Archive for September, 2008


Movie poster of the week: Paul Newman R.I.P.

September 28, 2008


I was busy working on my list of great movies I’ve never seen, in response to Filmbrain’s tag, when I heard that Paul Newman had died. I’d just been writing that there were very few major films I’d never seen, having picked through all the canons and pantheons over the years, but reading about Newman reminded me I’ve never seen either Cool Hand Luke or Hud, a situation I should rectify right away. (As an Altman completist I’d seen him in the execrable Quintet long before I searched out his defining roles. Though Torn Curtain—which just happened to be on TCM the night he died and I channel-surfed right past it—is one of the few Hitchcock films I’ve never seen.) The Hustler and The Color of Money were always my favorite Newman performances, and, like most everybody else, I loved him in Nobody’s Fool. I had also forgotten, until I read Adrian Martin on Dave Kehr’s blog calling it a masterpiece, that he had directed Joanne Woodward in the 1987 film of The Glass Menagerie: a forgotten gem. It goes without saying that one of the all-time good guys has left the building.


Movie poster of the week: The Headless Woman

September 20, 2008

The Headless Woman

The New York Film Festival starts next Friday, opening with Laurent Cantet’s Cannes winner The Class and closing with Darren Aronofsky’s Venice winner (and Mickey Rourke resurrection) The Wrestler. On the auteur front there are new films by Mike Leigh, Arnaud Desplechin, Olivier Assayas, Agnes Jaoui, Jerzy Skolimowski, Joao Botelho, Jia Zhangke, Hong Sang-soo, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Steven Soderbergh, Clint Eastwood and Kelly Reichardt, as well as a near-complete restrospective of Nagisa Oshima, and restorations, playing on the same day no less, of two of the most rhapsodic films ever made: Max Ophuls’ Lola Montes (1955) and Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time (1994).

But the film I was looking forward to perhaps more than any other was Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman (La Mujer Sin Cabeza). With La Ciénaga (2001) and The Holy Girl (2004) Martel has established herself as one of the most important filmmakers of the decade, a director with an amazing eye (and ear) who is constantly nudging at the corners of the envelope. I saw The Headless Woman at a press screening this week and it is a stunning piece of work, as visually assured and challenging as anything I have seen this year. Yet it is also an aggravating experience: Martel withholds so much information from the viewer that one is quickly as disorientated as her protagonist, a hit-and-run bourgeoise named Vero who looks like Glynis Johns and moves like the living dead. In Vero’s world the indigenous underclass of Argentina are phantoms that hover and bustle, out of focus, in the background and while that is beautifully conveyed by Martel it also feels a little glib.

The poster, while maybe too poppy and glam for this film, is fabulous. This is after all a film in which hair is regularly mentioned and assumes an iconic importance. I love the font too. Thanks to D-kaz for finding this; as ever he writes far more intelligently on the film than I ever could.

You can watch the trailer (in Spanish) here.


Sarah Plainview

September 18, 2008

Steve Coll in The New Yorker on the video of Sarah Palin at the Wasilla Assembly of God Pentecostal church:

“The YouTube version of the Governor’s idiosyncratic narrative of faith, ambition, motherhood, and frontier life has a slightly different ring from the received version, which débuted at the Republican Convention last month; the video does not evoke “Northern Exposure” so much as it does “There Will Be Blood.” There are about fifty days left until a national election of unusual consequence; perhaps there is still time for journalists to fully vet what McCain did not.”


Vicky Cristina Barcelona

September 12, 2008

Poor Rebecca Hall (daughter of Peter, the sensible girl in Starter for 10); she is pretty much the central character of Woody’s latest, and the best thing in it, and yet she doesn’t get a look in on the poster which is all about Penelope Scarlett Javier. (Faring even worse is Wire alumni Pablo Schreiber, brother of Liev, who gets what Dennis Miller once called the “expository eunuch” role as Vicky’s boyfriend of five minutes). I liked this a lot, though I’m not sure what it was I enjoyed because frankly I agree with most of Michael Atkinson’s dismissal of the thing. But it’s a pleasant way (and place) to spend some time, despite some annoyances (the narration that tells you what everyone is thinking or about to do; the stilted talk about the nature of love or the nature of artists) which I chose to indulge as Woodyisms rather than severe lapses of imagination. Compared to Scoop or Hollywood Ending this was like Casablanca (or should that be Ricky Ilsa Casablanca?) so be thankful for small mercies. Oh, one other thing that bugged me: while Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz are arguing in private, Bardem repeatedly insists “Speak English in this house!” (translation: “Speak English in this movie!”). There are few things more exciting than listening to Penelope Cruz spout invective in Spanish (those sibilants!) so I really wished he would shut up.


Movie poster of the week: Stranded

September 12, 2008


One of my own. Forgive me the indulgence, but I am pretty happy with how this turned out. The film is amazing and it opens on October 22.