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Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Thumbnail : Richard Linklater’s Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood

When The Who named their landmark 1979 album The Kids Are Alright, it was an anthem of baby boomer self-confidence. Boomers were more than all right—they knew without being told that they would one day be in charge of everything. Great expectations formed a generational bond going back to the cradle. As applied to the insecure Gen X adults who populate Richard Linklater’s widely acclaimed but elusive film Boyhood, the album would be called “Are the kids alright? How the fuck should I know? I can barely run my own life.” Born between the early Sixties and early Eighties, Gen Xers shunned baby boomer values. They defined themselves by being cool with underachievement. Without knowing how it happened, some drifted like tourists inside their own lives.

Thumbnail : Boyhood

Boyhood

If Richard Linklater were anonymous, one of those painters who never signed their work, maybe he’d be known as The Master of the Gimmick. His first film, Slacker, tracked talk like a contagion or a unit of currency as it passed from one character to another, beginning with himself. Boyhood, his latest film, was shot […]

Thumbnail : George Eastman House Light & Motion Gala, May 5, 2014, at Three Sixty° in Tribeca

George Eastman House Light & Motion Gala, May 5, 2014, at Three Sixty° in Tribeca

My direct experience with the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, to give it its full name, began with their latest major restoration project, the recently rediscovered footage Orson Welles shot for the cinematic interludes in his Mercury production of Too Much Johnson. Apart from being a tour de force of conservation, the project underscored one inspiring aspect of the institution. George Eastman House is a museum, but, unlike virtually all art museums, which pride themselves on avoiding acquisitions in compromised condition, it actively seeks out films in need of conservation—that being its primary function, both to fill in the documentation of the history of photography and cinema, and to make lost works of art available to the public. This activity justifies itself of course, but its importance is heightened by the fact that motion pictures in particular were not considered worthy of preservation.

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.

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  • The Bard Music Festival at 25: Franz Schubert and his World
    My leading thought goes against much of what the Bard Music Festival and my own values, for that matter, stand for. And just read Keith Francis' provocative series, The Great Composers?, the latest installment of which has just been published. I've missed only one Bard Festival since 2006, and I've heard great music by Elgar, […]
    Michael Miller
  • A Singer’s Notes 98: No Amontillado, just Ale
    The much-maligned poetry of Edgar Allan Poe still bristles with excitement when one hears it. High and mighty Emerson called it a bunch of "jingles." The musical reference is appropriate. A poem like "Annabelle Lee" is basically a sound event. The sonic Poe I have in my imagination was revered by the French, Baudelaire in […]
    Keith Kibler
  • A Treasurable Account of Poe’s Last Hours from the Berkshire Theatre Group, with David Adkins and Kate Maguire, Closing 10/26
    You can't really blame the Berkshire Theatre Group for billing Eric Hill's splendid entertainment, POE, as a Hallowe'en show. As the holiday approaches, Poe's chilling stories and poems are rolled out in all the many forms they have assumed since their assimilation into two great cultural phenomena, American Literature and American Pop Culture, over the […]
    Michael Miller
  • A Singer’s Notes 97: It’s Hot Outside—Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Clicks at Oldcastle Theatre, Bennington
    Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is an obsessive work which makes wildly different demands on its actors. Renata Eastlick as Maggie starts us off which what amounts to a twenty-five to thirty-minute monologue. She did this superbly. It was just overbearing enough. Listening to her was the excellent Loren Dunn who played her husband […]
    Keith Kibler