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The Tobolowsky Circle

When I heard that Stephen Tobolowsky was coming to the Walker, I had a typical reaction. “Who?” And as I started to learn more (“You know, from Groundhog Day, Memento, Deadwood, probably 50 other things you have seen”) it brought to mind Fametracker.com’s guide to character actors, Hey! It’s That Guy! Since Tobolowsky has been in […]

When I heard that Stephen Tobolowsky was coming to the Walker, I had a typical reaction. “Who?” And as I started to learn more (“You know, from Groundhog Day, Memento, Deadwood, probably 50 other things you have seen”) it brought to mind Fametracker.com’s guide to character actors, Hey! It’s That Guy!

Since Tobolowsky has been in so many movies, I thought I would try to connect him to other actors (more known for their leading roles) who have visited the Walker under the auspices of Regis Dialogues and Film Retrospectives. I know that there are different, and in some cases quicker, routes to connect Tobolowsky to our other actorly guests—see if you can best what is below!

tobolowsky-connections

It’s obvious that Tobolowsky has had a varied career in film—from award-winning dramas to thrillers to family comedies—with over 200 credits to his name. When he visits the Walker on Wednesday, October 9, he’ll discuss his process of building so many characters. I’m sure we’ll see (as Hey! It’s That Guy! points out) that the man who plays the perfect “sputtering apparatchik” is a “towering star” who has created memorable characters, as only he could, in some of our favorite movies.

 

Hunger: The Troubles I’ve Seen

Thanks to the Walker, Hunger will be playing for an extended run in one of the few Twin Cities movie theaters that doesn’t serve popcorn. That observation sounds glib, I’m sure, particularly in light of the film’s grave subject — the slow and painful death, by self-imposed starvation, of imprisoned Irish nationalist Bobby Sands, who […]

Thanks to the Walker, Hunger will be playing for an extended run in one of the few Twin Cities movie theaters that doesn’t serve popcorn. That observation sounds glib, I’m sure, particularly in light of the film’s grave subject — the slow and painful death, by self-imposed starvation, of imprisoned Irish nationalist Bobby Sands, who died in 1981 after 66 days in protest of the British government. But it’s also true that British artist Steve McQueen‘s unusually rigorous, boldly immersive approach to the experiential details of sensory deprivation compels — no, demands — the viewer’s personal adherence to the most elemental human functions, mainly breathing and blinking, give or take thinking. (Perhaps the ideal presentation of Hunger would require ticket buyers to spend 24 hours in isolation before the start of the film.)

So, too, given McQueen’s history in experimental video installation, not to mention the meticulously composed frames of his 98-minute debut feature, Hunger (winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes) may indeed be best suited to gallery display. As the director has said, he set out to capture “what it was like to see, hear, smell and touch” in the Maze prison near Belfast — this to the near-total exclusion of other contextual details such as those Troubles that pushed Sands and his fellow hunger artists to action. The World Socialist Web Site has, along with very few others, voiced its disapproval of the film’s arguably apolitical orientation. But if not even Sands could explain his choices to the satisfaction of a visiting priest — as seen in the film’s bravura centerpiece, a 20-minute debate between skin on bones (Michael Fassbender‘s Sands) and a man of the cloth (Liam Cunningham‘s Father Moran) — then no movie, McQueen believes, could hope to do it either. So what Hunger does instead is bear witness. And, correct or not, the film’s piercing look at human pain casts an unforgettable spell — akin, at least for me, only to that of Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest, and Jarman’s Blue.

As hunger is a fact of life, McQueen doesn’t hesitate to establish it as a universal, if relative, condition. One of the film’s first shots lingers on a hot plate of bacon and eggs — a would-be reward for a prison officer who appears less interested in eating his wife’s home cooked meal than in checking under his car for a bomb. This man, martyr or not, will experience his own deprivation soon enough. Meantime, his opposite numbers behind bars are characterized by McQueen not as representatives or even victims of institutional violence, but as literally starving artists, creatively making use of what little is at hand — namely uneaten prison food and their own fecal matter, materials for finger-painted work that few others could have been expected to see. Until now, that is. If Hunger carries the power of stark revelation, it’s not only for our shocked understanding of the prisoners’ oppression, their selves ritualistically beaten out of them by guards, but our sense that, almost 30 years later, their ordeal has finally earned them a sort of posthumous recognition. In this sense, McQueen is as much curator as artist, as much activist as observer.

With incremental force, Hunger pushes its audience to reckon with some measure of the protesters’ seemingly unimaginable experience. In the aforementioned debate scene, captured in harrowing long take by McQueen, we’re given a chance to wrestle with Sands’s ideas (“Freedom means everything to me”) — but it’s also at this point that the realities of his impending demise begin to sink in deep. Sands helps himself to the priest’s cigarettes while holding court, and, philosophical as his words may be, we can’t help wondering: Do death sticks, in the absence of food, actually nourish the starving body? If so, for how long? Watching Sands’s organs and mind deteriorate in tandem, I began to wonder if a will as strong as his could momentarily feed on hallucination even while, in reality, the starving man continues to resist.

