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"Great Directors," Two Docs and the Local Scenes

"Depending on who's watching, a better title for Great Directors might be A Few Great Directors and Some Highly Competent Ones," suggests Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times. "Truth in advertising aside, this spasmodically entertaining documentary from Angela Ismailos chronicles her globe-trotting goal of interviewing 10 of her personal cinematic heroes." And those ten are: Bernardo Bertolucci, Catherine Breillat, Liliana Cavani, Stephen Frears, Todd Haynes, Richard Linklater, Ken Loach, David Lynch, John Sayles and Agnès Varda.

"Rather than delving deep into the minds and creative processes of these (markedly different) filmmakers, we merely watch them skimming the surfaces of their creative histories for 90 minutes," sighs Zach Wigon in the L Magazine. In the Voice, Nick Pinkerton finds the doc "as asinine and fawning as its title suggests."

Among the less harsh is Andrew Schenker in Slant: "While not all the subjects prove equal founts of insightful tidbits, the film provides such keepers as John Sayles sardonically discussing his work-for-hire as a screenwriter on projects like The Patriot (a film he labels 'a lying piece of shit'), Ken Loach and Stephen Frears opining on the changing nature of the public-television world in which they both got their start, and Haynes turning critic to explain why his beloved Fassbinder rejected the approach of such cinematic modernists as Godard, favoring Sirkian melodrama as the ideal means of political expression. These reflections, combined with a generous selection of clips from the representative directors' work, which Ismailos and her editors skillfully weave into the film's smoothly episodic structure, as well as the engaging personalities of several of the subjects (most notably the wryly self-deprecating Loach and the delightfully philosophical Varda) makes Great Directors at the very least a breezy bit of cinephiliac entertainment."

More from Michelle Orange (Movieline), Stephen Saito (IFC), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York) and James van Maanen. Interviews with Ismailos: Brandon Harris (Filmmaker) and Josh Patner (NYT).

 

ALSO OPENING TODAY


Not much, since the studios have already rolled out their main attractions for the week (see Wednesday's and Thursday's roundups).

"There's the germ of an intriguing concept in Beadie Finzi's Brazil-set Only When I Dance," writes Fernando F Croce in Slant: "the way that, in the land of such culturally specific musical forms as samba and Tropicalismo rock, the film's young hopefuls cling to the more European art of ballet as an escape from the poverty of their environment. However, that's the kind of potentially provocative angle that goes unexplored in Finzi's light, shallow documentary, where social issues play second fiddle to the crowd-pleasing narratives of its two teenage dreamers." More from Mike Hale (NYT), Eric Hynes (TONY), Michelle Orange (Voice) and James van Maanen.

"Beautiful Islands, the fourth documentary from the Japanese filmmaker Tomoko Kana, captures the effects of global warming on the inhabitants of imperiled islands: the South Pacific archipelago of Tuvalu; Venice; and Shishmaref, Alaska." Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT: "What emerges most strongly is a disturbing air of denial. From whistling-past-the-graveyard bravado ('I have heard about global warming, but I don't believe it,' a Tuvalu teacher says) to a touching faith in the Almighty, the islanders' responses can seem dismayingly passive. 'God helped Noah,' one says, forgetting that as far as we know he didn't build the ark. Noah did that by himself." More from Diego Costa (Slant). The executive producer, by the way, is Hirokazu Kore-eda.

 

LOCAL SCREENS


Rounding up goings on within their respective radiuses are Ty Burr in the Boston Globe, JR Jones in the Chicago Reader and Susan King in the Los Angeles Times. The San Francisco Frozen Film Festival is on through the weekend; for more Bay Area screenings, try Filmbalaya this week — and a big happy 5th anniversary to Brian Darr's Hell on Frisco Bay!

 



The 7th Romanian Film Festival in London opens today and runs through Sunday. Otherwise, White Material is the standout in Time Out London's overview of the films opening this weekend in the UK. For raves and interviews with Claire Denis in their papers, turn to Peter Bradshaw (Guardian), David Calhoun (TOL) and Sukhdev Sandhu (Telegraph; the interview's on that same page).

Mark Schilling in the Japan Times on Shunya Ito's Lost Crime Senko: "The antiquity of some of its cop-on-a-mission tropes made me wonder at times what decade it was made in, but it's also intense, propulsive and unapologetically hard-boiled." 4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

IN OTHER NEWS


"Elliott Kastner, a producer whose affinity for literary writers and man's-man movie stars resulted in films like Harper, Where Eagles Dare, The Long Goodbye, The Missouri Breaks and Equus, died on Wednesday in London, where he had lived and worked for many years. He was 80." Bruce Weber for the New York Times.

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Thanks so much for the mention David!

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