“JUST BECAUSE I DON’T AGREE WITH YOU DOESN’T MEAN IT’S NOT TRUE.”That’s the memorable way Noah Baumbach responds to a journalist who offered up an interpretation darker than what’s on screen in his relentless, tragicomic study of emotional breakdown among the literary class in Margot at the Wedding. As thinking-out-loud that sounds as written as can be, not precisely a put-down, but a musing of precision, discomfiting, just shy of disdain, it captures the tone of his written dialogue as well.
The 38-year-old writer-director’s fifth feature, coming after The Squid and the Whale, follows in terse, cutting strokes a short story writer Margot Zeller (Nicole Kidman) with teenage son, Claude (Zane Pais) in tow to the wedding of her estranged sister, Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Baumbach’s wife) at the East Coast island home given to Pauline by their mother. The décor of the remote, unspecified locale looks as if mom had deserted the place 30 years ago; Baumbach and cinematographer Harris Savides (Zodiac,American Gangster) also work with less-sharp 1970s-era lenses, giving Margot an additional element out of time. (Pauline’s fiancée, Malcolm, is played with self-suffocating wit by Jack Black.)
Margot’s in the midst of a breakdown, more terrifying than comic, running from a failed marriage, hiding her affair with an older man (Ciaran Hinds) who’s also her writing partner, and she leaps from irritation to cruelty in a blink. How do intelligent people deal with unintelligent behavior in their midst? Badly, for the most part, but Baumbach observes his characters with ruthless economy. Brief scenes are sketched from the perspective of the characters: there’s a beguiling subjectivity in how events are shaped, including those involving less-well-off neighbors who see a tree on the shared property line—a bold and blunt metaphor—as a purveyor of rot. The Zellers, old and young alike, are less judgmental than fearful of them, of anything that can be an Other. (There is a shockingly tender moment near the end between two members of that clan that underlines this.) This also suits the motifs of eavesdropping and inappropriate confidences: what is the subjective (mis-)perception at that moment?
AFP reports that Jean-Luc Godard had producing in his instincts early on,
>resorting to crime. “French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard has confessed that he stole money to finance his films in an interview with a German newspaper.. “”I had no choice. Or at least it seemed that way to me. I even stole money from my family to give to Rivette for his first film. I pinched money to be able to see films and to make films,” he told Die Zeit weekly… Godard, 76, is due to receive a lifetime achievement award from the European Film Academy in Berlin on Saturday… He told Die Zeit he had little time for most contemporary filmmakers… “Most directors, and three-quarters of the people who will receive prizes in Berlin, only pick up the camera to feel alive. They do not use it to see things that you cannot see without a camera.”
During a masterclass at the 48th Thessaloniki International Film Festival, John Malkovich offers advice to the young artist, starting with William Faulkner’s Nobel speech and working his way to a YouTube parody of Bollywood movies called “Nipple, Nipple.” [Apologies in advance for the incorrect exposure which makes Malkovich resemble Colonel Kurtz with impending sunstroke.]
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Type, type, type, eh, Mr. Cronenberg? News comes that he can multitask as constructively as any man, beast or bug. Penguin Canada announces a debut novel from the director of Eastern Promises. “Penguin Group Canada has acquired a debut novel from internationally acclaimed film director David Cronenberg in an exciting pre-empt from agent Andrew Wylie of the Wylie Agency. Cronenberg, best known for his work in the body horror genre, is one of the few Canadian directors who can claim an international legion of fans… In 1999, Cronenberg was inducted onto Canada’s Walk of Fame. In 2002, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2006, he was awarded the Cannes Film Festival’s lifetime achievement award and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Winstanley says, “I wrote David Cronenberg several months ago to inquire about whether or not he’d consider writing a novel. His films demonstrate a deep understanding of the human condition that could translate into fiction brilliantly so I’m delighted that he has decided to take this challenge on and I’m really looking forward to working with him.” … The untitled novel is not being described at this time but is partially set in Toronto and scheduled for publication in early 2010. Said Cronenberg last week in Toronto: “I’ve literally been waiting fifty years to do this. I’m excited.” [Complete PR at the jump.]
Of many photos I took at this year’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival between movies and other activites, this is among my favorites, of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford‘s writer-director and co-star Sam Rockwell, at a press conference for the film. What kind of director does Dominik look like here? The kind of director who would try to catch fire with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
A succinct answer to the question, “What do you look for in an actor?” from honoree John Sayles, at a press conference during his 16-film retrospective and tributes at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in the north of Greece. The festival’s uncommonly democratic in access, with the pressers held in a large warehouse on the pier where many events take place, along with four cinemas, the John Cassavetes among them, and that’s the reason for the hullabaloo in the background: on the second floor, the Boutari and Fischer are flowing.[More Thessaloniki pictures here.]
Diego Luna is one of three partners in Canana Films, along with producer Pablo Cruz, seen here. and Gael Garcia Bernal. Their intentions are to make movies that reflect contemporary Mexico, and in the first of two clips from a masterclass at the just-ended 48th Thessaloniki International Film Festival in the north of Greece, Luna describes the amusing differences between taking meetings in Los Angeles and being a director-producer in the country where he was born.
Here, Luna describes the origins of the political bent of their enterprise. (The name of their company refers to the part of a revolutionary’s bandolier that holds bullets, he told me later.) “I am a very optimistic man,” he says in the clip, “and I do believe I live in an important time in my country. I remember when I was, in ’88, there was an election in Mexico, that we all knew was a fraud. And we all knew it was stolen. And nothing happened. Y’know? We stayed six years with that president. And we called him ‘President.’ That was something that really got me aware and awoke me to the necessity of doing something. I do believe my generation has got that in mind.” [More in the video.]
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With videos embedded in the linked page, the Webby Awards, for their twelfth iteration, cite their “12 MOST INFLUENTIAL ONLINE VIDEOS OF ALL TIME.” From the press release: “Although many of the videos on our list are no more than a few minutes long, their impact will be felt for years to come in everything from entertainment to advertising to politics,” said David-Michel Davies, executive director of The Webby Awards. “Each video sparked a trend or set a benchmark that changed the craft, business and culture of the moving image.” And they are?
1. Jennicam (1996)
2. All Your Base Are Belong to Us (2000)
3. BMW Film Series – “The Hire” (2001)
4. Star Wars Kid (2002)
5. JibJab – “This Land” (2004)
6. Subservient Chicken (2004)
7. Lazy Sunday (Narnia Rap) (2005)
8. Israel-Hezbollah War (2006)
9. “lonelygirl15” (2006)
10. OK Go – “Here We Go Again” (2006)
11. Senator George Allen’s “Macaca” Incident (2006)
12. Zidane Headbutt (2006) [Full PR at the jump.]
There’s something fascinating about David Lynch at a podium marked “Urania” with a red curtain behind him, recorded in sloppy-cam, but there’s more to this public event than first sight, reports TIME. “David Lynch is no stranger to weird confluences,” they write, but he “failed to anticipate the reception his latest project got in Germany this week.” Lynch is touring Europe “to help establish a network of so-called “invincible universities” to teach the philosophy of transcendental meditation. The idea is to engender world peace. But at a meeting this week at a culture center in Berlin, Lynch triggered a less than peaceful exchange with German onlookers when Emanuel Schiffgens, his partner for establishing such a “university” in the German capital, suddenly veered into dangerous waters. “We want an invincible Germany!” intoned Schiffgens, the self-styled Raja of Germany… “What do you mean by this concept of invincibility,” asked an onlooker from the audience, made up mainly of film students with a smattering of meditation devotees. “An invincible Germany is a Germany that’s invincible,” replied a Delphic Schiffgens, who was dressed in a long white robe and gold crown. “Adolf Hitler wanted that too!,” shouted out one man. “Yes,” countered Schiffgens. “But unfortunately he didn’t succeed.” At that the crowd began shouting epithets at the speaker: “You are a charlatan! This is bad theater!” Lynch, who does not speak German, looked on in incomprehension.” More at the link, plus the entire conflagration, in two parts, from YouTube. Lynch’s reply in the comments of the video follows as well.
David Lynch here. I don’t want to have anything to do with Hitler. We all know he was not a good person who did terrible things. I want to support Invincible Universities to develop the full potential of the student—enlightenment—and to have students meditating together in a group to enliven and radiate the unified field—the field of peace—into the atmosphere, into the collective consciousness of every nation. Invincibility in this case means dynamic peace—a situation where no harm can come from within the country and nothing destructive can come from the outside to harm the country. Sometimes misunderstandings are troublesome. So I want to make perfectly clear that the university for enlightenment and peace will make this a peaceful world — a peaceful world family — where anyone can travel anywhere in the world and meet a friend, not an enemy. Dynamic peace is not just the absence of war—it is the absence of negativity, which is the seeds of war. These universities, established on a permanent basis, will put an end to thousands of years of war and oppression, and prevent a man like Hitler from ever arising again.No Comments »
Matt Damon humors the Japanese whistling champion in a near-unfathomable television segment from out east. (It gets more entertaining about four minutes in.) [Via Matt Dentler; bonus strangeness at the jump, including a classic commercial for Hankook Pizza Hut‘s hot dog pizza, Korea-style and an episode of the animated “Pants Pankuro” series, teaching children how to worship the western-style latrine.]
You can neither make beautiful, great movies without risk as you can make babies without sex. Risk is part of the artistic process. That’s why I like performance, because performance is walking a high wire.
~ Francis Coppola
“Probably the most heralded movie I’ve ever been in was Forrest Gump. While I was sitting on the park bench, I asked Bob, ‘Is anyone going to care about this guy?’ He said, ‘I don’t know Tom. It’s a mine field. It’s a fucking mine field.’ So when it works, you just say, ‘We dodged all the mines.'”
~ Tom Hanks