Fri, July 29: POSSESSED (Clarence Brown, 1931; above)
Factory toiler Joan Crawford gets a surreal peek at the right side of the tracks in the above clip from Possessed (1931). The champagne train of vividly cinematic vignettes seems as good a metaphor as any for our third weekly tour of Film Forum’s epic Essential Pre-Code series.
The ninth-annual Premiere Brazil! festival (which opens tonight at the Museum of Modern Art) programs the best of a thriving national cinema that should be on the radars of serious cinephiles and casual fans of Portuguese pop alike. Curated in collaboration with the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, the programming mixes mainstream entertainment with gallery-installation crossovers and sweeping political documentaries. Most of the films have never screened in the U.S. before–and won’t again any time soon.
Craft (Riscados) is playing Thursday July 14 at 8:00, Friday July 22 at 4:00, and Sunday July 24 at 2:00.
The opening-night selection Craft (2010) belongs to — and plays against — a long tradition of “backstage melodramas.” Its story of an aspiring actress (Karine Teles) moonlighting as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator nods to a classic of the genre, All About Eve (1950), but its style is closer to the verite-contemporary aesthetic of the recent and underrated Applause (2009).
Undiscovered acting talent Bianca (Teles) has her her eyes on the stars and her feet in the gutter as she trudges through humiliating commercial promotions and ribbon-cutting events. Her Big Break arrives at an audition for an upcoming French-Braziliain co-production, where she goes over so well with the film maker that he decides to re-write the role based on her own life.
Craft‘s handheld direction trails the characters as they move through gritty everyday environments, giving the strong ensemble cast the time and space to flesh out their performances. The technique makes for a strong stylistic counterpoint to the classic Hollywood allusions–Marilyn Monroe’s breathy Happy Birthday routine is restaged alongside Carmen Miranda’s iconic banana number from The Gang’s All Here–giving old-fashioned clichés a nicely ironic frisson.
Lions, and Sequins, and Mermaids, Oh My! While we aim to spread even dollops of exposure to New York’s many film venues here at Alt Screen, there is no denying that this weekend, the Museum of the Moving Image is where its at. One of the most glorious aspects of the Museum’s return this January (after a 2-year renovation) is the revival of the annual “Fashion and Film Festival.” And this year’s edition, subheaded “Birds of Paradise.” may be their most inspired venture yet. The Queens commute and sashay down Steinway Street may be an unenticing prospect on this fine Spring weekend, but an oasis of glamour and high camp those who boldly dare.
Just got back from the NexT International Film Festival late last night and, not withstanding a little jetlag, I’m feeling pretty good. The new-media and arts-journalism panels I spoke on were informative and surprisingly fun, and I enjoyed getting to know my roundtable colleagues. Two young Bucharest-based critics–Luiza Vasiliu of the city’s alternative weekly Dilema veche (“The Old Dilemma”) and Cristi Luca of Observator Cultural and Tabu–made me feel particularly welcome. Many thanks to them and to Letitia Stefanescu, Ada Solomon and Andrei Gorzo for their generous invitation.
I also made fast friends with co-panelist and Parisian critic-cum-filmmaker Jacky Goldberg (truly the most un-French name imaginable), a reviewer for the uber-hip Les Inrockuptibles where he writes about everything from international auteur cinema to Hollywood studio comedies. Jacky was a peerless partner-in-crime and endless source of amusement, and not only because of his accent (“Thees feelm is colled Thee Leetle Luvfurs“) or trans-Atlantic enthusiasms (his generation’s answer to Jerry Lewis: Nicolas Cage). He also dropped some great anecdotes, including one from an interview with Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch) wherein the director cited the late-18th-century painter Jacques-Louis David as a major influence: “David is great. He’s like the Michael Bay of French neoclassicism.”
I'm happy again and like myself: 100 years of Gene.
The decadent realism of Hollywood's favorite sadist.
Traveling through time and space at NYC's upstart experimental film fest.