The Hands of Bresson

Sundry observations on the art of cinema and world film culture

Posts Tagged ‘Damon Smith

Radu Muntean Interview: Tuesday, After Christmas

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Too often in the movies, affairs are either blithely romanticized in the grand European tradition of middlebrow “passion” films (The French Lieutenant’s Woman comes to mind) or used as a teaching tool to bludgeon audiences into accepting a damning moral perspective on the consequences of extramarital activity. (See Little Children, for instance.) Life has its own current, though, and the nature of relationships sometimes follows a pattern that is chaotic and irrational, messy and perturbing, where the boundaries between love and naked contempt (ah, Godard!) are no longer discernible. Movies from Voyage to Italy all the way down to Maren Ade’s Everyone Elsehave portrayed intra-relationship dynamics with emotional honesty and astute insight, leaving us with memorable impressions of love in a state of deterioration, or foundering on the shoals of time. In his fourth feature film, Romanian filmmaker Radu Muntean (BoogieThe Paper Will Be Blue) again fastens his attention on the question of intimacy and loneliness, crafting a frank, tightly constructed three-character drama that speaks volumes about marriage, desire, and how we negotiate the varieties of attachment we have to other people.

Click here to read the rest of my interview at Filmmaker.

Interview with Lu Chuan: “City of Life and Death”

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When Lu Chuan’s City of Life and Death won the top prize at the San Sebastián Film Festival two years ago, it was a testament not only to the emotional resonance and technical mastery of his widescreen black-and-white epic, which dramatizes the infamous 1937 Nanjing massacre at the height of the Second Sino-Japanese War, but a tacit acknowledgment of the film’s daring revisionist ambitions. A graduate of the Beijing Film Academy, Lu had previously directed a small-scale crime thriller, Missing Gun, and the critically well received Kekexili, Mountain Patrol, a rural drama about efforts to stop antelope poachers that screened at Sundance and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Tokyo Film Festival. But the latest film by this talented 40-year-old writer-director, the result of years of research and toil, has a depth of feeling that far surpasses his previous efforts. While previous homegrown films about the massacre (Dont’ Cry Nanjing comes to mind) have mythologized the incident, framing it in crassly melodramatic terms that speak more to patriotic ideology than to the messy, morally complicated realities of war, City of Life and Death unfolds on a monumental scale, detailing the assault on the village, the systematic mass killings of civilians by Japanese soldiers, and the establishment of a safety zone for refugees, all seen through the eyes of those stationed or held captive within the capital city.

Click here to read the rest of my interview at Filmmaker.

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May 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Clio Barnard: Reverse Shot Talkies #28

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In our latest Talkie, Eric Hynes talks to filmmaker Clio Barnard about the slippage between reality and representation in her new documentary-fiction hybrid THE ARBOR, which utilizes an evocative lip-synch technique to explore the gritty legacy of celebrated British playwright Andrea Dunbar.

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May 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm

RIP Tim Hetherington

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Last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Restrepo co-directors Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington for Reverse Shot Video’s Direct Address series. Hetherington in particular I found to be charming, passionate, and remarkably insightful about how his work as a still photographer had guided his forst foray into feature filmmaking. I remember his discomfort looking into the lens–he politely asked if he could look at me when answering questions, saying with a laugh that he preferred eye contact and “human engagement.” His thoughts on war and the dangers of his profession were deeply felt, I thought; he was a thinker, and anything but arrogant or cavalier about the career path he was on, so it was especially grieving to hear earlier today that he had been killed by mortar fire in Misrata, Libya. Although much of our interview was compressed and heavily edited to accommodate Junger’s thoughts in the same clip, I think what he does say about how he approaches his work from an emotional place, to better understand and convey honestly the experiences of soldiers at war, speaks poignantly to the shocking suddenness of his death. He will be missed.

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April 20, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Reverse Shot Direct Address #11: Bertrand Tavernier

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Reverse Shot trashes a hotel room with French director Bertrand Tavernier (LA PRINCESSE DE MONTPENSIER, ROUND MIDNIGHT), then chats with him about historical accuracy, creative urgency, and film criticism.

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April 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Reverse Shot Direct Address #10: Patricio Guzmán

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Legendary documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzmán (NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT, THE BATTLE OF CHILE) discusses memory, the poetic qualities of cinema, and why slow pacing returns us to the rhythm of life. A nine-film retrospective, “Obstinate Memories: The Documentaries of Patricio Guzmán,” launched in New York at BAMcinématek on April 1, 2011. As always, we tried to match what Guzmán is saying about poetry and pacing with the rhythm of the video itself.

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April 6, 2011 at 7:26 pm

SXSW: Whose Geek Week Was It?

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Spring break for geeks. That’s what the mainstream news media christened the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in 2008, just as this self-curated, little-engine-that-could collection of daylong panels, trade shows, and wowee-zowee multimedia presentations—dwarfed in past years by the debauched and much more heavily attended Music Festival—began to draw increasing numbers of registrants. (The current estimate is in the high thousands, a 40 percent bump since 2009.) Running concurrently with this orgy of interactivity, of course, is the SXSW Film Festival, an event that when I visited Austin eleven years ago, pre-mumblecore, seemed destined to become a perennial sidebar on Sixth Street, the city’s famed boulevard of bars, clubs, and intoxicated hipsterism. Who’d want to hole up in a movie theater or audit a panel on “HotBot vs. AltaVista: How to Get the Most Out of Your World Wide Web Search” when the Supersuckers and Fu Manchu were making tattooed eardrums bleed at Stubb’s? Geeks, obviously.

The presumed equivalence between film nerds and techies makes sense on the surface. Both tribes, you might say, are addicted to screens. In 1994, when the fest organizers added these strands, film and interactive (dubbed “multimedia” at the time) were conjoined, only to be separated a year later, perhaps for logistical reasons. Certainly, emergent technologies affect the way films are made and exhibited, as well as how we communicate, and the increasingly sophisticated manner in which advertisers brand entertainment experiences. But how easily do these worlds coexist in Austin’s week of wonders? How compatible, really, are the coffee-swilling entrepreneurs and propeller heads congregating at the obscenely spacious Austin Convention Center with the beer-and-a-burger indie-film set, who mostly haunt the old Paramount and State Theaters on Congress Avenue and the Alamo Drafthouses on Sixth Street and (even more conspicuously) South Lamar, miles away from the madness on the far side of Town Lake?

Click here to read the rest of this entry.

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March 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm