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Daily Briefing. Kehr on Griffith, Harvey on Curt McDowell

Also: See It Big! in New York, Clouzot at Harvard, Mapplethorpe in Paris and Jeunet's next project.
The DailyBirth of a Nation

"At least one eternal truth can be abstracted from DW Griffith's 1915 film The Birth of a Nation," proposes Dave Kehr in the New York Times: "people can be very, very advanced in some areas, and very, very backward in others…. Even now, in Kino International's fine new Blu-ray edition, The Birth of a Nation continues to thrill and confound, to exalt and appall in equal measure. Griffith's racial caricatures were crude in 1915; seen today, as the film approaches its 100th anniversary, these images may seem more ludicrous than dangerous (watermelon plays a major role), but in reminding us of how far we have come, they remind us how far we have yet to go. Paradoxically, the overriding theme of The Birth of a Nation is one of unification, of the harmonizing of diverse elements — social and regional, political and personal, North and South, male and female — into an original entity called the United States of America. The metaphor embedded in the title — that of childbirth — is played out in both the film's structure and story line, as a series of opposites come together to produce a new whole."

San Francisco. Dennis Harvey in the Bay Guardian: "Longtime San Francisco resident George Kuchar's death this September was a reminder of how many had been influenced by his loveably eccentric movies, from famous early fans like Andy Warhol and John Waters to the hundreds of students who passed through his San Francisco Art Institute courses over the decades. Among the latter, for a long time his most famous protégé — at least locally — was Curt McDowell, who started out as a teacher's pet, moved on to heavy petting with teacher, and remained close to Kuchar as both friend and collaborator until his own AIDS-related demise in 1987…. [I]t's sadly rare to get a McDowell program even here in SF, where his memory should flourish rather than be slowly slipping from public awareness. Just such an occasion arrives this week at the Roxie — co-founded by his longtime creative and domestic partner, Robert Evans — as two shows spread over three days reprise some (relatively) familiar as well as barely-seen material." If you're in the Area, you can catch Loads of Curt McDowell from today through Monday.

New York. Two pieces in Reverse Shot on the films they're screening this weekend in their See It Big! series at the Museum of the Moving Image: For Michael Koresky, "what's perhaps most striking about Fantasia is that it still stands utterly alone; like a genre unto itself, or perhaps one that never really spawned the imitators it perhaps should have, Fantasia forever remains firmly rooted in its time, defined by its ambition, stuck at its crossroads." And Farihah Zaman: "Gone with the Wind is unabashed in being equal parts historical epic and smoldering romance, and it satisfies on both levels. The prospect of seeing this story brought to life on the big screen, in 35mm, in all its rich, undulating, silk-swishing glory, is just as thrilling almost 70 years after its completion."

Cambridge. The Complete Henri-Georges Clouzot opens today at the Harvard Film Archive and runs through December 18.

Paris. Robert Mapplethorpe, curated by Sofia Coppola, is on view at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac through January 7.

Interview. In the Independent, Aleksandr Sokurov tells Geoffrey Macnab that if it weren't for Vladimir Putin, his Faust would never have been made.

In the works. "Jean-Pierre Jeunet will adapt the 2009 Reif Larsen novel The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet," reports Nancy Tartaglione at Deadline.

Lists. The Guardian's asked over 40 lauded writers for a paragraph or so on the best books of the year. And Financial Times film critic Nigel Andrews's film books of the year are Cinema: The Whole Story, edited by Philip Kemp, Kim Newman's Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s, Stephen Jacobs's Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster and Diane Keaton's memoir, Then Again.

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