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Movie Poster of the Week: “The 4th Man” and the Poster Art of Vincent Topazio

23 January 2015 12:26 PM, PST

Above: Us one sheet for The 4th Man (Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1983).

I’ve always liked this elegant poster for Paul Verhoeven’s The 4th Man with its striking combination of soft realism and hard geometry (that knife-like number 4!) and I decided recently to look for other designs by the artist who signs himself Topazio. But, although I have found a number of pieces with his signature, I have so far come up short on much information on the man. Vincent Topazio was, it seems, an illustrator who worked from at least the mid 70s (I found a 1975 New York magazine illustration for an article on dog trainers credited to him as well as the cover for The Average White Band’s Cut the Cake from the same year) through at least the mid 80s. I have found seven of his movie posters, all illustrated in what seems to be a combination of crayon and airbrush. »

- Adrian Curry

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The Noteworthy: "The Limits of American Cinephilia", Coens in Cannes, Soderbergh's "2001"

22 January 2015 2:22 PM, PST

In The Front Row, Richard Brody writes on Amos Vogel (pictured above), and the ever-influential (yet contrastive) strands of cinephilia born in Paris and New York:

"Vogel’s dream of American independent filmmaking offering a significant artistic counterweight to Hollywood films has been fulfilled: independent films are now better, more original, more forward-looking than ever. The French cinephile stream exemplified by the New Wave filmmakers has won the hearts and minds of these independent filmmakers, and inspires them to this day. But the American cinephilia launched by Vogel, with its emphasis on ideological scrutiny, holds sway over many critics and viewers, perhaps more firmly than ever. That’s why the gap that Vogel lamented—the one dividing the best of independent filmmaking from the critical community and the audience—is also larger than ever."

The Coen brothers will serve as the co-presidents of the jury for the 68th Cannes Film Festival this May. »

- Notebook

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Shadows of the Opus Magnum: Wang Bing's "Father and Sons"

22 January 2015 5:04 AM, PST

Over the past decade Wang Bing has established himself as one of the most prominent figures in documentary cinema, recording the real lives of ordinary people being the safest, most economical way for an independent filmmaker like him to realize personal film projects in China without the State's approval and financial support. These somewhat difficult conditions of production must always be kept in mind when discussing his output, which also includes two fictional reenactments of actual events—the short film Brutality Factory (2007) and the several-year-in-the-making feature film The Ditch (2010).

Another crucial thing to Wang's work is that his primary interest lies in human emotions, not in political opposition. As he told me in April 2014, he does not consider himself a “political filmmaker” or a “dissident”, because he has no political claims, no political program, no political agenda to put forward. Rejecting two possibly hackneyed labels and keeping a low profile, »

- Michael Guarneri

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"Mr. Turner", "Boyhood", and Criticism

21 January 2015 10:59 AM, PST

Mr. Turner

Let us begin with difficulties. Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner, a film as rich as an afternoon in the Louvre, presents an austere and bilious portrait of the Englishman and a ridiculous one of a young John Ruskin, a critic who explicated Turner in many words over the course of different works—a critic who drew and painted, lecturing on both with a great avidity. In Leigh, the drama is the classic case of critic as obnoxious foil to the artist's majesty and magic, with Ruskin's exaggerated lisping accent and pushing every “r” out as a “w” being the cherry on top. Leigh has said, “...he was a kind of prick...” Well, maybe.

But I must bring in one of Leigh's most passionate fans—the poet-critic Guy Davenport, whose essays are jewels, and who averred he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people who like to read, »

- Greg Gerke

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The Speed of Causality: Michael Mann's "Blackhat"

20 January 2015 11:39 AM, PST

“Look at where you are.”

(Spoilers abound.)

Michael Mann’s new film, Blackhat, is a paradox of magnitudes and proximities. The scale is global, as announced in the opening shots that rhyme with the Universal logo just prior and, thanks to the dissolves down to Earth, Charles and Ray Eames' 1977 Powers of Ten. Once on ground, in a nuclear reactor’s control room, the powers of cinema take us yet deeper, smaller, to see how fast data travels across minuscule relays inside a screen, a computer, a network. And this data, or code, is made visible as points of light—dots arrayed and racing in tandem with the image (itself a fiction of code, or data) of this new vast universe—given weight through the thunder and crackle of sound design—a truly cinematic sequence of movement/animation no text can replicate.

This opening serves to illustrate the mechanisms »

- Ryland Walker Knight

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Artists, Magicians, Alchemists, Capitalists

19 January 2015 4:58 AM, PST

One of cinema’s preeminent magicians welcomes us with his trademark corpulence and pastiched cigar to the Idfa at Amsterdam in a selection entitled Framing. A self-confessed charlatan making a film about yet another self-contained charlatan, Orson Wells takes immense pleasure in 1973’s F for Fake reminding us that film is by nature trickery whilst hoodwinking us one more time (but gently, a fatherly sort of magician—showing us shot, impossible counter-shot, whilst winking mischievously into the camera). F for Fake is an odd choice for a selection which is, to quote the guide, “investigating the borders between fiction and documentary,” since the film admits no such borders, and for Wells any film base enough to insist on its own reality is the most insupportable form of charlatanry (witness his childlike glee at elbow-jabbing the experts every time forger extraordinaire Elmyr Dehory pulls a fast one on a gallerist).

The »

- Yaron Dahan

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