Thursday, March 26, 2015

Feature: João César Monteiro’s Come and Go (2003)

This piece was written for Reverse Shot's 'Take Five: Reverse Shot in Space' symposium.

Lust for Life 

“I will be dust, but dust in love.” —João de Deus, God’s Wedding

João César Monteiro’s final film, Come and Go (2003), begins with a brief tracking shot. Moving left and at a slightly convex angle, the camera traces the contour of a large fountain at the center of an outdoor park as the director walks, in character, across a concrete clearing, dropping a pound of uncooked liver at his feet for a group of gathered pigeons. In and of itself, the shot, a modest flourish by any measure, is nothing spectacular. But in the context of the film—and further, in wider consideration of Monteiro’s late period work, in which he systematically worked to eliminate superfluous gestures—it proves rather startling. At only one other juncture, at well over two hours into this nearly three-hour film, does Monteiro move his camera—and even then, it’s as a circular pan around a church courtyard, position firmly planted. In fact, save for a subtle zoom or two, the film’s frame will remain fixed for nearly the entirety of its running time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Les Angeles Repertory Recommendations: March 2015

This story first appeared in the March 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

TCM Classic Film Festival
Various venues in Hollywood

The latest edition of the four-day fest (March 26 to 29) features programs organized around specific themes and subjects ("Herstory," for example), as well as an impressive array of restorations and special presentations (from Imitation of Life to Chimes at Midnight to Marriage Italian Style). What truly distinguishes the event, however, is the access it offers to multiple rare titles in the space of a few days; this year's gems include Joseph Losey's Boom!, Anthony Mann's Reign of Terror and Bob Fosse's Lenny, starring Dustin Hoffman as comedian Lenny Bruce.

Forgotten Masterpieces at UCLA
10899 Wilshire Blvd.

This year's UCLA Festival of Preservation is underway at the Billy Wilder Theater, with the final two weeks featuring several notable screenings. Don't miss a March 21 double bill of the early Bela Lugosi vehicle White Zombie and the racially-steeped horror provocation Ouanga, or the underseen midcentury Norman Foster film Woman on the Run (March 29). Also worth a look is the closing-night restoration of John Ford's The Long Voyage Home (March 30), starring the director's longtime collaborator John Wayne.

A Tribute to Hal Hartley
611 N. Fairfax Ave.

American indie hero Hal Hartley's new film, Ned Rifle, screens April 3 at Cinefamily. In tribute to the writer-director, the theater also will show a pair of double bills of his most beloved works: on April 2, the first two titles in Hartley's trilogy of literary riffs, Henry Fool and Fay Grim; and on April 4, 1989's The Unbelievable Truth and the 1991 masterpiece Trust. Hartley is set to be in attendance all three nights.

Gregory Markopoulos at REDCAT
631 W. 2nd St.

Following a Los Angeles Filmforum screening of Gregory J. Markopoulos' The Illiac Passion on March 22, a second evening of films by the late experimental director will take place at downtown's REDCAT on April 6. Two works will be shown, each a meditation on a monumental piece of architecture: 1967's Bliss explores the interior of a Byzantine church in Greece, while 1968's Gammelion is a hypnotic portrait of Italy's castle of Roccasinibalda. [THR]

New Day Rising: New Directors/New Films 2015

Any film festival that characterizes itself by the unseasoned stature of its participants must inevitably concede to the nature of nascent creativity. Meaning qualitative notions of good and bad, worthy and unworthy, will often go hand in hand, perhaps encouraging a certain forgiveness or, in turn, magnification of individual attributes which may in another setting garner a more thorough critical reading. This condition of risk-reward is implicit in the very name of the annual New Directors/New Films series, now in its fourth decade and returning this year to the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA from March 18-29th. Boasting a lineup as strong as any they’ve assembled in recent memory, and with few examples of curatorial capitulation in the name of artistic promise, the festival’s 44th edition offers a satisfying blend of features and shorts, homegrown and foreign talent, fiction and nonfiction fare, as well as a few highlights which brashly do away with such categorical distinctions.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Blu-ray Review: Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (1982)

In an early scene from Fitzcarraldo, a brothel madam named Molly (Claudia Cardinale) delivers an unintentionally prophetic bit of encouragement to the film's title character. "It's only the dreamers who move mountains," she says to Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald (Klaus Kinski), ambitious entrepreneur and lover of musical theater who dreams of constructing an opera house in a secluded region of Iquitos at the height of the turn-of-the-20th-century Peruvian rubber boom. Molly and Fitzgerald, nicknamed Fitzcarraldo by the Amazonian natives on account of his difficult-to-pronounce surname, have settled in Iquitos with grand development plans, but few resources to aid in its realization apart from the former's nest egg. Rather, the obstacles for both Fitzcarraldo the film and Fitzcarraldo the character would prove more logistical than financial. As has long been documented, Herzog's intended opus, like the task of his unintended surrogate, was at once hampered and heightened by its leader's vision and that vision's allegiance to cinematic verisimilitude.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Early Exposure: The First Films of Andy Warhol

The more you look at the same exact thing, the more meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel. — Andy Warhol, 1975

In January 1964 Andy Warhol premiered Sleep, his first full-length foray into the medium of cinema after more than a decade of work in the realm of painting, ink illustration, and silkscreen visual art. Shot on 16mm film and running just under five-and-a-half hours in length, Sleep consists solely of a half-dozen randomly repeated shots of poet John Giorno asleep in the nude. Apart from a bed and a stack of books behind his head, Giorno, flanked by off-white walls and resting unawares, is the only discernible element to feature in Warhol’s succession of observant, unadorned compositions. There are an untold number of stories about the film’s first few screenings, with the reported walkouts (allegedly by Warhol himself) and verbal altercations accounting for more viewers than likely even saw the film before it was first pulled from circulation in 1972. And while more than 50 of Warhol’s more prominent films, including Sleep, have since been preserved by the Museum of Modern Art in conjunction with the Andy Warhol Museum, they’ve never exactly been easy to see, playing mostly at one-off repertory screenings and gallery exhibitions since the artist’s death in 1987.

Film Capsule: Raúl Ruiz's Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983)

Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983)
Directed by Raúl Ruiz

This mid-period masterpiece by the Chilean expatriate unfolds over the course of single evening through a series of first-person flashbacks, nesting the fantastical within the historical in feverish, quintessentially Ruizian fashion. When a wayfaring student (Phillippe Delplanche) crosses paths with a worldly seaman (Jean-Bernard Guillard), a seemingly brief encounter evolves into an all-night exchange of increasingly tall tales of adventure on the high seas and lust on the shores of an imagined Europa. Shot by cinematographer Sacha Vierny in a consistently disorienting array of stocks and stylistic simulacra, the film proceeds by its own hallucinatory logic, moving from episode to episode with a narrative ambition afforded by the cinema and a formal freedom rooted in abstract expressionism. Crystalizing many of the sensorial flourishes he’d soon turn into shorthand, Ruiz pushes past the constraints of verisimilitude only to arrive at one his most gut-wrenching finales. (Mar 16, 10pm; Mar 20, 22, 7:30pm at the Spectacle) [The L]