"No sort of motion picture is more stylized, utopian, or fun to theorize than the musical," writes the Voice's J Hoberman. "As an exercise in orchestrated time, each and every movie aspires to the state of music; those actually set to music are closest to their medium's essence. At least I think that's what Jean-Luc Godard meant when, pondering The Pajama Game, he called musicals 'the idealization of cinema,' or why Andrew Sarris so confidently opined that a musical was something 'every aesthete in New York, London, and Paris wants to make.' However different they may be in approach, Damien Chazelle (Boston) and Pedro Costa (Lisbon) are two such aesthetes, each with a song in his heart. Both of these filmmakers' cannily frugal avant-musicals — Chazelle's giddy Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench and Costa's solemn Ne change rien [see Wednesday's roundup] — could be described as idealized cinema: each a beautifully shot, rhythmically complex, wildly artistic, willfully eccentric quest for authenticity. In these two studied yet spontaneous films, the focus is on process: Making music is synonymous with making the movie."
On the other hand, Michael Joshua Rowin for the L: "Like so many low-low-budget mediocrities, G&M mistakes visual and narrative slackness for 'authenticity,' and combined with an ineptly contrived take on New Wave genre-play, that spells death. A musical in which characters express their feelings through song can't work if those characters are complete non-entities, and can't sing to boot."
And somewhere in between, Nick Schager for Slant: "If Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench's storytelling were up to its filmmaking, it might have been the masterpiece it often seems capable of becoming.... Whether with a ravishing silent sequence that finds Guy wooing Elena in a subway car — Chazelle cutting between their eyes, feet and barely touching hands with svelte grace — or an apartment jam session in which the camera whips back and forth from a tap dancer to Guy's jazz trumpeting in time to the music, the film can be intoxicating. [Justin] Hurwitz's old-school music can seem an affected embellishment for Chazelle's grainy visuals, yet its vibrancy is nonetheless charming. On the other hand, the film's attempts at conveying emotion through sound and image rather than dialogue reaps uneven dividends." Ultimately, "the film's dramatic substance isn't the equal of its style."
More from Ian Buckwalter (NPR), Jeannette Catsoulis (New York Times), David Edelstein (New York), Andrew Schenker (Artforum) and James van Maanen. Interviews with Chazelle: David Fear (Time Out New York) and Brandon Harris (Filmmaker). At Ioncinema, Chazelle lists his top ten films. #1: Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975).
"It's all too apropos of everything that Tim League's newest and maybe riskiest move in the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema's global domination gambit should involve a blacker-than-black comedy about a quartet of wannabe mujahedeen scheming to martyr themselves for Islam and take out half of the Kaffir bastards in London whilst doing so." Marc Savlov: "That'd be Four Lions, the debut film to be distributed under the Drafthouse Films banner. Directed by Brit comedy icon Chris Morris of Brass Eye fame, the film finds the humor inherent in al Qaeda-style shenanigans, humanizing the other side of the global war on terror in the process. A suicide bomber comedy, pitched somewhere between an episode of The Office and The Battle of Algiers? What will Glenn Beck say? Who cares? The media, and by extension an unusually ill-informed electorate, has forgotten (or perhaps never realized) that while the first casualty of war is the truth, the second POW is a sense of humor."
Also in the Austin Chronicle, Kimberley Jones: "Four Lions is a riot of physical comedy (there are no words for the sublime effect of four men stutter-running with silver nitrate in plastic baggies), and much of the dialogue is sneakily hilarious in its sheer banality." And then there's Savlov's interview with Morris.
"Shot in a jerky, low-budget style just a few steps removed from the inflammatory Web videos its characters try to make, Four Lions is unsparing and yet also curiously affectionate," writes the NYT's AO Scott. "Taking place mainly in a nondescript, lower-middle-class suburb, with excursions to Pakistan and London, the film proceeds through a barrage of multilingual, heavily accented slang, punctuated by bursts of nearly Jackass-worthy slapstick, some fatal. In the manner of Extras or In the Loop, it offers a thoroughly cynical, cringe-inducingly precise portrait of a slice of contemporary society."
