House Logo
Explore categories +

This Is Not A Film (#110 of 16)

Toronto International Film Festival 2015 Introduction, The Assassin, & Taxi

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Introduction, The Assassin, & Taxi

Well Go USA

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Introduction, The Assassin, & Taxi

In a recent Twitter exchange, critic and author Mark Harris described the Toronto International Film Festival as a “supermall.” The numerical facts for this year’s 40th edition suggest as much: 399 total offerings (289 features and 110 shorts) culled from 6,118 submissions from 71 countries. And in the previous two years I attended (2007 and 2008), there frequently was a consumptive feeling in the air that one would associate more with the marketplace than the movie house: Ingest now, digest much later.

That’s admittedly the rush of the festival circuit, an intoxicating feeling only intensified by Toronto’s sheer volume of choice, which allows you to catch a Ridley Scott here, an Apichatpong Weerasethakul there. Or delve deep into the avant-garde via the highly regarded Wavelengths program. Or catch some of the buzzed-about titles that played that year’s Cannes and will soon play this year’s New York Film Festival. Or just take a chance as scheduling affords, since there are always movies screening from early in the morning until late, late at night. (When else would Takashi Miike debut Yakuza Apocalypse, his latest exercise in extremity?)

Berlinale 2015 Jafar Panahi’s Taxi

Comments Comments (...)

Berlinale 2015: Taxi

Berlinale

Berlinale 2015: Taxi

One may be initially struck by the lighter-than-expected tone of Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, the third film he’s made in spite of the government-ordered limitations imposed on his filmmaking. In contrast to the poignant melancholy of This Is Not a Film and the more intellectualized meta-movie surreality of Closed Curtain, Taxi features, as one of its opening scenes, an exchange between two cab-riding passengers that verges on the comic even as it touches on deeper issues of human empathy. It doesn’t take long, though, for Panahi’s usual thematic obsessions to rear their head, as we discover that a beret-donning Panahi himself is driving this particular cab, and that those two passengers are, in fact, actors, as a new passenger—a video-store clerk/DVD pirate who recognizes the director from seeing him rent movies at his store—realizes upon recognizing one passenger’s parting lines as being lifted straight from Panahi’s Crimson Gold. Even then, though, the fourth-wall-breaking revelation is handled in a breezy manner—until the airiness is brutally interrupted when a bloodied passenger is brought into his cab and Panahi is thrust into a situation in which getting him and his terrified wife to the nearest hospital means life or death.

True/False Film Fest 2014: The Notorious Mr. Bout and Actress

Comments Comments (...)

True/False Film Fest 2014: <em>The Notorious Mr. Bout</em> and <em>Actress</em>
True/False Film Fest 2014: <em>The Notorious Mr. Bout</em> and <em>Actress</em>

Maxim Pozdorovkin and Tony Gerber’s The Notorious Mr. Bout teems with a masculine bravado evinced by both the documentary’s numerous male talking heads and its own chaotic, almost exhausting pace, which cuts between home-video recordings, news footage, CCTV cams, animated maps and explanations, and five continents to more comprehensively explain the tribulations (and eventual trial) of Viktor Bout, the convicted Russian arms dealer more colloquially known as “The Merchant of Death,” whose mythological status served as the basis for 2005’s Lord of War.

As Gerber explained in the Q&A following the film, he and Pozdorovkin set out to reveal that Bout isn’t simply a “shadowy Keyser Söze character,” but a complicated man who also liked to spend time with his family and shoot countless hours of home video. The danger in such an approach—and it’s a danger The Notorious Mr. Bout ultimately succumbs to—is that the subject becomes fairly romanticized rather than humanized, since the attempt to reverse one mythological status results in the valorization of another: insistence of Bout’s actual figure as part diabolical, part naïve, part victim. Unfortunately, Pozdorovkin and Gerber’s representation here appears as forced and questionable as much of the media portrayals denigrated throughout the film.

Toronto International Film Festival 2013 Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain
Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain

Jafar Panahi’s harsh sentence from Iranian authorities—his house arrest, restrictions on filmmaking and travel, and communicating with media—have forced the filmmaker to contemplate not only the intellectual struggle that accompanies tyrannical artistic censorship, but its combined psychological and emotional manifestations. Having been denied the professional and creative outlet that made him an internationally appraised director, Panahi is now understandably enveloped in a kind of existential crisis, an unimaginable experience that he’s nonetheless found a way of crystallizing into his two latest films, made illegally with the help of other filmmakers.

These works—2011’s This Is Not a Film and this year’s Closed Curtain, co-directed by Kambuzia Partovi—surpass Panahi’s previous films in their aesthetic complexity, intellectual rigor, and, above all, reckless abandon. This Is Not a Film was a risk for Panahi because, as a so-called documentary, it didn’t appear to be about much more than his daily activities under house arrest: talking to his lawyer, pet-sitting his daughter’s iguana, and describing to the camera a script he wrote for a movie that he cannot make. Of course, Panahi’s seemingly candid setup transversed the conventions of documentary into a meaningful work of meta-cinema, a thorough exploration of the frustrating limits to which an artist can physically make a movie by simply turning on a camera and talking and walking through his or her ideas.

