I’m an unabashed partisan for the True/False Film Festival (this will be my sixth consecutive year attending), which kicks off tomorrow and runs through Sunday. There are 37 features in this year’s line-up, plus four shorts programs, the first five episodes of Andrew Jarecki’s HBO mini-series The Jinx, and another five “secret screenings” — films identified in the program only by color, shown here prior to their official world premieres elsewhere. This is also the third year of the Neither/Nor sidebar, and this year’s edition is especially ambitious, a plunge into the largely underknown world of Polish documentary, complete with 35mm prints for four of the six programs — a deep-dish slice of rep programming. One of the nice things… Read more
Early in the new film Focus, a veteran con man played by Will Smith teaches his fledgling grifter protégé (Margot Robbie) the tools of the trade: misdirection, deception, subliminal suggestion. They’re a few of the tools applied in Focus by cinematographer Xavier Grobet as well, who is tasked with not only making the New York, New Orleans and Buenos Aires locations sleek and alluring but also with pushing audiences alternately toward and away from the plot’s various double-crosses. Focus marks the second collaboration between Grobet and I Love You Phillip Morris directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. The Mexican cinematographer talked to Filmmaker about continuing that alliance, his early Super 8 days and breaking new ground with Final Cut X… Read more
I’m sitting in a small 190°F room. I have taken my glasses off because I think they’d melt, so I can’t see. Also, I’m naked, as is everyone around me. My friend and I are whispering, most likely disturbing the neighboring nudes, but this is my first time in a Berlin sauna, so I’m not familiar with the collective sweaty silence that Germans call relaxation. As my friend escorts me through the different bathing rooms, I try to keep an open mind because a night at the Stadtbad is a Berlin staple. Twenty-five years ago, two friends also made a trip to the Stadbad in Berlin. Meanwhile, thousands of people flooded Brandenburg Gate as the Berlin Wall opened. One of… Read more
In delivering the first fully 20th-century filmic transplant of Hamlet, Michael Almereyda made wondering how he’d update each famous beat part of the fun, from “to be or not to be” rendered as prince Ethan Hawke’s internal monologue against Blockbuster’s “Action” aisle (totally unexpected, too-obvious only after its execution) to the total collapsing of “The Mousetrap”‘s text into a wordless Lewis Klahr short. That 2000 rendition took place in sleek, ever-more-expensive Manhattan — the birthright setting of one of Shakespeare’s most familiar plays, which deserved nothing less. This Cymbeline‘s location is never specified, but you can see Bay Ridge A-train subway stops at the frame’s sides; it’s an outer-borough and upstate movie that never once glimpses Manhattan, too often the default center of New York onscreen. As contextualized by the predictably biased but… Read more
Opening March 20th at the Media Center in Dumbo is Anja Marquardt’s atmospheric debut, She’s Lost Control. Recently nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, including Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay, the film stars Brooke Bloom as a graduate student/sex surrogate who emotionally abandons herself to one of her more violent patients. At SXSW last year, where the drama had its North American premiere, I wrote that “Marquardt uses the untraditional avenue of sex surrogacy to explore the contradiction at the crux of her character study,” in portraying a woman who has trouble practicing the very intimacy she preaches.
For his next semi-unlikely move, Errol Morris is making six shorts for ESPN Films. This first installment, The Subterranean Stadium, delves into the world of electric football. With guidance from “commissioner” John “Larue” DiCarlo, Morris uses his typically on-point interview skills (and offscreen, typically astonished-sounded questions) to guide us through a game whose players claim, plausibly, is as complex as chess.
From filmmaker and Davey Foundation board member Dustin Guy Defa comes word of the upcoming deadline for the Davey Foundation, which will give three grants to filmmakers 35 years and younger for the production of short films. Ben Kegan’s The First Men won the Davey’s single grant last year. This year, two grants have been added, and the awards mix cash with in-kind services and mentorship. Full details below: The Davey Foundation was created to honor the life of David Ross Fetzer and his commitment to the film and theater arts. For 2015, the foundation is handing out three short film grants. The first two grants are $5000 each for the production of a short film. The third, for a… Read more
When, in 2013, I spoke to Dean Fleischer Camp about his exquisitely deadpan web series, Catherine, created with Jenny Slate, I immediately wanted to know about its production design. How did he come up with its uncannily bland, generically discomforting visual spaces? The director told me that his inspirations included the ’90s TV show Kids in the Hall as well as Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom, but that part of the show’s visual aesthetic came from the porn-movie sets he was renting as a location. Now, Camp writes with word of a new project that furthers the aesthetic he’s been developing with Catherine and other recent shorts. TOP Posters and Prints are “hyper generic prop posters,” which recall the kind… Read more
I fall into that category of independent filmmaker who, as the need exists, writes, produces, directs, shoots, records sound, edits, even grades their own footage. (What we used to call color correction.) Then again, often times I’m “just” the DP. 2014 was my busiest year… Read more
I’m walking up the ballroom steps of Berlin’s Ritz Carlton on the third night of the Berlinale. Around the circular balcony are crowds of men, drinks in one hand, cigarettes in the other. Between sips and drags they survey the arriving guests. The scene is… Read more
Low and high art come to fruitful blows in the 14th edition of one of New York’s most substantive — and absurdly unsung — cinema exhibitions, the International Festival of Nonfiction Film and Media, aka Documentary Fortnight (February 13-27). Low? For 120 years, film has… Read more
In the late ‘70s, Henry Corra was attending Franconia College, a small experimental liberal arts school in New Hampshire. While there, he and his classmates watched a film called Grey Gardens. Immediately upon graduation, with a smoking-hot performing arts degree in hand, he made his… Read more