Thursday, September 30, 2010

soul food digest | film comment | july/august 2010

Gleanings from the summer Film Comment, mostly of Soul Food or VIFF interest...

Brace yourself. Two radical innovations are in store for those who follow the Dardenne Brothers: an actor with a resume, and a child protagonist. The as-yet-untitled feature, scheduled to shoot in August, tells the hard-luck story of Cyrus, and 11-year-old boy abandoned at a shelter by his father. He escapes his caretakers, tries to return home, and winds up in the dubious care of a young woman (Cecile de France). France has worked with Cedric Klapisch and Claude Miller, and will soon be seen in Clint Eastwood's Hereafter. (6)

Variety is gaga about its 'pre-buy,' not to mention the 'provisional advance subsidy at screenplay stage,' but FC's more excited about the totally twisted Judeo-Christian miracle taking place in the woods of Northern France. It all comes together under the umbrella of L'Empire, the new film from Bruno Dumont, he of such deeply religious films as The Life Of Jesus and Hadewijch. (8)

critics choice (total stars / # critics = avg stars)
Winter's Bone                27 / 7 = 3.86
The Kids Are All Right 30 / 8 = 3.75
Animal Kingdom           14 / 4 = 3.5
Sex & The City 2             5 / 6 = 0.83

Triumph and Disaster: Dennis Hopper reveals the most important things in life
by Michael Almereyda
It was still early, during our first day of shooting, when he took me aside for a kind of Polonius moment.
"The most important thing in movies," he confided, "is timing."
A pause, then: "Timing and lighting, actually."
Another pause, then he corrected himself: "The most important things in life are timing and lighting."
Without examining it too closely, I still believe this statement to be unmistakably true.

No Beast So Fierce: David Michod leads a new pack of Australian filmmakers with Animal Kingdom
by Laura Kern
For the entire duration the sense of unease is relentless, the nerve-wracking sound design and use of slow motion impeccable. Seldom is a debut feature handled with such assurance and intelligence. It's no wonder the film walked away with the World Cinema Jury Prize at Sundance this year. . . . a founding member of Bulue-Tongue Films, a collective of young, primarily Aussie talent who work in music videos, shorts, and features. Not since Peter Weir broke through in the late seventies(along with his contemporaries in the so-called Australian New Wave) has the country produced a filmmaker with as much promise as Michod. The Blue-Tonguers could now be appropriately labeled the Next New Wave. . . . They share with him a dark outlook and a penchant for relatively innocent lead characters who find themselves in way over their heads.
Within most everything Michod writes, a pessimistic view of family pervades, always from the perspective of young protagonists from broken homes whose parents are numbe, sadistic, useless (the stunning 2007 short Crossbow, stylistically the closest to Animal Kingdom), or zombies. It's surprising to learn then that Michod actually had a perfectly agreeable upbringing.
In terms of sheer potential, Michod is currently unrivaled.

Jonathan Romney on Valhalla Rising
Graphic violence notwithstanding, the film is an unrelentingly downbeat mystical odyssey, like a Dark Ages variation on Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, with desolate echoes of the moods and landscapes of Andrei Rublev, Aguirre Wrath Of God, and The New World.
Set around 1000 A.D., the film begins in a windlblown mountain landscape, where a mute muscleman...kills his Viking captors and wanders away, a mouse-faced young boy tagging along as his protege and interpreter. The pair join up with a group of Christian warriors on a crusade to the Holy Land - but their fog-shrouded sea voyage takes them to a different New World altogether.

The Living and the Dead
A great article by Paul Brunick debunking the print journalism vs movie blogger feud.  "For many of us, the practice of film criticism is more exciting today than it has been in decades.  Yes, really...."

See VIFF notes for Cannes Festival observations by Scott Foundas, Gavin Smith, Kent Jones;
Of Gods And Men
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami)
Another Year (Mike Leigh)
Princess of Montpensier (Bertrand Tavernier)
Carlos (Olivier Assayas)
Biutiful (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
Dear Prudence (Rebecca Zlotowski)

Gavin Smith mentions a "digitally revitalized" version of Visconti's The Leopard (1963) which was screened at Cannes. One to watch for.  He also references Gust Van den Berghe's Little Baby Jesus of Flanders, "starring a trio with Down syndrome," which he dismisses as a "dead-end stunt."

Dave Kehr reviews The Law (1959, Jules Dassin, France/Italy), "a sweeping social allegory set in a fishing village on the coast of Publia - a version of the primordial, elemental Italy familiar to filmgoers from Luchino Visconti's La terra trema and Roberto Rossellini's Stromboli. . . .  The novel was a bitter fable about the impossibility of real social change... Instead, the film becomes a sort of Mediterranean Peyton Place, full of campy star turns, melodramatic confrontations, and relentless moralism. ("If Billy Graham were a filmmaker," wrote Jean-Luc Godard in his withering review in Cahiers du cinema, "he would doubtless be called Jules Dassin."). . . "

And the Home Movies section's Asian Pick is the Kim Dong Won Collection. "This new four-disc set collects 14 documentary works of varying quality, from a rare early short about baptism that telegraphs the place of Catholicism in his compassionate engagement, to his wrenching visitation with World War II "comfort women," 63 Years On (2008)."

Most fascinating, Paul Schrader reviews filmmaker Paul Verhoeven's book "Jesus Of Nazareth." It begins
In 1985 I was on a panel at the Ghent Film Festival with Paul Verhoeven and Paul Cox. The idea was to put three Pauls of Dutch descent from different continents together and see what they had in common. At the time, it seemed that we had nothing in common. / As it turned out, Verhoeven and I had more in common than we knew. I had completed the script for The Last Temptation of Christ - and was researching a script on Saint Paul. That same year, Verhoeven moved to Los Angeles and began research on a film about the life of Jesus...
I hope to transcribe more of Schrader's review in a separate post.

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