Jeanne Dielman and Nikkatsu Noir – DVDs for the Week

24 August, 2009 (17:18) | by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Noir | By: Sean Axmaker

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Jeanne Dielman - the American home video debut on Criterion

Jeanne Dielman – the American home video debut on Criterion

“A singular work in film history,” begins the description on back of the case of Criterion’s long-awaited DVD release of Chantal Akerman’s astounding 1975 Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. That is no hyperbole. Jeanne Dielman is a painstaking, excruciatingly exacting portrait of the life of a perfectly organized homemaker, an epic portrait of a quotidian life where every gesture through the 200-minute study becomes important and the slips in routine reverberate like aftershocks of an earthquake. It’s astounding to realize that Akerman was only 25 when she put this uncompromising vision on the screen. It’s almost as astounding that this landmark work took so long for finally arrive on home video in any form in the U.S. Almost impossible to see for decades (it wasn’t even released in the U.S. until 1983 and was rarely revived in the years since), this singular work is now available to anyone with a will and a DVD player. And I’m happy to report that it has lost none of its power in the intervening years.

Middle-aged widow and single mother Jeanne Dielman (Delphine Seyrig) lives a carefully structured life with a clockwork routine. She wakes up before dawn, sees her son Sylvain (Jan Decorte) off to school, cleans every last dish in her tiny and spotless kitchen, then continues on with the errands and duties of her day. One of those duties just happens to be servicing an afternoon client as a part-time prostitute. Jeanne is all business when the bell rings and she puts the pot on low simmer to welcome her client for the day. It’s creepily expressive the way Akerman frames her head out of the shot when she answers the door, matching Seyrig’s inexpressive formality with each man.

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

The Realist Renaissance

5 October, 2015 (06:46) | by James Monaco, Film Reviews | By: James Monaco

[Originally published in Movietone News 36, October 1974]

Ever since the Lumière brothers first fascinated audiences with cinematic recreations of trains entering stations, waves breaking on shores, and street traffic in Paris, theories of Realism have been the aesthetic engines of the film medium. A language with an almost mystical capacity to replicate reality, film has for three-quarters of a century created and recreated its own aesthetics and, although the spectrum of approaches to film art is vast and various, nearly all of the critical theories that have been functionally important have been in some intimate way connected to that primal mimetic power of the medium. Even Expressionist theories, for 75 years opposed in dialectical tension to the Realist theories, have substance simply because the language of film is so highly replicative: if film did not have the innate power to capture reality, it certainly would not hold much interest for those whose desire is to distort it. Forty years ago Rudolf Arnheim warned against the rapid technological development of the medium which would of course only increase the power of replication and therefore limit the freedom of the artist to create “art” and relegate the camera “to the position of a mere mechanical recording machine.”

The history of film is marked by Realist mileposts: French poetic realism in the 1930s; Italian neorealism in the late Forties; the British documentary tradition; the Eastern European humanist heritage; and finally the New Wave of the last 15 years, so thoroughly rooted in the thought of André Bazin, whose influence is still central even now almost 20 years after his death. In our own country theories of realism have had a much more muted effect, especially if we judge our own film traditions against those of France or Italy or England. Yet, within its limited context, much of the best of American film shows the force of realism, from King Vidor and Raoul Walsh to John Cassavetes, from Scarface to On the Waterfront, the styles and subjects of Realism have provided American films with vitality and relevance. During the brightest period of American film—the Thirties and Forties—Warner Brothers, the studio most closely associated with the Realist tradition, is now increasingly seen to have been the major force in the studio system. The gritty and direct Warner Brothers style marked a body of films which surpass in many ways the slicker output of MGM and Paramount and give us a much more exciting and intriguing image of that past America. If the witch-hunts and Blacklists of the late Forties and early Fifties purged the studios of much of the talent that had created that emerging realist tradition, nevertheless we still had the films of Nicholas Ray and Elia Kazan during the period that followed. The American film tradition, moribund in the Fifties, was near death in the Sixties and the focus of attention turned, even for most American cinephiles, to European cinema.

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

DVD: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

4 October, 2015 (22:39) | by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Warner Home Video

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (Warner, DVD) – Australian filmmaker Mark Hartley has become a champion of the disreputable genre films of the seventies and eighties thanks to such loving productions as Not Quite Hollywood (spotlighting the disreputable side of the early Australian film industry) and Machete Maidens Unleashed (on Filipino grindhouse films). Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is a labor of love from a man whose career to date has been a labor of love.

The story of Cannon Films is unique and fascinating. In 1979, Israeli producer / director Menahem Golan and his cousin Yoram Globus, who handled the financial side of their Israeli production company, decided to go international. They purchased Cannon Films, a small American independent production company with a couple of successes to its name. Golan and Globus quickly became B-movie moguls, determined to beat Hollywood at its own game with a series of cheaply-made genre movies with stars like Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson and cashed in on current fads and box-office hits with quick knock-offs. They became infamous for their flamboyant presence, their non-stop self-promotion, and their reputation for cranking out incoherent and at times incompetent movies between their occasional hits, while in a seemingly alternate universe also produced arthouse movies by Andrey Konchalovskiy (Runaway Train, 1985, Shy People, 1987), John Cassavetes (Love Streams), Franco Zeffirelli (the opera film Otello, 1986), and Jean-Luc Godard (King Lear, 1987), whose contract was written on a napkin over dinner at a restaurant. By the end of the eighties, they had driven the company to bankruptcy by the end of the decade.

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Review: The Black Windmill

3 October, 2015 (20:41) | by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews | By: Richard T. Jameson

[Originally published in Movietone News 36, October 1974]

Drabble would, after all, have been a better title than The Black Windmill. The structure thus designated is not even mentioned till the film is two-thirds finished, whereas the fictional master criminal “Drabble” hovers over the picture almost as decisively as “Juggernaut” in the new Lester movie. Drabble catches the muzzy Englishness that is the film’s most strategic appeal, which comes through via such in-passing pleasantries as Scotland Yard man Clive Revill’s weary exasperation with his partner as they search and bug Michael Caine’s room, MI.5 stick-in-the-mud Donald Pleasence’s loss of sour face as he inadvertently says “Sean Connery” instead of “Sean Kelly” during a top-level security conference, or Pleasence’s desperate endeavor to maintain a blank look as his senescent superior fondles and is fondled by his murderously loving wife (Felicia Farr—of Charley Varrick fame—in an unbilled cameo, if I’m not mistaken). One may safely suppose that the opportunity for such moments had its fond appeal for Siegel, who spent his youth in England. Such suppositions are the only way to find, or posit, traces of the director in the film; for after a decade’s worth of consistently personal cinema, Siegel has simply taken on an average thriller property and given it, overall, little more than slightly above-average treatment.

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of October 2

2 October, 2015 (10:28) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links | By: Bruce Reid

Tom Neyman in ‘Manos: The Hands of Fate’

Jake Rossen tells the story of the unlikely battle for control over the rights to Manos: The Hands of Fate, a three-way struggle between the idealistic young cinephile who spearheaded the restoration drive (““I wanted to make the best version of the worst movie ever made”); the son of the late director, claiming copyright without legal precedent (“J.R.R. Tolkien’s kid catches shit… but he just wants to protect his father’s work. Same thing.”); and the requisite wildcard, a mysterious fan who so identifies with the film his biggest claim to fame is a series of youtube videos in character as Torgo. Via Movie City News.

With The Rocky Horror Picture Show celebrating its 40th anniversary, David Hudson points out a few articles celebrating the film. For Variety, Tim Gray does what you’d expect a Variety writer to do, crunch the box office numbers to prove and congratulate 20th Century Fox for having made a shrewd investment on a stealth hit. While Judy Berman gets to the utopian vision embraced by the fans that led to such success. (“At the time, I believed Rocky Horror felt like home to me because I was a freak craving the company of other freaks…. What must have truly captivated me was the attractive worldview embedded in this exuberantly bad, comically decadent, painfully low-budget—but somehow perennially watchable—movie and the four decades’ worth of traditions its fans have built around it.”)

“There are moments in Mr. Dorsky’s work where you may not be sure what you’re looking at (a flower, a light, a person?) and you find yourself leaning toward the image. To a degree, this searching encapsulates the very experience of movie-watching itself and how we piece together cinematic images to create meaning. For decades, Mr. Dorsky has been on a great search, going out with his 16-millimeter film camera and astonishing eye and bringing back the kinds of humble, rapturous images that many of us forget to see….” Manohla Dargis is at her most impassioned and lovely describing the films of Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler, in advance of a retrospective of the couple’s experimental films.

Clive Owen in ‘Croupier’

“There’s no way to gain any distance from the film, or hold it at a remove. Rather, watching it means being seduced by it. We can tell ourselves we’d never be as cold and abusive as [Casino’s] Ace Rothstein, but who’s to say we wouldn’t stand by like Jack and cause suffering through our inactivity or hesitation? We think of ourselves as above average, of having been smart enough to really figure things out. Croupier tears a hole in that notion.” In the decades since it spurred talk of a comeback for Mike Hodges and the start of great things for Clive Owen (one of which worked out), Croupier has mostly gone without notice. Daniel Carlson astutely suggests the reason for the neglect all go to the movie’s credit.

Proving his unparalleled ability to spin a small detail into consideration of larger issues, David Bordwell picks up on an odd bit of business in Nightmare Alley—whether the sound of an ambulance is real or not—and covers everything from how ’40s films cued us to subjectivity to what authorship of a film means when a detail like this (and another odd, recurring audio cue) might well have been added anonymously in post.

Guess who picked ‘The Innocents’?

In the lead up to Halloween, Moviemaker is surveying horror directors for their choice of the scariest scenes of all time. So far, Cooties co-directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion opt, respectively, for a harrowing bit of NC-17 brutality and a memorable villain from a children’s film; while Joe Dante chooses a classic (no surprise) that gains its unsettling power from ambiguity (a slight surprise, I confess).

“So give me a stage where this bull here can rage, and though I could fight I’d much rather recite, that’s entertainment.” Art of the Title talks with Dan Perri about his credit sequence for Raging Bull. (“I thought, he’s not a raging bull he’s a RAGINGBULL. He moves so fast—he’s violent, he’s so driven, he’s so obsessed—that when we do the title there shouldn’t even be a space between the words to illustrate his maniacal quality, his lunatic personality, the way he treats his women, and so on.”)

“Then, in 1964, I got this letter. You won’t be surprised that I kept it. ‘Dearest Keith, Listen boy, why don’t we go quietly ahead sometime this year with our own family-sized production of Chimes? There probably wouldn’t be sixpence in it for any of us, but it would certainly be fun and, I think, worthwhile. Always remember, your heart is God’s little garden. Orson.’” For Wellesnet, Brice Stratford (no, really) transcribes Keith Baxter’s opening remarks and a Q&A session from a recent screening of Chimes at Midnight. Which not only offers a delightful portrait of the making of that masterpiece, but passes along Welles’s intriguing (given Oja Kodar’s parentage) commiseration with John Gielgud over his partner’s anxieties: “If you have a Hungarian for your lover you don’t need any enemies.”

Orson Welles and Keith Baxter on the set of ‘Chimes at Midnight’

“We wanted to be surprised by mistakes and then curate the mistakes. So I think the vibe of the film in the end as a meeting of mistakes chattering to each other. And Guy shoots like that—where there’s lots of things, things are always falling over and you’re tripping while holding the camera, actors are flubbing their lines because you’re shouting at them while they’re trying to talk….” “I’ve always needed mistakes. The happy accident was my first and most loyal collaborator. Now Evan is my favorite. But I haven’t turned my back from the happy accident, and I really have learned that I’m just not good enough to plan the best things I’ve made.” Guy Maddin’s latest collaborator can more than hold his own with the director’s po-faced tongue-in-cheek, based on his and Evan Johnson’s discussion of The Forbidden Room and Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton with Nicolas Rapold.

“We were supposed to shoot in Palos Verdes, but at the last minute they told us we couldn’t because of environmental concerns or something—they were afraid of us blowing up stuff and it going into the water—so we went to the Hearst people and they let us do it on their private beach. We were all wandering around looking at Hearst’s artwork. A lot of it’s still boxed up in crates, like something out of the end of Citizen Kane.” Talking with Jim Hemphill about the making of Commando, Mark L. Lester displays the genre- and business-savvy intelligence that no doubt served him well when he turned his back on Hollywood to become an independent self-distributor.

“How I started to cry/Cause I wanted to be dressed just the same.” The book’s been out for a while, but Judy Berman’s article above introduced me to photographer Lauren Everett’s People Like Us, and its documents of Rocky Horror fans, so with the anniversary just past, one last celebration of those who don’t just dream it.

Adrian Curry’s annual roundup of movie posters from the New York Film Festival shows once again that great design can be inspired by productions ranging from the most outré and avant-garde to the largest of Hollywood blockbusters.

John Guillermin


British-born director John Guillermin apprenticed on low-budget British films and TV shows before making his name with such films as I Was Monty’s Double (1958), Waltz of the Toreadors (1962) with Peter Sellers, and the World War I drama The Blue Max (1966), not to mention a pair of Tarzan movies (Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, 1959, with Gordon Scott, and Tarzan Goes to India, 1962, with Jock Mahoney). After directing the Airport knock-off Skyjacked (1972) he made the two biggest films of his career: the all-star disaster extravaganza The Towering Inferno (1974) and Dino De Laurentiis’ 1976 remake of King Kong. After making the Agatha Christie mystery Death on the Nile (1978), his career took a downward trajectory with Sheena: Queen of the Jungle (1984) and the ill-judged sequel King Kong Lives (1986), which was his final big screen feature. He passed away this week at the age of 89. More from Ben Child at The Guardian.

Catherine Coulson became a cult figure playing The Log Lady in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. She had a long creative relationship with Lynch, serving as assistant director on his debut feature Eraserhead (1977), and in 1994 became a regular performer at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, appearing in more than 50 productions since 1994. She was set to reprise her role in the new Twin Peaks series for Showtime. She passed away at the age of 71 at her home in Ashland, Oregon. More from Kristi Turnquist at The Oregonian.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Film Review: ‘The Martian’

1 October, 2015 (10:16) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews, Science Fiction | By: Robert Horton

Matt Damon

The movie begins with a hurricane on Mars, a life-threatening debris storm, and a spaceship that might not be able to lift off in the chaos. And that’s the easy part. After the rocket finally blasts from the surface, an astronaut—presumed dead—is left behind on the Red Planet, and he’s got to figure out how to stay alive by himself until a very improbable rescue mission could pick him up. That will take many, many months, if it happens at all. So The Martian is a problem-solving movie: How will castaway Mark Watney (Matt Damon) figure out the fundamental problems of food, shelter, and communication? The movie doesn’t waste much time worrying about issues of loneliness; after we’ve spent time with Watney, who has a complete lack of introspection and neurosis, it’s no wonder.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Lunch at Bad Aussee

30 September, 2015 (09:13) | Essays, Guest Contributor | By: Movietone News contributor

[Originally published in Movietone News 36, October 1974]

Normand F. Lareau, a longtime friend of Movietone News, is a resident of New York City, a confirmed addict of the cinema (especially the films of François Truffaut), a vendor of movie stills, a filmmaker, and a kindhearted connoisseur of cats and people. He is currently engaged in a yearlong bike trek around Europe. —Ed.

A friend in New York gave me the name of a dialogue coach working for an Italian film company and said, “Look her up. She’s fun; she’ll show you a good time.” It seemed that the company was doing location work in Bad Aussee, Austria, and if I hurried I could maybe watch them filming. As it happened, the day I arrived in tiny Bad Aussee the crew had been up until 3 a.m. in hellish weather shooting the climactic rain-and-fire sequence of the film; it couldn’t be done “day for night” and everyone had to be there whether or not they were needed.

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Review: Law and Disorder

28 September, 2015 (19:47) | by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews | By: Richard T. Jameson

[Originally published in Movietone News 37, November 1974]

Ivan Passer must have taken another look at his countryman Milos Forman’s American picture, Taking Off, before addressing himself to Law and Disorder, for the new film contains several notable echoes of its predecessor: a community-enlightenment seminar in which an obviously neurotic psychologist advises the women how to defend themselves against potential rapists (cf. the pot-smoking in Taking Off); a wife’s comically grotesque attempts to turn on a jaded husband (cf. Lynn Carlin’s pixilated drunk dance); the complaint of the protagonist, a beleaguered parent with a troublesome daughter, that “normal girls run away at 16—she stays around to annoy us” (a nod to T.O.‘s central premise). There any resemblance to Forman’s adroitly judged satire and Passer’s own small masterpiece, Intimate Lighting ends. Passer’s account of several middleaged middle-American males’ endeavors to set their world a-right by forming an auxiliary police force to patrol the neighborhood attempts to limn the frustration of those who straddle the caste line between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, but he lacks any feeling for the specifically American experience. Actors like Carroll O’Connor and Ernest Borgnine are difficult to control at the best of times, and Passer, who steers his way so surely through the klutzy exoticism of blowsy Czech housewives and passed-over Czech Lotharios, apparently has no notion when satirical caricature gives way to gross overplaying.

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of September 25

25 September, 2015 (16:41) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links, Obituary / Remembrance | By: Bruce Reid

‘Portrait of Jennie’ and ‘Black Narcissus’

“Complicated and busy scenes still look ravishing though, and for this I am glad because I wanted everything this movie of excess could give. I wanted all the lions, all the jewels, all the scheming, and all the toasts to the woman that was destroying him that George Sanders could muster.” Having thought on her experience since attending the Nitrate Film Festival this last May, Gina Telaroli offers her reflections on how those movies were changed by the format—and how all art is, not necessarily lessened, but transformed, for later audiences who experience it in an unintended format. Marvelously illustrated by (non-nitrate, alas) screen grabs as only Telaroli can do.

“Moore is fond of quoting Flaubert’s dictum ‘Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.’ And she insists on that regularity. ‘I’m incredibly bourgeois,’ she said. ‘And I don’t care. I’m not wild. There’s nothing outrageous about me. I’m really a pretty nice person. I am not erratic in my behavior. You know the kind of people who are really irregular—they keep people off balance that way. I’m not that kind of person.’” Fittingly there are no surprising revelations in John Lahr’s profile of Julianne Moore—even the news she’s a clean freak seems to fit her air of maternal ordinariness—just a portrait of one of our finest actors, and the resilient intelligence that makes her so.

“Yes, it was over the top. And that was on purpose. The environments were very flashy. There were too many lights, too many idiotic things, and too much Vegas—not only in the surroundings, but “Vegas” in the way the people behaved, in the dialogue, in the acting. As for the finished product: I thought it was perfect.” You’ll never guess who’s defending one of his most derided—hmm? Yes, you’re right, that is Paul Verhoeven talking (to Jennifer Wood) about Showgirls. Via Joe Blevins.

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Lynn Shelton Goes Way Back

25 September, 2015 (08:12) | by Sean Axmaker, Interviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Fandor co-founder Jonathan Marlow and director Lynn Shelton are in attendance at Northwest Film Forum’s Local Sightings Film Festival on Saturday, September 26 to present a 35mm screenings of Shelton’s debut feature, We Go Way Back, the same day it makes its streaming debut on Fandor. It’s a preview of the tenth anniversary theatrical release that’ll occur early in 2016, presented by Fandor and Factory 25. – Ed.

‘We Go Way Back’

Lynn Shelton made her debut feature, We Go Way Back, after a decade of honing her skills. With a master’s degree in photography and years of experience as a stage actress, the Seattle-based artist taught herself filmmaking by making experimental films and documentaries and editing the features of other local filmmakers. She credits Claire Denis with inspiring her, at the age of thirty-seven, to have the faith to follow her muse and make a feature film. With financing from a Seattle non-profit production company, she made We Go Way Back on a tiny budget and with a cast and crew of professionals from her Seattle home. It won the Jury Prize at Slamdance in 2006 and launched a career that, to date, has remained defiantly independent. Her budgets have since gotten bigger and her casts more famous (Emily Blunt and Rosemary DeWitt in Your Sister’s Sister, Keira Knightley and Chloë Grace Moretz in Laggies) yet she has remained not only independent but local, shooting in Seattle with area crews. At least for her features. Between movies she, like many fellow indie filmmakers, directs episodes of TV shows, from Mad Men to The Mindy Project andFresh Off the Boat.

We Go Way Back is the story of a young actress in her twenties (Amber Hubert) who is in a kind of emotional stupor as she struggles to make her way as a professional actress at the expense of her own sense of self. But Shelton tosses in a high concept twist: her thirteen-year-old self, present in letters full of confidence and creativity and ambition that she wrote to her future self, arrives in the flesh. What could be a Lynch-ian bend in time and space and identity, however, is played with naturalistic calm. She’s not here to judge, only to heal and center her emotionally fractured older self.

I first interviewed Shelton in 2008, soon after her second feature, My Effortless Brilliance, premiered at SXSW. I had just seen We Go Way Back and was excited to discuss it with her. We’ve talked many times since but this is the only time we really delved into her first film.

Sean Axmaker: You came out of theater, and you had edited some features before you directed We Go Way Back, including Hedda Gabler. In We Go Way Back, the main character, Kate (Amber Hubert), is cast in the lead of ‘Hedda Gabler’ and it’s a production that is going right off the rails. Is there anything autobiographical in that, or is this just your nightmare of the worst possible theater experience that you could think of?

Lynn Shelton: [Laughs.] The director is an amalgamation of many acting teachers and directors that I’ve encountered. I started acting when I was about eleven and kept on acting through my twenties and it was like an addiction. I was always in a show, so I encountered lots and lots of different personalities through the years. None of them were quite as misguided as poor Bob’s character but there is also some practicality to it. I needed a role in western classic theater that might be recognizable to a certain set so that it would be a big deal—because this is her first big role, so she needs to be offered this great part, and I needed to write the script in five weeks and I knew that play really, really well. I knew the lines by heart, so it was expedient. But there are a lot of interesting challenges to playing Hedda anyway. This is obviously very condensed and exaggerated but the kernel of the story is totally autobiographical.

Continue reading at Keyframe

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Film Review: ‘Meet the Patels’

24 September, 2015 (09:19) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Ravi and Geeta Patel

Born in Illinois to immigrant parents, Ravi Patel is a typical first-generation American: Shaped by two cultures, he feels the inherited traditions of the old country but is irrepressibly ’Murican in every significant way. This dual nature is put on breezy display in Meet the Patels, an amusing documentary in which Ravi (and sister Geeta, his mostly unseen co-director) tracks a particularly fraught moment in his family’s life. Ravi is 29, and his parents—humorous dad Vasant and anxious mom Champa—are antsy about him meeting a nice Indian woman and getting married. They come from a culture of arranged marriages, and since that system’s already in place, why bother with the complicated American dating game?

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Film Review: ‘Racing Extinction’

24 September, 2015 (08:24) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

‘Racing Extinction’

Racing Extinction contains many grisly examples of mankind’s impact on the natural world, but one of its most affecting touches is a snippet of birdsong. The movie considers the way various species have been driven to nonexistence in the past few decades, among them the Kaua‘i ?‘? bird. A research unit at Cornell University catalogues wildlife sounds, and they recorded the song of the ?‘?—that is, the very last one—before the type vanished in the late 1980s. It’s a plucky little cry, made all the more poignant because no other ?‘? is around to answer it. Later we see footage of people killing manta rays and a Hong Kong rooftop loaded with thousands of shark fins, but that extinct sound really brings home an overwhelming sense of absence.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Film Review: ‘Welcome to Leith’

24 September, 2015 (08:20) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Lynan Dutton, Craig Cobb, and Deb Henderson

Guess who’s coming to burn a cross on your lawn. Noted white supremacist—now there’s a tagline for a business card—Craig Cobb decided a North Dakota town would be just right for seeding a nationwide racist movement. So in 2013 he moved to tiny Leith, population 24 or so. Buying a few bargain-basement properties, Cobb hatched a plan to get other white-power advocates to settle there, take over the town council, and live the dream. This crackpot is the central figure of this documentary account of what happened when the residents of Leith found out what Cobb was up to.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Films and Feminism

21 September, 2015 (08:20) | by Kathleen Murphy, Essays | By: Kathleen Murphy

[Originally published in Movietone News 36, October 1974]

Jan Haag is forever associated with my first conscious commitment to film and feminism. A decade or so ago, she and I spent much good time arguing passionately about The Pumpkin Eater and The Golden Notebook, the world of movies and the lives of women, with enough heat to permanently temper the directions we would take in the future. Jan was one of those multi-talented women—artist, actress, filmmaker, writer—who seemed permanently trapped and limited by the role of faculty wife, the interesting, but necessarily dilettantish, adjunct to her husband’s real profession. Fortunately, for herself and other women, Jan managed finally to “come out,” to emerge from that safe, and therefore stifling, cocoon into her own real professional world. It’s redundant to say it wasn’t an easy or even very direct route, but she eventually found where she wanted to be and what she wanted to do. After serving as an American Film Institute intern during the filming of Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude, she was appointed head of the Internship Program, and later became director of the AFI’s Independent Filmmaker Program.

