Category Archives: Film

ITALY’S ‘GENIUS’ FILM DIRECTOR FRANCO ZEFFIRELLI DIES ·

(Frank Iovene’s article appeared on AFP, 6/15.)

Rome (AFP) – The world of cinema was in mourning Saturday after Italian film and opera legend Franco Zeffirelli, feted for his lavish productions, died at home in Rome aged 96.

The Oscar-nominated director of movies and operas “died serenely after a long illness, which had worsened these last months,” Italian media said, citing family members.

“I never wanted this day to come. Franco Zeffirelli departed this morning. One of the greatest men in the world of culture. We join in the grief of his loved ones. Goodbye, dear Master, Florence will never forget you,” tweeted Dario Nardella, mayor of the Tuscan city where ZeffirelliZeffirelli was born.

“Deep emotion over the death of the master Franco Zeffirelli,” tweeted Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte after Zeffirelli died in the presence of adopted sons Pippo and Luciano along with a doctor and a priest.

Afflicted by pneumonia for some time, Zeffirelli received the last rites last week, media reports said.

He was, Conte said, “an Italian ambassador of cinema, of art, of beauty. A great film maker, scriptwriter, scenographer. A great man of culture.”

(Read more)

Photo: BBC

QUENTIN TARANTINO: HOW SPAGHETTI WESTERNS SHAPED MODERN CINEMA ·

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(Tarantino’s article appeared in the Spectator, 3/30.)

The movie that made me consider filmmaking, the movie that showed me how a director does what he does, how a director can control a movie through his camera, is Once Upon a Time in the West. It was almost like a film school in a movie. It really illustrated how to make an impact as a filmmaker. How to give your work a signature. I found myself completely fascinated, thinking: ‘That’s how you do it.’ It ended up creating an aesthetic in my mind.

There have only been a few filmmakers who have gone into an old genre and created a new universe out of it. I really like the idea of creating something new out of an old genre. To some degree, Jean-Pierre Melville did it with the French gangster films. But those Italian guys — Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, Duccio Tessari and Franco Giraldi — did it best. They mostly started off as critics and worked their way up to screenwriters. And then they became the second unit guys, the guys that deliver the action. You have to go to the French New Wave to find a group of men who loved cinema as much as they did — except Leone and the others had a thriving film industry they could work their way into.

Leone’s movies weren’t just influenced by style. There was also a realism to them: those shitty Mexican towns, the little shacks — a bit bigger to accommodate the camera — all the plates they put the beans on, the big wooden spoons. The films were so realistic, which had always seemed to be missing in the westerns of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, in the brutality and the different shades of grey and black. Leone found an even darker black and off-white. There is realism in his presentation of the Civil War in The Good, the Bad and the Uglythat was missing from all the Civil War movies that happened before him. Wild and grandiose as it was, there was never a sentimental streak. Every once in a while he would do a sentimental thing like when the Man with No Name would hand a smoke to a dying soldier in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but that’s just about as close to sentimentality as he got.

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BIBI ANDERSSON, SWEDISH ACTRESS AND MUSE OF INGMAR BERGMAN, DIES AT 83 ·

(Harrison Smith’s article appeared in the Washington Post, 4/14.)

Bibi Andersson, a Swedish actress whose portrayals of chaste schoolgirls, beguiling young women and tortured wives made her a muse and frequent collaborator of filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, most notably in “The Seventh Seal,” “Wild Strawberries” and “Persona,” died April 14 in Stockholm. She was 83.

Her death was confirmed by Jan Goransson, head of media at the Swedish Film Institute, who said she had been receiving medical treatment since suffering a stroke in 2009. Additional details were not immediately available.

Easily recognizable by her short blonde hair, button nose, slim figure and wide smile, Ms. Andersson appeared in more than 100 film and television productions through the years, often playing luminous characters whose warm demeanor masked past traumas or intense self-doubt.

Although she starred in Hollywood movies such as “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” in the 1970s, working with American directors such as John Huston (“The Kremlin Letter”) and Robert Altman (“Quintet”), she never attained the spectacular success she found in Sweden, where Goransson called her “one of the greatest stars we ever had.”

(Read more)

 

INGMAR BERGMAN, NOVELIST ·

(Daniel Mendelsohn’s article appeared in the New York Review of Books, 4/18.)

The Best Intentions

by Ingmar Bergman, translated from the Swedish by Joan Tate

Arcade, 298 pp., $16.99 (paper)

Sunday’s Children

by Ingmar Bergman, translated from the Swedish by Joan Tate

Arcade, 153 pp., $14.95 (paper)

Private Confessions

by Ingmar Bergman, translated from the Swedish by Joan Tate

Arcade, 160 pp., $16.99 (paper)

Toward the beginning of Ingmar Bergman’s autobiographical film Fanny and Alexander, a beautiful young boy wanders into a beautiful room. The room is located in a rambling Uppsala apartment belonging to the boy’s widowed grandmother, Helena Ekdahl, once a famous actress and now the matriarch of a spirited and noisy theater family. As the camera follows the boy, Alexander, we note the elaborate fin-de-siècle decor, the draperies with their elaborate swags, the rich upholstery and carpets, the pictures crowding the walls, all imbued with the warm colors that, throughout the first part of the film, symbolize the Ekdahls’ warm (when not overheated) emotional lives. Later, after the death of Alexander’s kind-hearted father, Oscar, who is the lead actor of the family troupe, his widow rather inexplicably marries a stern bishop into whose bleak residence she and her children must move. At this point, the film’s visual palette will be leached of color and life; everything will be gray, black, coldly white.

But for now, vivacity and sensuality and even fantasy reign. On a mantelpiece, an elaborate gilt clock ticks, its golden cherubs preparing their mechanized dance. Nearby, a life-sized white marble statue of a nude woman catches the boy’s eye. When he blinks, she seems, Galatea-like, to come to life, one arm moving as if to beckon him to pleasures he has not yet even imagined; he blinks again, and the statue is just a statue once more. At that moment a violent rattling wakes him from his reverie: the maid is pouring coal into a stove.

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HIGH SCHOOL ‘ALIEN’ PRODUCTION WINS INTERNET RAVES ·

(Dave Itzkoff’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/25.)

There are those perennial stage works that are perfectly suited to be performed in high schools across the country every year: say, “Our Town,” “The Crucible,” “Annie” or “The Wizard of Oz.”

And now, to this canon, you might add “Alien.”

A New Jersey high school has found itself the unexpected recipient of online acclaim and viral attention for its recent stage production of “Alien,” the 1979 science-fiction thriller.

“Alien: The Play,” presented last weekend by the drama club of North Bergen High School, starred a cast of eight students in the film roles originally played by Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt and Ian Holm.

Whereas the movie had a budget in the range of about $10 million, “Alien: The Play” had costumes, props and set designs made mostly from donated and recycled materials.

(Read more)

Photo: Daily Mail

 

RUSSIA’S ANNA KARENINA MUSICAL TO BE SHOWN IN U.S. AND UK CINEMAS ·

(Alexandra Guzeva’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 3 /4.)

People living in America and the UK will be able to watch Russia’s best-selling musical, Anna Karenina, staged by Moscow’s Operetta Theater. The performance will be shown throughout this month (in Russian with English subtitles).

The musical premiered in 2016 and its producer Alexei Bolonin spent much of the noughties staging licensed Western musicals on Russian soil including Metro, Notre Dame de Paris, and Romeo & Juliette.

“Tolstoy’s novel like no other is suited for a musical because it has all the necessary ingredients, most importantly, a love story,” Bolonin said.

Turning the famous Russian writer’s masterpiece into a musical was a little risky because addressing the book’s philosophical themes on stage is no easy task. However, it includes many direct quotes from the novel and all the important moments are reflected in the lyrics.

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ALBERT FINNEY, LEGENDARY STAR OF TOM JONES AND MILLER’S CROSSING, DIES AGED 82 ·

(Andrew Pulver’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/8; via Pam Green.)

Albert Finney, who forged his reputation as one of the leading actors of Britain’s early 60s new wave cinema, has died aged 82 after a short illness, his family have announced. In 2011, he disclosed he had kidney cancer.

Albert Finney: the most almighty physical screen presence

A publicist told the Guardian that Finney died on Thursday of a chest infection at the Royal Marsden hospital, which specialises in cancer treatment, just outside London. His wife, Pene, and son, Simon, were by his side.

Having shot to fame as the star of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Finney received five Oscar nominations, but never won, and refused a knighthood.

Speaking to the Guardian, Daniel Craig – who starred in Skyfall, Finney’s final film, in which he played a gamekeeper from James Bond’s childhood – said:

“I’m deeply saddened by the news of Albert Finney’s passing. The world has lost a giant. Wherever Albert is now, I hope there are horses and good company.”

The director of that film, Sam Mendes, added: “It is desperately sad news that Albert Finney has gone. He really was one of the greats – a brilliant, beautiful, big-hearted, life loving delight of a man. He will be terribly missed.”

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Photo: Mumby at the Movies

REVIEW: ‘SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN,’ A MISUNDERSTOOD ARTIST ·

(Glenn Kenny’s article appeared in The New York Times, 11/1.)

This year marks the centennial of Ingmar Bergman’s birth. The Swedish playwright, theater director and filmmaker, who died in 2007, remains one of the most praised and, to a certain extent, most misunderstood 20th-century artists. The praise stems from his cinematic mastery and treatment of profound themes; the misunderstanding, from the conventional wisdom that because Bergman treated profound themes, his work must be a slog.

But Bergman was a gripping storyteller. You could even call him an entertainer. The German director Margarethe Von Trotta makes that clear in the opening of her new documentary, “Searching for Ingmar Bergman,” in which she breaks down the opening scene of Bergman’s 1957 classic “The Seventh Seal.” This picture, she says, both engrossed her as a viewer and made her want to be a filmmaker. Her analysis reveals the formal elements that make the oft-parodied “Seal” so potent.

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Photo: The New York Times

 

 

4 RUSSIAN THEATER PERFORMANCES TO SEE IN U.S. AND UK CINEMAS THIS SEASON ·

(Alexandra Guzeva’s article appeared in Russia Beyond 9/14.)

The Stage Russia project continues to bring classic novels by leading theaters to big screens worldwide, all with English subtitles.

Don’t have the chance to visit Russia but you’re interested in the country’s rich theater tradition? Did you know that you can watch Russian theater productions in a cinema near you? Since 2016 Stage Russia HD has been bringing the best performances from leading Russian stages to cinemas worldwide.

The next season will soon open with a Shakespeare production, and will bring an experimental musical to a Tolstoy novel.

“These are timeless works that lend themselves to many reinventions,” said Eddie Aronoff, Stage Russia HD founder. “Similar to NT Live and the Metropolitan Opera HD, which have presented a variety of versions of classic titles (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, La Traviata, La Boheme, among others), we feel it’s entirely relevant to offer access to the full breadth of Russian theater in all its incarnations.”

  1. King Lear

In staging Shakespeare, director Yuri Butusov tries not to simplify the bard’s deep meanings. This is a metaphorical story about the collapse of a family, the collapse of a country, and the collapse of an individual and how they all are connected to each other.

The Satirikon Theater’s production features great actors and its artistic director, Konstantin Raikin, as King Lear. This role earned him Russia’s main national theater prize, the Golden Mask, for best male role. Maryana Spivak, a star of Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless” is playing Cordelia.

In cinemas from Sept. 20; find the nearest to you on the website www.stagerussia.com

(Read more)

Photo: Viktor Dmitriev

MARIA IRENE FORNES AT MOMA: MICHELLE MEMRAN’S ‘THE REST I MAKE UP’ ·

(via Robin Goldfin)

MICHELLE MEMRAN’S ‘THE REST I MAKE UP’

Through August 29

The Museum of Modern Art

 https://www.moma.org/calendar/film/4994?locale=en

Visit: TherestImakeup.com

Maria Irene Fornes is one of America’s greatest playwrights and most influential teachers, but many only know her as the ex-lover of writer and social critic Susan Sontag. The visionary Cuban-American dramatist constructed astonishing worlds onstage and taught countless students how to connect with their imaginations. When she gradually stops writing due to dementia, an unexpected friendship with filmmaker Michelle Memran reignites her spontaneous creative spirit and triggers a decade-long collaboration that picks up where the pen left off.

The duo travels from New York to Havana, Miami to Seattle, exploring the playwright’s remembered past and their shared present. Theater luminaries such as Edward Albee, Ellen Stewart, Lanford Wilson, and others weigh in on Fornes’s important contributions. What began as an accidental collaboration becomes a story of love, creativity, and connection that persists even in the face of forgetting.

Organized by Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film.

Photo: TherestImakeup.com