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★★★★☆ Damon Runyon is often imitated but never bettered - we won't even hold it against him that he’s partly responsible (via proxy) for the gangster films of Guy Ritchie and his ilk. Runyon's portrayal of the New York underworld and it's denizens with their peculiar argot seems to sound familiar and strange at the the same time to modern ears, but when it arrived in his tales published in the late 1930s it shone a light on an epoch that previously had only been know via arch genre films. Now, of course, this world is mostly known from Joseph L. Mankiewicz's film version of Guys and Dolls (1955) that has been beautifully restored and re-released.
- CineVue UK
If Joe Mankiewicz were alive, one could imagine him wanting to remake “Flowers,” with its poignantly old-fashioned premise that also comments on contempo society. Sophomore directors Jon Garano and Jose Mari Goenaga, along with co-scripter Aitor Arregi, could use a little of the Mankiewicz touch in deepening characterization through modulation, but their story of three women unexpectedly brought together by floral bouquets is elegantly lensed and warm-hearted to the core, without getting sappy. A rare Basque-lingo production that could see a European release if marketed right, “Flowers” should also become a staple in Iberian showcases.
A trip to the doctor tells Ane (Nagore Aranburu) that she’s more or less fine, apart from early-onset menopause. For this lonely, childless woman, stuck in a less-than-happy marriage to Ander (Egoitz Lasa), the news is just one more finished chapter in her life. Then a bouquet of flowers arrives with no note — who are they from? »
- Jay Weissberg
Nouvelle Vague (1990) is not a cinematic treatment of the Young Turks breaking new ground in the sixties but a film about the history of cinema told as a biblical allegory. Old and New Testament; Old and New Wave; the studio system and the post-studio era; Delon as Roger and Richard Lennox who fall in love with the Countess Elena Torlato-Favrini. I must admit that the thought of Godard making a film about the New Wave directors sounds fascinating and the film-geek in me would have ate it up. Like many cinephiles I love films about films like The States of Things (1982) by Wim Wenders which is one of the greatest films in this subgenre or even The Last Movie (1971) by Dennis Hopper which is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. Alas this is not what Godard made. However, the Nouvelle Vague that Godard did make is immensely »
- Cody Lang
This year's poster for the Vienna International Film Festival is of a flame, and while around the world in other cinema-loving cities and at other cinema-loving festivals one might that that as a cue for a celluloid immolation and a move forever to digital, here in Austria cinema and film as film aren't burning up but rather are burning brightly.
The tributes and special programs in artistic director Hans Hurch's 2014 edition make this position clear: John Ford, Harun Farocki and 16mm, with new films by Tariq Teguia, Jean-Luc Godard, and Jean-Marie Straub accompanying older ones by the same directors. These aren't just retrospectives, they are revitalizing redoubts, inexhaustible fountains of flame, of sensitivity, of consciousness, and of intervention. With such a profound retrospective program, I hope you'll forgive me telling you very little of anything new at the festival; unless, that is, you like me count cinema revived as something always new. »
- Daniel Kasman
The film adaptation of Guys and Dolls directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz has never been a film that has sat right with me. I adore the musical with music and lyrics by the great Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows and Jo Sterling, yet there are many things about the film that bother me. Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra are both fit for the role of Sky Masterson, and having one of them step over into Nathan Detroit's shoes feels weird. They are two of the coolest guys around. Nathan is not cool. Nathan is a schlub who is in over his head. Sinatra is the epitome of cool. I can see why he was upset he was not cast as Sky. Also, the omission of quite a few of the songs causes problems for me. I can understand one or two being gone, but fivec "I've Never Been »
- Mike Shutt
Joseph L. Mankiewicz was a Hollywood chameleon who ranged from thoughtful thrillers (The Quiet American), to acid character dramas (All About Eve) and Renta-ghosty romances (The Ghost And Mrs. Muir) with equal aplomb. Perhaps his most beloved film, though, remains his starry stab at the musical genre, 1955’s Guys And Dolls. It’s been spruced up and will be back on the big screen in time for all your Christmas sing-along needs*, and there's a new poster to help spread the word. Adapted from Frank Loesser’s Tony-winning musical, Guys And Dolls is the story of New York bad boy Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra), in deep with the gambling community and feeling the cops breathing down his handmade-suited neck. His fiancée (Vivian Blaine) also wants a ring on her finger. So what does he do? He makes a $1000 bet with Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando) that he can’t wow Jean Simmons »
A Complicated Life: Hui’s Sprawling Biopic as Malcontented as Its Subject
Hong Kong director Ann Hui’s extensive filmography has been largely unavailable, though she’s steadily been making films since 1979. Her 2011 film, A Simple Life, received raves and awards after premiering at the Venice Film Festival, and perhaps paved the way for this epically extensive biopic, The Golden Era, which explores the life of famed essayist and novelist Xiao Hong. Though the film has been tipped as Hong Kong’s entry for this year’s Foreign Language Oscar submission, Hui’s zeal to capture the often degrading circumstances of Hong’s short existence often overwhelms her own subject, so much so that Xiao Hong often feels like a supporting player to Hui’s historical depths.
Born in 1911 to a family of landowners in Manchuria, Xiao Hong (Tang Wei) breaks the fourth wall to relate the basics of her »
- Nicholas Bell
"If I am remembered at all, it will be as the swine who rewrote Scott Fitzgerald," said Joseph L. Mankiewicz on numerous occasions, and though he does rate a mention in any Fitzgerald bio for his work revising Fitzgerald's screenplay of Three Comrades, he is also getting a sidebar retrospective, The Essential Iconoclast, at the New York Film Festival. Apart from including his several acknowledged classics, this also shines a light on some of the less celebrated movies in the distinguished Hollywood auteur's body of work.
In particular, The Late George Apley (1947) and Escape (1948) are seldom-screened dramas with suave English leading men, Ronald Colman and Mankiewicz favorite Rex Harrison, both supported by the delightful Peggy Cummins.
The Late George Apley supplements the emotion with a good portion of the wit Mankiewicz was so famous for. I spoke briefly on the telephone to co-star Cummins, best known »
- David Cairns
Some twenty-two years ago, just a couple of months before Joseph L. Mankiewicz passed away at the age of 83, New York’s Film Forum held a retrospective of his work. The one thing I knew about Mankiewicz back then was that Andrew Sarris had consigned him to The American Cinema’s circle of hell that was “Less Than Meet the Eye.” “The cinema of Joseph L. Mankiewicz is a cinema of intelligence without inspiration” he argued. Needless to say I went rather reluctantly to see his films, but by the end of the series I was a convert to his special brand of literate, sophisticated and genuinely moving cinema.
As a sidebar to the New York Film Festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is hosting a new retrospective of Mankiewicz’s films that runs »
- Adrian Curry
With so few events during which to premiere new and important avant-garde films in North America—among them, the recently wrapped Wavelengths section of the Toronto International Film Festival, the Ann Arbor Film Fest, and the San Francisco Cinematheque's Crossroads series—the shift that has occurred at this year's New York Film Festival is one well worth noting. This weekend, the inaugural Projects program will debut. Previously known as "Views from the Avant-Garde" and programmed by Mark McElhatten and Gavin Smith (though last year's titanic program was done by McElhatten alone), this sidebar more akin to a festival-inside-a-festival of film and video works has been re-named "Projections" and in its first year is programmed by a returned Smith, Film Society of Lincoln Center's Director of Programming Dennis Lim, and Aily Nash.
The section encompasses 13 programs over a single weekend during the festival, including a handful of feature length films and numerous shorts, »
- Daniel Kasman
I must admit upfront that I turned off Alice Rohrwacher's previous film, 2011's Corpo celeste, after an hour or so, made frustrated and fidgety by the lack of mise en scène (to appropriate Jacques Rivette's definition of the much-contested term, used drolly in reference to the cinema of Joseph L. Mankiewicz). So I certainly may be approaching her follow-up, The Wonders—playing in the New York Film Festival after being well-regarded and award-winning in competition at Cannes this year—with a bias. But indeed I found much of the same problems here that I found in the earlier film, and while her Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner is an improvement in imagemaking, it still has a way to go in filmmaking.
Much of the slovenly camerawork and garbled, unmotivated editing remains, draining an already naturally lackadaisical story of any sense of urgency, but with these more forceful images »
- Daniel Kasman
The late career of Joseph L. Mankiewicz—who is getting a sidebar retrospective, The Essential Iconoclast, at the New York Film Festival—is fascinating. While many of his contemporaries floundered as the rules of filmmaking changed, formally and in every other aspect, he found ways, for a while at least, to carry on telling the kind of stories he liked, with the kind of people he liked, in the way he liked. Sleuth (1972) could probably have been made earlier—the amorality and venality of the characters might well have passed the censor, since vice can be said to be punished. The filmmaking is a little less sure-footed than we expect from Mankiewicz, though: he should have been the perfect director for a two-hander full of arch talk in elegant surroundings, but his attempts to keep the visuals lively sometimes seem forced.
There Was a Crooked Man (1970), is more problematic, illustrating »
- David Cairns
Seventeen days might seem like ample breathing room to take in all the tidily curated bounty of the 52nd New York Film Festival, but the sidebars alone are a bit overwhelming. Old Hollywood iconoclast Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve) will be celebrated with a 21-feature tribute, and the forward-thinking "Convergence" series of films and panels explores bold innovations in multi-platform interactivity. One captivating standout is Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting's Somali pirate experience Last Hijack, which blends documentary footage and otherworldly animation with a transmedia supplement. (Thank god the future isn't video games.)
Among the repertory revivals are a 30th-anniversary screening of the everlastingly quotable mock-rock-doc This Is Spin »
A new issue of Film Comment is out and a generous slice of it is online. Amy Taubin talks with David Fincher about Gone Girl, Quintín considers the work of Lisandro Alonso and Robert Horton previews the New York Film Festival's Joseph L. Mankiewicz retrospective. Plus reviews of David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars, Alex Ross Perry's Listen Up Philip and more. Also in today's roundup: Jonathan Rosenbaum on Béla Tarr, an excerpt from an unrealized screenplay by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sophia Nguyen on Scarlett Johansson, essays on Federico Fellini's Il Bidone, Ben Rivers and Ben Russell’s A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness and more. » - David Hudson »
With the Toronto International Film Festival winding down, it’s time to get excited for the next one. So here’s a trailer for the 52nd New York Film Festival. The festival will open this year with the world premiere of David Fincher’s Gone Girl and will also feature the world premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, Inherent Vice, as its Centerpiece selection. You can catch glimpses of those films along with others—including closing night selection Birdman—in the blood-pumping montage.
“We have a great line-up this year filled with soaring cinematic visions, concentrated meditations and wild inventions, »
- Esther Zuckerman
We're celebrating the centennial of director Robert Wise this week. Previously: Tim on "Curse of the Cat People" (1944) and Nathaniel on "Somebody Up There...". Now, David on Susan Hayward's Oscar vehicle, with an exclamation point!
Though the internet seems to increasingly denigrate the importance of punctuation, once upon a time it was vital to our sense of understanding language. Would I Want To Live! have any of the same feverish impact without that exclamation mark at the end of its title? Perhaps. But it signifies the bold stance of this cry for social justice in a millisecond. I mean, just look at this poster! Only Britain's notorious newspaper The Daily Mail has taglines that long these days.
That boldness is a quality more of the film's frenzied marketing than of the film itself; director Robert Wise, whose centennial we're marking this week, excised the closing rhetoric that producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz was insisting upon, »
The Noah movie opened the floodgates for biblical movies at the beginning of 2014 and to some, a welcome visit back to the Golden Age of Hollywood.
With Exodus bowing at the end of the year during awards season, Scott solidifies his status among the ranks of those larger-than-life directors – David Lean, Cecil B. DeMille, William Wyler, Joseph L. Mankiewicz – in his latest historical drama.
Casting is everything and with huge stars like Oscar-winners Christian Bale and Ben Kingsley, Oscar-nominee Sigourney Weaver and Joel Edgerton, the filmmaker may find himself at Hollywood’s big party in February. Last time Scott went epic was in May 2000 when Gladiator opened in theaters and later went on to win five Oscars, including Best Picture, at the 73rd Academy Awards. »
- Michelle McCue
The New York Film Festival, whose 52nd edition runs from September 26 through October 12, carries on rolling out the lineups for its various programs. This weekend sees the full roster for a Joseph L. Mankiewicz retrospective featuring such classics as All About Eve (1950), The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Guys and Dolls (1955) and Sleuth (1972). Additions to the Revivals section include Alfred Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn (1939) and Anthony Mann's The Man from Laramie (1955). And there are two programs of Short Films, too. » - David Hudson »
Episode 33 of 52: In which Katharine Hepburn is like the Goddess from the Machine.
I want to write about Katharine Hepburn, but the movie keeps getting in the way! Reading last night’s contributions to Hit Me With Your Best Shot, I was struck by how many bloggers described Suddenly, Last Summer as “camp,” “wildly expressive,” or “absolutely batshit gonzo crazy.” This is a film that will not be ignored. It’s garish and shocking. The psycho-babble hasn’t aged well--as Nathaniel points out, such things rarely do. The themes of cannibalism, sexual deviance, and monstrous madness creep like kudzu vines hanging in Violet Venable’s garden, blocking the light and threatening to squeeze the resistance out of unwary viewers who venture into the film unwarned.
This unsettling excess had been, up to that point, unusual for director Joseph L. Mankiewicz--best known for character dramas--but can be easily traced to his collaborators. »
- Anne Marie
Lauren Bacall Dead: 89-year-old Oscar nominee who starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in ‘To Have and Have Not’ and ‘The Big Sleep’ Lauren Bacall has died following a massive stroke earlier today, August 12. Curiously, the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nominee for The Mirror Has Two Faces, and the star of film classics such as To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, and How to Marry a Millionaire, had been "killed" by an Internet hoax yesterday. Bacall would have turned 90 on September 16, 2014. According to Media Mass, the Lauren Bacall death rumors began on Monday, August 11, following the creation of a "R.I.P. Lauren Bacall" Facebook page that "attracted nearly one million of ‘likes.’" On the "R.I.P. Lauren Bacall" ‘About’ page, there was the following explanation: “At about 11 a.m. Et on Monday (August 11, 2014), our beloved actress Lauren Bacall passed away. Lauren Bacall was born on September 16, 1924 in New York. »
- Andre Soares
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