Friday, June 29, 2007

COMING SOON: Big Screens (June 29)

Soul Food(ish) and – this time in particular – other notable films on their way (sooner or later) to your local cine 'matheque or 'plex
Slightly updated Aug 15 2007

Jul 1,7: THE KILLER (VanCity Theatre)
JUL 5-7: LA STRADA (Cinematheque)
Jul 11-13: TOKYO STORY (Cinematheque)
Jul 19,23,25: BEAUTY & THE BEAST (Cinematheque)
Aug 3-9: KILLER OF SHEEP (VanCity Theatre)
Aug 3: THE TEN (limited release)
Aug 24: SEPTEMBER DAWN (limited release)
Fall: The new "Final Cut" of BLADE RUNNER




Okay, nothing particularly Christian in this one, unless you count the spirit of saints John, Paul, George and Ringo. But I’m exceedingly excited. Directed by auteur Julie Taymor, whose definitive TITUS is bold and eccentric as Shakespeare’s text – FRIDA and the stage musical of THE LION KING are also The Real Deal. It’s a sixties story, it’s saturated with Beatle covers, and... I’m thinking somebody’s as much of a Beatles devotee as Yours Truly. Check out this cast list; Jude, Martha, Lucy, Max, Sadie, JoJo, Prudence, Mr Kite, Dr Robert (played by Bono!), Desmond and Molly, Bill, Julia, Lil, and even a nurse – wonder if she’s pretty? But Daniel, and Emily? Can’t place those two, unless Elton John and The Zombies are also invited to the party... Check out the trailer - especially around the two minute mark, when “Hey Jude” gears up.
This from a woman who saw an early test screening;
...Taymor's vision as a director seems to borrow from everything. ... There is what looks like Jan Svankmajer in a stunning industrial dance scene in a draft board as civilians are turned into soldiers. Another scene has giant puppet pageantry straight out of Peter Schumman's Bread and Puppet Theater and Resurrection Circus. One scene is a dreamlike vision done entirely in the psychedelic solarised colors of Richard Avedon's Beatle portraits. Her set designs are at times so clever and colorful, you laugh at the unrestrained joy and daring.
She begins with a glorious reinvention of the fifties musical, and careens into pure psychedelic delirium. The cinematography is rich and varied to the purpose of each scene, and dance sequences explode into place. The film moves from the innocence of small town upper-middle class America, to the nascent hippy scene in the village, to a sort of hallucinatory Garden of Eden (with too much but amusing Bono as a Ken Kesey Merry Prankster guru type). It moves to romance, and onto the dangers and volatility of the anti war 60's. All this is rendered through a constant flow Beatles songs delivered amidst magnificent set designs and video composites.... A ballad version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" movingly reinvents the song. ... At times songs and sounds collide like the Beatles in "Number Nine". The collision of a war protest at Columbia University with Helter Skelter over Dear Prudence is brilliant. Taymor has edginess that matches the sixties zeitgeist, and avoids the vacuous cotton candy fluff of Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge".
There was a dust up this spring between Taymor and her exec about edits to the film: I why would you hire Julie Taymor and then hope for a conventional film? Still, whatever version ends up onscreen, I know where I’m going to be on September 28...

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (La belle et la bête)
France 1946. Director: Jean Cocteau
Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST might seem strange choice as a “soul food” movie, though no one would question its place on a list of film masterpieces. But here's what Ronald Austin wrote in IMAGE Journal #20, which was all about film and spirituality;
"Jean Cocteau, one of the earliest of the film poets, upon returning to his faith late in life, remarked in a letter to philosopher Jacques Maritain that 'what comes from God is always shocking, and what shocks my contemporaries is the idea of order.' When Cocteau wrote those lines, over fifty years ago, he was obviously not referring to the stale order of academic convention or conformity. The academy of today, in fact, proclaims a rule of fundemental disorder, the vanishing of the foundational. This perception of Cocteau, a rogue modernist, suggests something on the horizon. The order to which he refers is the wondrous design we hear in Bach and Mozart, the 'inscape' of Hopkins, and the intuition of deep structure that has inspired the leap into mysticism of may contemporary physicists." Ronald Austin, IMAGE 20, pg 4

“Perhaps the most sensuously elegant of all filmed fairy tales” (Pauline Kael), La belle et la bête is the great Jean Cocteau's most popular film, and one of the masterpieces of fantastic cinema. Sumptuous, surreal, and thoroughly enchanting, this poetic retelling of Madame Leprince de Beaumont's famed 18th-century story stars Jean Marais, in extraordinary cat-like make-up, as the gruesome, castle-dwelling Beast. Josette Day is delicate Beauty, whose love transforms monster into man. (“Give me back my Beast!” Greta Garbo famously exclaimed over the hero's ultimate morph into prosaically handsome Prince; Cocteau said his aim was “to make the Beast so human, so sympathetic, so superior to men, that his transformation into Prince Charming would come as a terrible blow to Beauty, condemning her to a humdrum marriage and a future that I summed up in that last sentence of all fairy tales: ‘And they had many children.'”) The film displays Cocteau's celebrated talent for rendering a “realism of the unreal,” and features a virtuoso visual style modelled on classic Dutch painting, the work of Vermeer in particular. The black-and-white cinematography by veteran Henri Alekan (Wings of Desire) is stunning; the art direction by Christian Bérard, who also designed the costumes, is pure magic. Unforgettable. “Cocteau's fairytale set standards in fantasy that few other filmmakers have reached” (Tom Milne, Time Out). “ B&W, 35mm, in French with English subtitles. 96 mins.
Thursday, July 19 – 9:35 pm
Monday, July 23 – 7:30 pm
Wednesday, July 25 – 9:35
Available at Videomatica

There’s been lots of hoohaw over the years about the various edits of this film. Ignoring the detail, let it be said there’s much excitement among its fans of a special limited release big screen run of the new “Final Cut” of this eighties sci fi landmark, which is loaded with God Stuff. I personally don’t find the religious stuff compelling in this one, but many do, and what I do love is the kinetic cyber-punk-meets-Raymond-Chandler milieu – great looking, great energy. Check out The sacred and the profane: Examining the religious subtext of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner by Sharon L. Gravett of Gonzaga U.

Doug Cummings: "Ron, you simply have to see DARATT (DRY SEASON) if it comes your way. Think of it as a Chadian LE FILS ...
The one film I saw at the Los Angeles Film Festival
this week I would unequivocally recommend to everyone here is a film
from Chad called "Daratt" ("Dry Season"). It won the Jury Prize at
Venice last year, and it's part of the excellent New Crowned Hope
series commissioned for Mozart's 250th anniversary. Building off the
theme of vengeance and forgiveness in the composer's "La clemenza di
Tito," the film is set immediately after the civil war when official
amnesty was declared...taking the law into his own hands, an elderly
man who lost his son in the war asks his grandson to avenge his death,
and the determined teenager travels to a nearby village to assassinate
the murderer. As the boy is devising his plan, the murderer--now a 60
year old baker--offers him a job.
I don't want to say more, because this is a highly nuanced story that
focuses on this strangely volatile, yet potentially positive
relationship, and its myriad details and tensions in a way that is
highly reminiscent (and I say that complimentary-wise) of the
Dardenne's "The Son." The filmmaker, Mahamat Saleh Haroun, has said he
was inspired by Mozart's violin concertos to make a make a film that
evoked their minimalist power, resulting in a film with strong visual
rhythms, a highly observant camera, and terrifically underplayed,
simmering performances. I loved it."

July 1, 9:30; July 7, 7:30
HONG KONG 1989 // Director: John Woo
What would a series on Hong Kong filmmaking be without John Woo? The Killer is perhaps his most demented, over-the-top, action packed epic, with, of course, Chow Yun-Fat as a contract killer who accidentally blinds a nightclub singer, then takes one last job to pay for her cornea transplant. Much mayhem ensues.
And what, you may be asking, what is this movie doing in a soul food blog? Good question. I’m glad you asked. (There are no stupid questions. Only stupid people.)
At least one John Woo fan (and make no mistake, his fans are fans) figures there’s more to JW than meets the eye: Michael Bliss is sure enough about that to have made a book out of his idea: “Between The Bullets: The Spiritual Cinema of John Woo” (Filmmakers series, No. 92, Scarecrow Press). Jacket blurb: “John Woo is widely regarded as a master action director, but sacant attention has been paid to the manner in which Woo’s films reflect the directo’s religious and ethical concerns. BTB examines representative films from the director’s Hong Kong and American periods and proposes that Woo be regarded as a predominantly religious director whose action films explore the nature and quality of spirituality.” Sound like a stretch? Some jottings...
Based on Jean-Pierre Melville’s LE SAMOURAI... Disdain for materialism and ethical corruption... Sacrifice leads to regeneration... Woo does not distinguish between secular and religious regeneration. Like (Flannery) O’Connor, Woo uses the material world to convey his spiritual and religious themes... For Woo, the hero’s quest is the search for a region in which integrity, trust and friendship can flourish... Male relationships must be tempered with female elements if male violence is to be productive... Churches, literal and figurative, sit at the films’ moral center... churches often struggling to survive... One major difference between Woo’s film and Melville’s is that Woo allows for the possibility that people can change, and that with change can come redemption... For the central character, the church is not a place of religious salvation but of secular respite from the anxieties of his profession. He’s there at the film’s beginning when Sydney arrives with details of JOhn’s latest assignment; and John returns to the church for what becomes the film’s final shootout. Indeed, the shape of THE KILLER’s plot makes it plain that the return to the church (both in terms of a physical return and a coming back to its potential for spiritual change) is virtually inevitable... In THE KILLER’s opening shot, Sydnye enters the church in slow motion. After sitting down and looking around, Sydney asks John if he believes in what the church stands for. John replies, “No, but I like the peacefulness here.” The remark veers away from religion, something that John nonetheless believes in if we are to judge from the horrified look on his face in a later scerne when one of Weng’s gunmen blows up a statue of the Virgin Mary... Innocence is a figurative blindness that people who live in a dangerous world cannot afford... A choice between two realms must be made... (WARNING: SPOILERS FROM HERE ON) Woo suggests that having lived so long among the damned, John has himself become damned and that – in the only example of such a trope in any Woo film – he has become a person who is incapable of redeeming not only himself but someone else... “Easy to pick up, hard to put down”... Woo’s films don’t flinch from showing us the depths to which individuals, even well-intentioned ones such as Sydney, can fall; if they didn’t, the films would not also be able to plausibly represent the heights to which great actions of sacrifice, courage and forgiveness can take us... At the final shootout, the film’s manifold meanings converge. Johnny Weng, his hitman and a gang of thugs storm the church in which John, Jenny and Li are holed up. People and objects associated with religious devotion are destroyed... The values that the church represents are under siege as a result of the actions of the men who are assaulting the physical church. Woo implies that what is needed is a rebuilding of the church symbolic, a necessary response to the constant onslaughts that the kingdom of heaven suffers at the hands of the violent, who attempt to bear it away... For Woo, sacrifice alone is sometimes not enough. One must often do more than merely hazard one’s life for a friend or lover; one must also remain true to one’s world... Yet we can regard THE KILLER’s ending as less despairing than it might at first appear if we focus not on John’s death but on his attempt to rise to the demands of the church within himself, which symbolizes the best values to which humans aspire: love, faith, trust, friendship. At its end, THE KILLER suggests that evil can be vanquished, duplicitous associates can redeem themselves, and assassins and policemen can help each other find some form of redemption – that is, if people keep their eyes on the ethical path and divert their gaze from the dragon and vengeance and betrayal who sits idly by, waiting, and hoping, for them to fail.

Aug 3-9, VanCity Theatre
No particular God element in this one to my knowledge, but surely a notable film event. Here’s the VanCity blurb;
For many the film event of 2007 is the restoration and release of Charles Burnett’s legendary debut feature, a brilliant, impressionistic look at the daily life of an average man. “Made while Burnett was a 33-year-old grad student at UCLA, Killer of Sheep is a study of social paralysis in South Central Los Angeles a dozen years after the Watts insurrection. The subject matter harks back to the heyday of Italian neorealism but Burnett uses the film language of experimental documentaries like In the Street, Blood of the Beasts, and Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising....Sui generis, Killer of Sheep is an urban pastoral—an episodic series of scenes that are sweet, sardonic, deeply sad, and very funny. It’s a movie of enigmatic antics, odd juxtapositions, disorienting close-ups, and visual gags...[with] an improvised feel and a studied look—as if Burnett decided on his often unconventional camera angles and then set his mainly nonprofessional actors loose. Songs of innocence and experience collide...In retrospect, it can be seen that the two great independent features of the late ‘70s were Killer of Sheep and Eraserhead. As fresh and observational as it was 30 years ago, Killer of Sheep seems even more universal now.”—J. Hoberman, Village Voice

PTC reports that The Hollywood Reporter says Jon Voight and Lolita Davidovich are currently shooting a film called September Dawn in Alberta: "a love story set against the 19th century massacre of a wagon train of settlers in Utah at the hands of a renegade Mormon group. Voight plays the leader of the renegade Mormon faction, while Davidovich is a member of the wagon train who stands up to Voight's threats." UPDATE: A comment posted to another thread indicates that the film opens August 24, 2007, and adds "Check out for more details and the clips at"

Italy 1954. Director: Federico Fellini
Fellini's international breakthrough, and his first unquestioned masterpiece, came with La Strada , a film which won a Silver Lion at Venice and the first of the director's four Academy Awards for Best Foreign-Language Film. Giulietta Masina gives one of cinema's most memorable performances as Gelsomina, a simple-minded peasant girl who is sold to a brutal circus strongman (played by Anthony Quinn) for a plate of pasta. Richard Basehart (of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea fame) co-stars as the Fool, a gentle tightrope-walker who befriends the beleaguered heroine. Although ostensibly neorealist in form, La Strada 's highly allegorical, profoundly spiritual quality marked a departure from the strict tenets of neorealism, and drew angry attacks from critics on the Left. The Catholic press, for its part, hailed the work as a genuinely Christian parable of suffering and redemption. “Rarely has a film expressed so completely its director's sense of the wonder, fantasy, surprise, and mystery in the simple lyrical moments of life” (Peter Bondanella). “For all its sentimentality, this overshadows virtually everything Fellini has made since La Dolce Vita ” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out ). B&W, 35mm, in Italian with English subtitles. 107 mins.
Thursday, July 5 – 9:20 pm
Friday, July 6 – 7:30 pm
Saturday, July 7 – 9:20 pm
Available at Videomatica

(Limited release Aug 3)
An episodic comedy, ten short pieces each riffing on one of the commandments. Not exactly Kieslowski or deMille, but it could be funny: tagline, “If He'd meant the commandments literally, He'd have written them in stone.” Cute. (The trailer features way too many body part gags – is this for grade eights or grown-ups? - but I still reckon I’ll give it a try.)

TOKYO STORY (Tokyo monogatari)
Japan 1953. Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Selected to all three editions of the A&F 100 list of Spiritually Significant Films, the quintessential work of Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, one of the three central subjects of Paul Schrader's seminal book "Transcendental Style In Film."
“One of the manifest miracles of the cinema” (Penelope Gilliatt, The New Yorker), Tokyo Story is generally acknowledged to be Ozu's supreme masterpiece, and widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. (It polled in the top five in the 1992 and 2002 instalments of Sight and Sound's once-a-decade survey of international critics; a 2005 piece by Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian cited a mounting body of opinion naming Tokyo Story as, indeed, the best film of all time, “beating Charles Foster Kane and his sled.”) A sad, simple, economical tale of generational conflict, told in the consummate Ozu style, the film concerns an aging couple who journey to Tokyo to visit their married son and daughter, only to find that their presence seems to be an imposition on their rather insensitive and apparently too-busy offspring. Tokyo Story offers a perfect example of the quality of mono no aware — a sad but serene resignation to life as it is — that informs Ozu's work. “Ozu's vision ... is emotionally overwhelming, and arguably profound for any engaged viewer; it is also formally unmatched in Western popular cinema” (Tony Rayns). “A picture so Japanese and at the same time so personal, and hence so universal in its appeal, that it becomes a masterpiece” (Donald Richie). B&W, 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. 135 mins.
Wednesday, July 11 – 7:00 pm
Thursday, July 12 – 9:35 pm
Friday, July 13 – 7:00 pm
Available at Videomatica

No comments: