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Showing posts from 2023

Diana Nyad's Big Swim

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By Moira Jean Sullivan Nyad is now out on Netflix starring Jodie Foster and Annette Bening about Diana Nyad, a courageous 60+ woman who would not give up her dream of swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Miami. The film tackles the universal question of how great athletes co-exist with their environment. The answer is that nothing exists in a vacuum even a famous solo swimmer in a volatile ocean. A dynamic skilled team is assembled to work with Nyad including her personal assistant Bonnie (Jodie Foster), young deep sea swimmers who put up shark screens, a marine biologist who's well versed in the dangers of jellyfish, John Bartlett - her navigator, and others in a team of about 40 people who accompany Nyad on this Olympian swim to Miami. It's not a straight trajectory with several setbacks before she finally succeeds. It's a plus that the film is set up like that but one can't help being a bit irritated with Nyad’s egotistical personality though there are compelling

Lizzie Borden: Guest of Honor at 45th Créteil Film de Femmes

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Born in Flames (1983) © Lizzie Borden Lizzie Borden was guest of honor at the 45th Créteil Films de Femmes festival held March 24 to April 2. Her work was enthusiastically received by a new generation of cinéastes with seminars on her trilogy of films: Regrouping (1976), Born in Flames (1983) and Working Girls (1986). Born in Flames ’ relevance today is illustrated by its intersectionality of race, gender and class that debunks the myth that feminism was a 'white women's movement'. Featuring Kathryn Bigelow as a member of a youth socialist feminist journal, the setting is 10 years after the Socialist Revolution in the US. Borden took seven years to make the film and acquire funding. The brilliant editing of Born in Flames resembles the 'choreographic' editing of Borden’s first film, the documentary Regrouping made in 1976 on four artists in a women’s group. During the course of the film project, Borden introduced other women into the original group and created

Georgia Oakley's 'Blue Jean' explores homophobia in Margaret Thatcher's Britain

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Blue Jean is set in 1988 after Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government has introduced Section 28, a clause of the Local Government Act which seeks to prohibit “the promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities across the United Kingdom. The clause is directed towards the 'pretend' relationships of lesbians and gay men. Jean is a a high school gym teacher who must keep her life as a lesbian secret at work and cannot risk being open about her relationship with Viv (Kerrie Hayes)   even to her family. The film style by director/writer Georgia Oakley has the look and feel of a film from the 80's. Shot in 16mm the cinematography spotlights run down housing and establishments and an atmosphere that reeks of the butchery of human rights.  Oakley creates an authentic environment at the high school where Jean works. The script written by Oakley is directed towards internalised homophobia of the characters. The enrolment of a new student Lois (Lucy Halliday) who begin

Mary Harron guests San Francisco Film Festival with 'Daliland'

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Mary Harron was a special guest at the San Francisco International Film Festival in April.I had the opportunity to interview her from Sweden after returning from the Créteil International Women's Film Festival in March 24 – April 2. Harron is probably one of the best female auteur filmmakers who writes and directs her own films. She has a very eclectic body of work and her latest film is Daliland about the Spanish filmmaker and surrealist artist Salvador Dalí.  His signature in popular culture is his extravagant looking moustache turned up at the ends held in place with hair oil.  Dalíland takes place when Dalí is 70 years old with flashbacks to his younger years with his muse and Russian wife Gala and the mature Gala is played by the magnificent Barbara Sukowa. Dalí is a curiosity for young people, but he does not impress the film critics of his time when he was in his 70s. He is shown milling around at celebrity parties in the art world where people show up to be seen at a

France’s National Audiovisual Institute (INA) and Ciné-Tamaris create platform for Agnès Varda's footage for film students.

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At the 76th Cannes Film Festival it was announced that more than 60 hours of rushes of Agnes Varda’s 2000 documentary feature The Gleaners and I will now be available for the next generation of international filmmakers thanks to a new educational initiative from France’s National Audiovisual Institute (INA) and Ciné-Tamaris (Agnès Varda's company run by her daughter Rosalie Varda).  The five-year project offers students a bilingual platform available 24/7 where they can view and download the complete collection of rushes in addition to the edited film in addition to educational materials like photos and press kits from the period of the film’s release.  The innovative indexing technique uses artificial intelligence and documentary engineering techniques, applied for the first time to film footage. Students will be able to search for words and pull footage with specific images or merge unused interviews with footage that did make it into the film to create their own spin.   

Aki Kaurismaki's 'Fallen Leaves' wins the heart of Cannes and Jury Prize

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Aki Kaurismaki's new film  Fallen Leaves  is a comedy in a world he feels has very little left of humanity. He wastes no time to not give his opinion about other filmmakers or even his own films that he never sees -- all except Chaplin who he says is the best due to his simplicity. That sums up the Finnish director whose simple responses to questions about the world, other filmmakers and his own work is deadpan humor of the highest order. And in subtle ways he explains aspects of his provocative fimmaking, such as that he is was not able to choose the music he likes -  Screamin' Jay Hawkins - because 'the Yankees want too many pennies". A simple revelation like this says a lot about the huge stretch between his work and commercial films that are funded without a thought to expense.  In  Fallen Leaves,  Alma Poysti plays Ansa, a middle aged supermarket clerk who "risks falling in love no matter how old she gets". She meets a construction worker named Holappa

Jane Fonda gives Master Class on female centric filmmaking and climate change at Cannes May 27

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By Moira Jean Sullivan Jane Fonda was a guest at the 76th Cannes Film Festival for a Master Class on May 26 in Salle Buñuel. The following evening she was called on to present the Palme d' Or from the official jury. For young people today she is an important major star. Many of this new generation knows her through Grace and Frankie with seven seasons from 2015 – 2022. She spoke about the trajectory of her career and her evolution from "a blonde with a lot of hair" to a young woman that wanted to be a tomboy and ride horses". Cat Ballou (1965) was one of her first films that she liked making because of it. Four films were made with her first husband, French director Roger Vadim such as Barbarella (1969)   but Fonda dismissed them as unimportant because she was basically unaware of herself as a woman. In the 1970's her focus turned to civil rights, women's rights and activism. During the Vietnam war she made a political feature Tout Va Bien by Jean-Lu

Pastel colors and cartoon characters in Wes Anderson's 'Asteroid City'

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Wes Andersson's  Asteroid City  premiered at Cannes to a standing ovation on May 23 at the the Grand Théatre Lumière. Featuring an ensemble cast shot during August and October 2021, the film is set in 1955 where 3070 years ago  an asteroid fell to earth in the US southwest desert populated by saguara and mesas. To commemorate this landing, Asteroid City is home to the national Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention attended by parents and students on annual Asteroid Day. It is also the site of a US government astronomical observatory. As a huge dark grey mushroom cloud appears in the horizon, the visitors to  Asteroid City  become subject to a lockdown.  The threat of an event eclipsing the atomic testing of the 1950's sends the guests into panic.   The look and feel of the film is almost cartoon like bleeding the faces and clothing of the actors into soft pastels. The aesthetically pleasing aspect of the film also features visual effects by CG artist Tharun Joseph Abraham. 

Marco Bellocchio's 'Kidnapped' debuts at Cannes on the abduction of Edgardo Morara by Pope Pius IX

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By Moira Jean Sullivan            Marco Bellocchio's dramatic narrative  Rapito  (Kidnapped) premiered at Cannes where the award winning and esteemed Italian director spoke about why he chose the project about a Jewish boy kidnapped by the Papal states in 1858.  Baptised Catholic by a servant, after failed attempts to convince the boy's parents to raise him as a Christian, Edgardo is kidnapped by the Inquisitor of the Holy Office Pier Gaetano Feletti (Fabrizio Gifuni) for Pope Pius IX (Paolo Pierobon). Edgardo's parents (Barbara Ronchi and Fausto Russo Alesi) are unable to see their son for months. Bellocchio, who is a non-practicing Catholic, read the story and was deeply touched and wrote the script with Susanna Nicchiarelli, Edoardo Albinati and Daniela Cesellin based on Daniele Scalise's novel  Il Caso Mortara.  Since it is well known that Steven Spielberg had begun a film project on the kidnapping, Bellocchio was quick to point out that it was based on another bo

'New voice' prize goes to Omen, directorial debut of Belgian musician Baloji

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By Moira Jean Sullivan Un certain regard 'new voice' prize goes to Omen, directorial debut of Belgian rapper Baloji   Omen  (Augure), the first feature film by Belgian-Congolese musician and actor Baloji, won the “New Voice” prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival. The film screened May 22 with a rich visual language previously experienced in Baloji's music videos and heard in his electrifying four part masterpiece, the soundtrack for  Augure . This innovative directorial debut is the story of Koffi (Marc Zinga) who decides to return to his home in Lubumbashi in the Congo with his partner Alice (Lucie Debay).  Pregnant and expecting twins, Koffi's family do not welcome them. Koffi was rejected by his mother early in life because he showed signs of being a Zabola (Swahili: Magician) or demon. The film's poster features a Zabola in a haze of pink smoke. Other actors in  Omen  are Eliane Umuhire as Tshala and Yves-Marina Gnahoua as Mama M

Linda Haynes and Rolling Thunder - an actress worth a retrospective

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By Moira Sullivan Quentin Tarantino likes to revitalise actors from film classics. His time working in a video shop gave him the opportunity to see films that are otherwise not very well known to today's Netflix and other popular streaming outlets. He not only knows cult films well but his sets often pay homage to the 70s and 80s. Today's pop streaming culture caters to a whole generation of young film fans do not have the opportunity to enrich their knowledge of film with cult classics. Tarantino can't rediscover everyone. Two actors he has helped are not my favorites - John Travolta ( Saturday Night Fever 1977 to Pulp Fiction 2004) and Christophe Walz (nothing comes to mind from before - to Inglorious Basterds (2009). They will always have Tarantino to thank for their rebooted careers. When it comes to female actors Tarantino brought Pam Grier to the forefront in Jackie Brown (1997) who was a vital presence in B films such as Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon new 4K release for Silver Anniversary

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By Moira Sullivan It has been 25 years since Ang Lee’s epic 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon' was released.  The stunning aerial cinematography and martial arts kinesis choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping with cinematography by Peter Pau were sensational on its release and still hold magic. The film won Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography, Best Original Music Score, and Best Set Decoration at the 2001 Academy Awards. Now a new 4K restoration of the film is out in the Bay Area.  The film stars Michelle Yeoh (Yu Shu Lien), Zhang Ziyi (Jen Yu), Chow Yun Fat (Li Mu Bai) Cheng Pei Pei (Jade Fox) and Chang Chen ('Dark Cloud' Lo). However this story comes across in broad strokes on the screen the subtleties show that it is actually about three skilled female warriors Yu Shu Lien, Jen Yu and Jade Fox whose talents have been eclipsed by their teachers, fathers and brothers. It is exciting to reintroduce this background with the new restoration. It is as powerful as know

Florian Zeller's 'The Son' tackles youth depression

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By Moira Sullivan Florian Zeller is an exciting director who has made two relevant and meaningful films about difficult subjects. He explores a daughter's relationship with her father who has Alzheimer's in The Father (2020), and in The Son (2022)a father's relationship with his chronically depressed young son. His latest film provides a painful look at a tortured young man. The seemingly bottomless pain is seldom so openly revealed. Even if Hugh Jackman as Peter is excellent, the stellar performance is Zen McGrath as Nicholas, Peter’s son. The film debuted at Venice in September. While it seems to be Peter’s new marriage to Beth (Vanessa Kirby)and their new infant that has made Nicholas majorly depressed it could also be the bust up of Peter and Kate (Laura Deren) Nicholas’ parents. The film script sets up plenty of draconian evidence for why Nicholas is depressed with flashbacks to when the original nuclear family was harmonious such as on idyllic holidays. But, Nic

Oliver Hermanus' 'Living' in San Francisco Landmark Theatres

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By Moira Jean Sullivan  © Sony Pictures Classics Living is a finely crafted film set in England in the 1950s by South African director Oliver Hermanus based on  Ikiru (To Live),  a film made in 1952 by Akira Kurosawa inspired by a novella by Leo Tolstoy The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886). The British version of Living in full regalia is now in San Francisco Landmark Theatres written by Nobel prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro with rights granted by the Kurosawa estate. Ishiguro who has seen Ikiru many times before fused his own memories of Britain’s pre-and post-War culture in this latest production. The setting is an England being rebuilt after the war and focuses on the efforts of the government planning department to renew the façade and structures of London. Aimee Lee Wood and Bill Nighy   © Sony Pictures Classics Bill Nighy plays veteran civil servant Williams, a bureaucrat in a city department. He is head of a small team commuting to London by train on weekdays