Friday, October 31, 2014

Horror Host Zacherley's 1967 Halloween Dance Party Show Is WILD

Zacherley The Cool Ghoul (aka John Zacherle, born in 1918 and still alive!!!) hosted late night Chiller Theater broadcasts of classic horror movies in New York and Philadelphia in the '50s and '60s. His monster schtick followed him around to his next job too, hosting a teen dance party show called Disk-O-Teen in Newark. Here he is, drumming up some excitement for the Box Tops, featuring Alex Chilton. This clip is awkward, great, uncomfortable and oddly perfect. Hope you enjoy it.

Selected Shorts: Mondo's Justin Ishmael Presents GIANT GOD WARRIOR APPEARS IN TOKYO

Our ongoing Selected Shorts series presents different short films presented by creative luminary types. This time we have a short provided for us by Justin Ishmael, CEO of Mondo, the world's leading purveyors of specialty printed posters and more.

Here's Justin:

I took a trip to Japan a few years ago and happened upon an exhibit celebrating practical special effects in Japanese monster movies. Among the props there was a small standing room only theater. I went in not knowing what to expect then.... this started. After it finished, I watched it 5 more times as I never thought I'd be able to track it down as they said it was made ONLY for the exhibit. Luckily, it's online and you can check it out. 

If you're into GODZILLA, GAMERA, ULTRAMAN, PACIFIC RIM... any giant monster movies... please watch this. Although there probably is a little cgi in this (at the event they swore than 0% CGI was used), it's a message to the world that practical effects can still be utilized effectively. The monsters felt there. They had weight. I miss that in most FX spectacles nowadays, but it's amazing that in modern times someone felt the need to make this thing.... Studio Ghibli no less!

Here's the link. No subtitles, but you'll make out OK. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

NYC to lose last film processing lab

The bad news keeps on coming for lovers of celluloid. Technicolor and Deluxe's joint film lab venture, Film Lab NY, just announced that it is closing its doors in December. It's important to note that here that Film Lab NY was one of the few places that made film processing affordable for independent filmmakers.  Due to being a part of these bigger corporations, they were able to offer more competitive prices for processing, making possible a number of low and micro-budged 16mm features in the past couple of years.  Deluxe shuttered it's last film processing lab in Hollywood in the spring. While Fotokem is still around, this doesn't bode well. Will film processing for American indies all be done in Canada in the future?

You Can’t Love Someone In A Void: Philippe Garrel’s Wild Art

From AFS Associate Artistic Director Holly Herrick:

JEALOUSY comes to Austin next week with two screenings at the Marchesa (November 2nd and 3rd), and while Philippe Garrel continues to be considered as the almost satirical epitome of art house in the United States, his films demand a more thorough investigation by US cinephiles. This is especially true since JEALOUSY, with it’s easy humor and slim running time, might be the most accessible Garrel film in years, while still being completely brilliant (no hardcore Garrel fans will feel unsated).  

Fortunately, we’ve got some great writers who have pinpointed what is so endlessly fascinating about Garrel’s work, important for the uninitiated who need that extra push.  Over at Cinemascope, Blake Williams points out Garrel’s superlative romanticism, and highlights how Garrel is in a class all his own in terms of bold Freudian underpinnings (his actor son Louis Garrel has played the cinema-incarnated Philippe in every Garrel film for the past 10 years); and fearless autobiographical storytelling (witness the gory detail of being in love with a drug addict in I CAN NO LONGER HEAR THE GUITAR, based on Garrel’s relationship with Nico).  Read the full essay here.

At Filmmaker, Vadim Rizov discusses his own complicated relationship with Garrel’s films in a very fun read that compares Louis Garrel to Grumpy Cat.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lav Diaz' Interview Responses Are Almost As Long (& Great) As His Films

Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz, whose 4-hour-plus NORTE, THE END OF HISTORY screens as part of our Essential Cinema series on December 4, was interviewed by Andrea Picard of Cinema Scope last year and it's one of the best interviews we've read in a long time.

Here's a sample:

On the impossibility of submitting a list of Top 10 films of all time to Sight and Sound
Diaz: This is the most abused exercise in cinema. Top 10 films, or, The Greatest 100 Films of All Time, or, 1000 Essential Films. And why do we do it still, ad infinitum, ad nauseum? Honestly, it just feeds the ego of the ones who do it, and, of course, of the ones mentioned. They will actually kill or die for it. It boggles the mind. But then it’s a valid exercise. And I respect people who do it, no matter how idiotic their choices/discourses sometimes are. I’ll even defend them. Yes, the canon, like it or not, is a necessary evil. Canon-making built so many sects and churches of cinema. Godard ran away from it, scared shitless upon realizing that Narcissus is staring at him in his favourite mirror, himself. But then he’s a god who created cinema, so he can’t destroy it, and we dread the day when he will finally leave cinema because he is infinitely a part of the Top 10 and The Greatest 100 Films of All Time and the 1000 Essential Films. In North Korea, the cinemaniac and late megalomaniac Kim Jong-il actually imposed a canon, all films starring himself, waving, smiling, visiting troops and factories, kissing babies, hugging the blind, praising uranium in thickly clogged shoes and propagating hairmania. And we know what happened and what is still happening in sad, sad North Korea. The wisdom and analogy is never, ever trust the canon. Keep an open mind but always keep Kim in mind. By keeping an open mind, we understand that the canon is part of the greater discourse of cinema; that’s short of saying that it’s still relevant. And I don’t think it’s elitist. Greater discourse always begs the proverbial question: “Do we really know the real Socrates?” or, putting it in a direct way: “Do we really know cinema?”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Selected Shorts: Zack Carlson Presents a "10-Fisted Masterpiece Of Sex, Cake, Self-Loathing & Hot Dogs"

In our Selected Shorts series we've been asking some AFS Friends for their favorite short films and posting them here for all of you to enjoy.

Zack Carlson is an author (his Fantagraphics book DESTROY ALL MOVIES is the definitive reference work about punks on film), screenwriter, film producer, former programmer for Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, he has been one of the producers of Fantastic Fest for years and is now also works with AFS on a variety of projects.

He chose the 2010 Short by Jim Hosking, RENEGADES.

"I choose RENEGADES because there's really no other choice as far as I'm concerned. This ten-fisted masterpiece of sex, cake, self-loathing and hot dogs is absolutely and unquestionably my all-time favorite short film. Jim Hosking is not only a brilliant writer/director, but also has a supernatural knack for casting the most fascinating faces in the world. When I first stumbled across RENEGADES in 2010, I forced it on all three of my friends until I had no friends. It's like no other movie, which is what all movies should strive to be like. The closing song will reverberate in your skeleton for decades. Watch it three times in a row or jump off a cliff. Either way, things will be much better."

Watch RENEGADES here (Warning, not for the weak).

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Past Is Another Country, Especially In Japan: Japanese Commercials Featuring American & Euro Stars

I think by now many of us have seen the legendary and amazing Charles Bronson aftershave commercials (directed by HAUSU maker Nobuhiko Obayashi). Just in case you haven't, or are having a Low-T day. It follows:

I also think we're pretty well aware that American (and European) stars travel to Japan all the time and make unspeakably bizarre commercials a la LOST IN TRANSLATION. As we live in an internet age now, many of those commercials have made it to us and it's hard to imagine that any celebrities would believe the old "no one in America will ever see this" but back in the '70s, such assurances carried weight and the following commercials were made by A-listers, B-listers and Why-are-they-on-any-listers, none of whom would have had any idea that they would follow them across the world and down through the decades.

Most are just weird. Like these instant coffee commercials with Kirk Douglas. In the first he is teamed with James Bond composer John Barry (why, why, why?) and in the second with a sedate looking John Frankenheimer. Tagline: "Good coffee. It refreshes my spirits."

In this (perfume?) commercial, Anthony Perkins, whom we justifiably perceive a sinister figure thanks to his role in PSYCHO, does something weird, probably illegal and maybe (depending on what he wants the bird for) genuinely sick. But it's all fun because it's Japan. Tagline: "Kanebo: For Beautiful Human Life."

Here are a couple featuring Sean Connery in an apparently mediterranean locale. In the first one he sweats a lot (the sweat looks fake) then he pees on a Mercedes (unless something else is happening here but that's what it looks like). In the second one he drives his large, elegant antique car past a different large elegant antique car, driven by an old guy who looks like the doorman in the Mandom commercial. The old man has a shaggy dog who looks like he is freaking out. Much significance seems to attend this seemingly mundane transaction. Tagline: "Dynamic Elegance."

Here, Alain Delon walks down a flight of marble steps to his car as the rain falls. Before he gets in he turns and regards a wet, miserable-looking dog for kind of a long time. Then he gets into his Mazda and drives off, leaving the dog there for some other sap. Anyone know where I can buy a Mazda at this time of day?

Now it's Francis Ford Coppola's turn to cradle an audiocassette like an entranced shaman trying to suck all the mojo out of a sacred figurine while Ray Charles croons "Georgia". Coppola then states his brief theory about good sound. I'm sure Fuji sold a lot of tapes that year anyway.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Edith Head Talks About Her Working Method & Then She Dresses Audrey Hepburn Like A Champ

"I'm just taking these to the garage with the others"

Both the recent series of "Good Eye" columns written by Amy Gentry in the Austin Chronicle, and our upcoming event with costume designer Michael Wilkinson have us thinking about the special language of movie clothing design. For years, especially during the time when women were less welcome as writers, directors and producers in Hollywood, a number of female (and also-marginalized gay male) designers expressed themselves wonderfully through their costumes. This is no small contribution to the creation of character and the work of such masters as Edith Head puts them on an auteur level in many cases.

Here, Edith Head - who really seems like someone who would be a lot of fun to work with, talks about her method a bit, using tests of Audrey Hepburn as a visual aid. It's a little too brief, and it's basically a flak piece for ROMAN HOLIDAY but it's so good.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words

This short piece from the Women Make Movies YouTube channel shows us some rare footage of the great Chinese-American star Anna May Wong. She was a true star, though sometimes the parts she played were smaller than she deserved. She is one of those stars who makes an instant connection with audiences today, who have more of a sense of the burden she carried and therefore a greater appreciation of her remarkable grace in bearing it.

Most of Wong's appearances in movies amount to a tantalizing flash. She is credited in countless small roles as "Chinese Girl" or "Lotus Blossom" or "Oriental Flower" or some other such name. Maybe the best Anna May Wong role was in the 1929 silent PICCADILLY, in which she plays Sho-sho, a Chinese dishwasher in a posh nightclub who fascinates the club owner and becomes a star with her mysterious seductive dance moves. It's a part that would normally be played stereotypically, but she fills out the contours of the character and assumes authorship of the film in a shockingly powerful way.

You can get a sense of her command of the screen in this excerpt from PICCADILLY. The movie is well worth your time and Anna May Wong's cult status is worthy of yet another renewal.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

These Audio Interviews with Orson Welles are So Good!

If you've haven't read "This Is Orson Welles", the big book of interviews between Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles, you should. It's as important as "Hitchcock/Truffaut" and it may be argued that there's more practical knowledge to be found there. Welles was as much a self mythologizer as Hitchcock but he switched out his material more often.

Most of the interviews conducted for the book and, if my memory serves me, some that are not in the book are to be heard here in the tapes Bogdanovich made for the book.

Welles' words are interesting and valuable on the page but when you hear that voice it gives a whole additional dimension to the stories.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

L.M. Kit Carson, Father of Texas Independent Film Scene, Has Died

Texan filmmaker, actor and writer L.M. Kit Carson died last night at the age of 73 after a long illness.

In 1967 the Irving-based Carson and his collaborator Jim McBride made a movie that forever changed the face of film. It is called DAVID HOLZMAN'S DIARY and in the opinion of many it marks the beginning of microbudget independent film. It was widely shown on campuses and at the kind of small home-made film societies that existed at the time and, along with the documentaries that inspired this (first?) mockumentary, firmly established the light, handheld 16mm camera as the M-16 rifle of the independent cinema revolution.

Today the film, which is about a young man obsessed with what we would today call vlogging, seems shockingly prescient about our own times. If it were in color and had the low contrast, high compression look of digital video, it could be one of the many such ego exercises which appear on YouTube. Except it's much, much funnier. DAVID HOLZMAN'S DIARY, a film made for $2500 now resides in the Library Of Congress National Film Registry.

If Carson had never done anything after DAVID HOLZMAN'S DIARY his legacy would be secure, but he was only getting started. He made one of the very best documentaries about the intersection of creativity and madness, THE AMERICAN DREAMER (1971), about Dennis Hopper's long journey to a final cut of his (some say) disastrous film THE LAST MOVIE. It's prime time Hopper and prime time Carson as well.

Carson and McBride reteamed in 1982 for a version of BREATHLESS (1982) which is not exactly a remake at all, but rather a really very interesting, very American update of the characters from the Godard film. It's well worth watching. Carson's script imagines a manic vision of American youth that was out of step with the times, but that (stop me if you've heard this already) gets better as it ages.

Next, Carson adapted Sam Shepard's PARIS TEXAS (1984) for the screen. It is one of the finest films ever made. If you haven't seen it, you should not waste any more time reading this. Just go watch it. It's a film that made an entire new generation of filmmakers proud to be from Texas. Director Wim Wenders, who is a German,  relied upon Carson's sense of the authentically Texan. The results speak for themselves.

Carson wrote a number of other scripts in the next few years. One that stands out for us is the extremely witty and subversive TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986), filmed in Austin. Carson and director Tobe Hooper had a blast with this one and it stands as one of the funniest satires of the decade.

In between all of these screenwriting gigs Carson had time to produce a bunch of films, co-found a film festival, live a pretty full life, marry actress Karen Black, explore new technology, and encourage many others. Among the folks he encouraged were the Anderson brothers and Owen Wilson, whose short BOTTLE ROCKET he executive-produced. He later produced the feature version as well and has been cited many times by Wes Anderson as a formative influence.

Selected Shorts: Bryan Connolly Presents John Cassavetes, Meshach Taylor and the Bangles in THE HAIRCUT

Selected Shorts is an ongoing series in which we invite some of our favorite people to select and introduce short films that they may have missed. Here, author and bon vivant Bryan Connolly (DESTROY ALL MOVIES) shares a movie that no one ever knew about before and no one can ever live without from now on, THE HAIRCUT (1982).

Here's Bryan:

A record executive (John Cassavetes) only has fifteen minutes to get a haircut. Meshach Taylor and Nicholas Colasanto (Coach  from Cheers) are the two barbers up to the task. This is the first film written and directed by Tamar Hoffs (mother of Bangles member Susanna Hoffs). Cassavetes is having a blast. Watch him get a massage, drink, get tickled and dance. I love this short. I stumbled upon it as an extra on the DVD for Hoffs 80s party feature THE ALLNIGHTER. Who doesn't want to hang out with Cassavetes in a barbershop?


Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy 132nd Birthday Bela Lugosi

We aren't normally in the business of wishing dead people happy birthday, but in the case of Bela Lugosi there is definitely some room to dispute whether or not he's actually dead. We know he was buried - in his Dracula cape - in 1956, but to date no one has verified that he is not rising from the grave every night to roam the earth in search of blood or delicious Kool cigarettes.

Many of you may only know Lugosi from Martin Landau's fine but broadly stylized portrayal in Tim Burton's Ed Wood. If you're interested in watching Lugosi at his best let us recommend Edgar G. Ulmer's THE BLACK CAT (really one of the weirdest movies ever made). It's one of the best-written parts that Lugosi ever played. Bela Lugosi was far from an everyman type. He's best when the role is tailored for him and THE BLACK CAT nails it, down to the post WWI animosities.

WHITE ZOMBIE is a lunatic clash of art-film beauty and misguided light romance. The parts of WHITE ZOMBIE that work - which is to say all of the parts with Lugosi, and a few other sequences - are well worth your time. There are scenes in the film which compare well with Dreyer - and then some other kinds of scenes too.

We also can't much recommend Tod Browning's original DRACULA with Lugosi. Lugosi is pretty good, though it's impossible not to hear his famous Rumanian accent through a cultural-historical echo chamber. It's a pokey, pointless movie and it may now be of mostly historical interest, apart from a Lugosi speech or two.

Happy birthday Bela Lugosi. There's a pack of Kool 100s in the mailbox for you.

Amy Gentry on Women's Horror Fashions: Isabelle Adjani in POSSESSION

The Austin Chronicle's Amy Gentry has written a couple of terrific articles about, well, terrific articles as worn by a pair of female horror protags. Her first such column is about the horrific evolution of the Armani Suit from AMERICAN GIGOLO to HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2. It's a really thought provoking piece which I admittedly came late to because I am not often scanning the style section.

And now this week we get an article about the many blue dresses worn by Isabelle Adjani in POSSESSION.  Even when we all watch a movie together we are having very distinct experiences of it. Gentry (who saw the AFS screening of the film) is watching it on a whole different track than I am. I really appreciate the difference and I look forward to following the thread of her analysis all month in her subsequent columns.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Selected Shorts: Walerian Borowcyck & the Franco-Polish Space Program

While the US and the Soviets were busy using Third Reich rocket technology to send jocks into space, the joint French/Polish Space Program were deploying creativity and imagination to create this film, which may very well prove to have benefits which outweigh those of the more well known space programs.

Walerian Borowcyck is an interesting case, and one that we will get around to in January at AFS. His short films begin to give a glimpse at the fascinating obsessions which come into play in his really far-out features of the '70s.

Codirector Chris Marker was a Zelig-like catalyst for seemingly every great film movement of his lifetime. You should know his work already. If you don't, start with LA JETÉE

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Polish Films All Weekend In Austin, Including Part Two of the Scorsese-Selected Polish Classics

An important reminder from AFS Director Of Programming Chale Nafus:

The 9th annual Austin Polish Film Festival opens tonight (Oct 16) and runs through Sunday at the Marchesa.

As always, there is a wealth of exciting, challenging new Polish features, ranging from the marriage-on-the-rocks LOVING to the sweet coming-of-age ONE WAY TICKET TO THE MOON, whose lead actor Filip Pławiak will be in attendance. Polish film critic/professor/festival curator Zbigniew Banaś will be introducing many of the films in the festival.

Long-time world-class filmmaker Andrzej Wajda is represented by his latest masterpiece, WALESA, about the dock worker/union leader who lit the fuse igniting the beginning the long struggle for freedom from Soviet tyranny over Poland.

Continuing the classic Polish film series which AFS began in September, APFF and AFS will be showing four more of the masterpieces selected by Martin Scorsese. Here's a trailer for the fest.

Catherine Breillat On Money, Kings, The Hermaphrodism of Artists and The Future Of Cinema in 01:35

Catherine Breillat is a filmmaker whose work will make you think hard about a lot of things. Gender, sexuality, taboo, power, for example. Her films (36 FILLETTE, ROMANCE, FAT GIRL, THE SLEEPING BEAUTY, etc.) place her among the most interesting and rewarding auteurs working today. She is a true original and a master.

Here is one of her most direct statements of purpose. And if there are signs of contradiction and perversity here - welcome to Breillat.

Catherine Breillat's newest film ABUSE OF WEAKNESS plays twice at AFS@The Marchesa on Wednesday 10/22 and Sunday 10/26.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

FORCE MAJEURE Director Ruben Östlund On His Method & Meanings

Those who saw Ruben Östlund's new film FORCE MAJEURE at Toronto or Fantastic Fest already know that Östlund is one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. In this wide-roving discussion (long, discursive interviews are now just called "master classes" apparently) he talks about instinct, face-saving, and the predominant place in image culture now occupied by YouTube.

Spoiler alert, for people who care about that kind of thing.

FORCE MAJEURE opens in Austin in November. There is an AFS Members-Only Sneak on October 20. Hope to see all of you there. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Roy Andersson's Commercials are Wild & Great, Just Like His Features

Not sure how many people would use a hyped up version of "Surfing Bird" to underscore a series of humorously deadpan injustices, maybe only Roy Andersson, Swedish director of SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR, YOU THE LIVING and the new A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE. He has also directed a ton of shorts and, thankfully, a bunch of the best commercials you'll see anytime soon.

Here are some more, in better quality. I especially like the ones where the woman bashes her husband's head in with different pieces of cookware:

Fabulous Bizarre Filipino Oddness DARNA VS. THE PLANET WOMEN

The Philippines is a huge, vast nation that has nearly as many separate cultures as it has islands. Many people are familiar with the great films of Lino Brocka, as well as many of the exciting new films are producing (soon to be showcased by AFS).

Some others know about the golden era of Filipino co-productions which resulted in lots and lots of cheap drive-in movies, but many people may not know about the microbudget sci-fi, action and horror movies made for local consumption, generally in the Tagalog language. One of the most fun of these is the insane DARNA VS. THE PLANET WOMEN, which is available (apparently transferred from a muddy VHS tape) with subtitles here:

There are many other Darna movies, as well as Darna parodies. She's a little bit like the Wonder Woman of the Philippines. Enjoy.

Jerry Lewis, Filmmaking Master

It's always fun watching Jerry Lewis trying to contain his comic demon, as he does here in his lecture at USC in 1967.

He took his filmmaking classes very seriously. There is a series of transcripts of his lectures collected in a book called "The Total Filmmaker" that is full of all kinds of practical advice for filmmakers. At the time he was going out into academia and teaching filmmaking there were not many in-roads for young filmmakers to actually have movies made, so his hard-won advice was even more needed than than it is now.

Jerry Lewis was a clown onscreen (and sometimes worse than a clown in offscreen interviews) but he was a true filmmaking innovator and, almost as much as anyone else, he was able to create his own filmmaking art out of his own timing, energy and intelligence.

Here's a more recent clip as a bookend to the earlier clip. Here, a reflective Lewis seem to fill with emotion as he gives advice to future generations. He says, "there's so much good stuff that comes from doing good work."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The (Paper) Art of Satyajit Ray

In addition to being one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century, Satyajit Ray was a musician, composer and graphic artist. Graphic art was the way Ray made his living before he became a full-time filmmaker. Here is a selection of some of Ray's art for books, advertising and his own films.