Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2011.
Gigola, directed by Laure Charpentier, is a French film with subtitles set in the early 1960’s Paris containing themes of adult sexuality and gender issues. The film made it’s debut at the Cannes Film Festival. From there Gigola was shown at the Hamburg Film Festival in Germany and finished out the year at the Paris Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, in Paris, France. The mise-en-scene is in Gigola is remarkable. The costumes, make-up, and lighting are spectacular conveying images reminiscent of That’s Entertainment (1974), and Moulon Rouge (2001).
The film opens with a teenage school girl named George, played by Lou Dillion, as a young and slender coming of age debutante, and her teacher, an attractive mid 30ish woman. Playful background music provides energy for a highly sexually charged, sensual transaction between George and her teacher.
Charpentier jumps ahead to 1963 Paris nightlife scene. George’s boy friend has committed suicide. George has decided to withdraw from school and announces to the night-time partiers that she has flunked out of medical school seemingly intentionally.
Next time we see George she is in a Parisian bistro and we are introduced to a Carol Channing like character. George has reinvented herself.
A comment is made to George, “You look like a gigolo.”
George coolly replies, “Gigola.”
We now see George as Gigola, the name she has given her new self. A well-to-do matron comes to the bistro and Gigola is into action. Dressed in a black tuxedo, Gigola escorts the matron onto the dance floor for a spin. Soon the pair leave the bistro together and head to the matron’s estate. With grace, elegance and a touch of class Gigola seduces the matron in an erotic bedroom scene with a snake-headed cane and white gloves.
Gigola, if nothing else, knows what she wants and she goes after it. She threatens to leave her new found matron unless she receives more money. The matron has already given Gigola a signet ring and a red MG convertible. The matron capitulates handing over to Gigola a large cache of currency. We now witness Gigola expanding her “business” with new girls working under her discretion.
Meanwhile, Gigola’s father, an opium addict, is squandering away the family’s estate as he cogently leads the life of a Parisian gentlemen. Eventually Gigola confronts her father brandishing a loaded revolver after repeatedly warning her father to stay away and, in turn, pleading with her mother to cut him off.
After an attempted suicide, Gigola finds herself under the care of a psychiatrist who bears a striking resemblance to her former teacher. She suggests having a baby to Gigola. Gigola is less than optimistic but the psychiatrist is able to connect with Gigola. Never one to miss an opportunity, Gigola deftly makes clear her intentions to the attractive psychiatrist. When the psychiatrist makes a “house call” Charpentier uses a wrestling take down move to portray the mixed emotions the psychiatrist has – she is attracted to Gigola but she is married and lives according to her principles as a married woman – a defining characteristic of the times. The psychiatrist cares about Gigola and they have dinner together where she tells Gigola that Gigola needs to let go.
Again without missing a beat Gigola moves deeper into the nightclub scene in Paris meeting a Mr. Tony Pasquale, a Sicilian. The two gain a mutual respect for each other and Tony ends up impregnating Gigola. Gigola has the baby and it seems as though Gigola has accepted normalcy and is conforming to societal norms. Gigola has left and George has come back.
However, before a sigh of relief can be expressed, in tromps the cast from the bistro. A raucous scene ensues in the hospital room with Gigola consenting to have her locks cut – a symbol of Gigola’s re-emergence.
The film closes with Gigola adhering to her somewhat circular, misguided idealism. She has turned over the care of her child to her mother and she is shown in tuxedo walking down a Parisian cobblestone alley way with her back back to the camera just before sunrise.
Amazing Friday night film for the right audience. Gigola is currently available on Amazon Prime.
A fresh take on the coming-of-age story, this surreal tale follows the artistically driven Oscar (AMERICAN CRIME’s Connor Jessup) hovering on the brink of adulthood. Struggling to find his place in the world after a rough childhood and haunted by images of a tragic incident, Oscar dreams of escaping his small town. After he meets a mysterious and attractive new co-worker, Oscar follows the guidance of his pet hamster Buffy (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) and faces his demons to find the life he wants.
