Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Tale of Two Halves

With cinematic (re)emergences this year from Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, and Claude Chabrol, you may look at your calendar and think it to be 1968 rather than 2008. Stranger yet is that each of the new films from these old new wavers is that they each revolve around sex (or the lack thereof) and sexual relationships. Rivette’s conspiratorial would-be love affair recalls his best work. Rohmer’s bittersweet film, while far from his best film, takes a period piece, as does Rivette’s, and evokes a thoroughly modern context. What is, then, most odd about Chabrol’s A Girl Cut In Two, the only of the three films to take place in modern day, is that it feels the most out of touch and outdated. While the film features the most taboo relationship in the three films, that of a S&M relationship between an old rich famous author and a peppy young weather girl, seemingly famous in her own right, Chabrol’s script fails to be comfortable with the subject it broaches. With A Girl Cut In Two, Chabrol, always obsessed with the hidden lives of the bourgeois, opens up this “dangerous” taboo for discussion, but, much like a character in the film, when the topic is spoken aloud, he simply leaves the room.

What makes this more disappointing is that A Girl Cut In Two is a very well acted for its entirety and a playfully smart thriller in its first half. Gabrielle (the always wonderful Ludivine Sagnier) is a local TV weather girl with increasing popularity and opportunities coming her way. These opportunities are popping up at her work as well as with encounters with famous author Charles Saint-Denis (Francois Berleand) and Paul Gaudens (Benoit Magimel), a young playboy with an unlimited amount of wealth due to an inheritance. The upper class bourgeois games for the control, and sexual use, of Gabrielle are what carry the bulk of the more successful first half of the film. Charles is sly and experienced, charming Gabrielle at a local book signing and inviting her to an auction where he buys he a rare copy of a classic S&M novel. Paul, insecure and unstable, practically begs for the chance to be in Gabrielle’s presence and attempts to woo her at all costs. The three lead performances feature great nuances which add depth and resonance to the film’s excellent first half and are enough to hold our interest in the sloppy, directionless second half.

A Girl Cut In Two never really delves into why Gabrielle chooses who she chooses at the points in the film when she sporadically changes her mind. While the audience can, to some extent, attempt to fill in the blank of Gabrielle’s reasoning, it becomes an increasingly frustrating experience, and not just because things start going poorly for the naive protagonist Gabrielle. Despite waiting for years for Charles to leave his wife in favor of her, Gabrielle’s decision making becomes more naive as her experience increases throughout the film. The narrative jumps forward in time at several points, yet the mindset of the lead character bends backwards rather than progressing. Maybe this is a psychological detriment that comes with being “cut in two”, as an unnecessarily blunt visual metaphor shows Gabrielle to be at the end of the film, yet it seems rather tactless that Chabrol’s script showcases the young female as increasingly inept in her decision making even as she should become smarter in recognizing her past mistakes, as she seems to do...just without the results.

Gabrielle is strongly influenced by the people (men and women) around her, and Sagnier allows enough space to make the character’s choices believable. However, when the film turns into a murder mystery in disastrous final act, excessive (and, to my mind, unimportant) backstory highlights how easily manipulated Gabrielle continues to be. Manipulating Gabrielle becomes so easy for everyone associated with her that it falls into being one-note and rather simple minded. Chabrol’s script continually falls back into one frame of mind without ever attempting to deal with the choices Gabrielle makes in shaping her own experiences.

Gabrielle is rightfully torn apart by the end of the film, but A Girl Cut In Two does very little to show why this happens. Rather than confronting the upheaval of the bourgeois in the face of taboo controversy, Chabrol falls back into the bourgeois ideology it appears to attack by being simple minded, non-confrontational, and typically masculine. Though the top notch performances keep the film interesting, A Girl Cut In Two undercuts its first half strengths with extreme second half weaknesses. Chabrol certainly shows the ability to remain at the top of his form, but his command needs to be stronger and more apt than his female protagonists for his films to be completely successful.

by James Hansen

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DVD of the Week: "Ten Canoes" (Rolf De Heer, 2007)

I was introduced to the films of director Rolf de Heer by a friend who was in shock and awe after seeing De Heer’s Alexandra’s Project (2005), a mean-spirited inconsistently intense suburban thriller. Although Alexandra’s Project screams for a strong reaction from its viewers, I felt pretty ambivalent to it as a whole. De Heer’s Ten Canoes (2007), a complexly simple film, and the first feature made in the Indigenous Australian language called Ganalbingu, is so different than Alexandra’s Project it is hard to imagine the two films coming from the same director. The death of the author, indeed! (Admittedly, I hear that De Heer's other films are much more similar to Ten Canoes than to Alexandra's Project).

With a striking visual beauty and narratologic complexity, seemingly confined within the film’s simple story, Ten Canoes tells the story of an indigenous man who falls in love with one his brother’s older wives. The story of this man is being told generations later to a man named Dayindi, who is having similar problems to those of his ancestors. Moreover, there is an English narrator who is narrating the film to the audience. This tri-level narration works to deepen the film’s discourse on oral histories and storytelling. Moreover, the beautiful photography and very dry comic wit gives Ten Canoes extra resonance and makes it that much more mystifying.

by James Hansen

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Forgotten VHS #10- "Toute Une Nuit" (Chantal Akerman, 1982)

I find it really hard to understand why so few of Chantal Akerman’s film are available in the United States. From her 1975 classic Jeanne Dielman to her 1993 D’est, both considered among of the best of Akerman’s career (if not the best of each respective decade), Akerman’s films are hard to find, yet each of her films I have seen, other than the disappointing Sud (1999), is more poetic, attentive, and hypnotic than almost any other singular filmmakers’ work. The same goes for Akerman’s 1982 feature Toute Une Nuit.

Although Toute Une Nuit is not as personal as Akerman’s most powerful films, her methodic filmmaking, sly humor, and obsession with relationships is firmly on display in her pseduo-conceptual work. Toute Une Nuit, like most Akerman films, contains minimal dialogue, and slowly tracks over two dozen characters as they move around urban Brussels passionately connecting with one another, if only for brief moments. It is hard to imagine Richard Linklater’s great film Slacker working, or even existing, without Chantal Akerman. While Toute Une Nuit is still only available on VHS, it is worth seeking out (and can be found on Amazon for under $5!) It is a good introduction to Akerman’s work (although I think News From Home (1977) would be the best introduction) and has quietly thrilling aspects that have become part of Akerman’s signature voice.

by James Hansen

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

DVD of the Week: "The Steel Helmet" (Samuel Fuller, 1951)

Reading many kind words about Manny Farber this week, none struck me more than Jonathan Rosenbaum's 1993 essay, which he reposted on his website, from the first collection of his work, Placing Movies. If you haven't read the entire essay yet, you should all work your way through it. Not only a great tribute to Farber, it, in typical Rosenbaum fashion, sheds light on films that most people aren't watching. At the time, and possibly still, one of these films is the early Sam Fuller film The Steel Helmet. It may not be my favorite Fuller film (that will probably always be Shock Corridor which was the first one I saw); still, The Steel Helmet was, and still is, a striking and powerful war film with the distinctive Fuller touch.

Instead of writing more about the film here, use that time to absorb Rosenbaum's essay. Then, go out and watch The Steel Helmet. It may be a strange kind of tribute, but I think it is a tribute nonetheless to the man who strongly influenced most of my favorite modern critics and writers.

-James Hansen

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"Miracle at St. Anna" Trailer

Thoughts? Reactions? I tend to like Spike Lee, although I found Inside Man a bit too standard. This seems to be a pretty typical war movie, but I am pretty intrigued by it all the same.

PS- A DVD of the Week entry is on the way...sorry for the delay! It's a busy week...

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

So Many Mirrors, Such Excessive Time

The second best movie this year revolving around people brutally committing suicide, Mirrors, directed by Alexandre Aja, is plenty crazy enough to stick with to the end though it rarely gives any dramatic reason to keep watching. At its best (which is not often enough), Mirrors strongly invokes Dario Argento’s wild supernatural spirit and, like Argento’s best films, is driven by its distinctive visuals. Although less impressive here than in his previous features, Aja is, without a doubt, a playful master of a classic horror style. Unfortunately, his scriptwriting (and, perhaps, his editor) fails to have the same flair. Mirrors contains all the elements necessary for a great horror story, but never really sets up a mystery for the audience to follow. Its characters have moments of revelation, but, other than a few good scares, the audience get none. That may sound a bit pointless in regards to a slick horror movie, but 110 minutes with too few thrills and no narrative drive is a really long time.

Transmuted from the Korean horror film Into The Mirrors (Sung-ho Kim, 2003), Mirrors stars Kiefer Sutherland as 24’s Jack Bauer, who has changed his name for the purposes of this movie to Ben Carson. After a traumatic incident at the NYPD (“I killed a man!”), Ben, separated from his wife and children, gets a new job as a night watchman at a decrepit, mostly burned down department store. Ben begins seeing gruesome images of people in the mirrors who quickly begin to endanger everyone that Ben knows, most importantly his family. ("Look at their picture! LOOK AT THEIR PICTURE!!!")

This is a pretty standard set up for what, more or less, is a pretty standard horror movie. Mirrors is practically screaming for some mirror-stage psychoanalytic content, but, other than one brief discussion, it never comes up. Rather, Aja and his excellent cinematographer Maxime Alexandre cram as many mirrors and reflections per square frame inch as possible. As visually stimulating as this is, Mirrors is overcrowded with those mirrors. The mirrors lose their horrific commodity when every table, door knob, floor, drop of water, clock face, glass cup, bottle, eyelid, store front, and, yes, mirror, is an access point for the spirits within the mirrors. Mirrors has to turn to choppy fast editing to rebuild the spooks it loses by making mirrors so normal. With more visual control and less showcasing of their talent, Aja and Alexandre could have better reflected the terror in Mirrors.

Used perhaps to offset these faults (or subversively add to them) is Keifer Sutherland’s performance. Sutherland’s overly aggressive acting certainly doesn’t help matters in building tension and creating a balance between high and low moments, something that is crucial to the horror genre. The uber-seriousness is hard to handle next to the relatively controlled emotions of everyone else in the film. Even its moments of extreme violence are no match for Sutherland’s confrontation with a nun late in the film. That said, Sutherland’s hyper-emotion gives Mirrors a sense of urgency and energy that the film lacks otherwise. As much as Sutherland’s charicature seems to be off balance with the rest of the film, it is hard to imagine Mirrors working at all without it.

Despite its many failings, when Mirrors works it really works well. Aja is still developing as a director and, even with the visual overkill, Mirrors is certainly better than most horror movies you will see this year (assuming you go to a few.) This is made remarkably clear in its totally perfunctory horror movie conclusion; the scene is so smart and brilliantly executed that you will swear you just watched a better movie than Mirrors ends up being.

by James Hansen

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

DVD of the Week: "Symbiopsychotaxiplasm" (William Greaves, 1968/2005)

This week, Tropic Thunder will remind everyone how much fun watching movies about making movies (or rather a cast thinking they are making a movie) is. As disparate as these titles seem, the DVD pick for this week, William Greaves’s groundbreaking documentary Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, will be an interesting film to see immediately before or after you see Tropic Thunder. Leaving a crew in Central Park to discover for themselves what kind of movie they are making, Greaves incites the situation in Symbiopsychotaxiplasm which becomes an insightful look into the creation of a film. While Tropic Thunder seeks to satirize movies and the reasoning for their existence, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm questions itself as it unfolds and, though it is not a comedic satire, searches for something amidst the chaos and disorder of filmmaking. I haven’t seen Tropic Thunder yet, so this DVD pick is more of a hypothesis for what could be an enlightening pairing. If anyone else accepts this viewing challenge, I am sure the two films, at the very least, will CREATE something, in conjunction with one another, to discuss.

Note: On the Criterion DVD, both the original film, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (which the post refers to), and the sequel, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2, are available. If you only watch one you should watch Take One, but both versions are worth viewing if you have the time.

-James Hansen

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Oh, It's Potent, Bro

The latest production from Judd Apatow and His Band of Hilarious Motherfuckers, Pineapple Express, is a willfully genre-bending work comprised of such disparate elements as pot(ty) humor, (b)romance, fleeting lyricism (seriously), and extremely violent bursts of over-the-top (though often realistic) action. Helmed by indie veteran/heir to the Throne of Malick, David Gordon Green, and shot by Green’s longtime cinematographer, Tim Orr, Pineapple Express is not only bold in its risky melding and wry lampooning of multiple genres, but it is also the most aesthetically memorable and technically outstanding of all the Apatow productions thus far. Green’s direction is certainly not the sole source of the film’s effectiveness though – far from it. The hysterical screenplay by Superbad writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg oozes vivacious freshness when read by the film’s two spectacular leads – Rogen and James Franco – who both give iconic performances, particularly in the case of Franco as the lovable drug dealer, Saul Silver, whose purchase and subsequent distribution of a rare strand of weed known as “Pineapple Express” creates a fattie-sized McGuffin that gets the film rolling (please tell me you caught that). In fact, the only real problems in Pineapple Express occur when Rogen and Franco are off-screen, during which time the absence of their energetic chemistry and propulsive charisma is definitely noticeable – even if you’re stoned.

Pineapple Express begins harmlessly enough. Dale Denton (Rogen), a 25-year-old process server, ganja lover, and talk-radio aficionado is introduced through a humorous montage as a reluctant asshole who puts forth effort to inject a certain amount of flavor and creativity (via costumes) into his otherwise bloodless job. Dale’s immaturity, a staple of Apatow characterization, is revealed by the fact that he dates an 18-year-old high school girl, Angie (Amber Heard), and relishes in the slackerdom afforded by his job, rounding him out as another loveable goofball in a long line of lovable, if not always respectable, goofballs. However, even Dale feels superior to Franco’s greasy-haired, rerun-watching pot pusher, who may in fact be the sweetest character crafted by Apatow and the gang. Seeking to make friends, Saul offers Dale exclusive access to the aforementioned “Pineapple Express” marijuana, urging him to stay awhile and toke a “cross joint” – the holy grail of getting high. All goes smoothly and sedately, until Dale unwittingly witnesses a murder, committed by local drug kingpin and object of Dale’s latest serving assignment, Ted Jones (Gary Cole), and his dirty cop accomplice, Carol (Rosie Perez). During his fit of homicide induced hysteria, Dale drops an easily traceable sample of Saul’s rare marijuana, enabling Ted Jones to eventually put out a hit on both protagonists and turning Dale and Saul into hyper-paranoid bros-on-the-run.

Needless to say, the film’s premise leaves room for some jarring genre mixing and Green and co. take full advantage of and relish in these opportunities. Not only does Pineapple Express ratchet up the quality of the standard stoner banter in drug films, it also incorporates a positive appraisal of what is certainly homosocial, if not homosexual, behavior, and embraces a style of action that accentuates both jolting realism and parodic extravagance. The film essentially has multiple cakes – and it eats all of them at the same time, contrary to the popular adage, and, without a doubt, contrary to many moviegoers’ expectations, including mine. The juxtaposition of pothead levity and brutal death is admittedly confusing for those accustomed to the unspoken, yet rigorous, limitations of conventional genre (that being most of us), particularly when mixed with more than a dash of man-on-man eroticism. Pineapple Express is one of the few films in which the gore is consistently cringe-cringeworthy, but which also has the chutzpa to indulge in straight-up slapstick, including one memorable incident involving a deadly Daewoo, manned by Red (Danny McBride), one of Saul’s fellow dealers whose allegiances flip flop on a dime and whose absolute dorkdom provides numerous laughs, not to mention plot complications.

Keenly, David Gordon Green is careful to alternate cinematographic and editing styles throughout Pineapple Express, in addition to alternating genres and tones. Green strikes a balance between his characteristic moments of poetic inspiration and the demands of Hollywood convention. The filmmaking style ranges from moments that could fit into Green’s George Washington (2000) or All the Real Girls (2003), including a scene in which Dale and Saul frolic through sun-drenched woods like young lovers and a brief series of stunning lyrical landscape shots that precede the film’s hilariously self-referential breakfast-time coda, to the brisk editing rhythms and playful zooms of the film’s numerous fight sequences and shoot-outs, which illustrate Green’s understanding of mainstream aesthetics in a way that brings to mind the work of Edgar Wright. Green’s unique perspective makes Pineapple Express a Hollywood film that exudes both outsider freshness and relaxed familiarity, establishing a precedent that may enable more indie auteurs to cross over into Apatow-like territory.

Even though Green’s guidance is stellar, the real hands that pack Pineapple Express together (yes, like a bowl) belong to Rogen and Franco. The two actors’ shenanigans are endlessly watchable and their magnetism is undeniable. Not only is Rogen’s ability to carry a film cemented, but Franco’s future in comedy is also illuminated by the laugh-out-loud camaraderie between Pineapple Express’s stars, particularly during their well-crafted dialogue scenes. When the two of them disappear from the frame for more than 3 seconds, however, the film reveals just how dependent its success is on the dynamic duo. When the drug war subplot (resulting from confusion over just who Dale and Saul are working for – which is actually nobody) is given too much attention, the script loses focus and much of its edge and the movie sags considerably, particularly during the explosive finale. Hopefully, Rogen and Franco will be teamed up more regularly, a la Ferrell and Reilly, and Green will continue cranking out more mainstream fare – I know I could definitely use a second hit.

by Brandon Colvin
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Monday, August 11, 2008

Uncriticism Day!

There is a great post that everyone should check out over at Like Anna Karina's Sweater about Great Moments in Film Uncriticism. It's a short post that is pretty amusing and just reminds me of the importance of good film criticism. That said, let's use the comments section to create some great one-liners of uncriticism. Sounds like a fun exercise to me!

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Last Minute Weekend Recommendation

Hey everyone! Just wanted to give all of you in NYC a last minute recommendation if you are looking for something to do this weekend. This weekend at Anthology Film Archives, they are showing the 4 most recent works from the Dardenne Brothers. I had previously only seen L'Enfant (2005) in theaters, so over the last couple nights I attended screenings of La Promesse (1996), Rosetta (1999), and The Son (2002); the latter two (as well as L'Enfant) won the Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. Each of the films is wonderful, but if I had to pick one to see I highly recommend attending Rosetta; the print is in great shape and the film is unavailable on DVD in the United States (and is my personal favorite of the bunch.) The print of La Promesse is not in great shape, while the print of The Son is pretty good. Times for screenings are available at Anthology's website. If you are not familiar with the Dardennes, this is a great time to familiarize yourself with their essential work; if you are a fan already, there is nothing like seeing these perfectly executed films on a big screen and to get prepped for their new feature The Silence of Lorna which won the Best Screenplay award at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Hope you all are having a lovely weekend! I am FINALLY seeing The Dark Knight today; I am hoping the crazy contingent has officially moved to Pineapple Express.


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Friday, August 8, 2008

Reviews In Brief: "Frozen River" (Courtney Hunt, 2008)

Despite its relative predictability, Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Frozen River succeeds mainly because its simple is propelled by an extremely complex performance from its lead actress Melissa Leo. This well executed blend takes a standard, fairly forgettable film and turns it into something memorable. Destined to be labeled "this year's Amy Ryan", Leo, a veteran character actress with notable turns in 21 Grams (and, so I hear, on the TV show Homicide: Life on the Streets), gives an awards worthy performance (yes, that means you, Mr. Oscar). Using classic westerns as a reference, Leo's characters is brash and confrontational yet she still manages to bring supreme depth to a character who doesn't always hide her emotions or rather bigoted worldview.

