Let’s start today with a few interviews. I’ve opened the NYFF 2017 Index with a snippet from poet Peter Gizzi’s conversation with New York Film Festival director Kent Jones for BOMB, but I want to flag it again because they cover more than this year’s edition. Jones discusses the changes he’s witnessed over the years, such as the rise of episodic television; his recent documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut (image above); and Diane, his first narrative feature. “At a certain point, it became a story about a mother and her son,” and it stars Mary Kay Place and was completed with the help of Oren Moverman, who wrote Alison Maclean’s Jesus’ Son (1999) and directed The Messenger (2009). Further in, there’s this: “The cinema is very, very young, but many of the people who write about it treat it as if it were very, very old.”
“Kelly Reichardt might be the most important independent American filmmaker working right now,” proposes Bilge Ebiri at the top of his interview for the Village Voice. The focus here is on last year’s Certain Women, but, says Reichardt: “They all sort of start with sound. The soundscapes begin with scouting and really listening to what’s happening in the spaces.”
“I don’t really know why and how any of these films are made,” Hong Sang-soo, who’s made around two dozen of them, tells Calum Marsh in the National Post. “I try always not to start with a clear purpose or objectives. I kind of believe in the creative process itself. I only respond to what is given to me at the time I set out to make one, such as actors, locations, weather, as well as what I see, what I read, what I recall, and what I hear during the pre-production and production period, with what I call ‘my best innocence.’”
Introducing a series of profiles of local movers and shakers for Chicago’s Newcity,Ray Pride writes that “art gets into the world and onto screens large and small and into archives and onto screens again through intricate networks of economies and affinities. The work of visionary educators, visionary producers, visionary mentors, visionary exhibitors, visionary archivists are just as essential. While forces of consolidation and contraction are always at work, the Chicago film community is in a warm, fuzzy place for now. The loosely defined phrase ‘Peak TV’ is due for a smackdown, even in relation to the flurry of series that continue to be shot locally, but in surveying the figures behind the camera and behind the scenes for this year’s edition of Film 50, we discovered an impressive portrait of Peak Chicago.”
“In this second decade of the 21st century, three successful feature films focused on middle-aged white males who get away with murder and grand theft,” writes Josh Ashenmiller for Bright Lights. “It is tempting to explain these three white male felons as species of white privilege—aggressive exploiters of an exploitative system. But the stories of Dr. King Schultz [played by Christoph Waltz in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012)], Irving Rosenfeld [Christian Bale in David O. Russell’s American Hustle (2013)], and Rick Carver [Michael Shannon in Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes (2014)] contain a critique of American society deeper than just ‘white guys always get the benefit of the doubt.’ These men exploit the finely printed details of American contract law. What seems like the most gossamer thread—the same type of throwaway language under which we tap ‘I agree’ without even reading—turns out to be, with enough chutzpah, the foundation for a semi-legal business enterprise, a wellspring of white privilege.”
“Billy Wilder always more or less disowned his one real musical,” writes David Cairns in the Notebook. In The Emperor Waltz (1948), a “sort of Tyrolean dance where the servants (including Wilder's girlfriend Doris Dowling, better cast in Lost Weekend) start cavorting to [Bing] Crosby's crooning has a faint, distorted Alpine echo of Lubitsch, and may explain what Wilder thought he was doing.”
Steven Shaviro has posted his chapter from Indefinite Visions, “The Glitch Dimension: Paranormal Activity and the Technologies of Vision.” The films in this franchise “work, quite brutally,” he writes, to entrain us to temporal rhythms that are alien to and discordant with our own.” And: “ If they offer a commentary on our contemporary media situation, this is because—and precisely to the extent that—they are themselves entirely embedded within this situation.”
Little White Lies has posted excerpts from Richard Ayoade presents The Grip of Film by Gordy LaSure, which will be out next week. Among the observations here: “British Arse lacks the life-affirming expansiveness of American Ass.”
For Women and Hollywood, Holly Rosen Fink talks with Erin Carlson about her book, I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy.
In Other News
“Audrey Hepburn’s original working script for the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s sold Wednesday night at Christie’s in London for £632,750, or about $847,000, appropriately enough to Tiffany & Co.,” reports Scott Reyburn for the New York Times. “The price was a high for any film script offered at auction, according the London-based auction house.”
New York. With the festival opening tonight, the Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced the full lineup of NYFF55 Directors Dialogues and NYFF Live panels.
Memphis. The Indie Memphis Film Festival has announced the lineup for its twentieth anniversary edition running from November 1 through 6. “Oliver Butler and Will Eno’s adaptation of Eno’s Pulitzer Prize finalist, Thom Pain, kicks off Opening Night,” notes Filmmaker editor Scott Macaulay. “Lynne Sachs’s Tip of My Tongue, which collects the reflections of a group of the filmmaker’s contemporaries on the occasion of her 50th birthday, is the closing night film.” There’ll also be “a special salute” to Abel Ferrara, who’s bringing Bad Lieutenant (1992), The Addiction (1995), and, “in its U.S. premiere, Alive in France to Memphis. Ferrara will also perform with his band Flyz.”
San Francisco. “Lynn Hershman Leeson will address [Alfred Hitchcock’s] Vertigo  with a new project called VertiGhost at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, with works at both the Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum,” writes Alex Greenberger for ARTnews. “The project includes a film about Portrait of Carlotta Valdes, the painting that figures prominently in the Hitchcock work, as well as a new work with a component that can be accessed via the internet.”
Toronto. Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) screens this evening as part of the TIFF Cinematheque series The Heart of the World: Masterpieces of Soviet Silent Cinema. “Given the film’s double life as both art and agitprop,” writes Craig Caron in the TIFF Review, “it’s only fitting that three of the key figures in the Russian Constructivist movement—Alexander Rodchenko, Anton Lavinsky, and the Stenberg Brothers—produced materials for the film. Though this early Soviet aesthetic is perhaps overly familiar to us nowadays, it cannot be overstated that at the time, these posters were as revolutionary as the film they advertised.” Caron’s gallery of artwork spans decades.
MDFF Selects: Presented by Cinema Scope and TIFF is an ongoing series at the Lightbox, and tonight’s selection is Happy Times Will Come Soon (2016). Kazik Radwanski (Tower,How Heavy This Hammer) talks with director Alessandro Comodin “about his inspirations for the film, his unique combination of documentary and narrative techniques, and where he fits in the landscape of contemporary Italian cinema.”
Meantime, High Concept: The Films of Denis Villeneuve is on through Sunday.
Amsterdam.Locus: Apichatpong Weerasethakul – Cao Guimarães is on view at EYE Filmmuseum through December 3.
“Hugh Hefner, who created Playboy magazine and spun it into a media and entertainment-industry giant—all the while, as its very public avatar, squiring attractive young women (and sometimes marrying them) well into his 80s—died on Wednesday,” reports Laura Mansnerus for the New York Times. He was ninety-one.
“Anne Jeffreys, an actress whose career spanned the Nelson Eddy and Janette MacDonald era through a decades-long run into the 2000s as General Hospital’s snobbiest socialite, has died,” reports Greg Evans for Deadline. She was ninety-four.
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