Reeler Archive for August, 2006

Reeler Casting Call: Who Will Play Peter Biskind's Moustache?

The news that Peter Biskind’s 2004 opus Down and Dirty Pictures is on its way to a feature film adaptation has me virtually choking on intrigue. Besides the obvious imagination pique juxtaposing director Ken Bowser against plain-old Sha-Na-Na goner Bowzer, I wondered what kind of D-grade Boswell the filmmaker would have to be to follow his 2003 Biskind doc Easy Riders, Raging Bulls with this latest long, loving swallow.

You’ll never collect swag in this town again: Down and Dirty first choices Hugh Jackman and Owen Wilson with alter egos Weinstein and Redford

We’ll probably never know, but Variety’s Chris Gardner notes that Bowser finds the author’s sprawling history of the ’90s indie-film boom “outrageous” and “insane,” both qualities that should get plenty of mileage in a film community that finds the book largely “bullshit” and “apocryphal.” The running joke (still not funny, incidentally) around the Web is that neither Miramax nor the Weinstein Company are likely candidates to distribute the film, and Sundance is out as a premiere possibility. A faaaaar more pressing question, however, is what fucking actors would be crazy enough to participate above the line on this thing–the equivalent of pissing in Harvey’s coffee and playing keep-away with Bob’s glasses. And don’t even think any of your future films will appear at Sundance, or at a Sundance lab, or on the Sundance Channel, like, ever.
That said, somebody has to play the brothers, and somebody has to play Robert Redford and Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino and Sundance czar Geoff Gilmore and even distribution legend Jeff Lipsky, I suppose. So who will they be–any suggestions?

'Not Yet Rated' Redux: NYC Premiere Brings Out the Panelists

Ever the pathological completist, I could not pass up yet another opportunity Wednesday night to view yet another premiere of Kirby Dick’s MPAA exposé This Film Is Not Yet Rated at IFC Center. As I noted after a Not Yet Rated preview last spring, the film has tightened nicely since its Sundance bow, and on this, my fourth bleary-eyed run-through, I found myself appreciating Dick’s accomplishment even more: A smart, fearless, efficient political doc with enough entertainment value to transcend frothy-mouthed ideology. Whatever flimsy illusion of credibility the American film ratings system still maintained before Dick came along is officially dismantled here. Overhaul may not be immediate, but it seems thoroughly inevitable.

Anyway, last night was particularly notable for the panel discussion following the film: Dick joined fellow filmmakers Mary Harron and Michael Tucker, critic Owen Gleiberman, ACLU president Nadine Strossen and anti-censorship leader Joan Bertin. Having no shame in my game and feeling like trying something new, I filmed a portion of the discussion and uploaded it to YouTube. I admit the resolution looks terrible, but I’m working on fixing it. Meanwhile, right around the 2:24 mark, Dick offers a nice breakdown of the restrictive MPAA-Washington complex facing filmmakers today. Tucker is equally articulate at the top of the piece.
The film opens Friday–I swear my shilling here is done.

Indie Hearts Shattered as Gyllenhaal Keeps It Real in NYM Fall Preview

Look–you all know how I feel about Fall Movie Previews, and for better or worse, you are doomed to learn more once The Times gets its own “New Season” forecast on newsstands and I can finally undertake my 2006 Fall Preview Review. In the meantime, I cannot help but bring up New York Magazine’s new Fall Preview Issue, the 2005 version of which pleased me none too much and the current version of which leaves me similarly chilled.
But while I will save the clinical diagnosis for later, Emma Rosenblum’s nifty interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal deserves a nudge into the spotlight for its subject’s candor. I waited 90 minutes at the Sherrybaby premiere last night for a Gyllenhaal chat that never came through, but after reading this, to be honest, I really didn’t have that many more questions:

NYM: There’s a lot of raw sexuality in the film. Was that difficult for you?

MG: When I was shooting it, I was focusing on the pleasure. The scene when she’s fucking that guy in the basement after they just met, I think you could cry through the whole scene, but why? That would be so boring. For me, when I was filming that scene, I was thinking, This is great—pleasure, pleasure, pleasure. I’ve been in prison for three years and I want to have sex with a man! But when I watch it now, I think, Oh, man, that’s horrible, and I feel very disturbed by the sex. …

NYM: Now that you’re doing studio features, do you think you’ll keep doing independent films like Sherrybaby?

MG: With a movie like Sherrybaby, I love it, I’m proud of it, and I believe in it. But it’s so much work to get a little movie like that made, to get it seen, to get it bought, to get it into theaters—it’s almost like you have to be a producer. That makes me look at little independent movies more closely—like, do I really want to spend years, or not? I want people to see the movies I make. I’m not just acting for me.

In other words: Showing up to your premiere seven months pregnant is like having twins two months apart. And I wish Bart Freundlich would lose my number.
Anyway, there’s some other interesting but brief commentary about Gyllenhaal’s notorious 9/11 comments, which I applaud her for not only answering but also not ruling them out in some bold-faced, all-caps preemptive screed-by-publicist. She has not succumbed to A-list antipathy yet, bless her heart.
(Photo: Jeff Vespa/Wireimage)

Dream Big: Gondry Chat Draws Hundreds in SoHo

Hate to say I told you so about getting to SoHo early for last night’s Michel Gondry appearance: A few hundred fans had packed the Apple Store’s second-floor theater by around 6:30 (for a chat that started at 7), but seats were gone well before that and the queue winding onto Wooster Street was little fun in the rain. With nothing to the left of the decimal point in The Reeler’s bribe budget, I blew the usher to let me sneak up to the front, where the filmmaker joined indieWIRE boss Eugene Hernandez for a comprehensive clip-show conversation and Q&A sprawling from his early years in music video to his superb new feature, The Science of Sleep, which opens Sept. 22.
I noted here what outtakes I could before giving up on the translating game; Gondry is funny, spirited and exceedingly smart, but fuck if I could not make out every third or fourth sentence. What I could decipher, though–well, I don’t know. It mostly makes sense:
ON SURVIVING HUMAN NATURE: “I was really depressed after Human Nature because critics weren’t so nice to me, so I took a notebook, and I wrote everything that was mean, and I tried to figure out why it was bothering me. The reason it was bothering me was that there was some truth in it, and I had to find out how I could make it develop. So I had this 40-page book that’s become my, um… It was pretty awful. But it really helped me when I did Eternal Sunshine. Everyday when I would go to the shooting, it would help not to forget the goal I had set for myself. Every time I would go in that book with the lists, it was a good thing.”
Hernandez: “So there’s 40 pages just from Human Nature?”
Gondry: “Yeah. But I’ve lost it now. It was too bad.”
ON THE IMPACT OF DREAMS ON HIS CREATIVE PROCESS: Sometimes I write them down, or I do drawings. I have a lot of paper; it’s not like I have a book. I don’t think I can do something that’s so organized. But I have a very bad sleeping pattern. I sleep very little, but from what I read in some books, if you skip a night of sleep, the next night, you REM sleep doubles. So particularly what it said was that if even if you sleep a little, the amount of dreamng is consistent. In my case, I sleep very bad and terrible, so the few times I sleep I keep dreaming. … And I wake up with very strong feelings that the dream was real. And I screened this for some therapists who are working on dreams, and we talked about what could happen to provoke that. I have sleep apnea, which is a problem. Maybe my brain has a lack of oxygen, but I work in a different way from other people when I wake up, and sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference from sleepy time. Maybe my brain wakes up in a different way. Basically I wrote this experience and this tradition; I thought it would be interesting to experiment.”
ON HIS FIRST MUSIC VIDEO: “The first video I made was for a girl who was six feet tall. She had a huge nose and big feet; I dressed her like a princess and she looked like a drag queen. I completely failed. And on top of that, her partner in the video–I dressed him like a drag queen because it was the song. It was a complete horror, this video. I remember when I showed it to my family, I had spent two months during the post-production, and they didn’t say a word. I knew they were horrified. They couldn’t look me straight in the eyes. It took me a long time to understand that I really had to fix this problem.”
ON HIS NEW FILM: “It’s called Be Kind Rewind. It’s a comedy with Jack Black and Mos Def, Mia Farow and Danny Glover, and it’s a story about theese two guys who work in a video store run by Danny Glover, and when he’s away for a week… Jack Black becomes magnetized and erases all the tapes by mistake. So they don’t want to disappoint their boss, and the only way they can think of to cover their mistake is to start to reshoot the films one after the other. The first movie is going to be Ghostbusters. They go out and take their camera and shoot the film in two hours, like playing all the parts and stuff. [Customers] realize they are not the real movies, but it is actually pretty funny because it’s Jack Black and Mos Def. And so they become a big hit in town, and little by little they reshoot the originals. … We’re in this little town, Passaic, New Jersey, where we found all of our locations. In fact, one of the mechanics who worked on Eternal Sunshine has his shop there, and so I went to visit him with the idea. His shop is next to a power plant, so he always complains he’s having headaches and stuff.”
The event wound down with a sneak preview of a new Beck video for the song “Cell Phone’s Dead,” a one-room, black-and-white exercise featuring the plaid-suited singer morphing into a hulking figure of cardboard boxes, wood blocks and, I think, a bedroom dresser. Or maybe he just climbed into it. I have got to take better notes. At any rate, give Gondry a shout if you happen to be traveling through Passaic (he starts shooting today) and get some Sleep later next month.
(Photo: STV)


