Let’s break the pattern a bit and open today’s entry with the recommended listening first. Karina Longworth’s outstanding podcast You Must Remember This has just returned from a well-deserved hiatus with a new series, “Jean and Jane.” As in Seberg and Fonda, “two white American actresses who found great success (and husbands) in France before boldly and controversially lending their celebrity to causes like civil rights and the anti-war movement. Fonda and Seberg were both tracked by the FBI during the Nixon administration, which considered both actresses to be threats to national security. But for all their similarities, Jane and Jean would end up on different paths.” The first episode: “Hollywood Royalty/Middle-American Martyr” (49’12”).
“Every cinematic New Wave—ever since the original Nouvelle Vague—has brandished its own particular manifesto of savage naturalism,” writes Adam Thirlwell for the New York Review of Books. “In Romania, that savagery has taken two forms: an insistence on minimalist filmmaking, and a vision of post-1989 society as inescapably corrupt and corrupting, the provincial as a form of doom. ‘I wanted to tell the story of a compromise,’ [Cristi] Puiu said of Stuff and Dough , and compromise has been the Romanian New Wave’s basic theme. I wonder if this is why the stories they tell so often flirt with the theatrical unities—time-limited situations of danger, where the characters are in conflict with the institutions of power. The time pressure acts as an accelerant to uncover the characters’ weaknesses—and this is especially true of [Cristian] Mungiu,” whose Graduation (2016) is what’s sparked the piece.
“In Max Ophüls’s The Reckless Moment (1949), time marks the compass of a thriller, while space gives architecture to a melodrama,” writes Cristina Álvarez López for Transit. “But time and space, thriller and melodrama, do not advance independently, or in parallel: rather, it is the perfect imbrication of both these dimensions and genres that constitutes the film’s nucleus.”
“When’s the last time you were surprised by a silent film?” asks Michael Atkinson in an essay written for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. “Impressed, dazzled, yes, but genuinely surprised? You’d think by 2017, with all the silent-era history scholarship behind us, that authentic, mutant-DNA ‘Holy Crap’ moments would be rare on the ground, and, of course, they are. But there’s no amount of buckling up that can prepare a well-versed silent cinephile for the utter unheralded weirdness of Teinosuke Kinugasa’s A Page of Madness .”
The LA Weekly has posted an excerpt from Becky Aikman’s new book Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge: “Next call, and then the next: ‘We certainly talked about it at the morning meeting. . . . Why won’t Ridley direct? . . . female leads . . . risky . . . too risky . . . way too risky . . . They do what at the end? It’s just not really for us.’”
At the House Next Door, Keith Watson revisits another film starring Geena Davis, Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own (1992): “Unburdened by the grandiose mythologizing of movies like The Natural and Field of Dreams, the film regards baseball with a breezy, wide-eyed innocence that captures the uniquely languid joy of the sport.”
For AnOther, Daisy Woodward spotlights eight female filmmakers “whose pioneering contributions to the medium helped change the shape of cinema forever,” Alice Guy-Blaché, Dorothy Arzner, Germaine Dulac, Tazuko Sakane, Maya Deren, Barbara Loden, Monika Treut, and Julie Dash.
Parallax View has posted Peter Hogue’s 1973 review for Movietone News of Jean Renoir’s La bête humaine (1938), “proof that Zola could be an inspiration as well as a cogent and productive challenge to both the generosity and the irony in Renoir’s libertarian vision.”
“A showcase for director Alfred Hitchcock's intense study of the German Expressionist movement, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog boasts artfully animated intertitles, plunging shadows, and oppressive camera angles,” writes Jake Cole for Slant. “The 1927 silent film's opening images, of a blond woman screaming in terror before we see her dead on a London street, is as succinct a self-summary of Hitchcock's cinema as you're likely to encounter, an immediate dive into the filmmaker's brand of fetishistic suspense.”
“Somehow, while we were worrying about superheroes and star destroyers and hot rods and whether Captain America could beat up Superman or whatever, the goddamned Planet of the Apes movies became the most vital and resonant big-budget film series in the contemporary movie firmament,” writes Bilge Ebiri in the Village Voice. “And they did it with the most confrontational of high concepts: Humans suck, and now the apes are the good guys.” For the Hollywood Reporter, Graeme McMillan rounds up more early reviews of Matt Reeves’s War for the Planet of the Apes.
For Vulture, David Edelstein and Emily Yoshida write up a list of the best films of 2017 (so far). Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is on that list, and you can track reviews as they come in at Critics Round Up.
“In 1992,” writes Adam Scovell for the BFI, “the filmmaker Patrick Keiller spent his time filming around London under the guise of a fictional flâneur known as Robinson—a name citing Daniel Defoe’s trapped castaway. The resulting film, London, was released in 1994. . . . Keiller’s essay film shows the greying rumbles of a city in the dying grips of Thatcherism, while tackling a huge range of inner-city problems that are still sadly relevant today. With the capital changing at a rate of acceleration that’s almost impossible to keep up with, I tracked the director down to discuss his film and its relationship to the morphing metropolis twenty-five years after he and Robinson wandered through the layers of its deep history.”
For Slant, Chuck Bowen talks with Giancarlo Esposito about his work in Better Call Saul and Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and about “how he brings to life a remarkably specific strand of white-collar evil.”
It’s been thirty years since the release of Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables and, for Entertainment Weekly, Mary Solossi talks with “Sean Connery (whose Untouchables performance won the legendary actor his only Oscar), Kevin Costner (who played Elliot Ness), and Robert De Niro (who starred as Capone).”
In the Works
FIDLab, happening on July 13 and 14 during the International Film Festival Marseille (July 11 through 17), is an opportunity for directors and producers to meet up with potential backers. Among the eleven projects lined up this year is Rita Azevedo Gomes’s The Portuguese, adapted from Robert Musil’s short story “The Lady from Portugal.” The short synopsis: “During the disputes prior to the Council of Trent, Von Ketten marries a Portuguese woman in order to keep his field of action free. Until the day the Bishop of Trent dies and peace is signed.”
“After Iraqi Odyssey, a real family odyssey (in 3D) which turns into the portrait of an entire people, the Iraqi director who has been based in Switzerland for years now, Samir is back behind the camera shooting a thriller on the Iraqi community in exile in North London,” reports Giorgia Del Don for Cineuropa. “Filming for Baghdad in My Shadow, which began on June 8, will take place in Baghdad, Zurich, London and Cologne.”
“Netflix has won a heated auction of a package for the next film by writer/director Dan Gilroy,” reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “The untitled drama is set in the art world and will re-team Gilroy with his Nightcrawler stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo.”
“The long-gestating Tremors reboot, headlined by original star Kevin Bacon, is a go,” reports Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva. On the Syfy series, the worms are back “and the town’s only hope for survival is Valentine McKee (Bacon), who beat them once. But to do it again he’ll have to overcome age, alcohol and a delusional hero complex.”
“Hulu announced on Monday that Sissy Spacek and Jane Levy have joined the cast of its upcoming original drama series Castle Rock,” reports Elbert Wyche for Screen. “The psychological horror series is set in Maine and based on the Stephen King multiverse, combining the mythological scale and characters of the author’s best-loved works.”
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