Leo stars as Ray Eddy, a struggling mother in up-up-upstate New York who begins helping Lila (Misty Upham) smuggle illegal immigrants across the US/Canada border in an attempt to reunite her broken family. Writer and director Courtney Hunt, who originally wrote and directed Frozen River as a short film which successfully played at the New York Film Festival, never makes Frozen River explicitly political as could easily have been the case; instead she keeps the film firmly in the structure of classic filial melodrama. Though this more traditional route makes the film feel standard and predictable (let's be clear, though...this is no Lifetime movie), it creates a wealth of material for Hunt and Leo to create a deep, emotional complexity that keeps Frozen River fresh and worth watching.

by James Hansen

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Long Live Cinema!

Though Ken Jacobs’s Razzle Dazzle is being considered significant in the switch to digital filmmaking, a claim enhanced by the status of its iconic experimental director, its reliance on the medium of film to create a form of discourse within the “film versus digital” debate is what makes Razzle Dazzle a timely film ( capsule of a shifting industry. Jacobs seems confident that digital mode has a firm future, but what makes Razzle Dazzle more resonant is how (and why) it dissects filmic images, specifically Thomas Edison’s 1903 short film Razzle Dazzle and still photographs from the same time period, with digital technology. Razzle Dazzle is, at once, highlighting the values of film and shifting how it is to be viewed and explored. Rather than abandon one medium for another, Jacobs incorporates distinct elements from both technologies only to confound and question the similarities and differences. By situating the two mediums in a form of dialogue, Jacobs cynically removes the negativity from this highly charged industrial debate and makes an assured case that, no matter the technology or desired aesthetic, cinema must continue.

In a body of work that constantly challenges what is presented in the cinematic image, Razzle Dazzle may do the most in furthering Jacobs’s “indeterminate cinema”: a type of cinema in which the viewer reflects and interprets what has been seen in order to create the experience for themselves. Razzle Dazzle extends this cinema across varying formats; in doing so, it attempts to establish a completely indeterminate experience. With the film flicker nonexistant in digital video, Jacobs uses (digital) 3-D effects to (re)create flicker, which bends and refracts the still images giving them a sense of movement and life. The faux-flicker manages to make a similarly dizzying visual effect as to what Jacobs achieved with the Tom, Tom, The Piper’s Son. The use of digital flicker in Razzle Dazzle administers the flicker as part of the cinematic viewing experience and shows that it is not completely lost in the digital foray. The flicker itself creates a visual response. In some ways, Jacobs’s use of flicker reflects the brain responses to flicker explored in Tony Conrad’s The Flicker (1965). Word is that Conrad’s son is recreating The Flicker with digital technology; the pairing of Razzle Dazzle with a digital version of The Flicker would be a remarkable double feature.

Moreover, the political implications Jacobs introduces in the last bit of the film should not be completely unexpected. While it seems out of line with the specificity of the image, Jacobs turns the upkeep of cinema into an issue of political important. Using an interview with Thomas Edison as evidence, Jacobs uses this not just to advance his specific political beliefs (anyone who has seen his magnum opus Star Spangled to Death should know that everything is political in Jacobs’s world) but also reframing the film versus digital debate as one of political importance. However, it is shown to be critical only in that the images and the cinema must continue; Jacobs does little to posture one format over another. Even when he minimizes Edison’s film into a digital 3-D cube and, quite literally, blows the film to pieces, it is followed by a return to the film and the images that hold life, death, and everything in between within their frames. Instead of reading Razzle Dazzle as love letter to the death of film, it should instead be seen as an elegy to the critical importance of Cinema.

by James Hansen
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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

DVD of the Week: "Little Murders" (Alan Arkin, 1971)

It’s a shame that Alan Arkin’s directing career never took off. The Oscar-winning actor’s direction infused 1971’s Little Murders, based on the satirical Jules Feiffer play, with energetic visuals, biting wit, and outrageous absurdity. The film stars the perfectly cast Elliott Gould as Albert, a man of intense apathy whose career as a photographer is stuck in existential mire and who strangely enjoys getting the shit kicked out of him by perfect strangers. Eventually, Albert runs into a peppy little ultra-consumer named Patsy (Marcia Rodd), and love blossoms, prompting Albert to poke his numb little head out of his numb little shell and take a peak at the domestic possibilities and emotional dead-ends of materialism.

Throughout Albert and Patsy’s courtship, which culminates in a riotously funny marriage ceremony featuring an unforgettable appearance by Donald Sutherland as a confrontational priest, various acts of violence and anarchy encircle their New York City environs. Patsy’s family doesn’t help matters much, dwelling in an oppressive atmosphere of xenophobic terror and pristine conformity in which sniper-blocking steel shutters are constant reminders of outlying threats. Following a tragedy, however, the absurdity and paranoia that hover around the darkly comedic action are ratcheted up to extreme proportions and Little Murders reveals itself to be a very brave and worthwhile, if under-appreciated, film.

-Brandon Colvin

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Surprise Trailer

I won't give away the surprise of this strange looking British film by putting the title on here. Feel free to discuss in the comments section. Question of the day regarding this movie: how many people can actually take this seriously?

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James Hansen's 12 Movies Meme

I'm a little late on posting this (sorry!) but better late than never. I'll assume everyone remembers the rules of this 12 movie meme, started by Lazy Eye Theatre. This is my list of 12 movies for a week of programming at the New Beverly Cinema. It may not make any money, but hey...a boy can dream, right?


The Flicker (1965) and Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son (1969)

There isn't a better way to start the week than a couple films that explore and deconstruct the medium. Tony Conrad's The Flicker uses alternating black and white frames to create a 45 strobe-like effect that goes right to your brain. Ken Jacobs's work analyzes Thomas Edison's short film and discovers all the details that can be found within any given frame. All the flickering may cause some headaches (anyone with epilepsy should probably not attend), but these films would highlight the distinctiveness of the medim of film; a great starting point for the week.


Side/Walk/Shuttle (1992) and D'est (1993)

The messages of these two "travelogues" are quite different, but seeing the similar, yet distinct, method each film takes in evoking sadness, memory, and (de)construction within the different locations (whether San Francisco or the whole of Eastern Europe) would be breathtaking. Ernie Gehr and Chantal Akerman are masters of form; these films could work as an introduction to each artist, but are also key (if not the best) works from each director.


Flaming Creatures (1963) and Pink Flamingos (1972)

After two nights of serious meditation, the festival's halcyon days are over. It's time to have some fun with these manically hysterical works from Jack Smith and John Waters. Smith's film is an admitted inspiration for Waters, so it seems fitting to place the two side by side. And really, what is a film festival without flaccid penises and incestual blow jobs?


Blue Movie a.k.a. Fuck (1969) and Crash (1996)

Continuing on Wednesday's sexual themes, these works from Andy Warhol and David Cronenberg use sexuality as a means to identify and explain other elements of human existence. Warhol's Blow Job could also work here, but for its mundanity and placement within the violence of the Vietnam War, Blue Movie is a compelling partner to Cronenberg's better known, highly controversial film.


Cache (2005) and Numero Deux (1975)

Made 30 years apart, these video works are definitive statements on the changing landscapes of cinema in the face of (post)modernism and new technology. Michael Haneke and Juc Luc Godard are keen observers of people, families, and politics; these work highlight these similar obsessions and provide, at least to a small extent, a thematic counterpoint to the filmic works of Conrad and Jacobs.


Doomed Love (1978) and L'Amour Fou (1969)

At a combined 517 minutes, Manoel de Oliveira and Jacque Rivette's almost completely unseen masterpieces may create an incredibly long, draining double feature, but I am convinced that it would be the best day of my life. The titles create a double feature pairing and so do the filmmakers. Always on the edge between theater and cinema, Oliveira and Rivette playfully explore convention while taking cinematic art to new heights. What a way to end a week.

Thanks to Piper from Lazy Eye Theatre and Jeremy from Moon in the Gutter for connecting us to this great meme! It was a lot of fun. Hope another one this fun comes along soon!

by James Hansen

PS- Please let me know if this post has a strange format or something. I am posting it from a really old computer at my work, so I'm slightly worried...

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Brandon Colvin's 12 Movies Meme

Happy Friday everyone! It's been a slow week for us, but we're hopping to end the week with a bang. Recently, Brandon and I were memed by Jeremy Richey at Moon in the Gutter to take a part of the 12 movie meme. It was started by Piper at Lazy Eye Theatre, and the idea (for those of you who haven't seen this meme floating around yet) is to create your own 12-movie week long film festival for New Beverly Cinema.

Here are the rules...

1) Choose 12 Films to be featured. They could be random selections or part of a greater theme. Whatever you want.

2) Explain why you chose the films.

3) Link back to Lazy Eye Theatre so I can have hundreds of links and I can take those links and spread them all out on the bed and then roll around in them.

4) The people selected then have to turn around and select 5 more people.

Although Jeremy tagged Brandon OR myself, we have decided to both do our own lists because we think it is a lot of fun, and we both created our own lists and (without telling each other) had no overlap at all in the films chosen. You can continue reading Brandon's list list will be posted later tonight. (I secretly only had time to post one, and get all the materials, before I have to go to work today.)

Thanks to Piper and Jeremy for making us a part of this meme! I hope you all enjoy our lists and can fantasize about these festivals actually happening.

(1955) and ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (1974)

Melodrama at its finest. Douglas Sirk presents a glossed-up meta-analysis of Hollywood fantasy/domestic unrest and Rainer Werner Fassbinder retells the same story, this time racially-charged, with his New German grit.


Carl Th. Dreyer and Robert Bresson, two of cinema's greatest poets, spin tales of martyrdom and spiritual anguish while presenting wildly contrasting examples of stylized acting through the marvelous performances of Maria Falconetti and Claude Laydu, respectively.

NAKED LUNCH (1991) and ADAPTATION. (2002)

How does writing happen? David Cronenberg and Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman tackle the challenges of, well, adaptation, in these two very different films, each of which blends biography, process, exaggeration, and self-referentiality while trying to uncover how stories are made and how fiction functions in relation to reality.

DOG STAR MAN: PRELUDE-PART IV (1962-1964) and STALKER (1979)

Nearly polar opposites on the editing spectrum, Stan Brakhage's experimental opus and Andrei Tarkovsky's metaphysical masterpiece elaborate upon the strange, strange journeys of their protagonists into strange, strange lands. To see the rapidity and hyperkineticism of Brakhage's avant-garde work juxtaposed with the contemplative leisure of Tarkovsky's pacing would be pleasurably mind-stretching.


Both Werner Herzog and Terrence Malick are adept at capturing the natural world in a powerful context that is always aesthetically cleansing. This pair of jungle films revolves around brutality, madness, and moments of beauty - sometimes only perceptible to the cinematographic eye.

LA NOTTE (1961) and THE PASSION OF ANNA (1969)

Emblematic of the explosion of European art cinema in the 1960s, Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman have been compared, contrasted, and fought over endlessly, particularly since their nearly simultaneous deaths. Undoubtedly, the two were great film artists and remain two of the most influential directors on my conception of what cinema is and should be. These two films are a couple of my favorites.

by Brandon Colvin

Hope you all enjoyed the list! I will meme a set of others with my post later tonight. Have a great (hopefully film-filled weekend!)
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