Chances are, you’ll have heard about one of the wildest stories in the history of cinema, but even if you have, the Telegraph‘s Tim Robey tells it well in his review of Paul Fischer’s new book, A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Incredible True Story of North Korea and the Most Audacious Kidnapping in History: “Unfolding at almost needlessly breakneck pace—there are 33 cliffhanger-fond chapters—the book proves a virtual truism, which is that there’s barely anything you could make up about the Kim dynasty’s propaganda efforts which wouldn’t seem scarily plausible.”
Michael Sandlin has another captivating story in the Los Angeles Review of Books:
On a chilly Los Angeles morning in February, 1922, reputable film director and head of the Motion Pictures Directors Association William Desmond Taylor was found shot to death in his chic Westlake bungalow. Taylor had just been appointed by Paramount studio head Adolph Zukor to single-handedly overhaul Hollywood’s scandal-blighted image. Ironically, owing to the dodgy nature of his demise, Taylor would end up posthumously enhancing Hollywood’s growing reputation as a debauched, godless American Sodom. And according to veteran biographer William Mann’s recent Edgar-nominated true-crime tale, Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood, the Taylor murder kicked off “an odyssey of greed, ambition, envy, desire, betrayal, accusation, heartbreak, intrigue, triumph, and revenge” that would change the culture of Hollywood, and the business of motion pictures, forever.
Erika Balsom in the new issue of Artforum on Film as Film: The Collected Writings of Gregory J. Markopoulos: “The appearance of this book—edited by British film programmer Mark Webber and published by his imprint, the Visible Press—is a milestone in the current surge of interest in the filmmaker…. Film as Film, which includes essential introductions by Webber and cinema scholar P. Adams Sitney, provides invaluable contextualization for this resurfacing and confirms Markopoulos’s position as one the great filmmaker-theorists of the avant-garde.”
Adam Nayman for Cinema Scope: “Back in September, when the world was young, I opined in this space that Maps to the Stars was its director’s worst movie in fifteen years. Six months later, on the eve of its American release, I’m not so sure. It’s a peculiar quality of David Cronenberg’s films that they almost always loom larger in the rearview, which probably has something to do with their relentlessly conceptual bent.” And Graham Fuller interviews Cronenberg for Film Comment.
IN OTHER NEWS
“The Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov first came to the attention of the international film world in 2012 with Gámer, which screened to great acclaim at the Rotterdam Film Festival,” writes Mike Downey, deputy chairman of the European Film Academy, in a guest column for Variety. “Sentsov was arrested in his home town of Simferopol, Crimea, in May 2014. Since then he has been tortured, locked up on false charges in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison and refused access to representatives of the Ukrainian government.” And now he’s facing a 20-year sentence.
Even as a recent restoration makes the rounds, Distribpix Inc.’s Steven Morowitz and filmmaker Joel Bender have discovered an “almost pristine” 35mm print of Orson Welles‘s Chimes at Midnight (1965), reports Ryan Lattanzio at Thompson on Hollywood.
New York. “Black-and-white Cinemascope is alluring precisely because it doesn’t add up,” writes Nick Pinkerton for Artforum. “It’s penthouse and pavement, tuxedo and work boots. ’Scope, at least when it first appeared in 1953, had a lavish connotation; black-and-white was stark, austere, increasingly associated with film’s musty history rather than its bright, varicolored future. BAMcinématek, in a two-part series, offers a chance to explore the particular contradiction.” Black & White ’Scope: American Cinema is on through March 19.
MoMA’s Wim Wenders retrospective opens tomorrow and runs through March 17. Christopher Goodwin talks with the filmmaker for the Financial Times and, in the Notebook, Adrian Curry considers the posters Belgian artist Guy Peellaert designed for Wenders’s films.
Nicolas Winding Refn in conversation with Gaspar Noé in 2014
Los Angeles. “Forget Cannes, Sundance, even the Oscars: This is the cinematic event I look forward to most of all.” In the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan previews the highlights of this year’s UCLA Festival of Preservation: “[N]o other movie festival comes close to it in the magnificent breadth of neglected but compelling American film material it puts on display. This year’s group includes forgotten classics such as 1927’s completely charming My Best Girl with Mary Pickford in her final silent role, a surprisingly effective performance by the often-derided Anna Sten in Exile Express, and even outré exploitation items such as the 1930s undead double bill of White Zombie and Ouanga.” Thursday through March 30.
Friday’s screening of Thom Andersen’s The Thoughts That Once We Had at REDCAT is sold out, but curator Bérénice Reynaud has put out word that, if you send email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the line “want to see THE THOUGHT THAT ONCE WE HAD”, you’ll be bettering the chances that a second screening can be arranged.
On Wednesday, the Filmforum presents Wie man sieht (As You See) – In memory of filmmaker Harun Farocki.
New Haven. Yale is hosting The Legacy of Pasolini, a conference happening on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
London. Defiance and Compassion: The Films of Věra Chytilová is on at BFI Southbank through March 16. Carmen Gray presents a primer.
On Wednesday, same location, Mark Webber—editor of the Markopoulos collection, you’ll remember—introduces a selection of new films by Nathaniel Dorsky.
Elsewhere in the UK. “Running until Sunday 15 March at venues across Herefordshire, Shropshire and The Marches, this year’s Borderlines Film Festival… boasts a dazzling array of world cinema spread out over numerous strands.” At Little White Lies, Adam Woodward picks out several highlights.
Vienna. On Thursday, the Austrian Film Museum presents the world premiere of Manfred Neuwirth’s From a Nearby Land, the latest in the Austrian filmmaker’s series of “structural documentaries.” And then on Friday and Sunday, get this:
In 1930, at the beginning of the sound film era, Sergej Eisenstein‘s instant classic Battleship Potemkin (1925) returned to German-language screens: as a “talkie” with synchronized sound on shellac discs. The Russian soldiers spoke German dialogue courtesy of the actors from the leftist Piscator Theatre in Berlin. And Viennese composer Edmund Meisel, who with his original score had strongly contributed to the film’s success in Western Europe, reworked his music for the talkie version, adding sound effects and songs to the soundtrack…. In 2000, Martin Reinhart discovered the long-lost soundtrack discs in Vienna’s Technical Museum, initiating a reassessment of the film along with an international digital reconstruction project. The result is a unique and powerful audiovisual experience—and a testament to Meisel’s score, praised by Theodor W. Adorno and Hanns Eisler.
IN THE WORKS
“Kristen Stewart has joined Michelle Williams and Laura Dern in Kelly Reichardt’s untitled drama, set in Montana,” reports Variety‘s Dave McNary. “Stewart will portray a lawyer from Boise, Idaho, who takes a teaching job several hours from her house. After taking the job, Stewart’s character develops a friendship with a local woman who’s auditing her class.”