Written & Directed
Connor Jessup, Aaron Abrams, Joanne Kelly, Aliocha Schneider,
Sofia Banzhaf, Jack Fulton, Mary Walsh, Isabella Rossellini
Country of Origin: Canada
Running Time: 90 min
Screening at the Riviera Theater, 2044 Alameda Padre Serra, Santa Barbara, CA
Sunday October 16 @ 2:00pm Monday October 17 @ 7:30pm Tuesday October 18 @ 5:00pm Wednesday October 19 @ 7:30pm
Canadian Director Denis Villenueve’s (Sicario, Prisoners, Incendies) new science fiction drama, Arrival, is based on Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life.” Alien ships have landed across the globe without explanation communicating only a Sanskrit word for war.
The film opens in a reflective voice-over coupled with powerful sound effects and strong camera work to create a feeling of pandemonium. Supersonic jets blaze across the screen as 12 unidentified flying objects descend from the sky and land across the globe. The aliens attempt to communicate with written words and phrases in a never seen before language. Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist played by Amy Adams (Man of Steel, American Hustle, The Fighter), is charged with communicating with the alien intelligence. Artist Martine Bertrand designed the aliens written language. The Sanskrit word for war is delivered to Louise at her university teaching office for translation. At first she balks. However, the opportunity to put to use all she has learned in a lifetime of study and academia and the mourning she’s gone through over the loss of her daughter provides her the impetus to join the effort.
Initially, Dr. Banks appears anxious. However, she quickly is brought up to speed by the US military. Captain Marks, played by Mark O’Brien, informs the team on what is known about the alien landings. One of the first translations the group deciphers is “language is weapon.” Soon however, the process is stalled. Intelligence about the alien space ship reveals that their doors open every 18 hours granting an opportunity to board the craft. After dialogue and heated conversation, Dr. Banks is granted clearance to board the craft with the team. With the team in position to board the craft, Villenueve amps up the sound effects and music including some very heaving breathing from Dr. Banks as the team waits, attired in Cybex hazmat suits, for the alien ship to position itself to allow boarding. With the ship’s entry encapsulated in smoke combined with some abstract visuals and the surreal effect of slow motion the team boards the alien vessel.
In the end, Dr. Banks proves she’s up for the task and begins the communication process with the aliens but not without difficulty. An interesting reference is made to the Sapir-Whorf theory that once a person starts to learn a language the person will start to dream and think in it. However, when the aliens begin writing a thought one hand begins the thought while the other hand ends it simultaneously. Louise’s mind has difficulty comprehending this and she begins to experience highly vivid, visual flashbacks of her daughter. She begins to wonder why. Once the team members managed to board the ship and attempted to understand and communicate with the aliens they were enlightened with insight into their own human nature. In the end this appears to help Louise move on with her life finding closure to the cancer that took her daughter’s life.
Seemingly, a large part of the film’s aesthetics is augmented and carried out by sounds. Dave Whitehead created the whirrs and clicks of the alien language while Supervising Sound Editor Sylvain Bellemare created the sounds the ships made when moving. Composer Johann Johannsson created the film’s musical score.
Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy, American Hustle) plays Ian Donnelly, a physicist who attempts to solve the alien communication through mathematics. And is the sidekick to Adams Louise. Donnelly comes across as highly intelligent, energetic scientist who adds warmth and light to the team’s dynamic. Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) plays Colonel Weber, Military Intelligence, who’s responsible for coordinating the communication process. Weber needs Louise and Ian to succeed and it’s his job to see that they do. Weber pushes the two to do more and to get more from the aliens. Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire, Men in Black III) plays CIA Agent Halpern who’s responsible for reporting to the government the team’s actions.
Arrival is a well-constructed film with a stellar cast and talented crew. Notably, Amy Adams is superb as Dr. Louise Banks. The costuming provided by Costume Designer Renee April and the production design provided by Patrice Vermette were excellent as were Carlos Huante’s alien visual effects. In addition, the sound design and musical score brilliantly augmented and sophisticatedly created the atmospheric for the film’s mis-en-scene. Executive producer and screenwriter Eric Heisserer adapted the short story to screenplay. 21 Laps and Film Nation received production company credits along with producers Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, Dan Levine and Aaron Ryder. Bradford Young served as Cinematographer capturing delicate moments with sensuality along with the massive “rainy day” science fiction scenes.
Arrival is a must-see story about life and death and the reality between the two. It also speaks volumes on humility within the parameters high stakes, foreign communication . Highly recommended.
(Featured photo courtesy of ASAC Images/Biennale Cinema di Venezia)
A chilling nightmare plays out at a Titan II missile complex in Arkansas in September, 1980. A worker accidentally drops a socket, puncturing the fuel tank of an intercontinental ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead in our arsenal, an incident which ignites a series of feverish efforts to avoid a deadly disaster. Directed by Robert Kenner (FOOD, INC.) and based on the critically acclaimed book by Eric Schlosser (FAST FOOD NATION), COMMAND AND CONTROL is a minute-by-minute account of this long-hidden story. Putting a camera where there was no camera that night, Kenner brings this nonfiction thriller to life with stunning original footage shot in a decommissioned Titan II missile silo. Eyewitness accounts — from the man who dropped the socket, to the man who designed the warhead, to the Secretary of Defense— chronicle nine hours of terror that prevented an explosion 600 times more powerful than Hiroshima.
Here’s what critics are saying:
“Despite the high stakes, Command and Control is fun to watch, in the manner of good suspense thrillers and disaster films.”
– Chris Packham, Village Voice
“What gives Command and Control its urgency are both its wealth of information and the implications of its story.”
– Mark Jenkins, NPR
“The pace of the drama is riveting, as it jumps back through the decades to place the accident in the context of the nuclear arms race.”
– Joe McGovern, Entertainment Weekly
Screening at the Riviera Theatre
Sunday October 9 @ 2:00pm Monday October 10 @ 7:30pm Tuesday October 11 @ 5:00pm Wednesday October 12 @ 7:30pm
The Riviera Theatre is located at
2044 Alameda Padre Serra, Santa Barbara, CA
In 1960, Director John Sturges made the original Magnificent Seven, starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, as an American Western. Sturges based his work on legendary Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai. So in addition to being an end-of-summer blockbuster, Fuqua’s Magnificent Seven is a remake of a remake. Like Seven Samurai a good portion of Fuqua’s work takes place indoors and is evidenced by low-key lighting, heavy shadows and blackness.
This was Fuqua’s first attempt at a western although he claims to having had an affinity for them having watched many with his grandmother during his formative years. So when Metro Goldwyn Mayer approached him about making a western, Fuqua jumped at the opportunity. However, he wanted to make this his film with a theme to resonate with today’s audience. He didn’t have to look far to find a strong actor to lead up his core group of seven. Fuqua proposed Denzel Washington for the film’s lead, bounty hunter Sam Chisolm, having worked with Washington on Training Day and The Equalizer. Washington won an Oscar for Best Actor for his Training Day role and his on-screen partner, Ethan Hawke, received a Best Actor in a Supporting Role nomination. Like Fuqua Washington had never done a western and looking back at the success the two have had together quickly came on board. Chris Pratt was identified to play gambler Josh Faraday, Chisolm’s sidekick and first to join the seven. Pratt, too, leaped at the opportunity to play a cowboy.
Soon Fuqua had an idea for his version of The Magnificent Seven as he and Washington performed research into the Old West. They discovered a wide-range of nationalities including Russians, Mexicans, and Irish. Fuqua wanted his seven to reflect this so he collaborated with screenwriters Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk to create an authentic cast of characters utilizing a diverse group of young actors in addition to Washington and Pratt: Ethan Hawke plays Goodnight Robicheaux; Vincent D’Onofrio plays Jack Horne, Native-American Martin Sensmeier plays Red Harvest; Mexican-American actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo plays Vasquez; and South Korean headliner Byung-hun Lee plays Billy Rocks.
The film is set in the town of Rose Creek where a ruthless industrialist, Batholomew Bogue, played convincingly by Peter Saarsgaard, is attempting to roust the entire town with threats, murder and mayhem for his own personal gain. The desperate town folk are at wits end when a woman, Emma Cullen, played by a tough Haley Bennett, reaches out and convinces the seven hired guns to protect and defend them from Bogue’s army of mercenaries. The men come together and find within themselves not only the will to fight and win but also the moral fortitude to do something because it is right.
Interestingly, like Kurasawa, Fuqua employs a number of camera techniques to highlight his film’s narrative. Many of his Hollywood closeups are shot just below the chin emphasizing the actors’ strong jawlines. Mauro Fiore is credited as the Cinematographer. In addition, impressive, expansive panning landscape shots are used to introduce the film with a non-diagetic score started by the iconic film score composer James Horner. Horner had over 75 projects to his name, along with two Academy Awards, and worked with Hollywood heavyweights like James Cameron, Oliver Stone, George Lucas, Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg. Horner did not live to see the completed product before his untimely death in June of 2015. However, he did manage to complete seven themes based on the film’s script and his conversations with Fuqua. Composer Simon Franglen finished the film’s impressive score in a manner and style of James Horner as a tribute to Horner.
Throughout The Magnificent Seven Antoine Fuqua attempts to comment on today’s society and what he sees as overt acts of tyranny as he keeps with the Kurosawa thematic element of programming a film with societal mirrors and a political undercurrent. Notwithstanding, while Kurosawa used the unemployed samurai to form his seven, Fuqua finds a group of fringe characters with diverse backgrounds and nationalities. Still, both film’s characters do what is right and help those in need in spite of their own self-interest. My hat goes off to Director Fuqua for a valiant and noble effort. The Magnificent Seven is a fun film. It is well done technically with plenty of action and color. And, it is made in a similar vein as a world cinema masterpiece. Highly recommended.
(Featured photo courtesy of ASAC Images/Biennale Cinema di Venezia)
AFI FEST 2016 presented by Audi will honor acclaimed actress Isabelle Huppert with a Tribute and a Gala screening at the festival. The Tribute will celebrate her storied career and will include a conversation with the actress, followed by a Gala screening of Sony Pictures Classics’ ELLE (directed by Paul Verhoeven) on Sunday, November 13.
In ELLE, Isabelle Huppert plays Michèle, who seems indestructible, bringing the same ruthless attitude to her love life as she does to her business as head of a leading video game company. But her life changes forever after an unknown assailant attacks her in her home. When she resolutely tracks the man down, they are both drawn into a curious and thrilling game — a game that may, at any moment, spiral out of control.
Among international film’s most seasoned actresses, Isabelle Huppert has countless awards to her credit — with 15 César Award nominations, the most for any actress, and a win for LA CÉRÉMONIE (1995). Her other films include VIOLETTE (1978), STORY OF WOMEN (1988), MADAME BOVARY (1991), THE PIANO TEACHER (2001), I HEART HUCKABEES (2004), WHITE MATERIAL (2009), AMOUR (2012) and THINGS TO COME (2016). She has twice won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, and is an Officer of both the National Order of Merit and the Legion of Honour.
Mel Gibson’s upcoming Christian movie Hacksaw Ridge got a 10-minute standing ovation at its premiere last September and it will be released in theaters next month.
The film is based on the true story of a World War II medic named Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield. Doss refused to fire a single shot in battle because of his religious convictions. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing as many as 75 soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
During the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Gibson was joined by actors Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer and Luke Bracey to greet the dazzled audience.
In an interview with France24, Gibson characterized Hacksaw Ridge as an anti-war movie.
“It is an anti-war movie. I think all war movies are anti-war movies, but we do have to be compassionate to our warriors,” Gibson said. “I hate war, but I love the warrior. And those guys that went to war, I appreciate and honor their sacrifice, because many of them lost much, even when they come home they suffer,” he added.
Gibson expressed his admiration for Doss’ faith in God during an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.
“To go in to a battle zone like that. I think the Japanese called it a steel rain, with the artillery and the lead that was flying around, to go into that armed with only your faith, your faith has to be strong indeed,” he said.
The film’s producer, Bill Mechanic, had been working n on the film for 13 years. Gibson signed up to direct the movie in 2014. Mechanic considered it as Gibson’s greatest film. He previously worked alongside the director on the award-winning film Braveheart.
Last August, Gibson appeared at Pastor Greg Laurie’s SoCal Harvest in Anaheim, California, to promote the film. He also hinted that his next project could possibly be a film about Christ’s resurrection.
Hacksaw Ridge will be released in U.S. theaters on Nov. 4.
October 2, 2016 – Today’s White House Student Film Festival in Washington, DC, marked AFI’s third annual collaboration on the event, which inspires and celebrates young filmmakers from around the nation. AFI welcomed aspiring K–12 filmmakers to the White House to premiere their work for an audience of special guests and film artists from in front of and behind the camera, including Ty Burrell, Alfre Woodard and STRANGER THINGS creators Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer and star Millie Bobby Brown.
AFI is a founding partner of the festival, which took place this year preceding South by South Lawn, an elaborate outdoor event celebrating the arts to be held on Monday, October 3. As part of AFI’s ongoing mission to educate today’s audiences and tomorrow’s storytellers — a mandate that began when AFI was born in the White House Rose Garden in 1965 — participating filmmakers will continue to learn about the art form after the festival by working closely with AFI Conservatory alumni as mentors.
Open to K–12 student filmmakers, storytellers were encouraged to submit their short film based on this year’s festival theme, “The World I Want to Live In.” Thirteen finalist films were screened at the event, followed by a meet-and-greet with festival attendees. In line with this year’s theme of looking toward the future, and the festival’s annual spirit of innovation, Virtual Reality stations were also part of the experience for guests, filmmakers and their families.
Since the White House Student Film Festival inception in 2014, AFI has worked on President Barack Obama’s program as an advisor and producer, reviewing submissions and creating a celebration that includes educational opportunities for the selected young filmmakers. This year, that partnership continued as the White House Student Film Festival highlighted both the Administration’s commitment to public service and AFI’s ongoing mission to nurture the next generation of storytellers.
Nate Parker talks quickly, in grandly eloquent phrases, about slavery, injustice, about his Art (with a capital A), about how he became imbued with the revolutionary spirit and the obstacles he has faced.
He talks in lengthy and complex diatribes, not only about his controversial movie, The Birth of a Nation, which he co-wrote, directed and stars in, but digresses on to other subjects: religion, family, racism.
But what he doesn’t talk about and refuses to address is the 17-year-old rape case in which he was acquitted and why he has not apologised to the woman concerned and her family.
In interviews, at press conferences and on the red carpet at the Toronto Film Festival in September, he consistently dodged questions about the sexual abuse allegations at Penn State University in which he and a fellow student athlete were accused of rape. They claimed the sex was consensual.
Parker was acquitted in a 2001 trial and his roommate, Jean McGianni Celestin, who co-wrote The Birth of a Nation, was convicted but he appealed the verdict and was granted a new trial; the alleged victim would not testify again. She committed suicide in 2012 after two previous attempts.
Speaking to CBS television’s 60 Minutes show for a forthcoming interview, Parker addresses the court case but stops short of an apology: “I was falsely accused,” he tells host Anderson Cooper. “I went to court, I was vindicated. I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here. Her family had to deal with that, but as I sit here, an apology is — no.”
Parker admits to Cooper that what happened that night was “morally wrong” when viewed through his faith: “As a Christian man . . . just being in that situation, yeah, sure. I am 36 years old right now. My faith is very important to me, so looking back through that lens . . . it’s not the lens I had when I was 19 years old.” But when asked if he felt any guilt at all, his answer is unequivocal: “I don’t feel guilty.”
Parker’s film tells the story of Nat Turner (Parker), a slave who led a bloody rebellion in Virginia in 1831; among the many violent scenes is a brutal depiction of Turner’s wife being raped. Although it received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival and rave reviews in January and won two awards there, the American Film Institute later refused to screen it amid concerns from the students about the resurfaced sexual allegations.
The initial Oscar buzz died down after The Hollywood Reporter quoted members of the Academy who admitted that the controversy had made them less likely to vote for the film – or even watch it. Almost overnight, one of Hollywood’s most promising new film-makers had become damaged goods, and his eagerly anticipated film was suddenly a PR nightmare.
Parker’s case hasn’t been helped by an essay written by his accuser’s sister, Sharon Loeffler. “In the years that followed, Nate Parker became a well-known actor,” she wrote in Variety. “It tormented my sister to see him thrive while she was still struggling… As her sister, the thing that pains me most of all is that in retelling the story of the Nat Turner slave revolt, they invented a rape scene. The rape of Turner’s wife is used as a reason to justify Turner’s rebellion.” Loeffler goes on to call the scene “creepy and perverse”.
When The Birth of a Nation premiered at Toronto it was reasonably well received with plenty of applause. Tellingly, though, it received no end-of-festival awards and critics have suggested that Parker’s history and present adamant refusal to address the issue will have an adverse affect on the movie’s performance. It is due to be released in the UK on January 20 next year.
There was some doubt as to whether Parker would even attend the Toronto festival and if he did, whether he would give press conferences and interviews. But for four days during the festival Parker was in the spotlight, always evading questions about the rape scandal with convoluted diversions into the subject matter of the movie, saying: “This is a forum for the film. I don’t want to hijack this with my personal life.”
When we talked at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, I asked whether he thought the rape case would damage the movie’s performance at the box office and how he felt when details of the allegations resurfaced he replied: “I am 36 years old, there are so many obstacles in my life so many obstacles getting this film off the ground. I go to God with my thoughts and my prayers for support and getting through any of the obstacles that have presented themselves in my life.”
Will it have any affect on the movie’s chances for awards?
“I try not to think of awards. I don’t make movies for awards, I make movies for people. I am an artist and not a politician.”
But how have the recent events affected him and how will it affect the movie?
“I am going to speak first to the rape scene in the movie… I made this film without any reflection of anything that did or didn’t happen in my life. As a black man, as a father, as a husband my last 36 years have been many obstacles that have led me to this moment and the way I have continued to get through them all is in prayer and petitioning to the God that I believe in.”
Nate Parker was born in Norfolk, Virginia, 40 miles east of where Turner’s rebellion occurred. His parents never married although his mother later married an Air Force officer.
“I grew up with nine of us in a three-bedroom apartment and it was very hard in the sense that we had very little,” he recalls. “But as a kid you don’t understand what you don’t have until you turn on the television and then you are able to contextualise your position in society.
“So in seeing the different ways people that look like me were represented in the media it affected me greatly and I grew up with a very heavy and dense chip on my shoulder, like I am sure many others do, and I had very few ways of dealing with it because there were so many closed doors for people who look like me.”
However, he went to Pennsylvania State University where he became a nationally ranked wrestler and met his future wife, Sarah, who is white. The couple have four daughters in addition to another daughter Parker had from a previous relationship. Parker has also adopted his sister’s son.
His Hollywood career began when he was spotted by a talent manager while attending a modelling convention in Texas. He moved to Los Angeles and made his screen debut in the TV series “Cold Case,” before being cast by Denzel Washington in the historical drama The Great Debaters, which Washington directed. He went on to appear in The Secret Life of Bees, Red Tails and Arbitrage.
He was in his 20s when he learned of Nat Turner, an educated slave and preacher whose rebellion is now seen as a turning point in the fight for liberation. “It made me feel a bit more whole, like I knew more about the contributions of people that looked like me to the country that everyone said was so great,” he says. “I thought more people needed to know about it.
“So when I became an artist I said I wanted to present this to the world and to be honest, I didn’t know if I was going to direct. I just knew it needed to be told. I don’t think this story is important just for black people; I think it’s important for all of us. It’s something necessary and worthy of our attention.”
In 2014 he began work on the script and on raising the £7 million budget for the movie he called The Birth of a Nation. He ironically used the same title as D.W. Griffith’s 1915 movie which was notorious for its virulently racist views of blacks and which historians see as a major impetus for the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan and a rise in lynching and other racist violence.
“I reclaimed the title and re-purposed it as a tool to challenge racism and white supremacy in America,” says Parker.
In his version of Turner’s story, a brutal sexual assault by white men on Turner’s wife feeds a rage that sets the rebellion in motion. History, however, shows that Turner never acknowledged having a wife and his rebellion was, according to his own writings, based on spiritual visions.
The film was shot in 27 days and first screened at the Sundance Film Festival where Fox Searchlight £14 million for the worldwide distribution rights, the biggest deal in the festival’s history.
“When I made this film I had no idea… I would never have guessed in a million years that I would be sitting here today,” says Parker. “I just made a movie and kept going forward and tried to finish it.”
As for the violent and bloody rebellion in which Turner and his followers hack and murder white men, he says: “We have to give our audiences credit to think that they won’t reduce the entire film to being about black people killing white people. If you watch the film and are honest with yourself you can see past the skin colour and recognise it was literally the oppressed against the oppressor.
This film is about so many things that are bigger than me.”
The Birth of a Nation will screen at the London Film Festival in October followed by a January UK release.
While it doesn’t have the glitz of Venice, the breadth of Toronto, or the Cannesiness of Cannes, the New York Film Festival is still a heavy-hitting stop in the fall-prestige cycle. In addition to a few major fall releases that have already screened in the United States — including Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, and Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight — the slate includes the U.S. premieres of some big-time movies, as well as two major worldwide debuts. Here are the highlights.
Ava DuVernay’s new documentary is named for the 13th Amendment, which contains the clause that seems to presage mass incarceration in the United States: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” If there’s anyone who can take on a topic as weighty and complex as the prison system in modern America, it’s DuVernay, whose clear-eyed and humanizing approach seems like the ideal fit for a subject this inhumane.
20th Century Women
If you responded to Mills’s heartfelt and funny Beginners, which won Christopher Plummer a well-deserved Oscar, you’re likely to spark to this one, where Annette Bening stars as a witty, fretful single mother who enlists lodger Greta Gerwig and neighbor Elle Fanning to help raise her 15-year-old son. And if you respond to throwback attire, you’re definitely going to spark to every single jumpsuit, vintage tee, and denim jacket worn in this 1979-set film.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Besides being an Ang Lee film that’s likely going to be part of the Best Picture race, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is also sure to generate conversation for its technical ambition. Lee shot the movie, which adapts Ben Fountain’s novel about an Iraq War hero who returns home, at 120 frames per second versus the standard 24, with the intent of creating one of the most realistic and hypervisceral depictions of war ever to be shown on a movie screen. Regardless of how Billy Lynn turns out — and hopes are high — the 4K 3-D showing at NYFF should be a notable experience in and of itself.
A comedy about — wait for it — a woman brazenly overcoming her own rape, director Paul Verhoeven’s first film in French was one of the most talked-about films at Cannes. It’s also one of two acclaimed movies coming out this fall featuring the French actress Isabelle Huppert, whose Things to Come, directed by up-and-comer Mia Hansen-Løve, is also showing at NYFF. While Huppert’s two-pronged Oscar push could be a major awards-season narrative, Elle is worth seeing in its own right: Verhoeven is many things, but he’s never boring.
Natalie Portman gives a brave, ballsy performance as Jackie Kennedy in this Pablo Larrain–directed biopic, which shrugs off the stodginess so often endemic to this genre in pursuit of something even bigger than real. Portman’s Jackie is no shrinking violet, though the men around her would love it if she played the dutiful, porcelain-faced wife even after the tragic assassination of her husband. How she, in turn, manipulates the image-crafters around her in one last bid for agency gives Jackie its startling kick.
In an industry defined by big, loud, expensive superhero movies, Jim Jarmusch exists as the ultimate outlier. His movies are quiet, cool, and indie to the core, and new one Paterson sounds no different: Adam Driver plays a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey, whose name is also Paterson, and who writes poems, and who hangs out with his wife and dog, and … that’s pretty much it. But that’s enough, and after raves out of Cannes, this should be the kind of film that gives a certain kind of moviegoer hope.
Personal Shopper director Olivier Assayas recently stated, in no uncertain terms, that Kristen Stewart is the best actress of her generation. If this comes as an unusual suggestion to you, then you haven’t been paying close-enough attention, because KStew has, truly, become a must-see performer — including in Assayas’s most recent movie, Clouds of Sils Maria, for which she won a César Award, something no American actress has ever done before. With a strange premise — Stewart’s character is a personal shopper and, also, a medium, meaning there are fancy clothes AND a ghost — and a famously divisive reception at Cannes, this gives the best actress of her generation one of the most anticipated films of the fall.
The Lost City of Z
James Gray’s last film The Immigrant was under-seen and under-heralded, as James Gray films tend to be. But his new one, The Lost City of Z, gives him an unusually sexy topic: The British explorer Percy Fawcett’s search for a city in the Amazon rain forest, based on the book of the same name by the virtuoso New Yorker writer David Grann. Hopefully, it can bring Gray the wide audience he deserves; at the very least, audiences in the know can savor a new film from one of the most thoughtful contemporary American directors.