Movie City Indie Archive for February, 2010

Oscar-nominated composer Alexandre Desplat on the composer's life


It’s “crap and exaltation,” the prolific composer tells a masterclass at the 50th Thessaloniki International Film Festival last November. Below, ideas about light, color and Vermeer, as demonstrated in The Girl With The Pearl Earring; what he really thinks of Quentin Tarantino’s needle-drops; and on working with Terrence Malick on Tree of Life.

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Evil Dead in 60 Claymation seconds

Brit animator Lee Hardcastle writes on his Vimeo page: “One day I want to make a film thats really long and plays in cinemas all over the world .” Here’s his site and showreel.

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Sangfroid

Waiting for the weekend

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Bollywood goes to Walt Disney World… in 1977

Featuretting Greenberg


Watched the trailer. Read part of the script. Saw the opening grafs of some reviews: just want to see where Noah Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh go after The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding. And what about that Greta Gerwig? [Trailer below.]

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Musicka! A Soviet ad from 1980

Remember Jay Leno in Collision Course? A 3-minute stirfry reminder

That Sirkian someone: a lovely extended anecdote about art, politics, melodrama and movies

sirkiansomeone.jpgDouglas Sirk’s last interview may have been one conducted by Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery for Interview magazine in the early 80s, if memory serves, just before or just after the great director of melodramas went blind. I couldn’t find that piece, but instead, stumbled upon an epic piece at Bright Lights Film Journal by Jane and Michael Stern, about a two-week visit they made in 1977 visit to Lugano, Switzerland to meet Sirk and his wife, Hilde. (The bracingly smart “Sirk on Sirk” stands alongside “Melville on Melville” as models of extended conversation between directors and journalists.) I still treasure my years-ago memories of two of the three shorts he made late in life teaching film in Germany, the Fassbinder-starring Bourbon Street Blues (1978) and the serene, stunning Tennessee Williams adaptation, Talk to Me Like the Rain (Sprich zur mir wie der Regen, 1975) (based on Williams’ short play, “Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen”). Someday, these crisp shorts ought to resurface. For the moment, a couple of bits of scene-setting from the Sterns’ extended introduction, followed by one extended disquisition by Sirk on his experiences with art and commerce in his career as a European theater director, and then as an American studio hand. “Swooshing up the elevator shaft of Condominio Vall’Orba in a mirrored elevator to meet Sirk: He is still Sirk, never Douglas. Not yet anyway. You search your mind for an appropriate image of him. There are few to choose from: black and whites on the back of a book, a few auteurist articles with pictures decades-old, showing a man with a tweed jacket, piercing pale blue eyes and wavy hair. He is awesome-looking, aloof. Best forget these pictures… We eat at the Grotto, a favorite restaurant, a restaurant only Douglas Sirk would take you to, where Rock Hudson might take Jane Wyman. There is a warm Italian innkeeper, there are soft-hued walls, a special pasta, a flow of Chianti. Douglas impetuously drinks wine and eats roast pork. We know this is a special time for all of us. We have fallen in love with Douglas and Hilde… He is describing Lana Turner’s work in Imitation of Life. He describes their rapport. But one listens too casually, Sirk's imitationcredit.jpgrelaxed as with an old friend, and the mind wanders. But something strange starts to happen. You are off-guard. The old man starts to direct. He is showing you how he manipulated Lana Turner in her scenes. But instead of the Golden Goddess, he is doing it to you. The hooded blue eyes unfurl, revealing beneath the lids an unquenched intensity. They fix on you, the voice hypnotically cajoles and shames. “You like that, don’t you? You like that feeling,” he asks seductively. “Well, then, you are a fool!” Back and forth, changing your face, pulling the adrenalin to the surface. You aren’t an actor, so what is to explain these emotions shooting through you as he talks? You remain riveted, in confusion accepting the reality that you are now seated twelve inches away from Sirk the director on a couch somewhere far away from home. Douglas has vanished, and has been replaced by two ice-blue eyes and a commanding voice.

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DVDS: Crude, The Informant!, Alexander The Last

The highlight of this week’s DVD releases is Criterion’s Make Way For Tomorrow(Criterion, $30), a beautiful, essentially forgotten melodrama from Leo McCarey. I have strong, fond memories of it, but haven’t seen the DVD. Tag Gallagher’s essay for the release is here. Below: Crude, The Informant!, Alexander The Last.
Crude awakening [*** 1/2]
Berlinger © Ray Pride.jpgTURN THE TAP, WATER COMES, FLIP A SWITCH FOR LIGHT: pull up to the pump before driving to the discount grocery for the week’s dinners. We take delivery systems for granted, the social and economic structures that allow for, if not peace of mind, for “out of mind.” The genius of Joe Berlinger’s muckraking, muck-steeped Crude (First Run Features, $25) is that his clear, patient eye, taking a specific ecological tragedy to suggest the failure of systems, through the filthy work of extracting oil from beneath the earth’s surface, the almost-inevitable despoiling of water and other resources, and courtroom systems that pit international conglomerates, lawyers and locals against each other. Crude? “Texas Tea”? It doesn’t just bubble up like in “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Three years in the making, Crude examines a $27 billion class action suit against alleged pollution filed by indigenous Ecuadorian residents, the Cofón Indians, 30,000 strong, in the Amazon against Chevron Oil, successor to Texaco (after 2001). They charge that eighteen billion gallons of wastewater polluted the land and rivers of an oil patch roughly the size of Rhode Island from 1970 to 1990. Rashes, birth defects, leukemia and other cancers followed. A “death zone” of pollution lingers. Bureaucrats interfere. Officials delay. The law is a labyrinth. The case has lingered fitfully over sixteen years and no end is in sight. Berlinger gauges a vast river of litigation and allegation: Amazonian, yes. But Berlinger’s tack differs from the comic outrage of a Michael Moore, say: this is classical reportage, not “Petroleum: A Love Story.”

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The disappearing of Cabrini Green…


… in just over a minute.

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Hurt Locker detonates the BAFTAs

bafta-awards_222.jpgBest Film: The Hurt Locker
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education
Best Actor: Colin Firth, A Single Man
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Foreign Language Film: A Prophet
Best Animated Film: Up

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Christopher Walken on "Behanding Spokane," or, Oh! That Hair!

Billy Wilder on "the Lubitsch Touch"

Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

What do you make of the criticism directed at the film that the biopic genre or format is intrinsically bourgeois? That’s the most crazy criticism. That’s an excuse for not engaging with the content of the movie. Film critics sometimes, you know, can be very lazy.

Come on, formal criticism is valuable too. But I’m amazed when this is the thing they put in front of the discourse. My situation is that I’m dealing with a highly explosive subject, a taboo subject that nobody wants to deal with.

Karl Marx? Yes, this is the first film ever in the Western world about Marx. And I managed to make an almost mainstream film out of it. You want me at the same time to play the artist and do a risky film about the way my camera moves and the way I edit? No, it’s complicated enough! The artistic challenge — and it took me ten years with Pascal to write this story — was the writing. That was the most difficult part. We were making a film about the evolution of an idea, which is impossible. To be able to have political discourse in a scene, and you can follow it, and it’s not simplified, and it’s historically true. This is the accomplishment. So when someone criticizes the formal aspects without seeing that first, for me, it’s laziness or ignorance. There’s an incapacity to deal with what’s on the table. I make political films about today, I’m not making a biopic to make a biopic. I don’t believe in being an artist just to be an artist. And by the way, this film cost $9 million. I dare anyone in the United States to make this film for $9 million.
Raoul Peck on The Young Karl Marx

“The Motion Picture Academy, at considerable expense and with great efficiency, runs all the nominated pictures at its own theater, showing each picture twice, once in the afternoon, once in the evening. A nominated picture is one in connection with which any kind of work is nominated for an award, not necessarily acting, directing, or writing; it may be a purely technical matter such as set-dressing or sound work. This running of pictures has the object of permitting the voters to look at films which they may happen to have missed or to have partly forgotten. It is an attempt to make them realize that pictures released early in the year, and since overlaid with several thicknesses of battered celluloid, are still in the running and that consideration of only those released a short time before the end of the year is not quite just.

“The effort is largely a waste. The people with votes don’t go to these showings. They send their relatives, friends, or servants. They have had enough of looking at pictures, and the voices of destiny are by no means inaudible in the Hollywood air. They have a brassy tone, but they are more than distinct.”All this is good democracy of a sort. We elect Congressmen and Presidents in much the same way, so why not actors, cameramen, writers, and all rest of the people who have to do with the making of pictures? If we permit noise, ballyhoo, and theater to influence us in the selection of the people who are to run the country, why should we object to the same methods in the selection of meritorious achievements in the film business? If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry’s frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck? The only answer I can think of is that the motion picture is an art. I say this with a very small voice. It is an inconsiderable statement and has a hard time not sounding a little ludicrous. Nevertheless it is a fact, not in the least diminished by the further facts that its ethos is so far pretty low and that its techniques are dominated by some pretty awful people.

“If you think most motion pictures are bad, which they are (including the foreign), find out from some initiate how they are made, and you will be astonished that any of them could be good. Making a fine motion picture is like painting “The Laughing Cavalier” in Macy’s basement, with a floorwalker to mix your colors for you. Of course most motion pictures are bad. Why wouldn’t they be?”
~ Raymond Chandler, “Oscar Night In Hollywood,” 1948