May 31, 2007

Shorts, 5/31.

Eine Frau in Berlin "An A-list of German actresses including the recent Berlinale Best Actress winners Sandra Hüller (for 2006's Requiem) and Nina Hoss (for this year's Yella) and the Lola-nominated Jördis Triebel (Emma from Emmas Glück/Emma's Bliss) have started filming on the WWII drama Anonyma: Eine Frau in Berlin," reports Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "Directed by Max Färberböck (who also directed Aimée & Jaguar, another story of women in WWII), the film is based on the anonymous diaries of a German woman who had been in hiding with other women in a half-destroyed house when the Red Army invaded Berlin."

"After more than a decade of trying, Diane English has a solid cast and an Aug 6 start date for The Women, the remake of the 1939 classic that she adapted and will direct," reports Michael Fleming. "Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing and Candice Bergen have either signed or are near committing to star in a contemporized version of the George Cukor-directed film, which Picturehouse will distribute domestically next year."

Also in Variety, Anne Thompson reports that the Weinstein Co has picked up Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream, which stars Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell and Tom Wilkinson.

Who is Cristian Mungiu and what's the story behind his Palme d'Or-winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days? Nick Roddick fills in a bit of background for the Guardian.

The Deluge Time Out's Chris Tilly talks with Darren Aronofsky about The Fountain and its critical reception - and a bit about his big next project (there'll be "something small first"), Noah's Ark: "[I]t's the first apocalypse story, and as we as a race look at our own apocalypse in front of us, especially by flooding, I think it's part of the zeitgeist. People are thinking about what London six feet under is going to be so that's why I'm going to do it." Related: Cinematical's Ryan Stewart points to Aronofsky's blog, where he expresses his displeasure with the bare-bones DVD for The Fountain, and to Empire's brief bit on Noah.

Jay A Fernandez has a bit of background in the Los Angeles Times on Righteous Kill, the movie that'll bring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro back together again.

"Helen Mirren is being lined up to star in a film set in the Gaza Strip, as a woman whose journalist daughter falls in love with a Palestinian and is killed." Reuters reports.

The Iron Wall "The Iron Wall, a 2006 documentary by Jordanian-born Palestinian filmmaker Mohammed Alatar, is clear in its assertions," writes Mary Wilson in the Philadelphia City Paper. "The director traces the development of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and outlines the policies that led to their establishment. All the while, the film alleges that their formation was designed to render the creation of a unified Palestinian state geographically impossible — a strategic step toward permanent Israeli occupation.... Objectivity here may be near-impossible to achieve, but some attempt at it would lend the film more clout with skeptics."

"Tonight I was among the first audience to see the world premiere of Eli Roth's anticipated sequel Hostel 2, with Roth in attendance to introduce the film and to field questions afterwards," writes a giddy Michael Guillén. "Was the torturous wait worth it? Absolutely!!"

"There have been so many books about the film, and there was an academic festival in Glasgow, for which I gave the keynote speech. And to tell you the absolute truth, it's very difficult not to howl with laughter most of the time. I mean, we had essays on The Wicker Man and Wittgenstein, The Wicker Man and feminism, and all sorts of things like that. It went on for days, and it took itself very seriously. It's peer pressure, I suppose. But it's so tiresome." For the Guardian, Zoe Williams meets director Robin Hardy to find out what he's been up to since 1973.

Sonia Harford looks back to Cinecitta's heyday for the Age. Via Movie City News.

Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman "Timothy Spall makes a wonderfully meticulous Pierrepoint, perfecting his timing and technique with every hanging and returning home to the missus, a thanklessly colorless role nicely inflected with a touch of the sinister by Juliet Stevenson," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly, but otherwise, Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman is a "softly revisionist take on this stickler's life and work."

"Set in a smoggy 1978 New Jersey landscape, Gracie tells the story of a young girl who sets out to play varsity soccer on an all-male team during a time when girls' sports rarely strayed from the arena of cheerleading, ice skating and field hockey," writes Kathy Justice in the Independent Weekly. "Fortunately, the sports movie clichés only make up half of [Davis] Guggenheim's film. The other half is an insightful drama about family, grief and coming-of-age."

"Admittedly, The Prodigy is not for everyone," notes Michael Guillén at SF360. "It's a brutal ride, which in itself will satisfy an appetite for action and mayhem; but, to its credit, the film appeals on deeper levels."

Talking Ocean's 13: "Time's Josh Tyrangiel sat down in Cannes with a very loose George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and series newcomer Ellen Barkin - in her first film role in quite some time and, in case you forgot, kind of a live wire - to discuss politics, Al Pacino, the Pitt-Jolie paparazzi juggernaut, and their favorite leading men. And in Barkin's case, to exploit every possible opportunity for innuendo."

Brett Michel in the Boston Phoenix on Paprika: "Rather than giving us a black-and-white chase of technological good vs evil, [Satoshi] Kon continues his meditation on identity in crisis, riding a wave of breathtakingly insane sights - not to the usual apocalyptic ending, but to the simple closing image of a man purchasing a movie ticket."

Naruto Wayne Alan Brenner presents "Seven reasons why Naruto is kicking everybody's ass." Also: How he learned those lessons first-hand. And also in the Austin Chronicle, Rick Klaw on Seraphim Falls.

Jim Ridley in the Nashville Scene on Private Fears in Public Places: "Alain Resnais is now 84 years old; perhaps it takes eight decades of living to make a movie this compassionate, this confident - and this young."

Rob Humanick: "Miriam is a paean to Jewish oppression as if commissioned by the History Channel." Also at Slant, Ed Gonzalez: "Turning its back to the feminist movement, And Then Came Love believes to the bottom of its execrable core that single mothers should go the way of the dodo bird."

"Thanks to Mumbai-based filmmaker Rakesh Sharma, documentary filmmakers shooting in New York will no longer require a film permit to shoot a slice of the Big Apple." Metroblogging NYC has more.

Reviewing two biographies of Walt Disney and Tom Sito's Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson for the London Review of Books, Mark Greif lays out three models for artists who have made great work by "inartistic means": the naive artist, the "aged, or busy, super-skilled master" and the conceptual artist. Disney, Greif proposes, "wasn't exactly like any of these types, though his methods bore some relation to each of the three."

John Rogers on Writing a Great Movie: Key Tools for Successful Screenwriting: "Jeff Kitchen manages to startle me with some nice, effective tools for breaking down common problems in screenplays, and then he quickly manages to annoy me with a super gung-ho writing style, some pretty vague explanations, confusing terms and an overall book structure that's a mess."

Elizabeth R At Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Marlin Tyree recommends Elizabeth R. You could easily work your way through it before The Golden Age opens in October.

At indieWIRE, Agnes Varnum looks into how international financing of modest-sized movies actually works.

A new and quick way to watch YouTube on your TV: Apple TV. Connie Guglielmo reports for Bloomberg. Related online viewing. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. The highlight reel, via Fimoculous.

Online listening tip. The Leonard Lopate Show: "Producers Robin Klein and Mick Gochanour tell us about the restoration of three films from the underground director Alejandro Jodorowsky."

Online viewing tip #1. Jay Stern talks about making The Changeling for about $25k.

Online viewing tip #2. 500 years of Women in Art in just under 3 minutes. Via Coudal Partners.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:34 PM | Comments (1)

Fests and events, 5/31.

Fred Astaire Dennis Harvey at SF360 on the magnificent Fred Astaire:

The essence of his appeal was something utterly other than the hunkitude of such contemporaries as Gary Cooper [as in trying mighty hard to look like] and Randolph Scott - or even small, un-handsome but hypermasculine sparkplugs like James Cagney. Astaire had something else: Suavity, gentlemanly deference, wry authority, the ability to whirl a girl free of gravity itself. He wasn't the most athletically dazzling dancer to grace the screen, offering instead a grace that appeared as casual as it was technically immaculate.

You'll get plenty of chances to appreciate that feather-light charm in motion this month as SFMOMA - which seems to be expanding its film program, and given that nice, too-infrequently-used auditorium, it's about time - programs Also Dances: The Films of Fred Astaire.

Sunday through June 28.

Midway Games, a key sponsor, unceremoniously dumps the New York Asian Film Festival just four weeks before it's slated to open? Tactless doesn't even begin to describe... Sheesh. Karina Longworth has the details.

Andy Spletzer had a good time during the opening weekend of the Seattle International Film Festival and has a few recommendations for Film.com readers. Much more at the Siffblog and the Stranger. David Poland's in Seattle, too.

The cinetrix suggests all sorts of ways to make the best of an evening.

Movie Life: Tab Hunter "He lunched with Luchino Visconti. He dug John Waters before you did. He dated Natalie Wood. Your mom had a crush on him. He dated Anthony Perkins. Maybe your dad did, too." He's Tab Hunter and he's coming to Austin's Alamo Drafthouse on Sunday for a screening of Polyester and to talk about his book, Tab Hunter Confidential with Eddie Muller; Marc Savlov talks with him now. Also in the Austin Chronicle, Josh Rosenblatt previews Other Minds, Other Worlds: Global Sci-fi Cinema, "an international collection of science-fiction classics and rarities from the last century," screening Tuesdays, June 5 through July 31.

Susan King in the Los Angeles Times: "The American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre is celebrating [Budd] Boetticher's legacy this weekend with six films, five of which have yet to hit DVD."

For the New York Press, Eric Kohn writes up a handful of titles screening in the Sundance Institute at BAM series (through June 10): Snow Angels, with David Gordon Green in attendance; Craig Zobel's The Great World of Sound; Christopher Zalla's Padre Nuestro; Marco Williams's Banished; and: "Given its distribution deal, [King of Kong] will likely continue to marginalize its subject matter sibling, but Chasing Ghosts is the superior accomplishment, as it simultaneously tells a fascinating story on par with the best kind of sports drama and unveils the subjectivity involved in obsessing over the virtual realm." More from ST VanAirsdale at the Reeler.

The Festival of Visual Effects (June 7 through 10, Beverly Hills) has lined up a new panel featuring Joe Dante.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:44 PM

Battle over RWF's legacy.

RWF Katja Nicodemus's interview with Ingrid Caven in last week's issue of Die Zeit brought the long-simmering rivalry between Rainer Werner Fassbinder's two wives - Caven and Juliane Lorenz, head of the Fassbinder Foundation - to a big ugly public boil. Now, signandsight has translated that interview into English.

For starters, Caven calls Lorenz's marriage to RWF into question, but for cinephiles, her other accusations are far more serious. The full interview is a must-read, but in a statement s&s runs on the same page, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus sums up the most serious charges. When he attended MoMA's RWF retrospective, "I noticed that the Fassbinder Foundation had systematically erased Ingrid Caven, Peer Raben and others close to Fassbinder out of the story, or rather forced them out through court cases. It went so far that at a number of events Juliane Lorenz threatened not to allow films to be shown if these close friends of Fassbinder's were invited. I think this form of historical misrepresentation is outrageous."

Updated through 6/1.

The German papers have been following up, of course, and today's issue of Die Welt has the latest (Peter Zander has a longer piece as well): 25 actors, directors and producers, all of whom worked with RWF at some point, have issued a statement calling for Lorenz to resign and hand over all Foundation assets to the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin (which many will know as the Film Museum on Potsdamer Platz).

What's more, the "remastered" Berliner Alexanderplatz, heralded when it premiered at this year's Berlinale, well-reviewed when it appeared on DVD here in Germany and again briefly in New York theaters, and well on its way to a release on DVD in the US from none other than Criterion, has, so the statement reads, been "markedly brightened" in order to make it more palatable to consumers, despite the fact that RWF himself fought long and hard against the production company and the television network to keep his dark visual tones intact when it was broadcast in 1980. "To bastardize a primary work of Fassbinder's this way reveals an egomaniacal philistinism of unmatched brazenness," reads the statement.

The signatories: Caven, Werner Schroeter, Walter Bockmayer, Peter Kern, Udo Kier, Michael Fengler, Günther Kaufmann, Y Sa Lo, Isolde Barth, Rudolf-Waldemar Brem, Hans Hirschmüller, Ulli Lommel, Karl Scheydt, Elga Sorbas, Ursula Strätz, Peter Berling, Rolf Bührmann, Hanns Eckelkamp, Molly von Fürstenberg, Thea Eymesz, Ila von Hasperg, This Brunner, Frank Fellermeier (of the Werkstatt Raben), Gottfried Hüngsberg and Renate Leiffer.

Update, 6/1: Harry Baer, who worked with RWF in front of and behind the camera from 1969 to the bitter end, tells Der Tagesspiegel that, while he recognizes the Foundation's accomplishments, to allow Fassbinder's work to fall under the complete control of just one person would be to fly in the face of the "multi-faceted personality, his intellectual milieu and the complexity of his historical legacy."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:56 AM

Jean-Claude Brialy, 1933 - 2007.

Jean-Claude Brialy
French actor Jean-Claude Brialy, an emblematic figure of the New Wave film movement, has died. He was 74.... He was a familiar face in films by legendary French directors including Claude Chabrol, François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard... French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Brialy "incarnated the New Wave and was a presence in a half century of cinema, filling nearly 200 films with his generosity, his humor, his finesse and his light spirit."

He began his career as a stage actor. His appearance in the title role of the 1958 Chabrol film Le beau Serge (Handsome Serge) catapulted him to fame. "I owe my career to Claude Chabrol," Brialy once said. "He was always convinced I was a good actor."

The AP.

Updated through 6/2.

Updates, 6/1: "With Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Gérard Blain, Brialy was among that generation of actors with a fresh look and an acting style that crystallised the ideological and cinematic goals of the New Wave," writes Ronald Bergan for the Guardian. "The acting was a departure from much that had gone before, with the actors being encouraged to improvise, or talk over each others' lines, as would happen in real life." Later, "he went on to become one of the most prominent figures in the arts, prolific in films, on television and in the theatre; a brilliant raconteur with the air of a boulevardier, he was also one of the few French stars to be openly gay."

Bilge Ebiri finds clips for ScreenGrab.

In the German press: Lars-Olav Beier remembers talking with Brialy for Der Spiegel just four weeks ago: the interview. Also, Daniel Kothenschulte in the Frankfurter Rundschau and Hanns-Georg Rodek in Die Welt.

Update, 6/2: Looker's got another clip.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:23 AM | Comments (1)

Crazy Love.

Crazy Love "Crazy Love has a tabloid story to kill for, and a basic nonfiction form to snooze over," writes Nick Schager at Slant. "Whereas a doc like last year's Cocaine Cowboys melded a flashy, gaudy aesthetic to its outrageous subject matter, Crazy Love dampens much of its bizarre particulars with blandly functional talking-head interviews and archival photos and newspaper front pages."

Updated through 6/7.

To back up, Rob Nelson in the Voice: "In the summer of '59, Bronx lawyer and jilted lover Burt Pugach paid thugs to throw a jarful of lye in the face of his ex-girlfriend Linda Riss, who was blinded and disfigured as a result. To make a very, very long story short, Riss ended up wedding Pugach six months after he was sprung from jail in 1974. Now, despite some cute-old-couple squabbles that surface whenever Mr and Mrs Pugach stop for a bite at their favorite diner in Queens, they're living happily ever after."

"Why the long-running fascination with this tale, a kind of seamy modern gothic?" asks Ruth La Ferla in the New York Times; she visits Burt and Linda Pugach and talks with director Dan Klores.

"Given Klores's sly deadpan and all these bewigged middle-class people who look and sound like your grandparents in Florida (Linda wears outlandish sunglasses), it takes some time to realize we're in a maelstrom - going down down down into a saga of obsession, sadism, masochism, and codependency that was and remains one of the great, sick tabloid stories of all time," writes David Edelstein in New York. "For those who've never heard of Burt and Linda, I'll let Klores spring his jack-in-the-boxes—and let your jaw drop as low as mine did."

"For director Dan Klores to not explicitly condemn Burt Pugach's pathological violence for what it is - misogyny at its most extreme and flagrantly despicable - makes Klores a misogynist himself," declares James Hudson in the New York Press.

"There's no justifying what happened or how it happened, and Klores doesn't try," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Even some of Linda's friends remain horrified, and if you want to see a parable of evil gender relations in this movie - the domineering, jealous guy of all time meets the ultimate perma-victim doormat - it's definitely available. But in depicting the social world out of which this insane marriage came, Klores accomplishes a kind of alchemy that's difficult to verbalize."

Matt Singer at IFC News: "They say it takes all kinds. Well, some of those kinds are severely deranged."

Earlier: "Sundance. Crazy Love."

Updates, 6/1: "What is odious about the notion of so-called crimes of passion is how the phrase necessarily implicates victims, because it is the very desirability of the victims, after all, that provokes their assailants to madness (passion)," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "All of which makes the image of Mrs Pugach standing by her man squirmingly uncomfortable." What's more, Crazy Love "raises more questions than it answers, including the moral responsibility a documentary filmmaker assumes when his subjects seem so eager to exploit themselves."

"Klore's documentary feels, strangely enough, like a celebration of Burt's revolting life," writes Marcy Dermansky.

Update, 6/2: "[D]espite guest talking heads like columnist Jimmy Breslin this is mostly a classic two-hander, and maybe the next Grey Gardens," suggests Robert Cashill. "The same controversy, over why this distasteful material was considered worth digging up on film, looms."

Updates, 6/3: "Sure, the film's pace clips along to make each strange step in Burt and Linda's journey as shocking as if it were a narrative psychodrama, but why not try to tackle the questions it raises about codependency, obsession, liberation, or media sensationalism?" asks Aaron Hillis for Premiere. "Especially that last one, as Crazy Love seems oblivious to the fact that it's essentially a gonzo human-interest news feature."

Robin Abcarian talks with Klores and the Pugachs for the Los Angeles Times.

Update, 6/7: Sam Adams talks with Klores for the Philadelphia City Paper.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:55 AM

May 30, 2007

Fests and events, 5/30.

NewFest 07 "Like any film lover approaching the ripe old age of 19, NewFest is ready to stay up a bit later, talk a bit a longer and really take over New York this year," writes Elena Marinaccio at the Reeler. The New York LGBT Film Festival, opening tonight and running through June 10, has been blogging at - where else? - indieWIRE, where you can read 10 short interviews with directors who've got films in the lineup. Update: Also tonight, also in NYC and also at the Reeler: Chris Willard on the Media That Matters Festival.

The Sundance Institute at BAM series opens tomorrow and runs through June 10. Scott Foundas picks the highlights for the Voice, where Nathan Lee heralds the return of Gus Van Sant's debut feature, Mala Noche, "the first act of a mind interested in graphing the knowable contours of experience, the first gift from a scrupulously compassionate artist."

"The Castro Theatre is giving [Bernard] Herrmann the same treatment it gave Ennio Morricone in April, programming a generous sampling of films featuring the composer's work." Jason Shamai has more in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Hollywood Bitchslap interviews with directors who have films at CineVegas are going up. June 6 through 16.

July 17 is Non-Photography Day. "Live in the moment, don't document it."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:26 AM

Shorts, 5/30.

All About My Mother "The Old Vic in London is to stage the first theatrical version of Pedro Almodóvar's 1999 film All About My Mother this autumn," reports Francesca Martin in the Guardian. "Kevin Spacey will produce the play, due to open in September, while Almodóvar will have final approval on the script and casting."

AICN's Moriarty visits the set of David Gordon Green's Pineapple Express.

At Twitch, Mack notes that Bourne series producer Andrew R Tennenbaum plans to oversee a remake of Stephen Fung's Enter the Phoenix. Also, Todd takes a first look at Albert Pyun's horror-western Left For Dead.

Spring in a Small Town

Spring in a Small Town "is the kind of romantic melodrama not uncommon in Chinese entertainment, and any political sentiments it might express beneath the surface don’t fall along immediately apparent party lines," writes Andrew Chan at the House Next Door. "In the West, the story draws comparisons to paradigms not of protest but of delicate social observation and heartache: Chekhov, Edith Wharton, David Lean's Brief Encounter." Even so, it's only just now that Fei Mu's 1948 classic, "ranked by the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2005 as the greatest Chinese movie ever made," and remade by Tian Zhuangzhuang in 2002 as Springtime in a Small Town, has become readily available on DVD.

"Blending documentary elements and some dramatic material (you don't realize which is which until the movie springs its best surprise), Radiant City is an acerbic position paper on the cultural damage done by postwar architectural fads," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times. "The directors, Gary Burns (who has plumbed this territory many times, most notably in the comedy Waydowntown) and Jim Brown, depict sprawling, antiseptic housing developments and the culture of long commutes as a recipe for alienation and an impediment toward building a real sense of community and, especially, consensus." More from Aaron Hillis in the Voice, where Nathan Lee reviews Manoel de Oliveira's The Fifth Empire.

"After watching Richard Elfman's black-and-white, semianimated, vaudevillian, blackface, sadomasochistic, surrealist musical masterpiece Forbidden Zone, my dosed-up high school friends and I were convinced that Elfman and the entire cast must have been on copious amounts of mind-altering substances," writes Duncan Scott Davidson. Turns out, not so, of course, but still. Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Cheryl Eddy talks with Elfman.

Haibane Renmei "Haibane Renmei remains one of the most unique, thought-provoking, and affecting anime series I've seen." Jason Morehead elaborates.

"Gripping but insignificant, The Method suggests Glengarry Glenn Ross with its teeth knocked out by Tony Soprano and nursed back to health by Mark Burnett," writes Ed Gonzalez. Also at Slant, Rob Humanick: "Ghost Train's opening shot recalls the roaring spirits of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films, but it is, unfortunately, the sole example of what might have otherwise been a favorable comparison."

Matt Bartley inducts Madeline Kahn into the Hollywood Bitchslap / eFilmCritic Hall of Fame.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:17 AM

May 29, 2007

DVDs, 5/29.

Able Edwards "[W]e're on the verge, like it or not, of a new sub-subgenre of techno-movie, and if you've seen Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Sin City or 300, you've done time on Planet Greenscreen, where absolutely everything but the actors is a make-believe, crazed-art-department blitz of pixels and bits," writes Michael Atkinson, noting at IFC News that, while there's some disagreement as to which film was the very first of this kind, "most agree it was Graham Robertson's Able Edwards, a modest, LA-shot indie filmed with a mini-DV camera on 12-square-foot patch of studio floor, in front of an optical effects screen.... it's a thoughtful, thematically adventurous piece of work, a virtual remake of Citizen Kane that scrambles in Walt Disney's bio... and then launches into a claustrophobic future of cryogenics, orbital colonies, cloning and environmental devastation."

"As a movie, Fletch is all but unwatchably bad," writes Reihan Salam at Slate. "But as a cultural artifact, it is invaluable."

Kate Collection "It's a mixed bag of Hepburn vehicles, but even bad Hepburn is worth watching," writes Susan King in the Los Angeles Times of the Katharine Hepburn Collection. "If it's the androgynous Hepburn you're looking for, look no further than Sylvia Scarlett, the curious romantic fantasy she made with her favorite director, George Cukor, for RKO in 1935," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. "Hepburn is the title character, the daughter of a sweet, weak-willed Englishman (Edmund Gwenn) and a French mother. When Sylvia's widowed father gets in trouble for gambling with office funds, the two decide to leave Marseille for England. On the ship Sylvia will disguise herself as Sylvester, a boy, to put the police off the track. But the disguise seems strangely natural, as Sylvia-Sylvester grows into her male role, smoking and swaggering and looking for all the world like a particularly precious denizen of the New York nightclub scene of the 1970s."

At Stop Smiling, Nathan Kosub and Nick Pinkerton review Army of Shadows and Scarface, respectively.

"At its heart The Untouchables is a simple morality tale," writes Vincent Cosgrove in the New York Times. "But when the writing and direction coalesce, the results are gripping. That's true of the pilot and several episodes, notably one titled The Noise of Death."

"New Line's 'Platinum Series' editions have frequently been among the best 'special editions' in the market, with great care taken, even on films of questionable value," writes Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat. "Pan's Labyrinth's two-disc package is absolutely first-rate; I'm sure there will be a Plutonium-238 (or some such) edition some day, but it's hard to imagine what could be added to the current product."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:37 PM | Comments (3)

Fests and events, 5/29.

Leon Vitali "On the occasion of the Walter Reade's 30th anniversary screening of Barry Lyndon (the last show is tonight at 7), Jamie Stuart contributes to the Reeler an interview with Kubrick actor and long-time associate Leon Vitali," notes Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay. "Vitali, who most recently produced Todd Field's Little Children, is in town to intro tonight's screening." Jamie also shot this photo.

"The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's 18th annual Silent Film Gala, on Saturday at UCLA's Royce Hall, promises both laughter and live music with its double bill of Chaplin's 1923 classic, The Pilgrim, and Keaton's inventive 1924 vehicle, Sherlock Jr," writes Susan King in the Los Angeles Times. "Timothy Brock will be conducting Chaplin's own score for The Pilgrim and premiering his original score for Sherlock Jr."

San Francisco Silent Film Festival The program's in place for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, July 13 through 15.

The Superfest International Disability Film Festival takes place in Berkeley this weekend, and at SF360, Susan Gerhard talks with executive director Liane Yasumoto about what the festival "gets about disability that the rest of the filmmaking world hasn't quite caught onto yet."

Mike at Bad Lit lists the June Rooftop Films screenings in NYC.

The Lisbon Village Festival: June 7 through 24.

Catch the Romanian wave: The Puzzle Project Festival takes place in Bucharest, July 20 through 27.

Les Rencontres Internationales: New cinema and contemporary art in Berlin, June 25 through 30.

Rain Bird issues a call for entries to The Intelligent Use of Water Film Competition, which seeks short films (1 to 20 minutes in actual or excerpted run time) that focus on the topic of water conservation.

David Walsh wraps the WSWS overview of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:45 PM

SIFF Dispatch. 1.

A first round of first takes from Sean Axmaker.

Son of Rambow Cannes is over but the Seattle International Film Festival has just begun with a long Memorial Day weekend of screenings and guests. The Gala Opening Night choice was a sweet but slim crowd pleaser: the first public screening of Son of Rambow [site] since its world debut at Sundance. The British comedy about a naïve young member of a repressive religious sect and a belligerent school troublemaker and petty thief who become unlikely friends while shooting a video action film is at its best when embracing the freedom of imagination unleashed as they indulge in their fantasies, whether they involve reckless stunts that leave them miraculously unharmed or a world scribbled over in animated doodles imagined by the repressed religious boy. Writer/director Garth Jennings creates a powerful sense of adversity in the background and then loses it in wish-fulfillment triumphs that come too easily. The complexities and defining control of the "real worlds" of these boys come into sharpest focus when they exert their power from the edges of the story.

There was of course the usual collection of soon-to-open features, from the mainstream (Judd Apatow's Knocked Up [site; entry] which sneaks a smart and sneakily mature character comedy under the conventions of sex comedy and gross-out humor) to the indie (Werner Herzog's Vietnam escape drama Rescue Dawn [site], adapted from his own documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly with a little too much restraint) to the classy French import (Paris je t'aime [site; entry], a colorful anthology of 18 vignettes that proves, if nothing else, that Paris is the most photogenic city in the world). The list also includes Satoshi Kon's animated mind-blower Paprika [site; entry], the CGI extreme surf docu-parody Surf's Up [site] and the British stalker horror Severance [site], a conventional horror film with a satirical twist.

Golden Door [site; entry], Emanuele Crialese's sublime film about the journey of a Sicilian peasant family to the new world of America (the original Italian title is Nuovomondo), is my favorite of the pedigreed art-house imports already slated for release. Thick with visual texture, a mix of hyper-charged naturalism and magic realism, it may be the only "coming to America" odyssey that leaves the new world unseen by the camera, merely a dream of possibility that buoys the hope of the emigrants as they endure the passage. Crialese's magnificent imagery is like a sensory immersion in an experience somewhere between dream and nightmare, alien and unreal yet utterly genuine and immediate.

12:08 East of Bucharest

As Cannes 2007 handed out its prizes, SIFF was screening 12:08 East of Bucharest [site; entry], winner of the Camera D'Or at Cannes 2006. Corneliu Porumboiu's satire of the national myth of revolutionary heroism is insidiously, slyly funny, but also a shrewd look at how people have rewritten (or at least recast) history to suit their own purposes in post-Soviet Romania. It's all accomplished through inference and ambiguity, as callers to an amateurish joke of a pretentious TV news program challenge a history professor (and well-known drunk) who claims to have been at the vanguard of the 1989 revolution in their town. "Truth" is inseparable from motive and we're left a pragmatic observation of both grudging generosity and pragmatic resignation: "One makes whatever revolution one can, each in their own way."

Hollywood has already snapped up the remake rights to The King of Kong [entry], which begins as a portrait of obsessive classic arcade game players and the competition surrounding the record high score for Donkey Kong and turns into a game-geek conspiracy complete with a charismatic and confident champion who transforms into a scheming dark prince when an everyman underdog challenges his record. It's hard not to share the exasperation of talented upstart Steve Wiebe, a high-school science teacher from Redmond, Washington, as the organization ostensibly created to promote integrity in video game world puts him under suspicious scrutiny to protect their hypocritical ambassador Billy Mitchell. Director Seth Gordon makes no pretense at objectivity, which calls into question a few of his own tactics, but he creates a human drama more compelling than any underdog sports fiction.


Reviews from the festival are pouring in, too, at the Siffblog and the Stranger.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:51 PM

Shorts, 5/29.

Paul Newman "Paul Newman, aged 82, has announced his retirement from acting," notes Ronald Bergan at the Guardian's film blog. "Unlike politicians or businessmen, there are few precedents of actors announcing their retirement, the most famous being Greta Garbo at 36. However, like many Hollywood actors, Newman did his best work in the early part of his career, even if it is hard to imagine American cinema without him."

In the Boston Review, Alan A Stone revisits Do the Right Thing: "Has American culture shifted enough in the intervening years so that white audiences can see the film a different way?"

"Terry Teachout ponders an interesting question: is there a great Hollywood film score written for a comedy rather than a drama or a thriller?" This gets Alex Ross going. "It's hard to think of one, though I am tempted to put Danny Elfman's Beetlejuice in the near-great category. Does Charade, with the fabulous Henry Mancini music, count as a comedy?" Click on for more rankings of soundtracks, though mostly for non-comedies.

Via Movie City News, a London Times package on Tintin: Jeff Dawson's deep backgrounder on Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's plans, Michael Morpurgo remembers getting hooked on the comics at age 12 and a Ben Macintyre column from December: "George Remi, alias Hergé, was one of the greatest and least-hailed artists of the 20th century, able to convey meaning through image with an economy of style that was entirely his own. A new exhibition at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris celebrating Hergé's work proves what most genuine Tintinophiles have always known: the genius is in the pictures." The exhibition's closed, but the read's still relevant.

Black Gold "Black Gold is galvanising audiences wherever it plays," writes David Smith in a longish piece for the Observer that delves into the question of whether or not there is such a thing as genuinely fair trade. Related: Use the Coffee Calculator at the film's site to find out where those couple of bucks for each cuppa are actually going.

"As the latest 'bleak' Australian film to be critically lauded, Noise has a lot of qualities," writes David Marin-Guzman. "The problem of the film is that its bleakness can't distance itself from its banality."

"Sundance homilies and truisms are encased in a meta frame in I'm Reed Fish, screenwriter Reed Fish's semi-autobiographical tale about seizing the day, chasing dreams, and learning to chart one's own life path," writes Nick Schager. Also at Slant, Ed Gonzalez: "Gracie's only achievement is technical, yet it has nothing to do with creative merit: Prints for the film, Davis Guggenheim's first feature-length fiction, will be carbon neutral." Related: For the Los Angeles Times, Gina Piccalo talks with Elisabeth Shue.

Right to Return "Victims and despair were what Jonathan Demme expected to find when he headed to New Orleans with his camera. Instead, he said, he discovered tough-minded heroes, who became the stars of his unadorned film Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower Ninth Ward," writes Felicia R Lee. "Tavis Smiley will turn over the entire week of his PBS program, The Tavis Smiley Show, to broadcast parts of the film." And the complete work will screen at Silverdocs.

Also in the New York Times:

  • John Anderson checks in on Jennifer Lynch as she shoots Surveillance: "As the daughter of the director David Lynch, she has an inherited ease around film shoots; as the director of Boxing Helena, she has something to prove."

  • Despite critical acclaim, the Broadway revival of Journey's End will be coming to an early close and Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers and Letters to Iwo Jima were hardly box office hits. Charles Isherswood floats a "potential conclusion": "Americans can perhaps be forgiven for failing to warm to entertainment that underscores what journalism is making brutally plain every day: War is a cruel and destructive enterprise that maims or destroys the lives of people on all sides, even when fought for a noble cause."

  • John Marchese: "If all goes as planned, Scranton would not only be home base to [Paul] Sorvino's own Miranda Films but also offer other filmmakers a full-service production house with soundstages, editing and looping rooms and a recording studio. All with costs a fraction of those in Los Angeles or New York."

  • "Mindful of [the Passion of the Christ] market, Universal Pictures has teamed up with Grace Hill Media, a public relations firm that reaches out to religious groups, to publicize the mainstream film Evan Almighty." Sara Ivry reports.

  • Virginia Heffernan offers "not a list of the top videos on YouTube. That would be too simple, too old-Web. Instead, here are five of the most fascinating worlds to get lost in on YouTube. Every single one of them is worth a detour."

  • Patrick McGeehan: "Charles Nelson Reilly, who acted and directed on Broadway but came to be best known for his campy television appearances on talk shows and Match Game, died on Friday in Los Angeles. He was 76 and lived in Beverly Hills, Calif."

New Perspectives Quarterly talks with Alejandro González Iñárritu, a sort of companion piece to Nathan Gardels and Mike Medavoy's essay on Hollywood's role in an era of globalization, "Shock and Awe vs Hearts and Minds at the Movies."

"Today's mass-audience films, from all over the world, adhere to the principles and particulars of continuity editing," writes David Bordwell. "Not many artistic styles, in any medium, have had such a long run." And yet there have been incremental changes over the decades; he explains "intensified continuity."

"It's this vivid 'cinema in your head,' forever on stand-by and ready to roll at the flick of one's thought, that I crave." Girish explains.

The Seventh Seal

"Despite its symbolic richness, at first sight chess seems to have little cinematic potential." Ah, but on second glance... Matthew J Reisz in the Independent.

"It's a Purple Rose of Cairo moment. The character has escaped from the silver screen and is somehow here in the flesh, in real life. It's precisely why Once seems so genuine, because in many respects, it is real." Gregg LaGambina talks with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova for the Los Angeles Times, where Sheigh Crabtree outlines just how very successful this little movie has been so far.

New reviews from Tom Mes @ Midnight Eye:

  • "Director Toshio Masuda came from among the B-ranks, but after being assigned to direct his first film with the [Nikkatsu] studio's top star, Yujiro Ishihara, he scored a string of hits that gave him the trust of his bosses. Monument to the Girls' Corps gives an indication of the reach of that trust."

  • Koichi Saito's The Homeless "is a picaresque tale in the truest sense of the word" and "a watershed of sorts for [Meiko Kaji], who made a clear decision to turn a page: she began to pick her projects with more care, choosing quality over quantity."

  • "Tree Without Leaves makes a good candidate for the ultimate maza-kon movie. Here it is the mother who tries to hold the family together when the tides of fortune turn and the father is incapable, even unwilling, of fending off the financial downfall."

At Twitch, James Maruyama reviews I Am Nipponjin, " a thoroughly enjoyable film that is unique in that it views Japan society through the eyes of an American foreign exchange student who goes there to learn more about the country but instead teaches the Japanese a little something about themselves and what it means to be 'nipponjin' (Japanese)."

Metropolis "The serious Science Fiction film genre is dead," argues Bill Gibron at PopMatters. "Well, okay, perhaps not actually deceased, but its definitely on cinematic life support."

New Yorker editor David Remnick sees off the Sopranos.

He wrote the novel, then the screenplay, and now he's shooting the film - his first. For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, visits the set of Michel Houellebecq's The Possibility of an Island (in German).

German art scene update: Jörg Immendorf has died, but Neo Rauch is alive and doing very, very well.

Online listening tip. Blake at Cinema Strikes Back: "Lost in the shuffle of it all I realized I had recorded the Q&A for one of the Linda Linda Linda screenings at the recent AFI Dallas."

Online viewing tip. Kevin Lee's video essay on Euzhan Palcy's Sugar Cane Alley.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:54 AM

Cannes. Solitary Fragments.

Solitary Fragments "Jaime Rosales beautifully consolidates the achievement of his distinguished debut, The Hours of the Day, with Solitary Fragments [La soledad], a leisurely but rewardingly intense dual narrative that delicately unpicks the secret lives of women," writes Jonathan Holland in Variety of this Un Certain Regard entry.

"Polyvision plays a major role in this project, with the screen divided into two parts," notes Vitor Pinto at Cineuropa. "Rosales decided to project onto each part different shots of the same scene, which focus either on characters' close-ups or simply on the set. Actors often remain out of the frame - a risky choice, which effectively gives the film a contemplative style, never overshadowing, through a simple follow-up of the plot."

"When a character leaves one room and goes into the other, occupying one space in favor of the other while both spaces continue to be shown on screen, it amplifies the physical presence of the character by also showing the absence of it elsewhere, which is an apt visual metaphor for Rosales's story of people as islands or separate entities that might want to connect but never really do," writes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "La soledad radiates with the intensity yet the normalit of daily life as few films do. It is Big Brother without the sensationalism, a soap without the artifice and a documentary without the wobbly camerawork and dark interiors."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 5:04 AM

Cannes. The Milky Way.

Milky Way "A cross-city drive turns into an existential odyssey in Lina Chamie's The Milky Way [A via lacteal], which opened Cannes' Critics' Week sidebar," writes Lee Marshall for Screen Daily. "Part urban road movie, part stream-of-consciousness cinematic monologue, Milky Way layers flashbacks, bon mots about life and death, and variant versions of the same scene into what could have made an intriguing 30-minute short."

"In her sophomore outing, Lina Chamie (Tonica Dominante, 2000) revels in intricate nonlinear execution," writes Variety's Lisa Nesselson, who finds it "doesn't so much run out of steam as wear out its welcome. But despite diminishing returns in final stretch, poignant punch line is worth waiting for."

At indieWIRE, Eric Kohn: "The main characters repeatedly combat one another and invariably reconcile their differences, but the dialogue, best described as Latin American Woody Allen, is full of silly neurotic asides but very little forward motion." But the "dream-like" transitions are the "movie's highlights - which is to say, it works best when the characters keep their mouths shut."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 5:00 AM

Cannes. Counterparts.

Counterparts "An extraordinary performance by Austrian-born actress Victoria Trauttmansdorff, as an almost schizophrenic wife from hell, is the main reason for watching Counterparts [Gegenüber], a grim, occasionally black comic drama of a middle-age couple locked in a cycle of love and abuse," writes Variety's Derek Elley, who sees "a kernel of filmmaking talent" in Jan Bonny's debut feature, but that's about it.

European-films.net editor Boyd van Hoeij agrees: "Generally speaking, Gegenüber is bleak without being poignant, and the film's attempts at absurd and black humor push the already not very developed characters into the realm of cliché."

This Directors' Fortnight entry "may be of some interest to sympathetic psychoanalysts dealing in Freudian hang-ups but won't go far with audiences at large," suggests Dan Fainaru at Screen Daily.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 4:57 AM

Cannes. La Question Humaine.

La Question Humaine "Two years after La Blessure, French director Nicolas Klotz returned... to Cannes' sidebar section Directors' Fortnight to present his fifth feature film, The Heartbeat Detector, adapted from François Emmanuel's novel La Question Humaine," writes Vitor Pinto at Cineuropa. "What could have easily become a frenetic thriller is treated by Klotz and [co-screenwriter Elizabeth] Perceval as the intimate portrait of a man suddenly pushed to face a past that he thought did not concern him."

"Forty years ago, the Straubs said it all in their film, Not Reconciled, did they not?" asks Emmanuel Burdeau for Cahiers du cinéma. "The hypothesis that there is a direct link between Nazism and liberalism, without wanting to sound cliché, is drawn from a certain orthodoxy, that which the philosopher Giorgio Agamben teaches."

"Both pertinent and discomfiting, this sober, well-cast drama remains quietly riveting, despite its 140-minute running time," writes Variety's Lisa Nesselson. Karl Rose (Jean-Pierre Kalfon), assistant director of the Parisian branch of a German firm, "assigns Simon [Mathieu Amalric] to surreptitiously assess the mental health of the firm's director, Mathias Just (Michel Lonsdale, supremely convincing). There have been reports of erratic behavior and the brass in Germany are worried.... Chilly, precise lensing maintains the pressure to excellent cumulative effect."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 4:31 AM

Cannes. Pierre Rissent: Man of Cinema.

Pierre Rissient Pierre Rissient "has been a critic, a distributor, a publicist, a producer, a filmmaker and an all-purpose ambassador for American, Asian and many other films," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "Directed by Todd McCarthy, chief film critic at Variety, [Pierre Rissent: Man of Cinema] is both a loving portrait - with testimonials from filmmakers, critics and various Cannes eminences - and a valuable history lesson."

FX Feeney, "an impartial non-staffer," as Variety puts it, pretty much raves, but any cinephile probably would. This looks like one of those docs - Z Channel, for example, in which Feeney plays a significant role - whose particulars are so fascinating that it simply doesn't matter how well the film's put together. Which isn't to say Man of Cinema, screened in the Cannes Classics program, isn't brilliant or anything; it'll simply be a must-see, regardless. See Feeney's review.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 4:28 AM

Cannes. In Your Wake.

In Your Wake "Call it the festival of dysfunctional families: Nos Retrouvailles (In Your Wake), a French selection in Critics Week, explores the relationship between a father and his grown-up estranged son," writes Eric Kohn for indieWIRE. "Hardly a conventional reunion tale, Nos Retrouvailles adopts conventions of the thriller genre as a means of exploring personal anguish.... [Director David] Oelhoffen might be better suited with less ambitious projects, but Nos Retrouvailles is a solid calling card for them."

"Thoughtful widescreen lensing conveys dead-end urban isolation and thesps are fine, but character study's rewards are as elusive as the jackpot allegedly waiting in a minimally guarded warehouse on the periphery of Paris," writes Variety's Lisa Nesselson.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 4:25 AM

May 28, 2007

Knocked Up.

Knocked Up "[W]hat makes Judd Apatow's follow-up to The 40-Year-Old Virgin such a consistently good time is its ability to provide sincere rom-com sweetness without sacrificing any of its lewd, profane edge," writes Nick Schager at Slant. "[T]he plethora and sharpness of Knocked Up's hilarious moments - most of which involve [Seth] Rogen, flashing pudgy charm and clever wit in his first leading role - is arresting, from Ben and friends' constant insults about a roommate's scraggly beard, to his impending fatherhood-inspired disgust with the reckless irresponsibility of Cheaper by the Dozen, to a riotously astute love scene between Ben and a very pregnant Alison [Katherine Heigl]."

Updated through 6/3.

"It's a film of deeply traditional values," notes New York's David Edelstein. "[I]t might even be taken as a parable for the post-Roe v Wade era. But Knocked Up feels very now. The banter is bruisingly funny, the characters brilliantly childish, the portrait of our culture's narrowing gap between children and their elders hysterical - in all senses."

"Call it the taming of the Shrek," proposes Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. "Most women, I imagine, will scoff with incredulity: this is neither a last hurrah (Alison is still in her 20s) nor the ideal time (she has a good job), and Ben is the last slob on earth she would have chosen. Most men, meanwhile, will be too busy watching through their fingers. To them, this is The Omen." Further in: "On the surface, Apatow's films are about sex - obsessively, exclusively, and exhaustively. (This one lasts more than two hours.) But that is a clever feint, for their true subject is age."

"It is, in all, a forgivably and often hilarious enterprise; had it an inebriated Steve Carell or even a choreographed sing-a-long dance sequence, it might have been Judd Apatow's best work," writes Rumsey Taylor for Not Coming to a Theater Near You, where he also considers Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared.

It "begins with the couple going to bed - which means the movie can then focus on their attempts to forge a relationship with each other, exactly the messy, agonizing, compromise-filled, non-magical, non-predestined-by-fate part of romance that almost every other movie compulsively avoids dealing with," notes Paul Matwychuk. "Knocked Up is so refreshingly different, it's almost radical."

NYT Magazine: Apatow "Both of the films Apatow has directed offer up the kind of conservative morals the Family Research Council might embrace - if the humor weren't so filthy," writes Stephen Rodrick in a long profile for the New York Times Magazine.

"It makes sense that our culture is embracing the mojo-free man right now," suggests Jennie Yabroff in Newsweek. "As America comes to terms with our diminished omnipotence in the wake of 9/11, the Iraq War and President Bush's international unpopularity, we're growing weary of Teflon-coated John Wayne stereotypes of masculinity. Donald Rumsfeld, Ken Lay, Mel Gibson, Don Imus - all chest-beating, leader-of-the-pack men, and look what happened to them. The alpha dog doesn't hunt anymore. The new role model is a beta male."

Online viewing tip. At Cinematical, Erik Davis shows us "truly one of the funniest (and smartest) pieces of viral marketing I have ever seen."

Updates, 5/30: "Lewd, crude and straight from the heart, Apatow's sophomore big-screen directoral effort is something like a neurotic 1970s Paul Mazursky film filtered through a contemporary, pop-culture-sodden frat-house sensibility," writes Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly. "Comic guru Harold Ramis eventually shows up, offering a sort of weird benediction in a small role as Ben's cheerfully zonked dad. This is important. The co-writer of Animal House, Meatballs and Caddyshack took time out from directing the very best episodes of NBC's The Office to lend his happy, hearty, Buddha-like presence to endorse Knocked Up as something well worth your while. It is."

"[T]he film seethes with misdirected and unrecognized anger," finds the Boston Phoenix's Peter Keough. "There'd be more laughs if, instead of covertly blasting women, Apatow acknowledged that it's matrimony, parenthood, and social conformity that are pissing him off and made them the butt of his humor."

Updates, 5/31: "Lord knows, the world doesn't lack for slacker movies, but Apatow's singular achievement has been to drag an increasingly worn-out indie subgenre into the mainstream without sacrificing its R-rated edge," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly. "In less outré hands, the baby pictures that frame the closing credits would make me gag. In Knocked Up, they feel earned."

"Not only is it the funniest film in decades, but its easily one of 2007's best efforts," writes Bill Gibron for PopMatters.

"If Apatow struggles with the movie's more dramatic passages - and despite its billing as a raucous comedy, there are quite a few - it's because he's a brilliant enabler of comedians but borderline-incompetent as a film director," writes Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper. "Knocked Up is pushing for poignancy as well as belly laughs, and the movie doesn't have the structure to sustain both."

"It's possible that Apatow is being over-praised, but based on what he's pulled off with Knocked Up, it's getting harder to make that argument," writes Zack Smith in the Independent Weekly. "Somehow, a two-hour-and-10-minute comedy with an idea as old as time (loser impregnates a one-night stand and grows up!) has managed to be the funniest film of 2007. Aside from that, he's pulled off some casting coups: He's not only written a large and hilarious part for his real-life wife, Leslie Mann, but he's cast his young daughters, Iris and Maude, in smaller parts - and they're hilarious. Hell, he even gets a funny performance out of Ryan Seacrest. The man is good."

"[M]aybe the best American comedy this decade," suggests Noel Murray in the Nashville Scene.

"This prime-time premise is so blatant it ought to have commercial breaks between each transparently fabricated scene," counters - who else? - Armond White in the New York Press. "Yet, as in last year's hit, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Apatow delivers jokes on cue - with TV-timing and TV-superficiality. His corruption of film comedy is ignored by coach-potato audiences and critics."

Nick Dawson interviews Apatow for Filmmaker.

"Women are, as ever and at best, the straight man in Apatow's comedic hierarchy," notes Michelle Orange at the Reeler. "[W]here men use humor as a way to relate, compete, impress and most crucially to gain respect, the women stand by unimpressed, if not unimpressive."

"This is a movie John Hughes never grew up to make," declares Ray Pride. And as for Leslie Mann, "she steals this rude laugh and heart machine, as a fortysometing Tourettic sexpot with a slightly nasal voice, in every scene simmering like a woman still ascending her sexual peak. (Hot.)"

"It's one of those zeitgeist-tapping romantic comedies that feels like a generational marker, a Tootsie or The Graduate for the 21st century," writes Dana Stevens in Slate. "Still, there was something about Knocked Up that bugged me... Apatow writes men with far more insight and acuity than he writes women.... It's not that Knocked Up is misogynistic - if anything, Apatow is uxorious to a fault, scrupulously respectful of chicks and the chick stuff they do. He just doesn't seem to get exactly what that stuff is."

Updates, 6/1: "It may be a bit, um, premature to say so, but Judd Apatow's Knocked Up strikes me as an instant classic, a comedy that captures the sexual confusion and moral ambivalence of our moment without straining, pandering or preaching," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "While this movie's barrage of gynecology-inspired jokes would have driven the prudes at the old Hays Office mad, its story, about a young man trying to do what used to be the very definition of the Right Thing, might equally have brought a smile of approval to the lips of the starchiest old-Hollywood censor."

In the Chicago Reader, JR Jones looks back over the oeuvre, and then: "Apatow ends the movie on a joyful note, but to his credit he never backs off from his dark view of Ben and Alison's future.... The only moment of genuine hope comes during the delivery, a howlingly funny climax that surpasses any such scene in American comedy."

"Leave it to Apatow to make a deceptively sophisticated meditation on the ambiguities of personal morality - with pot jokes," writes Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post.

"It's one thing to go with the idea that Ben and Alison dwell in different leagues, which after all is the point of the movie," writes Carina Chocano. "It's another thing altogether for the heroine, who in true girl-on-pedestal form is beautiful, smart, successful, nice and pretty much cool with everything, never to get even the tiniest chance to wonder if maybe she might have done a little better. Alison's view of her future with Ben fluctuates according to what he does or doesn't do in a given situation, or how well or badly her sister and brother-in-law Pete (Paul Rudd) are getting along. But it's never measured up to her own hopes or dreams for a relationship. What her type is, we'll never know."

Also in the Los Angeles Times: Jay A Fernandez watches Apatow work a scene; and Randy Lewis: "Having turned [Loudon] Wainwright into a TV dad six years ago in the Fox series Undeclared, Apatow returned to him this time not just to write songs but also to compose the score, with help from another Wainwright acolyte, Joe Henry."

"Great comedies work on us the way great dramas do: They burrow deep inside, planting timed-release capsules of mood and feeling that may self-activate hours, or even days, later," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "Writer-director Judd Apatow's Knocked Up is that kind of comedy, hilarious from moment to moment, but leaving behind both a warm glow and a sting. This is a picture that refuses to fetishize either the ability to conceive or the significance of our place in the universe once we've done so."

"No one writes for ensembles better than Apatow (who could probably spin whole movies out of the misadventures of Rogen's buddies or Rudd and Mann's contentious marriage), and his players are all skilled at giving his work a loose, improvisational feel," writes the AV Club's Scott Tobias. "That looseness again results in a comedy that stretches well past the two-hour mark, but that's part of the Apatow touch: He makes viewers want to hang out with his characters indefinitely."

"Apatow, represents, for the moment at least, the best in American movie comedy," declares Richard Schickel in Time.

"How gratifying it is to have your high expectations exceeded," smiles Peter Smith at Nerve.

Online viewing tip. At Modern Fabulosity: "If jokes this good are on the cutting room floor, imagine the possibilities..."

Updates, 6/2: At Stop Smiling, Nick Pinkerton picks a few bones, then adds, "I have the luxury of quibbling because Apatow hardly lacks for defenders... On the whole, he deserves all the laurels he's consistently had laid on him." The NYT Magazine profile, "noting Apatow's fondness for keeping together his ensemble casts, also name-checks Preston Sturges. It's a ridiculously premature comparison by any measure, but not entirely uninstructive; what separates them is the difference between Apatow, a very good collector of scenes, gags and actors, and a great director. And if Judd Apatow is going to set the gold standard for American screen comedy, it's only natural to start expecting more."

David Poland: "It's fair to say that Knocked Up has many of the strengths and weaknesses of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies... too long, too complicated, not realistic, and leaving you wishing a few characters were dumped, versus lots of laughs, some cool ideas, fantasy realism, and leaving you loving a few of the characters enough to watch them again sometime soon."

At ScreenGrab, Leonard Pierce looks back on five "Pregnancy Comedies."

Update, 6/3: "Jack Black is starring in Year One, a comedy Judd Apatow is producing for Columbia," reports Diane Garrett for Variety. "Harold Ramis, who appears in a small role in Apatow's Knocked Up, will direct and co-produce, and Michael Cera, who stars in Superbad, another Apatow production for Col, is also attached to star."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:43 PM

Riefenstahl.

Steven Bach: Leni Why do biographies so often appear in pairs? Walter Isaacson's life of Einstein is selling briskly, but to hear Michael Dirda tell it in the Washington Post, Jürgen Neffe's is the one to read. Lee Smolin, who goes all out and reads seven more books on Einstein for the New York Review of Books, agrees. And in the same issue of the Review, Ian Buruma is the latest to take on the pair of Leni Riefenstahl biographies:

It is tempting to see a direct link between Fanck's The Holy Mountain and Riefenstahl's quasi documentary of the 1934 Nazi rally in Nuremberg, Triumph of the Will. Of the two authors under review, Steven Bach comes closer to this view. Jürgen Trimborn, a young German film historian, whose book is more earnest and less amusing, but well worth reading, is almost painfully nuanced. Yes, "the Darwinism underlying many of Fanck's films placed them in dangerous proximity to National Socialist propaganda." Yes, in the context of the "nationalistic elevation of alpinism, the films of Arnold Fanck were praised as a 'profession of the faith of many Germans.'" But, Trimborn writes,

despite such arguments, it would be an oversimplification to consider the mountain films exclusively as prefascist creations, as this does not take into consideration the complex roots of the genre, including the literature of Romanticism, the alpinist movement, and the nature cult of the early twentieth century.

If this is right - and I think it is - it doesn't help to make the case for Riefenstahl. With her considerable talent, energy, and opportunism, she absorbed Fanck's technical innovations in camera work and editing and used them to produce works of pure Nazi propaganda. What makes The Triumph of the Will such a poisonous film is not the classicism and crude Romanticism of Weimar-period Deutschtumelei, but the political manipulation of such aesthetics by Riefenstahl and Albert Speer, who designed the parade grounds at Nuremberg for the party rally.

As it happens, Thom at Film of the Year has just watched Triumph: "When images are presented and edited together in the way Riefenstahl has done here, the subject could be almost anyone, the crowd could be almost any crowd, and, for better or worse, the effect would be the same."

Of course, those techniques can be revised and accommodated to any old event at hand. Think of the opening ceremony for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles or the 2004 campaign rallies for Bush.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:50 AM

Cannes. California Dreamin'.

California Dreamin' "In its closing ceremony on Sunday the festival bestowed two of its most important prizes on Romanian films, affirming the vitality of this recently emerging cinema," write Manohla Dargis and AO Scott in the New York Times. Besides the Palme d'Or for 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days, "the jury for Un Certain Regard, a sidebar to the main competition, gave its highest honor to California Dreamin', a first feature by Cristian Nemescu set in Romania during the Kosovo war of 1999. It was a poignant victory, because Mr Nemescu died in an automobile accident last year at the age of 27."

Dan Fainaru, writing for Screen Daily, presumes the honor is "more for its intentions than the actual outcome." This "is the rough cut of a film that might have looked entirely different once completed.... Overlong, bloated and unfocused, somewhere in-between a raucous Balkan comedy and a thoughtful reflection on Romania's present state, it could have gone any number of ways in Nemescu's hands, but without his input, this is the kind of material better fit for an archive in memory of a promising talent than exhibited in public."

"With California Dreamin' the young Nemescu leaves us with an unconventional 'will,' fully of irony and disappointment yet without the scepticism that characterises some of Eastern European cinema," writes Camille de Marco at Cineuropa. "On the contrary, it is full of love for life and faith in the future."

Update, 5/29: "It's not the most subtle allegory for the American habit of forcibly exporting democracy and turning foreign misadventures into messy conflagrations," notes Dennis Lim at IFC News. "But it has energy, wit and heart to spare and, as an anti-American smackdown, even maintains an affection for its ostensible targets. Nemescu's first and last film provided a largely apolitical Cannes edition with its missing Iraq movie and a festival of mostly familiar faces and known quantities with its major discovery."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 3:52 AM

May 27, 2007

Cannes. Jellyfish.

Jellyfish Catching up with that Camera d'Or winner: "The Critics' Week preem of Jellyfish [Meduzot] marks another triumph for Israel, which is strongly represented on the Croisette this year with three films in official sections," notes Alissa Simon in Variety. "Debuting feature co-helmers Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, a couple already separately acclaimed as fiction writers, make a fluid transition to film with this tightly constructed, cleverly stylized, serio-comic ensemble piece."

Updated through 5/30.

"Intertwining three stories of daily life in Tel Aviv, the plot is similar to those in Keret's novels," adds Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa. "One of the most popular writers in his country - an expert at depicting subtle portraits of quite ordinary people and carefully circumventing the issue of Middle Eastern conflicts (except by allusion) - with Jellyfish (co-directed with his partner) the novelist transposes his disenchanted vision of human beings tossed around by a flood of events and struggling with loneliness and serious communication problems."

