Modern-day hero and defender of the working class, Michael Moore, documents his 1996 book tour ("Downsize This: Random Threats from an Unarmed American") across the USA - and along the way he explains why Steve Forbes is an extraterrestrial alien, talks with workers around the state, and picks more scraps with corporate America (i.e.: Nike C.E.O Phil Night). Known to most as the creator of "Roger and Me" and "TV Nation," Moore is an unabashed promoter of "the common man." He is also a controversial figure and a lightning rod for criticism, especially from conservative forces that accuse him of shameless self-promotion and picking easy fights. But, as is abundantly clear in "The Big One," the reason humanitarians across the nation rejoice at seeing Michael Moore in action boils down to three simple things - he's smart, funny, and he holds people to task for making decisions based on the almighty buck instead of their heart. Similar to his book deal, half of the profits made from this film (which was made with BBC funding) are designated to go to the people of Moore's suffering hometown Flint, MI.
This documentary about Woody Allen was originally reported, back in 1995, to have been originally offered to Terry Zwigoff to direct - the man who brought to the screen the life of counter-culture cartoonist Robert Crumb. The comparisons between Crumb and Allen would have been obvious since both are jazz-loving, neurotic, "dirty-old-men" whose work doled out equal parts philosophy, humor, and varying levels of sexual obsessions. Not surprisingly, Allen opted to disclose his life to somebody else, presumably because he had no interest in having any dysfunctional areas become the focus of the film. In the hands of political film-maker Barbara Kopple (who won two Oscars for her epics about the Union movement, American Dream and Union movement) Wild Man Blues shows us Woody Allen at work and play in his elements, putting on jazz concerts and traveling across Europe. Inevitably, however, moments that reveal an unguarded Woody Allen creep through the film and culminate with the final scene, in which Allen, his sister and "the notorious Soon-Yi Previn" (as Allen tends to introduce her) visit Allen's parents - who, it becomes evident, are both unimpressed by their son's success.
Vincent Gallo, whose resume (actor, rock-and-roll musician, composer, painter, Calvin Klein model) makes him look like a cranky job-jumper, now adds "movie director" to the list, and he may have found his true calling at last. Already branded (or blessed) with a reputation as an edgy, smart-assed, difficult guy to work with - his acting credits include Abel Ferrara's The Funeral, Alan Taylor's Palookaville and Bille August's The House of the Spirits - he brings his quirkiest talents to bear here on the unlikely relationship between one Billy Brown, an enraged ex-convict with murder on his mind, and a needy blond teenager named Layla (Christina Ricci), who sweetly dreams of being a tap dancer... Buffalo '66 may be the low-budget wonder of the year, a directorial debut that suggests the attitudinal street smarts of early Scorsese and the stubborn purity of Cassavetes, just slightly diminished by rookie self-consciousness. Set in Antarctica, studded with improbabilities and featuring a weird cameo by Mickey Rourke, no less, As Billy's vengeful bookie, it has the kind of brave comic charm that's hard to find in movies twice as hip and ten times its size. Shuffle off to Buffalo for two hours: It's well worth the fare. (Bill Gallo, Westword - no relation to Vince.)
A study of ambition and the emptiness it can bring, High Art is a serious first feature by writer/director Lisa Cholodenko. Lucy Berliner (Ally Sheedy) is a burned out retired art photographer whose inspired abilities have been replaced by wasteful listlessness and drugged out stagnation. When her neighbor, Syd, played by Australian actress Rhada Mitchell, enters her life with professional purpose, Lucy's seclusion begins to falter. Syd's feelings for Lucy and her experimentation with Lucy's world, or rather, the seduction of Lucy's world, disrupts the lives of both characters and threatens both photographic projects and lovers. Largely based on a style of still photography loosely known as The Boston School, High Art appears to bear many similarities to the life of Nan Goldin - a leader in this school of photographers. Her work and the work of Jack Pierson strongly influence the film's languid visual style by cinematographer Tami Reiker (Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love). High Art intelligently explores the drug-filled world and lesbian relationships of its characters and thoughtfully ponders the sad results of both professional and artistic disappointment. (Reviewed by Scott Posten)
Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski, a singular force in European cinema with such films as The Decalogue, Camera Buff and The Double Life of Veronique, unexpectedly retired from filmmaking after completing the third part of his trilogy, Three Colors: Blue, White, Red. Soon after his longtime assistant director, Krzystof Wierbicki, asked him to sit for an informal interview. Krzysztof Kieslowski: I'm So-So is the result and it proves to be a remarkable tribute to an artist whose sudden death in 1996 was a tragic loss. Through candid interviews and film clips from Kieslowski's large body of work, I'm So-So provides a highly personal look at an artist who confronted the anguish of Communism in Poland and helped define "the cinema of moral anxiety." Speaking on The Decalogue, Kieslowski stated: We wanted to brush up those ten well-written sentences." On his life he said: "I have only one good characteristic. I'm a pessimist. The future is a black hole." Audiences might disagree with that assessment given that his films have provided such intriguing explorations of the difficult metaphysics of the late 20th century. (Review from the Portland Art Museum Northwest Film Center program.)
John Hurt is in top form as British novelist Giles De'Ath - a recluse who spurns the modern world only to find his life changed by watching Hotpants College 2, a trashy American comedy. He becomes obsessed with the young supporting actor, Ronnie Bostock (aptly played by Beverly Hills 90210 teen pin-up Jason Priestley), and engineers an encounter that leads to frequent visits thereafter. Writer/director Richard Kwietniowski happened across noted British film critic Gilbert Adair's cult novel of the same name and recalls feeling a true cinephile's hand at work within the story. "I really believe that there is something very magical about the cinema and that every film is made out of thousands of little details. We all see approximately the same film, but at the same time there's enormous potential for us to be touched in a much more personal way by some detail or fragment that has particular resonance. And so I like to think that what happens to Giles when he goes in to see the wrong film could in theory happen to anybody in any cinema, anywhere in the world." Love and Death on Long Island deftly positions its many ironies - the literary and cinematic allusions, the amused mockery of both high and popular culture - into a witty and accomplished film.
Live Flesh has an attempted murder at its heart and is loosely structured as a who-and whydunit. However... the film's focus is on lushly accented emotions. The Spanish title (Carne Tremula) is more descriptive than the novel's original English title: 'carne' in Spanish means 'flesh' but it also means 'meat,' while 'live' does not quite convey the connotations of trembling and pulsating that 'tremula' does. This is only worth indicating because the Spanish title so perfectly describes the film's emotional pitch: raw, fearful, passionate, possibly deadly, but possibly delicious... Live Flesh is arguably Almodovar's best film since Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. The films in between have all had brilliant moments or sections, but Live Flesh is a fully realized work, a sustained examination of how betrayal, guilt, revenge, desire and loss relate to love. It is a complex and moving film that is beautiful to look at. You'll want to see it again. (Jose Arroya, Sight & Sound)
During the Great Depression, an estimated 4 million Americans left home and boarded boxcars in a desperate search for work. Of that number, about 250,000 were teenagers, and filmmakers Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell had the inspired idea to solicit letters from them. From among their 3,000 or so respondents, Uys and Lovell selected 10 vital, engaging individuals to tell their stories in their irresistible documentary... These people have such an enduringly indomitable spirit that Riding the Rails never gets depressing. Instead, it is infinitely moving as we realize these individuals, now in their 70's and 80's, have been profoundly affected by ht they experienced and survived. What Riding the Rails leaves us with is a much better idea of what the Great Depression meant for our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents - even if they didn't head for the boxcars themselves and even if they managed to avoid outright hunger. The next time an older relative strikes you as being unnecessarily frugal, you'll understand why. (Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times)
Lawn Dogs is a quirky and explosive Southern drama about the unlikely friendship between Devon, (Mischa Barton) a 10-year-old girl, and Trent (Sam Rockwell), a 21-year-old working class boy who mows lawns in her affluent Kentucky suburb. John Duigan (Sirens, Flirting, The Journey of August King) directs from an original screenplay by award-winning playwright and poet Naomi Wallace, who grew up in the lush area where the story is set and was filmed. Duigan was intrigued by the idea of using an old Russian folk tale in a contemporary drama set in Kentucky. "There are cultural peculiarities in Lawn Dogs which are unique to this part of the United States," he observed, "but I think the film speaks about much larger issues, common to many countries. And the weaving in of the (Russian folk tale) brings in a European narrative tradition." Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times notes how some of the characters "are deliberately one-dimensional; they're meant to seem like ogres in a fairy tale. On one level a satire, Lawn Dogs comments on the widening gap between the self-isolating haves and increasingly vulnerable have-nots in American society."
On the surface, this is a film about two sisters, Iris and Rose, that have profoundly different ways of dealing with the death of their mother. Issues surrounding the whereabouts of the mothers ashes and wedding ring only widen the chasm, with Iris descending into a complex spiral that leads to both breakdown and regeneration. But Carine Adler's stunning feature debut goes much further than simply providing a chronicle of events by probing deeper psychological ground. The result is a mesmerizing look at how anger and fantasy can evoke desires and needs that fuel an exaggerated sexuality that is really a longing for love, attention, power, self-punishment, revenge and relief from pain. "The impression of inhabiting a sexual uncertainty zone is underlined by hypnotic visual effects that create an intense eroticism around Iris' identity crisis, drawing the audience into a world of free-floating, polymorphous desire." (Pam Cook, Sight and Sound) Winner of the International Critics Award at the Toronto Film Festival.
The Getty Center, 13 years in the making, was to be the vision of renowned architect Richard Meier, famous for his grand, minimalist white buildings. So when "Concert of Wills" (the emphasis should be on wills not concert) begins with a cantankerous community meeting at which Brentwood residents insist a white building is out of the question, Meier takes the first of many hits. His run-ins with San Diego artist Robert Irwin, commissioned to design the museum's central garden, with French architect Thierry Despont, brought in to add color and warmth to the building's interior, and with Getty executives themselves, who fear "Richard seems almost to have a hostility toward comfort," make for wonderful, mesmerizing high drama. (Review from the Film Forum program.) A film by Susan Froemke, Bob Eisenhardt and Albert Maysles. Legendary documentary cameraman and filmmaker Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter) recently received the American Society of Cinematographers' Presidents Award (1997), one of the ASC's highest honors, and will be present to talk about the film.
Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) is a mysterious drifter, an absurd prophet with Faustian undertones, who one day enters the life of Simon Grim (James Urbaniak), a withdrawn and feckless garbage man. Fool sets up residence in the basement apartment of Simon's mother's house and immediately begins to speak of his opus; his literary masterpiece that, when the time is right, will be unleashed upon, and forever change, the literary world. Henry encourages Simon to write down his own thoughts and to become a stronger and more dominant person. Over the course of eight years the unforeseen impact of Simon's poetry changes the lives of both men in unexpected ways. Henry Fool is Hal Hartley's seventh film. It is perhaps his greatest blend of story and language. It is his epic. He tackles the false hope of the information age, ridicules the exploitative tendencies of the media, and illustrates the power, force, and transformative ability of language in an otherwise lethargic and nihilistic universe. Hartley's signature style - his motionless camera shots and tight framing, his sharp sense of irony and comic timing, are all in evidence here. (Reviewed by Scott Posten) Winner of the Best Screenplay award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for a Golden Palm.
Filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami won the Golden Palm at last year's Cannes Film Festival for this poignant look at an enigmatic figure who drives his car looking for passengers to help him with an ominous task. Mr. Badiei, a middle-aged man in a white Range Rover, cruises the outskirts of Teheran offering financial help to a changing roster of passengers, but the money is contingent on them helping him to dig a grave. The various reactions from the passengers help cement this work squarely within the humanitarian realm, with each character, no matter how unsophisticated, having a dignity and knowledge of their place in the world. In the last few years, acclaimed German director Werner Herzog has continuously pointed to Iran as a hotbed of filmmaking, producing some of the most thought-provoking and serious cinema in the world. Abbas Kiarostami (Through the Olive Trees), along with Mohsen Makmalbaf (Gabbeh), and Jaffar Panahi (The White Balloon), are among the cream of the crop - with Kiarostami decades ahead of the other two (having started his film career in 1970).
Prime yourself for the upcoming weekend at the Kingdom with this perfect segue from documentaries to the Scandinavian films that will end our first schedule for the Fall. Tranceformer is a meeting on a private level with the provocative Danish film director Lars von Trier, a man of contradictions who has refused most contact with press and media, thus making Tranceformer an exclusive document on one of the most exciting filmmakers in the world today. Documentary filmmaker Stig Bjorkman follows Lars von Trier over a period of more than two years, capturing the now famously dubbed "enfant terrible of cinema" at work and play, commenting on his odd universe from his childhood's Super 8 films, his early feature films, The Kingdom series, to his award winning feature Breaking the Waves. The documentary also covers friends, enemies, actors and collaborators whose insights range from simple detractions to more detailed philosophical views on the man who is currently a practicing Catholic with a simultaneous desire to affirm and disavow his faith.
Set in Oslo at its most dank, Junk Mail is an unexpectedly romantic thriller about a disaffected postman who unwittingly becomes involved in a web of crime and danger. Roy (Robert Skjaerstad), the mail carrier, is a poker faced outsider who seems to inspire indifference from his co-workers and nearly everyone on his delivery route. At work, his one attempt at livening up his job (and his life) is to read purloined love letters after stealing what he finds most appealing. This incidental snooping leads to larger transgressions that will ensnare him into a world that might have been synthesized by the likes of such directors as Campion, Polanski, the Coen brothers, and Scorsese (Junk Mail director/co-writer Pal Sletaune, and his cinematographer Kjell Vassdal, list them as influences). Junk Mail has been presented to great acclaim at a host of international film festivals, and among its honors are the first prize in International Critics Week at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, and a nomination by Norway as its official entry in this year's Academy Award race for Best Foreign Language film.
Sat, Oct 3 - 3:00pm only.
PART 1 - Introduction to the haunted hospital (an actual hospital in Copenhagen built atop an ancient marsh) populated with neurotic doctors, angry patients and bureaucracy gone haywire.
Sun, Oct 4 - 3:00pm only.
PART 1 - Potions that turn people into zombies! Primal scream healers!
Norway is known as the land of the midnight sun and, in the northern regions during the summer, the sun will simply run a loop in the sky that keeps the night at bay for months. Insomnia thus turns various genre traits on their head to become the first film noir film to use light, rather than darkness, as a way of conveying atmospheric menace while emphasizing the estrangement of its protagonist. The setup has two criminal investigators arrive in a town in the north of Norway to help local police solve the murder of a young girl. A second murder sets the investigators off on an intense race where the stakes are as high for them as for their quarry. Stellan Skarsgard (Breaking the Waves, Good Will Hunting) stars as the troubled veteran investigator whose judgment slowly deteriorates under various background pressures accentuated by his insomnia. Director Erik Skjoldbjaerg and writer Nikolaj Frobenius put together a flawless work full of style, irony, atmosphere, and subtle themes of guilt and transference the likes of which are rarely seen outside of Hitchcock's best.
Based on the 1938 Dutch novel by F. Bordewijk of the same name, this Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film echoes with the haunting strains of a classic myth. Richly detailed in both its period look and engrossing tale, the story, set in 1920’s Holland, kicks off with the arrest of a young man, Katadreuffe (Fedja van Huet), for the brutal murder of the town’s hated bailiff, Dreverhaven (Antonia’s Line’s Jan Decleir), who turns out to be the young man’s father... The film’s grim tone is lightened appreciably by unexpected doses of humor and a bittersweet romance between Katadreuffe and an office secretary, Lorna (beautifully and heart-breakingly played by Tamar van den Dop), making it a stirring and decidedly intelligent film. An impressive feature debut by writer-director Mike van Diem, Character’s intrigue lies in its avoidance of simple or conventional rationalizations and is reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman’s obsessive celluloid treatises on his love-hate relationship with his father. (Luisa F. Ribeiro, Boxoffice Magazine)