"Openly, contentedly delighted with how our own dreams can appall us, and how close movies are to that appalling dreaminess," Luis Buñuel "may have been the greatest filmmaker of the medium's first century," suggests Michael Atkinson in the Boston Phoenix. "Had any filmmaker realized so acutely the unconscious torque inherent in cinema? Certainly among the 12 or so unassailable masters of the medium, he is the wittiest, the most philosophically imaginative, and the most formally unceremonious. His career stretched nearly 50 years, culminating amid what could be thought of as the death throes of international art cinema; his last masterpiece That Obscure Object of Desire hitting the open air the same year Star Wars forever wrecked the popular market and turned moviegoing into a experience of childish spinal emergency…. It's just as well: from the beginning Buñuel stood outside of fashion, and just as his flirtation with Surrealist dogma quickly became an individual vision more concerned with conscious human folly than with unconsciousness liberation, Buñuel always required the audience to acclimate to his worldview, never the reverse. It helps that it's a worldview fraught with contradictions, defined by patience and scorn, peopled with pious sinners and debauched saints, visually spartan and yet spasming with bouts of the irrational. This was Luis's world — welcome to it."
Buñuel - The Beginning and the End runs at the Harvard Film Archive through Monday. Image above: Buñuel and Catherine Deneuve on the set of Tristana (1970), screening Monday.
IN NEW YORK
"I curated a little show about unfinished films that will be up at Gladstone Gallery this summer," tumbls Light Industry founder and director Thomas Beard. Nick Pinkerton in the Voice: "The space is divided between the display of artifacts relating to unrealized projects — Soviet kino-fist pumper Dziga Vertov's 1936 sketch of a proposed 'Creative Laboratory' studio, from which he proposed to proselytize for a system that no longer had use for him — and a black-box theater screening a regular daily program of films and film fractions…. Erich von Stroheim's directorial Waterloo, Queen Kelly (1929) plays in its only, stillborn, incarnation (and the first hour is still fantastic)…. Among the movies-on-paper, there's an edition of Joseph Cornell's first 'script' from 1933, Monsieur Phot, and an unfurled accordion notebook of Kenneth Anger's storyboard sketches for a proposed feature, Puce Woman, meant to continue (or complete) his short Puce Moment…. Also visible is an outtake from Harry Smith's underground mega-production of The Wizard of Oz, entitled The Approach to the Emerald City — a grand destination with no arrival. Beard says Approach 'could be the alternate title to the show.'" Friday through June 29.
"To experience Thai film artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul's current installation Primitive, at the New Museum through July 3, is to live — however briefly — inside the ghost-filled forest world of the filmmaker's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," writes the Voice's J Hoberman, who also has notes on the early 60s sitcom Car 54, Where Are You?
"Expressionistic rather than analytical, Passione, John Turturro's cinematic ode to the music of Naples, Italy, unfolds as a compendium of tuneful performances bracketed with the barest of contextualization." Andrew Schenker in Slant: "Derived from the Neapolitan operatic tradition that produced Fernando de Lucia and Enrico Caruso, informed by the diverse influences (American blues, Middle-Eastern tunes, Euro-pop dance tracks) absorbed by the oft-conquered town, the music highlighted in Turturro's film is both refreshingly diverse and held together by a certain sameness of sound that, depending on taste and generosity, one could label either unifying or restrictive."
For Melissa Anderson, writing in the Voice, "Passione (which, like Turturro's previous film, 2005's Romance & Cigarettes, is premiering, self-distributed, at Film Forum, where he serves on the board of directors) works best when its director tamps down his impulse to enhance the performances with florid narratives, focusing on just the singer and the song." More from Mark Jenkins (NPR), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York, 4/5), AO Scott (New York Times) and Daniel Walber (Spout). And IFC's Matt Singer interviews Turturro.
Lukas Moodysson's Together (2000) screens tonight and tomorrow at MoMA and Alt Screen posts one of its terrific roundups.
"Radicals perform a social function that they themselves often view with contempt, and one that is similarly misunderstood by people in the political mainstream who almost always see radicalism as crazy and counterproductive," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir:
People who chain themselves to old-growth redwoods — or, for that matter, to the doors of abortion clinics — hardly ever get what they want in the short or medium term, since what they want is generally unrealistic, and often amounts to a revolutionary change in the social order. But in posing an unrelenting and quixotic challenge to the consciences of their fellow citizens, radical activists often nudge us along toward more modest, incremental changes. Does anyone dispute that facts on the ground with regard to environmental policies and abortion rights have changed, thanks in part to the actions of activists many people view as deranged?
I'm not trying to claim that the shadowy alliance of underground environmental radicals known as the Earth Liberation Front were (or are) a constructive force; taken as a whole, their actions were idiotic and vainglorious. But I am trying to sneak up on Marshall Curry's fascinating new documentary, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, because it takes on a complicated subject that calls forth an unfortunate wealth of received opinion and knee-jerk reaction. Curry, whose Oscar-nominated Street Fight explored a nasty mayoral election in Newark, NJ, is to be commended for surrendering to neither. If a Tree Falls is a remarkably evenhanded story about an eager young activist who was drawn down a slippery slope toward property destruction and violence, and who wound up as a baffled defendant in a widely publicized federal terrorism case. Those eager to defend the motives and ideology of the ELF will be made uncomfortable, and so will throw-away-the-key viewers who view the group as a hippie-flavored answer to al-Qaida.
More on If a Tree Falls from Michael Atkinson (Voice) and Stephen Holden (NYT). IndieWIRE's Nigel M Smith talks with Curry as well. The doc opens at the IFC Center today and pops up here and there throughout the States over the coming weeks. The site has dates and cities.
A quick browse at Nowness: "Photographer Stefan Ruiz shot [Albert Maysles] amidst his personal memorabilia at the Maysles Institute in Harlem in the run-up to this year's Bicycle Film Festival, where he will show a collection of photographs as part of Joyride, an exhibition co-curated by festival founder Brendt Barbur and the filmmaker's artist daughter Rebekah Maysles."