The House


Amy Winehouse

A new Amy Winehouse album is set for release in December.

Palestine became a full member of the U.N. cultural and educational agency Monday, in a highly divisive move that the U.S. and other opponents say could harm renewed Mideast peace efforts.

A skeptic comes to his senses.

Elite marathoner is right at home on the streets of New York.

Shame, Tyrannosaur, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy lead the British Independent Film Award nominations.

Matt Zoller Seitz wishes The Walking Dead would shut up.

In Salon, Alex Pareene offers a new draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Janet Maslin reviews Stephen King's 11/22/63.

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TAGS: 11-22-63, alex pareene, amy winehouse, axel axgil, british independent film awards, declaration of independence, gay marriage, global warming, ing new york city marathon, james cameron, janet maslin, matt zoller seitz, palestine, shame, stephen king, the walking dead, tinker tailor soldier spy, titanic, tyrannosaur, united nations


Belleville

Belleville, a new play in its debut run at the Yale Repertory Theatre, is most provocatively a conversation of objects—most of them of the innocuous, household variety. A baby monitor is broken apart by a frazzled woman who mistakes the cries it emits as those of her unborn niece. A man makes a meager peace offering to his reasonably fed-up landlord with a half-filled hash pipe; later, he forces a buttery pastry into his unwilling, not to mention hung over, wife's face out of desperation, though not until after she's performed impromptu surgery on a broken toenail with a large butcher's knife. A stemless wine glass, the bottom stained with at least two-day-old cheap red residue, sits on a dining table stage right throughout the drama's duration as a kind of emblem of the collegiate ex-pat fantasy. (This puerile reverie is further filled out within the single set—a small Parisian apartment—by postcards pegged tackily onto the wall, what look like pre-furnished, faux-Arabic throw pillows on a neutral gray couch, and a row of funny little chimneys sprouting off of the roof.) And in perhaps the most devastating example, a guarded cellphone becomes an objective correlative through which issues of miscommunication, betrayal, and manipulation are finally thrown into the intimidating deep end of verbalization.

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TAGS: amy herzog, belleville, gilbert owuor, greg keller, maria dizzia, yale repertory theatre


Carnaval Atlântida

How many readers have heard of Atlântida Cinematográfica? The studio opened in Rio de Janeiro in 1941, and grew popular over the next two decades for its stream of chanchada films. These were light, exciting black-and-white musical comedies, often Hollywood parodies. At its height, Atlântida would put out five a year using the same small group of directors and actors. Don't think of them as cheap rush jobs, though. On the contrary, these well-made movies are joys.

This becomes clear from one of the first shots of Atlântida founder/producer/director José Carlos Burle's 1953 film Carnaval Atlântida, one of three chanchadas I watched Thursday in good Cinemateca Brasileira prints. (A fourth, Sputnik Man, also screened.) The camera moves toward a door with the name "Cecílio B. De Milho" on it, and we see the growling, pacing, cigar-chomping studio boss (Renato Restier) inside. He's making an epic about the Trojan War. He needs box office, baby, and he needs a star to get it, but against his better judgment goes with two unknowns. The first, a moon-eyed, mustachioed, bow-tied fop (José Lewgoy), is enlisted to play Paris. The second, meek Professor Xenofontes (Oscarito), teaches classical history at a girls' school, and is thus the best possible person to play Helen of Troy. Yet when it comes time to shoot, our leads refuse to kiss each other, wrestling each other to the ground instead, and destroying fake palm trees as they do.

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TAGS: an american in paris, artists and models, billy wilder, blake edwards, carlos manga, carnaval atlantida, charles chaplin, frank tashlin, gary cooper, grande otelo, high noon, howard hawks, inalda de carvalho, jerry lewis, jose carlos burle, jose lewgoy, kill or run, neither samson nor delilah, oscarito, renato restier, rio bravo, são paulo international film festival, sputnik man


Don't Go Breaking My Heart

Don't Go Breaking My Heart. Not simply a house of mirrors reflecting the soullessness of our Internet age, each sprawling urban surface in Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai's effortless romantic comedy Don't Go Breaking My Heart is a potential window to heartfelt emotional connection. This great Hong Kong directing duo, known primarily for directing balletic actioneers, tweaks the standard conventions of the genre to make the love triangle between a downtrodden architect (Daniel Wu), a mid-level worker bee (Yuanyuan Gao), and a womanizing C.E.O. (Louis Koo) feel altogether fresh. The most notable subversion comes during the traditional meet-cute sequences where two characters see each other for the first time from their office windows, flirting via vaudeville-like performances and mosaics painted with colorful Post-it Notes. It's a lovely visual motif that favors space and distance as opposed to the classic verbal diarrhea most American romantic comedies use as a crutch. Throughout Don't Go Breaking My Heart, relationships are created with physical movement yet emotions are transferred through modern-day technology. In this sense, To and Wai establish a seamless relationship between camera, perspective, and space, allowing the charms of each character to flourish from afar, in poetic buffoonery. Considering the film's glassy mise-en-scène, layers of physical space often misdirect point of view, primarily because of angle, complicating emotional entanglements in a wonderfully postmodern way. I can't think of a cinematic concrete jungle that is this moonstruck.

