Patrick Z. McGavin writes about "Shoah," which was just issued on Blu-ray by Criterion in a thorough package that makes the film's unique storytelling more transparent to the layperson. "Lanzmann has said the form and construction is the key to understanding his film," McGavin writes, "and with this new version, that process has never been more intuitive."
"Only God Forgives" commits the unforgivable sin of being boring, "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight" is about old white men arguing about race, and "Blue is the Warmest Color" takes its time to follow the transition from uncertain teenager to knowing adult.
But what really matters is the Muriels. You know, that time-honored annual movie award that is not named after Bette Davis's Uncle Oscar, but after co-founder Paul Clark's guinea pig. Throughout the month of February (the 6th through the 23rd), the winners have been announced, as you know because you've been regularly clicking on the Muriels link right here on Scanners. Anyway, you know what "Argo" can do; the Muriel voters, on the other hand, chose to give the year's top prize to what, for me, was obviously the most rewarding movie experience of the year: Leos Carax's "Holy Motors."
Bolstered by Akira Ifukube's trudging "Gojira" theme and the shorthand it affords, on two separate filmic occasions director Leos Carax chose to pair it with a city-scrolling vista, and in doing so reference his past work for the first time. Homage and visual motifs have always earmarked the enigmatic auteur's films, namely in the unstable romances of "Boy Meets Girl" and "Les Amants de Pont Neuf," but within his two most recent efforts -- a section of the 2008 triptych "Tokyo!" and his 2012 vexing "Holy Motors" -- he centers this rare repetition on one character that is not so much a reprisal as it is an emotional transformation.
Marie writes: The countdown to Christmas officially begins the day after Halloween, which this year lands on a Wednesday. Come Thursday morning, the shelves will be bare of witches, goblins and ghosts; with snowmen, scented candles and dollar store angel figurines taking their place. That being the case, I thought it better to start celebrating early so we can milk the joy of Halloween for a whole week as opposed to biding adieu to the Great Pumpkin so soon after meeting up again...
Haneke, Riva, Trintignant
• Chaz Ebert at Cannes
Who will win the Palme D'Or? I expect top prizes for Michael Haneke for his film, "Amour," with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, but I am terrible at the awards-guessing game. I think "Amour" is one of the very best films in the festival with its harrowing portrait of the mental and physical deterioration of an esteemed piano teacher after a series of strokes, and the husband who must bear witness to this as he takes cares of her.
Haneke's film is so mature and well done that its emotional impact builds quietly, from the core. You marvel at how he layers the scenes of a marriage so naturally that you know the couple has been together for decades in a relationship that is comfortable and emotionally enriching. And so when they make their choices you are right there with them emotionally until the bitter end, and there is no judgment about the choices made.
Big stars were out to shine this morning in Cannes, when "The Paperboy" by Lee Daniels premiered in competition, with a cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, David Oyelowo, John Cusack, and Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Macy Gray. Daniels had a massive hit with his previous film "Precious," which premiered here in 2009 and went on to earn six Oscar nominations with two wins, and countless other awards worldwide.
A director with that kind of success in his recent past has got to have a lot of hopes and fears riding on his next film. Daniels certainly had star power in his corner on "The Paperboy," but the film got a mixed reaction this morning in the Palais, and I'm not sure it's headed for a repeat of the acclaim that "Precious" experienced.
"The Paperboy" is adapted by Pete Dexter and Daniels from Dexter's novel of the same title. The film reportedly takes a few deviations from the source novel (which I haven't read) to result in pretty much a whole new story. There are many shifts of tone, making the film simultaneously a comedy, a mystery/thriller, and a Southern gothic potboiler. It's amusing and frustrating; hilarious and tense; awkward in its construction yet featuring bursts of gripping acting.
Today looks to be a day of renegades and gangsters from the start, with "Killing Them Softly" by Andrew Dominik, the second American film to premier in competition, first thing in the morning. The all-male cast is headlined by Brad Pitt, who also starred in the director's Oscar-nominated "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. " This is a talky tough-guy movie that is heavy on long interchanges among thugs with odd accents and/or speech impediments. Talking like a tough guy means modifying every noun with the f-word (and I wonder what the grand total would be for this film).
"Killing Them Softly" is set in New Orleans, although pains are taken to avoid any distinctly identifying landmarks. The grey, wet, boarded-up desolation of the landscape could only be the post-Katrina lower 9th Ward, and I found the film's fleeting glimpses of that more electrifying than the introduction of Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), a pair of lowlifes setting up a robbery with Squirrel (Vincent Curatola).
The two bumblers manage, just barely, to pull off the robbery of a high-stakes poker game, which makes it only a matter of time before they're marked men. It also makes Markie (Ray Liotta), the pudgy mid-level gangster who was running the game a suspect. Whatever higher authority these thugs answer to calls in its enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to sort it out.
The first and only woman, who is also the first and only black person in the story, makes her appearance one hour into the film. She's a prostitute who's treated like garbage in her approximately two minutes on the screen. This is not only a man's world, it's a white man's world.
In just a week the French Riviera will come alive with the hoopla of the 65th Cannes International Film Festival, running this year from May 16 through 27. Despite the international proliferation of film festivals, like it or not, Cannes remains the biggest, most hyped, glitziest and most diverse event the world of film has to offer, the envy of every other festival.
As if the world at large also trembled at the import of the approaching festivities, previous Cannes festivals have been prefaced by volcanic eruptions, hurricane-force storms, national strikes, and bomb threats. What can we expect this year, when the festival officially becomes a senior citizen? Don't look for any rocking chairs along the Croisette, for one thing. Judging by the lineup of major directors represented in the Competition and other official sections, it's more likely that major revelations will be rocking the Palais. And if it's like other years, we can expect the festival will manage to rock a headline-grabbing major controversy or two as well.
For the fourth year in a row, Cannes will open with an American production, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," guaranteeing that name stars including Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton will be gracing the red carpet on Wednesday, May 16 for a glamorous kick-off. Judging by the trailer available online, the real stars may be the large cast of kids in a comedy/drama that looks to be strong on surreal wackiness.
Even a quick glance at the list of films in competition yields an eye-popping number of famous names, including David Cronenberg (Canada), Michael Haneke (Austria), Abbas Kiarostami (Iran), Ken Loach (UK), Cristian Mungiu (Romania), Alain Resnais France), Carlos Reygadas (Mexico), Walter Salles (Brazil), and many more. This competition could be a veritable Olympics of the cinema gods...or not, as sometimes happen, because even world-class filmmakers and certified masters can disappoint.
Click above to REALLY enlarge...
UPDATED 01/28/10: 2:25 p.m. PST -- COMPLETED!: Thanks for all the detective work -- and special thanks to Christopher Stangl and Srikanth Srinivasan himself for their comprehensive efforts at filling the last few holes! Now I have to go read about who some of these experimental filmmakers are. I did find some Craig Baldwin movies on Netflix, actually...
Srikanth Srinivasan of Bangalore writes one of the most impressive movie blogs on the web: The Seventh Art. I don't remember how I happened upon it last week, but wow am I glad I did. Dig into his exploration of connections between Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and Jean-Luc Godard's "History of Cinema." Or check out his piece on James Benning's 1986 "Landscape Suicide." There's a lot to look through, divided into sections for Hollywood and World Cinema.
In the section called "The Cinemaniac... I found the above collage (mosaic?) of mostly-famous faces belonging to film directors, which Srikanth says he assembled from thumbnails at Senses of Cinema. Many of them looked quite familiar to me, and if I'm not mistaken they were among the biographical portraits we used in the multimedia CD-ROM movie encyclopedia Microsoft Cinemania, which I edited from 1994 to 1998, first on disc, then also on the web. (Anybody with a copy of Cinemania able to confirm that? My Mac copy of Cinemania97 won't run on Snow Leopard.)
CANNES, France -- If Gilles Jacob, the overlord of the Cannes Film Festival, had gotten his way, the Palais des Festivals would have been trembling Wednesday night with the THX soundtrack of "Star Wars -- Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Jacob likes to open his festival with a blockbuster, just to remind everyone what a movie is, before they disappear into intense screenings of tortured adaptations of obscure novels by Herman Melville.