Friday, February 27, 2009

Norma Rae

I received an email from someone who read a review I wrote on the DVD of Norma Rae a few years ago. They wanted to know the town it was shot in.
The fictionalized town is called Henleyville but [as this cool link of labor movies notes] "it is based on the real-life story of textile union activist Crystal Lee Sutton in her fight against the J.P. Stevens Co. in Roanoke Rapids, N.C."
But the real town they shot the movie in was Opelika, Alabama where they had a real unionized mill.

The Nation has a good article on the film.

Now you know...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Yorker films...

New Yorker Films is going out of business. This is sad news for anyone who loves foreign language films. Some of the films they released over for the past 40 years were among the most memorable and what one could call essential.
Filmmakers such as Jean Luc-Godard, Ranier Werner Fassbinder, Alain Tanner and Ousmane Senbene had films distributed to the US by New Yorker.
In the 1990's, when VHS was the main home format, they had a lock on some of the best film titles available. Many of these titles never actually made it onto DVD. But some of the titles managed to go over to Rialto Pictures, which puts them on The Criterion Collection.
Over the past ten years New Yorker DVD has released fewer and fewer titles.
But they were good titles. Here is a list of some of the best titles available on DVD from New Yorker. [I guess once stores sell out of New Yorker DVDs they may not be available for a while unless they can be found used].

After Life - Hirokazu Koreeda
L'Argent - Robert Bresson
Beau Travail - Clair Denis
Chunhyang - Im Kwon-Taek
Cyclo - Tran Ahn Hung
The Eel - Shohei Imamura
Fireworks - Takeshi Kitano
Flamenco - Carlos Saura
Gabbeh - Moshen Malkmalbaf
How Tasty Was My Little Frenchmen - Pereira Dos Santos
Jazz on a Summer's Day - Bert Stern
La Belle Noiseuse - Jacques Rivette
Landscape in the Mist - Theo Angelopolous
Loulou - Marice Pialat
A Man Escaped - Robert Bresson
Moolaade - Ousmane Sembene
My Architect - Nathaniel Kahn
Platform - Jia Zhang-ke
Shoah - Claude Lanzmann
The Son - Dardenne Brothers
Songs From The Second Floor - Roy Andersson
Weekend - Jean Luc Godard
The Wind Will Carry Us - Abbas Kiarostami
Underground - Emir Kusturica

A complete list of New Yorker titles can be found here. Note some of the titles were not announced titles but were in the New Yorker library and are on VHS].

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Director list

Entertainment Weekly has a list of the Top 50 Active directors working today.

Please note that - even though they don't say it directly - this list is really a Hollywood 'power list'. These are the directors who define mainstream cinema and bring in the bucks. That's why few really good foreign language directors such as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Alexander Sukorov, Patrice Leconte, Clair Denis or Werner Herzog manage to not even make it into the top 50.

Women are missing, which is in some part because they are still not invited to the table with the big boys. That said, Sofia Coppola makes it but Katherine Bigelow doesn't.

But one should also note that even among this power list Jon Favreau #25 edges past Woody Allen #26. What? A director who has made 2 good films in 6 years is in front of a director who has made a good film [and some great ones] every year for the past 26 years?

James Cameron makes the top ten despite the fact that he hasn't made a film in 13 years. Huh? I guess The Titanic gives him a free ride for a lifetime? May as well throw Francis Coppola or William Freidkin on there too.
I also had to look three times at the overall top 50 because I could scarcely believe Gus Van Sant didn't make the list.

I'll acknowledge that any list they come out with will raise heckles from some quarter. And, after all, they are Entertainment Weekly - not Film Comment or Sight & Sound so anything not aligned with Hollywood mainstream would seem to go against their base. But then again maybe they just make these lists to provoke us? Because if they think we are supposed to take it seriously then they would make a serious list.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Simon says

One of Bunuel's best if for no other reason then that it feels unfinished and therefore more surreal. But, as always, the religious angle is there. Even though he mocks religion he brings up debatable points as well.

Review here.