"The Makioka Sisters," "Extraordinary Stories," More

Updated through 5/5.

A new 35mm print of Kon Ichikawa's The Makioka Sisters opens today at New York's Film Forum, playing through May 12. Nick Pinkerton in the Voice: "The setting is the wartime precipice of 1938; the synthesizer score is distinctly 1983. When he finally succeeded in filming Junichiro Tanizaki's novel, Kon Ichikawa was 68 years old — a living link to Japan's cinematic Golden Age, taking on a self-consciously throwback prestige production. The Makioka Sisters details the interlocked emotional lives of four Osakan siblings, orphaned young and left as caretakers of the once-prestigious Makioka name. Observing each woman meeting this duty, The Makioka Sisters is a Whartonian work of compassionate nostalgia tinctured with irony."

"Make no mistake," adds David Fear in Time Out New York, "The Makioka Sisters is a melodrama, complete with public scandals, petulant ingenues, interclan power struggles, unrequited love and consummated love affairs. But Ichikawa plays everything cool without seeming cold, modulating impeccably framed shots that never succumb to fetishized formalism and getting incredible performances from his entire cast — especially Sayuri Yoshinaga as a spinsterish sister and Tampopo director Juzo Itami as the brother-in-law fatally infatuated with her."

More from Joe Bendel: "As Tsuruko, Keiko Kishi (so seductive and spirited in Ozu's Early Spring nearly thirty years earlier) is an exquisitely brittle grand dame with a surprisingly rich and nuanced arc of character development. Yûko Kotegawa also projects both grit and vulnerability as Taeko, the youngest…. A still timely example of why so many world cineastes are captivated by Japanese cinema, those so moved by Makioka can support the Red Cross' efforts in Japan here and the Japan Society's relief fund here."

Update: For the L's Mark Asch, "the movie gets more sophisticated the more you think about it — like in the best Preminger or Sirk movies, emotions, motivations, and the implications of shared histories become more complex, not less, for being the primary subject of the dialogue, as the sisters behave counter to their well-established characters, or change their minds outright. Even the film's sincerely melancholy attitude towards the passage of time — much on everyone's mind, and lips — cloaks an elaborate play on our expectations."

Update, 5/5: "It's a long way here from the rising panic of Odd Obsession, whose ending manages to kill more people out of sheer moral disgust than Tanizaki's original," writes Vadim Rizov at GreenCine Daily. "A closer relative is Ichikawa's 1975 I Am a Cat, another history of Japanese social change largely confined to the living room (another adaptation, from Soseki Natsume's novel). A flatter and more ambitious film, Cat shows a professor and his friends sitting around and arguing. The late 19th century background, uneasily acknowledged, is creeping Westernization, which coincides with increasing militarization. Makioka is less ambitious about trying to make sense of all social changes over a large period of time, and better for it."

 


Mariano Llinás's Extraordinary Stories screens this afternoon and once a day through Monday as part of MoMA's series, In Focus: Cinema Tropical. Paul Brunick for the New York Times: "A surprise success in its native country, Extraordinary Stories bears little resemblance to the rigorous minimalism that festival audiences have come to expect from Argentina's art-house fare. In stark contrast to his better-known compatriots Lisandro Alonso and Lucrecia Martel, Mr. Llinás crowds his story lines with shaggy-dog digressions and a surplus of anecdotal detail. Disparate genres are pastiched: adventure and detective fiction, small-town comedies and slice-of-life character sketches, docudramas and essay films. The results are at once instantly accessible and like nothing I've ever seen." More from Joe Bendel and at Alt Screen. Update: And more on the series overall from Daniel Loria at indieWIRE.

An Academy Tribute to Sophia Loren and Susan King's spoken with her for the Los Angeles Times.

 

FESTIVALS


"Al Pacino is to be awarded the Jaeger-Le Coultre Glory to the Filmmaker 2011 Award during this year's upcoming Venice International Film Festival." Stuart Kemp in the Hollywood Reporter: "The ceremony is scheduled to precede the world premiere of Pacino's third feature-length directorial picture, Wilde Salome. Billed as an unconventional feature documentary, Salome invites audiences into Pacino's private world, as he explores the complexities of Oscar Wilde's acclaimed play Salome, Wilde himself and the birth of a rising star, in actress Jessica Chastain." Venice runs from August 31 through September 10.

The Guardian's Ben Child reports on the first round of titles slated for this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, running June 15 through 26. David Hare returns to directing after 20 years with Page Eight, "featuring an all-star British cast including Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon and Ralph Fiennes." Perfect Sense, with Ewan McGregor and Ewen Bremner, "comes from director David Mackenzie, a regular at the festival with films such as Young Adam and Hallam Foe. Other movies that will receive world premieres include Niall MacCormick's coming-of-age drama Albatross, starring Sebastian Koch and Julia Ormond, and Weekender, Karl Golden's comedy drama about the 90s Ibiza scene starring Skins' Jack O'Connell."

"Details of the Los Angeles Film Festival were unveiled today with 200 feature films, shorts, and music videos on tap for the event's 2011 edition, including 19 films screening in the ten-day event's Narrative and Documentary Competition." And Brian Brooks has those details in the festival running June 16 through 26 at indieWIRE. More from Amy Kaufman in the LAT.

The 57th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen opens tomorrow and runs through May 10.

 

IN OTHER NEWS


Word has begun to trickle out here and there that the scholar and film historian Jean-Louis Leutrat, probably best known for his work on Renais, Godard, American westerns and the writer Julien Gracq, has died. Depending on when he was born in 1941, he would be 69 or 70.

For Film-Philosophy in 2005, Jeremy J Shapiro reviewed Leutrat's short book on Last Year at Marienbad for the BFI Film Classics series. Leutrat's top ten list for Sight & Sound's 2002 poll. Viewing (0'57"). Commentary on John Ford's Fort Apache (1948).

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