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Driven to Create

Martin Scorsese on the set of The Age of Innocence (1993)

This week saw a little more stage-setting for the awards season heading our way. Nominations for the European Film Awards were announced, and three titles lead with four each: Lukas Dhont’s Close, the story of a tragic friendship between two thirteen-year-old boys; Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider, which centers on a Iranian journalist’s investigation into a series of killings; and Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness, in which both a luxury yacht and the social order are overturned. The winners will be revealed in Reykjavík on December 10.

Sara Dosa’s Fire of Love, a portrait of volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, and Alex Pritz’s The Territory, which documents the conflict between an Amazonian tribe and encroaching developers, lead the nominations for the Cinema Eye Honors Nonfiction Film Awards with seven each. The awards will be presented on January 12 at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York.

A few items that caught our eye over the past seven days:

  • Martin Scorsese will turn eighty next Thursday, and the Guardian is already celebrating with a collection of appreciations from Steve McQueen, Lynne Ramsay, Luca Guadagnino, Takashi Miike, Ari Aster, Woody Allen, Abel Ferrara, Edgar Wright, Carol Morley, Kevin Macdonald, Tim Burton, Kelly Reichardt, and Francis Ford Coppola. Sight and Sound, in the meantime, has republished Ian Christie’s 1994 conversation with Scorsese about The Age of Innocence, the crux of Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel, its thematic overlaps with Goodfellas (1990), and the nine months he spent with editor Thelma Schoonmaker. “Editing is the most important original element of the filmmaking process,” said Scorsese, “so why short-change it? It’s a sorry state of affairs when just doing my job properly is described as ‘obsessive.’”

  • Ten years before The Age of Innocence, Scorsese made The King of Comedy with Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, and Sandra Bernhard. For Vulture, Matthew Jacobs talks with Bernhard, who seems to have had a blast on the set. “As irritating and as annoying and as insulting as Jerry Lewis could be, I still loved working with him,” she says. “I didn’t care. It’s Jerry Lewis! He’s a legend and an icon and a freak, and I love him.” Regarding the scene in which she’s got Lewis tied up in her apartment, she notes that he “had never been subjected to a woman controlling him and telling him what to do. I think it was metaphorical and visceral, and everything that was happening was a confluence of Jerry’s life and the character. That really wasn’t rehearsed. I just did my thing. Marty would laugh, and Jerry would squirm.”

  • Screenwriter Zack Stentz (Thor, X-Men: First Class) is currently working on an adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau. In a fantastically entertaining essay for e-flux Journal, Leon Dische Becker and Cosmo Bjorkenheim note that H. G. Wells’s 1896 gothic horror novel about a mad scientist who cross-breeds humans and animals was “first adapted to the silver screen in 1932 during the era of applied eugenics; readapted in 1977 after the Vietnam war implicated big science in mass murder; and remade again in 1996 during the freak-out over stem cell research.” Becker and Bjorkenheim then address a series of pertinent questions: “Why are audiences forced to keep reliving the fears and follies of the nineteenth century through endless sci-fi remakes? And, crucially, what kind of intellectual baggage is being smuggled along the way?”

  • This will be an amazing weekend in New York for Asian cinema as series spotlight the Taiwanese New Wave,Tang Wei,Japanese women filmmakers, and Tsai Ming-Liang. The Museum of the Moving Image is saluting “one of the most unjustly overlooked of all documentary filmmakers,” Noriaki Tsuchimoto. “In his 1960s films,” writes Matt Turner in the Notebook, Tsuchimoto “cycled through styles, techniques, and ways of working, moving away from working with compromising institutions towards pioneering a fully independent, autonomous approach. To achieve his aim, Tsuchimoto came to understand that he needed to not just observe events but actively immerse himself within them, involving his films’ participants directly in the depiction of the struggles of their lives and using the resultant films as a vital agitational and educational part of his support of their cause.”

  • One of the most justly celebrated of all documentary filmmakers, Frederick Wiseman, has been talking to Daniel Eagan at Filmmaker and Leonardo Goi in the Notebook about A Couple, in which Nathalie Boutefeu recites from Sophia Tolstoy’s letters to her husband, Leo. “I think when I’m editing a movie, particularly a documentary where the material is not written, part of my job as an editor is to figure out what’s going on,” Wiseman tells Goi. “That’s an aspect of close reading. And [literary scholar] Helen Vendler is, for me, the supreme example of that. It all comes down to paying attention, basically. Paying attention to everything, down to the smallest details. A gesture. A movement. A tone.” Wiseman tells Eagan that he’s currently having 4K masters made of thirty-two of his films that he shot on 16 mm. “Then I will have to color grade them all,” he says. “It’s an enormous job.”

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