In the run-up to their presentation of Head (1968) at 92Y Tribeca on December 18, a screening introduced by Eric Lefcowitz, author of Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made-for-TV Band, Not Coming to a Theater Near You has launched a new series, "Rock Follies." Seven writers will revisit eleven films and, as Evan Kindley puts it in his introduction, "Some are, not to put too fine a point on it, for fans only. But though it certainly helps to care something for the musicians at the center of these freewheeling, often chaotic three-ring circuses, each of these projects reflects a certain crazed Fitzcarraldian determination — often intertwined, it's true, with monumental narcissism — that recommends them to all admirers of daring, ambitious, passionate, unorthodox cinema."
Head, of course, is not only included in America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, the Criterion box set that keeps popping up since its release a few weeks ago, but is also "one of the most fragmented, unrelentingly bizarre feature films of the late 60s," write Kindley and Leo Goldsmith. "Equal parts good trip, bad trip, social satire and cheesefest, the Monkees' only feature film is certainly an interesting curiosity, but also a satisfying and impressive piece of vintage counterculture, even — dare we say it — art."
I've posted that clip up there because one of the eleven films will be Jean-Luc Godard's One Plus One AKA Sympathy for the Devil (also 1968); watching Keith Richards count it down is to be reminded of the man in his prime — not that the Captain Teague persona he's been rolling out in promotion of Life doesn't have his charms, of course. Dangerous Minds has more Stones viewing; one more thing, though, semi-related to "Rock Follies": As Evan Kindley notes, Richard Lester's A Hard Day's Night (1964) played a pivotal role in the rock movie genre and Beatles fans might want to take a look at Maxim Dalton's latest poster.
Update, 12/8: "Freedom, both in concept and practice, is central to Sympathy for the Devil," writes Rod Bastanmehr in a review that has a soundtrack. "Where the Stones play at total liberation, Godard knows better. He pans around the room, giving us a glance at the producers standing idly behind the glass. And when they can't find a rhythm that satisfies, the band fractures."
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"Beginning with his baby-face embodiment of filial angst and eruption in Marco Bellocchio's debut Fists in the Pocket (1965), the career of 67-year-old Colombian ex-pat Lou Castel has intermittently dovetailed with minor highlights of the past five decades of New Wave–influenced European art cinema (Fassbinder, Wenders, Ruiz)." For Artforum, Michael Joshua Rowin previews Lou Castel: Action!, a series running Tuesday evenings, presented by the French Institute Alliance Française, and Lou Castel: Experiments in Film and Video, a concurrent series at Anthology Film Archives (today through Saturday). While the Institute "has chosen to emphasize his French work from the 1990s onward: in Philippe Garrel's The Birth of Love (1993), in Olivier Assayas's Irma Vep (1996), and, more recently, in Nicolas Klotz's Heartbeat Detector (2007)," Anthology's collection is a different experience altogether, evidently: "These films could be read as either incredibly hardcore avant-garde stuff or total wankery. I lean somewhat more toward the latter... A few accompanying films about Castel, including ones by Gérard Courant and Yuka Toyoshima, put the actor's high-art hobby into better focus; the labors of love themselves remain mystifyingly lazy."
Update, 12/8: For Nick Pinkerton, writing in the Voice, the two-pronged retro "barely summarizes a career that's a bumpy back-road Grand Tour of Euro movies post–New Wave, from festival darlings, politicized Spaghetti Westerns, and still-more-scurrilous stuff. Having seen nearly everything in his lifetime, Castel will even risk a Q&A with New York cineastes — a battered legend, briefly manifest."
"In the case of Cronos, it had a good chance of being the only movie I made, because it was so peculiar in many ways. It's not a regular vampire movie. It's a Catholic, chemically correct vampire movie. I approached it with the zeal of somebody that was gasping for air, that was holding for dear life." That's Guillermo del Toro, of course, talking with Noel Murray at the AV Club. Aaron Hillis talks with him, too, for GreenCine Daily (17'58"). Cronos is out on DVD and Blu-ray today from Criterion. Meantime, as Steven Zeitchik reports in the Los Angeles Times, Del Toro's long-planned adaptation of HP Lovecraft's novella At the Mountains of Madness is still in the works: "And lest you think producer James Cameron is simply putting his name on it while he's off working on Avatar 2, think again.... 'In his subtle style he said to me, "I have a few notes, but I have one fatal flaw [that I see in the script],"' Del Toro recalled. 'He pointed out one thing that was big. I've been thinking about this for 35 years, and he pointed out something I'd never seen.'"
In 1993, when Del Toro was all of 28, "Cronos was fresh without being trendy, exquisitely designed without losing sight of the fact that even the coolest creature — and the film's cronos device, an intricately carved mechanical bug with a living core, is extraordinarily cool — can't compensate for thinly conceived characters or a tediously formulaic narrative," writes Maitland McDonagh for Criterion. "Cronos is a young man's movie (though del Toro fretted that he was a late starter), but its emotional sophistication is striking."
Criterion's also releasing a new Blu-ray special edition of David Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983) today, and they've posted Carrie Rickey's piece on the film that appeared in the Voice that year, Tim Lucas's recollections of a visit to the set, where he spoke with director, and another essay by Gary Indiana: "Cronenberg's dramatization of the interhuman has taken many fantastic forms, from the 'game portals' drilled into people's spines in eXistenZ (1999) to the thalidomide-induced telepathic fusion of the scanners in Scanners (1981), the talking bug typewriters and flesh-assimilating Mugwumps of Naked Lunch (1991), the genetic recomposition of the protagonist of The Fly (1986) that boosts his sexual prowess while gradually transforming him into an insect — eroticism is hardwired into our instinct, and dangerously close to the circuitry of the death wish. The sexual connection compromises and sometimes eradicates our self-preservative mechanisms. In Dead Ringers (1988), one cohesive 'self' is divided between two identical bodies, and when one deviates into a discrete set of emotions and sensitivities, they both start to disintegrate. Crash (1996) conveys, viscerally, the libidinal attractions of physical injury and the scars it deposits on flesh, unfettered aggression via technology, and, to some extent, the easy portability of 'love' from one arbitrary object to another. Videodrome, prophetically for 1983 (and looking increasingly less like fiction), shows us a world of technological hyperdevelopment in which people merge with their electronic media. Like an autoimmune catastrophe, the boundary between our bodies and what's outside them becomes indistinguishable."
"Call it incoherent or pretentious, but one cannot help but be stunned by the forward-looking intelligence that the film is made with and consistently exudes," writes Chris Cabin in Slant. "An allegorical miasma lit by deeply felt reactions to censorship, religion, video, sex, violence, and television, Videodrome should now be seen as the first fully realized work in what would become an incredible string of masterworks that were inventive and layered in form and dazzlingly cerebral in concept."
Dave Kehr in the New York Times: "One of the great romantics of American film, Alan Rudolph made Trouble in Mind, the movie that might be his magnum opus, in 1985, riding the reputation of his unexpectedly successful Choose Me and carrying several cast members, including Geneviève Bujold and Keith Carradine, along with him. Now 25 years old, this quirky, dreamlike film dates from a time when a greater range of stylistic options were available to independent filmmakers, as opposed to the chilly digital realism that seems to prevail today."
That's out from Shout! Factory, which brings us to Sean Axmaker and one of Roger Corman's specialties, "the period gangster thriller with a femme-centric twist." The double features under review: Crazy Mama / The Lady in Red and Big Bad Mama / Big Bad Mama II. "All four films have been remastered for these sets, presented for the first time in anamorphic widescreen." What's more, "you can always watch these in the 'Grindhouse Experience,' which plays the double feature through with trailers, movie bumpers and snack bar promos before and between the films."
Leonard Rossiter was "one of the finest and most versatile stage and screen performers of his generation," argues Gary Mills in Sight & Sound. "As [the UK television series] Tripper's Day sees its debut commercial release on DVD and the first major biography of the man is published (Character Driven: The Untold Story of a Comic Genius by Guy Adams), it's worth reacquainting ourselves with this most vivid of careers."
A month ago, I rounded up a collection of critical takes on the Elia Kazan Collection, and a month before that, another on Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones's A Letter to Elia. This week, the New Yorker's run a longish consideration of Kazan and his career by John Lahr.
Glenn Kenny's been rummaging through the Warner Archives again, this time taking in "an Elisha Cook, Jr double feature (sort of)."
Christopher Nolan's Inception is out on DVD and Blu-ray today and, at IFC.com, Matt Singer comments on a YouTube video that's been making the rounds, "Inception in Real-Time," for which weikang splits the screen so that you can watch the stories-within-stories play out simultaneously. More on the film from Sean Axmaker, Alonso Duralde (Movieline) and Bilge Ebiri.
DVD roundups. First, another one of those holiday gift guides, this one from John Powers for NPR. As for his week's new releases: Sean Axmaker, Mark Kermode (Observer), Paul Matwychuk and Heather Noel, Noel Murray (Los Angeles Times), Bryce J Renninger (indieWIRE), Stephen Saito (IFC), Slant and Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail). Update, 12/8: Vulture posts a dream level sketch Nolan drew for the shooting script.
FESTS AND LISTS
Slamdance, running January 21 through 27, has announced its Feature Competition lineup of ten narrative and eight documentary films. And Sundance (January 20 through 30) has unveiled the 81 titles lined up for its Short Film Program.
David Lowery's posted the trailer for his Sundance-headed short, Pioneer.
Amid Amidi takes a closer look at the animated shorts at Cartoon Brew, where Jerry Beck has the nominations for the 38th Annual Annie Awards. At indieWIRE, Peter Knegt notes that DreamsWork Animation's How to Train Your Dragon dominates the list and, for Best Animated Feature, will go up against The Illusionist, Despicable Me, Tangled and Toy Story 3. "The latter two nominations are interesting in that they occurred despite Disney-Pixar's withdrawal from the International Animation Society."
Cédric Succivalli tweeted this morning: "Premiere (The French Film Mag) names The Social Network best film of 2010, based on 8 critics' lists.... 2 Mammoth 3 City of Life and Death 4 Poetry 5 Black Venus 6 Enter the Void 7 Toy Story 3 8 On Tour 9 Up in the Air 10 The Ghost Writer 11 How to Train Your Dragon 12 Uncle Boonmee, tie with (LMAO) Agora 14 A Serious Man 15 Spring Fever."
For TCM, suzidoll: "In the spirit of bringing attention to some decent films that were shafted by the conditions of the current industry, I bring you my list of ten favorite movies from 2010 that deserve a second chance or a second viewing."
IFC's Matt Singer has "decided to list the five most interesting hypothetical double features of 2010, along with five more runners-up."
Jonathan Landreth for the Hollywood Reporter: "Chinese thespian Zhang Ziyi has been named Actress of the Decade by organizers of CineAsia, the annual three-day regional distributors and exhibitors trade show that began here on Tuesday."
David Gutowski, known to most as Largehearted Boy, lists his favorite novels of 2010: "Marcy Dermansky's second novel Bad Marie is delightfully dark, cuttingly funny, and elegantly written. Marie may be an unlikable protagonist, but seeing her world through her eyes is a fantastic, suspenseful, and truly unforgettable experience."
At the New Yorker's News Desk, Dan Chiasson rolls out his list of the "Eleven Best Poetry Books of 2010." His #1: "Timothy Donnelly, The Cloud Corporation. Omnivorous, fast-forward, bull-in-a-china-shop poems that deliver more beauty per minute than can comfortably be withstood. If Whitman had had a young kid and a Brooklyn apartment, too many bills, and a stack of takeout menus in the top drawer of his Ikea desk, he would have written these poems. This is my favorite book of the year."
Tom Shone's "Best Albums of 2010."
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