24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Keira Knightley

Steve Carell's 'Seeking a Friend' to premiere at L.A. Film Fest

April 23, 2012 | 10:00 am

"Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," with Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, will be among the gala screenings at the L.A. Film Festival, organizers announced Monday. The Sundance award-winning "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Middle of Nowhere" will also have gala presentations at the June festival in downtown Los Angeles.

"Seeking a Friend" will be having its world premiere at the fest. Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (who adapted "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist"), the movie follows two neighbors (Carell and Knightley) who strike up an unlikely friendship as the Earth is faced with extinction because a giant asteroid is hurtling toward the planet. The movie, being released by Focus Features, will be released nationwide June 22.
"Beasts" is a magical realism tale of a defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee. It focuses on a 6-year-old girl on the brink of orphanhood whose world is upended by a violent storm. The movie, directed by Benh Zeitlin, won this year’s Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was recently selected to play in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Fox Searchlight will release the film June 27. 

"Middle of Nowhere," written and directed by Ava DuVernay, follows a woman struggling to hold together her marriage when her husband goes to prison. The film garnered DuVernay the Best Director Award at this year’s Sundance; AFFRM and Participant will release the film Oct. 12.

As announced earlier, Woody Allen’s "To Rome With Love" will kick off the festival June 14. Additional galas and the rest of the major lineup of the June 14-24 festival will be announced May 1. Passes are on sale at lafilmfest.com


Sundance 2012: 'Beasts' sparks a flood of strong reaction

Sundance 2012: Meaty roles for black actors in 'Middle of Nowhere'

Woody Allen's 'To Rome With Love' to open L.A. Film Festival 

— Julie Makinen

'Dangerous Method': David Cronenberg on Freud, Jung and hysteria

November 22, 2011 |  3:08 pm

David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg, director of blood-soaked dramas like “A History of Violence” and cult genre pictures like “The Fly,” detours into the life of the mind with his new film, “A Dangerous Method,” opening Wednesday. Adapted from Christopher Hampton's play “The Talking Cure” and John Kerr's “A Most Dangerous Method,” the film depicts the early years of psychoanalysis on the eve of World War I, as Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and his protégé Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) clash over the treatment of Sabina Spielrein, a beautiful young patient (Keira Knightley). The director recently sat down for an interview with 24 Frames' Rebecca Keegan to discuss his attraction to the subject matter, his theories about analysis and how he set about casting historic figures.

R.K.: Why Freud?

D.C.: Some people have said, “This is a departure for you.” My first film is a seven-minute film called “Transfer” and it was about a psychiatrist and his patient. The relationship between a psychoanalyst and a patient had not existed before Freud. It's uniquely intimate, very clinical and yet emotional. It's interesting that we can invent a new kind of human relationship that needs to be explored artistically as well as clinically.

R.K.: Have you undergone analysis yourself?

D.C.: No. I think psychoanalysis does on a personal level what an artist does in general. You're presented with an official version of reality …. And then you say, “OK, but what's really going on underneath the surface? That's not the total story.” There are hidden things, things that are misunderstood. What drives people? Why do people do what they do? When they go off the rails, it's very intriguing. When something goes wrong it's usually much more revealing than when things are going perfectly right. You don't want to see a movie about people living this great life where everything's nice. That's boring. You might want to live that, but you don't want to see it as a drama. In that sense, it's kind of a perfect subject for an artist.

R.K.: How did you and Keira Knightley discuss how to portray her character in her hysterical state?

Continue reading »

Toronto 2011: Keira Knightley says 'Method' role wigs her out too

September 12, 2011 |  5:00 am

KnightleyFrom the moment Keira Knightley appears on screen--or, rather writes, shrieks and flies into Russian-accented hysterics while being carried by guards into Carl Jung's research facility--she establishes herself as one of the polarizing figures of the fall film season.

Knightley's role in David Cronenberg's history-of-psychoanalysis picture "A Dangerous Method" of Sabina Spielrein--a repressed and intelligent  Russian emigre who was first a patient, then a student and lover, of Carl Jung in Zurich--has already split viewers right down the middle. To some, her decision to play Spielrein with the maximum of physical and vocal expressiveness is bold and award-worthy; to others, it's hyberbolic and unnecessary.

What both her admirers and detractors may be surprised to learn, though, is that  Knightley feels a little strange about her performance too. "I was sitting and watching the movie in Venice and went 'Oh...," she said, using a four-letter word and letting her voice fall off in faintly alarmed surprise. "It's all very extreme. I thought 'Oh God, did I need to do that?' But then I realized it's supposed to be extreme," she told 24 Frames as she sipped a glass of water in a downtown Toronto hotel room.
Indeed, many of the theatrics of the role, she said, were by design. "I wanted something very shocking," said Knightley, who read numerous diaries and journals to prepare to play the role of the young patient, who through psychoanalysis begins peeling back the layers of her repressed sexuality. "I read that Sabina Spielrein was ravaged by tics, and I wanted to show that as vividly as I could."

She said she spent "days--well, OK, several hours" practicing various gestures and expressions in the bathroom mirror before trying them on set.

(Croneneberg's Thanksgiving release also looks at how Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) hash out their intellectual differences at the birth of the psychoanalysis movement in the early part of the 20th century.

Knightley added that, as hard as it might be to imagine, she actually dialed back some of her acting. "Yes, it's pretty bloody extreme, but when you read about Sabina Spielrein's hysterics, you realize that there's far less in the movie than what actually took place."

Still, she said she understood why some were reacting harshly to her performance. "This was a decision I made knowing full well it was something some people would love and some people would hate," she said. "There's something in me that likes that. I do choose things that polarize people," and then added ruefully, "Maybe I need some psychoanalysis."


Film critic Betsy Sharkey on 'Drive' and 'Rampart'

'Machine Gun Preacher' opens to standing ovation

Bobcat Goldthwait does violent satire in 'God Bless America'

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in "A Dangerous Method." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Venice Film Fest: Buzz (good and bad) for Keira Knightley

September 2, 2011 |  9:23 am

Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method
David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" premiered Friday at the Venice Film Festival, and already Keira Knightley's performance seems to be becoming a topic of buzz. Depending on whom you believe, it's either Oscar-worthy, or a bit of an embarrassment. The film centers on the friendship between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (played by Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender, respectively) and the brilliant female patient-student, Sabina (Knightley), who came between them.

Cronenberg is known for his passion for gore, but "A Dangerous Method" seems to steer clear of that in his new film. Justin Chung, writing for Variety, praises the movie overall as "elegant" and "coolly restrained" -- but zeroes in on Knightley's performance as a possible trouble spot.

 "Rather less assured, and initially the film's most problematic element, is Knightley, whose brave but unskilled depiction of hysteria at times leaves itself open to easy laughs," he said. "The spectacle of the usually refined actress flailing about, taking on a grotesque underbite, and stammering and wailing in a Russian accent is perhaps intended to clash with her costars' impeccable restraint, but does so here in unintended ways. But as Sabina's condition improves, so does Knightley's performance." 

Xan Brooks, in a negative review for the Guardian, says that, nevertheless, "Knightley provides the Oscar bait," while David Gritten, writing for Britain's Telegraph, says Cronenberg "has coaxed a performance from Knightley so ferocious in these early scenes that it seems likely to become the film's main talking point. It’s also a risky strategy, as Sabina’s behaviour is extreme to the point of being alienating."

But the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy has praise for "Knightley's excellent work as a character with a very long emotional arc," saying: "Screaming and alarmingly jutting out her jaw in extremis, Knightley starts at a pitch so high as to provoke fear of where she'll go from there. Fortunately, the direction is down; as her character, under Jung's fastidious care, gradually gets a grip on her issues and can assess herself with a measure of intellectual composure, the performance modulates into something fully felt and genuinely impressive." 

More reactions to come -- the film will roll out at next week's Toronto International Film Festival.


Oscar update: Beware, 'The Ides of March' and George Clooney

-- Julie Makinen

Photo: Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in "A Dangerous Method." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

As a new 'Pirates of the Caribbean' premieres, a former swashbuckler changes weapons

May 11, 2011 |  7:38 am

Keira Knightley has taken some grand turns in her young career -- epic romances "Pride & Prejudice" and "Atonement" and three high-profile action films of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series.

But she's hit pause on the big and sweeping to do some smaller, more intimate roles. The British actress isn't in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," which opens next week, but instead can currently be seen in theaters in the romantic drama "Last Night." The film, which was shot several years ago, comes out after Knightley's 2010 release "Never Let Me Go" also took a nuanced, at times dark view of humanity in exploring romance and sacrifice.

"Indies aren't the only places to go," she said Monday, speaking in the New York offices of Tribeca Film, which is releasing "Last Night." "I guess I just happen to have found quite a few recently that I like." Incidentally, she says she doesn't miss "Pirates." "I loved doing it. But I did it from when I was 17 to when I was 22, which was quite a long period of time."

Massy Tadjedin's "Night" follows a couple (Knightley and Sam Worthington) as they spend a night apart facing temptation. The movie follows in the spirit of recent romantic dramas such as "Blue Valentine" and "Monogamy"; there's as much heartbreak as romance and far more gray than black and white.

"It's a view of the adult world that isn't romanticized," Knightley said. "There aren't any rights or wrongs, morality is a very tricky thing and temptation is ever present." The actress said that although she liked epic romance, she enjoyed this take on romance because it's "a reflection on life and something that requires the audience to put their own lives and morality into the piece."

Knightley will next shoot a similarly human story when she pairs with Steve Carell in "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," which tells of two people whose lives converge while the threat of a catastrophic ending to the world hovers over them.

The Michael Bay explosions won't be anywhere nearby, however. As Knightley says, "it's the idea that you have 20 days left and a question of what you do with that and what becomes important."


Massy Tadjedin is "Last Night's" driving force

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Keira Knightley in "Last Night." Credit: Tribeca Film


Keira Knightley's 'Anna Karenina' aims to break new ground

March 30, 2011 |  6:56 pm

"Anna Karenina" was given a surprising vogue when Oprah Winfrey recommended the novel back in 2004. Suddenly people who wouldn't otherwise be inclined to Russian melodrama  could be seen lugging the encyclopedia-sized novel everywhere they went.

But you have to go back much further to encounter the story as a form of populist screen entertainment -- to the Vivian Leigh version in  1948, perhaps, or Greta Garbo's award-winning take in 1936. Leo Tolstoy himself had only been dead a few decades when those films came out, to give you an idea. (More recently, less well-regarded iterations have included a Jacqueline Bisset TV movie in 1985 and a Sophie Marceau theatrical film in 1997.)

But the pedigree on a "Karenina" production that aims to shoot later this year has a chance to bring the title back to its cinematic glory days. The triple threat of "Shakespeare in Love" writer Tom Stoppard penning the screenplay, "Atonement" director Joe Wright getting behind the camera and Keira Knightley playing the title role give it some pretty shiny bona fides.

Still, the question remains: What can 21st century storytellers bring to the epic love story that filmmakers from a previous generation couldn't?

Wright thinks there are plenty of opportunities. He told 24 Frames that a key difference with his and Stoppard's version (the two have been meeting in recent weeks to hash out the story) has to do with expanding beyond the scope of the title character.

"The Garbo version focused very much on Anna's story," Wright said. "And what Tom has written is a kind of multi-stranded portrait of a community."

He and Stoppard of course also have to deal with a 21st century problem: Anna's affair, so daring and scandalous to 20th century eyes, might merit little more than a shrug in some circles today.

The cast for the new film, incidentally, breaks down as follows: Knightley, who of course starred in Wright's "Atonement" and "Pride & Prejudice," will play Anna. Jude Law will star as husband Karenin and "Kick-Ass" star Aaron Johnson will play other-man Vronsky. (Teenage Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan could also be joining the cast, but Wright declined to confirm that.)

Wright said that the new movie -- which returns him to period territory after the contemporary action thriller "Hanna," which stars Ronan and is due out next week -- will explore some rich themes. "It affords me an opportunity," he said,"to learn not just about literature but also human emotion and the state of drama, and fidelity, and love."

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Keira Knightley in "The Edge of Love." Credit: Liam Daniel / Capitol Films


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