Jonathan Demme with Anthony Hopkins on the set of The Silence of the Lambs
We are very saddened to learn that the American director Jonathan Demme has died at 73. Demme won a Best Director Academy Award for The Silence of the Lambs, but that hardly summarizes or rewards the remarkable extent of his beautiful filmmaking. Just last year he released one of his very best works, the concert film Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids. Below is his 1985 music video for New Order's "The Perfect Kiss":
Last year's jury for the Cannes Film Festival was lambasted as misguided after awarding the Palme d'Or not to Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann but to Ken Loach's I, Blake. The 2017 jury, headed by Pedro Almodóvar, has been announced and seems an attempt to make up for last year's kerfuffle: directors Maren Ade, Agnès Jaoui, Park Chan-wook, and Paolo Sorrentino, actors Jessica Chastain, Fan Bingbing, and Will Smith, and composer Gabriel Yared.
Sofia Coppola's remake of Don Siegel's The Beguiled will soon premiere in Competition in the Cannes Film Festival, and the new trailer for it looks appropriately lush and lurid.
It seems like new trailer for restored classics keep on coming, and we can't get enough of 'em. StudioCanal has a new one for Federico Fellini's whimsical extension of Neo-Realism, La strada (1954).
You may have seen Camilo Restrepo's fabulous Cilaos last autumn when we showed it on MUBI in partnership with the New York Film Festival. Now the director has a trailer for a new short, La bouche, which is headed to the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes.
It’s not odd for the industry to protect its financial interests. What is odd, however, is the deference of critics and editors to those interests. I’ve had the pleasure and honor of contributing to several print and online publications’ year-end polls, and they all follow the Academy’s lead in determining eligibility in terms of theatrical release (with separate categories for “unreleased” or “undistributed” films); I confess that, when I put my year-end lists together, I generally follow the same guidelines, in order to maintain a clear basis of comparison with the choices of other critics and the state of the industry at large. But it’s clear that the industry is drastically changing, and that those changes have certain major advantages for some filmmakers.
The latest issue of online feminist film journal cléo is out, themed around "soft": "In some contexts, softness is a good thing; we think of soft skin, emotional intelligence, a safe space. In others, softness is code for weakness: easily swayed opinions, a lack of rigour or virility. We’re looking for submissions that ask questions about what it means to show softness onscreen." Included are articles on 9 to 5, nunsploitation, Jane Campion, and "soft cock."
If the Academy Museum is shaping up as a “Heaven’s Gate”-style fiasco, then the role of Michael Cimino belongs to Piano. The Italian Pritzker-winner is one of the world’s most renowned architects. His hiring in 2012 was seen as a powerful signal of the Academy’s grand ambitions for the project. Piano’s concept for the museum revolved around the theater — a massive 130-foot sphere that he likened to a “soap bubble” or a “spaceship.” When it was unveiled, it was tagged by critics as looking more akin to the Death Star.
One example I can give you of Lubitsch’s thinking was in Ninotchka, a romantic comedy that Brackett and I wrote for him. Ninotchka was to be a really straight Leninist, a strong and immovable Russian commissar, and we were wondering how we could dramatize that she, without wanting to, was falling in love. How could we do it? Charles Brackett and I wrote twenty pages, thirty pages, forty pages! All very laboriously. Lubitsch didn’t like what we’d done, didn’t like it at all. So he called us in to have another conference at his house. We talked about it, but of course we were still, well . . . blocked. In any case, Lubitsch excused himself to go to the bathroom, and when he came back into the living room he announced, Boys, I’ve got it. It’s funny, but we noticed that whenever he came up with an idea, I mean a really great idea, it was after he came out of the can. I started to suspect that he had a little ghostwriter in the bowl of the toilet there.
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