Posts

Showing posts from 2011

Tinker,Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Image
By Moira Sullivan

I don’t pretend to have enjoyed Tinker,Tailor, Soldier, Spy based on a spy thriller by octogenarian John le Carré, who co-produced the film featured at the 68th Venice Film Festival. The cast features dozens of men and few women – but thank the goddess for Kathy Burke from the cult TV series French and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous as Connie Sach. Colin Firth seems lost and veteran actors John Hurt and Gary Oldman spend most of the time delivering their lines in ultra slow motion cued by the director. Action? No, there is no action in this spy thriller. Director Tomas Alfredson was behind the Swedish vampire box office smash Let the Right One In. The success initiated an American remake - Let Me In by Mat Reeves. The Swedish director is out of his element in adapting this novel to screen in that the large project consumes him, like a predator. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema from Let the Right One In is on board and there is nothing flawed in his work. But 20 m…

Outrage

Image
By Moira Sullivan Takeshi Kitano, Japanese actor turned director, otherwise known as Beat Takeshi, brings us what he is best at – yakuza or Japanese organized crime films with all their blood and gore. Outrage was part of last year’s Cannes Film Festival’s official selection. In what can be seen as a Japanese Reservoir Dogs, rival bosses with hidden body tattoos take turns at offing each other to impress the head family.  It seems like every second someone has their face bashed in, or their mouth worked on in the dentist office without Novocain. Takeshi Kitano is a deadpan actor that barely needs to move but instills fear with his cunning style. His motley face is enough to conjure up impending doom, along with the coiled snake energy of some of the other bosses in this film.  Outrage is predictable but with enough gore to make any yakuza enthusiast satisfied. This is the kind of film that is screened late at night or dead in the middle of winter at film festivals when vicious violence…

The Skin I Live In

Image
By Moira Sullivan *SPOILERS* The Skin I Live In is Pedro Almodóvar’s latest freaky venture into dressing and undressing women. This time his cross dressing fetish involves Male to Female gender reassignment –forced reassignment as punishment for the attempted rape and later suicide of a surgeon's daughter.

There is much to be admired in the art direction of this film - in a sinister way: the Petri dishes that grow skin from fresh animal blood, the surgical gowns and dressings, and other accouterments of the operating room, and another room - a room where a young woman is kept prisoner who can not look out but is gazed upon - who uses mascara to create a living diary with tiny writing and small images, and fashions Louise Bourgeois creations of tattered torn up doll carcasses.
The glass wall that separates surgeon from patient is enlarged like a wide screen cinema. A remote camera is projected into the kitchen where the surgeons mother Marilia (Marisa Paredes) monitors the young woma…

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

Image
By Moira Sullivan
The late French singer songwriter Serge Gainsbourg has received a renaissance of tributes in French culture since his death in 1991.  His life was cut short due to drug and alcohol addiction but that did not interfere with the love affair he had with the French people.The premise of Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life seems to rest on his origins in a poor Jewish family in Nazi occupied Paris where his father forced him to play the piano.
Young Serge suffered from an inferiority complex and as the story goes he developed an alter ego that made him more dashing and debonair than he felt inside. He cannot be considered handsome but he had outstanding charisma and charm that endeared him to primarily women, but he also served as a hero to men because of that success. As far as I can see this is why he is deserving of the title of the film.

Joann Sfar who made a graphic novel that concentrates on this alter ego directs the film. Obviously, this helped Serge survive who quickly becam…

The Women on the 6th Floor

Image
By Moira Sullivan The Women on the 6th Floor (Les femmes du 6ème étage, France 2010) was part of this year’s out of competition selection at the Berlin Film Festival and opens in San Francisco this week. Directed by Philippe Le Guay, the film is partly autobiographical inspired by his family’s Spanish maid, Lourdes. In this film on the sixth floor of a stockbroker’s family house live several Spanish maids who serve affluent French households. The setting is Paris in 1982. Jean-Louis Joubert played by Fabrice Luchini lives a predictable life with his wife Sandra (Sandrine Kiberlain) who has her toenails painted, her dresses fitted and enjoys tea with other French housewives. The maid of the family for 25 years quits but actually is just let go when Joubert’s mother dies, and a young Spanish woman is employed in the household to serve Mrs. Joubert. As might be expected Mr. Joubert is smitten by not only Maria but also all the Spanish maids upstairs. He seems to take a genuine interest in…

