AGORA: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.
Royalty, Girl Rebellion And Colonialism In Hawaii
Listen To Power Of Few Interview With Q'Orianka Kilcher
WOMEN FILM CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS 2016
THE OSCARS: WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN? WFCC MEMBERS WEIGH IN
DISSING DUVERNAY: THE LESSONS OF SELMA
WOMEN FILM CRITICS CIRCLE JURY AWARD PRESENTED AT THE RATED SR FESTIVAL
RACIAL POLITICS IN HOLLYWOOD, AND THE ACADEMY '40 YEARS BEHIND MISSISSIPPI'
FRANKLY MY DEAR: MOLLY HASKELL REVISITS GONE WITH THE WIND
Archival footage, animation, and music are used to look back at the eight anti-war protesters who were put on trial following the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
With Eugene McCarthy at the helm of the controversy that put Chicago Illinois U.S.A. on the map of disobedience, it is no wonder that the man who propelled this medley of rebellion was Eugene McCarthy an iconoclastic member of the Senate. known for his love and recitation of poetry, A good friend of Robert Lowell. What better person to inspire the likes of Abbie Hoffman (Steal This Book), Jerry Rubin,and Bobby Seale to name just a few.
One of Eugene McCarthy's most notabl quotes is "The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. ..."
I had so wanted to embrace, to cherish, to recommend without reservation THE CHICAGO 10 documentary/film because it depicts a turning point in my life and the life of so many of us still alive to remember when. But unfortunately to say this film is mediocre is being generous.
There is a reason why scripts are written and rewritten and documentaries take years in the making. and if I had any idea that this preparatory process should be, could be curtailed while maintaining the integrity of the subject and the excellence in film creation that notion has again been dispelled.
Basically there are three sub themes going on:
'the rebellion against the convention
the Vietnam war
to bring all three of these important events into a cohesive film is extremely difficult What got compromised in this Chicago 10 attempt was the urgency of the WAR.
Additionally,There should have been......and this list is only a beginning
an explanation of the mule train
more than one black woman from the community giving her perspective
a shot or two from those who were there and still alive to tell of the unfolding events
What was it like to be "on the hill"?
something emotionally compelling about the impact of the Vietnam war, the immediacy that formed the appeal that this eruption and interruption in the democratic facade of this country's institutions demanded. Was it thought better to die at the hands of the Chicago police or on the battle fields of Vietnam?
And a statement at the end on subsequent rallies to herald the hositng of a convention. What are demonstrations like today and why. where are today's dramatics?
And the all too sad aftermath of the Chicago convention. The police taking over the Hilton Hotel, going into the rooms of the sleeping Eugene Mc Carthy supporters to beat them up, to maim and even kill them in the wee small hours of the night.,
Was it worth it?
That is the question And would they, those who were there, would they do it all again.
This film does not even get close to an answer to this all too real question. Is revolution in the Twenty First century possible? What will the conventions this year look like?
Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale will we be crying out for the likes of you in the years to come?
See the film for nostalgic sake but keep in mind, even this film can be redone. Hopefully it will be
WBAI Women's Collective
Heaven may be where probably every bride would like to be on her wedding day. Unless, of course, you're Eva Longoria in Over Her Dead Body, who ends up there literally while prepping for the festivities on that fateful day. Not that her character Kate is without sin when she steps into the afterlife, following a deadly encounter with a decorative ice sculpture that falls on top of her while she's putting the finishing touches on her ceremony. Rather than perfect, Kate is more a perfectionist, which basically means that she gets on everybody's nerves demanding that each and every task be done just right - including that ice sculpture - before her untimely relocation into the next world. And bossy nag that she is, Kate is still determined to call the shots on planet earth from her perch in the afterlife, especially when it comes to still being possessive over her former vetinarian fiance, Henry (Paul Russ).
Over Her Dead Body gets off to a rather sluggish, aimless start, veering into all sorts of distracting subplots like bumbling psychic Ashley (Lake Bell) summoned to assist the inconsolable Henry to communicate with his departed bride, Ashely's day job as a caterer along with her accident-prone gay helpmate (Jason Biggs), and the wacko furry nuthouse that serves as Paul's clinic. With a story that initially seems as if it's got nowhere to go while going everywhere, Longoria steps in to take charge - both as a character and an actress - and saves the day.
And so the real mischief kicks in when Ashley lures Kate back to planet earth with more accidental than nifty hocus pocus, and Kate immediately senses that there's some sexual chemistry brewing between Ashley and Henry. And since Kate has lugged all sorts of personal baggage with her on her excursion to heaven, in particular her separation anxiety issues related to relinquishing Henry to another woman even if she she can't have him, there seems to be, you might say, hell to pay.
So begins a really fun cat fight between these two sorta rivals for Henry's heart, and with Kate definitely in the lead at all times, even though she doesn't have the slightest chance of victory. So the most pressing issue becomes, will Eva Longoria learn to share her man? No, not that one! In summation - and in stark contrast to similar afterlife romantic comedies like PS I Love You that take themselves far too seriously - Over Her Dead Body and that not so dearly departed get-even babe make for a wild and wicked romp, through this life and the next.
New Line Cinema
If it's true that the less costly straight-to-DVD journey of any historically rooted drama is potentially bolder and more truthful, by more effectively bypassing the profit-driven political censorship of Hollywood, then Black August is certainly a striking example of this promising trend. The searing drama is an earnest and reverential biopic delving into the tragic, short life of the late George Jackson, sixties US political prisoner, LA Black Panther spiritual and intellectual guiding force, and fierce leader within the Black prison movement at San Quentin.
Filmmaker and screenwriter TCinque Sampson (co-directing with Samm Styles), himself spent 22 years behind bars, including part of his sentence spent in a cell next to the one Jackson had occupied at Quentin years earlier. And the vigor and intensity of Sampson's narrative casts an uncompromising gaze on the oppressiveness and brutality of life behind bars. George Jackson was imprisoned at the age of eighteen for the rest of his life, for a 75 dollar gas station robbery, until he was gunned down during a prison riot and attempted escape. And it was his eloquent indignation against injustice and racism, a soaring intellect and profound understanding of class warfare, the human urge to revolutionary struggle, and his subversive political charisma that all contributed to sealing his fate.
Embracing the teachings of Marx, Lenin and Che in prison, Jackson's gift as a lightening rod for inmate rage made him a target for institutional brutality and long gestating execution by the authorities. The film Black August touches on his final days and unwavering political defiance to the end. And his evolving relationship with and impact on David Drye, played by Darren Bridgett, the editor of Soledad Brother, Jackson's historic bestselling collection of letters from prison.
Gary Dourdan of the TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, ignites the screen with a magnificent performance as the imploding, mesermizing, and paradoxically streetwise and gifted intellectual Jackson, and he gets it just right. Though a number of key aspects defining that politically incendiary time are barely touched upon, including the potent Panther teachings and ideological roots that inspired and transformed Jackson early on, as well as his complex relationship with professor and revolutionary Angela Davis. And the COINTELPRO elaborate domestic espionage FBI operation of informants and orchestrated illegal infiltration and sabotage that ultimately contributed to destruction the left in this country, makes a significant appearance in the film, though in a much too offhanded and minimalist way. Black August is nevertheless a devastating portrait of the life and times of one of America's most courageous anti-racist people's soldiers in the ongoing battle for justice and equality.
Director TCinque Sampson said he wanted to bring the story of the tremendously influential life of George Jackson to the screen upon his own release from prison. “People have heard about George Jackson and Angela Davis, but they don’t know much about them or their work,” Sampson said. “George Jackson was a man who believed that human life is meaningless if it is not accompanied by the power to determine its quality. And he knew those in control never concede anything, unless it is demanded of them.”
Black August is being released on DVD from Warner Home Video in conjunction with Black History Month, 2008.
Directed by Andy Tennant
(who was raised in Flossmoor, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.where my grandfather, my grandmother, my aunt,.and her family and my uncle and his family used to and those still above ground, still reside. Not something to be proud of but interesting to note).
Reaping intelligent thoughts from a senseless, infantile, vacuous almost two hour extravaganza where the music, blessedly, over powers each scene and the characters never seem to touch solid ground literally nor figuratively, is the thankless job of a self designated film reviewer such as I
and here it is
A new clue to the whereabouts of a lost treasure rekindles a married couple's sense of adventure -- and their estranged romance.
With my initial commentary spelled out in the above prologue to this review, it will surprise no one that this film Fool's Gold is not really worth discussing per se. But it does bring up the notion of the quality of rhetoric in today's films.
Consistent with 2005 Hard Candy,(David Slade) where Ellen Page plays
Hayley Stark and Juno,(directed by Jason Reitman) where Ellen Page plays Juno, and Brian De Palma's 2007 Redacted (Inspired by one of the most serious crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, the real-life rape and killing of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl by U.S. soldiers). is the simultaneous use of the "new' English language with speed and force reminiscent of the effect Rap first had on contemporary music .
This rapid fire New English is presented in the above mentioned films interspersed with the language of old, read to the viewer from books as if to tell us that the film makers also remember and love the English language as it used to be.
This juxtaposition of the new and the old is particularly striking in Fool's Gold because there, admits the dumbest plot, performed by serious actors forced into slick slap characters, we hear moments, maybe a full minute of the old written English with all the slow moving pronouncement that beautiful English used to demand.,
In Redacted Brian De Palma has his "don't ask/don't tell" character read to us from a book and then he has his macho, fat, sloppy, aggressive, domineering character speaking fast vulgar unforgettable dialogue. This juxtaposition in language is deliberate but I don't know what it means except perhaps to remind us there is more to music than Rap and more to English than the fast speak of today's youth.
It's almost enough to make a viewer want to stay home, take up a"good" book and read in the quiet of one's personal space.
But maybe not.
If you never want to have your feet touch solid ground or your mind engage in serious thought, I recommend Fool's Gold.
WBAI Women's Collective
AWAY FROM HER
There is something about being old that draws a wide appeal to this film about an elderly couple in flux.
Away From Her capitalizes, explores, brings to the fore an image of being old, of "loosing it" that attempts to defy the ordinary concept of an asexual dried up old age. It is a slow moving film, well, being old is the moment when slow motion becomes the norm rather than the exception, and it is emotionally demanding because it is hitting on an unusual theme of "sex and the elderly".
But there is an assumption that emotions should be muted, that intense reactions such as, to the immediacy of one's spouses diminution of mental faculty, is a quiet moment of agony rather than a raging movement to be loudly, flamboyantly defied. Your wife's dumping you for another man is to be taken with quiet protestation when one is old, or so this film suggests but I object. I don't think being old will mute my feelings and certainly my capacity to express them will be less bound by the dictates of civilized restraints than ever before.
If you are comfortable with nature being used to symbolize inner feelings of unbound torment and raging rage, if you are comfortable with many truncated smiles, with seemingly forced performances, if you are comfortable with interactions between people, spouses of all too long standing, being portrayed with soft almost non verbal glances and body motions, if you are able to project yourself, your imagined feelings onto the scene where Julie Christie the wife and Gordon Pinsent the husband battle it out, (sort of) in a plush nursing home setting where Julie Christie's character finds another man while her husband is left to the barren existence of an empty nest, then this film is for you
But I found it contrived and emotionally too controlled. There was very little if any humor, or outward expression of spontaneous happiness.
I found the stereotypical portrayal of the old not as true today as it was in the past. I don't know if in fact people are living longer now but the elderly are asserting themselves as being alive, with full command of their emotional realities albeit sexual or argumentative or whatever. Senior citizen is okay but elderly connotes decrepit and I think today's septuagenarians are anything but decrepit in body. in mind or spirit.
And octogenarians are often still "dirty old men".
For a counter image of my view of old age, I recommend the Award winning 2003 French film, The Barbarian Invasions, directed and written by Denys Arcand
I found the husband and wife in Away From Her to be people of privilege, self-centered, without a hint of remorse for a seemingly empty life nor joy of a past full live.
It is difficult to like a film when I don't like the characters, don't empathize with the conflict. That said, I dare to be almost sacrilegious in admitting that, for me, this film was not enjoyable, nor worthwhile.
But since everyone else liked it, I recommend you see it and judge for yourself.
WBAI Women's Collective
By Prairie Miller
The road to the real world after college graduation can be one of exciting possibilities, or on the other hand, just plain terrifying. In The Nanny Diaries, Scarlett Johansson is precocious but also naive Jersey girl Annie, fresh out of college and with a major in anthropology. And more than eager to apply that academic knowledge to explore the rest of the planet that lies just across, say, the Hudson River.
Little did Annie imagine that her wanderlust would in fact take her no further than the Upper East Side of Manhattan, when she allows her own trepidation about the future to sweep her up passively into an easy destiny as nanny to a dysfunctional wealthy Fifth Ave.
family. Annie's journey through hard knocks life experience among the pampered and cruel elite there, is imaginatively framed as an anthropological study, a mock but insightful diary detailing an encounter with a powerful and savage tribe far from where civilization lies in, well, the Jersey suburbs. Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (Harvey Pekar bio-fantasy pic, American Splendor) lead us along on this rarely-a-dull-moment expedition into the upscale urban wilds, and it's filled with immense zesty humor and irony, while also tinged with solemn reflections about families and what most divides them.
Scarlett is feisty and also vulnerable, sustaining that delicate balance in this coming of age struggle specific to the female experience, as a confused, directionless young woman caught between two opposing generations of female elders. On the one hand, there's Annie's mother (Donna Murphy), a divorced single working mom and nurse with feminist tendencies, whose own difficult survival through the years raising her daughter alone, has blinded her to her daughter's needs and yearnings. And she attempts to push a resistant Annie into the business world so she'll never experience the same financial insecurity. Then there's Annie's dragon lady boss, designated as Mrs. X (Laura Linney). She's a domineering socialite housewife who seems to exist simply to indulge her own every whim, while studiously avoiding any meaningful work or even bonding with her own understandably troubled young son Grayer (Nicholas Reese Art), for whom Annie cares deeply and substitutes as a surrogate mom.
The Nanny Diaries, based on the 2005 novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, is alternately touching and funny, with an ample infusion of wry comic relief courtesy of Paul Giamatti's devilishly workaholic honcho absentee spouse Mr. X, and Alicia Keys as Annie's tough love aspiring shrink best girlfriend. There's also plenty of wise and candid back talk from the army of immigrant nanny lifers, who view Annie skeptically as a temp tourist in the exploitative, luckless biz. Though the weighty conflicts brewing throughout.
The Nanny Diaries are tied up a bit too neatly and hastily in the end, the heady excursion along the way through modern day girl fight class warfare is a witty class act, and extremely charming.
The Weinstein Company/Genius Home Entertainment
The cinematic new kid on the block - the hybrid documentary - is apparently here to stay, and not just a momentary quirk or aberration, while expanding the film medium visually and technically. Just as Brian De Palma and Lynn Hershman-Leeson demonstrated so skillfully and inventively last year, with Redacted and Strange Culture respectively, as they delved topically, and ironically, into war and domestic terrorism.
The hybrid documentary also challenges the boundaries of how we see, feel, absorb, digest and make sense of the world around us. And Spanish filmmaker Pere Portabella's The Silence Before Bach is certainly no exception. While the veteran surrealist anti-Franco screenwriter and director - who produced Luis Bunuel's screen classic Viridiana - challenges and perhaps confounds us with the film's title, the silence in this case may refer not only to the composer's revolutionary musical inception, but also to the far from insignificant silence preceding inspiration. And it is the very backdrop of that passive reflection prior to creative conception, not just in historical time but also organic to musical formulation and the space between sounds, that likewise fascinates the filmmaker, both musically and cinematically, in the determined pauses surrounding concepts and images.
Portabella sets the stage for this remarkable creative composition in its own right, as a piano glides by itself without beneift of human participation, through a series of empty rooms. Later, a blind albino piano tuner enters with a seeing eye dog and proceeds to explore the keyboard, as the canine's ears flutter rhythmically in response to sounds. The radically conceived opening perspective juxtaposing the absence of human energy and color with a keen sense of musical tapestry, establishes the unique pleasures of the many astonishing, self-consciously imaginative and meditative, when not eccentric or even comical momentum to follow throughout.
Though some images presented are simply disconnected or distracting, such as the filmmaker's overly preoccupied obsession with a nude female musician not quite so casually, gratuitously indulging in her habitual daily showering and grooming routines, many others lift the film whimsically and lyrically beyond their mundane backdrops. Including long distance truckers enamored of Bach, who reminisce about playing his chamber pieces at home with the family, or engage in impromptu harmonica fugues on the road; period vignettes featuring introspective portrayals of Bach and Mendelssohn, and the discovery of Bach's blood-soaked music sheets as wrapping for the purchase of brains from freshly slaughtered animals at the local butcher back then; a present day subway car full of cellists gathered silently to play Bach in unison; and, most poignantly, a piano that tragically falls through space into an ocean and drowns.
And perhaps there's a solemn reflection here around memory and loss. This, as the film swings back through history with its own delicate meshing of enchantment and mystery, contemplating a Europe whether before Bach or in our own time "of emptiness with no resonance." The Silence before Bach, a study in sound that both transcends and illuminates a complexity of ideas.
A Films 59 Production
In Spanish. Catalan and German with English subtitles.
The Silence Before Bach opens at the Film Forum in NYC on January 30th. More information is online at:
FilmForum.org and PerePortabella.com.
If we didn’t already compare Iraq to Vietnam, this 1969 movie would conjure the parallels for us with its proxy story of 19th century colonialism. It’s 1855 on the island of Queimada, a fictional former Portuguese colony in the Caribbean. A British “military advisor” to the embattled young republic, sent by the Royal Sugar Company to quell a six-year insurgency by former slaves, coolly surveys the smoking ruins of a village and its surrounding blackened forest. A decade earlier, Sir William Walker (Marlon Brando) first approaching this island to instigate revolt, stood on a ship’s deck as the captain explained that Queimada translates from the Portuguese as “burnt,” commemorating how the first Europeans there rid this island of its resistant indigenous people before replacing them with slave labor, half of whom died on the voyage from Africa.
Sometimes, Walker observes now, as much to himself as the soldier beside him, you have to destroy a village to save it.
Even with Brando in the lead – a performance he called his best, in a project he chose over Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid– Burn! was just a short blip on a few US screens when United Artists quietly released an “American version” in 1970, excised of twenty minutes from Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo’s own final cut. A 1991 VHS of that version still surfaces in a few rental shops.
Then, after the US invasion of Iraq, Pontecorvo’s monumental, better-known film about a pivotal moment in the end of French rule in North Africa, The Battle of Algiers (1966), began screening at US festivals, and Criterion’s three-disc DVD set followed in 2005. Bedfellows as strange as the IRA and the Pentagon have used The Battle of Algiers for training in guerilla warfare. That film’s resurgence surely pulled Burn! along with it, boosted further by a reappraisal of Brando’s work after his 2004 death and then Pontecorvo’s death in 2006.
Pontecorvo filmed The Battle of Algiers with a cinema vérité look at the scene of historical action less than five years after Algeria’s independence – real-life rebel leader Saadi Yacef sought Pontecorvo to propose making such a film and largely plays himself in the movie – while Burn! instead recapitulates the process of colonialism costumed as an adventure yarn.
Brando does affect long blond curls and a series of blue and lavender silk neck scarves, but there’s little swash-buckling. Instead, we join Walker with his own late arrival in Queimada. He has come seeking to aid the rebel leader Santiago, whom he sees executed gruesomely, first by garrote and then beheading, in the courtyard below his hotel room. This is the first of several executions foretold by gallows on the beach in the opening montage. Walker follows Santiago’s widow and headless body to a remote mountain village. (One the film’s most stunning shots encompasses a close-up of this resolutely silent woman and her small children hauling the cart that bears Santiago’s body beneath a bloody shroud, with the fore-shortened Portuguese fort rising massively behind them next to the ocean and beyond, on the horizon, the tiny silhouette of Walker on horseback.) But Santiago’s fighters have melted back into everyday life.
So Walker improvises: having lost his rebel, he sets out to identify a promising replacement and create a new one. This will be Jose Dolores (Evaristo Márquez, in his only film role), the porter who first carried Walker’s bags when he arrived.
Walker tricks Dolores into revolutionary action and consciousness by degrees, turning a sham bank robbery into a real village defense. Surprising himself (but surely not Walker), Dolores even blurts out a sort of stump speech rallying the villagers to be “real men.” Later Walker explains to Dolores what he has done. (This neatly illustrates a favorite Western assumption that enslaved peoples would not think of freedom on their own). Walker persuades assassination, installs Queimada’s first puppet president in the person of Teddy Sanchez (Renato Salvatori), and brokers English take-over of the sugar plantations.
A decade later, the people starve. Dolores has again taken up arms. Teddy Sanchez, actually swayed by some genuine liberal ideal, balks at English instructions and their distasteful consequences. Located mid- brawl in a London pub, Walker returns and addresses all these parties with dispassionate, lethal dispatch. His next assignment will be Indochina.
Though Brando rated this his best performance, Pontecorvo found the actor difficult. They quarreled over noisy sets (Brando wore ear plugs) and close-ups (Brando didn’t want them), but mostly over the character of Walker. Their perseverance produced a masterful, many-layered performance.
In Brando’s mouth Walker’s dialogue is convincing as real human speech rather than political theory. Walker the operative reduces most things to “a simple calculation.” In explaining his plan to burn the island’s forests and mountain villages a second time, he notes that a guerilla has “20, 30, maybe 50 times as much” commitment as a regular solider. Earlier, recruiting Teddy Sanchez and the other plantation owners to establish their republic and abolish slavery as their first act, he compares the economic advantage of hiring whores over marrying wives to the long-term benefit of paying wages over keeping slaves. Walker’s intriguing recognition of common ground between the lot of women and slaves, of course, is a mirror image reversal of the alliances stirring at the same time to the north in the US abolitionist movement.
But Walker’s emotional attachment to Jose Dolores – Brando’s contribution – is equally powerful as Walker’s instrumental view of policy. This bond lights up their triumphant horse-back meeting on the beach amidst Dolores’ ragtag army, later prompts Walker’s gesture to let the defeated rebel ride rather than stumble behind on foot and deepens such various moments as when Walker is willing to simply shoot Dolores and begs him to flee rather than accept hanging.
Film critic Amy Taubin likens Walker’s methods to seduction, suggesting that Brando plays him as a closeted gay man, echoing his own role two years before in Reflections in a Golden Eye. Their eyes do lock across a crowded marketplace as Walker cruises likely prospects. Whether we accept Taubin’s reading literally or take the sexual undercurrent as something more suggestive, it contributes to fleshing out the film’s politics and it builds on other sexual images already there. In this light, for example, when Dolores puts on the vanquished Portuguese general’s fancy jacket, it becomes a kind of political drag as much as the more obvious reference to Franz Fanon’s notion of the oppressed copying their oppressors.
Not a bad film for this Primary season, as we ponder what “change” really means. Come back next week for Battle of Algiers, Pontecorvo’s visual sweep and Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks.
This review appeared in the 1/10/08 issue of the Syracuse City Eagle weekly, where “Make it Snappy” is a regular column reviewing DVDs of recent movies that didn’t open theatrically in CNY & older films of enduring worth.
In 110 minutes Andre Techine’s the witnesses creates a mosaic of adult men and women connected through their personal search for self realization, love and professional and financial furtherance.
It is a story so compelling that despite its slow evolution I felt as I watched this film that the actors, the characters they portrayed were not just indelibly imprinted into my psyche but that they were more than acquaintances. They became my friends even though I knew none of them and never will.
It isn’t that any one line stuck in my mind, nor was it the cleverness of this simply plot of what happened when one of their own becomes sick and eventually dies. It was the way they related to each other, the selection of images to convey the ordinary life of people who are actually very different from me in their life styles and yet……..I felt so connected to them.
The success of each of our life forces is revealed in the last section of this film as each one of the actors seems to pick up the pieces of their lives following the death of one of them and they go on to fulfill their personal missions at a higher a more focused and successful way. Their goals seem so much simpler, so much more within their grasp once they set about to mend the wounds of loss.
When my sister died I wanted to hold onto that excruciating pain forever. Now even that is gone but I am now more the person I had wanted to be than I had been while she lived.
It is a sad truth that death may actually bring rewards we never dreamed possible.
This film, witnesses, is so beautiful, captivating, engrossing and rewarding for the viewer who wants a slice of life film that doesn’t feel or sound contrived.
I recommend the witnesses without reservations.
wbai women's collective
2007 Strand Releasing
French: with subtitles
by Nancy Keefe Rhodes
Curiously, several reviews of Steve Buscemi’s latest directing project, in which he also acts the male lead as corrosively angry journalist Pierre Peders, inform readers that Peders and TV star named Katya (Sienna Miller) – main characters in the ill-fated interview at hand – once they are soaked in alcohol and dusted in cocaine, eventually have sex. What’s curious – unless you count one strenuous but fast aborted embrace – is that they don’t. Aside from alerting us that some reviewers don’t thoroughly watch the films they pass judgment on, such reports signal something more. That is the degree of dramatic sexual tension achieved in a full-length feature almost entirely comprising one marathon conversation that occurs mostly within one large Manhattan loft.
Here the plot turns on revelations, real and supposed, rather than action in the usual cinematic sense. An older journalist in serious withdrawal from politics who seriously doesn’t like women, Pierre cools his heels while a crisis unfolds in Washington. Instead his editor assigns him what he considers a fluff piece on a popular TV star. She is late. He quickly insults her – he’s watched none of her work – and she walks out. A mishap on the street that bloodies his head gains Pierre entrance to her near-by loft, where they engage in some hours of cat-and-mouse, he seeking dirt to print and she, more serious an actor than he knows, seeking insurance.
Interview is actor Buscemi’s ninth directing effort since Tree’s Lounge (1996); his most recent feature was 2005’s Lonesome Jim. Interview reprises late Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh’s 2003 film of the same title starring Dutch TV celebrity Katja Schuurman, filmed over five nights in Schuurman’s own loft. Buscemi’s re-make is the first of “Triple Theo,” a project that van Gogh envisioned before he died in 2004 at age 47 to re-make three of his films about difficulties between men and women, set in New York City and directed by invited US actor-directors.
Offered his pick first, Buscemi chose Interview – for its celebrity and media focus, and for its exploration of “who we seek connection with and how quickly both Pierre and Katya betray that connection.” He asked for Sienna Miller (Factory Girl, the new Alfie, Layer Cake), the UK-raised actor whose mother Jo ran Lee Strasberg’s London Actors’ Studio. Like Katya, Miller would be underestimated as mere eye candy. (Stanley Tucci directs and, with Patricia Clarkson, stars in the re-make of van Gogh’s Blind Date, which premieres this month at Sundance. John Turturro will direct and act in the third.)
Van Gogh’s long-time producer Gijs van de Westelaken carried Triple Theo forward. The project exemplifies a European-style collaboration over several films, with Buscemi employing many of the original Dutch crew. As previously, cinematographer Thomas Kist employed three digital cameras shooting simultaneously, a method allowing very long takes that both Buscemi and Miller say approximate the experience of stage acting. There are visual carry-overs too. Schuurman appears in the last scene, exiting a limo, and a framed snapshot of her with van Gogh sits among what we assume are family photos in Katya’s loft.
Van Gogh’s work is not yet well-known here. Buscemi’s Interview opened state-side in July for a non-spectacular three-month art house run – with DVD release three weeks ago – but it’s going to nearly 30 other countries so far, keenly anticipated both for its lineage and as a parable beyond obvious portrayal of two nasty people with secrets.
One source of that interest is van Gogh’s notoriety. An extremist shot and stabbed him to death in Amsterdam two months after his 10-minute English-language exposé about Islamic violence toward women aired on Dutch TV. Submission, which superimposed Koranic verses about misbehaving women on images of their bodies, emerged from collaboration with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somali-born member of the Dutch parliament whose memoir Infidel uncovers her own earlier life as a Muslim woman. Van Gogh’s work was provocative and political; some compared his documentary work to Michael Moore’s.
Buscemi, known more for personal, quirky films than message-themed “serious” projects, here successfully makes the transition to that kind of larger parable that van Gogh himself worked toward. Curiously, Buscemi’s Interview has a ready companion in Brian DePalma’s recent Iraq war film Redacted. Both films explore the kinds and degrees of extreme violence toward women that abide within some very mainstream men, including the accountability of the witness who does nothing and leaves the scene. Both films address how media refract, distort and depersonalize what we see. Both use sound and images from laptops, camcorders, cell phones and TV – Interview sometimes has several versions running at once on-screen. And Interview goes further, beyond the easy enough illusion that the media mechanistically does all this on its own. Buscemi’s Interview exposes, in the character of the hard-bitten newsroom veteran Pierre Peders, how part of journalistic culture even promotes and drives a specifically, aggressively macho worldview – ironically, in the heart of a profession dedicated to seeking, a worldview that springs precisely from hostility toward and fear of curiosity.
This review appeared in the 1/3/2008 issue of the Syracuse City Eagle weekly, where “Make it Snappy” is a regular column reviewing DVDs of recent movies that didn’t have a theatrical opening in CNY & older films of enduring worth. Steve Buscemi’s re-make of Theo van Gogh’s Interview was released on DVD 12/11/07; the original is available online with English subtitles in non-USA format for those who have zone-free DVD players. Also posted at http://www.moviecrossrhodes.blogspot.com/.
Steven Soderbergh (Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Erin Brockovich (2000)
This Fargo-ish Coen brothers film has a heavy dose of the American television series. The Office, gives a new dimension to the Law and Order TV series that has put an indelible and up until now unchallenged face onto the legal apparatus in this country.
There are unforgettable lines spoken by characters from middle America who bring both a delight and a horror to viewers like me and probably you too.
The backdrop is a doll factory. There is something about images of body parts thrown around like just so much plastic that make for an uneasy and disturbing sight.
This same confused emotion is duplicated as the story of a local murder:, the crime and victim and perpetrator and detective all give a heavy dose of something quietly grotesque just like the doll's heads rolling around, painted just so but without benefit of a body to sustain them.
It is this quietly drawn message of alienated man that renders this film another Steven Soderbergh classic.
Don't miss it.
released January 2006
WBAI Women's Collective