Archive for April, 2010

“The Sun” at Sundance Cinemas

April 30, 2010

Sheez, my post titles have been works of art today.

Eminent Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov’s 2004 feature “The Sun,” which received its first (limited) run in American theaters last November, is now playing at Madison’s Sundance Cinemas. For local cinephiles, this is cause for serious excitement: Sokurov is one of the boldest, most dazzlingly grandiose film artists working today. (Anyone who has seen his 2002 film “Russian Ark,” which is as much a dance performed by a cast of thousands as it is a singular cinematic achievement, can attest to the boldness and dazzling grandiosity of which I speak.)

“The Sun” was showered with praise by critics like Manohla Dargis and J. Hoberman during its November release; I’m pleased to see that my editor at Isthmus, Kenneth Burns, also found it thoroughly thought-provoking. I’m hoping to catch “The Sun” at some point this weekend—tornadoes permitting.

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“It leaves a hole.”

April 30, 2010

My second article for Isthmus, on the implications of WUD Film’s decision to dissolve its various series, can now be accessed on the paper’s website; in it I grapple with a few of the issues I probed in yesterday’s DC column, though in a much more journalistic style than I’m used to. All tips on reporting are more than welcome. Nothing better than learning on the job, eh? And goddamn Reo, what a suit!

“Design for Living” at the Cinematheque + A symposium dedicated to Kristin Thompson

April 30, 2010

Is that a mouthful of a title or is that a mouthful of a title?

Tomorrow night the Cinematheque will screen a restored print of Ernst Lubitsch’s “Design for Living” (1933), regarded by many as one of the high priest of classical Hollywood comedy’s greatest achievements. The film’s story is well-known and—dare I say it—timeless, following a woman (played by Miriam Hopkins) and two men (Gary Cooper and Frederic March, who happens to be the Play Circle’s namesake) who vow to “forget sex” and enter into a Platonic ménage à trois. As you might expect, hijinx ensue—“The Mother and the Whore” it ain’t. The screening will begin at 7:30 at Vilas Hall.

“Design for Living” was selected by former UW professor Kristin Thompson as the capstone for a symposium dedicated to her work entitled “Movies, Media, and Methods.” The scholarly festivities will begin tomorrow morning at 9 and will run practically all day long.

Thompson is, of course, the co-author of the film studies bible that is Film Art: An Introduction. Several of the papers scheduled to be delivered at the symposium sound very interesting—in particular, a paper by University of Chicago professor Yuri Tsivian entitled “Chaplin and the Russian Avant-Garde: The Law of Fortuity in Art” (10:45AM) and a paper by University of Texas-Austin professor Janet Staiger (who co-authored The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 with Thompson and David Bordwell) entitled “Nuking the Fridge: Great Expectations and Affective Reception” (1:15PM).

Who knows, you (and I) just might learn something.

(Visual) Quotes…, 4/30

April 30, 2010

From “The Unbelievable Truth” (1989), written and directed by—guess who—Hal Hartley.

“The Killers” at the Cinematheque

April 29, 2010

The Cinematheque will continue its incredibly varied Spring program on Friday night with a restored print of Richard Siodmark’s “The Killers” (1946), a noir of sorts adapted from the famous Hemingway story of the same name. The film stars Burt Lancaster in his screen debut as a murdered boxer whose doomed life becomes the obsession of an insurance investigator (played by Edmond O’Brien); “The Killers” also features a performance by Ava Gardner as the film’s requisite femme fatale. I love these remarks about the film made by the novelist Jonathan Lethem (taken from the Cinematheque’s website): “[“The Killers”] is lousy with writerly talent” and “as nested with weird resonances as it is glamorous with obvious pleasures.” What’s not to love? The screening will begin at 8:05, following two more episodes of “The Adventures of Captain Marvel” (1941) at 7:30.

Lobbying for the avant-garde

April 29, 2010

This week’s DC column is the first article I’ve written for the Dirty Bird that I’d consider a genuine advocacy piece: Following the death of Starlight Cinema, let’s make sure that avant-garde/experimental cinema continues to have a student-accessible presence in Madison, eh? Check the column out for a taste of why I feel so strongly about this matter.

It’s also worth mentioning that this marks my second-to-last DC column ever (as in, for all eternity), so please forgive me if I get real sentimental these next couple weeks. As they say, all good things…

Dreaming of a girl like me

April 28, 2010

As you’ll recall, the other day I posted a clip from Hal Hartley’s “Simple Men” (1992) featuring Sonic Youth’s “Kool Thing.” Why not continue the trend? Here’s a clip from Olivier Assayas’s excellent “Irma Vep” (1996) featuring another song from Goo, “Tunic (Song for Karen).” Be advised that the clip contains some decidedly unsexy nudity (so, NSFW and all that). Apologies for the relatively poor video quality.

“You aren’t never going anywhere. I ain’t never going anywhere.”

Few exits from this life of pain

April 28, 2010

I don’t think I’ve ever linked to Isthmus film critic Mike Wilmington’s weekly column, “Wilmington on DVD,” but there is, as they say, a first time for everything: In this week’s installment he reviews “Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa,” the Criterion four-disc box set I dedicated last week’s DC column to. Though Wilmington confesses that Costa’s work is “a bit too minimalist, too way-past-Bressonian, too monotone” for his liking, he nevertheless awards the set an A- (an old-school A-, I presume); I’ll bite my tongue with regard to the whole letter-grading system and say that Wilmington’s response is a testament to the force and feeling bound up within the Fontainhas trilogy.

(Visual) Quotes…, 4/28

April 28, 2010

From Hal Hartley’s “Henry Fool” (1998).

A worthwhile clip on a sunny Tuesday afternoon

April 27, 2010

Well, it seems I’m fresh out of wit—thus, the title of this post. Anyway, I wanted to direct your attention to the latest installment of Richard Brody’s “DVD of the Week,” a weekly feature on his New Yorker film blog, the Front Row; there Brody discusses Charles Burnett’s “Killer of Sheep” (1977), a truly incredible movie that I count amongst my personal favorites.

“Killer of Sheep” is funny, jaw-droppingly gorgeous and pervaded by a palpable sense of socioeconomic frustration. I can’t think of another film that makes American society’s glass ceiling seem so blatant and, by extension, so troubling. It’s crazy to think that this was Burnett’s MFA thesis at UCLA; what isn’t quite as astonishing but no less commendable is the fact he shot it for a mere $10,000. “Killer of Sheep” deserves as much attention as it can get.