Friday, October 30, 2015

Watch This: THE ENDLESS NIGHT - The Ultimate Noir Valentine

A few years ago, at one of his many tremendous Noir City screenings, writer/historian/programmer Eddie Muller introduced an evening of film noir classics with this short film, painstakingly assembled by someone who calls herself RubyTuesday717. I have often thought about this short since and was happy to stumble across it again today.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

AFS Viewfinders Podcast: Filmmaker Kat Candler on the Creative Life, Horror Movies & More

I sat down yesterday with Kat Candler, mainly to talk about her new short THE RUSTED, which will screen at AFS' MAKE WATCH LOVE Party on November 12 (don't forget to RSVP.) Naturally the discussion went every which way and we ended up talking about life choices, the importance of actors, the relative warmth of Brian De Palma and favorite horror movies. It's good!

Listen to it here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Watch This: The Winning Entrant in the Austin Polish Film Festival's Shorts Competition

The 10th Annual Austin Polish Film Festival was held this past weekend at the Marchesa Hall and Theatre. Along with their screenings of feature films, short film blocks, parties and Polish poster exhibition, there was a judged short film competition. We are proud to share the winner of the competition with you.

It is Alison Klayman's THE NIGHT WITCH, a film created in conjunction with a New York Times issue commemorating the recently deceased. The film is about the remarkable Nadezhda Popova, who flew bombing missions by night for the Soviet Air Force against the Nazis. It's a pretty amazing story, and you'll learn a lot as you enjoy Klayman's beautiful compositions.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Start Spreading The News: 7 Weeks of Arthouse Classics Hosted By Richard Linklater

Our Jewels In The Wasteland series, in which AFS Artistic Director Richard Linklater presents a selection of his favorite films from the '80s along with thorough introductions and audience discussions, has proven over its first two years to be (no surprise) one of AFS' most beloved and popular programs. It's no wonder that the young stars of Linklater's new film referred to him as Rickipedia, he's tremendously knowledgable and insightful.

This November and December we celebrate AFS' first 30 years with a look back at some of the films presented in the early days of the film society, all chosen, hosted and followed by a discussion period with Linklater. The program is geographically wide-ranging, with films from France (MASCULIN FEMININ, PICKPOCKET), Japan (THE CEREMONY), Mexico (LOS OLVIDADOS), the Hollywood underground (shorts by Anger and Lynch) and good old NEW YORK, NEW YORK for Scorsese's underappreciated musical drama.

The entire schedule is here.

As usual, no AFS membership is required to attend, but it's a lot cheaper to buy that $20 a month (or $30 a month DUAL) LOVE membership and see them (as well as scores of other films throughout the year) free. It is sneakily the best filmgoing deal in town, and a great - hint, hint - holiday gift.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Happy Birthday to Screen Legend Catherine Deneuve, Revisit her Chanel n°5 Commercials

Catherine Deneuve, certainly one of the most talented and fascinating stars in film history, has appeared, and left iconic impressions in films by Truffaut, Buñuel, Polanski, Demy, Melville, Ferreri, Aldrich, Tony Scott, Carax, Ruiz, Von Trier, Ozon and, of course, many others.

Consider this body of work, and then reflect that it only represents a fraction of her performances, and that she continues to work today:

UN FLIC ('72)
8 WOMEN ('02)

It's truly stunning. Also, it's a little sad that in the midst of such an amazing international career she was probably best known in the U.S. for her Chanel n°5 commercials. Such commercials though! They sell the notion of Deneuve's elegance and independence as much as they sell the perfume. We can see why they were so effective. It's all Deneuve.

Check these out:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

50 Pieces of Advice for Filmmakers from Wim Wenders

In January and February of next year we will be presenting an 8-film retrospective of Wim Wenders films. In anticipation of that we would like to share these important and valuable tips for filmmakers as related by the master himself. You can read the original article here or watch Wenders on video sharing some of the greatest hits.
1. You have a choice of being “in the business” or of making movies. If you’d rather do business, don’t hesitate. You’ll get richer, but you won’t have as much fun!
2. If you have nothing to say, don’t feel obliged to pretend you do. 
3. If you do have something to say, you’d better stick to it. (But then don’t give too many interviews.) 
4. Respect your actors. Their job is 10 times more dangerous than yours. 
5. Don’t look at the monitor. Watch the faces in front of your camera! Stand right next to it! You’ll see infinitely more. You can still check your monitor after the take. 
6. Your continuity girl is always right about screen directions, jumping the axis and that sort of stuff. Don’t fight her. Bring her flowers. 
7. Always remember: Continuity is overrated! 
8. Coverage is overrated, too! 
9. If you want to shoot day for night, make sure the sun is shining. 
10. Before you say “cut,” wait five more seconds. 
11. Rain only shows on the screen when you backlight it. 
12. Don’t shoot a western if you hate horses. (But it’s okay to not be fond of cows.) 
13. Think twice before you write a scene with babies or infants. 
14. Never expect dogs, cats, birds or any other animals to do what you’d like them to do. Keep your shots loose. 
15. Mistakes never get fixed in post! 
16. Final cut is overrated. Only fools keep insisting on always having the final word. The wise swallow their pride in order to get to the best possible cut. 
17. Other people have great ideas, too. 
18. The more money you have the more you can do with it, sure. But the less you can say with it. 
19. Never fall in love with your temp music. 
20. Never fall in love with your leading lady! 
21. If you love soccer, don’t shoot your film during the World Championship. (Same goes for baseball and the World Series, etc.) 
22. Don’t quote other movies unless you have to. (But why would you have to?) 
23. Let other people cut your trailer! 
24. It’s always good to make up for a lack of (financial) means with an increase in imagination. 
25. Having a tight schedule can be difficult. But having too much time is worse. 
26. Alright, so you’re shooting with a storyboard. Make sure you’re willing to override it at any given moment. 
27. Less make-up is better. 
28. Fewer words are always better! 
29. Too much sugary stuff on the craft table (or is it Kraft?) can have a disastrous effect on your crew’s morale. 
30. Film can reveal the invisible, but you must be willing to let it show. 
31. The more you know about moviemaking, the tougher it gets to leave that knowledge behind. As soon as you do things “because you know how to do them,” you’re fucked. 
32. Don’t tell a story that you think somebody else could tell better. 
33. A “beautiful image” can very well be the worst thing that can happen to a scene. 
34. If you have one actor who gets better with every take, and another who loses it after a while, make sure they can meet in the middle. Or consider recasting. (And you know whose close-ups you have to shoot first!) 
35. If you shoot in a dark alley at night, don’t let your DP impose a bright blue contre-jour spotlight on you, even in the far distance. It always looks corny. 
36. Some actors should never see rushes. Others should be forced to watch them. 
37. Be ready to get rid of your favorite shot during editing. 
38. Why would you sit in your trailer while your crew is working? 
39. Don’t let them lay tracks before you’ve actually looked through your viewfinder. 
40. You need a good title from the beginning. Don’t shoot the film with a working title you hate! 
41. In general, it’s better not to employ couples. (But of course, there are exceptions!) 
42. Don’t adapt novels. 
43. If your dolly grip is grumpy or your electricians hate the shot it will all show on the film. (Also, if you’re constipated…) 
44. Keep your rough cut speech, your cast and crew screening speech and your Oscar speech short. 
45. Some actors actually improve their dialogue in ADR. 
46. Some actors should never be forced to loop a single line. (Even Orson Welles wasn’t good at that.) 
47. There are 10,000 other rules like these 50. 
48. If there are golden rules, there might be platinum ones, too. 
49. There are no rules. 
50. None of the above is necessarily correct.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy 90th Birthday to the Legendary Angela Lansbury

Happy 90th Birthday to the truly great Dame Angela Lansbury. Here she is singing "Goodbye, Yellow Bird" from THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY 70 (!) years ago.
There are stars who are gifted with personalities that shine through everything they do, and she is certainly so gifted. Then there are performers so intelligent and hard-working that they continually seem to get even better, even when that scarcely seems possible. This also applies to Lansbury. She was not a movie star in the classic mold, but she made such an impression in roles such as the Cockney maid in GASLIGHT (1944) and singing Sibyl Vane in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945, see below) that the public saw her worth well before the studios did.
You would have to have your head in a bag not to see what was so special about Lansbury in this scene from THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, made when she was barely out of her teens. The eyes have it. She's one of the great ones and we're lucky to have her. It was this performance that prompted Pauline Kael to muse: "I don't think I've ever had a friend who didn't treasure that girl and that song."

Watch This: John Carpenter talks Directorial Style, Hawks, Ford & Horror Films

"Style is all about instinct. It’s all about how a director sees things. If you watch any of the directors that you admire… you can see what their concerns are and how they approach things, how they approach the characters, how they approach the world they’re in. So it’s an instinctual type thing. A director makes movies about himself. All the time. In some way or another. It’s finding a way to express in visual terms the instincts that you have, the feelings that you have inside."
Here's a nice interview with a writer/director whose films are synonymous with this time of year. John Carpenter went to USC film school in 1968, where he wrote and edited an Oscar winning short film. Another student film was enlarged and released as the sci-fi parody DARK STAR (1974), and he was off to the races. His next film, the urban action film ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976), combined elements of westerns and horror films in some startlingly effective ways. The runaway success of his third feature, HALLOWEEN (1978) set the (insistent, pulsing) tone for the rest of his career, and for the next ten years of horror films.

In the interview below (just follow along to part 2, etc.) Carpenter shares his philosophy of filmmaking as well as a little bit about his beginnings and early influences.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Nappy Birthday to Director Mira Nair

Director Mira Nair, born on this day in India in 1957, first came to international prominence with her striking 1988 feature SALAAM BOMBAY!, which takes viewers into the streets of Mumbai to observe the particulars of life of homeless children. The film won a number of awards and was widely screened in art houses around the world.

Her next few films were made in the U.S., her adopted country. It was her return to India however that inspired her greatest success to date, MONSOON WEDDING (2001) which takes viewers behind the scenes of a traditional Indian arranged wedding, with very funny and keenly observed portraits of the participants. The film was a major international hit and set a record as the highest grossing Indian movie of all time.

In the years since she has directed a number of films including a 2004 adaptation of VANITY FAIR, THE NAMESAKE in 2006 and the Amelia Earhart biopic AMELIA (2009).

Here she is on the film that changed her life, and it's a somewhat surprising choice: Gilles Pontecorvo's BATTLE OF ALGIERS:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

John Sayles to Write New DJANGO Western with Franco Nero to Star

The Hollywood Reporter posted yesterday that John Sayles has been engaged to write a new DJANGO film. The first DJANGO film was made by the great Sergio Corbucci in 1966. While there are a couple of semi-official sequels, the name Django caught on with quick buck exploitation producers and they slapped it on many films with no connection to the original character or film, much like the way the name Bruce Lee was appended to numerous films that had nothing to do with Bruce Lee at all.

It's a major coup to land not only Sayles but also Nero, who, though in his seventies now, is a fine actor and a link to the authentic spaghetti western past. No director has been announced, but perhaps those of us who love Westerns All'Italiana may be forgiven for holding out hope that Enzo Castellari gets the assignment. Castellari has worked with Nero many times and may just be, along with the less action-oriented Sergio Martino, the greatest living Italian genre director.

You can see rare, and hysterical, footage of Castellari on set below (starting at about 5:22). It's a corny, staged (and weirdly dubbed) interview, but you get an idea about Castellari's vigorous style.

The whole doc is pretty great actually. Enjoy, and start getting excited.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Happy Birthday to Master Provocateur Dusan Makavejev

Dusan Makavejev is one of our greatest and most important filmmakers. Born in Serbia on this day in 1932, he studied psychology before he began making films. His initial efforts trod the boundary line of social and political acceptability, mainly due to their sexual content. With 1971's W.R. MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM, he obliterated that line, with extremely frank sexual content and a playful, satirical approach to politics that went right over the heads of even the relatively liberal Yugoslavian government. His next film, made in Canada was the legendarily profane and divisive SWEET MOVIE (1974), which is very likely the most graphic and transgressive film to play in international arthouses. As an international exile he continued making movies in Western Europe and elsewhere

Here is a multipart interview with Makavejev in which he ruminates about his aesthetic choices and beliefs. He seems like a nice man, and not at all like a bomb-throwing anarchist, except for a slight twinkle in his eye.

An excerpt:
"Creative people don't need to know exactly what they are doing. I'm not saying that God is talking through them but something is talking through the artist. I think that the work of the artist is a form of art. You create an interplay between certain forms. Now, is it characters in a story, through the action, or is it interplay between background and foreground... , is it people in landscapes, close-ups and wide shots, zooms, movements? But it's all formal games. It's all formal work, what you do. Of course you always claim that, 'OK, this is the story I want to say' but the story's always a pretext, the story's always a trigger, the story is something that will help you and the crew to get into creative work."

Monday, October 12, 2015

Director Brian Trenchard-Smith on the Life and Legacy of Bruce Lee

There's a nice Bruce Lee article on the site Talkhouse this week. Brian Trenchard-Smith is a very prolific director of (mostly) low-budget fare. Don't let the downmarket pedigree fool you though, he is a very smart man and a clever, talented filmmaker.

His piece on Bruce Lee, still the most influential martial arts star ever despite his comparatively minuscule filmed output and early death at the age of 32, has some nice insight about Bruce and his place in film and cultural history, and the director recalls his ill-fated trip to meet Lee and pitch the film that eventually became Trenchard-Smith's gonzo action thrill-ride THE MAN FROM HONG KONG.

Most interestingly is Trenchard-Smith's perspective as a director and it's Lee the director as much as Lee the star he mourns.
"He was only 32, with a grasp of the dynamics of action staging that was ahead of the curve. He planned to put spiritual content and Asian values into his forthcoming Hollywood movies. What might his oeuvre have contained if he was still directing today in his seventies and beyond, like Scorsese, Eastwood and Ridley Scott?"
Lee only signed one film as director but he is as much auteur of his films as a great comedy team is of theirs. You can see his mark in the staging of action, the casting and even in aesthetic decisions made for non-action scenes. It is easy to pick out which scenes in his early films were not directed by Lee because of their lack of dynamism and reliance on cheap corner-cutting techniques. As he grew older he would probably have become primarily a director, and we are all the worse for not having decades of Bruce Lee films to enjoy.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Happy Birthday Guillermo del Toro: Watch His Spellbinding Texas Film Awards Speech

Every year at the Texas Film Awards, all of us AFS staffers are busy running around, doing our jobs,  trying to appear convivial and have fun while simultaneously doing what we can to make the show run well. As a result, we don't often get to see the speeches and presentations onstage except in hurried, overheard, incomplete sections. But there was one speaker this year who made us all stop in our tracks, hit pause, and listen.

Guillermo del Toro, who was presented with an Honorary Texan Award that night, gave an acceptance speech that did no harm to his reputation as a warm, witty and engaging extemporaneous speaker. His speech is by turns funny and heartfelt. You can watch the whole thing here, including the presentation by Robert Rodriguez and the highlight montage, on the occasion of his 51st birthday today. Happy birthday GDT!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Klaus Kinski Was So Difficult That One of His Producers Plotted to Kill Him for the Insurance Money

Klaus Kinski, who died back in 1991, had a well-deserved reputation for being a difficult actor. He could be a pussycat in meetings or in social situations but as soon as he was on set he was undercutting everyone, starting fights, sowing discord and being a very bad team player.

Werner Herzog's documentary MY BEST FIEND tells the Kinski story best, but David Schmoeller's short film PLEASE KILL MR. KINSKI (1999) is comfortably in second place. Here Schmoeller tells the story of hiring Kinski for his 1986 horror film CRAWLSPACE, realizing that Kinski was uncontrollable, being refused permission by the distribution partner to fire Kinski, and being confronted with the Italian producer's drastic Plan B: to kill Kinski and collect the insurance money.

As is often the case, the truth is much stranger than fiction. Here's Schmoeller to tell the story.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"She Was Cinema" Chantal Akerman's J'AI FAIM, J'AI FROID

Chantal Akerman, whose death was announced yesterday, was one of a small number of filmmaking masters who could be considered a great artist worthy of mention with the best of all time. Though her best known film is the masterpiece JEANNE DIELMAN, 23, QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES made in 1975 when she was only 25, she was a prolific filmmaker, often working in the medium of short films.

The following short film, J'AI FAIM, J'AI FROID from 1984 gives an idea of the new, and influential, sense of pacing that Akerman brought to her films. A filmmaker's tempo, in editing, performance and movement, is regulated by her "beats." Each filmmaker has his or her own time units. Akerman's time unit of choice, as her friend Nicola Mazzani recounted, was the breath. From Akerman's New York Time's obituary:
Mr. Mazzanti recalled asking Ms. Akerman how she had edited “Hotel Monterey,” a silent film about a Lower Manhattan hotel that she had made in 1972. 
“She said, ‘I was breathing, and then at one point I understood it was the time to cut. It was my breathing that decided the length of my shots,’ ” he said. “That’s Chantal Akerman. She breathed through the films,” he said. “She was cinema.”

Friday, October 2, 2015

Watch Groucho Marx Get Completely Freaked Out with Hilarious Results

Groucho Marx, born on this day in 1890, is rightly considered one of the quickest wits ever to trod the boards. After a long stage and screen career, he, at an age when most people retire, became the host of a game show YOU BET YOUR LIFE, first on radio and then on TV. It is a terrific show, entirely because of Groucho's improvisational talent. Also, his producers were skilled at finding contestants who would bring out the best in Groucho.

Here's one of the very best, a man who calls himself Albert Hall. His protruding eyes are like gasoline on the fire of Groucho's comic genius and the results are pretty hot stuff.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Great Actor & Hell-Raising Hall-Of-Famer Richard Harris Born On This Day in 1930

The Irish actor Richard Harris, who died in 2002, would have been 85 years old had he lived, which, considering his well known excesses (he diagnosed himself as "excessive-compulsive"), was not likely or maybe even possible. He was one of the most naturally gifted actors of his time, with a reputation as a dissolute drinker, which he shared with his best drinking buddies Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton. Drunk or not, he was a masterful stage and screen actor with a powerful, often menacing presence.

Known in his later years for his role as Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies, he had a much more varied and interesting film career than many of his latter day fans may have realized, starring in big-budget Hollywood films as well as auteurist classics like Lindsay Anderson's THIS SPORTING LIFE (1963) (his breakout role), Antonioni's RED DESERT (1964) and Peckinpah's MAJOR DUNDEE (1965); as well as oddball classics like John Frankenheimer's wiggy comic-book mess 99 & 44/100% DEAD (1974), the interesting mid-'70s Richard Lester films JUGGERNAUT (1974) and ROBIN & MARIAN (1976), surprise hit A MAN CALLED HORSE (1970) and its sequels; and many, many more, a good number of which were not up to his level, but which no doubt helped him with his alimony and bar tabs. The talent and presence were still there though, as he proved in his supporting performance as English Bob (bitter irony that for an Irishman who had faced his share of discrimination at the hands of the English) in Clint Eastwood's 1992 UNFORGIVEN. Along the way he even had a hit record with his version of Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park."

Here he is on the popular British interview show PARKINSON in 1973, talking about his life, career, and co-stars. Don't miss his Marlon Brando impression that is at the same time an astute and actorly observation. Follow the links to see the later chapters of the interview.