well, Robert Rodriguez working at full tilt," writes Nick Pinkerton at Stop Smiling. "If [Tarantino's] B-side Death Proof had been released on its own, it would have accounted for some of the most taut, toe-tapping, and consummately enjoyable filmmaking of Tarantino's career - but it seems that a slim, streamlined model like that wouldn't suffice to meet perceived expectations of Quentin's showboat sensationalism, hence Grindhouse."

"[I]t's an exploitation bonanza in which the most effectively exploited element is the marketing concept," writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times:

Planet Terror is especially disappointing given that zombie movies, even at their trashiest, are rarely ever dumb - if anything, since they basically dramatize the return of the repressed, they often serve as ready-made sociopolitical allegories.... The recent wave of zombie movies has encompassed a variety of approaches: the paranoid urgency of 28 Days Later, the stoned humor of Shaun of the Dead, the anti-Bush sting of George Romero's Land of the Dead and Joe Dante's Homecoming. Rodriguez's movie will be remembered as the one with the jar of pickled testicles.

[...]

Straightforward as it seems, Death Proof is one of Tarantino's most peculiar films: at once controlled and indulgent, derivative and unique. In refining the language of homage, this singular filmmaker has made his most original movie since Pulp Fiction.

Also in the LAT, Kevin Thomas recalls watching B-movies in LA's movie palaces.

"Explosions, car chases, women cavorting in skirts the size of hankies: Planet Terror packs it all in, but even though the movie may seems haphazard on the surface, it was clearly made with a Zen master's meticulousness," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. But Death Proof is "more exhilarating, and in its perverse, twisted way, more elegiac."

Planet Terror's "muscular compositions evince the wit and sophistication of early John Carpenter - in essence, this is Assault on Precinct 13 with the hungry undead in lieu of pissed-off gangbangers," writes Mike D'Angelo at Nerve. As for Death Proof, "Some will complain that Tarantino overindulges his yen for profanely digressive conversation - not to mention his foot fetish - but the abrupt shifts from mundane to mayhem are calibrated with a sadistic precision worthy of Hitchcock at his most playful. This is the director's most formally audacious work since Pulp Fiction, and arguably his finest."

"[G]rindhouse theaters were nasty places, full of nasty people, and most of us wouldn't be caught dead in one." Grady Hendrix, writing for Slate, is not buying into the nostalgia. "Exploitation movies were like layers of grit wrapped around a few minutes of 'the good stuff' - full-frontal childbirth, the flaccid genitals of middle-aged sun worshippers, a woman being scalped.... 'Crap + 20 Years = Art,' however. The affection people have today for exploitation movies is misplaced, because these movies stink."

Updates, 4/7: "Rodriguez has more plot ideas than time or interest to do all of them justice," writes Time's Richard Corliss. "Planet Terror is less a remake of grindhouse movies than Rodriguez's light-hearted spinoff of his 2005 Sin City; the gravity of that superb multi-story narrative gives way to this entertaining stew of attitudes and effects." But Death Proof "doesn't show me much innovation, or much fidelity to the old grindhouse tropes." And in general: "You won't find sex, or even the aura of sexuality, in films by the current generation of pop-referencing auteurs. They swarm all over the violence in 60s - 70s grindhouse movies but are squeamish in showing the eroticism that once was crucial to the genre."

LVJeff opens the discussion among the Cinemarati.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven Rea talks with Tarantino and Rodriguez.

At Hollywood Bitchslap: Peter Sobczynski ("A Grade-A Celebration Of A Grade-Z Art Form"), the Ulimate Dancing Machine ("There’s a KILLDOZER reference. Therefore, it rocks."), Dawn Taylor (Who doesn't love muscle cars, hot chicks and pus-spewing zombies?") and Rob Gonsalves ("Lower your expectations a bit.").

"The immensely talented writer/director Quentin Tarantino deserves no accolades for making a stand-alone movie," writes Jeff GP at the Six-Reel Shuffle. "He should receive praise for making a thrilling, exuberant, visually stunning and often elegantly paced movie."

"[A]s often as female characters in grindhouse films ended to end up on meathooks or on their back (or both), the genre served up some of the toughest, meanest, righteous, resourceful ladies to ever grace the screen (Switchblade Sisters, re-released a few years back by Tarantino himself, is a prime example)," writes Dan Mucha at Facets Features. "The girls of Grindhouse are kicking ass and taking names, and you better hope you are not on the list!"

Roundtable: Four Cinematical writers discuss. Plus, a full-blown review from Jette Kernion.

"Grindhouse is mightily enjoyable, but it's never quite delivers the gluttonous gratification we'd guess directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, who slap each other heartily on the back throughout, felt while making the film," writes Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

"I cannot help but wonder how far we can push post-modernity and ironic viewership until it deflates into itself," writes Drew Morton at Dr Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope, where he gives Grindhouse a B-.

The Boston Globe's Ty Burr: "To my mind, Death Proof has lower lows but much higher highs - where Rodriguez is happy to play in the fields of genre pastiche, his partner just can't help making a Quentin Tarantino movie."

"Unlikely to be duplicated in this manner on home video formats, Grindhouse is a theatrical must-see for any serious genre film buff," writes Jim Tudor at Twitch.

Online viewing tip. Via Brendon Connelly, Rodriguez and Tarantino on Charlie Rose (after Lawrence Wright).

Online listening tip. And now Rodriguez, too, is a guest on The Treatment.

Robert La Franco talks with Rodriguez for Wired.

"The closest approximations to the kinds of stuff I actually saw on 42nd Street back during those years is to be found in the hilarious previews by Robert Rodriguez, Edgar Wright and Rob Zombie," writes Peter Nellhaus.

"As a bit of a film geek fascinated by the moviegoing experience, I enjoyed the film's unabashed nostalgia for the tawdry pleasures watching these movies offered," writes Chuck Tryon. At the same time, "Given that Reservoir Dogs is now fifteen (!) years old, I'm starting to find myself becoming nostalgic for the moviegoing pleasures of the early 1990s and the excitement that Tarantino's earliest films offered."

Updates, 4/9: "[W]hen you watch Terminator or Star Wars, or the recent Frank Miller adaptations, Sin City and 300, you're seeing B-movies dolled up in the glad rags of an A-feature," writes Ryan Gilbey, who explains to Observer readers why Britain never really saw anything quite like the American grindhouse experience. Further down that same page: "Philip French's top-five B-movies."

Also, Henry Cabot Beck: "In spite of all the blood and goo, Planet Terror is a good-natured romp, witty and nasty, as only the best movies in this genre are, bringing to mind the classic Re-Animator (1985), and Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series.... Death Proof's best feature is Kurt Russell, who takes the smiling Burt Reynolds character from chase movies like Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and twists the charm into giggling menace. His comeuppance is a crowd pleaser."

Devin Gordon talks with Tarantino for Newsweek.

So the movie opened this weekend and was beaten at the box office by Blades of Glory, Meet the Robinsons and Are We Done Yet?. David Poland challenges his readers: Answer the question, "What went wrong with Grindhouse?" in 25 words or less.

In Planet Terror, "McGowan edges out Uma Thurman in Kill Bill as the ultimate abused-and-fetishized action-movie femme," notes New York's David Edelstein. At the same time, "It's always a trip to watch exploitation auteurs ogle their female characters while those ladies are busy nailing male voyeurs." As for Death Proof, it's "a small masterpiece, dredged up from the psyche of a movie freak who loves women onscreen almost as much as he loves to punish women onscreen, and who (this is what makes him an artist) gets off most on his own ambivalence."

"Embracing trash is a way of not giving a damn about feelings or art or anything else except craft," declares David Denby in the New Yorker. "Tarantino and Rodriguez aren't going against the flow; they're trying to get ahead of the flow. What they'd like, of course, is to bring to their version of trash that extra touch of madness which turns exploitation into wit.... The two men love movies, love movie culture, love audiences, but how can you accept a love that expresses itself obsessively with an assault on the human body?"

"Something funny happened at the showing in Sherman Oaks," writes Jerry Lentz. "After Planet Terror ended half the audience got up and left! I guess they thought it was over? Of they just didn't get it."

"Top Reasons Grindhouse Bombed." Mark Bell has six at Film Threat.

More from Variety's Anne Thompson.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:24 AM | Comments (4)

The TV Set.

The TV Set "A producer and director of a show as good and as mishandled as the short-loved cult classic Freaks and Geeks can speak with some authority on the madness that is the network pilot season," writes Matt Singer at IFC News. "And so writer/director Jake Kasdan does in his funny and insightful comedy The TV Set, a movie short on huge laughs but long on authenticity and insight."

"Kasdan, [David] Duchovny, [Sigourney] Weaver, and also Judy Greer, as Mike's endlessly non-reassuring manager, keep things buoyant, but ultimately, not much is at stake in The TV Set." At indieWIRE, Michael Koresky finds it "glides along like a particularly superficial yet adept episode of The Larry Sanders Show."

Updated through 4/9.

"The TV Set is part of a long and pretty glorious tradition that includes The Player, Sunset Boulevard, S.O.B. and The Big Picture," notes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times. "Which is to say it isn't particularly cheerful or optimistic, but it rings satisfyingly true."

