By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall January 9, 2008 at 8:37AM
This blog has only been around for four years or so, and in that time, I have rarely had the occasion to voice one of the great cinephilic obsessions of my life; Whatever happened to Erick Zonca? There is probably no movie from the great 1990's that meant as much to me as his feature-length debut, The Dreamlife Of Angels; It is, in my mind, the perfect film about female friendship, the need to be loved, and the way in which the alienation of labor strikes at the heart of interpersonal relations. I think the movie is a masterpiece and it stands alongside My Sex Life....(or how I got into an argument) as the seminal movie of my 20's. It also opened me up to films like Laurent Cantet's amazing Humans Resources and Timeout; Dreamlife is one of the most important films in my life for its ability to address working class concerns and great human drama with equal dexterity.
After seeing Dreamlife countless times in the theater in 1998, I was thrilled to discover Zonca's short films Seule (Alone) and the absolutely amazing Le Petit Voleur (The Little Thief) when New Yorker Films gave them a theatrical run at Film Forum back in 1999. The three films still stand as absolute revelations; Their humanism and gritty, unflinching look at economic desperation heralded the work of a major artist. Zonca's three films exist for me as near-perfect cinematic experiences; All three carry brilliant performances, compelling stories and each has its own haunting final shot that any artist in his or her right mind would die for.
Which is why, when I stumbled upon David Hudson's post about Zonca's new film Julia playing in competition in Berlin, I just about fell out of my chair. I have been tracking Zonca's projects online for years, but in recent months, I have to admit that I stopped looking. I just assumed that, like many great artists whose work I admire, perhaps he only had one film in him. I am so happy to be wrong! I am also hopeful that Zonca isn't one of those Victor Erica types, making a movie every decade and leaving his fans drooling for more. Or maybe he is. Either way, I am head over heels with excitement to see the new film. The description makes it sound like the perfect vehicle for Zonca's poetic realism;
"A woman (Tilda Swinton) tries to extort money, using a young boy as bait."
That seems a terrific scenario for Zonca's traditional concerns, but I remembered reading that the film is a remake (sort-of) of John Cassavetes Gloria. I hadn't heard anything since, but now it looks like the real deal. Cassavetes meets Zonca? That's doubly amazing. With this film marking the Director's English language debut, I probably shouldn't be surprised, but I have to ask; How does Tilda Swinton do it? The woman has the best taste in directors of anyone I have ever seen and she constantly takes risks, working with amazing people. Thinking of her work in Tim Roth's bleak The War Zone, I can totally see her knocking a role like this out of the park. It's all just too exciting; I'm off to add Julia to the top of my must-see list for 2008.
Update: Another summary which hints at some serious differences between this film and Gloria... still sounds terrific...