Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Screening Gotham: Sept. 22-24, 2006


A few of this week’s worthwhile cinematic goings-on around New York:
–I would like to think that there is such a thing as Reeler Karma, and that it blesses all of those who have ever contributedto or simply been kind to this blog. So when I heard about one-time guest writer Josh Horowitz’s Q&A with filmmaker Neil LaBute(right) tonight at the Astor Place Barnes and Noble, I thought, “There you go, score another one for Reeler Karma.” In actuality, though, Horowitz interviewed LaBute and something like 30 other filmmakers for his book The Mind of the Modern Moviemaker, so really, I got nothing. On the other hand, LaBute has never written here, and you can bet the Wicker Man second-guessing will be shattered-glass shrill. So who knows? The point is that you should go check out the discussion this evening at 7. We can figure out this karma business later.
–Call me contrarian, but I would like to go against conventional critical wisdom this weekend in recommending you check out All the King’s Men and avoid Old Joy. Neither film is especially bad nor especially good, but each lists farther than they desrve to either side of the hype spectrum. King’s Men, adapted by Steven Zaillian from Robert Penn Warren’s classic novel, takes its dueling meditations on idealism and power far too seriously (composer James Horner’s “soaring” score induces diabetic shock in people over 55) yet eventually comes into its own as kind of a fascinating, beautiful, A-list accident. Sean Penn is hammy but serviceable; Jude Law is better than anyone wants to admit, lest they lose ground in the tastemaking circle jerk of Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a tad difficult to follow, but hardly difficult to enjoy.
–Not so for Kelly Reichardt’s latest, Old Joy, which has left hard-to-remove come stains on seats at Sundance, New Directors/New Films and now in limited release at Film Forum. Daniel London and Will Oldham star as Mark and Kurt, longtime friends who pair up for a weekend in the woods only to discover they have nothing in common. In her readings of landscape and faces, Reichardt captures spatial and structural dynamics that her story just cannot support; even at 76 minutes, the film exhausts its premise and tension less than halfway through. Anyway, Yo La Tengo will join Reichardt to discuss the film after tonight’s 8:15 screening, which is sold out online but might have a ticket or two remining at the box office if you go down there, like, an hour ago. Trust me–you can wait.
Richard Sandler‘s documentary work arrives in Williamsburg this weekend, with five of his films–often shot over the stretches of years or even decades–screening until Sept. 27 at Monkey Town. The Guggenheim Fellowship-winning work includes the street-preacher portrait The Gods of Times Square, the subway chronicle Sway and Sandler’s 12-years-in-the-making glimpse at East Village gentrification, Brave New York. Programs run nightly at 7:30 and 10:30.

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas