April 19, 2014

A brief piece about an urban noir film. The L Magazine, April 16.

T-Men screened on a 35mm Library of Congress print at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image as part of the film series "Anthony Mann: Mean Streets and Open Spaces." The ongoing series is organized by guest curator Max Alvarez on the occasion of the publication of his recent book, The Crime Films of Anthony Mann.

Alvarez argues for T-Men, Mann’s eleventh feature, as a key transitional work, and the first film over which Mann felt that he could claim authorship. The lineup of the eight-film Moving Image series includes several notable subsequent Mann films such as Raw Deal and Border Incident from among the crime works and The Man from Laramie and Winchester ‘73 to represent the Westerns.

Mann directed 41 films (sometimes uncredited) over 27 years, during which he proved to be a dispassionate and compelling chronicler of the consequences of violence. Some key Mann films not showing in the Moving Image series are Reign of TerrorThe FuriesThe Tall TargetBend of the RiverThe Naked SpurThe Far CountryMen in WarMan of the WestEl Cid, and The Fall of the Roman Empire. These last two films are strong historical epics about empires under attack; Mann’s films explored his interests across a number of genres. 

April 13, 2014
38th São Paulo International Film Festival - Inscriptions open

April 13: The link above leads to the film submission form for the festival known in Portuguese as the Mostra Internacional de Cinema de São Paulo, for which I work as a programming aide. The international showcase (whose 2013 edition included nearly 400 films) will take place throughout South America’s largest city this year during October 16-30. Submitted films can come from any country and filmmaking genre, though they should all be 70 minutes or longer, have been completed in 2013 or this year, and be receiving their Brazilian premieres through the Mostra if accepted to the festival. The submission form is available online for free, both in Portuguese and in English, until July 26th.

To get a sense of last year’s program, please visit the website for the Mostra’s 2013 edition, located here.


April 6, 2014
The Retrieval

A brief review of a new American film. The Village Voice, April 2.

The review’s opening paragraph makes implicit reference to two recent Oscar-winning films that posit slavery as a physical problem, to be solved when the slave’s bondage is lifted. The Retrieval, by contrast, deals primarily with the damaging impact of slavery upon a slave’s soul and spirit, even after that person has been legally freed.

Some other films that I believe do so are Jonathan Demme’s film adaptation of Beloved and Don Siegel’s The Beguiled, the second of which stars Clint Eastwood as an opportunistic Yankee soldier among Southern women in one of the many great instances of the actor subverting his own white male authority. Though I have no hard evidence to support the connection, I cannot shake the thought of Eastwood the filmmaker influencing Chris Eska, director of The Retrieval. The two artists share a recognition of human beings as physically fragile and vulnerable, and an according tenderness to the ways that they depict human relationships. The manner with which The Retrieval presents the growing need that its characters of Will and Nate feel for each other becomes especially moving in the film’s second half, as though the revenge mechanics of Unforgiven were making way for all the hopes, both dashed and granted, bound up inside A Perfect World.

April 5, 2014
Auteur Studies: Critics Give Their Picks for the Best Films of Jim Jarmusch

A Lincoln Center poll surveying film critics about Jim Jarmusch’s best films, solicited on the occasion of the retrospective "Permanent Vacation: The Films of Jim Jarmusch." I wrote primarily about The Limits of Control, which will screen on 35mm at Lincoln Center on April 6 and April 9 along with Jarmusch’s music video for The Raconteurs’ “Steady As She Goes.” Film Society of Lincoln Center Blog, April 2.

One of the inspirations for The Limits of Control's central character of “The Lone Man” was undoubtedly the character of Walker played by one of Jim Jarmusch's favorite actors, Lee Marvin, in John Boorman's film Point Blank. Like Marvin in that film, the Ivorian actor Isaach De Bankolé cuts a cool, distant figure whose aloofness from his surroundings generates both mystery and comedy.

Isaach De Bankolé will attend the Lincoln Center screening of The Limits of Control on April 6. In addition to his four films with Jarmusch (which additionally include Night on EarthGhost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, and Coffee and Cigarettes), the actor is well-known for the trio of films that he has made with Jarmusch’s former assistant director, Claire Denis - ChocolatNo Fear, No Die, and White Material

April 3, 2014
Jim Jarmusch, in Film After Film, Reveals What Life Actually Is

A feature-length piece about a great American filmmaker on the occasion of two events. The first is an ongoing retrospective of Jim Jarmusch’s films in New York at Lincoln Center; the second is the upcoming U.S. theatrical premiere of his latest and very beautiful film, Only Lovers Left AliveThe Village Voice, April 2. Thanks to J.W. McCormack for research help.

The piece makes reference to Sara Driver, Jarmusch’s longtime partner who is credited for “Instigation and Inspiration” on Only Lovers Left Alive. Driver herself is a filmmaker whose work has overlapped with Jarmusch’s since shortly after they met at film school in the late 1970s. She produced his first two features, Permanent Vacation and Stranger Than Paradise; he shot the mysterious and concrete black-and-white images of her first film, You Are Not I, and many of the nocturnal color scenes of her second, Sleepwalk. Driver has directed only two other films in addition to them, the feature-length When Pigs Fly and the short film The Bowery. All four films are currently available on DVD thanks to the Flatiron Film Company..

April 2, 2014
The Woman Next Door

A brief piece on a great film about the mysteries of everyday life. The L Magazine, April 2.

The Woman Next Door, the penultimate film directed by François Truffaut (who died of a brain tumor three years after its premiere), will screen on 35mm in New York as part of the film series "Tout Truffaut." The series features all the films that Truffaut directed as well as two great debut features by other directors whose productions he aided (Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and Maurice Pialat’s L’Enfance Nue) and one additional film in which he acted (Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

The series has already screened The 400 BlowsAntoine and ColetteShoot the Piano PlayerJules and JimThe Soft Skin, and Confidentially Yours. From among Truffaut’s remaining films (in addition to The Woman Next Door), I would recommend Les MistonsFahrenheit 451Stolen KissesThe Green RoomBed and BoardThe Wild ChildTwo English GirlsThe Story of Adele H.Day for Night, and Small Change, all of which generously evoke feelings of pleasure and sadness. 

March 31, 2014

A brief piece on a powerful Senegalese film. The L Magazine, February 12.

Hyenas, the great Djibril Diop Mambéty’s second feature, was realized nearly 20 years after his amazing debut feature Touki bouki (aka The Hyena’s Journey), a review of which will soon be posted on this site. Mambéty’s planned trilogy of features about the effects of neocolonialism upon the African psyche lay unfinished at the time of his death, though he was able to complete shorter films such as Le franc and The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun.

Hyenas screened last month in New York on a 35mm print as part of the BAMcinématek series "Vengeance is Hers," which through a combination of popular demand and creative programming will soon be reprised with the April film series "Back with a Vengeance." The second series will repeat a few titles (Nine to Five and Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles) and screen intriguing newcomers such as Riddles of the Sphinx and Xala.

A welcome addition to the two series’ combined list of films about female vengeance would be Rita Azevedo Gomes’s terrifying 2011 Portuguese film A Woman’s Revenge, in which a former noblewoman (played by Rita Durão) pours her story into a stranger’s ears one night. As she tells of how her beloved came to be murdered and of how she sought satisfaction afterwards, the film illustrates her words with theatrical, disquieting detail. A Woman’s Revenge will screen during April in Paris and in Buenos Aires, with the second set of screenings coming courtesy of an Azevedo Gomes retrospective organized by Spanish programmer Álvaro Arroba for this year’s edition of BAFICI.      

