May 31, 2007
Shorts, 5/31."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. 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, 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. "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." 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." 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.
Fests and events, 5/31.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. "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.
Battle over RWF's legacy.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."
Jean-Claude Brialy, 1933 - 2007.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.
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.
May 30, 2007
Fests and events, 5/30."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."
Shorts, 5/30."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.
May 29, 2007
DVDs, 5/29."[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." "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."
Fests and events, 5/29."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." 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.
SIFF Dispatch. 1.A first round of first takes from Sean Axmaker. 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.
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.
Shorts, 5/29."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 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. "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:
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. The 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.
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. Pierre Rissent: Man of Cinema.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.
Cannes. 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.
May 28, 2007
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." "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."
Riefenstahl.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.
Cannes. 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.
May 27, 2007
Cannes. 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.
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."
Cannes. Awards.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.
Cannes. Rebellion: The Litvinenko Affair."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."
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.
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Cannes, 5/26. Late-ish edition."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."
Long weekend shorts."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: 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.'" 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:
Other fests, other events, 5/26.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. "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."
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Cannes, 5/26."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.
May 25, 2007
Cannes. 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.
Star Wars Blog-a-Thon.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.
Cannes, 5/25. Late-ish edition."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.
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. 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.
Other fests, other events, 5/25."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." "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."
Stranger. 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.
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.
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Cannes, 5/25.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.
Venice @ 75. Early news and rumors."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:
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.
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. Apres lui."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.
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.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Cannes. 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.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Shorts, fests, etc, 5/24."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. "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. 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. "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. 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. 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:
Cannes, 5/24.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.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
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.
Cannes. 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.
SIFF. Preview.For nearly a full month each year, movies are thick as rain and coffee beans in Seattle. Sean Axmaker previews the festivities. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
May 23, 2007
Cannes, 5/23.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.
Cannes @ 60. Index.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:
Cannes. 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.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Cannes. 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.
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.
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."
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." 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.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Cannes. 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.
Shorts, 5/22."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.
Cannes, 5/22.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." 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.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Olivier @ 100.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.
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. 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.
John Wayne @ 100.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."
May 21, 2007
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. 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.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Shorts, 5/21."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." 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. 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:
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.
Cannes. 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.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. 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.
Sight & Sound. June 07 + Cannes.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." 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)." 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.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
May 20, 2007
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. To Each His Own Cinema."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.
Misunderstood Blog-a-Thon.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.
Dalí & Film.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.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
May 19, 2007
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. 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.
Weekend shorts."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:
Cannes, 5/19.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:
Other fests, other events, 5/19.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." 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: 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.
Cannes. 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.
Cannes. 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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Interview. Peter Cowie.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.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
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."
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Cannes, 5/18.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).
Zizek on Lives.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?"
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.
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Cannes. 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.
May 17, 2007
Cannes. 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.
Shorts, 5/17."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: 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."
Other fests and events, 5/17.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. "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.
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.
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Cannes, 5/17.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.
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." 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.
May 16, 2007
Same time next year?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."
Shorts, 5/16."[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. 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."
Other fests and events, 5/16."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 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.
DVDs, 5/16."[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." "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.
Cannes. 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:
Cannes @ 60. Index.
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.
May 15, 2007
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.
SFIFF Dispatch. 7.One more roundup from the festival that wrapped a few days ago, this one from David D'Arcy. 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.
Still being updated: "Wrapping SFIFF."
1 day to Cannes.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.
Shorts, 5/15."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. 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 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. 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.
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."
May 14, 2007
Shorts, 5/14."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." "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. "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. 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:
Fests and events, 5/14."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. 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.
Coppola in Miami.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 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.
2 days to Cannes."[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.
May 13, 2007
More 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.
3 days to Cannes."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.
Wrapping SFIFF.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.
May 12, 2007
Senses of Cinema. 43.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.
Kate @ 100."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."
May 11, 2007
Interview. 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.
DVDs, 5/11.DK Holm finds startling disagreement among DVD reviewers regarding a new special edition. A few notes follow.
"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.