My Afternoons with Margueritte

Image
By Moira Sullivan 
My Afternoons with Margueritte stars French actor Gérard Depardieu, who plays Germain Chazes, a man with a scarred childhood. Because of his weight problem, he has been teased and ridiculed all his life in the provincial French village where he was raised by a single mother. Despite these emotional setbacks he has a beautiful young girlfriend played by Sophie Guillemin – somewhat unrealistic because he is twice her age, yet twice his age is a kindly, elderly woman whom he truly enjoys conversations with – Margueritte, played by the 96 year old veteran French actress Gisèle Casadesus. Margueritte is a well-read scientist and she opens doors to this illiterate adult man who has been the butt of jokes all his life. He lives in a trailer in the garden behind the house where he grew up with his mother. The emphasis on the film is the friendship that develops between Germain and Margueritte -  not your usual on screen relationship, and for that reason the film has a warm f…

68th Venice Film Festival, Report 1

Image
By Moira Sullivan

The Venice Film Festival now in its 68th year is in progress with 10 days of what many critics, including myself, regard as the most artistic film festival of them all. The festival attracts veteran directors who present their latest creations and there are several out of competition mainstream films with major stars who are chauffeured by a corporate sponsor to the red carpet and into the Grande Salle. Before the gala screening, the critics attend morning press screenings and in the afternoons, the festival is upon to young students and cineastes.

The festival issues screening passes to university students and with some new screening venues this year, there is more room at the inn. There is usually only one day for each film and it is a hectic caffeine-driven event on the island of Lido, a tiny boat ride from Venice. On the first day of the festival, Madonna’s new film W.E. on Wallace Simpson was screened followed by a jam-packed press conference. After years of li…

Griff the Invisible

Image
It is unusual to see Ryan Kwanten in a role other than Jason Stackhouse in True Blood but its only fair to him as an actor that we let go of the typecasting a bit to see him not only in films with different characters, but in his own country. I understand that Kwanten must want to expand and show his acting abilities. His most recent projects in filmography, which you can count on your finger during the last decade, features him date in two Australian films. In Red Hill, he plays a policeman in a small town who stumbles on to some bad guys with a sordid past. In Griff the Invisible, he plays a nerdy office worker who likes to dress up in a rubber suit and fight crime. 

The character is the complete opposite of Jason Stackhouse, of course. Griff the Invisible evokes the character Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) in Kick Ass who also dreams of being a superhero. However, the dark, brown haired Ryan seems to be swallowed up in this film, and not because we are used to seeing him in a complet…

One Day

Image
By Moira Sullivan
Lone Scherfig’sOne Day is a film that spans 20 years involving two young people who are first friends and then brief lovers and then friends and then lovers and finally spouses. Anne Hathaway plays Emma Morley, a young college student who sees herself as a wallflower when in truth she is dynamic, funny and brilliant. She hooks up with the playful Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) who goes for all the cute girls that are nowhere close to the charm and depth of Emma. Emma indeed is Dexter’s best friend and she always wants more than he is capable of. In the novel by the same name written by David Nicholls, part of the antagonism between the two is based on class differences. Emma seems reconciled to the fact that she never will make enough money and will have to settle on men that are far less exciting than Dexter. 

