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Roman Polanski (#110 of 44)

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Roman Polanski’s Based on a True Story

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Cannes Film Review: Based on a True Story

Sony Pictures Classics

Cannes Film Review: Based on a True Story

Roman Polanski’s Based on a True Story, contrary to its title, isn’t: It’s a fiction film about a successful author who avoids her past and an eerily obsessive fan who pushes her to write the “hidden book” her previous work seemed to promise. Of course, Polanski’s film is also transparently about the director himself—as well as about his co-writer, French filmmaker Olivier Assayas. And there’s an almost incredible arrogance to that.

Polanski surrogate Delphine (Emmanuelle Seigner) is enjoying great success with her new autobiographical novel but also burned out from the promo tour. Elle (Eva Green)—whose name, as is often commented on in the film, literally translates to “Her”—is a supposed super-fan who ingratiates herself into Delphine’s life as a “good listener” before gradually moving into the author’s flat and taking over her work, deleting slanderous Facebook posts, responding to emails, and even attending a face-to-face gig in her place. Elle also impresses on Delphine the importance of “reality” and tries to dissuade her from writing the fictional book she’s pitched to her publisher.

Review: Jaimey Fisher’s Christian Petzold

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Review: Jaimey Fisher’s Christian Petzold
Review: Jaimey Fisher’s Christian Petzold

Although he’s generally considered among the most critically acclaimed of contemporary German directors, Christian Petzold and his films remain relatively unknown to North American audiences. Perhaps that’s because of the exceedingly specific cultural formations within which Petzold’s films take place, namely the neoliberal spaces of contemporary Germany, where places and setting play just as significant a role as the characters, themselves. At least, these are the foundations of analysis laid out by Jaimey Fisher’s excellent new book examining Petzold’s entire filmography; Fisher seeks to contextualize Petzold’s films within prior scholarship, which has generally discussed their “movement spaces” (space remade by systems of mobility in modern society), but perhaps more importantly, he examines the ways in which neoliberal developments have “changed how individuals experience work, relationships, and themselves.” These combined help articulate what Fisher deems Petzold’s “ghostly archeology,” and terms his films “art-house genre cinema.”

The latter point is likely Fisher’s most provocative and reflexive, given that the neoliberal dimensions of Petzold’s cinema are seemingly their most explicit elements. In films like Yella, these financial motivators are made literal within the narrative, but in Jerichow, they’re more firmly filtered through a genre prism—in its case, film noir and, more specifically, The Postman Always Rings Twice. In fact, Fisher goes so far as to name a genre film in relation to nearly Petzold film, as a barometer for the levels of genre engagement. Sometimes they’re more obvious, as with Jerichow or even Yella, which takes Carnival of Souls as its basis. In other cases, however, the relationships are more opaque and unusual, as with the comparison of The Last Picture Show and Near Dark to The State I Am In, not because of directly identical narrative parallels, but more due to sensibility and style; thus, with Petzold, as with Peter Bogdanovich and Kathryn Bigelow, Fisher talks about each director’s refusal of nostalgia and recognition of creating art at the end of either a cycle or time period—“a fading western lifestyle.”

Locarno Film Festival 2013 2 Guns, When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism, Exhibition, & Sense of Humor

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Locarno Film Festival 2013: 2 Guns, Chinatown, When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism, Exhibition, The Mute, The Dirties, & Sense of Humor
Locarno Film Festival 2013: 2 Guns, Chinatown, When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism, Exhibition, The Mute, The Dirties, & Sense of Humor

Receiving its first public screening outside the U.S. at the 66th Locarno Film Festival, Baltasar Kormákur’s 2 Guns capped the open-air opening ceremony with thunder roaring overhead. Summarising its director’s career arc thus far (his debut feature 101 Reykjavik premiered here in 2000), this heady Hollywood buddy movie also demonstrated the festival’s varied appeal. Diversity might be what every major festival aspires to, of course, but in Locarno this seems especially the case, offering as it does everything from the vertiginously tiered 270-seat PalaVideo theater to the even-surfaced 8,000-seat Piazza Grande, the open-air setup that takes over the city center for the duration of the festival.

While 2 Guns eventually fell victim to a vicious downpour, a pre-festival screening of Chinatown the previous evening had confirmed to this first-time attendee that size does indeed matter. Already familiar with Roman Polanski’s neo-noir, I settled into travel-weary autopilot and sat there bedazzled by the film’s imagery, which seemingly attained a renewed power as it played on Europe’s biggest cinema screen. It was also the first time I had seen the film with an audience. The audible gasps at the “kitty cat” scene resonated throughout the square, and the collective mumble that greeted Faye Dunaway’s “My sister! My daughter!” meltdown eerily prefigured the thunderstorm that marred the official ceremony the subsequent evening.