Update, 5/30: "Organised in a collection of brief, instantaneous sketches spiced with a touch of surrealism, it may lack some of the irony Keret is often associated with, but nevertheless manages to put across issues that are often painful and distressing, with a light enough touch to make them palatable," writes Dan Fainaru for Screen Daily.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:18 PM

Cannes. The Mourning Forest.

To catch up with initial reactions to Naomi Kawase's The Mourning Forest (site), which has won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, we can turn to Patrick Z McGavin, who, writing for Emanuel Levy's site, calls it a "sad, poetic feature about grief and loss experienced by two radically different people... Interestingly, at the 50th anniversary of Cannes, her movie Suzaku won the Camera d'Or for best first feature. Those who surrender to the plaintive moods are likely to find significant emotional rewards."

The Mourning Forest

"Naomi Kawase is one of those directors who use the medium of film to work through their obsessions," writes Lee Marshall for Screen Daily. "Luckily for audiences - or at least for patient audiences - Kawase is also a consumate, original filmmaker, with a talent for delicate emotional shading, made all the more authentic by her near-documentary style."

"A sort of therapeutic variation on Tropical Malady," suggests Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. "Kawase knows how to photograph vegetation, but the substance of her film is unavoidably maudlin."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:25 PM | Comments (1)

Cannes. Awards.

Cannes And the Palme d'Or goes to Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days. The panel discussing the winners on arte at the moment, which includes Richard Peña of the New York Film Festival, is unanimously pleased.

The Grand Jury Prize: Naomi Kawase's The Mourning Forest (Mogari No Mori). More on that one soon.

The Jury Prize? It's a tie: Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Carlos Reygadas's Silent Light.

Best Director goes to Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Best Actor: Konstantin Lavronenko for his performance in Andreï Zyvagintsev's The Banishment.

Best Actress: Jeon Do-yeon for her performance in Lee Chang-dong's Secret Sunshine.

Best Screenplay: Fatih Akin for The Edge of Heaven.

A special "60th Festival" award goes to Gus Van Sant for Paranoid Park.

The Camera d'Or, presented to the best feature debut, goes to Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen's Meduzot (Jellyfish). Special mention: Anton Corbijn's Control.

The Palme d'Or for Best Short Film goes to Elisa Miller's Ver Llover (Watching It Rain).

Gilles Jacob, presenting a special career achievement Palme d'Or - only the fourth in the festival's history - to Jane Fonda: "I would never have imagined that the Cannes Festival would honor an FBI suspect, one who has at least 20,000 pages in her file. You are a fighter and a winner."

Cannes has also gathered all other non-Competition awards on one handy page.

Updates: Which is to say, reactions, commentary and the like; there are no more awards, of course. At any rate, Matt Dentler lists his favorites, a top 9, in order, with Diving Bell at #1.

Dave Kehr comments on what's most and what's least surprising about this year's round of awards.

At ScreenGrab, Mike D'Angelo drew up a list of what "Should win" and what "Could win" with less than an hour to go before the ceremony. Brave! Not much of that list pans out, but it's not at all an uninteresting read.

Online listening tip. Facets Executive Director Milos Stehlik looks back on the festival.

Updates, 5/28: Cannes presents notes from the press conference with the jury following the awards ceremony, opening with Orhan Pamuk's comments on 4 Months.... Two other notes warrant special mention. Sarah Polley: "I feel that I lived more in the past ten or eleven days than I have in my whole life." And Toni Collette on the "60th Anniversary" award: "We wanted to give the prize to someone whose film we admired in this particular Festival but whose body of work was also incredible and we were all in agreement about Gus."

"[I]t was almost as if Cannes, to mark its 60th anniversary, had willed the community of international filmmakers to bring forth some of their finest work," write Manohla Dargis and AO Scott in the New York Times. "It was especially gratifying that so much of that work came from directors in the early or middle stages of their careers, a shift from this festival's frequent reliance on an aging old guard.... Mr Mungiu, the newest Palme d'Or winner, was born in 1968 and has directed only two previous films. At his moment of glory, he struck a note of unforced modesty. 'One year ago we didn't have any idea about this project, and six months ago we didn't have any money,' he said, looking a bit stunned. 'I hope this award will be good news for small filmmakers from small countries.'" Also, a podcast.

"It's true what Todd McCarthy says in his Variety report on the Cannes awards: that the Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days led the critics' polls throughout the fest," writes Premiere's Glenn Kenny. "And he is also right when he implies that as such, it was kind of a surprise to see it take the Palme d'Or at the festival.... If my colleagues have found a theme at Cannes, it is that, despite some of the less-than-sanguine perspectives on film and its future offered by the Chacun son Cinema shorts commissioned for the 60th anniversary of the fest, both world cinema and the festival showed a new strength and diversity this year. That if the artistic film is the patient and Cannes is the hospital, the patient is showing new signs of life and the hospital is providing first-rate care."

"Decisions like these make Cannes look, in the best possible way, like a heavily besieged protectionist city state, stubbornly holding out for world cinema against the mighty forces of Hollywood-globalisation," writes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "But the big disappointment was that no gongs of any shape or size were handed to the Coens - especially exasperating, given that Gus Van Sant won an award for his disappointing slacker movie Paranoid Park... When the Coens' No Country For Old Men is released here in the UK, I'm confident that it will be regarded as one of their best films. It's weird that Cannes, which has so greatly sponsored the Coens' reputation over the years, should be so obtuse as to pass over such an excellent film."

Kenneth Turan has an overview in the Los Angeles Times.

"If somebody in Romania does a remake of Footloose will it be at Cannes in 2008?" asks Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "That's facetious, of course; the whole point of this new Romanian cinema, or whatever we should call it, is that it bears zero relationship to Hollywood filmmaking or the business model of the American entertainment megaliths." And a very fine wrap-up follows.

"How did [Julian Schnabel] embarrass himself and the Americans watching?" ask Time's Richard and Mary Corliss. "Let us count the ways: 1) lumbered across the wide stage to shake the hands of all 10 Jury members; 2) mispronounced the name of his lead actor (Mathieu Amalric) and the biggest international star in the cast (Max Von Sydow); 3) invoked the pseudo-French song 'Thank Heaven for Little Girls' (from the Hollywood musical Gigi) to acknowledge the film's five lovely supporting actresses, none of them little girls; 4) insulted his host country, then tried to turn it into a compliment ('Many times they say, "The Problem with France is the French," but that's a lie'); and 5) squeezed some sour grapes by saying, 'If I did get the Palme d'Or I was gonna give it to Bernardo Bertolucci, who's been ill. But I didn't, so it doesn't matter.' One or two jury members wince at the oafish display, as if to ask, Is it too late to retract the prize?" Anyway: "On Thursday, Festival President Gilles Jacob presented medals to 30 international film critics, all veterans of Cannes coverage, and two of the awards went to Mary and Richard Corliss, and we were honored to receive them."

"I have to say that I'm parting company with a number of my friends and colleagues here (such as Tony Scott in the New York Times) who have declared the 60th edition one of the best of recent years. I would argue that this is wrong on a few counts." Robert Kohler, blogging at filmjourney.org, actually counts off more than a few; or rather, he's filed his many disappointments into a few overall categories. If you've been thinking you've just missed out on the cinematic event of the 21st century so far, this may - or, of course, may not - assuage your grief.

For Anthony Kaufman, this was a festival of moments: "There were a number of films whose full 2-hour running times left me ultimately bored or annoyed, but within that two-hour-plus span, I was stunned by what I saw." A list of favorites, "in rough order of preference," follows.

Updates, 5/29: Robert Koehler picks up where he left off at filmjourney.org: "[H]anding Fatih Akin (who some of us, deep into some beer-filled nights, began to nickname George W Bush-style as Fatty Atkins) the screenplay prize for the wretchedly structured narrative of The Edge of Heaven is flatly an insult to screenwriting." Yes, that Cinema Scope crowd really does know how to have a good time. Deep insight into just how plain silly a Romanian woman can be when placed under unimaginable pressure... follows.

Patrick Z McGavin revisits some of the highlights for Stop Smiling.

The Palme d'Or winner "lacks the transcendence of the Dardennes brothers," objects Erica Abeel somewhat at Filmmaker, "a great Tolstoyan epiphany - I'm thinking of Resurrection - in which the miscreant performs a back flip of the soul and finds redemption." As for Edge of Heaven, "Too schematic, too much coincidence, carped some critics. To which I'd reply, the artifice is intentional, as patterned and satisfying as figures in a Tabriz carpet."

If you've been reading the items linked to in this entry, this one won't add much you haven't heard before, but still, it's J Hoberman.

"Was this, as many commentators have declared, the best Cannes in years?" asks Dennis Lim at IFC News. "There were relatively few films I whole-heartedly loved (I counted four: Flight of the Red Balloon, Secret Sunshine, Go Go Tales, Paranoid Park), but only the crankiest of critics would grumble about the overall quality. It's worth noting, though, that more than half of my dozen or so favorites screened outside the competition." And that list follows, folks. Go.

Rob Nelson reviews the American presence at Cannes this year for the City Pages.

Updates, 5/30: "In a final festival dispatch from France, indieWIRE offers a subjective hotlist of 10 films worth watching from this year's event."

Michael Lerman presents an annotated top "20 From Cannes."

"Asia didn't need to announce that she was 'Queen of Cannes,' even though she did," blogs Robert Koehler at filmjourney.org. "Anyone with a set of eyes and ears could spot that indisputable fact. What was more remarkable was that she was in at least two exceptional movies - one of them, [Go Go Tales], a certifiable masterpiece - and that whatever transgressive elements lay within the warp and woof of the Breillat belonged entirely to Asia." Further down: "I'm an atheist, for one, and a Darwinian, for another, but the manners in which the physical-mystical in the latest films of [Albert] Serra and Reygadas and Kawase (and one might even add Kiarostami, although his own religious adherences are more subtle and hardly in line with strict Islam) comprise one of the most fascinating and unexpected patterns in new creative cinema."

Todd at Twitch: "Five Things I Learned In Cannes."

Updates, 5/31: A euro|topics dossier gathers and translates assessments of the festival from various European papers, including one in Romania.

"[A]s the world's most important film festival celebrated its 60th birthday, it was tough to shake the feeling that Cannes - or maybe France in general - has become an illusory oasis in an industry where the voice of art too rarely rises above the din of commerce," writes Scott Foundas in an overview of the festival for the LA Weekly.

Updates, 6/1: Online listening tip. John Powers on the highs and lows for NPR - for nearly half an hour, too.

Online browsing tip. Fabrizio Maltese's marvelous photo diary at european-films.net.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 11:46 AM | Comments (6)

Cannes. Rebellion: The Litvinenko Affair.

Vladimir Putin "Johnny Depp is lined up to play murdered Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in the film of a book that still has no ending," reports Jason Burke in the Observer. Meantime, Rebellion: The Litvinenko Affair has screened as a last-minute addition to the Cannes official selection. It's directed by Andreï Nekrasov, "a close friend of the former spy and in effect accuses the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, of organising the murder, as well as of embezzling humanitarian funds and laundering profits from the mafia."

Charles Ealy has more at the Austin Movie Blog: "The bombings of the Moscow apartments in 1999 were allegedly staged to win political support for Putin, who wanted to invade Chechnya, according to various people interviewed in the documentary... [which] also raises questions about Putin's involvement in the rising number of slain Russian journalists, especially in the death of one who was investigating the Moscow bombings."

On a related note, Steven Lee Myers has a piece in the New York Times on Russia's inability to wish this story away: "In proceeding after proceeding, Russia's actions have withered under the scrutiny of international justice. As a result, the very concepts of law and justice have become touchstones for larger fears about how Mr Putin amasses and uses power, and whether he is returning Russia to habits that brought Europe grief in the past."

Updates, 5/30: "Though the film seethes with anger at how poorly Russian citizens have been treated (it claims that almost 50 per cent of the adult population has been in jail at some time, and that state plundering of national assets is happening at a time when 50 per cent of people live below the poverty line), it also supplies a necessary historical dimension to that rage," writes the Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu. "Vladimir Putin, who profited while failing to get food to the starving inhabitants of St Petersbourg in 1991, comes in for special attack.... [Litvinenko] comes across as no conspiracy theorist, nor even an enemy of patriotism, but a decent man spurred to defiance by the culture of corruption in which he found himself."

"Nekrasov never quite manages to paint a portrait of his subject as a personality, while the dense onslaught of data and accusations - hard to substantiate in a documentary of this kind - means that, while painting a horrific picture of contemporary Russian politics, the film is likely to leave the viewer perplexed," writes Jonathan Romney for Screen Daily. "But as a provocation, and a spur to further media discussions, the film demands to be viewed, albeit with a degree of critical scepticism."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:33 AM

May 26, 2007

Cannes. Days of Darkness.

"Days of Darkness, Denys Arcand's follow-up to the Oscar-nominated The Barbarian Invasions, isn't as smooth as that film - but it's as bizarre and inventive a movie as you could ask for," writes James Rocchi at Cinematical.

Days of Darkness

"Playing out of competition at Cannes, Days of Darkness is a perverse and busy mix of American Beauty, Brazil, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and many other influences that manages to include blunt drama, razor-sharp social commentary, broad comedy, sexual frankness and sweeping musical numbers. It's like that slightly lumpy knit sweater at the craft fair: it may not be machine-manufactured perfect, but you can tell just by looking at it that it was made by a human being."

Gregg Kilday talks with Arcand for the Hollywood Reporter.

Update, 5/28: "It's the close and uncomfortable proximity between this grey man's fantasies and the ugly banality of life that makes the film so compellingly true," writes James Christopher in the London Times.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 3:45 PM | Comments (1)

Cannes, 5/26. Late-ish edition.

Cannes "Something a little strange is going on though, especially for us," says Emmanuel Burdeau, in conversation with two other critics for Cahiers du cinéma. "Cannes has selected a few of the most radical filmmakers (auteurs), the strongest in worldwide cinema: Sokurov, Béla Tarr and Naomi Kawase for its official competition, and yet this is not where things are happening, where things are really being shaken up. This year, the Cannes Festival will have been very American, whereas for the cinema in general lately this has not been the case. And this has happened in a manner that resembles what is happening right now, in a broader sense, to all of cinema: a return to the fundamental things, a distance in relation to what is contemporary, toward a more rudimentary art."

For Time, Mary Corliss considers a few likely award-winners and does a little math: "[T]here are up to 10 prizes given out for the 21 films selected for the competition. Theoretically, if you're invited to the Cannes party, you have a nearly 50 percent chance of coming home a winner."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:20 PM

Long weekend shorts.

Dancer in the Dark "Lars von Trier's 2000 film, Dancer in the Dark, is going to be turned into an opera for Denmark's Royal Theater," reports the AP.

"Dutch actress Carice van Houten, so brilliant in Paul Verhoven's recent Black Book, has signed up to star in Smoke and Ochre, a biopic of revolutionary South African writer Ingrid Jonker," reports Time Out's Chris Tilly.

At Twitch, Todd points to news that Peter Jackson has asked Stephen Fry to write the screenplay for Dambusters. Here's a little background on the story.

In the Los Angeles Times, Richard Schickel beats up on Raymond J Haberski Jr's Freedom to Offend: How New York Remade Movie Culture:

Freedom to Offend

The unlikely hero of Haberski's work is, yes, [Bosley] Crowther [New York Times film critic from the early 40s to the late 60s]. I do not gainsay the valuable work the Times' critic did in defending movies as disparate as The Bicycle Thief and The Miracle from the censors. He was a liberal and humane man. Unfortunately, he was also possessed of the most viscous prose style in criticism, which perfectly conveyed the limits of his aesthetic. He was OK with earnest Hollywood efforts that deplored racism, for example, and he came to optimistic, inspiring conclusions. But to watch poor Bos struggle with, say, a film by Godard or Bergman was to witness an anguish of incomprehension.

Also: Karen E Bender on Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You.

Michael Guillén has a fascinating entry on Jean Malin, a pioneer I hadn't known about before who, in the 30s, "gained notoriety for being 'a pansy playing a pansy.'"

Carnegie Hall trailer Reminder: Chris Cagle's been working away on his 1947 Project, and it's been fascinating looking over his shoulder.

Andy Klein talks with Werner Herzog about Rescue Dawn and the doc it's based on, Little Dieter Learns to Fly. Also in the LA CityBeat, David Ehrenstein chats with Zoe Cassavetes about Broken English.

The Chicago Reader's JR Jones finds Chalk to be "a riotously funny mockumentary in the style of The Office about fledgling teachers at a middle-class public school in Austin, Texas."

"Playfully didactic and wittily digressive, Ten Canoes is about aboriginal storytelling inside storytelling, roaming the Australian swampland and finding not one story but many," writes Daniel Kasman.

"A gentler, more wistful Henry Jaglom wrote and directed Hollywood Dreams, his 15th and perhaps most accessible film," writes Jeannette Catsoulis. "Filled with movie memories and gender confusion, the story shows one of our most polarizing independent filmmakers in a nostalgic mood, musing over the burdens of fame and the price of success - which would be love, as if you didn't know."

Also in the New York Times:

Amu

The Puffy Chair The cinetrix has not taken to The Puffy Chair: "When the film ends - and I do mean ends - the cinetrix suspects that viewers are supposed to wrestle with the abruptness and the ambiguity, but she just felt relieved to leap out of the Chair and bid the whole lot good riddance." Also, notes on Will Ferrell.

David Lowery on Fay Grim: "[W]hat caught me off guard was how dramatically satisfying the film was as a sequel; it's a massive bit of revisionism that (I think) that feels like a natural extension."

"Poison Friends is at once a sly satire on the pretensions and aspirations of academia and an intellectual suspense-thriller that builds and builds but never loses credibility," writes Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times. Emmanuel Bourdieu's strength as a director precisely matches his instincts as a screenwriter: He loves to watch groups interact," adds Stuart Klawans in the Nation, where he also reviews Paprika and considers Ido Haar's 9 Star Hotel and "the horrid absurdity of his story."

"How will Sarkozy change France?" Patrick Barkham asks Jean Reno, who's a close friend of the new president's: "'Less socialism. He will be good for the economy, because we have to work a little bit more. I think we are the only country where we have a 35-hour working week, that famous law, and it is forbidden to work more.' He chuckles. 'C'est incroyable. It's unbelievable. So he will change the taxes and we will be more involved in Europe. Yes, we have to be.'"

Also in the Guardian:

One-Eyed Jacks

  • "Movie stars are strange, soulless creatures." Alex Cox looks back on the train wrecks movie stars have directed themselves.

  • David Thomson: "I nurse a hope that [Matt] Damon might have it in him to play some really unpleasant characters - like the generation that has been in office in the US for seven years now."

Online browsing tip. For Elle in France, David Lynch shoots Monica Bellucci, Cécile de France, Emmanuelle Béart, Béatrice Dalle, Isabelle Carré, Charlotte Rampling, Laetitia Casta and Natacha Régnier. Via the Film Experience.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:34 PM | Comments (1)

Other fests, other events, 5/26.

Low and Behold Low and Behold will be screening in Los Angeles on Tuesday. David Lowery has the details and the recommendation: "It's of one of the best films you'll see this year."

"My official title is 'Set Journalist' but I didn't do any of that - Guy Maddin likes to have somebody write a production diary that he can use for press kits or maybe give to the cast and crew, etc," recalls Adam at Another Green World. "I ended up as more of a garden-variety Production Assistant, being as helpful as I could, always planning on catching up with the writing later." And, like the Chicago Reader's Pat Graham, he's recently caught the full-blown live version of Brand Upon the Brain!.

The show hits Los Angeles on June 8 for a week-long engagement and, for the LA CityBeat, Andy Klein talks with Maddin.

Alamo Drafthouse "Jette Kernion of Slackerwood and Blake Etheridge of Cinema Strikes Back are pleased to announce the Alamo Downtown Blog-a-Thon, to take place on Monday, June 25, 2007." Related: At Bad Lit, Mike has the lineup for the Austin Underground Film Festival: June 9 at 3 pm, one of the last events at the Alamo in its original location.

"To help celebrate the silver anniversary of Tron and several other genre films released that same year, the American Cinematheque and Geek Monthly magazine are presenting 1982: Greatest Geek Movie Year Ever! at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica from June 15 through 17," notes Mike Winder in the LA CityBeat. "In addition to Tron, the festival will present Cat People, The Thing, The Dark Crystal, Poltergeist, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Various cast and crew are scheduled to make appearances."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:00 PM

Cannes. Promise Me This.

"Two-time Cannes winner Emir Kusturica brought a happy ending to the film festival on Saturday with a boisterous Balkan romp, breaking the mould for a competition full of dark tales," reports Mike Collett-White for Reuters. "Promise Me This [Zavet; more] is the last of 22 films to be screened in the main lineup, a day ahead of the prize ceremony."

Promise Me This

"The Sarajevo-born director confirms with this film that, rather than a straightforward filmmaker, he is the ringmaster of his own cinematic circus that returns each two years or so to your town with a slightly different show performed by pretty much the same group of performers," writes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "Newcomers and big fans of Kusturica's comedies will be delighted and should book first-row seats (even though Zavet completely misses the emotional resonance or satire of his best films), while returning visitors should opt for the cheap seats."

Updated through 5/27.

"Cross the hills to go to the village sell his cow, buy a religious icon and find a wife: Tsane makes these three promises to his grandfather, who believes he is dying," writes Camillo de Marco at Cineuropa. "In the style of Black Cat, White Cat (1998), the peculiarity of Promise Me This, announced as a 'a comedy with light and necessarily mad heart,' lies in its star, Uros Milovanovic, who is decidedly too young to find a wife. He is flanked by the 57 year-old Miki Manojlovic (who has appeared in many of the Kusturica's films, including Black Cat... and [When Father Was Away on Business]), Aleksandar Bercek (Life is a Miracle, 2004) and the beautiful Marija Petronijevic as Jasna."

"Continuing to play his brand of grotesquely exaggerated slapstick beyond all reason, Emir Kusturica actually manages to outdo the excesses of his previous pic, Life is a Miracle, with his new slice of buffoonery about a peasant lad who finds true love," writes Robert Koehler for Variety. "The only conceivable reason that this mess is included in the Palme d'Or lineup is as a nod during Cannes' 60th birthday to the two-time Palme winner, but it only serves to underline how far the helmer of When Father Was Away on Business has sunk."

Update, 5/27: "I lost interest after the 16th instance of someone falling into a hole or flying through a window, which was roughly around the midpoint of reel one," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 11:57 AM

Cannes, 5/26.

Cannes "When you least expect it, you yourself - a critic, an innocent, a harmless drudge - may be kidnapped for apotheosis," writes a modest Nigel Andrews at the end of his overview of the Competition for the Financial Times. "This week, I had a medal pinned on me by the Cannes rulers for services to writing about films and festivals. I suspect it was for still being alive, after sitting through countless movies over countless years. (I have counted the Cannes attendances, actually: 34.) I wear the medal proudly. And I sleep with it, under my pillow, on the rare occasions I have time for any sleep at all."

And hey, look at indieWIRE.

"As we prepare for the announcement of the Palme d'Or winner at Cannes, it's worth considering just how easily, even capriciously, these films' reputations are made and broken," writes Shane Danielson. Also blogging for the Guardian is Geoffrey Macnab on sorting through Marlon Brando's estate.

"On Sunday night the prize for best female performance may well upstage the Palme d'Or," suggests AO Scott in the New York Times.

For Deutsche Welle (and in English), Eleanor Beardsley reports on Luc Besson's project which brings the movies to the 'burbs.

Online listening tip. The Observer's Jason Solomons.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:15 AM

May 25, 2007

Cannes. Retour en Normandie.

Retour en Normandie "Any documentary is an act of remembrance," writes Allan Hunter for Screen Daily. "Back To Normandy [Retour en Normandie] has a special personal significance for director Nicolas Philibert because it allows him to return to the scene of his earliest filmmaking experiences and also to pay homage to his mentor René Allio."

"The film's no wallow in nostalgia, but a warm, funny, lively exploration of all manner of interlinked themes: history, documentation, madness, memory, family life, and so on," writes Time Out's Geoff Andrew. "It's an amazingly subtle film, and possibly a bit too tough for those who found little Jojo the most interesting element in Etre et Avoir [To Be and To Have]; but it's also a treasure trove, with rich pickings galore."

In 1975, when Philibert was 24, he "worked as an assistant director on René Allio's true-crime costumer I, Pierre Riviere, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister and My Brother....," explains Variety's Lisa Nesselson. "Young Philibert scoured the countryside for non-pros to play the central roles in 1835-set drama. Thirty years later, he returned to the village in question to interview the civilians who were cast."

"A deferential and convivial enterprise, Retour... is not so much an entertainment or even an illumination, but rather a personal cinematic scrapbook, which should be stamped 'return to sender,'" grumbles Duane Byrge in the Hollywood Reporter.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:54 PM | Comments (1)

Star Wars Blog-a-Thon.

Star Wars How fitting is it that, in this summer of 3quels and overblown franchises overstaying their welcome, Star Wars, at one point conceived as a trilogy of trilogies (though George Lucas would settle for two - hey, two threes, 23!) hits the big 3-Oh? Ask a numerologist, I suppose, but here we are. Edward Copeland is hosting a massive blog-a-thon, "marking 30 years since the landmark film opened in the United States and the world of cinema was changed forever, for good and ill."

Related: Time's Rebecca Winters Keegan reports Los Angeles on the world's biggest Star Wars party.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:11 PM

Cannes, 5/25. Late-ish edition.

XXY "Lucía Puenzo's XXY will take home the grand prize for the Festival de Cannes' Critics Week sidebar." The Hollywood Reporter's Rebecca Leffler has the story. Also: "Anton Corbijn's Control was the big winner as the Festival de Cannes's Director's Fortnight wrapped its 10-day run Friday, taking three awards on the same day the Weinstein Co. acquired North American rights to the film."

Ignoring the obvious hits on the one hand and the films that might really be better off slipping into obscurity on the other, Salon's Andrew O'Hehir selects ten potential "art-house surprises: challenging and adventurous films likely to appeal to a small but serious audience of cinema buffs all over the world."

"[T]he festival this year delivered such consistently strong and exciting films that its 60th anniversary can be tagged one of the very best in recent memory," writes Time Out's Dave Calhoun, reviewing the many highs and the handful of lows. "The only regret is that no out-and-out, undoubted masterpiece emerged."

Online listening tip. Cinematical editor James Rocchi and SXSW producer Matt Dentler talk Cannes.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:20 PM

Cannes. My Brother is An Only Child.

My Brother is An Only Child "The Italian Un Certain Regard title and local boxoffice hit Mio fratello è figlio unico (My Brother is An Only Child [site]) is a fun panoramic snapshot of politically engaged Italian youngsters in the 1960s and 70s that is not only a portrait of its time but also, be it in diluted form, of the Italian youth of today," writes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net.

"Scripted by The Best of Youth duo who brought the post-WWII years into stark and moving light, pic offers a warm humor that illuminates the defiant vista of hope even when the proceedings turn tragic," notes Variety's Jay Weissberg.

In comparison with Youth, "this is a glossier, more audience-friendly affair, that is as concerned with Accio's [Elio Germano] coy crush on the beguiling Francesca [Diane Fleri] as it is with changing political times," writes Ed Lawrenson for Time Out. "There are plenty of broad-brush but effective jokes at the expense of Accio and Manrico's fanaticism - the Communist version of Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' sung at a student rally is a hilarious send-up of 70s political correctness. But it's in the relationship between the two siblings - warm, poignant, beautifully played by Germano and Scamarcio - that the film impresses."

Camillo de Marco interviews director Daniele Luchetti for Cineuropa.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:02 PM

Cannes. Déficit.

Déficit Gael García Bernal is not only Ambassador of the 46th International Critics' Week, he's also got a film in the lineup, Déficit.

And he "shows almost as much promise behind the camera as he has already as an actor," writes Time Out's Geoff Andrew. "[T]he movie slides down as smoothly as tequila, with an impressive (if not exactly unsurprising) sting in its tail as a bonus."

For the Guardian, Charlotte Higgins talks with García Bernal, who tells her the film's "'about the end of impunity. A person realises that his privileges never existed, or have ceased to have exist.' In that sense, the film is a fable about the decline of Mexico's ruling class: by the end of the narrative, Cristobal's number is very much up, as it becomes clear that his parents are out of the country 'sorting out their accounts' - thinly disguised code that they are evading some kind of corruption charge. The film also provides a commentary on the country's postcolonial attempts to function as a multi-racial nation. 'We are trying to tackle questions you are not really allowed to ask. "How are we going to live with each other? Why is our country so divided? Why has marginalisation increased and the clash [between races] increased?"'"

"If sincere commitment and high spirits were enough, this first film by the supremely accomplished - even though still quite young - Mexican actor and heartthrob, Gael García Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Motorcycle Diaries, Bad Education) would be a masterpiece," begins Peter Brunette at Screen Daily. "Alas, these ingredients, while surely desirable, aren't enough, and the film that results, despite its noble intentions, is never compelling and only intermittently watchable."

"Pandemonium reigned outside the Hotel Miramar." Variety's Justin Chang has an amusing story about the premiere - amusing for those who didn't have to wait for it to actually happen, that is.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 1:24 PM

Other fests, other events, 5/25.

Celluloid Skyline "Its magical role on screen makes Grand Central the ideal location for Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies, an ambitious exhibition of films, photographs and sets that begins today in Vanderbilt Hall, adjacent to the main concourse," writes Caryn James in the New York Times. "The project was put together by James Sanders, based on his 2001 book of the same title, which shrewdly observes that two New Yorks - the real city and the screen fantasy - feed each other in a never-ending circle."

"I attended the world premiere of the processed Out 1 at the Rotterdam Film Festival in early 1989, a decade after I'd edited a book on Rivette that partially focused on the film," recalls Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader as the full series heads to the Gene Siskel Film Center this weekend, followed by Out 1: Spectre on June 9. About that book: "It's out of print now, but the contents are available at jacques-rivette.com." At any rate: "The screening was total dream fulfillment for a cinephile, but I was shocked when only four or five others showed up for it, so it's been gratifying to see it more recently become not just available but fashionable - the adventure it was always meant to be."

Tonite Let's All Make Love in London "The Tate Liverpool's Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era exhibition pulls in today at the Whitney Museum, just in time for the solstice of that season's 40th anniversary," notes Nick Hallett at the Reeler. "The two floors of hallucinatory artifacts exhaustively culled by Christoph Grunenberg from the twilight of the 1960s, while focusing mainly on rock memorabilia... also give due recognition to the experimental cinema traditions of that era." More frmo Holland Cotter in the NYT.

Another Hole in the Head, the San Francisco Independent Film Festival's summer celebration of all things horrific, runs June 1 through 14. At SF360, Michael Guillén: "Owning up to my own idiosyncratic tastes, here are five I would recommend from this year's line-up."

"Two days before the end of the first-annual H&M High Line Festival, performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson stood onstage at the Highline Ballroom and asked, 'Don't you love whores?'" reports for Artforum. "The festival's producers, Josh Wood and David Binder, and its curator, David Bowie, surely would have rather avoided the question. But Anderson has a knack for this sort of persistent fragment - what novelist Jonathan Lethem once called 'an itchy or gummy phrase' - and so it stuck."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:10 PM

Stranger. SIFF Notes.

SIFF Notes "From unexpected highlights in SIFF's new, environmentally conscious Planet Cinema program (The Cloud, Sharkwater) to total disasters you really ought to steer clear of (Anthony Hopkins's experimental film Slipstream, which was roundly savaged at Sundance), The Stranger's writers have been working day and night for the last month to give you the most comprehensive and indispensable guide to SIFF," writes film editor Annie Wagner. And she's referring, of course, to the weekly's annual guide to the Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Notes.

If you're following the festival, keep an eye, too, on the Siffblog, and even if you're not, an online viewing tip: Ted Z has collected 20 trailers for SIFF films not on the SIFF site.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:34 AM

Cannes. Une vieille maîtresse.

"An expert at exploring the dependence between bodies and souls, controversial French director Catherine Breillat - selected for the first time in official competition at the Cannes Film Festival and doyenne of directors - presented this morning An Old Mistress, an unexpected and surprisingly tame film," writes Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa.

Une vieille maîtresse

"Recycling her pet themes in an adaptation of the Barbey d'Aurevilly novel Une vieille maîtresse, set in 19th century Paris, the director - who at the end of 2004 survived a dangerous brain haemorrhage, which left her half paralysed for several months - has made what is almost a traditional feature, with potent love-hate relationships at the core of the plot dampened by the distance of the language of the aristocracy."

Updated through 5/26.

A "gratifyingly strong recovery from Breillat's retrograde Anatomy of Hell," announces Premiere's Glenn Kenny, who savors the plot and cast a bit: "Soon [Michael] Lonsdale's chastising the Spanish adventuress (or so it seems) Vellini, the 'old mistress' of the title, played by a feral Asia Argento. And soon after we learn that her lover Ryno de Marigny (Fu'ad Ait Aattou, sporting lips that make 60s-era-Jagger look like Mark Linn-Baker) is soon to marry the innocent heiress Hermangarde (Roxanne Masquida, whose relationship with Breillat is, I imagine, quite fascinating), and that all those in this particular social circle of the 1830's is very concerned about Ryno's libertine ways."

Rebecca Leffler talks with Breillat for the Hollywood Reporter.

Updates: "[T]his is the rare period drama that feels at once faithful to its era and thoroughly modern," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. "Breillat's ardent fans may well feel betrayed, responding only to the moment when Vellini hungrily laps the blood from her lover's gunshot wound; to my mind, this film cuts deeper than her more willfully outrageous efforts, precisely because it's populated by people who, deeply fucked up though they are, retain their sanity."

"An enormous flashback of around an hour details the ten years Ryno and La Vellini spent together and is by far the most interesting part of the film, as all that leads up to it and all that comes after is not just less interesting but actually stuffy in a respected TV-adaptation-of-a-respected-novel kind of way (associating stuffy with a Breillat film is something this critic never expected to do)," writes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "Because of the energy of the central section despite the period language and clothes (when they're on, that is), the other parts, in which the clothes permanently stay on and also feature elaborate speeches, feel even more stilted and could use a good trim."

"The mix of declamatory delivery and outsized emotions evident in much of Breillat's work has sometimes been too stilted - or just plain silly - to truly fly," asserts Variety's Lisa Nesselson. "But here the courtliness and formal cruelty of 19th-century French manners work in her favor.... Although the feelings and longing depicted are universal, the language is Frencher-than-French. Subtitles of the highest order will be needed to do justice to the dialogue's subtleties."

"Like many movies once upon a time, and few today, An Old Mistress approaches romantic passion with a voluptuous seriousness," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time. "The Cannes audience giggled at some of the more intense scenes — as when Ryno has a bullet removed from his chest and Vellini avidly licks the wound.... The film may be more seductive than it is plausible, and it's not Breillat's most engaging work (that would be Fat Girl and its funnier remake, Sex Is Comedy). But this filmmaker's train of erotic thought is always worth taking a ride on."

Update, 5/26: "Leave it to Ms Breillat, whose films include Romance, a raw, philosophical inquiry about the bedroom, and her last film, the gravely miscalculated Anatomy of Hell, to push Ms Argento further yet, and with exhilarating results," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "From the first moment she appears on screen, stretched across a divan in a supine pose and dressed in a costume that directly invokes Goya's painting The Clothed Maja (which, along with its match, The Nude Maja, was seized during the Spanish Inquisition for being 'obscene'), Ms Argento has us in her grasp. She never lets go."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 9:39 AM

Cannes, 5/25.

Cannes Cannes announces the Cinefondation awards. Jury President Jia Zhangke: "We were very stimulated by the films we saw, coming from the different countries and the different styles. They aroused my passion for film and made me want to go back to film school."

"The competition lineup has been notably strong, on occasion galvanizing, resulting in more cheers from the international press than jeers (a beloved tradition) than I've heard in the past decade," writes Manohla Dargis. "One reason for joy is that word 'art,' which isn't always mentioned in the same breath, much less the same paragraph, when Americans talk about movies."

As it happens, the New York Times is running another Cannes piece today on the other side of the movies' coin, as it were: "Amid the glamour and the French Riviera sun, more and more Wall Street banks, private equity firms and hedge funds are coming to the 12-day Cannes festival - the world's largest international film market - to try to arrange and finance entertainment deals," reports Liza Klaussmann for the New York Times. "More money is streaming into the industry, and that has helped raise the number of American firms present at Cannes, which is up 7 percent this year, compared with a 3 percent rise in overall participants, according to Jerome Paillard, who heads the film market, which is where the deals are done."

"[T]he foreign appetite for US productions is tumbling, with foreign markets turning to their own locally produced movies to fill the void," reports John Horn in the Los Angeles Times. Also: Second chances at Cannes for Death Proof and Expired.

The Guardian's Xan Brooks bids farewell to Cannes: "In the gangway I run into Razia Iqbal, the BBC's arts correspondent. We mull over what we saw and what we didn't, and I mention that I didn't think much of Wong Kar Wai's My Blueberry Nights. 'He's on the plane,' she says. 'Go over and tell him.' Obviously I don't do this. One, because it wouldn't be polite, and two, because by this point I am fed up with the whole gaudy fandango. All I want is to be home."

For the Independent, Sheila Johnston looks back on what, for her, were the highlights.

"Everyone seems to agree that there have been quite a few fine films at the Cannes Film Festival this year," writes Variety's Todd McCarthy. "What they entirely can't agree upon is which films they are." He checks around.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:58 AM

Venice @ 75. Early news and rumors.

Venice Lion "The Venice Film Festival is gearing up for a high-profile edition," reports Variety's Nick Vivarelli (via Movie City News). "One third of the lineup is probably going to be American," festival director Marco Muller tells him. "This is going to be among our strongest editions ever." August 29 through September 8.

Here's what else Vivarelli hears: Zhang Yimou will head the jury and among the films likely to screen are:

Cate Blanchett as Dylan

The full slate, around 60 titles in all, will be announced on July 26.

To celebrate its 75th anniversary (though this'll be the 64th edition, what with intermissions for world war and all), the festival will honor Alexander Kluge, also born in 1932; and the lifetime achievement award, as announced some time ago, will go to Tim Burton.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:56 AM

Cannes. We Own the Night.

"The carefully orchestrated alternations between reflectiveness and rage that made [James Gray's] prior film, The Yards, so compelling, here give way to hackneyed and predictable melodrama and a ham-fisted tendency to tell rather than show, capped off by two final lines of dialogue that, if I read my colleagues correctly, really tipped the scales in favor of hooting the thing off the screen," writes Premiere's Glenn Kenny.

We Own the Night

"Not so long ago, it looked like James Gray's career as a film director might be over," wrote Patrick Goldstein last week in a backgrounder for the Los Angeles Times. "His 2000 movie, The Yards, a drama with a cast of budding young talent - Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron - had just bombed at the box office.... What a difference seven years makes. Gray has finally emerged with a new film that could earn both critical plaudits and win the 38-year-old director a larger audience. Called We Own the Night [and in Competition], the movie is a gripping drama set in the 1980s at the height of a bloody war between New York police and Russian mobsters who have targeted the officers and their families. The film stars Phoenix and Wahlberg as brothers in conflict."

"Outbidding several companies that specialize in independent films, Sony's Columbia Pictures has plunked down a hefty $11.5 million for North American rights," John Horn reported in the LAT on Monday.

Tatiana Siegel talks with Gray for the Hollywood Reporter.

Updates, 5/26: "The set-up is great," blogs Anne Thompson. "But the story goes wrong, somehow, in the second half, despite a terrific rain-drenched car chase. It may come down to one thing: we like Phoenix so much as a rebellious party boy who isn't a cop, that we don't buy him wanting to become one. The sellers did the right thing showing the film to buyers only before the press got to it."

"Gray and cinematographer Joaquin Baca-Asay capture the gritty nights of 80s New York, and even the daytime scenes have a film of grime over them; there's some excellent camera work in the film, ranging from a hair's breadth escape Bobby makes in the desperate heat of the moment to a car chase action sequence set in a summertime downpour; the film looks coherent, cohesive, distinctive," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi. "The story doesn't feel that way, though - We Own the Night seems a little torn: Is it a family drama or an action film, a showcase for performances or a knuckle-clenching exercise in tension?"

Matt Dentler meets Robert Duvall; this isn't the interview, by the way, but the story behind the interview.

"It's good to see Gray back on his feet after years in movie jail... but this is too often a crude, unsubtle, difficult-to-digest film," writes Jeffrey Wells.

Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab: "This film is clunky but it's also very heartfelt. Feels throwbacky in a mostly good way."

"While James Gray's murky cop drama perhaps didn't belong in competition at the Cannes Film Festival - it's a solid, if unremarkable piece of storytelling - it certainly didn't deserve the chorus of boos and catcalls which drowned out the closing credits at its first press screening," writes Wendy Ide for the London Times. "What lifts the film and lights it like a beacon is Phoenix's superb central performance."

"The main complaints have been about the predictability of the plot, but Gray is plainly aiming for the emotional intensity and grand inevitability of Greek tragedy," writes Dennis Lim for IFC News. "Grave, earnest, not especially interested in humor or irony, he may not be a fashionable filmmaker, as the critical response has confirmed. In fact, he's something of an anachronism; at his best, though, he's also one of the few true classicists working in American movies."

Update, 6/2: The Toronto Star's Peter Howell listens in as James Gray and Robert Duvall, director and one of the stars of We Own the Night, butt heads over Bonnie and Clyde:

Gray: "You don't like Bonnie and Clyde? You're wrong."

Duvall: "No, you're wrong. The acting was so overstated. C'mon. The acting sucked, Jimmy! You know that!"

Gray: "I don't know. I loved that movie. I'm sorry."

Duvall: "Arthur Penn. A guy from New York doing something rural!"

Gray: "The movie doesn't play like a realistic thing. It's a whole other thing."

Duvall: "See if it holds up, Jimmy! See if it holds up!"

Via Movie City News.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 5:24 AM

Cannes. All Is Forgiven.

All Is Forgiven Variety's Justin Chang finds All Is Forgiven (Tout est pardoneé), a Directors' Fortnight entry, to be "a flawed but sensitively wrought first feature from writer-director Mia Hansen-Love. "Linear but fragmented redemption drama could have been titled Scenes From (and After) a Marriage."

Screen Daily's Lee Marshall finds it "a remarkably graceful, natural film about what it is to be human. Perhaps the most persuasive aspect of this hopeful parable of failure is the way casting, acting, script, and camerawork conspire to usher us into an immediately believable world which is observed with a painterly eye yet never seems staged."

"The movie runs a little long," writes Eric Kohn at indieWIRE. "Nevertheless, the actors demonstrate tremendous nuance in their portrayals of familial grief, and Hansen-Love's particular use of understatement in small exchanges makes it worthwhile to follow her future endeavors."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 2:24 AM

Cannes. Apres lui.

After Him "Apres lui [After Him] puts Catherine Deneuve front and center to compelling, if somewhat overwrought, effect," writes Variety's Lisa Nesselson. Director Gael Morel "isn't shy about employing the full camera vocabulary - from crane shots to extreme closeups - to frame his lead character's dismay in the months after her 20-year-old son is killed in a car crash."

For european-films.net editor Boyd van Hoeij, this is "one of [Deneuve's] most expressive roles in years.... Mourning has been a consistent theme in the films of both Morel and the films that co-screenwriter Christophe Honoré directed on his own, such as last year's Dans Paris (Inside Paris). Their exploration of the subject comes to full fruition here."

And for Allan Hunter, writing in Screen Daily, Deneuve's performance is "her most memorable and moving since Place Vendome (1998)."

Rebecca Leffler talks with Morel for the Hollywood Reporter about his Directors' Fortnight entry.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 2:21 AM

Golden Door.

Golden Door "In its basic outline the story told in Golden Door, Emanuele Crialese's beautiful dream of a film, is hardly unfamiliar," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "Some version of this immigrant's tale - setting out from the old country, crossing the Atlantic in steerage, arriving at Ellis Island - is part of the family history of millions of Americans. But what makes Mr Crialese's telling unusual, apart from the gorgeousness of his wide-screen compositions, is that his emphasis is on departure and transition, rather than arrival."

"The movie is a blessing," writes David Edelstein in New York. "We know about Ellis Island at the beginning of the last century: from books, maybe, or our grandparents or great-grandparents. But Golden Door makes it tactile.... The greatness of Golden Door is its tone; sympathetic but always wry."

"With dialogue kept to a minimum, cinematographer Agnés Godard confirms her status as one of the most extraordinary visual artists working today," writes Jean Oppenheimer in the Voice.

"Golden Door is a tad overlong and mostly short on historical revelation, but Crialese peppers it with unexpected phantasmagorical flourishes," notes Akiva Gottlieb for Nerve.

Jennifer Merin talks with director Crialese for the New York Press.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:18 AM

May 24, 2007

Cannes. You, the Living.

For Mike D'Angelo (ScreenGrab), Roy Andersson's Songs from the Second Floor has always seemed "so complete in its unique aesthetic that it was hard to imagine what he could possibly do for an encore. A: More of the same, only with a jauntier, less overtly despairing tone. Indeed, You, the Living, a late addition to the Un Certain Regard section, sometimes feels like a lost silent comedy, with magnificently constructed sight gags... and a recurring Dixieland-jazz score, heavy on the tuba."

You, the Living

Variety's Justin Chang, too, sees You as "a gentler companion piece" to Songs. "But absent its predecessor's anticapitalist spirit and prevailing mood of apocalyptic despair, Andersson's fourth feature is marginally lighter, even sweeter in tone, and its playful use of music - the ensemble includes a punk-haired guitarist, a Louisiana jazz quartet and a woman who bursts into song after a near suicidal rant - turns You, the Living into a sort of miserabilist ode to the foibles of daily human existence, with each scene repping a solo variation on this theme."

"Filmed in washed-out pastels and slightly hazy interiors, the film creates its own parallel and slightly askew worldview much like Andersson's previous film (and the films from Aki Kaurismäki from neighbouring Finland)," writes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "The key to their success is that their worlds are so recognisable because they reduce the real world to its bare essentials without compromising their characters."

"'Be pleased then, you the living, in your delightfully warmed bed, before Lethe's ice-cold wave will lick your escaping foot.' This quote from Goethe alluded to in You, the Living... aptly sums up the director's objectives: to add a joie de vivre expressed by burlesque humor to the quite desperate state of the human being and the contemporary world." Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa.

Update, 5/25: "Andersson is a genuine one-off, and to be treasured, not least for the precision of his pacing and his studio-shot compositions, which together contrive to make the very bleakest of scenarios at once affecting and hilarious," writes Time Out's Geoff Andrew.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 3:06 PM

Cannes. Ocean's Thirteen.

Ocean's Thirteen "In the Bizarro-world landscape of Cannes, Ocean's Thirteen [site; screening Out of Competition] can actually be seen as a bold departure from the mainstream; after nearly two weeks of slow-mo black and white, grinding poverty in Eastern Europe, subtitled mayhem, suicide, unsimulated sex wrenching teen angst and Dogme-style naturalism, a few movie stars feels like a nice change from the same old same old," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi. "I wish I could tell you that Ocean's Thirteen is pure adult fun, or that it charms your pants off, or that it at least had you guessing how the boys were going to pull it off this time; I can't quite do that. Ocean's Thirteen is pretty much a confection of silly gags, great visuals, male bonhomie and goofy comedic 'suspense.' And I'm not, per se, complaining; you might as well complain that the ocean contains hydrogen, oxygen and salt."

Updated through 5/31.

Glenn Kenny notes that, in his first-impression review, he wrote that "Ocean's Thirteen goes down like a caphirina. Now I see Variety's Todd McCarthy calling it 'as smooth as a good mojito.' I swear we did not work this out."

"No journalist I've spoken to thus far is doing cartwheels over this thing," reports Jeffrey Wells.

"It's one of the smuggest franchises in cinema, but it's also a guilty pleasure to watch," confesses James Christopher in the London Times.

It's all good: "The A-list cast raised 9.2 million dollars (6.8 million euros) at an exclusive charity bash on a yacht off this Riviera resort for Sudanese uprooted by the savage conflict in Darfur," reports Marc Burleigh for the AFP.

Update: Salon's Andrew O'Hehir reports on the press conference: "Soderbergh said that the Ocean's films are actually harder for him to make than his 'serious,' art-house films. Gesturing out at the group of reporters, he said, 'There's an assumption on that side of the room that isn't on this side of the room, an assumption that people who make entertainment films somehow care less about what they're doing.' He added that the Ocean's series has allowed him to experiment with camera motion, editing and, especially in this new film, the exaggerated colors of his Las Vegas setting."

Update, 5/25: "The new film is so listless and logy it needed Michael Moore to take it to Cuba for emergency medical treatment," quips Time's Richard Corliss.

Update, 5/31: "Time's Josh Tyrangiel sat down in Cannes with a very loose George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and series newcomer Ellen Barkin - in her first film role in quite some time and, in case you forgot, kind of a live wire - to discuss politics, Al Pacino, the Pitt-Jolie paparazzi juggernaut, and their favorite leading men. And in Barkin's case, to exploit every possible opportunity for innuendo."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 12:23 PM | Comments (8)

Cannes. Secret Sunshine.

"Not a frame is wasted in this 142-minute Korean drama from director Lee Chang-Dong, which begins with a mother and son stranded on the road to Miryang, the Korean town whose Chinese characters translate as the film's title," writes Premiere's Glenn Kenny. "The first 40 minutes or so comprise fish-out-of-water comedy/drama of the sort that might have Hollywood pursuing remake rights, but an awful tragedy sends the movie and its heroine into another direction altogether."

Secret Sunshine

"Secret Sunshine [in Competition] is an ambitious, almost novelistic pic by writer-helmer Lee Chang-dong (Peppermint Candy) that ultimately fails to dramatize its lead character's conflicts in cinematic terms," writes Variety's Derek Elley. "Credit amassed by pic's slow-burning beginning and interesting mid-section is dissipated by a long final act in which the air is let out of the bag."

Highlights from the press conference.

Earlier: Scott Foundas.

Updates: "Secret Sunshine is not an uber-arty film - like some of the competition's more pretentious standouts - but in its own sharp, sensitive and fully naturalistic mode, it expresses profound human truths in a fully realized way that has been rare at this year's festival," writes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE.

"The film features outstanding performances by its two leads: Jeon Do-yeon as the story's central figure and Song Kang-ho, probably Korea's most popular actor at the moment, here playing more of a supporting role," notes Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter. "The film ends on a neutral note as if Lee were telling a story with no real end. It's a life and at some point the story must stop, but the life continues with the future never entirely certain. This is a considerable achievement: To offer up a mix of movie genres yet make a story come together as a perfectly fitting and comprehensible whole."

"Nothing brings an uproar faster than the topic of religion and Secret Sunshine doesn't hold back in questioning the existence of God or critiquing the role of religion in society," writes luna6 at Lunapark6:

It's no secret Do-yeon Jeon is a wonderful actress, just reference her performance in You Are My Sunshine or My Mother Is A Mermaid as proof. Yet, the brevity of pain she was able to express during her descent into darkness in Secret Sunshine was something to absolutely marvel at. During the final portions of the movie my hands were literally clenched to the armrests, out of this gripping fear of what she could possibly do next. I was actually praying another tragedy would not occur in her life.

Meanwhile, Kang-ho Song seems to get better and better with each movie that he performs in.

Via Jon Pais at Twitch.

Update, 5/25: "Some fervently admired Secret Sunshine, others thought it slow and forced; and you can get those varying opinions from the authors of this journal," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time. "The big news here is Jeon's performance, which is being touted for the Best Actress prize."

Update, 5/26: "When the prizes are handed out tomorrow, it's almost inconceivable that Lee Chang-dong's Secret Sunshine will not be among the major winners," writes Dennis Lim for IFC News. "The film's secret weapon is its disarming plainness - a transparency that confers a kind of grace and belies an emotional complexity. It's about as limpid and unexploitative a film as you could imagine on the subject of human suffering."

Update, 5/27: "In the end, I found the film's dogged descent into madness dramatically unsatisfying," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab.

Update, 5/28: "What strikes you first about this film is how true to life it feels, even in the somewhat over-the-top second half," writes Darcy Paquet at Koreanfilm.org. "If there's any philosophy to be found in Secret Sunshine, it's a faith that, in presenting a story as close to 'reality' as possible, something worthwhile will emerge. It's a belief in honesty - honesty in filmmaking, in facing life with no illusions. It may sound like a lofty ambition, but in practice it's not much to hang onto. We traverse several circles of hell together with Shin-ae, and then emerge with empty hands."

Update, 5/30: "Winning best actress award at the Cannes film festival has not made South Korea's Jeon Do-yeon a global star, she said on Wednesday, but it has made her family a lot nicer to her." A Reuters story.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 9:08 AM

Shorts, fests, etc, 5/24.

Magic Mirror "Academic theologians with a taste for obdurate Brechtian aesthetics, say hello to your new favorite film!" Nathan Lee in the Voice on Magic Mirror, the latest from Manoel de Oliveira, born 1908. "Unlike Jean-Luc Godard (born in 1930), who has long equated his own mortality with the lifespan of cinema, de Oliveira has a sense of humor about his role in the Long Goodbye of the Seventh Art."

"According to Asian Popcorn, the new film by Jia Zhang-ke, entitled Shuang Xiong Hui, will star none other than the sensational Maggie Cheung," reports Aaron at Kung Fu Cult Cinema.

Rescue Dawn "Remaking Little Dieter Needs to Fly as a fictional feature always seemed a project doomed to unflattering comparisons, as Werner Herzog's 1997 documentary about the titular German-American fighter pilot and his escape from a Vietnam POW camp remains one of the purest and most moving evocations of the director's belief in man's violent relationship to the natural world, and the difficulty in rising above one's past," writes Nick Schager. "And yet here is Rescue Dawn, a stunning film that - despite criticisms that it's an example of Herzog succumbing to easy, uncomplicated convention - radiates with the same haunting unreality and quirky poetry that marked Little Dieter's non-fiction footage of American planes bombing Vietnamese forests, images which commence this fictionalized version of Dieter Dengler's lengthy saga inside (and then in the jungles surrounding) a Laos prisoner-of-war facility."

"I present the people I film with a lot of love; you have to be very patient towards human beings when you shoot them, because documentary characters are individuals and you deprive them of their privacy." David Perlov on his page for Diary - which acquarello reviews.

"The legacy of the concentration camp survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal is one of unimpeachable bravery, but I Have Never Forgotten You, a new documentary, is a suspect monument to his courage," writes Matt Zoller Seitz; more from Jesse Sweet in the L Magazine and Julia Wallace in the Voice.

Orange Winter Also, "In the documentary Orange Winter orange blooms throughout Kiev, Ukraine, the epicenter of dissent over that country's stolen 2004 presidential elections"; more from Aaron Hillis in the Voice and, at Slant, Rob Humanick: "One can't help but think about it in comparison to most American's meek acceptance of the contrived 2000 election results, but this is a story that remains truly that of the Ukraine's, with [director Andrei] Zagdansky's attempts to chart it amidst artistic representations of the countries' history proving to be a somewhat double-edged sword."

And also in the New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis on Dying at Grace: "Allan King's wrenching record of five real deaths is a potent reminder of the fearful gap between fiction and reality." And: "9 Star Hotel may strive to make the political personal, but it does so via subjects who seem just as willing to question their own culture as the one that excludes them." More from Ella Taylor in the Voice.

Hollywood Dreams "The immodest, celebrity-hound [Henry] Jaglom is the filmmaker others love to loathe, especially if they've seen him operate," notes Gerald Peary in the Boston Phoenix. "Hollywood Dreams, which opens this Friday at the Kendall Square, is - even for Jaglom - an enervating satire, the tale of a needy, hysteric, semi-homely crybaby from Iowa (the very irritating Tanna Frederick) who's arrived in LA seeking her fortune as an actress." Related: Alonso Duralde interviews Jaglom for Film Independent.

"Sarah Polley's directorial debut, Away From Her, is the kind of movie you want to get behind, sort of in the way Brokeback Mountain was," writes Andrew Chan. "Like Brokeback, the film is an adaptation of a New Yorker story, one that tempers its inherently melodramatic subject with an admirable degree of emotional restraint. But, also like Brokeback, the film doesn't fully transfer to the screen what made its source material so moving."

Godfrey Cheshire in the Independent Weekly on Into Great Silence:

The monk is praying and we are watching: just that. No drama, no argument, no momentum. This is what the whole film will be like, it quickly tells us. And thus we begin to understand, even if we can't articulate it at first, that the silence we're voyaging into, the great silence, is not just the monastery's and this monk's, but our own - if we will hear it.

Even from this initial compositional scheme, however, you might correctly infer that [Philip] Gröning is also inviting us to ponder something else, too: the spiritual implications of the great voyage of Western visual art, from painting to photography to cinema.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Dave Micevic: "The most notable aspect of Symbiopsychotaxiplasm is [William] Greaves's decision to strip himself of authoritative control."

Jim Ridley in the Voice on Barry Lyndon: "Stanley Kubrick's magisterial Thackeray adaptation now stands as one of his greatest and most savagely ironic films, not to mention one of the few period pieces on celluloid so transporting that it seems to predate the invention of cameras."

At Koreanfilm.org, Darcy Paquet interviews Family Ties director (and Memento Mori co-director) Kim Tae-yong.

At Dr Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope, Scott Balcerzak offers background on the evolution of the forthcoming collection, Presence of Pleasure: The Work of Cinephilia in the Age of Digital Reproduction.

Talk to Me is a 23-minute doc on 20 years worth of one man's answering machine tapes. That man is Mark Craig and he tells his story in the Guardian.

"Humble though it seems, Once has the grand ambition of restoring real life to the musical, or vice versa," writes Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix, where Brett Michel talks with Glen Hansard and John Carney.

Troll 2 Dr George Hardy and Michael Stephenson, co-stars of Troll 2, have set up a website, Best Worst Movie - and they're looking to make a doc by the same name as well. Cheryl Eddy talks with Hardy.

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

  • Jason Shamai on Zoo.

  • Cheryl Eddy: "It's not as scary as last year's The Descent (nor as funny as [Shaun of the Dead]), but Severance is yet another indication that the UK horror invasion ain't ebbing anytime soon." Related: "Severance isn't your garden-variety torture porn; it slices and dices with a wink and a nod to the Economist crowd," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly.

  • Dennis Harvey: "[T]he 12 features in the Pacific Film Archive's new series Czech Modernism, 1926–1949 show why Nazi invaders sensed a celluloid threat: these films are full of playful social critique as well as imaginative stylistic leaps."

"The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival announced its lineup Tuesday for the 2007 event, to be held June 14 - 24," and Susan Gerhard has an overview at SF360. "The world's oldest LGBT film festival, it's still the largest among a growing number of such festivals." Also: Robert Avila looks back on the Mendocino Film Festival.

At the WSWS, Joanne Laurier looks back on films from and about Africa screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

The Austin Chronicle has the lineup for the Paramount Theatre Summer Film Classics Series. Also: Carson Barker talks with Herschell Gordon Lewis; and Shawn Badgley on the Planet Earth series: "The science and the scenery embarrass us with their dignity: Quietly, they make it clear how unfair it is that the fate of the world depends on otherwise so inconsequential a species."

William Speruzzi calls for an "Ambitious Failure Blog-a-Thon": "To participate there is only one requirement: write a convincing essay that will provoke thought on why your chosen film is considered an ambitious failure, deserved or otherwise, and some thoughts on what went wrong, if hindsight worked in the film's favor and/or what was the fate of the film's creators etc."

Online viewing tip. At the Daily Reel, the trailer for the Found Footage Festival.

Online viewing tip #2. Miranda July in the video for Blonde Redhead's "Top Ranking."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:50 AM

Cannes, 5/24.

Cannes In the New York Times, AO Scott spots a running motif: "Given that a theme of the recent French presidential election was a perceived national identity crisis, it is possible to imagine the present cluster of pro-French movies by non-French directors as a kind of friendly reassurance. Hey, these filmmakers seem to be saying, don't be so down on yourselves. We love you."

"It's been a long time since we've seen a festival this good." Signandsight translates a dispatch by Daniel Kothenschulte for the Frankfurter Rundschau. "Thierry Fremaux, the festival's artistic director, has had a terrific idea, and it's a wonder no one thought of it before. He simply puts the best films he can get his hands on into the competition. It's so simple, and before you know it everyone's in a good mood. Provided they've got nothing against a radical, demanding film aesthetic, that is."

AJ Schnack cedes the floor to Denver Film Festival programmer Brit Whithey.

George the Cyclist is sending concise dispatches.

"The parties, the formal wear, the red carpet - all conspire to create what is known as the 'Cannes experience,' as fantastic as Disneyland," blogs Shane Danielsen at the Guardian. "Yet this year reality, knotty and distressing, keeps breaking in - both onscreen and off."

IndieWIRE on dealmaking and Romania's pavilion.

At Zoom In Online, Christina Kotlar goes to market and contemplates the future of cinema.

Matt Dentler and Cinematical's James Rocchi have snapped more photos.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:03 AM

Cannes. Alexandra.

"Alexander Sokurov's latest feature is his most conventional film in recent memory," writes Premiere's Glenn Kenny of Alexandra (in Competition). "Not a shot is fired in this antiwar film; what Sokurov is up to here is bringing to light the tedious oppression of occupation.... Conventional as it may seem, this is actually one of his most subtle pictures."

Alexandra

Nick Holdsworth talks with Sokurov for the Hollywood Reporter.

Updated through 5/27.

Updates: "Though he's sure to deny it, Alexandra is Alexander Sokurov's most directly political work for years," writes Variety's Jay Weissberg. "Alexandra inhabits a world of specificity and universality. The setting is Chechnya, and Alexandra's questioning of 'what is the Fatherland?' is an undeniable critique of that particular conflict, sure to make Vladimir Putin mighty uncomfortable. But Sokurov uses this one seemingly endless conflict to reflect upon the totality of the war experience, not in some superficial and sentimental way but by revealing the loss of basic humanity."

"[Galina] Vishnevskaya is superb as the plucky old woman whose eyes convey the sadness of everything she sees but who has the gumption to insist to the Chechen woman that she must come to visit her," notes Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter.

Update, 5/27: "I've never understood Sokurov's appeal and apparently never will," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 7:15 AM | Comments (1)

Angel-A.

Angel-A "To the chagrin of French critics and cinephiles, the scale of [Luc Besson's] success has reoriented French filmmaking away from the literary-intellectual tradition for which it is famed," writes Jaime Wolf in the New York Times. "Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie, a sentimental crowd pleaser that straddled Hollywood and French romantic comedy conventions, would be unthinkable without Mr Besson; so too the slick, explosive big-budget genre films like The Crimson Rivers and Brotherhood of the Wolf that have played around the world."

Updated through 5/27.

And, with Angel-A, he "returns to Paris with a little movie that begins as playful comedy about a crook who meets a beautiful woman — and ends as dreadfully dumbed-down remake of Wings of Desire," writes Jürgen Fauth.

Nick Schager at Slant sees it as "a modern riff on It's a Wonderful Life in which the filmmaker's trademark hyper-spasmodic action is set aside in favor of endless, static meet-cute talkativeness."

"It has a Capraesque valedictory glow and an insistently pure simplicity, but it's also broad and belabored in the distinctive manner of an imported buddy movie," writes Nicolas Rapold for the L Magazine.

In the New York Press, Armond White sets up a litmus test: "Paprika's vibrant visual style might seem novel but its content is far less daring than Luc Besson's traditionally photographed, live-action movie Angel-A. (Both films open this week. Whichever proves most popular will indicate if our film culture is ready to grow up.)" Ready, set, go!

"Even at 90 minutes, Angel-A is an endless quagmire of redemptive stupidity," writes Vadim Rizov at the Reeler. "Like a literalized adaptation of the Depeche Mode chestnut 'Personal Jesus,' Angel-A invites us not just to reach out and touch faith, but to ogle its ass a little as well."

Updates, 5/25: "Angel-A isn't as nutso as some of Besson's other pictures: It doesn't have the crazy inventiveness of, say, The Fifth Element," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "As I watched it, I found myself wishing it were just a little loopier. But the picture is still seductive and pleasing, partly because Besson and his cinematographer, Thierry Arbogast (the genius director of photography behind Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale), have made Paris look like the kind of city you could visit only in your dreams."

"Rie Rasmussen and Jamel Debbouze, the stars who portray Angela, the celestial therapist, and André, her star patient, display enough screwball romantic charm to keep this sugary trifle afloat longer than you'd expect," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times.

"The comically mismatched duo share some borderline metaphysical conversation that leans more toward Dr Phil than Descartes and meander through a gorgeously shot, depopulated Paris (it's nearly as empty as London in 28 Days Later) with Angela teaching André the power of looking in the mirror and saying, 'Je t'aime,'" writes Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times.

The AV Club's Nathan Rabin: "There's ample opportunity for dark comedy in a film about a gorgeous guardian angel with a mouth like a sailor, fists of fury, and the badass attitude of a sneering punk-rocker, but Besson inexplicably goes for soft-headed romance."

Bilge Ebiri's verdict for Nerve: "[T]wo-thirds of a great Luc Besson movie and one-third of what is, at best, merely a Luc Besson movie."

"The film's unsuppressed eccentricity does allow for a few nips of pleasure," writes Nick Pinkerton at indieWIRE, "But by any measure, it's a wreck of a movie."

Todd at Twitch: "Catfight! Besson and Weinstein Doing Their Best To Claw Each Other's Eyes Out!"

Update, 5/27: Mark Olsen talks with Besson for the Los Angeles Times.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:49 AM

Cannes. Water Lilies.

Water Lilies A "Camera D'Or contender that heralds the start of a promising career, La Naissance des Pieuvres (Water Lillies) introduces audiences to the struggles of transitioning into womanhood through the eyes of Celine Sciamma," writes Eric Kohn at indieWIRE. "The French director demonstrates a strong command of character development and pace in this charming account of two high school girls whose friendship comes into question when various sexual tensions enter their naive existence.... Sciamma directs like a tame, optimistic version of Catherine Breillat. She could work wonders for the sorry state of mainstream teenage comedies in America."

Updated.

In this story of a girls' synchronized swimming team which screens in the Un Certain Regard section, Celine Sciamma "nails the aching doubts and offhanded cruelty of 15- and 16-year-old girls," writes Lisa Nesselson in Variety. "The amount of effort to keep one's smiling head above water while churning prevails below the waist is apt indeed."

"With seductive and spontaneous performances by new actress Pauline Acquart (who calls to mind Charlotte Gainsbourg in L'effrontée), Adele Haenel (who came to attention in Christophe Ruggia's The Devils) and Louise Blachère, the characters of Marie, Floriane and Anne struggle with the contradictions of an age that the director deals without falling into the trap of nostalgia of a first film," writes Fabien Lemercier for Cineuropa.

Update: "The film has a shimmering, haunted quality that recalls The Virgin Suicides, and marks out Sciamma as a talent to watch out for," writes the Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 4:58 AM

SIFF. Preview.

For nearly a full month each year, movies are thick as rain and coffee beans in Seattle. Sean Axmaker previews the festivities.

Seattle International Film Festival The first American screening of Son of Rambow since Sundance 2007 kicks off the 33rd Seattle International Film Festival tonight. (The film was curiously unscreened for critics, ostensibly at the request of distributor Paramount Vantage, despite a warm reception at Sundance.) The North American premiere of the French costume farce Molière brings the festival to a close on Sunday, June 17. In between are 24 days of screenings featuring over 280 features and documentaries (including 17 world premieres and 29 North American premieres) and 117 short films: the longest film festival marathon in the United States, and the most well attended.

Updated.

Trail of the Screaming Forehead World premieres include the black comedy Sex and Death 101 the second directorial effort from Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters, who also wrote a leading role for Heathers star Winona Ryder; the B-movie alien invasion parody Trail of the Screaming Forehead by Larry Blamire (The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra), and the Seattle-spawned Lovecraft adaptation Cthulhu, directed by Daniel Gildark. North American premieres include Timur Bekmambetov's blockbuster Russian hit Day Watch, the second film in the epic fantasy trilogy, Jacob Cheung's A Battle of Wits from Hong Kong, and My Friend & His Wife by Shin Dong-il (Host and Guest) from South Korea. Milos Forman's international drama Goya's Ghosts, starring Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard, makes its US premiere.

The Remains of the Day Guest of honor Anthony Hopkins is attending with his directorial debut, Slipstream, and will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award and an evening tribute with an onstage interview and a screening of The Remains of the Day. Also honored this year are four directors chosen as "Emerging Masters": Abderrahmane Sissako (Bamako) from Mauritania, Eytan Fox (The Bubble) from Israel, Franco-Iranian Rafi Pitts (It's Winter) and Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose) from France. Sissako is unable to attend, due to commitments on the Cannes jury, but the other three have committed to attend.

Berlin: Symphony of a City German cinema gets the spotlight with a selection of 15 features and documentaries from Germany, among them Volker Schlöndorff's Strike, his dramatization of Poland's Solidarity movement, and Chris Kraus's award-winning sophomore feature Four Minutes, as well as a revival of Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a City with a live score performed by Sub-Pop recording artists Kinski.

The latter is also part of the third "Face the Music" program, a collection of music documentaries and live events that include "An Evening With Lisa Gerrard" in conjunction with the documentary Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard and "Conversation with Julien Temple," who accompanies his new documentary Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten, as well a local-focus documentaries Kurt Cobain: About a Son and Girls Rock!, Arne Johnson's portrait of a rock camp for girls in Portland, Oregon.

The Big Combo Archival presentations include a film noir double feature hosted by Eddie Muller (who promises a brand spanking new 35mm print of the brilliant The Big Combo), four classic swashbucklers from the golden age of Hollywood, the 1933 hit comedy Tugboat Annie (which was shot in Seattle's Pike Place), and a couple of rare silent presentations: the 1919 A Sentimental Bloke from Australia and the noir-ish A Cottage on Dartmoor, directed by Anthony Asquith. And that doesn't include the never-to-be revealed "Secret Festival" stealth screenings, where non-disclosure agreements signed by passholders guarantee that whatever happens at Secret Fest stays at Secret Fest.

The Egyptian Theater on Capitol Hill is still the ostensible anchor of the festival, but this year SIFF has its own home cinema at McCaw Hall in Seattle Center. The new SIFF Cinema, which opened in March with 32 films from the Janus film classics package, is a refurbished lecture hall that has turned into a very comfortable theater seating over 400. It's currently home to SIFF press screenings (which are also open to all full-series passholders) and will become one of the seven screens for festival showings. You can still walk between the Egyptian and the Harvard Exit and Pacific Place if you don't mind a healthy hike, but with SIFF Cinema in Seattle Center, the Neptune in the University District and Lincoln Square in Bellevue, this festival is more spread out than ever, making theater jumping difficult. If you're planning a day of screenings, it's easier to pick a venue and stay put for a couple of films than ricocheting across town... not that it will stop the diehards from doing just that.

Let the films begin.

- Sean Axmaker.


Updates: Previews at the Siffblog: Gillian G Gaar on Girls Rock!, Crazy Love and Doubletime; and on The Life and times of Yva Las Vegass and Red Road.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:15 AM | Comments (1)

May 23, 2007

Cannes, 5/23.

Alexander Litvinenko The BBC and Reuters report on a late entrant into the official selection at Cannes: Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case.

The festival "doesn't wrap up until the awards on Sunday, but it's not too early to size up this year's 60th anniversary celebration." Charles Ealy takes a good long look back at the Austin Movie Blog.

Dave Kehr's got more great quotage from the French press, where ideas are being floated as to who might win which awards.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:11 PM

Cannes @ 60. Index.

Cannes Revised: First, the awards - and of course, commentary on the awards and on the festival overall.

And below, an overview of what's been collected here so far of the initial impressions of a bafflingly wide range of films from critics writing for blogs, papers and trades. Naturally, updates to the index, and indeed, to the entries for the individual films carry on.

The discussion of what many of us following Cannes from afar might be looking forward to eventually seeing, which was started here, also continues.

Competition:

Out of Competition:

Un Certain Regard:

Special Screenings:

Cannes Classics:

Directors' Fortnight:

Critics' Week:

To Each His Own Cinema seems to have been too special to list even among the "Special Screenings," but it needs to be indexed as well.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:39 PM | Comments (6)

Cannes. Ploy.

Ploy "Ploy represents [Pen-Ek] Ratanaruang's continued evolution," writes Todd Brown at Twitch. "It is another step further down the road he began to chart with Last Life in the Universe. Though there is a crime element to it, as there is in every one of Ratanaruang's films, the film far more resembles the work of his countryman Apichatpong Weerasethakul than it does Tarantino - to whom his early films drew frequent comparisons - while also inviting a re-evaluation of his previous film, Invisible Waves, as a necessary step taken to arrive here. And, yes, it is very good."

"Thai auteur Pen-ek Ratanaruang's most mature, measured film to date, Ploy offers a darkly poetic variation on the theme of The Seven Year Itch," writes Lee Marshall for Screen Daily. "This is such a tasty slice of cinema, by turns onieric, erotic, funny and emotionally perceptive, that it could easily have made the Cannes competition rather than the Quinzaine [Directors' Fortnight] sidebar. Ploy imposes its own unhurried rhythm but then rewards its viewers for their indulgence."

But Variety's Russell Edwards finds it all "too flimsy and false to truly engage."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 1:47 PM

Cannes. The Edge of Heaven.

"Director Fatih Akin continues his insightful exploration of the things that divide and bridge different cultures and generations in his absorbing In Competition film The Edge of Heaven [site]," writes Ray Bennett for the Hollywood Reporter (where Scott Roxborough interviews Akin). "Like his 2004 Berlin Golden Bear winner Head-On, the film deals with Turkish folk living in Germany but this time he brings his story back to Istanbul."

The Edge of Heaven

"The Edge of Heaven, evenly paced and featuring a range of intelligent, charismatic characters about all of whom an entire movie could be made, abounds with personal and political dramas," writes the Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu. "It tackles, without ever simplifying or trying to resolve too neatly, issues of diaspora and cross-generational kinship. It also asks timely questions about the impact that possible entry into the EU will have on Turkish people. But with so many compelling individuals and relationships, it's frustrating that Akin hasn't given himself time to pull them together more convincingly."

"The point at which a good director crosses the career bridge to become a substantial international talent is vividly clear in The Edge of Heaven, an utterly assured, profoundly moving fifth feature by Fatih Akin," writes Variety's Derek Elley. [Excuse me a moment... eeeeYesss! Ok, sorry.] "Superbly cast drama, in which the lives and emotional arcs of six people - four Turks and two Germans - criss-cross through love and tragedy takes the German-born Turkish writer-director's ongoing interest in two seemingly divergent cultures to a humanist level that's way beyond the grungy romanticism of his 2003 Head-On or the dreamy dramedy of In July (2000). Robust upscale biz looks a given."

In German: Die Welt runs Cannes diary by Akin himself; for non-German speakers, it's worth Googlizing.

As Andreas Borcholte reports for Spiegel Online, Hanna Schygulla's said, "He reminded me of the young Fassbinder."

Update: "Those expecting the punkish, masochistic energy of Head-On, with its car-crashing and wrist-cutting and club-hopping, may be a bit surprised by this new film's more measured and contemplative tone," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. "All the same, Akin's keen intelligence, his sensitivity to cultural dislocation and his skill with actors are all still very much in evidence."

Updates, 5/24: "The plot contrivances are elaborate, but the heartfelt compassion and intelligence of the direction are what count," writes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw.

Signandsight takes note of a couple of very positive reactions in the German press.

"[W]hile Akin's heartfelt political intentions are laudable, the under-developed characters seem to be more at the service of the intricate plot, rather than the other way around," writes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE.

"[T]he movie forces its largely believable and sympathetic characters into an increasingly ludicrous web of contrivances," writes Dennis Lim at IFC News.

Updates, 5/25: Camillo de Marco interviews Akin for Cineuropa.

"Akin's work is so serene, contemplative and yet so complex that it bypasses any simple comparisons to recent convoluted choral works such as Crash and Babel and offers pleasing touches of Kieslowskian non-coincidences, though Akin is certainly not on the same level as the legendary Polish director of the Ten Commandments and the Three Colours Trilogy - at least, not yet," writes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "As an acting showcase, Auf der andere Seite is outstanding. Hanna Schygulla gives one of her most riveting performances in years, while the Turkish ensemble is excellent all-round."

Update, 5/27: "After half a century of immigration, every new generation of Turks [in Germany] is still, to a large extent, a first generation." That stroke is painted far too broadly, but Christopher Caldwell explains what he actually means in a piece for the New York Times Magazine.

Update, 5/31: Peter Beddies has a terrific interview with Akin in Der Welt (and in German).


Cannes @ 60. Index.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:06 AM | Comments (9)

Cannes. Persepolis.

"Any stragglers still unconvinced that animation can be an exciting medium for both adults and kids will run out of arguments in the face of Persepolis [site]," proclaims Variety's Lisa Nesselson. "Like the four-volume series of graphic novels on which it's based, this autobiographical tour de force is completely accessible and art of a very high order. First-person tale of congenitally rebellious Marjane Satrapi, who was 8 years old when the Islamic Revolution transformed her native Teheran, boasts a bold lyricism spanning great joy and immense sorrow."

Persepolis

"The young woman, who now lives in Paris, paints a grim picture, one familiar to those of us in the West but one that many Iranians and Islamic fundamentalists will no doubt vehemently reject," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. "The filmmakers were right to believe that a live-action version of this story would have failed to achieve the universality Persepolis does. (In the department of thankfully avoided horrors, Satrapi has disclosed she was even offered a movie that would have starred Jennifer Lopez and Brad Pitt as her parents!) Animation allows any viewer to experience the story not as an exotic tale but as something happening to a person with whom we can readily identify."

"Persepolis' main drawback as a piece of cinema is its episodic structure, which makes it feel like a strung-together sequence of autobiographical shorts rather than a film with a dramatic arc," argues Lee Marshall at Screen Daily. That said, "One of the charms of Persepolis, on page and screen, is Satrapi's vein of irony and self-deprecatory humor."

Reuters' Bob Tourtellotte reports that at her press conference, "Satrapi sought to play down Iranian protests over her animated movie Persepolis on Wednesday, asking audiences to focus on its humanity, not its politics."

Update: "As awful as the things that happen in the story are, the viewer is happy to be in its world anyway, because Satrapi is such a companionable guide through it," writes Premiere's Glenn Kenny. "Satrapi's graphic style is simple - some of the early sequences look like Peanuts with headscarves - but it has legs, more than enough to sustain a 96-minute feature."

Updates, 5/24: "Even when the story turns from Iranian political melodrama into more familiar coming-of-age territory, Persepolis never loses its momentum, its sustaining sense of fun or its rapturous hold on the viewer," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time.

"Lovers of the books will miss certain anecdotes, but the film adds a few film-specific flourishes (an amusing musical sequence scored to 'Eye of the Tiger') to liven up the visuals," writes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE. "And if there were any doubts about the movie's ability to stir up feelings of nostalgia or homesickness, there was an Iranian woman sitting beside me sobbing uncontrollably throughout the screening."

"Some audience members thought the film twee, but the filmmakers do a pretty good job of compressing material from multiple volumes, combining gross-out humour with near-gauzy abstraction, and synthesizing a compelling personal story and a salutary political survey," reports the Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu.

Update, 5/26: Update, 5/26: "Satrapi's savage attack on life in her native country after the Islamic Revolution has brought an official protest from Iran, claiming that the film's picture of repression and persecution is biased and exaggerated," notes Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times. "Is it? Not by the facts at most westerners' disposal."

Update, 5/31: The Jury Prize is not good news for Mehdi Kalhor, a cultural adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reports the AFP: "Islamophobia in Western drama started in France and producing and highlighting the anti-Iranian film Persepolis in Cannes falls in line with this Islamophobia." Via Movie City News.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 10:03 AM

Cannes. The Orphanage.

The Orphanage "[O]nce in a while, a film that's not on our liturgical calendar gains a must-see reputation," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time. "At press luncheons or in the corridors by the critics' mail boxes, we hear of a picture that has seized some early viewers' imaginations and becomes a Word of Mouth hit.... It's as if we learned that a cup of café au lait at some backwater dive was the Holy Grail. Gotta have a sip from that. That's the urgent odor that this year attached itself to The Orphanage [El Orfanato; site; MySpace], a Spanish thriller written by Sergio G Sanchez, directed by first-timer Juan Antonio Bayona and shown in the little-attended Critics' Week section.... The happy news is twofold: The Orphanage quite lives up to its billing; and it's been bought for US release by Picturehouse, the company that distributed Pan's Labyrinth."

Jeffrey Wells has seen it "twice, which is perhaps an irresponsible thing given all the movies and events to be absorbed at the Cannes Film Festival. But it's such a deliciously haunting and rousingly effective work that I couldn't resist."

"An unsettling Spanish synthesis of The Innocents, The Others and every other cinematic chiller about a woman's psychic fixation with some not-so-innocent children, this macabre tale of maternal madness should be able to parlay critical acclaim and the imprimatur of producer Guillermo del Toro into robust arthouse returns, with otherworldly ancillary to follow," predicts Variety's Justin Chang.

"While decidedly safer and sweeter than Del Toro's work, El Orfanato is still an effective and beautiful look at the haunted home that once was an orphanage, and the spirits of troubled children still wrecking havoc on a small family," writes Matt Dentler. "It's not new territory, but imaginative in some sublime ways."

Update, 5/30: "At first, The Orphanage is a bit clunky and conventional, with an over-large helping of the usual inexplicable slamming of doors and quick glimpses of ghostly personages that aren't supposed to be there, along with the de rigueur rain, thunder, and heavy, foreboding music," writes Peter Brunette for Screen Daily. "All of this foreplay, as it were, lasts maybe a little bit longer than it does in standard genre fare, and than it should - but the wait is worth it."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 7:53 AM

Bug.

Bug "Bug, directed by William Friedkin from Tracy Letts's play, has the feverish compression of live theater and the moody expansiveness of film," writes David Edelstein in New York. "The mix is insanely powerful.... I wish I'd been able to giggle at Bug for being so over-the-top. But line by line, beat by beat, it's gripping stuff, and Friedkin puts you right in the middle of the mêlée. How did the coldly detached director of The French Connection, The Exorcist and To Live and Die in LA manage to get inside this play—preserving its theatricality yet making it such a live-wire experience?"

"Bug, made on the cheap for the horror-loving kids at Lionsgate, is genuinely freaky-deaky, not to mention more inventively unsettling than anything Friedkin has mustered in the quarter-century since twisting little Linda Blair into a satanic spewer of pea soup and F-bombs," adds Rob Nelson in the Voice.

Updated through 5/25.

"This horror story is largely metaphoric, a weirdo reflection on post-traumatic stress that invites comparison to our nation's current state of affairs - namely the way crisis is sold to an unsuspecting, gullible public (WMD might have been a more pointed title for the film)," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant. "Call it reaching, but it's not like Friedkin (or his characters) don't ask us to.... Whatever has gotten into Friedkin, let's hope it stays in there."

"Bug is a great film until it becomes a terrible one." Jason Bogdaneris explains his position in the L Magazine.

Mark Olsen talks with Ashley Judd for the Los Angeles Times.

Kevin Nance profiles Letts for the Chicago Sun-Times. Via Movie City News.

Earlier: Filmbrain; and "Cannes. Bug." Yes, it's been a full year.

Update: Alonso Duralde interviews Friedkin for Film Independent.

Updates, 5/24: "Even during the heyday of the American paranoia thriller, there was never a performance quite like the one given by Michael Shannon," writes Michael Koresky at indieWIRE. "As Peter Evans, the blandly named, seemingly innocuous drifter who appears one evening at the doorstep of Agnes White (Ashley Judd), a battered wife terrified of her ex-con husband's return, Shannon has either officially arrived onscreen or carved out a memorable cult niche."

"Billed as a psychological horror movie, Bug..., plays more like lousy dinner theater doing its darnedest to give American paranoia a bad name," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly, where Scott Foundas interviews Friedkin.

"Visiting Blue State hysteria upon a Red Stater shows a weird sympathy and Friedkin, as usual, is all about the freak-out," write Armond White in the New York Press.

"Bug, as a movie, is really just a great stage play," writes Annie Frisbee at Zoom In Online.

"Directing opera of late seems to have reinvigorated Friedkin's interest in storytelling through sound," notes Ray Pride. And further: "Some will reject as familiar the down-at-the-mouth characters and others will find the increasing violence intolerable. Still, I was awestruck by huge chunks of the movie's infuriating descent beyond madness and the inexorable style. For example, there's a jumpcut from a striking sex scene to an exterior shot of the motel by day, which immediately jumpcuts to night. That's a Billy Friedkin editing shock."

Updates, 5/25: "What a load of wank," growls Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "In the old days, Roger Corman would have made Bug in eight days for about 25 cents, and it would have been 100 times livelier. But this Bug isn't supposed to be fun. It's art that crawls."

"[C]reepy and unsettling, to say nothing of gory, but overall it's a little claustrophobic and uneven," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times, where Rachel Abramovitz talks with Friedkin.

So does Bilge Ebiri for Nerve.

At times, "Bug suggests Safe as remade by David Cronenberg, both in its biological, venereal horror, and in its paranoia about a contemporary world hopelessly corrupted by viruses, germs, and infections, literal and metaphorical," offers the AV Club's Nathan Rabin.

"The escalating hysteria and grisly set pieces of Bug may strain credulity, but Ms Judd has never been more believable as a woman condemned to attract the wrong kind of man," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times.

"A difficult film to fully embrace, it nevertheless marks a real comeback for Friedkin," argues Steve Erickson in Gay City News.

"The film is lean, direct, unrelenting," writes Roger Ebert. "For Friedkin, the film is a return to form after some disappointments like Jade it feels like a young man's picture, filled with edge and energy. Some reviews have criticized Bug for revealing its origins as a play, since most of it takes place on one set. But of course it does. There is nothing here to 'open up' and every reason to create a claustrophobic feel. Paranoia shuts down into a desperate focus. It doesn't spread its wings and fly."

"If this were the 1940s, we'd be talking about Judd in the same breath with people like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Susan Hayward," suggests Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Likewise, if she were working in France, where they still love women's pictures, she'd be making three films a year tailored to her particular intensity. But here she has had to wait. It has been 12 long years since Judd took everybody's head off with her cameo as a crack addict in Smoke. Now, finally, she has exactly the right material... and the perfect director for her, William Friedkin, who shares Judd's artistic universe: big, raw and desperate, right at the edge, and then past it."

"[E]ssentially, this is a movie about the dangers of letting love rob you of your reason and cut you off from the world, and, bugs in the bloodstream or not, who hasn't been there?" asks Dana Stevens in Slate.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:04 AM | Comments (1)

The Boss of It All.

The Boss of It All "Given its overwhelming density of execution, it's strange that some have considered Lars Von Trier's new film a light-hearted experience," writes Ed Gonzalez in Slant. "Fuck me if I know what Boss of It All has to say about capitalism in its part of Europe or the relationship between Danish and Icelandic persons, but I do know its mouth-agape sense of comic brinkmanship puts it in the league of The Office."

"As its farcical situations fall into place, The Boss of It All turns out to have quite a lot to say, actually, about loyalty, the temptation of the almighty dollar, and corporate buck-passing as a kind of Olympic sport," writes Scott Foundas in the Voice. "It also feels like a revealing checkup on its creator's career."

Updated through 5/27.

"The movie is organized around a structural joke," Stephen Holden reminds us in the New York Times. "It uses a new camera technique called Automavision, whose purpose is to limit human control over cinematography. Shots that begin from a fixed camera position are randomly tilted, angled and zoomed by a computer. A character may suddenly disappear from the frame. The technique is a metaphor for the movie's vision of a corporate culture running amok in its own insane rules."

"Like an off-the-cuff sketch, a dense tangle of provocative ideas is there, but the execution is wanting," finds Nicolas Rapold in the L Magazine.

Updates: Yes, it's an "office comedy," concurs Michael Joshua Rowin at Stop Smiling. "What doesn't come through in a brief description is just how unfunny it is. Von Trier's strength is as a melodramatic ironist - even when ambitious, shoot-for-the-rafters projects like Dancer in the Dark go horribly awry, a ferocious instinct for boundary-pushing entertainment comes through. The Boss of It All, however conceptually interesting, is a limp, dreary affair."

"[T]he one last saving grace of this only marginally entertaining film is its refusal to avail itself of an ironically heroic sentimentality set up by its own narrative trajectory," writes Andrew Sarris in the New York Observer. "Mr von Trier is ultimately too much the cynic and pessimist to permit a false feel-good ending. And for that, at least, I respect him."

Nick Dawson talks with the director for Filmmaker. What's more: "Von Trier also gave Filmmaker an exclusive picture showing his response to overhyped reports in the media that depression has all but ended his film career."

Updates, 5/24: "The Boss of it All is a comedy, and very successful in that regard," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "But it also perceptively identifies elements of loneliness and futility in daily existence, giving the plot its scathing edge. 'Although you can see my reflection, this film won't be worth a moment's reflection,' Von Trier playfully claims as his camera swoops by a window, briefly revealing his face. It's less a lie than a challenge."

R Emmet Sweeney at the Reeler: "The comic invention never flags, with superb bits that unveil the deep-seated hatred between Icelanders and Danes, the persuasive power of syrupy melodrama and the guilt-free pleasure of passing the buck (all the way to the absurdist peak of the 'boss of the boss of it all')."

Update, 5/25: "Somehow, the sadism and icy alienation, which can seem contrived and manipulative in Von Trier's tragedies, feels perfectly natural when set in an absurd corporate world," notes Nerve's Bilge Ebiri.

Update, 5/26: Daniel Kasman: "In what is probably the film's most meta-comedic move as well as its most brutal and inevitable skewering of capitalism, the abstraction of sets and props of von Trier's last two movies has been transposed to the abstraction of corporate life: the location may be real, the lighting natural, but what these people are talking about, what they are doing, is as abstract and undefined as any of the chalk outline gardens and see-through houses of Dogville."

Update, 5/27: Caryn James argues in the New York Times that Boss "puts Mr von Trier in a great tradition of directors who have been freed artistically by making little movies at strategic points in their careers, films that paradoxically often turn out to be better than their overtly ambitious, budget-bloated works."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:55 AM

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End "If you've already got deja vu from the current been-there-done-that-twice-already trifecta of Spidey, Shrek and pirate Johnny Depp, welcome to summer blockbuster season in this year of our Lord 2007," writes Sean Burns, introducing the Philadelphia Weekly's summer movie guide. "In Los Angeles they call it 'investing in proven commodities,' which translated from studio-speak means that these days there's just too damn much money at stake for anybody to try to sell you anything you haven't already bought before." The L Magazine's preview is "selective" and rather pretty to look at.

At any rate, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is this week's designated water carrier for all items related to these seasonal proven commodities.

"Long before the third, fourth, or fifth climax in this endless, obligatory summer diversion, I slunk into my seat in a passive, inattentive stupor, fully submitting to the fact that I hadn’t the slightest idea what the hell was going on," warns Nathan Lee in the Voice. "POTC:AWE is a lukewarm maelstrom of secret agendas, double crossings, tricky alliances, back stabbings, familial complications, romantic entanglements, political conspiracies, warring factions, hidden gods, cheeky monkeys, and excessive eyeliner—some of which is linked to events from the previous installments, some of which is freshly pulled out of the collective ass of director Gore Verbinski and writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and none of which is the least bit captivating or, by and large, comprehensible."

The Los Angeles Times runs a one-reporter Pirates package: Mary McNamara measures what all the franchise has done for the supporting players, checks in on the hair and make-up crew and talks with Vanessa Branch and Lauren Maher, "the tarted-up wenches."

"Tom Rothman, a co-chairman of Fox, said the studio 'consciously took advantage' of the summertime action-movie gap in its decision to release its fourth Die Hard on June 27, five days after Universal's Evan Almighty and a week before Transformers, from Paramount and DreamWorks," reports Michael Cieply for the New York Times. "A surfeit of 'fantasy and computer-generated visual effects has left a hunger in the audience for real things,' Mr Rothman added. Over the next few weeks Fox will tease that perceived appetite with a marketing campaign that promotes John McClane with the words: 'No mask. No cape. No problem.'"

"Money talks, but it doesn't write all that well, and it can scarcely direct a movie at all." Michael Wood in the London Review of Books on the 3quels of summer. Via Movie City News.

Los Angeles Times critic Carina Chocano suggests an alternate title for Pirates, At Wit's End: "The third in a series that appears to be hinting at immortality in more ways than one, Pirates 3 demands intimate knowledge of the first two installments, not to mention a sterling memory and attention span. In other words, it pays to be prepared. Seriously, this thing is a stern master - walk in casually off the street and you risk nearly three hours of very high-octane confusion."

Updates, 5/24: "In [Pirates'] downbeat opening, we find that the East India Company, the Halliburton of the 18th century, has reduced its colonies to a prison, sending ranks of suspected pirates and collaborators to the gallows," notes Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix. "So much for escapism. But what Gore Verbinski's second sequel to his adaptation of the themepark ride is really about, I believe, is eternal damnation."

"The cannibals, coconuts and landlocked locations have been replaced by the high-seas high jinks that made the first film so enjoyable," writes a relieved Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times. "And the palpable relief as the myriad plotlines rush toward some semblance of resolution has made everyone quite giddy; even our passion-deferred lovers, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley), appear marginally less bored with each other. Or at least less bored than we are with them."

"The flick is far from perfect, indeed it's bottom-heavy and swollen to bursting with wriggling plot threads, but damn if I didn't have a good time tagging along on this third adventure with all my old Pirates pals," writes Scott Weinberg for Cinematical, where Ryan Budke talks with Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer.

"Perhaps it is hopelessly old-fashioned, in a post-franchise, blockbuster wasteland, to look for either characters or themes to be developed across a popcorn trilogy, but there is occasional evidence that it can still be done," writes Michelle Orange for the Reeler. "Even Spider-Man 3 features characters we have come to care about, and a credible attempt at some visual and thematic psychology. In the sense that it gives only the most disingenuous nods to continuity, both within itself and within the trilogy, At World's End is a vastly, almost sublimely cynical spectacle."

With Pirates, "the summer blockbuster begins to approach the level of pure abstraction," muses Dana Stevens at Slate. "Adrift in the windless seas of its 168-minute running time, the viewer passes through confusion and boredom into a state of Buddhist passivity."

LACB: Pirates Updates, 5/25: Andy Klein kicks off the LA CityBeat's "Summer Film Preview" issue by declaring that "Jerry Bruckheimer's no fool: If the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie made twice as much money as the first by doubling certain qualities of the story and the style, then by all means double them again for the third. Which means that Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is even noisier, more frenetic, more pointlessly complicated, and - God help us - longer than its predecessors. There is so much classic Bruckheimer bloat here that he could have called it Arrrrrr-mageddon."

"I mean, as pirate movies go, the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie is actually pretty good," writes Sean Nelson in the Stranger. "Compared to Roman Polanski's moribund Pirates, or the Renny Harlin/Geena Davis fiasco Cutthroat Island, or even the Christopher Atkins/Kristy McNichol vehicle The Pirate Movie, Gore Verbinski's cinematic extrapolation of the fifth-best Disneyland ride is goddamn Ran. But compared to good movies, even dumb good movies, it's a pretty paltry exercise in franchise prolongment."

"This is a glazed, inhuman, cluttered piece of work, a storytelling mishmash that buries the considerable charms of its actors under heavy drifts of silt," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek.

"Even if it consisted of nothing but Johnny Depp picking his nose with a cutlass for two-and-a-half hours, everyone would still have to go and see it for themselves, wouldn't they?" asks Steve Rose in the Guardian. "Our weapons are useless against it. Fortunately, it's more entertaining than watching Depp pick his nose, but this is one hulking, cumbersome beast of a movie."

"What a load of old cannonballs," sighs Anthony Quinn in the Independent. "The only thing that holds good in this, the concluding part of the Pirates trilogy, is the law of diminishing returns."

"[T]o anyone who's seen other so-called 'three-quels' such as X-Men 3, Spider-Man 3 or The Matrix Revolutions, there's something depressingly familiar about the bloated overkill that defines every aspect of At World's End," writes Kevin Maher in the London Times.

Update, 5/27: Adjust the total grosses for inflation and you'll see that today's blockbusters still don't come anywhere near those of the past. Chris Conway introduces a chart in the New York Times.

Updates, 5/29: It was a three-day weekend in much of Europe as well, so Pirates 3 raked it in, as Sharon Waxman reports.

"In today's Hollywood, blockbuster franchises function almost as independent corporations that, once up and running, can't easily be mothballed. Which is why another Pirates is pretty much a given," writes Josh Friedman in the LAT, where Mary McNamara profiles Bill Nighy.

Update, 5/30: Sara Vilkomerson presents a "Non-Idiot's Guide to Summer Movies" in the New York Observer.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:48 AM | Comments (1)

May 22, 2007

Cannes. The Man From London.

"Based on a novel by Georges Simenon..., The Man From London is not, in spite of its title and Tilda Swinton's prominent place in its cast, an English-language film," notes Premiere's Glenn Kenny; Swinton's dialog has been dubbed by a Hungarian actress. "This creates a peculiar, international-productions-of-the-60s effect in what is essentially another [Béla] Tarr immersion into the black-and-white bleakness of Europe and, natch, man's condition.... Those who luxuriate in Tarr's acutely conjured melancholia (and I am one of them) will swoon. As for the Cannes jury - the movie is in competition - I suspect they'll pass."

The Man From London

Andre Soares points to early positive word at Film de Culte, where Yannick Vély calls it "a sensation. From its sumptuous initial sequence, the Hungarian director attempts to put the viewer under hypnosis." Run that review through Google and you'll discover that this film's a divider, not a uniter.

Updates, 5/23: Sátántangó strikes Mike D'Angelo (ScreenGrab) "as about four hours of masterpiece and 3.5 hours of deadly self-indulgence. Since then, his self-indulgent side seems to have taken over. Several of Man from London's few dozen shots left me breathless, but the film as a whole feels oddly mummified; it's almost as if Tarr filmed his idea for the movie rather than the movie itself, if that makes any sense."

For Variety's Derek Elley, London "seems a hostage to its plot rather than a true Tarr reverie on human desire and greed, with less of his spiritual underpinnings."

"Made with clear indifference to the viewer and essentially an exercise in cinematography, London has no possibility of connecting with any but the most tolerant art house habitue," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt.

Updates, 5/24: "If anything, at 135 minutes The Man From London feels too short," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "The production began on a tragic note when Humbert Balsan, one of the producers, committed suicide after shooting commenced in 2005, leading to financial crises. It's hard to know how his death or the money woes affected the film, but it feels unfinished, as if a reel or the inspiration for this specific story had gone missing. As always with this filmmaker, there are moments of crystalline beauty, but they remain isolated from one another."

"The movie is bizarre and lugubrious, but mesmeric, with a strangely compelling and all-but-silent contribution from Agi Szirtes as the co-conspirator's wife," writes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw.

"The term 'film noir' gets thoroughly redefined in Bela Tarr's The Man From London, a mystery story cloaked in such stygian darkness that some viewers may succumb to eye strain before its enigmas are unfolded," writes Jonathan Romney at Screen Daily. "Despite a coherent, economical plotline, this film's sheer slowness may prove too punishing for many viewers, especially given that the film is in a more introspective register than its predecessor Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)."

"While Tarr's miserabilia occasionally reaches occasional poetic heights and builds to a potent finale of loathing and unaccountability, the film doesn't bear its weightiness in a compelling way," writes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE.

"For all the dazzling fluidity of the camerawork, the film itself lumbers along wearily and with a surprising lack of grace," writes Dennis Lim at IFC News.

Updates, 5/25: "Personally, I found most of it exquisite," writes Patrick Z McGavin at Stop Smiling. Even so, "The film is not quite at the level of Tarr's two previous features (very little else in the current cinema is as well)."

Fabien Lemercier interviews Tarr for Cineuropa.


Cannes @ 60. Index.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:15 PM

Cannes. Mister Lonely.

Mister Lonely Harmony Korine gets Premiere's Glenn Kenny "thinking about Mister Lonely as an experiment in the extremes of bathos, even though it is really a comedy of sorts." Ach, it's tough pulling any single quote from that entry; it's too fun. Go, read.

Gregg Goldstein talks with Korine about his Un Certain Regard entry for the Hollywood Reporter.

Updated through 5/29.

Updates, 5/23: "The most puzzling film I've seen so far has got to be Harmony Korine's Mister Lonely," writes Matt Dentler. "On the surface, it feels sort of like Tod Browning's 1932 classic, Freaks, as made by Harmony Korine. It's a bewildering film, equal parts frustrating and engaging, and reminded me a lot of Todd Solondz's Palindromes. And, like that underrated film, this one will be very divisive. As a storyteller, it's easily Korine's most mature work and he's put the harsh textures and disturbing imagery of his early work, more or less on hold. More or less."

"Mister Lonely is by turns idiotic, over-extended, childish and half-baked," writes the Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu. "But when it's not those things, and sometimes even when it is, the results are brilliantly bold, moving and tenderly, rhapsodically beautiful."

Novelist Dennis Cooper has been following this film for a while and presents a series of statements from Korine. For example: "What type of human being looks at a celebrity icon and not only admires them like fans, but takes it a step further? For them, it's not enough to just enjoy the celebrities they admire. They take a decision: 'I am going to live through that person. I am going to take that character's identity for myself and somehow sustain a living by pretending to be that person at different functions, like retirement homes or car shows.'"

Updates, 5/24: "As a Catholic priest in a Latin American country, [Werner] Herzog leads a band of nuns on an airplane to drop bags of rice on the impoverished below," notes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE. "But one of the nuns accidentally falls out of the plane. To say more would spoil the fun. Suffice it to say that Mister Lonely actually has something meaningful to say about the folly of chasing dreams and miracles and the various paths to self-discovery. But there are too many narrative indulgences and twisted disharmonious scenes to make it gel."

"The story of a lonely Michael Jackson impersonator who finds a fleeting tenderness with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator seems to bring out the lighter side of the erstwhile enfant terrible and possesses reserves of offbeat, goofball charm," writes Allan Hunter for Screen Daily. "Charm can only take you so far, however, and by the halfway point it becomes obvious that the film has little else to offer. The mixture of the eccentric and the grotesque grows increasingly tiresome."

"Like the Reygadas, Harmony Korine's Mister Lonely could be considered the first self-consciously mature work by a onetime enfant terrible," writes Dennis Lim at IFC News.

Update, 5/29: Matt Singer at IFC News: "The nun sequences might sound like an elaborate gag but they take on unexpected spiritual dimensions and the footage of those nuns falling through the air might be the most uplifting of this year's festival."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 4:07 PM | Comments (2)

Shorts, 5/22.

Cinephilia "On the one hand, there is cinephilia as a conceptual mode of pleasure, and on the other, is thinking of cinephilia as a particular historical moment and/or cultural movement (think only most recently, Rosenbaum and Martin's Movie Mutations, and - I would add - the blogosphere)." Jason Sperb's been reading Cinephilia: Movies, Love and Memory and posts a few thoughts at Dr Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope.

DK Holm begins a series on recent books on Orson Welles at ScreenGrab, beginning with Rosenbaum's Discovering Orson Welles, a work "almost as complex as Welles's career." DK's review, though, is not - excellent stuff.

Order of the Exile

Rosenbaum was one of three writers who visited the set of Jacques Rivette's multi-feature project Les Filles du Feu; the resulting essay appeared in Sight & Sound in 1974, and Order of the Exile has revived it. Also new at the invaluable Rivette site is Noel Burch, asking in 1959, "Qu'est-ce que la Nouvelle Vague?" - and Rivette himself with several takes on works by Jean Renoir.

Regular Lovers "May 68 awaited its definitive film portrait until the arrival of Philippe Garrel's Regular Lovers in 2005," writes Michael Atkinson. "The movie is in fact more of an impressionistic personal meditation on the place and time than an outright historical film. But the feeling of the era, the cataclysmic, romantic, liberating and finally tragically disillusioned emotional thrust of resistance, coupled with the electric sense of being 19, sexually alive, responsibility free and ready to dope up and drop out — all of it seeps out of this neglected three-hour epic like fragrance from a valley of lilacs." Also, briefly, the "must-have, must-see film culture classic," Sansho the Bailiff.

Also at IFC News: "Sometimes you're popular, sometimes you're not. It's not going to change the nature of the work I do. Those [earlier] movies seem to mean a lot to people of a certain age at that time. And yeah, they don't want you to change." Aaron Hillis talks with Hal Hartley about Fay Grim.

For Reverse Shot, Jeannette Catsoulis talks with John Carney, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová about Once. Carney: "The point is to defy expectations, but if you do that too much then the audience becomes frustrated.... For me, making a film is like writing a song that leaves the audience happily surprised."

Werner Herzog ST VanAirsdale hears Werner Herzog relate yet another episode of the filmmaker's adventures at getting at the "ecstatic truth," this time for his upcoming Antarctica documentary.

"Venezuela is to give the American actor Danny Glover almost $18m (£9m) to make a film about a slave uprising in Haiti, with President Hugo Chávez hoping the historical epic will sprinkle Hollywood stardust on his effort to mobilise world," reports Rory Carroll for the Guardian. "It will also give seed money for a film version of The General in His Labyrinth, Gabriel García Márquez's novel about the last days of Simón Bolívar, who liberated much of South America from Spanish colonialism." He's got a three-minute audio Q&A with Glover, too.

A slew of Gary Cooper DVDs is coming out and Dave Kehr watches them for the New York Times: "Cooper seemed to carry the West with him, the living embodiment (on screen, at least) of all the virtues that best-selling authors like Harold Bell Wright and Zane Grey had built into their western heroes: a taciturn independence, a distrust of city folk and their fast-talking ways, an unshakable sense of right and wrong and enough skill in violence to back up his convictions."

"The contemporary label defining Harold Lloyd as "The Third Genius" is both demeaning and incorrect," argues David Jeffers at the Siffblog.

The Wedding Day "Lee Byeong-il's The Wedding Day was a breakthrough for Korean cinema." Even so, Duncan Mitchel, writing for Koreanfilm.org is neither over- nor underwhelmed.

Matt Riviera on Scott Walker: 30 Century Man and the myth behind the musician: "In [Stephen] Kijak's insightful and substantial documentary, it has found a worthy vessel with which to continue its course through rock history."

"When Good Directors Go Bad." Paul Clark at ScreenGrab on Ingmar Bergman's The Serpent's Egg.

Ted Pigeon writes an open letter: "Your stature as a published and respected critic, Mr Schickel, does not entitle you to make broad claims about us 'busy bloggers' that lack any validity or reasoning. However, since you have done precisely that, you have shown yourself to be among the very imposters of film criticism you label bloggers to be."

Online viewing tip #1. David Poland lunches with Sarah Polley. Related: Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic on Away From Her.

Online viewing tip #2. At the Guardian's film blog, Ben Marshall points to clip from Nick Broomfield's upcoming Iraq drama, Battle for Haditha.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:43 PM

Cannes, 5/22.

Cannes Scott Roxborough in the Hollywood Reporter: "There's something missing from this year's Cannes lineup: Iraq."

Martin Scorsese has launched an international project at Cannes to preserve endangered landmarks of world cinema. As Angela Doland reports for the AP, the set-up is similar to that of the Film Foundation he co-founded in the US. Update on this: indieWIRE. Also alert-worthy: J Hoberman's Cannes-so-far piece in the Voice.

The Guardian's Xan Brooks listens and watches as Samira Makhmalbaf presents footage of the attack that put a halt - temporarily, she insists - to the shooting her next film, Two-Legged Horse, in northern Afghanistan. A "man who had infiltrated the set as an extra tossed a hand grenade from the rooftop at a local bazaar, severely injuring six people and killing the horse that took the brunt of the blast." When her father, Mohsen, joins her, Brooks writes, "One suspects that he was the flashpoint for this latest attack, and one suspects he knows it too." Al-Qaida or the Taliban might have been behind the attack, but Mohsen voiced another possibility: "Please remember that this is only my theory, my opinion. But if you hear that Mohsen is killed, that Mohsen is dead, you will know it was Iran that did it."

Golden Compass Chris Weitz, who's written and directed the upcoming adaptation of The Golden Compass, the first volume in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, as quoted by the Guardian's Charlotte Higgins: "In the books the Magisterium is a version of the Catholic church gone wildly astray from its roots. If that's what you want in the film, you'll be disappointed. We have expanded the range of meanings that the Magisterium represents." And Pullman seems fine with that. A 20-minute preview was screened in Cannes. For the Telegraph's David Gritten, so far so good. And for the Los Angeles Times, John Horn notes that New Line's strategy of offering Cannes this sneak peek is awfully similar to their tactic in 2001 with the first installment of The Lord of the Rings.

Ashley Adams visits the Turkish Pavilion for indieWIRE and finds things on the up and up: "2005, Turkish film was 40 percent of the country's domestic box office revenues. In 2006, the percentage had increased to 51.8 percent of the box office, a figure that gives the country an enviable home grown film industry in comparison to many of its neighbors."

Blogging for the Guardian, Mike Brett visits the Cannes Short Film Center and Xan Brooks gets lost in the Marché du Film.

Speaking of which, Twitch's Todd "spotted a pair of trailers for upcoming Thai films that bear watching out for while wandering the Cannes market."

Where are the women directors? asks Kira Cochrane.

Christina Kotlar's on the road to Cannes for Zoom In Online.

Online listening tip. At IFC News, Matt Singer and Alison Willmore reflect on the fest.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:18 PM

Cannes. Go Go Tales.

"My favorite film by an American director so far - although it was shot and financed in Italy - is Abel Ferrara's Go Go Tales [site], screening out of competition as a midnight selection," writes Dennis Lim for IFC News. "A wild and wildly allegorical comedy, it's set in the course of one long, eventful night at the declining Paradise Lounge strip club.... The charmingly sleazy cabaret ambience evokes Killing of a Chinese Bookie, but with its overt melancholy and warm communal vibe, this could almost be Ferrara's Prairie Home Companion, ending not with a graceful fade-out but on a note of crazy defiance."

Go Go Tales

"[A]bout a third of the audience abandoned last night's screening," reports the Guardian's Xan Brooks. "The people who remained were Ferrara devotees, die-hards, near-fanatics. Offended by the exits of their milksop enemies they gained revenge at the end by roaring defiant appreciation through the closing credits."

Update, 5/23: "[E]asily Mr Ferrara's best since The Funeral (1996) and welcome news for his hard-core, patient admirers," announces Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Willem Dafoe, his Joker-like smile stretched across his face," is "terrific"; and Asia Argento, "who delivers a fantastic star turn in another out-of-competition film here, Olivier Assayas's underappreciated Boarding Gate, has the kind of intense screen presence that could bring out the fire department. Actors are paid to emote and recite lines, but Ms Argento bares body and soul, throwing herself into both Mr Ferrara's and Mr Assayas's films as if her life depended on it. Maybe it does."

"Ferrara is in a wonderfully loose and comedic mood after the complex spiritual dramatics of Mary, expanding his fascination with big American dreams and corrosive addictions while filling the screen with a wild panoply of characters," writes Robert Koehler for Variety.

"[G]ood-natured but somewhat half-baked," writes Jonathan Romney at Screen Daily. "The main problem is that Ferrara gives an almost exclusively male view of this milieu, with its female characters depicted as decorative, ditzy or neurotic - a brash Argento predictably being the one exception."

Update, 5/24: "'It's better in Italy because they still care about cinema,' he wheezes. 'They got no fuckin' respect in America these days. I'm not prepared to go over to LA to be patronised by some fuckin' studio executive because his grandmother or whatever doesn't like my work.'" The Guardian's Xan Brooks meets Ferrara.

And so does James Mottram; for the London Times.

Update, 5/26: "It's hard to not get lost in the trash - for better or for worse - but the real strength of Ferrara's film is in the atmosphere," writes Michael Lerman at indieWIRE. "Seeped in a constant barrage of loud music, nearly every scene is intercut with performances from inside the club, creating the sense of the truly never-ending show."

Update, 5/30: "Ferrara has allowed his comic self to run free, and he imagines a universe in which sensuality and tongue-kissing your doggie is just fun, and an end unto itself," writes Robert Koehler at filmjourney.org.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 12:48 PM | Comments (1)

Cannes. Silent Light.

"Much like The Banishment, which screened a few days ago to near-universal disdain, Silent Light [Stellet Licht] is an unadorned tale of marital infidelity, with no real plot to speak of and an intense fascination with landscape and the contours of the human face," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. "But it's tone and judgment that matters in miniature epics like these, and [Carlos] Reygadas, for whom this film represents a massive leap in maturity, understands the difference between sullen brooding and quiet anguish. There's no way to convey the power of Silent Light without describing each individual shot, and even then you'd be overlooking their cumulative power; I can only tell you that I was rapt from start to finish, despite being the sort of Neanderthal film buff who generally prefers traditional narratives to beatific tone poems."

Silent Light

He then references Lars von Trier and, as it happens, another Dane comes to the mind of Manohla Dargis, who'll have more to say about the film in the New York Times. For now: "A story about grace and the fallen world, Silent Light owes a strong debt to the Danish master Carl Dreyer, even as it offers continued evidence of Mr Reygadas's own intense, individual artistry."

Same goes for Scott Foundas, writing in Variety: "Shades - and, by the end, big, unmistakable splotches - of Carl Dreyer's Ordet color Silent Light... [which] tells a muted story of adultery and spiritual crisis unfolding amidst a modern-day Mennonite community. Reygadas' typically arresting widescreen visuals and the presence of non-pro actors speaking in German-derived Plautdietsch makes for an initially hypnotic combination, but the spell breaks its hold well before the end of pic's inflated running time, signaling an endurance test for all but the most ascetic arthouse auds."

Kirk Honeycutt finds Silent Light "an allegorical tale of subtle strength and depth," but even so: "The long takes and studied silences still smack of pretension. An opening shot as the camera pans down from the night sky to capture dawn and the coming of a new day, while beautiful, does take six minutes. And that's just the movie's first shot."

