Even as critics cobble together their year-end and decade-end lists, 2010 is already beginning to take shape. The Sundance Film Festival (January 21 through 31) has unveiled its lineups for the four competitive categories: US Documentary, US Dramatic, World Cinema Documentary and World Cinema Narrative. You can find titles and capsule descriptions at Filmmaker and indieWIRE.
Filmmaker notes that there'll be no opening film; festival director John Cooper wants to "bring the focus back to our core" by replacing it with a "night of Competition."
"[T]he festival will screen fewer features this year," notes indieWIRE's Eugene Herandez, "113 total (seven fewer than last year), culled from the 3,724 that were submitted (an increase in submissions over last year). 58 films will screen in competition at Sundance 2010; that's a drop from 64 competition films in 2009."
"The Geoff Gilmore era is effectively over." Anne Thompson explains: "While he would deny it, Gilmore tended to measure the success of each festival by the number of big sales.... Those days are gone." At the same time, "Sundance is still riding high from having launched two of 2009's big indie titles, Precious and An Education," writes Variety's Todd McCarthy, "and Cooper, along with his new No 2, veteran programmer Trevor Groth, suspect there might be some pictures this year with similar potential. Cooper bluntly predicted that, 'I think there will be a lot of activity in sales.'"
Updates, 12/3: "Now that die hards have had a bit of time to digest the official roster, and the rumors and insider tip offs are now heresay," writes Brian Brooks, "iW came up with some initial factoids and trivia for some of this year's titles, including Sundance veterans, newcomers, Oscar winners & nominees actor-turned-director and even a dramatic competition slug out between two Sopranos stars."
The new programming team has "announced a schedule of competition films that at least in their view, reflect no particular current in independent cinema except one: the artier the better." Brooks Barnes in the New York Times: "A swing toward art over commerce is perhaps inevitable given the market. Over the last two years studios have folded specialty divisions (Warner Independent, Paramount Vantage) or scaled them back drastically (Miramax). Outside the studio system, financing has become extremely difficult to obtain due to the credit crisis and recession. 'We have a film industry in great evolutionary flux, but we can't think too much about that,' Mr Cooper said. 'We have to stay on mission and let the industry sort itself out.'"
Movieline picks "8 Competition Films to Watch for at Sundance 2010."
Vanity Fair's Christopher Bateman talks with the magazine's contributing editor Sebastian Junger and contributing photographer Tim Hetherington, whose Afghanistan film Restrepo will be the opening-night documentary feature.
"The remainder of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival feature film lineup is being announced today," report Brian Brooks and Bryce Renninger at indieWIRE, "including the roster of eight films that will screen in the new NEXT section for low and no budget films. Also unveiled today are the lineups for the Premeries section for higher profile files, the Spotlight section for films from other fests, the Park City at Midnight section and the previously announced Frontier section."
THEN WE TAKE...
Next on the calendar, even overlapping a few days: Rotterdam, opening with Park Chan-ok's Paju on January 27 and running through February 7. As Scott Roxborough notes in the Hollywood Reporter, the 39th edition "will screen several of Sai Yoichi's works, including his latest, the ninja action film Kamui. The tribute to Yoshida Kiju will run to seven titles and include his classics Affair at Akitsu (1962) and Eros and Massacre (1969)."
Roxborough also explains why betting on Roman Polanski's The Ghost seeing its world premiere at the Berlinale would be all but a sure thing. Whether or not the director will attend, well, that's not such a safe wager. At any rate, the festival will be celebrating its 60th edition with two books and a DVD series. Earlier: Screen's Fionnuala Halligan surveys films in production around the world and comes up with a couple of dozen films that may end up in the lineups of one section or another. February 11 through 21.
"Rounding out a trilogy that began with one of this decade's cinematic marvels, Zacharias Kunuk's The Fast Runner (2001), Before Tomorrow introduces itself as ethnography, detailing the cultural practices of a people almost never seen on the big screen as it observes a carefree summer gathering between two Inuit families," writes Andrew Chan in the L Magazine. More from Matthew Connolly (Slant), Stephen Holden (New York Times), Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York) and Andrew Schenker (Voice). At Film Forum through December 15.
"It's difficult to resist placing the feature-length silent film mash-ups of Gustav Deutsch's FILM IST. series, of which a girl and a gun is episode 13, alongside the terser online efforts of YouTube collagists like Matt Zoller Seitz and Kevin B Lee," finds Joseph Jon Lanthier at Slant. "All three contribute to an amorphous, hands-on tradition of film examination now referred to as the 'video essay' (not to be confused with the 'film essays' of Chris Marker or Alain Resnais, among others). Vaguely educational and very often lyrical studies of cinematic trends and/or eras (such as 'following' shots, the legacy of Busby Berkeley, or, in Deutsch's case, the rise of the cinematographer in 1920s Europe), the editorial stitch-work of the video essay democratically blurs the lines between film criticism, making, and curating. And due to the reliance on and rearrangement of preexisting materials, filmic video essays inherently, and essentially, reinforce the oft-neglected truism that cinema is first and foremost a procrustean art."
But to the film at hand, screening at Anthology Film Archives through December 8. "As the title suggests, there are girls (voluptuous, ecstatic, threatened) and there are guns (hard, phallic, threatening) along with something of a narrative," writes Manohla Dargis in the NYT. "If the narrative that Mr Deutsch has created is rather less thrilling than his mostly silent and often glorious images, this is nonetheless a story well worth considering, and watching." More from David Fear (TONY), J Hoberman (Voice), Andrew Schenker (L) and James van Maanen. Update, 11/3: Brandon Harris talks with Deutsch.
"In the eight films he's made since 1991, Arnaud Desplechin has been developing a visionary world, a personal style that goes against the grain of standard cinematic practice today," writes Phillip Lopate at Criterion's Current. "He's a master of ensemble mise-en-scène and a brilliant director of actors, and his interest tends to fan out over many characters, whose mixed strengths and flaws jolt the viewer out of easy identification with any of them, compelling instead a more complex, deferred, time-capsule-release sympathy. This environmental, novelistically long approach, with its digressive and converging plotlines, is admirably suited to the family romance, a specialty of Desplechin's, with A Christmas Tale his greatest example."
More from Sean Axmaker, Durga Chew-Bose (Interview), Ed Gonzalez (Slant), Dennis Lim (Los Angeles Times) and Jamie S Rich.
"The New German Cinema that blossomed in the 1970s is often reduced to three directors - Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Rainer Werner Fassbinder - for US consumption," writes Steve Erickson for Artforum. "The distribution company Facets has been slowly working to counteract this trend: Soon to come are a stream of Alexander Kluge DVDs; for now Facets has completed their release of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's trilogy of films on the roots of German pathology, following Hitler, a Film from Germany (1977) with Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King (1972) and Karl May (1974)." It's those last two he focuses on.
"Kino's Avant-Garde 3: Experimental Cinema 1922 - 1954 is as essential a collection as the previous volumes, or nearly," writes Michael Barrett in PopMatters.
In the LAT, Susan King reports on the Warner Archive's release of 10 Hollywood musicals from the late 20s and early 30s.
James Hansen talks with Chris Fuller about Loren Cass.
Images: James Franco and directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman on the set of Howl, premiering at Sundance; FILM IST. a girl & a gun; A Christmas Tale.
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