Going, Going, Gondry: Michel Does SoHo

Just a quick heads-up to those of you bleaked out by the steady diet of rain facing the city: The masterminds at indieWIRE have a fairly whimsical alternative set for this evening as Michel Gondry talks up his brilliant The Science of Sleep with Eugene Hernandez at the SoHo Apple Store. The event promises clips, comments and God knows what metaphysical meditations the filmmaker can summon, not to mention plenty of Q&A time for you to praise Eternal Sunshine, ask him when he plans to work with Bjork again, etc. etc.
The fun starts at 7 p.m., but you might think about leaving work 10 minutes ago if you want a decent place to sit. But if you do show up closer to showtime, be sure to introduce yourself–I’ll be the guy way, way, way in the back straining on tiptoe with a camera.

NYT Film Crew Diversity Story Born Six Months Premature, Many Pounds Underweight

Today in The Times, Joseph Fried contributes this mildly intriguing piece about the city’s push to notch up the film crew opportunities available to women and minorities in New York. I say mildly intriguing only because that’s how I would describe any such story springing from the Point A of “journalist’s ass” and landing on the Point B of “NYT Metro desk.”
Not that I would insist women and minorities are not underrepresented among New York film crews, though the half-dozen or so film sets I have visited over the last few months incline me to believe government intervention may signal a slight overreaction. The basic point is that, like Fried, I do not know, and, unlike Fried, I am not going to waste readers’ time with abstract, pre-masticated PR bromides from horse traders like Dan Doctoroff to convince you otherwise.
Oh, hell–why not:

[The Bloomberg administration] is putting together what it calls a working group that “will have a goal of developing specific recommendations in six months” for increasing job and training opportunities in the industry for minorities and women, said Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding. The group is to include representatives from production companies and labor unions. …

Mr. Doctoroff, in an interview, said the Bloomberg administration saw the planned group as a “joint effort with the Council.” But he and Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn, the chairwoman of the Council’s task force, said it was not clear whether the task force would continue or would be subsumed by the new group. …

Mr. Doctoroff said it was too early to guess what steps the group on film and television production might suggest. …

Mr. Doctoroff said that given a lack of demographic data on the industry’s production ranks in the city, “I don’t think we know for sure” whether minority groups and women are seriously underrepresented. “But we believe we can do better,” he said, especially in relation to the higher-paying jobs in the industry. …

But Ms. James, whose district includes Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, said she had often heard “complaints that when you go to film locations, you see a paucity of women and people of color” in the production ranks.

Ms. James recalled that at the hearings, she asked the companies’ representatives “what statistics they had on the employment of people of color and women” in production jobs. “They said they didn’t know; that they don’t keep those numbers,” she recalled. …

Now, of course, production companies are required to file the totals of women and minority crew members on their sets when applying for the city’s generous industry tax credits. Which would be fine and dandy if only the city could establish control over the ratio of qualified crew of any sex or color to veteran Teamsters idly speckling the set like so much back acne. To wit, in his story’s only useful interview (tacked on at the end, natch), Fried gets NY Production Alliance board member Sylvia Kinard-Thompson to equivocate brilliantly:

[Kinard-Thompson] said minorities and women “absolutely are” underrepresented in the production ranks. But she said she found the unions to be “pretty responsive” to recent calls for change.

Ms. Kinard-Thompson said the underrepresentation was a legacy of “how the industry evolved,” with many people having had a leg up on finding their first jobs because their “grandfathers were in the union and their fathers were.” And on small productions that do not use union members, she said, “it’s still who you know” that often determines who works on a film.

Come on–all that stuff doesn’t really matter in the end. Just ask Dan Doctoroff.

The Infamous Fur Situation: Rome, Woodstock and Hamptons on Opening-Night Radar

Another harbinger of fall: The last 48 hours brought a flurry of festival news smoking the wires, revealing the loooooong-awaited Diane Arbus biopic Fur (right) to be the inaugural RomeFilmFest opener Oct. 13 (for those keeping score at home, Jeff Wells and I were only nine months off in pegging Fur‘s festival debut). The remaining schedule breaks Sept. 26, but organizers hint to Variety that Mira Nair’s India-to-NYC family epic The Namesake will also follow its Toronto bow in Rome.
Back in New York, the Woodstock Film Festival named Doug McGrath’s delayed Capote riff Infamous as its own opener; it gets sloppy fourths after Venice, Telluride and Toronto for a cherished “upstate premiere” Oct. 11. Out at the Hamptons, meanwhile, programmers scored a nice little opening-night coup with the world premiere of Philip Haas’ Iraq war drama The Situation. Starring Connie Nielsen, Damian Lewis and Miko Hamada and evidently revirginized after a screening last April at Drexel University (just a preview, folks–really!), the film is penciled in for an Oct. 14 Hamptons debut. The fest promises the remainder of its selections online sometime in September.

Reeler Link Dump: 'What Did I Miss?' Edition

Wherein your humble editor wades through a week’s worth of headlines in 15 minutes, out of sheer compulsion if not necessity:
–Anita Gates cooked up a Sherrybaby souffle in Saturday’s NY Times, featuring a tour through director Laurie Collyer’s “white-bread” New Jersey milieu. the filmmaker claims to have gotten Jersey out of her system; her star Maggie Gyllenhaal, however, revealed her sense that she has a whole script’s worth of topless scenes she has yet to shoot.
–In other New Jersey news, it’s nice to see director Davis Guggenheim cashing in his Inconvenient Truth meal ticket for a shot at directing the formidable tandem of his wife Elisabeth Shue and her brother Andrew. Set for a 2007 release by Picturehouse, and according to a studio note, “inspired by real life events in the Shue family, Gracie is the story of a 16-year-old girl who, after a family tragedy changed her life, fought for and won the right for girls everywhere to play competitive team soccer.” Shooting begins today in Englewood. Run.
–From Cindy Adams’ column today: “Marcia Cross hates sex scenes. Says stripping off and making out in front of a crew is ’embarrassing.’ Yeah? No kidding.” Straphangers around New York throw up in their mouths.
Cinecultist and beloved Reeler sub Karen Wilson has a few words with Jonas Mekas about his ongoing 365-film iPod project: “I have been working now for about three months and I finished about 60, 65 of them, and I will continue for quite some time. Though I’m involving other people, like Scorsese, Jarmusch, John Waters, and Virginie Marchand is doing 10 iPods in India, in Bollywood.” Leave it to an 82-year-old man to make me feel like a gross underachiever.
–Film Forum sends word that director Terry Gilliam will be in the house to introduce an Oct. 3 screening of Time Bandits, programmed as part of the theater’s upcoming Monty Python series. Tideland questions are more than welcome; Brothers Grimm inquiries not so much.
–Meanwhile, fashion designer and cinema dabbler agnès b. will be at BAM Oct. 9 to introduce a screening of Reflections in a Golden Eye, which she chose as one of nine American films to screen in October’s agnès b. Presents series.
Quit, fired or contract expired: Really, it is all just one hair-splitting way after another of saying that Tom Cruise needs to come to the Baby Jesus.

Raimi, Franco Getting Around to Telling Studio About 'Spider-Man' Reshoots

Obviously, no return to full-time blogging can really be undertaken without an immersifying charge through the gossip mill, so let us get this out of the way quickly: Sources at Sony tell The Reeler this morning that they know nothing about the Spider-Man 3 reshoots invoked this morning on

Spider-Man 3 is going back for reshoots, says co-star James Franco, after test audiences decided they needed more action. The actor tells MTV, “The next thing I’m shooting? Re-shoots on Spider-Man. … Probably next month. Director Sam Raimi wants more action.”

While I am positive Franco said exactly that, and just like that (“Studio Sony is banking on this for summer ’07,” he very likely continued. “Co-star Tobey Maguire is back on the diet.”), studio publicists informed me that the reshoots were news to them, adding that as of now, production remains wrapped and fans should not expect to see Raimi and Co. back in New York any time soon. Of course, that’s just the official word–always subject to swift, surreptitious change. I will pass along more information if or when it trickles my way.
(Photo: Many

Reeler Pinch Hitters: Enough With the Quality Already

Well, I am back, so you can just forget about all the pithy, penetrating insights that made last week’s Reeler Pinch Hitter series far-and-away the most heavily visited week in this blog’s brief history. I will not get into numbers, but between the movies’ hot Jew babe surge, waning New York film orgs, Roman Polanski’s foot fetish and over a dozen other swell subjects that attracted so much interest, I have finally edged my own attention to NYC cinema into complete irrelevance. Think of it as losing your only child to the babysitter, but you still have to raise it. Whatever–I never lked kids anyway.
So please pardon any sludginess as I detoxify my system of California and get back up to speed in the city. It should not take too long, assuming the sitter left care and feeding instructions. At any rate, I raise my coffee cup in honor and thanks to all of my guest bloggers; without giving away too much, you might expect to see a bit more of them around these parts in the weeks and months ahead. Stay tuned.

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Reeler Pinch Hitter: Andrew Wagner, Filmmaker

[Note: Reeler editor S.T. VanAirsdale is taking the week off, but the blog is in the good hands of trusted friends and colleagues; click here for other entries in the series. Andrew Wagner wrote, directed and shot The Talent Given Us, VanAirsdale’s favorite film of 2005. Here, he sends a dispatch from the editing room of his latest film, the New York-set Starting Out in the Evening.]
The great seduction of shooting in New York City is to assume your film inherits the intensity of the city simply by virtue of taking place within it. It’s a concern that was heightened for me because I grew up in New York and feel it on a cellular level. So I was especially motivated to approach the city/character dynamic from the inside-out and was devoted above all else to exploring the inner lives of the characters and the relationships between the characters. In this sense, the real turf of the film is the field of emotional necessity. To reflect this, in shooting the city itself, we worked with the idea of wide avenues that produce a constant rev that is equivalent to a kind of silence because it is within the shadow of stillness that the true self resides.
There is a tremendous tension in the soul of New York City. While it’s a point of origin for forward-thinking and future-making, the city’s very essence is born out of the energy of the moment. The hum of human endeavor marries the city to the present tense. New Yorkers are embedded in the moment, a condition that is the starting point for drama, where catharsis and transformation are produced by doing and being, in characters who are not separate from their narratives and become aware of their second skin, their unconscious patterns, finally and only as an act of survival. And this idea cuts to the center of Starting Out In The Evening, a story about a New York writer who makes it into his 70s before he awakens to the necessity to change.
Going back to this idea of emotional necessity–it’s really the password to storytelling. In Starting Out In The Evening, we’re telling the story of author Leonard Schiller’s unacknowledged need for love and recognition. Because he’s in the last chapter of his life, the possibilty for these needs being met enters his life in the unexpected force represented by a young graduate student–Heather Wolfe is writing her masters thesis on Leonard’s long-forgotten novels and through her thesis she aims to return this exiled king of American literature back to his throne. Painfully for Leonard, his young emissary to immortality has a collision with truth, idealism and ambition that splits his heart and leaves his legacy where it was before her promises: in doubt. But his losses leave him unnaturally vulnerable to a core shift; and though the honesty he gains with his daughter and his work will not have a public value when he’s gone, it will sustain him in the rest of his life.
In making this film I had the privilege of working with a cast of uniquely gifted actors–Frank Langella, Lili Taylor, Lauren Ambrose and Adrian Lester. They all prepared and worked differently, but they had in common a passion and commitment that was so pure it was almost shocking. To the film’s great benefit, Frank agreed we should rehearse as much as possible in the months leading up to the shoot. He was unflinching in the discovery of his character, and as I watch the film unfold now in the editing room, I’m awestruck by the transformation he pulled off in becoming this sealed-off man who dares only to show himself through measured word and minor gesture. And it also went this way with Lili, Lauren and Adrian, who give performances of genuine power and tenderness. We only had 18 days to shoot this film, and perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the collaboration was to witness the place of sheer transcendance these actors went to as the chaos of the filmmaking process was going on around them.
(Photo: Backstage)

Reeler Pinch Hitter: James Ponsoldt, Filmmaker

[Note: Reeler editor S.T. VanAirsdale is taking the week off, but the blog is in the good hands of trusted friends and colleagues; click here for other entries in the series. James Ponsoldt’s debut feature, Off the Black,” will be released Dec. 1 by THINKFilm. He blogs at MySpace and at]
While in my third-grade art class, Karen–the girl who I thought was my girlfriend, but wasn’t–“accidentally” spilled glue and glitter all over my drawing of a mountain lion squatting on top of a mountain. Our teacher walked over, saw the sparkly mess, and asked, “Trying to make Dadaism?”
Eight-year-old me replied: “What’s Dadaism?”

From MoMA’s Dada exhibit (L-R): Kurt Schwitters, by El Lissitzky, 1924; Entr’acte, by Rene Clair, 1924.

Well, right now (and through Sept. 11), the Museum of Modern Art has a sprawling, once-in-a-lifetime exhibition that tries to answer that question. And this exhibit is a must-see for New York film lovers.
Really? Yes, really.
Born at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich as a reaction to the horrors of World War I, Dada quickly jumped to New York, then found root in four other cities around the world: Paris, Cologne, Berlin and Hanover. An art movement constructed out of nonsense and chaos, claiming to mean nothing, Dadaism managed to use humor to tackle weighty topics of the day, with an emphasis on anti-war messages. Dada thrived only for a short period in the teens and early 1920’s before giving way to surrealism and other art movements. But the effects of Dadaist artists and filmmakers–like Man Ray, Rene Clair, Viking Eggeling, and Hans Richter–still influence today’s filmmakers (whether they’re aware of it or not).
Clearly not an art historian, I sometimes become lost in the art-soup of Dadaism, Surrealism, Modernism, and whatever -ism is currently in fashion. As a fascinated layman, I’ve waded through Tristan Tzara’s Seven Dada Manifestos as well as Andre Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto, and while there are certainly differences, it is sometimes tough to say where Dadaism ends and Surrealism begins. As far as it applies to film and popular culture, I’m not sure that it matters. (But I would argue that the silliness and nothingness that Dada brandished as an anti-war tool 90 years ago still has relevance today–especially today, while we find ourselves lodged in the center of a Middle East quagmire.)

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Reeler Pinch Hitter: Lauren Wissot on Roman Polanski's Foot Fetish

[Note: Reeler editor S.T. VanAirsdale is taking the week off, but the blog is in the good hands of trusted friends and colleagues; click here for other entries in the series. Lauren Wissot is the author of Under My Master’s Wings; visit her MySpace site here.]
“What’s up with the feet?” my fellow cinephile friend Roxanne and I wondered.
It had gotten to the point where they could no longer be ignored: Roman Polanski’s feet. No, not the director’s own two feet, but shot upon shot of those attached to names like Deneuve and Farrow, Mastroianni and Kingsley. Some of the greatest ankles and arches ever to grace the screen appear in loving close up or wary long shot in every film in this master’s oevure. It became a game with us: spot the foot shot. We could hardly wait for The Pianist to be released just for a possible glimpse of Adrien Brody’s bunions.
But that’s when it morphed into more than a sport; it became the concept for our very own short film. “Maybe if we recorded all the foot shots,” we thought, “and lined them up frame after frame, a hidden message would appear from the director-in-exile telling us what it all meant.” Eschewing gratuitous sex for gratuitous feet, we found Polanski engaging in no shortage of predictable camera ogling. Could innocent Mia Farrow ever have imagined that removing her shoes and stockings in Rosemary’s Baby would become a voyeur’s striptease? (And what would Frank have said?) What about Sigourney Weaver tucked away in the background of Death and the Maiden, her pretty feet distractingly propped up on a table nonetheless? And Emmanuelle Seigner receiving that foot massage on a park bench in Bitter Moon–come on! How did the MPAA miss that scene of public indecency?
To his credit, however, Polanski performs his most intriguing filmmaking with the gentlemen. Take for example:
–Marcello Mastroianni crushing a ping-pong ball with his foot in Che? (or Diary of Forbidden Dreams);
–Lionel Stander for allowing his feet to be set on fire in Cul-de-Sac;
–Peter Coyote for grabbing a dog’s foot while enjoying a blowjob in Bitter Moon.
Anyway, The Foot (or Un Piede di Roman Polanski) is an experimental meditation that Roxanne and I have been pursuing on-and-off for several years. Because neither of us have ongoing access to equipment, it’s been mostly off. So now we’re putting the call out to any editors interested in helping us to finally achieve our foot fetish dream. We still must collect a few stray toes from The Pianist, Oliver Twist and from the Criterion Collection DVD of Polanski shorts, sync up our Vicious Pink score and voila! Feet!
Interested in putting your best foot forward? Contact Lauren Wissot at or Roxanne Kapitsa at

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Reeler Pinch Hitter: David Schwartz; Chief Curator, Museum of the Moving Image

[Note: Reeler editor S.T. VanAirsdale is taking the week off, but the blog is in the good hands of trusted friends and colleagues; click here for other entries in the series. David Schwartz is chief curator at the Museum of the Moving Image.]
Summer is quickly winding down, which means the busy fall film season is upon us. While S.T. VanAirsdale is squeezing in a few more vacation days burnishing his bronze tan, I’m pleased to have the chance to look ahead to late autumn and tell you about the Museum’s upcoming Jacques Rivette retrospective.
Rivette (right) is probably the greatest director to emerge during the French New Wave who has never had a complete retrospective in New York. His films, including Celine and Julie go Boating, La Belle Noiseuse and Up, Down, Sideways, are playful, engaging works that express Rivette’s fascination with artifice and theatricality. Yet the movies are also famously long and multilayered. In fact, Rivette’s most famously long film, Out One: Noli me tangere, runs nearly 13 hours and has never been shown in the United States.
Amazingly, only three of Rivette’s 20 films are in theatrical distribution in this country. Now, with the enormous assistance of the National Film Theatre in London (which created laser-subtitles for Out One: Noli me tangere and five other films) and the French Embassy (which has negotiated with international archives and distributors to arrange screenings of 10 films), we have been able to put together a complete retrospective. New York audiences will have their first chance to see all of Rivette’s films in a theatrical setting.
The fun begins on November 10, and continues every weekend day through December 24. Cinephiles be prepared: Out One: Noli me tangere will be shown one time only, on December 9 and 10. If you’re interested in attending, send an email to and you’ll be notified when tickets are available. If your summer tans aren’t gone by Labor Day, they definitely will fade away after two solid months of weekends in the Riklis Theater.
While we’re at it, a quick sneak peek: on Sunday, September 17, we’ll be presenting a preview screening of The Last King of Scotland and a discussion with stars Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy and cinephile-turned-director Kevin Macdonald. Go to the Museum’s Web site and sign up for our weekly email, and you won’t miss a thing. Terry Gilliam (Tideland) and the Quay Brothers (The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes) will also stop by in the fall.
(Photo: Photofest/Museum of the Moving Image)

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Reeler Pinch Hitter: Eric Kohn, Film Critic

[Note: Reeler editor S.T. VanAirsdale is taking the week off, but the blog is in the good hands of trusted friends and colleagues; click here for other entries in the series. Eric Kohn is a regular film critic for the New York Press. His writing has also appeared in Entertainment Weekly, FHM and Reverse Shot. He blogs at Screen Rush.]
It’s hard to keep up with the fantastic writing about film by veterans in the critic crowd, considering the lesser effort required to rely on the blogosphere for regular bite-sized updates on the state of cinema. Finding the time and strength to pick up a book is a much heavier task than it used to be. Consequently, I’ve just gotten around to finishing Jonathan Rosenbaum’s seven-year-old tome Movie Wars, a solemn tirade against a loosely defined “media-industrial complex.” Rosenbaum, the accomplished Chicago Reader film critic and scholar of all things celluloid, brazenly accuses his projected antagonists of wasting time pumping up mediocre corporate products, preventing commendable foreign and independent cinema from receiving well-earned love. Call it Chomsky for cinephiles.
Surprisingly, however, the only aspect of the book that’s particularly iconoclastic is the title. Despite a few possibly justified jabs at David Denby’s tunnel vision taste, Rosenbaum spends most of the 225 pages discussing films that he considers worth watching, then thoroughly rebukes American theatergoers for not paying closer attention. This is engrossing stuff–the first thing I did after completing the last chapter was place Hou Hsiao-hsien and Abbas Kiarostami at the top of my Netflix queue–but Rosenbaum unevenly oscillates between analyzing specific films and decrying the treatment of art as a commodity, which obscures the intended polemic.
The book also has an odd tinge of anachronism. I was shocked to find that the Internet, in all its film journalism complexities, is excluded from this discourse–and Rosenbaum, writing when Ain’t It Cool News and other movie sites were in their infancies, was surely aware of medium’s relevance, even if his early career pre-dated it by several decades. As a result of this regrettable omission, more accomplished worker bees than myself have long ago tackled the supposed flaws of Rosenbaum’s unremitting contempt for studio tactics that often bind critics to the whimsical will of a publicity-driven economy.
Actually, I read the book while on vacation, and the best result of exploring its self-styled diatribe is that it got me pumped to be back in New York, with all the lovely variety this city offers. I’ll suggest with equal fervor that you dig Film Forum’s upcoming series of Frank Tashlin films and trip out to Monster House in 3-D at the multiplexes. Because, folks, if this is a movie war, then somebody needs to bring down the wall.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon