29 December 2012

Best of 2012: Grimes - Oblivion

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be writing about a number of my favorite things of 2012, as opposed to doing my usual Top 10 list. This will cover films, albums, songs, music videos, performances, or whatever else that pops into my head.

Though I'm never current when it comes to music videos, I can say without any hesitation that the best video of 2012 is Grimes' "Oblivion." The first single off her widely lauded LP Visions, "Oblivion" finds the artist in several different sporting locales: a monster truck rally, the stands of an arena during a football game, two different locker rooms (one with toweled men lifting weights, the other with shirtless men moshing), the concession stand, and some bro-ed out tailgate party. If the video were trying to be ironic, it wouldn't have worked, but there's a certain charming authenticity to Grimes' music, her persona, and especially this video. She feels a bit more genuine than the oddball girl in your middle-school class, who was likely just trying to be "weird." The video, directed by Emily Kai Bock, really begins to stand apart (and above) most of the videos I've seen this year when a girl runs up behind her, pulling her hood up. It certainly feels like a spontaneous moment, and once you see Grimes usher a fan to run across the screen as he politely waits offscreen for them to stop filming. The video is dynamic, surprising, bizarre (without looking like its trying to be), cute, sexy, homoerotic, and endearing. It's a shame then that the best track on Visions, "Genesis," would have such a mess of a video to go along with it. Video below.

What I've Been Up To

Over the past month, I've had to put movie-watching and -writing on hold, as I've been assisting in a lot of post-production shenanigans for the film Interior. Leather Bar. (formerly known as James Franco's Cruising and James Franco's 40 Minutes). The film, directed by Travis Mathews and James Franco, will be making its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in the New Frontier section and its international premiere at the Berlinale in the Panorama section. I never thought I'd be returning to the realm of film production again, but the world works in mysterious ways, I guess. I'm incredibly honored to have been a part of this production, and I'm really proud of everyone who worked on the film... because the film is actually really fantastic. You can probably expect a number of updates regarding the film, screenings, and possibly new projects in the coming months. For now, here's the trailer.

INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR. trailer from Travis Mathews on Vimeo.

14 November 2012

Black-Face of the 1990s?

There was something troubling about the worldview of Michael Hoffman's 1991 comedy Soapdish. Yes, the film exists in a world where the stars of a popular daytime soap opera find that their "real life" has gotten even sudsier than the ridiculous subplots of their show The Sun Also Sets (the sole amusing title of all the fictitious soaps we see mentioned at the award ceremonies that bookend the film). When the secrets of Celeste Talbert (Sally Field) come out in the open, the film tries to suggest that it's the sort of world where nothing is sacred, everything is prime for comedy. When the (almost) incest secret gets out, those involved, namely Kevin Kline and Elisabeth Shue, react as anyone who discovered the person you've just started dating is actually your daughter/father might. But things don't go down as smoothly when, late in the game, it's revealed that the villainess (of sorts) Montana Moorehead (Cathy Moriarity, always a notch too far on the "over-the-top" scale of humor) is actually a man. Now, I'm hardly the P.C. police, but there's a level of nastiness in the way this is handled. Certainly, it fits into the outrageous tone of the rest of the surprise twists (I can't say whether soaps of any era relied on transsexual twists), but the characters react to this one with a level of disgust. One of the show's producers, David Seton Barnes (Robert Downey, Jr.), gets a case of the dry heaves, considering he was having an over-the-clothes affair with Montana Moorehead, and even Celeste has a momentary shiver when talking about Moorehead's character Nurse Nan on the "live epsiode" they're filming. Was the movie-going public of the 1990s as transphobic as it appears they were?

Only a year later would The Crying Game, a film famous (or infamous) for the revelation that Stephen Rea's love interest Dil (Jaye Davidson) is a pre-op transsexual, bring a bunch of curious adult filmgoers out in droves. It was always my impression that the film's popularity came from individuals recommending the film to their friends based on the film's "big surprise," perhaps similar to The Sixth Sense, though I was too young to have witnessed this personally. As I didn't witness this, I can't say what sort of jokes or spoofs arose from the film's place in the pop culture zeitgeist on television (I'm sure it factored into at least one of Julia Sweeney's Pat sketches on SNL). But I do remember two notably foul movie spoofs that shared the disgusted attitude Soapdish presented: Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Both released in 1994, you can almost hear the lame PR response those involved in either film would have given, if they were actually questioned about their negative depictions of transsexuals, claiming something along the lines of what I said about Soapdish earlier... that there is nothing too sacred that their brand of humor won't touch. With Naked Gun, in which the vampy femme fatale played by Anna Nicole Smith is revealed to have a penis near the end of the film, I imagine the joke is probably forgivable considering the absurdity and tone of the entire Naked Gun series. I actually remember catching the film on broadcast television after having seen it on VHS years before, and the big penis reveal was reframed and edited in such a way to suggest that all Anna Nicole was hiding under her dress was an unsightly naked body. But in the case of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, once it's discovered that Sean Young's character (again a villainess) is also a post-op transsexual, we get an entire montage of Jim Carrey vomiting and scrubbing himself clean curiously set to Boy George's hit song "The Crying Game" from the film itself.

It's really hard to imagine jokes with a tranny punch-line showing up in films these days, but then again, I'm not really spending my time watching whatever the Ace Ventura or Naked Gun equivalents of today are. Perhaps one day, Hollywood will reflect upon Jim Carrey's vomit and tears and realize they are as offensively backward as seeing white people in black-face.

09 November 2012

Don't You Wish You Never Met Her?

As I was scrolling through my shameless social media addiction, Instagram, a friend of mine posted a shot of the album cover for PJ Harvey's Rid of Me (and, oh, what a cover it is!), remarking "still as raw, bracing, and wonderfully unsettling as ever." Though PJ Harvey is never far from my mind on any given day, I was reminded specifically of the first time I ever listened to the album, something I hadn't  thought about in a long while. I probably shouldn't have been operating a motor vehicle at the time, because from the first note of the title track, I was entranced. I remember the exact intersection I was trying to make a left turn at when tears just started pouring down my face as Polly delivered that guts-on-the-floor, earthquake of a wail in the song "Legs." It wasn't that I started weeping; they weren't tears as I had known them before. They were just a way for my body to react/release/process that intensity. I can't think of any other album that opens with a more astonishing hat trick (the title track, "Missed," and of course "Legs") than Rid of Me, but that's just one of the many superlatives I could use when talking about the album I've identified over the past ten years as my undisputed favorite album of all time.

04 November 2012

Tumblr Milestones

For those of you who weren't aware, Fin de cinéma has a Tumblr sister also named Fin de cinema (though currently minus the accent-mark as whatever template I happen to be using now doesn't recognize silly things like that). I originally created her to be able to share inner-circle Tumblr realm secrets with the many friends of mine that already had their own. In its adolescence, she was just a dumping ground for Tilda Swinton photos and Polish film posters, but as time went on, she blossomed into the treasure she is now, a dumping ground for screencaps I've made of films I love (or, films I happen to be watching at the time). With all that said, yesterday she crossed 1000 posts. I wish Tumblr had a better way of cataloging/archiving your own page, but if you like lovely stills from luscious films (and have taste that at least sometimes aligns with my own), make your way over to the Fin de cinema Tumblr for vanishing hours of endless scrolling. She'll be vacationing in Hibiscus Island any day now.

24 October 2012

French Cinema Now in San Francisco, 24-30 October

Beginning today, October 24, and running through the 30th, the San Francisco Film Society will be putting on French Cinema Now, a survey of ten French (or Francophone) features from the past couple years. The program opens with Noémie Lvovsky's comedy Camille Rewinds (Camille redouble), which premiered at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Lvovsky (House of Tolerance, Kings & Queen) stars alongside Samir Guesmi, Yolande Moreau, Michel Vuillermoz, Denis Podalydès, Vincent Lacoste, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Esther Garrel, and Mathieu Amalric. Also screening tomorrow is the debut film from Djinn Carrénard, Donoma, which was the recipient of the prestigious Prix Louis-Delluc du premier film in 2011. Carrénard wrote, directed, produced, shot, and edited the film, which examines race and class issues among a group of Parisian youths.

French Cinema Now continues Thursday, October 25, with Elie Wajeman's Aliyah (Alyah), which also premiered at this year's Quinzaine des Réalisateurs. French dreamboat Pio Marmaï plays a man in his late 20s in Paris considering moving to Tel Aviv to open a restaurant with his cousin but must first deal with his increasingly complicated family situation . Filmmaker Cédric Kahn (L'ennui, Red Lights), Adèle Haenel (House of Tolerance), Guillaume Gouix (Nobody Else But You), and Michaël Abiteboul (Belle épine) also star. Anne Fontaine's latest romantic comedy My Worst Nightmare (Mon pire cauchemar), which stars Isabelle Huppert and Benoît Poelvoorde as a pair of polar opposites whose sons happen to be friends, follows Aliyah.

On Friday the 26th, a trio of films are screening. On first, writer/director Stéphane Robelin's star-studded comedy All Together (Et si on vivait tous ensemble?) follows a group of aging friends who decide to move into a house together instead of being forced into a retirement home. Pierre Richard, Claude Rich, and Guy Bedos are joined by French-speaking American actresses Jane Fonda and Geraldine Chaplin, as well as German actor Daniel Brühl as an anthropology student studying the group. All Together is followed by Mobile Home, the feature directing debut of François Pirot, co-screenwriter for Joachim Lafosse's Private Property (Nue propriété) and Private Lessons (Élève libre). This Belgian road film, which played in competition at the Locarno International Film Festival, stars Arthur Dupont (One to Another) and Guillaume Gouix, who can also be seen in Aliyah, as a pair of childhood friends who tire of being unemployed and living with their parents and decide to hit the open road. And finally, a medium-length feature (or moyen métrage), A World Without Women (Un monde sans femmes) from short filmmaker Guillaume Brac, finishes up the night. Though running close to an hour, A World Without Women was nominated for a César earlier this year for Meilleur film de court-métrage (Best Short Film); for further reference, the French consider anything under 60 minutes a "court-métrage" with moyen métrage filling some gray area between short and feature. It screens with Brac's previous short Stranded (Le naufragé), which follows the same central character of Women, Sylvain (Vincent Macaigne); Adélaïde Leroux (Bruno Dumont's Flandres, Ursula Meier's Home) and Julien Lucas (Regular Lovers, You Belong to Me) also star in Le naufragé.

Bruno Dumont's latest Hors Satan screens on Saturday, the 27th; the film premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Sunday continues with one of the highlights of last year's Critics Week at the Venice Film Festival, Cyril Mennegun's Louise Wimmer. And Ursula Meier's Sister (L'enfant d'en haut), Switzerland's official Oscar submission, will close the program on Tuesday, the 30th. Sister features Léa Seydoux and Kacey Mottet Klein (the youngest child in Meier's Home) as a pair of siblings at a Swiss ski resort. Gillian Anderson, Martin Compston, Jean-François Stévenin, and Yann Trégouët (Artemisia, Born in 68) round out the cast. All of the films, excluding Sister, play twice over the seven days at the Embarcadero Center Theatre.

For those curious as to which films already have U.S. distribution: Adopt Films opened Sister in New York earlier this month, with it expanding throughout the country currently. Hors Satan will be released by New Yorker Films in the near future. My Worst Nightmare opened in New York City last week from Strand Releasing, as did All Together from Kino Lorber. And Film Movement will release both Aliyah and Louise Wimmer sometime in 2013. The San Francisco Film Society will be putting on a similar program for Italy in the early part of November. Stay tuned for that.

20 October 2012

RIP Sylvia Kristel

Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel, best known to the world as the sensual, globe-trotting heroine of the Emmanuelle films, died in Amsterdam on October 17 at the age of 60. After beginning her career as a model in the Netherlands, Kristel got her big break as the title character of the French erotic sensation Emmanuelle, which spawned numerous sequels and even more imitators. Kristel reprised her role in four subsequent Emmanuelle features, as well as continuing on to play the character in a series of made-for-French-television movies in the early 1990s. She re-teamed with the director of the original Emmanuelle, Just Jaeckin, in a saucy, English-language adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1981 before starring in a pair of American sex comedies (Private Lessons and Private School, no relation). Kristel's other notable films include Walerian Borowczyk's La marge opposite Joe Dallesandro; Roger Vadim's second, "unofficial" adaptation of Les liaisons dangereuses, Une femme fidèle; Claude Chabrol's loose adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, Alice ou la dernière fugue; Alain Robbe-Grillet's surreal mystery Le jeu avec le feu (Playing with Fire); the American espionage spoof, The Nude Bomb; Curtis Harrington's trashy Mata Hari film; and Fons Rademakers' dark thriller Because of the Cats.

11 October 2012

Official Submissions for the 2013 Best Foreign Language Oscar

71 countries will be competing for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at next year's ceremony, setting a new record. A number of heavy-hitters will be vying for the award, from festival darlings to crowd-pleasing local hits. Each of the top prize winners at the three major competitive film festivals–Berlin, Cannes, and Venice–will be representing their respective countries. Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's Golden Bear winner Caesar Must Die (Cesare deve morire), which is set in a men's prison where the inmates are preparing a performance of Julius Caesar, was Italy's submission. Michael Haneke's Amour could earn the director his second Academy Award nomination just as it claimed his second Palme d'Or, following The White Ribbon (Das weiße Band) in 2010, though Amour will be representing Haneke's native Austria instead of Germany, which laid claim to his previous film. South Korea chose Kim Ki-duk's Pietà, this year's Golden Lion winner at the Venice Film Festival, as their submission.

In addition to Caesar Must Die, five other films from the Berlinale competition back in February made the cut: Christian Petzold's Barbara for Germany, Ursula Meier's Sister (L'enfant d'en haut) for Switzerland, Kim Nguyen's War Witch (Rebelle) for Canada, Nikolaj Arcel's A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære) for Denmark, and Benedek Fliegauf's Just the Wind (Csak a szél) for Hungary. Japan's submission, Yang Yong-hi's Our Homeland, and Uruguay's, Rodrigo Plá's The Delay (La demora), screened as part of the Forum section at the Berlinale, and Morocco's submission, Faouzi Bensaïdi's Death for Sale, played in the Panorama section.

Amour will be joined by six other films from this year's Cannes Film Festival: Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills (După dealuri) for Romania, Benjamín Ávila's Clandestine Childhood (Infancia clandestina) for Argentina, Pablo Larraín's No for Chile, Joachim Lafosse's Our Children (À perdre la raison) for Belgium, Michel Franco's After Lucía (Después de Lucía) for Mexico, and Aida Begić's Children of Sarajevo (Djeca) for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Rounding out the rest of the notable contenders: Oliver Nakache and Eric Toledano's box office hit The Intouchables (Intouchables) for France; Chen Kaige's latest Caught in the Web, which recently played at the Toronto International Film Festival, for China; Cate Shortland's German-language feature Lore for Australia; Johnnie To's Life Without Principle for Hong Kong; Baltasar Kormákur's survival drama The Deep (Djúpið) for Iceland; Rama Burshtein's Fill the Void, which took home the Best Actress prize at Venice, for Israel; Annemarie Jacir's When I Saw You for Palestine; João Canijo's family drama Blood of My Blood (Sangue do Meu Sangue) for Portugal; Pablo Berger's Blancanieves, a 1920s-set silent film likely hoping to attract the attention this year's big winner The Artist received, for Spain; Pen-ek Ratanaruang's thriller Headshot for Thailand; and Lasse Halström's The Hypnotist (Hypnotisören), the director's first Swedish-language film in over twenty years, for Sweden.

A full list of the submissions can be found at this link, via Alt Film Guide. It's also worth noting that Iran, who won the previous Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for Asghar Farhadi's A Separation, has officially boycotted the Oscar race. For those in the US, both Life Without Principle and Headshot recently became available on Netflix Instant. As in previous years, the Academy will narrow the list down significantly before announcing the five nominees on January 10th. The 85th Academy Awards will be held on February 24, 2013.

10 October 2012

San Francisco Screenings: October 11 - 20, 2012

I'm not quite sure how I want to format this new portion of my blog that I'm going to dedicate to exciting upcoming screenings in San Francisco, so bear with me as I figure out the best format for this. This post will cover up till October 20th, and all screenings are subject to change. As far as current theatrical engagements are concerned, there's only one film for me, and that's Lee Daniels' disaster at the year's Cannes Film Festival, The Paperboy, which opened in San Francisco last Friday. From all of the descriptions and reviews I've glanced over, it sounds like Daniels has returned to the absurdness of Shadowboxer after a brief stint as an Oscar darling with Precious. The rest of the screenings are in chronological order.

October 11 - 21: The Arab Film Festival opens with Sameh Zoabi's 2010 comedy Man Without a Cell Phone at 7:30 pm at the Castro Theater. The traveling film festival, now in its sixteenth year, moves onto additional California locales in San Jose, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Other films screening at the festival include the French comedy Top Floor, Left Wing (Dernier étage gauche gauche), winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at last year's Berlinale; Faouzi Bensaïdi's heist drama Death for Sale, which will represent Morocco for the Best Foreign Language Film at next year's Oscars; Khalid Al-Haggar's Lust, which was Egypt's Oscar submission last year; Namir Abdel Messeeh's inventive documentary The Virgin, the Copts, and Me (La Vierge, les Coptes et moi...), which played at both this year's Berlinale and Tribeca Film Festival; and the Dutch road movie Rabat (pictured above). All screenings, except for the opening night gala, will be held at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.

October 11, 13, 14: Chantal Akerman's latest film, Almayer's Folly (La folie Almayer), comes to the Yerba Buena Center for a three-day run. The film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Joseph Conrad and reteams the director with her La captive star Stanislas Merhar.

October 11: The Thursday Film Cult will be hosting several horror-themed double features during the month of October at The Vortex Room. On the 11th, it will be a 16mm print of Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace (Sei donne per l'assassino) and Andrew Sinclair's Blueblood, a British occult film with Oliver Reed and Derek Jacobi. Showtime at 9pm.

October 12 - 14: At New People Cinema, the Film Society of San Francisco presents Taiwan Film Days, which will showcase seven Taiwanese films over its three days, including Edward Yang's classic four-hour epic A Brighter Summer Day, which is still MIA on DVD. Yang's widow is expected to be in attendance.

October 11 - 14: For those willing to make the trek north to Mill Valley, there are still a few days left of the 2012 Mill Valley Film Festival. Screening over the next four days: Leos Carax's Holy Motors (!); Lore, Cate Shortland's follow-up to her lovely Somersault; Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills, a double prize-winner at this year's Cannes Film Festival (Best Actress, Best Screenplay); the latest from director Miguel Gomes (Our Beloved Month of August), Tabu; Hagar Ben Asher's Israeli sex drama The Slut; Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love; and a music doc about the recording of Stevie Nicks' 2011 album In Your Dreams, with Ms. Nicks herself (!!) in person.