And how long can a movie last without its protagonist’s ability to speak, to hear, to see? Reeling on borrowed time, Hunger‘s final passages appear to unfold in some other realm — heaven, perhaps, but not necessarily. Ultimately, the film opens a gallery of the mind — yours. Seems that freedom means everything to McQueen as well.

Ana Mendieta: Restoring films, re-viewing a career

Question: Which of the following 70s artists was the most prolific filmmaker? Robert Smithson Walter de Maria Joan Jonas Nancy Holt Richard Serra Ana Mendieta Mary Kelly Vito Acconci Bruce Nauman Richard Long Dennis Oppenheim OK, the answer is easy, if only owing to the title of this post. But the question is worth asking, […]

Question: Which of the following 70s artists was the most prolific filmmaker?

Robert Smithson

Walter de Maria

Joan Jonas

Nancy Holt

Richard Serra

Ana Mendieta

Mary Kelly

Vito Acconci

Bruce Nauman

Richard Long

Dennis Oppenheim

OK, the answer is easy, if only owing to the title of this post. But the question is worth asking, because:

1) The fact that Ana Mendieta made nearly 80 films has never been very widely known. These films, shot between 1973 and 1981, most using a Super-8 camera, not only bring an intriguing new dimension to Mendieta’s overall body of work, but also raise new questions about it in relation to that of the above artists. And,

2) Fourteeen of her films are on view for free in the Walker’s lecture room through the end of March, some for the first time publicly.

mendieta_sweating_blood_b_w

The Walker has an in-house Mendieta expert in director Olga Viso, who included 10 of the artist’s films in the 2005-2006 retrospective Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972­ – 1985, which she organized while she was at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

After the films went on view here last week, I got a chance to talk with Viso, who is speaking on Mendieta and showing some of the films at MCAD this Wednesday in a free lunchtime lecture. She noted that for well over a decade after Mendieta’s death in 1985, a compilation of her films was circulating, but it was a videotape of the films as they were projected on a wall: “You couldn’t even really read most of them,” she said. While organizing the retrospective, Viso met with Mendieta’s sister. “She showed me a bag of Super 8 film reels. She was trying to start work on digitizing them; a handful had been done at that point. I really urged her to conserve the reels themselves for posterity, and agreed that it was important to digitize them.”

Ultimately, Viso contributed some funds for the films’ restoration, and 10 of the Mendieta films were screened as part of her retrospective. “Because of technology, we were able to present the films side-by-side with drawings or performance residue,” Viso said. “It was really revelatory to people, to see them as Ana intended, at a large scale and on wall in relation to her photographs. (A review in Frieze magazine noted that “the Super-8 films with which [Mendieta] carefully documented her actions form the show’s radiant heart.”)

mendieta-corazon-de-roca-con-sangre-b_w

Mendieta had always been looked at as a photographer who did that work in relation to performance, Viso says, if only because her photos more readily accessible. Now, with more exposure and consideration of her films, a different art-historical take on Mendieta has emerged.

“The films have been critical in the re-evaluation of her work and being seen in a broad national and international context. Before her work was either seen as Latin American art or feminist art. Those constructs are relevant, but there’s more to her work and these films allow that to manifest itself.”

Finally, the films have a special resonance based around the absence of the artist herself, who, like several of her colleagues whose careers flowered in the 1970s, died too soon.

(Images © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection / Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York)

Shorts 3.9

R.I.P. Youssef Chahine: One of the most prominent filmmakers of the Arab world passed away at his home on Sunday. Walker presented his Silence… We’re Rolling in April 2002. The New York Times reports. Minneapolis rooted River Road Entertainment (Brokeback Mountain, Into the Wild) has signed on to produce a biopic on The Runaways, a […]

R.I.P. Youssef Chahine: One of the most prominent filmmakers of the Arab world passed away at his home on Sunday. Walker presented his Silence… We’re Rolling in April 2002. The New York Times reports.

Minneapolis rooted River Road Entertainment (Brokeback Mountain, Into the Wild) has signed on to produce a biopic on The Runaways, a 70s rock band fronted by Joan Jett and Lita Ford. Joan Jett has signed on to executive produce, and Floria Sigismondi will write and direct. This should be good. Variety reports.

Ain’t It Cool led me to a Times Online interview with the elusive George Lucas. You can love or hate the man, but his influence he has had on the film industry is undeniable.

Shorts 3.8

One of the biggest bits of film archive news I can remember hit this week. A print of the orginal version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, thought lost since 1927, has been found in Argentina. This is incredibly exciting. It’s apparent by the images that have been released that the print is in rough shape, but […]

One of the biggest bits of film archive news I can remember hit this week. A print of the orginal version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, thought lost since 1927, has been found in Argentina. This is incredibly exciting. It’s apparent by the images that have been released that the print is in rough shape, but given the current technology available, I’m sure a definitive version with all of the ‘lost’ footage is imminent. I can’t wait to see this. Read more at Die Zeit here and here.

Our intern Evan sent me to Ain’t it Cool News to check out the Channel Four ad for their upcoming Stanley Kubrick series. They went to great lengths to recreate the set of The Shining and even found lookalikes for many of the cast and crew members. Take a look.

Shorts 3.7

R.I.P. Sydney Pollack. The 73 year old filmmaker died at his home yesterday. He was one of the most respected directors in Hollywood. He was nominated for three best director Oscars winning only for Tootsie. He’ll likely be most remebered for Tootsie and Out of Africa, but They Shoot Horsesm Don’t They? should be on […]

R.I.P. Sydney Pollack. The 73 year old filmmaker died at his home yesterday. He was one of the most respected directors in Hollywood. He was nominated for three best director Oscars winning only for Tootsie. He’ll likely be most remebered for Tootsie and Out of Africa, but They Shoot Horsesm Don’t They? should be on everyone’s must-see list as far as I’m concerned. I’ve always been a big fan of his acting work as well. The roles he chose didn’t always stand out, intentionally I imagine, but he always gave the films a grounding and realism not often seen.

The 2008 Cannes Winners are in. The Class, directed by Laurent Cantent takes the Palm d’Or.

Shooting has wrapped on The Road. Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, All The Pretty Horses) and directed by John Hillcoat (director of The Proposition) leaves me with high expectations. The New York Times reports.

Shorts 3.6

Deb Wallwork and Mike Hazard’s C. Beck, featured in the 2007 edition of MNTV, took the grand prize from Independent Lens‘ online shorts fest. Indiewire reports. If you missed the airing of MNTV, the films can still be viewed online. Past Regis Dialogue guests Ang Lee and James Schamus talk to Entertainment Weekly about Heath […]

Deb Wallwork and Mike Hazard’s C. Beck, featured in the 2007 edition of MNTV, took the grand prize from Independent Lens‘ online shorts fest. Indiewire reports. If you missed the airing of MNTV, the films can still be viewed online.

Past Regis Dialogue guests Ang Lee and James Schamus talk to Entertainment Weekly about Heath Ledger, the new Hulk movie, and their upcoming project. Thanks to Matt Dentler’s blog, as EW is nowhere near my radar.

I look forward to David Bordwell‘s posts from Hong Kong every spring. They are always envy-inducing and chock-full of great snapshots. Head here to read about his trip thus far and check out that picture with him and Hou Hsiao-Hsien!

Shorts 3.5

Anthony Minghella, Oscar winning Writer and Director of The English Patient, died at 5am this morning after a brain hemmorhage. Variety reports. Cinematical reviews Older Than America from SXSW, hot off the opening night of Women With Vision. South By Southwest Winners announced.

Shorts 3.4

R.I.P. Charles Nelson Reilly – like so many others, I knew Reilly from his game show and other television appearances, until recently. I caught a screening of a documentary called The Life of Reilly at the Wisconsin Film Festival. It’s essentially a fairly straight-forward capturing of the autobiographical one-man-show he was performing a few years […]

R.I.P. Charles Nelson Reilly – like so many others, I knew Reilly from his game show and other television appearances, until recently. I caught a screening of a documentary called The Life of Reilly at the Wisconsin Film Festival. It’s essentially a fairly straight-forward capturing of the autobiographical one-man-show he was performing a few years back. It presented his often tragic life story in a funny and dynamic way. It revealed not only an amazing talent for storytelling, but an unbelieveable ability to act. I hope more people can catch this film and get a better sense of the funnyman behind the big glasses.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukjH3FSYdjE[/youtube]

The Winners are in – The winners of the Cannes Film Festival were announced Sunday night. The Palm d’Or went to the Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and Two Days. Julian Schnabel took the Best Director prize for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. indieWire has the full story.

30 years ago…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gvqpFbRKtQ[/youtube]

Shorts 3.3

Heath Ledger won me, and million of others, over through his role in Brokeback Mountain. Also, I am a big fan of Christopher Nolan‘s Batman Begins and a recovering comic book geek. With Nolan back at the helm and Ledger playing the Joker, the sequel to Batman Begins looks more than promising. Twitch has some […]

Heath Ledger won me, and million of others, over through his role in Brokeback Mountain. Also, I am a big fan of Christopher Nolan‘s Batman Begins and a recovering comic book geek. With Nolan back at the helm and Ledger playing the Joker, the sequel to Batman Begins looks more than promising. Twitch has some news on the film and the first image of Ledger in the film. It looks like they are borrowing from Takashi Miike‘s Ichi the Killer, but Heath looks pretty menacing nonetheless.

So Yong Kim, her In Between Days just played at the Walker during Women With Vision, has a new film at the Cannes Film Festival. indieWire has published a new interview with her to mark the occasion.

Roman Polanski still seems to be able to create controversy. Read indieWire’s account of a heated press conference in which some of the world’s foremost filmmakers gathered to discuss the state of cinema and mark the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival.

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