After 48 years of raging against the machine, the San Francisco Bay Guardian was shut down this week by the company that bought it two years ago, the San Francisco Media Co. Unfortunately, the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine picks up the SFBG‘s online presence just after the only story I wrote for the alternative weekly appeared (but hey, on the cover!). Still, samples of the great film criticism that Keyframe editor Susan Gerhard wrote and edited during her years there can be found if you know how to probe. As former SFBG editor Tim Redmond notes, we who live in the ephemeral now are doing a piss poor job archiving our not-so-distant past. For now, I recommend the eulogies from Andrew Leonard and Lynn Rapoport.
In the week-plus since the last all-topics roundup, we’ve learned that another publication teeters on the brink. The history of Experimental Conversations doesn’t run nearly as deep, of course, but its thirteen issues are a testament to what a loss it’d be if, as editor Maximilian Le Cain explains, the Arts Council of Ireland’s decision to cut funding to the Cork Film Centre leads to its demise. The new issue features essays on expanded cinema in Spain, Rachel Kushner, Josephine Decker, Tarkovsky‘s Solaris, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig‘s Frances Ha and much more.
Reverse Shot‘s Scorsese symposium rolls on and, since its last mention here, there’s an entire decade to catch up with: Adam Nayman on Goodfellas (1990), Julien Allen on Cape Fear (1991), Chris Wisniewski on The Age of Innocence (1993), Jeff Reichert on Casino (1995), Elbert Ventura on Kundun (1997) and Damon Smith on Bringing Out the Dead (1999).
Flavorwire‘s Elisabeth Donnelly reports that Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost is “working on a book, The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks, set for release in late 2015. It will ‘be an inside look into what has happened to the iconic characters of iconic fictional town since audiences last saw them more than two decades ago.'” A quick David Lynch roundup: Jonathan P. Eburne (Los Angeles Review of Books) and Thomas Micchelli (Hyperallergic) on the paintings; Andrew Anthony (Observer) and Andy Greenwald (Grantland) on the return of Twin Peaks; and the Playlist has a 70-minute documentary on the making of Blue Velvet (1986).
Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s posted his extensive 1997 notes on Histoire(s) du cinéma incorporating snippets of his conversations with Jean-Luc Godard, plus another longish read from 2006, this one on Jim McBride‘s David Holzman’s Diary (1967) and My Girlfriend’s Wedding (1969), and a 1975 piece on Robert Altman.
“No filmmaker more fully embodies the history of movies, at least until the mid-1960s, than Fritz Lang (1890-1976),” declares J. Hoberman in the New York Times. “There is scarcely a popular genre—including science fiction, period spectacle, espionage, gangster and horror—that did not pass through his hands and does not bear his mark…. Few Hollywood directors had so focused an interest in Nazism, but as a German émigré with a heavy accent and imposing monocle, known for having directed movies admired by Hitler and Goebbels, Lang had something to prove.” Hangmen Also Die! (1943) “is both the most ambitious and most topical of Lang’s anti-Nazi films.” John Ford turned down Man Hunt (1941), but he “could not possibly have brought more conviction than Lang to the fanciful tale of a British sportsman (Walter Pidgeon) who, having bagged every big game animal in Africa, takes a mind to stalk Hitler—without actually firing—just for the heck of it.”
“With the publication of the seventy-plus pieces in The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini, edited and translated by Stephen Sartarelli, we have the first extensive Italian/English edition of Pasolini’s poetry since Norman MacAfee’s distinguished (but far briefer) 1982 selection,” writes Susan Stewart for the Nation. “Sartarelli’s full introduction outlines the centrality of poetry to everything Pasolini did, and English readers can now follow the trajectory of his career from juvenilia to late work.”
“The glory of [Dracula: Pages From A Virgin’s Diary (2002)]—arguably the finest adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel ever filmed—is precisely that [Guy] Maddin doesn’t care much about ballet, or even necessarily about Dracula,” argues Mike D’Angelo at the AV Club. “He cares about cinema.”
“In almost anyone else’s hands, Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) would probably be either grossly sentimental or crassly cynical, but Max Ophüls’s subtle and scalpel-fine touch is a perfect match for the searing novella by Stefan Zweig,” writes Imogen Smith. Also at the Chiseler, Dan Callahan argues that we need to take another look at the work of Ralph Bellamy.
