Monday, November 30, 2015

From Grady Hendrix: The Japanese Criterion Classics You Can't Buy

Masahiro Shinoda's KILLERS ON PARADE (1961)

Our favorite writer on Asian Cinema Grady Hendrix has a Film Comment article here about some of the Japanese titles that Criterion has in its vaults that are not available on DVD but that are available on Hulu. While many people rely on Hulu for repeats of network TV shows (punctuated by annoying commercials unless a bribe-like surcharge is paid), the most essential feature of the streaming service is their Criterion titles. It does not include all the titles Criterion has released, but to make up for that it includes many films that have never been released on home video formats.

As Hendrix says:
Hulu is a repository for everything that Criterion would never put on DVD, from Ironfinger (65) and Golden Eyes (68), two very strange James Bond knock-offs that feel like they were made by and for small children, to deep catalogue cuts from international masters like Nagisa Oshima (Criterion DVD = 8 movies; Hulu = 16). If you only know Nobuhiko Obayashi from his experimental haunted mansion movie, House (77), you owe it to yourself to check out his experimental true crime castration movie, Sada (98), or his ultra-experimental gothic short film Emotion (66), both of which are streaming. (To be fair, Emotion is included as a supplement on the HouseDVD but at 40 minutes it’s a nice stand-alone film.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Here's an Hour of Allison Anders Interviewing Wim Wenders, Enjoy!

AFS has a gigantic Wim Wenders retrospective coming up in January and February. We can't wait. In the meantime, here's an appetizer. Writer/director Allison Anders talking at length to her longtime friend Wenders.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Born On This Day: Harpo Marx; Watch Harpo & Chico Play a Piano Duet Like No Other

Harpo Marx, one of the three funniest Marx Brothers, was born on this date in 1888.

The Marx Brothers' family had show biz connections and their mother Minnie had the necessary iron will to serve as their manager during the turn of the century musical variety years. The brothers were all fine musicians and it was in this capacity that they first took the stage. Harpo, master of many instruments, was the most talented at music. It was the comic ad libs the brothers threw around onstage and their responses to hecklers that made them major stars though. Harpo's elaborate pantomimes gave the routines a sublime dimension and as we all know they went on, in middle age, to become movie stars as well.

Here is a scene from THE BIG STORE (1941), not their best work, but like all Marx Brothers films, a showcase for some peerless routines. Here brothers Chico and Harpo execute a piano duet that contains humor, agility, brotherly love and, of course, anarchy.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Watch This: The Life & Times of Don Luis Buñuel; also: His Perfect Martini Recipe

Luis Buñuel's LOS OLVIDADOS screens Tuesday 11/24 at AFS @ The Marchesa, hosted by Richard Linklater with special guest Professor Charles Ramírez Berg, author of The Classical Mexican Cinema.

Has there ever been a great filmmaker with the range and diversity of material shown by Luis Buñuel? It's staggering to think that the same filmmaker who brought the world UN CHIEN ANDALOU also made BELLE DE JOUR. The same man behind the socially conscious (mostly) realist LOS OLVIDADOS also tripped off into the sensual surrealism of THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE.

Here is a fine 1984 BBC doc that includes interviews with many of his contemporaries and collaborators.


Also, just for kicks, here is Buñuel's martini recipe, which includes a dash of sacrilege.
The day before your guests arrive, put all the ingredients — glasses, gin, and shaker — in the refrigerator. Use a thermometer to make sure the ice is about twenty degrees below zero (centigrade). Don't take anything out until your friends arrive; then pour a few drops of Noilly Prat and half a demitasse spoon of Angostura bitters over the ice. Shake it, then pour it out, keeping only the ice, which retains a faint taste of both. Then pour straight gin over the ice, shake it again, and serve. 
The making of a dry martini should resemble the Immaculate Conception, for, as Saint Thomas Aquinas once noted, the generative power of the Holy Ghost pierced the Virgin's hymen "like a ray of sunlight through a window — leaving it unbroken."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Watch This: Live from Lisbon - The Austin Panel

Halfway around the world a few days ago, a group of people gathered together at the Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival to talk about Austin as a film city success story. The panel, consisting of Louis Black, Sandy Boone, David Gordon Green, Geoff Marslett and Bob Byington talk at length about what makes Austin special for filmmakers and audiences. It's a very instructive master class, loaded with insight and great stories.

Watch it here:

Monday, November 16, 2015

Scene Missing: Dennis Hopper, American Dreamer

Dennis Hopper's THE LAST MOVIE is, as has been recorded by practically everyone who saw it since its release, a flawed film (aren't they all?), and a deeply self-indulgent exercise. It also carries the potent smoke of its era in every frame, and if Hopper's final cut of the film makes little linear sense, maybe it is also true that Hollywood and the world in 1971 made little linear sense.

At a time when the Hollywood studio machine had lost its commercial compass, Hopper's low budget motorcycle quest film EASY RIDER broke the box office, tapping into what had been a very elusive youth market. Universal offered Hopper a chance to make his dream project, an existential western about a movie bit player who, rather than pick up and leave when his movie wraps, stays on location and becomes something like a modern desperado. Hopper received a no-strings-attached million dollars and the assurance of final cut. He shot the film, with a cast and crew consisting mostly of his friends, in Peru, home of a certain potent variety of cocaine.


With the exposed film in the can, Hopper came down off the mountain and retired to Taos, New Mexico to edit his masterpiece. Here he was vulnerably situated in the center of a freak vortex and he solicited and received all kinds of editing advice from all quarters. One of the most persuasive voices was that of director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who urged him to subvert the more-or-less conventional narrative structure in favor of a fragmented style that expressed the schizophrenia of modern life. He heeded this advice and the released version of THE LAST MOVIE was jagged, discontinuous and frequently beautiful. It was savaged by critics and withdrawn by Universal but it has appreciated in critical esteem, even though Hopper did not work as a director again for several years.

The documentary THE AMERICAN DREAMER was also put together in a loose way. In 1971 L.M. Kit Carson and Lawrence Schiller documented a number of wild weeks in Taos as Hopper edited, partied, philosophized and shot firearms. The film does not document the events of the period so much as it provides seemingly random slices of life - Hopper working the moviola and sharing his ideas about the art of film, Hopper taking a bath with two appreciative young women, Hopper drinking endless beers and smoking endless joints. It's kind of like a nature documentary about a wild man who was an enigma to his industry, a challenging, exhausting friend to those close to him and a true artist who followed his star to the extent that he could still make it out in the haze of booze and drugs that surrounded him.

THE AMERICAN DREAMER has recently been restored and is being theatrically rereleased. AFS will play it twice, on November 20th and 23rd.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Born On This Date: René Clair - Watch His 1924 Dada Masterpiece ENTR'ACTE

René Clair (born on this date in 1898) is well known as one of the most important figures in film history, from his early triumphs LE MILLION and À NOUS LA LIBERTÉ to his American period which includes THE GHOST GOES WEST and I MARRIED A WITCH and through to his postwar return to France and mature works.

But before he became a giant of the world screen, the 26 year old Clair was a dashing young writer and actor who fell in with the Dada crowd, which looks like a pretty fun crowd to roll with to be honest. With a few collaborators, including Man Ray, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp and Erik Satie he made this rollicking 20-minute commissioned piece, which played between the acts of a ballet performance as an intermission or ent'racte.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Watch This: Documentary About AFS At The Marchesa Wins an Emmy!

It was an honor to work with the talented crew of Mario Troncoso and Chelsea Hernandez on their KLRU Arts In Context documentary BEST LITTLE ART HOUSE IN TEXAS last year. The show also covers Michael Moore's State Theater in Traverse City Michigan.

Now they have taken home a Lone Star Emmy for the show! Mario and Chelsea also received Emmys in three other categories. We're sure their arms were sore by the end of the night. The accolades are well deserved.

Here, for your consideration, is the award winning 26 minute doc.

Cool Thing To Do Alert: The Austin Asian American Film Festival is Wilder Than You Think

The stars of ATOMIC HEART, taking a break from being pursued by other-dimensional Saddam Hussein

Considering how busy we are in all of our lives and how many film screening opportunities there are going on all the time in Austin, we might occasionally overlook something pretty great. This is pretty great.

The Austin Asian American Film Festival (AAAFF) kicks off this Thursday at the Marchesa. Their programming team has assembled a really terrific lineup including the exceptional doc THE CHINESE MAYOR, the crazed, experimental (Christopher Doyle-shot) Philippine experimental feature RUINED HEART, THE KILLING FIELDS OF DR. HAING S. NGOR with director Arthur Dong in attendance, and, my favorite, the transgressive, reality-bending youthquake ATOMIC HEART from Iran, which definitely makes Tehran look like the strangest city on earth right now.

Along the way there is a K-Pop party, an AAAFF Comedy Night and more. There are badges and passes for sale on the AAAFF site and most events will have individual tickets for sale at the box office.

Also: AFS members can get $10 off badges and film passes to this year's festival by using discount codes at checkout. Use "afspass10" for passes and "afsbadge10" for badges.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Watch This: Richard Nixon Opens for Elaine May & Mike Nichols in 1959

The Emmy Awards were a wild proposition in 1959. Here, Vice President and 1960 Presidential Contender Richard Nixon drops a characteristically awkward, tone-deaf speech about the "freedom to change the channel" or something like that, before yielding the stage to Elaine May and Mike Nichols, who tear it down. Their "Total Mediocrity Award" sketch is as big a hit as Nixon's crude speech was a bomb.

Warning, the quality of this video is on par with Mars Rover transmissions, but it's worth it.


Nichols, who died last year, was born on this day in 1931. He and his brilliant comedy partner Elaine May each changed the face of film with their incisive and humane work. Recently it was announced that May will direct the PBS American Masters documentary about Nichols. That's something to look forward to.

Here are Nichols and May talking film in 2006. This gets into real grand-master territory and is worth your time if you are a filmmaker or are into the process of filmmaking.

"The thing I love most about movies, and the thing I love most about other people's work, is small things. If you think about your favorite thing in a movie or in a play or in a performance ever, it's always something very small that you can barely tell other people about. It's so small but it just makes you gasp. Because it's like a little pebble of truth. It's something true. And harvesting them, because after all the acting's done by other people, is still something that I think is so thrilling. With luck you can catch that wind. It can still be done."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ferrara/Noé: The Maddening Audio Interview We've All Been Waiting For

Abel Ferrara and Gaspar Noé are both polarizing filmmakers who take major risks and seem to live on the edge at all times in their professional lives. From Ferrara's arthouse/grindhouse beginnings to his current residency in Italy making biographical films about Pasolini and Padre Pio, he has both attracted and alienated audiences with his choices and attitudes. He's the classic reprobate in many ways, and has also turned out brilliant work. Film history will be kind to him.

The Argentinian/French Noé, in his films I STAND ALONE, IRREVERSIBLE, ENTER THE VOID and the new 3D hardcore erotica film LOVE, also stands outside what might be consider the orthodoxy of international arthouse cinema.

What happens when these two attempt to have a meeting of the minds over Skype? It's challenging to both the brain and the ears, and definitely not safe for work, especially the part where they talked about Abel Ferrara's beginnings making a porn film.

It's good to hear that Ferrara's energy level is as high as ever and that even Noé has a hard time keeping up with his profanity laced wisdom.


Monday, November 2, 2015

One of the Greats, Luchino Visconti, Born on this Day in 1906

Luchino Visconti, who began making films as Jean Renoir's assistant in 1935 and went on to a career as one of the world's greatest filmmaking masters, was born on this date on 1906. He did not make as many features as many of his contemporaries but he really made his work count, with epics such as THE LEOPARD, ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS and THE DAMNED among his finest works. In addition to his work on the screen he was an eminent director of Grand Opera, and he staged four Maria Callas productions at La Scala in Milan, along with many others.

Here's a documentary that gives some insight into the mature Visconti's craft, as he works with Helmut Berger, Ingrid Thulin and others on the set of THE DAMNED (1969).