August 31, 2007

Venice. Redacted.

"Brian De Palma's filmmaking skills have seldom been as razor sharp as they are in his sensational new film about members of a US Army squad who rape and murder a 15-year-old Iraqi girl and slay her family," writes Ray Bennett for the Hollywood Reporter. "Made on HD video and employing images from digital cameras, video recorders, Internet uploads and old-fashioned film, [Redacted] is a ferocious argument against the engagement in Iraq for what it is doing to everyone involved."

Redacted

"Redacted packs an extraordinary emotional punch," writes the Telegraph's David Gritten. The final montage "left the audience at a Venice press screening stunned, silent and in a few cases tearful. The combination of De Palma's visceral style and the horrifying subject matter left me reeling."

"De Palma told reporters after the movie screened that he hoped the film would help bring an end to our country's occupation of Iraq," notes Adam Howard at Alternet. "'The pictures are what will stop the war,' said De Palma."

Updated through 9/6.

Update: Looks like this one might be one of those films that severely divides audiences into two opposing camps. For Variety's Derek Elley, Redacted is a "[d]eeply felt but dramatically unconvincing 'fictional documentary' [... that...] has almost nothing new to say about the Iraq situation and can't make up its mind about how to package its anger in an alternative cinematic form. HD-lensed item, largely using thesps with legit experience, feels more like a filmed Off Broadway play than a docudrama, and has trouble establishing a consistent dramatic tone."

Updates, 9/1: "The critics seem to like it; the public is snubbing it, making faces. What about us? We are more and more convinced that it is a masterpiece." Eugenio Renzi blogs for Cahiers du cinéma.

"Designed to resemble an American's soldier video blog from Iraq, with additional footage from a French-language pseudo-documentary, YouTube clips and reports from local TV crews, Brian de Palma's attempt to reveal some of the expurgated truth behind the media coverage of the war in Iraq ultimately backfires on him," writes Dan Fainaru for Screen Daily. "The evidence of a well-honed professional sensibility behind the camera is too obvious to make the such a fiction actually believable."

Mark Salisbury, blogging over at Glenn Kenny's place, finds this one "a film of noble intentions but unsatisfactory execution. It’s also, very much, a Brian De Palma movie, in that it feels like a 'movie' (which, in this case, is a problem)... Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, United 93) and Michael Winterbottom (In This World, Road To Guantanamo) have shown how this stuff should and can be done, making films that blur the lines between documentary and drama to recreate a reality. De Palma has merely restaged one, and none too convincingly."

Meanwhile, Glenn himself posted last night, with the press screening not even "48 hours old, and the movie is drawing the wrath of pro-war blog personalities who, unlike Mark, haven't laid their eyes on a single frame." Linkage follows... to a very strange world indeed.

Online viewing tip. De Palma talks to Yael Lavie of Sky News. Via Keith Uhlich at the House Next Door.

"[T]his dogpile on DePalma also reminds me that the neo-neocons are ingrates who fail to recognize one of their prophets," adds Glenn Kenny, who can't seem to pull his eyes away. Screencaps and a few good snickers follow.

Updates, 9/2: "De Palma has been investigating the question of visual veracity for most of his 40-year career," writes Time's Richard Corliss. "Redacted takes him back, back, past the Hitchcock homages and the action epics, back to his earliest films: Greetings and Hi, Mom!, two innovative satires on the Vietnam War.... His new movie has torrents of words and goes heavy on macho posturing; at times it suggests a ragged off-off-Broadway play.... But Redacted pretty successfully sustains a dual level of hysteria (in its content) and disinterest (in its film-long framing devices). It's an amazingly vigorous work for a filmmaker who turns 67 on Sept 11, and his strongest cinematic and political statement at least since Casualties of War, his Vietnam film of 1989. The movie is a cry of national shame; for De Palma, it's a new badge of honor for a wily old vet."

"About 10 people walked out of this afternoon's Telluride screening of Brian DePalma's Redacted, most during a horrific rape scene right in the center of the picture," reports Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog. "The bulk of those who stayed gave the HD dramatization of the real-life rape and murder of a 15 year old Iraqi girl by US soldiers an overwhelmingly positive reception.... But regardless of his intentions, it's hard to imagine the film DePalma has made having any positive impact on the anti-war movement. With the exception of the final montage of real photographs, which DePalma indicated may be 'redacted' from the final cut for legal reasons, it's far too stagey to have any real emotional impact. If anything, it's going to further enrage the side that continues to insist that anyone who questions the war or the way its been fought loves the terrorists, hates our troops, should be executed for committing treason, etc. DePalma aims to hit the jugular, but his approach makes someone like Charles Ferguson seem all the wiser for aiming for the brain."

"The job of the filmmaker is no longer to put other images than the media's in front of you; it is no longer to put the truth behind the images that are hiding it; it is not the search for the right point of view, the quest for the initial shot of the film to be as thrilling as it is impossible," writes Emmanuel Burdeau in Cahiers du cinéma's Venice diary. "We are no longer in a Brian De Palma film. The task at hand is simply to offer a certain way of laying out existing visuals: horizontally, as flat and glistening as the screen these lines are written on."

At AICN, Mastidon has a few spoilers and a warning: "I must caution you not to see this movie on a full stomach as it is EXTREMELY violent. However, if the violence was removed or somehow cut back, the movie would lose its message."

Updates, 9/3: "[T]he film isn't particularly well acted and relies on irritating improv (i.e., it feels scripted) while it also loses focus," writes the Observer's Jason Solomons. "Yes, this is a stupid war. Yes, there are lots of media outlets. And people are dying on both sides."

"When director Brian De Palma took the stage at the 64th Venice Film Festival yesterday after the screening of his controversial film Redacted, he wept quietly as the audience of 2000 gave the New Yorker a 10-minute standing ovation. Behind him - equally weepy - were two relatively unknown Canadians, Simone Urdl and Jennifer Weiss, whose company, the Film Farm, produced the movie that was the toast of Venice." Gayle Macdonald profiles them for the Globe and Mail. Via Movie City News.

"During the screening [in Telluride], some audience members noticeably averted their eyes during graphic moments and after a striking coda of Iraqi casualty photos, one attendee began wailing loudly before being gently escorted out of the theater by a companion," reports indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez. "Probed about the film's stance, and addressing the issue of whether the film demonizes US soldiers, DePalma countered emphatically, 'Hey, it's a big bad war out there and we need all the help we can get. If I can make a fiction film that will help, more power to me.' Concluding the thought, he added, 'We are all on the same team, we hate this war and want it to end.'"

"The problems I have with the film are myriad," writes David Poland. "If the film didn't steal so freely from the many quality documentaries that actually put documentarians in harms way to attempt to get a more accurate picture of what is happening on the ground in Iraq, I don't think I would have found it so grating.... But in the end, as offensive as the simplistic portrait of the soldiers is aside from a nascent look at checkpoint politics that is embodied by a fake French doc, my biggest reaction was a 'What does this movie actually add to the conversation?'"

Update, 9/4: "The look of seemingly fly-on-the-wall footage can sometimes give a story a gritty immediacy - surely what De Palma is seeking - but it can also create an air of improvisation, playfulness and even comedy, and that's what happens too often here - which isn't very helpful when you're trying to convey the real horror of a street-kidnapping or a decapitation," writes Time Out's Dave Calhoun. "The greatest flaw is that the actors generally aren't up to the task and so don't convince as US soldiers - they play like actors playing US soldiers."

"[W]hat Mr De Palma may really inspire audiences to do is not to watch his patchwork film, but to make their own." New York Times television writer Virginia Heffernan gathers a little online viewing.

Update, 9/6: Ray Pride passes along Mark Cuban's reply to an "o'reilly factor request": "The movie is fully pro Troops. The hero of the movie is a soldier who stands up for what is right in the face of adversity."


Covering the coverage: Venice 07. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 1:11 PM | Comments (11)

Venice. Michael Clayton.

"Tony Gilroy, fed up with writing what he calls errands for everybody else (e.g., the Bourne films), has written and directed a highly accomplished first feature in this moralistic thriller," writes Derek Malcolm in the Evening Standard. "Gilroy orchestrates his attack on the morals of corporate lawyers with considerable skill and provides [George] Clooney with a part that brings out the best in him."

Michael Clayton

"Spare and unhurried..., Michael Clayton features strong performances and a solid story, drawn from the familiar well of faceless corporations grinding ordinary people through their profit-making machinery," writes Brian Lowry for Variety. "Yet Gilroy's fidelity to his script comes at the expense of the pacing, which initially lumbers forward so assiduously as to feel like a throwback to an earlier era. If George Clooney's recent choices have oscillated between serious showcases (think Syriana) and moneymaking endeavors (the Ocean's series), this falls squarely into the former camp."

Updated through 9/6.

Update, 9/1: "As with the Bourne films, Gilroy has a knack for creating strong characters and situations that resonate with tension," writes Kirk Honeycutt for the Hollywood Reporter. "It may be formula, but the guy is a solid chemist as he crafts excellent set-ups and payoffs, and he has mastered those 'ah-hah' moments when everything locks into place."

Updates, 9/3: "It would be no surprise to see Clooney back at the Oscars for playing the title role in Michael Clayton," suggests the Telegraph's David Gritten. "It's a sophisticated entertainment, offering few easy resolutions. Gilroy is confidently in charge of his material, and [Tilda] Swinton truly shines as a nuanced character rather than a one-note villain."

"Though stylishly lit by Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck camerman Robert Elswit, it's poorly edited and tries too hard to be a Seventies-style conspiracy thriller - it even co-stars Sydney Pollack," notes the Observer's Jason Solomons. "Perhaps most disappointingly, George is slightly underpowered here, a bit too much Danny Ocean and not enough Erin Brockovich. It might soon be time to decide: does he want to act or be a politician?"

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Clooney's been "presented with the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres medal at the Deauville American Film Festival over the weekend."

"The opening voiceover from an unseen Edens ([Tom] Wilkinson) somewhat sets the tone of the whole film, but also sets up a disorientation from which the film never quite recovers," writes Roger Clarke for Screen Daily. "Wilkinson is entirely believable as a man having a mental breakdown, and his friendship with Clooney's character feels nuanced and genuine. Cast against type, Tilda Swinton makes for a good corporate villain, with a genuine whiff of decay about her fighting against another odour, that of moral sterilisation."

Updates, 9/4: "As it goes with so many films with an anti-corporate bent attached to standard thriller practices (think of The Constant Gardener, although that was a much better film), no one ever bothers to get to grips with what it is that the rogue company is supposed to be doing wrong," writes Time Out's Dave Calhoun. "A recent review of Fast Food Nation in the New Yorker noted that the left offers better ideas than it does movies, and with [Redacted and Michael Clayton] on the menu at the Venice, I'm inclined to agree, at least when it comes to the American variety."

"Deliberately paced, with a strong supporting cast (Wilkinson, Sydney Pollack, Tilda Swinton) and a smart script that harks back to corporate thrillers of the 1970s - Clooney compared it to Three Days of the Condor - this, despite a few minor plot contrivances, expertly captures the shadowy side of corporate America," writes Mark Salisbury at In the Company of Glenn.

Update, 9/6: "Walking into Michael Clayton, I was hoping for a film along the lines of classic 70s Sidney Lumet or Alan J Pakula; what I got was something more along the lines of an above-average 90s John Grisham adaptation," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi from Toronto.


Covering the coverage: Venice 07. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 10:57 AM

Ladrón Que Roba a Ladrón.

Ladrón Que Roba a Ladrón "Like Ocean's Eleven, if directed by Robin Hood and financed by Telemundo, Ladrón Que Roba a Ladrón is an effervescent comedy coasting on the charisma of its stars," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times.

"For once, a plausible ethnic range of Angelenos, playing Angelenos!" exclaims, oddly enough, the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips in the Los Angeles Times. "Joe Menendez directs this genial lark. His TV credits include Real Stories of the Highway Patrol and Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, and though there's nothing flashy or complex about the way Menendez works with crowds or lays out a suspense sequence, he keeps everybody in the same movie."

"Powered by a brisk pace, lively supporting cast, clever script, and handsome leads, Ladrón offers a good time and a lecture on the dangers of greed and the oft-overlooked importance of immigrants, in roughly that order," writes Nathan Rabin at the AV Club.

Earlier: Susan King talks with Menendez for the LAT.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:44 AM

Death Sentence (and a bit on The Brave One).

Death Sentence "By late summer, when director James Wan's Death Sentence is playing side by side with Neil Jordan's The Brave One at many of our nation's multiplexes, moviegoers will be forgiven for thinking that they've traveled through a time warp and landed in the late 1970s, when first-class cinemas and seedy grindhouses alike were flooded with urban-crime dramas about ordinary citizens taking the law into their own hands," writes Scott Foundas, who talks with Wan for the LA Weekly.

"And yet the differences between the two are like Chardonnay and rotgut: Jordan's is a somber, elegantly wrought mood-piece, while Wan's aims straight for the stomach lining," writes Scott Tobias at the AV Club. "It's tempting to call Death Sentence the more 'honest' of the two, since it's less ashamed to paddle around in the muck, but Wan often lets his guileless enthusiasm get the better of him."

Updated through 9/2.

"Based on Brian Garfield's novel - a sequel to the book that spawned the 1974 film Death Wish - Mr Wan's film is a middle-class white man's payback fantasy, leavened with phony references to class difference," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times. "Aside from a stunning three-minute tracking shot as the gang pursues Nick through a parking garage, and [Kevin] Bacon's hauntingly pale, dark-eyed visage, Mr Wan's film is a tedious, pandering time-waster."

The best part of Roger Ebert's review - basically, he likes the movie - actually deals with the Death Wish series and the Chicago-set sequel that was never made.

"In the press notes, the director ponders the film's 'Shakespearean' qualities, while a producer loftily compares it to Greek tragedy," observes Newsday's in the Los Angeles Times. "One seriously wonders how much time either of them has spent slumming at classical theater: Exactly which Sophocles or Shakespeare dramas do they have in mind? To give credit where it is due, the fetishizing of gun violence, the cynical distrust of the jury system and the prioritizing of one's own family over the welfare of others are hallmarks that American popular culture should rightfully be able to claim for itself."

"Bacon, Hollywood's go-to heavy, can usually make the most loathsome characters - including killers and child molesters - seem poignantly human," writes Desson Thompson in the Washington Post. "But his thin-lipped intensity can't bring this character to life."

As for The Brave One, Justin Chang writes in Variety that "Jodie Foster unleashes her rage on the mean streets of New York with the same mesmeric intensity and steely resolve that have characterized her very best performances... Jordan neither subverts the pleasures of seeing lone-ranger justice onscreen, as David Cronenberg did in A History of Violence, nor panders overtly to the audience's baser instincts; instead, The Brave One attempts to tap into post-9/11 anxieties and comment on the very American idea of righteous payback."

In the Hollywood Reporter, Michael Rechtshaffen adds that Foster and Jordan's "considerable attributes go a long way in compensating for problematic plot mechanics that ultimately trip up the good intentions, especially in its portrayal of a New York that looks and behaves more like Charles Bronson's old stomping grounds than its modern-day incarnation."

Back to Death Sentence: "Obviously you've seen this story a dozen or so times by now, but Wan and Bacon do all they can to bring a little new color to the concept," writes Scott Weinberg at Cinematical. "There's a fantastic foot-chase sequence that leads to an excellent action scene in a parking garage - which is promptly followed by a rather sobering scene in which Bacon's character starts to really unravel. The dual approach elevates Death Sentence beyond 'just another action flick' - but the tonal shifts also do some damage in the flick's final act. At an overlong 110 minutes, the movie feels like it would definitely benefit from one more trip to the editing booth."

EW: Jodie Foster Update, 9/1: Karen Valby talks with Jodie Foster for Entertainment Weekly. It's actually quite a good interview, and I'm glad SXSW's News Reel has pointed it out.

Update, 9/2: "A surprisingly sturdy and effective genre picture, [Death Sentence] has style and energy to spare, but ultimately fails in rectifying its own central conflicts, serving as a warning to the costs—emotional and otherwise—brought about by attempts to satiate one's desire for revenge while also hypocritically encouraging and reveling in violent, shoot 'em up confrontations," writes Rob Humanick at Slant.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:31 AM

Halloween.

Halloween "Rob Zombie knows and loves horror films," begins Jeffrey M Anderson. "Given that, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect his new remake of Halloween to have some kind of expert enthusiasm, or at least some kind of subversive slant. How disappointing, then, to see a film as callous, noisy and stupid as any of the other horror remakes that have been cluttering up multiplexes as of late."

"Halloween is brilliant," counters Bill Gibron at PopMatters. "It's a stroke of slice and dice genius. It represents some of the most solid film work this growing fright night giant has ever brought to the big screen, and it argues for putting real fear aficionados behind the lens of your latest take on a tale of terror."

Updated through 9/1.

Brian Orndorf: "Before anyone takes a dump all over Rob Zombie's remake of the John Carpenter classic Halloween, let me remind the picky bastards out there that the last time we saw Michael Myers on that big screen, he was trading karate chops with Busta Rhymes. Yeah, now this update doesn't seem so bad, does it?" More at Hollywood Bitchslap from Mel Valentin and Peter Sobczynski: "[W]hat Zombie has done to Halloween is roughly akin to what its central character does to virtually every other member of the cast - he hacks away until all we are left with is a bloody and virtually unrecognizable mess that lingers around painfully for a while before mercifully expiring."

"[T]he first half of Zombie's Halloween works," argues Noah Forrest at Movie City News. "It just doesn't work as a Halloween movie."

"Apart from the stale atmosphere and complete lack of tension in this film, there's also a generally low level of technical sophistication that leaves the viewer with a sense that no one involved with the production was really operating on all cylinders," writes Ryan Stewart at Cinematical. "The film isn't incompetently made or anything, it just stinks of being unnecessary and doesn't really hit its mark on any traditional level."

Chats with Zombie: Cheryl Eddy (San Francisco Bay Guardian), Richard Harrington (Washington Post), Aaron Hillis (IFC News), Jennifer Merin (New York Press) and Chuck Wilson (Voice).

Updates, 9/1: Halloween "wants us to care about Myers - who busts out of a mental institution 17 years after murdering most of his family and goes home to reconnect with the baby sister he spared - even while it depicts him as a mute, literally faceless grim reaper. The two impulses cancel each other out," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times. "That's too bad, because the case study part of the film re-establishes Mr. Zombie's status as modern American horror's most eccentric and surprising filmmaker."

"Rob Zombie's gut understanding of what makes 70s horror so great - its volatility, its nihilism, its unrepentant, take-no-prisoners viciousness - is unfortunately glimpsed in only short, sporadic bursts in Halloween," writes Nick Schager at Slant. "Unlike The Devil's Rejects, which captured the grungy spirit of his favorite grindhousers, the musician-turned-filmmaker's updating of John Carpenter's seminal 1978 slasher flick skews in the opposite direction, attempting to tonally distance itself from its source material by replacing Carpenter's eerie, otherworldly menace with grim, brutal realism."

Tasha Robinson for the Chicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times: "It's a more polished, high-fidelity version of a story that's played out on screen many times since 1978, but once Zombie runs out of subtext, he's right back to the same old slasher text: 'Blood. Guts. The end.'"

Posted by dwhudson at 9:21 AM

José Luis de Villalonga, 1920 - 2007.

José Luis de Villalonga
Spanish actor José Luis de Villalonga, who appeared in over 60 movies including the 1961 classic Breakfast at Tiffany's has died at his home on the island of Mallorca, Spanish media reported today. He was 87.

Among his other films was Federico Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits (1965) and Louis Malle's The Lovers (1958)....

A firm opposer of the right-wing dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Villalonga lived in France between 1950 and 1976 where he studied at Biarritz and Arcachon. In Paris he worked for magazines like Paris Match, Vogue and Marie Claire and developed a reputation as a playboy amongst the jet-set crowd he belonged to.

The West Australian, via Movie City News.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:08 AM | Comments (5)

Venice. In the Valley of Elah.

"The Iraq war has proven as nettlesome to Hollywood moviemakers as it has to Washington policymakers, and In the Valley of Elah continues the trend," writes Robert Koehler for Variety. "Working overtime to be an important statement on domestic dissatisfaction with the war and the special price paid by vets and their families, Paul Haggis's follow-up to Crash is too self-serious to work as a straight-ahead whodunit and too lacking in imagination to realize its art-film aspirations."

In the Valley of Elah

But for Michael Rechtshaffen, writing for the Hollywood Reporter, Haggis has "avoided the dreaded sophomore slump... In the Valley of Elah is a deeply reflective, quietly powerful work that is as timely as it is moving." The film's also "graced by an exceptional Tommy Lee Jones lead performance that would have to be considered one of the finest in the 60-year-old actor's career."

Updated through 9/6.

Updates, 9/2: "Those of us who weren't crazy about Crash thought it reduced each of its dozens of characters to one small virtue and big flaw," writes Time's Richard Corliss. "This time Haggis is more open to his characters' drives and demons. The good guys, the ones so well played by Jones, [Charlize] Theron and [Susan] Sarandon, have nuances worth noting; and even the ones capable of committing the most heinous crimes seem like decent people to whom some awful thing happened. (Special mention to Wes Chatham, who could be Matt Damon's younger, cuter brother, as a soldier testifying to Hank about the killing.) The combination of dedicated actors and a superior script helps make Elah a far more satisfying film than Crash."

"The message that the American people and military families in particular are affected by and dissatisfied with the Second Iraqi War feels old and the idea of The Good War does not really need to be slayed anymore," writes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "The screenplay by the director never touches a raw nerve that could bring some sparkle to an otherwise odd mix of patriotism and criticism of contemporary US society."

"[T]he proximity of In the Valley of Elah to Redacted is a beautiful gift that the Venice Film Festival has just given our eyes and our thoughts," writes Emmanuel Burdeau in Cahiers du cinéma's Venice diary.

The BBC takes note of Haggis and Theron's thoughts on the war.

Updates, 9/3: "While Lee Jones's expressive face becomes an emblem of pain and regret, the film's most controversial image is its final shot: of the US flag hanging upside down and in tatters," writes the Observer's Jason Solomons. "In the Valley of Elah sympathises with American troops yet criticises their involvement in a war they don't understand."

"The really fascinating aspect of Paul Haggis's follow-up to the Oscar-winning Crash is the way it uses Hollywood conventions as a Trojan horse to deliver a radical, anti-war message to a mainstream audience," writes Lee Marshall in Screen Daily. "Elah is a denunciation of a dirty war disguised, for much of its length, as a murder mystery about the killing of a US soldier, newly returned from a tour of duty in Iraq.... The challenge of this approach, of course, it that more demanding viewers may be alienated by the sheer conventionality of that Trojan horse casing, before the film starts to reveal its true colours in the final stretch."

Updates, 9/4: "It's Jones's film: his performance will surely see him nominated for an Oscar," predicts Time Out's Dave Calhoun, and Elah "is largely a solid and effective addition to the spate of films about Iraq emerging from America."

"It's a thought-provoking film with a powerful message and some very fine performances - not just from the always dependable Jones and Theron, but newcomer Jake McLaughlin, himself an Iraq veteran, who plays one of Mike's platoon buddies," writes Mark Salisbury at In the Company of Glenn. "[T]his is a solid, emotive and moving film, with Haggis using the tropes of the thriller to smuggle across political points with laudable subtly and skill."

"Haggis suggests the Vietnam veterans, who were themselves set adrift when they came home, now have a new sense of purpose in 'trying to steer these men through this terrible morass,'" reports Geoffrey Macnab. "The US director is now planning special screenings of In the Valley of Elah to raise money for veterans."

Update, 9/6: "In the Valley of Elah is one of a ever-growing class of movies - released in the last quarter of the year, festooned with talent, and ostensibly about something - that desperately want to be seen as 'political' and 'important' modern moviemaking," writes James Rocchi at Cinematical from Toronto. "But we've already given Haggis rewards for his lazy storytelling, his cheap sentimentality, his glib and clumsy narrative tricks - so who could fault him for coming back to them again and again? In the Valley of Elah is very much in the mold of Million Dollar Baby - where an older man uses his lifetime of experience to try and do the right thing even though doing the wrong thing would be a hell of a lot easier. It's also got Crash's delusions of moral grandeur. Yes, In the Valley of Elah is about great and mighty topics, but it's somehow both self-satisfied and self-righteous, both preachy and predictable."


Covering the coverage: Venice 07. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 1:31 AM

August 30, 2007

Venice. Sleuth.

"The wicked bitchiness between two men is pitched darkly perfect in Sleuth, Kenneth Branagh's incisive tête-à-tête remake of Joseph Mankiewicz's final film Sleuth (1972), based upon Anthony Schaeffer's 1970 Tony Award-winning play and given a whole new set of teeth by Nobel laureate Harold Pinter," writes Michael Guillén. "This is absolutely one of the few times I can say without reservation that I prefer the remake to the original. It bites much deeper and draws blood."

Sleuth

"[T]hose who know the original may wonder after awhile if their minds aren't playing tricks on them," suggests Robert Koehler in Variety. "The results will be received with a large, loud yawn by all but the most loyal fans of Pinter and hard-working co-stars Michael Caine and Jude Law... Just as Shaffer intended to remodel the creaky [Agatha] Christie model of the English manor mystery into something a bit more au courant for the early 70s when it first appeared on the West End, so Pinter - possibly the greatest living playwright in the English language - apparently wished to remodel Shaffer's play.... Immediately, though, this is a radically different Sleuth, one that feels at times like Pinter self-parody."

Updates, 8/31: Sleuth "loses its grip in the third act and let's the air out of what might have been a memorably gripping film," writes Ray Bennett for the Hollywood Reporter. "The idea of Caine doing a remake of the 1972 production in which he costarred but playing the Laurence Olivier role, and Jude Law, who has already stepped into Caine's shoes in Alfie, doing Caine's part will no doubt intrigue audiences. The quartet of big names and a tight 86-minute running time also will help, but the film's downbeat tone won't encourage huge boxoffice."

Martin Wainwright catches the press conference for the Guardian: "Law volunteered a comparison between Sleuth and Alfie, telling critics: 'Michael is many, many, many actors' heroes and he is certainly an acting hero of mine. The modern version of Alfie to me was a challenge because I hadn't played a character like that before. I don't know that I did it particularly well.'"

A "treat," reports a delighted Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "Although the work of the late Anthony Shaffer may seem like an unlikely source for Branagh after his adaptations of Shakespeare and Mozart, the 1970 play as reworked by Pinter is a perfect fit for the actor-turned-director and the two actors that make up the entire casting list of Sleuth."

"[B]leaker and blacker," notes Derek Malcolm in the Evening Standard. "[I]f it would look more comfortable on the stage, at least Branagh's 85-minute film is wise enough to keep things short and sharp."

"It's agreeable, but doesn't add up to much," sighs the Telegraph's David Gritten.

"Despite what Martin Wainwright writes in the Guardian today, the feeling, at least among European film critics, was of huge disappointment if not scorn," blogs Agnès Poirer. "The real hindrance comes from the direction: Kenneth Branagh is no Joseph L Mankiewicz, and his style is as flat as the Venitien Laguna on a quiet day. The audience should be gripped, on the edge of our seats, yet we're left simply bored, hardly interested in what should be a sparring firework."

The Italian media, though, has given Sleuth "pretty positive notice," reports Mark Salisbury at In the Company of Glenn. For him, though, the film "is sunk by a woefully unconvincing Law performance, terrible (and terribly distracting) production design from Tim Harvey... and Branagh's failure to make the one location and two men work visually."

Update, 9/3: "[H]ow could it fail?" asks the Observer's Jason Solomons. "Let me count the ways. Although well received by the Italians, Sleuth was excruciating, like some dreadful school play in which the old English teacher (Caine) has a go and the golden head boy (Jude) embarrasses himself. A tasteless set, dated dialogue and flailing direction add to the misery."

Update, 9/6: "Sleuth isn't incendiary or ground-breaking; it's a chance to see two very good actors (who also happen to be movie stars) work with very good material under the direction of a very good director," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi from Toronto. "Depending on your standards, that's either not much, or it's plenty. Sleuth is light entertainment made by heavy-hitters, and your initial reaction to that seemingly-contradictory fact will probably be the best prediction of whether or not you'll see it, and whether or not you'll enjoy it."


Covering the coverage: Venice 07. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 3:30 PM

Shorts, 8/30.

Close-Up 02 "Tone is at the center of a new approach to film studies that is beginning to make itself felt in a wealth of excellent books and articles," writes DK Holm at Quick Stop Entertainment. "Well, it's not exactly new, really, having roots in the work of the Movie writers from the early 1960s onward. And it's not exactly sweeping the universities, as semiology, deconstruction, and other French imports did in the 1970s. But there is already a substantial body of work representing this new approach.... The best introduction to Tonal Studies is the new, second issue of a Close-Up." Further down that same page, DK interviews Douglas Pye, one of the editors of the issue, and George Wilson, author of Narration in Light: Studies in Cinematic Point of View.

"Abbas Kiarostami makes only one half of his films. The rest is up to the audience to create themselves." Launching Subtitles to Cinema - this'll be one to keep an eye on - Karsten Meinich talks with the director.

For Digitally Obsessed, Mark Zimmer asks Tim Lucas about his monolithic new book, Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark: "It is his story, but it's also the story of the period of Italian popular cinema to which he and his family were witness - pretty much its first century. So the book encompasses silent films like Quo Vadis? and Cabiria, into the Mussolini period with its fantasy classic The Iron Crown, the birth of neorealism, the 'Hollywood on the Tiber' years that saw the rise of celebrities like Totò, Gina Lollobrigida, Marcello Mastroianni and Steve Reeves (all of whom worked with Mario Bava)... and then the Bava career that people already know something about, but there are still many, many surprises."

Salvador Allende "Patricio Guzmán, the great Chilean documentary director, recently returned home after many years in exile to make Salvador Allende, a biographical tribute to the democratic socialist leader, overthrown as Chilean president in a 1973 military coup, whose ghost continues to haunt Latin America (and should haunt our own country as well)," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "He humanizes one of the last century's most enigmatic and tragic figures, and makes an almost forgotten episode of modern history come vividly to life."

Charles Ferguson's "superlative" No End in Sight is "the Iraq movie everyone should see, and surely the one to see if you're only going to see one," writes Godfrey Cheshire in the Independent Weekly. "Ferguson's reexamination of the occupation's crucial phases not only proves strikingly synoptic and clarifying, it also demonstrates cinema's unique value in grappling with the Iraq meltdown. Unlike the stacks of books that delve into the same issues, the film gives us the look of the Baghdad streets as well as the characters who populate this wrenching drama." But for Christie Schaefer, writing at WSWS, "Ferguson presents much valuable and harrowing material. His notion that such a neo-colonial adventure could be done 'properly' is what needs to be rejected."

Ella Taylor on Private Property: "[Joachim] Lafosse, who co-wrote (with François Pirot) the semiautobiographical script, is at pains to spread the wealth of infantile futility, but beneath his studied evenhandedness there's no mistaking the feverish Freudianism - all too common, and all too unconscious, in male directors of family dramas - of his ambivalence toward Pascale [Isabelle Huppert, who] has played more than her share of haughty bitches, and at 54 she remains as careless of her durable beauty (with her, one never feels that dropping the makeup is a bid for Oscar) as she is precise about pugnaciously unilateral, yet fragile character."

Blackmail "It's extraordinary to see Hitchcock's distinctive cinematic vision emerge at such an early point in his career." Billy Stevenson on Blackmail.

David Bordwell, who's sparked quite a discussion with an entry on The Bourne Ultimatum, has gone back and rewatched Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum: "My opinions have remained unchanged, but that’s not a good reason to write this followup. I found that looking at all three films together taught me new things and let me nuance some earlier ideas."

At SF360, Michael Fox talks with Miles Matthew Montalbano about Revolution Summer: "It was the start of the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, 9/11, all of these things were at the forefront of a lot of people's minds. I don't feel like I have any answers politically, or that that's the filmmaker's place, but it came from a personal place of feeling so angry some days and frustrated other days. 'Why aren't we all out in the streets right now? Why aren't we throwing bricks and bottles? No one cares, this is always the way things are. Let's just go get a beer and have a good time.' I was trying to reconcile those feelings in myself, and wondering what should we be doing now."

IndieWIRE interviews Vanaja director Rajnesh Domalpalli.

In the New York Times, Michael Cieply reports on all that riding - for New Line, for director Chris Weitz - on The Golden Compass.

At the Reeler, ST VanAirsdale responds to Anthony Kaufman's Voice piece on distribution and exhibition woes in NYC: "Maybe the larger issue is not too few screens for too many movies, but too many distributors whose gatekeeping mechanisms - let alone their release platforms - need repair. There absolutely are too many bad films being made, bought and foisted upon audiences that can afford less and less to visit the cinema in the first place."

A fresh list at the Evening Class: "Michael Hawley's 'Tabulation of Deprivation' (AKA 50 Films He Wishes Would Come to the Bay Area)."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:45 PM

Other fests, other events, 8/30.

Zubeidaa "When I first learned that the Indian director Shyam Benegal would be the subject of a tribute at this year's Telluride Film Festival (August 31 - September 3), I had seen exactly none of his films," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly. "Now, I have seen nearly a dozen, and I hunger for more. Benegal is a giant of India's 'parallel cinema' movement, sometimes referred to as 'new cinema' or 'middle cinema' - in short, films whose style, subject matter and themes run quietly alongside, but rarely intersect with, the dominant concerns of mainstream Indian cinema (aka Bollywood)." Three films by Benegal will be screening at the Pacific Film Archive on September 5, 6 and 7.

Meantime, surprise: As Mick Jones reports in Variety, Telluride has "announced a lineup heavy with Telluride regulars and echoes from this year's Cannes fest."

On Wednesday, September 5, Filmmaker will host a special screening of Ronald Bronstein's Frownland at the IFC Center in New York. For the magazine, David Lowery talks with Bronstein about his "grimy, manic masterpiece of black comedy that buries its humor beneath layers of egregious discomfort." It's "one of the most confrontational and uncompromising visions to emerge from the American independent scene in recent memory."

"Following its successful Mods & Rockers Film Festival in July, the American Cinematheque is back this weekend with Rock Doc: A Celebration of Rock Documentaries at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica," writes Susan King in the Los Angeles Times. "It kicks off tonight with the Los Angeles premiere of actress-filmmaker Rosanna Arquette's 2005 movie All We Are Saying."

"Cinematexas will be greatly missed," writes Marc Savlov, "though that festival's passing alleviates, if only to a small degree, the annual scheduling nightmare that awaits legions of both local and visiting cinephiles, industry pros, and anyone else with plans to attend Fantastic Fest (Sept 20 - 27), the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival (Sept 28 - Oct 6), and the Austin Film Festival & Conference (Oct 11 - 18), plus, this year only, the nonprofit National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture Conference (Oct 17 - 20)."

Also in the Austin Chronicle, Josh Rosenblatt looks ahead to the six-film series Blokes 'n' Birds: British Realist Cinema (1958 - 1965) - Tuesdays, September 4 through October 9 - and Toddy Burton previews a September 6 program of William Wegman shorts.

PIFF 07 In Variety, Tatiana Siegel reports that Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs will open this year's AFI Fest (November 1 through 11) and Darcy Paquet announces, "The Pusan Film Festival will open with the world premiere of Feng Xiaogang's epic Chinese war movie Assembly on Oct 4 and end with the international preem of Japanese anime Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone on Oct 12."

"Documentarian Stanley Nelson, one of the most prolific nonfiction filmmakers working today, will attend SXSW 2008 next March to take part in a discussion of his work and his process." Matt Dentler has details.

"Clear and balmy nights have only heightened the jubilant atmosphere around the first week of the Montreal World Film Festival, rebounding from the funding ordeal in 2005 that nearly sounded (erroneously it turned out) the death knell of the 31-year fest overseen by the tenacious Serge Losique," reports Robert Avila for indieWIRE. "Unusually high attendance, full theaters, and enthusiastic crowds are all cheering signs that the controversies of 2005 are history."

The news isn't new, but the quote's worth noting: "My film was requested by every single film festival, but I didn't want to send it to any of them. I think film festivals are a thing of the past, completely obsolete. All they are good for is stirring up controversy. There's no real interest in the movies; they're just the film critics' sacrificial victims. On the contrary, in Rome there seems to be a sincere desire to choose and screen films for the audience." That's Francis Ford Coppola, telling an Italian monthly in an upcoming interview why he's decided to come to the RomeFilmFest with his Youth Without Youth. And he won't be alone: "Along with Coppola, in attendance at the RomeFilmFest there will be the leads Tim Roth and Bruno Ganz as well as the director's family: his wife Eleanor, his son Roman (who has taken part in the making of the film) and his daughter Sofia." Read on for more titles screening October 18 through 27.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:15 PM

Venice. Lust, Caution.

"Too much caution and too little lust squeeze much of the dramatic juice out of Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, a 2½-hour period drama that's a long haul for relatively few returns," writes Derek Elley for Variety. "Wartime Shanghai was far more realistically drawn in Lou Ye's Zhang Ziyi starrer Purple Butterfly, which also conveyed a stronger sense of resistance and collaborationist politics.... Lee's 40s Shanghai, though immaculately costumed, has a standard backlot look; the Hong Kong sequences, largely shot in Malaysia, are much more flavorsome."

Lust, Caution

"The Taiwanese director's adaptation of a novella by Eileen Chang is an uncompromising and incredibly seductive piece of filmmaking that is too long but has so many good elements going for it that it is hard to really care that on certain points the director seems to have thrown caution to the wind," writes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "Acting and technical credits are more than first-class and newcomer Wei Tang, starring alongside veteran Tony Leung, is simply riveting."

For the Hollywood Reporter's Ray Bennett, Lust, Caution "brings to mind what soldiers say about war: that it's long periods of boredom relieved by moments of extremely heightened excitement.... The plot is much like Black Book, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven's tale of a young Jewish woman who sleeps with a Nazi on behalf of the resistance, although it has none of the flair of that film."

Updates: "Had Lee accepted that his film is about the conflict between duty and desire, and worked smoothly on this premise, this could have been a far more focused and precise film," suggests Dan Fainaru in Screen Daily. "Hitchcock, whose work is mentioned several times in his picture, applied a similar approach to films such as Suspicion or Notorious (whose plot bears more than just a little resemblance to Chang's story). But by wishing to expand the story into a vast period portrait, first of Hong Kong, and then of Shanghai, Lee opens up avenues that he never has time to follow up."

"It would be no surprise if Ang Lee opted to cut it slightly, and perhaps clarified some early explanatory scenes," suggests the Telegraph's David Gritten. "But it must be a contender for major prizes here; Leung is once more an impossibly suave presence, and it's not too soon to proclaim Tang Wei in her first role as a new Gong Li in the making."

Update, 8/31: "It's a magnificent piece of filmmaking, albeit one that takes some time to click into gear," blogs Geoffrey Macnab at the Guardian. "Other directors condense huge novels into tidy 90-minute features. Lee's method is to take short stories and slowly expand them into epics." And as for the rating...

What is likely to make Lust, Caution difficult for the US censors to push under the carpet is its sheer artistry. This is palpably not an exploitation picture. The sex - which isn't shown until relatively late in the movie - is not gratuitous but is fundamental to the characterisation of the two leads. To cut it would be to undermine a core part of the storytelling. Thanks to Lee's reputation (topped by that directing Oscar for Brokeback Mountain), Lust, Caution now stands at least a chance of becoming one of the first NC-17 title to be taken seriously and contend for major awards. As a foreign language movie, it remains a tough sell. Nonetheless, you won't see many performances this year that are better than Tony Leung's chilling but melancholy turn as the mysterious Mr Yee.

Updates, 9/3: "Lee's new star Tang Wei is a revelation and a cert for Best Actress in her first film," writes the Observer's Jason Solomons. "Shot by Mexico's Rodrigo Prieto, this is a beautiful cinematic experience, an old-fashioned, handsome picture that nods to the seductive power of movies - posters for Destry Rides Again here, a clip of Ingrid Bergman sobbing there - indeed, it's on the way to the pictures that Leung first instructs his chauffeur to bring Wei to the secret apartment that will become their sex nest. Lust, Caution is like a Ming vase, though, and while it's a wondrous object to behold, it somehow lacks a sense of passion."

The BBC reports that, though Lee's sticking withthe NC-17 rating for the film's US release, he "will remove sex scenes from the thriller ahead of its release" in China.

Online listening tip. Eileen Chang translator Karen Kinsbury on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Update, 9/10: Lust, Caution "is in a way the perfect blending of Ang Lee's two most popular films, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain," proposes Time's Richard Corliss. "Like the first, it returns the Taiwanese native to China for a tale of political intrigue; like the second, it locates the passion, melancholy and power struggles of two complicated people.... Lust, Caution has not been so widely admired as Lee's other famous films. But it should be, for it mixes daring and delicacy with a master's touch."


Covering the coverage: Venice 07. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 12:26 PM

Venice. The Girl Cut in Two.

"Much like Woody Allen, French director Claude Chabrol seems unable to live without making movies and, after a glory period that decidedly belongs to the past, he now makes a new film of varying quality each year," writes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "His latest film La fille coupée en deux (The Girl Cut in Two) however, could be dubbed Chabrol's Match Point (to continue the Allen metaphor); a deliciously dark and well-observed tale that marks a fine return to form."

The Girl Cut in Two

"It's cynical business as usual for Claude Chabrol, who offers plentiful style and psychological finesse, if few surprises, in his latest jaundiced and sophisticated entertainment," writes Jonathan Romney for Screen Daily, where he also has a few good words for the "[s]trong performances by the increasingly confident Ludivine Sagnier and the ever-dependable François Berléand - plus a flamboyant, somewhat less believable one from Benoît Magimel."

"With language and mannerisms that are laugh-out-loud funny, Lyons-set story of a local TV weather girl who is simultaneously pursued by two very different men eviscerates the non-charm of the bourgeoisie," writes Lisa Nesselson for Variety. "While not a classic, this is a pleasantly disturbing, nominally voyeuristic romp in the territory Chabrol knows best."

"Chabrol's starting point is the 1906 murder of Stanford White, the architect of Madison Square Garden, whose killing by the husband of his actress mistress gave rise to what was described in its time as the 'trial of the century,'" notes Bernard Besserglik in the Hollywood Reporter. "The borrowed story is a pretext for Chabrol to revel in the incidential details of French social life and its sexual undertones: the publishing world in which Charles moves (Mathilda May is particularly eye-catching as his publicist Capucine); the shallow, predatory world of television in which the pert, pretty Gabrielle is irresistible bait to middle-aged middle management; and the world of refined manners and inherited wealth that turns out monsters like Paul and his siblings."


Covering the coverage: Venice 07. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 4:57 AM | Comments (1)

The Nines.

The Nines The Nines is "an intriguing, episodic film that starts out genuinely creepy and funny and ends up like an overblown Twilight Zone episode," writes Andrew O'Hehir at Salon. "Hell, at least it's a good Twilight Zone episode. [John] August's directing debut - he's a veteran screenwriter who's penned several films for Tim Burton, including Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride - occasioned a certain amount of yammer at Sundance last winter, but I honestly can't see much here to discuss. By all means see the film; it's an ingenious, interlocking construction worthy of Agatha Christie, with tour-de-force performances from Hope Davis, Ryan Reynolds and Melissa McCarthy and a clever backstage-Hollywood premise (several movie-biz personalities play themselves). But David Lynch this ain't; you'll go to bed with all your questions answered, and answered with a kind of moon-faced, altar-boy earnestness."

Updated through 9/4.

"Though the barrier separating reality and fiction is flimsy, Reynolds's triplicate performance is strapping, nimbly segueing between frustration, cockiness, and existential confusion while nicely keeping his trademark sarcasm in check," writes Nick Schager at Slant. "Even when August's ability to wrap up his interrelated narratives and Big Issues proves slightly lacking, Reynolds is never less than commanding, his exhibition of genuine acting ability provoking a shift in perception at least as great as that brought about by The Nines' mind-bending finale."

"It's strange to complain about a rare case of ambitious Hollywood filmmaking, but The Nines frustrates one's enlightenment by not fulfilling its true subject: the delusions and aggravations of company-town high living," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "Instead, August substitutes false substance. Reynolds' gift for cute mischief (as in National Lampoon's Van Wilder and his role as the snarky vampire of Blade Trinity) ideally suits him to a parody of movieland's pretty persuasions. Flip irony is Reynolds' ace, but August chooses to play the profundity card."

"[A]t least when [Charlie] Kaufman, David Lynch, or Michel Gondry invites us on a tour of his chaotic subconscious, it's a fascinating place to visit," writes Scott Foundas in the Voice. "Plunging into August's gray matter is more like a season in vacation hell."

For Filmmaker, Nick Dawson talks with August "about the world of The Nines, drawing on his own experiences for inspiration, and his continuing love of The Muppet Movie."

David A Keeps in the Los Angeles Times: "Few directors would surrender their personal living space to a crew of 40, let alone reveal it to the general public exactly as it is in real life, not one room disguised with props or other fakery. But it is August's unaltered interior design - finishes, furnishings and all - that lends intimacy and emotional veracity to the story. He wouldn't have it any other way, especially when scenes were conceived with particular rooms in mind."

Update: "A late-night stoner conversation that has inexplicably bypassed the dorm room and headed straight into theaters, The Nines offers up one of the most incompetent would-be mindfucks in a time already saturated with aspiring Mementos," writes Vadim Rizov after a spoiler warning at the Reeler. "The reasons are manifold, but the irreparable error is in the foundation; everything else just hurts all the more."

Updates, 8/31: "Like David Lynch's recent Inland Empire, The Nines scurries down a labyrinth of rabbit holes, compounding the mystery to the point of no return, and never really comes back," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times. "Still, August never descends into the psychedelic mire of that movie, or of, say, the metaphysical bowl of oatmeal that was The Fountain. On the contrary, it dispenses about a minor epiphany a minute and hooks you like a flounder. In the end, though, perhaps very much like a flounder, you're left flapping in the breeze with nothing more than a lure in your mouth, the painful realization there's always a bigger fish out there somewhere, pulling the strings and, for what it's worth, a deeper insight into the interconnectedness of it all. Which, on reflection, has got to be worth at least the price of admission."

"The Nines isn't a neatly packaged mind game like Mr Kaufman's cleverest films," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "Instead it playfully tosses out ideas, then leaves it to the viewer to read the pieces like tea leaves."

Update, 9/2: "The loose threads holding The Nines together unravel with any interpretation; actually, the film only ever felt stitched together in the first place," writes Marcy Dermansky. "2 stars."

Update, 9/4: For IFC News, Nick Schager talks with Reynolds: John August "said, 'Expose me, warts-and-all.' A lot of what that character is dealing with is hubris, and that's not a flattering trait to be portraying in somebody who's standing in the same room as you."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:59 AM | Comments (1)

August 29, 2007

Shorts, 8/29.

"More than two decades ago, in his well-known book The Culture of Time and Space (1983), Stephen Kern wrote that 'the two pioneers of Cubism, Picasso and Braque, incorporated the innovations of Cézanne and the cinema and brought about the most important revolution in the rendering of space in painting since the 15th century,'" recalls Malcolm Turvey in Artforum.

Universal Language and the Avant-Garde

"What the PaceWildenstein show [Picasso, Braque, and Early Film in Cubism] did for the first time was put this claim to the test by placing early films and Cubist paintings side by side; the evidence, however, was unconvincing.... Universal Language and the Avant-Garde at Maya Stendhal Gallery, meanwhile, was a smaller, more modest endeavor than the PaceWildenstein exhibition - and much more successful. The main part of the show was devoted to [Viking] Eggeling and [Hans] Richter, who began collaborating around 1918 in drawings, scrolls (not one of which, unfortunately, was on display here), and eventually films before Eggeling's premature death in 1925."

The September issue has at least a few other pieces you'll likely want to know about but which are, unfortunately, not online: P Adams Sitney on Robert Beavers and Scott MacDonald's interview with James Benning. Both Artforum and frieze, by the way, cover the big art world events of the summer - the Venice Biennale, Documenta 12 and the Sculpture Projects in Münster - and both, in fact, have the same cover: Bruce Nauman's Square Depression, 1977/2007.

Filmbrain reviews "a major document in the history of German avant-garde cinema.... Perhaps owing to its use of non-actors, People on Sunday has a remarkably modern feel to it, and the cast never employ the exaggerated gestures or acting style one tends to find in silent cinema. If anything, the film has more in common with the French New Wave than it does the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) that was dominating German cinema at the time (Lang, Pabst, Jutzi)."

Douglas Fairbanks Jr "It's so refreshing to read a Hollywood book about somebody with such a jaunty, head-first spirit," writes the Shamus, who's just finished Douglas Fairbanks, Jr's The Salad Days:

It's almost as if he decided to live the life that his more famous father played on screen.... He took steam baths with Charlie Chaplin and played tennis with Maurice Chevalier. Worshipped John Barrymore and helped a destitute Ethel pay off a hotel bill. Confided in Noel Coward. Laughed off a seduction attempt by Clifton Webb. Played footsie with Jean Harlow. Bumped into Lawrence of Arabia - twice. Became good friends with "Larry" Olivier and David "Niv" Niven....

Fairbanks had the kind of high-gloss life that you read about in Fitzgerald stories: summers overseas, writing casuals for Esquire and Vanity Fair, trips across the country on the Super Chief, sailing across the Atlantic, attending opening nights and endless cocktail parties and spending weekends at country estates with titled Brits, or at the White House, where buck-toothed Eleanor would sit on the bed and chat with Fairbanks and his wife. It's the kind of world that will never be seen again.

"Paul Verhoeven's next project to actually get before cameras is to be an adaptation of Pete Dexter's The Paperboy," announces Brendon Connelly. "We can expect The Paperboy to shoot early in 2008, while Verhoeven's '19th Century Basic Instinct,' The Winter Queen and another Dutch production, an adaptation of Jan Siebelink's Kneeling on a Bed of Violets are apparently still on course, and likely to follow in the next couple of years."

Michael Fleming reports that Oliver Stone will likely direct Pinkville, "a drama about the investigation of the 1968 My Lai massacre," with Bruce Willis in the lead. Stone will be in San Francisco on October 11, by the way. And the Guardian's Ed Pilkington reports that Stone's doc on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be back on after all.

More up-n-coming news from Variety:

Waiting

At Twitch, Collin A reviews The Last Winter, "Larry Fessenden's most expansive, thought-provoking work to date, The Last Winter. A love-him-or-hate-him multi-hyphenate (he acts, edits, produces, co-writes, and directs here) whose films - built on shifting mixtures of genre trappings and deeply personal commentaries - have consistently polarized audiences since the early 90s, Fessenden's hot-button parable about the quest for 'energy independence' and the price civilization must pay for ignoring nature's warning signs achieves a chilling, spectral tone amidst its understated plea for environmental awareness."

The Demon "I've watched countless horror films and thrillers in my lifetime and I rarely get the urge to look away from the movie screen or turn a film off before I'm finished watching it, but the events depicted in [Yoshitaro Nomura's] The Demon are so realistically presented and relentlessly horrific that the film became incredibly hard for me to watch all the way through," writes Kimberly Lindbergs.

"Now that The Frodo Franchise is out, I've started a separate blog for it," announces Kristin Thompson.

"[W]hose fault is it that [Glenn] Close and [Holly] Hunter are on television? Or Lili Taylor, Parker Posey, Mary-Louise Parker or Kyra Sedgwick?" asks Mary McNamara. "A few years ago, these were all film actresses and now they each have their own series. Even Susan Sarandon is back as the bodacious babe on Rescue Me. Which is, don't get me wrong, totally terrific for us, the audience members, but unless the movie industry has made peace with being the purveyors of blockbusters, Judd Apatow comedies and not much else, why are they letting go of some of their best talent?"

Also in the Los Angeles Times: Amy Kaufman on the Inner-City Filmmakers summer program, "an intensive, eight-week film boot camp for underprivileged youth. ICF gives a select pool of just-graduated high school seniors access to professionals and elaborate technical equipment, allowing those interested in movies to further their passion without concern for finance."

"Gotham may be famous for its indie films, but the exhibition landscape is an increasingly contentious and competitive space, with too many movies struggling to stay alive on too few screens." Anthony Kaufman draws a map.

Also in the Voice:

  • Nathan Lee pops a Balls of Fury quiz. Related: At Slant, Nick Schager congratulates Christopher Walken for "a performance that's a parody of a parody of himself." He's become "an actor far too aware of his own eccentricity, though his embarrassingly self-conscious comedic turn is still the 'best' thing about this lazy farce." And the NYT's AO Scott pleads, "Can summer please be over now?"

  • "Self-Medicated reveals itself as a narcissistic fantasy about the misunderstood kid with a heart of gold who finally figures out how to get his shit together: Good Will Hunting with a side of Capracorn," writes Scott Foundas. More from Ed Gonzalez at Slant: "A man for all seasons, writer-director Monty Lapica is the star of his own turgid after-school special, which stretches out the ludicrous 'I Learned It from Watching You' anti-drug PSA from the '80s to feature length."

  • Ed Gonzalez: "Pity so little of [Vanaja's] heft registers past the graceless fog of the movie's stilted thesping, overreaching directorial ambition, and unintentional comic pacing."

  • Aaron Hillis on 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama: "It's a slog."

Revolution Summer Lynn Rapoport in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Featuring a score by Jonathan Richman and real-life footage of protesters and riot cops, [Miles Matthew Montalbano's Revolution Summer is lightly plotted and heavily atmospheric."

"Delirious (2006) is one the worst movies I've ever sat through, at least one that was compounded by someone old enough to shave, and should be recommended only to connoisseurs of abjection," writes Ray Pride for New City Chicago. "It's so bad, I've got a 3000-word draft of this review filled with insults that still does not do justice to the rank incompetence, cultural ignorance and sullen lack of comedy on display. There are positive reviews of Delirious. They are wrong. [Tom] DiCillo's latest, in a career littered with dolorous work, offers an insult to the merely incompetent of the world."

In the Philadelphia Weekly, Sean Burns reviews Them, "a well made, if extremely hollow, technical exercise. Truth be told, this French/Romanian chiller from first-time co-directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud is so wafer-thin, I'm a little wary of calling it a movie. It's more like a photographed premise."

"I'm a Cyborg But That's OK indulges in the cute and silly, but Park [Chan-wook] always keeps one foot firmly planted in the horrible reality his characters are trying to escape," writes Jürgen Fauth.

"While as much of a celebration of movie fakery as his debut, Tears of the Black Tiger, Wisit Sasanatieng's Citizen Dog might be more easily embraced by those who were put off by the violence of the previous film," writes Peter Nellhaus. "A film about the magic of the world, of finding love in a candy colored environment, Citizen Dog is like the contemporary version of the kind of film one might have seen from Jacques Demy or Vincente Minnelli."

"[T]here is only one entertainment entity that completely understood what living inside a gloomy Gothic reality was all about," writes Bill Gibron at PopMatters. "And its name was... Dark Shadows."

While Rowan Atkinson developed a "cult following" in the US with his Blackadder series in the 80s, Mr Bean's Holiday hasn't performed nearly as well stateside as in just about every other part of the world. In the NYT, Dave Itzkoff considers "the baffling question of why a taciturn comic character who communicates in the international language of pratfalls and sight gags hasn't been able to attract the attention of a wider American audience."

Owen Wilson is "a good-time shaman; when he appears, you smile, because know you're about to have fun," writes Matt Zoller Seitz at the House Next Door. "He makes good films better and bad films tolerable. Onscreen, he's a human sunbeam.... Wilson might have been sad as hell about any number of things, but comic actors aren't inherently more depressive than dramatic actors, novelists, police officers, schoolteachers or bus drivers. People are people, and each one is unique.... I wish Owen Wilson good luck in his ascent from the abyss, which I am sure will be willful and permanent."

StinkyLulu's hosted another round of "Supporting Actress Smackdown." This time, the year is 1971.

"Hilly Kristal, who founded CBGB, the Bowery bar that became the cradle of punk and art-rock in New York in the 1970s and served as the inspiration for musician-friendly rock dives throughout the world, died in Manhattan on Tuesday. He was 75," reports Ben Sisario for the New York Times. Matt Dentler has an online listening tip.

Robert Cashill bids farewell to the DVD Journal.

Klaus Kinski Online browsing tip. Paintings of Klaus Kinski for movie posters, posted at Scarecrow by Laird, via Keith Uhlich at the House Next Door.

Online browsing and reading tips. Endangered Machinery: The Industrial and Industrial Heritage Photography of Haiko Hebig. Via Joel Johnson at the newly launched Boing Boing Gadgets. Also, at the newly relaunched Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow points to a site for Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams.

Offline reading tips. Jason Sperb and Jonathan Lapper have a few.

Online gazing tip. Magnum shoots Ingrid Bergman.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:16 PM

Interviews and profiles, 8/29.

David Thewlis: The Late Hector Kipling For the Telegraph, Harriet Lane profiles David Thewlis, who's just seen the publication of his first novel, The Late Hector Kipling. Via Movie City News.

In the Los Angeles Times, Susan King talks with Joe Menendez about Ladrón Que Roba a Ladrón: "The caper comedy revolves around two veteran thieves who reunite in Los Angeles to rob a TV infomercial guru/con man who has made a fortune selling useless health items to poor Latino immigrants."

"Two years ago, when Dario Fo (the Nobel Prize-winning jester and satirist) launched a campaign to become mayor of Milan, one of his most vocal supporters was London's mayor, Ken Livingstone." I Am Not a Moderate documents the short-lived campaign, giving Geoffrey Macnab good read reason to talk to the playwright for the Independent.

"I don't think most people who watched the show really got a sense of what a remarkable feat all of us engaged in week after week," On the Lot contestant Mateen Kemet tells Matt Sussman at SF360.

For the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Maria Komodore calls up Jorge Gaggero to talk about Live-In Maid.

For the Guardian, Patrick Barkham talks with David Mackenzie about Hallam Foe. And he's "now working on two scripts, including a western, and hopes to direct both. 'I feel like I've done sex, so I'm going to move on to money now,' he vows."

For Hollywood Bitchslap, Peter Sobczynski talks with Julie Delpy about 2 Days in Paris, while, at Cinematical, Ryan Stewart talks with Adam Goldberg. For the New Republic's Christopher Orr, the movie's an "absolute riot."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:55 PM

Other fests, other events, 8/29.

Back Against the Wall In Austin? Mike Everleth insists you go see James Fotopoulos's Back Against the Wall tonight at 9:30 pm.

"Yo La Tengo, Saint Etienne, the Smiths: funny how the seeming dreariness of British bedsit movies inspired maybe even more great pop acts than did the French new wave visions of and for the children of Marx and Coca-Cola." The San Francisco Bay Guardian's Johnny Ray Huston previews the Pacific Film Archive series Look Back at England: The British New Wave, opening Sunday and running through October 26.

"The unique cachet of Telluride - which derives from the isolation and beauty of its location, the absolute secrecy that cloaks the program until mere hours before the opening program and the small number of passes... - is something neither [co-founder Tom] Luddy nor [new co-programmer Gary] Meyer wish to mess with," writes Michael Fox, with both for SF360.

"The New Crowned Hope festival, with which theater director Peter Sellars helped Vienna celebrate Mozart's 250th birthday last year, produced six features and a short that, having made the rounds of film festivals over the past year, now reach the MFA." Chris Fujiwara preps Boston Phoenix readers for Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century, Tsai Ming-liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, Paz Encina's Paraguayan Hammock, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Daratt, Garin Nugroho's Opera Jawa and Bahman Ghobadi's Half Moon.

NewFest carries on interviewing filmmakers lined up for NewFest@BAM, a series slated for September 7 through 9.

Acquarello posts the lineup for the New York Film Festival's Views from the Avant Garde sidebar. September 28 through October 14.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:24 PM

Venice, 8/29.

64th Venice International Film Festival The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw's in Venice, looking forward to "a sparkling set of films," and floats an idea: "I haven't seen Nightwatching yet. I have no idea what it's like. But for sheer shake-up value, giving [Peter] Greenaway the Golden Lion would probably be the most gratifying."

Emmanuel Burdeau opens a Venice diary for Cahiers du cinéma, "to give voice - voices - to incertitude. That's the way it is, and we intend to stick to it. An effort will be made not to give in to judgment and opinions. We will strive to give the films their freedom. We will talk about the enthusiasm, the perplexity, the interrogations. We will change our minds. We will erase the tracks of evaluation."

Via Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog, "some key moments" from 75 years of the festival's history from Reuters. Related online browsing tip: a slide show at the International Herald Tribune.

Earlier: "Venice. Atonement."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:52 PM

Anticipating Toronto, 8/29.

Toronto International Film Festival Update: Michael Guillén's had to tweak the page that bore his review of David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises due to a frustrating set of circumstances - i.e., 'tain't his fault - and for now, I refer you to Tom Huddleston at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, where he writes, "this is terrific, completely ludicrous but utterly enthralling, taking the pseudo-subversive preoccupations of it's predecessor and running with them."

Updated.

More from Fabfunk at AICN: "I would say it's one of his weaker films, but even his least charitable critics have to admit that this one has a strong hold."

Next stop: Twitch's gargantuan "One Stop TIFF Trailer Shop," sorted by program. Yowza.

Jonathan Rosenbaum picks three films he's looking forward to catching in Toronto. And that's just one quick entry picked from the roaring Doc Blog. Picking up these days are the Canadian Film Programmes Blog, the Continental Drift Blog, the Midnight Madness Blog and the actually quite hopping South Facing Blog. Then, of course, there are all these. September 6 through 15.

Tom Hall's looking forward to Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret's Meduzot (Jellyfish). Related: Cannes reviews of the Camera d'Or winner.

And now's a good time to be tracking TIFFReviews.com.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:41 PM | Comments (4)

Lee Marvin Blog-a-Thon.

Lee Marvin Richard Harland Smith notes that the Lee Marvin Blog-a-Thon he's hosting at Movie Morlocks "commemorates the 20th anniversary of the great actor's death, on August 29, 1987."

Linkage will take you to new blog posts, an "essential" overview of Marvin's career and even some online viewing.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:06 PM

The Monastery: Mr Vig & the Nun.

The Monastery "Despite some pretty seasonal photography and evocative scenes of the nuns' rigorous daily rituals, which involve many hours of prayer, The Monastery: Mr Vig & the Nun is a flighty, disorganized film with a blurry timeline and a wandering attention span," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "The movie only snaps into focus when Mr Vig, who bought [Hesbjerg Castle] 50 years earlier, intending eventually to turn it into a monastery, reminisces about his life."

"When the renovations of his castle begin and a group of nuns arrive to oversee the conversion of the building, Sister Amvrosya's loving but commanding presence provides a clashing force for Mr Vig's set-in-stone attitudes and general naiveties, their bantering recalling Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart's chemistry in John Huston's The African Queen," writes Rob Humanick at Slant.

Updated through 8/31.

"Unlike far too many human-interest docs today, director Pernille Rose Grønkjær's fantastic little character portrait doesn't rest on the strength of its personality," writes Aaron Hillis in the Voice.

Updates, 8/30: "This isn't a movie about God or spirituality or monastic life, except in passing," notes Salon' Andrew O'Hehir. "Instead, The Monastery is an oddly graceful combination of fairy tale and romantic comedy, set in a forgotten corner of the world. If you took Beauty and the Beast and The Honeymooners, blended them and planted the result in overgrown Danish swampland, I guess this is what you'd get."

"Grønkjaer is also the sole photographer for The Monastery," notes Michelle Orange at the Reeler, "recalling in technique (and a few other things, including the masterful use of natural light and a steady, hypnotic eye for the quotidian) the one-man crew of the other monastery documentary from earlier this year, Into Great Silence. Though she can be heard off screen occasionally, prodding the naturally withdrawn but hardly reticent Vig with questions, and steps into the frame once or twice when the old man requests her help, Grønkjaer's camera is a patient, sometimes wry, sometimes tense and tactful observer, recording the touching decline and reinvigoration of the castle, Vig and his mysterious guests with an equalizing curiosity."

Update, 8/31: "The Monastery is one of the few documentaries that might've gotten closer to the reality of its time, place, and people had it been refashioned as a feature film," proposes Noel Murray at the AV Club, adding that it's "like the opposite of Into Great Silence."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:34 AM

Exiled.

Exiled "Johnnie To may not be the last man standing, but he is the lone Hong Kong action director who's done his best work in the aftermath of the crown colony's reversion to China," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "In a sense, the feverishly active To is out of step with history—and, as its title suggests, his latest gangster opus, Exiled, revels in that sense of anachronism."

"Get ready for shoot-outs, and you better like them absurd-slash-borderline ridiculous," writes Matt Singer at IFC News. "Though the action is a bit murkier than, say, To's Breaking News (2004), the characters are richer and the story more satisfying than his recent (and arguably over-praised) Election and Triad Election."

"From the twilit last-reckoning setting of Macau at the time of the Chinese handover, to a pace that alternates lush set pieces with breather stretches, Exiled evokes a tighter Leone western with its cinematic confidence shared by filmmaker and gangsters alike," writes Nicholas Rapold in the L Magazine.

Updates, 8/30: "It's a remarkable combination of everything expected from an action movie: bad guys in trench coats, women in peril, bullets galore," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "But it's also infused with surprisingly effective ingredients that rarely appear in this kind of fast and furious amusement: Sincere, affable characters, light-hearted humor and an entirely believable fondness for the innate beauty of life and death."

"The most entertaining movie released so far this year was made in Hong Kong in 2006," announces R Emmet Sweeney at the Reeler. "A Wild Bunch riff in love with the pure, plastic beauties of the medium, Exiled is also a glistening showpiece of sinuous tracking shots, fetishistic slow motion, and a ritualistic sense of gun-play."

Updates, 8/31: "I still meet people who praise The Departed (an entertaining and beautifully made picture) but who draw a blank when I mention Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's Infernal Affairs, the extraordinary cop drama on which The Departed is based," notes Stephanie Zacharek in Salon. "I don't blame their reaction on ignorance: I just think that a lot of movie fans who might enjoy the work of some of the Hong Kong filmmakers are intimidated by the clubby insiderishness of so many of the fans. It's hard to know what you might like when you don't even know where to start. That's why I'd put To's Exiled - which opens in New York today, in Los Angeles next week, and in other US cities over the next few months - into the category of Hong Kong movies that even people who think they don't care about Hong Kong movies should see."

"This tale of childhood buddies turned hit men squaring off against a malevolent gang boss in 1998 Macau - on the eve of that former Portuguese colony's absorption by China - is the kind of film where flames roar, waves crash and dropped bullets thud like bowling balls," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times. "Mannered as it is, however, Exiled is a tonic - a film that delivers all the visceral satisfactions of a super-macho action picture (close-quarters gun battles; slow-motion Wild Bunch-style side-by-side struts) and unabashedly sentimental depictions of loyalty and tenderness as well as plot twists that are surprising, often bizarre, yet feel just right."

"Nothing about Exiled is as resonant as To's best work, but it's a clever homage to Sam Peckinpah, right down to the clouds of bloody mist that fill the barroom as To's anti-heroes make their last stand," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club.

"As in last year's Triad Election, the shadow of China looms over Exiled with a 'party's over' vibe," writes Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog. "The gun battles are the best part of To's film, which, despite its refreshingly tender treatment of male friendship, seems attenuated otherwise, the pensive final chapter of some longer epic that was never made."

"To has moved well beyond the parody of the John Woo school of grandiose male melodrama action cinema he scathingly exhibited in A Hero Never Dies (1998)," writes Daniel Kasman. "It may come as a shock after the resolutely anti-romantic Election 2 that Exiled’s first scene is of stoic, trenchcoat-clad men in paramilitary coiffures flicking cigar ash and silently waiting the arrival of their target photographed in stately crane shots and Kurosawa-style widescreen blocking.... If he is going to go back to these standards for entertainment, it is going to be done with a full acknowledgment of the bankruptcy of the caricatures and of their on-screen glory, even when the film whole-heartedly does what it can to give them their magnificent worth."

Updates, 9/5: "At his best, [To's] films are glossy, stylistically impeccable exercises in transcendent shallowness (Running Out of Time) or canny referentiality, as in the deliberately outsized nocturnal poetics and macho Super-Mann gestures of A Hero Never Dies," writes Mark Asch for Stop Smiling:

For a long time, though, he couldn't play it straight without resorting to the kind of slapstick interludes that marred his tone-deaf Stray Dog remake PTU, or the too-many-balls-in-the-air overreaching of his undercooked media commentary Breaking News. For that matter, The Mission was less than the sum of its parts, all set pieces and no connective tissue.

Eventually, To found his voice by reaching back further, with the grim viscerality, Gordon Willis-aping palette, and operatic scale - founded, like the Godfather movies, on father-son plots and the underworld's inexorable corruption - of Election and Triad Election.

"How many times am I gonna have to rave about Exiled before you go see it?" asks Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Updated, 9/6: "Buoyed by humor in all the right places, the script is dryly funny," writes Craig Phillips at the Guru. "To isn't just winking at American genre films, but at other Hong Kong action flicks, and his own filmography. By the time we get to scene around a campfire after the men pull of their heist, with one of them blowing on a harmonica, it all makes perfect sense."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:49 AM | Comments (2)

Quiet City.

Quiet City "For all its air of casualness and the actors' unerring ability to deliver semi-improvised dialogue that sounds overheard, Quiet City is a formal movie, elegantly edited, whose images, both still and moving, are conjoined to a soundtrack that reduces the noise of the city to an evocative background hum, quiet but not silent," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "The mumblecore genre, with its minimalist aesthetics, minuscule budgets, home-movie casting of friends and acquaintances and its fly-on-the-wall, quasi-documentary spontaneity, is so wide-open for parody that it is a sitting duck for the most withering send-up. Quiet City is fortunate to arrive just before the inevitable demolition crews arrive to tear it to shreds. Tender and sad, it is a fully realized work of mumblecore poetry."

Updated through 9/4.

IndieWIRE, which has already run Michael Koresky's review, pointed to earlier, interviews director Aaron Katz.

And so, this entry now takes over from "Weekend mumbles" and "Matt Dentler and Andrew Bujalski."

Updates: "[I]f the longings of Katz's reluctant adults are still inchoate, they're depicted with unfaltering eloquence," writes Mark Asch in the L Magazine.

"With its unforced, shot-on DV pace and erratic jumps between and within scenes, it'd be easy to accuse [Joe] Swanberg of being a talented eavesdropper with a short attention span," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi of LOL. "But when a minor moment from earlier in the film comes back with deliberate timing and real intent - over and over and over, as our three high-tech boys make the same mistakes over and over and over - and you recognize Swanberg's got something to say and a fresh voice to say it with."

Online viewing tip. Joe talks about dealing with the mumblecore backlash and his next project (after Nights and Weekends, that is), Butterknife, on ReelerTV, where Karina Longworth follows up with another reminder to not overlook three of her favorites in the New Talkies: Generation DIY series.

As suggested by Quiet City producer Brendan McFadden, David Lowery "borrow[s] a page from the New York Times' old 'Watching Movies With...' series, in which filmmakers would watch and discuss a favorite film, relating it to their current body of work" and gets on the phone with Katz and McFadden to talk about Whit Stillman's The Last Days of Disco.

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay notes that Quiet City "has its own very distinct sensibility that's quite different from some of the genre's other filmmakers.... It's delicate, wafer-thin at times, but, like the best minimalist narratives, it winds up saying something memorable with the slenderest of means."

"That a bunch of slovenly, misshapen movies (not necessarily a pejorative) has come to be so closely grouped together, so quickly and forcefully, speaks to the intense need of the current independent film community to feel part of and champion something in the American independent landscape," writes Jeff Reichert at Reverse Shot. "I chide these guys (where are the girls? or the minorities, for that matter?) a bit not because I find mumblecore some kind of aesthetic blight - I'm actually somewhat in awe of how they've played their hand thus far - but because I've only caught glimpses in these films of the wanton playfulness and voracious need to experiment that characterized the Nouvelle Vague or early 80s American indie. Maybe this desire isn't there, and maybe it doesn't need to be, but forgive me if I wouldn't mind an American filmmaker standing up and announcing him or herself as the heir to Jacques Rivette or Alain Resnais.... For this writer, there's hope in the modest pleasures of Quiet City that this all isn't an aesthetic dead-end waiting to be taken out with the trash."

Matt Dentler talks with Quiet City's other producer, Ben Stambler, "who many in the indie-film biz know as an aquisitions exec at THINKFilm (and shortly before that, Magnolia Pictures)."

Updates, 8/30: "Where Hannah Takes the Stairs is talky, itchy, sleepless, self-regarding, Quiet City is a contemplative widescreen experience that views its landscape - the borderline-industrial hipster neighborhoods of Brooklyn, NY - with painterly patience," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "Swanberg is usually right on top of his characters, seeking a Bergman-esque intensity, while Katz's characteristic gesture is more the Terrence Malick long shot or the Edward Hopper midnight tableau."

Michael Tully sees good things in store for Quiet City, insists that you catch Ronald Bronstein's Frownland if you can and bumps into - no, really - Abel Ferrara.

"I just had my fourth year anniversary of living in New York, and I've spent most of that time living either in Brooklyn, or just across Newtown Creek in Long Island City," writes Karina Longworth. "Quiet City captures the odd beauty of the outer boroughs on a good day in a way that makes me nostalgic for my own very recent past."

There was a Quiet City Q&A last night and the Film Panel Notetaker was there.

For Filmmaker, David Lowery talks with Ronald Bronstein about Frownland, "a grimy, manic masterpiece of black comedy that buries its humor beneath layers of egregious discomfort" and "one of the most confrontational and uncompromising visions to emerge from the American independent scene in recent memory." On Wednesday, September 5, Filmmaker will host a special screening at the IFC Center.

Updates, 8/31: "Katz has a good feel for the low-key rhythms of everyday life among the slackerati," writes Nathan Rabin of Quiet City at the AV Club. "Hopefully next time out he'll figure out a way to transform that into something approximating art."

"I'm starting to think that grouping themselves into a promotable 'movement' is both the smartest thing any of these filmmakers have done for their careers and the dumbest thing they could do for their art," writes Phil Nugent. He argues his case for quite a while, and then notes that David Lynch spent three years of his life making Eraserhead:

Now Lynch, who has done as much if not more than any American filmmaker to aim past the perceived limitations of his medium and bring tantalizing new audiovisual feats to his fan base, has caught the DV DIY bug; he can't get over how much easier it is working in DV and swears that he'll never go back to film, though his DV epic Inland Empire is the most shapeless, unfocused, ultimately wearying mess to which he's ever signed his name. In this fast-evolving technological age we live in, even people who you'd expect to know better seem more and more inclined to lose sight of the fact that what makes things easier for the artist and what's best for his art may not necessarily be the same thing.

Online listening tip. It's an all-mumblecore edition of Spout's FilmCouch.

Update, 9/4: Don R Lewis talks with Katz for Film Threat.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:08 AM

Venice. Atonement.

"Tonight's opening movie at the Venice Film Festival certainly features the most glamorous young talent that the British film industry has to offer," writes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, offering a first impression of Atonement. "Keira Knightley and James McAvoy star as the tragically sundered wartime lovers in an epic directed by Joe Wright, adapted from the bestselling novel by Ian McEwan. Could it be The English Patient for the noughties?"

Atonement

Wright's next project will be The Soloist, a "fact-based drama about a violin prodigy," reports Michael Fleming for Variety. Robert Downey, Jr and Jamie Foxx are on board.

Updated through 9/4.

Earlier: Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. And then, there are the Wright interviews and profiles: David Gritten (Telegraph), Hermoine Eyre (Independent) and Jason Solomons (Observer). Screenwriter Christopher Hampton has blogged about adapting McEwan, and Jeff Dawson has spoken with Wright and Hampton for the London Times.

Updates: "Composer Dario Marianelli has created a wonderfully inventive score," blogs Ray Bennett. "Marianelli is one of several from the Pride & Prejudice team that Wright re-assembled for his screen version of the Ian McEwan novel. The composer picked up a Classical Brit award and an Academy Award nomination for his Austen score. He's worked with directors Bille August, Michael Winterbottom, Michael Caton-Jones and Terry Gilliam, and did the music for Neil Jordan's upcoming revenge thriller The Brave One starring Jodie Foster."

Atonement is "for its first half at least, a towering achievement, a compelling, richly detailed, moving examination of morals, lies, and class prejudice, beautifully acted, and strikingly shot by Seamus McGarvey," writes Mark Salisbury for Premiere. "[I]t's when the story leaps forward five years to war-ravaged France, that, for me, the film relaxed it vice-like grip, as the Brideshead Revisited/Gosford Park flavourings of the first act surrenders to the horrors of combat, with McAvoy's soldier stuck behind enemy lines, struggling to make it to Dunkirk and a boat to England.... There's such a stiff upper lip quality to much of this, one can only assume that Brief Encounter must be Wright's favourite film."

Emmanuel Burdeau, writing for Cahiers du cinéma, finds Atonement to be a "disappointment... The film is of the dreary genre, the sophisticated British melodrama."

Updates, 8/30: "Rarely has a book sprung so vividly to life, but also worked so enthrallingly in pure movie terms," writes Derek Elley for Variety:

Where Wright's debut took a relatively free hand in reworking Jane Austen's classic in more youthful terms, Atonement is immensely faithful to McEwan's novel, with whole scenes and dialogue seemingly lifted straight from the page in Christopher Hampton's brisk adaptation.

And where Pride & Prejudice took a more realistic approach to Austen's universe, Atonement consciously evokes the acting conventions and romantic cliches of 30s/40s melodramas - from the cut-glass British accents, through Dario Marianelli's romantic, kinetic score, to the starchy period look.

It's a gamble that could easily have tilted over into farce. But Wright's approach is redeemed by his cast and crew, with leads like Knightley, McAvoy and young Irish thesp Saoirse Ronan driving the movie on the performance side and technicians like DP Seamus McGarvey and designers Sarah Greenwood and Jacqueline Durran providing a richly decorated frame for their heightened playing.

"This is a textbook example of literary adaptation; breathtakingly beautiful in its craftsmanship, impeccably acted and quietly devastating in its emotional impact," writes Allan Hunter for Screen Daily. "It should also be considered the first front runner for across the board consideration among both Oscar and BAFTA voters."

"[I]t ranks with the best novel adaptations of recent times," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Ray Bennett.

Updates, 8/31: James Christopher finds "the buzz, Oscar and otherwise, around this world premiere of Atonement is only partially merited." Also in the London Times, Hugh Sebag-Montefiore, author of Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man, talks with Julian Fane, who, in 1940, was a 19-year-old 2nd Lieutenant in the Gloucestershire Regiment and whose experiences are echoed in McAvoy's character.

Geoffrey Macnab profiles Knightley for the Independent.

Update, 9/1: Online listening tip. John Mullan profiles McEwan for the BBC. Via the Literary Saloon.

Update, 9/4: For Time Out's Dave Calhoun, Atonement is a "noble, well-made, superbly performed and photographed (by Seamus McGarvey) semi-failure then, but still one that shows Wright to be one of the more imaginative filmmakers of his generation, capable of winning over large audiences with daring endeavours."


Covering the coverage: Venice 07. Index.


Posted by dwhudson at 2:04 AM

Ferrara, 8/29.

Brenez: Ferrara "At this point, I think that [Abel] Ferrara has created a more powerful, and also (despite his obsessiveness) more varied body of work than even Martin Scorsese or Spike Lee, let alone others of his American contemporaries. But he is probably too on the edge, with too anarchic and obsessive (even if these terms seem contradictory to one another) an imagination, to ever transcend his (merely) cult following." This comes at the end of Steven Shaviro's entry on Go Go Tales, "almost Ferrara's version of a Capraesque 1930s comedy, a pomo update of one of those films that was designed to make people feel good despite the Great Depression." There may be a spoiler in there; Shaviro's caught the film at the Montreal World Film Festival, running through Monday.

Jay A Fernandez has read Billy Finkelstein's screenplay for Bad Lieutenant '08 - that's right, a remake - and reports in the Los Angeles Times: "Veteran producer Edward R Pressman (Badlands, American Psycho), who developed and produced the first movie, is poised to revisit the Lieutenant and 'try to reinvent the film in a way that would be relevant again,' as he puts it." '08 "is less a sequel or a prequel than an attempt to take the raw material of the original film and weave it into 21st century, post-9/11 New York.... Pressman has discussed the new version with Ferrara and [Harvey] Keitel, although neither is attached to the project."

Meanwhile, the Oldenburg Film Festival (September 12 through 16) will stage a Ferrara retrospective, reports Ed Meza for Variety.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:17 AM

August 28, 2007

Fests and events, 8/28.

India Matri Bhumi The Chicago Cinema Forum will be screening Roberto Rossellini's India Matri Bhumi on Friday and Sunday. Related: Doug Cummings and Girish.

"This year the Vancouver International Film Festival expands its Dragons & Tigers: The Cinemas of East Asia series to include a special spotlight on China." That's quite a lineup. Here's a briefer overview; the festival runs September 27 through October 12.

Joshua Hurtado catches 16 films at the Asian Film Festival of Dallas (through Thursday) and sends a report into Twitch.

"Flash Point is the third consecutive collaboration between [Donnie] Yen and director Wilson Yip, the film that began life as a sequel to their first collaboration, SPL released on these shores as Kill Zone," writes Todd Brown, in an early Toronto preview for Twitch. "Any feeling of disappointment in the first half disappears quickly in the second."

Munyurangabo Another Toronto preview: Tom Hall looks ahead to Lee Isaac Chung's Munyurangabo.

"As I approach my 12th Telluride experience and reflect on my favorite film experiences it strikes me how many of those highlights were in black-and-white," notes Kjolseth at Movie Morlocks.

"'World premiere' just doesn't have the heft it used to," writes Ali Jaafar in Variety. "With so many festivals crowded into the fall calendar, and new events emerging every year, the small pool of sought-after films is being siphoned in every direction. Bigger titles are increasingly doing double-, and even triple-duty, hopping from one fest to another for ever-less-meaningful premieres.'" Via Movie City News.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:13 PM | Comments (2)

DVDs, 8/28.

3:10 to Yuma Dave Kehr in the New York Times on the re-release of the original 3:10 to Yuma: "This is a psychological drama, as intense as a Bergman marital duel, but played out in a forceful exchange of looks and gestures rather than in Bergman's torrents of words.... Here is some marvelous filmmaking in the classical Hollywood manner, without an ounce of waste in it." Also, DW Griffith's True Heart Susie is "one of his most beautiful films, and one of his most rhetorically complex: at once absolutely sincere and a self-tweaking parody of his sentimental streak."

Related: "[Glenn] Ford and Yuma director Delmer Daves had a taut Western run in the 50s, so check out the original and the two that bookended it." Mike Clark in USA Today on Yuma, Jubal and Cowboy via Joe Leydon.

"As wonderful and mature a film as Hannah Takes the Stairs might be, I don't think it would be in the position it is right now had not Joe Swanberg's previous feature LOL provided such a shot in the arm to the festival circuit in 2006," writes David Lowery. "An exuberantly scrappy, handmade little film about being a young dude in this digital age, LOL is - even more so than Hannah - both a product of and herald to its generation." More from Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog.

Broken English "This is the way it's done, US-indie-filmmaking-wise: Zoe Cassavetes's Broken English is so far 2007's reigning small Ameri-movie, by simple and lonely virtue of the mature intelligence and respect it pays to its characters and life at large." Also reviewed by Michael Atkinson for IFC News: Buñuel's The Young One "fits thematically right alongside Las Hurdes, Los Olvidados and even chunks of Diary of a Chambermaid, with its vision of humankind living on the level of predatory animals (there's lovely footage of a raccoon eating a chicken alive, amid the doomed tarantulas, crabs, bees and rabbit cadavers). A must-have for Buñuelians, this rarely-seen detour is now officially DVD'd alongside his truly forgettable debut in Mexico (and his first full-on feature), Gran Casino (1947)."

"Inland Empire, a notoriously digital movie because its director was known in previous movies for images that were so filmic, is a commentary not so much on Hollywood (a la Sunset Boulevard) as it is on the process of selection that is editing," writes Nick Rombes. "Or, more precisely: what happens when it is not the director who imposes choices upon a film, but rather a film that imposes its choices upon a director?"

"The Lives of Others aims to flatter its audience - a quality typical for a film whose emotional posturing is only skin deep," writes Rob Humanick.

Phil Hall talks with Jason Carvey about A New Wave for Film Threat.

Brendon Connelly connects the dots.

DVD roundups: Cinema Strikes Back, DVD Talk, Bryant Frazer, Paul Harrill and Susan King in the Los Angeles Times.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:53 PM

Friedkin 07.

The French Connection "In a way, 2007 is shaping up as the year of director William Friedkin," writes ST VanAirsdale, introducing a tight and terrific interview at the Reeler. "In addition to May's unsettling paranoiac melodrama Bug, the coming weeks promise theatrical revivals of his Oscar-winning 1971 cop thriller The French Connection (opening this Friday at Film Forum) and his controversial 1980 leather-bar detective epic Cruising (opening Sept 7 before finally arriving on DVD Sept 18)." And let's not forget that he's recently been made an Officer of the French Order of the Arts and Letters.

In the Voice, J Hoberman looks back on that "newfangled genre flick, fraught with urban decay and racial tension," The French Connection, which, in 1971, "seemed like glorified Don Siegel... While Dirty Harry provided audiences an anti-establishment legal vigilante, The French Connection introduced the notion of the heroic working-class narc."

Updated through 9/3.

"When Cruising came out in 1980, pretty much everyone hated the movie," the San Francisco Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub, noting that it'll also be screening at the Castro. "The film has since developed a cult status, with some giving the movie historical significance for its detailed (albeit skewed) look at gay culture in the early 1980s." Greg Marzullo recalls the brouhaha for the Houston Voice.

Update, 8/29: Paul Wilner talks with Friedkin about the return of Cruising for the Los Angeles Times.

Updates, 8/30: "Because the stunning centerpiece [i.e., that landmark chase sequence] looks like an extravagant feat of guerilla filmmaking, The French Connection feels new again," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "In the wake of its acclaim, Pauline Kael deemed The French Connection 'what we once feared mass entertainment might become: jolts for jocks.' True, but as the rest of equation comes into view, the message behind those jolts has grown retroactively enlightening. The movie's original tagline heralded 'an out and out thriller,' but now it's the sort of thriller that rarely gets in: a smart one."

"Both on a conceptual level and in practice, Cruising buys into and advances some of the most dangerous myths about homosexuality and the homosexual lifestyle - and you don't need Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet to tell you that," blogs Slant's Ed Gonzalez. " Walking out at the end of yesterday's screening, still suffering from a rather nasty cold, I felt as if I had been fisted - without the Crisco!... Cruising is completely ridiculous, but Friedkin's homophobia gives the film a strange chill. The director is fascinated with the subliminal, but the way he imbeds sounds and images into the film is frightening only in the sense that it exposes his own warped views of gay sexual behavior."

"In a strange way, Cruising has come full circle and become a part of gay history, a creepily affecting time capsule of a subculture the mainstream otherwise ignored completely," blogs Nathan Rabin at the AV Club. "Today, it's compelling primarily as a sociological document of a dirty, dangerous New York where sex and death seem inextricably interlinked even before AIDS. In its shameless excavation and exploitation of the killer-queen archetype - the homosexual so riddled with self-loathing and guilt that they feel an insatiable urge to kill and punish others - the film is bad politics and dodgy, flawed filmmaking, but it's weirdly resonant and thoroughly haunting all the same."

Update, 9/1: "How could such a pandering film be described as uncompromising?" asks Matt Zoller Seitz of The French Connection. The film "was widely hailed as an aesthetically fresh, socially relevant new entry in the cops-and-robbers genre. It was lumped together with two other 1971 touchstones, Dirty Harry and Straw Dogs, as an example of the new fascist populism - a subgenre that combined studio production values and exploitation tactics. Friedkin's film is the least of the three because it's got almost nothing on its mind but rattling the audience."

Update, 9/3: "The gay blogosphere has largely treated the re-release of William Friedkin's 1980 ode to fisting, faggotry, and flash cuts with a level of indifference nearly equal to the fury of the disco era's gay community," notes Eric Henderson at Slant. "Our culture has now scaled Brokeback Mountain and breathed in the thin, undernourished, Oscar-hungry air thereabout. For all its bad judgment, questionable portrayals, and arrogant artsploitation aims, Cruising is precisely what Brokeback and all excepting a small handful of eternally rewarding fringe gay movies (Tropical Malady, Bad Education, Mulholland Drive) are not: an interesting film."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:03 PM

Bizarro Blog-a-Thon.

Feldman "Welcome to Bizarro Days, friends," smiles Piper at the Lazy Eye Theatre. "For the next three days, tell me how you really feel by not telling me how you really feel about a movie, a director, an actor, whatever you want."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:36 AM | Comments (2)

Philosophy, 8/28.

Hitchcock and Philosophy "Is philosophy fun?" asks David Sterritt in PopMatters. Open Court's "thriving" Popular Culture and Philosophy series is "based on the premise that philosophy is the most uproarious pursuit in the world, and it's determined to make you agree.... Hitchcock and Philosophy: Dial M for Metaphysics doesn't mention Hitch's fine 1954 thriller Dial 'M' for Murder, and more to the point, it doesn't privilege metaphysics over such other branches of philosophy as ethics, aesthetics, and epistemology." Nonetheless, "you'll find that the essays assembled by editors David Baggett and William A Drumin are often engaging, entertaining, and enlightening."

Also via Bookforum: John Morreall's review of Vittorio Hösle's Woody Allen: An Essay on the Nature of the Comical, "a refreshing counterbalance to the traditional neglect of humor and comedy by philosophers," for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

And via wood s lot, editors Fiona Jenkins and Robert Sinnerbrink introduce a new issue of Scan, a journal of media arts culture hosted by the Media Department at Macquarie University in Sydney. This one's devoted to "film as philosophy." After sketching a brief history of the relationship between philosophy and film, they note that the essays here "consider how film itself engages in different kinds of thinking using sound, image, time, memory and narrative."

The Fly Havi Carel on David Cronenberg's The Fly: "[I]nstead of seeing Seth's illness as a metaphor for monstrosity, I suggest that monstrosity is a metaphor for illness... I argue that the notion of the monstrous that is so central to the film in fact supports the health / illness dichotomy, in which the two states - health and illness, or human and monster - are posited as mutually exclusive. Instead of accepting the dichotomy and focusing on the dialectic between human and monstrous, as many interpretations have, I claim that the film in fact demonstrates the fallacy of this dichotomous view, showing that ultimately we all have 'the disease of being finite.' I propose to understand the film as a tragedy portraying the terminal illness of a decent man. As such, the film dupes the viewer into accepting the human / monster and healthy / diseased dichotomies, only to grasp their illusoriness by the end of the film."

For Jenkins, Pedro Almodóvar's All About My Mother raises a series of questions: "How do we give an account of ourselves? How does our exposure to loss figure in this telling, even if only through what is partial or absent? And what is it that makes such telling difficult or even inevitably thwarted and displaced?"

Catherine Summerhayes "explores Chris Marker's interpretation of memory as time and space in his experimental essay film Sans Soleil."

Dogville In Lars von Trier's Dogville, Robert Sinnerbrink finds "a political, moral, and aesthetic experiment: one that aims to show the violence inhabiting liberal democracy, but which also explores the forms of desire that underlie contemporary morality and politics... Dogville enacts a cinematic questioning of two dogmas of democracy: the role of morality in the constitution of democratic community, and the primacy of exchange relations in liberal democracy. The film critically challenges these dogmas by exposing the underlying libidinal economy of desire that organises and maintains the democratic community."

Drawing on, among others, Umberto Eco and Jacques Lacan, Matthew Sharpe argues that "a promise is held up in reality television which already animated the sadists' always-flagging desire in Sade's boudoirs: that here at last, via the conflicting demands the reality games bombard their 'stars' with, we might confront something irreplaceable in the Other."

"[F]ilm needs to be understood both as an adoption and modification of existing technical forms of the industrial reproduction of experience, and as a form that has itself been adopted and modified by the newer media based on information technology (film itself having been radically modified by digital technologies)," writes Patrick Crogan. The editors point to where he's taking this: "[A]ll thought is cinematic: perception, understanding, and so forth all involve selection from a 'tertiary' form of memory, deposited in the mnemotechnical archive of audiovisual culture."

Daniel Ross considers the "cinematic condition of the politico-philosophical future."

Meanwhile, though I haven't mentioned the journal in a while, Film-Philosophy has a relatively new site - cleaner, clearer and easier to navigate, with articles available as PDFs.

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

August 27, 2007

Shorts, 8/27.

Lust, Caution Lust, Caution is set to screen in Venice and Toronto before opening on September 28. Dennis Lim talks with Ang Lee and James Schamus - and even exchanges a bit of email with Tony Leung: "'Brokeback is about a lost paradise, an Eden,' Mr Lee said this month, taking a break from a final sound-mixing session in Manhattan. 'But this one - it's down in the cave, a scary place. It's more like hell.'" Related: Glenn Kenny on how Lee and Schamus have reacted to the NC-17 rating; and on how the story's been reported.

Also in the New York Times:

  • "To some observers, [José] Saramago's exile has made him less relevant than other contemporary Portuguese greats like Antonio Lobo Antunes, who, using the polyphonic techniques of high modernism, continues to explore the psychic wounds left by Portugal's recent political history," writes Fernanda Eberstadt in a profile for the Magazine. "To others, Saramago has taken on the role of a more universal conscience, giving his literary fables about the failures of democracy or the tyranny of corporations a broader reach. For the director Fernando Meirelles, who is making the film of Blindness, this universalism was the great achievement of that work. 'It's an allegory about the fragility of civilization,' Meirelles told me."

  • And for T Magazine, Lynn Hirschberg interviews Abbie Cornish and Cathy Horn observes Harvey Weinstein among the fashionistas.

Michael Guillén talks with Jamaa Fanaka about his 1975 film, Welcome Home, Brother Charles: "I wanted to have my films affect people in an entertaining way but also make strong statements. Sometimes, in order to get to people, you got to use some kind of instrument to get their attention. I wanted to debunk that myth of Black sexual superiority based upon the size of the sexual equipment. I felt that in order to get that attention I had to do something obscene that was so outrageous; that would take the myth and blow it up for the lie that it is. It was so new and so shocking that people didn't know how to take it."

The Old Garden "Im Sang-Soo's The Old Garden (Orae-doen jeongwon) returns to the political themes explored in his recent satire The President's Last Bang," writes Matt Riviera. "While there is a love story at its heart, The Old Garden is a bittersweet tale of a love affair aborted tragically by the fateful clash of political conscience and historical inevitability."

Scott Derrickson will direct Keanu Reeves in a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, reports Michael Fleming for Variety.

"Georgie Fame's song 'The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde,' written after seeing the film, was top of the charts and performed on TV by a chorus of boys and girls toting machine guns and wearing 1930s gear. 'The Speakeasy Look' and 'The Bonnie Parker Look' began to appear in the fashion pages." The Observer runs a long and fun piece by Philip French on the making and immediate reception of Bonnie and Clyde and follows it with a where-are-they-now list of primary cast and crew and a few items comparing and contrasting 1967 and 2007.

Also, according to Paul Harris, Todd Haynes's I'm Not There is "at the center of the biggest Oscar buzz of the year." Well, let's not go overboard. I'm probably looking forward to this one more than any other film this season, but please. I'm thinking: Palindromes, only, you know, fun. At any rate, Film Forum director Karen Cooper has seen it, of course (it'll open there) and tells Harris, "It leaps off the screen. The director has created something here that is just so unusual."

And Amy Raphael meets Ryan Phillippe.

Hermoine Eyre profiles Atonement director Joe Wright for the Independent.

At Cinematical, Ryan Stewart talks Halloween with Rob Zombie.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:42 AM | Comments (2)

Fests and events, 8/27.

Toronto International Film Festival "This year, for the first time ever so far as I know, TIFF is holding a limited number of advance press screenings here in NYC," writes Mike D'Angelo. "None of the dozen titles in question is especially high-profile, but I'm planning to see at least the first two reels of all of them, by way of revvin' the ol' motor." Comments on eight films follow. Via Keith Uhlich at the House Next Door.

Online viewing tips for those anticipating Toronto. "For your viewing pleasure, here are trailers and clips from a few of the films that have caught my attention," offers Darren Hughes at 1st Thursday. By "a few," he means about three dozen.

64th Venice International Film Festival 12 films screening in Venice will be eligible for the Queer Lion Award, notes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. And Boyd's got a Venice preview at the Film Experience.

Fanny Ardant has been asked to stay away from Venice this year, reports John Hooper in the Guardian: "The actor unleashed a torrent of anger with an Italian magazine interview in which she called the activities of the Red Brigades 'enthralling and passionate.' Ardant, 59, said she admired Renato Curcio, who helped to found the group, for having stuck to his principles unlike many leaders of the 1968 student revolt in France: 'He didn't become a businessman.'"

Cinecon, the annual celebration of film rarities, started inauspiciously in 1965 in Indiana, Pa - the hometown of Jimmy Stewart - as a way for 8 millimeter film collectors to congregate and show their films," writes Susan King in the Los Angeles Times. Now in its 43rd year, the gathering, which kicks off Thursday, has morphed into a five-day festival, memorabilia show and book fair in Hollywood, and virtually all the films screened are 35 mm." Thursday through September 3.

Montreal World Film Festival "No doubt counting its own blessings after the government-funding crisis two years ago that nearly toppled the festival founded and overseen for three decades by Serge Losique, this year's Montreal World Film Festival kicked off Thursday with the world premiere of the French Canadian comedy Bluff," reports Robert Avila for indieWIRE. Through September 3.

At Bad Lit, Mike Everleth has the lineup for the Sydney Underground Film Festival (September 7 through 10).

Posted by dwhudson at 5:21 AM

Midnight Eye. Masao Adachi.

Prisoner/Terrorist "This year sees the long-awaited return to our screens of Masao Adachi, one of the most challenging, thought-provoking and controversial figures ever to emerge from the world of Japanese cinema. His new film Prisoner/Terrorist is his first feature in over thirty years." Jasper Sharp talks with "one of the leading figures in the underground experimental scene of the 60s" who would go on to work with Nagisa Oshima and Koji Wakamatsu.

Midnight Eye's also featuring new reviews of five films and a book:

  • "Japanese cinema has no shortage of martial arts films that deal with the philosophical challenges of learning how to kill and maim," writes Tom Mes. Shunichi Nagasaki's "Black Belt follows firmly in this tradition, since it tries to give expression to the mindset behind the martial arts and explore the social ramifications of following that line of thought through."

  • "Love and Honor isn't a bad film at all, but it's not nearly as good as Twilight Samurai," writes Nicholas Rucka, who also takes note of "a concerted and well orchestrated plan for hailing Yamada as a living legend; a call into the wilds of the film world that Japan still makes those classic samurai films of old and they're deserving of attention. The man who makes them is named Yoji Yamada and he should be remembered in the same breath as Akira Kurosawa or Masaki Kobayashi. The thing is, of course he's not as good - but he can't be disregarded as bad, either."

  • Focusing on writer Kankuro Kudo, Tom Mes finds that Maiko Haaaan!!! "has the potential to appeal to both the otaku crowd looking to satisfy their thirst for extravagant pop cultural ephemera and those who like something with a bit more meat on the bone. As long as they don't mind their meat a very lurid shade of red."

  • "The surreal ensemble comedy has become one of Japan's most endearing and original genres in recent years," writes Dean Bowman, reviewing Nobuhiro Yamashita's "deliciously absurd" Matsugane Potshot Affair.

Noriko's Dinner Table
  • Sion Sono is on something of a tear all of sudden, notes Tom Mes, and "Noriko's Dinner Table surely ranks as one of the best among this recent wave. Presented as a prequel, though actually more of a wrap-around spin-off, to Suicide Club, it is going to confuse quite a few fans just for its sheer restraint. The director commands respect for making the follow-up to his satirical splatter freak-out a subdued, rhythmic, two-and-a-half hour family drama with surrealistic overtones."

And Tom Mes also reviews Waiting on the Weather: Making Movies with Akira Kurosawa, a memoir by Kurosawa's personal assistant, Teruyo Nogami: "Her story is peppered with revealing anecdotes and entertaining asides that give rare glimpses into life on a movie set... But in addition to trivia, she also gives us invaluable first-hand accounts of the making of Rashomon, of filming in the tick-infested forests of Siberia on Dersu Uzala, and of the falling out between Kurosawa and Shintaro Katsu on Kagemusha.... For any fan of Japanese cinema, and not just those of Kurosawa, Nogami's delightful memoirs are a genuine treasure trove."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:50 AM | Comments (4)

Fall previews, 8/27.

New York: Fall Preview In this week's fall preview issue of New York, Logan Hill profiles Christian Bale (3:10 to Yuma and I'm Not There) and Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises, "which Mortensen calls 'a well-crafted and complicated poem'"). There's also a No Country for Old Men Q&A with Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin, a quick chat with Nicole Kidman (Margot at the Wedding), another with Jodie Foster (The Brave One, another with Reneé Zellweger (Bee Movie), a just-as-quick guide to five of the season's politically tinged movies - and Bilge Ebiri mentions the New York Film Festival (September 28 through October 14).

Updated.

Only somewhat related to film but worth noting is Justin Davidson's preview of Carnegie Hall's Berlin in Lights, a series of events in November. "[O]n November 3, for instance, musicians re-create the music from the 1927 silent film Symphony of a City."

Blurbing well over a dozen movies, Newsweek previews the fall season.

Ray Bennett looks ahead to what September has in store for the UK.

Meanwhile, Dennis Cozzalio asks, "What are your thoughts on the summer movie season? Any big surprises? Any disappointments? And is there anything on the horizon that looks to shake up your expectations and pull you away from that ever-growing stack of DVDs that you haven't gotten a chance to see yet?"

Earlier: "EW. 'Fall Movies Preview.'"

Update: Online listening tip. At IFC News, Matt Singer and Alison Willmore "pick out ten films we're looking forward to in the upcoming months."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:01 AM

August 26, 2007

Senses of Cinema. 44.

Jonas Mekas: Just Like a Shadow "As many of the articles that comprise this issue slowing unfurled over the past few months, in one way or another, they kept invoking [Jonas] Mekas [site] and his inestimable legacy," write Rolando Caputo and Scott Murray, introducing Senses of Cinema 44. "That in itself is not surprising given that the bulk of this issue is dedicated to what is variously referred to as avant-garde, experimental, underground, alternate or, as the French filmmaker and writer Raphaël Bassan puts it, 'different' cinema. As the interview that kicks off this edition of the journal justly testifies, Mekas is a living witness to that cinema in all its myriad history."

That interview is conducted by Brian L Frye, who, in his introduction, explains why Mekas is widely known as "the godfather of the American avant-garde cinema."

"Like Mekas before him, Bassan was instrumental, with others, in the establishment of the French filmmakers' co-operative movement in the early 1970s, which, as he freely admits, was based on Mekas' New York model," write Caputo and Murray. "As to Christian Lebrat, he is not only a filmmaker of considerable stature but also an active disseminator of critical writing on the avant-garde through his publishing house, Paris Expérimental....

Sally Shafto: Zanzibar In a different vein, Lebrat is also responsible for the recent publication of Sally Shafto's Zanzibar: The Zanzibar Films and the Dandies of May 1968 [more], a volume that sheds light on one of the true blind spots in film history (certainly for those outside France). Though many may be familiar with individual careers - those of Philippe Garrel, Pierre Clémenti and Zouzou, for example - Shafto provides the invaluable work of bringing them together around the constellation of activity known as the Zanzibar collective and the cultural and political backdrop that defined them." And the book is reviewed by Keith Reader.

SoC 44 documents this network of influence in part by including Viviane Vagh's conversations with Bassan and Lebrat as well as her translations of Bassan's "Identity of Cinema: Experimental and Different" and Lebrat's "'I Have Always Been Attracted to Painting': Handwritten Notes Taken to Answer a Friend's Questions, Written in 1984."

"In the films of Stan Brakhage, we find a sympathetic and compatible cinematic analogue to [Maurice] Merleau-Ponty." Alex Cobb explains.

"Who is Michael Betancourt?" asks Rey Parla, introducing an interview. "For most artists, this is a simple question readily answered by looking at their artwork, but in the case of Betancourt it is complicated by the coexistence of a large, seemingly independent body of historical and theoretical writing that complicates any attempt to answer this question only by looking at his movies and other art." See also: Betancourt's avant-garde film and video blog, cinegraphic.net.

"Aside from a brief involvement with Bonnie and Clyde (eventually directed by Arthur Penn, 1967 [see, for example, Philip French's piece in today's Observer]), there is no area of Jean-Luc Godard's North American career in which Tom Luddy does not figure." Brad Stevens talks with Luddy about "a collaboration stretching back almost 40 years... fascinating, not just in terms of the films actually realised, but also of those that were never made, or left incomplete."

Abigail Child: This is Called Moving Tina Wasserman reviews Abigail Child's This is Called Moving: A Critical Poetics of Film: "Using film as a privileged site of theory and praxis, it is through the complexity of cinema - its ability to move through time and space as well as its capacity to incorporate sound and language -that gives Child an entry point from which to engage in an ongoing discourse on art, language and ideas."

"[W]e must piece together Artaud's revolutionary film theory from a number of unproduced film scenarios, a handful of essays and scarce interviews." Lee Jamieson does his part here and in his new book, Antonin Artaud: From Theory to Practice.

JM Magrini has one of the few rather longish pieces in the issue. He aims to "clarify the Surrealists' position on cinema as the supreme aesthetic means by which to experience and know the world as it really is, in all of its mysterious and inexplicable sublimity, and to subsequently communicate this fragile, intuitive understanding through a 'new mode of pure expression.'"

It's an easy segue then to Sebastian Manley's consideration of Jan Svankmajer's Lunacy, "the director's finest and most penetrating foray yet into the forest of contradictions and cruelties that constitutes Western society today," and to Amir Mogharabi's essay on the Brothers Quay, whose puppetry "represents a reverse form of hysteria, in which the anatomical body affectively constructs and animates the fragmented body. Cinema is the medium through which the Brothers work. Simultaneously, cinema is the medium through which an impossibility inherent in psychoanalysis is surmounted."

Corrobee Matthew Clayfield emails Ben Hackworth: "Perhaps one of my favourite things about Corroboree is the way you shot the interiors, creating a labyrinth out of the house and never allowing us to get our bearings within it. The choreography of entries into and exits out of the frame at different planes within the image - the rhythmic nature of which is realised best in the opening scene of the film, in the bus depot - is particularly impressive. In this, I was reminded - and I know I’m clutching at straws here! - of films as varied and diverse as those of Jacques Tati and James Benning."

SoC 44 also includes seven festival reports and six book reviews. There's one new addition to the Great Directors critical database this time around, Sandra Koponen on Tony Richardson.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:32 AM | Comments (1)

Edinburgh. Awards.

Control The award-winners of the 61st Edinburgh International Film Festival have been announced:

Anton Corbijn's fantastic Control was a double winner - the director picking up the prestigious Michael Powell Award for Best New British Feature Film and lead actor Sam Riley winning the PPG Award for Best Performance in a British Feature Film....

There was a surprise winner for the Standard Life Audience Award, as documentary We Are Together (Thina Simunye) scooped the prize voted for by festival-goers....

Updated through 8/27.

The EIFF began life as a documentary film festival and remains committed to non-fiction film, as signposted by the Sky Movies Best Documentary Award, which was won by Jennifer Venditti's Billy the Kid....

The Skillset New Directors Award went to Lucia Puenzo for the remarkable XXY, a teen drama about a 15-year-old hermaphrodite.... Other winners included The One and Only Herb McGwyer Plays Wallis Island by James Griffiths which won the UK Film Council Kodak Award for Best British Short Film. A special mention was given to Paddy Considine's directorial debut Dog Altogether.

At Filmmaker's blog, Nick Dawson comments on the awards.

Updates, 8/27: "What differentiates Control from other biopics of popular musicians such as Taylor Hackford's Ray and James Mangold's Walk the Line is that it's more a portrait of an artist than that of a cultural icon or object of mass adulation," writes Francis Cruz at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

At Cinematical, Scott Weinberg reports on a "surprise" screening of The Kingdom in Edinburgh.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:22 AM

Sarajevo. Awards.

Takva "A Turkish film about fear overwhelming a true believer when he is caught up in religious corruption has been chosen as the best movie at the 13th Sarajevo Film Festival," reports Daria Sito-Sucic for Reuters. "The jury, headed by British actor Jeremy Irons, awarded A Man's Fear of God (Takva) by director Ozer Kiziltan with the 25,000 euros ($33,920) Heart of Sarajevo award at the closing ceremony on Saturday night." But Kiziltan, who evidently didn't expect to win anything, had already left town; co-producer Fatih Akin accepted the award.

Also: "Saadet Isil Aksoy was awarded the best actress for her role in Egg by Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu. Macedonian film I'm From Titov Veles by Teona Strugar-Mitevska won the special jury award."

