Tuesday, June 19, 2018

AFS Viewfinders Podcast: A Dialogue With Master Film Programmer Kier-la Janisse

Austin Film Society Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen here, using the first person singular for once in introducing a pretty remarkable dialogue we recorded a few weeks ago with programmer-author-editor-publisher-educator Kier-la Janisse.  Kier-la has done an awful lot in all of these arenas, from creating the Cinemuerte Film Festival, programming for Alamo Drafthouse during its most formative years (during which time she mentored poor lost benighted me), turning genre film scholarship on its head with the brilliant and influential autobiographical film critique HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN, starting the Miskatonic Institute Of Horror Studies and publisher Spectacular Optical and more.

Her insights and anecdotes are fascinating and hilarious even if you have little or no interest in film programming. I hope you'll enjoy this (too-brief) discussion.

Listen to the podcast here or in your iTunes app.

This seems like a good place to drop this in too. Kier-la is funding her newest book COCKFIGHT, and her research is uncovering a hitherto unknown world of weirdness connected with the 1974 Monte Hellman outlaw classic COCKFIGHTER. You can get in on the ground floor by contributing to the project and pre-buying your copy of the book here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

"Vivid, Evocative & Surreal" New Film SUMMER 1993 Opens This Friday at AFS Cinema

SUMMER 1993 opens on Friday June 15 at the AFS Cinema. Tickets on sale now.

Spanish writer/director Carla Simón tells her own story in the dreamlike new film SUMMER 1993. In the film, we follow Frida, a precocious and observant six-year-old whose life is dramatically changed after the death of her parents.

Frida and her young cousin Anna play and fight together during lazy days of summer as Frida struggles to understand her circumstances.

Aided by cinematographer, Santiago Racaj, Simón uses her camera to bring us the unique perspective of life through the experience of a young girl. Instead of dramatizing a childhood tragedy, Simón explores a deeper experience of life during upheaval and the ways in which we make sense of these events.
We like the film a lot. But don't just trust us. The critics are pretty much unanimous in praise of the film, as the 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes attests. Here's what they're saying:

“Movingly understated and beautifully acted.” (NYT Critics Pick) – Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times

“An extraordinary and beautiful work of grief and memory.” – Kyle Turner, Village Voice

“A uniquely vivid and evocative kind of storytelling... SUMMER lives, breathes and succeeds on the expressive, instinctive work of its young lead actress.” Gary Goldstein, LA Times

“Simón achieves the rare feat of faithfully recreating the mysterious consciousness of a child… It’s a surreal spectacle, monstrous yet magical, combining qualities of childhood that are too often obscured by sentimentality.” Peter Keough, Boston Globe

Watch the trailer for SUMMER 1993 here:

Friday, June 8, 2018

Newly Restored Straub-Huillet Masterpiece Starts Sunday

The new restoration of the unconventional and austere music biopic by Jean-Marie Straub & Daniéle Huillet, THE CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH, plays this Sunday and the following Tuesday at the AFS Cinema.

Straub & Huillet take slow cinema to a new level with the film, which places the viewer into the same tempo of life that informed J.S. Bach's creation. This is a film that begs the viewer to stop and listen to Bach in a way you never have before, and to experience the life and times of J.S. Bach's wife and collaborator Anna Magdalena Bach.

Produced by Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette, CHRONICLE stands as a nearly forgotten gem of French cinema.

Here's the trailer:

Acclaimed 'Dark Nail Biter’ BEAST Opens Today at AFS Cinema

It's true. Most scary movies just aren't that scary. Atmosphere is often conveyed by a bunch of well-worn cliches, and the jump-scare is relied upon to create the thrills.

In the new British thriller BEAST, writer-director Michael Pearce avoids these superficial pitfalls and instead delivers a creepy work of real tension and fresh situations. It's half lovers-on-the-run story and half psychologically fraught murder procedural, and that's all good.

As a series of murders plague the strange island of Jersey, our protagonist Moll (played wonderfully by Jessie Buckley) entrenches herself in a world of love and violence. This is a good, smart, very scary movie. See it while you can at the AFS Cinema.

But don't just trust us, trust these professional movie critic people:
“The film is not so much a psychological thriller as a performance-driven portrait of a vulnerable-yet-ferocious woman in a very dangerous predicament, and the electrically intense Buckley is the actress to carry it.” Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Bathed in a shadowy beauty and slippery psychological atmosphere, BEAST soars on Ms. Buckley’s increasingly animalistic performance... This is lurid stuff, yet Mr. Pearce miraculously holds things together until the end” -Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times

“This dark nail-biter eschews the obvious at every turn and is less a whodunit than a twisted moral meditation grounded by its mesmerizing leading lady.” -Barbara VanDenburgh - Arizona Republic

“BEAST is, first and foremost, an inquisitive and empathetic character study, focused on the psychologically possessive qualities of belatedly unleashed sexuality.” -Guy Lodge, Variety

“Immaculately composed yet skittish, edgy and surprising, BEAST emanates a chill that will have you hugging your sides… Just when you think you’ve got it pinned down, it hairpins off in a new direction.” -Philip De Semlyen, TimeOut

Here's that trailer:


Friday, June 1, 2018

The Noir Canon Series, This June at AFS

For the second year, the AFS Cinema brings a summertime dose of shadowy moral ambiguity and proto-existential dread to movie screens with our Noir Canon series. These are the foundational, quintessential works of Film Noir, and before the first screening of each title, AFS Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen will introduce the work and explain some of the themes and their importance to the genre as a whole. The series begins tonight, Friday June 1, with a special screening of the Library Of Congress' excellent 35mm print of Jacques Tourneur's OUT OF THE PAST.

About the series:

In Paris, after the World War II Nazi occupation, American crime and detective films flooded back into cinemas after a four-year absence. The moral and visual darkness of these films caused French critics and audiences to coin a new term, film noir, to describe them. The narrative directness, visual sophistication and dark humor that characterized these films have made fi lm noir enduringly popular. With this series, we hope to share some of the foundational films of film noir and, in our introductions to these screenings, help people understand what characterizes the genre, what it meant to audiences of its time, and what it still says to us today.

OUT OF THE PAST (June 1 and 3)
USA, 1947, 1h 37min, 35mm
Jacques Tourneur, best known for his atmospheric horror films for producer Val Lewton, directs a superb cast (Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, Jane Greer, Rhonda Fleming) in this story of a former low-rent detective, established in a new, wholesome life, who is drawn back into the world of darkness he barely escaped.

IN A LONELY PLACE (June 8 and 10)
USA, 1950, 1h 34min, 35mm
Whatever genre he happened to be working in, director Nicholas Ray always found a way to make artful, psychologically rich work. Here, Humphrey Bogart plays a cynical, sardonic screenwriter suspected of murder. His neighbor (Gloria Grahame) is fond of him and provides an alibi, but is his darkness more than surface-deep?

THIS GUN FOR HIRE (June 13 and 17)
USA, 1942, 1h 21min, 35mm
The king and queen of noir, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, are paired for the first time in a thrilling, lightning-paced noir based on a Graham Greene novel. Ladd plays a blackmailer and murderer who is being shadowed and investigated by Veronica Lake, who has been enlisted by police to crack his shell.

THE BIG HEAT (June 22 and 24)
USA, 1953, 1h 29min, DCP
One of director Fritz Lang’s masterpieces and a Hollywood film of rare depth and expression. Despite his department’s lax attitude towards the matter, tough cop Glenn Ford goes nose to nose with crime boss Lee Marvin. When the gangsters strike back, Ford must fight to save what he has left. With Gloria Grahame, in her greatest performance.

RAW DEAL (June 29)
USA, 1948, 1h 19min, 35mm
The German-American director Anthony Mann was a master-craftsman, and, in collaboration with cinematographer John Alton, created some of the best looking and most economical down-market noir. RAW DEAL stars Dennis O’Keefe as a con who escapes and tries to go straight, but must first contend with his adversary, played by Raymond Burr. With genre great Claire Trevor as the bad girl who loves O’Keefe.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Watch This: Jay Duplass visits AFS Cinema for OUTSIDE IN, Now Playing at AFS Cinema

A few weeks ago, our friend Jay Duplass stopped by the cinema for a special sneak preview of his latest film OUTSIDE IN, which he co-wrote with Director Lynn Shelton, and also co-stars in with Edie Falco. He was happy to answer some audience questions about his creative process.

Watch the interview below then join us this weekend at the cinema to catch festival favorite OUTSIDE IN.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Noir City Starts Tonight at the Ritz, Noir Canon continues in June at AFS

Carole Landis and Victor Mature in I WAKE UP SCREAMING (aka THE HOT SPOT)

The Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller, legendary writer, scholar and preservationist of Film Noir culture is in Austin this weekend to present Noir City Austin 2018, a special weekend of Noir classics and restorations at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.

Grouped into a series of double features with the 'A' movie (typically a prestige title with stars and a decent budget) paired with a 'B' movie (a lower budget film with non A-list stars) being shown in tandem, this promises to be yet another extraordinary learning experience, and an entertaining one.

You can see the full line-up here. Tickets are still available for all shows. Be there.

If this doesn't satisfy your taste for Noir, and in fact just makes you crave more of it, we have just the ticket for you, our Noir Canon series, starting on June 1 with a special archival print of the Jacques Tourneur classic OUT OF THE PAST on loan from the Library of Congress. You can see the schedule for the Noir Canon shows here. See you out there on the mean streets.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Doc Days Festival Is Here: Interview with THE SENTENCE Filmmaker Rudy Valdez

AFS' inaugural documentary film festival Doc Days starts tonight, Thursday, May 10 at the AFS Cinema. Doc Days is a long weekend festival of brand-new documentary films with visiting filmmakers from the US and abroad. In addition to screening our favorite new documentaries from the festival circuit, the weekend will include events, parties, discussions, and moderated Q&As by Austin’s documentary film community.

You can see the whole Doc Days schedule here.

Below, the festival's co-programmer Todd Savage brings us this in-depth interview with filmmaker Rudy Valdez, about his intensely moving and personal film THE SENTENCE.

THE SENTENCE screens during Doc Days on Saturday, May 12 at 4:30pm. Valdez will be in attendance for at Q&A after the film.

Rudy Valdez was not a filmmaker when he picked up a camera after his sister was served with a 15-year prison sentence. His goal at the time was to document the childhood of his young nieces. A decade later, his film THE SENTENCE (an Audience Award winner at Sundance) explores the hot-button political issue of mandatory minimum sentencing on the most intimate and personal plane possible. We talked with Valdez about the film and his approach as both a filmmaker and a family member.

What were your goals for the film?
This film didn't start out being a documentary film. It started off me just wanting to try to capture the lives of my nieces for my sister. Photos are wonderful and the phone calls she was able to make home were great for her, but I just wanted her to be able to see her daughters live, watch them run and play and yell and scream. When she came home, I wanted to be able to put a super cut together and her to be able to watch her kids grow up.

When did you make the shift to making a film?
I can pinpoint the exact moment when I became a documentary filmmaker. There's a scene at the very beginning where I went back to capture my sister's oldest daughter Autumn's first dance recital. I knew Cindy wanted nothing more than to be there and watch it, and I knew I had to be there to capture it. Completely unprovoked and unplanned, my sister called while [Autumn) was getting ready. My sister was saying how much she wanted to be there, and all of a sudden she says to my niece: ‘When you go to dance, I'm going to lay down on my bed, and I'm going to close my eyes and think about you.’ That was the moment I realized that was there something special here, there was a story that was completely untold, that people don't realize when they send people away for 15, 20, 30, 40 years, life, that there are people left behind. And as painful as it was for my sister to sit back and imagine what the dance was like, it was just as heart-wrenching that Autumn had to imagine what it would be like for her mom to watch. I became a filmmaker on one hand so that I could tell my story. I wanted nothing more than to be as good as I could possibly could be so that I could make my film as strong as it could be. I am learning throughout the film and you can see it. It was a journey in a lot of ways. It was a journey for my sister, it was a journey for the family left behind, it was a journey in the fight for justice, it was the journey of somebody learning trying and figuring out how to tell a story.

How did you communicate to your family what you were doing?
The most important thing when you're making a documentary, especially an intimate personal documentary, verité style, is gaining the trust of your subjects and the people you're filming. I had that from the very beginning. They trusted me. They knew why I was doing it. Once I decided it was going to be a documentary, I made it very clear to them what my intentions were. It was always for the greater good. It was a terrible thing that happened; it's only going to be a tragedy if we allow it to be. If something good comes of it, then all of this wasn't wasted. That didn't make it any easier for my family to be vulnerable and honest in front of the camera for me, but it allowed them to know that what I was doing. Everyone really bought into it and believed in that, and so they were able to let their guard down and just let me film everything.

You addressed this in the film but can you talk more about how was it being behind the camera? Did that role change your participation in what was going on with your family?
Yes, that was kind of a sacrifice and a coping mechanism for me. Part of holding the camera was allowing myself to separate. Nobody wants to see his father cry, let alone record it. In the back of my mind I knew this is for the greater good. That didn't make it any easier to watch my father cry, but one part of my brain is feeling for my father and wanting to hug him and tell him everything was going to be okay. The other part of my brain was saying, ‘Am I framed up? Am I focused? Do I have enough battery for this scene? Where is this scene going?’ It allowed me to partition in a certain way and allowed me to really cover myself from some of the emotion. I still had that emotion but it was delayed—I would think about it at night. I was constantly thinking about if I was doing the right thing, if I was doing my family justice by capturing moments. If for some reason I never end up making a documentary with this footage, am I doing myself a disservice by not being present during these times for my family? It was a constant struggle. I never had a break from it.

Your nieces were so natural in front of the camera, but when they turned the camera on you, you seemed surprisingly uncomfortable.
I think it was because I was Uncle Rudy. They trusted me, and it was just second nature. I oftentimes gave them the camera and let them run around so they were very comfortable with it. As a professional, I ask people to be open and honest and vulnerable in front of me, and it dawned on me right there in front of the camera that I had to force myself to do that. I'm asking my family, I'm asking my parents, my nieces, everyone to be open and honest with me in front of the camera, and I never asked that of myself. So I looked to the camera and wanted to convey what I was feeling and how I was coping with this whole thing. Because it was truly—I can't even begin to tell you—this was something that weighed on me for 10 years. And so that was where that scene came from and where that talking to the camera came from. I actually kept that from my editor for a long time, on purpose. I didn't want to be a main character in this film, I didn't want it to be about me or my fight. I wanted the film to be the girls and the strength of the family. I'm not completely dismissing the fact that when they're talking to the camera they're talking to a family member. I needed it to be clear.

The story seemed almost universal, like this could happen to any family and how would I have dealt with it.
I'm so happy that you said that, because that is exactly why I made it the way I did. It wasn't to show you that we're some super human family. We're not. This is a family that believes in love and believes in hope. I want you to see your father in this film. I want you to see yourself in this film. We're not doing anything extraordinary. We just believed in each other. That's it.

How did she react to the film? Has she seen a lot of the other footage?
She only saw the film right before Sundance. It was very, very difficult for her to watch the film—just watching the girls grow up in 84 minutes. She didn't even understand what the film was about because she was just so caught up in seeing them, and seeing them grow up. She's seen it now about 10 times at festivals and it was about fourth or fifth time when she was finally like, ‘Rudy this is an amazing film.’ I'm still working on the supercut of everything. I'm trying to not be an artist with it. I'm trying to be like, ‘Here are the girls.’ It’s something that's just for her.

Join Valdez at THE SENTENCE during Doc Days on Saturday, May 12 at 4:30pm.

See the Doc Days trailer here:

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Like Superhero Movies? So Do We: RBG Opens This Thursday at AFS Cinema

If you’re wondering why everyone is talking about the new documentary RBG, it’s probably because Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is every bit the superhero that the film asserts, and all of us who value civility, scholarship and good judgment love Ginsburg, who has embodied these traits so well for so long.

But directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen don’t have to break out the Super-CGI effects to make their point - they simply let RBG take center-stage. What results is an awe-inspiring ode to a monumental woman.

Preview audiences have been erupting into spontaneous applause and you will too. Could you use a feel-good movie like this right now?

RBG opens at AFS Cinema on May 3 and, in what is surely a heartening sign for the Republic, shows are starting to sell out. Don't worry though, we'll keep adding more.

Tickets now on sale. Be there!

'How are the reviews,' you ask. Well...
“Ginsburg isn’t just an 85-year-old cultural icon, she’s also an 85-year-old cultural icon who spent a lifetime opting for litigating over protesting, for painstaking incremental legal work that took years to bear fruit, and who still feels more comfortable in the world of words and text than in the world of fame and notoriety. RBG captures that paradox beautifully.” - Dahlia Lithwick, Slate  
“RBG makes the case for Ginsburg as a hero, but for all aspects of her life, not just the splashy cases that help shape the nation… But what might be most inspiring about Ginsburg – and RBG... – is how she’s continued to hammer away at her dreams and her desires, even when buffeted back by forces she can’t control.” - Kate Erbland, IndieWire 
“We are living in an era full of sound and fury, not to mention bitterness, hysteria and rampant incivility. So there is something deeply soothing about RBG…” - Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter  
“The notion of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the diminutive and soft-spoken Supreme Court justice, as a judicial “rock star”... may seem a strange one. But the lively and thorough profile painted of her… makes a persuasive argument for that characterization… RBG shines a strong, clear spotlight on female jurists who are out to change the world, one small step at a time.” - Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post
Watch the trailer here:

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Meet the New French Cinema Week filmmakers: Karim Moussaoui

Karim Moussaoui's first feature, UNTIL THE BIRDS RETURN, tells a series of stories that take place in his home country of Algeria. We asked Karim three questions about his films' strong relationships to place. 

UNTIL THE BIRDS RETURN premieres Saturday, April 28th at 7PM at the AFS Cinema

Austin Film Society: Describe how the identity of Algeria has become a central focus in your films.

Karim Moussaoui: When I direct films, I only tell stories that take place in Algeria.  My goal is never to give a glimpse of what one could call the identity of Algeria. I’m only giving a view of what can take place in Algeria. It’s a personal and subjective take, which has its limits.

Austin Film Society:  UNTIL THE BIRDS RETURN often utilizes wide angles. Can you talk about this strategy as it relates to the narrative? 

Karim MoussaouiWide angles contribute to my instinct to bring into existence, at the same time, my characters and the places in which they live. It’s this way of filming that can deliver to the audience much more information in a very small amount of time. The landscapes like the architecture, or the state of the public spaces, give a glimpse of the political and social context.

Austin Film Society: US audiences rarely see new films from Algeria. Can you describe the filmmaking scene in Algeria for the US audience? 

Karim MoussaouiCinema in Algeria has ceased being a national priority since the 1970s. This decline lasted until the beginning the 1990s, almost to the point of disappearing. During the 2000s, a few directors made films that were recognized in many international festivals. That allowed for a re-dynamization of Algerian cinema, without convincing the public powers of the necessity to put in place true mechanisms for its development.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Critics Agree: OH LUCY! is "Nothing Less Than Transfixing"

The comedy/drama OH LUCY! opens this weekend at the AFS Cinema for a limited run. Atsuko Hirayanagi's film has delighted audiences from Tokyo to Hollywood, and actress Shinobu Terajima is a delight as a middle-aged woman who pursues her dream of love across the vast Pacific Ocean. With Josh Hartnett as the apple of her eye and a wonderful supporting cast that includes Megan Mullally.

And for once the critics and audiences are near-unanimous in their praise, as the film has a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Here are some of the gems:

“It’s a near-minor miracle that just about everything works in this emphatically modest comedy-drama… The writer-director Atsuko Hirayanagi isn’t selling a packaged idea about what it means to be human; she does something trickier and more honest here, merely by tracing the ordinary absurdities and agonies of one woman’s life.”Manohla Dargis, New York Times

"Within the confines of this cross-cultural shaggy-dog tale, Hirayanagi locates both a sharp vein of absurdist comedy and a bitter, melancholy undertow." - Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
"Nothing here is wrapped up with a red ribbon the way it would be in an American film, studio made or otherwise. OH LUCY! has the guts to leave things messy and unkempt, just like life." - Adam Graham, Detroit Free Press

"Hirayanagi has a way of gradually getting inside her characters that slowly renders them comprehensively known, intimately exposed and surprisingly surprising." - Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Watch the trailer here:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Meet the New French Cinema Week Filmmakers: Composer Julie Roué

April 25th through 29th is the 4th Annual 2018 New French Cinema Weekend. Join us at the AFS Cinema to enjoy a diverse and provocative line-up of award-winning French language films.

To celebrate the fourth year of the showcase, we interviewed a few of our participating filmmakers and artists. Julie Roué, composer for Léonor Serraille's film MONTPARNESSE BIENVENUE, will be joining us for the festival. Learn about Roué’s inspiration and work on the film below:

Austin Film Society: You are a musician and sound designer. What drew you to filmmaking?

Julie Roué: Going out of my comfort zone! I chose a career where you don't go to work at the same place every day at the same time. I could do my own music–which I do on my free time–but I like exploring the multiple facets of my musical personality. Directors push me in one direction or another. They make me to go to places where I never would go by myself.

Each film I’m on is a universe I enter, with its inner laws, its colors, its rhythm. And each director is a personality to discover, a person I need to understand in order to enter their system. I am fascinated by people and how they manage to tell stories that resonate with other people. I like understanding each storyteller's algorithm and add my own maths to their system.

AFS: You'll be speaking at a Moviemaker Dialogue during your time with us in Austin. What topics of discussion are most important when speaking with musicians who are hoping to break into film or television work?

Roué: Being very new in this industry myself, I would like to make this moment a real dialogue where I can share my experience on very specific situations. So far I have worked mainly on short films. I have no recipe, I reinvent my way of composing for each film. I would like to show a few examples of the challenges I had to face, how I tried to understand what the director had in mind to transform it into music. I also want to talk about how the composer and the sound designer can work hand in hand to create a harmonious soundtrack.

AFS: Tell us about why you decided to take on MONTPARNASSE BIENVENUE, and what attracted you to the project.

Roué: I had already worked on Léonor Serraille's short film, BODY. I admired her talent for portraying strong characters, women, evolving in a world where they don't fit very well. Her writing is sharp, precise, loving and full of asperities. I read the script of MONTPARNASSE BIENVENUE at an early stage and immediately was struck by Paula, the main character. First, I hated her. And then, unintendedly, started to understand her, and love her. I could totally relate to her, not in the sense that she was like me, but in the sense that she triggered strong emotions, questioned my beliefs. Léonor Serraille wanted me to write songs, songs that would be the sound set of the places Paula goes through, but also her inner playlist, a cartography of her mental states. I love writing songs; she didn't have to say more.

Roué will participate in a Moviemaker Dialogue on Wednesday, April 25. She will also participate in the post-screening Q+A of MONTPARNESSE BIENVENUE on Thursday, April 26 at the AFS Cinema. Tickets to the film and series passes for the full New French Cinema Weekend lineup are available for purchase; AFS members receive a discount. Additionally, AFS members are invited to the members-only Opening Reception on April 25.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Meet the New French Cinema Week Filmmakers: Xavier Legrand

April 25th through 29th is the 4th Annual 2018 New French Cinema Weekend. Join us at the AFS Cinema to enjoy a diverse and provocative line-up of award-winning French language films.

Below, Xavier Legrand, director and winner of the Silver Lion Award for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival, discusses the story and casting CUSTODY plus future plans.

Austin Film Society: Tell us what led you to discover that the subject of a divorce had so many dramatic possibilities.

Xavier Legrand: When I discovered the problems associated with domestic violence, I detected a lot of pain that could bring families into terrifying situations. Spousal abuse is not just beatings, but a formidable psychological hold, constant manipulation, sick jealousy and an obsession to want to own the other. And unfortunately, children are not spared in these conflicts and are all too often forgotten victims. In France, a woman is murdered by her spouse or ex-spouse every 3 days. In 2016, 123 women were murdered and 35 children died as a result of domestic violence. These murders occur in most cases at the time of separation or just after.

AFS: The film owes so much to the performances of the actors, as so much of the tension comes from the fact that we are learning critical details about the characters as the story progresses. Can you tell us the secrets of your phenomenal casting work?

Legrand: Any small role must be useful to the story and must be built with a lot of detail. Right from the writing stage, I made sure that each role could contribute something to the issues and the plot. Besides, being an actor myself, I know actors well. The majority of the cast is made up of theatre actors who are rarely seen on screen. I have seen them in the theatre and know how they all work. Finally, since the subject of the film is family, I made sure to find a coherent resemblance with each other.

AFS: You have been celebrated in the US with an Academy Award nomination for a short, plus named this year as one of Variety's 10 Directors to Watch. Any plans to make films in the US?

Legrand: That's not in my outlook right now. But maybe someday, if the subject of the film asks.

Legrand will join us for a post-screening Q+A of CUSTODY on Friday, April 27 at the AFS Cinema. Tickets to the film and series passes for the full New French Cinema Weekend lineup are available for purchase; AFS members receive a discount. Additionally, AFS members are invited to the members-only Opening Reception on April 25.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Intense, Mesmerizing & Heartbreaking," DID YOU WONDER WHO FIRED THE GUN? Opens this Friday

"Human beings have a need to know: who we are, where we came from – essentially, what happened. We keep records, take photographs, tell stories, and build memorials. We try to keep track of our history. But sometimes there are missing pages. And sometimes there’s darkness." Danielle White, Austin Chronicle
As you may have heard, quite a lot of people are pretty shaken up by the new essay doc by Travis Wilkerson, DID YOU WONDER WHO FIRED THE GUN? In it, Wilkerson, who is originally from Alabama, interrogates a true crime drama with the journalistic detail of the podcasts Serial or S-Town. But Wilkerson doesn't have the same kind of distance from the subject, because the racist murderer at the core of the story was his own great-grandfather, whose standing in white society did not change one bit after the incident. In fact the whole matter seems to have vanished from the civic record entirely.

It is high drama, and more relevant now than ever. It's the kind of film that you will walk around thinking about for days after, maybe longer.

DID YOU WONDER WHO FIRED THE GUN? opens Friday, April 20 at AFS Cinema. Tickets on sale here. 

We'll let the critics tell you the rest:
“A scorching and rigorous essay on memory and accountability… neither a profession of guilt nor a performance of virtue…Instead of consolation, Mr. Wilkerson offers commitment. Instead of idealism, honesty. ” - A.O. Scott, NY Times  
“It’s an enormous story… He provides, in effect, a travelogue of the history of racism” - Richard Brody, The New Yorker  
“...intense, mesmerizing, and heartbreaking… It’s hard not to experience Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? and not get shivers up your spine — from fear, from anger, and from the beauty of Wilkerson’s filmmaking.” - Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice  
Here's the trailer:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jane Fonda's BARBARELLA: Performing Future Woman

BARBARELLA plays at the AFS Cinema for select shows from 4/20-4/23. Tickets are available now.

BARBARELLA (1968) is often lumped in with the soft-pornographic, MAD MEN-era brand of sexist iconography. It’s erotic imagination is as unsophisticated as an ad for a manly fragrance: if only all beautiful women were as chill as Barbarella, life would be easier. If only all women would stop having preferences, and just enjoy the underside of the boot. While there's a deliberate lack of physical contact on screen, the movie doesn't need actual sex to remind us of porn.

Barbarella could easily have been a throw-away role - blandly seductive or childishly passive. But, we're talking about Jane Fonda here. As Karina Longworth put it, referring to any Fonda performance: "She's almost always the most active presence in any given scene... There's no way you could watch a Jane Fonda performance and not know what her character wanted."

In BARBARELLA, she takes the concept of agreeability and turns it up to 11. She's so alert and eager to please that her agency breaks through the two-dimensionality of the character. She's the overly precocious, straight-A student of sexual awakening. Some of this eagerness is built in to Fonda as a performer. As Pauline Kael would write, much later, "Jane Fonda's motor runs a little fast... she's always a little ahead of everybody, and this quicker beat--this quicker responsiveness--makes her more exciting to watch."

This quickness - almost jumpiness - doesn't just fit the character. It transforms it. Fonda-rella candidly delivers cheeky one-liners, presenting as a genuinely likable human being, instead of an icy bombshell like Brigitte Bardot, director-husband Roger Vadim's first wife and "discovery". She takes the sex goddess off the pedestal.

Even discerning modern audiences are taken in by BARBARELLA's pseudo-feminism. She carries a gun and shoots it. She has a motive outside domesticity and male pleasure. She enjoys sex. The film cherry picks motifs from the budding culture of psychedelia and sexual liberation. We buy into it because the bar is still low, and we're all starved for a retro feminist superhero. Fonda herself has asserted that "it could have been a really strong feminist movie." Modern audiences detect this, as well as the distance between the could-have and the reality.

Fonda knows how to sell the character, even if she doesn't sell the sex object with the same oomph the producers may have intended. Nothing she does in the Orgasmatron looks like a real woman having a real orgasm. It's a spoof of an orgasm - it's hammed up for the male gaze. When she sells sex in KLUTE, we see the difference - right before she looks at her watch and let's us know it's all an act. (Tori Galatro)

Tori Galatro is a current AFS Marketing Senior Intern.

Watch the trailer for BARBARELLA here:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

New Desplechin Alert: ISMAEL'S GHOSTS Opens This Friday at AFS Cinema

Anytime one of the lions of world cinema makes a new movie it is an event. Writer-director Arnaud Desplechin certainly falls into this category. As his classic works MY GOLDEN DAYS, KINGS & QUEEN and A CHRISTMAS TALE demonstrate, Desplechin is never shy about following his own north star wherever it may take him - and his audiences.

His newest film, ISMAEL'S GHOSTS, stars Louis Garrel, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and the director's own favorite actor Mathieu Amalric in a story of lost love regained... sort of. Expect a collision of diverse emotions, the funny and the sad dancing around one another in the exquisite Desplechin manner. It opens this weekend at AFS Cinema so you can see it for yourself.

But don't just take our word for it. Here's what the critics are saying:
“A messy but vibrant drama... serves as a reminder that the messiness so vital to Desplechin's work... is in fact the carefully achieved product of a tricky and elusive alchemy.” - Justin Chang, LA Times 

“...a crazy ride – and pure 'amour-fou' bliss...... reminds You Why Marion Cotillard Is a Star…  So often, this preternaturally talented actress is simply asked to be Pretty Mystery Lady when she's recruited for Hollywood movies. Desplechin gives her chance to run the gamut from guilty to breezy here, and it's a gift to Cotillard – and us.” - David Fear, Rolling Stone 

“...this movie’s nerve endings vibrate most avidly and tenderly in scenes where not a word is spoken… It’s moments like these that make ISMAEL'S GHOSTS an unforgettable experience.” - Glenn Kenny, NY Times
Watch the trailer here.

ISMAEL'S GHOSTS opens Friday, April 13 at AFS Cinema. Tickets on sale here

Monday, April 9, 2018

"Gorgeous... Sprawling... Brutal... Majestic..." What Critics Are Saying About SWEET COUNTRY, Opening This Weekend

With a 94% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and prizes from the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals, the new Australian historical drama SWEET COUNTRY has very much earned its place on the big screen this weekend at AFS Cinema. Here are just a few of the rave reviews:

“A bleak story presented with great style, it’s a finely made Australian western that demonstrates the malleability of that most American of genres as well as the impressive gifts of Indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton.” Kenneth Turan, LA Times

"Thornton delicately peels back all the layers of Aussie injustice in this film, but what’s most unnerving is that the story proves to be so universal." April Wolfe, The Village Voice

"This gorgeous, sprawling tale of early 20th century desert survival and racist villains packs the brutal punch of Sam Peckinpah, but folds the majestic vistas and gunplay into a disquieting statement on persecution with echoes of 12 YEARS A SLAVE." Eric Kohn, Indiewire

“A drama of imposing breadth and emotional depth.” David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

"Stately but universally accessible in its deft genre touches and border-crossing political import, ...“Sweet Country” has the makings of an international arthouse talking point." Guy Lodge, Variety

SWEET COUNTRY, directed by Warwick Thornton, and starring Sam Neill, Hamilton Morris and Bryan Brown, opens at AFS this Friday, April 13. Tickets are on sale here>>

Watch the trailer here:

Friday, March 30, 2018

Attn. Ôshima Gang: Rare Nagisa Ôshima Films Now Playing at AFS Cinema

Our FORBIDDEN COLORS: THE TRANSGRESSIONS OF NAGISA ÔSHIMA series is now playing at the AFS Cinema. Now is your chance to see the films of one of the 20th Century's great cinema provocateurs on the big screen and (except for one digital and one 16mm) on 35mm film.

From his earliest films (CRUEL STORY OF YOUTH, NIGHT AND FOG IN JAPAN) where he established himself as a filmmaker with something to say, through to his erotic masterpiece IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES and on to his collaboration with David Bowie, MERRY CHRISTMAS MISTER LAWRENCE, this is a series that must be seen on the big screen and discussed with friends. These are packages of ideas that inflate when watched.

Here's the whole series lineup and, if you haven't seen it already, the trailer. Hope to see you at all the shows.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Watch This: Paul Thomas Anderson and Richard Linklater in conversation at the 2018 Texas Film Awards

It's not every day that you get to listen to a couple of the greatest filmmakers of a generation just talk. But that's the magic of the Texas Film Awards, which took place on March 8th, 2018, where audiences are treated to the kind of star-studded glamour and magical movie moments rarely witnessed outside of Hollywood. 

This year, as a special tribute to the late Jonathan Demme, Richard Linklater sat down with Paul Thomas Anderson (the recipient of the inaugural Jonathan Demme Award) for an intimate conversation about their mutual friend. It's a beautiful, inspiring discussion. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Edify Yourself! Original Mimeographed Notes for all Films in the CinemaTexas Rewind Series Here

As you might know by now if you've been following AFS, the CinemaTexas Rewind series runs from March 22 through April 22 at the AFS Cinema. Full details are here.

Part of the charm of the original '70s and '80s CinemaTexas film screenings at the University Of Texas was the mimeographed notes, written by students and/or faculty distributed at each screening. You can read a comprehensive collection of these in this new book from UT Press, which also has the advantage of being in a much more readable format.

Additionally, we'll have a limited number of xeroxed note sets at each screening.

However, since we don't want to deplete forests any more than possible, we are providing scans of all notes for the films in the series. You can read those at this link. Enjoy!

Watch This: The Cramps Live & Untamed in 1979! More this Weekend!

From Friday, March 23 through Sunday March 25, the AFS Cinema will welcome Emily Armstrong and Pat Ivers for a trio of screenings of their work. Starting in the mid '70s they ran a public access show in New York called GoNightclubbing! and they did just that, capturing hundreds of hours from the fertile Downtown New York music scene, which encompassed all manner of styles and attitudes. We look forward to their films and stories.

On Friday there will be Suicide Live Plus The Best Of No Wave, then on Saturday we will show Pylon Live Plus The Best Of New Wave, then on Sunday we'll spread out for Songs & Stories with some of the top highlights from their video archive and also their memories of the artists (including the late lamented Cramps) and times. We hope you can join us. Tickets and more info here.

In the meantime, to tide you over here is a clip from the Cramps performing "Surfin' Bird" in 1979. If you never saw this band, one of the most high-energy, high-danger bands of all time, this is as close as you're ever likely to get.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Jonathan Rosenbaum on BEFORE THE REVOLUTION: Rare Print Screens 3/24 at AFS Cinema

AFS Cinema is excited to present Bernardo Bertolucci's remarkable early film BEFORE THE REVOLUTION this Saturday, March 24th at 6:00 PM. We will be screening a rare 35mm print all the way from the Cineteca di Bologna...the chance to see this film in 35mm probably won't happen again anytime soon, so be advised.

Here's Jonathan Rosenbaum on the film:
It is not surprising that Bernardo Bertolucci’s second feature — made when he was only 22 and released a year later in 1964 — has never been as fashionable as THE CONFORMIST(1969) or as popular as LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972). But even though it is sometimes raggy and choppy as storytelling, BEFORE THE REVOLUTION is still possibly the most impressive thing he has done to date.
There probably isn’t another Bertolucci film, at least until the recent BESEIGED (1998), that is constructed so closely around individual pieces of music, pop, jazz, and classical, culminating in a climactic premiere of a Verdi opera, Macbeth, heard off-camera but never seen. And like John Cassavetes’ SHADOWS (1960) — evoked directly in one love scene between the callow young hero Fabrizio (Francesco Barilli) and his slightly older and neurotic aunt Gina (Adriana Asti), played out to the accompaniment of a tenor saxophone solo – BEFORE THE REVOLUTION has all the vibrant emotional intensity of youth giving its all.
Read the entire Rosenbaum piece here. Then check out the trailer and buy tickets HERE.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Starting This Weekend: Films Of French Master Olivier Assayas; In Person at Select Screenings

“Movies should not be about other movies, they should be about your experience of life.” – Olivier Assayas

Nest week, French director Olivier Assayas joins us in-person at the AFS Cinema for a limited retrospective of his films, including the premiere of the new restoration of his 1994 classic, COLD WATER (a Janus Films release). The director will also be present at the screenings of SOMETHING IN THE AIR and PARIS AWAKENS.

Assayas is the voice of a generation. His brilliant body of work addresses our rapidly globalizing and increasingly technological environments, and interrogates the meaning of art and artistic creation in our finite existence. Born in 1955, he was an adolescent during the galvanizing “social revolution” of May 1968, an experience that would forever impact the way he sees the relationship between ideas and the world. His films return to these themes again and again, with ever more poignancy and bite.

The screenings kick off on Sunday, March 4 with his most recent release, 2016's PERSONAL SHOPPER, for which he won the Best Director prize at Cannes.

His highly personal portrait of the events of May '68, SOMETHING IN THE AIR follows on Friday, March 9, with Assayas in person. Later the same day we screen the premiere of the restoration of his 1994 film COLD WATER with Assayas and Richard Linklater introducing.

We follow up Assayas' visit with more screenings from his oeuvre, including IRMA VEP (1996), PARIS AWAKENS (1991), SUMMER HOURS (2008), and CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (2014).

Watch the trailer for this series here:

Watch This: Texas Film Awards are Around the Corner: Here are Highlights from Last Year's Show

Shirley MacLaine accepts her Texas Film Award

We're less than a week out from this year's Texas Film Awards. The annual event brings in actors, filmmakers, and others in the film industry to Austin to celebrate the Texas film industry. Among the special guests this year will be director Paul Thomas Anderson and actor Armie Hammer. 

As a throwback to last year, we're looking back at all of the speeches and clips from our 2017 guests, including honorees Shirley MacLaine, Tye Sheridan, Sarah Green, Hector Galán, and Jeff Nichols. Each of our honorees are introduced by a friend or past collaborator. Watch the full clips below.

Shirley MacLaine, presented by Richard Linklater

Jeff Nichols, presented by Michael Shannon

Tye Sheridan, presented by David Gordon Green

Sarah Green, presented by Nick Kroll

Hector Galán, presented by Henry Cisneros

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bring Me The Head Of CinemaTexas!: Notes on the Next Essential Cinema Series

This week's Austin Chronicle presents an informative overview of AFS' upcoming CinemaTexas Rewind series. Here's a little bit more about CinemaTexas and the films to be screened, as well as the new book that has brought CinemaTexas back into the spotlight.

From the early ‘70s through the mid ‘80s, there was an on-campus film-programming initiative at the University of Texas called CinemaTexas. Every Monday through Thursday night there was a separate two movie lineup programmed by Radio-Television-Film Department faculty and graduate students.

The unique set of influences and doctrines that held sway at the time, and the prodigious talent pool of the student and faculty collaborators make these programs of ongoing interest today.

Now a historic selection of the original program materials has been published by UT Press as “CinemaTexas Notes: The Early Days of Austin Film Culture,” edited by Louis Black and Collins Swords. We are honored to welcome some of the CinemaTexas alumni back to reprise some of their favorite films as part of this accompanying series. The book will be for sale at the theater as well.

Here is the lineup:

Directed by Vincente Minnelli
USA, 1953, 1h 52min, 35mm

Thu, Mar 22: This screening introduced by Richard Linklater with audience discussion to follow.
Encore screening Sun, Mar 25

"Before Minnelli, the backstage musical always excluded itself by framing the musical action with the stage, even if from that island of dramatic safety it took off into the empyrean as with Busby Berkeley. In contrast, Minnelli has always accented the abstraction of the film image by framing it against a backdrop of artificiality in other mediums. ... The question still remains, though, why are these actions possible, and even essential, if the cinema is thought to be a fundamentally 'realist' medium. The answer is, of course, the star system and the musical actor. In the backstage musical, we know from the very first that all the kids are singers and dancers waiting for the chance to be stars." 
– David Rodowick and Ed Lowry, Vol. 12, No. 4, Feb. 21, 1977.

Directed by F.W. Murnau
USA, 1927, 1h 34min, 35mm

Thu, Mar 29: This screening introduced by original CinemaTexas alumnus and noted game developer Warren Spector with audience discussion to follow.
"Hollywood's dominance of the world film market has been challenged but rarely in the eighty-odd years since the birth of the motion picture. Perhaps the most serious challenge was that posed by the German film industry during the 1920s. ... Hollywood's response to the German challenge was simple: bring all of that talent to the United States. Make the top German filmmakers offers they couldn't refuse; simultaneously weaken the German film industry and build up Hollywood." 
– Warren Spector, Vol. 22, No. 1, Jan. 29, 1982. 

Directed by Sam Peckinpah
US/Mexico, 1975, 1h 52min, 35mm

Thu April 5: This screening introduced by original CinemaTexas alumnus Louis Black with audience discussion to follow.
Encore screening Tue April 10
"Generally regarded as a failure when it was released, the film's critical stature has only slightly improved over the years. To set the record straight: Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is one of the most important and brilliant of Peckinpah's films. In many ways it represents the culmination of the first (and so far greatest) period of his work. It is an ugly, vicious film about not very glamorous people engaged in ugly, vicious activities." 
– Louis Black, Vol. 19, No. 2, Oct. 28, 1980.

Directed by Jonathan Demme
USA, 1974, 1h 23min, 35mm
Thu April 12: This screening introduced by original CinemaTexas alumnus and noted film critic Marjorie Baumgarten with audience discussion to follow.

"In 1970 Roger Corman's New World Pictures released The Big Doll House, a film which began a whole cycle of women-in-prison pictures. Where Hollywood had occasionally turned out films in this vein [they] were largely a variation on the standard (men's) prison genre. Big Doll House, however, generated several films which followed many of the conventions it had established: woman warden/male doctor, integrated cellmates, acceptance of lesbian relationships and, especially, women armed and dangerous at the end. ... Caged Heat is at once the best of the films in this genre and the ultimate send-up of them."
– Louis Black, Vol. 14, No. 3, April 3, 1978.

Directed by George Kuchar, Standish Lawder 
USA, 1966, 1971, 1h 10min, 16mm

Tue April 17: This screening introduced by original CinemaTexas alumnus and Austin Chronicle publisher Nick Barbaro
On NECROLOGY: ""The credits listed at the end of the film are woefully incomplete. The following is a complete breakdown of the relevant statistics regarding Necrology. Total performers: 326 (191 male, 135 female) Credited performers: 76 (53 male, 23 female) Uncredited performers: 250 (138 male, 112 female). In examining these statistics, certain patterns come immediately to mind, patterns which raise serious questions about Lawder's integrity. Most obvious is the implied sexism of the credits. Only 17.04% of the women in the film are credited, whereas fully 27.75% of the men receive credits."
– Nick Barbaro, Vol. 21, No. 3, Dec. 7, 1981

Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
USA, 1950, 1h 27min, 35mm

Thu, Apr 19: This screening followed by a panel discussion with select CinemaTexas alumni focusing on the influence of their mentor Ed Lowry
Encore screening Sun, Apr 22
"The most outstanding sequence in the whole film is the single shot bank robbery; for, if nothing else about the film were notable, this shot would make it all worthwhile and in a better known film would likely be touted the world round. Lewis sets his camera in the back seat of the car the couple is driving to a bank robbery. ... By keeping the camera pointed always forward, Lewis denies us the tension-releasing effect of being able to look backward to check for ourselves. Fourteen years later, in Bande à Part, Godard was to 'innovatively' place his camera in the back seat of a car, watching only the backs of the heads of the couple in the front seat as they drove and talked." 
– Ed Lowry, Vol. 15, No. 3, Nov. 29, 1978.