News to Me: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Anna May Wong, and Fox v. Mouse
Anna May Wong (Photo by Ray Jones/Kobal/Shutterstock)
1) “I really thought that I was finished with filmmaking. I was getting bored with it. I thought that I would end up writing another novel, and then I got interested in the whole Netflix thing and the idea of a streaming series . . . I generally don’t watch movies in a cinema at all. Netflix is the future. It’s the present.” For The Globe and Mail, maybe-ex-filmmaker David Cronenberg sat down to talk about cinema’s past and future, his own influence on the medium, and the end of the “so-called Cronenberg canon.”
2) In our just-released September-October issue we pay tribute to the late John Singleton, director of Boyz n the Hood, Poetic Justice, Rosewood, and many more. All of these films, as well as a selection of the director’s television work, will be screening at BAM’s upcoming retrospective, Purpose and Passion: The Cinema of John Singleton. In 2016, Ashley Clark (who helped program the BAM event) put together this collection of quotes from the filmmaker—covering his time as a student at USC, Tupac Shakur, Black Lives Matter, and contemporary American cinema.
3) Anna May Wong is widely considered to be Hollywood’s first Chinese-American movie star. Though she led a successful career—starring in one of the first technicolor feature films, The Toll of the Sea, at just seventeen years old, and later working alongside Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express—Wong’s life was marred with discrimination and death threats. Last week, the FBI quietly released their extensive records on the actress: a complete collection of extortion attempts and anti-miscegenation matters for anyone willing to pore through all 334 pages.
4) With Labor Day now come and gone, the next big event on everybody’s calendar is Art House Theater Day, which celebrates its fourth year running on Wednesday, September 18. Organized by Art House Convergence, with participating theaters nationwide, Art House Theater Day celebrates “the essential role that art houses play in their communities,” and will this year feature new 4K restorations of Ildikó Enyedi’s My Twentieth Century and Robert Downey Sr.’s Putney Swope (celebrating its 50th anniversary). Other films chosen to “exemplify the art house experience” include Brett Story’s The Hottest August, Peter Strickland’s In Fabric, and Barbara Stratman’s Vever (For Barbara).
5) “About 25 to 30 percent of the tickets we sell annually are 20th Century Fox titles. For us to be cut off from that, we would close.” In less inspiring news for movie theaters everywhere, the recent Disney-Fox merger is seeing some cinemas lose access to the Fox library. Disney is imposing its system of dividing theaters into two categories: “repertory” and “commercial,” where the former (which extends to nonprofits, universities, and museums) can screen older films but not new releases, and the latter can do the opposite. For any small, independent theaters caught in the threshold, the decision may well prove damning.
6) “Few things in America are pro-worker, and the entertainment industry is no exception.” In further Labor Day-adjacent news, the most recent of Kate Wagner’s “Kate Takes” focuses on the 15-year-running series How It’s Made: a compendium of workaday manufacturing jobs—artisanal or mass-produced—as viewed through an equalizing lens. “On its face, How It’s Made is arguably about science and engineering rather than the vicissitudes of the working class, but its depiction of the everyday worker nonetheless makes it a kissing cousin to socialist realism.” (A second cousin: Eric Hynes’ most recent “Make it Real” column on American Factory.)
7) Richard Kelly, director of Donnie Darko and Southland Tales, has announced his next project: a biopic covering the life of The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling. (Notably, Kelly’s most recent film, The Box, shares its source material with an episode of the beloved sci-fi series, “Button, Button.”) Though Donnie Darko remains Kelly’s most successful film, his sophomore feature, Southland Tales, has accrued a cult of its own—J. Hoberman labeling it a “visionary film” and other critics considering it the worst of all time. Our own Michael Koresky unpacks the film maudit in full over at Reverse Shot.
8) Apichatpong Weerasethakul has begun filming Memoria at last—his eighth feature film and the first to be shot outside of Thailand. New details have emerged since we last spoke to the filmmaker, including confirmation of Tilda Swinton’s role as an orchid farmer visiting her sister in Bogotá, Colombia. Some set photos are available via The Film Stage, but for more in-depth insight into Weerasethakul’s filming practices, check out our 2015 set visit to Cemetery of Splendour (then under the working title Love in Khon Kaen).
9) Richard Linklater has announced his next film, with a tentative release date set for 2039. Assuming humanity is still around (and that cinema is, too), Linklater’s adaptation of Merrily We Roll Along will be available in holo-theaters everywhere, with Blake Jenner, Beanie Feldstein, and Ben Platt in starring roles. Not long ago, at one of our regular Film at Lincoln Center talks, Linklater sat down with his longtime producer Ginger Sledge to talk about his most recent film, Where’d You Go, Bernadette (available now on the FC podcast).
10) Another recent FC talk participant, Ari Aster, is the subject of this Commune Magazine essay by Sophie Lewis. Beginning with the Tolstoy truism that “All happy families are alike; unhappy families are each unhappy in their own way,” Lewis argues for the dissolution of the nuclear family (a central theme, she finds, across all of Aster’s films—including his breakout short, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons), and concludes that Midsommar “may well be one of the most radically feminist interventions of 21st-century cinema.”
Speaking of radical feminism… we leave you this week with Vincent Gallo as he takes on the film critics of Movie Talk (including our own Jonathan Romney!). Another participant, Anne Billson of The Sunday Telegraph, recalls the event: “Richard Jobson [the host] told me afterwards that behind the scenes Gallo had called me a ‘Commie lesbian witch’ and asked him for my telephone number.”