Archive for May 2009

All of the music, none of the mud: Woodstock hits the Film Society June 3rd with special guest appearances!

May 29, 2009
Jimi will be with us in spirit, man

What a long, strange trip its been…

Pull on those bell-bottoms and get yourself down to the Film Society for a mind-bendingly awesome screening of the monolithic concert classic Woodstock next Wednesday.

It will be a total blast from the past with special guests include that director Michael Wadleigh and producer Michael Lang, and original musicians Stu Cook from the Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jocko Marcellino from Sha Na Na, Tom Constanten from the Grateful Dead, and Gregg Rolie, Mike Carabello and Michael Shrieve from Santana.

Woodstock: The Directors Cut: Wednesday, June 3rd at 7PM: Buy tickets

Tomorrow night! Kent Jones speaks with the Dardenne Brothers

May 28, 2009

They are veterans of the New York Film Festival and Cannes. Tomorrow night at 8:30, enjoy a rare sit-down with the Dardenne Brothers, as they chat with Kent Jones about a career spanning three decades. Plus, you might want to check out La Promesse at 6:40 before the screening–this breakthrough film sealed the brothers reputation for intensely naturalistic explorations of Belgian life. The film stars Jérémie Rénier as guilt-ridden 15-year-old Igor, who helps his father Roger (Olivier Gourmet) run an illegal immigrant labor network.

More on the series from WNYC’s ART. CULT blog and film critic Nathan Lee

See the whole schedule of our Dardenne series

Doing it, Digitally: A Chat with Glenn Kenny on Steven Soderbergh’s Girlfriend Experience

May 26, 2009

Steven Soderbergh has had what some would call a bipolar career, starting off with his widely acknowledged indie Sex, Lies and Videotape and ending up somewhere around Ocean’s 13 (a three-quel, not a thirteen-quel, thankfully), by way of Erin Brokovich. But even with his mainstream films, Soderbergh has burned the candle at both ends, continuing to make his farcically commercial vehicles while releasing camp, kitsch and craziness like the pastiche film The Good German or the crazy micro-budget Bubble.

The latter film is the result of his partnership with HDNet Films and producer Mark Cuban, shooting on the vaunted RED-One camera, a digital device with the quality of film, and casting mostly non-professional actors as largely versions of themselves for a heady experience that usually involves two-weeks-or-so of shooting and simultaneous video-on-demand releasing. This model, which he used previously for Bubble and his political-epic Che (a selection of the New York Film Festival 2008), is turned towards the smaller, upscale livelihood of a call girl and her personal-trainer boyfriend in his new film, The Girlfriend Experience.


I sat down with Glenn Kenny, a real-life blogger and film critic, who in the film plays a character out of a movie by Todd Solodnz or Todd Field: a smarmy “hobbyist” and rater of escort services who self-identifies as “The Erotic Connoisseur”.

Given that he himself is a blogger and that most of the people in the movie are playing themselves or something similar–Sasha Grey, the lead, is a porn star playing an escort–I asked him if he was worried about people thinking he actually was the part he played.

“Well,” he said, adopting a sardonic tone. “Let’s just say I’m lucky to be married in more ways than one.”

Kenny, a long time film critic and writer who wrote for Premiere magazine for over a decade, now blogs on the web at his site Some Came Running, a place where he talks about movies and his life, but does not in fact rate escorts.

“I was long-time friends with the screenwriters, David Levien and Bryan Koppleman and they had worked with Soderbergh just recently on Ocean’s 13,” Kenny explained. “They were holed up in a hotel room, writing another script entirely, when they saw a couple down outside the hotel which just didn’t seem right; an older man, with a much younger woman in intense clothes, hanging off him, as if for dear life.”

“One of them asked aloud, ‘What’s that?’ and another one of them replied ‘Oh, it’s the Girlfriend Experience, a service where a prostitute doesn’t just dole out sex, but simulated love as well.’ And this got them all thinking and so, David, Bryan and Soderbergh thought there was a script there and wrote it.”

However, even though Levien, Koppleman and Soderbergh collaborated on the script, the script was almost an outline and all the dialogue was improvised with the actors on set immediately, a sort of crystal-meth rush of Mike Leigh method. As a result, a script that was written in March 2007, according to Kenny, ended up heavily referencing September 2008, with the anxiety of the financial crisis and the upcoming election at the forefront.

“They would have newspapers for us on set from the week it was supposed to be and we would just sit around and talk about it,” Kenny recalled.

In the film, Chelsea/Christianne (Sasha Grey) is a practitioner of “The Girlfriend Experience”, while her boyfriend Chris (Chris Santos), a personal trainer, chases his own dreams of breaking it big in the world managing a gym or marketing a line of sportswear. Their relationship is interesting in the acknowledgment of Chelsea’s profession. “You’re the best at what you do.” Chris tells her, when she seems threatened by another escort’s popularity.

This anxiety drives Chelsea to seek “Glenn,” the character played by Glenn Kenny, who runs a website that rates escort services. One of the most sublime moments of the film occurs when Chelsea shows up at an old furniture store to be confronted with an old man who directs her to Kenny’s character, who lives in the back.

Kenny explains: “Steven really wanted to use that store. And when we got there, this old man, the store owner, was there. And Steven said let’s put him in the movie. So I was faced with this old man, who I had just met for the first time and of course it was improvised, so I thought, what could the relationship be between me and this guy and I thought–landlord–but wait, wouldn’t it just be more awful if it was my dad?”

Two more improvised riffs from Kenny also add up to some of the best moments in the film: a description of a prostitute “junket” in Dubai that “Glenn” offers as bait to Chelsea, and a stinging review of Chelsea’s services to him administered, off-screen, for free.

“We actually shot the sex scene, I had to ask my wife about that, but it was cut from the film,” Kenny told me. “And when I wrote my on-set diaries for GQ, they ended up dropping them and I can’t help but think it was because they didn’t see me naked next to Sasha Gray.”

“As for the ‘junket’, well I’m a film critic and I thought that would be funny. I actually heard some sailors I met overseas talk to me about their experience in Dubai and how the most beautiful women they’d ever seen were the Russian hookers they saw in Dubai. So I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if my character brought a bunch of high-class prostitutes to them to try to convince them to ‘buy American.'”

Those diaries, which ended up here on Martin Scorsese’s Auteur Project, are very humorous and provide more insight into the casting process as well as the improvisation on set.

Overall, I thought the film fairly successful, a Steven Soderbergh take on Two or Three Things I Know About Her, with Sasha Grey standing in for Mariana Vlady and an interesting time-capsule of an anxiety not-too-far-gone.

“I like Soderbergh even when he is working on Ocean’s 13, though like all directors he’s made up-and-down films. He just keeps throwing things at you until he gets what he wants; he’s really hands on,” Kenny said. “You know, when they called me up for the part, they told me they needed someone who could talk, who could go-on, who could expound…”

“Who could bloviate?” I offered, giving the root of the term “blog.”

“Yeah,” Glenn Kenny said with a smile. “That too.”

-Nicholas Feitel

Nicholas Feitel also writes for his own blog, Feitelogram

More on Steve McQueen: Behind the Music

May 22, 2009

GRE013EX

This just in from one of our Twitter followers in Madison, WI: a super-cool radio show epsiode from WSUM’s Movie Music and Trivia Show that features the music of Steve McQueen films. DJ Catherine Garcia has put together an incredible playlist that reads like a who’s-who of the best talents in film composing world, including Elmer Bernstein, Henry Mancini, John Williams and the inimitable Lalo Schifrin.

Check out the podcast and hopefully it will get you jazzed for our Steve McQueen series which is playing through May 26th.

And even though The Blob didn’t make it into our series, you have got to listen to the first track on this show, from the film:

“Beware of the Blob, it leaps and creeps and glides and slides across the floor…” Too funny!

Awesome piece, guys, thanks for the creativity! And be sure to check out The Sand Pebbles fan site, it’s devoted to “McQueen’s best film” in the site creator’s opinion. You can see The Sand Pebbles here on Monday afternoon, or check out some other films in the series and pick your own favorite.

Cannes video diary from the filmlinc blog’s Melanie Shaw: a sneak peek at titles to watch

May 22, 2009

Fresh from the Festival du Cannes, the filmlinc blog’s intrepid video diarist Melanie Shaw along with cohorts Ella Hatamian and Izak Rappaport offer this look inside the festival, including early reactions to some of the fest’s buzzworthy entries. And because noteworthy titles from Cannes often end up in the New York Film Festival, perhaps you’ll see one of these titles in New York come fall?

Daily departures to the forefront of new Italian cinema start June 5th at the Film Society

May 21, 2009
No need to pack your bags. Just stop by the Upper West Side.

No need to pack your bags. Just stop by the Film Society this June 5th-11th

A mix of veteran talent and promising newcomers marks this year’s Open Roads program, the Film Society’s annual highlight of brand new films from Italy. While the whole series is worth a look for the chance to discover unfamiliar faces, unknown gems, and future award winners, we thought we’d give you a sneak peek at some of the highlights:

  • We never get tired of a good, gripping mafia movie, but the program’s opening night selection, Edoardo Winspeare’s Brave Men really grabbed our interest. How often do you get to see a film that features a female crime boss? The film also boasts some Open Roads’ favorites–the director has joined us twice, while star Fabrizio Gifuni pulled off an amazing triple appearance last during last year’s program.
  • Like Gomorrah, the hit of last year’s New York Film Festival, Marco Amenta’s The Scillian Girl has the riveting force of an incredible true story behind it. Featuring a strong female protagonist, the film tells the story of a young woman who attempts to avenge the deaths of her brother and father, who were killed in a mafia war. This promising debut has some significant writing chops behind it–one of the co-writers also worked on the seminal spaghetti westerns Once Upon a Time in the West and For a Few Dollars More.

GiovannasFather

  • Lensed by Fellini cinematographer Pasquale Rachini (Satyricon), Pupi Avati’s Giovanna’s Father is a splendidly visual period piece. Telling the story of an unhinged young woman committed to a mental institution and her father, who remains her only link to the outside world, the film scored major awards at the Venice Film Festival.
  • Meet the Italian Bob Dylan in Effedia, a documentary about the brief career of the late Fabrizio De Andrè. The screening will feature an appearance by Italian rock star Jovanotti.

No long security lines, no transatlantic flight, all you do need to do to check out the latest in Italian cinema is come join us at the Film Society.

See the whole schedule and buy tickets

Everything you wanted to know about the Lincoln Center renovation (but were afraid to ask)

May 20, 2009

Picture 48

If your journeys have taken you anywhere near the campus during the past few months, you can’t miss it: Lincoln Center, it is a changin’. The 60’sish white marble facade is getting a facelift courtesy of starchitects Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Alice Tully Hall is brand new. But that’s not all. There’s still a ton planned. And I’ll be totally honest, even though I come to work here every day, sometimes I’m not totally sure of what those big cranes and scaffolding are about. But as the wrapping comes off, and Lincoln Center’s 50 Anniversary in full swing, I thought I’d bring you the scoop on what’s happening around the campus.

Frequently asked questions about the transformation of Lincoln Center:

What are the basic facts I need to know?

Glad you asked. There are lots of trucks and construction going on around 65th, and our usual escalators were closed a few weeks ago. Now to reach the Walter Reade Theater, what you need to do is use a spiffy new stairway that you’ll find half-way down the block on the north side of the street. For more on how the construction may affect your visit to our theater, please visit our site.

How do I find out what’s going on with the whole 50th celebration?

From amazing free performances to where to find the mobile StoryCorps booth, check out Lincoln Center’s site for all the events around the city.

What can I look forward to?

Basically, a totally awesome giant lawn and plaza on 65th Street (see below). New theaters for the Film Society.

09lg_w65

The great winged lawn of 65th Street

Wait a second. New theaters–is the Film Society becoming a multiplex?

Yes! We’ll be a multiplex in 2011. Before you spit out your Milk Duds, don’t worry; we’ll still keep our indie cred. You’ll just have multiple screens on which to enjoy our programming. That means even more of the good stuff.

Why is Lincoln Center called Lincoln Center?

Amazingly enough, no one is really sure. Also an interesting tidbit: Lincoln Center employs a corporate archivist.

What else?

Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times has a rather interesting and lengthy article about the renovation. Bottom line: bringing together several different artistic companies and endeavors is an ambitious and some may even say idealistic project. But all of us here at the Film Society are really excited about what the future holds.