Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The NY Jewish Film Festival and Beyond

As you can imagine, the New York Jewish Film Festival marks my busiest time of the year, three stories in as many weeks, with a large collection of films to see and write about. Here are the kinks to the stories, one, two and finally three. This year's event was a little disappointing overall, but there are several films that are well worth seeking out, either in the festival or afterwards. My personal recommendations would be: Restoration, My Father Evgeni and Daas. In a perfect world, all three would be picked up for US distribution. (Heck, in a perfect world I would be -- oh, never mind.)

Looking ahead, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art have announced seven selections for this year's New Directors/New Films. I thought it was worth passing along the titles because the geographical spread gives you an interesting picture of the state of cinema in the new year:

Representing nine countries from around the world, the initial seven selections are Karl Markovics' BREATHING (Austria), Anca Damian's CRULIC: THE PATH TO BEYOND (Romania), Julia Murat's FOUND MEMORIES (Brazil/Argentina/France), Pablo Giorgelli's LAS ACACIAS (Argentina/Spain), Joachim Trier's OSLO 31, AUGUST 31ST (Norway), Alejandro Landes's PORFIRIO (Colombia), and Angelina Nikonova's TWILIGHT PORTRAIT (Russia).

Finally, you may have noticed the presence of the Straub-Huillet film The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach on my top 100 list a few weeks back. Unfortunately, the great Gustav Leonhardt, who played Bach -- in both senses of the phrase -- in the film, died yesterday. It's more of a loss for the music world than for film, but I thought it was worth noting.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Even Filmmakers Have to Eat

A job is a job. Several of the nouvelle vague directors made commercials. I've some of Godard's and they look more like his films than they do like advertisements. (I believe you can find some of them on YouTube.)

Now, the excellent Open Culture website has soap commercials by Ingmar Bergman and several rather charming commercials made by Federico Fellini at the end of his career. The Bergmans are downright weird, featuring a Swedish actor who is a ringer for Cliff Arquette doing his Charley Weaver character. Makes you wonder why we never saw Ingmar on Hollywood Squares.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Village Voice Fires J. Hoberman

When I was a young film critic and a student at Columbia the holy grail for me was having a byline in the Village Voice film section. I never did manage that feat, but the Voice remained my benchmark for mainstream film criticism for many, many years. Then the current owners, aptly described as the New Times syndicate, took over the paper and quickly put their stamp on it. Like when a thug stamps on your face.

They remade the paper by firing or forcing out as many of the regulars as possible. The Voice went from being on of the fearless progressive voices in my town to being a glorified shopper that was distinguished primarily by its utter irrelevance.

The one exception was their retention of Jim Hoberman as their lead film critic. And now, he is gone as well. (Read the story on IndieWire here.)

I don't know what idiotic master plan the syndicate had and has, although I'm sure that break the strong union presence at the paper was a big part of it. What I do know is this: the Village Voice ceased being a meaningful participant in the life of New York City six years ago when the carpetbagging bastards from New Times began to destroy it. With Hoberman gone, it is equally irrelevant to film culture in America, which it once defined. It's a free rag, so I can't tell you not to buy it, but you don't have to patronize its advertisers, and you can let them know why you are withdrawing your trade.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

My Small Contribution to the Advancement of Documentary Film

Several months ago, I was honored by being selected for the panel choosing films to receive funding from the the Foundation for Jewish Culture's Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film. Needless to say, it wasn't something I could discuss openly or publicize until the results of our work were released for publication. That has come to pass, to put it biblically, and I can now direct you to information about the grant-making process and the films that we are helping out. When the films are finished and/or released, I urge you to support them. Right now, go here for more information.