Posts Tagged 'Harmony Korine'

MFF Programmer Scott Braid reports on the 2013 Provincetown International Film Festival

It’s not easy to find yourself back in the balmy heat of Baltimore (no matter how much you love the city), after 5 days of the most beautiful weather imaginable, in one of the most beautiful locales imaginable. Add to that, the opportunity to watch great movies with some of the greatest cinematic talents living today, and you’ve got one splendid working vacation.Image

So it was with my 5 day excursion to the very tippy-top of Cape Cod and the wonderful and welcoming Provincetown, Massachusettes with its annual Provincetown International Film Festival (PIFF). This was my second year attending the amiable and well-run festival at land’s end and it was a doozy of a year, featuring a bevy of unbelievable cinematic talent including Harmony Korine, Todd Haynes, Mary Harron, legendary cinematographer Ed Lachman. Baltimore’s own John Waters also plays a central role in the festivities, much as he does for MFF. Among his many duties within the fest, Mr. Waters shares the same film that he presented to MFF audiences with the P-Town crowd. For the PIFF screening of Ulrich Seidl’s PARADISE: FAITH, Mr. Waters was joined by legendary Director of Photography, Ed Lachman. Lachman shot the entire PARADISE trilogy and in addition to this recent work with Seidl, has worked with the likes of Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Godard, and Larry Clark, to name but a few. Waters and Lachman gave a rousing post-screening Q&A which I had the good fortune to record and can be seen here:

Lachman was in attendance to receive PIFF’s Career Achievement Award, which was presented in a special conversation/ceremony with film critic B. Ruby Rich. That same event saw John Waters in conversation with cinema wunderkind, Harmony Korine (SPRING BREAKERS, GUMMO), who was presented with PIFF’s Filmmaker On The Edge Award. The conversation between Waters and Korine was a lively and entertaining one, which covered Korine’s filmmaking career and some of his more notorious acts in front of the camera and in his personal life. More about the conversation from The Film Society at Lincoln Center’s Eugene Hernandez here.

Below – (l to r) Honorees Ed Lachman and Harmony Korine with John Waters. (photo by Bruce Gilbert)Image

While both of the conversations were highly informative and great fun, the real reason to go to any film festival is to watch films, and PIFF 2013 offered up an interesting selection of greats from the festival circuit. Giving me a chance to catch up on some of the titles I’ve been eager to see from Sundance and some things I missed at SXSW back in March.  The highlights of my viewing  (in no particular order) were as follows:

HARRY DEAN STANTON: PARTLY FICTION, a fascinating and artful portrait of the legendary actor, which eschews a by-the-numbers recounting of his career for a more poetic and philosophical character study, a soul-penetrating look at the man behind some of the most memorable performances in cinema history. Stanton is a fascinating and charming subject from the outset, but his openness allows the filmmaker to dig deeper, discovering a discontented loner where most would expect to find a man who has lived all of his dreams. Stanton’s true passion is music (a career he has never realized) and the film is suffused with his melancholy singing, revealing as much about the man as any of the interviews do. Well worth a look to fans and non-fans alike.

AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS by MFF alum and host of MFF 2013’s Opening Night Shorts Program, David Lowery, is every bit the beautifully crafted and fantastically acted work I expected from such a talented filmmaker. Favorable comparisons to BADLANDS and BONNIE AND CLYDE are apt but this film has a feel all its own and it leaves an indelible mark on the viewer. I’m still mauling over many fantastic sequences days later and there’s no sign that those scenes will stop popping into my mind anytime soon. Unfortunately, the film’s trip to Cannes precluded us from screening it within MFF 2013 but it will be a treat for Baltimore audiences when it hits screens here in the coming months. Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster all give fantastic heartfelt performances and the cinematography by Bradford Young (who won the prestigious Sundance Cinematography Award for both this film and MFF 2013 Closing Night film MOTHER OF GEORGE) is quite simply breathtaking.

As part of the honors bestowed upon Ed Lachman, the festival screened several works on which, he served as Director of Photography. Susan Seidleman’s 1985 film, DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN (starring then-newcomer Madonna and Rosanna Arquette) was one of the chosen films and initially I thought a ho-hum choice. But alas, after seeing the film’s visual splendor on the big screen and hearing Lachman talk about the choices he made in filming the work, I was forced to reconsider my near-lifelong blasé feelings towards it. It stands as a vibrant portrait of mid-80s New York City, with wonderful location photography and a who’s-who cast of Lower Eastside stalwarts of the time, including a pre-stardom John Turturro, character actor Will Patton (MFF 2011 alum), punk rock icon Richard Hell, as well as noted musicians John Lurie, and Arto Lindsay. It’s a fun movie and a smarter movie than most have given it credit for being. Below- Ed Lachman during the Q&A for DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN. Image CONTINENTAL by Malcolm Ingram is a fun and informative look at the culture surrounding the iconic Continental Bath House in late 60s/early 70s New York and its charismatic founder Steve Ostrow’s transformation from work-a-day business and family man, to gay culture icon and gay rights activist. The Continental Baths became one of THE places to go in 70s NYC and the night club therein launched the careers of mega-stars the likes of Bette Midler and Barry Manilow. A must-see for anyone interested in the history of gay culture in the U.S.

Below – MFF Programmer Scott Braid with CONTINENTAL director Malcolm Ingram. Image

GIDEON’S ARMY is the feature directorial debut of Dawn Porter and wow is it a powerful one! Porter follows a group of young public defenders in their quest to give the disenfranchised and poverty stricken a chance in a complex legal system all too often stacked against them. Porter’s expertly crafted film shows the ups and downs faced by this idealistic group of young lawyers as they face struggles of their own in the form of unjustly low pay, overwhelming caseloads and the emotional tolls of working with clients whose very lives and freedom depend on your performance. Wisemanesque in both the level of emotional wallop it packs and its finely crafted and largely observational style, Porter’s film is one that leaves you overwhelmed, both with outrage, at a system that disproportionately incarcerates minorities and the impoverished, and with gratitude for the work that these public defenders do, not for money, but because they are driven to give a fair shake to those who are so often chewed up and spit out by a flawed justice system.

In addition to catching a number of other screenings, I also had the pleasure of acting as guest host for a few, introducing the film and then hosting the Q&A afterwards. And, even with all of this movie-related activity, I still had time to enjoy all of the delicious food, wonderful nightlife and pristine beaches that P-Town has to offer. I can’t wait to report back from PIFF 2014!

TIFF 2012: Second Report From the MFF Programming Team

Athina Rachel Tsangari, producer of DOGTOOTH (MFF 2010) and director of ATTENBERG (MFF 2012), presents her new short film THE CAPSULE.

Each Toronto International Film Festival offers not just a vast number of titles, but such a staggering variety in tone, genre, budget, and country of origin, that it’s very possible for each audience member to have a strikingly different experience. While MFF’s programming team will have covered approximately 80-100 different new feature films when all’s said and done, that number represents about one third of everything offered at TIFF; it would be literally impossible for any one festival-goer to see more than a sixth of the films screening at TIFF.

As the festival reaches its midpoint, a lot of the audience buzz surrounds high-profile forthcoming films such as the era-hopping, literature-rooted epic CLOUD ATLAS and Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE MASTER. Our interest in TIFF is a bit different.

While we certainly take in some films whose release schedule is imminent and known (see AMOUR, below), our primary concern is smaller films from less established international voices whose films may not yet have a U.S. distributor, yet alone a release plan. These are the films that are most likely to hit us with a genuine sense of discovery. Pragmatically speaking, these are also films that may still be fresh and emerging in the marketplace come Maryland Film Festival 2013.

To put it another way, for every Haneke or Winterbottom on our TIFF itinerary, we dive in with two or three tickets that are unknown quantities, eager for that next discovery—and as eager as the rest of you to catch THE MASTER in 70mm when we get back to Baltimore.

Here are a few more films that have stood out to our programmers as TIFF 2012 passes its midpoint:

(Center) Director Michael Haneke answers a question during the Q&A for his exceptional film, AMOUR.

AMOUR — Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the latest from Michael Haneke (Funny Games, The White Ribbon) is an elegant, heart-wrenching account of an elderly couple living out their final days in their Paris apartment. Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Conformist, Three Colors: Red) and Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima, Mon Amour) give stunning performances, accompanied by an excellent-as-ever Isabelle Huppert as their increasingly concerned daughter. Haneke’s films are never easy to watch, and despite the relatively restrained subject matter this one is no exception—but if you’re ready for a tough film with a gentle core, AMOUR should not be missed. All indicators are this will (deservedly) be one of the big foreign films of the forthcoming season.  Close MFF followers, BTW, may notice many narrative and thematic similarities to a small, excellent Icelandic film we screened within MFF 2012, Rúnar Rúnarsson‘s VOLCANO.

WATCHTOWER — This Turkish drama boasts a unique setting, as a loner eager to escape his past takes a position as a watchman in a mountainous wooded area, his only contact with the outside world is the CB radio on which he’s to report any fires or other disturbances. Down the mountain, a young woman works as a rest-stop cook, harboring a very personal secret. Pelin Esmer has endowed her characters with rich back-stories and multifaceted personalities slowly unveiled, delivering just the kind of international gem that one might never come across without festivals like TIFF.

3 (aka TRES)—Pablo Stoll Ward also delivers such a gem with this rich character drama from Uruguay by way of Mike Leigh. A soccer-crazed dentist attempts to reconnect with his estranged ex through their mutual care of their teenaged daughter – a smart, hip teenager who’s becoming a bit of a wild child—but his ex may have moved on.  It’s a small epic, if you will, made up of dozens of little moments that feel incredibly large and real.

SPRING BREAKERS — As with all his prior work, the latest from young provocateur Harmony Korine (writer of KIDS and director of love-em-or-hate-em titles such as GUMMO and TRASH HUMPERS) isn’t for everyone. And even if he’s seemingly working with more polish and some name actors here, he’s still pushing buttons that some will find irritating, obnoxious, and/or offensive. But we generally enjoy having those buttons pushed, and found a lot to love here. This film has an unforgettable performance from James Franco as a particularly perverse Florida drug dealer, and Korine’s film would pair well with Herzog’s equally lurid, over-the-top, and self-satirizing Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

Left – Director Michael Winterbottom presents his film EVERYDAY at TIFF 2012.

EVERYDAY – Prolific British director Michael Winterbottom‘s impressive new drama chronicles a young family’s struggles during a five-year period in which the father is sentenced to prison. The film was itself shot over a five-year period to allow the actors (particularly the adolescents) to age naturally and in time with the story, while becoming closer on and off screen. This technique ultimately lends a greater sense of realism to the work, resulting in a deeply moving film.

ALL THAT MATTERS IS PAST – (L to R) Director Sara Johnsen, Actor Kristoffer Joner, and Cinematographer John Andreas Andersen.

ALL THAT MATTERS IS PAST – A tense psychological thriller/dark family drama from one of Norway’s most celebrated young filmmakers, Sara Johnsen, that explores a lifelong jealousy between two brothers over a girl who has remained the object of their affection since childhood.

Stay tuned here and on the MFF Twitter, as our programmers continue to report back from TIFF ’12!

MFF Programming Director Eric Allen Hatch and Programming Administrator Scott Braid

Maryland Film Festival Programming Team Heads to Toronto International Film Festival 2012!

It’s with great excitement that several members of the MFF programming team head up to Toronto today for TIFF 2012. Toronto is one of the world’s largest and best-curated festivals for world cinema, and attending TIFF is always a highlight of a film programmer’s year.

TIFF uses literally dozens of screens throughout the city, has filmmakers present for nearly each of the hundreds of films it screens, and owns and operates a brand-new year-round venue (the TIFF Lightbox). In these and so many other ways, Toronto epitomizes what a film festival can be, and what a city full of cinephiles can look like. From big-name titles like Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE MASTER and Terrence Malick’s TO THE WONDER, to new work by international masters like Susanne Bier and Tsai Ming-liang (not to mention the latest controversial provocation from Harmony Korine), TIFF has ‘em.

Toronto also happens to come at a great moment as far as Maryland Film Festival programming is concerned. As you may have noticed, we’ve just launched our 2013 Call For Entries, and TIFF represents another aspect of us launching our search for the next MFF’s crop of films. Many of the 50+ films we’ll see over the next two weeks don’t have U.S. distribution yet, and will still be emerging in the marketplace come MFF 2013. Indeed, if you look back at some of the standout foreign titles that have screened MFF over the last few years – DOGTOOTH, THE TURIN HORSE, SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY, ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA, THIS IS NOT A FILM, LIVERPOOL, NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT, and MY JOY, to name just a handful—a large number of them are films our programmers originally spotted at TIFF.

With that in mind, if you want to get our first reactions to some of the titles we may be bringing back to Baltimore over the next year (whether within MFF 2013 or some of our other year-round programming), be sure to follow us on Twitter, and keep reading this blog; we’ll be sharing some of our TIFF epiphanies with you over the next two weeks.

-Eric Allen Hatch, Director of Programming