Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hired Gun- new documentary by Fran Strine opens in San Francisco June 29

By Moira Sullivan

Fran Strine worked on his documentary “Hired Gun” for three years, where he interviewed 55 backup musicians to major artists such such as Alice Cooper Metallica and Pink. They are referred to as "Hired Guns" - assassins - and are the best around that go on music tours with major artists. According to one artist there are about 20 musicians - hired guns - on every single record that everyone ones. The reality of their lives and the ups and downs of their careers are captured by the filmmaker. It was Strine’s ambition to make a different documentary with profiles of the inner lives of these excellent musicians. Two of the interviewees are the drummer Liberty DeVitto and guitarist Russell Javors. Both of them worked for and were replaced by other musicians by Billy Joel –De Vitto had worked for him for 30 years. Nita Strauss, one of the hired Guns featured in the film, has played for Alice Cooper, Jermaine Jackson, Femme Fatale Critical Hit and the The Iron Maidens. She reports that you have to be "on point all of the time".

A hired gun is usually hired at the last minute and so Fran STrine emphasizes that these have to be the best - not only a great musician but someone with a personality that helps to make a great gig. And that means being great every time to keep getting gigs.

The documentary is unique in giving us a backstage view of "Hired Guns" -the unsung heroes who make major artists sound great. There has not been such a focus yet and Fran Strine hits a home run in his assemblage of these musicians that make rock gigs rock.

The film will be shown as special one day event on Thursday June 20 produced by FATHOM EVENTS in theaters across the US and her in the Bay Area it will be at AMC Van Ness in San Francisco and theaters in Daly City 20 and Century at Tanforan in San Bruno. But it is going to be an exceptional one day screening with the best sound theaters, with sound mixing by Lucas Skywalker Ranch.

Fran Strine was overjoyed when Lucas actually asked to mix the sound for the film and it was one of many aspects of this riveting rock spectacle that fell into place. Originally a photographer, Strine is an excellent videographer and was on tour with the heavy metal band "Five Finger Death Punch". That includes their extensive tours national and internationally.

The crystal clear image of "Hired Gun" on widescreen projection with photography by Gavin Fisher with super sound mixed by Skywalker Ranch is sure to be one of this year major rock music video events.

Here now is San Francisco local Fran Strine in an exclusive interview for Movie Magazine International. (interview follows).

Directed by: Fran Strine
Release Date: June 29, 2017
Run Time: 90 Minutes
Rated: RG
Country: USA
Distributor: Voltage Productions

© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/28/17
Movie Magazine International


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Haneke's tale of family misfortune at Cannes

By Moira Sullivan

Happy End by Michael Haneke is one of the least interesting films by the Austrian filmmaker. Selected for the official competition at the Cannes Film Festival last May the film is about the Laurent family living in the French port of Calais, a wealthy family whose fortune is run by Ann Laurent, played by Isabelle Hubert and headed by 80 year old George Laurent (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who is suffering from dementia and is alone after smothered his wife with a pillow in a mercy killing

The film features a wide variety of dysfunction: Ann’s alcoholic son Phillipe beats up a worker at the family construction business, her father is chronically suicidal, her brother Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) has remarried and is cheating on his new wife already, and the young daughter Eve (Fantine Harduin) from Thomas’ first marriage comes to live with the Laurent’s with her own baggage. Her mother seems to have been poisoned by Eve evidenced in a video she takes with her smart phone. Eve later becomes suicidal herself. Not only is the family recording each other but surveillance cameras scope out the estate.

Anne plans to marry the family lawyer played by Toby Jones and her estranged son Franz shows up with refugees to the celebratory dinner. There is much screen time spent with smartphone text messages and email messages between Eve’s father and sadomasochistic lover.

The overexposed cinematography of the film suggests a family with no secrets since everything is out in the open in broad daylight. On top of all of these problems in a family with vast financial resources Haneke sets their misfortune in a port town with a refugee camp. Haneke's use of the camp as a backdrop serves no other purpose than to demonstrate the inequity between a bourgeois family in a huge mansion, and refugees with no land or home. But reality pierces the unending misery of the Laurents since Annes son Franz is critical of the family he is born into and their sense of entitlement and brings some of the refugees home to dinner. The title of the film reinforces the inability for the Laurent family to experience genuine happiness for each other or to win any sympathy from anyone looking on.

© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/21/17
Movie Magazine International


Takashi Miike's 100th film at Cannes Film Festival

By Moira Sullivan

It was with great anticipation that the 100th film made by the Japanese master director Takashi Miike Blade of the Immortal would screen at a midnight showing at Cannes in May. Clearly making 100 films does not necessarily confirm that each will be of quality. In fact, for several years Takashi Miike has shown considerably less prowess than in his earlier films such as Audition, Zebraman, Ichi the Killer, Izo, Masters of Horror - films from seven to two decades ago.

Blade of the Immortal is based on a manga about a skilled Samurai warrior during the Edo era, Manji (Takuya Kimura) who becomes immortal after a legendary battle. During this epic event of bloodshed, his sister is brutally murdered. Manji decides to avenge her death by helping the young girl Rin Asano to avenge the death of her parents, a girl who looks much like his dead sister (played by the same actress (Hana Sugisaki). Rin’s parents were killed by the evil warrior Anotsu (Sôta Fukushi).
As immortal legends often do, Manji is doomed to fight the same battle over and over with Anotsu and save Rin in the process. Each time he fights, the scenario is changed but the battle only ends in the same dismal failure with what looks like thousands of warriors being killed over and over. They brandish not only double swords but katanas, spears, chains and axes but weapon diversity does no compensate for a senseless repetition of events. It makes Manji’s life as an immortal painfully boring.

It is equally tedious to see Rin in fight after fight not learn any new battle skills to assist Manji instead of cringing in the corner as the battle proceeds. This would have made Blade of the Immortal a more spectacular film, but martial art scenes with women seem taboo - even fantasies from the Edo era. Even if it does not match with the historical period, women samurai warriors are plentiful in Japanese history and this would have made the 100th film much better.

© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/21/17
Movie Magazine International

Frameline41 draws to a close

Jayne Mansfield in "Mansfield 66/67". Frameline41. Used with permission.

By Moira Sullivan

Towards the end of the Frameline are several films worthy of mention. On June 22 "Hot to Trot" will be screened at the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley. The film is directed and produced by Gail Freedman. This is a look back documentary at four international dancers as they enter same-sex ballroom dance competition at the 2014 Gay Games: the Costa Rican Ernesto, Russian Nikolai New Zealander Kieren and the American Emily .

On June 23 is "Signature Move"  at the Castro Theatre and June 24 at Landmark Theatres in Piedmont directed by Jennifer Reeder. Zaynab Qadir , a Muslim lawyer is involved in lucha libre-style wrestling. She is a member of Chicago’s Pakistani community and unbeknownst to her family is a lesbian. Next door neighbor Parveen tries to match Zaynab with a husband, afer spying on her with binocularsAt the same time Zaynab meets the former Chicana wrester Alma (Sari Sanchez) and a real romance is brewing.

On June 24 at the Roxie, the best feature film at the 2016 TIFF film festival will be screened: "Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves", directed by Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie. This is a fictionalized account of the aftermath of the 2012 “Maple Spring” student protests in Quebec. The activists used anthrax hoaxes, public defacement, and homemade explosives to get their message across.

Back by popular demand is Season 1 – episode 195 Lewis 0 of the popular TV series BKPI . It will screen as "Woke Women MixTape" on June 24 at the Roxie. The cast includes Mo (Hye Yun Park),  a lesbian Korean American health aide, Dawn (Celine Justice), an African American MTA worker, and Iram (Dina Shihabi), an Arab American bodega owner. The trio works to solve crimes within the immigrant population in Brooklyn.

A new documentary on Jayne Mansfied - "Mansfied 66/67" directed by P. David Ebersole & Todd Hughes on June 24 at the Castro features interviews with Peaches Christ, John Waters, Kenneth Anger, Tippy Hedren and more. The film also looks at Mansfield’s relationship with San Francisco’s Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan and circumstances that might have led to her death.

Playing about the time of the Dyke March on June 24 The Devil is in the Detail short film program by international artists on lesbian themes.

Closing Night Film "After Louie" – is the debut feature of Vincent Gagliostro. The film's protagonist Sam (Alan Cumming) hails from the onslaught of HIV/AIDS and is skeptical of a younger generation of gay men and their lack of political commitment or conviction but when he meets the young Braeden, he becomes open to possibilities.  Alan Cumming will be the recipient of the 2017FRAMELINE AWARD on June 25.

© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/21/17
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Frameline41 San Francisco LGBT Film Festival June 15-25

By Moira Sullivan

The largest ongoing LGBT film festival in the world, Frameline41, the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, will take place June 15-25, 2017. This year there are films from over 19 countries and the good news is 40 percent of the films are made by women directors. Here are some highlights:

The OPENING NIGHT Film and Gala on June 15 is THE UNTOLD TALES OF ARMISTEAD MAUPIN  directed by Jennifer Kroot. This will be the Bay Area premiere. Armistead Maupin will be in attendance and is warmly remembered for his Tales of the City. The film includes interviews with Sir Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis and others.

AFTER LOUIE - Closing Night Film, on June 25, the debut feature of Vincent Gagliostro in a West Coast Premiere. The film's protagonist Sam (Alan Cumming) hails from the onslaught of HIV/AIDS in the 80's and 90's and was an ACT UP activist. He is skeptical of a younger generation of gay men and their lack of political commitment or convictions but when he meets the young Braeden, he becomes open to new ways of thinking. Alan Cumming will be the recipient of the 2017 FRAMELINE AWARD.

CENTERPIECE features include BECKS by Daniel Powell and Elizabeth Rohrbaugh. When Becks' lover leaves her for a younger woman she moves home with her ex-nun mother played by Christine Lahti  - and when she least expects it finds romance in the Midwest. Plays on June 21

CHAVELA is a documentary directed by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi about the famous Costa Rican Mexican singer Chavela Vargas who died in 2012. She was in several of Pedro Almodóvars films and sang the soulful "Paloma Negra" (Black Dove) in Julie Taymor’s 2002 film "Frida". Screens June 19.

I DREAM IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE (Sueño en otra idioma), which won the Audience Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival concerns a fifty-year feud between speakers of a a dying indigenous language in Mexico. June 20

Other noteworthy films are THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P. JOHNSON by David France, which investigates the 1992 death of transgender pioneer Marsha P. Johnson. In the course of making the film interviews her friend and comrade Sylvia River both instrumental in the modern trans rights movement. June 22.

THE FABULOUS LIFE OF ALLAN CARR, by Jeffrey Schwarz, is the story of the successful producer Allan Carr who was behind productions such as "Grease" and the Broadway hit "La Cage aux Folles", but who screwed up when producing the 1989’s Academy Awards ceremony, which is considered one of the worst Oscars. Walt Disney sued when Carr paired Snow White (Eileen Bowman) singing with Rob Lowe among other blunders.  June 18

For Whitney Houston fans WHITNEY. “CAN I BE ME”, by Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal, is a stark portrait of the late artist with never before sceen footage of her life. June 20

One classic film not to miss is LOOKING FOR LANGSTON, by Isaac Julien, a digital restoration of the 1989 poetic treatise of the Harlem Renaissance. June 19. Another is Donna Deitch's classic lesbian romance DESERT HEARTS from 1985 in a new digital restoration.

GIRL UNBOUND, by Erin Heidenreich takes a look at a high ranking female squash player in Pakistan who has been playing since here teens but had received death threats from the Taliban but who refuses to stop. June 18.

There are many more films at the festival that deserve mention and these are only a few of the excellent choices made by programmer Des Buford who is planning to retire from the festival after many years of service and go on to new opportunities.

© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/14/17
Movie Magazine International

Agnès Varda wins “The Golden Eye” for best documentary at Cannes

By Moira Sullivan

Agnès Varda won “The Golden Eye”prize for best documentary, at Cannes on May 27 for her latest film, Visages Villages (Faces Places), produced by Varda’s production company, Ciné Tamaris, and Rosalie Varda.

The style of the film is candid and forthcoming emphasizing the things we take for granted, the people we don’t know about, and the heroic people behind the scenes who are worthy of our attention.

Together with the French street artist JR Varda travels throughout parts of France in a van with a huge camera painted on the side. JR makes huge posters on the sides of buildings or large objects, even though they may later disappear through rain, or the waves of the ocean.

In their van, Varda and JR meet women who work in a cargo ship container company and their images are pasted onto the containers. Seen from afar they show the women behind the men who stack these large objects The artists visit the brick homes of a mining ghost town that would have been forgotten if not for a woman who refused to move. Her image is pasted onto her home. A huge piece of metal from a ship on a beach gets a facelift, but by the next morning, it is gone.

JR seems to remind Varda of the frivolity of JL Godard – for on their travel itinerary they play to pay him a visit. With his favorite pastries from a local bakery in hand, as expected, Jean Luc refuses to answer the door. It is clear that Varda is disappointed but his absence is not missed as the veteran filmmaker does not work as either of the artists and would have been a departure for their journey.

© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 6//14/17
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

'Invincible' Godard biopic at Cannes

By Moira Sullivan

One of the special memorable films at the Cannes Film Festival this year that ran from May 17 -28 was Le RedoubtableRedoubtable or the Invincible – directed by Michel Hazanavicius. The French director is acclaimed and known for his award winning The Artist starring his wife Bérenice Bejo – who is also in this film – a colorful and entertaining film about Jean Luc Godard. It evokes the time period of the 60s and Louis Garrel’s Godard is convincing.

Redoubtable is based on the memoirs of Godard’s second wife Anne Wiazemsky played by Stacy Martin. The time period is 1967 when Godard is 37 and is shooting his film La Chinoise starring his younger bride Anne. Redoubtable is also about the evolution of Godard as a political filmmaker who moved from his more accessible films such as Breathless with Jean Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg – an emblematic film of the French new wave with hand-held cameras , mobile tracking, nonsynchronous sound and lack of studio interference in the production of this innovative film.

As time went on particularly during the student protests in May 1968 in France, Godard was challenged to move from his comfortable position as a popular filmmaker into someone whose films were particularly formally challenging that were difficult to understand. This was necessitated by his political genesis into an artist with radical political viewpoints.

At this time, Godard is befriended by the Maoist Jean-Pierre Gorin and forms the Dziga Vertov group named for the revolutionary Russian filmmaker. One of the films he made during this time is La Chinoise starring Wiazemsky is one of their first films that espoused the views of Chairmen Mao. It is an artistic and public disaster. Anne Wiazemsky is seen in the woods where actors shout political slogans at her and she seems oblivious to their content. One could say that Wiazemsky gave off an aura of indifference to Godard’s evolution. 

During the Cannes Film Festival, Godard, FrançoisTruffaut, Louis Malle, Eric Rohmer and others protest that the festival occur while young people are rioting in 1968. They get the festival to shorten the event. Anne is shown vacationing at the home of a conservative general that Godard politically despises. When he wants to leave he is given a ride from someone he insults. These incidents infuriate Wiazemsky. She finds his moods increasingly exasperating and eventually wants to strike out on her own and make films with other directors. 

However, the emphasis of the film is always Godard, rather than the actress. Stacy Martin plays Wiasemsky and is successful in transmitting this almost air-like and vaporous young woman who does not seem capable of much insight. At the same time Godard is painted out to be someone indifferent to his surroundings and unable to take command of the identity crisis he finds himself in. He knows Anne will leave him before he begins their relationship and the film is about the destruction of their marriage.

© 2017- Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/21/17
Movie Magazine International


Cannes biopic on Rodin - distant sculptor

By Moira Sullivan

Many of the films at this year’s anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival held between May 17 and May 28 were not outstanding and there were several screenings I attended by veteran directors that were disappointing. Perhaps the festival put more emphasis on the parties for the celebrities who were invited, rather than the films that 4,000 journalists were there to critique. However, it is really a case of this is what directors are turning out, directors that return to the festival based on past laurels that have proven successful - accomplished directors that this year did not make the grade for high quality.

The first disappointment would be Rodin, a biopic on the sculptor Auguste Rodin directed by Jacques Doillon. The film was to open in theaters all over France the day it was screened at Cannes. The reaction by the audience was a universal boo. Now that Camille Claudel has been the subject of feature narratives, the lover of Rodin, Doillon takes a look at the sculptor who used women’s bodies as clay to mold for his sculptures. Although he also was fascinated by trees and liked to feel their shape, it is the feel of women who gave him the inspiration for his sculptures.

Doillon's film takes great lengths to portrait the uncomfortable poses young women are forced to make for his sculptures; in exchange for being the object of his work they have the honor of being his temporary lovers. All of them dream the same – to come to him at night. He is nothing to look at (played by Vincent Lindon) a 50+ man with a scraggly graying bushy beard and short hair, a pot belly, always dressed in a white smock that hides his body shape. The young women who surround him are usually nude. The two women who are clothed are his wife Rose (Séverine Caneel), depicted as an earthy peasant woman who loves dolls, and Camille (Izïa Higelin), his art student who in time claims he has stolen ideas from her. He most certainly has. As her demands for domesticity in this narrative increase, Rodin becomes distant turning to his nudes, putting them in grotesque positions that look as unnatural as his sculptures -  though they are have been historically been considered by male art critics as beautiful for their plastic depth.

Two projects are taken to task in Rodin. The Gates of Hell which required an elaborate mass of nude women, and during this time he attempts to create a statue of Balzac. The model for Balzac was a pregnant woman but Rodin was not satisfied and decided to throw his smock over the corpulent body. The statue of the famous writer was never popular and is now outdoors at an art museum in Japan where young children play, oblivious to Balzac. This is shown in an end note to the film.

The film began as a documentary directed by a man who knew very little about Rodin and with his fictive treatment attempts to bring him alive – as such, a womanizer and figurehead of modern sculpture. Doillon wanted the bodies to speak in the film but what is seen unfortunately is the male gaze of the cinematic style and the script, where women are subordinate to men. There are two cameras used and Doillon wanted to make the film mobile and dance around the actors. It was not uncommon for him to do 14 takes on a scene.

Claudel and Rodin are lovers for 10 years and we see them in love, but not in the collapse of their relationship. When Claudel presumably goes mad she is off camera. Doillon’s film does nothing to improve the reputation of Rodin so the thought is, did he want to take him off his reverent pedestal with this film?

© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/14/17
Movie Magazine International