October 12 - 19: Sure to attract a lively crowd, the Castro Theater will present another of its popular sing-a-long events to the film that began Walt Disney Animation's financial resurgence in the late 80s/early 90s (if you aren't counting The Rescuers Down Under), The Little Mermaid. I'd be willing to bet every plus-size drag queen within the city limits will be making at appearance as Ursula for (at least) one of the nightly screenings over its week run.

October 13: Midnites for Maniacs have programmed a rather impressive triple-feature for October: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2; and Clive Barker's original Hellraiser. With a strange cast that joins Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, and Zsa Zsa Gabor with the leftovers of the first installment Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon (missing from the puzzling, gay panic second film), Dream Warriors is, without question, the best of the entire Elm Street series. In another unusual sequel to a hugely popular horror film, Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, made twelve years after the original, has Dennis Hopper on the hunt for the murderous family. All three films are shown on 35mm, starting at 7:30 pm at the Roxie Theater.

October 13: If the above triple-feature doesn't suit your fancy, you can always go to the Clay Theater for a midnight screening of one of the "great" San Francisco films, Tommy Wiseau's The Room.

October 15: At the Roxie, Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1932 silent classic Vampyr will be screened with live score by Siouxsie and the Banshees co-founder Steven Severin. Screenings are at 7pm and 9:30pm.

October 19 - 25: Andrea Arnold's stunning adaptation of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights begins a week-long run at the Opera Plaza Cinema. Expect a review from me sometime soon.

October 20: To celebrate its 20th anniversary just in time for Halloween, Peaches Christ will present a screening/event of/for Robert Zemeckis' Death Becomes Her. Over the past year or so, I've seen Peaches screen/perform Showgirls, Ken Russell's Tommy, and Silence of the Lambs, and this will be the debut run of Death Becomes Her, with Peaches as Madeleine Ashton (Meryl Streep) and Heklina as Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn).

27 September 2012

Berlin & Beyond 2012 in San Francisco

For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area, the 17th annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival began this evening with an opening night gala of Christian Petzold's Barbara, which took home the Silver Bear for Best Director at this year's Berlinale, in addition to being selected as the official 2012 German submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. Presented by the Goethe Institut, the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival showcases the latest in German, Swiss, and Austrian cinema, as well as German-language films from the rest of the world in the case of Aleksandr Sokurov's version of the oft-told and -filmed legend of Faust, which screens Friday, September 28th, at 9pm at the Castro Theatre.

The latest film from director Veit Helmer (Tuvalu, Absurdistan), Baikonur will screen as the festival's centerpiece selection on Saturday, September 29th, at the Castro Theatre, and the festival closes on Thursday, October 4th, with Marten Persiel's East German skater documentary This Ain't California.

Other notable films at this year's festival include Achim von Borries' (Love in Thoughts) WWII drama, 4 Days in May (4 Tage im Mai); Dagmar Schultz's documentary about lesbian poet Audre Lorde, entitled Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992; Maggie Peren's Color of the Ocean (Die Farbe des Ozeans), which played at last year's Toronto International Film Festival and stars Sabine Timoteo and Spanish actor Álex González; David Wnendt's tale of neo-Nazi teen girls, Combat Girls (Kriegerin); Christian Schwochow's backstage drama Cracks in the Shell (Die Unsichtbare), which won the Best Actress prize for Danish actress Stine Fischer Christensen at last year's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival; Anno Saul's The Door (Die Tür), starring another renowned Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen; Hans-Christian Schmid's Home for the Weekend (Was bleibt), which played in competition to mixed reviews at this year's Berlinale; and Hendrik Handloegten's Summer Window (Fenster zum Sommer), with actors Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger, who can be seen elsewhere at the festival in Barbara and Home for the Weekend, respectively.

Switzerland and Austria are both represented by three films each this year. The Swiss line-up includes two documentaries, Nicolas Steiner's Battle of the Queens (Kampf der Königinnen), which chronicles the traditional cow fights in the south of Switzerland, and Martin Witz's The Substance: Albert Hofmann's LSD, which traces the discovery of LSD in the early 1940s. The Swiss trio is rounded out with The Foster Boy (Der Verdingbub), a period drama from television-director Markus Imboden, starring Katja Riemann and newcomer Max Hubacher. This year's Austrian selection includes actor Karl Markovics' acclaimed directorial debut Breathing (Atmen), which premiered at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs at the Cannes Film Festival last year; Julian Pölsler's The Wall (Die Wand), starring Martina Gedeck and recipient of the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at this year's Berlinale; and Michael Glawogger's documentary about prostitution in Thailand, Bangladesh, and Mexico, Whores' Glory.

In addition to the contemporary films at this year's festival, there will be a tribute to Mario Adorf with four of the actor's films playing over the course of the week: Volker Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel), Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Lola, Georg Tressler's Ship of the Dead (Das Totenschiff), and Lola Randl's The Rhino and the Dragonfly (Die Libelle und das Nashorn). Please visit the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival's official site for showtimes and any other information you might need.

Drug Addicts, Nymphos, Tomboys, and Paul Verhoeven: 5 More Netflix Suggestions

A friend of mine who just finished school asked me if I could suggest some films for him to watch on Netflix Instant. Here are five more recommendations. Each of the films below were available on Netflix Instant in the USA at the time this was published.

Oslo, August 31st
Oslo, 31. august
2011, Norway
Joachim Trier

Joachim Trier's second film, following the marvelous Reprise (also available on Instant), readapts Pierre Drieu La Rochelle's novel Le feu follet (famously made for the screen by Louis Malle in 1963, as well as a little-seen made-for-French-television version in 1994), updating it to modern day Norway, chronicling roughly twenty-four-or-so hours in the life of recovering drug addict Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) who is given leave from rehab for the first time in what appears to have been a while to interview for a job. Intimate and heartbreaking without being too austere, Oslo, August 31st is an assured, exceptional sophomore effort from the distant cousin of Lars von Trier and certainly one of the better films of 2011.

With: Anders Danielsen Lie, Hans Olav Brenner, Ingrid Olavs, Øystein Røger, Malin Crépin, Tone B. Mostraum, Kjærsti Odden Skjeldal, Johanne Kjellevik Ledang, Petter Width, Renate Reinsve, Anders Borchgrevink, Emil Lund, Andreas Braaten

The Music Lovers
1970, UK
Ken Russell

The late, great Ken Russell's own description of The Music Lovers as a film about a homosexual who falls in love with a nymphomaniac does accurately summarize this loose biopic of Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain), but The Music Lovers is so much more. I was lucky enough to have seen a beautiful print of the film at the Castro Theater earlier this year, which is truly the ideal way to watch any of Ken Russell's films (up to a point), but don't let that stop you from watching it at home. Following Tchaikovsky and his wife Nina (brilliantly played by Glenda Jackson), Russell surrounds these two individuals with a number of impossible love affairs, each of them branching off their own doomed marriage, which was unsuccessfully consummated in a riveting sequence on a train. Along with The Devils, The Music Lovers is one of the finest examples of Russell's signature style: frenzied, operatic, dazzling, cinematic decadence (at its finest).

With: Richard Chamberlain, Glenda Jackson, Max Adrian, Christopher Gable, Izabella Telezynska, Kenneth Colley, Maureen Pryor, Sabina Maydelle, Andrew Faulds, Bruce Robinson

Starship Troopers
1997, USA
Paul Verhoeven

Paul Verhoeven has only made one bad film in his entire career, and that was Hollow Man. So if anyone says that Showgirls, RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, or Starship Troopers are bad films, rest assured that they're just plain wrong. Starship Troopers has everything you need in a film. It's enormously entertaining, weirdly erotic, intentionally hilarious (I've heard people try to say otherwise... again, they're wrong), kind of gross, and "secretly" really smart, which accurately describes all of Verhoeven's best work. Take for instance Rue McClanahan as an eye-patch-donning biology teacher, or Denise Richards as the good-girl brainiac Carmen Ibanez (all of the film's main characters come from a futuristic Buenos Aires where everyone is as American as they come, though still retaining Spanish names).

With: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Patrick Muldoon, Neil Patrick Harris, Jake Busey, Clancy Brown, Michael Ironside, Marshall Bell, Rue McClanahan, Seth Gilliam, Brenda Strong, Lenore Kasdorf, Amy Smart

Love and Death
1975, USA/France
Woody Allen

In my personal favorite Woody Allen film, Stardust Memories, Allen's character is hounded by a bunch of annoying fans, one of whom complains that they preferred his "older, funnier movies." Love and Death is the best of Allen's actual "older, funnier movies," a hysterical farce about a bumbling coward (played by Allen), in love with his slutty cousin (Diane Keaton), who joins the Russian army to try to defeat Napoleon. It's a great mix of visual humor, common in his early works, and the quick wit he's best known for.

With: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Olga Georges-Picot, Harold Gould, Tony Jay, Jessica Harper, Henri Coutet, Despo Diamantidou, Féodor Atkine, Alfred Lutter, James Tolkan

2011, France
Céline Sciamma

It's no easy feat trying to depict the essence of adolescence on film without seeming too distant or nostalgic. Céline Sciamma's Tomboy does a rather exceptional job capturing the spirit of being a child, somewhere on your way to puberty. The French have always had a knack for this, from François Truffaut (not my favorite filmmaker by any means, but I still admire the way he films "la jeunesse") to films like Jacques Doillon's Ponette. In Tomboy, ten-year-old Laure (played by Zoé Héran, who already looks like a haute-couture runway model), a tall, lanky, androgynous girl, moves to a new town where she is mistaken for a boy by the neighborhood children and decides to invent a new identity for herself as Mikaël. Tomboy is considerably more interesting when it shows the interactions between the children; both its story and its lesson, while neither of them as obvious as you may think, are secondary.

With: Zoé Héran, Malonn Lévana, Jeanne Disson, Sophie Cattani, Mathieu Demy, Yohan Ventre, Noah Ventre, Cheyenne Lainé, Ryan Bonbeleri, Jeanne Dison

22 September 2012

Queer Lisboa 16

Though, more often than not, I don't much care for specifically GLBT film festivals, there are a small number of them around the world that do consistently program great stuff and not just the latest installment of the Eating Out series. Along with Turin International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival, the Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon's oldest film festival, is certainly one of the best of its kind. They began their 16th edition on 21 September, with Andrew Haigh's excellent Weekend (just released on DVD and Blu-ray in the US by Criterion) kicking off the festival, which runs until the 29th.

One of the highlights of the program this year is a section dedicated to Peter de Rome, a French-born queer filmmaker who directed a number of short and feature length erotic films in the United States from the 1960s until the mid-1980s. The BFI recently restored a number of his works for a DVD release earlier this year of The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome. QL16 will be showing his shorts Double Exposure, The Fire Island Kids, Prometheus, Scopo, and Underground along with the documentary Fragments: The Incomplete Films of Peter de Rome by Ethan Reid. You can find all of the films on the BFI disc.

You'll also find a pair of films from both Travis Mathews and filmmaking duo Jean-Marc Barr and Pascal Arnold at the festival. Mathews' excellent feature I Want Your Love, an extension of the short of the same name he directed in 2010, is screening in competition, and though Mathews is a personal friend of mine, I don't have any qualms in mentioning that it's one of the best films I've seen all year. His other film, In Their Room: Berlin, the second installment of his documentary series following queer boys discussing intimacy and sexuality in their bedrooms, will play as part of the Queer Art section. Barr and Arnold's 2011 feature American Translation will also screen in competition. The film stars Pierre Perrier and Lizzie Brocheré, who were both previously in the duo's 2006 film Chacun sa nuit (One to Another), play a pair of Bonnie and Clyde-esque lovers who like to seduce gay hustlers. Their other offering at the festival is this year's sexually-explicit comedy Chroniques sexuelles d'une famille d'aujourd'hui (Sexual Chronicles of a French Family), which was released in a tamed down edit by IFC Films in the US earlier this year.

The feature film competition also includes Ira Sachs' somber Keep the Lights On, winner of this year's Teddy at the Berlinale; Oliver Hermanus' Skoonheid (Beauty), South Africa's submission for best foreign language film at this year's Oscars and winner of the Queer Palm at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival; Lisa Aschan's Apflickorna (She-Monkeys), which made the festival rounds last year winning major prizes at both the Göteborg and Tribeca Film Festivals; Aurora Guerrero's Mosquita y Mari, which played in the national competition at Sundance in January; the feature film debut of acclaimed short filmmaker Bavo Defurne, Nordzee Texas (North Sea, Texas); Mark Jackson's Without, which also made the festival rounds last fall, which I've also heard is quite good; Odilon Rocha's Brazilian drama, A Novela das 8 (Prime Time Soap); and Zoltan Paul's Frauensee (Woman's Lake), which I didn't get a chance to catch at Frameline this past summer.

Some other notable films playing around the festival: the latest film from director Vincent Dieutre, entitled Jaurès, which premiered at Forum at this year's Berlinale; a trio of shorts from Portuguese/British director António Da Silva, Bankers, Pix, and the wonderful Julian; Gabriel Abrantes and Alexandre Melo's short Fratelli, an experimental, loose adaptation of Taming of the Shrew, co-starring Carloto Cotta (Odete) and Alexander David (To Die Like a Man); Matthew Mishory's Joshua Tree 1951: A Portrait of James Dean; the great Rosa von Praunheim's latest documentary, König des Comics (King of Comics); Matthew Akers' doc Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present; a short directed by João Pedro Rodrigues' long-time collaborator João Rui Guerra da Mata, O Que Arde Cura (As the Flames Rose), which stars Rodrigues; An Afternoon Siesta and Summer Romance, a pair of dirty Greek films from director Panajotis Evangelidis (The Life and Death of Celso Junior); and the omnibus film Fucking Different: XXX, which includes shorts by Bruce LaBruce, Maria Beatty, Todd Verow, and Émilie Jouvet.

Like every year, QL has a program or two spotlighting some of the best queer music videos, or to be more accurate, a bunch of music videos the gays love. This year, there's a program directed entirely to the music videos of ABBA, nearly all of them directed by Lasse Hallström, who also directed ABBA: The Movie before moving on to Hollywood junk like The Cider House Rules and Chocolat. Other featured videos include the latest from Kylie Minogue, Sigur Rós, The Magnetic Fields, Spiritualized, Pet Shop Boys, Rufus Wainwright, and, yes, Madonna.

And finally, you can head on over to the site I used to work for, where there are a number of films available streaming for free, including one of João Pedro Rodrigues' first shorts, Parabéns! (Happy Birthday!). Trevor Anderson's The Man That Got Away, Mauricio López Fernández's La santa (The Blessed), Juanma Carrillo's Andamio (Scaffolding), and Daniel Ribeiro's Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho (I Don't Want to Go Back Alone), among others. I imagine not all of the films are available in every region. Additionally, you can pay to watch the feature Venus in the Garden, directed by Telémachos Alexiou, which is playing in the Queer Art section. It looks as though Venus in the Garden is streaming for free now.

19 September 2012

Five Additional Netflix Instant Suggestions

A friend of mine who just finished school asked me if I could suggest some films for him to watch on Netflix Instant. Here are five additional recommendations. I've previously written about a few of these films and included links to the past reviews of them. Each of the films below were available on Netflix Instant in the USA at the time this was published.

Fish Tank
2009, UK/Netherlands
Andrea Arnold

On paper, Fish Tank sounds rather pedestrian: Mia, a teenage girl from the projects, tries to escape her grim existence by winning a dance competition. But on the screen, it's anything but, thanks to Andrea Arnold's spectacular vision and a dynamic central performance from Katie Jarvis. While the film is consistently breathtaking, there are at least two individual sequences that are just about heart-stopping. Older Post about Fish Tank: Down... on the Ground

With: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing, Rebecca Griffiths, Harry Treadaway, Sydney Mary Nash, Jason Maza

1976, USA
Sidney Lumet

A fine example of the stellar films coming out of Hollywood during one of its richest periods, during the 1970s, Network is a brilliant satire that only feels more relevant today in our world of reality programs and trash television. On one hand, it's sad to see how far we've fallen from a time when a TV station would be creating a news show following a group of political terrorists, but on the other, I could cite plenty of examples of how the television narrative as evolved. You take the good with the bad, I guess. Faye Dunaway (and the rest of the cast) is impeccable.

With: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, Beatrice Straight, Bill Burrows, Jordan Charney, Kathy Cronkite, Ed Crowley, Jerome Dempsey, Conchata Ferrell, Ken Kercheval, Ted Sorel, Lane Smith, William Prince, Sasha von Scherler, Marlene Warfield, Lee Richardson

2010, USA
Jake Yuzna

A surprisingly tender and whimsical film following two separate pairings of gender dissidents: one a hermaphrodite who goes on something of a road trip/hometown-discovery-adventure with one-half of a couple who have undergone cosmetic surgery to look like one another, the other an FTM transsexual who ends up pregnant after having sex with a cute boy he meets at a show. I've never seen a film handle gender like this; it's honest, unique, and, well, open. Winner of the Teddy Jury Prize at the 2010 Berlinale.

With: Gaea Gaddy, Tempest Crane, Morty Diamond, Daniel Luedtke, Jendeen Forberg, Jill Sweiven

Don't Look Now
1973, UK/Italy
Nicolas Roeg

Easily one of the greatest horror films of all time, Don't Look Now follows an American architect (Donald Sutherland) and his wife (Julie Christie) who relocate to Venice after the death of their young daughter. While Donald Sutherland works on restoring a crumbling church, Julie Christie meets a pair of sisters, one of whom claims to have psychic visions of the dead girl being close-by. Nicolas Roeg used the city of Venice masterfully and created not only one of the great what-the-fuck finales but the greatest sex scene ever committed to film. Older Post About Don't Look Now: Boo!

With: Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania, Massimo Serato, Renato Scarpa, Giorgio Trestini, Leopoldo Trieste, David Tree, Ann Rye, Nicholas Salter, Sharon Williams, Bruno Cattaneo, Adelina Poerio

Night of the Comet
1984, USA
Thom E. Eberhardt

One of my personal favorite apocalypse films, Night of the Comet finds the population in jeopardy when a comet hits earth and turns nearly everyone to dust, except for a duo of sassy teenage sisters from the Valley. Where so many films like it fail, Night of the Comet does a good job balancing its intentional and accidental cheese; it has just enough awareness of itself to keep things playful and annoyingly/hilariously trendy.

With: Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran, Sharon Farrell, Mary Woronov, Geoffrey Lewis, Peter Fox, John Achorn, Michael Bowen