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In an effort to lure you all back to our Hit Me With Your Best Shot series -- participation has been down and we swear it's fun to do -- you get to pick two of the movies this month. Next Tuesday night's film is To Catch a Thief which is available to stream on Netflix but what do you want to do after that? The following choices are either about to hit streaming services on July 1st or they're already available to stream on either Amazon Prime or Netflix.
Tues June 28th
Something light & summery as the weather becomes too hot too hot. Join Cary Grant and Grace Kelly on the French Riviera. Winner of Best Cinematography at the Oscars. [Netflix Instant Watch | Amazon | iTunes]
Tuesday July 5th
Tuesday July 12th
Your Choice! See poll above. We'll announce the winners on June 28th.
Tuesday July 19th »
- NATHANIEL R
The Holocaust needs to be retold forever, but it's a tough topic to address without distortion or trivialization. André SInger's docu is about the Allied film record of the liberation of the camps -- horrific footage that was used in the war crimes trials and cut into documentaries -- that were then suppressed and locked away. In 2008, an abandoned film supervised by Alfred Hitchcock was finally finished. Night Will Fall DVD-r The Warner Archive Collection 2014 / Color / 1:78 enhanced widescreen / 75 min. / Street Date January 27, 2016 / available through the WBshop / 21.99 Narrators Helena Bonham Carter, Jasper Britton. Cinematography Richard Blanshard Film Editors Arik Lahav, Stephen Miller Original Music Nicolas Singer Written by Lynette Singer Produced by Sally Angel, Brett Ratner <Directed by André Singer
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Documentaries about the Holocaust have always been problematical. In some ways the subject was deemed a cultural taboo, to be discussed in only the gravest terms. For years after the war most Americans saw only chosen snippets of film footage, glimpses of the horrors in the death camps. The images published in magazine photo articles were more than people wanted to see.. There were plenty of exceptions, but most ordinary Americans first saw extended documentary footage in -- of all things -- a for-profit Hollywood picture in which big stars portrayed victims and villains. The movie, Stanley Kramer's Judgment at Nuremberg was actually in good taste, and had a laudable social purpose. The graphic film from the camp was part of the actual Nuremberg trials, after all. It showed a reality of our times that had been suppressed, whether for questions of taste or decency, or because 'the public couldn't take it.' I believe America accepted 'not seeing' because we were not yet a nation of morbid voyeurs. (Live and learn... from Joe Dante: "Actually I think the first time American audiences were exposed to Death Camp footage was in Welles' The Stranger, long before Judgment at Nuremberg.") Art film viewers saw Alain Resnais' Night and Fog, a quiet, haunting film that avoids emotional sensationalism by telling the story through views of Auschwitz as it was in 1955 and non-confrontational narration. Italians, East Germans, Russians and others eventually made dramatic movies that showed the experiences of various concentration camp victims. Many of these dramas were good, but none could embrace the near-cosmic immensity of the horror. Can any single experience help us to come to grips with the fate of millions? And then there's the problem of the endless footage of corpses -- these formerly taboo images are still too much for sensitive people. The English, the Americans and the Russians all filmed in the camps that they liberated. Night Will Fall tells the story of the 1945 production and then abandonment of a long-form film documentary officially sanctioned by the Allied victors. It was produced by Sidney Bernstein and partly overseen by Alfred Hitchcock. The director developed a script and an approach for a document intended to quash present and future claims that the mass murders were faked, exaggerated or a political illusion. A cut called German Concentration Camps Factual Survey (Gccfs) was prepared up to a certain point, but then shelved, with no go-ahead for a finish. The U.S. Army finally brought in Billy Wilder to supervise a shorter version called Death Mills. But Wilder's film also remained classified, and was not released to the public either. A version of it was shown to German audiences. The docu footage was also projected at the Nuremberg trials, as evidence against the German war criminals. Night Will Fall was announced almost ten years ago, in newspaper articles that explained that the British Imperial War Museum was finally going to complete the original Gccfs. Yet we had already seen much of Gccfs on PBS TV in 1985. All but the last reel of the film was located, in its work print form. It screened at least twice on PBS as Frontline: Memory of the Camps; I taped the second airing on VHS and have a burned DVD of it around somewhere. The 'new' Memory of the Camps was finished in 2014. The Warner Archive Collection's Night Will Fall is a documentary about the making of these movies back at the close of the war. Holocaust survivors, surviving Signal Corps cameramen and the producer of Schindler's List -- himself an Auschwitz survivor - are among the on-camera interviewees. Various personalities including directors Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock are represented by archived interviews on film and audiotape. The details of the liberation and the Signal Corps' activities are certainly interesting. We also want to know about the involvement of Hitchcock and Wilder, although all we get are a few remarks and notes on Hitchcock's concerns with the narrative, in audio bites that I would guess were taken from the famed Hitchcock/Truffaut interviews. Hitchcock asks for the inclusion of panning shots, to help prove that what was seen wasn't being faked. Wilder says much the same thing. When it comes time to explain why the project stalled, we're shown a couple of paragraphs in some documents that suggest that America did not want to antagonize the German population with this negative material. The inference is that with the Cold War heating up, most forms of de-Nazification were abandoned after the obvious death camp villains and high-ranking Nazis were executed or locked away. Washington wanted German cooperation in opposing Stalin, and put a halt to the bringing of many more German war criminals to justice. The Russian attitude was quite different. A Soviet Army cinematographer interviewed for Night Will Fall tells us that when their troops liberated a camp, their first action was to shoot every German guard as soon as they were positively identified. That's sounds okay to me. As I said, the 'finished'1945 film German Concentration Camps Factual Survey was also released in 2014. It retains the title Memory of the Camps and is credited to Sidney Bernstein and Alfred Hitchcock. Night Will Fall ends with a final couple of minutes of the 'finished' Memory. It consists of a semi-poetic narration and an edited sequence showing, in graphic close-up, ten or so victims by the side of the road, presumably executed during the retreat of the camp guards. It's everything the movie shouldn't be, a repetitive series of shock cuts to staring corpses with parts of their heads blown away. I can only compare it to one of the intolerably gory highway safety films that aim only to shock the audience. The brain of one corpse lies in a neat heap alongside a skull blown wide open; another man's head seems to be missing above the nose. I'm not sure what the point is. If it's done to produce a blast of more extreme horror to reach the audience, it's a failure. I must admit that I'm conservative on this issue, as I believe that too much of the audience will compare this real carnage to effects they see in the latest zombie thriller. That sickens me the same way I felt when I witnessed high schoolers on a bus describing the awful 9/11 coverage as, 'really cool.' Night Will Fall has value, but to me its style, making even mild use of editing techniques from today's Reality Programming, is inappropriate. The horror of this reality is blatant, banal even. The most responsible way to use the the horror footage would be to simply lay out the raw takes, with slates and camera stops, like legal evidence. Night Will Fall aestheticizes many shots. In one sequence, close-ups of massed corpses are rendered in negative, turning the horror into stylized 'art.' Fake 'end of reel' blips and flashes are added for style, as in any modern Reality Show, where the only rule is to hype the subject matter using any editorial trick that will keep the frame alive. A s hort piece of footage has been digitally sharpened, and looks as if a sub-par tape source had been run through a bad electronic filter. Is this splitting hairs, and being oversensitive? I suppose that times change and that revisionism happens with everything. But this grim, vitally important history is now leaning toward becoming another entertainment choice. Other snippets of the new 'finished' Memory of the Camps are glimpsed in Night Will Fall. The new film appears to use the same or much of the same narration text. I can't tell if that reconstituted ending was part of the original, because when the original Memory showed on PBS, a card came up informing us that the final 'Auschwitz' chapter had been removed at an earlier date. What remained of the original rough cut ended there. I've always theorized that it was snipped off to be given to documentarians and Stanley Kramer. Many of the standard shots of Auschwitz that we see, often in terrible quality, may have come from that reel. The new Memory of the Camps doesn't retain the original narration, as read by actor Trevor Howard. The original version was unusually eerie and effective because it was just a sequence of raw shots with insert title cards and maps, and the only audio on the soundtrack was Trevor Howard's distinctive voice. It is a very good read. Howard seems to be suppressing his anger all the way through, reading the more ironic comments as if he's personally offended. It's as if the Army Intelligence officer Trevor Howard plays in The Third Man had been asked to record the narration. The new narrator in the finished (2014) clips we see gives a smooth and uninflected read, which to me revises and re-interprets everything. The Holocaust shouldn't need mood music to tell us how to react -- although I realize that that a music track might have been part of the plan in 1945 as well. And it's possible that Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein, when they heard Trevor Howard's interpretation of the narration script, already knew that they wanted something else. But Howard's track is the one that came from the battlefield of the original production, and should be preserved. I remember buying a copy of a previously classified Army movie about 1950s atom tests, only to find that the original narration had been similarly tossed away and replaced with a new one that sometimes didn't even align with the graphics on screen. This to me makes the movie a censored, worthless revision. Watch William Wyler and John Sturges' docu Thunderbolt on TCM sometime. The Army wasn't keen to show that movie either, and we can tell why -- it's an honest account of how fighter bomber pilots, mostly unopposed in the air, pressed their advantage over retreating Germans in Italy. The narration and the comments by the pilots are bloodthirsty and merciless. Apparently the Army did not like seeing its personnel presented as gleeful killers. Thunderbolt was released only several years after it was finished, by a small studio. Like I said above, I realize that my comments about the style of Night Will Fall are highly subjective and prejudiced. But they are my honest thoughts on the film. The Warner Archive Collection DVD-r of Night Will Fall is a good enhanced encoding of a show that consists of new interviews and the old atrocity documentation footage. The improved quality of the film from the camps spares us nothing. If there are more ways to mangle, burn or abuse a human body, I don't want to know about them. The audio and other technical specs are of a high quality as well. The disc's three extras offer much added value. The first is a lengthy lecture by Professor Rainer Schulze, who re-traces basically the entire subject matter of Night Will Fall on a higher plane, with more detail and information. The lecture answers many questions that the main feature doesn't touch. Schulze also discusses the politics behind the ways the 'hot potato' death camp footage was shown, and then not shown. Frankly, I can see a spokesman like Professor Schulze being excluded from a new 'entertainment' documentary because (a.) he probes deeply into uncomfortable aspects of the subject and (b.) he's a German with a German accent. Want to learn more about this appalling yet essential history lesson? This is a fine study piece. The second and third extras are two shorter concentration camp docus that show how both sides depicted the horror, using much of the same footage. Oświecim (Auschwitz) is the Russian film. It has a Russian title card but English opening and ending text cards -- with a misspelling. It identifies the 'great men' that will insure that the Fascists are brought to justice as Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill -- even though Roosevelt had been dead for a year. The Russian docu refers to the war criminals mostly as Fascists, not Germans, perhaps because they wanted to show the film in the Russian sector of defeated Germany. The narration is fairly specific about what we're seeing, describing the things done to individual prisoners and identifying a number of them by name. Adults and children pose for the camera as Russian doctors examine them. The last film is indeed the Billy Wilder supervised Death Mills, which covers much of the same content. Although it consists mostly of British and American film, it also uses a great deal of Russian footage, with a narration track that says totally different things about some of the victims we see. At one point the narration refers to the brutish-looking female SS guards as Amazons, and says that they are 'Deadlier than the Male.' Is that evidence of Billy Wilder's input? My bias against Night Will Fall is probably a more generalized rant against today's commercial documentaries, many of which are, I think, compromised by the need to compete with other forms of entertainment. The show does have interesting content and may be perfect for someone unfamiliar with the subject. If a viewer wants a show to introduce the subject of Genocide to children, I can't see this or any atrocity footage being the right thing to show them. For others, the excellent extras greatly enhance the film's desirability. On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Night Will Fall DVD-r rates: Movie: Good Video: Very good Sound: Excellent Supplements: One informational lecture short subjects and two short docus made right after the war (see above) Deaf and Hearing Impaired Friendly? Yes; Subtitles: English Packaging: Keep case Reviewed: June 18, 2016 small>(5144fall)
Visit DVD Savant's Main Column Page Glenn Erickson answers most reader mail: email@example.com
Text © Copyright 2016 Glenn Erickson
- Glenn Erickson
Since the first Despicable Me movie landed in cinemas back in 2010, Illumination Entertainment – the company behind the films – has enjoyed a staggering level of box office success. Two Despicable Mes, one Minions, one The Lorax and even the live action-animation hybrid Hop have all hit to various degrees. Minions, its 2015 venture, grossed $1.159bn. Only Frozen, in animated movies, has ever done better.
So important is Illumnation’s animated output to Universal Pictures’ slate that, with DreamWorks Animation now also part of the Universal empire, Illumination boss Chris Meladandri is to creatively oversee both firms’ animated output. Not bad, considering Illumination is under a decade old.
Watching The Secret Life Of Pets, the new film from the firm, couldn’t help but ring an alarm bell or two though. For me, it’s »
The delightful British comedy The Smallest Show on Earth headlines a great Saturday matinee offering from the UCLA Film and Television Archive on June 25 as their excellent series “Marquee Movies: Movies on Moviegoing” wraps up. So it seemed like a perfect time to resurrect my review of the movie, which celebrates the collective experience of seeing cinema in a darkened, and in this case dilapidated old auditorium, alongside my appreciation of my own hometown movie house, the Alger, which opened in 1940 and closed last year, one more victim of economics and the move toward digital distribution and exhibition.
“You mean to tell me my uncle actually charged people to go in there? And people actually paid?” –Matt Spenser (Bill Travers) upon first seeing the condition of the Bijou Kinema, in The Smallest Show on Earth
- Dennis Cozzalio
As we await the fifth and final season of Bates Motel, the official Facebook page has shared a new promo image for the Psycho prequel series featuring Freddie Highmore’s Norman Bates, which pays homage to a promotional photo for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic.
Here’s the original image featuring Anthony Perkins…
The fifth season of Bates Motel will air on A&E some time in 2017.
- Gary Collinson
Hot off the back of The Conjuring 2, Vera Farmiga is saddling up to co-star alongside action hero du jour Liam Neeson in Lionsgate and StudioCanal’s thriller The Commuter. News of Farmiga’s casting arrives via Deadline, the same outlet that also revealed that the film would mark the fourth collaboration between Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra. After kicking ass for the filmmaker in Unknown, Run All Night, and Non-Stop, Neeson’s still game for more.
As for Farmiga, she previously worked with the helmer on Orphan, and now finds herself in just as intriguing a predicament for The Commuter. She plays a “mysterious woman” who approaches Liam Neeson’s character on board a commuter train and proposes an “enticing opportunity” for him that has potentially dire circumstances should he accept.
More News From The Web
Off the bat it shares more than a passing similarity to Alfred Hitchcock »
- Gem Seddon
Brian De Palma‘s shocking exploitation gut-punch, Sisters, is a perfectly orchestrated exercise in style, a staging of some of the finest suspense sequences since Alfred Hitchcock was above ground. Channeling the Master of Suspense’s gleeful enjoyment of audience manipulation, De Palma remarkably employs a trashy genre aesthetic to satirically explore issues of race and social alienation. It’s a film about outsiders — a starkly disturbing reminder that looks and appearances can be dangerously deceiving — that’s nevertheless less interested in soap-box statements than inducing audiences to squeal and squirm. Grim in its contemporary relevance, De Palma and co-writer Louisa Rose‘s political satire is ever-present but far from overt, quietly bubbling in the background. This is a film in which police officers respond to learning of the stabbing of an African-American man by hatefully grumbling, “Those people are always stabbing each other.”
The film’s opening scene launches »
- Tony Hinds
Cremaster and Drawing Restraint 9 (with Björk) mastermind, Matthew Barney, adapted Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenings to create River Of Fundament. Cornelia Parker staged The Maybe with Tilda Swinton at MoMA and now her Alfred Hitchcock Psycho inspired Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) is on The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Roof Garden - the perfect setting for a John Buffalo Mailer on Norman Bates, Houdini, Steven Spielberg and Sam Mendes on Gay Talese's The Voyeur's Motel, Michael Mailer, Alec Baldwin, Demi Moore and Dylan McDermott conversation.
Ellen Burstyn, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Paul Giamatti, James Toback, Elaine Stritch, Debbie Harry, James Lee Byars, Lawrence Weiner, Salman Rushdie, Luc Sante, Cinqué Lee, Jonas Mekas, Fran Lebowitz, Dick Cavett, Jeffrey Eugenides, Aimee Mullins and Sam Nivola are among the River Of Fundament dwellers. Buffalo Mailer, Milford Graves and Lakota Chief Dave Beautiful Bald Eagle reincarnate as Norman I, Norman II »
- Anne-Katrin Titze
Update: Due to terrible events of week, and taking a mental health day, One From The Heart will be pushed back two days. Apologies for the inconvenience but that gives you two more days to watch it on Netflix and join us.
Wanna join us? It's easy to play. Just...
1. watch the movie
2. pick your favorite shot
3. post that shot to your blog, twitter, instagram, tumblr or wherever and say why you chose it. Hashtag it #Hmwybs so we see it
4. we link up on the night of the event when we post the roundup
Thursday June 16th
This Las Vegas set musical was a financial disaster for Coppola's Zoetrope Studios but it's a fascinating visually rich curio. The film features an Oscar nominated song score by Tom Waits and cinematography by Ronald Victor García and Vittorio Storaro. [Amazon Prime | iTunes]
Tues. June 21st
Many films by this prolific German auteur are frustratingly hard to access but this classic, featuring an all female cast and centering around a fashion designer is relatively easy to get so let's do it! Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, who really needs to be given an Honorary Oscar immediately. He's 80 years old, still with us, and shot so many great American and German classics. [Hulu | Amazon | Netflix | iTunes]
Tues June 28th
Something light & summery as the weather keeps on heating up. Join Cary Grant and Grace Kelly on the French Riviera. Winner of Best Cinematography at the Oscars. [Netflix Instant Watch | Amazon | iTunes] »
- NATHANIEL R
They’ve made some of the best thrillers of the past six years. We list some of the best modern thriller directors currently working...
Director Guillermo del Toro once described suspense as being about the withholding of information: either a character knows something the audience doesn’t know, or the audience knows something the character doesn’t. That’s a deliciously simple way of describing something that some filmmakers often find difficult to achieve: keeping viewers on the edges of their seats.
The best thrillers leave us scanning the screen with anticipation. They invite us to guess what happens next, but then delight in thwarting expectations. We can all name the great thriller filmmakers of the past - Alfred Hitchcock, Carol Reed, Brian De Palma - but what about the current crop of directors? Here’s our pick of the filmmakers who’ve made some great modern thrillers over the past six years - that is, between the year 2010 and the present.
To think there was once a time when Jeremy Saulnier was seriously quitting the film business.
“To be honest," Saulner told us back in 2014, “Macon and I had really given up on our quest to break into the industry and become legitimate filmmakers. So what we were trying to do with Blue Ruin was archive our 20 year arc and bring it to a close. Really just revisit our stomping grounds and use locations that were near and dear to us and build a narrative out of that.”
Maybe this personal touch explains at least partly why Blue Ruin wound up getting so much attention in Cannes in 2013, signalling not the end of Saulnier and his star Macon Blair’s career, but a brand new chapter. But then again, there’s more than just hand-crafted intimacy in Saulnier’s revenge tale; there’s also its lean, minimal storytelling and the brilliance of its characterisation. Blue Ruin is such an effective thriller because its protagonist is so atypical: sad-eyed, inexperienced with guns, somewhat soft around the edges, Macon Blair’s central character is far from your typical righteous avenger.
Green Room, which emerged in the UK this year, explores a similar clash between very ordinary people and extraordinary violence. A young punk band shout about anarchy and aggression on stage, but they quickly find themselves out of their depth when they’re cornered by a group of bloodthirsty neo-Nazis. In Saulnier’s films, grubby, unseemly locations are matched by often beautiful locked-off shots. Familiar thriller trappings are contrasted by twists of fortune that are often shocking.
Here’s one of those directors who can pack an overwhelming sense of dread in a single image: in Sicario, his searing drug-war thriller from last year, it was the sight of tiny specks of dust falling in the light scything through a window. That single shot proved to be the calm before the storm, as Villeneuve unleashed a salvo of blood-curdling events: an attempted FBI raid on a building gone horribly awry. And this, I think, is the brilliance of Villeneuve’s direction, and why he’s so good at directing thrillers like Sicario or 2013’s superb Prisoners - he understands the rhythm of storytelling, and how scenes of quiet can generate almost unbearable tension.
Another case in point: the highway sequence in Sicario, where Emily Blunt’s FBI agent is stuck in a traffic jam outside one of the most violent cities in the world. Villeneueve makes us feel the stifling heat and the claustrophobia; something nasty’s going to happen, we know that - but it’s the sense of anticipation which makes for such an unforgettable scene.
Prisoners hews closely to the template of a modern mystery thriller, but it’s once again enriched by Villeneuve’s expert pacing and the performances he gets out of his actors. Hugh Jackman’s seldom been better as a father on the hunt for his missing child, while Jake Gyllenhaal mesmerises as a cop scarred by his own private traumas.
Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin may be the most effective psychological thriller of recent years. About the difficult relationship between a mother (Tilda Swinton) and her distant, possibly sociopathic son (Ezra Miller), Ramsay’s film is masterfully told from beginning to end - which is impressive, given that the source novel by Lionel Shriver is told via a series of letters. Ramsay takes the raw material from the book and crafts something cinematic and highly disturbing: a study of guilt, sorrow and recrimination. Tension bubbles even in casual conversations around the dinner table. Miller is an eerie, cold-eyed blank. Swinton is peerless. One scene, in which Swinton’s mother comes home in the dead of night, is unforgettable. Here’s hoping Ramsay returns with another feature film very soon.
Morten Tyldum - Headhunters
All kinds of thrillers have emerged from Scandinavia over the past few years, whether on the large or small screen or in book form. Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters is among the very best of them. The fast-paced and deliriously funny story of an art thief who steals a painting from the wrong guy, Headhunters launched Tyldum on an international stage - Alan Turing drama The Imitation Game followed, and the Sony sci-fi film Passengers is up next. It isn’t hard to see why, either: Headhunters shows off Tyldum’s mastery of pace and tone, as his pulp tale hurtles from intense chase scenes to laugh-out-loud black comedy.
Granted, Joel Edgerton’s better known as an actor, having turned in some superb performances in the likes of Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty and Warror. But with a single film - The Gift, which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in - Edgerton established himself as a thriller filmmaker of real promise. About a successful, happily married couple whose lives are greatly affected by an old face from the husband’s past, The Gift is an engrossing, unsettling movie with superb performances from Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as well as Edgerton.
A riff on the ‘killer in our midst’ thrillers of the 80s and 90s - The Stepfather, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and so on - The Gift is all the more effective because of its restraint. We’re never quite sure who the villain of the piece is, at least at first - and Edgerton’s use of the camera leaves us wrong-footed at every turn. The world arguably needs more thrillers from Joel Edgerton.
If you haven’t seen The Gift yet, we’d urge you to track it down.
David Michod - Animal Kingdom
The criminals at play in this true-life crime thriller are all the more chilling because they’re so mundane - a bunch of low-level thieves, murderers and gangsters who prowl around the rougher parts of Melbourne, Australia. Writer-director David Michod spent years developing Animal Kingdom, and it was worth the effort: it’s an intense, engrossing film, for sure, but it’s also a believable glimpse of the worst of human nature. Ben Mendelsohn and Jacki Weaver play villains of different kinds; the latter a manipulative grandmother who looks over her brood of criminals, the former a spiteful thief. Crafting moments of incredible tension from simple exchanges, Michod launched himself as a formidable talent with this feature debut.
Affleck’s period drama-thriller Argo won all kinds of awards, but we’d argue his earlier thrillers were equally well made. Gone Baby Gone was a confident debut and an economical adaptation of Dennis LeHane’s novel. The Town, released in 2010, was a heist thriller that made the most of its Boston setting. One of its key scenes - a bank robbery in which the thieves wear a range of bizarre outfits, including a nun’s habit - is masterfully staged. With Affleck capable of teasing out great performances from his actors and staging effective set-pieces, it’s hardly surprising he’s so heavily involved in making at least one Batman movie for Warner - as well as playing the hero behind the mask.
The quiet, almost meditative tone of Anton Corbijn’s movies mean they aren’t necessarily to everyone’s taste, but they’re visually arresting and almost seductive in their rhythm and attention to detail. Already a celebrated photographer, Corbijn successfully crossed over into filmmaking with Control, an exquisitely-made drama about Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis. Corbijn took a markedly different direction with The American, a thriller about an ageing contract killer (George Clooney) who hides out in a small Italian town west of Rome. Inevitably, trouble eventually comes calling.
Corbijn’s direction remains gripping because he doesn’t give us huge action scenes to puncture the tension. We can sense the capacity for violence coiled up beneath the hitman’s calm exterior, and Corbijn makes sure we only see rare flashes of that toughness - right up until the superbly-staged climax.
A Most Wanted Man, based on the novel by John le Carre, is a similarly astute study of an isolated yet fascinating character - in this instance, the world-weary German intelligence agent Gunther Bachmann, brilliantly played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Tragically, the film proved to be one of the last before Hoffman’s death in 2014.
Mention Greengrass’ name, and the director’s frequent use of handheld cameras might immediately spring to mind. But time and again, Greengrass has proved a master of his own personal approach - you only have to look at the muddled, migraine-inducing films of his imitators to see how good a director Greengrass is. Part of the filmmakers’ visual language rather than a gimmick, Greengrass’ camera placement puts the viewer in the middle of the story, whether it’s an amnesiac agent on the run (his Bourne films) or on a hijacked aircraft (the harrowing United 93). While not a huge hit, Green Zone was an intense and intelligent thriller set in occupied Iraq. The acclaimed Captain Phillips, meanwhile, was a perfect showcase for Greengrass’ ability to fuse realism and suspense; the true story of a merchant vessel hijacked by Somali pirates, it is, to quote Greengrass himself, “a contemporary crime story.”
We can’t help thinking that, with a better marketing push behind it, Triple 9 could have been a much bigger hit when it appeared in cinemas earlier this year. It has a great cast - Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Anthony Mackie and Aaron Paul as a group of seasoned thieves, Kate Winslet cast against type as a gangland boss - and its heist plot rattles along like an express train.
Hillcoat seems to have the western genre pulsing through his veins, and he excels at creating worlds that are desolate and all-enveloping, whether his subjects are period pieces (The Proposition, Lawless) or post-apocalyptic dramas (The Road). Triple 9 sees Hillcoat make an urban western that is both classic noir and entirely contemporary; his use of real cops and residents around the film’s Atlanta location give his heightened story a grounding that is believable in the moment. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the scene in which Casey Affleck’s cop breaches a building while hunkered down behind a bullet-proof shield. Hillcoat places us right there in the scene with Affleck and the cops sneaking into the building behind him; we sense the claustrophobia and vulnerability.
Hillcoat explained to us in February that this sequence wasn’t initially written this way in the original script; it changed when the director and his team discovered how real-world cops protect themselves in real-world situations. In Triple 9, research and great filmmaking combine to make an unforgettably intense thriller.
Jim Mickel - Cold In July
Seemingly inspired by such neo-Noir thrillers as Red Rock West and Blood Simple, 2014‘s Cold In July is a genre gem from director Jim Mickle (Stake Land, We Are What We Are). Michael C Hall plays an ordinary guy in 80s America who shoots an intruder who breaks into his home, and becomes drawn into a moody conspiracy that takes in crooked cops, porn and a private eye (who's also keen pig-rearer) played by Don Johnson. Constantly shifting between tones, Mickel’s thriller refuses to stick to genre expectations. In one scene, after Hall shoots the burglar dead, Mickel’s camera lingers over the protagonist as he cleans up the blood and glass. It’s touches like these that make Cold In July far more than a typical thriller.
Mickel’s teaming up with Sylvester Stallone next; we’re intrigued to see what that partnership produces.
As a filmmaker, Scorsese needs no introduction. As a director of thrillers, he’s in a class of his own: from Taxi Driver via the febrile remake of Cape Fear to the sorely underrated Bringing Out The Dead, his films are full of suspense and the threat of violence. Shutter Island, based on the Dennis LeHane novel of the same name, saw Scorsese plunge eagerly into neo-noir territory. A murder mystery set in a mental institution on the titular Shutter Island, its atmosphere is thick with menace. Like a combination of Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man and Adrian Lyne’s cult classic Jacob’s Ladder, Shutter Island’s one of those stories where we never know who we can trust - even the protagonist, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
After the trial by fire that was Alien 3, David Fincher found his footing in the 90s with such hits as Seven and The Game. In an era where thrillers were in much greater abundance, from the middling to the very good, Seven in particular stood out as a genre classic: smartly written, disturbing, repulsive and yet captivating to look at all at once. Fincher’s affinity for weaving atmospheric thrillers continued into the 2010s, first with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, a superb retelling of Stieg Larsson’s book which didn’t quite find the appreciative audience deserved, and Gone Girl, an even better movie which - thankfully - became a hit.
Based on Gillian Flynn’s novel (and adapted by the author herself), Gone Girl is both a gripping thriller and a thoroughly twisted relationship drama. Fincher’s mastery of the genre is all here: his millimetre-perfect composition, seamless touches of CGI and subtle yet effective uses of colour and shadow. While not a straight-up masterpiece like the period thriller Zodiac, Gone Girl is still a glossy, smart and blackly funny yarn in the Hitchcock tradition. If there’s one master of the modern thriller currently working, it has to be Fincher.
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“It kind of freed me from a lot of criticisms people have from my other films,” Whit Stillman told us at Sundance earlier this year, speaking about adapting Jane Austen‘s epistolary novel Lady Susan, which became Love & Friendship. “Things can work really well and not be entirely realistic and often they can be better than realism. We love the old James Bond films. They weren’t realistic, but they’re delightful. And the great 30s films. The Awful Truth with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. It’s not realistic; it’s just perfect.”
To celebrate Stillman’s latest feature becoming his most successful yet at the box office, we’re highlighting his 10 favorite films, from a ballot submitted for the most recent Sight & Sound poll. Along with the aforementioned Leo McCarey classic, he includes romantic touchstones from Preston Sturges, Ernst Lubitsh, and François Truffaut. As for his favorite Alfred Hitchcock, he fittingly picks perhaps one of the best scripts he directed, and one not mentioned often enough.
We’ve covered many directors’ favorites, but this is one that perhaps best reflects the style and tone of an artist’s filmography. Check it out below, followed by our discussion of his latest film, if you missed it.
Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Preston Sturges)
See more directors’ favorite films.
- Jordan Raup
Admit it: You can’t think of any one of those films without hearing the score in your head.
John Williams, who wrote all those classic themes [and dozens more] will receive the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award on June 9 from frequent collaborator Steven Spielberg. It will be the first such honor given to a composer in the 44-year history of the award.
“This man’s gifts echo, quite literally, through all of us, around the world and across generations,” says AFI president-ceo Bob Gazzale. “There’s not one person who hasn’t heard this man’s work, who hasn’t felt alive because of it. That’s the ultimate impact of an artist.”
Over six decades in Hollywood, Williams has written some of the most memorable music in movie history. His 100-plus features have earned 50 Academy Award nominations [making him the most-nominated living person] and he’s won five times. »
- Jon Burlingame
Michael Grandage presents Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Laura Linney Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze Michael Grandage directed Nicole Kidman in Anna Ziegler's Photograph 51 last year at the Noël Coward Theatre, London, and told me he hopes to bring the production to Broadway in 2017. He also directed Jude Law in Hamlet at the Donmar Warehouse and on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre.
Michael Grandage on Wolfe as Caliban: 'He is talking about internally' Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze His directorial debut feature Genius begins with shoes that might make you think of Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train. Screenplay by John Logan, based on A Scott Berg's book, the friendship and collaboration between Charles Scribner’s Sons editor Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth) and his discovery, writer Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law), is explored.
Wolfe's problem is that he can't stop writing, like a feverish Rainer Werner Fassbinder of the page, he burns himself out. »
- Anne-Katrin Titze
At first glance the words “To Catch a…” might make you think you’ve stumbled onto a review of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 thriller classic To Catch a Thief. Or maybe a few of you assume this is a piece about Chris… Continue Reading →
- John Campopiano
The sheer amount of movies in development that never saw the light of day is widely documented, but it’s rare we get a peek at what their marketing campaign might have looked at. We’ve previously highlighted the many projects that Stanley Kubrick left behind and today we have a poster series that imagines what a few of the one-sheets might have looked like, along with unmade films from Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, and more.
Created by Fernando Reza of the Fro Design Company for his ongoing series “Ones That Got Away,” one can see some beautiful art for Kubrick’s WWII drama Aryan Papers and Napoleon (which is now resurfacing thanks to Cary Fukunaga), Lynch’s would-be Eraserhead follow-up Ronnie Rocket, Hitchcock’s serial killer story Kaleidoscope, and most recently, Guillermo del Toro‘s canned H. P. Lovecraft adaptation At the Mountains of Madness.
- Leonard Pearce
At high school and college track meets, Bruce Dern was known as the guy who came from behind to win the race. Most actors who started out in the 1950s and ’60s faded away long ago, but Dern continues to be a runner — and continues to work as an actor, including his Oscar-nominated performance in “Nebraska” and in last year’s “Hateful Eight.”
Dern, who turns 80 on Saturday, got his professional start by working with Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan, and his career is dotted with big names that he worked with: John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Roger Corman, Jane Fonda and Jack Nicholson, to name a few. He also had encounters with such diverse characters as notorious west coast mobster Mickey Cohen and noted pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy.
Dern recently told Variety, “I’ve worked with six geniuses as directors: Kazan, Alfred Hitchcock, »
- Tim Gray
This is a Cinderella story about a girl who could never quite shake off the soot from her heels. The girl who found her prince, made her way to the kingdom, but still couldn’t fit into her glass slipper—at least, not the way the old princess did, not like Rebecca.
It may seem like Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 murder mystery, Rebecca, is nothing more than a story about a jealous woman succumbing to her insecurities, but the truth is that Hitchcock wasn’t just a master of suspense—he was also the master of subtly injecting deeper layers of meaning into his movies. Yes, it’s true that the second Mrs. de Winter lets her obsession with her husband’s first spouse take over her life, but there’s something else at work here. It isn’t just envy that drives the second Mrs. de Winter mad, as in addition to her identity issues, »
- Kalyn Corrigan
Gruesome Galleries rounds up a series of shots from British classic Circus Of Horrors. Before H.G. Lewis was bathing in cheap stage blood and flipping stomachs at drive-ins everywhere and the same year that Alfred Hitchcock ran chocolate sauce down the drain, there was director Sidney (Burn Witch Burn) Hayers’ wonderful and surprisingly sadistic Circus…
The post Gruesome Galleries: 1960’s Circus Of Horrors appeared first on Shock Till You Drop. »
- Chris Alexander
Dailies is a round-up of essential film writing, news bits, videos, and other highlights from across the Internet. If you’d like to submit a piece for consideration, get in touch with us in the comments below or on Twitter at @TheFilmStage.
Watch a trailer for an upcoming concert in Denmark featuring the music of Lars von Trier‘s film:
The New York Asian Film Festival 2016 has unveiled its full line-up.
Slate highlights the 50 greatest movies by black directors:
Despite everything, black filmmakers have produced art on screen that is just as daring, original, influential, and essential as the heralded works of Welles, Coppola, Antonioni, Kurosawa, and other nonblack directors. »
- The Film Stage
Mondo has released promotional images for its 1/6 scale Alfred Hitchcock collectible figure, with the Master of Suspense available to pre-order now; check them out here…
The iconic director of over 50 films, including classics such as Psycho, North By Northwest, The Birds, and Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock continues to inspire us as his work is still imitated to this day. We’re proud to present the famous filmmaker in 1/6 scale, featuring an authentic likeness, tailored fabric suit, director’s chair, interchangeable hands, and a few nods to some of his classic films. Whether he’s on your desk or perched on a shelf next to your Blu-rays, the 1/6 Scale Alfred Hitchcock Figure is the perfect addition to any film lover’s collection.
- Amie Cranswick
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