1. “The Misunderstanding of 3-D.” The New Yorker’s Daniel Engber makes a case for the maligned medium.
“But the secret of 3-D—its central irony, let’s say—is that it isn’t any good for spectacle. Adding a dimension often serves to shrink the objects on the screen, instead of giving them more pomp; trees and mountains end up looking like pieces in a diorama; people seem like puppets. Action, too, suffers in the format, because rapid horizontal movements mess with the illusion and fast-paced edits in 3-D tend to wear a viewer out. Yet the artsy way of looking at 3-D glorifies the format for its decadence, its delicious and despised absurdity. That’s the sense I got last month at BAM, where mindless, stunning films like Resident Evil: Retribution, Katy Perry: Part of Me, and Step Up 3D were juxtaposed, low-meets-high, with experimental shorts. It was as if the mainstream and the avant-garde had been allowed to gather and miscegenate in pure, visual abstraction.”
2. “The Cheerful Mind Behind Hannibal’s Deeply Disturbing, Gruesome Fantasia.” For the Vulture, Dan Hyman profiles Bryan Fuller.
“Fuller, 45, has long been obsessed with mortality. Yet for someone so fascinated with the morbid, in conversation he is charming and downright cheery. All wide-frame glasses and unkempt beard, Fuller is quick to extend an invite for coffee minutes after making your acquaintance, or slip in a self-deprecating comment. It’s enough to make you forget he’s the man responsible for NBC’s horrifying Hannibal, which returns for its third season Thursday night. It’s Fuller who principally dreams up the show’s notoriously brutal, visually stunning killings, dismemberments, and the gruesome cannibalistic fantasia that plays out onscreen each week. Ask him if he possesses a sadistic streak beneath the sunny surface, and Fuller chuckles: ’I’ve never quite divorced the horror of death from the beauty of life,’ he says. ’They go hand in glove. There is whimsy and light to be found in everything.’”
3. “Competitive Edges.” For Artforum, Dennis Lim on this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
“Even when they conjure the past, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s films exist fully in the moment—which accounts in part for the singular force of his historical dramas—and The Assassin, a hypnotically beautiful evocation of Tang Dynasty–era imperial intrigue, is no exception. An early fight—filmed first as an abrupt flurry of close-ups and then from afar in a long take—sums up Hou’s commitment to rethinking, moment by moment, the rules and, in particular, the staging of the wuxia film. The plot concerns a highly skilled female assassin (Shu Qi, in a near-wordless, brilliantly gestural performance) dispatched to kill a provincial governor (Chang Chen), who also happens to be a cousin to whom she was once betrothed. It’s true, as some predictably complained, that Hou’s fondness for narrative ellipses and disdain for close-ups makes it tricky to diagram the relationships among the characters. But the masterful layering of sensory effects—the caressing camera movements and trance-inducing sound design, the startling shifts between mythic landscapes and opulent interiors awash in gauze and brocade—has the effect of sharpening a sympathetic viewer’s subliminal attention. As always in Hou, what remains unspoken—the invisible forces and secret passions governing the characters—emerges with a stealthy clarity. Readable as an allegory about present-day China-Taiwan relations, The Assassin is above all pure cinema: a hallucinatory interplay of color, movement, and light and a mesmerizing study of bodies in space.”
4. “Want to Understand Star Wars Fans? Start Here.” It’s junk cinema but, like the Millennium Falcon, it’s fast junk—and don’t you dare call it junk unless you’re a fan, for only its fans can criticise it.
“Junk is everything in Star Wars. The Jawas deal in junk. The droids are sold as junk. Our heroes are delivered as junk into the Death Star’s trash compactor. That the Death Star is the only new piece of technology on display is sign enough of its nefariousness: those serving the empire are the only people in the galaxy not to have heard of recycling. Everyone else tinkers, modifies, retrofits, recycles and retools. If the vast, multibillion-dollar franchise that Star Wars spawned can be boiled down to a single insight on Lucas’s part, it is this: that the slightly crabby, proprietorial fondness that Han Solo nurses for the Millennium Falcon would be something that people would be feeling a lot more in the years to come. They would feel it for their computers, their Ataris, their Apples, their Xboxes, their iPhones and their iPads. That we could have a relationship with technology was, in 1977, news. Lucas took that feeling and on it he built an empire.”
5. “Out of the Closet, Into the Sand: Wakefield Poole.” For Fandor, Dennis Harvey revisits an era when “If it feels good, do it” seemed as sound a life philosophy as any.
“Boys in the Sand (1971) started life as a short Poole shot with his lover Peter Fisk and a couple friends, intending only to show it privately. But he was so pleased with the results he decided to film additional segments and assemble a commercial feature. Purportedly shot over three weekends on Fire Island on a budget of $8,000, it was an enormous success, making a celebrity of classically handsome blond actor/model Casey Donovan a.k.a. Calvin Culver. (Though like other talented actors such as Reems and Georgina Spelvin, he would find that porn notoriety basically squelched his hopes for a mainstream acting career.) Reacting against the ’dirty’ ambiance of the few gay sex films to date, Poole had made something very few of them (or heterosexual porn films, for that matter) would ever be: Boys was actually sweet, playfully romantic as well as explicitly sexy. As the director later stated, its performers weren’t just having sex: They were making love. It was the first XXX feature (gay or straight) to actually credit its makers and cast members onscreen, even if some created pseudonyms for the occasion.”
Video of the Day: Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America gets a trailer:
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