The Wachowskis, Pennebaker, and More

On Film / The Daily — Aug 26, 2017

Alexandro Segade covers a lot of ground in his piece for Artforum on Sense8, the Netflix series created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski which was cancelled this summer but granted one last two-hour episode for tying up loose ends. “The Wachowskis’ vision may have been unsustainable from a production standpoint, but in this moment of fracturing coalitions on the left and rising nationalist xenophobia everywhere else, its abrupt end felt as much about a rejection of intersectionality.”

In the New York Times, Cara Buckley writes about “a burst of new films . . . taking a deep look beyond the headlines at the lasting impact that racial schisms and racism have on Americans’ everyday lives.” She talks with Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis about Whose Streets?; with Yance Ford, whose Strong Island is about his brother, “an unarmed black man shot to death by a white man in 1992”; Peter Nicks, whose The Force is “about efforts to reform the Oakland, Calif., police department”; and with Matt Ruskin about Crown Heights, “based on the real-life wrongful conviction of Colin Warner.”

Michael Lehmann and Bruce Willis’s Hudson Hawk (1991), “an action comedy that’s a spoof on the genre,” is “far from a masterwork,” grants the New Yorker’s Richard Brody, “but, at its best moments, the movie is vastly superior to the earnest classics of the genre, not merely in its satirical imagination but in its cinematic imagination over all, in its power to astonish.”

At Film Alert 101, Neil McGlone writes about Sergei Loznitsa’s Austerlitz, “made up of a series of long eight to ten minute static shots as the camera observes tourists while they make their way around the concentration camps at Sachsenhausen and Dachau.” We “see them arrive in their sunglasses, t-shirts emblazoned with brand names and expletives, baseball caps and shorts entering through the main gate of the camp where we see the words ‘Arbeit macht frei.’” And he wonders, “from the hours and hours of footage that he shot of people wandering around the camps, is the documentary a fair representation of how people behaved?”

Dag Sødtholt, who’s written extensively about the work of M. Night Shyamalan, has been going deep and long on Split (2016). Montages has now posted the second of four articles on what turns out to be the second film in a trilogy.

Interviews

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Monterey Pop, Daniel Eagan talks with D. A. Pennebaker for Film Comment. We hear about advice given to him by one of his old roommates, William Gaddis, about his work with Francis Thompson on N.Y., N.Y. (1957), with Albert Mayles on Opening in Moscow (1959), with Richard Leacock and Robert Drew on Primary (1960), about making Dont Look Back (1967) and The War Room (1993), and about how, as a kid, Pennebaker would buy jazz records, “one of which was [Louis] Armstrong’s ‘West End Blues,’ which I still think is one of the great records ever, in the history of recordings.” Further in:

Later, when I thought about how jazz influenced me, I realized that I learned how to edit film by listening to those 78 rpm records. When those songs were originally written and played, they were long. “West End Blues” must have been about 20 minutes. But to make any money, to sell records, you had to reduce them to three and a half minutes. It wasn’t a sacrifice or giving anything away, you needed the money. Listening to those 78s taught me how to create scenes from a lot of information when you film with a camera. Because when you’re filming, it’s like a hunt. Anything that moves, you film. If it looks interesting , you film it. And you build this huge collection of stuff you’ve filmed. And then to edit it, it isn’t just cut out the bad pictures. You had to create scenes. I learned what scenes were just by trying to make them.

“I am a child,” Alejandro Jodorowsky tells Gregg LaGambina in the Los Angeles Review of Books. “I am an adolescent. I am a man of 40 years, or 80 years. At 88, I am starting! I swear I am starting! For me, it is an easy age. When you feel old, you get old. That’s why I don’t get old. Next, I will prepare three pictures. I may not have 100 pictures when I have 100 years, but I will do it, if I don’t die. . . . At 88 years old, I tell you, life is fantastic. Every morning, I say, ‘Oh, what happiness! I am still alive. What happiness!’”

“Race, and how your characters exploit and use others, largely a range of black figures, have distressed, even offended, some reviewers,” Ray Pride tells Good Time directors Josh and Benny Safdie in Newcity Film. Benny: “I think there is a general difference between reflecting society and saying that you adhere to those same ideas. Just because you’re showing certain things that exist doesn’t mean you subscribe to the same point of view. How do you have a conversation about something without bringing up things that you will be uncomfortable with?” Amos Barshad profiles the brothers for Fader.

At Hammer to Nail, Christopher Llewellyn Reed talks with Janicza Bravo about Lemon. “I’m not sure what the experience of it is,” she tells him, “but for myself, my background is in theater—in experimental theater, actually—and the film is a marriage of that work and hyperrealism. So, it’s operating on a plane that is near reality, but the language and its container and its blocking and its presentation is all theatrical . . . on purpose.” And here’s Bravo’s Criterion Top 10.

And then there’s Hadley Freeman’s interview with James Cameron for the Guardian. For the time being, it’ll be remembered for one thing and one thing only, his comments on Wonder Woman—and the response from that film’s director, Patty Jenkins.

Goings On

New York. “For natives, transplants and tourists alike, it can be hard to tell where the actual New York leaves off and its cinematic doppelgänger begins,” writes A. O. Scott. “And it would be downright impossible to pick just one movie that sums up the experience of the city. Still, it might be interesting to try.” The New York Times is pitching in on an initiative from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, One Film, One New York. Scott and Manohla Dargis have nominated five films—Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s On the Town (1949), Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York (1977), Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet (1993), and Spike Lee’s Crooklyn (1994)—and once the votes are counted, the film that comes out on top will screen for free on September 13 in parks and movie theaters in all five boroughs.

Once again, the Museum of the Moving Image is presenting Yuliya Solntseva’s Ukrainian Trilogy today and tomorrow. “If you can only make it to Astoria for one of these rarely shown treasures,” writes Jeva Lange at Screen Slate, “ensure that it is The Enchanted Desna [1964], a kaleidoscopic fairy tale complete with blazing colors, talking horses, biblical floods, and fields of impossibly yellow sunflowers—among other fantasies. . . . Jonathan Rosenbaum, who will introduce Saturday's screening, called Desna ‘among the most ravishingly beautiful and poetic spectacles ever made,’ and on 70 mm no less, it will be a splendid and once-in-a-lifetime treat.”

“Starting this weekend,” writes director Zach Clark (White Reindeer, Little Sister) for the Talkhouse Film, “the beautifully renovated Quad Cinema is presenting a week of vintage sleaze with their series Erotic City, which features dirty movies made in the Big Apple right around the time hardcore pornography broke out of stag-party back-rooms and into real-deal movie theaters. . . . There are several titles from sex cinema’s undisputed auteurs—Radley Metzger, Roberta Findlay (in person, even!), Joe Sarno, Wakefield Poole – but the most striking selections are a pair of black-and-white, queer-helmed curios that ended up much more explicit than they were originally intended.” Andy Milligan’s Seeds (1968) screens today and John and Lem Amero’s Bacchanale (1970) screens tomorrow.

And for Flavorwire, Alison Nastasi talks with Jerry Douglas, director of Both Ways (1975), “about his experience in the industry working with other luminaries like Metzger (Douglas wrote the screenplay for Metzger’s 1974 film Score, based on Douglas’s off-Broadway play), editing the essential gay magazine Manshots, and the state of gay porn today.”

Chicago. “One of the city's best annual film events, Noir City: Chicago has grown over the years from a showcase of classic American film noir to a celebration of all sorts of movies that feature crime and/or a fatalistic worldview,” writes Ben Sachs for the Reader, adding that “almost half of the titles in this year's Noir City were made after 1970.”

Meantime, the new Cine-List is up.

In the Works

Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. hears that Guillermo del Toro’s remake of Fantastic Voyage is being put on hold so that the director can concentrate on promoting The Shape of Water throughout awards season. “This pushes the film possibly into the 2020 release corridor. Sources said del Toro remains firmly committed to the remake of the 1965 film about a scientist with a potentially fatal health problem who gets five of his colleagues to be miniaturized in a ship and injected into his bloodstream to save his life.”

Also, Floria Sigismondi is “a seminal director of music videos—David Bowie, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, The White Stripes, Katy Perry and Marilyn Manson to name a few—who broke into feature directing with The Runaways and more recently helmed two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale as well as the season finale of American Gods.” Her next project will be The Turning, a “contemporized version” of The Turn of the Screw. Henry James’s 1898 novella has been adapted and reworked countless times, most famously as The Innocents (1961), directed by Jack Clayton.

Martin Donovan (Ant-Man), Andy McQueen (The Girlfriend Experience), and Grace Lynn Kung (Miss Sloane) are joining Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon in Rahmin Bahrani’s Fahrenheit 451, reports Edward Douglas at the Tracking Board.

Orlando Bloom will produce and star in Amazon’s Carnival Row, reports Hunter Harris at Vulture. “According to a release, the series is a ‘fantasy-noir set in a neo-Victorian city’ where ‘mythical creatures fleeing their war-torn homeland have gathered in the city, and tensions are simmering between citizens and the growing immigrant population.’”

Obits

Cinematographer Ramanda Sengupta, “who worked with legends like Jean Renoir, Ritwik Ghatak, and Mrinal Sen, died in Kolkata on Wednesday,” reports News18. “Sengupta worked behind the camera in over 70 films” and “was also a founding member of the Technicians’ Studio in South Kolkata’s Tollygunge.”

“Jay Thomas, an actor and radio personality whose work on the television series Murphy Brown won him two Emmy Awards in the early 1990s, died on Thursday,” reports Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times. Thomas, who was sixty-nine, was also known for playing deli co-owner Remo DaVinci in Mork & Mindy and ice hockey player Eddie LeBec in Cheers.

For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.