Isa Willinger has posted excerpts from her book, Kira Muratova: Cinema of Subversion, including a lengthy interview with Muratova and Evgeny Golubenko. “Muratova, born in 1934,” Willinger writes in her introduction, “was the most important female Soviet film director, and she remains one of the most significant filmmakers of Russian-language cinema to this day. Her oeuvre begins in the 1960s, when the liberal Thaw had just come to an end, and it runs through Perestroika and the anarchic 1990s until the present, as the director continues to work in Ukraine.” Her “films are full of subversive power. In this book, I explore where exactly their subversive potential is located.”
“In 1937, his reputation at a low ebb and his wife in an asylum, F. Scott Fitzgerald set out for the sunny shores of Hollywood to remake his fractured fortune,” writes Ryan Vlastelica at the AV Club. “His experiences ran counter to the other masters brought in for that Barton Fink feeling: William Faulkner, for one, helped pen such classics as The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not. It was never Fitzgerald’s writing that was the problem, but his inability to pull himself out of a self-destructive spiral of drink and guilt. From this bleak backdrop unspools West of Sunset, Stewart O’Nan’s sparkling and frequently delightful fictionalized take on those years.”
The Telegraph‘s David Gritten reviews “It’s the Pictures That Got Small”: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood’s Golden Age, edited by Anthony Slide: “Fascinating passages are lightly sprinkled throughout the diaries; even those of Brackett’s dealings with the Screen Writers Guild and the Academy that survived the edit are of real interest. Yet it is in the dissection of the two men’s relationship that most light is shed: on Wilder certainly, but also maybe more on Brackett than he realised. At various times he calls Wilder ‘the worst [dinner] guest in the world,’ notes that ‘Billy hasn’t the faintest idea what it is to love anybody’ and remarks that ‘he craves occasional persecution as animals crave salt.’ Some of these attacks may have felt justified at the time, but they have a petulant, passive-aggressive tone.”
John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath “speaks urgently to today’s concerns,” argues Time‘s Richard Corliss: “the cratered trail of dreams for Mexican immigrants seeking a promised land in the Western U.S.; the perfidy of banks in foreclosing on poor people’s homes; and the insurgent urge of the book’s protagonist, Tom Joad, to speak truth to police power.” The occasion of the piece is the 75th anniversary of John Ford‘s adaptation and Corliss looks back on the reception of the film over the years—by critics, of course, but also by Hitler and Stalin.
A short film on Bruce Baillie
“So, I took off with my 5½” ‘Dialector’ diskette in my bag, headed to Kansas City, USA, to ‘reload’ the program that Chris Marker had written in his spare time in the 1980s. This was going to take place not just anywhere, but in a singular technological and sociological environment: at KansasFest, the rendez-vous of Apple II enthusiasts.” For the site devoted to Chris Marker, Dorna Khazeni has translated André Lozano’s tale.
In Computer Chess, Andrew Bujalski “indeed uses postmodern strategies of Presentism, in which he relies on the presentation of a micro-history and an awareness of a present mode of representation,” writes Ruud Klomp at Notes on Metamodernism. “But he combines this with an optimistic, modernist mode, of imbuing the past of the film with great historical significance and presenting it, through its visuals, as a lost touchstone for our contemporary society.”
“Ryuichi Hiroki has become a victim of his own success, though his studio employers probably don’t see it that way,” writes Mark Schilling in the Japan Times. “This one-time maker of so-called pink films (i.e., soft pornography), who became internationally celebrated for intimate indie dramas like Vibrator from 2003 and Yawarakai Seikatsu (It’s Only Talk) from 2005, has morphed into the local industry’s go-to guy for weepy romantic dramas… When his latest, Sayonara Kabukicho (Kabukicho Love Hotel), was announced, I hoped it would mark a return to Hiroki’s indie form. That hope has been abundantly realized.”
“As with all of the famous beauties of the big screen, the camera loves Julianne Moore,” writes Eric Hynes for Reverse Shot. “What’s somewhat less typical is the camera’s tendency to stare at Moore for really long stretches of time.”
One more, the latest from Jacob Wren.
IN OTHER NEWS
“Jafar Panahi has issued a statement explaining his defiance of the Iranian government’s official ban against him making movies which he has repeatedly broken, most recently with his latest feature, Taxi, slated for competition at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival,” reports Variety‘s Nick Vivarelli. “‘Nothing can prevent me from making films since when being pushed to the ultimate corners I connect with my inner-self and in such private spaces, despite all limitations, the necessity to create becomes even more an urge,’ Panahi said in the statement. ‘Cinema as an Art becomes my main preoccupation. That is the reason why I have to continue making films under any circumstances to pay my respect and feel alive.'”
“Marco Mueller, the former artistic chief at the Rome, Venice and Locarno festivals, has been appointed chief adviser to the Beijing Film Festival,” reports Patrick Frater for Variety.
LISTS AND AWARDS
Birdman had a good weekend, winning best narrative feature from the Producers Guild of America and best cast at the Screen Actors Guild awards. Click those guilds for full lists of winners and nominees.
“The Golden Eagle awards, Russia’s equivalent of the Oscars, have snubbed Leviathan by not awarding it the best picture prize,” reports Ben Beaumont-Thomas for the Guardian. Nonetheless, “Andrey Zvyagintsev was named best director, while Yelena Lyadova won best actress, and Roman Madyanov won best supporting actor.” Nikita Mikhalkov‘s Sunstroke took best picture. It’s “a historical film set looking at the Russian civil war of the early 1920s—its themes, and setting in the Crimea, made it particularly resonant given recent tensions with Ukraine.”
“Unsurprisingly, Czech film critics have named Petr Václav’s unbiased social drama The Way Out, which follows the daily struggles of the Roma community, the Best Film of 2014 at the fifth Czech Film Critics’ Awards during an evening ceremony on 24 January.” Martin Kudláč reports for Cineuropa.
New York. “Aleksei German, who died last February at the age of 74 while putting the finishing touches on his most ambitious film, the long-awaited Hard to Be a God, was regarded by some as Russia’s greatest living director—despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that he managed to complete but a handful of features in a nearly half-century career.” In the New York Times, J. Hoberman previews the Anthology Film Archives retrospective that runs from Saturday through February 10.
Los Angeles. Jordan Cronk rounds up local goings on.
Chicago. The Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival opens on Wednesday and runs through Saturday.
“Maggie Smith the actor is all in those dragged-down enormous eyes with their Watteau irony and melancholy, and in the fine-boned long face with its visible play of nerves, so that it seems to change and move even when she’s striking a pose, putting on a look,” writes Tessa Hadley in the Guardian. The BFI’s Maggie Smith season is on through Saturday.
Vienna. The Austrian Film Museum screens Films by Ritwik Ghatak from Thursday through February 12.
IN THE WORKS
Martin Scorsese’s had some good news and bad news in the past few days. The good news, as reported by Deadline‘s Mike Fleming Jr., is that he’s secured financing for Silence, an adaptation of the Shusaku Endo novel that “follows 17th century Portuguese Jesuits who face intense persecution during their mission to spread their faith in isolated Japan.” The production, featuring Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Tadanobu Asano, begins in a few days in Taiwan. The bad news is that his documentary about Bill Clinton, already underway, “has stalled over disagreements about control.” Amy Chozick and Michael Cieply have details in the New York Times.
Trailer for the 4K restoration of Powell and Pressburger’s The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)
This’ll be old news to many, but it’s new to me (thanks, Girish!). Back in November, Thom Andersen (Los Angeles Plays Itself) previewed his new film, The Thoughts That Once We Had, a “108-minute digital piece” that takes on “the history of cinema, loosely inspired by the writings of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze.”
“Peter Greenaway, whose new film Eisenstein in Guanajuato is set to premiere in competition at the Berlinale next month, is about to start work on new feature Walking to Paris,” reports Geoffrey Macnab for Screen. “The film will focus on the 18 months when a 27-year-old [sculptor Constantin] Brancusi walked through Romania, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France.”
“Selma director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo are teaming with Participant Media to develop a feature film chronicling a love story and murder mystery during the time of Hurricane Katrina,” reports Variety‘s Dave McNary. “DuVernay will write, produce, and direct. Oyelowo is in negotiations to produce and star.”
From the Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Roxborough: “Jan Ole Gerster and Tom Schilling, the director and star, respectively, of 2012 sleeper Oh Boy (aka A Coffee in Berlin) are teaming up for their next film, an adaptation of Christian Kracht’s best-seller Imperium.”
“Richard McWhorter, a longtime assistant director and unit production manager who served alongside the likes of King Vidor, Frank Capra and Cecil B. DeMille and was on hand when movie directors met to form a guild in 1936, has died. He was 100.” Mike Barnes has more in the Hollywood Reporter.
“Edgar Froese, a pioneer of electronic music and member of the band Tangerine Dream, died last Friday,” reports Artforum. I recommend John Coulthart‘s appreciation: “The influence of Tangerine Dream’s albums on the Ohr and Virgin labels is now so widespread that it’s difficult to compile a definitive list of those who’ve either paid homage or copied the group’s trademark style of extended sequencer runs and phased chords.” Both as a solo artist and as part of Tangerine Dream, Froese composed and/or contributed to a good number of soundtracks, perhaps most memorably the one for Michael Mann’s Thief (1981).
Actors and filmmakers on favorite movies too few people have seen