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[VIDEO] Hou Hsiao-Hsien: ‘The Assassin

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Sheila O’Malley writes:The visuals are, quite literally, overwhelming. There were shots that were so beautiful I practically could not take it in, in one glance: it’s like trying to “take in” the Grand Canyon. Thankfully, Hou’s camera is not of the quick-cut variety. He lets scenes breathe, and the shots are very long. I had time to settle in, to look up at the misty ranks of mountains in the background, the vast space in the foreground, the line of trees reflected perfectly in the dawn-blue water, the row of fog breaking up a vertical cliff of green trees. Nature photography? Well, yes, kind of. But it’s part of the story and the atmosphere. This is one of the most beautiful looking films this year, or any year.

Hou Hsiao-Hsien is such a world-class visionary filmmaker (the hyperbole fits) and yet it’s been relatively rare that his stuff makes it to our shores. The Assassin won him the Best Director award at Cannes, thrilling news for those of us who love his work and were already eagerly anticipating The Assassin….(read more)

The Sheila Variations

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Marcin Wrona Dies: ‘Demon’ Director Found Dead in Poland

Polish police are currently investigating the death, according to family friend and publicist Jim Dobson.

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Wrona was preparing for the Polish premiere of “Demon” at the Gdynia Film Festival. The movie was also set to bow at the upcoming Fantastic Fest in Austin and the Sitges Film Festival. It was slated for a theatrical release in Poland in October.

“As the organizers of the festival and at the same time friends of Marcin, we are deeply shocked and saddened by this information. We would like to express our sincere condolences to the wife of the director and all the people who were close to him.”

“We are all deeply shocked and saddened at the news of the sudden death of Marcin Wrona,” the Toronto Film Festival said in a statement. “His film ‘Demon’ truly marked the emergence of a strong new voice on the world cinema stage. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family, especially his wife and producing partner, Olga Szymanska, who was with him at the premiere in Toronto.”

[Read the full text here, at Variety]

Demon” will be screened for a final time on Saturday at 9:15 p.m. at Scotiabank Theatre, where TIFF will pay tribute to Wrona. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Fellini’s 8 1/2 Gets a New Trailer

Considered by lily-livered wags, art-film know-alls and self-describing cinephiles as one of the greatest movies ever made, Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ is getting another run-out on the UK’s big screens, an opportunity which has been afforded by those kind folks over at BFI. It’s now a matter of course that repertory films which get re-released are given the brand new trailer treatment, and this one is no exception. Read the rest of this entry »


‘It’s a pop take on S&M. She’s starting to become more of a contemporary artist’

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UPDATE: Miley Cyrus’ porn film pulled from NYC festival

Tim Donnelly writes: For a while now, Miley Cyrus has been inching closer to pornography with her increasingly revealing outfits and scandalous dance moves. Now she’s going to appear in an actual pornography festival.

Miley ain’t so wild after all. After the Post and other outlets reported Monday the singer had submitted a film for the first-ever NYC Porn Film Festival, her representatives have had the film removed from the Bushwick event and its website…(read more)

Cyrus’s short film, “Tongue Tied” — which depicts the almost-nude “Wrecking Ball” singer in bondage gear and sexually suggestive poses — will appear in the NYC Porn Film Festival, which begins in Bushwick on Feb. 27.

“It’s not pure pornography — the video has no sex, and though she writhes around in her underwear, she keeps her nipples covered. But it’s full of bondage imagery: Cyrus dons a blindfold, has her legs constrained by straps and is tied to a chair with only black tape covering her nipples.”

“It’s a pop take on S&M,” festival founder Simon Leahy says. “She’s starting to become more of a contemporary artist.”

Warning: Video NSFW

The video was released online in May, and Cyrus used it during her shows on her Bangerz Tour last year.

 “It’s a touch ‘Fifty Shades’ with a pinch of Madonna’s ‘Justify My Love’ video.”

Leahy says they contacted Cadence, the production company that made the film with director Quentin Jones. Read the rest of this entry »


Sundance Awards: The Winners List

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After 10 days of premieres and deals in Park City, the Sundance Film Festival jury handed out honors across a range of categories on Saturday evening.

Comedian Tig Notaro presided over the ceremony, which saw Me and Earl and The Dying Girl nab both the U.S. dramatic grand jury prize and the U.S. dramatic audience award.

“This movie was about processing loss and, but really to celebrate a beautiful life and a beautiful man, which is my amazing father. So this is to his memory and to celebrate him through humor, so thanks again for this opportunity.”

Me and Earl Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

“This movie was about processing loss and, but really to celebrate a beautiful life and a beautiful man, which is my amazing father. So this is to his memory and to celebrate him through humor, so thanks again for this opportunity,” said Earl director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon upon accepting the grand jury prize.

Meanwhile, The Wolfpack, a look at a family of six siblings living in Manhattan, claimed the U.S. grand jury prize for a documentary. Robert Eggers, whose film The Witch was acquired by A24 films shortly after the festival opened, claimed the directing award for U.S. dramatic title.

Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope, which was acquired by Open Road and given a June 12 theatrical release, claimed the special jury honor for excellence in editing while Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s The Stanford Prison Experiment took home the U.S. dramatic screenwriting award. Read the rest of this entry »


Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong Edition

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Mark Ruffalo in a scene from ‘Infinitely Polar Bear.‘ The Metroplex

I wonder if our Hong Kong Bureau is prepared to do press screenings and hang with the celebs? Stay tuned, maybe we can smoke out Deb Fong for a bag of popcorn and a guest pass…Unknown

 “It’s part of our mission to expand beyond our own borders.”

— John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival

Dean Napolitano writes:

Movie lovers in Hong Kong won’t have to travel all the way
to Park City, Utah, to catch the best in American independent films. The Sundance Film Festival is coming to Hong Kong in an abridged edition that will screen eight films from this year’s film bash.

[Isn’t today Apple’s iPhone 6 worldwide debut? check out Amazon to Trade In Your iPhone]

The festival kicks off on Friday with “Whiplash,” which grabbed the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic competition, about a young drumming prodigy and his overbearing teacher. Other highlights include “The Skeleton Twins,” a comedy-drama about a suicidal man that’s won rave reviews, and Mark Ruffalo as a manic-depressive family man in “Infinitely Polar Bear.Read the rest of this entry »


北京独立影像展被停办 China Shuts Down Beijing Independent Film Festival

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Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities blocked an annual independent film festival from opening on Saturday, said organizers of an event that has become a rare and influential venue for the showing of films that could be critical of the government.Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 7.43.45 PM-764937

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time.”

— Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London

The Beijing Independent Film Festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, and executive director, Fan Rong, said authorities had forced the cancellation of the event, which was scheduled to run through Aug. 31. Wang and Fan are with the Li Xianting Film Fund, the festival’s organizer.

Li Xianting, founder of the film fund and a movie critic, posted memos on social media over the past week saying that state security personnel had been pressuring him to cancel the festival and that he had come under police surveillance. Both Wang and Fan verified the authenticity of Li’s posts. Read the rest of this entry »


The Quest for Immortality: We May Already Know How We Will Cure Death. Should We?

Aubrey de Grey is head of a Silicon Valley-based research team bent on reversing aging just in time for de Grey to live forever. David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg

Aubrey de Grey is head of a Silicon Valley-based research team bent on reversing aging just in time for de Grey to live forever. David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg

Christopher Mims writes:  A pair of advocates—they do legitimate research too, but their ardor is so intense, it’s hard to call them scientists—believe that they will, within their lifetimes, make ours the first generation of humans to live forever.

“Once we are really truly repairing things as fast as they go wrong, game over. We will have the ability to live indefinitely.”

— Aubrey de Grey

Their quest is elegantly laid out in The Immortalists, a new documentary making its way around the film festival circuit. The Immortalists follows the triumphs and tragedies of three years in the lives of William H. Andrews and Aubrey de Grey, two men who prove just as interesting as the work they’re doing. The Immortalists is really a film about death, not life, which is what makes it so fascinating.

Here’s the trailer:

The goal of Andrews and de Grey is not merely to extend life, but to actually reverse the aging process. “Once we are really truly repairing things as fast as they go wrong, game over,” de Grey says in the film. “We will have the ability to live indefinitely.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Thriller Takes Top Berlin Prize

Diao Yinan (R) director of "Bai Ri Yan Huo" (Black Coal, Thin Ice) poses with his Golden Bear for Best Film next to actor Liao Fan (L) who poses with his Silver Bear for Best Actor during a news conference after the awards ceremony of the 64th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 15, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Diao Yinan (R) director of “Bai Ri Yan Huo” (Black Coal, Thin Ice) poses with his Golden Bear for Best Film next to actor Liao Fan (L) who poses with his Silver Bear for Best Actor during a news conference after the awards ceremony of the 64th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 15, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

BERLIN (Reuters) – Michael Roddy and Alexandra Hudson report: Asian films were big winners at the Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday, led by gritty Chinese thriller “Bai Ri Yan Huo” (Black Coal, Thin Ice) about an overweight detective pursuing a serial killer which took the top Golden Bear prize.

“We are seeing Chinese cinema becoming more cinematically adept, not so overtly political. Chinese film makers are more confident, more open to the world”

— Scott Roxborough, Berlin bureau chief for the Hollywood Reporter

Liao Fan, who said he put on 20 kg (44 lb) and drank more alcohol to play the role of detective Zhang Zili, was named Best Actor.

“Chinese films are accepted more and more,” Diao Yinan, director of the winning film, told reporters.

“It seems every time we take them abroad, there is a greater enthusiasm for Chinese cinema. We hadn’t expected that, but film is global nowadays.”

[Now in paperback: 101 Essential Chinese Movies at Amazon] [Also, China on Screen: Cinema and Nation (Film and Culture Series) at Amazon]

Asked about censorship in China, Diao said: “Of course there is censorship, I believe that exists around the whole world, doesn’t it? When it comes to Chinese censorship, I think the fact we are here in Berlin shows our censors are becoming more open, although there are difficulties.”

Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] CHILL: Festival Snuffs Pro-Fracking Documentary; Will Present Films Critical of Industry Instead

Speaking of controversial documentaries… The Washington Times‘ Valerie Richardson  reports:  A Minnesota film festival is being accused of pushing a political agenda by yanking a pro-fracking documentary from its lineup while keeping two anti-fracking films on the program.

Organizers of the Frozen River Film Festival in Winona, Minn., decided last week to cut “FrackNation,” a widely discussed 2013 documentary about hydraulic fracturing, reportedly citing concerns about the film’s financial links to the oil and gas industry and the filmmakers’ inability to attend the screening.

1_232014_ap2478773859938201_mugshot_four_by_three_s310x233The decision represents the first time the festival has pulled a film in its nine-year history. Instead, the festival plans to fill Sunday’s slot with a forum discussion, “Documentaries Today: My Fact Your Fiction?”

Filmmaker Phelim McAleer, who produced the “FrackNation” with Ann McIlhenney, said he wasn’t buying the festival organizers’ explanation.

“It’s a cover story,” said Mr. McAleer. “They’re under pressure from environmental elites not to show this film.”

He noted that while “FrackNation” was pulled, the festival is still showing “Gasland2,” a follow-up to the intensely anti-fracking 2011 documentary “Gasland,” and “Dear Governor Cuomo,” a documentary about anti-fracking protests in New York.

Read the rest of this entry »


Roman Polanski Risks Arrest at Film Festival in Poland

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GDYNIA, Poland — Director Roman Polanski has risked arrest and extradition to the U.S. by attending a film festival in Poland. Polanski, who fled the U.S. in 1977 after pleading guilty to sex with a 13-year-old girl, is at the Gdynia Film Festival to deliver a masterclass for film school students and present a screening of his film “Venus in Fur.” He arrived late Thursday. Both events are on Friday. Read the rest of this entry »


China Moves to Chill Interest in Independent Films

By: 

After attracting the attention of authorities for years, the Beijing Independent Film Festival was cancelled at the demand of police earlier this month. Amid a government crackdown on dissent that is rapidly gaining momentumChina’s leaders seem to have deemed independent films a threat. AP reports:

Filmmakers whose edgy themes contrast with the rosier images of the country’s mainstream industry are accustomed to censorship of content deemed to show China in a negative light.

But independent filmmakers say authorities now appear to be trying to chill the sharing and discussion of their films, amid a broader clampdown under Chinese leader Xi Jinping on public discourse that could potentially undermine the country’s one-party rule, including the arrests of bloggers who post sensitive material and activists who have accused officials of corruption.

[…]“They just want us to make films about food, clothes, entertainment. They don’t want people to think, they don’t want people to have the freedom to express themselves, they don’t want people to have independent and free ideas,” said Yang Lina, an independent documentary maker whose first fictional  — about urban Chinese women — debuted at Rotterdam’s international  festival this year.

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Chen Kaige to Head Tokyo Festival Jury

Tokyo International Film Festival

Chinese director has long association with Japanese event

Tokyo Festival to Open With ‘Captain Phillips’

Tokyo — Chinese director Chen Kaige will head the competition jury at the
26th Tokyo International Film Festival, set to unspool October 22-24, in the Japanese capital.

Chen’s association with the festival goes back to its 6th edition in 1993, when his Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Farewell My Concubine” was screened out of competition. In 2008 he was on hand to receive the Akira Kurosawa Award for lifetime achievement in directing.

 

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