“I’m always surprised to see what I do,” Jean-Luc Godard admits at the beginning of a talk delivered, nearly four decades ago, at Concordia University in Montreal. Could the single most influential filmmaker of his generation, who is still a provocateur at age 84, possibly be as baffled as we? [more inside]
"Foregrounding the back of Martin Luther King’s head, Selma’s poster is an act of protest in itself. But as a recent book on black movie poster art shows, many past poster designs have obscured, caricatured or edited out black actors altogether." Isabel Stevens writes on black movie poster art at the British Film Institute (BFI).
Kubricks' 2001: One Man's Incredible Odyssey - "With today's article I've decided to cover the truly outstanding visual effects and design work from one of the single most influential and remarkable pieces of cinema of the twentieth century - Stanley Kubricks' 2001-A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) - a film that just gets better and better with the passing years"
Huge collection of (and commentary on) matte art from classic films that has been rescanned for HD releases. Much more on the process of creating and filming this type of setup at last month's post. (previously)
The Eidophusikon, an early form of motion picture, is a theatrical technology developed by fine art painter and theatrical set designer Philip de Loutherbourg using sound, colored filters, mechanical works, light from newly invented Argand lamps, mirrors and more . It was first exhibited at his home in 1781, featuring five scenes of land and seascape. In recent years, recognition of this as an early chapter in cinema history has prompted several institutions to recreate the experience. Among the most successful is the 2005 storm at sea depicted in Eidophusikon Reimagined by the Australian National University.
A six-minute documentary snippet discusses Kubrick's camera modifications for special, low-light f/0.7 Zeiss lenses used to film candlelit scenes in Barry Lyndon, now available to rent by aspiring filmmakers.
With the TV premiere of Mary Harron's Anna Nicole Smith biopic fast approaching, The Hairpin wonders what other indie/art house filmmakers would do with the same subject.
Follow Tom Cruise as he navigates his way around Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut Greenwich Village set [more inside]
Raising Arizona is notable among the Coen Brothers’ filmography for seamlessly fusing the ravishing grimness of their drama with the slapstick antics of their comedy. ... [It] is an intensely bittersweet film. That it is admittedly hilarious distracts from this sorrow, but it doesn’t dampen it. If not the absolute best by the Coens, it’s certainly their most charming. - Michael Nordine [more inside]
Between Peter Jackson’s penchant for cartoonish unserious gore and Bob McCarron’s off-screen makeup effects manipulations, Braindead achieves something that approaches inspired genius in the heretofore unknown artform of human carnage. The film is filled with moments of joyous slapstick tableaux... And then there is that moment where Braindead finally breaks through to achieve a transcendentally surreal glory of excess where Tim Balme wades into battle against the zombies armed with a lawnmower, drenching an entire room in showers of blood. (Braindead holds the record for the greatest amount of artificial blood ever used in a film). The film is a work of perverse genius. - Richard Scheib
The Onion AV club looks at 13 movie opening title sequences that are far better than the movies they're attached to.
Return of the Living Dead (NSFW) is one of the greatest zombie movies ever made. Not only does it have loads of great looking zombies in it, it's one of the few zombie movies, besides its sequel, that has a perfect blend of humor and horror.
During the Golden Age of Hollywood and until 1967, mainstream movie studios were banned by the Production Code from depicting taboo topics like drug addiction, explicit murder and venereal disease, or even showing explicit nudity. But in the 1930's and 1940's, films marketed as "educational" could and did fly under the radar, and three of the best known 'educational' propaganda exploitation films are: Sex Madness (1935), Reefer Madness (1936) and The Cocaine Fiends (1938). [more inside]
On October 4 you will have the cinematic opportunity of a lifetime to see David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen in a new 4K digital restoration.
[all links may contain SPOILERS] Antonioni's unique style works beautifully in The Passenger. The dream-like long takes, especially the final seven minute one where the dusty town square is seen through the barred window of Locke's hotel room—evokes a world that he is barred from. There is nothing romantic or sentimental about the space that we see, but it conveys a sense of an ongoing life that Locke has chosen to retreat from. There is also Antonioni's eye for aesthetic detail-for whitewashed walls of buildings, and vividly colored backgrounds like yellow doors and red car seats. He is a director of great formal rigor and beauty, whose style effortlessly suits his vision. The slow rhythm of the film may put off some viewers, but it forces them to be more observant, and understand there is nothing accidental in the images that Antonioni constructs. - Leonard Quart [more inside]
[Peter] Brook's stripped-back adaptation [of King Lear]... draws from Jan Kott's insight that Lear, like Beckett's Endgame, reveals a world devoid of consolation, morality or universal justice. ... Brook's is a devastating realisation of the play: a pitiless examination of the cruelty and emptiness that lies at the heart of the lust for power. - Alison Croggon [more inside]
Once Upon A Time In America [auto-play audio] is the last of a string of films about the past and future of a country [Sergio Leone] knew first and best from the B-movies and yellowing paperbacks America sent abroad. For this 1984 swan song, Leone broke a directing hiatus that stretched back a decade, and turned away from Westerns toward another quintessentially American genre. His fantasia of gangland themes and images barely works by the standards of a gangster film, but succeeds brilliantly by those of epic poetry. - Keith Phipps [all links may contain spoilers] [more inside]
... Buckaroo Banzai is paradoxically decades ahead of its time and yet completely of its time; it’s profoundly a movie by, for, and of geeks and nerds at a time before geek/nerd culture was mainstreamed, and a movie whose pre-CG special effects and pre-Computer Age production design were an essential part of its good-natured enthusiasm. What at the time was a hip, modern take on classic SF is now, almost thirty years later, almost indistinguishable from the SF cinema that inspired it in terms of the appeal to modern viewers: the charmingly old-fashioned special effects, and the comparatively innocent earnestness of its tone. - Danny Bowes [more inside]
Stan Brakhage on birth and death
*. [graphic childbirth and autopsy footage] (* previously - dead links) [more inside]
Like James Bond movies? And box office grosses? And visualized data? Then today is your lucky day.
Louis C.K. on eating pressure and providing an alternative to The Man - "I ask him to think about what he really needs; when he tells me, I give him a little more. It buys me goodwill with this person; I feel good about what I'm paying them. I like to give people a little more than they want, and I like to ask people for a little less than they're willing to give." [more inside]
And so I descend once more into the mysterious depths of 3 Women, a film that was imagined in a dream. Robert Altman's 1977 masterpiece tells the story of three women whose identities blur, shift and merge until finally, in an enigmatic last scene, they have formed a family, or perhaps have become one person. I have seen it many times, been through it twice in shot-by-shot analysis, and yet it always seems to be happening as I watch it. - Roger Ebert [more inside]
I got an e-mail from a friend asking if I wanted to attend a screening on the Fox lot of Peter Bogdanovich's original cut of At Long Last Love. And the answer in a case like should always be yes. [more inside]
Many films are called “classic,” but few qualify as turning points in the evolution of cinematic language, films that opened the way to a more mature art form. Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura is such a work. It divided film history into that which came before and that which was possible after its epochal appearance. It expanded our knowledge of what a film could be and do. It is more than a classic, it’s an historical milestone. ... Antonioni’s great achievement was to put the burden of narration almost entirely on the image itself, that is, on the characters’ actions and on the visual surface of their environment. He uses natural or manmade settings to evoke his characters’ state of mind, their emotions, their life circumstances. We learn more about them by watching what they do than by hearing what they say. We follow the story more by reading images than we do by listening to dialogue. The settings are not symbolic or metaphoric—they are extensions, manifestations, of the characters’ psyches. Physical landscape and mental landscape become one. - Gene Youngblood
What you see here is a prime example of what happens to film that is neglected and improperly stored. This is an original reel from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World that is now untouchable. The film has turned acidic, sporting the strongest and most foul vinegar-like odor I have ever smelled. In fact, Robert Harris told me a story of how his contact lenses were singed by the fumes the film produced, causing temporary retinal damage to his eye. [more inside]
Beanplating on The Fifth Element from architecture students at the University of Waterloo. [more inside]
Those Americans who are familiar with the name Claude Lanzmann most likely know him as the director of “Shoah,” his monumental 1985 documentary about the extermination of the European Jews in the Nazi gas chambers. As it turns out, though, the story of Lanzmann’s eventful life would have been well worth telling even if he had never come to direct “Shoah.” In addition to film director, Lanzmann’s roles have included those of journalist, editor, public intellectual, member of the French Resistance, long-term lover of Simone de Beauvoir and close friend of Jean-Paul Sartre, world traveler, political activist, ghostwriter for Jacques Cousteau — I could go on, but it’s a good deal more entertaining to hear Lanzmann himself go on, and thanks to the publication in English of his memoir, “The Patagonian Hare,” we now have the opportunity to do so. (previously)
"A Movie Marked Danger" - a Vanity Fair article on Sweet Smell of Success (1957), directed by Alexander Mackendrick, screenplay by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, cinematography by James Wong Howe, soundtrack by Elmer Bernstein. (previously) [more inside]
As brutally stylish as it is when the fists and baseball bats are flying, the underlying themes of family and perseverance are what make The Warriors stand out from the rest of the "grim future" epics of the period. - Celluloid Dreams
The Big Sleep is a film I have found a very intense love for. The rotating cast of shadowy crooks and deceptive dames coupled with the roller-coaster plotting makes this classic movie endlessly entertaining. Bogart and Bacall are electrifying together and the supporting cast is equally captivating. Considering it’s over 60 years old, The Big Sleep still works in a big bad way and feels fantastically modern. It’s as if the film is simply too fast and too entertaining to age. It was crafted by the hands of some of Hollywood’s finest artists at the time and oozes quality as a result. Most of all though, this movie is just pulpy, fearless, fun and really, really cool. - Pictures and Noise [more inside]
Michael Mann's "Thief" is a film of style, substance, and violently felt emotion, all wrapped up in one of the most intelligent thrillers I've seen. - Roger Ebert [more inside]
Pennies from Heaven is the most emotional movie musical I've ever seen. It's a stylized mythology* of the Depression which uses the popular songs of the period as expressions of people's deepest longings - for sex, for romance, for money, for a high good time...there was never a second when I wasn't fascinated* by what was happening on the screen. - Pauline Kael (* SPOILERS)
The Seventh Art is an independently produced video magazine about cinema with three sections: a profile on an interesting group/company/organization in the industry, a video essay and a long-form interview with a filmmaker.
... it’s no exaggeration to say that LIFEFORCE tosses everything in but the kitchen in an attempt to entertain you. Actually, scratch that, it tosses everything including the kitchen sink. By the time the movie is complete, you may have to watch it again just to verify that you actually saw what you just saw. The movie is a mess of enormous proportions which I absolutely loved.
* (previously) [more inside]
An ever increasing accumulation of film stills from Sergei Bondarchuk's 8-hour long epic film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace [more inside]
Loudly and with much smashing, FilmCritHulk has become a major presence in the world of online film criticism with his semiotical essays on storytelling, cinematic principles, and media theory. Starting first on his personal blog, Hulk now writes for Badass Digest [previously] (the lifestyle blog corner of the Alamo Drafthouse empire [previously, previously]) [more inside]
Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966) is a disturbing film to watch. With its unresolved, horrific ending, it’s possibly one of the most depressing films ever made [SPOILER]. [more inside]
Both an ingeniously choreographed crime film and a moral drama influenced by Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Pickpocket marks the apotheosis of Bresson's stripped-down style. There’s little or no psychological realism or conventional drama at work in Martin La Salle’s portrayal of a master thief who plies his trade at the Gare de Lyon and easily outwits the cops who seek to ensnare him. See it once to appreciate the spare elegance of the pickpocketing scenes, and then a second time to appreciate how subtly Bresson accomplishes the story of a man’s self-willed corruption, his liberation through imprisonment and his redemption through love, all in less than 80 minutes.