30 July 2010

Gallo, Ozon, Reichardt, Schnabel, Hellman, Kechiche, Coppola, etc, Screening at Venice

The complete line-up of the 67th Venice Film Festival was announced yesterday, with twenty-two films competing for the the Golden Lion, the festival's highest honor which was awarded to Samuel Maoz's Lebanon last year. Not paying attention to films in production has its benefits; quite a few of the filmmakers presenting their works this year came as a pleasant surprise. Among those surprises: Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff which re-teams the director with her Wendy & Lucy star Michelle Williams; a brand new film written, directed, starring, composed and edited (naturally) by Vincent Gallo called Promises Written in Water; Pablo Larraín's follow-up to Tony Manero, Post mortem; Abdellatif Kechiche's Vénus noire [Black Venus], his first film since La graine et le mulet [The Secret of the Grain] which won a Special Jury Prize at the 2007 fest; Tran Anh Hung's adaptation of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood; and Road to Nowhere, the first feature-length film from Monte Hellman in twenty-one years (following, uh, Silent Night, Deadly Night 3) which stars two former "It" girls Shannyn Sossamon and Dominique Swain. Gallo will also be presenting a short entitled The Agent as part of the Horizons sidebar, which–like Promises–stars Sylvester Stallone's son Sage. Other high profile filmmakers in competition: Sofia Coppola with Somewhere; Julian Schnabel with Miral; François Ozon with Potiche; Tom Tykwer with Drei [Three]; Tsui Hark with Detective Dee and the Mystery of Phantom Flame; Takashi Miike with 13 Assassins; Darren Aronofsky with Black Swan; and Álex de la Iglesia with Balada triste de trompeta [A Sad Trumpet Ballad]. Four Italian films will be screening in competition, and unfortunately the national titles have proven to be the weakest entries in recent history. The sore thumb of the lot appears to be Barney's Version, whose fine cast feels overshadowed by the fact that the last film outing from the director, Richard J. Lewis, was a direct-to-video sequel to the buddy-cop-and-dog classic K-9 (starring, uh, Jim Belushi). Tran Anh Hung and Darren Aronofsky are the only past Golden Lion winners in competition, for Cyclo in 1995 and The Wrestler in 2008 respectively. The competition line-up can be found below. The festival runs from 1-11 September.

- 13 Assassins, d. Takashi Miike, Japan
- Attenberg, d. Athina Rachel Tsangari, Greece, w. Yorgos Lanthimos
- Balada triste de trompeta [A Sad Trumpet Ballad], d. Álex de la Iglesia (Dance with the Devil), Spain/France, w. Carmen Maura, Fernando Guillén Cuervo, Antonio de la Torre
- Barney's Version, d. Richard J. Lewis, Canada/Italy, w. Dustin Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver
- Black Swan, d. Darren Aronofsky, USA, w. Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Bruce Greenwood, Scott Speedman
- Detective Dee and the Mystery of Phantom Flame, d. Tsui Hark (Once Upon a Time in China), China/Hong Kong, w. Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Li Bingbing, Tony Leung Ka-Fai
- Drei [Three], d. Tom Tykwer, Germany, w. Devid Striesow
- Happy Few, d. Antony Cordier (Douches froides), France, w. Marina Foïs, Élodie Bouchez, Roschdy Zem, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Jean-François Stévenin
- Meek's Cutoff, d. Kelly Reichardt, USA, w. Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson
- Miral, d. Julian Schnabel, France/Israel/UK/Italy/USA, w. Hiam Abbass, Freida Pinto, Willem Dafoe, Vanessa Redgrave, Alexander Siddig, Stella Schnabel
- Noi credevamo, d. Mario Martone (L'odore del sengue), Italy/France, w. Luigi Lo Cascio, Toni Servillo
- Norwegian Wood, d. Tran Anh Hung, Japan, w. Rinko Kikuchi
- La passione, d. Carlo Mazzacurati (La lingua del santo), Italy, w. Stefania Sandrelli
- La pecora nera, d. Ascanio Celestini, Italy, w. Maya Sansa
- Post mortem, d. Pablo Larraín, Chile/Mexico/Germany
- Potiche, d. François Ozon, France/Belgium, w. Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Judith Godrèche, Jérémie Renier
- Promises Written in Water, d. Vincent Gallo, USA, w. Gallo
- Road to Nowhere, d. Monte Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop), USA, w. Shannyn Sossamon, Dominique Swain, John Diehl, Fabio Testi
- Silent Souls, d. Aleksei Fedorchenko (First on the Moon), Russia
- La solitudine dei numeri primi [The Solitude of Prime Numbers], d. Saverio Costanzo (In Memory of Me), Italy/France/Germany, w. Filippo Timi, Isabella Rossellini
- Somewhere, d. Sofia Coppola, USA, w. Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Benicio del Toro, Michelle Monaghan, Benicio Del Toro
- Vénus noire [Black Venus], d. Abdellatif Kechiche, France/Italy/Belgium, w. Olivier Gourmet

Out of competition, you'll find directorial efforts from both the Affleck brothers. The elder will follow his well-received (but, still, not that good) Gone Baby Gone with The Town, a crime thriller about a Boston-area gang of thieves. Casey's directorial debut is I'm Still Here, a documentary that received a lot of press last year which follows Joaquin Phoenix's retirement from acting to pursue a career as a rapper. In addition to 13 Assassins, Takashi Miike's Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City will premiere, likely as part of the festival's midnight screenings, which will open with Robert Rodriguez's star-and-"star"-studded Machete. Julie Taymor's return to Shakespeare, The Tempest, will close this portion. Below you'll find a selection of the films playing out of competition.

- 1960, d. Gabriele Salvatores (I'm Not Scared), Italy
- The Child's Eye 3D, d. Oxide Pang, Danny Pang, Hong Kong/China
- I'm Still Here, d. Casey Affleck, USA, w. Joaquin Phoenix
- The Last Movie, d. Dennis Hopper, USA, w. Hopper, Tomas Milian, Samuel Fuller, Sylvia Miles, Peter Fonda, Kris Kristofferson, Henry Jaglom, John Phillip Law, Michelle Phillips, Dean Stockwell, Russ Tamblyn, Toni Basil
- Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, d. Andrew Lau, Hong Kong/China, w. Donnie Yen, Shu Qi
- A Letter to Elia, d. Martin Scorsese, Kent Jones, USA
- Lope, d. Andrucha Waddington (House of Sand), Spain/Brazil, w. Leonor Watling, Pilar López de Ayala, Sonia Braga, Luis Tosar
- Machete, d. Robert Rodriguez, USA, w. Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan, Cheech Marin, Jeff Fahey, Steven Seagal, Don Johnson, Rose McGowan, Tom Savini
- Passione, d. John Turturro, Italy
- Přežít svůj život [Surviving Life], d. Jan Švankmajer, Czech Republic/Slovakia
- Raavanan, d. Mani Ratnam, India, w. Aishwarya Rai
- Reign of Assassins, d. John Woo, Su Chao-Bin, China/Hong Kong/Taiwan, w. Michelle Yeoh, Kelly Lin
- Shock Labyrinth 3D, d. Takashi Shimizu (Ju-on), Japan
- Showtime, d. Stanley Kwan (Lan yu), China, w. Carina Lau, Tony Leung Ka-Fai
- Sorelle mai, d. Marco Bellocchio, Italy
- The Tempest, d. Julie Taymor, USA, w. Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Djimon Hounsou, David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, Alfred Molina, Alan Cumming, Ben Whishaw
- That Girl in Yellow Boots, d. Anurag Kashyap (Dev.D), India
- The Town, d. Ben Affleck, USA, w. Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively
- Vallanzasca - Gli angeli del male, d. Michele Placido (Romanzo criminale), Italy/France, w. Kim Rossi Stuart, Filippo Timi, Moritz Bleibtreu, Paz Vega
- Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City, d. Takashi Miike, Japan

The Horizons portion of this year's selection will open with La belle endormie [Sleeping Beauty], another fairy tale adaptation from Catherine Breillat following last year's Barbe Bleue; like its predecessor, La belle endormie was produced by Arte Télévision and employs a cast of unknowns. Hong Sang-soo's Oki's Movie will close the section; Oki's Movie is Hong Sang-soo's second film to premiere in 2010 following Ha Ha Ha, which was awarded the Un Certain Regard Prize at Cannes in May. Not a whole lot of information was available about the rest of the films (some of them shorts), but I listed below the films from directors I knew. And following that is a selection of the films screening as part of the Venice Days, one of the festival's autonomous sidebars.

Horizons

- The Agent, d. Vincent Gallo, USA, w. Sage Stallone, Gallo
- La belle endormie [Sleeping Beauty], d. Catherine Breillat, France
- Better Life, d. Isaac Julien, UK/China, w. Maggie Cheung
- Cold Fish, d. Sion Sono, Japan
- Guest, d. José Luis Guerin, Spain
- The Leopard, d. Isaac Julien, UK/Italy
- A Loft, d. Ken Jacobs, USA
- News from Nowhere, d. Paul Morrissey, USA
- Oki's Movie, d. Hong Sang-soo, South Korea
- Painéis de São Vicente de Fora, Visão Poética, d. Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal, w. Ricardo Trêpa
- Red Earth, d. Clara Law, Hong Kong/China

Venice Days

- L'amour buio, d. Antonio Capuano (Luna rossa), Italy, w. Valeria Golino
- Le bruit des glaçons [The Clink of Ice], d. Bertrand Blier (Beau-père), France, w. Jean Duhardin, Albert Dupontel
- Cirkus Columbia, d. Danis Tanović (No Man's Land), Bosnia & Herzegovina/France/UK/Slovenia/Germany/Belgium/Serbia, w. Miki Manojlović, Mira Furlan
- Hitler à Hollywood [Hitler in Hollywood], d. Frédéric Sojcher, w. Maria de Medeiros, Micheline Presle
- Incendies, d. Denis Villeneuve (Polytechnique), Canada/France, w. Lubna Azabal
- Noir océan, d. Marion Hänsel (The Quarry), w. Adrien Joliver
- La vida de los peces, d. Matías Bize (En la cama), Chile, w. Santiago Cabrera, Blanca Lewin

16 July 2010

New Films from Bruce LaBruce, Isild Le Besco and Christophe Honoré at Locarno Film Festival

The official line-up for the 63rd annual Locarno Film Festival was announced yesterday, including new films from Bruce LaBruce, Christophe Honoré, Isild Le Besco, Aaron Katz and Denis Côté screening in competition. Katz's Cold Weather, which IFC picked up for US distribution after its premiere at SXSW, is the lone American film competing for the Golden Leopard this year. French porn star François Sagat looks to be the unexpected star of competition line-up, appearing as the lead in both LaBruce's LA Zombie and Honoré's Homme au bain [Man in Bath], the latter co-starring Honoré's muse as of late, Chiara Mastroianni. LA Zombie, a porn-ier counterpart to LaBruce's earlier Otto; or Up with Dead People, screened in Berlin earlier this year and stars a handful of gay porn stars, as well as Tony Ward (who memorably played the object of desire in LaBruce's Hustler White in 1996), pin-up boy Trevor Wayne, rapper Deadlee and Project Runaway finalist Santino Rice (hello, St Louis). In addition to presenting Bas-fonds, her latest project as a director, actress Isild Le Besco can be seen in front of the camera in Benoît Jacquot's Au fond des bois [Deep in the Woods], which marks the sixth collaboration with Jacquot. Au fond des bois also stars Nahuel Pérez Biscayart of Alexis Dos Santos' Glue and will be the opening film in the Piazza Grande section.

Other films in the International Competition: Pia Marais' Im Alter von Ellen [At Ellen's Age], with Jeanne Balibar in the title role; Morgen, the feature debut of Marian Crişan, whose short Megatron won the Palme d'Or in the courts-métrages section at Cannes in 2008; Pietro, the latest from Italian director Daniele Gaglianone (I cento passi); and Curling, from Canadian director Denis Côté who won the Directing Prize at Locarno in 2008 for Elle veut le chaos [All That She Wants]. Elle veut le chaos is available to stream (in certain territories) on MUBI.

Also in the Piazza Grande section: the Duplass' brothers Cyrus, currently in theatres across the US right now; the second directorial outing from respected editor Valdís Óskarsdóttir (The Celebration, julien donkey-boy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), entitled Kóngavegur [King's Road] which stars Daniel Brühl and Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson; L'avocat [The Counsel], from director Cédric Anger–who co-wrote Xavier Beauvois' Le petit lieutenant and Selon Matthieu and Werner Schroeter's Deux–starring Benoît Magimel, Gilbert Melki, Aïssa Maïga, Eric Caravaca and Barbet Schroeder; Quentin Dupieux's killer-tire film Rubber, which premiered during the Semaine de la Critique at Cannes this year; also from Cannes, Aktan Arym Kubat's The Light Thief, which played in the Quinzaine des Réalisatuers; and restored prints of Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be and Francesco Rosi's Uomini contro [Many Wars Ago].

In the Cinema of the Present portion: Memory Lane, the "feature" debut of Mikhaël Hers, whose previous three films (Montparnasse, Primrose Hill and Charell) premiered at the Cannes Film Festival over the past few eyars and all clock-in around an hour-long; Ivory Tower, from first-time director Adam Traynor which marks the acting debut of musician Peaches; and Norberto apenas tarde [Norberto's Deadline], the directorial debut of actor Daniel Hendler, best known as Argentinean filmmaker Daniel Burman's cinematic persona.

And Out of Competition, a number of shorts from notable directors will be playing:

- Get Out of the Car - Thom Anderson (Los Angeles Plays Itself)
- Hell Roaring Creek - Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Sweetgrass)
- Low Cost (Claude Jutra) - Lionel Baier (Garçon stupide)
- Avant les mots - Joachim Lafosse (Nue propriété)
- Return to the Dogs - Lodge Kerrigan (Clean, Shaven)
- Where the Boys Are - Betrand Bonello (Tiresia)
- Pig Iron - James Benning (RR)
- Les lignes ennemies - Denis Côté
- Rosalinda - Matías Piñeiro (Todos mienten)
- Chef d'oeuvre? - Luc Moullet (A Girl Is a Gun)
- Toujours moins - Luc Moullet
- O somma luce - Jean-Marie Straub
- Corneille-Brecht - Jean-Marie Straub
- Joachim Gatti - Jean-Marie Straub
- Europa, 27 Octobre - Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet

I don't know exactly how Kerrigan's Return to the Dogs relates to his experimental Grace Slick feature Rebecca H. (Return to the Dogs) which played in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in May. And finally, there will be a special retrospective of director Ernst Lubitsch at the festival this year, as well as a new, restored print of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's little-seen Ich will doch nur, daß ihr mich liebt [I Only Want You to Love Me], which was made for German television. The 63rd Festival del film Locarno runs from 4-14 August. The full list of films in competition is below:

- Bas-fonds, d. Isild Le Besco, France
- Beli, beli svet [White White World], d. Oleg Novković, Serbia/Sweden/Germany
- Beyond the Steppes, d. Vanja d'Alcantara, Belgium/Poland
- Cold Weather, d. Aaron Katz, USA
- Curling, d. Denis Côté, Canada
- Homme au bain [Man at Bath], d. Christophe Honoré, France
- Im Alter von Ellen [At Ellen's Age], d. Pia Marais, Germany
- Karamay, d. Xu Xin, China
- LA Zombie, d. Bruce LaBruce, Germany/Canada/USA
- Luz nas Trevas, a Volta do Bandido da Luz Vermelha, d. Helena Ignez, Ícaro Martins, Brazil
- Morgen, d. Marian Crişan, Romania/France/Hungary
- Periferic, d. Bogdan George Apetri, Romania/Austria
- La petite chambre, d. Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond
- Pietro, d. Daniele Gaglianone, Italy
- Saç, d. Tayfun Pirselimoğlu, Turkey/Greece
- Songs of Love and Hate, d. Katalin Gödrös, Switzerland
- Winter Vacation, d. Li Hongqi, China
- Womb, d. Benedek Fliegauf, Germany/Hungary/France

22 June 2010

Try Harder

I’ve been pretty out-of-the-loop as to which films the kids are talkin’ about these days… but for whatever reason, one film has awkwardly wedged its way into several conversations with an alarming frequency in my social life. The film in question: The Human Centipede. Unfortunately for me, The Human Centipede happens to be one of maybe four 2010 cinema releases I’ve actually seen, thanks to a misguided recommendation (thanks, Mike!). From these conversations, I’ve gathered that most people haven’t actually wasted the hour-and-a-half I have but likely viewed the trailer or read Roger Ebert’s zero-star review of it. Yet every time I give my look of disgust at its mention, I notice the faces of the people I’m talking to morph into a look of depraved elation. “You’ve seen it?? Is it totally gross?”

Maybe I’ve officially grown out of the phase when one enjoys grotesque films, but I don’t understand how anyone–whether you’ve grown out of that phase or not–derived any amusement from The Human Centipede. If you know the premise, you’ve pretty much seen the film. The simple idea of the human centipede is enough to either nauseate or perversely excite you, and watching the film will do little to change those sensations… unless of course you were expecting anything more. The Human Centipede is an artless film, which isn’t in itself a bad thing, but it is nothing more than a simple disgusting thought turned into a humorless ninety-minute test of one’s patience. Subtext, allegory, motive and tension are all woefully absent, but so is the sort of bloodlust and iniquity that The Human Centipede’s target audience would expect.

I doubt my disgust in The Human Centipede will sway anyone in either direction. The most I can hope for, I suppose, is that the sorry individuals who will make the same mistake I did will share my sentiments and demand more from their trash cinema.

10 June 2010

For the love of Jurassic Park III

Jurassic Park III
2001
USA
Dir: Joe Johnston

When it comes to Hollywood movie franchises, there always seems to be bizarre patterns of success involved. For anything starring Jason Statham, the second incarnation always stands above the others (I know this to be true of The Transporter, but I’ve heard from various, reputable folks that this is also true of Crank). For a number of the trashy horror chronicles, the Jason Statham rule also proves true (see Final Destination or Rob Zombie’s Halloween… also, outside of the horror genre, the X-Men films), but conversely there’s also the 1 and 3 rule, which applies to two of Wes Craven’s series: the original Nightmare on Elm Streets and Screams (you can argue against Scream 3 being good, certainly, but it’s hard to say it isn’t at least somewhat of an improvement over the 2nd). After indulging for the first time in the third of its series, I would contest that the Jurassic Park series (I’d say trilogy, but I’ve heard another one is in the works) falls into the 1-3 rule, though I know neither of its sequels are held in particularly high regard.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park will always be a notoriously memorable viewing experience for me or, in other words, one that marked a special turning point in my youth. The summer movie season of 1997 will be remembered best as the summer where I first recall truly loathing films of any sort, though it seems hard now to imagine that I was ever “easy to please.” The epic disappointment of The Lost World in May was quickly followed by the colossal disgust of Batman & Robin. Hollywood, for the first time I can remember, has failed this thirteen-year-old with their embarrassing sequels to films I had thoroughly enjoyed during my childhood. Needless to say (perhaps), I decided against seeing Jurassic Park III at 17, already fully jaded, expectedly angsty and unjustifiably haughty; I do know a few of my friends got really stoned and laughed their way through it, but I think I was even “too cool” to get high at that age.

