30 September 2009

30 September DVD/Blu-ray Update

In foreign DVD news, Artificial Eye has announced Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank for 25 January. After a May delay, M6 Vidéo in France has set 12 November as the new date for their Édition Prestige of Marcel Carné's Les visiteurs du soir, which is set to include a documentary by Marc Caro on "le cinéma fantastique français." As expected, no English subtitles will be included on the disc. For those of you who can read German, Alive has announced a three-disc Jean Cocteau set, which will include Orphée, as well as the unavailable-in-the-US The Eagle with Two Heads [L'aigle à deux têtes] and Les parents terribles. The set will be available on 31 December.

And, just as all of Akira Kurosawa's films are finally becoming available on DVD in the US, Japan is one-upping us by putting all of them on Blu-ray. Jesnet released Madadayo, Ran, Rashômon and The Quiet Duel on Blu-ray earlier this year. Toho will unleash several more starting in October. Set for 23 October: Kagemusha, Seven Samurai, Sanshiro Sugata, Sanshiro Sugata 2, The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail, Sanjuro and The Bad Sleep Well. 18 December: The Lower Depths, The Most Beautiful, I Live in Fear, Ikiru, The Hidden Fortress, Stray Dog and Yojimbo. And for 19 February 2010: Red Beard, Dodes'ka-den, Throne of Blood, One Wonderful Sunday, High and Low, No Regrets for My Youth and Drunken Angel. Most Japanese Blu-rays are Region A, which is also the US code, so you might want to check 'em out (assuming English subtitles are present).

Anyway, on with the US DVD announcements. I suppose there's a chance that the dates could change, but it looks as though Anchor Bay has made a quick turn-around on a trio of their titles before the end of the year. Both Pandorum, a space horror directed by Christian Alvart (Antibodies) and starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster, and Peter Hyams' remake of Fritz Lang's Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, with Michael Douglas and Amber Tamblyn, will bow on DVD and Blu-ray 22 December; and Michael Moore's latest, Capitalism: A Love Story, with hit both formats the following week.

- The Mighty Boosh, 2004-2007, BBC/Warner, 13 October
- Psycho Love Story [Cennet], 2008, d. Biray Dalkiran, Pathfinder, 13 October
- P, 2005, d. Paul Spurrier, Palisades Tartan, 20 October
- Criminal Justice, 2008, d. Otto Bathurst, Luke Watson, BFS, 3 November, w. Ben Wishaw, Pete Postlethwaite
- The Band, 2009, d. Anna Brownfield, Breaking Glass Pictures, 17 November
- Kobe Doin' Work, 2009, d. Spike Lee, ESPN/Buena Vista, 24 November
- The Hangover, 2009, d. Todd Phillips, Warner, also on Blu-ray, 15 December
- Let Them Chirp Awhile, 2007, d. Jonathan Blitstein, Cinevolve, also on Blu-ray, 15 December, w. Justin Rice, Brendan Sexton III
- Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, 2009, d. Peter Hyams, Anchor Bay, also on Blu-ray, 22 December
- Kartemquin Films: The Early Years, Volume 1 (Parents / Thumbs Down), 1968, d. Gerald Temaner, Gordon Quinn, Kartemquin/Facets, 22 December
- Pandorum, 2009, d. Christian Alvart, Anchor Bay, also on Blu-ray, 22 December
- Capitalism: A Love Story, 2009, d. Michael Moore, Anchor Bay, also on Blu-ray, 29 December
- Blade of the Ripper [Lo strain vizio della Signora Wardh, aka The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh], 1971, d. Sergio Martino, MYA, 26 January, w. Edwige Fenech
- Desirable Teacher [Pierino contro tutti], 1981, d. Marino Girolami, MYA, 26 January
- Goodbye Gemini, 1970, d. Alan Gibson, Scorpion Releasing, 26 January, w. Michael Redgrave
- Hello Goodbye, 2008, d. Graham Guit, Liberation, 26 January, w. Fanny Ardant, Gérard Depardieu
- Not Now Darling, 1973, d. Ray Cooney, David Croft, Jezebel/Alternative Distribution Alliance, 26 January
- Sex Advice [Sesso in confessionale], 1974, d. Vittorio De Sisti, MYA, 26 January
- Troma's War, 1988, d. Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman, Troma, 26 January


- The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue [Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti, aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie], 1974, d. Jorge Grau, Blue Underground, 27 October
- Stargate, 1994, d. Roland Emmerich, Lionsgate, 27 October
- Logan's Run, 1976, d. Michael Anderson, Warner, 10 November
- Monsters, Inc., 2001, d. Peter Docter, David Silverman, Lee Unkrich, Disney, 10 November
- The Mask of Zorro, 1998, d. Martin Campbell, Sony, 1 December
- The Mel Brooks Collection [Blazing Saddles / Spaceballs / Young Frankenstein / High Anxiety / History of the World: Part 1 / Robin Hood: Men in Tights / Silent Movie / To Be or Not to Be / The Twelve Chairs], 1970-1993, d. Mel Brooks, Alan Johnson, Fox, 15 December
- Versus, 2000, d. Ryuhei Kitamura, Tokyo Shock, 29 December
- The Green Berets, 1968, d. Ray Kellogg, John Wayne, Mervyn LeRoy, Warner, 5 January
- Magnolia, 1999, d. Paul Thomas Anderson, New Line, 19 January
- The Toolbox Murders, 1978, d. Dennis Donnelly, Blue Underground, 26 January

Date Changes/Delays

- Rage, 2009, d. Sally Potter, Liberation [available now, as opposed to in November]
- Made in France [Origine contrôlée], 2001, d. Ahmed Bouchaala, Zakia Tahri, Synkronized USA, now 10 November
- The House of the Devil, 2009, d. Ti West, MPI, now 8 December [moved up]
- Hansel & Gretel, 2007, d. Yim Pil-Sung, Tokyo Shock, now 29 December
- The Brothers Bloom, 2009, d. Rian Johnson, Summit [according to a friend, available for rental everywhere, but won't be for purchase until a later date]
- Tennessee, 2008, d. Aaron Woodley, Vivendi [sorry, Mariah fans, delayed until further notice]
- Casualties of War, 1989, d. Brian De Palma, Sony, Blu-ray [postponed indefinitely]
- Punch-Drunk Love, 2002, d. Paul Thomas Anderson, Sony, Blu-ray [postponed indefinitely]

25 September 2009

More Foreign Oscar Submissions

7 more countries have announced their selection for the Foreign Language Oscar. In a surprise move, Portugal did not select either João Pedro Rodrigues' To Die Like a Man [Morrer Como Um Homem] or Manoel de Oliveira's Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl [Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loira], but instead Doomed Love [Um Amor de Perdição], directed by one of de Oliveira's regular cinematographers, Mário Barroso. Denmark chose Henrik Ruben Genz's Terribly Happy [Frygtelig lykkelig], which Oscilloscope picked up earlier this year.

Bolivia: Zona sur, d. Juan Carlos Valdivia
Denmark: Terribly Happy [Frygtelig lykkelig], d. Henrik Ruben Genz, Oscilloscope Pictures
Luxembourg: Réfractaire [Draft Dodgers], d. Nicolas Steil
Mexico: El traspatio [Backyard], d. Carlos Carrera
Philippines: Ded na si Lolo, d. Soxy Topacio
Portugal: Um Amor de Perdição [Doomed Love], d. Mário Barroso
Slovakia: Nedodrzaný slub [Broken Promise], directed by Jirí Chlumský, Picture This! Entertainment

Finally. Ballast Coming to DVD Through Kino

Just over a year after it made its New York City premiere last October, Lance Hammer's universally lauded Ballast will be available on DVD and Blu-ray from Kino on 10 November.

23 September 2009

Miscellaneous Updates for 23 September

I mentioned my friend Stewart Copeland's film Jennifer playing on PBS' POV the other day; well, James Hansen posted the interview he conducted with Copeland yesterday on the Out 1 Film Journal. If you missed its airing last night, you can watch it here. Also, for the bored, you can watch the "web series" All the Young Dudes, which Stewart and I both worked on, via his website. I play a slightly exaggerated version of myself in three episodes. Look out, Courtney Love.

Canada has selected Xavier Dolan's I Killed My Mother [J'ai tué ma mère] to be their representative for the Oscars next year, which, if nominated, would make its director (one of?) the youngest director to be nominated for a narrative feature (correct me if I'm wrong). Canada last claimed the prize in 2004 with Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions [Les invasions barbares]. Poland has chosen Borys Lankosz's The Reverse [Rewers], and Bosnia and Herzegovina named Namik Kabil's Guardians of the Night [Čuvari noći] as their official submission. According to Movie On, the Netherlands will be submitting The Silent Army, Italy's choice of Giuseppe Tornatore's Baarìa is not official and Serbia is reconsidering their choice of Here and There due to its prevalent English dialogue.

In acquisition news, Magnolia will add another Tilda Swinton to their roster (after Julia) in Luca Guadagnino's I Am Love [Io sono l'amore]. The film premiered at Venice and also played at Toronto... and was, according to Vice President Tom Quinn, "unanimously [Magnolia's] favorite film at Toronto." Sony Pictures Classics also picked up Aaron Schneider's Get Low, which stars Bill Murray, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Lucas Black.

And finally, I also have a few DVD updates for you. Though few, there are some noteworthy titles that have been announced, including the doc Beautiful Losers from Oscilloscope and Pascal-Alex Vincent's feature debut Give Me Your Hand [Donne-moi la main] from Strand, which I have yet to see.

- The Carter, 2009, d. Adam Bhala Lough, Virgil Films, 17 November
- Funny People, 2009, d. Judd Apatow, Universal, also on Blu-ray, 24 November
- Beautiful Losers, 2008, d. Aaron Rose, Joshua Leonard, Oscilloscope, 8 December
- Hollywood, je t'aime, 2009, d. Jason Bushman, Wolfe, 9 December
- 20th Century Boys: Chapter 1, 2008, d. Yukihiko Tsutsumi, Viz Media, 15 December
- Murder by Decree, 1979, d. Bob Clark, Lionsgate, 15 December
- The Tudors, Season 3, 2009, Showtime/Paramount, 15 December
- Ichi: The Movie, 2008, d. Fumihiko Sori, FUNimation, also on Blu-ray, 22 December
- Downloading Nancy, 2008, d. Johan Renck, Strand, 12 January
- Give Me Your Hand [Donne-moi la main], 2008, d. Pascal-Alex Vincent, Strand, 26 January

Correct Spelling Doesn't Matter When You're a Cinema Siren like Ann-MARGRET

Another gem from Koch's Cinema Sirens Collection.

21 September 2009

Tomorrow on POV

James Hansen at Out 1 conducted an interview with our mutual friend Stewart Copeland, whose short doc Jennifer will be airing on PBS' POV tomorrow, 22 September. The interview will go up tomorrow, but for now, you can watch the film, which runs about 5 minutes and is quite wonderful, on his website. Jennifer premiered at this year's Big Sky Documentary Film Festival where it won the prize for Best Mini Doc. Plugged.

Jennifer from Stewart Copeland on Vimeo.

Sony Pictures Classics Takes Lebanon

We knew it'd only be a matter of time before someone picked up Samuel Maoz's Lebanon, which won the Golden Lion at Venice a week ago, and Sony Pictures Classics were the winners of what was likely a bidding war. According to Variety, Israel has yet to announce their Academy Award submission yet, and it's between Lebanon and Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani's Ajami, which Kino recently acquired for a US release. SPC already has two titles in the running for Best Foreign-Language film in Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon and Jacques Audiard's A Prophet; Pedro Almodóvar's Broken Embraces will not be representing Spain in the foreign category, but look for a campaign for Penélope Cruz and Almodóvar's original screenplay... and, though it's probably a long-shot, Blanca Portillo in the Supporting Actress category.

20 September 2009

Palisades Tartan Makes Their First Acquisition in Lourdes

Jessica Hausner's third feature Loudres, which screened at both Venice and Toronto this month, was acquired by Palisades Tartan, marking their first new title outside of the Tartan film library. The Austrian film, which Daniel Kasman reviewed at The Auteurs, stars Sylvie Testud, Bruno Todeschini, Léa Deydoux, Elina Löwensohn and Orsolya Tóth.

Foreign Oscar Submissions and TIFF and Deuville Award Winners

The submissions for the foreign language Oscars are all due on 1 October, and so far, thirty countries have announced their entries. Currently, the Netherlands are reconsidering their choice of Jean van de Velde's The Silent Army [Wit licht], which played out of competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival, as it risks being disqualified for not being "Dutch" enough; a good portion of the dialogue is in English. Thanks to Movie On for the full list. Of the films below, only one filmmaker (Giuseppe Tornatore) is a previous winner, and so far six (maybe seven) have US distribution. David Hudson ponders why Germany, and not Austria, will be submitting Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon over at The Auteurs Daily.

Armenia: Autumn of the Magician, d. Ruben Gevorkyants, Vahe Gevorkyants
Austria: Ein Augenblick Freiheit [For a Moment, Freedom], d. Arash T. Riahi
Belgium: De helaasheid der dingen [The Misfortunates], d. Felix van Groeningen
Brazil: Salve Geral, d. Sérgio Rezende
Bulgaria: The World is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner, d. Stephan Komandarev
Chile: Dawson Isla 10 [Dawson Island 10], d. Miguel Littin
Finland: Postia pappi Jaakobille [Letters to Father Jacob], d. Klaus Härö
France: Un prophète [A Prophet], d. Jacques Audiard, Sony Pictures Classics
Germany: Das weiße Band [The White Ribbon], d. Michael Haneke, Sony Pictures Classics
Hong Kong: Prince of Tears, d. Yonfan
Hungary: Kaméleon [Chameleon], d. Krisztina Goda
India: Harishchandrachi Factory, d. Paresh Mokashi
Iran: About Elly, d. Asghar Farhadi, Here! Films
Italy: Baarìa, d. Giuseppe Tornatore
Japan: Nobody to Watch Over Me, d. Ryôichi Kimizuka
Kazakhstan: Kelin, d. Ermek Tursunov
Lithuania: Duburys [Waterhole], d. Gitis Luksas
Morocco: Casanegra, d. Nour Eddine Lakhmari
Portugal: Um Amor de Perdição [Doomed Love], d. Mário Barroso
Romania: Poliţist, adj.. [Police, Adjetive], d. Corneliu Porumboiu, IFC Films
Serbia: Here and There, d. Darko Lungulov
Slovenia: Pokrajina Št.2 [Landscape No.2], d. Vinko Moderndorfer, Vanguard [released on DVD 25 August]
South Africa: White Wedding, d. Jann Turner
South Korea: Mother, d. Bong Joon-ho, Magnolia
Sri Lanka: Akasa Kusum [Flowers in the Sky], d. Prasanna Vithanage
Sweden: De ofrivilliga [Involuntary], d. Ruben Östlund
Switzerland: Home, d. Ursula Meier, Lorber Films (?)
Taiwan: No puedo vivir sin ti, d. Leon Dai
Thailand: Best in Time, d. Youngyooth Thongkonthun
Venezuela: Libertador Morales, el justiciero, d. Efterpi Charalambidis

Though technically not a competitive film festival like Cannes, Sundance, Venice or Berlin, the selected few awards given at this year's Toronto International Film Festival were announced over the weekend.

People's Choice Award: Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire - d. Lee Daniels
- First Runner-Up: Mao's Last Dancer - d. Bruce Beresford
- Second Runner-Up: Micmacs [Micmacs à tire-larigot] - d. Jean-Pierre Jeunet
People's Choice Award for Documentary: The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls - d. Leanne Pooley
- Runner-Up: Capitalism: A Love Story - d. Michael Moore
People's Choice for Midnight Madness: The Loved Ones - d. Sean Byrne
- Runner-Up: Daybreakers - d. Peter Spierig, Michael Spierig

Best Canadian Feature Film: Cairo Time - d. Ruba Nadda
Best Canadian First Feature Film: The Wild Hunt - d. Alexandre Franchi

FIPRESCI Prize for Special Presentations Section: Hadewijch - d. Bruno Dumont
FIPRESCI Prize for Discovery Section: The Man Beyond the Bridge - d. Laxmikant Shetgaonkar

Precious also tied for the Prix du jury at the 35th annual Deauville Festival du cinéma américain last week. The jury was headed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and included actors Hiam Abbas, Émilie Dequenne, Deborah François, Sandrine Kiberlain, Géraldine Pailhas, Dany Boon, screenwriter Jean-Loup Dabadie (César et Rosalie), and directors Patrice Leconte and Bruno Podalydès (Dieu seul me voit). The winners are below.

Grand Prix: The Messenger - d. Oren Moverman
Prix du jury: (tie) Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire - d. Lee Daniels; Sin Nombre - d. Cary Fukunaga
Prix de la révélation Cartier [Cartier Newcomer Award]: Humpday - d. Lynn Shelton

19 September 2009

Tourneur, Lamarr, Penn & Teller and Kathy Bates in the Warner Archive

With just over 300 titles now included in the Warner Archive Collection, Warner has certainly kept its promise from earlier this year to keep bulking up their selection and, shockingly, have actually been listening to their customers by offering bundle packs and discounts on the DVD-R releases (I remember someone joking in regard to Little Darlings that $20 was pretty steep for a film starring Kristy McNichol).

A few titles you can look forward to being added, hopefully, by the end of the year: Sidney Lumet's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Sea Gull, with James Mason, Vanessa Redgrave, Simone Signoret and David Warner; Robert Z. Leonard's The Bribe with Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton and Vincent Price; King Vidor's Comrade X, with Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr; and Kenneth Branagh's A Midwinter's Tale [a.k.a. In the Bleak Midwinter], with Joan Collins, Jennifer Saunders and Julia Sawalha.

Below you'll find a list of the titles recently added to the collection. All are available now at the Warner Archive homepage. Highlights include a pair of noirs from Jacques Tourneur, Roger Ebert's favorite 90s teen comedy Angus, a number of Hedy Lamarr flicks including I Take This Woman (which went through the hands of Josef von Sternberg and Frank Borzage before being completed by W.S. Van Dyke), King Vidor's silent The Patsy with Marion "Rosebud" Davies, Peter Glenville's Term of Trial and Paul Brickman's remake of Moshé Mizrahi's La vie continue, Men Don't Leave, Arthur Penn's Penn & Teller Get Killed and the little-seen, much-hated fantasy Lionheart.

- Airborne, 1993, d. Rob Bowman, w. Seth Green, Edie McClurg, Jack Black, Alanna Ubach
- Angus, 1995, d. Patrick Read Johnson, w. Kathy Bates, George C. Scott, Rita Moreno, Anna Thomson, James Van Der Beek
- Bad Ronald, 1974, d. Buzz Kulik
- Berlin Express, 1948, d. Jacques Tourneur
- Crossroads, 1942, d. Jack Conway, w. William Powell, Hedy Lamarr
- Experiment Perilous, 1944, d. Jacques Tourneur, w. Hedy Lamarr
- The Heavenly Body, 1944, d. Alexander Hall, w. William Powell, Hedy Lamarr
- Highway 301, 1950, d. Andrew L. Stone
- Hot Millions, 1968, d. Eric Till, w. Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith, Karl Malden, Bob Newhart, Cesar Romero
- How Sweet It Is!, 1968, d. Jerry Paris, w. James Garner, Debbie Reynolds
- I Died a Thousand Times, 1955, d. Stuart Heisler, w. Jack Palance, Shelley Winters, Lee Marvin
- I Take This Woman, 1940, d. W.S. Van Dyke, Frank Borzage, Josef von Sternberg, w. Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr
- Ice Palace, 1960, d. Vincent Sherman, w. Richard Burton
- Killer McCoy, 1947, d. Roy Rowland, w. Mickey Rooney
- Kisses for My President, 1964, d. Curtis Bernhardt, w. Fred MacMurray, Polly Bergen
- Lightning Strikes Twice, 1951, d. King Vidor
- Lionheart, 1987, d. Franklin J. Schaffner, w. Eric Stoltz, Gabriel Byrne, Nicholas Clay, Dexter Fletcher, Paul Rhys, Sammi Davis
- Men Don't Leave, 1990, d. Paul Brickman, w. Jessica Lange, Arliss Howard, Joan Cusack, Kathy Bates, Chris O'Donnell
- Not with My Wife, You Don't!, 1966, d. Norman Panama, w. Tony Curtis, Virna Lisi, George C. Scott
- The Patsy, 1928, d. King Vidor, w. Marion Davies
- Pay or Die, 1960, d. Richard Wilson, w. Ernest Borgnine
- Penn & Teller Get Killed, 1989, d. Arthur Penn
- The Plunderers, 1958, d. Joseph Pevney, w. John Saxon
- Quantrill's Raiders, 1958, d. Edward Bernds
- Return of the Frontiersman, 1950, d. Richard L. Bare
- The Search, 1948, d. Fred Zinnemann, w. Montgomery Clift
- Speedway, 1929, d. Harry Beaumont
- Suspense, 1946, d. Frank Tuttle
- The Tall Target, 1951, d. Anthony Mann
- Term of Trial, 1962, d. Peter Glenville, w. Laurence Olivier, Simone Signoret, Sarah Miles, Terence Stamp
- Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, 1993, d. Randa Haines, w. Robert Duvall, Richard Harris, Shirley MacLaine, Sandra Bullock, Piper Laurie

17 September 2009

The Decade List: Odete (2005)

Odete [Two Drifters] - d. João Pedro Rodrigues

Though his first attempt at consternating his audience, the Pasolini-inspired O Fantasma, wasn't a grand success, João Pedro Rodrigues' Odete hit the mark a lot harder than its predecessor. Released in the US as Two Drifters, the film is an exuberant and decidedly Eurotrashy take on obsession which takes joy in nullifying the romanticized, politically-correct trends in contemporary queer cinema. The central figure of Odete is a handsome twenty-one year old boy named Pedro (João Carreira), who dies in the opening scene in a bloody car crash. As the film's catalyst, his death affects both his cherished boyfriend Rui (Nuno Gil) and a woman he’s never met named Odete (Ana Cristina de Oliveira). Rodrigues presents Rui and Pedro's relationship mockingly, magnifying their cheeseball displays of affection as they exchange one-year anniversary rings, engraved with "Two Drifters," a nod to Breakfast at Tiffany's. They’re an agonizingly perfect couple, in the most extreme sense - in the sense that, in this world, they cannot thrive.

When Pedro perishes, the "Moon River" dries up, and "two drifters" takes on a separate meaning, referring instead to the grief-stricken Rui and the tall, beautiful and emotionally unstable Odete, who uses the Pedro's death as a way of coping with her own boyfriend's (Carloto Cotta) departure. Their drifting is wiped clean of its previously embellished sentimentality as the two empty souls wander through their lives like emotionally-stricken zombies, without the strength to move past their own infatuation.

For Rui, Odete is a mystery; despite living in the same building, they first meet after Pedro's passing when Odete starts claiming to be pregnant with Pedro's baby. This leads Rui to believe she might be the reincarnation of his lover. She’s not, and we know this, but the film presents a number of mythical situations, all of which would have made sense had the film existed in that fantasy world Rui and Pedro seemed to be inhabiting in the opening scene. For a portion of the film, we don’t really know whether Odete is lying or not about her pregnancy. Rodrigues doesn’t allow this misinterpretation to stay for long, as his film is about two tortured young people holding onto the desire of lost happiness. For Odete, Rui functions like as a way to erase “Odete” and assume the role of Pedro, a person who, unlike "Odete," is loved deeply.

Odete is a fascinating film, denying expected conventions and narrative structure in favor of exploring complex and strange emotional responses to grief and loneliness. Perhaps certain elements in the film don't really work, but when a director takes risks like Rodrigues does, some ventures will inevitably fail. And more often than not, I'm more inclined to forgive when ambition is high.

With: Ana Cristina de Oliveira, Nuno Gil, João Carreira, Teresa Madruga, Carloto Cotta
Screenplay: Paulo Rebelo, João Pedro Rodrigues
Cinematography: Rui Poças
Music: Olivier Bombarda
Country of Origin: Portugal
US Distributor: Strand Releasing

Premiere: 18 May 2005 (Cannes Film Festival)
US Premiere: 23 June 2006 (New York City)

Awards: Cinémas de Recherche - Special Mention (Cannes Film Festival)

Criterion Delays and Other Announcements

Nothing terribly exciting in the way of new DVD announcements, but here it is anyway. They are in descending order of release date. The Criterion date changes are below, with the only new items being Blu-rays of Gimme Shelter and A Christmas Tale. Also, a word to the (Blu-ray owning) wise: DVDTimes claims that the Studio Canal Blu-ray collection arriving on 28 September appear to not be Region B locked, so those upset about the cancellations of Criterion's Le mépris and Ran, get 'em imported. The other titles in the collection include The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, The Deer Hunter, Belle de jour, L'année dernière à Marienbad and The Elephant Man.

- The Cove, 2009, d. Louie Psihoyos, Lionsgate, 8 December
- The First Saturday in May, 2007, d. Brad Hennegan, John Hennegan, E1 Distribution, 8 December
- Runaway, 2005, d. Tim McCann, E1 Distribution, 8 December, w. Mark Webber, Robin Tunney
- Slam-Bang, 2009, d. Mark Lebenon, Cinema Epoch, 8 December
- This Beautiful City, 2007, d. Ed Gass-Donnelly, Cinema Epoch, 8 December
- World's Greatest Dad, 2009, d. Bobcat Goldthwait, Magnolia, 8 December
- The Girl from Monaco [La fille de Monaco], 2008, d. Anne Fontaine, Magnolia, 15 December
- Blind Date, 2007, d. Stanley Tucci, E1 Distribution, 22 December, w. Tucci, Patricia Clarkson
- The House of the Devil, 2009, d. Ti West, Magnolia/MPI, also on Blu-ray, 22 December
- Staten Island, 2009, d. James DeMonaco, National Entertainment Media/E1, also on Blu-ray, 22 December

New Criterion Release Dates

- Monsoon Wedding, 2001, d. Mira Nair, DVD and Blu-ray, 20 October
- Howards End, 1992, d. James Ivory, Blu-ray, 3 November
- Wings of Desire [Der Himmel über Berlin], 1987, d. Wim Wenders, DVD and Blu-ray, 3 November
- A Christmas Tale [Un conte de Noël], 2008, d. Arnaud Desplechin, DVD and Blu-ray, 1 December
- Gimme Shelter, 1970, d. Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, Blu-ray, 1 December

Vice Magazine interviews Lars von Trier

Leave it to Vice to conduct my favorite interview thusfar with our old pal Lars von Trier. Henrik Saltzstein gets some great shit out of LvT: complications with Willem Dafoe's dick double, pill-popping, Björk writing a letter to Nicole Kidman telling her not to do Dogville, gardening and the woes of having liberal parents. For more fun, check out the rest of Vice's Film Issue, with a cover by Christopher Doyle and interviews with Werner Herzog, Spike Jonze, the Kuchar brothers, Doyle, Anthony Dod Mantle, Ross McElwee, Gaspar Noé, Dario Argento, Jack Bond, Terry Gilliam, Les Blank and a photospread of Natasha Lyonne (??) by Richard Kern (!!).

16 September 2009

The Decade List: El custodio (2006)

El custodio [The Custodian] - dir. Rodrigo Moreno

Illustrating in stark minimalist detail the unifying theme of fading identity in the Argentinean New Wave, El custodio centers on Rubén (Julio Chávez), the head bodyguard of a wealthy politician (Omar Núñez). The bulk of Rubén's job consists of waiting in hallways and cars as his employer attends and conducts business meetings. These doldrums, made worse by the politician's family's inherent classism, reduce Rubén to set decoration, a role he can't shake even when he's off-the-clock (or was that why he happens to be so good at his job in the first place?). Writer/director Rodrigo Moreno fills his film with menacing silences and a stillness that's almost disconcerting. Even as one becomes aware of the direction the film is headed, El custodio remains utterly enthralling.

With: Julio Chávez, Omar Núñez, Marcelo D'Andrea, Elvira Onetto, Cristina Villamor, Luciana Lifschitz, Osvaldo Djeredjian, Julieta Vallina, Guadalupe Docampo, Vanessa Weinberg
Screenplay: Rodrigo Moreno
Cinematography: Bárbara Álvarez
Music: Federico Jusid
Country of Origin: Argentina/France/Germany/Uruguay
US Distributor: N/A

Premiere: 13 February 2006 (Berlin International Film Festival)
US Premiere: 22 March 2007 (New Directors/New Films)

Awards: Alfred Bauer Award - Rodrigo Moreno (Berlin International Film Festival)

The Decade List: Old Joy (2006)

Old Joy - dir. Kelly Reichardt

I often wish I could speak of most films without categorization, without placing them in the context of others. Whether that context be some unorganized but critically declared movement or in relation to its nationality or its director's body of work, I always resort to those trappings, and maybe that comes with watching as many films as I do. While a bulk of my appreciation for Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy stems from my dissatisfaction with American independent and faux-"indie" cinema, I imagine I would have felt just as strongly if I didn't have a background in film.

The best way for me to describe Old Joy is to compare it to a hauntingly bittersweet song, one which you're compelled to listen to on repeat for whatever length of time. It flows like music, and while the literal music of Yo La Tengo's score compliments the film beautifully, Reichardt is the composer of Old Joy's particular melody. It, more than anything else, strikes this deeply personal emotion from within and does so in the simplest, most bewitching of ways.

While the specific sentiment is quite recognizable, Reichardt's gracefulness lures it out of the film in such a way that it hits you like something strange and new, but somehow still familiar. Films like Old Joy, ones that take on a feeling and movement more akin to musical arrangements than cinematic narratives, use the specifics of story only to guide their melody. And if that melody is as good as Old Joy's is, it lingers, and with memory, becomes all-the-more enchanting.

With: Daniel London, Will Oldham, Tanya Smith
Screenplay: Jonathan Raymond, Kelly Reichardt
Cinematography: Peter Sillen
Music: Yo La Tengo
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: Kino

Premiere: January 2006 (Sundance Film Festival)

Awards: Producers Award - Neil Kopp (Independent Spirit Awards)

15 September 2009

The Decade List: Volver (2006)

Volver - dir. Pedro Almodóvar

[Though I've seen the film at least four times since writing this original piece, it sums up everything I have to say about the film.]

Though he only made one film with that particular title, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown could easily be the subtitle of most of Pedro Almodóvar films. Even if they’re not on their way to the nervous breakdown, they’re always on the verge of something. Few would argue with the statement that Almodóvar’s female characters are his forte, so who would be upset when he’s crafted a world where men, for better or worse, don’t exist? Returning to the form he used in All About My Mother, Almodóvar places us in a world where men only serve as catalysts for the actions of his women. These are not women that subsist in a world without men, but in a world where their dealings with men are always felt, but never actually seen. Almodóvar’s women are placed in situations where the weight of a patriarchal society (specifically a patriarchal Catholic society) has burnt itself into their lives. In Volver, Almodóvar introduces us to Raimunda (Penélope Cruz), her teenage daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo) and her sister Sole (Lola Dueñas), collectively dusting and cleaning off their mother’s grave in a lovely opening sequence, where not a single man is in sight. “The women here live longer than the men,” one character explains. In this world, the women are left to care for one another as the men have all seemingly passed away, whether by natural causes or, more likely, at the hands of their female counterparts.

To call Almodóvar a feminist filmmaker feels strange. As both a male and a homosexual, he regards these women in his own particular way. Though almost always the protagonists, the women do not frequently play the active roles in his films. The active roles are most often portrayed by offscreen characters or entities. In Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the women are governed by the mostly unseen womanizer Iván. In both Women and Volver, Almodóvar is not concerned with showing us what happened as he is with showing us how these women react to what has happened. That nearly all of his women are fashion-savvy, beautiful and extremely feminine isn’t a sexist view in Almodóvar’s hands, but precisely the opposite. He’s not trying to change gender roles or stereotypes but to show his women in these elements and adore them in their various states of extremities. And, no one, in my mind, does it better.

After dying in a fire, Irene (Carmen Maura), mother of Raimunda and Sole, seemingly returns from the dead to right the wrongs she could not settle while alive. She first returns to care for her aging sister (Chus Lampreave, a favorite of Almodóvar) and then shacks up with Sole, keeping hidden from Raimunda, with whom she holds the strongest need to rectify her wrongs. Volver marks the first collaboration between Maura and Almodóvar since Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and while this is a welcome reunion, it’s Cruz who dazzles under his eye. Cursed with bad English-language film roles and a well-touted relationship with Tom Cruise, Cruz is finally given the opportunity to shine in the lead role (she’d prior acted in supporting roles with Almodóvar in Live Flesh and All About My Mother). Almodóvar’s camera adores Cruz, styled like a young Sophia Loren and fully equipped with butt implants, in every respect, making her look glamorous even as she’s cleaning up the dead body of her husband. If the eyes truly are the window to the soul, Cruz’s performance as the outwardly detached Raimunda would be one of the finer examples of this. Cruz hides the despair that becomes more clear in the last act of the film within her glassy eyes. Some might pick up the reason for her distant relationship with her mother early on through plot cues, but for me, it was through Cruz’s eyes. An actress that can convey all we need to know about her within her face and, especially, her eyes is a remarkable feat.

Volver may not be as layered with wonderful surprise as films like Talk to Her or Bad Education were, but we’re not the worse for it. Though certainly vivacious throughout, Volver is perhaps his most transparent picture out of the past four. The plot follows a rather steady current that may be offsetting to the more ecstatic Almodóvar fans, but this isn’t to say that he doesn’t make each shift in plot feel as effervescent and fresh as his other works. The emotions provoked in Volver are not new ones, but because Almodóvar is such a wonderful storyteller, you feel like you’re seeing this story for the first time. Though it took about thirty minutes into the film to work for me, Almodóvar swallowed me whole with Volver, turning my staunch cynicism into the blissful ignorance of a boy who has just discovered cinema. It’s not often that something like this happens, and I can’t make a guarantee that you’ll feel the same way, but it’s always nice to step away from the clinical, academic study of film to simply fall into the screen.

With: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca portillo, Yohana Cobo, Chus Lampreave, Antonio de la Torre, María Isabel Díaz, Carlos Blanco, Neus Sanz, Leandro Rivera, Yolanda Ramos, Carlos García Cambero
Screenplay: Pedro Almodóvar
Cinematography: José Luis Alcaine
Music: Alberto Iglesias
Country of Origin: Spain
US Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Premiere: 10 March 2006 (Spain)
US Premiere: 2 September 2006 (Telluride Film Festival)

Awards: Best Actress - Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca portillo, Yohana Cobo, Chus Lampreave, Best Screenplay (Cannes Film Festival); Best Director, Best Actress - Penélope Cruz, Best Cinematographer, Best Composer, Audience Award (European Film Awards); Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress - Penélope Cruz, Best Supporting Actress - Carmen Maura, Best Original Score (Goya Awards, Spain)