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of September 18

18 September, 2015 (13:37) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links, Obituary / Remembrance, Seattle Screens | By: Bruce Reid

Gloria Swanson

The new issue of Screening the Past, spotted by David Hudson, dedicates itself to “Women and the Silent Screen.” The excavation of hidden histories predominates, whether Hilary A. Hallett displaying how Hollywood’s early self-mythologizing was shaped by women as much as men, from the plucky-girl-makes-good narratives promoted by Louella Parsons to the cautionary fable that was made of Virginia Rappe; or Diane Pivac presenting the history of New Zealand film producer Hilda Maud Hayward, who assisted her husband on “some twenty-eight films” without receiving a single credit. More about Parsons—and her perennial subject Mary Pickford—comes from Richard Abel’s look at the symbiotic relationship between newspapers and the movies in the early 1910s, and the space it provided for women’s voices; while antipodean filmmakers are the topic again for Ann-Marie Cook, who offers a fresh take on the collapse of McDonagh Productions, Ltd., Australia’s first film production company owned by women. Pam Cook traces the intersection of design and performance in the work of Natacha Rambova, and her great canvas Valentino; and Elena Mosconi and Maddalena Bodini chart the rise and making of a star with the career of forgotten silent diva Mimi Aylmer. And more I haven’t gotten to yet, all presumably up to the journal’s usual standard.

The new Senses of Cinema has also dropped, with a focus on Asian documentary. Bérénice Reynaud offers an overview of underground and experimental Chinese documentary filmmakers, working with cheap, mobile digital cameras to chronicle such formerly taboo subjects as protests against forced dispossession by the state and the lives of gay Chinese; Dan Edwards traces Chai Jing’s remarkably popular (and since banned) exposé on Beijing’s unhealthy atmosphere, Under the Dome, to Western precedents such as An Inconvenient Truth but also homegrown examples such as River Elegy, which is credited with sparking the Tiananmen protests; Ma Ran looks at three film festivals (one of which has been shut down by the government), each small, remote, and far from the madding crowd, dedicated to the genre; and Anne Rutherford and Laleen Jayamanne interview Indian filmmakers Anjali Monteiro and K. P. Jayasankar about their decades of work in the field. (“[We] understand we are working with a medium that most of our subjects are not familiar with. They have their own traditions of storytelling and we are bringing to this encounter another kind of storytelling. So we want to question this premise of documentary film narratives made by us about them for consumption by us. How does one begin to subvert this?”) Outside of that focus, Ned Schantz, haunted by an image of the grim reaper he incorrectly remembered popping up in La Jetée, wonders about the legitimacy of hidden images in movies—and whether they’re worth anything or not even if they are there; and David Melville does the honors writing up Rex Ingram for the journal’s Great Directors portfolio.

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Film Review: Jackal of Nahueltoro

17 September, 2015 (18:32) | by Ken Eisler, Film Reviews | By: Movietone News contributor

[Originally published in Movietone News 37, November 1974]

“Do you know the Infant Jesus?” a voice barks. José des Carmen Valenzuela Torres, 6, huddles farther into his dirty rags. The Corporal, who has just hauled this homeless kid off the road, looks on. Wham! A big bale slams full force into little José’s right cheek. From child vagrant to child laborer, in one cut. Fait accompli. The economy is typical of Littin’s 1969 film, made in Chile, at its disturbing best. And its best coincides—unfortunately, I think—with the most debased and dehumanized phase of the hapless José’s short, unhappy life. A caption declares that Jackal is a film about “the childhood, regeneration, and death” of José Torres. What, between “childhood” and “regeneration,” no “maturity,” nothing at all?

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email