Category Archives: Film

HAMILTON REVIEW – BROADWAY HIT IS NOW A BREATHTAKING SCREEN SENSATION ·

(Arifa Akbar’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/30; photo: The Guardian.)

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical is smart, witty, funky and leaves us reflecting on America’s past and future

Hamilton was hailed as revolutionary theatre in 2015, with its rapping 18th-century statesmen, its funky, feelgood hip-hop and a cast predominantly comprising actors of colour. It went on to conquer Broadway and West End audiences. How does that original Broadway staging fare on the flat screen, streamed by Disney+ in the midst of lockdown?

It spoke to the moment then, and it speaks to us now, say director Thomas Kail and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star, in their short, socially distanced preamble to this highly anticipated film of the show. “We are all thinking about what it means to be American,” they add. Even if these words are not in direct reference to the America of the past few weeks, with its upsurge of anti-racist protest, their story of the Caribbean-born immigrant hero and founding father of the US, Alexander Hamilton, speaks to us obliquely of all that remains neglected in America’s history while shifting the parameters at the same time.

Its rousing opening scenes remind us of that great American ideal of equality and speaks of slavery and civil rights in the 18th century. “I never thought I’d live past 20. Where I come from, some get half as many,” sings Hamilton at the start, and his words echo the dangerous fate that awaits so many of America’s black or immigrant underclass now, as debate around Black Lives Matter protests has highlighted.

Even more remarkably, it keeps all the power of a live performance while simultaneously adding a filmic pizzazz including some breathtaking aerial shots. There is extraordinary direction – again under Kail – so that the cameras capture the mise en scène of theatre without losing any of the closeup intimacy of film.

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MICHEL PICCOLI (1925-2020), STALWART OF FRENCH CINEMA WHOSE PROLIFIC CAREER INCLUDED FILMS WITH LUIS BUÑUEL, JEAN-LUC GODARD AND CLAUDE CHABROL ·

(Ronald Bergan’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/18; Photo: The Guardian; via Adam Sullivan)

For more than half a century, there seemed to be one constant in French cinema – the actor Michel Piccoli. With his death at the age of 94 something vital has disappeared from the screen.

Never young looking – he was prematurely bald – Piccoli grew in maturity and power over the years, with directors such as Luis Buñuel, Jean-Luc GodardClaude ChabrolMarco Ferreri and Claude Sautet seeking his services more than once. He also worked for directors of the stature of Alfred Hitchcock, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jacques Rivette, Costa-Gavras and Louis Malle.

Even when he was a big name, Piccoli was never too proud to play small supporting roles or even bit parts if he liked the screenplay. But whatever the size of the role, whether playing a goody or a baddie, Piccoli would bring to the character a gravitas (with a tinge of humour) and an ironic detachment, simultaneously revealing a real, recognisable human being beneath the surface.

Piccoli was born in Paris to a French mother and an Italian father, both of them musicians – his mother was a pianist; his father a violinist. At 19, he made his screen debut in a walk-on part in Sortilèges (1945), directed by Christian-Jaque.

After several roles in the cinema and theatre, he met Buñuel. “I wrote to this famous director asking him to come and see me in a play. Me, an obscure actor! It was the cheek of a young man. He came and we became friends.” Piccoli appeared in six of Buñuel’s films, usually cast as a silky, authoritarian figure.

His first performance for Buñuel was as a weak, compromised priest trekking through the Brazilian jungle in La Mort en Ce Jardin (Death in the Garden/Evil Eden, 1956). In Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), he was the idle and lecherous Monsieur Monteil, sexually obsessed with Jeanne Moreau as the maid Célestine.

Just as louche was his smooth bourgeois gentleman who persuades a respectable doctor’s wife (Catherine Deneuve) to spend her afternoons working in a high-class brothel with kinky clients in Belle de Jour (1967). Piccoli reprised the role charmingly almost 40 years later in Manoel de Oliveira’s Belle Toujours (2006).

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Khaled Nabawy writes: “What a sad day, Michel Piccoli dies, for the industry and the audience he is a great actor; for me, he is my greatest father ever on screen in The Immigrant!  Through you I learned early how a great human being can be. . . . RIP MY greatest father on screen.”  

CANCELLED: FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK ·

Dear Friends,

Of all of New York City’s traditions, our favorite is this: every summer, we gather under the stars at the magical Delacorte Theater for Free Shakespeare in the Park.  We come together as strangers, visitors and fellow New Yorkers, as audiences and artists, and we get a glimpse of what a unified city could look like.

But this year is different. This year, we must stand together in keeping our city and each other safe. This means our summer season of Free Shakespeare in the Park will not be possible, and we must cancel our planned productions of RICHARD II and Public Works’ AS YOU LIKE IT.  We must also suspend our remaining season of programs and events at our flagship home at Astor Place through August 31.

This is a time of immense shared loss, throughout our city and throughout the world. The Public will bear financial losses, reductions in our staffing, and most heartbreakingly, the loss of our ability to gather and share stories together.  

While our stages will remain dark, our commitment to our mission will burn brighter than ever. Our promise to you is that we will keep working tirelessly to bring you glorious work by our incredible artists. Our promise to you is that we will continue to find safe ways to connect with each other until we can be together again.  And our promise to you is that by standing side-by-side, we will find our way through this moment. In the meantime, please take care of yourselves and each other.

We thank you for being united with us. Together We Power The Public.

With gratitude,

 

Artistic Director … Oskar Eustis

Executive Director … Patrick Willingham

Visit the Public online

 

ROGER HENDRICKS SIMON WINS BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE FROM INTERNATIONAL INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS 2020 ·

ROGER HENDRICKS SIMON has just won the BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE award from INTERNATIONAL INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS 2020 for DANIEL KEITH’s multi award winning feature film LOVE IN KILNERRY.

https://www.loveinkilnerry.com

to see trailer and production photos, etc.

Mr. Simon next appears in Daniel Simon’s ANOTHER YEAR TOGETHER at the Greenwich Film Festival and in the soon to be released CUPID’S CUPCAKES. 

FILM ACADEMY MIGHT CHANGE OSCAR RULES DUE TO CORONAVIRUS ·

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 04: Oscar statue at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater on February 04, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

(Brandon Katz’s article appeared in the Observer, 3/20;  via Pam Green.)

We’re such Oscar fanatics that mere days after this year’s ceremony we began predicting the nominees and winners of the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards. But with major theater chains closing its doors for weeks on end due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear how the 2021 Oscars will proceed. Films both major and independent are cancelling or delaying their debuts left and right. To compete in the prestigious ceremony, a movie actually needs to be, you know, released.

In response to the Hollywood downturn, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is considering rule changes for qualification. Typically, a film must have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles theater to qualify for the Oscars. But with hordes of films being re-routed to video-on-demand and other at-home platforms, that may need to change temporarily.

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A FIRST LOOK AT STEVEN SPIELBERG’S WEST SIDE STORY ·

(Anthony Breznican’s article appeared in Vanity Fair, 3/16; photo: Vanity Fair; via the Drudge Report.)

The director talks about reimagining the musical that riveted him as a child.H 16, 2020

Steven Spielberg has been making West Side Story in his head for a very long time. As a boy in Phoenix in the late 1950s, he had only the soundtrack, and he tried to picture the action and dancing that might accompany it. “My mom was a classical pianist,” says the filmmaker. “Our entire home was festooned with classical musical albums, and I grew up surrounded by classical music. West Side Story was actually the first piece of popular music our family ever allowed into the home. I absconded with it—this was the cast album from the 1957 Broadway musical—and just fell completely in love with it as a kid. West Side Story has been that one haunting temptation that I have finally given in to.”

The film, out December 18, is both a romance and a crime story. It’s about dreams crashing into reality, young people singing about the promise of their lives ahead—then cutting each other down in bursts of violence. It’s about hope and desperation, pride and actual prejudice, and a star-crossed couple who find love amid it all on the streets of New York.

West Side Story became a global sensation when it hit Broadway in 1957, with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim that made generations swoon, snap, and gasp. The show was both dazzling and gritty, layering a Romeo and Juliet romance between Tony and Maria over a contemporary story of street gangs, racism, and violence in the shadows of rising skyscrapers. When director Robert Wise and choreographer Jerome Robbins adapted it into a film in 1961, West Side Story broke the box office record for musicals and dominated the Oscars, winning 10 awards, including best picture. Six decades later, the stage show has toured the world and been revived repeatedly. (A new production, directed by Ivo van Hove, opened on Broadway in February.) Of course, it’s also so commonly performed at high schools and community theaters that if you haven’t seen it, it’s probably because you were in it.

Threaded throughout the story is the question of who has the right to call a place home and why people who are struggling look for reasons to turn on each other. “This story is not only a product of its time, but that time has returned, and it’s returned with a kind of social fury,” Spielberg says. “I really wanted to tell that Puerto Rican, Nuyorican experience of basically the migration to this country and the struggle to make a living, and to have children, and to battle against the obstacles of xenophobia and racial prejudice.”

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MAX VON SYDOW, STAR OF ‘SEVENTH SEAL’ AND ‘EXORCIST,’ DIES AT 90 ·

(Robert Berkvist’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/9; photo: BFI.)

Widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, Mr. von Sydow formed a close relationship with the director Ingmar Bergman and became an elder pop culture star.

Max von Sydow, the tall, blond Swedish actor who cut a striking figure in American movies but was most identified with the signature work of a fellow Swede, the director Ingmar Bergman, has died on Sunday. He was 90.

His wife, Catherine von Sydow, confirmed the death in an emailed statement. No cause was given.

Widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, Mr. von Sydow became an elder pop culture star in his later years, appearing in a “Star Wars” movie in 2015 as well as in the sixth season of the HBO fantasy-adventure series “Game of Thrones.”He even lent his deep, rich voice to “The Simpsons.”

By then he had become a familiarly austere presence in popular movies like William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist,” Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” and, more recently, Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

But to film lovers the world over he was most enduringly associated with Bergman.

If ever an actor was born to inhabit the World According to Bergman, it was Mr. von Sydow. Angular and lanky at 6-foot-3, possessing a gaunt face and hooded, icy blue eyes, he not only radiated power but also registered a deep sense of Nordic angst, helping to give flesh to Bergman’s often bleak but hopeful and sometimes comic vision of the human condition in classics like “The Seventh Seal” and “The Virgin Spring.”

In “The Seventh Seal” (1958), Mr. von Sydow played Antonius Block, a strapping medieval knight who returns from the Crusades to his plague-ravaged homeland only to encounter the stern, ghostly pale, black-hooded figure of Death, played by Bengt Ekerot. To stave off the inevitable, Block challenges Death to a game of chess, and in the long intervals between moves he searches the countryside for some shred of human goodness.

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LIZA MINNELLI OPENS UP ABOUT MOM JUDY GARLAND, WORKING WITH FOSSE AND GOING TO REHAB ·

(Marc Malkin’s article appeared in Variety, 2/4.)

Liza Minnelli is getting ready to be photographed for the cover of Variety. She’s wearing an off-the-shoulder black beaded shirtdress and perched on a director’s chair. As she adjusts herself, trying to find the right position to extend her bare legs, she screeches, “I’m getting f—ed by a chair!”

As if on cue, the room goes silent. But before anyone can blink, Minnelli’s distinctive throaty cackle bounces off the walls. It’s the permission everyone in the room needs to howl at what they can’t believe they just heard.

At 73, Minnelli is still the consummate entertainer, taking an awkward moment and turning it into a bawdy joke about getting intimate with a piece of furniture.

Minnelli isn’t a Hollywood icon — she’s a show business legend. Over the course of her career, she’s won four Tonys, two Grammys, an Emmy and an Oscar. But even before she danced her first step, sang a single note or memorized a line of script, she was famous.

“I was born and they took a picture,” Minnelli says.

That’s what happens when your mom is Judy Garland and your dad is Vincente Minnelli.

A few days before the shoot, Liza is settling in for a rare interview. She’s sitting on the couch in the living room of her modest Los Angeles-area apartment. The room is cozy, with a grand piano squeezed into the corner. Her Oscar for “Cabaret” sits on a low table alongside a copy of a 1972 Time magazine with Minnelli on the cover. On a table next to the couch are her Tonys, while a collection of additional awards crowd a sideboard near the entryway.

Hanging on one wall are reproductions of iconic Warhol paintings of Minnelli and her parents. The unending fascination with Garland continued last year with the release of “Judy.” Renée Zellweger is the favorite to win the Oscar for her transformation into Garland during the last months of her life. Minnelli has no interest in seeing the film. All she will say right now is “I hope [Zellweger] had a good time making it.”

Minnelli is wearing her signature black turtleneck and leggings, a look that originated out of comfort rather than fashion. “It’s what I’d wear to dance class because it was easy,” she explains.

She is a dancer at heart. She insists that’s all she ever wanted to be, but she was raised on movie sets and in concert halls. Singing and acting were inevitable. In fact, a one-sentence report in Variety on May 7, 1947, reads, “Liza Minnelli, 14-month-old daughter of Judy Garland, makes her acting bow in Metro’s ‘The Pirate,’ which her father is directing.” The headline: “In Ma’s Footsteps.”

When she was 19, Minnelli became the youngest person to win the leading actress in a musical Tony for her turn in the 1965 Kander and Ebb musical “Flora the Red Menace.” Four years later, she received her first Oscar nomination for her performance in the romantic comedy “The Sterile Cuckoo.”

Then came “Cabaret” in 1972. The Bob Fosse-directed big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name earned eight Oscars, including one for Minnelli’s work as American expat Sally Bowles in 1930s Berlin during the rise of Nazism.

Joel Grey, Minnelli’s “Cabaret” co-star, who took home an Oscar for his role as the Master of Ceremonies, first met her through Hal Prince when she made her nightclub debut at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles. “She was this fresh, bursting, bright-eyed talent,” Grey remembers. “You could see that connection to her mother and father. You just knew that she was somebody that was going to happen. She was so tender and frail and fragile and strong at the same time.”

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