• [The Daily] Cone on Ballard and More

    By David Hudson

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    “Most famous for the exquisite 1979 family classic The Black Stallion, and, to a slightly lesser extent, 1996’s Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin-starring drama Far Away Home, [Carroll] Ballard is—despite making only six films in a period of almost forty years—our foremost mainstream chronicler of the natural world,” writes Stephen Cone, director of such outstanding films as Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (2015) and Princess Cyd (2017), at the Talkhouse. “And as he falls further and further out of fashion, becoming less and less traditionally ‘timely,’ he seems to me more and more vital, a quiet, soulful balm in horrific times.”

    To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary New York magazine has posted “a favorite story from our inaugural issue” by none other than Arthur C. Clarke: “The first steps on the rather long road to 2001: A Space Odyssey were taken in March 1964, when Stanley Kubrick wrote to me in Ceylon, saying that he wanted to do the proverbial ‘really good’ science­-fiction movie. As this subject had been my main preoccupation (apart from time out for World War Two and the Great Barrier Reef) for the previous thirty years, this letter naturally aroused my interest.” Amusing and admiring tales of Kubrick and his methods and temperament follow.

    “Contrary to ‘formal’ biographical documentary films,” writes Rowena Santos Aquino at VCinema, “Connor Jessup’s portrait of Thai filmmaker/multimedia artist Apichatpong ‘Joe’ Weerasethakul is a delicately woven home movie-like assemblage or collage, mixing Jessup’s footage with footage shot by A.W. himself during the course of a week that the two men spent together in Colombia (where the latter is making his film Memoria) and A.W.’s films and photographs. Additionally, editor Ajla Odobašić must also be mentioned as another collaborator here due to the film’s intricate plaiting of voice-sound-image and the differently, or collectively, authored footages. The result is a filmic dreamscape (or dreamy filmscape), stitched together not by chronology and numbers but by themes: of ghosts, memories, Thailand, and cinema, all of which very much recalls—and also pays tribute to—A.W.’s past lives and films.”

    “Life might not be melodrama, but people tend to think of it as if it is.” The second part of Blake Lucas’s piece on the work of Douglas Sirk at Universal-International is now up at the Notebook.

    “How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it?” asks Molly Ringwald in a piece for the New Yorker on her conflicted feelings in 2018 about the work she did with John Hughes back in the ’80s. “Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”

    Also writing for the New Yorker, Aleksandar Hemon argues that Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread “is nothing if not propaganda for patriarchy.” To put it mildly, the piece has not been well-received on social media.

    Writing for Jezebel, Clover Hope argues that “representations of violence against women in film involve tons of psychology, social conditioning, and manifestations that are just now being probed by a larger group of people. What’s been robbed of women, in these discussions, is the privilege of complexity, consideration of how women fantasize, and how we respond to or reject violent imagery.”

    INTERVIEWS

    “Listen,” Nicolas Cage tells Paul Schrader in the current issue of Interview, “I want to congratulate you on First Reformed. I couldn’t help thinking that all roads have probably led to this moment. It is, in fact, your magnum opus.” Schrader: “I think so. It brings a lot of stuff together.”

    Back in the early 1980s, Jonathan Rosenbaum had a conversation with Jonas Mekas so wide-ranging that he’s posting it in four parts.

    For the New York Times, John Williams asks Don Graham to persuade someone to read his new book, Giant: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber, and the Making of a Legendary American Film, in fifty words or less: “It’s a great story,” answers Graham. “There was a lot of offscreen drama. And to talk about modern Texas, you need to know what Texans have thought of themselves over the years. Giant is one of those markers.”

    “She understands the camera in a way that most professional actors can barely compete with,” Todd Haynes says of Millicent Simmonds, talking to Nick Chen at Dazed (via Movie City News). Simmonds is currently starring in John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place. “It’s the coolest thing,” says Haynes. “She’s a lead in another movie within two years of Wonderstruck. I’m so proud of her.”

    Speaking of Krasinski, Tim Lewis talks with him for the Guardian. Among the topics that comes up is Jack Ryan, the Amazon series slated for August. Krasinski will be the fifth actor to take on the role, and he says that “we’ve had so many stories about superheroes who can fly, superheroes who can shoot things out of their hands and I think to have a real person do heroic things is kind of a nice thing to put out in the world right now.”

    Also in the Guardian, Lanre Bakare has a long talk with Antonio Banderas about Pablo Picasso. Genius: Picasso premieres on April 24.

    Adam Woodward talks with Howard Shore about scoring Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1985) and Hugo (2010), and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983), Dead Ringers (1988) and Naked Lunch (1991).

    Also at Little White Lies, Thomas Hobbs: “‘We wanted to make the antithesis to [John Singleton’s] Boyz n the Hood [1991],’ reflects screenwriter Tyger Williams, who wrote [Allen and Albert Hughes’s] Menace II Society [1993]. ‘Boyz was all about the one kid who makes it out, but that was just a fairy tale. So many kids never make it out the hood, and I was more interested in telling their story.’”

