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“Yes, but in my film time is shattered.”

"I would like to do better, to be better than I am". He's the French New Wave maverick and Academy Award winner (at 26, for his first short) who, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz -- with considerable personal pain and the admission that "no description, no picture can reveal the true dimension" of what happened in the camps -- made what François Truffaut called "the greatest film ever made", duly censored by French authorities. Four years later he baffled audiences with "the first modern film of sound cinema", shattering the rules of chronology to describe the “anguish of the future”: even if all he ever wanted was "to stop death in its tracks" (French language link), only for one minute. But he is also the unabashed lover of la bande dessinée who learnt English by reading comic books and in the Seventies dreamed (French language link) of making "Spider-Man" into a movie (the Hollywood studios were not convinced), the MGM old-school musical and operetta nut so in love with design that "half of the fashion photography of the past 40 years owes a debt" to him. Now, Alain Resnais' new work, just shown at the Venice Film Festival where his buddy David Lynch was awarded a lifetime achievement Golden Lion, is a French film inspired by an English play with 54 short scenes, music by the X-Files's Mark Snow. (more inside)
posted by matteo on Sep 8, 2006 - 20 comments

The Roads of Kiarostami

Shifting between motion and stasis, he shows a man on a horse, a scarecrow, a dog, another dog seen closer, then even closer as it faces the still camera in the last shot. Superimposed over this still photo is the orange red blast of an atomic bomb and its mushroom cloud—the first appearance of color in the film. The photo catches fire, and the image of the dog is slowly devoured by flames. As the photo turns into ashes, a prayer from the Shiite text Nahjulbalagha appears alongside it in English: “Dear Lord, give us rain from tame, obedient clouds and not from dense and fiery clouds which summon death. Amen.”
In "The Roads of Kiarostami", his latest short film (.pdf), Iranian maestro Abbas Kiarostami begins with his landscape photographs and ends with apocalypse. more inside
posted by matteo on Jun 9, 2006 - 16 comments

«The silent queen of all that is snowy and pure» (.pdf)

«The silent queen of all that is snowy and pure» (.pdf) I will never forget the first time I saw Giovanni Pastrone’s extraordinary Cabiria... I wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer scope and beauty of this film. And I was completely unprepared for having my sense of film history re-aligned. There are so many elements that we took for granted as American inventions – the long-form historical epic, the moving camera, diffused light. Suddenly, here they were in a picture made two years before Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. -- Martin Scorsese
It was the first film to be over three hours long, the first to use a moving camera, the first to cost 20 times the average cost of a motion picture; Pastrone took several elephants and hundreds of extras to the Alps, in the dead of winter, to film scenes that only lasted a couple of minutes onscreen. He hired an ex-dockworker and turned him into one of the first action movie heroes, Maciste. And, he also created the first international marketing campaign of the history of cinema. The Americans were so impressed that Cabiria became the first film to be ever shown on White House grounds. Last week, at the Cannes Film Festival, a beautiful, painstakingly restored version of this forgotten masterpiece has just been shown to the public.
posted by matteo on May 29, 2006 - 13 comments

The Epistemologist of Despair

Drama is impossible today. I don't know of any. Drama used to be the belief in guilt, and in a higher order. This absolutely cruel didactic is impossible, unacceptable for us moderns. But melodrama has kept it. You are caged. In melodrama you have human, earthly prisons rather than godly creations. Every Greek tragedy ends with the chorus — "those are strange happenings. Those are the ways of the gods". And so it always is in melodrama.
His career as a film director lasted more than 40 years, but Douglas Sirk (1900-1987) is remembered for the melodramas he made for Universal in Hollywood between 1954 and 1959, his "divine wallow": Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955), Written on the Wind (1956), The Tarnished Angels (1958, William Faulkner considered it the best screen adaptation of one of his novels), Imitation of Life (1959) -- all considered for decades little more than a camp oddity. Now audiences are beginning to look deeper at the films of Douglas Sirk, at how, in megafan Todd Haynes' words, they are "almost spookily accurate about the emotional truths". Now, lucky Chicagoans can enjoy "Douglas Sirk at Universal", matinees at the Music Box. More inside.
posted by matteo on Apr 29, 2006 - 14 comments

"Ten Favorite Offbeat Musicals"

"Ten Favorite Offbeat Musicals" by Jonathan Rosenbaum
posted by matteo on Apr 4, 2006 - 30 comments

