Well I had a fun at the festival this year. I saw a lot of cool movies – definitively a lot more then last year – partied with friends, and met some interesting film-types like Richard Porton (Cineaste), Matthew Freundlich (Exit Art), Marcus Pinn, Mark Peranson (Cinema Scope), Aaron Graham, Ryan Krahn and Olivier Père (Locarno) - hopefully some of you have started checking out my blog.
There were a lot – read, too many – late parties, some with open bars (who is even paying for these?), which led to some nasty hangovers the following mornings. And as people were commenting that the films included a surprisingly high amount of people getting punched in the face, an analogy was created that cinephilia is also a kind of sucker punch. After the knock-out daze during the festival of balancing films, work, socializing, sleep and chores, one really needs to slow things down and relax a little. Even so, I can’t wait for next years.
Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not a Film is a look at what the Iranian filmmaker has been up to since he got arrested, been put on house-arrest and banned from filmmaking. It can be seen as his take on what Lumet did with Making Movies as it also deals with Panahi’s own filming approach as he examines his films. Seeing it at the festival in a small-hall packed with journalist made watching it be like being shared a secret message of something that is truly important to the film community. The sad thing about This Is Not a Film is that since its filming Panahi’s co-director Mojtaba Mir Tahmaseb – along with Nasser Saffarian, Hadi Afarideh, Mohsen Shahrnazdar, Marzieh Vafamehr, Katayoun Shahabi and now Marzieh Vafamehr – have been arrested by the Iranian authorities. It is frustrating adding on names to that list, especially as This Is Not a Film has an almost optimistic quality to it. It is a dangerous situation in Iran; my best wishes go out to all the political prisoners and their families. There is a petition one can sign over at the Cinémathèque Française website, hopefully it can help.
Restless is terrific! Gus van Sant continues his examination of youthful distress and alienation as he explores the serious subject of a young girl Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) dying of cancer. He also gives the material a lightness of touch. Some criticism of Restless that I’ve encountered is that the young girl has no symptoms, which I don’t think is fair as half the film takes place in a hospital (the first significant engagement with the institution for van Sant) and Annie does suffer and unexpectedly collapses, which is a very brutal scene to watch. As well some people did not like the Portland goth Enoch’s (played brilliantly by Henry Hopper) ghost friend Hiroshi, a WWII Japanese kamikaze pilot. Hiroshi adds the weight of history on to these kids shoulders (also hinted at by Annabel’s interest in Darwin). As Tony Judt brings up in his book Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, “We think we have learned enough from the past to know that many of the old answers don’t work, and that may be true. But what the past can truly help us understand is the perennial complexity of the questions.”
Jeff who lives at home is a disappointment for anyone who was a big fan of Cyrus (as I was), though Jason Segel is good in it. I remember when Cyrus came out in France all of the French critics referred to Jonah Hill as that fat kid.
Bruno Dumont’s Outside Satan is near-sublime. It is just a shame that he came off as pretentious during the question-and-answer period (after my question about what the titled meant, Dumont responded in French, “I don’t know why I would have to explain the title of my own film”).
I really liked Un été brillant, though Monica Belluci is a little annoying in it - do we really need to hear from others how pretty she is? Compared to, say, Pedro Costa’s masterpiece Ne Change Rien that has no commentary on Jeanne Balibar singing; he lets the audience make up their own mind when it comes to the subject.
The Francis Coppola talk was inspiring. He was joking and singing. He seemed equally as interested in hearing from the audience as sharing his experiences from his career. One thing that he brought up that is interesting is how he is all for other directors being influenced by his films and that likewise they will inspire him. Which brings us to Twixt which resonates with Coppola’s recent collaboration with Vincent Gallo. Just as Promises Written in Water shows Gallo picking up certain elements from his work on Tetro - b/w cinematography, dance sequences, more dialogue - Twixt could equally have been called ‘Promises Written in Water’ as Coppola uses the guise of a Corman-like B horror film (with a William Castle use of special effects) to look at the sadness that goes along with the death of a child and in this case by a boating accident, which for Coppola resonates with the death of his own son Giancarlo who died that way at the age of twenty-two. As well Twixt expands on Coppola literary adaptations that includes the authors John Grisham, Mario Puzo, Bram Stoker, S.E. Hinton and now Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne (and a first edition copy of Walt Witman’s Leaves of Grass is also central to the story). While the entire cast is well-suited for their roles: a pudgy Val Kilmer, a paranoid Bruce Dern, a haunting Elle Fanning and a punk Alden Ehrenreich. The best review so far of Twixt is by Olivier Père over at his blog.
I saw Brian De Palma wheezing past me on the street – the legend.
The Cédric Kahn film Une vie meilleure is terrific. Guillaume Canet (Little White Lies) is great here as a wrong man, similar to the character he played in Nicolas Saada’s Spie(s). Yann (Canet) is a line-cook that wants to open a restaurant with his girlfriend Nadia (Leïla Bekhti) and after going through the process of filling the necessary forms and getting credit, things start to go wrong. His girlfriend moves to Canada to find work and then he stops hearing from her. Yann is stuck with her kid and he now has to deal with fatherhood and the mounting social pressures of the dept he is in. Like Hitchcock, Kahn is able to imbue his story with social realities while creating intense moments of suspense, intrigue and bravura filmmaking – this is one film to look out for.
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s A Kid With a Bike is their Doug Lipman film. The action sequence are bustling with energy, you can’t keep this kid calm. And he is even more mobile once he gets back his red-and-chrome bike. Interesting use of music too.
Pina is able to use 3D technology in a brand new way that is unlike anything I have ever seen before. Watching the Pina Bausch dance collective put forth her pieces has a raw quality to them and the movement of the dancers horizontally and vertically in the frame gives the illusion of a puppet show. Michel Ciment’s interview with Wim Wenders in Positif is insightful in regards to what Wenders wanted to achieve.
After the financial disaster of Fear X that nearly bankrupted Nicolas Winding Refn with his new film Drive eight years later it seems like he is successfully transitioning himself to Los Angeles. In Drive he creates a more likeable guerrier silencieux and what makes the movie all the more impressive is that the director does not even have a driving license!
I wished I could have attended the Wavelength series but I was working
The only three films that I am going to do a write-up for are from the Short Cuts Canada section, which are programmed by Alex Rogalski and Magali Simard, and they are Simon Ennis’ Up in Cottage Country, Igor Drljaca’s The Fuse: Or Hose I Burned Simon Bolivar and Sophie Goyette’s La Ronde.
What else to look out for? Two words: Alps and Goon.
To better appreciate and understand some of the films that I saw I also liked going through old issues of le bon papier, Cahiers du Cinéma, finding reviews and interviews to correspond with the films.
Here is an extract of Jean-Philippe Tessé’s review of Le Gamin au vélo,
“To say it quickly, the Dardenne’s make a humanist-Christian cinema where the journey of a character, apprehended uniquely through their actions and gestures (it’s a person that is active, see hyper-active), ends with a redemptive climax, or at least with a moment of elevation – an escape.”Or Stéphane Delorme on Gus Van Sant’s Restless,
“Why do we love a cinéaste? We cannot help but ask this question in front of the beautiful new film of Gus Van Sant. We won’t find the dazzle that, from Gerry to Last Days, in three films made the director from Portland the cinéaste the most important of his generation. But what we find is something no other director is offering today: assurance, confidence, the perseverance of one who makes his oeuvre depending on his desire and the challenges that he wants to, personally, find.”Or Alexandre Sokourov from an interview in Cahiers (January 2011) on the most anticipated movies of the year,
“In my imagination, in terms of how I saw it, I don’t even know if I will succeed, what I wanted to do with my tetralogy (Moloch, Taurus, The Sun, Faust) is not a literary succession but a circle. Once the loop ties together, this circle would connect characters and moments that are historically very far apart.”There is Cahiers but, like always, there is also Positif. Going through Positif’s March 2010 issue (N.589) I was able to better appreciate the aggressive genius of the warrior-filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn whose Valhalla Rising sits on that issues cover. The editorial that opens the magazine begins with Frank Kausch, “Taste classes people, said Bourdieu, and classes those that class.” On Valhalla Philippe Rouyer writes, “More so then Bronson, what Valhalla Rising invites then is what Kubrick called a non-verbal experience.” Pierre Eisenreich calls Refn “already a master of European cinema” and refers to Valhalla as his masterpiece (an assessment that I share) as he pits Refn against the other Danes who emerged in the mid-1990’s like Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and Lone Scherfig. Other then the Refn-o-mania, Yann Tobin offers probably the most generous review of Atom Egoyan’s Chloe highlighting the fairy-tale elements and references in Egoyan’s films that transform contemporary experiences towards universal myth ; Tobin does this by comparing Amanda Seyfried’s character to Scheherazade from the Arabic folk-talk Arabian Nights (One Thousand and One Nights). The issue also includes a Voix-off by Henri Langlois and a book review of Lorraine Mortimer’s Terror and Joy: The Films of Dusan Makavejev. Amongst everything else in the magazine…
* For a good example of what Positif can do for a filmmaker I would refer you to Micheal Henry Wilson hot-off-the-press luscious book Scorsese on Scorsese. As well see Positif (N.607) as just when you think the critical community is over a certain director like, say, Paolo Sorrentino. As Film Comment, Cahiers and Cinema Scope all dismissed This Must Be The Place. What does Positif do? It champions him! You can always trust Positif to go against uniformity by finding something to like in a film that reflects a singular intelligence especially in opposition to the thoughtlessness of most commercial fare. As well Positif is auteurist and prides itself on continuing to champion certain filmmakers even if they are no longer à la vogue. Positif is really proving itself to be the real filmmaker magazine, maybe more so then Cahiers**.
