7 items from 2011
Influential Czech film director with a talent for self-preservation
The Czech film director Otakar Vávra, who has died aged 100, was born in Bohemia when it was part of the Austro- Hungarian empire, and was seven years old when Czechoslovakia became an independent nation in 1918. He lived through the German occupation, communism and the Velvet Revolution, and saw his country become the Czech Republic in 1993, while never ceasing to make films. In each epoch, Vávra changed his skin in order to save it.
Among his lasting achievements was the film faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (Famu) in Prague, which he helped establish after the second world war and where he taught for five decades. Among his students were Vera Chytilová, Milos Forman, Ivan Passer and Jiri Menzel, all directors of the 60s Czech new wave, and more recently Emir Kusturica, all of whom had high praise for his teaching. »
- Ronald Bergan
Texas is known for some great film festivals. apart from SXSW and Fantastic Fest, both held in Austin – Houston also hosts some wonderful events. Among them is the Cinema Arts Festival. This year’s line-up is extremely strong, with titles that include Pina, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, The Artist and the World Premiere of Art Car: The Movie. Sadly we do not have any contributors over in Houston, but I did feel the need to quickly promote the festival. Here is the press release.
Houston – Now in its third year, Cinema Arts Festival Houston, which runs from November 9 to 13, 2011 will bring an ambitious program of films by and about artists to the vibrant Texas city known internationally for its dynamic art scene. From painting and dance to classical music and multimedia work, this edition will also include appearances by directors, actors, musicians, and special tributes to Ethan Hawke and documentary master Patricio Guzman. »
"Now in its 15th year," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, Views from the Avant-Garde, opening today and running through Monday, "has undergone a growth spurt since 2010 and has added a fourth day and enough titles to make your eyes tear from the ecstasy of excess or just exhaustion…. The titular monarch of [Ken] Jacobs's contribution, Seeking the Monkey King, appears to be the American greed and corruption that have sent the director into an agony of despair, if happily not a paralyzing one. Set to the music of Jg Thirlwell, this digital video largely consists of valleys and hills of what look like crumpled foil that Mr Jacobs, through his manipulations, has turned into landscapes that shift, undulate and seem to pop off the screen as if in 3D. Often tinted golden yellow and blue (colors used in the silent era usually to denote day and night), the »
As has been noted many times before, by me and others, the Wavelengths series of the Toronto International Film Festival is like a festival unto itself. So far removed from the red carpet nonsense, the deal-making, and the me-firstism of web journalists hoping to hit the Web with their initial impressions of some new Bryce Dallas Howard vehicle, Wavelengths affords breathing room to cinema and video at its most formally adventurous and, yes, uncommercial. We come here to look and listen, not to look “at” or listen “to,” and if that sounds hopelessly pretentious, come on down to the Jackman Hall and see for yourself. It’s actually quite cleansing, often funny, and a guaranteed good time, at least in part. (Short films are like the weather in my hometown of Houston, Texas. Don’t like it? Wait a moment. It’ll change.)
Sadly, Wavelengths 2011 will be the final year for series curator Andréa Picard. »
Experimental film-maker and artist whose creations had a playful, unpredictable quality
The experimental animator Robert Breer, who has died aged 84, made more than 40 highly inventive films in a career spanning some 50 years. His oeuvre combined abstraction, subversive collage, figurative work and simple mark-making, and took in a broad range of influences and reference points, including painting, kinetic art, early cinema and cartoons.
Breer was considered by some to be an anti-animator, as he often worked against the processes with which the craft is ordinarily associated. He explored movement between frames and within, and teased apart the lines between motion and stasis, working skilfully, sensitively and humorously, with variations in speed and repetition. In films such as Swiss Army Knife With Rats and Pigeons (1980), he combined many different styles of animation, as well as live action. Breer took a considered yet light-of-touch approach to his films, infusing them with life and spontaneity. »
- William Fowler
Experimental animator Robert Breer, once referred to by the Harvard Film Archive as the "Kinetic Poet of the Avant-Garde," passed away on Friday. Pip Chodorov broke the news via the Frameworks list, calling him "a good friend, a very funny man, and a great artist."
Breer's father, an automobile designer, rigged a Bolex so that he could shoot home movies in 3D. In the early 50s, Breer lived in Paris, where he made large abstract paintings, and in the 60s, he made "float" sculptures that wander the gallery. An exhibition of several of these paintings and sculptures is currently on view at Baltic's Level 4 Gallery in Gateshead through September 25.
Yoel Meranda, who, a few years ago, worked at the Film-makers' Cooperative in New York, which Breer co-founded in the 70s, has a moving remembrance. Here's how it begins: "When I first saw on Fred Camper's Senses of Cinema top tens »
At indieWIRE, Eric Kohn has reported that underground filmmaker Adolfas Mekas has passed away at the age of 85. The news was confirmed by his niece Oona. The cause of death is heart failure.
Mekas was born on Sept. 30, 1925 in Lithuania. He was the younger brother of Jonas Mekas. Both siblings had to flee their native country in 1944, but they were caught and forced into a labor camp from which they eventually escaped.
After spending some time in two displaced persons camps in Europe, the Mekas brothers made their way to New York City and settled in Brooklyn. In their newly adopted home city, they studied film with Hans Richter, founded the journal Film Culture and began making movies.
Adolfas’ most famous film is Hallelujah the Hills, an avant-garde screwball comedy. You can watch the opening segment of this film online, the full version of which is available from the distributor re:voir. »
- Mike Everleth
7 items from 2011
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