Food-stuffed and lusty, Mamo reports on their second day at the Roger Ebert Film Festival 2015, with discussion of representation and mythology in cinema by way of Thursday’s “Challenging Stigma Through the Arts” panel, and Godfrey Cheshire’s excellent documentary, Moving Midway. Plus, our recommendation for local Mexican!
Orson Welles’ career is the stuff of legend – wunderkind Hollywood golden boy with Citizen Kane, then losing most of his subsequent films to studio interference, and eventually finding it impossible to raise enough money to even complete the films he wanted to make. By 1965 when he made Chimes at Midnight, the funding came from Spain and Switzerland, and the film barely got a release in the US. Even before becoming a big shot Hollywood actor/writer/director, Welles was already a noted Shakespearean scholar and actor, and in the late 1940s, his film output shifted to Shakespeare as well, with versions of Macbeth and Othello. He’d long intended to do a Falstaff story, combining the five plays featuring the characters – a stage version called Five Kings hadn’t quite gotten off the ground as early as 1939, then he staged it in 1960, when it was also unsuccessful. Undaunted, he focused on a film version, which became Chimes at Midnight (sometimes known as just Falstaff). Unlike many of his projects during his later career, Chimes at Midnight was finished, and finished pretty much according to Welles’ wishes.
Upon initial release, the film was dismissed by critics, but it has since gained a reputation as one of Welles’ greatest films – Welles himself felt it was his best work. Rights issues have plagued the film, however, and it’s been very difficult to see in any kind of decent quality (it is watchable on YouTube). Rumor has it that the print screened at TCM Fest (courtesy of Filmoteca España) will soon make its way to DVD/Blu-ray, which would be great. As of now, though, the people who saw it at TCM Fest have probably seen the best version of it since its original release.
As always, the Cannes Line-up is brimming with promise and the leading qualities of World Cinema. Joel and Ethan Coen are heading up this years jury, and they have new films from Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Yorgo Lanthimos, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Todd Haynes, Paolo Sorrentino, Gus Van Sant, Denis Villeneuve and Jia Zhang-Ke in the Official Competition on which to pick the Palm D’Or Winner.
Emmanuelle Bercot’s Standing Tall is the fest opener and not in competition. Also out of competition is George Miller’s Fury Road, Pixar’s Inside/Out, this year’s Woody Allen film, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest, Journey To The Shore, and in her debut as director, a film from Natalie Portman.
The full line-up is tucked under the seat.
It’s a Mamo walk-and-talk, live on the streets of Champaign Illinois! We’ve returned to the Roger Ebert Film Festival for the third time, and take the opportunity to roundly question the validity of Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye To Language. We’ll report in a few more times over the next couple days as we work our way through this year’s program. Plus, recommendations for pie!
Would you like to know more…?
Kurt and Andrew discuss the filmography of Noah Baumbach in light of his latest midlife-crisis dramedy, While We’re Young. *SPOILERS* abound, but also there are many tangents on parenting and childless relationships, raising chickens indoors, cultural appropriation and a plea to stop with the ‘can a documentary be truth’ conversation that should have ended a decade ago. Otherwise, we like the movie.
“Game of Thrones” is back, and we break down the opening episode scene by scene (*SPOILERS*). Kurt flips out about how stagnant the Mother of Dragons thread of the show has become, but otherwise, we are immensely excited to have the HBO’s most popular show back on the table for weekly discussion.
Andrew is doing the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival, and discussions on a couple of the titles, including The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared (tangents on Forrest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as well as a quite detailed love-in for The Clouds of Sils Maria (with lengthy tangents on the career of Olivier Assays, Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart).
On the Watch List, Andrew watches both Gone In Sixty Seconds movies back to back, and we tangent briefly about Death Proof and the year 1974 as it applies to car-chase movies. While we are in the 1970s, we also take a long look at Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and its lasting effect on horror, sex scenes and the fracturing of space and time through editing.
Kurt also talks briefly about Ardman Studio’s Shaun The Sheep as well as the Trevor Noah documentary, You Laugh, But It’s True (with a further tangent on the current South Africa injection into American culture.)
Message: There are lots of side-tangents in this free-flowing episode of the Cinecast. As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
The concept for György Pálfi Free Fall holds so much promise: a woman climbs the stairs of an apartment building and we get a glimpse of what’s going on behind the doors of an apartment on each floor. It’s a great set-up for an anthology film though here, Pálfi and collaborating directors Gergely Pohárnok and Zsófia Ruttkay take on all seven stories and the result is exactly what most other anthology films deliver: a mixed bag.
The set-up is interesting enough; the aforementioned old lady climbs the stairs of her apartment building to the roof, jumps off and lands on the road with a splat. Minutes later she stands up, brushes herself off and goes back into the building where’s she’s forced to walk up the stairs because the elevator is being serviced. There’s no explanation as to how or why she’s doing this but it does turn out to be one of the more interesting and entertaining aspects of Free Fall. As she climbs, we get a glimpse at what’s unfolding behind the doors and it ranges in everything form a Korean sitcom to a woman having a baby shoved back into her stomach.
A few years ago, French Canadian director Maxime Giroux appeared like a beacon of light on the radar of Canadian film. Jo for Jonathan, his second feature, a moody and sombre family drama about two brothers at odds with each other, was a standout of the year and ever since, the anticipation of the director’s follow-up has been rising. Through this expectant fog emerges Felix and Meira and though it stumbles a little, it doesn’t disappoint.
Another family drama, Felix and Meira centers on two disparate people each locked in their own familial struggles. Felix is the black sheep of the family, having run away and been disowned by his father. At the beginning of the film he is struggling with the recent passing of his estranged father – a passing that didn’t allow for Felix to make amends with his dad. Meira is a somewhat dutiful Hasidic Jewish wife and mother. Somewhat because there’s a rebellious streak to Meira: she draws, she listens to forbidden music and perhaps her most grievous offence is that she takes birth control pills. She’s unhappy but faithful to her husband until an encounter with Felix pulls her out of her shell and her quiet life.
The relationship between the two lost souls begins innocently enough. Felix gives Meira pictures he’s dawn, plays albums for her and takes her about the city. It’s a friendship that feels heavy with unspoken romance. Eventually the relationship morphs into a more typical romance but Felix and Meira is at its best when the relationship between the titular characters is budding. Hadas Yaron as Meira and Martin Dubreuil as Felix have an easy connection and the pair are wonderful together, sharing stolen moments that feel at once insignificant and like their every bit of being depends on them. Giroux captures these moments beautifully.
The eponymous image of Clouds of Sils Maria features a heavenly mist snaking its way through mountain peaks like a river, the rocks frozen in time, immutable, the clouds in perpetual motion. It is shown as shot for Olivier Assayas 2014, and the characters in the film at one point watch the 1924 Arnold Fank silent, black and white short documentary The Cloud Phenomena of Maloja. The technology and aesthetics have changed, but filmmaking keeps on rumbling chaotically along as the images captured become fixed and un-aging objects.
No matter how many films Assayas makes, he cannot help himself from being a film critic. As with many of the auteur directors of the French New Wave a generation or more before him, he wrote for Cahiers Du Cinema before becoming a hot-shot young director. Throughout his career he has often made films that examine the business, chaos and soul of filmmaking, in France and abroad. Irma Vep had New Wave icon Jean Pierre Leaud playing an addled director who casts Maggie Cheung out the Hong Kong action cinema of Johnnie To and Jackie Chan and dropped her onto a dysfunctional Parisian film set to shoot an avant-garde remake of iconic french serial Les Vampires and Demon Lover wrapped a tangled corporate thriller around the global video and web distribution rights of anime tentacle pornography.
Regardless of what subjects the director tackles, what is interesting about his cinema is that he has always favored actors and performances to allow his ideas to flow out onto the screen over cinematography and editing. His films breathe.
Lately, Assayas has been pre-occupied with age and youth, and has left behind, mostly, any genre trappings to make films about the passage of time and how it changes people. In Clouds of Sils Maria, he has Juliette Binoche playing a fictional version of herself named Maria Enders. An actress at a point in her career where she is an international movie star who did a stint in Hollywood blockbusters before returning to the European art house and stage. A young director asks her to appear in his revival of the play that made her famous, only this time she will be playing the broken-down wealthy businesswoman part instead of the aggressive and domineering young personal assistant who sexually dominates her boss and the stage. The play in the film bears remarkable similarity to Alain Corneau’s final film, Love Crime (which was recently remade by Brian DePalma as Passion).
For all of us who feel Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump is a sentimental, condescending insult to cinema audiences everywhere, and Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is not any better, we finally have an entry into ‘the man who fumbles successfully through history’ nano-genre to call our own. Do not let the maladroit title fool you, Felix Herngren’s big screen adaptation of the bestselling novel by Jonas Jonasson, is a Swiss-fucking-watch in the plotting department, and savagely amusing in its come-what-may temperament. It sneaks up on you in similar ways as Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters even as it dazzles you with the sweep of history.
After a tone-setting and highly unfortunate incident involving a sweet kitty, a hungry fox and a bundle of dynamite, one of cinemas strangest heroes, Allan Karlsson, finds himself confined to a retirement home on the eve his centenary year on this little planet called Earth. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared (hereafter The 100 Year Old Man) is the delightfully absurd story of our eponymous very senior citizen who does indeed bail out the open glass portal of his tiny room right on the day while the nurses are attempting to count and light all those candles on his marzipan cake, but it is also the story of us as a conflicted and nutty species.