Posted tagged ‘Film Comment’

Photos from Young Friends of Film Presents: It Might Get Loud

August 3, 2009
Director Davis Guggenheim with Film Comment Senior Editor Chris Chang

Elisabeth Shue with director Davis Guggenheim
Elisabeth Shue with director Davis Guggenheim

All photos by Godlis

Our most recent Young Friends of Film event–It Might Get Loud–was a smash success, with a packed house, director Q&A and afterparty. Don’t miss out next time! Join YFF now and you’ll be on the A-list for a year’s worth of events designed especially for younger film-lovers.

Thanks again to our friends at KEXP for taking part in the event. New Yorkers, you don’t have to stop rocking–tune into 91.5 FM for great music, local events and much more from KEXP Radio New York.

Don’t Call It “Quirky”: Jim Jarmusch hashes out The Limits of Control with YFF

May 4, 2009


Both devotees and the merely curious gathered last Thursday, April 30 for the Young Friends of Film special event “An Evening with Jim Jarmusch.” The event boasted a chat & reception with Jarmusch following the screening of his new film The Limits of ControlFilm Comment editor Gavin Smith issued an ominous yet invigorating disclaimer that the film was zealously dividing the critical legions, but proudly forecasted it to be a personal Top Ten of 2009 entry.

Jarmusch is an indie icon due to his highly-regarded oeuvre, as well as his distinctive white-maned guise and a uniquely droll, delicately precise mode of articulation that has made him a go-to talking head for profiles and documentaries. Suffice to say, he’s a prized raconteur with much to share. Things got to a befitting start as Jarmusch declared, “This is the first real audience for the film,” before quipping, “that is, if you are real.”

Jarmusch unconventionally opened with a confessional of the semi-cosmic deliberations haunting him as of late. Like the film itself—laden with  endless variations of cryptic passages, exchanges, and codes—he returned time and again to the power of the “imagination” and its transcendent ability to decontextualize information, all the while mischievously noting, “this doesn’t necessarily relate to the film.” The discussion conformed with his continual quest to find new ways of conveying meaning outside of conventional narrative tropes. The film, ultimately,  “was an exercise in celebrating a love of cinema and what it is capable of.”

When Smith insistently questioned the political critique inherent in his recent films, highlighted by Murray’s Dick Cheney evocations in Control, Jarmusch semi-jokingly replied “I’d rather talk about Pythagoras.” While he conceded, “It was a real drag in the last ten years telling foreign cab drivers I was Canadian,” and reinforced the Dead Man-reminiscent stance that “America was founded on genocide,” Jarmusch remained weary of didactic messages, insisting his films are grounded in metaphor.

The audience was refreshingly uninclined to ask for cut-and-dry explanations, instead throwing out suggestions for extrapolation. Jarmusch expressed extreme admiration for his DP Christopher Doyle (“For every two ideas, he has a hundred.”), regular performers Bill Murray (“He’s just so human. I am moved by how observant and empathetic he is.”) & Tilda Swinton (“I just want to layer more and more preposterous wigs and disguises on her… One day I asked her to marry me.”), and film scorers Boris (“Their music is very cinematic, atmospheric. Music nurtures my creativity process.”). He discussed the intuitive rhythm he and longtime collaborator/editor Jay Rabinowitz worked to create, and displayed a surprisingly optimistic attitude towards the You Tube age, celebrating the beauty of “free information.”

Jarmusch’s frantic request for three more questions after Smith announced “We’ve got time for one more,” revealed a charmingly superstitious nature, a formalist sensibility much like his filmmaking, and an eagerness to engage his audience. He proved receptive to the inevitable non-questions, welcoming interpretations of the film, insisting, like the mantras of its characters, that subjectivity is the name of the game. His only expressed hostilities were towards the descriptor feared by all serious-minded independent directors: “quirky.”

Attendees were invited to a reception in the Walter Reade lobby; the clamoring throngs accumulated not around the free alcohol but the special guest, who went beyond gentlemanly courtesy, genuinely engaging each inquiring mind. “Elvis has left the building, time to go home,” chaperone Smith chuckled, but a lobby exit revealed that Jarmusch had merely retreated outside for his trademark nicotine indulgence, continuing to hold court with enthusiasts waiting in the wings.  Walter Reade’s newly designated smoking area rules were left graciously unenforced.

-Brynn White

Favorite Jim Jarmusch moments (The Limits of Control screens Thursday 4/30 with filmmaker Q & A!)

April 22, 2009

Set in the striking and varied landscapes of contemporary Spain (both urban and otherwise), shot by acclaimed cinematography Christopher Doyle, and featuring music by cult Japanese psychedelic metal band Boris, Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control is the story of a mysterious loner (played by Isaach De Bankolé) whose activities remain meticulously outside the law. And it’s screening Thursday, April 30 at the Film Society, with an onstage Q & A with the filmmaker and party afterward!

In honor of this highly anticipated new film, we reached out to a Jim Jarmusch expert to take us through some of his more notable cinematic moments. We found Brynn White, a Film Comment contributor and Film Forum repertory programming assistant. Below are her picks and commentary.


BW: A visiting Hungarian gets a taste of ”America” (and its TV dinners) from the confines of her hangdog cousin’s Lower East Side apartment in Jarmusch’s revolutionary evocation of the profoundly mundane. The formalist camera remains as consistently heavy-lidded and immobile as its central trio of deadpan hipster-vaudevillians.


BW: A bayou-set jailbreak fable… but the bona fide liberation occurs early on as cellmates John Lurie and Tom Waits abandon their scowlful posturing and ego-bumping when anachronistic clown Roberto Benigni makes a rapturous selection from his ledger of American pop culture discoveries.


BW: Johnny Depp rides the purgatory rails to the end of the line in Jarmusch’s sublime Western fever dream. Neil Young’s abrasive rhapsodies punctuate an exposition so simultaneously unsettling and gleeful that Crispin Glover seems a natural byproduct.


BW: The adroit capstone of Jarmusch’s mix tape paean to the last great tabletop democracy: former Warhol-superstar Taylor Mead, a sort of Noel Coward of the New York underground, whimsically ruminates on life in its twilight stage.

ADDED BONUS: afro and denim vest-clad Lou Reed extemporizes on NYC and nicotine, while Jarmusch drolly ponders his priorities regarding sex & cigarettes and celluloid Nazis’ smoking techniques in Paul Auster and Wayne Wang’s Blue in the Face.

You can read more of Brynn White’s writing at Stop Smiling.

An evening with Jim Jarmusch and screening of The Limits of Control is a co-presentation of Young Friends of Film and Film Comment Selects. Admission includes the screening, a Q & A and party with open bar afterward. You can buy tickets here.

Kids rule in A Week Alone’s surreal suburban vision

March 4, 2009


There are few visible adults in Celina Murga’s A Week Alone, playing tomorrow night at the Film Society as part of Young Friends of Film. The film is a meditative, perplexing look at the life of young kids left alone for a week in a gated community outside Buenos Aires. With the adults on vacation, the kids are left to roam free.

Sounds like a fantasy doesn’t it? What Murga churns out is a soda-guzzling, chip-eating, TV-watching study in the lives of tweens and teens in the new millennium. Gone are the simple days of make believe and games in your backyard. The new reality is much more sobering. A girl asks the one parental figure, the housekeeper Esther, how old she is. When Esther answers she is 22, the girl tells her she looks older. “I had a baby when I was 18,” Esther responds.

Secure from this real world, the kids of the gated community pillage with no consequences, their only threat being the cops that roam the streets like cyborgs. Framed like Peanuts parents (we never see their faces), these authority figures are easily evaded by sneaking into brush. But an odd light shines down on this gated community, an almost Twilight Zone light. Young bodies run half naked through a lush manicured tree lined path. They romp through beautiful darkened houses, decadent swimming clubs. This is the greatest vacation anyone could ask for. The monotony of suburban living, which I know very well a child of the suburbs myself, is only broken by a fit at the end complete with ripped clothes and kissing cousins. Murga is great at capturing these idle moments, and her casting and use of color are so engaging that we get lost in the moments and do not become bored by the repetitiveness.

-Michael Masarof

Buy tickets to A Week Alone: Wed March 4: 7:30

Film Comment Selects: Interview with Paradise director Michael Almereyda

March 2, 2009

Michael Almereyda and Film Comment's Gavin Smith, photo by Godlis

At what point in collecting material for Paradise did you decide that this would become a stand-alone project in which you collage your footage together? And once you came to this awareness how did it affect the way you continued to collect material?

Michael Almereyda:  In 2004, as I was finishing my portrait of William Eggleston, I applied for a Guggenheim Grant with the idea of making a movie scrapped together from the DV tapes I’ve been accumulating over the years.  And then of course the process of reviewing and distilling the footage was far from simple, or quick.  But in reviewing footage I began to recognize certain patterns and blind spots, certain proofs of how circumscribed my life is.  I mean, I’ve seldom been exposed to much hard physical labor, or even simple, down and dirty, working class activity.  So some of the most recent material was shot with a view towards addressing this.  The episode in the furniture factory in Krakow, for instance.  (A couple friends have named this as their surprise favorite.)

What is/was your relationship with this camera? Do you constantly have it with you and get it out when you feel inspired, or do you occasionally grab it on your way out the door thinking, “I’ll bring it with me tonight, something could come up”?  Are you continuing to collect material in this manner?

MA:  The camera has become like an old, slightly infirm pet – a pet that has to be fed with images.  Sometimes it seems I can’t live without it.  Sometimes it’s just a nuisance.  Now, having finished this version of the movie, I’m content to leave it at home more often than not – though this usually guarantees that something interesting will happen, something unrepeatable that I wish I could document.

Why did you decide to open and close the film with music over the scenes rather than with ambient sounds like in the rest of the film? What were your intentions with the coda?

MA: The movie is seemingly chaotic, so I felt it was good to provide a frame, with those airport shots and Paul Miller’s music – a threshold to cross into and out of.  And I like the way the music loops this one surging string section — the sense of anticipation, the circling quality.  It’s meant to relate to the searching and circling movement of the various episodes.  As you noticed, ambient sounds take over and provide another kind of music.

Your film is structured into four thematic parts, symmetrically containing eleven scenes each. Why and how did you decide to create a specific structure to you film?

MA: Well, it’s good to organize your thoughts, even if the thoughts are fragmentary, and even if one of your central ideas is that experience doesn’t necessarily organize itself into tidy narratives.  All the same, the film’s structure is fairly intuitive, organic.  (I’ve been reading a terrific book, “The Delighted States” by Adam Thirlwell, about literary forms, literary history, and a great deal of it can be applied to film and, for that matter, life: “Truth is fleeting, and fragmentary,  It is stashed away…  It is something that can only be recovered through upending normal values.”)

Does this film mark the beginning of a new trajectory for you?

MA: When you consider that the movie involves ten years’ worth of home video tapes, it’s hard to think of it as a new trajectory.  I’ll probably always be shooting DV on the side, but I think I can still put a spin on old-fashioned narrative filmmaking.   I’m working now on a biopic about the experimental psychologist Stanley Milgram.  He was keenly interested in human behavior, the relationship of individuals to various social networks, and fundamental questions about the basic ingredients that make a person an individual.  Actually, Paradise has something to say about these things, so maybe it’s not a terribly different direction after all.

-Aily Nash, Film Comment

Film Comment sneak peak: the 2008 Readers’ Poll results

February 24, 2009


1.    WALL·E Andrew Stanton, U.S. (5)
2.    The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan, U.S. (21)
3.    Milk Gus Van Sant, U.S. (10)
4.    The Wrestler Darren Aronofsky, U.S. (23)
5.    Slumdog Millionaire Danny Boyle, U.S./U.K. (38)
6.    Let the Right One In Tomas Alfredson, Sweden (11)
7.    Happy-Go-Lucky Mike Leigh, U.K. (4)
8.    Wendy and Lucy Kelly Reichardt, U.S. (1)
9.    A Christmas Tale Arnaud Desplechin, France (3)
10.    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button David Fincher, U.S. (34)
11.    Man on Wire James Marsh, U.K. (18)
12.    Synecdoche, New York Charlie Kaufman, U.S. (14)
13.    Vicky Cristina Barcelona Woody Allen, Spain (39)
14.    Rachel Getting Married Jonathan Demme, U.S. (25)
15.    Gran Torino Clint Eastwood, U.S. (32)
16.    Paranoid Park Gus Van Sant, France/U.S. (7)
17.    Waltz with Bashir Ari Folman, Israel/France/Germany (8)
18.    In Bruges Martin McDonagh, U.S./U.K. (—)
19.    The Edge of Heaven Fatih Akin, Germany/Turkey/Italy (37)
20.    Frost/Nixon Ron Howard, U.S. (41)

(Numbers in parentheses refer to rankings from our 2008 poll of critics.)

See the listings in depth in the next issue of Film Comment magazine.

Jonathan Lethem and Michael Almereyda at opening night of Film Comment Selects

February 23, 2009

Michael Almereyda and Jonathan Lethem at the Film Society of Lincoln Center

Photo by Godlis