Did You See This?

Glazer and Levi, Mann and Bong, and More

Marin Ireland in Paul Harrill’s Light From Light (2019)

Before turning to this week’s bullet points, I want to quickly update two recent entries. The link between them, it turns out, is Akira Kurosawa. Writing for Film Comment about Shitamachi: Tales of Downtown Tokyo, the series running at New York’s Film Forum through November 7, Imogen Sara Smith spotlights Toshiro Mifune’s performances “as a flashy, feral gangster dying of TB in Drunken Angel (1948), a zealously conscientious rookie cop in Stray Dog (1949), and a scruffy, hot-tempered thief living with a motley crew of low-lifes in a flophouse in The Lower Depths (1957).”

In the Japan Times, Mark Schilling gets Nobuhiko Obayashi talking about his conversations with Kurosawa during the late phase of the latter’s career, when his films were, as Obayashi phrases it, “financed from the pocket money of his production company. So he was free. He told me, ‘Obayashi, you can understand my situation. I can shoot my films with my own money now. That’s the way you’ve been doing it since the beginning. I think that’s great. So now we’re both amateurs. And being an amateur is fine. I shoot just like a painter paints. I shoot according to my own philosophy.’”

  • The week began with the surprise return of Jonathan Glazer. Though we’ve known for some time now that he’s been putting together a project that Deadline’s Andreas Wiseman reports is “loosely inspired” by Martin Amis’s Holocaust novel The Zone of Interest, we haven’t really heard much from Glazer since 2013’s Under the Skin. Last Sunday night on BBC Two, a new seven-minute short, The Fall, appeared unannounced. A masked mob in a forest shakes a man from a tree, poses for a group selfie, ties a rope around his neck, and drops him down a deep well. “The fall itself seems to go on for ever, brilliantly, agonizingly shot by Glazer to suggest a bottomless hell,” writes Pamela Hutchinson at Silent London. Glazer tells the Guardian’s Catherine Shoard that he turned to Brecht and Goya for inspiration and Peter Bradshaw finds that this “haiku of horror” is “assisted by the coercively sinister score by Mica Levi.” Half the wonder of Under the Skin is Levi’s score, and at the Quietus, Charlie Brigden talks with her about working with Colombian-Ecuadorian filmmaker Alejandro Landes on Monos.
  • MoMA will commemorate the twentieth anniversary of The Insider tonight with a screening followed by a conversation with Michael Mann conducted by Bilge Ebiri—who is definitely prepared. He’s got a piece up at Vulture on the film based on the true story of Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), a 60 Minutes producer attempting to persuade whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) to go public with his charges against a major tobacco company. Bergman must then persuade CBS to air the full interview. “Mann’s film captures a key moment in the decline of American journalism, a point when corporate values took precedence over revelations that were clearly in the public interest,” writes Ebiri. “That’s perhaps the final tragic shift that The Insider captures—the point at which power, prestige, and profit became more important than the truth, even to many of those who had ostensibly dedicated their lives to the truth.”
  • If that puts you in a 1999 sort of mood, you’ll want to know that the December issue of Sight & Sound will feature a package on Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and that Scott Tobias has taken another look at Being John Malkovich for the Guardian, where he notes that “as soon as it premiered—and for every project he did afterwards—it was talked about as a Charlie Kaufman film, even though it was directed by Spike Jonze.” At Newcity, Ray Pride has just posted a long conversation he had with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton weeks before David Fincher’s Fight Club premiered in Venice. “I think Finch is picking up where Kubrick left off,” says Pitt, who was thirty-five at the time. To which Norton, then thirty, replies, “If anyone can do it, he can.”
  • Parasite fever burns on. Since the winner of this year’s Palme d’Or screened at the New York Film Festival last month, we’ve seen more strong reviews from Andrew Chan (4Columns), Manohla Dargis (New York Times), Howard Hampton (Artforum), Dana Stevens (Slate), and Chris Wisniewski (Reverse Shot). Michael Koresky, Nicolas Rapold, and Amy Taubin have given us an engaging conversation to listen to on the Film Comment Podcast. In a longish piece in the NYT, A. O. Scott argues that Bong “combines showmanship with social awareness in a way that re-energizes the faded but nonetheless durable democratic promise of movies.” For a dissenting opinion, turn to Kelley Dong in the Notebook, where she takes aim at what she perceives as director Bong Joon-ho’s hopeless vision.

  • Back in January, when Light From Light was emerging as a critical favorite at Sundance, C. Mason Wells spoke with writer-director Paul Harrill for Film Comment, noting that his work is “genuinely mature, exhibiting a sensitivity to character and emotional intelligence that’s increasingly rare in American independent cinema.” Light From Light stars Marin Ireland as a single mother who occasionally works as a paranormal investigator and Jim Gaffigan as a widower who believes his wife may be haunting his farmhouse. Now that the film is finally opening in New York and Philadelphia before rolling out across the country, Jordan Raup talks with Harrill at the Film Stage. One of Harrill’s producers is James Johnston, who also worked with David Lowery on A Ghost Story. When Harrill found out about that 2017 film, his heart sank. “James was like, ‘No, no. I promise you. I’m sure it’s different. Whatever you’ve written, I’m sure it’s different from what we just made.’” It was. Meantime, Grasshopper Film has posted Harrill’s annotated list of ten films from the past ten years featuring his favorite performances, including Tallie Medel’s in Dan Sallitt’s The Unspeakable Act (2012) and Sandra Hüller’s in Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann (2016).

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