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films in order to
try and set a new
trajectory and try to
say, 'Well, what
happens if I have no
resources?' Now, having
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people haven't seen
for a while."

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Keith Gordon
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project with
Said Ben Said

-De Palma to team
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Saturday, November 12, 2011
TARANTINO COMES THROUGH FOR RIE
-'HUMAN ZOO' FINALLY MAKES U.S. DEBUT AT NEW BEVERLY
-RIE Q&A AT EVERY SCREENING THIS WEEK
-TALKS TO COLLIDER ABOUT LEARNING FROM DE PALMA, BESSON, TARANTINO

Rie Rasmussen's 2009 debut feature Human Zoo finally had its U.S. premiere last night at Quentin Tarantino's New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. (Tarantino befriended Rasmussen around the time he was working on Inglourious Basterds, and invited Rasmussen to hang out on the set of that film.) Human Zoo will play again tonight and tomorrow night (Saturday & Sunday) as a double feature with Luc Besson's Angel-A, which starred Rasmussen in the title role. Rasmussen will be on hand for a Q&A following each screening of Human Zoo throughout the week (last night's Q&A was moderated by Elvis Mitchell).

In an interview with Collider's Christina Radish, Rasmussen talked about the autobiographical nature of Human Zoo, and how she ended up acting in it, as well as writing and directing. She was also asked about what she learned from working with Brian De Palma, Besson, and Tarantino:

At the time, Brian De Palma was such a hard-on for me. I was just really losing my shit, to work with him (on Femme Fatale). I was on set for as much as I could be, which was probably a month, and I only shot for four or five days. But, I did do that one, long steadi-cam shot that is the Brian De Palma signature. That was so awesome for me. It was following me! Who even cares about the rest of the movie? No. In my formative years, Brian De Palma taught me by watching him. From when I was 18 to 25, there was nothing better than Brian.

From 12 to 15 or 16, there was nothing better than Luc Besson, with Big Blue and La Femme Nikita. That was it. With Angel-A, he wanted to prove to everybody that he could make a feature film in six weeks, put it out five months later, package it and distribute it for no money.

Watching Quentin Tarantino write his new magnum opus, motherfucker of a film, Django Unchained, has been more than a lesson in writing. I always knew that the man was genius, but I have been astonished at what comes out of him. He’ll read me the scenes. He’s like, “I just had to redo this scene and I want to read you this new dialogue I wrote.” He read me this dialogue, and I was just on my ass. Just to watch him rattle it off like that, he’s genius. So, yeah, you learn. I pay attention. My eyes are wide open, and my eyelids are pinned to the back of my head.

According to The Playlist's Jeff Otto, Tarantino said that with Human Zoo, "Rie Rasmussen makes an electrifying directorial debut. It’s as shocking and violent as it is moving and charming." It is worth noting that Rasmussen has worked with cinematographer Thierry Arbogast on all three of her formulative films, first meeting him on De Palma's Femme Fatale, then working together on Besson's Angel-A before shooting Rasmussen's Human Zoo. Rasmussen told Collider that her next project as director will be Good and Evil, which is written by Nicolas Constantine as an adaptation of Philip Carlo's novel The Night Stalker, based on the life of Richard Ramirez. Prior to Rasmussen's involvement in that project, James Franco had been rumored to be interested in playing the lead role.


Posted by Geoff at 9:59 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 13, 2011 10:23 AM CST
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Monday, February 9, 2009
BESSON'S NAME BOOSTED IN CREDITS?
APPARENTLY A LAST-MINUTE ADDITION PRIOR TO BERLIN SCREENING
A Film Addict blogger named Katchita provides more information about the Berlin discussion that followed the screening of Rie Rasmussen's Human Zoo last Thursday, and suggests that Luc Besson's participation may have been in name only... Here is what Katchita wrote:

The post-film environment smacked of conspiracy, into which the audience sank with palpable satisfaction. Prior to the screening, Berlinale staff indicated it wouldn't be followed by a Q&A as they didn't believe the director was present. Afterward, however, the supporting male actor, Nick Correy, jumped on stage and angrily denounced Luc Besson, much of the time without a microphone, until one belatedly surfaced, the Berlinale crew all the while indicating that scheduling didn't allow for a Q&A. He talked about obstacles to the film's financing and production, then Rasmussen showed up very briefly on stage, after which they both took it outside the theater. Their message was that, short days before the Berlinale, a non-disclosure agreement had been signed and Besson's name had, from complete absence, been elevated to a prominent place on the credits, this being the first time a film with his involvement had been chosen to open the Berlinale Panorama. Interestingly, IMDB has nothing linking him with this film as of this writing. Outside, the press swirled around and I thought to myself, this film will be a hit. We'll see, but with a beautiful, angry and talented actress/ex-model-cum-director/writer at the center of an artistic controversy, it has all the elements. Run, don't walk, to see this film. The screening today was not even sold out; the final one is next Saturday evening and I can't think of a better way to spend Valentine's Day.

RIE: "GIRLS LIKE SHOES"
Daniel Schieferdecker at jetzt.de caught up with Rasmussen in Berlin. Asked about the sex and violence in her film, Rasmussen says that she is concerned with aspects of reality, and that she naturally shows sex from a female point of view. Schieferdecker later suggests that the focus on shoes in the film only confirms old cliches about women. Rasmussen, tickled that Schieferdecker noticed this, states plainly that "that is not a cliche, that is a fact: girls like shoes."

MORE REVIEWS...
A couple more reviews of Human Zoo have popped up-- here are some links and excerpts:

Film Addict Katchita:

The film was not perfect, with a couple of confused plot twists that may have been due to either over-writing, over-editing or a combination of the two. But when I see this sort of energy in a director's first feature film, that's something to which I play close attention.

Not for the faint at heart, Human Zoo takes up the sociopathy of betrayal, in the context of love and war. Writer/director Rie Rasmussen also plays the main character, a woman of mixed Serbian-Albanian parentage narrowly saved from rape or worse in 1999 Kosovo by a man who is, aside from a quirky feminist streak, strictly psychopathic. During her subsequent time with him in the anarchic mafiadom of Belgrade, the camera returns to her wrist wounds from the war. She worries them open again and again; we see quiet drops of blood, richly red, artistic, fall onto an etched glass bowl in one scene, contrasting with some of the more effective portrayals of violence I've seen in recent years in the cinema. We observe the betrayal of nearly every norm of decent society as Rasmussen rages at this world of ours. It's a particularly female form of rage, and I, for one, think it's about time the world take note.

Ray Bennett at the Hollywood Reporter:

The film demonstrates that Rasmussen has much to offer as a filmmaker although it's too uneven to be called a success. The Belgrade scenes are performed in the local language and are entirely convincing but the sequences in Marseilles are done in English and suffer greatly for that.

Rasmussen holds the screen credibly but while Corey is a hunk and gets to frolic with Rasmussen in some very explicit sex play, he's a lightweight compared to [Nikola] Djuricko, and the stilted English dialogue leaves even the wonderful [Hiam] Abbas (The Visitor) stranded.


Posted by Geoff at 7:55 PM CST
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Saturday, February 7, 2009
HUMAN ZOO IN REVIEW
"A CROSS BETWEEN FEMME FATALE AND NIKITA"

The above shot from Rie Rasmussen's Human Zoo may look like something out of Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes, but Screen Daily's Dan Fainaru suggests that Rasmussen's film is a cross between two of my very favorite films-- De Palma's Femme Fatale (which Rasmussen also appeared in) and Luc Besson's Nikita. It turns out that Besson co-produced Human Zoo wih Rasmussen.

Besson had cast Rasmussen in his final live action film as director, 2005's Angel-A (which was shot by Besson's regular cinematographer, Thierry Arbogast, who is also the cinematographer on Human Zoo). According to one blogger who was at the premiere in Berlin, Rasmussen and costar Nick Corey indicated that Besson hates Human Zoo, as the two traded insults aimed at Besson. Rasmussen apparently mortgaged her house to make this feature, and her post-screening discussion almost did not happen. Here is how "scribe" describes the event in a Kunstblog post:

With the film over, I waited to leave. But then Nick Corey, the actor who played Shawn, jumped on-stage (with the lights still down), and the drama became a farce. He told us the director was outside the screening room and wanted to speak to us. The woman who had done the introductions appeared with a mic (and a spotlight) and explained there was no time for a post-screening discussion.

Cue Rie Rasmussen, who strode on stage. No messing with her. She and Corey traded insults directed at Luc Besson, who is credited as producer but apparently hated the picture. She also said the story had personal resonance, in terms of the immigration and trafficking theme (a sub-plot of the film), as her adopted sister's mother had been trafficked to Russia.

Extraordinary stuff, but it was cut short to make room for the next screening. Corey repaired outside and continued slagging off Besson and bigging up Rasmussen, who mortgaged her house to make the film. Then she held court. I was quite interested to hear her views on the reversal of gender roles in the film, with Adria taking an all-action stance while Shawn is a support. Once she started talking about women's natural function being reproduction, I rather lost interest--biological determinism is so 20th century.

REVIEWS: VIOLENCE, EXPLICIT SEX, BESSON'S FINGERPRINTS
From reading the several reviews already posted, Human Zoo, which Rasmussen wrote, produced, directed, and edited, appears to feature wild shifts in tone, extreme violence, and explicit sex. Here are some excerpts:

Dan Fainaru at Screen Daily :

This strangely downbeat 2009 Panorama opener begins as a political drama which attempts to explore such weighty issues as Balkan war crimes and illegal immigration in the West only to turn very quickly into an oversexed thriller. First-time director Rie Rasmussen also produced, wrote and edited the film as well as playing the lead and it's obvious she took on too much, starting out with something akin to Lorna's Silence but ending up with a cross between Femme Fatale and Nikita...

Rasmussen's script feels arbitrary, under-developed and shaky; the dialogue is, at best, declamatory. DoP Thierry Arbogast lets himself go at times with an orgy of kinky angles interspersed with long, languorous shots. Overall, it suggests a limited budget. The performances are equally skimpy. Rasmussen expresses distress by posing in a smouldering stance and mustering up a sexy pout while Nick Corey seems bemused by the thinly-sketched character he has to play. Nikola Djuricko, however, appears to thoroughly enjoy himself as the brutish Srdjan.

Leslie Felperin at Variety :

Rasmussen shows moderate skill as a helmer only in the scenes featuring graphic sex and violence, which at least have a sort of visceral immediacy. Elsewhere, her lack of skill is painfully apparent, particularly in the editing department. Given the pic's obviously substantial budget, which stretched to extensive location use, one has to wonder why Rasmussen took on this job as well.

scribe at Kunstblog :

Part war drama, part jet-black comedy, part romance and part social commentary, the film is wildly uneven in tone. In Serbo-Croat, French and English, the dialogue varies from astute to embarrassingly obvious. The film takes a wild left turn when the heretofore timid, restrained Adria suddenly turns into The Terminator and starts chopping off hands and shooting up strip joints. Most bizarre.

The director, who also played Adria, has very strong views on gender roles and I think somewhere in this picture is a comment on violence and strength but I found the ending a huge copout.

Rich Cline at Shadows On The Web :

This fascinatingly bold drama centres on a woman reliving her horrific past during the ethnic cleansing war in Kosovo as she tries to reassemble her life in Marseilles. Stylish and energetic, with a fiercely feminist attitude, it's a clever look at the issue of refugees mixed with an examination of how much of our identity comes from our nationality. It's a bit populist and Besson-like, but keeps you thinking.

Leonardo Lardieri at Sentieri selvaggi :

This review from Italy mentions the confusing tonal shifts in the film, but also notes the scene pictured above, where the protagonist, who has just slaughtered the managers in a brothel, is followed by the camera from above as she moves through corridors and the camera catches the aftermath in each of the rooms. Lardieri notes that the scene brings to mind Chan-wook Park's Oldboy.

Abel at Berliner Morgenpost :

This review from Germany suggests that the wild and often crude film has the "unmistakable" handwriting of Luc Besson.

 


Posted by Geoff at 3:28 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 8, 2009 12:14 PM CST
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Friday, February 6, 2009
RIE'S HUMAN ZOO AT BERLINALE
FEATURE DEBUT WAS SHOT BY THIERRY ARBOGAST
Rie Rasmussen's directorial feature debut, Human Zoo, kicked off the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival yesterday, and will screen several more times this weekend. Rasmussen also stars in the non-linear film, which was shot by Thierry Arbogast. Rasmussen met Arbogast on the set of Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale in 2001, where she shadowed the cinematographer to learn about filmmaking. Human Zoo is about a young woman who is a Balkan refugee now living as an illegal immigrant in present-day Marseille. Rasmussen also wrote the screenplay.

Posted by Geoff at 11:06 AM CST
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