More awards: Sasa Petrovic, best actor, for his performance in Srđan Vuletić's It's Hard to be Nice and a special mention for Maria Varga for her performance in Iszka's Journey.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:02 AM

August 25, 2007

Weekend shorts.

All About My Mother Samuel Adamson has adapted Pedro Almodóvar's All About My Mother for a stage production that opens at the Old Vic on Monday for a limited 13-week engagement. For Time Out, Ben Walters talks with Adamson and Almodóvar. Via Movie City News.

"Producers Graham King and Martin Scorsese have assembled a heavyweight British cast for their royal biopic The Young Victoria," reports Naman Ramachandran at Cineuropa. "Emily Blunt plays the titular role of Queen Victoria in the film that charts the monarch's tumultuous ascension to the British throne."

"[Jodie] Foster, the Yale grad, perhaps one of the best talkers in all of showbiz, insisted she's not advocating simple-minded revenge," writes Rachel Abramowitz, who talks with her about The Brave One. "She certainly would prefer that audiences leave with a higher-minded message about the cost of violence, about the fear that has lurked in the hearts of Americans ever since Sept 11. 'There's something incredibly true about the rage and fear that we don't lay claim to, but once you experience it, you know it's been there all along and everybody else walking down the street is lying to themselves,' she said recently over a cup of coffee.

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

  • Cristy Lytal recalls a visit to the set of John August's The Nines: "The film's largely improvised Part 2, a making-of documentary about a fictitious television pilot titled 'Knowing,' allowed August and his actors to co-write characters in the most immediate and collaborative way possible. August even posed questions to the actors as the pseudo-documentary's off-camera interviewer."

Klimt
  • Sharon Mizola talks with Raúl Ruiz about Klimt: "Ruiz, 66, who has made more than 50 films in the last 20 years in Chile and Europe, firmly established himself as a cinematic maverick with his use of nonlinear storytelling, dramatic color effects and unexpected points of view, and his work here is inspired by the fragmented, circular narratives of Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler - a Klimt contemporary. In other words, it's not the usual biopic."

  • Patrick Day's attended the premiere of Rob Zombie's Halloween: "[O]ne suspects the wild, growling Zombie of concert fame is quite a bit removed from the devoted horror movie fan who lovingly casts his favorite character actors in all his films."

  • "The allure of a romantic two-hander in which an attractive pair of strangers spend a lot of time walking and talking and - audiences usually hope - heading in the direction of Happy Ending Land has made movie favorites out of everything from Roman Holiday to Before Sunrise to this year's indie hit Once," writes Robert Abele. "Striving for that connective tingle but falling all too short of something swoony or deep or wittily satisfying, though, is American writer-director Evan Richards's London-set In a Day, which devotes most of its brief 80 minutes to the morning-to-evening conversational ramble of a struggling female jazz musician and a male graphic designer."

  • John Anderson on Blood and Tears: The Arab-Israeli Conflict: "The strategy seems to be: Talk to as many august heads as one can gather in a feature-length film and give what seems like equal time to both Palestinian and Israeli points of view, until the end, when you cast the Israelis as patient and the Palestinians as crazy."

  • Jay A Fernandez and John Horn report on why the studios are scrambling to get next summer's blockbusters in the can now: "The studios' contracts with the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America expire June 30. Their deal with the Writers Guild of America runs out this October, but the WGA is expected to work without a new pact temporarily, hoping the delay will give it more clout as the DGA and SAG contracts also expire. While the guilds have separate demands, they are united in their quest for revenues from new media such as video on demand, Web downloads and cellphone content. To beat the strike deadlines, the studios must start filming by March 1."

"A whole slew of Hollywood stars is rapidly becoming not merely irrelevant, but obsolete." And John Patterson's celebrating. Also:

In the Valley of Elah

In each month between now and March, however, American cinemas will release two movies dealing in different ways with Iraq, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the war on terror, "extraordinary rendition" and returning war veterans, among other topics - which include grief, desertion, battlefield murder, rape, post-traumatic stress disorder and so-called "blowback", repercussions from botched, covert interference abroad - until recently considered too raw to be recreated on film for a nation at war.

Yet most of these big-budget movies seem weirdly apolitical in this deeply political time, never addressing the heart of the matter. The hard work of criticism and political analysis is actually being left to the small-budget, indie realm, or is done instead, like much other labour that Americans should be doing for themselves, by foreigners.

And also in the Guardian:

  • "I can't help wondering how much of the current enthusiasm for what was once known as world cinema is purely that - and how much a rejection of Hollywood at a time when the wider America is so reviled," blogs Danny Leigh. "In other words, is George Bush responsible in some odd tangential way for the rediscovery of Jean Renoir and Fassbinder?"

  • Sam Delaney looks back on a turning point in the late 70s and early 80s when British ad directors started landing features: Alan Parker, Ridley and Tony Scott, Hugh Hudson and Adrian Lyne.

  • Tamsin Evans concentrates on the present: "Britain is awash with film talent, including brilliant script writers and some of the world's most skilled technicians. However, arranging finance remains an often insurmountable task for producers."

  • Bobbie Johnson talks to the Swedes behind the Pirate Bay about their run-ins with the studios: "The three-year campaign to bring down the website is almost an epic of Hollywood proportions, sprinkled with high-flying lawyers and accusations of political extremism. And yet, so far, the chase has failed to bring the pirates down."

Ratatouille "Recently we went to see Ratatouille and both loved it. We thought it was the best Hollywood movie we've seen this summer." Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell exchange ideas and links. The cinetrix has recently caught the film, too, and she's reminded of another.

"Could there be anything more thankless than taking over a project tailor-made for your genius father, a master of animation renowned for his grace and deep humanity, and attempt to match his best work?" asks Jürgen Fauth. "When it was announced that Goro Miyazaki, son of anime legend Hayao, was directing the adaptation of Ursula K LeGuin's Earthsea novels, you didn't have to be Yubaba the witch to know that it would end in tears. And so it has. LeGuin is disappointed, Miyazaki father and son are embroiled in a public feud, and the movie is a wasted opportunity that can't help but show occasional glimpses of the greatness that might have been."

Gerald Howard had waited for decades to see Norman Mailer's Maidstone before he finally caught it in July, when it hit him "like a video transmission from the faraway Planet 60s - a civilization in the throes of a crackup.... For reasons its creator could hardly have anticipated, this lurid, ludicrous, lunatic spectacle was worth the wait. At one level, Maidstone is a Norman Mailer version of a Rat Pack movie, albeit in the manner of Artaud."

Also in the New York Times:

Illegal Tender

Geoff Andrew: Nicholas Ray For Peter Nellhaus, Geoff Andrew's The Films of Nicholas Ray: The Poet of Nightfall "provides a fairly good overview... For those who are more familiar with Ray's films, the book may not provide as much information as might be desired."

JR Jones in the Chicago Reader:

Two new independent features - one dramatic, the other documentary - show how badly fear eats away at the national psyche and how easily the government can become as threatening as any terrorist. Right at Your Door, the debut feature from writer-director Chris Gorak, imagines what might happen if terrorists detonated a series of dirty bombs across Los Angeles, releasing a lethal virus and forcing people to duct-tape themselves into their homes. [More.] It's pretty scary stuff, but not nearly as unnerving as Lynn Hershman-Leeson's Strange Culture, the true story of a mild-mannered conceptual artist whose purchase of harmless bacteria got him fingered by the FBI as a bioterrorist. Watching them side by side, you realize how unprepared we are for a genuine bioterror attack, partly because the feds are so willing to squander time and money prosecuting an innocuous left-wing artist.

"There are two movies opening this week about screwed-up young men struggling with romance in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and, as it happens, both of them are directed by actors," writes Slate's Dana Stevens, referring, of course, to The Hottest State and Dedication. "The resemblances in story and theme between the two movies may be purely casual (though their common location does suggest that Williamsburg is becoming romantic comedy's new Manhattan, the place angsty heroes go to pine for their Annie Halls). But watching the two films makes for an object lesson in what tends to happen when thespians get behind a camera."

"Director Nanouk Leopold is a rare species in film land: a female auteur from the Netherlands." At european-films.net, Boyd van Hoeij talks with her about Wolfsbergen.

"It wouldn't be accurate to call Private Property a thriller, but it has a slow-burning intensity that's oddly suspenseful, and it shifts gears effectively once the tense family dynamic suddenly changes," writes Scott Tobias at the AV Club.

Michael Fox talks with Julie Delpy about 2 Days in Paris for SF360. So does Kevin Maher for the London Times. More on the film from Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle and Christopher Orr in the New Republic.

John Sayles Kathy Fennessy wraps her interview with John Sayles at the Siffblog: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Tasha Robinson interviews Alan Alda for the AV Club.

In the Independent, Lesley O'Toole talks with Kevin Bacon about Death Sentence and Stephen Applebaum reviews Jesus Camp. Related: Pam Spaulding at Alternet: "Ted Haggard's Back, He's 'Completely Hetero' and He's Begging for Cash."

"[T]he horror genre remains the only genre in which women are guaranteed to save the day." Jeremy Griffin explains at PopMatters.

Nick Pinkerton at Stop Smiling on The Invasion: "I can say without any great excitement that the movie is better than its reviews: As straight-ahead, propulsive, reptilian-brain action, it 'works' as often as not. But it's unworthy to stand with its predecessors."

"Where Harvey Weinstein goes, Hollywood follows. And Harvey Weinstein is jetting off to Asia." Adriane Quinlan reports for Time.

At Movie Morlocks, Richard Harland Smith reminds us that the Lee Marvin Blog-a-Thon takes place on August 29.

On a non-film-related note, Michael Atkinson. Can he get an Amen? Absolutely, from me: Amen.

Online fiddling around tip. Nathaniel R reinvents Exquisite Corpse.

Online viewing tip #1. At Facets Features, Phil Morehart posts the trailer for Fantoma's October 2 DVD release, The Films of Kenneth Anger, Volume 2. Or click the title for higher definition.

Online viewing tip #2. Matt Dentler's got a trailer for Great World of Sound.

Online viewing tips. "You can't really call yourself a fan of the movies, or humanity for that matter, if you've never stopped and asked yourself: What the hell is Christopher Walken doing?" For Esquire, Daniel Murphy lines up and introduces six clips.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:32 PM

Weekend lists.

Last Life in the Universe "What makes up a 'personal daydream movie,' you might ask? It is the type of movie that inspires - whether during the movie, days afterward, or both - a mood in the viewer of wanting to linger in the film's particular world for hours on end, in the same way one might desire to linger in a dream at night before having to wake up to eye-crust-ridden early-morning reality." Kenji Fujishima presents an annotated list of five at the House Next Door.

Ken Russell, who knows a thing or two about music in movies, picks his favorite soundtracks. Also in the London Times, James Christopher wraps a "Modern Greats" contest with The Godfather.

Jonathan Lapper's got a list of firsts.

"[F]ew writers have turned actor with pleasing results." At ScreenGrab, Leonard Pierce lists five notable moments. On a related note, John Coulthart reminds us that Steven Soderbergh's "Kafka is one of a small group of works wherein well-known writers become embroiled in stories which exactly parallel their fiction. Joe Gores's Hammett (filmed by Wim Wenders in 1982) did this with Dashiell Hammett while Mark Frost in his novel, The List of Seven, had a pre-Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle becoming involved in a Holmesian mystery.... Kafka is also the Prague film par excellence."

At Cinematical, Patricia Chui lists the "25 Best High School Movies of All Time" and Monika Bartzel picks seven "Big Jerks of High School Movies."

Jim Emerson comments on Total Film's list of 100 "Greatest Directors Ever."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:12 AM

Weekend fests and events.

Telluride 07 "2007 marks a year of massive change for Colorado's four-day Telluride Film Festival, which unfolds every Labor Day weekend." A preview from Variety's Anne Thompson. If you're going, and you want to be surprised by the lineup, don't click.

Stanley Kubrick, Director is a series running at SIFF Cinema in Seattle through September 6 and the Stranger runs a no-holds-barred assessment from Charles Mudede: "[This] is what Kubrick has to say about the state of everything: The world is shit, humans are shit in shit, life is worth shit, and there is nothing else that can be done about the situation. In Kubrick's movies, progress, sustained enlightenment, and moral improvement are impossible because the powers of reason, love, and religion are much weaker than the forces of generation and degeneration, desire and destruction, sex and death."

All over the festival circuit this season will be Sidney Lumet and his Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Martin A Grove has a longish backgrounder in the Hollywood Reporter. Via Movie City News.

"Swerve Festival is a new annual festival dedicated to celebrating West Coast creative culture and its community inspired by art, film, music and action sports." September 28 through 30 in Los Angeles.

Mark Schilling: No Borders, No Limits "Starting on September 28, the Japan Society in New York will be running a monthly series of 8 classic Nikkatsu action films." Cinema Strikes Back has details on the series curated by Japan Times film writer Mark Schilling, whose new book is No Borders, No Limits: Nikkatsu Action Cinema.

Neil Young carries on reviewing films he's caught in Edinburgh. The festival wraps tomorrow.

New York: States of Mind has just opened in the newly restored House of World Cultures in Berlin. The exhibition and film program runs through November 4. Related: Cameron Abadi for Spiegel Online.

On the occasion of the BFI's Warhol season, running through the end of September, the Financial Times' Nigel Andrews imagines a conversation with the artist in 1987 - about 2007.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:34 AM

Weekend critics.

City Pages: Great Escape For the Minnesota Monitor, Paul Schmelzer reports on the "Tumult at City Pages: Film Editor Axed, Cost-Cutting Memo Leaked." That film editor is the excellent Rob Nelson, who himself contributes some of the liveliest reviews you'll find in the Voice media chain. In a comment posted to the entry, former CP staffer Britt Robson speaks for many:

Remember all that bullshit about New Times investing heavily in the quality of their newspapers? On a staff that desperately needs experience and credibility, Rob Nelson was one of the few remaining stalwarts. He is one of only 55 members of the National Society of Film Critics, which requires election by the other members for entry. The Get Real documentary film series he founded and has curated since 2001 has been an artistic feather in CP's cap since 2001, and, not incidentally, a moneymaker for the paper. His own prose, and the stories he recruited and edited as the paper's film editor, were always spotless and required minimal effort from the otherwise beleaguered CP copy editor.

Now he's shown the door. No class. No grace. These assholes continue to make me look smart for bugging out at the first sight of their weasly, frat-boy, penny-pinching m.o.

Via Movie City News.

"This is not good," comments Dave Kehr. "Soon, we will have a choice between the re-animated Paulettes who dominate the print media and the Knowles-nothing fan boys who dominate the internet. Which in my book isn't much of a choice at all."

"Contrary to Disney's press release, I did not demand the removal of the Thumbs™." Roger Ebert responds to an AP story; David Poland comments.

"In a decade-plus of Web exploration, nearly every daily has felt the growing pains that any new news tool requires." At Editor & Publisher, Joe Strupp considers 12 lessons learned. Via Anne Thompson.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:03 AM

Anticipating Venice, 8/25.

64th Venice International Film Festival Let's start with an online viewing tip, a trailer for Eric Rohmer's Venice-bound Les amours d'Astrée et Céladon. That's via european-films.net, where Boyd van Hoeij reviews Claude Chabrol's La fille coupée en deux (The Girl Cut in Two), "a deliciously dark and well-observed tale that marks a fine return to form. For his story of a girl torn between two men Chabrol works with many of the reliable members of his extended film and real family, though the addition of two women, actress Ludivine Sagnier and Cécile Maistre, the director's stepdaughter and first assistant director who debuts as a screenwriter on the film, are new assets that might have triggered this renewed confidence and sharp wit."

"Critics who have seen Atonement have reacted with breathless superlatives." The Telegraph's David Gritten interviews Joe Wright, who, at 35, is the youngest director to open the Venice International Film Festival. Gritten also talks with Philippe Aractingi, whose Under the Bombs, also premiering in Venice, was shot in Lebanon, at times even as Israeli bombs fell around them.

"Stateside censors have slapped Ang Lee's follow-up to Brokeback Mountain with the harshest possible rating after deeming the film too erotic for US audiences," reports the Guardian. "However in a startling show of solidarity with its filmmaker just days ahead of Shanghai-set wartime spy tale Lust, Caution's world premiere at the Venice film festival, US distributor Focus Features has decided not to contest the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) NC-17 certification."

"A lot of ink has already been spilled analyzing the 64th Venice Film Festival lineup, with special focus on the undeniable preponderance of English-language pics," writes Jay Weissberg for Variety. "Maybe fest topper a target="_blank" href="http://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/director/en/5743.html">Marco Müller's argument can be taken at face value: The Anglophone world at the moment just happens to be making films strong on innovation and star power." Meanwhile, Colleen Barry talks with Müller for the AP.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:39 AM | Comments (1)

Weekend mumbles.

Hohokam "Surveying the Mumblecore-manic media coverage of the last week or so, three features are in danger of slipping through the cracks," warns Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog. "Totally coincidentally, these are the three films of [The New Talkies: Generation DIY, through September 4] that I'm currently most interested in.... I'm crushing heavily on Team Picture (directed by Kentucker Audley, who appears to be the same person as the film's star, Andrew Nehringer), and Frank V Ross's Hohokam and Quietly on By. These are the least-known films on the schedule for sure, although all three have made appearances at Harvard Film Archive's Independents Week. Seen as a unit, the three films point in an exciting new direction: towards the suburbs."

Updated through 8/28.

Before carrying on with this entry, a follow-up to this one, a brief observation. Though mumblecore and the so-called Berliner Schule are dissimilar in all sorts of ways, they do share a few characteristics. First, there's the perfectly understandable reluctance of the filmmakers themselves to be seen as part of a "movement," even though the respective labels certainly haven't hurt, that is, they've brought a little free PR to some films that might have slipped by unnoticed otherwise. Second, neither of these, let's say, wavelets would be happening if it weren't now possible to make films relatively cheaply. And third, there's the "reality" factor. You can make a genre flick on the cheap, too, but that's not what we're dealing with in either case here. The headline over Steve Dollar's mumblecore piece in the New York Sun is "Reality Never Looked So... Real," while Hanns-Georg Rodek, in one of the few pieces on the Berliner Schule to appear in English, writes, "reality is the key to the Berlin School." Anyway; a line of thought to pursue some other time.

Meantime, Premiere's Glenn Kenny has no problem with these filmmakers getting a little press and making a modest living: "Insofar as I understand the term, 'selling out' means betraying your own principles for profit. It does not mean betraying the untested principles of a portion of your early audience that, for some particular and likely pathological reason, believes it owns you."

"Because of the speed with which such hype takes off, flies and dies with the blogosphere cinerati, the American-born movement is likely to crash and burn before it ever reaches Australia," writes Matt Riviera in Sydney. "That may not be a problem, as the hip kids down here are not necessarily film-savvy and they wouldn't know an indie film backlash if it whipped them on the backside. Harsh. But true."

"Viewers' tolerance for Hannah Takes the Stairs will depend greatly on how much they can stand the characters," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "And the movie would be nothing without [Greta] Gerwig, one of the rare improvisatory actresses who cuts right to the truth of a scene, and doesn't try to feign confidence by filling her camera time with a lot of chatter."

At indieWIRE, Michael Lerman reports on Hannah's premiere at the IFC Center. There was a Q&A and the Film Panel Notetaker was there.

A fun one from Todd Rohal: "Google Buys Mumblecore for $1.6 Billion."

Updates, 8/26: David Lowery reviews Hohokam and Team Picture, noting that "Karina cites Ray Carney's notes on Hohokam from the Harvard Film Independent Week, in which he poses the question: 'is this the future the characters in the other works have to look forward to?' Maybe, maybe not - the socio-economic disparity between the various character sets predicates a wide variety of potential downfalls - but in a less material sense it's certainly a possibility, and one that's very pointedly underscored by Joe Swanberg's cameo in the film."

"Mumblecore may have aesthetic/film technique differences from mainstream American film & television, but, when it comes to not collaborating with minority talent, Mumblecore is like 1950s Hollywood or mainstream television from that era," blogs Sujewa Ekanayake.

Updates, 8/27: Eugene Hernandez talks with producer Anish Savjani (Hannah, Old Joy): "Now, through his own company Film Science, he hopes to foster a "family of filmmakers" that he can work with over the longterm. To that end, Savjani is currently producing Kelly Reichardt's next film, Train Choir with Neil Kopp (it wrapped production last week) and also Joe Swanberg's next movie, Nights and Weekends."

"What connects LOL to past films is that essentially the film is about the sense of connection, or lack of connection, that young people feel, to each other as well as themselves," writes Peter Nellhaus.

"Aaron Katz's second feature (after last year's Dance Party USA) Quiet City evokes a memorable aesthetic to surround its minor-key maybe-romance, focusing almost as much attention on lovely, video-sculpted natural formations and cityscapes as its two main characters," writes Michael Koresky at indieWIRE. "For every overly precious moment as manufactured as anything in a studio film..., there's a corresponding instance of loveliness: Katz's aural design, with its reduced traffic noise and disconcerting urban hush, for instance; or the texture of the sunlight blazoning through a city park. One sometimes wishes Katz would weave these compellingly wrought spaces into a film devoid of people altogether."

In an entry entitled "Is Mumblecore Too White? Too Straight?," AJ Schnack reminds us of where these questions have been raised and then assesses "what the debate here is all about":

A feeling that a generation-defining indie film movement (a sentiment that is over-simplistic at best) has, in the Bush Aughts, shied away from the complexity and diversity of the urban lives of most Americans, backtracking on the cinematic statements of Lee, Arteta, Araki, Haynes and the rest. Making a-political films in these most political times.

Yet, here are these characters. Sheltered, yes, but also taking refuge within their own interconnected groups - both real and virtual - and hoping to find a way out.

In some ways, isn't that a view of America today that's all too real?

Updates, 8/28: "As wonderful and mature a film as Hannah Takes the Stairs might be, I don't think it would be in the position it is right now had not Joe Swanberg's previous feature LOL provided such a shot in the arm to the festival circuit in 2006," writes David Lowery. "An exuberantly scrappy, handmade little film about being a young dude in this digital age, LOL is - even more so than Hannah - both a product of and herald to its generation."

"I just got my official Mumblecore rejection letter in the mail today. The reason? Cocaine Angel had three black people in it." A nice entry from Michael Tully.

Matt Dentler talks with Aaron Katz about Quiet City.

Continued here.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:13 AM

The Bothersome Man.

The Bothersome Man "Based on a Norwegian radio play by Per Schreiner (who also wrote the screenplay) and directed by Jens Lien, The Bothersome Man is either a creepy comment on Scandinavian depression or a sour glimpse of the afterlife as yuppie fantasy," writes Jeannette Catsoulis. "Quiet desperation has never looked so gorgeous."

At the AV Club, Noel Murray finds it to be "a fairly well-worn pastiche of several 'individual vs utopia' stories with some deadpan Northern European comedy of the Aki Kaurismäki/Roy Andersson variety, all topped with a pinch of Groundhog Day."

"The Bothersome Man is intriguingly bizarre, but only in the most superficial, what-the-hell's-going-on-here? sort of way," writes Mike D'Angelo at Nerve. "Half-baked and coyly vague, the movie itself, while often very funny, can be as impassively irritating as its title character."

Earlier: Ed Gonzalez at Slant.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:23 AM

August 24, 2007

Kamp Katrina.

Ms Pearl in Kamp Katrina "Almost two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, a vital crop of documentaries has emerged to present both impressionistic (South of Ten, God Provides) and pointedly sociological (When the Levees Broke, NO Cross, NO Crown) perspectives on the storm's aftermath," writes ST VanAirsdale at the Reeler. "Somewhere between styles is Kamp Katrina, Brooklyn-based directors David Redmon and Ashley Sabin's riveting glimpse of an impromptu New Orleans tent community established in the backyard of the disarming, unsinkable local fixture Ms Pearl.... It's hard to overstate the impact of Kamp Katrina's honesty; fresh off their acclaimed venture Mardi Gras: Made in China, the filmmakers' six-month survey arguably captured the city's wounded spirit more frankly than any of its contemporaries." And he interviews Redmon.

Updated through 8/29.

The doc's screening at the Pioneer for two weeks and, in the New York Times, Matt Zoller Seitz recommends it. Ms Pearl and her husband's "blunt-spoken decency is inspiring. So is the movie's portrait of New Orleans after the flood, a debris-strewn ghost town where human kindness is overflowing."

Somewhat related: "Two years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the networks are planning a wide range of coverage to mark the anniversary and look in on the long recovery process." Paul J Gough scans the lineup for Reuters.

Amanda Terkel for In These Times:

We all remember "Brownie," the incomprehensibly incompetent FEMA director Michael Brown, who had no idea evacuees were using the New Orleans convention center as an evacuation shelter. But [Karl] Rove was the man President Bush quietly put in charge of overseeing the administration's response plan....

Rove used Katrina to push the administration's failed ideologies on the Gulf Coast, advocating segregated schools, reduced pay for low-wage reconstruction workers, and limited government health care. Political allies received large no-bid contracts. Americans were outraged. A CBS News poll six months after the hurricane found that just 32 percent of the public approved of the way Bush handled the disaster.

The Nation: New Orleans "When the Gulf Coast desperately needed a massive public works program, what it got was a stronger dose of the very same toxic neoliberal policies that laid the groundwork for the Katrina disaster," write the Nation's editors. "With such a perversely skewed economic development strategy, the spiraling social crisis that followed - documented by the articles in this issue - was probably inevitable. Still, it was helped along by yet more bad policies.... The solutions to these problems are almost too obvious to mention - but they all depend on the creation of a very different sort of public sector, one that works for the people, not for business elites and Washington ideologues. That does not seem to be in the cards right now. Instead, communities, aided and inspired by outside volunteers and charitable donors, are taking matters into their own hands. They are fighting to restore their neighborhoods, keeping in mind the delicate ecology around them. They are preparing as best they can for the next storm."

Back to Kamp Katrina, which Stuart Klawans calls "an urban platoon movie. Its setting, in the Bywater section of New Orleans, looks like a combat zone. Its characters, who are numerous at first and varied, get picked off by ones and twos until only a couple are left. You settle in with these people and become immersed in the chaos, brutality and surreal humor of their situation, seen close-up and often in fragments. This isn't the heartening experience of [Jonathan] Demme's [Right to Return], nor is it a comprehensive picture like [Spike] Lee's - but it seems appropriate enough to a war of attrition."

"Coincidence or not? This month, 10 of Time Inc's magazines are running articles about New Orleans." Brian Stelter reports in the NYT on how this has come about.

Updates, 8/25: "[T]he movie winds up being all the more fascinating because race isn't an issue as tensions rise among earthy folks in close quarters," blogs Joe Leydon.

"Whereas Low and Behold is a character drama that draws strength from documentary elements, Kamp Katrina is a documentary with an uncommon feel for character and an incredible narrative focus," writes Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog. "As co-directors Ashley Sabin and David Redmon buzz like flies around the action in the tent city, their handheld cameras are set to low shutter speeds to compensate for a lack of natural light. The resulting image is slightly slowed, tinted neon pink, and at times, it almost seems to float off the screen. The hallucinogenic spin brought by the video amplifies the feeling that post-Katrina New Orleans might as well be on another planet, in as much as it resembles the 'normal' American city."

Updates, 8/29: Chris Barsanti rounds up some of the best Katrina anniversary coverage.

Phil Nugent:

Given my own experience of the days leading up to Katrina, I'll admit to being surprised when the president, once he'd been persuaded to interrupt his vacation to comment on a major American city having been flushed down the tubes, actually seemed to take the position that no one could have been expected to have seen this one coming. Given the times in which we live, I was a lot less surprised to hear the victims blamed for having been there in the first place, to the point that the mother of the President of the United States could be heard trying her best to sound good-natured and tolerant while mooing that the charity extended to these lucky duckies had made the whole thing a windfall for certain members of our layabout wastrel class. Not surprised, but no less enraged.

[...] Tragedy may be the only word for the city now. As a tourist trap, New Orleans cultivated an image as a free-for-all, anarchic party town were the rules don't apply, so maybe there's a sick joke in the fact that it now stands as the living demonstration of George Bush's dream of an America where government has no responsibilities to its citizens: a city where the veneer of civilization has been washed away and nothing has been put in its place. New Orleans got through the civil rights era with a minimum of racial tension, and when I was there it was a place where people of all races and even of wildly different income brackets lived within blocks of each other in "checkerboard" neighborhoods. Now it's a place where a fair number of black residents, desperate to believe that their lives weren't upended out of incompetence and indifference, think there's something to the rumor that The Man dynamited the levees; a place where white politicians have taken to using coded racist rhetoric to try to turn the spiralling crime figures to their advantage, something that would have been nearly unthinkable when the city was stable (and the electorate mostly black). "If it helps people understand my life and the lives of other people here in New Orleans," one man told Larry Blumenfeld, "if it makes them think about why we're here and we won't leave, let 'em have an anniversary." As Blumefeld puts it, those who actually live in New Orleans now "hardly need to mark calendars. Every day is an anniversary, a stark reminder of nature's wrath and more so of the very unnatural disasters of levee failures, insurance shortfalls, and a tide of bureaucratic red tape that rivals even the water for its ability to stall lives." Everyone I know who was in New Orleans when Katrina hit made it out okay, but I lost a friend to post-Katrina New Orleans, the ongoing tragedy that has its heroes and its villains but no end in sight.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:20 AM

August 23, 2007

Shorts, 8/23.

Austin Chronicle: Kat Candler For an Austin Chronicle cover story, Marc Savlov dips into "life in Kat Candler's cinematic world: The wiry thrum of teenage misfit melancholy - so much like the whine of the titular insects in her 2000 breakout feature, cicadas - is never far from her characters' hearts and minds, no matter how good they are. Death happens, communication breaks down, tears flow, and then getting your film distributed and out to the public turns out to be the toughest hurdle of all. And then, as if by sheer, grappling humanity, her characters go on, her films garner awards, become guideposts for other people, other filmmakers. They survive. They get better." Following up on jumping off bridges, she's currently braving capital letters, working on a comedy, Brain Brawl, and teaching at the Austin School of Film.

On a related note, a few words on New Day Films, "a sort of proto-feminist correction to the nominally available Hollywood distribution and exhibition channels."

Also in the Chronicle: Spencer Parsons talks with Julie Delpy about 2 Days in Paris.

Chicago 10 Brett Morgen's Chicago 10 "brings to life the various voices of dissent - including Yippie founders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, peace activists Rennie Davis, David Dellinger and Tom Hayden, and Black Panther chairman Bobby Seale - that have come to define the multivalent nature of the opposition," writes Nancy Spector. "These individuals and organizations embodied the spectrum of countercultural resistance, from pacifism to an Absurdist theatre of pure revelry to armed militancy. What comes across most clearly in Chicago 10 is their ability to cause a momentary breach in the political system, which simultaneously underestimated and overreacted to this call for change. Almost 40 years later such mass disturbance is impossible to imagine. The political machinery of the neo-con right, born out of the anarchy of 1968, has come to anticipate and control most forms of political protest."

Also in frieze, novelist Brian W Aldiss considers the long tradition of apocalyptic scenarios in literature and film and then writes, "The future itself has receded like a departing tide, leaving us on the dangerous sands of the present, where authors such as Geoff Ryman, Ken MacLeod, Iain Banks and Philip Pullman write of much that is happening now: if not a present, then an alternative present. It is no longer science fiction as we used to know it. The present has become our contemporary launch pad. Never has the transitory seemed more permanent."

Why are we "drowning in quirk," as Michael Hirschorn puts it for the Atlantic? "David Byrne probably birthed contemporary quirk around 1985 - halfway between his 'Psycho Killer' beginnings with the Talking Heads and his move to global pop - when he sang the song 'Stay Up Late': 'Cute, cute, little baby / Little pee-pee, little toes.'... Jon Cryer's 'Duckie' Dale in Pretty in Pink came a year later, and quirk was on its way." All your Sundance-launched favorites then come in for a good drubbing, though particular attention is paid to the ways Wes Anderson has wandered astray. Via Chris Barsanti.

"Condemning the Fox News Channel as a warmonger that's agitating for a US attack on Iran, documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald and independent US Sen Bernie Sanders announced an 'online viral video campaign' Wednesday calling on television news organizations 'not to follow Fox down the road to war again.'" For the AP, John Curran reports on Fox Attacks.

For the Philadelphia City Paper, Sam Adams talks with Annie Sundberg about The Devil Came on Horseback. Also: "An Inconvenient Truth is a much better movie than The 11th Hour, but The 11th Hour is a far more important one." More on that one from Jennifer Merin in the New York Press.

Also in the NYP, a take on the first three quarters of 2007 from Armond White: "Because the best movie this year so far has been Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz, the next-best entertainments from Norbit to I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry plus the audacity of both Resnais's Private Fears in Public Places and Verhoeven's Black Book, then several brilliant segments of The Ten and the expected excellence of The Simpsons Movie all give the impression that we are experiencing a renaissance of both high and low comedy. But now Death at a Funeral opens and wrecks the party."

For Filmmaker, Nick Dawson talks with Jon Voight "about September Dawn and his thoughts looking back over an illustrious, and ongoing, career."

Manufacturing Dissent Matthew Hays tells the story behind Manufacturing Dissent. Also in the Guardian, Ronald Bergan: "The most glamorous of the studios, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, which made 'beautiful pictures with beautiful people,' was where William Tuttle, who has died aged 95, worked for 35 years. He was head of the makeup department there from 1950 to 1969."

"Grace Paley, the celebrated writer and social activist whose acclaimed short stories explored in precise, pungent and tragicomic style the struggles of ordinary women muddling through everyday lives, died Wednesday at her home in Thetford Hill, VT," writes Margalit Fox for the New York Times. "She was 84 and lived most of her life in Manhattan before moving to Vermont in 1988."

The BBC: "Oscar-winning Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore is in hospital after being attacked and mugged on a street in Rome, according to local reports."

Suddenly, I'm modernly fabulous. Or at least I hope to be some day. Gabriel Shanks interviews me for his terrific Modern Fabulousity.

Online listening tip. For NPR, Karen Grigsby Bates reports on Bruce Watson's book Sacco & Vanzetti and Peter Miller's doc of the same name. Related: Novelist Andrea Camilleri in the New York Times.

"Listen and see." From Marc Lafia, Daniel Coffeen and Michael Chichi, the creators of artandculture, comes 3THINGS.

3THINGS

What is it? Lafia explains at Vinyl Is Heavy.

Online viewing tips, round 1. How Walt Disney Cartoons Are Made. Via Coudal Partners, also pointing to Saul Bass's title sequence for Seconds.

Online viewing tips, round 2. "Two short films by Maya Deren's husband [Alexander Hammid] are now available for viewing at Ubuweb," notes John Coulthart. "Of the pair of films, Na Prazskem Hrade (At Prague Castle, 1931) is the most interesting for this Prague fetishist, a disjointed study of the architecture of the city's castle which turns the building into an expressionist collage."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:19 PM

Fests and events, 8/23.

American Cinematic Experience "While hundreds of new independent festivals commence every year around the United States - some as economic boons for their communities, others as the equivalent of art-house substitutes in small markets - New York is saturated, with niche events often carved inside other niches," writes ST VanAirsdale. Nonetheless, as he reports in the New York Times, Tom O'Malley and Luke Szczygielski, having decided that New York "needed a home for modest American independents overlooked by mainstream monoliths like Tribeca and smaller festivals with more thematic or international interests," are giving it a go, launching the American Cinematic Experience this weekend.

And for Michael Cieply, Toronto's lineup shows "a skew toward markedly somber topics among Hollywood's offerings... During the last decade, the festival, now in its 32nd year, has emerged as the unofficial beginning of a six-month movie-awards cycle that culminates with the Oscar ceremony in late February.... This time around, the opening notes are a bit intense."

"Today marks opening day of the 2007 Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films & Short Film Market, also known as ShortFest," notes Lisa Rosen in the Los Angeles Times. "Running until Aug 29, the fest features more than 300 shorts from 40 countries, and 50 programs with themes ranging from romance to horror."

The North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival opens today and runs through Sunday. Neil Morris and Kathy Justice have a backgrounder and preview in the Independent Weekly.

Brian Brooks files from the Sarajevo Film Festival for indieWIRE: "Now entering its teens, SFF may not have yet reached the cache of some of its older and richer Western European brethren in Berlin, Edinburgh or San Sebastian, but for a city that only a little over a decade ago emerged from a three year siege that left thousands dead in its wake, SFF has amassed a world class event luring top-notch filmmakers and others for its relatively young 13th outing."

Shrooms From Edinburgh, it's Nick Dawson at Filmmaker on a couple of late night screenings. Shrooms "takes five American college students and their English friend in an eerie wood in a deserted corner of Ireland, adds some near lethal mushrooms, inbred locals and some seriously pissed-off ghosts and has a lot of fun with the situation." Weirdsville "is much more unconventional than Shrooms but has a sweet-natured, offbeat charm that I personally found irresistible."

Joe O'Connell tracks local goings on for the Austin Chronicle.

Focusing on depictions of women in the Middle East, Cathleen Rountree previews three Bay Area festivals, the Arab Film Festival (October 18 through November 4), the United Nations Association Film Festival (October 24 through 28). and the Global Lens film series (in November).

Posted by dwhudson at 2:33 PM

Critics, 8/23.

Bonnie et Clyde "What more insulting for New York critics and their acolytes than having the season's pet movie open in Texas and across the South prior to saturation in urban markets far better able to appreciate such ground-breaking artistry? The fact [that] Bonnie and Clyde went wide first in the South was something camp followers would never get over. To this day, they call it a black mark against Warners." John McElwee has a fascinating entry at Greenbriar Picture Shows on the studio's rollout and a few myths surrounding a long-faded revolution.

The Boston Phoenix's Gerald Peary lands a role in the movie, has fun with it and recalls past onscreen performances by film critics.

You may have heard about the Windmills of My Mind incident. If not, DK Holm will fill you in at the Vancouver Voice Blog. This, though, is the interesting part:

Updated through 8/25.

I don't know how many others are going to pick up on this story and pontificate on it, but one thing that needs to be said is that plagiarism of the gross kind that Mr Arlyn engaged in is not the real problem in contemporary film criticism. There is another kind, that is more pervasive and insidious and nearly invisible. That's the group think that sweeps across the nation as certain reviews and reviewers set the tone and limit the terms of response to a film. What these writers are doing is plagiarizing a tone, the way the Paulettes from long ago, and even to this day, took their cues from Pauline Kael's New Yorker reviews and her private exhortations. Plagiarists such as Mr Arlyn are always eventually caught out. Plagiarists of the second kind never are, yet can unduly influence the fortunes of a film. In this light, perhaps it's a good thing that no one pays attention to movie reviewers any more.

Your first thought might be: Are these really plagiarists - or simply pushovers? But passing off an idea, maybe even a tone as your own, unattributed... well, it's probably not actually plagiarism, but DK's is a provocative thought.

Update, 8/25: a target="_blank" href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2007/08/the_stepford_critics.html">Jim Emerson comments and then asks, "Are established critics and reviewers, and relatively new bloggers, plagued by unoriginality and sameness? Do they emphasize a restrictive or uniform perception for some films?"

Posted by dwhudson at 2:16 PM | Comments (1)

Russians, 8/23.

Franz + Polina "The battle between good and evil gets quite a workout in the 2007 Russian Resurrection Film Festival, the annual showcase of contemporary Russian cinema," writes Rosalie Higson in the Australian. Scroll down to the bottom of the article or sideways along the rather nifty site for the fest for dates; it's wandering all over the continent, as festivals tend to do down there. Via Movie City News.

"Now in its sixth year, the Pusto festival is being held this week at Dom Kommuny, a Constructivist student dormitory built in 1929 on Ulitsa Ordzhonikidze," reports Marina Kamenev for the Moscow Times. "The films are projected onto an outside wall of the building. The festival showcases the work of both Russian and international artists, including such Pusto veterans as director Yakov Kazhdan, who has participated in the festival from the start." Today through Saturday. Also: Alastair Gee on Andrei Konchalovsky's Gloss and Vladislav Lipovich talks with screenwriter Alexander Mindadze about the directorial debut he's taking to Venice: "Life in today's Russia is life in the wake of a major shock, he said, and exploring this 'aftershock existence' is one of the goals of Detachment."

Ignatius Vishnevetsky is "currently in my father's home town, Rostov-on-the-Don, a hilly city on built along the banks of a river in the South of Russia." He's been catching some TV - after all, some of it's quite good - and most recently, The Foundling, a film that's "childish in the most beautiful sense of the word."

For SF360, Dennis Harvey checks in on From the Tsars to the Stars: A Journey Through Russian Fantastik Cinema, at the Pacific Film Archive through the end of the month: "Some of these movies have kitschily dated aspects, occasionally because they resemble similar, familiar Hollywood flick-reflected through a cultural funhouse mirror. Many remain fascinating and delightful because they are just so profoundly different from the vast majority of such adventures made anywhere else, certainly in the West."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:07 PM

DVDs, 8/23.

Eyes Wide Shut Eyes Wide Shut is to see a new, unrated release on Region 1 DVD, and yesterday at Cinematical, Jeffrey M Anderson argued the case for the defense; today, Karina Longworth tells us she's been thinking off and on for some time about writing a book about Kubrick's last film, but...

Every time I gear myself up to actually do the writing, I inevitably lose confidence - something happens and I think, "Oh, nobody cares about that movie."

Jeffrey's post - and, especially, the comments it has engendered - has possibly convinced me otherwise. It's one thing for a couple of critics to remain fascinated by a widely-reviled film ten years after its release, but those comments suggest a common relief among Eyes Wide Shut lovers: they're all basically saying, "Finally, it's okay for me to come out of the closet about this."

Inland Empire "was an overwhelming experience on the big screen, a three-hour waking nightmare that derives both its form and its content from the splintering psyche of a troubled Hollywood actress, played by Laura Dern," writes Dennis Lim for Slate. "But the natural home for this shape-shifting epic may in fact be the small screen.... [Y]ou sense that this lurid, grubby fantasy springs from deep within the bowels of YouTube as much as from inside its heroine's muddy unconscious. The DV that Lynch has come to cherish is the medium of home movies, viral video, and pornography - the everyday media detritus we associate more with television and computer monitors than movie theaters, more with intimate or private viewing experiences than communal ones."

The Films of Michael Hanke "Kino's new box set The Films of Michael Haneke, covering the German-born, Austrian-raised director's major works from The Seventh Continent in 1989 to The Piano Teacher in 2001, is its own seductive and treacherous lotusland," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "It's a must-have item for cinephiles, but beware: Once you enter Haneke's world, it's not easy to get out." Also, The Call of Cthulhu is "sometimes funny but never a spoof."

In the New York Press, Matt Peterson blows a kiss to Facets and reviews American Revolution 2 and The Murder of Fred Hampton: "It feels alien to us now, but these films show a time when protests were literally dangerous—back when slang cut like a knife, the leaders were charismatic and convincing and 'the man' was genuinely fearful of what might happen."

"Hou [Hsiau-hsien]'s Three Times, which I've been viewing repeatedly in parts, is politically and historically informed like much of Hou's work and embodies his characteristic formalism," writes MS Smith.

Blake Ethridge vs Deep Discount DVD: Parts 1 and 2.

DVD roundup: Cinema Strikes Back.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:22 PM | Comments (5)

Deep Water.

Deep Water "In its calm and expert way, Deep Water confirms all the mythical terrors that lurk in our dreams of the sea, and the best person to watch it with would be Melville," writes Anthony Lane in the New Yorker.

"What really happened out there on the trimaran christened Teignmouth Electron, as it drifted toward South America and [Donald] Crowhurst began falsifying logbooks and transmitting unintelligible telegraph messages?" asks Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly. "It is the point - and the power - of Deep Water that the vast, unknowable fathoms of the sea are rivaled only by those of the human psyche."

Updated through 8/24.

"Given that the tedium of months on the open seas could and did drive a man insane, co-directors Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell have done a commendable job of making Deep Water... well, not boring," writes Julia Wallace in the Voice.

And Susan King talks with them for the Los Angeles Times.

Update: "Engrossing and insightful, it's a gut-wrenching case study in fatally boxing oneself into a corner," writes Nick Schager at Slant.

Updates, 8/24: Rachel Saltz in the New York Times: "Again and again you want to shout at the screen: 'Turn back. All will be forgiven.' This tale of risk, though, ends not with man conquering nature but in calamitous failure."

Online listening tip. Kenneth Turan on NPR; he's also got a review in the Los Angeles Times.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:11 AM

August 22, 2007

Interview. Jason Kohn.

"Every single documentary offers its own perspective on the truth. That's what makes cinema cinema. Right? If you're just looking to document completely dispassionately the evidence, cinema, movies - even documentaries - probably should not be where you're looking to work."

Manda Bala (Send a Bullet)

That's Jason Kohn, talking to David D'Arcy about his Grand Jury Prize-winner at Sundance, the viscerally visual essay on contemporary Brazil, Manda Bala (Send a Bullet). Questions of style aside, Kohn also tells him, "Corruption is actually one of the most violent crimes in the entire world, especially when the victims of this theft are amongst the poorest and most impoverished people in the world. You can't steal $2 billion from people who are hungry and don't have enough food to eat without there being unbelievably horrible repercussions. It's akin to war crimes, just in its scope and in its scale. To re-associate what corruption means, whether it's in Brazil, the United States, wherever, especially in the developing world - that ended up being the real point of the movie."

Updated through 8/24.

Earlier: "Manda Bala."

Update, 8/24: "Even with its occasional faults, Manda Bala does what documentaries do best - illuminate a intellectual or social situation that our otherwise narrow Western viewpoint would never even consider," writes Bill Gibron at PopMatters. "The visual beauty in the film - Brazil is one of the most inviting looking regions in the entire world - contrasted with the cynical, almost comic approach to the problems, lends to moments of well earned epiphany, as well as frequently flops back into directorial self-indulgence."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:43 PM

Shorts, 8/22.

The Illustrated Man Ray Bradbury turns 87 today, and he's "taking something of a victory lap, partly the result of mining his extensive files for rare and unfinished work," writes David Shaftel, who interviews the writer for the New York Times. "He will publish several long-forgotten works this summer, including experimental drafts and his earliest writings."

So Rod Lurie will be remaking Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. Premiere's Glenn Kenny outlines the many ways he simply does not get the original. Meanwhile: "Whenever you're dealing with the plot keywords 'fathers and sons' and 'sports,' the potential for emotional molestation is daunting, and Resurrecting the Champ doesn't defy any expectations on that count," writes Nick Pinkerton for indieWIRE.

FishbowlNY reports that New York Daily News [TV] film critic David Bianculli will be let go from the paper in October. He'll still have his NPR gig, though.

Acquarello reviews Alexander Kluge's The Assault of the Present on the Rest of Time, "an organic and fractured, yet humorous, intuitive, and poetic rumination on the integral - and correlative - nature of technology and (urban) identity, the intersection of film and new media in the creation of art, and the delusive quest to manipulate time."

Once Soundtrack Andrew Gilstrap talks with the Film Crew for PopMatters. Also, Bill Gibron reviews the soundtracks for Once, You're Gonna Miss Me and Kurt Cobain About A Son.

"The Devil Came on Horseback is a shattering experience," writes Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly. "It's a call to arms, an indictment of indifference, and a pointed answer to that nagging question we all seem to find ourselves shrugging our shoulders and asking these days: 'What good can one person do?'"

Nick Schager at Slant on Mr Bean's Holiday: "Rowan Atkinson's latest venture as the fumbling, bumbling British boob Mr Bean simply delivers more of the same awful mugging and simplistic pratfalls that have endeared the character to absolutely no one I know."

Online browsing, reading, listening, viewing and contemplating tip. "This is a web version of Aspen, a multimedia magazine of the arts published by Phyllis Johnson from 1965 to 1971. Each issue came in a customized box filled with booklets, phonograph recordings, posters, postcards - one issue even included a spool of Super-8 movie film. It's all here." Via wood s lot.

Online viewing tip. Brendon Connelly points to the trailer for Martin Scorsese's Stones doc, Shine a Light. As Brendon notes, there are some "truly hilarious" moments in this thing.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:15 AM | Comments (2)

Lists, 8/22.

The Last Winter As part of the San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Fall Arts Preview," Cheryl Eddy and Dennis Harvey each present an annotated list of ten movies they're looking forward to catching. Similarly, at Movie City News, Noah Forrest: "10 Movies To Keep An Eye On This Fall." And there's very little overlap, so that's nearly 30 movies to read about. Earlier: "EW. 'Fall Movies Preview.'"

Michael Atkinson carries on curating the "Long Take Hall of Fame."

A list that goes to 100: Total Film's "Greatest Directors Ever." Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

"Here's ten biographical pictures I'd love to see," lists Nathaniel R. "Some are really happening. Others are lost dreams."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:21 AM | Comments (2)

Fests and events, 8/22.

Toronto International Film Festival "349 films from 55 countries are set for the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, organizers are revealing this morning in Canada," reports Eugene Hernandez. "'There is a lot of soul-searching and a lot of extremely gifted, overwhelmingly passionate cinema in the festival this year, TIFF co-director Noah Cowan told indieWIRE in a conversation yesterday. 'These are filmmakers who are out to transform the way we see the world, they are out to make a difference.' As previously announced, the event will kick-off with Canadian Jeremy Podeswa's Fugitive Pieces on September 6 and close with Paolo Barzman's Emotional Arithmetic on September 15, 2007."

"The old, weird Sound Unseen Music & Film Festival - of course I mean that as a compliment - kicks off at the Riverview on Wednesday night with 7 Nights in the Entry, Rick Fuller's latest rock-doc as archaeological dig, culled from a week's worth of videotapes shot at the 7th St Entry in 1981 and thus eligible for future repackaging as The Decline of Midwestern Civilization," notes Rob Nelson, introducing the City Pages preview of the fest that runs through Sunday.

At european-films.net, Boyd van Hoeij notes that Amos Gitai's Désengagement (Disengagement) with Juliette Binoche has been added to the Venice lineup.

In the run-up to The Best of NewFest@BAM (September 7 through 9), NewFest launches a series of short interviews with a few of the featured filmmakers.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian's Johnny Ray Huston has "58 ways to rep Bay Area film this fall."

Neil Young indexes his Edinburgh coverage.

At SF360, Claire Faggioli talks with "our very favorite Hostess with the Mostest, the exceedingly lovely Peaches Christ."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:56 AM

August 21, 2007

Shorts, 8/21.

Der Vorleser "Nicole Kidman and Ralph Fiennes will star in love story The Reader for the Weinstein Co," reports Michael Fleming for Variety. "Stephen Daldry will direct David Hare's adaptation of the bestselling novel by German writer Bernhard Schlink."

Also, "Rob Marshall and Harvey Weinstein have begun assembling the cast for Nine." And they're talking to Penélope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Javier Bardem, Sophia Loren and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Michael Tolkin's adapted the original Broadway musical inspired by Fellini's .

Meanwhile, Anne Thompson reports that Sony Pictures Classics has picked up North American rights to Jonathan Demme's Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains: "Invited by Participant to follow ex-president Carter's recent controversial book tour for Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Demme and a camera crew led by Declan Quinn filmed an intimate portrait of Carter as he dealt with the slings and arrows generated by his provocative public appearances across the country."

"Richard Stanley's strange and tortuous career seems in many ways to typify the erratic trajectory of an artistically inclined genre director struggling on the fringes of the mainstream," writes Tom Huddleston, introducing his extensive interview at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. "His edgy, self-serious but steadfastly entertaining apocalyptic narratives resist easy categorisation, as do his playful, shambolic documentaries."

"How could MGM's premiere laugh team of two seasons and an unbroken chain of seven hits come to be so utterly discarded and forgotten? How does a leading Metro star in 1929 end up selling hot dogs just outside the studio gate five years later?" At Greenbriar Picture Shows, John McElwee retraces the story of the team of Karl Dane and George K Arthur.

"A spectre is haunting contemporary cinema: the shaky shot," notes David Bordwell, who offers some "some historical perspective and a little analysis."

"Fatwas and Islamist fury have not deterred Pakistani audiences from queuing up in record numbers for Khuda Kay Liye (In the Name of God), a slickly packaged three-hour-long polemic that is riling the mullahs and has become the Pakistani film industry's biggest blockbuster, counting even Pakistan's president, Gen Pervez Musharraf, among its fans," reports Fasih Ahmed for Newsweek.

Reprise "The Norwegian national film awards, the Amandas, were handed out during a ceremony at the Haugesund Film Festival last Friday," notes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "Big winner of the evening was Joachim Trier's Reprise with three awards: Best Film, Best Director for Trier and Best Screenplay for Trier and screenwriter Eskil Vogt." Also, a preview of Hans Weingartner's Free Rainer (Reclaim Your Brain).

Michael Guillén has a good talk with Jack Hill about Warners, Francis Ford Coppola and the film he's been trying to realize for 20 years.

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin (and in German), Max Fellmann and Jan Heidtmann have a long talk with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus about the reasons he's leaving Hollywood: "The decision was actually made two years ago, during the filming of The Departed. I'll turn 72 this year, I've shot nearly 100 films, I've actually accomplished just about everything one can accomplish in this vocation. And Departed was a very stressful, very hard shoot. We shot up to 18 hours at a stretch. At my age, you're up and on the set at 4 in the morning and you think to yourself: Is this really necessary anymore?"

For Film International, Amy Lai offers a close reading of Crying Out Love, In the Centre of the World, "one of the major jun'ai [pure love] films of 2004" in Japan.

"It's clear that Venom and Eternity is a philosophic film of an unusual order," writes Alex at motion picture, it's called.

Cineuropa's new "Film in Focus": Philippe Leclerc's Princess of the Sun.

"Even in a town as enamored of hyperbole as this one, it is probably true, as his agent likes to say, that at 91 Horton Foote is the oldest living screenwriter in Hollywood." A profile from Alex Witchel for the New York Times Magazine.

And in the paper:

I'm Not There

  • John Anderson talks with Harvey Weinstein about his strategy for opening Todd Haynes's I'm Not There. Once it opens at Film Forum on November 21, it "will be opening the movie in just three other theaters, one more in New York and two in Los Angeles, giving it the kind of debut that might be afforded a Mexican documentary." But Weinstein argues, "With a movie like this you have to build it." And as many are alerting even now, the trailer's out.

  • "Like Douglas Sirk without the throw pillows, Sunflower is a shamelessly old-fashioned melodrama performed with such sincerity that resistance is futile," writes Jeannette Catsoulis. "Following a troubled father-son relationship over more than 30 years in post-Cultural Revolution Beijing, the movie utilizes a simple dramatic structure to support a narrative filled with tumultuous social change." More from Rob Humanick in Slant: "Were the film's visual aesthetics a match for its emotional ones, Sunflower might have been something for the books."

