Editor's Corner: Recent Highlights from Keyframe on Fandor

Terri (dir. Azazel Jacobs) I recently did a count of all the writers who have contributed to Keyframe at Fandor, and was pleased to discover that over 50 different contributors have lent their insights in just the past six months. I'm hoping to expand that number considerably over the rest of the year, with more content of different kinds, from articles to videos to round-table surveys and so on.

As editor, I try to help each piece to become its best and try not to play favorites. But I can't deny that there are certain entries that are especially satisfying to have on Keyframe. So I thought I'd share a few from the past several weeks that I consider to be standouts:

"Four Times Truer Than Life: Four Thoughts on Lillian Gish", by Farran Smith Nehme.  Quoth the Self-Styled Siren:

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that Gish isn’t sexy, considering that she spent her entire silent career playing women (and, in Broken Blossoms, a child) who are desired by men, and often wind up seduced and abandoned. It’s no harder to get past Gish’s thin lips and flowing hair to her beauty, than it is to overlook Garbo’s eyebrows or Clara Bow’soddly drawn mouth.  Do those who find Gish a “silly, sexless antique” (Louise Brooks’ sarcastic phrasing of such criticisms) wonder what the male characters are after? Nowadays, are innocence and purity so despised, or so transient, that no trace of their appeal remains? Surely not. Perhaps in our day, those qualities are so firmly relegated to childhood that modern audiences aren’t comfortable with an erotic attraction to innocence–or, in The Wind, with how a young virgin’s terror of sex can coexist with an equally primal yearning for it.

- Terri is a recent film that I really like, sort of like Wes Anderson without trying to be too twee. We were lucky to have this interview with director Azazel Jacobs, in which tells Nick Dawson what it was like to be schooled in movies as a kid (esp. when your dad is a famous avant garde filmmaker and film school professor). And you can also watch his previous film, Momma's Man, on Fandor.

- Filmmaker (though I like to think of him as a "cinematic instigator") Alejandro Adams has started issuing a monthly column on Keyframe, appropriately named "Noisemaker." In "How You Can Be A Better Filmmaker than Terrence Malick" Alejandro talks about the ways that co-opting movies by audience members can lead to acts of creation more inspired than the original works.

- A month has passed but I'm still thinking fondly of the surge of activity around Fandor's digital premiere of David Holzman's Diary. There was a noticeable uptick in the undervalued status of this classic, highly influential but still underseen film, thanks, I dare wager, to the extensive coverage Keyframe lent to the film.

There were many highlights, but the communal centerpiece was a poll of 25 film critics on the best films about filmmaking, with results that had the right blend of "right" and "surprising" (Sunset Blvd. and 8 1/2 are obvious, but Beware of a Holy Whore and Close-Up? Wow!) Perhaps just as good were the personal passion picks expressed across the full listing of the ballots, where everything from Inland Empire to The Last Action Hero got a vote of confidence (and really, aren't those two films essentially one and the same?)

But there were also a few stand-alone thought pieces on David Holzman, and my favorite was Tom McCormack's essay that tied the film's vision of narcissism posting as art into today's all-encompassing social network echo chamber.

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I also enjoyed Brian Darr's tribute to Douglas Fairbanks, Michael Joshua Rowin's discovery of the first baseball movies, and Dan Callahan's appreciation of the "very horny cinema" of Claude Chabrol's A Double Tour.

More delights are in the works for August. In the meantime, Happy reading, and happy viewing!

Viewing Log, May 30-July 10 2011

letthebulletsfly Fell down hard with these updates, due to a combination of intensive editorial work for David Holzman's Diary's digital premiere on Fandor, followed by two weeks' vacation in China. I'm going by memory so there may be some films I saw that I forgot:

* denotes highlight

Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011, Mark Waters) reviewed for Time Out Horse Thief (1987, Tian Zhaungzhuang) Seven Years in Tibet (1997, Jean-Jacques Annaud) Kundun (1997, Martin Scorsese) * Pathway (2011, Xu Xin) China Gate (2010, Wang Yang) One Day in May (2011, Ma Zhandong) 798 Station (2011, Zheng Kuo) Beautiful Darling (2010, James Rasin) reviewed for Time Out * Let the Bullets Fly (2010, Jiang Wen) Sleep Furiously (2008, Gideon Koppel)

Viewing Log, 5/23-29, 2011

Autumnal (dir. Scott Nyerges) * denotes highlight

Films by Paul Sharits (at Doc Films Chicago): * N.O.T.H.I.N.G. (1968) Piece Mandala/End War (1966) * Ray Gun Virus (1966) T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G (1968)

Films by Owen Land (at Doc Films Chicago): Film in Which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc. (1965-66) Remedial Reading Comprehension (1970) Diploteratology: Bardo Follies (1978) Second Half of Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Finals Steven Tyler's Cutest/Funniest Moments on "American Idol" - on YouTube - related article on Fandor Footage of Chinese "Super Girl" Champion Li Yuchun - on YouTube - related article on Fandor * The Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick) Last Quarter and Overtime of Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals - on TV at Seven Ten Lanes, Chicago IL * Tung (1966, Bruce Baillie) on Fandor * Quick Billy (1967-1970, Bruce Baillie) on Fandor * Second Half of Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference Finals - on myp2p Final Quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals - on myp2p Tribute video to NBA Star Jason Williams on YouTube Josephine Baker dancing - on YouTube - related article on Fandor Videos by Scott Nyerges (avant-garde filmmaker who contributed to The Tree of Life) Autumnal (2008) Floating in the Ether (2002) Flow (2005) Polar (2007)

The Show with zefrank * UEFA Champions League Finals - on myp2p New Castle (2011, Guo Hengqi) * David Holzman's Diary (1967, Jim McBride) on Fandor * The Grand Rapids LipDub - on YouTube * Final minutes of 2011 Indy 500 - on YouTube

YouTube Vloggomania (I had to do some research for an upcoming video essay):

Videos by Daxflame Videos by ShaneDawson Videos by juicystar7 Videos by Fred Videos by Confessions of an Independent Filmmaker Videos by Lonelygirl15 Videos by Bowiechick Videos by ijustine Videos by magibon Videos by nigahiga * Videos by Zya

Other highlights:

Drinks with Ignatiy after Tree of Life screening Talking with filmmaker Scott Nyerges about his involvement with The Tree of Life Late night drinks with directors Zhang Lu and Yang Yonghi Sending the final version of a video segment to be aired on one of my favorite shows on TV

