Ritrovato Redux and More

On Film / The Daily — Jul 20, 2017

This year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato wrapped nearly three weeks ago now, and it’s the kind of festival that has attendees reflecting on each edition months and undoubtedly years down the line. Three especially notable pieces have appeared in just the last day or two.

Kinemacolor was the world’s first successful natural color motion picture system,” writes Luke McKernan. “From 1908 and for around seven or eight years, it was triumphant, presenting what was for many the best that the motion picture medium could achieve, and changing public perceptions of that medium along the way. It features in most histories of the medium, as an important milestone in cinema’s development. Yet for the past one hundred years hardly anyone has seen it.” But at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2017, “Kinemacolor was reborn.”

For David Cairns, writing in the Notebook, a highlight was the “retrospective of the works of Helmut Käutner, who has been known and admired for a few select works but whose larger oeuvre is rarely screened. Curators Olaf Möller and Christoph Huber explained that this was partly because the German director's comedies often deal with German current affairs of the day in a way which makes them seem obscure even to modern German audiences. But one humorous movie proved timeless.” The Glass of Water (1960) is “about politicking, schemes and double-crosses by smiling hypocrites, with the dopey romantic leads moved around like chesspieces at the whim of their superiors.”

“Divas and Charity Girls: Actresses of the Early Sound Era” is the title of Irina Trocan’s new piece for photogénie:

Film history is often written down as a gossip column: Louise Brooks stole the lead role in Pandora’s Box (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1929) from under the nose of Marlene Dietrich, and earned her place in the actresses’ hall of fame. Dietrich herself only became truly prominent thanks to the lighting & magic of director Josef von Sternberg, after she was lauded during her early films merely for walking into the footsteps of the already sensational Greta Garbo. Mae West was a vaudeville performer stranded on a Hollywood set who had her chance to shine in the pre-Code sound era when they needed someone who could sing, and when raucous jokes were still tolerated; she was exceptionally lustful for a woman, providing, of course, that she wasn’t in fact a gay man. Joan Bennett was a talented actress, a pretty natural blonde who would get lost in the crowd due to Hollywood’s embarras du choix where blondes were concerned, until she changed her fate by becoming a brunette. Il Cinema Ritrovato does the past justice by displaying the actual work of all these women, from well-known films to very obscure ones, to highlight the acting talent behind their gossip-infused reputation.

I’ve saved Irina Trocan for last so as to segue right into Alicia Fletcher’s tribute for the TIFF Review to Louise Brooks’s “unruly spirit and multifaceted, even paradoxical persona—sex symbol and intellectual, cultured cosmopolitan and down-home American, mainstream and avant-garde.”

The tumblr passion is no ordinary word points us to a copy of the parallel publication in 1975 in Enthusiasm 1 of “A Work Journal of the Straub/Huillet Film Moses and Aaron” by Gregory Woods and “Notes on Gregory's Work Journal” by Danièle Huillet.

Jesse Cumming in the Notebook on the work of James N. Kienitz Wilkins: “If Public Hearing [2012] serves to reveal an unexpected poetics in found municipal proceedings, littered with corporate and technical jargon material, the closing discussion of Mediums [2017] reveals that poetry, despite its best efforts, can hardly isolate itself from outside interests.”

The subject of Mark Harris’s latest “Cinema ’67 Revisited” column for Film Comment is Robert Mulligan’s Up the Down Staircase, produced by Alan J. Pakula and starring Sandy Dennis. It’s “one of the first ’60s movies to look like a ’70s movie. . . . The movie is a treasure trove for urban archaeologists who want a street-by-street record of New York’s development, even if Dennis sometimes seems to teleport two miles to the south or north simply by rounding a corner.”

For Annie Julia Wyman, writing for the Paris Review, Yasujiro Ozu’s Good Morning (1959) is “a chamber piece for all the human linguistic instruments: fart and sigh, small talk and drunken ramble, all the possible declarations of weakness, suspicion, compromise, and love of which you could conceive.”