Small screen vs. big screen

It's still about the means of production, you see — but in the overdeveloped world, at least, it's not about the production of goods and services anymore. Today's virtual revolutionary is happy to leave all that to capitalists. The virtual revolutionary wants to control the production of meaning — representations of herself and her world as she wants them to seem. Or be. Or whatever. That's all she asks.
Or, rather, takes.
Thomas de Zengotita welcomes the big world of the small screen. Peter Bogdanovich, instead, still mourns that last picture show.
posted by matteo on Mar 26, 2006 - 22 comments

Jerry Lewis at 80

Jerry Lewis at 80 (more inside)
posted by matteo on Mar 13, 2006 - 46 comments

Through All the Lousy Luck

I first read "Ask the Dust" in 1971 when I was doing research for "Chinatown". I was concerned about the way people really sounded when they talked, and I was dissatisfied with everything else I had read that was written during the '30s. I wanted the real thing, as Henry James would say. When I picked up Fante's "Ask the Dust," I just knew that was the way those kids talked to each other—the rhythms, cadences, racism.
Robert Towne on adapting John Fante's novel for the big screen. More inside.
posted by matteo on Mar 4, 2006 - 17 comments

"And therefore I forbid my tears"

Hamlet on the Ramparts is a public website designed and maintained by the MIT Shakespeare Project in collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library and other institutions. It aims to provide free access to an evolving collection of texts, images, and film relevant to Hamlet’s first encounter with the Ghost. More inside.
posted by matteo on Feb 28, 2006 - 11 comments

Lon Chaney's power to terrify

"He was someone who acted out our psyches ... He somehow got into the shadows inside our bodies; he was able to nail down some of our secret fears and put them on-screen... the history of Lon Chaney is the history of unrequited loves. He brings that part of you out into the open, because you fear that you are not loved, you fear that you never will be loved, you fear there is some part of you that's grotesque, that the world will turn away from."
A Valentine for Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces. (BugMeNot for the first link; more inside)
posted by matteo on Feb 18, 2006 - 14 comments

Irie Takako: Establishing Oneself and Entering the World

In the Twilight of Modernity and the Silent Film (.pdf) Irie Takako was the most popular actress in 1930s Japan: film scholar Tanaka Masasumi locates the turning point of Japanese modernity in 1933, the year Kenji Mizoguchi's The Water Magician was made, arguing that Irie's transformation from radiant embodiment of moga(modern girl, the Japanese version of the flapper)-hood to suffering beauty in a kimono (.pdf) epitomized modernism's (modanizumu) defeat by nationalism in 1930's Japan. (via Camera Obscura; more inside)
posted by matteo on Feb 15, 2006 - 5 comments

Brownlow's and Mollo's Nazi Britain

"The German invasion of Britain took place in July 1940, after the British retreat from Dunkirk". We see, documentary-style, members of the Wehrmacht trooping past Big Ben and St Paul's Cathedral, lounging in the parks, having their jackboots shined by old cockneys, and appreciatively visiting the shrine of that good German, Prince Albert, in Kensington Gardens. Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's film "It Happened Here", with its cast of hundreds (.pdf), imagines what a Nazi occupation might have been like — complete with underground resistance, civilian massacres, civil strife, torch-lit rallies, Jewish ghettos, and organized euthanasia. Shot on weekends, eight years in production, made for about $20,000 with nonactors and borrowed equipment and Stanley Kubrick's help, "It Happened Here" was originally envisioned by Brownlow as a sort of Hammer horror flick about a Nazi Britain. Thanks in part to Mollo's fanatical concern with historical accuracy, however, it became something else. The most remarkable thing about this account of everyday fascism is that it has no period footage. Brownlow's 1968 book about the film's production, "How It Happened Here", has recently been republished. More inside.
posted by matteo on Feb 12, 2006 - 16 comments

Jean-Luc Godard's 'Histoire(s) du Cinéma'

The Man With The Magnétoscope.
"How marvelous to be able to look at what you cannot see... cinema, like Christianity, is not founded on historical truth. It supplies us with a story and says: Believe — believe come what may."
Jean Luc Godard's 'Histoire(s) du Cinéma' at UCLA.
posted by matteo on Feb 7, 2006 - 8 comments

"Myrna Loy, Luminous Activist"