Viewing Log: 5/16-22, 2011

disorder-by_huang_weikai-credit_dgenerate_films

* denotes highlight

Various videos of NBA highlights on YouTube - favorite is Reggie Miller scoring 35 points to shut up Spike Lee and the New York Knicks in the 1994 Playoffs Agrarian Utopia (2009, Uruphong Raksasad) at Doc Films, Chicago * Second half of Game 1 of NBA Western Conference Finals, on p2p Sonic Outlaws (1995, Craig Baldwin) - watched on Fandor "New Rules" segment of Real Time with Bill Maher originally aired May 13 2011 Second half of Game 2 of NBA Eastern Conference Finals, on p2p Second half of Game 3 of NBA Western Conference Finals, on p2p Mock Up on Mu (2008, Craig Baldwin) on Fandor Spectres of the Spectrum (1999, Craig Baldwin) on Fandor * Disorder (2009, Huang Weikai), at Nightingale Theater, Chicago Second half of Game 3 of NBA Western Conference Finals, on p2p Highlights of Lionel Messi's two goals for FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid in 4/27/2011 match, on YouTube Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010, Apichatpong Weerasethakul), at DocFilms, Chicago Game 3 of NBA Eastern Conference Finals, on TV at Seven Ten Lanes, Chicago

Viewing Log: 5/9-15, 2011

Poetry_3-web * denotes highlight

Woman Is the Future of Man (2004, Hong Sang-soo) The First Grader (2010, dir. Justin Chadwick) on DVD, reviewed for Time Out Chicago The first hour of OldBoy (2004, dir. Park Chan-wook) on Tartan DVD Trailers for various 2011 Cannes Film Festival films on Fandor Various videos of NBA highlights on YouTube excerpts from The Host (2006, dir. Bong Joon-ho) on DVD Two in the Wave (2009, dir. Emmanuel Laurent) on Fandor Second half of Game 6 of NBA Western Conference playoffs, Oklahoma City vs. Memphis * The Red and the White (1968, dir. Miklos Jancso) on Fandor Videos of Pina Bausch performances on YouTube * Poetry (2010, dir. Lee Chang-dong) on Korean import DVD Second half of Game 7 of NBA Western Conference playoffs, Oklahoma City vs. Memphis Second half of Game 1 of NBA Eastern Conference Finals

Viewing Log, 5/2-8, 2011

"Slave Ship" (dir. T. Marie) * denotes highlight

At the Jeonju International Film Festival:

An Heir (2011, Jean-Marie Straub) To the Devil (2011, Claire Denis) * Memories of a Morning (2011, Jose-Luis Guerin) An Escalator in World Order (2011, Kim Kyung-Man) Excerpts from Kino-Glaz (1924, Dziga Vertov) * Hotel des Invalides (1951, Georges Franju) Rotterdam Europoort (1966, Joris Ivens) Excerpt from Mix-Up aka Meli-Melo (1985, Francoise Romand) Jean Gentil (2010, Israel Cárdenas, Laura Amelia Guzmán) Caracremada (2010, Lluis Galter)

BBC World News coverage of death of Osama Bin Laden

The Forgotten Space (2010, Allan Sekula and Noel Burch) Familiar Grounds (2010, Stephane Lafleur) * Slow Drive (2010, Ben Rivers) * El Sicario, Room 164 (2010, Gianfranco Rosi) Self-Referential Traverse: Zeitgeist and Engagement (2010, Kim Sun) * Guest (2010, Jose-Luis Guerin) The Turin Horse (2011, Bela Tarr) Anyang, Paradise City (2011, Park Chan-kyung) Curling (2010, Denis Cote) Animating Earth (2010, Ju Manamong) * Slave Ship (2010, T. Marie) * Water Lilies (2010, T. Marie) 21G (2010, Sun Xun) Beyond-ism (2010, Sun Xun) * Coming Attractions (2010, Peter Tscherkassky) Oki's Movie (2010, Hong Sang-soo) * Nader and Simin: A Separation (2011, Asghar Faradhi)

Hong-Sang-soo-006

On flight from Incheon to Chicago:

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaucescu (2010, Andrei Ujica) * Hahaha (2010, Hong Sang-soo) * World on a Wire (1975, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)

Home:

YouTube videos of Glenn Gould (in preparation for Dan Callahan's piece on Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould for Fandor Keyframe) Last five minutes of Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks, TNT.com

Other film-related highlights:

Two hours with Claire Denis, including watching Jean-Marie Straub's new film together Lunch with Jeonju Film Festival director Min Byung-lock, programmers Yoo Um-seong, Jo Ji-hoon, and Chinese directors Li Luo, Li Ning, Sun Xun, and Zhang Miaoyan Li Ning's Tape finally playing to a full house with lively Q&A Late-night drinks with director Lee Myung-se and British film critics James Bell and Davey Jenkins Later night drinks with Chris Fujiwara, Gabe Klinger, Robert Koehler, J.P. Sniadecki and others Panel discussion on architecture and film at the Chicago Architecture and Design Film Festival, featuring Jonathan Rosenbaum, Red Mike and Lee Bey

Viewing Log, 4/25-5/1, 2011

Richard Linklater backstage at Ebertfest * denotes highlight

She Monkeys (2011, Lisa Aschan) SFIFF video room Better This World (2011, Kelly Duane de la Vega, Katie Galloway) SFIFF video room The Place in Between (2010, Sarah Bouyain) SFIFF video room The Sun-Beaten Path (2011, Sonthar Gyal) DVD, University of Chicago * Mildred Pierce (2011, Todd Haynes) episodes 3 and 4, download My Joy (2010, Sergei Loznitsa) DVD * The Battle of Kruger (2007, David Budzinski and Jason SchlosbergYouTube [watched it after learning the coach of the New Orleans Hornets showed it to his team prior to defeating the Los Angeles Lakers) Detroit Wild City (2010, Francois Villon) DVD Tilva Ros (2010, Nikola Lezaic) DVD The Position of the Stars (2010, Leonard Retel Helmrich) DVD * Tiny Furniture (2009, Lena Dunham) at Ebertfest, Virginia Theatre * Me & Orson Welles (2008, Richard Linklater) at Ebertfest, Virginia Theatre Various segments from Ebert Presents - most highly recommend segments with Matt Singer and Kartina Richardson * President Obama roasting Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, on YouTube 20 minutes of Blazing Saddles (1975, Mel Brooks) on Asiana flight from Chicago to Jeonju

Viewing Log 4/18-24/2011

meeks cutoff No sooner did I announce that I would be listing my weekly viewings that I fell off the horse. But let's try this again. Unfortunately I largely forgot what I watched the week of 4/11-17, other than Huang Jianzhong's A Good Woman (1985) and episodes 1 and 2 of Mildred Pierce (2011, Todd Haynes). Moving on...

* - highlight of the week

Beginners (2011, Mike Mills) pre-San Francisco Film Festival press screening, Loews Metreon Picture This (1991, George Hickenlooper) on Fandor Clips from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report online The Arbor (2010, Clio Barnard) SFIFF media room The Children of the Princess of Cleves (2010, Régis Sauder) SFIFF media room * Meek's Cutoff (2010, Kelly Reichardt) SFIFF screening, Landmark Kabuki * Let the Wind Carry Me (2010, Hsiu-Chiung Chiang, Pung-Leung Kwan) DVD The Mill and the Cross (2011, Lech Majewski) SFIFF media room and SF MOMA The Future (2011, Miranda July)  SFIFF screening, Landmark Kabuki * Ulysses (2011, Oscar Godoy) SFIFF media room

Introducing the Weekly Viewing Log

magic-lantern This old abandoned site's got life in it yet. This past week I received an email inquiring about advertising on this site, and also noticed that a spammy botsite sucked up the entirety of my last entry. Also Chris Chang, in his Film Comment review of Disorder, a film distributed by my company dGenerate Films, referred to me as a blogger, even though I've been working professionally as a print film critic for two years and now write and edit film articles for Fandor's Keyframe. Once a blogger, always a blogger.

So I'm thinking of coming back to Shooting Down Pictures (a name which, by the way, I'm not fond of - what was I thinking when I came up with that?) and reviving it by going back to how the site started before it was even called Shooting - a weekly digest of what I've been watching. One caveat is that I'm including not just movies but pretty much any media experience involving a screen, including web videos, TV broadcasts, etc. I'm taking a cue from Karina Longworth's tumblr and embracing the post-cinematic world we are now living in.

Dedicated to all my old friends from the good old days at IMDb Classic Film Boards.

Week of April 4-10, 2011

- Michael Jackson's 1983 performance of "Billie Jean" at the Motown 25 special, on YouTube

- "Sensualizing the Visual" - five film series of 1960s films by Bruce Baillie and Gunnar Nelson. Standouts: "To Parsifal" and "Quixote. " At DocFilms, Chicago.

- 5 minutes of second half of NCAA Men's Basketball finals, on NCAA.com

- Old Joy (dir. Kelly Reichardt) on Fandor

- In a Better World (dir. Susanne Bier) - reviewed for this week's Time Out Chicago

- 20 clips of The Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Malick) at twowaysthroughlife.com

- "Multi-Media Victorian: The Magic Lantern, The Metropolis and the Extraordinary Ballads of George R. Sims" - turn of the 20th century pre-cinema magic lantern show of vintage English slides, presented by David Francis and Joss Marsh. At University of Chicago Film Studies Center.

- Last five holes of Saturday coverage of The Masters on TheMasters.com

- First 20 minutes of Life and Nothing But (dir. Bertrand Tavernier) on Fandor

- Last five holes of Sunday coverage of The Masters on TheMasters.com

- Opening credits sequences of six Chinese films in preparation for video essay for the Moving Image Source: City of Life and Death; Disorder; Oxhide 2; Single Man; Thomas Mao and Winter Vacation, on DVD and Quicktime

"Living the Dream"

19170 and if I want too many things don't you know that I'm a human being

- New York Dolls

So, it's been a while. I was meaning to post a follow-up to the free screening that closed out the Shooting Down Pictures project. But one thing happened after another to forestall my bringing due closure to this grand, 3-year venture in film blogging and canonic completism. First, it took me a couple of days to get over the hangover of that evening caused by an after-party involving several hours of drinking and karaoke singing of album rock standards. Then, I quit my job and spent the summer in a mythical land where Wordpress is blocked (I could only wish that all the spammers who post junk messages on this blog could be sequestered in that country...).  Then I returned Stateside and entered a completely new routine of blogging for a new site, working as an ambassador for Chinese indie cinema and taking what little time remained to edit my own film. And so here we are, two days into the new year. All this time this blog has been lingering in the back of my mind like an old friend I've been meaning to check in with but never get around to, which further compounds the feelings of procrastinatory guilt accumulating over what is surely a simple exercise. So at last... let's do this.

As for that screening, it went well - good turnout of mostly familiar faces, friends and cinephiles who either wanted to celebrate a significant passage in my personal life as a movie lover, or just wanted to see what the delectable images of Terence Davies' The Long Day Closes looked like projected on a big screen off a mediocre DVD. Fearing collective disappointment from the crowd, I started off with a choice passage from Freddy Got Fingered to put things in perspective: at least we weren't watching that (though a couple wiseacres seemed disappointed).

I still haven't done a proper post mortem on what it is that I got from Shooting Down Pictures. One of my biggest supporters in this project, Michael Baute, asked me this question several months ago, and I still feel that I owe him a response (as well as a completed version of the video essay on the exquisite film Under the Bridges that I started with him and Ekkehard Knoerer 20 months ago[!!!]). Michael specifically asked me what it taught me about film canons, to which I don't have a very positive response. As I became more familiar with the breadth and depth of cinema through time, place and genre, the 1000 films on the They Shoot Pictures list seemed increasingly incomplete, insufficient and misrepresentative as a canon. At this point I'm not even sure how good of a starting point it would be for someone wanting to educate themselves about cinema. On the one hand it's good to have a basic, common vocabulary of films that represent cinematic concepts and values everyone should understand. But when one considers all that's missing...

I've expressed my misgivings a few times on this space, pretty much with every update to the TSPDT list, most recently here. At one point I thought it might be worth trying to organize a coordinated effort to reform the TSPDT list, but then I realized that, to see my point through about championing alternative cinemas, it's better to just abandon the canonical framework altogether. And that's pretty much what I've done since film #1000. I was expecting to start delving more intensively into favorite auteurs, as some of my colleagues have done, but I haven't. I've only watched about 100+ films this year, half of which are Chinese independent films unfamiliar to most people (something I'm working to rectify on another site, one of two that have effectively replaced this blog as the location of my online editorial activity). Perhaps it's fitting that my work at dGenerate seeking and promoting great unsung Chinese indies has more or less replaced the time I'd spend hunting down the remaining titles of the TSPDT canon.

It goes without saying that I grew immensely from all the time and energy I put into this blog. Despite my gripes with the canon's limitations, I got to indulge in a fair amount of eclecticism, confronting films I'd never heard of or otherwise would never pursue. (On the other hand, I wonder if it made my tastes too broad so as to be indistinct; I've been thinking a lot lately about the necessity of fixation as a distinguishing factor in developing a personality and a voice.) I developed my critical senses (or are they sensibilities?): concise observation, avoiding summarizing and just getting to the most interesting pockets of activity in a film, and offering context (social/historical/cultural) when illuminating. It got me a brief but rewarding stint with Time Out New York, a gig that intensified the punchiness in my writing at 225 words a pop. But for all my growth as a critic, I'm just another voice in a crowded field of online wordslingers.  So I guess my point of differentiation is in making videos. At least that's what I'm told helped me get my current film critic gig (more on that in a bit), and so I've come around to realize that this may be the métier I need to stick with. At least it's something that redeems all those years toiling as a self-taught filmmaker.

Kevin1

The dream hasn't died, though. I spent the summer in China working on my own documentary project, retracing my steps as a teacher from 12 years ago and reconnecting with several of my old students to see what they've done with their lives since. You can read all about it here, though it helps if you can read Chinese (or just copy and paste into Google Translate and marvel at the amusing garble that emerges). It was an amazing four months, almost a time out of time. I saw China at its extremes of wealth and poverty, booming cities and desolated farmlands, and my students at various stations in between, all pursuing their dreams just as it was my dream to immortalize their endeavors. I had a terrific host: Jian Yi, whose film Super Girls! is distributed by dGenerate, and who has set up his own center for cultural and social projects in the small, inland city of Ji'an, where I used to teach. This sort of cultural literacy and preservation work is quite rare in China outside of the major cities, and is desperately needed when present generations are consumed with a disposable culture driven by commercialism. His work touches many lives and is inspiring to behold.

My return to the US in September came with the expected culture shock (not least of which was getting re-acquainted to the non-stop barrage of social data on Facebook and Twitter, both blocked in China. I'm still not sure how I feel about what degree these sites should be in my life outside of my professional obligations to engage in them; I'll just say that I'm highly sympathetic to the last 2-3 paragraphs of this kiss-off).  Though it was more of a lifestyle shock that kept me off balance through the rest of the year. You see, prior to leaving for China, I had quit my steady, nondescript, nine-to-five day job of nine years (it still sends a chill through me to read that), and not having that routine to return to opened up considerable pockets of chaos (both temporally and emotionally) that I've had to tame.  dGenerate Films is busier than ever; a big chunk of my October was committed to steering the tour of filmmaker Du Haibin through his first visit to the U.S.; the dGenerate blog, which I manage, has evolved into the leading information resource on Chinese independent cinema; and we acquired more titles than we had projected, which meant more work getting them ready for distribution. For more on all this here's an interview I did for The Beijinger (hattip to Dan Edwards, who's fast becoming an important correspondent on the current film scene in China)

41815_138740802817246_1816_nOn top of this, I now have an editor position at Fandor, a startup online streaming service that hopefully you may have heard of by now (if not have subscribed to). In many ways I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity from which to leave my day job and apply what I learned from Shooting Down Pictures. I get to hand pick a stable of regular contributors for the site's Keyframe blog, the caliber of which I am quite proud (Jonathan Rosenbaum; Michael Atkinson; The Self Styled Siren - need I say more?). I get to produce video essays for the site. I get to establish the presence of what I hope will be an essential source for online content on great films.

Despite all this worthwhile activity, I've found myself chronically depressed throughout the last several weeks of this year. Much of it is due to a lack of progress on editing my footage from the summer, due to being occupied with Fandor and dGenerate. Still, on the balance of where I started the year, I should have every reason to be happy, even grateful, for what I have on my plate. But something happened, starting from when I left that old job I'd been stuck in for so long only to retrace my steps from 12 years ago in another country... well you can imagine the tidal wave of nostalgia over the pleasant naivete of the past, and regrets of opportunities missed, time misspent, dreams deferred. I haven't quite been able to shake these thoughts until just now, writing down all I've done this year, which makes me feel that it was worth the time it took, self-forestallments and all.

At the same time, the career upgrade brought new responsibilities and expectations upon myself, at least in my own mind. It's as if I'm making up for the 9 years of muted expectations in which I entombed myself in that day job; suddenly there's no more room to settle, everything needs to be better, and there's a constant voice in my head assessing what I'm doing right or wrong (mostly wrong), what more could I be doing. You would think that waking up to your own life would be a liberating experience, but it can also be a kind of hell.

Shutter-Island-Leonardo-Di-Caprio1

Little wonder this movie made my top ten.

At my old job, whenever someone asked my ex-boss how he was doing, he'd reply, "Living the Dream" with a sarcastic wistfulness that I can still hear with piercing clarity.  Not sure how many colleagues picked up on it or read much into it, but for me it spoke for my own sense of subjugation to a less than ideal life, the kind of compromise that we're all expected to make sooner or later, and that I had made way too soon in my life, I now realize. And I also realize that, quite unexpectedly, I have escaped that fate. I am now cognizant of how much direction I can give to my own life. I have no one to blame but myself... and blame isn't much use anyway.

It's still left to see how things will play out with all that I have going on. It doesn't help that I have an anxious disposition and get easily distracted. It's at these times that my old friends the movies, especially the truly great ones, can occasionally offer clarity and wisdom. Not so much in what they say, but how. Two most recent examples below, both dwelling (if not luxuriating) in the messy uncertainty of the world, one with resolute playfulness, the other with endless patience, both infinitely attentive to what they're capturing. There's no question they deserve to be watched; we can only hope we are as deserving to learn from them.

copy1

Still-Life-in-Vandas-room

Needless to say, neither film is on the TSPDT 1000.  Greatness strikes where it pleases, and whom. I'm relieved that I don't have to track a canon anymore (though for old time's sake I might post entries on whatever new titles appear in updates to the TSPDT list). But it raises the question of what to do with this blog. God knows I haven't had time to maintain it like I used to, its comments section are now weed patches of spambots. But I do miss the regimen and the discipline of maintaining an ongoing personal blog. I don't if managing the Fandor and dGenerate blogs will leave me time to do much here.  I do know that the alsolikelife website as a whole is due for an overhaul. We'll see how long that will take. In the meantime, you know where to find me: Fandor and dGenerate, respectively.

Thank you for seeing me through to the end of this. I'll see you at the next thing.

Best Week Ever

ebert screengrab I love that Roger Ebert's Twitter wallpaper is the last shot of one of my all time favorite films. But of course, it was his writing that turned me on to it.

I'm grateful for his acknowledgement, and even more grateful for the article that drew his attention, on, of all places, The Wall Street Journal. Thanks Eric Kohn for deeming my efforts newsworthy.

And update on Thursday's screening: half the seats have been reserved, so if you're thinking of coming, you might want to let me know to put you on the list, just in case...

Ghost Town Tours the U.S. - Catch It If You Can

From dGenerate - I've worked my ass off to get this tour together, so if you happen to be at one of these cities and the following critic raves pique your interest, please check it out! A.O. Scott writes in the New York Times:

Zhao has an exquisite ability to balance words with images... The life stories and household interactions that fill out the film’s three chapters take place against a natural background that is shot beautifully... A miniature epic of the everyday.

Time Out New York's David Fear gives the film four stars:

Zhao Dayong’s extraordinary documentary on life in the rural village of Zhiziluo, nestled at the foot of the mountains in China’s southwestern Yunnan province. Never mind the nation’s great economic leap forward; the longer you watch Zhao’s chronicle of the financially destitute and the bureaucratically forgotten, the more you feel that you’re witnessing a country fraying at its edges.

Nick Pinkterton in the Village Voice:

I do not expect to soon find scenes to match Ghost Town's mountaintop funeral, the running along after a rowdy exorcism, or the scanning of faces at the town Christmas chorale. His back to prosperity, Dayong finds hallowed ground.

Following its weeklong run at MoMA, Zhao Dayong's acclaimed documentary Ghost Town is screening over the next several weeks at select US engagements. Contact us to book a screening of this film at your festival, museum, or school.

SATURDAY, APRIL 3rd and SUNDAY APRIL 4th Union Theatre, University of Wisconsin 800 Langdon Street Milwaukee, WI 53706 http://uniontheater.wisc.edu/

THURSDAY, APRIL 8th Southwest Film Center 3601 University Boulevard, SE Albuquerque, NM 87106 http://www.unm.edu/~swfc/

SUNDAY, APRIL 9th Facets Cinematheque 1517 Fullerton Avenue Chicago, IL 60614 http://www.facets.org/pages/cinematheque/cinematheque_april2010.php

SATURDAY, APRIL 17th University of Colorado, Humanities 150 Boulder, CO 80309-0234 http://www.colorado.edu/cas/events.htm

TUESDAY, APRIL 27th Melnitz Movies James Bridges Theater, Melnitz 1409 Los Angeles, CA 90095 http://gsa.asucla.ucla.edu/melnitz/

Have One on Me: The 1000th Film

19170 So I'm down to the 1000th and final movie to complete this project.  For those of you who've been following this blog over the years, I'd like to invite you to a special free screening of the film that I've arranged at Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd Ave @ 2nd St, Thursday, April 8 at 8pm. For now, I'm leaving the identity of the film a secret, except that it's unavailable on DVD in the US, and that one of my favorite film critics calls it "the sort of work that can renew one's faith in movies."

Again, the screening is free. BYOB (and bring a few more if you're feeling generous).  If you want me to save you a seat, just leave a comment here or email me at alsolikelife (at) gmail (dot) com.

Hope to see you there.

Kevin

If you happen to be in the Philly/Swarthmore area...

fujianbluesl7_2http://calendar.swarthmore.edu/calendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=3/24/2010&todate=4/22/2010&display=Month&type=public&eventidn=5891&view=EventDetails&information_id=19176 On Tuesday March 30 at Swarthmore College, Vice President of Programming Kevin B. Lee will speak about issues in contemporary Chinese cinema and his work with dGenerate Films.

Following Mr. Lee’s talk will be a screening of Fujian Blue, a 2007 film by Weng Shouming, that has played in various international film festivals and won the Dragons and Tigers Award at the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival.

The China Film Journal writes that the film is “an absorbing narrative of deeply felt characters, a trenchant social commentary, and a tone poem to a nearly-lost generation.”

Admission Free. Sponsored by SAO as part of the APIA Heritage Month, Film and Media Studies program, FFS, Movie Committee and FOTS.

Location Information: Science Center, Room 101 Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA

Billy Wilder: an Annotated Webliography

IMDb Wiki 6a00d83451f25369e200e5516de2558833-800wi

Complete Filmography

BillyWilder.com - unofficial tribute site A Tribute to Billy Wilder at ClassicMovies.orgwith links to additional tribute pages, reviews and resources

Films directed by Billy Wilder on the TSPDT Top 1000 films:

#22: Some Like It Hot #31: Sunset Blvd. #59: The Apartment #97: Double Indemnity #669: Ace in the Hole #742: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes #761: Avanti! #991: One, Two, Three

Shooting Down Pictures entries on Wilder's One, Two, Three and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Billy Wilder's Screenwriting Tips As told to Cameron Crowe:

1. The audience is fickle. 2. Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go. 3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character. 4. Know where you’re going. 5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer. 6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act. 7. A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They'll love you forever. 8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’'e seeing. 9. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie. 10. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then -- that's it. Don’t hang around.

- Reported by Nitesh PatelNPR

Almost all the 25 films Mr. Wilder made as a writer-director displayed his slashing wit and stinging social satire. Yet no other major filmmaker slipped so easily into so many genres.

Vincent Canby, the longtime chief film critic of The New York Times, once wrote: "Wilder is often called cynical, mostly, I think, because his movies seldom offer us helpful hints to better lives. There are few people in his movies one could model one's behavior on. He doesn't deal in redeeming social values. Instead, he sees the demeaning ones."

Mr. Wilder was a director who protected his scripts. The look of a movie was less important to him than its language. "I don't like the audience to be aware of camera tricks," he told one interviewer. "Why shoot a scene from a bird's-eye view, or a bug's? It's all done to astonish the bourgeois, to amaze the middle-class critic."

In postwar Germany, Mr. Wilder was a colonel in the United States Army who oversaw a program that prevented former Nazis from working on films or in the theater. When asked by the director of the traditional Passion play in the town of Oberammergau if a former Nazi, Anton Lang, could play Jesus, Mr. Wilder responded, "Permission granted, but the nails have to be real."

Diamond, who wrote the unforgettable "Nobody's perfect" last line in "Some Like It Hot," described his partner's approach to movie making as "a Middle-European attitude, a combination of cynicism and romanticism." The cynicism, he said, "is sort of disappointed romanticism at heart - someone once described it as whipped cream that's gotten slightly curdled."

Aljean HarmetzThe New York Times, March 29, 2002

The biographical details of Wilder's life are as vibrant as his film scripts. Wilder was born Samuel Wilder in 1906 in Sucha, a village in Galicia, an Austro-Hungarian province that is now part of Poland. It is well documented that his mother loved all things American and nicknamed her son 'Billie' after Buffalo Bill. The young Billy briefly tried to fulfill his parents' other dreams by studying law. But he very quickly changed vocations and started working for a tabloid newspaper. Stories from this period in his life abound. Wilder was a big jazz fan as well as a dance gigolo. Both these pursuits found their way into his writing, as well as motivating his subsequent relocation to Berlin. From 1927 through to 1929, he learnt his craft by 'ghostwriting' on an estimated 200 scripts. His first official screenwriting credit was for The Devil's Reporter (Ernst Laemmle, 1929), and this was followed by writing and collaboration credits on a number of early sound films. In 1933 the Nazi ascendancy caused him to flee from Germany to Paris, and finally to emigrate to America in 1934. Wilder was the last surviving member of a group of similarly exiled 'magicians of the cinema' that included Fritz Lang, Max Ophüls, Otto Preminger, Douglas Sirk, Edgar Ulmer, Robert Siodmak and Fred Zinnemann.

Wilder's work has also received much criticism over the years, including the suggestion that his reputation would have been greater had he been more of a film stylist. But Wilder was intent on developing the classical principles of transparency and invisibility:

I would like to give the impression that the best mise en scène is the one you don't notice. You have to make the public forget that there's a screen. You have to lead them into the screen, until they forget the image only has two dimensions. If you try to be artistic or affected you miss everything. Richard Armstrong, in his excellent book, Billy Wilder, American Film Realist, emphasizes Wilder's use of real locations, real streets and actual urban settings – a practice not common at the time. Armstrong finds a poetic edge in this quest for a realistic mise en scène. He singles out sequences like the “dumping of Dietrichson's body at the railroad tracks” in Double Indemnity “shot 'night-for-night' for maximum gloom” as an example of poetic realism reminiscent of the work of Zola or Renoir. Wilder's realist aesthetic, his deep shadows, gritty hard-edged streets, railway tracks, baroque houses, dramatic staircases and barren desertscapes offered startling, moody, and evocative images. While always in the service of his story, they also describe a powerful expressive film style that we now appreciate as his own.

The other main criticism that has been directed against his films is that they are deeply cynical and bleak. Ace in the Hole (aka The Big Carnival, 1951) is the film that has most often been singled out in this way. A down-on-his-luck newspaper reporter Chuck Tatum sees his chance to get back to the big city newspapers when he stumbles across a man trapped in a desert cave-in. He unnecessarily prolongs the rescue operations, in order to build the story and his own fame, only to end up resulting in the death of the cave-in victim. The story is brutally tragic and the representation of media and society is vicious. Yet, it is also a powerfully entertaining film full of wit and sparkling dialogue with lines like “I never go to church; kneeling bags my nylons” or “I've met some hard-boiled eggs in my time, but you, you're twenty minutes”. Wilder's vision is certainly dark. However through the darkness we also discover, as Cameron Crowe says, “a clear eyed view of life in all its humour, and pain...”

I think Sikov says it best in his Wilder biography:

...not even Wilder, the master cynic, could foresee the kicker. The big joke is, with each passing decade Wilder's acerbic tales only seem more tender. At the end of our vicious and exhausted century, Wilder's nastiness has taken on a kind of romantic poignance. His movies are shockingly delicate…There was always decency there, even if no one could ever quite grasp it for good. There was love, however uncertain or tentative.

Anna DzenisSenses of Cinema

First and foremost a writer, Billy Wilder, by his own admission, became a director to protect his scripts, having frequently bounced onto a set to express his fury at their misinterpretation in other hands. Sometimes criticized for tempering the harshness of his vision in deference to the box office, he operated with assurance across genre boundaries, compiling an impressive body of work featuring language over character, its wit and astringent bite setting his oeuvre refreshingly apart from mainstream Hollywood fare. With the help of co-writer Raymond Chandler, he produced a masterpiece of film noir, "Double Indemnity" (1944), which he followed with "The Lost Weekend" (1945), a social problem play that despite its unconvincing, upbeat ending delivers a brutally uncompromising look at an alcoholic. Wilder, who created a variation on the comedy of manners and seduction of his mentor Ernst Lubitsch in films such as "Sabrina" (1954) and "Love in the Afternoon" (1957), mixed black comedy with farce for "Some Like It Hot" (1959), his most purely entertaining movie, and alienated Hollywood with arguably the greatest Tinseltown insider's tale, the cruel and haunting "Sunset Boulevard" (1950).

The string of box-office failures forced Wilder reluctantly into retirement, but he remained a vibrant link to Old Hollywood, always ready to oblige with a trademark quip, especially when accepting the many lifetime achievement awards that came his way. A marvelous director of actors, he coaxed career performances out of Milland, Swanson, Holden, Curtis, Lemmon, Monroe and Rogers, to name only a few, and who can't love a guy that at one time or another infuriated almost every segment of the movie-going population. He brought to the screen an outsider's sharp satirical eye for American absurdity and cruelty, and a master scenarist's skill at rendering those absurdities within a dozen variations. Some were bitter, some sweet, but all were marked by intelligence, clarity and even affection, with just a touch of innocence. Whether you prefer the earlier darker version ("Double Indemnity", "Sunset Boulevard") or the more free-wheeling later one ("Some Like It Hot", "The Apartment"), there can be no denying Wilder was a master storyteller with a great ear for a memorable line.

Turner Classic Movies

Wilder's work is an amazing string of hits. From sarcastic and cynical social commentary to outrageous sex farce, Wilder pushed his audiences to look at their own values and morals. He was an outsider who wasn't afraid to point out the hypocrisy of his adopted home.

Jeremy GeltzerTurner Classic Movies

Billy_Wilder-1

"My father told me once, nobody's an alchemist," added Wilder with a wink. "But if I was, I'd make a thriller. There was never one kind of picture I made. I went from 'Witness for the Prosecution' to 'One, Two, Three.' Mr. Hitchcock, he made only thrillers, and magnificently. But you know what a thriller is to me? It's the movie where the boss chases the secretary around the desk. . . . That's a thriller--and that's alchemy!"

Wilder, interviewed by Paul HarnischThe Los Angeles Times, March 2, 1986

During the course of his directorial career, Billy Wilder succeeded in offending just about everybody. He offended the public, who shunned several of his movies as decisively as they flocked to others; he offended the press with Ace in the Hole, the U.S. Congress with A Foreign Affair, the Hollywood establishment with Sunset Boulevard ("This Wilder should be horsewhipped!" fumed Louis B. Mayer), and religious leaders with Kiss Me, Stupid; he offended the critics, both those who found him too cynical and those who found him not cynical enough. And he himself, in the end, seems to have taken offence at the lukewarm reception of his last two films, and retired into morose silence.

