Tuesday, June 12, 2018

"Vivid, Evocative & Surreal" New Film SUMMER 1993 Opens This Friday at AFS Cinema

SUMMER 1993 opens on Friday June 15 at the AFS Cinema. Tickets on sale now.

Spanish writer/director Carla Simón tells her own story in the dreamlike new film SUMMER 1993. In the film, we follow Frida, a precocious and observant six-year-old whose life is dramatically changed after the death of her parents.

Frida and her young cousin Anna play and fight together during lazy days of summer as Frida struggles to understand her circumstances.

Aided by cinematographer, Santiago Racaj, Simón uses her camera to bring us the unique perspective of life through the experience of a young girl. Instead of dramatizing a childhood tragedy, Simón explores a deeper experience of life during upheaval and the ways in which we make sense of these events.
We like the film a lot. But don't just trust us. The critics are pretty much unanimous in praise of the film, as the 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes attests. Here's what they're saying:

“Movingly understated and beautifully acted.” (NYT Critics Pick) – Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times

“An extraordinary and beautiful work of grief and memory.” – Kyle Turner, Village Voice

“A uniquely vivid and evocative kind of storytelling... SUMMER lives, breathes and succeeds on the expressive, instinctive work of its young lead actress.” Gary Goldstein, LA Times

“Simón achieves the rare feat of faithfully recreating the mysterious consciousness of a child… It’s a surreal spectacle, monstrous yet magical, combining qualities of childhood that are too often obscured by sentimentality.” Peter Keough, Boston Globe

Watch the trailer for SUMMER 1993 here:

Friday, June 8, 2018

Newly Restored Straub-Huillet Masterpiece Starts Sunday

The new restoration of the unconventional and austere music biopic by Jean-Marie Straub & Daniéle Huillet, THE CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH, plays this Sunday and the following Tuesday at the AFS Cinema.

Straub & Huillet take slow cinema to a new level with the film, which places the viewer into the same tempo of life that informed J.S. Bach's creation. This is a film that begs the viewer to stop and listen to Bach in a way you never have before, and to experience the life and times of J.S. Bach's wife and collaborator Anna Magdalena Bach.

Produced by Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette, CHRONICLE stands as a nearly forgotten gem of French cinema.

Here's the trailer:

Acclaimed 'Dark Nail Biter’ BEAST Opens Today at AFS Cinema

It's true. Most scary movies just aren't that scary. Atmosphere is often conveyed by a bunch of well-worn cliches, and the jump-scare is relied upon to create the thrills.

In the new British thriller BEAST, writer-director Michael Pearce avoids these superficial pitfalls and instead delivers a creepy work of real tension and fresh situations. It's half lovers-on-the-run story and half psychologically fraught murder procedural, and that's all good.

As a series of murders plague the strange island of Jersey, our protagonist Moll (played wonderfully by Jessie Buckley) entrenches herself in a world of love and violence. This is a good, smart, very scary movie. See it while you can at the AFS Cinema.

But don't just trust us, trust these professional movie critic people:
“The film is not so much a psychological thriller as a performance-driven portrait of a vulnerable-yet-ferocious woman in a very dangerous predicament, and the electrically intense Buckley is the actress to carry it.” Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Bathed in a shadowy beauty and slippery psychological atmosphere, BEAST soars on Ms. Buckley’s increasingly animalistic performance... This is lurid stuff, yet Mr. Pearce miraculously holds things together until the end” -Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times

“This dark nail-biter eschews the obvious at every turn and is less a whodunit than a twisted moral meditation grounded by its mesmerizing leading lady.” -Barbara VanDenburgh - Arizona Republic

“BEAST is, first and foremost, an inquisitive and empathetic character study, focused on the psychologically possessive qualities of belatedly unleashed sexuality.” -Guy Lodge, Variety

“Immaculately composed yet skittish, edgy and surprising, BEAST emanates a chill that will have you hugging your sides… Just when you think you’ve got it pinned down, it hairpins off in a new direction.” -Philip De Semlyen, TimeOut

Here's that trailer:


Friday, June 1, 2018

The Noir Canon Series, This June at AFS

For the second year, the AFS Cinema brings a summertime dose of shadowy moral ambiguity and proto-existential dread to movie screens with our Noir Canon series. These are the foundational, quintessential works of Film Noir, and before the first screening of each title, AFS Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen will introduce the work and explain some of the themes and their importance to the genre as a whole. The series begins tonight, Friday June 1, with a special screening of the Library Of Congress' excellent 35mm print of Jacques Tourneur's OUT OF THE PAST.

About the series:

In Paris, after the World War II Nazi occupation, American crime and detective films flooded back into cinemas after a four-year absence. The moral and visual darkness of these films caused French critics and audiences to coin a new term, film noir, to describe them. The narrative directness, visual sophistication and dark humor that characterized these films have made fi lm noir enduringly popular. With this series, we hope to share some of the foundational films of film noir and, in our introductions to these screenings, help people understand what characterizes the genre, what it meant to audiences of its time, and what it still says to us today.

OUT OF THE PAST (June 1 and 3)
USA, 1947, 1h 37min, 35mm
Jacques Tourneur, best known for his atmospheric horror films for producer Val Lewton, directs a superb cast (Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, Jane Greer, Rhonda Fleming) in this story of a former low-rent detective, established in a new, wholesome life, who is drawn back into the world of darkness he barely escaped.

IN A LONELY PLACE (June 8 and 10)
USA, 1950, 1h 34min, 35mm
Whatever genre he happened to be working in, director Nicholas Ray always found a way to make artful, psychologically rich work. Here, Humphrey Bogart plays a cynical, sardonic screenwriter suspected of murder. His neighbor (Gloria Grahame) is fond of him and provides an alibi, but is his darkness more than surface-deep?

THIS GUN FOR HIRE (June 13 and 17)
USA, 1942, 1h 21min, 35mm
The king and queen of noir, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, are paired for the first time in a thrilling, lightning-paced noir based on a Graham Greene novel. Ladd plays a blackmailer and murderer who is being shadowed and investigated by Veronica Lake, who has been enlisted by police to crack his shell.

THE BIG HEAT (June 22 and 24)
USA, 1953, 1h 29min, DCP
One of director Fritz Lang’s masterpieces and a Hollywood film of rare depth and expression. Despite his department’s lax attitude towards the matter, tough cop Glenn Ford goes nose to nose with crime boss Lee Marvin. When the gangsters strike back, Ford must fight to save what he has left. With Gloria Grahame, in her greatest performance.

RAW DEAL (June 29)
USA, 1948, 1h 19min, 35mm
The German-American director Anthony Mann was a master-craftsman, and, in collaboration with cinematographer John Alton, created some of the best looking and most economical down-market noir. RAW DEAL stars Dennis O’Keefe as a con who escapes and tries to go straight, but must first contend with his adversary, played by Raymond Burr. With genre great Claire Trevor as the bad girl who loves O’Keefe.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Watch This: Jay Duplass visits AFS Cinema for OUTSIDE IN, Now Playing at AFS Cinema

A few weeks ago, our friend Jay Duplass stopped by the cinema for a special sneak preview of his latest film OUTSIDE IN, which he co-wrote with Director Lynn Shelton, and also co-stars in with Edie Falco. He was happy to answer some audience questions about his creative process.

Watch the interview below then join us this weekend at the cinema to catch festival favorite OUTSIDE IN.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Noir City Starts Tonight at the Ritz, Noir Canon continues in June at AFS

Carole Landis and Victor Mature in I WAKE UP SCREAMING (aka THE HOT SPOT)

The Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller, legendary writer, scholar and preservationist of Film Noir culture is in Austin this weekend to present Noir City Austin 2018, a special weekend of Noir classics and restorations at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.

Grouped into a series of double features with the 'A' movie (typically a prestige title with stars and a decent budget) paired with a 'B' movie (a lower budget film with non A-list stars) being shown in tandem, this promises to be yet another extraordinary learning experience, and an entertaining one.

You can see the full line-up here. Tickets are still available for all shows. Be there.

If this doesn't satisfy your taste for Noir, and in fact just makes you crave more of it, we have just the ticket for you, our Noir Canon series, starting on June 1 with a special archival print of the Jacques Tourneur classic OUT OF THE PAST on loan from the Library of Congress. You can see the schedule for the Noir Canon shows here. See you out there on the mean streets.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Doc Days Festival Is Here: Interview with THE SENTENCE Filmmaker Rudy Valdez

AFS' inaugural documentary film festival Doc Days starts tonight, Thursday, May 10 at the AFS Cinema. Doc Days is a long weekend festival of brand-new documentary films with visiting filmmakers from the US and abroad. In addition to screening our favorite new documentaries from the festival circuit, the weekend will include events, parties, discussions, and moderated Q&As by Austin’s documentary film community.

You can see the whole Doc Days schedule here.

Below, the festival's co-programmer Todd Savage brings us this in-depth interview with filmmaker Rudy Valdez, about his intensely moving and personal film THE SENTENCE.

THE SENTENCE screens during Doc Days on Saturday, May 12 at 4:30pm. Valdez will be in attendance for at Q&A after the film.

Rudy Valdez was not a filmmaker when he picked up a camera after his sister was served with a 15-year prison sentence. His goal at the time was to document the childhood of his young nieces. A decade later, his film THE SENTENCE (an Audience Award winner at Sundance) explores the hot-button political issue of mandatory minimum sentencing on the most intimate and personal plane possible. We talked with Valdez about the film and his approach as both a filmmaker and a family member.

What were your goals for the film?
This film didn't start out being a documentary film. It started off me just wanting to try to capture the lives of my nieces for my sister. Photos are wonderful and the phone calls she was able to make home were great for her, but I just wanted her to be able to see her daughters live, watch them run and play and yell and scream. When she came home, I wanted to be able to put a super cut together and her to be able to watch her kids grow up.

When did you make the shift to making a film?
I can pinpoint the exact moment when I became a documentary filmmaker. There's a scene at the very beginning where I went back to capture my sister's oldest daughter Autumn's first dance recital. I knew Cindy wanted nothing more than to be there and watch it, and I knew I had to be there to capture it. Completely unprovoked and unplanned, my sister called while [Autumn) was getting ready. My sister was saying how much she wanted to be there, and all of a sudden she says to my niece: ‘When you go to dance, I'm going to lay down on my bed, and I'm going to close my eyes and think about you.’ That was the moment I realized that was there something special here, there was a story that was completely untold, that people don't realize when they send people away for 15, 20, 30, 40 years, life, that there are people left behind. And as painful as it was for my sister to sit back and imagine what the dance was like, it was just as heart-wrenching that Autumn had to imagine what it would be like for her mom to watch. I became a filmmaker on one hand so that I could tell my story. I wanted nothing more than to be as good as I could possibly could be so that I could make my film as strong as it could be. I am learning throughout the film and you can see it. It was a journey in a lot of ways. It was a journey for my sister, it was a journey for the family left behind, it was a journey in the fight for justice, it was the journey of somebody learning trying and figuring out how to tell a story.

How did you communicate to your family what you were doing?
The most important thing when you're making a documentary, especially an intimate personal documentary, verité style, is gaining the trust of your subjects and the people you're filming. I had that from the very beginning. They trusted me. They knew why I was doing it. Once I decided it was going to be a documentary, I made it very clear to them what my intentions were. It was always for the greater good. It was a terrible thing that happened; it's only going to be a tragedy if we allow it to be. If something good comes of it, then all of this wasn't wasted. That didn't make it any easier for my family to be vulnerable and honest in front of the camera for me, but it allowed them to know that what I was doing. Everyone really bought into it and believed in that, and so they were able to let their guard down and just let me film everything.

You addressed this in the film but can you talk more about how was it being behind the camera? Did that role change your participation in what was going on with your family?
Yes, that was kind of a sacrifice and a coping mechanism for me. Part of holding the camera was allowing myself to separate. Nobody wants to see his father cry, let alone record it. In the back of my mind I knew this is for the greater good. That didn't make it any easier to watch my father cry, but one part of my brain is feeling for my father and wanting to hug him and tell him everything was going to be okay. The other part of my brain was saying, ‘Am I framed up? Am I focused? Do I have enough battery for this scene? Where is this scene going?’ It allowed me to partition in a certain way and allowed me to really cover myself from some of the emotion. I still had that emotion but it was delayed—I would think about it at night. I was constantly thinking about if I was doing the right thing, if I was doing my family justice by capturing moments. If for some reason I never end up making a documentary with this footage, am I doing myself a disservice by not being present during these times for my family? It was a constant struggle. I never had a break from it.

Your nieces were so natural in front of the camera, but when they turned the camera on you, you seemed surprisingly uncomfortable.
I think it was because I was Uncle Rudy. They trusted me, and it was just second nature. I oftentimes gave them the camera and let them run around so they were very comfortable with it. As a professional, I ask people to be open and honest and vulnerable in front of me, and it dawned on me right there in front of the camera that I had to force myself to do that. I'm asking my family, I'm asking my parents, my nieces, everyone to be open and honest with me in front of the camera, and I never asked that of myself. So I looked to the camera and wanted to convey what I was feeling and how I was coping with this whole thing. Because it was truly—I can't even begin to tell you—this was something that weighed on me for 10 years. And so that was where that scene came from and where that talking to the camera came from. I actually kept that from my editor for a long time, on purpose. I didn't want to be a main character in this film, I didn't want it to be about me or my fight. I wanted the film to be the girls and the strength of the family. I'm not completely dismissing the fact that when they're talking to the camera they're talking to a family member. I needed it to be clear.

The story seemed almost universal, like this could happen to any family and how would I have dealt with it.
I'm so happy that you said that, because that is exactly why I made it the way I did. It wasn't to show you that we're some super human family. We're not. This is a family that believes in love and believes in hope. I want you to see your father in this film. I want you to see yourself in this film. We're not doing anything extraordinary. We just believed in each other. That's it.

How did she react to the film? Has she seen a lot of the other footage?
She only saw the film right before Sundance. It was very, very difficult for her to watch the film—just watching the girls grow up in 84 minutes. She didn't even understand what the film was about because she was just so caught up in seeing them, and seeing them grow up. She's seen it now about 10 times at festivals and it was about fourth or fifth time when she was finally like, ‘Rudy this is an amazing film.’ I'm still working on the supercut of everything. I'm trying to not be an artist with it. I'm trying to be like, ‘Here are the girls.’ It’s something that's just for her.

Join Valdez at THE SENTENCE during Doc Days on Saturday, May 12 at 4:30pm.

See the Doc Days trailer here: