Film

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.

Joseph Cotten in distress

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.

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.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, with Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master

Apocalypse then.

As an act of recollection, The Master captures the Fifties with perfect pitch, all the more remarkable because the film’s creator wasn’t there. Two stories collide from opposite directions. One is the story of an invisible man, a World War II veteran who never recovers from combat. The other is a charlatan savant skimming the gullible and rising to become a cult leader, the Master of the title. One life has slipped through the cracks, as adrift as Okies in the Dust Bowl but desolately lonely. The other life is a round-the-clock power play to grab the golden ring.

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.

The Tree of Life, by Terrence Malick

First disobedience. Sticklers are fond of pointing out that Proust was not remembering things past but in search of lost time, as the original French title says. So is Terrence Malick. His most Proustian film to date is The Tree of Life, which is now awing and stumping audiences, trailing a Palme d’Or from Cannes in its processional through movie houses where most of the audience, children of Star Wars and Scooby Doo, stand as amazed as Nebudchadnezzar reading God’s message in fiery letters. The film is autobiographical and philosophical, like Proust’s A la recherche, and just as maannered in its stylized language, although in this case the invented diction is visual.

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