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TAGS: 13 assassins, a city of sadness, aftershock, don't go breaking my heart, hara-kiri death of a samurai, hou hsiao-hsien, johnnie to, louis koo, ninja kids, san diego asian film festival, seishiro kato, sophies choice, takashi miike, tony leung chiu wai, wai ka-fai, yuanyuan gao


The Girl with the Dragon TattooIt's hard to decide whether Sony has done a better job promoting David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with its own in-house marketing, or with outside sources like a sneak-peak, in-character W Magazine photoshoot with Rooney Mara. Either way, the combined effort is working, helping to drum up a great deal of interest in a Hollywood adaptation of a tale whose outcome virtually everyone knows, either via Stieg Larsson's pen or Swedish cinema's take on the trilogy. The halfway point of the promotional one-two punch seems to be a little Tumblr site called Mouth Taped Shut, which regularly posts exclusive Dragon Tattoo production stills and recently released the film's newest poster, an artful alternative for those who don't warm so well to Nipplegate-style sensationalism. There's some talk around the web saying the poster isn't studio-backed, and is simply getting major press for an independent designer. Whatever the source, this new one-sheet is a jewel of accessible design, putting forth the necessary story elements and faces without compromising what's been a hard and edgy film lead-up.

Like the previous poster, the new one opts for black and white, a choice that proves as necessary for conveying mood as it does for evoking classic noir. It is yet another triumph of character-within-character superimposition, which this year has already factored into very handsome designs for Jane Eyre and Martha Marcy May Marlene. The implication here is that Daniel Craig's Mikael Blomkvist is forever trying to get at the inner-workings of Mara's Lisbeth Salander, while himself being an increasing presence in her brilliant mind. Amid their stoic looks (and amid that great, spiky coif), we get the delicate inclusion of pressed-plant leaves (denoting long-dead case subject Harriet Vanger), and that central swirl that's fast become Salander's signature earring. The better details, though, are the small elements that make up great design, like the precise place in which Craig's left side touches Mara's lips, and the choice to mark the lower edge of her silhouette with a zipper's teeth. It's classy line quality, and it speaks to Fincher's own meticulousness.

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TAGS: daniel craig, david fincher, film noir, jane eyre, martha marcy may marlene, mouth taped shut, poster lab, rooney mara, sony, stieg larsson, the girl with the dragon tattoo, the stieg larsson trilogy, tumblr, w magazine


Outside Satan

I saw Bruno Dumont's 1997 film The Life of Jesus and liked it, but shortly afterward grew tired of Western European filmmakers showing me how awful the world was, and how awful I was for living in it. (I also grew tired of them citing Bresson.) Years later, Dumont's Outside Satan didn't change things. In one scene, a woman tells a man he can have her, then strips naked in full view and lies down, vagina facing the camera. It's sex, folks, and he goes for it, which means we do too. Then he strangles her. What does that say about us?

Yet what's so irritating about Dumont's film is the way that it wastes not just time, but also space. Over and over we see people walking through vast, empty fields, their bodies either filling the frames like giants or lost as tiny pale specks among a sweep of bright green. But the grass, trees, rocks, and lakes are ultimately parts of the background here, impassive, indifferent observers to the monstrous human drama. The film isn't alive to nature's movement, and by shooting in the 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, Dumont has given himself a lot of space to do nothing with. Life may suck, but it's never empty. The best widescreen films and filmmakers know how to fill their frames with detail.

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TAGS: breathing, bruno dumont, ikea, james joyce, karl markovics, outside satan, são paulo international film festival, the life of jesus, thomas schubert, wes anderson


Pauline Kael

Read Frank Rich roar over Pauline Kael.

For Slate, Dana Stevens on Kael's primacy of pleasure.

And for Salon, Matt Zoller Seitz and Andrew O'Hehir debate the legacy of the influential New Yorker movie writer.

50 terrifying movie moments according to Time Out London, and the 50 best movie villains of all time according to Time Out New York.

Also on the Halloween front, The A.V. Club's staff selects their scariest movie scenes.

This could be amazing: Kristen Wiig to star opposite Robert De Niro in Sean Penn movie.

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TAGS: andrew o'hehir, dana stevens, david lynch, frank rich, kristen wiig, lourdes maria ciccone leon, madonna, matt zoller seitz, pauline kael, robert de niro, salon, sean penn, slate, the a.v. club, the new yorker, time out london, time out new york, twin peaks


David Henry HwangDavid Henry Hwang's new Broadway play, Chinglish, begins with an American sign manufacturer talking about his experiences in China, offering his insights about doing business in that country. Just how well he has succeeded in understanding his partners and business practices in a foreign culture becomes clear as the play progresses. The insightful and witty comedy, written in both English and Mandarin (translated very effectively with subtitles projected onto the set) is the latest from the author of the 1988 Tony and Drama Desk award-winning play M. Butterfly, and is currently playing at the Longacre Theater. Chinglish offers a lively and thought-provoking look at a cross-cultural exchange that is likely to continue to figure prominently in the first half of this century.

