In the new Voice, J Hoberman reviews the film he's placed in the #3 slot on his top ten of 2009 list (and for more on the Voice poll and many, many other lists and awards, see the updated tracker), "Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu's remarkably self-effacing and highly intelligent comedy Police, Adjective - a philosophical crime film that, as the investigation of an investigation, substitutes irony for suspense.... Made by one who grew up in a police state (note the adjectival use) and watched it fall apart, Police, Adjective is a deadly serious as well as dryly humorous analysis of bureaucratic procedure and, particularly, the tyranny of language."
Police, Adjective opens today in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago during the very week that marks the 20th anniversary of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 - memories of which were called into question in Porumboiu's debut feature, 12:08 East of Bucharest. At any rate, for more on this second film, see David Edelstein (New York), Nicholas Rapold (L), Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York), AO Scott (New York Times), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and James van Maanen. Saul Austerlitz interviews Porumboiu for the Los Angeles Times and Brandon Harris talks with him for Filmmaker. James Hansen spoke with him in September. And there's a video interview, another unconventional Reverse Shot Talkie: Eric Hynes. Earlier: Reviews from Cannes and the New York Film Festival.
And here in The Notebook, Corneliu Porumboiu discusses one particular scene.
Viewing. At Vulture, Bilge Ebiri introduces Porumboiu's short, Gone with the Wine: "A young man, intent on immigrating to England to get away from his constantly drunk family, takes off from his dirt-poor village one day, relieved at long last to flee the shackles of home. Needless to say, things don't turn out as planned."
Update, 12/24: Scott Foundas profiles Porumboiu for the LA Weekly.
Also opening today - nationwide! - is Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, reviewed by Jason Clark (Slant), Neil Genzlinger (NYT), Betsy Sharkey (LAT) and Ella Taylor (Voice).
Screening the Past presents a special issue on "Early Europe," defined rather broadly, as guest editor Louise D'Arcens notes in her introduction. It ranges "from the Hellenic period (Zack Snyder's 300) through to the early stages of European contact with the New World (Terrence Malick's The New World), with a lengthy sojourn in the Middle Ages, exploring a number of its many screen iterations (Anglo-Saxon, Arthurian, Chaucerian, Crusading, Gothic, even Samurai), as well as a visit to the Florence of the Medici. This crossing of historical eras in these essays, and the many large chronological gaps within and between them, as well as the moments where they overlap, all respond to and reflect the dominant idioms of screen representations of the Early European past, which are intrinsically hybrid. Whether this hybridity is achieved unconsciously, blithely, or reflexively, it is a hallmark of screen representations of this era."
"Even for hardcore fans of Japanese underground movies, the name Shozin Fukui might not immediately ring a bell," writes Johannes Schönherr, introducing his interview. "This might have something to do with the fact that following the 1996 release of his claustrophobic, ultra-violent, high-speed brain-driller Rubber's Lover, Fukui dropped out of sight for more than 10 years. But now he is back with a vengeance - not only have his old films been released on DVD in both the US (through Unearthed Films) and Japan, but there's also his new all-out psycho-attack, The Hiding."
Also new at Midnight Eye: Schönherr on Fukui's S-94, M Downing Roberts on Sabu's Kanikosen, Roger Macy on Masahide Ichii's Naked of Defenses and Dean Bowman on Shuji Kataoka's S&M Hunter and Daisuke Goto's A Lonely Cow Weeps at Dawn.
"By the time French critics cooked up the auteur theory in the 1950s, Josef von Sternberg's working days were over," writes David Thompson. "Yet the Viennese-born director had long made the case for a film as the complete vision of one person in total control of all the elements of production. Such assertiveness - or arrogance - was unlikely to survive Hollywood, especially during its mogul-dominated 'golden' period from the 1920s to the 1940s. Working in a star-driven industry, Sternberg was inevitably eclipsed by the actress he launched as an icon, Marlene Dietrich. From The Blue Angel through Morocco, Shanghai Express and The Scarlet Empress, he found in her a supremely ambiguous image of femininity, both desirable and dangerous. The narratives of those films may be the stuff of cheap romance, fake exoticism or historical fantasy, but Sternberg's real interest was in the transcendent nature of the medium itself. As underground filmmaker Jack Smith expressed it, 'What he did was make movies naturally - he lived in a visual world.'"
Also in the January issue of Sight & Sound: Trevor Johnston on Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy and Daniel Barber's Harry Brown (with Michael Caine), Nick Bradshaw on Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles and Tim Lucas on Messiah of Evil: The Second Coming, whose "principal creators, Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, went on to write American Graffiti and the first two Indiana Jones sequels, but here they created something more unique, a macabre tone poem whose woozy narrative harks back to HP Lovecraft and Val Lewton, while its boldly contrived Technicolor visuals point the way to Dario Argento's stylistic masterpiece Suspiria."
IN OTHER NEWS
The death on Sunday of Brittany Murphy at the ridiculously young age of 32 has hit some harder than others (see, for example, "RIP Brittany Murphy," a topic in the Forum here at The Auteurs), while for some, the news wasn't much of a surprise. According to Gerald Posner at the Daily Beast, "inside the small world of Hollywood, the sentiment... was unanimous: She was a mess."
The official obits have been respectful, of course. "Murphy was no run-of-the-mill star," writes Ryan Gilbey in the Guardian (where Catherine Shoard has collected clips from her films). "In her first substantial role, as a greenhorn mentored by the coolest girl in school in the 1995 hit Clueless, she proved herself an inventive exponent of comedy. She demonstrated her versatility in dramatically intense films such as Girl, Interrupted and 8 Mile."
Quite clearly, though, something was off. "That all was not perfect at least in the professional world of Ms Murphy was reflected in an unflattering sketch in a recent episode of the comedy show Saturday Night Live, in which the actress was portrayed mistakenly thinking she was a host on the show when she wasn't," writes David Usborne in the Independent. "The sketch, which portrayed the actress as severely disorientated, was apparently prompted by reports of her being sacked from the set of The Caller, a film now in production in Puerto Rico. The sketch has since been taken down from the show's website." Which throws up a whole slew of questions Dave Itzkoff has sorted through a bit at the New York Times' blog, ArtsBeat.
Then there's the matter of the ranker corners of Hollywood being aired out in the wake of this death. Movieline's Seth Abramovitch has a good, which is to say, stomach-churning roundup on the husband Murphy leaves behind.
Of more interest to cinephiles will be Karina Longworth's terrific recap for Vanity Fair of the many failed attempts to realize an adaptation of DM Thomas's 1981 bestseller, The White Hotel. Murphy was once vaguely attached, but what a roster of names pops up in this particular circle of development hell: Bernardo Bertolucci, David Lynch, Pedro Almodóvar and David Cronenberg, among others.
More on Murphy: Robert Cashill, Jonny Diamond, Scott Feinberg, Joe Leydon, Wesley Morris (Boston Globe), Peter Nellhaus, Nathaniel R, Stephen Saito (IFC), Louis Virtel (Movieline), Sarah Wheaton (NYT) and Mary Elizabeth Williams (Salon).