Archive for September, 2009

Viennale

September 23, 2009

For the second year now The Viennale has proven itself to be one of the most progressive film festivals in the world, commissioning trailers from some of World Cinema’s greatest filmmakers. Last year I directed readers to the trailer Jean-Luc Godard made for their program, a trailer that was much raved about the world over and has since become a staple of many shorts programs on this years festival circuit.

For the 2009 edition, Vienna recruited structuralist filmmaker James Benning (see above), who’s recent shift from 16mm to video film has been discussion amongst many in the experimental film world, including Benning himself who chronicles his transition in this month’s Cinema Scope (print version only). A man who has always been fascinated, and has certainly shown his dexterity with the materiality of art, one could consider this amazing record of the steel rolling process, shot in the Ruhr area, a kind of homage to material itself.

Heavy Visuals ’69

September 22, 2009

Allow me to suggest this exceptional evening of experimental shorts from 1969, screening tomorrow at 8pm courtesy of The Sprocket Society (who, by the way, are also presenting this night of documentary shorts on October 14).

HEAVY VISUALS ’69
Electronic Cinema and Experimental Film

Northwest Film Forum
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
8:00 PM

A selection of 1969’s cutting-edge landmarks in avant garde shorts, video art, and even pioneering digital animation.
Surreal animation, psychedelic abstracts, and strange rituals.

Featuring classics and rarely-seen treasures by:
Kenneth Anger, Lawrence (Larry) Jordan, Jud Yalkut & Nam June Paik, Scott Bartlett, Michael Whitney, and Piotr Kamler
plus a short documentary about controversial Aktionist performance artist, Hermann Nitsch

For selected streaming video previews and more information about the films, visit
http://sprocketsociety.org/69/

Presented as part of the Northwest Film Forum’s year-long 69 Series.

The Films:

Invocation of My Demon Brother
Kenneth Anger, with synthesizer soundtrack by Mick Jagger

Our Lady of the Sphere
Larry Jordan

Moon 1969
Scott Bartlett

Le Labyrinthe
Piotr Kamler, with electronic score by Bernard Parmegiani

Binary Bit Patterns
Michael Whitney

Beatles Electronique
Electronic Moon no. 2
Jud Yalkut and Nam June Paik

Hermann Nitsch: An Introduction to the O.M. Theatre
Stephen Gebhardt

ALSO COMING SOON:
For more about our Fall 2009 season, visit http://sprocketsociety.org/2009/08/31/sprocket-society-fall-2009-season-preview/

October 21 —  Focal Points: Documentary Shorts of 1969.
The Black Panthers meet Pentecostal Christians and the Kuchar Brothers in the psychedelic ruins of the ’68 Chicago riots.
Schizoid time capsules from a schizoid time.

October 30 — The Halloween Spook-Show Spectacular
During a Halloween movie show, The Grand Illusion Cinema is overrun with creeps, spooks, ghouls, and fiends.
Will you escape alive??  Or will your head explode with terror?!?!?!

TIFF Wrap Up from Glenn Fox

September 22, 2009

Not a drop of rain fell in Toronto during my eleven day stay – one day for the art galleries showing the festival’s Future Projections and ten days to see 45 features and 19 avant-garde shorts.  I’m headed to the Vancouver International Film Festival in about ten days and all the lines are outdoors.  I’m afraid I’m due for buckets of rain.

Back to TIFF.  This year the festival generally felt like a weak kick-off to the fall movie season, but these were my favorite films:

A Letter to Uncle Boonmee & Phantoms of Nabua – two short films by Apichatpong (“Joe”) Weerasethakul.  The first screened as part of the Wavelengths program and the later was part of Future Projections.  You can read about Apichatpong’s installation here and you can watch the later film here.  Let’s get Joe’s work to Seattle!  His Tropical Malady is one of the greatest films of the decade.  Some arms at NWFF have got to be twisted!  Let’s urge NWFF to hook-up with a gallery and get his installations and films and Joe himself to Seattle!

Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu) – This film continues the streak of great new Romanian cinema over the last couple of years.  It’s just as good if not better than Christian Mungiu’s 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days and Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.   Police, Adjective tells the story of a police detective tracking a high school student suspected of dealing drugs.  The film is brilliantly conceived and executed.  Long spying scenes meld into two unforgettable encounters between the detective and his wife and one soul-crushing scene between the detective and his boss.  This one, I think, is a masterpiece.

A Prophet (Jacques Audiard) – Audiard doesn’t have the critical rep in the U.S. like so many of his fellow French directors, but he makes very stylish, artful commercial films (see The Beat That My Heart Skipped and Read My Lips).  This new film won the Grand Prize at this year’s Cannes Festival.  A young North African is sentenced to seven years in prison.  To survive he pledges obedience to the Corsican kingpin who essentially runs the prison from the inside.  It’s Audiard’s most ambitious and accomplished work – often breathtaking, but more than anything, the storytelling is magnificent and the acting unforgettable.

Vincere (Marco Bellocchio) – This is perhaps the most “conventional” film of the films I admired at Toronto.  Historical biography isn’t what I’m usually looking for at the cinema.  This is the true story of Mussollini’s first wife.  The film is dark and cunning and the acting is stellar.  The opening scene with Mussollini as a young man denouncing God in front of a fervent religious group is unforgettable.

Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl (Manoel de Oliveira) – Cinema’s most senior auteur at 100 years old, Oliveira is the oldest director still working in the world.  Here, he creates the perfect short story.  At just 64 minutes, the direction is deliberate and assured and the story is sharp and biting.

Le Refuge (Francois Ozon) – Ozon has had a very uneven career, but his new film (a TIFF World Premiere) is beautiful and feels oh so contemporary.  A Parisian junky whose boyfriend dies of an overdose in the opening minutes is hospitalized from the same drugs.  There she finds out she’s pregnant.  She spends her pregnancy at the seashore with her boyfriend’s gay brother.  Their time together is fascinating.

White Material (Claire Denis) – This film with Ms. Denis returning to Africa at first struck me as an unwelcome turn to the conventional for one of my absolute favorite directors.  Maybe it was the place (troubled Africa) that felt routine and overexposed to me.  But really, how “conventional” has this director’s recent career been (L’Intrus, Friday Night, Trouble Every Day)?  Actually, her most recent film 35 Shots of Rum, which opens at NWFF this November, has a premise that may appear to be slightly conventional, but the film certainly is not.  Anyway, at the airport coming home I read this assessment at The Auteurs web site and I can only say I want to see the film again.  Already with the reassessment.

Father of My Children (Mia Hansen-Love) – Three daughters and their mother deeply love their workaholic film producer father-husband.  That love is tenderly displayed in the first half of this surprising and beautiful film.  In the second half they deal with loosing him.

Happy End (Arnaud & Jean-Marie Larrieu) – This has to be the oddest film on my list of favorites.  If you think you might want to spend the last 2 hours and 13 minutes before the end of the world smiling at the often bemused look on the face of Mathieu Amalric (in my opinion the greatest actor of the last thirteen years – since My Sex Life or How I Got into an Argument) then nothing could be more sublime.

The Ape (Jesper Granslandt) – And finally, a very dark, uncompromising and singular vision.  This is the second feature by Granslandt.  He also directed a little gem of a film (Falkenberg Farewell) that I loved at SIFF ’07.  This film is completely different.  A man in his thirties wakes up on a bathroom floor with blood on his hands and shirt.  He’s groggy.  Washes up, changes clothes and heads off to work (the work day doesn’t last long though).  Over the course of the day we will find out what happened the night before and what his future holds when night falls.  Gripping.  While I don’t want to compare the film to the Dardennes (it doesn’t deserve that), the side of the neck of our anti-hero is definitely the star of the film.  I really hope this one finds its way to Seattle.

The reason the festival often felt like a bad dream were these auteurs (major and minor) stinking up the place with very mediocre films:
Antichrist (Lars von Trier), The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke), Air Doll (Hirokazu Kore-eda), Face (Tsai Ming-liang), Wild Grass (Alain Resnais), Hadewijch (Bruno Dumont), Soul Kitchen (Fatih Akin), Enter the Void (Gaspar Noe), Vision (Margarethe von Trotta) and Mr. Nobody (Joco Van Dormael).  Wasted hours and disappointment all over the place.

These films I missed at TIFF, but plan to see at VIFF starting on October 1:
Broken Embraces (Pedro Almadovar), Like You Know it All (Hong Sang-soo), Lebanon (Samuel Maoz),  The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Terry Gilliam), Mother (Bong Joon-ho), The Time That Remains (Elia Suleiman), To Die Like a Man (Joao Pedro Rodrigues), I Killed My Mother (Xavier Dolan) and Tales from the Golden Age (various Romanian directors).

Some helpful posts:
Mark Peranson on Apichatpong

Phantoms of Nabua:

White Material

James Longley wins MacArthur Genius grant!

September 22, 2009

Holy smokes. Congratulations, James!
James Longley is a Seattle-based documentary filmmaker, though it might be more accurate to call him Northwest-raised, since he’s hardly set foot in the country since a couple years ago when he was here in between completing Iraq in Fragments (and going to the Oscars where it was nominated for Best Documentary) and heading off to Iran and then India to work on a new project.

The Stranger has a nice write up of lauds for James, riddled with all the hotlinks you’d ever need to learn more about him: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2009/09/22/genius-genius

Flat Screens

September 19, 2009

Thanks to Nintendo and our friend Gordon Kaplan, the Film Forum is getting a computer upgrade. Starting this week 8 G5 Macs are rolling into the office, with 4 more beefier machines coming into the edit suite. The story is this: Gordon came to the Film Forum for the first time a few weeks ago to see “Objectified.” Afterwards he poked his head in the office and said, “eMacs! I haven’t seen them since 1999.” Perhaps he exaggerates, but, um, point taken: our computers are old, slow, subject to wobbly screens, circling beach balls when we open programs, logic board failures, and some general hardening of the e-arteries.

The first two machines were installed on Friday, and the others are coming in waves this week. But even as they come in we need new monitors to go along with them. Which brings me to this: does anyone out there know where we can get a big bunch of 19″ flat screens to go along with all that new speed? Write me if you know. We’ll all be very happy.

Local Sightings 09 Trailer

September 18, 2009

Enjoy the promotional trailer for this year’s Local Sightings Film Festival! Directed by Jack Bennett and David Hanagan.

 

Filmmaker Magazine makes you a deal

September 18, 2009

Wondering what’s with all those free Filmmaker Magazines in our lobby? Here’s the deal:

The FILMMAKER Magazine Stimulus Plan
You can argue about the effect of government’s stimulus package, but here’s one thing that’s not debatable: FILMMAKER Magazine gives you the tools you need to stimulate your own creativity and filmmaking productivity. And if you act quickly, you can save over 60% on a subscription and receive our digital PDF edition free. Find out more at http://filmmakermagazine.com/stimulus/

Meanwhile, grab a free issue the next time you are in our lobby…while supplies last.

TIFF update from our man in Toronto

September 17, 2009

This just in from exclusive NWFF insider, Glenn Fox, from Toronto International Film Festival:

Often at TIFF I feel like I’m at my own little film festival (a very crowded one) that has nothing to do with the film festival I see in the newspaper every morning. The newspaper is all red carpet and all celebrity filled parties. I’ve had just two celebrity sightings. Colin Ferrel joined the Q&A for the world premiere of his new film TRIAGE directed by Danis Tanovic – a truly horrible movie – don’t look for it at a theatre near you – if there is any justice, it will go straight to video. As expected, in person Ferrel looks like sleazy eurotrash (or perhaps sleazy should just be implied).

At noon today the celebrity experience was more memorable. Michael Cera showed for the world premiere of YOUTH IN REVOLT. He didn’t say a word, as director Miguel Arteta introduced the film and no one came back for a Q&A. Still, the crowd went nuts for Cera and he applauded us back. Cera was cute and the film was lots of fun. YOUTH IN REVOLT opens in late October.

For me, Jacques Audiard’s THE PROPHET is the standout of the festival so far. Two hours and thirty minutes and I swear it gets richer, deeper and more suspenseful every few minutes. The last twenty minutes are unforgettable.

Claire Denis’ WHITE MATERIAL takes her back to Africa. It felt slightly conventional, yet the poetry of Denis is undeniable and Isabelle Huppert is her usual intense self. Denis did a great job at the Q&A, but the audience was stupidly obsessed with colonialism – the film is about modern Africa and so much more.

Todd Solondz returns with LIFE DURING WARTIME, a welcome follow-up to HAPPINESS with the characters of that film recast and moved forward in different moments in time. I haven’t seen HAPPINESS since it was released, but this film seems just as specific and just as rich. Todd’s world is Todd’s world.

BRIDGING WOUNDS PREP

September 16, 2009

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Local Sightings opening night film & jurors announced

September 15, 2009

Here’s a few nuggets of Local Sightings news to whet your palate while you wait anxiously for the festival to begin October 2…

First of all, we are pleased to announce that the 2009 Local Sightings Film Festival opening night film will be The Mountain, the River and the Road, directed by Michael Harring.

The Mountain, the River and the Road is the story of Jeff (Justin Rice) is a failing post-college writer whose parents are finally kicking him out of the house. With this in mind, Jeff starts out on a road trip to Austin, TX with his friend, Tom (Joe Swanberg); a final grasp at youthful freedom. Their trip begins to unravel when their beater car busts and Tom’s ex-girlfriend intercepts Tom’s paycheck, forcing him to bus it home to resolve his relationship problems. Jeff decides to stay behind in hopes that he will be struck with inspiration as he avoids the pressures of home. He meets Cat (Tipper Newton), a young attractive woman also at a cross roads in her life, who just happens to work at the front desk of the motel. Everything is in place for a great winter romance between the young couple, but the impending return of Tom, the continuation of the road trip, and the unshakable burden of responsibility hover as a reminder of how fleeting romance can be.

We are also thrilled to welcome our 2009 panel of jurors!

Barry Jenkins is a filmmaker born and raised in Miami’s inner city, and currently living in San Francisco. After completing Bachelor’s degrees in both film and creative writing, he relocated to Los Angeles where he worked as a director’s assistant and development associate for Harpo Films. He is the writer/director of the short film My Josephine and the feature film Medicine for Melancholy. Rob Nelson has been a member of the National Society of Film Critics since 1998, and is the recipient of three awards each from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and the Society of Professional Journalists. His writing has appeared in Film Comment, Variety, The Village Voice, Mother Jones, and Utne Reader. Nelson teaches film studies at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and is currently at work on a book. Vanessa Renwick returns to the Local Sightings jury for her second year. Founder and janitor of the Oregon Department of Kick Ass, Vanessa is a film and video installation artist currently residing in Portland, Oregon.

The final program is still being decided. Check http://www.localsightings.org early next week to see the final slate!


Mountain River Road still


Barry Jenkins at NWFF – image courtesy of Kathy Fennessy


Image from Vanessa Renwick’s short film