Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bound - God Save the Gouine*

By Moira Sullivan 

The Wachowskis' Bound (USA 1996) is a cult noir thriller that is so technically well made that years later, the timing and precision of the film is still captivating.
The story about two women who dupe the mob and make off with 2 million dollars has gone down in history as a classic positive lesbian film where the girl gets the girl. Caesar played by Joe Pantoliano is Violet's creepy boyfriend prone to rage attacks, and she wants out. Along comes Corky (Gina Gershon) and it’s all over. Corky and Violet (Jennifer Tilly) still have a cult following today for being the coolest lesbians in cinema history.
Of course these two women operate outside of the law, as the mob operates outside of the law. When someone steals or murders the mob takes care of it. So when Corky and Violent screw over the mob they have not really stood up to the way lesbians are conditioned in society, they just make up the rules as they go along. Which is why the film works. Thelma and Louise who operated within the law, had to be punished and drive off the cliff.  But Violent and Corky are let off the hook, and in the end are seen driving away together.
I have some concerns about the time that Violet and Corky spend with each other before they come up with an exit plan. This is blissful, but then the film escalates into full scale violence, and Corky is hit quite a bit by Caesar until she passes out. Her tough posture is no match for Caesar so it’s a little disconcerting seeing her taken down a few pegs and punched around because she is a dyke, as Caesar calls her. We know that Violet is a kept woman but even she is strangled and punched.
The violent show down scenes are done aesthetically, with for example a gun sliding through white paint later to be spattered and filled with dark red blood. It is touches like this so perfectly executed that allows us a distance to the violence. Another example is the scene where a stack of bloodied money gets on Caesar's shirt. All he cares about is that his shirt is ruined, comic relief for the torturous ordeals that the characters experience on screen. These scenes help make Bound a film that still seems contemporary today, except for the huge cell phones that are in the pockets of dead men. The adventures of Corky and Violet and their crazy relationship are quite understandably, a part of film history much to the credit of the Wachowskis.
For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan
*Gouine is French slang for lesbian, pronounced "gween" 

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 11/10/10
Movie Magazine International

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

22:e Cineffable Festival International du Film Lesbien et Féministe de Paris

 By Moira Sullivan

In a special limited edition the 22:e Cineffable Festival International du Film Lesbien et Féministe de Paris took place on Toussaint, the All Saints Day holiday. Due to repairs at the Trianon Theatre at Montmartre, which has been the home of the festival for several years, the volunteer staff quickly found a suitable location at Espace Reuilly. Though the festival was shortened by two days, Cineffable sold 3000 tickets to the screenings as many tickets as it does at Trianon proving that this festival has a dedicated following no matter what.
Carole Roussopoulos
In fact the Cineffable festival may well be the only one of its kind in the world where a political lesbian public is able to see the best in lesbian films from around the world. It is also rare to have a feminist venue without compromise. Some of the highlights of the festival this year included an homage to the late Swiss documentary filmmaker Carole Roussopoulos who began making video film’s in the 70s using the camera as a pen to record feminist events.  Between 1969 and 2009 she made over 100 documentaries. 
Flowers for Simone de Beauvoir
One of her latest films made in
2007 was Flowers for Simone de Beauvoir a commentary on the funeral of the French feminist, which was attended by prominent feminists such as Ti Grace Atkinson, Kate Millet, and Christine Delphy. The films includes footage of Simone de Beauvoir who admits that she left philosophy to her partner Jean Paul Sartre but that her thoughts were clear in her writing. In rare footage where de Beauvoir explains this in English the Francophile audience laughed because her pronunciation of English had the same cadence as French. 
Sin By Silence

Several documentaries went home such as Sin by Silence by Olivia Klaus about the battered women’s syndrome of women who are incarcerated for killing their abusive husbands.
Edie and Thea
And the documentary Edie and Thea by Susan Muska et Greta Olafsdóttir about a lesbian couple of 40 years who remained in love through the years and finally married in Canada two years before Thea Died.
For a festival of such high quality it is not easy to project a lesbian feature film since the cornball stories often do not go home. Such was the case of Elena Undone by Nicole Conne about a lesbian who falls in love with a heterosexual woman married with children. The two long haired beauties Peyton (Tracie Dinwiddie) and Elena (Necar Zadegan)represent the stereo typical lesbian in the media, and the plot line tries to show that it’s magic that two people find each other and its just a matter of time till the right person shows up.

Viola di Mare
Another film by Donatella Maiorca from Italy Viola di Mare  or The Sea Purple is based on a true story. It concerns a young woman named Angela Valeria Solarino who wants to marry her childhood sweetheart Sara Isabella Ragonese in 19th century Italy, however her father forbids it. Later he allows it if Angela changes her attire and poses as Angelo, a man.
XXX sense of lightness
More realistic films about lesbian lives include the short films from around the world, such as XXX sense of Lightness by Chozie Li about two lesbians, Spring and Bird from Taipei, who tragically are separated when one of them is seduced by a man when she is only 20, becomes pregnant and later dies of a self  induced abortion that goes wrong.
Or Alligator by Dana Goldberg a Jewish lesbian in Tel Aviv whose mother has her watched and who desperately tries to find a girlfriend.
It is clear that without feminism that lesbian films go flat, and those films where women are active politically and work for LGBT rights offer a more authentic picture of lesbian life. It may be love stories and the myths about them that help to get feature films funding but for the Cineffable public , a film’s popularity has to do with a clear story with understandable signification and an honest attempt to tell the realities of lesbians around the world.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan PARIS

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 11/03/10
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mill Valley Film Festival Oct. 7-17, 2010 - Movie Reviews

By Jonathan W. Wind

The 33rd Mill Valley Film Festival begins October 7 and ends October 17. These are a few of the finer offerings of the festival.

Child of Giants

Narrated by Daniel Rhodes Dixon, eldest son of depression era photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) and painter Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) Child of Giants tells the story of Daniel's disenchantment with his parents, icons of the American art world and residents of San Francisco. Dorothea, famous for her b&w photography and Maynard for his desert art and folk paintings were ruthless in their raising of their two sons, who loved them but could not seem to obtain their love in return. Much of the film, sorrowfully, is a gripefest of how he and his brother were not loved but instead sent to foster homes while Dorothea and Maynard developed their impressive careers. Daniel rebelled and became a thorn in their sides until he finally reconciled with them and matured without the crushing weight of his parents' fame.


Patagonia is the southern tip of South America, comprising parts of Argentina and Chile and the majestic Andes. In two completely unrelated stories, a young unmarried couple from Wales comes to Patagonia to photograph the lush landscape and work on their romance and their future, while a half blind octogenarian and her young grandson travel surreptitiously from Patagonia to Wales to look for the older woman's roots and her past. The young couple's romance gets in a bind when she falls for their tour guide Mateo. Meanwhile in Wales the grandmother and grandson Alejandro, after repeated attempts, finally find her hometown, she sighs, parks on a park bench and promptly dies with a smile on her face. Back in Patagonia the couple find each other again by accident, after weeks of separation. This is a lovely movie featuring the lush natural beauty of landscapes 10,000 miles apart and about how we learn about each other through travel and how beauty does exist everywhere, not just in your own backyard.
(English subtitled)

The King's Speech

The King's Speech is the story of George VI (played by Colin Firth), father of Elizabeth II, who suffered from a terrible stammer that made public speaking an embarrassing chore. The King needed to speak publicly to soothe the Kingdom during WWII bombings in London after the abdication of his brother the Duke of Windsor. He finds an unconventional speech therapist named Lionel Logue, played to perfection by Geoffrey Rush. As Royal and commoner learn to open up to each other a friendship is formed that is played out on the world stage in this true story of a proud man and an oppressed prince both eager to overcome their shortcomings and learn to trust and persevere, and of a companionship that allowed the doctor to say to the King “you don’t need to be afraid of the things you were afraid of when you were 5 years old.” Also starring Helen Bonham Carter, the King's Speech is certainly an Oscar contender. This is a wonderful movie, the audience stood and applauded, how often do you see that?

In Julia's Disappearance Julia is on her way to her 50th birthday party and feels her life is in crisis as she battles with feeling invisible because of the new decade upon her. All of her friends are gathered at a restaurant and as they wait they complain and discuss their various problems and ailments and the indignities of aging, drinking heavily, almost to exhaustion. Meanwhile Julia gets waylayed by a stranger who convinces her that aging is in her mind and she decides instead to have a few drinks with this wise stranger, rather than with her waiting guests. Simultaneous stories of bored teens and recalcitrant seniors with thin links to Julia all end up playing out at the same restaurant in a funny, if unbelievable ending to this cute comedy.
(English subtitled)

Queen of Hearts is a lame French farce where Adele gets dumped by Matthieu, and ends up living with a neighbor who insists that she need to sleep with other men to get over herself. She meets Pierre on a park bench, falls in love at first sight with Paul, and has hilarious sex with Jacques; all the while dealing with trite text messages, cute babies and a variety of odd situations that always end up leaving her in pain. But surprise, Pierre, Paul, Matthieu and Jacques are all played by the same actor, sporting different hair styles and glasses, though this is not actually mentioned in the film and is not part of the plot, perhaps the allusion is to her being able only to see her lost love. Queen of Hearts is an oddity more for what you question than for what is clear. Actress Valerie Donzelli plays Adele, she wrote the screenplay and also directs in a clipped style that unexpectedly breaks into song upon occasion, adding further comedy to a story already top heavy with silly tricks. Donzelli also strips for explicit sex scenes made all the more ridiculous by tears and moans, it all gets quickly tiresome in this comic romance.
(English subtitled)

In Biutiful Javier Bardem plays a man in crisis. Filmed entirely in Barcelona, he makes his living by securing immigrant labor for low paying blackmarket jobs in construction and street sales. His life begins to collapse as his wife flies out of control, his Asian labor force is all accidentally asphyxiated and his African street salesman are beaten and incarcerated by the Spanish police for drug trafficking. He himself is diagnosed with cancer and as his life becomes unbearable he turns to his children for solace. As a man falling from grace he looks for redemption and finds it in his connection to the afterlife. His reality is stained and his fate is he is unable to forgive himself. Filmed in sweeping detail, Biutiful dramatizes the painful realities of life in a touching way that kept my attention throughout. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu gives expression to a flawed man without apology and gives the audience a heartbreaking experience.
(English subtitled)

© 2010 - Jonathan W. Wind - Air Date: 10/06/10
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

67th Venice Film Festival Part 2

By Moira Sullivan 

Stephen Dorff, Sofia Coppola, Ellie Fanning
So much can be said about the Venice Film Festival which ran from 1-11 September. Besides the official competition are several parallel events.

The section Orizzonti, or Horizons presents the best in innovative work with boundary breaking in film.  One film in particular that stands out from the crowd EL SICARIO ROOM 164 by Gianfranco Rosi was filmed inside a hotel room. The subject wears a black mask as he tells the story of being a corrupt policeman in Mexico that worked for a drug cartel. As he tells the story, he draws on a large artist’s pad, sketching the people places and things that he encountered as a man who roughed up and murdered hundreds of people for the crime of owing or stealing money or not fulfilling their duties for the cartel.

This was a short film of images with a smooth cadence that captures the feel of early cinema, the 1950’s era of advertizing and avantgarde film with references to artists such as Georges Méliès, Jean Cocteau and Ferdinand Léger. The images are arranged as a series of attractions with techniques such as multiple exposures and changes in color.

 A SPECIAL MENTION in this section was given to JEAN GENTIL by Laura Amelia GUZMÁN and Israel CÁRDENAS (a Dominican Republic, Mexico, Germany co production). The film is a candid portrait of a Haitian man who loses his job as an accountant and becomes homeless. His journey takes him to the forest where he lives in a shack and occasionally has a student for language lessons. The candidness of the film reveals the soul of a man who has change forced upon him and it is up to him to survive.

This year at the Venice Film Festival a special retrospective was done on a neglected period of Italian film history Italian comedy entitled–Italian Comedy and the State of Things, with 30 films from the early 1910’s to the end of the 1980’s. One extremely wacky film - Io non spezzo... rompo stars policemen Alighiero Noschese as Viganò and Enrico Montesano as Canepari, directed by Bruno Corbucci. The plot involves catching an Italian American crime boss. What is delightful is Viganò's many children who are trained in law and order including his oldest daughter. The zany adventures of these two comics go through a nostalgic period of the sixties with all the pop culture icons..

The 67th Venice International Film Festival was presided over by jury president Quentin Tarantino and the Golden Lion for best film went to Sofia Coppola for Somewhere.
This year a special lion and SPECIAL MENTION from the jury.

For OVERALL WORK was presented to the US filmmaker Monte HELLMAN whose mentor was B movie producer Roger Corman.  Hellman’s repertoire consists of cult classics such as acid westerns with Jack Nicholson. A film that was featured at the Cannes film festival in 2006, Trapped ashes,  was a special horror film.  Hellman’s film Road to Nowhere, a romantic narrative, was in the official competition of this years festival. The jury referred him as “a great cinema artist and minimalistic poet “.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Venice.

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date:09 /DD/YY
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

67th Venice International Film Festival

By Moira Sullivan
Robert Rodrigues, Jessica Alba, Danny Trejo - Machete

The 67th Venice International Film Festival ran from 1 -11 September. Sofia Coppola took home the highest award, the Golden Lion for her film Somewhere. It stars Stephen Dorff as an errant and popular film director Johnny Marco who spends his time on partying and women. When his13 year old girl Cleo played by Elle Fanning shows up he is forced to look as his life.  The film is set in a series of hotels, which Coppola said were common dwellings when she was on the road with her father Francis Ford Coppola. Family friend and director/actor Vincent Gallo didn't provide any pre-publicity for his new film Promises Written in Water, in the official competition along with Sofia’s film but it certainly fulfills this festival’s vision for innovative and genre breaking cinema. This new film stands out from the crowd for the official competition and is an achievement that lingers for a long time. It should encourage young filmmakers to do something different, not something that has been done again and again - with their cameras, dialogue, editing and sound. 

Vincent Gallo took home a best actor award however from another film: Essential Killing. 
The midnight film on opening day was Robert Rodriguez’ and Ethan Maniquis’ Machete. With a face that looks like he might have had too many close encounters with a sharp instrument, Danny Trejo plays Federale Machete, and courts the bad guys and the likes of Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsay Lohan. This rock n' roll extravaganza spared no details in providing adrenaline-rushing entertainment. Highlights are the machine gun toting Lindsay Lohan dressed as a nun (playing the daughter of a drug dealer), the punchy ICE agent Sartana (Jessica Alba) and resistance fighter Luz, (Michelle Rodriguez). Danny Trejo, Robert Rodriquez and Jessica Alba were in town for the world premiere. John Woo said he was pleased to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Festival. When festival director Marco Mueller called him with the news he admitted to being shocked, but Mueller convinced him that his avantgarde style really fit at Venice.
At a panel discussion held on September 3, Woo was joined by the cast and crew of a film that he produced that opened at the festival: Reign of the Assassins, starring Michelle Yeoh. The film directed by Chao-Bin Su is the story of the origins of Kung Fu in China. Michelle Williams as Emily Tetherow is the middle ground behind Meek's Cutoff a film directed by Kelly Reichard in the official competition.  It is about three covered wagons with settlers trying to make it across the rough in Oregon, in what was later to be called "Meek’s Cutoff".

Numerous shots position the wagons and the bonneted women, and the landscape for a good part of the introduction to the film. But when Emily spots "The Cayuse" (Rod Rondeaux), a Native American, while gathering firewood the settlers go after him and tie him up. Emily Tetherow knows he can bring the settlers to safety.                                
Swedish actor/director Pernilla August presented her film Beyond at International Critics Week. The film is based on a novel by the Finnish author Susanna Alakoski.  The Swedish title is an expression used for housing areas in Ystad in Southern Sweden composed primarily of Finnish immigrants and referred to as "pigsties".
The story is about a Finnish couple whose relationship is troubled due to alcoholism. Finnish actors Ville Virtanen and Outi Mäenpää play the parents.Young Leena is played by (Tehilla Blad) who takes care of her younger brother Sakari (Junior Blad) The film critically looks at adult children of alcoholics with insights into how such a childhood leaves emotional wounds that take years to heal. Noomi Rapace and Tehilla Blad play the younger and older Leena and were both featured in the Millennium Trilogy based on the novels by the late Stieg Larsson. 
Next week more from the Venice Film Festival.
For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Venice

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/05/10
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Satoshi Kon - Tribute

By Moira Sullivan

It is with great sadness to hear the news that the Japanese anime director Satoshi Kon passed away on August 24 at the age of 46.  Kon received the diagnosis that he had pancreatic cancer on May 18 with little time left to live. In a blog written to his fans Satoshi Kon during this time he remarkably shared with us how dishonorable he felt it was to leave the world before his parents, and humbly admitted to other shortcomings.  He repeatedly used the expression “Sorry to leave before you “ in his endearing testimony. This was an incredible opportunity to share in not only the life but also the reality of Mr. Kon in his final days. He leaves several memorable films in his legacy.  
Kon began his career as a manga artist and later worked with anime. He never made a live action film and preferred to draw his films. His debut film was Perfect Blue, in 1997, followed by Millennium Actress in 2001, Tokyo Godfathers in 2003 Paprika in 2006 and the television series Paranoia Agent made in 2004.  He was also deep in production on his fifth film The Dream Machine at the time of his death, another one of his concerns in leaving so suddenly.

Studio Madhouse produced Kon’s films where he served as staff director. As opposed to Hayao Miyazaki, Kon’s anime can be seen as colorful and inventive narratives with adult themes. Whereas Miyazaki works with mythical creatures, often with girls who learn how to become independent, Kon makes humans and their follies the focal point. In the case of Millennium Actress and Paprika his characters have superhuman powers and pass through different dimensions of reality. In Millennium Actress a famous actress interviewed about her career after she has retired shows her life as if were a film in this anime. In Paprika a doll expresses that the Internet and dreams are very much the same, a view that is particularly Satoshi Kon,  because one goes underground into a subconscious state.  As such there is a visually stunning parade of dolls, furniture and appliances, and the incongruity of the objects clearly represents the fragmented architecture that is the stuff of dreams. One can only wonder how Kon would have developed in the coming years, each film an improvement on his previous work and his ability to convey hyperrealism. His characters were not all good or all bad, and embody defects that define the human condition such as in Tokyo Godfathers  where he presents an unlikely set of guardians for a child. But in all that he created, he showed that reality was also a virtual world. And that we can learn just as much from it.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Venice

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/02/10
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tipping the Velvet

By Moira Sullivan

The most enchanting story of a young woman growing up in England and searching for her identity is the foundation for Tipping the Velvet. Based on a novel by Sarah Waters,  chosen by the New York Times as the best novel of 1998. Making this three part story telecast for the BBC in 2002 was not without problems for some of the scenes are sexually explicit, including the implications of the title itself.  Geoffrey Sax is the director of this straightforward television drama, but the story is done in a captivating way.  Rachel Stirling is Nan Astley, a young woman who falls in love with a male performance artist, Miss Kitty Butler (Keeley Hawes) who is the most exciting woman she has ever known. She eventually tours with Butler  as her sidekick, and unbeknownst to her at the time, their performances had a large fan base among London lesbians. Waters takes liberty with the historical period of the Victorian Era and surmises that there could have well been an underground lesbian community.  Alas Butler disappoints her and Nan in the second part of the narrative becomes the sexual slave of dominatrix Diana Letheby (Anna Chancellor). She is rescued by her from being sodomized just in time after dressing up as a man and performing sexual favors for men for pay. In exchange for this she becomes Diana's pet and captures the awe and envy of her predatory and game playing lesbians friends. When things don’t work out, Nan is really down on her luck but remembers the kindness of her neighbor Florence Banner (Jodhi May), a socialist activist She looks her up and slowly the two woman enter into a mature and loving relationship.
Rachel Stirling is the daughter of Diana Rigg and while their appearances are quite different even the young Diana, Stirling has the same brilliant diction as her mother, every line delivered with force and clarity. At the time of this production Stirling was 28 and she clearly carries the story skillfully. An avowed heterosexual she said she had no problem playing Nan and wanted her performance to be as realistic as possible.  It is thoroughly entertaining to watch the fascination the audience has for women as male performance artists, which at the time was one of the few ways they could feel free and independent. Rachel Stirling has not had a central role in a film since Tipping the Velvet, which is unfortunate as she is such a fine actress. But like her mother she has done considerable work on the stage for productions such as The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night‘s Dream and A Woman of No Importance. At any rate Tipping the Velvet is a pearl of a made for TV film, and engaging from beginning to end.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 08/18/10
Movie Magazine International

