Monthly Archives: March 2013

Adam Bingham on Ma Nuit chez Maud

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Français : Eric Rohmer à la cinémathèque française

Eric Rohmer at the Cinémathèque Française (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

❝Well, Rohmer’s Ma Nuit chez Maud never fails to move me beyond words. Religious & moral in the best possible sense of the words in that it deals with an individual’s personal convictions, and explores – openly, wittily, without pretension or condescension – their viability. It is at once quite formal, exhaustively scripted & intricately constructed, but also breezily naturalistic. And it is also a great portrait of French provincial life, its mores, morays, customs & modes of social intercourse. Indeed, how people relate to each other, how they conceal, reveal, hide from & open up to each other, and how space, place, season, chance, design, etc factor into this, is Rohmer’s kingdom. And in this kingdom Eric Rohmer is most certainly the king.❞
— String of tweets by Adam Bingham @adambingham

“’Zero Dark Thirty’ is the most vile and immoral war film I’ve seen in years” — Noam Sheizaf

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☞ After my postings on truthfulness in Zero Dark Thirty, I decided to temporarily exclude further postings on the film, as it was already prominent on this blog, as seen in the tag cloud. Subsequently, the film has also been mentioned in further articles that I have excerpted on this site. But one article simply refuses to go away: the following review by the Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf. I decided, finally, to post an extract from it. Like Michael Wolff’s review of the film, it goes beyond the criticism of the film’s factual deviations, by asserting that its apparent moral message is abhorrent. Making a surprising comparison with Israeli movies, Sheizaf finds that Bigelow’s film disastrously loses its moral argument by not only enjoying and fetishising the violence it depicts (which even the CIA claims is overboard and inaccurate), but also by justifying and rationalising it. In this light, the historical deviations may very well serve the purpose of enabling the presentation of a morally dubious perspective, which would have been moderated if a more truthful account was given.

❝“Revenge of the agonized killers” would have been a more appropriate title.❞ — Sheizaf

“Sometime in the late 1960s, Israeli cinema stopped producing heroic war stories – the kind of action or drama movies where the protagonist serves his country, noble against a powerful and cruel enemy. The quantity of other such works of fiction – in literature, for example – dropped as well. Which, when you think about it, is kind of weird for a country that has a war every few years and needs to reinforce its own ethos. Instead, Israeli popular culture started producing a different genre – that of the confessions. Here, the protagonists or story-tellers were usually trying to come to terms with the terrible things they were forced to do to – by their COs, by politicians or by circumstances, but never of their own choice. The genre even earned a name: “shooting and crying. “ It all seemed brave – but it wasn’t, since our heroes never assumed responsibility for their actions. The real perpetrators were others: generals, right-wing radicals, fools – and sometimes it was simply the Arabs’ fault. Sure enough, all those groups didn’t make movies. It was the lefty cultural elites that needed absolution, or at least explanation for the things they did (with much enthusiasm) – usually while continuing to do them. Today I would rather have a right wing that is proud of the occupation than an agonized lefty. You don’t want to do something, don’t do it. In the left-wing protests in recent years you can often hear chants of, “don’t shoot, don’t cry – get out of the territories now,” urging people to take responsibility for their actions.

Now I must say this – in decades of watching Israeli and international war cinema, I don’t remember a film as immoral, vile and self-righteous as Zero Dark Thirty. This narcissistic movie, with all its aesthetic portraits of torture and assassinations, not only enjoys and fetishizes the violence it depicts but also justifies and rationalizes it.”

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‘Lincoln,’ ‘Argo,’ and’ Zero Dark Thirty’: Reordering History

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☞ This post is a follow-up of my previous post. As we have seen, Zero Dark Thirty has had its fair share of presentation on this site with regard to its sacrifice of truthfulness for the sake of cinematic storytelling. But it is not the only recent film, of course, which has been accused of lack of truthfulness or authenticity, as we saw with Spielberg’s Lincoln (and as we’ll see again below). And neither are such accusations limited to so-called “non-fictional films,” as Tarantino’s Django Unchained demonstrates. The problems with Zero Dark Thirty are not easy to leave aside (as my next post will show). Here is a discussion in Indiewire’s blog last month, before the Oscars, on three of the main “non-fictional” contenders’ deviations from what actually occurred. Of the triumvirate, Argo has been relatively unscathed on this site, which I will be correcting shortly. The question is not whether non-fictional films should completely sacrifice themselves at the altar of truthfulness, but the limits of factual deviations, and the tipping point where these these untruths would start to affect our aesthetic judgment. It does seem to be the case that especially in the case Zero Dark Thirty, some reviewers and commentators have found it difficult to have a positive aesthetic assessment of the film, as a result of its blatant factual inaccuracies.

Tony Kushner

“For months, screenwriter Tony Kushner has been considered a shoo-in for an Oscar. But the award-winning playwright with impeccable credentials — Angels in America, his 1993 play about AIDS, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony award as well as half a dozen awards from drama critics — tripped, if not tumbled, last week.

To make the fight in Congress to pass the 13th amendment and end slavery in America more dramatic in “Lincoln,” Kushner changed the votes of two Connecticut congressmen from Yea to Nay. A current Connecticut congressman who could not believe that his state, which fought on the Union side in the Civil War, had voted to uphold slavery asked the Congressional Research Service to investigate. The answer: Kushner had rewritten history. And, with Academy members still voting, Kushner’s Oscar is no longer a sure thing.

Audiences understand that historical movies usually take historical license. “Argo,” “Lincoln’s” competitor for both Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay, is based on a little known rescue of six American diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. But “Argo” is basically a thriller with chases and near misses and a fake movie crew, and nobody cares if characters were telescoped or dangers exaggerated.

“Zero Dark Thirty,” another best picture nominee that is also nominated for original screenplay, suggests that important information that led to the capture of Osama bin Laden was gained through torture. The United States political and military establishment vehemently disagrees. But, after the non-existent weapons of mass destruction that led to the Iraq war and the discovery that the CIA uses the simulated drowning called waterboarding, Americans take such government assurances with a whole tablespoon of salt. If “Zero Dark Thirty” lost Academy votes because of the controversy, it gained as much or more at the boxoffice from audiences who wanted to see what the fuss was about.”

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Only in Hollywood…: The ‘based on a true story’ fake-out…

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❝Only in Hollywood could a movie that’s “based on a true story” endure heaps of criticism for being too unrealistic and still manage to walk away with multiple awards. Indeed, in the grand tradition of previous Best Picture winners like The King’s Speech and A Beautiful Mind, three of this year’s biggest Oscar contenders — Zero Dark ThirtyLincoln, and Argo — have claimed, to varying degrees, to be based on real events. But historians, reporters, and even government officials insist that these movies are playing awfully fast and loose with the truth.❞

— Jillian Rayfield

“You can watch either the sound or silent version of this movie…”

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☞ We are now familiar with being able to watch a 3D movie either in 3D or 2D (the ticket for the latter is of course cheaper). Not many of us realise that, during the transition from silent to sound cinema, movie viewers were given a related choice: between the silent and sound versions of some movies. The following short article deals with how Hitchcock deals with the transition. Sound, of course, brought a change in the careers of some silent actors, such as the case of the Czechoslovakian Anny Ondra below, whose career in England did not survive her first movie that also had a sound version in English, Hitchcock’s Blackmail (her speech for the movie had to be dubbed, as her pronunciation was considered to be unacceptable to an English audience).

 

 

“Most theaters in America seem by now to have equipped themselves for digital projection. But just a year or two ago, distributors had to send out digital copies of their movies to some venues and celluloid prints to others. As it hasn’t proven quite the revelation its boosters had hoped, the latest wave of 3D pictures still has to deal with the fact that certain theaters accept a higher-tech version, but most need a lower-tech one. In 1929, cinema found itself in much the same technical situation, but regarding sound. Even as Alfred Hitchcock began shooting his tenth film, Blackmail, as a traditional silent, British International Pictures decided he should join the popular “talkies” just then opening in England. This required Hitchcock to deliver both a sound and a silent version of the picture — and to incorporate sound recording on the fly.”

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