Showing posts from March, 2007

One Quick Afterthought on the Iras

There was a very amusing discussion at one point in last night's festivities (see posting below) when we began to try to name the oldest director ever to make a feature film. Right now the evidence is strong for Manoel de Oliveira, whose Belle Toujours graced last year's New York Film Festival. Oliveira was born in 1908 and will celebrate his 99th birthday on December 11 of this yaer. He has three films in various stages of production right now. I think he is clearly the winner and, delightfully, is one of the world's great directors, still seemingly at the peak of his considerable powers. I have no idea what his secret is, but I suspect that his slow start -- one film in 1942, then nothing until 1963 -- may have something to do with it; he's just been saving up all the stuff he needed to say.

Eric Rohmer, who will be 87 on April 4, is another great cineaste who is hanging on for dear life. Although he announced that Triple Agent would be his last film, he has a new o…

The Iras March On

Yes, another year has come and gone and the 2006 film awards season reaches its latest end ever. That is to say, the Iras were held last night and this is definitely the latest we've ever waited. Hey, 626 movies were released in New York City last year and it takes some time to catch up, right?

Or more accurately, we're a bunch of over-committed but lazy bastards and finding a weekend that was okay for everyone -- well, it just isn't possible as last night's depressing turnout reminds me. We had twelve voters, but only eight physically present. (Obviously those in the room felt the need to take up the slack; we finished at 1 a.m. which is the latest I can recall in many years.)

All joking aside, we have been doing this for 32 years and no single voter has attended every one of those Ira evenings. I missed one in the '70s because I was acting in a Eugene O'Neill play (one of my very few leads); Damien Bona boycotted a year in protest of our having given the Best A…

This, That and the Other Thing

Consider this a general housekeeping post. I've been spending more time in Rockland County than at home the past week, introducing four programs, with two more yet to come. So I have seen very little other than the films on offer there. And of the six I'm speaking about for the JFF, four of them I've already covered here, and the other two haven't opened theatrically yet. So, rules and good manner being what they are, I'll wait to offer a full review of either King of Beggars or SteelToes, other than to say that the former is better than I'd feared, a painless dose of action cinema, while the latter, a Canadian first feature by David Gow and Mark Adam, is a startlingly good two-hander with stunning performances by David Strathairn and Andrew Walker. I also saw Black Book, Paul Verhoeven's first Dutch film in 23 years. I'll reserve comment until my review appears in Jewish Week when it opens on April 6.

A few pieces of news worth relaying. First, my pal M…

All Quiet on the Upper Western Front

Between the run-up to the Iras (which take place March 24) and the Rockland County Jewish Film Festival (which starts Saturday evening), not to mention a brutal case of jet-lag amplified by the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, I haven't seen anything at New Directors/New Films this week and am very unlikely to remedy that failing. In fact, I haven't really seen any new films in a couple of weeks.

However, I can recommend the double-bill currently on display at Film Forum, Blockade and "Amateur Photographer. "

Here's what I wrote for Jewish Week (not on their website, unfortunately):

Gerhard M was an avid amateur photographer. It was a hobby that helped him document his daily life in Nazi Germany and his activities on the Russian front as a member of one of the Nazis’ infamous Field Order police units. It also got him convicted of war crimes and executed in 1952.

“Amateur Photographer,” a striking new short film from Russia, recounts his story in his own words and…

Back Home Again (Not in Indiana)

In fact, I slept through Nebraska.

Santa Barbara is an idyllic locale, with that splendid but rare combination of ocean and mountains. It's a well-to-do community that takes its appearance pretty seriously and, as a result, is quite pretty (except for the oil rigs off the coast). Definitely a great setting for a film festival, albeit a smallish one. I spent two lovely days being told how smart I am, which is nice for any writer, even if I don't entirely believe it.

As for the films, a nice little selection, although few of them are new. The Israeli drama Out of Sight, by Russian emigre Daniel Syrkin, is definitely worth a look. And you can catch it (and me) at the Rockland County Jewish Film Festival this weekend.

Syrkin's previous directorial work has been for Israeli TV. Out of Sight, his first theatrical feature, is an adroitly crafted film, a sort of psychological thriller about a blind doctoral student who returns home to Tel Aviv from Princeton for the funeral of her c…

King of the Road; New Directors on Display

I'm not sure how Abbas Kiarostami fits into the "contemplative cinema" paradigm, but I suspect he does somehow. There is a fair amount of "mere" architecture and landscape in his films but, as in the cases of other practitioners of this model, they serve a distinct purpose. For Kiarostami the key venue is the road. Most if not all of his films are journeys, usually with a purpose that is only revealed gradually. Right now, the Museum of Modern Art is engaged in a satisfyingly comprehensive program of his film and video work and an exhibition of his photography, which is highly atmospheric, as you might expect. (There's a series called Roads and Trees, which could be the title of any of his films.)

For Kiarostami the road is not a metaphor, the journey is not an allegory. These are concrete realities, situated in a precarious world that is frequently disrupted by earthquakes, hostile animals and screaming, narcissistic children. He approaches these phenomena …

A Quick Note (for a change)

I received an e-mail the other day that should interest some of you. Cahiers du Cinema is going to do an English-language edition, which will appear on-line starting 3/9 at Right now it's a blank page that says "site under construction."
They are also doing an hard-copy version which is supposed to be on newsstands on the 7th.
For those of us who have been paying about $10 a month for the French edition and then struggling through each issue with our feeble college French (okay, it's not that hard, but I know I'm missing tons of nuance), the idea of a $5 version of the same in English is a double relief.