Thursday, May 11, 2006
Reel Question: Sam Shepard and Wim Wenders on being yesterday’s news
It took three years for filmmaker Wim Wenders and actor/playwright Sam Shephard to secure financing for their melancholy Western ‘Don’t Come Knocking’ despite their track record as the pair responsible for the landmark film ‘Paris, Texas’.
“We were dealing with financiers who never heard of ‘Paris, Texas,’” Shepard says, speaking after the film’s U.S. premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. “People don’t remember anything from last week more or less years ago.”
In the film, Shepard plays an aging cowboy movie actor who leaves a film shoot in order to return home and find some sanity in his life. He ends up reuniting with the son he never knew.
Wenders takes the struggles in stride. He’s been making movies long enough to experience his share of ups and downs. Still, at a filmmakers’ oasis like Sundance, the two artists expect slightly more recognition than what they’ve been getting.
“A woman came up to me after last night’s screening,” Shepard says, sitting down next to his friend and collaborator. “She asked me, ‘Have you and Wim Wenders ever worked before?’ She was nice but I couldn’t believe it. I told her, well, we made this film some time ago called Paris, Texas. She hadn’t heard of it.”
Don’t Come Knocking made its U.S. premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and is currently playing in theaters via Sony Pictures Classics
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Must See Movie: Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
A woman takes the role of avenger for ‘Sympathy for Lady Vengeance’ (Chin-jeol-han Geum-ja-ssi), the final film in Park Chan-wook’s stylish revenge trilogy. The gender switch proves to be inspirational, bringing much-appreciated heartache and sensitivity to Park’s tale of blood justice (He co-wrote the script with Chung Seo-kyung).
Lee Geum-Ja (Lee Young-ae) is free after spending 13 years in prison for the kidnapping and murder of a young boy. It’s a crime she did not commit. Geum-Ja wants to pay back the man responsible for her wrongful sentence and her former prison inmates are happy to help.
Lee worked with Park on his popular 2000 romance ‘JSA: Join Security Area’ but Geum-Ja is the type of colorful femme fatale actresses dream of playing. She’s razor smart, pretty, in a deceivingly delicate manner and fearless when it comes to exacting her deserved revenge.
Park surrounds Lee’s operatic performance with artful flourishes. Her crimson red eye shadow becomes a fashionable symbol for her bloodlust. Her handmade gun is disguised as a prayer book. Less graphic than his previous installments, ‘Old Boy’ and ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’, Park celebrates his female anti-hero with the best film of his acclaimed career. ‘Lady Vengeance’ is a complete break from the pulpy sensibilities that prevent Park’s Old Boy’ from receiving its due acclaim. ‘Lady Vengeance’ is melodrama with a killer’s instinct thanks to Lee’s love/hate performance and Park’s willingness to let her loose on the world. Actresses interested in challenging work have just discovered their best patron.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance premiered at the 2005 Venice Film Festival and opened in New York City on April 28. Tartan Films USA will release it in art house theaters across America later this spring and summer.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Are We Ready for United 93? A second, more grounded look
The second-week numbers behind the 9/11 drama ‘United 93’ strips away the glow of non-stop, opening weekend publicity and sizable crowds.
$11.5 million in debut ticket sales at just 1,795 theaters was good enough to call director Paul Greengrass’ film about the doomed Sept. 11, 2001 airliner a hit and claim people ready to look back at 9/11 no matter how solemn a movie might be.
More grounded Hollywood hindsight comes with week two numbers and this time the ‘United 93’ tale is less celebratory.
Greengrass’ real-time drama played in 24 additional cinemas, a modest 1,819 total, but ticket sales plummeted 53%.
The best cinematic comparison is a horror movie like the recent ‘Silent Hill’. Scare-junkie teens may mob theaters on the opening weekend just to check things out. But if they declare the flick as lame, the theaters turn from packed to empty in a flash.
The same thing may happen to ‘United 93’ despite continuing commentary by political pundits like Frank Rich of The New York Times, who sees the film as anti-President Bush, and his conservative counterweights at Fox News who promote the film as a patriotic must-see.
Of course, it’s up to everyday people to make a movie a real-life phenomenon and not just topic number 1 with editorial writers.
If moviegoers continue to lose interest as more and more summer blockbusters pile up, at least Greengrass can claim the year’s best reviews for ‘United 93’. That should take the sting out of a movie that opened hot and then turned surprisingly cold.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Reel Question: Top Beastie, Adam “MCA” Yauch on making the concert film of a lifetime
51 filmmakers share the billing with Nathanial Hörnblowér — alias for top Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch, on their concert film ‘Awesome: I Fuckin’ Shot That!’ Yauch handed out 50 handheld Hi-8 cameras to lucky concertgoers at the Oct. 9, 2004 sold out Madison Square Garden Beasties Boy show. Their task was to film the show of a lifetime. Yauch has been in charge of the band’s video art and photography for 15 years but he credits inspiration for ‘Awesome’ to one of the band’s devoted fans. Yauch says he saw concert footage a kid shot on his camera phone and could envision an entire concert filmed in the gritty format.
The amateur photographers filmed until their video cartridges run out and Yauch edited the hundreds of hours of fan footage into a kaleidoscope of rocking images.
Told that “Awesome’ looks like the perfect movie to watch on a handheld device, Yauch gives a shout out for cinema nostalgia. He’s more old fashioned than you think.
“I love going to the movie theater. It’s an amazing thing, a room full of people and a full-blown sound system and a big screen. Film is an amazing medium and I hope it does not come down to everyone looking at an i Pod.”
Awesome: I Fuckin’ Shot That! premiered at 2006 Sundance Film Festival. THINK Films is currently releasing the film in theaters across America.