MCN Columnists
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Pride’s Friday 5 (July 6, 2012)

1. Margaret


So: Margaret. A couple reviewers out east have tweeted camera-phone pictures of shiny new Blu-Rays. I’ll have to wait until Tuesday’s street date for the package “available exclusively at Amazon for a limited time.” As the press release put it, “the two-disc Blu-ray set includes the theatrical version as well as a bonus DVD featuring the never-before-seen extended cut.” So what is this 3:06:12 DVD cut? Is it a finished, fully sound-mixed version prepared by Lonergan as a first assembly? A third, a tenth? The reputed Schoonmaker-Scorsese cut? Will the big third-act moral turn cut from the theatrical version have the punch it has in the 185-page script? The recent Sunday New York Times Magazine article judiciously sidestepped small details as if the writer were also under legal injunction from speaking. Fox Searchlight has organized free showings of the extended version in New York and Los Angeles; Lonergan may finally be able to define the differences himself at the July 9 screening at the Sunshine, sponsored by indieWIRE as a first-come, first-served free-for-all.

Next week, then: “The profusion of life, of life in Manhattan post-9/11, of life that eddies in all directions, is novelistic in ambition, Dickensian in a welter of cracked legalisms. Paquin brandishes a bravura performance—shrill, feral, emphatic, self-dramatizing, self-cautioning, self-aware, self-immolating—that is like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Available Tuesday, July 10, only from Amazon.

2. The Battle of Algiers

Honoring the fiftieth anniversary of Algerian independence, the great Battle of Algiers is showing this week in New York and Los Angeles. Not only have filmmakers that came after learned from Gillo Pontecorvo‘s documentary-styled study of  violence, but politicos think they have as well, as this BBC talkfest suggests.

And only if you’ve seen the movie, and aren’t seeing it again any time soon, a link to the masterful tension of the bombings sequence (6’01”).

Film Forum, NYC, Friday, July 6 – Thursday, July 12.  The trailer and a ton of cogent links are at FF’s Now Showing page.  New Beverly, Los Angeles, July 6 and July 7.

2. China Heavyweight

Yang Chung‘s terrific second feature, China Heavyweight, opens Friday, July 6 at IFC Center in NYC. I want to enjoy it a second time before writing about it at any length. It’s a worthy successor to Up The Yangtze. Synopsis from the press release: “Chang follows the charismatic Qi Moxiang, a former boxing star and state coach who recruits young fighting talent from the impoverished farms and villages across Sichuan province. A select few boys (and girls) are sent to national training centers, with the hope of discovering China’s next Olympic heroes. But will these potential boxing champions leave it all behind to be the next Mike Tyson? Their rigorous training, teenage trials and family tribulations are expertly intertwined with Coach Qi’s own desire to get back in the ring for one more shot at victory.”

3. The Overlook Hotel

Lee Unkrich brought us Toy Story 3. He also maintains an exhaustive Tumblr account of all things The Shining: Kubrick minutiae in glorious excess.


5. Contempt

In Jean-Luc Godard‘s 1963 masterpiece, Michel Piccoli plays Paul Javal, a playwright who needs money, and producer Prokosch is embodied by Jack Palance, that heavy among heavies, waving a packet of cash in Paul’s direction to doctor a script of the Odyssey that is to be directed by Fritz Lang. “I like gods,” Palance purrs, “I like them very much.” Paul has a beautiful young wife, Camille, played with momentous petulance by Brigitte Bardot. Paul asks whether he should write the script. Camille tells him it’s fine. Later she feels he hasn’t shown enough concern when Prokosch has been forward with her. No matter what Paul does, it will not be enough. Camille seizes on excuses, any excuses, to dismiss Paul’s adoration. She remembers the love she once thought they had: “Everything used to happen instinctively, in complicitous ecstasy.” For a good third of the movie, the couple bicker, contradict, cut at each other in their brightly colored, unfinished apartment. The world is reduced to Paul and Camille. Man and Woman. The furniture is as bold, as blunt as sculpture. A cerulean chair, a sunflower-colored throw, a red couch. Statues. Bardot. Her body rebukes the viewer, Paul. “Do you love my breasts, my eyes, my knees?” she asks, as the camera, transfixed, goes beyond objectification into blunt fetish. “I love you totally, terribly, tragically,” is all Paul, smitten, ever-equivocating, can tell her. At the end, the camera looks out onto the ocean, the horizon. Limitless possibility or infinite distance? The space between you and I, the space between a man, a woman. The sparkling azure of the sea is the crashing gulf between them. It is unfathomably huge. Contempt is the most tragic, piercing, hopeless of modern love stories. Youth, beauty, cinema—they will damage you. In his screenplay, Godard wrote, “In contrast to Paul, her husband, who always acts on the strength of a complicated series of rationalizations, Camille acts nonpsychologically… Though one might wonder about her, as Paul does, she never wonders about herself. She lives full and simple sentiments, and cannot imagine being able to analyze them.” And in an interview he elaborated, “Perhaps it is better not to understand too much.”

At LACMA in Los Angeles, Friday, July 6.  Also on Blu-Ray.

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“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster