11 items from 2015
William Becker, who with a partner acquired Janus Films in 1965, expanded its catalog of arthouse and Hollywood classics and broadened the distribution of that catalog to audiences at universities and to movie fans via DVD, died Saturday from complications of kidney failure in Southampton, N.Y. He was 88.
Becker was a theater critic, a culturally oriented financier and close associate of writers and directors whose passion for the art of film motivated him at least as much as a desire to make money.
Janus, which had been founded in the 1950s by a pair of Harvard alumni, exposed American moviegoers to the then mostly unfamiliar work of groundbreaking directors such as Italians Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni; Ingmar Bergman; Frenchmen François Truffaut and Robert Bresson; Luis Buñuel; and Japanese masters Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi.
After acquiring the company, Becker and his partner Saul J. Turell secured the »
- Variety Staff
One of art cinema’s great champions, William Becker, died on Saturday after complication from kidney failure. He was 88.
Starting out his career as a theater critic, Becker purchased legendary art cinema label and Criterion Collection backer Janus Films in 1965, in turn helping it evolve into the brand that it has become today. Overseeing expansion into realms like university education and eventually home video, Becker was a man with an affinity for intellectual discussion of cinema (he himself was a Rhodes scholar) and also an early adopter of the auteur theory, focusing on legendary filmmakers ranging from Luis Bunuel to Yasujiro Ozu.
He purchased the company with Saul J. Turell, going on to nab rights to films like Citizen Kane and King Kong, putting them alongside legendary art house films and pieces of world cinema, like Renoir’s Grand Illusion. This itself will be his lasting legacy.
I’m not normally one to write obituaries, »
- Joshua Brunsting
The German filmmaker’s latest feature 13 Minutes dramatises the real-life story of small town carpenter Georg Elser who, in 1939, came close to assassinating Adolf Hitler with a homemade bomb.
The Oscar-nominated Downfall was set at the end of the Second World War, with the Nazi regime in its dying throes. Now, Hirschbiegel wants to turn his attention toward the ‘Great War’ of 1914-18.
“It is very much in the wake of Jean Renoir and of (Stanley) Kubrick,” the German director told ScreenDaily of the project, which is at a very early stage.
Two of its points of reference are Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937), the First World War classic about three French prisoners in German captivity, and Kubrick’s anti-war movie, Paths Of Glory (1957).
- email@example.com (Geoffrey Macnab)
Richard Gere has enjoyed — and is still enjoying — the sort of hugely successful, long, eclectic career that nearly every actor would kill for. Gere started gathering serious attention in Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven” in 1978, but it was his role as the titular “American Gigolo” in Paul Schrader’s now-iconic 1980 film that vaulted him to Hollywood stardom. He went on to sweep Debra Winger off her feet in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” and saved Julia Roberts from a life of prostitution in “Pretty Woman” (reteaming later with Roberts on “Runaway Bride”). Gere tackled song and dance with “The Cotton Club” and “Chicago,” danced around the law as a corrupt cop in “Internal Affairs” and donned armor as Lancelot in “First Knight.” More recently, he’s walked on the seamier side of Wall Street (“Arbitrage”) and stayed over at “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
The Karlovy Vary Intl. »
- Iain Blair
In this morning's round-up, we have details on not one, not two, but three slasher films. Savage Weekend, Angst, and The Mutilator are set to be released on Blu-ray between late summer and early fall.
Blu-ray, packaging, and extras all produced by Walt Olsen (Scorpion Releasing). Another one of his recommendations!
Blu-ray.com reports that "Independent U.S. distributors Cult Epics will release on »
- Tamika Jones
Criterion repackages Jean Renoir’s 1951 classic The River for Blu-ray, one of the master filmmaker’s several titles in the collection (fans may recall that Renoir’s Grand Illusion was the very first Criterion title). A title significant in many respects, being the first Technicolor film in India and Renoir’s first color feature, it’s simplistic beauty has gone on to influence future generations of filmmakers, including its prominently vocal champion Martin Scorsese. It also served as a launching pad for Satyajit Ray, who worked as an assistant on the film, and who would go on to create his own stunning debut four years later with the first chapter of his Apu trilogy, Pather Panchali (1955).
We experience the childhood of Harriet (Patricia Walters) in retrospect, her off-screen adult voice recounting one particular stretch of time while growing up in India with her mother (Nora Swinburne) and father (Esmond Knight »
- Nicholas Bell
Marc Allégret: From André Gide lover to Simone Simon mentor (photo: Marc Allégret) (See previous post: "Simone Simon Remembered: Sex Kitten and Femme Fatale.") Simone Simon became a film star following the international critical and financial success of the 1934 romantic drama Lac aux Dames, directed by her self-appointed mentor – and alleged lover – Marc Allégret. The son of an evangelical missionary, Marc Allégret (born on December 22, 1900, in Basel, Switzerland) was to have become a lawyer. At age 16, his life took a different path as a result of his romantic involvement – and elopement to London – with his mentor and later "adoptive uncle" André Gide (1947 Nobel Prize winner in Literature), more than 30 years his senior and married to Madeleine Rondeaux for more than two decades. In various forms – including a threesome with painter Théo Van Rysselberghe's daughter Elisabeth – the Allégret-Gide relationship remained steady until the late '20s and their trip to »
- Andre Soares
Orson Welles indisputably made a huge impact on the film industry, both in terms of technical proficiency and storytelling sophistication. However, Welles was never the biggest fan of films themselves. He just saw it as a way to tell stories he wanted to. That makes sense to me of how he approached filmmaking. Had he been a movie fan, I don't know if he would have thought so much outside of the box about to make them than he did. That isn't to say he didn't like all movies. In the early 1950s, Welles managed to cobble together a list of his ten favorite films for Sound on Sight (via Open Culture). As he had only been exposed to a couple of decades of cinema, I think this is a very interesting list, and one that makes a lot of sense for someone like Welles. City Lights (dir. Charles Chaplin) Greed (dir. »
- Mike Shutt
Written and directed by Jean Renoir
Jean Renoir’s A Day in the Country comes at a curious point in the director’s career. In 1936, he had several exceptional silent films to his credit, as well as such classics of early French sound cinema as La Chienne (1931), Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932), and The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936), among others. But he had still not yet achieved his singular place on world cinema’s pre-war stage. That he would do just a year later, with La Grande Illusion (1937). As noted on the new Criterion Blu-ray, A Day in the Country was “conceived as a short feature…[and] nearly finished production in 1936 when Renoir was called away for The Lower Depths. Shooting was abandoned then, but the film was completed with the existing footage by Renoir’s team and released in its current form in 1946, after the »
- Jeremy Carr
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has been under fire for the lack of racial and gender equality in Oscar nominations, but there’s one area where the org can freely boast about diversity: this year’s international contenders. There are non-u.S. nominees in 22 out of 24 categories.
The long list includes two of the five directors — Norway’s Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”) and Mexico’s Alejandro G. Inarritu (“Birdman”) — as well as all five nominees in the music-score category, the first time that’s ever happened.
The roster also includes contenders in two “mainstream” categories for their foreign-language work: cinematographers Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski for Poland’s “Ida” and Marion Cotillard with a French-lingo performance in Belgium’s “Two Days, One Night.”
Academy honchos have been working hard to broaden the organization’s makeup, to better reflect the international film business. AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, »
- Tim Gray
Everyone knows Woody Allen. At least, everyone thinks they know Woody Allen. His plumage is easily identifiable: horn-rimmed glasses, baggy suit, wispy hair, kvetching demeanor, ironic sense of humor, acute fear of death. As is his habitat: New York City, though recently he has flown as far afield as London, Barcelona, and Paris. His likes are well known: Bergman, Dostoevsky, New Orleans jazz. So too his dislikes: spiders, cars, nature, Wagner records, the entire city of Los Angeles. Whether or not these traits represent the true Allen, who’s to say? It is impossible to tell, with Allen, where cinema ends and life begins, an obfuscation he readily encourages. In the late nineteen-seventies, disillusioned with the comedic success he’d found making such films as Sleeper (1973), Love and Death (1975), and Annie Hall (1977), he turned for darker territory with Stardust Memories (1980), a film in which, none too surprisingly, he plays a »
- Graham Daseler
11 items from 2015
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