"[A]t its best, The TV Set is wry and true about the messy tangle of art, commerce, and family, as talented creative types try to stay true to themselves and put food on the table," writes Scott Foundas in the Voice.

Somewhat related: Sigourney Weaver tells the New York Observer's Sara Vilkomerson why acting in James Cameron's Avatar is "like going back to Off Broadway."

Earlier: David Edelstein in New York.

Update: Online listening tip. Kasdan on Fresh Air.

Update, 4/5: "Kasdan should have the expertise to write a backstage exposé of the TV industry," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "This one simply isn't funny. I suppose The TV Set is being released on the name recognition of its stars, but they're all miscast and imprisoned by a hackneyed script."

Updates, 4/6: "[I]t might have worked as a pilot in its own right," suggests AO Scott in the New York Times.

"The TV Set is a little wonder of a movie, as smart and sad and true as any comedy I've seen this year," writes Slate's Dana Stevens.

Updates, 4/7: Vadim Rizov at the Reeler: "The best idea here is that of treating TV writing (and creative work in general) as a job like any other, one where interference from higher-ups and compromises are swallowed down in the name of feeding the wife and kids. Most insider-ish Hollywood comedies blow up the bruises of artistic battle to epic stature; The TV Set's greatest achievement may be marginalizing the importance of its own subject."

Marcy Dermansky notes that the film "wants to give an insider's view of what happens behind the scenes of a television pilot, much like what Christopher Guest's For Your Consideration attempted to do for the movie industry last fall. Both get some laughs, both score some points; neither film is particularly illuminating or funny."

Updates, 4/9: "Kasdan is shrewd and funny about such things as the ease with which powerful people can mimic, when they need to, the forms of sincerity and concern," writes David Denby in the New Yorker. "The satire is unrelenting but not too broad; it stays close to common observation."

"The TV Set is at its best when its characters are at their worst," writes Erik Davis at Cinematical. "If you thought the folks on your favorite reality show were pathetic, wait until you meet those who fought to put it on the air."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:18 AM

April 3, 2007

SFIFF. Lineup.

SFIFF 50 The "longest-running film festival in the Americas," the San Francisco International Film Festival, April 26 through May 10, has unveiled the lineup for its golden anniversary edition. Reprise, Wonders Are Many, The Heavenly Kings...

For more highlights, see "Anticipating SFIFF."

Updates, 4/4: Susan Gerhard has a fine overview at indieWIRE.

And at the Evening Class: "Memories and Anticipatory Remarks by Michael Hawley," who's attended every festival since 1976.

Update, 4/5: Brian Darr's initial thoughts. He's got more than a few.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:31 PM

On Hong Sang-soo. 2.

Woman Is the Future of Man With the release of Woman Is the Future of Man on DVD today, Adam Hartzell follows up last month's overview of the work of Hong Sang-soo with recollections of another meeting with the Korean director, a gathering of friends; and reflections on how Hong's films offer perspective on both events.

Earlier: Brian Darr's Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachellors's Blog-a-Thon.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:45 PM

On Mario Bava.

Mario Bava "Mario Bava is a horror original," writes Sean Axmaker. "A painter and cinematographer turned director, a craftsman turned celluloid dreamer, an industry veteran who created, almost single-handedly, the uniquely Italian genre of baroque horror known as giallo, he directed the most graceful and deliriously mad horror films of the 1960s and early 1970s. Always better at imagery than explanation, at set piece than story, Bava's films are at their best dream worlds and nightmare visions. Check your logic at the door."

Related: Glenn Erickson at DVD Talk on each and every title in the Mario Bava Collection: "For fans previously unaware of Bava, this new set is a great opportunity to discover one of horror's most artistic directors."

In a "Word to Reviewers" that just plain viewers will likely be interested in as well, Tim Lucas, author of the forthcoming Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, explains why he makes reference to his subtitles on the commentary track of Anchor Bay's upcoming release of Kidnapped when, in fact, it seems they were not used.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:30 AM

Shorts, 4/3.

Film Quarterly DK Holm looks over the new issue of Film Quarterly: "The most potentially controversial essay in the paper is Jonathan Rosenbaum's meditations on Internet movie criticism. Good ol' J-Ro, he can't help but cause trouble!"

Also at ScreenGrab, Paul Clark:

Privilege

While Privilege is the closest [Peter] Watkins ever came to making a mainstream feature - a rock 'n' roll drama bankrolled by Universal Pictures - it's nonetheless difficult to find. I finally caught up with the film last weekend at a "Secret Cinema" screening (basically, you buy a ticket not knowing what they'll show), and I'm ecstatic to report that it's one of the director's greatest films. And while the film's genre and studio funding might lead one to believe that it's somehow softer than his other classics, this isn't the case. Privilege