Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Year In Movie Longreads Part 3: The Final Chapter

Here is a third and final round-up of some of 2016's best long-form writing on the subject of film.

  • In Hazlitt.net, Soraya Roberts writes about Winona Ryder as a performer, and a phenomenon, in "Winona, Forever."
  • The BFI has reprinted a diary by the late Raoul Coutard, not a household name, but one of the most important image-makers in the medium's history, in which he reveals what he learned from working on Godard's early films.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Longreads II: Eclectic Overview

For your holiday season delectation, here are a few more of the best movie related long-form pieces from 2016. My title is meant to be a play on BREAKIN' II: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. If that was not immediately obvious, I hope you will now re-read it, understand the joke, and laugh appreciatively.

Here are the articles:

  • Davis Bertrand takes us inside the Ugandan commercial film industry, colloquially known as Wakaliwood, in his expansive Hazlitt.net piece, "Small But Supa Tough."
  • The New Yorker has a fascinating piece, written by Tad Friend, profiling mid-budget movie exec Adam Fogelson, "The Mogul Of The Middle." Lots of insight about the financial realities of movies today.
  • The BFI takes a fresh look at Film Noir's French bona fides. Ginette Vincendeau shows us that France provided more than just a name to this legendarily American form in the article "How the French Birthed Film Noir."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Year in Movie Longreads, Episode I: The Phantom Thinkpiece

Every year there are a number of long, substantive articles; thinkpieces, profiles, interviews, scholarly overviews; that are published, noted, bookmarked, and, in some cases, never gotten around to. The holidays provide many opportunities for catching up.

Over the next couple of posts, I will attempt to collect some of those longreads that you may have missed, or not had a chance to devote much attention to. Here are some of the best thinkpieces of the year.

  • In Film Comment, Shonni Enelow examines the phenomenon of emotional contact (and the withholding of emotional contact) with our movie stars in the piece The Great Recession.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Watch This: Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin's 1971 TV Masterpiece MELODY

Today is the 70th birthday of actress, singer, songwriter and style icon Jane Birkin. She has appeared in films by Antonioni, Rivette, Varda, Godard, Resnais, Tavernier, Hong Sang Soo and many others. To many, she may be best known for her collaborations with musician Serge Gainsbourg: singles, albums, scandals, and a daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg, whose own resume is fairly packed with accolades.

Her collaborations with Serge Gainsbourg are pure magic. The video linked below is perhaps the most comprehensive example of the kind of sparks they made together. Directed by music video pioneer Jean-Cristophe Averty, it is a video designed to accompany the concept album "Histoire de Melody Nelson" and it includes those songs in their entirety. This is one of the great pieces of music-video ever created, a masterpiece in both visual and aural form. The delirious choral and string arrangements by Jean-Claude Vannier, kick in to high gear in the last chapter and the piece achieves something like the nirvana intended. Enjoy.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Listen Here: Julie Dash Tells the Story of DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST

The Austin Film Society presents a screening of the new restoration of DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST with special guest Lisa B. Thompson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of African & African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas, on Tuesday, December 13 at the Spirit of Texas Theater. Tickets and more information here.

25 years ago, Julie Dash made the film for which she is still best known for today, a remarkable portrait of a place and time long past. DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (1991), which was the first theatrically distributed film directed by an African-American woman, has only grown in critical esteem in the intervening quarter-century.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday to Kirk Douglas: Enjoy this Hour-long 1971 Interview

There is no living actor with a career as as long and as full of great movies as Kirk Douglas. From his his first film (made when he was already 30!), THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS (1946) through most of the next six decades, he stayed busy. Douglas starred in, and occasionally also produced some of the finest films of his, or any, era.

Consider this list of highlights:
  • OUT OF THE PAST (1947 d. Jacques Tourneur) Playing second-dimple to Robert Mitchum
  • CHAMPION (1949 d. Mark Robson) Douglas' breakthrough role as a boxer rising in the ranks, Oscar nomination for Best Actor
  • YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN (1950, d. Michael Curtiz)
  • ACE IN THE HOLE (1951, d. Billy Wilder)
  • DETECTIVE STORY (1951, d. William Wyler) Golden Globe for Best Actor
  • THE BIG SKY (1952, d. Howard Hawks)
  • THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952, d. Vincente Minnelli), Oscar nomination for Best Actor
  • 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954, d. Fleischer) An enormous commercial hit
  • THE INDIAN FIGHTER (1955, d. Andre de Toth)
  • LUST FOR LIFE (1956, d. Minnelli) Oscar nomination, Golden Globe & New York Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
  • PATHS OF GLORY (1957, d. Stanley Kubrick)
  • THE VIKINGS (1958, d. Richard Fleischer)
  • SPARTACUS (1960, d. Kubrick)
  • LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (1962, d. David Miller)
  • TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN (1962, d. Minnelli)
  • THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSANGER (1963, d. John Huston) Douglas plays 4 roles
  • SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964, d. John Frankenheimer) Bold and brave political thriller about a military coup attempt in the U.S.
  • IN HARM'S WAY (1965, d. Otto Preminger)
  • THE HEROES OF TELEMARK (1965, d. Anthony Mann)
  • THE ARRANGEMENT (1969, d. Elia Kazan)
  • THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN (1970, d. Joseph Mankiewicz)
  • THE FURY (1978, d. Brian De Palma)
  • THE VILLAIN (1979, d. Hal Needham)
  • HOME MOVIES (1979, d. De Palma)
  • THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER (1982, d. George Miller)
  • TOUGH GUYS (1986, d. Jeff Kanew)
  • OSCAR (1991, d. John Landis)

Here is an interview with the bearded (for a role, probably my personal favorite THE LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD) Kirk Douglas on the always-excellent Dick Cavett Show. Of special note is his own commentary over a range of film clips.

Sincere happy birthday wishes on Douglas' 100th birthday. There will never be another like him.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Listen Here: The New Doug Loves Movies Podcast Features Austin's Own SLASH - Opens This Week!

Doug Benson, Clay Liford, Missi Pyle and Michael Ian Black at Doug Loves Movies taping

The AFS Grant supported film SLASH has really been getting around recently. It seems like everyone is talking about the film, whose writer/director Clay Liford is one of Austin's busiest and talented filmmakers.

The film is about a pair of teenagers (Hannah Marks of DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY and Michael Johnston of the TEEN WOLF series) whose love of erotic fan fiction brings them together. In a scenario that could be the launching point for cheap jokes, Liford creates something searchingly human and full of truth. The film also showcases Michael Ian Black, Robert Longstreet, Missi Pyle and many others in its dead-on cast.

The new Doug Loves Movies podcast, released today, is all about Slash, as host Doug Benson welcomes Liford, Black and Pyle to the studio to talk about the film.

SLASH opens at the Alamo South Lamar on Thursday, December 8.

On Monday, December 12, AFS will proudly co-present the film, with AFS Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen hosting the film alongside director Clay Liford. As always at the Drafthouse, AFS members can show their cards at the ticketing counter to receive a discount. We encourage you to enjoy SLASH and support local film. See you there!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Just Announced: AFS January and February Programming


As everyone who reads this must surely know by now, the AFS Cinema is closed for expansion and renovations through the end of 2016 and into the first few months of 2017. During this time there will be a number of off-site events, open to both AFS members and non-members. You can sign up for these events and find out more at austinfilm.org.

Sunday, January 8: AFS and AGLIFF present DON'T CALL ME SON at the Texas Spirit Theater (located in the Bullock Texas State History Museum. This is the new one from Brazilian writer/director Anna Muylaert, whose film THE SECOND MOTHER thrilled Austin Audiences last year. It's a family drama about a gender-adventurous young man, still in his teens, who finds out that his family is not what it seems, and must adjust to a radical change in fortunes.

Monday, January 9: SAVAGE GOLD will return to the screening room at Austin Studios. This celebration of hysterical video oddities, introduced and selected by AFS Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen and his fellow collector Maximillian Meehan, is always a wild, fun festival of discovery, complete with a junk-food potluck.

Thursday, January 12: AFS Artistic Director Richard Linklater will be joined by author Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation, Food, Inc.) for COMMAND & CONTROL, the new documentary based on Schlosser's book of the same name. The film takes viewers into the harrowing nightmare of a 1980 nuclear disaster in an Arkansas that nearly bloomed into an out-and-out extinction incident. This screening takes place at the Texas Spirit Theater.

Sunday, January 15: Robert Greene, one of the most interesting voices in film today, joins us for a screening of his new "non-fiction thriller" KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE, in which actress Kate Lyn Sheil prepares to play the role of newscaster Christine Chubbock, who committed suicide on-air in 1974. The previous day, the International Documentary Association and AFS welcome Greene to the Screening Room at Austin Studios for a Master Class.

Thursday, January 19: AFS Presents a 50th Anniversary Screening of DON'T LOOK BACK at the Paramount Theater guest hosted by Austin Chronicle Music Editor Raoul Hernandez. D.A. Pennebaker's doc follows the volcanically creative and playful young Bob Dylan on his first tour of England. Dylan, who represents the razor edge of an all-new kind of consciousness, seems to be a time-traveller, a modern explorer in a long-ago world of booking agents, reporters and other assorted Mr. Joneses.

Monday, January 30: AQUARIUS, the astonishing new film from NEIGHBORING SOUNDS writer/director Kleber Mendonça Filho, plays at the Texas Spirit Theater. Boasting a phenomenal performance by Sonia Braga as the last tenant of an apartment building that is scheduled to be razed, this is a film that will be remembered for many years.

Thursday, February 2: AFS Artistic Director Richard Linklater presents Bernardo Bertolucci's THE LAST EMPEROR at the Paramount Theater. Winner of an astonishing nine Academy Awards, as well as a clean sweep of the Golden Globes, this is an Epic in the truest sense of the word. Linklater, a big fan of the film, will give one of his highly-informative and perceptive introductions before the film.

Sunday, February 5: Science On Screen returns to the Spirit Of Texas Theater with the documentary film DINOSAUR 13, about a Tyrannosaurus fossil discovery in South Dakota that must surely qualify as one of the most fraught and complicated such maneuver in paleontological history. We will be joined for a discussion period about the finer points of paleontology and excavation by one of UT's key dinosaur researchers, Julia Clarke, Ph.D.

Monday, February 6: Writer/director David Zellner, who, with his brother and collaborator Nathan Zellner, makes such extraordinary films as KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER and KID-THING, harbors a dark secret. He loves the '80s Canadian show THE LITTLEST HOBO, in which a German Shepherd dog wanders from town to town like Michael Landon in HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN, solving problems and showing people the true way. He will join us to introduce a pair of episodes of the show and talk about their narrative construction. This show takes place at Austin Public and is free to the public.

Wednesday, February 8: The new doc from Raoul Peck, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, screens at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. Using the words of James Baldwin, from his unfinished manuscript No Name On The Street, Peck constructs a history of the Civil Rights era, through the eyes of one of its most active soldiers and intellectuals. Magnificently detailed and meticulously structured, this is a testament to Baldwin and his generation.

Monday, February 13: AFS presents the new restoration of Gillo Pontecorvo's astonishing and impactful 1966 film THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS at the Alamo Ritz. The film depicts, in cinema-verite style, the uprising of the Algerian people against their French colonial occupiers. Not only a great work of cinema, but a document of real historical importance, used by both the Black Panther Party and military academies as a training tool.

Sunday, February 19 and Sunday, February 26: AFS presents a pair of programs of so-called "race films" at the Spirit Of Texas Theater. For several decades, between the twenties and the fifties, a "shadow" film industry existed to provide all-black cast films for segregated theaters in America. The films, which were made with the lowest of budgets, are fascinating to see today, and give us an idea, when we read between the lines, of what popular black culture was like at the time. On February 19, the program includes the western THE BRONZE BUCKAROO and on February 26, the film BLOOD OF JESUS, wildly surreal in its unconventional effects, screens with selected shorts.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Watch This: ARCADE ATTACK, Mind-Ripping 1982 Short that Pits Pinball vs. Video Games

This 1982 British short film created by Mike Wallington has long been a favorite. The other day I tried to explain what it was to someone and could not quite convey all its charms. Here it is, a film that is part doc, part pure fantasy, a hybrid film that manages to fit in actual interviews with gaming enthusiasts, staged scenes of a pinball-obsessed teddy boy's journey, and animated sequences depicting the epochal clash between the "Silverball Heroes" and "Video Invaders." Not for the weak.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Watch This: Martin Scorsese Gets DEEP About Marlon Brando's ONE-EYED JACKS

Brando directs

Last month, at the New York Film Festival, Martin Scorsese introduced a screening of the new restoration, which he supervised, of Marlon Brando's sole directorial credit ONE-EYED JACKS.

This same restoration will be presented by AFS on Monday, December 5 at Stateside at the Paramount. 

Scorsese begins with a somewhat technical explanation of the super-widescreen VistaVision film format, of which ONE-EYED JACKS is the last example. He continues with the provenance of the script, and Stanley Kubrick's aborted participation in the project.

He goes on:
"This is the only film directed by Marlon Brando. The cineastes and the entire theater culture, cinema culture around the world... all waiting for Marlon Brando to direct a film. I remember, even in Film Culture at one point, they suggested that Brando direct The Book Of Job... but he did this, a Western.
"What's remarkable about this picture, it's unlike any other western because of the intensity and the power of the actors and the way they're directed, the way they're framed, against the landscape and within these houses, these sets. The intensity and the energy of the actors just bursts out the edges of the screen."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

AFS Welcomes Filmstruck as Sponsoring Partner of December Programming Slate

Here at the Austin Film Society, we have the benefit of a large and active member base, and a surrounding community that appreciates and supports film. What we do - and by that I mean what we all do together, from enjoying gems from film's rich and diverse history to helping today's and tomorrow's filmmakers do their important work - has not gone unnoticed by the movers of international film culture.

By now you have probably heard about Filmstruck, a new streaming service that brings together the programming team from Turner Classic Movies with an extensive and growing library of streaming film titles, including the Criterion Collection. They do much more than just present a gigantic library of films though. Much in the AFS manner, they also offer contextual material to help you understand and appreciate their films, including introductions, commentaries, newly commissioned docs, etc.

It probably won't surprise you too much to learn that Filmstruck was eager to partner with AFS and become the name sponsor of all of AFS's December programs, including the new Film Foundation restoration of Marlon Brando's ONE-EYED JACKS, a Science On Screen presentation of FOR ALL MANKIND, with NASA Mission Control personnel in attendance, the new doc A SONG FOR YOU: THE AUSTIN CITY LIMITS STORY, and Julie Dash's epochal DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, also newly restored.

You can show your support of AFS and of great international film culture everywhere, by signing up for a free 14-day trial of Filmstruck here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Listen Here: A Martin Scorsese Radio Interview from 1970

Martin Scorsese, born on this date in 1942, is, of course, one of the most important filmmakers in the world. There's very little we can add to his well deserved esteem as a director and technical innovator of the first order.

In addition to all of this, he has become well known as an advocate for great film, for exhibition, education and restoration. Through his work as Founder and Chair of the non-profit Film Foundation he endeavors to raise the profile of films through preservation and exhibition programs.

This side of Scorsese, the tireless advocate, the champion of great movies and filmmakers, is not new. Below is an interview conducted in 1970 with the then-27 year old Scorsese who, at the time, had only one feature directorial credit under his belt, 1967's WHO'S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR. At the time of this WNYC interview he was curating the Movies In The Park series in Manhattan. He talks a bit about the program, about the way film became a democratic art as soon as the means of production became cheap, easy and quick enough for the average person, and there are interesting detours into the contemporaneous state of film education.

It's only a 22 minute interview, but as is customary with Scorsese, he fits at least an hour worth of words in with his machine-gun delivery. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

History Of Television, 1954: Edward R. Murrow Responds to McCarthy's Red Scare

There has been a lot of reflection recently about the vulnerability of the news media to suppression by government powers. In the hum of it all, there have been numerous references to Senator Joseph McCarthy, who, in the early 1950's, abused the power of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which he headed, to conduct a number of de facto trials in which many were accused by McCarthy and his investigative staff of Soviet-backed subversion against the United States government. The shadow of wrongdoing haunted many of McCarthy's targets for years, and careers were ruined in McCarthy's self-described pursuit of justice.

This story is long and fascinating, and too involved to relate here. There are a number of good books and films on the subject. Emile de Antonio's POINT OF ORDER (1964) is an extraordinary work, consisting entirely of kinescopes of the television broadcast of the Army-McCarthy hearings, in which the vindictive Senator finally overextended his good-will with the American people. The showdown with the Army's attorney, the folksy but deadly effective Joseph Welch, provides a white-knuckled climax to the proceedings in response to an attack by McCarthy on a younger member of the lawyer's firm.

The media, too, played its role. Television news was young at the time, but many of the early television correspondents had played a similar role on radio or in print. Edward R. Murrow had been a radio and print war correspondent and, during the McCarthy-led "Red Scare", used his television show to rebut McCarthy in a powerful way, mainly through the Senator's own words. This program, and the subsequent ones that followed, helped weaken McCarthy's public support, which eventually led to his censure by the Senate. He became a pariah among his colleagues and died of alcohol-related liver disease before completing his term.

In 2005, George Clooney directed a good movie about this period, and specifically Murrow's role in it, called GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.

Below is Murrow's historic broadcast of March 9. At the end of it, Murrow intones his famous words about the threat posed by such men as McCarthy. These words deserve to be repeated these many years later.
"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. 
"We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. 
"This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. 
"The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.' 
Good night, and good luck."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Listen Here: Actor Yaphet Kotto's Bizarre 1968 Spoken Word Single

Actor Yaphet Kotto (born on this day in 1939) is perhaps best known to today's audiences from his role in ALIEN (1979), or perhaps from THE RUNNING MAN (1987), or the long-running '90s show HOMICIDE, LIFE ON THE STREET. He also has unforgettable turns in Paul Schrader's BLUE COLLAR (1978), Johathan Kaplan's TRUCK TURNER (1974), the Bond film LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) and far more than I can, or should name here. He's a great actor, and a great presence.

In 1967, when Kotto was making a living from the stage and stray screen gigs, he recorded this spoken-word single for Hugh Masakela's Chisa  Records,  "Have You Dug His Scene"/"Have You Ever Seen The Blues?" It's a weird, ahead-of-its-time record, bearing some similarities to the work done subsequently by the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron.

By the way, if you decide to hit Discogs looking for this Yaphet Kotto record, be aware that there was also a '90s-00's punk band by that name.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

"Unobtrusive Yet Powerful Simplicity" What Critics are Saying About the Breathtaking New Doc FIRE AT SEA

This Sunday and next Wednesday, AFS presents the new doc, FIRE AT SEA from filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi, who spent a year documenting the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, home of Italian fishermen and their families and, increasingly, of African refugees rescued from rafts and makeshift boats in the Mediterranean.

Kenneth Turan of the LA Times said, “FIRE AT SEA goes about its business in a quiet way, with unobtrusive yet powerful simplicity, using an unconventional structure and cinematic artistry to make its points.”

New York Times’ A.O. Scott, in making the film his the Critics’ Pick, says, "FIRE AT SEA is impressionistic and intensely absorbing. Like one of Frederick Wiseman’s documentaries, it compels you to infer a big picture from a series of extended, intimate scenes.”

Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter says, “Conveying the immensity of the ongoing migrant crisis, which is costing thousands of lives each year as it puts European unity and values sorely to the test, has proven far too great a task for news reporting. Where journalism leaves off, FIRE AT SEA begins.”

Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal says “FIRE AT SEA is a shining example of journalism fueled by outrage and shaped by free-ranging curiosity."

Bilge Ebiri of the Village Voice writes, "How do you reconcile trauma like this with the easy rhythms of ordinary life? You don't, Rosi's film tells us, and to do so would be obscene."

Click here to hear director Rosi interviewed by NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED about the film.

Howard Hawks' TWENTIETH CENTURY: The Most Modern 1934 Movie Ever Made?

Howard Hawks' TWENTIETH CENTURY, newly restored by Sony, will be screened by AFS on Tuesday, November 15 at 7:30pm. Tickets are available here at at the event.

Again and again throughout his career, producer, director and (uncredited) writer Howard Hawks shook up the whole medium of commercial film. His hyper-violent early gangster movie SCARFACE (1932) set the tone for all future mob movies, and we can see echoes of it even today. He could plausibly said to have invented, and later perfected, the screwball comedy, first with 1934's TWENTIETH CENTURY and later with BRINGING UP BABY (1938), HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) and BALL OF FIRE (1941). Later, with TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944) and THE BIG SLEEP (1946) he brought a new kind of bold sexual chemistry to the screen thanks to the Bogart and Bacall tandem. When he made westerns, they were well unlike any westerns that had preceded them, as is the case with the psychological epic RED RIVER (1948) and the loose amiable hangout movie RIO BRAVO (1959). This list leaves out many of his best films, but you begin to get the picture.

A screwball comedy is, roughly, a fast-paced comedy about romantic conflict in which the romantic leads are also the comedians. Before screwball comedies, there were almost always romantic leads in comedies but they were not expected to get the laughs too. That work was left to the comics, who would interact with the leads but would not be the leads themselves. There are other contenders besides TWENTIETH CENTURY for the title of first screwball comedy. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is a leader, and was a pioneering, influential film in its own right, but the leads play it fairly close to the vest. No one would accuse John Barrymore and Carole Lombard, the two leads of TWENTIETH CENTURY, of that.

Hawks cast Barrymore as Oscar Jaffe, a great theatrical ham in the old tradition. The casting could not have been more appropriate. Barrymore was a very fine actor of both stage and screen, and his arsenal was fully stocked with the techniques and manners of the true stage ham. Carole Lombard plays Lily Garland, the Brooklyn girl who becomes a vaunted star of the great white way, but begins to chafe under the thumb of her "creator", Jaffe.

Garland is a prodigy of the stage, and as such, speaks the language of the ham, and sees through Jaffe's artifice when others cannot. Their professional romance, its dissolution, and Jaffe's pursuit of her on a cross-country train voyage, form the story. Hawks manages the actors, and also the many skilled bit players with consummate skill and and a consistent attention to pace (fast) and energy (volcanic).

Here is a scene that shows the dynamic of the Jaffe/Garland relationship as it develops. Jaffe is preparing his actors for a scene in a hokey southern plantation-set play and Garland can't quite break through. Until... Watch these two marvelous artists at work here, and note how Hawks frames the shots to give maximum impact to their physical attitudes.

This same acting prowess and directorial discretion is displayed throughout the film, as these complicated, tightly wound artistes play out the dance of love, love lost, and, possibly, love regained.

This is a film that seems to move with modern rhythms, the dirty pre-code jokes seem like the kind that a quick witted young person of today would make. Hawks had no use for the close-up, which most movies and television shows today rely upon, but in terms of tempo and tone of gags, the material feels shockingly contemporary in approach.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Watch This: Excerpts from a 197-Hour Long Experimental Epic Starring Wertmuller, Godard, Fuller, etc.

Armenian master Sergei Parajanov in Gérard Courant's 197-hour film CINÉMATON

Experimental filmmaker Gérard Courant has made one of the world's longest films, the 197-hour CINÉMATON, which was filmed over the course of 28 years and released in 2009. It consists of nearly 3,000 silent reels, each featuring its subject or subjects doing whatever they choose.

Among the luminaries who have posed for Courant's camera are many of the world's great cinema figures. Each of the following is a complete reel from the finished product. Many, many more can be found at Courant's YouTube page here.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Criterion Nerds & Film Obsessives: Take Note of the New AFS Cinema Campaign

If you like having a wide variety of filmgoing options, Austin is one of the best places in the world to live. We have a lot. At the heart of it for the past few years has been a single screen, part-time pop-up theater called the AFS Cinema (formerly part of the Marchesa Hall & Theatre) supported by AFS members and donors, and some magical angels who have helped keep the doors open and the roof attached. Many thousands of people have attended hundreds of events at this theater and it has been a major cultural milestone for film in Austin.

Then, earlier this year, we at AFS found ourselves at a crossroads.

Our venue partner, with whom our arrangement allowed us to do several screenings a week, decided not to renew the lease on the building. If we chose to pursue our own lease on the property it would mean we would need to make major improvements and expansions to the structure in order to accommodate two full-time screens.

We wondered: would our audience go forward with us? Is there a market for six times as many screenings as we currently offer, and for more festivals and partner opportunities? Do we need more art house and international titles in Austin? More retrospectives and restorations?

We think so, and if you think so too, join our campaign, and give what you can. At heart, it's a quality of life issue. By voting for what you value, you help to make this city a better place, with a rooted and stable home base for the film community.

Naturally there are all kinds of levels you can give at and you will have some combination of our eternal gratitude, decals, T-shirts, tote bags and many other goodies. These are all exciting perks but the one I zoomed in on was the $100 level, which gets you a Criterion Blu-Ray or set: your choice of one from the following: DR. STRANGELOVE, THE DEKALOG, BOYHOOD, THE APU TRILOGY, WILD STRAWBERRIES, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, BLOOD SIMPLE or THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS. Plus the T-shirt, decal and more.

Please give and please come and partake in our many screenings and programs to come. We believe strongly in this campaign. Hear what Richard Linklater and the rest of the AFS creative teams says in the video below.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Listen Here: Zach Clark Talks To John Waters about Fassbinder, Bieber, & Malick

"I used to clip the condemned list and read it over and over. I could recite it, practically."

John Waters has, of course, gone from being an obscure zero-budget filmmaker to one of the most highly visible filmmakers in the world, even though he has not directed a film in 12 years. The life of cultural observer and raconteur suits him though, and he's a dream conversation partner.

Director Zach Clark, of whose film WHITE REINDEER Waters is a fan, does such a fantastic job of driving this Talkhouse conversation down some very deep filmic paths. When is the last time you've heard Waters go deep into his influences: Rossellini, Bunuel, etc? Clark takes you there. It's the best Waters interview in years.

Click here to listen.

By the way, Clark's newest film, LITTLE SISTER, plays at the AFS Cinema on Friday 11/4 as a Free Member Friday. See you there.

Watch This: Burt Lancaster did a Foster's Lager Commercial?

Burt Lancaster, born on this date in 1913, certainly had one of the best lives ever. As a young man he was a skilled athlete, excelling at basketball. He spent most of his 20s in the circus as an acrobat, picking up acting gigs on the side. During WWII he was stationed with the Army in Italy. Back in the states after the war he went to auditions and landed a role on Broadway.

Once the Hollywood scouts saw him, his destiny was secure. THE KILLERS, BRUTE FORCE, SORRY WRONG NUMBER, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, VERA CRUZ, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, ELMER GANTRY (for which he won an Oscar), JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ, THE LEOPARD, THE TRAIN, THE SWIMMER, ATLANTIC CITY... You get the idea. It's a career full of great films in which Lancaster gave some of the best leading-man performances ever and was popular with both audiences and critics. He also produced many of his own films and was a force in Hollywood.

None of this explains the following long-form commercial, in which he plays a wealthy tycoon rumbling through England in a limousine, thinking back over a life of savagery, when he picks up a hitchhiker with ideas of his own.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Watch This: BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN Elsa Lanchester - "Inside You Pretty Girls is the Devil!"

Elsa Lanchester (born on this date in 1902) had a long, esteemed career on (occasionally) stage and (frequently) screen, but there is no doubt that she is best known today for a 1935 horror movie she played a small but important role in. The film is, of course, James Whale's brilliantly subversive BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, and Lanchester plays two roles in the movie, the "bride" created by Frankenstein for his monster, and, in a framing segment, Frankenstein's true creator Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. It's a great film, and its cultural influence has been long and abiding.

Lanchester's over-the-top appearance and performance go a long way towards making the film as effective as it is. In an interview with Dick Cavett many years later she discussed her inspiration (beginning at approximately the 3:45 mark) for the Bride's shrieking hiss - angry swans, which she demonstrates (!!!), and conveyed director's James Whale's philosophy of the character:

"Inside you pretty girls is the Devil."

It's a great interview. She also talks about her husband Charles Laughton and her dance instructor Isadora Duncan, whom she calls an "untalented bag of beans."


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

IN SEARCH OF... The Best in Crypto-Reality Television

On Monday November 7, AFS will present the latest in its series of free History Of Television evenings, examining the unexplained phenomena documentary show IN SEARCH OF... cohosted by writer and wrestling impresario (!!!) Maximillian Meehan. These events are more than just public screenings of television episodes, they are also informative presentations about the ideological and technical history of the medium itself. Please join us at Austin Public Studios. More information here.

Reality television has seen a gigantic surge of popularity over the last 15-20 years, becoming the most popular programming on television. Relatively inexpensive to produce, it has become foundational to much broadcast and cable television. Naturally, the very term 'reality television' is fraught with contradiction. The genre plays upon our interest in real-world people and situations, while also leavening this "true" content with large amounts of artificiality.

There have been prototypical reality shows on television for many decades. The PBS series AN AMERICAN FAMILY is certainly the shining example here, and was a popular and critical success in 1973.

One of the more fun examples of "reality" content being used liberally for entertainment value is the 1977-1982 documentary series IN SEARCH OF..., hosted by Leonard Nimoy, which purported to be investigative journalism pertaining to such important issues of the day as Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, the Loch Ness Monster, Dracula, etc. Generally, episodes featured Nimoy on something resembling location, reading portentous copy about this or that mystery, followed by staged interviews with witnesses or experts, (who often sound a lot like actors), and, often by dramatic footage of a ghost or monster captured by the IN SEARCH OF... cameras for the first time ever.

The show, for all its obfuscation of actual facts, is lot of fun, and Nimoy's highly serious narration (and collection of classic blazers and turtlenecks) really goes a long way towards making it that way. Also, the music is the best in '70s jazzy synthesizer funk. When asked about the show decades later, Nimoy went out of his way to praise series creator and producer Alan Landsburg, saying:
"There's one overriding element that made IN SEARCH OF... work, and that was Alan Landsburg. He was a genius where the show was concerned. It was his concept. his vision, and his understanding of how to treat the material that made it work and made it fun to do. Because he scripts always had a certain kind of angularity about them. There was always a certain way of tantalizing people with the subject matter. It made it very entertaining - sometimes educational, sometimes just sheer funny, but always interesting, based on his understanding of how the subject matter should be presented. And it was the granddaddy of all these reality shows you see today. So many of them have been done now, along those lines."
Get ready for this event with some songs from the "In Search Of... Orchestra." The tie-in album, on AVI records is hard to find, but you can hear all the music here.

Also, someone videotaped History Channel reruns of the show and put the (poor quality) versions on YouTube. If you can't make it to the show, or if you just can't wait, then you may want to subject your eyes to a few of these.

If you find you are becoming a little obsessed with IN SEARCH OF... Don't worry. You're not alone. There is also James O'Brien, of Retroist, who is reviewing every episode of the series here.

Monday, October 24, 2016

1976 Flashback: Werner Herzog & Errol Morris Plot to Dig Up Ed Gein's Mother's Grave

Werner Herzog's essential 1977 film STROSZEK screens at the AFS Cinema twice this week, on Tuesday October 25 and Friday October 28, as part of the Hello, Goodbye series, commemorating the imminent closure and renovation of the theater space. Tickets are available now.

Warning: some disturbing content and language below.

By now, we all know that Werner Herzog is the most interesting human being drawing breath on this planet. His films alone should be evidence of this, but he continually drops anecdotes about his life that make it clear that no one else need even bother trying to be interesting because the market is cornered.

Here's an anecdote I read about in passing that Herzog and his close friend, filmmaker Errol Morris (whose shoe Herzog once ate, yawn) dropped in a 2008 interview.

Apparently, during the shooting of Herzog's 1977 masterpiece STROSZEK in Plainfield, Wisconsin, Herzog and Morris were so fascinated by the horrific deeds of hometown serial killer (and inspiration for both PSYCHO and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) Ed Gein that they planned to dig up the grave of Gein's mother to find out if he had in fact abducted her corpse, as was alleged. It's the kind of plan that a pair of mischievous young people, deep in their cups, might discuss late at night, but, as it turned out, Herzog was 100% serious. Morris was not. Here they are from their 2008 Believer interview:
Werner Herzog: There is something about Kemper and, of course, Ed Gein as well—we had a falling out over Ed Gein at the time, sometime later. 
Errol Morris: Cannibals can turn friends into enemies. Go figure. 
Werner Herzog: But actually, yes, it was a deep concern and in a way it had to do with cinema, for you at that time were more into the direction of writing. But we had a very, very intense rapport over it. Errol had a problem with me when we tried to find out in Plainfield, Wisconsin, where Ed Gein—the very probably most notorious— 
Errol Morris: The movie Psycho was based on Ed Gein. Robert Bloch, the writer of the novel Psycho, lived in a small Wisconsin town, Weyauwega, about twenty miles from Plainfield. Ed Gein was notorious. And the farmhouse where he lived alone became the ultimate house of horrors. He had upholstered furniture in his house with human flesh. He was a human taxidermist, cannibal, serial killer, grave robber, necrophile. An all-around good guy. 
Werner Herzog: Errol wanted to know more about the grave robberies, because Ed Gein had not only murdered people. He also excavated freshly buried corpses at the cemetery. And I do remember: he dug up graves in a pretty perfect circle. And in the very center of this circle was the grave of his mother. And Errol kept wondering, did he excavate his mother and use her flesh and skin for some sculptures in things at his home? 
Errol Morris: A relatively innocuous question. [Laughter] 
Werner Herzog: So the only way to find out is, I proposed, let’s go to Plainfield, grab a shovel, and dig at night. And I showed up in Plainfield, Wisconsin, because I was doing some filming up in Alaska and I came in a car all the way from Alaska down to Plainfield to visit Errol 
Errol Morris: I was living with Ed Gein’s next-door neighbors at the time, who I had befriended. Beth and Carroll Gear. 
Werner Herzog: You didn’t show up. 
Errol Morris: Oh, much later, yes. The chronology of all this is coming back to me. 
Werner Herzog: I was there, but you didn’t show up. And we had a date. It was something like September 10, and I said, I’m going to be there, and you will be there, and you didn’t show up. 
Errol Morris: He’s unfortunately correct. 
Werner Herzog: And I would have dug, even though Errol wasn’t there. I was kind of scared because people open fire easily in this town. 
Errol Morris: Well, wait a second. I had been living there. I had become friends with this very strange doctor, Dr. George Arndt. He had written one academic paper in his entire medical career, called “A Community’s Reaction to a Horrifying Event.” Essentially it was a compendium of Ed Gein jokes. I had befriended Dr. Arndt and together we drove to Plainfield Cemetery. He had a very, very big Cadillac. It reminds me actually of that scene in your Antarctic movie. Dr. Arndt and I had put our ears to the ground in the vicinity of the Gein graves, looking for hollow areas in the earth. 
Werner Herzog: I had forgotten about it completely. So things come back thirty-five years later. 
Errol Morris: And Dr. Arndt, who was really quite mad—I should tell you at least one of the Ed Gein jokes. Do you remember any of them? 
Werner Herzog: I don’t think so. 
Errol Morris: Why did Ed Gein keep his chairs covered overnight? 
Werner Herzog: I don’t know. 
Errol Morris: To keep them from getting goose pimples. So I was there with George Arndt in the cemetery and Arndt had this theory that Ed was so devious that he wouldn’t have gone down directly into his mother’s grave. I had discovered that many of the graves that he had robbed made a circle around his mother’s grave. And Dr. Arndt took this new information and came up with the hypothesis that Gein went down into one of the side graves—he only robbed the graves of women who were middle-aged and overweight, like his mom. He went into one of those graves and then tunneled, that there would be this radial tunnel toward the center, toward his mother’s grave. Arndt’s theory was that Gein would never have gone directly down into his mother’s grave. Psychiatrists have amazing theories. But he would never go down into the grave. As Arndt put it: Gein was too indirect, too devious. Hence, his radial digging, this tunneling. And I wondered, Wait a second—is she really down there? I could never get an answer. I could never get a straight answer from anyone. Is Mrs. Gein still buried in Plainfield Cemetery? And I told the story—this was the big mistake here—I told the story to Werner. 
Werner Herzog: And I showed up in Plainfield. 
Errol Morris: And so there was this horrible realization: he’s actually going to do it. And I have to say, I did get scared. I had this picture—you know, I was always really—I probably still am—trying to please my mother. I had already been thrown out of these various graduate schools. I was a ne’er-do-well, and down for the count, and I saw my life flashing before my eyes. I saw myself arrested with the Germans. I saw this full moon. I saw the Plainfield police. I saw the police photographers. I saw myself being led away with the Germans in handcuffs, the complete disgrace. So this is an opportunity to apologize. I apologize for not showing up.
Werner Herzog: I have to apologize for something else, because my car had broken down and there was no mechanic in the mile out there. There was a wreckage yard, and I fell in love with the guy who fixed my car. 
Errol Morris: Clayton Schlapinski. 
Werner Herzog: Yes, Clayton Schlapinski. And I said that we were going to do a film there in Plainfield, and that really upset Errol a lot. He thought I was a thief without loot. This was his country, his territory, his Plainfield, and I shot in Plainfield. I shot a film, Stroszek, which I think is forgotten and forgiven by now, and we can maintain friendship over this now. 
Errol Morris: I told Werner: For you to steal a character or a story isn’t real theft. But to steal a landscape, that is a very, very serious crime. 
Werner Herzog: I understand that. I take it to heart, but there actually is a film out there, and we can’t take it off the map. 
Errol Morris: It’s a very good film. 
Werner Herzog: It has a beautiful end with a dancing chicken, and I really like it.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Starting 10/25: The HELLO,GOODBYE series: Herzog, Altman, May, Mambéty, Ashby...

As most of you know by now, the AFS Cinema will be closing for an extensive remodel and expansion soon. But before we begin ratcheting down the number of our events in preparation for construction, we wanted to have a great week full of brilliant films about endings and beginnings. It's the HELLO, GOODBYE series, at the AFS Cinema (formerly the Marchesa Hall & Theatre) 10/25-10/30.

Please tell all your friends and join us for this celebration of the cinema that we have shared so many great experiences in for the last three and a half years.

This special program includes Werner Herzog's 1977 tragicomedy STROSZEK, about a couple from Berlin who immigrate to America and find it very different from the place they imagined; Robert Altman's frantic 1973 detective whatsit THE LONG GOODBYE with Elliott Gould as a seriously '70s version of Raymond Chandler's private investigator Phillip Marlowe; Elaine May's 1971 black comedy A NEW LEAF with Walter Matthau as a formerly rich man who tries to claw his way back to the top of the heap with the unknowing participation of a strange, awkward woman, played by the director herself; Djibril Diop Mambéty's colorful and vibrant 1973 film TOUKI BOUKI about a Senegalese couple, obsessed with cosmopolitan Paris, who long to escape Africa, and scheme to make it happen; and finally 1973's THE LAST DETAIL, from director Hal Ashby (and writer Robert Towne) about two tough Navy lifers (Otis Young and Jack Nicholson - at his best) who are ordered to escort a young cadet (Randy Quaid), guilty of a minor crime, to the brig for an eight year sentence. Funny, deep, and poignant, this is great filmmaking.

Note: AFS Artistic Director Richard Linklater's next film, LAST FLAG FLYING, scheduled to shoot soon, is a followup to THE LAST DETAIL.

All of the films in this program are presented in 35mm except STROSZEK, which is presented in a new DCP restoration.

October 25 & 28

Werner Herzog’s too-strange-to-not-be-completely-human tale of an ex-mental patient in the Berlin slums looking for a new start in Wisconsin is one of the greatest “grass is greener” tales ever to be put to cinema.
More Info & Tickets>>


October 26 & 29

Robert Altman and Elliott Gould go a trifle over-the-top in this adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s private eye novel. One of the best and most entertaining films of the ‘70s.
More Info & Tickets>>

October 27 & 30

Writer/director Elaine May’s black romantic comedy stars Walter Matthau as a dissolute playboy in need of funds, who targets an eccentric rich woman in a scheme to marry and kill for money. The woman (played by May herself) is considerably different than he expects. A joyous film.
More Info & Tickets>>

October 28 & 30

Djibril Diop Mambety is the master of post-colonial African magical realism. In TOUKI BOUKI, a sort of psychedelic Senegalese Bonnie & Clyde story, a young couple will do anything to get out of Africa and start a sophisticated new life in France.
More Info & Tickets>>

October 29 & 30

See Jack Nicholson as you always want him to be, a foul-mouthed, cigar-chewing sailor on a last night out with a fellow headed to prison. Two independent film greats, director Hal Ashby and screenwriter Robert Towne, are on top of their game, and thankfully, there is hardly a plot in sight during the film’s many loose, rambling scenes.
More Info & Tickets>> 

Watch This: A Bizarre Bela Lugosi Interview from 1932

This 1932 short-subject interview with horror movie legend Bela Lugosi (born on this date in 1882) is staged and rehearsed as you might expect and has some really jarring shifts in tone. One minute he is saying,
"I am studying now American slang. I know how to say "OK", "cat's, uh, whiskers" and "baloney", and "and HOW!" 
We can detect obvious sadness as he talks about being forced to leave his home country of Hungary for political reasons. Then, later, when asked if playing Dracula onstage depressed him, he becomes gloomy and frightening as he intones,
"Very much. It haunted (hunted?) me. I often dreamed of the dead. In the morning when I woke up I was tired and depressed... (trails off)
 Then a jump cut to a cheerful Lugosi asking brightly, "Did you see the play?"

Later, after a flirtatious exchange about the Hollywood party life, Lugosi's brow again darkens and he slips into monologue mode again,
"Well, I guess I'm pretty much of a lone wolf. I don't say I don't like people at all but to tell you the truth I only like them if I get a chance to look deep into their heart and their mind. If I find there is something worthwhile, some human kindness, some sympathy."
Then it gets even stranger and creepier from there.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Just Announced: AFS November & December Programming

Brando directs!

This November and December, as the AFS Cinema remodel begins, we will offer a large number of events both onsite at the AFS Cinema (pardon our dust please!) and at a number of other local venues. We will continue to offer events around town until the Cinema reopens early in 2017. More news about January and February offerings to come soon.

On Friday, November 4, we will screen New York Times Critics' Pick LITTLE SISTER,  the latest film from Zach Clark (WHITE REINDEER) at the AFS Cinema. This is a Free Member Friday. This screening will be preceded by an AFS Member mixer starting at 6pm.

Our long-running free History Of Television series continues at Austin Public on Monday, November 7 with a selection of episodes of the '70s paranormal series IN SEARCH OF... starring Leonard Nimoy in an assortment of wide collars as he chases Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

On Friday and Saturday, November 11 and 12, we will again be joined by our friends from our sister city Angers, France as we help celebrate Angers Week with a pair of screenings. On Friday, we will present VINCENT, a favorite from Angers' Premiers Plans festival, and on Saturday we will host a family-friendly program of animated shorts from France.

Doc Night continues with screenings on Sunday, November 13 and Wednesday, November 16 of FIRE AT SEA, an extraordinary new film, made over the course of a full year, that documents life on the ancient Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, which, in addition to its insular culture of fishermen, now hosts large numbers of refugees from Africa, who are rescued along the treacherous seaways nearby. Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and Amnesty International's Film Prize.

We are thrilled to present a new restoration of Howard Hawks' 1934 screwball comedy classic TWENTIETH CENTURY, starring John Barrymore and Carole Lombard, on Tuesday, November 15 at the historic State Theatre. It's an all-time favorite, and we are excited to partner with the Paramount and State to offer this special screening.

On December 18 and 20 we present one of our favorite new films of the year, IXCANUL, just before we close the doors of the AFS Cinema for the last time in 2016. IXCANUL, from Guatemala and in the spoken Mayan language Kaqchikel, tells the story of a young woman who lives with her family on the side of a volcano, where they harvest coffee beans. A series of events occur that bring the old ways into sharp contrast with modern values. By far the most acclaimed film ever to emerge from Guatemala. We are proud to present it.

We have always been interested in the history of film and its techniques. One of the most fascinating and least appreciated aspects of golden-age filmmaking is the use of painted backdrops. University of Texas lecturer Karen L. Maness has just completed a book on the subject, THE ART OF THE HOLLYWOOD BACKDROP, and will share some of her research and insights with us in a special free screening room presentation on Wednesday, November 30.

We return to the State Theatre on Monday, November 5 for another exciting new restoration. Marlon Brando only directed one film, the weird, existential western ONE EYED JACKS (1961). When original director Stanley Kubrick dropped out, producer/star Brando assumed the directorial reins. In many ways it feels more like Kurosawa than John Ford. After many years in eclipse, this has now received the Film Foundation DCP treatment and can be seen and appreciated as the great film it is.

On Thursday, December 8th at the Bullock we return to present the great new doc A SONG FOR YOU: THE AUSTIN CITY LIMITS STORY. Made by Keith Maitland (TOWER) with the full participation of ACL's producers and archivists, this is a music-packed, interview-heavy appreciation of not only the greatest music television show of all time, but also the city and attitude that made it possible. With special guests!

Speaking of special guests, on Sunday December 11, our Science on Screen program resumes at the Bullock with a showing of Al Reinert's seminal 1989 documentary FOR ALL MANKIND, about the Apollo space missions, culled from over 1,000 hours of raw NASA footage. We will be joined by Reinert and members of the original Mission Control team for an educational discussion after the film.

Julie Dash's epochal 1991 independent film DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST has been restored and we will screen it at the Bullock on Tuesday, December 13. Before DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, no film directed by an African-American woman had ever been distributed in the US. The film, set in 1902, tells the story of a Gullah family who live on an island off the coast of Georgia that has had very little contact with the mainland. A film of great cultural and historical importance, DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST was selected for the National Film Registry at the Library Of Congress in 2004.