March 30, 2014
Věra Chytilová

March 30: The link above leads to an upload of the Czech short film The Automat World, directed by Věra Chytilová, who died on March 12 at age 85. Chytilová made her fragmented study of a nightmarish wedding day, included within the 1966 omnibus feature Pearls of the Deep, somewhere in between realism and surrealism. Three years earlier she had realized her debut feature, Something Different, a graceful portrayal of a love triangle involving an everyday middle-class couple and a female acrobat; and later in 1966 she would premiere her most famous film, Daisies, an anarchic rendering of two young women devouring everything in front of them, whether food or men.

Daisies became one of the most internationally renowned films of the Czech New Wave, whose high point ran roughly from the emergence of a group of young Czech filmmakers in 1963 until the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Chytilová held the distinction of being both the group’s oldest filmmaker and its lone female one. Several of her peers with whom she had studied at the film school FAMU contributed segments based (like hers) on stories by the writer Bohumil Hrabal to Pearls of the Deep. These filmmakers included the overtly political Evald Schorm, who would later question how society defined madness in his drama The Return of the Prodigal Son; the playful Jiří Menzel, whose great international success Closely Watched Trains would come soon after the omnibus feature debuted; the alternately poetic and blunt Jaromil Jireš, who would save his most forceful film, The Joke (based on Milan Kundera’s novel), for after the Soviet invasion; and the inimitable Jan Němec, realizer of acidic and shocking wonders such as Diamonds of the NightA Report on the Party and Guests, and Martyrs of Love, who shot his productions quickly so that they would be wrapped before the authorities shut them down.

Chytilová’s fellow Czech New Wave filmmakers additionally included František Vláčil, director of the indelible medieval epic Marketa Lazarová; and Ivan Passer (Intimate Lighting) and Milos Forman (Loves of a Blonde), both of whom would leave Czechoslovakia to make their post-invasion films in the United States. 

Brazilian audiences have recently had the pleasure of viewing Chytilová’s films in dialogue with theirs and those of others thanks to the wonderful all-35mm film series "Czech New Wave Series - The Other Side of Europe," curated by Gabriela Wondracek Linck and realized through the cultural organization Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB). The series continues in São Paulo through Thursday.      

March 28, 2014

A brief piece on a great retelling of a Greek tragedy. The L Magazine, February 5.

The film Medea, directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, screened last month in New York on a newly restored 35mm print as part of the BAMcinématek series "Vengeance is Hers." Co-curators Nellie Killian and Thomas Beard’s series contained several other remarkable films, including Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 BruxellesKuronekoHyenas (a review of which will soon be posted on this site), The HeiressThe Lady Eve, and Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan.

This article on Medea contains a quote from the Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Sepúlveda, whose compelling debut feature The Quispe Girls I wrote about in January for Moving Image Source. Sepúlveda has said that he is inspired by Pasolini’s willingness to mix elements of fiction and nonfiction. For examples, one can look to Pasolini’s scripted narratives unfolding in natural settings with a combination of trained and untrained actors, which in addition to Medea include wonderfully poetic and forceful films such as AccatoneThe Gospel According to Saint Matthew, and The Decameron.

March 26, 2014
A Road Through Muddy Paths [on Hard to Be a God)

A review of the last film by the great Aleksei German. Screen Machine 6, March 2014.

German directed six films over a span of nearly 50 years - The Seventh Companion (co-directed with Grigori Aronov), Trial on the RoadTwenty Days Without WarMy Friend Ivan Lapshin, and Hard to Be a God. They are all remarkable. A recent touring retrospective of German’s films additionally included The Fall of Otrar, directed by Ardak Amirkulov, which German produced and co-wrote.

German’s son Aleksei German, Jr. is also a strong filmmaker, with his most notable film likely being Paper Soldier, a work about the Soviet space program set in 1961.

My review makes reference to an informative article by the critic-programmer Olaf Möller about Hard to Be a God that can be found here. The six-year shoot of German’s film is chronicled in the recent documentary Playback, co-directed by Antoine Cattin and Pavel Kostomarov.  

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