31 July 2008

Kill the Teenagers for Their Insecurities

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane – dir. Jonathan Levine – 2006 – USA


The Wackness – dir. Jonathan Levine – 2008 – USA

Oh, teenagers. Their woes will always find a way onto the screen, particularly from directors trying to figure out what those seven or so years of post-pubescent angst actually signified. For director Jonathan Levine, the answer is “not much.” In his first two features, the insecurities of teenagers find a home in two different, but equally contrived genres. For All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, a virginal orphan, perfect in every way, named Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is the object of carnal teenage conquest, only to result in the graphic deaths of a handful of her inferiors. For The Wackness, your average wigger kid/drug dealer who can’t get laid (Josh Peck) finds his eyes opened by a psychiatrist with a mid-life crisis (Ben Kingsley) and his step-daughter (Olivia Thirlby of Juno). Both films revel in their own clueless insincerity, only peeping out from their genre walls for the sake of “cleverness.”

Thankfully, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane proves to be so relentlessly amoral and blind of the political and cultural can of worms it opens that its dishonesty becomes inconsequential. For those who haven’t heard of it, you aren’t alone. The Weinstein Company shelved the film two years ago, perhaps as a result of Virginia Tech, or because they had no idea what to do with it. On the surface, it’s an acceptable throwback to 80s slasher flicks (Levine loves throwbacks) in which teenagers do a bunch of coke, get loaded, fuck each other and die for their sins, but second and third act twists unleash the worms that make Mandy Lane considerably more cringe-worthy and close-to-home than your usual cut-‘em-up. It ends up being both refreshing and contemptible, which are the only results Levine could have hoped for.

The Wackness, however, drips with the same insincerity, which one can quickly spot in both films’ Super-16, sped-up, music video grainy cinematography and which is annoying to say the least. Set in the early 90s for cute factor (check out the soundtrack and Nintendo and 90210 references), The Wackness wants to be authentic, another “throwback” to cheeseball coming-of-age tales, yet its dishonesty rings more disreputable than Mandy Lane if only because the latter’s genre doesn’t leave much room for authenticity. Kingsley phones in a performance that I’m sure Robin Williams would have been proud of, stoically hitting a bong without a wink and grossly making out with Mary-Kate Olsen.

I don’t hold many films to a social responsibility, so I can let Mandy Lane slide more than some might be able to. And yet, is it my own preference toward shallow teenagers getting hacked up toward white, English-speaking teenage boys coming of age that lets this slide? I don’t think so. With Mandy Lane, Levine places himself as the metaphorical razor-blade or bottle of pills for which the teenagers, each of which equipped with body issues and non-existent self-esteem, and yet in The Wackness, he uses the same teenage qualities to look for something a bit richer, more poignant. He may let his Wackness teens see the next morning, but at least he doesn’t put the Mandy Lane kids under some silly sympathetic pretense.

New Yorker in October + Others

New Yorker has a pretty big month coming in October. They've already announced Jia Zhang-ke's Still Life, but you can add four more to their roster. Firstly, the omnibus French comedy Six in Paris [Paris vu par...], from directors Claude Chabrol, Jean Douchet, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Daniel Pollet, Eric Rohmer and Jean Rouch, which Eric mentioned yesterday. Then you have Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub's biblical Moses and Aaron, which was announced and delayed at the same time of Six in Paris. Then you also get Ousmane Sembene and Thierno Faty Sow's Camp de Thiaroye from 1987 and Hong Sang-soo's Woman on the Beach from 2006. Six streets on 14 October, Moses on the 21st and Camp and Woman on the 28th.

Lionsgate has announced their third and fourth entries into the Meridian Collection: Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy, with Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James LeGros, Grace Zabriskie, Heather Graham and William S. Burroughs, and Fernando León de Aranoa's Mondays in the Sun [Los lunes al sol], with Javier Bardem and Luis Tosar. Both are pretty easy to find otherwise, but you can find them in their new editions on 21 October.

Wolfe will release two European films in October as well: Marco S. Puccioni's Shelter Me [Riparo - Anis tra di noi], with Maria de Medeiros, and Chris Kraus' Four Minutes [Vier Minuten], with Monica Bleibtreu; both will be out on 7 October.

TLA is releasing the documentary Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, about porn actor Jack Wrangler, on 28 October. And, finally, Facets will have Arturo Ripstein's Divine [El evangelio de las Maravillas], which stars Francisco Rabal, on the same date.

29 July 2008

What I've Been Watching, 2008-style: UPDATED

Because I tend to be absent-minded, I thought I'd post a running list of the 2008 films (as per US release date) I've been viewing. It'll help me out when I have to make that annual best of, and perhaps keep you up to date on what I'm watching even if I'm not writing about them. I've divided them into three categories: La Crème (aka, the shining gems), The Bad (self-explanatory), and Les Autres (which are films that are fine, neither amazing nor awful, or for films that are sort of void of such distinctions, like Mother of Tears). And just for the sake of my own annoyance, please don't post on here about my feelings toward The Dark Knight. I'm resisting throwing myself anywhere near that potato, and if you really are interested in my feelings toward it, feel free to e-mail me. I'd rather this not turn into a discussion of that film. So here they are:

UPDATED: With Elegy and Shutter.

La Crème

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired - dir. Marina Zenovich - USA/UK - HBO/ThinkFilm

Tell No One [Ne le dis à personne] - dir. Guillaume Canet - France - Music Box Films - with François Cluzet, André Dussollier, Marie-Josée Croze, Kristin Scott Thomas, François Berléand, Gilles Lellouche, Nathalie Baye, Jean Rochefort, Marina Hands, Philippe Lefebvre, Guillaume Canet

The Witnesses [Les Témoins] dir. André Téchiné - France - Strand Releasing - with Michel Blanc, Emmanuelle Béart, Sami Bouajila, Julie Depardieu, Johan Libéreau

Les Autres

Before I Forget [Avant que j'oublie] - dir. Jacques Nolot - France - Strand Releasing - with Jacques Nolot, Jean-Pol Dubois, Marc Rioufol, Bastien d'Asnières, Gaetano Weysen-Volli

The Dark Knight - dir. Christopher Nolan - USA - Warner - with Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts

Elegy - dir. Isabel Coixet - USA - Red Envelope/Samuel Goldwyn - with Ben Kingsley, Penélope Cruz, Dennis Hopper, Patricia Clarkson, Deborah Harry, Peter Sarsgaard

Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam of Crystal - dir. Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato - USA - HBO

Recount - dir. Jay Roach - USA - HBO - with Kevin Spacey, Bob Balaban, John Hurt, Laura Dern, Denis Leary, Ed Begley Jr., Tom Wilkinson

The Bad!

Jellyfish [Meduzot] - dir. Shira Geffen, Etgar Keret - Israel/France - Zeitgeist - with Sarah Adler, Gera Sandler, Noa Knoller, Ma-nenita De Latorre, Zaharira Harifai

Shutter - dir. Masayuki Ochiai - USA - 20th Century Fox - with Rachael Taylor, Joshua Jackson, Megumi Okina

The Wackness - dir. Jonathan Levine - USA - Sony Pictures Classics - with Josh Peck, Ben Kingsley, Olivia Thirlby, Famke Janssen, Jane Adams, Mary-Kate Olsen, Method Man

28 July 2008

Out of Remission

The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab Story - dir. Peter Greenaway - 2003 - UK/Netherlands/Spain/Luxembourg/Italy/Russia/Hungary/Germany


The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 2: Vaux to the Sea - dir. Peter Greenaway - 2004 - UK/Netherlands/Spain/Luxembourg/Italy/Russia/Hungary/Germany


The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 3: From Sark to Finish - dir. Peter Greenaway - 2004 - UK/Netherlands/Spain/Luxembourg/Italy/Russia/Hungary/Germany

As my interest in the world of film (and, really, everything else) has been going in and out of periods of remission, fancy my surprise that a director I’d “written off” could give me a much needed jump-start. Thanks to the Sundance Channel’s marathon last night, I got to witness Peter Greenaway’s three film entries in his epic, confusing multimedia project The Tulse Luper Suitcases (none of the films have been released theatrically in the US or even on DVD anywhere outside of Russia and Spain). Might I say that the trilogy—the first titled The Moab Story, the second Vaux to the Sea, the third From Sark to Finish—is a dizzying array of brilliance.