From Tony Zhou: “The Silence of the Lambs – Who Wins the Scene?”
For an Austin Chronicle cover story, Joe O’Connell profiles Andrew Shapter, who’s been battling cancer while completing The Teller & the Truth, “the story of a beautiful bank teller who goes missing in 1970s Smithville, Texas. In muted, dreamlike tones and images akin to still photographs, the mystery of a life is slowly unveiled. It’s an ambitious project that has haunted Shapter as he’s pieced it together over the years while doing other video projects to pay the bills.”
“The communal experience of going to the movies has very little to do whether a given movie is going to be shown in 35mm,” argues Aaron Aradillas at RogerEbert.com. “Or does it? Tarantino, Nolan, and other proponents of celluloid would have you believe otherwise, and I feel this is creating an exclusionary, what-the-cool-kids-are-into mentality that is quite toxic to the movie-going experience.”
“Dhoom is Bollywood’s all-time top-grossing franchise, having raked in $122 million at the global box office with a collective budget of about $27 million,” writes Grady Hendrix for Film Comment. “It stormed Turkey and China, was so popular in Nepal that local producers kept their own movies out of theaters to avoid the competition, and inspired a real-life bank heist. The Dhoom movies are a lot like the Transformers films: big, dumb, crass, and capable of hoovering money from audiences’ pockets into the producer’s coffers in a 500 mile-per-hour suck-stream. But whereas Michael Bay’s babies will give you a headache, the Dhoom movies are actually fun if you approach them in the right frame of mind.”
Also: “They called him Mr. Monster. From 1955 to 1990, Kim Ki-young was the lunatic in the attic of Korean cinema, a former newsreel propagandist who went on to write, direct, edit, and art direct deranged movies full of gothic lunacy which were funded by his wife’s dental practice.”
At Slant, Rob Humanick writes up a list of the “10 Greatest Vampire Movies.” #1: Carl Theodor Dreyer‘s Vampyr (1932). And at Movie Morlocks, Richard Harland Smith takes “a look back at some of the great screams of my time and all time.” 31 of them.
“In his new film Diplomacy, Volker Schlöndorff has expertly created the creepy, almost surreal atmosphere of two men discussing the ruination of Paris while sitting in Louis XVI chairs, a fine claret readily at hand, watching the dawn over the city through the elegant windows of the room where Napoleon III once entertained his mistress,” writes Ian Buruma for the New York Review of Books. “Diplomacy is a film of a French play (by Cyril Gély) about a legend. In the movie, as in the play, the chaotic last days of Paris under German occupation in August 1944 are condensed into one night, which the two main historical characters—General Dietrich von Choltitz, military governor of Paris, and the Swedish consul Raoul Nordling—spend playing a kind of verbal game of chess at the Hôtel Meurice on the Rue de Rivoli.” Criterion’s Peter Becker spoke with Schlöndorff in Telluride, where the director was presented with a Silver Medallion award. Now the full career-spanning interview is up. Diplomacy, which Schlöndorff discusses more specifically on the Leonard Lopate Show (14’48”), currently has a Critics Round Up rating of 75.
Matt Zoller Seitz talks with Bob Rafelson about Mountains of the Moon (1990), “one of the achievements he’s most proud of: the fulfillment of a dream that began in childhood when he first became obsessed with Sir Richard Burton, the explorer, philosopher and sometime pornographer.”
Also at RogerEbert.com, Peter Sobczynski chats with Bob Gale about a screenplay he co-wrote with Robert Zemeckis: 1941 (1979), which “went down in the history books as the great Spielberg’s first flop.” Over time, though, its reputation rebounded and Sobczynski himself calls it “one of the greatest examples of knockabout comedy in cinema history.”
Francine Prose for the New York Review of Books on Transparent: “Part of what makes the series so engaging is the pleasure of seeing what gifted actors can do when they are provided with scripts and direction that allow them to create highly complex, interesting characters, as fully nuanced and contradictory as actual human beings.”
Peter Labuza for Sight & Sound on The Knick: “While the writers have crafted a familiar tale of double lives and moral compromises, Soderbergh’s visual craft skips to its own unique beat. Television has never looked so smart.” And S&S editor Nick James adds a few notes of his own.
