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Showing posts from 2014

Carlos Sauras' "Flamenco, Flamenco"

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By Moira Sullivan Opening Dec 26 at Landmark Opera Plaza is a rare film by the Spanish Veteran filmmaker Carlos Saura called “FLAMENCO FLAMENCO”. At the screening  Nina Menendez, artistic director of the 10th Annual Bay Area Flamenco Festival , will introduce the films.Saura made the Flamenco Trilogy of the 1980s (Blood Wedding, Carmen,a ndEl Amor Brujo). This 1995 film is in the documentary format and filmed by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro who has worked on many films such as Last Emperor and Apocalypse Now. I was struck by the performers –musicians and dancers and the extraordinary professionalism of ensemble as filmed by Storaro.
For the uninitiated, this is an excellent introduction to the art form of flamenco.
Saura filmed at the Seville Expo ’92 Spanish pavilion commemorating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus (1492-1992).
Paintings by artists such as Goya, and Picasso and Klimt serve as backdrops to famous flamenco dancers and…

Norwegian North Sea thriller 'Pioneer'

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By Moira Sullivan

Norway prides itself on its economic independence and always boasts that it has its fish and its oil and is financially solvent for years to come. Pioneer is a Norwegian film by Erik Skjoldbjærg that looks into just how Norway got its oil and the subject is pretty fishy. The technology to build a pipeline came from the USA and in this film the clandestine operations that were behind the creation of a pipeline in the Norwegian sea are taken to task.
Set in the 80’s, Norwegian deep sea divers embark on a mission to install a gas pipe.  This involves time ina real-life decompression chamber on an oil rig. The film centers on Petter (Aksel Hennie) and his brother Knut André Eriksen) who risk their lives to discover oil for Norway. The cinematography evokes the time period with its grainy almost yellow film stock and the film has the dramatic form of a thiller, although based on a real life story. While in the compression chamber, an accident occurs and Petter is relent…

New Italian Cinema at the San Francisco Film Society

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The San Francisco Film Society presents another weekend of new films from world cinema, New Italian Cinema.  Opening Night is Nov 19 featuring two short films of Edoardo Ponti, who will be in attendance. The first is The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars, starring Julian Sands, Nastassja Kinski and Enrico Lo Verso.Kinski plays Sonia, an unhappy married woman and Lo Verso plays Matteo, both of whom have underwent cardiac surgery and meet after six months in the Dolemites of northeastern Italy.
In Ponti’s other short film, the magnificent Sophia Loren stars in Human Voice based on a play by Jean Cocteau’ as Angela. Loren gives a brilliant solo performance as a woman who speaks on the telephone with the man she loves who is leaving her for another woman. It is to be their last telephone and Loren executes every line as a master of acting. 
Asia Argento’s Misunderstood also screens on Nov 19, a film that was selected for the "Un Certain Regard" section at the Cannes Film Festival…

United Nations Association Film Festival turns 17.

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The 17th UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival), will be held from October 16-26, in Palo Alto, Stanford University San Francisco. This year the theme for the festival is "BRIDGING THE GAP", and to that aim, high quality films will be screened
on human rights, environmental themes, population, migration, women’s issues, refugees, homelessness, racism, health, universal education, and war and peace, all in all 70 films from all over the world.
These are some of the outstanding film this year, that explore cultural writers, celebrities, scorned leaders and the manipulation of images created by media that drives public opinion.
“Regarding Susan Sontag”, a film about the late intellectual and cultural critic will be screened at Stanford University on Oct 18. The film made by Nancy Kates skillfully weaves archival footage with testimony of the people who remember her life. Actress Patricia Clarkson reads Sontag’s own words from her writing. Sontag was an open critic o…

Bertolucci Film Series at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco

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By Moira Sullivan

On Saturday October 18 a special film series dedicated to Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci will be screen at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. The program is organized by the Istituto Luce-Cinecittà in Rome, the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco and program director Amelia Antonucci. (Last year Antonucci presented a film series on Pier Paolo Pasolini with the same sponsors, and actor Ninetto Davili was a guest).
Four films including the centerpiece, a3D screening of a newly restored version of THE LAST EMPEROR will be screened that was presented for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival last year. In honor of this occasion, actress Joan Chen who appears in the film,will be present at the Castro to see the new version for the first time. Joan Chen plays Empress Wanrong,the wife of Pu Yi, the last emperor of China . The Japanese government proclaimed Puyi as the first Emperor of Manchukuo and Wanrong as Empress in 1932. Wanrong, whose husban…

Yasoumi Umetsu’s 'Kite' set to live action

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By Moira Sullivan

Kite is a sci-fi revenge thriller, a low budget property of Harvey Weinstein,starring Samuel L Jackson as Detective Karl Aker, and 20-year-old India Isley, as Sawa, a deadly teen assassin who is a hit girl for corrupt detectives and bad guys.Set in the future, this is a live action rendition of Kite Yasoumi Umetsu’s anime with human traffickers and rampant corruption. Umetsu from Fukushima Japan is best known for his anime Kite and Kite Liberator.

Sawa wants to forget her parents were murdered, and at the same time is out to revenge their death. Amp is a drug she uses to suppress memory and Sawa is hooked. Deep within Sawa is the orphan who lost her parents in a gory murder. Karl Aker, her father’s partner, looks after her, as does a young fellow assassin who knew her parents, Oburi played by Callan McAuliffe.

Sawa is a skilled fighter and plows through the targets for whoever hires her. Her specialty is her use of bullets that penetrate the body and cause it to expl…

“These are the Rules” by Ognien Svilicic takes home best actor award in Venice Orrizzonti

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By Moira Sullivan
The Venice Film Festival, which ended on September 6, screened an exceptional film in the Orrizzonti section: “These are the Rules” by Ognien Svilicic, a Croatian, Serbian and Macedonian co-production. Set in modern day Zagreb, the film is about a middle age couple, Maja and Ivo (brilliantly performed by Jasna Žalica and Emir Hadžihafizbegović) whose teenage son Tomica (Hrvoje Vladisavljević) returns home early in the morning and locks himself in his room. The couple is routinized. but not without affection towards one another and certainly towards their son. Ivo is a bus driver and Maja, a housewife. They go through the daily rituals such as preparing lunch - cutting vegetables and setting the table even with this new development preoccupying their minds. Knocks on Tomica’s door are in vain when finally he emerges clearly pretty beaten up in the face. His concerned parents take him to the emergency room and the attending physician barely looks at him or even takes …

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence wins Golden Lion in Venice

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By Moira Sullivan

The big news from the "Venice Film Festival" that ended on September 6 is that Sweden’s best arthouse filmmaker after the late Ingmar Bergman, Roy Anderssonwon the Golden Lion for his film A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. It comprises 39 separate but thematically connected sketches on two traveling salesmen and is part of a trilogy of films that began with his grand prize at Cannes in 2000 (Songs from the Second Floor). After that Andersson was hard at work again crafting a by now clearly recognizable product as far as form and content is concerned. “You, the living” (2008)was made seven years after his Cannes award and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence completes the trilogy.
Andersson’s work is so completely different from anything that directors in Sweden are producing today that he is comfortably in a class of his own. His feature films follow the same visual style since 1991 with his film entitled Härlig är Jorden , &quo…

'Force Majeure' at Cannes

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By Moira Sullivan

The Swedish Entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar is FORCE MAJEURE by Ruben Östlund. It was part of the Official Selection of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize Winner during Pablo Trapero’s reign as Jury President for this division.

Swedes love to travel to the French Alps and this typically Swedish family takes time out for such a winter holiday. They are first snapped by a professional photographer on the slopes and look like the ideal family with father, mother and two children. The holiday, however, seems uneventful and routine, almost sterile in the depiction of traveling up the alps by ski lift and down by skis, retiring to the hotel room and piling in the bathroom with the family brushing their teeth together. Only the hotel cleaner knows that something is amok with this family who wind up spending time outside the room and eventually have a major family crisis.

It is customary at ski resorts to blast the snow to bring on fre…

Cannes Film Festival Report 2

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The 2014 Palme d'Or went to "Winter Sleep" by Nuri Bilge Ceylan on May 24. Ceylan is a veteran who has received other runner up prizes. The universal appeal of "Winter Storm" with many philosophical comments about life spoke to the jury headed by Jane Campion. The presenters of the top award, Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman, were in Cannes for the "Cinema de La Plage" (cinema on the beach) screening of "Pulp Fiction". "Pulp Fiction" was a milestone in film history, but the night belonged to Ceylan whose film is a 210 minute morality tale about a former actor who runs a hotel in remote Anatolia. As winter approaches, he is alone with his young wife and her sister going through a divorce. The cold weather makes the hotel not only a shelter but a site where the three must confront their feelings.

There were critics who would have preferred that the Palme d’Or went to Xavier Dolan from Canada who seemed likely to become the younges…

'Movie Magazine International' at Cannes

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Movie Magazine International will again be at the Cannes Film Festival, this time for the 67th festival held from May 14 to 25th with Jane Campion as Jury President. The festival started off with the debut of the out of competition film "Grace of Monaco" directed by Olivier Dahan and starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelley, and Tim Roth as Prince Rainier. The film will not be released at least for now in the US according to distributor Harvey Weinstein. The Royal Family of Monaco has boycotted the Cannes festival because of the film, which takes liberty with details about life of Grace Kelley. It is generally understood that Grace Kelley was ambivalent about her life as a princess in Monaco and was homesick for the US, and preferred speaking English as much as she could. Dahan claims that his film is not a biopic, but reality, and that the film is about cinema. Critics have blasted the film, not because of the controversy but because of the shallowness.

Dahan brought Marion C…

Young and Beautiful and Formulaic

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By Moira Sullivan
*Spoiler Alert*

Debuting at the Cannes film festival last year in the official competition was Young and Beautiful, in French young and pretty (Jeune et Jolie) a typically French film involving lots of sex with a beautiful woman. It displays the kind of homework that Lars von trier could have done for his film Nymphomaniac Volume 1and Volume 2. This time it is Francois Ozon who missed some classes on his subject. His tabloid film form of four seasons and four songs does not succeed in imbuing the film with any notable quality. It is the film where every scene is filled with the beautiful face of his lead actress 24 year old Marine Vacth. As such it is a role that will bring her forward in her career and even like Catherine Deneuve who transcended playing the beautiful prostitute from home, and not from the street, (Belle de Jour, France 1967) it will be the cornerstone of Vacth's by which all subsequent films will be judged.

The 17 year Isabelle has sex for the…

Nymph (O) maniac Volume 2 = (0)

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By Moira Sullivan

I reported on Nymph (O) maniac Volume 1 by Lars Von Trier last week and will now review 'Volume 2' of this project by the Danish director who has brought talented actors such as Stellan Skarsgard, Uma Thurman, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Jamie Bell to the table. The second part of the film opens this weekend at the Landmark Theaters in San Francisco.
To be in a von Trier film has its rewards and virtues. It is usually a fast lane to Cannes, and to international attention in the film market.What you should know about both volumes is that von Trier doesn't really know what a nymphomaniac is. As Seligman (Skarsgård), says to Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), "you’ve had sex with hundreds of men - why would one more make a difference" as he attempts to force himself on her. Joe is a woman making a confession of her deeds through the years to this supposedly insightful and sympathetic man. The entire time we are made to believe that there is an engaging rel…

On My Way

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By Moira Sullivan
For the past several years, Catherine Deceive has not chosen films where she can be a diva; she is an actress that is interested in doing good work. That doesn’t bar others from others seeing her as a cult goddess. She made her career in early films such as Belle Du Jour in which she plays a high-class prostitute who in actuality is a bored housewife. Films like this brought her to fame, but in later years she began to play  women who were realistic.

There is a mystique around Denueve and in part she has contributed to it but in her latest films she lets her hair down and takes on roles that don’t always put her in her best light. Her latest film is On My Waydirected by Emmanuelle Bercot (scriptwriter for jury prize winner at Cannes Polisse, France 2011).  Deneuve provides a personal touch. She plays Bettie, a former beauty queen (Miss Brittany) who soon after winning is in a car accident of major consequences. She then decides against running for Miss France.

Years…

Von Trier's NYMPHOMANIAC (misnomer) - Volume 1

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By Moira Sullivan

The press conference with Lars von Trier after the screening of his 'in competition' filmMelancholiaat the 2011 Cannes gave insights into the workings of his mind. There had been a lot of discussion about the comments that led him to being banned from the festival that year, bungling comments in bad humor that came across as anti-semitic, and it was obvious to all that the Danish director has poor people skills. Claiming his next project would be a porn film with Kirsten Dunst (who immediately said no) and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the two actresses in Melancholia smiled nervously and laughed away the alleged film that von Trier was planning. That film is now out in limited release, Nymphomaniac, Volume 1.
The claim that von Trier writes “great parts for women” is not altogether true unless you applaud him for writing parts for tortured women. One of von Trier’s early student films is about an old man who preys on young women.Charlotte Gainsbourg plays a woman wh…

The Girls In The Band - Movie Review

By Monica Sullivan

For music lovers who don’t know any better, girl bands tend to be a supplement to a study of the real bands, conducted and staffed by men.  “The Girls In The Band” is an illuminating film about real bands conducted and staffed by women.  Once upon a time, Ina Ray Hutton was one of those band leaders.  She was not a musician but she knew how to assemble and organize a good band, and she could dance, which added to her group’s appeal.

During the forties, when many male musicians were serving in the military overseas, great girl bands were welcomed and appreciated onstage.  Offstage, they faced the same problems as the men, suspicion and all the assorted pitfalls of one night engagements.  Some chose to remain on their touring buses when they weren’t performing: it was easier than dealing with racial bigotry, and endless hassles with hotels and restaurants.  After the war, a number of gifted female musicians chose to leave their bands and move into teaching.  The wome…

The Slipper And The Rose - Movie Review

By Monica Sullivan

Not too many people know about "The Slipper and the Rose" and that's a shame.  To be sure, there's a surfeit of "Cinderella" movies on video shelves competing for our attention, but this version has always been among my favorites.  It was originally released at 146m., an uncomfortable length for children, and reissued in 1980 at 127m.  The late 1970's were not a particularly receptive time for musicals, unless they reinvented the genre, like "Saturday Night Fever", "Grease", "Rock'n'Roll High School", "All That Jazz", "The Blues Brothers" or "Fame."  "The Slipper and the Rose" was definitely a musical out of its time.

There's much to appreciate in Bryan Forbes' valentine to the classic fairy tale, though.  For one thing, there's Richard Chamberlain as Prince Edward.  Then in the swashbuckling phase of his long career, Chamberlain is clearly havin…