Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Watch This: Ivan Cardoso's 1982 Brazilian Horror Oddity SECRET OF THE MUMMY

This excerpt from the ultra-low budget 1982 horror by Brazilian basement auteur certainly holds up well today. Cardoso surfaced on the radar of American horror fans with an early '90s Something Weird Video release called NOSFERATU IN BRAZIL which compiled a number of Cardoso's films.

Those expecting something more akin to the work of his countryman Jose Mojica Marins (who appears in this film), were disappointed. It's more Kuchar than Coffin Joe, and it has a sincerity than will never go out of fashion. Most surprisingly, perhaps, is the presence of THE SECOND MOTHER standout Regina Casé.

Looking forward to seeing the entire film someday. If anybody has it, send it along.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Watch This: Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg's Sci-Fi Glam CONTACT Video

It's Brigitte Bardot's 81st birthday today. In the '50s and '60s no one more than BB personified the mix of youth, sophistication and specifically European sexiness better than Bardot. Her turn in Roger Vadim's ...AND GOD CREATED WOMAN (1956) kept the lights burning in countless art house theaters. As a screen subject she had a glowing, somewhat wild presence that was probably used to best effect by Louis Malle in VIVA MARIA (1965) and Jean-Luc Godard in CONTEMPT (1963). Even in her most crass commercial work she overflows the screen and redeems what might otherwise be unwatchable films.

Here is a music video created for her 1968 television special. She performs the Serge Gainsbourg-written CONTACT. Interestingly, the French special was also aired on American network TV. Though it was not a ratings winner, Americans who saw it must have been thrilled and/or confused in equal measure.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Happy 66th Birthday to Pedro Almodóvar: Watch this 1994 Conan O'Brien Interview

When we look around us at the great masters of film still working among us, Pedro Almodóvar must be considered one of the very greatest. His still growing body of work continues to compel us and instruct us, even as it thrills us. It's never a chore to watch a new Almodóvar film. Also, as an interview subject or speaker he is always funny and interesting.

Here's an old interview clip from LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN with Almodóvar. He is promoting KIKA, and, within the confines of a quick sit-down, is refreshingly different. He tells American audiences that they are "more sophisticated than you think." He even takes a moment to praise Russ Meyer, and says, "the women (sic) has a lot of secrets."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Two Teenage Sisters Watched Every Best Picture Winner & AFI Top 100

When the story about the two teenage girls who watched every Academy Award Best Picture Winner and every film on the AFS 100 Movies... 100 Years list started showing up in my social media feed I felt a little curmudgeonly about it. After all, the Oscar is a trade award and not necessarily an imprimatur signifying historical excellence, and anyway, how can teenagers have the life experience that will allow them to understand and and absorb the meaning and importance of a good film anyway?

In all likelihood, the two sisters probably did not catch everything, and, at least in the article appended here, they appear to have liked the more crowd pleasing stuff, but they genuinely seem to have ventured far out into the unknown on a voyage of greater appreciation and understanding. I hope they'll rewatch the films after they have more life experience to give the viewings more emotional heft, but what the hell, they have a good start.

Here's 15 year old Julia Pitts on SOME LIKE IT HOT:
“I thought Marilyn Monroe was pretty good. I liked her as the girl in SOME LIKE IT HOT. I liked the other people in the story too. The two guys were hilarious. The whole plot was super funny."
And her 16 year old sister Cecilia on THE GODFATHER:
“Here Brando isn't a flashy mobster at all. He controls the family, He wants the best for the family. He has given them the American Dream. You can tell the actors looked up to him — and it works.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

From BFI: What Makes a Film Noir? An Informative Infographic

Film Noir is not exactly a genre, not only a historical movement in film history. It is something we know when we see. Paul Schrader has written one of the best overviews of what a Film Noir actually is in his Notes On Film Noir (1972).

Now the BFI has produced an entertaining and enlightening infographic about the elements that make a film noir. It leads the reader through the various elements and attitudes of noir and it even has a pinboard that attempts to determine which is the most Noir Film of all time.

It's fun. Check it out here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Coming to AFS: Films of Outlaw Auteur Seijun Suzuki - Watch the Trailer Now!

Starting October 9 we will be presenting ACTION, ANARCHY AND AUDACITY: A SEIJUN SUZUKI RETROSPECTIVE with 35mm presentations of many films rarely seen on American screens before and, of course, the well known ones like TOKYO DRIFTER and BRANDED TO KILL. This is a very special opportunity to see the work of a man who kept his studio bosses in a constant state of anxiety by going too far - every single time.

Our editor Daniel Sorbera has just cut a trailer for the series that sums up what it's all about. Hope to see all of you here many times in October and November.

Full schedule here. Presented in conjunction with the Freer & Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institute and The Japan Foundation.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Johnnie To: Our Generation's Tough Guy Auteur

The classic auteurs of American cinema were often men who made tough action movies with humanistic centers. Ford, Hawks, Walsh, Huston and, later, Peckinpah, Aldrich and Fuller fit this description. Understandably, super-macho movies have suffered some downturn in respectability in recent years, but there is a director at work today in the mold of those earlier figures and he is in his filmmaking prime now. Michael Bay, Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have all staked their claims, but none has put the pieces together quite like the prolific To.

Johnnie To the action director is only one of the many Johnnie To personae. He has also made excellent dramas, comedies and romances. His new film, OFFICE aka DESIGN FOR LIVING, is a musical and it premieres on these shores next week in a limited release configuration. It will likely take its time to reach its non-Chinese-American public, and it may not reach them at all. Previous Johnnie To films have never quite found the American audiences they deserve, but he is a very great master, classically proficient and with a sense of irony and, along with frequent collaborator Wa Ka Fai, a strong perverse streak.

Here is the teaser trailer for OFFICE. I suspect that this trailer has been cut by To himself, as it does not conform to commercial norms for the Chinese market and another, more mainstream version has also been released.

While we are on the subject of other Johnnie To-cut trailers for his own films, here are some of the best, in reverse chronological order, ending with the trailer I consider my favorite of all time, for THE MISSION, in which To simply seems to string together the best two-or three-second moments in the film without regard to telling any kind of story.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Bette Davis Episode of 'This Is Your Life' is Like A Weird Dream

Bette Davis was, of course, one of the screen's greatest performers. She was also known to be thorny and impatient offscreen. When she is ambushed by the THIS IS YOUR LIFE crew while reviewing sketches with Robert Wagner and Edith Head, we can see the old familiar fire in her eyes. The following half hour verges between true warmth - her meetings with director William Wyler, Paul Henreid and her sister; intense awkwardness - the appearance of an ex-con actor she helped obtain parole for; and theater-of-cruelty-level unbearability - a nightclub performer who does her Bette Davis impression. It's all just so weird, made all the more so by the awful Lawrence Welk colors of the set and the sight of so many old favorites in toupees or unfortunate hairstyles (Olivia De Haviland, whoosh).

This is some serious weirdness.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

From Hammer To Nail: An Interview with THE MEND Writer/Director John Magary

THE MEND comes to AFS this weekend September 11 and 13. Our guest host will be filmmaker and journalist Michael Tully. In an interview for Hammer To Nail, Tully talks to the man behind THE MEND, John Magary, about the organized chaos of his acclaimed dramedy.

You can read the (appropriately sprawling) piece here.

Watch This: Sid Caesar in One of the Funniest Comedy Sketches Ever

Today is the 93rd birth anniversary of Sid Caesar, the comic genius of stage, screen and (especially) television who died last year. He, along with his talented collaborators including actors Carl Reiner, Imogene Coca, Howard Morris; and writers Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Neil Simon; helped to bring a post vaudeville comic sensibility to the masses. The humor of the Caesar group had more in common with Mad Magazine or Lenny Bruce than with Jack Benny or Burns and Allen.

In the two clips below they hilariously demolish all the tropes of bullfighting movies. It's about as good as it gets, with Reiner (as the arrogant young bullfighter), Caesar and Imogene Coca all getting enormous laughs. This is comedy genius.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Cool Movie Site Alert: Clothes On Film

The site Clothes On Film (twitter handle: @clothesonfilm) is an eye-opener for people (like me) who don't pay much conscious attention to the art of film costume. It's an element of film storytelling roughly on a level with scenic design or even music - it's very important to characterization and establishment of period, and, if skillfully used, it can add subconscious levels of meaning to the storytelling.

The site's writers do an excellent job of mixing pieces about old and new film (and TV), commemorating the lives and careers of individual designers, and making us look for the language of costume in the films we see.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Here's What You Need to Know About the New & Improved AFS Membership Levels

Read all about it!

For years now, we've been listening to your requests and working to devise a better system for giving our members more and more great experiences while keeping membership dues inexpensive. Our previous membership levels were created several years ago when we were offering 7 to 10 events most months. Now we are screening many more films, having more intensive workshops and dialogues, and generally giving you more and more chances to use your membership.

Understandably, many people wanted an affordable membership that would allow them to attend events without the necessity to buy an additional ticket - a multipass, if you will. So, when we set out to create our dream system, it involved a more robust LOVE membership level that does just that. From now on, LOVE-level members will pay only $20 a month to attend all regular priced screenings, as well as Moviemaker Dialogues, Works-In-Progress, parties, etc. It requires a one-year commitment, but the billing will be done automatically monthly, a la Netflix.

There's no catch here. It's as good as it sounds. You'll pay the cost of two movie tickets every month and attend as many of our screenings as you like. The Dual LOVE membership is an even better deal - only $30 a month for you and your partner to sign up.

The WATCH and MAKE levels also remain excellent bargains too, with many of the same deals. There's a whole chart here to help you make up your mind about which level is right for you - it may be the exclusive PREMIERE level, which includes admission to big events with talent in attendance, or it may be the 100% free LEARN level membership for active students. Also, if you want to split up any of the membership packages into monthly payments, we can work with you to split those up.

This is a membership structure developed by and for major film enthusiasts who want to have as many opportunities to share film culture together and, through their support, provide opportunities for Austin's filmmaking community to grow and prosper.

If you are already a member, you've received an automatic upgrade to the new benefits, and if you're not a member - isn't THIS the time to become one? Sign up online or at any Austin Film Society event.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Happy Birthday to the Wild Man of Hong Kong Cinema: Anthony Wong

Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, born on this day in 1961, is one of the world's most important character actors, a mix between Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi and Michael Ironside. A versatile actor who can play in any range but who has often favored extreme roles, he has managed to stay very, very busy. IMDB credits him with 192 appearances. In his way he is the heir to character players like Timothy Carey (inasmuch as anyone can be "like" Carey) and Warren Oates. Able to play a bad guy and remain somehow sympathetic, as well as likable (if complicated) heroes.

He is also known as a rebellious loose-cannon in real life, which he alludes to onstage at this year's Hong Kong film awards, where he goes off he rails a little bit, expanding his 30 second presenter slot to three and a half minutes of awkward autobiographical riffing:

Grady Hendrix describes Anthony Wong in this way:
Anthony Wong Chau-sang in any movie—Hong Kong’s greatest character actor is like the Swiss Army knife of delicious bad guys. In Erotic Ghost Story 2 he’s a demon who dresses like a member of the KISS army and flies. In John Woo’s Hard Boiled he’s Johnny, a man whose wardrobe consists solely of eye-searing 90’s suits. In The Heroic Trio he’s a mute martial arts monster who eats his own severed fingers. He’s a normal guy transformed into a homicidal maniac seeking vengeance on all taxi drivers because he had a bad cab ride in Taxi Hunter. In the Young & Dangerous series he’s the legendary Tai Fei, who spends five films demonstrating different ways to pick his nose. In Ebola Syndrome he plays a serial killer who is a carrier of the ebola virus who spreads it to the customers in his restaurant by having sex with mounds of raw ground beef. And in Jiang Hu—The Triad Zone he plays the mythical General Kwan, God of War, who is unlucky in love and confused by remote controls. Truly, Anthony Wong contains multitudes.
In his spare time, Wong is a family man and a singer and composer. His music is generally described as punk, but actually more New Wave/Art Rock. It's not bad. I recommend the track "Let Thunder-God Gash All The Manic Bullies."