Sunday, January 15, 2012

DB's Sunday Night Cap 1/15/12- including a look at Shoah The Unseen Interviews

DB here.

It's Sunday which means its time for my weekly nightcap, a round up of thoughts, links, and updates from the world of film.

I spent the afternoon at Lincoln Center at The Jewish Film Festival. I was seeing Shoah the Unseen Interviews. This was excerpts from three interviews that didn't make it into Shoah. Running about an hour (not including the Q&A) the interviews were a mixed bag.

The problem was that the pieces were not particularly good as stand alone. Abraham Bomba, a barber in Treblinka bit only serves to explain that no one really understood what was going on in the camps, as he tells of escaping the camp and going home where his friends don't believe him. Its good but it's unconnected.

Peter Bergson's piece about trying to mobilize information in the US is okay, but its clearly rightly belongs in another movie. Actually the material here, about 20 minutes from several hours needs more of a context to add up to something. It's nice but The Karski Report at last years Film Comment Selects series said it better.

Ruth Elias's piece was way too short. As one person in the audience said, why can't we see her whole story? Her tale of survival both inside and outside of the camps is as raw and real as they come. Its amazing. This needs to come out as a whole.

Truthfully seeing the clips made me want to see more. In all honesty the choices were hindered by being limited by not being able to show what was in Shoah and trying to keep things to English interviews. Why they felt to need to do that is beyond me since the Jewish Film Festival and Lincoln Center has audiences who will read subtitles.

I liked it but in all honesty I could have stayed home and not braved the cold.

This need to make this acceptable to American audiences is something that has been much on my mind of late. At some point I'm going to have to address this fully owing to this weekends multiple translations of both Night Watch and Day Watch. It also reared it's ugly head last year with the trimming of Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins which is great in the international version but one of the best films I've ever seen in the original theatrical version. I also was disappointed this week to find that Jackie Chan's film 1911, which will be reviewed next week for Chinese New Year, was chopped down by about 25 minutes for US release, making a very good film, an okay one. We need to see films as the directors intended and not chopped up.

I need to respond to the poster who said that The Miracle of Marcelino is a beautiful film. I need to do this here because the web page won't let me load it any time I try to respond to the comment(talk about eerie). I do think that on some level it is a beautiful film, and I wholly agree with it being less frightening than the news, however I find that for a kid who doesn't have the ability to read into the film the Christian symbology, its a frightening film, especially in it's moody black and white photography which makes it almost like a thriller. Maybe it's me but the taking Marcelino to mommy through death is creepy. (addendum I'm now having problems with all posts and their comments)

It looks like Unseen won’t be attending the BAMKids Fest February 4 and 5. There are a couple of reasons behind this, first the fest is really aimed at the under 10 set. This is normally fine, but the films this year seemed really aimed at that age group instead of being all age appropriate. The other reason is that in looking into the short films that interested us, Randi, Bully John and myself found that most of them can be seen on line. We ended up trading links to the various titles on You Tube and elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong the titles are great but not enough to go see them on the big screen.

Tomorrow we’re starting our first week of Buster Keaton films. There’ll be an introduction before Mr C’s first piece, but I just wanted to say that if you don’t know Keaton’s work you need to start tracking down his films. Keaton was a master of comedy, both physical and verbal. The verbal part kind of took me by surprise since everyone always thinks about his silent films. I have been looking at some of his sound films and I was amazed at how pitch perfect his verbal timing was. Long agp I had the misfortune at seeing a couple of his lesser sound films and I was of the opinion that he wasn’t all that good. Then I started seeing some of his sound shorts and some of the recently released films from the Warner Archive and my opinion changed. It was clear that given the right material Keaton was simply a genius of all types of humor.

As I say in tomorrows introduction this week coming up will concentrate mostly on some of his best known silents but there will be further reviews of Keaton’s films down the line. In working with John, MrC and Bully picking out the films to do, we had the pleasure to keep running into a film here or there that we hadn’t seen before. It became this conversation where we kept going “what about this or that” to the point where we potentially had too much material. I know we have at least another week of films, maybe more, we just have to figure out how best to present it. This additional week(s) is a bit of a way off. Right now we to concentrate on the weeks we have scheduled after this week of Keaton, namely the Chinese New Year, Vacation Getaways, Tarzan and a other surprises. We'll let you know when Buster returns.

Some of you may be interested to know that Lincoln Center will be running every film that Bela Tarr ever made as part of The Last Modernist: The Complete Works of Béla Tarr from February 3-8, 2012. The series ties in with the theatrical release of Tarr's "final" film the Turin Horse.I saw Turin Horse at the New York FIlm Festival and I mostly liked it. What I didn't care for was it's two and a half hour running time because at a certain point the film stops doing anything new but simply repeats itself. My thoughts on that film can be found here. For my money any of Tarr's films except The Man From London is worth trying, with Damnation being a particular favorite of mine.

Speaking of things from this past New York Film Festival. I finally saw Paradise Lost 3:Purgatory on HBO. Those playing the home game may remember that I had tickets for the first public screening but passed it up to see the secret sneak preview of what turned out to be Hugo. You may also remember that I was going to watch the first hour of the film, but found that some rude press people were being pains in the butt in the lobby of Alice Tully Hall and I simply turned around and went to see Hugo.

My reaction to the film is very mixed. Even though I think it has a shot at an Oscar, I don't think it deserves it. Yes, what it, and its makers did is amazing, however I don't think it's a particularly good film on it's own terms. Yes it hits all of the right notes and it updates everything, but the film is too long at 2 hours since it recaps too much. Its caught between the problem of having to update people who have been on board from the start, but also recap everything for those just coming it. The result is a film that isn't fully satisfying.

And now some links

Yul Brenner's Photos

A Magical Tour of Scary Chinese People or Grady Hendrix looks at a terrible racial stereotype.

Cartoon Brew has the skinny on a possible animated version of The Prophetfeaturing all of the best directors around. Details are here.

Cartoon Brew has a 12 minute animated version of The Hobbit.

An amusing film that is being screened at the BAMKids Fest- Cosmic Avenger

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