Los Angeles Needs Its Own Wavelengths

I had begun writing about my viewing experience of TIFF’s Wavelengths section for Film Journey with the customary introduction and mini-history of the section and its crucial importance to the world’s largest film festival, followed by reviews/analyses of each of the key films in the program.

Then I looked at what I had written, and thought, “Nah. Scrap that.” It needed something else. I needed to consider this differently. Because I was looking at things differently. Part of this stems from my own work as a writer. Until recently, I’ve devoted my writing to cinema, which I’ve done consistently (and …

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The Underworld Story (1950)

The latest issue of Cineaste features an extended excerpt on 1950’s powerful The Sound of Fury (I wrote about the recent restoration here), part of a forthcoming biography on director Cy Endfield, whom author Brian Neve claims is the “least well known of the American filmmakers who came to Europe in the early Fifties to circumvent the Hollywood blacklist.” It’s mostly a historical overview of the production, but hopefully it will help convince some enterprising DVD/Blu-ray distributor to take notice.

Tomorrow, Angelenos can see Endfield’s other film from 1950, The Underworld Story, as part of the annual Noir

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Filmmaker Ira Sachs on LOVE IS STRANGE

Love is Strange is the fifth feature by the gifted New York independent filmmaker Ira Sachs. Like his previous film, the beautiful, emotionally muted Keep the Lights On, the movie was written in collaboration with Mauricio Zacharias, and it takes place in Manhattan.

The new work mediates on love and desire, with politics, money and real estate as complicating factors. Steeped in ritual, the movie opens with a wedding of long-time partners, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), who have been together for nearly four decades. Their marriage carries political and personal consequences after George loses his job, …

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Chris Marker’s LEVEL FIVE (1997)

Chris Marker’s brilliant and passionate but rarely seen (and never before US-distributed) multimedia docudrama reflects on the epic and decisive WWII Battle of Okinawa and its often suppressed historical relevance.  Catherine Belkholdja plays a French computer programmer researching the battle – including its 82-day siege and the loss of a third (roughly 100,000 people) of its island population – and documentary footage is mixed with her monologues as she simultaneously sorts through her feelings regarding a deceased lover.  Less a plot point than a metaphor, Belkholdia’s interactions with the computer (suggested by creative graphics courtesy of Marker’s beloved Macintosh) offer …

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Antonioni’s Red Desert at 50

Michelangelo Antonioni’s Il deserto rosso (Red Desert, 1964) corresponds closely in its themes and its form with the three major works that preceded it: L’Avventura (1960), La notte (1961), and L’Eclisse (1962). In these films, Antonioni addressed the alienating experience of modern, industrial, post-war European life. For his narratives, he privileged carefully constructed images over more conventional methods, such as explanatory dialogue. His muse, the great Italian actress Monica Vitti, starred in three of the films and had a crucial supporting role in another. All four have been, since the 1960s, central to the canon of post-war, experimental …

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Spray’s and Velez’s Ride to Nirvana

Possibly more than the previous feature and short work produced by Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, which includes the groundbreaking Sweetgrass and Leviathan, Manakamana (distributed by Cinema Guild, opening today at Laemmle’s Music Hall) marks a crucial intersection of the three of the most interesting developments in contemporary cinema.

Stephanie Spray’s and Pacho Velez’ 16mm film (blown up to 35mm) embraces the essence of “slow cinema,” in which tempo and rhythm are intentionally geared to andante and beyond. Just as “slow food” allows the senses and palate to take time to absorb and appreciate flavors and textures, the slow cinema …

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