Movie City Indie Archive for September, 2005
The Taipei Times offers a little recondite spice about local movie figures: “The onscreen and offscreen romance between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie while shooting Mr. and Mrs. Smith has been copied Chinese style. Shu Qi (舒淇) and Chang Chen (張震) of Three Times (最好的時光) by Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) reportedly moved in together during the shooting of the film. Both parties denied the rumor, but left a space for maneuver by saying they didn’t rule out the possibility of being together in the future. Gossipmongers view the news as a good example of the tried and tested publicity stunt. But for Hou, at least, it’s a giant step forward as now he knows entertainment gossip can add marketability to even arthouse films.”
Daniel Neman of the Richmond Times Dispatch saw a different A History of Violence than some of us did; he’s irritated to the max by the tasty minimalism. Neman reviews Cronenberg’s sleek stunner as “a cheap movie, cheaply filmed and cheaply made. And the editing leaves a lot to be desired, too… David Cronenberg ought to know better, but it is clear that he is working with too little money and too little script. [This] shows up plainest in the horrendous digital video photography, in which everyone is cast in a sickly light and looks nauseous. [Cinematographer Peter Suschitzky shot on film with a lovely, pale palette.] The problem with the story is clear when we consider all the filler used just to stretch the movie to an hour and a half… Cronenberg does not help matters by shooting the film so deadpan, so quietly, that it seems slow and uninteresting. The calm is punctuated by occasional bursts of violence and the disgusting special effects that follow them, but they don’t help… It is obvious where Cronenberg’s interest picks up, though it is only in a few places. A couple of sex scenes are raunchy, and it is unusual to see raunchy sex among married couples in the movies these days… He clearly revels in the scenes of blood and gore, though each one looks rather like the others… What doesn’t interest him or the writer is the ending. The [ending] feels like it was written by a committee that jettisoned logic and character motivation just for the sake of ending. The filmmakers want it to end, so it ends.” [For the record, Cronenberg has told interviewers, including yr. correspondent, that the final scene was one of his key demands to New Line, which readily acceded to his choice.]
No quotes pop out at me, but for those so inclined, Oregonian freelancer M. E. Russell transcribes all 67 minutes of his gab-a-thon with Joss Whedon�.
Upon the Criterion Collection release of Masculin-Feminin, here’s a patch from a Gothamist interview with Bruce Goldstein, partner in distrib Rialto Pictures and repertory director of New York’s indispensable Film Forum. Rialto distributed M/F and Goldstein says, “These prints are very expensive. The prints in a movie theater, like a Loews Cineplex—for example a film like Million Dollar Baby… they’re probably no more than $1500 a print because they mass produce them. They make something like 3000, and the prints are fairly cheap. The print of Masculin Feminin, I don’t mind telling you, is $6000. For a small company, that’s a huge investment. And if you make five prints that’s $30,000. If you make 10 it’s $60,000. Even these new studio restorations, they are not mass-produced. They make one or two. A big studio like Warner Bros. or Sony, they may make like five. The audience is still fairly niche-y. Although now all the studios have arms that deal with classic films, and that’s a great thing.” Of what movies he watches, Goldstein notes, “I watch more movies that I program than I ever did before because my memory of films is fading. And it’s always great to watch movies you haven’t seen in a long time — to see them again with a fresh more sophisticated eye. I do try to watch a lot of old films that I’m programming, but even more than that, I prescreen prints for quality. We send things back all the time.”
Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher, examines Bob Dylan’s prickly relationship with reporters in Scorsese’s No Direction Home: “Dylan has always had a combative relationship with the media, and wrote one of the most scathing and, arguably, most influential attacks on the press in modern times, “Ballad of Thin Man.” That song holds that memorable refrain: “Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?” … The Scorsese film shows plenty of evidence of why Dylan turned off to the press long ago. Along with many of his fans, they just didn’t “get” him… “You don’t sing protest songs anymore,” a reporter asks. “All my songs are protest songs,” Dylan replies evenly. “All I do is protest.”
In the Voice, a week after a cover package touting David Cronenberg as the paper’s historically best-reviewed auteur father, Noam Baumbach, son of former Village Voice reviewer Georgia Brown (and Mr. Jennifer Jason Leigh) is anointed as the best kid on the block for his magnificent short story The Squid and the Whale. Former Voice intern Rob Nelson makes a case for mom’s critical savvy>;
Jim Hoberman offers a long caveat on why he’s even reviewing the film: “Full disclosure: If I hadn’t liked The Squid and the Whale so much, I might have begged off reviewing. For, while I have only the slightest personal acquaintance with the filmmaker, I do know his brother, his father, and particularly, his mother, former Voice movie critic Georgia Brown. From this privileged position, the movie is, of course, additionally fascinating—albeit not so much for what the filmmaker reveals about his family but how he chooses to represent them. Janet Malcolm opened her infamous screed “The Journalist and the Murderer “by observing that “every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.” But isn’t this true of any writer who takes people’s lives as grist for her mill? I don’t necessarily recognize Baumbach’s actual family in [his movie] but I do recognize the artist’s ruthlessness—and the degree to which he’s been true to their aesthetic family values.” And Jessica Winter listens to Baumbach: “The director grew up in a household of voluble cinephiles. “My dad [Jonathan Baumbach] had been a film critic for the Partisan Review, but when I was younger and not aware of those kinds of things. Then my mom started reviewing around the time I was finishing high school and starting college, and I was so excited—I felt like the family finally had a mouthpiece, that she could write about all the stuff we’d been discussing for all these years. What interested me about my mom’s film criticism was that she really valued an emotional reaction to a movie… I feel that with this movie I learned the value of an emotional approach to filmmaking. I made an emotional movie about intellectuals.”
The Age reports from the Aussie premiere of Nick Cave’s The Proposition: “Directed by John Hillcoat, [it's] set in the 1880s in a fictional town and was shot in Winton in rural Queensland. The Australian western, starring Guy Pearce, Danny Huston, Ray Winstone and Emily Watson, tells the story of three brothers on the run from the law. Reviews have described the film as “dark and bloody”. “Is dark bad?” Cave asked. “It’s a sad film and it’s a violent film and I guess in some respects that’s what I do.” Cave indicated he would be keen to work with Hillcoat again, saying he had already written another script. “We have got another thing up and running But I can’t talk about that. If Johnny wants me to write more for him I will but I’m a musician. This is my kind of other job.”
A two-liner via the VVoice’s Michael Musto: “In a love-apalooza straight out of the art house circuit, MIKE MILLS (Thumbsucker‘s writer-director) is dating MIRANDA JULY (Me and You and Everyone We Know‘s writer-director-star). If there’s a baby, they should name it Angelika IFC Sunshine.”
Screenwriter Josh Friedman tells his version of the legendary Emily Rose pitch meeting: ” There’s only one pitch I’ve ever heard of that I wish I would have done. My friends Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman wrote The Exorcism of Emily Rose… The movie is based on a true case which occurred in Germany around 1970. While researching another project, Paul and Scott were given an audio tape by a NYC police detective who investigated the occult. When he gave it to them he said: “I don’t even know if I should give this to you. I truly believe playing this tape is dangerous.” And what’s on the tape? THE RECORDING OF THE REAL EMILY ROSE’S EXORCISM FROM 30 YEARS AGO. [This tape] inspired them to write the movie. And it was this tape that helped them sell the project. Because what did they do? …They did what you and I would hope we’d do if we were in their position. They’d take that scary-ass tape from studio to studio and play it for people. The way I understood it went…: Scott and Paul would go into the room, do their pitch, and then pull out the tape recorder and some headphones. One of them would say: “There are those that believe just playing this tape invites darkness into our lives.” Then the curious exec would put on the headphones, thus drowning out all other EARTHLY AND NORMAL noise.Then they’d press play… From what I understand the tape is ABSOLUTELY THE MOST TERRIFYING THING YOU’VE EVER HEARD and consists of a girl DYING while screaming in German at two priests attempting to pull SIX DEMONS from her body. Then Scott and Paul would leave.”
The NY Times has a long Paris dispatch on the perils of consorting with penguins: “The long journey to create and sell the film March of the Penguins was as pitiless as the ice-desert migration of the emperor penguins that waddled to cinematic triumph…
The French company that produced the movie struggled to avoid bankruptcy while the film was being made and confronted near disaster when its 2 cameramen were trapped in a deadly Antarctic blizzard… “I always kept the image in my mind of the long march and the struggle to survive,” said Yves Darondeau, 40, one of three partners in Bonne Pioche. “Like the emperor penguin, we huddled together for warmth. It was extremely difficult, complicated, risky and full of anguish.” … The new-found popularity [of docs] has given filmmakers more confidence about the future, but financing remains elusive. One reason for optimism is the rapid development of new digital movie networks in many countries; they are intended to nurture specialty markets and slash film printing costs – an expense that has long stymied distributors and filmmakers. The networks, supported by a mix of public and private money, basically supply heavily subsidized digital projectors to theaters to entice exhibitors to show documentaries and non-Hollywood fare.” [More tick-and-tock at the link.]
[Publicity photo: Jérôme Maison/Bonne Pioche Productions/Alliance de Production Cinématographique]
There’s a belated interview with Andrew Niccol about research and politics, over at the Pride, Unprejudiced blog.
Athens News’ Angelike Contis reports on the revamped Thessaloniki International Film Festival, the November Greek event considered over the past decade by many observers to be one of Europe’s most important, in a new formation after a spring shake-up.
At an Athens press conference, new director Despoina Mouzaki (replacing longtime head Michel Demopoulos) described the revamped event as “more condensed.” The important International Competition will continue, along with tributes to South Korea’s Kim Ji Woon (The Quiet Family) and Park Chan-wook (known for his “Vengeance” trilogy), as well as Taiwanese poetic minimalist Hou Hsiao Hsien Japan’s yakuza king Seijun Suzuki. The festival has retained its Balkan Survey, and there will be peeks at the Mexican film tradition and the latest Danish and Irish films. Honorees of those offering masterclasses include Michael Winterbottom, Patrice Chereau, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and production designer Alex McDowell. However, the vital New Horizons section founded by Dimitris Eipides will be replaced by a category called “Independence Days” for films from around the world. At the conference, Contis reports, “It’s a festival of new creators and new creations,” noted Greek-French actor Georges Corraface, the festival’s new president, who replaced Pantelis Voulgaris, who replaced Theo Angelopoulos, all in a matter of months….With regard to local film, Mouzaki (who is also a film producer) said, “A festival can’t solve the problems of a national cinema, but it can showcase talent.” (The dismissed Angeloupolos was out talking to students, Katherimerini reports: “The young filmmakers asked Angelopoulos [about digital and other new formats]. “We see a film through our own eyes, which are our internal gaze… If we manage to communicate, then that is a small miracle. That is the only reason I love movie theaters.” As for the Festival who no longer wanted him, the veteran director says, “I cannot accept the compromise that the Thessaloniki Film School has turned into. In my opinion it is a mistake, caused by the previous and the current governments.” [Photo of the Olympion Theatre interior by Ray Pride.]
In the Oregonian, cricket Shawn Levy blogs the critical slog, being kind enough to omit meals, daydreams and tummyaches:
“What Do You Do For a Living? Part I
So it’s about 5:15 pm on Monday and I’m slowing down a little. Here’s what I’ve done so far today in my capacity as film critic: 1) Written  items to run inside of the Living section during the week, one recapping [a] just-concluded… Festival, the other previewing a show… by local filmmakers Bill Daniel and Vanessa Renwick. About 600 words total. 2) Written two full-length film reviews for Friday… The Greatest Game Ever Played and Thumbsucker. About 1400 words total. 3) Began work on my Sunday feature story… About 800 words so far, with another 1500 or so to come. 4) Did planning for… issues of Oct. 7 and 14; answered e-mails and telephone calls from readers, publicists and colleagues; conferred with a couple of editors about the workload for the rest of the week and a few little problems that arose. 5) And, of course, produced a couple of entries for this blog. Right now, I’ve got about a half hour before I need to go across town for a screening of Serenity. I should be home by, I don’t know, 9:30 — on a day when I began writing at about 6:30 And tomorrow is the real crunch day this week….
What Do You Do For a Living? Part II
It’s Tuesday at 4-ish pm. Thus far today, I’ve 1) Finished my Sunday feature story… adding about 1600 words to yesterday’s 800. 2) Written the first half of a review of Serenity for Friday… About 400 words. 3) Transcribed the tapes of two interviews that I conducted back in January at the Sundance Film Festival with the star and director of Thumbsucker.” (I hate transcribing more than any other part of my job and maybe my life: not only is it time-consuming—about 75 minutes to transcribe 25 minutes of tape—but I have to listen to my own donkey voice asking questions in the most idiotic fashion and ignoring obvious follow-ups.) About 1500 words. 4) Seen the new Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley. 5) The usual e-mails, phone calls and check-ins with publicists, freelancers, colleagues and editors. In about two hours, I’m off to see another adaptation of a nineteenth century classic, the new Oliver Twist, which was directed by Roman Polanski. Again, pretty much constantly going from 6:30 am to 9:30 pm.
Tomorrow I catch a break, though….”
In the Boston Globe, English prof Alan Jacobs recaps the life of screenwriter and film cricket James Agee on the occasion of the publication of 2 volumes of his work in the Library of America, edited by Michael Sragow: “50 years ago… James Agee’s heart stopped in a Manhattan taxicab as he was on the way to a doctor’s office. He was only 44, but had already suffered several heart attacks. Despite his illness, he had managed to all but finish his novel, ”A Death in the Family,” in which he recreated the inner world of a 6-year-old boy whose father dies suddenly, just as Agee’s own had done. The book would be published in 1957; it won the Pulitzer Prize. Even among the remarkable characters of the New York intellectual scene of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, Agee’s energy and charm made him extraordinary. Not even the heart attacks had slowed the pace of his drinking, smoking, talking, or womanizing. Walker Evans, the photographer with whom Agee collaborated as a young man, would remember him as one who’worked in what looked like a rush and a rage, and as one whose ability to win the trust of others was worrying—or would have been, except that for Agee ”human beings were at least possibly immortal and literally sacred souls.” [More nice detail at the link.]
The Age has a histoire of David Cronenberg: “People are saying, are you feeling the love now for History of Violence, and I say, ‘Yeah,’ and that’s a scary thing, because it could get addictive… I don’t think it’s a good thing, really, for a filmmaker or an artist of any kind to only want to be appreciated or loved. It’s if you start chasing that, then I think you’ve destroyed yourself.” A larger budget, he says, “also meant I was going to get paid, which I wasn’t with Spider, so that was good… But that wouldn’t be enough. There were a lot of projects I could have done which I would have gotten paid for, but they just didn’t interest me. The rule of thumb is, OK, it’s the middle of winter, you’re either shooting or editing it. Are you exhilarated or are you going to be suicidal? If you’re going to be suicidal, don’t do it, because you’re going to have to live with it at least a year and a half, probably two years, so you better love it. You just better be passionate about it.”