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Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Thumbnail : Das Reichsorchester: The Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich, A film by Enrique Sánchez Lansch

Das Reichsorchester: The Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich, A film by Enrique Sánchez Lansch

It may seem like bad manners to welcome the Berlin Philharmonic to New York by discussing a film which deals with the darkest period in its history, but I have no trouble pointing out that its creator’s neutral position leads to a fair, even sympathetic treatment of the orchestra and the survivors who tell the story through their personal experiences and perspectives. The humanity and culture of these gentlemen shine through, and through the political murk, the viewer can develop a vivid sense of what made this orchestra and the musicians in it unique. Enrique Sánchez Lansch’s Das Reichsorchester is entirely the product of a contemporary German mentality, reflecting the desire of a later generation to understand the many gradations of complicity and innocence, courage and fear, their grandparents could grasp as choices in a political system which left them few.

Thumbnail : A Window on his World: Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street

A Window on his World: Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street

Jordan Belfort might be content to be a jerk if only he knew that he was one. Or perhaps his jerkiness is as self-evident to him as the truth that life is all about the Benjamins. At first The Wolf of Wall Street seems like the “I was going to be busy all day” climax of Goodfellas extended to three hours and accelerated from Cadillac to Ferrari pace. No other Scorsese movie is so playful, few are so funny; what a thrill to see Our Greatest Director disburdened of the weight of prestige almost to the point of bad taste. Like CasinoThe Wolf of Wall Street is a three hour film which never settles down. Instead of exposition, character development, subplot, landscape and wallowing in production design, there are fake TV ads (starting with the one which opens the film, blending with the production company logos), cover versions of once good songs, direct address to camera, the thoughts of characters narrated to us as voice over and several interminably uninspiring “inspirational” speeches. This is the world of a man whose vocabulary, grammar and syntax are made of such ticky-tack.

Thumbnail : Orson Welles’ Too Much Johnson, restored by George Eastman House

Orson Welles’ Too Much Johnson, restored by George Eastman House

Simon Callow, in his biography of Orson Welles, cites the Mercury actor, William Alland, on Welles’ personal devastation caused by the failure the company’s 1938 revival of William Gillette’s (1853-1937) Too Much Johnson (1894). According to Alland, who was with him most of the time, Welles “retired into his air-conditioned tent at the St. Regis, where he lay in darkness surrounded by 25,000 feet of film…convinced that he was going to die, racked by asthma and fear and despair.” Alland reported “the self-vilifications and the remorse for what he had done to those around him…” Although Welles returned to work and to his favorite diversions soon enough, it is clear that the failure of Too Much Johnson was a major defeat for him.

Thumbnail : ONE-NIGHT-ONLY screening of the newly restored  “Too Much Johnson” in New York, Monday, Nov. 25 at the Directors Guild of America Theater, 110 West 57th St.

ONE-NIGHT-ONLY screening of the newly restored  “Too Much Johnson” in New York, Monday, Nov. 25 at the Directors Guild of America Theater, 110 West 57th St.

If anyone needs no introduction, it is Orson Welles, although he in fact introduced himself countless times to movie and television audiences, above all in his many appearances in commercials, and even to live audiences. There is as much misinformation about him as there is about George Washington. (For one thing, Citizen Kane is not his best film, as impressive as it is.) As with any artist, we have to understand his life work as a whole, as compromised as some of it may be, before making judgments and creating hierarchies. The varied activities he pursued—in some cases with substantial success—before he made Citizen Kane are familiar enough, even outside the world of cinephiles, but not everyone has thought about how they worked together to bring him within reach of the innovations of Kane.

Thumbnail : Good People Go to Hell, Saved People Go to Heaven – Holly Hardman’s documentary about Hurricane Katrina and the End Times

Good People Go to Hell, Saved People Go to Heaven – Holly Hardman’s documentary about Hurricane Katrina and the End Times

Holly Hardman begins her important film, Good People Go to Hell Saved People Go to Heaven, with words in white lettering against a black background—words in a basic, analytical form, first the word “rapture” followed by a series of common synonyms—euphoria, elation, bliss, etc.—then a dictionary definition of the expression, “the Rapture,” Theology; aspect of Apocalyptic Millennialism. In Evangelical and fundamentalist Christian belief, the act of being lifted by Jesus into heavenly skies upon the Second Coming, either before, during, or after the Tribulation (a time of great suffering for those left behind on earth).” Before any moving image appears, we hear a strange, incoherent hissing sound, which becomes clearer as we observe a strapping man in early middle age. The man, who wears biblical robes and flowing hair and beard, is muttering the name of Jesus, as he carries a large cross along a highway. Then he half-chants, “Jesus have mercy, Lawd.” The cross has a small wheel or caster at its base to facilitate the bearing of it. This practical touch hints that the man is not carrying out some fanatical penance, but working.

Thumbnail : Looking Forward into the Rear View Mirror: Taxi Driver Turns 35

Looking Forward into the Rear View Mirror: Taxi Driver Turns 35

For a man of the 1970s, Travis Bickle spends a lot of time looking at and through screens. His world is nearly always framed, either by a movie screen, an old TV, a windshield, a shop window or a rear view mirror. As Travis would know, at the movies everything is bigger than on TV. […]

Thumbnail : Malick qua Kubrick:  2011, A Life Odyssey – The Tree of Life

Malick qua Kubrick: 2011, A Life Odyssey – The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (Read Huntley Dent’s review of The Tree of Life in the Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts.) Cast: Mr. O’Brien, Brad Pitt Mrs. O’Brien, Jessica Chastain Young Jack O’Brien, Hunter McCracken Adult Jack O’Brien, Sean Penn R. L. (Middle Son), Laramie Eppler Steve (Youngest Son), Tye Sheridan […]

Thumbnail : Production Notes: Woody Allen’s Bop Decameron in Rome

Production Notes: Woody Allen’s Bop Decameron in Rome

Woody Allen is in Rome shooting his latest production, The Bop Decameron. Italian newspapers have been brimming with “Where’s Woody?” stories, and tourists and citizens have been tweeting their sightings. Woody is very popular in Italy and while this is his first Rome-set picture, he has been a frequent visitor in the past with his New Orleans jazz band.

in tow.

The Bop Decameron will be structured into four vignettes, two of which will be in Italian. Yesterday, Woody shot at Piazza Mattei with a predominantly Italian cast and crew. Jim Jarmusch used the same location in the Rome segment of Night on Earth, starring Roberto Benigni, who is also signed on for The Bop. Other cast members include: Penélope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, and Woody Allen himself.

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