    Variety’s John Hopewell talks with Jean-Jacques Annaud about his first television series, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, and with Gael García Bernal about Here on Earth, a series he’s producing and starring in—he’s also directed the first episode. Hopewell notes that the series “skewers Mexico’s ruling elite, turning a spotlight on the horse-trading, influence peddling, luxury, blackmail and murder—ferociously unexpectedly or hauntingly casual—practiced by one of Mexico’s most influential families whose patriarch, Governor Mario Rocha (Daniel Gimenez-Cacho), is preparing to run for president.”

    IN OTHER NEWS

    A gala presentation of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther in a new AMC theater in Riyadh on April 18 “will mark the first screening of a film release in the kingdom since movie theaters were banned in the early 1980s, after Saudi Arabia adopted ultraconservative religious standards in 1979,” reports Variety’s Nick Vivarelli.

    “The choice of movie makes sense,” suggests Joshua Keating at Slate, “and not only because Black Panther has been the most popular movie in the world this year while also being light on sexual and religious themes that could draw the ire of censors. It’s also possible to interpret the movie in a way—admittedly very different from what its filmmakers intended—that dovetails nicely with the Saudi regime’s recent propaganda.” After all, “for a government looking to change up its image, a Hollywood blockbuster about a benevolent monarch who wants to reform his country but is mindful of tradition, and fights violent extremists with the help of the CIA, couldn’t have been released at a better time.”

    Back for a moment to Vivarelli, who reports that “Saudi Arabia has officially announced its debut at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival with a curated pavilion, industry panels for networking purposes and a selection of shorts.”

    IN THE WORKS

    Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche will appear onscreen together for the first time in a film to be directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, reports Troiscouleurs. Citing a casting call at Figurants, Troiscouleurs notes that this could be the project Binoche spoke to Paris Match about back in 2016 in which Deneuve would play an actress “and I would be her screenwriting daughter.” And by the way, Troiscouleurs seems pretty confident that Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters will premiere in Cannes.

    David Simon (The Wire, Treme, The Deuce) is developing A Dry Run, “a drama series following members of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion who come to Spain from the U.S. to fight fascism during the Spanish Civil War,” reports Variety’s John Hopewell. “The scripts have been outlined, and George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane, both of whom worked on The Wire, have committed to A Dry Run as writers. The show is so far conceived as a six-hour miniseries, though that could change as the stories develop.”

    “Steven Spielberg and Alex Gibney have teamed to produce a docu-series for Discovery Channel examining the origins and dangers of hate,” reports Addie Morfoot for Variety. “Drawing on research in psychology, neuroscience, sociology, and history, Why We Hate traces the evolutionary basis of hate and uses stories from past and present to reveal the nature of the primal and universal emotion.”

    Anne Fontaine has begun shooting Pure as Snow, a reimagining of Snow White with Isabelle Huppert, Lou de Laâge, Vincent Macaigne, Damien Bonnard, and Benoît Poelvoorde, reports Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa.

    The Hollywood Reporter’s Tatiana Siegel has a piece on “what is poised to be the most expensive TV show ever. On Nov. 13, Amazon Studios beat out Netflix for a $250 million rights deal with the Tolkien estate, publisher HarperCollins and New Line Cinema that includes a five-season commitment to bring The Lord of the Rings to the small screen. With the clock ticking, Amazon must be in production within two years, according to the terms of the pact. When production expenses like casting, producers and visual effects are factored in, the series is expected to cost north of $1 billion.”

    Jean-Marc Moutout will direct Yannick Choirat and Isabelle Carré in Victor Hugo – Enemy of the State, reports Stewart Clarke for Variety.

    And from Greg Evans at Deadline: “Empire Records, the 1995 music-stuffed cult film set in a record store has been acquired for stage adaptation and is being developed for Broadway by producer Bill Weiner, who’ll work with the film’s original writer Carol Heikkinen, with new music and lyrics by Zoe Sarnak, the 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant winner for her upcoming musical Afterwords.

    OBITS

    Yasser Murtaja, a “Palestinian cameraman who worked on dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow as well as on compatriot Basma Alsharif’s feature Ouroboros, has died after being shot while covering clashes between Gaza protestors and the Israeli military on Friday,” reports Melanie Goodfellow for Screen. “Murtaja, who was married with a young son, was a rising star in Gaza’s media scene where he was a co-founder of the Ain Media, a collective of a dozen local media professionals, which has worked with Al Jazeera, BBC Arabic and Vice in the past.” And he was only thirty.

    From Rhett Bartlett in the Hollywood Reporter: “Soon-Tek Oh, who voiced the aging warrior Fa Zhou in two Mulan films, aided Roger Moore in The Man With the Golden Gun, and fought Chuck Norris to an explosive finale in Missing in Action 2: The Beginning, has died.” He was eighty-five.

    VIEWING

    For Vulture, Mark Asch talks with Kentucker Audley, founder of NoBudge.com, “celebrates the creative freedom often only found in work made free from commercial considerations—or, at least, commercial expectations.” It’s now “updated daily, spotlighting new comedies, fleshed-out narratives, thumbnail documentary portraits, music videos, and more.” Asch writes about ten selections.

    Virginie Linhart’s portrait Jeanne Moreau: Free Spirit (53’53”) is free to watch at Arte through June 3.

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

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