By Joe Bendel. When natural disasters strike, the social order often breaks down. Nevertheless, one still suspects the aftermath of a devastating earthquake would be more “orderly” if that evil old villain Pinochet were still in charge. Whatever the case, hedonism turns to anarchy in Nicolás López’s Aftershock (trailer here), produced by co-star Eli Roth, which opens this Friday in New York.
When Ariel calls his friend Gringo, it is meant with affection. Not so much with Pollo. he American tourist puts up with it, though, because the privileged Pollo knows a lot of women. Hooking up with three hot foreign ones, they head off for a weekend of partying in the coastal town of Valparaíso. Monica, the responsible one (just like in Friends) is not so sure it is a good idea, but nobody wants to listen to her.
That night in the club, a massive quake hits. Just making their way to the street is an ordeal. Suddenly, it is dog eat dog on the streets. Pollo’s connections mean nothing to the escaped prisoners roaming the city, but he is the only one of the group who speaks Spanish. Do not get too attached to any character as they scramble to survive.
Essentially, López applies Roth’s aesthetics to an Irwin Allen-style disaster movie, reveling in the resulting death and destruction. While Aftershock is not appointed with the customary horror movie trappings, it definitely follows in the midnight movie tradition. To López’s credit, he delivers exactly what he promises. Aside from Roth’s surprisingly likable Gringo, it is hard to expend much sympathy for characters as they charge into the meat-grinder, but the one-darned-thing-after-another mechanics of it all are a spectacle to behold.
Roth’s everyman Gringo nicely serves as the audience’s forthright entry point into the madness and fellow standout Nicolás Martinéz is appropriately loud and annoying as the entitled Pollo. Andrea Osvárt also finds some resiliency in Monica, but the other women are more decorative than memorable. Aftershock also boasts a supposedly surprise cameo appearance from a teen star developing a more adult persona. Though it is more or less an open secret, it is rather insubstantial gimmick and not the reason to see Aftershock.
If you want to see self-absorbed partiers pay for their sins, then Aftershock is your huckleberry. Sure, there is plenty of collateral damage, but that is how Roth and López roll. For those looking for a dose of bloody cinematic mayhem, Aftershock fits the bill. Recommended for cult movie veterans, Aftershock opens this Friday (5/10) in New York.
LFM GRADE: B
Posted on May 7th, 2013 at 2:14pm.
By Joe Bendel. A film ought to be just long enough to tell its story. While Hollywood has not conditioned audiences to think of short films as star vehicles, the better ones have much more power than a padded feature. In fact, several big name filmmakers found twenty minutes was about the right length to tell some important stories. As a result, those who follow the international festival scene will be particularly interested in a number of the short films selected for the 2013 Bosnian Herzegovinian Film Festival in New York.
As an Academy Award winner, Danis Tanović is truly a filmmaker of international stature. A past alumnus of the festival with Cirkus Columbia, Tanović again revisits the Bosnian War and its painful aftermath. Amir survived the war, ultimately settling in Scandinavia. He has returned to Bosnia hoping to recover his parents’ remains, but sadly, reports of their discovery prove false. Revisiting his former hometown, he comes face to face with the war’s flesh-and-blood ghosts.
Not only is Baggage is more visually dynamic than Cirkus (thanks in part to cinematographer Erol Zubcevic’s stylish work), it taps into far deeper emotions. Despite his grim subject matter, Tanović portrays both sides of human nature, producing an unusually resonant film (that might just overshadow the feature it precedes).
The man known to friends as Zizi is no celebrity. He is a good-natured everyman, whose nickname is untranslatable in a family outlet such as this. Director Nedžad Begović however, also made the international festival rounds with Jasmina, another past BHFF selection. His simply but aptly titled documentary profile Zizi allows his subject to tell his story, through his own words and anecdotes. Zizi proudly proclaims his love for Italy, where he was sheltered as a teenager, but he returned to help forge a new Bosnia. Even more than Baggage, Zizi is a hopeful film—a quality that has sometimes been in short supply at previous festivals, for understandable reasons.
Ante Novaković has certainly worked behind the scenes of dozens of films viewers know quite well. For The Fix he also recruited a familiar face, Armand Assante, who portrays Vincent, a gangster kingpin nobody wants to have a sit-down with. Unfortunately, two incompetent thugs will have to have the big talk. Fix is not a groundbreaker, but it is entertaining. It is especially nice to see that Assante, Mike Hammer in 1982’s I, the Jury, can still bring his tough guy thing.
BHFF has a strong track record for programming shorts, but this year’s slate is especially notable. Very highly recommended, Tanović’s Baggage screens this Friday (5/10) with Krivina (a bit of a tougher sell) as part of Block #3. Upbeat and likable, Zizi screens later that same evening, as part of block #4. Perhaps the most commercial and accessible selection of any length, The Fix screens this Thursday (5/9) as part of Block #2. As always, BHFF is always one of the City’s friendliest and most welcoming festivals, showcasing some of the most serious and sensitively rendered films. Recommended as the cure for a Tribeca hangover, this year’s edition gets underway Thursday at the Tribeca Cinemas.
Posted on May 7th, 2013 at 2:13pm.
By Joe Bendel. It looks like shepherding and dung collecting are the only forms of work available in tiny Xi Yang Tang village. Yet, somehow ten year old Yingying seems to do more than her fair share. The eldest of three sisters, she very definitely lives in the Other China, far removed from go-go Shanghai and the meddling Communist Party policy makers. Wang Bing documents six months of their hardscrabble existence in the simply titled Three Sisters, which opens this Friday at the Anthology Film Archives.
As the eldest, Yingying naturally assumes responsibility for her younger siblings: six year old Zhenzhen and four year old Fenfen. Their mother deserted long ago and their father is often absent, fruitlessly looking for work in the nearest urban center. Aside from meals served by a resentful aunt, they practically live like Dickensian street urchins.
Eventually, Yingying’s grandfather asserts his patriarchal authority. Believing he has arranged work for his recently returned son, he decides the two youngest will leave with their father in the city and Yingying will live with him in the village. She will go to school and he will pay her pocket money for her work in the fields. Initially, this looks like a good opportunity for her, both in terms of socialization and future opportunities. However, it soon becomes clear that tending the flock takes precedence over her studies. The results are heartbreaking.
Frankly, she ought to be subject to child labor laws, but she lives in rural China. For obvious reasons, Wang never places political considerations front and center. Yet, the implications are conspicuously obvious and explicitly stated at the annual feast Yingying attends with her grandfather. It is there that the village headman explains that the national government is intent on collecting the health insurance premiums they cannot afford. They are also determined to continue with euphemistically titled “rural development” programs to replace the villagers’ current mud-floored homes with prohibitively expensive new units. They’re from the party—they’re here to help.
Audiences of Three Sisters are guaranteed to feel maddeningly helpless. Yingying is a good kid who deserves better than her lot in life, but what can viewers do? This is China, the new global superpower, to whom our elected leaders have largely mortgaged our own futures. Nonetheless, Wang’s expose of shocking rural inequality is thorough and compelling.
Three Sisters unquestionable serves as an indictment of the government’s unfilled promises, but as a work of cinema it is profoundly intimate. Granted, patrons accustomed to multiplex fare will find the quiet pace and two and a half hour running time challenging. Yet, the simple power of Yingying’s story ought to hit anyone of good conscience on a deeply human level. Recommended for China watchers looking for a stiff shot of reality, Three Sisters opens this Friday (5/10) in New York at the Anthology Film Archives.
LFM GRADE: A-
Posted on May 6th, 2013 at 8:58pm.
By Joe Bendel. Although the ukulele is descended from Portuguese instruments, Japan has long been the instrument’s second home outside Hawaii. Likewise, Japan had always been an important market for the fifth generation Japanese Hawaiian virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro. Filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura documents Shimabukuro’s post-2011 Japanese tour and other career highlights in his profile Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings, which airs on PBS this Friday.