“Wouldn’t you know, the kid they pick to play tramps is the only good girl in Hollywood.”
Before Myrna Loy rose to stardom with Manhattan Melodrama and The Thin Man (both 1934), she was often relegated to playing vamps, mistresses, and other assorted flavors of wicked women. Then, after 80 movies playing mostly bad girls, Montana native Loy became “the perfect wife.” “Men Must Marry Myrna Loy” clubs were formed around the country. She and Clark Gable, in a poll conducted by Ed Sullivan, were voted by 20 million of the nation’s moviegoers as The King and Queen of Hollywood. She was FDR's favorite actress, and John Dillinger died just to see her new movie. A staunch anti-Nazi since the mid-Thirties (to MGM's dismay, Hitler promptly banned her films from the lucrative German market), wondered aloud in the press why blacks were always given servants' roles, and was the first major star to buck the studios in a contract dispute (the issue: equal pay for equal work. She was making half what William Powell was, didn't like it and quit work for nearly a year until MGM capitulated). When WWII broke out she quit Hollywood and worked full time for the Red Cross, and helped run a Naval Auxilary Canteen. More inside.
posted by matteo on Feb 3, 2006 - 27 comments

Stills from Alfred Hitchcock's movies

Hitchcock Gallery. Stills from Sir Alfred's movies: Hitchcock blondes. Mothers in Hitchcock movies. Dangling and falling. Eyes in Hitchcock movies. Match cuts. 'Tunnel' shots. 'Pieta' shots. How to throw a punch. Also: Hitchcock & Psychoanalysis. (homepage)
posted by matteo on Feb 2, 2006 - 14 comments

Donald Richie shares his movie memories

And suddenly, in my memory, everything turns real: the summer breeze of Izu, the lazy sun of an early afternoon, the stale smell of water standing in the rice fields. For a moment it is that day in 1956, 37 years ago, and I am standing there, 33 years old myself. See—just to the left of the camera, just out of range. Here comes Mifune running, and there stands my younger ghost, right of that pillar, just off screen... And the summer sun beats down and the fresh breeze of Izu bathes my face, and then the story continues and the film ends and the lights go up and the students open their notebooks and I stand up and began talking about the influence of the Noh.
Donald Richie (previous post), the worldwide authority on Japanese film, shares his movie memories.
posted by matteo on Feb 1, 2006 - 9 comments

Mimmo Rotella's decollages

The World in Pieces. During the early 1960s, Mimmo Rotella (who just died in Milan at age 87) went around Europe collecting strips of advertising posters that had been pasted over and torn away many times. He also tore at posters (warning: big file) himself in a rebellious act of desecration to create the works he called decollages. More inside.
posted by matteo on Jan 14, 2006 - 4 comments

National Center for Jewish Film

"One could go on, and one will -- praising (...) the National Center for Jewish Film for releasing all four of Edgar Ulmer's Yiddish films in restored editions. But the DVD player is beckoning, and I think it is time for me to get back to the couch".
The National Center for Jewish Film (NCJF) is a unique nonprofit motion picture archive, distributor and resource center housing the largest, most comprehensive collection of Jewish-theme film and video in the world. In their archives you can discover the works of Leo Fuchs, the "Yiddish Fred Astaire", restored gems (scroll down) like "Motl the Operator" and re-releases like "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg". (More on Greenberg, the Jewish kid who challenged Babe Ruth’s homerun record here, more on the NCJF inside).
posted by matteo on Jan 9, 2006 - 9 comments

Andrzej Munk: Wry Smiles, Suspicious Glances

Eroica. Film director Andrzej Munk’s tragic death at age thirty-nine might have formed the plot for one of his own darkly sardonic works: a Polish Jew and an active resistance worker during the war, he was returning home from shooting his film Passenger at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1961 when an oncoming truck struck his car. He left behind only four feature films, but his influence was prodigious. As one of the key figures of the postwar “Polish School” of filmmaking, along with Wajda and Kawalerowicz, he helped to shape a vision that broke with the official social realist optimism of Eastern-bloc dogma and cast a skeptical eye on official notions of heroism, nationalism, and life in the Stalinist-occupied state. Mentor to Roman Polanski and Jerzy Skolimowski, his influence can be felt even in the films of a later generation of Polish filmmakers — directors like Zanussi and Kieslowski. More inside.
posted by matteo on Dec 7, 2005 - 7 comments

Forough Farrokhzad, 1935-1967

"[She] loved as in our age
People already do no longer; as only
The wild soul of a poet
Is still condemned to love".
Ever since her tragic death in a car accident in 1967, Forough Farrokhzad has been drawing thousands of visitors to the Zahir-al-Doleh cemetery in Tehran. They come to lay flowers, recite poetry and light candles on the grave of the poet who has become an inspiration to women not only in Iran, but wherever women's rights are severely curtailed. If she had survived her car crash, the poet would have celebrated her seventieth birthday this year. Farrokhzad was also a film director: her documentary The House is Black is considered a masterpiece by filmmakers like Abbas Kiarostami and Chris Marker and critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum. More inside.
posted by matteo on Dec 6, 2005 - 8 comments

Michael Haneke, a Cinema of Disturbance

"... we are sweeping everything under the carpet, but the oddness is cropping up all over the place. And then, the carpet starts to move…".
Michael Haneke, "le manipulateur" who introduced his latest film, Caché, at Cannes with a half-amused “I wish you a disturbing evening”, is the proponent of a "cinema of disturbance". A cinema of loving self-mutilation, where time is non-linear and everything happens in long take shots; in Haneke's world, guilt destroys lives decades after the original sin. All his male characters are "Georges" and his female characters are either "Evas" or "Annas", "because I lack fantasy". Unsurprisingly, he is a Bresson and Tarkovsky fan. He'll direct "Don Giovanni" at the Paris Opera in early 2006: "In 20 years of working in the theater, I only staged one comedy, and that was my single failure".
posted by matteo on Nov 18, 2005 - 19 comments

Yours very truly and devoted, R. Rossellini

Dear Mrs Bergman,
... I want you to know how deeply I wish to translate those ideas into images, just to quiet down the turmoil of my brain... Yours very truly and devoted,
R. Rossellini
Roberto Rossellini writes to Ingrid Bergman.
The Swedish movie star had written a fan letter to the Italian Neorealismo director Roberto Rossellini, expressing her desire to work in one of his films: "If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German, who is not very understandable in French, and who in Italian knows only "ti amo", I am ready to come and make a film with you".
This is how he responded -- by writing a part for her in his 1949 film "Stromboli." It was the beginning of one of the most famous love stories of the twentieth century. More inside.
posted by matteo on Oct 31, 2005 - 14 comments

Aleksandr Sokurov's "The Sun"

The Emperor's Bunker. "The Japanese, with sadness and irony, stressed that Hirohito couldn't even speak properly. This was partly to do with the fact that he didn't have to speak - people spoke in his name and he was isolated from real life". "The Sun", the third part in Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov's 'Men of Power' tetralogy after the gloom of Moloch (1999), about Hitler and Eva Braun, and the despairing tones of "Taurus" (2001), focused on the wheelchair-bound Lenin in his death throes, "The Sun" seems almost upbeat. This, after all, is a film about reconciliation. More inside.
posted by matteo on Sep 13, 2005 - 21 comments

"There was no one ever in American life who was remotely like Truman Capote", says Norman Mailer

Truman Capote's Blood Work Two soon-to-be released films on Truman Capote's life, Capote and Have You Heard? begin as the novelist drops into rural Kansas to begin work on what became "In Cold Blood". More inside.
posted by matteo on Aug 18, 2005 - 11 comments

Edward Bunker, 1933-2005

"It has always been as if I carry chaos with me the way others carry typhoid. My purpose in writing is to transcend my existence by illuminating it."
Crime novelist Edward Bunker, who died last Tuesday at age 71 (LATimes obit), became at 17 the youngest inmate at San Quentin after he stabbed a prison guard at a youth detention facility. It was during his 18 years of incarceration for robbery, check forgery and other crimes that Bunker learned to write. In 1973, while still in prison, he made his literary debut with "No Beast So Fierce", a novel about a paroled thief James Ellroy called "quite simply one of the great crime novels of the past 30 years" and that was made into the movie "Straight Time" starring Dustin Hoffman. Also a screenwriter ("Runaway Train"), Bunker appeared as an actor in nearly two dozen roles, most notably as Mr. Blue in "Reservoir Dogs." (more inside)
posted by matteo on Jul 25, 2005 - 9 comments

The Cinema of Louis Malle

I felt I was pretty much prepared technically but I had this huge hole in my apprenticeship — dealing with actors. I had no experience of that. I had been filming fish for four years.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center will be presenting Risks and Reinvention: The Cinema of Louis Malle (June 24 - July 19). This extensive retrospective will include all of the great director's feature films and nearly all of his documentaries, including the rare seven-hour Phantom India. After its run at Lincoln Center, the retrospective will go on tour across the U.S. and Canada. Malle’s thriller Elevator to the Gallows will also receive a US theatrical release this summer. (via The Criterion Collection). More inside. — —
posted by matteo on Jun 23, 2005 - 5 comments

Porn-again Christian

'I haven't seen a porno film in 20 years or more. No need to. I got my wife'.
Harry Reems tells about his struggle to survive Deep Throat.
posted by matteo on May 22, 2005 - 17 comments

SAMMY: "That's democracy?"

