Senses of Cinema, "The White Ribbon," DVDs

The Auteurs Daily

The Marriage of Cana

It's a busy Wednesday between Christmas and New Year's, with film journals posting new issues, a handful of films opening in theaters and another notable handful just out on DVD. And all along, of course, fresh lists and awards are making the current tracker a longer and longer scroll.

Introducing Issue 53 of Senses of Cinema, editor Rolando Caputo notes the "happy coincidence that the founding editor of Senses, Bill Mousoulis, is represented in this 10th anniversary issue as a contributing author. Bill reviews both the Athens and Thessalonki film festivals... The world, for Bill, means film culture. He may see it differently but, in effect, ten years back, Senses was a first attempt to bridge those waters, to open up a web-based dialogue with an international film culture that was elsewhere than in Melbourne, Australia."

Having long ago broken my silly old habit of reproducing tables of content that already exist online, I'll still make note of a few pieces that immediately catch my eye - but please do keep in mind that there's more than enough here to keep us all reading through the holidays and beyond. Sally Shafto introduces her transcript of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet's A Visit to the Louvre (2004); in the previous issue, she explored the filmmakers' relationship with Paul Cézanne. Painting often figures prominently in Senses and, besides Michael C Riedlinger's "Orson Welles - Painter," this new issue also features Angela Delle Vacche on "Chiaroscuro: Caravaggio, Bazin, Storaro." Further: Drew Morton on "Godard's Comic Strip Mise-en-Scène" and Murray Pomerance's "Notes on Some Limits of Technicolor: The Antonioni Case."

The new issue of Offscreen "places a spotlight on Montreal's oldest Film Festival, the World Film Festival, which started 32 years ago in 1977."

Via Catherine Grant, another couple of new issues you may want to check out: the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies and the Journal of the Imaginary and Fantastic.

Nancy Fornoville tweets a heads-up: For a limited time, the Directory of World Cinema: Japan is downloadable for free.

Back to Senses for a moment. In the section on books, Yun-hua Chen reviews Catherine Wheatley's Michael Haneke's Cinema: The Ethic of the Image, "the first English-language monograph on Haneke. It proposes an ethical theory of spectatorship to fill the gap in scholarship on his films, which very often looks at the socio-political messages implied by the content in the vein of American moralism or psychoanalytical reading of his characters and abrupt outbursts of violence. Wheatley, in her examination of Haneke's authorial persona, poses the rarely reflected-upon question of the origin, function and particularity of unpleasure in Haneke's films."

The White Ribbon

"The White Ribbon is Michael Haneke's first German-language film since the original Funny Games (1997) and, addressing what used to be called 'the German problem' while dodging the filmmaker's own likeability issues, it's his best ever," writes J Hoberman in what is evidently one of his last reviews for the Voice before he takes two months off, perhaps to finish that book on the 70s he's been working on. Regardless, this is a piece that calls out for quoting at length: "A period piece set on the eve of World War I in an echt Protestant, still-feudal village somewhere in the uptight depths of Northern Germany, The White Ribbon - which won a deserved Palme d'Or at last May's Cannes-fest of Cruelty - is as cold and creepy and secretly cheesy as any of Haneke's earlier films, if not quite as lofty. Instead of sermonizing, Haneke sets himself to honest craftsmanship. Detailed yet oblique, leisurely but compelling, perfectly cast and irreproachably acted, the movie has a seductively novelistic texture complete with a less-than-omniscient narrator hinting at a weighty historical thesis: It's Village of the Damned as re-imagined by Thomas Mann after studying August Sander's photographs of German types while perusing Wilhelm Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism."

More from Alonso Duralde (IFC), David Edelstein (New York), Trevor Johnston (Script Factory), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York), Michael Joshua Rowin (L), AO Scott (New York Times), Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times), James van Maanen, Armond White (NYP) and Lauren Wissot (House Next Door). Interviews with Haneke: Sam Adams (AV Club), Seth Abramovich (Movieline), Aaron Hillis (IFC), Reed Johnson (LAT) and Jim Rohner (Zoom In Online, audio). Earlier: Alexander Horwath (Film Comment). Earlier entries here in The Notebook: "Debating Haneke (and Brecht)" and reviews from Toronto and the NYFF.

"Tennessee Williams told the New York Times in 1957 that he hoped his new original screenplay The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond would be directed by Elia Kazan and star Julie Harris, but nothing came of that at the time, and his script remained un-produced," writes Dan Callahan for the L. "The theater actress Jodie Markell, who made her biggest impact when she excavated and starred in the Sophie Treadwell play Machinal, has now excavated Teardrop Diamond for her feature debut as a film director. Unfortunately, in the all-important female lead role once earmarked for the great Harris, Markell has cast Bryce Dallas Howard, a bland actress who suggests a monotonous 90s party girl instead of the coffee-guzzling, desperate, poetic wallflower intended by Williams."

More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), Alonso Duralde (IFC), David Fear (TONY), Stephen Holden (NYT), Jenni Miller (Cinematical), Jeff Reichert (indieWIRE), Betsy Sharkey (LAT), James van Maanen and Bill Weber (Slant). Backgrounders: Susan King (LAT) and Charles McGrath (NYT). Interviews with Markell: Allan Ellenberger and Andre Soares (Alternative Film Guide). ST VanAirsdale talks with Ellen Burstyn for Movieline and John Anderson profiles Howard for T Magazine.

"True to its title, The Chaser includes several hot pursuits," writes Mike Hale in the NYT. "The sweaty low-tech action and the emphasis on urban topography link the film, the feature debut of the director Na Hong-jin, to modern South Korean classics like Lee Myung-se's propulsive cop drama Nowhere to Hide, and Bong Joon-ho's river-monster thriller The Host. Mr Na isn't operating at that high a level, at least not yet. But with The Chaser he's trying to chart a similar course between the poles of art-house pomposity and empty style that characterize so much of Korean moviemaking."

More from Aaron Hillis (TONY), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant), Benjamin Mercer (L), Jeff Reichert (Reverse Shot), Nick Schager (Voice) and James van Maanen. At New York's IFC Center through Tuesday.



Old Partner

"Octogenarian farmer Choi Won-kyun and his wife, Lee Sam-soon, have toiled for decades in the fields with their 40-year-old ox—possibly the oldest beast of burden in South Korea," writes Kevin B Lee in Time Out New York. Old Partner is a "documentary [that] chronicles the final year of their life together in a remote, hilly farmland whose splendor sharply contrasts with their humble peasant lifestyle."

More from Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Andrew Schenker (Slant), AO Scott (NYT) and James van Maanen. For Filmmaker, Damon Smith talks with director Lee Chung-ryoul "about Korean folk paintings, the demise of Old World agricultural traditions, and why he owes Choi's nameless ox (now deceased) an apology." At Film Forum through Tuesday.

DVDS

Lucrecia Martel is "arguably the world's greatest working woman filmmaker," writes Michael Atkinson for IFC. "Sure, she falls into the neo-minimalist catalogue - an idiotic label, given how inhabited and rich and unsolvable so many of those films are, by Tsai or Reygadas or Weerasethakul or Costa or whomever. But Martel's movies are entirely hers, breathtakingly sustained essays in unease that lance the cyst of our pressurized anxieties better than any genre film, as well as being experiments in how to experience story - as spectacle, which is how Hollywood has come to define cinema, or as a mystery we have to wonder about and understand as a living metaphor for bigger, badder, hairier questions of emotional existence. One of the best (and, naturally, least seen) films of 2009, The Headless Woman is about disconnection - so how can anyone have expected to connect?"

Soi Cheang's Accident is "a sleek paranoid thriller in the vein of Coppola's The Conversation," while producer Johnnie To's Vengeance "feels like a stand-in for the Le Cercle Rouge remake he never got off the ground." Blogging for TCM, R Emmet Sweeney recommends viewing both on Blu-ray.

Fernando F Croce in Slant on Patricio Guzmán's The Battle of Chile: "A monument to cine-activist commitment as well as a political thriller that would have had Costa-Gavras and Oliver Stone furiously taking notes, this epic documentary finally makes its triumphant DVD debut."

"The Cineteca di Bologna has just issued two handsomely-produced book and DVD sets, All ricera di Charlie Chaplin - Unknown Chaplin (The Search for Charlie Chaplin) and Alla ricera di Buster Keaton - A Hard Act to Follow." The Bioscope has details.

Images: Paolo Veronese's Marriage at Cana, appearing in Straub and Huillet's A Trip to the Louvre and also the subject of Peter Greenaway's "digital extravaganza of light, sound, theatrical illusion and formal dissection" (Roberta Smith, NYT) presented in Venice this summer; The White Ribbon; Old Partner.


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