News to Me: Terrence Malick, Sandi Tan, and Barry Jenkins
A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1970)
1. Though Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life only recently made its debut at Cannes (hotly debated on this episode of the Film Comment podcast), various Italian publications are reporting that the director has already begun shooting his next film, The Last Planet, in Rome. Following the life of Christ through various evangelical parables, the film will see Malick explicitly dramatizing Christian subject matter for the first time—unless you believe David Roark, who argues that all Malick’s films are “distinctly and explicitly Christian.”
2. Speaking of almighty deities and magical kingdoms, Disney and its ever-growing world are the subject of this Baffler piece by Sarah Marshall, which reframes the space in terms of power and submission: “This is the story Americans have been sold: the one that pardons the powerful and makes us pay for our own numbness. We submit to a story that tells us we will be good—that we will be made good, and therefore safe—as long as we follow the rules, as long as we forget that there are rules.”
3. Fox Searchlight has hired Barry Jenkins to direct their untitled Alvin Ailey project. Jenkins will work alongside Robert Battle and Judith Jamison, both artistic directors at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, to bring the famed choreographer’s story to life.
4. Two pieces on Jordan Peele’s Us have recently popped up at Commune, each engaging with issues of race, class, and the work of Frantz Fanon. The first, by Sheri-Marie Harrison, deals with the symbolism behind the film’s Hands Across America–style conclusion; and the second, by Johanna Isaacson, examines the site of Santa Cruz, “the American Dream writ small, made carnivalesque.”
5. Sandi Tan, breakout director of Shirkers, has announced her follow-up film: The Idiot, based on the autobiographical novel by Elif Batuman. Tan describes the book as an “intelligent, creative woman’s Twilight,” drawing similarities to Vertigo and Phantom Thread; it is, she says, “kind of like Lady Bird goes to college.”
6. In awards news, comedy legend and director/writer/actor Elaine May was crowned Best Actress at the Tony Awards last night, for her role in Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery. Read a conversation between May and Lonergan over at Vulture, and don’t miss May discussing her unjustly panned classic Ishtar (among other topics) with her former comedy partner Mike Nichols in 2006, here at Film Comment.
7. “I am the hobo ciphering through the digital trash and picking out what’s important and what’s not.” A24 recently sat down with the anonymous school teacher behind @NightOpening—a Twitter time machine dedicated to the awkward images of celebrities at movie premieres—to discuss his newfound virality. (See, for example, these inexplicable images from the opening night of Clueless.)
8. Despite his last film being unceremoniously dropped by Amazon, the unstoppable 83-year-old Woody Allen has begun work on his next, yet unnamed film, centered around the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain. Much like the director’s recent foreign forays—Midnight in Paris, To Rome with Love—the film follows a couple who become intoxicated by the city and, indulging these newfound passions, fall in and out of love.
9. Variety reports that the current trade war between China and the U.S. may be negatively affecting box office receipts. Though there’s apparently “nothing in writing” just yet, various industry insiders have noted that a de facto ban on U.S. content has already begun.
10. “It was not always a man’s game. There was incredible opportunity for women in the early years of filmmaking.” Shelley Stamp, curator of the Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers project, sat down with KJZZ to discuss a time when women were at the forefront of the filmmaking process: “The contributions of women to culture were valued at this point in history . . . it’s a period when women are emerging on the national stage.”
This week, we leave you with an excerpt from Abigail Child’s UNBOUND: Scenes from the Life of Mary Shelley. A rare screening of Child’s silent films will occur tonight at the Microscope Gallery in Brooklyn.