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Picture

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Picture

As is customary at this stage of the game, Oscar’s top quintet of Best Picture hopefuls are sure to land nominations, so much so that every pundit can pat himself on the back, saying proudly that if the Academy still stuck with a five-wide field, final predictions would be forgone conclusions, like the nudie jokes host Seth MacFarlane will make at Helen Hunt’s expense. You know the big five: Argo, Les Misérables, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty, all of which look poised to score multiple nods beyond the top race. Last year, four additional films joined the chief batch of contenders, for a grand, surprising total of nine nominees—more than most expected from the Academy’s first sliding-scale approach to Best Picture. The consensus seems to be that 2012 was a stronger film year than 2011, and if the weaker year can muster a whopping nine candidates, then surely we’ll see a full crop of 10 this time around. The theory holds water, but it doesn’t really make the rest of the guessing any easier, as there are nine more films with bona fide shots at making the cut.

Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2012

Comments Comments (...)

Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2012
Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2012

Honorable Mention

American Animal: It may be a stretch to dub American Animal “the best art film ever,” as Screen Junkies does in this poster’s hyperbolic pull quote, but that’s the only strike against an otherwise spot-on one-sheet, which nails this odd indie’s unlikely blend of grating quirk and classy undercurrent. As pink as the undies often worn by Matt D’Elia’s ailing antihero, the ad wreaths its wiry subject in handsome curlicues, and even throws in a lit fuse to hint at his volatility. The poster, like the film, finds common ground between the high- and lowbrow, the artful and the infantile. [Poster]

The Cabin in the Woods: The poster for The Cabin in the Woods is one of 2012’s few whose design instantly doubled as an unofficial logo, so much so that a later one-sheet needed only include the established graphic’s silhouette. The cabin-as-Rubik’s-Cube may seem obvious and simple, but it’s also perfect and universally legible, rightly promising a mad puzzle of a horror picture. The vintage model eventually produced by Mondo Gallery is notable for its M.C. Escher influences, but it misses the true triumph of this campaign: a deceptively indelible signature image, defined by twists and turns. [Poster] [Article]

Compliance: No matter how you felt about Compliance, a divisive thriller more or less about the loss of dignity, the film’s poster easily trumped its in-text missteps, huddling poor Dreama Walker in a corner and surrounding her with meaningful details. Amid that fine stack of critical endorsements lies the film’s title, whose “C” perfectly encircles Walker’s eye, driving home the sick scrutiny her character endures. Best of all is that whiteboard’s message of customer-is-always-right encouragement, urging fast food employees to dutifully “smile!” The by-the-book irony expertly communicates the film’s themes, arguably even better than the film itself. [Poster] [Article]

Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2012

Comments Comments (...)

Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2012
Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2012

From Calum Marsh’s introduction to Slant Magazine’s Top 25 Films of 2012: “Two thousand and twelve was, if nothing else, a banner year for uncommonly productive provocation. Audiences were galled by Rick Alverson’s divisive deconstruction of hipsterdom, The Comedy, beguiled by the taciturn charms of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, and, um, probed by the penetrating cultural criticism of David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis. Masters of cinema both old and new even found time, between saucy bouts of male stripping and fellating chicken parts, to butt heads with every conceivable status quo, grappling admirably with hot-button issues as wide-ranging as colonialism (Tabu), U.S.-endorsed torture (Zero Dark Thirty, maybe or maybe not endorsing it itself), and the very nature of cinema (Jafar Panahi, who didn’t make a ’film’ at all).” Click here to read the feature and see if your favorite films of the year made our list. And see below for a list of the films that just missed making it onto our list, followed by our contributors’ individual ballots.

AFI Fest 2011: This Is Not a Film, Almayer’s Folly, & Hanaan

Comments Comments (...)

AFI Fest 2011: <em>This Is Not a Film</em>, <em>Almayer’s Folly</em>, & <em>Hanaan</em>
AFI Fest 2011: <em>This Is Not a Film</em>, <em>Almayer’s Folly</em>, & <em>Hanaan</em>

Under house arrest and awaiting a verdict on his appeal from Iran’s supreme court, filmmaker Jafar Panahi spends much of This Is Not a Film remaking, rethinking, and reconstructing his Tehran apartment as a sandbox of cinema. Despite his isolation and self-doubt, every frame becomes a wondrous opportunity for expression, each corner of Panahi’s posh prison cell a mental trap door from his stifling physical entrapment. Panahi’s equipment is expectantly bare boned, consisting of only a PD-150 digital video camera, a smart phone, and some gaffer’s tape used to create spatial designs on the floor. Walls of natural light flood in from the world outside, often illuminating the empty spaces of Panahi’s rooms with a certain unexpected grace. Throughout the film’s tight 75-minute running time, Panahi perfectly captures the haunting illusion of time, how moments of reflection and fear can seamlessly overlap with the mundane, moment-to-moment process of waiting for one’s fate.