"I hesitate to proclaim Mia Hansen-Løve's Le père de mes enfants (The Father of My Children) the best film of the year so far, or Hansen-Løve as the strongest French director to emerge in the last decade," begins Dan Sallitt, "not because I have doubts, but because her films creep up gradually, and might be harmed by excessive fanfare. Still, publicity first. Like Hansen-Løve's equally good first feature, 2007's Tout est pardonné (All Is Forgiven), Le père de mes enfants devotes its entire first half to a development that only in retrospect can be perceived as prologue. French film producer Grégoire Canvel (Louis de Lancquesaing), modeled after the late Humbert Balsan, is introduced via a comic device — as he wanders the streets of Paris and drives to his provincial home, Hansen-Løve cuts between his mobile phone conversations with a myriad of professional contacts — that synopsizes his character, creates expectations of forward narrative motion, and, along with soundtrack music, sets a light-hearted tone."
In her review for the New York Times, Manohla Dargis pauses for a paragraph on Balsan: "Born into wealth, he started as an actor, appearing as an Arthurian knight in Robert Bresson's Lancelot of the Lake (1974), before moving increasingly behind the camera. He continued to take minor roles, but his life's pursuit and passion became nurturing films without obvious commercial prospects. They might make it onto the festival circuit — he produced titles by Lars von Trier and Claire Denis, who seem to be represented in this film though not named — but rarely beyond. He was evidently interested in producing Ms Hansen-Love's first feature, All Is Forgiven, but instead became the touching subject of her second." Further in: "The Father of My Children is a tale of cinema, a story about the agonies of trying to work outside the cinematic mainstream (even in France!). Yet what makes the movie so affecting is that it's also a love story about a family."
More from Michael J Anderson, Richard Brody (New Yorker), the cinetrix, Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Steve Erickson (Gay City News), Noel Murray (AV Club), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Ray Pride (Newcity Chicago), Ella Taylor (Voice), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York), James van Maanen and Alice Whitwham (Bomb). Here in The Daily Notebook, Daniel Kasman talks with Hansen-Løve about her "movie of rare humility and honesty." More interviews: Melissa Anderson (Voice), Bilge Ebiri (IFC), Guy Lodge (In Contention), Damon Smith (Filmmaker) and Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail).
"A story about hesitation, repression, and tortuous chastity, Mademoiselle Chambon is often an unbearably tense, 101 minutes of nearly sinless foreplay," writes Nicolas Rapold in the L Magazine. "It follows a married house builder (Vincent Lindon) who is made suddenly aware of a yawning emotional void when he forges a relationship with his son's willowy, ethereal teacher (Sandrine Kiberlain).... The film is rich with quietly true moments, in part because Lindon and Kiberlain, who have appeared together before on-screen, were once married off of it."
"French writer-director Stéphane Brizé (Not Here to Be Loved) uses restraint as a kind of dare," writes Eric Hynes in TONY. "Stationing the camera at a safe remove and letting scenes run their course, it's the sort of slow-burn romantic drama that asks its actors to bear the emotional brunt of the film — and its leads deliver."
More from Stephen Holden (NYT), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant) and Michelle Orange (Voice).
"The mix of art biography, cinematic explication, and curatorial curiosity with which Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies sculpts its central premise straddles, with great effrontery, the line between spurious interpretation and useful historicity," writes Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant. "There's no doubt that the unprecedented nexus of verisimilitude and trickster hijinks executed by film pioneers like Edison and the Lumière brothers engendered a shift in perception, as well as catalyzed the metamorphosis of what was conceivable in media. But as though confusing tangential inspiration with essence, documentarian Arne Glimcher, casually examining the close, almost tautology-creating relationship between Picasso and Braque, seemingly wants to make the questionable, but more importantly inane, argument that cubism could not have happened without cinema — or, the movie somewhat begrudgingly admits, Paul Cézanne. And throughout the deflated, 60-minute running time, the film desultorily teases out this assertion with archival footage from the silent era, photographed cubist masterworks, and talking heads of varying iffiness."
As Ricky D'Ambrose notes in the L Magazine, those talking heads include "Martin Scorsese, film scholar Tom Gunning, Julian Schnabel and Chuck Close." Then: "It is precisely during those few moments when Gilmcher's documentary acknowledges the pervasive effects of modern experience on the arts at large that the film feels most honest, most useful. Without these moments, Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies is an instance of Art History 101 for the film school, headed by Professor Scorsese, naïve in its dictum that 'everything is cinema,' and irresponsible in its desire to convert art forms with long and rich histories into objects ready for conversion by the film camera."
More from Stephen Holden (NYT), Nick Pinkerton (Voice) and Armond White (New York Press). In the NYT in 2007, Randy Kennedy told the story behind the exhibition Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism at Pace Gallery run by Glimcher.
"Although they sneer at the very notion of religious faith, skeptics and atheists have their own martyrs — high among them Hypatia, the brilliant, beauteous, avowedly virginal fourth-century philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, and Carl Sagan pinup girl." David Edelstein in New York: "In Alejandro Amenábar's somber and bloody Agora, her big sandals are filled by Rachel Weisz," who "is an excellent Hypatia. For all her intelligence, there's something childish, off-kilter, vaguely otherworldly in her aura. She's just the type to be gazing into the heavens while around her all hell breaks loose."
"It's ye olde clash of religion and science," writes Nick Schager in TONY, "though the real struggle is between coherence and cockamamy grandiloquence. Amenábar (The Others) shoots with one eye toward on-the-ground immediacy and the other toward divine spectacle (cue spiritually overcooked orbital images of Earth), creating an imbalance that's further hindered by a wildly uneven script."
More from Simon Abrams (Slant), Eric Hynes (Voice), Michelle Orange (Movieline), AO Scott (NYT, where Larry Rohter has a backgrounder) and Dana Stevens (Slate). On or with Weisz: Emma Rosenblum (Vulture), David Thomson (Guardian), ST VanAirsdale (Movieline) and James van Maanen.
"Micmacs finds [Jean-Pierre] Jeunet, still best known in this country for Amélie, in a contemplative mood, his impish sensibility shadowed by melancholy and anger at the violent state of the world." AO Scott in the NYT: "Some of the extravagant visual eccentricity of his debut feature, Delicatessen (still his best and strangest film), of which he was co-director, is echoed in the smoky streetscapes, weird mechanical gizmos and comic-grotesque human figures on display here.... There is no question that the heart of Micmacs is in the right place, but the movie is also a little thin."
More from Sam Adams (Salon), Nick McCarthy (L), Brian Miller (Voice), Tasha Robinson (AV Club), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Michael Joshua Rowin (Reverse Shot), Nick Schager (Slant), James van Maanen, Armond White (NYP) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline). Earlier: Reviews from Toronto. Interviews with Jeunet: David Fear (TONY), Mekado Murphy (NYT) and Nick Schager (IFC). Somewhat related listening. IFC's Matt Singer and Alison Willmore have "picked out ten famous physical comedians, from Chaplin to Carrey, in order to highlight one of our favorites scenes from each."
"'Lousy times make lousy people,' mutters a character in George A Romero's sixth installment of his deathless (har-har) zombie series," cracks Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly. "As we've been taught time and again since Romero's immortal 1968 Night of the Living Dead, flesh-eating monsters might be scary, but the real horror lies in what happens when human beings are left to their own selfish devices after society's systems of order collapse. Survival of the Dead isn't much of a picture, honestly. It's poorly acted and sketchily plotted, and boasts some of the worst cowboy costumes since Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer's Carol Burnett Show neckerchiefs in Tombstone. But it's got some smart ideas at its core, and I can't think of any other sixth sequel that feels so fresh, or is so willing to keep moving in odd directions, exploring new possibilities within a tired genre as well as delivering the same old trashy treats."
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, here in The Daily Notebook: "[I]t wouldn't really be right to call Survival of the Dead a movie about an island full of zombies; it is, in Romero tradition, a movie about a group of hard-headed individuals and how this island of zombies they come upon is organized, ruled and dealt with. This is exactly what makes Romero a great political filmmaker: when he condemns wrongs, he never assumes those wrongs exist on their own — they are always perpetrated by people — and it's through the improvement or failure of characters that he demonstrates the possibilities or failures of society."
"Chances are, in 20 years America will be more or less run by men who learned about moral choices and the cost of violence by playing Halo," writes Michael Atkinson for In These Times. "[W]e're in a new age of disconnection.... Screens dictate our experience, with first-person-shooters or zombie movies or snuff police clips on YouTube.... Watching someone take a power tool to an already-dead cadaver is as close to no-impact homicide as we will ever get."
More from Shaun Brady (Philadelphia City Paper), Bob Calhoun (Salon), Bob Cashill (Pop Dose), Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), Matt Connolly (Reverse Shot), David Edelstein (New York), Noel Murray (AV Club), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Michael Joshua Rowin (L) and Keith Uhlich (TONY, where Joshua Rothkopf revisits the five preceding Dead movies). Interviews with Romero: Jeffrey M Anderson (Cinematical), Cheryl Eddy (San Francisco Bay Guardian), Eric Hynes (Reverse Shot, video), Eric Spitznagel (Vanity Fair) and ST VanAirsdale (Movieline).
Update, 5/30: For Film Salon, Matt Zoller Seitz introduces a slide show, "Braaaains! The 10 essential zombie films."
"The silliness bar for this summer's effects blockbusters has already been set high enough, one would have assumed, by Clash of the Titans, a shambolic unteaching aid for students of Greek myth everywhere," writes the Telegraph's Tim Robey. "Still, if there was any name we could have trusted to vault over that bar, throwing his hat into a sort of silly-season Olympics, it was producer Jerry Bruckheimer. With Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Bruckheimer barges into the computer game-crossover market, having already parlayed an adaptation of a rusting theme-park ride – Pirates of the Caribbean – into one of the most lucrative megaplex franchises ever mounted."
The AV Club's Scott Tobias: "For Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Bruckheimer, director Mike Newell, and their screenwriting team (including game series creator Jordan Mechner) pluck a few basic elements from the game — the scrappy, acrobatic hero; the golden-hued 6th-century Persian Empire setting; a magical dagger that allows its user to reverse time; some mystical gobbledygook about special sands that go into the dagger — and fill out the rest with the reliable stock elements of a sword-and-sandal adventure. Spinning a handsome Disney adventure out of a videogame is a testament to Bruckheimer's commercial savvy. The fact that it still isn't particularly good seems beside the point." More to the point, then: It's "a thin, witless, generic adventure, with baffling mythology, cheesy CGI, and a heroine whose regal petulance often recalls Daphne Zuniga in Spaceballs."
More from Manohla Dargis (NYT), David Denby (New Yorker), Tim Grierson (The Simon), Jonathan Kiefer (Faster Times), Daniel McKleinfeld (Slant), Nick Schager (Voice), Adam Sweeting (Arts Desk), Andrew Pulver (Guardian), James Rocchi (MSN Movies), Mike Russell (Oregonian), Keith Uhlich (TONY), Joe Utichi (Cinematical), Bill Weber (Slant), Michael Wilmington (Movie City News) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline).
In the Voice, Eric Hynes argues that Bruckheimer has "proven to be Disney's ideal steward for the 21st century." Charles McGrath has a backgrounder in the NYT. Lesley O'Toole profiles Jake Gyllenhaal for the Independent. Todd Gilchrist talks with him for Cinematical. Viewing: David Poland talks with Newell.
Evidently, Sex and the City 2 is a bad movie. Aggressively, offensively bad. Word on the wires is that the only fun to be had out of it is in the thrashing critics have been giving it in the past couple of days. The Atlantic Wire and Movieline have even rounded up some of the best whacks. The hands-down winner, though, and just about everyone's in agreement on this, is Lindy West, whose piece for the Stranger is probably the most popular and widely read movie review of the year so far: "SATC2 takes everything that I hold dear as a woman and as a human — working hard, contributing to society, not being an entitled cunt like it's my job — and rapes it to death with a stiletto that costs more than my car.... If this is what modern womanhood means, then just fucking veil me and sew up all my holes."
More from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian), Alonso Duralde (Hitfix), Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), David Edelstein (New York), Ed Gonzalez (Slant), Michael Guillén, Genevieve Koski (AV Club), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Laurie Penny (New Statesman), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Mary Pols (Time), Anthony Quinn (Independent), Nathaniel Rogers (Towleroad), Sukhdev Sandhu (Telegraph), AO Scott (NYT), Eric D Snider (Cinematical), Dana Stevens (Slate), Matt Zoller Seitz (IFC), Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times), Ella Taylor (Voice), Keith Uhlich (TONY), Kim Voynar (MCN), Armond White (NYP) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline).
IN THE UK
"Tragic elements pervade The Time That Remains," writes Ali Jafaar, introducing his interview with the director for Sight & Sound, where you'll also find a reading of the film by Adania Shibli. "The third part of Elia Suleiman's trilogy, which began with Chronicle of a Disappearance (1996) and Divine Intervention (2002) and charts the story of Palestinian dispossession and displacement since 1948, is his most ambitious effort to date. Beginning in 1948 on the day his hometown of Nazareth officially surrendered to the Israeli army and continuing through to the most recent Intifada, the film artfully interweaves the personal and the political." More from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian), Ryan Gilbey (New Statesman) and David Jenkins (Time Out London).
Tom Huddleston (TOL) on the latest from Yoshihiro Nakamura: "Thanks to the likes of Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry, time-hopping, genre-bending fractured narratives are ten-a-penny nowadays. So it's refreshing to see a film which genuinely tries to explore the form.... The fact that it doesn't quite hang together is part of the undoubted charm of Fish Story." A touch more from Catherine Shoard (Guardian).
For the Guardian's Andrew Pulver, Radu Jude's The Happiest Girl in the World is a "gentle, droll satire... well worth watching as it takes aim at the confusions of the post-communist world in an oblique, subtle way." More from Trevor Johnston (TOL).
The exhibition Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera opens at Tate Modern today, preceded by think pieces from Blake Morrison in the Guardian and filmmaker Chris Petit, who writes in the New Statesman:
"The cult of surveillance has its origins in Thatcherism, driven as it was by private enterprise, corner-cutting and the dubious flogging of arms and military technology. It marked the shift from manufacturing to service industries, and a new emerging landscape in which the big shed was king, followed by retail parks and the 1990s regeneration racket — all of these built security into the equation.... In addition to the Lumière brothers, any cultural tour of the subject's precursors would need to include Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) and Chris Marker's La jetée (1962). The random, strategic and weirdly undramatic world of surveillance, with its alien camera set-ups and sense of being monitored by external forces, has a notable precedent in Marker's film, which is entirely prophetic of this technology. Wim Wenders's The American Friend (1977) was quick to pick up on its possibilities, showing the aftermath of a shooting in the Paris Metro watched by (unmonitored) cameras. The most operatic and sustained effort was Michael Klier's The Giant (1983), a wonderful experiment of back-to-back images of surveillance, well ahead of the game and making the subject more or less redundant, in that there was, and remains, little to add."
Through October 3.
Cannes nudged last week's roundup off the schedule, but let's have a few quick notes. Glenn Kenny recommended Solitary Man, whose two leads were doing double duty on the PR circuit: Michael Douglas was in Cannes promoting Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Jesse Eisenberg was talking up Holy Rollers — with Bilge Ebiri (IFC) and Aaron Hillis (GreenCine Daily), for example. MacGruber spawned a slew of best and worst SNL spinoff movies lists and some discussion, both pro and con, of AO Scott's pan in the NYT. Kites sparked a handful of backgrounders, such as John Horn's for the LAT, explaining why two versions were rolling out, one the full-blown Bollywood extravaganza and the other "a fast-paced, more Westernized rendering" recut by Brett Ratner.
"Masahiro Kobayashi is a unique figure in the Japanese film business," writes Mark Schilling in the Japan Times. "His knotty, idiosyncratic films, starting with the 1996 film Closing Time, have never made much at the box office in Japan, though they have become favorites of foreign festival programmers. Four have screened at Cannes, including Bashing (2005), a grim drama of alienation and exclusion that was selected for the competition.... I like his angle of vision, which can illuminate dark, secret corners of the heart with a glare fierce and strange. In his new film, Haru tono Tabi (Travels with Haru), Kobayashi is attempting something in a more conventionally humanistic vein.... Kobayashi may have intended Haru to no Tabi as a left-handed tribute to Japanese cinema's Golden Age — but it is all Kobayashi, all the way." And Schilling interviews the director.
IN OTHER NEWS
The new issue of Offscreen is a "Documentary Special" featuring Stefano Odorico on Werner Herzog, Lindsey Campbell on Abekani filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, Donato Totaro on It Might Get Loud and two festival reports: Peter Rist from the 12th Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente (BAFICI) and Virginia Wright Wexman from Sundance.
There's a new issue of Participations, the Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, and Catherine Grant is your guide.
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