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Bright Lights 69, Wenders @ 65, More

Editor Gary Morris, freshly relocated to San Francisco, introduces the new issue of Bright Lights Film Journal and these are just a few of the highlights that leap out to my eye: Alan Vanneman "contributes another fine entry in his epic trek through the work of Fred Astaire, this one on Minnelli's The Band Wagon.... Lesley Chow finds fascinating perversity in the pianist motif in films like Preminger's Angel Face and of course Haneke's The Piano Teacher. Jacob Mikanowski has three articles this time: an ambitious discussion of five experimental films and reviews of the Hitchcock curio Double Take and the woefully underrated King Vidor-Bette Davis masterpiece Beyond the Forest.... New contributor Jonathan Simmons explains why Zizek's reading of The Birds is full of shit.... André Bazin makes another BL appearance courtesy of Bert Cardullo's translation of everybody's favorite critic's review of De Sica's Umberto D. Frank Tashlin, inexplicably underrepresented at BL, gets some of his due in a persuasive piece by new contributor Phillip Leers.... Since obscurantism is our middle name (we had it legally changed), we always try to feature some undeservedly forgotten master. This time it's Frank Bren's authoritative investigation of Pierre Étaix, the French comic of whom Jerry Lewis wisely said 'the man's a genius!'"



A happy 65th to Wim Wenders, whose work is currently being screened in a retrospective of fifteen features and ten shorts at the Arsenal in Berlin. On the Road: Die Filme von Wim Wenders runs through the end of the month. Wenders has created a 3D video installation for this year's Venice Architecture Biennale (August 29 through November 21), If Buildings Could Talk.... Ray Pride has the press release and Wenders's site has the director's free verse take on the project.

This is a Neue Road Movies production; Wenders founded the company in 2006 and they're even now hard at work on Pina, "the first dance feature film to be shot in 3D." Hanns-Georg Rodek has a good longish talk with Wenders for today's edition of Die Welt (in German, of course), most of it devoted to the challenges of realizing a film Wenders and the late choreographer Pina Bausch had been talking about for over 20 years. "It'd become a sort of running gag," says Wenders. "Pina said, 'Will you do it now, Wim?' and I said, 'I don't know how I'd film dance — even after studying every possible kind of dance film.' Pina's dance theater is especially lively and has so much freedom and joy that I just didn't dare try to film it — until, one day, I saw the new digital 3D. I called Pina right away from the cinema and said: 'Now I know how to do it.'"



"In 1985-86, 25-year-old CalArts animation grad Savage Steve Holland wrote and directed — and got Warner Bros to fund and distribute — two highly idiosyncratic, John Cusack–starring, live-action/animation–hybrid comedies: Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer." Karina Longworth introduces her interview with the filmmaker for the LA Weekly: "Though released at the peak of the Brat Pack epoch, the Holland flicks are worlds apart from the angst-as-universal-language humanism of John Hughes. Cocktails of cartoonish live action and acid-edged animation, deadpan absurdist violence and virtual sexual innocence, these two features bear the Brit-comic influence of Richard Lester and Monty Python while critiquing the very American concept of sympathy for the little guy — which Holland was." The double feature unreels tonight at Cinefamily.

The 2nd Annual Atheist Film Festival, a one-day marathon, happens at San Francisco's Red Vic Movie House today.


In New York, Mikey and Nicky, with John Cassavetes and Peter Falk, screens this evening as part of the BAMcinématek series Emotional Sloppy Manic Cinema: Films Directed and Selected by Benny and Josh Safdie. The New Yorker's Richard Brody: "Amazingly, this genre masterpiece, from 1976, is written and directed by the doyenne of loopy comedy, Elaine May, who, in a tour de force of self-transformation, makes what is in effect a Cassavetes film, with its scarily intense and spontaneous performances."

For more goings on around the world, see this week's edition of Criterion's excellent "Friday Repertory Roundup."



Guy Maddin on Josef von Sternberg for Criterion's Current. Stuart Klawans's pieces for the Nation are rarely free to non-subscribers, but this week we get to tangle with the question, "Wouldn't the world be wonderful if Inception were the film left to straggle through a two-week run in the art houses, and Life During Wartime got to be the blockbuster?" And then, a stunning collection of photos by Robert Lebeck.

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