While Men in Black 3 attempts to knock The Avengers out of its box office domination, this Memorial Day Weekend brings SIFF into its second week, so the screening list will be understandably abbreviated this week.
Parallax View continues to update its SIFF 2012 guide here, with links to capsules, features, and reviews from The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, Straight Shooting, and others.
Meanwhile, two imports with macabre dimensions compete for festival audiences. Headhunters, a black comedy from Norway, pits a business professional who moonlights as an art thief to maintain his lavish lifestyle against a millionaire art collector. Robert Horton, writing for The Herald, says: “We always have a few foreign titles that try to out-do Hollywood at the suspense game, and Headhunters is an especially berserk example.” It opens at The Varsity. More reviews here.
First Position, a documentary about young ballet dancers training for the Youth America Grand Prix, gets high marks from Seattle Times film critic Moira Macdonald: “The movie doesn’t dwell on the very real possibility that none of these young people will spend their careers as professional dancers (only a tiny fraction of students achieve this); instead, it lets us enjoy their youthful exuberance, lingering with them on every jump.” Opens at Seven Gables.
The 38th Annual Seattle International Film Festival opened on Thursday, May 17, with a screening of Lynn Shelton’s locally-produced My Sister’s Sister, and completed its 25 day on Sunday, June 12 with the world premiere of the Seattle shot and set Grassroots. Here is Parallax View’s coverage and guide to SIFF resources.
Whatever the financial tally when all’s said and done, the contributors to this year’s For the Love of Film blogathon have simply provided too many riches on too many topics to offer any meaningful list of highlights; any such won’t so much scratch the surface as gently buff it. So head over to the event’s three hosts—The Self-Styled Siren, Ferdy on Film, and This Island Rod—and sample the offerings for yourself.
“I would rather make the gravest of mistakes than surrender my own judgment.” A recent screening of The Last of the Mohicans was followed by a Michael Mann Q&A with Geoff Boucher. Kristopher Tapley has the highlights, but even he admits these outtakes can’t do justice to the wide-ranging, highly detailed thoughts you’d expect from Mann, so he’s fortunately appended the audio from the evening.
“That Epstein’s films are uneven is part of their essential nature; he was genuinely experimenting, aiming not for a consistent level of craft or a seamless vehicle for narrative, but for moments that would kindle, images that would pierce.” The Chiseler’s Imogen Smith discusses, in prose nearly as vivid and transfixing as their imagery, three films by Jean Epstein.
In a similar vein, Ed Howard surveys the six “fascinating, poetic documentaries” that Maurice Pialat shot in Turkey in 1964, with topics ranging from studies of harbor life to the region’s religious history to the spectacle of a three-day wrestling match.
“He said, ‘We’re going up to Big Sur, we’re going to shoot up there.’ And we went up there. That’s where I met what’s-his-name, who makes the wine. Coppola.” The great Dick Miller (his recollections charmingly buttressed by his wife Lainie), interviewed for the A.V. Club by Caelum Vatnsdal, looks back at the barest fraction of the films he’s made. Which still makes for a wealth of anecdotes.
“Do you know what time it is?” “A watch doesn’t really go with this outfit, daddy.” Josie Sampson revisits Clueless, and praises the deliberately tacky, “tasteless attempts at sophistication” of its costume design, a vibrant marker of childish things to be put away.
Also at the Morlocks, Kimberly Lindbergs offers some of her favorite photographs chronicling the Cannes festival, from Louis Lumière meeting in a train station with the town’s mayor to a lovely 1959 image of Cary Grant and Kim Novak lost in one another’s eyes. Another post, covering the ’60s, is to follow.
A few months ago you couldn’t throw a rock without beaning a think-piece on silent cinema prompted by The Artist and Hugo. Geoffrey O’Brien in the New York Review of Books caps the mini-genre with a winner, a lovely hymn to silent movies as “a perpetual learning how to see, and a way of coming to the truth of one of Emerson’s observations: ‘The eye is final.'”
Regrettable as it is that such a well-regarded figure in the New German Cinema as the late Werner Schroeter still requires an introduction before his first North American retrospective, Brooklyn Rail’s Mónica Savirón is ably up to the task.
“Right now, I’m revolting against the conventions of movies. Who says a film has to cost a million dollars and be safe and innocuous enough to satisfy every 12-year-old in America?” Fifty years after her debut feature screened, fifteen years—sadly—after her death, Shirley Clarke and The Connection are making headlines again, courtesy of a restoration and return to theaters. Manohla Dargis offers a career retrospective, shot through with disbelief that such a game-changer remains a marginal figure in the histories. At Indiewire, Ann Hornaday and David Sterritt discuss how forward-thinking, and mischievous, the director truly was. Glenn Kenny takes exception to the glibness of that latter description in a fine appreciation. Milestone Films, for whom this is merely the first step in restoring many of Clarke’s films, also deserve a nod for their informative press kit, source of the opening quote and well worth a read. [this last link is a .pdf]
That last link above was spotted by David Hudson, as all of them are eventually. Hudson’s film roundups, which render efforts by others (yes, even Your Humble Aggregator) superfluous, have a new home at Fandor, which partnership is kicked off with a marvelous find: Trevor Stark’s history, from October Magazine, of Chris Marker and the SLON film cooperative’s partnership with workers from the Rhodiaceta textile factory in France. A revolutionary effort—admirable in its intentions, stymied by fractionalism and mistrust—that Marker, inevitably, viewed through the lens of the cinematic past, in this case Medvedkin’s ciné-trains. [.pdf]
“She knows the score…She’s someone who was abused. I could identify with her. I never could identify with any other white movie star. They were always white people doing white things.” Jacqueline Rose, in a beautifully written article that sniffs out more connections than most books on the subject, finds Marilyn Monroe the perfect embodiment of mid-century America—not the one we dreamt on movie screens, but the sometime cruel, confused one most pretended wasn’t happening.
Onscreen, Saba Sahar is “a kind of superhero, doing kung fu high-kicks in traditional dress, carrying victims to safety over her shoulder or riding a motorbike with no hands while firing a gun.” Behind the scenes, Afghanistan’s first woman director is far more impressive, as Jenny Kleeman’s profile attests.
“I always presume every movie I make is my last. My career is very smoothly in decline, each movie making half as much as the prior one.” Todd Solondz, interviewed at the Sarasota Film Festival by David Carr, on the business end of things, working with actors, and how he stole a key scene in Welcome to the Dollhouse from North by Northwest. Link via Movie City News.
Time Out didn’t fool around compiling their list of the 100 best horror films, polling a murderer’s row of 126 experts (the Cs alone offer up Roger Corman, Antonio Campos, Alice Cooper and Coffin Joe) and writing up the results with good observations and considerable brio. Which allows for some admirably off kilter selections, though lest you think this lineup differs radically from other such, the accompanying interview is still with William Friedkin. Noted by David Hudson.
Revisiting The Devil, Probably, Dennis Lim assigns the same uncompromising nihilism that ensured the film’s relative obscurity to the draw it has on its partisans. Link, one of several of interest, via Girish Shambu.
“She Who Is Called Feathers manifests the most dazzling changes in raiment.” David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s mock exegesis on Rio Bravo isn’t just a delightfully sustained gag, but a vessel for several profound interpretations of the film, including a deconstruction of some song lyrics that is, keeping with their conceit, revelatory.
The article above opens with a discussion of Christopher Nolan’s recent screening for fellow filmmakers of a sequence from The Dark Knight Rises, in an attempt to proselytize for the benefits of 35mm over video. Nolan discusses the subject, as well as his directing style (which, surprise, is highly pragmatic and orderly) with the DGA’s Jeffrey Ressner. Link via Movie City News.
“A few years ago, I thought I might open a chain of eulogy stores where you could go in off the street and, for twenty bucks, they’ll tell you all the nice things they’re going to say about you after you croak. But I don’t want people to say wonderful things about me when I can’t hear them. Tell me now, while I’m still here.” The multilingual journal La Furia Umana takes Jerry Lewis at his word, making him the subject of their latest issue. Plenty of good stuff here even for those of you currently rolling your eyes, from Sadarshan Ramani’s tracing Lewis (and Tahslin) as inspiration for King of Comedy‘s Rupert Pupkin; Steven Shaviro’s closely observed defense of Smorgasbord‘s (aka Cracking Up) “therapeutically purging” humor; and if you missed it the first time around (2003, in The Believer), B. Kite’s magisterial The Jerriad: A Clown Painting, one of the finest bits of writing ever done on Lewis, not least for its succinct delineation of an essential opposition: “Buster makes extraordinary feats look incredibly easy. Jerry makes mundane activities seem extremely difficult.”
The timing for such celebration, of course, is that The Kid just celebrated his 86th Birthday. Publicly, in fact, with Richard Belzer as MC and an audience Q&A that went pretty much the way you think it did. J. Hoberman fills in the details.