Nocturnal Animals: Q&A with Director Tom Ford
By Ron Gordner, DC Film Society Member
Nocturnal Animals (United States/United Kingdom) is Tom Fordís second film after his successful freshman film A Single Man. The film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2016 and was moderated by Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director and film programmer for the festival since 2012. The movie is based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright and stars Amy Adams as Susan, an L.A. art gallery owner; Jake Gyllenhaal as Edward and the novelís Tony, her ex-husband writer; Armie Hammer as her current rich, philandering husband; Laura Linney as her mother; and Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Michael Shannon as the enigmatic Texas lawman and other characters of the inner film or novel Edward has written. Handsomely filmed with style and color and well-acted by all, it is a thriller film within the main film and also has flash backs in both parts. Tony sends Susan a manuscript of his latest novel which has many metaphors to his relationship with Susan. The cinematographer is Seamus McGarvey. (Contains Spoilers)
Amy Adams and Tom Ford at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Cameron Bailey: Congratulations, Tom, an outstanding film. I want to talk about this movie which has a movie within the movie and time changes so this must have been a challenging film to make and so stylistic.
Tom Ford: The style is important but the substance is more important. To me, the message is that if you find someone you truly love in this life, donít let them go (applause). Style has to serve the film. Susan lives this beautiful, pristine life that society, her family and others say you have to live in our culture comfortably. In my other life as a designer I am happy that people feel that way of course, but I do feel very divided about that issue. Different from my first film A Single Man; I found the use of the desert and great outdoors and nature and being in touch with it important in this film.
Cameron Bailey: And what about the story within the story and time changes that connected with you?
Tom Ford: Well the stories fuel each other. Jakeís character sees Susan in the real story on a red sofa and he later kills a similar character in the other story on a red sofa. Heís saying, ďThis is what you get for destroying our lives together. In the end I wasnít the weak one.Ē Sorry Iím getting side tracked from the question. He fuels his anger by writing the novel. He finds out later that Susan has had an abortion and realizes he could do nothing but should have stopped it somehow. So in many ways the two stories are at times the same story.
Cameron Bailey: Your storytelling somehow also deals with healing coming out ok.
Tom Ford: Well, it is a piece of fiction, but we are seeing it mostly through Susanís eyes. So this is one of the most beautiful women in the world and she has, it seems on the surface, everything but it is really a fantasy or moral allegory. She walks into the home and sees a picture of two guys staring at each other in a field of grass. Then you might not notice but she actually steps within the frame. You might not notice but when the Jake character dies in the one story, he dies exactly in that scene in that grass. Itís also autobiographical.
Cameron Bailey: The West Texas area is so gritty for the inner story, why that area?
Tom Ford: I grew up in West Texas so I know the area very well. I live in L.A. but I have a ranch in New Mexico and ride horses, etc. I also wanted to contrast those two worlds. Susanís slick cold sharp city versus even her flashbacks which she remembers fondly so they are more warm colors and shows a nostalgia.
Cameron Bailey: My last question will be about the casting and why Amy Adams in the role and Jake in his role?
Tom Ford: Sheís a beautiful actor and has done great work. She really captures the character and was my first choice. We can say she got what she deserved, but she is really a victim of her culture. Amy is also one of the best actresses today who can telegraph with her face what she is feeling. I also find her eyes incredibly soulful, not sad. Her last scene is breathtaking. Jake has such a great acting range. He can play the younger Edward who is young, fresh and idealistic and also the older Edward who has had everything taken from him and has been destroyed. So although he plays Tony in the internal movie, Edward has written it so it is autobiographical so we used him for both parts. Amy, as she reads the novel, casts her own character as Tonyís wife, not herself.
Audience Question: The inner storyís first chase scene is so thrilling and really sexy.
Tom Ford: Yes I wanted that especially as they drove away and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the scariest guy. Jake has to also sell that scene because they are stealing and driving away with his family.
Audience Question: Can you speak about the opening sequences with the fat women in circus costumes?
Tom Ford: I thought I would tell the European perspective of where America is today? (laughter) We grew up with Farah Fawcett and Barbie models of the ideal women and bigger women in Hollywood or elsewhere are rarely recognized. But other areas of the world see America as gluttonous, over fed, aging, etc. So I wanted to shoot that opposite of Susanís ideal and so I got these women together and shot them. I must tell you that these women were so pretty and confident, joyful and happy that I fell in love them. I realized that was what the film is trying to say also. These women are so happy because they let go of the social norms and the perceptions about what they have to be. That is exactly what is trapping Susanís character. She is trying so hard to be what she thinks she is supposed to be and she is miserable not only in her second marriage but also in the art she is showing.
Audience Question: Is it significant that Jakeís character Tony dies at the end of the film?
Tom Ford: Well that part is the fictional novel and in the end he is so over her. In the real story he never shows up so it has taken him almost 20 years to decide he can love someone else but he kind of makes her fall in love with him again and sets her up, but he is now over her and doesnít show up. (applause).
Nocturnal Animals is currently playing in area theaters.
Seasons (Les Saisons): Q&A with Directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud
By Ron Gordner, DC Film Society Member
Seasons (France/Germany; 2015) screened Tuesday November 1, 2016 at Gallery Place Regal Theatres and had a discussion with the directors and then a later reception at nearby Clydeís. The directors also did the wonder nature films Microcosmos, Oceans, and Winged Migration. Jacques Perrin was also a famous actor for many years in French and Italiam films and is the narrator for this film. He played the adult director Salvatore or Toto in the famous Cinema Paradiso. Seasons covers the seasons of life of the land, forests, animals and man and how we have altered that environment with consequences to others. European forests historically were veritable Edens until humans interloped. Filming was done in the French forests; the crew traveled to Norway, Scotland, Romania and Holland to cobble together its unspoiled Euro wilderness and some in North America. Bison, wild horses, wolves, foxes, squirrels, and birds of many kinds are shown. The fascinating shots taken of animals within trees, including fledglings hurling themselves to the ground and following their mother are beautifully and closely taken to give you the feeling of the animalís experiences.
Photographing a deer for Seasons.
Moderator: That was a lovely excellent film from the Galatee team. Let me introduce some of the panel. Jacques Perrin is the president and founder of of Galatee Films. Jacques Cluzaud co-directed and co-wrote this film and Stephane Durand, a biologist and expert on the film also co-wrote the screenplay and assisted in the writing of the other nature films already mentioned. Olli Barbe is the line producer and a general manager of Galatee Films and Jesse Ausubel also was a scientific advisor as an environmental scientist and as Director of the Program for Human Environment and Senior Research Associate at Rockefeller University which assisted in funding the film. Jacques, you have had a successful career in dramatic films and later turned to wonderful nature films as we named. What led you to make documentaries about nature and did you have a clear vision when you started?
Jacques Perrin: Personally, we donít make stories or tell much; there are few words in the movie because what we want the viewer to see is the animals, or to be in the sea, the forest and be within the environment to understand the animal. So other than the photography we have very little narrative words. For us this is a political act to involve countries to become more involved with environmental conservation. Political statements and statistics are just that, but these films can show the animals in their changing environments and can better emotionally involve the audience.
Audience Question: Can you address the historical presentation especially in Europe of the environmental changes? I was also struck by the use of how the wars or battles have really changed the environment for man, nature and animals. We donít think about that aspect at all.
Jacques Perrin: For the locations chosen for the Ice Age we went to Norway and that feeling. To film in Europe and to find primeval forests it is very difficult now. We had to go to Poland and on the Russian border there is a very old forest still existing but hunting was done only by certain people and others were punished so the environment has not changed as much. These primeval forests are almost 25% dead wood and in France and Romania and Poland some other small older forests also. For the flying squirrel we went to the United States and some shooting was also done in Greenland but the majority of the cinematography was done in Europe. There was a French ornithologist who wrote a book during World War I and did these sketches of the birds. It is a strange paradox of finding the birds where humans are killing each other.
Audience Question: How did you get all those marvelous stunning shots of animal scenes with the snakes, and the horses and deer?
Jacques Perrin: What we tried to do with Stephane was to be near the animals. We didnít have lens or cameras to zoom only. We wanted to be one or two meters away from the animals. We took time to be near them so they were aware of us but somewhat trusting. We want to be between the dolphins or horses. You see these animals and wildlife really from their own view point.
Moderator: Can you else address the technology used to shoot this amazing film?
Stephane Durand: We wanted to be near the animals so we were near them and we also used drones for the shot of the trees and animals in the trees. We had 28 days of shooting. Sometimes you are waiting for the natural lighting to be correct or for animals to do something unique so you have to shoot quickly sometimes but be there a much longer time.
Audience Question: I feel there is an important message because in this country as part of state management programs and predator programs our wolves, bears, and cougars are endangered. Your end credits say no animals were harmed but this is natural so how did you shoot the scenes with the wolves or the hunting scenes with the owls? They feel very real.
Jacques Cluzaud: We make the nature films appealing. We can talk even about the bees you see lying at the end of the War. Even they were just sprayed to be anesthetized; they are not really dead. With the wolves, you are not allowed to pick up the young ones with the mother there. You just have to wait for the scene and be close. Even with the small birds it is a member of a crew to find the right time to shoot. We allowed them some movement and when they run, like actors. For the horses, how do they fight? Not like deer, they really fight even more. The horses are from Poland, since the wild horses in France are not really there since the 18th century. Those are wild horse in the forest. The young stallions just fought a lot and we just caught it. The deer was more a seasonal thing.
Stephane Durand: We want to show that we want to continue to share our environment that we share the Earth with these animals. We share the same characteristics, territories and story and environment with animals for centuries and if there is hope in the movie it is to continue sharing side by side with animals.
Jacques Perrin: I wanted to mention that it usually takes us four years to write and shoot films like Winged Migration and Oceans but Seasons only took about two years but we still had to wait for those times for the animals to play for us. We couldnít force them to do things, we sometimes waited days or weeks for some scenes. The animals seemed to accept us. It is difficult to fund and make these films. I want to thank Jesse and his organizations for their funding help. (applause)
Audience Question: I found it interesting that although many of the scenes naturally deal with violence even between animals and with man, the final points are that we try to get along side by side. Many of the scenes show us that animals themselves donít get along too well.
Moderator: Animals do fight among each other, such as the wolf pack and horses, but there is some acceptable level of violence and survival. I think the question is can we return to a type of equilibrium of animals with each other and also humans with each other. I also want to thank the French-American Cultural Foundation and Richard Lounsbery Foundation which enhances scientific cooperation between France and the United States. Please share your experiences in seeing the film on Facebook and with others.
Seasons opened in the DC metro area on November 25, 2016.
The London Film Festival
By Ron Gordner and James McCaskill, DC Film Society Members
The London Film Festival (October 5-16) coming as it does in early October solidifies its position as the premier UK film festival. It is able to bring many of the potential award winning films and many important UK and international directors and actors to the UK capital. This year was no exception. Just a quick look at our ranked films will tell you that good films are out there and the London Film Festival has them.
New Festival Director Clare Stewart said, "Every film selected for the 60th BFI London Film Festival is chosen on the basis that the program team believes in it, recognizes something exceptional about it. We want to champion these film makers. We want to inspire, challenge and entertain audiences. We look for cinema that reaches beyond our own experience, into new worlds and invented narratives. And we actively seek out diversity, believing that all people have a desire, indeed a right, to see their stories on screen.
Festival Director Clare Stewart addressing the audience.
The Winners Are:
Official Competition Winner, Best Film: Certain Women, directed by Kelly Reichardt.
This award goes to inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking. The Best Film Award went to Kelly Rechardt's Certain Women, the impeccable study of the lives of three very different women in Montana.
The First Feature Competition Winner: Julia Ducournau for Raw.
This award is presented to the director of the most original and imaginative first feature in the Festival, and this year's winner is Julia Ducournau for Raw, about a young woman's insatiable appetite for flesh in a playful coming of age body horror tale.
Documentary Competition Winner: Starless Dreams directed, produced and written by Mehrdad Oskouel.
The Best Documentary recognizes an outstanding feature length documentary of integrity, originality, technical excellence or cultural significance. The award went of Starlight Dreams, a thoughtful and complex oortrait of juvenile delinquent women at the extreme margins of Iranian society, by veteran documentarian Mehrdad Oskouei.
MUST SEE FILMS:
Creepy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan; 2016). Although classified as a horror film, this is really more of a suspenseful thriller. A former police detective, Takakura, now teaching criminal psychology at a university, assists a former police colleague in solving a missing persons case that may be related to another family murder cold case. The suspense slowly builds as Takara and his wife move into a new house and his wife tries to meet the neighbors, including the strange Mr. Nishino and his daughter.
The Day Will Come (Jesper Nielsen, Denmark; 2016). Set in the late 1960ís in Copenhagen during the Space Race, two brothers, Elmer and Erik, are faced with dealing with the grave illness of their mother, poverty, and their sometimes bad behavior. They are sent to Gudbjerg Home for Boys with a strict headmaster Frederick Heck, Lars Mikkelsen--reminiscent of Dickensian schoolmasters) who is determined to change unruly boys into hard working upright citizens, at all costs. Small Elmer dreams of becoming an astronaut, despite his clubfoot. One teacher tries to become an advocate for the boys but is thwarted by the headmaster and others who continue their institutional abuse of the boys. Based on true events, this harrowing drama is well acted by all the children and the experienced adult actors.
Goldstone (Ivan Sen, Australia; 2016). Outback noir and detective thriller starring Jackie Weaver as the mayor of a backwater town who handles the owners of the local Furnace Creek mine and assumes she had the young local cop, Josh also in her back pocket. A drunken stranger, comes into the town asking questions about a missing girl and hooks up with another local aborigine outsider played by David Gulpilil. The film has many layers of environmental, sociological indigenous issues along with a first-rate suspenseful tale.
La La Land (Damien Chazelle, United States; 2016). Director of highly-lauded Whiplash this time has a musical that captures the spirit of many who go to Hollywood to be discovered and is an homage to many other classics like A Star if Born, West Side Story, Casablanca, and Singin' in the Rain. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are the star-crossed lovers with sometimes conflicting dreams. Sebastian is a jazz pianist and Mia an aspiring actress/writer. Scenes include dancing and singing on a LA freeway in stuck traffic, the Griffith Observatory, and other common places that become alive. Winner or the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and one of the favorites this year for Best Picture Oscar and possible acting nominations.
Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd; United Kingdom, 2016). Oldroyd is primarily a theatre director which can be seen in this story of Lady Katherine (Florence Pugh) marrying a landed gentry in Victorian England on the northern heaths of County Durham. Based on an adaptation of Nikolai Leskoís Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk district, also the basis of a Shostakovich opera, the story is transferred to England and has more in common with Ibsenís plays or Madame Bovary. Katherine is trapped in a tightly controlled house and world where classes do not mix and a distant feeling and errant husband cannot control her rebellious nature.
Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, United States; 2016). An emotionally devastating story about a brother, Lee (Casey Affeck), a janitor near Boston, who must return to Manchester after the death of his brother, to arrange for the funeral and deal with his teenage nephew. The teenager sometimes seems like the adult in the film and is excellently portrayed by Lucas Hedges. Michelle Williams also has some small but wonderful scenes as Leeís heartbroken ex-wife. Another picture bound for Best Picture Oscar chances and possible acting nominations.
The Pass (Ben A. Williams, United Kingdom; 2016). Two young Premiere League football players share a hotel room after a match and are waiting for results of who may be cut from the team. The title has a double meaning: one is the outcome of an important pass during the match, the second is the intimate kiss one man gives to the other after drinking and talking about football and girls. Adapted from his own play, Williams provides layers of emotions and the story continues several years later when the two men meet again. Russel Tovey, who also starred in the theatre production, is excellent as a young man fighting himself and his real desires.
A Quiet Passion (Terrence Davies, United Kingdom/Belgium; 2016). Cynthia Nixon stars as poet Emily Dickinson over many years and the film included some of her poetry and provides a window into some of her many idiosyncrasies. Beautifully decorated and shot and provides a glimpse into some women of the time with very modern philosophies and comments. Another wonderful Daviesí film about the dreams, disappointments and sensitivities of women.
Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, Germany/Austria, 2016). A comedy unlike any other you will encounter this year. Daughter Ines is a career driven consultant whose father Winifried drops in from time to time at inopportune moments in disguise pretending to be someone else. His bizarre pranks get exasperating for her but how can she deal with father who is trying to get his daughter to just enjoy life more. Winner of many awards, highly praised by many at the Cannes Film Festival but only getting the FIPRESCI award there, it is also the German Foreign Language Oscar nominee. This should come out locally the end of December or early in the New Year but can also be seen in December at the AFI Silver during the European Union Showcase Film Festival.
The Wailing (Na Hang Jin, South Korea; 2016). An intense rural noir horror, suspense tale involving a strange Japanese man in the forest, a goofy local cop, and his tween daughter who has suddenly changed. Add the help (?) of a shaman to do an exorcism and a plot that twists keeping you guessing who are the possessed and who are those possessing them.
VERY GOOD FILMS:
Christine (Antonio Campos, United States; 2016). Based on the real story of Christine Chubbuck, tv journalist. Rebecca Hall admirably plays the lead who is very intelligent but also has many demons to conquer after leaving a Boston station and moving to Florida with her mother to work in a second rate tv station and its morning programming.
The Clash (Mohamed Diab, Egypt/France/Germany; 2016). Following the street revolts in 2011 and the fall of Hosni Mubarek, this is a crossed-society tale of a group of people arrested on the street and held in a police van. Some are protesters, other just caught up in the dragnet. An interesting claustrophobic play of the microcosm of Egyptís different political and social classes all caught in the van enfolds much like a theatrical production. This is Egyptís submission for Oscarís Foreign Language award.
The Dancer (Steven Cantor, United Kingdom/United States/Russia; 2016). A documentary on the latest ďbad boy of balletĒ and talented male dancer from the Ukraine, Sergei Polunin, who after being lauded by the British Royal Ballet grew tired of the stardom and quit and returned to the Ukraine and Russia. Archival footage of his youth and rise to Fame and his later dancing in Russia to new ballets but also involved in crass tv contests.
Kills on Wheels (Attila Til, Hungary; 2016). A unique thriller involving three disabled men. One, now in a wheelchair, is still being requested as a hitman and decides to spice up the other two men in his rehab facility to help him. This is Hungaryís submission for Best Foreign Language Oscar and can be seen also at AFIís Silverís European Union Showcase in December 2016.
Layla M. (Mijke de Jong, Netherlands/Belgium/Germany/Jordan; 2016). Layla is a Dutch/Moroccan teenager carrying on a normal life but increasingly bothered by the racial slurs given Middle Eastern or Muslim citizens. She becomes involved with some other young people even more intensely involved in fighting discrimination and slowly becomes distant from her family. Quickly marrying a fellow zealot Abdel and moving to the Middle East, Layla finds that her dreams of contentment and peace are disillusioned by the reality she now faces.
Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, United States; 2016). A quiet, contemplative film about poetry and place, Adam Driver stars as a bus driver named Paterson who lives in Paterson, New Jersey happily married and who routinely goes to work, but also writes poetry and discovers others of all kinds who share his love of poetry. He is a listener of the many conversations on the bus and an observer of the city life around him.
Their Finest (Lone Scherfig, United Kingdom; 2016). Danish director of An Education and The Riot Club this time captures London during the wartime Blitz and Gemma Arterton as Catrin, a young Welsh wife and copy-writer who comes to London to be with her husband and work. Women are relegated to lesser roles and pay but when a feminine touch is needed for message films she finds herself thrust into a surprisingly active filmmaking milieu in 1940ís London.
The Scribe (Thomas Kruithof, France/Belgium, 2016). Duval (Francois Cluzet) is the perfect office employee: meek, thoughtful, committed to his work. The perfect office mouse until he loses his job and a mysterious businessman offers him a well paid job within his security firm. Duval finds himself in a deadly conspiracy, murder, intrigue that reaches to the top of French society.
The Student (The Disciple) (Kirill Serebrennikov, Russia; 2016). Teen Venya is an odd duck at school. He studies the Bible constantly and confront teachers and the administration about the evils of girlís bikinis, evolution and homosexuality. Interesting cinematography in the seashore city of Kaliningrad and based on a play Martyr. Venyaís spiraling changes and the introduction of mandatory religious education and conflicting self-doubts about how he fits into his own ideology spill over into an explosion of emotions and actions.
Taekwondo (Marco Berger, Argentina; 2016). A group of adult male friends spend a vacation away from work and their girlfriends in a Buenos Aires country house. Pool talk of sexual conquests, sports, and smoking pot. Fernando has invited a friend outside the group, German to come on the outing also and the dynamics change somewhat leaving the viewer guessing what will happen next.
Wolf and Sheep (Shahrbabanoo Sadat, Denmark/France/Sweden/Afghanistan, 2016). The war is far away from this village. Sadat's film offers a fresh perspective on rural Afghan life as seen through the eyes of "cheeky" children. Cheeky is the festival description the rough, ofen vulgar language of the youngsters mirrors the language of the adult. In a rural community having little contact with the outside world, little changes from generation to generation. There is a joyful freedom to their lives spent away from the adults with their many rules.
All of a Sudden (Azil Ozge, Germany; 2016). Female Turkish-German director Ozge directs an interesting tale of a young woman who shows up at a party and dies. Karstenís girlfriend and the police question why he did not call 911 immediately instead of going to find a doctor at a nearby clinic which was closed. An ethical tale and also what seems like a mystery
are strongly acted. It recently was shown at the Film Neu German Film Festival in early November 2016.
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, United States, 2016). Canadian director Vileneuve (Sicario, Incendies) presents a science fiction story based on the Story of Your Life by Ted Chiange. Amy Adams, much lauded for her role as linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks, is recruited by the government to communicate with aliens when 12 strange ships land in various areas of the world with different reactions from the public and governments involved. A multi-layered look at love, memory, fear, and communication.
The Bait (Buddhadeb Dasgupta, India; 2016). Master filmmaker Dasgupta who sometimes uses magical realism in his film weaves a tale that involves three groups of people: a man who has retreated to live in a tree with the monkeys, a rich Rajah who is also a game hunter, a family of tight rope walkers that includes their young daughter who dreams of romance.
Barakah Meets Barakah (Mahmoud Sabbagh; Saudi Arabia; 2016). Not many films are made in this country which only has one public movie theatre. This is a romantic comedy that touches on many societal issues and barriers for a civil servant to try to gain the affections of a rebellious glamorous internet writer. This is Saudi Arabiaís submission for Best Foreign Language Oscar.
Elle (Paul Verhoeven; France, 2016). A successful videogame company executive is raped in her home. The incidence changes her life but she reacts in a strange way. Verhoeven said in a Q&A that he had intended it to be a U.S. film with an American actress but could not find an actress willing to take the part that Huppert had wanted after first reading the script. Itís hard to imagine anyone else playing this role after you see it. There is some movement to have her nominated for an Oscar in a very tough best actress field this year. This is Franceís submission for best foreign language Oscar and was began distribution by SONY Picture Classics in November in the metro area.
Ethel and Ernest (Rodger Mairwood, UK/Luxembourg, 2016). A delightful cartoon adaptation of Raymond Briggs autobiographical book that takes Briggs' family from beginnings, through the Blitz, forcing them to shift to the safe countryside. The film, in time, shifts from Ethel and Ernest to son Briggs as he grows up. Told throught vignetts this is a captivating story of a life.
Hedi (Mohamed Ben Attia, Tunisia/Belgium/France/Qatar/United Arab Emirates; 2016). A charming romantic story of Hedi, a car salesman, who is being matched for a wedding, and who meets a wild dance instructor at his hotel. Lead actor Mastoura as Hedi won best actor and the film Best First Feature at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival.
Mercenary (Sacha Wolff, France; 2016). 19 year old rugby player Soane lives on the Pacific Island of New Caledonia but is scouted for French professional league play. He must deal with his father who has had experience living in France. When in France he looks for the acceptance of his teammates, trying to excel in the sport, to be properly paid, and possibly have a romance.
On the Milky Road (Emir Kusturica, Serbia/United Kingdom/United States; 2016). Expanded from his earlier short Our Life Kusturica plays Kosta in one role who meets the beautiful Monica Bellucci and the strange family she stays with. This is an absurdist comedy-romance during wartime with some charming magical realism. There are two other shorter sections to these fables.
On the Other Side (Zrinko Ogresta, Croatia; 2016). Vesna, a nurse with adult children, receives a strange call from her estranged husband who has a dark past from the war. She must deal with her own mixed emotions and those of her grown children about communicating or seeing her husband again after many years. This is Croatiaís submission for Best Foreign Language Oscar and can be seen in December as part of AFI Silverís European Union Showcase.
Souvenir (Bavo Defurne, France; 2016). A third film this season starring the incandescent Isabelle Huppert, this time as a middle aged woman working in a factory who has been rediscovered by the press after many years after her win as a Eurovison talent singing contestant. Should she have an affair with the young, attractive but odd boxer. A fluffy light romantic film showing the further versatility of Huppert including her singing.
Tramontone (Vatche Boulghourjian, Lebanon/France; 2016). Fascinating story of young blind musician Rabih who finds out he is adopted and has problems obtaining a passport. He is driven to go and find what happened to his real parents and finds resistance at many levels. A real life musician, Barakat Jabbour, plays Rabih who needs to know the truth of his past.
The Wedding Ring (Rahmatou Keita, Niger/Burkina Faso/France; 2016). A rare film from Niger about a young girl Tiyaa from an affluent family who returns from Europe and plans to marry another well-appointed young man not from her village. Other womenís stories are also told in Sahei tradition.
Yellow Flowers in the Green Grass (Victor Yu, Vietnam; 2015). A simple tale beautifully photographed of Central Vietnam in 1989. Two children, brothers both like young Moon, a girl in their school. Myths about a white tiger and a princess also enter the story and the film is seen through their eyes as cameras on their world. This is Vietnamís submission for Best Foreign Language Oscar.
La Noche (Edgardo Castro, Argentina; 2016.) Documentary style narrative of Martin (played by Castro) and a night where he drinks, picks up men, does drugs and other bleak or painful scenes that never really address his motivations.
Stockholm, My Love (Mark Cousins, Sweden/United Kingdom; 2016). Documentary essayist of wonderful films The Story of Film, A Story of Children and Film, and I am Belfast has made a very odd and often boring film about the city of Stockholm. Some interesting archival footage is seen but little else that inspires the viewer. Neneh Cherry is onboard with some singing but primarily staring up at buildings or riding on ferris wheels. Some viewers after seeing his earlier films left the screening scratching their heads.
Voyage of Time: Lifeís Journey (Terrence Malick, Germany, 2016). Even Cate Blanchett reading really bad poetry can not save this pile of unrelated film clips. As Churchhill is reported to have said, "This pudding has not theme." Nor does this film.
The Ornithologist (Joao Rodriguez, Portugal/France/Brazil; 2016). A somewhat confounding film for some. I heard the director explain the mythology of the film which made it more coherent after the first half. From the director of The Last Time I Saw Macao, Die Like a Man and O Fantasma (some also divisive I think) this is a fable of a hunky ornithologist (French actor Paul Hamy) birdwatching along a river who has several strange encounters including two Chinese sisters, a shepherd and horse riding Amazons. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times said, ďit was the single most delightful and narratively adventurous movie I saw in Toronto this year ... mysterious and adventurous. Others called it a blasphemous rendering of the life of St. Anthony of Padua. There is always something of interest to look at. It will have screenings also at AFI Silverís European Union Showcase in December 2016.
Visit the website for more information about the London Film Festival.
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
The 29th European Union Film Showcase (December 1-18) includes films from all countries in the European Union. More than 40 films are shown, many are award-winners from international film festivals, European box office hits, and official Oscar submissions for Best Foreign Language Film. Many films will have special guests and Q&As. The Opening Night film is Like Crazy (Paolo Virzi, 2016) from Italy with a reception following the film. The Closing Night film is Satisfaction (Henrik Ruben Genz, 2016) from Denmark. Festival passes are available, see the website.
"Holiday Classics" November 24-December 22) is the AFI's annual series of holiday films. Titles in December include Holiday Inn, White Christmas, Elf,It's a Wonderful Life, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Die Hard, Krampus, Gremlins, A Christmas Carol (1951), and Trading Places.
Special events during December are Finding Joseph with filmmaker James Lathos and film subject Paul Hudson present for Q&A on December 13 at 7:00pm and The King of Jazz (1930) with David Pierce and James Layton present to sign their book "King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue" on December 3 at 1:20pm.
Freer Gallery of Art
The Freer is closed for renovations until October 2017. Films will be shown at varying locations.
December films are shown at the American Art Museum. On December 10 at 3:00pm is a short documentary Isamu Noguchi (Michael and Christian Blackwood, 1972), followed by The Face of Another (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1967).
National Gallery of Art
On December 4 at 2:00pm is a lecture by Tom Gunning "The Innovations of the Moving Image."
Special events in December include a Cine-Concert Little Match Girl (Jean Renoir, 1928) on December 17 at 2:00pm with Andrew Simpson providing music accompaniment. On December 17 at 3:30pm is Archie's Betty: Celebrating a Pop Icon at 75 (Gerald Peary and Shaun Clancy, 2015). On December 29 and 30 at 12:30pm is Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art (James Crump, 2015).
"Ipersignificato: Umberto Eco and Film" is a short series of four films evokes Eco's philosophy of the cinema. The three remaining films are Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) on December 18 at 4:00pm and L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960) on December 28 at 12:30pm, followed by Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939).
"Barbara Kruger Selects" is a series of films chosen by Barbara Kruger whose exhibit these films accompanies. On December 3 at 1:00pm is Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956); on December 10 at 1:00pm is Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman, 2015); on December 24 at 1:00pm is Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975); and on December 31 at 2:30pm is Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971).
Two Italian films using the masked figures of Commedia dell'Arte are Io, Arlecchino (Giorgio Pasotti and Matteo Bini, 2014) on December 10 at 3:30pm with Matteo Bini and Millicent Marcus present for discussion, and Lost and Beautiful (Pietro Marcello and Mauricio Braucci, 2015) on December 11 at 4:30pm.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
On December 10 at 11:00am is A Lot of Sorrow (Ragnar Kjartansson, 2013).
Museum of American History
On December 3 and 4 at 11:00am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm is The Muppet Christmas Carol (Brian Henson, 1992).
Smithsonian American Art Museum
On December 10 at 3:00pm is a short documentary Isamu Noguchi (Michael and Christian Blackwood, 1972), followed by The Face of Another (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1967).
Washington Jewish Community Center
On December 6 at 7:30pm is Germans and Jews (Janina Quint and Tal Recanati, 2016), a documentary about Germany's transformation as a society. The screening is preceded by a reception at 6:30pm and followed by a Q&A discussion with Michael Brenner and Anne Schenderlein.
On December 13 at 7:30pm is Bulgarian Rhapsody (Ivan Nichev, 2014) which was Bulgaria's pick for Best Foreign Language Film.
On December 13 at 7:00pm is Microbe and Gasoline (Michel Gondry, 2015), followed by a reception.
The Japan Information and Culture Center
On December 9 at 6:30pm is the anime film Only Yesterday (Isao Takahata, 1991). On December 14 at 6:30pm is Like Father, Like Son (Kore-eda Hirokazu, 2012).
On December 14 at noon is The Selling of the Pentagon (1971), a documentary exposing the use of public funds to promote the Vietnam War.
"Cinema Arts Bethesda" is a monthly Sunday morning film discussion series. On December 18 at 10:00am is Nahid (Ida Panahandeh, 2015) from Iran. Breakfast is at 9:30pm, the film is at 10:00am and discussion follows, moderated by Adam Spector, host of the DC Film Society's Cinema Lounge and author of the column "Adam's Rib."
National Museum of Natural History
On December 3 and 4 at 11:25am and 4:15pm is an IMAX 3D presentation of The Polar Express (Robert Zemeckis, 2004).
Interamerican Development Bank
On December 1 at 6:30pm is First Lady of the Revolution followed by a Q&A with Henrietta Boggs and filmmaker Andrea Kalin.
On December 7 at 8:00pm is the documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack, 2016), part of the "Avalon Docs" series.
On December 14 at 8:00pm is the comedy Family Film (Olmo Omerzu, 2015), part of the "Czech Lions" series.
On December 21 at 8:00pm is Being Seventeen (Andre Techine, 2016), part of the "French Cinematheque" series.
Library of Congress
The Mary Pickford Theater at the Library of Congress starts a new series of films showcasing the Library's collection and including newly preserved films. On December 15 at 7:00pm is Red Sky at Morning (James Goldstone, 1971), a coming of age story based on the novel by Richard Bradford.
"Film Nights with Pat Padua" is a series of music-related films. The theme for November-December is "Shooting Stars: Bowie and Prince on Film." On December 2 at 7:30pm is Sign o' the Times (Prince, 1987), a concert film.
"Irish Popcorn" is a series of films from Ireland. On December 6 at 8:00pm is Broken Song (Claire Dix, 2013), an award-winning film about street poets in North Dublin. Location: Suns Cinema, 3107 Mt. Pleasant Street, NW.
Atlas Performing Arts
A new Silent Film series began in September and continues in December with The Kid (Charlie Chaplin, 1921). Andrew Simpson provides live music accompaniment and will take questions and discuss the films and the music after the screening on December 11 at 4:00pm.
Old Greenbelt Theater
On December 13 at 8:00pm the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra presents a series of holiday-themed short silent films with live music accompaniment. The Greenbelt Theater also shows some Christmas such as White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. See the website for dates and times.
Reel Affirmations XTra
On December 2 at 7:00pm is the comedy Pushing Dead (Tom Brown, 2016)