News to Me: Anna Karina, Alex Ross Perry, and Baz Luhrmann
Bande à part (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)
1) This weekend saw the passing of the iconic Anna Karina. Karina is best known as “the face of the French New Wave,” starring in many of Godard’s most famous films—foremost as the intoxicating centerpiece of Vivre sa vie—though her storied career also includes work with Jacques Rivette, Luchino Visconti, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. She wrote songs, novels, and films, and directed Living Together in 1973 and Victoria in 2008. Yonca Talu spoke at length with Karina about her remarkable career in 2016, while she was visiting New York for a retrospective of her work.
2) Baz Luhrmann has secured the rights to Mikhail Bulgakov’s acclaimed novel The Master and Margarita. “Written in the darkest period of Stalin’s regime and banned during Bulgakov’s lifetime, a censored edition was finally published in the 1960’s and instantly became a worldwide literary phenomenon,” writes Deadline. But that won’t be the next thing we see from Luhrmann—the Australian director is currently at work on his Elvis biopic, starring Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’s Austin Butler, which begins production early next year.
3) Another much-loved book adaptation in the works: Alex Ross Perry, who made waves this year with Her Smell, is set to take on Stephen King’s The Dark Half. The book is loosely based on King’s own experience publishing under a pseudonym, telling the story of “George Stark”—a pen name used for grisly murder mysteries—coming to life after Thad Beaumont, the real author, symbolically buries him. (Fans of George A. Romero may remember his version from 1993, which played at BAM earlier this year. For horror-heads: here’s Robin Wood on Romero’s Living Dead films.)
4) Not quite a new film, but Arnaud Desplechin—whose Oh Mercy! Played at NYFF earlier this year and came in at No. 6 on our Best Undistributed Films list—will be directing Angels in America at the Paris Comédie-Française, with the play opening on January 18. And an update on Paul Verhoeven’s forthcoming Benedetta: producer Saïd Ben Saïd recently posted on Twitter that, though Verhoeven was recovering well from his hip surgery, the film would not be ready for next year’s Berlinale, as they had initially planned.
5) More news on those undistributed films we loved so much: Jason Gray, producer of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s To the Ends of the Earth (No. 3) notes that a U.S. release is currently in the works; Kino Lorber teased that one of the twenty has some good news coming its way; and Grasshopper Films have made La Flor (technically No. 12 on our “released” list—but still, hard to see!) available to rent or buy on their website.
6) Frieze have put the decade into review, which, in the film world, means taking on Disney’s industry coup. Alluding to the monolithic studio system of old and the energizing New Hollywood that overthrew it, Gerry Canavan writes that the “most exciting question about global culture in the 2020s, I think, is whether a similar collapse in the overawing power of franchise hegemony would even be thinkable today.” And if you couldn’t possibly stomach another morsel of the Disney discourse, then check out our recently-launched Decade Project: an ongoing podcast series that reflects on an epoch still taking shape—with (most) superhero films excluded (because many of our guests refused to see them).
7) Over the past few weeks we’ve mentioned Strand Releasing’s 30/30 Vision project—the distribution company celebrating their 30th anniversary with 30 exciting short films. With the complete collection now touring theaters in the U.S., Le Cinéma Club are playing host to a select few, available for the next week. The 9-minute sequence features Brady Corbet cross-cutting between Romanian history new and old, a seaside postcard from Catherine Breillat, a black and white portrait of water, light, and vapor from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Cindy Sherman’s self-portrait with a “Photobooth inspired twist.” And as a bonus: the streaming site recently had Alice Rohrwacher pick a few of her favorites (from Elia Kazan to Agnès Varda) to mark the occasion of her MoMA retrospective, running until December 23.
8) “The Irishman is at its best when it feels pallid and meandering. In this register, it seems to cut deliberately against its director’s crime film classics. Where, for example, the well-connected mobsters in Goodfellas treat a prison stint like a private resort vacation, The Irishman’s incarceration scenes are given over to slumped men with rotten teeth and diseased colons.” The Baffler’s John Semley gets rolling on Scorsese’s latest, arguing that the film’s ugliness and sluggishness are what make it so wonderful. (Some would argue that the film is far from ugly, however, drawing attention to its lavish and period-perfect costumes—and for that we have longtime Marty collaborator Sandy Powell and co-designer Christopher Peterson breaking down Tony Pro’s suits and the intricacies of vintage pajamas.)
9) Another great piece from The Baffler revisits Kevin Smith’s Clerks (which, notably, was one of the few films this year added to the National Film Registry, alongside Platoon, The Last Waltz, and She’s Gotta Have It). “Whether he intended to or not, Smith was continuing the radical tradition of neorealism,” writes Matt Hanson, calling the film a “guerrilla” work of “scruffy authenticity.” The film endures, Hanson argues, because of its existential fatigue: “Generational attitude toward the perils of the working life have changed over time: the ironic indifference of Gen X has gradually given way to the frazzled hustling of the Millennials. But the facts on the ground haven’t really changed much . . . The kind of systemic dissatisfaction that the characters in Clerks feel but don’t directly express is pointed in all kinds of directions.”
10) Film at Lincoln Center have announced their Winter/Spring 2020 lineup—replete with retrospectives and mini-festivals. Bong Joon Ho gets a post-Parasite victory lap, with all of his features, shorts, and a few favorite films playing as part of The Bong Show. Those who missed Angela Schanelec’s I Was at Home, But… at NYFF will have a chance to see all of the German director’s films in February. And another NYFF hit, Bacurau, co-directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, gets mapped and unpacked by the directors themselves, programming a series based on the “intricate network of film historical references” at work in their film.
We leave you this week with Agnès Varda’s mini-film Les fiancés du pont Macdonald, starring Anna Karina and her then-husband Godard, which plays as a film-within-a-film during Cléo from 5 to 7.