Friday, January 31, 2014

Back to 1942 (2013) Chinese New Year 2014

This huge epic film is the sort of film that only the Chinese film industry is doing any more. Certainly American and European film companies are turning out epics but they are doing it with a hell of a lot more computer generated imagery. This is the sort of epic film that in America would be considered Oscar bait (the film was China's submission for last years Oscar) or at least an attempt to gain critical acceptence.

Based on Liu Zhenyun's novel Remembering 1942 the film tells the story of  the horrific famine that rocked parts of China in 1942 and Henan in particular. The film follows rich landlord  Fan as his life falls apart. His home is destroyed by bandits as he is feeding the poor. He is then forced on to the road to try and find food with his family and just to survive, its a trip that slowly dwindles their numbers. Meanwhile the government  does nothing to help the refugees, too focused on their own skins and fighting the war they pay no attention to the suffering in their midst, a fact the horrifies the Westerners that come in contact with the story.

You are wondering why I'm including this film in a Chinese New Year grouping of films when this is not the sort of upbeat film one would put into a Chinese New Year celebration. There are two reasons to do so, first the film begins on New Year.  Secondly the film is a wonderful celebration of the Chinese film industry and it's ability to turn out fantastic looking films that put most similar Hollywood films to shame.  This film is a technical marvel and to beautiful to look at even in all it's devastation. I really wish I had seen this on the big screen.

As high as I am on the look and technical aspects of the film, I'm mixed on the story. While understandably not a happy film, it is ultimately a bit too preachy for my tastes. This is a film that very much wants you to know all that is wrong with what happened and it underlines it with the inclusion of several big name actors including Adrian Brody, to play historical personages to act as a kind of Greek chorus to let us know how forgotten the people were. Its not a bad film it's just that it has a chip on it's shoulder.

That said I like the film. Its a sad tragic story that need to be told. The film has a real power despite it's hitting its audience over the head.  By the end you will be broken up. Mostly though I recommend it to anyone who want to see a huge epic of the sort that they rarely do any more.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A few words on Young Detective Dee and the Rise of the Sea Dragon (2013) Chinese New Year 2014

I regret not seeing this when it played in theaters in the middle of 2013. This is a film designed to be seen big and in 3D and not seeing it that way kind of lessens things.

The plot of the film is set before Detective Dee and The Mystery of the Phantom Flame and follows Dee as he comes to become part of the royal court and investigates matters concerning a sea dragon that sank an entire fleet in  the opening set piece.

You'll forgive me for not going into greater detail of the plot but to be perfectly honest I didn't catch everything. I got lost in the images and the motion, plus some of the subtitles came and went rather fast so I let details slide. Yea it's one of those movies that you need to see a couple of times so that you can get past the OH WOW factor and get back to the plot. I will say that the film does tie in nicely with the first film setting up when and how Dee met several characters from the first film and Mark Chao makes a good younger version of Andy Lau.

While the film is a bit too heavy on CGI and some of the earlier sequences with it are okay, the film for the most part is truly spectacular. The locations, the monsters, everything is just epic. The action sequences are wonderful and the sort of thing you'll want to play over when this hits DVD (in about 2 weeks)

I really liked this film a great deal and I'm planning on squeezing in another viewing sooner rather than later...


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Vengeful Beauty (1978)


Last year as part of our Chinese new Year celebration we took a look at a bunch of the Flying Guillotine films. We didn’t get all of them and in order to work our way toward finishing the series I now present Vengeful Beauty

In the film the emperor is masquerading as a kind benevolent man, however he is using a secret team of executioners armed with flying guillotines in order to kill his enemies. His enemies are not only the people who oppose him but many scholars, writers, book sellers and proof readers. His purge not only kills the enemy but their entire family.

Ping Chen plays Rong Qiu-yan who opposes as the reign of terror, which she thinks is being run by a lower official. When her family is wiped out, she vows revenge but flees to her husband’s uncles house to protect her unborn child. However Gang-feng who lead the attack knows she’s still alive and having told the emperor that the whole family was killed he must secretly send his children out to kill her. Fortunately for her she reconnects with Wang-jun who is an old friend and Ma Seng who is ex-flying guillotine assassin now on the run.

This is a breezy action film where the plot is less important than the action (trust me the plot is WTF material at times with a late in the game twist thats out of left field). Filled with stunning action set pieces spaced every five or six minutes apart this is a film where you have just enough plot to drive things into the next action sequence. Nothing in the story is groundbreaking (though the pregnant heroine is a nice twist) and the characters are stock so you can pretty much fill in any blanks.

The action is the thing. The set pieces are these fluid fight scenes with flashing swords, jabbing knives and spinning guillotines. In no way realistic the fights are still exciting and full of oh wow moments. There is something about bowls that kill and exploding guillotines that gets the blood going. The battles aren’t technical marvels but visceral ones. They grab you on an emotional level and pull you along. You want to go to the next bit of eye candy.

High art it’s not. Damn fun it is. This is the sort of film you curl up with on a rainy night and just get lost in.

This is great fun.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Journey to the West: Conquering Demons (2013) Chinese New Year 2014

I was about a half an hour into the Journey To The West when I realized that what I thought was going to be a slam dunk Chinese New Year film wasn’t going to get a mention. The reason I thought it was a slam dunk was it was a Stephen Chow comedy based on one of the great works of literature and released during last year’s New Year period, so it was going to be perfect right? Wrong. It’s a wildly uneven film that kind of is the start of something but doesn’t really work.

I finished the film, tweeted a my disappointment and then moved on.

Or so I thought. Instead I got a tweet or two and an email or two saying I was crazy for not liking the film. Forced to pause and reconsider my position, I sat and thought and decided I really didn’t care for the film in total, but since people were actually taking the time to defend it I should take the time to write it up.

The film is a precursor to the main travels of Journey to the West. As the film open a water demon is terrorizing a village. When a Taoist monk kills a giant ray the town is thrilled, but Buddhist monk Tang Sanzang says they have the wrong culprit. The town doesn’t want to hear of it and beats him. However the demon instantly starts attacking the village once more and it’s up to Tang Sanzang to save the town. He does so with the help of Duan, an female demon hunter. From there the film moves follows as the monk and Duan try to stop a pig demon who is devouring passes by at a remote restaurant, and the fight eventually results in the release of the trapped Monkey King.

A very strange mix of low comedy and graphic bloody cartoony violence that pushes the film into horror film territory this is a very odd duck film. The film is largely a series of set piece battles linked together by a few exposition sequences. It’s a film of constantly shifting gears that made me wonder what was Stephen Chow going for.

Okay a moment of full disclosure I’m mixed when it comes to Stephen Chow’s films. When his films come together as in Kung Fu Hustle or Shaolin Soccer it’s magical. However when things don’t work the humor falls flat and the violence and situations seem nasty and ugly in the kids film which I would never show to a kid CJ7.

For me here the mix is wildly off. The comedy is frequently over the top and misses the mark. I don’t think I ever laughed at any point. I did smile but I never laughed. This is Benny Hill low brow humor at its broadest.

The action sequences are full of bone crushing violence that leaves body parts flying and fountains of blood flowing. Few horror films, even things like the Saw series, have as much blood in them. People die. Children die. While I have no problem with the violence or the blood or the death it’s so extreme that it works against the comedy. It’s hard to laugh at a film when two seconds after you’re laughing the characters are ripped apart.

To be honest I do like the demons are demonic. I mean they really would give Freddy Kruger a run for his money. While I’m not a scholar of the Monkey King and while I’ve not run across such and angry violent non jokey monkey king. When he battles Tang Sanzang he is a monster.

While I don’t have a problem of the Monkey King being monstrous , I think you would be too after being locked away for 500 years, I find the stark realism of the Monkey King being really a monkey being a bit jarring. The stories are not reality, they never were real world stories and having them suddenly operating in the real world with the spewing blood and flying flesh is kind of wtf. No that isn’t the problem, the problem for me is the realism crashing into the cartoon. I could have taken one tone not both, or I could have taken both if the blending was really blending and not seeming to be off/on shifts.

The problem with tone affects the end of the film as well. When Monkey is subdued by Buddha the calmness and all of that comes out of left field. Where did it come from?

While I understand it’s a marketing choice I’m ultimately kind of at a loss to know why the film is being considered a monkey king film. Yes he’s in the film, but he doesn’t show up until about 70 minutes into the action. Instead this is Tang Sanzang's story. The film is the start of the story and when the film ends it seems more to be amping up for further adventures.

Is it a good film?

In fits and starts. The film has moments that taken on their own terms are quite good. The action sequences, most of which run for 10 or 20 minutes at a clip would probably play better in a different frame work or better connected to each other. Being a tad generous its good not great. I don’t know how this would have played had I not known the story. I may have liked it better.

The film is being released by Magnet on iTunes,VOD and into theaters March 7

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tales From the Dark 2 (2013) Chinese New Year 2014

You'll forgive me for placing this film with in the confines of a happy Chinese New Year celebration but I've been looking for a place to this sequel to Tales From the Dark (which I reviewed back in July when it World Premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival) for some time.  Actually the term sequel is wrong the wrong term since this film was conceived as a second part to that film and was released on a few weeks after the first.  Like the first film this is a trio of short films based upon the work of Lilian Lee. None of the films are related to any of the others (though I'm pretty sure some actors criss cross the films but in different roles)

The first film in this collection is Gordon Chen's  Pillow. It begins when a couple has a fight when the woman can't stand that her boyfriend is still connected to an ex-girlfriend. Separated from her lover the woman begins suffering from insomnia.  Told by her boss to change her pillow she buys a new one. The pillow brings on dreams of an intense sexual nature with her missing lover.

The second film is Laurence Lau's Hide and Seek, about a bunch of teens who decide to spend the night in their old school. While there they play a variation on the game of Hide and Seek called Master and Ghost that involves some people being human and others being ghosts. The trouble is some of the ghosts that haunt the school decide to make an appearance.

The final film is Teddy Robin's Black Umbrella. This film was actually scripted by Lilian Lee herself. The film follows Robin's mysterious man with an umbrella who runs across a prostitute during the Festival of the Dead.

This is a  lesser collection of  horror tales that still has moments of chills. The problem seems to be that these stories had to be told in a set amount of time and were trimmed (or at least thats how it feels).The film runs a sparse 90 minutes where the first film ran 114 minutes.

The best of the trio is probably The Pillow.  I say that more because that's the only one of the three films that doesn't really feel rushed or shortened. This isn't to say that the second and third films are bad, they aren't, its simply to say that they feel terribly rushed. The films have a certain pace that gets suddenly sped up in the closing minutes. Its as if they had to remain under 90 minutes and come hell or high water they were going to get there so they rushed things.

What the films have in spades is creepiness. There are shots of ghosts and possible ghosts in the second and third films that really set a mood. There is so much effort in these small moments that one really wishes that the films didn't feel like they were jumping to the end. To be perfectly honest both Hide and Seek and Black Umbrella are scarier and more freaky than The Pillow, especially in some of the ghost imagery and blood letting, they just kind of stumble at the end. (What would those films have been if allowed to flow organically?)

Is the film worth seeing. Yes definitely. When the films work, they are great. But when you see this film you have to be willing to go with the moments and not the whole. The moments really are special even if the whole isn't up to those levels. If you like horror the films are worth seeing. Personally if I was watching the two Tales From the Dark films together I would  watch this one first so you can end on the high note of the first collections.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Nightcap1/26/14- What played at the 80's Freakout,Redford from way away, why I don't read press notes until after a film, bits and links

robert redford at the NYFF from the last row of the balcony of Alice Tully Hall

I want to begin with an apology of sorts to those of you who are not big Asian film fans, but as of yesterday with the start of our Chinese New Year celebration Unseen is going to be Asia heavy until March 1st. Running through next weekend is our annual Chinese New Year coverage and we’re following that up with our month of Zatoichi, with Unseen reviewing every one of the Shintaro Katsu films about the blind Swordsman. It’s our way of saying good bye to the strictly enforced film(post) a day policy. However don’t let that stop you from stopping back since we’re going to be covering a good number of other films including Martin Scorsese’s traveling Polish Film festival, the BAM Kids Fest, Film Comment Selects, and a bunch of other things. Keep in mind we average 2 to 3 posts a day so there is going to be plenty of material coming.
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The next bit is that what follows isn't what I intended for tonight. The original post id being moved to the night of the Oscars. The post started as a piece on Chariots of Fire and it then went sideways and became much more complicated It now belongs on Oscar night for reasons which will be clear when it goes up (assuming I finish it)
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Last weekend Grady and Rufus from Subway Cinema ran their total 80's Freakout at the Anthology Film Archieves in Manhattan. It was 11 hours of 80's exploitation movies. I had a ticket but I did not attend since things changed between when I bought the film and show day.

The films were supposed to be a surprise but they had dropped hints (I knew Road Games was one of the titles) but all wasn't revealed until the day of. The films screened were:

Miami Blues Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alec Baldwin as two not too bright crooks who end up out of prison and on a one man crime wave thanks in part to a stolen police badge. Its a film that has split audiences since it was released in 1990. Put me on the side of the fence that isn't a fan.

Road Games Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis battle a crazed truck driver in the outback. An excellent thriller I never want to see again thanks to over viewing on cable in the early 80's

Class of 1984 A new teacher takes on a gang of kids in school where everyone has to go through metal detectors to get in. Pure exploitation film was ripped off and remade. An enjoyable popcorn film.

White of the Eye Donald Cammell's film about a serial killer loose in suburbia. A good film notable as one of the few films Cammell directed. The film on its original release was met with a bit of confusion but critics, some of whom didn't know what to make of it. I know there were controversies concerning the violence in the film. Its a good film, probably over praised in some quarters (as Cammell is)

Skatetown USA- A roller disco movie with Patrick Swayze, Scott Baio, Ruth Buzzi and Billy Barty. I never want to see it again

Enemy Territory Two guys get caught in an apartment building controlled by a vicious gang and can't get out. Good action film that decades on sticks in my memory thanks to Jan Michael Vincent's turn as a tenant in the building living in a fortified bunker the gang won't mess with. After the film opened in theaters he was all my friends talked about so we all went to see the him in the film. Lost classic, no, good action film yes.

By all reports it was a great time and I wish my schedule hadn't changed so that I could have seen at least part of the selections.
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This week I got my swag from the Ultimate Christian Wrestling kickstarter campaign. We reviewed this back in 2012 but the film needed tweaking so they ran a Kickstarter.

We at Unseen loved this film running multiple pieces on it when it ran at KAFFNY.  As one of the perks for giving I ended up with a DVD and it plays even better the second time. I'll be revisiting the film in couple of weeks, and I'll be letting you know where the film will be available for purchase as soon as director Jae-Ho Chang gets back to me with details.
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A reminder that Lincoln Center Dance on Film series starts Friday. Details are here. There are some cool things including a free talk with Jonathan Demme and a discussion of shooting in 3D with Bill T Jones. Info at their website.
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Before we go I want to leave you with something I wrote back in 2011 for a piece on Corpo Celeste which explains why I don't read press notes before I see a film, and why very often critics will love films more than the paying public -they had cheat sheets to explain it all to them. I'm not a fan of that. This passage comes toward`the end of the review where I say that once I read the notes the film, which I didn't like, improved greatly AT this point I could tell you whats in the press notes but I'm not. I know that may seem not fair, but to tell you is actually unfair. To tell you everything that the director should have shown you is wrong. Films must exist unto themselves. Yes, some films need you to bring something to them, experience, an understanding of historic events, you have to bring life and experience with you to the theater not be handed six pages of notes on the way in. You should be able to walk into a film cold and know whats going on, you shouldn't need a cheat sheet to explain what the director and writer failed to do. If a film can't stand on it's own (sequels excluded) then something is really really wrong with it. Tell me the story on film. Make your points on film, if you can't do that get another profession.
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And now some links to finish things off some of which drifted in from Randi
Beauty
sculpture
Feral
Jelly Doughnut on Mars
Every NES Start screen in under 3 hours
A documentary on the Chelsea Hotel

Design of Death (2012) Chinese New Year 2014


A kind of spiritual cousin to director Guan Hu's earlier Cow is set in another village in the 1940's, though this time in the Southern Part of China. Nominally a comedy the film has a very dark, and at some points almost too dark to be funny, tone .

The plot of the film has Simon Yam almost running over a sack in the road. Stopping to see what is in it he opens it to find Huang Bo tied up inside it. He had been placed there by some villagers and then beaten before being thrown off a cliff. Bo threatens to kill Yam but decides to let him live, he then wanders off down the mountain. Months later Yam is dispatched to a village of long lived people where someone is supposed to have died. On his way to the town he finds Huang Bo laying dead in the mountains. Taking the body into the village Yam begins to investigate what happened to Bo and why. Was it plague as the villagers say or was it something else?

Huang Bo is amazing playing a huge mountain of a man who is constantly pulling pranks and annoying the piss out of the villagers. You know why they want him dead. You also manage, over the course of the film not to hate him quite as much as we do early on, there is something about the man that we warm to. He is in a way a kind of Frankenstein monster of misunderstandings.  He's so good that by the time the film ends he will have gone from some you hate to someone who has broken your heart.

Simon Yam is amazing. While an important character to the story, the film unravels through his eyes he isn't on screen all that much, and yet when he appears he holds your attention and allows you to see events unfolding and changing like the opening of a flower. What I like is that he manages to play all the emotions, from broad comedy, to deadly seriousness with an ease that makes it all believable. (Yam is one of the best actors working today anywhere in the world)

This is a super little film. How has this not gotten any real notice? I suspect that the weird tonal shifts from comedy to drama to mystery to tragedy has something to do with it. How do you describe the film when it is constantly shifting before you? To say it's one thing is to sell it short and annoy anyone expecting that one thing. My best advice is find a copy and just watch the film since all you really need know is its really good film that's not like any other one you're likely to see.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cow (2009) Chinese New Year 2014

Guan Hu's tale of a man and a cow played the New York Asian Film Festival a couple years back and I missed it. I had heard good things about it and I put it on the short list of films to keep an eye out for.Recently I stumbled across a copy and I picked it up.

Set during the Japanese invasion of China the film stars Huang Bo as Niu'er, a not too bright peasant. His village has received a Dutch cow to provide milk for the wounded. When the Japanese bomb the village Niu'er flees only to return to village empty except for the dead...and the cow. He then has to fight off the Japanese and survivors wanting to make a meal of the cow.

A darkly funny tale this is one of those films that makes you laugh, and makes you think as we see the insanity of war and of human behavior. As much as we laugh at some of the silliness, we are also made aware of the cost of war as the disjointed nature of the narrative allows us to see the ultimate fate of many people we get to know and like.  Its a film  with moments where laughter catches in your throat.

Huang Bo is brilliant as our hero. Its clear he will protect the cow at all costs in order to return the cow to the army. The role requires him to walk a very fine line between dramatic performance and slapstick and he does so brilliantly, managing never to tumble over the line too far into one thing or the other. Watching him I was deeply moved. I can completely understand why the Subway Cinema guys like him so much.

Definitely one to search out. Its the sort of film that will make you wonder why more people don't know about the film.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Horror Capsules- Battle Dogs, Under the Bed, Black Waters of Echo's Pond


BATTLE DOGS
Once you get past the groaner opening and the premise that people are turning into wolves when they get agitated, the film about an out break of a werewolf disease (its the military's fault) is actually pretty good.  High art it's not but it it has a high quality cast that includes Craig Sheefer, Dennis Haysbert, Ernie Hudson and Wes Studi.  This is the sort of thing that SYFY would run as an original, except this is much better than their usual fare.

THE BLACK WATERS OF ECHO'S POND
On an island off the Maine coast a bunch of friends decide to forgo TV and instead decide to play a game they found stashed in the basement. Unfortunately for them it was a game found on an archaeological dig in Turkey and was a game used to entertain demons. While the plot is a sort of been here done that,  it's done well enough here that you really won't mind going over well worn ground. Don't ask me why it works, perhaps a good cast  or perhaps its a scriptt hat tries a little harder, but what ever the reason it's just the perfect film for a night on the couch.

UNDER THE BED
Teen returns from the psyche ward after a tragedy that killed his mother. No one will of course believe the monster under the bed was responsible. Unfortunately his brother is now the monsters target and the pair have to make a stand- only everyone thinks they're crazy. Typical story told atypically puts the focus on the teens an their sense of alienation from the world. No one seems to understand and the sense of dread and foreboding that fills the story comes from a slow build. When all hell finally breaks loose its  too late for many of the characters. I suspect the low rating on IMDB is due to a low blood and gore quotient until the last 15 minutes. If you'll go with it you'll be greatly rewarded.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Visitors (2013)


At the time this posts three months will have passed since I saw the film and wrote it up.  I'm not sure why I'm telling you this except to add that after the film Peter Gutierrez and myself went out for coffee and cake and two hours later I had all but forgotten the film.

VISITORS is Godfrey Reggio's feature length follow up to the Sqatsi trilogy (KOYAANISQATSI, POWAQQATSI and NAQOYQATSI). Unlike the earlier films this one is focused almost entirely on the human form, and the face in particular.

Book-ended with shots of a gorilla and the moon, VISITORS is a tone poem completely sans narrative. As Reggio said before the film this is film about having a mood inflicted upon you rather than narrative. The stark black and white images, when married to the Philip Glass score occasionally create deeply moving moments- faces real much that seems to be hidden, hands isolated in darkness become some new form of animal.trees stand out in weird relief to their landscape. You may have seen something similar but some of this is truly seeing the world with new eyes. When it clicks it will bring tears to your eyes.

And when it doesn't you'll wish it would just end. Running a brief 87 minutes the film eventually runs out of steam. Somewhere in the final half hour the film, which had been chugging along fine for much of it's running time, begins to sputter. The film which had been focused on humanity begins to drift off to the swamps of Louisiana. While this allows for some stunning monochromatic images, the film suddenly feels like its lost it's way. I began to wonder where it was going. By the time the film ended I was feeling lost and a drift, it was as if Reggio didn't know how to get to the ending.

I ended up liking the film but not loving it.

You'll forgive me for not saying more, but this is a film that kind of defies description. I can tell you what the film is but I can't tell you what the film really is. Reggio's description of a poem is dead on. This is a personal meditation on humanity and not a film in a conventional sense- think what Bela Tarr might have done if he just shot faces or people  and played Philip Glass music. This is not for all tastes, most people are going to be bored to tears with the long takes on staring faces. You're either going to click with it or you won't, if you don't you'll either walk out or be dead asleep. I largely clicked with it.

To be honest I have no idea what to really say about the film-pieces of it are amazing, pieces of it are cliche. It is unlike almost every other film out there- and even though I have reservations I thank god that something like this exists because it is so damn unique.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The press release for Film Comment Selects listing the films and schedule

THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER ANNOUNCED TODAY THE LINEUP FOR THE
14TH EDITION OF FILM COMMENT SELECTS

HONG SANG-SOO’s OUR SUNHI SELECTED FOR OPENING NIGHT AND BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI’S ME AND YOU FOR CLOSING NIGHT

Lineup includes Lukas Moodysson’s We are the Best!, Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, Lasse Hallström’s The Hypnotist, a focus on director Christian Petzold, classic films from Raúl Ruiz and Harold Pinter, and much more


New York, NY (January 22, 2014) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today the lineup for the upcoming 14th edition of Film Comment magazine’s essential and eclectic feast of cinephilia, Film Comment Selects, taking place from February 17-27, 2014. The annual festival will present 22 discoveries and rediscoveries, 17 of them New York premieres, and nine without U.S. distribution, handpicked by the magazine’s editors after scouring the international festival circuit in 2013.

Film Comment magazine’s editor-in-chief, Gavin Smith said, “Every year the process of programming Film Comment Selects is an adventure, not that different in some ways from the editing of the magazine every two months. This year is particularly special for us because we’ve finally been able to bring in six films (all on 35mm!) from the early Seventies, the mid Eighties, and the early part of the last decade that we’ve dreamed of showing on the big screen for some time—and they’re every bit as thrilling as the films by new discoveries and familiar faces from all over the world that are our bread and butter—films that in eight cases will be coming back (but you want to see them before everyone else, right?) and nine others that won’t be (so this is your only chance to see them). We’re privileged to share these with our audience of art-film devotees, genre fanatics, open-minded cinephiles, and movie lovers of every stripe. And once again, we guarantee: there’s something for everyone."

This year’s mind-melting lineup covers the entire cinematic spectrum from genre movies to art-house whatsits to long-unseen revivals and new films by Hong Sang-soo, whose Opening Night selection Our Sunhi, won the director’s prize in Locarno and is the 15th feature from the South Korean master, Bernardo Bertolucci, who returns with his first Italian-language feature in 32 years, Me and You, which will screen on Closing Night, and Together and Lilya 4-ever director Lukas Moodysson, back with an energetic rough and tumble story of three rebellious teenage girls who form a punk rock band in We are the Best! Another filmmaker to premiere new work is Lasse Hallström with The Hypnotist, an engrossing, chilly Nordic noir about a psychologist who uses hypnotism to help solve a horrific crime. This also marks a return for Hallström to his native tongue for the first time in 25 years.

Another highlight from this year’s lineup is the thrilling seven-episode television series Top of the Lake, directed by Jane Campion and Garth Davis. Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss plays a detective who has returned to the bleak rural New Zealand town where she grew up in order to spend time with her dying mother, and is recruited by the local police officer (David Wenham) to investigate what is at the least a case of statutory rape. All seven episodes will screen back to back!

The series will also offer some classics, not to be missed on the big screen, including a “Healthcare Mayhem” Film Comment Double Feature that pairs up Blake Edwards’s The Carey Treatment, starring James Coburn and The Hospital, written by Paddy Chayevsky and starring George C. Scott and Diana Rigg; the rarely screened 1983 Raúl Ruiz masterpiece City of Pirates, a two-film focus on early works by Barbara director Christian Petzold consisting of Ghost and Wolfsburg, plus Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley in the 1983 film version of Pinter’s Betrayal.

Tickets will be on sale both at the box office and on www.FilmLinc.com to members on Tuesday, January 28 and to the general public on Thursday, January 30. Tickets are $13 for General Public, $9 for Student/Senior and $8 for Film Society Members. Take advantage of a Three film Package! $30 for General Public, $24 for Student/Senior and $21 for Members. Film Comment magazine subscribers will also be able to take advantage of a $10 ticket! The Film Comment Double Feature, included in the lineup, offers two films for the price of one - $13 for General Public, $9 for Student/Senior and $8 for Film Society Members!

All screenings will take place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam). Visit www.FilmLinc.com for additional information.

FILMS, DESCRIPTIONS & SCHEDULE

OPENING NIGHT
OUR SUNHI
Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 2013, 88m; HDCam
Another dryly comic and acutely observed take on misread behavior, indecision, and awkward interchanges between the sexes from one of cinema’s undisputed masters of moral comedy, the ever-prolific Hong Sang-soo. Call this one “Who’s That Girl?” or “Identification of a Woman.” Attempting to make a new start, slightly lost former film school student Sunhi (Jung Yumi) returns to her college to get a reference letter and inadvertently awakens vague romantic longings first in her old professor, then in a graduate student ex-boyfriend, and finally in a film director and potential mentor from her class. The three men move into orbit around Sunhi, proffering career and life-choice advice while attempting to define and “understand” her, but in the end they are merely projecting their own feelings and interpretations onto their obscure and unwitting object of desire, to quietly comical effect.
Monday, February 17 at 9PM
Thursday, February 20 at 4:45PM

CLOSING NIGHT
ME AND YOU
Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy, 2012, 103m; DCP
Bertolucci returns with his first Italian-language feature in 32 years. Following on from Besieged and The Dreamers it continues a minimalist phase for the director after a series of huge international co-productions—this is his third film in a row mostly set in a claustrophobic, very bourgeois interior, and like Besieged, it concerns the solipsistic self-confinement of an obsessive narcissist who is “saved” and led out into the world by a woman who may well be nothing more than a projection of his insecurities. Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori), a 14-year-old from a well-to-do family, takes no interest whatsoever in the outside world, and withdraws into himself completely: pretending to go on a school skiing trip, he shuts himself in the basement of his mother’s apartment building for an entire week. But the basement turns out to be a regular refuge for Olivia (Tea Falco), his heroin-addicted older half-sister, and so Lorenzo doesn’t find the perfect solitude he’s looking for. An Emerging Pictures release and one of five films being released under the Cinema Made in Italy label.
Thursday, February 27 at 8:30PM

BETRAYAL
David Jones, U.K., 1983, 95m; 35mm
Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley, and Patricia Hodge star in this rarely screened adaptation of one of Harold Pinter’s greatest plays, a semi-autobiographical portrait of an adulterous affair. In a unique structural gambit, nine scenes, each marking a significant stage in the development and termination of the affair, are presented in reverse order, starting at the bitter end and working their way back to the beginning. Kingsley is the husband with an unfaithful wife (Hodge) and a bad best friend (Irons). The reverse chronology frees the viewer to concentrate on the subtext: our age has sanctioned betrayal, and as betrayers, we get caught in a web of who knows what and when, and once the rules are broken, there is no one to trust. David Jones, who had previously worked with Pinter and Irons on the 1978 TV drama Langrishe, Go Down, stepped in to direct after Mike Nichols dropped out—and 30 years on Nichols would direct the recent Broadway production.
Tuesday, February 18 at 8:45PM

Blood Glacier (formerly titled The Station)
Marvin Kren, Austria, 2013, 98m; HDCam
An over-the-top creature feature for the Global Warming age. Scientists researching climate change at a research base in the German Alps discover a mysterious substance leaking from a glacier containing micro-organisms that can infect multiple hosts—and soon do. The local wildlife begin to mutate into predatory “hybrid creatures” just as a government minister and her entourage are due to arrive for a publicity op. Panic sets in as the station is besieged by biological mutations, and the team and their visitors find themselves fighting for survival—and with each other. Director Marvin Kren builds the tension without dumbing down the characters in this alpine homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing, and delivers the requisite shocks and gore while favoring old-school special effects over CGI. AN IFC Films release.
Saturday, February 22 at 9:45PM

Cannibal
Manuel Martín Cuenca, Spain, 2013, 116m; DCP
The blunt title of this quietly disturbing, creepily atmospheric, and deeply perverse character study won’t prepare you for the slow and mesmerizingly deliberate experience in store for you. Introverted small-town tailor Carlos, hauntingly played by Antonio de la Torre, keeps to himself, but his solitary life is disturbed by the arrival of Alexandra (Olimpia Melinte), a Romanian “masseuse” who moves into an apartment upstairs. While she receives male clients, Carlos keeps his distance despite her seductive overtures until one night she comes calling on him, seeking his help after a brutal “boyfriend” pays her a visit. The tailor agrees to drive her to the police station. Cut to the arrival of Alexandra’s twin sister Nina (Melinte again), who comes looking for her sibling who owes her money… A story of loneliness and longing, Manuel Martín Cuenca’s low-key chiller of uncommon restraint and unease, Cannibal revolves around the mysteries and dark impulses of the human heart. A Film Movement release.
Saturday, February 22 at 3:20PM
Wednesday, February 26 at 3:30PM

Cherchez Hortense
Pascal Bonitzer, France, 2012, 100m; DCP
Jean-Pierre Bacri and Kristin Scott Thomas together at last—enough said? Another of the pleasing, underrated comedy-dramas of frequent Rivette and Ruiz screenplay collaborator and ex–Cahiers du cinéma critic Pascal Bonitzer. Bacri is a conflicted and ineffectual academic who reluctantly agrees to ask his father, a senior judge, to pull some strings on behalf of a Polish woman facing deportation—a task that fills him with horror since his relationship with his father is, you know, complicated. His marriage to a celebrated stage director (Scott Thomas) is on the skids, his teenage son is going through growing pains, a cranky old friend (Jackie Berroyer) is suicidal, and amidst all this he’s befriended by Aurore (Isabelle Carré), a girl half his age. Full of delightful moments and wry observations, this is an old-school relationship movie in which a self-involved member of the Parisian cultural elite comes to see how the other half lives, and it’s more than carried by Bacri, one of the best actors in contemporary French cinema.
Tuesday, February 18 at 6:30PM
Tuesday, February 25 at 4:45PM

City of Pirates
Raul Ruiz, France/Portugal, 1983, 111m; 35mm
Propelled by a ferocious creative energy and blending folk legends, surrealist poetry, children’s adventure stories, and Hollywood horror movies, this vintage film by the late Raúl Ruiz follows a decidedly nonlinear narrative about a sleep-walking virgin (Anne Alvaro), a 10-year-old boy (Melvil Poupaud) who claims to have raped and murdered his entire family, and the lone inhabitant of an island castle (Hughes Quester) who shares his body with an imaginary sister. Funny, frightening, and enigmatic, City of Pirates is like a cross between Peter Pan and Friday the 13th as told through a wildly baroque visual style that suggests a collaboration between Georges Méliès and Sergio Leone. A rare screening of one of Raúl Ruiz’s classics.
Wednesday, February 26 at 9:50PM

Enemy
Denis Villeneuve, Canada/Spain, 2013; 90m; DCP
Jake Gyllenhaal gives his best performance to date as both Adam, a reserved and humorless history professor, and Anthony, a more animated and cocksure bit-part actor who catches the academic’s eye on screen due to his alarming resemblance to him. So begins Adam’s obsessive journey to confront his doppelgänger face to face. With this provocative existential thriller, and second collaboration (following Prisoners), director Denis Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal score again, this time with a moodily absurdist adaptation of José Saramago’s The Double that if anything actually deepens the possibilities explored in the novel. An A24 release.
Thursday, February 27 at 6:30PM

Fat Shaker
Mohammad Shirvani, Iran, 2013, 85m; DCP
A singular, cryptic, and ambiguous object that surely breaks with and subverts the orthodoxies of Iranian art cinema, and may be the first hint of the emergence of a new, younger generation of filmmakers. The action centers on an obese con man who uses his deaf-mute, cute adult son as bait to extort money from predatory young women looking for a boy-toy—until the pair’s sketchy life on the social margins is inexplicably upended by the arrival of a mysterious woman who makes herself at home, with unexpected consequences. The film may be an allegorical attack on patriarchy, but its emphasis on the grotesque and the absurd, its off-kilter, unstable style, and its enigmatic refusal to define itself in narrative terms signal the emergence of a talent looking to break fresh ground.
Saturday, February 22 at 1:30PM

Felony
Matthew Saville, Australia, 2013, 105m; DCP
Moral dilemmas abound in this tense police drama, another knockout from Australia’s Blue-Tongue Films, the production company behind Animal Kingdom. A detective (Joel Edgerton, who also wrote the screenplay) wrestles with guilt after running down a nine-year-old cyclist while driving under the influence and allowing his boss (Tom Wilkinson) to cover things up. To make matters worse the squad rookie (Jai Courtney) begins to take a closer look at the facts of the supposed hit-and-run case while the comatose victim hovers between life and death… Edgerton delivers another compelling performance and Matthew Saville’s tight direction makes for gripping stuff. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Monday, February 17 at 6:30PM

Film Comment Double Feature: Healthcare Mayhem
The Carey Treatment
Blake Edwards, 1972, 101m, 35mm
In this elaborately plotted mystery thriller, hospital pathologist James Coburn slowly uncovers the truth behind the death of a teenager after a botched illegal abortion. Co-starring Jennifer O’Neill, Pat Hingle, and Dan O’Herlihy and based on a novel pseudonymously written by Michael Crichton and pseudonymously adapted by husband and wife screenwriting team Harriet Frank and Irving Ravetch!
The Hospital
Arthur Hiller, 1971, 101m, 35mm
George C. Scott is the head of a hospital beset by crisis and suspicious medical mishaps in a blackly comic drama by Network writer Paddy Chayevsky, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay. Co-starring Diana Rigg, Barnard Hughes, Richard Dysart, and Nancy Marchand. (Plus: blink or you’ll miss them uncredited walk-ons by Stockard Channing and Christopher Guest!)
Tuesday, February 25 at 7PM

Flesh of My Flesh
Denis Dercourt, France, 2013, 76m; DCP
An unsettling and strikingly oblique psychological horror film that gives new meaning to the term “mother love,” Flesh of My Flesh takes us into the schizoid reality of Anna (Anna Juliana Jaenner), a woman whose young child has a rare medical condition that requires a highly unusual diet. Writer-director Denis Dercourt, best known for 2006’s The Page Turner, uses an unconventional bare-bones approach, evoking his estranged protagonist’s subjectivity with a cold, distorted visual style that blends sharp clarity and hazy shallow-focus while maintaining a distinctly clinical distance. Inspired by a real-life case in Germany and taking inspiration from George’s Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, Dercourt made the film almost single-handedly (he also did the camerawork, sound recording, and editing), while Austrian actress Jaenner, onscreen from start to finish in her screen debut, gives a truly memorable performance.
Saturday, February 22 at 5:45PM

Ghosts
Christian Petzold, Germany, 2005, 85m; 35mm
Unreleased in the U.S., the third film by one of the most exciting directors from Germany’s Berlin School interweaves two intersecting storylines to explore the spectral existences of three female outsiders—a pair of late adolescent girls and an unstable middle-aged woman—who struggle to reconnect with “normal” society and find a place to belong. The action unfolds in Berlin’s redeveloped Potsdamer Platz, symbol of the post-reunification German social and economic order, but nonethless haunted by three “ghosts”: lonely, unworldly Nina (Julia Hummer), who lives in a youth home, manipulative homeless delinquent Toni (Sabine Timoteo), with whom Nina becomes infatuated, and Francoise (Marianne Basler), who is searching for her long-ago kidnapped and still missing child and comes to believe that Nina may be her grown up daughter. Petzold’s film forms the middle section of his “Ghosts Trilogy” (initiated by The State I Am In in 2000 and concluded in 2007 with Yella). Here the ghosts are not just his three main characters—one lost in a traumatic past, one trapped in an empty present, and one grasping at an imagined but hollow future—but the collective and historical ghosts of Germany’s unconscious.
Wednesday, February 26 at 8PM

The Hypnotist
Lasse Hallström, Sweden, 2012; 122m; DCP
Lasse Hallström returns to his native tongue for the first time in 25 years for this twisty, visually striking Nordic noir about a psychologist (the great Mikael Persbrandt) who’s lured back into hypnotism—a practice he’d sworn off—to help solve a horrific crime. A brutal family slaying has left only one survivor: a badly injured, shell-shocked teenage boy, whose memory the doctor sets out to penetrate. It turns out to be a dangerous undertaking, and what surfaces places the detective on the case and the doctor and his wife (Lena Olin) and young son in harm’s way. An engrossing, chilly nail-biter based on the international best-seller by Lars Kepler.
Friday, February 21 at 3:30PM
Sunday, February 23 at 7:30PM

Intruders
Noh Young-seok, South Korea, 2013, 99m; DCP
A twisty blackly comic suspense thriller from South Korea, where sometimes it seems like they do this sort of thing better than anyone else. Looking for peace and quiet, a screenwriter rents a winter cabin in a remote country backwater to concentrate on his latest project. On the bus he does his best to rebuff a talkative character fresh out of prison, who unfortunately gets off at the same destination. Throw in a group of obnoxious kids on a ski vacation in the cabin next door, a pair of menacing game hunters who turn out to be related to the ex-con, and a shifty cop and you can see where things are headed, right? Maybe, maybe not. In his second effort, indie director Noh Young-seok shows he’s a talent to watch out for. Co-presented with the Korea Society and Subway Cinema.
Thursday, February 20 at 6:45PM
Thursday, February 27 at 4:15PM
*Director Noh Young-seok in person

Metro Manila
Sean Ellis, U.K./Philippines, 2013; 115m
Poor rice-farmers Oscar (Jake Macapagal) and Mai (Althea Vega) travel from the desolate mountains to bustling Manila with their two young children in the hopes of making some money, only to discover that the exploitation they faced at home is nothing compared to what greets them in the big city. From the moment they arrive they fall into a downward spiral: Oscar takes a hazardous job as an armored truck driver, while Mai is forced to dance at a sleazy strip joint, not an ideal line of work for any woman, much less an expectant mother. This harrowing domestic/crime drama was the much-deserved winner of a 2013 Sundance Audience Award. A Paladin/108 Media release.
Friday, February 21 at 6PM

The Sacrament
Ti West, U.S., 2013, 95m; DCP
Indie horror specialist Ti West’s story of a Jim Jones–type religious cult will stick in your mind long after the credits roll. Continuing to go from strength to strength, with support from producer Eli Roth, West adopts a first-person found-footage approach with his usual flair and assurance. A VICE magazine photojournalist (Kentucker Audley) arrives at “Eden Parish,” a self-sustaining utopian commune established at a remote undisclosed jungle location outside the U.S. He’s there at the invitation of his estranged sister (Amy Seimetz), and brings along a cameraman (Joe Swanberg) and sound recordist (AJ Bowen), ready to make an exposé documentary. While the trio find no signs of trouble at first—although what’s with the compound’s armed guards?—before long they their doubts prove more than justified as the commune’s mysterious leader, Father (Gene Jones), finally reveals his plans for his followers. A Magnolia release.
Friday, February 21 at 8:30PM
Director Ti West in person

Top of the Lake
Jane Campion & Garth Davis, New Zealand, 2013, 350m; DCP
Twin Peaks crossed with The Killing—and that isn’t the half of it. Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss stars in this thrilling seven-episode television series, the toughest, wildest picture Jane Campion has ever made. With the emotional intensity of the performances and the urgency of the drama scaled to match the vast, primal setting and the six-hour time frame, Top of the Lake is episodic television as epic poem, the Trojan wars recast as the gender war. Moss plays a detective who has returned to the bleak rural town where she grew up in order to spend time with her dying mother, and is recruited by the sole local police officer (David Wenham) to investigate a case of statutory rape. The 12-year-old victim refuses to disclose who got her pregnant, but there are no lack of suspects, starting with her father Mitcham (Peter Mullan), who runs a meth and ecstasy factory in his tumbled-down fortress of a home and seems to have fathered near a half-dozen children with several mothers, making incest as well as violence the subtext of desire, past and present. There are also Mitcham’s sullen, gun-toting sons, and a “foreign” teacher with a pedophile past. A stellar embodiment of “the law of the father,” Mitcham goes on the offensive when women challenge his rule. Enter GJ (Holly Hunter), who buys the lakefront property that Mitcham presumes is his by right and establishes a community of women attempting to recover from abuse through anarchic hijinks—damaged goods empowered by their own sense of comedy. A perfect example of auteurist television, made in collaboration with writer Gerald Lee (who co-wrote Campion’s Sweetie) and co-director Garth Davis.—from Amy Taubin’s article on Top of the Lake in the March/April 2013 issue of Film Comment. A See-Saw Films production in association with Sundance Channel.
Sunday, February 23 at 1PM
*Includes a 15m intermission

We Are the Best!
Lukas Moodysson, Sweden, 2013, 102m; DCP
The director of Together and Lilya 4-ever is back on form with an energetic rough-and-tumble story of three rebellious teenage girls who form a punk rock band to defy the stifling conformity of early 1980s Stockholm. Adapting his wife Coco’s graphic novel, Moodysson affirms that an adolescent girl’s bedroom is as good a place as anywhere to find the ingredients for personal development and political foment as he sketches the friendship between Klara and Bobo, who use punk ideals and music to process the narrow thinking, variable parenting, inconsistent authority, and sexism they encounter in their lives. The action unfolds in a loose series of episodes during which the girls define and give voice to their untested feminist, spiritual, and political ideas, although they can be just as intolerant and conformist as their peers and parents—they recruit classmate and gifted guitar player Hedvig, ostracized for being a devout Christian, but insist that she renounce her religion! Returning to his roots, Moodysson depicts the exploits and follies of his unruly trio with warmth and affection, while cheerfully celebrating the DIY ethos and the urge to revolt. A Magnolia release.
Saturday, February 22 at 7:30PM

The Weight
Jeon Kyu-hwan, South Korea, 2012; 107m, DCP
Jung (Jo Jae-hyeon) is a sickly hunchbacked mortician who takes pride and pleasure in cleaning and dressing the dead. Gong-bae (Zia) is his burdensome younger stepbrother, who wants nothing more than to be a woman. Their story, fraught with human misery and cruelty—and yes, be warned, some necrophilia and graphic gore—is by no means to all tastes. But looking past the film’s bleak exterior there’s actually much beauty to be found within the grotesquerie. The Weight is exquisitely shot and directed and Jo and Zia deliver staggering performances as two catastrophically confused souls. Unsettling, heartbreaking, and altogether bizarre, The Weight is truly one of a kind.
Thursday, February 20 at 9PM

Wolfsburg
Christian Petzold, Germany, 2003, 90m
Unavailable in the U.S., the second film by the Berlin School’s leading light and his first collaboration with actress Nina Hoss, star of his art-house hit Barbara, is a slow-burning thriller that uses the relationship between a hit-and-run driver and the victim’s mother to examine the role of chance in people’s lives and the existential malaise of modern Germany. Upwardly mobile car salesman Philipp (Benno Fürmann) seems to have it made—high-pressure job,perfect house and beautiful fiancée, Katja (Antje Westermann), who happens to be his boss’s sister. But Katja has her doubts about Philipp, and when he runs down a boy on a bicycle and drives on, his life begins to unravel. After the boy’s death, his struggling single mother Laura (Hoss), who works in a retail warehouse, sets out to track down his killer, but after a chance meeting between hunter and hunted, a cautious romantic relationship develops, with the guilty Philipp setting out to find a better job for the unknowing Laura. Petzold’s exploration of the nature of work and economics in today’s Germany is echoed in the film’s title, which invokes the factory town where Volkswagen is based.
Wednesday, February 26 at 6PM


PUBLIC SCREENING SCHEDULE

Monday, February 17
6:30pm: Felony (105m)
9:00pm: Our Sunhi (88m)

Tuesday, February 18
6:30 Cherchez Hortense (100m)
8.45: Betrayal (95m)

Wednesday, February 19
NO SCREENING

Thursday, February 20
4:45pm: Our Sunhi (88m)
6:45pm Intruders (99m) + Q&A
9:00 The Weight (107m)

Friday, February 21
3:30pm: The Hypnotist (122m)
6:00pm: Metro Manila (115m)
8:30: The Sacrament (95m) + Q&A

Saturday, February 22
1:30pm Fat Shaker (85m)
3:20pm: Cannibal (116)
5:45pm: Flesh of My Flesh (76m)
7:30pm We Are the Best (102m)
9:45pm Blood Glacier (98m)

Sunday, February 23
1pm: Top of the Lake (350m)
7:30pm: The Hypnotist (122m)

Tuesday, February 25
4:45 Cherchez Hortense (100m)
7:00 Film Comment Double Feature: The Carey Treatment (101m)
w/ The Hospital (101m)

Wednesday, February 26
3:30 Cannibal (116)
6:00 Wolfsburg (90m)
8:00 Ghosts (85m)
9:50: City of Pirates (111m)

Thursday, February 27
4:15: Intruders (99m)
6:30 Enemy (90m)
8:30 Me and You (103m)


Film Society of Lincoln Center
Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize established and emerging filmmakers, support important new work, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility and understanding of the moving image. Film Society produces the renowned New York Film Festival, a curated selection of the year's most significant new film work, and presents or collaborates on other annual New York City festivals including Dance on Camera, Film Comment Selects, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, LatinBeat, New Directors/New Films, NewFest, New York African Film Festival, New York Asian Film Festival, New York Jewish Film Festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema and Rendez-vous With French Cinema. In addition to publishing the award-winning Film Comment Magazine, Film Society recognizes an artist's unique achievement in film with the prestigious "Chaplin Award." The Film Society's state-of-the-art Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, located at Lincoln Center, provide a home for year round programs and the New York City film community.

The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Royal Bank of Canada, Jaeger-LeCoultre, American Airlines, The New York Times, Stonehenge Partners, Stella Artois, the Kobal Collection, Trump International Hotel and Tower, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts.

For more information, visit www.filmlinc.com and follow @filmlinc on Twitter.

My Lunches With Orson (2013)


I was at a press screening some time right after My Lunches with Orson was released and several people were trashing the book. Some people hated the people involved with the book and dismissed it outright, others didn’t like the light it showed Welles in, namely as a down on his luck name that nobody would hire and who had to scramble to make a buck. My curiosity piqued I sought a copy since the thought of seeing Welles unvarnished and as he was with friends intrigued me.

The body of the book is a series of conversations between Welles and director Henry Jaglom recorded at lunch by Jaglom at Welles request. Jaglom had been doing something similar with other people and Welles wanted it done as well, with the condition he not see the recorder. The conversations were then edited and in some place combined with diary entries or other conversations for clarity. The conversations lasted over the last two or three years of Welles life and were concerned with efforts to make a film version of King Lear,, a film about The Cradle Will Rock, The Big Brass Ring and a film called The Dreamers. There is also lots of talk about old projects, old friends, old enemies and the state of Hollywood as Welles and Jaglom saw it.

An incredibly bittersweet read this book is not for anyone who wants their heroes or celebrities to be anything than bigger than life and twice as ugly. What I mean by this is listening to wells at lunch is very different than listening to Welles on a talk show or lecturing. This is Welles very much being human showing the foibles that we all have. This is Welles the regular person full of love and hate, of foolishness and cleverness. Its clear why some people loved him and other didn’t. He is a huge curmudgeonly soul who wants to be liked but wants it on his terms and then can’t understand why he can’t get anywhere. You get a sense of why he didn’t make more films- hen was prickly and he hooked up with people he shouldn’t.

This is Welles unvarnished, much more than I’ve ever seen in in any other biography- and Welles talks a great deal about those, memory and the stories many people tell about what “really” happened. If nothing else the book should be a must read for anyone who loves biography of any sort since it makes clear that what we think is the truth or what we are being told the truth is never the whole truth. Welles takes issue with his biographers and those who insert themselves into his life by telling stories. He also takes issue with himself saying his memory isn’t what it once was… Nowhere is this more clear in the various stories about Citizen Kane that float through the book. Welles tries to set the record straight for Jaglom about various reports as to who he did or didn’t sleep.

Much of the bittersweet nature of the book comes from Welles simply trying to get money to live and for his films. He is constantly trying to figure out who is going to finance his projects. Or star in his films. How much is true or not true isn’t clear. You see the excitement at the possibility he may make a film at the start of the book fade to disillusionment as the money slips away as producers change the rules at the last minute. It breaks your heart to see a great man reduced to almost nothing.

I loved this book a great deal but by the end I had been so beat down I was kind of glad I was done with it. Too much sadness.

If you want to know Welles the man- or at least welles in the final couple of years of his life read this book.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR's Adèle Exarchopoulos Q&A at IFC Center


I finally caught a screening of the much-talked-about French film, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR at IFC Center in NYC. If you're late to the party, the movie is about a beautiful romance between two young French women, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) a highschool student who seems to be looking for love in all the wrong places and Emma (Léa Seydoux), a blue-haired artist who rocks Adèle's world. Director Abdellatif Kechiche took his time telling his love and heartache story based on a graphic novel, the movie clocks in at an epic three hours including some lengthy, explicit lesbian love scenes.

 I was in the audience at IFC Center for one of the sold out post screening Q&A's with the film's star, Adèle Exarchopoulos. Check out the video below for some interesting insight to the making of BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR.  If you live in or around NYC, stop by the IFC Center where the film is playing and also where they have a nice deal for any Idahoans out there: "since BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR was banned in Idaho, we’re offering a free ticket to any Idahoan who has traveled to New York to see the film. Please present your plane, bus, or train ticket at the box office to claim your pass." 


The Last Shark (1981)

Steven Spielberg's timeless classic Jaws has inspired so many films since it's 1975 release. Given anytime you have a huge success like this, you are opening the flood gates for countless imitations. Deadly Piranha, a killer Orca whale & a gigantic mutated Alligator. Of course numerous Shark knock-off films followed suit after Jaws and it's direct sequel. So many of these came from Italy: Bruno Mattei's Cruel Jaws, Joe D'Amato's Deep Blood, and the ultimate Jaws rip-off, Enzo G. Castellari's The Last Shark (aka Great White).

If you have never seen The Last Shark, you might ask yourself just what makes this the defining Jaws inspired knock-off. Very shortly after the 1982 theatrical release of The Last Shark, it was quickly pulled from U.S. theaters. Universal Pictures (the distributors of Jaws) sued to have the release of The Last Shark blocked from North American distribution. Universal's claim was that the makers of The Last Shark were guilty of plagiarism. Needless to say, Universal easily won the case.

Just how blatant is that plagiarism? Well let's examine it. The Last Shark takes place in the community of Port Harbor. In Jaws, it was Amity Island. Ok not a huge deal but let's continue. Back to The Last Shark, after a young teen dies from a deadly shark attack, our main characters Author Peter Benton (James Franciscus) & the grizzly shark expert Ron Hamer (Vic Morrow) look into the case. They discover the community is under attack by a man-eating Great White Shark. With no help from the greedy, ignorant governor they are left to...well you can guess where this is going. It feels as though Castellari literally took Spielberg's script and simply switched a few things around.

Where do I possibly start?!  Our main player, in other words our Chief Brody, is named Peter Benton. Who just happens to be a writer. Let's connect the dots: the author of the novel for Jaws was Peter Benchley. Benchley...Benton...I can certainly appreciate if that was a nod to the book. As cheesy as it may be. Oh and the fun fact of it all, actor James Franciscus was the guy that stepped into Charlton Heston's role in the first of many sequels to the original Planet of the Apes. Now he's The Last Shark's Roy Scheider. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Enter Quint, the old professional who knows everything that...I'm sorry I mean, enter Ron Hamer. The old professional who knows everything that is going to happen before it happens. With an epic name like Ron Hamer, he should know what type of shit is about to go down. I have nothing against Vic Morrow. He was a fine actor and certainly tried his best to live up to Robert Shaw's incredible role. Despite failing miserably.

The governor in The Last Shark, the mayor in Jaws, it's ultimately played out the same way. Though comparing the believability of both actors is day & night. Replace Richard Dreyfuss with an Italian actress/model. Throw away any bit of suspense, production value and a memorable film score. That in a nutshell is The Last Shark. The filmmakers even managed to imitate a few memorable scenes from Jaws 2.


So where does this rank on the Shark film list? Well it's certainly no where near the top/best. However I can't claim that it's the worst either. It's not in the 'so bad-its good' category (Ex: Deep Blue Sea). It's not even in the 'embarrassingly awful' category (Ex: Jaws: The Revenge). The Last Shark is just sort of stagnant. It's a cheap film who's only intention was to capitalize on it's predecessors success. Certainly no worse than what Universal did with the later Jaws sequels.


Die Nibelungen (1966/1967)


While not completely successful, the two part Die Nibelungen is an interesting attempt to tell the story probably best known for the version done 40 years earlier by Fritz Lang during his UFA days. The source legends are, as you might have guessed the source of the Richard Wagner cycle of operas.

This is the story of the lovers Siegfried and Kriemhild who meet and fall in love and the tragedy that destroys a kingdom as a result.

The first film, Siegfried, tells the story of how Siegfried, after crafting a more or less magical sword, won the treasure of the Niebelungen from the drawf Albrecht. He then traveled to the kingdom of Burgund where he won the affection of the lovely Kriemhild, the King's sister. Unable to marry until the King does Siegfried helps the king win Brunhild, who he rescued and who had fallen in love with him. Brunhilda plots the destruction of Seigfried with Kriemihild's uncle, however when Kriemihild discovers who killed her husband she vows revenge.

The second film is entitled Kriemhild's Revenge and that is what happens as she does everything she can to destroy her own family. This includes marrying the King of the Huns in order to get an army at her disposal. Its tragedy on a truly operatic scale.

The first film film is told by a bard who is relating events from within the story. Talking to the audience from inside the film he also tells stories with I the story so we end up with a large scale destruction of the fourth wall as well as other walls as well. Its gambit that serves the film well since it allows for the film to be played at a heightened level of almost operatic proportions.  Its a gambit that sucks you into the story and makes you want to go along all the way to the hellish conclusion.

The films’s visual style is a weird mix of 1960’s fantasy ala the sword and sandal craze and art/opera. Through much of the film I fully expected that Wagner’s music would burst forth from the speakers. While the mix of high brow and low brow don’t always mix, the dragon at the start is decidedly clunky, it some how is comforting in that the film doesn’t feel that it was just tossed together for a buck. The producer was clearly trying to make more than just money.

I was enthralled for the the entire time the story was running, and when the first film ended I simply switched DVDs and kept right on going.

While visually not quite as gorgeous as the Lang version, this telling of the well known tale is just as good, if not better. Running just under three hours this film is two hours shorter than Lang's version and I think we're better for it. To my mind Lang's films run on and on, especially in his telling of the revenge a woman scorned. Here the story plays out with few asides and perhaps a bit more meat as the battle between pagan and Christianity seems to be more front and center here.

I really liked this film or these films a great deal.

I suspect that the films never made it to the US because of their dark nature- this is a doomed romance coupled with a doomed revenge plot. There is no way to lighten it up. There is also no way to release the films as anything except two films or as two parts to one film.  The films are simply too short (about 85 minutes each) and too plot heavy to chop any shorter. You'd also need an intermission between the two because of the heavy nature of the telling.

I'm tempted to call them a lost classic of cinema from the 1960's.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Angel A (2005)


Luc Besson's offbeat comedy romance fantasy is about a down on his luck con man who decides to kill himself, only to find himself rescuing a tall beautiful woman instead. The woman will do anything to help him and it soon become apparent that she is something more than human.

Shot in glorious black and white I don't know when Paris ever looked this good. It’s a glorious looking film that is a real treat to see. While watching this on DVD I had to take a couple of phone calls during the film so I paused the movie, only to find beautiful art print style pictures on my TV. Heavenly.

The plot line, of an angel helping out our stumble bum hero is a well-worn one. What’s different is how Besson plays it against expectations, clearly he's a man who needs a bit of help, but contrary to most films of this type he's not a complete idiot. He's a man who's been worn away by the world and who, like most of us, just needs someone to believe in him. In some ways the film reminded me of and would make a wonderful companion to Wings of Desire thanks to a similar love of humanity.

To be honest most of the plot of Andre needing to get money and Angela helping him doesn't really work all that well. Its clearly been put in place so that Andre and Angela have something to do. What shines through that is the interplay between the two characters. There is a real affection for each other. Indeed once the money plot goes by the wayside and we simply concentrates on the two leads (who are in almost every shot) the film becomes a wonderful touching tale. More than once a tear came to my eye as the two slowly began to crash into each other. Its wonderfully romantic.

A word of warning. This is an odd ball movie in a way. The film is not what you think it is, or rather it wasn't what I thought it was. About half way through I was tempted to restart the film and watch it again because I suddenly had the feeling that I was not liking the film as much as I was going to on the next go round. It was clear that the film was doing what it wanted and that I wasn't ready to take it on its own terms. I resisted the temptation, but I'm pretty certain that I'm going to like this better on the second go round. I have a feeling this is a film you like the first time and love the second.

Warnings and reservations aside I do recommend this film. If you can go with its vibe I think you'll have a really good time. As for me, it made me wish I had someone to love like that.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Nightcap 1/19/14- if you want to say something stupid sign your name


A couple of tidbits tonight.

You may have noticed that our small attempt at covering films at Sundance has begun. It looks like our coverage is going to be a tad larger than last year (we did one film) but not as large as I had hoped (the arm twisting failed). Sadly it looks like the sum total of our coverage is only going to be a few short films. I had hoped to talk someone into reporting for us from on the ground but that kind of fell apart and an offer to cover a couple films in advance came a time when no one could cover. I’m still working on getting more coverage so hopefully we’ll get some reports from on the ground.
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If you hadn’t seen earlier in the week the man known as Frank Grimes posted a piece on the extreme similarities between the first Saw film and a film called Den from 3 years earlier. Mixing a review of the film, and interview with Den’s director Greg Arce and some documents it puts forth the possibility that the creators of Saw may have “borrowed” a great deal from the earlier film. (The piece can be found here.)

The piece generated a great deal of discussion in several corners of the internet (The Geek World podcast discussion can be found here) and spiked our web traffic. The reason I’m mentioning this is that despite all of the traffic to the site there was only a single comment on the piece posted here at Unseen, however don’t look for the comment, I deleted it.

 The reason I deleted the post was twofold. First while the comment was largely a valid statement that most things can be seen to variations of earlier things, it ended with rude name calling including “you whining loser”. I have no problem with people acting like five year olds and I would have been more than willing to allow the comment to post except for one thing- the comment was anonymous.

As many of you no doubt know I am more than willing to post anonymous comments- the blog is full of them- I am however against infantile comments that people won’t stand behind. There is a reason, beyond controlling spam that the comments here are monitored and that's to try and prevent the site from becoming like many other film sites where trolls behave badly and hide in the shadows. There is no hiding.  Everyone here at Unseen signs their name to what we write and we stand behind it. You know who says it. If you don't like something you know who to take offense with. We give you that courtesy, all we ask is that if you want to make a comment  that's infantile and childish sign your name so we know who to direct our replies to.
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For the family--
The New York International Children's Film Festival has quietly revealed soome of their titles for this year. Details can be found here

And the BAM Kids Fest tickets are on sale. Tickets and info here..
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And now some links from Shelly T Otter's best friend Randi.

Interrogating a muppet
How we saw the world of today 50 years ago
Frozen-expectations vs reality
The John Schneider photoshoot
Bill Murray talks
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This week some random titles. Starting next Saturday nine days of Chinese Films for Chinese New Year which leads into Zatoichi month.

Rat Pack Rat (2014) Sundance 2014

Eddie Rouse gives what is easily one of the great performances of the year
There is much to love about Rat Pack Rat a short film premiering at this years Sundance Film Festival  and there is a couple of things that make me want to smack the director for under cutting what could have been and should have been the first great film of any length from 2014.

The plot of the film has a mother hiring a Sammy Davis impersonator to entertain her bed ridden son on his birthday. The son has all sorts of medical problems and is hooked up to to wires and tubes. He has a fixation for the Rat Pack and Sammy in particular. What transpires is a strange encounter between a fan and his idol.

Now first and foremost the performance of Eddie Rouse as Sammy is incredible. Chalk it up as one of the great performances of the year. Its an amazing performance that is so perfect that it's going to be hard to beat it in the remaining 346 days of the year. Its so good that you'll realize it's a sin that Oscar doesn't include short films when considering acting awards.

Almost everything in this film is Oscar worthy except the humor.

I want to smack director Todd Rohal for adding in low brow fart and poop humor. Yes I understand it would be in the situation that occurs in the film, but only up to a point, I don't think we needed to have the kid farting along to Candy Man or some of the gross shots. I'm not against that sort of humor, I'm just against it when it works against what I would think is the point of the film, which is the ending. To me the ending is completely undercut by the farts. Frankly once we got the fart along I disconnected from the film.

Do the farts make this a bad film? No, but it takes a truly great film and just makes it a merely good or okay one. On the other hand the performance by Eddie Rouse is one for the ages and good enough that I'm actually looking forward to seeing the film again if only to take acting lessons from an unheralded master actor.

dante 01

A non-verbal prisoner, Saint Georges is brought to a psychological research station called Dante 01 because it is in orbit around a planet called Dante. The prisoner was found in all alone in a deep space transport. It is hoped that the facility and its clearance for new treatments will unlock Saint Georges' secrets.

This is a science fiction film that mixes science horror and religion into a visually stunning treat. In all honesty I'm not sure what the film means, or is suppose to mean but I think the film somehow works on some level. I think the films success is mostly as a grand mystery that carries the viewer along to the end because it spins out enough questions we want to know the answers to. Is it successful, not entirely. Certainly the religious allegory (one need only look at the names to see it St Georges, Moloch, Perséphone, Buddha, Charon) is painfully obvious and over worked which makes an ending that is both clear and unclear. The film also seems to be keeping a little bit too much to itself and I wasn't always certain what was what. But at the same time I really like this movie. It wasn't completely the same old thing, or perhaps even if it was the film looked stunning enough that I really didn't mind.

Personally I think the film is worth trying. It may not float your boat but at the same time I think there will be enough inside it to make you feel you didn't waste the money for a rental or your time.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The discussion of Den and Saw continues in a Geek Nation Killer:POV podcast

The article by Frank Grimes about Den the possible source for Saw continues to create debate. This time on the Killer POV podcast over at Geek Nation. Hosts Rob Galluzzo (FEARNET, Icons Of Fright), Rebekah McKendry (Fangoria) and Elric Kane (Inside Horror) begin their show with a discussion of the article and how earlier works of art influence later ones. Its a great talk and if you liked the piece you'll want to hear the talk.  The talk can be found here. (I'll embed the talk once I sort out some technical issues)

Dawn (2014) Sundance 2014


Rose McGowan's poisoned confection is, in it's way deeply disturbing. It's not so much the saccharine portrayal of  1950's sensibilities, rather it's the way McGowan juxtaposes it with our modern day expectations...

The plot of this 17 minute film has the title character becoming enamored of  the hunky guy who works at the gas station. Her mom warns her of the danger but she presses on, especially after he appears at her window one night. Deeply smitten she ends up inviting her objection of desire and his friends over when her parents go away. Things do not go as she planned.

Opening with a sequence that spells foreboding the film then flashes back to the start of the tale. The small little peek ahead is just enough to set our nerves jangling with every innocent line now weighed with dread.

You'll forgive me for not saying to much about the story but since this is a film that builds to it's ending I don't want to say too much. I will say that the end had me staring at the screen while the end credits rolled.

As a film there are some good things and bad. The bad things mostly involve the cast which is very uneven. I don't know how much the young cast has done but they are very uneven from merely adequate to good.

The good is definitely Rose McGowan's ability to put the film together, say what you feel about most of the film, I'm sure that by the time the end credits roll you'll be like me sitting slack jawed and staring at the screen. This is a film that's all in the ending and  McGowan manages to overcome everything and punch you in the face. I can't wait to see what she does with a feature.

Definitely worth searching out.

Constantine

For the record I have read Hellblazer, the source of this film, and I do like the comic.

Also for the record I do like this movie a great deal as well.

Is it the comic? Thats open to debate. I think in many ways it it is. I think the problem is that they've made a film about a very complex character who's been developed over hundreds of issues and distilled him down to what a mass audience could take in.(remember this is a character that runs in DC's alternative, non "mainstream" Vertigo comic line) No, he's not English, its not set in London, and its not always night and raining, but other than that I think they have the feel. Keanu for my money is pretty good. I think the problem for most people who read the comic is he's not a snarky Brit and therefore its not Constantine. I think he's fine and his performance takes other bits of his personality and brings them to the forefront. Its no different than the way different writers have handled the character over the years.

As a movie its a very good. Its not high art and its not Silence of the Lambs scary, but its a really good thriller with neat visuals and a creepy attitude. Any movie that can keep me up and awake until almost two in the morning when going in I could barely keep my eyes open, has to be a very good film.

I must single several of the supporting cast, Tilda Swinton as Gabriel and Peter Stormare as Satan. Both give great performances, though Storemare's devil who desperately wants Constantine's soul is flesh crawling evil at its finest. Talk about evil incarnate.

The plot has to do with the "re-discovery" of the Spear of Destiny, the attempt of the son of Satan to take over the world, and the investigation of the supposed suicide of an LA detectives twin sister. Its not giving anything away to say they are all related nor that there intertwining forms a pretty dark path.

This is a really good movie thats worth seeing if you're into ghoulies and ghosties and things that bump in the night.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A few words on Ana Arabia (2013) New York Jewish Film Festival 2014


A single take film follows a journalist as she talks to the family and friends of a Holocaust survivor who married a Muslim in Israel. As the people talk we get a sense of  the Arab Israeli conflict on a personal level.

I'm mixed on this film.

Had this film been a stage play this would have been a kickass theatrical experience. On stage the talky nature of the tale would work to it's advantage. Sadly on film are much too static. While the camera moves around a group of buildings to put us in different locations, each time people start to talk the camera stops moving and we are essentially watching people speak while in a tableau.  It might have worked if there was a rhyme or reason to the order of the conversations,but there doesn't seem to be one. There doesn't seem to be a reason for the journalist to keep going back and forth to the various  people. Two people offer to make her tea, she says yes but then walks off to talk to someone else.

The big selling point of the film is single take of the film. Why is the single take so important? If no one had pointed it out (The film itself even mentions that it was done in one take) I never would have known or cared. But by making a big deal about the one take I kept waiting for the reason for it. There had to be a reason to do it in one take right? Apparently not.

Personally I could have missed this film.