Monday, February 26, 2007

Harmony Korine's Mister Lonely

Kamera's newswire has been notified that Harmony Korine's new project (his third film), Mister Lonely, has gone into post-production - whether that means it will be hitting the screening theatres any time soon is another story, although we have also been notified that Tartan will be spreading the love in the UK, so the chances are good. So, all those rumours about a comune of impersonators in Scotland are true, as far as the story in the this film goes. Here's the description sent to us (plus picture):

"A Michael Jackson impersonator (DIEGO LUNA) lives alone in Paris and performs on the streets to make ends meet. At a performance in a retirement home, Michael falls for a beautiful Marilyn Monroe look-alike (SAMANTHA MORTON), who suggests he move to a commune of impersonators in the Scottish Highlands. At the seaside castle, Michael discovers everyone preparing for the commune's first-ever gala - Abe Lincoln, Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Stooges, the Queen, the Pope, Madonna, Buckwheat, Sammy Davis. And also Marilyn's daughter Shirley Temple and her possessive husband Charlie Chaplin (DENIS LAVANT)."

MISTER LONELY, we were also told, was filmed in Scotland, Panama and France. The cast is more stellar than you would expect: Diego Luna, Samantha Morton, James Fox, Denis Lavant all ring in to boost their indie credits. More fun members of the cast include Anita Pallenberg and Werner Herzog, who also appeared in Korine's previous effort, Julien Donkey Boy.

Oscars 2007

Here are the results of the Oscars 2007.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Screening: The Hermitage Dwellers

Our friends at the Goethe-Institut have informed The Filter about an upcoming screening next Tuesday at their London branch that caught my attention. So here's the info sent in:

TUE 27 FEB 2007 7PM



Netherland 2006, colour, 72 mins. Directed by Aliona van der Horst.

With English subtitles.

"Not the art, but the people who work in the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg are the focus of this documentary film. These Hermitage dwellers all have their own very personal reasons for considering the palace of Catharine the Great their "home." For them, it is a safe haven that quite literally has managed to keep the cruel Soviet history outside its walls. What starts out as a playful kaleidoscope of people and events in the museum gradually unfolds into a poignant account of how the dwellers’ pain is transformed by their intimate relationship with a piece of art.

We meet with several "Hermitage-niks"—including Olga Bogdanova, the head of museum maintenance, icon curator Alexandra Kostsova, museum attendant Valentina Barbashova, and art handler Vadim Kuptsov, among others—each of whom explains their own very personal reasons for considering the palace of Catherine the Great their "home."

For Russians the Hermitage is regarded as a place of pilgrimage. For these workers, however, the Hermitage has also been a safe haven from the tumultuous events of Russian history and the hardships of contemporary Russian life. Indeed, each of them explains how their personal traumas and difficulties have been transformed by having developed an intimate relationship with a favorite piece of art. For them, surrounded everyday by remarkable beauty, the Hermitage has become a place of emotional healing.

For Vadim, formerly in the military in Azerbaijan, where he saw things that no one back home would believe, his job is a tonic for his troubled soul. He likes to look at Rembrandt's Prodigal Son because "it's about forgiveness." Valentina was an atomic engineer who lost her job in the wake of Perestroika. She supplements her meager pension by working as an attendant at the museum and spends many days in the company of Sweert's Portrait of a Young Man, whose subject was as impoverished as she is. Juna Zek is a metalworks curator who admires the precious collection assembled by Catherine the Great and walks through the rooms where she once slept. Alexandra, aged 82, is an icon curator who has spent her entire life rescuing inestimable icons from destruction. Finally, seventy-six-year-old Olga is the unofficial czarina of the Hermitage who runs her department with a firm hand.

THE HERMITAGE DWELLERS also uses archival footage to reveal that while this revered institution has usually managed to keep twentieth-century history outside its walls-from the Revolution, the terror of Stalin, WWII, and the harsh post-Soviet years-these events have also left their indelible mark on the museum.

The film traverses throughout this vast complex, gliding up staircases and through grand exhibit halls, showing curators at work in storage rooms filled with rare art works, groups of tourists and schoolchildren gazing up in wide-eyed wonder, staff members dining and dancing at a Victory Day celebration, and, of course, many of the world-famous paintings and artifacts on display."

Goethe-Institut London+

Independent Spirit Awards

The winners of the Independent Spirit Awards will be announced today. Here's a link to the list of nominees +

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story

Todd Haynes' cult classic, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, has caused more controversy than its length and content deserve and is one of those genuine cases of a cultural artifact that is more spoken about than actually seen.

The 1987 43-minute film shows the immense talent that Haynes was to further develop with robust films such as Poison(1991), Safe(1995)and the more mainstream, imitation-of-Douglas Sirk Far From Heaven. The film covers Karen Carpenter's life from tthe beginning of her career, ignited by ther ambitious brother, to her premature death in 1983, a result of her years of anorexia nervosa and bulimia. So far, so biopic. But what made Haynes' film stand out and catch the attention of the world to his talent was the technique employed here: the cast of the film is composed of Barbie dolls - talk about Brechtian alienation!

Sets were created properly scaled to the dolls, including places such as the Carpenter home in Downey, Karen's apartment in Century City, restaurants, recording studios. This is mingled with documentary-style segments detailing the times in which Karen Carpenter lived and also detailing anorexia.

The difficulty is getting hold of this film stems from the fact that Haynes lost a lawsuit filed by Karen's brother and musical partner, Richard Carpenter, who is portrayed in a less than sympathetic light in Superstar. How he came across this then-underground film is to anyone's guess. The fact is, the litigation only helped boost the film's deserved cachet because it is an inventive work of imagination, as well as sympathetic to the subject it portrays, despite its overall dark tone.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Grindhouse, the latest

The blog Solace in Cinema has posted news about the Tarantino and Rodriguez double whammy, due out on April 6 in America, Grindhouse (don't worry, if you hadn't heard about this project, neither had I). The latest news is that the final poster seems to be ready and that The Weinstein Company will be splitting up the film into two pieces in foreign territories because of their lack of tradition in double bills. The distributors fear those non-English speaking audiences will not get the concept, or perhaps that they are not post-modern enough.

But there's a petition against the split.

Full article +

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Paranoia show

For those with a little spare time in their hands and willing to slip off to the Freud Museum in London, check out the show Paranoia which is currently on display at the venue in the north west of the city. Yours truly contributed a text to the show's catalogue, using the blog format as inspiration.

Berlin's 2007 winners

Here's a link to this year's results in BERLIN +

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Factory Girl's homophobic overtones

I haven't seen Factory Girl yet, but for me reason I have already taken such a dislike for it that I thought it worthwhile to link to an article in Slate Magazine, a publication that surely tell it like it is, making a scathing review of this film, due out in the UK on 16 March.

"Factory Girl isn't just a bad movie, it's a 90-minute insult to the culture it pretends to be capturing, and what I really want to say—as I would almost never say of anything I see or read or listen to—is that I hated it."
Jim Lewis

Full article +

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Recent discovery: Margaret Tait

Yesterday I published this article to coincide with the DVD release of a compilation with the short films by the late Scottish film poet Margaret Tait (pictured, left). The article appeared on

"The term film-poem is the most apt description of the work of the late Scottish director and writer Margaret Tait, whose visual compositions were positively Zen and sometimes whimsical visual distillations of everyday life. They also have a handmade feel and look about, which enhances their sense of intimacy. Apart from being a poet, Tait is now seen as a forerunner of the British experimental scene of the late 20th century, having worked in relative isolation for decades on the island of Orkney, Scotland and Edinburgh, where her Ancona Films company was based, at Rose Street to be precise. This DVD compilation and the accompanying reader (called Subjects and Sequences) represent an important step by the distribution leg of the Lux in London to keep alive the memory of Tait's legacy. She died in Kirkwall in 1999.

Born in 1918 in Kirkwall on Orkney, Scotland, Margaret Tait qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University 1941. That was followed by a stint at the Centro Sperimentale di Photographia in Rome between 1950 and 1952 where she came into contact with Italian Neo-Realism. In the 1960s Tait moved back to Orkney where over the following decades she made a series of films inspired by the Orcadian landscape and culture. She financed all but three of her films and also produced several books including three titles of poetry.

Watching the seven short films included in this compilation is an experience comparable to contemplation and meditation. Her experimentalism is not overtly cerebral and conceptualist, although she often adheres to the structural rules of poetry, with great emphasis on rhythm, rhyming and sound syncronicity. But Tait didn't seem to be using the medium of film as a conveyor of theoretical formulations. You get the impression that she was a rather instinctive artist very much atuned to the here-and-now, her surroundings. Besides, she had no hurry to complete her films - some of them were shot of the course of years. Titles like Where I Am Is Here (1964) and Portrait of Ga(1952), a stunning portrait of her mother, indicate where her interests were, although, as open texts, her films can be interpreted according to each viewer's own experience.

In Tait's work, even the human figure becomes a metaphor and shares on equal terms with everything else its position in the realia of her films. In her view of the world, things and beings come together on the poetic plane, with no difference between them. This creates a wonderful sense of completeness, of life being looked at for what it is, of perfectly balanced inclusion. Tait often quoted Federico Lorca's phrase of 'stalking' the image to define her philosophy and method. In other words, if you look at an object closely enough it will speak its nature, and that's what Tait's kino-eye attempts to reveal. quite often successfully. The type of cinema championed by the Scottish director shows that when the moving image strays from the service to story-telling, it can take the viewer to unexpectedly novel places."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Empire State

If you've never seen Andy Warhol's Empire (1964) eight-hour film, worry not. You can catch something similar that lasts indefinitely here +

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Coming up: Fast Food Nation

After a lovely break in Brazil, I'm finally back on the blogosphere and I'll start posting again with a preview of Richard Linklater's much-anticipated fictionalised rendition of Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation, which is coming to the UK soon. To put succintly, I'm happy to recommend it. The film opened to mixed reviews in America last November, but in my view it has been criticised for the wrong reasons, such as narrative strands that lead to no conclusion, a criticism that misses the point. It is a bleak film that, despite its specific take on the fast food industry, touches on several topics pertinent to globalised capitalism, making it holistic and transnational in relevance. Full review around the time of its 23 March release. Meanwhile catch some video excerpts of the production:

Fast Food Nation's official site +