In the early to mid 1960s, the Italian cinema was going through a sort of renaissance, as it not only produced important films by such renowned cineastes as Federico Fellini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Luchino Visconti, Pier Paolo Pasolini and many others, but also works by more “populist” filmmakers like Sergio Leone and Mario Bava. Elio Petri was a director who straddled both worlds. An avowed leftist, Petri nevertheless pursued commercial projects when he felt that they could also make a social statement within the content of supposedly escapist entertainment. Having begun his apprenticeship in the cinema working as an assistant to director Giuseppe De Santis on several projects, most notably the neorealist drama Roma ore 11 (Rome 11 O’Clock, 1952), Petri then directed a number of shorts before helming his first feature, L’assassino (The Lady Killer of Rome, 1961), which starred Marcello Mastroianni in a straight dramatic role as an antique dealer unjustly accused of murder.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Way back in 1982, Vertigo debuted on the BFI’s Sight & Sound Poll of Best Films at number 7. Since then it has slowly ascended, finally summiting the list in 2012, displacing the oft-thought irreplaceable Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941). No list is gospel, but the collaborative nature of the Sight & Sound poll, along with its tenure and visibility within the world of film lend the list a weight that few can counter. Which makes Vertigo a legitimate contender for the throne—the protean, elusive, much debated Best Film of All Time. Except, here’s the thing: it’s not.
Let’s play with some hypotheticals here. Let’s say that Vertigo was a modern release. Let’s say it came out in 2012 amidst the Masters and Beasts and Lincolns, and let’s say that the look of the film was updated so as to avoid distracting a modern audience, the general visual quality of the film cleaned up to fall in line with a modern offering. The script is the same, the shots are the same, but the film was released in 2012 instead of 1958. Objectively, this would not be a Best Film of All Time candidate. It probably wouldn’t even be a Best Picture nominee.
b. Cecil Blount deMille, 12th August 1881, Ashfield, Massachusetts, USA
d. 21st January 1959, Hollywood, California, USA
d. 21st January 1959, Hollywood, California, USA
Legendary producer-director Cecil B. DeMille, (1) affectionately known as C.B., was a seminal cofounder of Hollywood and a progenitor of Paramount studio who became a mega-star of the American cinema during its Golden Age. He quickly became the archetypal image of a movie director; especially when wearing his trademark puttees, barking orders through a megaphone, and having an attentive chair boy two lock-steps behind his every move. This iconic but frequently unsung auteur helped turned an obscure Californian orange grove into themovie centre of the world and made “Hollywood” synonymous with success. DeMille’s life and career was itself an epic adventure. Not only did he help instigate the West-coast genesis of this billion dollar industry, but he adroitly navigated the arrival of sound films, the introduction of colour films, the Great Depression, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, shifting demographics, volatile fads, Communist hysteria, the challenge of television, cut-throat competitors, interfering bosses, controlling censors, agitating politicians, uppity actors and numerous Hollywood scandals involving drugs, sex and murder. (2) He survived them all, and whereas vast distances, massive workloads, personal crises and sickness could slow down the indefatigable DeMille, only death could stop him.
Togetherness Supreme in East Africa
Film tells the story of an artist, a hustler and a preacher's daughter in Kenya's largest slum
by BRANDON JUDD on JULY 27, 2013
Barack Obama was still just a U.S. Senator in 2006, but he was already spooling up for his presidential run. Seizing on his rising visibility and popularity, Obama made a mostly-business trip to Africa. The unprecedented buzz surrounding a senatorial trip culminated in his arrival in Kenya, the birthplace of his grandmother. And, as one does in Nairobi, Obama delivered his top card speech in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum; he promised to combat AIDS, malnutrition and, of course, poverty. Then, as one does in Africa, he left. All that remained were his words, which for all their charm, fed no mouths and righted no wrongs.
This is Kibera: a canvas to be seen against, a cause to be seen with; its residents, meanwhile, do not see anything new. NGOs pour into the slum, each promising specific and lasting development for what was once believed home to perhaps a million Kenyans. Today, the shantytown has ten times more NGOs than it does acres, or one NGO for every 45 people or so. Despite the influx of charities, electricity remains a rarity, and drinking water is collected from jerry-rigged pipes in all manner of makeshift container.
It turns out Kibera houses — and I use that term very loosely: many of its denizens live in one-room mud shacks — ‘only’ a quarter-million people in its loose borders, comparable in size to Central Park. At around 100,000 people per square kilometre, Kibera is one of the largest and most packed slums in the world; abject poverty and long-smoldering tribal tensions only add to this pressure cooker.
It is in this site of crowded, messy tension thatTogetherness Supreme operates. The locally filmed and staffed story of hope and disillusionment, borne out of director Nathan Collet’s previous short Kibera Kid, recreates the lead-up to Kenya’s ultra-controversial 2007 elections.
Togetherness hinges on Kamau, a painter and member of the politically dominant, land-owning Kikuyu tribe. In sticking up for neighboring tenant Otieno, a hustler who rents a tiny flat from Kamau’s father, a rare intertribal friendship commences. The lanky, grinning member of the Luo tribe, the numerical superior tribe bereft of political power, convinces the impressionable young artist—played by a doe-faced Wilson Maina—to join the burgeoning Orange Democratic Movement.
The Luo-dominated ODM seeks to dethrone the sitting president, widely accused of tribal favoritism and corruption. But there is a catch: the president, like Kamau, is a Kikuyu. Otieno may have looked passed his friends affiliations, but his colleagues are unlikely to be so inclusive; they may tote a Marley-inspired pan-humanism among themselves, but run-ins with Kikuyus remind the viewer of the deeply ingrained legacy of tribalism.
Kamau adopts a pseudonym, and before long he and Otieno are knocking on doors and handing out campaign flyers. Enter the pastor’s daughter, Alice, who is also a nurse — could innocence be more blatantly personified? — and tensions arise between the smitten cold-callers.
Unfortunately, this love triangle is not well established: the relationships develop mostly offscreen, and the viewer learn of it largely through one-dimensional exposition dialogue. So when Kibera becomes increasingly volatile as the election nears, the relationships fail to heighten the emotion as intended. This does not derail the film, however: the devastation of youths realizing the impotence of democracy when numbers are counted behind closed state house doors needs no amplification.
The decision not to veil the politics — both the ODM and its leader, Raila Odinga, are real figures from the 2007 elections — adds needed realism to the plot, and instills a prevailing sense of dread for the quick-approaching fallout. The writing consistently fails to build the heft of its setting, however, as dialogue-heavy scenes play out as disconnected bits of exposition between the visual-dominated scenes of Kibera’s markets, streets, and people.
Closeups of animals loitering in ditches, quick cuts of active hands—plucking a chicken, cutting up vegetables—and the cadence of the self-constructed and self-regulated shantytown: it is through these transition segments that characters are placed in their visual and cultural context, and the broader story is best told. This narrative further benefits from the largely uncorrected, natural-light shooting, which lends a hyperreal aesthetic which at times jars the viewer out of the suspension of disbelief. This is fitting for the film, which is more of a fictional documentary than a contrived story; the tension between its authentic and its invented elements forces the viewer to recognize both. This comes to a head near the conclusion, when stock footage of post-election violence is cross-cut with staged shots
Though the film has its weaknesses—some glaring, others forgettable—its formal/aesthetic appeal must also be separated from, or at least balanced with, its broader purpose as an economic source for the area. Almost all of the cast and crew are locals, providing both short-term respite from poverty as well as a long-term skill builder. Hot Sun Films, the production studio-nonprofit hybrid behind the film, built upon this by establishing the Kibera Film School in 2009. The school has graduated a handful of classes since its founding, and graduates exit with five months worth of filmmaking knowledge. The goal is to empower Kibera’s residents with skills, rather than simply finances.
There are two scenes into Togetherness Supreme when the two protagonists take in speeches — once at a ODM rally, and once at a church. The speakers’ grandiose style and charitable aims entrance Kamau and Otieno; soon after leaving, however, the power of the speeches fades as the monolithic poverty of the slums exerts its toll. During these scenes, one is reminded of the speeches given in Kibera by politicians and philanthropists that promise and hope before being blown away on the breeze. Kamau’s route to respite comes not from speeches or promises, but from his own artistic skill. No doubt the Kibera Film School aims to be a catalyst for this, so long as Nairobi’s harshest borough avoids another election catastrophe. Come December togetherness will indeed be, more than ever, supreme
Editor’s note: Art Threat has launched a cultural archaeological project that involves digging up previously published but now inaccessible film reviews and cultural musings from Montreal-based writer and teacher Matthew Hays. We’re calling it The Hays Archives, and to get things rolling, we’re republishing a review Hays wrote of Bowling for Columbine when the documentary first shook up the cultural and political scene ten years ago. Each article will be prefaced with a short contemporary intro from Hays. Enjoy!
Saturday, March 9, 2013
There is no easy way to tell someone their about to get whacked
so why not call it " buckwheat's" hey, give it a name!
Sunday, March 3, 2013
When Quentin Tarantino burst onto the Hollywood scene with glowing reviews and accolades for his Sundance Film Festival award-winning RESERVOIR DOGS in 1992, he also created a sizable amount of detractors who claimed that he was ripping off the obscure Hong Kong thriller CITY ON FIRE. To his credit, though, Tarantino has never denied the importance and influence of Hong Kong film on his career, particularly his love for all the old Shaw Brothers classic kung fu films. And what better way to parlay his defiance of those who say what he already knows, than to blatantly and openly admit that his latest film KILL BILL is -- pure and simple -- an homage to Hong Kong's old kung fu cinema.
"Anyone who truly knows me, knows that I'm a major fan of all those old kung fu films," Tarantino admits, "especially many of the Shaw Brothers films. That's why it was important for me to try and film a particular sequence at the old Shaw Brothers' movie lot in Hong Kong. It's what I called the Bai Mei sequence at that temple that had all the stairs, before Wang Yu and Chen Kuan-tai in EXECUTIONER FROM SHAOLIN (1978) and Gordon Liu in CLAN OF THE WHITE LOTUS (1980) climbed up those stairs to fight Bai Mai, who was of course played by the penultimate villain actor Lo Lieh. In fact, I was hoping to get Lo to play Bai Mei in KILL BILL, but he was sick at the time and then of course later on I was saddened to hear that he passed away.
As part of the Quentin Tarantino filmography, From Dusk Till Dawn is one of the best. Written by and
The Selma Hayek Snake Dance to Tito and Tarantulas ' After Dark' is simply unmatched, and one of the most strangely erotic moments in cinema history.
even when she turns into a demon, you still kinda want her
...In her eyes, a distant fire light
burns bright, wondering why...
it's only after dark....
I might still have a chance will Selma, you never know.....
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Classic cast: The Breakfast Club was a big hit back in 1985 and the cast are now celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film's release. Pictured (back row) Judd Nelson; (middle row, l to r) Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez; and Molly Ringwald