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.

Friday, February 23, 2018

An Important Video Message From Filmmaker Bette Gordon

Director Bette Gordon is in Austin presenting her films at the AFS Cinema this weekend. We hope to see you there for the screenings of VARIETY (1983), THE DROWNING (2017), LUMINOUS MOTION (1998) and her Experimental Short Works. Each screening will be followed by a Q&A that promises to be unforgettable.

You can find out more about the screenings and buy tickets online here, or at the door.

In the meantime, Bette has a special message for Austin. Take it away, Bette:

AFS Presents 25 Years of SXSW Film: A Retrospective Selection

John Boyega in ATTACK THE BLOCK, screening March 3

Today's Austin Chronicle features a nice preview of the SXSW@25 program that starts at the AFS Cinema on Friday, March 2. The AFS programming team has worked with SXSW Film to choose a selection of some of the highlights from recent years of the fest. The screenings run in the days before SXSW Film, except for MARWENCOL, which runs after, on March 21.

Here's the lineup:

Fri, Mar 2: 45365 - Directed by Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross, USA, 2009, 1h 30min, Digital:

A peripatetic portrait of a hometown and slices of memories become a cinematic story. The breakout, award-winning debut is from documentary filmmakers and brothers Bill and Turner Ross (CONTEMPORARY COLOR, TCHOUPITOULAS, WESTERN.)

Sat, Mar 3: AUDIENCE OF ONE - Directed by Mike Jacobs, USA, 2007, 1h 28min, DCP:

God visits Pentecostal clergyman Richard Gazowsky to send him on a mission: make a Christian movie as big and epic as STAR WARS. Richard gets into action, though he’s never made a movie before, and also had never seen one (before watching STAR WARS). This is a documentary.

Sat. March 3: ATTACK THE BLOCK - Directed by Joe Cornish, UK, 2011, 1h 28min, DCP:

A gang of teenage thugs in south London meet their match when they must defend their neighborhood from an alien invasion. One of the most fun, inventive and surprising debut features to recently premiere at SXSW, featuring a breakout performance by John Boyega.

Sun, Mar 4 : WEEKEND - Directed by Andrew Haigh, UK, 2011, 1h 37min, Digital:

No one knew British director Andrew Haigh’s name when he showed up at SXSW in 2011 with his tiny independent film in hand. By the end of the festival, Andrew and this film were the revelation of the festival. This simmering queer romance is still a knock-out.

Mon, Mar 5: SUN DON’T SHINE - Directed by Amy Seimetz, USA, 2012, 1h 30min, Digital:

For her feature directorial debut, writer/director/actor Amy Seimetz chose her favorite subject, her home state of Florida, where she says people go when they are “running away from something.” Her sweat-drenched noir, with its hapless would-be Bonnie and Clyde, is one of the strongest indie debuts you’ll ever see, and predicted Amy’s great success with future projects such as Showtime’s The Girlfriend Experience.

Wed, Mar 21: MARWENCOL - Directed by Jeff Malmberg, USA, 2010, 1h 23min, Digital:

After being beaten into a brain-damaging coma by five men outside a bar, Mark builds a 1/6th scale World War II-era town in his backyard. Mark populates the town he dubs "Marwencol" with dolls representing his friends and family and creates life-like photographs detailing the town's many relationships and dramas.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

What the Critics are Saying About Abbas Kiarostami's Final Film: 24 FRAMES

Abbas Kiarostami's 24 FRAMES opens at the AFS Cinema on Friday, February 23. Tickets and more info here.

The death of Iranian writer/director Abbas Kiarostami in 2016 robbed us of one of cinema's great masters. Though he had lived a relatively long, and certainly productive, life, his perspective on film and on life was still evolving and he continued to experiment with the technical possibilities of the medium.

With all that in mind, the posthumous release of his final film 24 FRAMES is a great gift to all of us. It is a work of meditation and experimentation, and, as critic Godfrey Cheshire writes, "this lovely final film is one that could be enjoyed by fourth-graders as easily as the most knowledgeable of Kiarostami's admirers."

The premise of the film is simple. The director has taken 24 still images, most of them his own photographs, and digitally animated, with the help of collaborators Ali Kamali and Ahmad Kiarostami (the filmmaker's son), a new narrative of what happens before and after the shutter snaps. Each "frame" lasts four and a half minutes and is a short film in and of itself.

It is not a film for everyone, but it is possessed of great insight and poetic expression and should certainly be seen on the big screen.

Here's what the critics are saying about 24 FRAMES:

"Since Kiarostami knew this was likely to be his last movie, there is an inescapably elegiac quality to 24 FRAMES’ concentrated meditation on image-making. 24 FRAMES is a must for longtime Kiarostami observers (and that should include all cinephiles)" - Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle 

"24 FRAMES immediately communicates the power of the theater experience, in the way that so many of Kiarostami's movies can." -  David Sims, The Atlantic 

"Takes up residence in your mental jukebox in a way that's so haunting, for a while it crowds out all the other beauty you've heard." - Owen Gleiberman, Variety 

"The chief pleasure of 24 FRAMES is how it attunes you to appreciate any movement, whether it's snow falling, waves crashing, or birds pecking the earth."  - Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader 

"In an age where people are so preoccupied with the size of the screen on which we watch things, it's fitting that Kiarostami's final work reminds us that no screen is too small, and that no screen is ever big enough." - David Ehrlich, IndieWire

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Hidden Worlds of Filmmaker Bette Gordon

Sandy McLeod in Bette Gordon's 1983 VARIETY

AFS Head of Film & Creative Media Holly Herrick provides this overview of the work of Bette Gordon. Gordon will be a guest at the AFS Cinema for a series of screenings starting on Friday, February 23 with a screening of VARIETY. The series continues through Monday, February 26.
“I came from a time where market driven art didn’t exist in film. It was such a small world… the filmmakers of the time, we were just mucking around, kind of just making films for each other.”
An early arriver on the New York independent film scene, Bette Gordon was part of the group that laid the groundwork for what was to come. The perception of New York as a fringe community of experimental artists would quickly change to that of a hotbed of filmmakers with market and Hollywood-ready material. But in the early 80s, New York’s downtown filmmaking scene was still dominated by artists experimenting with discovery and the possibilities of expression within the moving image. Bette Gordon’s work was born of this scene, but also suggested the next wave of artistically driven but viably commercial films like the more frequently cited STRANGER THAN PARADISE and SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT-- a narrative cinema rooted at once in cinephilia and the distinct, original visual ideas that were the outcome of a fertile period of experimentation.

Gordon editing VARIETY, circa 1983

Bette Gordon was totally ahead of her time in every way when she made VARIETY (1983), one of the greatest films of the New York of its period. Just take a look at her choice of collaborators: Christine Vachon was on her first gig as a production assistant, Luis Guzmán appears in his first feature film role, a then-unknown Nan Goldin co-stars, Kathy Acker co-wrote the script , John Lurie, fresh off of composing the music for Jim Jarmush and Kathryn Bigelow’s first features, did the score. After collaborating with James Benning on several shorts and then breaking off on her own with a proof of concept short called EMPTY SUITCASES (all of these shorts are playing in our Bette Gordon Experimental Shorts program), Gordon embarked on this first feature, a combination of her passion for hidden areas of New York, and an ongoing exploration of feminist ideas. In looking back at VARIETY with Film Comment’s Violet Lucca (for Metrograph) Gordon remembers the following:
“I was attracted to the underworld, the kind of movies I’d seen on late night TV or in film noir: PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, other Sam Fuller films, THE NAKED CITY. The idea that a world was underneath. In exploring the night world of New York, I came across a lot of places, especially ones that I was told were dangerous, and they became shooting locations. What attracted me to film noir was the female with a kind of agency that she didn’t have normally have in other genres, a kind of dangerous sexuality that, in a way, threatened men. Sometimes in noir the woman had power, but ultimately she was only there to assist or she was the obstacle. Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”changed a lot of things for a lot of people. I was drawn to this idea of seeing and being seen and the status of conventional Hollywood narrative, with the male as subject and the woman as object. I started thinking about taking a detective noir or a Hitchcock and flipping it around: what if she actually did have agency, with woman as explorer and man as enigmatic figure? What about a story in which a woman looks back? This whole question of looking, and the pleasure in looking, and the way in which sexual desire is represented in cinema—I was very inspired by all of that.”
It’s these ideas about representation, pulling the veil up in interesting ways on the mechanisms of masculinity, that echo in her later films including LUMINOUS MOTION, HANDSOME HARRY and THE DROWNING. LUMINOUS MOTION finds Gordon adapting a novel about a boy and his mother, living in their car and the odd motel room, and the string of short-term boyfriends who offer the mother money or a place to stay. Mom, played by Deborah Kara Unger, is the center of a story around which all the male characters rotate, but the film is told through the point of view of her possessive son. It becomes increasingly clear that the little boy’s devotion is out of control, and that there is more to the situation than meets the eye. This is where Gordon digs in—she’s attracted to the story under the surface. We see this straight off in THE DROWNING, when the film opens with what appears to be a mysterious coincidence, and the mystery of that moment only gets deeper and more layered as the film progresses. It’s Gordon’s strange characters and their questionable decisions that give way to the deepening shadows in her stories. As Gordon says:

“I’m not interested in making a “feel good/everybody ends up happily ever after”kind of movie. I always will probably gravitate to stuff that’s more difficult. I’m not interested in characters that are easy or conventionally likable. In fact, that’s something that drives me crazy about so much art now—the tyranny of likability.This idea that you must like every character or that you have to relate to them somehow. Who cares about that? I don’t think you have to like the characters,but you should at least find them interesting. For me a creative problem that needs to be solved is usually just, how to do I make people see something that they might not otherwise see? I mean, I grew up at a time at the end of the Vietnam war,and as a young person then so much of what I was feeling was about wanting people to open their eyes and see the truth. I think I’m always looking for an element of that in my stories and in my films.” 
(quoted from her interview with the Creative Independent).

Gordon’s approach to making images that are more than meets the eye will be discussed in the days to come when we welcome her to Austin to present her films, including VARIETY, LUMINOUS MOTION, her newest film, THE DROWNING, and the short films that laid the groundwork for her features.

Watch the trailer for NO COVER: THE FILMS OF BETTE GORDON here:

Newly Restored: A MATTER OF LIFE & DEATH Comes To AFS Cinema For Select Shows

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH starts on Saturday, February 17 at the AFS Cinema. This is the new 4K restoration. Buy tickets and find out more here.

At the end of WWII, the US and Great Britain, having just participated in a war to vanquish the greatest evil of modern times, were at a cross-roads. Resentment took hold against the American service-people who were still quartered in the British Isles. Territorial apportionment occasionally set Brit vs Yank against one another as the geopolitical stage was set for the post-war period.

What was needed, according to the British Ministry of Information, was a film to smooth feelings between the allies. The movie that resulted from this mandate may or may not have helped at the time. One thing is for sure, it has lived on in the hearts of people of all nationalities and is newly discovered by serious filmgoers all the time.

The team known as "The Archers," Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, had already made a masterpiece, THE LIFE & DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943) and several other good films, but A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH arguably surpasses everything they did before or since - not an insignificant task.

David Niven, who was both a matinee idol and a great screen actor plays a British RAF pilot who, in a moment of distress, makes a radio call to an American radio operator - (Kim Hunter) - which proves to be very important in the ensuing moments, which take a turn toward the supernatural. That's all we'll say, but you can be assured that the film is both technically astounding and emotionally moving, a true work of art.

Here is British critic Mark Kermode introducing the film. You should note that there are some mild spoiler elements in the video.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"Funny & Brutal": What Critics are Saying About Two New Works By Romanian Auteur Radu Jude

From AFS Head of Film & Creative Media Holly Herrick

The Romanian director Radu Jude popped on the radar for Austin audiences when his second feature, EVERYBODY IN OUR FAMILY, became a surprise favorite of Fantastic Fest in 2013. A filmmaker who works outside of traditional genre conventions to make expansive and gorgeously cinematic narratives, Jude has had a prolific couple of years.

He brought home the Best Director Prize at the Berlinale for his pitch black comedic saga set in 1800s Romania, AFERIM!, and followed it up with the equally dark and beautifully funny and intellectual SCARRED HEARTS, which won a jury prize at Locarno in 2016. Now we await his next film, his first feature documentary that, like his two past narratives, deals in open secrets of Romania’s past.

While we wait, AFS is catching up with his latest two films that are making their first appearances in Austin, and we’ve rounded up some words from the critics about why you should mark your calendars for our screenings of AFERIM! And SCARRED HEARTS:

"'AFERIM!” — the title translates more or less as “Attaboy!” — is Radu Jude’s sublime new feature, a funny and brutal costume drama with a potent contemporary kick … [the movie] might be described as a perverse folk tale set in the present day. Its dry, wry minimalism will be familiar to devotees of the Romanian New Wave. Mr. Jude, while he shares with his contemporaries an unsentimental interest in human folly and failure, departs from the naturalism that has been their collective signature for the last decade… [AFERIM!] casts a fierce, revisionist eye on the past, finding the cruelty and prejudice that lie beneath the pageantry." – The New York Times, A.O. Scott

"Somehow, this movie, with all its full-frontal historical horror, is still loaded with laughs. It’s gallows humor reminiscent of Robert Altman’s best work." - The Guardian, Jordan Hoffman

"[Jude] has created an uncommonly beautiful film (shot in 35mm widescreen and in the glory of black and white) that at times evokes the simple beauties of classic Westerns." –, Peter Sobczynski

Catch up on Radu Jude's work with us by coming to our screening of AFERIM! at AFS Cinema on Sun, Feb 18 only.

"SCARRED HEARTS is the most interesting production I’ve seen from [Romania] this year…. Despite its bleak theme, the film brims with anarchic life... Marius Panduru’s Academy-ratio photography, each scene staged in mainly fixed tableaux, makes the film as memorable formally as it is dramatically." –Film Comment, Jonathan Romney
"Alternately funny, raunchy and sad, SCARRED HEARTS is an intimate look at one writer making the best of awful conditions. Starring extraordinary newcomer Lucian Tedor Rus in his first lead role, the movie tracks the experiences of 20-year-old Emanuel, who spends nearly the entire film hospitalized with a spinal disease — specifically, bone tuberculosis, which looks as awful as it sounds— that leaves him mostly immobile and bed-ridden. The source's author M. Blecher was himself afflicted by such a condition during the final decade of his life, perishing from the disease in his twenties and only finding posthumous acclaim. (SCARRED HEARTS is based on his semi-autobiographical novel.) But the movie focuses less on the plucky young man’s literary ambitions than the insular world that becomes his natural habitat. Set in 1937, as Adolf Hilter rose to power and the early stirrings of WWII put Europe on edge, the movie lingers with Emanuel and the various patients and doctors he befriends while lying around.…By chronicling Emanuel’s perseverance, SCARRED HEARTS successfully makes the case for the author’s work. But with its endearing characters and poignant themes, the movie doubles as a discovery for the filmmaker as well. Blecher’s career came to a sudden end early on, but SCARRED HEARTS suggests that Jude’s just getting started." - Indiewire, Eric Kohn 

"Filmed on 35mm and in the Academy Ratio, SCARRED HEARTS feels almost literally like a window into the past. If it wasn’t for the richness of the colors and the precision of the framing, we might almost take these as precious home movies, a notion underlined by the succession of black and white photographs from the 1930s which are among the first things we see on screen." – Screen International, Allan Hunter

Catch up on Radu Jude's 2016 award-winning film SCARRED HEARTS with AFS Cinema on Wed, Feb 21.

Watch the trailers for AFERIM! and SCARRED HEARTS here.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Anti-Commercial Odyssey of Seijun Suzuki's Taisho Trilogy


The incorrigible Japanese filmmaker Seijun Suzuki is well known for having been basically banned from making films at all after 1967's explosion of bullets and butterflies BRANDED TO KILL. The stated reason from his bosses at Nikkatsu Studios was that his films "made no sense and no money."

You can see the BRANDED TO KILL trailer here:

He was able to sneak back into the industry 10 years later with A TALE OF SORROW AND SADNESS, an adaptation of a popular manga about a teenage girl golfer. In Suzuki's hands it became a violent, operatic condemnation of modern Japanese culture. This wasn't what the producers at Shochiku Studios had in mind, and he was on the skids again.

We showed the film in 2015. Here's our trailer for it.

Three years later he had hustled together some independent funding for his next project. Since he was still only 56 years old, the prudent thing for him to do was surely to prove his commercial viability as a maker of films that could recoup their investments. Right?

Care to guess what he did with the money? If you guessed, "he made an obtuse and surreal metaphysical trilogy about the nature of artistic creation, with ghost sex and phantom musical recordings" you are absolutely right.

As you might predict, the films did not make money at the box office, but they did score big with critics, and these three films are considered among his best and most important. They also tended to place his earlier work in perspective for audiences who may not have had much of a unified opinion about his works.

Now, nearly 40 years after their making, we are finally able to revisit these unusual films on the big screen in a new restoration. They will be playing over three successive Saturdays at the AFS Cinema starting with ZIGEUNERWEISEN Saturday, February 10.

The films constitute a trilogy in name and theme only so if you miss one, it won't affect your ability to grasp subsequent titles.

Watch the trailer for Suzuki's Taisho Trilogy here:

Thursday, February 8, 2018

BOMB CITY is the Austin Chronicle Pick Of The Week - Opens at AFS Cinema This Weekend

"First-time director Jameson Brooks’ BOMB CITY reads like a recipe pulled from "The Anarchist Cookbook": Everyday items which, when assembled, create a dangerous product capable of wreaking havoc and destruction." - Danielle White, Austin Chronicle

A tragic 1997 incident that took place in Amarillo, Texas forms the backbone of an exciting new film called BOMB CITY. Made by a team of filmmakers with Amarillo roots, BOMB CITY revisits the controversial death of 19-year old Brian Deneke which occurred during a period of volatile conflict between punks and jocks.

The film, which pulses with a hardcore punk beat, juxtaposes both tribes and lets us see the events with the clarity of hindsight. In this week's Austin Chronicle, Danielle White gives the film a 4-star "AC Pick" review and Marc Savlov contributes a much longer piece with a lot of interesting backstory and followup reviews.

Watch the trailer here:

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A CIAMBRA Director Jonas Carpignano on Being Robbed Blind By His Cast (& Being OK with It)

A remarkable new film called A CIAMBRA opens at the AFS Cinema this Friday.

Produced by Martin Scorsese and directed with assurance and improvisational flair by New York-based Italian American filmmaker Jonas Carpignano (MEDITERRANEA), it takes us into the lives of some pretty rough kids who hustle and scrap in the tough Southern Italian enclave of Gioia, in Calabria.

The hero of the piece, such as it stands, is a Romani boy named Pio Amato (he plays himself here), who has to grow up and become the man of the family at age 14. Since most of his coping mechanisms revolve around stealing and other petty crimes, he faces some serious challenges. It's thrilling and compelling viewing.

Recently Steven Saito of The Movable Feast talked to Carpignano about A CIAMBRA, how he cast the roles, and the specific skills needed to make a film without a traditional script, set in a high-crime milieu, and still have it emerge as one of the best movies of the year. The part about how he met the family that formed the backbone of his cast (when they stole his car) is priceless.

We encourage you to come see the film, opening on February 9 at AFS Cinema.

Watch the trailer for A CIAMBRA here. Enjoy.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Agnès Varda Wants You to Watch Her Movies (and Jacques Démy’s, Too)

Here's AFS Head of Film & Creative Media Holly Herrick on the Agnès Varda Essential Cinema series running through February. By popular demand we have added additional FACES PLACES screenings starting Friday February 2.

It is the year of Agnès (again). After completing her brilliant new documentary, FACES, PLACES, the nearly 90-year-old filmmaker seems unstoppable—premiering her new film at festivals internationally, accepting one honorary Oscar and while also landing a nomination for Best Documentary, and attending retrospectives of her work around the world. We had the opportunity to chat with Agnès during her most recent visit to Premiers Plans Festival d’Angers, where she had an important message to send to her Austin fans:

We could write a novel about our love of Agnès Varda. She is a singular artist always ahead of her time by a mile. We had to narrow this series selection to five films, but each of these offers a jumping off point to the discovery of other work. Here are the big ideas behind each movie we’re showing this month.

LA POINTE COURTE (1955) - Camera eye, cinema eye
Screening February 8 & 13

When LA POINTE COURTE premiered at Cannes in 1955, Varda had her very first interactions with the film world. She had never been to a festival before, had seen very few films, and had limited exposure to cinephilia. Varda discovered filmmaking through artistic exploration that stemmed from still images. A photographer first, she began experimenting with moving images to create a portrait of Pointe Courte in Sète, a fishing village on the Mediterranean coast where she had lived during her adolescence. Varda spent months observing the town, and how the townspeople moved through it. Those observations and Varda’s trained camera eye, along with a light storyline borrowed from a Faulkner novel, became LA POINTE COURTE. Varda’s imagination was instinctively cinematic. The images in the film are almost like renaissance portraits, conveying the relationship dynamics and the cultural detail that are story’s fabric. Varda’s very direct replacement of her own eye with a camera, and the deeply personal and humanist point of departure of each of her films, is present here.

CLÉO FROM 5 TO 7 (1962) – a person and a place in time
Screening February 1 & 4

After growing up in Belgium and spending her teenage years in the small French village of Sète, Agnès Varda went to Paris to study, ending at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris to work on her photography. Paris, which was bursting with art, youth, activity, motion and political discontent, became the new focus of her camera eye. It was the first time Varda would make a film at home, and the film reflected the images that she would see every day, the outdoor locations were on her regular route, and the cineastes that were shaping her and Jacques Démy’s Paris (for example, the cameo appearances of Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina). Varda places the Cléo character, the famous beauty facing her own mortality, at the center of a world that Varda had observed deeply. The radical gesture here is Cléo coming into herself and beginning to see that world, once she learns to look beyond the image of herself in the mirror. As Varda commented at a recent AFI retrospective in speaking about Cléo: “Women become real when they stop looking at themselves, and start looking at other people.”

VAGABOND (1985) – the female protagonist
Screening February 15 & 18

CLÉO was an absolutely feminist narrative, but VAGABOND (titled in French SANS TOIT NI LOI / WITHOUT ROOF OR RULE) would allow Varda to stretch her imagination about gender paradigms and female personhood. Casting the established young actress and beauty Sandrine Bonnaire against type, Varda created Mona, a woman who shuns every expectation of femininity—an anti-domestic rambler who is wild at the core. To place Mona’s lifeless body in the frame at the outset of the film, Varda challenges every conceit of women on camera while creating an explosive female-centered narrative. By telling Mona’s story, Varda is suggesting that there is every possibility in the world when a woman is inside of the frame.

FACES, PLACES (2017) – A cinematic life
Starting Friday, February 2 with a special Member Discount screening on February 22

FACES, PLACES has to be the greatest tribute an artist has made to her own life and work. Because Varda doesn’t slow, the film is not about looking back, but the forward momentum of creation. Varda glides from one town to another, her latest collaborator JR in tow, to meet new people and make new images, confronting her past in unexpected places along the way. Varda continues a frequent theme of her work here, addressing her own mortality, now from the perspective of her career’s end. Even in what is likely a farewell film, the artistic work takes another leap forward in ambition and insight. Fans may find that each new Agnès Varda film that they discover becomes more beloved than the last—with each work, a new window into one of cinema’s most extraordinary imaginations.

The films of Agnès Varda
La Grace Laïque: Entretien avec Agnès Varda, Jean-André Fleschi & Claude Ollier. Cahiers du Cinéma no. 165, April 1965.
Portrait of a Vagabond by Lynn Littman, IDA Journal, January 2003.
AFI: Agnes and "Cleo", Anne Marie Kelly. The Film Experience, November 2013.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Best AFS Cinema Screenings of 2017 - Intern Edition

Everyone loved SUSPIRIA, of course.

Here at the Austin Film Society we are blessed with some of the best interns in the business. We are proud to have a chance to work with these talented young people who not only learn a lot about the film industry, but sometimes teach us grizzled old pros as well.

I asked AFS Senior Programming Intern Lisa Dreyer to ask around over the holidays and find out which films the interns had appreciated the most in 2017. Here is her report. Please note that all the trailers embedded here were cut by our talented AFS interns.

At any given time, AFS has around 20 interns working tirelessly to support the mission of bringing awesome films to Austin. While our tasks vary widely, from making coffee to filming live events, AFS interns all have one thing in common: a love of great movies.
Here are some favorite films we caught at the AFS CInema in 2017:

Justin Shamlian, an aspiring filmmaker responsible for many of our trailers, has seen over 100 films at the cinema this year, but says his favorite was the over-the-top Johnnie To action film A HERO NEVER DIES.

Emily Andujar, who’s interested in making a career in prop styling, nominates the beautiful restoration of SUSPIRIA, which was a sensation, filling up the theater for weeks.

Julia Allen, editor and video artist, appreciated the more experimental offerings, especially THE EYESLICER ROADSHOW, a presentation of boundary-pushing shorts.

Lisa Dreyer, who’d like to make a 2nd career out of film programming, loved CARPINTEROS, and found the live Q&A with the star Jean Jean afterwards to be especially illuminating.

Jennifer Bracy, a whiz at social media who’s starting out in marketing, loved the entire Jewels in the Wasteland series, hosted by Richard Linklater, but says “I haven’t laughed that hard during a movie in a long time” about Elaine May's ISHTAR, a film that’s getting a second look by contemporary audiences after being widely panned in the 80s.  

Other standouts of the year included DOLORES, the documentary about activist Dolores Huerta, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ENDLESS POETRY, and the newly restored version of Kubrick’s THE SHINING.

Thanks to Lisa for the report and we look forward to seeing all of you at the AFS Cinema in 2018.