Update: "Mexican auteurist Carlos Reygadas has lost nothing of the aesthetic austerity so magnificently, if exhaustingly, on display in his first two films, Japon (2002) and Battle in Heaven (2005)," writes Peter Brunnette for Screen Daily. "Unfortunately, while the demands are perhaps even greater, the payoffs are fewer and further between in Stellet Licht."

Update, 5/23: "Exceedingly languorous, Silent Light finally turns a significant corner a full hour and forty-five minutes into the film," notes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE. "But by then, it may be too late."

Update, 5/24: "One of the most intriguing sub-themes of Cannes '07 has been the reformed miserablist," writes Dennis Lim at IFC News. "Silent Light is a typically bold and even nutty experiment, with many bravura cinematographic feats and tricks..., but I must confess a preference for Reygadas the bad boy - there was more substance in the bile and misanthropy of Battle in Heaven than in the new film's ostentatious spirituality."

Update, 5/25: "The happiest surprise of the festival has been Silent Light, a film that continues to linger in my thoughts days after seeing it," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Reygadas inserts us right in the middle of a strange world without preamble, letting us discover its mysteries, including its people, through the slow, steady accretion of gestures, daily rituals, conversational fragments and glimpses of life as it's experienced inside the private spaces of home and the larger communal spaces beyond."

Update, 5/26: "The style that predominates in current high-art festival films (ones, by the way, that rarely get much exposure in US movie houses) is minimalist," writes Mary Corliss for Time. "Based on the works of early masters like Carl-Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson, it follows certain rules, as restrictive as any Mennonite edicts: pare movie technique down to its essentials; show characters behaving, however mutely, rather than acting; make the viewer work for their epiphanies. This style has been responsible for many small, lugubrious films and - from directors who know how to make more or less - a few masterpieces. Silent Light is one of them."

Update, 5/31: Bilge Ebiri has the trailer at ScreenGrab.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 9:32 AM | Comments (2)

Cannes. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

"Until Tuesday, it looked like the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men was the leading contender for the Palme d'Or," writes Charles Ealy at the Austin Movie Blog. "But Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly should prove to be strong competition. The beautifully photographed movie focuses on Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a massive stroke and became totally paralyzed. But Bauby, who is hooked up to machines to help him breathe, still has his intelligence, his imagination and the use of one eye. And as he lies in his hospital bed, he slowly begins to see a reason to live. He wants to write a book."

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Wait right there, counters Jeffrey Wells, who finds it "a passable attempt to render a beautiful, inwardly-directed portrait about what is truly essential and replenishing in life. But the film is neither of these things, and is nowhere close in terms of poetic resonance and emotional impact to Schnabel's Before Night Falls. It's sensitively realized and skillfully made, but it's a movie about a state of nearly 100 percent confinement that itself too often feels confining."

"Most compelling in its attempts to re-create the experience of paralysis onscreen, gorgeously lensed pic morphs into a dreamlike collage of memories and fantasies, distancing the viewer somewhat from Bauby's consciousness even as it seeks to take one deeper," rhapsodizes Justin Chang in Variety. "Still affecting, and already sold to a number of territories, bittersweet Butterfly should find a warm worldwide reception upon release from the Cannes cocoon."

A "small miracle," agrees Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter. "Taking a very different approach to the award-winning 2004 Spanish film The Sea Inside, in which Javier Bardem played a suicidal quadriplegic, the movie boasts an equally fine lead performance, by Mathieu Amalric, and matches that film's broad appeal."

"Told with humour and humanity, The Diving Bell cannot fail to touch any audience," writes Allan Hunter at Screen Daily. "Mathieu Almaric has become one of France's busiest and most dependable performers over the past few years.... Although the role was originally announced for Johnny Depp, it is hard to imagine anyone doing it more justice."

Updates: "No less an eminence than the venerable critic Michel Ciment (he wrote the book on Kubrick, among other things), to whom I was just introduced by the critics' mailboxes at the Palais, agrees with me that Julian Schnabel's Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) is a pretty solid contender for this year's Palme d'Or," confides Premiere's Glenn Kenny. Then, after explaining this hunch at length: "A colleague I like very much emerged from the film with the precise inverse of my opinion - she seemed angry about the picture, pronouncing it 'silly.' Unfortunately, like those characters in the old Antonioni pictures, we couldn't properly communicate with each other at that juncture. But I'll look for her review, because the last thing I thought this picture was was silly."

At The Cliff Edge, Ray Bennett has notes on the soundtrack, assembled by Schnabel himself.

"In a festival delectably top-heavy with the radical and the visionary, this mundane paean to the indomitable human spirit is what gets everyone all fired up?" wonders Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. "[I]t's the real-life story, not the artistry involved in its telling, that does all the heavy lifting here. All Schnabel does is avoid screwing it up."

Updates, 5/23: "'I'm an artist,' the painter and film director Julian Schnabel says, looking very much the part in a worn red-and-black plaid shirt open to the waist. 'I make more money painting one day than I did on this movie. I did it because I had to.'" And Kenneth Turan talks with him for the Los Angeles Times.

"[A]n awesome achievement," declares Matt Dentler. "Schnabel's new film is a 'wow' experience. I may even see it again while I'm here. Rather than play too bleak, I found hopeful and uplifting edges around the dark subject matter."

Updates, 5/24: "Some here have found the film too literal and faithful to the book, but I found it compelling in its simplicity and truth," writes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "It is a vivid reminder that all of us, healthy and otherwise, have to live inside bodies that are terrifyingly vulnerable, and when those bodies go wrong, tough questions are raised about our place in the world, about who it is we are now dependent on, and who it is we were dependent upon all along. Bauby's father is played by Max von Sydow, and these scenes between father and son are the most unbearably sad; it is rare to hear not just sniffles in a cinema auditorium, but out-and-out crying. I made my own contribution to this."

"A hot commodity among buyers since its premiere in Cannes earlier this week, the film was acquired for North American distribution by Miramax in a deal announced just today (Thursday) at the festival," reports Eugene Hernandez at indieWIRE.

Update, 5/25: "The gross bodily insults inflicted on Mr Bauby, much less the profundity of his grief, are forever being washed away in a tide of carefully aestheticized imagery, all gauzy light, roses and radiant female faces, which reveals more about the aesthete behind the camera than the character before it."

Update, 5/26: "Schnabel uses his painterly sense to illuminate the story without losing its heart," writes Mary Corliss for Time. "Some of the French critics derided the film; perhaps they were affronted that an American dared to poach on French turf. The audience response, though, was rapturous. Will the Jury be as enthusiastic?"

Update, 5/27: When Cinematical's James Rocchi saw the film, "I staggered into the light awestruck, a little moved, my heart and mind both racing with the excitement and power of the film I'd just seen. I ran into a fellow film critic, who wanted a fast take on the third film from painter-turned-director Schnabel, his follow-up to Basquiat and Before Night Falls. 'Imagine a Spike Jonze-Charlie Kaufman-Michel Gondry-style film,' I said, 'but with a warm, beating heart instead of cool, detached hipster irony.'"

Updates, 5/29: From Brownsville to Max's Kansas City: Arifa Akbar and Rob Sharp profile Schnabel for the Independent.

"How did [Schnabel] embarrass himself and the Americans watching?" ask Time's Richard and Mary Corliss. "Let us count the ways: 1) lumbered across the wide stage to shake the hands of all 10 Jury members; 2) mispronounced the name of his lead actor (Mathieu Amalric) and the biggest international star in the cast (Max Von Sydow); 3) invoked the pseudo-French song 'Thank Heaven for Little Girls' (from the Hollywood musical Gigi) to acknowledge the film's five lovely supporting actresses, none of them little girls; 4) insulted his host country, then tried to turn it into a compliment ('Many times they say, "The Problem with France is the French," but that's a lie'); and 5) squeezed some sour grapes by saying, 'If I did get the Palme d'Or I was gonna give it to Bernardo Bertolucci, who's been ill. But I didn't, so it doesn't matter.' One or two jury members wince at the oafish display, as if to ask, Is it too late to retract the prize?"


Cannes @ 60. Index.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:13 AM | Comments (1)

Olivier @ 100.

Laurence Olivier Laurence Olivier does turn 100 today, and Edward Copeland post an appreciation smartly divided into four "Acts": "The Oscar Nominations," "The Emmys," "Other Notable Film" and "The Paychecks."

Earlier: Guardian theater critic Michael Billington on Olivier's impact on British acting.

Update, 5/24: "What fearsome demands are imposed by that little word 'great'?" A mini-history of British acting from Antony Sher in the Guardian.

Update, 5/27: "There is a difference between impersonation and self-revelation; Olivier was a master of both," writes biographer Anthony Holden in the Observer.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:10 AM | Comments (1)

Cannes. Tehilim.

Tehilim "Oh boy," sighs Robert Koehler at filmjourney.org. "[Raphael] Nadjari has laid the biggest egg so far with a massively disappointing follow-up to his intensely fine drama, Avanim, one of the few worthy Israeli films of recent years."

Dan Fainaru, writing for Screen Daily, disagrees. Tehilim (Psalms, in Competition) is a "quiet, subdued and remarkably controlled drama." It's "so smoothly accurate in every little detail and moves with such an assured, unhurried pace towards its goal that audiences will soon forget they are watching a film and believe it is life itself unfolding before their eyes."

Updated through 5/27.

It's about "what happens when a man suddenly disappears from his otherwise peaceful Jerusalem neighborhood," writes Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter. "The story examines not the politics of the region but the religious impact the man's absence has on his wife and two sons. That narrow focus will limit the film's appeal severely."

"Exploring unresolved loss with docu-like veracity, this intimate, disturbing tale will prove more frustrating than enlightening for many viewers, despite its conversation-sparking premise," agrees Variety's Lisa Nesselson.

Update, 5/27: "Nobody seems to care much about this Israeli-French co-production, and with good reason," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 6:26 AM

Cannes. XXY.

XXY "The psychological fallout from alternative sexualities is explored to subtle and penetrating effect in Lucía Puenzo's XXY, a study of teen angst that's grounded in more than simply nebulous emotion," writes Jonathan Holland in Variety of this Critics' Week entry.

"Inés Efron is also a talent worth noting as Alex, a solitary, tomboyish 15-year-old living with her parents in an isolated fishing port on the Uruguayan shoreline," writes Allan Hunter for Screen Daily. "Her fierce eyes and surly manner eloquently convey the anger and confusion of someone who believes that the world considers her a freak and that it might be right."

"Unlike the cringe-worthy scenes in Zoo that misleadingly present the subjects' sexual fantasies as though they exist within a larger realm of normalcy, XXY acknowledges Alex's condition as unique, and proceeds by allowing us to become comfortable with her to the point where her condition no longer precedes our understanding of her personality," argues Eric Kohn at indieWIRE.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 5:00 AM

John Wayne @ 100.

Hondo John Wayne's 100th isn't until Saturday, actually, but the festivities are already well underway - in the papers, yes, but also in the Cannes Classics program, which includes restored versions of Hondo and Rio Bravo.

As David S Cohen explained in his piece on Hondo for Variety a couple of weeks ago, "with its color and 3-D digitally restored, audiences will finally have the full experience director John Farrow and producer-star John Wayne intended."

And in the Los Angeles Times, Dennis Lim revisits Rio Bravo, "the film that features Wayne's greatest performance - and that is also perhaps the best work of its director, Howard Hawks."

"The whole point of the character Wayne embodied in something like 150 pictures, the overwhelming majority of them westerns and war movies, was that there was no mystery to him at all: What you saw was what you got, and if you didn't like it, tough," wrote Terrence Rafferty in the New York Times on Sunday. "The Duke made pretty sure you'd like it, though."

Emanuel Levy looks back on "Ten Great Performances."

The Shamus has been at it for days and days: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Updates, 5/26: Wagstaff at Edward Copeland on Film: "To commemorate the 100th birthday of Marion Morrison, known to all his friends as Duke, I hereby give you a half-dozen of my favorites. The task was difficult - there were so many to choose from. What are some of your favorite John Wayne moments? Drop a comment and tell me what they are."

James Bone has a level-headed take for the London Times, and quotes Joe Leydon: "The thing about Wayne is that, for better or worse, he was representing America to the rest of the world.... There have been times when that has been a good thing because there have been times in not-so-distant history when the idea of a strong, take-charge American attitude was not only respected but desired. But we live in a world now of shades of grey."

And in the German-language press: Henning Engelage in epd Film, Christian Schröder in Der Tagesspiegel, Rolf Niederer in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Fritz Göttler in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Gerhard Midding in the Frankfurter Rundschau.

Update, 5/29: "Saying John Wayne can't act is like saying Bob Dylan can't sing," writes John Beifuss. "Yeah, the Duke couldn't play Hamlet and Dylan can't sing Carmen, but what they can play and sing they play and sing with utter confidence and with the bravado of the conquerors of a New World."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:39 AM

May 21, 2007

Cannes. Blind Mountain.

Blind Mountain "Li Yang demonstrates once again that he is a master of cinematic tension with his second feature, Blind Mountain," writes Screen Daily's Lee Marshall. "Based on the widespread practice of bride trafficking in rural China, this harrowing but limpidly shot story of the abduction and sale of a young college student lacks the rich, character-driven plotting of Li's impressive debut, Blind Shaft.... But it is does provide a textbook lesson in audience manipulation, racking up our identification with the abused heroine and throwing us just enough scraps of hope, at just the right moments, to keep us guessing right up to the deliciously abrupt ending, which brought a round of cathartic applause from the press corps at the film's first Un Certain Regard screening."

Updated through 5/25.

"Even though Chinese authorities forced the director to make many cuts before it could be shown in Cannes, the movie retains enormous political impact as well as being a moving drama," writes Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter.

"Whether one responds or not to the pic's (certainly valid) theme - story is set in the early 90s but could equally take place nowadays in many far-flung areas of China - pic has a deadening lack of dramatic development and a plethora of thinly drawn characters," writes Variety's Derek Elley. "Most of the action, and the story's potentially interesting developments, take place during the final reel, which then abruptly ends with a facile, grandstanding finish just when things are getting interesting."

Update, 5/22: "It's an affecting tale, related with a solid if slightly plodding inevitability (French critic Michel Ciment even likened it to DW Griffith's Orphans of the Storm!) and a few too many implausibilities," writes Time Out's Geoff Andrew. "But the film looks good, and is blessed with a very fine lead turn from Lu Huang, who brings considerable force, feistiness and determination to the student, winning our sympathies without ever once trying to make the character unduly likeable. And that's why the ending - sudden, surprising, violent - is such a winner; at every screening in Cannes it's had audiences whooping enthusiastically."

Update, 5/25: "Director Li Yang says the Chinese censors cut his film in more than 20 places, but what's left is still strong meat for a movie from the People's Republic," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 3:28 PM

Cannes. The 11th Hour.

The 11th Hour "True to its doom-laden title, global-warming doc The 11th Hour [site] presents the viewer with reams of depressing data, loads of hand-wringing about the woeful state of humanity and, finally, some altogether fascinating ideas about how to go about solving the climate crisis," writes Variety's Justin Chang of the doc co-produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. "[T]he dizzying assemblage of talking heads (among them Stephen Hawking, Mikhail Gorbachev, science reporter Andy Revkin and heads of environmental orgs such as Lester Brown, Tim Carmichael and Wes Jackson), all well-spoken and at times prone to philosophizing, turn The 11th Hour into a ruminative essay on what it means to be human in a scarce world."

The Guardian's Charlotte Higgins listens in as DiCaprio defended Al Gore against the former VP's critics, and: "Speaking about his own lifestyle, DiCaprio said that he drives a hybrid car and that his home is fitted with solar panels. Asked how he travelled to Cannes, he said: 'I flew commercially. I try as often as possible to fly commercially' - a reminder that, while a small but increasing number of Britons are giving up flying altogether, for the Hollywood A-lister there is a preliminary step: eschewing private jets."

"The film isn't afraid to take a moderately political line, pointing the finger at corporate globalisation and governments' complicity with it, and although the film isn't angrily didactic on a Michael Moore level, it couldn't be accused of being apolitical either," writes Jonathan Romney for Screen Daily. "The film suffers most from its form, being a routine succession of interviews interspersed with archive footage, assembled in a not always coherent fashion, with occasional animated scientific diagrams likely to confuse more than enlighten."

"[I]t's obvious that environmental documentaries have found favor with Cannes' programmers," notes Scott Roxborough in the Hollywood Reporter. "Less obvious is whether the message of these films is having any effect on Cannes and the hordes of film executives swarming the Croisette. The green message of 11th Hour stands in sharp contrast to the tones of CO2 emissions and mountains of trash produced during the festival."

Update, 5/24: "Unfortunately, notwithstanding an intriguing opening montage that careens from chaotic to tranquil at a rapid pace, The 11th Hour feels like a low grade IMAX production, full of heart but virtually without structure," writes Eric Kohn at indieWIRE.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 2:59 PM

Cannes. Paranoid Park.

"[I]t shouldn't necessarily mean much to you when I assert that [Gus] Van Sant's new film, Paranoid Park, is precisely the lyrical and evocative portrait of contemporary adolescence that everybody mistakenly thought Elephant was," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. See, he's just gone on a bit about how much he well and truly despises Elephant. "All the same, this brilliantly schizoid tale of Alex (sensational newcomer Gabe Nevins), a high school skate punk with a guilty conscience, digs into the teenage mindset with a clarity and eloquence that Elephant, with its distracting (and, to my mind, obscene) echoes of real-world tragedy, couldn't possibly achieve."

Paranoid Park

Blake Nelson, the author of the novel, is in Cannes with the cast and crew and has been blogging, snapping photos and such and just seems generally - and quite understandably! - excited about the whole affair.

Kirk Honeycutt argues that, with this Competition entry, Van Sant "is more open to what he finds, keen to absorbing the quotidian details of one particular boy's life and of the crisis suddenly thrust upon him. So he has made one of his best movies yet, recapturing the magic of his fine earlier works such as Mala Noche and Drugstore Cowboy."

Also in the Hollywood Reporter, Gregg Goldstein talks with Van Sant.

For Salon's Andrew O'Hehir, Paranoid Park is "a visually lovely, semi-experimental riff on Dostoevski's Crime and Punishment that has almost no point of contact with actual human existence.... Van Sant wants his brief, deadpan, underpopulated scenes - some of them shot on 8 mm video, others with overlaid music so we don't hear the dialogue - to feel more like real teen existence than the clichés of mainstream cinema. It's a worthy goal, but I'm afraid the actual effect is the opposite. How did these sweet kids get trapped in a middle-aged art film, and how can we get them out?"

Cinematical's James Rocchi: "The ugly fact is that Van Sant's recent modus operandi has crossed the line from 'groove' to 'rut' - he's become the filmmaking equivalent of Dazed and Confused's Wooderson: He gets older, but his protagonists stay the same age.... I have to wonder when - or if - the fierce filmmaking of his earlier career will return."

Updates, 5/22: "The film's visual beauty is so striking - in one shot Alex skateboards against a midnight-blue light, framed by glossy green shrubbery - that it takes a while to appreciate that the images are doing most of the narrative work," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times.

"Aesthetically in line with Gerry, Elephant and Last Days, this is a rarified, arid artwork that will register with Van Sant's hardcore fans but leave anyone looking for more conventional satisfactions, notably teenagers themselves, impatient and unfulfilled," writes Variety's Todd McCarthy. "On a moment-by-moment basis, one is most often objectively admiring the lovely work of cinematographer Christopher Doyle, whose 35mm shooting stands in marked contrast to the raw Super 8 skateboarding footage done by Rain Kathy Li.... Casting was done via MySpace, and young thesps are generally all right, although a bit stiff at moments." There. I think that gets at some of the elements I skipped over in the other reviews while trying to get to the gists.

Alex's "uncle is played by cinematographer Christopher Doyle, whose appearance on screen caused a ripple of amusement in the Cannes audience," notes Wendy Ide in the London Times. As for the cinematography, "There's perhaps a little too much of that Doyle trademark from his Wong Kar Wai collaborations, the languid slow motion sequence, for example. But for the most part, Doyle contributes a lot to this atmospheric mood piece without, as can be the case with some of his recent projects, creatively dominating the film."

Then, another thing: "It is worth mentioning that this is the first film in the festival which addresses the war in Iraq, albeit through an abortive attempt at a debate between one politically motivated teen with a rather more apathetic friend. It's not going to appease the critics who wonder why cinema has been largely silent on a issue which has dominated the news for the last four years, but it's a start."

Paranoid Park "may not be Palme d'Or material - too particular, too hermetic - but it's damn brilliant anyway," writes Erica Abeel for Filmmaker. "More than anything, it's Leslie Shatz's sound design, a thing of genius, that conveys Gabe's turmoil. By layering snippets of music over murmuring voices, the whirring of bobbins - and occasionally bird calls - Shatz captures the equivalent of mental 'noise,' the sound of consciousness, our waking dreams and nightmares. Sometimes, to keep us off balance, he plays against expectations, layering some jaunty Nino Rota over a scene where Alex blows off his girlfriend. If anyone merits a prize so far in this fest, it's Leslie Shatz."

Dennis Lim, writing for IFC News, finds Paranoid "both modest and masterful, the work of a wholly relaxed filmmaker in peak form."

More "enthusiastic approval" from Premiere's Glenn Kenny.

Updates, 5/23: "[I]t may be a stretch, but the film might just have something larger to say about responsibility in the violent age of the Iraq War where denial and apathy have supplanted accountability," suggests Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE.

Emmanuel Bourdeau for Cahiers du cinéma on Van Sant: "His art is extremely fluid, but that fluidity takes risks, foresees accidents and integrates the possibility of them as he glides along."

Update, 5/25: "Every shot of the film feels electric," writes Patrick Z McGavin at Stop Smiling. "The use of objects and locations, like a narrow tunnel that skateboarders traverse with surgical grace, transmutes a lyrical and poetic intensity of longing, regret and wonder. The ink-black nighttime photography is especially acute in sustaining the film's eerie tone."

Update, 5/26: "Van Sant's hero is played by Adonis newcomer Gabe Nevins with all the vitality and complexity of a gay teen centrefold," writes Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times. "There is something sickly about the film's posing of him in endless tableaux of synthetic Passion - a Saint Sebastian in the shower, a Jesus in the nocturnal Gethsemane of the skateboarding park - while the soundtrack woos us with selections of everything from heavy rock to JS Bach."

Update, 5/29: "Paranoid Park is less immediately shocking than Elephant or sorrowful as Last Days but in its own quiet way, it surpasses both," writes Matt Singer at IFC News. "Van Sant's technique is incredibly confident and he's increasingly comfortable in this slightly avant-garde mode that's defined his decade of filmmaking. All of his choices, right down to the way he never shows Alex's parents on camera save for one crucial moment, feel right."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 1:32 PM | Comments (4)

Shorts, 5/21.

Man of Aran "Man of Aran has been labeled a naturalistic documentary, a romantic documentary, a mockumentary, and cinematic ethnography," writes Thom at Film of the Year. "Looking at the film's starkly beautiful images, and noticing the way it mixes fiction and documentary filmmaking techniques, I think it's best described using [Robert] Flaherty's 1927 term, 'camera poem.'"

"Are all sequels in the arts automatically second-rate?" asks David Bordwell and calls in "the Badger squad, the ensemble of email pals drawn from various generations of UW-Madison grad students and faculty. I asked them if we can’t understand sequels in a more thoughtful and sophisticated way—historically, artistically, in relation to other media. The result is another virtual roundtable, like the one on B-films held here a few months ago."

Girish points to a talk with Chris Fujiwara and Mark Roberts at Flower Wild: "The conversation ranges widely: 'thieves' and 'theft' in cinema; the phrase 'film noir'; Jacques Becker; Hitchcock; postmodern nostalgia; comparisons of citation in Tarantino and Godard, etc." As Girish says, "Lengthy but all eminently worthy reading."

Screened Out Michael Guillén talks with Richard Barrios, author of A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film and Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall.

"[G]enre trailers are compelling short films that create atmosphere, establish character and offer specific visual and aural cues, promising audiences the repetition of known genre pleasures." For Film International, Keith M Johnston takes a long hard look at a set of trailers for 30s-era Universal horror films. "What I want to suggest here is that the tools of analysis used to deepen our appreciation of the longer feature film can be applied just as profitably towards an examination of the two-to-three minute trailer."

"Critics will argue, as they always have, that Hollywood Dreams is overly self-indulgent, the cinematography and sound could be better, and the acting is too loosey-goosey," predicts Gary Dretzka at Movie City News. "The vast majority of reviews will take the safe, well-trot route, by recommending it only to his loyal fans (aka, 'cult-like following'), while advising newcomers that '[Henry] Jaglom's films aren't for everybody.' Whose are, though?"

"For several years now, he has been developing a devoted following as the film and video curator at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. And his current run of arguably the very best art films produced in the last year is a phenomenal coup for a venue competing with nearby San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the many high profile international film festivals in the Bay Area." Sean Uyehara talks with Joel Shepard for SF360.

"[C]an anyone ever make a great film about music?" asks Ted Hope out loud at the Filmmaker blog. This is more than a rhetorical question. He's about to produce The Passenger, the Iggy Pop biopic, so he's been doing quite a bit of thinking about the matter.

Ad Lib Night With Ad Lib Night, Lee Yoon-ki "has returned to the powerfully patient form that gripped many of us with his debut This Charming Girl," writes Adam Hartzell at Koreanfilm.org.

In the New York Times:

  • "Comedy and business, it turns out, go together quite well - and in many media." A brief history, by John Schwartz.

  • "Perhaps the case has not lived up to its advance billing as the biggest Hollywood scandal in decades," admit David M Halbfinger and Allison Hope Weiner, sorting through the Anthony Pellicano case file. "Still, the evidence so far — 150,000 pages of documents and hundreds of recordings Mr. Pellicano made of his own phone calls, many of which include discussions of wiretapping — is a rich sourcebook of show-business manners, mores and argot, a vicarious tour through the dysfunctional heart of Hollywood."

  • Laura M Holson asks where Hollywood moguls go once they're "pushed out the door." Also, this is an age of more modest-budgeted premiere bashes.

"All across the country, newspapers are cutting book sections or running more reprints of reviews from wire services or larger papers," wrote Motoko Rich in the NYT a few weeks ago, and you'll like have heard by now that Richard Schickel has responded in the Los Angeles Times by lashing out at bloggers. Response has been predictably fast and furious, but Chuck Tryon's piece for newcritics reads as if he took a good deep breath before hitting the keyboard. Worth a read. For a bit more fire, see Ed Champion.

Also in the LAT:

  • "Maybe The Good German will find an audience on DVD," suggests Susan King. "Despite its flaws, there is a lot to admire, including Thomas Newman's evocative music, which was Oscar-nominated for best original score, [Tobey] Maguire's terrifying walk on the wild side, and [Cate] Blanchett's near-perfect channeling of Marlene Dietrich."

  • At 9 am on Wednesday, "more than 2,500 fans are expected for the first-ever American theatrical screening of all six Star Wars films in story order." It'll happen at the Los Angeles Convention Center and take all of 17 hours, as Geoff Boucher reports.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:51 PM

Paprika.

Paprika With Paprika seeing a slow roll-out in US theaters starting on Friday in New York, Dave Kehr offers a primer on Satoshi Kon in the New York Times: "The creator of Perfect Blue (1998), Millennium Actress (2001) and Tokyo Godfathers (2003), Mr Kon is at the forefront of a new movement in Japanese animation, or anime, that has little or nothing to do with Speed Racer and the other Japanese animated series that clog Saturday morning television.... The fantasy world of anime is not necessarily a benign one."

"Set in a business world of long white corridors and glass walls and research labs, it's a Freudian-Jungian-Felliniesque sci-fi thriller, and an outright challenge to American viewers, who may, in the face of its whirligig complexity, feel almost pea-brained," writes David Denby in the New Yorker.

Updated through 5/27.

"Usually when nightmares are portrayed in a film and anime, it's very dark. For Paprika, we wanted it to be disgustingly decadent and grossly colorful - and that was our idea." John Lichman talks with Kon for the Reeler.

Update, 5/22: "The movie comes on like a mix between a vintage surrealist short and a state-of-the-art blockbuster - the two modes corresponding, Paprika says, to the early and late cycles of REM sleep," writes Rob Nelson in the Voice. "Paprika, like the best work of Kon's compatriots Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) and Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), is a movie in which, minute to minute, basically anything can happen; the narrative is almost completely unbound."

Updates, 5/23: "What's Paprika?" asks Mark Asch in the L Magazine. "It's the locus of a turf war between the conscious and unconscious mind. In short, a movie."

"Paprika amounts to soulless characters in remarkably flat animation talking epistemological gobbledegook among watered-down psychedelia," grumbles Jürgen Fauth.

"I think for most viewers this mad spectacle will open up the cerebellum, but mine gets tired out from too much ocular overload," writes Robert Cashill. "Paprika is something to see, but given its accent on sleeping states resting through parts of it is an option. Bring a pillow, and your capacity to dream."

Updates, 5/25: You can, of course, watch Paprika "just for the pictures, secure in the knowledge that you're getting the best damned delirium your moviegoing dollar can buy," suggests Stuart Klawans after riffing at length in the Nation on Dr Chiba/Paprika's treatment of the cinephobic Detective Konakawa. "If you're feeling ambitious, though, and want to interpret and not just dream, you can watch Paprika as a cartoon feminist Civilization and Its Discontents, and Kon will reward that reading, too."

"[I]f you keep your eye on the screen and don't overworry the plot particulars, you will be rewarded with a cavalcade of charming, gently outré and beautiful hallucinations," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "It can take a moment to situate yourself amid this splendidly controlled chaos. But this superabundance works to one of the film's themes, namely that our fantasies, including those opened up by the Internet, are pulling us away from the material world and, perhaps, more dangerously from one another."

"Paprika's story line combines elements of Blade Runner and Wim Wenders's strange apocalyptic fantasy Until the End of the World, both of which imagined the damage that could be wrought by a machine that invades human memories and dreams," notes Slate's Dana Stevens. "The metaphysical trickery of Paprika - what's real, what's imagined, who's dreaming whom—would lose its charm if explained in too much detail. True, the final battle-for-Tokyo scene veers toward the grandiose, and the Möbius-strip story logic has some holes in it. But I'll bet it's been a while since you've seen a movie, animated or not, that skips this nimbly around the viewer's brain."

"Paprika's frustrations are inseparable from its design: rather than being concerned with fantasy per se, Kon's interested in the way fantasy affects the world," suggests Steve Erickson for Nerve.

Updates, 5/27: Paprika's "trippy imagery connects it to the free-your-mind 60s of the Merry Pranksters, Timothy Leary and El Topo," writes Jason Silverman for Wired News. "But 40 years later, it's technology, not LSD, that's fueling the growing number of inner-space journeys."

Scarlet Cheng profiles Kon for the Los Angeles Times.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:27 PM

Cannes. Actresses.

Actresses "Italo-French actress Valeria Bruni Tedeschi plays an Italo-French actress in her second film Actrices (Actresses)," grins Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "Much like her first directorial effort, Il est plus facile pour un chameau (It Is Easier for a Camel...), Actrices is at least partially autobiographical, though this time around the dramatic comedy set in the rich, bourgeois and vaguely intellectual Parisian bubble of Bruni Tedeschi's alter ego veers more towards comedy as the film progresses, earning good-hearted laughs as well as, well, whatever one may feel towards this particular milieu."

Variety's Jay Weissberg finds this Un Certain Regard entry "a wispy affair, overly indulgent on the helmer's peculiar brand of wearying neurosis but saved by unexpected bursts of humor."

"Modest insights and amusing incidents make for a minor but pleasing work," writes Allan Hunter for Screen Daily. "The backstage pressures and intrigue of the theatre have served as a memorable backdrop to many films, most notably All About Eve (1950) and Opening Night (1977). Actresses has neither the champagne wit of the Joseph Mankiewicz classic nor the sheer histrionic intensity of the Cassavetes opus. Instead, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi seems intent on a more low-key, naturalistic portrait of an actress at a crossroads."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 11:00 AM

Cannes. Import/Export.

"Very much in the vein of his best-known film, Dog Days (2001), Austrian auteur and documentarian Ulrich Seidl continues in this, his first fiction film in 6 years, to explore the darker aspects of human existence," writes Peter Brunette for Screen Daily. "Seidl has been described as a sadist, but underneath all the gloom and doom and constant cruelty is obviously a disappointed idealist crying out for people to care for one another."

Import/Export

Premiere's Glenn Kenny calls Import/Export (in Competition) a "quite assured work in the 'I suffered for my art, now it's your turn' mode."

Updated through 5/27.

"[M]iserable but masterful," writes Russell Edwards in Variety. Seidl's "trademark unrelenting gaze into despair will come as no surprise to those familiar with his work. Seamless performances by mostly nonpros add vividness to Seidl's dark vision, though pic's unflinching and exploitative use of real-life geriatric patients borders on the cruel."

"With an aimless script inadequately filmed, the picture is unlikely to make it much farther than its inexplicable inclusion In Competition here at Cannes," grumbles Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter, where Scott Roxborough talks with Seidl.

"Seidl hurls yet another blow to us Westerners, brutally depicting the contradictory consequences of social globalization with harsh, grotesque images that often simultaneously evoke smiles and strong emotions," writes Camillo de Marco for Cineuropa.

Update, 5/22: "While Import/Export is not polemical, it makes the implicit argument that consumer capitalism, among other forces, has pushed the less privileged citizens of Europe - especially in the East - into a state of abjection," writes AO Scott (probably, not sure), in the New York Times. "But in making this point so powerfully, Mr Seidl walks right up to, and perhaps crosses, the boundary between exposing the degradation of human dignity and participating in it."

Update, 5/23: Anthony Kaufman, writing for indieWIRE, finds this "perhaps his most tender movie.... On a purely visual level, Import/Export enthralls, thanks to the strong, symmetrical compositions of cinematographers Ed Lachman and Wolfgang Thaler and an array of provocative locations (namely a trashed 'gypsy' slum of Socialist-style high-rises)."

Update, 5/24: Import/Export "incorporates two of the most distinct characteristics of contemporary Austrian cinema," notes Dennis Lim at IFC News. "It emphasizes geographic, if not economic, mobility and it mixes fiction and nonfiction (using non-pros and real locations, including a porn studio and a geriatric ward, in a fictional scenario).... [T]he film isn't much of an advance for Seidl's bludgeoning, depressive sensibility, but the leavening measures of compassion and absurdist humor are more pronounced than in the past."

Update, 5/27: "Of all the films in Competition, this one had the most to say about the world we live in," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 8:29 AM

Cannes. Garage.

Garage "Funny, moving and tragic, Garage, the second feature collaboration between director Lenny Abrahamson and scriptwriter Mark O'Holloran - after the award-winning Adam & Paul - was rumored to be one of Cannes' good surprises," writes Vitor Pinto at Cineuropa. "Confirmation arrived... as the film touched the audience of its Directors' Fortnight screening."

"Calling Garage a 'small' film would be true enough, but the Hope diamond, all things considered, is awfully small as well," writes Peter Brunette for Screen Daily. "Both, in any case, are gems."

Variety's Russell Edwards disagrees. "Strained humor gives way to maudlin melodrama.... Narrative plods along providing easy laughs, and when script eventually reveals its dramatic intentions, scenario is blandly obvious."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 8:01 AM

Cannes. A Mighty Heart.

A Mighty Heart Premiere's Glenn Kenny recognizes that the greatest challenge Michael Winterbottom faces with A Mighty Heart (screening Out of Competition; site) is to get the audience watching the story of Mariane Pearl rather than watching Angelina Jolie - and he goes into some detail as to how Winterbottom's pulled it off. In short, "Jolie and [co-producer Brad] Pitt were very smart to get a director who doesn't do star turns to do Jolie's star turn. I dare say she's got at least an Oscar nomination locked." As for the film itself, it's "involving and moving in the mode of another war-zone Winterbottom picture, Welcome to Sarajevo."

Stuart Kemp talks with Winterbottom for the Hollywood Reporter.

Updated through 5/26.

Screenwriting credit goes to John Orloff. "Which just goes to show, you can't always believe everything you read." Anne Thompson explains.

Stephen Robb gets some press conference quotes for the BBC; so, too, does Erica Abeel for Filmmaker.

Time Out's Chris Tilly has word on Winterbottom's next project. It's going to take him five years to make.

Updates: "In his first studio venture, Michael Winterbottom coaxes forth a staggering wealth of detail from this terse, methodical account of Pearl's kidnapping and murder in Pakistan, seen through the eyes of those who sought his return," writes Justin Chang in Variety. "Winterbottom, who previously ventured into Mideast politics with In This World and The Road to Guantanamo proves to be just the man for the task. Though the prolific British chameleon isn't one to make the same film twice, his gifts for docudrama storytelling - an ability to shepherd complicated narratives, avoiding every opportunity for sensationalism in favor of a low-key mounting dread - couldn't be better suited to the material."

"With the BBC's Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston now missing and believed kidnapped for 70 days and journalists in danger in hotspots around the world, a film version of Mariane Pearl's book about the search for her husband could not be more timely," Ray Bennett reminds us in the Hollywood Reporter.

"There are viewers - American and otherwise, right wing and otherwise - who will really hate A Mighty Heart for its perceived politics," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Without remotely excusing the heinous crime committed by Daniel Pearl's kidnappers, Winterbottom and Orloff place it in context, specifically the shadowy context of Pakistan in 2002. In this telling, American diplomats watched as Pakistani security forces used, um, 'harsh tactics' on people swept up in the Pearl investigation, some of whom were involved and some weren't..... As Mariane Pearl herself told a CNN interviewer after her husband's death, 10 other people had been murdered by terrorists in Pakistan during the same month (and none of them were foreigners). Every personal tragedy that captures our attention is a subset of a larger, more communal or global tragedy."

"This is essentially a police procedural, an accretion of small, agonizing details, rather like the recent Zodiac," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time. "And since anyone interested in seeing A Mighty Heart is likely to know the awful outcome, the film also has an inherent lack of drama, despite Jolie's commitment to the project and her occasionally volcanic histrionics.... The true impact of the film is outside it.... We film critics call ourselves journalists, though we can't be killed for it; the only danger in our line of work is getting bored or disappointed as we watch a movie. But we can respond to the palpable threat to our better, braver colleagues - those determined to bring the most important stories to their readers and viewers. Their gift is precious; the price they pay for it may be their lives."

Updates, 5/22: The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw: "Compared to In This World or The Road to Guantánamo, this story of Mariane Pearl is strangely underpowered, telling us at great length things that we know already. I wondered if the director's heart was entirely in it."

"One particularly dramatic moment during Monday's press conference came when journalist Chris Burns stood up and said he was depicted in the film," notes Brian Brooks at indieWIRE. "Following the murder of Daniel, Mariane did an interview giving her thoughts on her husband and to assure skeptics in Pakistan that she and her husband were not CIA spies as the kidnappers had alleged. The journalist had crossed the line of sensation during the interview asking, 'have you seen the footage of your husband's death?' The same journalist stood and introduced himself and apologized to Mariane. 'I forgive you,' she said to light applause."

Kenneth Turan talks with Jolie for the Los Angeles Times.

Time Out's Dave Calhoun: "As an American co-production, A Mighty Heart feels like a bigger affair than [In This World and Road to Guantanamo] and as a result it lacks some of their sense of improvisation and close connection to the grit of the real world but gains a wider, international canvas of political intrigue."

Updates, 5/23: "While Angelina Jolie's Mariane Pearl occasionally loses her French accent, she makes up for the misstep with a sturdy, anguished performance that eventually succumbs to a volcanic eruption of grief," writes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE. "If the portrayal is already generating Oscar talk, it's also better than such fatuous plaudits."

Winterbottom has turned "a true story into a compelling, intellectually and emotionally engaging film that may take him from the art house to the mainstream," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi.

Update, 5/26: "That Jolie can act as well as pout is finally proved by this French-accented turn, moving and modulated, as the woman whose husband became roadkill on the roadmap to a never-never Middle East peace process," writes Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times. "The pace is tingling, the sense of authenticity thrilling.... The film opts to depict a single, simple, shocking tragedy. It does so with force and skill, helped by Jolie's impassioned heroine."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 6:36 AM | Comments (1)

Sight & Sound. June 07 + Cannes.

Sight & Sound: June 07 June's is a Tim Lucas and Cannes sort of issue of Sight & Sound. With both Quentin Tarantino's half of Grindhouse (earlier entries: 1, 2 and 3), Death Proof, and David Fincher's Zodiac (site; earlier entry) competing at the festival and set to open in the UK, I'll gather fresh takes on the American features from France and Britain here as well.

"What is a grindhouse movie?" asks Lucas. "Here's my best definition: it's a movie that makes you want to run, not walk, to the nearest shower, but leaves you unable to decide whether the shower should be hot or cold." A generously annotated Top Ten follows.

Lucas also reviews a DVD, by the way, that may not be as far from the grindhouse aesthetic (by way of Europe) as it might at first seem: Alain Robbe-Grillet's La Belle Captive. "Robbe-Grillet is said to be rigorously protective of his films - despite their exploitable elements of sex, mystery, fetishism and even supernatural horror - not wishing them to become associated with the similar though less cerebral works of fellow oneirics and eroticists like Jean Rollin and Jess Franco," he notes. "The man has no more devout English-speaking admirer than this writer, but La Belle Captive smacks of Robbe-Grillet lite."

"Cannes was political from the outset, conceived in the pre-war years as a counterweight to the Venice film festival, which under Mussolini was fast becoming a stage for fascistic tub-thumping." Chris Darke offers "four snapshots of some of the flashpoint moments in the festival's history."

Longing The S&S "Film of the Month" is Valeska Grisebach's Longing (Sehnsucht). Catherine Wheatley finds "an echo of the Heimat films that extolled rural German values for audiences from the 1930s to the 1950s. The latent violence that pervades Longing also chimes with the atmosphere of later rethinkings of the genre by mainly Austrian directors such as Wolfram Paulus, Peter Patzak and Wolfgang Glück." But "while Grisebach and her contemporaries are undoubtedly influenced by their predecessors, their films tend to eschew the social agenda that marked the new German cinema of the late 1970s and early 1980s. As in recent films such as Stefan Krohmer's Sommer '04, Barbara Albert's Fallen and Andrea Staka's Das Fraülein, the concern of Longing is not politics but people."

S&S calls in no less a critic from anywhere, never mind Australia, than Adrian Martin to assess a landmark: "The success of Ten Canoes in Australia rewrote several hitherto ironclad suppositions of the local film industry. Rolf de Heer showed that it was possible, by careful and sympathetic collaboration with co-director Peter Djigirr and all the indigenous participants, to make a film that was not condescending, exploitative or misrepresentative. He also proved that the general audience could take a film spoken largely in the Aboriginal dialect of Ganalbingu, with English subtitles.... [A]udiences realised they were seeing something that marked a quantum leap beyond such well-meaning but limited 'whitefella' depictions of Aboriginal life as Bruce Beresford's The Fringe Dwellers (1986) and Phillip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)."

Zodiac While "rigorously masculine... Zodiac is considerably more adult than both Se7en, which salivates over the macabre cat-and-mouse game it plays with the audience, and the macho brinkmanship of Fight Club," finds Graham Fuller.

Recent reviews of Zodiac in the British press: Peter Bradshaw (Guardian), Philip French (Observer), Robert Hanks (Independent), Wendy Ide (Times) and Derek Malcolm (Evening Standard). (The Telegraph's site seems to be down at the moment.) Update: Here we go: Tim Robey in the Telegraph.

In the Independent, Leslie Felperin revisits the working relationship of Tarantino and Harvey Weinstein - and wonders if it can last.

Earlier: New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis chats with S&S editor Nick James in Cannes: MP3.

Update: Death Proof is longer than the Grindhouse cut and Premiere's Glenn Kenny will tell you all about what's back in or new; otherwise: "Grindhouse motivated a fair number of critics to implore Quentin Tarantino to grow up or something. I don't think it's gonna happen and I don't think I care. Somebody's gotta make Quentin Tarantino movies, might as well be him."

Updates, 5/22: Eric Kohn for the New York Press on the additions to Death Proof: "It's all quite long winded, pointless and self-indulgent, but for the most part, it's also quite entertaining. So yeah, it's a QT movie." But then come the extensive notes from the press conference, dominated, naturally, by Harvey Weinstein's explanation of his new strategy for distributing DP and Planet Terror as separate movies. "We will dwarf Grindhouse. Trust me." By the way, Robert Rodriguez, who was also there, is going to remake Barbarella.

Death Proof not only stands on its own, the new footage improves its second half, finds Variety's Todd McCarthy.

"Admittedly George Clooney is not yet in town, but the mad crush to get into Tarantino's press conference was like nothing I've experienced in two years at Cannes," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. The Weinstein stuff follows, but here's a nice bit:

When another eastern European asked how it felt to be a "big star" at Cannes, Tarantino showed some uncharacteristic humility. "To the extent that I could call myself a favorite son of Cannes, and I'm only saying that because you're saying it," he said, "I just don't have the adjectives for it. I was probably a teenager before I figured out what Cannes was, or even knew what a film festival was. I probably rented some movie that had the Palme d'Or on the box. Once I figured it out, it seemed like Mount Olympus, where the gods go, where the greatest films ever made premiere. Just to be invited here was amazing, and the possibility that I might someday win the Palme d'Or [as he did for Pulp Fiction] was so far beyond anything I could have imagined. There's nothing I'm prouder of in my whole career."

As for the film at hand, "Is it a better motion picture than the first Death Proof?" O'Hehir asks the air. "Maybe. But I'm not sure that's the right question."

Update, 5/28: Emmanuel Burdeau gets quite a quote from Tarantino for the next issue of Cahiers du cinéma.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 5:33 AM | Comments (1)

Cannes. The Band's Visit.

"I finally found a film at the 60th to love," announces Erica Abeel at Filmmaker: Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin's debut feature, Bikur Hatizmoret (The Band's Visit). "Band is a small movie - but in the way Chekhov is small."

The Band's Visit

Linking to Duane Byrge's review for the Hollywood Reporter, Ray Bennett calls Band the "best film so far at this year's Festival de Cannes, by a country mile." Byrge writes that the film "shows what you can do with virtually nothing for a set and no big box office elements - you can make a terrific film about people.... A 'little' film with a great reach, it met a crescendo of applause in its Un Certain Regard screening. Underscored with droll comedy and counterpointed with unexpected revelations, this film is an oasis of creativity in the often barren bigness of a festival."

Variety's Jay Weissberg: "By pic's end it's not just that the Israelis and Egyptians have learned something about each other, they've learned something about themselves. Mastering these lessons without becoming artificially rosy-eyed would defeat a lesser talent, but both in script and direction Kolirin proves he's more than up to the task."

Update, 5/24: "Unlike the urgent topicality of other recent Israeli cinema, particularly the Western-derived narratives of Eytan Fox, Kolirin's direction has a light and enjoyable touch, opening with a title card that sets the absurdist note," writes Eric Kohn at indieWIRE. "Despite the combination of ethnicities and a setting that tends to generate negative international press, The Band's Visit is refreshingly apolitical."

Update, 5/25: "Filmed in long, unbroken takes, the minimalist style recalls Kaurismäki, which, combined with some characterful performances, makes for some great comic set-pieces," writes Ed Lawrenson for Time Out. "But behind the poker-faced front, there's real warmth and emotion."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 1:01 AM

May 20, 2007

Cannes. Breath.

Breath Kim Ki-duk, "whose international reputation was based for many years on the excesses he indulged in films like The Isle or Bad Guy, doesn't quite achieve the same heights he climbed in Spring, Summer..., but he doesn't need to shock anymore and works wonders within the minimalist conditions he imposes on himself," writes Dan Fainaru at Screen Daily of the Competition entry, Breath (Sum).

Variety's Derek Elley: "One of the South Korean maverick's sparest and most dispassionate works, though still marbled with weirdly comic and tender moments, this quietly affecting item will play best to Kim's existing fan club rather than enroll many new members."

The Hollywood Reporter's Ray Bennett agrees - and gives us the set-up: A "young wife whose husband is cheating on her gains revenge by visiting a soon-to-be-executed murderer and having the strangest of affairs with him."

Update, 5/21: At ScreenGrab, Mike D'Angelo suggests that Breath will "likely be remembered as the movie in which his predilection for mute protagonists officially became intolerable even to his fans.... How the festival could prefer Breath to Kim's last film, the superb and richly allegorical Time, which screened here only in the Market, is beyond my comprehension. It's as if they'd turned down Thomas Vinterberg's The Celebration, then programmed It's All About Love."

Update, 5/25: "It's one of those stories with a predictable arc, and this one requires a more imaginative treatment than Kim has managed to summon for it," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 3:52 PM

Cannes. Magnus.

Magnus "Magnus, written and directed by a young woman named Kadri Kousaar, is the first film from Estonia to be included in the official selection at Cannes," notes Ray Bennett at the Hollywood Reporter. "The film paints such a glum portrait of life in the former Soviet state that it has been banned from distribution there. They could be on to something."

But the Un Certain Regard entry was met with applause, reports Annika Pham at Cineuropa. "Despite its dark subject matter, the film is not all gloom and doom," and what's more, it's only been banned in Estonia because a woman claims the story is based on her own life.

Updated through 5/24.

And Variety's Russell Edwards finds it "a profound emotional experience."

Updates, 5/24: "Shot with a magnificent palette featuring magnificent outdoor locales and smoky interiors, Magnus is an effective mediation on despondency," writes Eric Kohn at indieWIRE. "While the seemingly aimless plot occasionally becomes confusing, the movie is deeply encoded with a radical philosophy that unveils in the final minutes, making it worthwhile to sit through a second viewing. In his very first feature, Kousaar instigates a dialogue that deserves to be revisited."

"[T]he film is an atmospheric exploration of an unusual father-son relationship that is "inspired by true events", with the father more or less playing himself," writes Boyd van Heoij at european-films.net. "Up until the last twenty minutes, the film is very strong, but the rushed finale followed by the most unnecessary explanatory epilogue since Psycho makes foreign distribution unlikely unless the film is recut."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 3:31 PM | Comments (2)

Cannes. To Each His Own Cinema.

Cannes "The specter of the death of cinema and the communal movie experience hangs like an ironic shroud over To Each His Own Cinema [Chacun son cinéma], a mostly engaging compilation of 33 three-minute films made by leading international auteurs on the occasion of the Cannes Film Festival's 60th birthday," writes Variety's Todd McCarthy, who notes, too, that the collection will be released on DVD in France on Friday. "As such compilations go, this one is somewhat better than the norm, as quite a few of the entries are imaginative, engaging and/or interestingly personal; even the bad ones have the virtue of brevity."

Anthony Kaufman finds it "a dazzling and memorable array of current auteur cinema," and he, too, lists some of his favorites - and least favorites. "Dare we report the Dardenne brothers' three-and-a-half-minute short is more profound than most of the films that have shown in this year's competition, so far?"

But it's not the film itself that's had the wires buzzing today. "[C]omplaining about the 'poverty' of the questions," Roman Polanski walked out of the press conference, reports Variety's Alison James. Anyone who's sat through these give-us-a-soundbite grillings can sympathize, but still, walking out is a bit showy. "Even before his early exit, Polanski was the center of attention during the discussion, fielding numerous questions and then engaging Atom Egoyan in a debate about the future of cinema," notes iW's Eugene Hernandez, who then carries on with quotes from a slew of the other directors on hand. More from Reuters' Bob Tourtellotte.

Update, 5/21: Peter Brunette at Screen Daily: "Most critics roll their eyes, with good reason, at the mere mention of a 'compilation film' but fully 80 percent - a huge number - of the sequences of Chacun Son Cinema run from good through very good to excellent."

Update, 5/22: "It may take more than 35 lawyers to figure out how to get this film distributed to cinemas around the globe, but the film truly deserves a wide audience," writes Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter. "It speaks to the communal experience of watching movies and dreaming in the dark. If ever a film demonstrates the love of movies across all cultures, this is the one."

Update, 5/25: "The film's collective conclusion, give or take a segment or two: cinema isn't what it used to be," writes Sheila Johnston in the Independent. "Not that it was at all gloomy.... It's tempting to suggest that such a brisk running time should be mandatory for all contestants in the main competition."

Update, 5/31: Filmbrain reminds us that, if we have the means, we can get our hands on the DVD - though it may be missing the Coens' contribution.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 2:36 PM

Misunderstood Blog-a-Thon.

Dogville Heavens, look at all those misunderstood movies. No, not at Cannes but at all those blogs the Culture Snob has been gathering links to throughout these past few days of the Misunderstood Blog-a-Thon: "The joy of building a case for an unconventional reading is mining those peripheral moments or sights and finding meaning in them. We are watching closely."

The Snob's reached back into the archives as well; for example, to the argument that Dogville is not anti-American.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:19 PM

Dalí & Film.

Harpo & Dalí The exhibition Dalí & Film opens at the Tate Modern on June 1 and will be on view through September 9. The London Times is a "media partner" and accompanies Michael Glover's piece on Buñuel, Dalí and Surrealist cinema with links to a bit of online viewing: Dalí's dream sequence for Hitchcock's Spellbound, the trailer for Destino, his collaboration with Disney, L'Age d'Or and Un chien andalou. For more on these as well as on Dalí's admiration for the Marx Brothers, particularly Harpo (the feeling was mutual), see also Joanna Pitman and, in the Observer, Peter Conrad.

Update, 5/26: "Salvador Dalí was the last of the great cultural outlaws, and probably the last genius to visit our cheap and gaudy planet," writes JG Ballard in the Guardian.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:34 AM

U2 @ Cannes.

The film is U2 3D and, as Variety's Justin Chang puts it, "The title says it all. Compact and exuberant, U2 3D may be no more than a pint-sized concert film with a lustrous surface, but the lensing is so vibrant and the music so buoyant, even non-fans may find their eyes popping and their heads bobbing."

U2 3D

Even so, the real story at Cannes Saturday night was U2's performance of "Vertigo" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" right there on that world-famous red carpet. Rebecca Leffler has the story for the Hollywood Reporter; Variety's Dana Harris points to a YouTube video; and IFC's got pix.

Updates, 5/21: "Martin Scorsese, in Cannes shopping his new 2D Stones doc for distribution, might see this and wish he had sprung for the extra D," blogs Rob Nelson for the City Pages. "For my money (and I got in for free!), U23D isn't like being in the front row - it's actually better, or at least until they decide to add Odorama."

Cinematical's James Rocchi's snapped some pix.

Updates, 5/22: "The challenge for any potential U2 3D distributor is finding an economic model that makes sense." John Horn looks into it for the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have seen the future and it's in 3D, reports Sharon Waxman in the New York Times.

Dave Kehr doesn't so much comment and expand upon Sharon Waxman's piece. Great, fascinating stuff.

Update, 5/27: "Whether it is the savior of the cinema-going experience or a nice add-on like surround sound and comfy chairs is yet to be seen, but there is palpable excitement around 3-D," reports Richard Siklos for the New York Times. "Equally intriguing, 3-D is coming not just to the theater, but also to the living room and potentially to anywhere your eyeballs might happen to wander."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 10:29 AM

May 19, 2007

Cannes. Terror's Advocate.

Terror's Advocate "Barbet Schroeder's documentary Terror's Advocate (L'avocat de le terreur) enjoyed a grand presentation yesterday evening, with Artistic Director Thierry Frémaux taking the stage before the screening, to welcome the director and two illustrious audience members, Michel Piccoli and Pedro Almodóvar," reports Camillo de Marco for Cineuropa. The Un Certain Regard entry focuses on Jacques Vergès, the French lawyer famous for having defended terrorists such as Magdalena Kopp and Carlos, and true 'monsters' of contemporary history such as Klaus Barbie and Pol Pot."

Writing for Screen Daily, Allan Hunter suggests that the film "could also stand as a complex guide through the rise and rise of global terrorism.... In many respects, Terror's Advocate is a conventional talking heads documentary that builds into a compelling, jigsaw-puzzle of a thriller reminiscent of a Frederick Forsyth bestseller or an epic drama like Spielberg's Munich."

"Sure to inspire debate in France and Germany and of obvious interest to anyone who follows the roots of modern international terrorism, doc probes gray areas in the colorful life of its controversial, limelight-courting subject," writes Lisa Nesselson in Variety. "When asked if he'd defend Hitler, Verges replies, 'I'd even defend Bush!' Under what conditions? 'Provided he pleaded guilty.'"

Updates, 5/20: "Schroeder's picture is more fascinating than most talking-head docs because the subject matter is so weirdly compelling and pertinent," writes Premiere's Glenn Kenny. "Verges's tale is also a story of the mutation of the terror zeitgeist, from what many would call the laudable struggle of the Algerian people to the decadent terror-chic of Carlos and Magdelena Kopp.... Terror's Advocate could be, should be, longer, if only to give it, and its audience, some breathing room."

The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt finds the doc "fascinating": "The key thing about Verges is that he was born in Thailand in 1924 or 1925 - even here he apparently is slippery - to a mother from Vietnam and a father from Reunion Island, the Indian Ocean island that is part of France. He thus came of age as multiracial in a colonial setting, which as one interviewee notes, means 'to be against things,' to be anti-establishment, anti-colonialist and anti-government."

Anthony Kaufman, writing at indieWIRE, finds that "the movie, at over two hours in length, loses its focus throughout with digressions and a lax structure that undermines the whole. US distributor Magnolia Pictures, who boarded the project earlier this year, should consider a recut."

Updates, 5/21: "There is plenty of violence and intrigue, but it seems likely that had Mr Schroeder pitched the project to a Hollywood studio, the story would have been dismissed as crazily implausible," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "In any case it works brilliantly as a documentary, with a narrative that is all the more amazing for being true." Vergès is "one of the most fascinating characters on screen in Cannes this year, a figure out of Joseph Conrad, a man whose life and personality become lenses through which a shadowy, paradoxical stretch of the recent past is refracted."

"Part of the film's fascination, at least to those unfamiliar with Vergès, is its novelty; the story is fresh, epic, and challenging to all preconceptions about the use of violence for political purposes," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time. "To what extent, Schroeder asks, do individuals practice terrorism and countries practice military diplomacy, when both actions end in the deaths of dozens, or millions, of innocents?"

Update, 5/23: "L'avocate de la Terreur gets bogged down at times in mounting details of organizational relationships and plots, especially difficult for those not familiar with the historical events tackled, but it usually gets pulled back into line with Vergés' dynamic reappearance on screen," writes Hannah Eaves for PopMatters. "The logic behind these directorial decisions becomes clear as these details are used in the rationale for Verges' defense of a Nazi war criminal, but a simpler approach might benefit the film."

Update, 5/31: "At almost 2 1/2 hours, it's at once not nearly enough and far too much - an avalanche of ill-shaped information that obliterates Schroeder's end goals," writes Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog. "If this is a portrait of Vergès, it's an interesting, muddied, unsatisfying one. If it's a Cliffs Notes of contemporary terrorism, its attempting the impossible for a feature film."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 4:23 PM

Cannes. Heroes.

Heroes "Bruno Merle's debut feature abounds in cinematic references," writes Bernard Besserglik in the Hollywood Reporter of the Critics' Week entry, Héros. "No description of this movie could make it sound like anything other than a mess; in principle, it ought not to work, but somehow it does. This is largely because of the bravura performance of [Michael] Youn, who positively sizzles on the screen, playing Pierre like Samuel Beckett on speed."

Emmanuel Burdeau for Cahiers du cinéma: "Let it be known that it is not unlike anything else - in spite of what has been said by one of its actors, Patrick Chesnais - but reminds us of everything we're surrounded by: celebrity, the crisis in comic function, and what's chic and trashy à la Gaspar Noë."

"When presenting the film, its two lead actors Patrick Chesnais and Michaël Youn described it, respectively, as an 'atypical project' and 'a UFO among current French films,'" reports Vitor Pinto for Cineuropa. "It was easy to sense the restlessness about how such a film would be received on the Croisette but, in the end, there was no room for disappointment."

"Imagine a raving lunatic screaming at you virtually non-stop for two hours, six inches from your face, and you will begin to get an idea of what it is like to watch Heroes," warns Peter Brunette in Screen Daily.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 4:08 PM

Cannes. Savage Grace.

Savage Grace Eugene Hernandez has caught the Directors' Fortnight entry, Savage Grace, "the long-awaited second feature from Swoon director Tom Kalin. The words I keep thinking of to describe [Julianne] Moore's remarkable performance in the film are, 'deliciously evil.'"

"Cineastes may see parallels in Orson Welles's adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons or Visconti's version of The Leopard," suggests Allan Hunter in Screen Daily. "Savage Grace doesn't have that level of ambition but it is dark, uneasy little tale with notable performances from Eddie Redmayne as the sulky, deeply damaged Tony; and Moore, who has her best role in years as a desperate woman whose notions of love became corrupted by her bitter disappointments with life."

Someone at Variety finds it "a crushingly unsuccessful glimpse into the lives of the rich, peripatetic heirs of the Bakelite plastics fortune.... In the book Savage Grace (like its predecessor Edie, published three years earlier), the narrative wasn't told so much as constructed, edited into being through first-person narratives that revealed the complexities of its characters. Kalin, so sure in Swoon, overreaches in trying to tell too much of the story, shuttling between New York, Paris, Spain and London, but in trying to build his characters he rarely gets beyond the superficial."

"You have to wonder what we're supposed to take away from a sicko psychodrama that's well acted (Moore gives it her best shot), but offers zero insight into what made these folks derail," frowns Erica Abeel at Filmmaker. "Rather than engaging the viewer, the film virtually fades from the screen as you watch, becoming a phantom of the filmmaker's imagination."

Update, 5/20: "It's one warped sexy decadent sophisticated movie." And Anne Thompson notes it got a standing ovation, too.

Updates, 5/22: "The best aspect that Savage Grace has on its side is Moore's performance; careening from despondent midlife whiner to cunning seductress, her creepy demeanor recalls Gena Rowlands in John Cassavetes's Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," writes Eric Kohn for indieWIRE. "However, discussions that will inevitably encircle the movie whenever it hits theaters are sure to center on a particularly nasty incest scene."

Rob Nelson talks with Kalin for the Voice and adds, "Halfway through the fest, it's the most provocative American film in Cannes - Sicko withstanding."

Updates, 5/23: For the New York Times, Manohla Dargis talks with screenwriter Howard Rodman: MP3.

A "film filled with unlikeable people doing bad things to each other can be hard to watch," notes Hannah Eaves for PopMatters. "Overarch, detached and fragmented, it is difficult to make any emotional connection to this story."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 3:31 PM

Weekend shorts.

Philippe Garrel "Inspired by the activism of his parents during the Algerian war in Liberté, la nuit Philippe Garrel masterfully charts the repercussions of such political and historical involvement in terms of memory, idealism and human relationships long after the events themselves have died down," writes Daniel Kasman.

Marlon Brando's image "as a man who was resentful of the world and full of self-loathing, is being challenged with the discovery of previously unseen home movies and photographs – some of which are published for the first time in the Times today," reports Dalya Alberge.

Up-n-coming:

RAF

Time's Richard Schickel on In Search of Mozart: "OK, it's a pretty bad film. But I loved every minute of it. Why? Because [director Phil] Grabsky is generous with his performance footage; operas, symphonies, concertos, chamber works tumble forth, giving us a sense of the composer's fecundity, tireless ambition and quite modern need to make a living when the traditional patronage system was beginning to falter." Further in: "It's much harder to explain my regard for Bug. I mean, eclectic as I pretend to be, I don't much care for horror movies, especially the currently endemic teen-slasher variety. But I saw William Friedkin's movie many months ago and it has haunted me ever since."

Filmbrain recommends Bug as well: "As Richard Linklater demonstrated with Tape, it is possible to mount a successful drama within the confines of a motel room, though unlike the DIY aesthetic of Linklater's piece, Friedkin applies a remarkably jarring visual style, and matching sound design, that succeeds in enhancing the tension and capturing the paranoid gaze. Though not as severe as Gaspar Noé's gunshot punctuations in I Stand Alone, this is Friedkin's greatest use of sound since The Exorcist."

Andrea Hubert introduces "mumblecore" to Guardian readers.

Also:

Hollywood on Trial

  • Michael Freedland, author of the forthcoming Hollywood on Trial, sets off a string of comments at the Guardian as he looks back on a dark anniversary: "Huac was responsible for suicides, fatal heart attacks and the destruction of the careers of more than 400 people placed on the blacklists held by Hollywood producers. Most were men and women who refused, or failed to answer 'satisfactorily,' the vicious $64,000 question: 'Are you now or have you ever been a communist?' That in a country which never banned the party or its newspaper, the Daily Worker."

  • David Thomson considers George Clooney.

  • Andrew Pulver's talks with David Fincher about Zodiac.

  • Hannah Pool interviews Mackenzie Crook.

"I have many more American films to see, but I'm confident Killer of Sheep will maintain its rightful place in the Library of Congress's National Film Registry as one of the greatest American films ever made," writes Adam Hartzell at Hell on Frisco Bay.

Craig Phillips takes up a fresh and welcome angle in his review of Sheep - What's Charles Burnett been up to since making this national treasure? - and find the filmography "short, but there have been some masterpieces." Particularly, "his piece for the series The Blues - Warming By the Devil's Fire - probably comes closest of all his recent work of truly being his vision."

Angel François Ozon's Angel "is a movie you either get or you don't - this response more or less dictates whether sitting through the film's 134 minutes is a wicked delight or a dreadful bore," writes Matt Riviera.

"Even when he's worked with escalated budgets, John Dahl has retained his playful noir side," writes Jason Clark. "His latest, the eclectic, often hilarious You Kill Me, may star an Oscar winner but its roots are firmly planted in the Dahl aesthetic."

Also at Slant, three reviews by Nick Schager:

  • "9 Star Hotel is an empathetic portrait of a particular human circumstance, but without greater context, it ultimately feels like only half the story."

  • Day Watch: "[T]rying to discern meaning amid this garbage heap of spare Matrix parts - secret realities hidden behind our everyday one, bullet-time effects, supermen who wear their sunglasses at night - is as futile as searching for a character with a single coherent personality trait."

  • And I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal "is predictably hagiographic in nature."

The Wendell Baker Story "The appeal of The Wendell Baker Story depends on how charming you find the Wilson brothers, with their chipmunk grins and hip smart-aleck attitude," writes Stephen Holden. "For my taste, a little goes a long way. But if you like Lyle Lovett songs, Thomas McGuane novels and sardonic country yarns sung by grizzled Texan 'outlaws,' you'll have no trouble slipping into its easygoing groove, fortified by its country-rock soundtrack. Smirks are to be had, but no belly laughs."

More from Matt Singer at the Reeler: "If he were played by Owen Wilson, Wendell might have made this fast-talking conniver a bit more charming; the movie still wouldn't have been much good. Above all, Luke should stick to being Luke." And Cinematical's Erik Davis sees it "falling somewhere between Bottle Rocket and Rancho Deluxe; a neatly-wrapped Texas meal that comes with enough mouth-watering sides to keep your belly full as your mind begins to wonder."

And: "The Wendell Baker Story is too slight a goof to withstand much critical scrutiny—let's just say that it disappoints, Wilsonishly, by failing to live up to its promise. But that very fact makes the movie as good an excuse as any to assess the brothers at midcareer," decides Slate's Dana Stevens.

Back to the New York Times:

  • Stephen Holden on Brooklyn Rules: "However authentic and heartfelt this film's depiction of life on the meaner streets of the Northeast corridor may be, it doesn't begin to match The Sopranos' epic vision of violence, class struggle and upward mobility in a barbarous culture." Related: ST VanAirsdale at the Reeler: "Despite its marvels of rage, Brooklyn Rules is ultimately a paean to sobriety: the rehabilitation of individuals and the communities that shape them."

  • Also, "Even Money is so devoted to sustaining shock and awe that it doesn't bother to offer clues about the causes and treatment of gambling addiction."

Private Property
  • "Watching [Isabelle Huppert] in Michael Haneke's Piano Teacher or Private Property, a slow-boiling film from the young Belgian Joachim Lafosse, you wonder how much more she can afford to give, how much she has left," writes Manohla Dargis. "But the beauty of this admirably modest and emotionally true film is that, no matter how profound the cruelty, Mr. Lafosse and his actors never let us forget the love. That might seem terribly sentimental; really, it's just sentiment."

  • "A Michael Keaton outing is always cause for celebration, no matter how ramshackle the vehicle (First Daughter, anyone?) or paper-thin the role," writes Jeannette Catsoulis, and right she is. "Unpredictability is his game, and when he's on top of it, he can make you forget that there's a script. That ability is formidably tested in The Last Time, a Glengarry Glen Ross knockoff written and directed by Michael Caleo."

  • Also, in Memories of Tomorrow, director Yukihiko Tsutsumi "surrounds [Ken Watanabe] with hysterical speeches and Michiru Oshima's weeping orchestral score. Mr Watanabe, of course, requires none of this; his performance is all the emotion the movie needs."

  • And: "Briskly directed by Christopher Smith (who also contributed to the screenplay), Severance overcomes its narrative deficiencies with inventive bloodletting and no small amount of wit."

  • Matt Zoller Seitz finds that "while [Rolling Like a Stone] has poignant and funny moments, it's a serious film about mortality, success and the ephemeral nature of experience and memory."

  • Also: "There may be a point to The Boy Who Cried Bitch: The Adolescent Years, a purportedly fact-based psychodrama about the teenage evolution of a future serial killer. But the film is so clumsily written and directed, and the performances so one-note, that any potential for enlightenment is suffocated."

  • Neil Genzlinger: "What Six Days is doing in theatrical release rather than on the History Channel isn't quite clear; the film, about the 1967 war in the Middle East, is a standard-issue documentary, and a rather plodding one."

Wagstaff celebrates the 30th anniversary of Smokey and the Bandit at Edward Copeland on Film.

Looking for some fresh Asian horror? André Salas has a few recommendations at Filmmaker: "I know, I know... the female ghost with matted, long dark hair covering the face has pretty much been done to death (pun intended) but I'll be damned if the Koreans aren't still managing to get a little extra milage out of this tired horror trend."

"There is no better way to watch this film than in a packed midnight showing. Without a bunch of strangers surrounding me echoing my emotions, I would have seen Black Sheep as a much worse film," writes Dan Eisenberg. Also: "Death Trike is a comic take on the slasher film, except the slasher is a tricycle." And: "To be sure its oddity resembles Napoleon Dynamite. However, Eagle Vs Shark makes most of its characters sympathetic, instead of just strange." Plus, Everything Will Be Okay: "I honestly feel like this is the closest thing I've seen to a piece of transcendent work in a long while. It touched me on an intellectual level, an emotional level, and a spiritual level. There is nothing more I could ask of from a film."

With shots from Nostalghia, Matthew Swiezynski runs passages from Andrei Tarkovsky: Interviews.

They Live By Night "What is beautiful about They Live by Night is that it takes as its characters little people who don't do great things or apparently have great feelings but live meanly and die horribly between the cracks of conventional aspiration," writes Irene Dobson at Flickhead. "I am reminded of the small desperate stories of the Italian Neo-Realists, anecdotes of difficult days using people drawn from the day itself and given their lives on a daily basis to keep them fresh. They Live by Night was released in 1948, the same year as Bicycle Thieves, so my presumption doesn't seem so far-fetched."

Mike at Esotika Erotica Psychotica on Daughters of Darkness: "[A]side from a brilliant plot, sense of visuals, and musical score, the element that makes this film stand out so far above many is it's tone and sense of atmosphere." Also, Last House on Dead End Street: "Originally released in May of 1977, this year, 2007, marks its 30th anniversary. Also, this year marks the sad death of its director, Roger Watkins, who was also responsible for several brilliantly atmospheric hardcore films made between the late 70s and 80s."

This week's interviewee at DVD Panache: Steve Carlson.

Ted Pigeon argues that we now have "criticism deserving of the pop-discourse it perpetuates."

"Polish police have 'held for questioning' at least six people in a crackdown on online movie piracy. Their crime? Providing free subtitles." David Cassel reports for Tech.Blorge; via Xeni Jardin, who's floats a theory as to what's behind this odd move at Boing Boing.

"After a 10-year intermission, drive-in movies are returning to Orange County, courtesy of an inflatable silver screen." Roy Rivenburg reports in the Los Angeles Times.

Tobey Maguire's looking to buy some art. Sarah Thornton takes notes for Artforum.

Online viewing tip. Joe Leydon finds "100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100 Numbers."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:08 PM

Cannes, 5/19.

Cannes First, an online listening tip. The New York Times posts an MP3: Manohla Dargis talks with Sight & Sound editor Nick James. On a related note, S&S will be presenting a talk by Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux on June 12 in London.

Dave Kehr gathers a generous cluster of highlights from coverage of the festival in the French press.

Via Movie City News, Stephen Applebaum in the Scotsman: "Cannes is the film industry in a nutshell, a place, the novelist Irwin Shaw wrote, that attracts 'the artists and pseudo-artists, the businessmen, the con men, the buyers and sellers, the peddlers, the whores, the pornographers, critics, hangers-on, the year's heroes, the year's failures.' It is like a Hogarth sketch come to life - only in Cannes people are more likely to be drinking Champagne than gin and the only horses getting flogged are dead ones."

The might not be any British films competing this year, but Stephen Frears is heading the jury and Control is scoring raves. The Independent reports on another British triumph, the "re-release of the classic Hammer version of Bram Stoker's work," Count Dracula, "complete with scenes judged too gory for audiences in 1958. Ed Caesar and Arifa Akbar report on the premiere, while John Walsh profiles the men who will be forever associated with the vampire count."

In the Guardian:

If...

  • Mike Kaplan tells the story behind his film about Lindsay Anderson: "With Never Apologise, Anderson is again back in Cannes, which he loved; which he first covered as a critic; where all his major films had their international premieres; where Richard Harris won the best actor award for This Sporting Life; where Anderson took the Palme D'Or for If... In other words I like to think of him as back in full force, cheering us on."

  • Don Cheadle, "along with his Ocean's 13 co-star [George] Clooney, has hijacked the premiere of Steven Soderbergh's latest film to focus the gaze of Hollywood - and, by extension, the world - on Darfur," reports Dan Glaister. "Tuesday's party [in Cannes] will be a benefit to aid the fledgling Not on our Watch Foundation, a fundraising and advocacy group that aims 'to focus global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities.' But unlike most non-profit start-ups, this one boasts a stellar list of board members on its letterhead: Cheadle, Clooney, [Matt] Damon, Brad Pitt and the Ocean's 13 producer, Jerry Weintraub."

  • Mike Brett tours "Marché du Film section of the Palais - the land of The Films No One Has Bought."

At the Austin Movie Blog, Charles Ealy listens to Leonardo DiCaprio talk about global warming and The 11th Hour.

Matt Dentler's got lots of pix and a few quick words on Triangle, Boarding Gate and Control.

Cinematical's James Rocchi's got more pix, too.

IndieWIRE's latest Atelier interview: Semih Kaplanoglu (Milk, Turkey).

Posted by dwhudson at 12:32 PM

Other fests, other events, 5/19.

Shimmer Crash Excavations of the Recordable World, a program screening at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts tomorrow evening in San Francisco, highlights the work of Brook Hinton and Katherin McInnis. Michael Guillén asks Hinton, "Why experimental cinema?"

Morgan Falconer relates "the story of how Warhol chanced upon the idea for his first film, Sleep, the five-and-a-half-hour epic that Tate Modern is screening this weekend in an extended 18-hour loop, along with a continuous live performance of Eric Satie's Vexations. It's a film that might be about many things - time in art, captured stillness and movement, the proximity of sleep to death - but the story of its inspiration seems, like a lot of the official explanations of Warhol's artworks, rather too neatly anecdotal."

Salesman Geoffrey Macnab in the Independent on the Maysles Brothers season at BFI Southbank: "The reason the Maysleses' films about celebrities seem so fresh is that the brothers treat Capote, Ali, John F Kennedy, Brando et al the same way as they do Edie Beale or the salesmen. They are like benign anthropologists." Through May 31.

The Little Rock Film Festival is on through tomorrow and Derek Jenkins, who guest-edited the excellent "Southern Movie Issue" of the Oxford American, blogging the fest for the Arkansas Times.

AJ Schnack has the lineup for the Newport International Film Festival (June 5 through 10).

Silverdocs is lined up. June 12 through 17.

The full lineup for the New York Asian Film Festival (June 22 through July 5) is in place. Canfield has the annotated list at Twitch.

At Cinema Strikes Back, Jeff points to a list of titles that'll be screening at the Japan Society's Japan Cuts festival in New York (July 5 through 15).

Fernando F Croce looks back on the San Francisco International Film Festival for Slant; David Walsh files the WSWS's third report.

Jake Meany does much the same for the Independent Film Festival of Boston and PopMatters.

In anticipation of the reopening of the Jeff Wall exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago on June 29 (through September 23), Arthur C Danto takes a good look at the first photograph, The Destroyed Room, and quotes Wall from the interview with James Rondeau included in the exhibition catalogue:

Jeff Wall

I had the feeling that it was possible to bring much of what I'd liked in the cinema of the 1960s and 1970s together with what I'd always liked about painting in a form of photography that, whatever faults it might have, would not start out accepting the existing canon. That was an intuition born out of seven or eight years of struggle, intellectual, emotional, artistic struggle, when I couldn't find my own way and went through periods of real desperation.

So, writing for the Nation, Danto picks that up and here's where he goes with it:

I'd like to stress how decisively against the grain of Clement Greenberg's characterization of the Modernist agenda this is. Greenberg contended that each of the arts should protect the boundaries of its medium, and exclude anything that belonged by rights to a different medium. Wall violated the boundaries of several different media (painting, photography and cinema) and even went back into the early Modernist painting of the nineteenth century - in order to find what he needed to address the subjects that concerned him. It is this, in my view, that makes him, along with William Kentridge, one of the paradigmatic artists of our age.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:03 PM

Cannes. Boarding Gate.

Boarding Gate "Girl in black underwear with Luger tucked backside over her tramp stamp - that's about the narrative extent of this blockheaded thriller from filmmaker Olivier Assayas," grumbles the Hollywood Reporter's Duane Byrge. "Starring Michael Madsen as a sleazy international wheeler-dealer and Asia Argento as the bad girl, Boarding Gate is chock full of elements that never spark beyond one-sheet dimension."

You'll see more of the same below regarding this Out of Competition selection, but first, it should be noted that Premiere's Glenn Kenny is, as he puts it, "the odd man out" here. "[I]n such situations one really must, as Sabine Azéma lip-synched in Resnais's On connaît la chanson, 'Resiste!'" The film, he proclaims, "rocked me pretty hard."

"Assayas serves up a surprisingly lackluster series of betrayals, chases and narrow escapes, distinguished only by his sharp eye for color and his penchant for letting half the visual field remain out of focus," writes Mike D'Angelo for ScreenGrab, adding that "Assayas never seems remotely invested in this nonsense - not even in a subversive, strictly intellectual way."

Screen Daily's Lee Marshall finds it "a transglobal thriller of dirty business deals and dirty sex that he has previously mined in Demonlover, with equally underwhelming results."

"Assayas is fascinated, rightly, by the skanky underbelly of the global economy," concedes Erica Abeel at Filmmaker. "But his lurid, even romanticized image of kinky financiers seems to reflect more private obsession than reality."

Cineuropa has background on the production.

Update: It's "a limp, sleazy inanity," scoffs Russell Edwards in Variety, where he predicts it's "likely to follow in the footsteps of Assayas's risible Demonlover that left a stain on the Croisette in 2002."

Update, 5/20: Patrick Z McGavin finds Boarding Gate "riveting to watch... Assayas animates the redemption of sleaze, sharply etching the dark poetry of the contemporary global marketplace that yields a perversely revealing multilingual setting of duplicitously twisted internecine corporate politics, sexual maneuvering and cultural dislocation that colors his B-thriller with a grubby tension, style, unpredictable plotting and memorably drawn characters."

Updates, 5/21: Dennis Lim, writing for IFC News, finds Boarding Gate to be "a scaled-back, quick-and-dirty production - the opposite of Clean (in several ways), a B-movie mutation of demonlover and Irma Vep with a few unavoidable nods to Scarlet Diva, the globe-trotting, ass-kicking calling card of its inimitable star Asia Argento.... The finale packs the tough-tender jolt of a first-rate HK genre flick, and Argento's instinctive, force-of-nature performance is worthy of the emerging queen of the festival (she has two more movies yet to screen: Abel Ferrara's Go Go Tales and Catherine Breillat's An Old Mistress)."

Fabrizio Maltese shoots photos of Argento for european-films.net; plus, Kelly Lin and Carl Ng.

Update, 5/24: "We're still unsold on the distinctive charms of Ms. Argento, who looks fierce stalking around in black lingerie, spike heels and a gun, but who's a strange and slurry presence on film," writes Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog. "She's a little too unhinged to play femme fatale, or maybe she's just bent on reinventing the term — roles like this and past ones in Abel Ferrara's New Rose Hotel and Michael Radford's B. Monkey cast her as the precarious, nationless screen siren of the future circa 1998. She is, like Boarding Gate, both compelling and off-putting."

Update, 5/26: "The first half of the film wreaks [of] a bad Mike Figgis picture, taking too serious the genre which it is trying to pay tribute to, while still under the haze of Assayas own style - a combination that proves fatal," writes Michael Lerman at indieWIRE. "The second half picks up, cataloging through a series of exotic location while still keeping the melancholy sense of impending danger."

Update, 5/31: Karl Rozemeyer has a rip-roaring conversation with Madsen for Premiere.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 11:27 AM | Comments (2)

Cannes. Sicko.

Sicko Michael Moore's Sicko is screening Out of Competition at Cannes - and at the ungodly hour of 8:30 am, too. "I felt the film works completely as entertainiment, and as usual, Moore makes a hard-hitting and topical argument by using comedic elements," blogs Matt Dentler, who lists "quick stand-out moments from today's screening and highlights from the film," among them: "Hillary Clinton is actually called out, for unsuccessfully fighting the healthcare biz while her husband was president, and then later taking major contributions from them once she was a New York Senator."

"Sicko didn't tell me anything radically new about what an absurd health-care system we have, but it spelled out very clearly and, it seemed to me, honestly how much better the health-care systems are in Canada, England and France," writes Jeffrey Wells. "It's not just an eye-opener, in short, but a movie that opens your emotional pores."

"As someone who loved Bowling for Columbine, but found Fahrenheit 911 to be self-indulgent and unsurprising, I went to the movie with few expectations," admits Jared Moshe. "Surprise, surprise I loved the movie."

"Lost in all the publicity over Moore's trip is the reason he went to Cuba in the first place," reports the AP's Jocelyn Noveck, who talks with Moore and some of the 9/11 "first responders" he took there. "He says he hadn't intended to go, but then discovered the U.S. government was boasting of the excellent medical care it provides terror suspects detained at Guantanamo. So Moore decided that the 9/11 workers and a few other patients, all of whom had serious trouble paying for care at home, should have the same chance."

Brendon Connelly comments on an act of charity.

Gregg Kilday talks with Moore for the Hollywood Reporter.

Online viewing tip. John Dickerson at Slate on Fred Thompson vs Michael Moore.

Updates: Elizabeth Guider reports on the press conference for Variety: "Although he expects the Bush Administration to pick apart his film... Moore said he's more concerned with the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry.... He's also taken a master duplicate of Sicko out of America, should he be prevented from screening the Cuban footage. Having to do that, he said, is 'ridiculous' and 'insane.'"

And Variety's Alissa Simon: "Employing his trademark personal narration and David vs Goliath approach, Moore enlivens what is, in essence, a depressing subject by wrapping it in irony and injecting levity wherever possible: a long list of health conditions that spark a reason for a person to be denied insurance coverage sail into deep space accompanied by the Stars Wars theme; a graph showing America's position in global health care as No 38 - just above Slovenia - is followed by film footage of primitive operating conditions." But it's not all laughs, obviously: "Perhaps most emotionally affecting story comes from Julie, a hospital worker whose husband had a potentially terminal illness that medical staff thought could be treated with a bone marrow transplant. Insurance deemed the treatment experimental and refused to cover it. Unable to afford an alternative, the husband died."

"Disagreement may come over the prescription Dr Moore suggests," concedes Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter. "But he makes so much damn sense in his arguments that the discussion could be civilized except for the heat coming from the health care industry, with billions of dollars in profits at stake, and certain politicians whose pockets are lined with industry campaign donations."

IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez listens to Moore at the press conference: "It is my (profound) hope that people will listen this time with this film, because I don't want to wait ten or twenty years before we have universal health coverage in America and I don't want to wait ten or twenty years before we as Americans take a look into our soul so that we can become better citizens in this world."

"Michael Moore's passionate, bullying, gag-laced approach to the 'j'accuse' documentary worked a treat in Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11 - and it works even better in Sicko," writes Lee Marshall for Screen Daily. "Abroad, especially in Europe, Sicko will shock and comfort in equal measure - if we were being uncharitable, we might view his decision to contrast the US system with the free health care offered in Canada, Britain and especially France as a feel-good gift to audiences and distributors in those territories. But the points Moore makes here are (mostly) well-founded - and managed, as always, with a vein of irony that makes it difficult to dissent."

Cinematical's James Rocchi: "Sicko, Michael Moore's new film, is ostensibly about health care in America; it's not, any more than Moby Dick is about a fishing trip. Like Moore's other documentaries... Sicko's central theme is American democracy - how it works, where it doesn't - and the culture of capital." He finds it's the "tone - of selfless self-celebration, of public altruism, of snide sensitivity - that undercuts a lot of Moore's work, and it undermines Sicko. I don't expect a film to solve the American health care crisis, but even as a call to arms, Sicko's more muddled and muted and scattered than it should be."

The Guardian's Charlotte Higgins is amused by a sequence filmed back home: "There's a particularly comic sequence in which Moore marches round Hammersmith hospital in London searching for the payments section. Eventually he finds the cashier's office: much mock incredulity ensues when he discovers its purpose is not to receive money from patients, but to pay out cash to those of them who cannot afford their travel expenses."

Moore has "indicated that he wasn't looking forward to any possible confrontations [with the US government], but he also acknowledged that Harvey Weinstein, who heads the Weinstein company that's distributing the movie, wouldn't shy from such controversy and would be ready to go on attack," reports Charles Ealy at the Austin Movie Blog. "Weinstein, who was standing on the sidelines during a press conference, smiled broadly."

Sicko

"Sicko does not display Moore at his most cinematically inventive or imaginative," notes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Still, there is no mistaking the passion and political intelligence at work in Sicko. It's both a more finely calibrated film and one with more far-reaching consequences than any he's made before." Further:

When Moore interviews Tony Benn, a leading figure on the British left, his larger concerns come into focus. Benn argues that for-profit healthcare and the other instruments of the corporate state, like student loans and bottomless credit-card debt, perform a crucial function for that state. They undermine democracy by creating a docile and hardworking population that is addicted to constant debt and an essentially unsustainable lifestyle, that literally cannot afford to quit jobs or take time off, that is more interested in maintaining high incomes than in social or political change. Moore seizes on this insight and makes it a kind of central theme; both in the film and aloud, at the press conference, he wondered whether some essential and unrecognized change has occurred in the American character.

"Moore isn't the first to say that the health care system is sick — that it's riddled with inequities and iniquities," writes Time's Richard Corliss. "He's never the first to address a gut issue, whether it's corporate greed (Roger & Me), American violence (Bowling for Columbine), the politics of terror (Fahrenheit 9/11). But he's the one who does it the noisiest, with the highest entertainment value, mixing muckraking with showmanship, Ida Tarbell with PT Barnum. His new movie - which has its world premiere tonight in Cannes, and opens in North America June 29th - fits honorably in that tradition. As both harangue and movie tragicomedy, Sicko is socko."

Updates, 5/20: Anne Thompson is brought to tears. "Tough stuff. It will play like gangbusters all over the world. But will it be enough to bail out the Weinsteins?"

"As agitator and provocative filmmaker, Moore seems to have calmed down (a function of middle-age? cushier life as a result of success? An eye toward the marketplace), bringing a lighter touch and using a more diffuse approach to his subject matter, one more in the vein of Roger and Me," writes Emanuel Levy. "Sicko is more of a folkloristic comedy, in which Moore functions as a contempo Mark Twain or Will Rogers, a good-natured, wide-eyed American abroad, a voyeuristic tourist who goes from country to country, seeking comparisons and possible solutions to the critical conditions of the US health system - and way of life."

"Lacking context or a shred of counterargument, the movie is predictably populist and one-dimensional," writes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE. "But in its litany of health-care horror stories, one after another after another, Sicko packs an emotional wallop that's hard to resist with dead children and fallen husbands all casualties of the American healthcare system."

Updates, 5/21: "Mr Moore has always been a canny rhetorician: He's a master of the obvious observation and the pseudo-naïve question," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "These can be effective ploys, but they sometimes come across as maddeningly condescending. Early in Sicko he says, 'I always thought that the health insurance companies were here to help us,' a statement that the very existence of this film proves preposterous. It's as if Mr Moore's didn't want his Everyman persona to look or sound too smart, a tactic that results only in dumber movies."

In the Guardian, Agnès Poirier breaks the film down into its four acts and then writes, "[W]hile Moore's main objective is to reach his fellow Americans, his film should also make Europeans ponder on the system they too often take for granted. George Orwell would hate it. But forget about him for a minute. There may sometimes be such a thing as good propaganda."

"[E]xhilarating and hilarious," adds Peter Bradshaw.

"Sicko isn't a bad film, exactly, but anyone who's seen even one of Michael Moore's previous screed-cum-documentaries could probably give a fairly accurate summary of its content, sight unseen," suggests Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. He wishes "the left had found a less Coulteresque demagogue."

Variety tells of Moore recalling that Harvey Weinstein wasn't overjoyed that he would criticize Hillary Clinton in Sicko, but "he respects me enough as a filmmaker to leave it in."

Jeffrey Kluger interviews Moore for Time.

Time Out's Dave Calhoun finds it "a powerful film and one that's also unexpectedly moving.... Most pleasing is how Moore roots these different national approaches to healthcare in broader ideas about how lives should be lived and how governments should govern. His examination of healthcare essentially becomes an argument for more socialist ideals."

Cinematical's James Rocchi has more notes from the press conference.

Updates, 5/22: The health insurance industry's keeping an eye on the film and measuring its potential impact, report Milt Freudenheim and Liza Klaussmann in the NYT.

"In the end, it's agitprop in the best sense, with disarming humor that helps mute the anger, while still convincing the viewer that something in the health care industry is fundamentally and dangerously out of whack," writes Patrick Z McGavin for Stop Smiling.

John Horn talks with Moore for the Los Angeles Times.

More press conference notes from Erica Abeel at Filmmaker: "'I said 3 years ago in Cannes that I was doing the health care system, and the pharmaceutical companies went on red alert. They actually trained employees to get me off the subject by asking me about sports and complimenting me on my weight loss.' So this time round, Moore will stay mum about his next project."

"Considering what's at stake, you can't help feeling this should have been a less reductive, more scrupulous film," writes admits Dennis Lim for IFC News.

Updates, 5/23: "Thankfully, [Moore] leaves behind his proclivity for personal attacks and confrontation to instead craft a completely engaging and tragic-comic story of a terrible situation," writes Hannah Eaves for PopMatters.

Michael Moore writes an open letter from Cannes. He's also hosted a chat at Daily Kos.

Online listening tip. Milos Stehlik on WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio.

Update, 5/24: One thing "that makes Sicko Moore's strongest film in years - if not ever - is its steadfast refusal to turn health care into a polarizing political issue, except to say that pretty much all American politicians, regardless of rank or affiliation, have left us to fend for ourselves," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly. "Say what you will about Moore: He can be didactic, reductive and repetitive, and I'm still not convinced that his plainspoken Will Rogers routine is anything more than an extremely well-polished act. But Sicko is the first time in years that I've believed Moore genuinely cares... about something other than his own ego."

James Israel has the trailer - and reposts a comment from the AMC TV blog, which begins, "As a future physician, my hope is that we are able to have socialized medicine in the US."

Update, 5/27: For the New York Times, Anthony DePalma looks a little deeper into Moore's juxtaposition of the health care systems in the US and Cuba.

Updates, 5/28: "It's no exaggeration: people are being killed by the giant insurance and hospital-industrial complex, as Sicko piercingly and movingly conveys," writes Anthony Kaufman at the Huffington Post. "Tapping into the raw emotion of this injustice, the movie has the power to unite all of us who have played the maddening game with insurance companies, wondering whether this or that medical procedure will be covered, and for how much.... Say what you will about Michael Moore, and many have, but with Sicko he's tapped into a source of pain and frustration that transcends political beliefs."

Online viewing tip. Bill Maher interviews Moore; it's Moore's first live television interview in well over two years.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 5:43 AM | Comments (2)

Interview. Peter Cowie.

Revolution! The Explosion of World Cinema in the Sixties Here's a very fine weekend read: Sean Axmaker's conversation with Peter Cowie covers a helluva lot of ground, with Cowie's Revolution! The Explosion of World Cinema in the Sixties as the point of departure. Sean:

Rather than a traditional history or film study, the book is a vibrant portrait of the dynamic of the cinema culture of the era, featuring interviews with directors recalling the films and the film culture around them as they developed as well as Cowie's own memories of the excitement over the period, filtered through the understanding of a historian and veteran film critic. Just as importantly, he delves into lesser-known names and national cinema and the culture of political and social cinema and narrative experiments, all with a breathless brevity and thrilling immediacy that brings back the excitement of discovery for a cinema culture decades past.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:47 AM

May 18, 2007

Cannes. No Country for Old Men.

Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men is "an obviously brilliant action thriller that's been made with such exactitude and smart-guy expertise, and is so full of meditative sadnesses and poetic strokes, and which exists on a plane so far above your typical drug-money, hired-gun-on-the-prowl bloody crime pic that [it's] beyond my descriptive powers at this point," gasps Jeffrey Wells. "The damn thing is just staggering."

No Country for Old Men

"[N]othing short of brilliant," agrees Charles Ealy at the Austin Movie Blog. "It's by far the most violent Coen brothers film ever, surpassing the deadpan tree-shredding of bodies in Fargo. And it marks a return of the Coens to Texas, where they set their first feature film, Blood Simple. Like that movie, No Country delights in the unusual minor characters who pop up in scene after scene. You hate to see them gunned down, but you know it's coming, just like a biblical plague."

Online viewing tip. Solace in Cinema has a 3½-minute promo reel.

Updates, 5/19: "A scorching blast of tense genre filmmaking shot through with rich veins of melancholy, down-home philosophy and dark, dark humor," revels Variety's Todd McCarthy. "Cormac McCarthy's bracing and brilliant novel is gold for the Coen brothers... [who] are back on top of their game after some less than stellar outings. While brandishing the brothers' customary wit and impeccable craftsmanship, pic possess the vitality and invention of top-drawer 1970s American filmmaking, quite an accomplishment these days. It's also got one of cinema's most original and memorable villains in recent memory, never a bad thing in attracting an audience, especially as so audaciously played by Javier Bardem." And Tommy Lee Jones "would practically seem to have been born to play Cormac McCarthy roles, and he proves it here."

"The often brutal cat-and-mouse game that ensues between the two characters [played by Bardem and Josh Brolin] affords the Coens the opportunity to create some of the most imaginative and excruciating suspense set pieces of their, or anybody else's, career," writes Premiere's Glenn Kenny. "There's some mind-blowing stuff going on here." Then: "It turns ruminant, elides what some might consider major high points of the story, and goes for something more deeply elegiac than anything the filmmakers have ever attempted before.... I've got a feeling I may be calling Country a full-fledged masterpiece after I catch it a second time. Or maybe even before then."

Time's Richard Corliss: "Joel Coen says this is 'about as close as we'll ever get to an action movie.' On that count, and for most of the film, No Country delivers, with suspense scenes as taut as they are acutely observed." Then there's that twist: "As a Cannes critic, I accept their right to undercut expectations; I hereby validate their modernist parking ticket. But there's enough of a movie kid left in me that I'd like to see this almost-great effort not go bust at the end, but climax in a great big bloody BOOM!"

"Truly fantastic," writes Matt Dentler. "[T]he film rolls along like those West Texas towns (it was shot primarily in Marfa) where nothing much happens until the day where all hell breaks loose."

"The Coens' typically superior filmmaking sustains the electrifying mood for most of the picture, but they are undone by being too faithful to the source novel by Cormac McCarthy," argues Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter.

"We go to see No Country For Old Men and are promptly knocked on our arses," writes Xan Brooks in his diary for the Guardian. "Midway through, I had this down as the brothers' best film since The Big Lebowski. By the end I was wondering if it might not be their masterpiece."

"The elegiac evocation of a changing American heartland in moral meltdown is deftly handled but there are reservations about pacing and balance that prevent the film from achieving the greatness that sometimes seems within its grasp," argues Allan Hunter in Screen Daily.

"This is a completely gripping nihilistic thriller, a model of impeccably constructed, implacable storytelling," writes Kenneth Turan, who talks with the Coens for the Los Angeles Times. "All you could hope for in a marriage of the Coen brothers and McCarthy, it's a film that you can't stop watching, even though you very much wish you could as it escorts you through a world so horrifically bleak 'you put your soul at hazard,' as one character says, to be part of it."

Updates, 5/20: "Despite being their first literary adaptation, Old Men is as close as they've ever come to recapturing Blood Simple's virtuoso atmosphere of indolent mayhem," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. "It's the rare movie so moment-to-moment riveting that you're sometimes in danger of forgetting to breathe."

"Afterward the applause seemed strangely sparse," notes Emmanuel Burdeau of Cahiers after one screening. "But no, it is logical that the Coens leave their audience in shock; their fatalism has no 'Action!' nor 'The End' - it is up to each one of us to find in it consolation or condemnation."

"Consider the movie another coup for producer Scott Rudin, who is said to have willed it into being," blog the Hollywood Reporter's Gregg Kilday.

"No Country for Old Men is a morality tale written in blood and muzzle flashes, but all of the shock and power in the close-quarters lunge and rush of it can't hide that it's also a serious, thoughtful work of art that lies uneasy in your mind long after it's stirred your blood," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi. "The film may have headlong gun battles down dark alleys and range across borders in as the characters follow each other through the West, but what it really explores is the human soul: How we live, how we die, what we regret, what we fear."

Anne Thompson sees "a strong Oscar run."

"[A]n undisputed masterpiece that impresses on any number of levels," declares Emanuel Levy.

Charles Ealy adds lots of quotage from Brolin and Bardem.

"While mostly entertaining (particularly an early chase scene with a Rottweiler), the Coens, and others, have traversed this road before," writes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE. "Chasing a bag of money, of course, is no original conceit and the film's ultimate message - that one can't escape one's fate - only travels so far."

"We would never have guessed that Cormac McCarthy's laconic fatalism would combine so well with the brothers detached genre sensibilities, but here it is — a dark thriller laced with darker humor that unravels to reveal something greater, wiser and regretful," writes Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog, where she pronounces this one the Coens' best. Ever.

Updates, 5/21: "Faithful to both the mood and the language of Mr McCarthy's book, it is well made without being ostentatious in its virtuosity: stark, lean (in spite of a two-hour running time) and plenty mean," writes AO Scott in the New York Times.

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw: "This grisly caper turns cynical in its final act on the question of whether crime pays: it's an uncompromising, even magnificent rebuke to those hoping for some sort of feelgood pay-off. And the images captured by British cinematographer Roger Deakins are delectable."

"[S]pare, fatalistic and magnificently composed," writes Patrick Z McGavin for Stop Smiling. "The source novel imposes a structural clarity on [the Coens'] work, one that is sometimes absent from their other work; the condescension and superiority they often hold toward their characters is finally obliterated."

"With this outstanding cast - Jones is at his best, and Brolin is a revelation - and impressively bleak photography, this has the potential to be a breakout hit," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "On the other hand, American audiences are not known for tolerating genre thrillers that decompose, 70s style, into existential anomie. No Country for Young Men is a tricky one; I want to see it again before reaching a final conclusion."

Updates, 5/22: For the NYT, AO Scott talks with the Coens: MP3.

Online viewing tip. Five more clips.

"[W]ithout a doubt, their best since "The Big Lebowski," admits Dennis Lim for IFC News, but: "It's also shaping up as the most overrated film of the festival. The Coens have fully exploited the cinematic potential of McCarthy's tense, tersely described action sequences, but they've also exacerbated the book's tonal problems and questionable politics (i.e., its apparently face-value conservatism)."

"[U]ndoubtedly one of the finest films we've so far seen in Cannes this year," writes Time Out's Geoff Andrew. "[I]f the openness of the film's later scenes do leave one feeling that it's not like your average genre movie, maybe that's not such a bad thing anyway. After all, the Coens' films have always been notable for their ambitions, audacity and idiosyncrasy, and this is certainly no exception."

The Guardian's Andrew Pulver divides the Coen oeuvre into Before and After Fargo; the problem with the latter half, he proposes, has been the A-list casts.

Updates, 5/23: For the City Pages, Rob Nelson asks the Coens about Bardem's character.

Hannah Eaves, writing for PopMatters, finds it "both the perfect activator and antidote to the violence of the films surrounding it.... If you are worried about the times you live in, and the time of life you face, No Country for Old Men will touch heavily on your fears."

The Guardian's Charlotte Higgins has the latest on the Coens' next projects.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 4:22 PM | Comments (4)

Cannes. Les Chansons d'amour.

"Jacques Demy was really the last French filmmaker to make musicals where songs, action and romantic drama blended effortlessly," asserts the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. "Nevertheless, this has not deterred French novelist-filmmaker Christophe Honoré from bravely attempting to resuscitate the (mostly) discarded genre. The result is mixed."

Les Chansons d'amour

Jonathan Romney, writing for Screen Daily, paints a slightly more elaborate background. "It's an institution that ambitious French directors have returned to with regularity, with even the likes of Godard and Rivette dabbling in it, while the last really successful breakthrough in the field was Ducastel and Martineau's Aids-themed Jeanne et le Garcon Formidable.... But Honoré's competition entry, while theoretically positioned to take him into the top rank of rising French auteurs, is a self-satisfied damp squib which succeeds neither as realist narrative nor as heart-lifting romance, and which provides a rather unexceptional soundtrack palette for its tale of chic, arty young people grieving and falling in love."

At indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez listens in on the press conference and gets a bit of background on Love Songs (Les Chansons d'Amour). "A collaboration between Honore and musician Alex Beaupain, the film features Beaupain's songs sung by actors Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni, Clotilde Hesme and Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet.... Honore approached Beaupain about building a screenplay around some of Beaupain's songs. Despite some friction that the two acknowledged... Honore enlisted his longtime friend to adapt some of the tunes."

"[I]ts portrayal of both death and romance are equally implausible," writes Time Out's Dave Calhoun. "[Honoré's] last film Dans Paris stood just on the right side of whimsy, but this new film is poorly conceived and weak. The songs are dreadful too."

Variety's Jay Weissberg finds it "stumbling a bit in capturing the genuine grief that sits at its heart, though once again his feel for family is unerring and some of pic's greatest charms come from the warmth they inspire. Unabashedly French in its handling of threesomes and porous sexuality, this tale of a romance cut short by tragedy yet finding a way toward love again should play well locally, with respectable offshore prospects."

Mike D'Angelo (ScreenGrab) finds it "rather a bad musical, replete with repetitive yet forgettable songs, halfhearted stabs at offhanded choreography, and cozy narcissism masquerading as ardor."

"[E]ven if you're not won over by its uneven charms, you have to admire its hutzpah," writes Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog. "We started off with that kind of shrug and by the end were genuinely fond. Qui sait?"

This is Honoré's "most accessible film to date," writes european-films.net editor Boyd van Hoeij. "Are the characters completely believable? No. Are the feelings the characters talk and sing about pinpointed with a precision that seems to have become Honoré trademark as well? Very much so. It is this quality that makes Les chansons d'amour a good film - if not necessarily a good musical."

Updates, 5/19: "Honoré's film employs the same three chapter structure and even the same chapter headings - Departure, Absence and Return - as The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, and the two pictures have a common theme of love and loss," writes Wendy Ide for the London Times. "But Chanson's jaded bed-hopping, Gauloise-puffing, quotation-parrying Parisians are a world away from the bittersweet innocence of Cherbourg."

Fabien Lemercier, writing for Cineuropa, finds that "the 36 year-old director-scriptwriter brilliantly overcomes the difficulties of the genre, with songs written by Alex Beaupain perfectly punctuating an intriguing story of turbulent emotions in various forms (love, bisexuality, death, sorrow, rebirth).... [T]he film reveals a working class and multicultural Paris, captured with much veracity through the wanderings of several characters along the city's streets."

Update, 5/28: "How do you inherit from New Wave cinema?" asks Emmanuel Burdeau (Cahiers du cinéma). "No, you can't, it is eternal and perhaps cannot be outdone. Rather, this question: To what extent can a movement that was notoriously heterosexual be translated into homosexual terms?"


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 12:59 PM | Comments (1)

Cannes. The Banishment.

"Back in 2003, Andrei Zvyagintsev won the Golden Lion at Venice for his superb debut, The Return and screening here was The Banishment [Izgnanie], his first film since that triumph, which plays like the wet dream of a Tarkovsky fanatic so much does it owe visually to Zvyagintsev's Russian forbear," writes Time Out's Dave Calhoun. "There are many moments and scenes to enjoy, and I admired the film's sense of an enveloping nightmare... But the overall effect of The Banishment is wearying and disappointing."

The Banishment

"Adapted from William Saroyan's The Laughing Matter, The Banishment's humorlessness is matched only by its bloated self-importance; every take clearly ended with the instruction 'Let's try that again, but with more brooding this time,'" sighs Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab over this Competition entry. "Also, attention, filmmakers of the world: The Arvo Pärt moratorium is still in effect!"

"The filmmaker apparently wants to annihilate the very prospect of failure, of sophomore jinx," suggests Emanuel Levy. "'There is a superstition that the second film is always a flop,' he said. 'Some call it a drop in energy. Vindication can only come from your work.' At 159 minutes, the movie requires extraordinary patience, and those inclined to surrender to the film's heavy mood and elusive rhythm are bound to experience a significant revelation.... The movie suffers from structural problems, but it's also gloriously baroque, the imagery so beautiful and evocative that some of the problematic qualities of the storytelling and characterization are mitigated by the imposing reach of the visual style. The tone is more difficult to decipher. Clearly not a realistic feature, its style is more in vein of a dark dream and a haunting reverie."

"If only the ravishing opening shot... was followed up with both beauty and something genuinely profound, then disappointment wouldn't be so palpable," writes Jay Weissberg in Variety.

"The Banishment starts off like a thriller with a car roaring into the city and a clandestine surgery by a man to remove a bullet in his brother's arm," begins Kirk Honeycutt hopefully. "Then, ever so slowly, the movie falls into the clutches of long, solemn stares into space, meaningful drags on cigarettes, cryptic dialogue revealing little and a tiny drama that feels old, tired and empty of real purpose." Also in the Hollywood Reporter, Nick Holdsworth talks with Zvyagintsev.

For Allan Hunter, writing for Screen Daily, the film "confirms Zvyagintsev as a master of mood and composition but the ponderous pacing and epic running time make the film something of an endurance test."

Update, 5/19: Mary Corliss for Time: "It is truly something to see; for among all the lives to be ruined it is a visual rhapsody, attentive to every nuance in the spectacular land and foliage around the family home, following the lives within as meticulously as it traces the dramatic changes in weather — from clear day to torrential showers — in one of the longest, most intricate and beautiful tracking shots in cinema."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 12:11 PM

Cannes, 5/18.

Cahiers du cinéma Anna Harrison is translating Emmanuel Burdeau's Cannes diary for Cahiers du cinéma.

Geoffrey Macnab, blogging for the Guardian, passes along Michael Haneke's explanation for why his shot-for-shot English-language remake of his own Funny Games is not at Cannes and then hears early word of the Austrian's next project, The White Ribbon, "a rare foray into costume drama... set during the death throes of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Jean-Claude Carrière (the revered screenwriter known for his work with directors like Luis Buñuel, Milos Forman and Nagisa Oshima) has been helping trim the screenplay. The producer is Margaret Menegoz (who works regularly with Eric Rohmer.)"

Remember the "5 Amigos?" The deal's come through, as Peter Knegt reports for indieWIRE: "Acclaimed filmmakers Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men), Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) are forming cha cha cha, a unique production partnership debuting with a Cannes market project. Cha cha cha is partnering with Universal Pictures and its Focus Features International unit for financing, international sales and distribution on an upcoming slate of five films. The new projects include directorial efforts for all three men, as well as new films from writer/directors Carlos Cuarón (Alfonso's brother) and Rodrigo García.... Carlos Cuarón's film, Rudo y Cursi, is currently being sold at the market in Cannes and will star Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna."

Variety's Lisa Nesselson asks a handful of critics who've been attending the festival for years to recall a few highlights.

IndieWIRE's latest Atelier interview: Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (I Can't Go Home).

Posted by dwhudson at 7:37 AM

Zizek on Lives.

Das Leben der Anderen Just days after an assessment of The Lives of Others in the New York Review of Books by Timothy Garton Ash, the very sort of liberal democrat neo-Leninists like Slavoj Zizek condemn more harshly than the most hegemonic-minded neo-con ("So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth"), Zizek offers his own take for In These Times. You can't help but grin as his signature, "But is this really the case?", appears in the very first paragraph. Zizek - and don't get me wrong, I loved The Pervert's Guide to Cinema; it's truly a grand entertainment - then raises a series of actually quite pertinent questions about the depiction of the East German regime and the character of Dreymann, the writer played by Sebastian Koch, before veering around an unlikely corner: "[I]n Lives, it is the woman, Christa-Maria, who breaks down and betrays her husband. Isn't the reason for this weird distortion the film's secret homosexual undercurrent?"

Then it's back to politics and a but-seriously-folks sort of question: "[W]hile Ostalgie is widely practiced in today's Germany without causing ethical problems, one (for the time being, at least) cannot imagine publicly practicing a Nazi nostalgia: Good Bye Hitler instead of Good Bye Lenin [I wouldn't, but some would counter with the example of Downfall]. Doesn't this bear witness to the fact that we are still aware of the emancipatory potential in Communism, which, distorted and thwarted as it was, was thoroughly missing in Fascism?"

Posted by dwhudson at 6:00 AM | Comments (1)

Cannes. The Flight of the Red Balloon.

"Loosely inspired by Albert Lamorisse's 1956 classic The Red Balloon, Hou Hsiao-hsien's French-language debut gracefully extends his recent thematic concerns - specifically, with the hectic pace and isolated nature of urban life - and relocates them to contempo Paris," writes Variety's Justin Chang.

The Flight of the Red Balloon

"Rather than favoring an exclusively child's-eye perspective, Hou holds the three central characters tightly within the frame, yet still manages to isolate them, his camera registering the subtlest shifts in tone, tension and body language. As usual with Hou, the film's exquisite visual pleasures will be lost on viewers unreceptive to his patient but emotionally generous sensibility." The Flight of the Red Balloon (Le Voyage du ballon rouge) has opened the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes.

"Hou's version seems at first more conventional than the original, a full two hours feature film, with a distinct unifying plot focusing on a puppeteer and her son, plenty of dialogues between the characters, and a star, Juliette Binoche, to help put it all across," writes Dan Fainaru for Screen Daily. "At second glance, the film is packed with reflections about cinema and art, references to the past and the present, fluid flashbacks that slip seamlessly in and out, and glimpses behind the magic that artists are supposed to work on their customers."

European-films.net editor Boyd van Hoeij finds it "contemplative and at times poetic, but is strongest when caught up in the whirlwind of conflicting emotions of Binoche’s character, an overworked puppeteer and a mother of a seven year-old boy she mostly leaves in the care of a Chinese nanny.... Though the film indulges perhaps a bit too much in shots of the titular balloon floating above the Parisian skyline, it remains a very well-chosen symbol of the simple pleasures of childhood, the continuous vitality and regenerative qualities of art (through its connection to the painting and the short film) and, through its color, to China itself."

And as always, Fabrizio Maltese is shooting great pix.

Charles Masters has a piece in the Hollywood Reporter on the return to Cannes of a restored version of the original.

Updates: "The film isn't remotely cute, the idea of a balloon floating around the French capital is handled with a genuinely lyrical sense of poetry," writes Time Out's Geoff Andrew, praising Binoche, the camerawork and the score before concluding, "There's not much plot here at all, but in case you're left wondering what this marvellously becalmed film has all been about, Hou ends with a quite inspired scene that ties everything together. For this critic, it's probably the best ending to a movie since the one Valeska Grisebach dreamed up for Longing."

Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab: "For me, a little of this unemphatic, anti-dramatic naturalism goes a pretty long way - I'm still hoping for an entire movie by Hou as impassioned and beguiling as the lovely first section of his last feature, Three Times."

Duane Byrge in the Hollywood Reporter: "Weighted with the dreary ballast of a heavy-themed family saga and grounded by the conceit of letting the players ad-lib their dialogue, Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge drifts, poofs and ultimately flops. Audiences may rightly discern that this Balloon is in both form and content an egg."

"If I see no film better than this one at Cannes this year, I'll leave a happy man," declares Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "The Flight of the Red Balloon is not arty or difficult in any way, and I genuinely believe that, in its unassuming fashion, it's a masterpiece. Hou has approached one of the best-loved films in cinema history and the iconic, too-often-photographed scenery of Paris, and composed them into a bittersweet comic valentine that honors the originals but feels fully contemporary."

Update, 5/20: Emanuel Levy: "Hou's Café Lumière and the new work are linked thematically - both dealing with the hustle and bustle of life in big metropolitan centers - but they lack the rich texture, the intriguing subtext, the subtle poetic mood of his more indigenous works, half of which were shown in Cannes Festival, including his 1998 masterpiece, Flowers of Shanghai."

Updates, 5/21: Hou's "mastery of film space remains assured as ever, even many miles from home, as does his work with actors," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "His direction of Ms Binoche is particularly notable because he doesn't allow her to work her wiles with beauty or dribbling tears, as is too often her wont."

Binoche's is "perhaps the best and certainly the most eccentric performance of her career," writes Dennis Lim for IFC News. "There's a clear parallel here with the Wong Kar-wai - both Hou and Wong are moving on from self-consciously retrospective works (Three Times and 2046) — but Hou's sensibility, grounded in concrete specifics of time and place, travels better."

