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“I Wanted the Movie to Have a ‘Time Out of Time’ Feel”: Cinematographer Eric Branco on Shooting the Black-and-White The 40-Year-Old Version

Radha Blank in The 40-Year-Old Version (Photo courtesy of Jeong Park/Netflix)

On the title page of her script for The 40-Year-Old Version, director and star Radha Blank wrote: "A New York Tale in Black and White." Cinematographer Eric Branco took those words to heart, shooting the Netflix production almost entirely on Kodak Double X film.  In the film Blank plays an alternate of herself, a playwright once named in a "30 Under 30" list of artists to watch, now trying to reinvent herself as the rapper RadhaMUSPrime. Over the 20-day schedule, Branco shot almost entirely on locations in Manhattan and the Bronx, from apartments to studios, clubs, theaters, and crowded streets. Before The 40-Year-Old Version, Branco shot the short Cap in black-and-white 16mm, and the feature Clemency. He is currently working on a…  Read more

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Rambo: Last Blood and Play Misty for Me: Jim Hemphill’s Home Video Recommendations

Play Misty for Me

Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo series is one of the more durable franchises in American cinema, which is somewhat surprising given that it didn’t really find its voice until its fourth installment and began with a film that didn’t lend itself to sequels at all. First Blood, which Ted Kotcheff directed from a script by Stallone, Michael Kozoll and William Sackheim in 1982, is a stand-alone action classic, an elegant and austere survival film in which Vietnam vet John Rambo takes on the town that wronged him without killing a single person. Stallone made up for First Blood’s low body count with the wildly entertaining and gleefully excessive 1985 sequel Rambo: First Blood Part II and its follow-up, Rambo III (1988), films…  Read more

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“Hey Lori, Do You Mind If We Put a Mic on You Today?”: Steve James on City So Real

City So Real, image courtesy of Chicago Story Film, LLC

When confronted by the press about Chicago’s overwhelming political corruption, city politicians often shrug and curtly concede: “That’s Chicago politics.” The city’s corruption is so native and unyielding that it just “is what it is,” has been and always will be. In Steve James’ five-part docuseries City So Real, a buoyant portrait of Chicago loosely wrapped around the 2019 mayoral election and the murder trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, the city’s denizens justify an array of their problems with that same self-referential and self-enabling sentiment, “That’s just Chicago for you.” But the city’s 2019 mayoral election saw young candidates on the ballot give voice to a growing want and need for radical change. James spent time filming…  Read more

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“The Hardest Path is Always the Best Path”: Oliver Laxe on Fire Will Come

Fire Will Come

Oliver Laxe’s first two films, You All Are Captains (2010) and Mimosas (2016), take place in his adopted home of Morocco. In this year’s Fire Will Come, however, the writer-director returns to his childhood stomping grounds—not Paris, where he was born and raised, but the mountainous enclaves of rural Galicia, an autonomous region in the northwest corner of Spain. Born to Galician parents, Laxe spent formative summer retreats visiting relatives among the natural splendour of the Serra dos Ancares, parts of which overlap with the religious pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago. Drawing from childhood memories, Laxe exalts the region’s staggering, uncanny beauty, imbuing its distinct iconography with an enigmatic, extra-temporal elegance.  The first Galician-language film to premiere at Cannes,…  Read more

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“The Set was a Circle with the Floor and Mirrors Rotating”: Jan de Bont on The Haunting

Jan de Bont on the set of The Haunting

Before he became a director, Jan de Bont was the cinematographer on some of the most visually intricate, elegantly lit movies of the 1980s and early ’90s, including Paul Verhoeven’s The 4th Man and Basic Instinct, John McTiernan’s Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October and Ridley Scott’s Black Rain. When de Bont made his directorial debut in 1994 with Speed, the film’s kinetic energy and precise attention to light and composition were no surprise; what made the picture a classic was how finely attuned the visual choices were to the nuances of performance. Speed made Sandra Bullock a star, confirmed Keanu Reeves as a viable action hero and was packed with colorful supporting turns by Dennis Hopper, Jeff Daniels,…  Read more

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“I Don’t Have the Prosthetics Team Sacha Baron Cohen Does”: John Wilson on his HBO Show How To with John Wilson

John Wilson shooting How To with John Wilson (courtesy of Zach Dilgard/HBO)

In his short films, compulsive shooter John Wilson combines a nervous voiceover with impossible amounts of nonfiction footage; the joke often alternates between the unexpected metaphorical/pun juxtaposition of dialogue with shots selected from his vast archives and sometimes nerve-wracking encounters with assorted eccentrics. That seemingly free-form structure, in which Wilson’s voice ties many disparate elements together, was established in shorts with titles like How to Walk to Manhattan and How to Keep Smoking. Now it’s been expanded in the six episodes of the first season of his HBO series, How to With John Wilson. Nathan For You’s Nathan Fielder is an executive producer, and the family resemblance is evident in sometimes nervewracking encounters with strangers—e.g., an anti-circumcision activist happy to strip down on his bed…  Read more

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