  • Matt Zoller Seitz on Them: "It has no larger agenda. It's not an allegory, a satire or a commentary. It's just a modestly relentless suspense picture that propels its characters through a series of dreamscapes: a haunted house, a spooky forest, a dungeon of sorts. A large part of its effectiveness stems from the initially inscrutable nature of the threat." More from robbiefreeling, blogging for Reverse Shot: "In a summer of garbage like Hostel Part Two and Joshua, Them isn't a revelation for horror, but it's a welcome return to form."

    "The Last Legion, a sword-and-sandal spectacle from those epic-loving De Laurentiises, invokes a lot of better movies on its circuitous trip from the Roman empire to the Arthurian legend, but it doesn't do the one bit of borrowing that could have made this journey enjoyable," sighs Neil Genzlinger.

  • "Thor Halvorssen, a half-Norwegian Venezuelan, is a conservative operating in fields more often associated with liberals, a scion of wealth and privilege who champions the underdog and the powerless, and a polemicist who loves a lively argument," writes John Strausbaugh. "Since 2005, having already founded two nonprofit organizations focused on free speech and human-rights issues, Mr Halvorssen has made the movie business part of his portfolio of controversy-stirring efforts. Established with a small amount of his money, his nonprofit Moving Picture Institute has raised about $1.5 million in donations to date to pay for, promote and seek distribution for documentary films."

  • Reviewing As You Like It, Virginia Heffernan focuses on how Kenneth Branagh has "slashed passages of the repartee that defines Rosalind." Related: "In concept and execution it's a pale reflection of Branagh's earlier work, suggesting that the director himself, like Shakespeare's wanderers in the Forest of Arden, may have gotten lost in the woods," writes Andrea Gronvall in the Chicago Reader.

  • "Suddenly a renewed fascination with matrimony spans the spectrum from premium cable networks like HBO and Showtime to even the flimsiest of celebrity reality shows on VH1," writes Alessandra Stanley. "Colder, unsentimental, almost cruel in their gaze, these shows have replaced the solipsistic pillow talk between Hope and Michael on Thirtysomething with tableaus of repression and neurosis."

  • Luc Sante reviews On the Road: The Original Scroll: "It is a dazzling piece of writing for all of its rough edges, and, stripped of affectations that in the novel can sometimes verge on bathos, as well as of gratuitous punctuation supplied by editors more devoted to rules than to music, it seems much more immediate and even contemporary.... The novel that On the Road became was inarguably the book that young people needed in 1957, but the sparse and unassuming scroll is the living version for our time." Also, Matt Weiland on John Leland's Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think): "This is Post-it note criticism."

  • "Max Roach, a founder of modern jazz who rewrote the rules of drumming in the 1940's and spent the rest of his career breaking musical barriers and defying listeners' expectations, died early today in Manhattan," writes Peter Keepnews. "He was 83." More from Ronald Atkins in the Guardian: "Bebop's doubling the number of beats created space that encouraged the drummer to overlap between bars, and Roach did so with an endless array of fill-ins and paradiddles. Inventiveness and technical dexterity were equally balanced in his solos, which he built with impeccable logic." Related online listening: All Things Considered, a 75th birthday tribute in 2001 and a 1987 appearance on Fresh Air. More from Premiere's Glenn Kenny and from John Andrews at the WSWS.

  • Randal Stross reports on the state of video-on-demand: "All is ready - except an unstinting supply of movies. The studios have balked."

  • "Hollywood's squabble over which of two technologies will replace standard DVDs reignited Monday with two studios throwing their weight behind one format and several rivals ramping up support for the other," reports Brooks Barnes. "Paramount, part of Viacom, and the publicly held DreamWorks Animation said they would exclusively back the HD DVD format for the release of high-definition movies on disc," even though "Blu-ray titles are sharply outselling HD offerings, major retailers like Target are stocking only Blu-ray players, and Blockbuster recently said it would carry Blu-ray exclusively."

  • "As video games have surged in popularity in recent years, politicians around the country have tried to outlaw the sale of some violent games to children," writes Seth Schiesel. "So far all such efforts have failed."

"Gangland violence shreds a community and shatters a family in Splinter, the feature debut of Michael D Olmos," writes Lael Loewenstein. "Despite some imaginative elements and a knockout performance by Tom Sizemore, Splinter feels very much like a first effort. With its recycled themes and muddled storyline generating a cascade of unanswered questions, the film is more about style than substance."

Drama/Mex Also in the , Sam Adams on Drama/Mex, whose "fatal weakness for melodrama sinks any pretense at realism," and Mark Olsen on 7 Días, "the disappointingly flat debut feature from Mexican writer and director Fernando Kalife"; at any rate, Reed Johnson talks with Kalife.

"These Foolish Things is a rather foolish little movie, but eventually almost charming in spite of itself," writes David Wiegand in the San Francisco Chronicle. "They don't make 'em like this anymore. Come to think of it, they never did. Come to think of it, they probably shouldn't.

"Could there be any more pitiful irony than that cinematic godhead Kenneth Anger, visionary master of the dark arts, has been trapped within a slapdash blue-screen-and-talking-head documentary that could barely past muster as a DVD bonus feature?" asks Ed Halter. "Anthology can't be blamed for running Anger Me... But there's little here that will inform the true avant-fan, and much sloppy filigree that will annoy."

Also in the Voice:

Acquarello: "Intentions of Murder bears the characteristic imprint of Shohei Imamura's recurring preoccupations: the sensuality and resilience of women, the manifestation of individualism in a codified society, the idiosyncrasies and primitive instinctuality that define human behavior."

"On a scale of one to 10, The King of Kong scores one million," writes Robert Cashill. "This open-hearted account, with its fallible, funny cast of quintessentially American oddballs, understands that everyone has a reason, and gives them their due." More from Dennis Harvey at SF360. Related: Matt Singer talks with director Seth Gordon for IFC News.

"Although the obituaries of cinema have been somewhat premature, it is, paradoxically, those who have proclaimed its death who have done most to revivify it," blogs Ronald Bergan.

In the Guardian itself:

24 Hour Party People

  • Steve Coogan, who played Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People, remembers the man from Manchester: "Tony was the apotheosis of those baby boomers who wanted to reach beyond their background and find the poetry in this post-industrial landscape. He gave confidence and legitimacy to an army of haltingly insecure men."

  • "Sparkle is funny, likable and watchable, with some nice performances, particularly from Bob Hoskins as a lovelorn older man," writes Peter Bradshaw. "But I couldn't help feeling that [Neil] Hunter and [Tom] Hunsinger have been encouraged down a slightly unchallenging rom-com route."

  • "[W]hy can't women in action movies ever do anything useful?" asks Sarah Churchwell. "The most amazing thing Julia Stiles does in The Bourne Ultimatum is get second billing."

  • "The doorstop novel, the all-day theatre marathon, the three-and-a-half-hour film - all seem to be a bigger draw than ever before," observes Mark Ravenhill.

  • Emma Brockes meets Jamie Bell.

  • Peter Bradshaw recalls some of the worst screen chemistry he's ever had to bear.

"I'm Through with White Girls has cleaned up on the black film fest circuit this summer, taking home prizes at the Hollywood, Roxbury and Martha's Vineyard black fests." Brandon Harris talks with producer Phyllis Johnson and director Jen Sharpe.

Chrissy Iley meets Aaron Eckhart for the Observer.

Gill Pringle profiles Chris Cooper for the Independent.

Adam Ross's interviewee this week: Joe Valdez.

Johnny Got His Gun Kevin Lee makes a strong case for a DVD release for Johnny Got His Gun.

"Because of Rain Man, a lot of people think having an autistic child is a life sentence to frustrated yelling and unrequited affection, with the occasional feat of mathematical wizardry," blogs Noel Murray at the AV Club. "[W]hat bothers me about Rain Man is the same thing that's bothersome about nearly every autism film of recent vintage. With the pointed exception of Snow Cake - which at least acknowledges that its autistic heroine takes genuine pleasure in her stereotypy - autism-themed dramas are primarily about the non-autistic."

"Like an alcoholic prone to binging, I go through a Carnival of Souls jag every couple of years," writes Richard Harland Smith at Movie Morlocks.

Cashiers du Cinemart: the first issue in nearly three years, #15, is out and about.

"Gauri Sathe and Shreekant Pol, my friends, mentors, and Indian cinema gurus whom I met during my days at Metropolitan College of New York's Media Management program, are now collaborating with Indiepix to bring their Indie India Collection direct to viewers via DVD and Download-to-Own technology," writes the Film Panel Notetaker.

Signandsight translates a bit of Tamas Vajna's interview with Miklós Jancsó for the Hungarian magazine HVG.

"It's a simple, unpretentious and endearing film about a now unfashionable game, and the underdogs who play it - be they Muslims, tribals, small-town girls or hailing from obscure corners of the country's Northeast." Namrata Joshi opens Outlook India's package on the international hit Chak De India. Also: interviews with screenwriter Jaideep Sahni and director Shimit Amin and another interview with Shah Rukh Khan, while Alam Srinivas draws parallels between the coach he plays with real life hockey coach Greg Chappell.

Doonesbury Online snickering tip. Yesterday's Doonesbury.

Online gazing tip. Howard Schatz shoots Joan Allen.

Online viewing tip. The trailer for Freedom on the Fence, "a documentary project about the history of Polish posters and their significance to the social, political and cultural life of Poland." Via wood s lot.

Online viewing tips, round 1. "Screen Legends" on Charlie Rose.

Online viewing tips, round 2. A music video and a trailer for The Shadow Effect accompany Mike Everleth's consideration of the work of Jared Varava.

Online viewing tips, round 3. The Guardian's Kate Stables has got seven.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:02 PM

DVDs, 8/21.

Animation Edition 2007 "The exact moment when I decided to study cinema is very clearly imprinted in my memory," writes Maria Komodore at Pixel Vision. "It occurred three years ago while I was watching Man Ray films.... Independent Exposure's Animation Edition 2007 - a series of short animations series that Microcinema Inc has compiled on DVD and will also be showing all around the world - made me relive that moment."

"On August 27, 2007, our friends at the Mondo Macabro DVD label will be releasing The Blood Rose, another obscure horror film that they have rescued from the dustbin of history, given a digital clean-up, and unleashed upon an unsuspecting public," writes Jeff at Cinema Strikes Back. "The Blood Rose is an interesting variation on Eyes Without a Face that will be of particular interest to fans of atmospheric Euro-horror."

"What better way to celebrate a happy ending to the Bava book auction, and to start a new week, than to make an important announcement about Anchor Bay Entertainment's forthcoming October release of Mario Bava's Erik the Conqueror (Gli invasori, 1961)?" asks Tim Lucas.

"Rob Zombie is a genre archivist," writes Bill Gibron at PopMatters. "Name an obscure or forgotten horror/exploitation film from the 30s - 80s, and he's probably seen it, memorized it, and pulled the best bits out to form his own unique aesthetic." Also, The Lives of Others.

For IFC News, Michael Atkinson reviews Inland Empire: "Set aside the consideration of things 'Lynchian' - an art-culture realm that will doubtless survive us all - and you're still faced with perhaps the most defiant and uncompromised voice in modern American cinema." Then James Bai's Puzzlehead is honorably mentioned.

"Padded with stock footage, diluted with studio-dictated second-unit material, and saddled with a whack-ass, flag-waving ending, the 1962 Merrill's Marauders is one of director Samuel Fuller's more compromised films," writes Glenn Kenny in a "Foreign-Region DVD Report." "Still, it's got a relentless forward push and more than a few moments of pure Fuller force."

"Personally, I'd take Fuller's films over the complete oeuvres of Billy Wilder, Elia Kazan or Frank Capra," declares Patrick Z McGavin. " For this reason alone, the new stripped-down box set from Criterion, The First Films of Samuel Fuller, is essential viewing."

Also at Stop Smiling: For Sean Howe, Volume 4 of Warners' Film Noir Classics Collection is a "clutch of films that center on the everyman (postmen, druggists, physicians and vets)." And then there's Michael A Gonzalez's "Ode to Shaft."

DVD roundups: DVD Talk, plus a "Huge Anime Review Roundup."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:11 PM

Lists, 8/21.

Bicycle Thieves "Move over Hollywood. Step aside Pinewood. Foreign films are moving into the mainstream and attracting cinemagoers as never before." Okay. Almost as if it were timed to coincide with Edward Copeland's foreign film poll, Rob Sharp gets all bullish on foreign-language movies and, further down that same page, Robert Hanks lists his top ten.

"Like some monstrous regiment hell bent on celebrity and the perfect Caesar salad, chefs have marched out of the kitchen and on to the big and small screen in unprecedented number," notes Jan Moir, an award-winning chef himself, in the Financial Times.

Related, and via Bookforum: Victorino Matus in the Weekly Standard: "How did we get from Julia Child and Jacques Pépin to the more than 30 celebchefs now featured at the local bookstore? What was the turning point and who caused it? What of the impact of this celebrity chef culture on future generations of culinary school students? Won't they all want to skip restaurant work and demand their own shows? In short, have we gone completely and irrevocably insane over food and the people who make it?"

At Cinematical, Jeffrey M Anderson offers a list of seven "Great Directors Working as Actors for Other Directors." Related: Matt Singer and Alison Willmore's IFC News podcast.

For PopMatters, Bill Gibron lists ten directors who once "had success branded on their backside, and nothing could stop them from achieving their place among the savants of cinema - nothing except a single horrendous film."

"Favorite Pacino performances? Pacino or Nicholson? Show all work." Carrie Rickey draws in a string of comments.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:53 PM

Fests and events, 8/21.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly "[L]ong before I had made it to Cannes, Berlin or any of the other old-world European fests, it was the NYFF that most seemed to me like a temple where cinema was worshipped with due reverence," writes Scott Foundas at the Reeler. "When Richard Peña called me this past spring to invite me on to the selection committee, I did not hesitate. Of the selection process itself, I suspect what may surprise people most is that it is not fraught with compromise - at least not this year, when the overall quality of movies was so high that our most difficult discussions centered around which titles to exclude from the final program, rather than trying to make cases (as I am assured happens in many years) for inclusion. Does that mean we all love each of the 30 films equally? Of course not. But speaking just for myself, there is not a single movie in that lineup that I feel doesn't belong there."

At the House Next Door, Keith Uhlich previews one of those 30 films, Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: "Reaching for the stars, he ends up with little more than a Miramaxed pastiche: The Sea Inside by way of Lady in the Lake."

Back at the Reeler:

Andrew Robinson: Satyajit Ray "The UCLA film archive is in the midst of its Festival of Preservation, and last weekend, it exhibited two rare short features Satyajit Ray released in 1965 as a double bill," writes Doug Cummings. "Kapurush (74 minutes) and Mahapurush (65 minutes) are narrative sketches that allowed Ray to subtly experiment with form and style; as such, they worked against expectations at the time ('Many of Ray's critics think that Ray is making too many films in too short a span of time,' scoffed one Bengali journalist) and were largely dismissed upon their release. But according to Andrew Robinson's book on Ray, the filmmaker said, 'These are twin films I have considerable affection for; I have a pretty high opinion of Kapurush myself and I was disappointed by the response.' I'm leaning toward Ray's assessment."

Dead Channels, the San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film, wrapped last week, and now, the winners of the audience awards have been announced: Best Feature Film is Chris Stapp's The Devil Dared Me To (site); Best Short Film - it's a tie: Richard Gale's Criticized and Simon Rumley's The Handyman.

And for those in the San Francisco Bay Area, once again, Brian Darr has your essential roundup. Meanwhile, the celebration of the Castro's 85th anniversary carries on at the Evening Class with Adam Hartzell's five favorite memories minted at the theater.

For the Independent, Charlotte Cripps previews the London International Animation Festival, opening today and running through Sunday.

The Lumière Reader files another batch of dispatches from the Telecom 2007 New Zealand International Film Festivals.

Brick Lane "Controversial British film Brick Lane will have its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month," reports the BBC. "Attempts to film Monica Ali's acclaimed novel drew protests from residents of the real Brick Lane in east London, who said the book was 'insulting.'"

Reviewing Beneath the Rooftops of Paris, Dan Fainaru catches up with Locarno leftovers for Screen Daily: "This study of old age and solitude finds exiled Kurdish director Hiner Saleem divesting himself of the mischievous drive and wicked sense of humour which permeated such earlier efforts as Vodka Lemon and Kilometre Zero." Also, The Drummer: "Conceived as a vehicle for Jaycee Chan (Jackie Chan's son) but more likely to serve as a showcase for the talents of the U Theatre drummers, this gangster-movie-meets-rites-of-initiation picture has a hard time deciding which way to go among the variety of options it attempts to explore."

At indieWIRE, Brian Brooks previews the Sarajevo Film Festival, running through August 25.

The first Croatian Film Festival will take place in New York from September 13 through 16.

Online viewing tips. Mike Everleth's got the trailer for the San Francisco Underground Short Film Festival, which launches at 12:00 am on September 1, "as the concluding event of Midnight Mass run by the indomitable Peaches Christ." Then, another one, a gory one, for the Sydney Underground Film Festival (September 7 through 10).

Posted by dwhudson at 2:35 PM | Comments (1)

Dedication.

Dedication "Inland Empire's Justin Theroux pops his directorial cherry with this obnoxious Sundance throwaway, a by-the-numbers romantic comedy that mistakenly believes it's either too quirky or too irreverent to be a by-the-numbers romantic comedy," writes Aaron Hillis in the Voice.

"Though smug and attention-grubbing in equal measures, inviting comparisons to Burr Steers's abhorrent Igby Goes Down, Dedication at least deploys the darling chemistry between [Billy] Crudup and [Mandy] Moore to good effect, softening the blow of the dialogue's mean-spiritededness," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant.

Via SXSW's revived News Reel: Edward Douglas talks with Theroux for ComingSoon.net.

Updated through 8/24.

Updates, 8/23: Eric Kohn, writing in the New York Press, notes the point at which "the seams of Dedication start to come apart. Replacing his passion for writing with a hopelessly juvenile romantic wild goose chase, Henry makes a decision that alters the movie's initially engaging trajectory."

"Dedication wants to be an endearingly quirky character study in which expressionistic aesthetics lend lyricism to the saga of weird individuals struggling to attain personal contentment and fulfillment," writes Nick Schager for Cinematical. "What it actually is, however, is an unoriginal romantic comedy that vainly attempts to mask its conventionality with all manner of eccentricities."

"Women in romantic comedies always choose the fucked-up guy at the end," notes Annaliese Griffin at the Reeler. Dedication "paints a darker, more intellectually driven picture for its mismatched-but-perfect-for-another lovers, but nonetheless sticks to the girl-falls-for-disaster formula." More from Michelle Orange: "Between Julie Delpy two weeks ago and Ben Affleck this coming fall, you'd think the cream of the mid-90s indie sweetheart scene was having a midlife career crisis. Judging from most of these efforts, the directors are having a crisis - a mid-90s, indie sweetheart crisis."

Update, 8/24: "Following on the wildly successful antifeminist heels of Knocked Up, Hollywood is falling over itself to introduce beautiful, smart young women to useless, possibly brain-damaged young men," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times. "Dedication is almost saved by David Bromberg's tart dialogue and exceptional acting from its three leads." But, no.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:38 PM

The Nanny Diaries.

The Nanny Diaries "The Nanny Diaries, based on Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus's best-selling novel (a roman à clef), is a grim slog," writes David Edelstein in New York. "Most American movies downplay issues of class and privilege; this one creates museum tableaux to illustrate them. But what follows is nothing but stereotypes - and an argument for why anthropology should inform drama rather than shape it. Your first look at a character tells you everything you need to know. As you watch the nannies mistreated and the children left to cry themselves to sleep, the only surprise is that there are no surprises. It's zombie-land."

Also: Bilge Ebiri's "guide to how accurately (or implausibly) other films have tackled New York worlds."

Updated through 8/27.

The movie actually improves on the book "in several key respects," argues Scott Foundas in the Voice. "Chiefly, it makes Nanny into a more appealing figure (and not just because she's played by Scarlett Johansson)... [Shari Springer] Berman and [Robert] Pulcini, former documentarians who segued to features with the beautifully rendered American Splendor, can spin only so much cinematic silk from literary leather."

Earlier: Melena Ryzik's interview with Berman and Pulcini for the New York Times.

Updates, 8/22: "Shifting between broad farce and tender romance, the comedy throws off some droll barbs on the emotional poverty of Manhattan's rich, but delivers few genuine laughs," writes David D'Arcy for Screen Daily. "[S]entiment disappointingly eclipses satire, and the movie's promising edge surrenders to a happy ending as a nanny saves the world, one over-privileged family at a time."

"Annie is introduced to a New York City environ whose rituals she pours over with the awe of someone who's never ventured above Union Square or never seen a Woody Allen movie in her entire life," notes Ed Gonzalez in his two-out-of-four star review for Slant.

Alonso Duralde, writing for MSNBC, American Splendor is "one of the best movies made in this country in the last five years. And while Nanny Diaries doesn't represent a horrible sophomore slump, it's certainly a letdown by comparison.... Here's hoping that the very talented Springer and Pulcini get a crack at a script that's worthy of their talents for their third time at bat."

Updates, 8/23: In the New York Press, Armond White argues that the film "restore[s] Johansson's humanity" and "breaks movie culture's unspoken taboo against class consciousness."

Reviewing the movie for Time, Richard Schickel finds it "much better than a slick adaptation of a best-selling novel has any right to be."

Ryan Stewart interviews Berman and Pulcini for Cinematical.

"[M]iddle-class strife is contrasted with Park Avenue snobbery, but a complacent tone homogenizes both realms," writes Eric Kohn at the Reeler. "A blatantly parodic moment finds Mr X's mother on the beach reading the Diaries novel, practically suggesting that the filmmakers, devoid of new ideas, are desperately trying to tap a well that was dry in the first place."

"It should have been a snappy, catty diversion on the order of The Devil Wears Prada," writes Slate's Dana Stevens. "Yet watching the movie is a nonexperience - like the Upper East Side apartment where most of the action takes place, it's lavishly appointed but joyless."

Updates, 8/24: It's a "plodding and generic adaptation, which by rights should have been pure, eat-the-rich summer fun," writes Carina Chocano, notes a few changes the story's undergone on its way to the screen in the Los Angeles Times. "Morphing Nanny from a college student gaining valuable experience in her chosen field to an insecure, directionless post-grad comes off as the mother of all pulled punches. It was interesting to ponder the shock and awe of a well-adjusted member of the liberal meritocracy as she sank deeper into the maw of the insanely privileged classes. It's considerably less so to be presented with a classic master-slave dichotomy."

"As this exposé of the rich and miserable on the Upper East Side wobbles along uncertainly, it rests on the tense, squared shoulders of Laura Linney," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "Ms Linney defies a screenplay that paints her character, Mrs X, a Park Avenue socialite, as a monstrous control freak. She is a smart, flexible actress who invests her role, a composite of former employers of the novel's authors, with enough humanity to arouse some pity."

Salon's Stephanie Zacharek finds Nanny "more enjoyable than slick, aggressively hyped duds like The Devil Wears Prada. It may be polished, but unlike that picture, it doesn't feel canned."

Update, 8/25: Sandy Cohen talks with Johansson and notes that she isn't the only indie actress who occasionally breaks out in song.

Update, 8/27: "We wait for some sort of commanding narrative to take hold," sighs David Denby in the New Yorker. "Alas, none does."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:32 PM

The Hottest State.

The Hottest State "Unsurprisingly for a film written and directed by Ethan Hawke that's also based on his vaguely autobiographical 1997 novel, The Hottest State is thoroughly infused with its creator's pretentious indie-bohemian persona," writes Nick Schager at Slant.

"Although I drive past the corner of Bedford Avenue and Broadway (the Brooklyn one) on a daily basis, I've yet to encounter two hipsters whose cultivated inauthenticity is quite as palpable and grating as Catalina Sandino Moreno and Mark Webber's couple in Ethan Hawke's overlong and mildly indulgent adaptation of his own source material," writes Brandon Harris.

Updated through 8/27.

But for Aaron Hillis, writing in the Voice, "Hawke quite capably taps into the bittersweet complexities of young, love-struck idiocy." Sure, "It's achingly sincere, which isn't to say that Hawke's Tennessee Williams–quoting, overwrought script isn't as purple as Prince's rain and littered with dramatic shortcuts... Give the guy some credit, though: When you hit rock bottom with your first feature, the only way to go is up."

Updates, 8/23: "Like Julie Delpy, Hawke's costar in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (whose current release 2 Days in Paris also tracks a troubled couple), Hawke has examined the semi-cynical take on long-term relationships put forth in the aforementioned Richard Linklater-directed yarns and transplanted it into an unhappier situation," notes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "The ongoing intimate blabber eventually gets tiring - once we see it coming there's nothing left to happen except the inevitable argument and acceptance - but State remains perceptive."

Online listening tip. Hawke's a guest on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Michelle Orange at the Reeler: "It's difficult to determine how much of the erratic behavior on display in The Hottest State... is meant to be attributed to love, and how much to being 21, but at a certain point irritation (or hindsight) takes over and it hardly matters."

Updates, 8/24: "Hawke knows where his own strengths lie," argues Michael Koresky at indieWIRE. "This is tender, fragile stuff, and it does flirt with overt solipsism, yet Hawke, who also does some nice supporting work as William's gravelly-voiced absentee father, pulls it off. The storytelling isn't necessarily fluid, but each scene moves ahead with the force of its characters' desires, confusions and yearnings."

"Nearly two hours long, with a tenuous narrative continuity, The Hottest State, whose title refers both to passion and to Texas, is far more coherent than Mr Hawke's 2001 directorial debut, Chelsea Walls," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "At around the halfway point, however, its characters' haranguing voices begin to grate on you. People in their early 20s, even pretty people, lose their appeal when they dwell this obsessively on their own inchoate turmoil."

"As a director, Hawke has a tendency to gild the lily until it's hard and heavy as a bludgeon," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times. "But as William's feckless dad, who remarried and all but forgot about his unmoored son, he is quite touching."

Update, 8/25: ST VanAirsdale talks with Webber at the Reeler.

Updates, 8/27: "The Hottest State is one of the most inauthentic films I've seen in a long time," writes Ryan Stewart at Cinematical.

Catalina Sandino Moreno "has near top billing in two major upcoming productions: Mike Newell's adaptation of the Gabriel García Márquez novel Love in the Time of Cholera and Soderbergh's Guerilla," notes Marcy Dermansky. "For now, however, it's a simple pleasure to watch her face in Ethan Hawke's The Hottest State... It's one hundred percent understandable why young William falls hard for Sarah.... It's when the two fall out of love that the tedium takes hold."

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

Right at Your Door.

Right at Your Door "Citizens of Los Angeles: You are screwed," announces Chuck Wilson from the safety of the NYC's Voice. "Three 'dirty' bombs have gone off around the city... As setups go, this one, devised by art director (Minority Report) turned writer-director Chris Gorak, is terribly precious, and in a less threatening age might have been an easy one to shrug off... The ending, by the way, is ridiculous (let's hope), yet totally unnerving."

"Right at Your Door never even begins to answer the questions it obviously provokes," writes Michael Joshua Rowin for indieWIRE. "9/11 iconography - toxic ash, government lies, frantic and poignant phone calls - is employed, but without a solid humanistic (War of the Worlds) or mythic (Children of Men) foundation Right at Your Door floats in an awkward limbo state."

Updated through 8/26.

Nick Schager in Slant: "Stuck with two irritating characters (proficiently embodied by [Rory] Cochrane and [Mary] McCormack) and a narrative with muddled things to say about love and sacrifice and an undeveloped view of law enforcement as a threat rather than a help, the film eventually seems unsure of where it should go, a situation that - unfortunately, given the high-wire opening - is resolved via a deflating Rod Serling-style twist."

Update, 8/22: IndieWIRE interviews Gorak.

Updates, 8/24: "The film, especially in its resolution, feels a bit like a Twilight Zone episode and might have been better at that length, but the acting's pretty good, and the cinematography keeps things lively," writes Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times.

"Gripping at first, the film turns pointless and mundane by almost imperceptible degrees; only at the very end, with its ironic Twilight Zone twist, do you finally realize that you've been had," writes Mike D'Angelo at Nerve.

"Cochrane and McCormack have zero chemistry and their characters are so different that they never compute as a couple," writes Pam Grady in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Updates, 8/26: "Not to belabor this point, but the Twilight Zone analogy is so apt, in fact - the focus of the film is completely on two characters, there's a ticking-clock situation, and there's the moral paradox offered up for the audience to chew on - that if a thirty-minute cut of the film were presented as the opening episode of a New, New Twilight Zone, I imagine it would get solid reviews for upholding the basic framework of the old show," writes Ryan Stewart at Cinematical. "As a feature film, Right at Your Door is manipulative, to be sure, but also clever enough to be fun - and the whole thing benefits hugely from solid acting by both McCormack and Cochrane, who have to scream, cry, panic, collapse into depression and perform just about every other kind of big acting move that you can imagine."

Choire Sicha talks with McCormack for the LAT.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:08 PM

"All's well that Buñuels."

Buñuel Double Feature Nice one, Flickhead. He's proposing "the world's first Luis Buñuel Blog-a-Thon, a/k/a/ Buñuel-a-Thon, to be held between September 24 through 30."

As it happens, in today's New York Times, Dave Kehr reviews a "sloppily produced" Buñuel double feature from Lionsgate, Gran Casino (1947) and The Young One (1960): "[T]he period circumscribed by these two films feels like a distinct epoch in his career, a time when this avowedly Marxist filmmaker was working for a wide audience rather than a cultural elite. His return to Europe would be at the behest of that elite, and his reputation rocketed accordingly."

Also out this week is Criterion's release of The Milky Way (1969): "The anecdotal screenplay, by Buñuel and his favorite French collaborator, Jean-Claude Carrière, is a compendium of amusing heresies and apparent contradictions drawn from the theological history of the Roman Catholic Church." In the end, "not all of Buñuel's Mexican movies are trivial, and not all of his French movies are staggering masterworks. But all of them are very much worth seeing."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:16 AM

August 20, 2007

Interview. Ishai Setton and Daniel Schechter.

The Big Bad Swim "That a film this good - smart, accessible, enjoyable - was passed over for theatrical release shows a stunning lack of judgment on the part of current distributors," James van Maanen wrote recently at Guru. "The Big Bad Swim has appeared (and won awards in the process) at national festivals from Tribecca to Maui, Seattle to Rhode Island and internationally from Munich to Karlovy Vary, Avignon and Zurich, and managed one-week releases in Allentown, Pennsylvania and Portland, Oregon, with individual screenings in Chicago and Fort Lauderdale, where it was lapped up by critics and audiences alike. For the rest of us, thank God for DVD."

Now at the main site, James talks with director Ishai Setton and screenwriter Daniel Schechter.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:11 PM

Edinburgh, 8/20.

"One of the great strengths of LYNCH, the new documentary about David Lynch is that the film's innovative style perfectly meshes with Lynch's own aesthetic," writes Nick Dawson for Filmmaker.

LYNCH

"(It is also fittingly mysterious that the film's director is unknown, as the director's credit goes to one 'blackANDwhite,' an anonymous figure who some people believe is in fact Lynch himself.)... Two other American docs playing arguably do not quite share the elusive blackANDwhite's ability to frame his story in such an apt manner. Marlo Poras's Run, Granny, Run (about a lovable grandmother, Doris 'Granny D' Haddock, who runs for Senate) and Rob VanAlkemade's What Would Jesus Buy? (which focuses on ranting Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping choir) are in the current vein of docs following in Michael Moore's footsteps by approaching serious, political subjects from a quirky, semi-comic angle." Also: DW Griffith's Intolerance and Catherine Martin's in the cities.

"The decision to move the Edinburgh International Film Festival away from its traditional home in August during the omnipresent Edinburgh Festival is a tacit admission that the film festival has become a non-event," writes Kaleem Aftab in the Independent. "Even, dare I say it, a bit of a bore, as the festival organisers have struggled to get innovative pictures or bona fide stars to come to the Scottish capital. Of all the festivals that take place in the city, the film festival has for some years been the most dismal."

In Search of a Midnight Kiss The Observer's Jason Solomons is far more upbeat: "In a world now teeming with more festivals than there are days in the year, Edinburgh is marking itself out as hip, bright and cheeky." He offers quick takes on Hallam Foe, In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Twisted Sister, Planet B-Boy, And When Did You Last See Your Father?, Sugar House and Year of the Dog. Also, festival gossip and Carole Cadwalladr talks with Jim Threapleton about Extraordinary Rendition, about "a politics lecturer who is abducted on the streets of London, flown out of the country, interrogated at one of the CIA's so-called 'Black Sites,' tortured, and eventually dumped back in this country, where he's forced to try and pick up the pieces of his life."

Neil Young's been posting reviews from the festival.

For the Guardian, Tom Hughes talks with Paddy Considine about directing his first film, Dog Altogether. Also: "Award-winning actress Samantha Morton will make a rare and candid appearance at the Edinburgh Film Festival today when she takes to the stage in conversation about her career," reports Paul Kelbie.

The London Times is tracking goings on in Edinburgh in a special section and, of course, the Scotsman's got a blog going.

Online listening tip. The Observer's Jason Solomons roams the festival, interviewing people left and right for Film Weekly.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:56 AM

All these wonderful docs.

Kurt Cobain: About a Son In the thick of the International Documentary Association's 11th annual DocuWeek (through Thursday), AJ Schnack, who's taken his own film to LA, Kurt Cobain About a Son ("one of the very best films of the year," says David Lowery), snaps pix and is running Tom White's talks with Alex Gibney about Taxi to the Dark Side, Joan Brooker-Marks about Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone and David Sington about In the Shadow of the Moon.

Then a few bones are picked with Gina Piccolo regarding her recent piece on docs in the Los Angeles Times: "Are we really still talking about whether or not the options are Al Maysles's vérité purity or nothing at all?"

Updates, 8/21: First, the entry's been tweaked a bit; see comments. And second, another interview, this time with Irene Taylor Brodsky about Hear and Now.

Another: Paul Taylor, director of We Are Together. And Chops director Bruce Broder.

Updates, 8/22: Peter Raymont, whose A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman sees its official premiere in Toronto in a couple of weeks. And Nanking directors Bill Gutentag and Dan Sturman.

Update, 8/23: It's AJ Schnack himself this time.

Updates, 8/25: War/Dance directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine and The Price of Sugar director Bill Haney.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:52 AM | Comments (2)

No English Spoken Here.

Tokyo Story "Over the past several weeks, I invited (or by extension invited) various people from critics to bloggers to professors and just plain movie fans to submit lists of their top 25 non-English language features so I could compose a list for a survey of all interest film fans to determine a Top 25 list similar to what the AFI does or what the Online Film Community recently did," announces Edward Copeland. "I now see how difficult list compiling can be." Nonetheless, the nominations are in from the committee and now you can choose 25 from the list of 121 films and get your ballot in by September 16.

The good news for Edward is that he's also got a nice batch of films to catch up with as well.

Posting their own lists with comments: Dennis Cozzalio, Jim Emerson, Jürgen Fauth, Ryland Walker Knight, Jonathan Lapper, Kimberly Lindbergs, Karina Longworth, Paul Matwychuk, Peter Nellhaus, Matt Zoller Seitz and the Self-Styled Siren.

The Shamus writes up a list to set alongside all these. Another from Dan Eisenberg. And Ted Pigeon comments on the project.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:36 AM

Again, more on Antonioni.

Michelangelo Antonioni: Sul Cinema "The impression delivered even by those who admired him is not just that Antonioni films were bleak but that the bleakness was unleavened; worse still, that the man himself was above all an intellectual, who happened to choose film as the medium in which to vent the results of his cogitation," writes Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. "Neither of these judgments is accurate, and, taken together, they are guaranteed to send novices scurrying for cover. All I can say is: hold your nerve, go online, order a stash of Antonioni, lie back with a grappa, and stare.... [T]his great director, whose characters are said to be glazed with spiritual death, forged something intensely alive, as if celluloid were as strokable as skin."

Online viewing tip. Glenn Dunks has found a clip of Jack Nicholson presenting the honorary Oscar to Antonioni. Via Movie City News.

Earlier: "Michelangelo Antonioni, 1912 - 2007" and "More on Antonioni."

Update, 8/22: Edward Copeland still isn't entirely won over.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:40 AM

Sight & Sound. September 07.

Sight & Sound: September 07 Mark Cousins has curated the Ten Documentaries That Shook the World season at BFI Southbank, running through the end of August, and in the new issue of Sight & Sound, he explains his choices, adding that, "as I write I realise what should have been obvious: that though these films were chosen because of their social impact, that impact is in part explained by aesthetics."

Geoffrey Macnab talks with Pascale Ferran about Lady Chatterley, "a delicately crafted paean to passion that does justice to her view of the novel as a utopian tale of intoxicating love written with uncanny subtlety and sensitivity." Related: Maddy Costa talks with Marina Hands for the Guardian, and so does Kaleem Aftab, for the Independent.

Reviews:

Born and Bred

  • "[I]n Born and Bred, [Pablo] Trapero explores a new brand of naturalism that eschews classical narrative models and character construction," writes Maria M Delgado.

  • Tim Lucas praises Criterion's release of Lindsay Anderson's If..., "one of the most stimulating and visceral of all British films."

  • For Michael Atkinson, 1408 "is far too self-consciously a coy CGI rollercoaster ride to leave any slap-prints on your cheeks - you can easily imagine it as a theme-park ride (Weinsteins, take note of this idea)."

  • Tony Rayns on Opera Jawa: "Garin Nugroho's sensationally beautiful 'gamelan musical' is based on the single most famous episode from the Ramayana, the epic poem composed in Sanskrit, which is known throughout south-east Asia and revered as a quasi-religious text by Hindus.... The film is much more than a modernist re-reading of the story."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:35 AM

Again, more on Bergman.

In the Beginning Was the Word "In the middle of the phone call, it popped out: 'Listen, I have a room here at Fårö, it's five by five meters. Here I've collected everything imaginable, you see, it's a damned kitchen midden. Would you like to take a look at it?' How can you answer such a question? You figuratively and almost literally curtsy over the telephone and say, 'Yes, please, Mr Bergman.'" Maaret Koskinen, who would find that "the rewards were beyond all expectation," has an intriguing piece on Bergman the writer, an excerpt from her book, In the Beginning Was the Word: Ingmar Bergman and His Early Writings.

Also in Film International: "Despite Bergman's ultimate repudiation of the trilogy concept, the release of the three works together as a set by Criterion indicates that, while their lineage is now uncertain, the union of these films is not easily ignored, and the tendency to view them as a whole quite illuminating." Liza Palmer on Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light and The Silence.

Meanwhile, Premiere's Glenn Kenny explains why it's taken him a while to get around to responding to Jonathan Rosenbaum's New York Times op-ed and then why he feels "this piece winds up being one of those things out of which no good can come." In the comments section, JR responds. And Harry Tuttle's still sorting through the aftermath.

Earlier: "Ingmar Bergman, 1918- 2007" and More on Bergman."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:02 AM

August 19, 2007

EW. "Fall Movies Preview."

EW: Fall Movies Preview Entertainment Weekly gets the jump on just about everyone with its "Fall Movies Preview." Some of the entries on various films are mighty brief, though, so I've added a few more links where possible. For example, with the help of Girish's post at 1st Thursday, I'll point to relevant Toronto International Film Festival pages for some of these films (September 6 through 15); same goes for the New York Film Festival (September 28 through October 12), reviews from earlier festivals and so forth.

For EW's cover story, Benjamin Svetkey talks with Reese Witherspoon about Rendition, "a sober political drama about a pregnant Midwestern woman who discovers that her Egyptian husband (Omar Metwally) is being secretly held by the US government. (Jake Gyllenhaal plays the rookie CIA agent overseeing the interrogation, and Meryl Streep the official who orders the covert abduction.)" Trailer. Released October 12. Related: Ewen MacAskill in the Guardian on the season's post-9/11 movies.

Karen Valby meets Laura Linney: "In the dramedy The Savages [more; Toronto; trailer; release: December 26], she and Philip Seymour Hoffman play siblings taking care of their aging father (Philip Bosco). For the movie adaptation of the best-seller The Nanny Diaries, she stars as spoiled New York wife Mrs X. And then she goes back in time to appear as Abigail Adams in HBO's John Adams miniseries, based on David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography." For more on The Nanny Diaries, see Melena Ryzik's interview with directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini for the New York Times. And that one's due out this Friday.

Into the Wild "Emile Hirsch (Lords of Dogtown) will topline Into the Wild [more; Toronto; trailer; September 21]], which writer/director Sean Penn adapted from Jon Krakauer's 1996 book about the mysterious Alaskan adventure of wanderer Christopher McCandless," writes Chris Nashawaty. "The 22-year-old rising star phoned from Berlin - where he's shooting the Wachowski Brothers' live-action Speed Racer update - to talk about getting stuck in the snow, Penn's unorthodox casting process, and Kurt Cobain's favorite monkey." Speed Racer comes out on May 9, 2008.

Christine Spines talks with actor-turned-director Peter Berg about The Kingdom: "I was nervous it would be perceived as a jingoistic piece of propaganda, which I certainly didn't intend." Trailer. September 28. Related: Via the House Next Door, Andrew Dignan asks, "When did Peter Berg become a better filmmaker than Michael Mann?"

"It's kinda difficult to feel like you're the last man on earth when you're shooting in New York." Jeff Jensen talks with Will Smith about I Am Legend. Trailer. December 14.

Gregory Kirshling on Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited. Oddly, a second page on the film has more. Trailer. NYFF. London.

Vanessa Juarez: "Jessica Alba took a break from shooting her forthcoming horror movie, The Eye [February 1, 2008], to chat with EW about her comedic chops, some of her many upcoming projects - including Good Luck Chuck (opposite Dane Cook [more; September 21]) and The Love Guru (opposite its writer/director, Mike Myers [June 20, 2008]) - and, apropos of nothing, menudo."

Steve Daley tells the story behind "a lavish, PG-rated Disney movie," Enchanted, with Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey. Trailer. November 21.

Daniel Fierman talks with Jerry Seinfeld about The Bee Movie. More. Trailers and clips. November 2.

Then come the anonymous briefs. Let's arrange them according to EW's release calendar:

September 7 The Hunting Party

September 14

December Boys

September 21

Trade

September 28

October 3

October 5

Michael Clayton

October 12

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

October 19

October 26

Things We Lost in the Fire

November 2

November 9

No Country for Old Men

November 16

November 21

November 30

Cassandra's Dream

December 7

December 14

December 19

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

December 21

December 26

December 28

Release dates are subject to change, of course, and here's one without one at all yet: "Immigration is the key issue in the latest from The Cooler director Wayne Kramer." Crossing Over stars Sean Penn, Harrison Ford, Alice Braga and Ray Liotta.

More seasonal anticipation: QTA, Nathaniel R and Gabriel Shanks.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:01 PM | Comments (5)

August 18, 2007

3:10 to Yuma.

3:10 to Yuma "3:10 to Yuma is a tense, rugged redo of a film that was pretty good the first time around," writes Variety's Todd McCarthy. "Reinforced by a strong central premise, alert performances, a realistic view of the developing Old West and a satisfying dimensionality in its shadings of good and evil, James Mangold's remake walks a fine line in retaining many of the original's qualities while smartly shaking things up a bit."

"The western has become the most unfashionable of genres, with a reputation for box-office poison that persists despite the relatively recent success of Open Range (2003)," writes Allan Hunter for Screen Daily. "The 50th anniversary remake of 3:10 to Yuma is sturdy enough to withstand the jinx. Handsomely crafted, it represents a largely successful fusion of old-style storytelling virtues with a modern Hollywood ethos in which action speaks louder than words."

Updated through 8/29.

Online listening tip. Peter Fonda's a guest on Fresh Air.

Earlier: David Bordwell sits in on a sound editing session.

Updates, 8/20: "The Shamus has been unhappy about this remake of 3:10 To Yuma for over a year now. Why remake a perfect film? Because Hollywood has run out of ideas, apparently. So do yourself a favor: Delmer Daves's atmospheric original is being reissued on DVD on Aug 28. Get it. Watch it. Savor it."

"While a good part of the 1957 version was confined to a single hotel room and Mangold's decision to open up the piece considerably doesn't always work in its favor, [Russell] Crowe, [Christian] Bale and the rest of the crack ensemble keep the trip intriguing, even over those occasional bumpy parts," writes Michael Rechtshaffen in the Hollywood Reporter.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:59 AM | Comments (1)

Marigold.

Marigold "Marigold is Bollywood For Beginners, offering a crash course in Indian cinematic themes and tropes without ever providing more than a small taste of the genre's gaudy, vibrant pleasures," writes Nick Schager in Slant.

Writer/director Willard Carroll "knows his Bollywood stuff and, refreshingly, doesn't apologize for, or waste time explaining, an industry and a style that most Americans still regard as silly. Instead, he honors them," counters Rachel Saltz in the New York Times.

"It's a mixed bag, this Marigold, sassily funny when [Ali] Larter is cracking wise and predictably more stilted when Carroll has his characters revert to standard Bollywood form," writes John Anderson in the Los Angeles Times.

Related: For the San Francisco Chronicle, Sandip Roy reviews Stephen Alter's Fantasies of a Bollywood Love Thief: Inside the World of Indian Moviemaking.

Also via Bookforum, Maithili Rao in the Hindu: "Does popular culture not only define but also disseminate the zeitgeist of a nation? Not just within the geographic boundaries of the nation state but also to the cultural conglomerates of the Indian diaspora scattered across the world in this globalized age? The spread and reach of Bollywood provoke these disquieting, connected questions to the dismay of the discerning film lover who is acutely aware of the richness of our other cinemas and its neglected auteurs left out in the cold."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:36 AM

The Invasion.

The Invasion "The latest and lamest version of Don Siegel's 1956 pulp classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers (from the Jack Finney novel) might have been an accidental camp classic if its politics weren't so abhorrent and the movie didn't try to hide its ineptitude behind a veil of pomposity," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "The Invasion lurches and drags and teeters on the brink of death from scene to scene; it plays as if it had been made by someone in a trance, though not a cool one."

"When Nicole Kidman walks down a crowded street, expressionless and emotionless, pretending to be one of the aliens, we know what she's going through, because we've done it. Probably yesterday," writes Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle. "The Invasion connects on a gut level in two ways, political and existential. In political terms, it's a metaphor for how all societies periodically go crazy, surrender their discernment for groupthink and behave in cruel ways. In existential terms, it's a frightening reminder of the true nature of life, which we frantically try to gloss over with everything we do, say and create: We're alone. The Invasion, like all versions of this tale, speaks to the human fear of utter and complete isolation."

Updated through 8/23.

In the Stranger, Brendan Kiley reminds us that "the film was redirected and rewritten by James McTeigue and Wachowski Brothers, of the Matrix monolith. Warner Brothers pulled them aboard, apparently, because the original screenplay (by Dave Kajganich) and direction (by Oliver Hirschbiegel) lacked a certain something. Whatever that something was, McTeigue and Wachowski haven't brought it either."

"The good parts of The Invasion are its ideas," writes Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post. "You can certainly see what may have attracted the Wachowskis to the project.... The Invasion is based on that philosophical chestnut, which pitches the dangers and the opportunities of freedom against the peace and soul-killing results of dictatorship. Or call it free will vs necessity. In fact, you can plug in any individual system vs any collective system you want and the movie still works."

"The Invasion tries to update the political relevance of the first film (which treated the body-snatching threat as an allegory for McCarthyism and postwar conformity) with a constant stream of cable-news chatter about the war in Iraq," notes Slate's Dana Stevens. "But in addition to ringing false—did we go to war in Iraq because we're mindless conformists, or because we were fed bad information?—these parallels clash with the movie's ham-handed humanist message."

"The film doesn't so much reflect our post-9/11 fears as it cheaply exploits them, its opportunistic liberal-plugging (rendered via a series of background television news reports paralleling the mounting alien presence) barely connected to the larger alien invasion, thus rendering it the latest in a wearisome line of cut-and-paste attempts at political significance," writes Rob Humanick at Slant.

"Though Hirschbiegel, or whoever, never teases it out, Dave Kajganich's script has within it the makings of the grimmest Invasion yet, suggesting that, hey, maybe the body snatchers have the right idea," writes Keith Phipps at the AV Club. "After all, humanity's not doing the greatest job running the planet. A better film might have pushed this conceit into Strangelove-ian territory."

"Perhaps the most compelling aspect of all the previous Invasions was their willingness to embrace the possibility that humankind might be randomly, fatally screwed," writes Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon. "This one ultimately eschews nihilism to go chasing a convenient cure.... Our choice, it appears, is to be either gratuitously violent or soullessly brain dead. In reality it doesn't have to be one or the other. The Invasion, after all, manages to be both."

"[I]t remains fascinating how effortlessly the story... manages to dovetail with whatever is troubling in the zeitgeist, which in this case includes worries about global pandemics and the excessive powers of governments gone wild," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. "This Invasion is aided considerably by having actors of the caliber of Kidman and [Daniel] Craig in the leading roles. Doing the opposite of slumming, both performers put their considerable talent in the service of bringing credibility to a pulp premise that has kept people up at night for more than 50 years and promises to do so for some time into the future."

Earlier: Dennis Harvey (Variety) and Scott Foundas (LA Weekly).

Updates, 8/20: "It's not that The Invasion is bad, but that it is ultimately less interesting than the three films that came earlier," writes Peter Nellhaus.

It "isn't the car wreck one would expect from a movie that might as well bear an Alan Smithee directorial credit," offers Brandon Harris.

Updates, 8/21: "Before we come down too hard on The Invasion for its mixed messages, we should recall that the first film version, Don Siegel's classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), also left itself open to opposing interpretations," writes C Jerry Kutner at Bright Lights After Dark. "Does The Invasion work as a horror film? It did for me."

DK Holm, blogging for the Vancouver Voice, seems convinced that the appeal of the role to Kidman is the movie's "knock against Scientology."

Update, 8/23: "What once seemed a foolproof concept—people suddenly changing into soulless pods—has now been reduced to yet another exercise in political finger-pointing," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "When NASA's Patriot Space Mission fails, bringing to Earth a virus that creates political zombies, it exacerbates tension between society's conformists and malcontents (implicitly, Red and Blue staters)."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:30 AM | Comments (1)

Redford @ 70. Or more likely, 71.

Rolling Stone: Redford and Hoffman It's as if the 70s are turning 70 rather than 30. Ten days ago, it was Dustin Hoffman. Today, another 70th birthday of another Hollywood-ish star goes unmentioned in the English-language press (probably because, according to the IMDb, he's actually turning 71) but gets extensive nods in the German-language papers.

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in a piece laced with lots of pix, Verena Leuken considers Robert Redford: "What allies him more with Cary Grant than with Tom Cruise is his aura of unreachability, the awe of the effect he has on other people, a public image almost entirely decoupled from his personality and a concurrent physical impossibility, even in his best films, as a director or as an actor, to be someone other than Robert Redford. Dustin Hoffman can play autistic, can play women, historical figures, students, angry husbands, mathematicians with violent tendencies and hundred-year-old men. Robert Redford always plays Robert Redford."

Also, Susan Vahabzadeh in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Jens Mühling in Der Tagesspiegel, Claudia Lensson in Die Welt and Anke Westphal in the Berliner Zeitung.

In English, besides the Wikipedia entry (which backs the claim that Redford's 71 today), you might turn to an only somewhat related yet also somehow appropriate recollection from Helen Brown in the Telegraph:

This month Seven Hundred Penguins, a collection of paperback covers from the publisher's birth in 1935 up to the millennium, is published. It's a sort of Heat magazine for bibliophiles, an opportunity to gawp at what our favourite books were wearing in 1945, 1987 or 1992, as well as a chance to look at some oddities, some fleeting one-hit wonders, some "do you remember whens?"

I hit my biggest emotional experience on page 95, where I found the 1974 cover I can never separate from my reading of The Great Gatsby. As a student, I had been delighted to discover a copy of the book in a charity shop. Set in a Mills & Boon-ish border of primrose yellow, it features a still from the film starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

I recall with blushes the day I took it to a seminar only to have the tutor sniff at it. As the other students pulled plain hardbacks or Penguin Classics from their bags, I realised the Gatsby of my imagination had been infected by Redford. And then, walking home, I reflected on how oddly appropriate that was. Gatsby was a kind of actor and never became part of the class he so wanted to infiltrate. My copy of the book about him didn't either. The Redford-Farrow cover was bang on.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:24 AM

August 16, 2007

Matt Dentler and Andrew Bujalski.

Hannah Takes the Stairs In the chapter on the 00s, future histories of American independent film are going to be highlighting the role of SXSW Film Conference and Festival Producer Matt Dentler. Not simply because he sensed early on that something was going on that would eventually get labeled "mumblecore" or an "Ultra-Indie Movement" and who knows what all else and has given these restless filmmakers a platform, an audience and a vibrant venue for an annual reunion - but also because his support for films SXSW invites, launches and/or takes under its wing extends far, far beyond the festival's official closing day.

At All these wonderful things, Matt talks with Greta Gerwig about being Hannah in the film that won many a heart at this year's SXSW, my own included, Joe Swanberg's Hannah Takes the Stairs. At Movie City Indie, he talks with co-star and The Guatemalan Handshake director Todd Rohal. At A Director's Log, it's the irresistible Kent Osborne. And at Boredom at Its Boredest, it's Orphans director Ry Russo-Young. Here, Matt's unprecedented campaign rolls on. The man even writes his own introductions:

On the eve of the theatrical debut of Joe Swanberg's SXSW 2007 hit, Hannah Takes the Stairs, I wanted to check in with each of the film's principal collaborators. The film has been documented as a successful collaboration between acclaimed film artists from around the nation, each one offering their own trademark influence on the final film. Hannah Takes the Stairs will open at the IFC Center in New York, on August 22, as well as be available on IFC VOD the same day. As part of an ongoing series you can find throughout the film blogosphere, here is an interview with Hannah co-star (and Mutual Appreciation director) Andrew Bujalski:

Updated through 8/23 (J Hoberman, Dennis Lim, Karina Longworth; Hannah reviews).

Dentler: How did you first get connected to Hannah Takes the Stairs?

Bujalski: I seem to recall Joey telling me a little about his idea for the film - which originally, somehow, was quasi-sci-fi - when I was in Chicago in the fall of 2005. Not too many months later he asked me seriously about doing it and, having roped many of my reluctant friends into acting for me in the past, I felt like I was in no karmic position to say no.

