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The JACOB BURNS FILM CENTER Part 2

August 30, 2009

This is a continuation of the blog entry dated August 23.

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The International Noir series continues at the JACOB BURNS FILM CENTER through September 3.  Besides Chinatown there have been two other moreau3films of note that I’ve seen.  The first is Louis Malle’s, Elevator to the Gallows.  This was Malle’s debut feature…and what a debut it was with music by Miles Davis and starring, the sensuous,  Jeanne Moreau in this her “break-out” film role. I’ve also seen Akira Kurosawa’s, Tengoku to jigoku, High and Low (The title in Japanese literally means, Heaven and Hell).

Is there any film genre Kurosawa couldn’t handle?  THIS is a police procedural, and this is the standard that all others should strive to equal–but rarely do.  Yes, Mifune’s performance is, as is his wont, way over the top, but I gather this was the standard for actors in Japanese film at the time (of course when you watch the subtlety of Takashi Shimura’s performance in Ikiru you are forced to question the validity of that statement).  The final scene of High and Low transcends the genre and carries this into the realm of “masterpiece”.  There are rumors of a remake.  Why?


JBFC’s bulletin for September/October informs us that they’re having a Sidney Lumet retrospective starting September 11.  In it there is a quotation from Roger Ebert that bears lumet_ff_retro_365repeating: “Sidney Lumet has made more great pictures than most directors have made pictures.” Often this sort thing is pure hyperbole…not so in this case.  The retrospective will include: 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Fail-Safe, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, and many others including two underrated Sean Connery films, The Hill and The Anderson Tapes.  Other than The Man Who Would be King I consider these to be two of his stronger performances.

No news cycle seems complete without at least one horror story about the war in Afghanistan. After years of these I couldn’t help but feel the situation there was one of  unrelenting hopelessness.  Seeing Afghan Star gave me a different perspective.  The filmmakers follow four contestants as they make their way through the rigors of the Afghan version of “American Idol”.  Silliness and pettiness ensue as segments of the population go to wild extremes to support their favorites, while other contestants are plagued by death threats and the possibility of fundamentalist retribution.  Despite it all there seems to be a comforting “normalness” to the competition.  When I saw the film earlier this summer, the director, Havana Marking, was there and I asked her about the reaction of American Service Personal to this phenomena.  posterHer feeling was that there is no reaction because the Americans don’t really know what’s going on outside of their bases.  Understandable but sad.  She also said that she’d heard that the U.S. military was considering making the viewing of Afghan Star mandatory for anyone who is to be deployed there.  JBFC is presenting this highly enlightening and entertaining documentary on October 12 & 14.

I will end this entry with a nod of appreciation for Christopher Funderburg the curator of the International Noir series and a JBFC Film Programmer.  He seems to have a fine sense of what’s good, what’s classic and what’s worth watching.  Evidently it was his decision to bring in Silent Light for The Meditative Life series–another film that haunts me weeks after having seen it.  I talked to him briefly after he spoke so eloquently about Costa-GavrasZ–a new print shown at the end of odyssey300x360June.  I hope that in the future I’ll get a chance to interview him in-depth about his work there.


My favorite website this week is one I hadn’t been to in a long time The Art of the Title Sequence.  I’d forgotten how much fun it was until a recent quick re-visit.


The Men Who Stare At Goats What a cast!  You can only hope the film will be half as as good as the trailer and the cast would lead you to believe.



Next:  The Handcart Ensemble presentation of Homer’s The Odyssey.


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One Comment leave one →
  1. Rolf Maurer permalink
    August 30, 2009 11:06 pm

    A movie version of Men Who Stare At Goats? What a hoot! The Ronson book is pretty off the wall, and infuriating, too, in how it shows how the gov’t spends our money. In a similar vein, check out Imaginary Weapons, published by Nation Books.

    Speaking of Malle, My Dinner Wtih Andre will be running in a few weeks at the Avon in Stamford, CT, with a Q and A, I believe, by Wally Shawn.

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