Themes of impersonation and deception, especially emotional deception, pervade Wilder's work. People disguise themselves as others, or feign passions they do not feel, to gain some ulterior end. Frequently, though—all too frequently, perhaps—the counterfeit turns genuine, masquerade love conveniently developing into the real thing. For all his much-flaunted cynicism, Wilder often seems to lose the courage of his own disenchantment, resorting to unconvincing changes of heart to bring about a slick last-reel resolution. Some critics have seen this as blatant opportunism. "Billy Wilder," Andrew Sarris remarked, "is too cynical to believe even his own cynicism." Others have detected a sentimental undertow, one which surfaces in the unexpectedly mellow, almost benign late films like Avanti! andThe Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. But although, by comparison with a true moral subversive like Buñuel, Wilder can seem shallow and even facile, the best of his work retains a wit and astringent bite that sets it refreshingly off from the pieties of the Hollywood mainstream. When it comes to black comedy, he ranks at least the equal of his mentor, Lubitsch, whose audacity in wringing laughs out of concentration camps (To Be or Not to Be) is matched by Wilder's in pivoting Some Like It Hot around the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

By his own admission, Wilder became a director only to protect his scripts, and his shooting style is essentially functional. But though short on intricate camerawork and stunning compositions, his films are by no means visually drab. Several of them contain scenes that lodge indelibly in the mind: Swanson as the deranged Norma Desmond, regally descending her final staircase; Jack Lemmon dwarfed by the monstrous perspectives of a vast open-plan office; Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend) trudging the parched length of Third Avenue in search of an open pawn-shop; Lemmon again, tangoing deliriously with Joe E. Brown, in full drag with a rose between his teeth. No filmmaker capable of creating images as potent—and as cinematic—as these can readily be written off.

Philip KempFilm Reference.com

BillyWilderFilm

Wilder learned to forge compelling stories about a brutal world in the inflation-riddled Vienna of the ’20s. Rejecting the preferred vocation of middle-class Jewish parents, he dropped law and became a reporter. Dispensing with the flowery feuilletons of traditional Viennese reportage, Wilder wrote tough, realistic pieces on sporting personalities, local celebrities, and visiting jazz musicians. According to biographer Maurice Zolotow, he introduced sports writing into Austria single-handed.

In 1926, bandleader Paul Whiteman invited Wilder to be his guide on a tour of Berlin. Wilder never returned to Vienna and became a dapper Americaphile, driving a Chrysler and, reputedly, learning English by memorizing song lyrics. Drifting into screenwriting, his career will emulate that twentieth-century paradigm: the European Jew emigrates, buys into the American Dream, resells the dream in Europe.

Richard ArmstrongBright Lights Film Journal. See also Armstrong's Great Directors Biography on Wilder for Senses of Cinema

Andrew Sarris, the American critic, dismissed Wilder in his 1968 American Cinema as a director who “is too cynical to believe even his own cynicism.” He made reference to the scene in Stalag 17 in which Holden’s character “bids a properly cynical adieu to his prison-camp buddies. He ducks into the escape tunnel for a second, then quickly pops up, out of character, with a boyish smile and a friendly wave, and then ducks down for good. Holden’s sentimental waste motion in a tensely timed melodrama demonstrates the cancellation principle in Wilder’s cinema.” He charged that Wilder’s “conception of political sophistication” added up to “a series of tasteless gags, half anti-Left and half anti-Right.” Sarris further asserted that even Wilder’s best films “are marred by the director’s penchant for gross caricature, especially with peripheral characters. All of Wilder’s films decline in retrospect because of visual and structural deficiencies.” Sarris later famously reversed his opinion, and, in his most recent work, apologetically paid tribute to Wilder, observing that he had “grossly under-rated Billy Wilder, perhaps more so than any other American director.” It is my view that Sarris underrated Wilder in 1968 and overrates his work now.

Millar comments: “The truth is that no one comes comfortably out of a Wilder picture. This refusal to betray sympathy or award moral marks has been reproved as coldness, bitterness, contempt for the audience, or, more generally, for humanity, and his critics have usually managed to indict Wilder at the same time on the grounds of bad taste.... More often he is simply abused for having told the truth about an unpleasant area of human behavior.”

While true in a general sense, this may be a little too generous, as is Sarris’s critical volte-face. There is no question that some of those who leveled criticisms at Wilder’s supposed cynicism simply did not care to take a hard look at the institutions or practices at which the filmmaker was taking satirical aim. That is to Wilder’s credit. There is no need to pull one’s punches in regard to the state of American life or morals.

That does not settle the issue, however. There are missing elements in nearly all of his films. Compassion, for example, and the sense of an alternative to existing reality, even a moral or emotional one. At times his targets seem a trifle obvious, the work as a whole a little brittle, like a bright and shiny object in the water that remains near or close to the surface. The films, by and large, lack extraordinary resonance, texture and depth, at least when compared with the greatest films.

Perhaps in the end one should not concern oneself so much with what is lacking in Wilder’s work, and appreciate what is present. Within the bounds of the commercial film industry, he represented the principle of satire and irony, legitimate tendencies, and ones that are sorely lacking in the contemporary cinema world. He is a giant when compared to nearly everyone involved in American filmmaking today.

David WalshWorld Socialist Website wilder

Playboy: Are you conscious of any kinship in your films or your philosophy, as several critics have suggested, with the savage satire of Bertolt Brecht, or with the intellectual cynicism he articulated for his generation?

Billy Wilder: I knew him in Germany, and I knew him when he lived for a time here in Hollywood, and I regard him with Mr. Shaw - George Bernard, not Irwin -- as one of the monumental dramatists of this first half-century, but I was never aware that he influenced me. Brecht was dealing with enormous subjects of the hungry, exploited masses which neither my brain nor my attention-span can cope with. His was a much vaster canvas than mine. After all, was Mickey Spillane influenced by Tolstoy? That's Leo Nikolaevich, not Irwin. If there was any influence on me in those days, it must have come more from American books and plays I read. One of the most popular writers was Upton Sinclair. I read him, and Sinclair Lewis, Bret Harte, Mark Twain. I was also influenced by Erich von Stroheim and by Ernst Lubitsch, with whom I first worked on Bluebeard's Eighth Wife. But I don't believe I have been influenced by the cynicism of the times or even shown any of it on the screen. When they say that I have, they could be referring to, say, Double Indemnity, but this was done from a short story by James M. Cain, an American. It is not sugar-coated, my work, but I certainly don't sit down and say, "Now I am going to make a vicious, unsentimental picture."

Playboy: A friend of yours once said "Billy's collaborators are $50,000 secretaries." Is your creative hand really that authoritative in writing a scenario?

Do you remember my telling you earlier about that rooming house I lived in when I first was trying to get into the movies in Berlin? Well, next to my room was the can, and in it was a toilet that was on the blink. The water kept running all night long. I would lie there and listen to it, and since I was young and romantic, I'd imagine it was a beautiful waterfall - just to get my mind off the monotony of it and the thought of its being a can. Now we dissolve to 25 years later and I am finally rich enough to take a cure at Badgastein, the Austrian spa, where there is the most beautiful waterfall in the whole world. There I am in bed, listening to the waterfall. And after all I have been through, all the trouble and all the money I've made, all the awards and everything else, there I am in that resort, and all I can think of is that goddamned toilet. That, like the man says, is the story of my life.

Wilder: First of all, whoever said that is no friend of mine. If that were the case I would hire my relatives and make the money I give them tax-deductible, at least. But my collaborator, Iz Diamond, and I work together from the word go, and after it's done it cannot be said that this was his idea, this was mine, this was my joke, this was his. It all occurs together, like playing a piano piece four-handed.

Playboy: Many moviemakers claim to have found an intellectual stimulation and creative freedom in Europe that's unattainable in Hollywood. Have you?

Wilder: Remember, the movie scripts that Hollywood people go to Europe to shoot are still written in Hollywood, don't forget. So they make La Dolce Vita in Rome; but they also make Hercules and the Seven Dwarfs. As for freedom, all the Mirisch Company asks me is the name of my picture, a vague outline of the story, and who's going to be in it. The rest is up to me; can you get more freedom than that? And as for there being more intellectual stimulation in Europe, some of my best friends have gone to Europe and then to seed intellectually. I don't believe any of that "intellectual stimulus" crap. Take Confucius - he said some pretty stimulating things, but he never got to Paris in his life.

Playboy: Hollywoodians often speak enviously of you as a man of uncompromising standards. How is it that you and a few other filmmakers have managed to resist the pressures of compromise?

Wilder: To me, it is a matter of dollars and cents. It doesn't have only to do with Hollywood, it has to do with a man's approach to the problem of making those dollars and cents. Some compromise, some do not. Look at Fellini. He cleaned up with La Dolce Vita. When I saw it I couldn't decide if it was the greatest or dreariest picture I'd ever seen, and finally I decided it was both. A remarkable film, excellent because he had stuck to his own principles.But the worst thing that can happen to us in this business is if a dog picture makes a hit, then we all have to make dog pictures because the people with the money trust dogs. But if one like Fellini's makes a hit, it is the greatest thing - as long as it is not loaded with the stars who are always advertising themselves in the trades.

It's a question of money, and yet it is not a question of money anymore in Hollywood. The beauty of our capitalist system is that you can't keep what you make even if you make a lousy picture that's a hit; so why not try to make something good? Today's capitalist system is for those who already have the money, not for those who are making it. There is really very little use in my working, since I can't keep the money. I can never get richer than I am. So why am I beating my brains out? I go to the studio because I can't stand listening to my wife's vacuum cleaner at home, and also because I can't find three bridge partners or somebody to go to the ball game with. Also I work to waylay some of the phonies from getting Academy Awards.

Playboy: Isn't it true that when you're between pictures you've been known to volunteer your services to other producers and directors?

Wilder: Only when asked. I enjoy making movies, I enjoy the problems. If I'm not working on something of my own and someone calls me up and says, "Look here, Billy, I have a problem," I will try to do what I can to help out. I'm restless. My stomach hurts when I'm working, but it also hurts when I'm not. It's exasperating - I should get into something else. But that's the way it is, and I'm stuck with it. After 30 years of making films I'm used to trouble and well-acquainted with grief.

- Interviewed by Richard GermanPlayboy, June 1 1963

BillyWilder.JPG

Check out the Award-Winning Betelnut This Friday at Asia Society!

(cross-posted on dGenerate Films) Yang Heng's Betelnut, winner of the Best First Feature at the Pusan Film Festival and the Critics' Jury Prize at the Hong Kong Film Festival, will make its New York debut at the Asia Society as part of the series "China's Past , Present and Future on Film." You can use discount code asia725 to buy tickets at the $7 member rate. Tickets can be purchased at the Asia Society website or at the Asia Society box office.

Betelnut (Bing Lang) YANG Heng. China. 2005. 112 min. Narrative. Digibeta. Friday, March 26, 6:45 pm

Asia Society and Museum 725 Park Avenue New York, NY 10021

View a clip from the film below. Further details about the film can be found here, and after the break.

“Exquisite!” – Tony Rayns, Film Comment

“Pure cinema” – Susanna Harutyunyan, FIPRESCI – The International Federation of Film Critics

Along a sleepy Hunan riverside, two delinquent boys experience a summer of love and violence in Yang Heng’s visually stunning debut.

Ali and Xiao Yu are two teenage rebels idling away their days along the banks of a river in Jishou, a quiet town in Hunan province. They steal motorbikes, bully and rob kids, sing karaoke and get into fist fights outside the local internet bar. But their rough exterior belies a deeper romanticism, and a tenderness unfolds between them and their teenage loves. As one day bleeds into the next in this impoverished rural setting, it becomes apparent that these sun-baked days of misspent youth will be the wildest, freest time of their lives.

These everyday subjects are transformed by a groundbreaking digital cinematography unlike any other Chinese film. Alternating deep-focus with bold flatness, Yang explores spaces with a mastery that recalls both classical Chinese and modernist landscape painting. Filmed in a summery palette with images that give off an otherworldly glow, BETELNUT offers a one-of-a-kind vision of what it’s like to be young, poor and free in China. “Yang is a first-class visual stylist, and BETELNUT is far and away the most exciting debut film I’ve seen all year.” (Michael Sicinski, The University of Houston)

Announcing the Winner of the Shooting Down Pictures Fansub Challenge

I'm pleased to announce that the Shooting Down Pictures Fansub Challenge has a winner. Peaceful Anarchy answered my call to produce English fansubs for the mile-a-minute dialogue for Luis Garcia Berlanga's Placido, and has thus earned the $150 prize ($10 more than I advertised! I really need to pay more attention to my own blog). You can download the .srt file by right-clicking here. It's also been uploaded to some movie file share sites, which are where you can find the movie itself. Feel free to give feedback on both the movie and the subs - I think this film is an absolute masterpiece and hope that others feel the same.