The decision to watch Jurassic Park III nine years later proved to be a fortuitous one. I don’t think that sober, snotty seventeen-year-old would have been half as amused by its ridiculousness (or by the great Téa Leoni!) as this twenty-six-year-old admirer of the low-low-brow was. Like the hilarious and peculiar consistency in which Nicolas Cage has been playing characters with money troubles, Sam Neill returns to the series as Dr. Alan Grant after skipping out on The Lost World and gets tricked into returning to the dinosaur-infested island by a couple of zeroes and a dollar sign (well, as he points out at some point in the film, it’s a neighboring island from the one in the first film, one that’s become overtaken by wild dinosaurs). He’s tricked by a bumbling pair of loons–played by William H. Macy and Téa Leoni (whose hair was clearly styled by the world’s most dedicated Chynna Phillips fan)–whose son (Trevor Morgan) has gone missing on the island after a hang-gliding disaster with the teacher who fucks Reese Witherspoon in Election, who I believe is supposed to be Leoni’s new husband but looks convincingly enough like the town pederast. That the guy from Election shows up, not to mention Laura Dern in a thankless cameo, makes sense when you see Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor’s names appear in the end credits as co-writers. Unlike a lot of other writer-for-hire jobs, Payne and Taylor’s involvement isn’t mysterious or lost in translation, as their contribution can be seen entirely in Macy and Leoni’s characters, who appear to have been magically transported from a very different movie about goofy, bickering exes who inevitably fall back in love with each other. (In a perfect world, Dern would have reprised her role as Ruth Stoops instead of Dr. Ellie Sattler and been cosmically transported into Jurassic Park III).

All of the big dinosaur attacks, once Neill lands on the island with his protégé Alessandro Nivola and the Macy/Leoni odd couple, resemble little of what happens in the first two films, as new director Joe Johnston (the man responsible for such gems as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Rocketeer, The Pagemaster, Jumanji and most recently The Wolfman) shows more of an affinity for the Turok video games than the filmmaker he’d worked under for years. As is always the case for sequels, the stakes are higher, which here translates as the black guy getting offed earlier than he usually would (it takes a little longer for Michael Jeter to bite it). Of course, Macy and Leoni’s far-fetched-in-the-real-world but sure-to-be-true-in-the-movie-land notion that their child is still alive proves true, and of course, the kid is magnetically drawn to the otherwise misanthropic Dr. Grant… and thankfully isn’t half as irritating as the two writer’s contrivances that pass as Richard Attenborough’s grandchildren in the first film (the children of neurotic parents always turn out a lot saner than usual in movies, don’t they?).

At just ninety minutes, Jurassic Park III’s climax smells like the trenchant cocktail of screenplay revisions and budget-cuts, but that’s hardly a setback. Jurassic Park III provides more entertainment than it ever should have; placing a bunch of respectable actors in the broken back half of a jet that’s being tossed around and smashed by a dinosaur has never been a bad idea in my mind, and when those actors happen to be a desperate Sam Neill, a hot Alessandro Nivola, a mustache-donning William H. Macy and Téa Leoni (no adjective needed), I’m sold.

All three Jurassic Park films are available on DVD from Universal everywhere; Blu-rays have yet to come out for any of them.

Suave

Over the past few weeks, two actors I hold quite dear to my heart passed away: Dennis Hopper and Rue McClanahan. Obviously, this isn’t news to anyone, but as I was amid a death in my own family, I wasn’t able to post anything until now. Though she appeared in over 20 films, McClanahan will always be remembered best for the small screen, as that tarty firecracker Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls. A Southern belle with a charming vanity and a healthy appetite for men, Blanche gave McClanahan the opportunity to put all of her talents to their fullest effect, after previously playing recurring characters on Maude (also with Bea Arthur) and, yes, Mama’s Family. Though less recognized than her television work, McClanahan’s film career consisted of several great oddities, including playing a biology teacher in Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, Gina Gershon’s mother in a film adaptation of Jim Thompson’s short story This World, Then the Fireworks directed by Michael Oblowitz and Mervyn Nelson’s little-seen, Boys in the Band-esque Some of My Best Friends Are from 1971, which co-starred Candy Darling, Sylvia Sims, Gil Gerard, Dick O’Neill and gay porn star Calvin Culver (Score, Ginger, Boys in the Sand). My favorite little obituary for Rue was written by Michael K. at Dlisted who said, “Thank you for playing a character that showed me it’s okay to be a big ass slut with a bitchy tongue as long as you do it while wearing pastel florals.” He also posted a quote from the last remaining Golden Girl Betty White the same day.

