Thursday, June 21, 2018

MARY SHELLEY Opens For A Limited Engagement This Weekend at AFS Cinema

The new film MARY SHELLEY begins a limited run at the AFS Cinema on Friday, June 22. Click here for tickets and more info.

Author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was raised by her father, William Godwin, a radical philosopher and one of the earliest proponents of modern anarchism. Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote a groundbreaking book of early feminist theory, but died shortly after her daughter’s birth. Shrouded by death and informed by groundbreaking intellectual creativity, the events of Shelley’s life up until the writing of her most famous book, FRANKENSTEIN, are themselves as fascinating as a gothic novel.

The new film by pioneering female Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour, MARY SHELLEY is the story of the life of the author - her life, loves, tragedies and works. Against the tide of a deeply conservative society, Mary Shelley (Elle Fanning) challenges the authority that works to stifle female voices as indelible as hers. Her affair and marriage with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth) are shown within this context as well.

DIrector Haifaa al-Mansour shares much in common with the film’s protagonist. Much like Mary Shelley in her time, the director of MARY SHELLEY faces the unique hardship of existing in a country where being a woman and being an artist requires a constant struggle to be heard. Al-Mansour herself reflects on growing up in Saudi Arabia, “the culture is such that women are invisible, they don’t matter.” In realizing the systemic sexism of her culture, the director took up filmmaking as a way of coping with these hardships when she made her first film.

Here are some selections from the reviews of the film:

“The director and her star make their point... plainly, cleanly, and with fire.” Ty Burr, Boston Globe

“The tumultuous stew of emotions inside Mary grows to a roiling boil before it all comes pouring out.” Katie Walsh, LA Times

“Rather than smother Mary Shelley — author of “Frankenstein,”daughter of two eminent writers and wife of another — with soft cushions of antiquarian cultural prestige, Ms. al-Mansour and the screenwriter, Emma Jensen, sharpen the sense of Shelley’s modernity. It helps enormously that she is played with alert sensitivity and acute intelligence by Elle Fanning." - A.O. Scott, New York Times

“Elle Fanning deftly shades the trials and tribulations of the young writer and her complicated relationship with Percy Shelley...Fanning and Booth’s chemistry is blindingly intense. Through it all, Al-Mansour sharply captures this makeshift family’s wild swings from revelry to desperation to inspiration.” Jason Bailey, Village Voice

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

New Chef Doc THE QUEST OF ALAIN DUCASSE Opens This Friday at AFS Cinema

THE QUEST OF ALAIN DUCASSE opens on Friday June 22 at the AFS Cinema. Tickets on sale now.

With 23 restaurants across the globe and now 18 Michelin stars under his belt, master chef and restaurateur Alain Ducasse is showing no signs of stopping in his quest to bring artful cuisine to the world.

In the new doc THE QUEST OF ALAIN DUCASSE, director Gilles de Maistre follows Ducasse from country to country as he forms schools to mentor the culinary geniuses of tomorrow and opens new restaurants in places like Versailles, all while continuing his quest to find (and taste) the best produce in every pocket of the world

Sound appetizing? We think so too, but don’t just believe us. Here's what the critics are saying:

“Gorgeously shot for the big screen, this absorbing documentary explores what makes the eponymous globe-trotting chef-businessman tick.” - Alissa Simon, Variety

“In his astute look at the artistry and business of food, de Maistre makes the case that haute cuisine serves the same function as haute couture, creating an indelible experience while encouraging new ideas to filter through the industry.” - Serena Donadoni, Village Voice

"Be forewarned that a second-hand rush of exhilaration and inspiration will occur – as will a hunger for haute cuisine." - Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Watch the trailer for THE QUEST OF ALAIN DUCASSE here:

Mondo Belmondo: From New Wave Darling to France's Greatest Action Star

“I don’t know what they mean” was Jean-Paul Belmondo’s response to being touted as the face of the French New Wave after his turn in Godard’s BREATHLESS. Despite his confusion about this unexpected ascendancy to the top rank of the art-house star-system, Belmondo would go on to achieve worldwide fame among the smart set before realizing his true passion of becoming France’s most iconic action star, harrowing stunts and all.

A scrappy street-fighter from the outskirts of Paris, Belmondo grew into his no-bullshit persona quickly and casually, studying and mimicking his fellow denizens of the street and pool-hall. He went undefeated as a boxer for only a few matches before his mirror showed the physical toll it was taking on his face, and he turned his eyes to a new goal, performing.

And he was good at it too, spending time at a French conservatory for acting at the end of his teenage years and raising a fuss when he didn’t win the coveted Best Actor award at the end of the year.

But that didn’t stop Belmondo from finding fame. A chance meeting with writer-director-critic Jean-Luc Godard led to him acting in a short film of his at the end of the fifties. Godard was impressed and wanted to work with him again. And they did. Belmondo was cast across from Jean Seberg in BREATHLESS, the film that would become synonymous with the French New Wave and the shifting tides of how filmmakers could reconcile real life and the artifice of the movies in the shifting cultural landscape of post-war France.

While Belmondo flourished as the darling of critics and espresso-sipping aesthetes, his own personal interests were less highbrow. He was a fan of sports matches, detective novels, and Hollywood comedies. The French New Wave saw Belmondo as the face of philosophical debates and silent love affairs, he saw himself as a fun loving goofball.

When Jackie Chan was interviewed about the biggest influences on his style of kinetic, comedic action-adventure films, many are surprised to hear him invoke the name of Belmondo alongside Buster Keaton. Few Francophones are shocked by this, as Belmondo carved out a place for himself among the very great masters of physical comedy and action in his output of the 60’s, 70’s and ‘80s.

Roles like Adrien Dufourquet in THAT MAN FROM RIO were the most fun for him. Jumping from planes, fighting off bad guys, chasing or being chased, and protecting the damsel in distress were the kinds of things he found came easily to him, and he eventually made this kind of fast-paced, humorous action his stock in trade as an actor.

He was willing to go along with the likes of Godard, Truffaut, and Melville, on their artistic journeys, but it wasn’t about what Belmondo liked or wanted. Belmondo wanted to be himself, sometimes brooding, sometimes comic, always charming, and this kept the audiences coming through the cinema doors. It made him a household name in both art house cinema and mainstream media forever.

Mondo Belmondo: The four film series celebrating the great actor and wildly popular action star Jean-Paul Belmondo kicks off at the AFS Cinema on July 6th.

As a special bonus enjoy this stunt from THE BURGLARS, probably Belmondo's most insane and death-defying stunt gag of all:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

AFS Viewfinders Podcast: A Dialogue With Master Film Programmer Kier-la Janisse

Austin Film Society Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen here, using the first person singular for once in introducing a pretty remarkable dialogue we recorded a few weeks ago with programmer-author-editor-publisher-educator Kier-la Janisse.  Kier-la has done an awful lot in all of these arenas, from creating the Cinemuerte Film Festival, programming for Alamo Drafthouse during its most formative years (during which time she mentored poor lost benighted me), turning genre film scholarship on its head with the brilliant and influential autobiographical film critique HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN, starting the Miskatonic Institute Of Horror Studies and publisher Spectacular Optical and more.

Her insights and anecdotes are fascinating and hilarious even if you have little or no interest in film programming. I hope you'll enjoy this (too-brief) discussion.

Listen to the podcast here or in your iTunes app.

This seems like a good place to drop this in too. Kier-la is funding her newest book COCKFIGHT, and her research is uncovering a hitherto unknown world of weirdness connected with the 1974 Monte Hellman outlaw classic COCKFIGHTER. You can get in on the ground floor by contributing to the project and pre-buying your copy of the book here.

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: