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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Auteurs

Bela Tarr: Hungarian auteur on 'Turin Horse' and quitting cinema

February 29, 2012 |  3:34 pm


Hungarian writer-director Béla Tarr’s art-house bona-fides set up his work, fairly or not, as intimidating, impenetrable and overwhelming. His fierce reputation makes “The Turin Horse,” Tarr’s newest and reportedly final film, opening in Los Angeles on Friday, all the more astonishing for its simplicity. Long takes are carefully orchestrated around the tight space of a remote country cabin as an elderly father and his adult daughter steel themselves against a world that seems to be slowly winding down as resources diminish. It’s a slow-motion apocalypse.

With his graying ponytail, leather jacket, penchant for cigarettes and disarmingly direct manner, the 56-year-old Tarr is something of a central casting ideal of an international art-house filmmaker. He sat down for a conversation over cheeseburgers and draft lagers when he was in Los Angeles last fall for the film’s screenings as part of AFI Fest.

Your films have a reputation for being difficult to get through. It’s a badge of honor for some cinephiles just to say they sat through the seven-hour running time of “Satantango.”

It is easy. Easy to watch. It’s three parts, two intermissions. It’s really not a big deal to watch it. It’s just you are not used to that. Usually, when it’s shown anywhere in the world, it’s a weekend program, they start around 2 o’clock in the afternoon and finish around 10, then afterward everybody can go eat something. It’s really just, who was the stupid man — and I know it was here in Hollywood — who decided a film has to be 11/2 hours or maximum two hours?

Do you limit writers and tell Mr. Tolstoy, ‘‘‘War and Peace’ is nice, but it’s too long. We should take out the peace part because it’s boring and nothing happens”? That’s why I find it so stupid to talk about the lengths. I did a five-minute-long movie and it was my haiku. Sometimes, I only need five minutes.

Do you demand more of the audience? Do you want them to put in more effort when watching your films?

It is not an effort. If you are just sitting and watching, that is totally enough. You don’t need any effort. Just trust your eye and listen to your heart. It’s not difficult. Please do not use this word “effort.”

First of all, when you touch the camera, then you are waking up at four in the morning, in the dark, you are driving to the location and it’s cold and everybody hates everybody, it’s too early and you hate the actors, the actors hate you and the catering is bad, the coffee is bad and you hate the whole world. But you know why you do it? I do it for you. And of course I respect you and I know I have to do my best for you, because you are not a kid, you are an adult and you have to have the best. You are waiting for some good scenes, not just only for the stupid entertainment.... Everybody believes that film is just one thing. Surely not.

The story of “The Turin Horse” has its basis in an anecdote about Friedrich Nietzsche hugging a horse he had seen beaten in the street shortly before suffering a mental collapse. Is the horse in the film meant to be that horse? How did it get from Turin to the cottage?

Who cares about Turin? We just had a question — what could happen to the horse? — and we just wanted to tell you something about the horse. I remember the Milan Kundera book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and I could say we just did a movie about the heaviness of being. We just wanted to show you how long is life. You are doing your routine but every day is getting dimmer. And the light at the end just disappears, quietly, silent. And that is what we wanted. Not more and not less.

You know what the real human tragedy is? When you are capable, but by the end you cannot do it. You have the capacity, but you have no chance to fulfill your ideas.

Is it difficult for you when someone watches one of your films and then asks you what it was about?

When someone asks, “What about?,” I say, “How can I explain to you a film?” Because film is a picture, you can see with your eyes. How can I explain to you the eye of the horse? I have no words. And that’s the reason I did not become a writer. I’m a filmmaker. I know how to show you. I know the way. It’s impossible to tell you what you will see when you see the eye of the horse.

Why have you decided this will be your last film?

I think I’ve said everything I could.


Indie Focus: Gerardo Naranjo's 'Miss Bala'

'Bullhead' boosts Michael R. Roskam and Matthias Schoenaerts

Indie Focus: A world of drama in Oscar foreign-language race

--Mark Olsen

Photo: Bela Tarr. Credit: Cinema Guild


Around Town: Films, screenings and more in L.A. this week

January 4, 2012 | 12:17 pm


This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

With Gary Oldman getting strong reviews and Oscar buzz for his performance as spy George Smiley in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” the Arclight in Hollywood is offering a six-film retrospective of the British actor’s career beginning Monday with 1986’s “Sid and Nancy,” in which he played punk rocker Sid Vicious, followed by Oliver Stone’s 1991 “J.F.K.,” which features his tenacious performance as Lee Harvey Oswald.

Oldman’s performance as a U.S. congressman in 2000’s “The Contender” is on display on Tuesday, along with his “biting” turn as the most famous vampire in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 “Dracula.” Scheduled for Wednesday is his turn as playwright Joe Orton in 1987’s “Prick Up Your Ears,” directed by Stephen Frears, followed by “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”

After the "Tinker, Tailor" screening, Oldman will participate in a Q&A with Matt Holzman, host of KCRW’s “Matt’s Movies.” The admission to the retrospective is free, but tickets are only available via RSVP through www.OldmanRSVP.com. www.arclightcinemas.com

The American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre concludes its annual “Screwball Comedies” Festival Thursday evening with Howard Hawks’ 1941 romantic comedy “Ball of Fire,” starring Barbara Stanwyck in her Oscar-nominated performance as a nightclub singer on the lam who hides out with a group of encyclopedia nerds. Gary Cooper plays the nerd working on slang who falls for Stanwyck.

The second feature is the 1937 classic “The Awful Truth,” for which director Leo McCarey won the best director Oscar. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, who earned an Oscar nomination, star.

On Friday, the Aero celebrates the centennial of New Mexico’s statehood with Sam Peckinpah’s 1973 Western “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” with Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn. Nick Redman, Peckinpah’s biographer and documentary filmmaker; Peckinpah’s assistant Katy Haber; editor Garth Craven; and the film’s co-star, Charles Martin Smith, will discuss the movie after the screening.

Director J.J. Abrams and members of his cast and crew will be appearing Saturday evening at the Aero Theatre for a screening of Abrams' sci-fi coming-of-age 2011 box office hit, “Super 8.” Sunday evening, the Aero presents the 2010 French comedy-drama “Eight Times Up,” which explores the topic of unemployment. Director Xabia Molia and star and co-producer Julie Gayet will appear in person.

Every year the Cinematheque presents the “Golden Globe Foreign-Language Nominee Series.” The Globes take place Jan. 15. This year's programming begins Monday evening at the Aero with Angelina Jolie’s feature film debut, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” which is in Bosnian with English subtitles. The series continues Tuesday with Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In,” which marks a reunion with one of the Spanish director’s early muses, Antonio Banderas. The critically lauded Iranian film, “A Separation,” which has already earned several critics’ accolades, screens Wednesday.

The Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre presents its seventh annual “Focus on Female Directors” evening on Thursday. Among the films screening are Maryna Vroda’s “Cross,” which won the 2011 Palme d’Or for best short film; Jess Holzworth’s 2011 “Gamma Ray,” with Chloe Sevigny; Mitsuyo Miyazaki’s award-winning 2011 USC student film, “Tsuyako”; and Penelope Spheeris’ 1998 “No Use Walkin’ When You Can Stroll.” Spheeris and other directors featured in the program will be appearing.

Two cult coming-of-age classics, 1985’s “The Goonies” and 1986’s “Stand By Me,” are scheduled for Friday evening at the Egyptian.

On Saturday evening, Jeff Garlin of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” will be leading a discussion after the screening of “The Honeymooners: Lost Episodes 1951-1957.”

The current film “My Week with Marilyn” explores the turbulent production of the 1957 film, “The Prince and the Showgirl,” starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. On Sunday the Egyptian will screen “The Prince and the Showgirl,” along with the 1959 Billy Wilder comedy masterwork, “Some Like It Hot,” with Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. www.americancinematheque.com

The UCLA Film & Television Archive commences its three-month retrospective on Oscar-winning actor Spencer Tracy on Saturday evening at the Billy Wilder Theatre with “Inherit the Wind,” Stanley Kramer’s 1960 film version of the hit Broadway play based on the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, for which Tracy earned an Oscar nomination as an attorney based on Clarence Darrow. Fredric March also stars. James Curtis, author of the new Tracy biography, and “Wind” co-star Donna Anderson will be in attendance.

Scheduled for Sunday is his first feature film, 1930’s “Up the River,” which also marked the feature debut of Humphrey Bogart, followed by the 1930 Vitaphone short, “The Hard Guy.”

The archive’s Wednesday program at the Million Dollar Theater in downtown Los Angeles is the campy 1966 prehistoric drama “One Million Years B.C." starring Raquel Welch in very revealing outfits and the 1940 version “One Million B.C.” with Victor Mature. www.cinema.ucla.edu

Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 satire “Weekend” visits the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre on Thursday through Wednesday in a new 35mm print. On Monday, Cinefamily presents a feature length edition of Season One of David Cross’ IFC series “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret,” followed by a Q&A with the actor (“Arrested Development”), who created and writes the series, which begins its second season Friday evening. www.cinefamily.org

And on Saturday the Los Angeles Filmforum teams up with Cinefamily to present “Wallace Berman’s Underground Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, Screening 9." Toni Bail and Russ Tamblyn are scheduled to appear in person, schedule permitting. www. lafilmforum.org

The New Beverly Cinema showcases Werner Herzog’s latest documentary, “Into the Abyss,” on Thursday evening, followed by Errol Morris’ 1999 doc, “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr." Two by Pedro Almodovar are featured Friday and Saturday -- his 2011 drama “The Skin I Live In” followed by 2009’s “Broken Embraces” with Penelope Cruz. Saturday’s midnight movie is David Fincher’s 1999 “Fight Club,” with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.

Sunday and Monday’s offerings are Luc Besson’s 1997 action-adventure “The Fifth Element,” with Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker, as well as 2001’s “Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.”

Mark Romanek, schedule permitting, will appear in person Wednesday at the New Beverly for a screening of his 2010 drama, “Never Let Me Go.” Also screening is Francois Truffaut’s only English-language film, 1966’s “Fahrenheit 451,” based on the novel by Ray Bradbury. www.newbevcinema.com

The 7th Annual Santa Clarita Valley Film Festival kicks off Thursday and continues through Sunday at the Repertory East Playhouse in Old Town Newhall and features comedies, dramas, animation and shorts, plus works by budding filmmakers in junior high and high school. www.SCVFilmFestival.com

The 9th Annual Venice Film Festival, which explores the history of films made in Venice, Calif., takes place Thursday at the Seven Dudley Cinema at Beyond Baroque. laughters.com/7dudleycinema.html.

The Free Tunisia Organization is presenting the New Tunisian Film Festival Tuesday through Thursday at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre. The festival also marks the one-year anniversary of the Tunisian uprising. Among the films to be screened are “Fallaga 2011,” “Making of,” “Fausse Note” and “Rouge Parole.” www.levantinecenter.org/event/tunisian-film-festival.

Stanley Donen directed the acclaimed 1967 romantic comedy-drama “Two for the Road,” with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney, which screens Tuesday afternoon at the Skirball Cultural Center. www.skirball.org

[For the record, 4:03 p.m. Jan. 5: This post originally listed Spencer Tracy's retrospective as a two-month engagement launching on Friday. The retrospective is three months and launches Saturday.]


'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy': Betsy Sharkey's film pick

-- Susan King

Photo: Tom Hardy, left, and Gary Oldman in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" Credit: Jack English/Focus Features

Around Town: Superman flies again and the New Wave returns

December 1, 2011 |  7:00 am


A Francois Truffaut retrospective, an animation festival and a screening of 1978’s “Superman” are among this week’s highlights.

The American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre celebrates the legacy of one of the founders of France’s New Wave cinema, Francois Truffaut, who died at the age of 52 in 1984. “The Film Lover: A Francois Truffaut Retrospective” commences Friday evening with his first feature film, 1959’s “The 400 Blows,” his critically acclaimed autobiographical drama about a troubled young boy, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud in a stunning performance). The second feature is Truffaut’s third entry in the Antoine Doinel series, the 1968 romantic comedy “Stolen Kisses,” with Leaud and Delphine Seyrig.

Truffaut pays homage to one of his icons, Alfred Hitchcock, in his 1968 mystery thriller “The Bride Wore Black,” starring Jeanne Moreau in the title role, which screens Saturday. Also on tap is his 1962 masterwork, “Jules and Jim” with Moreau and Oskar Werner. The retrospective concludes Sunday with his 1960 film noir, “Shoot the Piano Player” with Charles Aznavour, and 1980’s World War II drama “The Last Metro,” with Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve. http://www.americancinematheque.com

Cinefamily’s Silent Movie Theatre gets highly animated this week. The “Animation Breakdown” begins with “An Evening With Don Hertzfeldt” on Thursday, featuring the L.A. premiere of his latest animated short, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day.” The filmmaker will be appearing in person. On Friday, Cinefamily shines the spotlight on Polish animation with several shorts by noted animators including an exclusive presentation of the Brothers Quays’ latest film, “Maska.” Saturday afternoon’s offering is a sneak preview of Pixar’s newest short film, “La Luna,” six months before its theatrical release. Later in the afternoon, Cinefamily presents a cast and crew reunion of the Cartoon Network series “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.”

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Pierre Etaix's legendary comedies come to Los Angeles

November 15, 2011 | 11:17 am


Pierre Etaix may be the funniest filmmaker you’ve never heard of.

 Etaix gained fame in the 1960s when he made two short comedies and five features — the majority co-written by Jean-Claude Carriere (“The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie,” “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”).

 Inspired by Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd, Etaix’s sweet and inventive films were box office hits and award winners, including the Academy Award for live-action short subject for 1962’s “Happy Anniversary,” about an earnest young man trying to get home in time for his anniversary dinner.

 But due to legal issues with his producer and distributor, the films were out of circulation for decades.  Etaix, though, kept busy working with his wife, Annie Fratellini, as a circus clown. The two even opened the first National Circus School in France. And he’s appeared in small roles in films, including Jerry Lewis’ ill-fated, never-released “The Day the Clown Cried” and in Aki Kaurismaki’s current comedy, “Le Havre.”

With his legal woes finally resolved, his films have been restored. Now the world is being reintroduced to his comedic vision. After a triumphant tribute to the filmmaker at the Telluride Film Festival in September, Etaix, 82 and now widowed, is appearing Wednesday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater. “Pierre Etaix: The Laughter Returns” will be hosted by Leonard Maltin and actress Genevieve Bujold, who appeared with Etaix in 1967’s “The Thief of Paris.”

 Screening are “Happy Anniversary” and Etaix’s first color film, the delightful 1969 romantic comedy “Le Grand Amour,” in which he plays a married man who finds himself falling in love with his pretty new secretary.

Speaking through an interpreter over the phone from Paris, the charming Etaix admitted that “at first I was worried that my films — they are now 40 years old — would not find any interest from the public. But having seen the success they have found since they have come back out in the public has made me very happy and content.”

Etaix, born in Roanne, France, fell in love with the films of the great silent comedians as a kid. “I loved the fact that all of these artists were coming from musical halls and Vaudeville and the circus,” he explained. “Their comedy was derived from these sources.”

And he followed in their footsteps as a young man, clowning around in the circus and in musical halls. “At that time in my early career, I was not thinking about making movies.”

But that all changed in 1954, when he met the Oscar-winning French comedic genius, Jacques Tati (“Mr. Hulot’s Holiday”), who relied more on visual humor and sound effects than dialogue.

 “Tati looked at my drawings and thought they had a lot of the humor and observational skills and I was really good at writing gags,” related Etaix. “So he asked me to help to prepare ‘Mon Oncle.’ That is how I entered the world of cinema. Not having any idea of cinematic language before then, I learned everything from Tati.”

The legal issues that surround the films’ disappearance for years was difficult for Etaix.

 “When I made the films, I was working with a producer who wanted to keep the rights for 10 years,” he said. After the failure of his 1971 film, “Milk and Honey,” which was pulled from the theaters after less than two weeks, the producer told him that “my type of films were not in fashion. They were not sellable. There were no buyers for my films. There was another producer that had approached me to buy the rights to the films, but that same producer refused, so it became a case of litigation.”

During the prolonged litigation, the producer died and his widow sold the negatives to another production company. Eventually, the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage and Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema stepped in to restore the films and get Etaix the legal rights.

Etaix said he never truly abandoned filmmaking. “I was working on three screenplays" in the 1970s, he said. “Because of the flop of the last film, none of the producers I showed the new screenplays to wanted to finance my films. After many years of rejection, I opened the school of circus.”

For information on the program, go to www.oscars.org.


"Around Town: Oprah Winfrey, James Earl Jones honored"

"Telluride Film Festival: Movies Get in Touch With The Land"

— Susan King

 Photo: Pierre Etaix, center, in "Le Grand Amour." Photo credit: Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage and Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema.

Around Town: Steven Spielberg and a rare 'Trip to the Moon'

September 1, 2011 |  6:00 am

Steven Spielberg

The American Cinematheque is celebrating the early films of Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg this week. The Aero Theatre is featuring two of his sci-fi classics: 1982's blockbuster "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" -- this is the 2002 extended cut re-release not the original -- and his first foray into the sci-fi genre, 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." And on Wednesday, the Egyptian presents the 40th anniversary screening of "Duel," the ABC TV movie that put Spielberg on the map as a filmmaker. Dennis Weaver stars in this lively thriller as a businessman driving on a stretch of deserted highway who suddenly finds himself being menaced by an unseen truck driver. The film did so well in the ratings it also had a brief theatrical release. Screening along with "Duel" is the automotive thriller "Vanishing Point," which is also celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. http://www.americancinematheque.com

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" also is this week's flick at the Outdoor Cinema Food Fest on Saturday evening at the Northridge City Little League. http://www.outdoorcinemafoodfest.com

One of the sensations of this year's Cannes Film Festival was the re-premiere of George Melies' seminal 1902 fantasy film, "A Trip to the Moon," which was featured in its newly restored, hand-colored version. The film will be screening Tuesday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, along with several other silent goodies, including a restored "A Trip Down Market Street," a 1906 film shot in San Francisco just days before the famous earthquake hit. Tom Burton, head of the preservation department at Technicolor in L.A. who was in charge of the restoration of "Trip," and historian Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, will be discussing the films. http://www.oscars.org

The Aero Theatre presents Joel and Ethan Coen's 1987 comedy "Raising Arizona" on Thursday evening. Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter play a married couple with baby fever who can't conceive and so decide to kidnap a tyke. http://www.americancinematheque.com

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Is the great auteur-superhero experiment grinding to a halt?

March 18, 2011 | 10:12 am


When Christopher Nolan's "Batman" movies became a massive critical and commercial success a few years ago, it turbocharged one of the more unexpected mini-trends in modern filmmaking. Suddenly quirky directors were regularly being handed the reins to big-budget men-in-tights tentpoles, as studios looked to replicate the formula that had the director of "Memento" scoring with splashy movies about a caped crime-fighter.

It was an arrangement that seemed to give everyone what they wanted. Studios gained credibility and the potential for a massive hit, while the auteurs got to play with a bigger budget and on a bigger stage without (they hoped) giving up much artistic freedom. Plus they got to make a greenlighted movie, which in this climate is the biggest selling point of all.

But these experiments have  hardly yielded wonder and beauty This week's news that Darren Aronofsky wouldn't direct  "Wolverine" is just the latest example; most reports had Aronofsky leaving the project for family reasons, but it nonetheless marked another pairing that didn't work out as planned.

Two years ago, Gavin Hood, the foreign-language Oscar-winner, didn't hit it out of the park with "X Men Origins: Wolverine." "Superman" director Richard Donner was brought onto Hood's set and may have even served as a helmer for part of the film, leaving Hood to defend his  relationship with Fox executives in interviews. The movie went on to perform only decently at the box office and underwhelmed a fair number of critics and fans.

The attempt by "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" auteur Michel Gondry to give new life to "The Green Hornet" stumbled too -- the movie was a middling performer with audiences earlier this year and hardly sparked excitement in critics. Gondry also admitted in interviews that writer-star Seth Rogen and he didn't see eye to eye; in fact, during part of the production he was sulking on set while Rogen had him shoot a scene he didn't want to do shoot. Another art-house auteur, Ang Lee, didn't exactly strike gold with his interpretation of "The Hulk."

And the results are not yet in for Shakespeare director Kenneth Branagh's tackling of "Thor," but the marketing materials have not, to this point, suggested a second coming of "The Dark Knight."

In fact, for a trend that Nolan helped cement, he remains arguably the only truly successful recent example of it. (Bryan Singer has of course done well with X-Men, but his pedigree is a little different.)

There are plenty of reasons why it's been such a troubled path. Unlikely marriages are unlikely for a reason, and if their results can be spectacular, their failures can be, too. Studios are hiring more ambitious directors at the same time they are taking ever-fewer risks in all other aspects of their business, and the combination doesn't always mesh. Meanwhile, for directors who are used to controlling every small element of production, a shift to the straitjacketed world of the studio tentpole isn't always easy.

And then there's the possibility that it's simply a bad creative fit: these aren't the kinds of stories and productions that play to these directors' strengths.

With Aronofsky now  gone from "Wolverine," the question for Fox will be whether it seeks  someone equally ambitious or returns to a more familiar combination. The studio may be tempted for another "Dark Knight"-esque experiment. On its face that might seem welcome for anyone who's a fan of good movies. Yet a more traditional superhero director may in the end prove the wiser choice -- for the sanity of everyone who works on it, and, given past results, for the viewing satisfaction of those of us who decide to see it.

-- Steven Zeitchik



Hero Complex: Wolverine loses Darren Aronofsky

Searching for the next Christopher Nolan

Thor Trailer promises full brunt of Chris Hemsworth's strength, Marvel postproduction budget

Photo: A scene from "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Credit 20th Century Fox

A modern Scandinavian takes on Bergman

December 22, 2010 |  7:03 pm

The Danish director Susanne Bier, who was nominated last week for a Golden Globe, thinks that a great number of her cohorts get it wrong.

"Many European filmmakers alienate the audience," said the director, who made the excellent comic melodrama "After the Wedding" back in 2006 and was just nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. for her new film, "In a Better World." "They don't think about engaging people."

Er, it could be more than a little interesting, then, to see Bier attempt a movie about the ultimate European filmmaker.

The director is tackling the Scandinavian white whale, Ingmar Bergman, developing a biopic about the Swedish filmmaker whose movies about mortality and loneliness were so heavy that he once said he couldn't watch them himself.

Bier told 24 Frames that she hopes to avoid the hazards of most artists' life stories. "I don't want to do a typical biopic, which is boring to me," the director told 24 Frames from Thailand, where she's currently vacationing. "What's fascinating is to dive into an artist like Bergman and realize how difficult it was for him to  have a life,"  she said of the man who had five wives and nine children. (Bier describes a man who was "reaching out in relationships" but never managed to connect.)

The filmmaker said that although the popular view of Bergman -- who directed bleak meditations such as "The Seventh Seal," "The Silence" and "Cries and Whispers" -- is of a man tormented by his own existential inquiries, her movie will look for the light within. "He had a dark sensibility but he was also someone with a great sense of humor," she said. Then, not quite sounding convinced herself, she added, "He was almost childlike in his views and his abilities."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Ingmar Bergman on the set of "Saraband." Credit: Bengt Wanselius / Sony Pictures Classics


Who, if anyone, is seeing 'Carlos' in theaters? Well, Keanu Reeves, for one...

October 23, 2010 |  2:00 pm

Who, if anyone, is seeing the full-length version of "Carlos" in theaters?

After months of build-up, the 330-minute film, French filmmaker Olivier Assayas' overwhelming portrait of the terrorist best known as Carlos the Jackal, screened for its first paying audience in Los Angeles on Friday night.

But considering that the movie had already aired, in three parts, on cable TV last week -- and that a 166-minute version will be in cinemas early next week and available via video-on-demand -- how many people are willing to devote five and a half hours to the full big-screen experience?

Turns out, some 450 people showed up at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on Friday night for the first of four shows of the long version this weekend. They filled more than two-thirds of the 600-seat venue. Keanu Reeves was among the audience, as was Directors Guild President Taylor Hackford.

There were seemingly only a dozen or so walk-outs during the epic showing of the movie, and perhaps even fewer audience members who slipped away during the intermission between the film's second and third parts. The crowd, a sort of eclectic, only-in-L.A. mix of ages, genders, races and apparent economic status, appeared to stay engaged with the film throughout. At least one person was sporting a Che Guevara T-shirt.

Before the screening began, Assayas and actor Édgar Ramírez, who plays the title role in the film, made a few introductory remarks. As to how the project began, Assayas laughed, acknowledging the long haul ahead and said, "I'll give you the short version."

Assayas said he was initially struck by Carlos as "a real-life character with a bigger-than-life story that's also the story of a generation" that "touched issues you rarely have the opportunity to touch in cinema. And he's fun." He was also taken by "the complexity of the politics of that time and simultaneously I was amazed by the wildness of the stories."

Asked how he came to cast Ramírez, who, like the real-life Carlos, is from Venezuela, speaks several languages and was the right age for the part, Assayas responded, "I always say it's kind of obvious... it's like a computer would have connected us." Once he had Ramírez for the role, however, Assayas said, "I realized I was in serious trouble because now I had to make the film. I was cornered."

Assayas said it was "overwhelming" to have such a large audience in the theater for the full-length version. "When we were making it, that seemed like science fiction," he said.

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: Édgar Ramírez in "Carlos." Credit: IFC Films 


For Carlos the Jackal, the political was the personal -- and both were complex

'Apocalypse Now' Blu-ray sends Francis Ford Coppola back into the jungle

October 13, 2010 |  1:11 pm

Apocalypse Now

What’s it like for Francis Ford Coppola to go back into the jungle? “In some ways,” the 71-year-old filmmaker said with a warm laugh, “it feels like we never left.”

Next week, a massive new three-disc edition of “Apocalypse Now” arrives on Blu-ray with more than nine hours of bonus features and, more than simple cinematic celebration, Coppola’s intense participation in the project was a mission of legacy repair on several fronts.

For “Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure Edition,” Coppola not only went back to dig out photos and documents from the production of the 1979 fever-dream film, he also sat down with star Martin Sheen and screenwriter John Milius and interviewed them about their signature contributions to the Vietnam War epic. Coppola’s clear goal -– especially in the case of Milius -- was to share a spotlight that is often aimed only at the director.

“I hoped for people to learn more about John Milius and his true place in all of this,” Coppola said by phone last week.  “The big moments of dialogue in ‘Apocalypse Now,’ those lines people still remember, all those were hatched in the mind of John Milius long before I got hold of the script.... I wanted to give him his day in court, give him his due...”

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Palme d'Or winner 'Uncle Boonmee' heads to the U.S.

July 6, 2010 | 11:39 am


Palme d'Or winners don't have a huge track record here in the States -- the occasional Michael Moore entry aside, they usually earn in the vicinity of $4 million ("The Class"), or $1 million ("4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days").

But then, $4 million would hardly be a bad result for "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s quirky Palme d'Or winner from this year, about a country man who has visions as he lies on his deathbed (putting it reductively). Strand Releasing has just acquired domestic rights to the film and will bring to the U.S. next spring, and a few million dollars in box office would mean several hundred thousand people will have come to see the film, which is a lot more than we would have expected when the film played Cannes in May.

Strand released several of Weerasethakul’s previous movies, including "Syndromes and a Century," to very minimal commercial effect. And although this film is more accessible than some of his earlier work, it has a less marketable conceit than some of the previous Palme winners. Strand, God bless it, may nonetheless be in a tough spot to push it; one could have imagined another distributor coming in and spending (marginally) more money.

Of course, the way things go these days, foreign auteurs get exposure in the U.S. in a different way, getting snapped up by studios looking to bring a touch of class to their otherwise generic projects. One can only imagine what a set that had studio executives hashing out their desires with Weerasethakul might look like. If nothing else, that would be an award-winning drama in its own right.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: A scene from "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives." Credit: Cannes Film Festival


Thai upstart Uncle Boonmee takes Palme d'Or at Cannes

America braces for an auteur attack

Cannes 2010: Addition by subtraction and the final sum

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