Where does one start with Dennis Hopper? I guess everyone can choose how they’ll remember him best, and I have a feeling a lot of the people I know will be channeling his memory through his performance as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. From his screen debut in Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause, Hopper’s appearances onscreen were consistently unpredictable, working steadily for six decades. His outings as a director were a lot more intermittent. After achieving a cult hit with Easy Rider, his follow-up The Last Movie–which placed Hopper opposite a wild cast that included Tomas Milian, Samuel Fuller, Sylvia Miles, Peter Fonda, Kris Kristofferson, Henry Jaglom, John Phillip Law, Michelle Phillips, Dean Stockwell, Russ Tamblyn and Toni Basil–is still relatively unknown to this day. Hopper had his name taken off the film Catchfire in 1990 after Vestron Pictures decided to cut his three-hour version; the film, which starred Jodie Foster and a lot of other famous actors, was later released with the title Backtrack, twenty-minutes longer but still an hour short of Hopper’s intended version. His other directing credits include Out of the Blue, the neo-noir The Hot Spot with Don Johnshon, Virginia Madsen and Jennifer Connelly, the police drama Colors and the terrible Chasers with Tom Berenger and Erika Eleniak. I could probably spend a lot more time talking about some of his great performances throughout the years, but that could take a really long time. Some of the highlights, in my eyes: in a loincloth beside Taylor Mead in Andy Warhol’s close-to-unwatchable Tarzan and Jane Revisited… Sort of; running naked through a train in Henry Jaglom’s Tracks; playing “Tom Ripley” in Wim Wenders’ The American Friend [Der amerikanische Freund]; on incredible amounts of drugs as a photojournalist in Apocalypse Now; playing a police lieutenant in Tobe Hooper’s weird-as-fuck sequel to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre; making a cameo as Grace Jones’ lover in Alex Cox’s Straight to Hell; giving Christopher Walken a history lesson on Sicily in True Romance; planting bombs on buses in Speed; bringing the reptilian villain King Koopa to life in the film version of the Super Mario Bros. video game; raving about the future of video as it pertains to cinema in Abel Ferrara’s The Blackout; bringing about the only moments of joy to George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead; and lending advice to Ben Kingsley about his affair with Penélope Cruz before perishing at wife Debbie Harry's side in Isabel Coixet’s Elegy. So, Dennis and Rue, as Frank Booth would say, here's to your fucks.

Notable Filmography

Rebel Without a Cause, 1955, d. Nicholas Ray
Giant, 1956, d. George Stevens
Night Tide, 1961, d. Curtis Harrington
The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys, 1964, d. Andy Warhol
Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of, 1964, d. Andy Warhol
The Trip, 1967, d. Roger Corman
Cool Hand Luke, 1967, d. Stuart Rosenberg
Hang ‘Em High, 1968, d. Ted Post
Head, 1968, d. Bob Rafelson
Easy Rider, 1969
True Grit, 1969, d. Henry Hathaway
The Last Movie, 1971
The Other Side of the Wind, 1972, d. Orson Welles
Mad Dog Morgan, 1976, d. Philippe Mora
Tracks, 1977, d. Henry Jaglom
Der amerikanische Freund [The American Friend], 1977, d. Wim Wenders
Les apprentis sorciers [The Sorcerer’s Apprentice], 1977, d. Edgardo Cozarinsky
Apocalypse Now, 1979, d. Francis Ford Coppola
Out of the Blue, 1980
Reborn, 1981, d. Bigas Luna
Human Highway, 1982, d. Dean Stockwell, Neil Young
Rumble Fish, 1983, d. Francis Ford Coppola
The Osterman Weekend, 1983, d. Sam Peckinpah
O.C. and Stiggs, 1985, d. Robert Altman
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, 1986, d. Tobe Hooper
River’s Edge, 1986, d. Tim Hunter
Blue Velvet, 1986, d. David Lynch
Hoosiers, 1986, d. David Anspaugh
Running Out of Luck, 1987, d. Julien Temple
Black Widow, 1987, d. Bob Rafelson
Straight to Hell, 1987, d. Alex Cox
The Pick-Up Artist, 1987, d. James Toback
Colors, 1988
Chattahoochee, 1989, d. Mick Jackson
Catchfire, 1990
The Hot Spot, 1990
Superstar: The Life & Times of Andy Warhol, 1990, d. Chuck Workman
Paris Trout, 1991, d. Stephen Gyllenhaal
The Indian Runner, 1991, d. Sean Penn
The Heart of Justice, 1992, d. Bruno Barreto
Super Mario Bros., 1993, d. Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton, Roland Joffé, Dean Semler
Red Rock West, 1993, d. John Dahl
True Romance, 1993, d. Tony Scott
Chasers, 1994
Speed, 1994, d. Jan de Bont
Witch Hunt, 1994, d. Paul Schrader
Waterworld, 1995, d. Kevin Reynolds, Kevin Costner
Carried Away, 1996, d. Bruno Barreto
Samson and Delilah, 1996, d. Nicolas Roeg
Space Truckers, 1996, d. Stuart Gordon
Basquiat, 1996, d. Julian Schnabel
The Blackout, 1997, d. Abel Ferrara
Who Is Henry Jaglom?, 1997, d. Henry Alex Rubin, Jeremy Workman
Jesus’ Son, 1999, d. Alison Maclean
Leo, 2002, d. Mehdi Norowzian
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs and Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, 2003, d. Kenneth Bowser
Tell Them Who You Are, 2004, d. Mark Wexler
Land of the Dead, 2005, d. George A. Romero
Sketches of Frank Gehry, 2005, d. Sydney Pollack
Inside Deep Throat, 2005, d. Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Chelsea on the Rocks, 2008, d. Abel Ferrara
Elegy, 2008, d. Isabel Coixet
Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!, 2008, d. Mark Hartley
The Brothers Warner, 2008, d. Cass Warner
Palermo Shooting, 2008, d. Wim Wenders

01 June 2010

Down... on the Ground

This post was intended to analyze the similarities and differences between Up in the Air, Fish Tank and An Education, but unfortunately it proved to be a rather uninteresting exercise in surface observations and difficult prose. So I scrapped the idea, but salvaged the only thing worth taking from it: my disdain for Up in the Air. So apologies for the jumpiness and inconclusive arguments, but I thought it might be of some interest regardless. For those who haven't seen the films, I wouldn't recommend reading as this is infested with “spoilers.”

As we’re nearing the half-way point in 2010, I took a look back at what few ’09 releases I actually saw, and one trend really stood out: marital and parental escapism. In three of the notable award contenders of 2009—Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank and Lone Scherfig’s An Education—the very same third act revelation appears as the protagonists make an uninvited visit to the homes of their respective lovers, discovering that their romantic flames are not only frauds, but frauds with spouses and children.

For Up in the Air’s Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a man whose views of romance are mirrored (of course) by his on-the-go career which keeps him in transit for the majority of his time, a hotel bar encounter with a woman like Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) leads to the most ideal of no-strings-attached affairs. Alex is a woman, seemingly, like Ryan: professional, mature, horny and uninterested in anything related to our traditional notions of maintaining a romantic relationship with someone. Through several different scenarios where Ryan is forced to interact with people whose notions of relationship stability greatly differ from his own, he undergoes a change of heart and falls for Alex in a way he’s likely never felt for anyone else.

In an attempt to compare/contrast An Education and Fish Tank, I hit a dead end, as they’re almost too similar. Both feature teenage girls as protagonists, their older love interests (Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Fassbender) are deceptively charming and both films happen to be directed by women. The only thing truly dividing them from a narrative perspective is their place in time and the issue of class. An Education’s Jenny (Carey Mulligan) comes from a typical middle class English family in the early 1960s, while Fish Tank’s Mia (Katie Jarvis) lives in the outskirts with her young, hot, single mother (Kierston Wareing) and little sister (Rebecca Griffiths). Their differences in quality, which is a steep one, can best be chalked up to the flatness and dryness of Scherfig’s images against the vividness and vibrancy of Arnold’s.

With surprising consistency, Jenny, Mia and Ryan’s worlds are all crushed through uninvited visits to their respective lovers’ homes. It was, after all, too good to be true for each of them, but the lessons aren’t all the same. For Up in the Air, Alex’s “other life” becomes just one of the film’s infuriatingly heavy-handed views of the traditional family structure. Alex is not only villainized through the revelation but all of the refreshing qualities that Ryan found in her morph into the traits of an unhappy wife and mother acting out. While it seemed relatively clear that Ryan’s young co-worker/traveling companion Natalie Keener’s (Anna Kendrick) function in the film was to give (false) validation to Ryan’s beliefs, Natalie’s purpose changes when the film places its scarlet letter upon Alex, as she starts to work as a defense for the screenwriters (and novelist, I suppose, though I haven’t read the book) in showing us that all women aren’t cruel, manipulative, heart-stomping adulteresses. It’s hard to determine whether the simple, vile justification of Alex’s away-from-home behavior or the nauseating placement of the interview footage of the real people laid off from their jobs where they all emphasize the importance of family is what ultimately destroys Up in the Air, but both elements certainly succeed in ridiculing the protagonist… or maybe we should have never trusted a filmmaker who tried to garner sympathy for a character who crushes other people’s lives as a trade.

All three films are available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK. Up in the Air and An Education are available on Blu-ray and DVD in the US, and Fish Tank will be released by Criterion later in the year.

23 May 2010

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Takes the Palme d'Or

Tim Burton and the jury awarded Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives the Palme d'Or at Cannes today, marking the first Palme d'Or for the director and for Thailand. Weerasethakul won the Jury Prize in 2004 for Tropical Malady (which still feels like a giant oversight by Quentin Tarantino and his jury that year, who gave the Palme d'Or to Fahrenheit 9/11) and the Un Certain Regard Award in 2002 for Blissfully Yours. You can watch A Letter to Uncle Boonmee, the director's fantastic 17-minute short which he expanded into the feature, on MUBI. In his fourth outing as a feature director, Mathieu Amalric took home the Best Director prize for Tournée [On Tour]. In a rare tie, Javier Bardem and Elio Germano were named the Best Actors for Biutiful and La nostra vita [Our Life] respectively, and Juliette Binoche won her first Best Actress prize at Cannes this year for Abbas Kiarostami's Copie conforme [Certified Copy]. Rounding out the rest of the awards: Lee Chang-dong won Best Screenplay for Poetry, Xavier Beauvois' Des hommes et des dieux [Of Gods and Men] was awarded the Grand Prix and Michael Rowe's Año bisiesto [Leap Year] won the Caméra d'Or (for best first film). Full awards below:

Palme d'Or: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, d. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/France/Germany/Spain/United Kingdom
Grand prix: Des hommes et des dieux [Of Gods and Men], d. Xavier Beauvois, France
Prix du jury: Un homme qui crie [A Screaming Man], d. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, France/Chad
Prix de la mise en scène [Best Director]: Mathieu Amalric - Tournée [On Tour]
Prix d'interprétation féminine [Best Actress]: Juliette Binoche - Copie conforme [Certified Copy]
Prix d'interprétation masculine [Best Actor]: (tie) Javier Bardem - Biutiful; Elio Germano - La nosta vita [Our Life]
Prix du scénario [Best Screenplay]: Lee Chang-dong - Poetry
Caméra d'Or: Año bisiesto [Leap Year], d. Michael Rowe, Mexico

Cannes: Un Certain Regard, FIPRESCI, Queer Palm, Semaine de la Critique, Acquisitions...

Some early prizes at the 63rd annual Cannes Film Festival were given out today, in the Un Certain Regard sidebar (which was presided over by Claire Denis), as well as the FIPRESCI (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique) awards, the Grand Prix of the Semaine de la Critique, the Art Cinema Award and Short Film Prizes of the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs... et plus.

Un Certain Regard Award: HaHaHa, d. Hong Sang-soo, South Korea
- Jury Prize: Octubre [October], d. Daniel Vega, Diego Vega, Peru/Venezuela/Spain
- Un Certain Regard Award for Best Actress: Adela Sanchez, Eva Bianco, Victoria Raposo, Los labios [The Lips]

FIPRESCI Awards
- Competition: Tournée [On Tour], d. Mathieu Amalric, France
- Un Certain Regard: Pál Adrienn [Adrienn Pál], d. Ágnes Kocsis, Hungary/Austria/France/Netherlands
- Quinzaine des Réalisateurs: Todos vós sodes capitáns [You Are All Captains], d. Oliver Luxe, Spain/Morocco

Queer Palm: Kaboom, d. Gregg Araki, USA/France
Grand Prix de la Semaine de la Critique: Armadillo, d. Janus Metz, Denmark
Art Cinema Award (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs): Pieds nus sur les limaces [Lily Sometimes], d. Fabienne Berthaud, France
Prix SFR (short films, Quinzaine des Réalisateurs): Căutare [Quest], d. Ionuţ Piţurescu, Romania; Mary Last Seen, d. Sean Durkin, USA

As expected, IFC Films snatched up the most films this year. Araki's Kaboom, Xavier Dolan's Heartbeats [Les amours imaginaires], Bertrand Tavernier's The Princess of Montpensier [La princesse de Montpensier], Jorge Michel Grau's We Are What We Are [Somos lo que hay] and Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy [Copie conforme] have all been picked up by the studio since the start of the festival. Prior to that, they had already struck a deal for Olivier Assayas' Carlos, along with The Sundance Channel (they're owned by the same company); The Sundance Channel will air the 333-minute-long version later this year, followed by a theatrical release from IFC of a shorter, three-hour-long cut.

The other US distributor that typically returns from Cannes with several films added to their roster, Sony Pictures Classics, has been more conservative than usual in their purchases thusfar (possibly due to the reportedly weak line-up this year), taking only Xavier Beauvois' Of Gods and Men [Des hommes et des dieux] and Mike Leigh's Another Year. They had already secured Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Stephen Frears' Tamara Drewe, both playing out of competition. The only other US purchase at the festival so far came from Magnolia's genre arm, Magnet Releasing, who picked up Quentin Dupieux's horror/comedy Rubber. Rubber, which screened during the Semaine de la Critique, stars Roxane Mesquida and Stephen Spinella (Milk, Love! Valour! Compassion!). The official closing ceremony of the 63rd Cannes Film Festival will begin in just a few hours.

21 May 2010

The 2010 Cannes Film Festival in Posters, Round 2

Here are 34 more posters for films playing at this year's Cannes Film Festival. All are new titles, aside from Somos lo que hay [We Are What We Are] as I found a different, larger poster for it. From the competition, we have La princesse de Montpensier, Tender Son: The Frankenstein Project, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (thanks ouiouioui!) and Hors-la-loi (which leaves only Another Year, Fair Game, Chongqing Blues, Route Irish and My Joy un-represented in that section). From the Cannes Classics section: La 315ème section, Psycho, The Leopard, Boudu Saved from Drowning, Tristana, La compagne de Ciceron, Le grand amour, The Tin Drum, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The African Queen, Au petit bonheur and La bataille du rail. The rest: O Estranho Caso de Angélica, Bedevilled (which might be the cover sheet of a press booklet), Benda Bilili!, Chatroom (easily the worst reviewed film at the festival so far), Aurora, Le quattro volte, Octubre, Sandcastle, Picco, Simon Werner a disparu..., La casa muda, Unter dir die Stadt, The Wanderer, Udaan, Los labios, Marţi, după Crăciun and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. There may be one more update when the festival closes.