Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Agitprop - Noir with a Message - at the Roxie


By Moira Sullivan

The organizer of several excellent special programs on film noir at the Roxie in San Francisco,  Don Malcolm,  hosts films he calls Agitprop and says we can learn from especially given the political climate of today. (Part of the A Rare Noir is Good to Find series). Prior to the present administration where human rights are at stake films like these were relics from the past reminding us that social justice was abused by the discriminatory legislation and institutions that defied human rights.

Racist and anti-Semitic vigilante groups that worked to meter out abuse is the subject of the film Open Secret, directed by John Reinhardt, a B film noir classic from 1948 starring John Ireland. A newly married couple Paul and Nancy Lester bunks down in the apartment of an old friend who never returns. They become embroiled in discovering there is a clandestine operation that seeks to snuff out Jews from the community and make their life difficult with constant harassment. Photographs taken by the old friend are incriminating evidence developed by a Jewish shopowner across the street and a roughhouse gang will do anything to get their hands on them. Nancy (Jane Randolph) can be counted on to scream at just the right moment, and Paul (John Ireland) is determined to get to the bottom of this. The claustrophobic set design has people living nose to nose with neighbors. There is also a nosey landlady Miss Trissdam (Anne O’Neal). It is interesting to note how the shady gang manages to keep hidden in a dark basement seated around a table making dastardly plans lead by Carter, played by versatile veteran character actor Arthur O'Connell. The crusaders of justice are the newlyweds, and Detective Sgt. Mike Frontelli played by Sheldon Leonard.

Also in the program is an episode of the TV series from the early 60’s The Defenders, (1961)  about a father and son law firm - Lawrence and Kenneth Preston-  starring E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed. Reed has little to do in this trial where a physician Dr. Ernest Montgomery (Robert Simon) is in custody for performing illegal abortions. The women who are called as witnesses have either had abortions or were counseled against having them including the underage Sarah played by Kathleen Widdoes. Lawrence Preston as chief counsel for the defendant is an intelligent bold and shrewd lawyer whose case is heard by the sympathetic and humanitarian Judge Burton Henshaw (Judson Laire). The emphasis is on the young women who volunteer to be witnesses and speak on behalf of their doctor.

Edward Dmytryk, who grew up in San Francisco made I in 194,  the third film in this special series. Dymtryck was later blacklisted in Hollywood for refusing to cooperate with the House on Un-American Activities (HUAC), and was one of the Hollywood Ten. The film concerns the murder of a Jewish Man Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene), which is investigated by Detective Findlay (Robert Young). Findlay’s sleuthing leads him to a witness who is crucial for the defense played by Graham. Robert Mitchum plays Sergeant Kelley. The film is an important example of film noir because it brings into question whether noir is really noir if it has a message.

May 2 though 8 the Roxie Theater hosts more films from the A Rare Noir is Good to Find series and will be reviewed next week on Movie Magazine International.

© 2017 - Your Name - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 04/26/17
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

70th Edition of the Cannes Film Festival


By Moira Sullivan

The 70th Edition of the Cannes Film Festival runs from May 17 to 28 with Spanish director Pedro Almodovar presiding as President of the Jury of the Official selection. Also noteworthy is the Mistress of Ceremonies for the event, a gender title which sounds unworthy of Italian actress Monica Bellucci.

The festival poster this year is Italian actress Claudio Cardinale dancing on the rooftops of Rome in 1959. Already stirring controversy is the airbrushing of the poster that diminished the waist and thighs of the actress. This didn’t bother Cardinale who identifies as a feminist and said that she is proud of her body image in which she dances film-- this is just a representation she said Presiding over the Camera d’or jury as president for a director's first work jury is Sandrine Kiberlain French actress who has worked with the French director Laetitia Masson where she won the most promising actress at the 1995 French Cesar wards and in 2013 and 2014 she won Cesars for the best actress.

In the official selection three women are among the 22 directors – Sofia Coppola The Beguiled, Lynn Ramsey, You Were Never Really Here, and Naomi Kawase Hikari (Radiance). All three directors have been invited with their films previously into the official selection.

Coppola's film stars Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning Nicole Kidman, and Colin Farrell. Set during the civil War in Virginia in 1864, a wounded Union officer arrives at a Confederate girls school and charms all the women. The film has previously been made by Don Siegel in 1971 starring Clint Eastwood as the soldier, which was not a particularly noteworthy film but Coppola must have her reasons for doing it again, as we shall see.

Naomi Kawase was nominated for the Palme d’or in 2014 for Still the Water, and this year Hikari is about a photographer with a wandering eye who meets a socially reclusive woman.
Lynn Ramsey, You Were Never Really Here Stars Joaquin Phoenix as a war veteran who tries to stop a young girl from becoming a victim of a sex trafficking ring.

Male veteran directors to Cannes this year include Michael Haneke, Le RedoutableTodd Haynes Wonderstruck, Greek Director Yorgos Lanthimos The Killing Of A Sacred Deer and François Ozon L’amant Double.
Other sections of the festival include Un Certain Regard whose jury is presided over by president Marthe Keller Swiss actress, the director’s fortnight, and a special section called ACID –the association of independent filmmakers that has been created to give visibility to lesser known directors in hopes of theatrical distribution.

In a festival that is usually 70% men, it is with great anticipation that French director Agnès Varda will present a new film, Visages Villages out of competition. Another special event with be Vanessa Redgrave's directorial debut Sea Sorrow on the refugee crisis.

Special 70-year anniversary events include: Jane Campion and Ariel Kleiman’s Top Of The Lake: China Girl, The Second Season starring Elizabeth Moss, and also Nicole Kidman, the late Abbas Kiarostami's 24 Frames, and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Also highly anticipated is Kristen Stewart’s short film Come Swim that already debuted at Sundance.

© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 04/19/17
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hadas Ben Aroya's “People That Are Not Me” wins jury prize special mention at Créteil


By Moira Sullivan

The title of “People That Are Not Me” by young Israeli filmmaker Hadas Ben Aroya is intriguing for so many young women are like Joy, viscerally played by the filmmaker. Winner of the Jury Prize, special mention at Créteil Festival International de Films de Femmes 10-19 March, 2017.

The precociousness of youth is and is not wasted in this film, along with the spirit to experiment with stability and freedom in relationships.  Joy has just broken up with her boyfriend and becomes friends with Nir (Yonatan Bar- or ) and isn’t against dating other men. The focus of the film is on the passage of time by youth before establishment and also is about gender differences. The film comes close to not passing the “Bechdel Test” designed by Alison Bechdel. A film to pass the test requires two women with names who talk to each other about something other than men. In the scene that makes the film pass the test, Joy meets a woman at the bar of a nightclub she has frequented with Nir. Michal introduces herself to Joy, played by Israeli dance-theatre artist Hagar Onosh. Both women more or less have slept with Nir. Yet “People That Are Not Me” puts this test on alert because the film is overwhelmingly a stark portrait of a woman, and men are minor characters.

The “free” Nir seems fairly nerdy and it’s hard to see what Michal or Joy see in him. He is either busy on Facebook all day or working on his dissertation and spending time at the local nightclub. The fine print is that he is incapable of commitment which he willingly shares.

Joy works part time somewhere and spends her time on video art, and she can play a few chords on the guitar. Otherwise Ben Aroya’s film is a naked portrait of a frustrated woman whose emotions can be detected in every shot, a woman set up for failure in relationships, an engaging woman who is both tough and vulnerable surrounded by malcontents. The uncompromising intimacy scenes shown with regularity are raw and candid, just as every inch of Joy’s gestures and face - in every scene of the film.

The filmmaker has stated that the film is about the “non-unicorn” lives of her friends but they seem fairly common today in major cities such as San Francisco, Paris , London and Stockholm. The young people spend time in bars, have sex with each other, study and work in the modern arts or in web design. It is a universe of the youth scene in Tel Aviv that international audiences will be interested in learning about especially the introduction of this bold Israeli filmmaker.

Cinematographer Median Arama makes clean and uncompromising shots of interiors. Many of the scenes are along pedestrian lanes lined by cars and apartments, Joy’s apartment and the neighborhood nightclub. Arama’s use of confinement captures the mis en scène to convey just the right amount of distress for the characters, including a scene where Joy cathartically wrestles in bed with her ex-boyfriend. Editor Or- Lee Tal carefully arranges the shots, and it can be inferred that Hadas Ben Aroya stands for the production design. All three are students at the Steve Tisch School of Film at Tel Aviv University.

© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 04/05/17
Movie Magazine International

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