First a bum Eloi trailer and now this — a Fair Game one-sheet that says nothing. What is Naomi Watts doing or thinking? What does her expression or stance imply? What is Sean Penn grinning about? This movie does something very icy and cool, trust me, and this poster doesn’t have the first clue what that thing is. (Poster swiped from Awards Daily.)
David Koepp‘s Premium Rush, a bicycle-messenger movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon and Dania Ramirez, was shooting earlier today near the corner of Sixth Avenue and 28th Street. JGL, of course, is the main two-wheeled protagonist. The plot is driven by an envelope he picks up from Columbia University, which a dirty cop (Shannon) is anxious get his hands on.
Premium Rush star Joseph Gordon-Levitt (right, red T-shirt) about to film a scene. Director-writer David Koepp (olive shirt, red baseball hat) at extreme left. That may be Dania Ramirez in light aquamarine top. Shannon (light blue shirt, tie) stands in middle.
Gordon-Levitt, Koepp, Ramirez, Shannon.
The Wiki page says Columbia will release Premium Rush on 1.13.12. Wait…16 and 1/2 months from now? Thanks to HE reader Eran Evron for sending the pics.
Consider the snappy playful commercial tone of the Ridley Scott/Kevin McDonald “Life in a Day” trailer, and ask yourself if it’s likely to feel as bracingly alive as this three-minute Everynone piece, which was directed by Will Hoffman and Daniel Mercadante. Be sure and watch the 720p version.
A Dutch film critic named Robert Nijman has seen Anton Corbin‘s The American, the George Clooney assassin-in-Italy movie that opens next Wednesday, and has posted an IMDB review, having first written it for LiveforFilms.com. I wrote Nijman this morning, and he replied right away. “I saw it last Tuesday in Amsterdam, at a press screening hosted by Benelux Film Distributors,” he said. “I write Dutch movie reviews for movie2movie.nl and occasionally Engish-language reviews also, for my friend Phil over at Liveforfilms.com.”
Nijman’s English is a little rough here and there, requiring a few minor edits, but it’s basically a positive response as far as it goes. He’s saying that The American is a cool little atmospheric art movie in which not a whole lot happens. He almost makes it sound Antonioni-esque. I for one would be delighted with anything along these lines. A faux-Antonioni coffee-table movie, a drifting atmospheric meditation, an upscale wank for cool kidz.
“With his new and intriguing drama The American, [director] Anton Corbijn adapts the style [that he first unveiled with Control] to bring us a film that is attractive and interesting throughout, even though most of the time very little actually happens and the plot laps very quietly.
“The film tells the story about Jack (George Clooney), a mysterious refugee or runaway criminal particularly adept at furnishing and using weapons. There is something that has caused him, sometime, somewhere, to get into trouble, leaving him running for shelter in the periphery of central Italy. Which is all you have to know, because we start following the protagonist — very understatedly but intensely played by Clooney — as the film begins, and are experiencing what he experiences without a lot of exposition.
“As you care less and less about that obscure and unknown beginning (which resulted in the ongoing complications) and become more interested in the end (or the final fate of the protagonist), you realize that this is the type of film that just begins halfway through and doesn’t make excuses to explain what you’ve missed — as in all developments, meetings and stories in everyday life, there is no clear beginning.
“As Jack is approached via his contact by a new customer (Thekla Reuten) who is in need of his services, becomes friends with an Italian priest (Paolo BonaCelli), and rolls haphazardly into a relationship with a local prostitute (Violante Placido), we follow his confluence of circumstances into a new and intriguing direction.
“The American is a film that seems to place style over substance, and walks away with it very, very well. The story is not always smart, fascinating or — given the clear influence in genre and style — surprising, but these issues are expertly moved to the background by the special cinematography, and the striking eye of Corbijn. Close-ups of the actors, distance shots that are more about the environment than the cast, beautiful images of the Italian scenery (near L’Aquila, an area that shortly before suffered a natural disaster) and striking visual discoveries shown to us by the director, who appears to tell us something in each focus or movement of his camera.
“Some scenes are more moving pictures and less video, and the viewer — soothed by an immersive soundtrack — is very slowly treated to the details on screen. The expression in Clooney’s face. A butterfly fluttering by. The TV in the background, showing Once Upon A Time In The West by Sergio Leone — a masterful and obvious source of inspiration when it comes to telling by showing. An empty room, and the mood conveyed by the only person within it. Or by the craftsmanship of Anton Corbijn.”
So it doesn’t seem all that bad. Nijman seems to be saying it’s sorta kinda “good” on its own terms. Not an Eloi flick, obviously, but perhaps satisfying enough for cineaste types like Glenn Kenny and Scott Foundas and Jonathan Rosenbaum, etc. But what will Armond White say?
Over here there has been, of course, no buzz and no early screenings…nothing. No Clooney interviews, no press events, no Corbijn interviews with NYC or LA writers…zip. The first accessible Manhattan press screening happens on Monday evening, and, it’s fair to say, at a moderately dumpy theatre — the AMC 19th Street. (It’s also showing the same night in Los Angeles at the Harmony Gold screening room.) L.A. Times feature writer John Horn has seen it, I’m told. Other long-lead types may have had a looksee, but none I’ve heard about or spoken to.
Focus Features, the distributor, is selling it as a thriller (i.e., that poster image of Clooney running with a gun) on the gamble that they’ll get a bigger first-weekend gross that way. Then why open it on a Wednesday, which will allow the word-of-mouth to fly around for two days before the weekend begins? I can just see the Twitter messages now: “Oh, my God, it’s…it’s…it’s an art movie! It’s beautiful to look at. A moody atmosphere thing that shows rather than tells…aaaagggh!”
In Contention‘s Kris Tapley and Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson have posted their first Oscar Talk of the season (although Tapley calls it Episode 29). Best & biggest summer flicks, the upcoming festivals, potential awards contenders, documentary feature race, etc. Thompson’s Tree of Life quips: (a) It “may not” come out this year, and (b) “It might be Sundance.” She also lowers expectations on Clint Eastwood‘s Hereafter.
Facade of Thompson’s Rome apartment building.
Thompson is leaving today for Italy and eventually the Venice Film Festival, which starts on Wednesday, September 1st. The early departure allows for a three-day stopover in Rome — her first visit. I’m envious, of course. I introduced Thompson to a Roman apartment-provider named Giuseppe Amorosi Golisciani. He’ll be renting her a very nice one-bedroom apartment in the ancient section for a mere 75 euros per night.
Wrap columnist Steve Pond yesterday posted a rundown of some likely Best Feature Documentary contenders — Restrepo, A Film Unfinished, The Tillman Story, Inside Job, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Tabloid and — last but not least — Werner Herzog‘s Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
I’ve already made it clear that I won’t shed any tears if Restrepo doesn’t make the final list of five. Then again…who knows?…perhaps Academy liberals will want to vote for “a pro-war, support-the-troops, emotional-propaganda piece wrapped in allegedly neutralist observational verite clothing,” which is how I put it on 7.11.
I’m a huge fan of Jean-Francois Richet‘s two part Mesrine crime epic, the first part of which, Killer Instinct, opens today. (Part 2, called Public Enemy #1, opens on September 3.) It’s not a great film — just a lean, well-honed and fast-moving one. Never bores, awfully hard to resist. Largely because of the rascally confidence that Vincent Cassel brings to his lead performance. Locomotive energy and brash charm = contact high.
Legendary French criminal Jacques Mesrine (i.e., “Mayreen“) was some kind of raging ego-fiend, but Cassell can’t help but make him half-likable or at least oddly fascinating. He never quite turns you off. Cassel is playing the most charismatic bad guy since — no exaggeration — Al Pacino‘s Tony Montana. Easily one of the strongest male performances of the year.
I have a feeling, incidentally, that this flick is going to go over big with gay guys. I was talking to a gay critic after seeing Part 1, and one of the things he said is that he’d like get fucked by Mesrine, or Cassel’s version rather. We all looked at the sidewalk when he said this, but still….that’s magnetism!
Abdel Raouf Dafri‘s script is adapted from Mesrine’s autobiographical novel, called “Killer Instinct.”
The two-parter isn’t a great film because it’s mainly just a character study of a stone sociopath delivered in a series of episodes, one after another after another in which this happens and that happens and this and that, and it just keeps going on for years and years, from France to Canada to the U.S. and back to France. And it’s a kick to watch but all it “says” in the end is (a) this guy is charmingly nuts, (b) he’s ballsy as hell, (c) he can’t see any further than his own hunger for big bags of money and pretty girls and media-reputation-burnishing, and (d) he’s virile and relentless and has a great smile.
But what I really love about these two films is the way Richet handles the action, which is to say with a kind of analog ’70s attitude — fast and ferocious and quickly cut but without any of the crap techniques and influences that so many American directors have bought into. Richet directs action like he’s never heard of Hong Kong action films of the ’90s, like he couldn’t give two shits about the Pang brothers, like he’s never seen a Tony Scott or a Michael Bay film, like he doesn’t have the first clue what CGI might be. It’s wonderful.
An HE piece called “Genre in a Cage,” which I posted on 7.22, explained that “action films are caught in a trap because all they want to do is top each other, and the only way to do that is to go more cartoon X-treme, and credibility be damned…anti-reality, wilder, more CG-ish or acrobatic in a Cirque de Soleil or Pang brothers fashion, more crazy-ass.
“Very few action thrillers have operated beyond these constrictions and delivered by their own style and criteria. The Matrix, the only honorable film in the Wachowski brothers’ misbegotten trilogy, did this. So did Alfonso Cuaron‘s Children of Men. Ditto the Bourne films by Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass and Phillip Noyce‘s Salt. But for the most part the action genre has become a kind of entrapment — a minimum security prison patrolled by armed guards (i.e., studio executives) in which certain rules have to be followed…or else.”
We can now add the Mesrine films to the list of escapees. I don’t know if it’s possible for an American studio-backed director to make an actioner in the same no-frills fashion that Richet has done, but I don’t think it’s likely. The system demands perverse bullshit in the jibbety-jappity video-game mode, and it’s a relief beyond description to marvel at a film that does it the old-fashioned way — thrillingly and believably, and never calling attention to any audacious sense of style except, welcomely, a lack of one. More of this, please.
I did a phoner last week with Stone director John Curran. I’ll run it and a review in the final lead-up to the Toronto Film Festival — probably around 9.4 or 9.5, or the weekend before my departure. I wasn’t expecting all that much when I sat down, but Stone is an exceptionally brave and unusual film. I posted a too-long impressionistic piece that had to be taken down due to complaints from critics. I left a remnant in place but the bulk of it was gutted.
“The trailer for Stone (Overture, 10.8) makes it seem like a more-or-less conventional crime melodrama,” I wrote. “In the midst of evaluating an apparently psychopathic convict (Edward Norton) regarding an upcoming parole hearing, a retirement-age prison counselor (Robert De Niro) succumbs to sexual favors offered by the prisoner’s scheming wife (Milla Jovovich). We all know where this is likely to go. Exposure, revenge, moral ruin, chaos.
“Guess what? It goes somewhere else entirely. And I mean into a realm that, for me, is not far from the one that Robert Bresson mined in the ’50s and ’60s and early ’70s.”
This morning I tried again to get a response from Lionsgate’s New York-based home video senior publicity exec Jodie Magid about how and why Amazon.com’s Apocalypse Now Bluray page lists “Eleanor Coppola‘s Hearts of Darkness” among the special features. The 1991 doc was co-directed by George Hickenlooper and Fax Bahr, which I explained yesterday in a piece called “Stunned.” “Surely the Amazon team posts whatever info is provided by the distributor,” I wrote Magid, “so it would seem that you and/or your office passed along this erroneous information.”
A few minutes ago Magid wrote me the following message: “All appropriate legal credits are included in the billing block of the packaging. Amazon is in the process of correcting their information.”
I wrote back with the following: “Thanks, but just to be double clear, by ‘appropriate’ legal credits you mean that the names of co-directors Hickenlooper and Bahr will be stated on the Bluray packaging?” Magid hasn’t responded to this as I post.
I’m also not satisfied by Magid’s 22-word response because she hasn’t addressed how the idea of Hearts of Darkness being “Eleanor Coppola’s” — an error that has been sitting on the aforementioned Amazon.com page for an undetermined amount of time — might have arisen in the first place. Somebody at Lionsgate or American Zoetrope must have sent this information along to begin with. Because the people at Amazon don’t make this stuff up as a rule.
An Apocalypse Now Bluray press release sent out by Magid’s office states the following: “INCLUDED ONLY ON THE FULL DISCLOSURE EDITION: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, including optional audio commentary with Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola — first time in 1080P High Definition.” So at the very least Magid’s release didn’t inform that the co-directors of the doc are Hickenlooper and Bahr.
It’s not provable but I’m fairly persuaded that Francis and Eleanor Coppola allowed if not encouraged a misunderstanding about the true authorship and creation of Hearts of Darkness to be included in the Bluray publicity materials. In their heart of hearts I think they’d be more or less content to see the names “George Hickenlooper” and “Fax Bahr” expunged from the record entirely.
(l.) George Hickenlooper; (r.) Eleanor and Francis Coppola.
Hickenlooper wrote the following on HE yesterday: “I think the more appropriate way to look at it is that Hearts of Darkness is Eleanor Coppola’s story. It’s not her film. Hardly. It’s her story. But that’s because I decided to make it her story.
“When I got involved with this project 20 years ago, Showtime was going to make it a one hour TV special called Apocalypse Now Revisited. It was going to be basically an hour-long special about how they did the war pyrotechnics. It was going to be dull and stupid.
“At the time I told Steve Hewitt and my partner Fax Bahr. “Nobody cares about a making of movie, especially one that is 14 years old.” I argued that the film had to have an emotional component. At the time, no one was familiar with Eleanor’s diary ‘Notes.’ My father had purchased it for me on my 16th birthday. I devoured it up.
“When I got involved with HOD, I advocated using her diary as the narrative thread. I got incredible resistance from Showtime, and I got initial resistance from Eleanor. Not much, but some.
“Once I was able to convince everyone that the film would best be told through her narrative voice, it was then and only then it became HER STORY.
“Eleanor did shoot the footage in the Philippines back in 1976, but she only stepped twice into our cutting room on the back lot of Universal. Twice. For a total of eight hours.
“I was there for a year, 15-18 hours a day. So it’s not a film by Eleanor, but I guess it’s sexier from a marketing angle to make it look that way.”
Hickenlooper elaborated upon the Hearts of Darkness history in a 2007 interview with laist correspondent Josh Tate.
In a followup this morning he also informs that “the reality is that Fax Bahr hardly had anything to do with HOD. He was writing for the show In Living Color at the time. He spent a total of about three weeks out of the entire year in the editing room. Eleanor spent two days. It was me and the two editors for an entire year.”