Daily Briefing. Sabu!

The DailyElephant Boy

"One of the most fascinating and entertaining asides in British cinema, Sabu is just meta-colonial enough to maintain relevance," writes Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant, wrapping his review of the 30th package in Criterion's Eclipse series, Sabu!

Michael Koresky on Sabu's debut: "The seeds of Elephant Boy were sown in 1929, when [Robert] Flaherty, famous for his groundbreaking 1922 Eskimo documentary, Nanook of the North, approached Alexander Korda about doing a story, set in Mexico, about a boy and his bull. Korda wanted to work with Flaherty but changed the bull to an elephant, basing his idea on his favorite Kipling tale. When production began years later, Flaherty shot more than 55 hours of footage in India; meanwhile, Zoltán Korda was commissioned to direct the more story-driven scenes at England's Denham Studios, for which Sabu was flown in. What could have been a schizophrenic film instead became a masterful amalgamation of its two parts, and a superb showcase for its young actor. Elephant Boy was a critical and commercial hit, even winning twin best director honors at the Venice Film Festival, and it was clear that Flaherty's location-sensitive naturalism and Korda's terrific way with forward narrative motion cohered largely because of one charming boy with no previous movie experience. In the coming years, Sabu would prove the most popular of Alexander Korda's contract players. He had gone from one kind of stable to another."

The other films in the box are The Drum (1938) and Jungle Book (1942), which Gary W Tooze finds to be "the star of the set."

Awards. With the Gotham and New York Film Critics Circle awards presented and the Independent Spirit Awards nominations out, the season is officially open. But we've missed a round. The Asia Pacific Screen Awards were presented in Australia late last week, with Asghar Farhadi's A Separation winning Best Feature Film and Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia taking three prizes: Directing, Cinematography (Gökhan Tiryaki) and a Screen International Jury Grand Prize for producer Zeynep Özbatur Atakan.

In the works. Steven Soderbergh keeps promising to retire once he's completed Behind the Candelabra, his Liberace biopic with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, but, as Oliver Lyttelton notes, "he's also seemingly keen to fit in as many films as he can" before that self-imposed deadline. Besides Magic Mike, a male stripper drama, he'd been planning to work in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. — until that project fell apart. Now he's replacing it with The Bitter Pill, a psychological thriller written by Scott Z Burns (The Informant! and Contagion).

London Fields

David Cronenberg and then Michael Winterbottom were each once set to adapt Martin Amis's 1989 novel London Fields; now the project has fallen into the hands of Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth), according to Nyay Bhushan in the Hollywood Reporter.

Theo Angelopoulos will begin shooting The Other Sea with Toni Servillo on the day after Christmas, reports Ryan Sartor at the Playlist.

Twitch's Todd Brown hears that, once he completes his run on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Daniel Radcliffe will take on the role of Allen Ginsberg in John Krokidas's Kill Your Darlings, based on the friendship of Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Lucien Carr: "Carr, for his part, is credited for connecting Ginsberg, Kerouac and William S Burroughs but, most notoriously, served time for the 1944 murder of his lover David Kammerer."

In other news. "Horror movie fans are trying to save a southwestern Pennsylvania cemetery chapel featured in several scenes of the cult classic Night of the Living Dead," reports the AP. "A sound engineer who worked on the 1968 George Romero film is trying to raise $50,000 to repair the chapel at Evans City Cemetery." More details here.

The 6th Romanian Film Festival in New York opens today and runs through December 6. Ryan Wells has an overview at Cinespect, where Stephen Russell-Gebbett reviews Liviu Ciulei's Forest of the Hanged (1964).

Russian Film Week begins today in Berlin, while the Moscow German Films Festival opens tomorrow.

Today's list. "The 50 Best Albums of 2011," according to Paste.

Obit. "Michael Hastings, a British playwright whose best-known work, Tom and Viv, about the first marriage of TS Eliot, created a cultural brouhaha over the appropriateness of fictionalizing the lives of real people, died on Nov 19, at his home in London," reports Bruce Weber in the New York Times. "He was 73."

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