Movie City Indie Archive for January, 2006

Smiling at The Science of Sleep

awww.jpgI like these three people standing on this street in Paris: Michel Gondry directs Charlotte Gainsbourg and Gael Garcia Bernal in dreamy Sundance treat Science of Sleep.

We'll have fun in my Trierhouse: Lars at IFC

LarsWorld.jpgindieWIRE reports on Lars Trier‘s iChat the other day at NYC’s IFC Center: “When asked about his experience as a guinea pig for IFC’s new technology, von Trier responded that it was nice to participate in the iQ&A from the basement of his own home, [except] for the actual discussion… “I hate talking to people.”

Sundance's biggest story…

hustle_200x150.jpg… on Tuesday morning may be a year and a day late and all about right now: Terrence Howard‘s nomination as Best Actor in Sundance 2005’s Hustle & Flow.

Brokebucks Mountain: BBM year's most profitable?

WSJ’s John Lippman tracks the marketing strategy of Brokeback Mountain: “I’m more proud of what we didn’t do with this film, as opposed to what we did do,” says James Schamus, co-president of Focus Features, explaining the contrarian marketing and distribution strategy behind the $14 million film…. How did “Brokeback” break out? By surgically targeting where the movie would play in its initial release; selling it as a romance for women rather than a controversial gay-bashing tale; and opting out of the culture wars rather than engaging them… “We will never turn the release of the film into a political circus act — ever,” says David Brooks, the studio’s president of marketing.” [More figures and facts at the link.]

Sundance on Ice: The Escape

Sundance Class of 96.jpgPACKING FOR SUNDANCE each year, I tote along a valuable guidebook about the history of the Sundance Festival’s hometown, called “Park City Underfoot.” I leave it on the coffee table of the condo, and no one ever consults it. The first draft of history is more urgent. Who needs backstory when there’s a hailstorm of privileged moments. Still, there’s a wealth of backstory in this mining town, not limited to the past 25 years of the festival or the last decade or so of exurban sprawl. Whenever I pass this cemetery on the edge of town, which is largely populated by children, I think of the movies and hopes and careers that have been interred at festivals past: call this portrait “Sundance Class of 96.”
Joseph Smith’s wilderness is easier to escape now, especially on Sunday morning on the way to the Salt Lake City airport (SLC, tagged on luggage parked in foyers, mud rooms and basements nationwide).
Joseph Smith's wilderness.jpg

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Sundance on Ice: 26 January

More images with another promise of words to come: the mind comes to bloggerheads with all the overlapping information about the same events, the same films, the same disappointments and the rare elation.
Outside the Racquet Club.jpg

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Sundance on Ice: 23 January

Layers and layers of information: thin what?

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Sundance on Ice: 22 January

After seeing the deeply disturbing, angry, vital doc The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends (by Patricia Foulkrod), about the abandonment of Iraq War veterans by the US government, I was hypnotized by the flag waving behind Cisero’s, at a pour for filmmakers and journalists. Nearby, Mexican director Carlos Reygada (Battle of Heaven) and his crew are conspiring in Spanish and Kirby Dick and Eddie Schmidt (This Film Is Not Yet Rated) are talking about censorship.

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Sundance on Ice: 21 January

Glimpses of the environment.
Main Street.jpg
The night clouds above the hills above Main Street and its fairy lights.

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Sundance on Ice: 20 January

THE CRICKETS ARE A-BLOGGING. Itineraries and hope-filled paragraphs are starting to litter the internet. If the five inches of snow threatened for Chicago doesn’t dump in the next three hours before my flight to Salt Lake City, I’ll join the chorus tomorrow afternoon. Sundance wasn’t in the cards for me until several weeks ago, and the wholehearted lack of expectations that came after giving up on it should be a small, healthy thing. Starting Saturday morning early with a new Canadian documentary on Leonard Cohen should set a grown-up mood for the rest of the festival. There’ll be notes here on Sundance and Slamdance movies, panels, interviews and party-parlay, as well as photographs, through to the bitter end.

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The ache of human impermanence: Manohla ♥ Terry; we ♥ Manohla

Q'orianka Kilcher2.jpgLyrical movies elicit lyrical writing: why aren’t we all this goddam good? Don’t know whether to be mad at or mad about Manohla Dargis when she writes this way on the daily film beat at NY Times, on The New World: “Birds and passion still soar in the latest version of The New World, Terrence Malick‘s rapturously beautiful [film]… Lovers of the film can rest easy; both theatrical versions are satisfying and devastating in equal measure. (It’s promised that the DVD will contain both the 135-minute version and a three-hour edit, bringing the number of director’s cuts to three.) Although I miss the drifty interludes in the longer edition that sweep us along in the dream, it’s also a relief that Colin Farrell no longer registers quite as much like a new age Hamlet—to be with Pocahontas or not to be. This Smith is slyer, cagier (watch his eyes) and much less of a moral question mark… In the 1950s, the young turks at Cahiers du Cinéma advanced an idea that cinema is not literature, but instead expresses itself visually through the mise-en-scène. The image of laundry hanging on a line or of a pair of empty shoes in a film by Yasujiro Ozu matters as much as the dialogue; those are no more decorative than the image of birds taking flight in The New World. The images don’t exist apart from the narrative; they are the narrative, adding layers and moods, imparting philosophies of life. In one film, the shoes convey a sense of profound loss, the ache of human impermanence; in the other, the birds speak to the idea that the world is not ours for the taking… Something I didn’t fully appreciate until [this second viewing] was how Mr. Malick uses physical space to contrast two separate world views. Indeed, the entire meaning of the film is conveyed in a single sublime edit that joins a shot of the grubby settlement as it looks from outside its walls—and framed inside an open door—with its mirror image. As the camera looks through the same door, this time pointed out, we see how the settlers would have viewed the beautiful wide world from inside a fort that was every bit as much a prison as their own consciousness.”

Breaking the Invisible Waves: Pen-ek Ratanaruang's new pic with Chris Doyle

asano in invisiblewaves.jpg At Bangkok Post, Kong Rithdee interviews director Pen-ek Ratanaruang about Invisible Waves, his latest collaboration with actor Asano Tadanobu and cinematographer Christopher Doyle. “The jet-lagged trance the director will have to endure” on his way to Berlin and back, writes Rithdee, “is is perhaps the same feeling his audience will have while watching Invisible Waves, Pen-ek’s darkest film to date. Its stark, mouldy look is a cushion to the story full of noirish twists and guilt-plagued characters… Once again, Pen-ek’s leading man is a Japanese chap lost in Southeast Asia’s subconscious terrain. Asano plays Kyoji, a Macau-based chef who flees to Hong Kong and Phuket on a mysteriously deserted cruise ship after he’s murdered his Thai boss’s mistress. On the ship he meets a half-Thai, half-Korean woman… and runs into a jolly hitman sent to whack him. Kyoji first wanders the labyrinthine bowels of the ship, then gets stuck in an old Phuket hotel before his final destiny is decided once and for all.” Says Pen-ek, “I didn’t mean it as a continuation [of Last Life in the Universe], but… I’ve had the same team… back to work with me—Asano and Chris Doyle especially —we feel like we’ve already started something together and we should go on doing it… I thought we all could improve what we did in our previous effort…. Everything I do is inevitably an experiment… I have no intention of setting myself on a course to making darker pictures. Many depressing things happened to me around the time I tried to get this movie made. I had the script ready, but the process of financing it and trying to get all the diverse elements together was so complicated. My love life, too, wasn’t exactly satisfying to say the least! I guess all these things were channelled into the tone of the movie. I didn’t mean to make a dark film, but if it turns out to be one, then that’s what it is… It’s a story of self-punishment. I was thinking a lot about guilt, maybe because I felt guilty all the time. As a director, you’re trained to be selfish person, since everybody has the job of satisfying your demands – to give you the script you need, the location you want, the image you have in your head. But at a certain point, I felt wrong about it all. And then I realised I was shouldering all this guilt. Perhaps the story in the film, about this man who feels guilty for the crime he’s forced to commit, says something about my state of mind too…. I’ve been travelling a lot and I have a lot of friends in different countries who speak different languages. When my film is shown in Thailand, there are people who like it and who don’t like it. When my film is shown in, say, Bolivia and Somalia, there are people who like it and who don’t like it. I’ve had less belief in race or nationality, in the colour of your eyes or the language you speak. So, for me it’s easier to classify humankind not according to countries but to taste, and more than ever people with the same taste in movies, music or books feel they belong to the same race.”

Prelude to a rave: Mick LaSalle's New World

coo world.jpgAnother loving review trying to make words from the images of The New World, by Mick LaSalle in SF Chronicle: “In those first moments, Malick realistically depicts the colonists’ arrival and creates a wistful dream of it, a dream in which we know everything that is to come. He shows us a moment of greatness, of incalculable historical importance, and also of tragedy—for the Indians who stand there in complete innocence. This is the beginning of everything and the end of everything, and to see it all so distinctly, presented with such a full-hearted understanding of the event in all its meaning, is almost too much to bear. There will be people who will walk into this film cold and within five minutes find themselves sobbing, without quite knowing why… Frankly, I find it impossible to imagine how Malick made this movie, how he saw it in his head, how he put it together, how he dared hope he could succeed artistically. How did he know that when he put this film together it would even make sense? It’s rare in commercial cinema for a director to go this far out, to that no-man’s land that Hemingway described. It’s yet more rare for one to come back with something this beautiful.” [Trailer here.]

Masters of Horror and Miike's stillborn Imprint

miike-size.jpg Where Showtime’s “Masters of Horror” series let Joe Dante work blunt political burlesque with Homecoming, whose final cut would lead them to finally dropping an episode scheduled for January 27? Why, Miike-san, of course. Reports Dave Kehr in the NY Times, Imprint, directed by Takashi Miike on his Japanese stomping grounds rather than in Vancouver, the twelfth of 13 episodes was thrown out. Why? Dead fetuses. Showtime’s scrubbed it from its site, and roduction company IDT Entertainment, contrary to the Times report, has also deleted the trailer from its own site. “I think it’s amazing, but it’s even hard for me to watch,” said Mick Garris… creator and executive producer… “It’s definitely the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen.” imprint.jpg It will now be released directly to the DVD market through IDT’s home video subsidiary, Anchor Bay Entertainment, along with the rest of the episodes in the series… “Definitely, at the script stage we made comments about the aborted fetuses,” Mr. Garris said. “We made it clear that we were going on American pay cable television, and even though there wasn’t as much control over content, there still were concerns. And then when we got the first cut, it was very, very strong stuff, and we made some suggestions on what might help before we showed it to Showtime. The Japanese made the changes they were comfortable with, and eventually we arrived at a film that he was happy with and we’re all happy with. But Showtime felt it was not something they were comfortable putting out on the airwaves… It is what it is… It really was, let’s try and not hack this up.”

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Sundance songline dreamtime: Dargis begets

talent-tub.jpg On the ride up the hill on one or other public conveyance to Park City from SLC, Manohla Dargis takes the Times to perspect past Sundance toward future pix: “You may catch up with these films later on DVD, but where is the fun—the collective experience, the images bigger than life—in that? All of which is a roundabout and admittedly grudging way of saying that despite the hype and the frigid climes Sundance remains invaluable—wildly annoying, but invaluable. The American independent film movement may be a fiction, but it is the fiction we now live by… Every year Sundance programmers unearth work that is aesthetically and sometimes even politically venturesome—work that is truly independent in the best, most unburdened sense of that oft-abused word. [In 2005], some of the most thought-provoking, soul-stirring films at the festival remained lamentably under the radar, including Robinson Devor’s Police Beat, Travis Wilkerson’s Who Killed Cock Robin?… and Andrew Wagner’s Talent Given Us [pictured]. Sundance had them even if not everyone noticed. Mr. Wagner went on to distribute his film himself; the rest remain without distribution. Here is hoping that one day you get the chance to see them too.” (Sweet.)

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin