Martin Provost‘s Seraphine, a fictionalized story of painter Seraphine de Senlis that no one talked about during the Toronto Film Festival (certainly not in my circle), has won seven Cesar awards. The ceremony ended in Paris two or three hours ago. It won best picture, best original screenplay (Martin Provost), best actress (Yolande Moreau), best cinematography (Laurent Brunet), best costume design (Madeline Fontaine), best original score (Michael Galasso), and best set design (Thierry Francois).
The Independent‘s Sheila Johnson observes that the femme fatale has all but disappeared from screens. The last time there was a crop of such roles was in ’80s and ’90s films like Body Heat, Blood Simple, Basic Instinct, The Last Seduction, etc. I think the lack of femme fatales is a result of men’s maturing attitudes about women, since the original femme fatales of 1940s film noir were misogynist fantasies rooted in male loathing of women due to envy of their tremendous power.
“Personality Disorder and the Femme Fatale,” an essay by Scott Snyder, states in its summary that “the type of character pathology personified in the femme fatale may be viewed as representative of certain misogynistic conceptualizations of the women of [the late ’40s and ’50s]. Concurrently, these screen women may have helped to create a certain cultural image for some real-life women of the 1940s and 1950s as reflected in the areas of fashion and style, personality, and social status.”
2.27, 4:45 pm.
8th and 44th. 2.26, 7:15 pm.
Parking it at Friend of a Farmer, a comfortable, agreeably homey two-story restaurant on Irving Place that has been in operation for some 23 years. Serves first-rate comfort food. 2.27, 9:25 pm. [Photo by Svetlana Cvetko.]
A Blu-ray Three Days of the Condor will be out on Tuesday, May 19th. In honor of Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford, David Rayfiel, that pretty Asian lady who was machine-gunned to death and Max Von Sydow, I’ve already bought it in my head. But with so many visual knockout films that were shot on big formats not yet announced as Blu-ray releases, why are visually so-so titles like Condor being chosen and not, say, To Catch a Thief, which was shot by Robert Burks in VistaVision and looks phenomenal even off a standard DVD (i.e., when played on a Blu-ray player and shown on a big plasma screen)?
I’m trying to think of a precedent in which a sexually-oriented relationship dramedy not only costars but has been produced by the wife of a big-city mayor who’s also regarded as a comer on the national scene. The film is The Trouble With Romance, which opened yesterday at Manhattan’s Quad Cinema, and the producer-costar is Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom.
The trailer tells us Mrs. Newsom plays a scene in champagne-colored underwear, and that it apparently has to do with her being the recipient of…well, watch the trailer. Hey, it’s okay with me. It just struck me as a bit unusual given that she’s the wife of a sitting big-city mayor, and …whatever, conventional expectations of modesty and decorum and all that.
In her N.Y. Times review that went up yesterday, Jeannette Catsoulis called The Trouble With Romance an “airless, fragmented feature [that’s] visually stagnant and tonally bewildered.” She didn’t comment on Newsom’s performance.
Sample: “‘There are more musicals coming,’ Wells says, but he frets that remakes are the rage rather than originals. ‘A movie has to come from the fiber and the spirit and time that it’s made,’ he says, noting that you can’t just inject ‘iPods and Barack Obama’ into the Dwight D. Eisenhower-era Damn Yankees.”
It’s fairly common for actors to express thanks to journalists who’ve said kind and supportive things about their work. It’s probably been happening since the days of Aeschylus and Euripides. How is their gratitude usually conveyed? At Oscar-season parties, mostly. Or an actor’s publicist will pass along a “much appreciated” in an e-mail. But in this day and age with everyone texting and twittering and never stopping to take a breath, it’s just about unheard of for an actor (and especially a very young actor) to mail a personal note. Is sharing this a breach of trust? All I know is that I was moved, and I want to say thanks back in a just-as-open-hearted way. This lady is all about class.
I just bought my ticket to see Watchmen: The IMAX Experience at the 3.6 10 ayem show at the Lincoln Plaza. I tried to buy one for the Thursday midnight show but it was sold out. I won’t be able to see it before then because I’m still on the Warner Bros. shit list. I was led to think a couple of months ago that I might be reprieved, but no dice.
AP writer Lynn Elber‘s 2.27 interview with At The Movies‘ Ben Lyons and Ben Machieweicz was neither here nor there. The guys sat down because they wanted to counter-spin the negativity, but Elber didn’t hammer them or get any live-wire quotes. The best thing that came out of it was Erik Childress‘s mock poster that accompanied his riff on the piece.
“There’s one genre of filmmaking in which the ‘they-would-have-gotten-rid-of-the-grain-if-they-could’ line holds a great deal of water,” Some Came Running‘s Glenn Kenny wrote yesterday, “and that’s animation. Disney works with Lowry Digital on (thus far) all the restorations of its classic animation titles, and the digital work goes beyond erasing scratches and smudges. It extends well into the issue of the grain that was produced when the actual animation cels were photographed.
“It aims to give a representation of what the artwork would have looked like had the intermediaries of the camera lens and the film stock never, shall we say, interfered.
“The first high-definition demonstration of this wizardry was with 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, released on Blu-ray last fall, a staggeringly beautiful disc. In a week and a half, DIsney unveils a 70th-Anniversary edition of Pinocchio on Blu-ray, and in a way, it’s even more of a stunner.
“Okay, the actual 70th anniversary of this 1940 title is a year away, but let’s not quibble. For borderline boomers such as myself, Pinocchio never played as an ‘old’ movie when we saw it, or bits of it, on the color version of The Wonderful World of Disney on our households’ first color televisions in the early ’60s. But to look at this version is to look at something not just not old, but brand new.
“The colors, the detail, the almost preternatural absence of smudges, scratches, and whatnot…this does, I think, inarguably, honor the intentions and the labors of the filmmakers in a way that even they themselves could not have envisioned.” Yes!
DVD Beaver capture of Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray.
Sandstorm-strength grain is a technological blight that classic-era filmmakers had no choice but to work with as best they could. Bring the great directors back to life — Wilder, Lubitsch, Fleming, Capra, Hawks, Ford, Griffith, Keaton, Hitchcock — and they would all say, “Yes, naturally, obviously, of course…ask Lowry Digital‘s John Lowry to do what he can to tastefully take down the grain levels in our films! Because we want our films to be seen, and we never liked that damn grain gravel to begin with.”
Take no notice of the present-day monks who say that grain is beautiful, vital, essential. It is a visual hindrance to be fought tooth and nail down to the last dying breath. Because if they have their way the grain monks, who care only about the perpetration of their own dweeby world in the Abbey of St. Martin in rural France, will strongly discourage today’s younger generations of film lovers (as well as generations to come) from even thinking about watching the great classics.
I suspect that younger film lovers are as averse to Arabian grainstorm images as I’ve been all my life to silent films. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m always putting off watching this or that great silent classic on DVD because of a lifelong impatience with lack of dialogue (among other tinny ’20s elements that tend to get in the way for a TV generation guy like myself, such as the exaggerated acting styles and too-often static cinematography). I watch these films but grudgingly. I’m not proud of this, mind, but it’s a fact. And I’m probably more receptive to movie lore than your average non-pro film buff.
The younger folks of today (i.e., 25 and under) regard movies made before the ’90s as old, and films from the big-studio era as Paleozoic. Silent films are almost totally out the window for my two sons (who are 20 and 19), but to foster at least some degree of reverence and affection for the 1930-to-1970 era, the old films have to be semi-watchable in a cleaned-up way, and by this I mean aesthetically free of any rickety aroma.
That doesn’t mean they should be degraded down to a plastic visual realm akin to digital video games, as some irrational monks on this site have suggested. It means de-graining them with respect, taste and affection. But it also means removing the damn sand already, or as much as possible without violating the core intentions of the filmmakers.
These guys didn’t love grain. Their films were covered with the stuff — hello? – because they had no choice.
Grain reduction can be done correctly, reverently. Look at the Blu-ray Pinocchio (which Some Came Running’s Glenn Kenny has just written about), or the Blu-ray Casablanca. (I’ve never seen the Blu-ray of Michael Curtiz‘s Robin Hood — how is it?)
And that means one thing — elevating John Lowry and his grain-reduction technology to a position equal to that of Jonas Salk and his 1950s polio vaccine. But before this happens there can be no more tolerance of the monk aesthetic. These people are equivalent to the ultra-right-wing Hebrew rabbinicals who’ve been the most persistent opponents of accord with the Palestinians. Due respect, but people on my side of the issue need to get all Torquemada on their ass. The more the monks get to call the shots about transferring old films to high-def formats, the worse things will be as far as the future of film culture will be. Because they are standing in the way of the church taking in new members and making new converts.
The very survival of the culture of classic film lovers over the next ten to twenty years and beyond is at stake. These well-meaning purists are doing everything in their power to preserve the celluloid grain reality of the past (okay, for the “right” reasons, granted) but are, I suspect, dimming enthusiasm among GenY and GenD viewers for pre-1970 Hollywood classics in the bargain.
This issue has only come to the fore with Blu-ray technology because now you can see the grain much more clearly. I popped in an eight-year-old Dr. Strangelove DVD the other day and was shocked at how much grainier it looks on my 42-inch Panasonic plasma than on my six year-old 36″ Sony analog flat-screen.
High-def, in short, is exposing the granular reality of how these films look more than ever before. In the same way that the most recent digital mastering of George Pal‘s War of the Worlds (’53) exposed the wires holding up the Martian space ships. Only an oddball like DVD Talk‘s Glenn Erickson would say that seeing the wires is an okay thing. (“There was no CG wire removal in 1953,” Erickson wrote in ’05, “and it would be detrimental revisionism to change the picture now [so] learn to live with it.”) The wires obviously weren’t intended to be seen, and the obvious remedy is to go into the current transfer and digitally remove them — simple. That’s all I’m talking about in general. Remove the stuff from older films that distracts the viewer from the dream state that movies are supposed to lull you into. Because grain is the worst waker-upper of all.
In a figurative way the monks already have already been excommunicated or I wouldn’t be referring to them as monks, but they clearly hold sway among the current generation of film preservationists and restoration experts (Robert Harris, Grover Crisp, Scott McQueen , etc.) and at the Criterion Co., which is pretty much mad monk central these days, to go by their work on the Blu-ray of The Third Man.
A day and a half ago Variety‘s Anne Thompson said that “for the most part, women will not go for Watchmen. I can take neck-crunching, body-bashing, blood-spattering action, but this was tough for even me to sit through.
“While the movie is set to open big on March 6 — some folks are guessing as high as $70 million — I’ll wager that the ultimate audience will be limited to male action fans only. As someone with only fleeting exposure to the graphic novel, I watched the movie with little engagement or understanding of what was going on.”
In response to this, HE’s Austin-based columnist & correspondent Moises Chiullan points out that the Watchmen violence is “nowhere near as bad” as the violence in Saw and Hostel-type films. Well, of course. It’s not torture porn and Watchmen is supposed to be wrangling a huge nationwide audience. One thing he said stands out: “What The Dark Knight cut away from, Watchmen shows.”
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