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"A Dance of Her Whole Life": Zhao Tao on "Mountains May Depart"

45 minutes ago

Photo by Darren HughesMidway through A Touch of Sin (2013), Jia Zhang-ke’s violent and reality-inspired account of China’s seismic economic shifts, a massage parlor receptionist played by Zhao Tao is attacked suddenly by a non-descript businessman, who beats her with a fistful of renminbi while shouting, “Isn’t my money good enough? Not a prostitute? Who is then?” Jia documents the assault in a two-minute, unbroken closeup, whipping the camera from side to side with each blow. By the end, Zhao’s cheeks and neck are flush from exertion and physical contact, which is an interesting intrusion of documentary into such a fantastic scene. She reaches for a hidden knife and then, with a swift slash to the man’s chest, becomes transformed into a wuxia warrior. A Touch of Sin seems to have marked a shift in Jia’s filmmaking, away from the contemplative, docu-realist style that »

- Darren Hughes

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Berlinale 2016. Hail...Cinema?

17 hours ago

© Universal PicturesThe opening film of major film festivals can usually be counted on to be two closely connected things. The first is that the film is intended to fulfill a certain, amorphous requirement of image, pleasing a wide variety of industry interests, including that of the red carpet press (stars, please), that of the sponsors and important guests, and that of the movie business, the studios, sales agents and the like. This fulcrum of compromise almost inevitably causes the second thing, which is that more of than not, a festival's opening night film will be utterly bland.Not so at the Berlin International Film Festival this year—or, at least, not quite. Despite an earlier rumor that the Berlinale had the world premiere of Hail, Caesar!, the new film by Joel and Ethan Coen, Hollywood had other ideas and the film actually opened in the United States last week. But »

- Daniel Kasman

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"The American Dreamer" on Mubi

17 hours ago

Mubi is exclusively presenting the global online premiere of L.M. Kit Carson and Lawrence Schiller's cult documentary The American Dreamer, starring Dennis Hopper. Shot during the drug-and-orgy fueled making of The Last Movie, the legendary follow-up to Hopper's debut movie Easy Rider, Hopper stars as himself: a new kind of Hollywood—and American—icon. The American Dreamer is playing on Mubi through March 12, 2016. For more about the film, read Mike Opal's exploration on the Notebook. »

- Notebook

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The Best of Movie Poster of the Day: Part 13

23 hours ago

Above: Us one sheet for Knight Of Cups (Terrence Malick, USA, 2015); designer: P+A.Leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, the beautiful new poster for Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups was by far the most popular poster (tallied in likes and reblogs) that I have posted on my daily poster Tumblr since last October. Unveiled nearly a whole year after the first poster for the film premiered at last year’s Berlin Film Festival (that which made my top ten posters of 2015), the new poster retains the arcane and antique feel of that design—not to mention the palm trees—while making it only moderately more commercial with its image of star Christian Bale (albeit upside down and barely recognizable) haloed by a giant harvest moon.Sadly, much of the past month or two has been spent commemorating those we lost: Jacques Rivette, Haskell Weller, Ettore Scola, artist »

- Adrian Curry

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True Icon of a False Prophet: Dennis Hopper as "The American Dreamer"

11 February 2016 3:23 PM, PST

L.M. Kit Carson and Lawrence Schiller's The American Dreamer (1971) is exclusively playing on Mubi through March 12, 2016.Photo by Lawrence SchillerWith a budget of $1 million, 1971's The Last Movie is the cheapest film ever to be considered a major folly. Tugging on his beard and watching a rough cut, Dennis Hopper prepares for his new project's inevitable critical disemboweling. He knows, after all, that among many delirious and noxious (though often brilliant) self-referential shenanigans it features a gigantic breast ejaculating milk onto Hopper's own receptive face. With self-aggrandizing irony (or is that ironic self-aggrandizement?), Hopper aspires to Orson Welles's career trajectory: "I can become Orson Welles, poor bastard." He declares his debut, 1969's Easy Rider, his Citizen Kane and The Last Movie his The Magnificent Ambersons. Nevertheless, the response to The Last Movie scared him away from directing for nearly a decade, rather than duplicating Welles's indomitable retreat to self-, »

- Mike Opal

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Rotterdam 2016. First Steps

11 February 2016 2:33 PM, PST

 Ears, Nose and Throat. Courtesy Kje; Trilobite-Arts Dac; Picture Palace PicturesI've arrived in the Dutch city of Rotterdam after a one year absence—flummoxed several editions in a row by the sprawling but often undistinguishable festival program of international cinema, I decided to try the Berlin film festival instead in 2015. But I've been lured back to the Iffr, as the Rotterdam film festival is abbreviated, for the favorite old reasons: the promise of a fabulously congenial and casual atmosphere of cinema discovery and discussion, extensive retrospective programs, and a promising showing of terrific avant-garde work, some of it projected on film. After attending Locarno for the first time last year in the summer, I have newly kindled hopes for this other European festival, an expansive wintertime festivity once so renowned for premiering adventurous new cinema.You may note I did not mention the festival's Tiger competition, what it is perhaps »

- Daniel Kasman

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Locarno Blog. Howard Shore

10 February 2016 11:39 PM, PST

The Notebook is the North American home for Locarno Film Festival Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian's blog. Chatrian has been writing thoughtful blog entries in Italian on Locarno's website since he took over as Director in late 2012, and now you can find the English translations here on the Notebook as they're published. The Locarno Film Festival will be taking place August 3 - 13. Howard Shore. © Benjamin Ealovega Film music is a subject that requires very delicate handling. As if music, more so even than sound itself, had arrived in the cinema with the table laid and the party already begun, requiring it therefore to be a very discreet guest.It makes little difference that we know that the movies – well before they became the talkies – needed musical accompaniment; it makes little difference that film music, whether by pioneering pianists or great composers, has given greater depth to the moving image and developed »

- Carlo Chatrian

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Sophisticated Engineering

10 February 2016 8:48 PM, PST

Taprobana“These poets are so intelligent,” notes King Philip II of Spain toward the end of Gabriel AbrantesTaprobana (2014). “They put a sex scene in the end, and I forget I didn’t understand the rest. Such sophisticated engineering.” He’s talking about the Portuguese national epic Os Lusíadas, but he could as well be describing Abrantes’ eclectic body of work. The Lisbon-based filmmaker's steady output of avant-garde shorts holds together a chain of idiosyncratic filmmakers currently being feted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center's "Friends with Benefits" series. Since 2007, Abrantes has matched an affinity for abstruse, looping narrative with a bawdy sense of humor. Although his work frequently draws on sources like Manet or Aristophanes, it’s never hindered by the dictates of good taste. Ribald slapstick abounds, for example, in the Shakespeare-derived frolic Fratelli (2011), which he co-directed with Alexandre Melo. The characters are earthy, their jokes puerile, »

- Alice Stoehr

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Michael Mann's "Blackhat": The Modern Mythology

9 February 2016 1:10 AM, PST

"We’re going to need a blackhat hacker named Hathaway"—this alliterative summoning stutters us into modern mythology, Michael Mann's 2015 film Blackhat, playing in BAMcinématek's retrospective of the director, "Heat & Vice," in an unseen, mysterious new "re-edit." To accompany the tale, we need to put aside the silliness that's always a hazard in any risky artwork in favor of the potency of this staccato invocation. It conjures a chained power, soon releasing it from its bounds to first assist humans like a muse and then to join their world, taking over their struggle.Blackhat’s hero Hathaway is a physical embodiment of the insidiously versatile power of cybercrime. Mann projects him into the world as a robust threat—to those at home and also to villains—a sexy, border traipsing, multidisciplinary force. In Miami Vice, the director’s last exploration of globalization through transnational crime, the vice cops could »

- Daniel Kasman

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