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: