“How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets” is the straight-forward title of Peter Maass‘s cover story for this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. It is, of course, an utterly riveting read, supplemented by Maass’s encrypted question-and-answer session with Snowden himself. Snowden: “We came to a point in the verification and vetting process where I discovered Laura was more suspicious of me than I was of her, and I’m famously paranoid.” And Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald recalls that when he met Poitras, “She insisted that I not take my cellphone, because of this ability the government has to remotely listen to cellphones even when they are turned off.”
You’ve likely heard that Laura Poitras has her reasons for being cautious. With each successive film—My Country, My Country, nominated for an Oscar in 2006, The Oath (2010), winner of several awards (Sundance, Peabody, MacArthur), and now the one on surveillance which she began in 2011—Poitras has been detained at airports with increasing frequency. One “security guy” told her, “You have a threat score that is off the Richter scale. You are at 400 out of 400.” In short, she’s come a long way from the San Francisco Art Institute and those classes with Ernie Gehr.
Related viewing (9’03”). Kevin B. Lee‘s “Lives on the Line: Laura Poitras’ Unfinished Trilogy.”
More reading. Laurent Kretzschmar and Otie Wheeler have begun a new project at Serge Daney in English. They’ll be rolling out their new translations of Daney’s introductions to each of his chapters in La rampe (1983), a collection of criticism written between 1970 and 1982, and they’ve started with the intro to the book itself.
The Media History Digital Library is a massive free online resource collecting and digitizing classic media periodicals, and for some time now, it’s been one of the most pleasurable browses any cinephile could hope for. And the just-launched search engine, Lantern, “allows you to search all of the MHDL publications at one go. Apart from the massive efficiency, you discover sources you wouldn’t have thought to check.” David Bordwell is impressed.
Ian Albinson, Lola Landekic, and Will Perkins have posted a big, clip-laced interview with Robert and Richard Greenberg (R/GA) at The Art of the Title: “What began in 1977 as two brothers designing film titles and advertising out of a remarkably tiny brownstone where they slept in bookcases has evolved into a full-service international agency responsible for some of the most iconic commercial and film work of the last 35 years.”
Sam Adams asks the Criticwire community, “What’s your most glaring omission, the X in ‘You’ve never seen X?!?'”
The latest addition to the Locarno 2013 Index: Otar Iosseliani, throwing a few jabs at Cannes and Venice while accepting his Golden Leopard for lifetime achievement, as quoted by Eric J. Lyman in the Hollywood Reporter.
The Guardian is celebrating Hitch’s 114th today with a monster of an infograph: “The 39 stats: Alfred Hitchcock’s obsessions in numbers.”
Rita Johnson would have turned 100 today had she not died of a brain hemorrhage in 1965, 17 years after a hair dryer fell on her head, severely limiting the roles the actress could take on. Matt Weinstock looks back on a “Booby-Trapped Life,” noting that the hair dryer accident has always seemed odd. In his syndicated column, Walter Winchell asked, “The Movietown police aren’t going to let Rita Johnson’s slugger get away with almost killing her, are they?” Weinstock assumes we’ll never know. What’s left, of course, are the performances: “She imparted a glinting subtlety even to she-devil roles, like the murderous wife in Here Comes Mr. Jordan and the scheming fiancée in Billy Wilder’s The Major and the Minor.”
Also in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Nathaniel Bell on Curtis Harrington’s Nice Guys Don’t Work in Hollywood: The Adventures of an Aesthete in the Movie Business: “The memoir, a brisk 200 pages plus appendices, relates his formative artistic experiences and creative skirmishes in a fast-moving, picaresque style.”
1927 gets all the attention, but “some of the most bewitching and transcendent examples of the silent form were made in 1926,” writes Michael Koresky at Sundance Now. “This was the year of truly sui generis works from F.W. Murnau, Teinosuke Kinugasa, and Lotte Reiniger, films that pushed cinema into new realms, even as the medium itself was about to change forever.”
Eric Hynes profiles David Lowery for the New York Times: “Serving variously as an editor, writer, cinematographer and even a sound man, he has worked on a spectrum of indies, including Shane Carruth’s sci-fi puzzler Upstream Color and Bryan Poyser’s dark comedy Lovers of Hate, to Mr. Lowery’s own western love triangle cum countrified tone poem, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which opens Friday and stars Rooney Mara as a Texas mother caught between a fugitive boyfriend (Casey Affleck) hellbent on reuniting with her and a love-struck lawman (Ben Foster) who wants to save her.” For photographer Robin Holland, “it’s Bradford Young’s spectacular cinematography (which won the U.S. Dramatic Cinematography Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival) that elevates the film, giving it its unique look.”
New York. August 28 will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington “and the Martin Luther King speech which rivals the Gettysburg Address as the most famous in U.S. history,” as J. Hoberman writes at Artinfo. The 40-film BAMcinématek series A Time for Burning: Cinema of the Civil Rights Movement, opens today and runs right on up to the 28th. Hoberman: “It’s an epic show, a total immersion, and for some might even be an awakening.”
In the works. “Principal photography has begun in Montreal on Wim Wenders’s latest, Every Thing Will Be Fine, starring James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Marie-Josee Croze (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly),” reports Beth Hanna at Thompson on Hollywood. The 3D film “centers on a writer whose emotional life collapses following a traumatic car accident.”
Jeff Nichols will direct Joel Edgerton, Michael Shannon, and Kirsten Dunst in the “sci-fi tinged” Midnight Special, reports Oliver Lyttelton at the Playlist.
“Mickey Rourke, Daryl Hannah, Eric Roberts and Michael Madsen are starring indie actioner Skin Traffik, currently shooting in Los Angeles,” reports Variety‘s Dave McNary. Ara Paiaya is directing.
Obit. Documentary filmmaker John Reilly died on July 28, aged 74. Besides influencing the likes of Barbara Kopple and working with Stefan Moore on The Irish Tapes, a 46-minute film about violence in Northern Ireland shot between 1971 and 1974 and partly financed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Reilly founded Global Village, a theater featuring eleven TV screens in a semicircle. In the NYT, Douglas Martin notes that “regular visitors included Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Timothy Leary. In 1971, the magazine Art in America called it the nation’s only commercial outlet for underground video…. Mr. Reilly’s most famous documentary was Waiting for Beckett (1993), produced by Melissa Shaw-Smith, which provided an unusual example of Samuel Beckett at work. It showed Beckett watching one of his plays on video and offering suggestions to improve it. Robert Koehler wrote in the Los Angeles Times that the film ‘is sure to stand as one of the lasting records of Samuel Beckett’s life and work.'”