Let’s begin with some interviews this time, the first being a update on a story we’ve been following for a couple of weeks now and may, in fact, have inadvertently helped get wrong. “After a handful of English-language publications declared that authorities had ‘shut down’ the Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF),” begins Liz Tung at Beijing Cream, “many people likely dusted their hands of the matter, thinking censorship had once again triumphed over artistic expression. But as James Hsu discovered more than a week after the festival’s supposed cancellation, BIFF held a successful, albeit quiet, closing ceremony following a full program of screenings and panels. So what happened? A few days after the closing, I met with artistic director Dong Bingfeng to ask him about that and other issues on censorship, film in China, and independent festivals in the future.”
The second annual La Di Da Film Festival opens tonight in New York with the U.S. premiere of Raya Martin‘s How to Disappear Completely and runs right on through the weekend before closing on Monday night with another U.S. premiere, Joe Swanberg‘s 24 Exposures. For Filmmaker, Sarah Salovaara talks with Miriam Bale about programming twice as many films as the inaugural edition and, of course, several of the selections. Meantime, BOMB Magazine‘s had Swanberg and Josephine Decker, whose Butter on the Latch also screens at La Di Da, get together to talk movies and their making.
Also for BOMB, Coleen Fitzgibbon talks with Ben Rivers about, among many other things, A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, the film he’s made with Ben Russell. Rivers: “Formally our films are quite different. But both of us have a desire to make cinema that is not a representation of the world, but that comes from actual people and places—and is then transformed through cinema into something that isn’t the world, it’s new.”
Andrea Arnold has been named the first Filmmaker in Residence for the New York Film Festival, and she tells the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Brian Brooks: “The timing is perfect. I’m just coming to the end of writing something set in America. I know it has another level to go to and the idea of actually being in America while I’m writing was just something that landed right in front of me and felt like the perfect thing.”
“A human being is really just a module that’s controlled by your genes,” David Cronenberg tells the Guardian‘s Henry Barnes. “As far as your genes are concerned, you’re just a transmitter. This is the darkness: the selfish gene approach to what a human being is.”
In other news. And rotten news it is, too. “With a single email sent out late Wednesday, MSN Entertainment informed as many as 100 freelance writers and editors that they would be out of work by the end of the month,” reports Criticwire‘s Sam Adams. “Among the film writers who confirmed they’d lost their positions were chief film critic Glenn Kenny, DVD columnist Sean Axmaker, reviewer and columnist James Rocchi, critic and blogger Kate Erbland—who also contributed to the site’s ‘Page Turner’ blog with Time critic Mary Pols—and Hitlist contributor William Goss.” The email follows, along with reactions from some of those let go.
More reading. Steven Shaviro has released a free ebook, Two Essays on Jerry Lewis.
There’s “a case” for Mary Pickford “as the most beloved woman on earth in the teens and early 1920s, her every glowing close-up adding luster to her image,” writes Dan Callahan at the Chiseler. “But in focusing on the business side of giving the public what it wanted, Pickford increasingly became trapped by her image. And not just in the parts she played, which grew repetitive and circumscribed, but in the way she played them, with both of her eyes on audience reaction.”
In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Kathleen Sharp delves deep into the tragedy of Dorothy Comingore, who played Susan in Welles‘s Citizen Kane (1941) and was pretty much destroyed by the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee.
“Of all of cinema’s great extra-cinematic contexts—Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina’s beginning-to-end eight-film love affair, Alfred Hitchcock’s actress-maddened sexual frustration, Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini’s doubt-filled inter-film romance, Werner Herzog’s career-long battle with happenstance and illusion—none is as poignant or as cruel as Rondo’s, because no one has ever been quite as pure a victim of his own story.” Michael Atkinson, writing for Sundance Now, has just seen The Brute Man (1946) for the first time.
Clive Sinclair reviews Christine Bold’s The Frontier Club: Popular Westerns and Cultural Power, 1880–1924 and Glenn Frankel’s The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend. Bold’s club, Sinclair surmises, is actually a cabal, whose members included Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Frederic Remington, that invented and/or co-opted the great American myth for their own nefarious schemes. Bold goes after Ford as well, but Sinclair counters, “If there was a Frontier Club, as Christine Bold proposes, then John Ford would surely have been blackballed for progressive tendencies.”
Today’s fall preview comes from the Chicago Reader.
In the works. Lars Ole Kristiansen of Norway’s Montages has the scoop on Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. Actually, he’s got ten of them, beginning with the revelation that the thing’s going to be five hours long, might be released in two parts, and might even become a television series. “Nymphomaniac is described as some sort of summation of Lars von Trier’s career—and not least his interest in and identification with women.”
The Playlist points us to Geoffrey Macnab‘s report for Screen Daily on all that producer Said Ben Said of SBS Productions is currently working on. For example: Brian De Palma’s loose adaptation of Emile Zola’s Therese Raquin with Emily Mortimer; David Mamet’s Blackbird with Cate Blanchett; and another project with Philippe Garrel.
“Hany Abu-Assad [Paradise Now, Omar] will direct the English-language remake of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the Park Chan-Wook film that kicked off the South Korean filmmaker’s Vengeance Trilogy,” reports Lucas Shaw for TheWrap.