Dentler: What do you remember most about the shoot in Chicago?

Bujalski: Atari Breakout and Michael McDonald.

Dentler: How did the production process differ from your own other projects, or projects you've acted in before or since?

Bujalski: My productions, which everyone keeps telling me are tiny, feel positively bloated in comparison to the Hannah shoot. Though there are stresses and insecurities that come with any kind of performance, it's certainly difficult to imagine a more relaxed production day to day. It was also not entirely unlike what I imagine living in a cult compound to be like.

Dentler: What are your thoughts on the issues of sex and relationships that come to the forefront of the film?

Bujalski: Which issues? I am pro-sex and pro-relationship, both.

Dentler: Ever been in a love triangle?

Bujalski: I have played the outlast/outmaneuver game where I and another dude stay up late into the night trying to charm the same girl; generally speaking, this is a game where stamina and zoned-in focus triumph; I rarely win. Has been several years since I found myself in one of these.

Dentler: Did you ever work with "the stairs"? Any thoughts on why they didn't make the cut?

Bujalski: I was supposed to work with them, but Hannah took them. Has everybody made that same joke?


Earlier: A video Q&A with Joe Swanberg, Tipper Newton, Kevin Bewersdorf and C Mason Wells.

Andrew Grant (whom you may know as Filmbrain) spoke with Joe almost exactly a year ago. Andrew's since launched a DVD distribution company, Benten Films, which will be releasing Joe's LOL on August 28.

Updates, 8/17: Matt talks with Kris Williams Swanberg at Cinephiliac, virtual address of Aaron Hillis, also of Benten Films.

As Karina notes below, the SpoutBlog's running Matt's interview with Mark Duplass.

Updates, 8/18: And for Filmmaker, Matt talks with Joe. That question, "Ever been in a love triangle?" Joe: "I am currently involved in a love triangle with my wife and the Internet."

The New Talkies: Generation DIY, opening Wednesday and running through September 4, has prompted pieces by J Hoberman in the Voice and Dennis Lim in the International Herald Tribune, where he writes, "mumblecore is the sole significant American indie film wave of the last 20 years to have emerged outside the ecosystem of the Sundance Film Festival."

Significant indeed, though neither critic seems particularly enthusiastic about the films themselves. Fair enough; this is one widely disparate batch of movies. Still, I'd be surprised to find a single film mentioned in both pieces on either critic's top ten at the end of the year.

Turn to Dennis Lim's piece for a who's-who and what-happened-when and to J Hoberman's for more critical assessment: "Typically running a compact 80 minutes, these movies are disarmingly pragmatic, full of abrupt cuts and choppy inserts. Acting is mainly a coping mechanism. The characters in Hannah alternate between unconscious and self-conscious and that's the charm.... Mumblecore is demographically self-contained. Straight, white, middle class. The movies suggest college, without the course load.... It's impossible to predict how the Mumblecorps will mature but, given their immersion in the moment, I suspect that the films they've made will age very well."

I guess that's something between approval and endorsement, but miles away from evangelism, which, again, is a perfectly understandable response to such a mixed bag.

It's the mixed messages in Dennis Lim's piece, though, that some may find confusing. On the one hand, "Jay and Mark Duplass's Puffy Chair was released jointly by Netflix and the distributor Roadside Attractions and, thanks to aggressive promotion to Netflix subscribers, did well in theaters and even better on DVD. Andrew Bujalski, whose Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation are the best reviewed of the crop, is to write and direct an adaptation of Indecision, a novel by Benjamin Kunkel, for the producer Scott Rudin." On the other, "the mumblecore crew has approached not just production but also distribution with a do-it-yourself mind-set."

How many of the mumblecorps have to deviate from the DIY route before we let the air out of that one? After all, Benton Films will be releasing not only LOL but also Aaron Katz's Dance Party USA and Quiet City and Todd Rohal's The Guatemalan Handshake.

Well, speaking of Benten, at the SpoutBlog, Karina Longworth talks with Andrew and Aaron about the origins of the company, mumblecore and, of course, desert island media.

Updates, 8/19: A "lack of pretense, partly the byproduct of Swanberg's reliance on scene-to-scene and structural improvisation - which is itself an outgrowth of his no-budget, DIY techniques - is also its Achilles' heel, as it lends the director's latest a vapidity not easily disregarded," writes Nick Schager, reviewing Hannah for Slant. "Swanberg, within individual scenes, captures reasonably perceptive truths about communication and love. Overall, though, he seems a bit lost on how exactly to answer Bujalski's question, 'How do you make drama out of abstract ideas?'"

"Progressing beyond the earlier fumblings of Kissing on the Mouth and the more subtly developed LOL, the director harnesses in Hannah the fleeting emotional frequencies of everyday interaction for which he's been striving," writes Kristi Mitsuda at indieWIRE.

At Self-Reliant Filmmaking, Matt talks with Kevin Bewersdorf, and at his own blog, Matt talks with Hannah producer Anish Savjani.

Updates, 8/20: For Filmmaker, Nick Dawson talks with Joe "about directing directors, his continuing quest to make 'the one,' and his desire to make a PG-13 romantic comedy."

"'Mumblecore' is a myth, and the term has sort of taken on a life of its own." It's Matt Dentler again, this time at indieWIRE: "The one thing this term does address, however, is the fact the films lumped into it, are all about communication or a lack thereof. As a whole, these films speak volumes about what post-college or pre-marriage life means to an entire generation who were promised flying cars, and instead got reality TV, after the year 2000. And, around this time, a unique kind of American independent film began to emerge out of the late-1990s cacophony of Tarantino/Rodriguez rip-offs. We wanted something different."

Updates, 8/21: IndieWIRE interviews Joe.

Online viewing tips. Sujewa Ekanayake gathers clips and trailers from the features screening in the Generation DIY series.

Updates, 8/22: "As played by the actress-writer Greta Gerwig, Hannah is neurotic, sweet and mildly sarcastic, in a Gen Y-Diane Keaton sort of way, and her small-stakes odyssey through three relationships is wryly observed," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times. Yes, I was reminded of Keaton, too. Anyway:

For devotees of recent DIY moviemaking, Hannah will evoke melancholy feelings, and not just because the heroine finds (probably temporary) bliss without seriously examining her preconceptions. Mr Bujalski is writing a movie for Paramount; Mr Duplass and his brother and filmmaking partner, Jay Duplass, are writing and directing features for Universal and Fox Searchlight and have sold a television series to NBC; Mr Swanberg and Ms Gerwig are already finishing a new movie, and are so talented that they may not have to scrounge for financing for the next one.

In light of all this, Hannah plays like an incidental swan song, a signpost marking the point when mumblecore became a nostalgic label rather than a present-tense cultural force, and its most acclaimed practitioners moved on to bigger things. Mr Swanberg's third movie is a graduation photo in motion: DIY, class of '07.

Even so: "I'm not exaggerating when I say that it might very well be the finest depiction of early 20s confusion that I've ever seen," blogs Michael Tully.

Mumblecore is "for the most part, not an ethnically diverse movement/group," admits Sujewa Ekanayake, but "they have, using easily doable techniques... overcome limitations and obstacles that keep people (including minorities) from making & distributing movies."

Marcy Dermansky on Hannah: "The unexpected appeal of this seeming non-story is cumulative; what begins as a maddening portrait of a microcosm of liberal, well-educated white kids (with the occasional ethnic friend) steadily grows on you. Much credit has to be given to Gerwig's understated and lovely performance; Hannah's 'chronic dissatisfaction' is easy to recognize and emphasize with, especially when she is at her worst: selfish, manipulative, and self-pitying."

"If these films are hyped, they may be doomed," writes Anthony Kaufman. "One of the joys of stumbling upon a charming or sophisticated or funny low-budget 'mumblecore' film is just that, stumbling upon it, whether given to you on DVD by a friend or the filmmaker himself or walking into one of them unknowingly at a film festival. They are so lo-fi, so seemingly slapdash, and many of them so crude in appearance compared to what else people are expecting to see in a movie theater, I'd think they need to come at the average viewer like a pleasant surprise, with as little forethought or anticipation as possible."

At the Reeler, ST VanAirsdale fills in a few of the gaps in the mumblecore story so far, adds more projects to the fast-growing list of what's in store for these filmmakers and gets some good quotage from all involved; I particularly like this one from Andrew Bujalski: "I guess that what bugs me about this idea of a movement is that I feel like the things that these films all have in common are the least interesting things about them. It's the differences that make them interesting. You read the synopses - 'These are films made cheaply about young white people talking to each other.' And of course it sounds excruciating. And there are plenty of films that fit that description that are excruciating. The things that make the films good are not that."

Updates, 8/23: "Whatever you make of [mumblecore], it's pretty much the opposite of the 'Napoleon Sunshine' indie formula, in which quirky characters and story lines are painstakingly packaged in familiar narrative structures aimed at a semi-elite, not-quite-mass audience," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "For whatever it's worth, I'd rate Mutual Appreciation as clearly the best film produced by this nascent movement (which surely won't contain Bujalski for long). Swanberg's LOL, Katz's Dance Party USA and the Duplass brothers' Puffy Chair are other good starting points. Hannah Takes the Stairs is a denser, talkier and more challenging film; it's the second-semester course, if you like." And you can download a conversation with Joe Swanberg to listen to as well.

He also points to Chuck Klosterman's profile of Andrew Bujalski for Esquire.

"The go-to description in the case of mumblecore is 'naturalism,' a close cousin of documentary realism and the rebellious younger brother of [Judd] Apatow's classical message-based creations," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "The furthest thing from escapism, mumblecore cinema (to use the moniker loosely) focuses on the struggle to escape - from mundanity."

AJ Schnack's been following this crowd since 2002 and digs up some observations from those long gone halcyon days.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:32 PM | Comments (2)

The 11th Hour.

The 11th Hour The 11th Hour "may linger too long on visions of floods and war and pestilence; it may reduce great speakers to bland lecturers by confining them all to the same side of a black-and-blue backdrop; you may wish somebody like Errol Morris had gotten involved to give the documentary a better dramatic arc," concedes Judith Lewis in the LA Weekly. "But such shortcomings are worth your patience, because The 11th Hour is ultimately a triumph of redemptive ideas that [co-producer and narrator Leonardo] DiCaprio - God bless his celebrity - may finally succeed in transporting from the environmental fringe to the mainstream moviegoing audience. If it's possible to leave The 11th Hour quaking in your Earth Shoes over the quickening pace of planetary destruction, it's also possible to hold firm to the notion that we have a way out of this mess. It isn't an easy route, and we may not always like the ride. But as The 11th Hour persuades you in the end, we choose it or die."

Updated through 8/20.

"Arguably, you won't see a more important movie this year than The 11th Hour," adds Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Sure, there will be eye-rolling from predictable quarters: Hollywood liberals! Preaching at us from their hilltop-mansion cocaine parties about how we should recycle our toilet water! First of all, the movie's nothing like that. Second of all, if those thoughts enter your mind it's because Dick Cheney put them there."

"A cautionary eco-doc so earnest and moth-eaten it should properly be seen on filmstrip during fourth-period social studies, The 11th Hour might as well have borrowed the title of Lisa Simpson's lecture about the pollution of Lake Springfield: 'An Irritating Truth,'" counters Mike D'Angelo in the Voice.

"From the opening montage of natural disasters and panic-stricken survivors, to its lengthy, ominous discussions about mass extinction, The 11th Hour often employs blunt scare tactics as its primary mode of persuasion," writes Nick Schager at Slant. "Nonetheless, even if occasionally issuing threats like a street corner kook waving around an apocalypse-is-coming placard, it also makes a mighty strong argument that there's plenty to fear from mankind's environmental recklessness."

"[U]nlike other doom-and-gloom envirodocs that engulf viewers with guilt about how we are tearing apart our only planet, this movie is supposed to demonstrate that it's not too late to shift old habits," writes Rachel Stern, introducing her San Francisco Bay Guardian profile of the sisters who've written and directed the film, Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners.

"The 11th Hour, filled with talking heads and talking points, has some value as a primer on the subject, and is not at all hysterical but for the converted will be about as interesting as remembering to eat your greens and veggies at suppertime," writes Robert Cashill.

"Climate change awareness is the height of Hollywood fashion, earning comparison with past causes that saw stars rally in support of the Second World War, protest against the Vietnam War and draw attention to the plight of HIV/Aids sufferers," writes David Smith in the Guardian. "Driving a hybrid Toyota Prius is now so de rigueur that it was recently reported Hollywood has a nine-month waiting list for them. But the town is hiding an inconvenient truth: last year an academic study found that the film and television industry comes second only to oil refineries in fuelling the smog above the Hollywood hills."

Earlier: "Cannes. The 11th Hour."

Updates, 8/18: "It is tempting, in a summer filled with bland franchise flicks that make only half-assed attempts at political relevancy (The Bourne Ultimatum) or are just half-assed in general (Pirates III), to call the current flurry of documentaries (No End in Sight, Manda Bala, The Devil Came on Horseback) the new disaster films," writes Michelle Orange at the Reeler. "This summer's highest profile ecocatastromentary is The 11th Hour, and despite an impressive array of talking heads and Leonardo DiCaprio (in his best Hemingway moustache and a series of crisp button-downs), as a disaster film in this cracking new mold, it's strictly B-movie material."

"[E]ssential viewing," declares Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "It may not change your life, but it may inspire you to recycle that old slogan-button your folks pinned on their dashikis back in the day: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.... It is our astonishing capacity for hope that distinguishes The 11th Hour and that speaks so powerfully, in part because it is this all-too-human quality that may finally force us to fight the good fight against the damage we have done and continue to do."

Tasha Robinson at the AV Club: "As if providing the overbearing yang to [Al] Gore's overly refined yin, The 11th Hour arrives as Inconvenient Truth's evil twin: a film that's so restlessly, numbingly cinematic that it can barely communicate its message."

"It is unabashedly a documentary of talking heads, but it works," writes Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times. Also, sure, it looks like DiCaprio's movie, "But just as the documentary, which critics have either deemed too gloomy or too hopeful, underscores how everyone and everything is linked and concludes it will take a collective shift of individual determination to save the planet, the project proved a collaboration among a network of allies just as committed to the cause," reports Rose Apodaca.

"Those who've been paying attention the last few years won't hear anything radically new, though the honor roll of experts interview in the film - sages like David Suzuki and unexpected wonks like former CIA director James Woosley - deliver bite-size, sometimes haunting bits of wisdom," writes Bryan Walsh for Time.

"Among recent documentaries questioning the status quo (The Corporation, When the Levees Broke, Why We Fight, An Inconvenient Truth, Sicko), The 11th Hour takes the most far-reaching point of view and connects issues into larger patterns, culminating in a truly global call for change," writes Jürgen Fauth.

Update, 8/20: "What shines through 11th Hour overwhelmingly is the warmth, charisma, caring and unbelievable wisdom of the diverse collection of talking heads in the film, and that goes for DiCaprio as well," writes Alternet executive editor Don Hazen. And what can he do now? "One thing DiCaprio could try is pushing for a presidential debate dedicated to environmental issues, following up on the recent Democratic debates focusing on labor and gay and lesbian issues."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:42 PM

Zebraman.

Zebraman "A downtrodden schoolteacher, a disabled boy and a government agent suffering from an embarrassing itch: these are the unlikely heroes of Zebraman, Takashi Miike's bizarre detour from ultraviolence into family fare," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times. "Mr Miike fashions unexpectedly arresting images - the weird stillness of an ocean of emerald ooze, the surreal beauty of Zebraman's lacerated costume - but the movie heaves with possessed schoolchildren, aggressive eggplant and a pea-green baby."

Zebraman "has come to save our summer from bloated Hollywood product that takes itself but not its audience seriously," writes Aaron Hillis in the Voice.

"Like the great artisans who performed yeoman's work under the studio system, Miike can do anything and, more than that, does," writes Michael Joshua Rowin in the L Magazine. "We're not used to that anymore here in the States, where outside the purgatory of straight-to-video, directors seemingly unafraid of slumming trump up B-movie assignments into marquee-spangled events (I'm looking at you, RR and QT)." As for Zebraman, "Is it a condescending lark on a genre, or a near-egoless tribute to the gemlike perfection of the kid-friendly crowd-pleaser? Whatever it is, it's fun."

"Zebraman has all the semi-coherent genre blending you'd expect from Miike, who works too much and too fast but is nonetheless one of contemporary film's most original synthesizers," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "For any fan of Japanese pop culture, the clips from the alleged original series (Zebraman's theme song! His kicking and punching technique! His stylish guitar-strumming in his alternate existence as a beloved, joke-cracking schoolteacher!) are positively to die for."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:36 PM | Comments (3)

Primo Levi's Journey.

Primo Levi's Journey "In what might be the weirdest entrant ever into the road-trip movie genre, director Davide Ferrario and his crew have hit the (dirt) road to meticulously retrace Primo Levi's long trip home from Auschwitz," writes Julia Wallace, reviewing Primo Levi's Journey for the Voice.

"Even when Ferrario's observation of a country's distinct political anxiety is interestingly tied to one of Levi's philosophical musings about the self and the world, the film still radiates the aloofness of a dry academic lecture," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant.

Updated through 8/18.

"Primo Levi's Journey is a profound meditation on the unevenness of history, reminding us - as Faulkner once remarked - that the past not only isn't dead, it isn't really past at all," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir.

"Although occasionally verbose, the documentary successfully empathizes with Levi's outlook," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press.

Update, 8/18: "Vividly impressionistic and delightfully curious," writes Jeannette Catsoulis. "Whether mingling with neo-Nazis in Munich or dealing with the KGB in Belarus, Mr Ferrario keeps his eyes open and his opinions to himself.... Primo Levi's Journey is a serendipitous reminder that the cultural consequences of capitalism are inseparable from — and often less welcome than — its economic promise."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:31 PM

Love for Sale.

Love for Sale "Having brought so much sweeping personality to the screen with his trannie street-brawler biopic Madame Satã, director Karim Aïnouz's sophomore effort is likewise anchored by an impressive lead performance: an effervescent [Hermila] Guedes brings welcome fits of energy to Aïnouz's studied drone," writes Aaron Hillis, reviewing Love for Sale for the Voice. "But the story's one-note - once you know the title, you pretty much get the gist."

Updated through 8/18.

"[I]n its final third, the film loses its way," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "It feels as though the director either lost his nerve, lost his financing or lost interest in examining the consequences of Hermila's willful, risky defiance of convention."

Earlier: Ed Gonzalez in Slant.

Update, 8/18: "Aïnouz is one of those directors who pays almost as much attention to the quality of light on a dewy morning as to performance or plot, but he doesn't reject conventional storytelling," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "Pacing is a problem with Love For Sale, but meaning never is."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:26 PM | Comments (1)

Manda Bala.

Manda Bala "The best filmed exposé to come out since Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line..., Manda Bala (Send a Bullet) deals with political corruption and rampant kidnapping in contemporary Brazil," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "Using a cool style and bold satiric élan, director Jason Kohn... reveals the thinly guarded link between the country's criminal woes and political corruption."

"Using a technique he openly cribbed from his mentor, Errol Morris, Kohn spends the first half of the movie jumping between seemingly disparate set pieces and story lines that are meant to methodically cohere into an epiphany-driven conclusion," writes Michelle Orange in the Voice. "It's not an easy technique to master, and with the information and interviewees coming hard, fast, and unrelated, the challenge for the viewer becomes not just to stay on your toes, but to stay focused."

Updated through 8/18.

"Not merely does it give you a vertiginous overview of the colorful, divided, violent and intensely fucked-up nature of Brazilian society; it tries to reinvent documentary technique as it does so," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Kohn's pumping soundtrack of Brazilian rock, pop and rap is sometimes cranked so high you miss bits of conversation, and the glorious wide-screen cinematography of Heloisa Passos is frequently distracting on its own terms. Maybe I've finally become a fogey when it comes to documentary (it had to happen sometime), but I'm not at all sure this formal overload is serving Kohn's purposes."

"Shunning depth for cosmetic thrills, Kohn doesn't ask us to seriously think about Brazil's contemporary malaise, only to groove to it," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant.

IndieWIRE interviews Kohn.

Earlier: "Sundance. Manda Bala."

Update, 8/18: This is one "weird hybrid of political exposé and sensationalistic fluff," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "As it flip-flops between one mode and the other, it suggests a combination of Darwin's Nightmare, the recent deadly serious French documentary about the despoiling of Lake Victoria, and Mondo Cane, the sensationalistic 1962 film that inaugurated a genre of globe-trotting documentary voyeurism."

"There's a lot to like in Manda Bala, particularly its willingness to get right down in there amidst the gritty realities of Brazilian chaos and corruption," writes Chris Barsanti at filmcritic.com. "Kohn is a student of the great Errol Morris, and the influence shows clearly in his rather off-centered interview segments... Kohn has other, less welcome, influences, though, and they appear to be of the post-Tarantino variety, particularly when it comes to marrying a jaunty musical score (in this case, a strong batch of well-selected and sharp Brazilian rock and pop tunes) with scenes of deplorable violence or cringe-inducing brutality. This habit is easier to excuse in fictional film; when the subjects are so deadly serious as they are in this documentary, it borders on thoughtless."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:39 PM | Comments (3)

Shorts, 8/16.

Days of Heaven "I told Terry that people were really going to be pretty surprised by this new transfer, since it was such a radical departure from before, but he said it was perfect." Lee Kline has a terrific entry at Criterion's On Five on prepping a new release of Days of Heaven.

"It is said that seeing is believing, but often it's the other way around," blogs Errol Morris. "We do not form our beliefs on the basis of what we see; rather, what we see is determined by our beliefs. We see not what is there, but rather what we want to see or expect to see."

The Invasion "emerges a slick but forgettable, characterless thriller," writes Dennis Harvey for Variety, noting that the Wachowski brothers are said to have reshot about a third of Oliver Hirschbiegel's original version. "Purportedly it was offbeat, politically barbed and quasi-documentary in style. Those qualities are MIA in the current Invasion, whose occasional nods to earlier versions [of Invasion of the Body Snatchers] (Veronica Cartwright, memorable in the [Philip] Kaufman version, has a brief role here) only serve as a reminder of how much better they were." More from Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly, who watches Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig and wonders, "Is there a Razzie Award for worst casting?"

After enumerating the "Four Stages of Watching Bergman," Entertainment Weekly's Owen Glieberman tackles what has surely become the New York Times op-ed most discussed among cinephiles this year:

What's truly notable about [Jonathan] Rosenbaum's dismissal... is the battle line he's really drawing: between Bergman the middlebrow, an art filmmaker who actually deigned to tell his stories fluidly (how vulgar!), and Rosenbaum's heroes, such as the arid, oblique Bresson, with his dessicated zombie acting and general lack of forward motion.

Specious as it is, this argument represents what has become a vanguard attitude in the way that foreign films are now routinely celebrated — not for their expression, but for their benumbed lack of expression. You see it in the canonization of directors like Hou Hsiao-hsien and Abbas Kiarostami, the spiritual heirs to Bresson: filmmakers who fetishize their refusal to dramatize, who create art that is meandering and oblique, at times to the point of madness. For a while there in the 50s, 60s, and early 70s, Ingmar Bergman's films held sway as a "classy" cultural phenomenon, but through all the symbols, the feverish close-ups, the otherworldly chess games, the torment and the tenderness, what you always felt was his deep desire to connect. That's what made his art, and art film itself, matter.

Via Peter Chattaway.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Boyd van Hoeij talks with Cristian Mungiu about his Palme d'Or-winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Also at european-films.net: a trailer roundup.

"The closest parallel to this kind of cinema is the music of Philip Glass and Steven Reich," writes Screen Daily's Dan Fainaru of Masahiro Kobayashi's Rebirth (Ai No Yokan), winner of the Golden Leopard at Locarno. "With 'art' stamped all over it in capital letters, Rebirth is much closer in spirit to those gallery installations intended to be observed at length. It requires total availability, limitless patience and a great deal of curiosity from anyone wishing to tackle it with some degree of seriousness."

In the wake of Karl Rove's exit, you may be interested to know what Bush's Brain co-producer Elizabeth Reeder is up to. For the Austin Chronicle, Marrit Ingman spends 14 hours on the set of her next film, A Very Bad Day. Also, a DVD roundup from Shawn Badgley.

In the Voice:

  • "The characters in Them are paper-thin," writes Ernest Hardy. "They're mere props to be manipulated by co-directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud, who want nothing more than to scare you shitless in what, with its nonstop chase sequences and booby traps, often comes off as a live-action video game."

  • Paul Malcolm on Cut Sleeve Boys: "There's a lot to like in writer-director Ray Yeung's low-key romantic comedy, once you get past its overly enunciated identity issues."

  • Julia Wallace on Sunflower: "Director Zhang Yang has a sociologist's grasp of the games and taunts of boyhood during the Cultural Revolution... but his development of plot and character is correspondingly weak."

Highlights from Ben Slater's run at Time Out Singapore: the local art house scene, a review of I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, an interview with Singapore International Film Festival co-director Philip Cheah and a backgrounder on the frustrations of many Singaporean moviegoers over nearly three decades of dubbing: "Chinese dialects are richly expressive, and there are entire modes of humour and emotional registers that are difficult, if not impossible to convey in Mandarin."

The Animated Man For the Times Literary Supplement, Sarah Churchwell reviews Michael Barrier's The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney and Neal Gabler's Walt Disney: "Together Gabler and Barrier suggest a dull, cold control freak, driven by capricious enthusiasms, a workaholic technophile of little vivacity and no humour. Animation of the human, as opposed to cinematic, variety is in such short supply that a reader who first encountered Disney through these biographies could be forgiven for wondering why anyone ever liked his films."

"Mark Palansky goes for Tim Burton-by-Jean-Pierre Jeunet whimsicality with Penelope, a storybook fable that never overplays its cutesiness but also fails to figure out what it wants to be," writes Nick Schager at Slant. And it won't be opening this Friday after all, either. IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez reports on IFC's overall shift of focus.

"[T]he soundtrack to the forthcoming Dylan avant-biopic I'm Not There - in which everyone from Richard Gere to Cate Blanchett plays the harmonica-toting troubadour born Robert Zimmerman - is shaping up to be quite a monster," reports Pitchfork Media. Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

Alice Neel is a "compelling, surprising, and unexpectedly complex documentary by her grandson, Andrew Neel," writes Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix. Also, Richard Beck on The Cats of Mirikitani and Gerald Peary on The Devil Came on Horseback and Blame It on Fidel.

Even a fairy tale movie needs a sense of gravity, but without it Stardust loses any metaphorical power," writes Armond White in the New York Press.

The Fearmakers "Consistent with [Jacques] Tourneur's noir worldview, the communist presence in The Fearmakers is shadowy and vague," writes C Jerry Kutner at Bright Lights After Dark, adding: "In contrast to its vagueness about communism, the film is quite pointed in its critique of the PR business."

"The Wildcat was the last film Pola Negri made with Lubitsch in Germany (in Hollywood they collaborated only one more time, in Forbidden Paradise, made three years later) and her performance as Rischka is quite different from her other historic/epic roles under his direction," writes Ian Johnston at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. "Her physicality is a comic one, full of the pratfalls of silent comedy. But there's also a real anarchic force to her, one that upturns, even if it never in the end undermines, the conventions of social life." Adam Balz on Julie Taymor's Fool's Fire.

"The Keys of the Kingdom may strike some as being shockingly liberal when viewed at a time when concepts as Christianity and faith seem so narrowly defined," writes Peter Nellhaus.

MS Smith on Neil Marshall's The Descent: "The imagery of the caverns is decidedly primal, even sexual: narrow passageways, phallic stalactites, the various, violent scenes of impalement. And if a purely psychological reading in this manner seems excessive or unwarranted or, more like it, a bit too easy, in the least the womb-like cave is the quintessential environment in which base emotions emerge and then conquer, where a transformation, a re-birth, into something more primal occurs."

Briefly, Maria Kommodore in the San Francisco Bay Guardian on Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Doulos.

"[L]et's play a parlor game," offers Michael Fox at SF360. "Who's the next Woody Allen?"

gravida Dennis Cozzalio has a long talk with Lucas McNelly about his "fine, patiently observed short film gravida."

Gill Pringle profiles Julia Stiles for the Independent.

Pinch hitting for the Reeler: Vito After director and producer Maria Pusateri.

"Although it is still nowhere near the production levels of the 1920s, German film industry officials say movie making in the Berlin is undergoing a renaissance." Deutsche Welle reports.

"A Hollywood employment dispute ended Monday when an arbitrator decided that Ed Limato, a longtime agent for stars like Steve Martin and Mel Gibson, could leave International Creative Management for a rival and take his clients with him," reports Brooks Barnes. Also in the New York Times, Motoko Rich and Melena Ryzik on the 50th anniversary of On the Road.

"The 840 page September issue of Vogue is on newsstands - which means A&E IndieFilm's documentary on Vogue is almost done shooting," notes Neal Ungerleider for FishbowlNY.

Online viewing tip. Jason Morehead points to the gorgeous trailer for Heima.

Online viewing tips. At indieWIRE, Kim Adelman notes that SXSWClick and IFC and Rooftop Films' Summer Shorts Online "offer up a combined total of 115 shorts accessible via cell phone or laptop."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:29 AM

Fests and events, 8/16.

Australian Film Festival Brian Gibson in Edmonton's Vue Weekly: "The Australian Film Festival, a series of features paired with shorts that is screening this weekend, offers some new twists and turns in its survey of the continent-sized country: lawn bowling in Melbourne (Crackerjack), a Sicilian girl struggling in Sydney (Looking For Alibandi), fiery family reunions in Victoria and Northern Australia (Hotel Sorrento, Radiance)."

The Italian Cultural Institute in San Francisco is launching a retrospective of films by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Dennis Harvey at SF360: Watching the movies that are now his most familiar legacy, it's impossible to separate content from his complicated off-screen life. Would one be half so interesting without the other? Thirty-odd years after his death, it's still debatable whether he was ever a great filmmaker. But no one doubts he's a great public figure whose personality continues to absorb viewers who read his films like celluloid autobiography."

"The Melodramas of Vincente Minnelli, a four-film program starting at Anthology Film Archives this week, may be the most important retrospective of the summer," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "By highlighting Minnelli's other career - not that of a movie-musical master but the most visually astonishing melodramatist of American cinema - Anthology helps to rectify movie history."

Howard's End screens on Monday as part of the Academy's Great to Be Nominated series and, in the LA Weekly, Tim Grierson notes how differently he sees the film now from when he saw it as a teen.

In the Los Angeles Times, Susan King rounds up local goings on.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:11 AM | Comments (1)

Lists, 8/16.

A Wild Sheep Chase "The Unfilmable Novel And The Directors Who Should Try Anyway." At Twitch, Todd Brown proposes five match-ups.

"Hollywood is a slaughterhouse where cool movie ideas go to die." For Cracked, David Wong lists "ten films that were tragically cut down before their time, simply because they were just too friggin' awesome."

Heinrich Breloer's adaptation of Thomas Mann's Die Buddenbrooks, featuring August Diehl and Armin Mueller-Stahl, is only one of many period pieces in production in Germany. Boyd van Hoeij runs down the list at european-films.net.

Lions for Lambs "is one of about a dozen Hollywood films due for release or being made that deal with America divided, the national debate over Iraq and Afghanistan, and other consequences of 9/11," writes Ewen MacAskill in the Guardian:

The Hurt Locker

Other films on the way include Rendition, with Reese Witherspoon as the wife of an Egyptian chemical engineer spirited away for interrogation by the CIA. In the Valley of Elah, due for release on September 14, is directed by Paul Haggis, and stars Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon. It is about post-combat stress and is based on a real incident in which a soldier was murdered while on a drinking spree with his comrades on return from Iraq....

Grace Is Gone, due out in October and directed by James Strouse, looks at the impact on a family of the loss of a wife and mother killed in Iraq, while Kimberly Peirce's Stop Loss, scheduled for release next March, deals with a veteran who refuses to return to Iraq. Redacted, to be released in December, is directed by Brian de Palma and is about US soldiers persecuting an Iraqi family.

The Hurt Locker, on which filming is due to begin this week in Jordan and Kuwait, is written by Mark Boal, who also worked on In the Valley of Elah. The Hurt Locker concentrates on a US army explosives disposal unit in Iraq.

Two big lists from Nathaniel R: "Ten Fall Movies I Can't Wait To See" and "Ten Additional Performances / Things I'm Curious About."

At Cinematical, Scott Weinberg lists seven "Teen Sex Comedies That Don't Suck!"

Posted by dwhudson at 5:08 AM

August 15, 2007

Fests and events, 8/15.

The Darjeeling Limited The Cannes-heavy lineup for the 45th New York Film Festival, slated for September 28 through October 14, is up at indieWIRE with an intro and notes on the 28 films, plus retrospective screenings and special events, by Brian Brooks. The fest will open with Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited, having just premiered by then at the 64th Venice International Film Festival (August 29 through September 8; for more on that, see Francesca Martin's piece in the Guardian - Venice'll also be screening Hotel Chevalier, a 12-minute short that's something of a prequel to the main feature), and close with Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's Persepolis. Karina Longworth comments on a few selections at the SpoutBlog.

Fantastic Fest (September 20 through 27 in Austin) has announced another round of titles and, over at Twitch, Blake Ethridge is downright ecstatic.

Also: "This year's Toronto International Film Festival just got a whole lot more interesting. A slew of international titles have just been announced, among them a gala presentation of Alexi Tan's Blood Brothers, special presentations of Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, Sergei Bodrov's Mongol, Johnnie To's Mad Detective plus confirmation on new titles by François Ozon, Lone Scherfig, Ken Loach, Takeshi Kitano, Shinji Aoyama, the Cannes-commissioned Chacun Son Cinema shorts and a host of others..." Todd Brown carries on.

"The Palm Springs International Short Film Festival just published their schedule, and included amidst the other excellent films is the first public showing of A Catalog Of Anticipations II," notes David Lowery. "Which, of course, is being exhibited without any numerical identification, thus kicking off what's sure to be an oddball experiment of a festival run, as I've started submiting this segment to some festivals and the full triptych to others, all under the very same title. This might be a bad idea, but I'm sticking to it for now." August 23 through 29.

Back to the Guardian: Alex Cox on the Summer of British Film: "Ten seconds' thought leads you to realise that the BBC and the UK Film Council aren't necessarily interested in British cinema per se. As quangos funded by the government, they are obliged to come up with a war-friendly - and essentially mid-Atlantic - version of British film history that suits their paymasters."

Hallam Foe And Peter Bradshaw on the Edinburgh opener, Hallam Foe: "It's an engaging performance from [Jamie] Bell, in a fluent, good-looking movie. I do wish, however, that the story wasn't quite such self-indulgent and self-regarding tosh."

"Whatever reservations one has about Hallam Foe - and some people may have many - it has a quirky charm," writes Nick Dawson for Filmmaker. Also: "In Search of a Midnight Kiss is due for release in the US next year, and it is so well-written, charming and beautifully photographed that it is inconceivable to think of audiences not falling in love with this little gem."

In the Independent, Will Russell, co-author of I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski, tells the story behind Lebkowski Fest, headed to Edinburgh on August 24 and to London on August 30.

Besides a few thoughts on the Castro, Brian Darr offers several tips on San Francisco Bay Area goings on.

Michael Guillén's taken extensive notes from Jack Hill's appearances at Dead Channels.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:52 PM

More on Superbad.

Superbad "2007: the year Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen saved movie comedy," announces Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly. "Our summer kicked off with the sublime Knocked Up (written and directed by Apatow, starring Rogen), and now it closes with the even raunchier, even funnier Superbad (produced by Apatow, co-written by Rogen, who also plays a crucial supporting role)."

"At 19 and 23 respectively, [Michael] Cera and [Jonah] Hill have the fully developed comic timing of seasoned pros - Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in sneakers and cargo shorts," writes Scott Foundas. "Yet, Superbad is routinely stolen right out from under them by an 18-year-old newcomer, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who was plucked from MySpace obscurity to play the unapologetically dweeby third wheel, Fogell, and who embraces the part with such unbridled comic brio that the character - and his fake-ID alias, McLovin - is bound for movie-comedy immortality." Also in the LA Weekly: Dave Schulman meets Cera and Hill, while Joshuah Bearman interviews director Greg Mottola.

Updated through 8/21.

"[I]t folds in qualities that the other guys don't even realize they're missing," writes Chris Braiotta. "For being more like After Hours than American Pie 2, I'm happy to overlook Superbads lack of ambition and call it the funniest and least depressing mainstream comedy in years." Also in the Boston Phoenix, a talk with Cera and Hill.

For David Poland, Superbad is "easily the funniest film of 2007 so far and the hippest, stupidest, smartest, and most sweetly profane comedy of what now has to be known as The Apatow Oeuvre."

For Filmmaker, Nick Dawson talks with Mottola "about his sabbatical from film, why he's the natural replacement for Sidney Lumet, and making zombie vomit for George A Romero."

Deborah Netburn reports on the local premiere for the Los Angeles Times.

Earlier: "Superbad."

Updates, 8/16: "Like Knocked Up, much of Superbad's gross-out humor works because it's based in relatable moments of embarrassment and insecurity that surround a surprisingly conservative core," writes Zack Smith in the Independent Weekly. "Yes, the plot is about a couple of horndogs trying to lose it, but the film doesn't overlook the insecurity and lack of self-esteem that's propelling these characters into this plot in the first place. This leads to several screamingly funny drunken set pieces and an awkward, poignantly understated final scene."

"Where Superbad triumphs over the movies Apatow directed himself is in terms of craft and cohesion," writes Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper. Mottola "knows how to frame a shot and how to build rhythm from sequence to sequence, a skill that has so far escaped, or failed to interest, Apatow himself."

Superbad may not be "a whole lot more than a solid stepping stone for most of the folks involved, whether it's to nebbish starring roles (Cera) or writing stoner comedies (Rogen) or amusing sidekicks (Hill) or however they fit into the world of Hollywood comedy," writes David Berry in Vue Weekly. "Maybe Apatow's greatest strength, though, is that even when things he puts his stamp on are only good, they're still great."

"The ethnic identity in Superbad is white as a sheet," notes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "That shouldn't detract from its merits as an above-average teen sex comedy, but the race factor begs mentioning; unmitigated whiteness dictates the movie's scathing portrayal of high school tomfoolery."

Cinematical's James Rocchi talks with Cera, Hill and Mintz-Plasse.

Updates, 8/18: "[T]he movie's appeal leaps across generations in a single bound," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times. "As Hill recently said in an interview, Superbad is not a teen movie, it's a movie about young people. Wide-eyed and sincere as it is hilariously, unrepentently profane, the movie aims to express what it's like to stare down the barrel of your first foray into adulthood, and it's not afraid to be honest about it. It's the opposite of teensploitation. Were it to appear as an SAT question, it would be to American Pie what the collected works of John Hughes are to the Porky's trilogy."

"If the penis is puzzled in Portnoy's Complaint, as Alexander Portnoy's shrink believes, in Superbad, it is thoroughly, stunningly clueless and as violently tremulous as a divining rod at Hoover Dam," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Superbad largely works not because the jokes are funny, which they generally are, even on the spitometer. It works because no matter how unapologetically vulgar their words, no matter how single-mindedly priapic their preoccupations, these men and boys are good and decent and tender and true. They never take cruel or callous advantage. They call. They love. They marry."

"The new teen comedy Superbad has gotten a lot of praise for being smarter than the average horny-teenager movie, though for all its raunchy dialogue and contemporary concerns, its basic formula is pretty familiar," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "Anyone who watched movies in the 80s knows what Superbad is. It's an 'into the night' movie." Also, Nathan Rabin talks with Cera, Hill and Mintz-Plasse. Also: "[T]his is the Citizen Kane of dick-joke movies."

"The movie doesn't need any superfluous redeeming qualities," notes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "Its pleasures and charms lie in its very crudeness, in the way the characters' thoughts begin in their dicks and spill out of their mouths, completely bypassing their brains.

"Where Superbad really sings - again, in the filthiest key imaginable - is in the moments when nothing much is happening at all," writes the New Republic's Christopher Orr. "[T]he boys ultimately learn something about sex, and friendship, and respecting women. But the movie's real lesson is this: There is nothing as dirty - and, in the right circumstances, as hilarious - as the mind of a 17-year-old boy."

"The movie reminded me a little of National Lampoon's Animal House, except that it's more mature, as all movies are," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. "It has that unchained air of getting away with something. In its very raunchiness, it finds truth, because if you know nothing about sex, how can you be tasteful and sophisticated on the subject? In its treatment of adolescent sexual yearning, Superbad remembers not only the agony but the complete absence of the ecstasy."

"Superbad is as lurching, awkward, and dirty-minded as the three horny man-boys at its center—but not, in the end, quite as funny or endearing," writes Slate's Dana Stevens. "Watching Superbad brought out the prude in me - not because of the drinking or the sex or the unbelievably profane dialogue, but because of what can only be described as the movie's moral code."

"For pure laughs, for the experience of just sitting in a chair and breaking up every minute or so, Superbad is 2007's most successful comedy," declares the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle.

"Not surprising in a movie about geeks trying to get it on, the geekiest character is the most indelible," writes Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post. "Newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse steals the movie in his screen debut as a nerd di tutti nerds, a kid whose fake ID reads 'McLovin.' With his eyes squinted shut behind the standard-issue glasses, every line reading he delivers is an aria of quivering, adenoidal insecurity."

"I'm in a pretty small minority of critics who aren't enchanted by the Apatow movies," admits Time's Richard Corliss. "It's as if all these worthy scribes have the rapture, and I'm left behind.... I guess I have to say that, like most other liberal New York heterosexuals I'm a card-carrying homophiliac; so in calling the films closet-gay, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It just strikes me as a dominant trend in the year's comedies (and action films, like 300 and Spider-Man 3)."

Updates, 8/20: Michael Tully's got an online viewing tip.

"Superbad might be the most provocative teen sex comedy ever made; it is certainly one of the most convulsively funny," writes David Edelstein in New York. "Superbad is like American Graffiti, with a crucial difference: The adults are as childlike and out of control as the children (if not more so).... In the 70s and 80s, even explicit teen sex comedies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High unfolded in a culture with a fair amount of shame. Now, with Fast Times and American Pie as touchstones, with MySpace turning even shy people into exhibitionists, filmmakers can begin where their predecessors ended. Soon it might not be repression we have to worry about but having nothing left to repress."

"The thing I didn't expect out of Superbad was that it would be so boring," writes Andy Spletzer.

"Superbad is a must see because it is an accurate account of the American experience," blogs DK Holm for the Vancouver Voice.

Update, 8/21: "[T]he reasons to recommend Superbad are numerous and compelling, from its rare emphasis on male, rather than female, genitalia, to its almost nonstop barrage of laugh-out-loud moments," writes Emily Condon at Reverse Shot. "And then there's the film's most remarkable contribution, which lies in its willingness to champion dude love. A stark contrast to the smug homophobia of comedies like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, The Ten and Blades of Glory, Superbad is possibly the only major release drenched with dick-and-pussy references that also embraces flagrant, if platonic, male affection."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:49 PM

Death at a Funeral.

Death at a Funeral "At its finest, this sort of farce has historically enunciated the social mores of a given time period, with the skeleton-in-the-closet evolving over time to match that era's chief concerns," writes Brendon Bouzard at Reverse Shot. "If we are to take the retrograde Death at a Funeral, with its open hostility or indifference toward women, gays, the disabled, and the elderly, to reflect the social mores of our era, it would simply be the most depressing thing I've seen in a theater all year. For the sake of my faith in humanity, I'm going to refuse to accept that, and consider this an aberration, a relic of a bygone, less enlightened era. Moviegoers of America: please prove me right."

Updated through 8/18.

"[O]ld-fashioned farces are murder to bring off," writes New York's David Edelstein. "Two keys to doing so: Wind the jack-in-the-boxes in full view of the audience and arrange them to pop up, with trigonometric precision, at the most embarrassing moments; and choose a venue in which the embarrassment will be especially acute (the stuffier the setting, the funnier the shitting). Dean Craig's script has an ideal venue (upper-crust English memorial service) and a heap of good jack-in-the-boxes (mislabeled hallucinogens, scandalous gay photos, expulsive bowels). It goes soft, but even a gelded traditional farce is more potent than most of our slob comedies."

"Trying too hard to hit its hijinks marks, Death at a Funeral hams up its homophobia in bids for bigger laughs," writes Kristi Mitsuda at indieWIRE. "The cringeworthy conceit is compounded by maudlin showmanship when the entire trying day boils down - or builds up - to one incredibly reductive scene... Smugly believing itself edgy where it's laughably fusty, bold and original where it's insipid, this final send-off is a microcosmic display of what's wrong with the whole damn thing."

"[F]or all its spot-on performances ([Matthew] Macfadyen's particularly good), clever dialogue, and wacky gags... Death at a Funeral never even approaches the best of Oz's oeuvre," writes Robert Wilonsky in the Voice. "It's his first movie that begs for the laugh track; they'll love it on BBC America."

Online listening tip. Oz on All Things Considered.

Update, 8/16: "[G]ags involving excrement and gay dwarfs from the deceased's past don't do justice to the cinematic funeral tradition," writes Tom Meek in the Boston Phoenix.

Updates, 8/18: "There's nothing in Death that tops the craziest sight gag in Bowfinger: a dog in pumps ambling through a parking garage," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times. "But Dean Craig's screenplay offers at least six moments that come close, and it's hard to describe them without ruining their impact. Suffice it to say Mr Oz stages them with such wicked glee that they eclipse the movie's problematic aspects (more about those in a moment) and its reflexive, mostly regrettable attempts to add 'heart,' an organ that should be banned from farce unless the director intends to jam a steak knife through it."

"Death at a Funeral is lethal farce, combining hints of The Lavender Hill Mob, doses of Joe Orton and a smidgen of the Farrelly brothers' scatology in its mix," writes Sid Smith for the Chicago Tribune. "It's sillier but funnier than Knocked Up, the summer's other notable comedy."

Nathan Rabin talks with Oz for the AV Club. Also: "[T]hough it grows silly and sentimental, Funeral scores enough big laughs to make its shortcomings eminently forgivable."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:41 AM

August 14, 2007

DVDs, 8/14.

"I Shot Jesse James together with [Sam] Fuller's two other films for [Robert L] Lippert, The Baron of Arizona (1950) and The Steel Helmet (1951), make up Volume 5 of the Criterion Collection's new, no-frills Eclipse series, and this trilogy provides a perfect introduction to Mr Fuller's personal brand of 'in your face' filmmaking," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times.

3 by Fuller

"That's 'in your face' in an almost literal sense: Jesse James contains the famous shot in which a barroom brawler takes a poke right at the camera's lens, the defining moment in a style that Jean-Luc Godard would later characterize as 'cinema-fist.'"

At IFC News, segueing from Warners' latest noir package, "a veritable Belgian block of postwar alienation and all-American hardcore doom," Michael Atkinson writes, "If noir has a future and not merely a vivid, unforgettable past, it might lie with frustrating, cold-eyed, inconclusive docudrama epics like David Fincher's Zodiac, a rangy historical tapestry, shot in the thoughtful-yet-overwrought way that Fincher has made his own."

"What is surely the funniest and most watch-able monster movie of all time, The Monster Squad (originally released in 1987), has just been dubbed a 'cult classic,' and been re-released on DVD," notes Sam Devine at Pixel Vision. "In it, all the old-school Universal movie monsters - Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein's Monster - return to claim a sacred amulet that can forever alter the balance of power between good and evil. And a group of Junior High kids are the only ones that remember the special ways to kill these monsters."

"If you're like me, you probably believe that Mystery Science Theater 3000 was the funniest thing on television," blogs DK Holm for the Vancouver Voice. "What we really want, though, are the old guard back in the saddle, and that's what the MST3K fans get with the new series, The Film Crew."

DVD roundups: The Lumière Reader and Antonio Pasolini at Kamera.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:02 PM

Fests and events, 8/14.

Edinburgh International Film Festival With the Edinburgh International Film Festival opening tomorrow, the Guardian opens a special section and Neil Young ranks the films he's looking forward to most.

In the run-up to Toronto (September 6 through 15), Thom Powers's Doc Blog is hopping.

Claude Chabrol's "long career has been as uneven as it has been prolific, as evidenced in The Other Claude Chabrol, MOMA's series of 11 Chabrol rarities - some theatrical features, others commissioned for French TV that have never made it into American theaters," writes Elliott Stein. "Chabrol completists will be in seventh heaven with this show; others would do well to lower their expectations."

Also in the Voice: "The Summer of Love that gives its name to the Whitney's current survey of 60s psychedelic art was always a fantasy - indeed, the LSD-fueled gathering of the tribes in San Francisco was the moment when fantasy ran rampant," writes J Hoberman. Also, Vincente Minnelli at Anthology and more highlights of the week in NYC.

"For its 20th annual event, scheduled from Nov 1 - 4, 2007, the Virginia Film Festival is planning a special family gathering. The 2007 theme will be KIN FLICKS, with more than a hundred speakers and films addressing popular and alternative images of family life."

Online viewing tips. Mike Everleth has a batch from the Austin Underground Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:45 PM

Interview. David Lynch.

Inland Empire Following a Video Q&A as well as interviews from John Esther and John McMurtrie, we mark the release of Inland Empire, a two-disc DVD, an event, an extravagana, with Sean Axmaker's interview with David Lynch.

About this DVD package. The first disc "simply contains the film as shown in the theaters, without a commentary track," Nathan Lee's noted in his talk with Lynch for the Voice. "The other disc is made up of nearly three hours of extras and features, including a 70-minute collection called 'More Things That Happened.' Incorporated into the body of Inland Empire, this additional material would push the total running time to over four and half hours, but Lynch insists that they be considered apart from the main attraction."

Earlier, Jürgen Fauth: 1 and 2.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:49 AM

August 13, 2007

Shorts, 8/13.

"Maybe we should initiate, you and I, a cinephiles' Long Shot Hall of Fame," suggests Michael Atkinson.

Sunrise

"[W]e all have our favorites, beyond the celebrated examples (Murnau's marsh walk in Sunrise, Welles's bordertown swoon in Touch of Evil, Kalatosov's street funeral in I Am Cuba, Godard's traffic jam in Week End, Antonioni's summary courtyard circle in The Passenger, Scorsese's Copacabana hustle in GoodFellas, Sokurov's Winter Palace tour in Russian Ark, etc)... but what about the long shots we've forgotten about, or never heard praised?"

Following a sort of abbreviated history of the evolution of one cinephile's taste, the Self-Styled Siren declares that she is "firmly on the side of the Bergman lovers." But for Scott Balcerak, blogging at Dr Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope, "what is really being mourned here is the passing of a certain type of cinephilia - the previous generation's definition of cinephilia."

Shadow of a Doubt Jonathan Lapper posts "A Birthday Tribute to Alfred Hitchcock." On a related note, Andy Horbal: "Shadow of a Doubt appears on the surface to be a Hitchcock film without a MacGuffin, but really that plot device is just hidden in plain sight: his name is Uncle Charlie..."

"Shine a Light is the Stones as up close and personal you're ever going to get," writes Craig McLean, who talks with Martin Scorsese about making it. Also in the Guardian: Rosanna Greenstreet's rapid-fire Q&A with Ed Harris.

Adam Sternbergh profiles Mary-Louise Parker for New York.

"Merv Griffin, a big-band singer who became one of television's longest-running talk-show hosts and formidable innovators, creating some of the medium's most popular game shows before becoming a major figure in the hotel and gambling businesses, died yesterday in Los Angeles," write Richard Severo and Edward Wyatt. "He was 82." Richard Zoglin for Time: "His show didn't have the cachet or the clout of Carson's. But Griffin and his producers were smart enough to realize that to compete they had to take more chances, and that made him more receptive to some of the era's most groundbreaking new talent." More: AJ Schnack and Joe Leydon.

Elizabeth Murray Back to the New York Times: "Elizabeth Murray, a New York painter who reshaped Modernist abstraction into a high-spirited, cartoon-based, language of form whose subjects included domestic life, relationships and the nature of painting itself, died yesterday at her home in upstate New York," writes Roberta Smith. "Ms Murray belonged to a sprawling generation of Post-Minimal artists who spent the 1970s reversing the reductivist tendencies of Minimalism and reinvigorating art with a sense of narrative, process and personal identity." Time's Richard Lacayo: "I can't think of another contemporary artist who gave me more sheer pleasure over the past few decades. In the 1970s, when everybody just knew that painting was dead, Murray and a handful of others - Susan Rothenberg, Brice Marden and Philip Guston to name three - came along with the kind of vital pictures that said: 'Says who?'"

The latest pinch hitter for the Reeler: John Lichman.

Excerpts from two books: The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art and Music Drive New York City and The Rough Guide to the Velvet Underground.

An annotated list from Nick Schager at IFC News: "When B-Listers Go Abroad."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:57 PM | Comments (6)

Delirious.

Delirious "With Delirious, Tom DiCillo puts our national obsession with fame under the magnifying glass, and what he spies is a bunch of people in desperate need of attention, approval, and friendship," writes Nick Schager in Slant. "Not found, however, is a humorous means of exposing and examining this unhealthy fixation on Access Hollywood-era celebrity promotion."

"DiCillo just doesn't have the feeling for, rancor towards, love of, or even understanding of contemporary pop to make a movie about it - nothing in here goes any deeper than what anybody could glean from an afternoon spent in front of E!," writes Nick Pinkerton at indieWIRE. "Because it's a 'scrappy' indie, it'll get the attendance gold star from the usual press who congratulate low-budget filmmakers just for showing up, but really, that sort of approbation isn't doing anybody any good."

Updated through 8/18.

"Some of the plot turns don't quite make sense, but this is still a strong, bitter movie about a milieu that the director intimately understands," writes David Denby in the New Yorker. "The movie is exhilarating in a way that only hard-won knowledge of the world can be."

"Can a director be too independent for independent film?" asks John Anderson in the New York Times. "In an arena increasingly seen as an annex of the major studios and where one of Hollywood's contributions has been the acceptance of compromise, the career of the writer and director Tom DiCillo would suggest it's true."

Earlier: "Sundance. Steve Buscemi x 2."

Updates: "Sometimes I feel like I'm on an alien planet," DiCillo tells Aaron Hillis at IFC News. "The only thing I can fall back on, with this movie in particular, is that people really respond to its emotional resonance, and that's assuring to me. It makes me feel like I'm not alone and that there are people out there who recognize it's the human element that matters."