** But to be fair to Cahiers their interviews surrounding The Tree of Life and Super 8 is incomparable to anything else that have been written about those films. One gets a clear sense of the process that went into the making of those films through the interviews with the multiple creative agents that contributed to it. As well their feature interviews with Lars von Trier, the New York independent directors and Micheal Cimino are impressive too.
Film Listings: There was Ben Rivers’ Slow-Action at Gallery TPW, with an accompanying essay by Michael Sicinski. The Pleasure Dome programmed Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Ruins which will be on October 15th at 7PM and on the Monday the 17th the Early Montly Segments will be playing the works of Robert Banks and Suzanne Naughton – be there for 8PM. Susan Ray will be introducing We Can’t Go Home Again. And finally there is the Planet in Focus Festival that is going to have the Toronto premier of Werner Herzog’s and Dmitry Vasyukov’s Happy People: A Year in The Taiga, which will be playing on October 13th at 9:30PM at the ROM.
Film Books: Some new books that look interesting include Dear Cary (which David Thomson tears apart in the NYRoB), John Landis’ Monster Movies, Dudley Andrews' What Cinema Is!, TCM Classic Movie Trivia Book, Michael Moore’s Here Comes Trouble, Richard Lindsay-Hogg’s Luck and Circumstance, Murray Pomerance’s Michelangelo Red Antonioni Blue, and John Sayle’s A Moment in the Sun.
“Allen may be mediocre but he’s been nothing if not ambitious, tackling several different European art modes, as well as various American genres, including the not-easy-to-make-work the musical. David, in terms of American film history he is certainly one of the most important figures in screen comedy, important not just on his own merits but as a) a star/director comic in the mode of Chaplin, Keaton, Lewis; b) a huge influence on many successors in film, tv, and stand-up; c) as the reinventor for the post-1960s age of the romantic comedy (I’ve seen ANNIE HALL given great credit for this).”Jean-Pierre Coursodon,
“The early Allen movies were, yes, rough, and immensely funny. We’ll never see anything like them again, just like we’ll never see anything like the Marx Bros.again. In France back in the seventeenth century Moliere started with slapstick stuff, was enormously succesful (in those days’ terms) then moved on to more “serious” comedy. When he occasionally went back to “low” comedy critics were shocked. Allen seems to be aware of the fact that you can’t go back home again — the home of jokes jokes jokes of his early movies. He feels he has moved away from and beyond them, which is totally normal. I can’t think of any artist who doesn’t feel that way. You don’t even have to be an artist to turn your back to your past. But if you’r an artist, it’s inevitable.”Brian Dauth,
“Jean-Pierre writes: “Allen’s art is essentially imitative and the distinction between borrowing, influence, parody, and plagiarism is so blurred in his case as to become meaningless.” There it was – Allen’s “certified copies” were just what they appeared to be. He had overcome the modernist imperative “to make it new,” thereby evading the modernist fallacy, and instead Allenized his inspirations (a great term). MATCH POINT is AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY with a different ending, and SCOOP is a satyr play version of MATCH POINT’s story. In these films (and others), Allen hollows out his material and pours his sensibility into it without trying to iron out wrinkles or inconsistencies. Unlike high modernism where one can (should) appreciate the deft blending of the artist’s influences/sources into a new, dazzling whole, Allen lets his sensibility casually rub shoulders with what he is riffing on. In SCOOP, he echoes/quotes NOTORIOUS by lifting plot elements and mixing himself in. In the same way, his character, Sid Waterman, is a 1950′s Catskill’s comedian dropped into London several decades later without any attempt to make the combination mesh. Allen has freed himself (and film) from the demand of modernism that the art object be made with such precision and clever quotation techniques that when the work is placed down on a hill in Tennessee or a street in London, it makes sense of the chaos. Allen’s way of making art encompasses both design and debris (to use John Hawkes’ formulation).”What am I going to write about next? Some potential subjects for book-reviews include Bill Krohn’s Hitchcock at Work, David Campany’s The Cinematic and Robin Wood’s Trammel Up the Consequence. But I am pretty busy in October as I am going to New York with my girlfriend Arielle to celebrate our one year anniversary together so maybe you will have to wait until November to actually read those.
Have a good month,