Before turning to this week's theatrical releases, I want to mention that if you haven't taken a look at the new Film Issue from Vice, you need to, if only because that's what everyone else is looking at right now. The cover is a collage by Christopher Doyle, who's interviewed by David Feinberg, who also talks with another favorite cinematographer at Vice, Anthony Dod Mantle.
More interviews: Henrik Saltzstein with Lars von Trier, Kaleem Aftab with Gaspar Noé, Tim Small with Dario Argento, Steve Lafreniere with George and Mike Kuchar, Nick Gazin with Terry Gilliam, Shane Smith with Spike Jonze, Jesse Pearson with David Lynch, Bruno Bayley with Norman J Warren, James Knight with Michael Winner and Alex Miller with Jack Bond. There's a fashion shoot tied to that last one: "Jack Bond Films Projected on to Models," shot by Claudia Grassl.
More shoots: Guilo Rojer Ghirardi's "Two Friends Watch Movies in Various Places," Jamie Taete's "Golden Greats of the Silver Screen," Richard Kern shoots Natasha Lyonne, Miranda July asks, "Do you ever feel like an extra in your own life?" and Harry Benson recalls a 1976 shoot with Roman Polanski and Nastassja Kinski.
Also: Mike Sacks compiles an oral history of Over the Edge (1979), still influencing "generation after generation of filmmakers." "Jonny Trunk Loves Really, Really, Really Obscure Film Soundtracks." Ryan McGinley's "Top 10 Art Films." James Knight on a seminal British TV series: "Mike Leigh, Alan Clarke, Stephen Frears, Ken Loach and Stephen Poliakoff all cut their teeth on Play for Today." Sam McPheeters on the return of 70s-era New York. Liz Armstrong's "Brief Foray Into Amateur Lesbian Pornography." Melvin Smack on how gross the Oscars can be. Andy Capper on Nollywood and Bernardo Loyola on "super-low-budget films about drug dealers, bad cops, corrupt politicians, trucks, and prostitutes, catering mostly to the blue collar back home and the millions of Mexicans living in the US."
Here's what I've saved for the sake of a clever segue: Rocco Castoro interviews Werner Herzog; Jesse Pearson, Les Blank and Ross McElwee; and Ian F Svenonius explains this assertion: "The clues are all around that documentaries, and video in general, are meant for aliens."
Whether or not you buy into that, he and Andrew O'Hehir would agree that, simply put, as films become less expensive to make, more films are made. Especially documentaries. They're everywhere. "They hopscotch from one film festival to the next, screen in church basements and community centers, self-distribute on DVD or online." Andrew, though, is zooming in on one genre in particular: "As any successful film is likely to do, Inconvenient Truth established a template for other eco-catastrophe documentaries to follow, and inspired a legion of well-intentioned emulators, wannabes and copycats." And so, he presents "Salon's exclusive user's guide to the eco-docs of 2009," starting with the one opening today: "Pushing two hours in length and chaotically structured, Fuel is a high-spirited, pseudo-encyclopedic tour of everything that's wrong with America's energy policy and how it all could be made right through a combination of biodiesel, wind and solar power. Maybe his arguments aren't all as convincing as they look at first glance, but [Josh] Tickell gets full marks for making an eco-doc designed to uplift and inspire - it's the Viagra of green movies!"
More from Jeannette Catsoulis (New York Times), Nick Schager (Slant) and Brian Miller (Voice).
"The director of an award-winning documentary about Japan's dolphin slaughter said Friday that he plans to attend the screening of The Cove at the Tokyo film festival even though he could be arrested," reports Yuri Kageyama for the AP. "Japanese police say American director Louie Psihoyos and other members of his crew violated trespassing laws when they documented the hunt in the seaside town of Taiji, where 2000 dolphins are killed every year, mostly to be sold as meat.... The film has won more than a dozen awards and led to an outpouring of outrage at the hunt. Initially, it wasn't part of the program for the Tokyo International Film Festival, which opens Oct 17, but was added partly because of pressure from abroad."
Now playing at the Cinema Village in New York: "Fatal Promises, a documentary about human trafficking, seems to start from the premise that no one has ever heard of this vexing international problem before," writes Neil Genzlinger in the NYT. "So it tries to cover every base: sex slavery, forced manual labor, political foot-dragging, celebrity activism, frustration among nongovernmental agencies dealing with the issue. As a result it lacks focus and adds little to the awareness of the subject that even a casual follower of the news has already acquired." More from Andrew Schenker in the Voice.
There's another doc out on the road I've been meaning to mention. As What's the Matter with Kansas? rolls into Chicago, Robert Ebert explains, "This is its point: Conservatives in the heartland have persuaded themselves to vote against their own economic and social well-being because they consider hot-button issues more important than their incomes, economic chances, educations and the welfare of society at large. Their positions dovetail seamlessly with evangelical Christianity, and they accept hardship as the will of God when it seems more clearly to be the working of a top-loaded economy."
If the premise and title sound familiar, that'll be because the film is based on Tom Frank's book, published in 2004, another election year in which a wailing wall of mutual incomprehension between reds and blues proved all but insurmountable. "Frank's book and this movie are both vulnerable to accusations of condescending elitism," noted John K Wilson in In These Times a couple of weeks ago. But "the depth of the connection that develops between the subjects and filmmakers - and, eventually, the audience - stops this from being mere mockery."
The portrait of the artist is another growing genre. Just last week we heard about The Painter Sam Francis. This week it's If One Thing Matters: A Film About Wolfgang Tillmans, screening at Anthology Film Archives. "Tillmans's photos may be observational, but even he makes the difficult decisions of what to crop and which shots deserve public viewing," writes S James Snyder in Time Out New York. "That curatorial heft is sorely missing from [Heiko] Kalmbach's final edit; it's a portrait that neither feels forced nor fully formed." More from Neil Genzlinger (NYT), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Andrew Schenker (Slant) and James van Maanen.
There's already an entry underway for The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, and entries, too, for a handful of wider releases: Bright Star, The Informant! and Jennifer's Body.
"Fat City, which begins a two-week run at Film Forum in Manhattan on Friday" - today! - "came out in 1972, when [John] Huston's career was in a long decline stretching back to the early 1950s," writes Mike Hale in the NYT. "It was a critical success, and ushered in a late phase in which Huston, already 66, would go on to make the best movies of his career: The Man Who Would Be King, Wise Blood, Prizzi's Honor and The Dead.... Fat City isn't a masterpiece - the elegiac tone is a little forced at times, and [Stacy] Keach's central performance doesn't live up to the rest of the movie - but it's on the short list of boxing movies, along with The Set-Up and Body and Soul, that linger in the mind." More from J Hoberman (Voice), Benjamin Strong (L) and Keith Uhlich (TONY).
With Venice and Toronto and all, I'm a bit late mentioning 35 Shots of Rum, now two days into its two-week run, also at New York's Film Forum. But just last month we got, well, a big shot of Claire Denis with Reverse Shot's symposium; and of course, the entry on White Material is still being updated and there'll be even more Denis here at The Auteurs very soon now. Even so, by all means, here's the latest round: Melissa Anderson (Voice), Mark Asch (L), David Fear (TONY), Michael Koresky (indieWIRE), Nicolas Rapold (L), AO Scott (NYT), Nick Schager, Bill Weber (Slant) and Armond White (New York Press).
Juliette Binoche is in New York, doing a little bit of everything, as Michelle Orange notes in the introduction to her interview for IFC. In-I, a dance project directed and performed by Binoche and Akram Khan is on at BAM through September 26 and In-Eyes, an exhibition of portraits and poetry by Binoche is on view at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy through October 9, both coinciding with BAMcinématek's series Rendez-vous with Juliette Binoche, running through the end of the month, and today's opening, albeit limited, of course, of Cédric Klapisch's Paris.
"The films of Cédric Klapisch are easy to dismiss," writes Eric Hynes at indieWIRE. "But Klapisch is worthy of greater respect, both because his films are smarter and more challenging than they at first seem, and because engaging, deft storytellers are exceedingly rare in contemporary cinema. Now that auterism is an overt career plan rather than an inarticulate compulsion, a popular filmmaker like Klapisch may have to wait for retrospective (and appropriately old-fashioned) recognition." More from Chris Barsanti (FilmCritic.com), David Fear (TONY), Stephen Holden (NYT), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Nathan Rabin (AV Club), Nick Schager (Slant), Henry Stewart (L), Martin Tsai (Critic's Notebook), James van Maanen and Armond White (NYP).
"Dour, detached, and oozing general contempt, the professor of literature who runs afoul of post-apartheid South Africa in Australian director Steve Jacobs's Disgrace might have been written for John Malkovich," writes Ella Taylor in the Voice. "In this film adaptation of JM Coetzee's brilliant 1999 novel, the actor brings his languid creepiness to the part of David Lurie, a fifty-ish aesthete whose chilly, power-tripping attraction to women of color leads him to seduce a mixed-race student.... The austere economy of Coetzee's writing, crisply adapted for the screen by Anna Maria Monticelli, plays out the melodrama with quietly brooding menace."
More from Andrew Chan (L), Aaron Hillis (TONY), Stephen Holden (NYT), Keith Phipps (AV Club), Ryan Stewart (Slant) and Michael Wilmington. Reviews of Coetzee's latest volume of memoirs, Summertime: Patrick Denman Flanery (TLS) and Michael Sayeau (New Statesman). Online listening tip. Noah Forrest talks with Malkovich for Movie City News.
AO Scott reviews Guillermo Arriaga's latest reshuffled narrative, The Burning Plain, in today's New York Times, but, like Vadim Rizov at IFC, I get a kick out of his review for At the Movies:
More from Simon Abrams (L), Fernando F Croce (Slant), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Aaron Hillis (Voice), Charles Mudede (Stranger), Matt Prigge (Philadelphia Weekly), Nicolas Rapold (TONY), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and Martin Tsai (Critic's Notebook).
Harmony and Me sees a one-week run at MoMA and it's "a finely tuned comedy, complete with precisely scripted jokes and comic set pieces that swerve toward the playfully perverse," writes Karina Longworth for TONY; she also talks with director Bob Byington for Vulture. More from Simon Abrams (NYP), Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), Vadim Rizov (Voice) and Henry Stewart (L). For Filmmaker, Nick Dawson talks with Byington "about the inspiration Harmony Korine provided the movie, the film's musical aspects, and his 'God-imposed' hiatus."
Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone is playing at the Village East Cinema in New York for a week. "This is mighty perplexing nerd kibble, its highfalutin' philosophical and psychological banter way too outlandish to seriously engage," writes Aaron Hillis in the Voice. "Yet as a visceral experience, it's entrancing." More from Simon Abrams (Slant) and Mike Hale (NYT).
"No lie," promises Paul Matwychuk: "scene by scene, gag by gag, the most consistently funny movie of the year just might be Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, an absolutely delightful computer-animated comedy based on the children's book by Judi and Ron Barrett." More from Ed Champion, Alonso Duralde (MSNBC), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Cathy Erway (L), Daniel M Gold (NYT), Tom Huddleston (Time Out London), Adam Keleman (Slant), Keith Phipps (AV Club), Tim Robey (Telegraph), Nick Schager (TONY) and Megan Seling (Stranger). Mark Olsen talks with directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller for the Los Angeles Times.
"Love Happens isn't a romantic comedy, and maybe it would be more effective, or at least just livelier, if it were," writes Stephanie Zacharek in Salon. "Instead, it's a limp romantic drama that occasionally lifts its drowsy head to attempt a wan smile, a picture that starts out being harmlessly dull and ends, somehow, in a place that feels insultingly manipulative. Maybe there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes in a movie theater, but right now I can't think of one." More from Stephen Holden (NYT), Mary Pols (Time), Mike Russell (Oregonian) and Michael Wilmington (Movie City News).