“It is difficult to imagine that Alejandro Jodorowsky, an artist of such anarchic self-awareness, could ever have doubted himself,” writes Alex Zafiris for BOMB. “But the creator of irrepressible, game-changing cinematic imagery (El Topo, Holy Mountain), founder of his own therapy, Psychomagic, and author of dozens of comics and books grew up cowering under his father's violence and betrayed by his mother's passivity. This traumatic boyhood was the subject of The Dance of Reality, released in 2014 after two decades of absence. Endless Poetry picks up where the previous film ended.” Writing for the Baffler, Michelle García looks back on Jodorowsky’s tarot reading at MoMA a few nights back: “The event was a farce.”

Anna Shechtman reviews Bong Joon-ho’s latest film for the New Inquiry: “Okja’s position at the nexus of capitalist and posthumanist anxiety assumes the resonance of a 21st century Frankenstein.

“In their own unique ways, [Michelangelo] Antonioni and [the late George A.] Romero both addressed the capital driven corrosion of modern society through alienated characters facing an existential crisis,” writes Kimberly Lindbergs at Streamline. “Their means and methods may have been different but underneath Antonioni’s slick surfaces and carefully coiffed characters, there is an element of mystery along with heightened anxiety and a sense of profound dread. These are qualities found in many horror films, including the best work of George Romero, and they are at the forefront of L’Eclisse [1962].”

For RogerEbert.com, Emma Piper-Burket writes a “History of America and Russia’s Cinematic Cold War.”

Yesterday was Todd Solondz Day at DC’s.

Goings On

New York. Starting tomorrow, the Quad will present the world premiere of Kino Lorber’s new 2K restoration of Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise (1967). “Godard’s film emerged both from his personal relationship with Anne Wiazemsky, a university student who is one of the film’s lead actors and whom he married, in the summer of 1967, and from his personal involvement with a group of young Parisian self-styled Maoists who were in the front lines of intellectual left-wing radicalism at the time,” writes the New Yorker’s Richard Brody. “But La Chinoise doesn’t so much transmit or analyze personal experience as refract and sublimate it; aesthetically, it has a foot in the camp of an Olympian classicism that it both shatters and mourns—and which Godard reflects in climactic, self-deprecating, carnivalesque mourning for himself. He sensed that the challenge of political conscience would come at a high artistic price.”

For Village Voice critic Bilge Ebiri, La Chinoise is “a time capsule of an attitude, capturing an electricity in the air that foretold the chaos to come. It’s a beautiful, troubling, prophetic work.”

Film Comment will present “a special sneak preview” of Josh and Benny Safdie’s Good Time this coming Wednesday. The Safdies, star Robert Pattinson, and co-writer Ronald Bronstein will be on hand for a Q&A.

From August 18 through 24, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will present Deeper into Nocturama, “a selection of titles hand-picked by Bertrand Bonello as reference points for his latest film.” And for Artforum, Erik Morse gets Bonello talking about Nocturama: “We live in a period that can create a person who is totally fascinated by terrorism and capitalism at the same time.”

Los Angeles. Tomorrow evening, the New Beverly presents two adaptations of novels by Michael Crichton, Robert Wise’s The Andromeda Strain (1971) and Mike Hodges’s The Terminal Man (1974). Howard S. Berger notes that “while, superficially, the films are predominantly faithful to their source material, on closer examination, they also reveal an even tighter relationship to their directors’ individual body of work.”

“In the pop-up exhibition Icon Go On, I'll Go On, his first-ever Los Angeles art show on view to the public Saturday, July 22, at Westlake's Gabba Gallery, [Val] Kilmer’s sculptures and representational and abstract paintings connect ideas that have been fomenting since he first began honing his craft,” writes Trina Calderón, who talks with the artist for the LA Weekly.

In the Works

Features

The Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth is thrilled to hear that Jonathan Glazer has finally begun work on a followup to Under the Skin (2013). “I have just finished writing my new film,” Glazer tells Matt Jarram in the Nottingham Post. “I have been working on it for close to a year and I am starting to cast it and get the money. I am at the beginning of pre-production. I don’t start off a film as a genre. I like genre but I like the idea of films that break out of a genre. I have co-written the last two films but this is the first time I am writing solo.” And that’s all we know for the time being.

Elisabeth Moss is in the cover of the current issue of the Hollywood Reporter, and Lacey Rose’s conversation with her naturally focuses on The Handmaid’s Tale and the second season of Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake. But at the Film Stage, Jordan Raup’s spotted mention of a project Moss and Alex Ross Perry are “quietly prepping.” Following her turns in Perry’s Listen Up Philip (2014) and Queen of Earth (2015), “she'll play the lead of a female rock group who's also an alcoholic, drug-addicted mother. ‘Come on,’ she jokes, ‘she couldn't just be a rock star.’” Raup also notes that Perry has posted a photo on Instagram of thirty unopened boxes and sixty-four cans of 65 mm film.

For more on Top of the Lake, by the way, see Hannah Ellis-Petersen’s conversation with Campion for the Guardian.

Susanne Bier will direct Sandra Bullock in Bird Box for Netflix, reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. The gist? A “woman and a pair of children are blindfolded and make their way through a post-apocalyptic setting along a river.”

“Just weeks before his adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower hits theaters, Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel has signed on to direct RFK,” reports Jeff Sneider at the Tracking Board. Matt Damon will produce and star in the biopic.

“Warner Bros. has launched a remake of the classic science-fiction movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” reports Variety’s Dave McNary. “The Conjuring 2 screenwriter David Leslie Johnson has been tapped to write the script.”

Steve Coogan, Neve Campbell and Taylor Russell will star in Frank Coraci’s Hot Air, which “follows a conservative talk radio host who finds his world turned upside down when his 16-year-old niece comes crashing into his life.” Rebecca Ford has more in the Hollywood Reporter.

Series

Game of Thrones creators and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are still at work on the final two seasons, but HBO has already given the green light to their next project, Confederate. “The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone—freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”

As Ben Travers reports for IndieWire, Confederate “is already facing an uphill battle from critics, particularly on social media. The announcement sparked skepticism, given the racial accusations hurled at Game of Thrones over its first six seasons, the sensitive nature of the central story, as well as the race of the creators themselves.” And Travers embeds a few samples of the objections so far.

Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva reports that Amazon has scored Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail’s series Homecoming starring Julia Roberts. It’s “a psychological thriller that centers on a caseworker at a secret government facility (Roberts) and a soldier eager to rejoin civilian life.”

Ryan Murphy’s tweeted word that Lena Dunham is joining American Horror Story for its seventh season. William Hughes has (a bit) more at the A.V. Club.

Obits

“Pam Engel, who died last Saturday aged 82, was undoubtedly one of the most important and influential figures in British distribution and exhibition of the last four decades,” writes Geoff Andrew for Sight & Sound. Engel “exerted an enormous influence over what the capital’s cinephiles saw; but since she was also involved in the acquisition and distribution of titles—and this at a time when video and DVD were taking hold—her affect on film-watching throughout Britain was considerable, too.” Screen’s Andreas Wiseman gathers tributes.

“Harvey Atkin, who starred in the cult comedy classic Meatballs and the ’80s female-driven cop drama Cagney and Lacey, died Monday at age 74,” reports Dino-Ray Ramos for Deadline.

From the Hollywood Reporter’s Mike Barnes: “Red West, a boyhood friend and member of Elvis Presley's ‘Memphis Mafia’ who appeared in many of the singer's movies as well as in Road House, Black Sheep Squadron, and Goodbye Solo, has died.” He was eighty-one.

Listening

On the new episode (56’03”) of You Must Remember This, Karina Longworth focuses on Jean Seberg in the 1960s: Making Lilith (1964) with Warren Beatty and going full Hollywood with Paint Your Wagon (1969).

Tom Mes, author of Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike, joins Mike White and guest hosts Kevin Heffernan and Patrick Bromley in the Projection Booth to discuss Miike’s Visitor Q (2001) (136’28”).

The latest Film Comment Podcast has Margaret Barton-Fumo, Eric Hynes, Violet Lucca, and Nick Pinkerton talking about “a film shot in their hometown” and “how each film interfaces with their lived experience of those places.”

On Filmspotting SVU #142, Matt Singer and Alison Willmore discuss James Gray’s The Lost City of Z and more films about explorers (78’51”).

Endnote

You might want to explore, perhaps over the weekend, the site for the Wisconsin Nitrate Film Project, which has been set up to study the nature of the material on which most films before the early 1950s were shot and stored.

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