28 June 2008
Strand will release two films in September: Jacques Nolot's (Porn Theatre) Before I Forget [Avant que j'oublie] and Ferzan Ozpetek's (Steam: The Turkish Bath, Facing Windows) Saturn in Opposition [Saturno contro], starring Stefano Accorsi and Margherita Buy.
ThinkFilm is releasing Stuart Gordon's bloody comedy (?) Stuck, starring Mena Suvari and Stephen Rea, on 7 October. They will also have out the Canadian film YPF, or Young People Fucking as it was known at festivals, on the 14th. You may know Young People Fucking as being amid the Canadian government censorship case. Google it.
Facets is releasing the Bill Douglas trilogy, which consists of My Childhood, My Ain Folk and My Way Home, from 72-78, on 23 September. The set will also be released on 23 June from BFI in the UK. The Weinstein Company has Lou Reed's Berlin, a concert film directed by Julian Schnabel, on 16 September. It has to be better than any other concert film I've seen of Reed in the past.
Kino will be releasing a newly remastered version of the infamous RKO picture The Man on the Eiffel Tower, co-directed by Burgess Meredith, Irving Allen and Charles Laughton (though the latter two remained uncredited), on 16 September. The film was only previously available in a shitty transfer for cheap. BCI Eclipse will release another out-of-circulation film, Simon Heresa's A Day at the Beach, written by Roman Polanski on 9 September. The film stars Peter Sellers.
Water Bearer Films is releasing Philippe Vallois' (We Were One Man) notorious Johan, carnet intime homosexuel, or Johan, mon été 75, on 26 August. And finally, Venevision will release Antonio Chavarrías' Volverás, starring Tristan Ulloa and Unax Uglade, on 16 September.
23 June 2008
22 June 2008
Mr. Freedom – dir. William Klein – 1969 – France
The Model Couple [Le couple témoin] – dir. William Klein – 1977 – France/Switzerland
I ventured into the so-called delirious fictions of William Klein over a month ago and only when listening to Serge Gainsbourg this evening was I reminded of such. Touted as lost narrative classics of the ex-patriot photographer Klein, to say that they each left something to be desired wouldn’t be accurate. For, what’s most strange about these three films, particularly Mr. Freedom and The Model Couple, the two weaker of the three, is that everything is in place. Both Mr. Freedom and The Model Couple have their tables set for delicious satire, but maybe it’s their tidiness that makes them so forgettable. Or maybe that while Klein may have been thematically “ahead of his time,” his films just didn’t have much to say that couldn’t have been summed up in a sentence.
The delirium that The Criterion Collection speaks of can best be found in Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, which is the only enjoyable one of the three. It’s amusing kitsch and a satire that sort of works overall, or at least in comparison. The other two, however, solely rely on pulpiness and their own proper table-settings which never equal anything substantial or even entertaining. Even with Mr. Freedom’s amusing cast of celebrities, which include Delphine Seyrig, Donald Pleasance as Dr. Freedom, Philippe Noiret, Serge Gainsbourg (with a horrible over-dubbing in English), and Yves Montand as Captain Formidable (in an uncredited cameo), the film hardly ranks high in its own novelty. I think I’ll just stick to my Serge Gainsbourg albums from now on, and I’ll probably soon forget the so-called delirium of a once-forgotten and should-be-forgotten-once-more artist.
21 June 2008
Yet another example of my declining emotional wellbeing has emerged, and, if you know me, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s in the form of a French musical. I can hardly resist those bastards, and even when coming from a director I typically loathe, I’ve become infected, yet again. It began earlier this year when three films (Olivier Assayas’ Boarding Gate, Bruce La Bruce’s Otto; or Up with Dead People and Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park) snuck up on me, finding a vulnerable, confused lad emotionally stricken with these strange tastes of melancholy and hope sufficing for a certain void within his own soul.
Christophe Honoré has been pissing me off for years. When I got a chance to see Ma mère, his misfire of an adaptation of the final novella of Georges Bataille starring Isabelle Huppert, I knew he was up to no good. I even saw it on opening night in Paris, and that didn’t even help the endeavor. And then there was Dans Paris, which solidified my disdain. But, damn him, if he didn’t hit me in the right way with Love Songs, another dually serving teaming with star Louis Garrel. Garrel has made a career out of allowing himself to be desired, particularly by gay directors (François Ozon also used him in a short called Un lever de rideau), in the shedding of clothes, the hazing of his eyes and pouting of his lips. For once though, I was able to spot what so many people find alluring about the actor in Love Songs and maybe allow the inevitable comparison to Jean-Pierre Léaud (although, shoot me if I ever allow a comparison between Honoré and Godard to subsist; you’ll know I’ve fallen over the deep then).
I suppose it best to walk into Love Songs with no idea of what to expect, other than the occasional breaking into song and dance and a chance to see the ever-charismatic Ludivine Sagnier in action. So, if you haven’t seen it, I wouldn’t recommend reading further as I guess this would be my spoiler alert. Knowing nothing of its story, the film went places I didn’t expect, placing into question the validity of its title. As one of the leads dies within the first act (it’s annoyingly divided into three and separated by title cards), the film shifts into a certain variation on a “love song,” with all the flavor of melancholy. Granted, that the character dies of unprecedented heart failure makes Honoré’s analogy a bit trite, it still fuels the film into lovely directions.
It would also mark, for once, Garrel falling into his character, as he entertains a romance with a teenage boy (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), almost as if officially giving into the gay pursuit filmmakers seem to love to take him. However, it’s really Chiara Mastroianni that’s most ravishing in the film, providing the finest musical number in the film, and probably the most effective as well. Love Songs, thus, becomes just a sign of my own times, another cinematic example of my waning existential crisis. I don’t even know if I’m of proper sound mind to actually discuss films that aren’t Mother of Tears. On vera.
18 June 2008
UPDATE: Kino will also release on the same day Jarman's War Requiem, which as far as I know has never been released anywhere on DVD. The film stars Swinton, Sean Bean, Nathaniel Parker, Nigel Terry and the final performance from Laurence Olivier. Now if we can just get someone to put out The Garden...
17 June 2008
Ryko has listed their September releases as well, which includes a single-disc version of Harry Kümel's wonderful Daughters of Darkness, starring Delphine Seyrig, a new version of Andrzej Żuławski's Possession, with Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill, and Vicente Aranda's The Blood Spattered Bride, all from Blue Underground.
Through Severin, two Patrice Leconte films, The Hairdresser's Husband [Le mari de la coiffeuse], with Jean Rochefort, and The Perfume of Yvonne [Le parfum d'Yvonne], with Hippolyte Girardot. Cult Epics will release a two-disc special edition of Slogan, better known as the film where Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin met, with additional interviews with Gainsbourg and Birkin as well as television commercials from the director.
Excitingly, the epic disaster known as Butterfly, starring Orson Welles and Pia Zadora in a well-deserved Golden Globe win, will make its way on DVD on 30 September [all of the Ryko discs will street on this day as well]. Ry Russo Young's Orphans will also be available through Carnivalesque Films.
Paramount will release the animated Chicago 10 on 26 August. TLA will release the animated adaptation of Dante's Inferno, with the voices of Dermot Mulroney and James Cromwell, on the same day. Showtime will release the first season of This American Life, which if you didn't know is the best thing currently on television, on 23 September. And, finally, Zeitgeist will release Jellyfish [Les méduses] on 30 September.
16 June 2008
14 June 2008
Also, you might have caught Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired on HBO this past week, and if you didn't, I would highly recommend doing so, although I was a tad disappointed that I didn't get to see more Nastassja Kinski than just a photo or two. Regardless, Kim Masters discusses why there was an alteration from its Sundance and Cannes premieres and why that matters.
Julianne Moore – Savage Grace
Oh, if the Academy had any balls, Julianne Moore would be the front-runner in the Best Actress race come winter, but Savage Grace is just too dirty and too risqué for Oscar; it's an Oscar performance in a film most Oscar voters wouldn't dare see. In a perfect world where Moore would be praised like crazy for her work as dysfunctional socialite Barbara Baekeland, she would hardly be the only actress to win a trophy for being the most (and possibly only) outstanding thing about a film (coughMarionCotillardcough), for director Tom Kalin owes it to Moore, who’s been striving for another commanding breakthrough role since her lousy deal with Sony, for single-handedly elevating Savage Grace from sleaze to magic. I don’t think any actress today (aside from Denise Richards, but that’s another story altogether) can utter the word “cunt” with as much ferocity as Moore, and after you see the film, try to think of another actress who would have even tried to pull of that scene.
Juliette Binoche – Flight of the Red Balloon [Le voyage du ballon rouge]
Juliette Binoche is a gifted actress, we all know this, but she’s so consistently good that sometimes we forget how talented she really is. She’s not given much to do in Michael Haneke’s Caché, which is fine, and I didn’t even bother with Dan in Real Life. However, in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon, Binoche absolutely immersed herself into the role of the single mother/actress in such a way that I almost didn’t even recognize her. And, no, it wasn’t because it was the first time I’ve ever seen the actress blonde. There’s a moment near the end of the film where, distraught, she tries to wipe away her tears to ask her young son how his day went. There’s so much feeling and complexity in such a small moment that it should come as no surprise that most major filmmakers want to work with her.
Asia Argento – Boarding Gate
Ms. Argento gets a lot of slack, and I can’t say I haven’t handed it to her before. Most of her performances in her father’s films are unfortunate, particularly in The Stendhal Syndrome and the most recent Mother of Tears. However, somewhere around the time of B. Monkey, she became a sex kitten, and with that, a lot (or maybe a little) can be deduced. Bruce La Bruce said about Asia (I’m paraphrasing) that she’s the essence of an Italian star, like Silvana Mangano and Anna Magnani. "She's extremely sensual, sexual, intellectual aggressive and rebellious. She's a hard fucking man in reverse. That's daunting for some men, I suppose." What La Bruce said about Argento can be best found in Olivier Assayas’ Boarding Gate, which gives the underrated (or at least poorly used) actress her finest role to date as a woman fleeing from her criminal past. Argento gives the film precisely what it needs to stick with you. Behind her naughty angel tattoo, black bra and panties, and raspy voice lies something shockingly human. Argento proves that a sex kitten’s best appeal is her mystery; however, in small suggestions in Boarding Gate, it makes her all the more complicated and alluring.
Béatrice Dalle – Inside [À l’intérieur]
Béatrice Dalle has been an obsession of mine ever since I saw Betty Blue at an age where I was too young to appreciate it. In many ways, she’s a precursor to Asia Argento, a sex symbol teamed with a dangerous carnality, both a male fantasy and a nightmare. In Inside, Dalle is the exception to the rule in regards to the other actresses listed here. Her power isn’t from being given a strong role as it is what she does with her role. As the mysterious woman who terrorizes a young pregnant woman on Christmas Eve, Dalle invokes utter terror and frightening sexiness to her role, which was probably far more than was demanded of her (even though the first-time directors stated that they always had her in mind, but never thought she’d agree to star). Dalle gives one of the most shiver-inducing performances I’ve seen in a horror film since the 1970s.
Inés Efron – XXY
I’m obsessed with Inés Efron and I didn’t even know it! It wasn’t until I looked her up after XXY, that I realized she was also in the absolutely splendid Glue. And that is quite the tribute as Glue was one of my favorite films of last year. In XXY, Efron plays a hermaphrodite named Alex, with both sex organs, whose parents chose female as her preferred outward gender. Alex is around fifteen and coming of age. In a way, XXY is the superior version of Teeth in which a blossoming young woman’s anatomy just multiplies the anxiety of sexual maturation. In XXY, Efron is perfect, in both her demeanor and chilling despair. It’s the sort of performance you see, without knowing much about the actress, and assume, “Well, the director must have found her on the street and knew she was exactly what was needed for the role.” However, XXY is her fourth film, and not only is her role sizable in its challenges, Efron is both delicate and rough and handles the conflicting femininity and masculinity like an actress twice her senior. Fabulous stuff.
13 June 2008
I hate finding myself in the cinema, especially when it's in the form of a seen-it-before romantic comedy like Love and Other Disasters. It's even worse when that character proves to be the most pathetic in its ensemble cast. Peter Simon (Matthew Rhys) is a film-obsessed journalist, who wears Echo & the Bunnymen T-shirts, with romantic woes of tragic proportions. "Films have ruined my love life," he says, as I sit back, groan, and realize, "fuck, I'm ruined." I tried to ignore this tragic projection in focusing on Brittany Murphy's indecipherable accent, but it just kept coming back. And, this isn't to mention that the characters exist in a reflexive London where its inhabitants try their best not to fall into cinematic clichés. I need to get a life.
12 June 2008
06 June 2008
Additionally, Lionsgate has announced a Special Edition of Jeunet et Caro's Delicatessen for 26 August, though the shift of rights from Miramax to them is not something I'm aware of. They will also release a film called Kitchen Privileges, formally titled Housebound, starring Peter Sarsgaard, on the same day; the film is an update of Roman Polanski's Repulsion with Catherine Deneuve.
The Weinsteins have tentatively announced a special edition of Jet Li's Fist of Legend for 9 September, but I wouldn't hold my breath on this one, as the Weinsteins, particularly when under the Dragon Dynasty label, have delayed numerous releases. It should be the first time the film is available uncut and undubbed in the United States. Rhino is also set to release for the first time on DVD Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains starring a very young Diane Lane and Laura Dern on 30 September.
As mentioned by Eric, MGM will release their special edition of Night of the Hunter on 9 September. No additional material has been announced yet. Porchlight Entertainment will release the Canadian drama Normal, starring Carrie-Anne Moss, Callum Keith Rennie and Kevin Zegers on 7 October. Image will release the Pang brothers' Re-Cycle on 23 September, and HBO will have their original movie Recount, with Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, Bob Balaban, Denis Leary and John Hurt, on 19 August. Miramax will have Joachim Trier's wonderful Reprise out on 2 September.
On the international front, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi's Actrices [Actresses], which is owned by IFC in the US, will be released in France by Wild Side Vidéo on 26 June. France Télévisions will release Alexander Sokurov's Alexandra in France on 9 July. TF1 Vidéo released David Oelhoffen's Nos retrouvailles [In Your Wake] on 7 May. Lee Chang-dong's Cannes-winning Secret Sunshine was released on the same day from TF1. I cannot vouch for subtitles on any of these discs.
In the UK, Axiom Films released the unavailable-in-the-US Alice in the Cities from 1974 and directed by Wim Wenders. Arrow Films will have a special edition of Andrew Birkin's The Cement Garden, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, on 23 June. Two months after Gaumont releases it in France, Yume Pictures brings Nagisa Oshima's Pleasures of the Flesh onto DVD on 25 August. Mr. Bongo Films has Antonioni's Identification of a Woman [Identificazione di una donna] on 30 June.
Soda Pictures will release the acclaimed La léon, from director Santiago Otheguy, on 25 August; Water Bearer Films should have the film available in the US later this year. Artificial Eye will release Catherine Breillat's The Last Mistress on the same day. Artificial Eye will also have Roy Andersson's You the Living on 14 July. BFI will also have two films from Terence Davies, whose documentary Of Time and the City was widely regarded as one of the finest films to play at this year's Cannes Film Festival, on 21 July: The Long Day Closes and The Terence Davies Trilogy.
For those without a region-free player, you can find Denys Arcand's L'âge des ténèbres [The Age of Ignorance] from Alliance Atlantis on 30 June. The film stars Diane Kruger and Rufus Wainwright, among others, concludes Arcand's trilogy which began with The Decline of the American Empire and The Barbarian Invasions, and still has no US distributor.
03 June 2008
I often run into the same problem when deciding my disposition toward a documentary. With documentary, should content eclipse form? I can spot a formally superior documentary from afar (Grey Gardens always comes to mind), but should I like a film less if the content being presented remains strong while the film itself might not be? That’s the case with Alix Lambert’s The Mark of Cain, which is probably best known as one of the inspirations for David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises. The film captures candid interviews with Russian prisoners and exposes meaning to ritual of tattooing. It also focuses on the harsh conditions of torture and living conditions in Russian prisons in the same breath.
Formally, The Mark of Cain is a mess. While I can’t deny Lambert’s interest in showing us the realities of Russian prisons, I can still question its inclusion in an otherwise separate documentary. The film is also edited by someone who just discovered Final Cut with the silly playing card wipe that signals a change in interviewee. However, The Mark of Cain is absolutely captivating, an hour and fifteen minutes of remarkable power and insight into a world hidden to most people. So what do I do with The Mark of Cain? The film probably remains one of the finer examples of a documentary that triumphs in its content, allowing a viewer to kindly forgive the filmmaker’s missteps.