First, the good news. Filmmaker John Greyson and physician Tarek Loubani have been released from an Egyptian prison. We’ve got background on this story here. But now, the cautionary note. As CBC reports, they may not yet be free to leave the country “due to an investigation into ongoing charges.” Cecilia Greyson, John’s sister, has tweeted word that the staff at Canada’s embassy is “working around the clock” to clear up the matter and ensure the Greyson and Loubani’s return.
In other news. Last week, Variety‘s Andrew Stewart reported that Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley met Focus Features CEO and co-founder James Schamus to tell him he was being replaced by Peter Schlessel, head of FilmDistrict: “Employees at Focus, which has offices in New York, L.A., and London, were blindsided by the development.” Producer and Filmmaker editor Scott Macaulay calls the surprise move “a blow to not only the filmmakers supported by Focus and the company’s employees but also our broader independent film community. Schamus is unique and irreplaceable, and his particular strengths are ones we have needed and relied upon. These strengths include his defining concept of what a 21st-century specialty distributor could be, one that demonstrated smart-minded business practices while cracking its door open to allow outsider voices, subversive points of view, and narrative experimentation into the system. As Schamus understood early on, those voices bubbling up from the margins are the ones that energize the mainstream years later, and the only challenge is to make an actual business out of it.”
Jorge Mourinha has translated Joana Amaral Cardoso’s report on a recent alarm sounded by Portuguese producers. If the country’s pay-TV operators don’t pay annual contributions as mandated by the new Film Act, we may be looking at “successive year zeros for Portuguese cinema.”
A video essay by Michael Koresky and Casey Moore
“The Spanish government is conducting a vendetta against the national film industry in an attempt to destroy the creative heart of a once vital sector, according to senior industry figures, who see it as the latest round in the culture wars between right and left.” Paul Hamilos reports for the Observer.
Shane Salerno, director of the widely derided documentary Salinger, has given Variety a letter as proof that the writer didn’t hate all movies and was, in fact, open to the idea of seeing a few of his stories adapted as films.
Reading. “The Kennedy assassination is very much an essay on the unsafety of the world,” Errol Morris tells Ron Rosenbaum. “If a man that powerful, that young, that rich, that successful, can just be wiped off the face of the earth in an instant, what does it say about the rest of us?” Together, they sit down and deconstruct the Zapruder film for Smithsonian Magazine.
Looking back on the work of Jess Franco in his latest column for Sight & Sound, Brad Stevens notes that “despite being made for theoretically undemanding viewers little concerned with questions of authorship, these films were frequently connected via recurring characters, narrative structures, cultural references, performers, musical motifs and locations.”
Ulrich Seidl “has a relentless, convincing vision worth reckoning with, and because it fearlessly focuses mostly on the travails of modern lower-income women subject to the desires of men, it walks the blurry line between feminist fury and exploitation.” Michael Atkinson on the Paradise trilogy for In These Times.
Albert Serra’s Story of My Death now has a trailer
In the new Brooklyn Rail, Brandon Harris considers Shaka King’s Newlyweeds and Neil Drumming’s Big Words while Rachael Rakes and Leo Goldsmith look back on this year’s edition of the Festival del film Locarno, where Albert Serra’s Story of My Death won the Golden Leopard.
Curator Lukas Foerster has posted a talk he recently delivered in Luxembourg on American cinema in the 1980s.
Lists. Ray Pride and Brian Hieggelke profile the Second City’s top movers and shakers in Newcity‘s cover feature “Film 50: Chicago’s Screen Gems 2013.”
Nathaniel Rogers has Quentin Tarantino’s list of the best films of 2013—so far.
Los Angeles. The Black Radical Imagination, “a visually rich collection of shorts—from video art to experimental and narrative films—inspired by a futurist aesthetic that explores issues of identity in our postmodern society,” screens tonight at REDCAT.
New York. Ernie Gehr’s Signal—Germany on the Air (1982-85) and Side/Walk/Shuttle (1991) screen tomorrow evening at Light Industry.
Gilles Deleuze on Cinema – What is the Creative Act? (1987)
Profiling Brad Pitt for the Hollywood Reporter, Stephen Galloway notes that the actor’s Plan B production company “is moving forward with projects including an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’s Marilyn Monroe novel Blonde, with Andrew Dominik (Jesse James) to direct; The Last Family of England, with Taika Waititi directing the story centered on a talking dog; and Black Hole, a project that teams Plan B with David Fincher and is adapted from the Charles Burns graphic novel about a virus that infects a group of kids living in the northwest, manifesting itself in strange, supernatural ways (one kid, for instance, develops a second mouth that always speaks the truth).”
Naomi Kawase has begun work on Futatsume no Mado, reports Kevin Ouellette at Nippon Cinema. Due early next year, it’s set on the island of Amami Ōshima and features Tetta Sugimoto, Miyuki Matsuda, Makiko Watanabe, Jun Murakami, Hideo Sakaki, and Fujio Tokita.
“Adopt Films has taken all US rights to Violette,” reports Beth Hanna at Thompson on Hollywood. Dispatching back to the New York Times from Toronto last month, Manohla Dargis called Violette “a deeply satisfying fictional film about the French writer Violette Leduc (1907-72), who rose from illegitimacy (the subject of her memoir La Bâtarde) to move among the likes of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Genet. Although the classical style of the director Martin Provost—his films include Séraphine, another portrait of an artist—can feel overly staid, he holds you with the ferocity of two very different and difficult women—Emmanuelle Devos as Leduc and Sandrine Kiberlain as the no-nonsense de Beauvoir.”
“Masters of Sex star Lizzy Caplan just closed a deal to play the female lead opposite Seth Rogen and James Franco in The Interview, directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg,” reports Deadline‘s Mike Fleming Jr.