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João César Monteiro, Chekhov's "Duel," "Human Centipede"

The Auteurs Daily

Michael Joshua Rowin for Artforum: "Though far less of a household name, João César Monteiro was for Portuguese cinema what Luis Buñuel was for Spanish, a gleefully caustic satirist and libertine whose targets may have been the usual suspects of sexual, religious, and political propriety, but whose means of attack against them were highly unusual. Whereas, for example, his compatriots of the Novo Cinema swore by realism and the techniques of direct cinema, Monteiro's vision was alternately baroque and crude, rigorous and anarchic, the work of a man fascinated by the purity of depravity."

"Monteiro, the star of an eleven-film BAM retro, was a modernist scavenger, his artistic persona that of a tramp dumpster diving through Western civilization, pinching from movies, music, painting, theater," writes Nick Pinkerton in his overview of Perverse Poet: João César Monteiro for the Voice.

"His best-known film, Recollections of the Yellow House, is a lyrical view of a boarding house that at times feels more like an asylum. At other times, as in Snow White, Monteiro erases the background altogether; the screen goes entirely black and all that we get are characters' voices on the soundtrack (in this case Princess, Hunter, Queen). Because he continually strives to give us beauty, though, Monteiro's films prove more hopeful than despairing. Their world is destructive, but what matters most is that, as Beckett wrote, 'The discourse must go on.'" At the House Next Door, Aaron Cutler talks with curators Florence Almozini (BAM) Haden Guest (Harvard Film Archives).

Mark Asch in the L Magazine on Silvestre, which opens the series: "Monteiro melds a couple of different folktales together for his plot, and, with a sort of reverentially hushed tone, assembles the film from a bricolage of experimental techniques, artifices and dreamy elisions and leaps of logic, getting at the way mythologies are assembled from oft-disparate stories."

The series runs through May 19.

 

OPENING TODAY


Anton Chekhov's The Duel is "a very satisfying and tonally precise English-language adaptation of an 1891 Chekhov novella," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "The film appears to have come out of nowhere — it hasn't been making the usual rounds on the festival circuit — so it's welcome news that it's been given a berth at Film Forum in Manhattan for its world premiere. It's the third feature by Dover Kosashvili, a Georgian-born Israeli who made a strong debut with his 2001 Late Marriage, about an Israeli man hiding his affair with a divorced mother from his domineering family. Once again, Mr Kosashvili mixes moments of bitterness and laughter with strong dramatic passages, creating a social milieu in The Duel that is believably inhabited, consistently surprising and true-feeling in detail and sweep."

Megan Ratner (Bright Lights) finds it "quietly devastating," but for Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York), "One senses this is a production better suited to the stage." More from Simon Abrams (New York Press), Bilge Ebiri (IFC), David Edelstein (New York), J Hoberman (Voice), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant), Benjamin Mercer (L) and James van Maanen. Through May 11.

Karina Longworth in the Voice: "In Tom Six's torture-porn game-changer The Human Centipede, an evil German doctor kidnaps a Japanese man and two vapid American girl tourists, imprisons them in his basement lab, and shows them a presentation of simplistic hand-drawn slides that illustrate his diabolical plan: By surgically connecting all three via digestive tract, he will turn three beings into one. Just like that, an iconic movie monster is born."

"An astonishingly gross cinematic chimera, Human Centipede is a Frankeinsteinian hybrid of Takashi Miike's sense of humor, David Cronenberg's skill at provocation, and a bit of Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS's S&M fantasies too, just to keep you on your toes." Simon Abrams in Slant: "Six is to be commended for making something this brutal and delightfully freakish stay as thoroughly disturbing for as long as it does. In his determination to throw his viewer for a loop for as long as possible and keep them straining against the film's playfully drawn-out series of confrontations, Six has created something new, unsettlingly crude, and strangely arresting."

More from Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Michael Joshua Rowin (L), Nick Schager and Charles Webb (Twitch). Available on demand beginning today; in theaters on Friday. Aaron Hillis talks with Six for the Voice. Listening. IFC's Matt Singer and Alison Willmore "discuss shock cinema, its power, and why everyone's seeking out the place where extreme arthouse and extreme genre meet."

 

FESTS AND EVENTS


"This week, stoked by a programming birder on staff, Anthology lets loose a flock of avian features and shorts alongside a premiere of Scott Crocker's Ghost Bird, a documentary about the search for the elusive (or illusory) ivory-billed woodpecker," writes Nicolas Rapold in the Voice. "The program's feathered friends reveal a bird's cinematic as well as paradoxical attractions — at once a vividly present pocket of life and fleeting blip on the landscape, intimately observed and physically remote, free and wild but compulsively tracked." More from Bilge Ebiri (IFC), David Fear (TONY), Neil Genzlinger (NYT), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant) and S James Snyder (Artforum).

There's a Big Screen Classics series going on at the Lafayette Theater in Suffern, New York, and Glenn Kenny recommends it if you're in the area.

Reports, roundups and reviews from Ebertfest, which wrapped on Sunday: David Bordwell (more), Jim Emerson, Marilyn Ferdinand and suzidoll (TCM).

AFI Fest has announced that this year's edition will take place from November 4 through 11 in Los Angeles; the festival's also issued a call for entries.

Festival entries with ongoing updates: Tribeca and San Francisco.

 

IN OTHER NEWS


"Iron Man 2 Reviews: Generally Thumbs Down." Zac Gille's roundup for the Alt Film Guide.

Update, 5/3: "[I]t gives pause to consider how the three world-renowned filmmakers to come from Portugal — Manoel de Oliveira, João César Monteiro, and Pedro Costa — all manage a stylistic variation on a theme: a tone of regal peasant simplicity coupled with a fiercely recalcitrant abstruseness." Michael Atkinson at Moving Image Source: "Increasingly, Oliveira has been the warmest of this snippy trio, while Costa is the upstart intent on fragmented miserableness. Between them, Monteiro appears to be one of world cinema's most troubling figures, except when you realize that trouble was his (second) middle name, and virtually nothing he did on film was ever meant to be 'filmic' per se, much less actively captivating to any but the most self-crucifying art-house audiences."


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