Hwang made his mark as a playwright with FOB (an Asian-American derogative term for new immigrants who arrive in in the U.S. "Fresh Off the Boat" from Asia) which was produced in New York at the Public Theater in 1980. In the intervening years, the California-born playwright, now 54, has become one of the preeminent Asian-American voices in the theater. He achieved international recognition with M. Butterfly, which is loosely based on a true story about a French diplomat who fell in love with a Peking Opera star, who also happened to be a Chinese government spy, allegedly without realizing that "she" was really a man. In addition to his plays, Hwang work includes librettos for music theater works by Philip Glass, several screenplays and the books for the Disney musicals Aida and Tarzan. He was nominated for a Tony in 1998 for his second play on Broadway, Golden Child, which is inspired by stories about his ancestors related to him by his Chinese maternal grandmother. After a decade's absence, he returned to the New York stage in 2007 with Yellow Face, a comedy in which he examined his own evolving feelings regarding the controversy in the early nineties caused by the casting of a Caucasian actor as the male lead in Miss Saigon. The Obie-winning play, also a finalist that year for the Pulitzer, was staged at the Public Theater under the direction of Leigh Silverman, who also directed Chinglish. Hwang talked recently to The House Next Door about his new work.

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TAGS: aida, candace chong, chinglish, david henry hwang, dr. sun yat-sen, fob, glengarry glen ross, golden child, leigh silverman, longacre theater, m. butterfly, miss saigon, philip glass, public theater, pulitzer prize, tarzan, tsai chin, yellow face


God's Land[Editor's Note #1: In honor of this week's release of Preston Miller's movie God's Land, we are republishing the set diaries that Preston and producer Jeremiah Kipp wrote during filming in 2009. This is a joint effort with Fandor, which will post the even-numbered diary entries on the same days the House posts the odd-numbered entries. God's Land will open at the Quad Cinema in Manhattan on Friday, October 28th. You will also be able to watch the film for free on Fandor from Friday, October 28th until Sunday, October 30th. Click here for more information. Our thanks to Kevin B. Lee.]

[Editor's Note #2: The following is the ninth in a series of on-set reports by producer Jeremiah Kipp on God's Land, a feature film written and directed by Preston Miller, whose previous feature, Jones, was covered by The House Next Door here (review), here (interview), and here (podcast).]

Days Sixteen & Seventeen

My God, just when you feel like you've got a hold of something, or you're moving forward at a good steady clip and sense that karma is on your side, things can rapidly take a turn for the nightmarish. Day sixteen is easily, without a doubt, the worst and most painful day of shooting on God's Land. After a week of scheduling with the actors and striking out with his location scouts, our fearless director Preston Miller suggests we just go into a famous department store chain, head straight to the grocery section, and proceed to steal shots there without benefit of insurance, paperwork, clearance or permits. I'm no coward when it comes to this stuff, but it's an insane proposition when you're stealing shots involving over a half dozen actors, most of them Asian-Americans dressed in white cowboy hats, hoodies and sweatpants—and involving three pages of solid, crucial dialogue—and involving child actors—and involving said child actors crashing shopping carts together for fun. Trying to shoot something like this is just madness—maybe even stupidity. Maybe we could have done it another way; but we decided to go for it to get those scenes completed and behind us.

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TAGS: alex blakeley, alex gavin, god's land, jackson ning, jodi lin, matthew chiu, preston miller, shing ka, super mario brothers


The Death of Pinochet

Like many countries, Chile has transitioned from dictatorship to democracy within the past 30 years, and as is often the case during transitional periods, not all of the population has supported the move. Although a 1988 referendum emphatically voted Augusto Pinochet out of office, he remained a nostalgic symbol for many until his death in 2006. Current Chilean President Sebastián Piñera voted against Pinochet in 1988, but publicly protested his arrest in London a decade later, saying that no one should be able to judge Chile's former leader except Chileans themselves.

And the Chilean film The Death of Pinochet passes judgment. It's an explicitly post-dictatorship film. This becomes clear in one of its first shots, a perfectly composed profile of a woman's face inside a ring of varicolored flowers. Our eyes move from pink, to red, to white, to green, to purple, before shifting to the center and to her thin smile. It's mid-December, 2006. Her world is so bright because the General has died.

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TAGS: alberto korda, augusto pinochet, benicio del toro, bettina perut, carolina scaglione, che, che a new man, che guevara, fernando solanas, ivan osnovikiff, marxism, michael moore, pablo neruda, patrice lumumba, são paulo international film festival, sebastian pinera, sicko, steven soderbergh, the death of pinochet, the hour of the furnaces, tristan bauer, william shakespeare







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