Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cannes Report 2: Dracula in 3D!

By Moira Sullivan
Daria Argento and Thomas Kretchman in Dracula in 3D

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 suddenly loses her memory and stares into space. A trip to the hospital does not reveal much other than she needs a small medical procedure.  After the unsuccessful operation she is left to the care of her devoted husband Georges, played by Jean Louise Trintignant.

The deterioration of his wife’s health is sorrowful for him to observe and the way that he deals with his caretaking role is beautifully told. This film is a sharp contender for the Palm d'Or.

As a member of the Queer Palm jury I was also able to see some films in the International Film Critics Awards. Augustin by one of two women directors at the festival, Alice Winocour,  is about a  young woman who has epilepsy, played by French singer Soko . She comes to the attention of a gynecologist, played by Vincent Lindon, who examines her and helps us to come to grips with her illness. We learn  how the concept "theater" developed from doctors sitting around  patients, usually hysterical women as they are called. For the doctors,  the observation of women is a spectator sport.

Another film that was striking was The Hunt by Thomas Vinterberg from Denmark about a young divorcé with a teenage son who finally gets a stable job so that he can share custody of his child with his estranged wife. The job is at a day care center for children and one day the young daughter of his best friend reveals that she was molested by him. The entire city goes haywire.

Dario Argento's Dracula in 3 D was exciting to watch for several reasons. There hasn’t been an Argento movie for awhile, it casts Thomas Kretchman, who gives good romantic reason why he should be reunited with Mina and it also stars Argento's daughter Asia Argento.

Next week a closing report of the Cannes film festival For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan Cannes.


© 2012- Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/23/12
Movie Magazine International

Cannes Report - Holy Motors, Paperboy and Rust & Bone

By Moira Sullivan
Denis Lavant and Kylie Minogue

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 with a cane. The photographer is so taken by the man that he asks to photograph him along site “Beauty”, as "the Beast".  He bites the fingers of the photographer's assistant and kidnaps "Beauty". Then he takes her underground where he dresses her in a burka. She does not protest, and he lays his head on her lap.

Monsieur Oscar is also a father with a daughter who he picks up from a party where she has hidden in the bathroom, a murderer who kills someone who looks like him in a garage, and an old man taking his last breath. Some of the scenes are so exquisitely composed that they are mind-boggling. Many parts of Paris such as Père Lachaise are the sites for various assignments, and symbolize different epochs of architecture such as the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and tract homes outside Paris.

The film clearly is an affront to motion capture cinematography with Monsieur Oscar in yet another identity dressed in a suit with dots enacting scenes that will later be made into video games and virtual reality. Leos Carax seems quite indifferent to this change in filmmaking. Kylie Minogue plays a woman who has the same job as Monsieur Oscar. They have only 20 minutes together and she sings a morose song.

Mr. Carax has made a visually stunning film with foreboding messages. The film is entirely subjective, but in French “motor” means “action” on a shoot. The entire film thus is a shoot with different sets.  Here, in this two - hour film, we witness the death of cinema, the death of pop culture, the death of industrialism, and the death of gender and the death of identity.  Because of its artistic content it will probably not open at a cineplex in San Francisco anytime soon, but is a feast for cineastes who want an experience and to assemble meaning in film rather than having it already prepared.
The critical response to the film was below average, as was expected. It opens in France on the French national holiday, Bastille Day, July 4th.



Lee Daniels
Near the end of the Cannes film Festival comes a film that just blows it all in a new direction, clearly the most visceral and well sculpted  film for that. Every shot is exquisitely executed and some of the montage sequences recall the principles of Eisenstein for the creation of pathos. "Paperboy" is a critty narrative, shocking in parts some of which are even repugnant. Seldom has such realistic stuff been arranged in a film. This film has it all: casting (Lea Daniels Butler), script, editing and cinematography.  Based on a novel by Peter Dexer.

Oscar winner Marion Cottilard plays a killer whale trainer who loses her legs in a water show in Jack Audiard's Rust & Bone.  The title means the particular taste of blood in one's mouth after taking a dunk on the head. And Cottilard's boyfriend played by Matthias Schoenaerts takes a lot of hits to the skull. The film is stunningly beautiful with excellent acting, editing by Juliette Welfling (The Hunger Games, A Prophet) and cinematography by Stéphane Fountaine (The Prophet). It is on the short list for one of the best films in the "Official Selection".

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/23/12
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cannes Opens with Moonrise Kingdom

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 well enough, but the film turned out to be a beautifully cinematographed step-by-step, drag out romp in the nature. Maybe as the Cannes Film Festival's opening film, it was appreciated because of its less than spectacular subject matter and its artistic decor.

It was supposed to have the feel of an ensemble acting theater troupe, that is what Bill Murray said at the press conference at any rate, which works fine on the stage, but not on film.
Two young people, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are cast in the leads, virtual unknowns and an unlikely couple to fall in love at that.  It’s not clear what they see in each other, but they both are outcasts in their families and beat up their peers when provoked. Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky decide to run away and leave their surroundings. For Sam, it’s a scout troop, and for Suz,y it's her family,

In fleshing out the characters, screenwriters Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola did a great job of creating some memorable cinematic moments - like Sam’s parents -Frances McDormand, calling her troops together in their New England home with a megaphone, or Bill Murray taking out his anger on a tree, then falling asleep on the job before putting on the final stroke with his ax.

Director Wes Anderson who has served up delightful farces such as The Royal Tenenbaums and The Fantastic Mr. Fox called back some of his favorite actors to star in this film about youth and dysfunctional families in New England.

Surprisingly enough, not one question was asked about the derivation of Camp Yawgoog, a scout camp for boys on Native American land on Narragansett Bay. The area, which sports historical Native American trails, has more than a postcard function. You have to get past all of that. This historical area is populated by scouts with scoutmasters like Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman and Edward Norton. The island is patrolled by a sheriff, like Bruce Willis. The island social services is headed by Tilda Swinton, looking more like a 50's movie usher in her matching royal blue outfit.

It is understandable that the actors, and storyteller Bob Balaban had a lot of fun making this film. Each scene is set up with impeccable detail. It would have worked far better to not have the usual rising action, falling action, and resolution. It's hard to feel any empathy with the crescendos and the relief is long coming as loose ends are tied up in the aftermass.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Cannes.
Hope you enjoyed the music and the waves!¨

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/16/12
Movie Magazine International

Monday, May 7, 2012

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

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.

Silenced wins FEFF14 Gelso D'Oro
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.it chose 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 film Romancing in Thin Air. 

The Friulian film festival  in Italy – “a rock-solid Asian outpost in the West” attracted over 50 thousand viewers at the Teatro Nuovo “Giovanni da Udine” theatre with 1200 seats, and 1200 accredited (journalists, critics, film students, experts, and insiders from 16 countries

At least 20 thousand people participated in numerous side events in downtown Italy such as martial arts demonstrations and at the Minnamoro discotheque, the after hours hang-out for festival fans. 

More than 100 volunteers helped out the staff of this prestigious quality festival that showcases the very best of new Asian films. Special film experts stationed in Korea, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysi and the Philippines cull the box office to bring amazing films to this medieval Italian city close to the Italian Alps. Nearby is the little town of Casarsa where Italy’s controversial and beloved filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini lived with his mother.

The Far East Film Festival is precided over by president Sabrina Baracetti and is part of the "Center for Cinematographic Expression" (Centro Espressioni Cinematografiche).  

Next week Movie Magazine will bring you an exclusive interview with Darcy Paquet, Korean film programmer and curator for the Far East Film Festival retrospective on Korean films from the 70s "The Darkest Decade".

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan , UDINE Italy

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/02/12
Movie Magazine International

Far East Film Festival 14, Udine Italy, Report 1


Abe Hiroshi in Termae Romae
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, heavyset Jang-Mi, and Jin-Hee - skilled in the use of profane language, the literary Geum-Ok, future Ms Korea Bok-Hee, and arrogant and perceptive Su-Ji.
Being a teenager is often painful and girls are cruel at this age. The pressures from home, school and growing up are formidable. At school, they find reasons to pick on any kind of difference and often judge each other on appearances, class differences or perceived lifestyles that clash with their own. The heteronormative upbringing is often homophobic and requires conformity. Girl gangs are sometimes a necessity for survival. Director Hyeong-Cheol Kang is adept in bringing these conditions to film and was present at the festival.  
As if the first day wasn’t enough entertainment, on the second day Hong Kong producer Johnny To was in town to present his new film Romancing in Thin Air – a film about a woman who lives in a hotel in the mountains and loses her husband. Then, her long time idol arrives who is suffering form alcoholism. She nurses him to back to health but must come to term with her loss that takes precedence over her fan worship. Johnny To also presented his latest project of several years, Fresh Wave - a Hong Kong mentoring program for young filmmakers including a short film festival, which is now partnering up with other international festivals.
On Saturday night a wild film about bathhouses - Thermae Romae was screened by Japanese director Takeuchi Hideki and made at Cinécitta in Italy. It features ancient Rome renowned for its bathhouses, and modern Japan and it’s contributions to this area. 
A retrospective of Korean films from the 70s entitled “The Darkest Decade” is featured with some rare films on the Korean psyche during this period. 
Other films include The Front Line by Jang Hun about a final maneuver by the North and South Koreans before the armistice is signed in the 50’s.  In The Great Magician, Derek Yee from Hong Kong has created a mind-boggling extravaganza of color and fanfare starring Tony Leung as a magician who outmaneuvers a warlord and his seventh wife. And from Thailand comes a story of ladyboys, MTF transgenders who experience heartbreak for choosing their lifestyle, but still keep their spirit, directed by MTF helmer Tanwarin Sukkhapisit in It Gets Better.
Next week more from the Far East Film Festival!

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 04/25/12
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, May 3, 2012

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 which does not quite pack the wallop of the original.  To watch William lose and re-gain his soul as a lawyer is an unforgettable experience.

Warren William was also famous for 1932’s “The Match King” as Paul Kroll, based entirely on Ivan Kreiger, a womanizing Ponzi schemer who destroyed many lives and international economies before his suicide in 1932.  Warren William played this heartless charmer to perfection, blending intense drive and calculated subtlety.

Left to his own devices, Warren William would have made many more comedies like “The Lone Wolf” than villainous character studies.  Imagine Perry Mason lying drunk in his office and still solving 1935’s “The Case of the Lucky Legs” and you get some idea of Warren William’s playful streak.  In real life he was madly in love with Helen, his much older wife, his three pet dogs (they all survived him) and his extremely happy home life.  On page 136, there is a picture of the actor at a Hollywood party, looking bored out of his skull.  Three dozen pages later he looks much happier with the pups Jack, Jill and Babs and they look equally happy to be with him.  Warren William also enjoyed working on his ranch and tinkering with inventions.  His work with carcinogenic chemicals undoubtedly led to his early death at 53 from multiple myeloma.  As he physically weakened, he accepted low budget films like “Strange Illusion” and starred in “Strange Wills”, a series of radio dramas.  John Strangeland's insightful, sympathetic biography packs many great Warren William stories into 230 pages.  For more information go to mcfarlandpub.com.
© 2012 - Monica Sullivan- Air Date: 03/06/12
Movie Magazine International

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.  That’s part of the reason I bought all the books and the Fox Collection when it became clear that broadcast television was skittish about airing the films, even though all the available titles had been beautifully restored. 

The paperback edition of “The Charlie Chan Encyclopedia” by Howard Berlin is a welcome addition to the Charlie Chan canon.  Berlin knows and loves his subject and in 1900 entries he supplies a welcome context for the golden age of Charlie Chan in Hollywood.  The photographs are sharp and well-chosen, although on page 111, a slinky picture of Marguerite Chapman is identified as Marguerite Churchill.  Berlin succeeds in showing why Charlie Chan was so popular in his heyday and also why he is still a source of interest for today’s audiences.  For more information on “The Charlie Chan Encyclopedia” check out mcfarlandpub.com.

© 2012 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 02/29/12
Movie Magazine International

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) is swept away by her romantic memories of lost love (lost in the sense that she loved him and he didn’t love her back).  Another nun (Flora Robson) is supposed to supply the convent with vegetables from the garden but, dreamily she plants flowers instead.  An unbalanced young nun (played to the hilt by Kathleen Byron) imagines herself in love with Mr. Dean (David Farrar) as a local man sent to help the group.  She also engages in a deadly power struggle with Clodagh, whose youth and inexperience leave her unprepared to cope with the violent undercurrents of insanity.  Why does “Black Narcissus” qualify as film noir?  Mainly because it gets to the heart of the noir universe, with nary a gunfight nor fisticuffs in sight.  A noir atmosphere is more about feelings and perceptions than it is about direct action and uncluttered decisions. 

“No Orchids For Miss Blandish” is a 1948 film heavily influenced by U.S. gangster lore.  Its star, Jack La Rue as Slim Grisson, had a long career in Hollywood and is perfect as a bad guy to whom a rich English Rose (Linden Travers as Miss Blandish) is irresistibly drawn.  English critics detested the picture, but American audiences liked it and Robert Aldrich remade it in 1971 as “The Grissom Gang.”

Michael Keaney likes the movies he likes and lets the other ones go, sometimes with just one sentence.  His dislikes are described in such a cursory fashion that I wondered why he bothered to include them at all.  1959’s “Beat Girl” is a subversive little film which women seem to appreciate more than men.  Keaney complains about the score (by John Barry, no less, clearly revving up his gears for the James Bond scores to come) and gives the rest of “Beat Girl” short shrift in a few disparaging sentences.

Still, the main aspect of a book like the “British Film Noir Guide” is that it supplies the reader with an overview of movies they might otherwise not even notice.    “Dual Alibi” with the great Herbert Lom playing two parts, “The Fallen Idol” revealing adultery through the eyes of a lonely little boy and “Frieda” which shows life in a British village through the eyes of a German war bride who is driven to despair by the prejudice and bitterness of her neighbors, are some of the titles receiving examination.  There are 369 entries, a useful start for any noir buffs.  For more information, check out mcfarlandpub.com. 

© 2012 -Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 02/12/12
Movie Magazine International

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, painful ride to the summer of 1980 and his bloody demise in his own bathtub.  It was called an accident, but it was so clearly one that was waiting to happen.  McGraw was convinced that he could, with effort, control his drinking, as he controlled his harsh, realistic, performances over the years.  McGraw believed he could accomplish this on his own, but the women who loved him knew better.  Alcoholics Anonymous was in the year of its infancy when Charles McGraw turned 21, and it would be many years before its educational materials were widely distributed.  Hard drinkers like Charles McGraw and his cronies, used to doing things their own way, might not have been receptive to outside help in any event.  This is the sad, dark and relentless side of Charles McGraw’s life and that of his family.  His finely etched performances on film will live long after him, of course, and Alan K. Rode does a thorough job with his biography of a film noir tough guy, now available from mcfarlandpub.com. 
© 2012 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 02/22/12
Movie Magazine International