Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hoppity Goes To Town (1941)

"WALL-E isn’t the only dystopic animated feature to tackle humankind’s destruction of the planet. Forty-seven years before Pixar’s social critique, there was brothers Max and Dave Fleischer’s Hoppity Goes to Town (1941), a Capra-esque tale of a young, idealistic grasshopper, Hoppity, who must not only confront the scheming, lecherous C. Bagley Beetle, but also save his bug community from the ever-expanding populace of Manhattan."

Read my full review of Hoppity goes to Town here at The L Magazine.

Bigger Than Life (1956)

"Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life feels closer to a suburban monster movie than to any conventional melodrama from the period. Even James Mason, who plays the grade-school teacher secretly moonlighting as a cabbie, undergoes stark physical, psychological and emotional changes that seem an uncanny parallel to the sci-fi mutation films that proliferated during the era. But instead of Godzilla rising from the ashes of nuclear destruction, Ray gives us Mason, your prototypical 1950s white-collar dad, who is collapsing under the strains of meeting the status quo."

Read my full review of Bigger Than Life here at The L Magazine.

The Year in Rep

My Top 10 list of NYC-based repertory events that was published in The L Magazine. Hopefully those in the city were able to catch some of these...


Ten cinematic spectacles that either can’t be replicated in the comfort of your own home, or wouldn’t be the same on DVD. Netflix, eat your heart out.

Mysterious Objects: The Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Anthology, January) Two sold-out shorts programs were the real gems: minimalist manipulations of sound and space, and his characteristic interest in group aerobics.

Le Grand Franju (Anthology, March) Georges Franju’s career may be reduced to Eyes Without a Face, but this series reminded us of all the hallucinatory hybrids that we’re missing out on, like the biker-youth-over-the-cuckoo’s-nest Head Against the Wall.

Tomu Uchida (BAM, April) As a colleague wrote elsewhere: “Uchida's career is a jumble of high and low concerns, bright spectacle and dark corners, his responsive, protean style answering only to the needs of the moment — the stuff dreams are made of.”

Nakadai (Film Forum, June-July) 25 movies in almost as many days, plus an intimate conversation with the legendary dude himself? It’s like taking a graduate seminar in Tatsuya Nakadai without the bothersome homework.

3epkano (BAM/Walter Reade, July) For two nights this summer, two of silent cinema’s best films (F.W. Muruanu’s Sunrise and Paul Leni’s The Cat and the Canary) were not only revived but reborn through this Dublin experimental rock group’s eerily hypnotic scores.

Elliott Gould: Star for an Uptight Age (BAM, August) This reluctant role model is just as vital today as he was back in the day. And he brought along his personal 35mm print of Ingmar Bergman’s criminally neglected The Touch.

Hollywood on the Hudson (MoMA, September-October) The forgotten glory of New York filmmaking between the World Wars. Oh, the joys of obscure musicals and ethnic productions…

Carole Lombard
(Film Forum, November) This flaxen goddess already saw the country through one economic depression, so what’s one more?

Les Blank (Film Forum, November) The documentary guru of Americana is an underappreciated treasure, and his unique focus on food and music makes every screening a party.

Manny Farber
(Walter Reade, November) Extolling the unpretentious virtues of B-Movies long before it was hip to do so, the late Farber elevated film criticism to a high plateau that has rarely been surpassed.

Special mention goes out to the Orphan Film Symposium (NYU) for unearthing the strange, natural beauty of James Blue’s Kennedy-sponsored propaganda, and Lana Turner grilling a streak on live radio for WWII troops overseas, a true fetishist’s delight.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Essential Sturges" at Film Forum

"[Preston] Sturges somehow channeled the pandemonium of the Marx Brothers into a sedate, middle class milieu, and unearthed an encyclopedia of white-collar hypocrisy, idiosyncrasy, and hilarity. Small towns and big cities, ocean liners and offices—none of them are safe from Sturges’ apocalypse. Only those that jettison their safe, conveniently ways and embrace the chaos are able to come out on top..."

Read my full coverage of Film Forum's Essential Sturges here at Blank Screen NYC.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Murnau, Borzage and Fox" DVD Box Set (2008)

"Among the most anticipated DVD releases of the year by cinephiles, Murnau, Borzage and Fox is to be admired for its daring and thorough offering of no less than twelve feature films, two “reconstructions” of lost films, two coffee table-sized books and one documentary, all housed within a ridiculously handsome faux-leather case. One can’t accuse Fox of going only halfway with this release; as with their comprehensive Ford at Fox box set released this time last year, Murnau, Borzage and Fox digs deep into the archives and comes up with a wealth of highly desired films. Truly a monumental release, this box set not only satiates the ravenous appetites of classic film lovers, it also opens up new critical and historical discourses that were, up to now, impossible because of restricted access to prints..."

Read my full review of Murnau, Borzage and Fox here at The L Magazine.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Just Tony (1922)

"The visceral joys of the silent B-Western are on full display in Just Tony. Saloon brawls, wild stallions, ten-gallon hats, breathtaking desert ranges, gunfights, fistfights, races, chases—and even a love story to boot. For a 66-minute feature, there’s an incredible number of sub-plots working in conjunction with one another to make the movie all the more thrilling and tense. Each successive scene brings with it yet another complication... Always unpretentious, Just Tony shines in its ability to rework tried-and-true formulas into simple yet effective narratives brimming with charm."

Read my full review of Just Tony here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Refracted Light: The Films of Quinto and Jean-Gabriel Albicocco

"The centerpiece of the retrospective is The Wanderer (1967) an adaptation of Alain-Fournier’s novel Les Gran Meaulnes. Like a rural fairy tale, the film begins with a young boy getting lost in the woods; like Alice, he ends up wandering through the proverbial “rabbit hole” and into a seemingly supernatural world of enchantment... Outdoing even himself, Quinto Albicocco's cinematography evokes the intoxicating beauty of the imagination through a pallet of smeared hues, shimmering lights, and wide-angle lenses that bend the image to his every whim."

Read my full review of The French Institute's series Refracted Light: The Films of Quinto and Jean-Gabriel Albicocco here at The L Magazine.

Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha (2008)

"Regardless of how unconventional and experimental it is, more than anything Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Muthais a joy to watch. It certainly breaks new ground, but never at the expense of its sense of humor. Van Peebles never seems as though he is trying to be obscure for the sake of being so; rather, he made the movie the only way he could. Take no prisoners. Make no excuses. Just make the movie by whatever means necessary. Melvin Van Peebles’ conviction and determination is nothing short of inspirational."

Read my full review of Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha here at Hammer to Nail.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mockery (1927)

"The fantastical demons that beset Benjamin Christensen’s career-defining Häxan may have gone into hiding for the Danish director’s second film made in Hollywood, Mockery, but they are not entirely absent. They’ve worked their way into every inch of Christensen’s characters, corrupting their morals, perverting their intents, and plaguing their souls."

Read my full review of Mockery here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Carole Lombard Retrospective at Film Forum

"In an era of dizzy dames and glamour queens, Carole Lombard was the best of both worlds. An earthly deity of the silver screen, she was more than just blonde and beautiful — she also possessed a quick wit and daffy lunacy that remains unsurpassed over seventy years later. Fiercely independent, sexually confident and always cunning, Lombard sent an ordered, masculine-driven society into an irreversible tailspin. Film Forum’s retrospective comprises old favorites and overlooked jewels, and serves as a reminder of just how modern and ahead of her time Lombard really was."

Read my full essay on Carole Lombard here at The L Magazine.

Monday, November 03, 2008

“H2N’s Official Election Day 2008″ List

Hammer to Nail, that great "home for ambitious cinema" that allows me the privilege of writing for them, has posted an awesome collaborative feature: “H2N’s Official Election Day 2008″ List. All of the writers have contributed short pieces on their favorite political themed movies. Here are the two that I wrote, but PLEASE check out the site and read what everyone else has to say, as it's a heck of a good time and might give you a few ideas of how to pass the hours as you wait for the final results tomorrow.

Great McGinty, The (Preston Sturges, 1940)— A reminder of why we are all so cynical, Sturges’ film satirizes not only a crooked political system, but also a thickheaded general public who refuses to open their eyes to the reality of things. A bum (Brian Donleavy) assists a corrupt politician with voter fraud, and winds up a much-loved town mayor. When the public learns the truth, they still love him! Unfortunately reminiscent of our current political climate.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939) — Capra’s unstoppable optimism has never been more affecting or endearing than in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. As the doe-eyed senator who tackles a corrupt political system, James Stewart becomes a hero to all: the embodiment of a pure, untarnished political ideal. Capra’s unconditional sincerity is enough to turn even the coldest cynic into a believer once again, and gives us hope that a real “Mr. Smith” does exist and might be elected.

Read the full featuve here at Hammer to Nail.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Master of Melodrama: The Films of Teuvo Tulio

"In one of the most exciting rediscoveries of the year, BAM’s retrospective of Finnish auteur Teuvo Tulio offers four masterpieces of melodrama, all made between 1938 and 1946, whose cinematic grandeur will be nothing less than magnificent on the big screen. With a painter’s eye, Tulio can turn an idyllic country landscape into an earthly heaven or a frenzied nightmare — and often his films fluctuate between those two extremes."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Billy the Kid (2007)

Unlike the exaggerated characters in even the best high school movies, there’s something unshakably authentic to this fifteen year-old-kid from Brunswick, Maine with a rat tail who wears trucker t-shirts with cut-off sleeves. And it’s not just because Billy the Kid is a work of non-fiction, but rather that director Jennifer Venditti has managed the incredible feat of both finding and conveying cinematically a character who is absolutely singular and unique, and at the same time exists as an “everyman” who sums up our collective adolescence.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Night and Day (Bam gua nat) (2008)

"Hong’s latest film, Night and Day, extends his career-long preoccupation with the confused male psyche—though, at this point we could almost say that Hong’s films are exercises in ritual emasculation: social experiments in which his male protagonists are given center stage to exercise their libido, only to expose (or, in some cases, to reaffirm) their impotency and inadequacy. At the start of Night and Day, several successive intertitles set up the context for the story: Sung-nam, a forty-something Korean artist, smokes marijuana (for the first time) with an American exchange student, who is subsequently arrested and divulges the artist’s name. Fearing incarceration, the artist abandons his wife and flees to Paris, where the film begins."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)

"The span of the film is an entire soccer game, yet the camera never diverts its gaze from the French soccer phenomenon Zinedine Zidane. Eschewing the God-like perspective of broadcast sports, the film zeros in on Zidane, voyeuristically watching him watch the game. Unlike conventional biopics, Zidane appears less a character than a series of gestures and movements. Directors Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno do not seek explanations so much as exhibitions, and their film is thankfully less of a soccer genre-pic than a deconstructionlist essay-film."

Read my full review of Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait here at The L Magazine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Troubled Water (2008)

"Norwegian director Erik Poppe’s third feature, Troubled Water (De Usynlige), garnered both the Jury and Audience Awards for Best Narrative Feature at the 2008 Hamptons International Film Festival. Well deserving of both, it’s an arresting probe into morality and forgiveness that leaves one stunned not only by its emotionally stark performances, but also by the film’s complex, musical structure that quietly underlies the narrative and binds everything together..."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Curse of Bigfoot (1976)

"Seemingly a cinematic Frankenstein’s Monster, the film feels like parts of several unfinished movies that were strung together using bits of stock footage and excessive voice-over narration. The title is certainly misleading: only a fraction of the footage has to do with Bigfoot, and there isn’t a curse anywhere to be found. Missing from the title are: a zombie; a mummy; a movie-within-a-movie; an educational lecture; an archeological dig; and Canadian logging… lots of logging, and all of it purportedly in Canada."

Read my full review of The Curse of Bigfoot here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I'm Gonna Explode (Voy a explotar) (2008)

"I’m Gonna Explode is a playful concoction from the blender of cinephile/director Gerardo Naranjo—a little Pierrot le Fou, a dash of Badlands, a hint of Harold and Maude, and garnishes from a slew of other entries in the lovers-on-the-run genre. But there’s also something else in there, something unique to Naranjo, and it’s what saves the film from drowning under its many references. In fact, I’m Gonna Explode magically floats on top of a wave of teenage angst, ecstasy, and rebellion. Naranjo abides by the same blend of impulsiveness and uncertainty that the characters live by...."

Read my full review of I'm Gonna Explode (Voy a explotar) here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Lola Montes (1955)

"Max Ophüls’ Lola Montès: the cinematic analog to Charlie Parker with Strings or, better yet, the second movement of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 32 (when a whimsical 19th-century sway glides into a heavy ragtime swing, long before such a genre was even around). Like those two musical works, Lola Montès is a near perfect marriage of classicism and modernism. The real-life rise and fall of an aristocratic femme fatale who ends up as a circus attraction (literally), the film’s formal elegance has rarely been matched, and yet the borders of its expansive CinemaScope frame can scarcely contain the director’s kinetic visuals. With every frame saturated with unreasonable grandeur, Lola Montès is nothing short of an Ophüls-explosion..."

Read my full review of Max Ophüls’ Lola Montès here at The L Magazine.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Last Command (1928)

The Last Command stands on the precipice of two auteurs. On the one hand, it is distinctly the vision of director Josef von Sternberg, with his overly romantic sense of narrative expression, which privileges style above all else. At the same time, the film is undeniably under the influence of its star, Emil Jannings... He came to represent a dying breed, the final remnant of classical German respectability that had been disappearing since the country's loss in World War I and the ensuing economic depression... Change was blooming and so was Jannings’ career—his characters, however, were most certainly wilting.

Read my full review of The Last Command here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

The Dead Don't Die (1975)

"It’s a hybrid of the wrong-man convicted story á la Cornell Woolrich (in which a relative of the incarcerated has to prove them innocent) mixed with Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked With a Zombie (voodoo lore and cheap sets masked by dark lighting and excessive fog). And as charming as the precision-timed fade-outs are – lingering shots of an actor’s face wearing the expression of shocking, new information, meant to cue intrusive commercials – The Dead Don’t Die is far more than just a piece of retro TV ephemera."

Read my full review of Curtis Harrington's The Dead Don't Die here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Häxan (1922)

"Delineating between documentary (the research-based lecture), fiction (the narrative segments), and meta-commentary (asides referring to events that may or may not have occurred during filming), Benjamin Christensen has created an enquiry into both the historical and contemporary role of “the occult” and “religion” in society. At the same time, he has also crafted an extraordinarily detailed example of the macabre, one that revels in dark corners, shadowy figures, hallucinatory specters, gnarled corpses, and grotesqueries that had rarely been seen before, and even now – eighty six years later – can hold its own against any modern computer generated effects. Häxan’s power to fascinate, disturb, entertain, and enlighten, have only grown over time, the true sign of a masterpiece."

Read my full essay on Häxan here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Taking Father Home (2006)

Taking Father Home is a marvel of low-budget filmmaking: a debut feature film shot on a borrowed video camera for less than $5,000, using friends and non-professionals for actors, and all without the permission of the Chinese government. Director Ying Liang trumps every technical and economic limitation through his highly refined visual sensibility, as elegant as it is imaginative. And yet it’s rather limiting to consider the film only in terms of its “limitations”—Ying makes no excuses for its rough-around-the-edges quality, which only adds to its DIY attitude.

Read my full review of Taking Father Home online here at Hammer to Nail.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Robert Flaherty Film Seminar at BAM

"Whereas the nurse of Casa de Lava and the narrator of Cargo represent the gaze of outsiders looking in, Kent MacKenzie’s docu-fiction hybrid The Exiles (1961) represents the insider speaking out. Examining the everyday lives of a Native American community in 1960s Bunker Hill, Los Angeles, the narration of The Exiles is culled from interviews with the film’s subjects. Recently rescued from obscurity by Milestone Films, The Exiles is nothing short of a revelation: a West Coast Shadows (1959), of sorts, in which MacKenzie captures the anxieties of assimilation and the tensions surrounding ethnic identity in a big city melting pot."

Read my full coverage of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar at BAM online here at The L Magazine.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

David Lean Retrospective at Film Forum

"Celia Johnson appeared in Lean’s next film (and first solo directorial effort) This Happy Breed (1944). Johnson is perfect as Lean’s middle-class muse, wide-eyed with dreams that would eventually be crushed by domestic disappointment. Ronald Neame’s creamy Technicolor photography elevates this story of “common people” to tragic heights: after his return from the first world war, a husband and his wife set down roots in a small town and start a family. Instead of the idealistic happiness of their dreams, the husband and wife become witnesses to their children’s disappointment, disaster, and even death. In This Happy Breed, the home becomes a landscape of human suffering, discontent, and uncertainty, all rendered through Lean’s exquisite direction and restrained performances of the cast."

Read my full essay on David Lean online here at The L Magazine.

Monday, September 08, 2008

We Can't Go Home Again (1973-1976)

"The line between what is and is not real in We Can’t Go Home Again is more than just a blur: it’s downright schizophrenic. And not just to the extent that its narrative mirrors the circumstances in which it was made – Nicholas Ray, weary after decades of Hollywood filmmaking, assumes a teaching position at the State University of New York at Binghamton and instructs his students through a collaborative feature-film endeavor – but to the possibility that what we are witnessing is the manifestation of Ray’s own mental breakdown."

Read my full essay on We Can't Go Home Again online here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Janitor (1974)

"The Janitor is at once the result of a few days of furious filmmaking, working through the night, and inspired improvisation, and the accumulation of a lifetime of preoccupations, neuroses, and anxieties. Like his previous film, We Can’t Go Home Again, The Janitor continues to push the divide between the new and old “Nicholas Ray”—the revolutionary experimenter and the Hollywood auteur. But whereas We Can’t Go Home Again expressed Ray’s reluctant optimism—his hope for a younger generation—The Janitor is decidedly misanthropic..."

Read my full review of Nicholas Ray's The Janitor at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

High Green Wall (1954)

"Like so many of Nicholas Ray’s protagonists, Henty (Joseph Cotten) is on the run, in search of an ideal space where he can be free of society’s restrictions and expectations. And, like those in Ray’s other films, Henty eventually discovers that no such space exists, and that one must create such an environment themselves. Humphrey Bogart [in In a Lonely Place] and James Dean [in Rebel Without a Cause] each pushed social boundaries past the breaking point; Henty, on the other hand, never pushed anything, but instead kept wandering until, finally, there was no place left to go. So he stopped—and the final note of capitulation is one of the most desolate endings in all of Ray’s work..."

Read my full review of Nicholas Ray's High Green Wall online here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Monday, August 25, 2008

More on "La France" (2007)

"Whereas the traditional musical (Fred Astaire, for example, or any of the other Hollywood archetypes) emphasizes the body of the performer—requiring actors lip-synch so they can concentrate on choreographed movement—La France shifts the focus to the performance itself: stationary, the actors’ focus is not on mimicking a prerecorded song, but in the organic creation of one on-screen."

Read my full review of Serge Bozon's La France here at Reverse Shot.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Knock on Any Door (1949)

'Simply put, this is the nightmare of Nicholas Ray: “When life is based on one law: fear. An island of outrage: work and sleep and eat by command; pray by command… Look over the gray fence at the far away hill, look through the bars at the free night, without hope except someday get out, get even.” In Knock on Any Door, lawyer Andrew Morton (Humphrey Bogart), a former child of skid row who was able to overcome circumstance, may be speaking about the experience of juvenile incarceration (which he knows intimately from first-hand experience), but he could very well be enunciating the subjectivity of any of Ray’s protagonists. Fear not only the demons from without, but also from within – as much the capacity for being wronged as for committing wrong – that one may “get out” and successfully “get even"...'

Read my full review of Nicholas Ray's Knock on Any Door online here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Woman's Secret (1949)

"A Woman’s Secret (1949), Nicholas Ray’s second film, is arguably one of the most maligned and ignored films of his career. While the criticisms seem well deserved (it is clearly one of the director’s weaker movies), the lack of any thorough, sustained criticism on the film is certainly not so deserved. Even enthusiasts of the director’s career, it seems, either circumvent the topic or write it off a failed contract-job in which Ray had little interest—thus justifying their own dismissive evaluations... What stands out in the finished film—and what aligns it with Ray’s characteristic interest in both marginalized, countercultural characters and tension-wrought relationships—is the interaction between Gloria Grahame and Maureen O’Hara. What could have been played as a strict ingénue/director binary becomes a complex power struggle, at once male/female and mother/daughter, which overflows with sexual and adolescent undercurrents..."

Read my full essay on Nicholas Ray's A Woman's Secret online here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Devil Inside: Filming Jim Thompson’s first-person pulp psychosis

Mark Ash and I co-wrote an essay on the cinematic adaptations of Jim Thompson recently for Moving Image Source. It is called "The Devil Inside: Filming Jim Thompson’s first-person pulp psychosis."

"In Jim Thompson’s America, men are born killers—they don’t have killing thrust upon them. The major forebears of Thompson’s pulp fiction, written primarily for the paperback market beginning in the 1940s and continuing until the early 1970s, were the small-town narratives of James M. Cain. But in Cain, everymen are turned into murderers by circumstance, for the sake of money or a girl; Thompson’s innovation was to turn circumstance into a psychological state. It’s not the lure of temptation or the crush of necessity that drives his protagonists to crime, but the perception of its requirement, for self-preservation or out of moral obligation."

Read the full essay here at Moving Image Soruce.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Elegy (2008)

"Evoking the deep, rich hues of Velazquez and Goya, director Isabel Coixet brings a baroque elegance to her compositions — coming close to conveying Roth’s own virtuoso display of language, if inevitably falling short. Coixet and screenwriter Nicholas Mayer thankfully make no significant compromises with Roth’s novella: no Terms of Endearment here, Elegy finds no sentimental closure to Kepesh’s mortality or his lingering insatiability for a physical existence."

Read my full review of Elegy here at The L Magazine.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Max Linder and the Death of Bourgeois Respectability"

“Laughter is a new kind of weapon. A type of light gun, very effective in cases where there is no need to employ heavy tanks of social wrath,” wrote Sergei Eisenstein in 1937, describing his ideal vision of Socialist Comedy as a new genre. Just over thirty years earlier in France, as cinema was nearing the decade mark and Georges Méliès was exploring the fantastic and the macabre as had never seen before, Max Linder was aiming his revolutionary camera-as-gun at the bourgeoisie and their sacred rituals. He tore down pretension and ridiculed respectability. The very symbols of social refinement – clothing, manners, marriage, propriety – are the targets for his humor. The greatest victim, however, is always Linder himself...

Read my full essay on Max Linder online here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Satantango (1994)

"Surpassing the high-standards set by the Criterion Collection and Masters of Cinema, Facets’ long-awaited release of Bela Tarr’s Satantango (1994) is a shoe-in for one of the best DVDs of the year. Meticulously restored, the film’s deep, oceanic black-and-white images retain all of Tarr’s signature hypnotic beauty...Unfolding over the film’s seven and a half trance-inducing hours, Tarr’s extended long takes (many lasting several minutes) invoke an almost out-of-body experience in the viewer, as real-time blends with Tarr-time and the minutes on-screen encapsulate something both intimately specific and profoundly universal. Time has rarely been used more wisely in cinema..."

Ready my full review of Satantango online here at The L Magazine.

Back to Normandy (Retour en Normandie) (2007)

"Embedded in these modest memories is the crux of Philibert’s film: the idea that cinema can act as a personal, or even communal, history, and that the images don’t just tell the narrative as written in the script, but also act as a visual record of the real people involved in the production. It’s an example of narrative cinema functioning as a home movie. Philibert waits until the final moment of the film to reveal his true motivation for making the film: his own father, recently deceased, had a small role in the film that was eventually cut."

Read my full review of Nicolas Philibert's Back to Normandy (Retour en Normandie) online here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I, Pierre Rivière, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother… (1976) and Back to Normandy (2007)

"Fusing anthropology and noir with a neo-realist aesthetic, René Allio’s cinematic adaptation of Michel Foucault’s I, Pierre Rivière, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother… (1976) is as bleak and severe as its title suggests. Using local farmers and their families as actors, Allio shot the film on location, not far from the small French village where the original murder occurred in 1835... Blisteringly realistic and disturbingly acute in its exploration of familial betrayal and social ethics, the film is rarely screened and not available on video in the US. Its obscurity unjust, I, Pierre… is deserving of wider attention and re-evaluation..."

"Playing alongside I, Pierre… is Back to Normandy (2007), the new documentary by Nicolas Philibert (To Be and To Have [2002]), who was Allio’s assistant on the former film. An imaginative and innovative departure from the typical 'behind the scenes' documentary, the film isn’t merely interested in chronicling the production history of I, Pierre… but instead is captivated by the real-life personalities of the villagers who acted in the film..."

Read my full review of I, Pierre Rivière, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother… and Back to Normandy online here at The L Magazine.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mary Ellen Bute Retrospective at Anthology Film Archives

Using popular pieces of classical music as a foundation, such as Copland’s “Hoedown” and Saint-Saëns’ “Danse Macabre,” Mary Ellen Bute and her alternating cast of collaborators (among them Norman McLaren and her husband Ted Nemeth) created an unprecedented cinematic sensation: an animated synthesis of music and abstracted impulses that pulsed and gyrated in organic ecstasy. There is such unbridled joy in her films — as though the images themselves were an elastic and ever-expanding dance — as well as an irresistible sense of humor...

Read my full essay on Mary Ellen Bute online here at The L Magazine.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

La France (2007)

"France has given us two of the most charmingly original films of the year so far, both of them fond, modernist interpretations of the musical genre. First was Christophe Honore’s tale of young love in the city, Love Songs, and now Serge Bozon’s WWI battlefield fable, La France."

Read my full review of La France here at The L Magazine.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

New Video! "My Mouth" by Modern Silent Cinema

Here's a new video for the song "My Mouth" by Modern Silent Cinema, from the album "Gets Hiccupy." Email if you want a copy of the album.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Frederick Wiseman's "Manoeuvre" (1979)

"If Basic Training documented an overly confident army (as characterized by one officer’s declaration, 'The United States Army has never lost a war,'), then Manoeuvre is documenting the aftermath of such brashness. Under Wiseman’s characteristic impartial direction, uncertainty and insecurity mar the illusion of an institution that typically presents itself as invulnerable, thus offering an unusually nuanced portrait of an institution all too often stereotyped as one-dimensional."

Read my full review of Frederick Wiseman's Manoeuvre online here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

"A murderous attack on bourgeois conventionality, Charlie Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux represents the apex of the artist’s subversive humor. Chaplin’s films have always been anti-establishment, favoring marginal characters cast aside by society and left to fend for themselves."

Read my full review of Monsieur Verdoux here at The L Magazine.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Frederick Wiseman's "Basic Training" (1971)

"Even without the presence of a subjective voice-over narration, it’s difficult not to read the repeated shots of hand-to-hand combat with stuffed dummies in light of the ultimate goal of training: to fight in Vietnam. Wiseman’s insight isn’t at all an irony, but rather an incongruity between the controlled circumstances during training and the actual circumstances in which they will have to utilize their lessons."

Read my full review of Frederick Wiseman's Basic Training online here at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Song! New EP! Modern Silent Cinema!

Just posted a new song called "Than Burning" on MySpace from my upcoming EP, "Gets Hiccupy." The artwork (featured here) is by Mat Hinkel of Mat Design. I think he did a pretty awesome job. Check out his page and give him some applause! Anyway, check out the song, leave some comments, let me know if you want a copy of the album. for more info.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Little Fugitive (1953)

"Little Fugitive delicately blends documentary realism and candid-camera style photography with a sparse, unobtrusive narrative, the combination of which recalls equally the light touch of early cinema actualities and 1940s Italian Neorealism. Engel’s background with the Photo League, as well as Orkin’s newsreel training during WWII, give the film’s portrait of New York City, and particularly Coney Island, a staggering, nostalgia-inducing authenticity."

Read my full review of Little Fugitive online here at The L Magazine.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Idiots and Angels (2008) Tribeca Film Festival Preview

"The lovingly sullen atmosphere of the film never falls into misanthropy, partially because Plympton (and his audiences) find too much joy in laughing at the characters’ ornery behavior and the bizarre way the situations resolve themselves. The detour may be long and nightmarish, but at the end of Plympton’s journey there is redemption and hope, however—as Penelope Huston said of the endings of Preston Sturges’ films—always with a Cheshire cat’s grin."

Read my full review of Bill Plympton's Idiots and Angels online here at The L Magazine.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Sita Sings the Blues (2008) Tribeca Film Festival Preview

As if to emphasize Sita’s relevancy for modern viewers, Paley interweaves into the narrative a contemporary story of a young woman whose boyfriend moves to India for work (just as Rama left to go hunting). Only instead of waiting behind, this woman packs her bags and moves to India of her own will. The ensuing domestic discontent becomes a counter-point to the original story, and offers a potential answer to the question of, “What does an ancient story like Sita’s have to do with today’s world?” Paley’s charming response confirms that the past can have quite a bit to say about the present.

Read my full review of Sita Sings the Blues online here at The L Magazine.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Modern Silent Cinema - "For Every Mave (There's Some Poor Sap)"

New video for Modern Silent Cinema's "For Every Mave (There's Some Poor Sap)" from the new album "The Curtain Lecture." More info at

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Katyn (2007) Tribeca Film Festival Preview

The real highlight of Katyn is Krzysztof Penderecki’s magnificent score...which often works its discordant melodies just beneath the surface of the film, subtly affecting the mood and quietly amplifying the overall sense of horror. For all its embracing of dissonance, there is something unexpectedly reticent and shy about Penderecki’s score, which makes it all the more commendable and effective.

Read my full review of Andrzej Wajda's Katyn online here at The L Magazine.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Caller (2008) Tribeca Film Festival Preview

'The Caller thinks that by virtue of leaving certain plot elements and character motivations unexplained that it will become “mysterious." Instead, the film becomes a lame exercise in sub-par genre clichés, devoid of any sense of intrigue or suspense in either its story or characters.'

Read my full review of The Caller online here at The L Magazine.

A President to Remember (2008) Tribeca Film Festival Preview

"A President to Remember seems to be the type of documentary that Primary was providing an antidote for. This new film is comprised largely of Kennedy’s telecast speeches, as well as footage from Drew’s four previous Kennedy films, strung together with narration from Alec Baldwin that negates any of the controversies and contentions about Kennedy’s presidency, reducing him to almost picture-book simplicity."

Read my full review of Robert Drew's A President to Remember online here at The L Magazine.