It's time for (what should be a weekly but always turns out to be something like a bi-annual) roundup of some great reads by Reverse Shot staff writers from other publications. More evidence of Reverse Shot's iinfiltration of the [online....cinephile.....?] world, whether you like it or not.
"An oeuvre made up of fragments naturally spawns fragmentation in its wake, but the erratic and haphazard appearance of Chris Marker’s films on DVD is less a distortion of his work than a peculiarly apt form of presentation. The least proprietary of filmmakers, Marker nevertheless seems immune to misrepresentation. Regardless of his assorted pseudonyms, effacements, and evasions, Marker has managed to exert a remarkable degree of control over his work by the sheer distinctiveness of his textual method. The enshrinement of Sans soleil (19821) and La jetée (1962) on Criterion does not isolate them from the rest of his career (“that despicable word,” he writes)—elegant constructions both, the sensibility from which they issue so clearly travels beyond their borders that they serve as gateways into, rather than summations of, Marker’s work." Click here to read the rest of Andrew Tracy's Cinemascope feature "Out of Time: Notes on Marker." (Also, in the issue, on some newsstands now, Adam Nayman on The Happening.) And then read more from Andrew on Marker in our last symposium, The New World: Reverse Shot Goes Digital.
"Has David Gordon Green gone pop? The question hovers over BAMCinématek's retrospective, which culminates in a preview of Pineapple Express, a 'stoner-action-comedy' from the Apatow family, and the first script Green's directed that he didn't write.
More accurately, Green's gone pragmatic: 'The passion projects, they're necessary for me to make, regardless of if anyone wants to show up at the box office or get behind them and market them,' he says. '[But] there's an actual business, an industry that needs to be respected if not catered to.' Recall that the film that broke a then-25-year-old Green, 2000's George Washington, was the antithesis of a careerist calling card, shooed from Sundance's doorstep. From the filament of a young-adult-fiction plot device shines a racially mixed cast of nonprofessionals, mostly children. Their voiceovers and monologues, in which the kids yearn toward true love and civics-class ideals, give the compartmentalized scenes a melic unity." Click here to read the rest of Nick Pinkerton's Village Voice feature "David Gordon Green Moves to the Mainstream?"
"For over forty years, with a career comprising more than thirty-five films, Frederick Wiseman has been insinuating his camera into seemingly every facet of modern life, from the Bridgewater State Prison for the Criminally Insane in 1967’s Titicut Follies to the State Legislature of Idaho in his 2006 film. In between, his remarkably consistent body of work has been busily chronicling dozens of such places in the United States and abroad. Places, as Wiseman likes to say, are the stars of his films: a primate research center, the Neiman-Marcus store in Dallas, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, an Army training center in Kentucky, La Comédie-Française in Paris, two high schools, and the town of Belfast, Maine. And Wiseman’s interest in these sites and institutions, and the structure of everyday life around them, shows no sign of depletion.
Roughly a contemporary of D. A. Pennebaker, Richard Leacock, and Jean Rouch, Wiseman is generally cited as a pioneer, if not a patriarch, of so-called “direct cinema” or cinéma vérité. (The bulk of his work lies in the field of documentary, but he has also made two feature-length fiction films, Seraphita’s Diary and The Last Letter.) But his relation to these terms – and to contemporary documentary filmmaking in general – is famously oblique, and he has consistently distanced himself from designations that seem to boast of the objectivity of his filmmaking practice." Click here to read the rest of Leo Goldsmith's introduction to Not Coming to a Theater Near You's massive Frederick Wiseman retrospective. Also included, Goldsmith on Wiseman's Primate, Sinai Field Mission, Adjustment and Work, High School 2, Belfast, Maine, and, finally, An Interview with Frederick Wiseman.
"At the end of Batman Begins, the Wayne mansion lies in charred ruins, torched by high-minded crusaders aiming to wipe the slate clean in decadent Gotham. In a summer that also saw War of the Worlds, Begins was, upon reflection, a potent crypto-terrorism tale laced with post-9/11 echoes: Scarecrow’s 'weaponized' drug literally producing mass terror, Bruce Wayne’s attraction-repulsion to vengeance as justice, even a CIA-esque strange-bedfellows tie through Wayne’s past association with his future enemy.
The thread continues in a sequel that virtually plays out the FISA wiretapping dilemma, but, more important, the Dark Knight (Christian Bale) continues to stoke director Christopher Nolan into a frenzy. His work twists and turns with the anxiety that the cracks and fissures in fractured identities could let through unsavory impulses, which here tempt not only our hero but his traumatized town. Batman, who like most superheroes would not exist after rudimentary psychotherapy, stalks and growls through The Dark Knight, tormented by the fun-house mirror the Joker holds up to his conflicted rectitude and to Gothamites’ baseline morality. Click here to read the rest of Nicolas Rapold's review of The Dark Knight from L Magazine.
"Peter Lynch is the great wanderer of contemporary Canadian cinema, traversing wide swaths of physical and psychological terrain in search of what he calls the 'deeper myth.' It's an idea that's within easy walking distance of Werner Herzog's oft-cited 'ecstatic truth,' and comparisons to the German master are inevitable given both filmmakers' predilection for (and reputation as) obsessive, questing types. When Grizzly Man was released in 2005, Canadian critics couldn't help invoking Lynch's wildly successful debut, Project Grizzly (1996), a simultaneously wry and awed account of how inventor/nutcase Troy Hurtubise—shaken by an unexpected encounter with a grizzly bear—endeavors to construct an ursine-proof suit out of whatever materials he has at hand. (The finished product, which sustains collisions with trucks, trees, and even a group of drunken motorcycle enthusiasts, would make Tony Stark proud.)"
Click here to read the rest of Adam Nayman's Moving Image Source feature on filmmaker Peter Lynch.
"The references throughout WALL-E to 2001: A Space Odyssey (the Strauss pieces on the soundtrack, the villainous autopilot computer with a single red eye — a dead ringer for Hal-9000) are more than throwaway in-jokes — they’re sign posts. A sci-fi adventure with philosophical resonance and minimal dialogue, the latest Pixar film may be a spiritual cousin to Kubrick’s movie (as well as those of Chaplin, Keaton, Tati, Spielberg, etc., ad infinitum). There is something audacious, maybe hubristic, in Pixar’s gamble to market a potential blockbuster — to families, no less — so out of step with the expectations of multiplex audiences weaned on a succession of Shreks with diminishing returns. But WALL-E dazzles, particularly in its magnificent first half-hour, a post-apocalyptic love-story in miniature that serves as a graceful introduction to the intergalactic journey that follows. Click here to read the rest of Chris Wisniewski's Stop Smiling review of WALL*E.
"'At last, the cult film where they first met!' boasts the cover of the new Cult Epics release of Pierre Grimblat’s 1969 Mod explosion, Slogan. The couple referred to is none other than the seemingly born-old Frenchman Serge Gainsbourg (checking two bags per eye on this flight) and the apparently ageless British model Jane Birkin, whose real-life romance together inspired many a song and film, as well as captivating international celebrity gawkers for 12 torrid years. A movie essentially about artifice, Slogan is heavy on style and light on substance in an almost subversive way. Gainsbourg plays Serge Fabergé, an award-winning ad man and photographer whose name rings like a slogan, and whose head is turned by every insubstantial slip of a girl who passes in front of his camera. Whilst on a Venetian escapade with his latest paramour, (his gorgeous and very understanding pregnant wife is at home), Serge’s gaze meets that of Evelyne (Birkin), and Cupid casts a mysterious spell prompting the two to strike up a Lolita-esque love affair."
Click here to read the rest of Sarah Silver's Stop Smiling DVD review of Slogan.
"Despite feigning journalistic and sociological 'objectivity,' documentaries create heroes and villains just as often and prejudicially as their fiction film counterparts. In this sense Operation Filmmaker is a remarkable film not for dispensing with clear demarcations between the real people we’re meant to 'root' for and those we are not — this has been accomplished countless times before — but by unintentionally implicating the filmmaker among its ambiguously motivated cast of characters.
The main word here is 'unintentionally.' Any director with a guilty conscience can plan to call attention to the sizable distance between himself and the film’s subjects in order to excuse his privileged role on the controlling side of the camera — witness the lamentable Hurricane Katrina documentary The Axe in the Attic — but few actually learn about the problems of that privilege in the midst of shooting and then successfully display the painful process in the final result. This seems to have occurred in the making of Operation Filmmaker, Nina Davenport’s slow-building disaster of a documentary that began as a simple feel-good profile of Muthana Mohmed, a 25-year-old Iraqi with cinematic aspirations given the chance to intern on the set of an American movie production in the Czech Republic, and ended as a case of manipulation, exploitation, and bruised egos." Click here to read Michael Joshua Rowin's Stop Smiling review of Operation Filmmaker.