English filmmaker Danny Boyle hit it big in recent years with widely acclaimed and not-quite-mainstream movies like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. But he began his big-screen career with two films — Shallow Grave and Trainspotting — that instantly revealed a true signature style: crisp pacing, lush visuals, witty dialogue and a knack for infusing noir-ish crime thrillers with a punk rocker’s anarchic sense of fun. Trance is Boyle’s eleventh feature but it would have served perfectly as his third.
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To the Wonder, the new film by reclusive and widely revered writer-director Terrence Malick, has just been announced as the closing selection for the FilmOrama festival currently running at the Prytania Theatre. Malick is known for visually striking and contemplative films including Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life. To the Wonder stars Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem and screens Thursday, April 11 at 9:30 p.m. at the Prytania. More info here.
Among Blank's many excellent documentaries are several about New Orleans and Louisiana cultural subjects, including Always for Pleasure about New Orleans' second line parades (some interview and a clip above) and Hot Pepper about Clifton Chenier and J'ai Été Au Bal / I Went to the Dance about Cajun and zydeco music. He also made a great film (A Poem is a Naked Person) about Leon Russell which was never released and was only screened under strict limitations. Other notable films include A Well Spent Life about Texas guitarist Mance Lipscomb. In recent years, Blank presented his films locally at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and Ponderosa Stomp.
David Grohl directed Sound City and he's frequently on screen when not narrating. The movie is a very good documentary about the legendary Van Nuys, Calif. recording studio, but it's also a vanity project, in which Grohl fits himself into rock history and hobnobs with a long list of rock stars from previous decades. That's entirely legitimate, both because Nirvana recorded Nevermind there in 1991, and Grohl acquired the recording console that was the studio's main feature.
Review after the jump.
It has always been difficult to imagine a faithful screen version of Jack Kerouac’s autobiographical and hugely influential Beat Generation novel On the Road — difficult for fans of the book and for the many filmmakers who struggled (and failed) over the last 50 years to bring it to life on screen. With its impressionistic, free form prose and defiance of conventional narrative, On the Road seems inherently resistant to cinematic adaptation. But Kerouac himself saw no problem with the idea. As soon as he got the book published in 1957 (also after years of struggle), the author famously wrote Marlon Brando a letter imploring him to buy the rights to the book and star in the film — alongside Kerouac. Perhaps knowing something the author did not, Brando never replied.
Francis Ford Coppola finally bought the rights to On the Road in 1979. Many directors and actors were attached to the project over the following decades, but it was only after Coppola saw Brazilian director Walter Salles’ 2004 film The Motorcycle Diaries — about a cross-country journey by another cultural icon, Che Guevara, adapted from his memoir — that On the Road finally found a path to the big screen. Salles’ highly anticipated film may not capture all the wild glory of Kerouac’s book, but it holds significant pleasures for those willing to accept it on its own terms. On the Road has always required nothing less of its many devoted readers.
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The Baton Rouge-based Louisiana International Film Festival and Mentorship Program (LIFF) has announced its inaugural lineup. The four-day Festival begins on April 18th with a screening and party at the Joy Theatre in New Orleans of Twenty Feet From Stardom, a new documentary about backup singers. The focus then shifts to Baton Rouge for more than 50 narrative feature films, documentaries and shorts, including three U.S. premieres. A series of workshops will target those working in the Louisiana film industry, and a program called SPOTLIGHT: LOUISIANA will showcase finished works from around the state.
Further information is available here.
The fourth annual FilmOrama — the New Orleans Film Society's spring showcase of new and classic foreign, independent and documentary film — begins next Friday, April 5, at the Prytania Theatre. Highlights of the week-long festival include the local debut of On the Road, director Walter Salles' adaptation of Jack Kerouac's "unfilmable" book; I am Devine, the story of filmmaker John Waters' cinematic muse; Getting Back to Abnormal, a documentary on New Orleans City Council member Stacy Head's bid for re-election; and Sound City, Dave Grohl's documentary on a legendary California recording studio. Classics to be screened at this year's FilmOrama include Fellini's 8-1/2; Pride and Prejudice; Bunuel's Belle du Jour; Eraserhead; and The Shining.
The full schedule for FilmOrama 2013 is available here.
The New Orleans Film Society and the Contemporary Arts Center screen Don't Stop Believing: Everyman's Journey at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. tonight at the CAC. The film chronicles Arnel Pineda, the Filipino singer who was found via YouTube to front the band. Admission $7, free for film society and CAC members.
Those who find the seemingly intractable, decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict hard to fathom would do well to see The Gatekeepers, Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh’s insightful and Oscar-nominated documentary. Moreh obtained unprecedented access to the six surviving former heads of the Shin Bet, the Israeli Secret Service charged with defending the state against terrorism. Over the course of 97 minutes, each speaks with remarkable candor about the many shades of grey involved with fighting terrorists who use the same term to describe the Israelis, as well as the internal political realities that somehow always seem to work against the possibility of meaningful peace in the region.
The film’s videogame-style CGI re-enactments of Israeli military operations add a needlessly artificial element. But Moreh must have been concerned about the cumulative effect of basing his entire film on footage of elderly men sitting and sharing personal interpretations of historic events. He need not have worried — his interview subjects’ gradual and hard-won acceptance of the need for a two-state solution to the conflict is powerful enough enough to carry the film. And it resonates far beyond the Middle East for those ready to accept hard lessons from decades of frustration and disappointment.
The Gatekeepers screens through Thursday, March 28 at The Theatres at Canal Place. More info here.
L'Alliance Française de la Nouvelle Orleans will debut a new monthly series of French and French-language films this Monday, March 25 at 7 p.m at Cafe Istanbul in the Healing Center at 2372 St. Claude Avenue in the Marigny. The series first offering is A Screaming Man (Un homme qui crie), a French-Canadian drama that won the Jury Prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. More information here.
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Wait, you're back at Gambit? Does that mean we get more Public Transit Tuesdays?