Legendary director Mike Nichols, who made an incredible debut nearly fifty years ago with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and then managed to follow that up with The Graduate, has died at the age of 83. Younger audiences may also know him for The Birdcage, the HBO miniseries Angels in America and his last film Charlie Wilson's War.
Lois Weber was an important early American film-maker who pushed the boundaries of film-making so she could better tell the stories she wanted to tell. Several of her early silent films are on youtube: Suspense (1913; ~10 minutes) (she directs herself, experiments with the split-screen view and unusual and effective camera angles including shots from above and using the car's side mirror); Hypocrites (1915; ~4 minutes) (featuring dual roles, nudity, and a strong use of techniques like multiple exposures and complex editing - as well as a strong moral message); and Where Are My Children (1916, ~1 hour, 10 minutes) (a complex and controversial film even then about birth control (pro) and abortion (anti)). [more inside]
In the early eighties, Orson Welles was a fixture at L.A.’s Ma Maison, where Wolfgang Puck was the chef before he moved on to Spago. Nearing 70, and 40-plus years removed from Citizen Kane, which he made when he was just 25, Welles was fat and famously difficult, no longer a viable star but still a sort of Hollywood royalty—a very certain sort. The younger director Henry Jaglom was one of many aspiring auteurs who admired him but possibly the only one who taped their conversations. These took place in 1983 over lunch at the restaurant.
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
Christopher Nolan (mentioned previously) has been a divisive maker of movies. Some have lauded him as "the only working auteur" while others, like David Cronenberg ,and those that agree with him, tend to think he is a mere maker of entertaining genre flicks. Film scholar, David Bordwell, explains why both arguments have merit.
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]
Stanley Kubrick didn’t like giving long interviews, but he loved playing chess. So when the physicist and writer Jeremy Bernstein paid him a visit to gather material for a piece for The New Yorker about a new film project he was writing with Arthur C. Clarke, Kubrick was intrigued to learn that Bernstein was a fairly serious chess player. The result was an unusually long and candid recorded interview for the New Yorker. (77 min)
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)
Is a ’director’s cut’ ever a good idea? The director's cut has been a feature of the home video landscape for years, getting a significant boost from multi-disk DVD and now Blu-Ray sets. There are some pretty bad ones around, but which are the best? Movie sites like Shortlist, IGN Movies, MoviesOnline.ca, FilmWad and Empire have all given us lists of the best (and worst), and online discussions have suggested others (Blade Runner tops most lists, but beyond that they diverge significantly). Where do you start when that two-hour epic isn't epic enough?
"Fast Company’s four-hour interview with [Martin Scorsese] for their December-January cover story: How to Lead A Creative Life, was ostensibly about his career, and how he had been able to stay so creative through years of battling studios. But the Hugo director punctuated everything he said with references to movies: 85 of them, in fact." Welcome to Martin Scorsese’s Film School: The 85 Films You Need To See To Know Anything About Film [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.
Until the End of the World was conceived over most of the ’80s, filmed on four continents (including video smuggled out of China), and foresaw a future abetted by such diversions as mobile viewing devices, proto-GPS and a highly sought-after contraption that records images for the blind. Starring William Hurt, Sam Neill, Solveig Dommartin, Jeanne Moreau and Max von Sydow among an international ensemble of actors, the film also skyrocketed to a $23 million budget and found its distributors — including Warner Bros. in the United States — requiring cuts that reduced it to barely a quarter of Wenders’s original vision. Later locked in at just under five hours, it’s the type of material that today would be a shoo-in for a cable miniseries that could probably win Emmys for everyone involved. Twenty years on, however, it’s relatively lost to the mainstream, with Wenders’s directors cut as yet unreleased outside two territories in Europe.
Today is the 100th birthday of Raymond Nicholas Kienzle, better known as Nicholas Ray. The seminal Hollywood-outcast-turned-French-New-Wave idol behind Rebel Without a Cause, Bigger Than Life, Bitter Victory and the hallucinatory Western Johnny Guitar made intensely emotional films about isolated people, often infused with profound desperation and a sense of the nightmarish. Francois Truffaut dubbed him "the poet of nightfall," while Jean-Luc Godard simply declared that "the cinema is Nicholas Ray." He studied architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright, mentored Jim Jarmusch and let Wim Wenders film him as he was dying of cancer. Bob Dylan even wrote a hit song about one of his movies. [more inside]
Stanley Kubrick liked things just so. Including cardboard boxes. (2:05 .wmv)
Show The Monster : "Guillermo del Toro’s quest to get amazing creatures onscreen." Video: Monsters in the Making. (Via)
Jacques Rivette, who emerged in the 1950s... as one of the primary filmmakers of the French New Wave, is the most underappreciated (and under-screened) of this legendary group. Rivette’s deliberately challenging, super-size films defy easy assimilation, and demand a level of attention unusual even to his compatriots’ works. In addition to being considered difficult, however, Rivette’s body of work is also, arguably, the richest of the New Wave era, possessing an intellectual inquiry and humanity unmatched in the French cinema of his time. [more inside]
It was not easy to get Terence Malick to direct again, as this article about the making of "The Thin Red Line" from Vanity Fair shows.
Arthur Penn, the director of Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man, The Miracle Worker, and Night Moves, has died of congestive heart failure one day after his 88th birthday.
How does a director follow up the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time*? (*adjusted for inflation) He remakes a French classic - taking an international cast to a Caribbean nation ruled by a military dictatorship, where hurricanes, irascibility, other difficulties take him far over a budget already large enough to be shared by two studios. The result is his personal favorite among his films. But deceptive marketing and cute robots contribute to its making back less than half of its costs. (previously)
Sydney Pollack has died of cancer, at age 73. While best known as the director of Out of Africa and Tootsie, he also made documentaries (Sketches of Frank Gehry) and was an actor with notable roles in Eyes Wide Shut, Michael Clayton, and even an appearance in The Sopranos.
"Porky's was about anti-Semitism, about racism, it's not just about boys with erections," claims Clark. He then adds, pun intended, "It was a seminal film." Bob Clark, Director of two iconic 1980's films that profoundly impacted some of your childhoods (no doubt in decidedly different ways), and his 22 year-old son were in a fatal car crash on PCH this morning. This was set to be a promising year for the man who brought Ralphie and his bunny suit to the world. R.I.P.