Blue Blooded Dexter could have anything he wants but decides against his mother's wishes played by Patricia Clarkson to do something useful. Instead, he goes …

Attack the Block

Image
By Moira Sullivan Attack the Block screened in June at the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival in San Francisco.  It was a good venue for it, due to its oddball quaintness. In addition, the film was at Comic-Con last month.  Who would have thought that a pack of teens roaming around South London would be in for so much drama after mugging a woman and taking her cell phone? The gang is mostly black, and they all live in the hood of Wyndam Towers. After the holdup, a meteor falls from the sky and hits a VW bug. As Moses (John Boyega), the oldest boy of the pack goes to investigate he is suddenly attacked by a wild creature, which turns out to be an alien. He shoots it dead. From there, a cascade of black furry aliens begin descending to earth. They kill two cops and follow Moses and company around. Back in their hood, Biggz (Simon Howard) is chomped on by one of the hairballs, and soon after they run into the girl they mugged, Sam (Jodie Whittaker). They are surprised to see her in the…

QWOCMAP discusses social justice feminism in 7th film festival edition

Image
By Moira Sullivan
The Queer Women of Color Film Festival, otherwise known as QWOCMAP, now in its 7th year continues to be an exceptional venue and one of the best festivals of women’s film I have attended. There are many reasons for this. For starters, it is free to the public with no admission charge. The organizers provide scrumptious food for the audience too in the cinema lounge. The entire festival is predicated on turning out a program of short films made by women, who have been trained to create a story and develop a script, shoot the film and edit it. These films are then presented at the festival for the public. The enthusiasm for the work is intoxicating and the support for these filmmakers is genuine.

Festival organizer T. Kebo Drew and Madeleine Lim report that this year’s festival was the same, even after many years of organizing it. Madeline Lim has held workshops since 2000 using film as an art form and tool for social change. About 120 films have been created for th…

Medea, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Italy 1969).

Image
By Moira Sullivan Medea by Pier Paolo Pasolini was made in 1969. The scenography was done is by Dante Ferretti, and it was his first movie. And I mention this because Ferretti not only did the scenography for a few other Pasolini films, but also for Interview with a Vampire, Shutter Island, Sweeney Todd and The Aviator. For the last two films he received Oscars.
To see Medea is a rare treat, because of the art direction but also because of the direction and script by the late director Pasolini. It stars one of his long-term friends Maria Callas as Medea, who is just brilliant.  Nothing is usual in a Pasolini film from the quaint costumes, which consist of elaborate costumes with jewelry and intricate cloth,  to the special way he tells stories.  The film was shot in Italy, Syria and Turkey.

The story begins with a centaur (played by the late French actor Laurent Terzieff)who speaks to a young boy at age 5, 13 and as a young man. He is not his father or mother, says the centaur in his fin…

MERRY GO ROUND, Jacques Rivette (France 1981).

Image
By Moira Sullivan  Merry Go Round by Jacques Rivette is a film that uses the instrument of the camera and editing to create a mystical thriller. In this film we see the young Maria Schneider as she actually looked in real life without the artificial clothing and makeup she is known for in Last Tango in Paris. Maria is a tiny, thin woman, with lots of wavy brown hair, dressed in jeans, t-shirts and moccasins, the kind with fringe on the sides from the 70’s. Schneider picked her leading man for the film, Joe Dallesandro, who reported that Maria in real life was his friend. But according to Jacques Rivette, the relationship between the two on the set became increasingly hostile.  Merry Go Round has a short scene with the present French Minister of Culture and Communication Frederic Mitterrand who plays a courier. Later Mitterrand would present Schneider with an outstanding tribute when she was inducted in the Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et Lettres) six months before her death…

Interview with Maria Schneider (re-broadcast from March 2001).

Image
By Moira Sullivan

Interview
A TranscriptMaria Schneider Interview By Moira Sullivan
Maria Schneider was the Guest of Honor at the Créteil Films de Femmes International Women's Film Festival, March 23-April 2, 2001 and honored with a retrospective of her work. Schneider was the star of the riveting Last Tango in Paris (Italy, 1972), a film New York film critic Pauline Kael loved and defended and whose 6,000 word review was used as an ad to promote the film. In Italy director Bernardo Bertolucci and actors Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando were brought to court for making an 'indecent' film. The charges were later dropped. In several cities in the US, the film was banned. Schneider's career after that was always equated with this cardinal work. She starred in over 40 films and is presented here in a personal interview at the Créteil festival. Q: Maria you were the 'cause celebre' of the '70s art house films and worked with directors such as Antonioni and Bertolu…

The 33rd Créteil International Film Festival Report 3

Image
By Moira Sullivan
The 33rd Créteil International Film Festival which ran from March 23 to April 3 was topped off in the final days by a visit from Portuguese filmmaker Teresa Villaverde.  The filmmaker was present at the screenings of her work such as Mutantes and Transe. It is fair to say that Teresa Villaverde who became a filmmaker in her 20s is probably one of the best filmmakers in the world today. There is nothing random about the way Villaverde frames each scene in her films. Her creative use of the camera and editing  is a  brilliant picture language Her stories are concise and vivid and create emotional empathy without  forced manipulation. In Mutantes, young Portuguese boys and girls with problems at home and with themselves are incarcerated in juvenile detention homes. They long for the love of their parents and their freedom but don’t know about boundaries without the foundation of a loving upbringing. They turn to each other to make up their lack. Some break out of the cent…

33rd Créteil Films de Femmes Film Festival, Report 2

Image
By Moira Sullivan
At the 33rd Créteil Films de Femmes Film Festival, the daughters of Italian film editor Suso D’Amico were present at a special screening of La Notti Bianche (The White Nights, 1957), by Luchino Visconti. The film that was written and edited by D’Amico stars Marcello Mastroianni as Mario, a young man hopelessly in love with Natalia, a young Italian woman played by Maria Schell. She has waited one year for her lover to return, "L'inquilino" - the tenant, played by Jean Marais, and is desperately in love.  Pilar Miro's The Cuenca Crime (Spain 1980) was screened at the festival about the shepherd Grimaldos who was murdered at the turn of the century. Two of his workers are falsely accused of his death by the police and a corrupt judge and are tortured for committing this crime. The men who are savagely broken down and made out to be savages.
The late actress Maria Schneider was honored on March 29th with a short tribute. A short film from 2005 and an inte…

The 33rd International Créteil Films de Femmes Festival

Image
By Moira Sullivan The 33rd International Créteil Films de Femmes Festival in Paris continues to produce one of the highest quality panoramas in the world on the images of women in cinema. This year, the focus of the festival is on the work of women who have explored the theme of fascism in Europe. The films of Italian director Cecilia Mangini were shown including short films set to the texts of the late filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, such as Ignoti Alla Citta, from 1958, (Unknown to the city) where excerpts from Pasolini’s controversial novel Ragazzi di vita (Hustlers) shocked Italians in 1955 with his depiction of the decadence of youth, and families in the suburbs of Rome. Another film entitled Stendali (1960) is a funeral song in Griko, the dialect of those of Greek origin in southern Italy.  Mangini was co director with Lino Del Fra and Lino Miccichè in the brilliant 1962 documentary All’Armi Saim Fascista (To arms, we are fascists) assembles films from the archives of the 20th centu…

64 Festival de Cannes

Image
By Moira Sullivan

The 64th Cannes Film Festival ended last Sunday night with the awards ceremony. The Mistress of Ceremonies who both opened and closed the festival Mélanie Laurent who starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds brought out the official jury again to announce the winning films. Robert De Niro was "Mr Presidente" of a jury composed of writers, actors, directors and producers. Among them, Uma Thurman, Jude Law and the daughter of Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman  - Lin Ullmann
It was fun to hear De Niro call his jury companions - compagnons  - mushrooms (champignons) in French. Some years ago when Michael Moore won the Palme d’Or for Fahrenheit 9/11 there was some controversy over the jury decision headed by Quentin Tarantino. So the jury met with the press to discuss their choice.  This had never been done before. The jury process had always been private. The tradition has continued since then. 
This time it was regarding why The Tree of Life by Terrence …