"Named after a sarcastically jubilant lyric from the Clash's 'The Right Profile,' the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Montgomery Clift retrospective — That's Montgomery Clift, Honey! — might have also taken a more somber title from REM's 'Monty Got a Raw Deal,'" writes Michael Joshua Rowin for Artforum. "Defined by tragedy and qualified by what-ifs, Clift's story is one of Hollywood's saddest: a preternaturally attractive and talented actor permanently marked, at age thirty-six, by an automobile accident that altered his face, forced him into a crippling drug dependency, and led to his early death ten years later." Thursday through March 25
"On its face, Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi is a story about the death of 24-year-old Afghani Ajmal Naqshbandi," wrote Erin Donovan last August. "A 'fixer' by trade, Naqshbandi made his living translating, driving and navigating cultural considerations for foreign journalists as they tried to obtain interviews with Taliban officials, mullahs and local residents. In early 2007, Naqshbandi and a team of Italian journalists were double-crossed by Mullah Dadullah, who kidnapped and held them for weeks while demanding the release of Dadullah's brother and several other imprisoned Taliban officers. Unfortunately, the Afghanistan government's priorities were so focused on avoiding an international incident that when the Italians were released no one noticed Naqshbandi wasn't among the liberated. His family went on television, pleading to the better nature of their fellow Muslims to let their son go, but negotiations broke down and Naqshbandi was beheaded. The video of his execution sprang up almost immediately on the internet."
Jeannette Catsoulis in today's New York Times: "As unsettling and complex as the country it traverses, Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi, Ian Olds's stunning documentary, swings between events surrounding that murder and footage shot six months earlier, when Mr Naqshbandi, an Afghan journalist, was assisting Christian Parenti of The Nation. With one timeline providing context for the other, the film illuminates not only the extreme dangers faced by journalists and their Afghan facilitators (or, fixers) but also the extreme stasis of a country choking on corruption and barbarism.... Olds works with melancholic artistry, his lens bouncing across fields of cannabis and arid, rubble-strewn roads. Like his terrific 2006 documentary, Occupation: Dreamland (which followed a group of American soldiers stationed in Falluja, Iraq), Fixer is a deeply disorienting film propelled by a jagged anxiety that permeates every image and interview."
More from Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York; opens today at the Maysles Cinema in Harlem.
"Almost universally deplored last year, Jared Hess's Gentlemen Broncos is far from a self-immolating indie-comedy disaster, but neither is it, as New Yorker film editor Richard Brody maintains, one of 2009's best films," writes Michael Atkinson for IFC. "Honestly, it's just different, like an idiot child who dresses funny or a spinster who gives all of her cats the same name, and the film's idiosyncratic personality simply seemed to rub most people the wrong way." Also: "Time sometimes works wonders, as it has for Peter Lennon's 1967 documentary about Ireland, Rocky Road to Dublin... I cannot think of another feature doc made anywhere for the express purpose of identifying and decrying an entire nation's ethical and cultural failures."
"Do you have to be Japanese to appreciate Tora-san?" asks Dave Kehr in the NYT. "Evidently not, since that amiable drifter, played by Kiyoshi Atsumi in 48 films (a record for most appearances by an actor in a single role) made between 1969 and 1995, has enough of a following in the West for an American distributor, the admirable independent company AnimEigo, in Wilmington, NC, to begin issuing the Tora-san films on DVD."
"If you're craving the look and feel of an indie from the 90s then Tao Ruspoli's debut feature Fix may be the disc you'll want to pop in," suggests Jason Guerrasio for Filmmaker.
DVD roundups: Tom Russo (Boston Globe) and Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail).
Update, 3/10: In the Voice, Melissa Anderson notes that BAM's Montgomery Clift retro "includes six pre-accident movies and five made after May 12, 1956, the night he smashed his car after leaving a dinner party hosted by friend and three-time co-star Elizabeth Taylor. One of the most beautiful, in-demand faces in the world became partially immobile; acting teacher Robert Lewis called the 10 years that Clift lived and worked post-crash the 'longest suicide in Hollywood history.' But both before and after disfigurement, Clift's cautious, slow-burning, and slightly stoop-shouldered heroes offered new ways of being a man."
Image: Montgomery Clift in The Misfits (1961).
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