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BAMcinemaFest 2018 Aaron Schimberg’s Chained for Life

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BAMcinemaFest 2018: Aaron Schimberg’s Chained for Life

Cinereach

BAMcinemaFest 2018: Aaron Schimberg’s Chained for Life

From King Kong to Beauty and the Beast, films have often grappled with romances between pretty women and males who, well, let's say, fail to adhere to cultural standards of attractiveness. The latest is writer-director Aaron Schimberg's meta Chained for Life, set behind the scenes of a campy horror flick featuring half a cast of what Tod Browning would have called freaks. The film's leading man is Rosenthal, played by Adam Pearson (previously seen in Under the Skin), an English actor who has neurofibromatosis, which causes tumors to grow around nerves. Rosenthal's leading lady is Mabel (Jess Weixler), a friendly and earnest actress without any such condition.

Watch the First Trailer for Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s A Star Is Born

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Watch the First Trailer for Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s A Star Is Born

Warner Bros. Pictures

Watch the First Trailer for Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s A Star Is Born

Today, Warner Bros. Pictures premiered the first official trailer for the new remake of A Star Is Born. The film, which marks both the writing and directorial debut of actor Bradley Cooper and the first leading role for pop singer Lady Gaga, is an update of a story that’s made its way to the big screen three times before: first in 1937, starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March; then in 1954, starring Judy Garland and James Mason; and most recently in 1976, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria Starring Dakota Johnson Gets Teaser Trailer

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Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria Starring Dakota Johnson Gets Teaser Trailer

Amazon Studios

Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria Starring Dakota Johnson Gets Teaser Trailer

Today, Amazon Studios released the first teaser trailer for Luca Guadagnino’s highly anticipated remake of Dario Argento’s iconic horror film Suspiria. Immediately noticeable from the minute-and-a-half clip is the distance that Guadagnino is placing between his film and the baroque-pop stylings of Argento’s original in both look and sound. Suspiria is set in and around a world-renowned dance company that’s gripped by darkness and threatens to destroy a young dancer (Dakota Johnson). The film also stars Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Lutz Ebersdorf, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Jessica Harper, who played Johnson’s role in the original.

Steve McQueen’s Widows Starring Viola Davis Gets First Trailer

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Steve McQueen’s Widows Starring Viola Davis Gets First Trailer
Steve McQueen’s Widows Starring Viola Davis Gets First Trailer

Today, 20th Century Fox released the trailer for Widows, Steve McQueen’s first feature-length film since 12 Years a Slave. The film is co-written by McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, and is adapted from the 2002 ABC series Widows written by Lynda La Plante that starred Mercedes Ruehl, Brooke Shields, Rosie Perez, and N’Bushe Wright. The film is set in present-day Chicago and concerns four women who take fate into their hands in the wake of their criminal husbands’ deaths, forging a future on their own terms.

Cannes Film Festival 2018 Girls of the Sun, Dogman, & The Wild Pear Tree

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Cannes Film Review: Girls of the Sun, Dogman, & The Wild Pear Tree

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: Girls of the Sun, Dogman, & The Wild Pear Tree

Eva Husson’s Girls of the Sun is a politically righteous and timely film, with a strong lead performance by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani as Bahar, the leader of an all-female peshmerga fighter battalion bravely fighting ISIS in Kurdistan. But the film also has the dramatic finesse of a sledgehammer: Its most emotionally charged moments buckle under the weight of a ceaseless and manipulative score, and its disorganized and distracting flashback structure tries to contextualize the horrors and humiliations endured by Bahar but does so at the expense of narrative momentum.

Look past the film’s baggy structure and clumsy dialogue and there’s a good deal of tough, spatially coherent action direction on display. As Husson is adept at crafting artfully abstracted images in isolated moments, it’s easy to imagine the more sturdy, brisk, and visually compelling film Girls of the Sun might have been had at least 40 minutes been shaved from its running time.

Cannes Film Festival 2018 Winner Predictions

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Cannes Film Festival 2018: Winner Predictions
Cannes Film Festival 2018: Winner Predictions

Between Cate Blanchett being appointed to head the largely female jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and the much-publicized march of 82 women down the red carpet at the start of the festival (representing the mere 82 women directors in 71 years who’ve competed for the Palme d’Or), many have come to predict that one of the three female filmmakers in competition this year would take the top prize. This article won’t diverge from that prediction, and of the three possibilities, Alice Rohwacher’s Happy As Lazzaro still seems like the safest bet, even with reports coming in that Blanchett teared up at the world premiere of Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum.

Cannes Film Festival 2018 Lee Chang-dong’s Burning

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Cannes Film Review: Burning

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: Burning

South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong works slowly: In over 20 years, he’s directed just six films, each of which unfold patiently, sprawling out over two-plus hours and carefully tracking character development in narratives that occasionally proceed in real time. Lee tends to define his characters in relation to the specific temporal concepts that he structures his films around, such as the suicidal businessman from 2000’s Peppermint Candy, whose story is told in a reverse chronology, or the sixtysomething woman with encroaching Alzheimer’s disease in 2010’s Poetry, whose memories of the past slowly slip away. But Burning feels like the director’s most reflexive comment on the dramatic possibilities of his favored narrative form.

