Jamie Stuart‘s latest video piece isn’t a “piece.” It’s just a straight conversation with the great Sidney Lumet — 18 minutes long and very beautifully monochrome. A lot of tech talk, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, digital vs. analog, Dog Day Afternoon, etc.
A New York-area critic feels that IFC Releasing is missing out on “at least a shot” at 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days winning a Best Foreign Film trophy from the New York Film Critics Circle in December. Only films with an ’07 theatrical release in NYC (or the NYC area) are eligible for NYFCC consideration, but it’s expensive as hell to open a little foreign movie in Manhattan in December. (IFC intends to open it nationwide in mid January after the Oscar nominations are out.)
The Romanian entry has a chance to win, however, with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics as long as IFC opens it somewhere domestic before 12.31.07. I was told today these two groups (accordingt to their rulebooks) will consider it for their Best Foreign Flick prize even if it plays at some 85-seat theatre in Bumblefuck, Idaho, with fold-up chairs.
So Ryan Gosling didn’t argue with Peter Jackson over some aspect of The Lovely Bones, “Page Six” is reporting, and he didn’t walk off the set. (Momentary deflation.) Jackson apparently canned him.
“Peter couldn’t stand Ryan,” a source has told a reporter. The word earlier this week was that Gosling had walked over some creative issue, but the “Page Six” source says it was because Gosling “was so demanding…[he] cut his own hair and was fighting with wardrobe [so] Peter booted him two days before filming started.”
Intuitive, source-free HE interpretation: A serious actor doesn’t get into scrapes over hair and wardrobe unless there are levels of fundamental discomfort going on. The hair and the wardrobe aren’t issues in and of themselves — they’re manifestations. Like most strong and gifted directors, Jackson is a major egotist — “this movie is about this and that, but it’s fundamentally about meee!” — who doesn’t know what to do with moody, complex actors who are all tangled up in their process.
I know absolutely nothing, but I’d like to think that Jackson was the primary a-hole, Gosling responded with his fickle, oddball hair-cutting behavior in order to express his growing loathing for Jackson, and Jackson said to himself last weekend, “No one fucks with me or challenges my power! No one!”
I know that if I’d been on the set I could have been a relationship mediator like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in the beginning of The Wedding Crashers, and I would have sat in the middle of the table with Gosling and Jackson on either end (and no agents, managers or attorneys present).
And I would have said to Jackson, “Okay, Peter…we all know who you are, and that you have to be the whirling dervish barefoot superman on a movie set…that’s your m.o., your specialty, your particular way of being the genius. And obviously the world loves you for that. I mean, except for the soreheads who are too dim to get you…who lack the aliveness of spirit that it takes to really and truly appreciate your gift.”
And then I would turn and say, “Ryan, you’re a genius too but in a different way. You have to be tricky, fickle, twitchy…and it’s beautiful. We love that you’ve put on weight and cut your own hair because, God knows, real guys out there cut their own hair and return clothes they’ve bought because they woke up the next morning and said, ‘I hate these pants’ or ‘this shirti is 15% polyester!’
“And what you guys have to do is give each other room to be a genius in their own way, but at the same time step back every breakfast, lunch and dinner and listen to the other guy’s song…hear his music, let it in and try to sing it yourself.
“I’m serious, Ryan — pick up that Karaoke mike and try to sing Peter’s tune. You know…stand up and walk a mile in his shoes. And Peter, you need to get a pair of scissors, go to the porta-potty with the mirror over the toilet and cut your own hair every so often. Abnd maybe pick a fight with a wardrobe person, tell them to go fuck themselves, fire their ass! I mean, you should hire them back the next morning which of course you can do, but you need to do this so can start to understand what Ryan has been going through and by and by come to know who he is.”
Congratulations to L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein for bitch-slapping the Academy’s Foreign Film Committee for talking only about “the rules, the rules” instead of the reality of modern communication today, and particularly for having disqualified The Band’s Visit, the much-admired Israeli film, because more than 50% of its dialogue is in English.
Academy rules state that for films to qualify for a Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar, the dialogue must be “predominantly in a non-English language.”
Goldstein’s best point is that “if you’re consistently keeping great films out of competition” — which the Academy’s foreign branch has done a lot — “then you must be doing something wrong.
“Why, might you ask, does this Israeli film have so much English in it? For the simple reason that when Egyptians and Israelis find themselves thrown together, guess what language they use to make themselves understood? English, the new mother tongue. In fact, the English spoken in The Band’s Visit is so fractured that all the dialogue in the film, whether Arabic, Hebrew or English, is subtitled. Having seen the film, I’d argue that it’s grotesquely unfair to punish the movie for simply showing how difficult it is for clashing cultures to communicate.”
I just wrote in my review of 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days that Cristian Mungiu‘s film, whatever he may have intended, is “the most persuasive anti-abortion argument in any form I’ve ever heard, seen or read.”
Naturally, alert Right-to-Lifers (like deaconforlife‘s Peter J. Smith and John Jalsevac) are going to write about and promote the film among the faithful when it opens next January, and they’d be dumb not to do that. Mingiu’s film is mainly a lament about a certain inhumanity that prevailed in Communist Romania in the 1980s, but viewers will find it impossible not to feel profound revulsion about abortion by the end, particularly due to a certain closeup shot in Act Three that will rally the Pro-Life troops like no TV ad or abortion-clinic protest.
But I’ll bet that most Right-to-Lifers, who primarily live in the “red” regions, will avoid this film in droves, and not just because this IFC Release won’t find much of a reception among hinterland exhibitors. It’s my belief that most of the Christian anti-abortion crowd — i.e., the ones who voted for Bush-Cheney in ’04 in order to keep Christian values from being weakened or usurped by liberal Democrats — are largely xenophobic when it comes to sampling foreign cultures and their films. Because they don’t want to know from subtitles, 95% of the rank-and-file will not only not see 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days in theatres — they’ll also avoid it when it comes to DVD.
I’l be flabbergasted if my prediction turns out to be wrong. Only one subtitled film in history has won the support of middle-American conservatives, and that was because it showed Jesus of Nazareth getting punched and whipped over 90 times at the hands of the Romans and the bad Jews.
I finally caught up with Cristian Mungiu‘s 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days last Friday, and when it was over I was stunned. Half-staggering in a slightly amazed daze. The heavy praise that came out the Cannes Film Festival (where I was clumsy enough to miss it) led to expectations of something solid, commendable and probably disturbing. But I didn’t expect to see a masterpiece, which is what this “Romanian abortion film” certainly is.
Set in 1987, when Romania was a Communist state under Nicolae Ceausescu and a strict law prohibiting abortion had been in effect since 1966, and taking place in a single day, 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days is about chilliness, insensitivity, the lessening of dignity and the taking of a life. But it’s finally about a journey and where the very last scene leaves the characters (and the audience).
It concerns a pair of female college students — sensitive, anxious and tough Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and vulnerable, not-especially-bright Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) — and what they have to go through for Gabita to get an illegal abortion. Bureaucra- tic wrangling, sexual blackmail, the danger of something going wrong, reactions of a selfish boyfriend, disposing of the evidence, recovering.
This may sound like a glum Eastern bloc procedural, perhaps something to suffer through or check your watch by. It’s not cheerful, agreed, but the transcendent art and style of this film is so penetrating that the drabness is soon forgotten or ignored. This is a haunting moral tale and a psychologically tense suspense film, as well as the most persuasive anti-abortion argument in any form I’ve ever heard, seen or read.
Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu
It’s magnificently “acted”, if that’s the right word to use. All great acting is about making the audience forget that lines are being repeated or that performers are going through any kind of rehearsed behavior, and that’s certainly what’s happening here.
Plus it’s shot in a plain, hand-held style by Oleg Mutu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) — mostly a series of static shots that are held for long stretches along with maybe five or six tracking shots. What results is a simultaneous rawness and refinement that feels clinical and yet compassionate. I was reminded in a way of early Mike Nichols, particularly Guiseppe Rotunno‘s cinematography for Carnal Knowledge — long takes that are fixed and unmoving, hardly any pans, no slow zooms — with people walking in and out of the frame.
I did what I could to assist two former girlfriends in getting two abortions — one in the mid ’70s, the other ten years later — so I know a little bit about what it feels like peripherally (and a little bit psychologically), but I’ve never felt so immersed in the hard particulars of grappling with the reality of getting an abortion until catching this film last Friday night. I didn’t just feel moved and shaken — I felt changed after it was over.
Marinca is the star — it’s her story (even though the abortion isn’t her own) and she’s in every scene start to finish, and with Mungiu and Mutu pulling the off-screen strings she carries the film on her shoulders. No other actress in any film from any country has delivered a better performance this year.
Vasiliu, a wounded beauty with a look of sad confusion, is just as good in her own quietly desperate way and nearly as affecting, but the biggest stand-out after Marinca is Vlad Ivanov, who plays an illegal abortionist named Mr. Bebe. What a monster, and yet what a carefully spoken and very meticulous manipulator. Not exactly “evil” as much as callous, indifferent — a brute who gets what he wants because he can.
A long scene in which these three sit in a hotel room and hash out the monetary, bartered and medicinal basics of what has to be done for the abortion to take place is the heart of the film, and it’s unforgettable.
This has to be an absolute lock for a Best Foreign Language Feature nomination, and I’m thisclose to saying it’s a lock to take the Oscar. Anyone who sees this film and doesn’t feel shaken and humbled has a major aesthetic blockage thing going on. There are times when viewers saying “good film but too depressing” can’t be and must not be tolerated. This is one of those burn-through movies that says basic things in ways that make other filmmakers say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” (Or, in the Mike Nichols-Giuseppe Rotunno sense, “Why didn’t I revisit that?”)
4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days is said to be the first part of a trilogy, or perhaps a longer series of films, that Mungiu will make about life in Communist Romania called The Golden Age. He’s obviously got a vein to mine and a good handle on the Romanian Ceausescu history, but I wouldn’t want to see Mingiu get hung up on it. There’s now, after all, and always what’s yet to come.
IFC Films is waiting until early January to release it, i.e., after the awards and nominations will have accumulated.
Variety‘s Archie Thomas didn’t list all of the ten British Independent Film Award nominations tallied yesterday by Anton Corbijn‘s Control, noting only that Sam Riley placed in Best Actor and Most Promising Newcomer categories.
Rebeca Davies‘ Telegraph story elaborated a bit more: Best Film and Best Director for Anton Corbijn (presumably a cinematography nom was included as well) with Samantha Morton and Toby Kebbell handed Supporting Actress/Actor noms. A British film industry circle jerk or a nudge for nod-out types on this side of the pond? A bit of both, presumably.
“Long movies have always been with us,” observes Wall Street Journal film critic Joe Morgenstern. “Some have been follies (Heaven’s Gate — 219 minutes) while others have been glories (Abel Gance’s silent classic Napoleon — 330 minutes). Indeed, I was a staunch — some might say dogged — supporter of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, which runs 188 minutes, though I admired just as intensely his Punch-Drunk Love, which clocked in at 95 minutes.
“And earlier this month I came down firmly — some might say heedlessly — on the side of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, an ultra-long Western (160 minutes), with an ultra-long title (10 words), that struck me as consistently interesting, thoughtful and entertaining.
“I didn’t expect to fall for it. To the contrary, I showed up at the screening with a heavy cargo of dread, since the production had already provoked well-publicized battles between Warner Bros., who’d wanted it cut to conventional length, and its producer and, yes, co-star, Brad Pitt, who opposed making cuts, and prevailed. But movie going is full of surprises.
“In my own experience, enough is when a film fills its running time with dramatic energy, originality and variety — with the stuff of life — and too much is when it doesn’t. If long movies make us squirm or yawn, it’s not because they aren’t short, but because they aren’t full.”
Sex usually sells, particularly when you’re looking to attract geek fanboys. And it’s especially alluring when you’re talking about a bare-breasted Angelina Jolie slinking around with nothing to keep her warm except a long serpent’s tail, which is what her “Grendel’s mother” character does in the red-band trailer for Robert Zemeckis‘s Beowulf (Paramount, 11.16). And so there are bus-stop ads currently emphasizing this.
Bus stop ad at Santa Monica Blvd. near Fairfax Ave. — snapped Monday, 10.22.07, 10:05 pm
But if you look closely you’ll notice that Jolie is wearing some kind of yellow digital body-suit over her left breast. (With a sharp clean line, as if she’s wearing an Olympic bathing suit.) I realize she’s adorned in some kind of gold body paint in the film, but the image in the red-band trailer is…I don’t know, more anatomically life-like or something. Something to do with that dripping-wet-bod effect.
The yellow breast-covering adheres, obviously, to Paramount’s intention to release the film with a PG-13 rating. But I think it’s odd to send out conflicting messages. Come see Angelina’s exposed boobs, the poster is basically saying, only they’re not really exposed because we need the family trade also. Implies one thing, does another.
So it’s finally been decided that paying audiences will henceforth be shown Wes Anderson‘s Hotel Chevalier short prior to his Darjeeling Limited feature, as it always should have been. Due respect, but I’ve no clear idea what Fox Searchlight marketing chief Nancy Utley means when she says “we thought it would be too challenging to moviegoers to be exposed to the short in theaters right at the beginning of the run…we wanted to make sure The Darjeeling Limited got established first as a movie.”