Keanu Reeves, about to make his directorial debut with a China-set action movie, makes an engaging interlocutor in “Side By Side,” Chris Kenneally’s clear, brisk conversation of a documentary about the repercussions of the abrupt accomplishment of the handover from 35mm film as what we’ve known as “movies” for over a century to multiple permutations of digital production, distribution and exhibition. (Distributor Tribeca Film also has at least thirty short outtakes from the on-screen interviews at their YouTube channel; one with Lars von Trier in his office is below. It’s a genial mix, and a list of names alone suggests the quality of the exchanges: Steven Soderbergh, James Cameron, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, Richard Linklater, Christopher Nolan, Wally Pfister, David Fincher, Greta Gerwig, Robert Rodriguez, cinematographers Vilmos Zsigmond, Michael Chapman, Vittorio Storaro, Michael Ballhaus and Anthony Dod Mantle, editorial eminence Walter Murch, Danny Boyle, Dick Pope and “Lawrence of Arabia” editor Anne V. Coates, and, wouldn’t you know, George Lucas. Postures, postulations and occasional apercus follow. Read the rest of this entry »
Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks’ globe-girdling Canadian documentary, based on Ronald Wright’s bestseller “A Short History of Progress,” asks, is the earth at the end of “a failed experiment”? Galvanic and bristling, it sleekly surveys factors threatening life itself on earth, including, but not limited to, centuries of industrial development, elevated levels of consumption, overpopulation, largely unstemmed pollution and global warming. Shooting in New York, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Shanghai, Beijing, Brasilia, Sao Paolo, DC and Dubai, “Surviving Progress” arrays smart people to offer a startling array of pessimistic analyses. Read the rest of this entry »
“Hugo” is Martin Scorsese’s most personal film, a pop-up picture book of a metaphor for his own childhood. He, as a boy, small, asthmatic, watched from a Little Italy window the goings-on on the street below, captivated by the narrative that he could construct in his mind but never fully participate in, swept away by the power of movies that his father took him to. Here, his protagonist Hugo Cabret is an orphan who tends the clocks of a vast train station in 1931 Paris, peering through window and frame and trapdoor and crevasse down onto the teeming to-and-fro of passengers and merchants, a human comedy he can only witness with wide eyes. Read the rest of this entry »
“World On A Wire,” (Welt am Draht) the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1973 science-fiction epic about virtual reality, made for German television, has been restored from its 16mm Ektachrome origins and into 35mm visual splendor. Among other things, it’s a gorgeous, strange time capsule of futurism past, with dollops of Philip K. Dick, intriguingly prescient musings on alternate realities, and many other recognizable Fassbinder themes and players brought at long last to light. Read the rest of this entry »
“RIP: ‘Margaret’ 2003-2011.” A curtailed potential masterpiece: six years of legal wrangling over running time have kept Kenneth Lonergan’s drenching study of a seventeen-year-old New Yorker’s inner life in the years immediately after 9/11 from being seen. Lonergan’s follow-up to 2001′s “You Can Count On Me” is a straightforward yet lovingly structured examination of heated, sometimes-hysterical post-9/11 emotions, written in 2003, shot in 2005, locked and copyrighted in 2008, litigated unto now—perhaps at the crest of a five-year business write-off cycle?—and released in an inexcusably truncated form. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
Fran Lebowitz has been around the block.
The writer’s block, famously. Still not yet the most constipated of talented Manhattan-centric writers—that dubious honor falls to Joseph Mitchell, the brilliant miniaturist who remained on staff at the New Yorker, doing daily rounds, taking notes, making genial small talk, years after he’d stopped producing—Lebowitz prides herself on her daily circuit of walking the island. She procrastinates, perambulates, percolates. And smokes. And coughs. And hacks. Her anecdotes are riddled with semi-colons, apostrophe, appositives, backstrokes, attenuated clauses. (Scorsese catches her in one story about attending a Nobel Prize dinner that turns into implausible nonsense; her grin grows as she works to extricate herself.) Lebowitz’s reputation rests largely on two tiny volumes, “Metropolitan Life” and “Social Studies,” sardonic, cynical collections of model-slim bursts of attitude. In “Public Speaking,” a worthy, quotable quickie from Martin Scorsese, she gargles her laugh that it’s something else, it’s “writer’s blockade… Very much like the Vietnam War. Didn’t know how I got into it, don’t know how to get out of it.” Read the rest of this entry »
English actor Freddie Highmore from “Finding Neverland” (2004) and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005) here plays George, a Manhattan teen on the verge of expulsion from Morgan Preparatory School. He draws all over his textbooks, reads unassigned Albert Camus and lays in bed listening to Leonard Cohen when feeling low. Writer-director- New Yorker Gavin Wiesen lends knowing, unshowy touches to his debut feature. This coming-of-ager dodges a dozen or so clichés in relating George’s dealings with his teachers, principal and step-dad. Classmate Sally (Emma Roberts) is his new pal and potentially more. Complicating things is a Brooklyn painter and recent Morgan alum who becomes George’s mentor and Sally’s lover. (Part of this setup recalls Martin Scorsese’s 1989 short “Life Lessons,” from “New York Stories.”) Highmore holds every scene by underplaying his irresistible vulnerability. Clearest sign this teen-centered film is not really made with teens in mind, or at least not the ones usually targeted at multiplexes: the way Wiesen handles a twelfth-grader’s virginity. With Rita Wilson, Blair Underwood, Michael Angarano, Sasha Spielberg, Marcus Carl Franklin, Sam Robards, Maya Ri Sanchez, Ann Dowd. 84m. (Bill Stamets)
A glistening landmark of the down-at-hell past of an only-just-gentrifucked patch of Manhattan, Lionel Rogosin’s 1957 “On The Bowery” is an outright masterpiece of urban ethnography and observant compassion. “A milestone in American cinema” is what Martin Scorsese has said of its evocation of a lost time, a lost place. Scorsese’s Little Italy childhood unspooled around the corner: he walked these mean streets. (Cassavetes also got it.) It’s almost heart-stoppingly great, the ever-independent Rogosin’s mix of staged scenes with faces the filmmakers found and straightforward cinéma vérité (largely tripod-bound) never less than thrilling as it courses the streets and bars and flops of this fabled stretch of New York, shadowed by the now-demolished Third Avenue El. (If only the first Mayor Daley hadn’t suppressed filmmaking in Chicago for decades.) It’s like opening a door and walking into another state of mind, another moment as real as the one outside your door right now. Never picturesque, never condescending, it’s a dream of what the best movies can, ought, must be. (It has the black-and-white beauty of the best of Weegee’s work without his recurrent sarcasm.) The restoration was done by Cineteca del Comune di Bologna, drawn from the original negatives at New York’s Anthology Film Archives, only a hop, skip and a jump from the locations on screen. The indispensable Milestone Films distributes. (Milestone was instrumental in the recent rediscovery of Kent Mackenzie’s 1956 “The Exiles,” which captured Los Angeles’ lost Bunker Hill skid row with similar skill.) 66m. (Ray Pride)
“On The Bowery” plays Friday-Tuesday and Thursday at Siskel.
(Il gattopardo) One of Luchino Visconti’s many masterpieces, “The Leopard” (1963) was restored only a few years ago to its three-hour-plus original Italian-language release version, and it’s the kind of movie that deserves to be seen in luminous big-screen glory. This release is of a new 35mm print, restored under the guidance of Martin Scorsese and cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno. Scorsese is characteristically understated: “One of the greatest visual experiences in cinema.” ”The Leopard,” a magnificent epic about the mid-nineteenth-century decline of the Italian aristocracy as nationalism began to rear its head moves with magisterial grace. It also boasts one of Burt Lancaster’s greatest performances—aware, sardonic, bittersweet—as the patriarch who knows it’s all going away. (Plus his exclamation, “Marriage! A year of fire and forty years of ashes!) Italian-American directors such as Coppola, Scorsese and Cimino drank deep at the fount of “The Leopard” (as well as another of his great movies, “Rocco and His Brothers”)—note the stateliness of passages of “The Godfather,” the dance scenes in “Heaven’s Gate”; the battle scenes that open “The Leopard” and “Gangs of New York,” for instance. But the climactic ball scene, forty-five minutes of painstaking detail, is the aristocrat Visconti’s great masterstroke: we know the characters, the stakes, the future, and each movement of the dance tells us more about mortality than most of us dare face. With Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale, who has one of the great entrance scenes of all cinema. Rotunno, in opulent interiors, or gorgeous, cruel landscapes, works marvels with light. 185m. (Ray Pride)
“The Leopard” plays Friday-Monday and Wednesday at Siskel.