Also, Matt Singer: "DiCillo's movie is stridently anti celebrity culture but it's a bit too broad... The 'shocking' twist that kicks off the third act is certainly unexpected, but it's also totally unbelievable."

Update, 8/14: "Tom DiCillo's Delirious is a mild Midnight Cowboy, a minor King of Comedy, and mainly a vehicle for Steve Buscemi as a lower Manhattan–based paparazzo," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "[I]t's Buscemi who imbues the movie with a scabrous pathos that is scarcely mitigated by the final flash-bulb white-out."

Updates, 8/15: "Mr DiCillo's disgust with this voracious culture is palpable throughout a movie in which there is no glamour to be found," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "Even though he reserves a spoonful of honey to make this bitter medicine go down, you leave the movie feeling as though you have gazed into a closed circle of hell where everybody feeds off everyone else until there is nothing left."

"Despite its dubious intentions, Delirious features a few nearly redeeming performances, but Buscemi's is not one of them," writes Vadim Rizov at the Reeler. "[Michael] Pitt and [Alison] Lohman nearly carry the film between them.... but with Buscemi mugging in front of the lens and DiCillo posing 'provocative' questions from behind it, it's pretty much hopeless."

Updates, 8/16: Susan King talks with DiCillo for the Los Angeles Times.

"Delirious justifies its title, but confuses its perspective," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "[T]he finale has you rooting for the triumph of glamour over sincerity."

"Almost everybody in the film world likes writer-director Tom DiCillo, and that's for good reasons and maybe for bad ones too." Andrew O'Hehir talks with him for Salon.

Updates, 8/18: "[I]s an achingly funny film that is also a little sad around the edges," writes Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times.

DiCillo's "message is as timely and immediate as a 'news flash' on TMZ or Smoking Gun, and will continue to be relevant as long as the media force celebrity culture down the gullets of readers, listeners and viewers," writes Gary Dretzka at Movie City News. But "Delirious also can be enjoyed as a contemporary fairy tale, in which a knight in tarnished armor rescues an emotionally fragile princess from uncouth trolls and barbarians armed with a cameras. Either way one looks at it, the total product is great fun."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:54 AM

August 12, 2007

Shorts, 8/12.

Pedro Costa Daniel Kasman pulls together disparate thoughts on a slew of films by Pedro Costa. Related: Kevin Lee on Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?.

If you're following "More on Bergman" and "More on Antonioni," you'll have seen that the New York Times is running pieces on each, one by Woody Allen and one by Martin Scorsese, respectively. What else:

  • "The notoriety of Bonnie and Clyde, directed by Arthur Penn from a long-gestating script by David Newman and Robert Benton and produced by Warren Beatty, who also played Clyde, has long since eclipsed that of its real-life models," writes AO Scott 40 years after the film opened in New York. "The ups and downs of the movie's early fortunes have become a touchstone and a parable, a crucial episode in the entwined histories of Hollywood, American film criticism and postmodern popular culture.... As we endure another phase in the never-ending argument about movie violence — renewed by the recent popularity of extremely brutal horror films like the Saw and Hostel cycles; made momentarily acute by the Virginia Tech massacre last spring; forever hovering around the edges of dinner-table conversations and political campaigns - it's worth re-examining this legend to see if it has anything left to teach us." You may be surprised by where he goes with this.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  • Dennis Lim on Invasion of the Body Snatchers: "Originally a 1955 novel by Jack Finney, this paranoid fable has now cloned itself several times over, spawning four movies in five decades. Tapping into themes of individualism and conformity, personal freedom and social control, the idea of soulless 'pod people' has become an all-encompassing metaphor that finds a sociopolitical relevance whatever the period.... Don Siegel's 1956 B-movie, the first and still the most Rorschach-like, emerged from a national climate of Red scare hysteria and from a Hollywood traumatized by the blacklist." Philip Kaufman's 1978 version is set in "a post-utopian San Francisco where summer-of-love idealism had curdled into a Me Decade morass of cultish psychobabble." Abel Ferrara's 1993 take "zeroes in on the domestic sphere." In Oliver Hirschbiegel's Invasion, Nicole Kidman plays a psychiatrist. "That she is a former member of the Church of Scientology, which is skeptical of psychiatry, and the star of the recently remade Body Snatchers mutant The Stepford Wives, adds extra-textual resonance."

  • "Yawningly directed by Jim Isaac, Skinwalkers is a slavering mess that buries its clunky addiction metaphor beneath a welter of genre clichés, all delivered in extra-slow motion," writes Jeannette Catsoulis.

  • Robert Ito reports on "the lengths that studios will go to in search of their next franchise, at a time when it seems that all the biggest projects have already been done or spoken for."

  • Alex Williams goes out on the town with David Wain.

"Adapting Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books was supposedly going to be a dream come true for Hayao Miyazaki. In the end it was a project that, for Miyazaki at least, turned into a disaster when his son Goro was handed the director's chair. The feud between the pair enthralled Japan, highlighting as it did the divide in Japan's manga community between traditionalists and a new generation brought up on anime." Kaleem Aftab tells the story in the Independent. Also: a profile of Paul Schrader.

The Best Years of Our Lives "One measure of growing disgust and anxiety with the war on Iraq is the news that three movies about returning veterans from that war will be released over the next six months (In the Valley of Elah, September 14; Grace is Gone, October; and Stop Loss, next March), while the war itself shows no signs of ending," writes Charles Bogle at the WSWS, where he looks back to 1946 and the release of The Best Years of Our Lives and argues that the "insuperable contradictions of the veterans' situation, as well as the narrowness and limitations of the filmmaker's - or the American film industry's - answer to these problems, are expressed in their contrived acceptance (with a verbal protest here and there) of their fate."

"[M]ost of what we know about MGM musicals originated with Hugh Fordin and his remarkable book, The World of Entertainment," writes John McElwee. "A few weeks ago, Val Lewton was a Greenbriar subject. Much of what I learned about him was gleaned from Joel Siegel's The Reality of Terror. Both Fordin and Siegel broke ground for a generation of film scholars who'd benefit from research and interviews these two contributed. How many such detailed books were published in the early to mid-seventies? These were historians ahead of their time. Fordin made contact with a staggering number of MGM musical veterans in their twilight years. If you look at reunion footage taken at the 1974 premiere of That's Entertainment, it's startling to note how many of those performers would be gone within a few short years after."

"Italian director Francesca Comencini (Mi piace lavorare / Mobbing) puts contemporary life in the northern Italian metropolis Milan under the microscope in her new feature A casa nostra (Our Country)," writes Boyd van Hoeij at european-films.net. "The film uses the much en vogue intersecting urban stories model (Crash, 21 Grams, the local Non prendere impegni stasera / Don't Make Any Plans for Tonight), but here it seems to work against rather than in favour of her overview of the ills of Italian society, never allowing the quick sketches of her multiple protagonists the time to develop into human beings."

As You Like It The Shamus finds Kenneth Branaugh's As You Like It to be "the perfect companion piece to his earlier Much Ado About Nothing. It's good to see the old Branagh Bard team back in action - Brian Blessed, Richard Briers and a lilting score by Patrick Doyle - and a splendid cast led by Kevin Kline, Alfred Molina (marvelous as the Motley Fool), Adrian Lester, Janet McTeer and Bryce Dallas Howard in a positively revelatory turn as the gender-hopping Rosalind, so perfect that were this released in theaters here, she'd be laureled with Oscar talk."

"Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Ray Yeung, Cut Sleeve Boys follows the misadventures in love and life of a small circle of Asian gay men in contemporary London," writes Mark Olsen. "Although that sounds like something grounded in a certain specificity, a world with its own particular parameters, the two main characters follow arcs that seem familiar: Melvyn (Steven Lim), the vain party boy who discovers there is more to the world, and Ashley (Chowlee Leow), the shy repressive who learns to open up and accept himself.... The bones of something more interesting are there... but Yeung can never reconcile his impulses toward humor and human conflict, so things tend to sputter about, feeling disconnected and episodic."

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

Pierrot le Fou
  • Kevin Thomas on Pierrot le Fou, "which could just as easily be unfolding now instead of 42 years ago. It is best remembered for an appearance by director Samuel Fuller, playing himself as a party guest and famously defining cinema thus: 'The film is a battleground: love, hate, action, violence, death - in one word, emotion.' Pierrot le Fou is all that plus intellect." More from Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat: "I have frequently suggested that Richard Lester was the one who brought Godard's style into English-language cinema. Only now do I realize that the influence may have worked both ways: Pierrot was made about a year after the release of A Hard Day's Night, and its combination of shattered narrative and sheer energy - the way in which it is, first and foremost, a romp - seems a step beyond Godard's prior work."

  • "Though New Line made a big fuss celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the studio has been mired in a horrific slump," writes Patrick Goldstein. "The real question facing New Line, with the contracts of its co-chairmen [Bob] Shaye and Michael Lynne up next September, is whether the studio can be turned around in time to save it."

  • "[R]eports of the movie musical's death were premature," announces James C Taylor.

"Soo firmly roots itself as a film noir from its opening scene," writes Filmbrain of "one of the most original genre films to come out of Korea this year."

The Bourne Ultimatum "[W]ith The Bourne Ultimatum, we can see that it took five years for the producers and distributors to establish this franchise and bring it into something like real time," writes Stuart Klawans in the Nation. "The new film finally abandons the scandals of the Church Committee report era and the evasions of the rogue-organization theory in favor of a fully contemporary plot - one in which a few figures of probity (one of them, admittedly, slightly nuts) struggle against government officials who share Dick Cheney's low opinion of due process. A small achievement, you might say. But the movies are a novelty business. It's good for a thriller to be of its time, and amazing (considering the length of production schedules) for it to allude to something as recently exposed as the government's data-mining program." Also, a fun take on The Simpsons Movie.

More on Bourne from Daniel Kasman (plus a few jokes cracked by Armando Iannucci in the Observer) and on Simpsons from Dennis Cozzalio, who also offers his take on Hairspray.

"Raging Bull is not about boxing, or even the isolating power of male terrors," writes David Thomson. "It's about a failure to get through the layered bravado and dishonesty of male companionship to discover the tenderness of a life with women. Jake would kill any man who called him gay, or touched him. But he cannot find a way to touch or be touched by a woman."

Also in the Guardian:

  • "Firefighters battled flames 40 metres high early yesterday as fire raged through Rome's Cinecitta film studios," reports Tom Kington. Pix. "Fellini made most of his movies there, and it became the home to work by Visconti, Antonioni, Rossellini, Pasolini and De Sica," Peter Bradshaw reminds us. "When the studios were rubble for a few years after 1943, filmmakers were forced out into the streets and compelled to use locations and amateur actors from gritty real life, so movies such as Rossellini's Rome Open City and the whole neo-realist genre were born. It would be nice to imagine some unexpected creative bonus to the Cinecitta fire. Sadly, I think it just means a few charred togas."

  • "I've now adapted novels by Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene and [Ian] McEwan, and there is definitely something to be said for having the writer there to consult with," blogs Christopher Hampton. "[I]t was an arduous task, adapting Atonement. Not least because I had to do it twice."

  • Ronald Bergan considers (and tends to favor) Truffaut's argument that the realism of color is no help at all to films before presenting a list of "20 of the relatively few films in the history of cinema, in my opinion, in which color has been used intrinsically and creatively."

  • "The Iraq war has yet to yield up its latter-day version of Emile de Antonio's landmark Vietnam documentary In the Year of the Pig, but Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight will suffice for now," writes John Patterson. Also: "Surely there's something stupider and emptier than kiddie toys upon which we can base our next generation of moronic tween-robbing blockbusters? Of course there is: Porno."

  • Steven Goldman talks with Matt Damon.

  • Killian Fox profiles Judd Apatow.

"[W]e need to discuss the treatment of food and drink and meals!" Zach Campbell on Cassavetes.

Flickhead's been revisiting the "art of the double bill."

A Year of Fear At his Video WatchBlog, Tim Lucas reviews A Year of Fear: A Day-By-Day Guide to 366 Horror Films, "commendable for providing a welcome structured curriculum for studying a well-considered cross-section of genre fare," and notes the upcoming release of Blur, a collection of reviews by Stephen R Bissette: "Literate, informative, well worth reading, and well worth having."

At SF360, Claire Faggioli offers a list "of what I've personally found to be the most interesting or important moments in the visualization of blood, from sheer abundance to aesthetic appreciation." Also: Irina Leimbacher and Konrad Steiner, who worked at the SF Cinematheque for four years, have a new project, kino21. Max Goldberg asks them about it.

"It's frightening to set out to make a piece of science fiction and then see it become science prediction before your very eyes," Flood director Tony Mitchell tells Kevin Maher. Also in the London Times, Stephen Dalton talks with John Waters.

Adam Ross's interviewee this week: Cinebeats.

Michael Guillén talks with Uwe Boll about Postal.

Jason Kellett for McSweeney's: "Suggested Edits to the Movie 300 for the DVD Release of 300: The Definitive, Historically Accurate Cut. Via Movie City News.

Recent pinch hitters at the Reeler: Bennett Marcus and Lewis Beale.

Online listening tip. Spout's FilmCouch 32.

Online viewing tip. "Walk It Out." Via Michael Sippey.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:27 PM | Comments (3)

DVDs, 8/12.

Cocaine Angel "Thanks to the good folks at Indiepix, Cocaine Angel will finally be available for purchase on DVD on August 28, 2007," blogs Michael Tully. Watch an interview with clips.

In the Guardian, Geoffrey Macnab has a long talk with Oliver Stone about his third and well and truly final cut of Alexander: "Now, he hopes, the film has the rhythm of those epics he watched as a kid." More from Rebecca Davies in the Telegraph.

An "island of Melville - the jazz piano, the crooner, the suit, the girl - in Les Enfants Terribles is surrounded by the sea of Jean Cocteau's cinema and poetry," writes Charles Mudede in the Stranger.

"La Jetée (1963) is among the most seductive bindings of form and content in movies," writes José Teodoro. Further down that same page at Stop Smiling, Mark Asch: "In reviews of Waiting for Happiness, the default Third World Rural Cinema descriptions kept cropping up: 'gentle,' 'intimate,' 'languorously paced' and even 'fabular.' It's as if critics hesitate to fully accept that a filmmaker from a developing nation might use elliptical narration, absurdist humor and surrealist flourishes to evoke a state of Beckettian limbo."

"It's hard to accurately describe Cronos," admits Dan Eisenberg. "I found myself reminded, at various points, of David Cronenberg, Terry Gilliam and The Maltese Falcon. That's fairly lofty company for the third film from suddenly 'it' director Guillermo del Toro. Does the film deserve it? Yes and no."

Duck Soup

"From 1931 to 1933, the Marx Brothers made, for my money at least, the three greatest comedies of all time: Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), and Duck Soup (1933), a stretch that was the artistic apex of a group's career that would have still been legendary even without these comedy classics," writes Jeffrey at Edward Copeland on Film. "However, it was these three films for Paramount that really captured their essence."

"To view the new Space: 1999 30th anniversary edition DVD collection, from A&E Home Video, is to realize how much this cult series was a product of its mod time," writes Thomas Vinciguerra in the New York Times. "Electric guitars twanged the groovy opening theme; the Moon base itself was furnished with white molded plastic walls, lamps and chairs. Beyond surface appearances what really made Space: 1999 more like Space: 1975 was its fundamental approach to the genre."

Three of the LA CityBeat's Andy Klein's favorite films of 2007 so far are out on DVD: The Host, Hot Fuzz and Private Fears in Public Places.

DVD roundup: Cinema Strikes Back.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:49 PM

Fests and events, 8/12.

Love in the Afternoon "[Billy] Wilder got a lot of mileage in the 1950s and to some extent in the 1960s satirizing certain brasher aspects of American life," UCLA programmer David Pendleton tells Susan King in the Los Angeles Times. "The European films, for the most part, are mellower than the films set in the States. You look at Love in the Afternoon or The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. I also think that we can see some of the personal side of Wilder in the films set in Europe." Billy Wilder's Europe runs through August 29.

"Orchard Vale, a claustrophobic experimental feature about a band of outsiders after an off-screen collapse of civilization, opens the 14th Chicago Underground Film Festival on August 15." Ray Pride talks with Tim Kinsella about his debut.

The Evening Class carries on its celebration of the 85th anniversary of the Castro Theatre with top five memories from Jenni Olson and Jonathan L Knapp.

"'Cinema and the Written Word' is the bold theme running through the 2007 Edinburgh International Film Festival program," reports David Archibald in the Financial Times. "The decision to concentrate on scriptwriting goes against the grain of popular critical orthodoxy, which emphasises the role of the director at the expense of cinema’s other participants."

Scott Macaulay has the latest on how the IFP's Filmmaker Conference is shaping up. September 16 through 21.

Frozen "Thirteen titles have been announced for the Discovery section at the 32nd Toronto International Film Festival, running September 6 - 15, 2007, joining one previously announced Discovery film," reports Eugene Hernandez, who's got the full list now at indieWIRE. "Now in its 12th year, the section - for new and emerging directors from around the world - is competitive." Meanwhile, Darren Hughes's TIFF viewing list is taking shape.

"Dread Central have announced the initial lineup for their second annual Dallas Fear Fest," notes Todd Brown at Twitch. March 7 through 9.

"Over at Variety's revamping 'Fest Central Blog,' Mike Jones checks in about the grim status of the Cinematexas International Short Film Festival, which is (in their words) going "into semi-permanent hibernation," notes Matt Dentler.

"Motovun, a hilltop medieval fortress in central Istria, Croatia, is well-known for its long history, wine, prosciutto ham, truffles, local spirits biska and medica, cheese... and one of the most interesting film festivals in the world." Vladan Petkovic reports on last month's Motovun Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:32 PM

Locarno. Awards.

The Locarno International Film Festival has drawn to a close and announced its awards:

Masahiro  Kobayashi in Locarno

And an honorary, lifetime achievement sort of award has been presented to Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

The BBC reports that "British comedy Death at a Funeral, with real-life couple Matthew Macfadyen and Keeley Hawes, won the public prize." Related: John Clark talks with director Frank Oz for the Los Angeles Times.

More on all this from Jonny Leahan, who follows up on his first report from Locarno for indieWIRE, and from swissinfo.

"This year's Locarno International Film Festival has seen some fine performances especially by women," writes Ray Bennett. "Two of the best are by Guylaine Tremblay in Summit Circle and Lavinia Wilson in Free to Leave."

I Always Wanted to Be a Gangster A few reviews that have been filed during the festival:

Posted by dwhudson at 5:41 AM | Comments (1)

Tony Wilson, 1950 - 2007.

Tony Wilson "Terribly sad news at the end of the day Friday," notes Matt Dentler. "Brit-pop mogul, television personality, and writer Tony Wilson died at the very young age of 57. Wilson was the legendary founder of Factory Records, which helped discover Joy Division (later becoming New Order) as well as the Happy Mondays.... If you haven't seen that terrific film [24 Hour Party People], featuring an amazing performance by Steve Coogan as Wilson, seek it out immediately."

"How could you not love this freewheeling, freethinking bundle of contradictions, even as he drove you up the wall with his non-stop need for adventure and his loathing for mental and moral inertia?" asks Paul Morley in the Observer:

Updated through 8/17.

Those of us who spotted the curious Wilson at those early Sex Pistols shows at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in June and July 1976 couldn't quite believe what we were seeing. A few of us there might have remembered the time he turned up at a Rory Gallagher concert a couple of years before and was cheerfully jeered by the entire audience. It seemed inappropriate that the clumsy, slightly camp man from the telly should infiltrate the rock world, and then even more impertinently the new, anti-cliche punk world, and this was the source of the suspicion that somehow Tony was a dilettante, an outsider. Even at his most triumphant and groundbreaking, this made him something of an underdog, a misfit, but he liked it that way, constantly identifying with the marginalised, unloved and isolated.... It seemed as though all along he was destined to become known as Mr Manchester.

And in a piece on Anton Corbijn's Control, Kevin Cummins writes, "He believed in bands when no-one else did, and was prepared to spend his own money making things happen. He was the catalyst for everything that happened on the Manchester music scene from the 1970s."

Update, 8/17: "For music fans, Wilson's legacy is self-evident on 'Love Will Tear Us Apart,' 'Blue Monday,' 'Step On,' and other records that bridged the gap between genres and eras," writes Jody Rosen at Slate. "Factory's earliest releases, especially those of the label's flagship act, Joy Division, remain massively influential and totally transcendent."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:36 AM

August 10, 2007

Ken Russell's 9+1 and a book.

Phallic Frenzy "Metropolis, Citizen Kane, La Belle et la Bête, Gone with the Wind, La Strada, Fantasia, The Red Shoes, A Night at the Opera, The 39 Steps and a surprise last choice." That's Ken Russell reeling off his top 9-plus-one in front of the class he teaches at Southampton University. He recounts his amusing justifications for each choice in the London Times, and of course, there's a nice twist at the end.

For the City Beat, Tim Lucas reviews Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films: "The problem with [Joseph] Lanza's snaky approach to Russell's oeuvre is not that it's homosexual - a serious gay reading of such flamboyant and gay-friendly films would indeed be valuable - but that the buck generally stops there. This means that Lanza's discussion of the famous male nude wrestling scene from Women in Love (between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed) largely concerns gay love and willies and off-camera wanking to maintain continuity, though the real theme of the novel and film is the need felt by early 20th-century man, at the dawn of a dehumanizing Industrial Age, to balance one's increasingly 'mental' lifestyle with the sanity of sweat, exertion and oneness with all living things."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:09 PM

The King of Kong.

The King of Kong "The culture of gaming is one that is almost always portrayed onscreen with some form of derision," begins Jason Clark at Slant. "But one of the many original, insightful ideas posed by Seth Gordon's excellent debut documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is that the culture is far more diverse than a gaggle of Kevin Smith-weened dweebs. Sure, you see guys like this roaming arcades and such throughout the film, but its two central subjects, Gamer of the Century and hot sauce magnate Billy Mitchell and dedicated, sensitive family man Steve Wiebe, are anything but."

"The King of Kong is compelling enough, at least for a while: the rivalries, challenges, suspicion of fraud, and naked jealousy on display are all the stuff of good drama," writes Jürgen Fauth. "The material is ripe for a blockbuster comedy, and I'm willing to bet good money that somebody's already working on adapting The King of Kong for Jack Black and Steve Carell. The documentary, however, ultimately gets away from director Seth Gordon."

Karina Longworth talks with Gordon for the SpoutBlog.

Earlier: "Sundance/Slamdance. Chasing Ghosts + The King of Kong."

Updates, 8/13: Annaliese Griffin reports on the New York premiere for the Reeler.

IndieWIRE interviews Gordon.

"Gordon has stumbled onto one of the most compelling nonfiction stories I have ever seen, and he has captured it beautifully," writes Matt Singer at IFC News. "This movie has just about everything you could conceivably want: outrageous characters (and an amazing villain, of course), big conflict and an endless supply of plot twists."

Updates, 8/14: Online listening tip. Gordon and Wiebe are guests on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Paul Davidson in the Los Angeles Times: "When director Seth Gordon and producer Ed Cunningham set out to make a documentary about the world of classic arcade gaming, they had no idea they would stumble upon - or possibly create - one of the greatest summer movie villains ever."

"Some folks refuse to believe that Seth Gordon's film about two men vying for the title of World's Greatest Donkey Kong Player could be a true story," writes Robert Wilonsky in the Voice. "But, yeah, it's all true - every magical, exhilarating, infuriating, dumbfounding, jaw-dropping second of Gordon's miniature masterpiece."

Update, 8/15: "There's fierce competition, triumph over daunting odds, bold statements like 'Anything can happen in Donkey Kong,' and the judicious use of motivational pop songs," writes Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "But the drama in The King of Kong (subtitle: A Fistful of Quarters) is so gripping, 'Eye of the Tiger' is almost an afterthought."

Updates, 8/16: "Gordon's movie becomes both a hilarious story about an unbelievable collection of arrested-teenage morons and, yes, an inspiring fable of persistence and redemption," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir.

Carson Barker talks with Wiebe for the Austin Chronicle.

Updates, 8/18: "[A]s compulsively watchable as the vintage video game it focuses on is addictive," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. Even so, "surprisingly little of the documentary concerns itself with actually how the game is played. Rather, filmmaker Gordon, who edited and produced the excellent New York Doll, focuses on the psychological dynamics of rivalry, concerning himself with what it takes to get to the top of anything, even video gaming, and the lengths people will go to stay there."

"[T]he movie's Rocky formula proves irresistible," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times.

"Without neglecting the details of a little-seen subculture, Gordon harnesses his film into the unexpectedly thrilling story of an underdog attempting to buck a system structured at least partly around hushed cell-phone conversations and back-room decisions," writes Keith Phipps at the AV Club.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:30 AM

Crossing the Line.

Crossing the Line "Crossing the Line tells of four American servicemen who defected to North Korea, with an emphasis on James Joseph Dresnok, a k a Comrade Joe, who became a privileged North Korean citizen and appeared in propaganda extolling Communism," opens Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times. "[H]is compelling story and the plentiful high-definition video images of North Korean daily life" make the doc "riveting."

State of Mind director Daniel Gordon "relishes divulging this largely unknown scandal, delving into North Korea's demonization of the United States during the Cold War and our country's vigilance to downplay the defection of Dresnok and three other American soldiers," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant.

Updated through 8/14.

"Using archival footage (including fascinating clips of Nameless Heroes, a Kim Jong Il production that starred all of the defectors as evil Americans) and staged re-creations for dramatic punctuation, the reflective sequences veer between stylishly effective and drearily overstated," writes Michelle Orange in the Voice.

Updates, 8/11: "The issue of access raises some troubling questions in Daniel Gordon's Crossing The Line, for subject and filmmaker alike," writes Scott Tobias at the AV Club. "How much can a filmmaker challenge the dubious elements of Dresnok's story? At what point can the film be considered an unwitting propaganda tool for an oppressive, totalitarian system? Gordon's solution - really the only one available - is to work hard at playing a neutral party, which in this case means giving Dresnok a lot of rope and letting viewers decide whether he's hung himself with it."

Online listening tip. Gordon's a guest on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Update, 8/14: "Much of what's compelling about Crossing the Line is our increasing suspicion that Dresnok is not telling the truth - a suspicion about his character we're led to by his overslick storytelling and unconvincing emotional displays, as well as the gossipy way he backstabs erstwhile fellow defectors," writes Dennis Harvey at SF360. "Is he anything more than a me-first exploiter who found a unique luxury niche (which sustained him even during North Korea's ruinous famine several years back) as professional traitor? Or is he the happily re-settled, largely assimilated traveler he presents himself as?"

Posted by dwhudson at 6:23 AM

Descent.

Descent "Rape is power," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times. "Descent - starring Rosario Dawson as Maya, a college student who survives a sexual assault - makes this vividly clear, dramatizing the experience and the psychological aftermath of rape with a vividness I've never seen in an American film."

"Depending on your revenge story preferences, the brutally pretentious Descent is either a payback flick with an agonizingly formless middle, or a soul-darkening head trip bracketed by a crude vengeance tale," writes Robert Abele in the Los Angeles Times. "Mostly, though, it's indie provocation trapped between shock and blah."

"I'm not big on recommending bad movies just for 'the performances,' but ever since emerging in Larry Clark's 1995 Kids, Rosario Dawson has been one of those actors who can shine through almost any material," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "It's long past time for Dawson to find dramatic roles that go beyond playing the striver-chick from the projects in one earnest indie after another, and I guess she accomplishes that with Talia Lugacy's lurid rape-revenge drama Descent (which Dawson produced)."

For Ernest Hardy, writing in the Voice, Descent is "only a well-acted trifle straining to be a hard-hitting morality play."

Online viewing tip. Dawson and Lugacy talk about the film at Tribeca.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:14 AM

August 9, 2007

Shorts, 8/9.

Angel, Angel, Down We Go "Angel, Angel Down We Go (the title I prefer [the other it's known by is Cult of the Damned]) is a masterpiece of fingernails-on-chalkboard cinema," writes Louis Black. "Its layered contradictions are not only the ideal way to introduce the film but also its maker, Robert Thom, who wrote and directed. If it were all he had ever done, I'd honor his career. But there is much more." And my, my, there certainly is. A remarkable history follows. Also in the Austin Chronicle: Sharks on DVD, reviewed by Spencer Parsons.

With Kaidan, Hideo Nakata "has made what would be hailed as a classic, if it had been made in 1957," writes Mark Schilling in the Japan Times, where Jason Gray talks with the director. "Which is not a slam - quite." Via The Gomorrahizer at Twitch, where The Visitor points to Allan Koay's interview with Kiyoshi Kurosawa for the Malaysian Star.

Celine and Julie Go Boating "Here we're introduced to two of Rivette's primary motifs: conspiracy and theater. They aren't separate or opposed, but facets of the same central structure, windows into the Other Place." This first part of B Kite's longish essay originally appeared in Cinema Scope, but can now be read online at Order of the Exile, where other new additions this month include photos shot last year by Andreas Volkert of locations in Le Pont du Nord (1981) and a piece by Julia Lesage on Celine and Julie Go Boating that appeared in the March 1981 issue of Jump Cut.

"A few wistful suburban gangsters aside, film noir is now largely a cult interest for cinephiles and cineastes," writes Richard Schickel in the Wilson Quarterly:

But still we must wonder: Was noir simply a way of reanimating the tired conventions of the pre-war crime film? Or did we need melodramatic illusions potent enough to overcome whatever disillusions strayed briefly into our minds as we surrendered to the mighty engines of prosperity? Or was it one of those cycles - like biopics, westerns, sci-fi, etc - that Hollywood mysteriously embraces and then just as mysteriously abandons? Very likely all of these factors account for noir's brief dominance....

In the end, tailfins and picture windows, the NBC peacock and the Boeing 707, became the irresistible forces of the postwar era as it played out - precisely because they didn't seem to be forces at all. They were merely the brave new reality the Organization Man had to deal with. Yes, by the 1960s the war in Vietnam and the struggle for racial equality were roiling the nation, but before that, the discontents of American civilization were modest and local: juvenile delinquency, the dead-end job, the rising divorce rate, the prefeminist restlessness of the American housewife.

Via Alan Vanneman at Bright Lights After Dark.

"The victory of shtick over craft is disheartening," writes Jessica Winter in an assessment of Al Pacino's career for Slate:

Heat

It's important to remember, though, that the man is a populist, whether he's communing with admirers outside the stage door or directing Looking for Richard, a film obsessed with making Shakespeare accessible to a mass audience....

And sometimes, big is best. Pacino is terrific in his films with Michael Mann, as the brilliant, voluble cop in Heat (1995) and the brilliant, voluble TV producer in The Insider (1999). A recent career highlight was prime-cut ham all the way. In Mike Nichols's HBO adaptation of Angels in America (2003), right-wing attack dog Roy Cohn at last presented a character manic and outlandish and wildly contradictory enough to swallow up Al Pacino. But in the film's most riveting scene, Cohn - in the last throes of AIDS and swooning with opiates - is mostly silent as his nurse (Jeffrey Wright) delivers a purring rebuke of the disgraced villain's entire life: a vision of heaven where Cohn is nowhere to be found. It's a stroke of genius to ask Al Pacino, of all people, to listen, to react, to efface himself. If only it could strike more often.

In the New York Times:

  • "The Nines, [screenwriter John] August's first effort as a director, tells three interlocking stories about the relationship between fictitious characters and a flawed god - a screenwriter, actually - who controls their world," writes Michael Cieply. "Along the way, it also describes with surprising candor how Mr August once lost control of his. One of Hollywood's more hotly pursued studio writers, Mr August... has become known in recent years for his work on pop fantasies like the Charlie's Angels films, Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Among screenwriters and those who would like to be, he has also garnered a certain celebrity with his widely read blog, johnaugust.com.... [N]othing in that mix approaches the confessional quality of The Nines, which — unlike writer-themed movies of the past, like Sunset Boulevard or The Player - fixes a less-than-approving eye directly on its author."

  • "Jasper Johns isn't paid based on the number of years his flag paintings remain popular attractions at museums," notes Brooks Barnes. "So why should the writers, directors and actors responsible for box-office bombs like Gigli be able to pocket some cash every time somebody buys the DVD? It's a question that cuts to the heart of the biggest fight in Hollywood these days and sums up a fundamental choice the troubled entertainment industry needs to make: whether to cling to old blueprints for running the business or to draft a whole new set." More from Jay A Fernandez in the Los Angeles Times.

  • Daddy Day Camp "is a recruiting poster for kids, insisting that there's no domestic problem that military values can't solve," writes Matt Zoller Seitz.

Cineuropa's new "Film in Focus": Norway's prize-winning Reprise.

The Conviction of Richard Nixon: The Untold Story of the Frost/Nixon Interviews In the Los Angeles Times, Matea Gold looks back to 1977, when Richard Nixon met David Frost, which, of course, have inspired Peter Morgan's play, Frost/Nixon, soon to be adapted by Ron Howard, "with Frank Langella and Michael Sheen reprising their stage roles as the politician and the journalist." Among those spoken to is James Reston, Jr, who's just written The Conviction of Richard Nixon: The Untold Story of the Frost/Nixon Interviews: "I think it had been very underplayed by historians of the period. I viewed it as part of the reconciliation process in America after Vietnam and Watergate, a major piece of binding up the wounds of the nation." Also, Choire Sicha talks with Ridley Scott.

Meanwhile, via Movie City News, an Editor & Publisher story on Tim Swanson's appointment as the new film editor at the LAT.

"For me, it's an open question whether Bamako complements recent Hollywood productions about Africa, like The Constant Gardener, Catch a Fire and Blood Diamond, or whether it offers an innately superior alternative (the common critical consensus)," writes Kathy Fennesey at the Siffblog. "I usually avoid the major studio entries, because I don't like being told what to think, yet Bamako, though made by an African insider, is almost as didactic as - though more original and less melodramatic than - its American counterparts."

"Nordrand provides the blueprint for [Barbara] Albert's subsequent (albeit, less cohesive) film, Free Radicals on coincidental interconnectedness," writes acquarello. "However, while the peripheral associations in Albert's latter film occasionally prove to be abstract, they serve as an integral representation of Austrian society's state of flux in Nordrand - an uncertainty that has been imposed both externally by the trauma of a virulent, neighboring war, and internally by the challenges of large scale assimilation." Also: "Sink or Swim is, in some ways, an autobiographical corollary to Su Friedrich's The Ties That Bind."

Them "For at least a good portion of its lean running time, David Moreau and Xavier Palud's Them is effective as an unpretentious rush into the unknown," writes Ed Gonzalez. But "the filmmakers don't follow through on the explanation that these fucktards are murdering people simply for fun. The unintentional effect of Moreau and Palud's flippancy is that their wind-up toy too easily reveals its hand as a Hollywood calling card."

Also at Slant:

  • Ed Gonzalez on Antonia: "Director Tata Amaral shuns the favela chic and be-all-end-all histrionics of City of God; she is no hypester, allowing Preta's crisis to casually pan out against the natural beauty and laws of Preta's impoverished hood, where love exists side-by-side with hate and purple skies welcome each morning."

  • And: "Another spastic doodle by the irrepressible Takashi Miike, Zebraman is essentially a more kid-friendly—though less pro-family—strain of Visitor Q."

  • Once again, Ed Gonzalez, this time on the "pointless crowd-pleaser" The Bothersome Man.

  • And on Slant's blog, Ed Gonzalez also has a few quick takes on other recently viewed films, including Frank Perry's 1962 David and Lisa: "Art houses loved the film when it was released, but if it had come out a few years later maybe more people would have recognized it for what it essentially is: an unconscious parody of Bergman's fashionable miserabalism (of course, what does it say that its original poster art - a composite of Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin's faces - anticipates Persona's own?)"

All controversies aside, "the last decade of Spielberg's filmmaking has been perhaps the richest and strongest period of his career," argues Noah Forrest at Movie City News.

"Gravida is simply too short to change direction so many times," argues Andy Horbal.

Driving My Wife's Lover Darcy Paquet at Koreanfilm.org on Driving With My Wife's Lover: "Great casting goes a long way towards making up for what is a fairly thin premise for a film."

"Betzy Bromberg has been independently making films since 1976, which have screened all over the world in festivals, one-woman retrospectives and group shows.... She meticulously feeds emotional experience into her work, giving new life to the experience of memory, leaving nostalgia out of the picture. Her large body of work has continued to vary with every film, straying away from style and repetition." Nick Murray talks with her for Cinemad. Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

Michael Guillén interviews Bay Area Reporter columnist Tavo Amador.

For the Believer, Maura Kelly interviews Heart lead guitarist Nancy Wilson, who's also married to Cameron Crowe, so Almost Famous and the 70s-era "rock accent" are touched on.

Stuart Husband profiles Sophia Myles for the Observer.

At Twitch, Blake Ethridge talks with Andreas Prochaska about his Austrian slasher movie, Dead in 3 Days.

"No offence to the reporters, but I had to wimp down a little bit for my role as an investigative Guardian journalist in The Bourne Ultimatum," snickers Paddy Considine to Patrick Barkham, who also talks to the paper's head designer, Roger Browning, about creating a special edition for the movie - which, by the way, has Chris Moran thinking back to some of his favorite fight sequences. Earlier: "The Bourne Ultimatum."

Also in the Guardian: In Edinburgh, Mark Fisher looks into a mash-up of Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires and Francesco Cavalli's 1641 opera La Didone.

The Ten For Stop Smiling, Amber Drea talks with David Wain about The Ten.

Quint talks with Jeremy Davies for AICN.

Pinch hitting for the Reeler: producer Pamela Cohn.

At Film.com, Andy Spletzer spends some time with Marsha Hunt.

"Director William Friedkin has been named an officer in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government," reports Bryon Perry for Variety.

Focusing on A Brighter Summer Day, David Bordwell remembers Edward Yang; but also Charles Wang, who, with his brother Fred, ran Salon Films, "the major supplier of film equipment for Hong Kong and a principal one for East Asia and the Pacific Rim."

David Byrne's been scoring HBO's Big Love and blogs, "News to me, these kinds of TV shows are a writers' medium."

"The Simpsons is caricatural comedy, not satire," writes Michael Wood in the London Review of Books. "It doesn't have a point or an agenda, and it's closer to the Marx Brothers than Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show. This means the best jokes are casual and anarchic, stumbled on no doubt in the frenzy of writing episode after episode."

Nick Davis is looking ahead to a lot of promising DVD releases.

"Help us to save films by providing free public access to films on the Internet Archive." The Academic Film Archive tells you how. Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

The National Archives and Records Administration + Amazon + CustomFlix = "one more potential way around the roadblocks to digitalization a lot of studios have erected (sometimes through sheer ignorance)," suggests Glenn Kenny. "An imaginative, movie-loving entrepreneur could really make something of it."

"The all-too-limited, overly-DRM'd, PC-only but otherwise perfect movie downloading service, Movielink, was bought by Blockbuster for $20M, according to the Wall Street Journal," notes Steve Bryant.

"The player's interaction with the Mutable Cinema Interactive Engine involves choosing clips from parallel story pathways, recombining non-linear clips in time, and selecting different camera angles and points of view, in order to create a real-time audience feed." Via Michal Zebede at Filmmaker.

Cameraman's Revenge Tim Lucas remembers Ladislas Starewitch on his 125th.

Online fiddling around tip. Jim Emerson passes along a cinematic crossword puzzle.

Online listening tip. "As a sidebar to last week's list of the 50 greatest sex scenes in cinema, we're taking a moment to turn to the unsexy side of things. This week on the IFC News podcast, we discuss the 15 most disturbing (either intentionally or unintentionally) sex scenes in cinema. Hott."

Online viewing tips, round 1. Matt Dentler's got trailers for Hannah Takes the Stairs and Quiet City.

Online viewing tips, round 2. A fresh batch of trailers at european-films.net. More. Also: 1st snaps of Moritz Bleibtreu and Martina Gedeck as Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.

Online viewing tips, round 3. At Twitch, Stefan points to Royston Tan's blog, trailers and a website for 881, "arguably Singapore's first feature length musical."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:05 PM

Fests and events, 8/9.

You Are My Sunshine "New Yorkers have been given the opportunity to binge on Asian movies over the last couple of months with the NY Asian Film Festival followed by the Asian American International Film Festival, and the feast doesn't stop there," notes Firecracker. "August 21 sees the opening of the NY Korean Film Festival, with a lineup featuring some of the latest and greatest Korean flicks from A Dirty Carnival to You Are My Sunshine, Radio Star to Bloody Tie."

Naman Ramachandran previews FrightFest for Cineuropa. August 23 through 27 in London.

"[E]arlier this summer, the world lost another of the great masters of modern world cinema, Senegal's Ousmane Sembène," Michael Sicinski reminds us in the Nashville Scene. "[T]he Belcourt is offering the chance this month to delve into Sembène's fascinating, aggressively modern world."

"I've always felt that 1995's Fallen Angels, which screens at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from August 8 - 14 in honor of distributor Kino's 30th anniversary, provides the ideal channel for Wong [Kar-wai]'s strongest suits," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press.

The Castro - borrowed from the Evening Class! "The Castro is celebrating its impressive anniversary with a similar sundry of live music, shorts, and swashbuckling features this weekend, August 10 - 12." Max Goldberg at SF360 on a local institution. Related: "Continuing with the Evening Class celebration of the 85th anniversary... filmbud Brian Darr breaks from his own site Hell on Frisco Bay to offer up five functions the Castro performs for Bay Area cinephiles."

If you're in Los Angeles, AJ Schnack will tell you how to get a sneak peek at this year's documentaries most likely to be in the running for an Oscar.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:25 PM

Lists, 8/9.

Noel Vera: Critic After Dark Noel Vera presents a list: "100 Best Filipino Films."

Matt Zoller Seitz's latest "5 for the Day" at the House Next Door: "This one's not just about cameos - brief walk-ons in movies - but more specifically, cameos that add an intangible but palpable something to the films they grace."

"[W]hile the AFI List is regarded as overly stodgy, cliche-ridden and a bit-fuzzy on what is and isn't an American film, the OFC list is derided as being overly weighted toward more recent, less artistically ambitious, more 'populist' films which, not to put too fine a point on it, tend to be favored by young, heterosexual, Caucasian males in their 20s. The complainers have my sympathy." In fact, Bob Westal wonders whether such lists ought to be drawn up at all.

Brick director Rian Johnson lists his top ten Criterion releases.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:05 PM | Comments (1)

Up-n-coming, 8/9.

Pineapple Express "It is almost a year to the day before Columbia Pictures will be releasing The Pineapple Express, but David Green showed a small group of friends the most up-to-date cut yesterday afternoon," writes Michael Tully, who finds the film "absolutely fucking h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s." And there's a followup entry, too.

"Following his talky, highly regarded indies Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation, Andrew Bujalski wrapped his latest micro-budget feature Tuesday in Austin," blogs the American-Statesman's Chris Garcia. Bujalski tells him "the still-untitled film is a lot like his others: 'chatty, using a small crew and unprofessional actors.' He adds, 'I won't know what it's about until it's all put together.'" Wha-hoa, update! Matt Dentler has more and pix!

Sweeney Todd "We're about to enter the golden season for cinema, with film festivals, the awards race, and studios finally releasing their best," writes Gabriel Shanks at Modern Fabulousity. "After getting even more excited by this list, I decided to compile my own: what I'm looking forward to, what I'm worried about, and what I'll be avoiding at all costs."

For indieWIRE, Jason Guerrasio checks in on five indies in production:

Sons of Liberty

"I've been reading David Peace's novel The Damned Utd, which is a fictionalised rendering of legendary football manager Brian Clough's 44-day reign at Leeds United in 1974, and it's a fascinating recreation of what Peace sees as the most conflicted, sociopathic example of sports leadership in history," blogs the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "Peter Morgan is reportedly scripting the movie version... It's an inspired choice."

Also:

  • "In 1988 Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards soared high above the mountains of Calgary, Canada, arms flapping, and landed with a wobble to finish last in the Olympic ski jump competition," writes Dan Glaister. "Now Eddie's humble achievement is to be celebrated in a Hollywood film, starring Steve Coogan as Eddie."

  • Emine Saner reports that Jerry Bruckheimer's "forthcoming epic, which won't be released for three agonising years, is G-Force, a film about a group of guinea-pig commandos working for a government agency to prevent an evil billionaire taking over the world - an idea of such genius that it is a wonder nobody has thought of it before."

  • And: "Nicole Kidman will play a woman who is haunted by a ghost in a remake of the Colombian horror Al Final del Espectro."

Online listening tip. The Observer's Jason Solomons talks with Atonement director Joe Wright.

Online viewing tip. Ted Z points to the trailer for Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind.

Online viewing tips. "Over at the website for his film, Tom DeCillo is posting a very funny series of video podcasts in which he parodies the insanity involved in promoting an independent film - in his case, Delirious, which opens August 15th," blogs Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:18 AM | Comments (1)

India, 8/9.

Guru "For six days starting Friday, a handful of Los Angeles venues will play host to venerable actors from India (even the couple dubbed 'the Brangelina of India'), some of the country's best-known movies, a parade of fashion models dressed in rustling embroidered silks and workshops helmed by some of India's more prominent artists," writes Kavita Daswani, opening a Los Angeles Times package on "India Splendor, a multicultural event... designed to showcase the film, fashion, art - and even spirituality - of India." More on the lineup and on LA-area Indians, "a demographic being catered to by a number of promoters organizing Bollywood-inspired dance nights, hoping to draw in crowds homesick for the film music, pop videos and people of their native country."

Updated through 8/11.

"The studio behind Saawariya, Sony Pictures Entertainment, is the first in a wave of American studios to produce their own kaleidoscopic Bollywood musicals," writes Anand Giridharadas. "The American studios are keen to make money in India, but in a nation where $19 of every $20 spent at the box office goes to indigenous films, the studios are deciding to join Bollywood, not conquer it with their American-made fare."

Also in the New York Times, Andy Webster reviews Cash, "a Bollywood caper providing abundant proof that Hollywood pictures have no monopoly on ostentatious wealth, or, to use a spent expression, bling."

"It seems safe to assume that most viewers of Ezham Mudra, a film by Indian director Rajeev Nath, will be unaware that they are watching Casablanca in disguise," writes the Guardian's Xan Brooks.

For further clicking, do see Alison Willmore's latest round up at the IFC News Blog: "Bollywood, Lollywood, Nollywood."

Online listening tip. Anupama Chopra on the Leonard Lopate Show, talking about her book, King of Bollywood.

Update: "It's been 60 years since India won its independence and the country of Mahatma Gandhi is now on track to becoming a global power. But the country's new prosperity remains elusive for many, with millions of farmers still leading lives of abject misery. Spiegel visits five very different places to see what India's future holds."

Update, 8/10: Richard Attenborough's Gandhi "told the story of Gandhi as the father of a nation; now a new film, Gandhi, My Father, reveals the extraordinary story of the son and the man he described as 'the greatest father you can have but the one father I wish I did not have,'" writes Sarfraz Manzoor. "The film's release coincides with the publication of a monumental new biography by Rajmohan Gandhi, a historian and grandson of the Mahatma."

In the London Times, Anil Sinanan reports on the romantic comedy Marigold, "the first significant Hollywood film to appropriate Bollywood's unique style of filmmaking, with plenty of knowing references for Bollywood buffs and with enough savvy to engage newcomers."

Updates, 8/11: "The making-of-a-team sports movie is a timeworn genre, and yet Chak De! India (Go, India!) finds new variations," writes Andy Webster in the NYT. "Though the game here is field hockey, those fondly recalling the United States soccer team's first-place finish in the 1991 Women's World Cup will find a lot to like.... [T]he film's greatest merit is its commentary on sexism in India. As it should, Chak De! India gives the women, in the closing credits, the last word."

And the Independent runs a bulky package: "India at 60: special report."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:50 AM | Comments (1)

Melville Shavelson, 1917 - 2007.

How to Succeed in Hollywood Without Really Trying
US screenwriter and director Mel Shavelson has died at the age of 90.... His 1956 film, The Seven Little Foys, and his 1958 romantic comedy Houseboat were both nominated for Oscars....

He also directed several films including Cast a Giant Shadow, starring Kirk Douglas and Yours, Mine and Ours, starring Lucille Ball. His film career saw him work with many famous faces, including Jimmy Cagney and Frank Sinatra, but Houseboat, starring Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, arguably remains his best-known film.

The author of two novels and four non-fiction books, Shavelson also served three terms as president of the Writers Guild of America, West.

The BBC.

Updated through 8/13.

See also: John Rogers for the AP.

Update: "The breeziness of the type of entertainment Shavelson represented is mostly long gone from Hollywood," writes Glenn Kenny.

Update, 8/10: "[E]arly writing for American radio led to him meeting [Bob] Hope, who recruited him for his 'joke factory,'" writes Michael Freedland in the Guardian. "Hope's demands made them hard times for a writer - and never more so than on his first day. 'It was Billy Wilder's The Apartment come to life,' he told me once. 'I had rented an apartment that very morning. Bob said to me, "Have you got somewhere to live?" I said, "Yes." "Are you married or living with someone?" I said, "No." "Good," he said, "leave the key under the mat. It'll be waiting for you at midnight." When I got back home, I could see the marks of two sets of feet leading from the bed to the shower - and another two sets in the opposite direction.'"

Update, 8/13: "A few months ago, for an assignment, I read a very funny book called How To Make a Jewish Movie, by Melville Shavelson." Looker looks back.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:47 AM | Comments (1)

August 8, 2007

Docs, 8/8.

NY77 "For those of us who were there, the tone of current nostalgia for mid-70s NYC seems a bit disingenuous; those were some seriously fucked-up times," writes Will Hermes in the Voice. "The VH1 'rock doc' NY77 is a nicely textured if circumscribed portrait of the city's music scene that year, co-written by Jonathan Mahler, who wrote the masterful urban history Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City."

"My biggest beef with Michael Moore is that he's not about to win over anybody who isn't already on his side," writes Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly:

No End in Sight

Wouldn't a sober, nonpartisan recitation of inconvenient truths do more to win over hearts and minds? Are the silly music cues, cheap shots and hammy star turns from attention hogs like Moore and his annoying acolytes Morgan Spurlock and Kirby Dick really necessary to make a point these days?

Jean-Luc Godard once said the best form of film criticism is to make another movie, and so Charles Ferguson's astonishing No End in Sight has arrived just in time to show the agitprop crowd exactly how to open a productive conversation. With a marked absence of partisan editorializing and nary a hint of snark, this no-nonsense, just-the-facts-ma'am chronicle of our ill-fated Iraq occupation turns into a chilly autopsy of what might be the biggest foreign policy clusterfuck of our lifetimes.

I've never made a pronouncement like this before, but this is a film every American needs to see.

"Three years ago, Charles Ferguson's film might have made a difference," counters Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix. "A young Marine officer who has been testifying to his disillusioning experience during the war asks the camera rhetorically, 'Is this the best America can do?' But what is he responding to? The administration's record? The media's ineffectuality? Or is he warning us that if we withdraw before 'the job is done,' the battered US military will have fought and died in vain? That notion added several years and several thousand casualties to the toll of Vietnam. What we could use now is a documentary that gets it right before it's too late to mean anything."

"Maybe No End in Sight needed another two hours in length, like Spike Lee's extraordinary When the Levees Broke, a superior 'What the hell is wrong with our government?' documentary," suggests Brad LaBonte at the House Next Door. "Through ferocity or cool detachment, No End in Sight should have built to an explosion, but it fizzles out. The facts are moving, but the film is not."

Joe Garofoli has a long profile of Ferguson in the San Francisco Chronicle, noting, "he's hooked on making films. His next project: 'It's basically a movie full of conversations primarily about our contemporary romantic-marital commitment, our erotic condition.'" Earlier: "No End in Sight."

War Made Easy "uses Norman Solomon's recent book to perform an autopsy on the now-zombified propaganda surrounding post-1940s US war," writes Johnny Ray Huston in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "[Loretta] Alper and [Jeremy] Earp's doc skips smart-ass sarcasm and the usual air of incredulity in order to make complex points clear, and it does so skillfully and quickly."

White Light/Black Rain "In most respects White Light/Black Rain is a graceful, elegiac treatment of one of history's most painful topics," writes Andrew O'Hehir, introducing his interview with director Steven Okazaki for Salon. "But Okazaki has included some devastating film footage from Hiroshima and Nagasaki that has hardly been seen outside military archives.... These images of the devastated cities and their devastated people may haunt your dreams."

Related:

  • Cathleen Rountree speaks with Okazaki as well.

  • Michael Guillén's taken notes from a Q&A at the Pacific Film Archive.

  • Cynthia Fuchs writes at PopMatters: "White Light/Black Rain's argument is at once simple and infinitely complex. Whatever courage emerged in the face of such devastation, however admirable the survivors surely are, the bombs were disasters, man-made and calculated. And that's the tragedy, at last, that any nation or group of individuals would be able to conjure and commit such brutality, for whatever reason."

Darcy Paquet at Koreanfilm.org: "For me personally, Our School was intriguing, but not nearly as involving and thought-provoking as Kim Dong-won's Repatriation, to name another local documentary that became a theatrical hit. I also found myself being more drawn in by another recent documentary that examined the relationship between Japan and Korea: Kim Deok-cheol's People Crossing the River (despite that film's structural faults)."

Summercamp! "Summercamp! is one of the better depictions of childhood I've seen in recent years," writes Steve Hyden, introducting his interview with co-director Sarah Price at the AV Club.

"In a show that flits among more composers and directors than it has the time to accommodate, [Francis Ford] Coppola offers the most trenchant commentary," writes Stephen Holden in a New York Times review of Lights! Action! Music!, a doc that can be seen on a few PBS stations. "Many of the rest of the comments by various composers are reduced to hyperbolic sound bites included to give viewers a chance to connect a director or composer's face with a few shallow observations."

Zoe Williams talks with Jennifer Fox about Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman for the Guardian.

For the Telegraph, Philip Horne previews Ten documentaries that shook the world, a season at BFI Southbank. August 11 through 31.

AJ Schnack catches up with his notes and pix from Silverdocs.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:05 PM

DVDs, 8/8.

Contempt "If Americans know [Brigitte] Bardot chiefly for Contempt, Jean-Luc Godard's modernist masterpiece of 1963, the sad truth is that few of her other films are worth a second look," writes Dave Kehr. "But [Roger] Vadim, a man who knew women, abstracted some of her wilder characteristics for the 1956 film ...And God Created Woman, the tale of a sexually uninhibited young vamp of St-Tropez who dallies with Jean-Louis Trintignant while keeping an eye on his wealthy older brother (Curd Jürgens). This was something new: a woman who made her own choices about sex, and seemed to enjoy the process."

Also in the New York Times: "Batfink is back as a four-disc DVD set, lovingly packaged by Shout! Factory," writes Frank DeCaro. "Intended for the under-8 set, it is more likely to find interest among nostalgic 40-somethings, the same cult audience that found the recent superhero parody The Tick both the animated and live-action versions, such a genuine stitch."

The Thin Man "There were many memorable screen teams during Hollywood's dream factory era - Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. But none made as many features together as MGM's William Powell and Myrna Loy - 13 films over a 14-year period," writes Susan King in the Los Angeles Times. "The two were best known for playing the wealthy - and often inebriated - detectives Nick and Nora Charles in 1934's Oscar-nominated mystery comedy The Thin Man, based on the Dashiell Hammett tale, and five sequels. But they also appeared in seven other films together, and five of these features are included on the new DVD set TCM Spotlight: Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection." More from the New York Post's Lou Lumenick.

With Inland Empire coming out on DVD next week, Nathan Lee calls up David Lynch for the Voice and notes that there are two discs here: "The first simply contains the film as shown in the theaters, without a commentary track. The other disc is made up of nearly three hours of extras and features, including a 70-minute collection called 'More Things That Happened.' Incorporated into the body of Inland Empire, this additional material would push the total running time to over four and half hours, but Lynch insists that they be considered apart from the main attraction."

Psychopathia Sexualis At long last, Tim Lucas's DVD review up at the Sight & Sound site: "Against all odds... Bret Wood has not only succeeded with his Psychopathia Sexualis, but triumphed."

In an entry entitled "The genius of the Fleischers," Premiere's Glenn Kenny recommends the new 4-disc set Popeye the Sailor: 1933 - 1938: "This Warner set is, among other things, an object lesson in how it should be done."

More from Michael Atkinson at IFC News, where he also reviews Raymond Bernard's Wooden Crosses and Les Misérables, which "seem to form a kind of bridge between the gargantuan expressionism of Abel Gance and the more intimate verities of Renoir, displaying virtues from both camps. Of course, today the categories are more or less meaningless, and Bernard emerges like Lazarus from the cave."

"What director Joe Swanberg's LOL lacks in ambition it makes up for in nuance," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant. "Swanberg rewrites do-it-yourself as do-it-for-us, deepening the scope of the film's otherwise basic message about the emotional harm our addiction to technology perpetuates. It's how a little film thinks bigger."

Zodiac "[I]t's difficult to think of a more perfect pairing of director and project than Zodiac, which attaches Fincher's legendarily painstaking methods to a story about procedure and obsession," writes Christopher Orr, a senior editor at the New Republic. David Fincher captures "persuasively that feeling, familiar to anyone who's worked long enough in journalism (or, I imagine, law enforcement), that the truth might be just around the corner, that one more scrap of evidence, one more phone call, could make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together at last. Like [Robert] Graysmith, Fincher has madness in his method; unlike him, he has found what he was looking for." Also at TNR, Jane Espenson, who's written for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other Joss Whedon TV shows, decides she knows what makes Harry Potter work.

Andrew Bemis on Barry Lyndon: "It's a maddening, unforgettable cinematic experience; of all my favorite films, I hate this one most." Jonathan Lapper loves it a moment more.

"In a sense, a big question mark hangs over Vengeance Is Mine," writes Ian Johnston at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. "It's the question of what, in the end, [Shohei] Imamura means, what lessons (sociological, cultural) he is trying draw from the case of Iwao Enokizu."

The Fall of the House of Usher Billy Stevenson on Epstein's The Fall of the House of Usher: "Some of the most evocative scenes are simply careful montages of wind-blown trees, which nevertheless create a sense of generalised foreboding equal to anything I have seen to date, recalling Usher's admission that what he fears most is abstracted fear."

"The real life of Eugene Francois Vidocq appears have been more exciting than the version of Vidocq in A Scandal in Paris," writes Peter Nellhaus. "Setting aside the fanciful presentation of 19th Century France, what A Scandal in Paris is really about is the differences between people as they are, and how they are imagined to be." Also: "In both The Last Wagon and 3:10 to Yuma, Delmer Daves often uses long shots of his characters dwarfed by their environment. Both films can be read as being about people living with nature."

"The Cowboys gave [John] Wayne one of his very best late-era roles, in my opinion," writes Moriarty at AICN. "Mark Rydell and his cinematographer the great Robert Surtees (who shot classics like The Graduate, The Last Picture Show, The Sting and Ben-Hur) use every inch of their full scope screen to great effect here, and the new Warner Bros. release of the film is gorgeous."

"One of my absolute favorite films of the year so far is the brilliant (yes, brilliant) Hot Fuzz," writes Ted Pigeon.

Hairspray "Despite its family friendly rating, Hairspray is still a John Waters movie. It may be a kinder John Waters, but it's certainly not a gentler one." Odienator revisits the original at Edward Copeland on Film.

Adam Ross sings the praises of Universal's fantastic Legacy Collection.

"The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is high caliber pop entertainment," writes Scott Green at AICN.

Roundups: Cinema Strikes Back, DVD Talk and Susan King in the LAT.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:17 PM

Bloggish, 8/8.

99 and Smart Grady Hendrix is blogging again, and I share Peter Martin's sentiments at Twitch: "Woo hoo!"

DK Holm's now a contributor to the new Vancouver Voice Blog.

"I'm going to be a retarded bandwagon-y blogger today and attempt to start a meme," confesses Wiley Wiggins. "Who was your first film crush? Tag your post 'filmcrush' and I'll try and collate any other posts that float up." Well... it's not really a film crush, and I would have been mighty young, but I do remember feeling things I didn't quite understand about 99.

Jason Morehead's ongoing project (through August): "Scenes I Go Back To."

And Damian Arlen's? "31 Days of Spielberg."

Squish announces a Kurosaw-a-thon for November 15.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:56 AM

Fests and events, 8/8.

Bellissima "A group of performers - especially one unified by gender and culture - is an unconventional focus for a film series," concedes Steve Vineberg in the Boston Phoenix. "But it isn't just the topic that distinguishes the month-long Signore & Signore: Leading Ladies of Italian Cinema 1941 - 1977, which begins this Friday at the MFA.... It's an exciting series - and not just because it showcases a wide variety of acting styles and a breathtaking array of beautiful women who mesmerized the cameras at Cinecittà, Rome's signature studio: Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Ornella Muti, Lucia Bosè, Mariangela Melato, Claudia Cardinale, Silvana Mangano.... Signore & Signore is finally less about acting than about the lesser-known glories of the Italian cinema in its heyday. None of the Neo-Realist classics is here; there's no Rossellini, and the contributions by Visconti and Antonioni are atypical of their respective œuvres. Yet the selection is rich and laden with surprises." Friday through September 9.

"Don't miss Paul Slocum and Kevin Brewersdorf's show at OK Mountain this weekend in Austin," advises Wiley Wiggins.

"LA moviegoers will be the envy of cinema buffs worldwide, as International Preservation, showing an astonishing variety of recently restored films from archives in 10 countries, makes its presence felt at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater under the auspices of the UCLA Film & Television Archive," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. Through August 29.

"Ben Hackworth's Corroboree and Oscar Redding's The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark are two of the more idiosyncratic and uncompromising Australian films to have appeared in the last couple of years," writes Matthew Clayfield. "Both have screened at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival and are screening again this week (Hamlet on Thursday August 9 and Corroboree on Saturday August 11). I would encourage anyone to see either or, ideally, both of them."

Fallen Angels "The acme of neo-new-wavism, the ultimate in MTV alienation, the most visually voluptuous flick of the fin de siécle, a pyrotechnical wonder about mystery, solitude, and the irrational love of movies that pushes Wong [Kar-wai]'s style to the brink of self-parody, Fallen Angels was the last installment of his long goodbye to the lost paradise of colonial Hong Kong," writes J Hoberman, who recommends catching it at the BAMcinématek, where it's screening through August 14. More from Vadim Rizov at the Reeler.

"Set in provincial Russia in 1935, My Friend Ivan Lapshin was banned for fourteen years for its evocative dramatization of one of the darkest periods in Soviet history." Introduced by Richard Peña, it screens at the Pioneer Theater in NYC - once - on Saturday at 6:30 pm.

"The 14th annual Chicago Underground Film Festival has posted up their lineup and it looks to be a doozy," writes Mike Everleth at Bad Lit. August 15 through 19.

A Toronto update from Darren Hughes at 1st Thursday: "Thirteen more films have been added to Visions." September 6 through 15.

Not only will David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises open the London Film Festival (October 17 through November 1), it'll open the San Sebastian Film Festival as well. September 20 through 29. The AFP reports.

This year's Edinburgh International Film Festival is lined up and ready to go next week (August 15 through 26), but starting next year, it'll be taking place in June. The Guardian reports: "Since its debut in 1947, the Edinburgh film showcase has run as an integral part of the city's month-long arts festival in August. It is hoped that the decision to separate it from its partners will give the event a greater public profile and attract a larger number of major pictures and stars to the city." Artistic director Hannah McGill explains.

Dance Party USA "To coincide with the IFC Center's film series The New Talkies: Generation DIY, Wednesday, August 22 - Tuesday, September 4, indieWIRE is pleased to present: Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs, LOL), Aaron Katz (Dance Party USA, Quiet City), Greta Gerwig (Hannah Takes the Stairs) and Aaron Hillis (Fish Kill Flea), who will participate in a moderated discussion about filmmaking, their similar styles and differences, and the definition of 'independent.'" Happens August 23. Related: Eugene Hernandez on Hannah: "There's no doubt that this is one of the most exciting and accomplished narrative indie films to hit theaters this year so far."

Ongoing dispatching: Brandon Harris at the Roxbury Film Festival and the Lumière Reader at the Telecom New Zealand International Film Festivals.

"Since Sicko opened in theaters seven weeks ago, Michael Moore has been energetically speaking to the press about health care - including a sparring match with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that became a hit on YouTube," writes Toronto's documentary programmer Thom Powers at indieWIRE. "But that hectic schedule didn't deter Moore from presiding over the third annual Traverse City Film Festival that he co-founded in the Michigan resort town where he also keeps a home."

Adam Hartzell and Kyu Hyun Kim add more reportage on the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival at Koreanfilm.org.

For the WSWS, Ismet Redzovic looks back on several Turkish films screened at the Sydney Film Festival. Also, Richard Phillips on John Huston.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:58 AM

Goings on in San Francisco.

Dead Channels "After 6 years as Director of Programming for SF Indie Fest and co-founder of its offshoot Another Hole in the Head, Bruce Fletcher decided that well, maybe San Francisco does need yet another film festival," notes Dennis Harvey at SF360. "Launching what will hopefully be an annual event (with additional events scattered throughout the year) this week, Dead Channels departs from AHITH's primary focus on horror and sci-fi to encompass all kinds of worldwide cult-skewing fun. We checked in with Fletcher to get some kind of grasp on this."

The San Francisco Bay Guardian's got more coverage of the fest opening tomorrow and running through August 16. Johnny Ray Huston writes up John Newland's 1973 Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and Jamaa Fanaka's 1975 Welcome Home Brother Charles; a few of the newer titles singled out by Cheryl Eddy: Maurice Devereaux's End of the Line, Simon Rumley's The Living and the Dead, Jeff Roenning's Hot Baby! and Annette Ashlie Slomka's The Secret Life of Sarah Sheldon.

Also in the SFBG: "The films of From the Stars to the Tsars span the period from the 1912 short The Cameraman's Revenge and Aelita, Queen of Mars - the 1924 silent classic that inspired Guy Maddin's The Heart of the World - to 2005's First on the Moon," writes Juiana Froggatt. "The series' other notable traversal is between high and low culture." Friday though August 31.

Brian Darr has a little fun with a face-off currently rumbling at the Castro in San Francisco:

In this corner, weighing in at 111 pounds and wearing aqua blue trunks, the only man to have tamed Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, the Wilson brothers and Kumar and Dipak Pallana, ladies and gentlemen lets hear it for the man they call the "Next Scorsese," Wesley Wales Anderson!!!

Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson
And in this corner, weighing in at more than 82 pounds and wearing frog-green trunks is the one man who could conquer William H Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, John C Reilly, and of course Philip Baker Hall, please give a roaring welcome to the "Commando from San Fernando," Paul Thomas Anderson!!!

Tonight's double feature, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Punch-Drunk Love, is the last, I'm afraid.

Meanwhile, Michael Guillén celebrates the Castro's 85th anniversary at the Evening Class, where Michael Hawley recalls his five favorite viewing experiences there. More from Frako Loden. And a bit of online browsing: vintage calendars.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:57 AM

Books, 8/8.

The Playboy Interviews: The Directors Oh, but this is great summertime fun. Thanks to a perfectly understandable misunderstanding (basically, an Amazon goof, very fortunate for us), Paul Matwychuk is under the impression that The Playboy Interviews: The Directors isn't out in the States yet, "so I thought I'd give you Americans an appetite-whetting selection of some of the choice quotes from each of the interviews." Following a few interesting observations, a jolly potpourri follows.

"Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Renée Zellweger will topline the Western drama Appaloosa, with Harris directing from the screenplay he co-wrote with Robert Knott," report Dave McNary and Michael Fleming for Variety. "The novel was pretty doggone good," writes Joe Leydon. "And these folks could turn turn it into a terrific movie."

Updated.

For the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, Mary-Kay Gamel reviews Troy: From Homer's Iliad to Hollywood Epic, a collection edited by Martin M Winkler, who "opens the collection with an introduction which provides some background on [Wolfgang] Petersen's qualifications to direct an epic film, followed by a thoughtful discussion of the issues involved in translating an ancient text into the medium of film, and concludes it with an annotated list of selected films and television productions involving the Trojan War." Via Bookforum.

"Judges for this year's £50,000 Man Booker prize threw one of the most remarkable surprises in its 39-year history at the public and publishing industry last night," write John Ezard and Martin Hodgson at the Guardian. "They tore up nearly all predictions and disregarded virtually all star literary novelists with new books under their belts."

Update: "As Motoko Rich has reported, James Wood - he's among the most influential literary critics alive - is leaving the New Republic to write for the New Yorker," blogs Dwight Garner. "In an interview [with Jesse Matz] in the Kenyon Review, Wood was asked about his famous coining of the phrase 'hysterical realism.'" And that whole conversation follows.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:13 AM

Superbad.

superbad150l.jpg "The bawdy jokes score big points, but it's the rueful acknowledgement of adolescent embarrassment and humiliation that most distinguishes Superbad another ultra-raunchy and commercial sex comedy from the Judd Apatow laugh factory," writes Variety's Todd McCarthy. "Co-written by and featuring Knocked Up star Seth Rogen, this very cheesy-looking account of three horndogs' long night's journey into hazy self-awareness is like American Pie with a conscience.... Although this picaresque little odyssey is decidedly set in the present day, the title, silhouetted opening credits and predominantly funk-soul soundtrack provide a distinctly 70s feel, an impression furthered by a muddy, fuzzy visual style (perhaps partly attributable to nocturnal digital shooting) that harks back to the day when AIP and Crown Intl were knocking out their own teensploitationers."

Updated through 8/13.

"Unfortunately, great gags, even multitudes of them, aren't enough glue to hold together Superbad as a movie," writes Edward Copeland. "If you go expecting to laugh a lot, odds are you will. If you go hoping for a truly great comedy that also works as a film, you'll probably be disappointed."

"Over something between breakfast and lunch last month at the Los Angeles diner Swingers, [Evan] Goldberg, 24, and Rogen, 25, talked with Michael Cieply about the raunchy movie Superbad, which they started writing 12 years ago, when they were growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia."

Adam Sternbergh profiles Michael Cera for New York and Premiere's Stephen Saito meets Cera and Jonah Hill.

Updates, 8/9: Clark and Michael, via Movie City News.

"How funny is Superbad?" asks Erik Davis at Cinematical. "Well, let's just say I was laughing so hard during our interview, tears were streaming down my face. It was embarrassing. And it was the freaking roundtable interview! Now imagine how funny the movie is." Meantime, he's got a clip of Edgar Wright interviewing Hill and Cera. Also funny!

Update, 8/10: Josh Rottenberg moderates a roundtable discussion with Apatow, Rogen, Hill and Cera for Entertainment Weekly. Via Movie City News.

Updates, 8/12: <"The success of Superbad feels so preordained by now that it's tempting to stick a pin in this gassy balloon—but the movie is just too much fun," writes Newsweek's Devin Gordon.

a target="_blank" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/magazine/12wwln-Q4-t.html?ref=movies">Deborah Solomon talks with Hill for the NYT Magazine.

Updates, 8/13: "I recently wrote that I could happily do without any more movies devoted to the breaking of the male bond," notes David Denby in the New Yorker. "Yet here's an uproarious and touching picture on that theme.... the structure and a lot of the dialogue have become ripely Apatovian. Like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, the movie combine desperately filthy talk with the most tender, even delicate, emotion."

"In essence a love story between Jonah Hill's loud, über-horny Seth and Michael Cera's quiet, awkward Evan, director Greg Mottola's film seeks to mirror the now-patented Apatow formula: severe raunch complemented by aw-shucks sweetness," writes Nick Schager at Slant. "The brash, outgoing Hill and weird, discomfited Cera are a perfectly mismatched, consistently hilarious odd couple, yet it's their convincing affection for each other and shared desire for inclusion that helps prop up the countless nasty gags."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:01 AM

Stardust.

Stardust In the New York Times, Neil Gaiman tells Charles McGrath that he wrote Stardust "in longhand, using a fountain pen and a leather-covered notebook... and the result was that he eliminated 'a lot of computery bloat.' His aim was to evoke the manner of early-20th-century writers like Lord Dunsany and Hope Mirrlees, who wrote fantasy stories of a sort that was sometimes called 'faerie.'... Stardust in other words, was intended to be pre-Tolkien, a fantasy novel that didn't read like one, and the movie's creative team - the director, Matthew Vaughn, and the screenwriter, Jane Goldman - have attempted much the same thing: a fantasy film that can be watched not just by the Lord of the Rings crowd, or even by Mr Gaiman's worshipful following, but also by people who wouldn't be caught dead at a fantasy film."

Updated through 8/13.

Contrast such hope with Mike Goodridge's take on the Stardust's prospects in Screen Daily: "[I]t's a tough sell. On the one hand, it's a romance for teenage girls with a handsome leading man in Charlie Cox and a feisty lead female character played by Claire Danes; on the other hand, it's a comic adventure for nerdy comic-loving teenage boys along the lines of classic Gilliam like Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Whether the girls will respond to the adventure and the boys to the romance is questionable... Likewise it's not a sure thing for smaller children, who prefer the more simple, less smart-ass mythology of Narnia, while adults might think it looks too childish to commit to sans kids."

"Stardust will accrue many comparisons to Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride, but director Matthew Vaughn's variation on the theme isn't as playful as Reiner's, and when Stardust does devolve into comedy, it fails miserably," writes Robert Wilonsky in the Voice.

"It's dazzling to look at, but in the end Stardust evokes other movies - Brazil and The Princess Bride, to name two - without offering their indelible magic," writes Tom Meek for the Boston Phoenix.

Earlier: John Anderson in Variety.

Updates, 8/9: "Michelle Pfeiffer had no intention of spending nearly five years away from the silver screen. 'You know,' the 49-year-old actress says matter-of-factly, 'it just happened.'" A profile from Susan King in the Los Angeles Times.

"No matter that both parts [the other, of course, is Hairspray] call on Pfeiffer to tap into her inner Cruella de Vil for a heaping helping of scene chewing," writes Neil Morris in the Independent Weekly. "They also represent her best work in years, perhaps since Frankie and Johnny and Batman Returns."

"Director Matthew Vaughn has done time as a producer for Guy Ritchie, and it shows," writes Vadim Rizov at the Reeler. "[T]he rule of thumb here is to never have an un-enhanced shot when you can throw in a CGI-aided transition and loud foley sounds to emphasize every last damn sword clink. If it weren't for the migraine-inducing 28 Weeks Later, Stardust might be the year's loudest movie. As it is, the film grows intolerable, with its every effect ratcheted up to a level Terry Gilliam would consider excessive."

Updates, 8/10: "Even when the movie goes haywire..., it barrels forward with a fearless audacity," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "Far too many characters are crowded together for comfort, and there are serious casting errors, but the movie assumes that its churning energy, lightened with whimsy, will carry the day. And, to an extent, it does." He also floats a theory as to what's up with Robert De Niro's "zany drag routine."

"It's a film you enjoy in pieces, but the jigsaw never gets solved," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. "I liked it, but The Princess Bride it's not."

"Stardust is imaginative and intricate, but it's also joyfully casual, maybe to the point of being a little messy in places," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "But even its flaws work in its favor: Stardust feels organic, not mechanized, which is fitting for a story with one foot in the real world and the other in an imaginary one.... This is a picture that looks to have been made with pleasure, for our pleasure, as opposed to something we're supposed to be impressed by."

"Floating in on an airy breeze of dreams and true love, the lively adventure-romance Stardust offers that elusive quality summer movies are supposed to possess but rarely do - total escape," writes Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times. "Sophisticated in its execution, it is a movie that possesses a child's whimsical sense of wonder that propels the action, coupled with an adult sensibility that gives it emotional heft." Also, Sam Adams profiles Gaiman.

"One unembellished shot of a beach in Roman Polanski's Macbeth exudes a more mythic sense of grandeur and terror than any of the tawdry CGI gesticulations that wash over the eyes in Matthew Vaughn's competent but uninspired adaptation," writes Ed Gonzalez in Slant.

"The dialogue is unquotable. The story is clichéd (when it attempts comedy) and overly literal (when it fumbles for romance). And who knows how long it's going to take for people to decide that the existence of a manly man with an affection for frilly underthings isn't in itself hilarious." Annie Wagner in the Stranger.

"It's a shame," sighs John Constantine in Nerve. "Underneath the gaudy effects and needless action is a very pleasant love story about how big the world is even when it seems small. But that's not the movie in front of us."

Updates, 8/11: "It starts clumsily, varies in quality wildly and stuffs itself greedily, yet Stardust manages the notably rare trick of improving as it goes along, earning a place in your affections, if not necessarily your esteem," writes the Oregonian's Shawn Levy.

The Princess Bride "played to the strengths of its actors, while Stardust wants us to laugh at how De Niro and Pfeiffer play against type," writes Jeffrey Overstreet. "The Princess Bride had a feeling of spontaneity; the comedy in Stardust feels forced. The Princess Bride never needed to jolt us or jar us to hold our attention; but the closer we get to the end of Stardust, the more it devolves into a marathon of furious special flourishes."

"The movie is so poorly directed that it's a head-scratcher to reflect back on the taut suspense and wonderful staging in Matthew Vaughn's previous film Layer Cake," writes Nathaniel Rogers at Zoom In.

Update, 8/12: Peter Sobczynski talks with Vaughn for Hollywood Bitchslap.

Update, 8/13: "It's puffed up in obvious ways but disarmingly puckish in others," writes New York's David Edelstein. "The Pirates of the Caribbean people would have stretched this material out to eight-plus hours, while a visionary genius like Terry Gilliam would have royally screwed it up by putting more emphasis on the scenic wheels and pulleys than the narrative. The model here, luckily, is The Princess Bride with a dollop of The Black Adder - and, to cut the facetiousness, nonstop rhapsodic heavenly choirs."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:52 AM | Comments (2)

Rush Hour 3.

Rush Hour 3 Rush Hour 3 is, of course, the "third go-round in director Brett Ratner's cross-cultural action-comedy franchise, a sluggish repeat of its predecessors that remains mistakenly convinced that miscommunication between [Chris] Tucker and co-star Jackie Chan is the height of hilarity," as Nick Schager puts it for Slant. "Ratner's glossy direction doesn't add much energy or style to the vacuous plot and tame action, while Roman Polanski and Max von Sydow, in supporting parts, sully their good names - especially the former, who in one of many gay-panic moments gleefully administers a rectal exam to the ultra-hetero heroes."

"Chan is still the Gene Kelly of martial arts," offers Chuck Wilson in the Voice.

Updated through 8/11.

In the Los Angeles Times, John Horn profiles Ratner, but it's this piece that's a lot more fun: "The bloggers, it seems really, really hate him," notes Deborah Netburn. "And while they gleefully admit to hating lots of people, their most searing venom tends to be reserved for Ratner." Why? She asks around.

Earlier: Scott Foundas's LA Weekly cover story on Ratner.

Update, 8/9: "The movie really boils down to assassination attempt, car chase, another assassination attempt, car bombing, knife fight, Paris taxi chase, nightclub shootout, another Paris taxi chase, fight on the Eiffel Tower, and so on, and so forth, and so what," writes Alonso Duralde. That said: "While it's easy to pooh-pooh as soulless and well-oiled a machine as Rush Hour 3, this isn't a movie that can be completely dismissed. Director Brett Ratner may represent everything that's wrong with movies today, but he does bring a certain junky pop exhilaration to the proceedings, making things whip by so breezily that it's easy to ignore the gaping plot holes, the easily predictable twists, and the necessary suspensions of disbelief that are gargantuan even by action-movie standards."

Updates, 8/10: "Rush Hour 3, the junky, clunky, grimly unfunny follow-up to the marginally better Rush Hour 2 and the significantly finer Rush Hour, isn't the worst movie of the summer," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "But it's an enervating bummer nonetheless, largely because it shows so little respect for its two likable stars and its audience."

"Rush Hour 3 is crass, stupid and crudely made," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "It's also, in places, weirdly brilliant, a picture that plays to the largest possible audience with mechanical efficiency but also, here and there, betrays glimmers of self-deprecating cleverness, as if it were striving, perhaps even unconsciously, to transcend its own dumbness."

"It's been pointed out that the outtakes that traditionally accompany the closing credits on Jackie Chan movies are sometimes more enjoyable than the movies themselves," writes Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times. "If there's a Rush Hour 4, somebody might want to consider swapping the time allotted to plot with the time devoted to the gag reel. A two-minute movie followed by 89 minutes of outtakes doesn't sound like such a bad deal."

Update, 8/11: Online viewing tip. Joe Leydon on what you might or might not like about Rush Hour 3.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:40 AM

Dustin Hoffman @ 70.

Esquire, 1970: Dustin Hoffman So Dustin Hoffman turns 70 today, a birthday that's evidently going to go unmarked in the English-language press.

But I can point you to plenty of congrats and assessments in the German-language papers: Verena Lueken in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (lots of pix!), Fritz Göttler in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Claudia Lenssen in Die Welt, Susanne Ostwald in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Jan Schulz-Ojala in Der Tagesspiegel.

The Wikipedia entry's pretty robust, though, and Classic Movies offers a slew of pointers for further clicking.

Update: The New York Post's Lou Lumenick recalls a grimly amusing anecdote.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:26 AM

August 7, 2007

More on Antonioni.

Michelangelo Antonioni With none other than J Hoberman chiming in now for the Voice, might as well start a fresh entry for Antonioni as well, picking up where "Michelangelo Antonioni, 1912 - 2007" leaves off.

"It was Antonioni who put the mod, as well as the modishness, in modernism," writes Hoberman. "Alienation has never been more gorgeously indulged than in L'Avventura - a mystery that casually abandons its ostensible premise midway through and the stormy triumph of the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, which bestowed its Palm d'Or on Fellini's La Dolce Vita. Seven years later, Antonioni achieved an even greater renown: Thanks to his English-language art-house blockbuster Blowup, he was Beckett in bell-bottoms.... The overrated Blowup and underrated Zabriskie Point form, with The Passenger (1975)... a loose trilogy, less enduring but more personal than the [Monica] Vitti vehicles.... Antonioni's trendiness was a factor of his desire to engage the history of his times. It's suggestive that those contemporary directors who have made the most use of Antonioni's example - Abbas Kiarostami, Tsai Ming-liang, the late Edward Yang - are from nations once considered 'third world.'"

Updated through 8/11.

Update: "[I]s the first half of Antonioni's L'Eclisse (Eclipse) an intentional hommage to Marcel L'Herbier's 1928 silent masterpiece L'Argent?" wonders Pat Graham at the Chicago Reader's On Film. "The best argument against the idea is that nobody's ever really argued for it - not to my knowledge, at any rate. But consider the circumstantial clues..."

Updates, 8/8: "So when exactly did I tire of Antonioni to the point of Antonioniennui?" asks Andrew Sarris in the New York Observer. Yes, he coined the term, but he also reminds us that he raved for L'Avventura in the Voice in his 1961 review. So what was the tipping point? "I am not sure. It may have been about the time of The Red Desert (1964), which I disliked, and well before Blow-Up (1966), which I liked enormously, unlike the late Pauline Kael, who dismissed it with a yawn." Then:

It suddenly strikes me that I have been writing two weeks about Bergman and Antonioni without ever using the word "eroticism." Antonioni himself once said, "Eroticism is the disease of our time." He may have meant that even sex was a casualty of the human failure to communicate with one another. Perhaps I have become too aware of all the gratuitous nudity and simulated copulation that masquerades as eroticism these days to embroil Bergman and Antonioni in the contemporary corruption of the term. Still, the men and women in their films crossed many frontiers of eroticism in their own time in search of love and identity and a more profound self-knowledge. They were never the hottest shows in town because of the cool intellects at work both behind and in front of the camera. Hence, the pain and poignancy of the soul was never lost sight of in even the steamiest carnal encounters.

"With Antonioni's death, no era has ended, least of all 'l'era atomica,'" writes Nikil Saval for n+1. "Those accords that underwrite our existence are as unstable, as false as ever. This falseness - the fissure between the healthy world we envision and the debilitated one we inherit and further undo - makes it easy to repeat the restless, unraveled lives of Antonioni's characters. It also makes it easy to praise those artists whose work enacts and amplifies the jittery unease that rules our everyday life - as if being distracted oneself were the same as representing and scrutinizing distraction. Antonioni reminds us that the sharpest effects are achieved by those who look unflinchingly at the pains and impasses of our time while maintaining a part of themselves that does not succumb to them - those artists who can help it if there's no peace."

Bergman and Antonioni "may have been mutually repulsed by their similarities to each other," suggests DK Holm at the Vancouver Voice. "Though I esteem both directors, as a viewer, right now in my life, I have to come down on the side of Antonioni.... His surrealism and odd, hard-edged view of modern life always struck me as realism."

Updates, 8/9: "No director did more to combat the idea that a movie is an illustrated novel," writes Jeffrey Gantz for the Boston Phoenix. "That was one of his two revolutions; he also created a post-Copernican cinema where human beings are not always the center of the cosmos.... Good or bad, Antonioni's films always start from cinema year zero. The narrative, when there is one, implodes: Sandro and Claudia don't find - or even look very hard for - Anna; Thomas (David Hemmings) in Blow-Up doesn't solve the murder he appears to have photographed.... It's a cinema of liberation - from the conventions of everyday movies, from the boundaries of everyday life."

Josef Braun has DVD recommendations in the Vue Weekly.

Ted Pigeon has a terrific entry on learning about Bergman and Antonioni over the past weeks and days via blogging and online discussions, "the likes of which few newspaper or magazine articles - barring perhaps the New York Times - can replicate."

Update, 8/10: "The essentially forward-looking Bergman and Antonioni would be mildly appalled at the idea that their deaths had closed the door on a particular strain of filmmaking," writes Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman:

"Of course, I'm just as worried as anyone else about the future of the cinema as we know it," [Antonioni] said in Wim Wenders's documentary Chambre 666. "We're attached to it because it gave us so many ways of saying what we felt and thought we had to say. But as the spectrum of new technical possibilities gets wider, that feeling will eventually disappear. There probably always was that discrepancy between the present and the unimaginable future. Who knows what houses are going to look like in the future? The structures we see when we look out of the window probably won't even exist tomorrow... All our contemporary structures will disappear. It won't be quick or straightforward, but it will happen, and we can't do anything to prevent it. All we can do is try to adjust to it."

The structures of which he spoke look pretty sturdy to me. It's more a case of being inundated with evidence of the enduring spirit of Bergman, Antonioni and their contemporaries than having to hunt for it. Antonioni's influence is palpable in the work of Carlos Reygadas (Japón, Battle in Heaven) and Todd Haynes (Safe), and in Gus Van Sant's extraordinary trilogy of Gerry, Elephant and Last Days.

Update, 8/11: David Bordwell notes that Jonathan Rosenbaum, in his reply to Roger Ebert's response to the former's NYT oped - deep breath - he refers to one of David Bordwell's books, "where I make the case that Dreyer experimented with cinematic space (and time). Right: I wrote a book. It takes a book to make such a case. It would take a book to explain and back up in an intellectually satisfying way the charges that Jonathan makes." Comments on popular journalism and responses to several of JR's other points follow - and then: "I'll try to explore just one of the issues Jonathan raises but can't pursue: the question of how stylistically innovative Bergman was." Then comes a valuable primer (with links to earlier entries) on a general arc of the evolution of style in cinema that stretches from deep ranges of focus to flatter tableaus offered by longer lenses and widescreen. After discussing Bergman, he writes, "let's push a bit further and examine Antonioni, that perpetual foil to Bergman.... In the 1950s, unlike Bergman, Antonioni employed quite intricate staging, sustained by long takes," and examples follow. "Once color came along, Antonioni changed his style, moving toward less dense staging and at times almost casual framing (as in The Passenger). He also had recourse to the telephoto technique, but I'd argue he brought something new to it. With Red Desert he accepted the abstraction inherent in the long lens and combined that with color design to create a pure pictorialism." The entry wraps with a "bestiary of stylists."

"Where almost every other movie I'd seen wound things up, L'Avventura wound them down," writes Martin Scorsese in the New York Times:

L'Avventura gave me one of the most profound shocks I've ever had at the movies, greater even than Breathless or Hiroshima, Mon Amour... Or La Dolce Vita. At the time there were two camps, the people who liked the Fellini film and the ones who liked L'Avventura. I knew I was firmly on Antonioni's side of the line, but if you'd asked me at the time, I'm not sure I would have been able to explain why. I loved Fellini's pictures and I admired La Dolce Vita but I was challenged by L'Avventura. Fellini's film moved me and entertained me, but Antonioni's film changed my perception of cinema, and the world around me, and made both seem limitless. (It was two years later when I caught up with Fellini again, and had the same kind of epiphany with 8 ½.)

The people Antonioni was dealing with, quite similar to the people in F Scott Fitzgerald's novels (of which I later discovered that Antonioni was very fond), were about as foreign to my own life as it was possible to be. But in the end that seemed unimportant. I was mesmerized by L'Avventura and by Antonioni's subsequent films, and it was the fact that they were unresolved in any conventional sense that kept drawing me back. They posed mysteries - or rather the mystery, of who we are, what we are, to each other, to ourselves, to time....

Antonioni seemed to open up new possibilities with every movie. The last seven minutes of L'Eclisse... were even more terrifying and eloquent than the final moments of the earlier picture.... Gradually Antonioni brings us face to face with time and space, nothing more, nothing less. And they stare right back at us. It was frightening, and it was freeing. The possibilities of cinema were suddenly limitless.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:25 PM | Comments (3)

Rocket Science.

Rocket Science "Rocket Science joins a long line of movies about teenage outcasts struggling to find their place in the world; two years ago the prize entry was Thumbsucker," writes Newsweek's David Ansen. "But this sharp and painfully funny coming-of-age story - a hyperarticulate comedy about an inarticulate boy - manages to avoid just about every cliché of the genre.... Writer-director Jeffrey Blitz previously made the irresistible 2002 documentary Spellbound, about kids in spelling bees. Rocket Science is his first dramatic feature, and it has a quirky literary voice all its own—self-conscious, but so sure-footed it earns its right to preen now and then."

"Blitz has a knack for creating (or in the case of his documentary, finding and presenting) young characters we really care for, and then sending them, and us, into desperate, gripping situations," writes Matt Singer at IFC News. "These are movies you feel, right down to your toes."

Updated through 8/11.

"[T]his Amerindie's excesses of quirk seem hormonal rather than Sundance Lab-engineered," suggests Mark Asch in the L Magazine. "How else to explain the sight of a kid leafing through his parents' Kama Sutra while, downstairs, mom and dad play Violent Femmes songs on cello and piano?"

"What makes the first fiction feature from documentarian Blitz persuasive is its late-film detour from the inspirational niche-sports genre to something altogether unexpected - and the winning lead performance of Reece Daniel Thompson as Hal Hefner, a bashful teen coaxed into helping his school earn some payback for last year's debate-team fiasco," writes Jim Ridley in the Voice.

Blitz is on ReelerTV; and Gina Piccalo lunches with him for the Los Angeles Times.

Earlier: "Sundance. Rocket Science."

Update: "Quirky, quirky, quirky goes Rocket Science. Round, round, round roll my eyes," sighs Nick Schager at Slant. "Blitz has little to say about his themes that couldn't easily fit on a Hallmark card."

Update, 8/8: Michael Guillén talks with Blitz and Thompson for SF360.

Updates, 8/9: "Thompson's stutter as Hal just seems precious," remarks Armond White in the New York Press. "It's indicative of the self-pitying narcissism found in so many indie youth movies - from Donnie Darko to anything starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt."

"Due to fine performances by Thompson and Vincent Piazza as older brother Earl, Rocket Science nails a number of details crucial in portraying the comic absurdity of awkward adolescence," writes Michael Joshua Rowin at Reverse Shot. "Blitz takes great care to avoid obvious generic clichés - if you're expecting a triumphant showdown, you'll be sorely disappointed - but this only pushes the film into other, newly minted traps."

Hey, Jeffrey Blitz is today's pinch hitter at the Reeler, where Vadim Rizov writes, "Rocket Science is not a 'Sundance movie.' Yes, it premiered at this year's festival, and yes, it's a quirky, heart-warming story about misfits, and yes it is writer/director Jeffrey Blitz's follow-up to the quintessential nerd-doc, Spellbound. But Rocket Science never curdles into the intolerable realm where would-be 'indies' like Garden State torment and browbeat audiences into submission with a combination of offbeat jokes and overt sentimentality. This isn't the tic-ridden posing and preening of well-heeled actors trading lower paychecks for ostensible street cred. The oddballs are kids; they can't help it."

Updates, 8/10: Rocket Science "borrows a few plot elements from Election and much of its sensibility from Wes Anderson, yet still somehow comes across as fresh and original," writes Mike D'Angelo at Nerve.

"[O]nce you crack the self-conscious veneer, there's no doubt there's an openhearted movie underneath," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek.

"Your affection for Rocket Science will depend on the depth of your identification with Hal's angst and the degree to which you regard high school as the ultimate microcosm of American life," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times.

Updates, 8/11: "It will probably take a few more viewings to confirm it, but Rocket Science might belong up there with the best of recent coming of age sagas - in the company of such instant classics as Wes Anderson's Rushmore and Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World," writes Marcy Dermansky.

"While Rocket Science does get a lot of things right, it's hard not to label it as 'just another Sundance film' - the kind that's amusing to watch, but easily forgettable," writes Erik Davis at Cinematical, where he also talks with Blitz.

"The world could probably live without another quirky high-school comedy about a misfit's coming of age," concedes Scott Tobias at the AV Club, but Rocket Science "carves out a place for itself anyway, because it's so determined to undercut expectations and access the feelings of a stuttering boy who can't express them on his own."

Posted by dwhudson at 11:45 AM

More on Bergman.

Ingmar Bergman "Ingmar Bergman, 1918 - 2007" is full; the entry's not taking any more text, so to pick up the remembrances here...

"Thanks to the folks at Chicago Cinema Forum, this weekend we'll get a chance to take a crash course in Bergman," writes Rob Christopher at the Chicagoist. "Between Saturday and Sunday, no less than five Bergman features will screen as well as the Chicago theatrical premiere of the documentary Bergman Complete."

Updated through 8/13.

The Economist: "He needed light in small increments: flaring and fading in a paraffin lamp, or dimming with extraordinary slowness on a face (as it dimmed on Liv Ullmann's face in Persona) until only a silhouette was left. From childhood, he had got up at six and noted the track of light on the wall opposite his window. After two months of darkness, a thread would reappear in January."

Shyam Benegal in Outlook India: "To me, even more than Antonioni, Bergman was one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century."

A little something from me at the Reeler: "[I]f we're to peg Antonioni and Bergman as modernists... there's something missing: the city."

"Near the end of the last millennium, I decided to do something difficult and convoluted and thoroughly silly," confesses Jim Emerson. "On this particular occasion I determined to figure out which 100 movies were the most highly regarded at the close of the century.... came up with some complex point scale for rating the movies by the awards and honors they had received, using a mixture of domestic and international, popular and critical sources.... Point of interest: Bergman had three films on the list: Persona (22), Wild Strawberries (66), and Fanny and Alexander (84). Antonioni had one: L'Avventura (8)."

"Relatives of legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman were Monday still shrouding all details of his burial in secrecy more than a week after his death," reports the DPA.

Updates: Online viewing tips. "Mention Bergman to anyone who knows him only by reputation and they'll probably make a laboured joke about the supposedly slow, depressive and morbid atmosphere of his films," blogs David Bennun for the Guardian. "Blame the many Bergman parodies (scroll down). Bergman's films have become part of popular culture not by being viewed, but by being mocked. And this in itself is a remarkable achievement: to make cinema so distinctive that even people who haven't seen it can instantly identify a lampoon of it."

The staff at IFC News lists "ten (and more) songs, shorts, movies, shows and novels that pay tribute to the [Bergman and Antonioni's] work."

The Silence "The Silence signaled the filmmaker's wary involvement in the social and aesthetic currents of the 1960s; it led directly to his enigmatic masterpiece Persona (1966) and Shame (1968), an impressive meditation on the fate of civilians during wartime," writes the Voice's J Hoberman, who has "several times taught The Silence in the context of post–World War II poetic horror and pop existentialism (including [Sam] Fuller's Shock Corridor). The Silence is morbid and despairing, but such consummate filmmaking cannot be depressing. Bergman himself saw The Silence as almost hopeful, telling one reporter that it suggests 'Life only has as much meaning and importance as one attributes to it oneself.' Meaning and importance are things Bergman's films never lacked and his oeuvre has in abundance."

"The two major themes in Bergman's mature filmmaking - the silence of God and the destiny of the 'corroded' artist - which are at the center of such screen works as The Seventh Seal, Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence, Persona, The Hour of the Wolf and Shame often faced a critique at home that was colored by the intellectual voices of the politicised 1960s," writes Birgitta Steene. "After the opening of Winter Light in 1963, one Stockholm reviewer exclaimed in exasperation: 'Of what concern is the individual Ingmar Bergman's religious self-reflections hither and thither.' And when The Hour of the Wolf and Shame premiered in 1967-68, a member of the Swedish Academy, Lars Forssell, wondered if Bergman might not be guilty of 'some sort of constitutional blindness, a reflection of a 19th century individualistic view of the artist that began with Werther and ended with Oscar Wilde,' someone who was guilty of 'an overrating of the artistic self that seems completely old-fashioned.'" But: "When Bergman returned to Sweden after his exile, he was greeted as the prodigal son."

Also at openDemocracy, Roger Scruton: "[E]ven at his most humorous, Bergman takes a religious view of human beings, as creatures who are not merely in the world, as animals are, but also aspiring to make sense of it. Wild Strawberries shows that we achieve that aspiration when we look upon all that has happened to us, and accept it in a condition of forgiveness. That very Christian theme constantly recurs in Bergman's most important films. It may be one reason why he has fallen out of fashion; but it is also a reason why he will very soon be in fashion again, and appreciated for what he was: the man who brought cinema into the fold of western art."

Sawdust and Tinsel About that Bergman weekend in Chicago. Jonathan Rosenbaum will be introducing Sawdust and Tinsel and blogs at the Chicago Reader's On Film about Bergman Complete: "Having more recently seen the second part of the Bergman documentary being shown, devoted exclusively to Bergman's prodigious career as a theater director - which I would argue (and Bergman himself maintained) is more important than his career as a filmmaker - I can strongly recommend it as an eye-opener. And if I had to recommend only one film to see by Bergman, I'd probably pick Persona - though I hasten to add, with some embarrassment, that I still haven't seen Fanny and Alexander, which many regard as Bergman's masterpiece, and which I'm planning to catch up with this weekend."

"Bergman's father was ultra-right wing, and both the future filmmaker and his brother were Nazi sympathizers," the Boston Globe's Ty Burr reminds us. "He never formally apologized - nor was he asked to - and there was no PR firestorm as there was over Günter Grass last year. Was Bergman "given a free pass"? The answer's complex.... But should he have apologized? I think he did - with his movies."

Updates, 8/8: "We who revered those great artists, we who sat stunned and spellbound before their masterpieces - what have we achieved?" asks the ever-contentious Camille Paglia in Salon. "Aside from Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather series, with its deft flashbacks and gritty social realism, is there a single film produced over the past 35 years that is arguably of equal philosophical weight or virtuosity of execution to Bergman's The Seventh Seal or Persona? Perhaps only George Lucas's multilayered, six-film Star Wars epic can genuinely claim classic status, and it descends not from Bergman or Antonioni but from Stanley Kubrick and his pop antecedents in Hollywood science fiction."

"I have long known and admired the Chicago Reader's film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, but his New York Times op-ed attack on Ingmar Bergman ('Scenes from an Overrated Career,' 8/4/07) is a bizarre departure from his usual sanity," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. "It says more about Rosenbaum’s love of stylistic extremes than it does about Bergman and audiences. Who else but Rosenberg could actually believe that Bergman had what Carl Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson lacked, 'the power to entertain - which often meant a reluctance to challenge conventional film-going habits?' In what parallel universe is the power to entertain defined in that way?" Via Jim Emerson, who quotes from some of Rosenbaum's responses to other arguments that have been aired during that stormy discussion on the a_film_by list.

Updates, 8/9: "Hour of the Wolf has become a sort of signifier to me," writes Mike at Esotika Erotica Psychotica. "Bergman is often the film-snobs God, and there's nothing the film snob likes to do more than to put down genre films. Hour of the Wolf became my hat-trick; it was a genre film that the director who epitomized 'ART HOUSE' himself had made."

Josef Braun has DVD recommendations in the Vue Weekly.

Harry Tuttle carries on responding to Jonathan Rosenbaum's NYT piece: "[I]f we replace 'Bergman' [with] 'Godard' in this op-ed piece, I would probably agree with everything he says about the intellectual hype, the idolatry around JLG, the ego, the absence of form invention, the fakery of his gimmicks, the fading of his aura, the overrated canonization. And that's bogus.... There are more credible ways to propose a re-evaluation of a long time resident at the cinema pantheon."

"[E]x-Globie Thomas Garvey takes my own Sunday piece on Bergman and Antonioni to task on his HubReview blog for not insisting on their greatness strongly enough and for cutting the MySpace generation slack for not knowing their movie history (or worse, not caring to know)," blogs the Boston Globe's Ty Burr. "He makes some excellent points, but his dismissal of a younger generation's tastes is awfully broad, bordering on plain cranky."

Ted Pigeon has a terrific entry on learning about Bergman and Antonioni over the past weeks and days via blogging and online discussions, "the likes of which few newspaper or magazine articles - barring perhaps the New York Times - can replicate."

Update, 8/10: "The essentially forward-looking Bergman and Antonioni would be mildly appalled at the idea that their deaths had closed the door on a particular strain of filmmaking," writes Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman:

Bergman was 89 when he died, Antonioni 94, yet old age had not diminished their desire to remain alert and alive to the persistent potential of cinema. Bergman made it his business to keep abreast of modern film, shipping prints of the latest releases to his personal cinema in a converted barn on his island retreat of Fårö. When I visited the Swedish Film Institute in 2003, Katinka Faragó, a close friend and colleague of the director, told me: "He sees every single metre of film shot in Sweden, and as much of what's made in the rest of the world as he can. And he's never shy of encouraging younger filmmakers." Among latter-day titles that the master considered masterpieces were the 1998 Show Me Love (aka Fucking Åmål), by his countryman Lukas Moodysson, and François Ozon's Under the Sand (2000). Lars von Trier and, perhaps surprisingly, Steven Spielberg were also recipients of his lavish praise.

Updates, 8/11: David Bordwell notes that Jonathan Rosenbaum, in his reply to Roger Ebert's response to the former's NYT oped - deep breath - he refers to one of David Bordwell's books, "where I make the case that Dreyer experimented with cinematic space (and time). Right: I wrote a book. It takes a book to make such a case. It would take a book to explain and back up in an intellectually satisfying way the charges that Jonathan makes." Comments on popular journalism and responses to several of JR's other points follow - and then: "I'll try to explore just one of the issues Jonathan raises but can't pursue: the question of how stylistically innovative Bergman was." Then comes a valuable primer (with links to earlier entries) on a general arc of the evolution of style in cinema that stretches from deep ranges of focus to flatter tableaus offered by longer lenses and widescreen. As for Bergman, "It seems that in most respects he went along with the general trends.... But Bergman did innovate somewhat, I think. Most obviously, he sometimes had recourse to the suffocating frontal close-up," but what seems even more innovative at least to me is the sequence from Persona, "with Elisabeth Vogler apparently quite oblivious to her husband's mating with Alma, [which] definitely 'challenges conventional film-going habits' - or at least conventional ways we read a scene. It seems to combine the deep-space, big-foreground scheme of the 1940s with the tight close-ups of his early work, and instead of specifying space it undermines it. We have to ask if what happens in the background is Elisabeth's hallucination." A discussion of Antonioni follows and the entry wraps with a "bestiary of stylists."

"I've said it before to people who have a romanticized view of the artist and hold creation sacred: In the end, your art doesn't save you," writes Woody Allen in the New York Times:

I have joked about art being the intellectual's Catholicism, that is, a wishful belief in an afterlife. Better than to live on in the hearts and minds of the public is to live on in one's apartment, is how I put it. And certainly Bergman's movies will live on and will be viewed at museums and on TV and sold on DVDs, but knowing him, this was meager compensation, and I am sure he would have been only too glad to barter each one of his films for an additional year of life....

To meet him was not to suddenly enter the creative temple of a formidable, intimidating, dark and brooding genius who intoned complex insights with a Swedish accent about man's dreadful fate in a bleak universe. It was more like this: "Woody, I have this silly dream where I show up on the set to make a film and I can't figure out where to put the camera; the point is, I know I am pretty good at it and I have been doing it for years. You ever have those nervous dreams?" or "You think it will be interesting to make a movie where the camera never moves an inch and the actors just enter and exit frame? Or would people just laugh at me?"...

Bergman, for all his quirks and philosophic and religious obsessions, was a born spinner of tales who couldn’t help being entertaining even when all on his mind was dramatizing the ideas of Nietzsche or Kierkegaard....

I learned from his example to try to turn out the best work I’m capable of at that given moment, never giving in to the foolish world of hits and flops or succumbing to playing the glitzy role of the film director, but making a movie and moving on to the next one.

"[I]f you only see one Ingmar Bergman movie in your life, you should see Fanny and Alexander," advises the Guardian's Xan Brooks. "And as luck would have it, the film has just been re-released."

Update, 8/13: "These are the eyes of a lonely man, who has spent his life fighting to escape his loneliness.... His laughter was resounding. He had just put the worst catastrophe of his life behind him. On January 30, 1976, he was escorted out of rehearsals in the Stockholm Royal Theatre by the police and charged with tax evasion. While in custody he suffered a nervous breakdown and tried to take his life." Signandsight translates André Müller's recollection of a meeting with Bergman for Die Weltwoche.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:44 AM

Hamid Dabashi on 300.

300 "On the face of it, Zack Snyder's 300 (2007) is just a bodybuilders' wet-dream version of a foundational myth, of how 'the West' began," writes Hamid Dabashi in the Al-Ahram Weekly, "albeit the muscularity of its sculpted takes on military prowess bespeaks a bit too noisily the moral obesity it seeks to hide and yet manages to expose even more obscenely.... The questions of why now and why this are far less important than what precisely this furious phantasm of playful power, this imperial self-projection of mythological might, entails."

Folks, this is strong stuff. I certainly don't buy into every word myself, but I'd definitely recommend grappling with the challenges of this piece.

Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:51 AM | Comments (4)

August 6, 2007

Books, 8/6.

Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times on Joseph Conrad:

Joseph Conrad

Movies have been a second career for this writer. Alive he sailed the seven seas, dead he sails the seventh art. He puts in at a port here (Lord Jim), a coaling station there (Victory), an archipelago here and there (Outcast of the Islands). And there are one or two Ultimae Thules with the mist-girt grandeur of great cinema.

One of these is Apocalypse Now. Another is Sabotage, Hitchcock's brilliantly inventive yet faithful-in-spirit adaptation of The Secret Agent. (That great novel is 100 this year and Conrad himself 150.) A third and fourth might have been - what might-have-beens! - Orson Welles's Heart of Darkness, planned as his first movie before Citizen Kane, and David Lean's late, long-planned film of Nostromo, scripted by Robert Bolt and Christopher Hampton. Lean died before it could be made.

These movies, even as skeletons that never took flesh (but got far enough to convey a tantalising promise), have a shiversome charisma and fascination.

Atonement Speaking of Christopher Hampton. For the London Times, Jeff Dawson talks with him and director Joe Wright about adapting Ian McEwan's Atonement, the bestselling novel that "comes fully stocked with those features that can present huge problems in transposition: three separate narratives; a time frame spanning 64 years; epic battle scenes (the BEF's retreat across northern France in 1940); the detailed workings of a wartime London hospital; and the seemingly unfilmic central conceit of an author's ability to atone for previous sins through the power of the pen. And all on a low budget, by Hollywood standards."

Philip Lopate reviews Patrick McGilligan's Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America's First Black Filmmaker for the New York Times Book Review: "McGilligan's prose style may be pedestrian, but he organizes his biographical materials into a lively, readable tale.... McGilligan rejects interpretations that would make Micheaux's gaffes the result of Brechtian, Surrealist or Warholian stylizing: 'Again and again, surviving eyewitnesses have contradicted the legend that Micheaux was an intentionally cheap, fast and shoddy director: the mistaken notion that the partial remains of his censored, maltreated films represent a deliberate "style." When Micheaux found the money and time... he worked hard, from read-throughs to "dailies" and retakes.' In other words, sloppiness was all the fault of the moneymen who kept him on a tight budget."

November sees the release of a new book on Videodrome by Tim Lucas, who's been blogging in anticipation.

Killian Fox on Michael Tolkin's latest: "Curiously, The Return of the Player is a lot less about Hollywood than you might expect, perhaps because Hollywood is now beyond the reach of satire." Also in the Observer is an extract from Helen de Winter's book, What I Really Want To Do Is Produce, a dozen or so producers take on the question, "So you're a producer... what exactly do you do?"

On William Gibson's Spook Country:

Spook Country

  • Steven Shaviro: "Gibson's prose style is his way of perceiving, and presenting, the world. And the world he presents is the one we live in today: a postmodern world of globalized flows of money and information, driven by sophisticated technologies whose effects are nearly indistinguishable from magic, saturated by advertising and by conspicuous consumption run amok, undergirded by murky conspiracies and counter-conspiracies, and regulated by nearly ubiquitous forms of surveillance."

  • Ed Park in the Los Angeles Times: "Spook Country is an oblique sequel to Pattern Recognition, or, better yet, the book is its antic anagram, expanding themes and re-upping a few characters. Here again Gibson gives us a present (more precisely, early 2006 - Tower Records lives!) in which the skies are the color of steel, no matter the city, and the outlines of a chaotic future can be discerned. Sentence for sentence, few authors equal Gibson's gift for the terse yet poetic description, the quotable simile - people and products are nailed down with a beautiful precision approximating the platonic ideal of the catalog. An ex-bandmate now wears a 'Bladerunner soccer-mom look,' a 'Bluetoothed bouncer' patrols a bar and, when Gibson registers a 'delirious surge of graffiti, a sort of street-fractal Hokusai wave,' the phrasing is itself a delirious surge of pleasure-center prose."

  • Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing: "And it is a futuristic place, our recent past, a place so weird and light-speed that we don't even notice it. Not until a master storyteller and keen observer like William Gibson comes along to show us what we're all living in."

"Following a titanic bidding war, publishing phenomenon The Dangerous Book for Boys is set to get the big screen treatment courtesy of Disney and über-producer Scott Rudin," reports Time Out's Chris Tilly.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:39 PM | Comments (1)

Lists, 8/6.

Manoel de Oliveira "Who are the oldest living film directors?" Ray Pride's decided to find out and offers "a necessarily selective survey of over 250 directors from around the world, all of whom are 60 or older, who have had lasting impact or a moment that matters in one way or another."

"[T]he real quandary comes in trying to decipher who among the pre- and post-millennial mavericks we see today will remain important enough to warrant mention 30, 40 or even 50 years from now," writes Bill Gibron at PopMatters. "Certainly, such a determination is fraught with flaws, but in looking over the possible choices, we can reflect on the state of cinema in the 21st century, and who, if anyone, will remain its ballyhooed bellwether." Also, the "Top 10 Trilogies of All Time."

"The 20 Hottest New Faces of Comedy." It's a list at Premiere and a few of those faces might surprise you.

ART iT lists "10X10 'artistic' films of the 21st century." Via Greg Allen.

Dan Eisenberg on that OFC Top 100: "It's interesting... to see which films people complain about when they talk about how this list isn't what it could have been."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:00 PM | Comments (2)

Bright Lights. 57.

Poison "The ways homophobia and heterosexism have structured the visual field has been an explicit theme of queer filmmaking since the 1990s, in particular in Jennie Livingston's Paris Is Burning (1991), and in the films of Todd Haynes, especially Poison (1991) and more recently Far from Heaven (2002)," writes Nicholas de Villiers, opening the new issue of what editor Gary Morris hails, with more than justifiable pride, as the "unsinkable Bright Lights." Then: "But I also want to consider Luchino Visconti's Death in Venice (1971) and John Waters's Female Trouble (1974), so as to challenge the assumption that 'queer' cinema marks a generation gap." What follows is "an account of how the gay closet affects cinematic ways of looking and 'cruising' that goes against chronological order, revisiting some by now 'classic' axioms of feminist and gay film theory with the goal of putting them in dialogue with queer theory."

Romantic Comedy "[Irene] Dunne's career achievement has long been damaged by two key critical reactions to her work: James Agee's assertion in the forties that she made his skin crawl, and Pauline Kael's assorted bitchy comments about Dunne's performances in her book of short reviews, 5001 Nights at the Movies," writes Dan Callahan. "James Harvey published an insightful rebuttal to these early cavils in his classic book Romantic Comedy... Her critical reputation has improved since, but her films are still so difficult to see that there needs to be a new accounting of who she was and what she did on film."

A gorgeous shot of Jack Nicholson tops Andrew Culbertson's consideration of his early career, particularly Five Easy Pieces: "Perhaps Nicholson, as he says, became a star in Cannes. But it was in playing Bobby Dupea that he became 'Jack Nicholson.'"

I, too, thought of The Waste Land when I heard "Shantih shantih shantih" in Children of Men, but Matt Brennan's taken it and run with it. Then: "If [Alfonso] Cuarón's vision of the world in 2027 is uncomfortably close, it may be because the decline has already begun."

"The Night Porter is an explicit film full of implicators, implications and implicitness," writes Guy Crucianelli, driving towards this: "We may be the perpetrators as well as the spectators."

The Films of Su Friedrich "In the course of almost three decades - a period ably represented by Outcast Films' five-DVD collection The Films of Su Friedrich - Friedrich has managed to carve a formidable presence in the knotty, overcrowded, and corpse-strewn moonscape of America's avant-garde cinema," writes Tom Sutpen. "And while she draws her work from what seems a narrow resource of human experience (in short: The Life and Times of Su Friedrich), she embroiders this relatively small frame of reference with an astonishing wealth of cinematic technique; a fully absorbed, veritable encyclopedia of long-ago invention that enables her to move from semi-documentary polemic to fractured narrative to structuralist rampage (often within the contours of a single work) without once lessening her focus upon whatever side of her life she chooses to explicate. It is an aesthetic that segments of the movie-reviewing community have, literally for decades, considered the summa of personal expression."

Michael Betancourt presents a critical take on the Perpetual Art Machine: "The organization of this video-presenting system, as an online presence, resembles social networking sites such as MySpace, FaceBook, etc but with more specific membership and target demographic: video/new media artists, galleries, museums - the international contemporary art world and its attendant market.... By translating the artists and their video work into valorized commodities without compensation, [PAM] presents the artists it incorporates as a token of exchange."

"Most concert films, like concert albums, tend to fetishize the live experience itself, to make a talisman out of the simulated feeling of 'being there,'" writes Justin Vicari in a consideration of PJ Harvey and Maria Mochnacz's concert DVD. "[I]t is precisely the communal aspect of the music itself that feels most distrusted by Harvey and Moncasz in Please Leave Quietly, not only the outdated notion of resurrecting a community based around rock music but a larger mistrust of community in general."

"Trueness-to-Life, Reportage, Art - when shall these three meet again? More to the point, were they ever actually as close as they claim?" DJM Saunders's tour of "Amazing Scenes" goes round the world.

"Why isn't film criticism taught by film critics in British universities?" asks Richard Armstrong. "Or to put it another way; why have we never heard of those who teach us how to do film criticism?"

David C Ryan defends 300: "No doubt, historians are concerned about the veracity of historical claims, but they often fail to affirm the role poetry and sophistic rhetoric played in the creation of the historiography of Hellas, for without poetic structures or rhetorical techniques, vast amounts of knowledge would have been lost."

Which leads us to the "parlor of porn," where John Minson offers the first part of a two-part history of "how hard-core porn evolved through the efforts of Jim and Artie Mitchell and other pioneers, with some help from San Francisco's vibrant counterculture" and Lesley Chow considers the work of Tom Lazarus for Indigo Entertainment, "a company known for its unusually ambitious erotica, in which scriptwriting is less about maintaining a plausible 'front' than developing a narrative.... These movies may be considered soft porn, but they show a more relaxed and forgiving 'sensual world' than most studio films."

Reviews of newish movies:

28 Weeks Later

Magnus There are more interviews than usual this time around, and three of them are by Karin Luisa Badt, who talks with Kadri Kousaar about Magnus, with Michael Moore about Sicko and with Carlos Reygadas about Silent Light.

Damon Smith conducts the fourth - with Paul Verhoeven.

Two festival reports: Megan Ratner looks back on Tribeca, " the brashest of the New York movie fests," and Gary Morris revisits QDoc: The 2007 Portland Queer Documentary Film Festival: "Much of the focus today remains on the fight for rights as queers set the bar ever higher, merrily pushing that famous 'agenda' (read: equality) that so unhinges the haters. But increasingly there's cause for celebration too, and the docs are reflecting that."

The issue wraps with Gordon Thomas's massive DVD roundup.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:20 PM | Comments (1)

2 Days in Paris.

2 Days in Paris "Julie Delpy's directorial debut 2 Days in Paris unavoidably invites comparisons to Before Sunset, as it too focuses on a talkative Franco-American couple as they navigate the ups and downs of their relationship during a brief stay in the titular metropolis," concedes Nick Schager at Slant. "But despite the superficial similarities of both films, Delpy's romantic comedy (heavy on the comedy) is a far more prickly piece of chatty cinema, delivering acerbic wit and antagonistic conflict via the 48-hour visit to Paris by Marion (Delpy) and Jack (Adam Goldberg), whose two-year-old coupling has been increasingly on the rocks since their preceding, miserable holiday in Venice."

"The movie suffers terribly of course from the inevitable comparisons to Before Sunrise/Sunset, but in all fairness to Delpy, show me a film that wouldn't," writes Benjamin Strong in the L Magazine.

Updated through 8/11.

"Perhaps unconsciously, [Deply's] performance here is a riff on the Diane Keaton who sailed through early Woody Allen," suggests Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. "[W]atch her in the opening scene, with frizzy hair and spectacles, and, beside her, Adam Goldberg firing off anti-Republican gags and looking just like Tony Roberts in Annie Hall, with added tattoos. Anyone hoping that 2 Days in Paris will revisit such peppy romance, however, will be frustrated."

New York's David Edelstein spots the Annie Hall connection, too, and has a recommendation: "The movie should be seen with a large, responsive audience—the better to live with it in the moment instead of worrying about where it's going." And Logan Hill talks with Delpy.

Kristin Hohenadel profiles Delpy for the New York Times.

Updates: Sunset and Paris aren't that much alike, either, argues Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog: "Linklater's film is a verite-style portrait of a relationship at its most magical (and least sustainable); Delpy's is an almost Brechtian analysis of what happens to a relationship after that magic hour. It's far from a perfect film, and in fact at times it feels rather schizophrenic. But somehow, in between fits of broad comedy and Godardian self-referentiality (the first shot of the film even offers a wink at Godard's 'girl and a gun'), Delpy manages to pull off a spot-on portrayal of what it feels like to be in an adult relationship on the brink. It's certainly messier than Linklater's tightly-orchestrated symphony of long shots, but to me, the fact you can all but see Delpy's fingerprints on the screen is extremely appealing."

Ray Pride meets Delpy and writes at indieWIRE, "I tell her I'm afraid her cranky, political comedy is going to be dubbed Annie Hall if it were directed from Annie Hall's own perspective, with its distinctively female fondness for neurotic banter and bicker. 'No! I like that!' she says with a bright smile."

Updates, 8/7: Writing at indieWIRE, Kristi Mitsuda finds that the film's "dissonance" with Sunset "seems deliberate; a way of stripping away the lush romanticization of Paris and love - between two impossibly captivating human beings - found in Linklater's film, and countering it with a coarser representation of both the city and the day-to-day in the life of a two-year-old couple flecked with numerous flaws. 2 Days seeks to inject the unrulier aspects of relationships into the equation, and has some nice qualities - the writing can be witty, and occasionally Delpy's charmingly off-kilter sensibility shines through - but it's a mess."

"It's not as Before Sunset as the title might seem, since language barriers, overbearing folks, flirty ex-beaus and other annoyances turn what might've been Meet the Fockers into a biting bicker-fest of the Woody Allen variety," writes Aaron Hillis, introducing his interview with Delpy for IFC News. "And of course, it's political. Considering that two of Delpy's early screen roles were in Jean-Luc Godard's Détective and King Lear, it's not surprising that her first narrative feature would be filled with thinly disguised references to her personal beliefs."

"Romance is easy when you've got 12 hours in Vienna and the sky's lit by carnival lights," writes Jim Ridley, recalling Before Sunrise in the Voice. "What happens when you've spent the past few days in Venice with explosive diarrhea, and the next 48 hours brings only language barriers, close quarters with the parents, and a virtual Yellow Pages of ex-lovers?... As writer-director, Delpy makes some of the usual first-feature mistakes," but "she has an unusually playful style for an actor turned filmmaker."

Updates, 8/8: Sara Vilkomerson talks with Goldberg for the New York Observer.

For Filmmaker, Nick Dawson talks with Delpy "about her transition to low-budget filmmaking, working with Kieślowski, and her father's tendency to stare at firemen's butts."

Updates, 8/9: Geoffrey Macnab talks with Delpy for the Independent, as do Erica Abeel, for indieWIRE, and Jennifer Merin, for the New York Press.

"As Delpy observes in our highly entertaining conversation at a New York hotel bar, neither Jack nor Marion is all that likable a character," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "But Delpy's writing is sharply observed and often hilarious, and her own performance as the perennially enraged Marion - whom she says was inspired by Robert De Niro's Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull - is one of her most memorable. Most of all, there's an active filmmaking intelligence at work in 2 Days in Paris, one that's going to learn from the experience and move onward."

"Though the wrap-up to the film and the couple's widening rift is decidedly bobbled with an uneasy preponderance of voice-over, it's nice to see that even the healthiest, snappiest cynic can't help concluding that Paris is indeed for lovers," writes Michelle Orange at the Reeler.

Updates, 8/10: "As the movie pores microscopically over Marion and Jack's relationship, it reveals more specific information about their habits, tastes, personality traits and emotional and sexual chemistry than any film about a relationship that I can recall," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "[E]ven [Woody] Allen and [Diane] Keaton's funniest romps came with a protective layer of witty shtick; they never gave you the intimate sense of actually having to live with them night and day."

"2 Days in Paris doesn't quite meet the Before Sunset standard of intricate, subtle dialogue and sharp psychological insight - but then again, neither do many movies this side of Eric Rohmer," writes Slate's Dana Stevens. "That this one is even bearable is a surprise; that it's occasionally insightful and hilarious is a treat."

"What interests [Delpy] are not the superficial differences between people from different countries - your skinned rabbit is my tourist in a Bush/Cheney T-shirt, and so forth - but the way in which the distances between people, genders and cultures (the very distances we rely on to grant us the perspective needed to see how completely insane other people, genders, cultures really are) seem to shift constantly according to circumstances," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times.

Akiva Gottlieb interviews Delpy for Nerve: "In a conversational sparring match, she's clearly in her element, equal parts voluble, engaging and confrontational. Not to mention, based on the evidence in her new film 2 Days in Paris, more than a little crazy."

Updates, 8/11: "[W]here Linklater was interested in sense-heightening instances of human interaction, the gifts and ravages of time, the delicacy of living in the moment, Delpy is unapologetically crass, structurally clumsy, and cheerfully indelicate," writes Michael Koresky at Reverse Shot. "If Linklater's guiding force was Eric Rohmer, Delpy seems to be more stuck in the functionality of contemporary French comedy."

"They both seem a little neurotic and a little self-centered, but mostly, after two years together, they've apparently run out of reasons to be kind," writes Tasha Robinson at the AV Club. "And while their give-and-take is almost playful, both actors put an uncomfortable edge on it, fit to keep viewers squirming with alternate waves of sympathy and disgust."

"Maybe we still want the Seine to sparkle in the sunlight as it always has," suggests Richard Schickel for Time. "Maybe we hope Gene Kelly will still come tapping down the Montmartre sidewalks as once he did. If that's the case then 2 Days in Paris will not be your dish of Pernod. But if a dose of skepticism (see Jack trying to come to grips with rabbit stew) and multilingual frenzy (dealing with a vegan saboteur in a fast food restaurant) does not seem entirely amiss to you, this anti romantic and anti-comic - it's not as funny as Delpy seems to think it is - movie may appeal to the dark side of your immune system."

Online listening tip. Delpy's a guest on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:52 AM

Dans Paris.

Dans Paris Christophe Honoré's Dans Paris is "a highly polished, assured film that manages to sustain a series of jaunty aesthetic risks that never obscure the narrative's core of sadness and melancholy," writes Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE. "The director's playful daring is often remarkable, as is the ease with which he moves his film along. Also, the performances of his small ensemble are generally without reproach. But still, somehow, the end of Dans Paris left me with nagging doubts about just how genuine Honore's project actually is."

"Honoré at times succeeds in fleshing out the complicated relationships among parents and children (including a mother played by Marie-France Pisier), but his tributes to New Wavish whimsy (Jonathan and a young lover's Jules et Jim-style romantic frolic, a needless Godardian direct-address narration) grow increasingly tired," writes Michael Joshua Rowin in the L Magazine. "One can discern, however, an intelligence and passion for life from the director who brought us the terrible Bataille-adaptation Ma Mère, so let's applaud Dans Paris as an improvement while keeping an eye on its uncategorizable creator."

Updated through 8/11.

Earlier: Robert Horton in Film Comment.

"Christophe Honoré's Dans Paris is both a floppy, joyful tribute to the French New Wave and an inspired retelling of Franny and Zooey, echoing Salinger's pair of novellas cannily and effortlessly," writes Julia Wallace in the Voice. "Unlike most other movies inspired by Salinger - The Royal Tenenbaums, Igby Goes Down - Dans Paris is set in Paris (well, duh), and so instead of trading on a superficial vision of Life in Quirky Old New York, Honoré is perhaps freer to dig into the source material. What he comes up with is a belief in the transcendence of sibling relationships."

"Cineastes will delight in checking off the allusions, but Honoré never lets his obvious admiration for the New Wave masters get in the way of his characters," writes Jürgen Fauth. "The quotations and references could easily have been empty gestures, but here, they provide packaging for a love story wrapped inside a moving family drama."

Update, 8/8: "The fourth chapter in Truffaut's Antoine Doinel series, Bed and Board is about marriage and mistakes, and that hazardous stretch separating adolescence from adulthood," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "In some respects, it is about the end of an era - for Truffaut, for the New Wave and its admirers - though it also appears to have served as a point of creative departure for Mr Honoré, as a new beginning, not an end."

Updates, 8/9: "It was difficult to figure out why the charm and inventiveness of the city life comedy Dans Paris... was ultimately unsatisfying - until one crucial scene," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "Twentysomething Jonathan (Louis Garrel) pauses in his womanizing spree on the streets of Paris to stare - transfixed - at two movie posters. He faces an illuminated curbside kiosk advertising Gus Van Sant's Last Days and David Cronenberg's A History of Violence. These films are not classic expressions of contemporary experience to go with the whimsy of Dans Paris; they're nihilistic resignations, celebrating American corruption and the meaninglessness of life. Through this homage, Christophe Honoré reveals a susceptibility to cynicism that prevents Dans Paris from fulfilling its joyful promise."

"Like his higher-profile countryman François Ozon (Swimming Pool, 5x2), who's about the same age, Honoré is figuring out how to make new films in what look like the sunset years of French movie history," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "It's possible that Honoré is still finding his way toward a mature style, and it's also possible that what you see in Dans Paris is what you get: a wistful, wispy tale about a group of wounded men trying to heal themselves, gamed up with a certain amount of self-referential artistry and genuine intellectual daring. I'll take it."

"It is a possibility that that one of the reasons Dans Paris does not quite work, does not quite connect excellent, deeply felt performances by [Romain] Duris, [Joana] Preiss and [Guy] Marchand, with the story at hand for a satisfactory engagement of the emotional material, is essentially a formal one," suggests Daniel Kasman.

Updates, 8/10: "Romain Duris is the real talent here; his Paul is a laconic layabout, on twenty-four-hour bedrest in his father's tiny flat following a bitter breakup, but even his weariness burns with intensity," writes Akiva Gottlieb at Nerve.

"As reckless as love itself, the movie has its ups and downs, but ultimately, you can't help but be touched by it," writes Paul Schrodt in Slant.

Update, 8/11: "Besides the restless style, Dans Paris is remarkable for being more about familial bonds than French cinema tends to be," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:49 AM

August 5, 2007

Warhol. UK.

Andy Warhol "Once upon a high time Andy Warhol's films were a revolution," recalls Glenn O'Brien in the Times of London. "I was a college student in the late 60s. I had been educated by John Ford, Howard Hawks, Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, but the films of urgent interest were those of Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard and Warhol. I remember sitting through a whole evening's showings of Warhol's Lonesome Cowboys. It's hard to imagine today, but back then a Warhol film was a glimpse of a new world, a strange, weird, compelling, funny, scary world. Warhol film was for the initiated, and so it was also initiatory." Via Sujewa Ekanayake. And Gaby Wood talks with O'Brien for the Observer.

Not only is London's BFI Southbank running "the most complete retrospective of Andy Warhol's cinema ever held" through September, but the exhibition Warhol: A Celebration of Life... and Death is open at the National Gallery Complex in Edinburgh through October 7.

Suicide (Silver Jumping Man) "Andy Warhol's painting Suicide (Silver Jumping Man) offers one very obvious reason why a man famous in his lifetime for portraying the famous, scorned by so many critics as the starstruck nemesis of serious art in America and dead now for two decades, is one of the most urgent artists of our time," argues Jonathan Jones.

"What has time done to an art based on images that were once so familiar anyone could 'recognise them in a split second in the street,' as Warhol said, but which are now instantly recognisable only as Warhols?" asks Laura Cumming in the Observer. "As the years recede, death does seem to be Warhol's subject: his forte."

Tim Cornwell reports for the Scotsman: "Although Edinburgh saw a show of the artist's self-portraits two years ago, Scotland has never hosted an exhibition on this scale, says Keith Hartley, chief curator at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.... Pieces rarely seen in Europe appear in this exhibition, including 1980s works based on advertising, and a group of large skull paintings that fill one room."

For the Telegraph, Alastair Sooke focuses on the Time Capsules: "He came to see them as a conceptual artwork in their own right, a sprawling self-portrait that also captured the spirit of his age."

Back in the London Times, Joanna Pitman wanders the exhibition and decides that "the area of his life richest in revelation is the period between his arrival in New York in 1949 and his breakthrough in 1962, with the exhibition of his Campbell's Soup paintings."

Earlier: Amy Taubin talks with Gus Van Sant about Warhol for Sight & Sound.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:06 PM

On the Road @ 50.

On the Road "Unwittingly, and to his increasing horror, [Jack] Kerouac had written a zeitgeist book, one that would help determine the course of what would come to be known as youth culture over the following two decades," writes Sean O'Hagan in a piece for the Observer on the 50th anniversary of On the Road.

"'It changed my life like it changed everyone else's,' Bob Dylan would say many years later. Tom Waits, too, acknowledged its influence, hymning Jack and Neal [Cassady] in a song, and calling the Beats 'father figures.' At least two great American photographers were influenced by Kerouac: Robert Frank, who became his close friend - Kerouac wrote the introduction to The Americans - and Stephen Shore, who set out on an American road trip in the 70s with Kerouac's book as a guide. It would be hard to imagine Hunter S Thompson's deranged 70s road novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, had On the Road not laid down the template - likewise films such as Easy Rider, Paris, Texas, even Thelma and Louise."

Updated through 8/7.

On the Road: The Original Scroll And, as you'll have heard, "Fifty years on, the book is being turned into a Hollywood film, scripted by Roman Coppola, son of Francis Ford, and directed by Walter Salles who made The Motorcyle Diaries, the story of Che Guevara's road trip across South America. Kirsten Dunst will star as Carolyn Cassady. Nearly 40 years after his premature death, then, Kerouac lives on - though in some odd and often contradictory ways."

"This book has stayed, as one of its early readers would say, forever young," writes David Gates in Newsweek. At the same time, though, "America's archetypal literary joyride might be the saddest novel you'll ever read. If you're young enough, On the Road can be a liberating, life-changing blast of energy. But its brief yawps of pure joy and pleasure simply add piquancy to the general lamentation. Near the end of the novel, an apparition with long white hair (maybe a vision, maybe a crazed wanderer) gives Sal the Word: 'Go moan for man.' He didn't say Go man go."

Update, 8/6: John Coulthart points to a collection of On the Road covers from the US and Europe - and another: William Burroughs book covers.

Updates, 8/7: "The review that started everything for Kerouac was Gilbert Millstein's, published in the daily New York Times on September 5, 1957," recalls Book Review senior editor Dwight Garner. "Kerouac would have made it without Millstein. But this was the review that kicked the door down. It's probably the most famous book review in the history of this newspaper. Click here to view the whole thing. It's worth seeing."

Also, an online viewing tip with some fun commentary.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:59 PM

Observer Film Magazine. August 07.

Observer Film Magazine: August 07 Well, well, a new Observer Film Magazine, and it opens with Barbara Ellen's profile of cover girl Angelina Jolie.

You might find this a bit more interesting: "After Hollywood and Bollywood, Nollywood is the world's third-biggest film-producing industry," writes novelist Biyi Bandele. "It has achieved this impressive feat without subsidy or investment and - fortunately perhaps - without attracting the faintest glimmer of interest from the Nigerian government or any NGO. It has a long way to go to achieve its dream of catching up with Mumbai or Los Angeles, but it is perfectly capable of doing so. The will is there. And at the rate it's going, soon, so will be the means."

Another highlight: "With the blockbuster season behind us, we pick the top 20 from autumn's more quirky and thoughtful delights." And another list: Philip French outlines "five categories of vacation movies" to introduce his annotated top ten.

The Bourne Ultimatum "The Bourne movies are perfect thrillers for our slippery, uncertain times: globe-spanning, technocratic, cool-temperature epics of high-speed information and fractured identity," writes Sight & Sound editor Nick James. "They enjoy the frisson of Cold War nostalgia, yet they also revel in the moral chaos of the now, as much as in their signature car chases. They are the perfect revision of James Bond as if by John le Carré. And conversely, they are also the most obvious influence on Daniel Craig's new James Bond in Casino Royale, a less far-fetched creation than of old. But there's one particular aspect of the Bourne movies that tells us more about ourselves, and about the way Hollywood sees the world now, than anything else, and that is their idea of the enemy." Related: Dan Bradley on coordinating the stunts for The Bourne Ultimatum.

A section on "Film history":

Raging Bull

  • "Despite the esteem in which Raging Bull is now held, its initial release was hardly a cause for widespread celebration." Ryan Gilbey revisits the film's rocky history. Then, blogging, Gilbey asks, "What's the best film of the 70s, Hollywood's last golden era?"

  • Killian Fox outlines the disparate influences on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Reservoir Dogs, a href="http://www.greencine.com/webCatalog?id=188243">Star Wars and Blue Velvet.

  • Martin Amis profiled Steven Spielberg back in 1982: "Towards the end of ET, barely able to support my own grief and bewilderment, I turned and looked down the aisle at my fellow sufferers: executive, black dude, Japanese businessman, punk, hippie, mother, teenager, child. Each face was a mask of tears. Staggering out, through a tundra of sodden hankies, I felt drained, pooped, squeezed dry; I felt as though I had lived out a year-long love affair - complete with desire and despair, passion and prostration - in the space of 120 minutes."

  • In another look back to the early 80s, Jason Solomons talks with Chariots of Fire producer David Puttnam: "I suppose things were looking good for the British industry, and it was probably silly to think that but it did give us all a morale boost. Not for long, sad to say."

Atonement "[E]ffects have dominated cinema since the blockbuster era began with Star Wars. What we're witnessing now, however, is a peak of beauty in their design - you simply can't see the join between reality and fantasy," writes Jason Solomons. "[W]hat we're experiencing now is the happy coexistence of art and science, of sensitive director and remarkable programmer. But soon this equilibrium will tip in favour of the machine. Already, Hollywood spends a fortune on an effects budget - as much as it does on marketing and more than it does on hiring stars. Bottom of the pile these days are, of course, the writers and script developers. And it shows." Also, "Did I just see you in the video for Jamie T's new single?" he asks Bob Hoskins. And: a very, very brief chat with Joe Wright about Atonement.

Charles Gant on Knocked Up: "Hollywood studios will be heartened that this summer American audiences showed an appetite for fresh and original; nobody is in a hurry to find out whether that hunger can also encompass radical."

In an extract from Helen de Winter's book, What I Really Want To Do Is Produce, a dozen or so producers take on the question, "So you're a producer... what exactly do you do?"

Emily Maitlis tells Liam O'Driscoll about the films in her life.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:31 PM

Underdog.

Underdog "A motherless boy, a graceless dog and a witless script propel Underdog, a live-action resurrection of the 1960s television series about a canine superhero who speaks in rhyme while fighting crime. (Sorry, it's catching)," apologizes Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times. "Underdog may have been originally created to sell cereal for General Mills, but this latest incarnation couldn't sell Frisbees at a dog park."

"It's the celluloid equivalent of sugar cereal: cheap, empty and headache-inducing," writes Sam Adams in the Los Angeles Tims.

Now then: Craig Phillips "got to sit on a conference call roundtable interview, with a few other bloggers, to chat with Joe Harris, the co-creator and lead animator for the original cartoon series. He's worked with some of the most renowned advertising agencies in New York - he is credited with creating the Trix rabbit - and teamed up with colleagues to develop the Underdog show, which debuted on October 3, 1964. The show ran for nine years (in syndication), with 120 episodes in all."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:27 PM | Comments (1)

Isidore Isou, 1925 - 2007.

Isidore Isou est mort.

Site officiel du Lettrisme.

Lettrists 1951

After the Traité screening at Cannes.
Third from the right: Isou. Third from the left: Debord.

[In 1951, Guy Debord] met the lettrists in Cannes, where they had showed up to create a ruckus and make sure Isou's first film, Traité de bave et d'éternité [Treatise on Slime and Eternity], was screened.

The film consisted of four hours of "discordant cinema," with its melodramatic images enhanced with scratches, shaky footage, blank frames, and a soundtrack that had no relation to the picture, consisting of monologues and "onomatopoeic" poetry (composed uniquely of sounds rather than words, onomatopoeic poetry being to lettrism what automatism was to surrealism, a kind of aesthetic matrix as well as quality label). As for casting, Isou's lettrist accomplices, who were unlikely to have been very demanding about payment, had the leading roles. The avant-garde... followed its course and decided to impose this decisive destruction of cinema (as Isou himself claimed at the time) on the assembled cinephiles, who were in principle convinced of the radiant future of their favorite art. The festival authorities ultimately agreed to show Isou's film (very possibly simply to get him out of their hair), but at the last minute presented only the film's sound track, which didn't really change things much as far as Isou's film was concerned. However, Debord and [Gil] Wolman, who were present, took from this the underlying principle of their first cinematic projects: films without any images at all. As for Isou, his success was enormous and nearly unanimous, which is to say he was booed by everyone in the audience. Even the young Godard was skeptical. (Was this the source of Debord's tenacious hatred for the man the situationists would later refer to affectionately as "the dumbest of the pro-Chinese Swiss?") The only supporters were Maurice Schérer (later known as Eric Rohmer), who conscientiously praised the film in Cahiers du cinéma, and Jean Cocteau (was he seduced by the Elvis Presley of postdadaism?), who arranged for Isou to be awarded a "Prix de l'avant-garde" that had been created specifically for the occasion.

Vincent Kaufmann, Guy Debord: Revolution in the Service of Poetry.

Lettrisme has made its way through many European movements, from the bewildering thicket of Italian isms to looser incorporations in the Russian Samizdat revival of Zaum, in the work of many Hungarians, and particularly in the large and varied body of work of the Signalists in Yugoslavia.

Karl Young introduces the Isou collection at Lettriste Pages.

See also: Venom and Eternity (1951), Isidore Isou: Musiques Letteristes and "French Letterists: 1940 - 1970s" at Ubuweb; and the Wikipedia entry.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:27 AM

August 3, 2007

Into the weekend shorts.

Bill Cody: Kurdistan "I first visited Kurdistan a year and a half ago, to film a documentary called Thank You for My Eyes about the Iraqi constitutional referendum," writes Bill Cody in the Stranger. "Then, in May, a Kurdish filmmaker named Jano Rosebiani sent me an email asking if I wanted to teach a filmmaking workshop in Iraqi Kurdistan. (Rosebiani won a director's prize at SIFF in 2002 for his film Jiyan.) The workshop - sponsored by Rosebiani's film company, Evini, and the Kurdish government - started in June. I said yes."

"Most of my colleagues consider Killer of Sheep to be [Charles] Burnett's greatest film to date, but I'm not so sure," writes Jonathan Rosenbaum. Don't get him wrong: he's still giving the film the four-star "masterpiece" rating in his Chicago Reader review. But: "My own favorite, which appeared on my last all-time ten-best list in Sight & Sound, is When It Rains (1995), a 13-minute short made for French TV. It has shown in Chicago more than once, but since it isn't on DVD or VHS, it's barely known. By the end of this year, when Milestone finally brings out its long-promised Burnett box set, this extraordinary film celebrating both jazz and community, made as a kind of respite and liberation after Burnett finished directing The Glass Shield for Miramax, will finally be available."

Epitaph "Epitaph has a convoluted (but currently fashionable) multiple flashbacks-and-time lag structure, but does not devolve into a confusing mess, which is a huge relief," writes Kyu Hyun Kim. Also at Koreanfilm.org, Darcy Paquet finds the North Korean film A Schoolgirl's Diary "eye-opening viewing in several respects."

Jim Emerson's Opening Shots Project picks up again with Andy Horbal's take on the opening of Melville's Army of Shadows.

Chris Cagle's 1947 Project carries on being great, even without the snaps.

Dr Plonk "Can't say I saw this coming," writes Todd Brown. "[A]fter the international critical success of his Ten Canoes - a film much loved by the Twitch-y folk when it played the Toronto International Film Festival - Rolf De Heer has returned to give us Dr Plonk, a comedy about the end of the world shot in the style of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. No kidding. Yeah, it's a total gimmick but it looks fantastic." Also at Twitch: Blake Ethridge talks with filmmaker and Blue Underground prez Bill Lustig.

At european-films.net, Boyd van Hoeij previews The Last Legion, "a completely fictional story set at the end of the Roman Empire [which] stars Colin Firth, Aishwarya Rai, Thomas Sangster and Ben Kingsley."

"Named after Alain Resnais's essay film on the abandoned landscapes of postwar Auschwitz that bear silent witness to the tragedy of the Holocaust, Night and Fog in Japan, Nagisa Oshima's fictional deconstruction of the left movement in the aftermath of the ratification of the second US-Japan Security Treaty (Anpo) in 1960 is also a caustic and pointed cultural interrogation into personal and collective accountability that, as implied by Resnais's film, have been (consciously) obscured by the fog of guilt and memory," writes acquarello.

"[T]he Tokyo of Love & Pop is devoid of teenage boys, leaving the girls alone in sea of older male predators," writes Filmbrain. "It succeeds as a quasi-experimental work, but only just. However, if you're interested in learning a thing or two about the problems of contemporary Japanese youth, there are far better alternatives."

Eddie Muller, the "Czar of noir," has just shot his first film in a while, a short called The Grand Inquisitor, and Andy Spletzer's assisted.

Transylvania "A movie like Transylvania is long overdue," argues Louise Doughty. "From my experience of writing novels about Roma people and my own English Romany ancestry, I know the frustration of seeing works pigeonholed by their characters' ethnicity."

Also in the Guardian:

Steven Shaviro on Guy Maddin: "Even in the earlier films, campy exaggeration and ludicrousness don't only work as modes of disavowal; they are also, in a strange way, direct enablers of emotion, in that they serve as a medium of expression for feelings that 'dare not speak their name.' But in Maddin's most recent work - Cowards Bend the Knee, and now, Brand Upon the Brain! - even a further transformation is at work. This has to do with modes of display, or of what I can only call (somewhat oxymoronically) a self-conscious obviousness."

Reviewing Sunshine, Geoff Manaugh asks, "Was there something about the premise itself - total absorption by a featureless, golden void - that forced [the filmmakers] to retreat, and to insert something that they and, they hoped, the audience could recognize?" More from Robert Cashill and Craig Phillips.

Le Doulos It's not just Le Doulos. Rialto Pictures has been rattling the New Republic's Stanley Kauffmann with its reissues for some time now: "Of course one cannot be surprised that the opinion of 1967 was not the opinion of 2007, but it is uncomfortable to realize that the earlier opinion has been on mental file for decades. Then a grim fact looms large: absolutely every opinion of earlier works that is stored in the noggin does not truly represent what the latter-day person thinks."

"Why does Buñuel's work endure?" asks Adrian Martin in the Australian. "In the 21st century, when MTV has exhaustively recycled the originally shocking opening of Un chien andalou - a razor slicing an eyeball - and the art-house scandals generated by Catherine Breillat (Romance) or Gaspar Noe (Irreversible) go far beyond any sexual scenario that Bunuel ever hinted at, shouldn't his films seem quaint, fussy, tame? Nothing could be further from the truth." Via Girish.

Dan Sallitt on Warren Sonbert's Carriage Trade: "The appeal of the film for me comes, not only from the beauty and serenity of the compositions, but also from the bit of mystery that comes from so many shots having a minute, self-sufficent quality of narrative representation."

Alex Ross dwells for a moment on "a minor footnote to the annals of Schoenbergiana": What did Irving Thalberg hear and when did he hear it?

In the New York Times:

Punk's Not Dead
  • Neil Genzlinger on Punk's Not Dead: A "segment in which punk types debate whether having their sound turn up in car commercials is a sign of selling out - a discussion mainstream rock beat to death years ago - makes them seem positively behind the curve. But the footage of first-wave punk rockers in action, shown alongside interviews with them today, is amusing in a bittersweet way."

  • Matt Zoller Seitz reviews No Reservations, the Hollywood remake of Mostly Martha: "What's unexpected and gratifying... is the film's enlightened attitude toward parenthood and work, which the movie's publicity campaign conspicuously glosses over, even though it's the story's driving force." More from Carina Chocano in the LAT and Stephanie Zacharek at Salon.

  • Jeannette Catsoulis: "In their no-frills documentary, Out of Status, Pia Sawhney and Sanjna N Singh examine the actions of the Immigration and Naturalization Service after 9/11 and the devastating repercussions for America's Muslims."

  • AO Scott: "Hot Rod might be called the poor man's Eagle vs Shark if Eagle vs Shark were not already the poor man's Napoleon Dynamite."

  • Charles Simic is the US's 15th poet laureate, reports Motoko Rich. "Simic is an inspired choice," blogs Dwight Garner. "His poems are cerebral, surreal and uncanny, yet they are defiantly plainspoken. They are not, most of them, beyond the grasp of non-subscribers to Poetry magazine. Read them, if you haven't."

"In [March of the Penguins], the filmmakers showed a simple story that left the indelible impression that the Arctic is not just a cute place for adorable creatures but also the heart of our planet's life force; in [Arctic Tale], audience members get told about the consequences of global warming in a Walt Disney dichotomy that sometimes condescends, even to its young audience," writes Justin Berton in the San Francisco Chronicle.

A Skin Too Few Damon Krukowski reviews "Jeroen Berkvens's impressionistic documentary," A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake: "Interviews with family and professional colleagues help fill out the story, but this remains a film about an enigma."

Also in the Boston Phoenix:

Mark Pilington interviews Alejandro Jodorowsky for the Fortean Times. Thanks, Jerry, also for sending a pointer to Matthew Singer's story for the VC Reporter on tracking down the ghost of "Gaston Méliès, the older, less famous brother of pioneering French filmmaker Georges. Méliès was involved, one way or another, in the production of dozens of motion pictures beginning in 1903."

"Broken Blossoms is a film worthy of its great reputation," writes Daniel Garrett at the Compulsive Reader.

Claire Litton at PopMatters on The Passion of Joan of Arc: "While strong with French nationalistic sentiment, it was made by a Danish director and a German designer, but its powerful message speaks to people of all nations."

"Irvin Kershner is not a famous director, but you probably know at least a few of his films. He directed George C Scott in the minor 1967 hit, The Flim-Flam Man, Richard Harris in The Return of a Man called Horse (1976), Faye Dunaway in Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Sean Connery in his return to the role of James Bond in Never Say Never Again (1983) and most famously, the cast of Star Wars in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). But most people have never heard of his best film." Jonathan Lapper on The Luck of Ginger Coffey.

"[San Francisco Bay Guardian] film critics Matt Sussman and Jason Shamai have a few things they wanna say about the new film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Let's listen in!"

"Again I must, against my natural instincts, join with the roaring crowd," sighs Michael Atkinson, "this time about Once, John Carney's tiny, modest little-Irish-movie-that-could, which thoroughly bewitched me with its simplicity, its grown-up assumptions about adult behavior and history, and most of all the music, which had a sincere, keening urgency to it that I'd never encountered in a musical before, or even rarely on Fordham's WFUV. It may be a film that's impossible to dislike, despite the fact that it's formally and visually the cruddiest movie released to American screens since Chuck & Buck."

"The space into which The Sopranos inducted us had the messy picaresque randomness of the real world, yet every detail - every tune heard in passing, every remark overheard at the next table, every artifact glimpsed in the background of a crowded room - glistened as if singled out with obsessive mindfulness," writes Geoffrey O'Brien in the New York Review of Books.

La Dolce Morte "What is of interest in [La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film] is [Mikel J Koven's] heory of vernacular cinema," writes Peter Nellhaus. "Koven discusses how many of the gialli were made to be shown in what were called terza visione (literally third vision) theaters. Playing to a primarily working class audience before television finally decimated the filmgoing habit, going to the neighborhood theater to get out of the house and socialize was more to the point than actually paying close attention to what was happening on the screen. Koven argues that what has been criticized as weak narratives is besides the point, and that the audience cares more about the set pieces, in this case the various acts of murder that take place on screen."

Michael Guillén talks with Brian Cassidy, Aaron Hillis and Jennifer Loeber about Fish Kill Flea.

James Mottram talks with Lauren Bacall for the Independent.

"David Shaw, a prolific writer from television's golden age who also wrote the film If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium and Broadway plays, has died. He was 90," reports Valerie J Nelson.

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

"A minor effort in Aki Kaurismäki's filmography, Lights in the Dusk still manages to intoxicate," writes Kathy Fennessey at the Siffblog.

Recently in Slant:

First up to bat as pinch hitters for the Reeler: IFC executive vice president and general manager Evan Shapiro and Pioneer Theater programmer Ray Privett.

Christopher Walken Paul Matwychuk and Matthew Halliday "debate whether Christopher Walken is ruining his reputation as an actor by appearing in so many movies that require him to do nothing more than trot out his familiar 'Christopher Walken' routine."

At PopMatters, Patrick Schabe considers "Harry Potter's Place in Popular Culture."

Just out: Volume 8 of the Journal of Short Film.

Dennis Cozzalio and Jon Swift comment on that list: "The Online Film Community's Top 100 Movies."

The latest clip-laden ScreenGrab list: "The Greatest Running Scenes in Movie History," parts 1 and 2.

Adam Ross's interviewee this week: Emma.

"Mastered the Knee Plays recordings for a re-release this fall (October)," blogs David Byrne. "Last week we dug into the archives to see what was available as bonus tracks and unseen visual materials - there's a truckload of stuff. My hoarding pays off!" Excellent. At any rate, "Can there be such a thing as a narrative that emerges, by itself, from a seemingly random or chaotic structure or series of events?"

George Tabori At the WSWS, Stefan Steinberg remembers playwright George Tabori, 1914 - 2007.

Online browsing tip. The work of Julia Fullerton-Batten. Via popnutten.

Online listening tips. Leonard Lopate talks with Considering Doris Day author Tom Santopietro; and Michael Moore.

Online viewing tip #1. Aegis Breakmix at DVblog.

Online viewing tip #2. Zeppelin vs Pterodactyls, via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

Online viewing tip #3. Drawn!: "In this fantastic video, Steve Martin interviews one of my favourite cartoonists, Roz Chast. The two pore over her somewhat new collection, the mammoth hardcover Theories of Everything, which remains my favourite book I purchased in the last year."

Online viewing tips, round 1. Machine Child and City of Good, both via Anthony Kaufman at the Daily Reel.

Online viewing tips, round 2. "More than ten years' worth of reviews from Siskel & Ebert, beginning in 1985, are now available online," notes Vince Keenan.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:40 PM | Comments (3)

Fests and events, 8/3.

PiFAN 07 At Koreanfilm.org, Kyu Hyun Kim takes a good long look back at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival.

"The Melbourne International Film Festival is slowly but surely devouring my life." Matthew Clayfield lists a few highlights. Through August 12.

The Lumière Reader's been posting one dispatch after another from the Telecom New Zealand International Film Festivals.

Michael Guillén's looking forward to Toronto. September 6 through 15.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:41 PM

Online viewing tip. Making Strangelove.

Stanley Kubrick Inside: Dr Strangelove, a doc on the making of the classic. In five parts, via Coudal Partners, which has been going Strangelove nuts all day. Scan those "Fresh Signals" for more linkage and precious bodily fluids.

Update, 8/9: "Stanley Kubrick did for the Cold War what he had done for space in 2001," writes Christopher Coker in a review of Doomsday Men: The Real Dr Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon for the Times Literary Supplement. "[H]e intensified it, thereby making it more theatrical and at the same time giving it more depth. It is easily the funniest movie made about global thermo-nuclear war, and Strangelove seems not to have lost its bite, even though we think (mistakenly) that we have escaped the nuclear age."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:56 PM | Comments (2)

Tales from Earthsea.

Tales from Earthsea "With such vivid masterpieces as My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies (both 1988), Studio Ghibli has more than 20 years of excellence behind it. To find its nearest equal, you would have to go back to Walt Disney in the 1930s and 1940s," writes Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman. "I had never felt the faintest disappointment at any one of the company's films until I saw Tales from Earthsea. Now everything has changed. Sunsets are no longer majestic. Birdsong has lost its melody. The perfume of the flowers in my garden is dulled, though that could be something to do with next door's cats, the filthy blighters. Yes, Studio Ghibli has produced its first tedious film."

"Potter fans who have turned the final page and are in need of another fantasy fix could do a lot worse than this," suggests the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, "and of course the same goes for devotees of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea novels."

"Stylistically it's a mishmash of Celtic mysticism, Mediterranean architecture and cartoon villainy," writes Anthony Quinn in the Independent. "The philosophical debates on the nature of life and death are surprisingly persuasive, though the film overextends its finale by at least half an hour."

"[I]t's [Hayao] Miyazaki's son Goro at the reins, and his adaptation never takes flight," writes the Telegraph's Tim Robey. "it's compressed and confusing, taxing the patience with talky exposition well into the second hour."

As you've probably figured by now, the film's opening in the UK, but not the US. As yet, anyway. Don't see a US release date.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:42 AM

The Willow Tree.

The Willow Tree "The Willow Tree is the first film from Iranian director Majid Majidi to deal primarily with adults rather than children, but its main character - an awkward, laconic college professor named Youssef (Parviz Parastui) - is in many ways more childlike than any child," writes Julia Wallace in the Voice.

"Majidi's work (which includes Baran, The Color of Paradise and Children of Heaven) has always been based in folk tale and spiritual allegory, and The Willow Tree comes under the heading of 'Be careful what you pray for,'" writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Developing a story of erotic fixation in a cinema that can't show so much as an ankle or a shoulder is challenging, but Majidi pulls it off with panache... A beautiful film, both simple and profound, which suggests that bargaining with God is a bad idea in all cultural traditions."

In the New York Times, Stephen Holden argues that Paradise and Willow should be viewed as a "matched pair": "Both films are explicitly religious, intensely poetic meditations, filled with recurrent symbols and suffused with a spirit of divine apprehension. Both are sad beyond measure, and both risk seeming mawkishly sentimental."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:10 AM

August 2, 2007

Summer '04.

Summer '04 "Stefan Krohmer's Summer '04 is a masterful and original thriller that matches Rohmer's vacationing plots with the paranoid and anxious underpinnings of Polanski, coming together in a noir-tinged story of desire, infidelity, responsibility — and, of course, moral ambiguity," writes Cullen Gallagher in the L Magazine.

"As much a bulls-eyed survey of contemporary German attitudes toward youth, aging, sex, and class as a classic psychological thriller set against a deceptively serene summer idyll, Summer '04 walks a fine line between compelling and camp," writes Michelle Orange in the Voice. "What keeps director Stefan Krohmer's second film (the follow-up to 2003's They've Got Knut) from crossing into the realm of high melodrama are the deeply, delicately drawn performances of his five-person cast."

Updated through 8/3.

"Summer '04 will surely be compared to the films of Claude Chabrol as its slow, insidious machinations build to a cynical ending implicating false bourgeois propriety, but it's also more than that," writes Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE. "There's something haunting and - to use a word no longer in fashion - existential in Krohmer's patient, unrushed delivery, in his ability to trust his soundtrack-less images and create lived-in conditions for understated, complex performances. Summer '04 is as real as life... And like life, Summer '04 provides no implicit judgment or fail-safe reassurance in response to the unsettling confusion of its characters, who must deal with reality very much on their own."

"Summer '04 is so plainly the product of meticulous forethought that the shooting script might have been etched on marble slab," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times. "Unfortunately, the result is a slower, more somber entry in the Sick Soul of the Bourgeoisie genre - an overcrowded, overly familiar category, typified in the United States by American Beauty and Little Children, in which the spiritually comatose reconnect with life by having affairs and suffering. If it weren't for Mr Krohmer's superminimalist direction, the movie's shortcomings might be more apparent."

"There may be something formulaic or deterministic about the film's ultimate direction, but along the way it's quite a ride," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Martina Gedeck is tremendous as Mirjam, the unself-consciously sexy, 40ish wife and mom who doesn't even realize she wants more than she's getting from family life. (For about the 755th time, I will observe that American films pretty much never offer middle-aged women these kinds of roles.)"

"Summer '04 couldn't have come soon enough," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant. "Philip Lopate, writing for Film Comment, rightfully praised Gedeck's performance for its graduations of feeling as her character 'goes from being uptight mother hen to the captive of her libido without our ever questioning her consistency.' The reason we don't is because her behavior is consistent with that of anyone who has come to the realization that the question of morality, not just as it pertains to sex, is not so easily classified as black and white. The film leaves you wondering what could possibly happen in the summer of '05."

Update, 8/3: "While Krohmer's forbiddingly precise direction and the cast's nastily impassioned performances recall Bergman at his finest, Daniel Nocke's script, a literate wonder for most of the film's running time, concludes with a staggeringly misguided epilogue that effectively flushes ninety minutes' worth of painstaking behavioral nuance right down the toilet," writes Mike D'Angelo at Nerve. "It's a heartbreaking act of self-sabotage that almost ruins - but doesn't quite - this otherwise superlative picture."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:11 PM

El Cantante.

El Cantante "[W]hile El Cantante's opening sequence is ridiculously hot, the rest of it is as dull as week-old mofongo," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant.

Robert Wilonsky, writing in the Voice, finds it to be a "turgid film about salsa star Hector Lavoe (Marc Anthony), which doesn't so much go behind the music as beneath it."

"El Cantante is a love letter from its stars, Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, to themselves," writes Matt Singer at IFC News. "Their love will last a lifetime, or at least as long as it takes you to sit through this muddled vanity project."

Updated through 8/3.

"El Cantante explores Latin New York's music and drug scene with greater depth than in Carlito's Way because it is always distinguished by Lopez and Anthony's personal authenticity," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "While the film memorializes Lavoe, Lopez and Anthony's performances make vivid and credible Latino characters that are usually movie stereotypes."

In the New York Times, Mirta Ojito profiles director Leon Ichaso.

Agustin Gurza profiles Marc Anthony for the Los Angeles Times.

Updates, 8/3: "On the evidence of El Cantante..., Marc Anthony is not much of a screen actor," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. So it "helps" that Lopez "does enough acting for the two of them."

"Lopez gives a fine performance here: She's always been an incredibly likable on-screen presence, but this role gives her more to dig into," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "Even so, three-quarters of the way through the picture, after the 2,000th close-up of the admittedly gorgeous Lopez (who is one of the movie's producers) looking resolute and leonine, I started to wonder a little bit more about Lavoe. Just who was this guy?... Ichaso loses sight of him: We get more of the understandably frustrated Puchi and less of Lavoe, who seems to recede into the gold-foil wallpaper long before his unfortunate and untimely death."

"Cantante introduces intriguing, relevant themes one minute, only to abandon them the next," writes Nathan Rabin at the AV Club, where he gives it a "C."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:08 PM | Comments (4)

Fests and events, 8/2.

Roxbury Film Festival "The Roxbury Film Festival, the largest African-American film festival in New England, [has opened with a gala screening of Jennifer Sharp's I'm Through With White Girls, a winner at June's Hollywood Black Film Festival." Brandon Harris files a first dispatch. Through Sunday.

The Brisbane International Film Festival has opened today with Hal Hartley's Fay Grim and runs through August 12. Trevor Gensch has a preview for Hollywood Bitchslap.

"The Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe together make up the world's largest festival of the performing arts." Telegraph critics "select the cream of this year's film crop." August 10 through September 2, though the Film Festival runs August 15 through 26.

At indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman heralds the arrival of the New Crowned Hope series in New York. Tomorrow through August 29.

Kiarostami "As a filmmaking icon as well as a filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami occupies two prominent positions: a central figure in Iran's celebrated and multigenerational cinema movement, and one of a handful of supreme masters in that more rarefied, rootless milieu called 'world cinema' (where he invariably falls in alongside Akira Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray)," writes Robert Avila at SF360. "This straddling, dual status is not all that arbitrary: while Kiarostami's aesthetic is heavily indebted to indigenous influences (perhaps Persian modernist poetry and the groundbreaking work of his late contemporary Sohrab Shahid-Saless in particular), he's also famously influenced (like other Iranian filmmakers) by Italian neorealism and France's nouvelle vague. Neither cultural exoticism nor the continuation of a stylistic tradition in European art film, however, goes very far in explaining the powerful appeal of the films on display in the Pacific Film Archive's retrospective, Abbas Kiarostami: Image Maker, a wide-ranging and altogether impressive series co-presented by New York's Museum of Modern Art and PS1 Contemporary Art Center in collaboration with the Iranian Art Foundation, which includes a concurrent exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum of Kiarostami's striking photographic work."

"I spent the past weekend experiencing Jacques Rivette's magnificent, nearly 13-hour Out 1 (1971)," writes Doug Cummings. "I use the word 'experiencing' rather than watching or viewing, because more than most films, Out 1 is a movie that makes its overall impression on a cumulative, experiential level, amassing an ambiguous narrative comprised of documentary elements, intertextual quotes and references, and figures that are often more striking as actors than characters. As Robert Koehler (who introduced the screening) put it, the film can be seen as the 'missing link' between the madness of Rivette's L'Amour Fou and the playfulness of Celine and Julie Go Boating; Rivette expert Jonathan Rosenbaum has placed the film between the freedom of Jean Renoir and the fate of Fritz Lang."

All About All About Eve Michael Guillén: All about All About Eve and