"I am an American, so that is why I make films about America. America is sitting on our world, I am making films that have to do with America (because) 60% of my life is America. So I am in fact an American, but I can't go there to vote, I can't change anything. We are a nation under influence and under a very bad influence… because Mr. Bush is an asshole and doing very idiotic things."
Lars Von Trier introduces his new film at the Cannes Film Festival: «Manderlay» picks up where «Dogville» left off, with the character originated by Nicole Kidman -- now played by Bryce Dallas Howard -- stumbling onto a plantation that time forgot, where slavery still operates in the 1930s. The film (5 MB .pdf file, official pressbook) ends, as Dogville did, with David Bowie’s Young Americans played over a photomontage of images that range from a Ku Klux Klan meeting to the Rodney King beating, George Bush at prayer and Martin Luther King at his final rest, American soldiers in Vietnam and the Gulf, the Twin Towers. More inside.
posted by matteo on May 16, 2005 - 69 comments

21-87: George Lucas Under the Influence

"When George saw 21-87, a lightbulb went off".
"21-87" is an experimental film made in 1964 by Canadian avant-garde director Arthur Lipsett ,who committed suicide in 1986. "George" is George Lucas, who was obsessed by underground movies until "a little movie called Star Wars lured him to the dark side". (more inside)
posted by matteo on May 2, 2005 - 25 comments

Larry Clark: Punk Picasso

The Cheerful Transgressive Ever since 1971, when Larry Clark published Tulsa, an austere series chronicling his meth-shooting pals in sixties Oklahoma, Clark has made it his mission to document teenagers at their most deviant, their most vulnerable, their most sexually unhinged (possibly NSFW). And now “Larry Clark” the first American retrospective of Clark’s work, currently on display at the International Center of Photography, demonstrates the richness with which he’s mined this single subject (NSFW). More inside.
posted by matteo on Mar 31, 2005 - 48 comments

"When you see your own photo, do you say you're a fiction?"

“The problem is not to make political films but to make films politically.”
In "Tout Va Bien", just released on Criterion DVD, four years after May '68 Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin examine the wreckage: fading workers' empowerment (page with sound), media fatuity, capitalist sprawl, global imperialist mayhem, interpersonal disconnections. "Tout Va Bien" is the story of a strike at a factory as witnessed by an American reporter (Jane Fonda) and her has-been New Wave film director husband (Yves Montand). Included on the DVD is also Letter to Jane (1972), a short film in which Godard and Gorin spend an hour examining the semiotics of a single, hypnotizing photograph of Fonda as she shares feelings with a Vietnamese villager. More inside.
posted by matteo on Mar 8, 2005 - 18 comments

La Feline

"You can fool everybody, but landie dearie me, you can't fool a cat. They seem to know who's not right". The psychoanalyst calmly explains to his patient that her idea that she is turning into a member of the cat family is a fantasy; she silences him with fang and talon.
Val Lewton made his name as a producer with the horror film Cat People, produced for RKO on a minuscule budget and directed by Jacques Tourneur. The star? French actress Simone Simon, who died today in Paris aged 93. More inside.
posted by matteo on Feb 23, 2005 - 6 comments

"I'd rather play a maid than be one"

Call her Madame. Among the old-timers, the story went like this: a woman known to everyone as Madame came to California from Kentucky with her children and her husband. But once they were in the Gold Rush State, her husband left her. Desperate to find work, she introduced herself to a movie director named D. W. Griffith. He not only cast her in his movie, but the two became friends for life. And with this woman, called Madame Sul-Te-Wan, what we now call Black Hollywood began -- as a new book by historian Donald Bogle explains. (more inside)
posted by matteo on Feb 7, 2005 - 6 comments

"In fact the whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people".

Discovering Japan. As a perennial outsider at loose in Japan, writer Donald Richie captures the joyous freedom of being foreign. The foreign observer is likely to be happy only if he sees his foreignness as an adventure, and recognizes that he has given up a sense of belonging for a sense of freedom, traded the luxury of being understood for that of being permanently interested. Richie, the philosopher-king of expats in Asia for the past half-century, arrived in Tokyo in 1947 as a typist with the U.S. government and never really left, writing dozens of books , on Japanese movies, temples, history and fashion, while enjoying himself as an actor, musician, filmmaker and painter. The Japan Journals: 1947-2004 is a monument to the pleasures of displacement. Richie watchers can observe, more intimately than ever, a man who is generally happiest observing. More inside.
posted by matteo on Nov 9, 2004 - 12 comments

Louis Feuillade, le Maître du cinéma

Detailing the impossible. Louis Feuillade made more than 800 films covering almost every contemporary genre: historical drama, comedy, realist drama, melodrama, religious films. However, he was most famous, or infamous, for his crime serials: Fantômas (1913-14), Les Vampires, Judex (1916), La Nouvelle Mission de Judex (1917), Tih-Minh (1918) and Barrabas (1919). Critics panned his crime films, often savagely, because the preoccupation of French critics and film-makers in the 1910s and 20s was to elevate cinema -– and, ironically, back then the French saw their own films as lacking the artistry and sophistication of American ones, by Griffith or DeMille – to the level of art. It was years before Feuillade's films escaped the label of aesthetic backwardness. Now, critics have realized that what Feuillade has done is to offer us an alternative cinematic mode to Griffiths', one that continues in updated variants throughout cinema. It is predicated on a principle of uncertainty, that questions our understanding of the real. It is as fluid and elusive a tradition as a cat burglar, dressed in black on a night-time rooftop.
posted by matteo on Nov 8, 2004 - 7 comments

Must France stay in Algeria

It all comes down do one question: Must France stay in Algeria? “If the answer is yes,” he says, “then you must accept the consequences.”
Gillo Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers", now out on a Criterion dvd, is a film of quiet, overwhelming power. The mix of subjective and documentary techniques holds the viewer's trust so authoritatively that many scenes come close to sneaking out of the mental "movies I saw" box to mix with the viewer's own memories. No matter how complicated or fragmented the action becomes, Pontecorvo gets the pace, tone and rhythm exactly right, filling the screen with eloquent details.
(Last year, Pontecorvo's masterpiece was discussed here, too. More inside)
posted by matteo on Nov 3, 2004 - 9 comments

"George Washington was in a cult, and the cult was into aliens, man"

Dazed and Sued. Three Huntsville residents who say they went to high school with Austin film director Richard Linklater accused him of using them as the basis for the girl-chasing, drug-taking characters in his film "Dazed and Confused" in a lawsuit filed last week, 11 years after the movie was released
(Universal Studios, also included in the suit, is scheduled to release a special edition DVD of the movie Nov. 2.) More inside.
posted by matteo on Oct 12, 2004 - 62 comments

This Film is Just the Massacre of an Assassinator

Agitator. Blood doesn't politely trickle in Takashi Miike's films: it gushes out in (warning: NSFW, graphic) improbable fountains, painting walls and filling up small cars. His trademark point-of-view shots are taken from places other directors wouldn't dream of: the bottom of a dirty toilet bowl (as a man falls into it after being killed); within the ear canal (as it is pierced by a metal spike); even from inside a character's vagina. He has depicted incest, drug abuse, teenage prostitution, violence against women and children and small dogs, and necrophilia -- and that was just in one film, Visitor Q, his take on Pasolini's Teorema. Miike has just introduced his latest movie, Izo, at the Venice Film Festival (.pdf file). Miike is less sure about why Americans are now embracing Japanese horror films. His country's horror genre is influenced by "kwaidan," traditional Japanese ghost stories that feature revenge and malice: "The stories always have the 'hatedness.' You always bring the feelings of hate [that] you don't see in American cinema". What freaks him out the most, however, is the everyday automobile accident. "Even in a film, I can't bear to watch it -- it's so much (about) how people are weak, to be just crushed with a car. It makes me feel really depressed".
posted by matteo on Sep 22, 2004 - 24 comments

Jesse & Celine & Nina Simone

Just in time, you’ve found me just in time. Richard Linklater, like Wong Kar-wai, is a lyrical and elegiac filmmaker. In many of his films, as in many of Wong's (and as in Ming-liang Tsai's What Time Is It There?), the subject is time -- the romance and poetry of moments ticking by, the wonder and anguish of living through and then remembering an hour or a day. In 1995 Linklater made Before Sunrise, the story of the chance encounter of two strangers (an American young man and a French young woman) on a European train and their sleepless night in Vienna. Now ten years have passed, and they meet again in Paris: they -- and the audience -- only have 80 minutes to make up for the time they lost, Before Sunset. Linklater's new film, shot in uncut Steadycam takes (the longest clocks in at 11 minutes), in a sense is about how we create selves just by talking. But it’s also about how we become prisoners of time. Towards the end of the movie, Celine, sitting in the backseat of a car with Jesse, starts to caress his head while he isn't looking, then suddenly pulls back, and that simple curtailed gesture carries in it a sense of tragedy, the consequence of the weight of time... (more inside, with Nina Simone)
posted by matteo on Jul 20, 2004 - 22 comments

Lie to me. Tell me all these years you've waited...

The poet of nightfall Twentyfive years ago, film director Nicholas Ray died in New York. Like Jacques Tati and Samuel Fuller, Ray did a lot of living before he ever got around to filmmaking: he was of part of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin Fellowship, a devotee of southern folk music, an avant-garde theatre director. He had made Rebel Without a Cause and survived James Dean, and the title of the film seemed to dramatise his terrible, self-destructive battles with Hollywood. His films (They Live By Night, In a Lonely Place, On Dangerous Ground, Johnny Guitar, The Savage Innocents, King of Kings) were in love with imprisoned life, but the dark edge of mourning was always there, too. He was idolised by the young Cahiers du Cinema critics who would become the directors of the New Wave. François Truffaut once noted: "There are no Ray films that do not have a scene at the close of day; he is the poet of nightfall, and of course everything is permitted in Hollywood except poetry." Contrasting Ray and Howard Hawks, he added: "But anyone who rejects either should never go to the movies again, never see any more films". Jean-Luc Godard offered another sweeping panegyric: "There was theatre (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth there is cinema. And cinema is Nicholas Ray. These days, lucky Chicagoans can admire one of Ray's greatest works, Bitter Victory -- the film about the dangerous games men play with macho self-images... (more inside)
posted by matteo on Jun 18, 2004 - 16 comments

Bukowski: Born Into This

"Whadyawant, motherf*ck?" These are the first words Charles Bukowski speaks in John Dullaghan's documentary about the poet and novelist, famous for his writing and infamous for his drinking and brawling and screwing. The audience member might respond, "To hear your story, Hank, that's what I want." The movie opens with friends (Sean Penn, Harry Dean Stanton, Bono) and colleagues and lovers and fans recounting the myth; theirs are stories of blades pulled on the maitre d' of the swanky Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills, of dangling dicks revealed in public, of a drunk who'd just as soon crack his bottle over your head than share its contents. (more inside)
posted by matteo on May 28, 2004 - 26 comments

In the Mood for Rapture.

In the Mood for Rapture. "Forget the completion anxiety that attended Wong Kar-wai's new film 2046 — four years in the gestating, with scenes still being shot a few weeks ago — what 2046 makes unavoidably clear, is that Wong Kar-wai is the most romantic filmmaker in the world. Love, the playwright Terry Johnson wrote, is something you fall in. Wong's films make art out of that vertiginous feeling. They soar as their characters plummet". It is a sequel of sorts to Wong's In the Mood for Love. It is the story of a writer: in his novel, a mysterious train left for 2046 every once in a while. Everyone who went there had the same intention: to recapture their lost memories. (more inside)
posted by matteo on May 24, 2004 - 21 comments

The Grace Of Wrath

"The people of Dogville are proud, hypocritical and never more dangerous than when they are convinced of the righteousness of their actions" (NYT link) "The movie is, of course, an attack on America—its innocence, its conformity, its savagery—though von Trier is interested not in the life of this country (he’s never been here) but in the ways he can exploit European disdain for it." (The New Yorker). Lars Von Trier's new movie, Dogville, is under attack from critics who consider it anti-American. Von Trier, of course, has never been to the US but he counters that he knows more about U.S. culture through modern media than, say, the makers of "Casablanca' knew about Morocco. Kafka hadn't been to Amerika either. Should non US-ian artists leave America alone if they've never been there? Von Trier says that "in my own country, I'm considered anti-Danish - again, that's more about politics than issues of nationality." (more inside)
posted by matteo on Mar 22, 2004 - 42 comments

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