"For much of the half-century since the premiere of Frantisek Vlácil's feature debut The White Dove (Holubice), the Czech director has been treated in his home country with a reverence out of all proportion to his undeservedly minuscule international profile," writes Michael Brooke in Sight & Sound. "Although he is considered one of the most important harbingers of the Czech New Wave — and lived to see his medieval epic Marketa Lazarová (1967) voted the best Czech film of all time by a panel of local critics and industry experts on the centenary of Czech cinema in 1998 — his work was practically invisible in the UK until the enterprising Second Run DVD label released his masterpiece in 2007. Thankfully, Vlácil's UK profile is set to rise significantly this year: Second Run has also disinterred his films The Valley of the Bees (Udolí vcel, 1967) and Adelheid (1969), and September sees a near-complete retrospective of his work playing in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow."
Cinema as Poetry: Frantisek Vlácil opens today at BFI Southbank, where it runs through October 3; it runs at the Filmhouse Cinema Edinburgh from Saturday through October 3 and at the Glasgow National Film Theatre from Tuesday through September 28.
"Perestroika, Sarah Turner's second feature, layers two train journeys through Russia, the first with, and the second in memory of, her friend Sîan Thomas," writes Sophie Mayer, introducing her interview with the filmmaker for Sight & Sound. "A docu-fiction, a moving memorial and an elegy, the film is part of a fascinating moment that sees British experimental film bringing its memory work from installation and art spaces onto the big screen."
"Perhaps most strikingly," writes Catherine Grant, "the film dramatizes the breakdown of psychic and other borders between inside and outside. While the official therapeutic goal of the journey undertaken appears to be a recovered recognition of 'me-ness' using a variety of visual prompts and stagings (an actual journey and footage of an earlier actual journey), at times much less rational experiences take over. The film and its protagonist are assailed by haunting sensations and memories, and an uncanny play with the 'zone of indiscernibility between fact and fiction, reality and artifact' ensues." Tonight's screening at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London will be followed by a panel discussion.
Ed Gonzalez in Slant: "A contemporary of WH Auden and EM Forster, writer JR Ackerley lived the last 25 years of his life in a small Putney flat overlooking the Thames where he produced his most important works, among them My Dog Tulip and We Think the World of You, the former a memoir based on his relationship with a German shepherd named Queenie. The book, a favorite of a more famous gay wit, Truman Capote, now sees its pithy but humane observations of the world married to 58,320 drawings by directors Paul and Sandra Fierlinger and voiced by Christopher Plummer, Isabella Rossellini, and Lynn Redgrave (to whom the film is dedicated)."
In the Voice, Melissa Anderson notes that this is "the first animated feature to be entirely hand-drawn and painted using paperless computer technology. Flat is beautiful: The Fierlingers' simple 2D design is an excellent match for the author's pithy observations and abhorrence of the mawkish." More from Simon Abrams (New York Press), David Edelstein (New York), Stephen Holden (New York Times), Benjamin Mercer (L), Lisa Rosman (Time Out New York), Ella Taylor (NPR), Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail), James van Maanen and Armond White (New York Press). John Anderson profiles the Fierlingers for the NYT. My Dog Tulip opens for a two-week run at New York's Film Forum.
Speaking of the NYT, back in June, Dave Kehr reported on the discovery of "a trove of long-lost American films recently found in the New Zealand Film Archive." One of those finds is John Ford's Upstream (1927), which sees a second premiere of sorts at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles this evening. Dave Kehr: "Although Ford was already famous as a director of epic westerns like The Iron Horse (1925) and Three Bad Men (1926), Upstream appears to be his first film reflecting the influence of the German director FW Murnau, who had arrived at Ford's studio, Fox, in 1926 to begin work on his American masterpiece, Sunrise. From Murnau, Ford learned the use of forced perspectives and chiaroscuro lighting, techniques Ford would use to complement his own more direct, naturalistic style." Update: "Upstream is being touted as a late-'26, Murnau-influenced production, but having seen the film, I'm hard pressed to make a very strong case for that," decides Doug Cummings: "Firstly, it's a light drama with a lot of humor, so it doesn't afford a lot of opportunities for brooding cinematography.... [B]y and large, the film feels like a polished but fairly typical studio drama... an entertaining film with charming performances, good timing, and breezy humor." Update, 9/3: The Los Angeles Times' Susan King reports on the screening before the SRO crowd: "More than 80 years after its original premiere, the movie still provoked frequent laughs from the appreciative audience. At the finale, there was thunderous applause."
"Long after its 1935–51 theatrical life, The March of Time short-subject series remained the parodic model for naive Chamber of Commerce–style ballyhoo," writes Nicolas Rapold for Artforum. "But on its 75th anniversary, these ephemera remain compulsively watchable beyond camp anachronism.... The loosely grouped selections screening at the Museum of Modern Art (joined by a marathon on Turner Classic Movies) show that this 'new kind of pictorial journalism' reflected a version of the world back to America with a facility and a plenitude that anticipated television, ranging across Lead Belly, Palestine, bootleg coal, auto safety, World War II crises, 'arson squads in action,' beauty regimes, strikebreaking, and, of course, 'dogs for sale.'"
In the Voice, Nick Pinkerton notes that the series puts on display "the genius of director Louis de Rochemont, an independent filmmaker and cameraman who brought to the newsreel form — up until that time, collages of stock images and stilted interviews explained by a nattering narrator — a new level of dynamism and verisimilitude.... 1943's Show Business at War boasted that Goebbels's crudities didn't have a chance against the combined Hollywood might of Darryl Zanuck, Walt Disney, John Ford... and, implicitly, de Rochemont."
Update, 9/3: Neil Genzlinger in the NYT: "It often tackled subjects and themes that audiences weren’t used to seeing — foreign affairs, social trends, public-health issues — and did so with a combination of panache and subterfuge that today seems either absurd or visionary."
Via Catherine Grant comes word of the British Film Institute's channel on Dailymotion, where one can watch, for free, films by the likes of Terence Davies, Derek Jarman, Patrick Keiller and the Brothers Quay.
Moving Image Source is presenting B Kite's work in progress, American: Exhibits from the C.F. Kane Museum, "projected to be a six-part investigation into the work, life, and myths of Orson Welles." Do make time for it. If my recommendation isn't enough, scan the enthusiastic comments posted here when The Notebook presented the work last summer.
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