Fabrizio Maltese shoots photos of Hou for european-films.net.

Update, 6/2: "We loved this film, but while watching it couldn't help but think that there's a reason Hou's work rarely make much headway in the US," writes Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog. "His muted narratives aren't difficult to follow as much as unfriendly to the even slightly impatient."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 3:34 AM

Cannes. Triangle.

Triangle It wasn't even a full week ago that Variety's Alison James was reporting that Chinese censors had given a last-minute go-ahead for an Out of Competition screening of Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To's Triangle (Tit Samgok). Now the first reviews are coming in.

"Idea of a story being handed on to the next director to develop and film separately sprang from Tsui, who'd known Lam and To since their times together at Hong Kong web TVB 30 years ago," explains Variety's Derek Elley. The result sees a "passage from an antsy setup, via more character-driven drama, to an elaborately choreographed finale [which] plays to the strengths of each director as well as being a mini-primer of their different styles. Lam and To come off most successfully, while Tsui's material seems unnecessarily complex and fussy."

"It reminded me of Steven Soderbergh's The Good German," blogs Anne Thompson. "The directors were having a fine time with this experiment. But they weren't thinking about the audience. They've been friends for 30 years and nobody had to take responsibility for this fine mess."

"The movie runs you over and tires you out without doing anything truly clever or interesting," sighs Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter. "The thing barely passes muster as a pastiche of Hong Kong cinema as Triangle is too nonsensical and incoherent to engage a viewer on any but the visual level."

"[S]ome friends were taken with its 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre with cell phones' tone in parts," notes Premiere's Glenn Kenny. "But the overall effect was that of too much and not enough simultaneously."

Updates: "While the directors' personalities shine through in their respective segments the film is far more cohesive than this sort of project has any right to be, a potent brew of action, suspense, and even a bit of slapstick comedy," writes Todd Brown at Twitch. "It's a fascinating little experiment, one who's weaknesses are easily overshadowed by not only the novelty of the piece but also by the technical virtuosity of the directors and crew and by the film's unending series of strong performances. Flawless? No. Fascinating? You bet. Entertaining? Hell, yes."

"If you're thinking the inevitable result [of 'the "exquisite corpse" approach'] would be a movie featuring no real emotional investment from anyone involved, all I can say is ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!" exclaims Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. "Triangle begins in a hyperactive Tsui frenzy, passes through an overwrought Lam interlude, then goes completely haywire in the manner of To's occasional collaborations with Wai Ka Fai."

Update, 5/19: "Triangle is an intriguing exercise because of what it reveals about its three directors' creative DNA," writes Lee Marshall for Screen Daily. "What we really want to see by the end, though, are the three films these guys would have made if they'd been able to pick up the ball and run with it for ninety minutes."

Update, 5/26: "It's no surprise that Tsui Hark successfully makes a mess of the story right off the bat," writes Michael Lerman at indieWIRE. "Lam bears most of the weight, with a passable second act that I would argue is a great return for a director who hasn't produced anything of quality in awhile, but simply hidden under the haze of another's mistakes. By the time we reach To's section, the film is in good enough shape for him to have fun with it and he does it in spades, leaving us with a finale that greatly rewards the patient viewer."


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 3:25 AM

May 17, 2007

Cannes. Control.

Control "By fateful coincidence, the Cannes debut of director Anton Corbijn's cinematic homage to the doomed Joy Division singer Ian Curtis fell just one day short of the anniversary of his suicide, 27 years ago," writes Stephen Dalton for the London Times. The homage, of course, is Control [site] and it's opened the Director's Fortnight. "Starring first-time leading man Sam Riley as Curtis and Samantha Morton as his wife Debbie, Corbijn's portrait of the troubled post-punk icon was well attended and loudly applauded at its first ever public screening."

Pumping her lead with phrases such as "palpable buzz" and "immediate critical acclaim," the Guardian's Charlotte Higgins concurs. What's more, amid rumors and counter-rumors that they had split, the three remaining members of New Order, to which Joy Division changed its name after Curtis's death, flew in to support the film. According to Corbijn, 'New Order hardly agree on anything, but all agree that they love the film.'"

In Variety, Russell Edwards finds it "a riveting, visually arresting portrait of a soul in torment.... Corbijn manages to present working-class Northern England in a wide range of appealing grays that make the description 'black-and-white film' inadequate. Widely anticipated by the band's legion of fans, pic is assured a warm welcome and a successful worldwide tour."

But Ray Bennett, writing for the Hollywood Reporter, puts a bit of a damper on things: "English movies about Northern factory boys played by Albert Finney or Tom Courtenay, who wanted to escape their bleak environment, used to travel well back in the 1960s, but this black-and-white kitchen-sink drama about a fragile pop singer is unlikely to follow in their path."

Stephen Robb gets several quotes from Corbijn and Riley for the BBC.

Updates: Camillo de Marco at Cineuropa: "Corbijn, a rock photographer par excellence (he has produced over 100 album and CD covers, including for U2, REM, Springsteen and Nick Cave) and director of music videos (Depeche Mode, Nirvana, Metallica, among many others) knows his subject and delves into the period marking the beginning of the most creative and prolific moment of the Manchester scene."

Premiere's Glenn Kenny finds Control "such a convincing, intimate and beautiful film that to refer to it as a biopic seems deeply cheap.... Corbijn's picture is more than strong enough to be competition fare. Wow. That sounded kind of Variety-esque, didn't it? I'm just trying to rein myself in, because truth to tell this movie BLEW ME AWAY and I don't wanna get too gushy. But to hell with it. Here I gush."

"Sam Riley, who played Mark E Smith in [24 Hour Party People], is extraordinary in the title role," writes the Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu. "In the performance scenes he almost channels the singer, the way his eyes seem to be sinking under the heaviness of gravity, capturing his jerking, possessed movements that resemble those of an anorexic power-walker."

Updates, 5/18: "As a director, [Corbijn] adopts a taut, economical approach to dialogue and a tight narrative that never lingers and is always lunging forward," writes Time Out's Dave Calhoun. "For a debut feature film, it's an impressive achievement which has a sad power and even manages to deliver a few laughs from its parade of Mancunian folk in spite of the tragedy to which it builds."

"[Q]uite superb," writes the Guardian's Xan Brooks. "[W]here Michael Winterbottom's Madchester romp was jubilant and inventive, this is dour and deadpan, threaded through with a dry, lugubrious wit."

"Corbijn reins his trademark sense of style way, way back. The film is a quiet, subtle affair that resists all urges to name drop or dip into nostalgia," writes Todd Brown at Twitch. "The film is a quiet, subtle affair that resists all urges to name drop or dip into nostalgia. Yes, the soundtrack kicks ass and, yes, we see the band in action at several key moments in their career but Corbijn always plays things straight, shooting in beautiful black and white with an almost verite style camera.... Given the nature of Curtis's muse it seems somehow appropriate that a film about his life is one of the quietest, most introverted rock films to hit the screen. It's a fitting representation of the man and his work and sometimes it's just good to be surprised by people doing things right."

"[T]his is a biopic that for once does not do away with art, doesn't trash History at the same time as psychology," writes Emmanuel Burdeau for Cahiers du cinéma.

At his blog, Ray Bennett adds a few words regarding the soundtrack.

"Control doesn't exactly shed new light on Curtis's life and death, but it's a dream match of filmmaker and subject," writes Dennis Lim for IFC News. "[I]t's a bold and touching feat of empathy: without diminishing his mystique, Control makes a mythic figure life-sized."

Update, 5/19: "Corbjin can find a way to convey individual character in the crush and push of a concert crowd scene, and his film's visual sense is as well-modulated as it is well-made; there's nothing here that strikes you with a showy sense of excellence, but the scenes look and feel like part of an organic, carefully contemplated whole," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi.

Update, 5/21: ""The tortured-artist story was a terrible cliché even back when Curtis was living it—which, of course, is part of the tragedy," blogs Rob Nelson for the City Pages. "Control can't begin to match Last Days for punk-style biographical opacity. But, careful not to diagnose an unknowable condition, Corbijn suggests that it wasn't necessarily Curtis's failure to take his meds that put him over the edge - that maybe it was the meds themselves."

Updates, 5/27: "It's a great film: taut, boxed-in, so redolent of the 70s and early 80s that it sometimes edges close to feeling like archive footage," blogs John Harris at the Guardian. "But watching it in Cannes last week, I was struck by what it also says about one of rock music's great absences, and a sexual-political tension that these days seems to have been almost forgotten. A viewing of Julien Temple's accomplished Joe Strummer documentary The Future is Unwritten only underlined the point: from rock's most legendary stories down to the toilet-venue undergrowth, where are the women?"

"The mark of any exceptional film is the won't-go-away factor - a film that doesn't just linger in your head but seems to throb and dance around inside it, gaining a little more every time you re-reflect." And Control is still very much on Jeffrey Wells's mind.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 12:21 PM

Shorts, 5/17.

Center Stage "When has meta-cinema ever privileged the performer over the auteur to this extent?" Andrew Chan on Maggie Cheung (currently serving as an Official Jury member at Cannes) and Actress, via Keith Uhlich at the House Next Door.

Good reading: Girish posts a few fine excerpts from Richard Roud's biography of Henri Langlois, A Passion for Films, and points to Adrian Martin's piece in Tren De Sombras on Tsai Ming-liang:

Tsai Ming-liang

In Tsai, as in Rivette, Sohrab Shahid Saless or Darezhan Omirbaev, we find the expression of a paradox which is peculiarly cinematic: so much loneliness ([Jonathan] Rosenbaum ranks him among Rivette and Nicholas Ray as the medium's "poets of loneliness") in the midst of the "lonely crowd" of the modern city, but so much aliveness (rather than alienated misery) in that solitude, "this closed system where all things are alive" as Valery said; and an intense address to the film spectator who is, himself or herself, also alone, and also connected (as a film watcher) to a community or crowd, even if only in a virtual or possible way, as a "fish in an aquarium" as Thierry Jousse has recently imagined it. Rosenbaum trembles at the brink of a philosophy of connection and disconnection when he plaintively but deeply writes of Rivette's Haut bas fragile (1995) - and one can say the same of all of Tsai's major films - that they explore "the joys and sorrows of being alone and of being with someone else."

Tim Lucas: "I haven't written about it before, but I believe that Tom Hanks's That Thing You Do! is one of the best American films to emerge in the last decade or so, and arguably the most impressive American directorial debut since Preston Sturges accepted the princely sum of one buck to direct his original screenplay The Great McGinty in 1940."

Heat

"Robert De Niro and Al Pacino will team onscreen for just the second time in Righteous Kill, a $60 million indie production," reports Dade Hayes for Variety. At Cinematical, Scott Weinberg points out the most surprising aspects of this project.

"For all its documentary-like tracing and recreation of notorious murderer Iwao Enokizu and his 78-day killing spree, 1979's Vengeance Is Mine is curiously hesitant to cast blame squarely on its cold-blooded protagonist, much less make sense of these crimes," writes Andy Beta for Stop Smiling. "Told in a choppy verité style of flashbacks and interrogations, Vengeance instead casts a wide net, until every character becomes culpable, complicit."

France beyond Cannes:

Le Lit de la vierge

  • Acquarello reviews Le Lit de la vierge: Philippe Garrel's fusion of iconic cultural history and allegorical social commentary also provides the prescient framework for what would become the inevitable mythologization of the events of May 68, where personal memory has been tinted by the idealized nostalgia of unrealized history, and irreparably altered by the intoxicated haze of (trans)formative years lived under the influence - creating an illusive (and delusive) romanticism borne of a need to reconcile a generation's spiritual desolation with a sense of irrecoverable enlightenment that has been obscured (if not extinguished) by its own reclusive, escapist, and self-destructive behavior."

  • Chris Fujiwara in the Boston Phoenix on Private Fears in Public Places: "Alain Resnais's ineffable film has the hallmarks of his marvelous late style - above all, an airy atmosphere in which the human body and the human presence lack weight and appear to drift.... [T]he end brings calm, if not reassurance. It's the most Resnais can offer, and it's as rarefied as its context - in a word, sublime."

  • LK translates extracts from a 1992 interview with Serge Daney in which he "talks of the difference between cinema and television as the difference between projection and broadcasting."

  • "What if the Swiss Alps were permanently closed to the public? If a 'last tour' of the world's parks became a viable marketing scheme? What if a landscape became nothing more than a strategic ground for war?" asks in the Philadelphia City Paper. "A new trilogy by French filmmaker Marine Hugonnier examines these questions in vivid detail, as she takes audiences on a journey through a conflicted present and a dystopian future."

Rolling Like a Stone A 1965 home movie reemerges to become the backbone of Rolling Like a Stone. "Think of it as a variation on Michael Apted's Up series," suggests Aaron Hillis in the Voice. And at Slant, Rob Humanick: "This is a film acutely aware of its own power over life, affirming the fact that even the most seemingly trivial piece of celluloid is, quite possibly, the stuff dreams are made of."

"[T]he rather unique structure of Masters of Horror transforms the series into an intriguing framework to test auteur theory," proposes Marco Lanzagorta in PopMatters. "Unfortunately, the results do not support a concrete application of the directorial authorship concept. If anything, this series reinforces the notion that a good horror movie is a multifaceted construction resulting from a pool of unique talents that all converge at the right place and time."

Severance "want to rub your face in dirt or poke your ribs as much as put you in a headlock and give you a noogie until you say uncle," writes Michael Koresky at Reverse Shot. More from Eric Kohn for the Reeler.

"The news that Elijah Wood has signed on to play Iggy Pop in a biopic to be helmed by Nick Gomez is amusing for a lot of reasons, but I think an anecdote related by Please Kill Me punk scandalmonger Legs McNeil in a recent issue of Spin magazine is my favorite one." Glenn Kenny retells it, reminding us once again that that was then and this is now.

"Over the past three years, the making of the thriller The Human Trace has nearly severed thumbs, smashed marble tabletops, burned cars, scratched an actor's retinas and sent its writer-director, Jason Satterlund, to the hospital with exhaustion after filming an against-all-common-sense underwater sequence - all on a budget that wouldn't buy a new Toyota Corolla." Jim Ridley tells the story in the Nashville Scene.

Chalk Chalk "has been well-reviewed by Variety, Los Angeles Times and the Hollywood Reporter and is the first theatrical release under the label Morgan Spurlock Presents. And on the eve of Chalk's theatrical release in Austin, the place of its birth, cast and crew - several of them my close friends - look back on their long journey." With Toddy Burton.

Also in the Austin Chronicle:

"The film's unafraid of its contradictions, and aware of its multiple fascinations." What's more, argues Susan Gerhard at SF360, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait needs a US distributor.

Our Daily Bread

Ray Pride on Our Daily Bread: ""[D]eeply rooted in landscape and duration, it is hypnotic and magisterial, about moment and passage, about the industrialization of food and the necessity of nurture."

"If many arthouse films nowadays seem destined to divide audiences into generational camps, the absorbing Canadian drama Away from Her has the welcome effect of bridging the age divide in several senses at once," writes Godfrey Cheshire in the Independent Weekly.

Recent takes on David Lynch's Inland Empire: Nick Rombes ("Watching the film was like remembering a nightmare, frame by frame. And I mean that as a compliment.") and Matt Riviera ("Perhaps Lynch has made a film we're meant to dream about at night, a film which can only be interpreted once it seeps into our own subconscious.").

Looker points to two entries at WFMU's Beware of the Blog: Kliph Nesteroff's appreciation of Akim Tamiroff - and truck driving movies.

As part of the LA Weekly's bookish issue, Nathan Ihara talks with Miranda July about her collection of stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You.

At PopMatters, Bill Gibron presents an annotated list of "10 Tell-All Tomes for the Film Fanatic."

Why has Gina Gershon been going to so many Hollywood funerals lately? For the Los Angeles Times, Chris Lee asks her.

Online viewing tip. Via Fimoculous, Worst Movie Scenes Ever.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:21 AM

Other fests and events, 5/17.

Fantastic Fest 3 At Cinema Strikes Back, Blake has the first round of titles announced for Austin's Fantastic Fest (September 20 through 27).

Mike at Bad Lit has the lineup for the Montreal Underground Film Festival, opening today and running through Saturday.

"I'm not sure if this is what Nathan Lee had in mind last week when he encouraged the New York Film Festival selection committee to 'get funky,' but nobody can argue that its recruitment of J Hoberman and Scott Foundas isn't at least a nod toward a more intergenerational way of doing things," writes ST VanAirsdale at the Reeler. "The pair replace Philip Lopate (whose term expired) and John Powers (too busy), joining Richard Peña, Kent Jones and Lisa Schwarzbaum in their estimable programming capacities."

On the eve of the retrospective at Film Forum, Eric Kohn talks with Werner Herzog for the New York Press: "Documentaries today are dated. I compare it to a medieval knight who would go to battle for centuries, and all of a sudden gets confronted with cannons and firearms. We have to ask questions about reality in a different way. We have to answer. I've been one of those who has come up with answers." Related: Dave Micevic on Little Dieter Learns to Fly.

Stella Dallas "Is it the sweet tart of Ball of Fire? The ruthless femme fatale of Double Indemnity? The savvy go-getter of Meet John Doe?" asks Hazel-Dawn Dumpert in the LA Weekly. "You might have your favorite, but for every great [Barbara] Stanwyck role, there's another to match, and for every standout performance, there's a movie around it that Stanwyck - unlike Katharine Hepburn or Bette Davis, or even Doe's Gary Cooper - refuses to steal.... With a few notable exceptions - the all-Stanwyck super-soaper Stella Dallas, the pre-Code firecracker Baby Face - Stanwyck shone brightest in pictures made by men who had creative agendas of their own and who knew how to play her as an instrument rather than set her off as a star." A Lady to Talk About: The Films of Barbara Stanwyck runs at the UCLA Film & Television Archive through June 10.

"Ron Mann's Imagine the Sound (1981) has been revived and thrown back into circulation for the event of its 25th birthday," notes Josef Braun. Screens Saturday and Monday in Edmonton. Also in the Vue Weekly, Carolyn Nikodym previews Saturday's Fair Trade Fair Film Fest.

The Boston Phoenix's Gerald Peary congratulates the San Francisco International Film Festival on its 50th.

In the Philadelphia City Paper, Sam Adams looks back to the highlights of the Tribeca Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:56 AM

Cannes. 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days.

"Pitch perfect and brilliantly acted, 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days [4 luni, 3 saptamini si 2 zile] is a stunning achievement, helmed with a purity and honesty that captures not just the illegal abortion story at its core but the constant, unremarked negotiations necessary for survival in the final days of the Soviet bloc," writes Jay Weissberg for Variety of the Romanian Competition entry.

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

"Certain to be spoken of with the same regard as The Death of Mr Lazarescu, with which it shares DP Oleg Mutu, pic is envisioned, like that surprise hit, as the first in a series, ironically titled 'Tales From the Golden Age.' [Cristian] Mungiu's goal is to visualize the overwhelming weight of the soul-destroying compromises of life during the Ceausescu years through clear-eyed, deeply humane stories."

Updated through 5/24.

"The film is dark, gloomy and without music, but it is also observant and highly suspenseful, with Mungiu using his often static camera to balance banal cruelty with simple generosity," writes Ray Bennett for the Hollywood Reporter, adding that it "boasts an exceptional performance by Anamaria Marinca [and] may not break out of the festival and art house circuit, but it is likely to pick up some awards along the way."

Marinca is "an instant front-runner for Best Actress," declares Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. "Negotiation and solidarity are the twin subjects of this quietly impressive docudrama, and Mungiu's commitment to verisimilitude is so scrupulous that he deliberately introduces the equivalent of Chekhov's famed gun without the slightest intention of providing a final-act payoff."

Updates: "Mungiu set his tale of a very late abortion in 1987 and uses an unobtrusive yet utterly filmic style that mixes the handheld dogme aesthetic with beautiful static shots to great effect," writes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "As uncomfortable as the final form of payment is for the girls, Mungiu makes it ten times worse for the audience, using an excruciatingly precise combination of mise-en-scène and actor choreography that will leave no one untouched."

"[I]n due course this will easily beat most other, far more pretentious, arthouse products being peddled around," writes Dan Fainaru for Screen Daily. "The leads, Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu, never put a foot wrong, giving remarkably controlled and unaffected performances which are an enormous asset for this well-rounded, precisely attuned work."

Updates, 5/18: "If the subject matter is grim, that doesn't mean one isn't exhilarated by the assured writing and direction, the superb hand-held Scope camerawork, the brilliant way the film combines rigorous moral enquiry with a suspenseful but entirely plausible 'realist' narrative, or a magnificent lead performance from Anamaria Marinca," writes Time Out's Geoff Andrew. "With films like this, it's hardly surprising that festival-goers are currently seeking out Romanian movies with an enthusiasm that hasn't been there for years."

Writing for Stop Smiling, Patrick Z McGavin finds 4 Months... to be "a wrenching and morally complex study of loss and violation.... If this movie is a sign of what is to come, the festival's 60th edition could be a special one, artistically."

Update, 5/19: "The movie has a formal rigor familiar to the more serious Cannes entries: virtually every scene, no matter how long, is shot without cutting," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time. "That can be an enervating strategy, but here it works marvelously, either forcing the characters together as reluctant conspirators or isolating each in his or her predicament.... [T]he tale is so compelling that it seduces viewers as a fairy tale does a child. They simply must know, as the plot knot coils tighter around the characters, What Happens Next."

Updates, 5/20: "Mungiu constructs scenes in single takes, often with an unexpectedly steady handheld camera positioned Ozu-style at the same level as his characters," writes Robert Koehler at filmjourney.org. "This tends to create a barely perceptible (at first) pressure that builds inexorably to an astonishing sequence in which Mungiu's women (Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu) are forced into an awful business arrangement with an abortionist (Vlad Ivanov, in one of the most astonishing supporting performances since R Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, and equally as fierce)."

"At several points, Mungiu's stark thriller channels Hitchcock, with ominous props picked up and left for curious viewers to contemplate their future usage and a waiting telephone that completely steals one of the scenes," writes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE. "A haunting portrait of Romania and the lies and cruelties that make humanity go round, the movie stands as the best in the official competion so far."

Update, 5/21: "My favorite film in the festival - if 'favorite' can be applied to something so harrowing and gruesome - is the brilliantly acted and composed, but almost unwatchably horrible Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," writes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw.

Update, 5/24: "This is a searing film, shot in something close to real time, in long, unbroken takes that wrap around you like a vise. At this stage of the festival, it seems almost certain to win a major prize," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly. "Yet, as you might imagine given the subject matter, it is also the kind of movie that causes potential distributors to run from the theater like cows from a burning barn."

Update, 5/28: "Mungiu's movie is simple and powerful: it moves smoothly forward and becomes steadily more gripping with a narrative flow that looks easy," writes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "It is very grim stuff, which Mungiu succeeds in turning into a parable for the wretchedness and squalor of everything in 1980s Romania: there is no question of any 'Ostalgie' for the communists here."

Update, 5/29: "With its long-take choreography and low-key naturalism, 4 Months unavoidably evokes The Death of Mr Lazarescu (both films were shot by Oleg Mutu), but, lacking the universality and metaphysical ambitions of Cristi Puiu's film, can't help suffering in comparison," writes Dennis Lim at IFC News.

Updates, 5/31: "Mungiu is now back in Bucharest and is determined to keep working in his native country - and on his own terms." Nick Roddick in the Guardian on the director and the story behind his film.

A euro|topics dossier includes translations of reactions to the film's win in papers across Europe, including Romania.

Update, 6/1: The Telegraph's Sheila Johnston meets Mingui.

Update, 6/2: Nigel Andrews talks with Mingui for the Financial Times.


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 8:17 AM

Cannes, 5/17.

Cannes Scott Foundas has two terrific profiles in the LA Weekly: Cannes Film Festival director Gilles Jacob and artistic director Thierry Frémaux.

Geoffrey Macnab will be covering deals for the Guardian and already has news of Lukas Moodysson's return to narrative with Mammoth and Charles Sturridge's Bronte, a biopic of the three literary sisters.

Updated.

And Charlotte Higgins quotes jury prez Stephen Frears: "The fact that there are no British films... is of no significance at all." Just a matter of timing; films that might've been in the Cannes lineup simply aren't ready yet. On a related note, "The revival in British film-making is certainly not down to me. A lot of very good films are made in the UK. Of course, we spend our lives working in a world dominated by American cinema. We keep going, half in resistance; though I love American films as much as anyone else. We have to live with [the domination of the US], and it makes it harder."

Eric Kohn sends a first dispatch into the New York Press.

At Filmmaker, Erica Abeel pauses for an overview and takes note of today's big event, a preview of Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie. More from Glenn Kenny and Jeffrey Wells.

Ted Z prefers this unofficial Cannes 2007 site to the official one.

IndieWIRE's first Atelier interview: Pablo Aguero (Salamandra, Argentina).

Updates: The deals, the parties! Eugene Hernandez, Peter Knegt and Ashley Adams keep up with it all at indieWIRE.

Cinematical's James Rocchi snaps some pix.

"Decisions, decisions," sighs Time's Richard Corliss. "That is the lot of a journalist covering the Cannes Film Festival, which is one part high art, the rest low hype. This morning, for instance, provided a wrenching dilemma. See the new film by Hou Hsiao-hsien, the world-renowned Taiwanese auteur of demanding minimalist dramas? Or attend a promotion for the DreamWorks computer-animated comedy Bee Movie, starring and thought up by Jerry Seinfeld? I went with the bees." Evidently, he really did, too.

More from the Hollywood Reporter's Gregg Kilday.

Charles Ealy is missing Roger Ebert and relates a couple of memories.

Another bee story? Seriously? But this one in a major paper? Sigh: Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:42 AM

Shrek the Third.

Shrek the Third "From its humble, elegant origins as a slim children's book by William Steig, Shrek has metastasized into a symptom of and metaphor for the entertainment industry and modern culture in general," proposes Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix. So begins another summer movies catch-all entry, which naturally needs to include Keough's season preview: "It's almost as if studio moguls had taken a moment out from signing checks for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign to wonder: 'A woman in the White House? Maybe we should put a few in our movies, as well.'"

"Having just seen Shrek the Third, I'm now wondering if there's really such a thing as a kid," writes Carina Chocano. If the film's "any indication, what kids these days want from their stinky green ogres is a lot of Gen X parenting anxiety and career agitas mixed in with plenty of winky elbow-nudging about celebrity lifestyles." Also in the Los Angeles Times, Susan King profiles director Chris Miller.

Updated through 5/20.

"Miller was in charge of story on Shrek 2, but I see no story at all here, unless you count a few haggard plotlines limping along on parallel tracks and colliding by dint of artless intercutting," writes the LA Weekly's Ella Taylor. Boy, this sounds familiar. A common 3quel ailment, evidently. "Like many another shoddy sequel, this one founders not only on the difficulty of extending a franchise beyond its natural life but on the unbearable strain of juggling a bunch of target demographics at once. Blinded by avarice and all out of ideas, once again Hollywood can't tell when enough is way more than enough."

Cinematical's Erik Davis sees the pattern, too: "Following two highly-entertaining and well thought-out installments in the Spider-Man franchise, we were offered a discombobulated third part that couldn't clean up its room without making it messier." And here we go again. "Donkey and Puss are shoved to the side, handed a cheap swap-a-voice storyline and kindly asked to remain in the background so that audiences can feast on a plethora of new faces. I truly hope that trend does not continue in future installments (which, mind you, were set up a number of times throughout), because it's part of the reason why this Shrek shtick is beginning to feel a tad old. But even with its weak spots, Shrek the Third achieves what most films do not - it entertains. It makes you smile. It makes you laugh. It makes you feel good. And while it's probably the only Shrek film I won't re-watch down the line, it's easily the first (of many, I hope) dynamite family comedy of 2007."

Updates: "Shrek The Third is the first depiction of a trainwreck I’ve ever witnessed set to 'mute,' writes Ray Pride in his zero-star review. I hate to steal your punchline, Ray, but it's too damn good: "I think the last word ought to be left for the youngest critic in the room the Tuesday night screening I attended, a croupy little girl who gooed loudly at a quiet moment about forty-five minutes in, 'Mommy, can we go home and watch Shrek?'"

Nathaniel R revives his "illustrated memoirs of summer movie experience as a kid."

"From the thrills of dragon-slaying and damsel-rescuing, Shrek's challenges have been reduced to a career decision: Should he become the king?" Roger Ebert, too, is disappointed. "The movie's always a pleasure to watch for its skilled animation. But it lacks truly interesting challenges. It makes the mistake of thinking slapstick action is funny for its own sake, a mistake made by a lot of Saturday-morning TV cartoons. True, characters zooming and bouncing around are easy to write because no creative invention is required to set them in motion. But so what?"

Updates, 5/18: "[T]he Shrek idea team seems to have become completely lost in the forest," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. This one "feels sluggish and tired; its relentless, not-so-great gags hit with the soft thud of stone-hard bread crumbs." And as for the overuse of 60s anthems, "maybe there's a difference between recontextualization and uncontextualization."

"Unless the Shrek team wants to follow its hero into the dangerous swamps of mid-life, thus shifting his literary pedigree away from William Steig and in the direction of John Updike or Philip Roth, it may want to leave him in a condition of more-or-less happily ever after," suggests AO Scott in the New York Times. "Which is only to say that Shrek the Third... already feels less like a children's movie than either of its predecessors. (This may be why I liked it better than the others. But then again, so did my kids.)"

"[T]his execrable franchise dorkily scrapes the bottom of our collective pop-cultural barrel," grumbles Ed Gonzalez at Slant. "Less belligerent in its audience pandering than its predecessors (less fart jokes, less homophobic subtext, and - thank Jesus - less squawking from Eddie Murphy), Shrek the Third may not give haters a migraine, but its lobotomized sense of comic brinkmanship is still without fun."

"I can't help but think that the 2007 Summer Movie Season (the one that's predicted to be the most profitable summer season of all time) is getting off to a fairly limp start," worries Scott Weinberg at Cinematical. Let down by Spider-Man 3, he now finds Shrek the Third "a little... lacking. Not terrible, but just sort of limp, obvious and lethargic."

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Kevin Maher: "It opens next weekend around the globe, and guess what? Nobody's seen it. Not the critics, not the internet fanboys, not the friends or the family, not even the dog at Disney Studios. Nobody has seen Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."

Ok? So, also for the London Times, Will Lawrence talks with Orlando Bloom, Alan Franks with Bill Nighy.

Back to the blockbuster at hand. Here's the thing about Shrek for the Stranger's Andrew Wright: "It's a blockbuster phenomenon that wouldn't exist without the efforts of other films, and somehow smugly pats itself on the back for it.... To their credit, the filmmakers this time out dispense with the previous entries' manic pace and self-congratulatory pop-culture riffs to reveal that, at its core, their fable contains a heart of... well, nothing, really. Still, such limpness may be preferable to the ceaseless wink-wink nudginess of the earlier installments."

Andy Klein, evidently reluctant to dwell on Shrek, devotes the first third of his LA CityBeat review on thirds, and that is, of course, the fun part of the piece.

But lo, for the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, "Shrek the Third gets back the mood, the pleasure and even some of the freshness of its first installment."

"The only thing majestic about Shrek the Third is the title," counters Rick Groen in the Globe and Mail.

David Poland: "10 Things Studios Don't Want You To Know."

Hey, argues Mike Russell, "the script is roughly ten times more focused and less audience-insulting than, say, Spider-Man 3. And when it's funny, it's really funny."

Update, 5/20: "When the Weekend Moviegoer wants to write about movies he isn't going to see, no one can stop him, not even Mr Devil." Alan Vanneman's takes on the season's offerings are better and certainly more amusing than those of many a critic who's actually seen the slop.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:39 AM

May 16, 2007

Same time next year?

Colossal Youth With Cannes off and running, here're a few fresh notes on a couple of films from last year's lineup that are still baffling many, Pedro Costa's Colossal Youth and Bruno Dumont's Flanders.

"At first glance, Colossal Youth gives the appearance of being almost atemporal, with no clearly delineated narrative, a series of scenes that take place in ambiguously defined present. Though there is some blurring of memory and past/present, the setting of the film is both specific and specifically political." Dave McDougall elaborates.

Updated through 5/19.

"Dumont's is a singularly unpleasant body of work," concedes Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE. "But don't think for a second that unpleasantness precludes magnificence.... It's a cinema that's almost unbearable to watch but that exists ecstatic in the mind long after viewing." He notes the comparisons many have made to Bresson and then explains why he thinks of Kubrick instead.

Whether you agree or not, Nathan Lee's review for the Voice is a mighty amusing read: "Meanwhile, Barbe is getting it in the butt from a toothless, sweet-natured yokel. Later she will discover she's pregnant, light a cigarette, and glare." And so on. The bottom line: "Flanders is, dontcha know, a state of mind, and Dumont is plain out of his."

Update, 5/17: "After the horrible misstep of Twentynine Palms, Bruno Dumont regains his sense with Flanders," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "It's a contemporary 'War is Hell' movie but minus the fashionable condescension in which that familiar bromide comes second to a filmmaker boasting his disapproval of the current Iraq War."

"Dumont's talent is enormous, but it takes far more brains and effort to come to terms with violence than to shoot beautiful images of landscapes," writes Steve Erickson for Gay City News. "Humanité suggested that he could accomplish both, but whether he has anything of substance to say is increasingly questionable."

Updates, 5/18: "In all his films the radical Mr Dumont brilliantly syncs the sounds and images of nature with his characters' inner life to evoke as intense an experience of the natural world as a film can provide," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "Like his first two movies, La Vie de Jésus and Humanité, Flanders is a pungent rural symphony; you can practically smell the manure."

Daniel Kasman: "Dumont's formal minimalism rarely results in simple-minded films, but in Flanders the director has whittled down his content to a particularly inane, reductive fable based on the notion that people are beasts."

Darren Hughes is working on a longish piece on Pedro Costa and posts an entry on Colossal Youth. This appears as a parenthetical aside: "When a friend asked why I like Colossal Youth so much, the best answer I could come up with was, 'Because before seeing it, I didn't know film could do that.'" Naturally, he elaborates. "The people of Fountainhas are acted upon, and once personal freedom is eliminated from the equation, the State's intent, no matter how good or just, loses relevance. In other words, Colossal Youth, like [Aaron] Douglas's painting [Aspiration], raises the sticky problem of agency."

Update, 5/19: Aaron Hillis on Flanders for Premiere: "As a fan (and it's important now to ground my tastes), it's upsetting to admit that Dumont's ideas and insights have narrowed with this picture, his relaxed pacing now lethargic, his physically and mentally thick characters too familiar, and his ice-water shocks a bit predictable. It would seem self-parodic if it weren't so damn tragic."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:34 PM

Shorts, 5/16.

11 Samurai "[T]he sheer strength of films like 13 Assassins, The Great Killing and 11 Samurai, although deemed B action jidai geki at the time of their production, deserves a brand new evaluation in the light of political history." Robin Gatto on the work of Eiichi Kudo.

Also at Midnight Eye, Tom Mes interviews Hiromasa Hirosue, one of the co-directors (with Izumi Takahashi) of The Soup One Morning.

Grant Rosenberg has a terrific and quick piece for Time on the subtle art of subtitling.

Ben Wishaw If you know Ben Whishaw at all, it's probably for his lead role in Perfume. Now he's set to appear in a new adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, Todd Haynes's I'm Not Here, Pawel Pawlikowski's The Restraint of Beasts and Jane Campion's Bright Star. Liz Hoggard profiles him in the Independent.

Danny Boyle's Sunshine is "the cinematic oxymoron many of us have been waiting for: the thinking man's action movie," writes Peet Gelderblom at the House Next Door.

For Cheryl Eddy, Triad Election "enough stylish direction and underworld shenanigans to tide over the [Johnnie] To faithful" until Exiled sees its theatrical release this summer. Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Johnny Ray Huston talks with Douglas Gordon about Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait and Max Goldberg: "Aestheticized poverty is always a risky proposition, but Killer of Sheep is miles from style for style's sake: its nebulous, contradictory beauty reaches out to touch the full variety of experience, leaving the audience to feel everything at once."

The Rape of Europa

Michael Guillén talks with Bonni Cohen and Richard Berge about The Rape of Europa.

"[W]hile [Laurence] Olivier in some ways belongs to another age, I'd argue that, as an actor, he was the first of the moderns and his legacy is still visible today," writes the Guardian's Michael Billington, anticipating Olivier's 100th.

"Severance is pleasantly shoddy, and the movie knocks about like a jerky haunted house ride with a few detours to the fun house," writes Jürgen Fauth.

In 28 Weeks Later, we "watch the recourse of the social/political/action tableaux set up by [Juan Carlos] Fresnadillo and his fellow screenwriters: the arrogance of the military, and the stupidity of expecting instant human results from a still dangerous and misunderstood scenario," writes Daniel Kasman. "The political edge of the film really does not extend beyond this simplicity, and as such cuts very little within the development of the story but cuts more deeply just because it now seems like the default, expected option for people to lightly allegorize the situation in Iraq into the settings for genre cinema. Better yet is the film's down-to-earth focus on a nuclear family gnawed away by the world around them."

Manu Luksch will be making a film comprised entirely of CCTV footage. The BBC explains. Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

Wired's Jason Silverman tells the story behind that epic homegrown remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark - he's got video, too.

Nathaniel R has 10 questions for Arden, whose blog is Cinephilia.

The Skin of the Film "Laura Marks's first book, The Skin of the Film, remains one of the most interesting forms of Deleuzian film theory from the last ten years that I've encountered," writes Jason Sperb at Dr Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope. "Marks makes two moves which I find useful in examining Deleuze and the cinema. On the one hand, she addresses his critiques of representation directly and succinctly (it is very easy to overread Deleuze). On the other hand, she finds in Deleuze's logic—if not his words—space for alternate directions in which to proceed."

Comic book artist and illustrator Mike Allred lists his top ten Criterion titles.

Tasha Robinson talks with Sarah Polley about Away From Her for the AV Club.

"Smallness" is the stand-out descriptive in Matt Zoller Seitz's New York Times review of The Changeling.

In the Los Angeles Times, Kim Christensen and Glenn F Bunting report on the mixed verdict that concludes the epic courtroom tangle between Sahara author Clive Cussler and "billionaire industrialist" Philip Anschutz.

The Nintendo Short Cuts Showcase is taking submissions through June 6.

Museum of the Moving Image Online browsing tip #1. For the future, that is. This fall, the Museum of the Moving Image will launch Moving Image Source, a two-pronged resource: a publication and a research directory, supervised by - and this is what makes it so promising - Dennis Lim, former film editor at the Voice. I'll post the press release as a comment.

Online browsing tip #2. For now. The original cinema program for 2001: A Space Odyssey, via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip #1. Mikkel, a modern parable from Karsten Meinich.

Online viewing tip #2. Salvador Dalí on What's My Line?, via Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing.

Online exploring tip. Conclave Obscurum, via Nick Antosca at the Return of the Reluctant.

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

Other fests and events, 5/16.

Celine and Julie Go Boating "Almost 30 years have passed since Jacques Rivette's Celine and Julie Go Boating - which screens Thursday at the Gene Siskel Film Center as part of an ongoing Rivette retrospective - made its Chicago premiere at Facets Multimedia (now Facets Cinematheque) in February '78, a full three and a half years after its initial French release," notes the Chicago Reader's Pat Graham. "I still recall the bewilderment and controversy that greeted it, not least in the Reader, which, in one of its more eccentric displays of editorial gamesmanship (or was it just covering its bets?), ran diametrically opposed reviews in the space of a year and half." The smackdown follows.

"Seventeen-year-old Betty Bronson was hand picked by author JM Barrie to play the boy who wouldn't grow up, in Paramount's star studded production of Peter Pan (1924)," writes David Jeffers at the Siffblog. "Delightful art direction (frolicking mermaids on the beach, flying pirate ships) and perfect casting (Anna May Wong as Tiger Lily, Ernest Torrence as Captain Hook and Mary Brian as Wendy) made Peter Pan a charming, magical holiday sensation in 1924." And it's screening this weekend at the Northwest Film Forum.

The McClintock Factor The McClintock Factor premieres in London tomorrow; infinite thØught has more.

In the Voice, J Hoberman preps New Yorkers for a whole lot of Werner Herzog.

Phil Nugent rounds up goings on in NYC, LA and Chicago for ScreenGrab.

CineVegas (June 6 through 16) announces its lineup.

The New York edition of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival (June 14 through 28) is lined up as well.

For SF360, Jennifer Young and Laura Irvine ask Jeff Iorillo about the trailer he's shooting for Frameline 31, San Francisco's LGBT film festival (June 14 through 24).

Philadelphia's Big Bang Film Festival (October 17 through 21) sends out a call for entries.

ST VanAirsdale went to MoMA's party for Martin Scorsese.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:05 PM

DVDs, 5/16.

Deliver Us From Evil "[N]o new-ish documentary will set fire to your house quite like Amy Berg's Deliver Us from Evil," declares Michael Atkinson at IFC News. "Only one contemporary non-fiction topic will boil the blood faster than pedophilia (as it did in Capturing the Friedmans), and that is, in a far-too-fervently Christian nation, pedophilia as it has been perpetrated and enabled by the Catholic Church."

With Arthur and the Invisibles now out on DVD, we're running John Esther's interview with Luc Besson at the main site; it may, too, whet your appetite for Angel-A, which sees its stateside release next week.

"There is one excellent reason to pick up Universal's Classic Western Round-Up: Volume 1, and that is Jacques Tourneur's 1946 Canyon Passage, a western that resembles no other and remains one of the great unsung achievements of American filmmaking," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times.

"The Swindle was Chabrol's follow-up to La Cérémonie and couldn't be more different from that intense and caustic portrayal of class resentment, guilt and mutual misunderstanding," writes Ian Johnston at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. "It's pitched as a light comic thriller, although it does veer off into a darker tone in its second half - but even that is balanced by the dry, sometimes black humor that Chabrol brings to the proceedings."

Pan's Labyrinth "As spectacular a cinematic experience as Pan's Labyrinth is, its special edition DVD package, out today, is an extras-packed thing of wonder in its own medium." Premiere's Glenn Kenny talks with Guillermo del Toro.

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus "is flawed, some would say deeply so, and an unapologetic spin on La Belle et la bête," writes Flickhead. "Yet, like a handful of other poorly received Nicole Kidman pictures - Birth, Birthday Girl and The Human Stain spring to mind - it can be oddly compelling depending upon how much tosh you're willing to let slide."

Roundups: The AV Club, DVD Talk, Marcy Dermansky and Jürgen Fauth, Movie City News and, of course, the Guru.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:28 AM | Comments (3)

Cannes. My Blueberry Nights.

My Blueberry Nights So the press has just seen the opening film (also in Competition) at Cannes, Wong Kar-wai's My Blueberry Nights, starring Norah Jones and Jude Law with David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman.

"Co-scripted by Wong with crime writer Lawrence Block, Blueberry is essentially a road movie, and therein lies the problem," writes Erika Abeel at Filmmaker. "It couldn't, in its way, be more Hollywood.... That said, Blueberry is, predictably, of a visual mastery and beauty to provokes gasps. The film works best as video-art of the highest order; I wanted to freeze frames, and can't wait to see it again." Also at Filmmaker: Howard Feinstein gets an interview with Wong.

At Twitch, Kurt'll point you to the trailer.

Updated through 5/22.

Variety's got a big Wong Kar-wai package today. Patrick Frater runs through the director's history while Derek Elley focuses on that signature style.

Frater also notes that Wong's got a lot on his plate at the moment, including Lady From Shanghai with Nicole Kidman while Vicki Rothrock reminds us that he's still doing ads as well.

Another reminder, this one from Justin Chang: Blueberry is the "first film in nearly 20 years (since 1988's As Tears Go By) on which Wong hasn't collaborated with his regular cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, with whom he parted ways after 2046. Nights was lensed by Iranian-French DP Darius Khondji, known for his work with Jean-Pierre Jeunet and David Fincher. Khondji - who, like every other Wong first-timer attached to the project, leaped at the opportunity to work with the helmer - had to balance his adoration for the familiar Wong-Doyle style with his determination not to imitate it."

Chris Morris talks with Norah Jones: "[I]t just seemed like a really good time to say yes and try something different with somebody I trusted."

Updates: Anne Thompson finds it "a delicious mood poem, a visually stunning ode to the lips of Norah Jones and Jude Law, who deliver the film's highlight: a soft, sumptuous, slow kiss.... The scenes between Law and Jones, who are falling in love at the start of the film, are magical, and closely resemble a six-minute short film Wong made at the same time as In the Mood for Love, which is set in a diner."

Three reviews from the Hollywood Reporter team:

  • "Probably only Wong Kar Wai could direct an American road movie that takes place mostly indoors - in cafes and bars, honky-tonks and casinos," writes Gregg Kilday. "Through it all, the visuals are seductive, but the English-language dialog by Wong and Lawrence Block falls flat.... At the first press screening, a few fans tried to generate some applause, but the screening room quickly fell silent."

  • "Nothing truly profound gets discovered, nor does this film mark a career breakthrough for Wong despite the shift in language and locale," writes Kirk Honeycutt. "This cool and cerebral film could be a hot arthouse item. But..."

  • Norah Jones doesn't sing in the film, Ray Bennett reminds us at his blog, The Cliff Edge: "The voice everyone will leave the picture thinking about is that of Chan Marshall, the gifted singer and songwriter from Georgia who leads the hot outfit Cat Power and the Memphis Rhythm Band."

"One critic from Istanbul and another from Toronto, both of whom sat next to me at a press conference, complained that there was too much dialogue to explain the obvious emotions between characters," writes Charles Ealy at the Austin Movie Blog. "But the cinematography was luscious and the supporting actors were excellent." Notes from that press conference follow.

"This is Wong watered down and plagued with poor performances and weak writing," sighs Time Out's Dave Calhoun. "The director's fractured imagination has fun toying with the received imagery of America - overhead subways, yellow cabs, diners, bars, the open road - and resists wandering into that hackneyed territory of Americana that plagues, say, Wim Wenders's recent films Million Dollar Hotel and Don't Come Knocking and is the preserve of many the wide-eyed outsider. Here, the photography by Darius Khondji is at times sublime and always strong, stirring and inventive. Yet, emotionally and dramatically, My Blueberry Nights lacks that very same ingredient that it seeks the most: a beating, longing, devastating heart."

My Blueberry Nights

"If anything, it's a little too textbook WKW - such a concise, accessible summation of his methods and themes that it feels lazy at best, opportunistic at worst," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. "For a while, the sheer sensuousness of Wong and Khondji's soft-focus imagery holds all objections at bay; I spent much of the initial half hour ignoring the clunky dialogue and concentrating on the dazzling colors and textures. (Video's getting less and less ugly, but it'll never look like this.) Eventually, though, one can't help but notice that Blueberry Nights amounts to little more than Wong's reheated leftovers."

Xan Brooks, blogging for the Guardian, points to his two-out-of-five star review: "Tradition has it that the Cannes' opening night film is always met with a passionate response, either cheered to the rafters or booed to oblivion or sprayed with a turbulent cocktail of the two. My Blueberry Nights, by contrast, wrapped up with a discreet shuffle towards the exit door. On balance that seemed the most damning verdict of them all."

Variety's Todd McCarthy: "Blueberry echoes the director's biggest hit, In the Mood for Love, in its moody melancholy, claustrophic settings and highly decorative shooting style. But while the actors' dialogue delivery is perfectly natural, the aphoristic philosophical nuggets Wong favors sound banal and clunky in this context, leaving the film thematically in the shallow end of the pool. Additionally, the road movie potential of the film's second half feel significantly under-realized."

Norah Jones "has all the right moves, but something is missing inside," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time. "She's the hole at the center of the movie. Indeed, Blueberry Nights can be seen as a series of acting lessons, by the other members of the cast, which Jones can apply the next time she's in a movie.... It's not until Portman shows up that you'll find the sort of sizzle and sympathy Wong cooks up with ease in [Wong's] best films. Natalie Portman - Best Actress? Yup."

Eugene Hernandez posts a snapshot of the press conference and comments, "Maybe the story is just not 'complex' enough for me. When I saw 2046 here in Cannes, I was confused and excited. This one is more straightforward, but still solid. And hearing Wong talk about it at the press conference added a bit of the complexity that I was hoping for. Again, its really hard for me to criticize one of my favorite filmmakers. I need to go see it again!" Click "press conference" for quotage and more iW news of the day.

Dave Kehr translates a few notes from Thomas Sotinel's blog for Le Monde, among them, "So I will not interview Jude Law, because I am incapable of asking a question like, 'Why the hell did you get mixed up in this?'"

"Portman gives the film some much-needed acid tang as a confident conniver with a heart of lead," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi. "New York is caught in blue, wintry tones; Memphis in deep, relaxed browns; Nevada's casinos come alive in jittery crimson. It's too bad that we can't quite believe in the characters within those gorgeous visions, though - and the film's on-the-nose dialogue and slack voice-overs don't help."

"It's alternatingly ravishing and awkward," writes Premiere's Glenn Kenny. "The various voiceover ruminations from characters, with reflections of keys and opening doors and a lot of other metaphor-kinda-stuff, is banal enough to lead to a frightening thought - the would-be profoundities of Kar-Wai's characters in his Chinese-language films were likely just as problematic; did we swallow them then because we were reading them instead of hearing them in our own language?"

Jeffrey Wells: "I don't know which is worse - the whole waitressing-in-Memphis section of the film, or the endless soul-searching section with Law in the pastry shop. But put 'em together and wham, you're looking at your watch and going 'holy bejeezus, this is dreadful.'" Glenn Kenny comments: "[B]etween intervals of wanting to say, 'A lot of rage there, Jeff; wanna rap about it?' I see Wells has got points as well as issues."

Updates, 5/17: "Sony Pictures Classics has acquired North American rights for My Blueberry Nights director Wong Kar Wai's reworking of his martial arts-themed Ashes of Time." Tatiana Siegel has more for the Hollywood Reporter.

"Steamy glass, inky-blue Manhattan skies daubed with sunflower-yellow shocks of neon, a Ferris wheel reflected on a window: the film is absolutely gorgeous without ever descending into the overly mannered, perfume-advertisement territory of 2046," writes the Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu. "I'm not sure that the film achieves the right balance between the saloon-bar-style anecdotes that Block supplies and Wong's own devotion to gauzy atmospherics. But the one consistently false note in My Blueberry Nights is the extensive use of voiceover."

European-films.net editor Boyd van Hoeij agrees: "Could it be that the director feels less certain he gets his message across in a language that is not his? Voice overs from several characters are used to make explicit what should ideally have been inferred from what transpires on screen."

But for London Times critic James Christopher, Blueberry Nights is "so beautifully painted that you can forgive Wong any number of sins... Where the director scores heavily is the way he handles atmosphere and themes. He experiments quite brilliantly with shutter speeds, angles, filters, and textures."

The Lumière Reader runs a dispatch from Gautaman Bhaskaran, who calls Blueberry Nights "most powerful work to date, though there were some moments when I felt that the movie let go my attention."

"It is far from his highest achievement, but it evidences no betrayal of his special gifts," writes Patrick Z McGavin at Stop Smiling. "Wong transposes his elliptical, enigmatic style to an American idiom.... By playing off his typical preoccupations, Wong is never subjected to the loss of identity or absence of a strong point of view that afflicts so many foreign-born directors working in America for the first time. Like pretty much all of his work, it floats and whirls in the imagination."

"It's a late-night, lovelorn mood piece in a minor key, not complicated or convoluted, finally more confection than substance," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "I'm not the first person to observe that it bears a startling, if presumably accidental, resemblance to Alan Rudolph's 1984 indie hit Choose Me. Still, the longer this slice of fanciful blueberry-pie Americana sits with me, the better I like it."

"Retaining the languor but stripped of the exoticism that helped to attract an art-house audience to In The Mood For Love or Happy Together, it winds up feeling much less special and even veers towards the mundane," writes Allan Hunter for Screen Daily.

Update, 5/18: Wong "is still interested in the mysterious nature of desire and the effects of time and distance upon it," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "But the setting, the language and the conventions of English-language screen acting give this movie, for better or worse, a decided air of novelty.... My initial impression is of a sweet, insubstantial movie that might have been more exciting - more meaningful - to make than it is to see."

"Wong's first English-language film is - to repeat the consensus - slight to the point of frivolity," writes Dennis Lim for IFC News. That said: "Even off his peak, there are things Wong does better than almost any filmmaker on earth: shooting physical intimacy, for instance. The first Jones-Law kiss is simplicity itself - a few extreme close-ups, a lingering overhead shot, total silence - but it's a real time stopper, up there in the swoon pantheon with the taxicab snuggle in Happy Together or the back-alley last goodbyes of In the Mood for Love."

Update, 5/20: "[W]ho knew that Wong would have any desire to make a Zalman King film, only without the sex?" wonders Robert Koehler at filmjourney.org. "Wong's densely textured images, drenched in neon, glassy reflections and nocturnal desire - set in New York, Memphis, the open highway, Reno and Vegas - are the reliable decoration to material that alternately borrowed devices from American plays (Lanford Wilson's Balm in Gilead came to mind all too often), American road movies (Wenders's pathetic recent ventures kept coming up) and bad American straight-to-video romances."

Update, 5/22: "[A]kin to seeing Wong without his trademark shades, watching the movie unavoidably inspires two mental exercises," proposes J Hoberman in the Voice. "The first: imagining it in subtitled Chinese, recast with Chinese actors (Tony Leung in place of the too-eager-to-please Jude Law). The second: replaying Wong's greatest hits sans Orientalism - were the performances in 2046 as mediocre and the dialogue as trite as in My Blueberry Nights?"


Cannes @ 60. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 8:28 AM

Cannes, 5/16.

Cannes, 5/16 What a day in France. Nicolas Sarkozy takes office as the first new president in a dozen years and Cannes opens a big anniversary edition.

"The festival is marking its 60th incarnation with a burst of nostalgic self-congratulation," note Manohla Dargis and AO Scott in a preview for the New York Times. "Its international scope is part of what makes Cannes so unmistakably French.... For the next 11 days, in any case, Cannes will be the undisputed center of the movie universe, a place of hyperbolic debate, unexpected delight and also a certain measure of disappointment. Established reputations will be dented or burnished, and new ones will be minted."

"As there are only a token handful of public screenings, for all intents and purposes Cannes is a private event," Hannah Eaves reminds us in PopMatters. She gets some great stories from Telluride co-directors Tom Luddy and Gary Meyer. Luddy once served on the jury with Emir Kusturica, who came out of seemingly nowhere to win the Palme d'Or for When Father Was Away on Business.

Updated.

Luddy:

We had one jury member who was complaining all the time about Cannes being this insane media circus with paparazzi everywhere, saying why did she come here, this was not about art, this was not about culture, this was not about cinema, this was just about media, and of course that's partly true. Then Kusturica said, listen my dear, you were telling me earlier how much you love my films, how you'd love to work with me, how you admire me, I can tell you that you wouldn't know my films, I wouldn't be sitting here today, if it wasn't for a bunch of people like us a few years ago, sitting in the middle of this media circus, and deciding that this obscure unknown film was the best film. That's the responsibility we have.

Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks launch indieWIRE's coverage with all sorts of newsy bits.

Cineuropa's wide-ranging coverage begins.

Variety's Sharon Swart's got an annotated list of several titles that have "the world's buyers buzzing as they head for the Croisette." Cinematical's Monika Bartyzel focuses on one David Lynch will be shopping around: Lynch.

At the Austin Movie Blog, Charles Ealy explains the various sections and press badges: "Blue is the badge of shame."

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw picks ten films to keep an eye on.

"If the Sundance Film Festival is governed by the discovery and selling of independent film, and Telluride and Toronto film festivals build buzz for the Academy Awards, then Cannes is all about making a splash," writes John Horn. "'There's no reason to go if you don't have anything worth showing. But if you got it, flaunt it,' says Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co has five films - led by Michael Moore's new healthcare documentary, Sicko - in this year's festival." Also in the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan's preview.

Mike D'Angelo is conducting a little experiment. He'll be watching 22 films knowing as little about each as possible going in. Why? He explains at ScreenGrab.

Filmzeit's gathering coverage in the German-language press all on one handy page.

Updates: "Sarkozy has vowed to rebuild the French relationship with the United States, but Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux and his staff are way ahead of him," writes Andrew O'Hehir in his excellent preview for Salon. "While not officially an American film, Wong Kar-wai's road romance kicks off a rich and exciting lineup that's the most conspicuously Yank-centric in recent memory."

Noel Murray at the AV Club:

If I have one complaint about the tenor of Cannes coverage over the past couple of years, it's that most of the people who've been around long enough to get credentialed for Cannes tend to be somewhat jaded, and split between two tribes. On one side, you've got the hardcore types, yearning for austerity. They're looking for the hard sits - the films that drive cranky middlebrow critics like Variety's Todd McCarthy and Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells batty. On the other side, you've got McCarthy and Wells and Anne Thompson and others, who'd like nothing more than to find another Babel this fortnight. And sitting back home are a lot of dudes like me, who like movies that range from dopily commercial to aggravatingly abstract, and enjoy watching the Cannes fray from afar.