The Boston Globe's Ty Burr finds Four Lions "scaldingly comic in its individual scenes and characterizations... but toothless in its larger strokes; it lampoons terrorists without tackling the mindset that creates them. Real satire must be savage, and Four Lions, for all its daring, finally doesn't dare enough."
More from Dan Kois (Voice), Michael Ordoña (Los Angeles Times), Matt Prigge (Philadelphia Weekly), Nathan Rabin (who gives the film a B+ at the AV Club), Nick Schager (Slant, 2 out of 4 stars), James van Maanen and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 7 out of 10). Earlier: Reviews from Sundance. More interviews with Morris: Sam Adams (AV Club), Bilge Ebiri (IFC), Esquire, Hugh Hart (Wired), Dennis Lim (NYT), John Lopez (Vanity Fair) and Mark Olsen (LAT).
"Based on Aron Ralston's book Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 127 Hours chronicles the five days Ralston spent with his arm pinned underneath a boulder during a solo rock-climbing expedition gone wrong," begins the AV Club's Scott Tobias. "It's a survivalist tale, naturally, but also a more far-reaching assessment of life and death, as the situation forces Ralston to ruminate about his family, his ex-girlfriend, and the hereafter, often in a hallucinatory rush of panic and half-sleep. Hot off Slumdog Millionaire, director Danny Boyle would seem like the perfect man for the material, because if there's a common denominator to his work since Trainspotting, it's his ability to bottle the caffeinated energy of youth. The setting may seem constricting, but Boyle captures the intensity of Ralston's experience in a swift, agonizing, defiantly cinematic 90 minutes. But intensity is one thing; depth is another."
"Danny Boyle is modern cinema's most virtuosic whore," declares New York's David Edelstein. "I do not mean that to sound quite as unflattering as it does. Cinema is a swell medium for whores, and there's a touch of whorishness in some (but not all) of our greatest directors. Knowing when to deliver pleasure and when to flash, tease, and strategically withhold is an art. The only problem with directors who are primarily whores is that they give us nothing to take home apart from the dwindling memory of sensations: say, jump cuts of a handsome young man running from a sociopathic drug dealer, a low-angle view of a drop of infected zombie blood falling into a father's eye, and a music video of young people dancing joyously on a train platform. Now, in 127 Hours, Boyle gives us a music-video-style exercise in boundless freedom, cruel confinement, and crippling/liberating self-mutilation that makes for just about the ultimate trick."
For the NYT's AO Scott, "the film leaves you with the impression of having lived, vicariously but intensely, through something whose meaning is both profound and elusive." But for Ella Taylor, writing for NPR, "the Aron in Danny Boyle's frenetically busy 127 Hours doesn't have enough soul to justify our spending a whole movie squeezed into a crevice with him." More from Ed Champion, Ed Gonzalez (Slant, 2 out of 4), Dan Kois (Voice), Michael Koresky (Reverse Shot), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY, 5 out of 5), Nick Schager (C), Dana Stevens (Slate), Armond White (New York Press) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 8 out of 10). Earlier: Reviews from Telluride and Toronto. The LAT's John Horn reports on a set visit. Interviews: Kyle Buchanan with Boyle (Vulture), David Fear with Franco (TONY) and Kristopher Tapley with screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (In Contention). Viewing (6'15"). Boyle and Franco chat on a sofa at the London Film Festival. More viewing (4'05"). IFC's Matt Singer talks with them, too.
"Remember that other administration you used to be outraged about?" asks Eli Sanders in the Stranger. "The one that took the US to war against Iraq based on flawed intelligence and was so ruthless in protecting its false narrative about an impending 'mushroom cloud' that it outed a CIA spy whose husband — not the spy, her husband — dared to question the rationale for war in a New York Times op-ed? Maybe you only kinda remember the details of all that (it involved a woman named Valerie Plame — remember now?), but you certainly remember the pure and righteous outrage it inspired, and you probably kinda miss that outrage (don't lie), especially now that you're spending all your time in a state of semiconflicted, highly complicated outrage about what this war-ending Democratic administration is and isn't doing for the gays, the Gitmos, and the progressive agenda in general."
For the Chicago Reader's JR Jones, "Doug Liman's Fair Game is a model exercise in dramatizing recent political scandal, and easily the best fact-based Hollywood political thriller since All the President's Men (1976). Liman, director of The Bourne Identity (2002) and Mr and Mrs Smith (2005), knows how to ratchet up the tension as [Joe] Wilson (Sean Penn) writes his op-ed for the New York Times and Plame (Naomi Watts) is outed by right-wing columnist Robert Novak. But as it turns out, what really drives the story is the personal material: adapting memoirs by Plame and Wilson, fraternal screenwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth manage to fuse the largest questions of war and national security with a persuasive love story about two harried Washington professionals."
"For its first half, Fair Game balances shaky-cam espionage and a subversive cheekiness (viva the Gorillaz-scored credits sequence!) with wit and urgency," writes TONY's David Fear. "Then Plame's cover gets blown, and so does the film's; suddenly, the clunky melodrama that had been lurking in the shadows starts hogging the spotlight. The couple's rote domestic spats play for our sympathy, montages of baying media hounds inflame our ire, and a Scooter Libby avatar gives Snidely Whiplash a run for his money. Lest we missed the 22-point-font messages, the movie literally ends with waving flags and a lecture. Wilson and Plame's punishment for speaking out was indeed a repugnant abuse of power. To reduce their story to a handwringer for housewives that's laden with protest-sign sloganeering seems, frankly, unfair."
More from Ty Burr (Boston Globe), Tony Dayoub, Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 3 out of 4 stars), David Edelstein (New York), Benjamin Mercer (L), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Matt Prigge (Philadelphia Weekly), Marc Savlov (Austin Chronicle, 3 out of 5), Nick Schager (C), AO Scott (NYT), Kenneth Turan (LAT), Bill Weber (Slant, 2.5 out of 4), Armond White (NYP) and Alison Willmore (IFC). Earlier: Reviews from Cannes. Interviews with Watts and Plame: Kevin Gray (New York) and Scott Kraft (LAT). Interviews with Liman: Sam Adams (AV Club), Kevin Gray (Vulture) and Liane Hansen (NPR).
"Relying on a bevy of circumstantial evidence and without proving much in the way of anything, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer nonetheless homes in on a provocative and highly plausible thesis," writes Andrew Schenker in Slant: "that the investigation into the prostitution scandal that brought down former New York State governor Eliot Spitzer was a political hit job carried out at the behest of powerful Republican interests. At the very least, Alex Gibney's doc shows up the Bush-era Justice Department as an institution with seriously misguided priorities. While the DOJ declined to go after the Wall Street criminals that Spitzer made his name prosecuting as state attorney general, they wasted countless taxpayer dollars launching an investigation into a high-class prostitution ring, something not generally taken as the purview of the national government. Of course, there's no denying that Spitzer betrayed his trust and broke the law, but in the grand scheme of things, dallying with well-compensated hookers is a relatively harmless crime compared to the fraud perpetrated by men like ex-AIG CEO Hank Greenberg, whose case former US attorney Michael J Garcia dropped, only to later turn his investigative attention on the man who had built that very lawsuit, Spitzer himself."
"Gibney is a fascinating filmmaker, with a bewildering output in terms of both mass quantity and startlingly inconsistent quality," argues Erin Donovan. "After working for two decades as a television producer, he exploded on the documentary scene in 2005 with Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, a detailed and affable account of what would apparently be the tip of the iceberg for complex financial scandals. In 2007 he won an Academy Award for Taxi to the Dark Side, an impassioned examination of interrogation techniques inspired by the life and work of his father, a former military interrogator. That same year he released the terminally dull Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr Hunter S Thompson, in which Gibney seemed to be at a 118-minute loss for how to depict someone who has already been endlessly mythologized. This year he released Casino Jack and The United States of Money, a turgid, lifeless attempt to further takedown lobbyist/convicted felon Jack Abramoff. Yet Gibney also contributed one of those most artful and thoughtful short pieces to the omnibus documentary Freakonomics in which he took the absurdly unfilmable subject of an economist's study of cheating in Sumo wrestling and created a haunting and tragic snapshot of a integrity ceding to avarice. He's also directed a film version of Lawrence Wright's one-man play My Trip to Al-Qaeda. Client 9 continues to demonstrate that Gibney is far more comfortable with subjects who are on-camera participants and perceive themselves as some kind of victim."
More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), Manohla Dargis (NYT), David Edelstein (New York), Michelle Orange (Movieline, 7.5 out of 10), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY, 2 out of 5), Scott Tobias (AV Club, B) and Zach Wigon (L). Earlier: Reviews from Toronto. Kevin Sessums talks with Spitzer for the Daily Beast, Stephen Saito with Gibney for IFC and David Carr with both for the NYT. For Twitch, Peter Gutierrez talks with producer Todd Wider. Update: Williams Cole interviews Gibney, too, for the new issue of the Brooklyn Rail.
"The Australian high-country setting of Patrick Hughes's blood-soaked western Red Hill, brimming with jagged edged rock faces and menacing mountainsides, evokes the genre universe of director Anthony Mann," proposes Glenn Heath Jr in Slant. "Specifically, Red Hill shows how the brutal deeds of Aborigine avenger Jimmy Conway (Tommy Lewis) intrinsically connect with the shifting landscape once prized by his ancestors. The constricting location not only physically chokes off the titular town from outside help, but also provides an understated sense that primal forces are uprooting the human foundation of community built on equal parts greed and corruption."
"Filmed in just four weeks using secondhand Hollywood film stock, Red Hill wears its clichés proudly and its violence with panache," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT. "Patrick Hughes directs and edits his own story with fanatical focus, while Tim Hudson's photography coaxes foreboding from every rust-brown shadow and desiccated blade of grass. Political and racial plot points are checked but never belabored."
"It's clear that Hughes knows his Midnight Oil, but he's ignorant of the craft of economic action filmmaking," argues Nick Pinkerton in the Voice. "However arguably noble his film's intent to redress historical grievance, a poorly filmed shoot-out is never more than exactly that."
More from Noel Murray (AV Club, C), Marc Savlov (Austin Chronicle, 3 out of 5), Matt Singer (IFC) and James van Maanen. Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay talks with Hughes.
"Co-written and directed by Todd Phillips, whose mega-success with last summer's panorama of fake-amiable boys-will-be-dumb crassness The Hangover has made him the slightly richer and much dumber man's Judd Apatow, Due Date does not quite waste the considerable comic talents of [Zach] Galifianakis and [Robert] Downey [Jr], who's superb here as an expectant dad who frequently has a hard time tamping down his reflexive hostility and pomposity." Glenn Kenny, the new chief film critic for MSN Movies: "Interestingly, it's the innovative comic Galifianakis who turns in the weaker performance.... The duo are always watchable, even as the movie is recycling gags and tropes not just from [Planes, Trains and Automobiles], but from the first National Lampoon's Vacation picture, the immortal The Big Lebowski and even, just for good measure, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. No, really."
"Like The Hangover, Due Date creates two oppositional spaces for the sexes — the giant playground in which men run riotously amok, and the domestic sphere of waiting women — you know, kind of like The Odyssey, but with masturbation jokes and vomit." The NYT's Manohla Dargis: "Regurgitation and a self-pleasuring dog define the limits of the new film's ambitions. Most road movies have a sense of the life rushing past that the guys in Due Date scarcely notice, though they do stop to stock up on product placements."
More from Marjorie Baumgarten (Austin Chronicle, 3 out of 5), Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 2 out of 5), Jesse Cataldo (Slant, 2 out of 4), Ed Champion, Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 2.5 out of 4), David Edelstein (New York), Nick Hasted (Arts Desk), Karina Longworth (Voice), James Marsh (Twitch), Neil Morris (Independent Weekly), Wesley Morris (Boston Globe, 2 out of 4), Keith Phipps (AV Club, B), Mary Pols (Time), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY, 4 out of 5), Nick Schager (D), Dana Stevens (Slate), Scott Tobias (NPR), Lindy West (Stranger), Armond White (NYP), Mike Wilmington (Movie City News) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 5.5 out of 10). Interviews with Phillips: Sam Adams (AV Club) and Michelle Castillo (Time). Chris Lee talks with Galifianakis for the LAT.
"DreamWorks Animation's quest to chase down Pixar calls to mind gadget makers' pursuit of Apple," suggests Josh Levin in Slate. "No matter how much gloss the wannabes slather on, Steve Jobs's old movie studio and Jobs's gizmo manufacturer outshine them with a snazzier look and feel, and better storytelling. While DreamWorks' latest, Megamind, claims to redefine the superhero movie, in reality it's the Zune of motion pictures: a spiffy, well-designed product that's also unmistakably an off-brand imitation. It's no great shame to suffer by comparison to The Incredibles — most movies, animated or otherwise, don't measure up. Still, DreamWorks should've been smarter than to tug on Mr Incredible's cape. (OK, Mr Incredible didn't have a cape. But you get my point.) The inevitable outcome: Megamind is an expertly made animated feature that serves to highlight everything Pixar does well."
The set-up, courtesy of Robert Wilonsky in the Voice: "Will Ferrell, as the titular blue meanie with the giant light-bulb noggin, is forever trying to off Brad Pitt's Metro Man, the square-jawed guardian of Metro City. Two aliens shot to earth from distant, destroyed plants, theirs is a lifelong back-and-forth-and-back-again — Lex Luthor and Superman oughta sue; so, too, Lois Lane, recast as newshound Roxanne Ritchi (and voiced by Tina Fey as Liz Lemon). But early in the film, Megamind offs (but not really) Metro Man (if Brad Pitt spent more than 19 minutes in the recording studio, he's a terrible manager of his time), at which point Megamind takes control of the town and realizes — no — that evil without good to kick around is wasted." Bottom line: His 7-year-old son was bored.
Still, Megamind does have its champions, among them, Simon Abrams, who writes in Slant that the film "may initially seem like a superhero spoof in the comedic vein of Shrek, but it reveals itself to be smarter, funnier, and infinitely more sympathetic than that." More from Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 3 out of 4), Stephen Holden (NYT), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies), Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter), Wesley Morris (Boston Globe, 3 out of 4), Tasha Robinson (AV Club, B+), Bill Stamets (Newcity Film), Keith Uhlich (TONY, 2 out of 5) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 6.5 out of 10).
"Tyler Perry's back-breakingly ambitious adaptation of Ntozake Shange's beloved 1975 play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf is a fascinating misfire," writes Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly. "It's a massively self-important, oppressively weighty translation of difficult material that most folks said couldn't be translated — and it turns out they were right. And yet the movie remains strangely watchable, even when it's gone bonkers. Especially when it's gone bonkers."
"Goodness, no, Tyler Perry did not make a great movie," writes Jen Graves in the Stranger. "It's a political event regardless of Perry's Christian sexual hang-ups, his heavy-handed style (and inclination to allow Janet Jackson to pretend she can act), and the fact, simply, that he's a male presenting a very female set of stories. You can almost forget Perry, thanks to the sheer power of the actresses (except you-know-who); I haven't seen any other performances this year that compete with these — especially from Thandie Newton, Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine, and Phylicia Rashad. (And Macy Gray gives the juiciest cameo of the year as a back-alley abortionist from hell.)"
"Mr Perry works very hard and gets it mostly right," argues Manohla Dargis (NYT). More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), Roger Ebert (2.5 out of 4), Ed Gonzalez (Slant, 1.5 out of 4), Wesley Morris (Boston Globe, 2.5 out of 4), Michelle Orange (Movieline, 6.5 out of 10), Keith Phipps (AV Club, C-), Mary Pols (Time), Lisa Rosman (TONY, 3 out of 5), Betsy Sharkey (LAT) and Bill Stamets (Newcity Film).
"When did indie comedy become so anti-populist?" asks Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant. "There's no significant difference between the taxonomy of bourgeoisie growing pains lifelessly organized by Josh Radnor's recent debut, happythankyoumoreplease, and the early-30s angst that informs the queer relationship drama of Casper Andreas's Violet Tendencies. In both, we're asked to accept individuals of varying pulchritude as surrogates for our own adult self-empowerment, even as they define maturity with insularly impractical rites of passage. Monogamy and parenthood are coveted boons and, narratively, evidence of character growth; mute children are, somewhat coincidentally, plot devices that reveal the stubbornly feckless to themselves; and New York is an oyster of amorousness, with gawky stumblings into dream partners a typical occurrence. Socioeconomic class is rarely a source of even invisible pressure." More from Mike Hale (NYT) and Nick Schager (Voice).
"Delivering exactly what its dry truth-in-advertising title promises, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story provides a dutiful history lesson on the contributions to the national pastime by 20th-century Jewish immigrants," writes Nick Schager in the Voice. Adds Paul Brunick in the NYT: "The director, Peter Miller, previously worked with the documentarian Ken Burns, serving as a co-producer on the seven-part World War II series The War. Mr Miller's techniques in Jews and Baseball hew closely to that precedent: newsreel montages, pan-and-scan studies of archival images, alternating narration by talking-head historians and celebrity voice-over (Dustin Hoffman). But next to the epic sweep and poetic intricacies of Mr Burns's work — which also includes the Emmy Award-winning series Baseball — the narrative of Jews and Baseball seems meandering, its modulation of tone singsong and slushy."
"Bad motel-set horror flicks can be trashy/goofy fun, and more-or-less recent films like Identity and Vacancy have taken advantage of this fact," writes Chuck Bowen in Slant. "Those films toyed with the overtly artificial campfire mood that we expect, and they were well-directed by people who understood the genre and didn't take it too seriously — though they didn't condescend to it either. But Beneath the Dark is meant to be taken as a relationship drama until its predictable Twilight Zone finish." More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT) and Michelle Orange (Voice).
"Jeffrey Fine's Cherry is as ungainly and unkempt as its teen protagonist, Aaron Milton (Kyle Gallner), a 17-year-old college freshman struggling to balance his engineering coursework with the burden of losing his virginity," writes Simon Abrams in the Voice. 1.5 out of 4 stars from Jesse Cataldo in Slant. More from Mike Hale (NYT).
"Ostensibly anti-'don't ask, don't tell' agitprop, A Marine Story defuses any political or dramatic power with plodding exposition and frequent, lurid leaps into cheesy B-movie conventions," finds Bill Weber in Slant. More from Stephen Holden (NYT) and Brian Miller (Voice).
IN THE UK
Mike Leigh's Another Year is undoubtedly this week's headliner. The drumrolling's been going on for weeks and some of the best of it would include Xan Brooks's interview with Leigh and Kate Kellaway's conversation with several of the actresses he's worked with (both pieces for the Guardian) and James Mottram's talk with actors of both sexes about that famously collaborative process. As for the film at hand, you'll have seen in the Cannes and New York Film Festival roundups that most take it to be a pretty solid Leigh, and today's round of reviews only reconfirms that general consensus: 5 out of 5 stars from the Financial Times' Nigel Andrews, 5 out of 5 from the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, 5 out of 5 from Time Out London's Dave Calhoun, 4 out of 4 from the Telegraph's Tim Robey and more from Ryan Gilbey (New Statesman), Anthony Quinn (Independent) and Matt Wolf (Arts Desk).
"The 5th London Korean Film Festival is returning with a programme showcasing the most interesting contemporary cinema from Korea, including the latest offerings by established as well as emerging directors, shorts, animation and a talk chaired by the East Asian cinema expert Tony Rayns." Electric Sheep: "The festival opens with one of Korea's biggest new films, Lee Jeong-beom's The Man From Nowhere, a dark, fast-paced revenge thriller taking in themes of human trafficking and organ harvesting, starring Won Bin, recently seen in Bong Joon-ho's extraordinary Mother. But the film we are most looking forward to is Kim Jee-won's I Saw The Devil, which portrays the violent face-off between a brutal killer and the distraught boyfriend of one of his victims. Both Lee Jeong-beom and Kim Jee-won (A Tale of Two Sisters, The Good, the Bad, the Weird) will be in attendance at the screenings of their respective films for Q&As." Today through November 14.
MORE GOINGS ON, STATESIDE
"Film criticism seemingly doesn't get more banal than commenting upon Martin Scorsese's 'fascination' with violence," writes Matt Connolly in Slant. "Then you re-watch Raging Bull and you remember that all those cocktail-party bloviations have their roots in one of American cinema's most complex visions of physical brutality: its communal roots, hypnotic realization, and corrosive legacy." Steve Dollar in the Wall Street Journal, where Bruce Bennett interviews editor Thelma Schoonmaker: "No mere biographical drama or sports epic, Raging Bull is a signal moment in American movies. Now marking its 30th anniversary with a week-long screening of a newly struck print at Film Forum, the film continues to stand as a high point in the careers of director Martin Scorsese and star Robert De Niro — the capstone on an extraordinary decade of American filmmaking, and nothing less than an abiding miracle of cinema." 5 out of 5 stars, naturally, from Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York.
"Rob Marshall could learn a thing or three about transporting dance to the big screen from NY Export: Opus Jazz, an adaptation of Jerome Robbins's famed jazz ballet that's directed with clean, muscular, majestic grace by Jody Lee Lipes (Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be the Same) and Henry Joost (Catfish)." Nick Schager in the Voice; more from Michael Tully at Hammer to Nail. Also in New York, specifically at Brooklyn's reRun Gastropub Theater.
And the New Yorker's Richard Brody: "A really exciting series launches today at Anthology Film Archives with a special event: In conjunction with the release there of Ne Change Rien, Pedro Costa's visually exquisite, meticulously observed, and historically informed documentary about the actress Jeanne Balibar's exertions toward a second career as a singer, Costa has programmed a series of extraordinary and rare films centered on music and portraiture, and he himself will be on hand today for a public discussion, at 5:30, with the critic Dennis Lim."
A Marilyn Monroe double feature — Howard Hawks's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and Billy Wilder's The Seven Year Itch (1955) — opens tonight for a week-long run at the New Beverly in Los Angeles. This, plus all the hoopla that's accompanied the publication of Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters, has Lisa Rosman thinking in the LA Weekly that "at the heart of the Marilyn Monroe legend beats that most American of stories: a wholly engrossing, Great Gatsby-style quest for self-transformation that starts (and too often ends) with nothing. Fragments reveals previously unreleased images of the star, all cocked eyebrows and adamant hand gestures, fully engaged by art and conversation; her stalwart support of friend Ella Fitzgerald's efforts to sing in white clubs; a voracious reader who favored such soothsayers as Steinbeck, Kerouac and Sherwood Anderson; and her scattered, sharply sensitive musings. The world's most famous sex object was also, it seems, a shrewd and compassionate subject, if one bombarded by her impressions."
"It is [Kazuo] Ohno's undeniable humanism that courses through Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' retrospective of films documenting his life and practice, with an accompanying performance run by acclaimed butoh troupe Sankai Juku," writes Matt Sussman in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Remembering Kazuo Ohno runs through November 21.
Reeling: The Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival opened last night with Kareem Mortimer's Children of God and will close on November 13 with Javier Fuentes-León's Undertow. The Chicago Reader and Jason A Heidemann (Time Out Chicago) have overviews. The Reader also previews the Polish Film Festival in America (today through November 21); as it happens, the Austin Polish Film Festival opens today as well and Kimberley Jones makes note of the highlights in the Chronicle.
For more, see Criterion's always-excellent "Friday Repertory Roundup."
IN OTHER NEWS
Peter Knegt for indieWIRE: "Lixin Fan's Last Train Home led the nominations for the 2011 Cinema Eye Honors, which were announced [yesterday] at the Sheffield Doc/Fest in the UK by filmmakers Havana Marking (Afghan Star), Kim Longinotto (Pink Saris) and Cinema Eye Co-chair AJ Schnack (Convention)."