Cinecast Episode 184 – Death Lottery

The 4 hour barrier is broken as The Documentary Blog’s Jay Cheel joins Kurt and Andrew on the longest Cinecast ever – you know it is even longer than the previous epic length TIFF show. What do we talk about? For starters, Kurt & Jay examine the Let The Right One In remake, Let Me In (*SPOILERS*), in painstaking detail, and how not to process American remakes of foreign language films. Next we move along for a solid hour on Never Let Me Go (*SPOILERS*) which keeps going on the vibe of comparing source material to eventual film adaptation and why you probably should not do that. More Carey Mulligan talk as Andrew skims and sums up Wall Street 2 with out spoilers. Then, a spoiler-free discussion on Catfish follows, although only Jay caught it, so it is more of a discussion on fake/faux-Documentaries, and ‘narrative-ethics’ which leads to more more talk on I’m Still Here, with a little Last Exorcism and The Blair Witch Project to round things out. Next we move along to the avant garde and barely-narrative Cannes Palme D’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and a lot of other films we watched: An overview of the “Middletown” documentary series, a bit of Daybreakers-Redux, a bit of Season 6 of “LOST” (you guessed it, with *SPOILERS*), and more avant garde cinema with Last Year At Marienbad. We also debate the finer points of Steve Buscemi and the cast and crew of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Finally (finally!) at around the 4 hour mark, our DVD picks round out a show that carried us well into the wee hours of the night recording. We hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed chatting. It may be long, but it is a solid and whip-smart show this time around, although we are biased on that front.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


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Review: Film Socialism

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Writer: Jean-Luc Godard
Producer: Ruth Waldburger
Starring: Catherine Tanvier, Christian Sinniger, Jean-Marc Stehlé, Patti Smith, Alain Badiou
Year: 2010
Running time: 102 min.

Quite fittingly, Jean-Luc Godard’s already-notorious Film Socialism was the last film I saw at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Having read reports of its difficult qualities (on top of being fully aware of his work’s striking transformations over the course of his career), I knew I was in for a rough ride when I walked into the theatre, and even had in mind the famous credits that accompany his 1967 film Weekend: “End of Film,” “End of Cinema.” Those words quite definitively marked the end of a remarkable run of films that at once reflected and defined the decade in which they were made. But anyone willing to follow Godard beyond then would have to turn away from Jean Seberg, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina and all other traces of romanticism from that phase of his work as he delved deeper into political theory, philosophy, video technology and an increasingly experimental style that tossed conventional narrative techniques out the window.

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Review: Wild Grass

Director: Alain Resnais
Writers: Alex Reval, Laurent Herbiet, from the novel L’Incident by Christian Gailly
Producer: Jean-Louis Livi
Starring: André Dussollier, Sabine Azéma, Emmanuelle Devos, Mathieu Amalric, Michel Vuillermoz, Anne Consigny, Edouard Baer
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 104 min.

Leading up to the writing of this review, I have enjoyed a strangely consuming relationship with Left Bank legend Alain Resnais’ latest film Wild Grass – the kind of relationship you experience when your imagination has been ensnared by a film that you long to see, but can’t. In this case, it has been over a year since Wild Grass screened at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and only recently has the film been released theatrically in Toronto. Initially, the plot description for it grabbed my interest, helped along considerably by a stunningly colorful still image. Both were provided by Film Comment in its 2009 Cannes summary; since then, the magazine has heaped praise upon the film, particularly through not one, but two feature pieces (an extended review and an interview with Resnais) by Amy Taubin over the past year, each adorned with more enticingly beautiful stills. While I’m a self-proclaimed French New Wave fanatic, I haven’t even seen that many of Resnais’ films – in truth, only Hiroshima, Mon Amour, during my undergraduate years at the University of Toronto. Yet there was something about Wild Grass, its whimsical premise and its imagery that made me want to see it. Just recently, I finally got my wish.

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Cinecast Episode 172 – pixaR

So sedate you could get a lullaby out its dulcet tones, this episode of the Cinecast has the podcasting players considering death and slavery and obsolescence (and Easter Eggs) in the wake of Toy Story 3. (*SPOILERS*) Gamble comes up with his best idea yet: A hard “R” Pixar animated film. The debate ensues whether it should be an adaptation (Watership Down or Animal Farm?) or a straight up original War film a la CatShit1. I hope Emeryville is listening. Jonah Hex is thrown to the wolves – particularly for wasting such an interesting supporting cast. James Mangold’s star vehicle Knight and Day is previewed as being a fun popcorn flick with a saggy final act. Also Day & Night, the Pixar short, (but not Day For Night the Truffaut film or the Curitz film Day and Night or terrorist bombing flick Day Night Day Night) is talked about, confused yet? Andrew takes back his love for Public Enemies and lavishes it instead on Soderbergh & Damon’s pontificating corporate shlub in The Informant. He is diggin naked running men and gory kills from the natives in the Criterion release of Naked Prey. Kurt finally finds a fairly consistent stretch of Lost (Season 3.5 *SPOILERS*) and is in danger of flirting with satisfaction in the show which is eating up ridiculous amounts of his time. Finally, we attempt reader mail to mixed results.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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TCM Film Festival: Picspamming Breathless (1960)


I have this thing with Breathless. I think it’s great (though I don’t rate it as highly as some other Godard films, which isn’t an insult because I’m a Godard fangirl), and I enjoy it every time I see it, but even though I’ve seen it four or five times, I somehow manage to forget entire chunks of it exist. Every time I watch it, there are scenes where I’m like, “wait, what is this part? Was this part there the last time I saw it?” This is a phenomenon I’m not entirely sure I can explain, especially since the parts I DO remember are indelibly engraved in my psyche.

A couple of attempts at explanation: 1) The parts I remember are those parts that are indelibly engraved on the psyche of cinephile culture in general. The parts that get included in montages and retrospectives, the parts that get screencapped in film histories, the parts that get talked about when people talk about the influence of the New Wave. Or 2) The parts I forget are the parts that deal with the narrative plot of Michel’s criminal activities and attempts to get the money he’s owed. Godard tends to bury the actual narrative of his films in general, preferring to focus on the moments that would be incidental or skipped over in straight-forward narratives. So from that perspective, it makes sense that I remember the endless conversations in Patricia’s bedroom, or Michel copying Bogart, or Patricia wearing Michel’s hat, or them driving down the Champs Elysses talking about basically nothing, rather than the scenes where Michel is trying to solve his problems.

Whichever of those explanations is correct, or even if both of them are to some extent, there’s very little I can say about Breathless that hasn’t already been said. So let this instead stand as tribute to the things about Breathless that I find unforgettable.

(I should mention that the festival played a brand-new Rialto restoration, which is now touring the US. I’m not sure exactly what was restored; it looked really good, but so did the DVD Criterion put out a few years ago. In any case, keep an eye out for when the print tours near you.)

“What is your greatest ambition in life?”
“To become immortal, and then die.”

Many images after the jump.

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Excerpt of the Week: A Third Face

Like most people, I love to read. Yet my passion for the written word has become, shall we say, much more “focused” in recent years. In short, I love books about movies (of the non-fiction variety), and I read as many as I can throughout the course of a year; everything from the history of the French New Wave to Roger Corman biographies. For me, spending time with these books is like having another cinematic avenue to explore, and I love them for it.

This brings us to this post you’re now reading. Every once in a while, as I’m perusing one of the books in my collection, I come across a passage, quote or story that I feel is worth sharing; something that I think others might enjoy as well. Seeing as I’m the only film fanatic I know in my neighborhood (when it comes to cinephiles, my little corner of Pennsylvania is a barren wasteland), the most logical option available is to share these excerpts with the Row Three community.

My plan is to make this a weekly posting (I’ve stumbled across enough interesting tidbits over the course of the last several years to warrant a daily one, but who has time for that?). I welcome all feedback, and would also appreciate any book recommendations you’d care to throw my way.

For this first installment, I offer an excerpt from “Samuel Fuller: A Third Face”, an autobiography written by Fuller (with some help from his wife, Christa Lang Fuller, as well as Jerome Henry Rudes) and published by Applause.

Samuel Fuller has always been a favorite director of mine, but as this autobiography reveals, his life outside of movies was equally as fascinating. He worked in the newspaper industry from the time he was a young teenager, starting as a copy boy until eventually working his way up to crime reporter, a job he learned to love. Then, at the outbreak of World War II, Fuller enlisted in the U.S. Army, and saw more than his share of combat as a private serving in the Big Red One (his 1980 film of that name dramatizes many of his actual adventures). Following the war, he went west to Hollywood, where he worked as a screenwriter until getting his first break at directing (a small film about Robert Ford, titled I Shot Jesse James). The rest, as they say, is history.

This particular passage from “A Third Face” takes place shortly after Fuller had directed his two cult classics, Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss. It’s the mid-1960’s, and Fuller’s just moved to France to work on a screenplay for two independent producers (which would never see the light of day). While there, Fuller was introduced to several young filmmakers of the French New Wave, all of whom absolutely loved his films. In fact, one particular filmmaker was such a fan that he asked Fuller to make a cameo in his upcoming movie.

“As I continued my stroll along the Champs Elysées, a young man came up to me and introduced himself as a writer for Cahiers du Cinema, I think, Luc Moullet. I was happy to meet him because he worked for a helluva movie magazine. He invited me for a drink in the bar at Fouquet’s. Moullet pulled out a recent issue of Cahiers with an article by Jean-Luc Godard calling Shock Corridor a ‘masterpiece of barbarian cinema’. I didn’t know what the hell that meant, but I was happy if it helped sell tickets. By then Godard had successfully made the transition from critic to New Wave director, with Breathless (A bout de Souffle, 1961) and Contempt (Le Mepris, 1963). Godard was still contributing reviews. Moullet wanted to set up a dinner so Jean-Luc and I could meet.

About a week later, I showed up at Brasserie Lipp, just across from the Café Flor on St. Germaine des Près. Godard and (Andre) Bazin were already sitting at a table by the window. With his thick black glasses, long curly hair, black beret, and Gaullois hanging off his bottom lip, Jean-Luc looked like Central Casting’s choice for the role of ‘young French intellectual eccentric”. Being eccentric was the only thing Godard and I had in common. Otherwise, we were really opposites, me coming out of a working-class background, Godard from an upper-class Swiss family whose money allowed him the luxury of bucking the French establishment. I was prone to excess, while Jean-Luc was a minimalist. I liked the guy, but certainly not because he told me how much my films had influenced him. I laughed at that influence crap. Let’s face it; Godard had stolen a bunch of my ideas from Pickup on South Street and Underworld U.S.A. for his early pictures. I didn’t mind, but why not call it what it was?

Jean-Luc was going to shoot a new film, called Pierrot le fou, with Jean-Paul Belmondo, and wanted me to appear in a scene. I suppose it was his way of saying thanks. I said I’d do it. Without the faintest idea what I was supposed to say, I showed up at a studio on the outskirts of Paris the day of the shoot. Godard stood me up against a wall in some fancy cocktail party set full of half-naked women and intellectuals, and put a glass of vodka in one hand and a good cigar in the other. He let me wear my sunglasses because of the bright lights. The Belmondo character strolled in and was introduced to me, ‘the American film director’. Belmondo turned and asked me, ‘What is cinema?’ We never rehearsed the damn scene. I wasn’t sure what Jean-Luc wanted, so I took a puff of my cigar and played myself, blurting out a line in my tough-guy vernacular, which a bilingual lady repeated in French as I spoke.

‘Film is like a battleground’, I said. ‘Love. Hate. Action. Violence. In one word, emotion.’

One take, and that was that. Godard loved it. Believe me, I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every film magazine and festival program around the world who printed that goddamned line!”