Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer Reading and Some Films

For some good late summer reading there are the new issues of Positif and Cahiers du Cinéma which offer a wealth of interesting film writing. Alain Resnais, since its beginning, has always been a beacon for Positif. Philippe Fraisse best captures why the magazine held him so dearly in his essay, Portrait du Cinéaste Savant, when he writes, “His films are anchored in a faithful modernity while at the same time they are void of any veritable melancholy… The cinema of Resnais is both modern and optimist, modern and joyous, and there is something about this conjunction of opposites that is extremely precious.” In the Summer issue of Positif Michel Ciment and François Thomas organize an impressive dossier on probably their favorite and most valued French filmmaker. The four introductory essays propose a survey of Resnais and the themes of his films that the magazine really appreciated. Pierre Sansom’s Les Labyrinthes d’Alain Resnais analyzes the structure of labyrinths of his films and oeuvre and how history and imagination were his major themes. Fraisse, along with emphasizing his modernity and optimism, highlights Resnais interest in science, along with making an interesting comparison between the palace of Marienbad to the Overlook Hotel of The Shining. Vincent Amiel highlights Resnais’ focus on theater, nature and death. While Eithne O’Neill brings up his interest in British culture through his collaborations with David Mercer and Alan Ayckbourn. Many other treasures of this include an analysis of his four different periods: 1948-1958, documentaries; 1959-1968, poetic myths; the 70s, the transition years; the 80s, Depardieu, actors and comics; 1993-2014, films like memories.There are some fascinating interviews with widow Sabine Azéma, Pierre Arditi, André Dussollier, Sandrine Kiberlain, his assistant director Christophe Jeauffroy (this one is really good!), and Alan Ayckbourn. And there’s even more! Essays on his unrealized projects: Michel Le Bris’s on his scenario for Or…, Resnais on Le Tsar se fait photographier, and his producer Jean-Louis Livi on what would have been his next project, an adaptation of Ayckbourn’s Arrivals & Departures. This is a must have for anyone interested in Alain Resnais. Merci Positif!

If Positif is a little more serious and conservative, then the Cahiers issue on Érotisme (encore) offers more youthful and exciting pleasures. On Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses, “It’s in the smoke of Kichizo cigarette that the pleasure is held, in this material that’s volatile, impalpable, which is in a constant metamorphosis.” On the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending, “The gratuity of showing us Channing Tatum’s naked chest for so long, the absence of a justification (in a Hollywood system that compels them), and that everyone around is fully clothed, makes this little bizarrerie, this light distortion of the blockbuster codes, finely erotic. It’s just there.” On Asta Nielsen, “When Béla Balázs discovered her, he proclaimed, ‘Eroticism is the essence of cinema.’” On Annette Haven, “There exist unexpected punctums. Annette Haven is one of them.” On Je suis Femen, “To understand its eroticism, one must that what is cruelly lacking from our times: a punk spirit.” The issue also includes some great essays on Hong Sang-soo’s Hill of Freedom, Inside Out, King Hu and Kenneth Anger. A+

But more exciting is the news of the premieres of some new films by some cool Toronto filmmakers. Playing at TIFF in a few weeks there will be Andrew Cividino’s Sleeping Giant, Isiah Medina’s 88:88, Igor Drljača’s The Waiting Room, and Kazik Radwanski’s How Heavy This Hammer. The only other Toronto film that we’re all waiting to hear about is Matt Johnson’s Operation Avalanche. Where is that going to play? Either way, there are some good things brewing!

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