…to write and perform a scene like this…a nice ‘n’ easy, no-sweat beginning-of-a-relationship scene between two whipsmart recognizables…no muss, no fuss, no bullshit…poking, prodding, teasing…figuring each other out. And then you throw in a little pre-dawn urban grandeur and just let the camera settle into it.
Last night I finally saw Michel Franco‘s New Order, a dystopian theatre-of-cruelty film that reminded me in some ways (certainly tonally) of Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor.
New Order premiered on 9.10 at the just-wrapped Venice Film Festival, and last weekend won the Silver Lion Grand Jury prize.
Set in Mexico City, it’s about a violent revolution against the wealthy elites by an army of ruthless, homicidal, working-class lefties. Director-writer Franco (After Luca, Chronic) is clearly tapping into all the insurrectionist anger out there (Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, last year’s French Yellow Vest demonstrations) and imagining the ante being raised a couple of notches.
Remember those rightwing thugs (“Los Halcones”) murdering leftists during that Mexico City demonstration in Roma? New Order is a roughly similar situation but with the lefties pulling the trigger, and with a lot more ferocity. Rage against the swells.
It struck me as a nightmare vision of what could conceivably happen if the ranks of our own wokester shitheads were to dramatically increase and anger levels were to surge even more.
New Order, trust me, is brutal, vicious and cold. But it’s so well made, and so unsparing in its cruelty. Franco is definitely the new Michael Haneke. He’s a very commanding and exacting director, but the film is ferocious and vicious, more so than even The Counselor (and that’s saying something).
I’ve sorry to admit I’ve been been derelict with Franco’s work before this. I’m going to try and catch up at the earliest opportunity.
I’m figuring that any serious fan of The Counselor would definitely be down with New Order. Especially given its Mexico City location, the fact that it deals with hostage-taking and exorbitant demands, and the fact that it has the same kind of cruel, compositional decisiveness and clarity of mind that Scott’s film had, only more so.
Franco is a very strong but, on the face of it, heartless director. Personally, I’m sure he’s personable and affable and humane and whatnot.
A filmmaker friend assures that Franco “is a nice fellow…he has a very surgical mind and his dramatic construction seems to veer towards the inexorable.”
Critic friendo: “I love those kinds of filmmakers! I feel their vision is actually quite compassionate — they’re just trying to be honest about a cruel world.”
What kind of publicist-protected, reality-defying bubble is Kate Winslet living in? Four ￼days after sharing her “what the fuck was I doing working with Woody Allen and Roman Polanski?” remark with Vanity Fair‘s Julie Miller and generating a fair amount of head-shaking and accusations of award-season opportunism (at least on social media), she’s doubled-down on her discomfort and condemnation with Variety‘s Kate Aurthur.
On top of which Aurthur, a sturdy journalist who knows the score, decides to not even mention the fact that outside of #MeToo circles, Mia Farrow confidantes, the purview of Mark Harris and the ranks of Hachette employees, nobody on planet earth believes that Allen is guilty. No one informed, I mean.
Aurthur doesn’t even ask, “Uhm, sorry to interject but does the fact that an overwhelming body of evidence including the first-hand observations and convictions of Allen’s psychologist son Moses Farrow…does the fact that there’s absolutely no basis to believe in Allen’s guilt…does that, like, give you a moment of pause in this matter?”
Winslet: “We learn, we grow, we change. I think we should all be allowed to say, ‘Look, I shouldn’t have done that,’ you know? And I think this is a huge, seismic time for all of us, where we’re aware of how many planes we take, for example, or things we have done in the past, or would go back and wish to do differently. And I just want to lead with a bit of integrity, and to just be upfront and say, ‘You know what? I probably shouldn’t have done that.’ And so what I said in that Vanity Fair piece is really true, you know: I do regret it. I do regret it.”
“As soon as I was doing press for Wonder Wheel, it just made me crashingly aware that perhaps I shouldn’t have done this. But what was remarkable to me is that these are individuals who have been feted and praised and patted on the back for decades in this industry. And so by and large, it was presented to actors that these were people who it was okay to work with. But now, of course, I feel I can just say ‘I shouldn’t have done [this].’”
Round number or multiples-of-five anniversaries always seem to matter more in the public mind, and so next year’s observance of the 9/11 massacre will be a heavier thing.
I was thinking this morning about Bill Maher’s remark about the perpetrators not being cowards. He said this in the wrong way and certainly way too soon after the disaster itself. But even at the time I was never able to conclude with absolute certainty that he was dead wrong.
Evil, monstrous, satanic, fanatical, dastardly, sickening…all of these terms certainly apply to the people who delivered the horror. But speaking as a relative coward in terms of my own physical safety, as someone who hasn’t been in a decent fistfight since I was 12 or 13, as someone who shudders at the idea of ending it all or facing the Big Sleep prematurely, I find it difficult to apply the term “cowards.” Because what they did, loathsome and fiendish and demonic as it was, required a certain amount of terrible sand.
Yesterday I had a dispiriting conversation with a friend who believes that the Biden-Harris ticket hasn’t been forceful enough in condemning anarchic lefty street violence, particularly in the wake of yesterday’s shooting of two deputies in Compton, and that the apparent vote-tightening in southwestern battleground states may be a result of this. My response was basically “stop being such a pessimist.” (Our chat was a little bit like “Let’s Fret the Night Together,” that 9.14 Gail Collins and Bret Stephens chat in the Times.) But the dominant polling narrative is that Trump’s support among whites is definitely weaker than it was four years ago. I don’t think the election is “baked” for Biden, but as long as he doesn’t suffer any disasters or super-gaffes I think it looks reasonably good right now. No level-headed assessment is conveying any kind of horse race.
HE to commentariat: If you were Joe Biden‘s most trusted advisor, would you urge him to accept a four-hour, audience-free debate with President Trump on the Joe Rogan Experience? Trump has suggested that he’s down with it, but I were counselling Biden I would insist that two conditions be met.
One, a two-hour debate, not four. Three at the most. Because Biden, I fear, might not be able to keep his energy up and cognitive discipline at peak levels during a four-hour period. He would almost certainly be a less effective communicator during the final hour, and perhaps during the last two. Trump is a lying, run-at-the-mouth moron and would certainly reveal himself as such, but he seems to have more coal in the engine than Biden. If Pete Buttigieg was the Democratic nominee, four hours would be fine.
And two, Rogan is in Trump’s corner (he apparently believes that Biden has cognitive decline issues) so there would have to be a neutral, whipsmart fact-checker participating with an equal voice in the discussion, just as regular debate moderators have been at liberty to point out factual errors during conventional presidential debates. This would obviously put Trump at a huge disadvantage, but he’s an incorrigible liar and nonstop bullshitter and would just blow smoke up everyone’s ass without a fact-checker calling foul when necessary.
I’m not entirely sure if the four-hour format is Rogan’s idea or it’s speculation on someone else’s part, but if Rogan is indeed suggesting this it shows you where he’s coming from. Biden would get through it, course, but he the 78-year-old Democratic nominee would probably have difficulty keeping his best game going for 240 minutes straight, particularly alongside the evil Trump locomotive.
Biden is seemingly healthier (trim, agile, eats well, works out) and Trump is probably a dying animal (obese, McDonald’s diet, may have suffered from a stroke last year) but in a sitdown debate Trump’s health issues would not be an apparent factor.
All that said, there’s something truly exciting about this idea, and I’d like to see it happen. But only under the right conditions.
The teaser for Aaron Sorkin‘s The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix, 10.16) is less ranty and shouty than I expected. Which is a good thing. It actually feels calm, centered and articulate.
We’re expecting it to be sharply written, of course, but let’s hope Sorkin keeps the “walk and talks” down to a minimum. 48-year-old Sacha Baron Cohen is roughly 16 years older than Abbie Hoffman was during the Democratic Convention demonstrations of ’68 and the subsequent conspiracy trial, and at least a head taller. Frank Langella as the scowling Judge Julius Hoffman! Alas, William (Body Heat) Hurt (listed on the Wiki page as of last night) doesn’t play Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell. (John Doman has the role.) Beady-eyed Mark Rylance doesn’t look like William Kunstler, and he doesn’t have the room-filling baritone voice.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Richard Schultz, Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark, John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger, Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, Alex Sharp as Rennie Davis, Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin, etc.
Jane Fonda has been looking great for decades, but at a certain point the aging process tends to overtake “touch-ups” and whatnot. She looked terrific last October at age 81, but at the same time she’d begun to look a tiny bit older, which is to say somewhere between her early to mid 70s. Which is obviously God’s natural way. But in her 9.10.20 sitdown with PBS Newshour‘s Judy Woodruff, Fonda looked amazing…like a woman in her early to mid ’60s. A good 15 if not 20 years younger. And with a great-looking new haircut. I’m not ignoring her climate-change message — I’m just saying “wow.”
From Variety‘s Chris Willman, a Sierra Madre resident who’s coping with the possibility of smoke, flames, floating embers and whatnot:
Early this morning: “It looked like the fire was moving away, but now it’s come back south, and they’re saying it’s less than a mile from the Sierra Madre border, just over a mile from the nearest houses in town. I’m down enough blocks from the wilderness that it would have to burn through probably hundreds of houses before it got to me, and it’s slow moving enough that I think they won’t let it become an urban holocaust. I wouldn’t feel so confident if I was on one of the canyon streets here. Anyway, they’re saying we’re still probably at least a day away from having a mandatory evacuation order, if one’s going to come. I feel pretty confident I’ll be okay here, if marginally less sure than I was last night.
This afternoon: “Looking at that wall full of mostly unwatched Blurays, do I grab the Criterions, the Twilight Times or box sets first, if there’s an advance? Prioritize vinyl over CDs in all cases, or try to take time to locate the OOP CDs too? Do I need every one of the dozens of film noir books I’ve ever bought, or will just a couple do me for the rest of my days? These are the questions that occur when you’ve got tens of thousands of pieces of physical media stuffed in one house and cellar, more than could probably fit in a dozen carloads. The odds that they’d let it get down here are probably less than 1%, so not really worth the effort yet. But if that 1% came to pass, I’d be wondering why I didn’t spend days dispersing the library across Los Angeles when I had the chance.”
Murch’s appearance followed a screening of David and Edie Ichioka‘s Murch, a highly engaging doc that covers his career (editing of THX 1138, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The English Patient) and the three Academy Award wins.
Please listen to this recording of Murch’s post-SFMOMA screening chat. Yeah, that’s me and my fractured syntax asking the first two questions.
I also asked Murch about machine-gun cutting in action movies, and at what point does it get to be too much? I was thinking at the time of the editing in 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy, portions of which had driven me crazy. Murch said audiences do indeed start to go nuts if you use more than 14 set-ups per minute.
One can obviously cut back to the same set-up — a visual point of view — within a given minute, so Murch wasn’t saying only 14 cuts every 60 seconds. Nor was he necessarily putting a limit on the number of cuts per set-up. But let’s say for the sake of simplicity that during an action sequence you use two cuts per set-up — by Murch’s rule that would mean no more than 28 cuts per minute, or a little more than two seconds per cut. That sounds too frenzied, doesn’t it? But maybe not.
Long regarded as the Yoda of film and sound editors, the smooth and avuncular Murch, 77, is presumably still going strong. For anyone willing to just sit and listen to a hugely articulate man expound on a fascinating art form. Murch’s needle-sharp vocabulary and exquisite phrasings are a contact high in themselves.
Anyway here’s another doc about Murch, recently assembled by Jon Lefkowitz, called “SIGHT & SOUND: The Cinema of Walter Murch.” Here’s (a) an introduction, and (b) the doc itself:
Yesterday Andrei Konchalovsky‘s Dear Comrades (Dorohgie Tovarischi) won the Venice Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize. With Chloe Zhao‘s Nomadland and Michael Franco‘s New Order taking the Golden and Silver Lion prizes, Konchalovsky’s film, an emotionally intense capturing of the 1962 Novocherkassk massacre, basically came in third.
I didn’t see Franco’s film, but it my humble view the Konchalovsky is even-steven with the Zhao. It’s really quite stunning in its own severe but ravishing fashion, captured in bracing black-and-white and pushed along by the engine of Julia_Vysotskaya‘s lead performance, which is fierce and blistering.
This infamous atrocity, which happened under the reign of Nikita Kruschev, was about the Russian military murdering 26 Russian citizens and the wounding 87 others in an effort to discourage angry protests over increased work quotas and food prices.
The 83 year-old Konchalovsky tells the story of this massacre through the eyes of Vysotskaya’s Lyuda Syomina, a prominent communist official and true believer whose loyalties are suddenly divided when daughter Svetka (Yuliya Burova) joins the strike and then turns up missing. Naturally she freaks out and does everything she can to find out what happened.
As it turns out the most critical ally in Lyuda’s search for her daughter is not her boyfriend (Vladislav Komarov) or father (Sergei Erlish) but a low-key, taciturn KGB agent named Viktor (Andrey Gusev) who drives her around and helps sidestep some of the bureaucratic red tape, partly, it seems, because he has the mild hots for her. To describe Viktor as an unusual KGB agent is an understatement. “Ambiguous” comes to mind.
I can only emphasize how fully and completely Dear Comrades grabbed me by the throat. With a couple of minutes I was sitting up in my seat, 100% certain that I was about to see one of 2020’s finest films. I just knew. Two hours later this was confirmed.
Vysotskaya, who was actually born in Novocherkassk in ’73 (one year earlier than Tatiana), is Konchalovsky’s fifth wife. They were married 22 years ago and have two sons.
The idea behind Andrey Naydenov‘s boxy monochrome capturings was to “scrupulously” reproduce 1960s Russia, or more precisely the atmosphere of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics under Nikita Krsuschev.
Tatiana: “Dear Comrades is a beautiful representation of the contrast between three generations of Russians.
“Lyuda’s daughter belongs to a younger generation, born right after WWII in the USSR and raised with certain beliefs and ideas in a happy socialistic future and democracy but also believing you have to raise your voice and fight for justice.
“Lyuda represents a generation born after the Revolution in 1917, and who witnessed Stalin’s rule and believed in that kind of strong dictatorial power. She mentions several times, ‘If Stalin is here, he would enforce order immediately.’
“And the grandfather represents an older generation who experienced the Tsar, Lenin, Stalin, Khruschev. He’s the only one who truly believes in God. The scene when he takes out a very powerful Russian icon out of the chest is absolutely fascinating.”