Life During Wartime

By Moira Sullivan
Todd Solondz’ sequel to Happiness called Life During Wartime premiered last year at the Venice Film Festival and took home the best screenplay award. Solondz who serves as both screenwriter and director for his new film is a favorite at this festival, and four years ago he brought Palindrome together with actress Ellen Barkin. In that film several actors play the same character and in Life During Wartime, other actors than the original ones in Happiness play the main roles. The plot follows the lives of the three Jordan sisters, Trish Allison Janney, Joy Shirley Henderson, and Helen played by Alley Sheedy. The scene is Miami Florida and it's pro Israel Jewish community.

Trish raises her children alone and is on antidepressants. Her husband Bill played by Ciarán Hinds, was arrested for child molestation but is now out of jail.  She begins dating Harvey (Michael Lerner) and tries to start anew. Her son Timmy (Dylan Riley Snyder), the poster boy of the film, is a precocious and daring 12 year old about to become a man and do his Bar Mitzvah.  Trish told him that his father had died rather than the truth that he went off to jail and he is devastated. But he also accuses Harvey of being a pedophile though he later apologizes for being mistaken. Trish is not so understanding: once a perv, always a perv.  Bill has a one-night stand with Jacqueline superbly played by Charlotte Rampling and it is assumed that he later commits suicide.
Joy takes a leave from her husband who is an ex con in order to visit Trish and Helen but while she is gone he kills himself as did her other boyfriend Allen played by Paul Reubens. And Helen, a successful TV writer with a slew of award trophies decides to inform her about how her life doesn’t seem to be working.  Though she herself seems shut off and alone in her huge house despite all of her accomplishments.
The power of this film is twofold: there is an exceptional screenplay with masterly dialogue and the delivery of  them by a fine ensemble of actors.  The dark themes that Solondz explores such as pedophilia, suicide and prescription drug abuse may be disturbing to audiences but he says that these things are in the news everyday.  It is hard to single out any of the three sisters for their acting acumen since all are positively enchanting and skillful.  Their neurotic natures may vary, Trish being more happy go lucky yet vindictive at the same time, Joy carefree yet attracting men with death wishes and Helen who can not commit to a single thought about her true feelings.  The musings of the characters is humorous but also disturbing. No one should have to live with such entrenched grief disguised as contentment or compensated through excessive work. All too often the men seem to check out with suicide.
The title of the film is both a metaphor for the war of the emotions and life during todays long standing Palestinian Israeli conflict, which is a war that has engulfed the world for decades. Underneath this are the atrocities the Jews have suffered in history. But as Harvey’s son explains, "In the end China will take over and none of this will matter".

Here now is Todd Solondz in an exclusive interview with Movie Magazine here in San Francisco.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 08/04/10
Movie Magazine International

SALT is Angelina Jolie

By Moira Sullivan

Angelina Jolie is Evelyn SALT - a CIA agent with a Russian past. The opening minutes pull us into a scene with a Russian defector who Salt speaks to in an interrogation room. Suddenly a plan to kill the Russian president is on board and Salt is implicated by the defector as a double agent just before he leaves the building. Here’s where the action begins. None other than a James Bond spider woman, Angelina Jolie jumps out of buildings, on to moving trucks, strong arms agents like they were silly putty and wrenches a motorcycle from a driver when the freeway jams. Unlike James Bond, Jolie has a husband and his safety is her MO. Here’s why James Bond never marries, pretty much through all of the film, her husband is her main concern, and why she needs to stay on the run. But at least she gets to be spider woman. Her husband is a German anachronologist that somehow sprung her from North Korea military for being a spy and afterwards she continues her domesticated life until fate has its way. After her escape from the CIA Building San Francisco native Liev Schreiber as Ted Winter
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peabody seem to always be cutting her slack, and are never quite convinced that she is a double agent.  Director Philip Noyce succeeds in providing the backdrop to this action thriller and screenwriter Kurt Wimmer has written some believable dialogue. Watching Jolie escape the bad guys which are both American and Russian is an exhilarating roller coaster ride, and her bag of tricks includes knowing something about spiders, being a master of disguise, and being able to get herself out of the most amazing situations with the acumen of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  Alas we are back again to the days where the Russians and Americans are trigger happy and the Presidents are ready to push the panic button and launch nuclear weapons. All the usual cold war suspects are on hand, including a league of young children raised by Russian agents and stationed in America to seek retaliation. Is SALT one of them?  Nothing is predictable in this film, which is bound to have sequels, and that is great for Jolie.  
Some questions come to mind -- why are the parameters pushed back to the post second world war political climate. And what is it with this German anachronologist? Will we get to know more about how are spiders will be used in warfare? Phillip Noyce after all did to a series of films on where Harrison Ford played US Naval Academy and PhD Jack Ryan until he was too old, followed by Ben Affleck. Well Angelina Jolie who has partnered with Noyce for The Bone Collector has more than a few years left to play a swashbuckling pulverizing secret agent.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/28/10
Movie Magazine International

Friday, July 23, 2010

Agora and Alejandra Amenábar

By Moira Sullivan

Agora is a beautifully filmed historical narrative by Alejandro Amenábar, set in 4th century Alexandria, in Roman Egypt. It is an English language film made in Spain that won seven national film awards or Goya. Rachel Weisz plays Hypatia, an astronomer who was convinced that the earth was round and circulated around the sun. The film shows the emergence of power hungry Christians who destroyed the ancient knowledge of Hypatia and her students by desecrating their library and burning their books.  Hypatia was so advanced for her time and threatened the new world view of one deity so much that eventually Christians called her a witch and stoned her to death. In an unusual depiction of this time, the Christians dress in black and are shown as a swarm of screaming men,  a large mob often incited to riots by ill thinking leaders. The atrocities of the time were horrible, and students are forced to either become Christians or die. The history of the time is presented in stunning detail and shows the power struggle between ancient Egyptians, the Jews and the Christians. Rachel Weisz is brilliant as Hypatia a woman surrounded by men during the entire film. Two students fall in love with her, a slave named Davus played by Max Minghella who is a Christian and Orestes played by Oscar Issac, a student who eventually converts to Christianity to keep his freedom. Hypatia is an atheist and this position is so provoking to the Christians that they destroy her. She admits to them in the end that she does believe in something, in philosophy, which they ridicule.* By then they have written their own scriptures:  that Jesus chose 12 men as his disciples, and not a single woman, and what greater proof was there that women belonged at home, subservient to men. The destructiveness of the Christians commands attention as they destroy historical documents and rewrite their own history. But although they manage to sabotage Hypatia’s work, today her discoveries remain an important part of modern science. Alejandro Amenábar’s film is an extraordinary document about a changing world and the forces that come into play that push the advancement of the ancient world back in time, with truths that were later to emerge that put the world upside down.

 *This was however an accurate claim of belief in divinity. According to the Roman philosopher Cicero
106 BC- 43 BC philosophy is "the science of things divine and human, and of the causes in which they are contained".

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan.

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/21/10
Movie Magazine International

Breathless Revisited

By Moira Sullivan

It does take your breath away to see such a pristine clear copy of Jean Luc Godard’s classic 50 years later with a new and improved translation of the French dialogue by François Truffaut, including the mysterious closing line of the film. The film that encouraged the Swiss filmmaker to later brag, "all you need is a girl and a gun". The story of small time crook Michel Poiccard, played by Jean Paul Belmondo who falls in love with Patricia Franchini, the late Jean Seberg, has gone down in film history as one of the tragic comic love tales of our time. Michel who tries to imitate Humphrey Bogart is not very good at it at all, but you have to admire his comical efforts in trying to look tough with a cigarette hanging out of his thick lips, which he often strokes with his thumb, and his lack of success as a gangster, which includes having to steal money from his girlfriend’s purse. Godard’s film is so simple that it works again and again. You never tire of hearing Patricia speaking French with an American accent, interviewing the famous film director Parvulesco, played in real life by Jean-Pierre Melville, stringing Michel along, and inevitably having to come to some tough decisions. You have to admire her question about the emancipation of women that she puts to Pavulesco, as she tries to break free from her role as just a pretty girl. She gets him to admit his ambition is to become immortal and die, probably one of the obsessions of youth and certainly one of the themes of Breathless. You never tire of the time Michel and Patricia spend in her little apartment, sparring with each other in the pursuit of what seems to be uncomplicated  and innocent love. The playfulness of the scene invokes the magic of youth. The film is also  a travelogue of Paris with shots of the Notre Dame, the Champs Elysées,Montmartre, outdoor cafes and many quaint little streets. Even a motorcade with presumably President Eisenhower proceeds down the grand boulevard as Michael and Patricia duck into a movie theater to escape the police.
What really makes her do it? - this has been the time honored question for half a century; why turn in this good-looking wayward young man who is in love with her? His goal to get her to go to Italy and hide out with him ends in disaster, and perhaps part of the beauty of the film is that he suffers such a tragic comic end. Jean Seberg stars in the definitive role of her career, her own life snuffed out at 40 presumably a suicide in the backseat of a car in Paris, an incident that was indeed far more treacherous than the foul play taken up in this film.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/21/10
Movie Magazine International

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Owls Raises the Bar for Queer Cinema - A Movie Review

By Moira Sullivan

Cheryl Dunye’s latest feature The Owls is an experimental narrative that screened at Frameline June 18th. The anticipation for this film was high as information about the project has been accessible for some time including a Facebook group. Owl stands for Older Wiser Lesbian. 

The filmmakers and actors belong to the Parliament Film Collective, a matrix of lesbian and new queer cinema creativity.  The film cost 22,000 dollars to make and seems to fit in with the challenge made by Maya Deren to make good affordable films, she said her films cost what Hollywood spends on lipstick. 

The Owls should turn the way queer cinema is going in a new direction, away from big budgets, narrative construction with rising falling action and resolution, following the old Hollywood premise. Its not about coming of age stories of lesbians or coming out or first romance. It’s a more authentic look at lesbian and queer lives with an authentic form to match. The short film category is pretty much saturated by lesbian filmmakers because of budgetary constraints and even the documentary format with lots and lots of donors and sponsors. And this film too had donors and sponsors but was made collectively and that is the difference.

The premise of the film with a smart script by Sarah Shulman concerns four middle aged dykes whose lives didn’t turn out really they way they wanted, who cover up the accidental murder of a provocative baby dyke. The initial moments of the film blast footage of the Riot Girrl band "The Screech" with captivating music set to feminist political lyrics and jarring imagery to boot. With this the veteran director pulls you in from the first seconds. This is an odyssey about lesbian/queer personal politics and features actors that continue to put lesbian filmmaking on the map. First up are veteran actors that changed the way lesbian storytelling was done in Rose Troche’s Go Fish (1994). Guinevere Turner  plays Iris former Screech lead singer and V.S. Brodie  sticks with the initials as MJ, former Screech producer.  Dunye couples up as Carol with UK filmmaker Lisa Gornick who plays bass player Lily and then there is baby dyke, Deak Evgenikos as Cricket and her tool toting mate, Skye, played by Skyler Cooper

The film seeks to unite today’s nuanced lesbian queer butch transman movement with no labels but enough signposts that reveal a collective language known to the audience it primarily caters to.The rich iconography of images, in your face closeups with gut wrenching confession, in of split screen anecdotes interspersed with clever dialogue that makes this an exciting film. The fragmented narrative and cinema verité encounters with the actors, and the collective nature of the venture cooks up a fresh kind off story telling. 

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/23/10
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Secret Diaries of Miss Ann Lister... and the Silencing of the Lithuanian Lambs - A Movie Review

By Moira Sullivan, San Francisco
There cannot be anything more painful than to watch a lesbian falling in love with a woman who decides to leave her eventually for a man or for marriage. This happens to the main protagonist in the opening moments of Frameline 34's opening film: The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, directed by James Kent. We might have said to Ann (Maxine Peak): we told you so! But such is the hardship for a "woman who likes the ladies too much" coming from a small provincial town like Yorkshire and especially at the time when Lister lived, in 1791.

Ann falls in love with a doctor's daughter, Mariana Belcombe (Anna Madeley) , who without even telling Ann decides to get married to an ugly old fart.  She promises to write but of course she doesn’t. Initially and quite wisely, Ann wonders why she should even bother.

Love between women was just something that was not supposed to exist in 1791 and few suspected it save the women surrounding two women in love. So stealing away in the bushes to kiss was the only way.  But in time Ann Lister acquired the reputation of "womanizer", rather aptly put.

Ann Lister wrote in code in her diary and has been called Britain’s first modern lesbian. Mariana shows up in her life later and Ann must acquire the means to allow them both to live. But Mariana turns out to be a real pain, and Ann lets her go though she continues to turn up like a bad penny. Meanwhile as a landowner Ann is propositioned to sell her property dirt cheap, but refuses and later joins her land with her neighbor Ann Walker. The uptight little Yorkshires knows that land marriages between women are suspect, and this provokes them far worse than women hiding in the bushes stealing a kiss. An anonymous ad is put in the paper announcing their "marriage". They are ridiculed.
The cinematography of the Yorkshire countryside brings up vibrant colors of the rolling moors, and everything is in place for the class that this film is about in Regency England. This film, however historical it may seem with all the diary coding is quite contemporary. Women who own land together are still a real threat, and small provincial towns still exist. 

One need only look to the homophobia in the Baltic State Lithuania where last month 800 extra police had to patrol the first gay pride demonstration because of the safety element for the homophobes lining the streets.  A survey revealed that 75% of the Roman Catholic Lithuanians are against homosexuals. Lithuanian gay men and lesbians  have a hard time bringing home their same sex partners to mom and dad. The pressure to be heterosexual even when you are not is oppressive in this EU nation and former Iron Curtain country. 

The Secret Diary of Anne Lister and films of this kind continue to be made because homophobia continues to exist. The point is don’t look at tomorrow night's film as historical, the story is happening today. The repression of love between women and the insistence in upholding heteronormative traditions must be seen as a tyranny of the emotions, a  fascism of real and imminent desire.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, San Francisco.

© 2010 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/16/10
Movie Magazine International

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Roman Polanski - Special Report

By Monica Sullivan

Every time I think that the bashing of Roman Polanski has peaked, someone else emerges to punish him in print again. The man receives more hostile attention these days than the thugs who murdered his wife, son and friends in 1969.

Much of the hostile attention comes from guys who were not angels when they were younger. How do I know this? Because when they were not pontificating for the record, I would see and hear very different stuff off the record. They were clever, they were never caught, the years passed and then guess what? It never happened? They never had sex with underage kids? (They may have fooled around, but not that!) They never beat up anyone smaller than they were (slapping doesn’t count.) They never created a hostile work environment for young women with 1 % of their power. (It was okay for them to ask “You’re not going to get pregnant are you?” because business is business.) Blah. Blah. Blah. If you take guys seriously when they get sanctimonious, even Novocain won’t dull the pain of their needle artistry.

I get the pain of women who’ve been discarded like toilet paper after their status as sexual prey is over, over, over. What I don’t get is the amnesia of so many guys who used to whine about their much younger lovers. Now they whine about Roman Polanski as if he were an alien breed, fit only for incarceration and eternal condemnation. Condemnation from everyone it would seem, except the young girl who later forgave him for hurting her.

Roman Polanski’s own childhood was torn to shreds by Adolph Hitler and the world is a better place with this imperfect man in it.

© 2010 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 05/19/10
Movie Magazine International

Karl Dane - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan

Built into the concept of stardom is the reality that, inevitably, the star will flame out, fade and die. Young actors don’t want to think about this certainty: how could they, when they’re being lionised all over the planet? Smart stars prepare for not being stars by expanding their interests, looking great in public and saying hip things about the present.

When “The Big Parade” was released in 1925, John Gilbert, Renee Adoree and Karl Dane
were the stars of the year in the picture of the year. By 1933, Renee Adoree was dead and Karl Dane had made his swan song in “The Whispering Shadow”, a Bela Lugosi serial. The following year, he died by his own hand. John Gilbert had a brief reprieve in 1934 in “Queen Christina” opposite Greta Garbo, but by 1936 he was dead.

“Karl Dane” by Laura Petersen Balogh shows the rise and fall of this unforgettable character star. In silent movies, his thick Danish accent was no handicap, but in the early sound era, film offers when they came were often bits or non-speaking roles. Karl Dane tried to do other things, like running a Westwood hot dog stand. His co-star, George K. Arthur, explains its failure: “People could not bear to watch his despair. So they didn’t come to buy his hamburgers.” Even though “Karl Dane” is a sad book, the author makes many fascinating points about Hollywood then which still apply to Hollywood now. For more information, go to

© 2010 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 05/05/10
Movie Magazine International

Savage Detours - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan

Ask film buffs who was the best actress of 1945 and you’ll hear names like Joan Crawford, Ingrid Bergman, Greer Garson, Jennifer Jones, Gene Tierney or newcomer Angela Lansbury. All were or are good actors who enjoyed great stardom. But many feel that the best performance by an actress that year was delivered by Ann Savage in “Detour” at lowly Producers Releasing Corporation. Recognition for her achievement was very slow in coming: forty, fifty, sixty years later, young audiences would see this unforgettable woman acting her guts out as a hard, desperate character who’d do anything for a buck, even though she knew she was doomed. When Bette Davis shocked the world with her interpretation of a “vulgar slut” like Mildred Rogers in “Of Human Bondage” she made a splash that rippled through the rest of her career. Ann Savage played Vera in “Detour”, a “B” movie (that should have been an “A”!) and went back to making more “B” movies, thirty in all.

“Savage Detours: The Life and Work of Ann Savage” by Lisa Morton and Kent Adamson is the book that belongs in the library of every film noir fan. It reveals the challenging life of a tough cookie who took her work very seriously, even though, for many years, she was the only one who did. The book contains a 78 page biography, a 105 page filmography, a 45 page “Detour” script, complete with Ann Savage’s notes, a bibliography and an index. 85 photographs, most of which I’ve never seen before, illustrate the text. They reveal how Ann Savage changed her look to suit each part, as well as her timeless classic good looks, which she retained throughout her life. When you look at the short, ugly and violent fate of Vera in “Detour,” it’s reassuring to read that Ann Savage’s real life was filled with love, fun and adventure.

When she was 70, she was seen on a “Saved By The Bell” segment, doing a tango with none other than Mario Lopez. 17 years later, she made “My Winnipeg” for director Guy Madden, one of her most rewarding creative experiences. And yet she retained the unique quality that made her Ann Savage instead of one of many Hollywood supernovas. When someone urged her to consider a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, she simply said “Honey, I don’t want people walking on me!” For more information check out

© 2010 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 04/28/10
Movie Magazine International

The Killing - Movie Review

By Monica Sullivan

After 1955's “Killer's Kiss”, Stanley Kubrick received $200,000 to make “The Killing” for United Artists. There were only two strings attached: He had to cast a star as Johnny Clay and U.A. had to like his script. Sterling Hayden turned out to be perfect as a grizzled small-time convict in hot pursuit of the big time & who WOULDN'T like the masterful screenplay by Kubrick and Jim Thompson?

“The Killing” examines crime and sexuality with a laser-like beam that looked and sounded like nothing else in the Fidgety Fifties. Listen to the dialogue between Elisha Cook and Marie Windsor as George and Sherry Peatty. Was any guy ever whipped as graphically as George was by Sherry? Watch the classic racetrack sequence with Timothy Carey as vicious hood Nikki & James Edwards as the parking attendant. Ever see racism delivered with such a startling flick of rattlesnake venom? The presence of fresh-faced Coleen Gray & the voice-of-God narration are reassuring throwbacks to film noir of the forties, and then the evil implodes, in bright sunshine as well as in dark shadows, in a way that is raw, real, ugly and cruel. All the hoods are human & stupid: their doomed schemes may be intricately planned, but their intrinsic flaws are blurred by the sheer speed of the narrative drive.

Stanley Kubrick blasted his way into the movies with an unsparing frankness about the undercurrents of reality no one else was willing to acknowledge and an originality that audiences continue to experience with all five senses.

© 201 0 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 04/21/10
Movie Magazine International