Shimabukuro was a shy kid who was understandably troubled by his parents’ divorce. He did not have a privileged upbringing, so it is hard to begrudge the good fortune he experienced early in his career. As a mere teen, Shimabukuro established a following, fronting a Hawaiian fusion band. He struggled a bit at the start of his solo act, but a video of Shimabukuro performing George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (posted without the musician’s knowledge) became one of YouTube’s first viral sensations.
From that point on, Shimabukuro became the reigning king of ukulele crossover-breakouts. While not jazz per se, he incorporates extensive jazz and rock influences. It would be interesting to hear him play a session with Lyle Ritz, the original jazz ukulele player, especially considering Shimabukuro’s knowledge and respect for his instrument’s history. In fact, Strings often shows Shimabukuro acting as an educational ambassador—like a Wynton Marsalis of the ukulele.
When dark clouds gather in the third act, Shimabukuro is not directly affected. However, as a native of Sendai, his loyal longtime manager is deeply distressed by damage and tragedy left in the wake of the tsunami and earthquake. Shimabukuro does his part, performing for displaced survivors, while remaining all too conscious that there is only so much his spirit-raising efforts can do.
Indeed, throughout Strings, Shimabukuro never falls into any shallow celebrity traps. If that makes him sound likably boring, at least his music is dynamic and vivid. Nakamura showcases his performances well. Of course, his famous Central Park Beatles rendition is included, but the film’s defacto theme “Blue Roses Falling” is actually a more interesting piece. Frequent festival patrons and Indy Lens viewers might be more familiar with Shimabukuro’s music than they realize. He composed music for Hula Girls (set in the hardscrabble Fukushima prefecture) and some of his tunes were licensed for Debbie Lum’s Seeking Asian Female.
Essentially, Strings paints a portrait of a nice guy, with a nice story, performing some impressive music. However, the third act carries a bit of emotional heft. Recommended for open ears, Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings has its national broadcast this Friday (5/10) on most PBS outlets (following a special presentation on Hawaii’s PBS station this past March).
LFM GRADE: B
Posted on May 6th, 2013 at 8:57pm.
By Joe Bendel. The cultural elite sure can get randy. Some of England’s greatest opera stars have come to perform in a high paying vanity production of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, but the real action happens after rehearsals in Christopher Menaul’s 1st Night, which opened yesterday in New York.
The fabulously wealthy Adam plans to show his shallow social circle he can truly sing opera with a special command performance at his country estate. Secretly, though, he really intends to use the production as a means of wooing Celia, a conductor he has long carried a torch for. Naturally, through a contrived misunderstanding, he concludes she is not as available as he hoped. In a sour mood, he makes a caddish bet with the social climbing tenor Tom regarding the soprano, Nicoletta. Of course, when the leads start falling for each other, the bet hangs over their romance like Damocles sword.
Meanwhile, fellow diva Tamsin is having dysfunctional issues with her husband, the director – while Debbie, a budding star, goes all D.H. Lawrence, toying with the earnest young groundskeeper’s affections. There will be assignations in the forest and all kinds of comedy of errors, but don’t worry, the show will go on.
After Luciano Pavarotti’s notorious Yes, Giorgio, it took almost thirty years for someone to cast another opera singer in a musical comedy. Some purists might say Sarah is too crossover-pop, but it seems strange regardless to watch her in a largely non-singing part. Still, she is reasonably spirited scolding and flirting with Richard E. Grant’s Adam. Grant basically falls back on his standard British Fraser Crane tool kit, but there is a reason that persona has worked so well for him.
Poor Emma Williams endures numerous embarrassments as Tamsin, while Oliver Dimsdale fares little better as her predictably problematic husband. For their part, Mia Maestro and Julien Ovenden look distinctly uncomfortable trying to pull off Nicoletta and Tom’s Moonlighting style courtship. At least Susannah Fielding adds some decorative value as Debbie and Nigel Lindsay exudes likability as the gay featured tenor Martin, which is frankly what 1st Night most aspires to.
1st Night (formerly First Night) is not terribly ambitious, largely content to parade some lovely scenery and an attractive cast past viewers. Of course, the music is great too, even if the singing is conspicuously dubbed. In a way, it is a lot like Quartet, except its characters are all hale and hearty (which precludes any cheap heart-string tugging). A distracting trifle, 1st Night opened yesterday (5/3) in New York at the Quad Cinema and is also available of VOD platforms.
LFM GRADE: C
Posted on May 4th, 2013 at 12:46pm.
By Joe Bendel. A sailor is never particularly comfortable on land, even under the best circumstances. As a result, they are decidedly unsuited to dealing with system-rigging gangsters, or at least such was the case for one boy’s father in the hybrid short film A Grand Canal, which screens during the 2013 Columbia University Film Festival, an annual showcase for Columbia MFA students’ thesis films and screenplays.
The narrator tells us his father resembled and sounded like Chinese pop singer Liu Huan. Singing Liu’s signature tunes was one of the captain’s few pleasures that did not involve navigating the rivers and canals near their provincial port town. Largely an absentee father, his young son still idolizes him. Unfortunately, when the local “boss” refuses to pay an invoice, it jeopardizes his father’s small fleet.
One of the biggest surprises of Canal is the way it becomes a meditation on the healing potential of art (especially cinema). Ma frequently upends audience expectations, playing ironic games with the flashback structure. Yet, it never feels showy or excessively hipsterish. In fact, it is quite touching, in good measure due to a remarkable lead performance from Mei Song Shun, who delivers dignity and gravitas in spades. He can also sing.
Although Canal is set some twenty or so years in the past, its story remains quite timely as China struggles with increasingly predatory manifestations of crony-capitalism (within an avowed socialist system, which is quite the trick). It is quite an impressive looking production and a completely absorbing film. Highly recommended, A Grand Canal will doubtlessly intrigue China watchers but also resonate as a paternal drama. It screens tomorrow (5/4) at the Walter Reade Theater as part of Program C at this year’s Columbia University Film Festival. Southern Californians should also note details on the 2013 Los Angeles edition of the fest will be announced shortly.
LFM GRADE: A
Posted on Posted on May 4th, 2013 at 12:46pm.
By Joe Bendel. This must have been a hard pitch. One would suspect Henry James’ novel of narcissistic, self absorbed parents of privilege would hit close to home for many decision-makers working in the movie business (studio or indie, it hardly matters anymore). Yet somehow, the poor little rich girl will indeed wrestle with her parental issues in Scott McGehee & David Siegel’s What Maisie Knew, which opens tomorrow in New York.
Beale and Susanna are Maisie’s parents, if we can really use that word. He is a dodgy art dealer and she is an over-the-hill rock star angling for a comeback. Both are more interested in their careers than their daughter. When they think of Maisie, it is mostly as a potential club to bludgeon each other with during their divorce proceedings.
Since he is able to present a more stable front, Beale wins considerable custody rights. However, this is not all bad. He is also taking her nanny Margo as his trophy wife. She actually cares about Maisie, willingly giving her the time and attention she cannot get from her parents. Meanwhile, Susanna marries the working class Lincoln, apparently to have a live-in sitter for Maisie. Like Margo, he quickly develops a paternal affection for his step-daughter that the ragingly insecure Susanna perversely resents. Hmm, does anybody see the potential building blocks of a more functional family unit in here somewhere?
Poor Mrs. Wix. Maisie’s frumpy second nanny really gets the shaft from screenwriters Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright’s adaptation. While the James novel rebukes the shallow indulgence he considered endemic in society, McGehee and Siegel’s WMK seems to suggest blonds make better parents. The proceedings are also marked by a heightened class consciousness, with the nanny and bartender showing superior character than Maisie’s privileged biological parents.
Regardless of what James might think of his novel modernized and transported to New York, McGehee and Siegel have an unbeatable trump card in their young lead. As Maisie, Onata Aprile is completely unaffected and wholly engaging. She covers a wide emotional spectrum, carrying the audience every step of the way.
Likewise, Joanna Vanderham is charismatic and surprisingly vulnerable as Margo, while Alexander Skarsgård’s understated nice guy Lincoln is likable enough. Julianne Moore labors valiantly to humanize the self-centered and psychologically erratic Susanna, but Steve Coogan is largely stuck playing a caricatured straw-man as the arrogant Beale.
Maisie’s cast and co-director definitely stack the deck, but at least they do it thoroughly and compellingly. Viewers will absolutely care about the bright and precociously self-aware Maisie, which is the acid test for any film focused on a young protagonist. The upscale New York locations also add a dash of élan. Anchored by several well turned performances, What Maisie Knew is surprisingly satisfying. Recommended kind of affectionately for fans of literary melodrama, it opens tomorrow (5/3) in New York at the Angelika Film Center.
LFM GRADE: B+
Posted on May 2nd, 2013 at 11:31am.
By Joe Bendel. If you can’t afford the local wannabe Bates Motel, you can probably get hacked up for less at a bed & breakfast. B&B’s are homier and more personal. That’s why we stay in hotels. One quarreling Brooklyn couple checks into a Hudson Valley B&B largely out of spite and passive aggression. It would have been a terrible weekend anyway, but things take a deadly turn in screenwriter-director D.W. Young’s horror movie send-up The Happy House, which opens tomorrow in New York.
Hildie and her son Skip run the Happy House B&B with a strict set of rules their guests must abide by. Wendy would not be inclined to follow them even under the best of circumstances. Barely on speaking terms with her slacker boyfriend Joe (who had the bright idea to take this trip in the first place), she will be a somewhat difficult guest. Hildie will not appreciate that, not one little bit. She duly warns the couple that there are consequences for amassing “three strikes.”
Decidedly slow out of the blocks, Happy mostly forces its early attempts at laughs, but it makes an interesting pivot about halfway through. The red district (you can’t say “red state” in New York), gun-owning, God fearing rubes might not be as crazy as Wendy and Joe had first thought. Odder still, the film essentially evolves into what it had previously mocked, becoming a surprisingly presentable And then There were None style cat and mouse game.
Happy was shot within a functioning B&B in a region of New York State that had just been pummeled by Hurricane Irene, so it earns good karma for bringing some business to town. Indeed, the Happy House looks authentic and lived-in, because it was (Young and his co-leads even stayed there as guests during filming). The cuckoo clocks are also a nice touch, but it seems like there ought to be more taxidermy.
It is a bit overstuffed with colorful characters, though. Marceline Hugot brings considerable depth and nuance to the seemingly authoritarian Hildie. Likewise, Kathleen McNenny is a stitch as Linda, her leftwing English professor sister. However, Happy lays it on a bit thick with the absent-minded Swedish lepidopterist staying at the fateful B&B in hopes of finding a rare butterfly. Perhaps more problematically, Khan Baykal and Aya Cash just make a boring couple as Joe and Wendy.
In terms of execution, Happy is a dramatically mixed bag. The DIY look does not help much, either. Still, Young incorporates some interesting ideas, consistently avoiding or subverting clichés. It will not be a breakout film, but horror movie fans might enjoy the ways it tweaks genre conventions, especially an inspired bit at the climax. For the intrigued, The Happy House opens tomorrow (5/3) in New York at the Cinema Village.
LFM GRADE: C+
Posted on May 2nd, 2013 at 11:30am.
By Joe Bendel. Musicians are like athletes. An injury can potentially end a brilliant career. Like Evan Horne, the protagonist of Bill Moody’s jazz mysteries, Jonathan Clay is a pianist struggling with injured hands, who suddenly finds himself involved with the criminal element in Oded Naaman’s When Sunny Gets Blue, which screens in New York as part of the 2013 Columbia University Film Festival, an annual showcase for Columbia MFA students’ thesis films and screenplays.
Clay is not a good patient. Suffering from acute carpal tunnel syndrome, he is frustrated by the slow rehabilitation process. In fact, he has given up on physical therapy. When he returns from a session of self-pitying and boozing, he is surprised to find a woman in his apartment. She is there to warn him about the thugs who show up shortly thereafter.
Yes, her name is Sunny, as in the title Jack Segal & Martin Fisher standard that seems to have great meaning for Clay. It is a good one, recorded by the likes of Dexter Gordon, Sarah Vaughan, and Nat King Cole, but it is not exactly overplayed and fits the vibe of Naaman’s film quite well. (The credits inspired by Blue Note Records graphic designer Reid Miles are also a nice touch.)
Indeed, Sunny has a hip sensibility that should please jazz fans. In a strange way it manages to be both ambiguous and completely satisfying. Naaman deftly establishes a distinctive mood that is too light-hearted to be called noir, but too dark to be considered anything else. It certainly fits the jazz life, as does Jonathan Monro’s standout performance. He gets a convincing case of the blues, yet remains sincere and grounded, even when doing some odd things. As someone who knows a lot of musicians, his performance always feels right to me.
A great short film, the nineteen minute When Sunny Gets Blues is an Indiewire Project of the Week that actually panned out. It should serve as quite a positive representative for Columbia as it gets festival play. Highly recommended for jazz fans and film programmers, When Sunny Gets Blue screens this Saturday (5/4) as part of the Columbia Film Festival’s Program D at the Walter Reade Theater.
LFM GRADE: A
Posted on May 2nd, 2013 at 11:28am.
A Gripping and Timely Look at Terrorism: LFM Reviews Shadow Dancer; In Theaters May 31st, Available on Amazon, iTunes Now
By Patricia Ducey. Shadow Dancer takes place in 1993 Belfast during the fitful, bloody denouement of the conflict referred to delicately as The Troubles. In the opening minutes, we meet Colette McVeigh as a child. She sends her little brother out for cigarettes, when her father told her to go, and the boy is killed in a British/IRA crossfire.
The film then jumps to 1993 as the adult Colette, now played by Andrea Riseborough, steps into the London Tube, apparently going to work. After an uneventful ride, she alights and dashes towards street level, but not before leaving her purse on an empty staircase. We know, after Boston, in a shock of recognition, that this is a bomb. She escapes through a maze of maintenance tunnels, only to be grabbed outside by two men and hustled into a car.
But Colette is no lamb; she is a hardened IRA “volunteer” now and knows what will follow. As the agents drive her through London, she quietly disappears into herself, preparing for the expected interrogation. After all, her mission in London represents a new IRA tactic: by wreaking violence on the mainland, they hope to destroy the British people’s resolve to remain in Ireland, at all. This entire sequence is almost silent, which amps the suspense even further; no conversation or music distract from Colette’s cool, expressionless face as she hurries to complete her mission and then prepare for arrest.
The two agents deliver her to Mac (Clive Owen), the MI5 interrogator, and he tries to break her. He offers her the family dossier. In it she finds the forensic report from the killing of her little brother, the act which has radicalized her and her two surviving brothers. But the report identifies the bullet as coming from a known IRA weapon. In a rush, she pushes away the file — and the truth? — against a rising moral revulsion that she has never totally extinguished.
Finally, Mac presents her an ultimatum: return to Belfast and inform on her famous IRA family, or go to prison for decades and watch her little son delivered up to the foster care system. Of course, she relents, and the real suspense begins.
Euro Undead Vamping it up in America: LFM Reviews Kiss of the Damned; In Theaters May 3rd, Available on Amazon, iTunes Now
By Joe Bendel. Vampires are Old World creatures. They do not fit in so easily in America, or at least a big crowded city like New York. This is especially true of the reckless Mimi, who creates all sorts of complications for her sister Djuna and her undead sibling’s recently turned lover in Xan Cassavetes’ Kiss of the Damned, which opens this Friday in New York.
Most vampires keep to themselves, making do with animal blood. Of course, the human kind is the good stuff, but developing a taste for it is dangerous. Mimi has done just that. In contrast, Djuna is content living a quiet nocturnal existence in the isolated mansion owned by Xena, the grand dame of vampires. Then one night, she catches Paolo’s eye in a throwback video store (a vestige of the old).
Despite her concern for his well being, sparks fly between her and the slacking off screenwriter. She soon brings him over to the undead, so they can un-live happily ever after. Unfortunately, Xenia sends her blood-lusting sister Mimi to dry out with the blissful couple shortly thereafter. Not surprisingly, having an unstable nymphomaniac with a taste for human blood in their midst puts a strain on pretty much everything.
Yes, Xan Cassavetes is the daughter of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands. As one might expect, she knows her art cinema. While she is not afraid of a little blood, she patiently sets the scene and establishes her characters before getting down to the business end of vampirism. The result is an uber-stylish, devilishly indulgent film. Fittingly, cinematographer Tobias Datum renders it all with an evocative retro-Hammer color palette, luxuriating in shades of red.
As Djuna, Joséphine de la Baume is captivatingly elegant and sensual. Milo Ventimiglia is a bit stiff as Paolo, but Roxanne Mesquida’s Mimi is quite the hot undead mess. She just radiates trouble whenever she is on screen. Yet, the unlikely Michael Rapaport nearly steals the show in his brief but riotous appearances as Paolo’s crass agent.
Polished and seductive, Kiss of the Damned has a Euro art house sensibility, but it still delivers the goods for vampire fans. Clearly inspired by the Italian masters, Cassavetes demonstrates an appreciation of the look and form of the genre. Highly recommended for connoisseurs of continental horror and vampire films, Kiss of the Damned opens this Friday (5/3) in New York at the Landmark Sunshine.
LFM GRADE: B+
Posted on April 30th, 2013 at 1:19pm.
By Joe Bendel. How can folks get up every day and go to work in book publishing? I ask myself that very question about five times a week. Yet despite frequent doomsday forecasts, the industry lumbers on. Perhaps e-books will be either the deliverance or the destruction of the business, but for now they are a mid-sized Schumpeterian disruption. Vivienne Roumani takes stock of what it all means in her documentary Out of Print, which screened as part of the Tribeca Talks post-screening discussion series at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
At the heart of OOP and Ben Lewis’s thematically related Google and the World Brain lies the question whether the digitization of knowledge is a democratizing or monopolistic endeavor. The jury is still out, but in the case of the big G, you really have to wonder. Roumani touches on the Google settlement, but if there is a corporate bogeyman in OOP, it is Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, at least when she talks to Authors’ Guild president Scott Turow.
Is the giant e-tailer cheapening the value of e-books through its pricing and merchandizing? Turow certainly has thoughts on the matter. As an interview subject, Turow is an intelligent and authoritative figure. For his part, Bezos seems to be trying to humanize his image, which is a shrewd long-term strategy, in marked contrast to the deafening silence from Google in Lewis’s doc. Indeed, Roumani gained entrée to a number of highly influential market leaders and thinkers, even including the late great Ray Bradbury (appearing primarily as an expert on libraries, but adding unspoken significance to the discussion as the author of Fahrenheit 451).
There are a number of issues raised by the film that were largely glossed over by the post-screening experts, such as the fundamental issue of storage. As Roumani points out, DVDs and hard drives have a life expectancy that can be measured in years, not decades. Simply assuming someone will figure out something more lasting is not a great strategy. Yet for the filmmaker and at least a few of her fellow panelists, the effect of the digital revolution on reading habits is even more significant. Some seriously wonder whether the majority of kids today will have sufficient interest and attention to read a full book from the beginning to the end.
Roumani nicely balances prognostications of doom and gloom with optimism for the shape of things to come. At fifty-five minutes, Out of Print is a well paced and organized overview of an industry in flux and the wider resulting social and cultural implications. It is a handy primer, but Google and the World Brain remains a more in-depth and pointed examination of the same fundamental issues. Given its timeliness, it should draw considerable interest on the festival circuit and merits public broadcast consideration.
LFM GRADE: B-
Posted on April 30th, 2013 at 1:18pm.