With the combined efforts of 8½ Women, Nightwatching and, to a lesser extent, The Pillow Book, Greenaway shifted from a primary obsession of mine to a director I’d pegged as “losing it.” The Tulse Luper Suitcases encompasses all the good things about the aforementioned films and expands upon his examination of cinema and its boundaries. For those unaware, the films depict the life of 20th century collector/traveler Tulse Luper who is better known as Greenaway’s alter ego and has received mention in other of the director’s work. The films contain sixteen “episodes,” each of which surrounding Luper’s imprisonments, both physical and metaphysical.

In episode four or five (forgive me, I can’t remember which except that it happens in Vaux to the Sea), it becomes more clear that The Tulse Luper Suitcases are to Greenaway as Histoire(s) du cinema are to Godard. It’s a quite literal comparison as this segment focuses on Luper’s confinement in a cinemahouse in France which plays The Passion of Joan of Arc and Boudu Saved from Drowning, among others. Here, the cinema becomes a reflexive look at the newly shaped world for Luper, ever advancing through each stage in his own personal reflection. Greenaway even introduces Joan of Arc and Boudu as characters into the series with character numbers; all of the expansive cast of individuals receive a number and their name in text upon entering the films. However, it isn’t simply the cinema that is the mode of Greenaway’s examination, as history itself reveals itself as the catalyst for the understanding of both man and Luper himself.

The band news, unfortunately, comes in the final film, From Sark to Finish, a confused, unpolished and rushed conclusion to Luper’s adventures. Gone are the glorious fascinations of narrative and visuals, the latter of which is, at times, completely astounding particularly in Greenaway’s use of frame-on-top-of-a-frame. Even the original Luper, JJ Feild, is replaced briefly by Stephen Billington and later by Roger Rees, who plays the aged Luper/double in Vaux to the Sea. Missing too are the recognizable faces, from the wonderful Isabella Rossellini to Steven Mackintosh to Valentina Cervi as Luper’s mistress Cissie Colpitts (a name you should recognize from Drowning by Numbers). However, most damning is that, perhaps through budgetary constraints, episodes are glossed over; one, which depicts Luper’s homoerotic relationship with one of his former captors, doesn’t even include any filmed footage. It’s a sad conclusion to a remarkable experiment, albeit one I won’t soon forget.

Remember that episode of Full House when Uncle Jesse deleted DJ's homework assignment? I feel like that

Of course when I finally get around to writing something substantial about cinema, in particular Peter Greenaway's Tulse Luper Suitcases, my computer acts up and loses every word I wrote. Hopefully I'll get around to re-wording what I had to say and post it this week.

25 July 2008


Warner will release documentary about Annie Leibovitz entitled, Life Through a Lens, which was directed by her sister Barbara; the disc streets on 28 October. Zeitgeist will release two films in October: the wonderful documentary Billy the Kid and Up the Yangtze, which has gotten across-the-board acclaim, both on the 18th.

Criterion's October releases include Jean-Pierre Melville's Le deuxième souffle and Le doulos, as well as Costa-Gavras' Missing with Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek.

Music Box Films will release, through MPI, Tuya's Marriage on 28 October and Guillaume Canet's mystery Tell No One [Ne le dis à personne] on 25 November. Dokument Films will have the German comedy Eight Miles High on the same day as Tuya.

New Yorker is releasing Jia Zhang Ke's Still Life on 14 October. First Look has Brad Anderson's Transsiberian, with Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Eduardo Noriega, Thomas Kretschmann and Ben Kingsley, on 4 November, as well as Priceless [Hors de prix] with Audrey Tautou on 18 November.

Kino will release the uncut television version of Pascale Ferran's 2006 adaptation of Lady Chatterley on 14 October. And finally, PeaceArch will have a biopic of punk rocker Darby Crash entitled What We Do Is Secret on 4 November. The film stars Shane West, Bijou Phillips and Ashton Holmes.

22 July 2008

Avant que je...

Aside from the fact that I'm already sick and motherfucking tired of hearing about people's orgasms while watching the new Batman movie (I'm thoroughly convinced that most people can't really separate Heath Ledger's performance from the film itself, which isn't all that good without him), I really have had nothing noteworthy to say in the past few weeks, and I apologize. This blog has fallen by the wayside of my own existential crisis, and even my film viewing has taken the hit. I would say, "Inspire me to get back into it," but I don't think that'd work. I also wish I could tell you that Jacques Nolot's Avant que j'oublie was worth your time, but simply beginning and ending your film well don't add up to a good movie, even if you are trying your hardest to make a Claire Denis film. I could make a list of all the DVDs sitting next to me that I should be watching instead of listening to music online, but just looking at them is daunting enough.

On a brighter note, for those few remaining Peter Greenaway fans, the Sundance Channel will be airing all three parts of The Tulse Luper Suitcases on Saturday the 26th, beginning at 11 pm CT. They will also be airing Tony Gatlif's Transylvania, with Asia Argento, on Wednesday the 30th at 1:45 P.M. CT. None of these four films are available on DVD in the US (the second and third parts of Tulse Luper totally unavailable on DVD), so jump at your chance.

15 July 2008

Shut the fuck up!

That was an elated "Shut the Fuck Up" that titled this entry, not a rude one, as a little birdy came onto my shoulder to tell me that instead of Rose McGowan playing Barbarella, she's going to team with Robert Rodriguez for a remake of........ Red Sonja! In playing the role made famous by Brigitte Nielsen, I think this might be an even-better move for my dear Rose (although I don't think she's quite as alluring with red hair, but I'll take what I can get). They better keep that brilliant Ennio Morricone score.

11 July 2008

Boys in November

William Friedkin's The Boys in the Band has gotten a DVD release date from Paramount on 11 November. Friedkin has apparently been working hard on the restoration, so it should look top notch.

08 July 2008

2008 Progress Report, Part 4

And finally, here's a list of some notable films that finally made their way onto DVD in the United States. By no means is this a comprehensive list, and some of these films have just been announced and not officially released yet. I'm only counting films that had never been on DVD R1/USA prior to this year. October still is wide-open, as well as November and December. Cross your fingers for Warner to re-announce Ken Russell's The Devils for me! I can't take any more heartbreak.

Max Ophüls

Earrings of Madame de..., The [Madame de...] - dir. Max Ophüls - Criterion
Plaisir, Le - dir. Max Ophüls - Criterion
Ronde, La - dir. Max Ophüls – Criterion

Jean-Luc Godard

Chinoise, La - dir. Jean-Luc Godard - Koch Lorber
Gai savoir, Le - dir. Jean-Luc Godard – Koch Lorber
Passion – dir. Jean-Luc Godard – Lionsgate
Détective – dir. Jean-Luc Godard – Lionsgate
Hélas pour moi [Oh, Woe Is Me] – dir. Jean-Luc Godard - Lionsgate

Louis Malle

Lovers, The [Amants, Les] - dir. Louis Malle – Criterion
Fire Within, The [Feu follet, Le] – dir. Louis Malle – Criterion

Derek Jarman

War Requiem – dir. Derek Jarman – Kino
Blue – dir. Derek Jarman – Zeitgeist
Wittgenstein – dir. Derek Jarman – Zeitgeist
Caravaggio – dir. Derek Jarman – Zeitgeist
Angelic Conversation, The – dir. Derek Jarman – Zeitgeist

Patrice Leconte

Girl on the Bridge, The [Fille sur le pont, La] – dir. Patrice Leconte – Paramount/Legend
Hairdresser’s Husband, The [Mari de la coiffeuse, Le] – dir. Patrice Leconte – Severin
Perfume of Yvonne, The [Parfum d’Yvonne, Le] – dir. Patrice Leconte – Severin

The Taviani Brothers

Fiorile – dir. Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani – Koch Lorber
Kaos – dir. Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani – Koch Lorber

Luis Buñuel

Ilusión viaja en tranvía, La [Illusion Travels by Streetcar] - dir. Luis Buñuel – Lionsgate
Nazarín – dir. Luis Buñuel - Lionsgate

From Asia

I Live in Fear - dir. Akira Kurosawa - Eclipse/Criterion
Autumn Afternoon, An – dir. Yasujiro Ozu – Criterion
Ballad of Narayama, The – dir. Shohei Imamura – AnimEigo
Wayward Cloud, The – dir. Tsai Ming-liang – Strand Releasing

From France

Bonheur, Le – dir. Agnès Varda – Criterion
J’embrasse pas [I Don’t Kiss] – dir. André Téchiné – Lionsgate
Beyond Hatred [Au-delà de la haine] – dir. Olivier Meyrou – First Run Features
Nathalie Granger – dir. Marguerite Duras – blaq out/Facets

From Europe

Ludwig – dir. Luchino Visconti – Koch Lorber
Kingdom 2, The [Riget 2] – dir. Lars von Trier – Koch Lorber
Sátántangó – dir. Béla Tarr – Facets
Before the Rain – dir. Milcho Manchevski – Criterion

From North America

Apprentice, The [Fleur bleu] – dir. Larry Kent – Sommerville House
Kiss of the Spider Woman – dir. Hector Babenco – City Lights
When Night Is Falling – dir. Patricia Rozema – Wolfe

From the USA

Boomerang - dir. Elia Kazan - 20th Century Fox
She’s Gotta Have It – dir. Spike Lee – MGM
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains – dir. Lou Adler – Rhino
Lost Highway – dir. David Lynch – Focus Features
Touch – dir. Paul Schrader – MGM
Baby, It’s You – dir. John Sayles – Paramount/Legend
Daniel - dir. Sidney Lumet - Paramount/Legend

07 July 2008

2008 Progress Report, Part 3

In looking back at the past six months, I'm more than a little surprised at how many films not only managed to succeed in their respective endeavors, but actually ended up affecting me deeply. Of course, there may be some extraneous circumstances at work, but overall, I'm pretty assure in ranking these films on the higher tier of contemporary cinema. Let's just hope that the rest of the year is as rich. I also included two special mentions for astounding films that didn't see a theatrical release stateside, but thankfully hit DVDs uncensored.

La crème

Billy the Kid – dir. Jennifer Venditti – USA – Elephant Eye Films

Boarding Gate – dir. Olivier Assayas – France/Luxembourg – Magnet Releasing – with Asia Argento, Michael Madsen, Carl Ng, Kelly Lin, Joana Preiss, Kim Gordon, Alex Descas

Duchess of Langeais, The [Ne touchez pas la hache] – dir. Jacques Rivette – France – IFC Films – with Guillaume Depardieu, Jeanne Balibar, Bulle Ogier, Michel Piccoli

Edge of Heaven, The [Auf der anderen Seite] – dir. Fatih Akin – Germany/Turkey/Italy – Strand Releasing – with Baki Davrak, Hanna Schygulla, Nurgül Yesilçay, Tuncel Kurtiz, Patrycia Ziolkowska

Flight of the Red Balloon, The [Le voyage du ballon rouge] – dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien – IFC Films – with Juliette Binoche, Simon Iteanu, Fang Song, Hippolyte Girardot

In Bruges – dir. Martin McDonagh – UK – Focus Features – with Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy, Jérémie Renier

Irina Palm – dir. Sam Garbarski – UK/Belgium/Luxembourg/Germany/France – Strand Releasing – with Marianne Faithfull, Miki Manojlovic, Kevin Bishop, Siobhan Hewlett, Jenny Agutter

Last Mistress, The [Une vieille maîtresse] – dir. Catherine Breillat – France/Italy – IFC Films – with Asia Argento, Fu’ad Ait Aattou, Roxane Mesquida, Claude Sarraute, Yolande Moreau, Anne Parillaud, Amira Casar

Love Songs [Les chansons d’amour] – dir. Christophe Honoré – France – IFC Films – with Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni, Clotilde Hesme, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet

Noise – dir. Matthew Saville – Australia – Film Movement – with Brendan Cowell, Maia Thomas, Henry Nixon, Nicholas Bell

Otto; or Up with Dead People – dir. Bruce LaBruce – Canada/Germany – Strand Releasing – with Jey Crisfar, Katharina Klewinghaus, Marcel Schlutt, Susanne Sachße

Paranoid Park – dir. Gus Van Sant – USA/France – IFC Films – with Gabe Nevins, Taylor Momsen, Jake Miller, Lauren McKinney

Reprise – dir. Joachim Trier – Norway – Red Envelope Entertainment/Miramax – with Anders Danielsen Lie, Espen Klouman-Høiner, Viktoria Winge

XXY – dir. Lucía Puenzo – Argentina/France/Spain – Film Movement – with Inés Efron, Germán Palacios, Valeria Bertuccelli, Martín Piroyansky

Special DVD Mentions

Free Will, The [Der Freie Wille] – dir. Matthias Glasner – Germany – Benten Films – with Jürgen Vogel, Sabine Timoteo, André Hennicke, Manfred Zapatka

Inside [À l’intérieur] – dir. Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury – France – Dimension – with Béatrice Dalle, Allyson Paradis, Nicolas Duvauchellerianne Faithfull, ermany/France - Strand es, llon rouge] - dir.ist. them into three convenient categories. onal festivals