Thursday, August 24, 2017

Saint Strikes Back (1938)

George Sanders takes over from Louis Hayward in the second Saint film. Here the the killer of bad guys is softened to be a witty "crook" one step ahead of everyone. Again teamed up with Inspector Fernack (Jonathan Hale) Simon Templar gets involved in helping to clear the name of a policeman who was framed by his friends.

More funny than garish and fueled by the wit and charm that would make this series and the subsequent Falcon one run for the better part of the decade this is less a mystery than Sanders making fun of everyone. Sure his jokes are less cruel to his friends but he is clearly in control and we're along for the ride.

One of the best in the series this is just a wonderful. A wonderful bon monts and general curiosity to see how TEmplar will pull this off make this a wonderful romp. Never meant to be more than a lively romp and grand entertainment THE SAINT STRIKES BACK is a great way to destress and chill out.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Philippe Garrel: Part 1 at the Metrograph

Largest U.S. Career Retrospective of Garrel Opens October 12 with

Garrel's L'ENFANT SECRET Receives First-Ever U.S. Theatrical Run
from October 18-24 in New Digital Remaster

Garrel To Appear In-Person
“The child of Cocteau and Godard” (Jacques Rivette), “the proverbial underrated genius” (Olivier Assayas), Philippe Garrel began making films at sixteen, fired by a mythopoetic vision and a political fervor that crested and crashed in May ’68, whose turmoil he filmed (the long-lost, newly discovered Actua 1), and re-created from memory (Regular Lovers, both of which will screen in Part 2 of this retrospective). In the fallout of this popular uprising, the dandy-in-the-underworld produced a darkly dazzling cycle of what Philippe Azoury called “alchemic and symbolist films, a cinema in suede boots.” Then, beginning with 1982’s L’enfant secret, Garrel became something of the patron saint of narrative minimalists, making pared-down, cloistered works fascinated with the significance of minute gestures yet encompassing wider world affairs both social and romantic. Garrel’s reflective films draw heavily on his autobiography—the women in his life, including the chanteuse Nico, his companion for a crucial decade-long interlude; his addictions and inner turmoil; a family of politically-engaged artisans, incorporating as actors father Maurice, son Louis and most-recently daughter Esther, alongside comrades Jean-Pierre Léaud, Anne Wiazemsky, Pierre Clémenti and Zouzou. Part 1 of this retrospective, which will be the most complete yet in the United States, opens Thursday October 12, includes recent digital restorations and new 35mm prints, providing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience fifty years of work from cinema’s foremost poet. Philippe Garrel: Part 2 will open in November.
Presented with support from the Cultural services of the French Embassy in New York. With special thanks to Claudine Kaufmann, Nicholas Elliott and Pip Chodorov.

L'enfant secret (1979/92 mins/DCP) [Official Selection: NYFF Revivals]
U.S. Theatrical Premiere Run October 18-24 in New Digital Remaster
The transitional film of Garrel’s career, pivoting from his experimental work into narrative, from films with Nico to works imbued with her ghost. Robert Bresson “models” Anne Wiazemsky (Au hasard Balthazar) and Henri de Maublanc (The Devil, Probably) are a couple who fall in love and then fall to pieces, descending into drug addiction and mutually-enforced self-destruction. The winner of the Prix Jean Vigo in 1982, this lacerating piece of cinematic self-analysis was Garrel’s most traditional film to date, though as quietly revolutionary as any of his previous work, and a testament to an artist’s survival. “The secret child of French cinema, Philippe Garrel has sent us a sign of life. Our answer: we hear you loud and clear” (Serge Daney). This marks the U.S. theatrical premiere run of L’enfant secret, newly remastered. A Film Desk Release. New digital remaster courtesy of Re:Voir. 
Marie pour mémoire (1967/74 mins/DCP) and L'enfants désaccordés (1968/60 mins/DCP)
*New Digital Remasters*
Garrel’s first full-length feature, frequently translated literally as “Marie for Memory,” but perhaps more accurately as “Remember Marie” or “Marie for the record,” is “an explicitly political work about innocence thwarted by parental and state control that trades in the iconography of the Holy Trinity,” per Kent Jones, and an international success, winning first prize at the Festival of Young Cinema in Hyères (and even distributed in the U.S. by Universal Pictures 16mm division). “The first total revolution in cinema since the advent of Jean-Luc Godard. No more literature here. No other writing than that of the camera.”—Claude Mauriac. L'enfants Désaccordés is the story of two runaways–“the out-of-tune children”–and Garrel’s earliest surviving film, shot at age 16.

Anémone (1968/53 mins/DCP) and Droit de visite (1965/15 mins/35mm)
In his teens, Garrel appeared on French public television introducing segments of the youth-centered show Seize millions de jeunes (“Six million young people”), and was soon given an hour slot for Anémone, his first mid-length work. Starring Anne Bourguignon, soon to change her name to Anémone professionally (and go on to a decades-long acting career), the film was refused broadcast and labeled too pessimistic, not unexpected given the year. Droit de Visite is the second enormously precocious short by Garrel, in which a young child of divorce spends time with his father, who has “visitation rights.” With Philippe’s own father, the actor Maurice Garrel.

Le révélateur (1968/62 mins/DCP) *New Digital Remaster* [Official Selection: NYFF Revivals]
In this beguiling, hypnotic, completely silent work, a couple (Bernadette Lafont and Laurent Terzie ) and their child cross a wasted landscape, keeping just ahead of an unexplained, pursuing threat. Filmed in high contrast black and white (révélateur is photographic developer), the darkness illuminated literally and figuratively by searchlight. “When we filmed Le Révélateur in Germany, every time we tried to set up a shot, the police came along: that in itself didn’t bother me much. I had come to Germany in part for that: to shoot near military camps, to create this feeling of being oppressed.”—Philippe Garrel

Le lit de la vierge (1970/95 mins/35mm) *New 35mm Print*
Elemental, mysterious, and nearly overpowering in its widescreen imagery and moving camera, Le Lit de la vierge (The Virgin’s Bed) stars friends/collaborators Pierre Clement and Zouzou as Christ and Mary. Along with Le RévélateurLe Lit de la vierge is Garrel’s ‘Zanzibar” film, an extraordinary series of films produced by young patron of the arts Sylvina Boissonnas, made in the wake of May ’68 by Jackie Raynal, Patrick Deval, Frédéric Pardo and Daniel Pommereulle (to whom Garrel would dedicate Regular Lovers, screening in Part 2 of this retrospective).

La cicatrice intérieure (The Inner Scar) (1972/60 mins/35mm) *New 35mm Print*
“Features Pierre Clementi (nude) and the Andy Warhol superstar Nico (dressed in a loose robe), and a few others, including Philippe Garrel. Clementi speaks French; Nico sometimes complains in English and sometimes declaims in German verse, and sometimes sings for musical background on the soundtrack. There are no subtitles.” —New York Times, 1972.
“One mustn’t ask yourself questions while watching... it should be watched for pleasure, as one can take pleasure from walking in the desert.”—Philippe Garrel
“Personally, I find this film a masterpiece. A total masterpiece. I can’t explain it.” —Henri Langlois

Les hautes solitudes (1974/80 mins/DCP) *New Digital Remaster*
A key to understanding the first decade of Garrel’s filmmaking life, here stripped down to its barest quintessence. Moving portraiture, entirely silent, in stark black and white, of Jean Seberg in her Paris apartment, over a decade removed from her icon-making performance in Breathless, and a few tragic years before her early death. The young Garrel, already an old hand at creating cinema, brings his own spiritual intensity to capturing the faces of his friends and lovers: Nico, Tina Aumont and Laurent Terzie. “The idea was to make a film out of the outtakes of a film that never existed in the first place.”— Garrel

Le berceau de cristal (1976/70 mins/35mm)

A score by Ash Ra Tempel provides atmosphere to this sometimes dreamy, sometimes ominously silent trance-like transmission featuring Dominique Sanda, Anita Pallenberg and Frédéric Pardo, whose canvases are meditatively presented in whole or in part for observation. “Snapshot of a discordant generation. The cradle? Art (Pardo’s painting, Nico’s poetry, the Langlois Museum). The cradle? The cold (Anita Pallenberg’s powder, the silence before suicide). Every life is a demolition process.”—Philippe Azoury

Liberté, la nuit (1983/82 mins/35mm)
Garrel’s tribute to his parents and the supporters of the FLN (National Liberation Front) in their struggle for Algerian liberation, again with his father Maurice, and László Szabó, Emmanuelle Riva and wife Brigitte Sy. Time is slowed to observe determined hands in craft, and finally to slow-motion, to inflict the full horror of violence. “Mine is the cinema of the Left—if I refused to join the army, if I have contempt for the various means of amassing money, it’s thanks to a few people I knew in my childhood, who lived in conditions of poverty, but who were kings.”— Philippe Garrel

Elle a passé tant d'heures sous les sunlights... (1984/130 mins/35mm)
As befits a filmmaker for whom art and life are inextricably intertwined, Garrel frequently returns to exploring the passage between the two. Here the relationship between a young director and his subject (the sunlights of the title refers to the film lights on a set) is refracted through a film-within-a-film as well as through a series of troubling dreams. Alongside Garrel, the cast includes post-New Wave friends Jacques Doillon and Chantal Akerman, and frequent familiar faces Mireille Perrier, Anne Wiazemsky, and Lou Castal.

Les baisers des secours (Emergency Kisses) (1989/90 mins/35mm)

A family movie in the purest sense, Garrel here plays a filmmaker who, in putting together his latest work, comes into conflict with his wife after he refuses to cast her as the spouse in a retelling of their own love story, starring himself. With Garrel’s wife, Brigitte Sy and their young child Louis Garrel, and Garrel’s father Maurice. “Be it at dawn, or at dusk, in a surreptitious silence, someone’s hand cranks a handle without anybody around calling for ‘Action!’ The air is cold. Through his wiry mop of hair, the man looks at a woman he loves. Together they shiver. This shiver: the tingling of the cinema. Amitiés, Leos Carax.”

J'entends plus la guitare (1991/98 mins/35mm)
Completed in the aftermath of Nico’s sudden death in 1988, J’entends plus la guitare is Garrel’s tribute to the relationship that so profoundly marked him and his art. Johanna ter Steege is the stand-in for Nico; Benoît Régent is the Garrel substitute; and we see them through happiness/dependence, heroin-fueled breakdowns, and the building of independent lives. “We were what we were, and now we are not, and that’s that.” Olivier Assayas: “...about surviving youth, surviving in an age where everything you stood for, believed in, dreamed of, has been crushed.”

Sauvage innocence (2001/123 mins/35mm)
Returning compulsively to draw from the deepest wells of his personal pain, Garrel revisits the death of Nico in this film about a director (Medhi Belhaj Kacem) who’s embarking on a work about an ex-lover who has died from an overdose, only to be drawn into a highly suspect drug deal by producer Michel Subor. The last film to be shot by Raoul Coutard, in stunning black-and-white widescreen.

La frontiére de L'aube (Frontier of Dawn) (2008/106 mins/35mm)
Louis Garrel’s young photographer ends his affair with tempestuous actress Laura Smet and moves on to the promise of domestic peace with the more even-tempered Clémentine Poidatz. As in all of his work, the film is haunted by the dead, here in its most visible incarnation. “Serious movies that insist on their own seriousness almost always face a difficult reception, whether they are intellectual puzzles or, like Frontier of Dawn, romantic cries from the heart. Garrel transforms a private reverie into a public sacrament, invokes the eternal, risks absurdity, invites derision, seduces, shocks, transcends.” —Manohla Dargis,The New York Times.

Revelator: His Name is John and He Sees the Dead

John Dunning can see dead people, but is he ever defensive about it. The last person he should be teaming up with is an ambitious journalist trying to work her way out of listicle Hell, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Dunning was born desperate, thanks to his incessant visions of the dead and the increasingly severe mental stress they have caused. However, he might achieve some measure of relief and redemption if he does not completely crack-up in J. Van Auken’s Revelator, which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

The only dead person Dunning has not been able to see is his late wife, a school teacher who drowned with her students in a freak ferry accident. Every three years, he moves into a brand-new apartment complex, because that is generally how long it takes before the first resident dies in the building. Unfortunately, that leaves little money for anything else. Despite his shady rep, Dunning has amassed little through his gifts.

The closest thing he had to a patron has just passed away. By law, he stands to inherit an unusual property from her, but the wealthy and powerful Bellevue family intends to contest the will into eternity, unless he can solve the mystery surrounding the death of patriarch Carmine Bellevue’s developmentally-challenged son. When scuffling journalist Valerie Krueger sniffs out the story, she sets off Dunning’s alarm bells, but he still lets her observe him at work, because he needs a regular ride. Dunning can indeed see the late poor Jacob, but in a somewhat unsetting turn of events, he also seems to see Dunning.

Revelator might have a few rough edges, like most first features, but Van Auken offers up a number of fresh wrinkles on the psychic spirit-chaser genre. In fact, some of the eeriest incidents actually do not happen on-screen, but are related as evocative confessionals. That also means they are quite well written.

Directing himself as the lead might sound like a vanity project or a decision mandated by a rigid budget constraint, but Van Auken arguably projects the right world weary, spiritually-deflated psyche for the literally haunted Dunning. Yet, the real discovery is Mindy Rae, who is terrific as the brash but also somewhat broken Krueger. (Careful googling her, because there is another Rae, who is completely different and totally NSFW.) Plus, Greg Lucey does his best to channel the Hammer Horror greats as Old Man Carmine, which is definitely not a bad thing.

When Van Auken starts working with bigger budgets and greater technical resources, he should produce something really distinctive. Yet, the talent and freshness to be seen in Revelator already make it worth searching out. (We’re happy to give it a positive review now—and suspect we’ll look like geniuses for it, in a few years.) Recommended for genre fans looking for the next new thing, Revelator opens this Friday (8/25) in LA at the Laemmle Music Hall.

Red Christmas (2016) opens Friday

I saw this film when it played last year at Fantasia. With the film hitting theaters Friday here is a repost of my review:

Certain to become a favorite film on anti-abortion rights groups everywhere RED CHRISTMAS is an uncomfortable mix of horror and comedy.

The plot of the film has an anti abortionist blowing up a clinic. In the wreckage he finds a still alive fetus in a bucket and takes it home to raise it. 20 years later the child returns to his family on Christmas day and mayhem results.

Uncomfortable in the extreme, partly because of the subject matter and partly because the film is disturbing, this is a little slice of hell.

I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Part of my problem is that as a rule I don't like slasher films, and ultimately this film is that. It's also a weird sort of torture porn with the almost dead getting revenge. If films like this are well done or have a point I'm all for them, and RED CHRISTMAS seems to have a point. It is an extremely intelligent film that has some very real interactions between the family members, it has lots of ideas about eugenics, abortion, women's rights and other things floating around in it's brain.

But at the same time it has a sense of humor that undercuts the seriousness. Some of the jokes are goofy, some of the deaths over done and worst of all Cleatus, the aborted child, looks like a joke, wrapped in bandages and black robes. It pushes things too far toward not being completely serious, or serious enough. I don't know if director Craig Andersen is serious about everything he is doing of not- is he just trying to push buttons or is he trying to say something?

I'm sure there are going to be people who will argue both sides. For me the film is going to take some thought.

Taken on it's on terms it's a more than serviceable psycho on the loose film with a killer with a disturbing origin. Worth a look for fans or mad killer films.

Red Christmas will open in Los Angeles August 25th for a weeklong run at the Laemmle Music Hall, and expand to screens in San Francisco, Denver, Dallas and more over the coming weeks.

Sherlock Holmes Triple Feature: Spider Woman, Faces Death, Scarlet Claw

Spider Woman
Sherlock Holmes chases the person behind the pajama suicides in one of the best films in the Universal series. Filled will great characters I love Gale Sondergaard is a wonderful femme fatale, the film also has some killer set pieces including the conclusion in a shooting gallery with Watson unknowingly becoming the agent to of Sherlock’s death.
Highly recommended

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death
During the war Watson volunteers and is sent to oversee an officer convalescence home in the Musgrave family manor house. When weird things begin to happen Watson sends for Holmes as things begin to deteriorate and people end up dead.

One of my favorite Rathbone and Bruce Holmes films is based on the Conan Doyle story The Musgrave Ritual. For me the film works because not only are the two stars at the top of their game but you have the double mystery going who is the killer and does the ritual actually mean. It’s a wicker ride that is quite simply a great deal of fun.

The Scarlet Claw
In a small town some crazed beast is tearing apart the inhabitants. As the townsfolk cower in fear Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson step in to the fray to stop the killer.

Easily one of the best of the series THE SCARLET CLAW plays more like a horror film than a mystery. Full of dark lanes and dread this is one of the few films that generate genuine suspense, even after multiple viewings. There is something about knowing who is doing it that makes the film even more creepy since not only is the killer hiding in plain sight he’s not one you’d ever expect. Truthfully his is scarier film than most of the horror films from the same time.
An absolute joy from top to bottom.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Villainess: Kim Ok-vin Vanquishes All Pretenders

Sook-hee is a lot like La Femme Nikita, but she lends herself more readily to Freudian analysis. Gangster Joon-sang became both her father figure and fiancé, so when a rival gang killed him, she decided to wipe them out, with no regard for her own life. Of course, when Sook-hee, now working for a shadowy assassination agency, discovers Joon-sang is still alive and most likely betrayed her, you don’t need to be Sigmund Freud to guess how she might react. The body-count is truly awe-inspiring in Jung Byung-gil’s The Villainess, which opens this Friday in New York.

After learning of Joon-sang’s supposed death, Sook-hee launches a frontal assault on the gang that allegedly did it. Think of this sequence as the hallway scene from Oldboy, raised to the power of one hundred, but initially seen through Sook-hee’s POV, a la Hardcore Henry. However, Jung uses a cleverly transition to pop back to a standard omniscient viewer perspective about halfway through the opening carnage.

Sook-hee never expected to live through her super-charged vengeance-taking, but her conspicuous skills catch the eye of Chief Kwon, who oversees a double-secret counter-terror and organized crime agency. Basically, they are a death squad, but whatever. If Sook-hee gives them ten years of service, she can reclaim her life. It won’t be such a bad deal. She will assume the identity of aspiring actress Chae Yeon-soo and she will be able to maintain custody of the daughter she didn’t know she was pregnant with.

Unbeknownst to the reinvented Chae/Sook-hee, her new neighbor is also her handler Hyun-soo, who is deliberately worming his way into her life and confidence. However, he legitimately falls for her and duly adores her daughter too. Then one fine day, Chae is ordered to assassinate a target that turns out to be Joon-sang. Chaos ensues.

Granted, there is a bit of slack in the middle of Villainess, but it is hard to judge it harshly when the extended, relentlessly pedal-to-metal action sequences at the beginning and end are so spectacularly cinematic. Jung started in the business as a stuntman, so he has always had an affinity for action, but he takes it to a new level of artistry in Villainess. It is the sort of film you will want to re-watch with a clicker to try to keep track of the escalating death toll.

This summer, Hollywood has been congratulating itself for casting women in action roles, but they are rather late to the party, considering how long martial arts superstars like Cheng Pei-pei, Angela Mao Ying, Kara Hui, and Michelle Yeoh have thrown down in Hong Kong productions. Nice try studio guys, but as Sook-hee, Kim Ok-vin blows away all the phonies, pretenders, and Johnny-come-latelies. She is a trained martial artist, so she has the chops, but she also has Eastwood levels of steely intensity. When she shares the screen with Shin Ha-kyun’s charismatically manipulative and villainous (so to speak) Joon-sang, all bets are off. Yet, for elegant ruthlessness, it is tough to beat Kim Seo-hyung’s deliciously imperious Chief Kwon.

The Villainess is an action film that delivers over and over again and then some more. As soon as you have seen the first half-hour, you will think of Sook-hee as an action icon. The brutally cathartic fight scenes should firmly establish Jung as a modern master, but he gets a key assist from cinematographer Park Jung-hun, whose work is by turns evocatively noir or wildly frenetic. When it comes to women action protags, Kim Ok-vin can’t be beat. Very highly recommended, The Villainess opens this Friday (8/25) in New York, at the IFC Center.

Milwaukee Film Announces Full Lineup of Cream City Cinema Program

Milwaukee Film Announces Full Lineup of Cream City Cinema Program
Popular annual program supports local filmmakers with $12,500 in cash prizes to be awarded
WebsterX, The Fatty Acids, and IshDARR music videos to be a part of shorts showcase

MILWAUKEE – Tuesday, August 22, 2017 –  The 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival, presented by Associated Bank, is excited to announce the full lineup for Cream City Cinema. Now in its ninth year, Cream City Cinema showcases the best new work from Milwaukee-based filmmakers and awards three juried cash prizes totaling $12,500.

This year’s program is comprised of four shorts programs and six feature films, including the documentary Roller Life profiling Milwaukee’s own Brewcity Bruisers; the coming-of-age period piece Scott Road; and the return of the popular The Milwaukee Music Video Show, featuring music videos for notable local artists WebsterX, The Fatty Acids, and IshDARR.

In addition to the Cream City Cinema lineup, films with local ties can be found in other programs throughout the festival. These include Mark Borchart’s short documentary The Dundee Project, which will screen prior to Love and Saucers in the Cinema Hooligante program; Across the Line, an immersive virtual reality short playing as part of the VR Gallery; and Dear Coward on the Moon, which will have its world premiere during the festival in the Spotlight Presentations program.

Cream City Cinema is presented by John Axford and The Fischers and is sponsored by Urban Milwaukee, UWM Department of Film, Video, Animation, and New Genres, and WUWM 89.7 - Milwaukee Public Radio. The program is supported in part by a grant from the Milwaukee Arts Board and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the state of Wisconsin.

The 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival will take place at the Landmark Oriental Theatre, Landmark Downer Theatre, Fox-Bay Cinema Grill, Times Cinema, and Avalon Theater from September 28th - October 12th. Festival Passes and ticket 6-Packs are now on sale at


Chasing Bubbles
(USA / 2016 / Directors: Topher Cochrane, Alex Rust)
At the age of 25, Alex Rust was successful, but unhappy. Forgoing the comfort of a solid career track, he decided to take a leap of faith on a global adventure beyond his wildest imagination. Trading his minivan for a small sailboat dubbed "Bubbles," Rust sets course for the Bahamas (guided only by a copy of Sailing for Dummies), kicking off a yearlong excursion that took him to the corners of the world in this portrait of a restless spirit edited by MFF alums Chris James Thompson and Andrew Swant.

Civic Art: Four Stories From South Los Angeles
(USA / 2017 / Director: Mark Escribano)
A 2013 Los Angeles initiative to create public art projects gets the documentary treatment in this locally produced (among numerous local ties!) look into civic-minded creativity. Four groups, with skill sets spanning various disciplines, are tasked with transforming vacant or underutilized areas throughout the city into public spaces that feel safe and encourage community-oriented activity. From conception through execution, you're given a ground-level view of the tension and exhilaration involved as artists and communities partake in creative placemaking, a conversation not dissimilar to those taking place in Milwaukee.
Preceded by: Seeking Century City (USA / 2017 / Directors: Adam Carr, Wes Tank)

Life of the Party
(USA / 2017 / Director: Rubin Whitmore II)
A wedding reception in a West Allis bowling alley, populated by a motley assortment of friends, coworkers, and family, have congregated to celebrate the union of David and Tyesha. With each passing minute this melting pot of Americana (different cultures and identities abound) threatens to boil over as the attendees anxiously await the arrival of the bride and groom. An ensemble piece that's alternately comic and dramatic, Life of the Party (from Milwaukee's own Rubin Whitmore II) is a wedding you have to see to believe.

(USA / 2017 / Director: Ryan Sarnowski)
Anyone driving on I-94 in years past couldn't help but notice the barn with "Study Natural Law" plastered on its side and wonder what it meant. The riveting Manlife shows us truth is stranger than fiction - the barn references the life's work of Alfred Lawson: baseball player, inventor of the airliner, and creator of an economic/spiritual/philosophical movement known as Lawsonomy. But equally fascinating is the story of the man who has singlehandedly kept Lawsonomy alive for decades: Merle Hayden, Lawson's last crusader and a man apart in the modern world.

Camden International Film Festival Program Announced

Camden International Film Festival Announces 2017 Festival Slate and an Expanded Storyforms Showcase of Nonfiction VR

CIFF opens with the World Premiere of Dustin Nakao Haider's Shot in the Dark, Executive Produced by Michael Gottwald and Josh Penn of Court 13 (Beasts of the Southern Wild).

Showtime Documentary Films joins as 2017 Headlining Sponsor. 

CAMDEN, Maine, August 21, 2017 – The Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) today announced the slate of feature and short films for its 13th edition, which will take place September 14-17, 2017 throughout Camden, Rockport and Rockland, Maine.

Recognized as one of the top documentary film festivals in the world, CIFF saw a 30% rise in submissions for its 2017 edition. This year, the festival will present 37 features, 35 short films, and a dozen virtual reality experiences from 30 countries.

CIFF will open with the world premiere of Dustin Nakao Haider’s Shot in the Dark, with the film’s director and special guests in attendance. The film program includes the presentation of 12 features making their North American or US Premieres, and 2 sneak preview screenings by award-winning filmmakers. Keeping with CIFF’s mission to discover and support new talent in nonfiction filmmaking, over half of the lineup’s 37 features are made by first- or second-time filmmakers.

Additional highlights include titles making their US debut following premieres at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (Love Means Zero, Eric Clapton: Life In 12 Bars, Cocaine Prison), the North American premieres of films coming from Locarno (Sand und Blut, Did You Wonder Who Fired The Gun?) and Venice (This Is Congo), award-winning films from Visions du Reel (Taste of Cement, All That Passes By Through a Window That Doesn’t Open) and Berlin (El Mar La Mar, House In The Fields, Devil's Freedom) alongside some of the year’s top documentaries (Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Whose Streets?, The Work). Nearly all screenings will be attended by the filmmakers.

“This year’s slate underscores documentary as a thriving art form, one that provides unique opportunities to engage with the world around us,” says Ben Fowlie, Executive Director of the Points North Institute, and founder of the Camden International Film Festival. “We’re honored to showcase over seventy of the most inspiring and creative voices from across the globe working in nonfiction storytelling today.”

“This formidable collection of documentaries offers unexpected moments of courage, humour, creativity, and affection to stories that are often difficult to access or to tell,” says Samara Chadwick, who recently joined the CIFF team as Programmer. “With so much to explore at the festival, this year we are highlighting currents across the CIFF, Storyforms and Forum programs with filmmaker talks, extended Q&As and thematic strands that explore issues of race in America, the refugee crisis, and the complicated intersections between documentary and journalism.”

The 13th Camden International Film Festival is a program of the Points North Institute, an expanded media arts organization established in July 2016. Building on CIFF’s long-established role in the nonfiction film community, the Points North Institute furthers its mission through programs that provide a launching pad for the next generation of nonfiction storytellers.

This year, eight projects that have participated in the Points North Institute’s Artist Programs will be screening at CIFF. These titles include All That Passes By Through A Window That Doesn’t Open, No Man’s Land, The Cage Fighter, The Family I Had, The Reagan Show, The Sensitives, Whose Streets? and Commodity City. These films have garnered awards and debuted at prestigious festivals including Sundance, Locarno, Tribeca, Rotterdam, and Visions du Reel.

“Screening at CIFF this year feels like a homecoming,” says Sabaah Folayan, Director of Whose Streets?, distributed by Magnolia Pictures. “This community believed in our project when it was still just an idea and it means everything to be able to come back and share the finished film.”

The incoming filmmakers selected for this year’s Artist Programs at CIFF will be announced onSeptember 5.

This year also features an expanded 2nd edition of Storyforms: Remixing Reality, CIFF’s exhibition of VR, immersive media, and installations. For the first time, Storyforms will present "room-scale" and "walk-around" VR experiences. Highlights include Tree by Milica Zec and Winslow Porter, which comes to CIFF after showing at Sundance, Tribeca and Cannes. Storyforms will also include a sneak preview of the latest groundbreaking walk-around VR experience produced in a new collaboration between FRONTLINE PBS and Nonny de la Peña’s Emblematic Group, which brings climate change to life as never before, allowing viewers to travel alongside NASA scientists to a place where the glaciers are melting faster and faster.

“The establishment of the Points North Institute provides a larger platform to explore the evolution of documentary in the digital age,” said Points North Institute’s Program Director, Sean Flynn. “The artists featured in this year’s Storyforms are using new tools and technologies to revolutionize the ways in which the real can be represented and shared with audiences.” The section will be open to festival passholders at 21 Winter Street in Rockland, Maine, betweenSeptember 14 – 17. For aspiring VR makers, CIFF is also partnering with Maine Media Workshops to offer a 2-Day Crash Course in Virtual Reality Filmmaking, which runs Sept 13-14and is now accepting enrollment. More info at:

The Points North Institute announced that SHOWTIME®, under the Showtime Documentary Films banner, will serve as the Presenting Sponsor for the 2017 Points North Fellowship and a Headlining Sponsor for the Institute’s upcoming Camden International Film Festival.

The Points North Forum’s robust lineup of masterclasses, roundtables, panels, and industry delegates will be announced on Thursday, August 24, with additional programs and Fellows being announced shortly thereafter. The complete lineup of 2017 Features and Shorts may be found on the Points North Institute website. Festival passes are now on sale:

2017 Camden International Film Festival Features

Imaginary Chinatown at the Metrograph beginning September 27

A Survey of Hollywood's Depiction of Chinatowns in America Includes
Big Trouble in Little China, The Bowery, Year of the Dragon,
Once Upon a Time in America, Gremlins, Alice
, and Chinatown

"Anna May Wong: Empress of Chinatown" Sidebar to Open October 7
The international Chinatown, accessed through red lacquered gates bearing formidable dragon motifs, has been a vital aspect of both history and myth- making in the West for over 200 years and counting. At once a place of yearning for the far-flung homelands of an ever-growing pan-Asian population abroad and a locale onto which the West’s collective fantasy of the Orient can be projected, the exotic exteriors and supposedly mysterious, vice-ridden corridors of Chinatown have never failed to stir the imagination of Hollywood. Chinatown has been rendered as a hyperbolic fantasy space where anything—even Mogwais— can be bought and sold; where one partakes in copious amounts of opium from what a Broken Blossomsintertitle calls “the lily-tipped pipe”; where crime and sin are believed to go unpunished because the locals play by their own rules and “Forget it, Jake—it’s Chinatown.” While far too often trafficking in insidious stereotypes, these were among the first films to create roles—albeit caricatured ones—for pioneering Chinese-American actors (when not featuring white actors). Metrograph pays tribute to the complex tradition of Chinatown on film, beginning Wednesday, September 27.

Alice (Woody Allen/1990/102 mins/35mm)
A lesser-known but wholly delightful entry from the heyday of Allen’s collaboration with the wizardly cinematographer Carlo di Palma, this magic realist spin on Alice in Wonderland stars Mia Farrow as a coddled Manhattan housewife whose tidy existence is upended when she begins to fantasize about handsome stranger Joe Mantegna. She seeks help from a Chinese herbalist, Dr. Yang (Keye Luke,Gremlins’ Mr. Wing and “Number One Son” to Warner Oland’s Charlie Chan), in Woody’s world a mystical version of an Upper West Side analyst.

Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter/1986/99 mins/35mm)
Hop on the Jack Burton Pork-Chop Express! Long before Hollywood descended on Hong Kong to cannibalize its cinema, director Carpenter was attuned to the vibrations coming across the Pacific, as evidenced in his cult classic which has local boy Dennis Dun and honky buddy Kurt Russell penetrating the catacombs of San Francisco’s Chinatown to take on supernatural overlord Lo Pan. Shades of Sax Rohmer, but the joke is on Russell’s outsider, doing his best John Wayne impersonation and playing the archetypal all-American blowhard.

The Bowery (Raoul Walsh/1933/92 mins/DCP)
Wallace Beery plays Chuck Connors, the legendary self-proclaimed “White Mayor of Chinatown,” here a slovenly unprincipled oaf whose prime preoccupation is getting the better of fellow showboat Steve Brodie (George Raft). Walsh was a true democrat who loved the feisty racial jibing of city life, and appropriately his rabble-rousing pre-Code imagining of New York in the Gay Nineties has something to offend end literally everyone.

Broken Blossoms (D.W. Griffith/1919/90 mins/35mm)
Perhaps the most famous Chinese character in early American cinema was embodied by one Richard Barthelmess, cast against racial type as the lone friend of Lillian Gish’s poor wastrel, ceaselessly hounded by her bestial father in the slums of London’s Limehouse. Among Griffith’s best and most beautiful films, which finds the master of spectacle and sprawl forgetting his epic ambitions to work with rare delicacy and emotional intimacy.

Chinatown (Roman Polanski/1974/130 mins/35mm)
“Chinatown” doesn’t play a major role in Polanski’s film of dirty dealing in 1930s Los Angeles, but it does a whole lot of metaphorical heavy lifting in the film’s famous kicker line, symbolic of a place where the rules and the language are beyond comprehension. We might mention that it’s a masterpiece, too, with Faye Dunaway as the woman in trouble, Jack Nicholson as nosey guy detective Jake Gittes, and John Huston as the vilest plutocrat in all of cinema.

Chinatown Nights (William Wellman/1929/83 mins/35mm)
Four years before The Bowery, Wallace Beery played another uncouth variation on his “White Mayor of Chinatown,” here named Chuck Riley, in this pre-Code rabble-rouser (a/k/a Tong War) for hell-raising director “Wild Bill” Wellman. With the omnipresent Oland as the overboss of a sinister, opium smoke-wreathed Chinatown which tempts white rubberneckers like society gal Florence Vidor to come downtown, and a show-stopping shootout at a Chinese theatre.

Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese/2002/207 mins/35mm)
Fired by the spirits of Sam Fuller, Sergio Leone, and Walsh’s The Bowery, Scorsese drew from Herbert Asbery’s collection of underworld folklore to produce this rip-snorting epic of love and revenge in the time of the Draft Riots, with Daniel Day-Lewis as nativist Know-Nothing strongman Bill “The Butcher” Cutting and Leonardo DiCaprio as his sworn foe. For the shoot, Scorsese and production designer Dante Ferretti built their own Five Points at the Cinecittà studios in Rome, including a cavernous Chinatown club—this despite the fact that 1864 Manhattan lacked a large Chinese population.

Gremlins (Joe Dante/1984/106 mins/35mm)
In American popular cinema, Chinatown has always been the place to go to find strange and exotic items, items such as—a pet mogwai? (That’s Cantonese for “monster,” by the way.) Joe Dante’s black-comic horror romp starts innocently enough, but when Gizmo’s new owners don’t heed the sage advice of Mr. Wing, there’s hell to pay for the residents of the little hamlet of Kingston Falls—and their Christmas decorations.

Jade (William Friedkin/1995/95 mins/35mm)
A wild car chase through a Chinatown parade is the identifiable high-point of this sleazy-sexy little number courtesy Friedkin, who knows a thing or two about vehicular chaos, here contributing to the erotic thriller craze by way of a screenplay from subgenre godfather Joe Eszterhas. San Francisco detective David Caruso’s investigation of a millionaire’s murder puts him on the trail of a mysterious prostitute called “Jade,” who may or may not be lovely Linda Fiorentino, last to see the victim alive.

Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone/1984/229 mins/35mm)
Leone, known best for his sprawling Westerns, took on another distinctly American genre at the end of his career—the gangster picture. Moving back and forth along a timeline that spans from Prohibition to the late ‘60s, Leone’s rich, sad film, which manages to evoke both Proust and Fitzgerald, follows the character of Robert De Niro’s gangster Noodles from rags to riches and back again, as he considers his life from a palette in a Chinatown opium den—or is it all just a hop-head dream?

Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory in association with Andrea Leone Films, The Film Foundation, and Regency Enterprises. Restoration funding provided by Gucci and The Film Foundation.

Outside the Law (Tod Browning/1930/70 mins/35mm)
Browning, lover and discoverer of Anna May Wong, here auto-remakes a title he first touched in 1920, starring Edward G. Robinson (before his Little Caesar break) as Cobra Collins, an aristocrat of the underworld who sets his eyes on tableaux vivant model Mary Nolan, who can’t disguise her disgust when she learns that Cobra has a Chinese mother. After an opening full of patented Browning grotesquerie,Outside the Law settles into a surprisingly sweet story about the vicissitudes of domestic life.

Year of the Dragon (Michael Cimino/1985/134 mins/35mm)
After years in the wilderness post-Heaven’s Gate, director Cimino came barreling back with this passionate policier, which finds Polish Greenpoint-raised cop Mickey Rourke pounding a new beat, trying to clean up a gang-ridden NYC Chinatown run by suave crime kingpin John Lone. Vigorously protested at the time of its release, it stands today as a showcase for Cimino’s rich, baroque style, a vintage neighborhood snapshot, and the only movie whose closing credits roll over curtain call film of Teresa Teng singing “Tian Mi Mi.”
"Anna May Wong: Empress of Chinatown" Begins October 7
Born in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, Anna May Wong’s early days of working for her father’s laundry made her meticulous about dressing. Since her father wanted a boy, she watched her sister wear masculine clothes to appease him, and this would in time inspire her androgynous onscreen presence, a quality she shared with Marlene Dietrich, with whom she would be glamorously paired in Josef Von Sternberg’sShanghai Express. Thanks to her preternatural beauty, Wong was modeling fur coats by the age of ten, and by the time she was a teenager she had broken into the movie business—not a time exceedingly receptive to screen testing Asian faces. Throughout her career Wong would bridle at the exoticized roles she was handed, even taking o for Europe when Hollywood disappointed her, but she approached every lm with incredible grace and dignity, and what remains of her through the years is a seductive, incredibly chic, and startlingly modern screen presence. Titles include Toll of the Sea (Chester M. Franklin), Old San Francisco (Alan Crosland), Daughter of the Dragon (Lloyd Corrigan), Shanghai Express(Josef von Sternberg), and Anna May Wong Visits Shanghai, a newsreel restored by UCLA, all in 35mm

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

Second of the Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone the film was the last of the period dramas and the last before the series moved to Universal for another 12 features. and altering Rathbone's career forever.

The plot of the film has Moriarity beating a criminal case and going free.Holmes distracts himself by taking the case of a young woman whose brother is killed in a similar manner as her father. As Holmes chases after the killer who seems intent on killing the girl next, he can't help but wonder what Moriarty is up to really...

Solid mystery is good enough to make you wonder how, if at all, the two mysteries (murder and Moriarty are related). They are of course and getting to that point is a great deal of fun.

Its clear from this film why the series continued on from this point. With Rathbone firmly front and center (he was almost a minor character in HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES) Holmes is seen to be instantly iconic. Its also clear why it would consume Rathbone since with rare exception no actor has ever been this identified with a character- even by people who are not fans of the series.

Even if the film wasn't historic in giving us the person who until recently was THE Sherlock Holmes (many now argue that Benedict Cumberbatch is not the Holmes), the film would be recommended as a damn fine mystery.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Saint in New York (1938)

First cinematic adaption of the Leslie Charteris character stars Louis Hayward  as Simon Templar a notorious villain according to the police who only seems to target bad guys. Here the desperate New York City police make a deal with Templar to have him try and topple a gang of bad guys who are running roughshod over the city.

Bleak dark and and the sort of thing I thought the production code stoped Templar is a kind of urbane Punisher killing anyone who displeases him. Utterly fearless, his bravado terrifies the villains because he simply isn't scared of them. His only weakness is bombshell Fay Edwards (Kay Sutton) who has her own code to follow.

Hayward makes a striking Saint. Easily handling the the tough stuff with the witty reparte. He's more a modern man of action than one from the golden age of Hollywood- but with a coldness that is chilling. He really will kill anyone.

Seeing the film for the first time in a couple of years I realize its the coldness that keeps this from being a great film. Templar is someone you admire more than like which is a reason they changed things up when the film went to series.

A solid film, this is recommended as the sort of film they rarely ever made and the start of a great series.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Nightcap 8/20/17 Dot Net

Is you haven’t noticed Unseen Films has shifted web addresses. While we are still located at we can now also be found at with the .net address redirecting to Blogspot.

The change has been a long time in coming. As many of you know I have been talking about it for a couple of years now. Things had been delayed because I had been discussing with John and Randi about what to do. Should we get a domain and move the site or should we simply just have it redirect. We were weighing the pros and cons and then every time we moved toward a direction something would come up and get back-burnered.

Then spontaneously this past Monday I found myself investigating it and in the process of looking at domains I found that I had purchased a .net and had set things up to direct to the site.

When I was done I sat there staring at the computer screen wondering what the hell I had just done.

I texted Randi, John and Ken to tell them about the change and Ken immediately responded “ I thought you were going to wrap up Unseen”

Apparently not…

…or as Ken said “they really are going to pry your cold dead fingers off the keyboard mid review aren’t they?”

Ken may be on to something.

The truth of the matter is I think what this means is that I’m going to be doing this for at least another year or two. I’m going to run it as a grand experiment to see what happens to things now that I’m  dot neting instead of blogspotting. Will the address change people’s minds even though for the short term absolutely nothing else has changed. I suspect it will. It’s kind of like people are fooled by fancy business cards and flashy presentations.

I’ll keep you posted.

As for the rest however you find us we’re still here so keep reading.
This week looks to be  just  classic mysteries. I should also point out I'm just starting in on Toronto, NYFF and other fall festivals.

Bulldog Drummond at Bay (1937)

John Lodge is Captain Hugh Drummond in one of a long series of films (its one of three films from 1937 all with different Drummond's. The other two are the miscast Ray Milland and the perfectly cast John Howard).

Here Drummond and his friends take on a group of foreign spies trying to get their hands on a new plane. One of the baddies is played to perfection by Victory Jory, who really turns in a highly evil performance.

This is one of the darkest of any of the Drummond films with the bad guys really doing a number on anyone and everyone who fall into their hands. This is a solid, if slightly nasty little film that plays very differently than the seven films that followed with John Howard in the lead. Those films, while good little mysteries of their own, were just a tad lighter than this film. Very much worth a look, especially if one looks at how the character changed in one year by watching Ray Milland in Bulldog Drummond Escapes and John Howard in Bulldog Drummond Comes Back

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Alias Bulldog Drummond (aka Bulldog Jack) (1935)

Jack Hulbert plays a polo player named Jack Pennington who literally runs into Bulldog Drummond when Drummond's car is sabotaged to stop Drummond from helping the young woman (Fay Wray) back in London. Drummond's arm is broken in the crash and he asks Hulbert to take his place in order to get the information that will let him help the fair damsel.Hulbert of course refuses to give up the ruse and soon with the aid of Algy he's trying to rescue the kidnapped girl and best the villainous Morelle (Ralph Richardson).

Moving like the wind this is a damn fine little comedy mystery. Hulbert is absolutely hysterical as the Drummond wannabe as he blusters his way in and out of danger. His insanity is absolutely charming.(He would repeat the same sort of nonsense to much the same effect three or so years later in Kate Plus Ten an adaptation of an Edgar Wallace story thats gotten better with each viewing. Fay Wray has never looked more stunning. I'm so used to her in American films which seem now never managed to show her beauty the way that this film does. As Morelle Ralph Richardson is a truly demented evil genius. Its clear he's dangerous, however he's so genuinely smooth that you almost by that he could be a nice guy.

The action is first rate with the climatic underground train sequence rightly held out as a key reason to see the film. One can easily imagine that the final twists and turns had audience members seeing this on a big screen shrieking.

This is a really good film and one wonders why its not currently out on DVD or, apparently, available for TV broadcast in the United States other than on the collectors market, since its easily one of the better mysteries of this sort.

Yes you really do want to check this film out.

(I don't know if I'd consider it a Bulldog Drummond film, partly because its so humorous, partly because Drummond isn't really in it and partly because its kind of atypical for the films that are real Drummond films. It is but its not. Can we call it a semi-Drummond film?)