Welcome back, dear readers, for this week’s edition of the Sunday Random Roundup.
Big Films in Other Places
Remember last week’s rant about the state of film distribution in the U.S.? Well, here’s some potentially good news: Local films seem to be outdoing Hollywood “blockbusters” elsewhere in the world. The Hollywood Reporter has a nifty little slideshow with seven examples, from India (not surprising) to South Korea to Mexico.
Maybe Argentina’s “Foosball” and South Korea’s “Cold Eyes” will come play in your town—especially if that town is Los Angeles or New York.
A Light on Film History
For the film history nerds among us, there is the spectacular news that my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has made over 8,000 pages of film, broadcasting, and sound history publicly available at the Lantern web site. This co-production of the Media History Digital Library and UW’s Department of Communication Arts means you can browse through issues of Photoplay (1914 – 1945), the atmospherically-named Shadowland (1919 – 1923), or Picturegoer (1915 – 1925) magazines. Even if you’re not interested in the old news, the photographs, illustrations, and advertisements are a kick in the pants.
Professor emeritus David Bordwell has a nice, short post on what you might find once you start looking.
< Yep, that was a film magazine.
David Lynch is now selling coffee at Whole Foods. Will it make “a damn fine cup of coffee”? Will there be pie fixins’ next to the display? Will drinking it be like taking a hit of LSD?
The 2013 Locarno Film Festival is wrapping up. Its top prize, the Golden Leopard, went to a Catalan-language film, Alberto Serra’s “Historia de la Meva Mort (Story of My Death),” an “eerie” and off-kilter imagining of Giacomo Casanova, according the Hollywood Reporter. HR gave it kind of a stinky review, but it is the first Spanish film ever to win Locarno’s top prize. And apparently Dracula has a cameo. IndieWire were more kindly disposed to the “bizarrely fascinating” film and described it as an “irreverent revenge story.”
The Reporter was much kinder to an adaptation of the Scandinavian crime novel “The Keeper of Lost Causes,” by Jussi Adler Olsen. The world seems much in the mood for Scandinavian crime–a much better judgment call than most things that become as wildly popular as Steig Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. You can tell the film is a Scandinavian crime story from the title alone. It evokes what seems to be a culturally-specific resignation to the seemingly endless violence and cruelty of human beings that is simultaneously angry and wistful. This is a world where the lines “My wife left me. My colleague’s dead, and my best friend’s a cripple” do not sum up the plot but are rather casual workplace chitchat. In any case, “Keeper of Lost Causes” is, for better or worse, far more likely to get some kind of distribution than a dreamy and plodding psycho-sexual 18th-century reverie.
Speaking of Scandinavian crime stories, last night I watched the first film helmed by Danish writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen, “Flickering Lights” (2000). My husband and I were hooked after our first ATJ film, “Adam’s Apples” (2005) which we saw at the 2006 Wisconsin Film Festival in the beautiful Orpheum theater on State Street. “Flickering Lights” is a slightly less-nuanced version of “Adam’s Apples,” less nuanced only in the sense that it seems like an earlier version of “Adam’s Apples'” themes and its dark sense of humor that is somehow steeped in a desire for kindness and joy. The title apparently comes from an Emily (“Mily”) Dickinson poem, the title of which is translated as “Flickering Lanterns.” (I couldn’t find the poem working backwards from the translation, and my Emily Dickinson is, like most of my books, currently in storage.) “Flickering Lights” includes several of ATJ’s usual suspects, including Mads Mikkelsen (Arne), who is riveting, as usual. Ulrich Thomsen (Peter) is another regular and a wonderful actor, as is Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Stefan)…who stars in “The Keeper of Lost Causes,” along with “Flickering Lights’s” protagonist, Søren Pilmark (Torkild). “Flickering Lights” is available streaming on Amazon Prime for free and well worth watching, and the brilliant “Adam’s Apples” is streaming on Netflix.
A little bonus
An essay by Martin Scorsese at the New York Review of Books’ site