Friday, March 30, 2007

A Rendez-vous with French Cinema

Our friends from A Rendez-vous with French Cinema, which started yesterday and goes until Sunday, 1 April, have rung in to say that they will take time on Friday March 30 (that will be today!) to celebrate up and coming acting talent with a special on stage presentation at the Curzon Mayfair prior to the 6.00 pm screening of Guillaume Canet’s Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne).

Actor/director Jean-Marc Barr and director/screenwriter Pascal Arnold will introduce the following actors on stage :

Amira Casar: a César nominee as Best Newcomer, her credits incluide Breilllat’s Anatomy of Hell and Thomas Gilou’s Would I Lie to You ?
Sara Forestier: has worked with Blier and Lelouch, having made her début in Abdellatif Kechiche’s much admired L’Esquive, winning a Best Newcomer César
Georges Babluani: best known for his work with his brother Géla Babluani in 13 Tzameti and Legacy

Emilie Dequenne: made her début in the Dardennes’ Rosetta, winning the 1999 Best Actress prize ex aequo in Cannes, and worked with Claude Berri in Une femme de ménage.

Louis Garrel: worked with Huppert in Ma Mère, was in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, and won the Best Newcomer César for his part in his father Philippe’s Les amants réguliers
Joana Preiss: in Assayas’ section of Paris je t’aime and Clean, as well as Honoré’s Ma Mère

Tom Riley: English born star of the recently released I Want Candy, seen opposite Juliette Binoche in A Few Days in September.

Luke Treadaway: made his début in Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s Brothers of the Head.

In addition to screenings of the best of the new French films, A Rendez-vous with French Cinema will have diverse programme of masterclasses, meetings, and screenings of short films. This event is organised by Unifrance, the organisation dedicated to promoting French cinema abroad, in association with the French Embassy and the French Institute in London and the Curzon Mayfair cinema.

Rendez-vous with French Cinema +

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Runa Islam

British film artist Runa Islam has told Frieze magazine which films have influenced her most. Carl Dreyer's Joan of Arc (1928) has a place of prominence in Islam's film catechism book.

Full article +

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fast Food Nation

Not too long into Richard Linklater's multi-threaded fictionalised version of Eric Schlosser's 2001 best-selling book Fast Food Nation, Don Henderson, the marketing man played by Greg Kinnear who works for Michey's Fast Food Restaurant, home of the 'Big One', says to Bruce Willis' piggy Republicanist middleman: "The situation is bleak". Despite the humour that buoys the scene, the sentence resonates like metal because the assertion finds its its referential in the real world, where the violent tragedy behind the fast food economy takes place, perhaps the industry that symbolises most precisely the ugly face of the accelerated capitalism currently dominating the world and destroying it in the process.

Linklater worked with Schossler on the adaptation of the book and the choice of fictionalising the documentary primary text was right: the film is more engaging for that and more emotional, bearing all the hallmarks of Linklater's ingenious way of constructing narratives and timing dialogues. It would be redundant to render the book to film literally; it would risk turning into another 'crockumentary' (to borrow Godard's description of Michael Moore's style) considering its central theme. Fiction is more efficient to carry ideas and as a way to illustrate a reality that increasingly looks like science fiction. It also gave Linklater space to bring up the central moral point of the film: the cruelty against the animals used as prime matter for this type of food, the most painful aspect of the film that passes through one of the thorniest moral dilemmas of our times.

Fast Food Nation is structured as a triptych, each one focusing on the human cogs that make the processing machine move. We start with the Mexican illegal immigrants paying their way into the United States to find work in meat packing plants. Here we meet Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno, the expressive actress from Maria Full of Grace, 2004) who is the symbolic heart of the film. Then we meet the industry insiders represented by Kinnear's marketeer who goes to the fictional town of Cody in Colorado to look into a supposed faecal contamination of the meat at the packing unit in the town. The third narrative strand is set among the teenagers who face the public at Mickey's - or white America - protagonised by Amber (Ashley Johnson) and Brian (Paul Dano). It could be argued that the animals locked up in concentration camp conditions in the vast, soulless factory cattle farms, form a fourth narrative strand. The stories never really overlap but are glued together by this capitalist superstructure that sucks everyone in, like a gigantic black hole.

Despite the overall grimness, there are flashes of humour and perhaps hope, although the analogy between human powerlessness and bovine existence is quite clear, exemplified by the frustrated attempt by a group of college students (including one played by Avril Lavigne) to liberate the animals from their confinement - the sedated beasts simply don't move. It's not subtle, as aren't the politically correct cameos delivered by Ethaw Hawke's hippish uncle to Amber and Kris Kristofferson's eco-rancher who gives Kinnear a lesson in manufacturing. But Fast Food Nation has a point to make and it does, as directly as possible.

There is a strangeness and a feeling of desolation that permeates the emotional texture of the film, as if it was set in a gigantic hospital. The scenes in the slaughterhouse provide the strong drama moments, the axis from which everything else hangs. Deeper feelings of sympathy are placed on the immigrants and the animals, the ones really trapped in the belly of the beast. Fast Food Nation is bound to be disliked by many, but no one can doubt the messages it conveys and the integrity of its director.

Fast Food Nation is out now.

YouTube awards

The title says it all...


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday

The 21st London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the UK's third largest film festival, starts this Wednesday, 21 March. Among the feature film highlights this year are Beyond Hatred, a documentary that charts the aftermath of a homophobic murder, the Danish drama A Soap, about the relationship between a beautiful girl and her transsexual neighbour, and the Argentinian production Glue (pictured), which won top jury and audience awards at the 2006 Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Film.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Brazilian video at the Tate

A short post to let you all know that I have curated a season of Brazilian video art for the Tate Modern in London and which will be shown at the Starr Auditorium between Friday 23 March and Sunday 25. The videos cover a period of 25 years (1981-2005). The event, called Video Links Brazil kicks off on Friday with a programme of videos from the 1980s, the decade when video art took root in the country. Saturday will focus on works produced from the 1990s onwards and brings together an ecclectic selection of videos by fine artists as well as by those working exclusively with video. Sunday is devoted to documentaries, including one video about Brazil's famous Serial Kisser and a film from the Video in the Villages project, which works with aboriginal peoples in Brazil to help them produce their own images and represent themselves.

Hope to see there.

(Image credit: Heróis 2, TVDO, 1987-2003)


Thursday, March 15, 2007

China vice

The guys who founded Vice magazine went on a trip to China and here's the video of it:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A tube ride will never be the same...

Watch this +

Woody Allen to make film in Barcelona

"For some cities and countries, having Woody Allen making a film there is like a papal visit," Adam Dawtrey, the European editor of Variety magazine, said.

Full article +

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Milla Jovovich's fashion shoot

Resident Evil's star and super model of the world Milla Jovovich has got to have the most interestingly cinematic faces in the world. The combination of Eastern European looks with American attitude (plus that magnificent pair of eyes) is a killer. Someone has to direct a great art film with her one day.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Time Out New York

Time Out New York has compiled a sequence of YouTube videos with "25 memorable moments in Gotham music". Although music-focused, the list also contains excerpts from films.

Gotham music +

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Charles Atlas at London's Optronica

Video pioneer and now VJ extraordinaire Charles Atlas brings his collaboration with musician/ electronic composer Christian Fennesz, to London, between 14 and 18 March, during the second biannual Optronica festival. Charles mixes video live using film footage, prepared clips and improvised collage. The recipient of the 2006 John Cage Award, Atlas is perhaps best known for his work with choreographers such as Michael Clark, Leigh Bowery, and Merce Cunningham, which have won him three Bessie (New York Dance and Performance) Awards. Optronica is a 'visual music' festival taking place at the British Film Institute's Southbank and Imax spaces, as well as the Institute for Contemporary Art. The line-up also includes the UK premiere of Peter Greenaway's Tulse Luper VJ performance, among many other attractions.

Speaking of Greenaway, the fallen angel of post-modern baroque cinema, has a Myspace page. His tagline is bafflingly amusing: "Cinema is not a playground for Sharon Stone." Poor Sharon, what has she done to him? Now, why is it that cinema can be a playground for Helen Mirren, but not for the France-loving Stone? He also says, with no hint of modesty: "Film is dead, I tried to save it, didn't work out...enjoy your psycho-dramatic linear narrative you bloody philistines. "

Optronica +

Peter Greenaway on Myspace +

Monday, March 05, 2007

It's not a colour but a quality issue

I was reading my favourite newspaper over the weekend, the International Herald Tribune (inspired, of course, by Godard's insertion of the title in À bout de souffle), when an article about international distribution of Hollywood films with black stars caught my attention. The gist of the article was that such films don't do well abroad and used the case of Dreamgirls (pictured left) which has grossed $100 million and has sold 'only' $28 million worth of tickets in foreign lands, as a case in point. One industry insider interviewed went as far as to name 'international' (as in 'international markets') 'the new South' because in the old days black films didn't travel down South within the US. The article does mention some success stories, such as Bad Boys (with Will Smith) and Déjà Vu (with Denzel Washington), but underlines flops like Hustle & Flow, Are We There Yet? and Last Holiday as examples of the failure cases where racism may have been the causal factor.

But this is clearly a case of crying wolf. The article in premised in the assumption, or America's utter conviction, that any national artifact is apt for global consumption, even in the case of films heavily coded with regional signs as the ones mentioned. Secondly, and most importantly, is the sheer awfulness of such films - doesn't it occur to them that some films don't do well abroad because they are not sound for consumption as a consequence of their excessive mediocrity? To me, the article seemed like a case of the empire playing the underdog card and such posturing doesn't strike convincing at all.

Read full article +

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Kenneth Anger article

Tom Gunning has written an insightful article about Kenneth Anger for ArtForum magazine.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

NFT shows Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo

There's a good excuse to make that inevitable trip to the National Film Theatre in London this April. El Topo (1970), Alejandro Jodorowsky’s uncut cult masterpiece will screen at the venue on April 6 and then at cinemas nationwide.

A bizarre, ultra-violent, allegorical Western, EL Topo is set in two halves that have been compared to the Old and New Testaments of the bible. In the first half, Jodorowsky plays a violent, black-clad gunfighter who, accompanied by his naked son, sets off on a murderous mission to challenge four zen masters of gunfighting, and learns from each of them a Great Lesson before they die. In the second half, El Topo sets out to find personal redemption, secluding himself in a subterranean community to learn the ways of peace, but unfortunately death is never far away.

El Topo paved the way for cult favourites such as Eraserhead, The Harder They Come and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were huge fans of the film and pushed Allen Klein (then Beatles manager) to buy it for distribution, and subsequently to finance Jodorowsky’s next film The Holy Mountain (1973) which will also screen at the NFT alongside Fando & Lis (1968). All three films have been digitally restored and remastered, under the close supervision of the director himself, who will give an onstage talk at the NFT on April 13.

Jodorowsky at the NFT+