Movie City Indie Archive for June, 2007

[LOOK] Ending Zabriskie Point (1970, ***)

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MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI’S ZABRISKIE POINT is often cited as one of the greatest follies made by a great filmmaker, but have any of those writers watched it lately? While its 1960s youth-culture-on-the-run-story, with echoes of Kent State (credited to Antonioni, Sam Shepard, Tonino Guerra and Claire Peploe) is often blunt and the acting wooden, it’s one of the most striking uses of light and space in a filmography built upon such concerns. Take the last scene alone, an explosive 10-minute fantasia of the end of consumerism. Sometimes I think it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, just for how it looks and sounds, and not even for any of its many meanings. You know Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry have seen it; there’s a shared understanding with Antonioni of objects and space, the concreteness of objects within not-fully occupied spaces. A character imagines a modernist house on a hill, and all its furnishings, exploding in extreme slow motion, detonating again and again. It maybe be one of the greatest fuck-you endings ever, but who’s the “fuck you” to? The audience in 1970? James Aubrey’s craven administration of MGM? The youth movement? Acquisitiveness itself? Narrative? Me when I saw it 22? You? Me watching it today? You seeing it this week? Someone who recalls their own flipbook of recollection of first exposure to images of fluttering destruction on 9/11? You can watch the closing scene here as well as the original trailer, “where a boy… and a girl…. meet… and touch… and blow their minds… Zabriskie Point… How you get there depends on where you’re at,” the amusingly dated promo goes. A folly, to be sure, but its photography, boldly colored and concrete, also borders on abstraction, a dislocated gaze upon practical and temporary things. Explosive. Cue the Floyd. [Ray Pride.] (Zabriskie Point shows at Siskel in Chicago June 29 at 6pm and July 1 at 3pm.)

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Indie returns Wednesday

Greens

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Andy Jones

Andy%20Jones3.jpgDavid Poland IM’ed me a few hours ago with the news that entertainment journalist Andy Jones died after a heart attack during a screening of A Mighty Heart at the Arclight last night. I let that soak in for a bit and just now read David’s quick appreciation of Jones. I don’t have much to say, except that whenever Andy and I crossed paths in the years I’ve known him, mostly in Los Angeles, it was always a pleasure to see this exuberant man walk into the room: he listened well, he laughed better. Gabby without cattiness, he flirted with the world like it deserved to be flirted with. It’s Friday night: I really wish I weren’t going to spend the rest of the evening thinking about how many of our acquaintances, friends, peers, get taken for granted. But they do. Dammit. [Poland’s 1999 nod to Jones and his influence is here.]

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Talking technique with Michael Winterbottom about A Mighty Heart (2007, ***)

MICHAEL WINTERBOTTOM’S FIFTEENTH OR SO FEATURE, with a reported $16 million budget, distributed by Paramount Vantage, the arthouse arm of the larger company, is a star vehicle for Angelina Jolie, but also not a star vehicle.
Drawn from the memoirs of Marianne Pearl, the widow of Wall Street Journal investigative staffer Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) who jolie_65478_7j58.jpgwas executed in 2002 after being kidnapped in Pakistan over his reportage and for being Jewish as well, A Mighty Heart allows Jolie to disappear into a buzz of fact and confusion, of investigation and concern and perplexity. Winterbottom likes to drop viewers into the midst of a world, like a restless documentarian might, and cleanly yet somewhat obliquely offer up all the information we need, as in recent pictures like the futurist fever dream of Code 43, (2003); the rock-show-and-sex 9 Songs (2004); the hybrid doc-fiction of The Road to Guantánamo (2006) and the refugee’s odyssey of the stunning In This World (2002). (He shares a knack for detail and instants of behavioral authenticity demonstrated through work with directors like Michael Mann: here is a world, do you see it?)
The 46-year-old Winterbottom started working with cinematographer-camera operator Marcel Zyskind with the guerilla shoot of In This World, and has worked with him on seven films since, largely with handheld DV cameras, including here. No rehearsals, masters or close-ups, just takes that mostly ran the length of a scene, shot mostly in natural light, in the sequence they happened historically from Pearl’s disappearance through the weeks of mystery after. Winterbottom claims not to even call action or set any sort of blocking marks for the camera, often guiding Zyskind by touches and grabs of the shirt.

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Portraits: Eagle Vs. Shark, You Kill Me, A Mighty Heart

Taika Waititi


Taika Waititi, director of Eagle Vs. Shark.


John Dahl

John Dahl, director of You Kill Me.

Michael Winterbottom


Michael Winterbottom, director of A Mighty Heart.


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Garrulous claptrap: Day Watch (2006, ** 1/2)

tarkovskian_607.jpg (Denevnoy dozor) With Day Watch, Russian writer-director Timur Bekmambetov accelerates the garrulous claptrap of the first entry in his post-Soviet vampire trilogy, Night Watch Imagine the carnage of the climax of Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces, but for over two hours. Imagine Moscow laid waste to destruction more nihilist than Roland Emmerich’s 1990s dreams of ruin like Independence Day. Bekmambetov’s visual and storytelling flourishes are beyond baroque, as furiously inventive as Guillermo del Toro, but with less control and lyricism. Yet this slab of magical miserablism, of moral and literal verdigris, also functions as synecdoche of sorts for Putin-era mayhem of a decaying, decadent society of grime, slime and cash, a time of authoritarian chaos that sees the wanton imprisonment and even murder of oligarchs, journalists and motley adversaries? The only answer: burn it to the ground, siege Moscow like a latter-day Leningrad. Another culture, another capitalism: it’s plain that the movie is very Russian, and surely holds more resonance back home with its growls, barks and muttering of dialogue, or the identity of famous guests at a party, and the relentless product placement. (A slightly more esoteric reference: the incomprehensible battle between the two vampire factions is adjudicated by a pair of Andrei Tarkovsky look-alikes who lean on canes with mirroring gestures.) While Bekmambetov repeats his oft-inspired, always amusing play with the English subtitles—a hard knock at a door causes a word to shake; when someone yells “Bastard!” while breaking a plate, the letters shatter—his willingness to be full-tilt incomprehensible may be his greatest strength. The end credit sequence is terrifically bold. (The Russian trailer is below.) [Ray Pride.]

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[LOOK] "Good Morning, America" correspondent attempts to explain what journalism is to Michael Moore



Didn’t anyone tell Michael Moore not to talk back to his betters? Bad Harvey! Bad.

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[LOOK] Cursing the darkness: re-ending The Sopranos



Somebody asked for it…

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[LOOK] Ain't that America for you and me? Tommy Chong vs. MSNBC



Somehow, this brief clip functions as self-critique: the best criticism of modern media is to display modern media. Is there a reason that cable news ratings are so low? What on earth did this woman expect this man to say to her? And: why was there live coverage of Paris Hilton being escorted to jail? This splitscreen image is pretty remarkable for its intense vacuity, suiting the segment anchor. “Did you smoke anything today?”

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[LOOK] The Marx Bros. in color



Twenty seconds of Technicolor behind the scenes of Animal Crackers. [Via Leonard Pierce at Screengrab.]

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Don't Stop -: About a cut

YOU KNOW SOMEONE’S BEEN THINKING when they manage to come up with a simple cut that surpasses anything you could do with the image itself, and with the inspired final scene of “The Sopranos,” is David Chase really the first person use Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” to create a parallel to Samuel Beckett’s novel, “The Unnameable”? Don't Stop.jpg(“Where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”) Heady stuff. I don’t get the television critics who are wailing this morning, like Mary McNamara in the L.A. Times and Charlie McCollum of the Mercury News. At least Heather Havrilesky, as you’d expect, has her shit together, in the best read I’ve seen, over at Salon. “Just like the rest of us. Going to hell in a red leather booth, with Journey playing in the background.” Not quite “And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” but fine nonetheless.

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Four Eyed Monsters (*** 1/2)

Not a review, but a link to Arin Crumley and Susan Buice’s sweet, restless, strangely charming movie, on YouTube for the rest of the week.


LOOK: Superbad and the red-band trailer



As the opening card of the trailer warns, Superbad has an R rating for “pervasive crude and sexual content, strong language, drinking, some drug use and a fantasy/comic violent image — all involving teens.” Consider yourself warned.

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Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

“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