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Friday Round-Up: noir festival, mobile phone doc fest in Mumbai, life-changing movies, Linklater pays tribute to Welles

November 27, 2009 | 12:51 pm


What's blacker than Black Friday? The 19th Courmayeur Noir in Festival, which pays tribute to the morally murky side of movies, television and literature in every shade of black from Dec. 7 to 13. The fest, which takes place on the slopes of the Italian Alps (a most unlikely spot for noir, but what do I know?) just outside Geneva and Turin, features a fascinatingly diverse array of screenings which explode the accepted definition of noir in some very offbeat ways: the Brit revenge pic "Harry Brown" with Michael Caine (who is scheduled to attend) and Johnnie To's gritty "Vengeance" will run alongside "Zombieland," "Jennifer's Body" (with Diablo Cody in attendance), "Mutant Chronicles," and even "Cloudy with a Chance of  Meatballs" and episodes of "Casper's Scare School." There's also a special "Avatar" event, with promotional and backstage footage, to coincide with the film's 3-D premiere on Dec. 10 in London. It's not everyone's idea of noir, but still, quite an eclectic buffet for the hard-boiled gourmand...

Are mobile phones the future of documentary filmmaking? The organizers of the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) seem to think so, and global news is in agreement. As this report from the BBC World Service notes, young men in the Indian subcontinent are frequently using mobile phones to capture a record of the upheaval plaguing their region - often to their own detriment (please note that the video included in this link contains graphic images). The 2010 edition of the MIFF, which takes place from Feb. 3 to 9 at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, will devote a full section of the festival to this new medium; it's an important addition to the biennial fest, which is growing by leaps and bounds, with over 864 entries from 37 countries -- a festival record - received this year. The festival credits the rise in popularity of documentaries in India thanks to the ascension of digital media in the country as part of the reason for its increased profile...

Over at The Independent's website, there's a fascinating collection of excerpts from Geoffrey Macnab's new book, "Screen Epiphanies," which asks filmmakers about the movies that had the greatest effect on their lives. Included in the post are several Oscar winners, including Martin Scorsese's passionate discourse on Michael Powell's "The Red Shoes," animator Nick Park on how Hitchcock's "Rebecca" has influenced his creations, and  Danny Boyle's recollection of how a screening of "Apocalypse Now" gave him insight into his father's own life and military career. Mike Leigh, Stephen Frears, Mira Nair and Paul Schrader also contribute their own cinematic epiphanies...

And The Criterion Collection's website has video of director Richard Linklater and his "Me and Orson Welles" co-stars Zac Efron and Oscar buzz focal point Christian McKay (who plays Welles in the film) unveiling a plaque that commemorates the location of Welles' famed Mercury Theatre in New York City. Welles' daughter, Chris Welles Feder, was also on hand for the ceremony. 

The statement on the plaque is worth repeating, if only for the reminder of the sheer bravado and boundless talent of the young Welles, which is the subject of Linklater's film: "On this site in 1937, legendary American actor-writer-director-producer Orson Welles founded the Mercury Theatre with John Houseman. Here Welles directed groundbreaking productions of 'Julius Caesar,' 'The Shoemaker's Holiday,' 'Heartbreak House,' and 'Danton's Death.' Welles and the Mercury Theatre would go on to make history with 'The War of the Worlds' broadcast and 'Citizen Kane.' Astonishingly, he would accomplish all of this by his 26th birthday." Astonishing is right.

-- Paul Gaita

Photo: Michael Caine in "Harry Brown." Credit: The Samuel Goldwyn Co. 

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