"THIN is a photographic essay and a documentary film about the treatment of eating disorders. In 1997, Lauren Greenfield began documenting the lives of patients at the Renfrew Center in Coconut Grove, Florida, a forty-bed residential facility for the treatment of women with eating disorders. She subsequently returned to Renfrew to take more photographs, and was eventually given unprecedented access to film the daily lives of patients". (scroll down or search for "Greenfield"). 2002 MeFi post on Greenfield's previous project, "Girl Culture", here.
"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)
«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.
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.
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.
Jerry Lewis at 80 (more inside)
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.
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.
"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)
"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.
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.
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)
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.
"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).
"... 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".
San Francisco in Film Noir. Conversation with Nathaniel Rich, associate editor of the Paris Review and author of San Francisco Noir.
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.
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.
"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)
'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.
"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)
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.
“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.
"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.
For lovers of the hard-boiled crime story, life began with the black bird. It's a tale of greed and a wisecracking gumshoe. The femme fatale is a liar. The object of the hero's search is a statuette of a falcon. Published exactly 75 years ago on Valentine's Day, Dashiell Hammett's private-eye novel "The Maltese Falcon"' immediately won critical acclaim. And when it was made into a 1941 movie starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre (and directed by a rookie), Hammett's story found a worldwide audience and his hero, Sam Spade, became a household name. Now, three-quarters of a century later, that's still the case. More inside.
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)
Into the realm of Henry Darger When Henry Darger died in Chicago on April 13, 1973, he was a destitute man whose final days were spent at a home for the elderly. Now, 30 years later, Darger ranks among the greatest outsider artists America has ever seen. Found in the astounding clutter of Darger's one-room apartment was a 15,000-page fantasy epic, bound by hand in 15 volumes, titled "The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion." Along with this were three separate volumes filled with 300 drawings, including 87 multi-sheet horizontal panels, some 12 feet long with drawings on both sides. The discovery of Darger's NSFW work spawned numerous books, a play, a British rock band (the Vivian Girls), and an excellent y2karl MetaFilter post. And now there's also Jessica Yu's documentary "In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger," a portrait of the reclusive artist that has been shortlisted for the upcoming Academy Award nominations. Again, Darger's art can be disturbing and must be considered not safe for work (more inside)
"When one is in prison, the most important thing is the door". The precise coordination of every element of filmmaking -- camera distance, sound, theme, narrative, motion, color, human action -- so that it functions with rhythmic clarity: that is the cinema of Robert Bresson, who died five years ago aged 98. A "Christian atheist" by his own description, he made only 13 films (and a short) and created a cinema of paradox, in which "the denial of emotion creates emotionally overwhelming works, the withholding of information makes for narrative density, and attention to 'the surface of the work' produces inexhaustible depth". Paul Schrader, the most famous among Bresson scholars, wrote that "Bresson has seemed like God himself; distant, beyond communication. Now, like God, Bresson is dead". More inside.
"We will come and kill you in your beds, cut your throats, and wipe you from the face of the earth... if Alexander the Great were alive today he would grind you gypsy dogs into the dust, dig your dead from their graves". Since Oliver Stone chose to make his first foray into historical epics with a biopic of Alexander (based on the biography by the Oxford academic Robin Lane Fox), rivers of blood have been spilt -- figuratively at least -- in a propaganda battle between Greek and Macedonian nationalists over who has the right to claim the all-conquering hero as their own. The movie also deals with Alexander's omnivorous sexuality, in particular his fondness for eunuchs. With such treacherous ground to negotiate, and amid thunderous lobbying from both sides, Stone has chosen a middle course (like giving Alexander and the men of the Macedonian phalanxes Irish accents, while the Greeks speak clipped English RP).
“The real glory of war is surviving.” One of Hollywood's biggest crimes of the last quarter-century is being set right this week with the release of "The Big Red One: The Reconstruction", a beautifully restored version of Samuel Fuller's butchered 1980 masterpiece. The stunning new version restores some 15 scenes and more than 40 minutes of footage to Fuller's grittily autobiographical film about his World War II stint as a GI with the Army's First Infantry Division. Filmed in Israel, the film stars Lee Marvin in his greatest performance. The cut version of the film flopped, and Fuller went to his grave in 1997 bemoaning the fate of "The Big Red One," telling every journalist he met that he dreamed of seeing his original vision up on the big screen. Richard Schickel, critic and documentary filmmaker, printed 70,000 feet of film from negatives stored in a vault in Kansas City and supervised the editing according to Fuller's original shooting script. "What they released in 1980 wasn't a bad movie," Schickel said. "What the studio wanted was a gung-ho war movie. What we've added is the real Sam stuff: the boredom, the absurdity of an ordinary soldier caught up in a vast war". More inside.
"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.
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.
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.
Love in a cage. All Iranian filmmakers working in their homeland have to face the trials of the censor, but if the subject matter includes abortion, adultery and lesbianism, the chances of gaining official approval in the Islamic republic are all but zero. Actress Mania Akbari, the lead of Abbas Kiarostami's "10", explores this territory in her first feature film as a director, "20 Fingers", which unspooled in the new "Digitale" section at the Venice Film Festival (.pdf file) and won the first prize as Best Movie Shot On Digital. The film's use of digital video was also invaluable in getting around censorship: the only way to shoot in Iran on 35mm is to hire equipment from the central authorities, which means script approval and a government minder attending the shoot. Shooting on digital video requires script approval, but no minder is sent along. So 29-year-old Akbari, in an amazing display of courage, gained approval for one script and then duly shot another (she could now be barred from working or from screening her films or from even leaving the country, but she insists on working in Iran, to challenge the system from there and not from abroad). The film is coming soon at the Vancouver Film Festival. More inside.
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)
"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)
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)
"What did you think of Seabiscuit?" the young man added helpfully. Even the deadpan Jarmusch laughed. Jim Jarmusch's new movie (the first feature-lenght after 1999's Ghost Dog), "Coffee And Cigarettes", is "a droll, ironic look at two of our favorite addictions". The black and white movie (trailer here) has a strange (or Stranger than Paradise?) cast: Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Cate Blanchett, Meg White, Jack White, Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan, GZA, RZA, Bill Murray, ... Jarmusch's philosophy: "When you're watching movies, the guy's girlfriend calls him, she's having something bad happening, and he says, 'I'll take a cab. I'll be right over.' Cut to him getting out of the cab. And my brain always says, what about the cab ride? The incidental thing, the thing that's not the destination?". (more inside)
"We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why." In The Fog of War, a revelatory new documentary about his life and times, a disquieted Robert McNamara implores us to understand why he did the things he did as an Air Force lieutenant colonel who helped plan the firebombing of Japanese cities in World War II, and, later, as a secretary of defense and pivotal decision-maker during Vietnam, which some Americans came to call "McNamara's War." One of the movie's most powerful passages covers McNamara's little-known service in World War II, when he was attached to Gen. Curtis LeMay's 21st Bomber Command stationed on the Pacific island of Guam. LeMay's B-29s showered 67 Japanese cities with incendiary bombs in 1945, softening up the country for the two atomic blasts to come. McNamara was a senior planning officer. Story by "Killing Fields"' Sydney Schanberg in the American Prospect (more inside)