He's also got a nifty brief history of Cannes at the Hollywood Reporter.

"[T]his year [Germans] might have to lay aside their usual complaints that France is acting sniffy about German film," suggests Wolfgang Höbel at Spiegel Online.

Online viewing tips. Anthony Kaufman's got plenty. Good ones, too.

IFC's got its "Cannes Cam" up and running. Matt Singer and a string of guests are commenting on the major red carpet events.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:27 AM | Comments (1)

May 15, 2007

Once.

Once "A tentative love story between two musicians framed through the lens of an erstwhile folk musical, Once is a tiny movie in the best sense: full of minuscule gestures and glances laden with meaning, and carrying the sense of something intricately labored over so as to provide the impression of simplicity and ease," writes Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE.

"[T]he magic of the movie is how utterly wrenching it renders [its] songs, which thrive alongside the film's simple, eloquent, dusky narrative," writes Robert Wilonsky in the Voice. "Hence, Once's burgeoning legend among those who saw it at this year's Sundance Film Festival as one of the greatest musicals of the modern age - a movie in which people sing to each other, only without the genre's distancing artifice."

Updated through 5/21.

Jeff GP at the Six-Reel Shuffle: "Once opts strongly against any character flaw whatsoever with the leads or peripheral characters, though I find one. They're too nice."

For the New York Times, David Browne talks with [director John] Carney, who tells him, "I kept thinking, 'How do you make a modern musical?' Then it became clear that I could do it just like a small indie art-house movie, very naturalistically. I could create a world where it's OK to break into song, without an orchestra coming up out of nowhere."

Online listening tip. NPR talks with Carney, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova; and that page features a Frames concert as well.

Earlier: "Sundance. Once."

Update: "The film's most baffling qualities are also its most soothing and reassuring," writes ST VanAirsdale at the Reeler. "Like its American contemporaries The Talent Given Us or In Between Days, both astonishing admixtures of intellect, imagination and a busload of accidents, Once is very literally phenomenal." And he talks with Carney.

Updates, 5/16: "It seems silly and grandiose to lavish praise on a movie whose dramatic crux is the recording of a demo tape, and there is some danger that the critical love showered on Once will come to seem a bit disproportionate," warns AO Scott. "It celebrates doggedness, good-humored discipline and desire... The special poignancy of the movie, the happy-sad feeling it leaves in its wake, comes from its acknowledgment that the satisfaction of these aspirations is usually transient, even as it can sometimes be transcendent."

"Are you looking for a little film you can make your own, an enchanting, unpretentious blend of music and romance you can watch forever?" asks Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. "If you do, Once is about to come into your life and make it whole." Also, Jay A Fernandez talks with Carney.

"Although there's plenty of music, and plenty of joy, in Once, it's ultimately a quiet, wistful picture: In its tone and mood, in the way it shows us young lovers wandering through a city and making it part of their story, it reminds me very much of Richard Linklater's quiet masterpiece Before Sunrise," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek.

Online browsing tip. Photos by Ray Pride.

Updates, 5/17: "Once is one of those urban fairy tales you come out of not wanting to switch on your car radio, make small talk or do anything but shelter in its beguiling ambiance for as long as you can to avoid re-entering the real world," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly. "Like the memories we have - if we're lucky - of formative interludes in which a love affair never fully jelled but expanded our vision of what we might do with our lives, Once feels handmade in the best sense, an impressionistic feast for the senses cobbled together from lovely grace notes and a warm palette of reds and yellows."

Time's Rebecca Winters Keegan offers a primer on making musicals work for contemporary audiences.

Updates, 5/21: "There is absolutely nothing new in Once, but the way it combines old elements in new ways makes it feel like an accidental film, as though no one involved quite knew what they were doing and were as surprised to find what they had as the audience who eventually saw it," writes Todd VanDerWerff at the House Next Door.

"Once is the genuine article: a winning love story told with simple grace and humanity," writes Jürgen Fauth.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:51 AM

SFIFF Dispatch. 7.

One more roundup from the festival that wrapped a few days ago, this one from David D'Arcy.

Audience of One On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco International Film Festival, San Francisco reaffirmed its place in the world of cinema with a convocation of local filmmakers (George Lucas, Rob Nilsson, Saul Zaentz, Chris Columbus, Peter Coyote, etc.), a stellar marathon interview/performance by Robin Williams at the Castro Theatre, and a storytelling session of reminiscences and images from the last half-century. (In the interest of full disclosure, I told one of those stories about being robbed at gunpoint while walking to a festival party at Tosca, a North Beach bar, and about getting stoned on the sidewalk on Filmore with Robert Altman after interviewing him at the Castro.)

There's more to this picture, much more, and one of the oddest and more entertaining pieces of that picture comes from Audience of One [site], a local documentary at the festival about a Pentecostal pastor who hears the call from the Lord to make a movie that came to him on a mountaintop outside Palm Springs. Richard Gazowsky heeds that call and tries to film an epic.

Can you blame him? Why should the clergy be any less credulous about their abilities - in filmmaking or in anything else - than the rest of the population, you might ask. And why should they be less averse to spending money on a project that's all about risk? It's not as if they're risking their souls.

Audience of One, by Michael Jacobs, saw its debut at SXSW in March and tracks the fate of Gravity: The Shadow of Joseph, Gazowsky's version of the Joseph story from the Bible, which looks inspired by Hollywood's vision of futurist Medievalism. Gazowsky tells Jacobs, "I want to do something like the Titanic." Whether it's a hit or a flop, it has to be big, says the earnest reverend, who is quite the large rotund figure himself. Gazowsky has the hat, scarf and girth of Orson Welles, and we'll see that he also shares Welles's talent for mismanaging an ambitious project.

There are no focus groups driving this story. The title refers to the one film critic who matters - the deity whom pious men like Frank Sinatra and Wayne Newton like to call "the man upstairs."

Perhaps it was all predestined. Gazowsky's church is a former movie theater. I didn't see a popcorn machine in the lobby, but the only thing that seems to have been changed by him (or by his mother, who previously headed the congregation) is the construction of a "church" tower that looms over the theater. The congregation that Gazowsky has gathered from street sinners and other believers seems willing to play (and pray) along - with the nutty story, with the inanity of shooting in Italy (a la Passion of the Christ, although Gazowsky is no Mel Gibson), and with the hemorrhaging of money. Was this blood-letting the cinematic version of the stigmata of the passion?

The documentary isn't Living in Oblivion, by far the best independent back-story "making of" out there (although Tom DiCillo has been honored at the SF fest). Yet Audience of One is its own laughable example of the "believing is seeing" syndrome.

By the end, Gazowsky still has no film to show for his vision on the mountain. He does have a mountain of debts and the humiliation of an eviction from the soundstage he was allowed to use on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.

Audience of One

To be fair, the Pentecostal would-be Preminger could have done much worse. The preacher Jim Jones, who started out in San Francisco, asked his congregation to act far more decisively - his staging of mass-suicide on location in the Guyana interior has ended up on the screen in a number of films. Jones groomed himself like a movie star and directed his flock like a tyrannical location manager. If the technology had been cheaper, who knows what he might have directed.

Let's not assume for a moment that Gazowsky knows what he's doing. The screen tests convoked by ads on Craigslist prove that unintentional humor can often be the best. Gazowsky's two dark-haired daughters can really look like starlets - they are named Misty Dejavu and Rocki Starr - but they're not much help when their father can't communicate with dozens of uncomprehending Italian extras.

In the broader picture, let's not forget that the former US Attorney General John Ashcroft was a Pentecostal, who began his term in 2001 stage-managing the religious renewal at the US Department of Justice. Ashcroft, you'll remember, was the man who draped the bare-breasted statues of Justice in the rotunda of the Justice Department. (His explanation was that the statues were in the background when television reported on official announcements that were made in the chamber - children might have seen those bare breasts.) He also pauperized the budget for investigating terrorism in favor of prosecuting pornography offenses. Whatever you say about Richard Gazowsky, he isn't a moralizer.

But Ashcroft's successors are. These are the people like Alberto Gonzalez who filled the Justice Department with Christian activist soldiers from a law school set up by Pat Robertson, who vetted the bona fides of lawyers representing the government and booted the ones who were found to be insufficiently loyal to George W Bush and his policies. (Loyalty oaths in the US in the 21st century? I shouldn't be surprised. NPR demanded one of me, in exchange for the promise of being allowed to work there again.) Once this scandal of faith-based corruption is resolved, I can't wait to see the movie based on it.

Michael Jacobs doesn't simply leave us with Gazowsky's colossal failure, although it sure is colossal. His church isn't just a house of faith, but a ship of hope. Even with the creditors at his door, Gazowsky tells his faithful that the church is ready to, among other things, create an airline and, after that, to send its members into outer space. It makes you impatient for the sequel, and for the outtakes from Audience of One when the DVD comes out.

A few words about other films from SFIFF that should not be missed.

Vanaja Vanaja (Rajnesh Domalpalli, India; site). This debut film about a smart, spirited young girl caught under the weight of the village caste system in Andra Pradesh is the work of an Indian Columbia MFA graduate. Domalpalli captures the colorful pageantry and the oppressive power structure of this tiny corner of southern India with adroitness. In casting the beautiful teenaged non-professional Mamatha Bukhya as Vanaja, he has brought a real talent to the screen. His story of her abuse by the family of the local landowner doesn't shrink from painful realities that still rule the lives of the powerless in much of rural India, but Domalpalli finds hope in his characters' pride.

Rome Rather than You (Tariq Teguia, Algeria). Imagine an Algerian road movie in which a trio of slackers drives (or attempts to) on roads that have been so ravaged by years of war that their car bobs up and down like a small boat. These are not the ruins of North Africa that you'll find in the tourist brochures. It's hard to be hip in Algeria. It's hard to be anything, and we learn that when our trio run into police who are looking for an excuse to punish them. They find one - Kamel used to work in Italy and he's longing to go back there and make pizzas. You would, too, in an Algeria that's polarized between a corrupt government and violent jihadists. There's something of the early Godard in Tariq Teguia's first feature, which brings new meaning to the term "rock bottom."

Ghosts of Cité Soleil (Asger Leth, Denmark / US; site). This doc about the armed and drugged chimeres (ghosts) who operated autonomously in the slums of Port au Prince after abandoning Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004 takes on the visual mythologies of violence that we're saturated with from music videos and action movies. They're ripped and wrecked, and even they realize that, given the way they live, there's not much time left in their short lives to tell their stories. The difference here from the fool's paradise of hip-hop bravado is that it's all too real, and that the protagonists who confide in Asger Leth are now all dead. What's astonishing is that Leth lived through it. Critics are disputing the history of those years as Leth has shown them. The SFIFF question and answer sessions were something to witness. Yet no one is disputing his talent and courage. Asger is the son of Jørgen Leth, the documentarian and teacher. He has quite a future.


Still being updated: "Wrapping SFIFF."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:46 AM

1 day to Cannes.

Bela Tarr Népszabadság gets an interview with Béla Tarr regarding The Man from London, and yes, it's in Hungarian, but we're in luck - a little, anyway: signandsight translates the few bits into English that Perlentaucher has translated into German.

"[T]he past five years have seen a flood of Indian movies and stalls taking over the swanky Cannes Market," notes Gautaman Bhaskaran at the Lumière Reader.

Nick Dawson, blogging for Filmmaker, will be anxious to see how Catherine Breillat's Une vieille maîtresse is received.

In the Hollywood Reporter, Gregg Kilday has an overview of the star-studded panels.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:59 AM

Shorts, 5/15.

Tintin "Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are teaming to direct and produce three back-to-back features based on Georges Remi's beloved Belgian comic-strip hero Tintin for DreamWorks. Pics will be produced in full digital 3-D using performance capture technology." Variety's Anne Thompson and Pamela McClintock have the story everyone'll be talking about until Cannes opens tomorrow. For Nikki Finke, this is just one more reason "Time Warner should kick to the curb Mr Lord of the Rants when [Bob] Shaye's contract is up in 2008."

"Wim Wenders said Monday he is beginning work on Palermo Story, a drama based on a Sicilian love affair between a middle-aged German man and a younger local girl." Eric J Lyman has more for the Hollywood Reporter. Evidently, Wenders's intention to set a film in what was once East Germany has been either postponed or forgotten.

Belmondo in Breathless Ted Pigeon on the implications of the MPAA's much-discussed intention to crack down on smoking in the movies: "Ever so slightly, we are transforming our art forms into products. The current sanctions of the MPAA best reflect and sustain the view that movies are nothing more than advertising enterprises meant for consumption."

"'This is a project that lies somewhere between Rope and American Psycho with a smattering of Funny Games,' I tell an actor as we sit and drink mint fucking tea." Richard Jobson, blogging for the Guardian, is having a rough time finding a real man to cast in his new movie.

"For anyone who has had the pleasure of walking through the Père Lachaise but struggled to elucidate its inexplicable appeal, Heddy Honigmann's documentary Forever is enlightening without being demystifying," writes Ed Gonzalez.

Also at Slant, Nick Schager on The Wendell Baker Story: "Intermittently stupid and frequently funny... it may not be the most riotous or artful project the Wilson brothers have been involved with, but its breezy, mellow tone and pleasant balance between random silliness and macho sincerity have a nice throwback charm." Joe Leydon definitely recommends catching it and, for the Los Angeles Times, Irene Lacher talks with the brothers.

Severance "Severance is to Hostel as Shaun of the Dead is to Night of the Living Dead. As such, it's yet another pun-intended stab at combining scares and laughs with mixed results," writes Matt Singer for IFC News. Oh, and Even Money is an "overblown mess."

Filmmaker editor Scott Macaulay comments on Cahiers du Cinema's recent assessment of the drawbacks of the current systems of production and distribution in France - and what might be done about them: "[I]f we as American independents could play the role of culture czars for a moment, what we would do?"

Why buy the rights to a comics title when you can sell one? For the LAT, Geoff Boucher talks with Guy Ritchie about his Gamekeeper, part of Virgin Comics' "Director's Cut" series that includes John Woo's 7 Brothers and Shekhar Kapur's Snake Woman.

Julie Taymor's Across the Universe? Bad idea, suspects Bill Gibron at PopMatters.

For the Guardian, Randeep Ramesh profiles Ronnie Screwvala, "has become the most sought after movie producer in Indian cinema with his UTV studio remoulding Bollywood in Hollywood's image." Related: A big "60 Years of Patriotic Cinema" package in Outlook India.

Not exactly a film story, but then not exactly not a film story, either: Nina Berman at Alternet on the Pentagon's rehearsal for a major nuclear detonation.

hollywood-committee.jpg Online browsing tip. But it's a dangerous one. Do not click and do not proceed unless you're equipped with either a couple of hours or the willpower of a brick. That said, the best way into the UCLA Library's Changing Times: Los Angeles in Photographs, 1920 - 1990 is via Xeni Jardin's entry at Boing Boing. Or click the image here to see "Hollywood Committee for the First Amendment members disembarking plane in Los Angeles, Calif, 1947."

Online viewing tip #1. Matt Singer and Alison Willmore talk with Shane Meadows about This Is England.

Online viewing tip #2. Spike Lee on why he's working with Babelgum.

Online viewing tip #3. Kevin Lee records a commentary track for the first 7½ minutes of Louisiana Story.

Online viewing tip #4. Jim Emerson's found a "contrarian music video." Funny, but the bit about Talking Heads... that's just blasphemy.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:34 AM | Comments (3)

Fay Grim.

Fay Grim "The Long Island–bred [Hal] Hartley is trying to shake up his aesthetic - shake it up without forsaking his gift for deadpan comedy and loopy little playlets in which misfits reach out clumsily from their solipsistic bubbles," writes David Edelstein in New York. "In Fay Grim, he deposits the characters he has already created (and the actors he adores) into an up-to-the-minute, labyrinthine paranoid-conspiracy thriller like Syriana, so that those solipsistic bubbles are burst by the brutality of modern geopolitics. It's a rich idea - a Hartley-esque variation on the theme of American Innocents Abroad. And it works superbly until - well, Grim's the word."

"Hartley didn't merely direct this film," notes Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. "He also wrote, edited, and co-produced it, and apparently tried to cram into it everything that has consumed or appalled him in the years since Henry Fool.... If the movie kept pace with Fay's bafflement, all might have been well, and I was happy to hear Jeff Goldblum reel off reams of political paranoia at dazzling speed, like a court official in a Gilbert and Sullivan song. What happens, though, and what lures the film into disaster, is that Hartley lets slip his sense of humor (always his strongest asset) and begins to believe his own plot."

"[T]his is Parker Posey's film, and she is at her ironically affected best here, delivering a comically understated performance astute enough to make us not only laugh at but root for her," writes Robert Avila at SF360. "Nonetheless, she never quite touches the extremes of vulnerability or passion glimpsed in the volatile Fay of yesteryear." Also: The second part of Robert Avila's interview with Hartley.

For the Los Angeles Times, Choire Sicha talks with Hartley about Berlin, Terrence Malick and being middle-aged.

IndieWIRE interviews Hartley and, at the Reeler, Chris Willard reports on Hartley's recent Q&A accompanying a double feature of Fool and Grim.

Update: "For perhaps 40 minutes, Fay Grim actually sort of works as a comic thriller, albeit more amusing than funny," writes J Hoberman. "Then things change. With all manner of backstories and flashbacks jamming the road, the Posey-mobile starts to swerve and sputter and finally blows a tire (in Istanbul no less)." As a bonus, The Wendell Baker Story, an "amiable time-waster," is reviewed on the same page (dots are connected in the opening paragraphs).

Update, 5/16: Nick Dawson interviews Hartley for Filmmaker.

Updates, 5/17: Ray Pride finds it "as misunderstood (and darkly subversive) as the deepest runnels of American foreign policy. A ton of reviewers hate the fact that Hartley's unexpected return to form begins as a comedy and matures into something angrier and much, much less than hopeful.... This is dastardly stuff, with lots of deadpan jokes, nicely embroidered if difficult to follow paranoia, and intermittent beauty."

"Posey commands Fay Grim so absolutely that it doesn’t at first seem to be a Hal Hartley movie," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "Posey makes the character believable, irresistible. She deserves a more accurate name, say, Saucy Force."

Updates, 5/18: "[D]elightfully ambitious," declares Michelle Orange at the Reeler. "It's a strange viewing experience, as you get the feeling early on that this sum vs parts fight will be one to the death, and yet no clear winner will emerge. Hartley has chosen the hallmark of a great remake - reinvention - in approaching the concept of the sequel, for better and for worse."

"Too light-headed to qualify as satire, too poker-faced to register as comedy, Fay Grim belongs in its own stylistic niche: the Hal Hartley film," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times, adding that it "gets so carried away with the intricacies of its plot that it gets lost in its own excessive cleverness. In the decade since Henry Fool, it implies, fear has driven the United States stark raving mad."

"Like many sui generis filmmakers - Atom Egoyan is another recent example - Hartley more or less exhausted his creative reserves after five or six similar-yet-different movies, and has been searching for rejuvenation ever since," writes Mike D'Angelo for Nerve. "He's still flailing, but you can't help but admire the attempt."

The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle finds Fay Grim "reasonably entertaining, scene by scene, and despite a script that's almost Ionesco-like in its absurdity, [Hartley] keeps the picture afloat, maintaining viewer interest for the full running length of nearly two hours."

"In some ways, Fay Grim seems exactly the kind of thing we tend to praise - a personal, uncompromising movie by an outsider making the kind of picture that he wants to make," writes Elbert Ventura at Reverse Shot. "And if movies were judged by only the convictions behind them, then Fay Grim would be an unqualified success, instead of the forlorn reminder of past relevance that it is."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:45 AM | Comments (3)

May 14, 2007

Shorts, 5/14.

Tough Guys Don't Dance "90 per cent of the people we called told us they wanted to come," Caroline Baron, production coördinator for Norman Mailer's Tough Guys Don't Dance tells Mark Singer in his piece on a cast and crew reunion. "There was only one actor we weren't able to find. Ryan O'Neal. Whereabouts unknown."

Also in the New Yorker, Anthony Lane on The Wendell Baker Story: "Some people make films in homage to Ingmar Bergman, others nod to the French New Wave, but only the Wilsons would think to follow in the footsteps of Burt Reynolds."

The Lives of Others "One of Germany's most singular achievements is to have associated itself so intimately in the world's imagination with the darkest evils of the two worst political systems of the most murderous century in human history." So begins a consideration in the New York Review of Books of The Lives of Others and a companion book by director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. When historian Timothy Garton Ash first saw the film, he was "powerfully affected," though at the same time, he had his objections: "'No! It was not really like that. This is all too highly colored, romantic, even melodramatic; in reality, it was all much grayer, more tawdry and banal'.... But these objections are in an important sense beside the point. The point is that this is a movie. It uses the syntax and conventions of Hollywood to convey to the widest possible audience some part of the truth about life under the Stasi, and the larger truths that experience revealed about human nature."

Also: Anthony Grafton on Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia.

Lars von Trier "A deep depression has left Danish film director Lars von Trier unable to work and is threatening his career, he told the Danish newspaper Politiken on Saturday." Reuters also reports that his next project, Antichrist is now pretty much up in the air.

Tim Lucas celebrates Jess Franco's 77th.

"Class Relations tells a story that evokes monolithic institutions, impervious authorities, and slippages of justice; one could easily read it as a black comedy, but Straub-Huillet are more profoundly invested in its themes, once describing it as 'a journey into the land of vampires.'" Doug Cummings on their 1984 adaptation of Kafka's Amerika.

The Other Conquest It was a huge hit in Mexico and LA and Los Angeles Times critic Kevin Thomas named it one of the best films of 2000. Then the US distributor ran out of money, and that was the end of the road. Until now. Reed Johnson talks with writer-director Salvador Carrasco about the return of The Other Conquest (La Otra Conquista).

Also in the LAT:

In a story that begins on the front page of Fade In Online, Stefan Avalos delves into the scandal bubbling up and over the Writer's Guild of America's (non-)distribution of foreign levies owed to writers, some of whom are members, some of whom aren't. Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay rounds up a series of related stories and writes, "It's a complicated story but well worth following for several reasons, not the least of which is what it says about our current and possibly future system of copyright."

"To what extent has the DVD changed viewing habits and movie storytelling?" asks David Bordwell. "Let's tackle the question first from the standpoint of the viewer. I think we can get help by recognizing this basic point: The DVD made a movie more like a book."

Kiss Me Kate

The Self-Styled Siren lists half a dozen details she loves in Kiss Me Kate.

Clare Shine meets James Thiérrée, whose show Au revoir parapluie runs in Paris through the end of the month: "When the rest of us were falling off bikes, he was mastering the trapeze - along with the violin, several languages and much else. Oh, and his grandfather was Charlie Chaplin." Also in the Financial Times, Peter Aspden on A Matter of Life and Death.

Interesting idea for a piece and the results aren't bad at all: Michael Wilson watches The Naked City with NYC Police Commissioner Raymond W Kelly: "Playing the film in a high-tech conference room on the building's 14th floor felt like prying open a policeman's time capsule, a black-and-white whodunit unfolding amid equipment and gadgets unimagined in 1948. On another wall, muted screens played CNN and Al Jazeera, while digital clocks marked time in Baghdad and other faraway cities."

Also in the New York Times:

Simon Callow on Steven Bach's Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl: "Patiently, systematically, he dismantles each of her evasions, revealing a woman who was utterly ruthless in pursuit of her work and intensely devoted to Hitler and his cause. Bach takes care not to demonise her, but he doesn't need to: the record does that for him." Also in the Guardian, John Patterson's challenge: "Where's the black Craig Brewer when we need him?"

And the Guardian's G2 today is devoted entirely to smoking - in fashion, art and so on, and Zoe Williams takes up the evolution of the habit in movies and on TV: "The more aberrant this habit becomes, the more screen symbolism it has. On screen, nobody, ever, just fancies a fag."

Withnail and I John Moore has probably seen Withnail and I around 50 times. "[I]t is perfect and stands alone," he blogs for the Guardian. "The trouble is, I want to know what happened next. I want a sequel, set now."

"[Kon] Ichikawa might suffer from the same underrating as Louis Malle, suggests Mark Labowskie at PopMatters. "[T]hey're both such versatile directors, always tackling new subject matter and genres, that they are inevitably overshadowed by those with a more rigidly distinct style (you can spot an Ozu film in about five seconds)."

Star Wars tops a list of the most influential film as far as visual effects are concerned; not just any list, but the one compiled by the Visual Effects Society. Steve Bryant types out nine more titles and links to a PDF with the rest. Blogging for the Guardian, Peter Wright claims that an obsession with special effects ruined George Lucas's series.

Night and the City Anne M Hockens has "a very definite sense of what film noir is - so no color films on this list or sub-genres like noir western, gangster films, heist films or police procedurals, and nothing past the 50s."

Summer in the city: Singapore, that is. Stefan previews the season for Twitch.

To what extent should "tidbits regarding the personal circumstances of artists involved in the making of the film" be considered in a review, if at all, asks the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

At 10 Zen Monkeys, RU Sirius interviews Air Guitar Nation director Alexandra Lipsitz and former Air Guitar World Champion C Diddy.

Online browsing tip #1. "In Belarus, Hollywood movies are often advertised with hand-painted billboards," writes xanthippeia. Via Coudal Partners.

Online browsing tip #2. View, 2nd series, No 4, "Americana Fantastica," January 1943, with a cover and several pages designed by Joseph Cornell. Via John Coulthart.

Online viewing tip. "What's a day in the life of Natalie Portman like?" Thanks, Jerry!

Online viewing tips. You've seen Peer Pressure. But have you seen the remake?

Posted by dwhudson at 9:22 AM | Comments (1)

Fests and events, 5/14.

Forty Guns "A Lady to Talk About: The Films of Barbara Stanwyck, set to open Friday night at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood's Hammer Museum, will showcase 18 of the films - from 1931's Night Nurse and The Miracle Woman through 1957's Sam Fuller-directed Forty Guns - that led to the old adage that Stanwyck was the best actress never to win an Oscar," notes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. "She was that, and more."

Accompanied by three programs of films, arsenal experimental is presenting the new volume 1, 2, 3,... Avant- Gardes on May 16 and 17 in Berlin.

Mike's got the award-winners from this weekend's New Haven Underground Festival at Bad Lit.

The Tate Modern will be screening Derek Jarman's early Super 8 films with live accompaniment by Throbbing Gristle on May 26. Don't rush over there, by the way, the event's sold out. Meantime, via Movie City News, Tim Teeman rounds up several recollections of Jarman from the likes of Tilda Swinton and Ken Russell for the London Times.

"Billed as 'an old-fashioned movie matinee twofer or a cinematic yin and yang' SF Indiefest presents two... two... two fests in one!" exclaims Michael Guillén. Get Animated in the daylight hours and Another Hole in the Head at night: June 1 through 14.

The Traverse City Film Festival announces a trailer contest. Deadline: June 22.

Dr Strangelove Dr Strangelove Kristan Horton has seen Dr Strangelove over 700 times. Naturally, his "perception was saturated by the film," leading to Dr Strangelove Dr Strangelove, which Nicole Pasulka asks him about for the Morning News. It'll be on view at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver from June 29 through August 19. Via Coudal Partners.

Marine Hugonnier's Trilogy screens at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through July 22.

Michael Guillén enjoys a double bill Yerba Buena Center for the Arts curator Joel Shepard put together to delight San Franciscans with on Thursday, The Wild Pussycat and Drum.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:33 AM

Coppola in Miami.

Francis Ford Coppola Francis Ford Coppola was in Miami last night talking about, among other things, Youth Without Youth, which will see its official premiere at the RomeFilmFest. Peter Nellhaus reports on the event presented by the Miami Beach Cinematheque and the Miami Beach Film Society.

Coda: Thirty Years Later has been making the rounds with Francis Ford Coppola in attendance. Unlike some of the other screenings at college campuses, Sunday's night presentation was at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach, once a movie theater, now restored and filled last night primarily, as Coppola requested, with students.

Coppola making Apocalypse Now Coppola introduced Coda by explaining that it is an informal sequel to Hearts of Darkness, the documentary about his making Apocalypse Now that was shot primarily by his wife, Eleanor. Coda is partially about Coppola filming Youth Without Youth, and both the doc and the feature were financed by Coppola himself in order to guarantee artistic control. The prime difference between Hearts and Coda is that Apocalypse Now was filmed in desperate circumstances, while Coppola's profitable wine business now allows for him to return to filmmaking on his own terms. Coda begins with footage from Hearts, with Coppola and the crew gathering together for the good luck chant at the beginning of what would become an arduous adventure. The ritual is repeated with the crew of Youth Without Youth.

Most of Coda was shot in the fall of 2005 in Romania. Coppola is seen discussing the meaning of consciousness with himself, or more precisely, two versions of himself. That part is made more clear in a scene from Youth Without Youth with two versions of Tim Roth on screen representing two points of view. Roth himself seems to be of two minds regarding working with Coppola. At one point he declares that every day is Friday, meaning that each day he feels that he's put in a week's worth of work. Later he admits how happy he is working on the film.

Youth Without Youth

Youth Without Youth came about when Coppola shelved his dream project, Megalopolis. What I was unaware of is that Coppola had second unit footage shot, some of which is included in Coda. What I saw were gorgeous traveling shots of New York City, footage for what may be one of the most beautiful movies we will never see. During the preparation for Megalopolis, Coppola was directed to the writings of Mircea Eliade. With Youth Without Youth, based on a novella by Eliade, Coppola was able to pursue the themes of time and consciousness on a smaller scale.

Much of the footage shown from Youth Without Youth is bathed in golden browns. Visually, the new film will remind some of the first two Godfather films. There is also an excerpt involving Nazi experiments which harkens back to German Expressionism. It was little surprise that two of Coppola's favorite filmmakers are Pabst and Murnau, while a glimpse in the documentary revealed two Visconti films, La Terra Trema and Rocco and his Brothers mixed in with some books.

Following Coda, Coppola came on stage for a question and answer session moderated by Miami Herald film critic Rene Rodriguez. Coppola discussed how he sees the films he likes to make as answers to questions; for him, "the journey is the work". Much of what Coppola said expressed many of the same thoughts we've heard in Hearts of Darkness and in his Academy Award appearances - the hope that younger filmmakers will create a new film language, and that film will be used to bring people together. Coppola also expressed hope that the studios would use their profits to help support less commercial films, though he is pragmatic enough to know that his choice at this time is either to make self-financed films or to be a director for hire.

While no further details were given, Coppola did mention making a new film, Tetro, from an original script in Buenos Aires. And while it is not absolute, Coda may appear in the future on DVD along with Hearts of Darkness.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:31 AM | Comments (1)

2 days to Cannes.

Cahiers: Cannes 07 "[T]here's a curious trend at this year's special anniversary event: a preponderance of Hollywood and American indie cinema." To balance the coverage Tarantino, the Coens et al will surely be generating, Anthony Kaufman offers "a list of ten full-fledged foreign-language productions (in alphabetical order) generating buzz and anticipation among critics, distributors and festival programmers" at indieWIRE.

Meanwhile, why not anticipate those American entries? Focusing on Harmony Korine's Mister Lonely, Dan Calhoun does just that for Time Out.

Variety's Anne Thompson gets a few words with Michael Moore regarding Sicko: "[T]he forces I'm up against this time are a lot more sophisticated and well-funded than on Fahrenheit 911."

Even so, don't expect anything radical this year, advises the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. Still, "Cannes can create a stir. Even in the eight years I have been going, its movies can make a kind of impact, if not the Left-ishly political one expected by Godard et al in 1968."

"However high-minded the Festival gets, however much the auteurs think they own the joint, Cannes doesn't belong to the earnest old men in tuxes, or even to the hip young guys exposing their silk suits to Mediterranean salt water. The Festival's preoccupations have always been fetishistically female," writes Jonathan Romney, looking back on "some of the art-house heroines who have made Cannes' history, and whose history Cannes has made."

Also in the Independent, with Control opening the Director's Fortnight, Andy Gill revisits the story of Ian Curtis, Joy Division and, of course, New Order, which seems to have officially broken up once and for all now.

In the German papers: Marcus Rothe talks with artistic director Thierry Frémaux for the Berliner Zeitung and Sven von Reden looks back over the festival's history for Die Welt.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:14 AM | Comments (1)

May 13, 2007

More Brand Upon the Brain!

Brand Upon the Brain! "How did it come about that John Ashbery joined the roster of celebrity narrators for Brand Upon the Brain!?" Jessica Winter asks Guy Maddin for the Poetry Foundation. A few questions on, Maddin says, "Ashbery thrills and excites me more than any other poet.... I don't think about Ashbery's work in conventional evaluative ways. I don't care if Ashbery's work is 'about' anything. I tend to think of it as one enormous poem, and I rarely distinguish one poem from another. Having said that, sometimes I feel I can just shoot some of his lines, or that he shot them by writing them - the latter is probably more true."

As for the film, Lawrence Levi writes at Stop Smiling, "It's a bizarre bildungsroman cum scare flick, with Mom as the chief villain - Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate by way of Psycho. And like so many of Maddin's films, it's oddly and uniquely affecting."

Updated through 5/17.

"[W]hat makes it a must-see is its rare event quality," writes Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay of the full-blown live version. "When the musicians start, the foley artists summon up the sounds of wind, and the spotlight hits the narrator (last night it was an excellent Crispin Glover), you do feel yourself within a privileged moment echoing what audiences must have felt decades ago."

Earlier: "Interview. Guy Maddin."

Update, 5/14: "As par for Maddin's crazed course, it's both intimate in its perversity yet coldly detached in its silent era formalism. Verdict is out on the film, as it was clearly upstaged by the event," writes Kevin Lee, who's also got a good snapshot of the ruckus and several lines by Ashbery for rounding things out.

Updates, 5/16: "To reach the climax of Maddin's movie and then notice that one of the Foley artists has a watermelon at the ready is to have your definition of suspense thoroughly turned inside out," notes Phil Nugent at ScreenGrab.

"It is one of the most compelling avant-garde excursions into the narrative cinema ever," declares Andrew Sarris in the New York Observer.

Update, 5/17: Andy Battaglia talks with Maddin for the AV Club.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:06 AM

3 days to Cannes.

Triangle "Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To's Hong Kong-Chinese cop caper Triangle is an 11th hour addition to the Cannes Film Festival's Official Selection, its presence having been OK'd by the Chinese authorities," reports Variety's Alison James. Via Matt Dentler.

"[I]t's hard not to feel a pang of jealousy towards Hollywood," writes Jason Solomons in his preview of the festival for the Observer. "Despite winning the main prize last year with Ken Loach's The Wind that Shakes the Barley, poor little Blighty will be made to look like the cinematic backwater France has always held it to be. Only Stephen Frears will be permitted to wave one of those little Union Jack flags he gave to every extra in The Queen as he becomes Britain's first-ever president of the jury." Also, Amy Raphael: "Both Loach and [Mike] Leigh sound a little wistful when talking of past visits to Cannes."

Variety's ready.

Volker Schlöndorff's been going to Cannes for about 40 years now. He tells a few stories in Der Tagesspiegel. More on Cannes in German from Martin Walder in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:57 AM

Wrapping SFIFF.

Peter Sellars SF360 runs a full transcription of Peter Sellars's "State of Cinema" address, delivered at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival. Brian Darr comments and notes the winners of the festival's audience award-winners before offering impressions of several other films he was able to catch.

Michael Guillén spends a day with Heddy Honigmann that results in an entry that's much, much better than some junket interview. Also, a big roundup of capsule reviews.

And at the WSWS, David Walsh presents the first of a series of articles on SFIFF's 50th.

Update, 5/14: Michael's extensive notes on the Q&A with Cold Prey director Roar Uthaug.

Update, 5/15: Michael Hawley has a big and very fine overview at the Evening Class.

Update, 5/16: WSWS's Part 2: Joanne Laurier.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:44 AM

May 12, 2007

Senses of Cinema. 43.

Robert Bresson / Alfred Hitchcock Here's an issue of Senses of Cinema you can actually wrap your head around. Seven features, spotlights on Robert Bresson and Alfred Hitchcock and editors Rolando Caputo and Scott Murray even spot a motif running throughout: a mutual affinity between painters and filmmakers. There's a thematic sub-thread as well, though it's not too far removed, "the film-literature axis."

Because he happens to be in Berlin tonight, talking about Rossellini, let's begin by pointing to the two pieces by Tag Gallagher, the first a lushly illustrated consideration of the push-pull dialogue between Pedro Costa and Straub-Huillet, the second, similarly, on King Vidor and Andrew Wyeth.

Wheeler Winston Dixon brings fresh insight into the film vs digital debate; hindsight, you might even call it, since we are witnessing the "Last Days of Film."

Damon Smith talks at length with Andrew Bujalski about Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation.

The Cremator

Adam Schofield examines the ways Juraj Herz's The Cremator "elicits psychological horror through its disorienting cinematography," how it "reflects trends in Nazi propaganda" and "the much-overlooked indirectly subversive Aesopian messages pertaining to communism that the film directed towards Czechoslovakian audiences of the late 1960s."

Matilda Mroz on Man of Marble: "Wajda's film not only thematises the fracturing of a spatial homogenisation and subjective repression in [filmmaker] Agnieszka's investigation of the régime's manipulations, but also enacts a dynamic implosion of these façades through disassembling a deceptively cohesive way of seeing and experiencing cinematic space, and resurrecting the visceral potentiality of figures on the screen."

"Ridley Scott's Blade Runner opened 25 years ago to scornful critics and a disappointed public confronted by a moody, violent and densely layered science fiction film governed by existential themes and Marxist tendencies," begins David C Ryan. "Unlike any other effort in recent cinematic history, the critical recovery of Blade Runner has been a long and intense affair." History follows.

Four on Bresson:

Diary of a Country Priest

  • "Robert Bresson began as a painter and, while he would rarely practice the art, it was a guiding force in the development of his unique film style," writes Peter L Doebler. "While Cézanne was the one who showed Bresson painting was over, I believe he was also a key influence on the shape that Bresson's film style took."

  • "Outside of the more obvious source influences of Georges Bernanos, Fyodor Dostoevsky or Leo Tolstoy, the work of Flannery O'Connor may provide the nearest analogical relation yet," suggests Guy Crucianelli. "From notions of 'Christian misanthropy' to statements on form by both O'Connor and Bresson, the parallels between the criticism and the work are strikingly consistent."

  • Noel Vera on Diary of a Country Priest: "Bresson at an early point of his career - using the Georges Bernanos novel - seems to be telling us that to present matters indefinite (the spirit, or soul) you need for material matters definite (the body, the world it lives in); more, to break free of the world of the physical you must first take a firmer hold on said world – for traction, if you like."

  • With his "Dissenting View," Dan Harper throws down the gauntlet, calling out J Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum by name. "In effect, Bresson is anti-modernist, which is why it is so surprising to find him being praised most highly by critics who wear their politics (always Leftist, of course) on their sleeves."

Three on Hitchcock:

The 39 Steps

  • "The ability of any director lies less in the 'borrowed' but how the borrowings are creatively applied within any particular cultural transformation having little in common with the original source material," writes Tony Williams. "As Hitchcock told François Truffaut, John Buchan 'was a strong influence a long time' before he filmed The 39 Steps in 1935."

  • John Orr: "In my recent book, Hitchcock and 20th Century Cinema, I made an outrageously general argument for the affinity between Alfred Hitchcock's narratives and David Hume's reasoning about human nature.... But my impulse since the book's appearance has not been to feel I exaggerated - which I'm sure I did - but to sense that I did not go far enough."

  • Richard Franklin looks into what might have kept Hitchcock from making a proposed adaptation of Henry Cecil's No Bail for the Judge; had it been realized, "the history of the motion picture, certainly the thriller genre and even that most memorable of decades, the 1960s, might all have been different."

Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist DVD reviews: Peter Hourigan on Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist, Michael Campi on Four Studies by Mikio Naruse and Maximilian Le Cain on a 6-film Luc Moullet boxset.

Then there are six festival reports, seven book reviews, 15 new additions to the collection of Cinémathèque Annotations on Film and two new names added to the Great Directors critical database: Derek Jarman and Len Lye.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:27 AM

Kate @ 100.

William Mann: Kate "Katharine Hepburn, who demolished brontosaurus skeletons and male egos in Bringing Up Baby and held her own with the King of England in The Lion in Winter, would have been 100 today," notes William Mann, author of Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn, in the New York Times. "While she made us believe she was somehow above Hollywood hoopla, the truth was that long before stars employed staffs to micromanage and refine their public images, Hepburn was inventing a path for others to follow."

"That she challenged and expanded the definition of what constituted 'feminine' behavior - both in the world of cinema and the world at large - was less a product of deliberate design than a reflection of the fact that she was, without apology or compromise, completely true to herself," writes Josh R, who revisits the filmography at Edward Copeland on Film. "I can't unequivocally state whether or not she was the greatest screen actress of all time, or how I would go about ranking the others in the pantheon of legends in relation to her. I only know that there was, and is, only one Katharine Hepburn, and attempting to compare her to anyone else is an exercise in futility."

Updated through 5/14.

Tributes in today's German-language papers: Frankfurter Rundschau, Susanne Ostwald in Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Manuel Brug in the Berliner Morgenpost.

Update, 5/14: "If women have achieved equality, even in our fantasies (let alone in reality), then why does Hepburn have no worthy successor?" wonders Sarah Churchwell at the Guardian. "Compare Hepburn's ageing monarch [in The Lion in Winter] with Jane Fonda and Meryl Streep, who are playing roles in which they are the butt of sexist and regressive jokes about evil mothers-in-law and female bosses."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:20 AM | Comments (2)

May 11, 2007

Interview. Les Blank.

Les Blank The second part of Jonathan Marlow's conversation with documentary filmmaker Les Blank opens with a story as to how the narration in Burden of Dreams came about and covers all sorts of ground before touching on the work of Blank's son, Harrod (In the Land of Owl Turds and Wild Wheels), who gathered his first production experience on the set of Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.

Read the first part of the interview here.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:34 PM

DVDs, 5/11.

DK Holm finds startling disagreement among DVD reviewers regarding a new special edition. A few notes follow.

To Catch a Thief

In the old days, most mainstream film magazines were superficial and promotional, and it was the World Wide Web that offered the promise of truth, precision, detail, freedom from debt to publicists and corporate masters, and the sort of cozy intimacy found in niche market writing. But in the 11 or so years since the advent of the WWW the Internet has expanded to the point where lowest common denominator seems to prevail. More people would rather watch a pratfall on YouTube, and then watch it again, and then again, ad infinitum, than explore the intricacies of Jacques Rivette (which, thank god, they can do, via a new website). One hope offered by the early days of the online DVD review, which more or less coincided with the birth of the WWW, was that knowledgeable specificity, unbeholden to anyone, would prevail. Or at least consensus.

But what turns out to be the case is that DVD reviewers seem to be so excited to receive their product that they bend over backwards to praise the shakiest merchandise (remember the paeans to Mr Moto a few months ago?). There really is no excuse for a faulty or technologically ignorant DVD review on the Internet or anywhere for that matter. You can stop the film, use the subtitles to confirm dialogue or plot points, and compare and contrast the specs on the transfer with others. Yet more and more, DVD reviews feel rushed and un-researched, while pandering to the dictates of the publicist mentality. Such thoughts came to mind while surveying recent reviews of the new Paramount "Special Collector's Edition" of Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief.

To Catch a Thief For example, things begin ominously in Matt Brighton's DVD Authority review of To Catch a Thief. He at once gushes that the "names 'Alfred Hitchcock,' 'Cary Grant' and 'Grace Kelly' are truly the names of immortals," adding the familiar sentiment that they are "proof that 'They don't make 'em like they used to.'" After a brief production history, and a detailed plot summary, Mr Brighton concludes that To Catch a Thief "shows us classic Alfred Hitchcock," i.e., chases, romance, action and adventure, though he adds apologetically that the film has "a tame pace compared to today's action movies." Still, To Catch a Thief is "a sheer pleasure to watch."

Having echoed at length common sentiments about the film, the review suddenly changes its tone as it gets to the heart of the matter, the new transfer and new supplements. Here, the hammer falls. "To Catch a Thief looks exactly identical to the previous DVD offering.... The transfer wasn't ever that great to begin with, but it certainly wasn't bad, either." Further, "the only difference between this new Special Collector's Edition and the older disc (which is five years old now) is the commentary track on this disc." Mr Brighton concludes that "Paramount hasn't really jumped through any hoops for this new offering."

To Catch a Thief He makes a powerful case, carefully chronicling the steps of his research. And given Mr Brighton's views, it comes as a shock to read "JJB" in the DVD Journal stating that the disc's "foremost new feature is the most important one: The new anamorphic transfer (1.85.1) features a restored print of the VistaVision film, enhancing the color spectrum and eliminating the collateral wear that marked the original DVD." Noting that To Catch a Thief "ranks among the most emblematic of Hitchcock's films," JJB goes on to say that "the original monaural audio has been upgraded with a Dolby 2.0 Surround option," and that "new to the release is a commentary featuring filmmakers Peter Bogdanovich and Laurent Bouzereau, both who offer several insights into Hitchcock's career." All are lavishly praised.

Even Dave Kehr at the New York Times finds little to fault in the "new" transfer. The film has "always been close to perfection as a romantic comedy; now it approaches that same state as a DVD, thanks to the superb widescreen transfer." Mr Kehr is the only reviewer to go into detail about the film's process itself, which happens to be "VistaVision, the wide-screen process that Paramount developed to compete with Fox's CinemaScope." Mr Kehr concurs with the transfers celebrators:

According to Paramount, the new Thief has been taken from a restored VistaVision negative, and it shows in far crisper detail, much deeper colors and a new sense of depth. Unlike the colors in the unfortunate Vertigo restoration, this film's have not been conspicuously tampered with, and it retains its warm, sun-soaked hues, as well as its inky nights.

Adam Tyner of DVD Talk, finds the film one of Hitchcock's "lesser works" and, after the inevitable aesthetic status report and plot summary, also maintains that "this revised collector's edition adds a stereo surround mix, an updated anamorphic widescreen presentation, and a newly-recorded audio commentary alongside the extras from the 2002 release." Mr Tyner is frank about the commentary track: "Skim through Hitchcock's Wikipedia entry and read through Truffaut's extensive interview with the director, and little of this will be revelatory. Bouzereau acts more as a moderator than a speaker, trying to stave off gaps in the discussion, but the two of them have so little to say about To Catch a Thief in particular that they veer into such side conversations as the first Hitchcock movies they'd seen."

To Catch a Thief

As usual, Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver prefers to focus on the technical issues, thus raising expectations that he will lambaste the transfer (if Mr Brighton is correct), but he finds the new disc to be a "significant improvement in every area. The restored image is far smoother, less artifacts, less damage marks and colors are dramatically different - a strong improvement especially noted in skin tones."

Fernando F Croce at Slant also feels the need to clear his throat for a few paragraphs while positioning To Catch a Thief in Hitchcock's oeuvre. But after concluding that it has merits, turns his attention to the transfer, and surprisingly concurs with Mr Brighton:

For a movie of such visual luxury, the transfer can sometimes be surprisingly fuzzy. The ripe Riviera colors go from velvety to slightly drained, particularly noticeable during the instances of back-projection, though never so jarringly as to disrupt the film's gliding flow. Not among Hitchcock's strongest audio designs, the sound is pleasantly captured.

Thus, on the new To Catch a Thief, there is no consensus, and so the World Wide Web still demands that the consumer somehow make up his own mind.

- DK Holm


Busby Berkeley Collection "For my money, its the production numbers and not the story that make Gold Diggers of 1933, in the words of filmmaker John Landis, 'sheer entertainment,'" writes Thom at Film of the Year. "I enjoyed it so much that I thought I'd research some of the movie's history. Wow, does it have a lot of history."

A parenthetical remark from Craig Keller: "One barely cognates Lubitschian mise-en-scène; apprehension happens faster than you can incant 'cathexis-anti-cathexsis!!!'"

"Arguably the most anticipated boxed set of the year, this is exhaustive genre excavators Anchor Bay's finest single-director collection to date." In the Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov on The Mario Bava Collection: Volume 1. Also, Shawn Badgley on The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Odienator commemorates the 40th anniversary of the appearance in the US of Sergio Leone's No Name Trilogy at Edward Copeland on Film.

Scott Balcerzak at Dr Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope on Songs From the Second Floor: "The overall film is, as critics have pointed out, Bergman and Python and Buñuel and canvas art and countless other things all rolled into one. But it is also so intensely bleakly postmodern at times that it transcends all these influences."

"God Spoke sees the birth of self-importance in [Al] Franken, mingled with the rise of genuine concern and conviction," writes Sean Nelson in the Stranger. "His joke about being called by God to shame the right wing might not have been such a joke after all. You see him begin to believe not only that the people he's gunning for deserve to be taken down - which they obviously do - but that he's the man for the job. That isn't a sin, and Franken's recent campaign announcement for the Minnesota senate bodes well for his sincerity and brains - but goddamn if it doesn't make for a cloying, obnoxious documentary subject."

A few DVD roundups: Erika Baldt for Identity Theory; the Evening Standard and the Telegraph. And keep an eye on the Guru.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:47 AM | Comments (5)

Shorts, 5/11.

Quick note: Looking for reviews of 28 Weeks Later? They're still piling up here. Most other entries devoted to individual films are also being steadily updated, but on top of those, you might want to re-check the current summer movies catch-all entry and the last round of Tribeca wrap-ups.

The Battle of Algiers "In March, we asked you to let us know what the best ever non-English films were," the Guardian reminds its readers. The votes are in, the top 40's listed and David Thomson, Andrew Pulver and Xan Brooks comment on the top 20.

Also, Peter Bradshaw on #5, The Battle of Algiers, "of its time in many ways, yet somehow more extreme, and more contemporary, than anything else around." More from Anthony Quinn in the Independent.

"After the acclaim that greeted his first drama documentary, Ghosts, about the Chinese cocklepickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay, [Nick] Broomfield has turned his sights on one of the most controversial, morally complex stories of our time: the War in Iraq," reports Catherine Philp in the London Times. "And, within that, one of the most fraught and complex stories of all – the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, already darkly referred to as the My Lai of Iraq."

The Night of the Sunflowers Tim Robey in the Telegraph on The Night of the Sunflowers: "This is virtuoso storytelling, laced with the insidious omens and reversals of a top-flight Greek tragedy." More from Derek Malcolm in the Evening Standard.

Back in the Guardian:

Hammer "Cult Hammer horror films will return to the big screen after the company behind the movies was sold to a group headed by Big Brother creator John de Mol," reports the BBC. David Bennun, blogging for the Guardian, comments: "[T]the prospect of new films created under the Hammer brand is one to induce genuine dread."

"Casting About may be a definitive account of the cinematic audition process, yet what makes it one of this year's finest documentaries (so far) is its even more penetrating portrait of the craft of acting," writes Nick Schager. More from Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times.

Also at Slant, Ed Gonzalez on Six Days: "The Middle East for Dummies gets the job done better and leaves you with less of a headache."

"[T]he feats that Sandman performs in comic books and in Spider-Man 3 as he robs banks and tangles with our arachnid hero often correctly display the fascinating properties of granular materials," notes James Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheroes.

Also in the New York Times:

  • AO Scott on Georgia Rule: "Working against its maudlin impulses with lively humor, and at the same time undercutting its laughs with some hard, ugly themes, this movie is neither a standard weepie nor a comforting dramedy. It's an interesting, maddening mess - not a terrible movie, and by no means a dull one."

  • "The Ex never quite delivers what it promises," writes Stephen Holden. "The movie's last-minute change of title from Fast Track to The Ex suggests how conceptually divided against itself the final product is." More from Nick Schager at Slant.

  • "Magic realism is a tricky thing to pull off in a movie, and Disappearances, the third of [Jay] Craven's films based on [Howard Frank] Mosher's novels, only occasionally succeeds," writes Stephen Holden, who does have a good word, though, for "[Kris] Kristofferson and [Geneviève] Bujold's lived-in, weather-beaten portrayals." More from Julia Wallace in the Voice.

Hip Hop Project
  • Jeannette Catsoulis: "With its tone of unremitting gentility Provoked may be the most restrained wife-beating drama ever to grace a movie screen." Also, "Giving 'inspirational' a good name, Matt Ruskin's vibrant and soulful documentary The Hip Hop Project sets its universal message to an inner-city beat." And The Salon "strains to wring laughs from a premise already played out by the superior Barbershop films.

  • Neil Genzlinger on Duck: "[M]an and duck wander across Los Angeles heading for the beach. The quirky characters they meet aren't quirky enough, and the political points [director Nic] Bettauer sprinkles into her script thud awkwardly."

  • Matt Zoller Seitz on ShowBusiness, a doc that follows four Broadway musicals: "A third-act roll call of canceled productions - some of which closed before they officially opened - makes one marvel at the stamina of artists who devote themselves to a world of many miseries and few rewards."

L'Iceberg "is endearing and intermittently brilliant, but overlong even at 84 minutes," writes Jürgen Fauth.

Sheila Johnston profiles Cuba Gooding Jr for the Independent.

Babelgum When Babelgum launches, it'll be "the exclusive online video home of a new [Spike] Lee short film called Jesus Children of America," reports Paul R La Monica for CNN.

Online listening tip. 23 minutes of variety from the SpoutBlog: FilmCouch #19.

Online viewing tip #1. "The films of Jean Painlevé are not very good science, yes, but they're great cinema," writes Ignatius Vishnevetsky, who embeds Le Vampire.

Online viewing tip #2. Bruce Sterling on the narratives inherent in material objects. Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:22 AM

Fests and events, 5/11.

Molière "The Seattle International Film Festival, set for May 24 - June 17, 2007, will open with Garth Jennings's Sundance '07 premiere Son of Rambow and close with Laurent Tirard's Molière, described as a 'sumptuous historical comedy' about the famed French satirist. A whopping 405 films will screen at the festival, which touted its 48 world premieres and 39 North American premieres in an announcement." Brian Brooks has the line-up at indieWIRE. At the Siffblog, David Jeffers highlights the silents.

"As if Quentin Tarantino's recent Los Angeles Grindhouse Festival 2007 wasn't enough, the America Cinematheque is ready to shine a little more light on that much-hashed-over golden age of American movies, the 70s," writes Dennis Cozzalio. "It is for good reason that the series has been called The Seventies: The Good, the Bad and the Strange - because many of these movies, some of which haven't been screened in 20 or 30 years, are good, bad, and strange, and often simultaneously." And he comments on each entry.

At Bad Lit, Mike's got the lineup for this weekend's New Haven Underground Film Festival.

For the New York Times, Manohla Dargis previews Lee Marvin: The Coolest Lethal Weapon, opening today at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and running through May 24: "In real life Marvin had been a good guy, but with his hooded eyes and a voice that sounded as if all the gentleness had been scraped from it, he seemed destined for villainy. He was, certainly. But the best of these are not cartoon creeps or thrill-kill sadists. They are generally complex men, interested, trigger tempered, yes... but also nimble-witted and at times dry-as-dust funny."

Point Blank Related: Girish has seen Point Blank three times now: "[T]he things that once smacked strongest of modernism - the Resnais-ish temporal fragmentation, the non-naturalistic sound design, the dream/reality shuttlings, and most importantly, the aggressively abstract and expressionist use of architecture - now seem harmoniously blended, coherent."

For more NYC goings on, see Michael Lerman at indieWIRE.

Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth will see its official world premiere at the RomeFilmFest in October, reports Nick Vivarelli in Variety.

The Chicago Reader previews the Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival, opening today and running through Thursday.

"As great as the Siskel's Jacques Rivette: Cinema As Adventure retrospective will be, the must-see event - which requires some advance planning - is the one that should claim Saturday and Sunday of your Memorial Day weekend." Ben Kenigsberg for Time Out Chicago: "Out 1 provided Rivette with his largest canvas, and the results are proportionally spectacular."

Johan Grimonprez's Looking for Alfred is on view at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich through August 19.

Bill Viola: At the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Poland, tomorrow through July 1.

The B Movie Celebration: August 17 through 19.

Jonathan Rosenbaum is back home from the 53rd International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen, Germany: "Part of what made the event interesting was the same default position that sustained me through the 64 shorts I saw: the notion that at a festival as genuinely international as this one, a certain education was possible, however limited, in how people in other parts of the world were living and thinking - all of which provides a potential context for better understanding some of the choices involved, conscious or otherwise, in how Americans live and think."

PopMatters' series on the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival rolls on. While she was there, by the way, the cinetrix picked up on an odd motif: helicopters.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:18 AM

5 days to Cannes.

The Sun Also Rises Kung Fu Cult Cinema is reporting that Jiang Wen's The Sun Also Rises has run into post-production problems and may not be screening in Competition premiering at Cannes after all. Just a rumor, you've got to hope. (Thanks for spotting the goof, Michael!)

Derek Malcolm and Charlotte O'Sullivan write up the Evening Standard's preview of the festival.

Alan Riding takes the art vs commerce angle in his run-up piece for the International Herald Tribune.

Matt Dentler lists a few films he'll try to catch at the Marche du Film.

For the Toronto Star, Peter Howell wishes bon voyage to the Canadian short Madame Tutli-Putli.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:46 AM

May 10, 2007

Shorts, 5/10.

Roy Scheider "In my capacity as Vanity Fair columnist and issuer of edicts, I am officially designating next Monday the 14th as Roy Scheider Day," declares James Wolcott.

"Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore is under investigation by the US Treasury Department for taking ailing Sept 11 rescue workers to Cuba for a segment in his upcoming health-care documentary Sicko," reports David Germain for the AP. Producer Meghan O'Hara responds: "The efforts of the Bush Administration to conduct a politically motivated investigation of Michael Moore and SiCKO will not stop us from making sure the American people see this film."

Tekkon Kinkreet Doug Cummings on Tekkon Kinkreet: "The film is a visual wonder, and I say that as jaded as can be regarding pat futuristic metropolises (metropoli?). Treasure Town not only has character, it is a character, cobbled together from vintage Japanese advertisements and pan-Asian architectural motifs, it shifts in atmosphere as the story develops, and even - through its copious displays of signage and graffiti - subtly comments on the action."

Alex Gibney's Taxi to the Dark Side, "makes it clear that time is on the side of the 'bad guys,'" writes the cinetrix. "[H]ere's hoping it'll land distribution and be coming soon to the proverbial theater near you. If it doesn't, seek it out." She's got the trailer, too.

Tom Hall: "The genius of Killer of Sheep is found in its deeply moving portrayal of the streets and 'real life'; the images of the community, of lives locked in helpless orbit, of survival in a world built upon struggle." More from Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper: "The subject matter prompts knee-jerk comparisons to Rossellini and De Sica, but with its elusive structure and plain-spoken surrealism, Killer bears as much resemblance to another LA-shot feature released in the same year: Eraserhead."

The Quiet Man "[John] Wayne may be increasingly irrelevant to Orange County's multi-ethnic populace, but some part of his spirit - sadly, the malign, quasi-fascistic part - wafts in the national-political ether," writes John Patterson:

But for all his flaws and many bad movies, I still love the Duke. Why? For his old-school masculine authority; for his breathtaking physical grace; for the boxing match in The Quiet Man; for the terrifying close-up of him, eyes wild beneath the brim of his hat, after he meets the mad captive girls in The Searchers; for the bottle of vodka and 100 smokes a day; for the recording I have of him giving a spectacularly drunken graduation address, in the course of which he coined the inspired locution 'reee-godamn-fuckin'-DICK-ulous!'; for the image of him in an open-topped limo at Harvard University in 1968, being pelted by protesters with garbage and rotten fruit, yet comporting himself like a returning astronaut enjoying his ticker-tape parade, all smiles.

Related: The New York Post's Lou Lumenick on what links Wayne and Katharine Hepburn. Also in the Guardian and Observer:

  • Philip French notes that Goya's Ghosts, written by Jean-Claude Carrière and directed by Milos Forman, "is far from being a biopic of Goya (Stellan Skarsgard with a suitable prosthetic nose). It's a work of fiction set against a particular time of change and unrest, but manifestly refers to the modern world, to Iraq and Iran, to eastern Europe and Russia, to current dogmatic conflict and Guantanamo Bay."

  • "A movie based on a toy, and designed largely for the purpose of selling toys, might well become the biggest box-office hit of the summer," suggests John Anderson, perhaps overselling his own article a bit. Interesting nonetheless because "the history of using movies to sell toys is rather longer than you might expect, dating back before the commonly accepted date of 1977, when Star Wars and its accompanying range of merchandise were launched upon the world."

  • Under the Bridge: Reese Witherspoon's next "project is based on Rebecca Godfrey's account of the 1997 slaying of high school student Reena Virk, the daughter of Indian immigrants who lived in a sleepy Canadian town in British Columbia. Catherine Hardwicke, whose credits include Thirteen and The Nativity Story, is in talks to direct."

Rebecca Leffler in the Hollywood Reporter: "Bertrand Tavernier is crossing the Atlantic to direct his first English-language feature, In the Electric Mist, starring Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Peter Sarsgaard, Ned Beatty and Tom Sizemore." Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

More up-n-coming news:

The Jetsons

"One of the most surprisingly tense experiences at the movies so far this year is Rock the Bells, a documentary about a promoter's attempt to reunite rap superstars the Wu-Tang Clan for a July 2004 San Bernardino festival," writes Michael Ordoña.

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

  • "The surveillance thriller Civic Duty may be the second film in a month to court comparison to Hitchcock's Rear Window, but it's actually a dead ringer for Falling Down, Joel Schumacher's coda for the middle-aged, middle-class American white man that came out in 1993," writes Carina Chocano. "As the post-PC, postmillennial, somewhat Canadian edition, however, it dispenses with the reductive ethnic stereotypes that made Falling Down somewhat confusing (were we supposed to think that Michael Douglas's character was maybe a teeny bit justified?), instead setting its critical sights on the fear-mongering news media and its role as national psychotic." More from Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times, R Emmet Sweeney at the Reeler and Ryan Stewart at Cinematical.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Robert W Welkos: "Columbia Pictures and the Weinstein Co are battling in court to see which will win the potentially lucrative follow-up to Ang Lee's epic martial-arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, one of the most successful foreign movies of all time."

  • "Because our own lives are so hard to grasp, so fluid and messy, we want our parents' to be simple and consistent - even when we discover them to be imperfect, we need them at least to be imperfect in a reliable way," writes Robert Lloyd. "Every step away from that surety makes the world less secure, and this is what gives 51 Birch Street an aura of suspense and danger." More from Dennis Cozzalio: "[Doug] Block's spectacular achievement here is rendered completely on a small scale, but it's within that small scale that the detail and resonance of the cold war that his parents experienced holds its power."

  • "Because [Drew] Emory doesn't grapple fully with the issues that loom over the film, there is something soppy and soft-headed about Inlaws & Outlaws," writes Mark Olsen.

  • "Private Fears in Public Places is an adaptation (by Jean-Michel Ribes) of an Alan Ayckbourn play so cinematic that it could stand as a treatise on how translation to the screen can bring added dimension and meaning to theatrical material," writes Kevin Thomas. More from Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat.

  • Kenneth Turan: "As neutral as it is possible to be with a subject so inflammatory, Zoo is notable as much for what [Robinson] Devor, who said at Sundance that he'd 'aestheticized the sleaze right out of it,' doesn't include in his film as for what he does."

The Golden Door For Ed Gonzalez, The Golden Door is "a singularly weird and enthralling cinematic experience. One thing I can say is that Golden Door may confirm Agnès Godard's stature as our premiere cinematographic artiste... [T]he film is evasive about its intentions - though its ambiguities are in service of a great critical perspective."

Also in Slant:

  • "There's an inspirational story lurking within The Hip Hop Project, but directors Matt Ruskin and Scott K Rosenberg can't quite seem to bring it out," writes Nick Schager. More from Jessica Grose in the Voice.

  • Also, Disappearances is muddled by "mounds of metaphorical gunk," while "the degree to which Georgia Rule exploits this is-it-true-or-isn't-it mystery for dramatic tension is shameless, reducing childhood abuse to merely a manipulative plot device. Alas, it's not even an effective one." In the LA Weekly, Ella Taylor calls it "an incoherent dramedy of rampant parental insufficiency from director Garry Marshall."

  • Ed Gonzalez on Private Property: "[Isabelle] Huppert, most of us know, can do anything, and what she achieves here is almost as grandiose as the straight face she kept during Lily Tomlin's meltdown on the set of I Heart Huckabees.... Huppert's state of dead-end panic during one scene is an example of how she keeps the story at a human level, preventing it from becoming some stale and intellectual homily about female emancipation, giving tragic expression to the ethos of a great Godard film: My Life to Live."

  • And: "Anthony Giacchino uncovers a gripping lost chapter in the history of human rights activism with The Camden 28, a confident and astute reminiscence about a predominantly Catholic group's efforts to defy the Vietnam War by compromising the Selective Service System."

  • And on The Salon: "I've seen porn with better dialogue and SNL sketches with less amateur production values."

Matt Singer at IFC News: "She was brutally abused, emotionally and physically, but does that justify murder in a manner that's hard to describe as self-defense? Provoked says yes." More from Nick Schager at Slant.

"In the week of April 18th - 24th 2007, there were 190 first-run feature films playing in the city, as well as 67 re-releases, 193 films playing as part of festivals, seasons and retrospectives, 35 films shown at the Cinématheque Française and an additional 35 films screening in museums or cultural institutes," writes Matt Riviera from Paris. "This diversity, in my view, is made possible thanks to several factors: an education system which encourages cultural curiosity, critical thinking and the learning languages in school, and strong support from the State, for whom cultural diversity has been an undeniable priority, at least until now."

In the NYT:

Wall Street

  • Michael Cieply: "Even as their boss, Rupert Murdoch, pursued an uninvited takeover bid for Dow Jones this week, Fox movie executives quietly sealed a deal to revive Gordon Gekko, the suspender-loving financial prowler who made grabbing seem good in Oliver Stone's 1987 film, Wall Street."

  • For Stephen Holden, The Flying Scotsman is "a conventional underdog sports movie that should have been much more gripping." More from James Rocchi at Cinematical.

  • Jeannette Catsoulis on Race You to the Bottom: "In this walking, talking, whining movie, [Amber Benson] is charged with teaching us that relationships are complicated. Maybe so, but they're a lot easier if you lift your gaze from your navel once in a while."

  • Matt Zoller Seitz finds L'Iceberg "earns two adjectives that rarely go together: breezy and bold." More from Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE: "[I]t seems the deadpan ethos of Wes Anderson has found a home in mainland Europe. In a way, this style has come full circle - one of his guardian angels, Jacques Tati, harkened from France, and it makes conceptual sense that the playful wonders of controlled composition and quirky production design should return to their Gaul origins. But something has gone wrong here." And then, David Edelstein in New York: "It is to die and go to heaven - or at least the North Pole - for."

"If Adam's Apples isn't the best movie I see in 2007, whatever movie is will be really, really, really good," writes Dennis Harvey; also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Jason Shamai on Jindabyne.

"Filmed over 21 consecutive days, 23 years-old Kevin Smith's Clerks launched his career by famously maxing out his credit cards to finance the movie for $27,000 in 1994. Twelve years earlier, three 12 year-old boys began a shot-for-shot recreation of Raiders of the Lost Ark." And Adam Besenyodi has seen it and writes for PopMatters, "The resourcefulness and originality (which might seem an odd word choice considering they copied a blockbuster frame-for-frame, but trust me, it applies here) of the production itself is a marvel."

"[Francis] Veber's latest film, The Valet, is, it must be said, not one of the director's tightest contraptions, with an inert protagonist and an ending that just sort of... ends," writes Andrew Wright. "Still, even if the belly laughs aren't there, there's just something about the old-fashioned construction that makes you grin." Also in the Stranger, Annie Wagner on Forough Farrokhzad and Little Children.

With Zodiac opening in the UK, Geoffrey Macnab, writing in the Independent, looks back over the history of serial killers in the movies.

The Odyssey is the fourth project in the Pocket Myths project; 24 groups of filmmakers make 24 shorts that, strung together, retell Homer's tale. Mickey Jou explains in the Philadelphia City Paper.

In the New Statesman, James Medhurst calls for "subtitles for the benefit of deaf viewers, or an audio description track to help blind cinema-goers.... The absurdity of disability discrimination is that protagonists often forget that we are consumers too and make decisions which actually cost them money in the long run."

New: MTV Movies Blog.

Online browsing tip #1. thefabone's stills from Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Via Coudal Partners.

Online browsing tip #2. Faux "Grindhouse Movies" at Something Awful. Via Looker.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:15 AM

Fests and events, 5/10.

Fugitive Pieces "The summer movie season has scarcely begun, and we're already talking about the opening-night film at the Toronto Film Festival, which kicks off the fall movie season on September 6," writes the New York Post's Lou Lumenick. "This year it's Jeremy Podeswa's Canadian drama Fugitive Pieces, described as 'a powerful, poetic and emotionally charged drama about love, loss and redemption.'" Based on the novel by Anne Michaels.

ST VanAirsdale talks with Grady Hendrix about this year's New York Asian Film Festival (June 22 through July 8).

In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis recommends a few highlights of the Generation Garrel series opening today at BAM: "Dedicated to three male members of the same filmmaking family - the actor Maurice, his director-son Philippe and actor-grandson Louis - the program's relative modesty doesn't justify sweeping claims about how the ties that bind can lead to a life in the movies. But it does suggest that all three Garrels share a cinematic culture of experimentation and provocation and offers hard proof that together and alone they have done exceptional work."

Regular Lovers On a related note, Travis Mackenzie Hoover, writing at the House Next Door, finds Philippe Garrel's Regular Lovers (Les amants reguliers) to be "an astonishingly anti-dramatic take on the children of the failed May 68 revolution and the going-about-one's-business that followed hot on that disappointment's heels. It remembers not the loud ambitions of youth, but the lump in the throat when you discover that those ambitions don't live up to what was in the brochure."

"This Sunday, the Alamo Drafthouse, as part of a special Mother's Day event, is offering a couple of Capra's and Wilder's best, at two different locations," notes Josh Rosenblatt in the Austin Chronicle, "It Happened One Night at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and Sabrina at the Alamo Village on West Anderson. Each movie will be accompanied by a special meal prepared by two of the Alamo's crack chefs (One Night featuring peppercorn-seared NY strip; Sabrina, espresso-rubbed pheasant). Now all you and your mother have to do is choose which movie to attend. Simple as that. Capra or Wilder? Claudette Colbert or Audrey Hepburn? 'The Man on the Flying Trapeze' or 'Yes, We Have No Bananas'?"

Susan King points out a few local goings on in the Los Angeles Times.

Geoff Manaugh had a blast at his Science Fiction and the City event the other night.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:13 AM

Online viewing, 5/10.

Oliver Stone Ad At Filmmaker, Nick Dawson at Filmmaker claims Oliver Stone's spot for MoveOn.org Political Action "comes across as the most toothless thing Stone has ever been involved with, and is so devoid of any character that it seems to raise questions about the level of involvement Stone actually had." I dunno. It's a simple truth, simply told. But watch Democrats, Republicans and independents react to the spot - in real time. As Slate's Andy Bowers explains, "Our partners at MediaCurves.com surveyed 300 voters," and their positive vs negative responses are graphed right over the face of the ad. It's eerie. You can imagine such a "feature" running right alongside the ticker-tape headlines on 24-hour news channels.

Alan Bacchus collects and comments on several landmark long tracking shots. Via Anne Thompson.

Kevin Lee analyzes the first ten minutes of La Haine.

Lee Marvin on John Ford at Sounds, Images.

The Guardian's Kate Stables offers her take on several of the month's highlights in online viewing.

At Zoom In Online, Todd Howard points to a long and short version of a conversation at SEED between David Byrne and Daniel J Levitin, author of This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession.

"Eat My Shorts," a fresh collection at Cinematical from Jette Kernion.

Via Coudal Partners, the Spinal Tap short for Live Earth.

Top 10 "Greatest Movie Remakes" at ScreenGrab: Parts 1 and 2.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:44 AM

Interviews and profiles, 5/10.

Irina Palm "One of the pleasant surprises of the recent Berlin Film Festival was the crowd-pleaser Irina Palm, a film that perhaps feels like an English film but in reality was a pan-European co-production directed by Sam Garbarski, a German-born, Belgium-based director of Polish origins whose original script for the film was in French." It's a Cineuropa "Film Focus" and Boyd van Hoeij talks with Garbarski about it at european-films.net.

Also: "The likelihood that an article about young Swedish actor Gustaf Skarsgård does not include the information that his father is actor Stellan Skarsgård (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Goya's Ghosts) in the first sentence is pretty small, which is a shame, because Gustaf's work as an actor can stand comfortably on its own."

At Cinema Strikes Back, Blake Ethridge talks with Sabu - - and Linda Linda Linda director Nobuhiro Yamashita.

More:

The Future is Unwritten

In the New York Times, Michael Cieply gets to write the piece Anne Thompson thought she was going to be writing: "Over the next year or so, various Paramount units will release at least five pictures of which [Scott] Rudin is a producer or executive producer: Margot at the Wedding, directed by Noah Baumbach; Kimberly Peirce's Stop Loss; There Will Be Blood from Paul Thomas Anderson; Revolutionary Road, directed by Sam Mendes; and Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men. That pedigreed output - augmented by films for Fox, Sony and, of course, Disney - says something about Mr Rudin's volcanic approach to his craft."

In the "LA People 2007" issue of the LA Weekly:

LA People 2007

Posted by dwhudson at 8:22 AM | Comments (1)

SFIFF. Awards.

El violin "Mexican director Francisco Vargas Quevedo's The Violin (El violin) won the San Francisco International Film Festival's Skyy Prize, while Israeli duo Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat's Souvenirs took best documentary feature (West Coast premiere), capping the Golden Gate Awards ceremony Wednesday evening for the festival's landmark 50th edition," writes Brian Brooks, who comments on the full roster of winners at indieWIRE.

Movie City News runs the at-a-glance version.

Update: Brian Darr comments and adds more SFIFF notes.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:04 AM

May 9, 2007

Interview. Christoffer Boe.

Allegro "In Christopher Boe's Allegro, a world acclaimed concert pianist (played by Ulrich Thomsen) is formally invited to reclaim his lost past. You see, it's preserved in an impenetrable and inexplicable bubble in the center of Copenhagen. Imagine a cross between Andrei Tarkovksy and The Matrix, with a whimsical flair and a mischievous narrator (Henning Moritzen) who may be a guardian angel, an ironic devil, or simply an existential master of ceremonies." Sean Axmaker introduces his interview with the director.

"In Allegro, the past is a shadowy night town whose geography is continually rearranging itself," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "Watching it feels like attending a combination lecture and sermon in the Church of Psychoanalysis in the 1950s, with the vocabulary translated from psychiatric terminology into space-age mumbo jumbo: 'You are in the zone where infinity doesn't reach out into the universe but into the self.' Yada yada yada."

"This movie was annoying enough when Michel Gondry made it," grumbles Nathan Lee in the Voice.

Nick Dawson talks with Boe for Filmmaker.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:18 PM

Fests and events, 5/9.

Universal Language Universal Language & the Avant-Garde, an exhibition featuring works by Viking Eggeling, Hans Richter and Jonas Mekas, opens tomorrow at the Maya Stendhal Gallery and runs through July 28.

The series Radical Scavenger: The Films of Emile De Antonio runs at the Anthology through Sunday and Reverse Shot is running an interview with the filmmaker conducted by Sam Szurek in 1987 in which "Antonio opens up about film, politics, and his past in the New York art scene of the 60s and 70s."

"With little or no market for experimental filmmaking, the scene consists of only the most devoted individuals, with nothing to lose from saying whatever they wish. The art they create can thereby be rough or polished, face-slappingly blunt or poetically subtle, stridently collectivist or stewed in lonely isolation," writes Ed Halter. "For Life Against the War... Again, a recent omnibus produced in response to Iraq, includes all these extremes, but nevertheless coalesces into a potent time capsule of how today's war has churned our inner lives." At the Anthology Friday through Sunday.

Also in the Voice:

Un chant d'amour

Harold Pinter is "the wordsmith who taught culture that dramatic arenas are by definition built out of presumption, questionable faith, and the bottomless mystery of language," writes Michael Atkinson in the Boston Phoenix. "The nailbiting bridge between Beckett and Mamet in his plays, Pinter has at the same time been happy to subsume his stylizations to the service of other visions. It's unlikely that any other screenwriter has adapted as many eminent authors: Kafka, Fitzgerald, Bowen, Hartley, Fowles, Atwood, McEwan, etc, though sometimes the results have resembled the work of any dozen other hyper-literate British writers. As laid bare in the Harvard Film Archive retrospective that starts this Sunday, Pinter's career in movies is spotty."

Europa 51 Isabella Rossellini has come to London to open the retrospective of her father's work at BFI Southbank; Geoff Andrew has a long talk with her for the Guardian. Richard Gibson has a couple of pix.

At Twitch, Jon Pais sees Werner Herzog retros heading to New York (May 18 through June 7) and Munich (June 22 through 30).

Matt Riviera previews the Sydney Film Festival (June 8 through 24).

At indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks look over the lineup for the LA Film Festival (June 21 through July 1).

Posted by dwhudson at 2:36 PM

SFIFF and SF stuff.

SFIFF 50 "The rollcall encompassed George Lucas, producer Saul Zaentz, Chris Columbus, John Lasseter, Robin Williams, Walter Murch, Brad Bird, John Korty, Rob Nilsson, Peter Coyote and... well, I couldn't write down all the names fast enough. It was a whole lotta history in one place." Dennis Harvey introduces the Cabinetic footage of the Fog City Mavericks Q&A at SF360.

A few somewhat related items:

  • Jason Kottke: "I know it's only 2007, but this is the headline of the decade. For a story about people crossing a tightrope strung across the Han River in South Korea, AP came up with this masterpiece: Skywalkers in Korea cross Han solo."

Hearts of Darkness

"The 50th annual SF International Film Festival is as good a time as any to put forth an argument," writes Johnny Ray Huston at SF360. "Here's one: The most compelling movie stars of the current era are athletes, and the most dynamic 21st-century cinema is sports cinema."

Lawrence Jordan: Blue Skies Beyond the Looking Glass "The more than 40 experimental short (as well as three feature-length) films [Lawrence] Jordan has made over his 40 years in the Bay Area are as much documents of the fanciful flight paths of his free associations - what he calls his 'inner world' - as they are fleeting glimpses of a precinematic visual culture that has long since vanished," writes Matt Sussman in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "Thanks to an upcoming program put on by the San Francisco Cinematheque as part of its Bay Area Roots series, audiences will get the chance to discover - or perhaps rediscover with fresh eyes - the work of a filmmaker and advocate (Jordan helped found Canyon Cinema) who truly deserves to be called a Fog City maverick."

Briefly, shahn on Otar Iosseliani's Gardens in Autumn and Guy Maddin's Brand Upon the Brain!

David Poland lands in the city.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:00 PM

Interview. Julia Loktev.

Day Night Day Night "Now opening, rather portentously, in the city of its conception, [Julia] Loktev's fiction film debut Day Night Day Night is evidence of a director clearly committed to an idea and its execution. The film is a viscerally wrenching but never hyperbolic examination of an unnamed female suicide bomber who, over the film's titular course, prepares to carry out her mission in the heart of New York City." Jay Kuehner introduces his interview with the director.

"Terror is existential in this highly intelligent, somewhat sadistic, totally fascinating movie," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "However low-budget and minimalist, this digitally shot, quasi-guerrilla production is a new-style disaster flick—as experiential in its way as the ritual ordeal provided by United 93... The movie has nothing to do with the psychology of the suicide bomber and everything to do with the psychology of the spectator." Also, Julia Wallace has 5 questions for Loktev.

Updated through 5/15.

For R Emmet Sweeney, writing for the Reeler, the film "recalls everything from Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc (the use of faces) to the Dardennes' Rosetta (the attention to local detail), but it is most clearly aligned with Bresson's A Man Escaped. Both films use non-professional actors and employ sound to motor the narrative, shaping it to create tension from off-screen footfalls and nervous exhalations. They run on inverted narrative paths, however, as Bresson heads toward freedom and a type of grace, whereas Loktev barrels toward negation."

"The enormously expressive face of Luisa Williams carries most of the film's weight; it wouldn't be much of an overstatement to say that the movie is her face: fierce determination shot through with existential dread," writes Jürgen Fauth.

"No doubt that Loktev's intellectual approach to the material was honorably trying to skirt sensationalism, preferring a more experimental tone, but does Day Night Day Night really bring us any closer to an understanding of our world, or does it simply approximate it?" asks Michael Koresky at indieWIRE.

"Because no details are given or motives offered, Day Not Day Night is ostensibly apolitical," notes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "But the deliberate withholding of a political agenda in a movie about a suicide bomber has unavoidable political implications. It suggests that the motives matter less than the self-destructive act."

David Edelstein finds Day Night Day Night "a cunning exercise in subjectivity and withheld information - and once you accept those parameters, it's riveting." Also in New York, Logan Hill profiles Loktev.

"I'm definitely a Bresson fan, but I think I'm also attracted to things that are more impure, much more baroque, and mess things up a little bit. I'm more a Godard fan," Loktev tells Aaron Hillis at IFC News.

"The authentic boldness of her approach comes from a startling reliance on deadened pace—minutes unfold as the girl clips her nails the day before her mission—and a real-time structure," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "Call it 24 with the tension reconfigured through a vessel of cold authenticity."

"In Loktev's portrait, the larger meaning is nothing; the immediate exploit is everything," writes Nick Schager at Cinematical.

"[T]he How is the Why," notes Mark Asch in the L Magazine.

Anthony Kaufman offers a few highlights from his interview with Loktev for Filmmaker.

Update, 5/10: Andrew O'Hehir talks with Loktev for Salon.

Updates, 5/11: "Luisa Williams is beautiful and unnerving as an innocent with a death wish, Julia Loktev is a maestro of mood and tempo, and this pared-down film packs the same adrenaline wallop as Children of Men," writes Scott Indrisek for Nerve. "A director hasn't conjured a story of such depth using so few words since Pasolini's bourgeois sex romp, Teorema."

Watch video interviews with Loktev at Movies for the Masses.

The indieWIRE interview.

"Bresson's influence looms over the minimalism currently fashionable at film festivals - a trend Day Night Day Night fits snugly into - but little recent work has utilized it as well as Julia Loktev's tense narrative debut," writes Steve Erickson at Gay City News. "She takes big risks but achieves a major payoff."

Update, 5/12: Phil Nugent: "Mostly it seems to be trying to make the point that suicide bombers are normal, ordinary people, and that there's nothing special to say about them as a group. I'm not sure that I agree with the first point, and the second point almost strikes me as an abdication of the artist's responsibility."

Update, 5/13: A spoiler-peppered "Shot / Reverse Shot" double at Reverse Shot. The "Shot" comes from Kristi Mitsuda, who writes, "However provocative its premise may be, Day Night eschews sensationalism." In his "Reverse Shot," Michael Joshua Rowin writes, "Held up to the real-world senseless violence of a lone psychotic, Day Night's unrevealing portrait of its would-be suicide bomber protagonist comes across as opportunistic, cheap, superficial - and completely effective."

Update, 5/15: Ray Pride spots his name up in whites.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:54 PM | Comments (2)

I Don't Want to Sleep Alone.

I Don't Want to Sleep Alone J Hoberman in the Voice on Tsai Ming-liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, now screening at the IFC Center through Tuesday: "Albeit closer to ballet than drama, this urban nocturne is one of Tsai's most beautiful and naturalistic films - at least in terms of its rich, humid, almost viscous ambience. The narrative, however, is pure fable—complete with a mysterious ending that leaves the protagonist and his lovers bobbing like a cork on a sea of chaos."

"On the subject of angles, Mr Tsai may be modern cinema's reigning genius of camera placement, with an ability to turn simple, homely spaces into zones of psychological mystery," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "Films like Rebels of the Neon God, The River and What Time Is It There? (to name my own favorites) are plain, vivid and realistic, yet at the same time they are works of high artifice, threaded with visual motifs and sneaky metaphors."

Updated through 5/12.

"[R]arely [has] a filmmaker encouraged such active engagement with stillness," writes Michael Koresky at indieWIRE. "There may not be much radically new in Tsai's approach to camerawork and storytelling, yet the film's distinct naturalism feels worlds away from his previous, almost metaphysical stylization."

"Sleep Alone is a full pendulum swing from the garish watermelon porn of Tsai's previous The Wayward Cloud, and an equally unlikely metaphor for human connection," writes Mark Asch in the L Magazine.

For Matt Singer at IFC News, the film "falls in to the director's format of what could be termed 'brooding and canoodling.'"

Earlier: Fiona Ng and Johnny Ray Huston (San Francisco Bay Guardian); Chuck Stephens (Film Comment); Keith Uhlich (Slant); and "Venice. I Don't Want to Sleep Alone."

Update, 5/11: Akiva Gottlieb for Nerve: "All his totems are in place - crippling passivity, disease, flooded basements, incest, homoeroticism - and even if the story's oblique internal logic never quite bubbles to the surface (in the other words, if it makes little narrative sense on first viewing), Tsai often infuses even the darkest, dankest corners of this polyglot industrial wasteland with sublime beauty."

Update, 5/12: At Twitch, The Visitor reports that the film will be shown in Malaysia after all. In one theater. The two-week run is pretty much sold out, so Tsai, who's in Kuala Lumpur for a retrospective accompanying this event, is shooting for a third week.

Update, 5/14: Daniel Kasman:

[T]he setting and subject have made I Don't Want to Sleep Alone Tsai's least funny film. Not without its playfulness and deadpan jokes, the uprooted Malay setting serves for a far more morose, empty and searching film, one whose suffusion with the dripping evening heat, lumberingly slow bodily movement, and general languor serve out the dance between the immigrants in a kind of humid, sorrowful slow motion. This evocative, palpable atmosphere is unfortunately married to a very haphazard cinematic quality, as Tsai's reliance mostly on single-shot scenes and long takes means that if a certain composition does not work or the direction does not liven up the shot, an entire scene or series of scenes can pass by with a banality and emotionlessness that has been rare for the director.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:38 PM

Books, 5/9.

Miranda July: No One Belongs Here More Than You For the Los Angeles Times, August Brown reviews Miranda July's collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You: "Yes, there are much-too-precious scenarios in some of these stories, such as a heroine who gives swimming lessons in her kitchen (kooky!). But there is also an unlikely emotional resonance to many of them."

More from Scott Indrisek in the New York Observer: "Someone like Todd Solondz would take this material and craft a suburban freak show out of it, but Ms July is graced with an unabashed love for the basic humanity of her characters. She's a true anomaly in that she's able to recognize the fucked-up underbelly of the culture while still having faith in that culture's ability to survive and, however impossibly, achieve a few moments of shattering beauty."

Michael Z Newman makes his dissertation, "Characterization in American Independent Cinema," freely available - and explains why.

"In her 2005 book Rebels on the Backlot, Sharon Waxman wrote about the generation of filmmakers who came of age in the 1990s and reshaped American cinema - David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, David O Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh and Spike Jonze," writes Christopher Goodwin in the London Times. Nearly a decade later, however, it's clear that most of the directors Waxman was extolling have lost their way and have not produced anything like the important work done by the previous great generation of American auteurs in the 1970s: Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby and Robert Altman, directors to whom they were, Waxman said, 'nothing if not self-conscious heirs.'"

"Maureen Turim's The Films of Nagisa Oshima: Images of a Japanese Iconoclast, presents an intelligent, comprehensive, articulate and illuminating critical evaluation of the filmmaker's subversive, transgressive, confrontational and provocative body of work," writes acquarello.

Jonathan Letham has edited a new Library of America edition collecting Four Novels of the 1960s by Philip K Dick and Charles McGrath wonders what the author "would have made of the fact that this month he has arrived at the pinnacle of literary respectability.... A wary, hard-core Dickian might argue that the Library of America volume is just a diversion, an attempt to turn a deeply subversive writer into another canonical brand name. Another thing that would probably amuse and annoy Mr Dick in about equal measure are the exceptional number of movies that have been made from his work."

Also in the New York Times: "Fictionalizing history has long been standard in Hollywood. But rarely do filmmakers directly hitch their historically inaccurate projects to revered works of nonfiction." Edward Wyatt talks with the team behind HBO's adaptation of Dee Brown's 1971 nonfiction classic, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

Goldwyn: A Biography "[L]ike the 'great man' theory of history, the cult of the director provides an easy out when you don't want to work too hard examining the many factors that contribute to make a great movie," argues the Chicago Reader's JR Jones, who's been reading A Scott Berg's Goldwyn: A Biography: "Like many of the Hollywood moguls, [Samuel] Goldwyn was a vain, cold-blooded tyrant, yet most people in Hollywood fell all over themselves to work with him, because his track record spoke for itself."

In the Guardian:

Back to the NYT: Michiko Kakutani on Don DeLillo's latest:

Certainly it's unfair for the reader to expect any work of fiction about 9/11 to come close to the visionary scope and depth of Mr DeLillo's masterpiece Underworld, which so brilliantly captured the American experience of the cold war era: not enough time has passed for any novelist to put the events of that day and its shuddering consequences into historical perspective; perhaps not even enough time has passed for any novelist to grapple convincingly with those actual events, without being eclipsed by the documentary testimony (from newspaper articles, television footage and still photographs) still freshly seared in readers' minds. And yet even within these parameters of reduced expectations, Falling Man feels small and unsatisfying and inadequate.

But Adam Begley, writing in the New York Observer, finds it "a powerful and direct account of the atrocity and its aftermath."

Signandsight looks over "the most talked about books of the 2007 spring season" - in the German papers, that is: fiction and nonfiction.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:26 AM | Comments (2)

May 8, 2007

Singapore Dispatch. Podcast 2.

Singapore International Film Festival In his second podcast recorded (and once again, very finely tuned by Evan Tan) at the Singapore International Film Festival, Ben Slater sits down with filmmaker and visual artist Ho Tzu Nyen to talk about Prasanna Jayakody's Sankara, Otar Iosseliani's Gardens in Autumn, Garin Nugroho's Opera Jawa, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century, Ghassan Salhab's The Last Man and Kan Lume and Loo Zihan's Solos.

That last film leads to Ben's comments on censorship - followed by a roundup of capsule reviews of even more films he saw at the festival. Listen and/or download here.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:33 PM

5 Amigos?

Children of Men Movie news junkies will have heard, but Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón and his younger brother, Carlos, and Rodrigo García (director of Passengers and son of Gabriel García Márquez) "are quietly shopping themselves to Hollywood in an all-or-nothing, five-picture deal," reported Lorenza Muñoz and Claudia Eller in the Los Angeles Times yesterday. "The price tag: as much as $100 million."

A serviceable news hook for mentioning these two items: In nthposition, Robert Philbin considers "Globalism and the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu." And in Film International, Bryan Nixon examines Cuarón's use of long takes in Children of Men (warning: spoilers).

Update: Vinyl Is Heavy knew how to celebrate on Saturday. Thanks, Brian!

Posted by dwhudson at 1:31 PM | Comments (3)

2007 (so far).

Hot Fuzz As we turned a seasonal corner with last week's release of probably the most expensive and fastest-grossing movie yet, some have evidently felt prompted to do a bit of "spring cleaning," as Robert Cashill titles an entry that catches up with half a dozen notables of the past weeks and months.

The London Times lists its "50 best films of 2007 (so far)." And Bill Gibron writes up two lists for PopMatters: the best and worst of 07 - again, so far.

Nathaniel R takes a different approach, commenting on the "10 Biggest Box Office Hits (so far) in 2007."

Update, 5/9: "It's been an interesting year so far for Korean cinema, though I think few people would consider it a good year," Darcy Paquet at Koreanfilm.org. "One gets the same feeling for the individual films and for state of the film industry itself: there's a lot of talent there, but lately the parts have not been coming together."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:15 PM | Comments (2)

SFIFF, fests, events, 5/8.

NYAFF "It's one of the best Asian film events in North America and the first titles for the 2007 edition of the New York Asian Film Festival have just been announced." Todd's got 'em at Twitch.

Recently, regarding the San Francisco International Film Festival:

  • Brian Darr's worries as to how the Notes to a Toon Underground program of animated shorts accompanied by live musicians soon dissipated. Brian also rounds up several Bay Area events that don't have anything to do with SFIFF.

  • Darren Hughes writes up capsule reviews of over a dozen entries.

Paprika

In the Guardian, Graham Fuller talks with Isabella Rossellini about her mother and about opening the retrospective of her father's work running at the BFI Southbank throughout May.

Robin McKie: "Star Wars: The Exhibition opened on Friday - presumably to give its promoters a chance to put 'May the Fourth be with you' on their invitations - and runs until September."

A Matter of Life and Death As the stage production of A Matter of Life and Death, artistic director Emma Rice tells Claire Armitstead that the original Powell and Pressburger film "is a story about coming to terms with peace [after WWII], and with the new power relationships between Europe and America, colonialist and colonised. In the 'other world,' the dead gabble in different languages; the celestial jury is dismissed because it embodies old colonial grudges; the judge has to be convinced that a British man and an American girl could truly love each other (part of the purpose of making the film was to reinforce the 'special relationship')." Through June 21.

"The 1970s were the best and worst of times for cinema, a fact the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian and Aero theatres is warmly embracing with its ambitious May festival, The Seventies: The Good, the Bad and the Strange." Susan King reports in the Los Angeles Times.

The Lumière Reader begins its coverage of New Zealand's traveling Human Rights Film Festival. Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell are in New Zealand, by the way, catching up with Kiwi cinema.

Cannes: Inside the World's Premiere Film Festival The Telegraph runs an excerpt from Kieron Corless and Chris Darke's Cannes: Inside the World's Premiere Film Festival and offers a list of "10 of the most intriguing films to be premièred at this year's Cannes festival." May 16 through 27.

Imagine seeing Inland Empire in Transylvania; Angelica Tosoni previews the festival (June 1 through 10) for Cineuropa.

Ignatius Vishnevetsky transcribes selected Q's and selected A's from Saturday's screening of Ebrahim Golestan's The Brick and the Mirror in Chicago.

Nathaniel R wraps the Indianapolis International Film Festival, awards and all.

Cynthia Rockwell chats with IFFBoston program director Adam Roffman.

Jim Emerson has more notes and pix from Ebertfest.

At indieWIRE, Charlie Olsky looks back on this year's Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, "one of the first stops in the country for LGBT films."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:49 AM

DVDs, 5/8.

The Third Man Criterion executive producer Kim Hendrickson tells the story behind Steven Soderbergh's commentary track for the upcoming re-release of The Third Man - and posts a clip as well.

How's this for a review-opener: "Like it or not, we're coming up on the 50th anniversary of the French New Wave - which, we should not be allowed to forget, will always be to film culture roughly what the Age of Enlightenment was to Western thought. Or what movable type was to public literacy. Or what The Origin of Species was to biology: a volcanic epiphany, a revolution." Well, turns out "it's only partially true," but you were ready to bury or praise Michael Atkinson, weren't you. The film at hand is Claude Chabrol's Comedy of Power, wherein Isabelle Huppert's "workaholic avenging angel, dangerously underfed and self-amused, is fabulously, pathologically invulnerable - even as the murder threats pour in. Therein lies the woman's charm, and Huppert's star power." Also: "Taken just on a political level, [How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman] is one of sharpest satires of colonial history ever made, especially since it's sourced out from the exploited culture's sensibility."

To Catch a Thief Dave Kehr opens his column in the New York Times this week by surveying a slew of Frank Borzage DVDs we don't have before turning his attention to China Doll and Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief, which "has always been close to perfection as a romantic comedy; now it approaches that same state as a DVD, thanks to the superb widescreen transfer Paramount has commissioned for the film's release in a 'special collector's edition.'" And for Time Out New York, Matt Zoller Seitz talks with Peter Bogdanovich about his commentary track.

Brendon Connelly has good news: "Kenneth Branagh's film of Hamlet - still the only movie to present the full text - has been officially announced for R1 DVD release in August." And he knows what extras'll be on that disc, too.

David Lowery on Matthew Barney: No Restraint: "He doesn't take himself quite so seriously as he takes his work, and what's great about this documentary is that it brings him down to earth while leaving his art in whatever stratosphere of phyisogenic process it exists in. [Director Alison] Chernick doesn't try to demystify what Barney makes, but she does seek to understand where he's coming from, and in doing so she reveals him not so much as a gatekeeper of his own ideas as a conduit to them."

At Cinematical, Matt Bradshaw reviews Able Edwards: "[D]irector Graham Robertson must be commended for shooting an entire feature without sets for a paltry $30,000."

DVD roundups: DVD Talk; Logan Hill in New York; the Lumière Reader; Susan King in the Los Angeles Times; MCN.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:59 AM

Critics, 5/8.

Stuart Klawans: Left in the Dark The Nation congratulates Stuart Klawans on his 2007 National Magazine Award and re-posts three batches of his reviews: 1, 2 and 3. Earlier: Looker's appreciation.

Variety's Anne Thompson looks at the way film bloggers are "reshaping the coverage of films today. Movie publicity may never be quite the same." Anthony Kaufman, though, is "starting to have my doubts about the proliferation of film blogs," particularly the rise of the "clogger." Update: Anthony clarifies.

In an open apology to Jonathan Rosenbaum, Glenn Kenny explains the balancing act Premiere used to perform: "It's not that we don't think our readers don't know anything about Touch of Evil. It's that we don't want to lose those readers we have who don't know anything about Touch of Evil. A fine distinction, I know, but one we kind of lived by, because those times, like these, were parlous ones for print magazines."

Updated through 5/9.

The New York Post's Lou Lumenick watches Variety editor Peter Bart and his staff hash it out over the role of the film critic.

Updates, 5/9: Jim Emerson passes along an appreciation of Roger Ebert by Peter Noble-Kuchera: "More than any critic, Ebert seems to understand that the movies are made by people who, with all their flaws, were trying to make a good film. He is a tireless champion of small movies of worth, and no critic has done more to leverage his influence in order to bring those films to the attention of America."

Comments on critics, bloggers and cloggers: AJ Schnack, Chuck Tryon and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:33 AM

Curtis Harrington, 1928 - 2007.

Curtis Harrington
Director Curtis Harrington, who worked on avant-garde films, 60s schlock and nighttime TV soaps, died Sunday at his house in the Hollywood Hills of natural causes. He was 80.

Pat Saperstein, Variety.

Curtis was more than a film and television director; he was also the first film critic (of whom I am aware) to make the ascent into the director's chair. He wrote a book about his favorite director Josef von Sternberg in 1948 (very early for a book about an individual director) and he was also a contributor to Films & Filming and Films Illustrated in the early 1950s. People talk about directors like Bogdanovich, Coppola, Scorsese and DePalma being the first generation of directors raised on movies, but Curtis was making films before any of them - and he was making films that were in their own way recursive, depending on the audience's knowledge of the screen languages formulated by Sternberg and by the great suspense masters Hitchcock, Lewton and Clouzot.

Tim Lucas.

Updated through 5/10.

See also interviews by Harvey F Chartrand (GC), Chuck Stephens (Filmmaker), the Terror Trap, Peter Tonguette (Bright Lights) and Rusty White (Entertainment Insiders).

Updates: Peter Nellhaus recalls studying one of Harrington's shorts; he posts some fine images from Night Tide, too.

"Curtis Harrington was something of a role model for me, if only because he moved so gracefully through so many barriers that seem impenetrable to others, the barriers between amateur and professional, between critic and artist, between avant-garde and mainstream," writes C Jerry Kutner at Bright Lights After Dark. "A true film buff, he was just as likely to be seen in the audience - at film festivals and revivals in the Los Angeles area - as on the screen."

Updates, 5/9: More from Tim Lucas.

John Coulthart focuses on Night Tide and Harrington's work with Kenneth Anger.

Jerry Lentz traces the line from Poe to Griffith Park.

"Was Harrington what Jean Cocteau might have been had Cocteau been taken under the wing of low-budget exploitation filmmakers in Los Angeles?" wonders Glenn Kenny. "Maybe. But Harrington's sometime friend Kenneth Anger was closer to being an American Cocteau. Harrington's career gave us all a knottier riddle to figure out."

Updates, 5/10: "Producer and screenwriter Dennis Bartok, former head of programming for the American Cinematheque, said that 'one of the things that was so great about Curtis was his movies almost occupied their own genre,'" quotes Dennis McLellan in the Los Angeles Times. "'They definitely had elements of the macabre, horror and the supernatural,' Bartok said. 'But they were also very singular and individualistic, very mysterious and elegant. Also very experimental: You could see ties to all the avant-garde films he had done in the late 40s and early 50s.'"

Tim Lucas: "Last night I decided to spend a little time with Curtis Harrington by refreshing my memory of his first major studio production, Games (1967)."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:03 AM | Comments (3)

May 7, 2007

Wrapping Tribeca.

Tribeca "'$18 a damn ticket?' was a common refrain heard during this year's Tribeca Film Festival, and when you consider it's a higher chunk of change than nearly any North American festival, one wonders why the excess should be allowed," begins Jason Clark's overview at Slant. "But on further review, one realizes it's just in the spirit of New York, where everyone pays regularly twice for about half... [T]he films on the whole were actually pretty worth it, netting a possibly even better hit-to-miss ratio than the tonier New York Film Festival in the fall."

ST VanAirsdale is more than happy to back him up on that. More from the Reeler:

Updated through 5/11.

My Best Friend

  • "My Best Friend shows [Patrice] Leconte's fondness for personalities wrapped up in quixotic conflicts, but the premise is too incredulous even by his own standards," writes Eric Kohn. Also: Fiesta Patria ("a sensationally moving drama centered on family dynamics across generations in Chile"), Nanking ("Death offers easy access for creating drama, but it doesn't ensure quality in the execution"), Lillie and Leander: A Legacy of Violence ("an essential portrait of the role the past plays in understanding the present"), Music Inn ("the inn essentially functioned as an artists' haven") and The Polymath or, The Life and Opinions of Samuel R Delany, Gentleman ("consistently fascinating").

  • ST VanAirsdale again, here on Albert Maysles and Antonio Ferrara's The Gates: "Oddly, the film's narrative momentum is directly inverse to that of the project it depicts." More at the House Next Door from Keith Uhlich, who has trouble with the Maysles "house style of documentary filmmaking" in general. And at Premiere, Aaron Hillis hails the film as "a greater work of art than those 7,503 banalities that salted Central Park for two weeks."

  • Jennifer Merin talks with Alison Thompson about The Third Wave and with Kathy Huang about Miss Chinatown USA.

  • On Reeler TV: Eva Mendes (Live!) and Anton Yelchin (Charlie Bartlett).

  • Tobi Elkin's got notes from the Fame! I'm Gonna Live Forever! panel.

  • Christopher Campbell listened in on the Heroes for Hire panel, "a terrific conversation on the state of comic book movies and on what can be expected from Marvel Comics adaptations in the near future." Related: Lewis Beale argues that "films derived from works whose protagonists speak in dialogue balloons are one of the cancers destroying the industry."

Manuelle Labor

"The dearth of American Independent cinema at this year's Tribeca Film Festival (sorry, Kevin Connolly's Leo DiCaprio-produced Gardener of Eden hardly qualifies) is in no way indicative of the current state of the Indie scene, but rather the result of disinterested programmers, and/or the festival's emphasis on premieres," argues Filmbrain.

Lou Luminick vs Tribeca Karina Longworth asks a wide variety of New Yorkers how the festival might be fixed and, also for the SpoutBlog, how a slew of films stacked up to their buzz.

Time art critic Richard Lacayo finds Black White + Gray "a decent introduction to an enigmatic man. (Best moments: the interview segments with the rock star Patti Smith, who lived with [Robert] Mapplethorpe for years and was close to both [Mapplethorpe and Sam Wagstaff], and who comes off as one of the most lovable people in the universe.)"

AJ Schnack has a guest over to wrap Tribeca: Ryan Harrington, whose A&E IndieFilms premiered She's My Brother at the festival. Harrington offers capsule reviews of half a dozen of his favorites.

"The idyllic environment of Times and Winds is as seemingly uncluttered as the lives of the village's inhabitants," writes Jenny Jediny at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. "[T]he film nearly hums with the activity of life brimming among children and the natural world."

At Cinematical:

Online listening tip. Christina Kotlar talks with Lady Chatterley director Pascale Ferran at Zoom In Online, where she has a few other entries wrapping Tribeca: 1, 2 and 3.

Updates, 5/8: "Despite undergoing much scrutiny this year for changes to structure, pricing, locations and programming, the Tribeca Film Festival seems to have beefed up their Midnight and genre selections for the year, leaping miles ahead of the 2006 content," writes Michael Lerman at indieWIRE. "Ranging from some of the year's most creative and original, darker work like György Pálfi's grotesquely beautiful Taxidermia and Ha Yoo's perfectly layered gangster mini-epic A Dirty Carnival (both so strong that Tribeca elevated them to the Showcase section of the festival) to the more dramatic, less shocking side of midnight like Teng Huatao's composed ghost love story The Matrimony, the genre programming of TFF 2007 covers lots of ground, with a few fun gems along the way."

Bryan Whitefield at ScreenGrab: "Hopefully, Normal Adolescent Behavior will be able to find an audience among the teenagers it depicts as it gives them attractive, relatable characters and something to think about. A rare mix these days..."

Also, Sarah Hepola talks with Diego Luna about Chávez.

At Cinematical, Erik Davis interviews Live! writer-director Bill Guttentag and reviews Chops: "Towards the end of the film, as the competition heats up, we watch as these one-time strangers slowly become a family - one tight-knit voice so devoted to the art of jazz that it's hard not to shed tears when the final outcome is revealed."

Watching the Detectives is "a gentle spoof on femme fatales and the men they inevitably drag along by the ear," writes Ryan Stewart at Cinematical.

Updates, 5/9: "[T]o wrap up TFF '07, we are putting aside criticisms about the festival and its ticket-prices to single out some of the best movies that this year's festival had to offer," writes Eugene Hernandez, introducing indieWIRE's "ten best hotlist."

"[T]he two best films of the few I managed to see at Tribeca were Michael Kang's West 32nd and Yoo Ha's A Dirty Carnival," blogs Josh Ralske.

Cinematical's Ryan Stewart interviews Watching the Detectives writer-director Paul Soter.

William Speruzzi offers his take on about half a dozen films and/or events.

"With his second feature, not only does director Michael Kang (The Motel) deliver one of the more beautifully shot films I caught at Tribeca, but he introduces us to the complexity of an entire world that's carefully and delicately situated within one city block," writes Erik Davis at Cinematical.

Updates, 5/10: "I won't pretend I can summarize the lumpy, hit-and-miss mass of films that premiered at Tribeca (which only concluded last weekend)," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "What I can do is render a subjective list of 10 new films that emerged from the festival with heightened buzz, either among the movie world's commodity traders, its grimy-spectacled cinema buffs, or both."

"A Walk Into the Sea is captivating, astute and artful, even in its straightforward doc structure," writes Aaron Hillis for Premiere. "Produced by Doug Block, director of the dysfunctional-family portrait 51 Birch Street, this is a film about a community whose bonds were only dysfunctional, never familial."

Updates, 5/11: Marc Kandel gathers Hollywood Bitchslap's coverage on one handy page.

With 2 Days in Paris, "[Julie] Delpy moves fluidly between slapstick comedy and raw drama as she effortlessly evokes the heady pace of a short stopover in the city of lights," writes Beth Gilligan at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

"[F]or all the emphasis put on Jia [Zhang-ke]'s bracing indictment of globalization and post-modernity in China, little attention is paid to the levity of his work, the wit and even euphoria that he affords his characters, which contrasts so sharply with the political cynicism of those critics writing about his work. Whatever grim notes Jia may strike about the state of his country, he never loses sight of the desires and interior lives of his characters." Also at NCTATNY, Leo Goldsmith reviews Still Life.

ST VanAirsdale, whose Reeler didn't just cover Tribeca but practically recreated the entire festival as text in real time, takes a breath and looks back: "Admittedly, it's massive, wealthy, a symbol of ruthless class upscaling - in other words, an easy festival to hate. But for what my impression and those of a number of others close to Tribeca are worth, it might be an even easier festival to misunderstand."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:56 PM

28 Weeks Later.

28 Weeks Later 28 Weeks Later is "a worthy successor to 28 Days Later," writes Mark Kermode in the Observer. That established, a couple of points: "At several moments, the film knowingly evokes the ongoing battles of Iraq, with the peacekeeping forces turning out to be every bit as dangerous and destructive as the insurgent infection they are struggling to contain." And "there is something particularly resonant about such nightmarish phantasms when placed within uncomfortably familiar British sites, a juxtaposition which has long been exploited by purveyors of the uncanny."

Also, Pete Cashmore elaborates on seven lessons the film teaches us, for example, "Always stay close to a helicopter pilot." And Holly Grigg-Spall discovers that director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has a lot on his mind.

Updated through 5/14.

"Is the movie a classic?" wonders David Edelstein in New York. "I don't think so, but it's terrifying - and a necessary gross-out. Fresnadillo and co-screenwriters Rowan Joffe, EL Lavigne and Jesús Olmo certainly rub our noses in the gory mess of reconstruction under a desperate occupying force: With his whiplash subjective camera, Fresnadillo rouses our fight-or-flight instincts and makes us loathe the brutality. All I could think was, What has our government wrought?"

Kevin Maher talks with Robert Carlyle for the London Times.

John Patterson in the Guardian: "From now on, every movie ought to feature its own '28 Weeks Later...' - a coda in which the destinies of the major characters are outlined in the grimmest possible terms, so we can drain off the saccharine content of the studio-approved finale that just made us puke into our cupped hands."

Earlier: Background pieces from Chuck Culpepper in the Los Angeles Times and Nick Curtis in the Evening Standard.

28 Weeks Later Updates, 5/8: "28 Weeks Later is a rarity: a worthwhile sequel," writes Todd at Twitch. "It expands the premise of the first while remaing true to it, pushing things to their logical conclusions rather than simply repeating itself or reinventing - and thus disrespecting - what came before. The technical side is very strong, the film itself very entertaining. My hunch is that it will not bear up to repeat viewings as well as the first thanks to the lack of focus on the characters and some of the hinted-at plot holes but it is still one of the better action-horror pictures of recent years."

Ray Pride finds it "a grim, sincerely nihilist, urgently political, wholly contemporary parable about life in wartime, more Goya than GOP."

Update, 5/9: Nathan Lee in the Voice: "Four years after 'Mission Accomplished,' 28 Weeks Later reminds us that the mission, whatever the hell it was to begin with, is now officially, apocalyptically fucked." That said, "Where 28 Weeks Later is allegorical, [Zack] Snyder's [Dawn of the Dead] was frightfully symptomatic." That said, Weeks is "superior horror. 28 Months Later can't come too soon."

"Boyle's decision to stay on the sidelines and produce, rather than direct, is a smart move on his part but an unfortunate one for us," warns Jason Bogdaneris in the L Magazine.

"28 Weeks Later rolls in like a poisonous dust cloud of nihilism," writes Jeremiah Kipp at Slant. "28 Days Later was a tough and uncompromising horror film, but it's all sunshine and laughter in comparison to the sequel."

"Fresnadillo cuts to the quick - the primal-terror essence of horror movies as outward expressions of subconscious terrors," writes Armond White in the New York Press, who, of course, has a different reading from anyone else: "The welcome thing about 28 Weeks Later is that it avoids its potentially anti-American, anti-military set-up... Instead, Fresnadillo sticks to universal horror-movie scares: The husband-wife reunion between [Robert] Carlyle and [Catherine] McCormack is full of recognizable spousal anxiety; the children's shock at seeing Dad's true, blood-red nature is almost classical. That's more than Boyle ever achieved."

At Zoom In Online, Annie Frisbie discovers "a horror/action hybrid that is as devastatingly gripping (if not more so) than the original."

28 Weeks Later

Updates, 5/10: "[T]here is a method to the infected madness," notes Susan King in the Los Angeles Times. "All the actions, movements and vicious attitude of the crazed people were carefully choreographed and rehearsed. Paul Kasey, a gymnast, dancer, actor and specialist in creature and monster movement, was brought in to be the movement "advisor" for the gore-infested film."

Godfrey Cheshire in the Independent Weekly: "Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror, the zombie portion of Grindhouse, may cheerfully ape the cheesiness of 70s horror movies, but its brilliantly honed visual dynamics exhibit a classical cinematic intelligence. 28 Weeks Later, by contrast, reflects the flashy temptations of digital editing and sound effects and a stylistic sense derived from the tropes of top-dollar TV commercials."

Bryant Frazer: "It's punishing and exciting and ferociously intelligent in equal measure. It's the best zombie picture in God knows how long, and the finest English-language horror movie in too many years."

"9/11 imagery in movies hasn't been a real source of frisson for anyone except film critics since Steven Spielberg unleashed his glossy, mainstream-ready version of it in 2005's War of the Worlds," writes Grady Hendrix at Slate. "Images of rabid globalization, however, still deliver a kick, and there's nothing that says 'New World Order' more than a horde of single-minded zombies devouring the quick and assimilating them into their anonymous, ever-expanding ranks. Unfortunately, globalization - the triumph of the blandly international over the quirkily regional - is also what keeps this movie from pop greatness."

28 Weeks Later Updates, 5/11: "Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and its new sequel, 28 Weeks Later... may not quite be in [George A] Romero's league, but at their best they come close to his signature blend of grisly horror, emotional impact and biting," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. This sequel "is brutal and almost exhaustingly terrifying, as any respectable zombie movie should be. It is also bracingly smart, both in its ideas and in its techniques."

"Laden with references to ongoing large-scale fiascos, 28 Weeks Later is not an account of a disaster so much as it is the grisly anatomy of a quagmire," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times. "If 28 Weeks Later lacks clarity and momentum, it may be at least partly because the situation it so pointedly reflects lacks it as well. One thing is for sure, Fresnadillo's movie is grimmer and grislier than Boyle's, and it wantonly abandons all hope."

But Peter Bradshaw is let down: "I can only say that after a terrific beginning, the movie's credibility snaps like a frozen twig with one stupid plot-glitch around 30 minutes in and then, despite some spectacular moments, fails to disguise the fact that there isn't much mileage left in all those red-eyed folk running around growling and gibbering a