It’s been a while since the last update, so this one’ll be rather bulky. I hope dividing it into sections and subsections will make it easier to glide on through. We begin with the most urgent items, naturally, a few of them updates on stories we’ve been following for some time.
Egypt. Filmmaker John Greyson and medical doctor Tarek Loubani are still being held in a prison about 16 miles south of Cairo. Among those urging you to sign a petition for their release are Filmmaker editor Scott Macaulay, the Believer, and Michael Guillén, who’s posted an interview he conducted with Greyson last year.
China. Last week, we pointed to reports of the near-shutdown of the 10th Beijing Independent Film Festival. Today, in the Los Angeles Times, Gabrielle Jaffe has more—much more—on the story: “Since its inception 10 years ago, BIFF—which shows movies that have not been approved by government censors—has faced government pressure and last-minute cancellations from venues wanting to avoid trouble. When the festival moved out of the city center six years ago to Songzhuang, an artist village on the edge of Beijing, film buffs had hoped that it would enjoy more freedom. However, in the last three years organizers have had regular visits from police and have been threatened with arrest and even demolition of their property.” And the BIFF is not alone; the Chongqing Independent Film and Video Festival and the Nanjing-based China Independent Film Festival have had their run-ins with the authorities as well.
For all that, the 10th BIFF has proceeded, screenings, discussions, forums, and all, as Lydia Wu reports for dGenerate Films. As Kevin B. Lee tweets, “Reports of the death of Chinese Indie film are exaggerated.” On a related note, and via Girish Shambu, the New Left Review has a good long conversation with Wang Bing.
Portugal. As a sort of update on two entries related to the threatened survival of the Cinemateca Portuguesa, Jorge Mourinha has translated an op-ed by Miguel Gomes and his long-time producer, Luís Urbano, that appeared in Público on August 31: “Once more the alarm bells ring: Portuguese cinema is in danger. After a year zero, 2012, when the Portuguese State did not open their usual production support tenders for new films, the ghost of another stoppage in the sector is a very real menace.”
Russia. “In all likelihood, you’re well aware that the situation regarding LGBT rights in Russia has reached a horrifying state,” writes Peter Knegt. “One organization that has fought back is Side By Side, an LGBT film festival in St. Petersburg. Since 2007, Side By Side (or Bok o Bok in Russian) has been working against all odds to bring LGBT cinema, education and community to Russians. And now they need your help.” Both he and the festival explain how you can. And meantime, Indiewire editor Dana Harris explains why IW will be boycotting Russia until the country’s policies toward its LGBT citizens change.
Britain. Over the same weekend, the Observer‘s run Philip French‘s final, pre-retirement review (on Otto Preminger’s Bonjour Tristesse  and René Clément’s Plein Soleil [Purple Noon, 1959]), Jonathan Romney filed his last column for the Independent (it’s on Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color), and Chris Tookey tweeted word that the Daily Mail will not be renewing his contract, “so from December 1st I’m suddenly, enormously available.”
Catherine Grant alerts us to the inaugural issue of Cine-Excess: “Like the long-running conference and festival, directed by cult film scholar Xavier Mendik, to which it is related, the Cine-Excess journal brings together leading film critics and theorists ‘alongside international film directors and icons to discuss debates and traditions of global cult film activity.'”
In the new Artforum, Amy Taubin goes long on Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s Chronique d’un été (Chronicle of a Summer, 1961) and Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme’s Le Joli Mai (The Lovely Month of May, 1963), “two foundational films in the history of the modern documentary,” while J. Hoberman reviews Penny Lane‘s Our Nixon.
In his latest column for De Filmkrant, Adrian Martin lays out the problems he’s got with Richard Linklater‘s Before Midnight. He’s also recently tweeted a link to David Auerbach‘s article for the American Reader, “The Cosmology of Serialized Television.”
Girish Shambu lists the films he’s planning to catch in Toronto and follows up with links to recent reads, among them, Steve Rybin grappling with the question, “Why should the films of Hal Hartley—specifically, his endings—be so moving?,” and Tag Gallagher‘s 1993 piece for Film Comment, “Angels Gambol Where They Will: John Ford’s Indians.”
33 minutes long, Alice Guy‘s La Vie du Christ (1906) is “one of the most ambitious films made up to that point in cinema history, long before D.W. Griffith even stepped behind the camera to direct his first one-reel film, The Adventures of Dollie (1908),” writes Gwendolyn Audrey Foster for Film International. “The film was an ambitious spectacle that utilized lavish budgets, large crews, and hundreds of extras, in settings designed and executed by Henry Ménessier.” In 25 separate scenes, “Guy seeks to formalize and ritualize the life and death of Christ as a series of naturalistic, humanist sequences, told through gesture and silence alone, in which the stations of Christ’s life can be segmented into a series of tableaux. In addition to the film’s formalist concerns, Guy’s version of the life of Christ betrays a feminist perspective towards the subject, which blends spectacle and realism in an unprecedented manner.”
“Fifteen years later, I sat down to watch it again. I think I was around three minutes into it and I turned it off. I felt a great panic come over me and was really upset.” Ben Wheatley on Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973).
“As the leftist era crumbled under the weight of historical fatality, a certain utopia of cinema was also believed to have come to an end.” Stoffel Debuysere looks back to the late 60s and 70s for pointers on where to turn—and where not to turn—now.
David Thomson, writing in the New Republic, has had Hitchcock on his mind lately.
“Everett Lewis’s 1993 film An Ambush of Ghosts is a genuine lost masterpiece,” argues Nathaniel Drake Carlson at Pinnland Empire.
John Lahr profiles Claire Danes in the New Yorker.
“Slavoj Žižek is by far one of the most prominent intellectuals active today,” writes Brandon Konecny for Film International. “To the chagrin of figures like David Bordwell, the Slovenian philosopher—perhaps the small country’s main export—has become an increasingly influential voice in film studies, where his ideas have reignited interest in hardline engagement with Theory. But it is peculiar that, in spite of praise by those in the field, Žižek is, first and foremost, a philosopher fully dedicated to revolutionary politics, and is thus concerned with cinema only insofar as it serves as a means of probing the function of ideology in postmodern society. This begs the question that, if cinema is, at best, only of marginal interest to him, can one validate a truly Žižekian approach to film? In his new book The Symbolic, the Sublime, and Slavoj Žižek’s Theory of Film, Matthew Flisfeder takes on this case and provides an impressive exposition and application of Žižek’s ideas on cinema.”
For 3:AM, Maxi Kim talks with novelist Janice Lee about Damnation, “a renunciation of her prior literary ventures and a book-length meditation on the long takes of the Hungarian film director Béla Tarr.”
The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody sets two books of interviews with Orson Welles next to each other: “The fierce and thrashingly creative Welles of My Lunches with Orson may be the more crucial and vital of the two, but it’s good not to have to choose: the anchored and sentimental protagonist of [Todd] Tarbox’s [Orson Welles and Roger Hill: A Friendship in Three Acts] brings an important new facet to our view of Orson Welles.”
New York. “NewFest, New York’s premiere LGBT film festival, this year celebrates its 25th anniversary, and its slate is loaded with Important Films,” writes Calum Marsh in the Voice. “Its curatorial sensibility follows top-down from its mandate, which is, in the words of its press release, to promote ‘a wide range of expressions and representations of the LGBT experience.’ In practice, this means deferring to subject rather than talent.” Friday through Wednesday.
Aaron Flint Jamison will present Three Videos by George Kuchar at Light Industry on Saturday.
Chicago. The 25th Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival opens tomorrow and runs through the weekend.
The 57th BFI London Film Festival has announced its lineup of “234 fiction and documentary features, including 22 World Premieres, 16 International Premieres, 29 European Premieres and 20 Archive films. There will also be screenings of 134 live action and animated shorts. A stellar line-up of directors, cast and crew are expected to take part in career interviews, master classes and other special events.” October 9 through 20.
The Raindance Film Festival, happening from September 25 through October 6, has asked WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to join its jury—and he’s accepted. He’ll be viewing films in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, and of course, will not take part in the awards ceremony. Michael Rosser has details in Screen Daily.
Ang Lee will preside over the Golden Horse Awards jury, reports Patrick Frater for Variety. “Hong Kong’s Johnnie To will join the jury for the Film Project Promotion project market; Taiwan cinema’s elder statesman Hou Hsiao-hsien will personally lead this year’s edition of the Film Academy; and Taiwan-based auteur Tsai Ming-liang will present his Stray Dogs as the festival’s opening film.” The festival runs from November 8 through 28.
IN THE WORKS
Mia Hansen-Løve has begun work on Eden, featuring Félix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Laura Smet, Vincent Lacoste, Vincent Macaigne, Golshifteh Farahani, Brady Corbet, and Greta Gerwig, reports Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa. Co-written with her brother, Sven, a DJ who made a name for himself in the 90s, Eden will delve “into the heart of electronic music in France from 1990 to today.”
Bill Murray is set to star in Barry Levinson’s Rock the Kasbah, reports Variety‘s Justin Kroll: “Story follows a burned-out music manager who goes to Afghanistan on the USO tour with his last remaining client. When he finds himself abandoned, penniless and without his passport, he discovers a young girl with an extraordinary voice, whom he sneaks back to Kabul to compete on the popular television show, The Afghan Star, Afghanistan’s equivalent of American Idol.”
“Derek Cianfrance, best known for his devastatingly emotional breakout film Blue Valentine, is set to direct the adaptation of M.L. Stedman’s international best-seller The Light Between Oceans,” reports Lindsey Bahr for Entertainment Weekly.
Jon Stewart is bringing footage from Rosewater to Toronto to show to potential buyers. Pamela McClintock broke the news in the Hollywood Reporter. Stewart took the summer off from the Daily Show to go to Jordan and shoot his “adaptation of BBC journalist Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy’s New York Times best-selling memoir Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival, which tells the story of Bahari’s 2009 arrest by the Iranian government while covering an election protest.”
“Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson have landed the high-profile roles of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Sam Taylor-Johnson’s forthcoming big screen adaptation of literary sensation Fifty Shades of Grey,” reported the Guardian‘s Ben Child (among many others, of course) on Monday. Since then, “dissatisfied hordes who feel that the stars lack the sufficient charisma or sex appeal” have been raising a stink. Time‘s Tim Newcomb has details.
“For half a century, Sir David Frost, who has died aged 74 of a heart attack, was hardly ever off our television screens, from 1960s satire on the BBC to encounters with the great and good on al-Jazeera. In the process, he became the world’s most celebrated television interviewer.” Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian: “His greatest journalistic coup came in 1977 when he interviewed the disgraced U.S. president Richard Nixon and induced Tricky Dicky to confess in public his guilt over Watergate. ‘I let down the country,’ Nixon told Frost. ‘I let the American people down and I have to carry that burden for the rest of my life.’… In Peter Morgan’s West End play Frost/Nixon, and its 2008 film adaptation by Ron Howard, Frost is imagined as a Limey lightweight out of his depth in American politics who nonetheless got the goods that eluded more experienced journalists…. There was surely more to his story than that.”
John Wyver‘s back with another round.