What Tyler Perry and Bill Cosby Have in Common: On the Occasion of "I Can Do Bad All By Myself"
September 14, 2009
At a Christmas party in 2004, a cousin asked me "Do you like Medea?" For a minute I was a confused, since it didn’t seem to be the occasion for sharing our impressions of Greek mythology. But it turned out she was talking about Madea, the massive, loudmouthed, pistol-packing black grandmother who Tyler Perry performs as in drag in a series of "chitlin' circuit" touring shows. Perry sells DVDs of the shows on line, and ten minutes after my cousin put one on I was hooked. I’m not alone. Madea was the biggest new phenom in black America until Obamamania.
From the Inside of a Tank: Israeli Film Wins Venice Grand Prize. The Film that Haughty Jane Fonda Wants No One To See
September 12, 2009
The Venice Film Festival is the oldest celluloid gala in the world. Not as vaunted and haunted by the publicity machines but intellectually more serious than Cannes. The Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica di Venezia, a most prestigious element of the Venice Biennale, bestowed its Golden Lion award, its top honor, on an Israeli film called Lebanon. It is a relentlessly honest film about war itself but also specifically about Israel's first real war in Lebanon.
Death and Dailiness
September 05, 2009
The Baader Meinhof Complex Vitagraph Films Still Walking IFC Films From Germany comes a film about German terrorists. Fittingly stark and dynamic, it focuses on the Baader Meinhof group that flamed from about 1967 to 1977, and it offers its explanation of the group’s existence.
Films Worth Seeing (9/4/09)
September 04, 2009
The Baader Meinhof Complex. A dynamic and fascinating account of the German terrorists of the 1970s. We enter the graphic story with the leaders, understanding their anger with the post-Nazi moral torpor.
August 15, 2009
Quiet Chaos -- IFC Films The Girl From Monaco -- Magnolia Pictures Nanni Moretti, treasured in Europe, is scarcely known in the United States. This schism usually happens with film people whose work is strapped culturally to one country, but Moretti's writing and directing and acting are not only celebrated in Italy, they have prospered elsewhere. Not here, however, though his strongest concern is human commonality. Sometimes, in a career that began in 1973, he has appeared in films directed by others. This is true of his latest, Quiet Chaos.
August 12, 2009
QUIET CHAOS IFC FILMS THE GIRL FROM MONACO MAGNOLIA PICTURES Nanni Moretti, treasured in Europe, is scarcely known in the United States. This schism usually happens with film people whose work is strapped culturally to one country, but Moretti's writing and directing and acting are not only celebrated in Italy, they have prospered elsewhere. Not here, however, though his strongest concern is human commonality. Sometimes, in a career that began in 1973, he has appeared in films directed by others. This is true of his latest, Quiet Chaos.
July 15, 2009
The Beaches of Agnes--Cinema Guild The Windmill Movie--The Film Desk Human Rights Watch International Film Festival Naturally enough, the New Wave is rolling back. The tide of new French talent that flooded world screens just before and after 1960--bringing Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, Rivette, Resnais, and Chabrol, among others--has been ebbing for some time. Movingly aware of this, Agnes Varda, one of the earliest if not one of the most eminent members of the group, has looked back at her life in a film. The Beaches of Agnes is autobiography as festival.
One and Many
July 01, 2009
Seraphine--Music Box Films 24 City--Cinema Guild Seraphine de Senlis (1864-1942) was a servant and a painter. She worked as a housemaid, a laundress, a butcher's helper, anything she could find. She also painted, in her room at night. Some of her work now hangs in museums. The French director Martin Provost has made a film about her, called Seraphine, which he wrote with Marc Abdelnour. Laurent Brunet is at the camera, and Yolande Moreau is in the title role. Of course the prevailing sensibility was Provost's, but the gifts of all these people have created a film that holds and enfolds.
Films Worth Seeing
June 26, 2009
The Beaches of Agnes. Beaches have been especially dear in the life of Agnes Varda, one of the surviving members of the French New Wave. With beaches as base, she creates an autobiography of film clips, interviews, and diversions that is fascinating, lively, and frequently moving. (Reviewed 7/15/09) Seraphine. A gem. The true story of Seraphine Louis, a French town drudge who was secretly a painter and whose work now hangs in museums. Martin Provost has written and directed with love and comprehension. Yolande Moreau plays Seraphine as if we were privileged to look in on the woman’s life.
June 17, 2009
Summer Hours -- IFC FilmsBurma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country -- OscilloscopeThe French writer-director Olivier Assayas, experienced and versatile, is now defiant. He certainly knows that one of the most frequently recurrent film themes is social change. Still, he bravely engages this familiar theme in his new film, Summer Hours. Well, we can be glad that he did. It was said of Arturo Toscanini that when he conducted a familiar piece--say, Beethoven's Fifth--he made it a world premiere.