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In a new interview posted yesterday by Variety's Jon Asp (from the Norwegian Film Festival at Haugesund), Trier is asked how he comes up with ideas. "I like working intuitively," Trier responds, "in what I call dirty formalism, or pop formalism. I jokingly say that our films should be like great albums with different songs. I am a big fan of Nicolas Roeg, Don’t Look Now, which could be very specific conceptual things, but it was a warm formalism, it didn’t alienate you. I’m also a very big fan of Brian De Palma. I believe in the idea of doing a cinematic set piece, like Conrad’s diary, it’s like film in itself, or the car crash sequence with Isabelle, and the association of the son thinking of his mother and the last moments of her death, are whole set pieces, a film within the film. So it’s like an album. You have different songs, hopefully most of them are hits."
Martin Scorsese is thanked in the opening credits of Bombay Velvet, but that’s far from the last time this splashy Bollywood gangster spectacular pays its respects. As it charts the corrupt historical development of Mumbai into a Western-styled megalopolis, Anurag Kashyap’s garish but engrossing film reflects the transition through blatant hat-tips to Hollywood crime cinema, ranging from Jimmy Cagney star vehicles to Scorsese’s own underworld sagas. The result — co-edited, no less, by the latter’s right-hand woman, Thelma Schoonmaker — may lack the charging formal brio of Kashyap’s 2012 Cannes sensation Gangs of Wasseypur, but it’s clear why the pic has already achieved substantial international distribution. Its Locarno festival date could usher in a second wave of cinephile appreciation.
“Our love story will be epic; our life, a smash hit,” our hero informs his paramour toward the end of a sprawling narrative that has already seen its fair share of drama writ large. It’s a line perfectly representative of a script that’s bigger on suds than subtlety, and hyper-conscious throughout of its medium — its every character living in a movie of their own making. When another states that “life is not Double Indemnity,” he’s only partially correct: Life, at least as Bombay Velvet knows it, simply follows a different frame of genre reference, as Kashyap packs proceedings with unveiled allusions to gangster-cinema touchstones. A recurring line of dialogue is appropriated from The Roaring Twenties (itself excerpted on screen), a climactic shootout slavishly restages Brian De Palma’s Scarface, and so on and so forth.
Some may see this as idle pastiche, though it aptly reflects the characters’ own painstaking attempts at occidental self-styling: Young street punk Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor, grandson of golden-age Bollywood idol Raj) is rechristened “Johnny” when he begins work as a lackey for a sharp-suited local crime lord, ultimately managing the American Art Deco-style jazz club that gives the film its name. (Not for nothing, in this ersatz world of spangly imitation, does Bombay Velvet also sound like a cut-price brand of gin.) A sizable portion of the film’s heavily knotted plot, meanwhile, revolves around the aggressive urban planning of Mumbai’s city center in the 1960s and 1970s, whereby land was reclaimed from the sea for an overtly Manhattan-aping CBD.
Flashback 2003: Angry NWA rapper calls for boycott of Def Jam Scarface CD
"I saw this shit on BET talking about Music Inspired By Scarface and I said, 'What the hell?' Def Jam know they're wrong with that shit and they had us, NWA, on that shit with a gang of new artists. The movies that inspired me was KRUSH GROOVE, BEAT STREET and WILD STYLE, not no damn SCARFACE, and Def Jam is just doing anything for money. None of them Def Jam fools ever asked me or any other member of NWA if that bullshit-ass movie influenced us. Def Jam need to think before they do some bitch shit like that, because niggas like me will check their ass. So if y'all see that bitch-ass record - leave that shit in the store."
-MC Ren (The collection of music "inspired by" Scarface features the track "Dope Man" by NWA.)
"The prolific Sfar scripted his first two films — one an animation flick based on his popular graphic novel, the other a dreamlike biopic of legendary French crooner Serge Gainsbourg — but this is the first time he's worked with someone else's material. He could have chosen more wisely: Based on Sebastien Japrisot’s 1966 crime novel (previously adapted by Anatole Litvak in a forgotten 1970 version starring Samantha Eggar), the screenplay by Gilles Marchand and Patrick Godeau offers up one major third-act twist amid an otherwise weary psycho-suspenser that fails to bring the audience on board.
"What will however lure some viewers in is deliberately old-school filmmaking that gives nods to 70’s-era Brian De Palma and Dario Argento, while bringing to mind recent nostalgic genre pieces like Berberian Sound Studio, Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears. Sfar may not have much to work with here, but he works it to the bone, employing split-screen, flashbacks, flash-forwards and suggestive jump cuts, with cinematographer Manu Dacosse (Hallelujah) capturing it all in exquisite sepia-toned widescreen...
"Clearly pushing style over substance, Sfar lavishly exercises his cinematic chops but fails to bring us along for the ride. He’s got a great eye, plus a great ear for period music – including classic cuts like Wendy Rene’s 'After Laughter' and James Carr’s 'Love Attack' — yet none of it builds to more than B-level fluff. Sure, all a movie may need is 'a girl and a gun' as Jean-Luc Godard once said (he never mentioned the glasses), but a good story never killed anyone."
Recapping last night's sixth episode of the second season of HBO's True Detective, JoBlo's Chris Bumbray begins with a summary of the episode's plot: "Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) goes undercover at a drug and sex fueled party to find a missing woman with info on Caspere's blackmail tape." Later in the recap, Bumbray writes, "Things get insane in the second half when Ani goes undercover at Mayor Chessani's son's sex party, where the mob imports girls for the town's richest men to have their way with. This whole sequence is amazing, with director Miguel Sapochnik (director of Repo Men) expertly staging the Brian De Palma-style set-piece at the party, with the tension being ramped up to an almost intolerable level. I was literally on-the-edge of my seat, helped by McAdams' wired performance as Ani's drugged and starts to hallucinate that the man who molested her as a child is stalking her, while having to fight off armed bodyguards (with some nifty knife work). The shooting, editing and – especially – the T. Bone Burnett soundtrack here deserve top marks, and I think I even preferred this set-piece to the shootout in episode four. It was absolutely masterful."
"The Tribe is a vortex of filmmaking style and humanity's darker impulses, during which you may find yourself clawing the seat to resist its severe, sometimes exceedingly graphic pull. But denying its power is tough. A former crime reporter, Slaboshpytskiy has made one of the most unusual and disturbing films about criminality of the new century.
"Before the first image appears, the movie warns you of its gimmick: The characters all communicate in sign language, with no subtitling or narration. As raw as that deal may seem between an ambitious director and foreign-film audiences normally unfazed by language barriers, Slaboshpytskiy uses it to free up his visual storytelling and direction of actors, which is nearly always illuminative.
"It also fosters an abiding appreciation for the gesticulative art of the all-deaf performers, whose interactions — whatever the emotion at hand — have the expressiveness of choreography. Be assured, there's no lack of narrative clarity here, only the persistent sense that nothing cheerful is in store...
"The Tribe is marked not just by wordlessness — the ambient sound makes it not truly silent — but by Slaboshpytskiy's mesmerizing long takes. Each one is a mini-drama of movement, suspense and revelation, whether tracking characters around the rooms, hallways and grounds of the school, or parked in one spot for a scene of mischief, conversation, explicit sex, or, late in the film, an excruciating real-time abortion. It's shooting style, patient yet predatory, that feels one part Eastern European directors' penchant for protractedly gloomy tableaux, one part Brian De Palma in voyeur mode, with a dash of Martin Scorsese articulating the kinetics of gangster life.
"The film is made up of only 34 shots — fewer cuts than Michael Bay would use to film a commercial. But stitched together, the effect is bracingly alchemic in connecting us to a corrosive world, and characters for whom the mobility of sight is everything. Few first films have so confidently executed such a formalist approach to visuals and communication."
Herschmann: How did the diary of Conrad, Isabelle’s youngest son, take shape – a multilayered compilation of a young boy’s mindset and perception?
Trier: We had to write it and then write it again and again and again during editing; it was like making a feature film, that diary. We have many versions of it and I’m very happy with the one we used. We even have the clip from Opera by Dario Argento in it. One of our producers is Italian and knows Dario Argento and we got that through him. We wanted to get different elements of different cultural expressions into the diary. We tried to find poetry in the truth of the character. I love the film Kes by Ken Loach. My favourite moment in that film – the one where I always cry – is when the kid, who doesn’t know how to express himself, is suddenly asked by his teacher to talk for the first time and tell them how he takes care of his bird – he knows the boy is with this bird all day. And the kid speaks for the first time and talks freely about who he is. That’s not exactly what we’re doing, but I wanted Conrad’s diary to be a revelation of the discrepancy between his social inability and his inner life, which is so rich.
It is not only a written text in the film, but presented in a very visual way, as a montage of imagery. You used a similar technique in Oslo, August 31st and they both work very well. How did you become interested in this form of expression?
I went to the National Film and Television School in London, we called it National Social Realist Film and TV School. Steven Frears was a teacher there and Mike Leigh, people that I now admire tremendously for their skills in drama, but at the time I was really into Antonioni, Alain Resnais and Brian De Palma. I wanted montage and the break of the image and the form to be really at the essence of what I did, and I think I changed. Also by going to that school, I discovered Ken Loach and the fact that, in the middle of social realism, there is poetry and truth and not only social commentary hitting you on the head. In the best of these films there’s something more that transcends. However, I still have one foot in that kind of formalism. Showing thought patterns in cinema through montage I find very interesting. And it’s been appropriated by commercials, but I always try to show that it could be more expressive and, ideally, more complex.
What do you mean by thought patterns?
The train of thought. How people think. The structuring of thought, which I think is the temporal experience of images on the screen. We always talk about stories, because it’s a literary term and it’s very easy to say, but the fact is we’re watching images in time and they either correlate or don’t with our sensomotoric thought patterns. And it sounds very technical, but I feel it’s a fact, you’re actually dealing with theme and image when you make a movie, all the time. It can be quick or slow: how do you pace the information? Is it possible to express, to show thinking literally, the association chain of a young boy thinking randomly about his life? Yeah, let’s try. That’s what I mean with thought pattern.
There are a lot of memories in the film, a lot of dreams…
That’s what we constitute our identity on, these frail things that we believe are truths about ourselves and that’s very scary and also liberating. AndI feel the film is very much about that: the questioning of identities.
"'Antipasto,' the premiere of Hannibal’s third season (directed by Vincenzo Natali and written by Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot) is arguably the series’ most stylish installment yet. Though Hannibal is regularly a pageant of hypnotic, high fashion horror, its move out of the harsher seasons of the Mid-Atlantic to the wealth and fine arts appreciation of Europe would necessitate it even further. The sensual cinema of Peter Greenaway, De Palma, Bertolucci, Roeg, Peter Strickland—maybe even fucking travel ads—swirl through the streets, the suits, the dresses, the cuisine, the lectures, the wallpaper and yes, the bloodshed."
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