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Sundance and Current Fests and Events

This is the week we begin not only looking back on 2010 but also ahead to 2011. Sundance, running January 20 through 30, is rolling out its lineup, and you can find the titles and blurbs just about anywhere you turn, including the New York Times, where Brooks Barnes comments on the four Competition categories (US Dramatic — 16 films, all world premieres, US Documentary — ditto, World Cinema — 14 films, and World Cinema Documentary — 12): "Most noticeable is a lack of movie stars, who have flocked to independent film over the last decade in search of meatier roles, a patina of hipness and Oscar statuettes.... 'For whatever reason, there aren't as many big stars doing an independent turn as in past years, and that's perfectly fine with us,' said [festival dircector John] Cooper, nodding to criticism in years past that Sundance was too hung up on marquee names.... Mr Cooper theorized that the shortage of stars and surge of far-flung narratives reflected the troubled state of the specialty film marketplace. In recent years studios have folded specialty divisions (Warner Independent, Paramount Vantage) or scaled them back drastically, leading to a severe shortage of buyers. Outside the studio system, financing has been extremely difficult to obtain because of the credit crisis and recession. 'There has been a swing toward greater authenticity,' Mr Cooper said. 'Young filmmakers for a time were more consumed with trying to make something that would sell. Now, there seems to be more of a feeling that they should just make the movie they want to make.'"

"Based on director's past efforts, buzz, and personal interest," Anthony Kaufman presents "a list of 9 titles I'll be tracking." Among them is Leonard Retel Helmrich's documentary Position Among the Stars (image above): "Recent winner of IDFA's top prize, the film looks at the effects of globalization in Indonesia's rapidly changing society [as they] ripple into the life of a poor Christian woman living in the slums of Jakarta with her Muslim sons and teenage granddaughter."

Updates: "Here come the stars," announces the NYT's Brooks Barnes with barely concealed glee, passing along Sundance's roster of non-competing Features (14 films with, sure enough, names you know), Documentary Premieres, "a new section for 2011 that furthers the Institute's commitment to this important form of storytelling by showcasing films on big subjects and new works by master filmmakers" (8 films), the Next (<=>) program, 8 "American films selected for their innovative and original work in low- and no-budget filmmaking," the Spotlight section ("Cinema we love," 11 films), Park City at Midnight, 8 "horror films and extreme comedies," the New Frontier, 5 films "that push the limits of traditional cinema aesthetics and the narrative structures of filmmaking," and, screening on its own in the Native Showcase, Billy Luther's Grab, a documentary narrated by Parker Posey: "Three families in the Laguna Pueblo tribe prepare for Grab Day, when they throw groceries from a rooftop to the community waiting below — an annual community-wide prayer of abundance, thanks and renewal."

"Folks whose names I'm thrilled to see," blogs David Lowery: "Todd Rohal's The Catechism Cataclysm, Joe Swanberg's Uncle Kent, Michael Tully's Septien, Calvin Reeder's The Oregonian, Jeff Nichols's Take Shelter. Joe's is the only one I've seen a cut off. It's also, incidentally, the only one which doesn't feature a fine actor and wonderful human being named Robert Longstreet in the cast. I was telling a friend the other day that everyone who meets Robert wants to work with him, so a landslide like this was bound to happen at some point."

And from indieWIRE's Brian Brooks: "About a half hour after Sundance announced its inclusion in its 2011 lineup, IFC Films said it has picked up worldwide rights to Joe Swanberg's Uncle Kent. The film, which stars Kent Osborne, Jennifer Prediger, Josephine Decker, and Swanberg himself, will premiere as part of the Spotlight section."

Update, 12/3: Michael C sorts through the lineup at the Film Experience.



Big day at Anthology Film Archives in New York, presenting "a long-overdue retrospective devoted to John Cook, a key figure in Austrian cinema whose films — several of which have recently been restored by the Austrian Film Museum — are virtually unknown in the US. The Canadian-born Cook almost single-handedly introduced a type of freewheeling auteur cinema in his adopted homeland, reminiscent of both Italian neorealism and the works of the French nouvelle vague." Three films will be screening over four days and Neil Young has seen them all. Slow Summer (1976) and Clinch (1978) are both "fascinating as time-capsules but still impressively fresh and funny," while I Just Can't Go On (1972-73) is a "No-budget, no-bullshit documentary [that] takes us directly into the domestic lives of an unusual couple in wintry Vienna." In February 2009, Daniel Kasman wrote that "Slow Summer seems to have a similar impression of its bohemian Viennese youth as [Andrew Bujalski's] Beeswax does of its  sublimated squabbling: people playing around and butting heads as they try to figure out what is important to them in adulthood." Update: Cook "managed without much fanfare to take insightful cinematic snapshots of those around him (and, directly and obliquely, himself), during a pronounced lull in Austrian film production," writes Nicolas Rapold for Artforum.

Also today at Anthology: Making the Lost and Unmade: The Films of Bruce Checefsky, who "has directed seven short experimental films based on lost or destroyed Central and Eastern European avant-garde films from the 1920s and 30s, or on previously published but unmade film scenarios and scripts." Leslie Stonebraker has an overview in the New York Press.

Films from the Darkest Hour: Europe, 1942-1943, opening today at Yale and running through Saturday, "brings together nine features, four shorts and a collection of newsreels from eight European nations, with introductions and panel discussions featuring faculty members and advanced PhD candidates from Yale, Bard, University of Chicago, Columbia, NYU and SUNY-Albany. All Whitney Humanities Center screenings and panel discussions are free and open to the public." Michael J Anderson's posted his program notes for the screenings. Image above: Roberto Rossellini and Marcello Pagliero's Desire (1946).

Voices of Light / The Passion of Joan of Arc: An Oratorio with Silent Film is on tonight at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland and Michael Guillén interviews conductor Mark Sumner.

A Werner Schroeter retrospective opens today at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and runs through January 22.

"London's third Fashion in Film Festival, Birds of Paradise, taking place at several major arts venues across London, gives viewers a chance to experience the extravagance of costumes constructed to create moments of pure, unadulterated wonder," writes Laura McLean-Ferris in the Independent. Through December 10.



Leonardo's Last Supper: A Vision by Peter Greenaway will be on view at the Park Avenue Armory through January 6. Update, 12/3: "Mr Greenaway's exhibition, born of his desire to revive a visual literacy he believes modern eyes have lost when looking at paintings, enlists props, lights, advanced digital projectors, towering screens, recorded music, voice-overs, precise copies of paintings (though sometimes the real ones) and practically every other theatrical aid besides smoke machines and interpretive dancers in the cause of trying to bring masterpieces of Western art to life." Randy Kennedy in the NYT: "In his view the motion picture, around for little more than a century, has exhausted its possibilities as an evolving art form and lost its hold on the imaginations of a Web-connected populace. What began to obsess him was the idea of seeing what advanced 21st-century movie technology ('The tools of cinema are now wasted on cinema,' he said) could do if harnessed to a few thousand years of its two-dimensional forefather, Western painting."

Also in New York: "For one weekend only, a second chance to see the three remarkable Romanian films featured in the last New York Film Festival." The Voice's J Hoberman: "Radu Muntean's domestic melodrama, notable for its daring sequence shots and disciplined performances, Tuesday, After Christmas has been acquired by Kino and will open here in the spring, but Andrei Ujica's The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu and Cristi Puiu's Aurora do not have distribution and are unlikely to find it.... The festival includes half a dozen new features, all having their local premieres, several documentaries, and a number of shorts." More on the Fifth Romanian Film Festival from Amy Taubin (Artforum) and James van Maanen. On a related note, Marin Apostol reports at Ioncinema that "Radu Gabrea, the Romanian director who has recently made Red Gloves and Gruber's Journey, will start working to a docu-drama about the last days in Ceauşescu's life. Most probably the shooting will take place on January - February 2011, while the release is set for 2012." Update, 12/3: "[T]he festival, even as it focuses on new films set in the present, also connects those recent developments with older, pre-revolutionary work," writes the NYT's AO Scott. "The closing-night selection will be Carnival Scenes, a 1981 film by Lucian Pintilie with a Fellini-esque look and spirit quite unlike the stripped-down realism favored by younger Romanian filmmakers."

The Los Angeles Animation Festival International runs tomorrow through Sunday at Cinefamily and the LA Weekly's Karina Longworth picks out a few of the highlights.

The Thessaloniki International Film Festival opens tomorrow with Danny Boyle's 127 Hours and runs through December 12. At Cineuropa, Joseph Proimakis has an overview of the festival that's just barely surviving Greece's financial crunch.

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