The House


L'amour Fou

The Complete Jacques Rivette retrospective enters its fourth week at the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) with screenings of three of the director's lesser-known 80's works as well as a reportedly seminal masterpiece from the late 1960s.

An in-person case will be made for the latter film, L'amour fou (1968), by Chicago Reader critic and Rivette scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum, who wrote in his capsule review:

"[L'Amour Fou] centers on rehearsals for a production of Racine's Andromaque and the doomed yet passionate relationship between the director (Jean-Pierre Kalfon) and his actress wife (Bulle Ogier), who leaves the production at the beginning of the film and then festers in paranoid isolation. The rehearsals, filmed by Rivette (in 35-millimeter) and by TV documentarist Andre S. Labarthe (in 16), are real, and the relationship between Kalfon and Ogier is fictional, but this only begins to describe the powerful interfacing of life and art that takes place over the film's hypnotic, epic unfolding. In the rehearsal space Rivette cuts frequently between the 35- and 16-millimeter footage, juxtaposing two kinds of documentary reality; in the couple's apartment, filmed only in 35, the oscillation between love and madness, passion and mistrust, builds to several terrifying and awesome climaxes in which the distinctions between life and theater, reality and fiction, become virtually irrelevant. In many ways this is Ogier's richest, finest performance, and Kalfon keeps pace with her every step of the way. This film captures the dreams and desperation of the 60s like few others, and you emerge from it changed; it's a life experience as much as a film experience."

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TAGS: andré dussollier, bulle ogier, Fabienne Babe, hurlevent, jacques rivette, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, l'amour fou, le pont du nord, love on the ground, lucas belvaux, momi, pierre clémenti, wuthering heights


Slums of Beverly Hills

It happens in a moment. Her eyes flick down, she takes a quick peek, and I start laughing. My friend Brian is sitting next to me at the Angelika going, "What? What's funny? What?" I don't expect him to understand. It's never happened to him, never will, the lucky bastard. Vivian Abromowitz has just gotten her period all over her father's new girlfriend's tapestry chairs.

There are so few movies that get it right about being a girl; Slums of Beverly Hills, starring Natasha Lyonne as Vivian, absolutely does. Her brothers are annoying, her romantic prospects dismal, and her body is totally freaking her out. As bad as things got for Molly Ringwald in the 80s, you never got the sense that she ever worried about smelling weird, or that she ever got razor burn from using an elderly disposable, or ran out of tampons and had to ask Ally Sheedy if she had one to spare. Since Molly was as close to a real girl as I ever saw on screen growing up, I didn't stand a chance. My daily life was definitely so much ickier than Molly's. My greatest fear was that Everybody Would Know how gross I was, even though I went to a school with all girls, who were presumably just as gross as me.

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TAGS: brian de palma, carrie, ginger snaps, Katherine Isabelle, natasha lyonne, slums of beverly hills


The Office

When it debuted in 2005, the U.S. version of The Office (Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. EST) was held up as an example of how to get a remake almost right. It wasn't the instant failure of Coupling—an NBC remake of a BBC series—but it wasn't a huge leap forward on par with All in the Family (based on the British sitcom Till Death Us Do Part). Part of the problem was that NBC's The Office—based on a British classic that put its pitch-perfect cast, headed up by Ricky Gervais, on the map-- was essentially a one-joke concept that brilliantly executed every possible variation on that joke; it ended after 12 episodes and two specials, and there wasn't a dud in the bunch. Thanks partly to the limitations imposed by the U.S. business model—which requires 100 episodes for a viable syndication sale—the NBC version seemed more fluid and less focused.

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TAGS: one punk under god, the office, the year without a santa claus, veronica mars


Happy Feet

Andrew Dignan: Hey Sean, how was your Thanksgiving? Even though I'm 3000 miles away from my family, I find the holiday still moves along with the same ebb and flow, encompassing the same old routines. The turkey's always dried out. The Detroit Lions always get blown away. The Black Friday sales seem a whole lot better when you're not fighting with a fat soccer mom for the last X-Box 360 (by the by—fat soccer mom: 1, Andrew: 0). And of course the studios release a slate of cuddly holiday films sure to be kicking around the mall movie theaters through the Christmas season. You know, like the one where a bald Hugh Jackman hurtles through the galaxy in a giant bubble doing yoga in-between snacking on tree bark.

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TAGS: for your consideration, happy feet, the fountain


The Wire

"You're telling me how I can't do it, not how I can," freshly minted Mayor Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) snaps at a city accountant who lists the impediments to giving the police a raise. Carcetti ambushes the offices of Baltimore's various public works departments (one lounging around to the sounds of Men At Work) and orders respective remedies for an abandoned car, a playground hazard, and a leaky hydrant without disclosing specific locations, sending panicked city employees scurrying in search of a problem. He shows up at a police roll call to personally announce a pay hike and the termination of meaningless monthly quotas for arrests and citations (unlike the other city workers, the beat cops remain undeterred by the mayor's eminence, pelting each other with verbal spitballs and sassing the new initiative's staying power). Col. Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick), tapped by Carcetti to make over the homicide division, joins his girlfriend, Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman (Deirdre Lovejoy), in addressing the detectives with the promise of "certain enhancements" and an ear for new ideas. "A new day," Sgt. Jay Landsman (Delaney Williams) muses with a twinkle of skepticism as his colleagues swarm the new bosses with congratulations. "They make a nice couple anyway."

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TAGS: a new day, aidan gillen, Al Brown, anwan glover, clarke peters, Deirdre Lovejoy, Delaney Williams, Domenick Lombardozzi, Dominic West, Frankie R. Faison, hbo, Jamie Hector, JD Williams, jermaine crawford, Jim True-Frost, john doman, jonnie louis brown, julito mccullum, Lance Reddick, maestro harrell, method man, Michael K. Williams, ramon a. rodriguez, recap, Reg E. Cathey, robert f. chew, the wire, Tristan Wilds, Wendell Pierce


The Fountain

Part sci-fi head trip, part swoony romance and part pop-philosophical manifesto, The Fountain is a gusher of poetic imagery, extravagant yet controlled. Hugh Jackman plays three incarnations of a hero: a conquistador trying to find the Fountain of Youth, a present-day cancer researcher who's in denial over his wife's impending death, and a 26th century astronaut piloting a translucent starship into a disintegrating nebula believed to be the gateway to the afterlife. But because the tales are not merely intercut, but densely interwoven—with images from one section being quoted, alluded to or expanded upon in another—The Fountain feels less like an anthology of thematically similar short stories than variations of the same narrative developed on parallel planes. When the movie cuts away from one period, you feel as though the story is still moving forward even though you're not there to see it. Every scene—indeed, every shot—has been composed, designed, blocked and lit for maximum aesthetic oomph. You can envision the storyboards pinned on a production office wall, each drawing accompanied by a typewritten sheet explaining why every creative touch, however seemingly small, is integral to the film's vision.

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TAGS: clint mansell, darren aronofsky, ellen burstyn, hugh jackman, jay rabinowitz, matthew libatique, pi, rachel weisz, requiem for a dream, the fountain


Fast Food Nation

With the arrival of American filmmaker Richard Linklater's warm but fractured version of Edward Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Austrian documentarian Nikolaus Geyrhalter's coolly disturbing study of global agro-business, Our Daily Bread we are presented with two films on a similar subject matter which take near polar opposite approaches and achieve varying levels of success. And while I respect Linklater's effort, I am much more impressed by Geyrhalter's achievement.

I should begin with a confession. I'm a big fan of the more personal (non-Hollywood gun-for-hire) films of Richard Linklater. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are among my all-time personal favorites, while I also hold in high esteem Waking Life, Slacker and A Scanner Darkly, believing them to be among their respective year's best films. There is a looseness and unwieldiness to his films that many find distracting, but which I contend is endearing. Driven by ideas and characters, they have only a secondary concern with plot. His best films are inhabited by society's oddballs and fringe-dwellers who engage in wide-ranging conversations that sometimes have only the most tangential concern with providing their story's with a narrative push. In fact, these films meander along at a leisurely place, arriving (if at all) at their critical moments almost as an afterthought. His latest certainly fits that description, but unfortunately fails to achieve the greatness of its forefathers, and the blame must be squarely laid at Linklater's feet, as the weaknesses that others decried in his earlier films have come the fore in this sprawling multi-narrative expose of the fast food industry.

