Archive for July, 2008

Congrats Lynn!

July 31, 2008

Lynn Shelton is the recipient of this year’s Stranger Genius Award for film.

Details here.

Well deserved – nice work, Lynn!!

Venice Announced

July 29, 2008

The 65th Venice Film Festival has unveiled its program this morning. Some great films to look forward to this year including new titles from Aronofsky, Demme, Kitano, Miyazaki, Kiarostami, Claire Denis, Ross McElwee among others.

The Wrestler, dir. Darren Aronofsky (US)
The Burning Plain, dir. Guillermo Arriaga (US)
Il papa di Giovanna, dir. Pupi Avati (Italy)
BirdWatchers, dir. Marco Bechis (Italy)
L’Autre, dirs. Patrick Mario Bernard & Pierre Trividic (France)
The Hurt Locker, dir. Kathryn Bigelow (US)
Il seme della discordia, dir. Pappi Corsicato (Italy)
Rachel Getting Married, dir. Jonathan Demme (US)
Teza, dir. Haile Gerima (Ethiopia/Germany/France)
Paper Soldier (Bumaznyj Soldat), dir. Aleksey German Jr (Russia)
Sut, dir. Semih Kaplanoglu (Turkey/France/Germany)
Achilles And The Tortoise (Akires to kame),
dir. Takeshi Kitano (Japan)
Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea (Gake no ue no Ponyo), dir. Hayao Miyazaki (Japan)
Vegas: Based On A True Story, dir. Amir Naderi (US)
The Sky Crawlers, dir. Oshii Mamoru (Japan)
Un giorno perfetto, dir. Ferzan Ozpetek (Italy)
Jerichow, dir. Christian Petzold (Germany)
Inju, la Bete dans l’Ombre, dir. Barbet Schroeder (France)
Nuit de chien, dir. Werner Schroeter (France/Germany/Portugal)
Inland (Gabbla), dir. Tariq Teguia (Algeria/France)
Plastic City (Dangkou), dir. Yu Lik-wai (Brasil/China/Hong Kong/Japan)

Out Of Competition
Puccini e la fanciulla, dir. Paolo Benvenuti (Italy)
Yuppi Du, dir. Adriano Celantano (Italy)
Burn After Reading, dirs. Joel & Ethan Coen (US) [opening film]
35 Rhums, dir. Claire Denis (France/Spain)
Cry Me A River (Heshang aiqing), dir. Jia Zhangke (China/Spain/France) [short]
Shirin, dir. Abbas Kiarostami (Iran)
Tutto e musica (1963), dir. Domenico Modugno (Italy)
Vicino al Colosseo…c’e Monti, dir. Mario Monicelli (Italy) [short]
Do Visivel ao Invisivel, dir. Manoel de Oliveira (Brasil/Portugal) [short]
Orfeo 9 (1973), dir. Tito Schipa Jr (Italy)
Les Plages d’Agnes, dir. Agnes Varda (France)
Vinyan, dir. Fabrice du Welz (France/UK/Belgium)
Encarnacao do demonio, dir. Jose Mojica Marins (Brazil)
Volare (Nel blu dipinto di blu) (1959), dir. Piero Tellini (Italy)

Out Of Competition, Special Events
Bajo el Signo de las Sombras (1984), dir. Ferran Alberich (Spain)
Vida en Sombras (1947), dir. Lorenzo Llbobet Gracia (Spain)
Ketto Takadanobaba (1937), dirs. Masahiro Makino & Hiroshi Inagaki (Japan)
La rabbia (1963), dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini (Italy) [previously unreleased version]

In collaboration with Far East Film Festival of Udine
Monster X Strikes Back: Attack The G8 Summit! (Girara no gyakushu / Samitto kiki ippatsu), dir. Minoru Kawasaki (Japan)
Queens Of Langkasuka, dir Nonzee Nimibutr (Thailand)

Goodbye Solo, dir. Ramin Bahrani (US)
A Erva do Rato, dirs. Julio Bressane & Rosa Dias (Brazil)
Parc, dir. Arnaud Des Pallieres (France)
Melancholia, dir. Lav Diaz (Phillipines)
Un lac, dir. Philippe Grandrieux (France)
Wild Field (Dikoe Pole), dir. Mikhail Kalatozishvili (Russia)
Il primo giorno d’inverno, dir. Mirko Locatelli (Italy)
Voy a explotar, dir. Gerardo Naranjo (Mexico)
Jay, dir. Francis Xavier Pasion (Philippines)
Pa-ra-da, dir. Marco Pontecorvo (Italy/France/Romania)
Zero Bridge, dir. Tariq Tapa (India/US)
Puisque nous sommes nes, dirs. Jean-Pierre Duret & Andrea Santana (France/Brazil) [documentary]
Women, dir. Huang Wenhai (China/Switzerland) [documentary]
In Paraguay, dir. Ross McElwee (US) [documentary]
Z32, dir. Avi Mograbi (Israel/France) [documentary]
Below Sea Level, dir. Gianfranco Rosi (Italy/US) [documentary]
Los Herederos, dir. Eugenio Polgovsky (Mexico) [documentary]
L’Exil et le royaume, dirs. Andrei Schtakleff & Jonathan Le Fourn (France) [documentary]
*two further Horizons titles will be announced later

Events Horizons [all documentaries]
Verso Est, dir. Laura Angiulli (Italy/Bosnia/Herzegovina)
ThyssenKrupp Blues, dirs. Pietro Balla & Monica Repetto (Italy)
La fabbrica dei tedeschi, dir. Mimmo Calopresti (Italy)
Soltanto un nome nei titoli di testa, dir. Daniele Di Biaso (Italy)
Antonioni su Antonioni, dir. Carlo Di Carlo (Italy)
Venezia ’68, dir. Antonello Sarno (Italy)
Valentino: The Last Emperor, dir. Matt Tyrnauer (US)


The Silence Before Bach: This Amazing Film NOT Available on DVD/VHS!

July 28, 2008

There are some films which simply enrich your soul. They take you to another place and time, where you experience sights and sounds you haven’t seen in that way before. They change the very way in which you see the world. THE SILENCE BEFORE BACH is one of those films. I know very little about Bach. (It’s not my fault, I’m from L.A., a place whose only contribution to culture is the ability to turn right on a red light. (Re: Mr. W. Allen). I am hurt. We have also contributed silicone breasts and thongs!) This film makes me want to immerse myself in his music. At times it was almost too beautiful to hear. The language used is lyrical, contributing so much to the enjoyment of the film: “Only if you have ideas can you decide against them”, “Without Bach, God would be 3rd-rate”, “A recipe is not dogma”. It starts out with a series of empty gallery rooms, and after touring them, suddenly a player piano starts up, moving on it’s own, twisting and turning, filling each empty room with the joy of Bach. It’s an amazing image and lovely introduction to Bach’s glorious sounds. After all our journeys to experience Bach in so very many moving, visually striking, spectacular and amusing ways, we come back to that very same player piano in the gallery, now having such a deeper appreciation of the man’s music, the camera focuses on the paper being fed into the piano to create the music, on the actual notes that dictate the sounds, and it stuns you that this man had all this IN HIS HEAD, and was able to give it to the world. Genius!

I recommend the use of waterproof mascara.

I really don’t want to describe the actual film itself too much as, well, it’s indescribable, any attempts I make to do so would come out banal. It MUST BE EXPERIENCED to be appreciated. I will say it uses imagery, music (obviously), actors to play Bach/others in set in his time, choral groups, river trips, fantastic architecture and loosely interwoven personal stories to create a musical collage, to let us into how others on the planet who have spent their lives studying him live. Some of my favorite scenes are with large groups, like the cellists playing on a subway, as well as pianists in a piano store making his music. I think one of my absolute favorite images is, after we have taken a trip down (I believe it’s the Pleisse? or the Elbe?) and it’s been explained to us how many different musicians have been influenced by it, how rivers both inspire but can be scarred from the events that occur in and around them, a piano is thrown into one. I love the idea of a “river of song” and the violence that accompanies every act of creation. It’s a beautiful, funny and haunting film. Enjoy!


Youssef Chahine, 1926 – 2008.

July 27, 2008

Youssef Chahine, one of Egypt’s most lauded movie directors whose films over nearly five decades often went on Fellini-esque flights of fancy and tackled social ills and Islamic fundamentalism, died Sunday in Cairo. He was 82 years old. His death comes about four weeks after he fell into a coma following a brain hemorrhage.

Here’s a clip of Chahine at work on what became his last film CHAOS.

No Borders, No Limits

July 25, 2008

I recently found out that Shishido Jo, the great chipmunk cheeked star of many a Nikkatsu film, lives in a neighborhood a few stops away from my place on the west side of Tokyo. I was elated to find that the man who epitomized 60s Japanese style is still around and can be found shopping at the neighborhood サミット (Summit) grocery store. I’m on the lookout for him.  

No Borders, No Limits: 1960s Nikkatsu Action Cinema, beginning July 25 at NWFF, though, will have to suffice for folks in the Pacific Northwest to get close to Shishido Jo.  He’s featured in a couple of the films in this  great little series of strange, wonderful and way cool films from Nikkatsu, the film company that pretty much defined yakuza and youth cinema of the late 50s and 60s in Japan, and launched the careers of Suzuki Seijun (who a friend of mine spots regularly in his neighborhood) and Imamura Shohei.

Here’s the opening scene from GLASS JOHNNY –

Operation Filmmaker

July 20, 2008

Operation Filmmaker, a documentary directed (and more!) by Nina Davenport, is a film that brings up so many questions, on so many diverse topics, it’s difficult to know where to start. A young filmmaker’s school in Baghdad is destroyed by American bombs, thus destroying his dreams. But lo, weirdly enough MTV comes to his rescue, doing a short piece about him. Liev Schreiber, preparing for his directorial debut, (the great EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED), decides to make both a symbolic and magnanimous gesture, a American Jewish filmmaker reaching out to a devastated Iraqi film student, asking him to come work with him on his first film. So far, so good in movie land, right? But that’s when it all come crashing to a halt. For basically one reason. Human nature. Yes, you can say it was also a culture clash. ( I can’t help believe that the U.S. vs. Middle Eastern views on women played a large part in this, Ms. Davenport being one of the most long-suffering and generous filmmakers, almost to the point of financial and emotional exhaustion.) The most interesting aspect about the situation is that religious beliefs really don’t seem to have played in any part of this, it seems to be all about human conflict. Our Iraqi film student goes forth into the brave new world of Western filmmaking/life in general. But he doesn’t like the Production Assistant duties he’s assigned (as we pause to hear the laughter of every P.A. in the world), he doesn’t like getting people snacks and coffee. The concept of starting from the bottom, and being grateful just to have the job, does not seem to be in his vocabulary initially. And he needs help with his Visa. And he needs help with his finances. His initial charm and thanks rapidly turn into bursts of anger and insults. (Of course the fact he makes a comment in favor of George Bush doesn’t increase his popularity with the film company.) And more demands for money and help with his Visa problems. So unfortunately everything falls apart, but Muthana Mohmed, (who seems to have more lives than a cat in the film world) gets a P.A. job on DOOM, where he finally learns to at least fake job enthusiasm. He also takes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson” for entry fees into a prestigious English Film School Director’s program. Along with constantly asking everyone he knows, EVEN the documentary director, for help with money and his Visa problems. At one point he even holds his presence in the film, AND the director’s film and some equipment for ransom! Theoretically he is from a well-to-do family in Iraq, father supposedly in a government position, and claims the family had a chauffeur. Mother is described as one who took care of his every need. (Perhaps he was trying to put the documentary filmmaker in mom’s place?) It’s very difficult to know what is false and what is true. But it’s an absolutely fascinating film to watch–his last, defiant speech is textbook Machevilli.

From a psychological point of view this young man looks to be suffering from borderline personality disorder. How much of that is due to suffering through the American invasion of Baghdad, how much of it is due to the confusion and trauma of starting life over in a foreign culture, and how much of it is due to no longer being a spoiled rich kid? (If he was one.) And, as he seems to have raised manipulation to an art form, how much of it is just his real personality? The contradiction of someone who is perceived to have talent but shows no real drive or accomplishments, vs. someone like Philip Glass, an acknowledged genius whose work ethic is “to get up and write all day” is truly astounding.

A suggestion: Why doesn’t he set himself up as a consultant to the Iraqi government–if they hired him to raise funds the country would be rebuilt in 6 months!

There will be a panel discussion after the Saturday matinee (7/26) @ 4:30pm, which should be fascinating! I say we all go! (Imagine the stories that COULDN’T be put in the film!)

Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts

July 17, 2008

When I started researching this piece, I went to Philip Glass’s website. It says “Welcome”. Instead of saying “Contact Us”, it says “Contact Me”. I like a website that welcomes the public, and (as we know his emails MUST be screened), at least gives us the fantasy we can contact the great man personally. This is truly a well-rounded portrait of a man who is a contradiction in terms, having a friendly website while doing some of the most lonely work possible, composing music. Yet having managed to hone his concentration on his art to such an extent he was actually working on 3-4 scores AT THE SAME TIME while this was being filmed. Did I mention he was 70?!! And has 2 children under 5?! (Thus putting him in the same category as Tony Randall and Anthony Quinn!) Scott Hicks, (who directed Geoffrey Rush to an Oscar in Shine, and therefore knows a coupla things about geniuses and music), really manages to convey all of Philip’s 12 notes, not only covering his professional life but his unusual spiritual and (sometimes turbulent) personal life as well. (One of the most poignant comments is made by his current wife, “Genius is hard on a relationship.”) However because our subject is Philip Glass, it fascinates with intelligence, wit and insight every note of the way.

He has collaborated with such masters as Martin Scorsese (Kundun), Ravi Shankar, Woody Allen, and Errol Morris (who gives my favorite quote in the film, “he does existential dread better than anyone”–and he should know, they started out working together on Errol’s Thin Blue Line, a film that not only saved a man’s life, but was selected in 2001 to be preserved by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Drama!)

Of course his collaboration with legendary avant-garde director (there is just not an adequate phrase to describe him) Robert Wilson resulted in changing the face of American theater. Hell, theater WORLD-WIDE! (There just happens to be a documentary out on him also, called Absolute Wilson, that I would heartily recommend.)

I couldn’t help, as I was previewing NEXT week’s film, Operation Filmmaker (also excellent!) (and seriously twisted!), thinking what a contrast the subject of that film is to Philip Glass, whose work ethic is “get up and write all day.” (You’ll just have to compare the two and find out what YOU think!)

Bike-In Updates

July 16, 2008

OK, this stuff seems to be changing regularly, but here’s some updated info about the free festivities this Sunday in Cal Anderson Park:


The 3rd annual Seattle Bike-In at Cal Anderson Park

Sunday, July 20

Bands at 4pm, movies at dusk

Northwest Film forum teams up with Sustainable Capitol Hill to bring you this year’s Seattle’s Bike-In. Entering its third year of supporting alternative transportation in the city, this year’s partnership includes an all day event called Imagine Capitol Hill, where Sustainable Capitol Hill and its partners provide information and entertainment about sustainable issues facing Capitol Hill residents. Imagine Capitol Hill takes place at the Broadway Farmers market and is followed by a bicycle parade to Cal Anderson Park for music and movies!

This year the musical lineup will include Steve Arntson, who plays concertina, and SEAHORSE.

We will be showing Jorgen Leth’s A SUNDAY IN HELL, as well as an assortment of cycling-themed short movies.

Organizations attending include Cascade Bicycle Club, Bikeworks, 2020 Cycles, Neighborhood Matching Fund, Puget Sound Sage, the Sierra Club, and World Naked Bicyclists.

Check in at for more updates!


July 16, 2008

Though I was told the official announcement would be made yesterday on IndieWire, I can’t find anything to link to.  But Lynn Shelton tells me her latest work, MY EFFORTLESS BRILLIANCE, has been picked up for distribution by IFC.  Congrats to all!

Silent Light Saga Continues

July 15, 2008

It appears that the never ending saga over US rights for Carlos Reygadas’ SILENT LIGHT, continues. Apparently  recently defunct Tartan never closed the deal on US rights for the title.

From Anthony Kaufman:

Nothing is certain… as I wrote before. There’s nothing like some deficient reporting to bring out the truthiness of a situation. According to Bac Films International, which holds world rights to Carlos Reygadas’s “Silent Light,” Tartan U.S. never closed a deal on the film, contrary to a news report in Screen Daily in November 2007, and therefore the much-anticipated Mexican Mennonite feature will not be released by Palisade Media Corp, which bought out Tartan’s U.S. catalogue after the company went under.

Tartan UK released “Silent Light” in the U.K., but U.S. rights are still available, says Bac Films Interational’s Camille Neel. “The film is still available today for the US and of course, if we have strong interests, we are still looking for distribution [for] all rights in the US,” Neel told me via email. As always, the situation is developing.