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Weekly Rushes. Andrzej Wajda, New Méliès, FilmStruck, "Resident Evil" Finale, Téchiné Talks

This week’s essential news, articles, sounds, videos and more from the film world.
Andrzej Wajda
  • The BFI has posted a one-hour, career-spanning discussion with Elle director Paul Verhoeven at the BFI London Film Festival.
  • "The Nuclear Bunker Preserving Movie History": Yes, in the U.S. the Library of Congress is storing (and restoring) a tremendous amount of film history in a building once used to store gold and protect the President from nuclear attacks.
  • The American trailer for Mia Hansen-Løve's Isabelle Huppert drama, Things to Come. We saw the film at the Berlinale and very much liked it and Huppert's unusually free performance: "this woman emerges in the sun-drenched light she so often walks in as a full-bodied woman of interior thought and exterior voice, of passivity and of action, of indecision and of firmness."
  • Both our critics at Toronto—Fernando F. Croce and Daniel Kasman—were by turns baffled and pleased by Werner Herzog's mystic-eco-thriller-comedy, Salt and Fire. Its trailer reveals a bit of what makes it ungainly but also unusual.
  • We are fans of Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson, and the trailer for his final (?) entry in the series of video game adaptations he has taken to ornate and formally audacious heights, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, looks very good indeed.
Voyage of Time — Life's Journey
The performances in your films are intriguing. Very casual, naturalistic, sometimes even understated — even when the stories themselves could easily become melodramatic. You've worked with all sorts of actors — some well-known, some young and inexperienced. What do you look for in actors, and how do you work with them to create the part?

It's a very long process of working with the actors. In the beginning, I give them some amount of freedom, and at this point, there is much more possibility for improvisation. But as we continue to shoot and work more closely, things become tighter, more precise. It sometimes happens that things will still be improvised, and I might reject them because by that point I know more specifically what it is that I'm looking for. Toward the end, the last shots tend to be the tightest, the most rigorous — but it's a tricky balance, because you want to make sure that you don't go too far and that things become too mechanical. So, during the editing process, what I often like to do is mix some of the earliest takes with some of the last takes — because in the earliest takes, you still have this kind of spontaneity and freshness, and in the later takes, you have that kind of precision that I'm looking for.
There are two versions of Voyage of Time — Life’s Journey, the 90-minute feature narrated by Cate Blanchett and The IMAX Experience, a 44-minute cut with Brad Pitt as the Malick stand-in. The feature intercuts the birth and evolution of the universe with low grade DV footage of modern wars, natural disasters and cruelty towards animals. The IMAX Experience moves in a relatively straight line and removes the modern digital footage. While the feature is philosophical, the shorter version is pedagogical.
Robert Beavers' From the Notebook of...
In my dream New York Film Festival, some of the wonderments in Projections — the section dedicated to avant-garde and experimental material — would be programmed alongside the titles in the main slate. It’s laudable that the festival continues to show noncommercial fare like you find in Projections...yet segregating these titles from the main event continues to marginalize works that merit a larger audience. And, as it happens, one of the best films in this year’s festival is in Projections: Robert Beavers’s “From the Notebook of …,” a 48-minute masterpiece.
Cinephile culture tends to be suspicious of bigness. For example: big budgets; or an endlessly extending series franchise; or an actor’s larger-than-life performance that makes a bid to impress; or something as simple as the length of a film.

When Manny Farber made the enduringly fascinating distinction between “white elephant art” and “termite art” nearly 60 years ago, he was incarnating cinephilia’s skepticism of bigness — and targeting a specific form of it. Farber attacked the ambition (or, more precisely, the ambitiousness) of a work, its propensity for big and broad gestures, its claim to Significance. At their expense, he advocated a moment-to-moment inventiveness that seeks neither to astonish nor to garner prestige. This modesty of disposition as a temperament was an important value for Farber, and has been so for the large swath of film culture that has resonated with his essay in the decades since.

Two of the best films I saw in Toronto — Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann and Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius — were thrilling partly because they worked to scramble Farber’s dichotomy between white elephant art and termite art. Both were long, openly ambitious films (with running times of 163 and 145 minutes respectively) but their ambition gave no hint of self-aggrandizement or precious self-regard. In other words, despite their boldness and reach, they embodied a sensibility that was modest.
  • Two perfectionists meet: Jacques Tati and Marlon Brando.
  • Alternative Graphics Propaganda, our favorite designers of posters for films by Hong Sang-soo, have a new one for his latest picture, Yourself and Yours, which we found to be "another excellent film by Hong, at once harsh and hilarious, that squirms with delightful discomfort around a wonderfully perverse premise."
  • Paul Verhoeven and Isabelle Huppert on the set of Elle.
  • Jean-Pierre Léaud and Albert Serra photographed on large format film for the New York Film Festival's showing of The Death of Louis XIV.
  • The stunning poster for Wajda's final film, Afterimage.

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