Friday, September 30, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Links: Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Vincent Canby reviewed Jeanne Dielman in the New York Times back in 1983 (8 years after the film was made), noting the film's roots in the art house style of the 1960s and making an important distinction between minimalism and naturalism:

"Like its blunt title, Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, deals in unadorned facts. It's about the looks and sounds of ordinary things and people, which it records with such precise, unsettling clarity that it has the effect of finding threats in mundane objects and doom in commonplace characters. . . .

Jeanne Dielman is not quite like any other film you've ever seen, though it does recall the early films of Jean-Luc Godard as well as some of the work of our structuralist film makers of the late 1960's and 70's. It's as fastidious and deadpanned as its title character, a genteel, middle-class widow-and-mother who supports herself and her teen-age son by prostitution each afternoon, in her depressingly tidy apartment, with a series of fastidious gentlemen callers, middle-aged and older.

Jeanne Dielman, which opens today at the Film Forum, has been described as minimalist, though I don't see how any film this long and so packed with information could be equated with minimalism as defined in painting. The manner of the film is spare, but the terrible, obsessive monotony of the life it observes is ultimately as melodramatic as, say, Roman Polanski's Repulsion.

Miss Akerman records three crucial days in the life of Jeanne Dielman (Miss Seyrig) as if she were observing the habits of some previously unknown insect."

25 years later, Dennis Lim wrote about the film in the Times, noting its widespread influence on contemporary art house filmmaking:

"it has long enjoyed canonical status among cinephiles and regularly turns up on critics’ polls of all-time great films. With Jeanne Dielman, Ms. Akerman forged a link between the high modernism of golden-age European cinema and the emerging trend of postmodernist deconstruction. Today the film’s observational strategies — its long takes and scrupulous framing — practically amount to a lingua franca of international art film, discernible in the works of artists from Portugal’s Pedro Costa to Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul to China’s Jia Zhangke. Among American independents, its descendants include Todd Haynes’s Safe, Lodge Kerrigan’s Claire Dolan and Gus Van Sant’s Last Days."

Lim also talked to Ackerman herself, who agrees that the film is far from minimalist:

"While Ms. Akerman acknowledges that the rise of women’s studies lifted the film’s reputation in the United States, she has little patience for the various “isms” — feminism, minimalism, structuralism — that have framed the discussion around it. “I don’t think it’s minimalist,” she said. “I think it’s maximalist. It’s big! And if I did the film now I don’t know that it would be called feminist. It could have been done about a man, too.

“All those labels are a bit annoying,” she continued. “To name something is a way to possess it. I think it makes the film smaller. And O.K., maybe they are right, but they are never right enough.”"

When they released the film on DVD, Criterion sponsored a web video cooking contest to go along with the distinctive cooking scenes in Jeanne Dielman.  Here are some of their favorites.

Personally, I think everyone's underrating the influence of this film on Phil Hartman's career:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Links: Celine & Julie Go Boating

Nora Sayre reviewed Celine & Julie Go Boating in the New York Times back in October of 1974, and noted in particular the film's literary allusions, Lewis Carroll, Marcel Proust and Henry James, but also it's Choose Your Own Adventure nature, both for the characters and the audience:

"There's some delightful slapstick afoot as the two run amok, and the last section of the movie is on a par with the comedy of the beginning. In between, there are some marshy passages, mainly due to relentless whimsey. As in Out One/Spectre, the actresses invented their own parts (although the scenes in the house were scripted). In both movies, there are leading characters who are obsessed with solving a mystery; as they become detectives, the audience is invited to do likewise. We're also supposed to create our own plotline for what's actually occurring in that house."

In Slant Magazine, Keith Uhlich adds some filmic allusions:

"Jacques Rivette's masterpiece—quite possibly his greatest film—is a deceptively light-hearted confection that begins and ends (or, rather, begins again) at the entrance to a Parisian wonderland. Bespectacled librarian Julie (Dominique Labourier) pursues amateur magician Céline (Juliet Berto) across a city of dreams (hence the film's homage-to-Feuillade subtitle, "Phantom Ladies Over Paris"), though Rivette doesn't distinguish between the real and the imagined. Theirs is a world of limitless, initially aimless possibilities (reflecting the film's own improvisational genesis) that are slowly honed to a sharp precision point. Those bracing themselves for (or already baffled by) David Lynch's Inland Empire will find the seeds of that film's madness in Céline and Julie Go Boating, what with its pervasive Lewis Carroll referents and seamless doubling effects. . . .(The) story-within—which also features Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier, and Barbet Schroeder going through a series of hilariously deadpan motions—has been described as everything from an RKO programmer to a Henry James pastiche: like a fourth-wall smashing Kuleshov experiment, it is what you make of it."

I think Jeffrey Anderson sums it all up nicely though at Combustible Celluloid:

"One possible explanation is that Celine and Julie Go Boating is a fantasy where Rivette and the audience can enter into a movie filled with ghosts and change things around. How often have we imagined what old movies would be like if we could change one little thing? The other important thing to point out is that Celine and Julie Go Boating seems primarily focused on the joy of cinema. Truffaut once said that a movie should represent either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema--anything inbetween did not interest him. Celine and Julie Go Boating has magic, poetry, singing, lots of laughter (the actresses seem to have giggle fits every time the camera is on them), as well as the ghost and murder story.

A third explanation for the movie is that it seems like we're watching realism; the long takes and natural sound. When in reality the whole creation is one of pure cinema. There is no reality in this movie. In a perfect world, there would be an old movie palace somewhere that plays Celine and Julie Go Boating over and over. Then there would be balance."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Announcing the Fall Metro Classics Series

With two films left in the current series (don't miss Celine & Julie Go Boating and Jeanne Dielman: it'll probably be the last time they'll let us run 3+ hour French language movies!), it's time to announce the second part of our 18 weeks of Movies With Names series.  Starting October 5th and running through November 30th, we've got three Woody Allen movies, three Doctor movies and three Monster movies.

Woody and His Sisters:

Oct. 05 - Hannah and Her Sisters (Allen,1986)
Oct. 12 - Zelig (Allen, 1983)
Oct. 19 - Annie Hall (Allen, 1977)

Doctor Who?:

Oct. 26: Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick, 1964)
Nov. 02: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Lang, 1933)
Nov. 09: Doctor Zhivago (Lean, 1965)

Scary Monsters:

Nov. 16: Carrie (DePalma, 1976)
Nov. 23: Frankenstein (Whale, 1931)
Nov. 30: Harvey (Koster, 1950)

All shows will be digitally projected and as always, there will be giveaways at each show courtesy of Scarecrow Video and Cinema Books.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Links: Rosemary's Baby

Roger Ebert reviewed Rosemary's Baby way back in July of 1968:

"Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby is a brooding, macabre film, filled with the sense of unthinkable danger. Strangely enough it also has an eerie sense of humor almost until the end. It is a creepy film and a crawly film, and a film filled with things that go bump in the night. It is very good. . . . When the conclusion comes, it works not because it is a surprise but because it is horrifyingly inevitable. Rosemary makes her dreadful discovery, and we are wrenched because we knew what was going to happen --and couldn't help her.

This is why the movie is so good. The characters and the story transcend the plot. In most horror films, and indeed in most suspense films of the Alfred Hitchcock tradition, the characters are at the mercy of the plot. In this one, they emerge as human beings actually doing these things."

Dave Kehr agreed, packing more than the usual number of insights into his capsule.  he notes the film's ties to the long tradition of "women's pictures" wherein the wife is terrorized by her husband (Gaslight, The Secret Beyond the Door, Dragonwyck, etc) and also that "The horror is more clinical than supernatural, as Polanski transforms Ira Levin's story into a metaphor for the loss of identity induced by pregnancy. A very sophisticated, very effective piece of work spun from primal images."

Renatta Adler was lukewarm on the film in the New York Times when it premiered.  But AO Scott has corrected the Times's position on the film by including it in his Critics' Picks video series:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Top 5 Top 5 Lists Related To, But Not Including, Rosemary's Baby

Top 5 Roman Polanski Movies:

1. Chinatown (1974)
2. Repulsion (1965)
3. The Ninth Gate (1999)
4. The Ghost Writer (2010)
5. Death and the Maiden (1994)

Top 5 Mia Farrow Movies Directed By Woody Allen:

1. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
2. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
3. Zelig (1983)
4. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
5. Husbands and Wives (1992)

Top 5 John Cassavetes-Directed Movies I Haven't Seen:

1. A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
2. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)
3. Shadows (1959)
4. Faces (1968)
5. Husbands (1970)

Top 5 Ralph Bellamy Movies:

1. The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey, 1937)
2. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
3. Trading Places (John Landis, 1983)
4. Pretty Woman (Garry Marshall, 1990)
5. Carefree (Mark Sandrich, 1938)

Top 5 Films of 1968:

1. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone)
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick)
3. The Lion in Winter (Anthony Harvey)
4. Petulia (Richard Lester)
5. Night of the Living Dead (George Romero)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Coming Attractions: Rosemary's Baby

Wednesday, September 7th at 7 & 9:30 PM.

Giveaways: A DVD courtesy of Scarecrow Video and a Gift Certificate from Cinema Books, respectively.