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More Medicine for Melancholy

Barry Jenkins’s Medicine for Melancholy (2008)

Before turning to this week’s five highlights, let’s make note of a well-timed home viewing recommendation. Jodie Foster’s Home for the Holidays (1995) “has for many become a perennial cinematic antidote to the Thanksgiving blues,” writes Michael Koresky in his latest column for Film Comment (and he discusses the film in the latest Film Comment Podcast as well). It’s a “rare mainstream film about the experience of feeling like an outsider in your own backyard,” and three Thanksgivings ago, filmmaker Stephen Cone (Henry Gamble's Birthday Party, Princess Cyd) wrote for Talkhouse about “the powerful personal impact” Home for the Holidays had on him when he first saw it at the age of fifteen. For starters, “the shock of encountering [Robert] Downey Jr.’s gay Tommy in a deceptively light family dramedy that didn’t revolve around his existence was particularly revelatory.” But Foster’s film also spoke to the then-budding director: “What a revelation to encounter the energy of an action movie inside a film about being a member of a family.”

  • If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel, is, in its own way, also a family movie. KiKi Layne plays a young woman who, with the support of her feisty mother, fights to spring her fiancé from jail before their baby is born. The Film Stage passes along a half-hour conversation Paul Thomas Anderson has had with Jenkins about his new film, about Jonathan Demme–style close-ups, Jenkin’s approach to editing, and more. And for the New York Times, Reggie Ugwu has put together an oral history of Jenkins’s first feature, Medicine for Melancholy (2008). From more than a few admirers of the film, Ugwu hears that it “helped unleash a new wave of auteur-driven, idiosyncratic black filmmaking—seven years before his landmark follow-up, Moonlight, finally crashed onto shore.”
  • Writing for the TLS, Jonathan Lynn, the actor and director (My Cousin Vinny) who co-created the classic British comedy series Yes Minister, looks back on the days with Orson Welles when Lynn was called to Italy to act in a few scenes with the director for a never-completed television special, Orson’s Bag. Cinephiles more familiar with Welles’s full biography than Lynn probably won’t appreciate his takeaway (“Hollywood didn’t destroy Orson’s career—Orson did it to himself”), but the anecdotes are spiced with plenty of amusingly Wellesian moments.
  • Roy Andersson has been working on About Endlessness, his follow-up to his Golden Lion-winning A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014), for a few years now, and he’s just presented a fifteen-minute preview at the Seville Film Festival. Jonathan Romney was there, and reports for Sight & Sound, noting that “the static compositions, the cast’s pallid faces, the idiosyncratic palette of pale puce and green all suggest that this won’t mark a major departure for Andersson, although the joy of his latter-day films lies in their subtle variations on a core set of themes and tropes. He hasn’t been called a filmic Samuel Beckett for nothing.”
  • Vulture’s Joanna Scutts talks with critic and TCM host Alicia Malone a bit about the loss of FilmStruck and the forthcoming Criterion Channel and a lot more about her new, second book, The Female Gaze: Essential Movies Made by Women, a collection of fifty-two essays, half of them written by female critics. “You look at something like the AFI Top 100 list of the greatest films of all time,” says Malone, and “there are zero female directors on that. None, zero.” Why? “Men talk about movies made by men; they create film history, and it self-perpetuates.” Her book aims to contribute toward the ongoing effort to right that wrong.
  • On Monday, just days after Roman Polanski presented a lifetime achievement award at the Camerimage film festival in Poland to Witold Sobocinski, the renowned cinematographer (and accomplished jazz musician) who’d worked with Polanski, Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Skolimowski, Wojciech Jerzy Has, Andrzej Zulawski, and Krzysztof Zanussi, passed away at the age of eighty-nine. American Cinematographer recently reposted a tribute that David Heuring wrote in 2003 when the ASC honored him with its International Award. Sobocinski was ten when the Nazis invaded Poland and tells Heuring that “the Polish people, because of our experiences during and after the war years, were probably uniquely qualified to examine the war through art, and that was one of the elements that helped make Polish post-war cinema famous.”

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