We begin in Chicago, where, last night, the Music Box Theatre presented Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (trailer)—well ahead of its screenings in Venice and Toronto and its theatrical release next month. The event was a benefit for Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, created in 1990 to recover and restore hundreds of films. Tickets were gone within hours of Wednesday’s announcement, accompanied by a fresh taster:
Reviewing The Master for the Playlist, Charlie Schmidlin argues that, “while the film’s narrative may point to faith as a cause and cure, the end result focuses instead on the reverberating pain in one’s past, and the oblique, often-maddening ways it manifests in the present through incredible performances and direction.”
Criticwire‘s Matt Singer stayed up last night tracking reactions on Twitter: “There were a few ‘I didn’t get it’ tweets, a bunch of ‘I’m still processing’ tweets, more ‘It’s great’ tweets, and a ton of ‘It looks amazing in 70mm’ tweets.”
“Chemical formulas, locker-size nuclear bombs, mink coats and diamonds are among the objects of obsession in the Music Box’s fourth annual Noir City: Chicago program,” writes Ben Kenigsberg in his overview for Time Out. The series “kicks off with Jean Negulesco‘s Three Strangers (1946), summarized as a ‘fantastic tale’ wherein ‘the verities of fate are explored,’ namely how the fates of three strangers entwine with a mysterious Chinese idol and a winning lottery ticket.” Michael Guillén: “‘Deeply cynical, gloriously atmospheric, never on DVD, and almost lost in 35mm,’ Noir City proudly presents this forgotten classic in a brand new preservation print funded by the Film Noir Foundation (FNF). Now seemed as good a time as any to revisit Eddie Muller‘s introductory comments to the screening of Three Strangers in San Francisco earlier this year.”
New York. For Cinespect, Mónica López-González previews Gaumont Thrillers: From Fantômas to A Gang Story, currently on at MoMA through September 4; López-González outlines the back stories of the studio itself and nearly every title in the series. And in the L, Joseph Jon Lanthier reviews Kino’s newish release of Les Vampires (1915): “Writer-director Louis Feuillade‘s nearly hysterical emphasis on action throughout pauses only to set up denser action; one of the film’s slowest sequences involves the meticulous assembly of a cannon, which provides a fair enough metaphor for the series’s alternately meticulous and explosive tone.”
Nick Pinkerton previews The French Old Wave, running at Film Forum from today through September 13: “The bill of fare spans from the dawn of the sound era (René Clair‘s 1928 The Italian Straw Hat being the lone silent) to the watershed year 1960, and an uninitiated visitor stands to discover a whole terra incognita of French cinema.”
Also in the Voice, Simon Abrams: “This weekend, the Anthology Film Archives screens prints of three of cult filmmaker Jeff Lieberman‘s trippy, no-budget horror films. All are worthy: Just Before Dawn, a knowing riff on Deliverance, is Lieberman’s favorite of the three, and the showing of Squirm, an amiably corny chiller about killer worms, features a Q&A with Lieberman and star Don Scardino. But it’s Blue Sunshine, the 1977 acidhead-as-monster movie, that stands apart.”
The Parson’s Widow also screens tonight at Anthology. The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody: “Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1920 melodrama of life in a rustic Danish village delivers harsh yet lofty wisdom on matters of the spirit and the flesh.”
San Francisco. The recently restored six-part omnibus Italian feature Love in the City (1953) opens for a week today, and Dennis Harvey writes: “It isn’t a great film so much as a great curio, and a crystal ball forecasting where the local industry would be head for the next 20 years or more. Little of that was immediately apparent, but just months later Federico Fellini (the sole director here who’d already made several well-received features) would cause a sensation with La Strada (1954). The others, including Michelangelo Antonioni, would eventually follow with breakthroughs of their own. The two surviving today are still active—in fact Francesco Maselli and Carlo Lizzani just contributed to a new omnibus feature last year.”
Los Angeles. Breaking Ground: 60 Years of Austrian Experimental Cinema opens tonight at the Billy Wilder Theater and runs through September 22.
“Growing from a two-day festival in its first year to five days last year and now a plus-sized, 10-day, multivenue event, the Everything Is Festival is transforming into the end-of-summer party that organizers have long envisioned it to be,” writes Mark Olsen in the Weekly. “Certainly it neatly encapsulates the overlapping missions of the Cinefamily and the found-footage collective Everything Is Terrible.” Tomorrow through August 28.
LACMA, the Academy, the Kubrick Estate and the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt are teaming up to present Stanley Kubrick, the first complete retrospective in U.S., from November 1 through June 30, reports TheWrap‘s Lisa Fung.
Seattle. Americano, currently at the Landmark Varsity Theatre, “is not a good film,” writes the Stranger‘s Charles Mudede, but it’s “fascinating,” opening as it does with the coupling of Mathieu Demy, son of Jacques Demy and Agnès Varda, and Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve. Oh, and Geraldine Chaplin’s in the movie, too.
Austin. “AIDS Services of Austin (ASA) and AGLIFF (Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival) bond together to present BIG LOVE: ASA + AGLIFF Joint 25th Anniversary Fundraiser on Saturday, August 18 at the Dobie Theater to celebrate our nonprofit organizations’ accomplishments and to spark inspiration for our future efforts.” More from Kate X Messer in the Chronicle.
Berlin. Two more UFA Filmnächte, tonight and tomorrow.
Reading. Michael Atkinson launches a new column at SundanceNOW:
After 20 years of regularly, voluminously reviewing movies and teaching film, I’ve learned a great many things, including the secret of what in the hell is exactly wrong with Agnes Moorehead’s frontier mom in Citizen Kane (we’ll talk about it some other time), and also what genre films actually are: they’re codes, semiologies, systems of mythology, layer cakes of subtext that can exude metaphors in bumber-crop runs. In order to watch them and not feel like a grade-school imbecile afterwards, you have to search for and find what the sucker means. And all good genre films, from the best noirs (arguably cinema’s most resonant genre, and yet for the filmmakers at the time one entirely devoid of pretense to “meaning”) to the beautifully uncomfortable Thing with Two Heads (1972), mean something. The visceral, momentary experience of a horror movie or thriller or clunking blockbuster is by definition fleeting and empty—is that all you paid for, with dollars and hours of your life? If you don’t have something in your head when it’s over, you may as well have watched a fish tank.
“Keith M. Johnston‘s truly ‘Great Ealing Film Challenge‘ has reached its noble conclusion,” announces Catherine Grant. The man’s written up 95 films that rolled out of Ealing Studios between 1938 and 1959.
For Idiom, Aaron Cutler interviews Portuguese filmmaker, poet, and editor Marcelo Felix, whose Eden’s Ark (2011) “carries, catalogues, and attempts to preserve endangered species—several unfamiliar flowers and other plants, as well as unfamiliar films (glimpsed in clips) like Elmer Clifton’s Down to the Sea in Ships (1922), Sidney Olcott’s Little Old New York (1923), Rino Lupo’s The Unknown (1926), Max de Haas’s Prof. Went in the Botanical Laboratory (1932). Ephemeral fragments from family film collections float throughout all the other presented and perceived films. A multiple consciousness is emerging, we sense, that commingles objects, their images, images of those images, and the viewer’s connections between them.”
Darren Hughes has relaunched Long Pauses, where we can look forward to his return to writing (and perhaps a few dispatches from Toronto?) and explore the deep and dense archives.
“The sad, and rather radical, revelation of Cabaret is that Sally is not all that interesting, and everything she does, says, and wears—especially that glittering green nail polish—is a reminder of her essential dullness.” Michael Koresky in the latest entry in Reverse Shot‘s Take Four: “Her green is a splash of color in a field of gray.”
Zachary Woolfe, writing in the New York Times, attributes many of the problems opera’s facing in the US right now to its depiction in American movies.
In the works. So Yong Kim tells the Playlist‘s Gabe Toro about the film she’s writing, Seventy, “about a mom who’s not doing so well, and her relationship with her children. But it’s an ensemble piece, and I’m kind of more experienced in following a single character’s journey, so now I’m getting into this relationship stuff that’s very complex.”
“Carey Mulligan is in negotiations to star in Nancy and Danny,” to be directed by James Marsh (Man on a Wire). Borys Kit has details in the Hollywood Reporter. Also: Zoe Saldana will take on the title role in Nina, a Nina Simone biopic.
“Game Change writer Danny Strong, The Fighter director David O. Russell and Oscar winner Robert De Niro have teamed for a legal drama series inspired by a famous New York father/daughter lawyer duo, which has sold to CBS.” Nellie Andreeva has more for Deadline, where Mike Fleming reports: “Elle Fanning will star in Olive’s Ocean, a feature adaptation of the Kevin Henkes young adult novel.”
Tom Hardy and Michael Shannon have signed on to The Long Red Road, “the big-screen adaptation of the play by Brett C. Leonard,” reports the Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth.
“Phyllis Thaxter, the wholesome actress who played Ma Kent in 1978’s Superman and the faithful girlfriend to vengeful POW Robert Ryan in the 1948 film noir classic Act of Violence, has died. She was 92.” Mike Barnes in the Hollywood Reporter.
From NPR: “Actor, director, and professor Al Freeman Jr. died on Friday at the age of 78. He’s best known for his portrayal of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad in Spike Lee’s 1992 film, Malcolm X. But many may not know that he was the first African-American to win a Daytime Emmy Award. Guest host Jacki Lyden remembers Freeman’s life and legacy.”
More mid-August browsing? Check in with the Film Doctor.