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TAGS: avril lavigne, bruce willis, Catalina Sandino Moreno, edward schlosser, fast food nation, nikolaus geyrhalter, our daily bread, richard linklater, Wilmer Valderrama


Volver

For all the expansion to be enjoyed in Pedro Almodóvar's recent string of excellent films, his newest, Volver, is his narrowest effort since 1995's rare misfire, The Flower of My Secret. After laboring with, and firmly executing, Bad Education's labyrinthine noir (its convolutions span three decades of lies and betrayals and trannies and heroin) it's fitting that Almodóvar would scale down to a story that, at bottom, only needs five principal sets and five principal characters. Even his broadened, widescreen palate is compressed within the frame: certain close-ups of his luminous cast are shot with such long lenses that a minor movement by the actress fuzzies up her ears or her perfectly mangled coif like a distant spotlight straining to keep a stage actor lit. This technique reflects the precision one has come to expect, and take for granted, in each new joy Almodóvar gifts us.

This is a story of returns, just as the title tells us, but its chief subject is feminine (and provincial) rites, rituals and customs. Almodóvar's allegiances have never been in doubt, and this is as bald a love letter as the nakedly titled All About My Mother. Yet Volver has no time for men, even if they're trying to be women like the earlier film's transvestite-hooker, Agrado. From the hilarious and poignant opening tracking shot across a wind-wrecked cemetery full of old maids tending and tidying faithful headstones, the screen is congested with women.

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TAGS: Antonio de la Torre, Blanca Portillo, carmen maura, Chus Lampreave, lola dueñas, pedro almodóvar, penélope cruz, volver, Yohana Cobo


Up, Down, Fragile

The Museum of the Moving Image's complete Jacques Rivette retrospective moves into its third week with screenings of three more recent features: Up, Down, Fragile (1995), a musical homage to Stanley Donen's Give a Girl a Break; La Belle Noiseuse (1991), Rivette's four hour Cannes Grand Prize winner about the tempestuous relationship between a painter and his model; and Joan the Maid (1994), a two-part film, starring the great Sandrine Bonnaire, that deals with the rise and fall of Joan of Arc.

(Addendum 11/26/06: What follows was written before MOMI's screening of Joan the Maid, which I did not attend, where it was discovered—as curator David Schwartz mentions in this thread's comments section—that the UK distributor who imported the print mistakenly listed its running time at 237 minutes. What screened today was apparently the full version of Rivette's film. I leave the information as I wrote it here because a bastardized version does still exist, though it may only be in the form of the Facets DVD and/or a print that may still be in circulation.)

Joan the Maid is screening last of these three, but I'd like to bring it up first because of some distressing news regarding the print provided to MOMI.

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TAGS: film retrospectives, jacques rivette, joan the maid, La Belle Noiseuse, up down fragile


Tenacious D

I'm reluctant to describe Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny as a disappointment because to do so would play right into the filmmaker's hands. The movie doesn't just invite and exceed low expectations; its half-assedness is woven into the fabric of its screenplay which, one can only presume, was printed on hemp-based paper. Paying to see it is the moviegoing version of ordering Domino's when you're baked; just as the cost of a ticket won't yield a real movie, the late-night phone call won't deliver an actual pizza, merely a pizza-flavored circular object cut into triangles.

Thanks to the instant grins earned by familiarity, it'll likely satiate most people who attended top-billed Jack Black and Kyle Gass' live stand up metal shows, loaded their knucklehead-banging music onto iPods or watched their limited-run HBO series (a gem that made my Star-Ledger Top 10 list, lest you discount my complaints as the grumblings of a latecomer). But even if you're predisposed to give the boys the benefit of the doubt, the thing still starts evaporating from the memory the minute your Timberlands touch pavement.

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TAGS: jack black, kyle glass, Liam Lynch, Tenacious D, tenacious d: the pick of destiny







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