Monday, July 30, 2007

Watching Ingmar

Ingmar Bergman, the profoundly influential, profoundly depressing Swedish filmmaking giant, died in his sleep today, age 89.

Back in March, writer Joe Queenan sat down and watched every Bergman title he could get his hands on -- 38 in all, spanning five decades. Queenan's essay, funny and perceptive, ran in the Guardian. Press here to read.

Wrote Queenan: "No one who ever ventured behind a camera has adopted a more unapologetically bleak view of the relationship between men and women than Ingmar Bergman. With a handful of exceptions (The Seventh Seal, The Serpent's Egg) where the director goes in somewhat different directions, Bergman's movies break down into three broad groups: the ones where men torment women, the ones where women torment men, and the ones where men and women torment each other. Not terribly surprisingly, Bergman's first movie (as an actor) is entitled Torment."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Matt Greoning's "Simpstasia"?

There's a scene in The Simpsons Movie in which Homer and Marge are getting ready for some serious amour-making, when in fly a bevy of bluebirds to help undress the leading couple. It's a fleeting but very funny homage to the chirpy menageries of Disney cartoon classics like Cinderella and Snow White, where friendly flocks and forest critters assist the humans with their couture and their chores.

Simpsons creator Matt Groening has long talked about his dream of making Simpstasia -- a Simpsons parody of Disney's Fantasia. But given the years and years it's taken to make the leap from TV series to feature film, this little bit of The Simpsons Movie might be as close as the kazillionaire cartoonist gets to tipping his baseball cap at Uncle Walt.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Joshua"'s parents.

Director George Ratliff didn’t have much money to lure actors to his deft demon-seed thriller, Joshua, but he nonetheless managed the coup of casting Confessions of a Dangerous Mind's Sam Rockwell and The Departed's Vera Farmiga as the title character’s increasingly freaked-out father and mother.

How’d he do it? By telling the two indie stars that they’d be playing opposite one another.

“Sam really wanted to work with Vera, and Vera really wanted to work with Sam,” Ratliff explains. “They’re two rock stars of Method acting, and they were eager to do a project together.”

Joshua is currently playing at the Ritz at the Bourse, the AMC Plymouth Meeting and Showcase Cineart at the Ritz Center/NJ.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Zoe Cassavetes' great first film, Broken English, is playing now at the Ritz At the Bourse. Starring Parker Posey as a single New Yorker with a miserable love life -- and co-starring Justin Theroux as a Hollywood actor, Drea De Matteo as Posey's best pal, Gena Rowlands as Parker's mom and Melvil Poupaud as a Frenchie who may or may not be Monsieur Right -- it's a smartly observed take on the trials and tribulations of romance.

Cassavetes, 37, who divides her time -- much like Broken English -- between New York and Paris, was in town not long ago. She talked about the work written, directed and acted in by her father, John Cassavetes: a legacy of raw, improv-y 1970s and 1980s indies that includes Faces, Husbands, Woman Under the Influence, Love Streams. Some were shot in the family house, with little Zoe running around playing with castmembers between takes. And she discussed her mother, Gena Rowland, and Rowland's work in her dad's pics.

"What’s really amazing is that the older I get, and more life experience I have, that I can relate to these movies and understand them more," she says. "Because they’re totally adult movies, in their mentality, the examination of people, and their interactions.... Every time I watch them, every couple of years, I think, Jesus Christ, this guy was so completely focused on what he was doing, and so smart, and so deep, and understood women so well, in such a complex way. And even talking to my mom about it, she’ll say I don’t understand how he knew that, but he really did, and he really felt it.... Not to take anything away from my mother, because she really just took those roles and ran with them."

"I love all of them for different reasons, but I love Opening Night. It's so sad and glamorous at the same time, and I love the kind of mystical thing about the ghost of that girl. And the comedy, and the play within the movie. It has an All About Eve kind of feeling... But I also enjoy something like Minnie and Moskowitz, which is a very pure and simple story. Not on the same level as my movie, but there’s something similar going on. And you know, I love Husbands, and I love The Killing of the Chinese Bookie — that one is like the most beautifully shot movie I’ve ever seen.

"And I love Love Streams, but Love Streams really kills me because it’s the last movie that he made. [John Cassavetes died in 1989, of cirrhosis of the liver.] I can see the sickness in him. I was 12 or something when they made that movie, so it’s my most recent memory… there’s hardly a time when [I'm] not crying, or feeling very tense.

"But I’m so proud to be able to look at that body of work and think that I might have some trickle-down genes."