Friday, March 16, 2007

It's been almost two weeks since i've blogged; have been attending press screenings at New Directors/New Films. Saw 20 of the 24 screenings (the screening for "Once" was cancelled, rescheduled for Monday). In a way, a jumble of impressions. Once again, a lot of works shot on digital, and the technical qualities are often like television.

There were usually two or three screenings a day, and what became amusing was the discussions in between. Attending press screenings at a festival, you are usually with many of the same people, and so discussions become almost familial: if the films are bad, it's like a shared catastrophe. If the films are good, it's a time for celebration.

But movies aren't the only thing to have occupied my time. The news has been incredibly volatile. I don't usually watch "Democracy Now", though i certainly laud them for trying to maintain a truly alternative perspective on current events, but one night i was watching, as there was a comment on news coverage: how the scandal at the Walter Reed medical facility received only cursory coverage on all Fox news outlets, yet the Anna Nicole Smith case received 14 times the coverage. If this isn't an example of biased news reporting, i don't know what is. Even on "The View", Rosie O'Donnell and Joy Behar (over Elizabeth Hasselbeck's timrous objections) mentioned that the "confession" of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to practically everything under the sun (a confession made under extreme duress, since torture was admittedly used) seemed a little too suspicious, especially when the Scooter Libby verdict brought about the question (from the jury) as to where the other (obvious) co-defendants were (cf. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney), especially when the Walter Reed hospital fiasco points out that the Bush administration has no intention to providing any sort of help (in any form) to the wounded veterans of this Iraq War, especially when the Bush administration is facing some of its worst publicity in years. Suddenly, Mohammed confesses! If this isn't a publicity stunt, i don't know what is.

In release right now, some more movies of note: "Bamako", "The Go Master", "The Wind That Shakes the Barley". As i've mentioned, 2007 is already a notable year for the movies. Plus there were several works of interest at New Directors. So far, there was nothing that was truly outstanding, in the way that "Into Great Silence" was last year, but there were several that were notable. George Robinson on his blog ( wrote very discerningly on the Iranian film "Gradually" (directed by Maziar Miri) and Craig Zobel's "The Great World of Sound"; "Congorama" was a deadpan Dadaist farce from Belgium. I was charmed by the Norwegian movie "Reprise"; "Shelter" and "Stealth" were intriguing. The Russian film "Euphoria" was a real movie: shot in 35mm, very lush, an elemental story of adultery and revenge, but filmed with extraordinary sensuality.

But today there's... it's not even a snow storm, it's an ice storm! Just when i was getting used to the beginning of spring, now this!

Over the past three weeks, during the ND/NF screenings, ran into Eileen Bowser, Adrienne Mancia (they're starting the Imamura retrospective at BAM, would love to see "The Profound Desire of the Gods" again, which may be my favorite of his film), Wanda Bershen, David Noh, Ira Hozinsky, George Robinson, Manohla Dargis, Ronnie Scheib, Amy Taubin, Kyoko Hirano, William Johnson, Ed Arentz. It's been so long since the beginning of the screenings that i can't remember if there were other people i said hello to.

On Wednesday, Skadi Loist came over to interview me about the New Festival. I couldn't believe it: the interview wound up lasting three hours! She asked a question, then i'd try to answer... and it kept going.

But that, plus talking with some people (in particular, Amy and Wanda), continued my thinking about the past.

In today's indieWire, there was a report from the South By Southwest Film Festival, about the premiere of Joe Swanberg's "Hannah Takes the Stairs", which was described as the "blockbuster" of a new lo-fi indie movement, a "movement" which also includes the Duplass Brothers ("The Puffy Chair"), Andrew Bujalski ("Mutual Appreciation") and Susan Buice and Arin Crumley ("Four Eyed Monsters"), all films which i have seen and found noteworthy.

It's the type of thing where each "movement" has to define itself, and there is that moment when the films reach a critical mass and someone comes along and declares it a movement, or gives it a name. That's what Ruby Rich did with the "New Queer Cinema". I guess Anthony Kaufman is bucking to be the critical exegete for this new movement, and i hope it works, because i think those films really need the help, because those films really are an antidote to "indies" like "Little Miss Sunshine".

Film Forum is showing "The Earrings of Madame De..." in the new print (in preparation for the eventual Criterion Collection DVD, which has been announced).

There are indictments in the shooting of Sean Bell; the last minute testimony which was supposed to exonerate the policemen just sounded too phoney. Even if the cops identified themselves, you don't keep shooting. Not 50 times!

I have to think a little more about the films from New Directors. Last week, i almost missed the new "McBride" which was rather clever. I had no idea it was on, and then i turned the channel during a break and saw it was a new "McBride"... i was glad there was a repeat showing, so i watched it. Charles Robinson (John Larroquette's castmate on "Night Court") played a pesky judge, and was very funny. This week, there's a new "Jane Doe". ("McBride" is one of those shows that are really very old-fashioned, but pleasantly so; it's a lot better than "Raines" the new detective series with Jeff Goldblum, which is rather strained.)

Yes, we did see (some of) "American Idol", and no comment. There's no need.


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