Cineaste, Superheroes, and More

On Film / The Daily — Aug 24, 2017

Cineaste has posted selections from its fiftieth anniversary issue, along with a round of web exclusives. Louis Menashe, professor emeritus at Polytechnic Institute of New York University and author of Moscow Believes in Tears: Russians and Their Movies, tells the story of how, back in the late 1960s, his introduction of films “as learning adjuncts” into the required course “Main Themes in Contemporary World History” led to his writing reviews for In These Times and to his long-standing relationship with Cineaste. Elia Kazan’s Viva Zapata! (1952), Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion (1937), and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964) were hits with the students. “In the words of the critic Manny Farber, ‘Every movie transmits the DNA of its time.’ The selected films could, in the language of historians, serve as both primary and secondary sources.”

There are previews of Declan McGrath’s review of Paolo Sorrentino’s The Young Pope (2016), Glenn Heath Jr.’s of David Michôd’s War Machine, and Adam Nayman’s review of Jon Lewis’s book Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles, which “has the narrative momentum and visceral pull of a paperback page-turner.”

And in full:

  • Nayman on Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, whose “greatest liability is its screenplay” and “Wright’s typically first-rate craftsmanship fails to save it.”
  • Rahul Hamid on Bong Joon-ho’s Okja, “an exhilarating experience that does cause the viewer to question industrial food production, but I only wish Bong would have taken his critique a step further and made a clearer political statement.”
  • Adam Bingham on Yasujiro Ozu’s Good Morning (1959), “a probing yet peppy domestic comedy of mores and manners that could have been made at no other time.”
  • Sidney Gottlieb on Hal Ashby’s Being There (1979): “Praise of the film usually, and rightly, begins with appreciations of [Peter] Sellers’s remarkable embodiment of Chance.”
  • David Sterritt on Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World (2001): “Art is supposed to push emotional and political buttons, Ghost World suggests, and it puts that philosophy into practice.”
  • Leonard Quart on John Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May (1964), “a well-made thriller that remains contemporary in its political significance.”
  • Darragh O’Donoghue on Tony Richardson’s The Loved One (1965): John Gielgud “alone captures the authentic Waugh note, which has rarely been rendered on screen, big or small: the outer savoir faire that masks searing inner pain.”

The issue wraps with the festival reports, Dennis West on Seattle and Jared Rapfogel on the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.

More Reading

“Why comic book films are ever more homogenized” is the title of a piece for the TLS by Mark Kamine, a producer who’s worked with David O. Russell, Jonathan Demme, and Mike White: “Writing in The Myth of Superman (1962) about the politics of the comic books on which these movies are based, Eco rhetorically asked why Superman didn’t use his powers to find ‘the solution of hunger problems’ or ‘to liberate six hundred million Chinese from the yoke of Mao?’ He concluded that Superman was reactive instead of proactive as a way of maintaining the (capitalist) status quo. ‘He is busy by preference, not against blackmarket drugs, nor, obviously, against corrupt administrators and politicians, but against bank and mail-truck robbers. In other words, the only visible form that evil assumes is an attempt on private property.’ . . . Iron Man is straightforward not only in its Ecoian glorification of capitalism but also in its sexism and xenophobia.”

Writing for the Notebook, Bedatri D. Choudhury observes that Eduardo Williams’s The Human Surge (2016) “is constantly in movement—it travels from a dark room to a park, it traverses continents, houses, rooms, open spaces, underground spaces, waterfalls and into the darkest private spaces of family homes. There is a constant flux and one doesn’t know whether that is comforting or not. One doesn't know if this is a utopia or a dystopia. This uncertainty of never quite knowing is the essence of the film.”

“More than any other [Philippe] Garrel film, Frontier of the Dawn [2008] is an exploration of the subjective nature of relationships,” writes James Slaymaker at Vague Visages.

Books

“It's hard to believe, but today marks the tenth anniversary of the arrival of printed copies of Mario Bava All the Colors of the Dark at our doorstep,” writes Tim Lucas. To celebrate, he and Donna Lucas have updated the digital edition with more interviews and extras.

“I got lucky and blundered upon a copy of Werner Herzog’s Conquest of the Useless in a charity shop,” writes David Cairns, who then explains why he hesitated to buy it. He wasn’t sure which Herzog would appear on those pages, and he has his preferences.

In Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor, Bruce Campbell “recounts trading smog-clogged L.A. for a lavender-carpeted hillside in southern Oregon, then shooting films and TV series in Bulgaria, Colombia, New Zealand, and his native Michigan.” Allan Fallow, writing for the Washington Post, seems to have had a good time.

Interviews

“The Village Voice was the publication that invented the concept of the alt-weekly newspaper, and indeed much of the irreverent, speaking-truth-to-power brand of journalism that we take for granted today,” writes Luke O’Neil for Esquire. As noted yesterday, while the Voice will carry on publishing online, the run of its print editions has come to an end. O’Neil talks with “writers and editors from multiple eras of the paper's existence” about the role of the Voice in their own lives and in the culture at large. And at Longreads, Erin Blakemore has put together a modest Voice reading list that begins with Molly Haskell’s 1974 review of Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore.

We now “see a lot of independent filmmakers ending up in the world of cable and streaming and television,” Todd Haynes tells Kaleem Aftab at The Talks. “I'm a lover of cinema, and I don’t want that to completely expire.”

“We were in profit as soon as [Logan Lucky] opened,” Steven Soderbergh tells Matt Thrift at Little White Lies. “I’m curious, given the strength of the reviews and the exit polls, to see what’s going to happen and whether or not word-of-mouth will push us downfield a little further. What we haven’t been able to determine, and it’s the biggest question mark, is why what we thought would be the core audience for this movie—the rural, southern audience—didn’t show up.”

As the Austin Chronicle’s Richard Whittaker talks with Josh and Benny Safdie about Good Time, the conversation steers towards Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Says Josh: “There’s zero exposition in that movie, to the point where you don't even know who the characters are at times. But that adds to the element of the mass of people, of the experience of being one of 400,000. I think people are ready to move on from the idea of exposition, of ‘Let’s set it up and spoon-feed you information.’”

In Other News

“Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning The Square will represent Sweden in the foreign-language Oscar race at the 90th Academy Awards in 2018,” reports Variety’s Elsa Keslassy. And, as Robert Mitchell reports, Germany’s selected Fatih Akin’s In the Fade.

“On Tuesday evening, Cinefamily co-founder and executive director Hadrian Belove and board vice president Shadie Elnashai resigned, one day after an anonymous email alleging widespread sexual misconduct at the beloved nonprofit cinematheque began circulating in L.A.’s tight-knit film community,” reports Julia Wick at LAist.

Goings On

New York. As a followup to yesterday’s outstanding piece from Bilge Ebiri in the Village Voice on Yuliya Solntseva’s Ukrainian Trilogy, screening Saturday and Sunday at the Museum of the Moving Image, here’s Richard Brody in the New Yorker: “The last of the three, The Enchanted Desna, from 1964, is by far the most original. Made at a time of great daring in European cinema, it’s as extravagantly lyrical and painterly as any movie of the era.” And Jonathan Rosenbaum, who’ll be introducing the screening on Saturday, wrote about The Enchanted Desna for Sight & Sound in 2015, noting that it was “Godard’s favorite film of 1965.”

Eric Rohmer’s Le rayon vert (1986), opening tomorrow at the Metrograph, is “a beautiful narrative of self-discovery, elegant in its simplicity,” writes Tina Hassannia in the Village Voice.

Tonight, though, the Film Society of Lincoln Center presents Rohmer’s Full Moon in Paris (1984).

Chicago. “For its ninth edition, Noir City: Chicago returns with what its programmers have dubbed ‘The Big Knockover’—a celebration of the heist film, from its heyday in the 40 and 50s, to its modern-day incarnations,” writes Laura Emerick at the top of her big overview at RogerEbert.com. “As usual, the scene of the crime is the Music Box Theatre, which will screen 18 titles, all in 35 mm, from Friday, August 25 to August 31.”

Ithaca. Tonight, Jonathan Kirshner will introduce a screening of Le samouraï (1967), kicking off a series at Cornell Cinema, Criminally Cool: The Films of Jean-Pierre Melville. Roderick Heath at Ferdy on Films: “Melville was a filmmaker who developed a powerful and specific imprimatur based in dichotomous creative references, mating a very European sense of style to an unabashed love of American genre stories, lending them such stature in texture and spectacle they rise far above grubby roots to seem akin to neo-mythology.”

On a related note, here’s Serge Daney in 1988 as translated by Laurent Kretzschmar: “The Melville of Un flic [1972] is that very serious child who has chosen his toys once and for all, who is dead set on them and will never budge. Long since broken, the toys in question are amazed they can sustain the shock of a story again, resisting once more the tests of time and images. Resistance interests Melville.”

Toronto. While the lineup for the Toronto International Film Festival (September 7 through 17) was officially completed on Tuesday, the festival’s added a handful of Special Events:

In the Works

Will Ferrell will co-produce and star in The 100 Year-Old Man, based on Jonas Jonasson’s book, The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. If the title sounds familiar, that’d be because Felix Herngren directed a version that became “one of the highest-grossing Swedish movies of all time,” as Variety’s Dave McNary points out. “Ferrell will play a man named Allan who escapes from a nursing home on his 100th birthday. His time on the run reveals that he took part in several defining events of the 20th century.”

Also, Paul Feig will direct six-year-old Joshua Satine in A Simple Favor. “Satine will play the son of [Anna] Kendrick’s mommy blogger character, who tries to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of her best friend, portrayed by [Blake] Lively. . . . The story is described as being a post-modern film noir with twists, betrayals, secrets, revelations, murder, and revenge.”

“Just days after Pedro Pascal was cast as the villain for Denzel Washington’s action sequel The Equalizer 2, the Tracking Board can confirm that Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman will also be returning,” reports Edward Douglas.

“Griffin Dunne has come aboard the Netflix biopic Gore, joining Kevin Spacey, whose been tapped to play the title character Gore Vidal,” reports Deadline’s Amanda N’Duka. Michael Hoffman (The Last Station) is directing.

“Amazon Studios has greenlit a fifth season of Jill Soloway’s Transparent,” reports Deadline’s Denise Petski. Also, “HBO has picked up a second season of Jay and Mark Duplass’s anthology series Room 104.

Obit

“Janusz Glowacki, a Polish playwright, novelist and screenwriter who mined the ferment of Communism and its collapse in his country to create darkly humorous works about totalitarianism and the émigré experience, died on Saturday while vacationing in Egypt,” reports Neil Genzlinger for the New York Times. “Several short-story collections and his work with [Andrzej] Wajda, the great Polish director who died in 2016, on Hunting Flies [1969] helped make Mr. Glowacki a prominent voice in Poland in the 1960s and 70s.” Glowacki was seventy-eight.

Listening

Talk Easy host Sam Fragoso meets Fred Melamed, who’s “starred in seven Woody Allen movies, played Sy Ableman in the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man, and has made appearances on Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, House of Lies. He’s most recently in Janicza Bravo’s dazzling debut feature, Lemon.” (69’21”).

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