Cannes Film Festival 2018 Gaspar Noé’s Climax

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Cannes Film Review: Climax

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: Climax

French provocateur Gaspar Noé’s Climax has been met with enthusiasm at this year’s Cannes—even from those who usually have little tolerance for the psychedelic horror-core aesthetic he’s been dredging since at least 2002’s Irréversible. Maybe that’s because the film, at an eminently approachable 95 minutes, aspires to a relatively more structured iteration of Noé’s anarchic chaos. It even has a fairly straightforward concept: Twenty dancers—played by 19 non-actors plus Algerian actress and model Sofia Boutella—gather in a performance space, dance, chat cattily among each other, then drink some LSD-spiked punch and descend into raving, violent madness.

The conceit here is that even when Climax’s characters are subjected to the full-tilt crucible promised by the film’s premise, their bodies’ convulsions remain dance-like. But broad concerns like concept and conceit have never really been Noé’s problem, and neither really has his style—which has always incorporated some form of choreography, and used vivid colors and a restless camera with inarguably visceral impact. What Noé’s films have so rarely evinced—and what Climax mostly certainly lacks—is the skill, imagination, and intelligence to develop concepts and conceits, to connect them with ideas that could keep the director’s vision from wearing itself out.

Cannes Film Festival 2018 Yomeddine, Leto, & Sorry Angel

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Cannes Film Review: Yomeddine, Leto, & Sorry Angel

mk2 Films

Cannes Film Review: Yomeddine, Leto, & Sorry Angel

Egyptian-born NYU graduate Abu Bakr Shawky’s Yomeddine (or Judgment Day), the first debut feature to play in competition at the Cannes Film Festival since Son of Saul in 2015, is a different kind of exploitation film than László Nemes’s Oscar winner. It’s for anyone who’s ever looked at a person who suffered through a life-threatening illness and thought to themselves, “There should really be a quirky Sundance-style dramedy made about this.”

A road-trip movie for sympathy fascists, Yomeddine is built around non-actor Rady Gamal, a survivor of leprosy whom Shawky met while making a documentary short on a leper colony. Gamal plays Beshey, a junk collector and recent widower who, after linking up with a Nubian orphan boy, Obama (Ahmed Abdelhafiz), sets off to find the father who abandoned him as a child. The misfits get mixed up with thieves, religious fanatics, inept bureaucracies, apathetic police officers, and a trio of beggars with their own physical deformities, most of who serve to further stack the deck against them.

The Mystery of Screen Acting: An Interview with Author Dan Callahan

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The Mystery of Screen Acting: An Interview with Author Dan Callahan
The Mystery of Screen Acting: An Interview with Author Dan Callahan

Most film critics have a pretty good handle on what it is a director does, what a cinematographer does, what an editor does. Acting, however, remains a little bit mysterious. That’s why writers who know enough about the craft of acting to not just describe what they see in a performance but break down how the actor is doing it can be counted on only a couple of hands. The trick is to translate acting technique in a non-academic vocabulary, making it comprehensible to an audience of non-actors. You have to train your eye. You have to know what to look for, the “tells” of falsity or indicating, how to perceive a sketched-in performance as opposed to a full one.

It’s difficult to write about acting well. If it were easy, more people would do it. The rare writer who writes about acting really well, longtime theater and film critic Dan Callahan can home in on why and how a performance lands, or doesn’t. He pays attention to the actor’s technique, the actor’s tension, the prosody of the actor’s voice, all of these being “tells” as to whether or not the actor is truly engaged, or pumping up something artificial to fill in the blanks. This is tough stuff, but reading Callahan is an object lesson on how to do it.

Callahan’s first two books were biographies, the first on Barbara Stanwyck (Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman), the second on Vanessa Redgrave (Vanessa: The Life of Vanessa Redgrave). In both, Callahan moves behind the confines of traditional biographies. Traditional biographies often lead us through the events in an artist’s life, giving us backstage stories, maybe a couple of anecdotes, maybe some description of how the artist’s work was received. Callahan gives us all that, but also gives us his analysis of the performances, leading us to an understanding of Stanwyck and Redgrave not just as subjects, but as artists. Why is Vanessa Redgrave so good? That’s not as simple a question as it might seem. One of the great gifts of Callahan’s writing is that he makes you want to re-watch movies you’ve already seen, hoping to pick up on all the things he’s illuminated.

Callahan’s latest book, The Art of American Screen Acting: 1912-1960, is made up of profile pieces and artistic analysis of the major figures from the silent era up until the moment before the collapse of the studio system. With chapters on Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Bette Davis, Louise Brooks, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, James Cagney, Ingrid Bergman, Marlene Dietrich, to name a few, it’s a lush and complex look at the art of acting, and how it developed alongside the development of cinema itself. Callahan looks at the rupture represented by Marlon Brando, adding some necessary shadings to the almost universally accepted simplistic reading of Brando as an “improvement.” The earlier, more heightened style is still seen as “lesser” in many circles, or “over the top,” “heightened,” “phony.” In the book, and in our talk about it, it’s clear that Callahan is determined to set the record straight.