RUSHES: Berlinale | Bresson | Lists

Rafi Pitts’ The Hunter

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of “Rushes,” a daily film news digest.

5.January.2012: Benoît Jacquot‘s Les Adieux à la reine (Farewell My Queen) is set to open the 62nd Berlinale on February 9. On Tuesday the festival announced the first 20 selections of its Panorama program, including new films by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Ira Sachs, and Volker Schlöndorff. An honorary Golden Bear will be awarded to actress Meryl Streep. Meanwhile, the Unknown Pleasures festival of American independent film is already underway in Berlin. It runs through January 15 and features a cross-section of indie stalwarts (Frederick Wiseman, Todd Haynes, Monte Hellman) and promising young filmmakers (Matt Porterfield, Sophia Takel, Aaron Katz.)

News that veteran Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman has been laid off from the New York paper is sending shockwaves around the film world. Eric Kohn weighs in at Indiewire: “The departure of Hoberman, whose distinctly intellectual and politically tinged writings on international and experimental cinema became a must-read for cinephiles around the world, signals the end of an era.”

With the flood of Best of 2011 lists now giving way to festival season and Oscar predictions, it’s worth recapping the most resourceful surveys of the year that was. Moving Image Source’s Moments of 2011 poll (in parts one and two) features a wide range of writers, filmmakers and programmers weighing in on defining impressions. Departing Toronto International Film Festival Wavelengths programmer Andréa Picard presents an in-depth look at the year in avant-garde film for Indiewire. Hammer to Nail polls its contributors for the best of American independent cinema in 2011. The MUBI Notebook collects fantasy double features comprising films new and old (with the voracious Ferroni Brigade standing a full slate of such programs). Reverse Shot follows their Best of 2011 poll with an altogether more entertaining list of the year’s worst offenses. David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson reach back to 1921 for an anachronistic top ten. Their list includes films by Fritz Lang, Mauritz Stiller, Buster Keaton, and Charles Chaplin.

“Bob Anderson, who fenced for England in the Olympics and went on to help create some of Hollywood’s greatest sword fights, choreographing bladework and coaching actors from Errol Flynn to Antonio Banderas, and who appeared on-screen himself as Darth Vader, crossing light sabers with Mark Hamill (as Luke Skywalker) in the original Star Wars trilogy, died on Sunday in West Sussex, England. He was 89.” So begins Bruce Weber’s obituary of Anderson for the New York Times. In the years after Anderson first lent his expertise to Errol Flynn for The Master of Ballantrae (1953), the master swordsman contributed to productions as varied as From Russia with Love (1963), Barry Lyndon (1975), The Princess Bride (1987), and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).

The New York critics have good things to say about Iranian director Rafi Pitts’ The Hunter, which opened there on Wednesday. “As a suspenseful lone-gunman drama, The Hunter is more potent than most for what it leaves out,” writes Stephen Holden for the New York Times. “Throughout the film the enigmatic killer seems locked inside himself, his expression a glare of pure hatred of his physical and social environment. If Mohammad Davudi’s haunting cinematography evokes that environment as implacably hostile, it also discovers the kind of toxic beauty found in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert.” Melissa Anderson casts back over recent history to frame Pitts’ film for the Village Voice: “Filmed during the months leading up to the 2009 presidential election in Iran, The Hunter still seethes with fury—and anticipates the blood that would spill after the vote.” Writing for Slant, Chuck Bowen considers the association with another Iranian film in theaters now: “For an American viewer who knows Iran only through movies, it will be hard to watch The Hunter so soon after A Separation without noting certain parallels. Both are, most obviously, about a lost and flailing middle class that feels abandoned by their government, and it’s this subtext that allows both of these films to be surprisingly accessible to American audiences.” Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote about The Hunter last spring in Cinema Scope. In related news, Anthony Kaufman reports for Indiewire that Iran’s Cultural Minister is closing the country’s independent filmmakers’ guild.

Ninety years young, the maverick French auteur Chris Marker dispatched a virtual card ringing in 2012. Relatedly, Anthology Film Archives celebrates Occupy Wall Street with films by Ken Jacobs, Travis Wilkerson and Peter Whitehead this weekend. At Artforum Tony Pipolo looks ahead to a traveling retrospective of Robert Bresson’s films, and Jonathan Rosenbaum reviews Pipolo’s book on the French auteur, Robert Bresson: A Passion for Film.

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