Thursday Editor’s Pick: Deep End (1970)

by on December 15, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick, Uncategorized

Playing Fri Dec 16 thru Thurs Dec 22 at 4:30, 6:50, 9:15 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]
*Mon Dec 10 shows at 4:30, 9:15

Long unavailable — like many films with ripping soundtracks, Deep End had suffered a sad fate of obscurity due to music-rights issues — it reappeared in 2007 in a beautiful new print at Anthology. If you weren’t lucky enough to catch it then, BAM offers you a full week of chances December 16-27.


Dan Callahan lays it all out for Alt Screen:

In all of the best work of the Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski, there is a barely-there surrealism in play that keeps his films excitingly unsteady, as if the goal posts were being moved from scene to scene. Even in a seemingly naturalistic setting like the London bathhouse of Deep End (1970), Skolimowski’s finest film, there is always a sense that something is not quite right; each moment is pregnant with a humorously deadpan, sometimes slaphappy, but still menacing possibility.

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Saturday’s Editor’s Pick: Gates of Heaven (1978)

by on July 23, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick, Uncategorized

Playing Saturday July 23 at 5:00 at the Museum of the Moving Image [Program & Tix]


When Gates of Heaven, a documentary about pet cemetery culture that was Errol Morris’s debut, was released in 1978, it launched the director’s idiosyncratic career. Speaking about its release to The Onion AV Club, Morris recounted:

When it was shown at the New York Film Festival, there was a newspaper strike in New York. So the movie wasn’t even reviewed by the major or even the minor New York papers. But we had a rough-cut screening at the Pacific Film Archive, and Wim Wenders was there, and when I asked him what he thought, he said, “Well, it’s really quite simple. It’s a masterpiece.” And that came as a complete shock. I mean, I liked the movie, but it hadn’t been clear how to put it together. We were editing in Emeryville, which is just south of Berkeley, in this one building where there were a lot of editors. It was next to a rendering factory.

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Thursday Editor’s Pick: Dial M for Murder (1954)

by on June 29, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick, Uncategorized

Playing thru Thurs June 30 at 2:00, 4:30, 7:00, 9:30 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]


Thursday is the last day of Film Forum’s ludicrously popular run of Hitchcock’s suspenser in its original double-system Polaroid 3-D format (FF is the only theater in town with the projection capabilites). “I enjoy it more every time I see it,” remarked François Truffaut, but what say others of Hitch’s dalliance with gimmick photography?


3-D aficionado Dave Kehr:

The film is confined almost entirely to a cramped apartment set—a constricted space that takes on a highly expressive quality in the picture’s original 3-D version…The screenplay tends to constrain rather than liberate Hitchcock’s thematic thrust, but there is much of technical value in his geometric survey of the scene and the elaborate strategies employed to transfer audience sympathy among the four main characters.

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Sunday Editor’s Pick: “Pennies From Heaven” (1981)

by on June 25, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick, Uncategorized

Playing Sun June 26 at 8:30 at Anthology Film Archives [Program & Tix]


The 70s musicals continue through this weekend at Anthology. A belated link to series programmer Leah Churner’s article, which asks,”What Happened to the Hollywood Musical?” over at Moving Image Source. Churner discusses the critical whiplash many of these attempts suffered, and today’s pick is no exception.


“I have never spent two more miserable hours in my life. Every scene was cheap and vulgar. They didn’t realize that the ’30s were a very innocent age, and that it should have been set in the eighties – it was just froth; it makes you cry it’s so distasteful,” Nathan Rabin quotes Fred Astaire’s horror over the 1981 American adaptation of the popular BBC mini-series in his column “My Year of Flops” for the Onion AV Club.


But Rabin’s got a counter or two:

Heaven bravely cast Steve Martin in his first dramatic role. Even more audaciously, it cast him as largely unsympathetic character. We Americans treasure our delusions. There’s something downright un-American about the notion that you can doggedly pursue your dreams, follow your heart, believe deeply and truly in the transformative powers of music and love, and still end up in a hangman’s noose for a crime you didn’t commit. And we like our dreamers pure-hearted and true, not sleazy, sordid, and ruled by sex and greed like Martin’s sad little schemer.


In a revelatory lead performance, Martin here plays a sheet-music salesman trapped in a loveless marriage with sour-faced scold Jessica Harper, a glowering, bible-thumping puritan who probably views even eyes-closed missionary sex between married adults as a shameful perversion punishable by an eternity of hellfire. To escape a barren home life and a career sputtering head-long into Nowheresville, Martin frequently breaks into giddy, kinetic fantasy sequences where he lip-synchs to Tin Pan Alley ditties and cavorts his way through production numbers worthy of MGM’s legendary Freed Unit.

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Tuesday Editor’s Pick: Lumière d’été (1943)

by on June 3, 2011Posted in: Uncategorized

Playing Tue June 7 at 12:30, 4:00, 7:30 at FIAF [Program & Tix]


The French Institute celebrates director Jean Grémillon on Tuesdays in the month of June, beginning this coming Tuesdays with a World War II ensemble of high emotion that provokes comparison to Rules of the Game (and survives them!),  Lumière d’été. Say the program notes, “Though sometimes obscured by his contemporaries, Marcel Carné, Jean Renoir, and René Clair, director Jean Grémillon’s legacy is secure with a rich body of work combining melodrama, history, politics, and of course, forbidden love.”


Though widely considered Grémillon’s best work, English-language commentary on Lumière d’été is few and far between (calling all eager film writers!). Allan Fish gets things started for the blog Wonders in the Dark:

It begins with a controlled explosion, miners in a valley in the Provencal mountains.  It’s summer, the sun is shining, all seems right with the world.  Yet this was 1943 and, in France more than anywhere, nothing was right with the world.  The Vichy occupation was at its height, and many of the creative talents of the era had either left for other climes or found their vision neutered by the Vichy censorship board.  Lumière d’Été, while not perhaps quite as good a film as Le Ciel est a Vous which followed it, is still Grémillon’s most densely layered film.  Other directors made excellent films in the Nazi occupation but if I was asked to name a film that summed up the Vichy mood better than any other, it would have to be Lumière d’Été.

What perhaps seems most remarkable in retrospect is that it wasn’t a play to begin with, for its mise-en-scène and design suggest it, quite deliberately in the masked ball sequence with allusions to numerous masters, not least Shakespeare with a drunken Roland wandering about dressed as Hamlet with the demeanour of his father’s ghost, murmuring “there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.”  The performances are all superb, with Renaud and Robinson (replacing Michèle Morgan, by then in Hollywood) perfect as the older and younger femmes and Brasseur having a whale of a time as the drunken artist who loathes everyone else nearly as much as himself.  Compared to La Règle du Jeu by Sadoul, despite plot similarities it isn’t quite on that level but it’s a film that bears its fatalism on its sleeve (the cynical title says it all) and includes a particularly brilliant flashback in which we don’t see what happened, but rather hear the sounds, accompanied by the shocked horrified faces of Renaud and Bernard in recollection.


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Femme Fatal Molly Haskell at The New School

by on April 6, 2011Posted in: Uncategorized


The Noir -tinged 1940s resulted in “the proliferation of women – broads, dames, and ladies in as many shapes and flavors, hard and soft centers as a Whitman sampler,” Molly Haskell asserted in her watershed 1973 book From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies. However, Haskell lamented, this proved a case of variety but no depth. The realm of postwar hardboiled pulp remained strictly preoccupied with male salvation, male rules, male stories, and male points of view (often delivered in first-person voiceover). In the rich, shadowy, morally ambiguous  terrain of the Noir the brazen, unscrupulous femme fatale was a masculine fantasy – or more nightmare – an anxiety-projection unfairly reduced to a  good-bad binary system; the woman was deemed “not fit to be the battleground for Lucifer and the angels; they are something already decided, simple, of a piece.” But amidst Hollywood’s rich feminine history of Hawskian heroines, singular screwballs, Pre-Code wisecrackers, and supreme forces of nature Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, it is the transgressive allure of the femme fatale that somehow continues to most fascinate and challenge feminists and film fans alike.

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New Media, NexT Waves and the Late, Great Filmmaking Duo of Cristian Nemescu and Andrei Toncu

by on April 5, 2011Posted in: Uncategorized


Alt Screen’s very own Paul Brunick is at the NexT Festival in Bucharest this week, leading several panel discussions on (what else?) publishing technology and the current state of arts journalism. Celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, the short film festival was founded in honor of belated director Cristian Nemescu and sound engineer Andrei Toncu, two breakout talents still several years shy of their thirtieth birthday when they died in a tragic car accident in 2006.


Nemescu is best known for his debut feature California Dreamin, winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Cineaste contributor Monica Filimon has penned a thoughtful epitaph on Nemescu’s career:

Almost a decade younger than these filmmakers [Cristian Mungiu, Cristi Puiu, and Corneliu Porumboui], Nemescu’s work embodies a different sensibility. For him, social and political reality takes second place to effervescent, playful storytelling. He chose to set shorts like Mihai and Cristina (2001) or C Block Story (2003) in ghettoized neighborhoods of Bucharest—the “products” of extensive demolition campaigns during Communism—but designed these tightly packed love stories as intensive visual and aural experiments. California Dreamin’, produced by the same crew, was a project started in 2004 but received insufficient state funds—the traditional source for young directors—and was made only in 2006, when a private studio stepped in. This film tames the formalistic boldness of Nemescu’s shorts, but allows flashes of the poetry and humor of his earlier works to percolate through its narrative.


The director’s narrative debut Mihai and Cristina (filmed at the tender age of 22) after the jump:
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Stop Thinking About it. Stop. No Really, Stop.

by on March 30, 2011Posted in: Uncategorized

A death spiral I am sadly familiar with:

“Brokering my own attention span is my attempt to reassert control. I will spend my attention wisely and get the most out of it by investing it wisely in things that will “reward” it. But I fear that expecting to profit from paying attention is a mistake, a kind of category error. Attention seems to me binary—it is engaged or it isn’t; it isn’t amenable to qualitative evalution. If we start assessing the quality of our attention, we get pulled out of what we were paying attention to, and pay attention to attention to some degree, becoming strategic with it, kicking off a reflexive spiral that leads only to further insecurity and disappointment. Attention is never profitable enough, never sufficient.”

[via The Daily Dish Beast]

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