23.March.2012: The San Francisco International Film Festival will present its annual Mel Novikoff Award to Pierre Rissient on April 28. From the SFFS press release: “Rissient is revered by filmmakers of all ages around the world, from Clint Eastwood, who frequently shows him the rough cut of his work, to Werner Herzog, who calls him ‘the yeast in the dough,’ to Quentin Tarantino, who dubs him ‘a samurai warrior’ because he has devoted his life to supporting filmmakers from around the globe.” Rissient had a major hand in the revival of certain key auteurs that helped to precipitate the French New Wave, so it’s appropriate that SFFS will be screening Fritz Lang’s 1950 film House by the River in his honor. Catch up with many of Lang’s films, including his similarly noirish Scarlet Street, on Fandor.
After describing Abel Ferrara’s King of New York and Bad Lieutenant as “cinematic touchstones of a basic (but not primitive) emotional/cinematic expressiveness,” MSN critic Glenn Kenny demurs about the New York director’s recent work, shrugging off his apocalypse scenario 4:44 Last Day on Earth: “It’s not an entirely original observation to speculate that, faced with not just their own doom but the extinction of their race, people will act in the same self-interested and petty ways that they do in everyday life, in which they’re assuring themselves that they in fact do have a future. This is pretty standard not-with-a-bang-but-with-a-whimper-punctuated-by-an-occasional-blowup stuff.” But MUBI Notebook’s Otie Wheeler had a very different sense of Ferrara’s new film, which opens this weekend in New York and Los Angeles: “In his latest picture…everything is at stake. The ozone layer has been depleted and everyone knows the precise date and time when the earth is going to explode, but the end of the world functions less as subject and more as a conceit used to ratchet up the intensity of the film to something all-consuming; bodies and faces fill the frame like they did in silent film, and the tragedy of the finale brings with it a feeling of transcendence I haven’t experienced in cinema since Mauvais Sang. It’s Ferrara’s best film, I thought, after a single viewing.” Brandon Harris talks with Ferrara for The Playlist about intimations of the end times and his next project on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair. Ferrara tells him, “The danger for me is in the person struggle. The stuff from the heart. That’s when you’re really risking it all. That’s when you’re traveling 90 miles an hour down a dirt road firing gun shots. I know people appreciate that kind of filmmaking.”
One of Fandor’s four new featured films of the week is similarly apocalyptic, though the global pandemic has already hit as The Dead Outside‘s psychological drama unfolds. Also featured this week is Mark Rappaport’s collage biography, Rock Hudson’s Home Movies, which critic Jonathan Rosenbaum described as “a new form of film criticism”; Susanne Ullerich’s documentary about a Berlin restaurant at the edge of East and West Germany, Michendorf; and finally A Trip Down Market Street, a San Francisco panorama shot just before the 1906 earthquake and still a wonder.