Friday, December 29, 2006

January tips

For all of you smart kids who know the Mel Gibson beast is coming to London early in January, here's a short guide to surviving screen mediocrity and conservatism. My favourite director ever (apart from my Italian namesake, Pier Paolo), Luis Buñuel is getting a two-month retrospective at the NFT.



The Lumiere is presenting a season of films by Andrei Tarkovsky between 13 and 25 January , including Solaris, Stalker and The Steamroller and the Violin. According to Sean Martin, who wrote the Pocket Essentials title on the great director, Tarkovsky "was part of the generation of Soviet filmmakers that emerged during the Khrushchev Thaw years, which also saw the emergence of such directors as Otar Iosseliani, Sergei Parajanov and Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky. Tarkovsky made only seven full-length films, yet this slender oeuvre has established him as the most important and well-known Russian director since Eisenstein. Although Tarkovsky's reputation continues to grow, especially in North America, where initial critical reaction was decidedly cooler than in Europe, his genius was recognised within his own lifetime by Jean-Paul Sartre, who championed Tarkovsky's first feature, Ivan's Childhood, and Ingmar Bergman.

Still according to Martin, "Tarkovsky's films are slow, dreamlike searches for faith and redemption, and it comes as no surprise to learn that, during his years in the Soviet Union, he was often criticised for 'mysticism' and his continued failure to tackle subjects in a style more acceptable to socialist realism. And yet Tarkovsky and his films were very much a product of the Soviet system, which ironically allowed directors a great deal of freedom to express themselves."

Luis Buñuel

Catherine Deneuve in Belle du Jour

Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest directors of all time with his irreverent and surrelist-inflected films, Luis Buñuel gets a two-month retrospective at the National Film Theatre in London, starting today with an extended season of one of his most famous works, Belle du Jour.

Buñuel was born in the Aragon region of Spain. A student friend of Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí, he established his early reputation with the Surrealist classics Un Chien andalou and L'Age d'or, the former probably the most famous art film ever made. Buñuel's films are a unique legacy from one of the greatest artists to emerge amidst the revolutionary beginning of the 20th century. In a world of depoliticised arts and relentless globalisation, his films continue to demand attention. That's not to say, however, that Buñuel was ever pretentious or overly intellectual. His rural upbringing informed his imagination as did his sense of humour and obsessions. He never intended his films to mean anything but what you see on the screen, and this directness are part of the reason that they are so engaging.

The season will show many of the titles from his Mexican phase, which, although less famous and more conventional in form, include some real gems such as the study of jealousy El, the quirky analysis of Latin male character The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz and Nazarin.

Other releases

Paris is Burning

The ICA at the Mall in London is one of the places to be in January. The venue will be re-releasing the classic documentary Paris is Burning, by Jennie Livingstone, the film who showed the world the community behind vogue balls in New York in the late 1980s, which were the inspiration for Madonna's song Vogue and the look and choreography she adopted at the time. The film focus on a troupe of outcasts and outsiders who belong to this world of underground competitive performing. Livingstone brilliantly captures the rituals, dance routines and many colourful characters that made the scene (between 5 and 18 January).

The ICA will also be showing Iraq in Fragments, the triple award winner at 2006 Sundance Film Festival for best directing, editing and documentary cinematography. Director James Longley creates a view of modern-day Iraq that, while familiar, is not quite the same from what we see on the news. Three chapters take us through Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish territory, with the immediate, vérité footage and personal stories captured during two years of shooting taking on a poetic life of their own. This film has reaped praise wherever it has been shown and it is a welcome ray of light in the murky waters that is the press coverage related to the tragic situation in Iraq (between 19 and 31 January).

Tarkovsky +

Buñuel +


Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006: the year in review

I posted today an article with a review of 2006's film releases on, a London-based website that I edit. Not a vintage year, I say.

Read article +

Monday, December 18, 2006

SlamDance short film programme

Out of a staggering 2,150 short films from 20 countries that were submitted to the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival, 73 have been selected to screen, each of which is now

Read more +

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Hollywood?

The art newsletter is currently carrying an article about contemporary film projects carried out by artists. The article tries to create an idea of movement, a trend, but I think that's pushing the envelope too far. There's always an artist working on a feature film project and most of them vanish without a trace - has anyone seen Tracey Emin's Top Spot? Besides, the artists mentioned are not really working in Hollywood, maybe Julian Schnabel gets close to that, but still, Hollywood is not interested in art, has never been and never will be. Even in the period of the so-called New Hollywood, when they drafted in European directors to make films (like Visconti's disastrous experience with Death in Venice (1969), Hollywood wanted people like Visconti because he was good box office in Europe and they thought that, at a time of a shortage of ideas in Tinseltown like the late 60s were, perhaps European auteurs could work their magic in the United States as well. Big mistake. But the article does provide a good round-up of who's doing what and here it is.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

European Film Awards

The European Film Awards were announced yesterday. Among the many winners -and some surprising results there - Pedro Almodovar's Volver was all over the place with three awards: Best Director, Best Actress for Penelope Cruz and the People's Choice Award. I personally thought that Volver was a mess and Penelope Cruz's performance was more impersonation than acting, but there you go, it seems like people really want to keep Pedro on his 'European auteur' pedestal even with lazy, wishy-washy offerings like Volver.
European Film Awards +

Saturday, December 02, 2006

2007 Independent Spirit Awards

The 2007 Independent Spirit Awards nominees have been announced. David Lynch and Laura Dern are listed for a Special Distinction Award, the late Robert Altman for Best Director and Michael Arndt for Best First Screenplay Award, an undeserving entry in my opinion.

Independent Spirit Awards +

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Filter at the Brixton Ritzy

If anyone is around in Brixton, London, this evening, I'll be at Ritzy at 6:30 presenting a selection of short films from Brazil for the Discovering Latin America film festival, which ends on Sunday. More information here. Come and say hello.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Les Amants Reguliers wins Prix Fipresci 2006

Philippe Garrel won the Prix Fipresci 2006 for his beautiful homage to the Novelle Vague and the May 1968 generation, Les Amants Reguliers (recently released on DVD in the UK). The president of Fipresci, Andrei Plakhov, said, "Philippe Garrel made his first film when he was 16, and by 20 had earned the reputation of the Nouvelle Vague's Wunderkind and 'younger brother of Godard'. His sophisticated cinematographic style, with long concentrated frames, is unique. His films are like fake detective stories, where mystery lies, not in the plot but in the style.”

Fipresci +

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Omar Sharif at the Cairo Film Festival

For those of you wondering about Omar Sharif's (pictured) whereabouts, fret no more. Today he's in Cairo (well, he's lived in Egypt all his life), for the opening of the Cairo Film Festival, which started 30 years ago. Sharif is the honorary president of the festival. The event goes on until 8 December and will be dedicated to the Late Nobel Prize Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who died earlier this year. Films based on his novels will be screened.

The festival will feature Arab and international movie stars such as the American actor Dany Glover and the British actress Jacqueline Bisset besides Jeremy Irons and Julia Ormond who will attend the festival's different sections. These include "The Official Contest", "Guest of Honor", "Arab Films Competition", "Arabs in International Movies", "Panorama of Lebanese Movies" and "Panorama of the Egyptian Cinema".

Cairo Film Festival +

Thursday, November 23, 2006

DVD round-up

How to remember the Holocaust, the imagined assassination of George Bush and love throughout time: a round-up of recent DVD releases I've seen this month.

The Passenger (Dir: Andrzej Munk. Poland, 1961-1963. Released by Second Run DVD) - Films about the Holocaust don't come much closer to capturing the horror of Auschwitz and the concentration camps than Andrzej Munk's 1961-1963 The Passenger. Munk died in a car crash at the age of 39 in the middle of producing his film. His friend and colleague Witold Lesiewicz decided to complete the project to what he believed were Munk's intentions and assembled it using the existing footage, still protographs and a voice over. This method, used as a necessity, turned out to be very beneficial to the form of the film, with its mixture of documentary and representation. Its economic, pared-down narrative captures with sober poignancy the awful void and sadness of this monstrous episode, concentrating on details rather than the big picture. In this sense, it' s more of a humanist film than a historic piece, focusing on the banality of the everyday routine of the camps while showing in the background the gruesome signs of the carnage - children marching down to the gas chambers, the smoke billowing out of the chimneys, inmates playing music as new interns arrive. The place is hell but one with recognisable, realist features.

The film focuses on two main characters, a former SS officer called Liza and a Marta, a Polish prisoner of war who had been under Liza's vigilance in the camp. The two women's paths cross again on a cruise liner bound for South America a decade later. Worried that Marta will expose her past to her husband, Liza decides to tell her husband her real story, first giving him a version of facts whereby she tried to save Marta, but she retracts and tells him a more truthful account, which is that she was actually ambitious and loyal to the Nazi programme. There's no better description of the film than the one provided by Ewa Mazierska in her essay that accompanies this first-ever DVD release and it's worth quoting: "Not so much a film about the reality of the concentration camps, as about the power of memory to immortalise and distort what happened there, which, according to Claude Lanzmann, author of Shoah, should be the proper subject of any film about Holocaust." Dealing with the Holocaust on filmic terms is an enormous challenge, but The Passenger points to the appropriate route. A very important film.

Death of a President (Dir: Gabriel Range, UK, 2006. Released by Optimum Home Entertainment) - If some many people hate George Bush, it is likely that someone would try to kill him. Taking this probability as inspiration, Death of a President imagines the killing of George Bush on 19 October 2007 in Chicago. A skillfully confected docudrama, it adopts all the stylistics of big time, 'serious' drama of the kind Channel Four, the producer of the series, is fond of. Although the intention of the makers seems to provide an epistemological analysis of the truth as realised by the media, it is more like an illusionist's trick, but a very good one at that. The weaving together of fictionalised and real footage of George Bush and other figureheads of his administration is astounding; it really feels like you're watching a somber retrospective docudrama made after the event (with a good dash of thriller conventions thrown in). Largely moulded on the shooting of John Kennedy in 1964, arguably the ultimate presidential assassination, it uses the event to make a commentary on American politics and the predictability of the outcome of Bush's killing: a Muslim, who seems to be innocent, is singled out as the assassin, despite flimsy evidence; the American public wants someone to pay for it and a Muslim seems like an ideal scapegoat. It then suggests that an American may have done it, the father of a soldier killed in Iraq who blamed Bush for the death of his son. This is in fact the most depressive aspect of this film. Although it wouldn't be difficult to imagine this scenario, it is very plausible that this would be the outcome of the event if it did happen, regardless of how clichéd it is. We live in the days of dumbed-down politics and contrived media narratives that despite their complete lack of credibility, the public keeps buying.

Three Times (Dir: Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Taiwan, 2005. Released by Artificial Eye) - Three Times arrives on DVD with a recommendation by no one less than Jim Jarmusch, who describes it as Hsiao-Hsien's 'lastest masterpiece'. Divided into three segments set in different temporal zones (1966, 1911 and 2005), this triptych is about love relationships and the complications that come with it. Hardly masterpiece material, but Hsiao-Hsien's minimalist, elegant style (perhaps too polished at points) is a beauty, especially in the case of the 1911 episode, in which he updates very gracefully the visual grammar of silent cinema. As we pay increasing attention to Oriental cinema, Hsiao-Hsien is definitely a name to keep in mind.

All DVDs are out now:

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sighting of the month: Matt Dillon in the Amazon

I recently spotted Matt Dillon visiting an environmental project in the Amazon during his attendance at the Manaus (the capital of the Amazon) film festival. Shall we rename him 'Mata Dillon' in reference to the Portuguese word for jungle? Or am I paying too much attention to the antics involved in headline writing on British tabloids?

Mata Dilllon +

Monday, November 20, 2006

Round up: Latin American and German cinema in London

In the run-up to the Christmas season (definitely a bad cinema season), there are quite a few options around London for those who want to get a proper film fix before heading off to the Christmas break to watch The Sound of Music for the umpteenth time.

The charity Discovering Latin America, whose main goal is to publicise Latin American culture abroad and raise funds for social projects it chooses to champion, arrives at the 5th edition of its annual film festival on Thursday, 23/11, running until 03/12. The festival will take place at the Odeon Covent Garden and Panton Street in the West End, Tate Modern in the South Bank, The Ritzy Cinema in Brixton and Everyman Cinema in Hampstead. Yours truly will be presenting a section of Brazilian short films at the Ritzy Cinema on 01/12 at 6:30pm, so please come and say hello. The Tate Modern will be showing Luis Bunuel's Viridiana and the rest of the programme is a mixture of films from all over the Latin American continent. Further information from the DLAFF site.

Also starting on 23/11 and running until the 26th is the 9th Festival of German Films promising 'a strong line-up of impressively crafted and compelling new features and documentaries from some of the most exciting German filmmakers working today'. The event also features a section called Critical Cinema of East Germany, presented by the London Goethe-Institut plus the regular Next Generation strand which showcases live-action and animated shorts from German film school graduates. More info here.

(Still from Dog Pound, DLAFF, screening on 3/12)

Monday, November 13, 2006

David Lynch's cow stunt

David Lynch is back after a five-year hiatus with a new feature film, Inland Empire, which reunites the top American surrealist with the ever lovely Laura Dern (Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart). Reviews have been good , but so far there's no UK release date scheduled. However, Lynch has been busy promoting his film, due out in the U.S. next month (15/12) and even took to the streets of Los Angeles to promote it. Don't you just love this man?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

See it: Stella Polare

Anyone attending the Leeds International Film Festival should check out the striking Stella Polare (pictured left), by British filmmakers Anthea Kennedy and Ian Wilbin, which screens today at 1:45pm and tomorrow at 2:15 at the Carriageworks. Stella Polare is everything that British films quite often are not: meditative, mysterious and oblivious of the strictures of conventional narrative. I saw this film at the Osnabruck Media Art festival in May this year and absolutely loved it. An inspiration for indepedent filmmakers working with video technology; it shows how much can be achieved.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Festival alert: Kassel and Leeds

The 23rd edition of the Kassel Film and Video Festival starts today and runs until the 12th. 214 current films and videos from 21 countries will be screened within the next six days, one third of which are premieres. About 100 directors and artists are expected to attend the festival for the presentation and discussion of their works. The exhibition MONITORING presents 16 media installations from five countries. The opening is going to take place on November 8 at 7 pm. The interdisciplinary conference interfiction as well as the Live Visuals in the DokfestLounge will close the festival. Altogether 68 contributions out of the program will compete for the three prizes of €10,000 in total and the A38-Artist-in-Residence Grant Kassel-Halle.

Kassel film and video festival +

Elsewhere, the Leeds International Film Festival is now well under way. The organisers remind us that although the Fanomenon Horror Weekend has now ended, there's a chance to catch some of the films at their repeat screenings - Silver Méliès winner Isolation (Tue 7 Nov), Resonnances, The Woods (Thu 9 Nov), Gruesome and Dark Remains (Fri 10 Nov). Still to come in the Film Festival are American Hardcore, a film about the American Punk Explosion (Wed 8 Nov), presented by director Paul Rachman and writer Steven Blush. Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell and Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback can be seen again later this week: the former plays on Sat 11 Nov (Hyde Park Picture House, 9:00pm) while the latter will be showing on Mon 6 Nov (The Carriageworks, 3:15pm).

Leeds film festival +

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pixies at the ICA tomorrow 1/11

The documentary loudQUIETloud, which charts the musical path created by cult band Pixies, is being launched tomorrow at London's ICA. The influential band, which was broken up in 1992 when their chief songwriter and vocalist Black Francis announced his intention to quit the band via a blunt facsimile, reunited in 2004 and announced a series of shows that would become some of the fastest selling in music history.

The film will be screened in the ICA theatre to allow the full impact of the film's live performances to be felt. Director Steven Cantor will be present to answer questions from the audience.

Trailer +


Sarah Pucill previews new film with Q&A session

British film artist, Sarah Pucill (pictured), will be introducing a preview of her new film Taking My Skin preceded by some of her earlier work on Wednesday 1 November, 7pm, at Greenwich Picturehouse in London. The artist will be answering questions from the audience after the screenings.

Pucill's films, which have been shown at the Tate Modern and the defunct Lux cinema in Hoxton Square, deal with a transformative and fluid sense of self. Focusing on the materiality of film and the body, she is said to create a "vivid psychic world that sets up the imaginary as a potential site of resistance".

You can watch an excerpt of Backcomb, incidentally the one I am familiar with and which I saw at the Mix New York way back in 1996, where I was showing one of my videos as well. It's quite surreal and visually arresting, the product of someone with a fertile imagination.

More info, film excerpt etc +

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cinema tickets in London the most expensive in Europe

We all suspected that, but now it's official...

Read article +

YouTube intermission of the day: The Battle of the Album Covers

London Film Festival's latest

Today is a good day at the LFF. The programme includes a screening of Lukas Moodysson's 'surreally dark' Container and Nanni Moretti's The Caiman, a political satire of Berlusconi's premiership. To top it all up, there will be the Film on the Square Gala of Shortbus, a film that I personally can't wait to see - there's real sex in it, you see.

Also the press office of the festival has rung in to tell Kamera that the winner of the annual Grierson Award, given to the best feature-length documentary at the Festival, was Lauren Greenfield's Thin, which is about a Florida eating disorder treatment centre. The award will be presented at Thursday's screening.

LFF site +

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Final Cut Pro free course

Apple in London is offering a free seminar that includes training in the Final Cut Studio software suite. So, independent filmmakers who use the package to edit films and would like to brush up their skills, take note. The event will be on 17 November and it goes without saying that it is likely to book up fast.

Book place +

Reading tip

I found this page in the Media Art website with some inspiring texts on film and art. 'Artists, Auteurs, and Star. On the Human Factor in the Culture Industry' was one of the texts that lept to my attention because it touches on the concept of authorship, one which is being increasingly questioned in this age when the notion of copyrights and originality is highly debatable.

Read more +

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cameron Mitchell's masterclass

John Cameron Mitchell, whose sexually explicit upcoming film, Shortbus, is bound to generate a hell of a lot of column inches (no pun intended) for the polysexually-inclined American indie director (he directed Hedwig and the Angry Inch - that word again - produced Tarnation and directed the video clip for the Scissor Sister's song Filthy Gorgeous). He will be giving a masterclass on 26/10 called 'Putting the Sex in Screen Stories'. So go find out how he does it.

Mitchell's masterclass +

Thursday, October 19, 2006

London Film festival opens...

...Here's the Guardian report. And here are the newspaper's festival recommendations.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Press conference with Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz

Pedro Almodovar graced the 44th New York Film Festival (with Penelope Cruz in tow) in connection with the screening of his film Volver. Here's a video clip of their joint interview.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


So Cameron Mitchell's sexually explicit, Woody Allen-ian Shortbus has opened in the U.S. to ecstatic reviews. It is due to get a UK release on 1/12 and surely enough it will revive the discussion about cinematic 'real sex' triggered off by Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A week of art films in London

Artprojx is presenting a selection of films at the Prince Charles Cinema in central London throughtout the week starting today, including works by Mark Wallinger, Jesper Just and Laurie Simmons. Anthony Reynolds Gallery is presenting Wallinger's new 35mm 'The End' (12 mins). Here's how the gallery describes it:

"The title of the work implies both termination and intent. Taking one of the most routine elements of any movie, the credits that wrap up the picture, Wallinger presents an ultimate cast of characters that, accompanied by a classic cinema soundtrack, gives us the complete experience, the greatest story ever told, the beginning and the end. With the simplest of means, a scrolling text, Wallinger evokes the grandest, most thrilling and awe-inspiring cinematic epic."

Anthony Reynolds Gallery +

Wallinger has also curated the films being shown today at the Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Square in London and The End will be shown before each of them:

1pm KES (PG) Directed by Ken Loach, 1969
3.20pm COMME UNE IMAGE (12A) Directed by Agnes Jaoui, 2004
6pm EDUKATORS (15) Directed by Hans Weingartner, 2004
9pm ERASERHEAD (18) Directed by David Lynch, 1977

Tomorrow is the turn of Jesper Just's 'It Will All End In Tears', a 20 min 35mm film followed by a conversation with the artist:

"In Jesper Justs new film "It Will All End In Tears" Just, as often seen before in his works, present the problem of the relationship between generations ­ or ­ more precisely, the relationship between father and son, both in literal and metaphorical terms. Jesper Just is not simply concerned with a representational-critical reiteration of cinematic clichés; he also manages to pose questions of a more existential character, questions that touch on men¹s way of being and being together."

On Friday, photographer Laurie Simmons shows her debut film 'The Music of Regret' and it will be followed by a conversation with RoseLee Goldberg. The film is a three-act cinematic musical starring Meryl Streep, Adam Guettel's voice and members of the Alvin Ailey II dance company, plus a cast of vintage puppets and ventriloquist dummies. Shot by cinematographer Ed Lachman (Far From Heaven, The Virgin Suicides) with a bittersweet, Sondheim-flavoured score by Michael Rohatyn, the film "portrays the despair and longing that has coloured the post-9/11 era."

Prince Charles Cinema +

Artprojx +

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Los Super Elegantes

ArtKrush e-magazine has published an article I wrote on the LA performance art/punk-mariachi group Los Super Elegantes. The article includes a link to their latest video, Nothing Really Matters, which will be shown at upcoming Zoo Art Fair in London.

Los Super Elegantes by Antonio Pasolini +

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

San Sebastian film festival

It is always nice to find out that one of the best documentarians around, Nick Broomfield, is back with a new film. Broomfield opened the San Sebastian festival with Ghosts, a documentary about the 23 undocumented Chinese workers who died in Northern England in 2004 while harvesting cockles at night. Broomfield used mostly non-actors in his film, with special focus on Ai Qin, a single mother from Fujian who go together $25,000 to come to England and ended up living with 15 other Chinese workers in a two-bedroom house.The International Herald Tribune describes her performance as 'heartbreaking'. In fact the publication ran a very insightful article about the festival and its focus on immigration.

And Tom DiCillo won a Silver Shell for best director with his new film, Delirious. As I had stated here before, I can't wait to see it and hopefully this validation from a major festival will spell a good distribution deal.

San Sebastian Film Festival

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Film review: Krisana (Fallen)

Fred Kelemen's trilogy Fate (1994), Frost (1997) and Nightfall (1999) brought him international attention during the last decade on the strength of his anti-aesthetic, staunchily cinephilic evokation of an uncertain, transitional Europe filtered through his Eastern European sensitivity (Kelemen was born in Berlin to a Hungarian mother). His films are rigorous, uncompromising formal experiments that go against the grain of contemporary cinema in every respect. A disciple of the Hungarian Béla Tarr, he was hailed by the late Susan Sontag as one of the last gasps of twentieth-century cinephilia. His films tap into post-Communist bleakness where rambling characters navigate the uncertainties of their times, estranged from reality and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Kelemen takes cinema's dark cave metaphor to an almost literal end.

His new film, Krisana (Fallen), a German/Latvian production, sees Kelemen continue with his pursuit of the same aesthetic and production mode that brought him a certain degree of fame in the 1990s. In other words, he financed the film himself to keep his artistic view free from economic pressure. The result is brave and unique in the context of today's homogeneous film scene. There is no doubt about Kelemen's confidence as a director and his defiance is admirable. In Krisana, a super-noir DV take on the Blow Up template of photographic voyeurism, he takes the viewer to a place of loneliness and paranoia, but without ever providing any kind of relief or failing to sustain the atmosphere of the film. Set in Latvia, the Krisana captures the country's post-Communist spectrum mercilessly, seen through the eyes of an archivist who gets obsessed with piecing together the life of a woman he failed to save from suicide at a bridge. He manages to find her purse at a bar and from there he tracks her address and her boyfriend. His life is a void and glimpses into someone's else life seem to provide a ray of light into the archivist's dark-side-of-the-moon world.

Structured with very clear-cut sequences, the film is photographed with rigidly formal cinematography. The overall result is uneven. Shot on black and white DV, Kelemen avoids the hand-held aesthetics that most film-makers adopt when shooting on digital; he opted for a more celluloid-like approach to the cinematography. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The flatness of the image, which is often an asset to convey a type of immediate realism that in the hands of Lars Von Trier and Lukas Moodysson translate into throbbing emotional texture, in Krisana seems more like an inedequacy and not exactly a de-constructivist manifesto against the idea of 'cinematic purity'. The sound design of the film, a humming dirge of industrial echoes, plays an important role in keeping the organic unity. The director's mastery over rhythm also makes up for its shortcomings. Tristana is a significant film and Kelemen's unique voice from the "other Europe' is a force to be reckoned with. It takes time to get through the density of his vision, but Kelemen rewards those who persist.

Tristana is playing at the Ciné Lumière and the Tate Modern in London.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Online viewing: Rio Cine Festival

The organisers of the Rio de Janeiro film festival have teamed up with the popular Porta Curta streaming site to show 17 of the competing films from the festival's Première Brasil section. You can also vote for your favourites.

Fest Rio +

Monday, September 25, 2006

San Sebastian film festival: clips

Google Video already has a selection of clips with footage of the goings-on at the San Sebastian film festival. Speaking of which, Kamera's newswire received information from one of its PR friends that Tom DiCillo's new film, Delirious, is being screened at the Spanish festival. 'Delirious' sees DiCillo reunite with Steve Buscemi. While I haven't seen the film to vouch for it, the storyline sounds like DiCillo classic. Here's a description:

"Small time paparazzo Les (Steve Buscemi) has a big mouth and big dreams, but try as he might, he can’t quite talk himself into the right parties to get that one great exclusive photo. He meets Toby (Michael Pitt), a homeless kid who is drawn to the bright lights of New York City and “hires” him as his assistant.

But the two are drawn to each other and become friends. Although Toby enjoys the glamour and excitement of Les’ lifestyle he still retains a compelling innocence and naiveté that draws Les to him. Toby also has vague dreams of his own; to become an actor.

Luck intervenes for Toby when he accidentally meets K’Harma Leeds (Alison Lohman), a beautiful pop diva. As their unlikely love blossoms Toby finds himself torn between a chance to follow his dreams of becoming an actor and to fulfill his obligation to Les. When Toby leaves Les for a part on a Reality Show, partly by sleeping with the show’s casting director Dana (Gina Gershon), their blossoming friendship immediately falls apart.

As Toby’s fortunes continue to rise, Les tries to reach out, while also maintaining a bitter resentment toward his former protégé…"

Festival site

Google video

Agnès Varda's video installation

A tip for those passing through Paris until 08 October: the doyenne of the Novelle Vague (and the movement's only significant female presence behind the camera), Agnès Varda, has prepared a series of video installations called L'Ile et Elle as a result of a commission from the Fondation Cartier.

Update: Agnès Varda will be in London on 28/10 for a talk at the Cine Lumiere, where she will be presenting Cinévardaphoto. The programme includes three films chosen by director Varda, all dealing with photos and together forming a meditation on what photography and the artistic impulse mean to her. Ydessa, the Bears, and etc... is about an artist/curator who is obssessed with collecting pictures of people with teddy bears from the early years of the 20th century. Ulysse is an examination from 1982 of a photo Varda took in 1954. Salut les Cubains, the earliest of the three films, looks at the Cuban revolution via a photo exhibition mounted some 10 years after the event.

Further info +

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

London Film Festival

When the London Film Festival announced its programme a few days ago, I went straight to the experimental section to see what was on offer. I was pleasantly surprised to see two films on two American underground luminaries: Anger Me, about Kenneth Anger and Jack Smith and The Destruction of Atlantis about Jack Smith, both curated by the ever reliable Mark Webber.

Anger was a legendary pioneer of independent filmmaking who used to hang out with the Stones, made the homoerotic Scorpio Rising (1964) and wrote the infamous book Hollywood Babylon. Smith, on the other hand, worked in the pre-Warhol New York art scene and was heavily influenced by kitsch 1940s star Maria Montez, blending film with experimental theatre, fashion and photography. His most famous film, Flaming Creatures, is "an epic fantasy, featuring blonde vampires and bohemians cavorting amid a tangle of naked bodies". A baroque genius.

Excerpt from Anger's Lucifer Rising (1972)

Jack Smith's short Scotch Tape (1963)

Festival site

Monday, September 18, 2006

Filmosophy and Harmony Korine

Wallflower, the London-based publisher specialised in film theory, has rung in to tell us about an event connected to one of their upcoming titles, and soon to be reviewed on The Filter, Filmosophy, by Daniel Frampton, filmmaker and theorist, founding editor of the online salon Film Philosophy. The event will take place on Sunday 15 October 12noon and will include a screening of Julien Donkey-Boy, followed by a conversation between director Harmony Korine and Frampton. Very likely to sell fast, so book your ticket now on 020 7837 8402 (Renoir in London's Bloomsbury).

Saturday, September 16, 2006

David Thomson's Suspects

In anticipation to the No Exit Press re-release of David Thomnson's fabulous book Suspects, in which the narrator writes short biographies of classic film noir characters and then these characters start to meet each other outside the films as if they were real people with real needs and passions, here are some Noir classics culled You Tube, the universe's converging point for all things that move. Kamera (the independent film site I edit) will be running an interview with Thomson soon, so watch this space.

Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard

Edward Robinson in Scarlet Street

Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity

Okay, this is not footage from a film but Joan Crawford was the star of one of the greatest Noir films ever, Mildred Pearce (1945), which is not to found on YT. However, I did find this bizarre interview with a tipsy Crawford arriving at an aiport in America in 1968.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Orson Welles' wine commercial

Orson Welles remains one of my all-time favourite film personalities and this video showing what Gawker described as a "long-debauched Orson Welles drunkenly slurring his way through a few takes on the Paul Masson wine commercials from the 1970s" brings Welles even closer to my heart. Salud!

Touching Politics

The Goethe-Institut London will be presenting between Wednesday 20 September and Tuesday 26 September a series of films selected from the archives of the Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek, Berlin, under the banner Touching Politics. The mini season is curated by film practitioner Florian Wüst.

Set against the backdrop of outstanding moments in 20th century history, the four programmes combine avant-garde classics, and rarely screened documentary and experimental films by filmmakers such as Kenneth Anger, Bruce Baillie, Hollis Frampton, Joris Ivens, Sharon Lockhart, Hans Richter, or Joyce Wieland. Made between 1926 and 1994, the twenty-two films of these programmes present an "exemplary synthesis of artistic vision and political engagement, of autobiographical approaches and social contexts, of sensuousness and conceptual rigour". Florian Wüst will introduce the first two screenings.

The Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek in Berlin is one of Germany’s most important film institutions. It maintains an archive and runs a distribution branch that share an extensive international collection of historical and contemporary feature, documentary and experimental films characterised by their formal experimentation as well as their engagement with social and political issues.

Goethe-Institut London

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Milano Film Festival

After Venice, it's time for the Milano Film Festival, which starts on Friday 15 September. According to the organisers, the event's aim is "to promote and give young and less known directors a chance to emerge". The films are screened without being divided into categories. They will all be screened in original language with Italian and English subtitles, and their directors are invited to present their works to the festival audience.

Full programme +

Venice 2006 winners

The Golden Lion went to Sanxia Haoren (Still Life) by Jia Zhang-Ke, the Silver Lion for Best Director went to Alain Resnais for the film Private Fears in Public Places and Ben Affleck got the Coppa Volpi award for Best Male Actor for his role in Hollywoodland. Check out the rest of the winners of the Venice festival here +

Monday, September 11, 2006

Destricted: not a turn-on

Ever the film anthropologist, yesterday I tried to see the art/porn flick Destricted, currently showing in London. A group of short films directed by Marina Abramović, Marco Brambilla, Matthew Barney, Larry Clark, Gaspar Noe, Richard Prince and Sam Taylor-Wood, Destricted was curated by New York-based arts man Neville Wakefield. Sadly, the screening was sold out, which seems to indicate that sex continues to sell, despite the current media saturation of sexual imagery that is enough to make the idea of a chastity vow seem like a viable protest option.

I will try again tomorrow because I'm very curious to see what the artists/filmmakers have come up with (I haven't taken the vow yet, you see). I personally think the one name involved in the project that makes absolute sense is Larry Clark's because blurring the line between art and pornography is his leitmotif - but where is Bruce LaBruce? And why Sam Taylor Wood? While I can't give you my personal verdict on Destricted, here's a round-up of reviews around the web.

Film Threat claimed that "as a sociological statement on human sexuality, it’s practically worthless". Future Movies didn't like it either and said: "Whatever most of the filmmakers here were trying to achieve, it sheds no light on porn, simply reproducing it at its most trite, stale and unimaginative." Deep Focus's review was a bit more lubed. It said, "Destricted is as hit-and-miss as you'd expect of a collection of art-porn shorts." I also found an interview with Larry Clark on Nerve magazine about his contribution to the project and I particularly liked his correction of the information previously given to the interviewer that all collaborators had had talks with Neville about what they would do. Said Clark, "My deal was, they gave me the money, I made the film, they didn't know what I was doing until I sent them a rough cut of the film." Clark, it must be said, is blessed with a delightful penchant for straight talking and incapability to use art world lingo, an aspect of his rebel personality that I experienced first-hand when I saw him at the ICA last year.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Film review: Little Miss Sunshine

littlemisssunshine If further proof that so-called 'independent cinema' has become a formulaic exercise in style and a mere marketing tag was needed, the hit comedy Little Miss Sunshine provides plenty of it. The biggest distribution deal to take place at the Sundance festival, where it was snapped by Fox for a cool US$10.5 million dollar deal, this crowd-pleasing, middle-to-low-brow family road movie is to independent, art cinema what retail chain Gap is to counterculture: a simulacrum.

What saves this disingenuous underdog comedy from the brink is its cast, who occasionally succeeds to shine through the thick layers of contrivances and improbable plot twists that pervade the narrative. Toni 'Muriel's Wedding' Colette plays Sheryl, the worn-out mother of the Hoovers, a blue-collar New Mexico family. Her husband Richard (Greg Kinnear, previously seen in As Good As It Gets) is having trouble at selling his nine-steps-to-success programme (how ironic!). To make things worse, she has to look after her gay brother Frank, a Proust academic who tried to commit suicide after losing the throne as 'the most eminent Proust scholar in the U.S.A' to a rival who also stole his younger boyfriend. Carell, it must be said, was a casting coup: his bookish European good looks and understated comic style add a smart air to the film. He's definitely a rising star, especially since the success of The 40 Year-Old Virgin.
The rest of the family is made of the Nietsche-reading teenager Dwayne (Paul L.I.E. Dano)(the Nietsche reference coming across as clichéd) who has been locked in a silence vow for the last nine months, Olive (Abigail Breslin}, the Little Miss Sunshine of the title who miraculously gets invited to the finals of a beauty pageant in California, the ignition of the family's adventure on the road and, finally, there's Alan Arkin's hedonist, leather-jacketed grandpapa, surely a very embarrassing role for an actor of his ilk. Grandpa's function is to take drugs and endlessly talk about sex, a cause of chagrin to the all-American Richard. His 'shocking behaviour' gets tiresome very quickly.

While on the road, which is most of the film, we are given a diagnosis of 'contemporary' America: the obsession with diets and the obesity issue, the dark side of the not-so-inclusive American Dream, American competitiveness, in short, a menu of formulaic indie themes. And the pageant sequence, the moment the whole film trudges towards, is a messy disappointment. The films uses it as the catalyst for the Hoovers' self-realisation, the culmination of the bonding experience achieved by a couple of days on the road together. But this is only achieved because they regain a certain degree of self-esteem by contrasting themselves against the 'American freaks' found in the universe of beauty pageants, an overused stereotype that has lost its power as social comment.

There are moments of genuine humour (like the VW bus's horn getting stuck in a continuous beep) and the cinematography is quite often easy on the eyes, revelling on the visual potential of motorways and yellow objects (at least I noticed quite a few yellow elements throughout the film...). But there's an undercurrent of charlatanism and a hypocritical sense of realism about Little Miss Sunshine that leaves an unpleasant dust on its trail.

Little Miss Sunshine is released in the UK on 08/09/06.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The film cult: Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon

Like many art film pioneers, the work and legacy of Maya Deren (1917-1961) is often more talked about than actually seen. This is set to change with the inclusion of her classic short Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) in the latest instalment of the Cinema 16 series, an anthology of American short classics including other gems such as Andy Warhol's Screen Test: Helmut, D.A. Pennebaker's 1953 Daybreak Express and Standish Lawder's 1969 cult classic Necrology (Roll Call of the Dead).

The daughter of an educated Jewish émigré family from Kiev who arrived in the USA in the early 1920s, Deren has become an emblem of independent American cinema and a feminist icon. She is the woman behind the black and white window glass pane, looking out enigmatically from within a pattern of reflected trees, emanating an air of daydreaming madness, which is what Meshes of the Afternoon is about. Although its aesthetic roots are in Europe on account of its Surrealist form and Deren's interest in Eisensteinian montage, her film is distinctly American: it is pregnant with a sense of otherness; the voodoo, trance-inducing soundtrack alludes to a black culture that doesn't exist in Europe; the spiralling narrative flow that evokes a sense of shifting identities. It's no coincidence that America's most famous film surrealist, David Lynch, was inspired by Meshes when he made Lost Highway (1996), arguably one of his best films.

The film was Deren's first, and marked the beginning of her collaboration with Alexander Hammid, the Czech cameraman who she married. Laden with symbolism, it stars Deren herself as she often did in her films. Deren started her career as a dancer with choreographer Katherine Dunham's company, with whom she toured the USA. She met Hammid in Los Angeles in 1941 and it was this encounter that ignited her change of focus from dance to film, although her physicality and beautiful, dance-trained expressiveness is an integral part of her work.

Meshes of the Afternoon is an atmospheric, paranoid reverie where the main character repeats actions (walking up the street, looking out of the window) while a mysterious, hooded finger with a mirror for a face provides a black, nightmarish touch in a sun-lit Los Angeles street. It became the most famous experimental short film of the 1940s, and the thousands of music video clips that adopt similar strategies to disrupt conventional narrative are testimonies to Deren's influence, if not necessarily acknowledged by younger generations.

But, as in the case of a lot of good art, Meshes of the Afternoon, is best enjoyed if we avoid reading too much into it. The symbolisms are clear and allude to ideas of sexual angst, fear, death etc. But like poetry, the images are not there to 'educate'. Instead they serve a more lyrical function. Sometimes it's best to succumb to our intuition, like Deren seems to have done when she conceived it.The real meaning in this film is in the editing, in the beautiful synchronisation between image and sound which constitutes a perfectly formed organic whole. If Deren's intention was to cast a spell on the viewer and lead us into a state of trance like a celluloid priestess, she was completely successful.

Cinema 16 is out now:

Monday, September 04, 2006

DVD Review: Woman of the Dunes + Funeral Parade of Roses

At first it looks like an unassuming art-house Japanese film with its typically elegant cinematography and the poetic attention to details. But when the percussive, experimental soundtrack kicks in and the story is established, something unusual emerges: a very universal allegory of the human condition and human conditioning with echoes of Kafka's The Trial, Albert Camus and Marxist theories about freedom. Like the characters in this film are engulfed by sand, Hiroshi Teshigara's Woman of the Dunes creeps in the viewer's attention right from the start.

Teshigara's 1964 film boasts an impressively coherent organic unity, a very original mise-en-scene, which is as integral to the story as the two main characters, and top-notch performances from its two leads, Eiji Tokada and Kyoko Kishida. The story, based on the homonymous book by the existentialist writer Kobo Abe, who also penned this screenplay adaptation, is very simple and straightforward: an entomologist called Jumpei Nika (Tokada) is collecting insect specimens on the sand dunes of a remote shoreline in Japan. He misses the last bus home. The local villagers offer him shelter in the house of a young window at the bottom of a sandpit. When he wakes up the next morning, the rope used to hoist him down is no longer there. While still under the impression that the rope will re-appear soon enough, he agrees to help the woman in her nightly labour of shovelling away the sand that threatens to bury them.

At this point the erotic tension between the two rather good-looking actors becomes visible. The stark black and white photography often focuses on the texture of their skin and hair while the ever-present sand creates a menacing atmosphere. The cluttered and claustrophobic space of the hut is also infused with erotic frisson. Kishida is particularly skillful in alternating between femme fatale, slave and geisha-like 'wife'. She masterly switches from plain-faced woman resigned to a financially secure life without freedom to a sensual, mysterious presence. Her transformations throughout the film provide some of the pillars that sustain the interest in a work that could easily have been monotonous but which manages to remain as edgy as a thriller. Moments of dark humour also strike a balance needed to keep the film consistently engaging.

When Jumpei realises that the deceptively benign villagers trapped him and that he has been made into a prisoner, at their mercy for food and water, he starts making plans to escape. After a spectacularly failed attempt, he finds out that there is water bubbling under the surface. The prospect of an experiment greatly arouses his scientific instincts. It also prompts a shift in his attitude and the way he deals with a terrifyingly strange change in his life.

Woman of the Dunes won a Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1964 and looking in hindsight and at how well the film holds up, it seems like a deserved recognition of its technique and the material of the film. It is also worth pointing out the angular, punctuating soundtrack by Toru Takemitsu, which often cuts through the narrative like a dangerous intervention. Absorbing, intriguing, ironic and universal in its human interest, Woman on the Dunes is on pair with Orson Welles's The Trial and Antonioni's most inpired moments such as L'Eclisse.

Plus:(Funeral Parade of Roses. Dir: Toshio Matsumoto. Released by Eureka!): Although stylistically worlds apart from Woman of the Dunes, the 'swinging Tokyo' Funeral Parade of Roses was made by a peer of Hiroshi Teshigara, Toshio Matsumoto. Both were part of a newer generation of Japanese directors who took their inspiration from Italian neo-Realism and the Novelle Vague. While in Teshigara's case he took the ideas and made them their own, Matsumoto was limited to being a good imitator, if Funeral... is a anything to go by. A cross-dressing adaptation of Oedipux Rex, it often lapses into over-the-top attempts at hipness and formal experiments that come across as naïve and ill-judged, like the travail of a film student trying to pay homage to his idols. Still, as a time-capsule film with a great soundtrack, it does provide a glimpse into the rarely-on-screen Japanese gay culture and anticipates the Crying Game by more than two decades in its use of a 'lady-boy' as a female protagonist and object of desire, with a similar fascination for his/her body as a site of lust and ambiguity. Real-life transvestite Peter (who plays the queen of clubs Eddie) makes a riveting lead (he also played Kyoami the Fool in Akira Kurosawa's Ran) and the support cast of non-actors also create a feeling of a well-populated film. Despite the tragic mainline, there are moments of priceless humour, such as the scene when three drag queens get into a fight with three 'tough' women a la Faster, Faster Pussy Cat, Kill, Kill! in the streets of Tokyo. Moments of self-mocking humour like this fill in the gaps left by Matsumoto's immaturity.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Venice's blonde ambition

Maybe I'm imagining things, but this year's edition of the Venice Film Festival seems like a blond fest, or at least that's what it appeared to me when I was checking the photos that arrived at the Filter's picture desk. Why, even Juliete Binoche, who's been a patron saint of brunette film stars since she became a brunette film star in the 1980s, has shown up at the sinking city doing an impersonation of Nastassja Kinski in Paris Texas. Maybe they all got inspired by the golden mane of the lion or something...
(pictured: Juliette Binoche, Scarlett Johansson, Guillermo Del Toro, Douglas McGrath, Catherine Deneuve, and Aaron Eckhart)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Venice Film Festival

Pan-European, polyglot film journalist Boyd van Hoeij, who runs the superb site, gives us the lowdown on the sometimes not so dolce vitta behind the scenes at the oldest and, according to Boyd, worst organised film festival in the world.

Read more +

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hal Hartley's back

Hal Hartley (pictured) has been named juror for Independent Exposure 2007, Microcinema International's touring short film and video festival, which enters its 12th Season. Says Hartley: "Independent Exposure is one of those cool and vital efforts at curatorship which helps new films get seen by audiences who seek out new forms of entertainment. Microcinema does a great job of pulling together exciting new work and I look forward to being the judge for the 2007 season."

Having lived in New York a great part of his film career, Hartley recently relocated to Berlin in Germany. And those who have been waiting for a new Hartley film for ages, here is the good news: he has just completed shooting his newest feature, Fay Grim , throughout Europe and Southern Asia with Parker Posey, Tom Ryan, Jeff Goldblum, James Urbaniak and others.

Hartley won the Young Filmmakers Award at the 1994 Tokyo International Film Festival for his film Amateur (1994), which was also premiered at the Cannes Director's Fortnight of that year. Retrospectives of his work have been presented at The Rotterdam Festival in 1992 and Gijon, Spain, in 2003. He won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes in 1998 for his film Henry Fool (1997) (see clip here +) and best screenplay at Sundance in 1991 for Trust (1990).

The director was made a Chevalier of arts and letters by the Republic of France in 1997 and taught filmmakingat Harvard University from September 2001 until May 2004. Shortly after that, he was awarded a fellowship by the American Academy in Berlin.

More about Hartley +

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mike Leigh's Sarajevo honour

British director Mike Leigh has been honoured at the Sarajevo Film Festival with the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo Award for his "outstanding contribution to the art of cinema and the support to the development of the Sarajevo Film Festival."

Read full story +

Monday, August 28, 2006

Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma clip

It was with much excitement that I came across Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma for quite while I was doing one of my archive-vulturing on Youtube.The clip is just over nine minutes long but it's well worth it and gives an idea of the complete piece's form.

Interview: Craig Chester

Is it still possible to put the words 'good' and 'film' together when it comes to contemporary gay cinema, or at least the films that get filed under the label anyway? In all honesty, a quick look at the world's main gay-themed film festivals and the occasional theatrical release and we are stared back by a tawdry collection of cheesy films about hustlers, fag hags and dykes in tight T-shirts trying to look edgy and sexy like that Trinity from the Matrix series.

'Some people seem to think that just because it's gay, therefore it's interesting', says actor, film writer and now also director Craig Chester (pictured), whose film Adam & Steve is a welcome break from the tacky norm described above. And that's no mean feat for a film that could be best described as a 'comedy about relationships', an indication that themes are irrelevant when the dressing is right and the director treats the material intelligently, without underestimating the targeted audience.

Adam & Steve gets off to a very funny start during a fateful night in a club in 1987. A couple of young goths, Adam (Chester himself, looking like a cross between The Cure's Robert Smith and Visage's Steve Strange) and Rhonda (the wonderful Parker Posey in a fat suit and a helmet hair cut), realise with disgust that the club they walked in is more 80s pop than 80s indie, a realisation clearly confirmed by a cheesy lycra-clad and baby-oiled dance troupe performing on stage. But still, when the lead dancer, Steve (played by Malcolm Gets) gives some attention – and drugs – to the clumsy, nervy goth after the show, Adam takes him back home and ends up having one of the most embarrassing situations of his life (let's just say it involves incontinence). Cut, or better, fade to a grey 2004 and the two older, more neatly dressed men cross each other's paths again, blissfully oblivious of their first encounter seventeen years before. Romance blooms, friends get distressed and jealous, but when one day a casual conversation hauls back the forgotten incident to the lit-up side Steve's memory, he freaks out and the couple battle it out in a line-dancing saloon. Yes, things do get deliciously silly and referential in Adam and Steve, but underneath the veneer of artifice, there is a real heart pulsing.

The 1980s, I say to Craig, seem to have had a strong impact on the imagination of queer filmmakers. Greg Araki, for instance, also used the eighties in his Mysterious Skin (2004). Is it because of all the gay sensitivity expressed by pop music during that period or because filmmakers in activity now were teenagers then and it's only natural that they hark back to that phase in their lives? "The 1980s were the last moment of individuality before the uniformity of the 1990s. Back then there was a real sense of rebellion. I moved to New York in 1985 and I remember how everything was more political," says Chester, who was born in California 41 years ago.

The film carries a pro-relationship message without being preachy. Why did he decide to tackle the topic? "I had been an actor in a lot of queer films during the 1990s. I had travelled with those movies and I saw a lot of gay couples in the audiences. I started to think, 'When are they going to make films about us? I've had boyfriends and relationships and I think these couples are not there on the screen," he says.

And why did he choose to make a comedy? "I love John Waters and Woody Allen and a certain type of comedy that somewhere along the line stopped being made. Comedies are great because they are anarchic and you can get away with a lot more. Besides, I didn't want to make the film too precious."

How about directing and acting in the same film? "The hardest part really was doing the musical numbers. But the stamina element of acting and directing was also difficult. At the end of the shooting everyone would go home and I had to stay back, rewriting scenes. I guess I didn't get more than three hours' sleep during the shooting, which lasted 22 days." But then Craig was working with a good friend (Posey), which must be nice... "Yes, we are really good friends, almost family. Our friendship goes back 15 years, like in Adam & Steve. She's a great source of inspiration, we're always exchanging ideas and we understand each other really well." Which is what the characters in Adam & Steve do: they understand, and accept, each other really, really well.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tom Cruise's fall from grace

Like a lot of independent and arthouse film lovers, it's with a strong sense of Schadenfreude (and pride for finally being able to use this word in the correct context!) that I have been watching the tacky exchanges between the Cruise and the Viacom money people. Is this perhaps the end of the era when A List stars can demand half of the budget of a film and leave the rest of the world gaping at the surrealness of their situation? It's time someone put a stop to the Hanks, Roberts and Cruises of the world and rechannel those astronomic salaries to the production of thousands of small-budget masterpieces! Ann Magnuson, of the LA Woman blog and someone who always tells it like it is, has published some interesting thoughts on the whole story. You can read them here +

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Jonas Mekas year-long film marathon

Jonas Mekas (pictured), that 83-year-old indefatigable veteran of art cinema activism who founded the New York Anthology Film Archives in 1970, has been hired by Apple’s video iPod to produce 365 short videos, releasing one a day, beginning September 15. Plus, he’ll be curating a downloadable series of classic shorts by experimental filmmakers and videos by the likes of Martin Scorsese, John Waters, Jim Jarmusch, and Abel Ferrara. You can sign up to receive updates about Mekas's Small Apple adventure on +

São Paulo International Short Film Festival

Those of you who can't make it to the 17th São Paulo International Short Film Festival, one of the biggest showcases of short films in the world, fret not. The excellent online exhibition platform, Porta Curtas, has teamed up with the festival to show part of the programme.

Enjoy it...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Kirsten Dunst's makeover

I know that make-up can do wonders for a Hollywood starlet, but this shot of Kirsten Dunst for the September cover of Interview magazine really takes the biscuit. It's a good job they have her name written really big on the page otherwise, who would have guessed? Anyway, she looks great...whoever she is...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Harmony Korine's video for Sonic Youth

Fans of Harmony Korine must be wondering what the Kids writer has been up to. Teaming up once again with his friend Macaulay Culkin, he made this quite sweet video for the band Sonic Youth. You can watch here.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Oliver Stone's World Trade Center

"In his new film, 'World Trade Center,' the director turns the events of 9/11 into an easily digestible myth of American heroism, with an almost happy ending. Huh?"

Anthony Kaufman,

Full story +

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

London's crumbling former cinema sites

The site dedicated to all things derelict in London called, you guessed it, Derelict London, is an internet idea that promises boundless material to work with. It includes a section on former cinema theatre sites. Pass the handkerchief...
(Pic: Walthamstow's Dominion)

Crumbling London film houses +

DVD review: Mysterious Skin

American queer cinema pioneer Greg Araki reaches artistic maturity (well, kind of) with MYSTERIOUS SKIN, based on the eponymous book by Scott Heim. Brian Lackey (Brady Corbett) believes he had been abducted by aliens when he was a child because he can’t remember what happened to him on two occasions when he was eight. Parallel to Brian’s story runs the story of Neil McCormick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hustler who is brought up by a single mother (superbly played by Elisabeth Shue) and who follows his best friend to New York in an attempt to get out of the provincial hellhole they were born in. The film is beautifully photographed, sometimes stage-y like one of Cindy Sherman’s ‘film stills’ and the atmosphere eerie a la David Lynch.

The film presents two different outcomes of the experience of paedophilia from the point of view of the victims, without, however, succumbing to the medieval hysteria that often clouds the issue. Araki is no Todd Haynes – another pioneer of the New Queer Cinema that gained momentum in the early 1990s– and there are moments when he slips on his tendency towards indie clichés and bad writing. But he does show here that he’s come a long way since The Living End (1992), his overwrought Aids road-movie that put him on the film world map.

Monday, August 07, 2006

DVD Release: Fassbinder collection

Rainer Wainer Fassbinder

In 1997, the New York MoMa ran a retrospective of the oeuvre of Rainer Wainer Fassbinder, the notorious maverick of the New German cinema in the 1970s, who had died during his sleep 15 years before the retrospective at the untimely age of 37. It was the institution's most successful retrospective ever. As we approach the 25th anniversary of Fassbinder's death, a UK DVD distribution company called Arrow Films is releasing on 07 August four of his most famous films (Fear Eats the Soul(1974), The Merchant of Four Seasons (1972), The Marriage of Maria Braun(1979) and The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant(1972)), including short films and documentaries as extra features. From February 2007 the company will be releasing 17 of his features in special edition boxes.

Considering the surprising success of Fasbinder's retrospective in America, where allegedly knowledge of German film history is bigger than in Germany itself, probably thanks to the 1,500 film studies departments across the country, is a symptom of a need for the type of direct, Brechtian, bold cinema that Fassbinder created. An original inventor of images, his name can be evoked to describe a type of filmic microcosm, the Fassbinderian film, since he represented a one-man movement who worked with a core group of people, mainly women, during his entire career, probably one of the reasons that he was so prolific. Although he died at 37, he nonetheless bequeathed the world over 40 films by an age when most film directors are only just getting started. His stamina, creative drive and imagination were astonishing.

Fassinder understood the human heart, says the film curator at the Moma, Laurence Kardish, in the documentary Love, Life and Celluloid which accompanies The Merchant of Four Seasons. People wanted to see his films and be provoked by them because they knew they were in safe hands, says Kardish. When you see a film like Fear Eats the Soul, where a middle-aged cleaner falls in love with a much younger Moroccan garage mechanic and has to face the ire of the racist and petty society where she exists, Fassbinder lifts a mirror at the audience who is forced to face their own fears and prejudices. Hugely inspired by Douglas Sirk, under whom he worked and who, in an ironic twist of fate, wrote Fassbinder's obituary in the German press when Sirk himself was pushing 90, Fassbinder used frames within frames and mirrors to create a sense of claustrophobia and entrapment. Such artifices have the effect of forcing the audience to feel the pressure of the architecture of their own preconceptions or the life they have chosen to live, the result being an exhilarating feeling of being freed from calcified ideas.

Todd Haynes, a famous Fassbinder fan whose film Far From Heaven was inspired by Fear Eats the Soul, is featured in an interview where he talks mostly about Fassbinder's adoption of melodrama as a strategy to dissect German society in a way that was not didactic like, for example, the films of Jean Luc Godard from the late 1960s onwards or the so-called 'radical cinema'. The Merchant of Four Seasons (1972) is a perfect illustration of that. Fassbinder's first commercial success and probably his most Sirkian film, it tells the story of Hans, a former foreign legionnaire who is outcast by his family for abandoning the idea of becoming an engineer to peddle fruit and vegetable from a cart. After a few initial hiccups with his wife (over boozing and philandering), the business starts to prosper (and the wife starts to cheat on him) but Hans becomes increasingly depressed and sullen. A masterpiece of mise-en-scène, this film is a perfect encapsulation of Fassbinder's vision: minutely calculated shot lengths, uniform lighting, dramatic use of customs, exaggerated acting and a bitter sense of humour that often denounces the corruption and exploitation that propels the dynamics of human relations.

It is said that all his films end tragically. It's true that there is a great deal of death and a sense that the human experience is a losing battle. But perhaps this appears to be so because we are so used to idea of happy endings and that art should serve our collective narcissistic project that tends to gloss over human flaws and weaknesses. An artist that questions those naturalised ideas of how humanity should be portrayed will undoubtedly be seen as 'radical' and negative. But there is a feeling of tenderness and compassion in Fassbinder that neutralises any accusations that he was nihilistic or misanthropic. In one of the interviews with Fassbinder himself, he says that his goal was to free people, a statement which comes across as surprisingly tender and earnest from a director with a reputation of being cruel and tempestuous. Seeing the director speak about himself puts him in a completely different light, quite different from the mythic haze that precedes him.

Despite the deeply German ethos of Fasbinder films, his understanding of emotions and motivations for action, whether clear or not, is completely universal, hence his popular appeal. Someone says in one of the documentaries that Fassbinder wanted to be as effective as Hollywood but not as hypocritical. This makes complete sense. His films are narrative pieces with a focus on storytelling but, whereas Hollywood turns stories into fake concoctions that never go under the skin, Fassinder's films pierce as deep as needles. His early death was an irreplaceable loss to cinema. As his friend and counterpart Wim Wenders puts it, you can only imagine what other films he would have made, especially considering the steady progression of his work throughout the 1970s and the very early 80s, culminating in the glossy, internationally starred Querelle. Still, what Fassbinder achieved in his short-lived career remains one of the most outstanding bodies of work any director has ever produced.