IN OTHER NEWS
Ten films have won 2014 Avant-Garde Masters Grants awarded by The Film Foundation and the National Film Preservation Foundation, all of which are to be preserved and made available in one form or another. And they are:
- Butterfly (1967), an abstract Vietnam war protest by Shirley Clarke and her daughter Wendy.
- Shirley Clarke’s 24 Frames Per Second (1977).
- Ken Jacobs’s Globe (1971).
- Four by Julie Murray: FF (1986), Tr’cheot’my P’sy (1988), A Legend of Parts (1988) and Conscious (1993).
- Two by Tommy Turner, Simonland (1984) and Rat Trap (1985).
- Ed Ruscha’s The Books of Ed Ruscha (ca. 1969).
“The Last Time I Saw Macao made a splash at the third edition of the Sophia Awards,” reports Vitor Pinto at Cineuropa. “The voters of the Portuguese Film Academy honored the film with the most coveted trophy of the night—the Sophia for Best Film. The feature by duo João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata also earned its two filmmakers the Sophia for Best Original Script, and the movie’s DoP, Rui Poças, won the top prize in the Best Photography category.”
AFI Fest has announced its lineups for two of its best programs. The ten films by first- and second-time directors from around the world in the New Auteurs section:
- Bas Devos’s Violet.
- Nguyen Hoang Diep’s Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere.
- Shira Geffen‘s Self Made.
- Park Jungbum’s Alive.
- Philippe Lacote’s Run.
- Alice Rohrwacher‘s The Wonders.
- Alonso Ruizpalacios’s Gueros.
- Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe.
- Maya Vitkova’s Viktoria.
- Eskil Vogt’s Blind.
And the eight in the American Independents section:
- Jason Banker’s Felt.
- Amir Bar-Lev‘s Happy Valley.
- Josephine Decker’s Thou Wast Mild & Lovely.
- Carlos Marques-Marcet’s 10.000 KM.
- Jessica Oreck’s The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga.
- Joel Potrykus’s Buzzard.
- Josh and Benny Safdie‘s Heaven Knows What.
- Riley Stearns’s Faults.
The European Film Academy‘s announced five nominees for the European Discovery 2014 – Prix FIPRESCI, its best first feature award. And they are:
- Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis’s Party Girl.
- Yann Demange’s ’71.
- Fernando Franco’s Wounded.
- Carlos Marques-Marcet’s 10,000 KM.
- Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe.
Richard Flanagan’s won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Not only is he one of four credited screenwriters on Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008), he’s also directed an adaptation of his own novel, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1998).
“DOC NYC has released its complete line-up of films, panels and masterclasses,” reports Shipra Gupta for Indiewire. The fifth edition (November 13 through 20), “features 19 world premieres, including An Open Secret, which is a new film from Amy Berg.”
“Gaumont, the world’s oldest film company is as old as the medium itself,” writes Martin Dale for Variety. “The company’s founder, Leon Gaumont, was a close friend of Auguste and Louis Lumière and founded his company in Lyon in 1895 a few months after the brothers invented the cinematograph.” Gaumont is currently preparing two major exhibitions to celebrate its 120th anniversary.
G. Cameron Romero pitches Origins
New York. “Among the fascinating bastards born when the French New Wave and the nouveau roman swapped precious fluids, the films of novelist Marguerite Duras are beautiful, monstrous sleepwalkers, creeping through modern emptinesses and doped on remembered conversations,” writes Michael Atkinson in the Voice. “In a real sense, they feel like movies made by and about dead people—narrative experiences from limbo.” The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s series By Marguerite Duras, featuring works by the author herself as well as by Godard, Resnais, Tony Richardson and Peter Brook, runs through Wednesday. David Ehrenstein surveys the life and career for Film Comment.
“Over the past few years, Bill Morrison—a man whose ability to conduct archival footage like Toscanini could a symphony orchestra was never in doubt—has emerged as one of our premier screen historians, matching his established interest in film as the fading physical representation of collective memory to single historical milieus and events,” writes Nick Pinkerton for Artforum. Bill Morrison: Compositions is on at MoMA through November 21.
Contributors to the L have posted a slew of recommendations.
Seattle. The S