Ahead of the Christmas Day opening, preview screenings of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread in New York and Los Angeles began over the weekend and will continue through Thursday. Variety’s Kristopher Tapley suggests that “if you define a film as the manifestation of a single vision by an army of artisans at the whim of a sovereign, well, that’s exactly what Anderson has explored here, albeit within the context of 1950s London couture.” Actual reviews are embargoed for the time being, but the post-screening Q&As are fair game.
The Playlist’s Gregory Ellwood’s transcribed a bit of what Anderson’s had to say about working again with Daniel Day-Lewis: “I told him a little bit about the story I was cooking up and we agreed I would share the writing with him as it went along. Because it also required investigating this world, this couture. We did researching together. He would be researching and I would be researching, but I would be writing. I’d write every couple of weeks, every fifteen, twenty, or thirty pages, and share things with him because I don’t speak ‘English,’ I speak American. So, he helped me with that as it went along. It was a real collaboration. Obviously, everyone wants to work with Daniel and I got nudged to the front of the line.”
IndieWire’s Zack Sharf: “‘It was awful,’ Day-Lewis said bluntly of filming, noting that production started off wonderful[ly] in the countryside before becoming difficult when the bulk of filming had to take place inside [a Georgian] townhouse. ‘We had hoped to find that way of working again where we would be self-contained, beholden to no one, and uninterrupted. We built a world we could create and just stay in and no one could get into it. But in this townhouse, which was very beautiful, it was a nightmare.’”
And back to the Playlist, to Rodrigo Perez: “‘Well, we’re all ok now,’ PTA said when [Q&A moderator Lynn] Hirschberg noted he didn’t seem too upset with the working conditions. ‘But it was hard, it was really hard.’ The director added that to preserve sanity, he should have shot on a sound stage, but it just didn’t feel natural or right. ‘There were struggles, but it was struggles that were worth it.’”
This past Sunday saw the seventy-fifth anniversary of the premiere of Casablanca—and with it, a wave of appreciations and assessments. “While we may search in vain for a single reason that accounts for the magic of Casablanca’s enduring success, it can’t merely be considered ‘the happiest of happy accidents,’ as critic Andrew Sarris once branded it,” writes Noah Isenberg, author of We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie, for Salon. “Even its theme song, ‘As Time Goes By,’ . . . has in its lyrics a line that almost makes a deliberate claim on a deeper narrative foundation that is at once eternal, an ever-green of sorts: ‘It’s still the same old story.’”
At World, Marvin Olasky introduces an excerpt from Isenberg’s book which “examines how the movie took a political side without getting preachy.” And Meredith Hindley at Longreads points out that “it’s the plight of the refugees who find themselves in Casablanca and the choices they face that drives the movie’s plot. Despite being the product of Hollywood backlot magic, the film contains elements of truth about how these refugees came to be stranded in a North African colonial city thousands of miles from their homes.”
“Many cinephiles can quote large chunks of the dialogue by heart, and Casablanca has the most entries of any film in the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time list,” notes Pamela Hutchinson, writing for the BFI. “Why is Casablanca such a quotable film? Well, it doesn’t hurt that the characters themselves use quotation and memory to negotiate their heartbreak. Casablanca is about a love affair in the past tense.”
And there’s a new book out on Casablanca’s director, Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film. “His camera was an active participant, a searcher after crucial emotional moments, making for a dynamic style that was a strong influence on the young Steven Spielberg,” writes Scott Eyman for the Wall Street Journal. “Alan Rode’s massive book is exhaustively researched, well written and frequently witty.”
Eyman’s own latest book is Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart, which novelist Louis Bayard, writing for the Washington Post, calls a “smart, generous chronicle.”
From the Archives
“I sat in back of him while he watched the movie. I could feel the way he watched it—this man who loves cinema the way I love sports. And I could feel what he thought. You know the way he takes a shot and puts it back together for you, so that the audience knows what’s going on? That’s the way he took my film apart.” That’s Spike Lee, telling Hilton Als what it was like giving Martin Scorsese a sneak peek at Malcolm X (1992). Als spent months on the piece that ran a week before the film’s premiere in the November 10, 1992 issue of the Village Voice, now available again at the site both as clean text and as a beige-tinged facsimile. On a related note, this week’s Observer’s running Andrew Anthony’s profile of Lee, occasioned by the Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, based on his 1986 feature debut.
Wellesnet has posted Viola Hegyi Swisher’s 1976 conversation with John Huston and Susan Strasberg about Orson Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind for After Dark magazine.
