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Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund Secures Funding

The Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund (WCF), an international production and distribution fund, announced on Monday that it has secured funding through 2018. Established in 2004, the fund supports projects by filmmakers hailing from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central and South East Asia. Initiated by the Berlinale and the German Federal […]

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The Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund (WCF), an international production and distribution fund, announced on Monday that it has secured funding through 2018. Established in 2004, the fund supports projects by filmmakers hailing from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central and South East Asia. Initiated by the Berlinale and the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the WCF receives funding and support from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Goethe Institute, and the Federal Foreign Office. The WCF finances feature-length narrative and documentary films from regions “with non-existent or inadequately functioning production structures.” Filmmakers from the eligible regions submit applications and if awarded funding, collaborate with a German production and/or distribution partner.

Several films produced by the WCF have screened at the Walker, including Silent Night in 2008 with director Carlos Reygadas in attendance, as well as Paradise Now in 2005 with an introduction by director Hany Abu-Assad. Most recently, the Walker screened the WCF-financed and globally-acclaimed Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who created Cactus River, a short video for the Walker Channel last year. Thus far, every film supported by the WFC has screened in cinemas and international film festivals in many different countries. In 2012, seven WCF projects premiered at international film festivals, and two were selected as their nation’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards.

The most recent batch of productions to receive financing from the WCF includes Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere by Diep Nguyen Hoang (Vietnam), Historia del Miedo by Benjamin Naishtat (Argentina), Remote Control by Byamba Sakhya (Mongolia), and South Facing Wall, by Elvent Kutlug Ataman (Turkey). The projects were selected from 95 submissions from 37 countries, and a total of 140,000 € was distributed among them. The selection jury consisted of film scholar and curator Viola Shafik (Germany/Egypt), documentary film producer Marta Andreu (Spain), distributor and producer Jan De Clercq (Belgium) and WFC administrators Sonja Heinen and Vincenzo Bugno. Since its establishment, the WCF has supported 106 films.

Reality, realism, and Richard Linklater

Earlier this week, the New Yorker’s Richard Brody posted an article online entitled “Camus, Car Crashes, Cinema.” A piece as multivalent and stimulating as its title suggests, Brody uses the recent hypothesis that Albert Camus’ 1960 death was not an accident but a meticulously staged assassination by the KGB as a springboard to ponder the […]

Albert Camus

Earlier this week, the New Yorker’s Richard Brody posted an article online entitled “Camus, Car Crashes, Cinema.” A piece as multivalent and stimulating as its title suggests, Brody uses the recent hypothesis that Albert Camus’ 1960 death was not an accident but a meticulously staged assassination by the KGB as a springboard to ponder the intersection of Camus’ life with the legacy of French cinema (and, tangentially, the prevalence of auto accidents among a lengthy roster of famous French actors and directors, and as a significant motif in landmark French films like Godard’s Weekend). Characteristically, Brody’s writing is light and intuitive, almost stream-of-consciousness, as he jumps (logically, yet unpredictably) from one concept to another.

Especially interesting in Brody’s article, I think, is a lengthy excerpt that he cites from Camus’ 1957 lecture at the University of Uppsala, which Camus delivered shortly after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. Camus was not exactly a devout supporter of the cinema; in fact, Brody makes the point that, when the film magazine La Revue de Cinéma was losing money in 1948, Camus (who was editor at Gallimard, the publishing company responsible for the magazine) shut it down. (Film lovers shouldn’t feel too spurned by Camus’ disinterest, though: out of the ashes of La Revue de Cinéma arose the publication that would soon become Cahiers du Cinéma.) Nonetheless, in Camus’ Uppsala lecture (entitled “The Artist and His Times”), issues of cinema and its ability to convey reality (or, as Camus words it, the life of a man in its totality) were central. Brody cites the following passage from Camus:

 

What is more real … in our universe than the life of a man, and how could one hope to revive it better than in a realistic film? But under what conditions would such a film be possible? Purely imaginary ones. One would actually have to posit an ideal camera that is fixed, night and day, on this man and ceaselessly records his slightest movement. The result would be a film, the screening of which would last a lifetime and that could be seen only by viewers resigned to losing their life in the exclusive interest of the details of someone else’s. Even then, this unimaginable film wouldn’t be realistic—for the simple reason that the reality of a man’s life isn’t found only where he is. It’s also found in the other lives that shape his—first of all, the lives of those he loves, who would, in turn, have to be filmed; but also the lives of unknown others—powerful or downtrodden—fellow citizens, policemen, professors, invisible companions in mines and factories, diplomats and dictators, religious reformers, artists who create myths that govern our behavior—all told, humble representatives of the sovereign accidents that reign over even the most orderly existence. Thus there’s only one realistic film possible, the one that is endlessly projected for us by an invisible apparatus on the screen of the world. The only realistic artist would be God, if he exists. Other artists are, of necessity, unfaithful to the real.

 

Of course the cinephiliac debate over what is film’s true “vocation”—portraying reality as doggedly as possible, or embracing the film camera’s transformative, non-realistic capabilities—has persisted basically since the dawn of cinema in the late nineteenth century. And of course, the debate can never be settled because cinema has no true single vocation; as most audiences have recognized (wittingly or not) over the last 120 years, film is necessarily, inherently a blend of the two artistic modes, at once convincing in its realism and markedly expressive in its deviations from reality.

Nonetheless, this old argument is usually worthy of reconsideration, especially when voiced as eloquently as Camus does here. The argument is familiar: no single film can encompass the totality of a life, if only because a movie has to begin and end at some point, and because certain elisions and ellipses are (usually) necessary. What’s more, if one assumes that the cornerstone of a realistic film is a fixed, observational camera that never strays from its human subject, such a rigid perspective would necessarily avoid the numerous other agents and institutions that affect that person’s life.

Just as claims to the cinema’s true vocation are never successful, so, too, are arguments against film’s essence or nature always faulty in some way. (Again, there’s always that middle ground.) What Camus seems to be talking about here is not conveying reality onscreen but the aesthetic and thematic movement of realism as it has developed in film. When he speaks, for example, of a fixed, ideal camera trained on a subject night and day, he seems to be thinking ahead towards the minimalist style of observational realism that would be practiced by European arthouse modernists from the 1960s onward. We may think, for example, of Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore (1973) or Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), two films that seek primarily to observe their main characters through piercing, unwavering stares. Camus was speaking in 1957, around the time when this aesthetic tradition was first coming into play, as it was practiced especially by Carl Theodor Dreyer in 1955’s Ordet and, to a lesser extent, 1943’s Day of Wrath. (Dreyer would carry this unflinching observational style to its fullest expression yet with 1964’s Gertrud). A few years after Camus’ speech, in 1962, Agnès Varda would further develop this style of observational realism with Cleo from 5 to 7.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du commerce, 1080 bruxelles

But is this brand of minimalism really the fullest embodiment of reality onscreen? This train of thought, it seems, has persisted to this day, as modern examples of “realism” onscreen might bring to mind the films of the Dardenne brothers (Rosetta, L’Enfant) or the visceral immediacy of Kelly Reichardt (Wendy & Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff). At the time of Camus’ lecture in 1957, though, critics such as Andre Bazin and James Agee were espousing a different kind of realism (or, maybe more precisely, reality) onscreen: one that operated via the linear editing and narrative style of more traditional films but that adopted new aesthetic techniques in order to suggest the individuals and institutions that heavily affected the lives of characters. For both Bazin and Agee, Jean Renoir and William Wyler were among the most accomplished practitioners of this form of cinematic reality: films like Rules of the Game (1939) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) adopted deep-focus cinematography, on-location shooting, and ensemble casts of characters emblematic of different strata of society in order to encompass the turbulent changes then influencing French and American society, respectively. Maybe the high point of this brand of cinematic reality was Italian postwar neo-realism, embodied by Roberto Rossellini’s Open City (1945) and Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948), which began casting nonprofessional actors—real people selected from the streets of Italian cities—in order to lend these films a greater semblance of gritty reality. If we adopt these films’ strategies (and Bazin’s and Agee’s theories), the most convincing and thorough form of cinematic reality is not unwavering minimalism but a polyphonic and visually complex style that would, as Camus might say, point towards the “humble representatives of the sovereign accidents that reign over even the most orderly existence.”

Bicycle Thieves

Again, this style is in marked contrast to the fixed, observational camera of, say, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, a film that doesn’t seem like it’s trying to be realistic (or at least, not in the literal stylistic way that we might assume that to mean). Some have called Akerman’s film hyperrealistic: its strict aesthetic conceit forces us to go beyond observation, to dig beneath the surface. The long takes and constrained perspective of the film force us to analyze what we’re seeing, to process the deceptively simple information; the style of the film aims for psychological complexity, not an observable reality. The same might be said of Bela Tarr’s Sátántangó, a seven-and-a-half hour behemoth that offers such gruelingly long takes and narrative circumvention that its minimalism becomes a form of abstract self-commentary, forcing us to question the very nature of cinematic looking (and, perhaps, to ponder the misery undergone by the characters onscreen). Even though a rigid observational style is often seen as the embodiment of cinematic realism, these telling examples aren’t necessarily trying to portray reality onscreen—they’re trying to go beyond it.

All of this is a way of saying that the “best” (most convincing, most powerful) portrayals of reality onscreen have nothing to do with their aesthetic strictures. Realism is an aesthetic category; reality, or an impression of reality, may be conveyed through a wide variety of stylistic choices. Camus may be right that the most realistic “film” possible is the one “endlessly projected for us by an invisible apparatus on the screen of the world” (an appraisal which succinctly conveys the power of cinematic looking and spectatorial identification), but he’s wrong when he claims that artists (other than God) are, “of necessity, unfaithful to the real.” The real is something to be experienced, not portrayed absolutely.

Slacker

The Walker Art Center’s upcoming retrospective of Richard Linklater films may shed some unexpected light on this debate. Few would think to label Linklater a “realist” director; he does not typically employ the stylistic or thematic traits we usually associate with realism. But look at his body of work again, and it seems, in a way, that almost all of his movies try to convey reality in their own way. Slacker jumps between an eclectic assortment of realistically flighty Austinites; Before Sunrise and Before Sunset use long takes and a gracefully observational camera to bear witness to endearingly awkward conversation (and, by being released about a decade apart, also bear witness to the passing of time and how aging changes us in small but significant ways); Tape uses raw digital video to give expression to its characters’ hostilities and desperation; subUrbia, with its heavily-scripted pronouncements of suburban ennui, tries to give urgent voice to a specific time and place; Dazed and Confused, maybe Linklater’s most pleasurable and sheerest comedy, nails the singular joys, alienations, friendships, and bright sense of expectation of the high school (and immediate post-high school existence) in 1976; and Waking Life, seemingly the most unrealistic selection in our retrospective, hyperbolically illustrates the most nagging, unanswerable questions we face as individuals going through everyday lives. (Linklater’s other films display an even further interest in tackling the mysteries and difficulties of human life—not least of them Boyhood, which Linklater has been filming periodically since 2001, and which is set to be completed in 2015. By filming certain intervals of the first fourteen years of a young boy’s life, Boyhood offers maybe the clearest example yet of Linklater’s striving for an impressionistic portrayal of the fullness and unpredictability of human life.) These Linklater films employ a wide array of aesthetic, narrative, and conceptual tricks in order to reflect, intuitively and vibrantly, the astounding richness of the human experience. (No wonder Linklater is sometimes labeled as the most humane director currently working in American movies.) As films as widely varied as Jeanne Dielman and Waking Life suggest, reality (as opposed to realism) onscreen takes on a vast number of forms—something which, considering the hugeness and extraordinary polyvalence of human life, only seems appropriate.

‘It was the pictures that got small…’

In addition to the Walker’s Summer Music and Movies series (which, as it happens, featured a retrospective of director Billy Wilder’s works back in 2002), the month of August will provide Twin Cities moviegoers with a handful of Billy Wilder films screening throughout Minneapolis. Bona fide classics like Some Like it Hot and Sunset Boulevard […]

Billy Wilder

In addition to the Walker’s Summer Music and Movies series (which, as it happens, featured a retrospective of director Billy Wilder’s works back in 2002), the month of August will provide Twin Cities moviegoers with a handful of Billy Wilder films screening throughout Minneapolis. Bona fide classics like Some Like it Hot and Sunset Boulevard will be playing this month at the Heights, but lesser-known standouts like The Fortune Cookie and Ace in the Hole will also be screened at the Trylon. The full schedule for Take-Up Productions’ Billy Wilder series can be found here. (Along with the Fritz Lang films that are playing at the Summer Music and Movies series, we might call August the Twin Cities’ month for German expatriate directors who electrified Hollywood’s mid-century output.)

It may seem absurd to claim that Wilder is an underrated director. After all, the legendary comedic filmmaker (who, in the 1950s at least, was second only to Alfred Hitchcock in terms of celebrity Hollywood auteurs) is now unquestionably associated with dark-edged satire, sparkling verbal pyrotechnics, a bittersweet (or, sometimes, simply bitter) cynicism, and a full-frontal grappling with (and deconstruction of) lascivious subject matter that other stateside contemporaries wouldn’t have dreamed of touching. Wilder—often abetted by co-screenwriters with a quick wit and comedic dexterity to match those of the director (Charles Brackett, I.A.L. Diamond)—was responsible for an astonishing run of classics especially between 1944’s Double Indemnity and 1960’s The Apartment, a roster of great films that, even taken on an individual, film-by-film basis, would have cemented Wilder’s place in the pantheon of film masters. The caustic, bizarre excessiveness of Sunset Boulevard, the ten-jokes-a-minute agility of Some Like it Hot—by themselves such works would be deemed classic, but taken together, as distinct but like-minded fragments of a cohesive filmography, such films attest to a funny-sad worldview and artistic temperament that was multilayered and astonishingly consistent.

But I’m still tempted to claim that Wilder is underrated—not for his classics (which are rightfully esteemed) but for his alleged flops, not for his pitch-perfect dialogue but for the tragic themes that he often explored, as well as for his stylistic precision. Especially in his late period of filmmaking (basically from 1960 onward), a collection of movies which are often dismissed as the steadily declining work of a once-great film artist, we encounter a number of small-scale but fascinating comedy-dramas that are thematically obsessed with impeded lust, torturous sex and jealousy, the delusions and lost dreams of once-legendary figures, the preponderance of visual media in everyday life, the melancholy nature of aging and facing mortality, and what it means to be human in a greedy, corrupt world. They may not be as funny as the movies typically called his masterpieces, but they’re sometimes wiser, they’re more concerned with how our actual human experience differs from what we see in the movies. And if we consider the films that Wilder scripted before becoming a studio director—especially several Hollywood movies written with Charles Brackett—we must add a few more gems to the list, such as 1939’s Midnight and Howard Hawks’ sublime Ball of Fire (1941). (We also are forced to recognize that, sometimes, an auteur’s touch is provided by somebody other than the director, since all of the personality in Midnight comes courtesy of Wilder and Brackett’s script, not from Mitchell Leisen’s lackluster direction.) In short, Wilder is not only as good as he’s commonly perceived to be—he may actually be better, and more fascinating than we might expect him to be upon revisiting his films.

In honor of these upcoming Wilder screenings, this film/video intern offers his humble and arbitrary opinions on the director’s eight finest films (some of which are screening theatrically this month, while others are always worth revisiting on DVD). Why eight, one might ask? Simply because anything less and I would have had to cut a film that simply could not have been omitted…

The Major and the Minor

 8. The Major and the Minor (1942)

Wilder’s Hollywood directorial debut seems like a completely absurd project, something that studio heads may not have minded tossing off to a headstrong German screenwriter who wanted to get behind the camera. In a way, The Major and the Minor’s complete ridiculousness is what makes it charming: it grabs hold of an inane concept and embraces it fully, never pausing long enough to consider how unbelievable it all is. Ginger Rogers plays a woman desperate to get out of New York; she passes herself off as a 12-year-old in order to get a reduced-fare train ticket and, trying to evade a couple of conductors, finds herself in the compartment of handsome Major Kirby (Ray Milland). That’s the whole setup. The rest of the movie concerns a fully-grown Ginger Rogers trapped on an Army base in Michigan, surrounded by sex-starved young soldiers, trying to pass herself off as a twelve-year-old. Milland is supposed to be a dashing charmer, but as we watch him ogle and flirt with this supposed preteen, all we can do is squirm uncomfortably and gape at the screen. (It’s all okay, though, because the movie ends with the two of them running off to get married—the major’s preference for extraordinarily young girls will apparently go on unchecked.) Even the trailer for the movie is packed with disturbing non-sequiturs and pedophiliac wisecracks—the movie operates on the same wavelength for 100 minutes! If Wilder would be celebrated almost twenty years later for turning cross-dressing and nonstop sexual puns into the stuff of Hollywood comedy with Some Like it Hot, here he gets away with turning the major’s Lolita complex into slapstick inanity. Here, for example, is a telling exchange:

 The Minor: “You see, you are a strange gentleman…”

 The Major: “Yes, but we can soon fix that.”

Double Indemnity

 7. Double Indemnity (1944)

Adapted from James M. Cain’s novel and co-written with Raymond Chandler, Double Indemnity is awash in crackling film noir bon mots, but the ratatat dialogue is even more subversive, more electrifying, when given the Wilder treatment. Fred MacMurray, stepping over from his usual average-family-man terrain, plays insurance salesman Walter Neff, who stumbles into a torrid affair with inimitable femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) and finds himself embroiled in murder, conspiracy, and blackmail. Repressed lust may be the primary catalyst for Neff’s all-too-eager leap into moral bankruptcy (a lust immortally conveyed by MacMurray and Stanwyck’s first burning interaction), but as played by MacMurray, he also seems like a man so disgusted with life, so burnt-out and hopeless, that his dabbling with murder and crime almost seems more like an existential experiment. Double Indemnity is irresistibly nihilistic, in the best film noir sort of way—a bleakness unforgettably intoned by MacMurray’s voiceover narration, which is muttered into a Dictaphone while Neff slowly bleeds from a gunshot wound. A trace of compassionate pity is provided by cigar-chomping Edward G. Robinson, playing Neff’s friend and mentor Barton Keyes; their relationship remains one of the most sensitively drawn throughout the director’s entire career (which is saying something).

Some Like it Hot

6. Some Like it Hot (1959)

No comedic subject matter was taboo for Wilder. Even the Second World War (during which Wilder’s family died at Auschwitz, and which Wilder had to escape by fleeing Berlin in 1932) practically became a sitcom in Stalag 17. But Some Like it Hot is debatably the best example in the history of American movies of laughing at sex, at ridiculing what had been deemed off-limits by the Production Code. Even if Wilder’s later movies, such as Kiss Me, Stupid and Irma la Douce, turned sex into comedy more explicitly (and, at times, shockingly), Some Like it Hot remains his most subversive comedy. It doesn’t just play with audience expectations, it upends how Hollywood comedies are supposed to end: sure, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe ride off into the sunset, but they’re being driven by Osgood Fielding and Jack Lemmon, who, it seems, will provide the second of the movie’s two romantic unions.

Proof of the movie’s comedic genius abounds, but here’s my favorite scene, which for my money features the best usage of a salami in any movie.

A Foreign Affair

5. A Foreign Affair (1948)

Filmed in the bombed-out rubble of postwar Berlin, A Foreign Affair is a comedy about lecherous US Army captain John Pringle (John Lund), who strikes up a relationship with a hardened German woman named Erika von Schluetow (Marlene Dietrich), former lover of several Third Reich higher-ups. He supplies Erika with designer gowns and padded mattresses, increasingly rare commodities among the ruins of Berlin; both of them, it seems, realize that their relationship is hollow and insincere, but it’s a convenient affair, and they’ve been hardened by the world to prioritize convenience and practicality. Since this is a comedy, a prim-and-proper Congresswoman from Iowa will of course be shipped over to investigate fraternization between American soldiers and German women. And she will learn how to have fun, and he will learn that emotion and true love aren’t simply illusions. And they will fall in love.

But A Foreign Affair is and isn’t a comedy. Actual scenes, shot on location, of postwar Berlin remain staggeringly bleak, and a brief scene in which German citizens barter for necessary commodities (which is where Pringle exchanges a birthday cake for a mattress) is far more tragic than it is funny. This is a truly schizophrenic movie, and (along with The Apartment) may most fully embody Wilder’s happy-sad dichotomy. It also features one of Marlene Dietrich’s best performances; just as glamorous as her appearances in Josef von Sternberg’s early-1930s films (but with an extra decade of world-weariness), her Erika von Schluetow is an unforgettable portrait of the beleaguered German people, doing what they must to survive. Her musical performances here—like this, or this, or this—are among the most beautiful moments in any Wilder film.    

Sunset Boulevard

4. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

It still seems incredible that both Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve were released in 1950: a one-two punch that shattered the elegant veneer of Hollywood, this pair of blistering comedies (if that’s the right word) laid bare the sordid dreams and delusions festering underneath. Depressed, destitute screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) stumbles into the life and decaying mansion of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a superstar of the silent film era who now surrounds herself with the relics (cinematic and otherwise) of her past. Like many of Wilder’s films, it’s both bleakly funny and overwhelmingly sad, but it also embraces a baroque level of absurdity reserved for the highest level of wealth, fame, and glamour—in other words, for movie stars and film directors. The funeral ceremony for a pet monkey, Desmond’s garish recreations of Chaplin routines, and of course the ingenious gimmick of the movie’s otherworldly voiceover narration: these all point to an attempt on Wilder and Bracketts’ part to take tragicomedy to new operatic heights. And for all of its criticisms of Hollywood as a shallow, emotionally lifeless swamp, what remains most surprising about Sunset Boulevard is how overwhelmingly sad it is—a portrait of a place where the dreams are indistinguishable from the nightmares. 

Ace in the Hole

3. Ace in the Hole (1951)

After the success of Sunset Boulevard in 1950, Wilder apparently was emboldened: rarely had Hollywood created such a vitriolic portrait of itself, but the movie was received enthusiastically nonetheless, even winning three Oscars and garnering eight more nominations. Wilder responded in 1951 by making arguably the bleakest, most cynical, most hopeless movie of his career: Ace in the Hole, a portrait of an American populace so hungry for sensationalism and spectacle that they exploit the impending death of a trapped miner in order to make a buck (or simply to gawk at the tragedy). Wilder even ditched his co-screenwriter, Charles Brackett (Sunset Boulevard was the last film they would write together), for two darker-edged writers: Lesser Samuels (No Way Out) and Walter Newman (The Man with the Golden Arm). There’s no denying the misanthropy that runs throughout Ace in the Hole, but what’s stunning about the movie is that it still demonstrates Wilder’s steely brand of humanism: humanity may indeed be this repugnant, but we don’t have to be. Presaging a post-modernity of relentless mediation, grim spectacle, tawdry celebrity culture, and all-American hucksterism, Ace in the Hole still seems ahead of its time in its horrified condemnation of modern American sensationalism. (You could trace a direct genealogical path from the heartless exploiters in Ace in the Hole to the producers of most reality shows on TV today.)

The result of Wilder’s uninhibited bleakness was poor box office receipts and mediocre reviews; in fact, Ace in the Hole effectively ended Wilder’s nine-year-long stretch of commercial and critical successes. Viewed today, though, Ace in the Hole emerges as one of the director’s most brilliantly prescient commentaries, as well as the work of an unmistakable satirist who so ardently wants to live in a world that’s better than our own.

The Apartment

2. The Apartment (1960)

The Apartment set a precedent for all comedy-dramas that would follow, meaning, I guess, that Wilder’s effortlessly bittersweet film was indirectly responsible for both The Royal Tenenbaums and Little Miss Sunshine. We’ll call it a draw on that one. But aside from influencing indie comedies that happen to feature attempted suicides, The Apartment is notable for being at once one of the director’s saddest and funniest films. Of course there had been sad comedies and comedic dramas before, but few of them had imbued their laughs with such soul-crushing loneliness before, and few of them made their sadness so cosmically absurd that all you can do is laugh. Jack Lemmon would never give a better performance as C.C. Baxter, aka “Buddy Boy,” the lovable schlemiel who rents out his apartment to corporate higher-ups for their illicit sexual trysts; Fred MacMurray is his boss, Sheldrake, a despicable portrait of an executive who’s come to believe that he’s entitled to everything around him, people included. (Sheldrake is a horrifying vision of what Baxter might become decades down the road, if he continues on his path of meekly kowtowing to men who are wealthier and more powerful than him.) The turbulent relationship between Baxter and depressed elevator girl Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) is overwhelming every time—they’re two sad people who suddenly find a version of happiness and are unsure what to do with it. Always an astute pacer and self-referencer, Wilder makes sure we’re bowled over by the emotional climax of The Apartment by playing off of earlier scenes—like these, for example.

Vanishing perspective in widescreen

Not only an emotional firestorm, The Apartment is also Wilder’s most compositionally rich film: some of the director’s critics have accused him of using a bland, non-cinematic visual style in order to foreground his dialogue, but such criticisms completely disregard the subtle precision of this film’s widescreen images. Wilder utilizes the unique perspectival effects of the rectangular frame to, for example, distort Baxter’s workplace into an endless eyesore, or to synthesize multiple visual planes in one shot for scenes in Baxter’s apartment. The Apartment ultimately reveals Wilder to be as sensitive stylistically as emotionally.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

1. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

Maybe it’s the stubborn auteurist in me that prefers Wilder’s late-era, melancholy revision of the Holmes legacy to his “masterpieces”—The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is unabashedly a self-referential work, about fading celebrity, about aging, about the gap between our public personae and our personal selves. It’s also unimaginably melancholy, bittersweetly romantic, and incredibly complex—Wilder and co-screenwriter I.A.L. Diamond tackle a new idea in practically every scene. In addition to the aforementioned themes, the movie ambiguously comments upon Holmes’ drug addiction and his possible homosexuality, revealing the hero as a depressed, insecure man who cannot bring himself to believe that mental fortitude and methodical practicality do not trump all in the modern world. Even more impressive, especially given Wilder’s slate of sexually frank causes célèbres in the 1960s: these potentially scandalous themes are hinted at respectfully and sensitively, as though Wilder respects his main character enough to give the man his own troubled private life, free from our prying eyes. In other words, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes could not be further from the Holmes and Watson we see now in Guy Ritchie movies: really, Wilder is using the Doyle stories as a metaphysical (and metacinematic) springboard to question a plethora of eclectic concepts, some of which he’s never shown an interest in, in his earlier works.

Maybe it’s too convenient to believe that, with The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, the 64-year-old director was evaluating his life, redressing mistakes, facing criticisms—this is a truism of auteur studies that cinephiles sometimes embrace all too eagerly. What’s unmistakably true, though, is that with Sherlock Holmes, Wilder made his most plaintive film and his most endlessly fascinating—a movie that still pulsates with the director’s wit and seamless style, at once encapsulating Wilder’s previous filmmaking sensibility and broadening it in wildly unexpected directions.

 

We’ve Got Our Eyes on You

Last year was hard on Minneapolis. The winter was brutal and unrelenting, the Twins perpetually disappointing. Even Kevin Love’s record breaking double-double streak couldn’t lift the spirits of our Eeyore-esque worldviews, (everybody forgot my birthday . . . ). What we may not have noticed was that we were missing our semiannual outdoor art injections, […]

Last year was hard on Minneapolis. The winter was brutal and unrelenting, the Twins perpetually disappointing. Even Kevin Love’s record breaking double-double streak couldn’t lift the spirits of our Eeyore-esque worldviews, (everybody forgot my birthday . . . ). What we may not have noticed was that we were missing our semiannual outdoor art injections, as 2010-11 was a year without Summer Music and Movies or winter Art Shanties. Well, our troubles are over. Art Shanties plans to hit medicine lake in January of 2012, and Summer Music and Movies 2011: I’ve Got My Eye on You lands on Loring Park next Monday, August 1st.

We've got our eyes on you.

In tandem with the Walker’s Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870 exhibition, Summer Music and Movies will center on skin-crawling experiences which will have you looking over your shoulder. Doesn’t that group of people behind you (laying on the red blanket, with the bag next to them) have a camera pointed your way? Or is it that man sitting in front of you, he keeps looking back in your direction. He might be waiting for someone–or keeping tabs on someone. Keep your eyes on the screen. Don’t look away. No not down at the band, to see that curious dot on the guitar. It couldn’t be knob or pickup, it’s too large–grotesque, like a frog’s bulging eye. And that woman with the dog, walking by, seemingly just taking a walk in the park, why is she stopping. Why is she reaching into her bag. But you shouldn’t be watching them and again you lock your eyes on the screen, even though you feel their gazes crawling all over you like hot little ants, trying to unpack you, find your secrets, read your fine print. You tighten your jaw and stare and the screen, its images are the only thing keeping tears from dripping down your cheeks to the sides of your mouth. You could run, but then they’d see you; if you move they’ll see you. Sit still and don’t move. And don’t think about not moving, or about how straight you’re sitting, how strange it must look. You just watch the movie.

Deep breath. For a deeper look at the paranoiac universe in the series’ finale Spies (Spione), (and an in depth history of silent cinema) read Matt Levine’s terrific blog post.

Background:

Summer Music and Movies has always shown classic (read: older) films, from 2009′s Paul Newman series to 2007′s Douglas Sirk melodramas. New movies outside have their place too, and the city of Minneapolis is showing a ton of them this summer in various municipal parks, but the idea of blending music and movies into a social participatory interaction hearkens back to film’s inception. And Spies is a part of that era, a silent film from 1928. Following on the footsteps of his epic Metropolis, Spies would be Lang’s penultimate silent picture, but don’t let that discourage you.

If you’ve never seen a silent film, you’re not alone, and if you’ve never enjoyed one, you’re not alone either, but that may not be your fault. In fact, few of these films were ever really silent. Cinema has always been a medium of moving images and sound, even before they came pre-packaged on the same celluloid roll.

When the Lumiere brothers first developed their photographic film camera and projector (initially these were the same animal), people were amazed. In 1895, when movement was first captured on screen, the audiences would literally scream with delight or fear. A hand-colored shot of ocean waves water-colored blue was enough to send people into a panic (because they might drown) and the uncanny realness of the filmic image could let audiences enter into a “kingdom of shadows”. As you might imagine, audiences were nowhere near as heavily conditioned as we are today (though we may not realize it). When the first narratives danced their way across the shadowy silver screen (yes, it was really silver back then) theater-owners found audiences angry and confused. They simply couldn’t figure out what was happening on the screen, and their lack of screen language made the theater experience totally different. Theaters were loud boisterous, with people yelling at the screen. None of the respectful admiration of the filmmakers’ work/sheeplike absorption of the series of shots (depending on your perspective) was present in early audiences, and theater-owners quickly found that, to combat riots, they needed to hire narrators to explain the action to audiences.

But live music, too, has been a part of film. Most small movie houses had a piano or organ for musical accompaniment, but as the movies grabbed American audiences (before television, or even radio) the music got bigger. Out of America’s relative prosperity (especially compared to [post]-World War I Europe), huge, luxuriant movie palaces sprang up, and most movie palaces had their own orchestras. Movie theaters like the Uptown (although it was then the Lagoon) or the Paramount Theater in Austin, MN would employ dozens of local musicians as accompanists, and sometimes local actors as narrators.

The Roxy Theater in New York empties after a 1943 screening.

So, back to today, Summer Music and Movies is creating a real throwback, placing a local, live band alongside a classic film. For a real golden-age experience, feel free to behave like an early audience. Let your emotions run free. Feel the fear, the anguish, the joy. Swoon when Grace Kelly graces the screen. Squirm at Dr. Mabuse’s big-brother tactics. Let your jaw drop as David Hemming enlarges and enlarges a frame. And positively, don’t let Spies‘ silent movie reputation drive you away from one of the most terrifying and thrilling films ever made. It never has been silent and it certainly won’t be this time (Dark Dark Dark are composing an original score for the evening with some exciting instrumentation). Best of all, it’s all free, so you really have no excuse to miss it. What else are you doing on a Monday night?

 

Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Where is where is where…

“I’m very much a visual artist in the way I work. Just that my medium is moving images instead of—let’s say—paints or pencil. I try to find the ways of expression with my medium that will tell the things I want. I do not aim at making a film of a certain length for certain […]

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“I’m very much a visual artist in the way I work. Just that my medium is moving images instead of—let’s say—paints or pencil. I try to find the ways of expression with my medium that will tell the things I want. I do not aim at making a film of a certain length for certain audiences. I don’t have to try to make profit for the production company nor does the script need to be of a certain kind, (but certainly the expenses have to be covered and the wages paid).  I’m allowed to experiment with the medium for a certain extent—meaning that I probably wouldn’t get the money which is earmarked for the real features because my work is too experimental for the larger audiences—or at least that would be the excuse. I don’t think my works are especially painterly—no. What probably comes from the art side is that I trust the audience’s ability to see, hear and think.”

—Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Kopenhagen.dk Interviews

We live in a time characterized by the defining, re-defining, deconstructing, restructuring, blurring, and eliminating of borders, boundaries, and definitions. The Art World is not exempt from this trend, and although we are familiar with the fluidity of its self-described boundaries, it is interesting to note this in relation to the moving image. The shifts between the cinema, the gallery, the television, the internet, and other arenas for time-based work open up many interesting conversations about viewership, spectatorship, sponsorship, and participation. There are many contemporary artists exploring the structure of filmmaking as a way to expand a conceptual framework—Julian Schnabel, Steve McQueen, Shirin Neshat, and Eija-Liisa Ahtila, to name a few, have recently (and some not so recently) stepped into the arena of feature-length filmmaking.

Although ‘film’ and ‘video-art’ have traditionally been separated into two distinct, canonical histories, there have been many crossover projects. We have experienced this at the Walker, with many artists and exhibitions straddling both the Visual Art and Film/Video departments.  With this in mind, Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s upcoming screening of Where is Where? (Missä on missä?), which explores the way children are uniquely situated to absorb and interpret the complexities and absurdities of war, nationalism, and cultural identity, is of great interest. Below is an interview in which she discusses her relationship to the moving image.

Chris Darke: How do you feel as an artist making films for the gallery? Do you have any general thoughts about the way this particular practice has been evolving over the last ten years?

Eija-Liisa Ahtila: I think it’s really obvious what’s going on. The moving image is the medium through which people see what’s happening around them and how they get information about society. It’s the most common way of interpreting our society. It’s no wonder that artists want to make work with moving images. In fact, I’d rather talk about ‘moving images’ than video or film because it’s difficult to talk about ‘video-art’ nowadays.

Is that partly because ‘video-art’ now seems like an historical term that relates to the 1960s and the 1970s and that the digital moment ended ‘video-art’?

Not really, because one way of defining video art has to do with technical things but, on the other hand, there’s a lot of moving image work that really has its roots in ‘video-art’. When I talk about ‘video-art’ I more or less think about the tradition linked to performance and using the camera to record performances. I went to see the Sam Taylor-Wood show (Hayward Gallery, London Spring 2002) and she’s a good example. I could easily link her work to that kind of tradition.

Is there an active relationship between the film and art worlds in Finland?

The film world is pretty conservative. It’s very difficult to convince them that visual artists have anything to contribute. They’re still quite separate.

Why do you think that separation exists?

It has to do with money. It’s a small country and the amount of money that film gets from the state is small. A lot of people want to make films so there’s a lot of competition. What’s really lacking is a forum where these issues can be talked about. Most of the film magazines are really conservative. I hope that’s changing because there are some new festivals now that younger people have started, like Avanto (the Helsinki-based Media Arts Festival).

Do you yourself have references that derive from film-making?

It’s difficult to say. During the 1980s I saw almost all of Fassbinder’s films. Antonioni’s early films also really interest me, particularly his way of using space and architecture, that’s very important for me. Then Bergman and the human dramas, the dialogue and maybe even the characters.

You studied at the London College of Printing and at UCLA in the States.

I was in the UCLA extension programme, an evening school. It was a really important time. My art before that was traditionally conceptually-oriented and I felt that it was extremely important for me to have the possibility to go deeper and study ways of expression in the medium, like cinematography and editing. In LA I studied with a cinematographer and he showed examples of solutions that other cinematographers have had in certain situations and how to create meaning with the medium. What was very important for me was to learn how to tell a story using sound and images, how to break up the story and use a structure that had something to do with the subject matter.

When you watch films or TV now you must notice the increasing use of screens within screens, the fact that the surface is fragmented simply because it’s technically possible. Does this phenomenon interest you?

Personally, I don’t think split-screen works on TV. It’s a gimmick. For me, the split-screen is always a physical experience. If you have it in an installation it has to do with physical presence, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to start to work with the moving image. It is very interesting to work with the medium in such a way that the information is in the sounds, the rhythm and the story and the viewer uses their senses to make the meaning out of these corresponding things.

—Chris Drake, Vertigo Vol 2 Issue 3, Summer 2002

Where is Where? (Missä on missä?) screens Saturday, January 23 and Wednesday, January 27 at 7:30 pm.

8-Ball With Ben Russell

To kick off  Expanding the Frame, we’ve invited Chicago-based photographer, curator, and experimental filmmaker Ben Russell to present some of his key works. His works explore the psychedelic, the transcendent and the purely physical, and have been screened in a variety of surprising and unexpected places. In anticipation of his January 21 performance/screening of TRYPPS and The Black and […]

To kick off  Expanding the Frame, we’ve invited Chicago-based photographer, curator, and experimental filmmaker Ben Russell to present some of his key works. His works explore the psychedelic, the transcendent and the purely physical, and have been screened in a variety of surprising and unexpected places. In anticipation of his January 21 performance/screening of TRYPPS and The Black and White Gods, we’ve asked him to participate in our Q &A series 8-Ball. Here are his  insightful answers:

1. What was your greatest visual experience?

It’s a three-way tie between hiking the Staircase at the Olympic National Forest on LSD, waking up 1/3rd of the way through Ken Jacobs’ NERVOUS MAGIC LANTERN performance, and watching Bruce Conner’s CROSSROADS for the first time.

2. Given your extensive travel as a filmmaker, where is your favorite, or most inspiring, place?

Easter Island, hands down—you can stand on the shore and see the curve of the Earth, or you can turn around and stand terror/awe-struck in the face of the sublime.

3. If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

Werner Herzog or Buster Keaton—it’s a 50/50 split.

4. Who is your alter ego?

Sadie, my small Italian Greyhound who peed on my bed 2x a day for the first three years after I adopted her.

5. What are the last three films you’ve seen?

THE FANTASTIC MR.FOX (terrible), WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (fantastic—that dog!), and THE GLEANERS AND I (Agnes Varda, OMG)

6. What have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been going back and forth between ZZ POT and Lil Wayne’s NO CEILINGS mixtape—his Lady Gaga remix (Poke Her Face) is on repeat.

7.  Which artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

David Lynch—TWIN PEAKS on TV totally blew my mind.

8.  Fill in the blank: What the world needs now is a 2-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

60 Years of China on Film

As attested by the remarkably choreographed festivities at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese know how to party—and nothing was spared for the recent celebration of the People’s Republic of China 60th Anniversary party on October 1, with special attention paid to showcasing military strength. This momentous occasion marks the longest Communist party rule in […]

Still from Good Cats, 2008

Still from Good Cats (Hao Mao), 2008

As attested by the remarkably choreographed festivities at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese know how to party—and nothing was spared for the recent celebration of the People’s Republic of China 60th Anniversary party on October 1, with special attention paid to showcasing military strength. This momentous occasion marks the longest Communist party rule in history, and although the last 60 years have been met with much criticism and unease, and marked by intense economic, political, and cultural growing pains, China’s unique blend of communism and capitalism is undeniably large and here to stay. Chinese filmmakers (those both inside and outside of the border) are in a unique position to process and reflect their current cultural moment. Many different Chinese film programs around the world are running this fall to celebrate and recognize these filmmakers and this unique and important time in history, including our own film series, The People’s Republic of Cinema which runs November 4-23.

In the scheme of things, 60 years is a drop in the bucket for China’s immense history as one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, but the transformations the “New China” has undertaken are radical on a global scale. The process of modernizing an ancient culture coupled with an inflexible political climate, an environmental crisis, a growing consumerist culture, the tension between Eastern and Western values, a construction zone taking over every major city, and a new generation striving for individualism and creative freedom present enormous challenges.

I experienced this first hand in 2006 on a study trip through the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Spending time with Beijing and Shanghai art students, hip-hop artists, and filmmakers allowed a privileged glimpse into the tensions they experience and make work about. I met some boys in Shanghai who strongly identified with American hip-hop and had started a group that traveled throughout southern China and rapped in Mandarin, Japanese, and English. (Most of the music they knew about had come through Japan, as the Japanese have an easier time finding American music and have been interested in hip-hop culture and paraphernalia for quite some time now.) The 021Crew, as they call themselves, recognize the challenges referenced in hip-hop music (the struggle for self-expression, distrust of government transparency, freedom, individualism, social and class distinctions, and the tension between generations) as parallel to their own. A few of them had studied abroad in Toronto and London, and were presented with new visions of China then the ones they had grown up with. None of them knew about the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989 (it is impossible to find information about this when in China, as it is a restricted online search), nor did they feel comfortable discussing it in public. In fact, after learning about it, they said, “That’s not my China!” And although they felt extreme pride in their country, they longed to experience different freedoms they felt were denied them. Through hip-hop they are able to express themselves and their ideas in ways they couldn’t otherwise. To them, it is a platform of revolution, but the difference is the prescribed action. As language and the written word are the embodiments of knowledge and the foundation of Chinese culture (traditionally, at least), I wonder if in some strange way Chinese hip-hop is an attempt to be a contemporary equivalent.

My Chinese painting professor who led the trip had grown up in a much different China. In fact, as a young boy he had left school to become part of the Red Guard and march all over southern China with other boys his age. The changes he has seen in his lifetime, although subjective and unique, chart the transformations (I struggle to use the word progress) many have experienced on a large scale.

Here is a list of some other festivals celebrating and recognizing the “New China,” and although there probably won’t be fireworks or choreographed parades, I hope you can make it out.

The People’s Republic of Cinema

Walker Art Center

Minneapolis, MN

November 4-23, 2009

http://calendar.walkerart.org/canopy.wac?id=5308

China Independent Film Festival

RCM Museum of Modern Art

Nanjing, China

October 12-16, 2009

http://www.chinaiff.org/html/EN/

LENS ON CHINA

Portland Art Museum Northwest Film Center

Portland, Oregon

September 24-November 5, 2009

http://www.nwfilm.org/screenings/21/207/#1379

NYFF Masterworks: (Re)Inventing China
A New Cinema for a New Society, 1949 – 1966
Film Society of Lincoln Center

New York City

September 26 – October 6, 2009

http://filmlinc.com/nyff/china.html

China Classic Film Festival

Confucius Institute, University of Wales Lampeter

Wales

October 1-31, 2009

http://www.chinaclassicfestival.com/

2009 Tokyo China Film Festival

Tokyo International Film Festival

Tokyo

October 18-25, 2009

http://www.tiff-jp.net/en/lineup/title_24.html

New Zealand Chinese Film Festival

New Zealand’s Pacific Culture and Arts Exchange Center

New Zealand

October 15- November 8, 2009

http://www.nzcta.co.nz/events/

FILMING EAST FESTIVAL

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

UK

October 3-31, 2009

http://www.filmingeast.org/

www.bafta.org/whats-on/global-spotlight-china,828,BA.html

RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

UK-China Film Association (UCFA)

London

October 3-10, 2009

http://www.raindance.co.uk/site/index.php?aid=3797

VISIBLE SECRETS: HONG KONG’S WOMEN FILMMAKERS

Cornerhouse

Manchester, England

October 9 -November 3, 2009

www.cornerhouse.org/visiblesecrets

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Jesikah Ruehle bio:

+Loves being an intern in Film/Video at the Walker

+Graduated last year from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA in Fiber and Material Studies and Film/Video

+Loves to ride her bike and experiment in the kitchen

+Is a hairstylist at FIVETWOSIX salon in St. Paul

+Some of her favorite filmmakers are Chris Marker, Shirin Neshat, Doug Aitken, and Stan Brakhage

+Is an escapist and consequently spends a lot of her free time looking up places to travel to

Working with the Coen Brothers: The Intolerable Cruelty title sequence

By Jon Maichel Thomas In 2003, my wife and I packed up and moved to New York City. She landed a prestigious internship with Pentagram Design and I followed looking for a new opportunity. Exactly one week later, I landed a gig with Big Film Design. Big Film Design’s founder Randy Balsmeyer is a renowned […]

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By Jon Maichel Thomas

In 2003, my wife and I packed up and moved to New York City. She landed a prestigious IntolerableCruelty05internship with Pentagram Design and I followed looking for a new opportunity. Exactly one week later, I landed a gig with Big Film Design.

Big Film Design’s founder Randy Balsmeyer is a renowned title designer and his firm created every Coen Brother’s film title sequence since Miller’s Crossing (1990). I was brought on as designer/animator after meeting with one of their designer/directors, a Minneapolis College of Art + Design colleague, J. John Corbett. Big Film Design was a small group of talented, intensely collaborative individuals where everyone was expected to toss out ideas.

IntolerableCruelty06As a result of Big Film Design’s collaborative approach, I found myself presenting my design direction for Intolerable Cruelty to Joel and Ethan Coen. Randy briefed us on the film and laid out the basic themes to explore. One concept centered around cupids, an iconic image, nestled in the finished film. I riffed off that and came up with a story based sequence that introduced our audience to a world where mischievous cupids spied on courting couples, mended broken hearts and wrote fail-proof pre-nuptial agreements. As I walked the Coen’s through a simple digital storyboard, they started to chuckle. They loved the pitch, found the irony in the idea, and gave us creative carte blanche to move forward.

The Intolerable Cruelty title sequence was an ambitious design and animation challenge. The IntolerableCruelty04sequence was a 2D animated short story; a quirky commentary on the courtship of love, layered with visual and narrative metaphors supported by the Elvis Presley song Suspicious Minds. The world where the story took place was inspired by turn-of-the-century ephemera and postcards that we hand-picked from local flea markets. Our typographic system and framing devices for the credit names were derivative of typography of that same era.

The opening title sequence of a movie is widely considered an art form. A good title sequence will “set a mood” and “capture the audience” before the film begins. The sequence may also extend, clarify or draw out narrative or story themes. Title designers have a very unique role in the filmmaking process. They are in a position where they can creatively affect outcomes, influencing the storyline itself. That said, The Coen’s implicit trust in Randy, after collaborating with him on all of their films, afforded us great latitude – essentially creating a two-and-a-half minute film before the film.

IntolerableCruelty03One of my favorite parts of the sequence is when the guy is standing by a tree with his lover. He is carving “WIFE” into the tree. While designing that piece I remember going back and forth about what it should say. I settled on “WIFE” in the end because I thought it was funny as opposed to “Mark + Sally” or “I love you”. Then “WIFE” came up in the client presentation. We paused on the frame. Joel and Ethan once again started to chuckle. “That’s funny” they said, “Back then, that’s what he would probably have called her, ‘WIFE’.”

It was an honor to work on Intolerable Cruelty and I want to thank the Coen’s, Randy and the Big Film Design team for an amazing experience. I was challenged as a designer and animator. It was a blast to work on and what I learned has been invaluable. Joel and Ethan were incredible to work with – I admire them a great deal.

The Intolerable Cruelty Team was:

Randy Balsmeyer – Creative Director

J. John Corbett – Designer/Director

Amit Sethi – Designer/Director

Jon Maichel Thomas – Designer/Animator

Kathy Kelehan – Producer

The sequence won a 2004 Art Directors Club Silver Award.

Intolerable Cruelty screens at the Walker on Saturday, October 3 at 4pm.

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Jon Maichel Thomas is a designer and filmmaker. He lives in Minneapolis and runs a boutique design firm with his wife Alyssa called Studio Collective where they Design, Direct, & Produce Film Titles and projects for Broadcast, New Media, and Print. Jon also blogs.

Jon is currently finishing his first short film Photos & Drawings which he wrote and directed. Jon & Alyssa Thomas are also excited to announce their first published children’s book No Monster Here.

No Impact Man and A Serious Man hit the screen in Minneapolis

It’s a big film weekend in the Twin Cities. Our Joel and Ethan Coen series continues with screenings of Fargo; Intolerable Cruelty; O Brother, Where Art Thou; No Country for Old Men; and The Ladykillers. With all of our screenings, we’ve certainly had the newest from the Coens, the locally filmed A Serious Man, on […]

It’s a big film weekend in the Twin Cities. Our Joel and Ethan Coen series continues with screenings of Fargo; Intolerable Cruelty; O Brother, Where Art Thou; No Country for Old Men; and The Ladykillers.

With all of our screenings, we’ve certainly had the newest from the Coens, the locally filmed A Serious Man, on our minds.  That one, a sort of unofficial, off-site appendage to our series, opens exclusively at the Uptown Theater this Friday, October 2.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_FjvR6H8xo[/youtube]

As if that weren’t enough, if you didn’t catch the screening of No Impact Man at the Walker, it too opens up this Friday, exclusively at the Landmark Lagoon Cinema.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9Ctt7FGFBo[/youtube]

Also, the 10th anniversary Sound Unseen Film Festival continues.

See you at the movies!

Raising Cain: Joel and Ethan Coen Retrospective Trailer

Despite the fact that his internship long since lapsed, he has been immersed in post production on his own feature film, and puts in 40-60 hours every week at his day job, our friend Evan Drolet Cook was kind enough to put together this trailer for the Joel and Ethan Regis Retrospective that opens here […]

Despite the fact that his internship long since lapsed, he has been immersed in post production on his own feature film, and puts in 40-60 hours every week at his day job, our friend Evan Drolet Cook was kind enough to put together this trailer for the Joel and Ethan Regis Retrospective that opens here at the Walker on September 18th with a screening of Blood Simple.  Take a look:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzSLmJc_trY[/youtube]

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