13.February.2012: The International Film Festival Rotterdam wrapped a week ago, but several roundups have been published in the last few days. Dennis Lim writes for Artforum, “The wide range of offerings, along with a smartly programmed array of short and experimental work, help divert attention from the grumblings (which seem to grow louder each year) that Rotterdam’s central event, its Tiger competition for first or second films, is not what it used to be.” He liked two of this year’s three winners but found it “mystifying that the jury, headed by Singaporean director Eric Khoo, failed to recognize Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighboring Sounds, a supremely poised and ambitious first feature from Brazil that towered over a largely subpar competition.”
Slant’s Aaron Cutler was equally taken with Filho’s film, which was barely finished in time for the festival. “I was at [the] first press screening, and have rarely felt so excited watching a new film,” Cutler writes. “This story of how a suburban neighborhood’s residents react to their new security guards stands rooted in the past, though what that history is exactly and how it affects each character takes an entire film to figure out.” Kevin Lee also describes Neighboring Sounds as “best in show,” adding, “The characters intermingle in any number of impeccably crafted scenes; issues of class, race and power bubble beneath their interactions, revealing societal holes in Brazil’s current economic boom. With over a dozen featured characters, the outstanding ensemble deserves comparison with the best of Altman, and is topped only by Filho’s tremendous precision with camerawork and dialogue.”
J. Hoberman weighs in on the Chrysler-sponsored, Clint Eastwood-narrated “Halftime in America” Super Bowl advertisement that sent some political pundits off the rails last week. “[It] was a most effective bit of political theater—maybe the best of its kind since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 ‘Morning in America.’ Like that ad, ‘Halftime’ is a dense yet leisurely montage,” writes Hoberman. He considers that montage in detail before jumping into a broader consideration of an “Obama-inflected Hollywood cinema.”
The Washington Post reports that actor Peter Breck died last week. Though best known for his role in the Western television series The Big Valley, cinephiles will recognize him from his parts in Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corridor as well as Thunder Road and I Want to Live!. He was 82.
New York’s Film Forum opened a three week, 42 film retrospective of Hollywood innovator William Wellman Friday with his 1927 flyboy movie (and recipient of the first Best Picture Oscar) Wings before moving through several of his lesser known titles this week. Terrence Rafferty writes for the The New York Times, “Wellman’s movies are much better known than he is, in part because they’re so different from one another that it can be difficult to remember that the same director who made the classic gangster film The Public Enemy (1931) was also responsible for the wonderful screwball comedies Nothing Sacred (1937) and Roxie Hart (1942), the original Star Is Born (1937), the stark western The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) and the extraordinarily moving World War II drama The Story of G.I. Joe (1945). He’s a hard man to get a fix on; you think for a moment that you’ve got him in your sights, and then he’s gone.” Meanwhile, Film Comment retrieves a nuanced auteurist consideration of Wellman’s work penned in 2004 by French director Bertrand Tavernier.