The Notebook’s posted the diary Angela Schanelec kept when she went to France in 2002 to prepare to shoot Marseilles (2004). Giovanni Marchini Camia’s translation originally appeared in the latest issue of Fireflies.
“In 1983, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, along with Media Study/Buffalo, created a touring retrospective of avant-garde films, primarily feature-length ones and a few shorts, which they called The American New Wave 1958-1967,” writes Mike Everleth. “To accompany the tour, a hefty catalog was produced that included notes on the films, essays by film historians and critics, writings by major underground film figures and more.” Including an interview with Shirley Clarke, work by Jonas Mekas, J. Hoberman, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Taylor Mead . . . He’s got the link.
“If the French New Wave of the 60s was mainly about films, the New German Cinema of the 70s was mainly about filmmakers,” wrote Jonathan Rosenbaum in 1997, “and each of the best-known directors had a claim to fame that was mainly a matter of public image: eccentric exhibitionism crossed with German romanticism (Werner Herzog), existentialist hip crossed with black attire and rock ‘n’ roll (Wim Wenders), Wagnerian pronouncements (Hans-Jürgen Syberberg), a dandy’s stupefied worship of shrines and divas (Werner Schroeter), and so on. When it came to Fassbinder, who improbably evoked both John Belushi and Andy Warhol, one was made to feel that the real drama in film after film wasn’t in the makeshift characters or the fruity images but in the offscreen intrigues of a baby Caligula manipulating his players and technicians.”
Back in March 2016, Mark Schilling reported for Variety on the Roman Porno Reboot Project, a series of five films Nikkatsu, Japan’s oldest major studio, was planning to make with directors Hideo Nakata, Akihiko Shiota, Kazuya Shiraishi, Sion Sono, and Isao Yukisada. These short features would hark back to the heyday of the studio’s line of sexploitation films of the 1970s and ’80s, and half a year later, Schilling was already reporting on the revivals’ successes. Two of them are now playing at the Metrograph and streaming on MUBI, Sion Sono’s Anti-Porno (see Critics Round Up for reviews) and Akihiko Shiota’s Wet Woman in the Wind (CRU).
These are happy returns because they’ve occasioned a piece by Michael Sicinski for the Notebook in which he sketches a brief history of the Roman Porno before zeroing in on the work of Akihiko Shiota, whose Harmful Insect (2002), for example, “is a near-masterpiece, as crisply, cunningly edited and designed a movie as you could ever hope to see.”
At the Chiseler:
- Dan Callahan: “There’s something even a little mysterious and unplaceable about Eve Arden on screen.”
- Imogen Sara Smith on Steve Cochran: “His gangsters were slick and unfeeling, and when he came to play deeper roles in films like Tomorrow is Another Day,Private Hell 36, and Il Grido, he plumbed the specific melancholy of men whose inchoate vulnerability is forced through the conventional expressions of machismo.”
- And for David Cairns, Josef von Sternberg’s Blonde Venus (1932), “the fourth of six Marlene Dietrich vehicles which propelled her from German near-obscurity to American mega-stardom then almost back to obscurity again, has a plot that just about sustains momentum.”
In an essay for desistfilm, Andrea Aramburú considers Agnès Varda’s Ulysse (1982), wherein “she interrogates her 1954 photograph of the same name . . . Varda’s development of the concept ‘cinécriture’ to characterize her own approach to filmmaking, where ‘the way of narrating’ rather than the story becomes ‘what cinema has to deal with’, is an imaginative account of the Benjaminian task of naming the guilty in a photograph translated to the medium of cinema.”
For Film International,Louis J. Wasser reviews Keith Corson’s book Trying to Get Over: African American Directors after Blaxploitation, 1977–1986: “The eight black directors Corson has chosen for his analytic and comprehensive study are Michael Schultz, Sidney Poitier, Fanaka (originally known as Walter Gordon), Fred Williamson, Gilbert Moses, Stan Lathan, Richard Pryor, and Prince. While the author readily cites their particular virtues and talents, he’s unsparing in discussing their weaknesses. Corson’s stated aim in Trying to Get Over is to make sure their contributions, regardless of their failures, are not swept aside in any future film history.”
“He’s credited with creating the buddy-cop genre with 48 Hrs. , helped bring the xenomorph to life by producing the Alien movies, and been involved in classic TV shows including Deadwood and Tales from the Crypt.” For Uproxx, Christian Long talks with Walter Hill “about his work, how he considers himself a writer first, and the enduring legacy of The Warriors .”
Talking to Little White Lies’ David Jenkins, Michael Haneke recalls his ninety-two-year-old aunt asking him to help her end her life. “The first thing in the morning, she would be worried whether she’d be able to get to the bathroom in time because she wasn’t able to stand. ‘Life,’ she said, was ‘a continual series of indignities and humiliations’ . . . I think it’s wrong that society imposes the obligation to remain alive on such people.”
For Vanity Fair,Rebecca Keegan talks with James Cameron “about some of Titanic’s unanswered questions, what a sale of the 20th Century Fox movie studio would mean for him, and how his work on the Avatar and Terminator franchises is progressing.”
Marc Freeman’s put together an oral history for the Hollywood Reporter of the groundbreaking The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which premiered in 1967 and ran for three years. Freeman speaks with Tom and Dick Smothers, Steve Martin, Rob Reiner, and many more writers and producers.
The Playlist’s Gregory Ellwood talks with Sally Hawkins about her work in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, “an incredibly special film that I’m so grateful for. It’s like the biggest gift of life. It’s the ultimate thing that you want to film, especially for Guillermo.”
NME’s Leonie Cooper asks Edgar Wright (Baby Driver) about the music that’s shaped his life.
In Other News
The Golden Horse Awards, “considered the most prestigious prizes of the year for Chinese-language films,” were presented on Saturday, and Patrick Frater has the complete list of winners for Variety. “The best film prize went to Taiwanese mystery thriller The Bold, The Corrupt, and The Beautiful,” directed by Yang Ya-che. “It also earned prizes for best actress and best supporting actress. The picture with the greatest numerical haul was [Huang Hsin-yao’s] The Great Buddha+, a Taiwanese movie that was largely shot on an iPhone and which is now busily doing the rounds of the international festivals. Another festival favorite, mainland Chinese film Angels Wear White, earned Vivian Qu, the prize for best director.”
“In September, the Chinese release of Feng Xiaogang’s Youth, a coming-of-age drama about young people making peace with the past, was abruptly shelved ahead of the Middle Kingdom’s lucrative National Day holiday,” Nancy Tartaglione reminds us at Deadline. That release is now slated for December 15 in both China and the U.S.
Eugène Green’s En attendant les barbares has not only premiered at the fifty-fifth Gijon International Film Festival, it’s also won Best Feature. Writing for Cineuropa, Alfonso Rivera notes that it “transports us to the French city of Toulouse . . . Initially, Green was asked to film a performance workshop (Chantiers nomades),” but opted instead to work with twelve actors and “a team consisting only of his faithful director of photography (Raphaël O'Byrne), a sound engineer and a directorial assistant.” The “actors recite otto-syllabic verses while acting out a story about fears, obstacles, and oddities: six visitors to a wizard's home must leave their fears behind . . . and their mobile phones. Despite Green insisting that cinema and theater are opposing arts, here he combines them and . . . creates a very organic relationship between the voices and physical bodies of the performers.” Other prize-winners include Ana Urushadze, Best Director for Scary Mother; Kim Minhee, Best Actress for On the Beach at Night Alone; and Harry Dean Stanton, Best Actor for Lucky.
The International Film Festival Rotterdam has announced plans to “intensify our ties to the art world with our new art scheme Frameworks.” Two artists are invited “to propose several emerging talents deserving of a larger audience,” and a jury selects two Grant Award Winners. Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Alfredo Jaar have nominated this year’s winners, respectively, Pathompon Tesprateep, “a Bangkok-based filmmaker, and Grada Kilomba, a Berlin-based interdisciplinary artist . . . Both emerging artists will present their new work in Rotterdam.” The 2018 edition runs from January 24 through February 4.
New York. Starting Saturday, Spectacle will present the entirety of Peter Greenaway’s 1980 project, The Falls.
Toronto. With the TIFF Cinematheque retrospective Black Star season on through December 22, curator Ashley Clark suggests that the “most compelling narrative around contemporary Black British stardom is how the country’s pool of Black talent has inadvertently created a vigorous export cottage industry. Take a look at the following list, and you’ll see a pattern quickly emerging: Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sophie Okonedo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, John Boyega, David Oyelowo, Daniel Kaluuya, the aforementioned Marianne Jean-Baptiste.” He then turns to “Earl Cameron, who arrived in the UK from his native Bermuda in October 1939, at the tender age of 22. . . . Cameron plugged away in auditions and finally made his film breakthrough in Basil Dearden’s atmospheric 1951 thriller Pool of London, in which he plays a merchant seaman who falls for a white girl.” Screens Thursday.
Ghent.The Cinematic Museum: The Postwar Art Documentary is a two-day symposium happening at KASK Cinema on Friday and Saturday. The first evening also sees a book launch, Screening Statues: Sculpture and Cinema by Steven Jacobs, Susan Felleman, Vito Adriaensens, and Lisa Colpaert.
In the Works
Peter Weir’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) was based on three novels in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin series, and now star Russell Crowe has tweeted that he’s hearing “whispers indeed that a second voyage is perhaps potentially pre-proposed a possibility.”
Ioncinema’s posted its monthly list of “projects that are moments away from lensing” or whose shooting is already underway, including Claire Denis’s High Life with Robert Pattinson, Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk, Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum with Matthew McConaughey, Damien Chazelle’s First Man with Ryan Gosling, Todd Solondz’s Love Child with Penélope Cruz and Edgar Ramírez, Tim Sutton’s Donnybrook with Jamie Bell, Neil Jordan’s The Widow with Chloë Grace Moretz and Isabelle Huppert, Spike Lee’s Black Klansman with Adam Driver, and Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased with Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Xavier Dolan.
Guillermo del Toro took to Twitter last Thursday to explain why, instead of directing anything in the coming year, he’ll be interviewing Michael Mann (Heat) and George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road). The Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth’s posted the thread and notes that these interviews might evolve into a book or a documentary or neither or both.
Chris Morris (Four Lions) has secretly shot his next feature with Anna Kendrick, Kayvan Novak (Prevenge), James Adomian (Love After Love), Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black), reports Jay Richardson for Chortle. “Details of the plot are currently under wraps, though Kendrick has been pictured on set in an FBI uniform with body armor and carrying a rifle.”
“Rance Howard, a veteran character actor who portrayed priests and detectives and frequently appeared in the movies of his eldest son, Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, died Saturday,” reports the Washington Post. Howard, who was eighty-nine, “presided over a leading Hollywood family that included his sons Ron and Clint Howard and granddaughters Bryce Dallas Howard and Paige Howard.” He appeared in Stuart Rosenberg’s Cool Hand Luke (1967), Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), and Alexander Payne’s Nebraska (2013) as well as in his son’s “directorial debut, the 1977 road comedy Grand Theft Auto, and played small roles in nearly all of the director’s film and television work, including Splash (1984), Apollo 13 (1995), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), A Beautiful Mind (2001) and the NBC family drama Parenthood .”
From the Hollywood Reporter’s Mike Barnes: “Ken Shapiro, who directed, produced, co-wrote and starred in The Groove Tube, the seminal 1974 sendup of television that marked the movie debuts of Chevy Chase and Richard Belzer, has died.” He was seventy-six.
Bill Ackerman talks with Jonathan Rosenbaum about his books, his years with the Chicago Reader, “and his involvement in multiple Orson Welles-related projects, ranging from This Is Orson Welles to The Other Side of the Wind. Other topics include: Critical interactivity, identity politics in film criticism, André Téchiné, film culture in New York and Paris in the late ‘60s, confusing Art with Class, audio commentaries, Twin Peaks, hate mail, film festivals and how plagiarism can be a positive thing if your ideas are important.” (118’36”).
The new episode of The Cinephiliacs (92’45”) is a “report from the AFI Film Festival in Los Angeles,” in which Peter Labuza “invites a cornucopia of wondrous guests to discuss some of the fall's most unique films. Works by Hong Sangsoo, Claire Denis, Sergei Lonznista, Aaron Katz, and Valeska Grisebach explore the contemporary landscape with conviction, empathy, and pathos.”
Radio Atlantic brings us Stephen Metcalf, talking about his article in the new issue of the magazine, “How John Wayne Became a Hollow Masculine Icon,” and Megan Garber, discussing masculinity in Hollywood (48’59”).
Filmwax Radio host Adam Schartoff talks with Ira Sachs “about what brought him to NYC some thirty years ago and how he continues to make the kind of films he’s interested in making.” (67’01”).
Film Comment presents Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman’s American Carnage, something of a followup to Reichert’s article for the January/February 2017 issue of the magazine about the rise of former White House insider Steve Bannon.
“Never intended for commercial release, The Spirit of Charles Lindbergh is one of filmmaker Orson Welles' simplest, and briefest, offerings,” writes Ray Kelly at Wellesnet. Gary Graver shot the three-minute short in one take in 1984.
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