No Mall Movies! (Chicago Cinema)
10 April 2014
Film: THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS (d. Theo Angelopoulos, 1975, Greece)
Forum: Home                Format: VHS (Chicago Public Library)
Observations: Another esteemed filmmaker that it’s taken me this long to see - ah, I was intimidated by the scope of this project (the depredations of the Greek people in the mid-20th Century, in the war and post-war years, by the domestic military and foreign forces). Oh, and its nearly four-hour running time. But there’s not a boring or slack moment, reminding me considerably of Bela Tarr (if ever so slightly higher paced, like Tarr’s earlier features). I hope to see more of his work soon, on film if possible.

10 April 2014

Film: THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS (d. Theo Angelopoulos, 1975, Greece)

Forum: Home                Format: VHS (Chicago Public Library)

Observations: Another esteemed filmmaker that it’s taken me this long to see - ah, I was intimidated by the scope of this project (the depredations of the Greek people in the mid-20th Century, in the war and post-war years, by the domestic military and foreign forces). Oh, and its nearly four-hour running time. But there’s not a boring or slack moment, reminding me considerably of Bela Tarr (if ever so slightly higher paced, like Tarr’s earlier features). I hope to see more of his work soon, on film if possible.

10 April 2014
Film: FRUITVALE STATION (d. Ryan Coogler, 2013, USA)
Forum: Home           Format: DVD (Chicago Public Library) 
Observations:  Missed every opportunity to see this one last year, so I’m just catching up with it on DVD. I cannot say that this film particularly expands the boundaries of cinema (though the dimension of texting added to the multi-leveled storytelling), but within standard filmic vocabulary the film had much to say (some surprisingly optimistic) about connections and divisions by race and economic class - the story included wage-earners and New Money in the Bay Area, and rotated among Black, White and Latino communities. Reminded me, in the best way, of an early 1930s Warner Brothers social-problem melodrama. 

10 April 2014

Film: FRUITVALE STATION (d. Ryan Coogler, 2013, USA)

Forum: Home           Format: DVD (Chicago Public Library) 

Observations:  Missed every opportunity to see this one last year, so I’m just catching up with it on DVD. I cannot say that this film particularly expands the boundaries of cinema (though the dimension of texting added to the multi-leveled storytelling), but within standard filmic vocabulary the film had much to say (some surprisingly optimistic) about connections and divisions by race and economic class - the story included wage-earners and New Money in the Bay Area, and rotated among Black, White and Latino communities. Reminded me, in the best way, of an early 1930s Warner Brothers social-problem melodrama. 

9 April 2014
Film: THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (d. Wes Anderson, 2014, USA)
Forum: Landmark Century Cinema           Format: DCP
Observations:  After a binge on 35mm features last weekend, back to digital this week. For a family birthday, we all attended a late screening of Wes Anderson’s (latest) pastel-colored contraption in the guise of cinema. Though Anderson comes across as a film-geek, his films increasingly embrace both literary and stage conventions (though this feature also played with depth-of-field and image ratio). Fun as always, and just a tad suspect as always.

9 April 2014

Film: THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (d. Wes Anderson, 2014, USA)

Forum: Landmark Century Cinema           Format: DCP

Observations:  After a binge on 35mm features last weekend, back to digital this week. For a family birthday, we all attended a late screening of Wes Anderson’s (latest) pastel-colored contraption in the guise of cinema. Though Anderson comes across as a film-geek, his films increasingly embrace both literary and stage conventions (though this feature also played with depth-of-field and image ratio). Fun as always, and just a tad suspect as always.

4 April 2014
Film: OVER THE EDGE (d. Jonathan Kaplan, 1979, USA)
Forum: Wisconsin Film Festival           Format: 35mm
Observations:  The festival flew screenwriter Tim Hunter in from Vancouver to screen his own print of this 1979 cult favorite, a film that had no official release (after the studio, Warners, lost its nerve over the alarming content - a high-school riot prompted by the police shooting of a student). Since 1979, though, the film enjoyed regular exposure at film societies and festivals, plus cable TV and home video. (Some of its latter-day appeal is generated by the debut appearance of Matt Dillon in a co-leading role.) Third time I’d seen it, and it never gets old! Hunter still seems surprised decades later that they were able to make the film at all, and opined that no such movie could be made today. 

4 April 2014

Film: OVER THE EDGE (d. Jonathan Kaplan, 1979, USA)

Forum: Wisconsin Film Festival           Format: 35mm

Observations:  The festival flew screenwriter Tim Hunter in from Vancouver to screen his own print of this 1979 cult favorite, a film that had no official release (after the studio, Warners, lost its nerve over the alarming content - a high-school riot prompted by the police shooting of a student). Since 1979, though, the film enjoyed regular exposure at film societies and festivals, plus cable TV and home video. (Some of its latter-day appeal is generated by the debut appearance of Matt Dillon in a co-leading role.) Third time I’d seen it, and it never gets old! Hunter still seems surprised decades later that they were able to make the film at all, and opined that no such movie could be made today. 

4 April 2014

Film: MARY (d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1931, U.K.)

Forum: Wisconsin Film Festival           Format: 35mm

Observations:  The festival has a sidebar of recent restorations, including this seldom-screened German version of Hitchcock’s second sound film, MURDER. As was often done in the early-sound era, the producers paid for two versions of the same film, shot simultaneously with different casts. The German version seemed every bit as resourceful and fluid as the English original - though (as explained in the documentary short, “Multilingual Murders”) Hitchcock reportedly learned from his German cast that changes need to be made to the dialog, story and even costumes to suit a German audience.  

3 April 2014

Film: JOE (d. David Gordon Green, 2014, USA)

Forum: Wisconsin Film Festival           Format: 35mm

Observations:  First of three screenings for us at the festival in Madison, all (by a cheering coincidence) shown in 35mm. First up is a film slated for commercial release later this year, a modestly-budgeted feature starring a game and powerfully-talented Nicholas Cage and ascending juvenile star Tye Sheridan (THE TREE OF LIFE and MUD).Vin and I had seen all of Green’s features to date, and so had to make this show (sold-out officially, though fortunately there were rush tickets). Green, in attendance, told good stories about what sounds like a happy production (marred, sadly, by the death of a leading cast member - Gary Poulter, in his only film appearance - while the film was in post-production). He also offered many useful observations about the collaborative creative process in film-making.

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