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Showing posts from May, 2012

Cannes Report 2: Dracula in 3D!

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By Moira Sullivan
After seven days of the Cannes Film Festival, the party for the celebration of cinema‘s best showcase of new cinema shows no sign of letting up. The real Cannes is nothing like what you find on line. For starters, the red carpet is short, there is a small space around you and although there are a hundred photographers, it doesn’t feel like that. I was able to experience this first hand as a member of the Queer palm jury this year, a parallel but independent section of the festival. Being on the jury has its advantages. For example, last night I was given a Red carpet ticket for Miike Takeshi's surprise screening - narrative based on a manga about a young boy with a scar on his head, worse than Harry Potter. Ai To Makato, a youth tale considered a romantic comedy.
On May 20th I climbed the red carpet also to acknowledge a beautiful film about a couple in their eighties who have been music teachers: Love by Michael Haneke. One day Anna played by Emmanuelle Riva sudde…

Cannes Report - Holy Motors, Paperboy and Rust & Bone

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By Moira Sullivan

Holy Motors, a film presented in the official selection yesterday at Cannes, is probably in a class of its own and has caused a lot of discussion.  It does need to be discussed, however, and maybe it is the best thing to happen to the Cannes Film Festival competition this year. It is beyond the character-driven narratives of the official selection and is a cinematic rarity.


Leos Carax' dystopia set in Paris is about a man whose job is assuming many identities and playing many roles each day. In the morning, Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), a middle aged businessman, is picked up in a stretch limo. He leaves a beautiful mansion and is chauffeured by Céline (Eva Scob) all day. On his seat is a notebook with his first job. Some of the assignments include going to the Père-Lachaise cemetery where there is a photo shoot of a beautiful model (played by Eva Mendes). Monsieur Oscar now wears a red wig and has one false eye and grotesque fingernails. He is barefoot and walks…

Cannes Opens with Moonrise Kingdom

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By Moira Sullivan


What you can hear in the background is the music from a bar in one of the many Cannes parties being given and you can also hear the waves from the Mediterranean washing up on the shore. I was just at a party for one of the publicists, who just had a birthday. This publicist is dealing with several films for the festival including a new film by Jackie Chan. 
For 12 days the city of Cannes is an inferno of media, fans, celebrities and press. It’s hard to believe that over 4000 media can crowd into the facilities at the Palais, but in fact they do, somehow. For some days, some are here and leave, and new ones come.  There is a great line up of films, and I am saving some of my energy for Dario Argento’s Dracula in 3D that will be screened on May 20, a special favorite. But everything has to begin somewhere.
Today I had the privilege of seeing Tilda Swinton. The first day of the Cannes Film Festival featured the opening film Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson. It started off…

Gelso d' Oro to Silenced at Far East Film Festival14, Udine

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By Moira Sullivan

The Gelso d’Oro , the public prize for the best film at the Far East Film Festival (FEFF14 - April 20-27) went to South Korea’s courtroom-drama Silenced by HWANG Dong-hyuk, 2011. The tough and true story of the abuse of hearing appeared children that enraged the Korean public was also voted best picture by Black Dragon accredited film critics at the festival.
Second place, went to the Taiwanese road movie to the highest point in Tibet. One Mile Above, from Taiwan by Jiayi Du.
The Korean war drama The Front Line won the bronze medal. Just before the armistice is signed between North and South Korea in the 50s the soldiers engage in one final and unnecessary battle with each other.
MYmovies.itchose the Japanese farce about bathhouses in ancient Rome and modern Japan Thermae Romae, which was presented in Udine as a world premiere.
This year Hong Kong filmmaker Johnny To won the coveted "Lifetime Achievement Award". The 57 year old filmmaker presented his latest fi…

Far East Film Festival 14, Udine Italy, Report 1

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By Moira Sullivan 
The Korean drama Sunny was featured on the opening day of the Udine Far East Film Festival in Italy, which runs from April 20-28. A renowned and excellent extravaganza of popular films from Asia, this festival is now in its 14th edition. The title of the film comes from the hit single "Sunny" (performed by Bonie M, and written by songwriter Bobby Hebb - 1966). The story is about a seven-member girl gang who meet years later when one from the group is hospitalized with a grave illness. The film revisits the first day of school for Na-Mi who hails from a small town in the Jeolla province and moves to the capital city Seoul.  Na-Mi quickly makes friends with six other young women who come to her rescue from classmates who otherwise would have bullied her for her dialect. Na-Mi quickly fits in with the gang comprised of the excellent fighter Choon-Hwa, heavysetJang-Mi, and Jin-Hee - skilled in the use of profane language, the literary Geum-Ok, future Ms Korea Bok…

Warren William Magnificent Scoundrel of Pre-Code Hollywood - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan

When we watch old movies on the late show, one of the questions that comes to mind is, “Are any of these actors still alive?”  For fans of films made in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the answer to that question is usually no, with a few exceptions among the youngest members of the cast.  One of the busiest actors of that era was Warren William who specialized in playing smartly-tailored rogues. 

John Strangeland has written an absorbing biography “Warren William Magnificent Scoundrel of Pre-Code Hollywood” for McFarland Publishing Company, revealing a wealth of fascinating details about this sensitive, thoughtful actor.  “The Mouthpiece” made Warren William a star in 1932.  Vincent Day was a part that demanded both flamboyance and restraint.  Edward G. Robinson and other Warner Brothers actors had turned down the role, which only made it all the more appealing to Warren William.  Interestingly, Robinson did appear in a 1955 remake, “Illegal”, a well-made lower-key effort …

The Charlie Chan Encyclopedia - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan

Fans of Charlie Chan (and there are more of them than you may think) are a fairly discrete group.  Whenever there is even a whisper of a rumor to reactivate the series, focus groups pounce on the prospect as if it were the worst idea ever.  Why didn’t a Chinese actor play Charlie Chan?  He did in Chinese language Chan films.  Doesn’t the series reinforce racial stereotypes?  Read the books or watch the movies.  Charlie Chan is a clever, patient investigator.  Whenever he senses resistance to his polite, persistent methods, he tells the resisters to cut it out with quiet, firm courtesy.  Charlie Chan doesn’t cut corners, brawl or rely on car chases to catch killers.  He disarms them with tried and true techniques so unobtrusive, they’re barely noticed. 

Earl Der Bigger’s novels are precise, colorful and entertaining.  The 20th Century Fox films tried to capture their flavor and usually succeeded, thanks to sharp scripts, careful direction and vivid character actors.…

British Film Noir Guide - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan

“Film Noir.”  The words, meaning “black pictures”, come from French movie critics, enraptured by low budget black and white American productions of the 1940’s and 1950’s.  In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, film noir festivals became brisk money makers for archives, repertory theatres, video and DVD distributors plus countless late night broadcasters and cable programmers.

Unsurprisingly other copyright holders of vintage European titles wanted to get in on this profitable phenomenon.  Michael Keaney’s “British Film Noir Guide” from McFarland Publishers provides noir buffs with an illustrated guide to noir efforts across the pond. 

One of Keaney’s favorites (and mine) is “Black Narcissus” which shows the struggle of 5 nuns to keep their faith in Calcutta.  The film is not a pro or con argument about nuns.  It shows how women cope with their emotions in a different environment with a very different climate.  The leader of the group, (Deborah Kerr as Clodagh)…

Charles McGraw: Biography Of A Film Noir Tough Guy - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan

I can think of few movie gangsters I admired as much as Charles McGraw.  He was the real deal.  Larger than life, riddled with conflict, blessed with a sandpaper voice and a face to match, McGraw was born to play film noir.

“Charles McGraw: Biography Of A Film Noir Tough Guy” by Alan K Rode reveals the difficult personal life of McGraw as a backdrop to his long successful career.  McGraw’s vulnerability was alcohol.  It led to his accidental death in 1980 after 77 movies during a 35 year film career.  Marie Windsor told me in an interview conducted during the 1990’s: “I loved working with Charlie McGraw on ‘The Narrow Margin’ and no, he wasn’t drinking.  I want you to know that.”  Anyone who watches Charles McGraw’s carefully shaded performance as Walter Brown will see a character bursting with resentment at his job and grief over the violent death of his partner.

Being a hard-drinking tough guy on screen was one thing, playing one off-screen was a long, slow, pain…